‘Insane:' Mayor Warns Vaccine Shortage Could Freeze Rollout; Hospitals Cancel Appointments

New York state reported yet another new single-day pandemic case record Friday (19,942 ) along with a record number of tests (324,671); overall, positivity trends show the skyrocketing viral rates from the holidays appear to be leveling off

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What to Know

  • New York and New Jersey continue to shore up vast vaccination networks amid what officials describe as critical limits on supply; in the Empire State, wait times have stretched into mid-April
  • 7 million NYers are now eligible for the vaccine, with 5 million earning eligibility this week; at the current weekly allocation rate, Gov. Cuomo says it'll take half a year just to vaccinate people currently eligible
  • Overall, skyrocketing viral rates from the holidays appear to be leveling off as social activity has declined, Cuomo says; daily deaths are still near 200 or above, a lagging reflection of the holiday spike

New York City has moved closer to a cutoff point in its vaccination rollout as multiple hospitals told patients who booked appointments for their first dose that there were no more vaccines, for now. The mayor had warned days ago the city would run out of doses at some point next week without a "major" new infusion.

Bill de Blasio doubled down on those comments Friday on WNYC, when he said in no uncertain terms the city would run out of vaccine in a week at this rate.

"We're speeding up the process and getting them the vaccine, but we're not going to have enough vaccine by the end of next week," de Blasio said Friday, saying that the city is just days away from not being able to schedule anymore vaccinations.

He said the feds need to send hundreds of thousands more doses above the allotment to keep the process moving at this week's expedited pace. One hundred twenty-five thousand New Yorkers got dosed between Monday and Thursday, de Blasio said, well on the way to the city's goal of 150,000 shots a week.

New Yorkers lined the sidewalks and cars jammed the streets near a Brooklyn coronavirus vaccine site after false rumors spread of extra doses available to the general public. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

"If there's no supply, we're going to have to freeze the appointment system," the mayor warned. "That would be insane. We should get the supply commensurate to our ability to give the vaccine. It makes no sense we're being starved of the vaccine when we're vaccinating at this high level. As soon as we get it in now, it's going right into people's arms."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo raised some questions on that last point Friday as he shared data on vaccine administration performance across the state's regions and by provider within those regions (more on that below). Ultimately, he agrees with de Blasio that federal supply is a severe -- and mounting -- problem.

"No one gets all they need," Cuomo said Friday. "Everyone is going to say, 'I need more.'"

Statewide, 7 million people are now eligible to receive the vaccine, including people 65 and over, healthcare workers, educators, first responders and others. About 5 million people alone have become newly eligible for shots since Monday.

Not only has the state not gotten any corresponding increase in weekly allocated first doses, Cuomo said, it will get 50,000 less next week, just 250,000 down from the prior 300,000 rate. At that previous weekly rate, it would take half a year just to vaccinate the people currently eligible, much less the general public.

"You increase the eligibility, you don't increase the supply -- and now you have a very complicated situation," Cuomo said. "What they did was like opening the floodgates of eligibility and that entire flood has to go through a syringe. All this volume and it has to go through the point of a needle, literally and figuratively."

However, Cuomo did not appear worried about people people potentially not being able to get their second dosage, despite the limited quantities.

"You should not be worried about first dosage and second dosage. Wherever you go for your first shot, they'll give you the second dosage," he said. Some doctors believe that the vaccine shortage is political — and fixable, with a new administration five days away that they hope will free up more vaccines nationwide.

As it is, appointment wait times have stretched out to at least mid-April due to limited federal supply, the governor says. Hospitals in New York City, to de Blasio's point, are finding themselves forced to cancel or stop taking appointments.

Additional vaccine mega centers are opening up in New York City with a goal of inoculating as many people as possible. Erica Byfield reports.

Mount Sinai Medical Hospital released a statement Thursday saying it had been forced to cancel existing public vaccination appointments from Friday through Tuesday "due to sudden changes in vaccine supply."

NYU Langone Medical Center said it wouldn't book any new appointments because of insufficient doses. Many hospitals throughout the state are feeling the same crunch, even as the race to vaccinate charges on.

There was vaccine confusion of another kind in Brooklyn Thursday evening. A rumor spread from the messaging service WhatsApp that a refrigerator housing vaccines was down at Brooklyn Army Terminal and more than 400 doses were going out on a first-come, first-serve basis to any adult. Separately, city officials said that 24-hour hub was "temporarily" out of vaccine by Friday afternoon.

When Could I Get the Vaccine?

Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county's and state's vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Issues plagued other parts of the state as well. Officials said that an unpublished scheduling link was shared earlier in the week, which mistakenly allowed ineligible people to make appointments at state-operated sites in Binghamton, Buffalo, Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Utica, and more locally, Stony Brook, which referred any and all questions to the state health department.

People who made unauthorized appointments via that link saw their bookings voided so as to ensure "equity and equal access," the state said, noting that number was upwards of 20,000. At this point, state officials believe the system was hacked or someone leaked the link. The case has been referred to the office of the Inspector General for further investigation, and the governor's office said it's possible a hacker released the link prematurely.

According to CDC data, New York state has received 1,872,625 vaccine doses to date. Cuomo said Friday the state has administered 827,715 doses thus far, about 44 percent of the total delivered. More than 96,000 of the doses administered thus far are second shots, the governor said Friday.

Officials do not know how much vaccine will be available, which makes long term planning very difficult. With the clearance of more individuals eligible to take the vaccine, there's much more to administrate. Reporter Greg Cergol provides more detail.

In New York City, 303,671 doses have been administered with nearly 40,000 of those being second shots, according to de Blasio's latest data. That's only about 38 percent of the total doses delivered to date.

After a slow initial rollout in mid-December, though, data shows daily dose administration is gaining momentum, as de Blasio indicated in his weekly radio appearance Friday. The city continues to open new 24/7 mass vaccination sites and now has at least one in all five boroughs.

This weekend, the city opens on-site vaccination clinics for people 65 and older at three NYCHA developments -- Van Dyke I and II in Brooklyn, Cassidy Lafayette Houses on Staten Island and Polo Grounds Towers in Manhattan. More will launch at additional public housing developments in the coming weeks.

De Blasio plans to open 250 access points this month in his mission to dose at least 1 million New Yorkers by January's end, but the mayor has admitted federal supply limitations could hamper his efforts. At this rate, the city would have to administer another nearly 700,000 doses in the next two weeks to hit the mark.

New Yorkers lined the sidewalks and cars jammed the streets near a Brooklyn coronavirus vaccine site after false rumors spread of extra doses available to the general public. NBC New York's Ida Siegal reports.

Not sure how the process works? Check here for a list of vaccine sites in the tri-state area and details on how to register if you're eligible for shots

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

It wasn't immediately clear if the so-called shortages affecting some New York City hospitals exist citywide or if some redistribution of supplies may be in order. Earlier this month, Cuomo had threatened to fine hospitals if they did not use their inventories within seven days of receipt. If that were to become an ongoing issue for certain hospitals, he said they could be disqualified for future distribution.

De Blasio had fired back at Cuomo over the apparent finger pointing at hospitals, demanding "the freedom to vaccinate." He won that battle, and now some hospitals are saying they don't have the resources.

It's not clear where the more than 490,000 as-yet unused doses that have been delivered are being stored. State data shows vaccination performance is uneven across New York's 10 regions. Cuomo said some of that is easily explained (the North Country has a much smaller population, for example), but some variances require further study. There are variations in performance by provider, too.

In New York City, provider performance ranges from administering 100 percent of first doses delivered to 18 percent, with most of the Health + Hospitals administering under 50 percent of the doses they have received, Cuomo said. He noted that the stats he shared Friday are submitted by the facilities themselves.

ny region vax performance
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says there are variances in vaccination performance across the state's regions.
nyc doses

Going forward, the governor said faster sites will get more newly allocated doses because they're maximizing their supply. Sites slower to administer will get less. Meanwhile, that distribution network continues to expand -- and rapidly. Cuomo is shoring up a system that will include about 4,000 vaccine sites. Three new state-run sites open Friday in Queens, Manhattan and Albany, adding to the growing list.

Earlier this week, state-run sites opened at Manhattan's Javits Center, the Westchester County Center in White Plains, Syracuse's New York State Fair Expo Center, Washington Heights' Fort Washington Armory and Nassau County's Jones Beach, where hundreds of cars lined up. The state expected to vaccinate 700 at the Nassau site Thursday, a far cry from initial estimates of 5,000-10,000 per day.

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


Another state-run site opens Saturday at SUNY Albany comes online Saturday, with about a dozen others (at least) expected to come online in the coming days.

Over in New Jersey, there are currently more than 100 vaccination sites and at least one in each of the 21 counties. It also has six mega-vaccination sites, with more planned, as Gov. Phil Murphy opened eligibility this week to people age 65 and older as well as people age 16 to 64 with underlying conditions that increase their risk. Smoking counts as such a condition, which has sparked controversy.

In New York, Cuomo has not outlined any eligibility date specifically tied to people with pre-existing conditions, which includes another 5 million residents. He said he was waiting for federal guidance "and reviewing the issue" in the meantime.

Murphy is operating with the objective of vaccinating at least 70 percent of New Jersey's adult population within six months (more than 4 million people), he has said. So far, the state has administered 60 percent of the claimed first doses and 55 percent of the claimed second doses for a total of more than 310,000, state officials said. New Jersey is vaccinating at a slower pace per 100,000 residents than New York (2,966 vs 3,540), CDC data shows, but also faces supply issues.

According to the state's health commissioner, the Garden State is receiving a bit more than 100,000 doses per week from the feds, while 4 million-plus are eligible. Murphy says the state needs nearly double that to achieve its six-month goal.

Like Cuomo, he essentially put the onus on the feds to increase supply, saying New Jersey was prepared to do more vaccinations if it had more vaccine.

Brian Thompson sits down with Gov. Phil Murphy to talk about the state's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

"It looks like the feds have already blown through their vaunted strategic reserve. We're ready to go. We just cannot be caught flatfooted when we do get the supplies out of the feds," Murphy said Friday. "We need a complete transformation here in the number of doses that get manufactured and distributed and we will work with the incoming administration to influence that as best we can."

Despite widely shared concerns, state and city officials across the tri-state are aggressively working to extend their vaccination networks as they find themselves racing against a changeable virus that is still spreading rampantly.

The highest rates of spread -- and the highest hospitalization and death numbers - since May - have all come in recent weeks, a consequence of the holiday surge officials had so feared and warned of for months.

Both New York and New Jersey have set a number of single-day case records in the last month, with Cuomo reporting a staggering nearly 20,000 new cases Friday, the same day the state did a record number of tests. After a December and early January surge, hospitalizations have appeared to level off a bit, but deaths, a lagging indicator, are still at the highest levels they have been in some time.

positivity rate chart
The seven-day rolling positivity rate has started to flatten as the level of social activity from the holidays declined.

Cuomo reported 183 new fatalities in New York Friday, a day after reporting a daily toll above 200 for the first time since May 12. New York City surpassed a half-million confirmed virus cases by the state's count on the same day.

New Jersey's death toll topped 20,000 this week, a grim milestone reflective of a national crisis that has forcefully shaped the beginning of 2021 for the U.S.

More transmissible strains like the one in the U.K., which has been detected in the U.S., including 15 cases in New York, and other more contagious variants that have emerged across the globe but haven't yet been confirmed in America are fueling additional concern. According to a CDC report released Friday, the U.K. variant is projected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. at some point in March. A potentially significant increase in cases is possible at the same time.

Meanwhile, January is on pace to be the deadliest month of the pandemic for America, on the heels of a December that held the same tragic distinction. To date, nearly 385,000 U.S. lives have been lost to the coronavirus; case totals have topped 23 million. Globally, coronavirus deaths surpassed 2 million on Friday.

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