CAPITAL REGION — The Capital Region and the entire state has continued to see significant drops in the COVID-19 test positivity rates over the last month and particularly the last week, as the post-holiday surge moves further into the past.
On Saturday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said the seven-day statewide test positivity rate has dropped to 3.9 percent — the lowest rate since early January, and the 36th day in a row that the test-positivity rate has declined.
Schenectady County is among the places that has seen significant improvement, with the seven-day average for COVID test positivity having dropped to 2.7 percent. The seven-day average was 3.2 percent a week ago, but was as high as 9.0 percent on Jan. 11. The number of cases per 100,000 residents is now 35, down two-thirds from a peak of 99 on Jan. 11.
County Manager Rory Fluman credited the public with helping to bring the rate down, following a surge of cases believed to be tied to private gatherings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Fluman said that the public has become more accepting of the need for masks and social distancing, which some people resisted earlier — and that has helped the county bring the caseload down.
“I think people are now knowledgeable and accepting of precautions,” Fluman said. “Now it is just accepted that if you’re outside your home and indoors, you should have a mask on. Stores are much more accepting now. I think people’s acceptance of social precautions, distancing and mask use, has improved.”
The Capital Region’s overall test positivity rate dropped to 2.56 percent on Friday, a plummet from 3.03 percent just Wednesday — and less than one-third of what it was a few weeks ago. On Jan. 15, the seven-day positivity rate was 7.87 percent, and had been even higher earlier in January, which was the worst month of the pandemic across upstate.
The numbers released by state officials on Saturday showed the following positivity rates for local counties: Albany, 2.7 percent; Rensselaer, 1.8 percent; Saratoga, 2.4 percent; Montgomery, 4.5 percent; Fulton, 6.5 percent; and Schoharie, 2.8 percent. All those counties are trending downward.
Statewide daily hospitalizations, which briefly topped 9,000 in mid-January, fell below 7,000 for the first time since Christmas Day. They were 6,888 people hospitalized, a number Cuomo said was down 26 percent in the last week.
“Hospitalization and infection rates are continuing to fall statewide and New Yorkers should be commended for their hard work and sacrifice which helped make this a reality,” Cuomo said in a released statement. “If we are to win this war against COVID once and for all, we must keep driving down these rates, as well as to get as many shots into arms as possible.”
Cuomo’s office also acknowledged the statewide improvement in an executive order decision on Friday, as he agreed to allow restaurants and bars, which had been required to close at 10 p.m., to remain open until 11 p.m., starting Sunday. Restaurateurs had chafed at the early closing hour, which meant many establishments stopped seating people at 8 p.m. or soon after, since the rule required all patrons to be out the door at 10 p.m.
“Our decisions are based on science and data and we adjust as the virus adjusts. The infection rate and hospitalizations have continued to significantly decline,” Cuomo said in extending the closing hour.
Nationwide, while the COVID death toll is more than 475,000, the federal Centers for Disease Control has been reporting some positive trends in the last few weeks. The number of cases per 100,000 population has dropped across the nation, and the number of new cases being reported daily has also dropped by more than half.
Despite the positive trends, people are still dying. There were 125 deaths reported by New York state on Saturday, including one death each in Fulton, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties.