ALBANY — After 70 days of lockdown, the Capital District is opening back up today.
As Phase I officially kicked off this morning the county saw a spike of 71 new cases with 42 coming from the Teresian House nursing home that had previously commissioned a private testing company. Albany County’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 18 cases on Tuesday, May 19 and one on May 20.
From Tuesday to Wednesday, the county also saw its oldest resident die of the virus, a woman more than 100 years old, along with a woman in her 80s. Of the county’s 72 fatalities, all but two were over the age of 60 and all but one had underlying health issues. County Executive Dan McCoy said some 65 percent of the county fatalities came from nursing homes.
At Shaker Place, the county-run nursing home, 19 residents have tested positive with 10 currently in the hospital and nine at the facility. There have been 14 residents who died. Of the 190 employees who were tested this week, 183 were negative.
As of Wednesday, there are 1,552 positive cases in Albany County with 1,026 who have recovered.
Phase I of the reopening includes construction, manufacturing and some retail with curbside pickup. Three next three phases will follow in two week increments with Phase IV set to begin on July 1 — provided the numbers hold and the eight-county region continues to meet the seven metrics as outlined by New York state.
Businesses who are slated to being opening were asked to sign an agreement stating they would follow safety protocols to help stop the spread of COVID-19 for employees and customers. They include providing masks to employees and requiring customers wear masks, modifications to ensure social distancing is followed and proper sanitization procedures.
“We are relying on the businesses and the patrons to let us know people are wearing their masks and following other protocols,” McCoy said. “Can we go after them if they don’t sign the pledge? No. But we will let you know who signs. I can say all businesses are taking it serious, and most of them are going above and beyond what they need to do.”
Before returning to work, all employees must get tested for COVID-19. To see the available testing sites in Albany County, click here.
Phase II will see the most “non-essential” employees returning to work in professional services, finance, insurance industries as well as retail and real estate. McCoy said barbershops and hair salons was moved from Phase IV to Phase II.
As small businesses do begin opening their doors again, Kevin O’Connor, director of the county Economic Development, Conservation and Planning Department, said the worst fear he is hearing among the owners is opening and then being forced to close again.
“He would have hired back employees, he would have restocked inventory and made expenses with no revenue to support that,” he said. “In general, the feedback is that every business we talked to without exception is looking to instill confidence in the economy, to instill confidence in their employees that it is a safe place to work, and they want to instill confidence in their marketplace so people will come back and patronize their businesses.”