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Cuomo: 3 mass COVID-19 vaccine sites opening Friday on Long Island

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday he will

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday he will get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in a Black community to raise awareness that the vaccine is safe. Credit: NY Governor's Office

Three mass vaccination sites are set to open Friday on Long Island, including one at SUNY Old Westbury where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined with Black community leaders on Monday to urge people to take the shots he calls "the weapon that will win the war" against COVID-19.

The Old Westbury site, along with others at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University and the Brentwood campus of Suffolk County Community College, will operate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. They will start taking appointments Wednesday at 8 a.m.

"We're committed to quickly expanding the state's vaccine distribution network to get shots in arms as quickly and efficiently as possible, and these three sites will help Long Islanders access the vaccine and gain some peace of mind as we continue battling the pandemic," Cuomo said.

Each of the new sites should be able to administer about 1,000 shots a day, said Jack Sterne, a spokesman for Cuomo, potentially giving many more Long Islanders access to the vaccine if the supply grows.

Also on Wednesday, public-facing essential workers become eligible to sign up to get a vaccine, Cuomo added. And between Monday and Wednesday, priority is being given to the age-based group that was recently expanded — people 60 and over.

Cuomo last week announced he was dropping the threshold for eligibility from 65 to 60.

He said a total of 15 million people in the state are made eligible under the new rules for the vaccine, out of a total population of about 19.5 million.

He reminded the public that despite all the work that has gone into gearing up the state's vaccination program, only 2.3 million people so far are fully vaccinated, though another 4.5 million have gotten at least one dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses at specific intervals, while the Johnson & Johnson shot is completed with one dose.

"All this work — two million," he said, adding, "We have a long way to go."

Cuomo getting the shot 'in coming days'

Cuomo said he himself plans to get the shot "in coming days," probably at a pop-up site at a church in a Black community to encourage people to get vaccinated and to underscore his belief that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe.

The state has set up 120 temporary pop-up sites throughout New York so far in vulnerable or underserved communities, he said.

Cuomo noted that vaccination rates are far lower in Black and Latino communities on Long Island than they are in the white population — and said he is deeply concerned about that.

"Get the vaccine!" he implored.

His appearance at SUNY Old Westbury stressed that message, since the college has historically served minority communities.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker commended Long Island for its efforts to quickly get as many people vaccinated as possible.

"Long Island has done a great job on the vaccination front," Zucker said. "The tremendous success we've seen here in Nassau County, where more than a quarter of the population has gotten at least one shot, is a model for the rest of the state."

That has happened partly because of the mass vaccination site at Jones Beach, state-run pop-up sites elsewhere and other efforts, he said.

Fewer doses this week

At least one pharmacist on Monday said he received far fewer doses from the state after a recent surge of supplies.

Tom D'Angelo, who runs home infusion pharmacy Americare in Garden City South, said he received 100 doses for the week, down from 1,500 in each of the last two weeks.

"The inconsistent supply is creating logistical havoc," he said. "We are going to have to tell people we don't have the vaccine, and it's going to make us look like the bad guys. But it's not us. The inconsistency is a real problem."

D'Angelo added that because pharmacies are being asked to focus, in large part, on older people, they are helping customers who can't easily make appointments at state sites and are "who are at high risk."

Cuomo has said the state needs a far larger supply from the federal government to rapidly inoculate the vast majority. He has said he expects deliveries to remain flat through this week, but to increase sharply later.

The statewide daily positivity level from 127,005 test results from Sunday was 4.57%, state data showed. The seven-day average was 3.22% statewide and 4.4% on Long Island, up slightly from the previous day's 4.32%.

The number of new confirmed cases on Sunday was 540 in Nassau, 560 in Suffolk and 3,004 in New York City.

Statewide, 58 people died Sunday of causes linked to the virus, including one in Nassau and four in Suffolk.

Pastor: 'A trying year' for many

At the Old Westbury event, Bishop Lionel Harvey of the First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury was among Black leaders who urged people in minority communities to get vaccinated against the virus.

"It has been arduous and a long and a trying year, but the reality is we can feel a new season that is coming," he said. "If we do the things that are right, it’s going to be a blessing to so many" that will lead to "a season when we are safe from this dreaded COVID-19 virus."

He added that "Black and brown communities" were "hit hard" and need to get vaccinated. "I stood in front of so many caskets during this season."

Harvey continued: "I give the clarion call to my community and all communities across Long Island: Get the vaccine in your arm … Get the vaccine because it will save your life. I’d rather have the vaccine than have the virus."

Timothy E. Sams, president of SUNY Old Westbury, said in a statement that the new site "is very good for our college, and for our surrounding community. There is no such thing as doing too much in our effort to beat COVID-19."

Cuomo also announced that the Bethpage Air Show, will return to Jones Beach this Memorial Day weekend. It was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Kristen Jarnagin, president and CEO of Discover Long Island, said the pandemic has been "devastating" to the region's tourism industry, with Long Island losing about 30,000 of the industry's 100,000 jobs.

The governor's visit to Long Island was closed to the media "due to COVID restrictions" but was livestreamed. Cuomo has made several such appearances recently while facing calls for his resignation over allegations of sexual harassment.

With David Reich-Hale

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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