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Reported Covid-19 Cases Increase in Upstate New York

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Although New York State is seeing a decline in the number of new reported Coronavirus infections, the decrease is concentrated in downstate New York.  Reported new Covid-19 cases in upstate areas are increasing.  The increase is associated with an increase in the availability of tests for the virus.

New Cases Decrease Statewide

New Covid-19 cases at the state level peaked on April 11th at 9,953.  Since then, cases have decreased to 6,335 on April 28th, though more slowly than they increased.  Case data for this table is the five-day rolling average ending on the date shown and is from the New York Times Covid-19 database.

New Cases are Decreasing Downstate

New cases daily in New York City, Long Island and Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties have declined since April 11th, when they peaked at 9,448.  On April 28th, the five-day rolling average of new cases was 5,745.

Covid cases in New York have been overwhelmingly concentrated in downstate counties.  95% of New York cases were in downstate counties on April 11th, while 91% of cases were downstate on April 28th.  All data concerning metropolitan areas and counties is from the New York State Department of Health.

Covid-19 testing continues to increase in downstate metropolitan areas, reaching nearly 25,000 people at the end of April.  5.2% of residents had been tested as of April 28th.  In the past month, 4.3% of the region’s residents were tested, which exceeds guidelines established by the Trump administration.  24% of tests were positive on April 28th.

New York State performed Covid-19 antibody tests on a sample of residents.  Test estimates are that 21% of New York City residents, 14% of Long Island residents and 11% of Westchester and Rockland County residents have had the virus compared to the two percent found by the Covid-19 testing program.

Upstate Testing Shows Increasing Cases

In five upstate areas, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica-Rome, the number of new reported cases in the past 14 days is trending upwards.

Although reported cases in upstate areas are increasing, the number of cases in these areas is far smaller than downstate.  In total, downstate areas have seen 270,000 cases since March first, compared with 8,300 in the upstate areas studied here.  On April 28th, based on the rolling average data, 5,745 cases were reported downstate, compared with 354 in the upstate areas.

The number of tests done upstate has sharply increased in the past week, with 3,785 tests performed on April 28th compared with 1,500 a week earlier.  In part, the increase in cases is a result of the recent growth in testing availability through the establishment of non-hospital testing sites and the relaxation of testing eligibility rules.

Much lower percentages of upstate area populations have been tested than downstate.  2.5% of Albany-Schenectady-Troy area residents have been tested.  Percentages in other areas are:  Buffalo-Niagara Falls – 1.6%, Rochester – 1.7%, Syracuse – 2% and Utica-Rome – 1.4%

Because the rules for testing availability have increased its accessibility, it is not known whether the growth of reported cases in upstate areas is the result of more cases in the region.  Governor Cuomo’s briefings have emphasized the number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 as a better measure of community prevalence, but that data is not available at the county level in a single database.

New York’s policy for reopening businesses after May 15th is regionally focused, and is based on two primary factors.  First, Covid-19 hospitalizations must have been declining for two weeks and second, regions must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available.   The objective of these requirements is to ensure that the prevalence of the disease does not grow and that health care facilities within regions have the capacity to meet patient needs.

In addition, regions must meet state imposed testing and tracking requirements and have isolation facilities for infected people who cannot self isolate.  Industries would be permitted to reopen based on how essential they are to the economy and the risks that their operations pose.  Businesses must have safety plans to protect employees and consumers before reopening.

Downstate areas are seeing declines in new cases and hospitalizations. but do not currently meet hospital capacity requirements.  Upstate areas outside of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy and Buffalo metropolitan areas generally meet hospital capacity requirements, but may or may not be seeing declines in Covid-19 hospitalizations, and will need time to meet the additional requirements for opening.

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