What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he expects to ease some restrictions (excluding NYC's indoor dining ban) within days as the state climbs down from its holiday surge; vaccine supply remains an issue
- NJ launched a new toll-free vaccination hotline Monday (855-568-0545) to help people with general questions about vaccines, eligibility and locations. Nearly 20,000 called in the first hour alone
- President Joe Biden reimposed flight limits on non-U.S. travelers from South Africa, Brazil, Ireland, the U.K. and 26 other European countries Monday; he already signed a quarantine order
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged New York state would make "adjustments" once it got through the dreaded post-holiday spike -- and on Monday, he announced the time had come to ease some restrictions. More details are expected within days.
New York's rate of transmission fell below 1.0 Monday for the first time since the latest surge. Cuomo called that a positive sign and said modeling projections indicate the transmission rate will stay below 1.0 assuming current mitigation efforts and public behavior continue. Anything higher is an active outbreak.
"When the positivity is down and the hospitalization rate is down and the infection rate is down and the RT rate is down then you can increase economic activity," Cuomo said Monday. "I think we're at a new place now and we can start to adjust that valve and start to open up more economic activity and reduce some of the restrictions, like with the micro-cluster zones."
Those micro-cluster zones were last updated in mid-December, with Cuomo adding new restrictions in counties like Niagara and Oneida. New York City's cluster zones, which currently touch parts of each of the five boroughs, haven't been updated since before Thanksgiving. The most restrictive of those is an orange zone in parts of Staten Island, which prohibits indoor dining and requires an all-remote switch for schools that don't use the test-out option.
The governor gave elective surgeries the green light to resume in Erie County Monday, the first of what he said would be a series of reopening steps to come in the next few days. The state Department of Health is evaluating the data now.
"We predicted that increased social activity would lead to a spike in COVID cases, and that the spike would eventually dissipate, and the ongoing fulfilment of that prediction is good news," Cuomo said in a release. "The virus is no longer spreading quickly. And when those numbers decrease, you can increase economic activity."
What is not on the table just yet, however, is a reopening of indoor dining in New York City, which was suspended entirely across the five boroughs in mid-December. Asked directly whether that might be included in the easing of restrictions, Cuomo said he was more focused on cluster zone modifications, and didn't seem to indicate any changes were coming soon.
"The indoor dining in New York City is a city-specific question and we're not, at this point, contemplating any changes," the governor said.
The NYC Hospitality Alliance blasted Cuomo's decision not to make changes for NYC restaurants, saying the restriction is "discriminatory and is destroying the livelihoods of small business owners and workers."
Cuomo also warned the tide could turn just as easily in the other direction again, as New Yorkers all too painfully know already.
"I know the numbers look good today, but we have been down this road before -- and the road has curves, it has potholes, so please, just be smart," Cuomo said.
NYC Delays Stadium-Size Vaccine Centers Over Shortage; CDC Says No Supply Fix Imminent
The new head of the Centers for Disease Control under President Joe Biden says the federal government doesn't have "as many doses as we would like" of vaccine and that limited supply will be an ongoing issue for the near future.
It's a blow to states like New York and New Jersey that pegged immediate ramped-up distribution hopes on the new administration but one that Cuomo and Gov. Phil Murphy appear to have accepted and rolled into their plans.
Cuomo has instructed vaccine sites across the state to operate under a "week to week" scenario, meaning they should not schedule appointments beyond the next dose allocation they know they will receive so as to avoid cancellations and postponements -- like the 22,000-plus shots that were delayed in NYC last week.
It'll likely take more time for many sites to work out the disconnect between the number of appointments and the number of shots available. In the meantime, more than a dozen hubs in the city are temporarily closed due to supply issues.
New York City's planned 24/7 vaccine mega-sites at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, as well as the Empire Outlets on Staten Island, are postponed until the city can get a 200,000-shot-a-week supply -- nearly double what's expected to actually come in this week, officials confirmed Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ramp up vaccination to 300,000 a week; he's barely getting a third of the doses.
Nearly 630,000 total doses have been administered in the city thus far -- a number the mayor called "just a small beginning compared to what we could do if we had the supply." He previously set a goal of 1,000,000 vaccinations by the end of the month. De Blasio says the city has about 19,000 first doses on hand at the moment and expects fewer than 110,000 to come in this week as far as resupply.
"There's not more supply and not more flexibility, we keep having to reschedule appointments and that's not fair to anyone," de Blasio said. "We could have reached an additional 100,000 New Yorkers if the supply had been there."
The mayor reiterated his confidence Monday in the Biden administration's ultimate ability to expedite the process in a transformational way sooner rather than later, and said he was "hopeful we're going to get answers starting this week, and in the weeks ahead, that will fundamentally change the reality."
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
He claims the infrastructure is in place to vaccinate up to 500,000 people a week, but at this point, appointments will continue to be rescheduled or canceled amid low supply. The message at the state level is similar.
More than 7 million New Yorkers are now eligible for the COVID vaccine and the state is dosing about 80,000 people a day, on average, but at a weekly federal allocation of first doses around 250,000, it could take half a year just to give first shots to everyone currently eligible. Cuomo has not even put a timeline on how long it could take to administer first shots to those not even on the line yet.
To date, New York has administered more than 1.5 million first doses and more than 140,000 second doses, which is a quarter of the second doses delivered. Health workers can't administer second shots to people who haven't had their first, of course, and there's roughly a three- to four-week gap required between doses. That full inoculation timeline could stretch out a bit, city officials have warned, given breakdowns in the supply chain.
The federal Week 6 allocation arrived over the weekend, bringing 250,400 first and 428,100 second doses to the state's sprawling distribution network, which has continued to grow in the absence of a more stable and generous federal supply.
As of Monday, Cuomo said New York state had administered 91 percent of all first doses delivered from Week 1 of the vaccine rollout through now. He says the state has the capacity to do up to 100,000 shots daily minimum if it had supply.
"We have mass vaccination sites that can do 10,000 a day per site," Cuomo said Monday, referring to state-run sites by the National Guard like the Javits Center.
Given current supply limitations and extensive demand, Cuomo announced New York state would be launching a new hotline to report vaccination abuse or fraud (833-VAX-SCAM). There are already a number of situations under investigation.
As the state awaits increased supply, Cuomo said the state will continue working around the clock to get shots into arms quickly. And he urged providers to "continue administering to their assigned priority populations in order to ensure equity of distribution."
To that end, New York will be sending more vaccination preparation kits to senior housing complexes and churches in the city. The state deployed the first kits last week to five NYCHA senior citizen complexes and eight churches and cultural centers where nearly 4,200 people eligible to receive the vaccine were vaccinated.
De Blasio said New York City has been accelerating its rollout to the point where it is administering nearly 50,000 doses a day and has the capacity to do more. He is adamant the city could reach his goal of delivering at least one shot to 1 million New Yorkers by the end of the month -- if the supply is there.
Right now, it isn't -- and it's not clear when it will be, to a satisfactory degree.
Many vaccine hubs in New York City were forced to cancel vaccine appointments for thousands of eligible people last week, and it could take weeks — not days — to clear out the backlog in giving out dosages, de Blasio has said. Second dose appointments have not been affected in the city, and the mayor has asked for those reserved doses to be released for use as first shots to keep the process moving at his desired pace.
That doesn't appear to be on the agenda for now -- and Cuomo supports the situation as is. He doesn't want to be in the position where people are then waiting for second doses that have been used for firsts.
A number of first responders had to delay their planned shots last week over the city's shortage. As of Monday, just more than 8,500 first dose shots had been administered to FDNY members, which covers about half the department.
State-run vaccination sites have not canceled first dose appointments; Cuomo's team says those have operated under more conservative assumptions about weekly supply rates from the start so overscheduling hasn't been a concern. The governor says he's confident state-run sites will have enough vaccine to provide second doses to all who have already received their first shots going forward.
Many pharmacies, hospitals and other vaccine providers are still planning to hold vaccinations as scheduled in coming days. Other vaccine sites, like Walgreens and CVS pharmacies in parts of the city, still have signs near their prescription pick-up and drop-off areas notifying people they have no vaccine in stock yet.
The slower-than-desired vaccine rollout comes as New York and New Jersey appear to finally be coming down the curve of their respective post-holiday surges. Both states have seen their early May-high hospitalization numbers drop a bit over the last few days. In New York, total hospitalizations stood at 8,730 as of Monday. That number jumped up a bit overnight after several days of decline -- sometimes by the hundreds -- since hitting a recent peak of 9,273 on Jan. 19.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Cuomo said Monday hospitalization and positivity rates in three regions -- Long Island, the Bronx and the Finger Lakes -- have been of key concern as of late and the state would be focusing on those areas. The governor didn't immediately elaborate on what kind of focus or potential measures that might entail.
Daily death tolls are still closer to 200 than 100 in New York, but they will start to decline once the decline rate in hospitalizations stabilizes, assuming it continues to do so. It could take weeks.
Like New York, New Jersey has set (and broken) a number of new single-day pandemic case records over the last few weeks, a product of a holiday season that saw heightened social activity and insufficient adherence to COVID protocol, despite repeat warnings from officials, Cuomo has said.
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
The Garden State's hospitalization numbers climbed to less than half the level of New York's amid this latest stretch, but it's springtime highs were also much lower. As of Monday, total hospital admissions had dropped below 3,000 for the first time since breaching that threshold two days into December.
Over in New Jersey, the state's vaccine dashboard shows well over half a million total doses had been administered to date, the overwhelming majority of those (87 percent) first shots. More than 72,000 second doses have been administered.
The state is averaging about 25,000 shots a day, Murphy said Monday, a drop in the bucket compared with New York's pace. Its weekly allocation is less than half what New York receives, though. Meanwhile, millions are waiting in line.
"We continue to ensure an equitable distribution across our state and to ensure that in addition to our frontline healthcare workers and first responders, that those residents at highest risk are vaccinated first," the governor said. "We continue to ask for patience as we await more vaccine doses coming into our state. We have built the infrastructure from the ground up. All we need are the doses."
New Jersey allows people not currently eligible for shots to pre-register for appointments so they'll be notified when it's their turn. Nearly a quarter-million people signed up the first day that portal opened, forcing a brief crash. The number of not-yet-eligible people currently pre-registered for vaccine appointments in New Jersey is now well over a million.
The state also launched its new toll-free vaccination hotline Monday (855-568-0545) to assist residents with general questions about vaccines, eligibility and locations. Nearly 20,000 people called in the first hour alone, Murphy said.
Connecticut has been slower than New York and New Jersey to expand eligibility. At this point, the state is including only individuals 75 and older in Phase 1B of the rollout, with individuals between 65 and 74 slated for scheduling next. Frontline essential workers and people with underlying medical conditions with increased risk for severe illness are expected to learn more scheduling information soon.
New York's governor has said he is still reviewing federal guidelines for the latter, while New Jersey's decision to open eligibility to people with a heightened risk of severe illness -- including smokers ages 16 to 64, by the CDC's definition -- prompted some controversy earlier this month.
Supply isn't the only issue. Public skepticism is real, in some communities more than others. A new poll finds vaccine hesitancy has reached 42 percent among New York City residents. Reluctance is highest in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island as well as among communities of color, the survey found.
At the same time all three tri-states ramp up their respective vaccine programs, all three have now been touched by the more contagious UK variant first identified in Britain last year. New Jersey confirmed its two cases of it late last week, while New York and Connecticut's totals are up to 25 and eight, respectively, with Gov. Ned Lamont adding another four in the Constitution State on Monday. The governors of all three states acknowledge it's likely far more pervasive than that.
Yet another more transmissible, the South African variant, which has different mutations from the UK variant along with similarities -- has not yet been identified in the U.S. That, too, could very well already be here, waiting to be detected.
Amid those concerns, de Blasio's health team reemphasized their "urgent" December warning to New Yorkers 75 and older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, that they avoid nonessential activities outside the home. That warning applies to caregivers as well as household members, doctors said.
Moderna said Monday it is accelerating work on a COVID booster shot to better guard against the South African variant, saying its current vaccine provides some level of protection. Researchers say both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected work against new and emerging coronavirus strains, to varying degrees.
More vaccines are in the works as well, including one by Johnson & Johnson that fully inoculates with one shot instead of two. De Blasio said Monday that vaccine could be a game-changer as far as the city's ongoing supply challenges. J&J's single-dose vaccine is in phase 3 of clinical trials and complete results are expected soon, though the company has said early data is promising.
To add another protective layer in the meantime, President Biden is set to reimpose COVID-related travel restrictions the outgoing president relaxed before leaving office. Biden reinstated travel restrictions on most non-U.S. travelers from South Africa, Brazil, Ireland, the U.K. and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders.
Biden last week issued an executive order directing federal agencies to require international air travelers to quarantine upon U.S. arrival. The order also requires that all U.S.-bound passengers ages 2 and above get negative COVID-19 test results within three days before traveling.
New previously announced CDC restrictions requiring proof of a negative COVID test from all international travelers, including U.S. citizens, take effect Tuesday.
The U.S. surpassed 25 million confirmed coronavirus cases over the weekend, according to a tally by NBC News. The nation has also seen more than 419,000 virus-related deaths since the onset of the pandemic began more than a year ago.
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