New York State is ramping up efforts to vaccinate as many residents as possible by requiring students who attend the state’s public university systems to be vaccinated in order to return to in-person classes in September.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement as part of a recent ongoing drive to provide motivation and enticements to eligible members of the public who until now have not gotten inoculated against COVID-19.
He also announced that starting this Wednesday and continuing through Sunday, the MTA, including Metro-North, the Long Island Rail Road and the New York City subway system, will provide free rides if anyone gets vaccinated at one of its designated pop-up vaccine sites. The MTA is setting up sites at some of the highest traffic transportation hubs within the three systems.
For people in Westchester and Metro-North commuters, the Ossining train station was named as a hub along with Grand Central Station. Anyone who gets the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination at either of those sites will receive the equivalent of a free round-trip ticket to anywhere within the Metro-North system.
Vaccination times at Ossining will be from 3 to 8 p.m. while shots will be administered at Grand Central from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.
The same deal is being offered on the Long Island Rail Road while anyone who gets vaccinated at a designated New York City subway station will receive a free seven-day Metro card that entitles the commuter to unlimited rides in that time period.
“We have to get the vaccination rate up, and in this situation, we’ve always handled this as a community,” Cuomo said. “Everyone should be doing everything they can to get people vaccinated.”
Cuomo said for students who will be attending a State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) school in the fall, in order for them to attend live classes, they must be fully vaccinated. The state’s private colleges and universities will also be encouraged to follow suit, although not mandated, Cuomo said.
He implored college students not to wait until the last moment and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Let’s make a global statement, you can’t go back to school in September unless you have a vaccine,” Cuomo said. “That will be a major motivation for people to get the vaccine, and if you have to get it by September, you might as well get it now. Why wouldn’t you get it now?”
Monday’s developments follow Cuomo’s pitch last week with representatives of the Yankees and Mets that vaccines will be available at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field on game days. Anyone who gets vaccinated at either stadium will get a free ticket to a future game.
While 60 percent of the state’s residents 18 years old and up have now received at least one dose, the vaccination rates statewide have been slowing. The seven-day rolling average for doses on Apr. 12 reached a high of 227,320. As of Sunday, it had fallen to 135,017.
“This is not a New York phenomenon, this is a national phenomenon,” Cuomo said.
More than 16.8 million vaccines have been administered statewide, and 7.8 million people are fully vaccinated, or 48.9 percent of people 18 years old and up.
Cuomo said he’s keeping up the pressure because in the past month there has been a direct correlation between falling positivity rates and percentage of the population vaccinated. As of Sunday, the statewide positivity rate was 1.43 percent down just over 80 percent since the Jan. 4 peak of 7.94 percent,
Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 have fallen to 2,016, the lowest since Nov. 15. Fatalities have also fallen, down to 27 on Sunday.
In Westchester, active cases have dropped to 1,352, down more than 700 in the past week, after average weekly declines of roughly 1,000 cases for each of the previous three weeks. County Executive George Latimer said on Saturday and Sunday, there were 62 and 57 new COVID-19 cases, respectively, a highly encouraging sign.
Hospitalizations have fallen in the county to 74 as of Saturday and there were no fatalities from Friday night through Sunday night, Latimer said.
As of Sunday, 68 percent of Westchester residents at least 18 years old have received one dose of the vaccine.
“I think you’re seeing more people interact in society on the basis of the confidence that they get from being vaccinated and believing that it’s less likely they will get the disease, and should they contract it, it will be a less severe version of it,” Latimer said.
This week, two groups of high schools will hold vaccination drives for students 16 years old and up who want the shot. On Wednesday, Pelham High School will join with neighboring districts while Westlake High School will partner with Pleasantville and Valhalla on Friday. Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved at this time for 16- and 17-year-olds.
For information on eligibility and vaccination sites, the public may call 1-833-697-4829 or visit https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov