Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, is determined to look beyond the rumors and posturing to make sure his department is ready when federal and state governments roll out the first phase of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“There’s a lot of chatter out there … locally, we’ll have our plan ready,” Pettit said on Monday afternoon as he advised the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee of the importance of three resolutions pertaining to the health department’s readiness to administer a vaccine.
The first resolution renews the county’s agreement with Genesee Community College to use the campus – at no charge -- as a Point of Dispensing Clinic during an emergency for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023.
Pettit said GCC (possibly the new athletic facility) is an ideal site for distributing the vaccine, which he said likely will be made available in phases – first to elder care facilities such as nursing homes and then to healthier adults and children.
He mentioned that there could be up to 30 million doses by the end of the year, but didn’t know how many the county would get, speculating maybe 50 to 100 doses of the initial outlay. He noted that as the number of public vaccinations increase, private providers and pharmacies would be enlisted to support the health department’s efforts.
For smaller clinics, Pettit said the county already has the use of the fairgrounds and County Building II.
Pettit also responded to Legislator John Deleo’s comments about New York State wanting to review any federally approved vaccine before allowing it to be dispensed to its residents and about talk that the proposed vaccines are not sufficient for minorities.
That’s when he said he and his staff are focused not on the “chatter” but on making sure they are prepared when the time comes.
A second resolution was an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for the CDC to provide vaccine to the Genesee County Health Department at no cost to the county.
“This is the first step for us to receive the vaccine when it becomes available,” Pettit said, adding that he hasn’t heard of any vaccines that have cleared phase three of their trials yet.
A third resolution was a request to create a full-time COVID-19 Response Specialist, a Civil Service position, effective Nov. 12, 2020. The position would be funded by COVID-19 monies until June 30, 2022, at no cost to the county.
Pettit said coronavirus funding previously created one job and now the department needs this one, borrowing the title from a similar position in Wyoming County.
He said he wasn’t sure of the pay rate, thinking it was around $17 to $18 per hour, and noted that the job is tied to Orleans County and could lead to a full-time position.
Responsibilities of the Response Specialist would be to assist with contact tracing, testing and – eventually – vaccination. Pettit said the county continues to utilize the services of contact tracers employed by the state.
The Human Services Committee approved all three resolutions, which now will be forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday.
In a related development, the committee approved a contract renewal with Mary Younge of Rochester to provide nursing services on an as-needed basis for 2021. Pettit said Younge provided support to the county at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in March, April and May.