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Delray Beach Housing Authority pleads for COVID-19 vaccine for nearly 600 senior residents

Many residents lack internet, transportation
Posted at 10:12 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 07:06:12-05

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Members of a municipal housing authority are asking Palm Beach County's top health official for help in getting nearly 600 residents vaccinated, as many are homebound and without internet access or reliable transportation.

Contact 5 has learned a board member of the Delray Beach Housing Authority contacted Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, asking for assistance, even offering to provide residents information to the department.

For Willie Mathieu, who lives in the development, getting her neighbors and friends vaccinated is a life-or-death issue.

"I tested positive for the coronavirus in July," Mathieu told Contact 5, adding, "[it] all but knocked me down and out."

Mathieu, a 69-year-old great-grandmother, beat the virus, but it took the lives of five of her close friends.

Willie Mathieu speaks to Contact 5
Willie Mathieu, 69, of Delray Beach, speaks with Contact 5.

Mathieu was able to get vaccinated the day after speaking with Contact 5, thanks in part to a relative who helped get her on the county's list. But she's still worried about her neighbors and friends who haven't been inoculated against COVID-19.

"There are so many of them that not able to get out, don't drive, don't have computers, and some of them are just not phone savvy," Mathieu said.

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"When they planned, they didn't take into consideration that not all seniors have computers, or especially a low-income family -- low-income seniors," Shirley Erazo told Contact 5.

Erazo is the president and CEO of the Delray Beach Housing Authority. Her staff is pushing to get easier access to the vaccine for their homebound seniors.

Shirley Erazo, Delray Beach Housing Authority
Shirley Erazo, president and CEO of the Delray Beach Housing Authority, speaks with Contact 5.

"A lot of our residents, they're just not being accounted for," Erazo said.

Erazo told Contact 5 their residents have "been advised to contact Publix. They've been advised to reach out online to make appointments," adding many "do not have computers."

At a news conference Friday touting a new county vaccination site, Contact 5 asked Alonso what the county health department is doing to get vaccines to seniors who are homebound and may lack the resources others have.

"We're going to be working with them as soon as we have more vaccine," Alonso said. "We cannot take on large groups like that until we have vaccine."

Alonso also spoke about the need for a point-of-distribution site.

"That's what we need. We need vaccine for that kind of POD availability," Alonso explained. "That will come in phase two."

Michael Buczyner confronts Dr. Alina Alonso, Feb. 5, 2021
Contact 5 investigator Michael Buczyner speaks with Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, after a news conference, Feb. 5, 2021.

When asked about a timeline, Alonso told Contact 5, "I can't tell you how much distribution we'll have."

Erazo told Contact 5 she has requested a point-of-distribution site for Lake Delray Apartments.

"Our goal is to make it easy for our residents to come and get their vaccines," Erazo explained.

Meanwhile, Erazo and her staff are going online in the hopes of securing appointments for residents.

"It's not fair," Erazo told Contact 5. "It's not fair that our residents are being left behind."

Mathieu hopes her neighbors will get vaccinated soon, as the scars of the pandemic begin to heal.

"It's a waiting game, that's what it is," Mathieu said. "It's a waiting game."

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