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At two-year mark of pandemic in New York state, COVID numbers continue rapid retreat – The Daily Gazette

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ALBANY — Two years after the first COVID-19 infection was confirmed in New York, the state continues its rapid recovery from the latest and in some ways worst surge of the pandemic.

Fewer than 3,000 New Yorkers a day are testing positive for the virus, down from more than 70,000 a day in early January, and fewer than 2,000 are now hospitalized with the disease, down from more than 12,000.

Hochul on Sunday announced the state school mask mandate would expire at midnight March 1 and on Monday she hailed the progress that had led to that decision:

“As we move on to a new phase in the fight against this virus, it is important that we do not let up on the hard work that got us here. We must stay vigilant and double down on the tools we know are effective.”

The state appears to be past the massive spike in infections blamed on the omicron variant of COVID-19. State Department of Health records show that in the roughly three months from Dec. 1 through this past Sunday, 9,949 New Yorkers died of COVID; 76,548 were hospitalized with it; and 2.19 million positive tests were lab-confirmed — roughly one for every nine residents of the state.

Additional COVID deaths outside of healthcare settings were unrecorded, as were an unknown number of infections detected by self-test kits.

It was the third major spike for New York state, after the initial onslaught that began March 1, 2020, and a holiday-period surge in late 2020 and early 2021.

Hochul has said she wanted to avoid shutdowns and has pressed masking, vaccinations and boosters as a way to accomplish this.

She continues to press vaccination, with slow progress — only about 45,000 booster shots were administered across the state in seven days.

When Hochul announced the end of the school mask mandate Sunday, most Capital Region school districts posted the news to their websites promptly.

Students, teachers, staff and school visitors can wear a mask if they like, but they no longer are required to, most of the messages said.

The Greater Amsterdam School District went a step further, tacitly acknowledging how divisive the school mask rule has become:

“Students or staff wishing to still wear masks may do so,” its advisory said. “Any ridicule or criticism for doing so will not be tolerated.”

Others hailed the decision as a watershed moment in the pandemic.

One of the longest messages was posted by Schalmont Superintendent Thomas Reardon. After honoring the efforts made by cleaners, nurses, teachers and principals to keep the schools open amid the pandemic, he turned his praises to parents.

“We could not have done it without you,” he wrote. “Your children make us particularly proud. They represent Schalmont so well with their resilience and joy for learning and being together in school. You have raised incredible children. Despite the highs and lows of this pandemic, Schalmont not only survived, but thrived.”

Schenectady County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski applauded Hochul’s decision and put in a plug for county residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t and get boosters if they have. In a prepared statement, marked the progress made:

“Schenectady County residents have gone above and beyond over the last two years to help keep themselves, their neighbors and their loved ones safe — from socially distancing and staying home when ill, to getting vaccinated and testing for COVID-19 when exposed or symptomatic. While the pandemic remains, we will continue to provide resources for parents and residents rely on, including free vaccination PODs and testing to ensure our community stays healthy and safe.”

His counterpart to the north, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Kusnierz Jr., said in a prepared statement: “Saratoga County has been a staunch advocate for the freedom of choice regarding the wearing of masks, especially for parents of our students. Lifting the mask mandate for schools, which will allow for the unmasking of our children effective March 2, is long overdue but very good news.”

Saratoga County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Daniel Kuhles said his department would continue to work with school districts to address the social, emotional and educational consequences of COVID.

LOCAL NUMBERS

The one-week average number of new COVID infections per 100,000 residents as of Sunday, Feb. 27:

Albany County: 9.6, down from a recent peak of 335;

Fulton County: 18.1. down from 200;

Montgomery County: 12.1, down from 273;

Saratoga County: 14.6, down from 337;

Schenectady County: 14.5, down from 278;

Schoharie County: 6.4, down from 177.

The number of lab-confirmed COVID infections and reported COVID-related deaths since Nov. 30:

Albany County: 23,339, 88

Fulton County: 4.367, 50

Montgomery County: 4.707, 35

Saratoga County: 20,194,91

Schenectady County: 12.889, 50

Schoharie County: 2.173, 10

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