Huge one-day COVID jump possibly inflated by holiday delays

Gov. Kathy Hochul fist-bumps a COVID vaccine recipient Wednesday during a clinic at Clinton County Community College. (Governor's office)

Gov. Kathy Hochul fist-bumps a COVID vaccine recipient Wednesday during a clinic at Clinton County Community College. (Governor's office)

ALBANY — New York state and many of its counties shattered their one-day COVID infection records Tuesday, with the arrival of holiday-delayed test results possibly exaggerating the size of the pandemic’s ongoing surge.

Statewide, 67,090 new infections were reported Tuesday, far more than the previous one-day high — 49,708 on Dec. 24.

In the eight-county Capital Region, Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties all had far more positive test results Tuesday than in any previous day in the 22-month pandemic. Rensselaer County set a new high by a narrow margin, while Columbia and Warren counties narrowly missed their one-day highs.

Test results take a day or two to confirm and record, which is why Mondays often show the fewest new infections of the week: Fewer people get tested and fewer results are reported on weekends.

The past weekend included Christmas Day, which may have further delayed reporting, resulting in extra results boosting the total Tuesday. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul touched on this in a COVID briefing Wednesday.

“These are a little bit off-numbers because of the holiday week,” she said. “We’re not quite sure if there’s a little bit of lag time so don’t rest on your laurels here, continue to get vaccinated and do everything you can. But a lot of people are getting tested around the holidays, which we think is really smart to do.”

Officials in the three largest Capital Region counties also addressed the situation Wednesday.

In Schenectady County, 334 new infections were reported Tuesday. The previous one-day high was 181 on Jan. 5.

“Some of it is the Christmas slowdown,” Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman said. “Albany’s numbers exploded Monday and Tuesday as well.”

But regardless of whether it’s an actual one-day record, “The increase is real,” he added.

“Be cautious celebrating New Year’s,” Fluman said. “Complying with mask-or-vaccinate orders from New York state is a good place to start.”

On Tuesday, 490 Saratoga County residents were reported infected, substantially more than the previous one-day high, 289 on Dec. 1. But other metrics are trending positive for the county: Per-capita hospitalizations and deaths are down, while the rate of booster shots is high.

Saratoga County’s public health comissioner, Dr. Daniel Kuhles, said via email:

“The increase in reported cases is not unexpected and is consistent with that seen in other counties in the region, state and across the nation as [the omicron variant] continues to spread. In contrast to case counts, indicators such as hospitalization and death rates are more substantive towards understanding the burden of COVID-19.

“The commonalities among those being hospitalized and succumbing to COVID-19 also tell a compelling narrative about COVID-19 in Saratoga County. Over the last 30 days, approximately 97% of hospitalizations and 95% of deaths among individuals with COVID-19 occurred in individuals who did not receive a booster vaccination.”

He added: “We all have a role to play in the fight against COVID-19. Regardless of vaccination status, we encourage everyone to wear a mask while indoors, practice social distancing, and, if sick, stay home except to get tested.”

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy noted that the impact of all these new infections remains to be seen.

“Not only is today’s 471 new COVID infections the highest single-day increase ever reported since the pandemic started, but it also far exceeds Albany County’s previous record of 351 we reported on Jan. 12,” he said in a prepared statement. “While concerning, it’s still unclear what kind of impact this will have on our hospitals and for now, COVID hospitalizations seem relatively stable, though there is a lag in time after a spike in infections.”

The eight counties that have been accounting for most of the state’s surge in new infections — New York City and its closest suburbs — all recorded new one-day highs Tuesday, some by a wide margin.

Every county in the Hudson Valley between New York City and the Capital Region also reached new one-day highs Tuesday, most by a wide margin.

The Mohawk Valley region was a mixed bag: Oneida and Otsego counties far surpassed their previous one-day maximum, Schoharie County came close, and Fulton, Herkimer and Montgomery counties were far short of a one-day high.


Some other statistics reported Wednesday by the state Department of Health:

  • The COVID-positive patient census in hospitals statewide jumped 9.6% from 6,173 on Monday to 6,767 on Tuesday. The majority of hospitalizations are in downstate facilities and the bulk of the day-to-day increase has been downstate. The census dropped 8.6% in the Capital Region in 24 hours and 2.2% in the Mohawk Valley.
  • Statewide, 97 new COVID deaths were reported statewide Tuesday, including one each in Albany, Greene and Saratoga counties, two in Montgomery County and three in Rensselaer County.
  • The seven-day average positive test rate, considered a better metric than one-day totals because it smooths out one-day anomalies, stood at 14.6% statewide, ranging from 5.2% in St. Lawrence County to 18.5% in Bronx County.
  • The seven-day average number of infections per 100,000 residents stood at 222 statewide, ranging from 38 in Allegany County to 376 in New York County.
  • The percentage of available hospital beds stood at 22% statewide, 16% in the Capital Region and 13% in the Mohawk Valley. The percentage of available ICU beds stood at 20% statewide, 10% in the Capital Region and 13% in the Capital Region.

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