Thursday, 09 April 2020 12:22

State & City This Week

A new COVID-19 mobile testing site was opened this week in a parking lot at the State University of New York at Albany campus - 1400 Washington Ave. The site prioritizes tests for individuals that are among the highest risk population.  With the increase in testing, the numbers showing those being infected with the virus is anticipated to rise. Residents who would like to be tested must make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065. There will be no walk-ins allowed and all patients must be in a vehicle. Site hours: Monday - Sunday, 8 am - 6 pm., in partnership with Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners and The University at Albany. The state has opened seven mobile facilities to date.

A drive-up novel coronavirus public testing site opened April 9 in Queensbury, providing the availability of COVID-19 tests for residents of Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Hamilton and Essex counties, according to Warren County Public Health Services. The Municipal Center is located off Route 9 in Queensbury, near Exit 20 of the Northway. Those who have doctors’ orders for a test will follow electronic signs on Route 9 that will direct them to the testing location at the rear of the county complex. They will be asked to enter the Municipal Center through Glen Lake Road.Testing site staff will be able to handle 50 or so tests per day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Results through a state laboratory will take 3 to 5 days.

Gov. Cuomo announced rapid testing to determine whether one presently has the virus is now available. The test takes about 15 minutes to determine whether one is infected. But those tests need to be brought “to scale,” in other words, brought to the public in a big way. There is only a 50,000-person testing capacity available in the state right now. Cuomo said he is interested in working with private companies who would be able to roll out the tests in big numbers. 

A different kind of test: “How do we restart our economy and get everything up and running as quickly as possible? It’s going to come down to how good we are at testing,” said Cuomo, adding that the “re-start” will likely come before the availability of a vaccine to eliminate the infection. “You’re going to have to know who had the virus, who resolved the virus, who never had it. And that’s going to be testing.”

To that point, the state DOH is developing an antibody testing scheme. The test would determine whether a person has had the virus – potentially meaning they had at one time been a carrier and may have built up immunity, making them no longer contagious, and no longer able to catch the virus. “That means you could get to work, you can go back to school, whatever you want.” But the testing has to be extensive, Cuomo cautioned, given the 19 million residents in the state of New York. 

The volume of testing is not there quite yet, and Cuomo made no mention of it specifically, but in Germany, a type of immunity certificate is being considered that would test people for antibodies and those who have had the virus would be exempted from restrictions to move freely about the community. 

New York will stay on PAUSE for an additional two weeks through April 29, Gov. Cuomo announced. 

The governor also announced he was increasing the maximum fine for violations of the state’s social distancing protocol from $500 to $1,000. This increase is targeted at any lack of adherence to social distancing protocols. “Now is not the time to be lax about distance.” Localities have the authority to enforce the protocols.

The Saratoga County Office of Emergency Service announced this week that four county residents who had tested positive for Covid-19 had died, bringing the total number of deaths of Covid-19 positive individuals in the county to five. 

During a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, NY-21, said there should be multiple mobile testing centers in the district - particularly given the high percentage of the local population who are seniors and the number of people who are shifting to their second homes upstate. 

Looking forward, Stefanik said while the current priority is getting through the months of April and May, the tourist-heavy summer season that typically Saratoga hosts should dictate that the local region is “heavily involved” in any discussions in the future, “when we are able to start talking about reopening parts of the economy, when we get beyond - well beyond - the apex and even the down-slope of positive cases in New York.” 

New York is currently testing more than 16,000 people per day, more than any other state and more than China and South Korea on a per capital basis. Just over 2,200 people had been tested in Saratoga through April 8, with 172 persons (7.4%), having tested positive for coronavirus. The county of Albany had been testing 70 to 80 people per day. Following the opening of the mobile site this week, those testing numbers jumped to three times that amount daily. 

A new website was launched to provide New York State’s comprehensive coronavirus testing data to the public. The website, which will be updated daily with the latest data, presents visualizations of statewide and county-level testing and results. That site is: www.ny.gov/covid-19tracker.

Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) Executive Director Karen Gregory announced this week that The Holiday Inn, located in downtown Saratoga Springs, will serve as a temporary location for the city’s homeless. Isolating people experiencing homelessness in individual hotel rooms with access to private bathrooms is the best possible solution to facilitate safe distancing and the ability to practice good hygiene thus preventing a community-wide spread of COVID-19, Gregory said. Food service, basic necessities and case management is being provided to those staying in the hotel. The shelters on Walworth Street remain open. 

Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved a measure to provide financial support to S.O.S. for that relocation of the homeless population to the Holiday Inn, at 232 Broadway. City funds to be reallocated for the emergency priority project are to be drawn from the Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund in the amount of $61,950.

Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan on April 7 announced the potential budget impacts in the wake of COVID-19.  Regarding the city’s $48.7 million annual operating budget, the city is considering a “severe scenario” til the end of June of an up to 75 % loss of several key revenues, and by year-end the city may be bracing for a “worse case scenario”  revenue loss of a total of as much as $14-$16 million, compared to what was previously anticipated, Madigan said. The current payroll of city employees will remain status quo through April 17. Employee furloughs are a last resort, Madigan said, cautioning the council “leading up to this date we need to be prepared and evaluate decisions for post-April 17.” 

Due to the continuing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the New York Racing Association announced that the opening of the Oklahoma Training Track and stabling area - set to open April 15 at Saratoga Race Course, will be delayed. The delay does not impact the start of the Saratoga racing season which is scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 16. 

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