As coronavirus cases continue to climb in the tri-state area, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced the race to vaccinate 1 million residents in January will now become a 24/7 operation.
“Getting it right in the first few weeks was the trend-setter. Now it’s time to sprint. This has got to be a seven-day-a-week, 24/7 reality going forward,” de Blasio said in a Monday news briefing. “We’re going to do it in the public sector. We need our private-sector partners to do the same.”
The push toward around-the-clock vaccination comes days after de Blasio laid out a goal to vaccinate 1 million New Yorkers by the end of the month—a vital mark as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the city. To date, 25,244 people have died and at least 447,000 more have been infected by COVID-19 in New York City.
That grim total, however, is expected to rise as the city continues to battle a 9 percent test-positivity rate, forcing more than 100 buildings—including schools—to revert back to all-remote. The Empire State, once deemed the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, has also seen a surge of the deadly virus. Last week, New York smashed its single-day COVID case record—becoming the fourth state to reach a million confirmed cases.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also expressed the need to accelerate vaccination across the state, revealing in his first COVID briefing of 2021 on Monday that hospitals had only used 46 percent of the total allocated vaccine doses thus far. Then, taking a direct shot at de Blasio, Cuomo announced that the city's health system has only administered 31 percent of its vaccine—and that if the rare vaccine supplies are not used by the end of the week, hospitals will face fines up to $100,000.
“We want those vaccines in people’s arms,” Cuomo said.
De Blasio said Monday he expects the city to administer at least 400,000 vaccinations a week at 250 access points to meet the January goal. Thus far, the city has only administered around 100,000 doses since it began vaccinating on Dec. 15. To bolster this aspirational output goal, the city announced three new vaccine hubs that will open this week and has asked the federal government to increase vaccine rollouts. “We have enough to get through this week, but we need these deliveries,” de Blasio said.
The mayor added he hopes to expand the pool of residents eligible to take the vaccine by Jan. 11 to include home-care workers, hospice employees, and all nursing-home staff. Cuomo added Monday that the vaccine-eligible groups will now include all doctors, nurses, and health-care staff who come into contact with the public.
“We all need these bold goals and to pull out all the stops in order to reach them,” Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, said Monday. “I know it won’t be easy for us or anyone else. I know that this is going to be an intense month as we scale up capacity to meet both eligibility and supply even as we continue fighting back the second wave.”