Signs that air travel is ready to take off again — with changes

Passengers wait in line at a Frontier Airlines ticket booth...

Passengers wait in line at a Frontier Airlines ticket booth inside the main terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport on March 25. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Lockdowns, border closures and the threat of catching and spreading the virus brought flights to a halt last year, causing airline and airport revenue to plummet and putting tens of thousands out of work.

Now with vaccine distribution speeding up, industry experts predict a steady revival of air travel over the next few years — but flying will be different when passengers return, they said.

Masks on planes, COVID-19 testing requirements, proof of vaccination and other safety protocols are likely features for the foreseeable future. Border restrictions will make it hard and costly to get to some international destinations. And business travel might not fully rebound.

"We’ll never recover to the way it was before," Farmingdale travel agent Steven Gardner said. "But we will recover. It’ll just be different."

Area airports fell quiet at the height of the pandemic last spring. At Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, for example, the number of daily departures fell from 20 pre-pandemic to just one each day early last May.

But the rebound already has begun, as passenger volumes have risen. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers a day nationwide on 26 days in March, up from only three days in January, according to TSA statistics.

The chart below shows the cumulative percentage of Long Islanders who have been partially or fully vaccinated in recent days.

This chart shows the percentages of Long Islanders who received...

This chart shows the percentages of Long Islanders who received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and those who are fully vaccinated.

Search a map of new cases and view charts showing the latest local trends in vaccinations, testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

16-plus are next on COVID-19 vaccine eligibility list

A state vaccination site in Buffalo last month.

A state vaccination site in Buffalo last month. Credit: Darren McGee - Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

As the state is poised to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years of age and older on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday continued efforts to reach those reluctant to get the shot.

"It is up to you to show up and roll up your sleeves and do your duty as a citizen of the state of New York," Cuomo said during a visit to Rochdale Village in Queens, where he announced a new vaccination pop-up site and unveiled an ad campaign touting the importance of getting vaccinated. "We have an opportunity right now to crush COVID. We have it on the run."

Currently, New Yorkers 30 years of age and older are eligible to get the vaccine, along with health care workers, first responders, education professionals and others with jobs that require interaction with the public. That eligibility drops to age 16 and older on Tuesday.

Stony Brook University said it will vaccinate 1,400 of its roughly 4,300 residential students with the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Appointments were first made available to students living on campus last week and were taken within 60 to 90 minutes, university officials said.

The university hopes to vaccinate more students in the coming weeks based on supply, officials said.

Polls: 20% to 30% of Americans do not plan to get vaccinated

Republicans are most reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while Black Americans — who had been among the most vaccine-hesitant — are increasingly planning to get the shot, polls over the past few weeks found.

The surveys show Republicans are much more likely than Democrats and independents to say they don't plan to get vaccinated. An early March NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 41% would not get vaccinated. Overall, surveys have found that 20% to 30% of Americans do not plan on getting the vaccine.

Resistance to inoculation affects everyone, because scientists say 70% to 90% of the public must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, when so many people have antibodies to the coronavirus that it can no longer spread widely and when public officials say society can return to a semblance of normalcy. Read more.

22 LI kids have questions about the vaccine, and doctors have answers

Long Island kids had questions about the vaccine, and Newsday got...

Long Island kids had questions about the vaccine, and Newsday got them answered. Credit: Oluwadolapo Ayokunle Babalola, Alisia Soto, Robert Verdi

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and teens across Long Island are still wondering where the virus came from and how masks can keep us safe. They’re also now curious about the vaccine, and how it might affect them.

"I was wondering what’s stopping them from testing the vaccine on children," seventh-grader Alexa Addonizio of Merrick said. "And will it be different from the side effects of adults?"

To give kids like Alexa some answers, Newsday collected questions from young people across Long Island and consulted three experts — Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief for pediatric infectious disease at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital; Dr. Uzma Syed, infectious disease doctor and chair of the COVID-19 task force at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip; and Dr. Sunil Sood, chairman of pediatrics at South Shore University Hospital and attending physician of infectious disease at Cohen Children’s Hospital.

Watch a video and read some questions and answers here.

Newsday Voices: The moment you realized the pandemic was changing your life

The seven Long Islanders who have agreed to share their pandemic...

The seven Long Islanders who have agreed to share their pandemic stories as part of Newsday Voices. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez; Jean Ann Garrish; Joicy Salgado; Emily Scott; Daniel Pedisich; Lyrikah Rodrigues; Danielle Silverman

Last week, we introduced you to seven Long Islanders who agreed to regularly share their stories of living through this pandemic as part of Newsday Voices.

We posed this question to them: What was the moment you realized this pandemic would change your life?

For some, it might have been the day schools closed or when office buildings went dark last March. Or maybe then, you still thought it would just be a two-week interruption to your normal routine and it wasn't until weeks or months later that you realized life as you know it had drastically changed.

See what they had to say.

More to know

Suffolk County is struggling to fill vacant positions for 911 emergency operators and dispatchers in the police department as the pandemic stalled hiring and workers continue to leave their jobs, officials said.

Grants of up to $10 million will be available starting Thursday for independent movie theaters, concert halls, museums and live performance spaces that closed during the pandemic.

East End real estate tax revenue hit an all-time high in 2020, and locals say the booming market driven by the pandemic has made it harder than ever to find affordable housing in the Hamptons.

Long Island Christians gathered in churches, on beaches and via livestream on Sunday to celebrate Easter together, even if masked and separated by six feet or computer screens.

At the St. James Theatre Saturday, a private-audience event by Nathan Lane and Savion Glover marked the first Broadway performance since the theater went dark for the pandemic.

Mariah Carey and her longtime boyfriend each posted videos over the weekend showing them receiving their first dose of the vaccine.

News for you

April Spivey and Barry Davis from Queens visit the Carriage...

April Spivey and Barry Davis from Queens visit the Carriage Museum in Stony Brook on March 26. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Get back to museums this spring. Recent changes in health guidelines have allowed some Long Island museums to start welcoming visitors back. With masks mandatory and shortened hours, these are tentative steps toward normalcy. Plus: The Suffolk County Historical Society Museum's "What the Heck Is That?" exhibit features about 30 objects that used to be part of everyday life.

LI boutiques that opened during the pandemic. These four boutiques on Long Island opened their doors for the first time during the pandemic. They've adapted to changes along the way, and the small business owners say they're seeing support from local shoppers.

This catering hall reopened as a restaurant. After being shut down for almost a year, Metropolitan Caterers in Glen Cove has repurposed its rooms for restaurant dining with its new Metropolitan Restaurant & Bar, which opened March 10.

Next on Newsday Live virtual discussions. How should parents prepare for whether to get their children vaccinated? Find out what you need to know from local experts during an in-depth Q&A at noon on Wednesday. Register here.

Plus: As remote work continues, there’s a new job emerging among corporate ranks: "director of remote work."

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


Ralph Acquasanta of Rockville Centre receives his COVID vaccine at Americare on...

Ralph Acquasanta of Rockville Centre receives his COVID vaccine at Americare on March 10 in Garden City. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Players who aren't seeking the COVID-19 vaccine … what are they thinking about? Newsday columnist David Lennon asks: Remember how mind-numbingly difficult it was to get that first vaccine appointment? For Grandpa, Mom, the uncle with the heart condition. For yourself, after waiting forever to get the green light from the state.

Maybe you’re still trying.

Now imagine if someone just showed up at your front door — needle in hand, ready to go — and you waved them away. Took a pass. Thanks, but no thanks.

Hard to wrap your brain around that one, isn’t it?

But that’s what Major League Baseball is dealing with at the outset of the 2021 season. Thanks to a near-miraculous scientific achievement, a year after the sport was shut down, we now have not one but a trio of vaccines that prevent people from dying or becoming seriously ill because of a COVID-19 infection.

And in the process, we even can avoid the postponement of baseball games, as the Mets experienced this week thanks to a frustrating mini-outbreak among the Nationals that delayed the start of the season.

The only problem? The vaccine doesn’t work unless it gets into a player’s arm, or plenty of the other Tier 1 personnel, and evidently that’s not as simple as merely showing up with a syringe. Keep reading.

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