What to Know
- New York will open vaccine eligibility to those age 30+ Tuesday and extend it universally to those age 16+ on April 6; another group of essential workers in New Jersey earned eligibility on Monday
- More than 2.6 million people in NJ have had at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly 1.5 million are fully vaccinated (about 16% of the population); in NY, 16.8% of people have completed their series
- Even as the unprecedented rollout accelerates, NJ and NY are atop the national charts (No. 1 and 2, respectively) in new cases per capita once again; the CDC head has issued a new warning to Americans
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New Yorkers 30 years of age and older will be vaccine-eligible starting Tuesday -- and he plans to open up access for those 16 and older the following week, on April 6.
Monday's surprise announcement means the state will make adult eligibility universal nearly a month ahead of President Joe Biden's May 1 deadline and days after Connecticut does the same. It also raises the question of where the 16+ group will get their shots. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people that young, according to the latest CDC data, which was updated earlier this month.
That manufacturer was the only of the FDA-approved three to enroll minors in its trials. With rare exception, New York doesn't specify which sites offer which vaccines. Local officials haven't detailed the potential limiting implications for the youngest group or said if they'll funnel those people to certain locations.
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Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are federally authorized for those 18 and up. As of Monday, 30 percent of New Yorkers had received at least one dose, while nearly 17 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated. In the city, 15 percent of people have completed their series; 27 percent have at least one dose.
"Today we take a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID," Cuomo said. "New York will double down on making the vaccine accessible for every community to ensure equity, particularly for communities of color who are too often left behind. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but until we get there it is more important than ever for each and every New Yorker to wear a mask, socially distance and follow all safety guidelines."
While Monday's announcement adds millions to the eligibility pool for the vaccine, one group in particular that has seemingly been forgotten has been incarcerated New Yorkers. In a legal ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Alison Tuitt in the Bronx addressed how they were not included in the earlier categories of those eligible, even as those in other group settings (i.e. nursing homes, etc.) were.
Cuomo often spoke last year about how people living in those congregate settings were uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19. His proposed vaccination plan released last fall cited CDC guidance that said people who are incarcerated or detained in correctional facilities are at risk from the virus.
But he has declined to expand eligibility to all incarcerated people this year, even as he’s allowed all correction officers to get vaccines. Tuitt said the state’s decision to exclude incarcerated people from being eligible to get the vaccine “was unquestionably arbitrary and capricious.”
She called it “an unfair and unjust decision” that “was not based in law or fact and was an abuse of discretion.” An email seeking comment was sent to the governor’s office.
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 governor also said a new state-run mass vaccination site is expected to open Thursday at Rockland Community College's Eugene Levy Fieldhouse. Appointments for that seven-day-a-week site open up at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It'll be the 24th such state site. More than 120 community pop-up and six FEMA-run sites are open as well.
Cuomo only opened up vaccine eligibility to New Yorkers age 50 and older last week. Hours ahead of his Monday announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hadn't heard an updated timeline from the state as far as universal vaccine eligibility but called for the addition of jurors to the pool as soon as possible to help the court system get back up and running.
He'll get that and then some in a little more than a week.
In his daily briefing Monday, de Blasio said the city has launched a new focused effort to vaccinate public workers ahead of their full return to workplaces, a process that will begin May 3. More on-site vaccine sites will be in place as well.
Last week was the city's highest vaccination volume week yet, the mayor said Monday. The five boroughs did about 478,000 total doses in those seven days alone. More than a half-dozen new vaccination sites are scheduled to open this week in all five boroughs except for Staten Island to keep up with demand, de Blasio said. Those will be located at the Flatbush YMCA, City Point, Church of God and St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn; Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan; New Jerusalem Center in Queens; and West Bronx Gym in the Bronx.
"Those grassroots sites are going to make all the difference, both in terms of reaching many many thousands more New Yorkers but also ensuring that there's equity in the process," de Blasio said. "We're looking forward to the supply coming in to match these sites more and more."
Another boon for the rollout: New Yorkers age 75 and older plus one eligible New Yorker of any age can now get vaccinated together without appointments at three 24/7 city-run mass vaccination sites: Brooklyn Army Terminal, Bathgate and Citi Field. To qualify, the older New Yorkers must show proof of age upon arrival at the vaccination site. Their accompanying escort may be any age, but must also be eligible to receive the vaccine under state rules.
"As part of our ongoing work to make the vaccine easier to access for all, we’re continuing to double-down on reaching older New Yorkers, who are some of our most vulnerable, through creative strategies from free transportation, to homebound vaccinations, to dedicated vaccine clinics at senior buildings, to partnerships with public housing and houses of worship," Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Melanie Hartzog said Monday. "With this additional walk-up approach that includes caretakers, we’re adapting and expanding these efforts, ensuring older New Yorkers have more ways to access this key resource.”
Like New York, New Jersey is expected to get a boost in its federal weekly allocation -- one up to 20 percent -- this week. Gov. Phil Murphy says that increase, along with a new FEMA-run site that opened in Newark Monday with the capacity to inoculate up to 6,000 a day, makes him confident in his state's ability to expand eligibility to the next group.
That expansion came Monday, when essential workers in food production and distribution, elder care and support, warehousing and logistics, social services staff, elections personnel, hospitality, medical supplies, postal/shipping services, clergy and the judicial system became eligible for vaccination in New Jersey.
Not sure how the process works? Check out our handy tri-state vaccine site finder and FAQs here
People age 55 and older, as well as anyone 16 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be able to start scheduling their appointments in exactly one week. Real estate, building and home service workers will also be permitted to get shots at that time, along with sanitation workers and bank tellers, accountants and other financial industry employees. Laundry service workers, utility workers and librarians round out that next-up “1C” category.
More than 2.6 million people in New Jersey have had at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly 1.5 million of them are fully vaccinated, which is more than 16 percent of the state's population, according to the latest health data.
It's not clear when the Garden State might be ready to take that universal eligibility step, but if the moves by neighboring governors are an indication, it won't be long.
Biden announced Monday that 90 percent of U.S. adults will be eligible for vaccination by April 19 -- and have a site within five miles of home by that date. The plan is contingent upon expanding vaccine access at retail pharmacies, which thus far have only been permitted to inoculate people 60 years and older, teachers and more recently, individuals with underlying conditions.
More than 30 U.S. states have said they plan to expand eligibility to all 16-plus by April 19 as they race to meet Biden's May 1 directive. Connecticut will do so later this week, on Thursday. News of that development came shortly after the state lifted all capacity restrictions for most businesses earlier this month.
The race, more of a marathon, to vaccinate has taken on heightened urgency in the last month or so as officials fight to maintain lower hospitalization and death rates while curbing the spread of new cases. Experts say those say plateaued at a "very high" level across the country once post-holiday viral declines slowed.
On Monday, the head of the CDC warned that states lifting mask mandates, heightened travel and the spread of more contagious variants could lead to a potential "fourth wave" of the virus if Americans don't cling to COVID precautions.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky described a "recurring feeling I have of impending doom" as she begged people to hang on a bit longer.
Even as the U.S. vaccination rollout hits new milestones -- more than 1 in 3 Americans have had at least one dose, the White House said Monday -- the number of daily cases are growing by at least 5 percent in 30 states and D.C.
New Jersey and New York now rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the U.S. in new infections per capita, a fact that generates extreme unease in two states that suffered the most early in the pandemic and whose losses continue to mount.
New cases in New Jersey have crept up by 37 percent in a little more than a month, to about 23,600 every seven days. New York has reported an average of 9,452 new cases a day over the last week, an increase of 42 percent from the average two weeks earlier, according to New York Times data.
Hospitalization and death rates have ebbed in both states and in New York City, though both metrics remain well above early November numbers. That's all the more reason to be wary, officials say. And all the more reason to get more shots in more arms of all ages as rapidly as possible.
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
Confirmed virus deaths in New York state have topped 40,000 and then some, though health officials believe thousands upon thousands more fatalities may be linked to coronavirus that were not confirmed through diagnosis. Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx rank sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, among all U.S. counties for COVID deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins. New Jersey has reported nearly 25,000 virus-related deaths statewide since last March.
"It's been such a painful experience for all New Yorkers. This is a very somber milestone," de Blasio said Monday when asked about the grim potential of the state reaching 50,000 COVID deaths. "I think it's a reminder to us to take this disease very seriously. It's a reminder to us that this isn't over yet, to follow the data and the science, to follow the precautions the healthcare leaders have been consistently telling us to follow, to not loosen up the wrong way."
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Tri-state governors say they are proceeding on a data-driven and scientific reopening course, one that relies on core COVID protocol in all cases and on proof of negative tests and/or completed immunizations in New York state.
Murphy said last week he would halt potential plans to further loosen restrictions because of the numbers, though on Monday announced a series of capacity-related changes to come later this week. In addition to expanding outdoor gathering limits to 200 on Friday (while keeping indoor limits at 25 people), the governor said he would boost indoor and outdoor seating at large state venues (those with 2,500-plus capacity) to 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
The governor's announcement came with a stark reminder: "We know this virus is many times more transmissible indoors than it is outdoors. As the weather continues to get warmer, we urge everyone to engage in social activities outside whenever possible."
More significant reopening moves are on tap for New York in the next week as well, despite pleas from some, including New York City's mayor, to slow down.
Statewide travel for sports and recreational activities resumed Monday (it was previously limited to contiguous counties and regions). Event, arts and entertainment venues with less than 10,000-person capacity will reopen on Friday at 33 percent capacity, while outdoor concerts and sports venues with 1,500-plus indoor or 2,500-plus outdoor capacity can welcome back fans a day earlier.
That means Yankee Stadium will have fans in the stands for the Bronx Bombers' home opener against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Strict COVID protocol, including a 10 percent indoor capacity cap (20 percent outdoors) and proof of a negative test or completed vaccination series, are required.
New York will also lift its longstanding quarantine requirement for domestic travelers on Thursday, while the 11 p.m. statewide curfew in place for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiards halls and gyms will end next Monday. The 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars as well as the 12 a.m. curfew for catered events will remain in place for now, but the governor said his health team is actively assessing the data. An updated announcement is expected in early April.
"COVID continues to rear its ugly head across New York State, and while hospitalization and vaccination metrics continue to trend in the right direction, this pandemic isn't done with us yet," Cuomo said Monday.
"The vaccine is here and New York State is working 24/7 and pulling out all the stops to get shots in arms, including expanding eligibility and establishing new vaccination sites," he added. "But in the meantime, washing hands, wearing masks and socially distancing are critical behaviors that can help us slow the spread as we continue to fight the COVID beast."