New York state health officials have begun drafting plans to disperse coronavirus vaccines in anticipation of the completed testing of a federally-funded drug to combat the virus that has so far led to the deaths of nearly 220,000 Americans.
A state vaccine task force has created a draft of a distribution plan for New York ahead of a completed vaccine the federal government has hinted at having ready in the coming months, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. In order to effectively distribute a vaccine to 20 million New Yorkers, the governor says more information from the government is required to ready and finalize a prioritized distribution formula.
The distribution of a vaccine has already been divided into five phases, prioritizing healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities first, followed by first responders, child care providers, seniors and people deemed "most at-risk."
"What are you gong to do and what do you expect the states to do?" Cuomo wants the Trump administration to answer. To get these answers, the National Governors Association is sending the president a list of 36 questions - curated by bipartisan governors across the county - to help states get information to start planning for their role.
New York has identified the need for 40 million doses of the vaccine; 2 rounds of an anticipated drug will be needed for each resident of the state, Cuomo said. Executing the administration of some 40 million doses is an unprecedented task for the state, which has already accomplished never-before-seen testing volumes since the start of the pandemic.
"This is a larger operational undertaking than anything we have done under COVID to date; this is a more complicated undertaking and task. 20 million people in state, most of the vaccinations require two dosages depending on which one," Cuomo said.
"It took us seven months to do 12 million [coronavirus] tests, how long will it take to do 40 million vaccinations?" he reflected.
State officials have their eyes on the future as they combat the virus's continual spread through clusters of New York.
On Saturday, Cuomo said increased restrictions and concentrated enforcement efforts were proving successful in tamping down recent spikes of COVID-19 in what the state has deemed hotspot clusters within four separate counties.
A little more than a week into the latest COVID-19 restrictions, Cuomo said targeting spikes of the virus on a "block-by-block level" has so far proven successful, but stopped short of indicating a loosening of the restrictions that closed schools and businesses in hotspots.
Cuomo's micro-cluster strategy won't have the same kind of benchmarks for opening and closing as the state's earlier phased regional approach that divided restrictions among 10 regions. By hyper-targeting cases down to city blocks, Cuomo said his team looks at day-to-day changes to adjust the cluster watch zones and reshape boundaries quickly to meet the demands of the latest testing.
"With this strategy we don't have those same benchmarks because it's so particular and circumstantial to that cluster," he said.
New York City officials have not yet asked for the governor to lift restrictions, News 4 learned on Sunday. Despite optimism expressed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday, improvements in lowering the number of coronavirus infections within clusters has not dropped to benchmarks set by the city.
"Cluster zone numbers have seemed to level off, which is encouraging, but we have more to go. We must make progress this week in driving these numbers down further," said Bill Neidhardt, press secretary for the mayor.
It'll ultimately be Cuomo's call whether to lift restrictions next week. They were put in place in geographically mapped cluster areas shaded red, orange and yellow based on risk for a minimum of 14 days, though that period could be extended.
Despite a focus on clustered cases of the virus, Cuomo announced his first lift on statewide restrictions in several weeks. Movie theaters outside of New York City can reopened starting Oct. 23, the governor said Saturday.
Movie theaters in counties that hold a a positivity rate below 2 percent over a 14-day average and are cluster free can reopen at 25 percent capacity. In addition to meeting the state's air filtration standards, theaters must enforce social distancing, mask use and assigned seating.
A second surprise loosening of restrictions implemented in March came Sunday when the governor announced ski resorts could operate at 50 percent indoor capacity beginning Nov. 6.