Govs want to meet with Trump for guidance on vaccines

— Still frame from Albany County press conference on Oct. 15, 2020
“Although we all want to get together with our loved ones ... this year has to be different,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen. “It has to be different until we get to the point of having a safe, reliable, and widely available vaccine, which does not look to be on the table until the new year at the earliest and I think it will likely be spring.”

ALBANY COUNTY — County officials on Thursday morning warned that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks is roughly the same as the first two weeks of April when “we hit the height of this,” said County Executive Daniel McCoy.

Between April 1 and 15, the county reported 297 cases; between Oct. 1 and 15, the tally was 291.

“The good news on this is, when we worked together in April, we were able to keep the numbers in Albany County such that we did not see a great deal of hospital surge capacity being tested,” said Elizabeth Whalen, the county’s health commissioner.

She urged, as always, mask-wearing, hand-washing, avoiding gatherings, and keeping six feet from others.

Also on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a conference call with the press that it is important to start planning now for the dispersal of a vaccine once it’s developed.

“Dealing with COVID is not checkers. It’s chess, said Cuomo. “So let’s start to think ahead.”

As chairman of the National Governors Association, Cuomo, a Democrat, along with Vice Chair Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking for  “guidance and clarification … on the roles and expectations of states in a successful COVID-19 vaccine distribution and implementation plan.”

Cuomo told the press, “The first question will be: Do the American people trust the vaccine?” 

He noted that New York State has put together a “committee of professionals that will review the protocol and efficacy of the vaccine.”

Cuomo said he believes there will be distrust of the vaccine because “there is distrust about this federal administration’s reliance or lack thereof on science.”

He said, if New York’s committee tells him the vaccine is safe, “I will tell the people of the state the vaccine is safe.”

The next move, he said, is, “How do we administer 20 million vaccines in the state of New York and how do you do that quickly and how do you do that safely? How do you do the vaccines all across the country?”

There has been speculation that the military would handle it or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cuomo said. 

So, said Cuomo, the letter sent to Trump on Thursday is requesting a meeting to delineate federal and state responsibilities, the funding needs associated with those responsibilities, and the planned supply chain management and vaccine allocation process.



Cuomo also reported Thursday on the latest number of COVID-19 cases across New York while the focus is still on downstate clusters, largely in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City and in Orange and Rockland counties, where extra testing is being done.

“If you look at where the outbreaks are coming from, there are situations where there was a lack of compliance. Lack of compliance matched with a lack of enforcement,” said Cuomo. He also said, “If we have better enforcement with COVID, we will save lives.”

Cuomo for months has been calling on local governments to enforce regulations put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Many of the clusters — known as “red zones,” which are surrounded by “orange zones,” and finally by outlying “yellow zones” — are in areas with large populations of Orthodox Jews.

“Some of the complexity on the enforcement here, especially with members of the Ultra-Orthodox community — they have never complied with the rules and I have had dozens and dozens of conversations,” said Cuomo.

He also said, “The majority of Ultra-Orthodox groups that I’ve been speaking with are cooperative. There are a relatively small number — loud but small — that are uncooperative and just believe that they should be exempt from these types of government regulations.”

The state is providing 200,000 rapid test kits to New York City schools in the yellow zones, Cuomo said.

Cuomo reported that, based on test results from Wednesday, the percentage of infection in the hotspot areas is 4.84 percent; he noted, as always, that the red zones are home to just 2.8 percent of the state’s population yet had 11.5 percent of all positive cases.

Statewide, the positivity rate is 1.09 percent.

The Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, had a rate of 0.8 percent. Just three of the state’s 10 regions had a rate below the target of 1 percent: In addition to the Capital Region, they were the Mohawk Valley and the North Country, both at 0.5 percent.


Albany County

“Unfortunately, our numbers continue to go up,” McCoy said at Thursday morning’s press briefing.

He spoke of a birthday party in his own family, for his niece, and said that his sister, her husband, and their son have all contracted COVID-19.

“We feel, because we’re family or friends, we can let our guard down …,” said McCoy. “You can’t. You have to stay vigil. You have to stay on top of this. You have to know it’s there.”

He also said, “Even if you don’t have signs or symptoms … we want you to get tested.” McCoy named many of the growing number of testing sites in the county, which are listed on the county’s website.

He also mentioned a new initiative — combining the University at Albany, The College of Saint Rose, and the governor’s office — that will test college students living in midtown Albany.

Whalen again encouraged county residents to get flu shots as flu season has arrived.

“What we want to avoid this year is to have a lot of people with flu at the same time we may have a lot of people with COVID …,” Whalen said. “We always are concerned about hospital surge capacity.”

She also said of the increased number of positive test results, “We are … watching to see whether this uptick remains consistent … We see what’s happening at other places in the country where there are larger amounts of cases.”

Finally, as McCoy had, Whalen warned against family gatherings and stressed the importance of protecting the elderly and vulnerable.

“Although we all want to get together with our loved ones, it’s something we all look forward to this time of year, this year has to be different,” said Whalen. “It has to be different until we get to the point of having a safe, reliable, and widely available vaccine, which does not look to be on the table until the new year at the earliest and I think it will likely be spring.”


Newest numbers

As of Thursday morning, Albany County has confirmed 3,255 cases of coronavirus disease 2019, with 27 new positive cases. Of the new cases, 17 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, one reported out-of-state travel, one is a healthcare worker or a resident of a congregate setting, and eight did not have a clear source of infection detected at this time.

Currently, 914 county residents are under quarantine, up from 870 on Wednesday. The five-day average for new daily positives also increased to 18.6 from 16. There are now 109 active cases in the county, up from 101 on Wednesday.

So far, 14,179 Albany County residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 3,146 had tested positive and recovered.

Seven county residents remain hospitalized with COVID-19; one of them, down from three on Wednesday, is in an intensive-care unit.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 136.

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