CAPITAL REGION - The Capital Region lost ground Wednesday in its effort meet state guidelines to begin the COVID-19 re-opening process, as the average number of daily hospitalizations rose.
The increase to 121 people hospitalized across the region puts the eight-county region back to where it was on Monday, meeting only five of the seven criteria it needs to meet for an initial re-opening. On Tuesday, it had met the hospitalization criteria because hospitalizations had declined for 14 days, but then they rose from 104 to 121 admissions between Monday and Tuesday.
There were 33 patients in intensive care units, up from 31 the previous two days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the new Capital Region hospitalization numbers in his daily press conference Wednesday. The Capital Region's three-day average of hospitalizations came in at 18, above the threshold number of 15 over a three-day average.
The hospital deaths criteria came in at six for the most recent three-day average. To pass that criteria, the three-day average must be at fewer than five or a 14-day decline.
Local county officials who serve on the state's regional "control room" committee said on Tuesday that the average numbers on hospitalizations and daily deaths -- the other criteria the region hasn't met -- will be hard to bring down, and some said Wednesday that they had known there could be setbacks.
“It’s going to set us back a couple of days on the three-day average,” said Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman, a member of the regional “control room” panel. He and other members held a conference call Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a tricky one, decreasing hospitalizations; it goes back to the county’s core public health mission,” said Fluman, who believes hospitals may err on the side of caution in deciding whether a COVID patient needs hospitalization.
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, who is also part of the "control room," had expressed optimism about re-opening during his Wednesday morning briefing. Then, after Cuomo revealed the new information, he said he remains optimistic.
“The hospitalization rate represents our entire region and we have said there may be setbacks,” McCoy said. “Today’s move in the metrics demonstrates that. But we are confident the rate will continue to go down and we will be able to reopen shortly and safely.”
“As we go forward, there’s just a lot of uncertainty,” said Waterford Supervisor John E. Lawler, who was named this week to head a Saratoga County committee that will help businesses through the re-opening process.
The Capital Region continues to meet four of the other five metrics and is listed as expected to meet the fifth, relating to having a sufficient number of contact tracers.
The Capital Region setback came on the same day the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, conducting his daily briefing in Watertown, announced that the North Country region had met the seven standards to re-open and can enter the initial phase with non-essential manufacturing, construction and curbside retail able to open starting Friday.
Four regions have now met the standard to start re-opening, including the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley. The Mohawk Valley region includes Montgomery, Fulton and Schoharie counties.
Also Wednesday, Cuomo announced that several Capital Region counties were among 12 counties where elective surgeries can resume. Those added to the list included Albany, Schenectady, Montgomery, Rensselaer and Warren counties.
Most major hospitals in those counties had already obtained waivers allowing non-emergency surgeries to resume, but the announcement means that ambulatory surgery centers can also resume surgical activities.
“We have made tremendous progress to stop the spread of this infection and all the arrows are pointing in the right direction,” Cuomo said. “We are now at a point where we can restart elective surgeries in counties without risk of a surge of COVID-19 cases in the near term, and a total of 47 counties have met the criteria to begin resuming these elective treatments.”
As of Wednesday, the state Department of Health reported that Albany County has had 1,494 cases with 62 deaths; Schenectady County 587 cases with 28 deaths; Saratoga County, 410 cases with 14 deaths; Fulton County, 140 cases with 13 deaths; Montgomery County, 68 cases with four deaths; and Schoharie County, 47 cases with two deaths.
Statewide there have been 340,000 confirmed cases, the majority of them in the greater New York City region.
The full state Regional Monitoring Dashboard: Regional Metrics