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Mass vaccination site reopened in Queensbury

Vials of COVID vaccine
Jackie Orchard
Vials of COVID vaccine (WAMC file photo)

A state-run vaccination center reopened this week in Queensbury, as surrounding communities grapple with a spike in COVID-19 infections.

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday on November 23rd, Glens Falls Hospital alerted the public that it was at capacity.

Speaking with WAMC, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Howard Fritz asked the public to do its part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The issue is that COVID cases, very often, we can do something to minimize the impact or reduce it: by being vaccinated. And wearing masks. And washing our hands and using common sense precautions. We can’t predict a heart-attack, we can’t predict appendicitis. We can’t do much to influence that in the short-term. But we sure-as-heck can do something to try to minimize the risk of COVID,” said Fritz.

Warren County, on the northern edge of the Capital Region, has a seven-day average positive test rate for COVID of 10.8 percent. Neighboring Washington County is at 12.1 percent.

Following calls from local leaders, on Wednesday, the state re-opened the mass vaccination site at Aviation Mall in Queensbury. The site, located off Northway Exit 19, is also serving as a regional COVID testing hub.

It will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Testing will be offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Vaccinations – for those seeking either their primary dose or a booster – are being offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Appointments can be made online and over the phone, though walk-in appointments will also be available.

In announcing the new location, Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With the arrival of winter when more people are traveling and gathering indoors, and the emergence of the Omicron variant, we are reminded that we cannot let our guard down in our fight against COVID-19.”

The vaccination site inside a former Sears’ store closed amid decreased demand in the summer, before the wave attributed to the Delta variant and before pediatric doses and booster shots were available.

The leaders of Warren and Washington Counties called for its reopening in November.

Rachel Seeber, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said the state acted swiftly, and credits the governor and her staff for their work to open the site quickly.

The site, in a busy commercial hub, is accessible to those in need across the region, says Seeber.

“We’re really providing accessibility for testing and vaccination and the booster to multiple counties. There wasn’t a mass center north of Albany. So this was something that was desperately needed, not just for us, but for so many people in the Adirondacks,” said Seeber.

Seeber says the testing and vaccination site also frees up the Warren County Public Health Department to assist those who cannot travel.

The Republican County Board Chair also says she has one more ask of the state as COVID-19 spreads and fears of the Omicron variant intensify: provide at-home testing kits.

“They’re hard to find. When you do find them, they’re expensive. And many times I hear people telling me they’re going store-to-store-to-store to try to find those home kits. So the state, I hope, will be very hopeful in providing distribution of these once they’re able to get their hands on them,” said Seeber.

President Joe Biden is announcing new efforts to encourage vaccinations and testing, including reimbursement for at-home test kits, as part of his administration’s winter COVID plan.

Ray Agnew, a spokesman for Glens Falls Hospital, said the hospital was "thrilled" with the reopening of the mass vaccination site.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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