ALBANY — The deaths of nine county residents were recorded from Tuesday to Wednesday and there were 272 new positive cases of COVID-19 overnight.
On the positive side of the ledger, 360 people who tested positive for the virus recovered from Tuesday to Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, there were 16 new hospitalizations, but there was a net decrease of seven. There are currently 154 county residents hospitalized for COVID-19. The hospitalization rate is 8.4 percent, the highest in a month.
Of those who died were a woman in her 60s, a man and woman in their 70s, three men and a woman in their 80s and a woman and a man in their 90s. Five deaths were from one nursing home and it is not clear when they died, but it was between Dec. 12 and Jan. 3 said County Executive Dan McCoy.
With reports of the vaccination program stuttering across the state, Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, head of the Albany County Health Department, said Albany Medical Center Hospital, the entity in charge of distributing vaccines in the eight-county Capital District region, and the respective county health departments have daily conference calls talking about all aspects of the distribution.
“This is a real time response,” she said. “What our goal is is to be limited by only the supply of vaccine we have is and to work quickly through the prioritization strategy.”
She said the Health Department is flooded with phone calls of people looking for information on where they fall within that strategy. Currently, the state is in Phase 1A of the program which includes health care workers and nursing home residents. It is not clear when Phase 1B will begin, and there is a not a list being formulated for those in 1B — roughly teachers, essential front line workers like first responders in law enforcement and fire protection and those older than 75 not living in a congregate setting.
Prioritization is mandated by the plan laid out by the state, Whalen said, and the Health Department is getting thousands of phone calls related to when and where people can get vaccinated. There is a link on the county and state health department websites where people can state their case regarding individual health conditions and how those situations relate to their place in line but there is not an active list being kept.
Even after people get vaccinated, they will still need to follow the same protocols that have become a way of life over the last 11 months including wearing masks.
“It’s important people be aware that when you get the COVID vaccine, even after you get the second dose of vaccine, doesn’t mean you can walk out the door and stop wearing a mask. What the vaccine does is protect you from getting sick to a 95 percent level but it doesn’t prevent you from transmitting infection if you come into contact with it,” Whalen said. “It will be a long time before we are living life without masks.”
The unprecedented national effort of immunizing some 328 million-plus people boils down to the local levels and Whalen said the concentration is on getting the vaccine to doctor’s offices, pharmacies and looking at innovative ways to get the vaccine out to high risk populations.
“All of that is in the works and once we start to know more about how much vaccine we can anticipate and we can start to formulate a time line,” she said.
The county is currently planning on opening its first vaccination pod this week for the thousands of people in Phase IA. Pods are generally large vaccination hubs and there are more in the planning stages. There are also discussions about training EMTs to become vaccinators and possibly homecare workers and even school nurses.
“If you start to look at ways to get the vaccine out in as many ways possible it is normal to start to look at things this way,” Whalen said. “Some will come from clear guidance (from the state) and some from organic relationships the county has built over the years. It is important to utilize these collaborations in every way we know how.”