ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) –Albany County has made an effort to hold COVID briefings almost every day since the pandemic began, providing case data and a game plan to tackle the virus when it seemed impossible. Dan McCoy, Albany County Executive, and Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, Commissioner of Health, held their last COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
The panel looked back to the beginning of 2020 when they had no idea what the next 15 months would have in store.
“We [Albany County Health Department] started with calls on COVID back in January of 2020 that alerted us that this may be something we will be facing,” Whalen said.
The county department saw its first local case in March 2020, and ever since, they’ve spearheaded contact tracing, testing, and vaccination efforts.
“It’s been a long 461 days and 66 weeks but I think of the 385,” McCoy said.
Albany County lost 385 lives to COVID-19, but the last briefing also focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. The county is now beyond New York state’s goal of a 70% vaccination rate, with 74.4% vaccinated above the age of 18 with at least one dose.
“It couldn’t be achieved by people, first foremost that roles up their sleeves and took the vaccine,” McCoy said.
“It has taken a community level response the likes of which we have never seen,” Whalen said.
However, Dr. Whalen doesn’t believe Albany County has crossed the finish line just yet.
“I do not believe at this point, that herd immunity has been achieved and I think it’s something that we can continue to work towards,” Whalen said.
For Whalen, it’s not about the number of people who have been vaccinated; it’s about getting transmission to halt on not just a county level but a state and national level as well.
The county will continue vaccination and education efforts. The county-run vaccination pods will also continue to run across the county this month.
Vaccinating teens will also be a major push moving forward for the county. This, as the 74.4 vaccination rate only includes those 18 years and old, but the vaccination rate for those 12 years of age and older is currently at 63.8%.