FONDA — The COVID vaccine was the topic once again Monday as Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort delivered his weekly pandemic update.
More precisely, it was the lack of a vaccine that he discussed, and the state micromanaging the county’s use of the tiny allocations of vaccine that it sends the county.
In the most recent instance, the state sent 200 doses to the county of 49,000 people, and ordered that 100 be used for essential workers and 100 for those who work with the disabled. And absolutely no one else.
Meanwhile, the state has given the county no indication when it will send doses for senior citizens. It’s hard to get an answer on the state’s own vaccine hotline, Ossenfort said, so Montgomery County’s large elderly population calls the county health department, which can’t give them an answer.
“That is my and our latest source of frustration,” said Ossenfort, who has at times grown visibly flustered at the state’s handling of the vaccine campaign.
The state’s efforts have been hampered by a limited and unpredictable supply of the vaccine from the federal government, as have many states’. New York ranks around the middle of the 50 states in number of doses administered per capita, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
What has frustrated some local officials in New York, beyond the shortage of vaccine, is that Gov. Andrew Cuomo late in the process rejiggered the plans that had been rehearsed for over a decade and called for counties to conduct mass-vaccination efforts. There are now thousands of potential vaccination sites, none of which has an adequate supply of vaccine. The Cuomo administration meanwhile is further straining the supply by setting up its own mass vaccination sites and mounting targeted efforts to reach minority communities.
It’s a bit of turnaround: Cuomo has railed about the scarcity of vaccine and information from the feds, local leaders are making the same complaint about New York state leaders.
A reporter asked Cuomo about the issue Ossenfort raised in his own briefing — technology-impaired senior citizens having trouble finding a dose of vaccine via the internet.
“I understand totally,” the governor said. That’s why the state created the telephone hotline, he said, so they could talk to a human being.
On the issue of racial disparity among those being vaccinated — Black people have gotten the shot in lesser percentages than they make up in the general population — Cuomo said his administration had expected that and taken steps to prevent it from happening.
“But there is still distrust and cynicism,” he said.
Hospital workers would presumably be among the people most-favorable to receiving the vaccine. So far, Black hospital workers with 1A status have been vaccinated at much lower rates than their percentage of the workforce, Cuomo said. Latino residents have been vaccinated at slightly higher rates and Asians at a much higher rate. Whites people, however, were vaccinated at a somewhat lower rate.
In other COVID-related news Monday:
- The New York Times reported a drop in nursing home deaths nationwide amid the vaccination campaign that prioritizes residents. There also has been a decrease in newly confirmed cases of the virus, but nursing home deaths have decreased more significantly. For the week ending Jan. 17, there were 17,584 such deaths nationwide, compared with more than 32,500 for the week ended Dec. 20.
- Individual nursing homes continued their fight against the virus. Two facilities that suffered a wave of infections starting in November post daily updates on their websites: The Delmar Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing had 62 residents and 15 staff members with active infections on-site Monday; it has recorded two resident deaths. The Wesley Health Care Center in Saratoga Springs had 17 residents and five staff infections Monday, down from 73 residents on Jan. 14; 33 residents have died.
- Statewide, 141 new COVID-related deaths were reported, including four in Albany County, one in Montgomery County, two in Rensselaer County, one in Schenectady County and one in Warren County.
- The seven-day positive test rate Sunday was 5.1% statewide, 4.9% in the Capital Region and 4.4% in the Mohawk Valley; each has shown a significant and sustained reduction over the past month. At the county level, the seven-day positive test rate was: Albany 5.4%, Fulton 7.8%, Montgomery 8.0%, Rensselaer 5.1%, Saratoga 4.4%, Schenectady 3.9% and Schoharie 4.2%. Not counting the statistically insignificant Hamilton County, with its tiny population, Montgomery and Fulton counties are now highest and second-highest in the state on the seven-day average.