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Appointments available at once-crowded vaccination sites

Spots available at vaccine sites as demand slows

In a far cry from two months ago — when people scoured websites at all hours to find vaccine appointments and the state’s mass vaccination sites at Jones Beach and Stony Brook were booked weeks in advance — hundreds of appointments remained open late this week. On Thursday afternoon, the state’s website had appointments at both those locations.

Experts said some people may be waiting to get vaccinated at more convenient sites, like their doctor’s offices or pharmacies close to home.

The change in demand also could show that the people who want the vaccine are receiving it, leaving health officials with the daunting task of convincing those who are reluctant.

"Our job is not done yet," said Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, Nassau County’s health commissioner.

Read more from this story by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo and David Reich-Hale.

Need help finding an appointment close to you? Use these resources.

The chart below shows the percentage of Long Islanders who have been vaccinated so far.

If this pace continued, see how long it would take for 70% of our population to be vaccinated.

The number of new positives reported today: 322 in Nassau, 341 in Suffolk, 2,131 in New York City and 4,901 statewide.

All NYC-run vaccine sites now open to walk-ins

Appointments are no longer necessary at all of the 600 COVID-19 vaccine centers run by New York City’s government, effectively immediately, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday morning.

A person seeking a vaccine can just walk in and be vaccinated, he said.

"We want to make it simple," de Blasio said.

People who live or work in New York City are eligible. They must be at least 16 years old for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and at least 18 for the Moderna shot.

De Blasio’s announcement follows a pilot for walk-ins that started last month for older New Yorkers.

Port Jefferson theater to reopen in July

Another opening, another theater.

The curtain is about to rise on Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, which plans to reopen on July 9 and 10 with performances from the Long Island Comedy Festival. Those shows will be followed by its first main stage production since closing in March 2020, the Harvey Schmidt-Tom Jones musical "The Fantasticks," which will run from July 16 through Aug. 15.

"I think of the count of Monte Cristo — free at last," said Theatre Three executive director Jeffrey Sanzel about reopening. "We have nothing to complain about — we're safe, we're healthy, but at the same time, it's such a joy to know that we're going back to work and doing the things that we love doing."

In accordance with New York state government guidelines, the theater will be opening at 33% capacity and health protocols will be enforced, including mask wearing by patrons and personnel and temperature checks.

Vaccination efforts get shot of volunteerism

When Long Island officials began planning late last year for mass COVID-19 vaccinations, they turned for help to the Medical Reserve Corps, a little-known organization of volunteers who include current health professionals as well as retired doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other practitioners.

The Corps was launched by the U.S. government after 9/11 to bolster disaster preparedness. Its medical and nonmedical personnel participated in local relief after Superstorm Sandy. Today, officials agree that the MRC's contribution has been significant to getting the public vaccinated.

"A lot of people that have retired from clinical work or are semiretired and have kept their licenses active have really come out of the woodwork to help out at our [vaccination] pods," said Dr. Jason Winslow, medical director of the Suffolk County Emergency Medical Services Division.

Winslow said at least 200 of more than 1,000 MRC volunteers have steadily worked at least four hours a week alongside county employees and others at Suffolk County Health Department vaccination sites since January. Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein said his MRC unit has more than 1,420 volunteers, with about 225 working regularly at his agency's sites.

Some like Regina Femminella, 66, of Islip, a semiretired nurse for the Bethpage school district, have worked in both counties. She first encountered MRC volunteers on Jan. 8, when she went to Nassau Community College in Garden City for her Moderna vaccination.

"I was very much inspired by their professionalism and their kind attitude and decided to join," she said.

More to know

The U.S. pause of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine has stretched into a second week and has authorities weighing whether to resume the shots the way European regulators decided to — with warnings of a "very rare" risk.

As the supply of coronavirus vaccine doses in the U.S. outpaces demand, some places around the country are finding there's such little interest in the shots, they need to turn down shipments.

The Islanders new $1 billion home at Belmont Park is 75% complete, and the CEO of the arena development company is confident it will open its doors in November and be able to host at 100% of capacity when it does.

The federal government will try again on Saturday to accept applications for COVID-19 relief grants from independent movie theaters, concert halls and other live performance spaces after the application portal crashed on its first day two weeks ago.

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Rooting for an LIer at the Oscars. The Oscars, which air this Sunday, are facing a battle for not only ratings but relevance as "going to the movies" was all but canceled in 2020. But even if you haven't seen the films nominated this year, you can tune in to root for this Long Islander. He's the first deaf-blind actor to play a leading role in a film and it's a real contender for an award.

Plus, plan your weekend: Although rain is in the forecast for Sunday, enjoy Saturday's warm and sunny weather using our latest weekend guide. We've got details on a drive-in Rolling Stones tribute band concert, a tulip festival and "Earth Day" celebrations.

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Vaccine drive needs a boost. Newsday's Editorial Board writes: A message to all Long Islanders who've been vaccinated: Your help is needed.

The COVID-19 vaccine supply is starting to outpace demand. Hesitancy has taken hold; according to one poll, two out of three people who haven't been vaccinated say they're unlikely to do so.

It's too soon for that to happen.

If the pace of vaccination on Long Island remains as strong as it has been, 70% of Long Islanders would be vaccinated by June 30, and 90% would be vaccinated by Aug. 6. Imagine what that would mean for the summer we all hope to enjoy.

But that pace is starting to wane. If that continues, we won't come close to the percentages we need to stop the virus and allow us more freedom of movement. Continue reading