‘Don’t sit on the sidelines:’ Camillo urges Greenwich to get COVID-19 vaccine as appointments go unfilled
GREENWICH — The town of Greenwich is putting out a renewed call for all residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as appointments start to go unfilled.
“We have to encourage people not to sit on the sidelines but to go and get their vaccinations so we can arrive at herd immunity,” First Selectman Fred Camillo said Wednesday during his weekly update on the town’s coronavirus response.
Greenwich Hospital President Diane Kelly echoed that message, reminding residents that COVID-19 is still a public health threat.
“The majority of our (COVID-19) patients across the system have not been vaccinated,” Kelly said. “Not getting vaccinated is leading to people being admitted to the hospital. This is something for people to pay attention to.”
Taking a cue from Camillo, Kelly said residents should “not sit on the sidelines but step in and be part of the solution.”
Some parts of the nation are reporting there is more vaccine supply than demand, and Kelly said she is starting to see that in Greenwich, too.
“That’s not terribly surprising because we in Greenwich are doing a pretty good job of getting people vaccinated, and at the same time we’re having more vaccine released,” she said. “It’s not a problem. It’s an opportunity to fix the problem of getting people in to get their vaccines.”
All Connecticut residents age 16 and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
This “breathing room” now offers an opportunity for residents who were waiting for the crush of demand to let up to now search for an open appointment, Kelly said. The entire Yale New Haven Health System, of which Greenwich Hospital is a part, is “actively engaged” in encouraging and educating residents about the importance of vaccines through community outreach.
Camillo said he has talked to some residents who are reluctant to get vaccinated, and he wanted to assure them and others to get the shots.
“I do run into people now and then who won’t get it,” he said. “I’ve also run into people who say they’re probably going to get it but are waiting. I would keep encouraging people to not wait any longer. We’re seeing millions and millions and millions of people have gotten it safely and the risks of not getting it far outweigh the risks of getting it.”
Three vaccine clinics are operating in town. Greenwich Hospital has the biggest at Brunswick School’s King Street campus. Family Centers Inc. also runs a clinic on weekdays at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center and the Town Hall clinic operates three days per week.
Latest COVID numbers
The town has seen 4,936 cases of COVID-19 among residents since the pandemic hit more than a year ago, Camillo said. That is an increase of 119 cases since last week, but that number includes only 116 active cases, which has decreased by 34 since last week, he said.
The number of Greenwich residents who died after contracting COVID-19 remains at 88, where it has been the last two weeks, Camillo said.
At Greenwich Hospital, COVID-19 cases are up, Kelly said. As of Wednesday, 21 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 were hospitalized, up from 13 last week, she said. Of those, six patients are in the hospital’s intensive care unit and five are on ventilators, Kelly said.
There has also been an increase in the number of COVID patients throughout the Yale New Haven Health System, with 210 this week after there were 177 last week, she said.
Despite the increase, Kelly said the patient level has remained in the range of what the hospital has seen in recent months.
“These numbers are staying right around that level between 15 and 20 patients,” she said.
Planning for events
As more residents get vaccinated, Camillo said the town is making plans for the summer. The Fourth of July fireworks in Old Greenwich are tentatively scheduled, and planners hope that in September events such as the Greenwich Town Party, Puttin’ on the Dog and the Concours D’Elegance car show can all take place as public health guidelines allow for larger gatherings.
“We’re telling everyone to plan as if it’s a go,” Camillo said. “We can always dial it back, and we’re going to take a look 45 days out (from an event) and put out a hard yes or no on it 30 days out just like we did last year. We’re in a much better place than we were last year, and we have precautions in place.”
The hospital and the town, like the rest of the nation, is waiting for guidance on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended last week that use of that vaccine be halted after reports that six women had developed serious blood clots after receiving the one-shot vaccine — among the 6.8 million doses administered.
In the meantime, all of the clinics in town are using the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, both of which require two doses. Greenwich Hospital had made specific appointments for residents to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine earlier this month, but Kelly said they have been able to reschedule them.
Greenwich Hospital still has a large supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be good for three months, said Dana Marnane, director of public relations and communications for YNHHS.