New York

Cuomo to Extend Indoor Dining Curfew; NYC in Vaccine Race Against Variants

What to Know

  • Tri-state health and elected officials have paused Johnson & Johnson vaccination administration in accordance with new recommendations from the CDC and the FDA; experts say it shouldn’t slow the timeline
  • More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S. to date; most recipients report no or mild side effects; nationally, about 30% of U.S. adults age 18 and older are fully vaccinated
  • Meanwhile, the reopening process continues; Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will extend the statewide indoor restaurant and catered event curfews by an hour each starting on Monday; racing spectators return Thursday

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will extend New York’s indoor restaurant service and catered events curfews by an hour each and welcome spectators back to horse and auto races next week, his latest reopening steps as COVID hospitalizations drop to early December levels.

Starting Monday, the state’s curfews for indoor restaurant service and catered events extend from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. and 12 a.m. to 1 a.m., respectively, Cuomo said. Horse and auto racing spectators can return to the stands Thursday at 20 percent capacity. Attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or completed vaccination series prior to entry at a racing event. Other core COVID protocol applies as well.

In making those announcements, Cuomo described the state’s COVID situation as becoming more “manageable,” but warned, “We have a long way to go before reaching a level of immunity that defeats the COVID beast for good, and that’s why New Yorkers need to continue practicing safe behaviors as they go about their daily lives.”

Tri-state health and elected officials sought to reassure New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday as a CDC panel debated the Johnson & Johnson shot pause. NBC New York’s Ida Siegal reports.

The latest planned reopenings come as tri-state officials — and those across the nation — seek to reassure their people of vaccine safety and effectiveness after this week’s recommended U.S. pause of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose regimen.

That suggestion came Tuesday after a half-dozen reports of women between the ages of 18 and 48 suffering rare blood clots after taking the J&J vaccine. One of the women, a 45-year-old from Virginia, died. The CDC and the FDA are continuing to debate the next steps as J&J precautionarily pauses its single-shot rollout in Europe.

Tri-state officials, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, describe the pause as a “tremendous curveball” but say they hope — and believe — it won’t hamper their vaccination efforts for long. De Blasio says the city remains on track to fully vaccinate 5 million residents by the end of June. He’s about 40 percent of the way there.

Amid the local, state and national push to vaccinate, federal experts, including CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, have warned Americans to be wary and maintain COVID precautions, saying vaccinations take up to six weeks to take full effect. That time gap potentially gives more contagious variants that have intensified their collective grip on the country more time to spread and threaten U.S. progress in the COVID war.

Some authorities have pointed to variants, like those first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, as a factor in heightened hospitalization rates among people younger than 65, fewer of whom are fully vaccinated compared with their 65 and older counterparts. For the latter, the average rate of admissions into New York City hospitals for COVID-like illness has fallen by 51 percent since mid-January, health officials say.

That compares with a 29 percent-decline for those under 65, city officials say.

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

That’s an indication that vaccinations are working against variants overall, as health experts have said they would, and de Blasio said Wednesday he thought the vaccination rollout would outpace the spread of variants. Those currently account for about three-quarters of positive samples in the five boroughs, up from about 10 percent in January, according to a detailed report from health officials this week.

The city still investigating whether its own variant, the one thought to have emerged in Washington Heights last year (B.1.526) before spreading to other boroughs and states, poses a higher risk of reinfection from other variants or causes more severe outcomes. At this point, officials do say they believe it to be more infectious than earlier strains; it doesn’t appear to be more vaccine-resistant, but that element requires further study.

New real time information is allowing scientists at Hackensack Medical Center to develop a new rapid test that detects COVID-19 variants. NBC New York’s Brian Thompson reports.

De Blasio says he believes the city would likely be in a much better position as far as its COVID numbers if not for the variants.

“We are concerned certainly in case of one variant of the particular negative effects it has,” de Blasio said Wednesday of the U.K. variant, which has been linked to more severe outcomes. “That said, we’ve talked about this analogy for a while now, you know, running a race, you know, having a race against the variants. I think we’re winning that race right now.”

It’s a tenuous hold as the prevalence of variants continues to expand drastically across the city, state and the nation. In the latest two-week period studied, the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) was found in 44 percent of samples tested, up from 27.1 percent the prior two-week period. The Brazilian variant (P.1), which has shown it may be more vaccine-resistant than other strains, was found in just 1.4 percent of samples tested in the latest two-week period, but that’s up from 0.5 percent in the previous two-week period.

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Overall, health officials admit the presence of variants is likely highly underreported. The CDC, along with individual states and cities, only conducts the exhaustive genetic sequencing to detect variants in about 5 percent of samples, which is up from 2 percent a number of months ago. It’s still a fraction of all positive cases.

Ultimately, officials still believe existing vaccines protect against the variants that have emerged and those that will emerge over time. The hope, as de Blasio said, is that vaccinations will continue to increase at a faster rate than variants’ prevalence.

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.

He and others urge New Yorkers to get vaccinated and say the J&J pause shows that the protective system is working. It’s not a reason not to get one’s shots, they say.

To date, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have all vaccinated slightly more than a quarter of their respective populations.

Nationally, 29.6 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older are fully vaccinated, while 47.6 percent have had at least one shot. The ratio is even higher for the 65 and older age group, of which 63 percent has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

President Joe Biden has set a Monday deadline for U.S. states to make all residents age 16 and older eligible for vaccination.

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