Last March a coalition of local non-profits came together with the goal of bringing food and other essentials to Schenectady County residents in need.
The effort was a response to COVID-19 and the unprecedented stay-at-home orders, business shutdowns and quarantine and isolation requirements that came with it. Over a 14-week period, the coalition made 16,500 deliveries and distributed over 800,000 pounds of food.
It was a massive, all-consuming undertaking, and when the pandemic subsided, the coalition disbanded, officially ceasing operations at the end of June.
“If we ever have to do this again, we could be up and running very quickly,” Robert Carreau, executive director of The Schenectady Foundation, the charitable trust that spearheaded the coalition, told me during the summer.
At the time, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths were at a low point, and it seemed possible that the worst of the pandemic was behind us.
Then came fall, and COVID-19’s deadly resurgence.
In recent weeks, the Capital Region has seen record numbers of people seek medical treatment for the virus, as well as ominous spikes in infections and fatalities.
It’s an alarming trendline, and it’s prompted Carreau to revive the Schenectady County COVID-19 Emergency Response Coalition.
The objective is the same as it was earlier in the year: bringing people in need food and other essentials, such as toiletries, diapers and PPE.
The effort won’t be as big as it was in the spring, when the National Guard helped deliver supplies, the Schenectady Boys and Girls Club headquarters in Mont Pleasant was available to serve as a base of operations and anybody who requested help was likely to get it.
Instead, the emphasis will be on making deliveries to people in quarantine or isolation because they have been exposed to COVID-19 or tested positive for it. Right now, Carreau is aiming for between 75 and 100 deliveries a day.
“The number of people who are quarantining in Schenectady County right now appears to be double what it was in the spring,” Carreau said.
On Friday, 783 Schenectady County residents were in quarantine due to COVID-19. Another 1,058 were in isolation, meaning they had tested positive for the virus or were presumed to be positive.
People in quarantine or isolation are supposed to stay home and avoid others, lest they risk spreading the virus. This isn’t always easy – people might feel that there’s something they have to do, or that there’s nobody they can ask to run an errand.
The Emergency Response Coalition initiative makes it easier for people to stay home, while also aiding them financially, as all deliveries are free.
Many of the groups in the Coalition have extensive experience helping low-income people.
Those involved include the Schenectady Community Action Project, the City Mission of Schenectady, the Food Pantries For the Capital District and Schenectady Community Ministries.
Deliveries are already being made, but the effort will get fully underway in early January and continue, Carreau predicts, through April.
“We’re ramping up our food supply and delivery chain,” he told me.
As always, it’s great to see Schenectady’s non-profit community join forces to help people through a crisis, and the second wave of COVID-19 is a major calamity, one that impacts the entire community.
What isn’t so great is the reason for the Coalition’s cooperative effort: a virus that continues to sicken and kill new people every day.
The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine signals the end of the pandemic, but it will take time to inoculate a significant portion of the public, and the winter months will be challenging and difficult.
Here’s hoping that the next time the COVID-19 Emergency Response Coalition calls it quits, it’s for good.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.
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