County exec calls for more protective gear, praises M. N. Bird  for making masks

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The New York Army National Guard is being deployed across the state, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, to help with distributing food and setting up new hospital locations, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy noted at a press conference Sunday morning.

ALBANY COUNTY — As the count of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Albany County — it’s now at 115 — the county’s executive and sheriff urged again at Sunday morning’s press conference that residents should stay calm.

“Gun sales have skyrocketed ...,” said Sheriff Craig Apple. “I don’t want anyone shooting a first responder coming to the house.”

While Apple said he was a Second Amendment rights supporter, he urged those who had recently purchased guns: “Handle that gun safely; store it responsibly.”

He also said, “Don’t go out and shoot a gun for the first time in the midst of this crisis.”

In general, Apple said of residents following the governor’s directives to stay home, “People seem to be adhering to guidelines.”

He also said, “For the most part, crime is down.” However, he said, there has been “a minor spike in domestics,” which he said was understandable with people being on edge at home.

County Executive Daniel McCoy said that, in addition to the normal layers of police protection, the New York Army National Guard is being deployed throughout the state to help with food distribution and setting up hospitals.

A reporter asked if, with the National Guard deployment, people shouldn’t fear their families were in danger.

“Let police do their jobs,” said County Executive Daniel McCoy. He also said, “If you’ve never owned a firearm, don’t fire it.”

McCoy reported that 318 people in Albany County are now in mandatory quarantine and 634 are in precautionary quarantine.

Six people in Albany County are hospitalized with COVID-19, McCoy said, noting the rate is at just over 5 percent, which he called low, contrasting it with 14 to 25 percent statewide.

McCoy estimated it would be June or July “before we get out of this.”

He said, as he was driving around yesterday, he saw lots of kids playing soccer in a park. “Stop thinking, just because you’re young, it’s not going to affect you,” said McCoy.

McCoy referred to the earlier announcement that, because of limited supplies of testing kits, both St. Peter’s Health Partners and Albany Medical Center have stopped community testing and are now using testing kits only for hospital patients and staff who have been exposed to the virus.

“We’re calling for more testing kits,” said McCoy. “We have a shortage … I’m begging the federal government … so we can continue to find out who has it.”

McCoy also reiterated that there is a shortage of personal protective gear for health-care workers. He praised the M. N. Bird company in Watervliet, which usually manufactures girls’ bathing suits, for switching to making masks for hospital workers.

“We need this,” said Sheriff Apple of personal protective equipment. Apple said he sees people driving around, wearing N95 masks, which are “scarce at this point.”

He is urging emergency medical service workers not to use the masks for cases — like a patient with a bad hip — that don’t involve COVID-19 symptoms. The symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Apple also reported that the deputy who had tested positive for COVID-19 was out of quarantine as of Tuesday and none of the other deputies who had had contact with him and also been quarantined had shown symptoms of the disease.

Apple said that 30 officers had been under quarantine and there were “no hiccups” in the running of the department. “We have plenty of first responders,” he said.

Two inmates in the county’s jail are currently in isolation, Apple said, and the jail has 89 isolation cells.

“We’ll shift to 12-hour shifts this week to keep people from burning out,” said Apple, concluding, “We need you to continue to work with us.”

McCoy said the county’s new mental-health helpline has been “a huge success.” He urged, “Reach out, don’t be ashamed. We’re not tracking; we’re not taking personal information.”

The number is 518-269-6634 and the line is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Anyone experiencing a psychiatric emergency should still call the Albany County Mobile Crisis Team at 518-549–6500.

He also encouraged kids, home from their closed schools, to continue making electronic greeting cards for nursing home residents who are unable to receive visitors at

For all COVID-19 questions and concerns, Albany County residents are encouraged to use United Way’s 2-1-1 hotline as well as the State Department of Health’s hotline at 888-364-3065.

Residents who want to volunteer for the Albany County Medical Reserve Corps to help the response to COVID-19, or to help the county’s health department, answering phones and making calls to residents under quarantine, may call the Department of Health’s Medical Reserve Corps Coordinator at 518-447-4610.

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