As COVID cases increase, NYS allocates $15M to promote vaccination

ALBANY COUNTY — As every state except Vermont has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that New York State will allocate $15 million to promote vaccination in communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic.

The funds will be used to strengthen communication, expand public education, and enhance ongoing outreach efforts throughout diverse communities, the governor said.

Also on Monday, New York City announced it will require all municipal workers — from police to teachers — to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-September or to submit weekly negative test results. And California on Monday became the first state to announce it will require all state workers and health-care workers to be vaccinated or to be regularly tested for COVID-19.

And, in the next two months, the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Monday, it is requiring its frontline health-care workers to be vaccinated, the first federal agency to do so.

Speaking at an event in New York City, Cuomo said on Monday that, while 75 percent of adult New Yorkers had received at least one shot, that still leaves 25 percent unvaccinated.

“And 25 percent may be a relatively small number, but it is a lot of people: 3.5 million unvaccinated people,” said Cuomo.

He also said, referencing the upsurge in infections across the state, “Numbers don’t lie.” Last month, he said, the daily count for new infections was 346 while there were 1,900 new positive test results yesterday.

The Capital Region, of which Albany County is a part, continues to have the highest infection rate of any of the state’s 10 regions. As of July 25, as a seven-day rolling average, the Capital Region’s rate was 2.47 percent. The lowest rate was in the Mohawk Valley at 1.24 percent, just about half of the Capital Region’s rate.

Albany County’s infection rate was 2.3 percent while the statewide rate was 1.9 percent, according to the state tracker.

Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, in his daily weekday release, noted on Monday morning that Albany County had 19 new cases since Saturday, bringing the county’s tally to 24,596.

McCoy also noted that 66.2 percent of Albany County’s population has received at least the first dose, and 61.8 percent has been fully vaccinated. The first-dose vaccination rate for county residents 18 and older is now up to 76.9 percent

There are now 83 active cases in the county, up from 81 on Saturday, and five residents remain hospitalized with the virus, McCoy reported on Monday morning.

Cuomo said on Monday that 72 percent of the new positive test results are linked to the Delta variant of the virus. He also said, “Only 0.15 vaccinated New Yorkers have been infected by the COVID Delta variant …. The vaccines work, they work and it’s proven in the numbers. Those who are vaccinated reduce the risk of hospitalization by 94 percent.”

Because the demand for vaccination has decreased, the state is closing many of its mass clinics, Cuomo said. The Guilderland site at Crossgates Mall is still open.

Cuomo said of the newly allocated $15 million, “Only about 6.7 percent of the state has new positive cases above the average and the vaccination rate below the state average. So we’re focusing on those 117 ZIP codes. In New York City, Bronx, Staten Island, Brooklyn. Tends to be communities of color, tends to be poorer communities, tends to be communities with less access to healthcare. And over 61 percent of those ZIP codes in the state are in New York City.”

The funds are being distributed this way: $5.5 million to the Hispanic Federation, $5.5 million to the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, $1 million to the New York Immigration Coalition, $1 million  to the Asian American Federation, $1 Million to the Charles B. Wang Community Center, and $1 million to the APICHA (Asian/Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS) Community Health Center.

In Albany County, many of the ZIP codes where residents have the lowest rate of vaccination are in rural areas. The very lowest is the 12222 ZIP in Albany, with a rate of 7.8 percent for people with at least one vaccine dose. The second lowest ZIP in the county is 12046, Coeymans Hollow, with a vaccination rate of 30.5 percent.

South Bethlehem (12161) is third lowest at 42.4 percent and Medusa (12120) in Westerlo is fourth lowest at 42.6 percent.

Albany’s 12211 ZIP code has the highest rate of vaccination at 86.8 percent while the next four highest are all suburban: Slingerlands (12159) at 85.2 percent; Delmar (12054) at 81.9 percent; Voorheesville (12186) at 77.4 percent; and Guilderland Center (12085) at 75.5 percent.

“We need a different approach,” said Cuomo of vaccinating the 25 percent of New Yorkers who remain unvaccinated. “And the approach has to be community-based organizations who can have conversations in the community. With people who know them, who culturally know them, who know their issues and their fears. And it almost has to be a one-on-one conversation with that 25 percent, because it’s not going to be a top-down message.”

Albany County continues to have pop-up neighborhood clinics and also continues to deliver vaccines to homebound residents, which includes seniors, people with disabilities, and those lacking child care. Anyone who would like to schedule a time for a vaccine appointment should call 518-447-7198.

Albany County residents can also receive free Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., each week at the county’s health department at 175 Green Street. No appointments are needed and walk-ins are welcome.

Cuomo concluded his remarks on Monday, saying, “We cannot go through what we went through over the past year. We can’t. We can’t, I can’t, the economy can’t, society can’t — we can’t go through it again ….

“I am telling you as I sit here today, if we do not make progress on vaccinating that unvaccinated population, 25 percent, with the Delta variant, you’re going to see the numbers go up. That is a large number and we’re going to lose lives and it will be disruptive and we cannot let that happen …. Yes. The numbers are going up. Do something about it. Do something about it.”

 

Rental help

The Albany County Department of Social Services continues to host informational sessions to educate residents, check their eligibility, and help them sign up for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The federally funded program is for renters who have experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding will be available to New Yorkers for up to one year of back rent, three months of future rental assistance and up to one year of owed utility payments.

All allocations will be sent directly to landlords or property owners on behalf of the tenants. There are no immigration status requirements to qualify for the program. Households eligible for rental arrears may also be eligible for help paying utility arrears at the same rental unit.

An informational session is scheduled for the Hilltowns on Monday, Agu. 2, at 2:30 p.m. at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo school at 1738 Helderberg Trail in Berne.