What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York now has 15 lab-confirmed cases of the UK variant; two of those are in the city (Manhattan, Queens). Both NYC cases were diagnosed in December; 1 had UK travel history
- The concern is that higher infection rates from more transmissible strains could overwhelm the hospital system; NY hospitalizations are on the verge of topping 9,000 for the 1st time since May 5
- At the same time, eligibility has expanded to those 65+; Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will run out of vaccine doses at some point next week without a “major” resupply above what it expects delivered
The discovery of a second UK strain cluster in New York, this time on Long Island, is fueling ever-heightened urgency around the state’s vaccination rollout, while the city is poised to top half a million confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday.
The actual number of people infected in the five boroughs since the pandemic began could be up to 10 times higher, officials admit, given testing constraints early on. New York City accounts for nearly half the state’s total cases.
The numbers have risen dramatically amid the latest holiday surge. According to New York Times data, the city’s case average this past week is 44 percent higher than the average two weeks ago, while deaths are up 23 percent in that time.
Officials do not know how much vaccine will be available, which makes long term planning very difficult. With the clearance of more individuals eligible to take the vaccine, there’s much more to administrate. Reporter Greg Cergol provides more detail.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly described the more contagious UK variant, among other strains, as the “X” factor in the current phase of the state’s COVID battle, one that could push hospitals to the brink because of the higher rate of transmission. More cases lead to more hospitalizations by default.
That’s been the overall trend in recent weeks, with the state’s hospitalization total climbing near 9,000 for the first time since May 5, though the rolling seven-day positivity rate appears to be leveling off. Of all the state’s regions, Long Island has the highest rolling positivity rate (8.9 percent) behind only Mohawk Valley (9.2 percent), which only tests about 12 percent the daily number Long Island does.
It’s not clear if Cuomo believes the second UK strain cluster could be fueling that higher positivity rate on Long Island. He announced the discovery of that second cluster Wednesday, as he reported the state had identified another three cases of the UK variant. That brings the total number of locally detected cases to 15.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here’s the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
Four of the cases in Saratoga County and two in Warren County are linked to the initial cluster, which traced back to a Saratoga Springs jewelry store. That first case was a man in his 60s with no recent travel history. The state is looking into whether another three Warren County cases may be connected to that cluster.
The new cluster on Long Island includes two cases in Suffolk County and two cases in Nassau County, as well as one in Queens, Cuomo said. In addition, there is a single case in Manhattan that appears not to be linked to either cluster.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said both the New York City cases were diagnosed as coronavirus in late December; labs later confirmed the UK variant. One of the city cases involved a person who had recently traveled to the UK, he said, though he didn’t say if it was the Long Island cluster-linked case or the Manhattan one.
The discovery led the mayor to call again on the feds to immediately halt all flights from the UK to New York City; he argued the new CDC testing requirement for inbound international travelers falls short of what’s needed to curb the spread. That new rule, which requires travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID test within three days of departure to the U.S., doesn’t take effect until Jan. 26.
Starting Jan. 26, international travelers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the U.S.
In the meantime, the race to vaccinate charges on. As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, New York state had administered 732,066 vaccine doses, Cuomo said, an increase of 67,000 shots within 24 hours but only about 41 percent of the total number of vaccine doses the CDC says have been delivered to the state to date.
New York City has administered 793,675 doses thus far, nearly 30,000 of those second shots. That’s only about 34 percent of the total doses delivered to date. After a slow initial rollout in mid-December, though, data shows daily dose administration is gaining momentum. The city continues to open new 24/7 mass vaccination sites and now has at least one in all five boroughs.
It plans to hit 250 access points by the end of January on its mission to dose at least 1 million New Yorkers by month’s end. A new 24/7 mega vaccination site will open Jan. 25 at Citi Field with the ability to vaccinate up to 7,000 people a day, while de Blasio says plans are in the works with the Yankees to use their stadium.
Statewide, Cuomo says the distribution network will include about 4,000 vaccine sites. Three state-run sites opened Wednesday at Manhattan’s Javits Center, the Westchester County Center in White Plains and Syracuse’s New York State Fair Expo Center. Another opens Thursday in Nassau County’s Jones Beach and one at SUNY Albany comes online Saturday. More are expected in the coming days.
As of Thursday, about 7 million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the vaccine. That includes healthcare workers and high-risk hospital workers, people ages 65 and older, first responders, NYPD personnel, public transit and safety workers, educators and a litany of other populations. About 5 million of that 7 million total have earned eligibility in just the last three days, based on new federal guidance.
When Could I Get the Vaccine?
Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county’s and state’s vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
As much as de Blasio has pushed for that expansion, he admits he has concerns about whether the vaccine supply can meet the demand. He said Wednesday the city would run out of doses at some point next week without a “major” infusion.
Cuomo had hesitated to open up eligibility to millions so early in the process, saying he worried the increase in numbers would muddy the prioritization of health and hospital staff, whom he says are needed to sustain the front lines.
The state’s weekly vaccine allocation hasn’t changed with the increase in eligibility either, which the governor says is highly problematic. New York state only gets 300,000 doses a week. At that rate, it would take half a year just to vaccinate the people who are currently eligible, Cuomo said. Even now, it could take up to three and a half months to get a vaccination appointment.
To buttress supply, de Blasio has asked the feds to release the second doses reserved for New York City, which President-elect Joe Biden has supported.
“Holding back vaccine when we have tens of thousands of New Yorkers ready to be vaccinated right now makes no sense at all,” de Blasio said.
Not sure how the process works? Check here for a list of vaccine sites in the tri-state area and details on how to register if you’re eligible for shots
New York City Vaccine Providers
Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.