ALBANY — Four more county residents died from Tuesday to Wednesday bringing the number of deaths to 20.
The latest were two men in their 60s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s. All had underlying health issues. All but one of the 20 who died were older than 60 and all had underlying health issues.
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Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his daily briefing, announce and executive order requiring anyone in public who cannot maintain the appropriate social distance of six feet to wear a mask or face covering.
There are no penalties attached to the mandate, but if there is widespread non-compliance there could be civil repercussions, he said, adding enforcement will be up to the local municipalities.
“I don’t want to go to a penalty yet,” he said. “It is an executive order and there could be a civil penalty but you are not going to go to jail for not wearing a mask. The people will enforce it. How can you not wear a mask when you are going to come close to a person?”
A mask or cloth face covering will help an infected person from spreading COVID-19, but is less effective in preventing a healthy person from contracting the virus.
The mandate will go into effect on Friday.
As of Wednesday’s briefing, there were 515 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Albany County, up from 499 on Tuesday with 663 under mandatory quarantine, down from 676, and 71 under precautionary quarantine, down from 77.
There are 29 residents hospitalized with 12 in the ICU. As the number of positive cases goes up, due in large part to increased testing, the raw number of hospitalizations have remained steady so the rate is dropping. On Wednesday, the rate was down to 5.6 percent of the positive cases compared to 7 percent on Tuesday.
Also, testing will ramp up even more in Albany County. Starting Friday, a new test site will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Whitney Young Health Center located at 920 Lark Drive in Albany.
A mobile test site will begin on Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Capital South Campus at 20 Warren St. in Albany.
On Friday it will be at the Bleeker Terrace Apartments on North Manning Blvd. from 9 a.m. to noon and at the Watervliet Health Venter at 1804 Second Ave. from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
All testing will be done by , and after being screened for symptoms over the phone by calling Whitney Young at 518-465-4771.
The site at UAlbany is still doing community testing also. For a PIN number call 888-364-3065. No tests will be given without a PIN number.
“We know we are responding to COVID by evidence and science and the first and evidence and science we looked at was the availability of testing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the Albany County Health Department. “Utilizing the mobile testing will enable us to go to multiple locations and test people in locations we feel will be easily accessible.”
Statewide, 752 people died from Tuesday to Wednesday, who were likely in the hospital for days or even weeks, bringing the total to 11,586.
The total hospitalization rate is down, the three day rolling average of hospitalizations is significantly down, ICU admissions are down and the number of people on a ventilator are also down.
Cuomo said a key to “building the bridge” from now to re-opening society — shy of a vaccination which is still 12 to 18 months away — is more testing.
So far, New York has done more tests, about 500,000, than California, Florida and Michigan, which has combined done about 420,000 tests.
Coupled with more testing, though, is the isolation of a person who has tested positive and then tracking that person’s activities and all the people he or she has come into contact with to make sure they too are not infected.
“It’s inarguable, but it is also a massive undertaking,” he said, while calling on the federal government to help.