“From the moment this vaccine was available, our members and staff worked very hard to get it to where it was needed the most. It was through their efforts, and those of our County Executive, our Department of Health and our amazing Medical Reserve Corps that we are able to celebrate this milestone today,” said Andrew Joyce, chairman of the Albany County Legislature. According to the state’s vaccine tracker, as of Tuesday evening, 74.5 percent of Albany County’s residents aged 18 and older had received at least one dose of vaccine.

Following President Joe Biden’s lead, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said, the federal funds will be used “to make sure kids are back in the classroom.” With the funds, he said, schools will be able to test for COVID-19 without raising taxes or diverting money from other school programs.

“A lot of these folks out this way do not want to go down into the city to get services so here we’re bringing services to them and I think this is just going to grow and grow,” said Sheriff Craig Apple of the new program to have social workers and trained EMS crews answer some emergency calls in rural Albany County.

“Data show that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected some populations and placed them at higher risk, including those who are medically underserved, racial and ethnic minority groups, and people living in rural communities,” says the CDC, which awarded the state’s health department $34 million to address inequities.

Flexible grants of $5,000 up to $50,000 will be made available to eligible small businesses and small for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations. The grants can be used for operating expenses, including payroll, rent or mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, personal protective equipment, or other business expenses incurred during the pandemic.

Once the state hits the 70-percent mark, the governor said, “We can lift the capacity restriction, social distancing, the hygiene protocols, the health screenings, the potential tracing. Masks will only be required as recommended by the CDC.” 

The state’s new rules, for indoors, “strongly encourage” but do not require masks for students or campers and staff who are not fully vaccinated. Outdoors, masks are not required although students, campers, and staff who are not fully vaccinated are “encouraged” to wear a mask in certain higher-risk circumstances. Both indoors and outdoors, students, campers, and staff who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks. Finally, schools and camps may choose to implement stricter standards.

As part of the initiative, which will focus on arts like music and theater, as well as education, caregivers for the elderly will be able to leave the people at the campus for a day or even a week when they need respite.

As of Wednesday evening, 62.2 percent of Albany County’s residents had received at least one dose of vaccine as had 73.0 percent of county residents 18 or older. The number of residents attending the large points of dispensing or PODs run by the county has greatly decreased; this week, just 12 doses were administered at the county’s POD. The county has shifted its focus to community-based PODs.

“We’ll start small and we’ll work our way up,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “I firmly believe, if we can knock off a lot of the low-level stuff, a lot of the big stuff will take care of itself. And we want the criminals to know you are not welcome in the city of Albany.”

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