ALBANY — County Executive Dan McCoy anticipates the Capital District will have more than enough contact tracers in place to open by Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.
When anyone does go back to work, though, a mandate by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday requires they first get tested for COVID-19.
Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the Albany County Health Department, said just because things will start to open back up, it doesn’t mean the virus is going away.
“I have no doubt opening up will lead to an increase in cases and our ability to control that is essential to avoid a hospital surge capacity and other issues,” she said during the daily press briefing on Monday. “As we move forward it is going to be essential we continue to increase the number of people getting tested so we can rapidly ID and contain cases as they come up.”
She said COVID-19 takes between two and 14 days to incubate so there will likely not be a spike in numbers for a few days and an increase in deaths may not come for two weeks or more.
The Capital District met all seven parameters laid out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to begin Phase I of reopening, which includes construction, manufacturing and some retail with curbside pickup.
The eight-county region fell short by 166 of the 383 contact tracers needed to meet the 30 per 100,000 residents but McCoy said there will be more than enough to meet the requirement through using employees from different municipal departments such as EMS, the Sheriff’s Office or fire departments. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who was forced to furlough some employees, also offered up names of employees she would assign to the task.
The county DOH has been doing contact tracing for years, Whalen said, for infectious diseases like measles, mumps whooping cough and sexually transmitted diseases.
It involves identifying a positive case of COVID-19 and then tracking the person’s history to determine if they could have infected others and, when necessary, quarantine those contacts.
Meanwhile, a man in his 90s died from Sunday to Monday bringing the total number of Albany County fatalities to 69.
All but two where older than 60 and all but one had underlying health issues.
There were 1,478 positive cases as of Monday with 995 who have recovered. There were 29 residents hospitalized for a rate of 1.96 percent. The five day average of new cases was 18.4 as of Monday.
McCoy said the second largest group behind those 50-59 who tested positive are those between 20 and 29, which can present the biggest problem because they are often asymptomatic but can spread the virus to others who are older or less healthy.
“Most of you probably don’t even know you have it,” McCoy said. “That’s the problem, you are going to spread it. We need that age group to do the right thing. If our numbers start to go way up we will shut down again.”