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New York to receive 170,000 COVID vaccines

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that New York will receive 170,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 15, and front-line health care workers and nursing home residents will be among the first to receive it.

The federal government is distributing the vaccines based on a state’s population. Cuomo said an estimated 40,000 more doses of Moderna’s vaccine are expected by the end of the month. He said the top priorities will be the elderly people living in nursing homes and staff at the residences, and front-line health care workers in emergency rooms, intensive care units or working directly with COVID-19 patients.

“By the end of December, the administration suggests that there will be enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two dosages,” Cuomo said, in a news conference Wednesday. “That means 6 percent of Americans. That gives you an idea of where we’re going to be coming into January.”

Cuomo said things won’t be back to normal until 75% to 85% of Americans get the vaccine. That could take months. He said the vaccination program will be the largest governmental operation since World War Two. But he said Congress has yet to provide enough funding for the project.

“This state, you could estimate, to do a real outreach education campaign, a billion dollars,” the governor said. “We just don’t have it.”

The state already has a $14 billion deficit, much of it due to pandemic-related expenses.

Cuomo said while he agrees with the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations that the essential health care workers and nursing home residents and staff get the vaccine first, he still wants a New York state-based panel to review the FDA’s vaccine approval process. Polls show as many as half of Americans have some reservations about getting the vaccine. The goal of the panel would be "to help build confidence and to counter that existing cynicism.”

The news about the vaccines comes as the number of New Yorkers in the hospital with coronavirus is climbing at what the governor said is an “alarming” rate.

In Monroe County, Wednesday saw 625 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day rolling average of positive tests was 6.5 percent, 461 people were in the hospital, and 83 were in intensive care.

To date, 328 county residents have died from the virus.

Cuomo said earlier in the week that he’ll now include hospital capacity as a factor when deciding whether to designate a region a microcluster hot zone and impose restrictions on businesses and religious and personal gatherings.

Statewide, the positivity rate for the virus on Tuesday was 4.63%, and 69 New Yorkers died of the disease.

Karen DeWitt is the Albany correspondent for WXXI News.

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