Broome Briefing: UK variant found in the county, vaccine doses delayed

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BROOME COUNTY – A busy day of COVID news in Broome County as the U-K variant is identified in a county resident and a shipping delay forces the postponement of vaccination clinics.

County Executive Jason Garnar announced during his weekly coronavirus briefing today that the Wadsworth Lab in Albany had detected the United Kingdom strain in the test of a Broome resident.

Not all tests performed in Broome check for mutant strains.

County officials wouldn’t release additional information about the infected person but did note that given the U-K variant was discovered in the Ithaca area more than a month ago, it’s likely been circulating in our community for some time.

Also today, some residents with vaccine appointments received phone calls from the Broome County Health Department rescheduling their shots.

That’s because the 800 first-shot doses the county was scheduled to receive yesterday did not arrive because of transportation delays blamed on bad weather locally and across the country.

The county scrambled to secure 300 doses from UHS today so that it could vaccinate those with comorbidities who had appointments up until 2:30 today.

The remainder, as well as the essential workers who were scheduled for tomorrow, have been given appointments for next week.

Garnar says despite the setback, Broome is doing well at getting its residents vaccinated.

“We’ve vaccinated about 12% of our residents, I think about 23,000 Broome County residents have been vaccinated. The state average I think is about 8% or 9%. So, we’re running pretty far ahead of the state average. I’m happy about that but of course I want to see that 12% become 100% and that will be totally contingent on what the federal government does,” says Garnar.

Garnar says he believes the county will soon have access to many more doses as the federal government promises to crank out a larger supply.

He says the county’s mass vaccination site at the SUNY Broome Ice Center is prepared to inoculate hundreds of people 5 days a week once it gets enough vaccine.

Meanwhile, Public Health Director Rebecca Kaufman says another avenue of vaccine distribution is about to open up.

“I believe starting next week, you’ll see more doses actually headed to primary care offices. Because it might be easier for them to vaccinate their patients than for some people it’s harder to get to the larger POD sites,” says Kaufman.

The county does have already the 400 doses it needs for the second shot clinic planned at SUNY Broome for Friday.

Garnar says contact tracing is beginning to turn up some new infections related to Super Bowl parties although overall positivity rates, new cases and hospitalizations continue to trend downward.

Also, the last 2 designated COVID hotspots, Willow Point Nursing Home and Idela Senior Living, have both been removed form the list.

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