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Capital Region Hospital Leaders Give Coronavirus Briefing

Medical leaders and the media practice social distancing during a press conference at Albany Med.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Medical leaders and the media practice social distancing during a press conference at Albany Med.

The first coronavirus patients from the greater New York City area have begun arriving upstate.
Leaders from Albany Medical Center, Saratoga Hospital, Ellis Medicine, St. Peter’s Health Partners and St. Mary’s Amsterdam gathered at Albany Med Friday to give an update on the regional health care systems’ coordinated response efforts.
Albany Med began accepting transfer patients Tuesday night from hospitals in Queens and has accepted 20 to date. Combined, Capital Region hospitals have accepted 38 transferred patients. Albany Med's executive vice president for system care delivery and hospital general director Dr. Fred Venditti:

"We already had patients with COVID in our institutions, we cohort those patients on special units. So we're not mixing them with other patients. We're putting them on units with negative pressure so that the virus is contained. And the staff on those units are specially trained. They know how to use the right protective equipment, think masks, N95 masks, face shields, gloves and gowns. So, so we have the positive patients and also the PUI's, the patients that we're suspecting have COVID, while we're waiting for their testing to come back."
Venditti adds the hospital has adequate PPE for staff to safely care for patients, and noted that Albany Med recently began using ultraviolet light technology to disinfect N95 masks for safe reuse, at the rate of 100 masks per day.
 "Today we have 50 healthcare workers who are positive.  The vast majority of them, two-thirds of them, have contracted that illness in the community, not within our four walls.  They're, I'm happy to say, all at home recovering from that illness, and we look forward to them coming back and joining the AMC family.
Dr. Steven Hanks, chief clinical officer of St. Peter's Health Partners, shared a bit of good news:
 "The number of COVID positive inpatients in all of our regional hospitals was going up between 33 and 35% per day. Over the last four or five days that number has been cut in half, that rate of increase has been less than 20%. And we are cautiously optimistic that that represents the positive effects of social distancing."
Also Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state will open a mobile testing site in partnership with Albany Medical Center, St. Peter's Health Partners and the University at Albany. It will be located in a UAlbany parking lot, accessible from Washington Avenue. Tests will be prioritized for people among the highest risk population.  Residents who would like to be tested must make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065. All patients must be in a vehicle.  The center is slated to be operational Monday at 10 a.m. It will be open 8-6.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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