State Opens Vaccination Rolls To People 50 And Older; Private Practices To Administer Shots

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East Hampton Town offices have been closed to the public and have had strict protocols in place to prevent spread of COVID-19, but "sloppy" practices by some employees led to at least a half-dozen cases in one of its offices this month.

New York State added more than 2 million state residents to the COVID-19 eligibility list this week and began allowing individual medical practices to start requesting vaccine allocations for their doctors to administer to patients — some of which have already started booking appointments.

Meeting House Lane Medical Practice, the local medical group associated with Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, notified patients this week that its doctors will have vaccines starting this week. The group said in a message to patients on Tuesday that it is now accepting requests for “immediate” appointments for shots via phone at 631-283-2100.

Private medical practices may administer vaccines to any eligible individual under the state’s guidelines, but appointments will be made independent of the state’s official “Am I Eligible” online portal, which is where all appointments at the state-run vaccination sites must be made.

Pharmacies, which had been limited to administering shots to those who met the minimum age requirements, have been instructed to now prioritize K-12 school teachers and school employees, but may now also administer shots to those with co-morbidities and anyone over the age of 50.

The state passed a grim milestone this week — 40,000 deaths from COVID-19 — but also saw the number of doses of vaccine it is receiving from the federal allocation program soar — now more than 800,000 doses per week.

In response, the state made all adults over 50 years of age eligible for shots and expanded the number of outlets where shots will be available.

The new mass vaccination site at the Stony Brook Southampton University campus has been administering hundreds of shots per day and has booked appointments seven days a week through to the end of April.

Suffolk County, however, continues to have one of the highest rates of new infections in the state — recording more than 500 new infections on Tuesday — and individual outbreaks have forced the closure of some government offices and cancellation of school sports activities.

East Hampton saw its total number of cased jump by 25 in just two days this week. Southampton Town has been seeing a slow but steady increase in new cases, according to Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who has been carefully tracking new cases since the summer.

“It’s not getting better or worse,” he said in a message. “It’s steady at about 12 new cases per day — mostly in Hampton Bays and surrounding communities. I do think the number is about to start descending quickly. But I haven’t seen it yet.”

The number of COVID-19 admissions at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has held steady at around 13 for the past week.

East Hampton Town shuttered one of its departmental offices last week after at least a half-dozen employees contracted the virus in an apparent case of spread within the workplace. Town officials attributed the outbreak to employees failing to follow mandatory safety protocols.

Councilman Jeff Bragman raised the issue of the in-office outbreak at the end of the Town Board meeting on Thursday afternoon, saying he though it important that the public be aware of the issue, both as a warning sign and also as a matter of general information. The office in question, which officials have not identified, is not in Town Hall or the town suites at 300 Pantigo Road.

“It really brings home the point that this is not the time to relax,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “In fact, it’s a time when it is most dangerous because there is this sense that we are starting to put this behind us and we really haven’t. It requires continued diligence. I know there is fatigue, we’re just tired at this point. But we can’t let our guard down.”

He said that all town staff are reiterating to their employees the need to follow protocols about wearing masks in the office and being careful about close contact with co-workers.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that he expects the town to start receiving a regular allocation of vaccinations at the vaccination POD it set up in the former CDCH school building on Stephen Hands Path. Appointments for any town shots, when they become available, will be taken from the town’s own registration list which can be accessed online at ehtownvaccine.org.

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