This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, January 17th, 2021. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and gyms. Citing rising hospitalization rates, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended indoor dining in NYC starting December 14th. After being shut down for several weeks, NYC public schools partially reopened on December 7th for 3K-5th grade students, with students with special needs returning on December 10th. Certain parts of Staten Island remain under a zoned shutdown.
Get answers to questions you may have with our "Ask An Epidemiologist" series, or learn more about NYC COVID-19 testing options with our explainer. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
5:10 p.m.: The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Sunday another vaccine could be weeks away from being ready for review by the FDA.
When asked on NBC's Meet the Press about when vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca could be ready for authorization to add to the roster of doses being administered across the country, Fauci said: "Soon."
Fauci said he'd be meeting with the pharmaceutical companies' officials regarding the vaccines, and that data and safety information would need to be reviewed by the FDA in the future. But he anticipates that could happen in a "couple of weeks."
"We're weeks away, not months away, for sure" Fauci said.
Though Fauci's timeline offers a glimpse of hope, it is unlikely any review would happen this month, according to the FDA's acting chair of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, Dr. Arnold Monto.
Monto recently told the JAMA Network that meetings were cancelled in January.
"The meeting in late January has already been cancelled," Monto said in the January 11th interview.
Any movement on other vaccine authorizations wouldn't be until February, if at all, he said.
When asked about the U.S. vaccination rollout so far, Monto added the country isn't as organized as other countries with healthcare systems that are an institutionalized part of the government.
"I don't think anybody is ready for this," Monto said. "And I think this is the ultimate demonstration of problems with the American health, which is fragmented, which probably has some of the wrong priorities."
Johnson & Johnson is currently studying a one-dose vaccine—a marked difference from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that both require two doses to meet the high efficacy numbers seen in early studies.
On Wednesday, Johnson & Johnson announced early data showed its vaccine resulted in immunity for the full 71 days of the trial, which was the duration of time studied in trial participants ages 18 to 55. Further data regarding the single-dose vaccine is expected later this month, the company said.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has already been authorized in Britain, and early data shows that option with effectiveness ranging from 62% to 90%.
City To Begin Offering Free Transportation To Vaccine Sites For Seniors
2:34 p.m.: Nearly a week into the vaccination rollout for older New Yorkers, the city will launch a free transportation program for seniors ages 65 and up this week, the mayor's office announced Sunday.
Starting this week, the city will ask New Yorkers at least 65 years old who make appointments at city-operated sites if they have a way to get there. If not, they'll be directed to Access-a-Ride, ambulette services, or cab services via the Curb app.
"We are moving heaven and earth to get our senior neighbors vaccinated," de Blasio said in a statement. "Now, seniors who need a ride to an appointment will get one, ensuring our vaccines go to those who need them most."
The city said transportation through senior center programs will be offered "in a few weeks." The mayor's office says the city will offer 10,000 rides a week.
Meanwhile, the city is facing inconsistent and low supplies of the vaccine, hampering its ability to administer doses just as the city has increased its capacity to vaccinate more New Yorkers in recent weeks. Supply issues are adding a layer of difficulty to the city's goals to equitably distribute the vaccine and administer the doses en masse.
De Blasio has put together a Vaccine Planning Workgroup for Older New Yorkers, which is a strategy to work with local organizations to reach seniors through door-knocking, phone calls, flyering, virtual town halls, and other methods. The outreach builds on vaccine sites for seniors at NYCHA developments at Van Dyke I and II Houses in Brooklyn, Cassidy Lafayette Houses in Staten Island, and Polo Grounds Towers in Manhattan.
Councilmember Margaret Chin said the outreach needs to be multi-lingual., but expressed support for the initiatives.
"Coordinating with our aging service providers to connect older adults with information and transportation is the most effective way to achieve herd immunity for older New Yorkers," Chin said in a statement.
At a City Council oversight hearing on Tuesday, city councilmembers asked city health officials whether there is a plan in place to reach homebound seniors.
NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the difficulties storing and transporting doses make door-to-door vaccinations unworkable currently, but the city is still working out how to help homebound New Yorkers access the vaccine. Many seniors living in long-term care facilities have access to the vaccine at their residence.
24/7 Brooklyn Vaccination Site Closes Due To Lack Of Doses
10:13 a.m.: The 24/7 vaccination site at the Brooklyn Army Terminal has closed after running out of doses, a City Hall spokesperson confirmed on Sunday.
The site is temporarily closed, according to the spokesperson, but it is not clear when it would reopen. The NY Post reports it was closed for the second day in a row on Saturday.
The site first opened last Sunday, becoming the first 24/7 vaccination site along with the Bronx's Bathgate postal station site.
Those who had appointments at the Brooklyn Army Terminal were supposed to be offered new time slots to come back and get vaccinated. The spokesperson did not immediately have information on how many appointments were cancelled.
The lack of doses has impacted some hospitals across the city as supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine run low. Mount Sinai cancelled all appointments from Friday to Tuesday "due to sudden changes in vaccine supply," a hospital spokesperson previously said. NYU Langone was also running low on doses, with 1,000 doses for second shot appointments leftover for Monday, Bloomberg reported late last week.
Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Friday that the city was poised to run out of doses by the end of next week and the city on Friday had just 186,000 doses for New Yorkers' first shot left over. He called on the federal government to send more doses.
City data as of Sunday showed 404,654 doses have been administered and 395,846 doses on hand.
Of the 395,846 doses, Councilmember Mark Levine said about 200,000 doses were for second shot appointments and 100,000 doses were for nursing homes.
That leaves 95,000 doses remaining for other New Yorkers eligible for their first shot.
Just days ago, the Brooklyn Army Terminal site became a symbol of the logistical nightmare the city faces to get million vaccinated. On Thursday night, a viral message on social media attracted a swarm of New Yorkers to the site after word spread that the Brooklyn Army Terminal would administer extra doses that were set to expire on a first-come, first-served basis.
In another snafu at a state-run vaccination site, some 20,000 appointments were cancelled after a scheduling website was shared before it went live.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct information regarding NYC's supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.