With coronavirus on the rise in Albany County and a spike in new cases in the college community, officials are taking steps to stave off a "second wave" of infections.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said Friday 23 new cases of COVID-19 had been verified — the highest number of daily positives since August 12th. McCoy says the confirmed cases included some of those reported in a spike in coronavirus infections at the University at Albany, where, as of Thursday night, 40 cases had been confirmed among students, 31 in the previous 24 hours.
UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez:
"We have already begun the quarantine and isolation process for these students. In addition, starting immediately, all student athletes will participate in weekly pooled saliva tests on campus. Actually, yesterday I asked that all athletes be tested immediately, and just last night we collected 370 saliva samples from our student athletes, and we will run the tests throughout the day today. All athletic activities will be suspended immediately until further notice."
Clusters were identified among athletes and off-campus housing in Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood. Previously, a July 4th party on Albany's Hudson Avenue had been identified as ground zero for a summer COVID-19 outbreak.
Albany Common Councilor Owusu Anane represents the neighborhood:
"The fact that Pine Hills is experiencing an outbreak after all the progress we have made is beyond frustrating. We have to continue to employ young people to continue following the COVID-19 protocols. We still hear reports of parties and big gatherings, and it's quite frankly unacceptable. At the end of the day they are not only putting their semester at risk, they're putting our city at risk. This virus We still don't know much about, and until we get a vaccine, we don't have much of an effective treatment of it. But we do know how easy it spreads as we are seeing a spike in our region. So I urge all of you, especially folks in my age group, to take this seriously. Because if you don't off earlier you risk in a full shut down again, but you are put in all of our lives at risk where a mass and socially distance."
McCoy says law enforcement authorities including Albany police have been keeping an eye on student neighborhoods.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan issued a statement Friday, which says in part "My message to students at each of our City’s educational institutions is simple: mask up or shut down."
Around 20 Siena College students have been dismissed from the Loudonville private campus’ housing because they did not wear masks or practice social distancing, and have been instructed to continue the semester online until further notice.
Rodríguez is crossing his fingers that a UAlbany shutdown can be avoided.
"The governor has indicated that once an institution reaches a hundred cases of positive COVID over a two-week period that we will consider going fully remote. If we needed to go in that direction this is something that we will do in direct consultation with the commissioner, with the County Executive, with SUNY, and of course with the governor's office. And so we're monitoring the date, we're paying very careful attention to the data, we're talking all the measures proactively that we can, as I mentioned before, and so we hope do not get there but we'll continue to monitor the cases. And you'll know, right, because as I said before, we have the dashboard and report the data on a daily basis to our dahboard, so it's no secret."
All students studying, visiting and/or working at both UAlbany campuses during this semester were required to provide proof of a COVID-19 test result showing they had no active coronavirus infection before they arrived.