Holy trinity

Holy Trinity School and NSHS to serve as vaccination sites | New

As Rhode Island continues its COVID-19 vaccination efforts at nursing homes and regional distribution sites, local city leaders prepare for the inevitable arrival of vaccines closer to home.

Last week, Fire Chief Paul Shatraw and EMA Director Timothy Walsh from Woonsocket visited several sites in the city as possible local distribution points. The goal, said Shatraw, is to be ready to distribute the vaccine to the community once it becomes available to a larger group of people.

“We are working on the logistics right now, but we will certainly be ready when the time comes for us to bring it back to the municipalities,” he said.

Although the tour included several sites from the Woonsocket education department, including Hamlet Middle School and Woonsocket High School, Shatraw told The Breeze last Friday that they likely settled at the former Monsignor Gadoury school in the Holy Trinity Parish. Unlike city-owned sites, the old school is currently vacant, allowing site workers to distribute the vaccine at any time of the day without worrying about interaction with students.

“He sort of ticked all the boxes, so to speak, with regard to parking, location and accessibility,” he said.

Reverend Daniel Sweet, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, said the building had already served as a COVID-19 testing site on the past two Wednesdays thanks to clinics held in conjunction with the National Guard. Sweet said he has seen the “crippling” effects of the pandemic on his parishioners, especially older parishioners living with anxiety.

“I am very happy to be able to be part of the offering to people whose lives have been truly affected by anxiety,” he said.

While immunization efforts are currently concentrated in health facilities and regional distribution points across the state, local officials predict that municipal sites will play a larger role as more vaccines are distributed in communities. These sites, Shatraw said, are expected to work alongside efforts at drugstores, including Walgreens and CVS.

“It will definitely be a full community effort once we get to the local level,” he said. “It will be the participation of the police, firefighters, municipal employees and school employees. “

Shatraw said it was too early to say when the city will open its municipal vaccination site or who will be the first on the list to receive one, most of the information coming from the Rhode Island Department of Health. According to state publications, the second phase of vaccine distribution will include K-12 teachers and school staff, as well as essential workers in high-risk environments, people with co-morbidities, people staying in shelters for the homeless and the elderly.

In North Smithfield, the North Smithfield Emergency Management Agency has issued a call for volunteers as they prepare to open their own distribution site at North Smithfield High School. Col. Peter Branconnier, director of the city’s EMA, said initial efforts would most likely focus on school staff, including bus drivers, bus monitors and supervisory staff.

“It’s a citywide effort now. Everyone works in groups. We started to meet last week and organize the preliminaries, ”he said.

On Monday, Branconnier said he had already received calls from 22 volunteers interested in working on the vaccination site. Although many of them are retired or current medical staff, Branconnier said the city accepts help from anyone willing to volunteer. Those who volunteer, he said, will be eligible to receive their vaccines before they start working at the site.

Right now, he and his wife are volunteering at the Smithfield regional distribution site, where northern Rhode Island first responders have received their shots in recent weeks. Branconnier said distribution efforts build on years of exercises preparing for this type of scenario.

“That’s why we practice. We have done an exercise every year since 2010, ”he said. “This particular event has not occurred to anyone, but we are ready for it.”

Preparations come as many residents are eager to move on to the next round of vaccine distribution. Robert Stewart, president of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild, said many teachers fear for their safety and are eager to return to normal life.

“It’s just torture. Everyone wants there to be over 14,000 vaccines per week. People are ready now, ”he said, citing the number of doses of vaccine RIDOH officials say the state receives each week.

Stewart said last week’s return to face-to-face learning for Woonsocket K-8 students drew mixed reactions from teachers, some of whom remain nervous about their risk of exposure. . Woonsocket education officials are currently planning to bring 9th graders back into the building on a hybrid schedule on January 26 and students in grades 10-12 on February 2.

“The numbers are so high that our teachers are coming back, but they are afraid,” said Roxane Cary, vice president of WTG.

Woonsocket education department staff should play a role in the distribution efforts. WED COO Alfred Notarianni, who participated in the site visits last week, said the department had set aside 50 laptops for the vaccination site and informed facility staff and the technology that they should provide support.

“The only concern was whether they had the opportunity to get the vaccine before working in one of them,” he said.

While preparations are underway, local stakeholders do not yet know when the community-based distribution sites will open. RIDOH has repeatedly said that limited supply is slowing vaccination efforts in Rhode Island and phase two will most likely begin in late March or April.