What to Know
- As New York City high school students return to class on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said families who opted out of in-person learning will have an opportunity to change their minds this week
- Cluster zones in the five boroughs were lifted Monday and indoor fitness classes resumed. Residential gathering limits across the state increased from 10 people in any space to 25 people outdoors
- The first case of a COVID-19 variant known as the Brazilian variant has been confirmed in New York. The patient is a resident of Brooklyn in their 90s who hasn't traveled recently
More than two million people have joined the list of New York residents who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The governor said newly eligible people can start signing up for vaccines starting 8 a.m. Tuesday. Currently, everyone age 60 and older can get vaccinated, as well as certain essential workers and people with select health conditions that leave them at-risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest move means the state is one step closer to allowing all 15 million New Yorkers over the age of 16 to get a shot.
Cuomo said the state can expand eligibility because of promises from the federal government that vaccine supplies will increase in future weeks. New York was set to receive roughly 700,000 first doses for the seven days ending Sunday, up from nearly 620,000 for the prior week.
“We will have enough vaccine to vaccinate people,” Cuomo said. "We have to make sure we have the capacity and willingness to take the vaccine.”
Local and county officials for weeks have urged the Cuomo administration to ease restrictions on eligibility and who can administer vaccines to help speed up vaccinations. The governor has said low vaccine supplies has held up vaccine distribution early on in New York's rollout, but he has eased eligibility restrictions in recent weeks.
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
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
State health officials hope that vaccination will lower rates of infection in New York, which has among the highest rates per-capita in the nation. The number of COVID-19 deaths has dropped in recent weeks, though hospitalizations have remained flat at around 4,500 patients over the past seven days.
The governor said he wants to address the lower level of vaccination among minority communities, which can face barriers to healthcare.
“We still have not reached fairness and equity in the number of vaccines,” Cuomo said, later adding: “That discrepancy has to be remedied.”
Black New Yorkers represent 17.3% of New York’s population over the age of 15, while Hispanic or Latinos represent 18%. But 9.9% of people with at least one dose identified as Black, while 11.9% identified as Hispanic or Latino.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Communities across the state report racial disparities in vaccination: Just 0.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black in New York's North Country, even though Black New Yorkers represent 4.7% of the region's population.
In Long Island, 5.7% of people with at least one dose identify as Black and 8.7% identify as Hispanic or Latino. But Long Island's population over age 15 is 10.7% Black and 16.9% Hispanic or Latino.
The battle for vaccine equity is on in New Jersey as well, as many in minority communities have bemoaned the frustrating process that is making a vaccine appointment. That's part of the reason a vaccination tent in a Newark IHOP parking lot sprung up, thanks to a multi-million dollar effort by the Rockefeller Foundations and the United Way.
There also may be more walk-up, no-appointment-needed clinics soon opening up throughout New Jersey's largest city. Only those eligible would be able to get the vaccine there, according to state rules.
Cuomo also announced the launch of the "Roll Up Your Sleeve" Campaign to promote houses of worship of all faiths across the state to sign up as vaccination sites for their communities. Starting in April, all houses of worship can begin to serve as points of distribution for the COVID vaccine, significantly increasing the number of doses the state can administer.
In total, as of Tuesday, the Big Apple has already administered 3,411,492 vaccination doses.
In another sign toward the road to recover, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all 80,000 New York City municipal employees working remotely will start returning to their offices beginning May 3. According to the mayor, safety guidelines will be in place when the workers return, which will be done in a staggered process.
"We are doing this with a health and safety perspective," the mayor said, adding that the approach to bringing back the workforce will be focused on social distancing, ventilation and other safety guidelines. “We’re going to make it safe, but we need our city workers back in their offices where they can do the most to help their fellow New Yorkers, and it’s also going to send a powerful message about this city moving forward."
The mayor said that May 3 date would largely affect those who work in office buildings (as many city employees, like police and firefighters, are obviously unable to work from home, and have continued to go in throughout the pandemic). Asked if the return of city workers to offices could set an example for private businesses, de Blasio said each company will approach the question of whether employees need to be in their offices full time or part time differently.
“Are folks ready to start bringing back their workers in whatever way makes sense as quickly as possible?” he added. “I’d certainly want to encourage that.”
New Jersey is taking a slower approach as per-capita cases rise to a national high, with Gov. Phil Murphy saying more reopenings are unlikely in the short term. (New Jersey has the third-highest average of daily new cases in the country, but is by far the highest in terms of new cases per 100,000 residents.)
"My guess is we won't be opening up further capacities for some time now because of the case load," Murphy said in a CNN interview Monday morning -- even as he said it's the state's goal to get 85 percent of students back into schools for in-person learning by the end of this school year.
Murphy might not be planning on reopening more of the economy, but he is allowing for more visitations to long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Based on new federal guidance, the New Jersey Department of Health is allowing for in-person visits, regardless of vaccination status. There are caveats, however, including that spread must be low in the region where the facility is located.
"In all cases, everyone – residents and visitors – must properly wear face masks," Murphy said. "If you encounter difficulty with visitations, contact the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman: 877-582-6995 or http://nj.gov/ooie." Outdoor visits remain an option.
Yet even as New Jersey slows down, New York City is speeding up. The city, immediate neighbors to the Garden State, ranks second in the country in new virus cases per 100,000 residents. With the explosion of variants in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio shares concern with Murphy over Cuomo's reopening decisions, some of which weren't consulted with local governments.
But still -- public high schools in the city reopened Monday. Indoor fitness classes resume. Outdoor gathering limits increase. Cluster zones removed. All of it is happening on Monday and Cuomo had previously announced that more reopenings are on tap in the coming days, including easing travel restrictions, lifting curfews for movie theaters and bowling alleys and reopening of event spaces next month.
"I think it's time to reassess for sure. A good example is with indoor dining. The city now getting up to 50 percent, certainly we've got to stop there that would be my strong view while we see what happens with these variants and the overall situation," de Blasio said Monday.
While citing increased vaccination rollout and the lowest hospitalization numbers since the post-holiday surge, Cuomo also warned that the Brazilian variant "should give New Yorkers cause for concern." That particular variant is thought to be more contagious and somewhat more resistant to antibodies in people who've had COVID previously.
"We're in a race to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as possible before the variants can disrupt the progress we've made, but the infection rate is also a function of our actions," the governor said in a news release on Sunday.
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
Also on Monday, residential gathering limits across the state increased from 10 people in any space to 25 people outdoors (the indoor limit remains). Social gathering limits can climb to 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors, up from the 50-person limit currently in place.
In addition to lower infection rates, Cuomo says boosted vaccine supply has also fortified the reopening effort, as well as the vaccination rollout itself. New Yorkers experienced major frustration booking their COVID-19 vaccine appointments (if they were even able to book one) just a few weeks ago.
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
Cuomo also announced a slight change in the state's vaccination rules on Sunday, allowing pharmacies, which previously were allowed to provide shots only to people over 60 and teachers, to vaccinate people under 60 who qualify for the inoculations because of certain health conditions.
With Cuomo's announcement of a new round of reopenings and a recent expansion to vaccine eligibility, more New York residents are trying to get vaccinated. The more than 2,600 pharmacies across the state may be the most convenient path to vaccination for many New Yorkers.
But it's not an easy race to the finish line, as evidenced by the new and growing presence of COVID-19 variants. State health officials on Saturday confirmed the arrival of a strain connected to Brazil in an elderly Brooklyn patient with no travel history. Like many variants before it, the first confirmed case is likely not the only one in the area.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, New York City's health commissioner, and other officials last week revealed a preliminary in-depth report on the presence of variants in the five boroughs. It found that two variants -- the U.K. one and another that first originated in Manhattan's Washington Heights -- accounted for 51 percent of all current cases citywide.
Notably, Chokshi and Dr. Jay Varma, senior public health adviser to the mayor's office, said the two prime variants in New York City only appeared to have heightened levels of infectiousness, not greater risk of severe illness or death.
"There is no change in our recommendations for people regarding new variants. The same things that work for regular strains of COVID also will work against the variants right now; that means maintaining distance, washing your hands, wearing a mask, getting tested frequently and getting vaccinated with the first available vaccine you have," Varma said Monday.
The B.1.1.7 variant, the highly contagious variant first identified in the U.K., likely accounts for up to 30 percent of the country's infections, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday. Officials believe it will become the dominant strain later this month or by early April.