By Emily Drooby
On Jan. 12, a steady stream of people headed into a Queens, New York, COVID vaccine hub located at Hillcrest High School. The list of who could get the shot dramatically expanded this week.
People over 65 were added on Tuesday, which bumped the list up to seven million people. That list also includes police officers, firefighters and teachers.
Initially, Catholic school teachers feared they wouldn’t be included. The superintendents of schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York wrote a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Jan. 5, to request they be included.
They were — and many have already taken advantage.
Ashley Lantz showed Currents News the portal she used to sign up for her COVID vaccine. She is a teacher at St. Kevin Catholic Academy. She received her first shot on Monday, and is already signed up for her second.
“I went right online to the vaccine hub, found my appointment and said, ‘You know what, the sooner the better,’” she explained.
For her, the process was easy because she signed up right away. But now that word has spread, and others haven’t been as lucky. She knows teachers who are waiting months for their slot.
New York City has a portal for finding vaccination sites. Just add a zip code and local spots will pop up. The trick? Getting an appointment. Many locations are booked up. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is urging patience as they open up more vaccination sites.
“At the end of the day you only have 300,000 dosages for a population of 7 million on the other side. I said in the State of the State, ‘patience.’ We need patience at an impatient time in history,” he said during his State of the State address.
John Santamaria, a teacher at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Glen Oaks booked an appointment in Queens after hitting a dead end closer to home.
“The sites out in Long Island haven’t really been as friendly as the city ones, so I took what I was able to get, making sure I was able to do it immediately,” he told Currents News.
Now, he’s having trouble booking a Long Island appointment for his mother. He’s not the only one.
“In Long Island, I was not able to find anything,” said Janet Campo, a teacher at St. Kevin Catholic Academy.
She also booked a Queens appointment after running into trouble on the island. She signed her grandparents up too.
However, that doesn’t mean in-person teachers get the vaccine first. Right now, there’s no system in place to make them a priority over teachers who are remote. It’s just the honor system. Many say it’s unfair.
Janet, who is an in-person teacher said, “People who are teaching remotely should not be getting the vaccine before people who are putting their lives on the line every day to come in and teach the kids.”
The strain on that system is only going to get more intense, as New York State will soon add immunocompromised people to the list of those eligible to get the shot, as soon as they get more of a guideline on who is considered to be in that group.
The governor further raised concern that even with all of these people eligible, they’re still only getting 300,000 doses a week from the federal government.
Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for Brooklyn and Queens, has announced that all 69 schools and academies will remain open and continue to provide in-person learning, in spite of the decision made to close New York City public schools indefinitely starting tomorrow.
“I am frustrated that the Mayor’s announcement was made as Catholic schools and academies throughout Brooklyn and Queens were dismissing our students. I want to make it clear to parents, teachers, staff, and students that the Mayor’s announcement only pertains to New York City public schools, and our schools will be open tomorrow. We have worked tirelessly to ensure that our school community remains safe for everyone, and we will continue to ensure strict compliance with all health and safety protocols,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Catholic Schools ~ Office of Support Services.
Catholic schools in the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens have provided safe, five days a week in-person learning since beginning this school year, as scheduled, on September 9. The Superintendent, along with the Superintendent of the Archdiocese of New York, has received confirmation from the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Schools that they will maintain entitled services for Catholic school students, including school nurses, transportation, and food.
Catholic Academies and Parish Schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn have successfully operated for more than two months due to the strict adherence to the important “Core Four” actions to prevent COVID-19 transmission, including maintaining physical distance, wearing a face covering, practicing healthy hand hygiene, and staying home if sick. The schools and academies of the Diocese of Brooklyn continue to work with New York State and City Department of Health officials on a regular basis to maintain the safety of all of our students, faculty, and staff.
For a listing and more information about Catholic Schools in Brooklyn and Queens, please visit catholicschoolsbq.org.