New York state and the Capital Region are both seeing the number of COVID-19 cases go down, according to the latest state data available Sunday.
However, a grim reminder of the scale of the tragedy that has been unfolding since 2020 was also noted Sunday, as the Capital Region closed in on 900 COVID-related deaths.
Cumulatively, the region encompassing Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties has experienced 897 COVID-related deaths in less than a year, based on state data as of Sunday. A significant percentage of deaths in each county have been in nursing homes, but most deaths have been in the wider community.
On Sunday, the state reported that there were seven new local deaths recorded: two each in Schenectady, Saratoga and Albany counties, and one in Montgomery County.
Among the 897 deaths recorded in the 11 months since the pandemic began, there have now been 310 deaths in Albany County, 164 in Schenectady, 129 in Saratoga, 121 in Rensselaer, 93 in Montgomery, 71 in Fulton, and nine in Schoharie, based on state COVID Tracker data.
Collectively, those counties have now had 55,630 confirmed cases, and that total continues to grow by several hundred every day, though at less than half the rate of early January.
The Daily Gazette summary relied on state figures, but lags in reporting mean the counties themselves sometimes have different totals, either higher or lower.
Despite a trajectory that says the death toll will reach 1,000 in coming weeks, there is good news in the recent trends. Numbers are now going down, after a January upsurge that many analysts have attributed to private holiday gatherings that occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
National rates of new cases and new deaths have also been declining since January, which was the deadliest month of the pandemic in many states. New York state never approached the levels of suffering seen when the then-new virus struck New York City last spring, but saw daily hospitalizations above 9,000, and the daily death toll briefly exceed 200. The pandemic was also much more evenly distributed in January, with upstate’s cumulative death tolls exceeding the city’s.
As of Saturday, statewide there were 7,649 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — a lot of people, but the lowest the total has been since Christmas. It was 155 fewer than the day before. The average percent of people testing positive, meanwhile, is 4.5 percent, the lowest it’s been since shortly after Thanksgiving.
With that good news, Cuomo’s daily update took a less somber tone than he often has in recent weeks. Still, the governor repeated his previous warnings that Super Bowl gatherings could lead to another case spike in the next week or so.
“It’s no accident that our positivity and hospitalizations are continuing to decline, this is happening because of the dedication and discipline shown by New Yorkers,” he said. “While we are encouraged by this declining numbers, we must remain vigilant. Today, I urge New Yorkers to enjoy the Super Bowl but be smart and don’t do anything to undo our progress….”
Also positive, the Capital Region has seen its seven-day rolling positivity average drop dramatically, from 3.92 percent on Thursday to 3.51 percent on Saturday. The Mohawk Valley, which in state metrics includes Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie counties, has seen a similar drop, from 3.63 percent to 3.07 percent.
The number of people who have had at least one shot of a vaccine for COVID-19 is also growing. Cuomo said Sunday that 2.1 million first doses have now been given, and the supply coming from the federal government is increasing, though it is still far short of what’s needed for the 7 million New Yorkers eligible for vaccine.
Due to limited supply, Cuomo said New Yorkers are still encouraged to remain patient and are advised not to show up at vaccination sites without an appointment.