By County Executive Ed Day
Rockland is ready. Hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities in Rockland and around New York have already begun vaccinating their staff and residents. And we in County Government stand ready to augment these efforts. We have already successfully advocated returning EMS personnel to Phase One of the NYS vaccination plan after they were removed.
We have a deep well of experience here to draw upon. From our battle-tested Health Department staff to multiple retired military personnel in oversight positions and my own 20-plus year career culminating as a Commander of Detectives. Between our earned experience and expertise, we have a great understanding of large-scale operations and the logistics necessary to carry them out successfully.
New York State has set up 10 regional vaccine distribution hubs to oversee this continuing process. Our hub is Westchester Medical Center and our Health Dept. speaks with them multiple times a week along with our local hospitals and providers.
Right now, the following populations are eligible to be vaccinated: high-risk hospital staff, EMS personnel, medical examiners and coroners, funeral workers who have direct contact with bodily fluids, agency staff, and residents in congregate living situations run by NYS agencies, urgent care providers, and staff administering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Next week that list will expand to include: all outpatient and ambulatory front line, high-risk health care providers who provide direct in-person patient care or other staff in a position where they have direct contact with patients, such as receptionists, of any age, all front line, high-risk public health workers who have direct contact with patients and health care workers at testing sites.
These groups are all part of Phase One of New York’s vaccination plan. Phase Two includes teachers and school staff, other essential frontline workers like pharmacists, grocery store workers, and transit employees, and individuals in the general population deemed particularly high-risk.
Phase Three includes individuals over 65 and individuals under 65 who are high-risk. Phase Four is all other essential workers and Phase Five is healthy adults. Neither vaccine is currently recommended for children age 16 and younger as we await further studies on that population.
You may now be asking, ‘When and where can I get vaccinated?’ We do not yet know exactly how these groups will be contacted when it is their turn to be vaccinated. New York State is working on those details with the support of local health departments. But we expect these efforts to involve those who regularly provide vaccinations like pharmacies, hospitals, and our own Health Department.
And I will remind you that locally we have been through this before during the measles outbreak when we held two dozen vaccination clinics at multiple sites around Rockland County.
There is much we do not know about the next steps of this process, but I want to assure you that any vaccine sent to this county will be watched closely and distributed in a fair and equitable manner. There will be no favoritism here, and we are insisting New York State take action against any person or business who behaves inappropriately, attempts to cut the line, or defrauds the system.
This is the battle of our generation and it will not be an easy one. New York State needs to step up its communication efforts but we in Rockland are ready to respond when called upon to protect our community.