CAPITAL REGION — The statewide and Capital Region COVID-19 numbers continued to show improvement on Saturday, with declines in positive test results and deaths as a surge attributed to the December holidays passes.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reported that the statewide test positivity rate has dropped to 4.75 percent, while the number of people hospitalized fell to 8,176, or about 1,000 patients less than at the early January peak in hospitalizations.
The daily death toll, which briefly topped 200 people two weeks ago, dropped to 140. Eight deaths were reported in the Capital Region, with six in Albany County and two in Saratoga County.
The Capital Region’s rolling seven-day positivity rate has dropped from 5.97 percent on Wednesday to 5.16 percent on Friday.
“We’ve gotten past the post-holiday spike and thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers, our infection rate continues to decline,” Cuomo said in a statement released with Saturday’s update.
Based on the improvement trend, Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday that indoor dining (with a 25 percent capacity limit) will be allowed to resume in New York City on Valentine’s Day. He also said wedding receptions with up to 150 guests will be allowed for the first time since last spring, on condition all guests are tested.
“We must continue to take steps to reopen our economy, but we have to do it smartly and safely,” Cuomo said.
Bringing down positivity rates is also a critical part of the effort to allow high-risk high school sports to resume, with most counties setting a goal of achieving a 4 percent positivity rate before athletic competitions can resume.
On Saturday morning, about 50 people came to downtown Albany, standing outside the county office building on State Street, despite bone-chilling temperatures, to protest Albany County’s decision not to allow competitive sports at this time.
At a briefing Saturday morning, McCoy said there had been four more deaths in the county since Friday morning, bringing the total for the month of January to 86. The county also learned for four others earlier in the month, he said.
“January has easily been the deadliest month since the outbreak started, eclipsing the 66 deaths we witnessed in December,” McCoy said. “My heart breaks for every one of the families who have lost loved ones during these dark times. However, the data is showing signs of improvement.”
McCoy held out hope to the parents and students clamoring for a chance to play basketball, hockey, and other contact sports. “It’s important to remember that we’ve come a long way and things are improving,” he said. “It’s my hope that we can continue this trend so we can allow for high-risk school sports to continue beyond training and low-contact practice once it’s safe.”
As of Friday, the seven-day average was 6.4 percent in Albany County, 4.3 percent in Schenectady, 5.1 percent in Saratoga, 5.3 percent in Rensselaer, 8.4 percent in Fulton, 8.9 percent in Montgomery, and 5.1 percent in Schoharie. The general trend in all the counties has been downward since the first week in January, state statistics show.
The state said Albany County had 160 new cases, while Fulton had 36; Montgomery, 34; Rensselaer, 67; Saratoga, 85; Schenectady, 77; and Schoharie, six.
Cuomo also updated the state’s vaccination program, which administered nearly 28,000 more first doses on Friday. The state has been receiving about 250,000 doses per week, but the federal government is expected to hike the number in the next few weeks. About 7.1 million New Yorkers are currently eligible for vaccination, leading to widespread frustration with the lack of access, especially among senior citizens.
“New York’s vast distribution network is capable of handling more than 100,000 vaccinations per day, but to actually do it, we need more doses from the federal government,” Cuomo said in releasing the numbers. “While the 16 percent bump in weekly vaccine supply over the next three weeks is a welcome increase, the reality is that we simply need more supply. As we get through this next phase of the war, I urge New Yorkers to continue to wear a mask, socially distance, and stay New York Tough.”