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State struggles to keep up with demand for vaccines as newly eligible New Yorkers seek appointments 

Long Islanders attempting to make an appointment for

Long Islanders attempting to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine at Stony Brook University through the state's Am I Eligible website were seeing this message as of Sunday afternoon.   Credit: Josh Holbreich

The state’s online scheduler struggled to keep up with high demand Sunday as New Yorkers with certain health conditions became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"Due to high volume, appointments can’t be made at this time for this location. Please try again later," read a message Sunday on the state's Am I Eligible website in response to a request for a vaccination at one of the state sites.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, state health department officials said the spike in appointment requests was expected and the website remained fully functional, with an average of 350 vaccine appointments booked per minute.

By noon, over 100,000 appointments had been booked, the agency said.

"As expected, the site is experiencing a tremendous increase in volume after appointments were opened to New Yorkers with comorbidities and existing health conditions this morning," the statement said, adding that an online "waiting room" has been added to release new appointments on a rolling basis.

The state said about 10 million New Yorkers are now eligible to receive the vaccine but the inoculation effort has been hampered by a limited supply of doses.

Meanwhile, bars, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers can remain open until 11 p.m. through an executive order signed Sunday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo said the drop in COVID-19 cases across the state and hospitalizations paved the way for relaxing rules enacted for establishments that were closed, then reopened during the pandemic. Since being reopened, those establishments had been required to close at 10 p.m.

The new executive order also covers casinos, billiards halls and any other location licensed by the New York State Liquor Authority.

As of Sunday morning, New York’s health care distribution sites, which includes hospitals, mass vaccination sites and local government centers, received about 2.1 million first doses and administered 1.9 million first doses, or about 89%. State officials said those sites have administered 83% of first and second doses.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said her office is working with partners, including its Federally Qualified Health Centers or centers aimed at low-income communities, to get vaccine appointments for people with comorbidities.

"We are exploring additional partnerships to further build up our vaccination operation and we will be prioritizing allocating a portion of our weekly supply to vaccinate this new group," Curran said in a statement Sunday.

East Hampton Town hosted its first vaccine clinic at a town-owned building in Wainscott on Saturday where it vaccinated more than 300 people in the essential worker category. Suffolk County agreed last week to provide a portion of its allotment to the town as East Hampton is not near any state- or county-run sites, town officials said.

Saturday, the state recorded 8,316 new COVID-19 cases, including 732 in Nassau and 771 in Suffolk. The daily percentage of positive cases, from 234,708 tests results on Saturday, was 3.14% for the state and 4.5% for Long Island.

That’s the lowest daily statewide positivity rate since the end of November, according to state statistics.

"Thanks to New Yorkers' actions — like wearing masks, maintaining distance, and making smart decisions — hospitalizations and the positivity rate continue to head down, and the holiday surge is in our rearview mirror," Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. "We have the infrastructure in place to administer hundreds of thousands of more shots as soon as supply is available."

Officials logged 107 new deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday including six in Nassau and nine in Suffolk. The state said 37,118 New Yorkers have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

With Jesse Coburn and Vera Chinese