Compared with the last few weeks, New York’s COVID numbers look good

Brookhaven National Lab Director Doon Gibbs shows Gov. Kathy Hochul a larger-than-life model of a COVID-19 virus particle on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (Governor's Office)

Brookhaven National Lab Director Doon Gibbs shows Gov. Kathy Hochul a larger-than-life model of a COVID-19 virus particle on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (Governor's Office)

ALBANY — The COVID virus appears to be continuing its retreat from the huge surge earlier this month, but once again, progress is relative:

The statewide positive test rate hit its lowest level in a month Thursday, but was still nearly 10%.

1,706 COVID patients were discharged Thursday from New York hospitals but 1,357 others were admitted.

The number of lab-confirmed positive tests Thursday was less than a third of the 90,132 reported statewide two weeks ago but it was still more than 28,000 — a huge number in any period except the last four weeks, and one that doesn’t count all the positive results with the take-home kits the state is handing out by the millions.

And 154 New Yorkers died in hospitals and nursing homes Thursday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul tempered optimism with caution during a news conference Friday, noting the progress and noting that improvement has been followed by downturns more than once in the last two years as New York battled the pandemic.

“We’re not through the surge yet, but boy, those numbers look good. And I’m really excited,” she said.

Hochul said the state has ordered millions more take-home test kits, a key part of the strategy to keep schools open.

The number in-hand or in the pipeline is now 73 million, she said; 16 million of them have been distributed to the public, including 10 million to schools and 2 million to nursing homes and other group living facilities.

The decline of the COVID surge is most pronounced downstate, the governor said.

“There’s a lag of about two weeks for upstate New York,” she said. “We’re continuing to monitor upstate. We do have a lot of overwhelmed hospitals there, and we need to keep addressing that and deploying people.”

Hochul said more National Guard members will be heading to understaffed New York City nursing homes, and later to stressed facilities upstate. Some are medically trained and will provide care, others will provide general assistance.

Five Guard members are already working at the Glendale Home, the skilled nursing facility operated by Schenectady County.

Glendale has been able to increase its staffing levels over the past year by hiring new employees, incentivizing existing employees to stay, and by bringing in per-diem health professionals who are not employees. 

Even with all that, a spokeswoman said, the county is continually looking for new employees to further expand the Glendale workforce.

LOCAL NUMBERS 

Three weeks into the new year, state Department of Health data paints a mixed picture for Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties:

  • For the first 20 days of 2022, the seven local counties reported 142% more lab-confirmed infections among residents than in the same period a year ago, plus an unknown number of positive tests with the at-home self-test kits. But the number of new positives has recently been declining most days in most of the counties.
  • The number of people hospitalized with COVID in January 2022 is well below the 2021 number in those counties, and about 30% of those now hospitalized weren’t admitted because of COVID symptoms — they have other problems, but happen to have a mild case of COVID as well.
  • Finally, the number of resident deaths attributed to COVID in the first 20 days of this year is less than half the total in the same period of 2021.

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