Wedding Parties Kick Off Big NY Reopening Week; CT to Open Vaccines to 45+ Age Group Early

Tri-state governors cite sustained virus declines and an accelerated vaccination rollout in their reopenings; NYC's three most senior health leaders each got vaccinated over the weekend with a different brand

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What to Know

  • 14 vaccine sites are expected to open in NYC this week as part of a federal rollout at community health centers; New Jersey teachers, support staff and public transportation workers can now get a shot, while Connecticut plans to open shots to those 45-54 on Friday
  • NYC's health trio -- commissioner Dr. Chokshi, adviser Dr. Varma and president/CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals Dr. Mitchell Katz -- all got vaccinated over the weekend. Each one had a different brand to drive home the point that effectiveness transcends manufacturer
  • Tri-state governors cite sustained virus declines and an accelerated vaccination rollout in their reopening decisions; in NY, wedding and catering events resume Monday, with bigger steps on tap for Friday

Wedding receptions and catering events resume in New York, albeit in a limited fashion, Monday for the first time in a year, kicking off yet another tri-state reopening week that features some of the region's biggest recovery steps yet.

Under state rules, venues are restricted to 50 percent capacity with no more than 150 people per event. Masks are required at all times except when seated, eating or drinking. Provision of contact information for guests is required to help with contact tracing and venues must notify local health departments of events above the maximum social gathering limit size (10 people indoors, 50 outdoors until the latter increases next week).

The bride and groom can do their ceremonial first dance at receptions and invite others to the floor, but couples must stay 6 feet apart and dancing is only allowed in designated areas, although it's not clear how that would be enforced.

All attendees must also test negative for COVID prior to the event, which has become par for the course as permitted events in New York, like pro sports or concerts at MSG and Barclays, become more common in the post-pandemic era. Gov. Andrew Cuomo added another 26 new rapid testing sites to the state's portfolio last week to help.

The event venues will be limited to 50 percent capacity, or no more than 150 people, with all guests required to be tested prior to the event and must stay in designated "dancing zones." NBC New York's Pei-Sze Cheng reports.

More significant reopening steps for each of the three tri-states are on tap for Friday, when New York City and New Jersey indoor dining capacity boost to 50 percent for the first time since the March 2020 shutdown and New York restaurants outside the five boroughs jump to 75 percent capacity.

In Connecticut, capacity restrictions lift entirely for most businesses, including restaurants, on the same day. Bars will still be closed and movie theaters and performing arts venues will return their current 50 percent capacity limit.

All three governors -- Cuomo, Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont -- have cited sustained virus declines in their respective states and an accelerated vaccination rollout in what they describe to be data-driven reopening decisions that jumpstart the economy while prioritizing and protecting public health simultaneously.

In New Jersey, indoor and outdoor gathering limits will double March 19, while restaurants, recreation facilities, gyms and personal care services can raise indoor capacity to 50%; NYC indoor dining goes to 50% that same day, while New York restaurants outside of the city will see capacity jump to 75%. NBC New York's Ray Villeda reports.

The vaccination rollout has moved forward aggressively after supply hampered the effort at all levels earlier on. Federal weekly allocation still falls short of what local officials say they need to more quickly achieve the goal of herd immunity, for which Cuomo puts the low threshold at 75 percent. Hesitancy to receive the vaccine on the part of the public, particularly Black and Latino communities that were also hardest-hit by the pandemic, has complicated matters as well.

A hundred new vaccine sites are expected to come online in the coming days at community health centers across New York, 14 of which are expected to open this week in the city, as part of a targeted federal, state and local approach to reach the most vulnerable communities. Those will add to a constantly growing distribution network of more than 6,000 vaccine providers across the tri-state.

The community center sites, like the state's largest mass vaccination centers to date in Brooklyn and Queens, will receive specially allocated federal vaccine doses on top of the weekly state allocation to ensure continuity of supply. That partnership was born out of necessity, with supply still proving a limiting factor in terms of the ability to rapidly scale up shot administration operations.

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

Three vaccine sites running 24/7 operations in New York as part of the state's new surge effort have suspended their overnight hours after a weeklong pilot program. State officials confirmed Sunday appointment hours had been rolled back at the Javits Center, Yankee Stadium and State Fair site in Syracuse.

The state is expected to receive its next allocation of doses mid-week but it's unclear when overnight operations will resume at those mass vaccine sites. Cuomo announced Monday a series of new mass vaccination sites will open on Long Island at week's end, with appointments opening up for booking Wednesday. That's the same day the next class of essential workers earns vaccine eligibility.

The new sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, with the capacity to inoculate up to 1,000 a day, at the following locations (call the state's COVID-19 vaccination hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX or check your New York eligibility here):

SUNY Old Westbury
SUNY Old Westbury
Clark Center - Gate C
Store Hill Road and Cherry Road
Old Westbury NY 11568

SCCC Brentwood
Suffolk County Community College
Suffolk Federal Credit Union Arena
1001 Crooked Hill Road
Brentwood, NY 11717

SUNY Stony Brook Southampton Campus
70 Tuckahoe Road
Southampton, NY 11968

More than 12 million New Yorkers are already eligible for vaccination, including the latest group (anyone 60 and older) made eligible last week. Starting Wednesday, 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 widening pool.

As of Monday, New York had administered at least one dose to nearly 4.5 million people, about a third of the people currently eligible and 22.5 percent of the state's population. More than 2.3 million -- 11.6 percent of the populace -- have completed their shot series, though vaccine rates continue to show stark disparities along racial/ethnic and socioeconomic lines.

In New York City, 1.69 million people (20.1 percent of the population) have gotten at least one dose, while nearly 810,000 (9.6 percent of the population) have both. The city's health commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, got his single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the weekend. He personally battled COVID last month and said he didn't get a first dose earlier because he felt others were more vulnerable.

The day after President Biden announced that all adult Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by May 1, the White House coronavirus response team outlined their policy changes to achieve this milestone, including streamlined resources to help Americans find vaccination sites and schedule appointments.

Dr. Jay Varma, senior public health adviser to the mayor's office, and Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, also got their first doses. Varma received the Moderna vaccine, while Katz got the Pfizer one -- part of a coordinated effort to show New Yorkers vaccine effectiveness transcends brand.

"This is a personal illustration of what each of us has said publicly. All of the authorized vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving," Chokshi said. "All of them offer strong protection from severe illness. The best vaccine is the one you can get now."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine when his turn is up. The governor, who is now eligible, said he will also take the J&J shot -- at a pop-up community center -- within days.

Across the river, New Jersey has doubled-dosed more than a million people, about 11.3 percent of its population. It took the state roughly 55 days to hit the first million doses, but just three weeks to move from that benchmark to the 2 million- milestone. It took much less time to hit the next million, which it did on Monday.

More earn eligibility as well in New Jersey starting Monday, including public transportation workers, members of tribal communities, the homeless and migrant farmworkers. Teachers and childcare workers had been scheduled to receive eligibility Monday as well, but Murphy moved their date up in accordance with President Joe Biden's mandate that educators be prioritized in line.

New Jersey's eligibility pool will expand again in two weeks, on March 29. Over in Connecticut, more than 10 percent of the population is also fully vaccinated. The Constitution State ranks in the top five U.S. states in terms of population percentage vaccinated and Lamont said Monday he would accelerate Connecticut's age-based vaccination rollout given the latest federal dose boost.

NBC New York's Ray Villeda reports.

Individuals who are currently eligible to receive the vaccine in Connecticut include:

  • All individuals age 55 and older;
  • Healthcare personnel;
  • Medical first responders;
  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities;
  • Residents and staff of select congregate settings; and
  • PreK-12 school staff and professional childcare providers.

Starting Friday, that list will include adults 45 years of age and older. Just over two weeks after that, the state plans on opening the vaccine up to anyone over the age of 16, with the state aiming to accelerate access for the most medically high-risk individuals under 45 during the month of April.

The progress has been momentous over the last month alone in the national vaccine effort, though a plateauing of COVID rates at still "very high" levels has concerned top health officials, as some states ratchet up the aggression on reopening. Both Texas and Mississippi have lifted their statewide mask mandates, a leap the head of the CDC says is too early given where the country is in its vaccination rollout and the level at which COVID rates have plateaued.

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


Cuomo and Murphy, along with Mayor de Blasio, have urged continued caution, recognizing their numbers have stopped plummeting as well. New York state, for example, has averaged nearly 6,700 cases per day over the last week, according to New York Times data. That's more than double a reduction in the average daily cases the state was seeing at the peak of the post-holiday surge, and at various points up that curve, but it's also more than triple the average daily case totals the state was seeing as recently as early November.

The same leveling off is happening all over the U.S., and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned another national surge isn't out of the question.

“Don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone. We are not in the end zone yet," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

In a prime-time address, President Joe Biden has outlined his plan to make all adult Americans eligible for vaccination by May 1 — and he raised the prospect of beginning to gain what he called “independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July. NBC News' Alice Barr reports.

The head of the CDC has issued the same stark warning on more than one occasion. She says the U.S. is in a precarious position for the next two months as it looks to get more of the population fully vaccinated. As of Monday, 11.3 percent of Americans had completed their series according to the latest CDC data. The agency's data often lags reporting at the state level so the total might be higher.

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.

That severe illnesses and hospitalizations linked to COVID remain substantially down in the U.S. and continue to decline even as new case levels vacillate a bit is a sign, health officials say, that vaccines are doing their most critical job.

It's just a matter of time until enough people are vaccinated to move beyond the pandemic. Biden has pledged a plan to have all U.S. adults eligible for vaccination by late May, though they may still be waiting in line for some time to get their shots. In the meantime, 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.

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