The first two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Albany County.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy identified one patient as a 20-year-old who attends the University at Albany but lives off-campus and the other as a woman in her 30s from Guilderland. UAlbany canceled classes Thursday after learning the news. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, McCoy says these cases differ from the ones we've all heard about. "They didn't do any traveling. They didn't go anywhere. They were here locally, so it causes a variety of other issues that we're addressing and we're crossing our t's, dotting our i's."
Albany County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen says staffers are making every effort to identify individuals who may have come in contact with the two cases. She says neither person was hospitalized and both are recovering at home. "I think there's a big difference between panic and preparedness. And I think the time to prepare is definitely now, people need to know if they are vulnerable to this infection. Our vulnerable populations include those over the age of 60, and includes those with coexisting medical illness, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or anybody who's immune compromised. Individuals who fall into those categories should really be being sure that they're optimizing their current medical therapy, speaking to their doctors and not attending mass gatherings."
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the city is suspending all mass-gathering permits, and both of Saturday's scheduled St. Patrick’s Day parades will be canceled. Later, Gov. Cuomo announced a ban on any events with more than 500 people. "The city will be suspending all mass gathering permits that have been issued in the city. We will be reviewing those as the public health impacts evolve. But at this point all gatherings and permits permitting gatherings are suspended until further notice. So that includes both the North Albany parade and the main parade in the city of Albany on Saturday as we continue to monitor this."
Sheehan adds its too early to say if events like the Tulip Festival and Alive At Five, which happen in May and June, will be canceled.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple is monitoring the health of over 800 county jail inmates and staffers, among other things… “ I want to say though, I'm getting inundated with calls regarding state hand sanitizer. I don't have any. I don't know when I'm gonna have it. I know it was thrown out there. But I know a lot of school districts and local municipalities are calling, asking for it. As soon as we get it, trust me, we will be disseminating it. But in the meantime, we will be taking a list. I posted information out there on how to get it, how to get your contact to us, and also ask for justification. I mean, there's been some outlandish requests, as far as you know, thousands of gallons of it. They're going to focus on the hotspots in the state and then start to roll out the rest, but I know initially will be going to emergency responders.”
A UAlbany spokesman answered a request for comment via email, saying “the University took the business building offline for precautionary cleaning and began to assist ACDOH in its work to trace any contacts that person may have had with other members of our community” and “Classes were suspended today University-wide simply as a precaution to allow University staff time to devote its full attention to assisting ACDOH and complete the precautionary cleaning.” For additional information, visit the COVID-19 information page on UAlbany's website.
On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced that all SUNY and CUNY campuses will move to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester. Many other colleges across the WAMC listening area are doing the same thing.