As New York State rapidly approaches the milestone of distributing one million COVID-19 vaccines, one question has come to the forefront: “When can I get the vaccine?”
In the first nine days of 2021, the United States reported over two million new coronavirus cases, based on data from Johns Hopkins University. And cases are on the rise in Suffolk County, which recently surpassed 115,000 total cases.
Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine said Monday Jan. 11 that it has offered that the state use all of the town’s recreation and senior centers as potential vaccination sites.
“We will make all of these facilities available at no charge to help the state get these vaccines out as quickly as possible,” Romaine said.
Brookhaven Town currently has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county. As of Jan. 11, Brookhaven reached 31,165 confirmed cases, according to the Suffolk County Department of Information Technology and New York State Department of Health. That’s about 64 cases per every 1,000 people.
Most COVID-19 vaccinations in Brookhaven have occurred in fire department and ambulance companies, Romaine said.
To speed up the vaccination process for the state, Romaine said the town is willing to offer up its Town Hall auditorium in Farmingville as a space to vaccinate the town’s 1,000 full-time and roughly 2,000 part-time, employees. Town officials are awaiting a response from the state representatives.
At least 543,147 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in over 400,000 hospitals and over 85,000 long-term care facilities throughout the state as of Jan. 9, part of the state’s Phase 1A of vaccine rollout, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The state entered Phase 1B on Monday.
Patchogue Village mayor Paul Pontieri said villages have not received much guidance from the state regarding vaccine procedures.
“The faster they can roll it out, the better,” Pontieri said. “My hope is that it rolls out in a manner that will take care of the nursing homes and those people with physical conditions.”
The second wave has shown itself to be “much more aggressive than the first,” Pontieri said, as village officials are working to balance staff safety with continued operation. All village board meetings have been conducted via Zoom, he added.
Patchogue Chamber of Commerce president David Kennedy said he is eager to receive the vaccine once all necessary people receive it first.
“It’s been very alarming in the past few months just how much the number of cases has jumped,” he said, “but I’m very proud of Patchogue. We’ve been following the rules: people are wearing masks, our businesses are enforcing regulations and we’ll continue to do that.”
Mayor of Bellport Village Ray Fell, 75, qualifies for Phase 2B of the vaccine. Fell said his daughter recently received the vaccine.
“I’m 75 and I’ve had some health issues in the past, so I can’t wait to take it,” he said. “We’re in that kind of a position: We’re just waiting for our turn.”
Similar to the town’s actions, Fell said he’s willing to convert the Bellport Community Center into a temporary vaccine distribution center, though that plan has not yet been established by the state.
“I think it’s very important that we get the vaccine out and in as many arms as possible, as soon as possible,” Fell continued.
He gave credit to the business owners in the village, and said that they’ve all worked very hard to follow the governor's executive orders and keep people safe.
New York State officials last month launched a web app to determine when state residents will be eligible for the vaccine. New Yorkers can visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ to see when they can get the two-dose shot and subscribe to digital updates about the vaccine. Phases are determined by risk factor and medical need. Once eligible, residents can use the tool to locate a provider to administer the vaccine, and schedule an appointment.
Romaine said he “absolutely” plans on receiving the vaccine once he qualifies for it.
“I have grandchildren and I’d love to see them. We’ve only seen them with masks, always at a distance, because I want to stay as healthy as I can,” Romaine said.
South Country Ambulance chief Gregory Miglino, who has already received the first dose of the vaccine, said the department is encouraging community members to receive the shot as soon as they’re able.
Miglino said the amount of ambulatory calls that the department currently receives is equal to, or more than, what they received last spring.
“We’re in a better position to assist our citizens because we have equipment now. That being said, I fully anticipate that we are currently at the beginning of this phase – not even close to hitting the end,” he added. “It will only get worse from this point on unless people do what they’re being asked to do.”