January 20, 2022

County gets grant to increase vaccination

Amid rising COVID-19 cases and the United States’ first confirmed Omicron variant case on the West Coast, New York has awarded the Cortland County Health Department nearly $177,000 in funding to support and increase vaccine administration, even as the county has topped 7,000 coronavirus cases.

Cortland County Public Health Director Nicole Anjeski said vaccination is the best protection residents have against not only COVID-19 but the flu virus and encourages everyone who is eligible to receive both vaccines.

“The point of the vaccination is to limit the severity of the disease, the hospitalizations and definitely the deaths,” Anjeski said Wednesday during the Cortland County Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee meeting. “That’s why we really want everybody to get vaccinated.”

The committee voted, 4-0, to accept the state’s COVID Vaccine Response Grant to expand vaccine administration hours and administration. Legislators Ann Homer (D-Cortland), Susan Wilson (D-Cortland) and Joseph Nauseef (R-Cortlandville) were absent.

Cortland County confirmed 32 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 7,023 cases since the pandemic began, 145 of them active. Tompkins County reported 17 new cases and Cayuga 58.

Anjeski said that while people who are fully vaccinated can still get infected with COVID-19, the vaccine limits the severity of the illness. She encourages everyone, even vaccinated individuals, to wear a mask when in indoor public spaces.

Still, not everyone is convinced of the vaccine’s safety. Groton resident Jessica Strange is the mother of four children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, all of whom are up to date on their vaccines and boosters — everything except the COVID-19 vaccine.

“When I first heard about the ability for younger children to be able to get the vaccine, it truly made me worry,” Strange said.

“There are still so many unknowns. I’m not 100% against the COVID vaccine, but I am against it right now. I feel there hasn’t been enough testing and the side effects just aren’t worth the risks.”

Around the same time that the pediatric vaccine became widely available, the Strange family was coping with the virus.

“We actually had COVID recently, all but my two boys,” Strange said, and she’s not going to risk their health again for the vaccine. “The unknowns are so great. We have no idea what it’s going to do to them and how it’s going to affect their growth.”

Strange said she hopes people understand that people who choose not to get the vaccine have their reasons.

The Tompkins County Health Department recommends you call your doctor or healthcare provider for any questions and concerns you may have regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine.

Since Tuesday, the U.S. is now barring nearly all foreign nationals who have been in one of eight southern African nations, and now requires airlines to disclose names and other information of passengers who have been there. Still the first case of the Omicron variant was confirmed Wednesday in California.

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” the World Health Organization reported Tuesday.

With the holiday season comes the promise of travel for many people, but the World Health Organization advises postponing travel plans for anyone age 60 and older, unvaccinated people and people who feel sick.

Cortland County residents who plan to get tested before traveling should call their healthcare providers to schedule an appointment early, in case results don’t come in on time.

“Right now, people are getting sick and so people are utilizing the testing systems,” Anjeski said. “Sometimes we’re not getting results back from the labs for three to four to five days, because they’re just so overrun with cases.”