ALBANY — The eight-county Capital District region meets four of the seven parameters to reopen set down by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and is working on meeting the other three by May 15, the earliest anywhere in the state can “unpause.”
The Capital District comes up short on a required 14-day decline in hospitalizations, testing at least 30 per 1,000 people per month and having 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents.
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“These are things we have to do and we are getting there and we are working with the other counties,” said County Executive Dan McCoy. “There is a regional approach we have to take to this.”
The Capital District — which encompasses Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, Washington, Warren, Green and Columbia counties — does meet a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, new hospitalizations, share of hospital beds available and share of ICU beds available.
Right now, the Capital Region is “higher risk,” the same category as the Mid-Hudson, New York City, Long Island and Western New York. There are 3,273 confirmed cases as of Tuesday in the eight-county Capital Region and there are more than 290,000 cases in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. There are 3,800 cases in Erie County. In the downstate areas mentioned above there have been nearly 17,500 fatalities, in the Capital Region counties there have been 133.
Albany County has been much more prolific in obtaining test kits than surrounding counties but there are mobile test sites starting today in Rensselaer and Schenectady counties.
The requirement for new hospitalizations is less than two per 1,000 on a three day rolling average. Hospitals must have a cumulative 30 percent of beds available should cases of COVID-19 spike and there must be 30 percent of ICU beds available. That same threshold applies to hospitals in individual counties who want to begin doing elective surgeries. Only Saratoga County in the Capital District region qualifies.
“Overall our numbers are steady,” said Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the Albany County Health Department. “We in Albany County, because we have been pretty good in terms of compliance with social distancing and social isolation staying home and wearing masks when out in the community, have done a pretty good job at flattening the curve and we have not seen issues with surge capacities in our hospitals like they had downstate.”
Cuomo said the reopening will take place in four phases beginning on May 15 for regions that meet the seven requirements:
-Phase I: Construction, manufacturing, and select retail with curbside retail
-Phase II: Professional services, finance and insurance, retail, real estate
-Phase III: Restaurants and food services, hotels and accommodations
-Phase IV: Arts and entertainment, recreation and education.
“Most of the metrics are from the CDC. They are all reasonable and come from reliable sources and ‘experts’ in the field,” Cuomo said on Tuesday. “Do you want to re-open even if it is unsafe to re-open. How many more deaths are you willing to sustain to re-open quickly? There is a cost to re-open. There is a cost to re-opening too quickly.”
The individual businesses must be able to meet social distancing and hygiene requirements to open. How long those protocols are in place, or even when they will start, are still open questions.
“There is no plan for reopening in any scenario across the country that does not include the continued importance of hand hygiene and social distancing and in New York state wearing masks,” Whalen said. “It is important people know they need to embrace these control measures. You are protecting others. You may be an asymptomatic transmitter. We don’t know. We are learning more about this disease every day.”