Leaders of Capital Region hospitals gathered at Albany Medical Center Tuesday afternoon to give an update on COVID-19 and vaccine distribution efforts.
Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna says to date close to a thousand people have been vaccinated on the hospital campus. A little over a week ago five healthcare workers at Albany Med became the first in the region to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. McKenna says the vaccine is safe and effective, and urged everyone to take the shot as soon as it is made available to them.
"This is the beginning of the end of the pandemic. When enough of us receive our vaccine in the region we can resume life as we knew it."
McKenna says even if you have had COVID you should get the vaccine.
Hospital General Director Ferdinand Venditti is Albany Med's executive vice president for system care delivery.
"Today in our region we're caring for 417 COVID-positive patients. Yesterday that number was 401. On Sunday, that number was 391. There are 70 patients today in Intensive Care in our region. So today our capacity to care, both on the med-surg floors as well as the ICU is adequate. But as you can see from those numbers, there’s continued growth in the frequency of patients getting admitted into our hospitals with COVID."
Venditti says area hospitals have agreed to begin to reduce non-urgent surgery cases that require a stay in the hospital, whether that's one day or several days. He says if the number of patients with COVID increases, surgeries will be reduced, something that has already begun.
"Next week, on Monday, we've agreed that we're gonna get together again and we're gonna assess where we are in terms of growth of COVID patients in the hospital. And what we're gonna be doing is making a decision about January 4th. Should we continue as we're planning in these two weeks or should we do something different? So let me be very clear: if COVID continues to grow at the pace it's growing, we will very likely not only pre-schedules that are in existence, but begin to cancel elective surgeries."
Steven Hanks, Chief Clinical Officer for St. Peter's Health Partners, says the next few weeks are critical.
"We do not believe we'll have to get into field operations where we open up beds in a convention center or a hotel or something like that. What we're worried about is our ability to staff those beds to care for the population of patients that we see as coming somewhere on the order of mid-January into and around the Martin Luther King holiday, which is really where we feel it's going to be the highest level of activity here in the Capital Region."
Venditti adds the full benefit of the vaccine won't be felt for six to nine months. He and the other doctors agree New Yorkers have the ability, through their actions, to keep the pandemic at bay, by continuing to wear masks, washing hands frequently, practicing social distancing and limiting holiday gatherings.