Capital Region

COVID surge forces area hospitals to halt elective surgeries

Clifton Park Building and Grounds Light Machine Equipment Operator Tyler Clifford checks residents ID’s and hands out free COVID rapid at-home testing kits Thursday

Clifton Park Building and Grounds Light Machine Equipment Operator Tyler Clifford checks residents ID’s and hands out free COVID rapid at-home testing kits Thursday

Albany County reported more than 1,400 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, surpassing the previous daily record set just 24 hours earlier as some area hospitals halt elective surgeries amid a surging pandemic fueled by holiday gatherings and the highly contagious omicron variant.

The county reported 1,448 cases, an 18% increase over the previous daily record of 1,229 set on Saturday. The number of active cases grew to 6,644 on Sunday, up from 5,771 the day before.

County Executive Dan McCoy said the growing caseload was expected and urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Vaccines reduce the chance of infection as well as the likelihood of severe illness and death, according to health officials.

“We knew we would see increased positive cases after holiday gatherings and that is what is happening now with another record high today of over 1,400 new cases,” he said in a statement. “I hope that people have listened to what we have said about getting vaccinated and getting tested if they show signs or symptoms of the virus. There are many places to get a vaccination and local mass testing sites at Crossgates Mall and SUNY Albany to be tested. Please do the right thing to stop the spread and protect yourself, your loved ones and our community.”

The number of quarantines in the county also rose sharply overnight, from 6,386 to 7,192 on Sunday — a 13% increase. Nineteen new hospitalizations were reported, bringing the number of county residents hospitalized with the virus to 116, including 14 in the ICU.

Albany County’s surge is indicative of a trend seen statewide that has health officials scrambling to increase vaccination efforts as the omicron variant sends caseloads skyrocketing, further straining a health-care system that is navigating increased demand amid staffing shortages.

The state’s Department of Health on Saturday issued an order preventing 40 hospitals across the state from performing non-essential, non-urgent elective surgeries for at least two weeks over capacity concerns. The mandate comes following an executive order from Gov. Kathy Hochul last year that allows the department to limit certain surgeries as a way of ensuring capacity amid the surging virus. The order applies to hospitals at 95% capacity.

Hospitals throughout the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes and Central New York are impacted, including St. Mary’s Healthcare in Amsterdam and Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.

In a statement, Acting State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett urged vaccinations and said the state is doing everything possible to assist the hospitals with the winter surge.

“We will use every available tool to help ensure that hospitals can manage the COVID-19 winter surge,” she said. “I want to remind New Yorkers that getting vaccinated and boosted remain the best way to protect against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. Vaccination also protects our hospital system. We cannot return to the early months of the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed.”

St. Mary’s Healthcare reported just one ICU bed available on Friday, a day before the order was handed down. The Amsterdam Memorial Campus reported just three total beds available and no ICU beds, according to the state data. Nathan Littauer reported just 18 total beds available Friday, none of which were in the ICU.

The Mohawk Valley is averaging 204 cases per 100,000 residents as of Saturday, up from the 186 average on Friday, according to state date. The region has a seven-day positive test rate of 17.46%, according to state data.

Meanwhile, the Capital Region, as of Saturday, is averaging 233.57 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days, an average test rate of 19.5%.

Statewide, 79,777 cases were reported Saturday, the most recent day data is available. Virus-related hospitalizations remain high at 11,747, including 1,768 new patient admissions. Patients in the ICU grew by 36, to 1,519, according to state data.

A total of 138 people died from the virus.

Saratoga and Schenectady counties do not report COVID statistics on the weekend, but reported 655 and 520 new cases to the state on Saturday, respectively, according to the latest data.

Meanwhile, Fulton and Montgomery counties reported 109 and 156 new cases, respectively, to the state.

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

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