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Long Island teens among winners of vaccine scholarship welcome the boost

Justin Lemus, 15, shows his vaccination sticker in

Justin Lemus, 15, shows his vaccination sticker in May after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Freeport. Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

Four Long Island teenagers are among the latest lottery winners of a full-ride scholarship to any state or city college for young people 12 to 17 years old who get their COVID-19 vaccination, the governor's office said.

Kelly Moscoso-Yanes and Victoria Romero of Nassau County and Emily Brodsky and Aleksander Sosa of Suffolk County will be able to attend any SUNY or CUNY school for free for four years, provided they are admitted, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday.

Moscoso-Yanes, 16, who will be a senior at Freeport High School in September, said she was shocked to hear she had won the contest, while her parents at first thought the announcement was a "scam."

The student, who received her first shot in late April in Garden City, was originally planning to apply to Adelphi University — a private school not eligible for the scholarship — but she will now pivot to Farmingdale State College or Nassau Community College.

"It’s very important," Moscoso-Yanes said. "I want to be a corporate lawyer or an architect. And those careers are expensive. I wanted to help my parents out with this college scholarship."

The state is selecting 10 winners every week over a five-week period. Three more rounds are left. Tuition, along with room and board, are covered.

Brodsky, 16, who will be a senior next year at Sachem East High School, said she plans to use the scholarship to study architecture at a state school.

"I am really excited, and so is my mom," Brodsky said. "Things like [this] did not happen that often, so I was really surprised."

Roseanne Brodsky, of Holtsville, said she was "over the moon" for her daughter "because it’s been a rough year for all of us … This is a blessing for Emily."

The lottery is among numerous attempts officials are making to get more people vaccinated for COVID-19, which Cuomo, as well as scientists, say is the key to wiping out the virus. Three other Long Island teens have won the scholarships.

The governor on Tuesday lifted most pandemic restrictions as the state hit the 70% mark of all adults having received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the federal tally of shots administered.

"Younger New Yorkers still have the lowest vaccination rates in the state, and this incentive offers 12- to 17-year-olds a unique opportunity to make their futures in exchange for taking action to protect themselves and their loved ones," Cuomo said in a statement.

The latest federal update on vaccinations, issued Thursday afternoon, put New York at 70.6% for residents 18 and older who had gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Overall, 9.99 million New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, representing 51.4% of the state's population, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lifted restrictions allow an array of places, including bars, restaurants, movie theaters, barber shops, hair salons, offices, and venues with a capacity up to 5,000 people, to go back to functioning normally.

Requirements to wear a mask remain intact on mass-transit systems, in health facilities and for children indoors at school, under guidance from the CDC.

Unvaccinated people must still wear a mask in all locations, but compliance is based on the honor system.

Islandia casino returning to full capacity

Some businesses and houses of worship said this week they will not immediately lift all restrictions since they still have concerns about transmission of the virus.

But Jake’s 58 casino in Islandia will return to full capacity Friday after receiving permission to do so from the New York State Gaming Commission, Suffolk OTB said Thursday.

The casino, which had been operating under limited occupancy since reopening in September, will resume full use of its 1,000 video lottery terminals and ease some mask and social-distancing requirements, OTB officials said in a news release. The casino also plans to bring back the last of 42 employees who had been on furlough.

"Returning to full capacity and full service will bring back a special level of excitement for our players and associates," Jake’s 58 general manager Michael Bonakdar said in a statement. "We are very excited to welcome everyone in, and show our guests a great time."

COVID-19 indicators continued to remain low in test results from Wednesday, with the seven-day average for positivity hitting 0.39% statewide, 0.43% on Long Island, and 0.36% in New York City.

The daily statewide level was 0.35% from 119,272 test results, according to state data released Thursday.

The number of new confirmed cases was 24 in Nassau, 42 in Suffolk, and 206 in New York City.

Across the state, five people died Wednesday of causes related to the virus. None were on Long Island.

Cuomo said in a statement that while the numbers have declined, "Our work is not over yet … We need every single New Yorker to get vaccinated, so if you haven't already, take advantage of the state's ongoing incentive programs and get your vaccination."

Cuomo also announced that 12 new pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites, including one on Long Island, will open in areas where ZIP code data shows the vaccination rate is significantly lower than the statewide average.

Northwell Health will operate one of the temporary sites at 1 Marcus Ave. in New Hyde Park on Friday.

"We are doubling down on targeting the ZIP codes where the vaccination rate still remains very low, and these new pop-up sites are a testament to our ongoing commitment to make sure the vaccine is available and accessible to every community," he said in a statement.

According to the state, more than 250 community-based pop-up sites have administered more than 90,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since Jan. 15.

With Carl MacGowan

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