Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines in New York State is once again being expanded this week to include all residents who are 30 years old and up, and by next Tuesday will include everyone at least 16 years old.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement on Monday a week after those 50 years and up became eligible for vaccinations and as vaccine availability starts ramping up.
More than nine million doses have been administered statewide with 171,419 doses in a 24-hour period on Sunday. During the seven-day stretch ending Sunday, more than 1.3 million doses were given throughout New York.
Delivery of the current week’s allocation, which is expected to include increased allotments of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, many to local pharmacies, is expected to arrive by mid-week.
Cuomo called the accelerated eligibility “a monumental step.”
“As we continue to expand eligibility, 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,” he said. “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.”
Newly eligible people are free to sign up for an appointment on Tuesday at 8 a.m. of the week that they become eligible.
Despite the encouraging news, the state Department of Health urges patience from the public. Demand for the state’s 19 million-plus residents still greatly exceeds the federal government’s supply.
For example, there are 20 million new doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the entire nation this week, and New York will be allocated its share.
The good news for local residents is that much of Westchester’s Johnson & Johnson vaccination allotment is to local pharmacies, said Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins.
“There are many, many new pharmacies that have been added and they are using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Jenkins said “That’s a great sign.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is preferred by many, particularly older residents, because it only requires one dose, instead of a booster three or four weeks later.
Through Sunday, nearly 30 percent of the state’s residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 16.8 percent are fully vaccinated. Those numbers are similar in Westchester County.
Although there are steadily increasing percentages of people who are now inoculated, the number of active cases in Westchester and across the state and nation have been on the rise once again.
On Monday, County Executive George Latimer reported that through the weekend, the number of active cases had spiked to 5,760, up more than 500 since the previous weekend and more than 400 since Mar. 23.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations remains stubbornly persistent, standing at 259 on Saturday, virtually unchanged over the past few weeks with only minor variations.
Latimer said it’s believed that the variants from the United Kingdom and possibly elsewhere around the globe may be playing a role in the active case increase because those COVID-19 strains are reported to be more communicable.
“The numbers are not as encouraging as we hoped they would have been,” Latimer said. “We thought we would have a downward direction and it’s flattened out.”
But the county executive said once a strong majority of the population is vaccinated, infections should be reduced.
“I believe we’re going to see a much better late spring this year than last year, a much better summer, a big fireworks show at the oval in Tuckahoe,” Latimer said. “We’re going to open up Playland – no fireworks at Playland this year – but we’ll see Playland back open and we’re going to have things that are helpful.”
The statewide positivity rate stood at 3.5 percent on Sunday with more than 267,000 tests administered. For the second week in a row, the Mid-Hudson Valley had the highest rate of the state’s 10 regions, standing at 4.8 percent. Westchester’s positivity rate was 4.1 percent and Putnam and Rockland each stood at 5.4 percent.
Glen Island Park in New Rochelle is reopening to the public on Tuesday for the first time in more than a year. It will be open only to county residents from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. There will be no buses or boat docking. Parking capacity will be capped at 300 vehicles.
The park was closed in early March 2020 once New Rochelle became a hot spot. The site has been used as a drive-in COVID-19 testing facility.
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/
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/