Already trying to control the coronavirus pandemic, Albany County officials kicked off a "shoo the flu" initiative this week.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and the county’s Department for Aging Commissioner Deb Riitano handed out "flu prevention bags" to seniors Wednesday at a drive-through event in Congregation Beth Emeth's parking lot in Albany.
"We're handing out packages from the Department of Aging, not just for the flu season, to remind people where they can go, where you can get your flu shot. But also were puttin' Chicken Noodle Soup in the bag, the CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself during COVID-19," said McCoy.
Riitano chimed in "This is really a morale booster. So the things that we have packed up are really things to help build the morale of people who've been in for a long, long time. You know is this gonna take care of the flu? No. Is it gonna prevent the virus? No. But if you get the flu, there's a can of chicken soup in here, and chicken soup cures everything!"
Each bag also contains a thermometer, hand sanitizer, washable face mask, pill case, bottle of water, plus a list of locations where flu shots are available.
Mark of Clifton Park got his shot at a city pharmacy when he spotted a sign outside the store as he was driving to work in Albany.
"This year I did get the flu shot, and it was because of COVID. It's one less thing that I really have to worry about."
Rebecca O'Donnell is the Director of Epidemiology at Albany Medical Center. She says the promotion of vaccine is always the number one way to prevent the flu.
"Important, kind of, in the land that we're living in with COVID, because we wanna make sure we're protecting ourselves from all of the respiratory viruses that we can, and we're lucky to have vaccine with influenza. So if we can protect ourselves from influenza with a vaccine, we may not come down with those respiratory symptoms that are going to be difficult to differentiate between this season, with COVID now and the lives that we're leading here."
O'Donnell says normal compliance with flu vaccine falls between 40 to 60 percent but health officials hope to see a big increase this year. She adds an increase in respiratory viruses usually begins at the end of September into early October.
McCoy says more "shoo the flu" giveaways will take place across the county in the weeks to come.
McCoy also encourages those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to register for the drive-thru community testing site at Rite Aid, 1863 Central Avenue in Colonie. Testing is free for those who are eligible based on CDC guidelines and are at least 18 years old. It’s available between 9am and 5pm, seven days a week by appointment only. Registration is now available at www.riteaid.com. Tests will be conducted from within an individual’s car with self-swab nasal tests and with the help of a pharmacist.
Walgreens is now operating a testing facility at the 41 Holland Avenue location utilizing a self-collection model. Residents will be able to remain in their cars while assisted by pharmacists when necessary. Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, individuals who are 18 years or older may be tested once completing an eligibility assessment at the Walgreens website or at their app. Patients can get their results from PWNHealth.