NYC Demands ‘Fair Share' as Vaccine Supply Dwindles; Cuomo Sets More Reopening Dates

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to announce incremental reopening steps as the numbers improve; he said Wednesday that overnight summer camps can plan to reopen in June if the downward trajectory continues

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What to Know

  • Three million people over age 16 with qualifying underlying conditions became eligible for their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, joining 7 million+ other New Yorkers already eligible
  • State-run sites saw the highest appointment volume since the rollout began on Sunday, the day they started accepting appointments for that group; appointments are now mostly booked through mid-April
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to announce incremental reopening steps as the numbers improve; he said Wednesday that overnight summer camps can plan to reopen in June if current trajectory holds

Postponed. Canceled. "Please try again later." These are some of the most common messages frustrating tri-state residents as they scramble to try to book vaccination appointments that take months to get and might get shelved anyway.

In most cases, it's a matter of supply. New York City's stock of first doses had dwindled below 29,000 Wednesday, prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio to warn there may not be sufficient supply to even get through same-day appointments. A day earlier, Mount Sinai Health System said it had to cancel existing appointments at all sites in the city because of "sudden changes in vaccine supply."

"Every single time we're running into the same challenge," a frustrated de Blasio said Wednesday. "We need supply. We need more vaccine so we can make a difference. Remember in the beginning? The mantra was, 'Testing, testing, testing.' Now it's, 'Supply. Supply. Supply.' We're going to run out."

NBC New York's Ray Villeda reports.

The relentless winter weather gripping the tri-state area and the nation over the last month hasn't helped matters either. New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut residents have seen furious storms, including the nor'easter that dropped more than 2 feet of snow on parts of the region earlier this month, push scheduled appointments back days, weeks or longer as local sites closed.

Now, the "inclement weather in the South and Midwest," has New Jersey's Monmouth County postponing its scheduled vaccine appointments Wednesday and Thursday because of U.S. shipment delays -- and more sites could be temporarily closed across the tri-state Thursday when the next local system hits.

The Biden administration says it is working to streamline the distribution process and send more doses to states each week.

President Joe Biden’s administration said further delays in vaccine shipments and deliveries are expected across the U.S. because of the persistent winter wallop. It's unclear how many total doses have been delayed thus far or whether some may have to be rerouted due to storage concerns. In Texas, where more than 2 million homes and businesses lost power amid the latest storm, more than 400,000 doses that were due to arrive were delayed by a day at least.

De Blasio said the city was expecting its latest shipments to be delivered late because of the weather. He said as many as 30,000 appointments or even more that would have been available may have to be held back due to Mother Nature.

"We're going to run out of what we have now. Once again, we're in this ridiculous situation where we have massive ability to give people vaccination, we could be doing hundreds of thousands more each week, and we're running out of vaccine because we're not getting what we need," the mayor said.

A winter storm that swept across the country has left millions without heat and electricity in Texas. NBC Boston meteorologist Chris Gloninger joined LX News to explain what’s causing these extreme conditions and why Texas has been so hard hit.

The headaches -- from weather, to supply to confusion over how and where to book appointments and computer glitches -- continue to mount for the millions of tri-state residents eager to get their initial vaccinations. At the same time, the pool of eligibility continues to rapidly expand as officials hope faster infusions in arms will lead to quicker economic and public health recoveries for their states.

Opening up appointments to people with qualifying underlying conditions led to a single-day record in appointment signups at New York state-run sites, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. All state-run mass vaccination sites are now fully booked through April 16 except for four locations, three of which are still fully booked through early April at least. New Yorkers have taken to extreme methods, including traveling hours away, sometimes out of state, to try to find open slots.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

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

More than 10 million people are now eligible for vaccination in the Empire State. About 20 percent of those eligible have received their first shots, while less than 10 percent have gotten their second, which completes the inoculation process.

Even as supply shortages and weather problems continue to impede efforts tri-state and nationwide, more vaccine hubs and mega-sites are popping up. State and local officials say they expect vaccine manufacturing and distribution to rapidly accelerate over the next few weeks and they have pledged to be ready.

New York City was expected to open two new city-run locations Thursday, but had to delay the openings "due to the outrageous vaccine supply shortage and shipments delayed by storms," de Blasio announced Wednesday. The planned mega-site at Staten Island's Empire Outlets, which will serve borough residents only, already had been shelved in January due to supply, and now will be delayed once more. On Wednesday, the city opened a new six-day-a-week site at Teachers Prep High School that will prioritize home health aides and the immediate surrounding Brownsville and East New York communities. The state still has a number of additional pop-ups slated to launch in the five boroughs.

A new vaccination site opening Wednesday at Teachers Prep High School in Brownsville, Brooklyn, is meant to prioritize home health aides and local residents. NBC New York's Gaby Acevedo reports.

The two largest state-run vaccination sites to date are also scheduled to open in Queens and Brooklyn next week, each with the capacity to inoculate 3,000 people a day and each benefiting from specially allocated first doses from the feds to ensure supply. Those eight-week sites are intended to serve historically underserved communities and are being developed under a new federal partnership that is expected to expand to locations outside the city as well.

Cuomo announced Wednesday four more sites will launch upstate on March 3 -- in Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester and Albany -- as part of that program. Each site will have the capacity to vaccinate 1,000 people a day, seven days a week, he said.

To date, New York City has administered more than 1.3 million total doses. City-run sites have administered 97 percent of the total first doses they've received. So far, more than a half-million people who live in the city or are eligible to be vaccinated there have gotten one shot. About 432,000 have received both.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

Last week, the city administered 317,227 total shots, a record weekly number since the vaccine rollout began. A daily record was set of 55,339 doses, which is more than the city's current stock of first doses on hand. De Blasio continues to say the city could do more than a half-million doses a week with proper supply.

He called for additional allocation from the state Tuesday and again Wednesday. About 45 percent of the state's federal allocation is going to the five boroughs, which have performed about 53 percent of all state vaccinations, de Blasio said.

"Twenty percent of the people we vaccinate are from the suburbs and surrounding states -- and we don't begrudge them that, a lot of them are people who serve us here in New York City, but our allocation should be bigger to account for that," the mayor said. "We've got to get our fair share. We need it direct and we need it without so many strings attached."

Cuomo agrees the allocation should be fair but said that should reflect the state situation, saying on a conference call Wednesday urban areas shouldn't get more vaccine than rural areas just because they're urban areas.

A Brooklyn resident was fired over not getting her vaccine because she wanted to wait to see if she can get pregnant. NBC New York's Checkey Beckford reports.

"When you look at the totality of distribution, when you look at the vaccination rates, look at the fairness and correct for the fairness," Cuomo said. "In New York City, we're going to have a FEMA site in Queens -- 21,000 per week, just for Queens residents. We've announced we're going to have a Brooklyn site -- 21,000 a week just for Brooklyn residents. What about the Bronx? Look at the racial data -- you are going to see a lower vaccination rate with Blacks."

"Part of it is access. Part of it is hesitancy. I know, but then we have to work harder in those areas to get those numbers up," Cuomo added. "I want the locals to really study that distribution network. We the state will set up a joint mass vaccination site with the counties especially to alleviate any inequity they find."

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

At this point in the rollout, Cuomo acknowledges the sprawling network of thousands of distribution sites statewide has caused some confusion. Eventually, that will be a huge boon to the rollout -- when the supply is there to meet demand.

He has warned New Yorkers -- and the officials who represent them -- that the supply problem (and the subsequent appointment one) likely won't ease until the state gets far more than 300,000 first doses a week from the federal government.

The White House is in the midst of a roughly 25 percent increase in allotment to states for a three-week period, which is expected to boost supply by about 60,000 doses a week. The feds announced yet another small boost Tuesday.

According to the Associated Press, the U.S. is vaccinating 1.7 million Americans a week on average, above from under 1 million a month ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci highlighted preliminary studies which indicate that coronavirus vaccines will have a positive impact in slowing the spread of COVID-19. “Vaccine is important not only for the health of the individual to protect them against infection and disease… but it also has very important implications from a public health standpoint for interfering and diminishing the dynamics of the outbreak.”

Every little bit helps. The same drone -- "We could do more if we only had the supply" -- that reverberates daily throughout New York echoes in neighboring New Jersey, where Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to expand eligibility to teachers despite mounting pressure to do so. He has said he hopes they'll be the next group up.

"We haven't heard one bad case for why certain populations that are not currently up to bat should be up to bat -- so everyone is making a very credible case on behalf of their colleagues regardless of who you might be or which community you might be in," Murphy said. "If you are under 65 and you have a chronic health condition you are right now up to bat. You are eligible right now."

See the full list of underlying conditions that qualify NYers for vaccine eligibility

As of the latest data, New Jersey, which receives far less weekly allocation from the feds than New York, has administered 1.4 million-plus total doses, more than 1 million of those first doses. The latter represents about 12 percent of all New Jerseyeans, according to federal population data. By comparison, New York state's more than 2 million first doses done to date cover a bit more than 11 percent of the total population. The low threshold for herd immunity is 75 percent.

Experts say the extreme weather covering much of the U.S. is causing enough disruption to vaccinations that the country may take slightly longer to reach herd immunity against COVID-19, potentially extending the length of the pandemic.

NBC New York's Chris Glorioso reports.

At the same time officials at all levels of government work to refine and expedite the vaccine rollout, the reopening process has ramped up considerably. In addition to allowing the return of limited indoor dining in New York City, Cuomo has pushed back the indoor service curfew to 11 p.m. He said over the weekend he would also apply that curfew extension, which took effect Sunday, to casinos, pool halls, gyms and other New York State Liquor Authority-licensed businesses.

Coming next week: the limited reopening of large venues and arenas with fan testing requirements for the first time since the March shutdown. The Barclays Center has already been cleared to host fans at its game Feb. 23, while the Knicks are hoping to do the same for theirs at Madison Square Garden the same day. New York City middle schools will also resume in-person learning next week -- and city officials have been prioritizing vaccine access for staff ahead of the return.

Declaring New York state's demonstration with the Buffalo Bills an "unparalleled success," Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday he will extend the testing- based program to any large stadium or arena later this month. That means fans who provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of an event will be able to attend music shows and performances as well as baseball, soccer, football and basketball games. Arenas can open to the public on Feb. 23.

Cuomo announced another slate of upcoming reopenings in his conference call Wednesday, saying indoor family amusement centers can open at 25 percent capacity throughout New York state on March 26. Pre-COVID testing, temperature checks and other requirements apply. Outdoor amusement facilities can reopen starting April 9 with the same precautions but at 33 percent capacity. If they can't maintain social distancing or daily cleanings, they have to stay closed, he said.

Assuming the downward trend in COVID rates continues, the governor says overnight summer camps should plan on reopening come June. Again, testing will be a core requirement. He doubted parents would send kids otherwise, anyway.

It's been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States, and schools in many areas are approaching the anniversary of the shift to online remote learning. Pediatricians say there is an alarming uptick in young patients with depression and anxiety, and emergency room visits for mental health are up for children and teenagers.

As nightlife and daily activities increase, so too must transit access. Cuomo said Monday that the four-hour overnight subway shutdown that has been in place since the onset of the pandemic will be halved starting Feb. 22.

The governor says continued declines in post-holiday surge numbers combined with testing and other requirements are driving a "smart" path forward for New York. On Wednesday, Cuomo said the seven-day rolling positivity rate was 3.58 percent, the lowest since Nov. 28. It has been declining for 40 straight days.

Statewide hospitalizations stood at 6,574 as of Wednesday, a nearly 3,000 patient decline from a peak near 9,300 amid the latest surge less than a month ago.

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


Asked to weigh in on the looming reopenings late last week, de Blasio said he believes the incremental steps are "fine" -- with a big "for now" caveat. He and his health team are concerned about managing potential increases in viral spread associated with the increasing prevalence of more contagious COVID-19 variants.

Detection of those, particularly the U.K. variant, is on the rise both locally and nationally, with the CDC reporting nearly 1,300 cases of the so-called B.1.1.7 strain across 42 states as of Tuesday night. New York accounts for 70 of those and Cuomo added another 12 Wednesday, bringing the total to 82. Eleven of the new U.K. cases are in New York City, he said; the other is in Broome County.

With new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus circulating, health experts are adjusting their recommendations for face masks. NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres joined LX News to explain why you should make sure your face mask is well-fitted and double up.

New Jersey health officials also added 12 more cases Wednesday on top of the CDC's latest report, bringing its U.K. variant total detected to date to 50. Murphy said his administration likely would be planning more "fulsome" reopening steps in the coming weeks if not for the variant, which he said, "hangs over our heard."

"We don't have clarity -- I don't think anyone in America does right now -- on how much hold it will take and its impact, but also the science associated with it continues to be incomplete," the New Jersey governor said Wednesday.

According to the CDC, Connecticut has identified 42 U.K. variant cases thus far.

The South African variant, which is more complex than the U.K. one, has been detected in 10 states now, up two from the CDC's report Sunday. Cases of that strain in the U.S. remain relatively low (19), but the number is growing. The first local South African case was confirmed this week in a Connecticut resident.

Concern at the national level over the variants prompted the CDC late last week to issue new guidance for reopening schools to in-person learning. Late last month, one Connecticut superintendent told parents the state department of health had warned schools to prepare for the chance of a need to switch all-remote come March, should the U.K. strain become predominant and lead to a case explosion.

With new COVID-19 variants from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil now spreading, doctors are rushing to vaccinate as many Americans as possible before more mutations arise. Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a regional director of One Medical, joined LX News to talk about why vaccines are so important right now and how she encourages her patients to overcome their skepticism about it.

Overall, vaccines are expected to protect against the variants that have emerged and the new ones that will over time. Efforts to detect variants have gained momentum at the local and national level, with states and cities increasing their capacity to do so. The U.S. now maps only the genetic makeup of a minuscule fraction of positive virus samples, a situation some experts liken to flying blind.

Such ignorance could prove costly in the race to vaccinate Americans before virus variants become dominant here. The House COVID-19 relief bill would provide $1.75 billion for mapping virus genes.

Quest Diagnostics said Tuesday it has doubled the number of COVID-19 genomic sequencing tests it performs for the CDC weekly to 2,000.

In the absence of widescale vaccination, officials say the precautions that have proven to stem the spread of the virus since the start of the pandemic will also curb the spread of the variants. They continue to urge people to practice the "core four" -- wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands and stay home if sick.

Murphy flashed a new double mask getup as he tried to drive home the point Wednesday.

"I know it's the basic stuff that we've been preaching from Day 1 but the basic stuff is still the hand we've been dealt," the New Jersey governor said. "Remember, we cracked the back of the curve in the first wave without a vaccine because we did that basic stuff by the millions in this state."

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