Race Against the Virus: New York Rushes to Vaccinate as Cases Surge

Kelley Dixon, 78, is vaccinated against COVID-19 at his residence in The Hebrew Home in Riverdale in New York, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The New York health system is vaccinating tens of thousands of essential workers and the elderly as the coronavirus case numbers soar throughout the state.

“We’re in a race between the vaccinations and the increase in the COVID rate,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “89,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose.”

More than 30,000 people have been vaccinated in New York City and 89,000 have been vaccinated across the state. So far, hospital healthcare workers, EMTs, and nursing home residents are receiving the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

22,000 nursing home residents across 90 homes were vaccinated in two days.

New York State Department of Health has authorized using extra doses in Moderna vials, as the vials were found to contain an extra eleventh dose of the vaccine, instead of the expected ten doses.

But on Thursday, December 24th, the state was nearly at 7,000 hospitalizations (6,928) and the positivity rate was 5.55%. In the past several days, more than a hundred people have died across the state every day.

No region in New York has more than 45% of its hospital beds available, and two have a mere 24% of beds ready for new patients. New York City has 29% of its beds available, and only 27% of its ICU capacity available.

Both Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have warned that there may be a second lockdown if the spread continues, saying that they will not allow the situation to deteriorate into the desperate spring months when hospitals were overwhelmed and thousands died.

It is believed many cases in early December stemmed from Thanksgiving gatherings, and with many disregarding travel warnings, family gatherings could exacerbate the crisis.

“[Today], 299 days into the COVID crisis, it is more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay Smart and Tough,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are rapidly distributing the vaccine to the most vulnerable New Yorkers and frontline heroes, but COVID continues to spread at high rates throughout the nation and we cannot let our guard down even for a moment.”