ALBANY — Two more county residents died of COVID-19, bringing the total to four.
County Executive Dan McCoy said two men, both in their 60s, had underlying health problems. One died on Thursday night, and the other Friday morning. Previously, a man in his 70s died as did a woman in her 60s. They too had underlying health issues.
“We will see more of this in the next week and over the next couple weeks as this hits home,” he said during his daily press briefing on Friday. “That is why I will continue with the same message. Stay home. Especially seniors and anyone with an underlying health issues. If you have respiratory issues, if you have an immune system that is weak. Asthma. Stay home.”
Earlier this week, a man in his 70s with underlying health issues died in Rensselaer County and in all there are reportedly 11 deaths in the immediate Capital District.
As of Friday morning there are 254 confirmed cases in Albany County, up 16 from Thursday. There are 412 under mandatory quarantine, up from 401, and 123 under precautionary quarantine, down from 202 on Thursday. There are 56 people hospitalized, which represent about 11.8 percent of the positive cases. Fifteen people are in ICU.
Statewide there were 102,863 positive cases with the vast majority in downstate counties including 57,159 in New York City, 22,178 on Long Island and nearly 7,500 in Dutchess, Rockland and Orange counties. There are 14,810 people hospitalized with 3,731 in ICU. The total number of deaths on Friday was 2,935, up from 2,373 on Thursday, the highest one-day death total since the beginning of the pandemic.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during his daily press briefing, said he would send the National Guard to hospitals across the state to confiscate ventilators for downstate hospitals. He said downstate is where the need is right now and as the “wave” hits other parts of the state he will bring the ventilators and PPE to those parts of the state.
“It’s not like we are going to leave any health care facility without necessary equipment, but we are saying to use the equipment where we need it now,” he said.
Of those who recently tested positive in Albany County is a cashier at Popeye’s Chicken at 90 Central Ave. in Albany. McCoy is asking anyone who was in the establishment on March 23 from 4 to 10 p.m. and on March 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to contact the county Health Department.
While homemade masks are not recommended for health care workers and do not provided anywhere near 100 percent protection for the general public, Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the county Health Department, said these are extraordinary times.
She said there is a shortage of PPE across the state and while health care workers and first responders have adequate supplies at the present time, many who care for those particularly vulnerable people may not have access to the appropriate PPE. In those instances, a homemade mask is better than nothing.
“We are very aware of a crucial shortage of PPE and this is a real thing in the community and specifically in situations where people are being cared for in their home, people who are vulnerable and who are likely to develop complications from COVID-19,” she said. “We talk about washing hands and social distancing and those practices are even more important for people caring for an individual who is vulnerable. It is 100 percent more critical.”
The vast majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 do not require hospitalization and many do not have any of the symptoms — cough, fever and shortness of breath. Those people, though, can transmit the virus to the elderly and those with underlying health issues without realizing it.
If you wear even a homemade mask, Whalen said, it will make you more aware of how often you touch your face and remind you to wash your hands.
“Homemade masks are not recommended for health care workers. From a Health Department perspective, from a scientific perspective, we cannot say for certain they will protect the wearer from respiratory droplets and we cannot say with certainty it will prevent the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “But these are extraordinary times and we encourage people to make the masks and drop them off at the health department and we will provide them to people who need them and who have no other alternatives.”