Capital Region

COVID continues to surge as schools prepare to reopen

Cars wait on Route 50 in Wilton to pull into Wilton Medical Arts center, part of Saratoga Hospital in Wilton, before its 9 a.m. opening with two lines entering the triage tent on Jan. 2, 2021.
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Cars wait on Route 50 in Wilton to pull into Wilton Medical Arts center, part of Saratoga Hospital in Wilton, before its 9 a.m. opening with two lines entering the triage tent on Jan. 2, 2021.

CAPITAL REGION — The number of reported coronavirus cases continued to climb across the state this past weekend, with Albany County reaching its highest number of COVID-related hospitalizations since the pandemic began in 2020. 

The state reported 62,526 cases on Saturday, according to the most recent statewide data available. A total of 275,563 tests were administered, bringing the positive test rate to 22.69%, though the numbers do not account for at-home testing and are likely lower because of the New Year’s holiday.

The day before, on New Year’s Eve, the state reported 85,476 of the 384,365 tests administered came back positive, a positive test rate of 22.24%.

“New Yorkers returning to schools and workplaces on the first weekday of 2022 should take every possible precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “We all know the tools that keep us safe: vaccines, boosters, masks and tests. Let’s all do our part and take these common-sense precautions so New York can defeat the winter surge and come back stronger than before.”

Virus-related hospitalizations across New York also continued to climb, reaching 8,773, the most since last January. The number of patients in the intensive care unit rose to 1,133, the highest since last February.

Albany County on Sunday reported 23 new COVID-related hospitalizations, bringing the number of residents hospitalized with the virus to 84. Ten of those patients are in the ICU, according to Daniel McCoy, the county executive.

“The spike in hospitalizations is alarming, nearly doubling from the day before and bringing us to the highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 since this all started,” he said in a statement. “We know that getting a vaccination is the best protection in fighting the virus and if a vaccinated person contracts COVID-19, he or she is less likely to experience severe symptoms, be hospitalized or die. I continue to urge those who are unvaccinated to get a shot and get the booster when you are eligible. Do it for yourself, your loved ones and our community.”

Schenectady and Saratoga counties have not reported COVID statistics since last week.

The uptick in cases comes as schools prepare to reopen following the holiday break. The return of in-person classes has prompted concerns about safety as the highly infectious omicron variant continues to spread and many children are still not vaccinated.

Hochul has vowed to keep schools open and has proposed bolstering testing efforts, masking and vaccines as a ways to combat the winter surge. She promised millions of at-home testing kits to districts across the state, but as of this weekend, local schools have yet to receive any such kits.

“The district plans to receive a shipment of rapid tests from New York State DOH this week. Parents and guardians will be able to contact their child’s school to pick up a rapid test from the school to screen their child at home. We will continue to offer additional details of how the school district will maximize the use of these state rapid tests to help mitigate the impact of COVID in our school community,” Michael Patton, superintendent of Saratoga City School District, wrote in an email to parents on Sunday.

Districts across the region posted similar messages this past week, including Schenectady City School District, Niskayuna Central School District and Shenendehowa Central Schools District.

“Our plan is to return to in-person instruction on Monday, Jan 3. We remain unwavering in our commitment to keeping the health and safety of our students and staff at the forefront of our decision-making, while also keeping our doors open for in-person learning,” a message posted on the Schenectady City Schools’ website on Dec. 29 reads.

Late Sunday, the Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam announced its students would attend classes remotely today, Tuesday and Wednesday. The change was due to key staff shortages caused by COVID-19, the announcement said. The change did not apply to other students in the Greater Amsterdam School District, the announcement said.

COVID by the numbers

New York City and its surrounding suburbs continue to see the highest number of reported cases in the state, but cases have been steadily rising in the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley.

On Saturday, the Capital Region was averaging 139.86 cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days. That’s up from 90.85 since last Wednesday, according to state data.

Schenectady County is currently averaging 147.7 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, and has a positive test rate of 14.1% over that same period, according to state data.

Saratoga County, meanwhile, was averaging 155.1 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, a positive test rate of 15.4% over that same period.

Meanwhile, the Mohawk Valley was averaging 116.60 cases per 100,000 residents during that same period, up from 77.48 on Wednesday.

Montgomery and Fulton counties reported 105.4 and 82 cases per 100,000 residents respectively in the seven-day period preceding Friday, according to state data. That’s a positive test rate of 11.8% in Montgomery County and 13% in Fulton County over the same seven-day period.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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