COVID shots will come to county’s elderly

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

During the pandemic,  Jovan Cruz, the director of operations for Mohawk Ambulance, said, “Health care has changed. We’re now doing a lot more inside the patient’s home, trying to keep them there.”

ALBANY COUNTY — The county and city of Albany are working with Mohawk Ambulance to give COVID-19 vaccinations to residents age 75 or older in their homes.

On Monday, the state began allowing people in the second tier, 1b, which includes essential workers — like police, firefighters, and teachers — along with those age 75 and older to begin getting vaccinated.  Governor Andrew Cuomo warned, in making the announcement last week, that, at the current rate of vaccine distribution, it could take 14 weeks to get through the first two tiers.

People in the first tier, 1a, which include high-risk health-care workers as well as nursing home residents and workers, are still being vaccinated.

On Monday morning, a state website will go live for people in 1b to register; later in the day, a phone line will go live for people who don’t use a computer to call in and register, said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

He held a press conference Sunday morning with Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and with Jovan Cruz, the director of operations for Mohawk Ambulance, at the Times Union Center in Albany to announce the partnership and program.

Mohawk Ambulance Service, a private company, provides Basic and Advanced Life Support Services to Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga counties, and, according to its website, has more than 300 staff members. One of the company’s trucks and ambulances were on display Sunday.

The program — which McCoy described as “us coming to you to get shots” — has federal and state approval, he said. McCoy said of elderly residents, “They’re afraid to come out or they don’t even know this is going on and how do you get the shot. They have no clue.”

“Many, many seniors are afraid to go out,” Sheehan agreed. “They will not take public transportation. They will not get in a taxi.”

She said the city’s firefighters, who are all also emergency medical technicians, will be trained to administer the vaccines. The city will also provide resources like phone lines and data entry as needed.

Sheehan said she was surprised that Sheriff Craig Apple was able to get only 50 percent of his staff to agree to be vaccinated. Well over 70 percent of Albany’s firefighters accepted the vaccine, Sheehan said, stressing, “This is a safe and effective vaccine.”

She also said, “Right now, we’re waiting for vaccine.” 

The Albany Housing Authority and senior apartment complexes, many of them for low-income residents, are being surveyed, Sheehan said, so that qualified residents in those locations can be vaccinated at one time once the vaccine is available.

During the pandemic, Cruz said, “Health care has changed. We’re now doing a lot more inside the patient’s home, trying to keep them there.”

His company has purchased “multiple freezers,” Cruz said. Moderna’s vaccine has to be kept cold while the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has to be kept ultra-cold and so is largely being administered at hospitals.

The freezers will be in 20-foot trailers pulled by a special-operations truck, which Cruz described as “essentially a mobile clinic.” The Mohawk crew can set up in a building’s lobby or cafeteria “or, if need be, can use the trailer itself as a home base,” said Cruz.

How many trailers the company deploys will depend on how much vaccine it is able to get, he said.

McCoy said that, according to the governor, the Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, has vaccinated 31,000 residents, which is 29 percent of the people eligible to be vaccinated in the 1a tier.

McCoy, who was critical of both the federal and state roll-out of the vaccine said he thinks Albany County will receive 1,000 doses this week.

He waxed philosophical: “All human wisdom is summed up in two wods: ‘wait’ and ‘hope.’ Well, the wait is over and the hope’s here with this partnership and we’re gonna get this done.”


Newest numbers

McCoy started Sunday’s press conference by announcing the death of a 20-year-old man from COVID-19 on Saturday — “the youngest resident we’ve lost since the outbreak of COVID-19,” he said. His death brings the county’s toll to 250.

As of Sunday morning, Albany County has had 14,016 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 279 new cases since Saturday, McCoy said.

Of the new cases, 229 did not have a clear source of infection identified, 36 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and 14 are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings. 

The five-day average for new daily positives has increased to 276.6 from 272.2. There are now 2,055 active cases in the county, down from 2,076 on Saturday.

The number of county residents under mandatory quarantine increased to 3,204 from 3,086. So far, 42,751 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 11,961 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 286 recoveries since yesterday.

There were 13 new hospitalizations overnight, and there are 147 county residents currently hospitalized from the virus — a net decrease of two. There are now 11 patients in intensive-care units, down from 12 on Saturday. 

Among the state’s 10 regions, the Capital Region is tied for having the worst rate for the availability of both hospital beds and ICU beds, according to data released by Cuomo’s office on Sunday.

Currently, the Capital Region has 505 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 0.05 percent of the population and leaves 25 percent of the region’s hospital beds available. Statewide, 0.04 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with the disease, leaving 34 percent of the state’s hospital beds available.

Of the Capital Region’s 259 ICU beds, 209 are currently occupied, leaving 18 percent available. Statewide, 27 percent of ICU beds are available.


More Regional News

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo said, noting it was an opinion, not a fact, “My position has always been, if the children are safer in the school than they are on the streets of the community, then children should be in school.”

  • “We have paid out more than $59 billion in benefits to over 3.9 million unemployed New Yorkers during this crisis — nearly 28 typical years’ worth of benefits paid in 10 months — and we will continue to move heaven and earth to serve our neighbors,” said Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. 

  • While the Senate Republican Conference’s Long Island delegation is blaming Governor Andrew Cuomo for  “utter chaos” in the state’s vaccine roll-out, Cuomo maintains the fault lies with the federal government naming 7 million New Yorkers eligible while distributing just 300,000 vaccine doses weekly.

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