Village Officers hear from the COVID frontline


By Patsy Nicosia

The Schoharie County Village Officers Association pulled in some heavy hitters for their first meeting of 2021 Thursday:
Public Health Directors Amy Gildemeister from Schoharie County, Eliza Whalen from Albany County, and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.
The topic, of course, COVID-19: the challenges of getting people to mask up and administering too-short supplies of vaccines in both rural and urban communities.
Before the Albany County reps joined the Zoom conversation, Dr. Gildemeister talked about the frustrations everyone is feeling because of the low number of vaccination slots—and their unpredictability.
Schoharie County’s typically been allocated just 100 vaccines each week, she said.
Last week, they got additional vaccines after Fox Hospital wasn’t able to get them out; this week Schoharie County got an additional 200 for over-65 residents because there are no local pharmacies handling the population.
“We could ramp up pretty quickly if we had more and if we had more of a heads-up,” Dr. Gildemeister told VOA members from the Villages of Sharon Springs, Schoharie, Middleburgh, and Richmondville.
The county has just added a registry for the vaccines to its website,
There, people can sign up to be notified when they become available, she said.
It’s not, however, an appointment website.
The registry is clunky, but it works, Dr. Gildemeister said, and modeled—like the COVID vaccination clinics themselves—after the Health Department’s long-successful rabies clinics, something they’ve used as training for events just like COVID for years.
If the vaccine supply becomes larger and more predictable, Dr. Gildemeister said they’d like to take the clinics somewhere else—maybe the Cobleskill Fairgrounds, again a site with a proven success with the rabies vaccinations.
Mr. McCoy said Albany County has already been taking clinics out into the community; even with 800 slots at the clinic Dr. Whlan was Zooming from, they were all taken almost immediately, she said.
An Iraq War veteran, Mr. McCoy said he used that training to immediately shift into crisis mode, establishing a chain of command and isolating staff so everyone didn’t go down from COVID at the same time.
Mr. McCoy said he shut down a nursing home before Governor Andrew Cuomo started moving in that direction and has worked to be transparent—to the media and constituents.
He also worked to “pause” in-school learning after numbers started to spike after October 31—Halloween.
“Some schools listened to me, some didn’t,” he said. “Those that didn’t saw their infection rates go through the ceiling.”
“December was the deadliest month we had,” Mr. McCoy said, “and this month, they’re worse.”
There’s no prohibition against people going outside their home county for vaccines—something Mr. McCoy said Albany County is struggling with.
“People get on the computer and get three or four slots,” he said.
But that because rural counties like Schoharie are getting so few doses, Dr. Gildemeister said.
Richmondville Mayor Kevin Neary said he expects things to improve under President Joe Biden, who appreciates the gravity of the situation, “but there’s a tremendous amount of work involved in getting this out to the public.”
And as important as it is to focus on deaths--Schoharie County recorded its sixth Saturday and there are at least three more that should have been counted as COVID deaths but were not, Dr. Gildemeister said—the health consequences for those who survive could be long-lasting.
“Even kids. And that’s a big, big concern,” she said.