This story was reported by Rachelle Blidner, Catherine Carrera, Matthew Chayes, Lisa L. Colangelo, Scott Eidler, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.
New York expanded its campaign on Wednesday to vaccinate some of the populations hardest hit by COVID-19, while infection levels statewide dropped for the 26th straight day after a holiday season spike.
A mosque and a Roman Catholic church on Long Island were among 35 sites the state is setting up this week to reach vulnerable groups, including Blacks, Latinos and other underserved communities. One-day pop-up sites opened Wednesday at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury and St. Rosalie’s Roman Catholic Church in Hampton Bays.
And a mass vaccination site is set to open Friday at Yankee Stadium, though it will be limited to Bronx residents who otherwise qualify.
"COVID brought the ugly truth of inequity and inequality in this country to a tipping point," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. "COVID has killed Black and Latino New Yorkers at a higher rate, and that is why these community-based sites are one of New York's vaccine priorities."
He said the campaign will help "address the skepticism and bring this lifesaving vaccine to those who need it most."
The vaccine appointments are usually coordinated through the state's network of more than 300 churches and cultural centers.
For the Long Island clinics, Northwell Health partnered with the Islamic Center, while Stony Brook Southampton Hospital worked with the East End church, which ministers to a large Latino population.
Father S.A. Maddaloni, pastor at St. Rosalie, said appointments were posted Sunday night for 300 vaccine doses, and "they were snapped up quickly. By later Sunday evening, they were gone.
"It's been wonderful to see," Maddaloni said. "The state contacted us and asked if they could use our facility. Of course we said yes. It's wonderful to participate in something like this."
About 250 residents were vaccinated at the Islamic Center.
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, a board member at the center, said the program helps vaccinate residents who "lack digital literacy, access to a computer or have generational support."
Northwell Health on Thursday said it is rescheduling its one-day vaccination programs that had been planned for two other faith-based locations on Long Island.
Northwell was scheduled to be at Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church in Long Beach and First Baptist Church in Riverhead next Tuesday. The health system didn’t say why the events were canceled or when they’d be rescheduled.
The state had said it expects to vaccinate more than 25,000 people at the pop-up sites statewide this week, with more sites to open later, Cuomo said. Since Jan. 15, pop-up sites have vaccinated 9,000 people.
Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend the opening of the mass vaccination site at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Some 15,000 people will receive appointments in the first week.
"Yankee Stadium has always been known for its World Series banners, but now it'll be recognized as a place where the people of the surrounding community in the Bronx can receive the vaccine doses that they need and deserve," de Blasio said. "This is about justice and standing up for the neighborhoods that were hardest hit by COVID-19."
Statewide, the COVID-19 positivity level dropped again, Cuomo said Wednesday, with a seven-day average of 4.86%. The test results from Tuesday marked the second straight day the level of new positives was below 5%.
The last time the state level was below that threshold was Dec. 6, as the holiday season spike started to build. The level on Long Island also continued to fall, registering at 5.89% for the week.
The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 547 in Nassau County, 527 in Suffolk County, and 2,583 in New York City.
Statewide, 160 people died Tuesday of virus-related causes. A total of 8,082 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, an increase of 15 patients from the previous day.
Curran: Catering halls can party, safely
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she wants the state to streamline rules allowing the reopening of hard-hit catering halls that have been shut down since the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic — so they can "restart the party safely."
On Friday, Cuomo announced that the state is allowing catering halls to host events for up to 150 guests, beginning March 15.
"The catering hall guidance is stale, and we are eagerly awaiting the refresh that may be coming from New York State, so the catering halls can sort out details, like how does dancing work, what does a cocktail hour look like? What does the testing operation look like?" Curran said.
Cuomo in the spring banned large gatherings in locations such as catering halls because of the potential for high spread of COVID-19.
Derek Poppe, a spokesman for Suffolk County, said it too is "waiting for the state to release additional guidance" on catering halls and is working "to put forth a comprehensive plan to ensure a safe and effective reopening."
Waiting for more vaccine doses
Cuomo on Tuesday said he was giving local governments the option to expand the group of people eligible for vaccines to include taxi drivers, restaurant workers, and those in facilities for people with developmental disabilities. That group would be in addition to the 7.1 million people already eligible in the state, including teachers, cops, firefighters, nursing home residents and staff, as well as people 65 and older, doctors, nurses, and other essential workers.
Cuomo also had said the state expects increased vaccine supplies from the federal government, which would go to municipalities and directly to pharmacies tasked with vaccinating people 65 and older.
But some in the distribution network were waiting for the additional dosages to arrive.
Tom D'Angelo, who runs home infusion pharmacy Americare in Garden City South and Franklin Square Pharmacy in Franklin Square, said Wednesday the state hasn't sent vaccine earmarked to be used for first doses in two weeks.
"I did get some vaccine for second doses," said D'Angelo, who is also the president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, a pharmacist advocacy group. "But we didn't receive first doses last week or this week. I'm hoping we get some for next week."
D'Angelo added that while he's encouraged the state and Biden administration said more vaccine is on its way, President Joe "Biden can say whatever he wants, if the supply isn't there, the supply isn't there. It's on the manufacturers to make more."
GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY
- To complete a prescreening and find sites to schedule COVID-19 shots, people in the eligible lists can visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/
- State residents may call the New York State Vaccination Hotline: 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829)
- Northwell Health is booking its COVID-19 vaccine appointments online at northwell.edu/covidvaccine
- Call or visit your local pharmacist to check for participation in the state's vaccination effort.
- The state's phase distribution guidelines can be found at: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine
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:
- Since Feb. 15, people at risk of moderate to severe illness due to health conditions, immunocompromised status or comorbidities, including ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and chronic kidney disease. The full list of qualifying conditions is listed with the announcement on the state's website.
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:
- State residents age 30 and older.
Since April 6, 2021:
- State residents age 16 and older.
SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.
Walgreens was picked by the federal Centers for Disease Control to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine in medically underserved areas in New York and several other states, the company said in a statement.
The state is set to determine who will be vaccinated at the company’s pharmacies, but it may include health care workers and people ages 65 and older.
Walgreens declined to say which locations in New York would be providing vaccines starting Feb. 12 and said the shots will be offered by appointment only.
Some Rite Aid stores in New York City will have the vaccine starting Feb. 11. But company officials warned demand will far outpace supply — at least at the beginning.
Walmart and Sam’s Club will offer the COVID-19 vaccine at locations in 22 states as part of the federal initiative, but New York is not one of them. Costco did not comment.
NYC health commissioner tests positive
New York City’s health commissioner has tested positive for the coronavirus, the department announced Wednesday.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, who since August has overseen the city’s coronavirus response, had not yet been vaccinated, said Dr. Jay Varma, de Blasio's senior adviser for the pandemic.
De Blasio and other senior city leaders had not been in contact with Chokshi in some time so don’t need to quarantine, de Blasio said. City business is largely done virtually, said Dr. Mitch Katz, who helps lead the city’s test and trace efforts and is in charge of the public hospitals.
On Long Island, 12 people from a third-grade classroom at Old Bethpage Elementary School in the Plainview-Old Bethpage district tested positive, sending the entire school of 425 students to remote instruction last week.
In-person classes are expected to resume Monday, school officials said.
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PHARMACIES ON COVID-19 SHOTS
The federal government announced this week that more COVID-19 vaccine doses would be made available to pharmacies, including those in New York’s distribution network. Pharmacists were waiting for those doses to be delivered.
For more information:
- New York State’s guidelines for phased distribution of the vaccines: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/phased-distribution-vaccine.
- A list of participating pharmacies by state is offered by the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/participating-pharmacies.html.
- Walgreens will take appointments online: https://www.walgreens.com/topic/promotion/covid-vaccine.jsp?ban=covid_vaccine_brandstory_main_Jan2021
- Rite Aid will provide updates at www.riteaid.com/covid-19.
Source: Newsday research.