ALBANY — For a host of reasons, upstate has weathered the COVID-19 storm better than downstate so there is now serious talk of opening upstate sooner than downstate. How to do that in a manner that will not bring more problems, and cause the virus to spread to those areas is an open question.
“I think it’s logical to think a re-opening plan take into consideration the differential of infection rates and overall hospitalization rates. We see that in certain states. If you have less of a problem you can open faster,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his daily briefing on Friday, April 17. “If you are in one state and parts of the state are in a different situation than other parts of the state why can’t those parts of the state open sooner? I think they can. How much sooner, when, how do you phase it in in a way that doesn’t complicate or compete with other parts of the state that aren’t doing it? That’s when it gets granular and tricky and that is what we are working through.”
As of Friday, there were 574 confirmed cases in Albany County, up from 563 on Thursday, said County Executive Dan McCoy, with 716 people on mandatory quarantine and 49 on precautionary quarantine. There are 34 people in the hospital, a rate of 5.9 percent of the people infected. Six adults are in the ICU, down two since Thursday.
Thirteen residents of Shaker Place, the county nursing home, have tested positive for COVID-19 as did four employees. One employee who tested positive recovered and is back to work, McCoy said.
There have been 20 Albany County residents who have died since the pandemic began. All but one was over 60 years old and all had underlying health issues.
As of Friday, there are 231 cases in Saratoga County, 137 in Rensselaer County and 245 in Schenectady County. In the immediate Capital District there have been 51 deaths.
Statewide 630 more people died from Thursday to Friday bringing the total to more than 15,000. More than 11,500 of the deaths are in New York City and more than 123,000 of the more than 223,000 cases statewide are in New York City with another 75,000 cases on Long Island and Westchester County.
The number of hospitalizations, the three day average of new hospitalizations and the number of people on ventilators continue to decrease indicating a flattening of the curve.
Despite the striking disparity between upstate and downstate, Cuomo said it would be impossible to open up on a county by county basis, and difficult to open different regions, but said it is possible.
“We do have parts of the state that are in a fundamentally different situation than downstate,” he said. “If you are looking for a region to open, a county is sometimes hard, if you are looking for a region, you don’t have regions in the state that are immune. You will see pockets in every region. You can find a county that is in a different situation, but we have to think it through. If that county starts to open up, then what happens to the rest of the state and would you create a problem for that county when all sorts of people descend on that county.”
For an example, he said, if a beach opens in one county but beaches are closed in an adjacent county there is nothing to stop people from that county going to the open beach, running the risk of spreading the virus and causing an outbreak in the county that was previously in good shape.
“The first barber shop to open will have a line out the door,” the governor said. “These decisions are all connected. If we don’t coordinate this, it will make a situation worse for everyone.”
The same concept can be applied to every non-essential business that was forced to close like barbershops and salons and tattoo parlors.
Earlier this week, Cuomo said the shut-down will continue until at least May 15 and announced a consortium with six other states to develop a coordinated plan to re-open society.
McCoy said it remains unclear how or when things will begin to re-open.
“There is no magic crystal ball. You can be mad as much as you want at the governor but they trying to do what is best for the health and safety of all New Yorkers,” he said. “You’ll get criticized if you open the floodgates too soon and people start dying.”