County announces pop-up vaccination site at Elmont Memorial

Peter Belfiore for LI Herald

February 25, 2021

Originally published in Long Island Herald on February 25, 2021.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Wednesday morning that on Saturday, Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School will serve as a pop-up coronavirus vaccination site, where roughly 1,000 Elmont residents are scheduled to be inoculated.

The announcement comes as the county has administered 32,000 vaccine doses since they were first made available in January. Overall 220,000 county residents have received at least one shot, Curran reported.

With vaccines still in short supply, Curran said Saturday’s pop-up site in Elmont is intended to provide access for communities of color, which have a higher potential to be overlooked in the vaccination effort, and have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic.

“We want to make sure there’s access to everyone who’s eligible for this,” she said. “That’s why we’re working closely with educators, faith leaders and trusted community leaders to build confidence in the safety of the vaccine and to increase access in communities like Elmont.”

Local state representatives also noted the importance of targeted vaccination drives, using community outreach to schedule appointments for those who might traditionally have a harder time securing one or who might have a distrust of the vaccine.

“Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Black and brown communities,” Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, a Democrat from Elmont said. “We know that in medical history there has been systemic racism that has deterred Black and brown communities form getting access to the medical necessities that they’ve needed.”

Additionally, the lawmakers said, such efforts are intended to remedy situations where residents might have limited access to technology.

“We have so many people who are struggling to get the vaccine, and it’s difficult, but there are many who have a tougher time,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach said. “We know many people who are sitting with two or three screens open, refreshing constantly trying to get that illusive appointment. Sometimes they’re successful, but we also have to think of our fellow Long Islanders who don’t have computers, who don’t have more than one screens, who may not have internet access or who may be elderly or otherwise vulnerable.”

Working through a partnership with Northwell Health, Saturday’s site will provide shots for people from all eligibility categories. Curran also announced additional partnerships with Mount Sinai South Nassau and the Catholic Health Services of Long Island for future pop-up sites.

Michael Dowling, chief executive officer of Northwell, said his network was at the forefront of the vaccination effort in the region, with six vaccination sites currently operating on Wednesday and 300 employees dedicated to working on the vaccine effort on a regular basis. He said 50 Northwell employees would be working Saturday’s drive.

“We’re making progress,” he said, reporting that at the height of the pandemic in New York last April, Northwell’s hospitals had a daily peak of 3,500 Covid-19 patients. After a lull over the summer and fall, the holiday season saw 1,400 patients at Northwell facilities, he said. Now, there are 935 patients.

“This is progress,” he said offering hope that despite the potential for more contagious virus variants, with more vaccines in the pipeline for approval, and continued safety precautions the pandemic would come to an end in the near future.

“The vaccine works, it is safe, and it is the best cure we have,” Dowling said. “And I’ve told people, ‘Whatever you think about how you might have discomfort after getting the vaccine, if you compare that to being in an ICU on a hospital floor believe me the vaccine is worth taking.”