County legislators seek to turn Coliseum into vaccination site

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Nassau County Presiding Officer Rich Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) implored state officials to allow the county to use the Nassau Coliseum as a mass vaccination center. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Nassau County Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) suggested using the Nassau Coliseum as a coronavirus vaccination site to increase the number of Long Island residents receiving inoculations.

Nicolello brought up the proposal, which seemed to receive bipartisan support in the  County Legislature, during a public hearing on Thursday morning. While the Legislature touted the work of Nassau County Health Commissioner Lawrence Eisenstein, legislators were critical of the state’s allotment of vaccines to Long Island compared with New York City.

“Long Island has the highest positivity rate in New York and we need our local leaders to advocate more strongly for an increase in vaccine doses and to open a mass vaccination site at the Nassau Coliseum,” Nicolello said.

According to state figures, Long Island health care providers had received 345,505 vaccine doses, administering 274,566 as of Monday, the most in the state after New York City.  New York City had received more than 1.2 million vaccine doses, administering 924,213, according to state figures.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo expanded the eligibility list for the coronavirus vaccine in New York to taxi drivers, restaurant workers and residents in facilities for those with disabilities.  Cuomo announced in late January that the vaccinations provided to the state would increase by 20 percent for the next three weeks. Private pharmacies, he said, would receive an additional 10 percent, or roughly 30,000 more doses, from the federal government.

County Legislator John Ferretti (R-Levittown) also pointed out that city facilities, including Yankee Stadium, are only available to New York City residents, but Nassau County facilities are available for anyone to use.  Ferretti said the Legislature recently released a joint statement to state officials imploring them to allow Nassau residents to use New York City facilities.

Jack Sterne, a Cuomo spokesperson, said the legislators needed to look at the facts and “stop misleading” Nassau residents.

“The reality is Long Island has received the most vaccines in the state after New York City, we’ve launched two mass vaccination sites on Long Island, and we’ve deployed seven community vaccine hubs to the region, with more in the works,” Sterne said.

The state’s average weekly inoculation rate is around 300,000 doses, but the number remains insufficient in the ongoing efforts to administer doses to people as quickly as possible. More than seven million New Yorkers were eligible to receive the vaccine before  Cuomo expanded those eligible to include taxi drivers, restaurant workers and those who reside in facilities for people with disabilities.

Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New Yorkers with underlying health conditions will be allowed to make appointments at state-run mass vaccination sites as early as Sunday, with inoculations beginning the next day. Underlying health conditions Cuomo mentioned include cancer, kidney disease, pulmonary disease, liver disease, type 1 or 2 diabetes, intellectual or developmental disabilities, pregnancy and others.

Cuomo also announced that the White House signed off on a 5 percent increase in vaccination doses being distributed to states for three weeks.

“The 5 percent increase doesn’t sound like much but remember, that’s on top of the first announcement which was 16 percent increase, then the second announcement of 5 percent, so this is a third announcement of 5 percent – 16, plus 5, plus 5, so over the past three weeks it has been relatively significant,” Cuomo said Tuesday.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county remains ready to increase the number of vaccinations administered whenever the state allows it.

“We have put 100% of doses into eligible arms, and we will continue to do so while aggressively advocating for more vaccines from the federal government,” Curran said in a statement.

CVS Health said its eligible 32 locations in the state will begin to offer the coronavirus vaccines starting Thursday.  The eligible pharmacies are expected to receive more than 20,000 total doses to prioritize vaccinating people who are 65 and older, according to officials.  Officials also said there will be four Walgreens locations in the county that will be eligible to conduct inoculations, but did not provide specifics as to where.

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