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State: New Yorkers 30 and older can get COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday; 16 and older to qualify on April 6

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday that New

Governor Cuomo announced Monday that New Yorkers 30 and over will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday. The governor said beginning April 6, everyone 16 and over will be eligible. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Howard Schnapp; AP; YouTube / The White House

New Yorkers 30 years and older will be able to get their vaccine for COVID-19 starting Tuesday while all state residents 16 and older will become eligible for the shots April 6 — expanding eligibility to all adults nearly a month before President Joe Biden's May 1 deadline, state officials announced Monday.

The new eligibility expansion — which begins at 8 a.m. Tuesday — brings Gen X and many Millennials closer to returning to social activities after more than a year of shutdowns and restricted gatherings to curb the virus' spread.

In a statement, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the expansion of vaccine eligibility "a monumental step forward in the fight to beat" the coronavirus.

"As we continue to expand eligibility, New York will double down on making the vaccine accessible for every community to ensure equity, particularly for communities of color who are too often left behind," Cuomo said.

He added that while the vaccination effort pushes toward herd immunity, "it is more important than ever for each and every New Yorker to wear a mask, socially distance and follow all safety guidelines."

New York's vast distribution network and large population of eligible individuals still exceeds the supply coming from the federal government. Officials encouraged New Yorkers to remain patient and not to show up at vaccination sites without appointments.

Vas Markoum, 32, of Farmingdale, was surprised to learn he’s becoming eligible — given his age and lack of preexisting medical conditions.

He's planning on getting the vaccine: his and his wife's parents are older and he wants to protect them. His wife is also pregnant with his first child, a girl, due in July while his job, as a loan officer, is largely remote but is ordinarily in person.

Markoum said he’d be making make an appointment "ASAP" before adding: "Now that my wife is hearing me talk, she’ll probably be making it for me."

The state recently expanded eligibility by age, setting the threshold to qualify for the shots at 50 years of age, until this move. Previously, the state had prioritized medical workers, nursing home residents, various groups of essential workers and people with health conditions that made them more vulnerable to severe illness.

Bill Heidenreich, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said school officials would begin to discuss with parents what the state's announcement means for high school students: Would vaccines be available on site? If so, would parents need to be present for their kids' vaccination, or would written permission suffice?

"Certainly, this is very hopeful," said Heidenreich, Valley Stream's superintendent. "I know a lot of schools are talking about in-person graduation and proms, and the more people who are vaccinated, the safer and more normal those events will be."

Heidenreich said decisions about whether to mandate the vaccine for in-person learning would likely be made at a state, not local, level.

Pace of vaccination slowing

The expansion of eligibility comes after nearly three weeks of declines in the pace at which Long Islanders and New Yorkers have been receiving their first vaccine doses.

For the week ending March 28, compared to three weeks prior, the number of New Yorkers receiving their first doses per day, on average, declined by 13,126 New Yorkers, including 1,015 fewer Long Islanders.

New York State had administered 77.7% of the vaccine doses delivered to it as of March 26, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. That is behind the nationwide average of 81.1% and 29 other states and territories, including Connecticut, where 82.8% of delivered doses have been administered, and New Jersey, where 82.6% have been administered.

Statewide, just under 30% of New Yorkers — or almost 5.9 million residents — have received at least one dose, while 3.3 million have completed their vaccination series. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one.

On Long Island, 35.6% of Nassau County residents, or more than 483,000, have received at least one dose while 29% in Suffolk, or nearly 430,000 residents, have taken their first shots.

Garrett Sullivan, 19, a Hofstra University student from Charlotte, North Carolina, said he was excited to become eligible.

"Hopefully it opens the world again," Sullivan said.

Chris Lilli, 39, of Long Beach, said he’s started looking for appointments.

"I know they’re tough to get. I’m going to be trying over and over again — all night," said Lilli, who makes graphics for mixed martial arts.

But Anita Walters of East Meadow worries the state is rushing eligibility.

"There are plenty of people that are 50, 60 and more that haven’t been able to get their vaccines, so I think it’s rushing it quite a bit," said Walters, who has received her first dose.

Vaccines proving effective

A newly released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections in "real-world conditions" among health care personnel, first responders, and other essential and front line workers.

The report examined the effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in preventing infections among 3,950 study participants in cities in six states — Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Utah — over a 13-week period from late 2020 through March 13.

The study found the risk of infection was reduced by 90% two or more weeks after receiving their second dose. Two or more weeks after receiving a single dose of either vaccine, the risk of infection was reduced by 80%, the CDC found.

"These findings should offer hope to the millions of Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines each day and to those who will have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated in the weeks ahead," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

While vaccine eligibility continues to expand, the positivity rate across the state continues to increase, with Long Island producing some of the troubling positivity rates.

The statewide positivity rate Sunday was 4.13%, up from 3.52% one day earlier, statistics show. A total of 4,575 patients remain hospitalized with COVID-19 and 890 are in intensive care units, officials said.

A total of 57 people died in the state Sunday from the virus, including four in Nassau and three in Suffolk.

Long Island's positivity rate on a seven-day average was 4.34%, with 580 new cases in Nassau and 685 in Suffolk. New York City had 3,985 new cases. The statewide seven-day positivity average was 3.46%.

"COVID continues to rear its ugly head across New York State, and while hospitalization and vaccination metrics continue to trend in the right direction, this pandemic isn't done with us yet," Cuomo said in a statement.

Focus on city government workers

Roughly 130,000 of New York City’s more than 300,000 municipal workers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday, promoting an effort to get government workers vaccinated.

"This is just the folks we know about for sure," de Blasio said. "We know many more have received a vaccination that still hasn’t been reported yet."

The focus on municipal workers comes as de Blasio is ending remote work for about 80,000 office personnel who've been working from home since last March. Those workers are to start returning to the office — albeit on staggered schedules, with physical distancing and mandatory masking — on May 3.

With Matt Clark and Cecilia Dowd

GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY

Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?

The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.

Group in Phase 1A

The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:

  • Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
  • Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • EMT volunteers and staff.
  • Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
  • Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
  • Employees at urgent care centers.
  • Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
  • Staff at ambulatory centers.
  • Home care and hospice workers.
  • Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.

Group in Phase 1B

The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:

  • People 75 years of age and older.
  • Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
  • First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
  • Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
  • Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
  • Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
  • Individuals living in homeless shelters.

Following federal recommendations:

Added at the discretion of local governments:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Restaurant workers.
  • Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
  • Hotel workers who interact with the public.

Other expansions of eligibility:

  • State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
  • “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).

Since March 30, 2021:

Since April 6, 2021:

SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.

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