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Suffolk's vaccine influx: More than 8,000 shots will bolster vaccination efforts

Sandra Reeve, a licensed practical nurse, holds an

Sandra Reeve, a licensed practical nurse, holds an alcohol swab on the arm of Joseph Lupo, a grocery store worker, after administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

Suffolk County has received more than 8,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the state this week — including 3,000 more first doses than usual — allowing the county to open a new mass vaccination site Thursday specifically for cancer patients, residents with heart conditions and municipal employees with underlying medical conditions, officials said Tuesday.

Suffolk received 5,380 vaccine doses for first-time patients this week, up from the county’s usual weekly allotment of 2,700 first doses from the state, officials said. Another 2,770 doses will go toward second doses of the Moderna vaccine.

The influx will allow the county to expand its vaccination operations to the Suffolk County Community College campus in Selden, where about 1,600 municipal employees with health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness are expected to get vaccinated this week, said Chief Deputy County Executive Lisa Black.

"We still have to stress that patience is really necessary. There are far more people that are eligible than supply allows right now," Black said. "We're doing so much just to be able to target populations right now, being deliberate about how we're sharing the vaccine."

The county also will distribute 1,200 doses to Northwell Health, Stony Brook Medicine and Federally Qualified Health Centers, including community clinics, to vaccinate residents with medical conditions, Black said.

Nassau County had said Monday that it expected its weekly allotment of COVID-19 doses to increase from 2,800 to 5,200, with shots to be administered by Long Island FQHC and the Northwell Health system.

In Suffolk, the centers will help vaccinate residents in "socially vulnerable" areas and communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the virus. The hospital systems will prioritize patients through their network of oncologists, cardiologists and pulmonologists, so "we know that they're sending the right people," Black said.

Stony Brook and the FQHCs will administer doses to their patients, while eligible Northwell patients will receive the vaccine this week at the Selden site, Black said.

The rest of the first doses, about 2,580, will be administered at the county’s two existing vaccine pods at the community college campuses in Brentwood and Riverside for those eligible under Phase 1B, including grocery store workers and first responders, officials said.

Black said the county has received more doses because of "redistribution" of what entities are receiving, after hospitals have had nine weeks to inoculate their workers and may have neared giving the shots to all those willing to get the vaccine.

Black said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo held a call Tuesday with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on the state of vaccines, noting that it was "one of the most optimistic calls I’ve had all week."

She expects the county will continue to receive enough doses to operate the Selden site for those with comorbidities. She said Suffolk can gear up soon to increase capacity so that more people can be vaccinated this summer, especially if the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved and becomes available.

Officials said Suffolk has the capacity to administer 51,000 doses. The county has vaccinated about 21,000 people since the vaccines were released.

Municipal employees with eligible conditions who have filled out a survey sent by the county will receive emails or phone calls to schedule an appointment at the Selden site. Eligible patients with Northwell, Stony Brook and FQHCs will be contacted by their providers.

Positivity trending 'in a good direction'

The seven-day average for positivity in test results statewide dropped to 3.71%, the lowest level since Nov. 28, Cuomo said. The daily average from 136,392 test results returned Monday increased to 4.95%, up from 3.53% the previous day.

Cuomo has said that daily fluctuations are not critical and the important factor is the longer-term trends. The state has been on a steady decline in positivity levels and case numbers since mid-January, after a spike in those numbers through the holiday season.

The seven-day average for new cases on Long Island also continued to drop, to 4.58%, though that remained the highest level of any region in the state. The weekly positivity rate in New York City was at 4.39%.

The number of new confirmed cases on Monday was 579 in Nassau County, 526 in Suffolk County, and 3,700 in New York City.

A total of 107 people died in the state on Monday of causes related to COVID-19. They included six in Nassau and nine in Suffolk.

The number of people hospitalized because of the virus dropped by three statewide, to 6,620. That number, too, has been on a steady decline since the holiday spike.

Cuomo on Monday defended himself against allegations that the state was covering up the number of deaths caused by the virus in nursing homes, though he accepted responsibility for what he called a "void" of information on the matter.

The governor said the state did not turn over those numbers to state legislators last summer because it was first dealing with a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for the same information.

Cuomo also said the state did not act irresponsibly in sending nursing home patients back to their original facilities after they were hospitalized for the virus. He said the nursing homes agreed to take them back and keep them in isolated units, and that the move also freed up badly needed hospital beds for other COVID-19 patients.

Several state legislators, including at least one fellow Democrat, have called for an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the nursing home situation.

More than a quarter-million appointments

More than a quarter-million people on Sunday made appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at state-run mass vaccination sites — the largest single-day registration yet, Cuomo said.

The increase to 250,924 appointments came as the newest group of people became eligible for shots, anyone with comorbidities or serious underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe illness. The addition of that group of about 3 million people brought to 10 million the number of New Yorkers now eligible for the vaccine.

All appointments are booked through April 16 at the mass sites with a few exceptions, including the site at Stony Brook University, which is booked through April 13, the state said.

"Two hundred and fifty thousand appointments in a single day is a milestone, and we can do more — we just need more vaccine supply," Cuomo said.

New York City plans to use Johnson & Johnson's vaccine to inoculate homebound senior citizens, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Unlike the two current vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson’s doesn't require extra-cold storage.

De Blasio said the city plans to vaccinate 5 million people by June — but conceded that at the current rate of vaccination, that goal won't be met until late 2021.

In another step in the return to normalcy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to restore some overnight subway service following 10 months of closures linked to the pandemic.

Since last May, the MTA has shut down its subway system from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. for intensified cleaning and disinfecting efforts on trains and in subway stations. Beginning Monday, the agency will limit the closures to 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. — extending service by two hours.

In a statement, Cuomo said the expanded subway hours, which coincide with expanded hours and restaurants and bars, aim to ensure that New Yorkers "have transportation options to get them where they need to go, when they need to get there."

With Alfonso A. Castillo, Matthew Chayes and Olivia Winslow

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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