POTSDAM, N.Y. — Vetia Searcy may get her vaccine. But she had to go to someplace known as Potsdam, New York, to get it.
Searcy had by no means heard of the place. Scanning by way of New York’s vaccine portal in February, refreshing the web site and hoping to snag an appointment someplace close to her dwelling in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, the title saved developing as the one location with sporadic open slots.
Searcy, who certified for the vaccine on Feb. 15 due to her bronchial asthma, made some calls to see if she can be allowed obtain the shot at the state-run facility at the State University of New York at Potsdam. The reply was sure — so long as she was keen and ready to journey.
For two days, she checked continuously. Finally, an appointment opened up in Potsdam once more.
“I happened to be online when the spot opened up. I didn’t know how many there were, I just kept refreshing and refreshing until I grabbed one,” she mentioned. “I thought it was worth it to drive up. I immediately felt relieved.”
‘I can not consider that is occurring’:Travelers recount tales of getting stuck in Mexico after positive COVID tests
The journey took her greater than eight hours — the primary two spent on digging her ice-encrusted automotive out from underneath the mountain of snow on prime of it and one other six to drive up to Potsdam.
And her vaccine quest got here with a facet profit: It ended up introducing her to New York’s so-called North Country. The snow-covered panorama and quaint small-town attraction got here as a pleasing shock, and she or he now hopes to make a behavior of visiting sooner or later.
“It was fun — it was an adventure for me,” Searcy mentioned on March 11, again on the town on her second journey up to Potsdam for shot No. 2. “I think it’s beautiful up here.”
Searcy is not the one New Yorker touring from one finish of the state to one other to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. Officials for each the village of Potsdam in addition to the faculty have mentioned it isn’t unusual to have out-of-towners making the trek for his or her vaccines, particularly once they cannot get one shut to the place they stay.
Last week, the location hit a significant milestone when it surpassed 50,000 vaccinations. For a city with a year-round inhabitants of about 16,000 individuals, that is important.
And locals say they’re proud to be a part of what everybody hopes is the closing chapter of a grim period in American historical past — serving to to deliver COVID-19 to heel, one shot at a time.
‘All roads do lead to Potsdam’
The village of Potsdam sits on the northwestern tip of New York state, about 20 miles from the Canadian border.
Between the energetic espresso outlets, eating places and shops on the important drag, and an notorious fake-flower backyard sprouting from greater than a dozen bathrooms, there is not any scarcity of character.
Several important thoroughfares minimize by way of Potsdam, and St. Lawrence County encompasses three different schools — Clarkson University, SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University. The city itself has a inhabitants of about 16,000, and that quantity jumps by about 7,400 when the 4 close by schools are in session.
All these elements made Potsdam a great location for a vaccine website. But they’re additionally nice causes for individuals who have by no means skilled the North Country to benefit from the time they spend there, Mayor Reinhold “Ron” Tischler mentioned.
In the previous, when individuals would ask about the place Potsdam is, he’d undergo a tiresome clarification course of: It’s in upstate New York. No, it isn’t close to Syracuse or Albany. Have you heard of Watertown? No? What about Lake Placid? OK, yeah, it is 90 miles north of that.
“I say it’s northern New York, but sometimes we call it southern Canada,” Tischler mentioned. “It’s a place to be proud of.”
He describes Potsdam as a hub from which a number of “spokes” lengthen: They’re an hour from Ottawa, Canada’s capital metropolis; lower than two hours from winter locations like Whiteface Mountain and Titus Mountain; mere miles from the St. Lawrence River and the Bassmaster tournaments it attracts in every summer time.
So for individuals who need to head upstate for the vaccine, there is definitely loads of open slots — and a whole lot of issues to do and see whereas they’re within the space, too.
“It’s true — all roads do lead to Potsdam,” Tischler mentioned. “There’s availability now, even. If people want to travel, you know, a lot of them will.”
‘If we are able to present assist, we are going to’
In mid-January, earlier than different websites popped up round New York, the state contacted SUNY Potsdam and advised establishing a location on campus.
Within two weeks, the huge website was up and working. Located inside Maxcy Hall, Potsdam’s athletic complicated, the location spans the sphere home’s complete 33,000 sq. ft of area. Adjacent to the sphere home, the 43,000-square-foot ice rink is dry, too, as a substitute serving as a makeshift break room for these staffing the vaccine website.
Patients register prematurely and are greeted by bold-letter indicators and National Guardsmen once they arrive. Go right here, sit there, sanitize your palms, have your temperature taken. What’s your title? Your date of beginning? Sign right here, please.
In a given day, someplace between 1,000 to 2,000 individuals will obtain their photographs. Hundreds of individuals preserve issues working in a wide range of capacities, checking sufferers in or pre-filling syringes or sticking needles into arms or providing congratulations as they maintain open the exit door.
So a lot is going on . But that is the strangest half — it’s so quiet inside.
“It has been remarkably smooth,” mentioned Kristin Esterberg, SUNY Potsdam’s president. “Anytime the community needs us, if we can provide help, we will. And we think that’s part of the mission of a public university.”
For her, one of many best perks is listening to the tales of people that’ve made it to Potsdam a method or one other for the vaccine — a historic image of the start of the tip of COVID-19.
Like Will Rose, the 25-year-old from the Upper West Side in New York City who made the trek to Potsdam for his vaccine on March 11. Or Steven Morgan, the 30-year-old firefighter who merely drove throughout city for his on the identical day.
And for Vetia Searcy, who drove from one finish of the state to a spot she’d by no means heard of to obtain a life-changing shot she’ll always remember.
All these individuals — New Yorkers from throughout, in the identical room collectively passing a major milestone with the tip of the pandemic in sight — give her hope.
“I do think this is historic,” Esterberg mentioned. “Our COVID response really does show the importance of the community and the ways in which the community really comes together to try and make sure we all stay healthy, we all stay safe, we’re all looking out for one another. And to do it in this most beautiful setting — it’s really spectacular.”
Follow reporter Georgie Silvarole on Twitter: @gsilvarole