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Virtual Town Hall Focuses On Community Impacts Of COVID-19 In Albany

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan hosted a virtual town hall to discuss the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on community health in the city.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday night centered on the community health impacts of COVID-19.
The pandemic has touched every resident of the city of Albany in one way or another. The town hall highlighted some of the difficulties people are encountering in trying to get through it.

Dr. Frank Dimase, chief of emergency medicine at St. Peter's Hospital, said although there was enormous preparation for an increase in admissions of COVID-19 patients, it was "fortunate" that St. Peter's and other area hospitals did not get the "surge" in patients that state officials had warned them of.

"If people are experiencing any kind of symptoms, whether it's difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, fever, chills, cough, certainly come to the emergency department, especially if you're short of breath, but we want to get to is really people who have other symptoms, are avoiding the emergency department. That's very concerning. So oftentimes my colleagues and I will discuss, 'have you seen an appendicitis lately? No, how about a heart attack? No. I haven't, but I did take care of someone who had probably came in two days too late.' And so that's really very concerning, and I think that people don't come into the emergency department during this pandemic certainly because of a fear of contracting the illness."

Sheehan noted that during the pandemic the city has seen a 30% increase in unattended deaths, suggesting perhaps some of them had health concerns but "simply waited too long" before seeking medical help.

City auditor Dr. Dorcey Applyrs used toilet paper as an example in discussing the way the pandemic has disproportionately affected the "haves" and "have-nots." "People were in the market trying to find toilet tissue, and someone on social media posted if you want or need toilet paper check out the dollar store in the South End on South Pearl Street.

And so the question becomes, in the midst of a pandemic, couldn't find toilet paper anywhere else, why was there still toilet paper on the shelves in the dollar store on South Pearl Street. A number of reasons contribute to that, but one is, people in the community did not have the financial means to stock up. And so, others had the luxury of jumping in their cars driving out to stockpile.

If you live in the community, you don't have transportation, it's hard to stockpile, number one, and if you don't have the financial means you can't stockpile."

Applyrs shared the experience of a friend, a black woman who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no choice but to venture out into the community.

"Black women are most likely to be unwed. Black women are, in terms of social capital, often lacking the social support. And so in this case, she's not married. And so she didn't have a spouse to send to the grocery store, or to send to CVS to get her medication. She didn't have that network to do that. And so she literally, as sick as she was, had to drive herself to get the things that she needed to take care of herself. And so when we talk about messaging and we tell people who are positive 'you need to stay home. You need to limit your access to other people,' we're not thinking about some of the nuances that impact communities of color."

Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen expressed concern about people who will likely go back to work when New York reopens but whose children may not be going back to the physical classroom.

"So there's a lot of discussion that's going on at the state level to plan for provision of childcare to some individuals. And , you know, how that is going to be different from childcare before we are going to have to be looking at return to work, return to childcare, return to school, through a different lens because the behaviors are going to have to be reormed by strategies that will protect children and families from being infected. So there will be a lot of change."

Information about the topics covered in the virtual town hall as well as other useful information can be found here. The full townhall can be seen below:

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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