What to Know
- New York vaccine eligibility expanded to people 60+ starting Wednesday, as pharmacies gained the right to administer doses to that group and teachers; it expands further early next week
- Mayor Bill de Blasio says he expects everyone in New York to at least be eligible for vaccination by June 20; if the supply were sufficient, he says the city could dose everyone who wants it a month earlier
- The accelerated vaccination rollout combined with sustained declines in virus rates have fueled a spate of significant reopenings across the tri-state area; next week will end on a big note
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another U.S. state or territory starting April 1, though isolation is required for international travelers.
Though the mandate will end, New York state health officials still recommend quarantine after domestic travel as an added precaution. All travelers must continue to fill out the state's traveler form as well as adhere to core COVID safety guidelines as issued by the state and federal authorities.
That includes continuing daily symptom monitoring for two weeks post-arrival in New York, strict adherence to core COVID safety measures and immediate self-isolation if symptoms develop. Symptomatic people should contact their healthcare providers to report the change and determine if they should be tested.
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Asked about it later Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has criticized Cuomo often in recent weeks over sexual harassment allegations and separate claims of bullying before that, said the city wasn't consulted first.
"Of course, I have concerns about this," de Blasio said, adding he wanted to analyze the guidance with his health team for more detail. "The introduction of the virus from outside has been one of the biggest and toughest X factors in this whole crisis and something we worry about very much going forward."
The mayor's senior public health adviser and the head of NYC Health + Hospitals both agreed limiting travel was a key component of reducing viral spread, with the vaccination rollout still in its fairly early stages in terms of population percentage. They encourage New Yorkers to keep using other mitigation methods regardless.
Cuomo had mentioned the looming change earlier this month but said at the time that the quarantine requirement would lift for domestic travelers who were fully vaccinated. The updated announcement Thursday doesn't mention a vaccination requirement, but the governor indicated the accelerated rollout, along with sustained declines in virus rates across the state, contributed to his decision.
Hospitalizations statewide are at their lowest total since Dec. 6 (4,735), Cuomo said, while the daily positivity rate is 2.77 percent, the lowest since Nov. 21. Even so, new daily cases have plateaued at a level that more closely resembles the state's status just after Thanksgiving, when it was reporting about 7,000 new cases a day. Daily case reports were a third of that in early November.
Most new cases and new deaths these days stem from the city. The hope, officials say, is to keep infection rates manageable long enough for the vaccine program to reach more (and more and more) people.
"New Yorkers have shown strength and perseverance throughout this entire pandemic, and it shows through the numbers that continue to decrease every day," Cuomo said. "As we work to build our vaccination infrastructure even further and get more shots in arms, we're making significant progress in winning the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate, allowing us to open new sectors of our economy and start our transition to a new normal in a post-pandemic world."
New York's vaccine program got a huge boost at the same time Cuomo's news dropped, as Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a "vaccine supercharge" courtesy of the federal government. That program, which the longtime Democratic senator revealed during an appearance in Mayor Bill de Blasio's daily coronavirus briefing, will utilize community health centers as federally funded vaccine sites. More than 100 new sites will be established.
One in nine New Yorkers receive care at a community health center, which will help encourage access for the most vulnerable in the city, Schumer said. The new sites will receive special vaccine allocation on top of the weekly allocation the federal government sends states, similar to the partnership under which Cuomo opened the state's largest mass vaccination sites to date in Brooklyn and Queens.
Schumer said the vaccine "supercharge" comes in addition to the benefits ascribed to New York from Congress' new $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, which President Joe Biden signed on Thursday. It wasn't clear when the first sites under the new federal program the senator announced would launch.
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
"The mayor's been doing a very good job at getting vaccines out but now there will be more of them and more sites and more federal help to do it," Schumer said. "More access, more shots, a quicker recovery -- that's what we want."
Another boon for the rollout -- CVS Health announced Thursday it would add another 37 locations to the nearly four dozen already vaccinating people across New York state starting Sunday. That'll bring its total number of New York vaccine sites to 81, the company said. Appointments will open up for booking Saturday.
Participating CVS locations are in the following counties: Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Chautauqua, Nassau, Orange, Monroe, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester and Rensselaer, Schenectady. Under state rules, pharmacies can only vaccinate people age 60 and older as well as teachers, school staff and childcare workers.
More than 12 million New Yorkers are already eligible for vaccination, including the latest group (anyone 60 and older) made eligible Wednesday. Next week, more people -- social service and child service caseworkers, sanitation and DMV workers, county clerks, building service and election workers and public works employees and government inspectors join the ever-widening pool.
As of Thursday, New York state had administered at least one dose to more than 4 million people, which reflects only a third of the number currently eligible (and indicates the length of the line) and about 20.4 percent of the state's population. More than 2 million people, 10.4 percent of the populace, are fully vaccinated.
In New York City, 1.5 million people (17.9 percent of the population) have gotten at least one dose, while nearly 718,000 (8.5 percent of the population) have both.
Everyone in the city could get a shot as early as May if the supply were there, according to de Blasio, who has repeatedly said the city could administer more than a half-million shots a week if it had the doses. At the latest, de Blasio said he expects everyone to be eligible by June 20. Biden has said he expects to have enough vaccine for all U.S. adults in May.
Across the river, New Jersey has doubled-dosed nearly 926,000 people, about 10 percent of its population. It took the state roughly 55 days to hit the first million total doses, but just three weeks to move from that benchmark to the 2 million- milestone. About 10 percent of Connecticut's population is also fully vaccinated.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
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
Vaccines are expected to work on the coronavirus variants that have emerged and those that will over time. The more people who are vaccinated, the less the virus can spread and the less opportunity it has to mutate into a potentially more transmissible or otherwise dangerous form, health experts say.
It's a critical race -- more like a marathon. Cuomo says the low threshold for herd immunity is about 75 percent. New York, and the nation, have a long way to go.
In the meantime, health officials urge their residents to continue using the same core precautions that stemmed the spread of earlier strains: Wear a mask (two are better), socially distance, wash your hands and stay home when you're sick.