ALBANY — Most of New York state’s COVID micro-cluster zones were eliminated Wednesday amid continued progress in controlling the spread of the virus.
“I think at this point it’s safe to say … the holiday surge is over,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference.
The zones were color-coded yellow, orange or red based on the severity of the outbreak compared with nearby areas, and they imposed increasing degrees of restriction on public activity.
There never were any in or near the Capital Region.
In recent weeks, the positive test rates within most microclusters dropped sharply, until they were lower in some cases than some non-cluster counties.
Four yellow zones remain in place in New York City and one in Newburgh.
A reporter questioned Cuomo on the timing of this decision, given the factors facing the state, including new strains of COVID and a slow-moving vaccination campaign.
The decision is based on the facts as they are at the present, the governor said. If the situation worsens, the restrictions will be reimposed. But until then, he said, people need to live their lives and earn an income.
“There’s a scenario that says don’t get out of your bed, ever,” Cuomo said, about being overly cautious.
Also Wednesday, the governor said that discussions are underway about a possible relaxation of the indoor dining ban in New York City, and said a decision will be announced Friday.
In other COVID-related news:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay New York City $202 million and New York state $265 million to help cover costs of the vaccination campaign.
- Cuomo said Pfizer and Moderna had declined his request that they bypass the federal government and sell their vaccines directly to New York state, on grounds that they are not legally able to do so.
- Cuomo said 72% of the residents and 44% of the staff at New York long-term care facilities for the elderly have been vaccinated against COVID; 100% of the residents have been offered the opportunity and, as of Feb. 7, 100% of staff will have been offered the shot. Some declined, but they will be able to get shots if they change their mind in the future. Some 82% of elderly facility residents in the Capital Region have been vaccinated, second highest among the state’s 10 regions after the North Country, at 84%.
- Asked by a reporter what he thought of people driving to distant vaccination sites rather than staying close to home, Cuomo said he could understand the impulse but he’d be OK with excluding non-area residents from vaccination sites specifically targeted at underserved areas such as inner cities.
- Cuomo and state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said the state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany has checked samples from 2,800 people for the more-contagious UK variant of COVID since Dec. 23 and found 42 positives.
- The seven-day rolling positive COVID test rate is down to 5.6% statewide, 6.2% in the Capital Region and 6.0% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the rates are Albany 7.0%, Fulton 9.2%, Montgomery 8.3%, Rensselaer 6.1%, Saratoga 6.1%, Schenectady 5.2% and Schoharie 8.2%.
- Among these, Schenectady County’s 5.2% is the biggest turnaround: At the end of December, its seven-day positive rate peaked at 11.3%
- Even as the positive test rate declines, the number of COVID deaths remain high, as they typically are the result of infections contracted weeks earlier. A total of 170 New Yorkers died of COVID on Tuesday, including 17 in the eight-county Capital Region: three each in Schenectady and Warren counties; two each in Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Washington counties; and one in Greene County. To the west, two people died of COVID in Montgomery County, in the Mohawk Valley region.