COVID Vaccine Updates: States rapidly expanding vaccine access as supplies surge

NEW YORK (WABC) — Buoyed by a surge in vaccine shipments, states and cities are rapidly expanding eligibility for COVID-19 shots to teachers, 55-and-over Americans and other groups as the U.S. races to beat back the virus and reopen businesses and schools.

Arizona, Connecticut and Indiana have thrown open the line to the younger age bracket. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are reserving the first doses of the new one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson for teachers. And in Detroit, factory workers can get vaccinated starting this week, regardless of their age.

Up to now, the vaccination campaign against the scourge that has killed over a half-million Americans has concentrated mostly on health care workers and senior citizens.

The U.S. has administered nearly 80 million shots in a vaccination drive now hitting its stride, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 20% of the nation’s adults, or close to 52 million people, have received at least one dose, and 10% have been fully inoculated.

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Here are more of today’s headlines:

Gatherings limits set to increase in NY
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced gathering limits that are set to increase for residential, social and venues in New York state.

Beginning March 22:
– Residential gatherings: Indoors stays 10 person limit, while outdoors increases from 10 to 25 people
– Social gatherings: Indoor limits goes from 50 people to 100, while outdoors goes from 50 to 200.

Beginning April 2, event, arts and entertainment venues:
– Reopening at 33% capacity, up to 100 people indoors, 200 people outdoors
– With attendee testing, capacity increases to 160 people indoor, 500 people outdoor

NY county marks 1-year anniversary of 1st COVID case, opens new vaccine center
Westchester County marked the one-year anniversary of its first COVID-19 case Wednesday, this as another vaccination mega-site run by the state of New York and FEMA opened in Yonkers. County Executive George Latimer held commemoration ceremony in the lobby of the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains, where the county’s “Ribbons of Remembrance” memorial now stands. To date, Westchester has lost over 2,000 lives to the virus.

Northwell Health administers 1st Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine on Long Island
Northwell Health became one of the first health systems in the nation to administer the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine Wednesday. The third vaccine authorized for emergency use has shown 85% effective at preventing severe disease and was administered to a patient being discharged after hospitalization at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore. Susan Maxwell-Trumble, 67, of Babylon, had hip replacement surgery Tuesday and is believed to be first in the Northwell system and among the first in the country to receive this vaccine.

As a one-dose inoculation that can be stored at regular refrigerated temperatures and can stay viable for up to three months, the J&J vaccine is easier to transport, store and distribute than those produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. It will boost Northwell’s capacity to vaccinate twice the number of people over the same period of time.

Johnson & Johnson shots to arrive in NYC, will be dedicated to homebound seniors
New York City expects to receive its initial shipment of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday and will dedicate it to homebound seniors and others who cannot get to distribution centers.

“It’s the homebound seniors that we are focused on, because clearly, the best way to distribute vaccine is at vaccine centers, except if someone literally can’t get to one,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “That’s where we have a plan we are developing now, we will be announcing in more detail, for homebound seniors…Obviously, if you are a homebound senior, you can get it done in one shot, that makes a lot more sense. You do not have the option of going out and getting your second shot. The focus, first and foremost, will be on neighborhoods of greatest need, those 33 neighborhoods.”

Senate Democrats still finishing their COVID relief bill, agree to income limits for 3rd stimulus check
President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed Wednesday to tighten the upper income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks, a Democratic official said, a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the Senate. The COVID-19 relief measure Senate Democrats planned to unveil will also retain the $400 weekly emergency jobless benefits that were included in a House-approved version of the legislation, the official said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal Democratic conversations.

Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine rekindles religious dilemma over fetal tissue
Roman Catholic leaders in St. Louis and New Orleans are advising Catholics that the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, newly approved for use in the U.S., is “morally compromised” because it is produced using a cell line derived from an aborted fetus. The New Orleans archdiocese says the decision to receive a vaccine is one of individual conscience. In its statement late last week, it stopped short of advising Catholics not to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but adds that Catholics should choose coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer – if they are available.

Teachers, child care staff can book COVID-19 vaccines appointments even if ineligible
Teachers and child care staff are now being offered vaccine appointments at some 9,000 pharmacy locations nationwide, even if their state hasn’t declared them eligible yet. The push to get every educator their first vaccine dose this month is part of President Joe Biden’s latest directive aimed at prying open classrooms by using a federally run program that ships doses directly to pharmacies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which manages the program, announced the effort on its website. And as of Wednesday morning, CVS – one of the pharmacies participating in the program – had already updated its website to note that “teachers K-12 and child care workers” were now eligible to sign up for a vaccine shot in every state.

NYPD traffic enforcement agent dies of COVID-19
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the death of a traffic enforcement agent due to COVID-19.

Yonkers mega vaccination site opens
Another vaccination mega-site run by the state of New York and FEMA is opening today in Westchester County. It is located at the National Guard Armory recruiting center in Yonkers, and it’s for Yonkers residents only. The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.

When did you realize the COVID pandemic changed everything?
Many of us had a moment, most often occurring in March 2020, when we realized that COVID-19 had completely changed our lives forever. Even though we’ve managed to move forward and adapt to a new normal, that memory still sticks with us. Tell us: What was that moment to you?

Top 7 COVID vaccine questions answered
You had questions about COVID-19 vaccines and 7 On Your Side is getting you answers from doctors on the front line of the pandemic.

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