Four of New York's mass vaccination sites that opened at the beginning of 2021 to meet the overwhelming demand of inoculating some 19 million residents are set to close on Monday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week plans to downsize the state's mass vaccination efforts to redistribute resources into more localized operations. The sites at The Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls, Plattsburgh International Airport, SUNY Polytechnic Institute - Utica, and Jones Beach will close down after the weekend.
When the state-run sites opened back in January, New Yorkers had a difficult time securing the highly coveted appointments to get their first shots against the virus. Demand for the vaccine through the winter and spring often outpaced production and distribution channels.
The governor has cited decreasing demand and "milestone" achievements in vaccinations for shuttering the mass vaccination sites.
"Over the course of weeks and months, a number of sites will downscale based on demand, proximity to other vaccination sites, and other locally focused efforts. The transition reflects the State's plan to focus resources on areas where zip code data shows the vaccination rate is lower than the statewide average," the governor's office outlined last month.
Statewide, the new daily COVID counts have surged past 1,000 the last couple days, up significantly from the roughly 300 to 400 Cuomo was reporting just a month ago. The governor reported just two new virus fatalities Sunday, only one of them in the city, while total hospitalizations (352 as of Sunday) are well below the 410-threshold that opened the pandemic in March 2020.
Meanwhile, the country's top health officials are doubling down on combatting misinformation about the federally approved COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. surgeon general appeared on both CNN and Fox news echoing President Joe Biden's earlier claims that social media companies have a responsibility to promote factual sources.
“I am worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. And while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated," Murthy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
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U.S. cases of COVID-19 last week increased by 17,000 nationwide over a 14-day period for the first time since late fall, and an increase in death historically follows a spike in illness. Much of the worsening problem is being driven by the delta variant first identified in India, that has since hit the United Kingdom and other countries, said Murthy.
All but two states -- Maine and South Dakota -- have reported case increases in the past two weeks. While hospitalizations and daily deaths remain comparably low, those are lagging indicators and may rise as delta spreads in unvaccinated areas.
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Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC