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Onondaga County vaccination website crashes with 767,000 hits for 1,000 appointments

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon with John Marraffa of Kinney Drugs.

The latest sign-up for the coronavirus vaccine forced Onondaga County’s website to crash Thursday.  County Executive Ryan McMahon said there were 767,000 hits on the website in the hour it was processing appointments for 1,000 vaccination appointments. He said the county will work to expand the website’s capacity, so it doesn’t happen again.

“We’ll learn more about it, we’ll be prepared,” McMahon said. “Hopefully, we’ll have more vaccine next week, and we can get the anxiety tempered down a little bit, and we’ll continue to grind this out.”

There are 70,000 county residents over the age of 65 who are eligible to receive the vaccine. About 10,000 have signed up on a waiting list that will randomly assign seniors appointments as the vaccine becomes available.

In regards to Attorney General Letitia James’ report that shows nursing home deaths in New York state are 50% higher than what the state Health Department has reported, McMahon said he isn’t surprised. He has been aware that many nursing home residents have died in hospitals, which is where the disparity in state numbers comes in. He said the bottom line is, nursing home residents are the most at risk from COVID-19.

"The lesson we need to learn from this going forward is we know so much about the virus," McMahon said. "We know who it impacts. We know from hospitalization data who it impacts. We know from loss of life data, who it impacts, and that should be our sole mission in vaccinating.” 

McMahon said he’s advocating the state to allow the county to use more of the vaccine its allotted next week to seniors. Currently, the county must follow state guidelines for who gets the vaccine.

The pandemic is responsible for a significant rise in the number of fatal opioid overdoses in Onondaga County according to officials. Health Commissioner Indu Gupta said there was a 40% increase in the number of overdose deaths through last September compared to the year before. Gupta said pandemic protocols have left many people struggling with drug addiction on their own.

“They feel so isolated and the pandemic has done that to those people who’ve never had those issues," Gupta said. "They feel lonely and isolated. Those who are suffering, they are feeling even worse. So it’s a call for help.”

Gupta also noted a new overdose tracking system has turned up several significant spikes in overdoses in the last two months, many having to do with increased amounts of fentanyl in the drug supply.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.