The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine came with a great deal of hope, especially for higher-risk senior citizens. But many have had difficulties scheduling appointments in Nassau County, and others have been hesitant to drive to areas where shots were more widely available.
Fortunately for hundreds of Glen Cove residents, city and county officials stepped in and coordinated two pop-up vaccine clinics this month, inoculating a total of 800 people. The first was on March 4, at St. Hyacinth Church in Glen Head, and it was followed a week later by a clinic at the Glen Cove YMCA.
“The pop-up site at St. Hyacinth’s was such a godsend,” Glen Cove resident Mary Ann Curley said, explaining that she isn’t comfortable driving long distances. “It was so convenient, and so well run.”
Curley, 73, said she began trying to book an appointment in early February through Nassau County, but websites were constantly crashing, and the daily calls she made to the New York state appointment hotline were met with the message, “Vaccine unavailable due to supply.” She acknowledged not being experienced with computers, but said the process was frustrating, especially since others seemed to be able to secure appointments.
“Out of desperation, I called the mayor’s office to see if there was anything they could do,” Curley said. Her name was put on a list, and she soon received word that she had secured a local appointment. “It was just a wonderful experience,” she said.
Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke said he had “tirelessly” lobbied Nassau County and New York state over the past six weeks to secure vaccinations for the city’s most vulnerable populations. The county and state used outreach groups, he said, to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccines.
At the vaccination pop-up at St. Hyacinth’s Church, a partnership with Northwell Health, 500 local people were inoculated. The shots were targeted at vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, including seniors, with an emphasis on residents who did not have transportation or access to computers. In addition, Long Island Cares provided 300 boxes of food that were distributed at the event to combat food insecurity.
“I’m extremely grateful to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran for her leadership to make the vaccine pop-up possible in our community,” Tenke said. “I would also like to thank Father Daniel Nash, the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Northwell Health for partnering with Nassau County to make this vaccination site a reality for Glen Cove.”
More good news arrived a week later, on March 11, when the second pop-up took place at the YMCA, in partnership with New York state and Stony Brook Medicine, and 300 Glen Cove residents received a first dose. Tenke said that the Glen Cove Senior Center, the NAACP, local churches and temples, and local food pantries helped make the clinic possible.
Brenda Lopez, who works at Iglesia Ciudad De Refugio, on Cottage Row, the church her parents founded more than 40 years ago, was a point of contact for the city’s Spanish-speaking population. She is a former community outreach coordinator at Glen Cove Child Day Care Center, and said she had long helped the city with programs for the Hispanic community. For the pop-ups, Lopez said, she assisted more than two dozen people.
“I have access to a lot of people, many of whom have language barriers or are not very tech savvy,” she said. “I helped ensure they had the proper information to make appointments and to reassure them that they were following the state guidelines.”
Christine Rice, executive director of the Glen Cove Senior Center, said that she heard from a lot of members that they were having difficulty scheduling appointments. Those who had still not been vaccinated by early March tended to not have internet access or transportation, she said.
"I think the pop-up sites were enormously helpful for the seniors," Rice said. "We were able to get the majority of the members still on our list vaccinated at these sites."
Glen Cove City School District personnel also benefited from the clinics, with more than 125 staff members receiving inoculations. Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna said that she had been providing staff with vaccine information since early February, but many were discouraged by the lack of appointment availability or the apparent need to drive to sites as far as Westchester County. “I’ve tried to touch base with all of the influential people I know to get spots,” Rianna said. “Many people have been looking for the opportunity, but by the time they know about an opening, it’s taken.”
The pop-up sites made it much easier for people, and Rianna said she was happy that Tenke and the city were able to make them happen. “Working together, we’re ensuring the community has every opportunity to get the shot,” she said.
Tenke said that future pop-up clinics could be coming, though no sites or dates or sites have been secured yet. “I’m working every day to try and make pop-up vaccine sites a more frequent event for our community,” he said, “so that we can offer more shots with a specific focus on Glen Cove residents.”