New York Kicks Off Key Reopening Week Monday as States Await Delayed Vaccine Shipments

What to Know

  • New York kicks off what may be its most significant reopening week to date Monday, when large venues can reopen to fans, NYC middle schoolers return to class and indoor dining hits 35% capacity
  • Weather-related U.S. shipment delays stymied the vaccine rollout last week; NYC now has fewer than 1,000 first doses left on hand while one NJ county has postponed appointments for five straight days
  • The United States surpassed a grim 500,000-death milestone over the weekend; it has reported more than 28 million COVID infections

Fans in the stands. Middle schoolers in the classroom. More overnight subway service. A big boost for indoor dining. The two largest vaccination sites yet.

Monday kicks off what perhaps might be the most significant (and varied) week of reopening in New York state and city since the pandemic began. It comes a day after the U.S. surpassed a once-unthinkable 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 and as the unprecedented vaccination rollout faces severe weather and other challenges that have left the five boroughs with less than 1,000 first doses on hand.

Extreme winter weather across the country significantly impeded the race to vaccinate Americans through much of last week, halting the delivery of desperately needed doses and ultimately forcing tens of thousands of appointments in the tri-state area to be postponed or even canceled over supply.

The United States’ death toll climbed past 500,000, according to a count by NBC News. NBC New York’s Adam Harding reports.

Some sites did remain open in New York City through the weekend, but those were dedicated primarily to the administration of second doses — doses Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly asked be used as first shots until supply ramps up. Those repeat asks have been repeatedly denied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which says the CDC does not recommend such a reallocation.

Almost all first doses that had been scheduled to arrive in New York last week were delayed by weather, but they are expected to begin arriving as early as Monday. New Jersey has faced similar shortages: Officials in Essex County canceled first dose appointments for Sunday and Monday while those in Monmouth County canceled Monday appointments for the fifth straight day.

Not sure how the process works? Or when you might be able to get an appointment? 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.

The White House said Sunday a third of its scheduled doses did manage to get through — about 2 million — and it expects to rapidly fill the backlog this week.

Such an influx would be of especially critical importance in New York, where the state’s two largest vaccination rates to date, both run by FEMA, open Wednesday in Brooklyn and Queens. Both are designed to target historically underserved communities and will be able to inoculate up to 3,000 people a day each for about eight weeks. Appointments opened up for scheduling Saturday for people in dozens of hard-hit ZIP codes with low vaccination rates. They’ll be made available to all eligible residents in each site’s county or specified target region next week.

The sites — at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens — are being operated under a new federal partnership that provides special first dose allocation outside of the regular weekly state allotment to ensure continuity of supply. Four more sites under that program will open upstate March 3 in Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester and Albany. Those will each vaccinate 1,000 people a day.

More than 10 million people are currently eligible for vaccination in New York, where state healthcare distribution sites have administered 92 percent of all first doses received to date, amounting to 2.2 million shots. New Jersey, which receives substantially less weekly federal allocation than its neighbor across the Hudson, has done more than 1.1 million first doses to date. The two states have nearly 7,000 providers ready to accelerate the rollout once supply is sufficient.

The race to vaccinate has taken on heightened urgency as more contagious variants first identified abroad become more prevalent in the United States, threatening to lead to faster viral spread as the country descends its latest peak.

U.S. detection of the U.K. variant, which some evidence shows may now also be more lethal as well as being more contagious, has far outpaced the nation’s detection of the South African and Brazilian variants. As of the CDC’s Sunday update, nearly 1,700 cases of the U.K. strain had been found in 44 states.

New York accounts for 82 of those, while New Jersey and Connecticut have detected 50 and 42 U.K. strain cases, respectively, though the actual number is likely significantly higher. A Fairfield County, Connecticut resident became the first in the tri-state confirmed to have the South African variant a week ago — and Cuomo reported the first such case in New York — on Long Island — Sunday.

The Brazilian variant remains relatively rare in the U.S., with the CDC confirming just five cases in four states — Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Florida.

No details on the Long Island case have been released apart from the patient being in Nassau County. Contact tracing efforts are underway.

“We are in a race right now – between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate – and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined,” Cuomo said in a statement Sunday.

With new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus circulating, health experts are adjusting their recommendations for face masks. NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres joined LX News to explain why you should make sure your face mask is well-fitted and double up.

Meanwhile, COVID numbers across the tri-state area continue to decline across the board. New York state’s daily positivity rate dropped below 3 percent Sunday for the first time since Nov. 23, while the rolling rate stands at 3.4 percent.

Statewide, hospitalizations have dropped to 5,764, a more than 3,500 patient plunge from their post-holiday surge peak of 9,273 on Jan. 19. The governor also reported a single-day death toll Sunday below 100 (75) for the second day in a row. Those single-day tolls had been in the triple digits every day since Dec. 13.

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

“We continue to see a reduction in positivity and hospitalizations throughout the state, which is good news, and this progress is allowing us to reopen the valve on our economy even further,” Cuomo said Sunday. “But with the discovery of a case of the South African variant in the state, it’s more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay vigilant, wear masks, wash hands and stay socially distanced.”

Overall, vaccines are expected to work on the variants that have emerged and those that will emerge over time. To date, the United States has administered more than 63 million total vaccine doses, nearly 19 million of those second shots.


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