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Vaccine eligibility 'too far, too fast' — but unavoidable

Lawmakers: State can’t go backward on eligibility, should focus on supply

New York keeps expanding its COVID-19 vaccine eligibility list, even though people already on it are having a hard time getting an actual shot.

If you think another round of expansion seems too fast, too soon, some lawmakers would agree. Some say the state has "gone from A to D to C to F to E" when it comes to determining eligibility, and adding to the list exacerbates an already maddening problem of getting a vaccination appointment.

But they also say the state has had to follow zigzagging federal guidelines and expanding lists and can’t go backward on eligibility now. Vaccine supply — 10 million eligible New Yorkers are now eligible — is the most important issue, they say.

"The quick answer is we never should have expanded the list to 65 [years old] and older because of the lack of supply," Assemb. John McDonald (D-Cohoes), a pharmacist, said of one of the decisions that exploded the state’s eligibility list. "But that die was cast" when the Trump administration said states should include that population, he said.

"The reality is people would have been really mad if (New York) didn’t," he said. "We followed the federal government and we went too far too fast, all with the best of intentions."

The state’s online appointment scheduler struggled to keep up with high demand on Sunday, which state officials said was due to the spike in appointment requests that resulted in more than 100,000 appointments booked by noon.

New Yorkers with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 could sign up for vaccinations starting Sunday. See who's on the list.

The chart below shows how many cumulative doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Long Island has received and how many have been administered.

Search a map of new cases and view charts showing the latest data on vaccinations, testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Cuomo: NY left info 'void' that sowed mistrust on nursing home deaths

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said during a livestreamed briefing on Monday that officials, health experts and medical professionals did all they could to prevent spread of the virus that killed many in nursing homes in New York, but an information void about state operations sowed mistrust in the government response.

In his most direct attempt to publicly respond to questions, concerns and accusations about how the state handled the crisis in sending COVID-19 patients back into nursing homes, Cuomo said "lessons must be learned" to implement hospital and nursing home reforms that leave those institutions better prepared to handle health crises.

His comments came after recent revelations that the state withheld information from the state Legislature and the public on nursing home residents deaths, as it faced a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and multiple inquiries on the death toll.

Analysis: State administered record 132,000 vaccine doses in 24 hours

Meanwhile, a Newsday analysis of state data last week found the state administered more than 132,000 vaccine doses in the 24 hours ending at 11 a.m. Friday, which had been more than any other day since vaccinations began.

There were 73,007 first doses and 59,050 second doses that went into New Yorkers' arms, also both records.

Difficulties in getting appointments persist, as does the lack of a centralized, easy-to-access system that could simplify a process that many find confusing and onerous, experts said. But some have said a single registration system could be confusing, with there being more than 1,000 vaccine distribution sites statewide.

Many LI teachers say they're frustrated trying to get appointments

A month after the state allowed teachers to get the vaccine, many Long Island instructors said they're frustrated and scrambling to make appointments amid the chaotic rollout.

They said they're spending hours online — even trying in the middle of the night — and asking their spouses to search for appointments during the day while they teach. Many are filled as soon as they open, said Robert Dillon, Nassau BOCES district superintendent. The Nassau County Health Department recently announced some 2,500 spots for teachers and "they were gone in 20 minutes," he said.

"They're very frustrated — there's no supply," Dillon said. "We have been denied, denied, denied."

A few districts have been able to get ahead of the pack by setting up mass "vaccination days" for their staff. They worked with a hospital group and an urgent care, but those arrangements have all but dried up because of a dearth of vaccine, officials said.

Meanwhile, some districts bring back more in-person learning

Some Long Island school districts are allowing — or plan to allow — certain grade levels to get more days of in-person instruction, and in some cases, all five days of the week.

Districts with limited building space are prioritizing seniors to give them some sense of normalcy before high school ends. Of the 26 districts that responded to a Newsday survey, five districts said they added in-person learning days to their hybrid models or that they planned to do so. Others that didn't respond to the survey also have plans to return more students to in-person learning.

Meanwhile, school buses are filling up again as more kids gradually return for in-person instruction. School bus operators say they’ve seen a steady increase of passengers as infection rates have fallen in recent weeks.

President Joe Biden has made safely reopening all schools one of his goals in the first 100 days of his administration.

More to know

Two LI restaurants — Spiro's Lounge & Restaurant in Rocky Point and Savino's Hideaway in Mount Sinai — had their liquor licenses suspended for COVID-related violations, according to a state report.

Average new daily cases in the U.S. dipped below 100,000 in recent days for the first time in months.

New Zealand's largest city of Auckland went into a three-day lockdown following the discovery of three unexplained virus cases in the community.

News for you

Return to spa treatments with minimal contact. You might be in need of some self-care. Newsday got together a few treatments that offer minimal touch and tried them all. Check out this guide of socially distant treatments to see how it all went and what your options are.

Look forward to a drive-in in Bay Shore. The Movie Lot Drive-In series will open for the season at the Westfield South Shore Mall this spring in Bay Shore. It will take place two weekends a month from April through December. COVID safety protocols will be in place.

Stay safe and order from this takeout-only P.F. Chang's. The chain opened a to-go-only location in Plainview with a slightly smaller menu. You have to order online or via the P.F. Chang’s app, and it’s pickup only. Delivery will likely be added at a later date.

Next on Newsday Live. Join us at noon on Tuesday for a virtual discussion on businesses and COVID-19. Experts will talk about tips on how businesses can survive until widespread vaccinations, warmer weather and hopefully, more sales. Save your spot or submit your questions here.

Plus, when neighbors come together: Residents in one Bethpage neighborhood turned on their holiday lights on Valentine's Day in honor of those who died of COVID-19. They wanted to send a message of support to Sara Pascucci, who got a note in her mailbox to take down her holiday lights, after losing two family members to the virus in January.

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

Commentary

In defense of the performing arts in Long Island schools. Ariana Glaser, a student at Smithtown High School East, writes: In late January, I was happy to learn that the state had given its blessing for high-risk sports to resume at the high school level.

Surely, a return to the performing arts could not be far behind? Basketball, cheerleading and even wrestling were allowed to resume and masks were not even mandated for those actively participating.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Teenagers that look to the arts for the fulfillment of their passions were left to wonder: What about us?

"During the time of COVID-19, many of these healthy, positive outlets have been taken from my students," laments Mark Hegreness, Smithtown High School East chorus director, "and though we are doing everything we can to provide opportunities, nothing can replace the experiences they are missing."

In my high school chorus class, we’re still required to sing with masks and 12-foot distancing. The beloved practice of holding concerts for parents and friends is replaced by the poor alternative of recording a video of a truncated performance, which is then uploaded to YouTube. Plays and musicals are performed virtually, if at all. The loss of enthusiastic and lively audiences leaves an unfilled void. While it may be true that teenage athletes are also not afforded the opportunity to play before their usual spectator crowds, they are still able to participate in their chosen sport in every other way. We, performing artists, haven’t been as lucky. Keep reading.

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