Westchester County is investigating multiple reports of pharmacies in northern Westchester who have charged recipients for receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
County Executive George Latimer said there have been the allegations revolve around members of the public being charged a $20 out-of-pocket cost for the vaccine. He did not divulge the pharmacy or pharmacies that are the subject of an inquiry.
Latimer stressed there is never any cost for COVID-19 vaccines to anyone regardless of insurance coverage. If a person paid for a vaccine or was asked to pay any amount for a shot without receiving any other service, then that location should be reported to the county Department of Health.
“You don’t get to take this pandemic and try to make money off of it or try to make some other point you want to make,” Latimer said. “We’re here to try and make people feel as comfortable as we can in what is an uncomfortable situation, which is getting vaccinated. It’s not something we do, except that we have to do it and we don’t want any complications along the way.”
If there are any offenders, they would be reported to the state, which has the authority to crack down on the entity, including fines or being cut off from future shipments of doses.
COVID Case Counts Persist
Last week, Westchester health officials stressed the need for the public to continue to take precautions in hopes of warding COVID-19 infections, that have been steady or rising during the past few weeks.
Despite the increasing number of vaccinations across the county, Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler, along with Deputy Commissioner Peter DeLucia, urged residents to wear masks, social distance, wash hands, get tested if feeling symptomatic or believe they’ve been exposed and adhere to public health guidance regarding gathering limits. She also emphasized residents to sign up and receive any of the three available vaccines as soon as possible.
“Where this pandemic goes and what happens in our county is really up to each and every one of us individually,” Amler said. “We all have responsibility for our health and we have responsibility for those around us, those who we care about, those we work with, and so we need to do our part in trying to keep the case count down.”
Latimer reported that as of Sunday the active case count had edged up to 5,944, which has been nearly constant for much of the last month. The active cases, which had been up to more than 11,000 in mid-January, fell steadily for near two months, down to 5,233 cases countywide on Mar. 15.
He said the numbers bear close watching, even as the COVID-19-related hospitalizations remain relatively constant or are slightly dropping and the daily fatality count has dropped into the low single digits. As of last Saturday, COVID hospitalizations dipped to 238.
Last week there were 24 deaths linked to the virus in Westchester.
Latimer suggested that with an increasing percentage of county residents having been fully vaccinated is up to nearly 30 percent, the health consequences of the virus for many have diminished.
“We’ll have to see what that looks like over the next seven days and try to make judgments based on what the numbers tell us,” he said. “There’s always the fear that we’re seeing another reignition of the virus that we have here, and so many of us are at the point of pandemic fatigue, where we don’t want to wear the masks.”
On Sunday, the Mid-Hudson region continued to have the highest positivity rate in the state, at 4.8 percent, edging out Long Island and Western New York at 4.4 percent each and New York City at 4.3 percent. Sunday’s positivity rate was 3.6 percent in Westchester County, 4.8 percent in Putnam and 5.1 percent in Rockland.
Putnam County as of last Friday had 228 active cases and 10 hospitalizations from COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic it has seen 90 residents succumb to the virus.
As of Monday, there have been about 225,000 doses of one of the three vaccines distributed at the County Center, the Yonkers Armory and the two county Health Department clinics in White Plains and at Westchester Community College.
Amler emphasized that gatherings must be limited to 10 people if indoors and 25 people if held exclusively outdoors. Amler urged anyone planning to attend a social gathering to get tested in advance so they are aware of their status.
Also, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, continue to wear masks.
“I’m asking you to please help me, help the county executive, help your neighbors, help your family and to help stop the spread of this disease, that we can get to a point where we can have large gatherings and we don’t have to wear a mask,” Amler said. “That’s the goal we’re all trying to reach.”
For information on eligibility and vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/