ALBANY — New York’s county governments say they are prepared and eager to play a leading role in distributing a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is made available to the state.
“Counties have decades of experience administering vaccines, and we are trusted in our communities,” said Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the state Association of Counties. “Trust is a critical component for the successful distribution of this vaccine, and our local health departments are prepared to support and lead in this effort through the next several months.”
STATE STIMULUS FUNDS
The declaration by the counties’ umbrella group came as the drug maker Pfizer signaled Friday that it is seeking accelerated federal approval of its vaccine for emergency use, a move that could set the stage for some Americans to get the first of two shots as early as mid-December.
County leaders said they hope to convince the state Legislature and the governor’s office to make sure funding is available so public health workers can succeed in one of the most important missions ever assigned to them.
New York is one of the few states that has not shared federal stimulus funding with counties whose populations are less than 500,000 people.
“This is one area where you could strongly argue that those funds should be passed on to the county so we can do the essential work of educating the public about a vaccine and deploying it across our communities,” said Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive.
Speaking to reporters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that in a conversation with other governors and President-Elect Joe Biden this week, he stressed the importance of the federal government approving a $500 billion stimulus package endorsed by the National Governors Association.
Cuomo also said: “We stressed the complications on vaccine distribution. I talked about my concern for distribution to Black and Brown communities, that the private health facilities underserve the Black and Brown and poor communities, and if the federal government just uses the private health facilities, it will be disproportionate, and I believe illegal.”
NEW TESTING HIGHS
But Molinaro, the 2016 GOP candidate for governor, said: “We have the experience and the insight that is needed to reach vulnerable and underserved populations; we just need the resources to do it.”
Meanwhile, new data indicated coronavirus testing across the state reached a new high Thursday, with 205,466 tests administered.
A total of 5,468 individuals tested positive, up from 5,310 a day earlier.
The statewide one-day positivity rate was 2.66%, a slight decrease from the day earlier. An additional 32 New Yorkers died from the infection.
State officials have been using testing data to determine restriction levels being imposed on communities experiencing outbreaks.
An additional 32 virus fatalities were reported Friday, while he number of New Yorkers being treated in hospitals was put at 2,348.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org