Andrew Cuomo

New York Takes More Major Reopening Steps Friday; Vaccine Eligibility Expands Again

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that hotel workers could be added to the eligible vaccine population under the 1B prioritization group, but left it to local health departments to determine how, where and when

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What to Know

  • NYC's indoor dining scene gets a significant boost Friday (up to 35 percent capacity), just two weeks after Gov. Andrew Cuomo let it resume at 25 percent capacity for the first time since December
  • Nursing home visitations can also resume statewide Friday but with strict COVID precautions; any new onset of COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days at a facility will prevent many from allowing visits
  • The latest developments come amid a huge reopening week for New York that also saw fans return to the stands at Barclays and MSG for the first time in nearly a year; NJ OKs large venues starting Monday

New York City's indoor dining scene gets yet another infusion Friday, the ability to boost capacity to 35 percent just two weeks after it returned for the first time since mid-December, while nursing home visitations can resume across the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Friday that hotel workers could be added to the eligible vaccine population under the 1B prioritization group, but left it to local health departments to determine how, where and when to schedule the shots. The governor took the same approach when he gave local governments the flexibility to add restaurant workers and taxi drivers to the 1B group earlier this month.

Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here

The latest developments wrap a critical reopening week for New York that also saw fans return to the stands at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden for the first time in nearly a year, city middle schools reopen and overnight subway shutdown hours halved as the state ups the ante on its testing-based recovery.

The return of nursing home visitation also comes for the first time in nearly a year, though with strict limitations that will likely preclude many -- if not most -- in the state from allowing visitors on Day 1. It wasn't clear how many of New York's hundreds of nursing homes were eligible to bring back visitation on Friday under the state's rules, which were recently updated to reflect current federal guidelines.

Cuomo, who has drawn bipartisan criticism in recent weeks over dueling but separate controversies, hasn't held a live on-camera COVID briefing with a Q&A since last Friday. Until this week, he had held at least three of those weekly since COVID hospitalizations began to climb ahead of the holidays.

After having been closed off to the public for much of the past 11 months, nursing homes in New York will once again be able to welcome visitors for residents starting on Feb. 26, unless they are located in a county where COVID cases are still high. NBC New York's Checkey Beckford reports.

Under the current rules, a nursing home can only allow visitors if the facility has been COVID-free for 14 days and is not currently conducting outbreak testing. Rapid testing is recommended, but not required, the state says.

Additional testing requirements apply in counties with rolling positivity rate averages of 5 percent or higher; proof of vaccination series completion within two weeks and no more than 90 days prior to a visit is also accepted, the state says.

Testing has been the cornerstone of the governor's path forward for New York over the last few months and will continue to drive the reopening process for the better part of this year as the state seeks to rebound from the incalculable economic and human costs of its almost full-year COVID crisis. Monday, March 1, marks exactly one year since Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio held a joint press conference on a Sunday night to announce the first reported case in the city.

The acceleration of the federal vaccination program, in conjunction with declining COVID numbers across the board, further enable the state's calculated reopening plan. Cuomo has taken additional precautions in New York City compared with the rest of the state, given its density issues. Should the numbers swing back in the other direction, he says reopening guidance will change accordingly.

Next week, city movie theaters are permitted to open under strict COVID rules, while limited wedding receptions and catering events can return on March 15.

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


Mayor de Blasio says responding to the data is of critical importance as the city battles concerns about more contagious COVID variants just as it descends its latest infection curve -- and as officials work tirelessly to vaccinate as many people as possible. Daily new case averages have dropped by the thousands since their latest peak in January and hospitalizations are down as well.

By press release, Cuomo said statewide hospitalizations had dropped to 5,626 Friday, the lowest total since Dec. 12 and a decline of more than 3,600 since their latest peak five weeks ago, on Jan. 19. The seven-day rolling positivity rate stood at 3.2 percent, the lowest that metric has been since Nov. 26, Cuomo said.

But with critical mass vaccination likely still months away, officials are acutely attuned to how quickly the pendulum could swing in the other direction if precautions aren't taken. And they urge the public to stay aware as well.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how herd immunity will be our ticket out of the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about what herd immunity is and how we get it.

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

To date, New York City has administered nearly 1.7 million total doses, delivering at least one to more than 11 percent of its population. The city did nearly 62,000 shots Thursday alone, a new single-day vaccination record, de Blasio said.

About 5.9 percent of people in the city have been fully inoculated, state data shows. Statewide, more than 13 percent of eligible New Yorkers have received at least one dose, while 7.4 percent have completed their vaccination series. The state says it administered a record 175,000-plus shots in the last 24 hours.

Equity across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines continues to be a challenge. This week, the state opened its two largest vaccination sites to date in Brooklyn and Queens to serve historically underserved communities. The city has been engaged in outreach as well and established hubs in priority neighborhoods.

The state said Friday a second mass vaccination site should be added in the northern Bronx to supply the Yankee Stadium site it runs jointly with the city. The borough has the highest positivity rate in the city.

New Jersey has seen stark racial disparities in its vaccination rollout as well. As of the state's latest data, nearly 1.9 total doses had been administered, including more than 635,000 second shots. Just 4 percent of those vaccinated thus far are Black and 5 percent are Latino, numbers that fall glaringly short of those groups' representation in New Jersey's population, according to the latest federal data.

Gov. Phil Murphy acknowledges the healthcare inequities that have been brought to light amid the pandemic but says those existed well before COVID-19. He invited the head of the White House's COVID-19 health equity task force, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, to join his regular Friday COVID briefing to discuss the state and country's ongoing efforts to address the disparities (watch that below).

Judy Persichilli, the state's health commissioner, delved further into New Jersey's efforts to ensure equitable vaccine access in that same briefing. The state of Connecticut, meanwhile, is facing a civil rights challenge over its recently revised vaccine plan, which now prioritizes access based on age.

Supply has been the crux of a slower-than-desired and oft-criticized rollout from the start at all levels of government, though it could get a significant boost now that an FDA panel unanimously approved Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine for emergency use. The vaccine's final approval could come Saturday with distribution to states expected the following week, which would make it the first single-dose vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S. and the third preventive treatment.

The latest COVID-19 vaccine, a one-shot dose from Johnson & Johnson, could receive emergency use authorization by the end of the week.

To date, the nation has administered at least one dose to more than 46 million people, about 14 percent of the U.S. population, the latest CDC data shows. Some experts define 75 percent as the low threshold for herd immunity. One CDC scientist said Friday that America was "nowhere close" to attaining that.

The U.S. has reported more than 510,000 deaths and 28 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, according to a tally by NBC News.

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