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 Monday, December 14th. After beingshut 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:
The statewide positivity rate ticked up to 5.18% Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced.
There were 127 deaths recorded Friday in the state, including three people in the Bronx, nine in Brooklyn, nine in Queens, four in Staten Island, and six in Manhattan.
"With the vaccine now in hand, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but how fast we get there all depends on our actions," Cuomo said in a release Saturday. "From the moment we received the first dose, New York has been quickly and efficiently distributing the vaccine, all the while working around the clock with our hospitals to grow capacity and ensure they do not become overwhelmed. With this work underway, we also need to double down on efforts to slow the spread. New Yorkers have proven themselves time and time again throughout this pandemic, and I believe we can learn from what we saw during Thanksgiving. If we stay tough and be smart by socially distancing and wearing masks, we can avoid the holiday surge the experts are predicting and finally win this war."
There were 6,208 patients hospitalized Friday, an increase of 127 people from Thursday. There were 737 newly admitted patients, and 1,088 patients in intensive care -- an increase of 20 patients. Of those patients, 610 people were intubated - an increase of 18 patients.
The state is also tracking regional metrics of number of ICU beds and occupancy numbers as rates increase -- New York City had 2,443 total ICU Beds, with 1,717 of them occupied or 29% of the available beds.
The news comes as Cuomo also announced he signed an executive order that provides property tax exemptions to senior citizens and person who are disabled through 2021. He's also extending the sales tax deadline to March 2021 for restaurants in orange zones.
FDA Approves COVID-19 Vaccine From Moderna
11:30 a.m. : The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency authorization use to pharmaceutical giant Moderna for their COVID-19 vaccine late Friday, bookending the arrival of millions of vaccine doses produced by Pfizer.
Now, Moderna is poised to start shipping their millions of doses around the country, which has, according to Johns Hopkins University, seen 17,472,522 coronavirus cases and 313,764 deaths so far. Moderna was part of the government's Operation Warp Speed program to supply the United States with 300 million doses of a vaccine by January 2021, and received $1 billion in funding for development of the vaccine plus another $1.5 billion for 100 million doses.
Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine uses messenger RNA—not a live virus—that tells cells to create a protein unique to the coronavirus, and the body makes white blood cells to fight it. Also like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna one requires two doses—a second shot comes 28 days after the first one (Pfizer's doses are spaced by 21 days). However, one difference is that the Moderna vaccine can be kept in regular freezer refrigeration (negative 20 Celsius) for up to six months and, after thawing, in the refrigerator for 30 days; Pfizer's requires ultra-cold freezer storage—negative 80 Celsius—and, after thawing, is usable for five days in regular refrigerators.
“With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said at a virtual news conference shortly after Moderna's vaccine was approved.
President-elect Joe Biden hailed the emergency approval of the Moderna vaccine and said he would publicly receive it on Monday.
Vice President Mike Pence was vaccinated on Friday morning with the Pfizer vaccine, becoming the first Trump administration official to publicly receive the vaccine. He, along with his wife Karen, got the shots in a television appearance, and he explained, "Today, Karen and I wanted to step forward and take this vaccine to assure the American people that while we cut red tape, we cut no corners. Hope is on the way."
But, the NY Times noted that President Donald Trump quickly seemed to contradict his Vice President's public health messaging: "No sooner had the vice president congratulated a health care worker who stuck him in the arm — 'Great job, great job. I didn’t feel a thing,' Mr. Pence said, his voice muffled by the mask covering his face — than Mr. Trump logged into Twitter and undercut him. Mr. Trump posted a message from a right-wing radio host who questioned the effectiveness of masks, writing: '"Masks work" is the mantra. Not allowed to say anything else.'"
Moderna hopes to ship 20 million doses by the end of the month, but it's unclear if the number of doses that New York and New Jersey expected in December will come. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that he learned the state would be getting 20% overall fewer doses, and it was unclear why. "I spoke to Pfizer at very senior levels yesterday, frankly, they don't understand this. I think the Pfizer reduction is along the lines of 34% and the Moderna reduction is a more modest one," he said.
Health care workers in high-risk settings—like anyone who might be in the emergency room, from doctors and nurses to transport and custodial workers—and long-term care patients and staffare in the first priority group for the vaccine; the general public may start to get the vaccine in the spring or summer.