Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan: "We'll Get Through This"
As residents continue to adjust their daily activities in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says not everyone is listening.
The social distancing mandate, the calls to stay at home, the job losses and other changes that have upended "normal" life also impact city hall, where the mayor says times are challenging for everyone.
"We have residents of the city who are scared. We have residents of the city who are frustrated. We have some people who still seem to think that they don't need to worry about coronavirus. And so we're really focusing on how do we communicate effectively and give good information so that people have the facts, not things that they read on social media, but that are factual and that they know what we are expecting of them in order to fight the coronavirus and reduce the spread."
Although several suggested dates have been fielded as to when the COVID-19 threat may end, no one can tell for sure, which leaves graduations, weddings and civic events canceled or postponed. Event planning can't go foreward under a cloud of uncertainty which Sheehan concedes triggered postponing the city's signature event: Tulip Festival.
"We felt that it was really important, looking out on the time horizon, that even if there are some opportunities for some of the restrictions to be lifted, that certainly an event the size of Tulip Festival, where over the course of the weekend, we will have 80,000 people in a park, that that is not going to be something that would be recommended. "
The tulips are beginning to bloom and city officials are working on computer video feeds that residents will be able to access from home.
Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, says her mayoral duties keep her busy.
"I am an essential worker. So I have been coming to City Hall, I think there are maybe five of us in the whole building, we were able to very effectively and quickly respond to the governor's requests that mandate that we reduce the size of our workforce. And so we have been able to successfully transition much of our work to be done from home. And we are really pleased with how resilient our workforce has been. I'm really proud of them. This has been a huge adjustment. We still have to continue to provide essential city services, like picking up garbage, sweeping our streets, our police officers, our firefighters need to be out there. But we have really come together as a workforce. I'm really proud of how they've responded to this."
Wherever you live in city limits, if you find yourself with time on your hands, Sheehan invites you to "get involved."
"Go to Albanyny.gov and click on our COVID-19 page. And there is a lot of information there about how people can get involved, what they can do from home, how they can help to ensure that our kids get fed and that we have a group of people in place, there've been a lot of people who've responded to the county's call for assistance with checking in on people who are quarantined. People can go outside, they just have to maintain social distancing. So it's about taking that walk around the block when you're starting to feel cooped up... We're keeping our golf course open to walkers, because it is a place where people can walk and get some fresh air and be able to maintain social distancing."
Sheehan offers Albany's community gardens as one way to get out for people going stir-crazy at home.
"If you go on to the Capital Roots website, which is capitalroots.org and click on community gardens, there's a map and anywhere you see a green dot, that means that there are plots that are open in that garden."
Most of all, the mayor wants to assure everyone "we will get through this."
"We're gonna be back to normal at some point in time we're going to have a big celebration at some point in time. And we're going to do all that we can to ensure that we're keeping people safe."