Coronavirus (COVID-19) Sixty-First Update

Sunday, May 10, 2020
Dear Guilderland residents:
 
In its daily update today, the Albany County Department of Health (DOH) reported that there are, on a cumulative basis, 1,345 confirmed cases, and that there are now 28 persons hospitalized and seven persons in the intensive care unit (ICU).  County DOH announced that there were no COVID hospitalizations or deaths in the past 24 hours.  The County’s death toll remains at 59.  There are now 971 persons under mandatory quarantine and 15 persons in precautionary quarantine.  The County noted that 3,154 people have completed quarantine, including 813 persons who had tested positive and have recovered.  
 
In his daily press briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that the State’s latest COVID-19 data, including overnight declines in deaths, hospitalizations, intubations, and new admissions, showed that the State was seeing documented progress in curtailing the spread of the virus.  The number of new admissions and deaths were back to amounts recorded at the start of the pandemic.  The Governor also reaffirmed his plans for the State’s regional reopening starting this Friday, May 15th, promised more details tomorrow, and anticipates that some regions will be eligible for reopening.  The State is closely watching the progress of Federal legislation this week to address losses by state and local governments in addressing COVID-19’s impacts.   
 
In his latest Executive Order 202.29, the Governor continued to June 6th, “the suspensions and modifications of law, and any directives, not superseded by a subsequent directive, made by Executive Order 202.15, 202.16, 202.17, 202.18, 202.19, 202.20, and 202.21.”  In response to news reports that this Order’s purpose was to extend the State’s “On Pause” until June 6th, the Governor’s Secretary clarified (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-secretary-governor-melissa-derosa-ny-pause-executive-order) that:
 
NY ON PAUSE was not extended to June 6.
 
Yesterday's Executive Order extended the underlying legal authority for the Emergency Order, but did not change the text of any of the directives in NY ON PAUSE and so the expiration date of May 15 still stands until further notice. At that time, new guidance will be issued for regions based on the metrics outlined by Governor Cuomo earlier this week.
 
I’m not sure why the clarification was needed, but despite this confusion, it remains that each of the State’s ten regions would have the ability to reopen earlier if it meets the State’s seven metrics, now apparently subject to “new guidance.”  As you may recall, if a region meets the seven criteria, it can start with the first phase of reopening this Friday by allowing manufacturing, construction, and curbside retail pickups.  
 
With no fanfare and little notice, these important metrics were recently modified (and may be again in “new guidance”), likely in response to criticism that some metrics were impossible to meet because of a region’s size or, for example, penalized the Capital Region because its hospitals treat COVID-19 patients who do not reside in the region.  Here are the State’s seven metrics with the latest clarifications (so far):
 
1.  Based on CDC recommendations, a region must experience a 14-day decline in hospitalizations on a 3-day rolling average.  A region with few COVID cases cannot exceed 15 new total cases on a 3-day rolling average. 
 
2.  Based on CDC recommendations, a region must experience a 14-day decline in deaths on a 3-day rolling average. Regions with few COVID cases cannot exceed 5 new deaths on a 3-day rolling average.
 
3.  Based on CDC recommendations, a region must have fewer than two new COVID patients admitted per 100,000 residents per day.
 
4.  To maintain the phased re-opening plan, a region must have at least 30 percent total hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.  This is coupled with the new requirement that hospitals have at least 90 days of PPE stockpiled.
 
5.  A region must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a symptomatic person, and conduct frequent tests of frontline and essential workers.  Each region must have the capacity to conduct 30 diagnostic tests for every 1,000 residents per month.  A region must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate its population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested.  The region must also use the collected data to track and trace the spread of the virus. 
 
6.  A region must have a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents, and additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in the region. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the re-opening plan.
 
7.  A region must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate.
 
Here’s a link to the State’s reopening guidelines, including a chart of each region’s progress in meeting the metrics: https://www.governor.ny.gov/new-york-forward/regional-guidelines-re-opening-new-york#priority-industries-for-re-opening.  As of today, the chart shows that the Capital Region meets four of the seven metrics but there’s no indication of how often the chart is updated.  County Executive Dan McCoy announced today that he would have a plan satisfying these metrics by Wednesday for submitting to the State and “one component that is great news today is that there have not been any new hospitalizations in 24 hours.”  
 
I have not checked yet on why this latest Order applies only to seven past Orders and makes no mention to the other 22 Orders and their hundreds of directives.  Maybe they’ve been allowed to expire (I doubt it) or maybe they have effective dates beyond June 6th, or maybe I’m spending way too much time thinking about it on a sunny Mother’s Day.
 
I wish all moms, stepmoms, grandmothers, and their families a joyful Mother’s Day.
 
Thank you for staying safe and calm.
 
Peter G. Barber
Town Supervisor