Few storylines captured our attention more than the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the world since March. COVID-19 leads our list of Top News Stories for 2020, but there was so much more that happened.
ALBANY — The World Health Organization reported over 3,000 deaths and nearly 90,000 cases of novel coronavirus worldwide by Monday, March 2. Over that weekend, a New York City resident was confirmed as the state’s first case and among only 15 verified in the United States.
“Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Ten days later, the City of Albany cancelled both the North Albany St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the main St. Patrick’s Day Parade after the county’s first two cases were reported. The two cases — a Guilderland woman in her 30s and a male University at Albany student in his 20s living off campus in the City of Albany — were not related. Both recovered at home while under quarantine.
As of Thursday, Dec. 24, New York City has reported more than 880,000 cases, including 36,454 deaths. In Albany County, 190 residents have died from the virus as nearly 10,000 cases have been confirmed year-to-date.
Dueling rallies bring the noise
DELMAR – Bethlehem served as the setting for a nationwide conversation between both Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue movements when the two collided at Four Corners on Saturday, July 4.
It was the second of two, sizable rallies to collect in the center of town in less than a month.
At the afternoon’s height, roughly 600 people representing both sides stood along the intersection of Delaware and Kenwood avenues, screaming and chanting. It was a scenario the Bethlehem Police Department was initially concerned with, prompting the local police agency to initiate the services of the Albany County Sheriffs and New York State Police.
Pockets of arguments ignited throughout the day as individuals from each side crossed the street to faceoff against the opposition. A confrontation between Black Lives Matter activist Matt Lauricella and former Bethlehem Republican Committee Chairman Keith Wiggand later resulted in the two pressing charges against one another.
More than 1,500 people gathered on Monday, June 8 to rally in protest against a series of controversial deaths across the country of black people at the hands of law enforcement including that of George Floyd.
— Michael Hallisey
A protest, a riot and the cleanup
ALBANY — Five hours following a peaceful protest, violence ripped through the Capital City and spilled into the suburbs.
“It was the closest I have felt to being in a war zone since Iraq,” said County Executive Dan McCoy, who used four fire extinguishers to put out a fire at the Probation Department on Pearl Street because the chaos prevented the fire department from accessing the building.
And the community, already reeling from COVID-19, was left to pick up the pieces after dozens of rioters did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to municipal buildings and private businesses, setting fires and looting stores as they rampaged through the south end of Albany and spilling into the suburbs.
Colonie Center was broken into. Guilderland police and deputies from the Albany County Sheriff’s Department had all the entrances to Crossgates Mall blocked off and at around midnight a number of cars were circling the closed mall, some taunting police as they drove by.
The violence overshadowed what began as a peaceful protest to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. Thousands came to Townsend Park in Albany to participate in the two-mile run/walk organized by Citizens Action and other community groups.
“What went on in Minneapolis should not have happened. What that officer did was nefarious and criminal and he will have his day in court,” said Sheriff Craig Apple. “But I don’t want the public to paint all law enforcement officers with the same brush. We are not like that here. We have worked hard to make strides in the community. To build bridges. And this set us back years.”
A 21-year-old Delmar man, James Vail was later arrested for throwing a brick at a police officer, causing a concussion. Vail is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, Jan. 22. He faces four years in state prison after having pleaded guilty on assault charges.
— Jim Franco
BETHLEHEM — With four approving and one abstaining votes, the Town Board officially named Detective Sgt. Gina Cocchiara its first female chief on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Cocchiara was named when board members first appointmented her through an interview process initiated by Town Supervisor David VanLuven.
The Town described Cocchiara as having an “ambitious vision” for modernizing the police department in a climate demanding police reform.
“She’s just the right person to lead the department and its outstanding officers into a new era of policing.” VanLuven said.
— Michael Hallisey