NYC Hospitals Halt Giving Out Vaccine Due to Shortage; NY COVID Deaths Highest Since May

As some got news that their appointment for a vaccine had to be cancelled, others elsewhere received word that they used an unauthorized link to sign up for a vaccine at sites not currently operating — and had the appointment voided

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York now has 15 lab-confirmed cases of the UK variant; two of those are in the city (Manhattan, Queens). Both NYC cases were diagnosed in December; 1 had UK travel history
  • Hospitalizations appear to have leveled off in the high 8,000s in NY but daily deaths are climbing; Cuomo reported more than 200 Thursday for the first time since May 12
  • At the same time, eligibility has expanded to those 65+; Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will run out of vaccine doses at some point next week without a "major" resupply above what it expects delivered

The discovery of a second UK strain cluster in New York, this time on Long Island, is fueling ever-heightened urgency around the state's vaccination rollout, which encountered a significant hiccup in the city as the state's daily death toll continues to rise while hospitalizations start to plateau.

Multiple New York City hospitals sent out messages Thursday evening to patients who booked appointments to receive the COVID vaccine, offering bad news: there is no more vaccine to be given, at least for the time being.

"Unfortunately, due to sudden changes in vaccine supply, we have been forced to cancel our existing public vaccination appointments from Friday, January 15, through Tuesday, January 19," a message from Mount Sinai Medical Hospital to those who were awaiting the vaccine stated.

NYU Langone Medical Center also announced that they weren't booking any more appointments because they simply do not have enough. Many hospitals throughout the state are feeling the same crunch, even as the race to vaccinate charges on. The state had administered more than three-quarters of a million dosages through Thursday, even as the CDC says only about 41 percent of the dosages delivered to the state to date have been given out.

Officials do not know how much vaccine will be available, which makes long term planning very difficult. With the clearance of more individuals eligible to take the vaccine, there's much more to administrate. Reporter Greg Cergol provides more detail.

New York City has administered 303,671 doses thus far, nearly 40,000 of those second shots, the mayor said Thursday. That's only about 38 percent of the total doses delivered to date. After a slow initial rollout in mid-December, though, data shows daily dose administration is gaining momentum; de Blasio said nearly 36,000 doses were administered on Wednesday alone. The city continues to open new 24/7 mass vaccination sites and now has at least one in all five boroughs.

It plans to hit 250 access points by the end of January on its mission to dose at least 1 million New Yorkers by month's end. A new 24/7 mega vaccination site will open Jan. 25 at Citi Field with the ability to vaccinate up to 7,000 people a day, while de Blasio says plans are in the works with the Yankees to use their stadium.

Not sure how the process works? Check here for a list of vaccine sites in the tri-state area and details on how to register if you're eligible for shots

Statewide, Cuomo says the distribution network will include about 4,000 vaccine sites. Three state-run sites opened Wednesday at Manhattan's Javits Center, the Westchester County Center in White Plains and Syracuse's New York State Fair Expo Center. Two more opened Thursday -- at the Fort Washington Armory in Washington Heights and in Nassau County's Jones Beach, where hundreds of cars lined up; the state expected to vaccinate 700 at the site Thursday, a far cry from the estimated 5,000-10,000 per day. One at SUNY Albany comes online Saturday. More than a dozen others will open in the coming days.

As of Thursday, about 7 million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the vaccine. That includes healthcare workers and high-risk hospital workers, people ages 65 and older, first responders, NYPD personnel, public transit and safety workers, educators and a litany of other populations. About 5 million of that 7 million total have earned eligibility in just the last three days, based on new federal guidance.

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

As much as de Blasio has pushed for that expansion, he admits he has concerns about whether the vaccine supply can meet the demand. He said Wednesday the city would run out of doses at some point next week without a "major" infusion.

Cuomo had hesitated to open up eligibility to millions so early in the process, saying he worried the increase in numbers would muddy the prioritization of health and hospital staff, whom he says are needed to sustain the front lines.

New vaccine mega-site provides a glimpse of hope for Long Island residents, reported by Pei-Sze Cheng.

The state's weekly vaccine allocation hasn't changed with the increase in eligibility either, which the governor says is highly problematic. New York state only gets 300,000 doses a week. At that rate, it would take half a year just to vaccinate the people who are currently eligible, Cuomo said. Even now, it could take up to three and a half months to get a vaccination appointment.

To buttress supply, de Blasio has asked the feds to release the second doses reserved for New York City, which President-elect Joe Biden has supported.

"Holding back vaccine when we have tens of thousands of New Yorkers ready to be vaccinated right now makes no sense at all," de Blasio said.

When Could I Get the Vaccine?

Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county's and state's vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC

There was vaccine confusion of another kind in Brooklyn Thursday evening. A rumor spread from the messaging service WhatsApp that a refrigerator housing vaccines was down at Brooklyn Army Terminal, and as a result more than 400 vaccinations were going out on a first-come, first-serve basis to any adult.

The scene in Sunset Park was wild was hundreds showed up without an appointment, only to be turned away. NYC Councilmember Mark Levine called the crowds a "safety concern," and the mayor's office said it was "misinformation and the notification did not come from" Officials implied that the rumor was false, but a woman at the scene seemed to say it was true.

"Today was an exception, we wanted to offer, it was a single event. Unfortunately, we're not able to offer walk-ins anymore," the woman said.

There was also bad news for those who booked an appointment in other parts of the state as well. The state said that an unpublished scheduling link was shared earlier in the week, which mistakenly allowed people to make appointments at state-operated sites in Binghamton, Buffalo, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Utica, and more locally, Stony Brook.

Those who used the link had their unauthorized appointments voided by the state in order to ensure "equity and equal access." The state said the sites listed are not yet operational and are not taking reservations at this time.

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Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported more than 200 new daily deaths statewide Thursday (202) for the first time since May 12, according to The COVID Tracking Project, as New York City surpassed a half-million confirmed virus cases by the state's count.

The actual number of people infected in the five boroughs since the pandemic began could be up to 10 times higher, officials admit, given early testing constraints. New York City accounts for nearly half the state's cases since March.

"We're moving through a difficult period in our history, and I know COVID fatigue has set in and New Yorkers crave normalcy, but we will get through this together and come out on the other side," the governor said in a statement.

The numbers have risen dramatically amid the latest holiday surge. According to New York Times data, the city's case average this past week is 44 percent higher than the average two weeks ago, while deaths are up 23 percent in that time.

Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here


Cuomo has repeatedly described the more contagious UK variant, among other strains, as the "X" factor in the current phase of the state's COVID battle, one that could push hospitals to the brink because of the higher rate of transmission. More cases lead to more hospitalizations by default. That's been the trend of late.

Total hospitalizations are at 8,823 as of Thursday, the highest since May 7 but a dropoff of 106 from the prior day. The rolling seven-day positivity rate appears to be leveling off as well. Of all the state's regions, Long Island has the highest rolling positivity rate (8.7 percent, down 0.2 percent in a day) behind only Mohawk Valley (9.2 percent). Long Island tests nearly seven times more people daily.

It's not clear if Cuomo believes the second UK strain cluster could be fueling that higher positivity rate on Long Island. He announced the discovery of that second cluster Wednesday, as he reported the state had identified another three cases of the UK variant. That brings the total number of locally detected cases to 15.

Four of the cases in Saratoga County and two in Warren County are linked to the initial cluster, which traced back to a Saratoga Springs jewelry store. That first case was a man in his 60s with no recent travel history. The state is looking into whether another three Warren County cases may be connected to that cluster.

Starting Jan. 26, international travelers will be required to present a negative COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the U.S.

The new cluster on Long Island includes two cases in Suffolk County and two cases in Nassau County, as well as one in Queens, Cuomo said. In addition, there is a single case in Manhattan that appears not to be linked to either cluster.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said both the New York City cases were diagnosed as coronavirus in late December; labs later confirmed the UK variant. One of the city cases involved a person who had recently traveled to the UK, he said, though he didn't say if it was the Long Island cluster-linked case or the Manhattan one.

The discovery led the mayor to call again on the feds to immediately halt all flights from the UK to New York City; he argued the new CDC testing requirement for inbound international travelers falls short of what's needed to curb the spread. That new rule, which requires travelers to provide proof of a negative COVID test within three days of departure to the U.S., doesn't take effect until Jan. 26.

Copyright NBC New York
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