This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Bart Jones, David Olson and Craig Schneider. It was written by Jones.
New York State hospitals have tripled their rate of vaccines administered daily over the past two days, Gov Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday, as he outlined a continued supply issue that challenged the most optimistic timeline for inoculating millions of New Yorkers scheduled for the next phase of the shots.
The daily rate in hospitals for the past three weeks of 10,809 shots per day has increased to 31,157 per day over the past two days, Cuomo said.
On Monday and Tuesday, the governor lambasted some hospitals for moving too slowly to administer the vaccines that the state has given to them to inject into doctors, nurses and other staff. Among the hospitals Cuomo singled out for poor performance earlier in the week was Nassau University Medical Center.
Health experts have said mass availability of the vaccine to the general public could happen as soon as March or April, the governor said.
But with the state receiving 300,000 doses per week, accumulating 950,000 dosages in total so far, the governor suggested the road to transitioning from inoculating the 2.1 million in the first phase of vaccinations covering workers such as residents and staff at nursing homes and in other congregate facilities, as well as EMS workers and others, to the 6.3 million workers in phase 1B, could be longer than anticipated.
"That’s over 6 million people in 1B, you’re getting 300,000 dosages per week, it takes a long time," Cuomo said.
The governor pointed to increased production at the federal level and in the private sector as a means for increasing the supply and meeting the March-April time frame, as the statewide positivity rate hit 8.41% on Tuesday.
"I can't say to my mother or to any New Yorker right now how long until we know what the supply is actually going to be," Cuomo said.
The next group of New Yorkers eligible for the vaccine include 870,000 education workers, 207,000 first responders and 1.3 million people age 75 and older. The state's distribution network, which will span pharmacies, drive through facilities and more, will be ready, the governor said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county's COVID-19 vaccine distribution center "is up and running at Nassau Community College, and we’re ready to do our part in ramping up distribution and administration of the vaccine."
Cuomo also announced that a confirmed case of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 found in an employee in a jewelry store in upstate Saratoga Springs this week has been linked to a person who recently traveled to the U.K.
Through contact tracing, health officials determined that the employee was near a person who had recently traveled to the U.K. and was infected with the variant strain, he said.
Cuomo repeated his call for federal authorities to require that people traveling to the United States from overseas be tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to board flights headed here.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City is beginning Wednesday to offer vaccines to 25,000 NYPD cops — patrol officers and those who respond to 911 calls — with a goal of vaccinating 10,000 NYPD personnel by Sunday, though Cuomo at his own briefing reiterated that only health care workers such as EMS/EMT workers are currently eligible for the vaccine.
There are 36,000 cops on the force.
On Long Island, Stony Brook Medicine announced Wednesday it is participating in a Phase 3 clinical trial for a vaccine from Maryland-based Novavax.
The trial, which began on Dec. 27, is the only one for Novavax on Long Island and one of two in New York, said Dr. Benjamin Luft, principal investigator of the Stony Brook clinical trial and a professor at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
Luft said the results of the smaller Phase 1 and 2 trials for the vaccine are "very promising."
Novavax announced Dec. 28 that it will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers in Phase 3 trials in about 115 sites in the United States and Mexico. The U.S. government is funding the trials.
Luft said a major advantage of the Novavax vaccine over the two vaccines currently authorized is it needs only refrigeration, and not freezing. That makes the Novavax vaccine more accessible, especially in less densely populated parts of the United States and abroad, he said.
As the groups eligible for vaccinations expand, there will not be enough of the current vaccines to keep up with demand, he said.
"Having multiple vaccines out there that have high levels of efficacy that are safe — there are not going to be too many different vaccines," he said. "We need all the candidates we can get."
Meanwhile, the Massapequa Public School District said on Monday that a total of 61 students and 22 staff at nine schools have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Dec. 24.
The school district has not transferred any school to full remote learning, it said in a school message to parents.