State to Allocate Vaccine Doses to Colleges as Young Adult Positivity Rates Rise

New York State will allocate 35,000 vaccination doses to public and private colleges throughout the state to help inoculate the student population before the end of the spring semester, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

With a recent spike in COVID-19 positivity rates among the 18-to-24 population in New York, Cuomo said colleges and their students must not be transmitters of the virus. The state university system will take the lead in the initiative, he said.

“We will be giving direct allocations to schools, colleges, universities so they can vaccinate their students in their facilities and let’s stomp this beast to death while we can,” Cuomo said.

Recent results have shown that young people in the 18-to-24 age group are now testing at a 14 percent positivity rate, up from about 9 percent earlier in the school year.

The state plans to provide 21,000 doses to public colleges only for residential non-commuter students. The remaining 14,000 doses will be distributed to private colleges.

Deputy Westchester County Executive Ken Jenkins said the doses for the students will be the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires just one shot for full vaccination, as opposed to the Pfizer and Moderna shots that requires a two-dose regimen. However, any college student who has not yet turned 18 cannot receive the vaccine. Only Pfizer’s vaccine has been approved by the FDA for 16- and 17-year-olds.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said by vaccinating college students not only should it limit COVID-19 transmission among the college population but it will help protect the students’ families and communities when they return home for the summer break.

“It’s never been more important to act smart and quickly and vaccinating college students statewide before they return to their hometown communities at the end of the semester is the next step in this methodical process,” Zucker said. “It is the best way for students to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

Neither Cuomo nor Zucker addressed whether there will be enough Johnson & Johnson doses available to supply the colleges since there has been a sharp decline in vaccine allotment from the company in the past few weeks since there was a mix-up at the pharmaceutical firm’s Baltimore plant. Reports have stated that this week’s allotments of the one-shot vaccine are expected to decline nationwide by as much as 85 percent.

Progress on Cases, Hospitalizations Locally

For the first time in several weeks, Westchester County Executive George Latimer reported Monday a noticeable decline in active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations while the number of virus-related fatalities has been slowly diminishing.

As of Sunday, the county reported 5,333 current cases, a decline of nearly 400 since last Wednesday and about 600 cases from one week earlier.

Hospitalizations dipped below 200 – it was at 192 on Saturday – for the first time since shortly after the start of last fall’s spike. There were three fatalities on Saturday and Sunday and 17 for the past week, Latimer said.

He said the data is headed in the right direction but tempered his enthusiasm.

“The numbers are encouraging, they’re continuing to be encouraging, but they are not dramatic,” Latimer said.

On vaccinations, the county now has about 28 percent of its population fully vaccinated, and about 42 percent of its residents have at least one dose. Latimer said that there have now been 253,000 doses administered in the four largest venues, the County Center (180,352), the two county clinics in White Plains and at Westchester Community College (38,637) and the Yonkers Armory (36,030).

He expects to have a majority of Westchester’s nearly one million residents vaccinated before the end of next month. That number should accelerate now that everyone 16 years old and up is eligible for the vaccine.

“Obviously, we hope they get better and I hope that by the end of May we’ll see our numbers reach the 50 percent mark, perhaps the 60 percent mark, and reach that point where every person that wants a vaccination will be able to get one here in Westchester County,” Latimer said last Thursday.

On Sunday, the Mid-Hudson region registered a 4.4 percent positivity rate. In recent weeks, the region, which includes Westchester and Putnam counties had been the highest in the state.

However, on Sunday Western New York, which includes Buffalo, reported a startling 8.1 percent positivity rate from 6,016 tests, by far the highest in the state. That was followed by Finger Lakes at 5.5 percent, Long Island at 4.6 percent and Mid-Hudson.

The Sunday data showed Westchester had a 3.7 percent positivity rate, Putnam at 2.5 percent and Rockland at 4.9 percent.

In its weekly update as of last Thursday, Putnam County had 200 active cases, six COVID-19-related hospitalizations and one death during the week, raising the county’s death toll to 91.

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/

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