ALBANY — The Capital District exceeded the number of required contact tracers and will enter Phase I of reopening Wednesday.
It is the final of seven metrics needed for construction, manufacturing and some retail with curbside pickup to reopen after more than two months of being closed down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The eight-county Capital District needed 383 people to trace the footsteps of person who tested positive for the virus and it came up with 430. They are all slated to finish up the four-hour, online training today and begin work on Wednesday, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Capital District is not hiring any tracers, but instead filled the quota with existing employees including 225 coming from Albany County, 77 from the City of Albany and 50 from Rensselaer County.
Just because the Capital District — which includes Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga, Columbia, Greene, Washington and Warren counties — got the green light doesn’t mean “the floodgates are open,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.
“We still have to wear masks and we still have to practice social distancing and we have to keep doing the right stuff,” he said. “I have a daughter who is supposed to get married this weekend and I can assure you I have a very unhappy bride. Every day I get home I get the same question: ‘Do you think if I move it to August I can have more than 50 people there?’ And I have to say I don’t know. It all depends on how we behave.”
Businesses who will open signed an agreement to follow certain protocols such as providing masks to workers, have plans allowing customers and employees to maintain social distancing and routine sanitization of the workplace. Working from home, rotating schedules and four-day work weeks are encouraged.
To read the entire plan outlined by Albany County click here.
Anyone who was furloughed or laid off will need to get tested for COVID-19 before they can return to work, according to a state mandate.
The counties will rely on the public to monitor the individual businesses but who enforces the protocols is still up in the air, McCoy said.
“We don’t have the staff. We have weights and measures, we have the Health Department but we don’t have the personnel to go out and police the community,” McCoy said. “We will rely on complaints to make us aware of it but as far as enforcement we don’t know if it going to be the State Police or the local police departments of the sheriff. We hope to get an answer soon.”
The Capital District will join all other regions of upstate with just the Mid-Hudson, Long Island and New York City left that have not met the seven metrics.
If any region slips on any of the metrics, it will be shut down again. The Capital District struggled to meet two of the metrics related to hospitalizations: a required decline in the number of hospitalizations over a 14-day period or a three-day average of less than 15 new hospitalizations over the same time frame and a 14-day decline in hospital deaths or a three-day average of fewer than five deaths over the same two-week time frame.
Provided the numbers hold, Phase II will come two weeks from Wednesday with professional services, finance and insurance, more retail and real estate. Phase III is two weeks later and includes restaurants, bars and hotels and Phase IV is two weeks after that with arts, entertainment, recreation and education.
Meanwhile, a 70-year-old resident of Shaker Place died from Monday to Tuesday, the county’s 70th fatality to COVID-19 and the nursing home’s 14th.
All but one of the fatalities were older than 60 and all but one had underlying health issues.
As of Tuesday, there were 1,481 Albany County residents who tested positive, up just three from Monday. There are 1,013 who tested positive who recovered.
At Shaker Place there are 53 residents who tested positive and 32 have recovered. Of the 190 employees who have been tested 28 were positive. The county, like all nursing homes, is now testing all employees and staff twice a week as per a state mandate.
The five-day average of new positive cases is 16.6 new positive cases per day. There are 30 people hospitalized for a rate of 2 percent.