Heroes honored for COVID help

During the past two-plus years since the coronavirus hit our shores, there have been many people in our midst who have shown themselves to be stellar human beings. Certainly, here in our Harlem Valley community, there are more than a few shinning examples.

Take, for instance, Pine Plains Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Nasir Mahmood and retired registered nurse Kathy Bartles, also of Pine Plains. The pair has worked together since the health crisis began to ensure countless local residents, and even those from farther afield, could be tested and vaccinated to keep our communities as healthy as possible.

Their nonstop work during the pandemic has been so impressive, it even caught the eye of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and the Dutchess County Board of Health (DCBOH).

On Thursday, April 7, the two health care professionals were recognized with the 2022 Public Health Partnership Award.

The DCBOH noted it bestows the coveted annual award during Public Health Week, which runs from April 4 to April 10, to “an individual and/or agency performing essential public health services in recognition for their contributions to the health of the community.”

Certainly that describes the actions of Mahmood and Bartles to a tee; their joint work was done under the moniker of the Pine Plains Pandemic Initiative.

Bartles coordinated efforts on the ground, working with registered nurses in Pine Plains and its environs who volunteered to get people tested and vaccinated.

So, too, did Mahmood, who opened up his pharmacy to those needing both tests and vaccines. With a support network that included Bartles, the DCBOH and the New York State Board of Health, he also tapped state and federal programs to ensure he had access to necessary supplies.

That support allowed him to call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly for updates on vaccine approvals and access, which he said was essential when facing vaccine supply shortages during the early- and mid-stages of the pandemic.

Ultimately, all of their hard work paid off and Mahmood said his small independent pharmacy in our local, rural community was able to get the COVID-19 vaccines more quickly. That enabled the Pine Plains Pandemic Initiative to provide shots to those who opted to get vaccinated.

While some chose to exercise their right not to do so, others who did came from around the Hudson Valley to Pine Plains. Some even traveled from over the border in Connecticut as well as from far away as New Jersey and even Maryland, said Mahmood.

Thanks to Bartles, Mahmood’s son, Rehen, his dedicated pharmacy staff and countless volunteers — including the local nurses who volunteered to administer vaccines — and Mahmood himself, the Pine Plains Pandemic Initiative was able to test and successfully inoculate many residents in the region. In doing so it helped keep COVID numbers relatively low in northeastern Dutchess County, he said.

The DCBOH also recognized a number of others for helping the Pine Plains Pandemic Initiative succeed, including former town Supervisor Darrah Cloud, who was so vital in spreading the word about testing and vaccination clinics in her weekly newsletter emails; the Pine Plains Fire Company, which hosted vaccine clinics at its firehouse; Superintendent of Schools Martin Handler and the Pine Plains Central School District, which hosted and continues to host clinics at Stissing Mountain High School; the Pine Plains Free Library; and all those in the community who have supported and continue to support the initiative.

Mahmood’s pharmacy continues to offer curb side testing and vaccinations by appointment on a regular basis.

For more information, call 518-398-5588 or go to www.pineplainspharmacy.com; the pharmacy is located at 2965 East Church St. (Route 199).

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