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A 3-month wait for vaccine appointments

State: Scheduling vaccinations is more than three months out

With the relatively scarce vaccination spots getting scooped up quickly by lucky residents, the next potential appointments available won't come until late-April at this point, the state said in an alert on its website Thursday.

The alert, in all-caps bold type, said "currently appointments have been made for the next 14 weeks," or about three-and-a-half months in advance.

The state is blaming the backlog on limited vaccine supply from the federal government.

"Over 7 million New Yorkers are now eligible for the COVID vaccine but the state only receives 300,000 doses per week from the federal government," the alert said.

The message was posted above a livestreamed video of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s State of the State address on Thursday.

But Republican officials at a news conference Thursday said the rollout was a "failure" and called on Cuomo, a Democrat, to provide more information.

About a dozen state, county and town Republican officials said their offices have been inundated with calls from confused and "distraught" residents seeking vaccine appointments and information. The callers include police chiefs, firefighters and World War II veterans.

The number of new positives reported today: 1,172 in Nassau, 1,587 in Suffolk, 5,359 in New York City and 13,661 statewide.

The map below shows the concentration of new cases in communities across Long Island.

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

Drive-thru vaccination site up and running at Jones Beach

The state's first drive-thru mass COVID-19 vaccination site opened Thursday morning at Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, as dozens of motorists lined up waiting for their opportunity to be inoculated.

State officials anticipated vaccinating 700 people during the site's first day of operations but have the ability to ramp up capacity to 5,000 to 10,000 doses once the federal government increases its vaccine allotment.

"The key is we need vaccines," said Michael Kopy, the state's director of Emergency Management, during a news conference at the site. "Washington has to send the vaccines to New York so we can get New Yorkers vaccinated."

The vaccination center, at Field 3, is operating seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to anyone eligible to receive the vaccine. The facility is staffed by volunteer and contract medical officials and distributes only the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccination process, officials said, takes about 30 minutes and appointments are made on site for the second dose.

Meanwhile, as thousands scrambled to make appointments at state-run sites, they may be able to get shots at pharmacies. Independent pharmacists said as supply becomes available, they’ll accept eligible residents who make appointments on their website or over the phone.

Experts split over timing of 2 vaccine doses' release

Should one dose be held back for every one administered? Or should the nation’s supply all be rushed out now? Experts are split.

Holding back would leave enough shots to complete the two-dose vaccination series, which confers the full, 95% immunity for everyone who also gets the first shot. Releasing the whole supply now would mean more people are vaccinated sooner, but gambling that enough second doses will be available down the road.

"It would be great to release more vaccine, but my hope is that if that plan is adopted, that there is also the assurance that there can also be the focus on the development of more vaccine so that people can, with confidence, be able to receive their second dose," said Dr. David Hirschwerk, an infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health. "If there is some delay in that second dose — be it by days or weeks — that probably is still OK, but if the delay of the second dose occurs much longer than that, there is less certainty, because that strategy hasn’t been studied."

In the clinical trials of the two vaccines in the U.S., the shots were administered weeks apart; efficacy over longer periods wasn't tested, Hirschwerk said. Regarding that longer delay, Hirschwerk warned, "We are in somewhat uncharted territory."

Graduation rates up during pandemic

High school graduation rates for the Class of 2020 rose modestly across the state, aided by exemptions from state exams as a result of the pandemic, state education officials said.

The proportion of eligible students earning diplomas statewide rose to 84.8% — up 1.4 percentage points from 2019, the state reported. That number includes both students who graduated in June and a smaller number who graduated in August.

Education officials cited several contributing factors, including "tireless" efforts by school communities to provide remote learning for thousands as schools closed. Also cited were regulatory changes, including a state decision to exempt students from certain Regents exams, normally required for graduation, so long as students passed their courses.

"During the pandemic, we all have been forced to adjust how we go about our daily lives," said Lester W. Young Jr., the newly named chancellor of the state Board of Regents.

More to know

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran began a 10-day quarantine on Wednesday after being exposed to a person with the virus, administration officials said.

A global team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China on Thursday where the pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins.

The number of people seeking unemployment aid soared last week to 965,000, the most since late August.

The state Senate is set to approve an anti-eviction bill to protect certain commercial tenants and small business owners who fell behind on rent.

Ellen DeGeneres has recovered from COVID-19 and was in the studio for her first show back after announcing on Dec. 10 she had contracted the virus.

New York won’t tax businesses on the forgivable loans they secured to survive the pandemic, an official said.

The annual Kennedy Center Honors will come back in May, possibly in a series of small events, five months after they were postponed because of the virus, organizers said.

Long Island home prices and sales activity soared last month, as low interest rates and high demand for suburban properties drove buyers into intense competition.

News for you

Getting produce delivered to your home. If you're trying to avoid going out in public often (and to eat more vegetables), you might be looking for fresh produce deliveries. Some wholesalers who used to serve only the restaurant market have now pivoted to retail, and new online sources have sprung up.

Virtual concerts for MLK Day. For a soulful music celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Landmark on Main Street-Jeanne Rimsky Theater in Port Washington will present two virtual concerts from the female African-American a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock on Sunday at 3 and 8 p.m.

'Among Us' game connects kids near and far. The game called "Among Us" caught on among tweens and teens during the pandemic and escalated in popularity when kids returned to school in September. It's extra screentime that some parents say they don't mind.

Plus: A free webinar on Friday for local small businesses and nonprofits will focus on recent changes to Paycheck Protection Program loans and how to apply for a second one.

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I got the COVID-19 vaccine, and I feel great. Liz Brockland writes for The Washington Post: As a public health nurse in Chicago, I was one of the first people offered the vaccine. In late December, I eagerly rolled up my sleeve and felt a small prick in my left arm as I got my first dose.

I wasn't anxious in the weeks, days and hours before I arrived at the site to get the vaccine; I felt excited. I knew there might be side effects, which I wasn't looking forward to, but the idea of being fully vaccinated in a few weeks felt worth it. While I knew precautions, such as mask-wearing, would still be necessary post-vaccination, I imagined how strange and new it would feel to go out in public as a vaccinated person. All the situations I had been primed to be on full alert for could feel a little easier.

Then I sat alone on a plastic chair, waiting the recommended 15 minutes to make sure everything was fine.

That was when panic set in. My face felt hot. My heart beat quickly. Were these signs that something was wrong?

The mood in the vaccine clinic buzzed with excited energy. Music echoed off high ceilings, and nurses chatted six feet away from each other, friendly and upbeat. No one seemed worried but me. Keep reading.