Queens becomes first county in New York to have 2 million residents receive COVID-19 vaccine

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons/slgckgc

As the city continues to encourage New Yorkers to get tested, vaccinated and boosted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Queens on Jan. 8 became the first county in New York state to have 2 million residents receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the city’s Health Department.

It’s a milestone for the “World’s Borough,” which was once the original “epicenter of the epicenter” of the greatest public health crisis in our lifetime, according to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“Queens has proven again and again, culminating with today’s incredible milestone, no borough has shown more strength, resilience and resolve in our collective comeback than our own,” Richards said. “The pandemic is not over yet, as we’ve learned with the recent surge in cases brought on by the omicron variant, and neither is our fight against it. To all our neighbors who continue to roll up their sleeves to get both vaccinated and boosted and to all our healthcare workers who continue to serve their communities with unparalleled heroism, thank you for stepping up on behalf of our shared borough.”

In April 2021, Queens became the first county in New York state to have 1 million residents receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Jan. 11, 89% of all Queens residents, regardless of age, have received at least one dose — 7 percentage points higher than the city average. 

In terms of percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated, Queens leads the five boroughs at 80%. For children ages 5 to 17 in Queens, 66% have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 51% are fully vaccinated — nearly 10 points higher than the city average for both criteria. 

During the Queens Borough Board meeting held on Monday, Jan. 10, NYC Test & Trace Corps and the city Health Department reported a 960% increase in COVID cases between November 2021 and December 2021. 

“We’ve pulled all of the levers we’ve had to put testing in as many places as possible,” said Laura Atlas, director of External Affairs at NYC Test & Trace Corps. 

According to the city Health Department’s data for Queens, there have been immense rates of transmission, with the latest seven-day cases at 10,000 per day. 

Chelsea Cipriano, executive director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the city Health Department, said their number one tool in the fight against COVID-19 is getting people vaccinated. 

“If you’re fully vaccinated, your job is not done. Now is the time to get a booster shot,” Cipriano said. “The vaccine works. Yes, there are cases among those that are vaccinated, but it is by and large among those that are not vaccinated.” 

Cipriano and Atlas reiterated that it’s important for people to get tested before they travel and gather with friends and family. According to Atlas, NYC Test & Trace Corps have been adding new vendors, partners and locations — brick-and-mortar, mobile units and tent teams — for vaccination sites in Queens. 

There are CDC units in the borough and a state mass testing site at York College in Jamaica. Additionally, there are tent teams providing relief at emergency rooms in hospitals to get people tested. 

When asked by the borough president how they are targeting communities with higher rates of transmission, Atlas said they are maintaining an extensive presence with brick-and-mortar and mobile units in those communities and are relying on people to inform them of the places residents would go to for testing. 

COVID-19 testing is also provided at multiple sites at JFK airport, according to Atlas, and at LaGuardia Airport to service residents in East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. 

“Those folks who are going to LaGuardia instead of Elmhurst Hospital have other alternatives. We also opened a testing site at Newtown High School,” Atlas said. 

Atlas says they’re also distributing rapid at-home testing kits to hospital emergency rooms and public schools. 

According to Richards, testing and vaccination sites have been expanded in College Point and Forest Hills. A testing unit is also open at the Ridgewood Clinic providing PCR and antigen COVID-19 testing. 

The borough president noted that they’re working on expanding testing sites into other areas across the borough. In Far Rockaway, the percentage of vaccinated residents increased from 32% last summer to 60%, according to Richards.

Richards said they will continue to work with the city Department of Health and the state to continue providing resources and information to the Queens community.