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Southwestern Willing To Serve As Vaccination Site

Southwestern Central School officials approved an agreement with the county to serve as a COVID-19 vaccination site if needed. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

The Southwestern Central School Board approved an agreement with Chautauqua County on Tuesday night to serve as a COVID-19 vaccination site if needed.

The contingent agreement with the county comes as educators begin to receive the coronavirus vaccination under the state’s 1b population that began receiving vaccinations earlier this week.

“We are in 1b and not all of 1a has gotten the first dose of the vaccine yet,” the district’s superintendent, Maureen Donahue, said during a board of education meeting. “When they disbursed the vaccine, they would have and open it up and you would have five hours to use those vials you had. If you had 40 appointments and only 35 people show up, you have five vials that are not getting used. Now they opened it up to 1b to utilize a lot of the vaccine.”

Educators in the district have started to receive the vaccine in Olean at the Jamestown Community College Cattaraugus County campus and at Brooks Memorial Hospital.

“Our staff has to have a badge and the whole thing or a letter from me that says that they work here,” Donahue said, also noting to the board members that they are also included in the vaccination population, according to the state.

“You are all included,” she said. “So if something happens, you can sign up as a part of 1b. We would have to give you a letter. We didn’t know that until today. There are a lot of things with this that we didn’t realize until the last minute.”

Donahue also emphasized that the district would work with the county as much as possible to help make a vaccination site possible. All district nurses have received their first dose of the vaccine.

“Our goal would be that they would come up here on-site,” she said. “Our nurses would help. Our nurses are rockstars. There are four million in the 2b group in the state and one million doses. It’s not going to happen as quick as we all would like so we’re all going to be as helpful as we can.”

She added, “As more is allotted from the federal government, all I have told them is that we will do whatever we have to do to do our part. If we have to be a site, we’ll be a site. If we have to help out, we’ll help out. It’s important that this gets done.”

Meanwhile, she noted that district officials have started to prepare a priority list of high-risk individuals who could receive the vaccine.

“We also are working on a list of go-to individuals where if it’s 3:30 and the clinic is open until 4 and they have 10 extra vials and they come here and say, ‘Can you get us 10 people?,’ we are preparing a list to be on call for that,” she said. “I know a superintendent yesterday who got hers because her office was across from a hospital and they called at the last minute. We will have people ready to go in that case.”

“When you think about our community alone and the amount of people who would need to be vaccinated to get us to herd immunity is huge,” she noted. “We have to play a part in this if we can so we’re trying to be helpful and do what we can do to help.”

Board vice president Kurt Gustafson praised Donahue and district staff for their leadership throughout the 2020-21 school year.

“I’m hopeful with this vaccine that we will be able to return to normal at some point in time,” he said. “I know it hasn’t been a picnic for a lot of people, especially families, but people’s lives have been disrupted throughout the whole process, but I think the school environment has been the glue to give these families some semblance of normalcy together and a lot of that is leadership from the top.”

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