Entertainment venues can reopen at one-third capacity

— Chart from the Empire Center
New York ranks 44th for the percentage of people over 65 who have gotten at least one shot while it ranks ninth for the population between 18 and 65.

ALBANY COUNTY — On Friday, while county officials urged residents to celebrate Easter with their immediate households or in small groups, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that performing arts and entertainment venues can reopen at one-third capacity.

Venues can host up to 100 people indoors or up to 200 people outdoors. If all attendees present proof of completed vaccination or recent negative test results prior to entry, capacity can increase up to 150 people indoors or up to 500 people outdoors.

The state guidance requires that attendees stay six feet apart, wear masks, and be screened before entering the venues.

Cuomo encouraged New Yorkers to use an Excelsior Pass — a free, voluntary platform that the state developed with IBM that documents someone who has completed vaccination or tested negative for COVID-19. Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, Excelsior Passes can be printed out or stored in smartphones.

At Albany County’s Friday morning press briefing, Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen cautioned residents about large gatherings.

“The numbers are not going in the direction we want them to go,” she said of infection rates. “We started a downward trend and now we’re kind of at a period where we’re looking at slight increases. … We don’t want an uptick.”



The county’s POD, or point of dispensing, can now vaccinate all eligible New Yorkers, which include anyone 30 and older as well as people with listed comorbidities and listed essential jobs. Starting April 6, anyone 16 or older will be eligible for vaccination.

Whalen said that, of the three COVID-19 vaccines given emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, only one — Pfizer-BioNTech — can be used for 16- through 18-year-olds.  So she advised people in that age group to sign up for clinics dispensing the Pfizer vaccine.

Appointments are required at the county’s POD, which is run out of the Times Union Center in Albany. The POD has started a stand-by list so that it can summon people if there are no-shows or if vials produce 11 rather than the expected 10 doses of vaccine.

To get on the stand-by list residents should email COVIDVaccineStandbyList@AlbanyCountyNY.gov.

Albany County has two other large government-run vaccination sites: The Washington Avenue Armory, which is run jointly by the state and federal governments, and tents at the uptown University at Albany campus, which is run by the state.

Additionally, local pharmacies are now being supplied with vaccine, including Walmarts at Washington Avenue, Glenmont on Route 9W, and Sam’s Club in Latham — all using Pfizer — and Walmart in Lathem, which is administering Johnson & Johnson.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy reported that so far the county has administered or reallocated 39,664 first and second doses of vaccine and that the county alone has administered 25,107 doses.

He said that the smaller PODs — 77 doses were administered to Capital District Latinos on Thursday — are harder to run but they make people more comfortable. 

“People like going to their churches …. It takes away some of the anxiety,” he said.

McCoy also said that the county is “making sure we hit the communities that were hit the hardest.”

As of Friday evening, 38.9 percent of Albany County’s 307,117 residents have received at least a first dose of vaccine, according to the state’s vaccine tracker. McCoy said on Friday morning that 23.5 percent of county residents had been fully vaccinated.

Statewide, 31.8 percent of New Yorkers have had at least a first shot while 19.2 percent have completed a vaccination series.

Whalen addressed elderly people or people with underlying health conditions who didn’t get vaccinated when they were first eligible. “I hope the months that we have been doing this have been providing reassurance to those that were a little concerned … that this vaccine is safe and effective,” she said.

Whalen also noted, “We have seen a change in our trends from older people being predominantly affected to younger people being infected because of the vaccination so we know this vaccine is protecting people.”

She once again praised both her staff and the volunteers — many of them retired doctors or nurses — who are working at the POD.

“What we have found when we come together …,” Whalen said, “People find that there is an atmosphere of joy; people find that there is an atmosphere of reassurance; people find that they get individual attention if they are concerned or nervous.”


Lag for elderly

“In the race to vaccinate its oldest and most vulnerable residents, New York has fallen behind,” said Bill Hammond, senior fellow at the Empire Center, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit think tank based in Albany, in an analysis he released on Friday.

While he acknowledged that the state’s overall vaccination rate is somewhat higher than the national average, he pointed out — based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — that there is a significant gap between age groups.

New York ranks 44th for the percentage of people over 65 who have gotten at least one shot while it ranks ninth for the population between 18 and 65.

“The disparity suggests that New York’s vaccination policies and procedures are giving younger people an advantage relative to other states,” Hammond states.

He speculates this may be because the Cuomo administration prioritized hospital workers and those in other essential frontline jobs who are typically younger than 65.

Hammond notes the ratio of younger to older New Yorkers who have received a first shot is 1.75-to-1, the seventh highest in the country, and speculates, “This may relate to the number of younger New Yorkers who were competing for limited slots at any given time, and the process for finding and scheduling an appointment, which gives an edge to the computer-savvy.”


Newest numbers

McCoy announced 45 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s total to 22,440.

Of the new cases, 29 did not have clear sources of infection identified,15 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 decreased to 64.8 from 72.4. There are now 568 active cases in the county, down from 585 on Thursday.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine increased slightly to 1,538 from 1,535. So far, 71,512 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 21,872 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 59 recoveries since Thursday.

There were five new hospitalizations overnight, and there are now 21 county residents hospitalized from the virus — a net decrease of three. There are currently four patients in intensive-care units, unchanged from Thursday.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 366.

Albany County’s infection rate, as of Thursday, as a seven-day rolling average, was 2.4 percent, according to the state’s dashboard.

Statewide, also as of Thursday, as a seven-day rolling average, the infection rate was 3.6 percent.

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