By CLOEY CALLAHAN
On Monday, January 11, New York State moved into phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccination distribution. This means that in addition to healthcare workers from phase 1a, now individuals age 75 and older, first responders, correctional officers, school staff and faculty, public transit workers, grocery store workers and in-person college instructors are able to now receive the vaccine.
Although more people may not be eligible for the vaccination, the roll out process has been below-par at the local level. Both the Town of New Windsor and City of Newburgh are calling for buildings to be identified as COVID-19 vaccination locations to start vaccinating people in the area.
Town of New Windsor Supervisor George Meyers is in communication with New York State and Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus to set up a COVID-19 vaccination location at the Town Hall Complex. New Windsor Emergency Services has identified two registered nurses on staff who would help administer the vaccine to eligible residents. Additionally, Meyers said they have a number of retired nurses who showed interest in helping as well.
“This is the answer,” said Meyers. “It needs to get going faster and it needs to get down to the local level where we can deal with it.”
The Town of New Windsor has filed paperwork with New York State asking to be a provider of the vaccine distribution.
“I have everything – the freezer, the refrigerator, nurses on staff and we are ready to go,” said Meyers. “We are getting calls all day long from seniors who can’t get an appointment and it’s a slow roll out.”
Meyers feels as though “it’s time to do this at the local level.”
He’s also been in touch with Senator James Skoufis as to what the reasons would be for this not being done.
“It’s a very slow process and I don’t want the Town of New Windsor to get left out,” said Meyers. “I’ve talked to the supervisors in Cornwall and the Town of Newburgh and they’re both very much interested in doing it in their municipalities.”
Meyers described the biggest benefit of having a vaccination center directly in New Windsor is that people won’t have to travel any further, which would be especially beneficial for the elderly.
“I’m prepared to do it, I just need the vaccinations,” said Meyers, who also reported that Neuhaus was having trouble getting the vaccines himself. “We are very capable of doing this here and doing it right.”
In the City of Newburgh, Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson is calling on New York State and Orange County to use the City of Newburgh Activity Center as a COVID-19 vaccination site to serve eastern Orange County.
“The Activity Center was used successfully as an early voting site during last year’s election,” said Jacobson. “This location has 4,000-square-feet of usable space, plenty of free parking, and is conveniently located on Washington Street between Routes 9W and 32. It is also handicapped accessible.”
With the City of Newburgh being in the COVID-19 yellow zone for several weeks, Jacobson said, “It makes no sense for people in eastern Orange to travel all the way to Middletown or Goshen to get the vaccine.”
“The incoming Biden administration will increase the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine. We must plan now to make it as accessible as possible,” said Jacobson. “The City of Newburgh Activity Center fits the bill.”
“Orange County is at the forefront of providing vaccinations to our emergency workers having dispensed over 800 to emergency service centers last week,” said Orange County Spokesperson Justin Rodriguez. “We continue to work with the state to improve upon their system of distribution so that more people can get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
New York State Senator James Skoufis has also called on New York State to deliver more vaccines to the local level.
“On a recent Zoom with the Department of Health Commissioner, I pressed him for answers and, specifically, what’s being done to improve the rollout; frustratingly, generic talking points substituted for any real answers,” said Skoufis in a statement. “Meanwhile, the three counties I represent - Orange, Rockland, and Ulster - have an extreme shortage of vaccines available to them. I am calling on the Governor and the Commissioner to immediately evaluate the situation on the ground in these counties, develop a strategy to improve the distribution of vaccines to counties with the longest per capita waitlists and highest rates of infection, and standardize the far-too-confusing appointment process.”