Modern-day Robin Hood redistributes wealth — food for people in need

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The pandemic, said Jammella Anderson, was “a wake-up call of, ‘Hey, we really need to all come together and people who are homeless, people who are in marginalized communities, we are all each other’s neighbors and, if we can all work together, then we’re going to get through this a lot easier.”

ALBANY COUNTY — Both the county and the state have launched campaigns to end hesitancy as, starting on Tuesday, any New Yorker 16 or older is eligible for a free COVID-19 vaccination.

On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo, at an event in Queens, promoted the Roll Up Your Sleeves campaign, which he said at a press conference later in the day, “focuses on the social equity campaign on vaccinations, making sure we’re getting it to the communities that have been hardest hit by COVID.”

He went on, “We are very aggressive in public housing, in churches, in community centers, in communities of color on the vaccination program.”

Albany County has its own ad campaign to promote vaccination.

Andrew Joyce, who chairs the county legislature, said on Monday that he was working with the sheriff to vaccinate homeless people. A point of dispensing, or POD, will be held Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Capital City Rescue Mission on South Pearl Street, which will dispense the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Also on Monday, the state’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, released an analysis showing “job losses from the pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown were swift and deep: employment in New York declined by nearly 2 million jobs from February to April 2020.”

He reported on new data released by the state’s Department of Labor that shows less than half of the jobs lost during that time have been recovered, and employment is still more than 1 million jobs below its pre-pandemic levels.






Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy noted at his Monday morning COVID-19 press briefing that a lot of people got laid off. “People really were struggling these last 56 weeks,” he said.

He highlighted a county resident, Jammella Anderson, who was recently featured on the cover of Time magazine for “Facing Hunger Head-On” in a series on women and the pandemic.

McCoy said Anderson showed: “You can make a difference in someone’s life.”

Anderson serves as a modern-day Robin Hood, redistributing wealth. But, rather than using a quiver of arrows, she relies on the generosity of neighbors; they are her Merry Men.

Anderson’s Free Food Fridge program places colorful refrigerators in areas where people need food.

“Restaurants, farmers, and individuals who are able to spread their wealth and redistribute their wealth … just put food in it,” Anderson explained, “so then community members who may not have ever experienced a food apartheid or food insecurity are able to just take with complete anonymity.”

She went on, “I think that takes a lot of layers of shame out of it and is a better way to show that the community is here to support when we don’t think they are all the time …. The income cliff for people has been really dramatic.”

The pandemic, said Anderson, was “a wake-up call of, ‘Hey, we really need to all come together and people who are homeless, people who are in marginalized communities, we are all each other’s neighbors and, if we can all work together, then we’re going to get through this a lot easier.”

McCoy presented Anderson with a proclamation, a pin, and a county coin as the Albany County Citizen of the Month and thanked her for “lifting up spirits” and “inspiring the next generation.”

He concluded, “Everyone makes a difference.”


Curfews lifted

Cuomo also announced that, beginning Monday, the 11 p.m. curfew currently in place for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiards halls, gyms and fitness centers is lifted.

The 11 p.m. curfew for food and beverage establishments and the midnight curfew for catered events remains in effect. Both curfews will be evaluated later this month, said a release from the governor’s office.



Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said her department received a “pretty large” allocation of vaccine doses in its 17th week of giving shots.

The county, which typically learns from the state over the weekend how many doses it is getting, then plans PODs accordingly. This week, it will have 2,600 doses of Moderna and 1,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson and will also have 1,600 supplemental doses earmarked for college students.

“This is a new development,” Whalen said, noting the importance of vaccinating college students.

The county is receiving no doses this week of the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration for 16- and 17-year-olds: Pfizer-BioNTech. But other places in the county do have Pfizer, Whalen said, as she urged 16- and 17-year olds to check when they sign up. They also need permission from a parent or guardian to take the shot.

Albany County, as of Monday evening, had dispensed at least one dose of vaccine to 40.6 percent of its 307,117 residents, according to the state’s vaccine tracker. McCoy said on Monday morning that 26.4 percent of county residents had been completely vaccinated.

Statewide, 33 percent of New Yorkers have received at least one dose and 20.4 percent have completed a vaccine series. 

“Every time we get a shot in someone’s arm, we get closer to normalcy,” said McCoy.

Albany County’s infection rate, as of Sunday, as a seven-day rolling average, was 2.2 percent, according to the state dashboard. Statewide, also as of Sunday, as a seven-day rolling average, the infection rate was 3.6 percent.

“Our numbers are holding steady and that’s not a good thing and it’s not a bad thing,” said Whalen. “We need our numbers to start to decrease.”

She said she hoped they wouldn’t bump up because of Easter gatherings.


Newest numbers

McCoy announced 71 new cases of COVID-19 since Sunday, bringing the county’s tally to 22,624.

Of the new cases, 47 did not have a clear source of infection identified, 23 had close contact with positive cases, and one was a health-care worker or resident of a congregate setting.

The five-day average for new daily positives has decreased to 65.4 from 66.2. There are now 596 active cases in the county, up from 591 on Sunday.

The number of Albany County residents under quarantine decreased to 1,395 from 1,443. So far, 72,248 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 22,028 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 67 recoveries since Sunday.

There were three new hospitalizations overnight and there are now 24 county residents hospitalized from the virus — a net increase of one. There remain five patients in intensive-care units, unchanged from Sunday.

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

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