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HUDSON VALLEY, NY — Coronavirus positivity rates are declining, which is good news, but New York state's weekly allocation of coronavirus vaccine, which is distributed by the federal government, has been lower than 300,000 in the five weeks since the national rollout began, which is not.
The Hudson Valley mirrors the rest of the state both for vaccine administration and positivity rates.
The vaccine doses sent from the federal government to New York has been less than 300,000 a week, and state health officials have been told the allocation will be 250,000 this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
At 250,000 doses per week, it would take seven months to vaccinate 7.1 million people, Cuomo said in a coronavirus briefing Monday.
He told reporters he had written to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar asking why the Trump administration had created chaos last week by opening eligibility to anyone age 65 and older with a false claim that more vaccine doses would be sent out, remarking: "Seven months is a lifetime. I'm not really eligible if there is no supply. It was a fraud. You actually increased anxiety by lying to the American public about what you were going to do — you made a bad situation worse."
In five weeks, New York has vaccinated more than 1 million people against the coronavirus, and a federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents has vaccinated many more.
As of Sunday, 1,006,878 doses had been administered statewide through the state's program, including 903,131 first and 103,747 second doses, Cuomo said.
The vaccine allocation that the federal government sends to New York is distributed among 10 regions proportionately by percent of population. Regionally, the rollout has been uneven, he said, with the Hudson Valley one of the slowest to get going.
The medical care network has ramped up its vaccination rate, with a tenfold increase statewide, he said. But that's still uneven. In the Hudson region, the worst are the Institute for Family Health, Hyde Park Family Practice and New Paltz Family Health Center.
In future allocations, the state will favor vaccine providers who have been efficient at giving out the doses they received, Cuomo said.
In hospitals, only 60 percent of nurses and doctors have been vaccinated, and 70 percent to 90 percent must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, he said. With hospital capacity the most critical concern, doctors and nurses must be vaccinated to avoid getting sick and leaving those hospitals short-staffed, he said. Despite the best efforts of hospitals to aggressively increase the number of vaccinations administered, there is still uneven performance across the board.
One regional hospital has been among the most effective and efficient: NY-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, with 89 percent of staff vaccinated so far.
Even in nursing homes, he said, staffers have refused to be vaccinated, unveiling a new long-term care facility dashboard, where data can be tracked regionally.
As the world runs what Cuomo called a "footrace" between the vaccine and the spread of the virus in all its mutating forms, New York is coming down from the surge that started in the holidays.
The holiday surge appears to be over, albeit at different rates, he said.
Hospitalization rates appear to be flattening, he said. There are early signs of that in the Hudson Valley.
Cuomo said Monday he sent a letter to Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla, asking to purchase vaccine doses directly for New York State. Pfizer is an independent, New York-based company and did not enter into the "Operation Warp Speed" program with the federal government, which Moderna did.
The nationwide death toll passed 400,000 Tuesday. "One in every 820 people in our country have died during this pandemic – often alone, typically away from family and friends – comforted only by physicians and nurses in layers of PPE," the American Medical Association noted. "With a more contagious strain of COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the country, the simple steps we've advocated for months are more important than ever: wear your mask, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands, to help reduce illness and deaths. Today, vaccine distribution is underway, and there is hope on the horizon. Vaccines are safe, effective, prevent illness and save lives. Protect yourselves and your loved ones by getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it's your turn."