A mobile sign marks the entrance to the vaccination site at Stony Brook University. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The vaccination campaign against coronavirus in New York State passed several important milestones in the past 24 hours.

As of April 5, one in three residents in both Suffolk County and New York State have now received their first dose, and nearly one in five residents have been fully inoculated.

In Nassau County, the pace of vaccinations is going even faster, with almost 40% of Nassau residents having received their first dose and nearly 30% of residents fully inoculated.

Starting today, all New Yorkers ages 16 and older are also now eligible for the vaccine, making the shot available to all residents currently eligible under federal guidelines.

No vaccine has yet been approved for children under the age of 16, though Pfizer released research findings last week showing its two-dose regimen is just as effective in children ages 12 to 15 as it is in adults. Pfizer is currently applying for emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for that age group, and the company has also begun studying the vaccine’s effectiveness in children in younger age groups last month.

New York State is now administering around 1.4 million doses a week, up from around 1 million weekly doses a month ago.

Residents can schedule a vaccination appointment on the state’s Am I Eligible website. State-run vaccination sites in Suffolk County are currently available at Stony Brook University’s campuses in Stony Brook and Southampton, as well as Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus.

Vaccination appointments are also available through local pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens. Pharmacy appointments may be scheduled by visiting the pharmacy’s website.

Even as the pace of vaccination picks up across the state, health officials are expressing concern about the high number of new cases in New York and on Long Island in particular.

New York State is reporting some of the highest daily new caseloads across the country, with about 40 new cases per 100,000 people reported daily, trailing only New Jersey and Michigan. Statewide, both Suffolk and Nassau are among the counties with the highest new daily cases when adjusted for population size, with an average of 48 and 46 daily new cases per 100,000 people respectively.

Positivity rates on Long Island in recent weeks have plateaued around 4%. Though this is an improvement from the January surge that spiked positivity rates above 10%, it is still more than four times higher than the numbers reported last summer and fall, when positivity rates on Long Island stayed around 1% until Thanksgiving.

Health officials are also alarmed by the spread of new highly contagious variants of COVID-19, including strains with mutations that may lead to higher rates of hospitalization and death than the original strain that first spread through New York last spring. 

“It’s important that residents and their families continue to practice safe behaviors,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press statement yesterday. “More than 10 million New Yorkers have received a first dose and we’re not stopping now, but there’s a long way to go until we’ve reached a comfortable level of safety for all New Yorkers.”

Even so, the state has begun rolling back many of the restrictions that have altered the daily lives of New York residents since last spring. 

“You can’t stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” Cuomo has said repeatedly in recent months.

Starting tonight, New York will lift its 11 p.m. curfew for all industries except restaurants and catered events, for which an 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. curfew respectively remain in effect.

In recent weeks, the state has also loosened capacity restrictions on indoor dining. Restaurants outside New York City were permitted to increase their capacity from 50 to 75% in late March. Indoor fitness classes, previously prohibited under state restrictions, were also permitted to resume operating at 33% the same day.

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Katie Morosky
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie