COVID Vaccine Now Available for Educators, First Responders, and People 75+

Educators, First Responders, and seniors 75 and over are now eligible for the COVID vaccine.  A moment ago, I sent the following message citywide, encouraging eligible residents to schedule their vaccination.  It’s vitally important that we all do our part.

(Today’s expansion of vaccine eligibility follows a rocky vaccine roll-out in New Rochelle last week, which I explained more fully in this post from yesterday.)

This is the City of New Rochelle with important information about the COVID vaccine.

Para espanol, oprima numero uno.

Effective today, New York State has authorized the COVID vaccine for all educators and first responders, and for all people over the age of 75. If you are eligible, please register and schedule your vaccine through the State website at ny.gov/vaccine.

The vaccination process will take many weeks, so while you can and should sign up immediately, please understand that your scheduled date to receive the vaccine might still be a ways off.

The COVID vaccine is safe and effective. It’s been studied rigorously by scientific and medical experts, and has already been safely administered to millions of people. Vaccination is the only way for our community and nation to overcome the COVID crisis and recover fully. If you’re eligible, please get your vaccine.

In the meantime, with nearly 900 active cases of COVID in New Rochelle, we all need to continue acting responsibly: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and avoid large crowds.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not there yet, and each of us must do the right thing to get to the other side.

Again, visit the State website at ny.gov/vaccine for vaccine information, and you can always visit newrochelleny.com/coronavirus for comprehensive local resources.

This has been Mayor Noam Bramson. Thank you for listening, and stay safe.

UPDATE: As an alternative to online scheduling, beginning at 4:00pm on Monday, January 11, the State will maintain a COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

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Disclosing, Explaining, and Learning from a Bad Week

This is a New Rochelle story, but it’s necessary to begin with some broader context.  Bear with me.

As America’s painful COVID experience nears its one-year anniversary, our thoughts and actions increasingly focus on the vaccine.  How quickly can it be manufactured?  How will it be distributed?  How can we address and overcome doubts about its safety and efficacy?  When will this nightmare finally be over?

The issue of sequencing — who gets the vaccine first, second, third, and fourth — is especially complicated, logistically and morally, given the present mismatch between demand and supply.  So it’s no wonder that vaccine distribution protocols, which fall under state jurisdiction, have been intensely debated.  It’s also no wonder that vaccination rates among different hospitals have been carefully scrutinized, with urgency to get the vaccine into people’s arms as quickly as possible.

Up to now, New York has limited vaccine distribution mainly to health care workers in what the State calls Phase 1a.  This week, New York will expand to Phase 1b, including teachers, first responders, and people over 75 years of age.  There’s more here.

I don’t feel qualified to have a personal opinion about the right vaccination policy, but I do believe that uniformity and consistency are vital to avoid a free-for-fall.  Therefore, I see it as my responsibility to explain, uphold, and implement State directives, in partnership with local and regional health providers.

That’s the backdrop for this past week’s events in New Rochelle.

On Wednesday around midday, I received a call from Montefiore New Rochelle hospital with important news: the hospital had just been directed by State health authorities to expand vaccine distribution to the entire municipal and school district workforce.  Knowing that Montefiore’s prior vaccine delivery numbers had been low, and that the State was eager to get the vaccine out the door, the hospital’s invitation seemed entirely plausible, and I did not think to confirm it with State colleagues.  In retrospect, that was a mistake.

I immediately informed the City Manager, so that our employees across all departments could be mobilized in an orderly fashion, and I contacted the School District leadership, so that they could coordinate with the hospital on a parallel track.

The City administration established a vaccination schedule, and municipal employees began lining up for their vaccines by Wednesday late afternoon, with the goal of completing the City workforce over the next 48 hours or so.  The School District established its own schedule.

Next day, the wheels came off.

On Thursday evening, I received upsetting word from both hospital and State officials.  Montefiore’s invitation had been an error; the hospital had misinterpreted the State’s guidance and was not yet authorized to issue phase 1b vaccines, let alone to vaccinate the whole municipal workforce, which includes categories of employees outside 1b.  The vaccination process needed to be halted right away.  This was especially traumatic for the School District, which has a larger workforce than the City, including hundreds of teachers who would now be disappointed.  A mess.

For me, this difficult week also has a dimension of personal regret involving my own vaccine.  Although Montefiore’s invitation encompassed elected officials, I had originally intended to decline my own vaccination and wait for a future phase.  Around midday Thursday, however, the City Manager informed me, with surprise and distress, that many municipal employees were refusing to take the vaccine.  Here in our own City family was the vaccine hesitancy that experts fear could imperil efforts to achieve herd immunity.  A serious problem.

I was persuaded that receiving my own vaccine would demonstrate confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, and set a good example for colleagues.  So I agreed to get my injection Thursday mid-afternoon, and then returned to City Hall, where the City Manager and I sent an email to the entire workforce, affirming the vaccine’s importance and urging colleagues to do the right thing and follow our lead.  In the moment, I was trying to act responsibly, but now I certainly regret my participation and can’t shake a feeling of shame that I received a vaccination to which I was not properly entitled.

I am satisfied that everyone in this whole episode was operating in good faith and sincerely trying to do the right thing under great pressure.  But, as someone with a visceral aversion to “cutting the line” (in fact, while I was waiting for my vaccine at Montefiore, a friendly nurse literally invited me to cut the line, I declined), I find this chain of mistakes professionally frustrating and personally embarrassing.  And I suppose this blog post is my attempt to fully disclose what happened, learn from the experience, and move on.

Seeing the challenges firsthand will only reinforce my determination to ensure that our community is provided with information and access to the vaccine as quickly as supplies and State authorization permit, especially with imminent entry into phase 1b, which is really the beginning of mass vaccinations.  As we look ahead to recovery from this incredibly difficult year, there is no more important responsibility.  Onward.

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Another Storm Arrives Later Today

Unfortunately, 2020 is throwing another challenge our way, as a major storm arrives later today with the potential to knock out power and disrupt the holiday.  I just sent the following message citywide.

This is the City of New Rochelle.

Another major storm will arrive later today, with the most intense rainfall and wind forecast between 8:00pm tonight and 8:00am tomorrow. Unfortunately, this storm has real potential to knock out electrical service and disrupt the holiday.

If you lose power, contact Con Edison at 1-800-75-CONED or www.coned.com. If you have your account number, you can also text “REG” to “OUTAGE” to sign up for text alerts. Con Ed is ramping up staffing to prepare for possible emergency operations.

Report downed trees and power lines to the New Rochelle Police at 654-2300.  Always assume downed lines are live and stay clear.

For additional information, visit newrochelleny.com/stormupdates.

Finally, a reminder about next week’s holiday DPW schedule. Both garbage and paper will be picked up in the North End on Wednesday and in the South End on Thursday.

This has been Mayor Noam Bramson. Thank you for listening, stay safe, and we all hope for a joyful holiday season despite the weather.

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Big Winter Storm Coming

Big winter storm arriving later today — because, of course, 2020 would end this way, with a parting shot of awful weather.  I just sent the following message citywide.  Stay safe.

This is the City of New Rochelle.

A major winter storm is heading our way, with heaviest snowfall beginning late this afternoon and continuing into tomorrow. Roads will be extremely unsafe, so avoid unnecessary travel.

Garbage collection is cancelled for both Thursday in the north end and Friday in the south end.

If you lose power, contact Con Edison at 1-800-75-CONED or www.coned.com. Report downed trees and power lines to the New Rochelle Police at 654-2300.

Before the storm, if possible, please park cars off-street to make room for plows. As an option, parking will be free at New Roc City and at the New Rochelle Transit Center, today through Sunday night.

After the storm, please clear sidewalks and fire hydrants adjacent to your property. And, when digging out cars, please do not throw snow back into the street.

DPW will be working continuously through tonight and tomorrow – and, quite possibly, Friday and Saturday as well, but many streets may not be completely cleared for an extended period. Please plan accordingly.

For additional information, visit newrochelleny.com/stormupdates.

This has been Mayor Noam Bramson. Thank you for listening, and stay safe.

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