Azaz Ahsan and his dad got to Citi Field at 10 p.m. Wednesday for their scheduled COVID vaccine appointment an hour later. By the time they left, it was nearly 3 a.m. Thursday.
After a three-hour wait in the cold, Ahsan, 28, said he and his 65-year-old father entered the warm stadium just before 1 a.m. About 150 people were waiting on line in front of them, while hundreds more queued up in the cold outside the stadium gates, he said.
“Not opening up more of the stadium so the line can be inside is a disgrace,” Azaz said around midnight.
Joanne Kostopoulos, a 48-year-old teacher from Oakland Gardens, said she decided to leave after waiting close to two hours past her scheduled 9:45 p.m. appointment. She had to be up in the morning to teach class and was told the wait would take at least two more hours, she said.
“[I] decided to leave because I wasn’t prepared to stand in the cold,” Kostopoulos said. “When I found out that I had to wait for one or two more hours before I made it inside I knew I had to leave because between work in the morning and the cold it just wouldn’t be feasible.”
Hundreds of Queens residents spent hours Wednesday night and well into Thursday morning waiting for their scheduled appointments at the 24-hour Citi Field vaccine site. Similar lines formed at another vaccine hub in the Bathgate section of the Bronx.
Once inside, the Citi Field vaccine recipients encountered an understaffed clinic with too few medical workers administering shots, six people told the Eagle. Several others posted photos and accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Ahsan said that of the 50 vaccine desks inside, “maybe 15 had nurses at them.” Vaccine recipients also had to fill out the same form twice even if they pre-registered online, he said.
Kambri Crews, who owns Q.E.D. in Astoria, said she waited from about 7:20 p.m. until receiving her shot at midnight. She had an appointment for 8 p.m.
“The nurse who gave me my shot said they didn’t have enough nurses,” she said. “The doctor across from her said he had been there since 7:30 a.m.”
Steven Baker, a 32-year-old human resources professional, shared photos from inside the Citi Field clinic.
“Empty registration and vaccine administration pods,” Baker said. “They're not fully staffed up.”
Ahsan, Baker, Crews and others interviewed by the Eagle said staff were professional and as helpful as possible, but under strain from the volume of patients.
They said workers from the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation told them the delays were due to a surge in rescheduled appointments without the necessary staff increase. Baker said his appointment was postponed due to a supply shortage last week and rescheduled for Wednesday.