Rockland County, New York, a densely populated suburban enclave instantly north of New York City, stays one of many state’s COVID-19 scorching spots.
With an official tally of greater than 41,000 constructive infections for the reason that begin of the pandemic, the 325,000-person county has the highest per-capita case rate within the state. In the previous seven days alone, the county’s common variety of each day instances is the sixth-highest within the state outdoors of New York City.
That’s why the county’s leaders and representatives ― in each Albany and Washington ― are questioning why Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) administration has not but erected even a brief state-run mass vaccination web site there.
“It’s frustrating,” stated Ed Day, the Republican government of Rockland County. “The numbers demand it, frankly. You just shake your head and get quizzical after a while.”
But although the state has introduced plans to arrange vaccination sites in Orange County ― in addition to Ulster County, which is way more sparsely populated than Rockland ― plans for the same facility in Rockland haven’t been forthcoming. Other counties with smaller populations, corresponding to Albany County, the place the capital is situated, have already got a mass vaccination web site.
Given the puzzling absence of a vaccine web site within the county and conversations that Cuomo’s vaccine czar Larry Schwartz has reportedly had with different county officers to evaluate their political loyalty to Cuomo, some Rocklanders consider that Cuomo is depriving the county of a mass vaccination state to punish Day, a political rival.
Although Day instructed HuffPost that Schwartz has by no means tried to evaluate his views on the scandals now besieging Cuomo ― or some other political matter ― their rivalry is a matter of public report. Day has even hinted at plans of a gubernatorial run in 2022.
“Cuomo does not like Ed Day. And Ed Day does not like Cuomo. That is obviously the biggest reason” that Rockland County doesn’t have a state-run mass vaccination web site, stated Hunter Petro, a outstanding Democratic activist within the county.
New York Assemblyman Mike Lawler, a Republican who represents Rockland County within the state legislature, provided the same evaluation.
“We’re an incredibly diverse county that deserves a mass vaccination site and it appears as if the only reason Andrew Cuomo is withholding one is over political differences,” Lawler stated in an announcement. “He needs to stop playing politics with people’s lives and work with County Executive Ed Day and other local elected officials to get shots in arms.”
Asked whether or not he believed Cuomo’s political issues have been accountable for the dearth of a mass vaccination web site, Jones stated merely, “We have a Republican county executive who’s been railing against the governor for years.”
Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for Cuomo, denied the allegation of politically motivated foul play.
“Public health is above partisanship, and vaccine allocation decisions are based solely on analytic criteria, not politics,” Sterne stated in an announcement.
Given restricted assets, New York state determined that Rockland County’s proximity to a mass vaccination web site in Westchester County made it a decrease precedence for a mass vaccination web site than different areas additional north “to provide greater geographic reach across the region,” based on Sterne.
“In an ideal world, we could stand up mass vaccination sites in every county, but we live in a world with limited resources — especially vaccine doses — and we have to choose locations that create geographic equity within regions of the state,” he stated.
To perceive Rocklanders’ suspicions although, it is very important admire the the explanation why county officers are so adamant concerning the want for a mass vaccination web site. The county presently has the capability to manage 1,000 vaccines a day, however a mass vaccination web site would enable the county to manage 15,000 vaccines a day, based on Day. Day additionally instructed HuffPost that he was within the means of signing kinds to authorize a state-run web site within the county, however that the method stalled inexplicably. (Sterne, Cuomo’s spokesperson, stated that the state works intently with Day to offer sufficient vaccinations.)
The push for a mass vaccination web site within the county cuts throughout get together traces.
Democratic state Sens. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and James Skoufis, and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, all of whom characterize components of Rockland, have launched laws that might require the state to erect permanent vaccination sites in Rockland and Orange counties.
It’s laborious to give you a justifiable motive why a county with all of this stuff shouldn’t have a state-run mass vaccination web site.
New York State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D)
“It’s hard to come up with a justifiable reason why a county with all of these things should not have a state-run mass vaccination site,” Reichlin-Melnick instructed HuffPost, citing the county’s inhabitants dimension, excessive an infection price and comparatively scarce public transportation infrastructure.
Rockland County lacks the in depth commuter rail community and proximity to New York City out there in Westchester County, the suburban enclave throughout the Hudson River. As a outcome, seniors and other people with medical circumstances not solely need to navigate the state’s byzantine web site and ― till Wednesday ― strict eligibility necessities, but additionally appropriately determine a pharmacy with vaccines left. If, like lots of the county’s oldest and most impoverished residents, they don’t have a automobile, they then need to discover a technique to get there.
By distinction, organising a mass vaccination web site at Rockland Community College ― a location touted by many native officers ― would make vaccination a cease away on a central public bus line.
“My office hears from dozens of people a day who are desperate” to discover a vaccination web site, Reichlin-Melnick stated. “It feels to people like almost this sort of lottery system that’s deeply unfair because it rewards people who have the wherewithal to be able to invest and figure out these complicated systems in order to get their doses, and people who don’t … just find it incredibly challenging.”
Nonetheless, almost 23% of Rockland County has had one vaccination shot. It’s a vaccination price that’s about in step with the state as an entire ― however decrease than neighboring Westchester, the place greater than 26% of residents have obtained a shot, or Manhattan, the place greater than 27% of residents have gotten their first shot.
In addition, Rockland County is dwelling to one of many nation’s largest concentrations of ultra-Orthodox Jews. These religious Jewish communities, the place massive households and dense dwelling are the norm, have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders are still reeling from feedback Cuomo made in October singling out ultra-Orthodox communities in Rockland County as COVID-19 scorching spots in want of stricter lockdowns and more durable enforcement of public well being guidelines.
For Cuomo to bathe vital consideration on the group then, however to not lengthen additional assist to the area now could be notably irritating, based on Yossi Gestetner, a Rockland County resident and government director of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.
“This county and other counties that were held up as examples of problem areas ― why don’t they get comparable help from the government?” Gestetner requested.
For those that persist within the perception that Cuomo has picked a combat with Day specifically, there isn’t any scarcity of dangerous blood to level to.
Over the years, Day has attacked Cuomo for shifting spending obligations onto localities, proposing new underground power lines, and allegedly refusing to heed Day’s requests for a COVID-19 containment zone within the county.
Day insists that he has “not had any overt issues with the governor.”
Yet he has nonetheless had loads of criticism for what he considers the state’s unduly top-down strategy to managing the pandemic, notably given Rockland County authorities’s expertise controlling a measles outbreak in 2019.
“We have been in the dark from Day One and that has been one of the primary complaints of every county executive,” Day stated. “We had the expertise.”
At the identical time, somebody energetic in Rockland County politics, who requested anonymity for concern of retaliation from Cuomo, instructed HuffPost that the governor and Day’s mutual enmity is probably going simply one of many components behind vaccination points in Rockland County.
“Once the scandal with the nursing homes started to percolate, I have detected that the governor’s staff has lost focus,” the individual stated. “That contributed to the issues with the vaccine in Rockland County.” (The FBI is investigating whether or not Cuomo intentionally hid the variety of nursing dwelling coronavirus-related deaths, after ordering the houses to just accept COVID-19-positive sufferers.)
And in contrast to Reichlin-Melnick, Skoufis, Jones and just about each Republican within the state legislature, Day has not known as for Cuomo’s resignation ― or weighed in a technique or one other on the scandals surrounding Cuomo from sexual misconduct allegations.
Neither Day nor Reichlin-Melnick have been keen to take a position about ulterior motives that Cuomo may harbor.
“I think it’s enough to simply look at the reasons why we need to have one in this county and every other similarly situated county in the state does at this point and ask the question why it’s the case that Rockland’s been left out,” Reichlin-Melnick stated.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to turn out to be a founding member and assist form HuffPost’s subsequent chapter