ALBANY — The UAlbany COVID-19 testing site is expanding its criteria to include “essential” workers whether they are showing symptoms of the virus or not.
For weeks, the limited number of testing kits were reserved for only those who were symptomatic. The essential employees now eligible include health care workers, nursing home and long term care employees, correction officers, occupational, physical and speech therapists and others who must come into close contact with the public through the regular course of their daily duties.
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“This broadening of the test base is essential for us to move forward,” said Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the Albany County Health Department. “As we talk more and more about reopening, one of the main strategies we need to employ is widespread testing so we can identify cases early, so we can make sure those individuals are under home isolation and contact trace and quarantine their contacts throughout the incubation period.”
A PIN number is still required to get a test at the state-run site at UAlbany and can be had by calling 1-888-364-3065 or online at covid19screening.health.ny.gov.
Meanwhile, two more Albany County residents died of COVID-19 from Thursday to Friday, a man in his 80s and another man in his 90s, with underlying health issues.
All but two of the Albany County fatalities were older than 60 and all but one had underlying health issues.
One of the men was a resident of Shaker Place, the county’s nursing home where 58 residents and 27 employees have tested positive. Nine workers have recovered and returned to work.
As of Friday, there are 1,309 total cases in Albany County, up 32 from Thursday, with 1,009 under mandatory quarantine, down 38, and 15 under precautionary quarantine, up 10.
There are 2,979 Albany County residents who completed mandatory quarantine, up 85 from Thursday, with 768 who tested positive and who have recovered.
As of Friday, there were 29 hospitalized for a rate of 2.2 percent.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will look to reopen the state in regions provided seven benchmarks are met. The Capital Region area — which includes Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Green, Columbia, Washington and Warren counties — meets only four of the seven.
It is staying below the maximum number of new deaths in a hospital and new hospitalizations and the percentage of total beds available and the number of ICU beds available is sufficient to reopen. It falls short on the required 14-day decline of hospitalizations, the number of tests being conducted and the number of contact tracers employed.
Whalen said there are about 30 tracers working in Albany County, and that will have to increase to about 90 to meet the 30 tracers per 100,000 set down by Cuomo.
Statewide the number of hospitalizations is down, the three-day average of hospitalizations is down and the number of people on a ventilator is also down. But, there were still 216 fatalities from Thursday to Friday.
The county also has a test site at Whitney Young Jr. in Albany and a mobile test site at different locations. For more information call 518-465-4771. There is also an open, drive-thru site at the Rite Aid in Colonie located at the intersection of Route 155 and Central Avenue. For an appointment visit riteaid.com.
Those sites too will soon be expanding their testing criteria to include asymptomatic essential workers.