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Masking guidance renewed for indoor spaces in Albany County

Albany County issued a health advisory Monday strongly encouraging that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public when indoors.
Dave Lucas
Albany County issued a health advisory Monday strongly encouraging that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public when indoors.

The Albany County Department of Health is once again advising indoor mask-wearing as guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control show Albany County as "high" in both community level and transmission rate of COVID-19.

Albany County issued a health advisory Monday strongly encouraging that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public when indoors. The department says that includes private businesses.

The county has been averaging about 36 daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, according to state data. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy:

"So after 25 months, we've learned how to look at this differently, you know," said McCoy. "As you know, in the beginning, and not to rehash everything, because it's been like that nightmare you don't want to go back to was the way we looked at the matrix and the way things kept changing, because we didn't know how to deal with it. CDC would say one thing and then come out with another, the governor then would do the same thing change changing constantly. And, but we stayed consistent is looking at the hospitalizations and bed capacities for people with COVID, and then end up on ventilators and God forbid, passed away. So as we started to change and go forward, and as things continue to morph, like, what 18 times now, we looked at the fact that okay, we have to look at hospitalization. And if the numbers get crazy, and the hospitalizations go up. So that's what I've been looking at, even though our numbers and it's been alarming the last couple of weeks, they've been going up when schools unmasked, the numbers in school, our school district share went up, but not just COVID, common cold came back, other issues that they avoided for two years of wearing a mask. Now all of a sudden being exposed all these germs again, kids went out sick."

University at Albany spokesman Jordan Carlo-Evangelist says the SUNY school is taking its guidance from the CDC, the State Department of Health, and the Albany County Department of Health, and is strongly recommending all students, faculty, staff and visitors wear masks inside any campus building.

"You know, our approach to it is really the same as it's been since March 2020," said Carlo-Evangelist. "The difference being though, that we now have two years of experience, how to monitor data, two years experience reacting to the data, and so we feel well prepared, but also appropriately cautious, you know, we have learned with this virus not to take anything for granted, and not to assume anything. But we know that if we're if we're taking the appropriate steps on campus in terms of preparation and planning, and we're monitoring the data very closely. You know, we do feel confident that we'll be well prepared for whatever comes our way."

Carleo-Evangelist says on-campus COVID numbers have basically tracked those of the state and the county.

"In recent weeks, the positivity rates among students living on campus have been tracking lower than those living off and lower than faculty and staff, which suggests to us that we have been able to maintain a pretty good on campus bubble, and that the transmission we're seeing around us and within our community is driven, not exclusively, but in large part by, sort of, the viruses prevalent off campus making its way on, which is, which is not surprising," said Carlo-Evangelist .

A spokesperson for the College of St. Rose says the school is also mirroring what Albany County is recommending – strongly encouraging students and employees to wear masks inside college buildings. St. Rose is requiring students and employees to receive the COVID-19 booster shot by June 30th.

On Monday, St. Peter’s Health Partners began limiting patient visitation to ONE unique visitor per day at its hospitals. As of Thursday, any patient scheduled for a procedure at one of the Partners hospitals will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing three days prior to their scheduled procedure.

At Albany Medical Center, a spokesman says the hospital continues to follow state Department of Health recommendations, including those for visitation. Masks remain mandatory in all clinical settings, and all visitors must be masked as well.

McCoy, a Democrat, says he realizes people are fed up.

"We want to go back to what we thought the world was 25 months ago," McCoy said. "The problem is it's just not done with us. I think if you did a survey, you probably find out that 90% of the people if not 100 are done. They don't want to hear about masks, they don't want to hear about COVID, but you can't just close the door on it, and pretend it's not there."

A spokesman for Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the city continues to recommend masking, but at this time it’s not required in City Hall.

The city continues to recommend masking within City Hall for those who feel sick or feel more comfortable wearing one.

In neighboring Rensselaer County, which is also in the “high” transmission category, County Executive Steve McLaughlin says whether to mask will be left up to individuals.

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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