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Long Island teen among winners of vaccine scholarship 'so happy' about her lucky shot

Registered Nurse Jennifer Reyes administers the first dose

Registered Nurse Jennifer Reyes administers the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Mount Sinai South Nassau Vaxmobile at the De La Salle School on May 14. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Candice Ferrette and Bart Jones. It was written by Jones.

Jasmine Thalon said she was initially very nervous about taking the vaccine for COVID-19 but the chance of winning a college scholarship served as an incentive for the 13-year-old.

That was the idea when the state announced the program, and Jasmine got more than her shot in the arm against the virus out of it.

The Valley Stream teenager was one of two Long Islanders among the latest round of young people to win four-year scholarships to any public college in the state.

"When I heard I won, I was like ‘Oh my God. I can’t believe it. I’m so happy,’" Jasmine told Newsday. "I didn’t really think it was possible."

Jasmine, who has dreams of being a lawyer but is undecided on college, has recommendations for those teenagers still nervous about getting the shot.

"Do it because it doesn’t hurt," she said. "And it’s important to get vaccinated."

Plus, well, you never know.

Natalia Low of Suffolk County was the other lucky vaccine recipient among the 10 announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday in the second week of the lottery drawing.

A Westbury resident had been among the first winners last week.

Anyone aged 12 to 17 is eligible for the lottery if they get vaccinated. It is part of the state’s efforts to get more children in that age group inoculated since the numbers are low, according to state officials.

The winners receive a full scholarship to any New York public college or university — SUNY or CUNY — including tuition and room and board. The lottery winner must be accepted to the college through the normal application process.

"The key to New York's recovery, rebirth, and revitalization is getting as many eligible New Yorkers vaccinated as quickly as possible," Cuomo said in a statement.

"We're working hard and getting creative to put shots in arms, and we're targeting our efforts at groups of people with lower vaccination rates, especially young adults age 12-17, who have the lowest vaccination rate of any age group in the state."

New York is conducting five lottery drawings over a five-week period, with 10 winners chosen each week.

There are three drawings left.

COVID-19 indicators continued to remain low throughout the state, to the point where Cuomo said state-run mass testing sites will start to be decommissioned.

The seven-day statewide average of positive results in tests for the virus was 0.47%. The average on Long Island and in New York City, as well as the daily average statewide, was 0.41%, with 139,492 test results reported statewide on Wednesday.

The number of new confirmed cases was 43 in Nassau County, 34 in Suffolk County and 302 in New York City.

Nine people in the state died on Wednesday of causes related to the virus, including one in Nassau County. No new deaths were reported in Suffolk.

Curran: Nassau 'ready' for return to normal

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran expressed support for removing restrictions on economic and social activity, saying Thursday that the county is "ready to get back to normal and we are ready to open up businesses and schools for good."

The state reported 76.7% of adults 18 and older have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Nassau County, well above the state’s own threshold of 70% to return to fuller economic activity. In Suffolk, 69.2% of residents 18 and older have received one dose, while the overall state level was 66.9% Thursday.

The county, Curran also said, is opening a new website to help small businesses trying to get back to business, the Boost Nassau portal with information on applying for grants and loans, among other resources.

She said that an office in Eisenhower Park in Westbury, staffed with county employees, also will be open by appointment to help residents and business owners determine loan and grant eligibility.

Cuomo said the mass testing site at Jones Beach will start to be shut down on Friday along with five other sites in New York since demand for testing has dropped dramatically amid declining case numbers.

"New Yorkers have embodied the spirit of what it means to be New York Tough and it is because of their determination to defeat COVID-19 that we are able to demobilize these testing sites," Cuomo said in a statement.

More than 57 million tests have been conducted in New York State since March 2020, with 1.6 million at the state-run drive-thru sites, he said.

Cuomo also announced on Thursday that applications are open for the $800 million COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program.

The program reimburses New York small businesses up to $50,000 for pandemic-related expenses they incurred between March 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021.

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