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COVID sites are winding down in New York’s Capital Region

COVID-19 drive-thru test site at UAlbany on  April 29, 2020
Jackie Orchard
COVID-19 drive-thru test site at UAlbany on April 29, 2020

In a sign that the darkest days of the pandemic are behind us, several COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites are being phased out.

Public demand for vaccines and testing is on the wane more than three years after the pandemic came to the U.S.

In March, clinics in Warren County reported “no one” registered to be vaccinated. Dan Durkee is the county Public Health Program Coordinator & Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.

"If somebody is sick or an individual sick, we do encourage them to go see their provider to get tested there if they need it," Durkee said. "If they're not able to get into their provider, they can come to us and we can provide them with a rapid home test kit. They can even pick some up at the Warren County DMV office. As for our vaccination clinics, we were holding them regularly, but the demand hasn't been there. So now we're doing it as an 'as needed, case-by-case' basis. So if somebody does want the COVID booster vaccine, they can certainly call the Warren County Public Health Office, and we can get them set up an appointment to get them vaccinated."

Schenectady County is phasing out its vaccine pod and testing site at the McClellan Street Campus. Keith Brown is the county Director of Public Health Services.

"With the shift in, in COVID testing and in vaccination, you know, from mass sort of public health efforts, you know, into clinical and primary care, and given the traffic we've had coming through that site, it just really sort of made sense for us to start winding that down and phasing it out," said Brown. "For example, you know, in the last week that we have data for, we did one adult, second dose vaccine. And the larger number of tests we did in a single day was four. We continue to give out rapid antigen tests, you know, they add home tests to people as necessary. And those are widely available, and lots of folks are using them. So it just made sense for us to sort of pivot and take our staffing and other resources and deploy them elsewhere."

Brown believes the ability for people to do rapid testing at home has changed public needs.

"That's where we saw the shift in, in the number of people wearing masks in public, the number the demand for testing the demand for rapid tests," Brown said. "And I think a lot of that also sort of aligned with shifting policies around school attendance and the work environment and other things."

Democrat Michelle Ostrelich chairs the Schenectady County Legislature Health, Housing and Human Services Committee. She says the McClellan site served its purpose.

"This site gave people the information they needed to quickly deal with a positive result," said Ostrelich. "Or if they tested negatively they could return to normal life. So the results were often available in one day. And it was just a way to get folks through that period of time, when employers and schools were really strict about allowing kids and adults back into the workplace or the school classroom. Now, of course, the issue is widely disappeared, schools no longer require proof of a negative PCR, employers no longer recruits require proof of a negative PCR."

Brown advises people with concerns to consult their physician, adding Schenectady County will continue "sporadic vaccination efforts."

"This doesn't mean that we've ceased altogether," Brown said. "And there's, you know, there's other locations that people can look up, our website is a good place to go to see where that's happening. People can certainly check out the New York State website. But as always, we really recommend that people talk to their primary care provider about any new needs that they may have."

Rensselaer County recently concluded an independent COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Hudson Valley Community College. The county also operated an independent testing site on campus prior to offering vaccines. On its Facebook page the county says since January 2021, it ran 361 clinics and provided over 42,000 vaccines, the majority at HVCC. Residents who want to be vaccinated should visit the County Office Building from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday.

Albany County’s Department of Health continues to provide free vaccinations Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 175 Green Street.

Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Alicia Pointer says COVID-19 outreach continues. Demand has gone down for test kits. She says the Department of Health is purchasing a mobile unit that will allow the county to offer residents testing and vaccines.

The New York State Department of Health says people age 65 and up make up an overwhelming majority of COVID hospitalizations and deaths, recommending those in that demographic keep up to date on their vaccines.

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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