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Vaccine Rollout Continues In The Capital Region As COVID Cases Keep Rising

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Composite Image by Dave Lucas (WAMC / cdc.gov)
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed in New York’s Capital Region, but there's a new threat: a chance that a variant of the coronavirus may already have arrived in the U.S.

COVID-19 vaccine distribution has begun at Albany County-owned nursing home Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, in hopes some residents will be able to receive visits from loved ones within six weeks. County Executive Dan McCoy says 150 of 172 residents have agreed to take the shot. But the fate of the facility's roughly 200 workers is up in the air.

"For whatever reason, they didn't give us enough vaccine for the workers. And I said that early on, which was alarming. Like I said, we roughly have a 250 bed facility, but we're running at 172. Because obviously, with COVID-19, people aren't going to nursing homes, people are keeping their loved ones at home. So out of that only 150 got a shot so far. And that left, they gave us like 320 vaccines. So that gave us an opportunity to give it to the 100 people that want to get a shot out of our 200 and something plus workforce out there. So we're working on that."

McCoy say family visits next year may depend on whether the nursing home is able to separate those who have been vaccinated from those who refuse.

There have been three COVID-19 related deaths in the county in the last two days and the five-day average of new daily infections is about 200. With 113 residents hospitalized for the virus and 21 in the ICU, McCoy says this is the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations the county has seen. 194 Albany County residents who tested positive for COVID have died.
In neighboring Schenectady County,  71 county residents have died of the virus. County Manager Rory Fluman says there are more than 800 current cases.

"I'm hopeful for vaccine implementation to happen here in Schenectady County, and we have meetings every day, as far as when that's going to be arriving to the average person. And as far as, you know, strains coming out of Europe or Great Britain, you know, those are certainly, we're watching that. You know, all indications tell us, you know that our vaccine is still going to be a large help, even if the virus itself is is changing or mutating. It's common for a virus to change or mutate. So, you know, the jury's still out, but we're still highly hopeful. And we're certainly supportive of the governor's call for limited travel from the UK."

Dr. Leo Nissola has been watching the virus variant. Nissola is an immunotherapy scientist and an advisor/investigator for COVID Act Now and the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.

"It doesn't seem to have mutated the surface of the protein of the virus in the way that would slip past or vaccines or prior immunity. So what this suggests is that eventually, this virus probably will evolve its surface proteins in a way that they won't be recognized by the antibodies we have now. So likely in the future, we will need to update those vaccines. And because we have synthetic vaccines, this makes it very easy for drug makers and drug companies to update this vaccine."

Nissola advises people to continue wearing masks, be mindful about indoor environments, and limit in-person interaction to household members. And he says if you were planning on traveling for the holidays, don’t.

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