The first coronavirus vaccines have arrived in New York at a time of urgency. The virus has regained a foothold in a deeply scarred state, killing more than 35,000 people and severely weakening the economy.
To combat a dire spring upswing, New York State was largely closed and daily reports of new cases dropped to a few hundred a day, where they stayed throughout the summer. But the spread of the virus began to accelerate again in the fall after restrictions were eased and schools reopened.
Last week, the state averaged about 10,000 new cases a day, about 72 percent more than two weeks earlier, and patients were restoring hospital beds in numbers not seen since May. Now, nearly 300 days after the state reported its first coronavirus case on March 1, health officials are facing another race against time to protect vulnerable New Yorkers.
Officials wasted no time getting the new vaccine, being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, into the arms of the first frontline medical workers on Monday morning, including a nurse at an east Queens hospital whose vaccine was televised . Distribution of the vaccine was accelerated at every stage of the process from development to approval by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening. However, the process faces many logistical challenges.
The shipment, which arrived for use on Monday, is part of the state’s initial allocation to vaccinate those identified as most essential or at risk. This group includes staff and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as frontline medical professionals.
Speaking at St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn on Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “This week as the vaccine arrives in our city, we see the light at the end of the tunnel from this difficult time I have been through it all because with every New Yorker vaccinated it is one step closer to the end of the coronavirus era. “