Thursday, 30 April 2020 13:24

COVID-19 Regional Roundup This Week

• Statewide, the number of total hospitalizations, intubations, new infection cases and deaths due to COVID-19 continue to stabilize or decline, although the number of new hospitalizations are flat about 1,000 per day, and the daily death count is still in the hundreds. Approximately 30,000 are tested for the virus daily across the state.     

• In Saratoga County specifically, approximately 2% of the county’s 240,000 residents have been tested. Those tests have been conducted largely with people who are health care workers, or patients who have displayed signs of illness or have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. About 7.4% of those who have taken the test - roughly 350 people – have tested positive for the virus, as of mid-week.

• Reopening. A plan to reopen segments of the state is underway, and the plan is to re-open in phases, and in particular regions, not statewide. This will occur after May 15, which is the date until the state remain on “pause.”  “I will extend them in many parts of the state, but in some parts of the state, some regions, you could make the case that we can UN-Pause. But we have to be smart about it,” Cuomo said. 

Criteria for potential reopening includes using CDC guidelines - that is, regional hospitalization rates must be in decline for 14 days. 

• In advance of reopening: Ensure an appropriate testing regimen, and put a tracing system in place. Tracing: identifies all who came into contact with infected person. Recommended: need at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 people. Regions must also have plans for rooms available as “isolation facilities,” for infected residents who need to isolate, but cannot do so in their homes. Each region must appoint an oversight institution to monitor metrics. 

• Rate of infection: In New York City, right now 1 person infects 0.8 people; that rate is a little higher upstate which is at 0.9 percent, i.e.- 1 person infects 0.9 percent (less than one person). “If we keep the infection rate at less than one person that is where the infection rate continues to drop. So, we have to stay there.”

Points to watch after reopening: If hospitals hit 70% capacity OR rate of transmission of virus hits 1.1 – those are danger signs. “You must have 30% of your hospital beds available, 30% of your ICU beds,” Cuomo said. 

• Likely to reopen first is/are potentially regions in upstate New York.

• One caveat to reopening: NO attractions / openings that would draw a large number of visitors. “You can’t do anything in one region that would increase the visitors to that (reopened) region. It’s possible that you open something in Syracuse or you open something in the North Country where you now see license plates coming in from Connecticut and New Jersey, people from downstate, all coming to that area because they’ve been on lock-down and are now looking for an activity,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something we have to pay attention to. And all that is (conducted) in a multi-state context with our neighboring states and most relevant with downstate.” Identified downstate as: New York City, Long Island, Westchester.

• Gov. Cuomo also specifically discussed the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course. “You can’t open an attraction that could bring people from across the state to that attraction and overwhelm a region,” Cuomo said.  “Saratoga Race Track – I don’t think you can open unless we can open (all large-scale attractions) statewide.” 

Cuomo went on to say that a pent-up public demand to get out of the house would result in people from across the northeast region flocking to Saratoga. “Now, you could say, well, that’s great for the Saratoga Race Track – but density is not our friend...How do you do six feet apart at the racetrack?” He added that any such opening would require a statewide opening of various public attractions so as to reduce the density of people overwhelmingly flocking to just one region. 

• On casinos: “You have to look at the industry and how they’re going to conduct their business. You’d have to do social distancing, you’d have to have monitoring. It’s going to be difficult in the context of a casino, but depending on the casino: not impossible. You’d have to look at it on an individual basis.” 

• On schools: “We will have a decision by the end of this week what to do about schools.” 

• The first phase of reopening will be in the Construction/ Manufacturing sector with low-risk. There will then be a monitoring of effects two weeks after reopening regarding the status of new infections, as that is typically the amount of time it takes for the illness to manifest. 

How to monitor after reopening, three ways: diagnostic tests (positive or negative if you are infected); antibody tests (how many people had previously been infected); number of hospitalizations. If the monitoring process reveals no new problems, then a second phase, involving more essential lower-risk businesses may be opened in that region. The governor said he is open to dialogue regarding what kind of businesses those should be. 

• Antibody testing continues. Antibody testing indicates who has had the virus.  Percent positive average statewide: 14.9%. Capital Region specifically (which includes Saratoga): 2.1%. According to the survey, 25% of the NY City population has had the virus and have now recovered. 

• According to a mapped depiction of the state broken into regions, the “Capital District” includes an eight-county region: Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Columbia, Greene, Albany, and Schenectady counties. 

• Diagnostic testing statewide is about 30,000 per day. 

• Antibody testing this week will be conducted on 3,000 health care workers and 1,000 transit workers, 1,000 NYPD and 1,000 NYFD. 

• Gov. Cuomo this week requested the Board of Elections mail every New York voter a return postage paid application whereby residents may secure a voting ballot. “If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote and don’t have to wait on line,” Cuomo said. Physical polls will still be open on Election Day.

• Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said a regional task force of 40 people from Saratoga County has been put together and meeting virtually to address protocols for an eventual safe reopening of businesses. 

• Congressman Paul Tonko (D, NY-20) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21) both voted in the House of Representatives in support of advancing a $484 billion interim emergency funding package that will provide vital assistance to small businesses and protect Americans with added aid to hospitals, healthcare workers and testing. The bill was passed by a vote of 388 – 5. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act: Provides an additional $310 billion in PPP loans; Provides an additional $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) grants; Appropriates an additional $50 billion for the Disaster Loans Program Account; Allows agricultural enterprises with less than 500 employees to receive EIDL grants and loans; Provides an additional $75 billion for reimbursement to hospitals and healthcare providers to support the need for COVID-19 related expenses and lost revenue, and provides $25 billion for necessary expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer, and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests. 

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