CAPITAL REGION — The Capital Region saw an additional 717 cases of COVID-19 diagnosed and an additional 11 deaths, according to the daily update released by the state on Saturday.
Figures released by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office indicated there were four deaths recorded in Albany County, three in Saratoga County, two in Schenectady County, and one each in Fulton and Rensselaer counties. There were 144 deaths statewide, a drop from levels that exceeded 200 per day just 10 days ago.
Among Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties, there have now been 745 COVID-related deaths in the 10 months since the pandemic started.
With the new cases diagnosed on Saturday, there have now been 49,260 cases confirmed in the seven counties since the start of the pandemic — meaning the region will certainly reach the 50,000 plateau this weekend.
The numbers have generally dropped from a week ago, an indication that the post-holiday surge may be abating. There was also good news with the statewide test positivity rate, which dropped to 5.26 percent. The Capital Region and Mohawk Valley remained higher, though, with seven-day average test positivity rates of 6.9 and 7.08, respectively.
The state also reported on Saturday that hospitalizations statewide had dropped by 44 patients, to 8,802. It was the third consecutive day of decline, and down 84 patients over the last week. But not all the news was good: The number of patients in intensive care units and in the ICU with intubation to assist their breathing both rose.
On Twitter, Cuomo COVID task force aide Gareth Rhodes said the past week is the first week since early September that New York saw a week-to-week decline in hospitalizations. “No time for COVID fatigue, but we are seeing encouraging trend lines in NY fight against virus: Declining positivity & new cases per capita since early Jan, slowing hosp rates,” he wrote.
In releasing the new numbers and touring a vaccine distribution site in New York City on Saturday, Cuomo again urged the public to keep up with precautions such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distance.
“We don’t have the luxury of fatigue,” he said in Brooklyn. “We let our guard down, that beast will rise up and will defeat us.”
Meanwhile, there was a reminder of the continued economic cost of the pandemic, with a restaurant trade group urging the state to ease the current restrictions that include a 10 p.m. closing time for restaurants across the state, and no indoor dining in New York City. It is asking that the state allow establishments to remain open until midnight.
“We all know about the dire financial crisis facing the restaurant industry. And we all agree that we need to reopen the economy or there will be nothing left to reopen. We’re urging the state to take some small steps in that direction. Any help will go a long way toward the long-term survival of so many of our favorite restaurants,” said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association.
The association said the 10 p.m. closing time means many restaurants stop seating customers at 8 p.m., and start shutting down service at 9 p.m. to avoid having to rush customers out the door.
With indoor seating upstate also capped at 50 percent of restaurant capacity to prevent virus transmission, hundreds of restaurants across the state have shut their doors temporarily, while others have closed permanently.