New Jersey

Cuomo Eases Curfews, Says Movie Caps & More Rise Next Week; NJ Expands Vaccine Access

Monday marked President Joe Biden's deadline for all states to universally open vaccine eligibility to residents age 16 and older; meanwhile, NYC residents age 50+ can now walk into dozens of city-run sites and get vaccinated without having to schedule an appointment

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What to Know

  • New York extends its indoor restaurant service curfew statewide on Monday from 11 a.m. to midnight; catered events can also last an hour longer, to 1 a.m. instead of midnight, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said
  • Monday is President Joe Biden's deadline for all states to universally open vaccine access to people age 16 and older; NYC residents age 50+ can now walk into dozens of sites with no appointment
  • New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have each fully vaccinated more than a quarter of their respective populations; nationally, more than 32% of U.S. adults age 18 and older have completed their series

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a bevy of upcoming reopening steps for the next month Monday, the same day he extended the statewide indoor service curfews for restaurants and catered events by an hour each, citing ongoing improvement in New York's key coronavirus numbers.

Starting next Monday, Cuomo says he will raise movie theater capacity to 33 percent and museum and zoo capacities to 50 percent each. He'll lift large indoor arena capacity to 25 percent on May 19 ahead of the NBA playoffs, the governor added, his latest incremental reopening steps as New York state COVID hospitalizations fall below 3,790, the lowest they've been since late November.

Additionally, the state’s chief judge ordered all judges and court staff to physically return to work in their assigned courthouses by May 24, a change that may help deal with a backlog of postponed trials.

Core COVID protocol, including proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test in cases like large arena events, continues to apply, Cuomo says.

New York's governor has long described the vaccine as the "weapon that will win the COVID-19 war." Though he acknowledges that war is far from won, Cuomo has taken a series of what he describes to be data-driven reopenings that protect public health while simultaneously beginning to revive the pandemic-starved economy.

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

Statewide positivity and death rates have fallen substantially across New York since the mid-January surge peak. New York's seven-day average positivity rate has fallen below 3 percent for the first time since before Thanksgiving, while new daily COVID deaths are at their lowest tolls since around that same time. Hospitalizations are also slowly dropping, with the state reporting about 3,800 patients with COVID-19 as of Sunday, down 14 percent from two weeks prior.

“The numbers are stable and going down so we can start to open up more economic activity,” Cuomo said.

The state still has one of the highest average daily new caseloads in the U.S., but that number has significantly declined too -- from a seven-day average of more than 16,600 new infections reported daily in mid-January to one around 6,000 this last week. Asked whether New York's famed State Fair might be able to return in four months after its 2020 pandemic hiatus, Cuomo said he wouldn't commit yet.

"If we continue to vaccinate, if we continue to act smart, I think the worst is behind us and we're in a good place. But those 'ifs' scare me," the governor said. "I want to make sure that nothing changes. And I want to make the decision when it is timely, because once you say, 'We're doing this,' I don't want to have to go back the other way. Four months in this environment is a relatively long time."

Some public health experts have worried that New York has been easing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings too quickly. There are still hotspots for the virus. Hospitals in western New York reported 346 coronavirus patients as of Saturday, up from as low as 137 in mid-March. State health officials haven’t offered any reason for the uptick in western New York, though Cuomo put the blame on human behavior, and said his administration is not considering imposing restrictions again in the area.

Cuomo announced the latest reopening developments Monday as New York's neighbor across the Hudson made residents age 16 and older vaccine-eligible, meeting the national deadline previously announced by President Joe Biden. New York and Connecticut made that push earlier this month, a last major expansion that saw a few hiccups in its first few days but since appears to have smoothed out.

In Connecticut, more reopening developments are set to take place in May, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Monday. Effective May 1, curfew for businesses will be moved back to midnight, and all outdoor restrictions will be lifted. That includes no limits to table sizes and allowing alcohol to be ordered without food. Nearly three weeks later, on May 19, the state will end all remaining business restrictions. The state's health department will issue recommendations for safe operation of indoor and large outdoor events, and the only mandate that will still be required is indoor mask-wearing — leaving social distancing up to the businesses.

In New York City, the mad crush of newly eligible vaccine recipients crashing appointment systems at earlier stages of the rollout appears to have eased -- to the point where the mayor said over the weekend anyone 50 and older can now walk into a city-run vaccine hub and get dosed, no scheduling required. Previously, that option was reserved for people age 75 and older (and at fewer sites).

New York City says anyone 50 years and older can get their dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a city-run vaccination site without an appointment. NBC New York's Myles Miller reports.

A number of city-run programs, including its homebound seniors and mobile bus initiatives, had to be temporarily halted last week because of the feds' sudden recommendation that states pause administering Johnson & Johnson shots after a half-dozen reports of rare blood clots among women, one of them fatal. Nearly 7 million J&J doses had been administered nationally prior to that, mostly with no or mild side effects reported. On Monday, the city said it would resume in-home vaccinations for those unable to leave their residences, with the program now using Moderna shots.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had described the pause as a "tremendous curveball" earlier last week, one that forced the city to find Moderna or Pfizer alternatives for up to 4,000 J&J appointments a day, but pledged to keep the rollout moving expeditiously. On Friday, the city set a new single-day vaccination record, administering more than 106,500 shots in a 24-hour span.

De Blasio announced Monday that a new city-run vaccine site at the American Museum of Natural History will open on Friday. It will prioritize public housing residents and cultural institution workers but be open to all city residents.

The mayor has said the city never got enough weekly Johnson & Johnson supply to overly rely on it, so despite the pause-related setback there have been no major issues. And the pause itself could soon be coming to an end.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that the government would likely give the green light to states to start using the single-dose vaccine again as early as this week. Certain restrictions or broader warnings may apply. Advisers to the CDC are expected to meet Friday to discuss their findings.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was the last of the three to receive federal emergency use authorization, has accounted for a much lower proportion of U.S. vaccinations than Pfizer or Moderna. Only Pfizer is emergency-use approved for people age 16 and 17. That company is seeking federal authorization to roll its two-dose regimen out for people age 12 to 15 as well.

After the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused on Tuesday over safety concerns, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that rather than being proof of a rushed or inadequate vaccination program, the FDA and CDC response proves the system is working effectively. In response to potential rises in vaccine hesitancy, Fauci said, “The fact that after the [emergency use authorization], we have continued to follow very carefully any possibility of adverse events… should reinforce in those individuals how we take safety so seriously.”

It's not clear when the initial hearing might happen.

In New Jersey, only 4 percent of the more than 6 million vaccine doses administered to date have been Johnson & Johnson. As of Monday, the state has fully vaccinated 28 percent of its population, while nearly 43 percent have had at least one dose.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said he has confidence in whatever recommendation the federal government makes around the Johnson & Johnson vaccine going forward. New Jersey's COVID numbers have climbed down from their recent heights but like New York's remain fairly high. Murphy has not indicated any upcoming reopenings.

"We pride ourselves in not lurching -- in other words, opening a capacity and then coming back," Murphy said when asked about next steps on Monday. "We haven't done that once. We came close on indoor dining but we haven't done that once. I think that should be a point of pride for New Jersey."

De Blasio and Cuomo, both of whom received that single-dose regimen themselves last month, agree. Overall, elected officials and health experts across the nation stress to Americans that serious side effects are rare and that the threat from COVID-19 infection itself far outweighs any potential risk in getting vaccinated.

In New York City, 25.6 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, while more than 39.7 percent is fully vaccinated. Statewide, those numbers are 28.4 percent and 41.7 percent, respectively.

As of Monday, half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose, CDC data shows. Nearly a third are fully vaccinated.

The ratio is substantially higher for Americans age 65 and older, nearly 66 percent of whom can report a completed vaccination series.

Officials credit the vaccination rollout with declining hospitalization and death rates for older, more vulnerable adults across the U.S. A similar trend is evident at the local level.

In New York City, the average rate of admissions into hospitals for COVID-like illness among those age 65 and older has fallen by 51 percent since mid-January compared with 29 percent for those under 65, the health commissioner said last week.

Experts hope higher-than-average hospitalization trends among younger, typically healthy people, who were among the last to be prioritized in the vaccine rollout, will follow a similar path as more Americans in their 20s and 30s get their shots.

Copyright NBC New York
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