Cortland County has yet to detail how a COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out to the general public, leaving residents like Jeffrey Hering of Cortlandville fuming.
“The county doesn’t seem to know what they’re doing, and if they do they’re keeping it some sort of big secret,” Hering said Monday afternoon.
The Cortland County Health Department said in a news release Monday that it is working with the state Health Department and Guthrie Cortland Medical Center to distribute the vaccine. However, county officials, like other counties, have little information on when and how the public might get the vaccine.
“As more information becomes available, we will gladly share it with the community,” interim Health Director Lisa Perfetti said in the release.
But one thing is for sure — people will have to prove they fall into the eligible groups being vaccinated.
“Individuals being vaccinated will be required to provide verification that they are eligible/included in the eligible group on the day of the vaccination,” Perfetti said, but did not indicate what would be acceptable proof.
However, Hering said what he wants to see from the county is more transparency in the process and information it receives from the state.
“They talk about government transparency, but there sure isn’t locally,” he said.
If Cortland County wants a good example of disseminating information on the pandemic, Hering said, it should look to Onondaga County, where Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon gives a daily media briefing.
What other counties are doing
- Tompkins County
Tompkins County is partnering with Cayuga Health System and immunizations began Dec. 21. They are following the state guideline on who to vaccinate. Cayuga Health System had a large-scale vaccine distribution clinic for healthcare workers on Dec. 29, immunizing 390 people with the first dose of the vaccine.
- Cayuga County
Cayuga County announced Thursday it would also follow state guidelines and that health care workers, now being vaccinated, must bring proof such as a work identification card, pay stub or letter from their employer.
- Onondaga County
Onondaga County took over on Monday distribution of the vaccine and began vaccinating health care workers, after Upstate Medical University saw an influx in COVID hospitalizations, reports Syracuse.com.
Cortland doesn’t have to do that, Herein said, but certainly hearing more from county officials would help.
“I don’t think it would hurt the public to know what’s going on,” he said, beyond simply updating its website with daily statistics.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has designated hospitals as distributors of the vaccine. Guthrie Cortland has already begun administering the vaccine to hospital staff and emergency medical technicians. However, on Monday, Guthrie declined to comment further on when other groups might begin to get vaccines, noting the two-state healthcare organization is waiting on New York guidance.
New York is in week four of the Phase 1a distribution process, according to a news release from the Madison County Health Department. That, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, includes frontline essential workers and nursing home residents.
The state Health Department reported Monday that all health workers with direct contact with a patient could be vaccinated, including workers at testing sites, dentists and pharmacists.
Home care and hospice workers and any remaining nursing home workers can get the vaccine starting next Monday.
After that, the federal government hasn’t given a timeline for when the vaccine may be distributed more widely.
PHASES 1B AND 1C
The next phase, Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers such as firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, postal workers, people age 75 and older, people in manufacturing, grocery store employees, public transit workers, teachers, educational support staff, day care workers and other people who work in the education sector.
Phase 1c includes people between 65 and 74, people between ages 16 and 64 with underlying conditions who would have serious life-threatening complications if they caught coronavirus and other essential workers like people who work in food service, housing construction, law, news media, communication, information technology, energy, public health, public safety or transportation and logistics.
SPEEDING THE PROCESS
Cuomo announced Monday he wants to speed the vaccination process and hopes to get 85% of all nursing home residents vaccinated by the end of the week and the remaining 15% in two weeks, using additional staff if necessary. Simultaneously, staff at the nursing homes will be vaccinated.
“The federal program has not worked as quickly as we would have liked. We’re going to step in and make it work,” he said.
Cuomo also announced hospitals that don’t use their vaccines within seven days of getting a shipment could be fined up to $100,000 and face being removed from the distribution process.
“If one hospital isn’t performing, we can use other hospitals and if you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital,” Cuomo said.
The state will also begin popup drive-through vaccination sites, Cuomo said, particularly in poorer parts of the state.
PHARMACIES GEAR UP
Pharmacies are gearing up to distribute the vaccine to the general public, but when that will happen depends on what pharmacies you ask.
CVS Health said on its website it expects to have the vaccine available for the general public in early 2021. In a CNBC article, CVS and Walgreens officials said they could see the vaccine available to the public in early spring. Others like RiteAid are waiting on word from the federal government.
Many pharmacies offer an online platform to sign up for an appointment once a vaccine is available.
CVS’ website also states that people will be prompted to schedule an appointment for the second dose after receiving the first. Pharmacy Kinney Drugs is allowing customers to sign up for updates.
What you can do
Check your vaccine eligibility
Fill out vaccine form
Before receiving the vaccine, people must complete a form either online or at the vaccine site. The form can be found at https://forms.ny.gov/s3/vaccine
Get the state COVID tracker app
Download COVID Alert NY in the Apple App Store or Android Google Play Store
Tracks when people are close to another app-enabled smartphone and alerts you if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
Alerts other app-enabled smartphones if you test positive for COVID-19 and were in close contact with those individuals, based upon your consent.
Allows people to track symptoms and examine trends.
Source: New York Health Department