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Dr. Fauci answers Newsday readers' questions

Fauci: Next 2 weeks will be key in vaccine rollout

Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the nation is off to a "slow start" in vaccinations, and "we need to do better at every level," referring to the federal government as well as states and local municipalities.

He discussed this and answered questions during a Newsday Live webinar Monday with Newsday anchor Faith Jessie and editorial board member Randi Marshall.

While the federal government had the ambitious goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, distribution and administration of a vaccine has been plagued with delays. In New York, some health care workers started receiving their second dose on Monday.

Launching the vaccine program in the middle of the holiday season added to growing pains associated with the rollout, Fauci said.

"We should wait until the first and second week in January to see if we can really catch up," Fauci said.

Fauci also said the general public could have access to the COVID-19 vaccines as soon as April if the rollout speeds up in the coming weeks.

Watch the full virtual discussion.

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The number of new positives reported today: 1,273 in Nassau, 1,554 in Suffolk, 4,863 in New York City and 12,666 statewide.

The map below shows the concentration of cases on Long Island.

Search that map, and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Plus: If you’ve tested positive for the virus, recovered and feel ready to end your quarantine, how do you know it’s safe? Find answers to this question and more in our latest FAQ.

Cuomo: More than 3,700 providers to give vaccines in NY

New York State is receiving only 300,000 doses of the vaccine a week from the federal government and has been able to vaccinate less than half the 2.1 million health care workers in the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday as he announced stepped-up efforts to expand the vaccine distribution network.

The more than 3,700 establishments that will start administering the vaccine can only do so initially for health care workers — and it may be weeks before there will be enough doses to go around for other population groups.

Cuomo pleaded with the federal government to speed up deliveries, either with more doses from Pfizer or Moderna, or by approving other vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson or Oxford-AstraZeneca.

At the current pace, he said it will take weeks to get to the next group of people eligible for the vaccine: 2.5 million essential workers and anyone over 75 years of age.

"We hope, pray and expect the supply from the federal government will be increasing, but we need it to increase," Cuomo said.

Retired nurses return to administer vaccines

When NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island emailed retired nurse Diane Bendelier to ask if she would consider returning to help administer vaccines, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.

"I wrote back immediately to say I’ll be there," Bendelier said. "How could you not?"

Bendelier is one of five nurses at the Mineola hospital who have come out of retirement to help with the massive task of vaccinating millions of New Yorkers over the coming months. Seven retired nurses are now administering vaccines at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.

They were asked to help because "we’re suddenly doing something we weren’t doing previously," said Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at South Nassau. "In this era, it’s not like you have a ton of staff available to do all the work that needs to be done. We want to make sure we can do all the vaccinating we have to and at the same time not take away from patient care."

Lower-risk high school winter sports start practice

Gymnasiums, tracks and pools at public high schools across Long Island awakened on Monday after nearly 10 months.

It was the first permitted day of practice for winter sports deemed by the state as low- or moderate-risk — girls gymnastics, boys swimming, indoor track and field, fencing and bowling — and the start of a most-unusual 2020-21 sports calendar in Nassau and Suffolk.

There are no practices yet for boys and girls basketball, wrestling or competitive cheerleading, all deemed high-risk sports. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has postponed the start of high-risk sports indefinitely; they will begin after the governor declares them safe and issues guidance on execution.

"I’m just really glad we’re getting back to some sort of normalcy for the kids," Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said. "This is a great first step and I think we’re all looking forward to the beginning of competition."

More to know

Nassau University Medical Center was called out by Cuomo on Monday for failing to quickly administer the vaccines it received, though hospital officials said their record is better than what the governor said.

England is entering a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks as authorities struggle to stem a surge that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in the U.K.

The maker of Gold's horseradish and Fox's U-Bet syrups plans to close its Hempstead plant and lay off 48 employees, according to a state filing, with officials citing the pandemic.

Municipal golf courses saw a spike in revenue and play in 2020, providing a respite for players and a revenue bump for local government.

Nassau County published its property assessment roll for the 2022-23 tax year, freezing values in an effort to prevent sharp swings in assessments caused by surging home sales during the pandemic.

News for you

Playtime for kids goes socially distant. Some children's activity spaces have pivoted to offering private playdates instead of open play sessions for safer play in the pandemic. We have a list of Long Island venues offering private playdate sessions.

Haven't gotten your stimulus yet? The IRS says don't call — and don't call your bank. If you're worried and waiting for your money, your best bet is to visit IRS.gov.

A Bay Street Theater zoom class. Tony Award winner Ben Vereen will teach an acting class via Zoom on Mondays from Jan. 25 through March 15 for Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Students who register will learn techniques in musical theater and interpret songs and monologues.

Plus, a reminder: Local health experts will discuss fighting a second wave of COVID-19 during a Newsday Live event on Thursday. Register here.

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Commentary

When can seniors like me get the vaccine? Melanie Weiss, of South Huntington, writes in a letter to Newsday Opinion: I am a disabled senior citizen. Since February, I have hardly left my house. I thought that people like me would be higher in the vaccine priority than we are — but our priority level seems to sink day by day.

I understand the need to open the economy. However, I don’t think Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo really understands that people like me are part of the economy. We eat in restaurants, we shop in supermarkets, we buy merchandise, we go to movies and ballgames and concerts — in other words, we participate. Without the vaccine, however, we can’t participate without risking our lives. I find it ironic that if I had a disability and were in a residential facility, I could be vaccinated, but as a woman living in her own home, I can’t (yet).

Yes, frail seniors and others in facilities should be prioritized — absolutely. First responders and medical personnel — of course. But why does that mean that people like me fall through the cracks?

Read more letters from Newsday readers.

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