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Bad case of congestion

Traffic snarls made for long waits

Paul Hogan, 81, of Niles, was one of hundreds receiving their COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. A team of volunteers and nurses with the Trumbull County Combined Health District and the Medical Reserve Corps administered more than 600 vaccinations Wednesday and plan to vaccinate just as many today.

BAZETTA — Hundreds of people lined up Wednesday morning at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of them did not leave happy after waiting for hours in long lines.

Among those in line was 82-year-old Sue Sperling of Howland, who said her reason for getting the vaccine is personal.

“We want to end this thing so we can go back to some kind of normalcy in our lives. I’d like to hug my grandchildren and my children. I haven’t been able to do that since March of last year. As a widow alone, that’s really depressing,” Sperling said.

“I want this to be over and I know we’re doing everything we can and I hope this works,” she said.

The Trumbull County Combined Health District was able to provide nearly 650 shots to people 80 and older but was prepared to give more if necessary.

“Some people may have gotten confused or are supposed to come tomorrow but came today, so we’re prepared to give out 600,” said Sandy Swann, the health district’s director of nursing, who said the district had planned on administering 550 shots Wednesday.

The health district had 1,100 doses available. Officials said more than 1,100 people registered to receive the vaccine during the two-day clinic.

PROBLEMS

The process was not all smooth. Donna and Walter Bobeck of Girard said they had an appointment between 11 a.m. and noon and were still waiting in their car in line after 3 p.m.

“We were, like, being herded around and following other cars like we were sheep. We couldn’t figure out why it is taking so long. My husband is 86. There are many older people here in their cars still waiting,” Donna Bobeck said.

Looking at the line of vehicles ahead of her, she said there were 70 to 100.

“There are cars going in and out but only a few at a time. We have no problem having to wait and understand that; I just wish someone would let us know why it is taking so long,” Donna Bobeck said.

The Bobecks said they arrived early, before 11 a.m., and had no problem getting inside the fairgrounds, but said the cars were being routed in different directions.

John Baciu of Warren said he and his 99-year-old mother, Anna Baciu of Warren, waited more than five hours for her to get her vaccine.

“We are scheduled to come back on Feb. 10, so we hope that the situation is not like it was today. I can’t tell you how glad I am to get her home,” John Baciu said.

Baciu said he went through a tank of gas to keep the car warm during the wait.

County Health Commissioner Frank Migliozzi said the first day did at times “become challenging.” More than 100 people who were not scheduled Wednesday or who did not have an appointment at all showed up, which created issues with traffic congestion.

Even turning away people without appointments caused traffic flow problems.

“We have not done a drive-thru clinic there before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. We are committed to continuing today for those who have appointments,” Migliozzi said Wednesday night.

Some cars were backed up on the road so sheriff’s deputies arranged cars within the fairgrounds. Baciu said the sheriff’s department did what it could to get all vehicles off Hoagland Blackstub Road, which created traffic issues at the fairgrounds.

“It was snaked out all over the fairgrounds (so) that you could not tell how many cars were there. I did see some cars leave, but they had trouble getting out,” he said.

Baciu said there was a location for restrooms but he said with it being snowy and icy outside he was worried about getting his mother out of the car and losing his space in line.

Migliozzi said plans are to get portable toilets spaced throughout the fairgrounds today for people who need to use restrooms while waiting.

VOLUNTEERS

Sperling said she was impressed by how easy the registration process was.

“I called the number they gave, got a call back, made my appointment and here I am,” she said.

Starting at 9 a.m., the health department and many volunteers were prepared to distribute the vaccine. The plan was for cars to pull in two at a time to the old Bazetta fire station, and for individuals getting the shot to remain in their vehicles.

Swann said about 13 nurses and more than 30 people in total helped to make the process as easy as possible.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers. We’re so thankful for them,” Swann said.

Migliozzi said he commends the staff who worked very hard, with the event lasting into the evening.

Many of the people from the first wave expressed their gratitude for being able to get the shot and a common theme among many is that getting the vaccine is the right thing to do.

Paul Hogan, 81, from Niles, said his motive for getting the shot was to protect himself from the virus.

Another couple, Gary and Donna Rodgers, 81 and 79 respectively, from McDonald, shared the sentiment. Gary said the reason he wanted to get it was because he “didn’t want to die.”

LOGISTICS

Vehicles entered through Gate A at the fairgrounds, snaked their way through the site and eventually came to the fire station.

Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe said the logistics of traffic flow will be retooled prior to the second round of vaccinations today.

“We’re trying to keep the roads clear and keep traffic flowing,” Monroe said.

He explained that as people kept coming, the need to serpentine traffic throughout the fairgrounds grew.

“We want to get the cars on the property to create no hazards for the public,” Monroe said.

Essentially, the change from Wednesday to today is that the traffic pattern will be more winding within the fairgrounds to allow more cars to be on the property.

For the vaccinations themselves, Swann said everything was going well.

“It’s our first drive-thru for the vaccine,” she said. “We’re going to look at the things that went well, the things that didn’t and try to correct it.”

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