ALBANY — While New Yorkers are still getting COVID-19 at about the same rate as they did a month ago, the severity of illness appears to be easing, based on lowering hospitalizations and deaths.

However, the race is on to continue vaccinating, as new coronavirus variants emerge — including the first Brazilian variant case in New York announced Saturday.

On Sunday, New York reported 54 deaths from the virus, which is a death toll that has slowly gone down since early February, when at least 150 people were dying daily in New York. Daily deaths statewide last numbered in the 50s before the fallout from the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Hospitalizations have also trended downward across the state. The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 has decreased 24 percent in the last month, from 5,764 on Feb. 20 to 4,355 on March 20.

At the same time, a quarter of New York residents have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine; 13 percent have completed either a two-dose regimen or the Johnson & Johnson one-dose innoculation.

Meanwhile, New York’s seven-day daily average of positive cases has remained largely the same since February — 3.4 percent of those tested were positive on Feb. 20, compared with a 7-day average of 3.3 percent March 20. About the same number of people are also getting tested compared month-to-month.

But there is a concern that while infections have not trended downward, new threats are emerging that could lead to renewed outbreaks. On Saturday, the state confirmed its first case of a Brazilian variant found in a 90-year-old in Brooklyn who had not traveled.

The P.1 variant was first detected in the U.S. in January, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting 48 cases nationwide as of Saturday. State officials said the Brazilian variant has been designated a “variant of concern,” which means there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease and the potential for reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines. However, more research needs to be done on the variant’s impact.

The U.K. variant has been reported in 138 people in New York, according to the CDC, while the South African variant has been reported in only one person. Florida has the highest number of variant cases of any state, with 882 people being infected with the U.K. variant.

“This is a race between the vaccine and the variants, and we continue to make tremendous progress of getting shots in the arms of eligible New Yorkers,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement Saturday. “In the meantime we remind New Yorkers to do everything they can to protect themselves and their neighbors as we continue to manage this pandemic.”

On Sunday, Albany County announced its daily cases are on the increase, as its five-day average went up from on average 62 new cases a day to 67.

Late last week, Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen urged people who are eligible to be vaccinated to do it, as cases rise in some parts of New York and the U.S.

“Today marks the fourth day in a row that I have reported a higher number of new positive cases,” Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said in a statement Sunday.  “We had 90 on Thursday, 65 on Friday, 64 yesterday and 71 today. We need to stay vigilant.”

Where do we get our information?

We monitor local, regional and national government updates and verify facts or data before publishing. Sources we rely on include:

Local resources: Daily reports from Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren and Washington county health departments.

State resources: The New York State Department of Health and the Department of Health’s School COVID Report Card.

National resources: National data on verified testing sites compiled from local health departments, healthcare providers, and cities, counties and states. We also rely on national, state and county data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Case Tracker and The COVID Tracking Project.

Other resources: Vaccine information gathered from government agencies, the companies that produce the vaccines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We also turn to doctors, nurses, scientists and other public health experts. We strive for accuracy in our reporting, but sometimes new developments can happen quickly. If we learn information is incorrect, we will update it as soon as possible. You can help by reporting any discrepancies to tuweb@timesunion.com. Learn more about our coronavirus coverage.




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