Newburgh’s mayor wants the state to set up a COVID-19 vaccination site in the city. As the mid-Hudson Valley’s only area with state-imposed zone restrictions, he says it makes sense. Meantime, the Orange County executive says the state could set up a site where the county already is operating clinics, in a space that could accommodate more capacity.
Democratic Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey says with the state’s yellow-zone designation still in place in his city, the state should set up a vaccination site.
“A couple of weeks ago, the governor lifted restrictions in all the areas throughout New York except four areas, an then Newburgh was the only one in the mid-Hudson region, the mid-Hudson Valley that still has a yellow-zone restricted cluster, right? So if that’s the case, give us a vaccination site. That’s what I’ve been asking for. I’ve talked to Senator Schumer; I’ve talked to Gillibrand; I’ve called and spoke to Congressman Maloney; state Senator Skoufis; Assemblyman Jacobson. I pulled out all the political capital that I could to ask the governor to please give us a site,” says Harvey. “We know that these types of communities where there’s high density and our population, it’s an urban setting with African-Americans and Hispanics, we’re the most vulnerable population. I prove myself; I’m still waiting to get vaccinated, and I’m an educator as well. I’m in the 1B group as a teacher as well, and I can’t even get on the site to register and get an appointment.”
The other micro-clusters are in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens. Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says a county facility on Hatfield Lane in Goshen is an ideal space for a joint vaccination site.
“I told them on Friday that we could use the county’s one as the state vaccination site. We were looking at the college campuses but, rather than cause interruption of services at a college or a business, we have an empty building that the county has now transformed into a vaccination center. We do over 2,000 a day,” says Neuhaus. “So I told the state if they want to do one, let’s do it right here in Goshen where they have, where we can do it right now. So hopefully that happens.”
Other county executives in the mid-Hudson Valley have been calling on the state to set up joint vaccination sites at locales where the county is already operating a point of dispensing, or POD, site, as trips to state sites in lower Westchester County or Albany are too far for many.
Last week, Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro requested that the state open a joint vaccination site at the county’s current site in Poughkeepsie, inside the former JCPenney store at the Poughkeepsie Galleria. Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan also wrote to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last week, asking that the state activate a joint vaccination site in Kington, where the county already operates one. Molinaro and Ryan say their sites have the capacity to administer thousands more vaccines if supplies increase. Mayor Harvey also asked Cuomo, in writing, to set up a permanent vaccination site.
“I personally penned a letter last week to Governor Cuomo because, apparently, I guess, mayors can’t speak to governors. I never can speak to him directly. I don’t know what that’s about. I’m a mayor,” Harvey says. “It doesn’t matter how large or small your city is, mayors should be able to speak to a governor directly if there’s a global healthcare crisis that, where people are dying, right? That’s just like the governor not being able to speak to a president of the United States during this type of a crisis.”
“Wait, so you wrote because you couldn’t get a hold of him?” Dunne asks.
“I couldn’t get a hold of him. I wrote him and faxed him and spoke to his aides, and I’m like, wait a minute, I’m a mayor. It doesn’t matter if my city’s only 28,000, 30,000 people. It doesn’t matter,” Harvey says. “A mayor should have a direct conservation with the governor when we got a healthcare crisis at this scale. And I’m not happy about that. I’m not happy that we don’t have a permanent site.”
A spokesperson for the governor did not respond in time for this broadcast. On Friday, Governor Cuomo said the federal government informed the state that winter storms impacting much of the country resulted in vaccination shipment delays, postponing the shipment of many doses that were to have arrived at the end of last week to Monday. Neuhaus says his county’s doses arrived first thing Monday morning and vaccination clinics are back on track this week.
“I’m frustrated with the system. Nobody’s happy with it, but it’s a nationwide thing,” Neuhaus says. “Every time I turn on the national news, people are complaining that there’s a shortage of the vaccination, so if that wasn’t there, I’d probably go off the rails.”
A state Department of Health spokesperson says New York has implemented one of the largest vaccine distribution networks in the nation, with more than 5,000 providers statewide, and nearly 4 million shots administered to date. She continues, “The state has also taken special efforts to reach communities where access is lowest, hesitancy rates are the highest, and vaccination rates are below average, but as with everything, the state’s supply is limited by the allocation we receive from the federal government.” Harvey says there is vaccine skepticism in his city.
“In the Black communities, there is some skepticism, there is some reluctance to take the vaccine because of the history of the federal government going back to 1932 with the [Tuskegee] Syphilis experiment. So, African-Americans, you’re going to get that, but we’ve been able to communicate how important it is, when people see their loved ones dying to this invisible virus,” says Harvey. “There have been some, a lot come forward asking for it, especially our elderly population. People are concerned. So the Black and Hispanic communities, there’s going to some skepticism and some reluctance but, for the most part, people have called me, asking me, begging me, pleading, Mayor, please, we need appointments.”
He says the city is working with the Orange County Health Department to inform the public about the availability and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.