SUFFOLK COUNTY

Bracing for vaccine rollout

Islip Town reps looking ahead as Suffolk County sees vaccine appointment delays

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As New York State rapidly approaches the milestone of distributing one million COVID-19 vaccines, one question has come to the forefront: “When can I receive the vaccine?”

In the first nine days of 2021, the United States reported over two million new coronavirus cases, based on data from Johns Hopkins University. It brought the country up to 23.4 million cases nationally.

And the number of COVID-19 are on the rise in Suffolk County, which recently surpassed 120,000 total cases in the past week.

Islip Town currently has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county, just behind Brookhaven Town. As of Jan. 15, Islip had 30,994 confirmed cases, according to the Suffolk County Department of Information Technology and New York State Department of Health. That’s about 93 cases per every 1,000 people.

In November 2020, Islip Town unveiled a pop-up COVID-19 drive-through testing site in Brentwood. The free site was made available in partnership with Good Samaritan Hospital and funded through the Islip Community Development Agency.

Town supervisor Angie Carpenter said last week that she is willing to offer up that site to New York State as a potential vaccination location, but the town has not yet heard back from state officials.

Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip has been conducting vaccinations, and South Shore University Hospital has begun offering vaccines at Fairfield Properties Ballpark in Central Islip, formerly known as Bethpage Ballpark, Carpenter said. Another site is located at the Suffolk County Community College Brentwood campus.

Last week, New York entered Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout, allowing more individuals to receive the vaccine. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a previous press conference that it could take up until April 2021 for groups 1A and 1B to be vaccinated.

But due to high demand, the state’s registration system may not be displaying available appointments.

Since appointments are constantly added on a rolling basis, those who are eligible are advised to check back later, according to the Suffolk County COVID-19 Vaccination Center.

The state’s vaccine supply is determined by the federal government, and although more than seven million New Yorkers are now eligible for the COVID vaccine, the state will receive only 250,000 doses from the federal government next week, state reports said.

“We are in a footrace to get the vaccine into the arms of eligible New Yorkers as quickly and equitably as possible,” Cuomo said. “However, we now have seven million New Yorkers vying for a fraction of doses made available to use by the federal government. We need Washington to step up and increase New York’s supply to make sure everyone who wants the vaccine has the opportunity to get it.”

System delays and the state’s rollout procedure have brought some frustration to community members.

Legis. Anthony Piccirillo said he believed the state’s vaccine rollout could have been more organized. State representatives could have contacted local senior centers to obtain more information about locals who were eligible, said Piccirillo, who was diagnosed with the virus last week.

“I’m just disappointed in the rollout itself. I thought they should have waited – completed as much of Phase 1A as possible before rolling out Phase 1B. They knew they had limited supply and there was high demand, and now we’re seeing how bad it is, with high wait times and scheduled appointments for the spring.”

At least 543,147 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in over 400,000 hospitals and over 85,000 long-term care facilities throughout the state as of Jan. 9, part of the state’s Phase 1A of vaccine rollout,
according to Cuomo.

Sayville Chamber of Commerce president Eileen Tyznar, who has also been diagnosed with COVID, said she believes that the state’s vaccine rollout could be improved.

“When we have a spike in numbers like this, and we knew the spread would be rapid during this time – that the state needs to be more efficient in rolling this out to protect our community and business owners.”

Tyznar added, “I think it’s really important that we do our due diligence to protect our community and our business owners.”

Islip Town board member Mary Kate Mullen said she plans on receiving the vaccine as soon as she meets the criteria to do so. She noted that the rise in cases across Suffolk County is a direct result of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s gatherings.

“Just look at the trend all over the country,” Mullen said. “It’s a very difficult time – people are getting sick. And that vaccine can’t come quick enough.”

The state recently launched an online list of vaccine providers for those who are eligible and meet Phase 1B criteria. People that fall in this category can register online at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/ and schedule an appointment, or do so by calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

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