BERKELEY – The Township Council urged the state to allow vaccination clinics to be held at senior communities, one of the populations that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.
Vaccination clinics for the flu have been done in the senior clubhouses in the past. Now that coronavirus vaccines are becoming available, these clubhouses would be good places for vaccination sites, township officials said.
The Ocean County Health Department has one clinic at Toms River High School North and one at Southern Regional High School, but none in the middle of the county yet, Mayor Carmen Amato said. The county had put out a survey, and local senior communities expressed interest in hosting the clinics. He also offered the recreation building on Route 9 as a location.
The need is dire. He said that in December, Berkeley had about 1,900 total positive cases. This number doesn’t mean that there were 1,900 at one time. It means that since the beginning of the pandemic, 1,900 people in Berkeley tested positive at some point. Of these, 122 succumbed.
During the January 26, 2021 Township Council meeting, Amato said that number had climbed to 2,773 positive cases and 181 deaths.
He said that part of the increase in positives has come from an increase in testing.
By way of perspective, there are about 43,000 residents in Berkeley.
“I know everyone’s frustrated that the roll-out (of the vaccine) has been slow,” he said. “Please be cautious, wear your masks” and be safe.
There are more than 18,000 seniors living in Berkeley, and not just in the senior communities, Amato said.
“My office has been inundated with phone calls” from people who are not able to get the vaccine just yet.
The state has prioritized vaccine roll-out toward people who are the most likely to get the virus and to have a serious case. Therefore, the first group to be vaccinated were health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Those people are designated Phase 1A, which started the process on December 15.
Gov. Phil Murphy also opened it up to police and firefighters on January 7. Then, on January 14, Murphy announced on social media that residents ages 65 and older and anyone between the ages of 16-64 can sign up as long as they meet the medical conditions defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The governor has been criticized for allowing more people to access the vaccine than there are vaccines. This has led to a mad rush of people trying to sign up and being frustrated for not making the cut.
Additionally, Amato said he has heard from two World War II veterans who don’t have computers and therefore can’t sign up for a spot, since the process is online.
Those folks are urged to call the state call center at 855-568-0545. However, since it’s busy during the day, he recommended they call from 6-8 p.m. (It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Councilwoman Sophia Gingrich said that she recently learned that the Ocean County Health Department will have two mobile units for vaccinations but their schedule is not yet known. She said she township officials will get the word out if they come to Berkeley.