Several Sussex County commissioners and the county administrator toured the fairgrounds vaccination site on April 1 with U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) and members of her staff.
Commissioners Chris Carney, Sylvia Petillo, and Herbert Yardley joined the tour, which was led by administrator Greg Poff. Also participating were Hopatcong Mayor Michael Francis and Sussex County Fairgrounds manager Michael Richards, who retired in 2019 as Newton’s police chief. Richards and the Farm and Horse Show Association and its directors agreed to open the fairgrounds and worked with the county to facilitate the operations there.
The drive-through site passes through the Richards Building, which is named after Richards’ grandfather. It administered 500 first doses of the Moderna vaccine when it first opened up in January.
New Jersey sends Sussex County 1,000 doses weekly — 500 first doses and 500 second doses. An individual who comes to the site pre-registers for their first dose online. Senior citizens requiring assistance can coordinate registration through Sussex County’s Division of Senior Services. Poff said 200 first doses are reserved every week for seniors.
On the day of their vaccine appointment, a person is checked in at security and medical checkpoints, then ushered into the Richards Building in their vehicle, where they receive an injection while remaining in their vehicle. They are then asked to park in either the 15-minute or 30-minute areas, where they are monitored by teams of emergency medical technicians and other volunteers in case of an adverse reaction.
During the week of March 22, Poff said, the site passed the 10,000 mark in the number of vaccines administered there overall.
Poff said the could will soon receive another 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Two hundred doses have already been administered to homebound seniors and Meals on Wheels recipients. The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more portable than the others, and can be brought to those who have difficulty leaving their homes.
Thanks to workers, volunteers
The visitors thanked employees from the Division of Health, Public Health Nursing, Office of Emergency Management and the Sussex County’s Sheriff’s Office, and volunteers for their work in getting residents vaccinated. Thirty to 40 volunteers a day help out at the site.
“We really are so fortunate with the number of volunteers we have here,” Poff said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”
Yardley, a retired health officer and volunteer at the site, said, “It’s really good when our Congressional representatives take time to review the activities and services the county provides. The staff and volunteers at the vaccination site appreciated her visit. I’m glad that she got to see an outstanding vaccination operation that has received many positive reviews from the county residents.”
It was Petillo’s first time visiting the site. “I understand why this vaccination site has received so many compliments,” Petillo said. “It’s easy to use, safe and well-organized, with fast and efficient service for the residents.”
Sherrill said she was impressed. “When you look at how quickly people are getting vaccinated and March has just ended, it’s very amazing,” she said