CAPITAL REGION -- There was fresh evidence Saturday that COVID-19 continues to spread in local communities, though at much lower rates than at the height of the pandemic three months ago.
Information released by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office showed that 1.6 percent of all people tested on Friday in the eight-county Capital Region were positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. That was consistent with the rate for the previous two days, and the highest percentage among the state's 10 regions.
For comparison, the rate on Friday was 0.8 percent for the Mohawk Valley, and 1.2 percent for New York City. The statewide average was 1.05 percent.
On Friday, Schenectady County reported its first COVID death in nearly three weeks, a woman in her 70s who died Thursday. The last COVID death was July 6. There have now been 41 COVID deaths in the county since mid-March.
The county had 20 new COVID cases confirmed on Friday, according to Cuomo's office -- the county's highest number in one day since late April. It was 3.4 percent of those tested. The day before, there were nine new cases diagnosed, 2 percent of those tested.
During his Facebook update on Thursday, Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman said the county saw a spike in cases about two weeks after the July 4 weekend. Whether the increase now ties back to that weekend remains unclear, but people infected then could have spread it to others who are just showing symptoms.
The county has had some positive cases among employees at the county-owned Glendale Home nursing home in Glenville, but there have been no positive cases among residents, Fluman said.
Among other local counties, according to the Governor's Office, Albany saw 20 new cases on Friday; Saratoga, 14, the highest number that county has seen since early May; Rensselaer, five new cases, Fulton, two; Montgomery, one; and Schoharie, no new cases.
The Saratoga County Public Health Department said Saturday that it has determined there was a low-risk exposure to the public last week in Saratoga Springs at the Bourbon Room bar, located on Caroline Street. An employee tested positive for COVID after working Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 16-18, each night between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m., county officials said.
While the employee was masked at all times, anyone who visited the bar during those hours should self-monitor for symptoms, and contact their healthcare provider to get a diagnostic test, county officials said.
Also on Saturday, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said that one of the new COVID cases was a secondary spread from the large July 4 party in Albany that is now blamed for nearly 40 positive cases, nearly all of them among people in their 20s.
The total number of active cases in Albany County on Friday was 110, up from a low of 49 on July 10.
"You can see how the ripple effect goes from one little party that was held July 3 to July 5," McCoy said during a Facebook presentation.
The 20 positive cases diagnosed on Friday, McCoy said, included healthcare workers; residents of congregate facilities; one person who had traveled out of state; and three with no clear source of transmission.
McCoy called the increase in cases in his county "alarming."
"We're steady going back up. We hit the apex and we thought we were all getting out of this or at least slowing down, and unfortunately we're going back in the direction we were a couple of months ago," he said.
The Capital Region and Mohawk Valley are both now in Phase 4 of reopening, with retailers open, restaurants allowed to serve indoors with capacity limits, and, as of two weeks ago, malls able to re-open. Cuomo has said some increase in cases was expected as the economy reopens.
If local case counts continue to go up, the state could consider rolling back some of the re-openings, officials said.
On Saturday, Cuomo said the news around the state is generally good, "but it's essential that we stay vigilant about social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands, as this pandemic is far from over."
Nationally, COVID-19 is spreading at the highest rate yet, mostly in states in the South and West. Through Thursday, the average number of new cases for the previous seven days nationally was nearly 67,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Also nationally, the number of deaths per day exceeded 1,000 for the last four days. The CDC expects the rate of deaths to keep rising for at least the next four weeks, according to information on its website.