Governor Cuomo has threatened the city hospital system, as well large hospitals in Nassau and Westchester counties, with fines of $100,000 and the loss of access to future deliveries of the coronavirus vaccine because of their lagging far behind other state facilities in administering the vaccine.
He turned up the pressure on New York City Health+Hospitals, as well as Nassau University Medical Center, after contending they had administered just 31 percent and 19 percent, respectively, of the supplies of the vaccine which the state had provided to them. Even the figure of 34 percent that NUMC told Newsday was its actual total fell far short of other facilities around the state, led by New York Presbyterian, which had administered 99 percent of the supply it received.
'Hold Them Accountable'
Mr. Cuomo told reporters Jan 4 that just 46 percent of what the state had allocated to 194 state hospitals had been utilized.
“I don’t mean to embarrass any hospitals, but I want them to be held accountable,” he said. “I don’t want the vaccine in a freezer. I want it in someone’s arm.”
The Governor said rapid distribution of the vaccine to health-care workers was the first step to containing the virus, which has killed more than 25,000 residents of New York City.
“We want those health-care workers vaccinated for their safety and the safety of the public,” he told reporters. “If you are a nurse and you are doing COVID testing-nasal swabs, if you are infected, you could come in contact with hundreds of people in one day. They have the greatest probability of being a super-spreader.
While there’s no national registry that tracks the number of health-care workers who have succumbed to the virus, a joint reporting project by the Guardian newspapers and Kaiser Health News pegged their death toll at close to 3,000.
Keep Expanding Rolls
Mr. Cuomo said he felt a “constructive impatience” about accelerating the vaccine roll-out because the state had “to get through the health-care workers so we can get to the next tranche, which are the police and the bus drivers, the train operators and people with co-morbidities and older people who are most vulnerable. We have to get down the list to get to the people that are very vulnerable today.”
At the press briefing, he used a slide to illustrate the disparity between how quickly hospitals were utilizing their first round of the vaccine. Besides New York Presbyterian, Oswego Hospital also dispensed 99 percent of its supply, and Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, used 93 percent.
In addition to H+H and NUMC, those lagging behind included Westchester Medical Center, which administered just 32 percent of its allotment.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said the hospitals that were quickest to distribute the vaccine had a “sense of urgency to move things forward."
“On the other end of the spectrum…for example in the [NYC] H+H system…they had 23,000 eligible employees; 12,000 of them have been vaccinated. They have received 38,000 vaccines. So those other 11,000 employees need to be vaccinated.”
Dr. Zucker continued, “They are the front-facing health-care workers. They are sitting right opposite a patient who has a medical condition who, if they get COVID, are more likely to get ill and end up in the hospital or stay in the hospital and potentially die.”
H+H responded in a statement that the 12,000 vaccinations it had provided to "health-care heroes" would be built upon by "adding more appointments for our staff, hiring additional vaccinators, and increasing eligibility as the state allows."
The Governor's push to accelerate vaccinations came on the same day that Mayor de Blasio pledged that the city’s efforts would ramp up to a 24/7 pace.
At his press briefing that morning, a reporter asked why the city had not started out at that clip and if people being “off for the holidays” had slowed the roll-out.
Mr. de Blasio defended the city’s efforts, saying health-care professionals were “dealing with an entirely different vaccine. A vaccine they have never had before. The refrigeration requirements alone have caused a huge number of logistical challenges to get it right and learn how to work with the vaccine properly.”
He continued, “The fact that there was a real public concern, a trust issue that had to be addressed, put a real premium on making sure the first few weeks were steady and careful and smart and effective." Given that concern, "I see what was, thank God, a very smooth roll-out--meaning the issues were addressed, the refrigeration was handled properly.”
Aim: 400,000 Weekly
The Mayor said he expected the city to do 100,000 vaccinations this week and by the end of the month to be completing 400,000 weekly.
The controversy over the roll-out in the state mirrors the national situation, where the Trump Administration fell far short of the President's commitment under "Operation Warp Speed" to administer 20 million doses by the end of 2020.
CNN reported that only 2.1 million people had been vaccinated. The lag came as Colorado and New York both confirmed cases of the newest COVID strain from Britain, which scientists say is no more lethal than the original but far more contagious.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease physician, has said that 80 to 85 percent of the nation’s population--more than 260,000 people--would need to be inoculated for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity.
“At the current rate, it would take the United States approximately 10 years to reach that level of inoculation,” warned Washington Post columnist Leana Wen “Contrast that with the Trump administration’s rosy projections...Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar predicted that every American will be able to get the vaccine by the second quarter of 2021. The speed needed to do that is 3.5 million vaccinations a day.”
The United States, which represents just 4 percent of the world’s population has accounted for almost 20 percent of the world's 2 million COVID-19 deaths.
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