First Lady Chirlane McCray Tells Canarsie Vaccine Site Workers: “You are Loved”

Chirlane McCray, center left, visits a Canarsie vaccination site. Around her, from left to right, are Department of Health First Deputy Commissioner Torian Easterling; site administrator Joanne Yarde; administration manager Kizzi Belford; and operations manager Ed Bobb (Image: Lloyd Mitchell/Canarsie Courier/Pool)

New York first lady Chirlane McCray stopped by a Canarsie vaccination site Friday morning to deliver a message to workers there: “You’re needed, you’re necessary and you are loved.”

McCray visited the site, at Canarsie High School in East Brooklyn for a brief tour and to greet the approximately 30 vaccination staff, many of them school nurses, working there. 

“I just want to thank you for the work you are doing here today and every day that you are here,” McCray said as she stood in the school’s cafeteria, where vaccination had temporarily paused for her visit. “It’s so needed, I don’t even need to tell you that. But many of you have gone above and beyond to help out in this effort in this pandemic that’s so brutal to our people.”

The site seemed to be running relatively smoothly on Sunday morning, though about 30 people were forced to wait outside in the winter weather to prevent crowding within the building. When attendees did enter, they checked in with staff in the building lobby before proceeding to the cafeteria to receive a shot and then waiting at least 15 minutes in the auditorium to ensure they did not have an allergic reaction. 

Residents wait outside a vaccination center at Canarsie High School (Image: Lloyd Mitchell/Canarsie Courier/Pool)

Joanne Yarde, the site administrator, said operations were running more smoothly after a rougher start in January. When she was working at another site shortly after MLK weekend, she said “we only had 9 vaccinators and we had over 700 clients scheduled.” She said that at one point, the wait stretched as long as two-and-a-half hours.

Since then,” she said, “we’ve had over 18 vaccinators every day.” She estimated the entire vaccination process takes about 30 minutes for a client, once the staff gets into a rhythm.

Yarde said most of those getting vaccinated are from the area surrounding the school, and that several slots were reserved for community organizations conducting outreach to neighborhood residents.

A quick survey of those waiting on line found a mix of Canarsie residents, some folks from Bedford-Stuyvesant, and one who said she was born and raised in Canarsie but now lives in Manhasset on Long Island. 

The Manhasset resident, Dianna Merenda, 70, was waiting in line for her second shot. She said navigating the registration process required patience—she checked sites at various zip codes until she found one that looked less crowded—but said her experience at the [vaccination] site itself had been “so efficient.”

“The hardest part was finding the bathroom,” she said.

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Billy Richling

Billy Richling

Billy Richling is a staff reporter for Bklyner, covering politics, real estate and everything else. He lives in Flatbush, and previously worked as Constituent & Communications Manager for the Times Square Alliance. Talk to him about baseball, buses and bagels.

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