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Ulster, Westchester County Execs Deliver COVID Vaccine Updates

Opening of NYS-FEMA Mass Vaccination Sites in Yonkers, March 2021
Courtesy of the Office of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
Opening of NYS-FEMA Mass Vaccination Sites in Yonkers, March 2021

During a televised address to the nation Thursday night, President Joe Biden set a goal of having all adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. In New York, efforts are ramping up to vaccinate more residents and set up more sites, including in the Hudson Valley.

Earlier this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York will establish 10 additional state-run mass vaccination sites. Two will be in the Hudson Valley — one in Orange County, at SUNY Orange in Middletown, and another at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz. Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan welcomed the announcement during his Thursday COVID update.

“The state did finally answer our calls, myself, our state legislative leaders, our county legislature, all calling for a state-run vaccination site here in Ulster County,” says Ryan.

He says the county will share its pre-register list with the state.

“Once that state-run site is up and running, folks will be able to book appointments there through the New York state vaccination page, the Am-I-Eligible page," says Ryan. "If you go on there right now, that won’t be an option because the site is not yet activated. So as soon as that is an option, we will let you know.”

He says teams from the county have been at the fairgrounds the past few days setting up the site for vaccinations.

“So that really helps serve the southern part of Ulster County, where I happen to live. I could almost walk, actually, to the fairgrounds,” Ryan says. “So for those in our southern part of the county, southeast and southwest, we have heard you, I’ve heard you, and really pleased the state is going to put this site up.”

Ulster County has point of dispensing, or POD, sites at Kingston and Ellenville High Schools.

“We’ve crossed a very significant milestone in the last week. We are now well over 20 percent of Ulster County residents that have received at least their first dose of vaccine,” says Ryan. “Over 40,000 residents, now, 40,444 to be exact, have received their first dose of the vaccine.”

Westchester County’s newest site is in Yonkers, at the New York National Guard Armory, run in partnership between the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In January, the state opened a site at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. And there are two county clinics, one at Westchester Community College, where Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer received his first Moderna dose last Friday.

Latimer says more than 100,000 vaccinations have been administered at the County Center, including first and second doses. As for county pop-up sites, in the past week, 248 vaccines were administered in New Rochelle for residents 65 and older, and 716 vaccines were administered over two days in northern Westchester in Yorktown Heights. Latimer says Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine works well logistically for pop-up sites.

“I’ve been given the statistic that as of earlier this week, 24 percent of Westchester residents 18 years of age or older have received at least their first shot of the vaccination,” says Latimer. “That would include people who got the one-shot J&J and those who got the first shot of Pfizer or Moderna. And that is a good sign.”

Of these, nearly 14 percent have received their second doses or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Latimer says the county is working on getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to homebound seniors.

“We are right now working with Empress Ambulance Service, and we’re working with them to distribute Johnson & Johnson vaccinations to homebound seniors,” Latimer says.

Latimer says the county was focusing Friday on vaccinating teachers.

“We hope to have as many as 800 teachers from 26 districts receive vaccination. And it’s important for teachers because the more teachers that are vaccinated, the easier it is to open our public schools. I have said now for well over a month, we need to open our public school,” Latimer says. “Those decisions are made by the local school districts and the school superintendents who we talk to every week but, in order for them to have the flexibility to do that, they need to know that there’s an effort being made for the teachers and other educational personnel to get vaccinated so that they’re comfortable going back into a school environment, and then we can overcome one of the major obstacles for opening our schools.”

And he’s asking the state for guidance about high-school graduations. Last year, some schools held drive-in graduations. In Ulster County, vaccinating teachers and educational staff is a major reason the county’s nine districts are on a path toward reopening full time, in person, as Ryan announced Thursday.

“And I think one of the key things, probably the key thing that has changed to allow this to happen is that, from day one, Ulster County, through our vaccination process, we have prioritized, as soon as 1B was eligible, we prioritized vaccinating our educators and our school district staff, for this reason, to allow for this reopening,” says Ryan. “We now have over 95 percent of all educators and staff who want to be vaccinated have been vaccinated in Ulster County.”

Westchester County Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins:

“We are planning to have front-facing municipal employees, that opportunity to have that first vaccine on March 18 or 19 at Westchester Community College,” Jenkins says. “That individual will be, those individuals will be communicated with through their municipalities and though those local governments to be able to sign up for those opportunities. And, again, no matter what, appointments are still required.”

Latimer says four of the six county golf courses are opening as scheduled this weekend. The two that are not are in northern Westchester, where there is still snow on the ground. Courses will be open as conditions allow. Latimer says this comes after a banner year in golf.

“Last year, we had the best season we ever had, or at least in the last 20 years of golf,” says Latimer. “We had 267,000 rounds played. That’s up nearly 40 percent from what we did in 2019.”

And he has an eye to opening Playland and the county’s beaches toward summer.

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