Capital Region

Capital Region hospitals to resume patient visits as COVID continues to wane

Hugo Gonzalez of Amsterdam gets his COVID-19 vaccination from Amanda Bearcroft at Riverfront Center Saturday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Hugo Gonzalez of Amsterdam gets his COVID-19 vaccination from Amanda Bearcroft at Riverfront Center Saturday.

ALBANY — New York and most regions of the state continue to show progress in slowing transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The seven-day average of positive tests statewide has dropped from 7.6% on Jan. 1 to 5.0% on Feb. 1 to 3.1% on March 1.

The Capital Region has shown even greater progress, dropping from 9.8% to 4.7% to 1.9% on the same dates.

Albany Medical Center announced Tuesday that it, Ellis, St. Peter’s and Samaritan hospitals will allow patients to have visitors again starting Monday. Visitation has been very limited amid the high infection rate in the surrounding community, and will resume with some limitations.

But the move is possible because the positive test rate dropped below 2% and is contingent on the region maintaining its progress against COVID.

Dr. Fred Venditti, Albany Med’s hospital general director, said the hospitals in the region’s three largest cities discussed the plan for two weeks and implemented it jointly to reduce the chance of confusion.

The rate of decline has not been as steep in the last two weeks — the Capital Region moved only from 2.3% to 1.9% from Feb. 15 to March 1, and the neighboring Mohawk Valley dropped only from 2.0% to 1.8% in the same period.

In his daily update Tuesday, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy touched on the possibility that people are focusing too heavily on vaccination as the means of preventing the spread of COVID.

“While vaccinations are a priority, testing is still an important tool to identify where the virus is spreading and stop it in its tracks, especially because many carrying COVID are asymptomatic,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing reports of declining demand for tests across the country because of COVID fatigue, winter weather and a greater focus on vaccinations. We may be seeing the early signs of that here in Albany County and we can’t allow it to happen.”

Albany County did see a marked decline in testing Sunday and Monday, but Sundays and Mondays have often seen fewer tests performed in recent months.

Less than two weeks ago, Albany County recorded its most-ever test samples collected in a single day — 7,797 on Feb. 19.

Statewide, only 128,034 tests were administered Monday, the third-lowest single-day total since Nov. 15.

However, this may be an anomaly rather than a trend: Feb: 24-27 saw four of the highest-ever one-day totals statewide — a combined 1.13 million New Yorkers were tested.

The seven-day positive test rate is a better barometer of the pandemic than one-day test results because it smooths out one-day anomalies. For area counties, the seven-day test rate stands at:

  • Albany 1.8%
  • Fulton 3.8%
  • Montgomery 3.8%
  • Rensselaer 1.3%
  • Saratoga 2.4%
  • Schenectady 1.9%
  • Schoharie 1.6%

VACCINE UPDATE

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that New York has surpassed the 3 million mark on first-dose vaccination — 3,033,922 New Yorkers have now received the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Of them, 1,664,423 also have received the second dose.

Cuomo also announced that the state is expected to receive 164,800 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but will keep their distribution separate from the other two vaccines to avoid confusion. People who receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need to be scheduled for the second dose when they receive the first. Johnson & Johnson is just one dose.

Under a new pilot program, the state will administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine overnight at the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and Javits Center in Manhattan. Appointments can be scheduled starting at 8 a.m. Thursday at New York’s “Am I Eligible” website or by calling 1-833-NYS-4VAX.

Vaccination hours will be 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Javits and 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the fairgrounds starting Friday evening.

The third Johnson & Johnson site — Yankee Stadium — is reserved for residents of the Bronx.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

  • The number of COVID-positive patients in New York hospitals stood at 5,369 on Tuesday, including 134 in the Capital Region. The statewide hospital census peaked at 18,825 on April 12, dropped to 410 on Sept. 5 and peaked again at 9,273 on Jan. 19.
  • Another 82 names were added to the list of New Yorkers killed by COVID, bringing the official state death toll to 38,660. Fifty of these deaths were in New York City and 20 in its immediate suburbs. The lone Capital Region victim was an Albany County resident in her 70s.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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