Excelsior Pass launched to fast-track reopening

— Photo from the New York State Department of Health website

On Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass to “fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues.”

ALBANY COUNTY — Daniel McCoy, the county’s executive, warned “we are not out of the woods yet” as he announced 88 new cases of COVID-19 and five new hospitalizations on Friday morning.

At the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass to “fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues.”

The pass, a free voluntary platform developed with IBM, confirms that the holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19 or has had a recent negative test for the virus. Cuomo likened it to a mobile airline boarding pass that can either be printed out or stored in a smartphone.

The pass can be used to gain entry to stadiums and arenas, to wedding receptions or other catered events.  Major venues, including the Times Union Center in Albany, have announced they will use the Excelsior Pass, said the Friday release from Cuomo’s office; beginning April 2, it will expand to smaller arts, entertainment, and events venues.

The state’s motto is “excelsior,” Latin for “ever upward.”


Vaccine distribution

Also on Friday, Cuomo announced a partnership with SOMOS Community Care to provide COVID-19 vaccines directly to accredited primary-care physicians in SOMOS’s health network who will vaccinate underserved New Yorkers.

SOMOS, according to its website is “a network of over 2,500 providers in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn who have come together to ensure better health care for Medicaid members.” 

The state’s program will initially cover 75 practices in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, and will scale up to 100 practices as supply allows. The program will launch in the coming weeks and New Yorkers will be able to make appointments directly through SOMOS.

SOMOS in English means ‘we are.’ Those are words that have been missing from health care in our country for many, many years. We are united. Out of many one,” said Henry Muñoz at the event in the Bronx where Cuomo made his announcement. Muñoz described himself as “a person who spent his whole life as an activist and as a designer of change on behalf of the Latino community for this country.”

Coincidentally on Friday, Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat representing the Capital Region,  joined with two other Democratic New York representatives — Grace Meng and Adriano Espaillat — to call on Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, to include office-based clinicians, including primary-care physicians, in the vaccine administration plan.

“Office-based clinicians are highly trusted by their patients and play a pivotal role administering the flu and other vaccines,” said their letter to Zients. “Critically, primary care clinicians can play a vital role in educating and counseling patients on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to those patients who may be especially hesitant to receive the vaccine.”

Albany County is hosting a vaccination clinic in Arbor Hill on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the public library at 148 Henry Johnson Boulevard.

“Ultimately, the best protection from COVID is getting vaccinated …,” McCoy said in a statement. “We’re encouraging people to use our vaccine pre-registration tool, which is being used to make appointments for our clinic in Arbor Hill tomorrow that we are partnering on with Mohawk Ambulance. As it becomes harder and harder to find those who are eligible to fill appointments, we need the state to expand eligibility.”

Currently, any New Yorker 50 or older is eligible to be vaccinated as are New Yorkers with listed comorbidities or listed as essential workers. These lists are on the county’s website as is a pre-registration form.

McCoy urged Albany County residents to pre-register for vaccines, whether they are eligible or not, in advance of any new expansions of eligibility in the future.

As of Friday evening, according to the state’s vaccine tracker, 35.2 percent of Albany County’s 307,117 had received at least a first shot of vaccine. McCoy reported Friday morning that 17.9 percent had been fully vaccinated. 

Statewide, 28.3 percent of New Yorkers had a first dose while 15.2 percent completed the vaccine series, the state’s tracker reported on Friday evening.


Newest numbers

Counting its 88 new cases, Albany County, as of Friday morning, has had 21,999 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to McCoy’s release.

Of the new cases, 62 did not have clear sources of infection identified, 25 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and one reported traveling out of state.

The five-day average for new daily positives has increased to 61.6 from 58.2. There are now 516 active cases in the county, up from 506 on Thursday.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine increased to 1,298 from 1,276. So far, 69,930 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 21,483 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 75 recoveries since Thursday.

There were six new hospitalizations overnight, and there are now 34 county residents hospitalized from the virus — a net increase of five. There are currently four patients in intensive-care units, up from three on Thursday.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 365.

Statewide, the infection rate, as of Thursday, as a seven-day rolling average, was 3.4 percent, according to the state’s dashboard.

For Albany County, the infection rate, again as of Thursday, as a seven-day rolling average, was 1.9 percent.

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