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Nassau official to state: Set up mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Coliseum

The Nassau County Legislature on Thursday held a

The Nassau County Legislature on Thursday held a hearing to discuss the vaccination rollout in the county. Newsday's Steve Langford has the story. Credit: Newsday / Reece T. Williams; www.nassaucountyny.gov; Facebook / Governor Andrew Cuomo

This story was reported by Raychel Brightman, Lisa L. Colangelo, Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones.

The presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature called on the state to set up a mass vaccination site at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, saying Long Island needs more help in fighting COVID-19 since it persistently has registered the highest infection rate in New York.

The call for more urgent action came during a Thursday morning vaccine hearing at the legislative building in Mineola, citing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's complaints about Long Island's positivity tracking higher than other areas.

"Long Island has continued to see the highest infection rate in the state. In the governor's own words, 'Long Island, Long Island, Long Island,' " Nassau Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), speaking for the Republican majority, said Thursday.

He noted that the Democratic governor and other officials are opening a mass vaccination site on Friday at Yankee Stadium, where 15,000 doses will be administered in the first week.

Nicolello noted that is almost as many as Nassau has administered since the vaccine rollout began weeks ago.

"That is why I join my colleagues on behalf of Nassau County residents struggling to receive the vaccine, in asking that the governor open up a mass vaccination site at the Nassau Coliseum," he said. "This will allow more residents to get tested, lower our infection rate, and allow more businesses to open, and continue to rebuild."

Republicans hold an 11-8 majority in the county's legislature. Democrats supported the proposal.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said: "If the logistics work, we are open to using this and other sites in Nassau to facilitate vaccinations to our residents."

The governor's office defended his push to get vaccines in people's arms.

Jack Sterne, a Cuomo spokesman, said: "These legislators either haven’t been paying attention for months or are playing politics with public health — and they need to stop misleading their constituents. The reality is Long Island has received the most vaccines in the state after New York City, we’ve launched two mass vaccination sites on Long Island, and we’ve deployed seven community vaccine hubs to the region, with more in the works.

"The single limiting factor is a lack of supply, and we didn’t hear these politicians speaking up when their party was still in the White House and they could have made a difference."

Providers on Long Island have received 288,360 doses and administered 231,041 — the most in the state after New York City, Sterne said.

The state operates mass vaccination sites at Jones Beach and Stony Brook University, though their scope is limited by scarcity of vaccine doses.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county "is ready to scale up distribution and open as many sites as necessary once we receive more vaccine. We have put 100% of doses into eligible arms, and we will continue to do so while aggressively advocating for more vaccines from the federal government."

Pop-up vaccine sites postponed

At the same time, two pop-up vaccination sites that had been scheduled to open next week in Long Beach and Riverhead have been postponed, hospital officials said.

Northwell Health said the one-day vaccination programs planned for Tuesday at Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church in Long Beach and First Baptist Church in Riverhead were being rescheduled.

The health system didn’t say why the events were postponed or when they’d be rescheduled. Cuomo’s office said on Thursday the state has not yet released the list of pop-up sites for next week, but more Long Island locations will be among them.

Rev. Cynthia A. Liggon at First Baptist Church said she believed the state had selected the Riverhead church as a site, but logistics needed to be worked out. Representatives at Christian Light could not be reached for comment.

Northwell Health also said that links on its own website for vaccine appointments will appear sporadically.

In a statement, the New Hyde Park-based health system said it "only books appointments based on the amount of product in hand. We have been challenged by working with a limited supply of doses, and most of our shipments are now allocated for those who need a second shot."

Northwell added that it is opening first-dose appointments when possible.

Cuomo repeatedly has said that New York's problem is not distribution capacity, but lack of vaccine supply. The state was getting between 250,000 and 300,000 doses weekly, which the federal government was increasing by about 20% starting this week, Cuomo said.

That is far short of what the state needs to vaccinate enough of its 19.5 million population to get the virus under control, according to Cuomo and health experts.

New York on Wednesday expanded its campaign to vaccinate some of the populations hardest hit by COVID-19, saying that a mosque and a Roman Catholic church on Long Island were among 35 sites the state is setting up this week to reach Blacks, Latinos and other underserved communities.

State: Lowest virus positivity in months

The state on Thursday marked the lowest daily COVID-19 positivity rate since Nov. 28, as a holiday-related spike in cases declined for the 27th day in a row.

The daily level of 4.38% from 169,186 test results Wednesday was more good news, Cuomo said, but he warned New Yorkers not to "get cocky" this Super Bowl weekend and ignore preventive measures.

The number of people tested for the coronavirus has declined recently from above 200,000 people per day many days in January.

"The good news is New York's numbers continue to show progress as the holiday surge recedes," Cuomo said in a statement. "As we enter into Super Bowl weekend, we cannot get cocky with COVID — we must remain vigilant: be smart, wear a mask, socially distance and stay New York Tough."

The weekly statewide average of 4.72% was the lowest since Dec. 3 and marked the 27th straight day of decline in that indicator.

Long Island's positivity level continued to drop, with the weekly average registering at 5.65%, the second day in a row below 6%, though it tied the Mid-Hudson region for highest in the state. The weekly positivity level in New York City was 5.01%.

The number of new confirmed cases from test results Wednesday was 611 in Nassau, 651 in Suffolk and 2,939 in New York City. Those numbers were well below figures from previous weeks.

A total of 7,967 state residents were hospitalized with the virus, a decrease of 115 from the previous day. Statewide, 135 people died Wednesday of COVID-19-related causes.

Hundreds get shots in Greenport

About 650 people were slated to be vaccinated at Peconic Landing in Greenport on Thursday at an event coordinated with Stony Brook Medicine, according to Robert Syron, president and CEO of the retirement community. That included about 400 people over the age of 65 who live in the neighboring area.

Syron said residents of the complex’s nursing home and assisted living facilities were previously vaccinated as part of a federal government program.

"But there was not a set program for independent living members at that time," he said. "When the governor rolled out vaccines for 65 and over, that was great, but we are one hour and 20 minutes from a point of distribution."

Peconic Landing was the scene of a large COVID-19 outbreak last spring. Multiple residents died after contracting the disease.

Joanne Barrett, who has lived at Peconic Landing for almost 10 years, said it was difficult for her and other independent-living residents to be left out of the first round at the site.

"This has got to be most exciting day I have had in a long time," she said. "I really believe getting the vaccine is a big boost in terms of continuing to survive this thing. It’s not over."

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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