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  • Rich Klein


Updated: Mar 12, 2021

(This story was updated at 10:45 pm to include new information)

MONTICELLO - The Covid-19 vaccination shots administered on Friday at Monticello

Raceway's "pop-up" site were organized primarily by Juanita Sarmiento, Sullivan County Coordinator Rural & Migrant Ministry, Inc. , as well as a group of grass roots Sullivan County residents known as The Truth Squad.

Those who received shots, about 210 people in all, included the immigrant workforce (largely Latino) centered around Fallsburg and Liberty, African Americans from Monticello, and elderly residents without access to computers to make appointments online, according to Sandra Oxford, a member of The Truth Squad.

Oxford told The SullivanTimes that all outreach and contact information was collected by the Rural & Migrant Ministry and The Truth Squad. Confirmations of those appointments was conducted by Garnet Health staff. Oxford said all this was accomplished in less than 36 hours, with key roles played by Sarmiento and Truth Squad members Dayna Halprin and Cat Scott.

The pop up site was a project of Governor Cuomo's Vaccine Equity Task Force, according to Resorts World Catskills spokesperson Kimberly Winston of Mercury Public Affairs,

(That firm has close ties to Cuomo through partner Michael McKeon, who served as executive director of Republicans for Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2010).

State Senator Mike Martucci and Town of Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber told The SullivanTimes that they were not made aware of the pop up site beforehand. And most County officials in Sullivan were not made aware in advance, either.

Martucci issued the following statement this afternoon:

"While I am appreciative of the sudden attention paid to Sullivan County to correct inequities in the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, it cannot be overlooked that this administration has continuously failed in its transparency to the public. Since the beginning of the Governor’s botched rollout plan, I have been pushing hard for an increase in supply, greater access across our vulnerable and underserved populations, and more local control of distribution. Let’s be clear: this is a step in the right direction for a county that is all too often overlooked by Albany, but now we need a real, long-term plan — one that involves coordination and communication between public and private health, healthcare providers, pharmacies, community leaders, and all levels of government. I will not rest until Sullivan County is provided with an accessible, transparent rollout of the vaccine.”

Dan Hust, director of communications for the County, said in an email shared with multiple County officials today that: "I believe we were informed by the involved parties with the caveat that we NOT be involved in the communication of this. They were targeting a specific population (immigrant farmworkers, I think) and they had their own method of reaching out and getting it filled up. Not sure how they did that, but my understanding is we were intentionally not involved by the State. "

On December 21, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced the launch of New York's Vaccine Equity Task Force chaired by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial, and Healthfirst President & CEO Pat Wang.

According to the Cuomo Administration website: "The NYS COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Task Force is a dynamic group of community, policy and health experts who will assist the Governor in reducing barriers to vaccination and ensuring an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. The Task Force is made up of persons with expertise in addressing health equity for the purpose of reducing disparities among communities of color related to COVID-19 vaccination promotion, distribution, engagement and administration."


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