Armory to dispense COVID-19 shots to those in 12210 ZIP code

— Still frame from Albany County’s Feb. 18, 2021 press briefing

“It is important to show my fellow soldiers, men and women, they should get the shot. It’s safe,” said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy who got a COVID-19 vaccination as a member of the National Guard.

ALBANY COUNTY — So far, about 17,000 residents have signed up through Albany County to get COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen.

She noted that demand continues to exceed supply. The county receives about 1,000 to 1,300 doses each week, which the state mandates it use for essential workers and people with comorbidities.

New York State is in its 10th week of receiving vaccine doses from the federal government and so far has received 3.6 million doses, according to data released by the governor’s office on Thursday.

This week, the Capital Region has so far administered 189,524 of the 228,670 doses it has received, or 83 percent.

“We want to see more Black and brown members of the community coming into our PODs,” Whalen said of points of dispensing; the county has been using the Times Union Center in Albany for its clinics.

Nationwide, she noted, these populations have had more severe cases of the disease and higher death rates.

“Part of that also has to be education …,” said Whalen. “This is a safe and effective vaccine.”

She called the 95-percent effective rate for both the Moderna vaccine and the vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech “fantastic,” comparing it to flu vaccines that typically are 60 percent effective or lower.

Whalen said she is pleased with the federal and state initiative, announced on Wednesday, that will open a clinic in Albany’s Washington Avenue Armory, dispensing 7,000 doses per week — initially just to residents in the 12210 ZIP code.

Whalen said she hopes the county’s supply expands. So far, the health department, using its volunteer medical corps, has vaccinated 4,318 people, she said.

“We have used every single dose that we’ve received,” Whalen said, and no one has suffered a severed, adverse reaction.

She noted that, after the second shot, people may “feel a little under the weather” for a couple of hours or for maybe a day or two.

“This is your immune response, kicking in, making antibodies …,” Whalen said. “It is not a live vaccine. It does not give you COVID.”

Whalen, who has taken the two shots herself, went on, “The full immunity takes two weks after the second dose … Your body takes time to make antibodies so do not assume you are safe until two weeks past your second vaccine.”

While a fully vaccinated person will be safe from disease and death, Whalen said, he or she should continue wearing a mask and stay socially distanced.

“We do not have enough data … that individuals who are vaccinated cannot carry small amounts of the virus and infect others if they became exposed,” she said.

The protocols will continue until herd immunity is reached.

The county’s vaccine clinic scheduled for Thursday has been postponed probably until Monday. Shipments of the vaccine were delayed by winter storms and the county had received no update on its shipment as of Thursday morning, Whalen said.

On Thursday evening, Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a statement saying, “The federal government has informed New York that nearly all COVID-19 vaccine doses allocated for Week 10 — which were scheduled to be delivered between February 12th and February 21st — are delayed due to the winter storms continuing to impact much of the country.

“Every dose that should have shipped on Monday was held back, and only a limited number of Pfizer vaccines left shipping facilities on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

February is usually the peak of the flu season, Whlalen said, but this year there have been only sporadic outbreaks probably because of good public health measures.

“The rates in schools have really decreased significantly,” said Whalen of COVID-19 infections. This puts the area in a “pretty good position to return to in-person learning,” she said.

She anticipates a policy change within the week about classroom quarantining, Whalen said, which will use a more tailored and targeted approach and will be a”a big relief” to school administrators.


“It’s safe”

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced at the Thursday morning press conference that he had gotten his first shot, as a member of the New York National Guard.

“I could have gotten the shot back in December. I chose not to. I chose to lead by example,” he said, “and not to … say I’m more important than anyone else.”

McCoy said he waited to get vaccinated until people with underlying health conditions were eligible.

He also said he wanted to set an example.

“A third of the military are refusing the shots,” he said. “So it’s not just minority communities … The National Guard in its history has never been more mobilized … They’re gonna be in the front line, giving out vaccines.”

McCoy concluded, “It is important to show my fellow soldiers, men and women, they should get the shot. It’s safe.”

He urged, “Do your part; get a vaccine.”


Newest numbers

As of Thursday morning, Albany County has had 19,784 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 66 new cases since Wednesday.

“It’s been going up and down,” said McCoy of new cases daily.

Of the new cases, 43 did not have clear sources of infection identified, 18 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and five were associated with health-care workers or residents of congregate settings.

As of Thursday evening, since Jan. 2, the University at Albany has had 188 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the SUNY COVID-19 Tracker.

Currently, 173 UAlbany students are under mandatory quarantine and 86 are in isolation — 50 on campus and 36 off campus.

Albany County’s five-day average for new daily positives has increased slightly to 63.6 from 63.4.  There are now 591 active cases in the county, down from 628 on Wednesday.

“Just over two weeks ago, our five-day average was 112.8,” said McCoy.

The number of Albany County residents under mandatory quarantine increased to 1,655 from 1,535. So far, 61,414 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 19,193 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 96 recoveries since Wednesday.

There were six new hospitalizations overnight, and there are now 58 county residents hospitalized from the virus, one more than on Wednesday. There are currently 11 patients in intensive-care units, one fewer than on Wednesday.

“Last time our hospitalizations were this low was back on Nov. 27,” said McCoy.

He noted, though, that, even after COVID-19 patients are discharged from the hospital, “They’re not out of the woods.” McCoy said lung issues often continue and stated, “It is a long haul for them.”

The county’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 345.

According to data from the governor’s office, the Capital Region currently has 214 residents hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 0.02 percent of the population, and leaves 32 percent of the region’s hospital beds available.

Statewide, 0.03 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with the virus, leaving 35 percent of hospital beds available.

Currently, 178 of the Capital Region’s 235 ICU beds are filled, leaving 25 percent available. Statewide, 27 percent of ICU beds are available.

McCoy noted that, a couple of weeks ago, the region had just 24 percent of its hospital beds and 19 percent of its ICU beds available.

“It’s going in the right direction,” he said. “Thank God we didn’t have to open up that makeshift hospital at our old nursing home.”

As of Wednesday, as a seven-day average, the Capital Region had an infection rate of 2.16 percent. Statewide, the positivity rate is 3.61 percent.

Albany County, as of Wednesday, as a seven-day rolling average, had an infection rate of 2.0 percent, according to the state’s dashboard.

More Regional News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.