CoronavirusCovid-19Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Mass COVID Vaccination Site Opens at Greenbelt Metro Station

Mayor Credits Feds, Not State

It took Mary Robey less than a week to pre-register and schedule an appointment to receive her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at the Greenbelt Metro station.

The 57-year-old New Carrollton resident received wheelchair service because standing in the long line for 15 minutes would weaken her legs.

“My husband and I had COVID in December and we missed his son’s wedding,” said Robey, a retiree who worked 30 years in payroll and human resources at the University of Maryland in College Park. “My mother passed [away] and I wasn’t able to be there with her in the hospital. Getting this vaccine is great. I have tattoos, so needles don’t bother me.”

The vaccination clinic operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) opened Wednesday to administer up to 2,000 shots. Starting Thursday, the site will have the capacity to provide up to 3,000 doses.

A line forms to receive a coronavirus vaccination at the Greenbelt Metro station in Greenbelt, Maryland, on April 7. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
A line forms to receive a coronavirus vaccination at the Greenbelt Metro station in Greenbelt, Maryland, on April 7. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

The FEMA-ran site in Prince George’s County is the first federally-operated one in Maryland.

Prince George’s, which has another mass vaccination site at Six Flags America, continues to lead the state in confirmed coronavirus cases at more than 79,000.

Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd has pleaded at least a month for a FEMA-managed site in the city, especially with more than twice as many white residents vaccinated statewide as Blacks and Latinos combined.

Byrd, 28, spoke for nine minutes during a press conference before the site opened, criticizing state officials for not providing an equitable distribution of the vaccine.

“While people of color in this county and all across the state continue to have a high demand and a high need for the vaccine, the state has chosen on many occasions to scapegoat people as people who simply who do not want the vaccine. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said while standing near Gov. Larry Hogan and Health Secretary Dennis Schrader.

Near the end of his remarks, Hogan whispered to Byrd, who replied, “I’ll wrap it up in a second, Mr. Governor. You’re in my city, good sir.”

When asked by a reporter for his response to Byrd’s remarks, Hogan said, “I don’t have much to say to what the mayor said. I would disagree with every word that he said. The Biden administration twice this week praised us as having the best equity effort in the entire country. We’re 15th in the rate of vaccinations. I think it denigrates the incredible partnership that we’ve had with Prince George’s County.”

Byrd also requested that County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who also stood near Byrd, not reopen schools for teachers and students Thursday until “it’s safe.”

Parents, educators, students and education advocates plan to hold a rally at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday outside Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, calling for all educators to be vaccinated before reopening and continued “flexibility for educators to continue teleworking due to health concerns.”

Demonstrators march along Greenbelt Road near Eleanor Roosevelt High School on April 7 to protest Prince George's County Public Schools restarting in-person instruction the following day. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Demonstrators march along Greenbelt Road near Eleanor Roosevelt High School on April 7 to protest Prince George’s County Public Schools restarting in-person instruction the following day. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Alsobrooks said more than 9,000 employees agreed to receive the vaccine. The school system has about 22,000 workers. Also, each school has new air purification and ventilation systems installed, she said.

“I care about every single member of our school system,” she said. “We know there will still be fears and concerns. We respect that and we will do everything we can to make sure it is safe for our teachers.”

Alsobrooks stressed Wednesday it’s about teamwork and providing solutions.

“We understand we have a pandemic we are working against,” she said. “This is a beautiful example of what collaboration produces. It does not take talent to spot a problem. It takes much more talent and commitment to fix it and we are here today to fix it.”

One ongoing problem, however, is pre-registration.

Debra Smith of Gaithersburg pre-registered last month on the state site (https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine). She looked at the local television news and saw residents only had to pre-register and could come to Greenbelt and get vaccinated.

However, people 16 and older must pre-register first and then will receive a phone call to schedule an appointment.

“I actually pre-registered five times on the same site,” she said. “I’m about to travel outside the country to Puerto Rico on Monday, so I can at least get that first dose. I’ve been trying.”

Demonstrators hold signs along Greenbelt Road near Eleanor Roosevelt High School on April 7 to protest Prince George's County Public Schools restarting in-person instruction the following day. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Demonstrators hold signs along Greenbelt Road near Eleanor Roosevelt High School on April 7 to protest Prince George’s County Public Schools restarting in-person instruction the following day. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Fortunately, Smith and her husband, Larry, can travel to a mass vaccination site in Washington County’s Hagerstown that accepts residents without an appointment.

“I have family up there, so I’m going to call before we go to see if [the site] is still accepting walk-ins,” Larry Smith said.

Hogan said walk-ins are still permitted, but suggested that residents still pre-register and schedule an appointment.

Those with limited or no internet access can call 1-855-634-6892.

As of Wednesday, the state health department reported 1,471 confirmed coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, increasing the statewide total to 420,526. Eleven people died from the virus in that period.

About 1,200 people in the state who have contracted COVID-19 are currently hospitalized, the highest daily figure since Feb. 13.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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