ALBANY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The New York Association of Counties (NYSAC) held a virtual news conference Tuesday to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to let the counties do their jobs and activate their emergency plans when it comes to giving the public the COVID-19 vaccine.
The organization says by law counties are mandated to develop emergency plans for dealing with epidemics and pandemics which include mass distribution of vaccines. “We have plans, the plan’s in place, ” says NYSAC President and Dutchess County Executive Mark Molinaro. “Activating them and using them and implementing them is a logical step that is necessary.”
Last week, Onondaga County requested special permission from the state to redirect some of the hospitals’ vaccine shipments to its distribution site at the War Memorial. The state granted the request and Onondaga County was able to vaccinate 1,100 residents last week and could give 5,000 to 6,000 more the vaccine this week, depending on how many doses are delivered.
County leaders also expressed frustration with the governor’s threat to fine hospitals that have not completely distributed their vaccines to those in the first group of eligible recipients. They urged the administration to allow the counties to move it to those in the second group of eligible recipients like police and other first responders.
Chemung County Executive Christopher Moss says the hospital network in his county was not set up for vaccine distribution. He says they are “making the best of a bad situation”. Moss says the hospital received a letter from the governor’s office threatening fines if the vaccine wasn’t distributed by January 7. Fines could be as much as $100,000. “So what our hospital did is they said, ‘OK, everybody come get vaccinated. We don’t care if you are 1a or 1b,’ and they threw a grenade and caused chaos,” said Moss.
Molinaro quoted a colleague that likened the current vaccine rollout to building a plane while it is flying. He said that strategy was understandable when the health crisis first broke out but as far as vaccine distribution goes, “We have a perfectly healthy plane on the runway ready to take off. Activate [county plans] now, let’s catch up and get those operational”.
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