ALBANY — The state reported more progress in the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, with the lowest one-day positive test rate since late November and more than 100,000 people vaccinated in 24 hours.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus, meanwhile, is still high but is declining. Albany Medical Center, the Capital Region’s largest hospital, said its COVID-positive patient census on Thursday dropped below 100 for the first time since late December. And 32 of its 98 COVID patients are non-infectious.
Statewide, 285,499 diagnostic tests were administered Wednesday, the second most in a single day in New York, and the positivity rate was 3.54%, lowest since Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. The seven-day average positive rate, a better gauge of the pandemic’s progress, was 4.16%, the lowest since Dec. 1.
As of Thursday morning, 1.79 million New Yorkers had received the first shot of the two-dose vaccine, which represents more than 10 percent of the statewide population over age 16, the cutoff point for eligibility for the two currently authorized vaccines. In all, 2.45 million first and second doses had been administered in New York as of Thursday morning, 106,017 of them in the preceding 24 hours.
Some of New York’s county executives spoke out on the vaccination campaign in a virtual news conference Thursday, repeating earlier criticism that the state is excluding counties from the process for which they planned, trained and are mandated to be part of.
“I would say the needle has moved slightly on vaccine distribution,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican who is president of the New York State Association of Counties, and has previously complained about the state taking over the mass vaccination program in a poorly coordinated manner.
The idea that counties need to be a critical partner in the vaccination effort is now gaining some traction in Albany, he said.
“We still however remain somewhat sidelined, and we’re going to continue to advocate for the role that taxpayers across the state of New York have expected of us,” Molinaro said, adding the counties have been mandated to create vaccination plans that they cannot now implement.
The county executives also raised their concerns about federal aid.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asserted — many times, many ways — that New York state government should get $15 billion of the $350 billion President Biden has proposed to provide to state and local governments nationwide as part of a COVID-relief package.
At a news conference Wednesday Cuomo derided the idea of giving Albany less than $15 billion, and instead sending some money to the cities and counties. “Just give it the state,” he said. “Who do you think we fund? I find the schools, the hospitals and the same entities. In many ways, what the federal government is doing is duplicative.”
The $15 billion is what Cuomo says he needs to balance the budget.
Molinaro on Thursday said the state has already raided county sales tax revenue and other payments to local governments.
“We do not believe that every dollar of aid should flow through Albany,” he said.
Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the Association of Counties, said the sums currently being negotiated in Washington would, in fact, give some relief to local governments: $5.8 billion for New York City, $2.2 billion for the 57 counties outside New York City and $3.4 billion to all other local governments via Community Development Block Grants.
That same formula would send just $12.7 billion to Albany, he said.
It is fair and necessary to send relief to local governments, rather than all relief funding to the state government, Acquario said.
“County leaders have been advocating for 11 months for direct funding to offset the loss of revenue and increased costs associated with fighting the pandemic, and the need to reinvest in their local economies,” he said via email. “Counties have been on the front line of this public health crisis. … These local leaders live and work in these communities. They know how to invest these federal dollars in ways that will help them rebuild better and stronger than they were before this pandemic.”
In other COVID-related news Thursday:
- Price Chopper/Market 32 said it will begin administering COVID vaccine at more in-store pharmacies starting Monday, primarily for those age 65 and older. The expanded list of locations is 1640 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady; 15 Park Ave., Clifton Park; 873 New Loudon Road, Latham; 3045 Route 50, Wilton; 141 Sanford Farms Plaza, Amsterdam; 1879 Altamont Ave., Schenectady; 1 Kendall Way, Malta; and 4535 Commercial Drive, New Hartford. Appointments are required and will be available starting Friday at www.pricechopper.com/covidvaccine
- The state’s official death toll rose by 122 to 36,743. Three of the new deaths were reported in Washington County, two in Schenectady County, and one each in Fulton, Montgomery and Saratoga counties.
- The seven-day COVID positive test rate stood at 4.2% statewide, 3.0% in the Capital Region and 2.6% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the rate was Albany 3.0%, Fulton 7.2%, Montgomery 6.1%, Rensselaer 2.4%, Saratoga 2.8%, Schenectady 3.3% and Schoharie 2.1%.
- Statewide, 7,342 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 302 of them in the Capital Region and 141 in the Mohawk Valley.