The FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as soon as tomorrow and New York is expected to receive an initial allocation of 170,000 doses as soon as this weekend. As part of the distribution, the State will set up 90 cold storage sites as regional distribution centers that are capable of cold storage at the required temperature.
This vaccine distribution will be a massive undertaking. At the same time we will need to manage our hospital capacity and continue to stop the spread of the virus. The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. We will get it produced. We will get it distributed. And we will be successful. But it will take months for the entire vaccination process to be completed.
Meanwhile New Yorkers should continue to wear masks, social distance and avoid small and large gatherings.
Here's what else you need to know tonight:
1. As outlined in New York's vaccination program, high-risk health care workers, nursing home residents and staff will be the first New Yorkers to receive the vaccine. "High-risk" hospital workers include emergency room workers, ICU staff and pulmonary department staff. The State expects all "high-risk" hospital staff will receive a vaccine by the end of week two. Other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers will follow high-risk health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who at the highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.
2. New York has opted into the federal government's nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff at these facilities, much like they do for the flu vaccine. We expect deliveries for this program to begin arriving next week and the federal administration program to begin by December 21st. New York is dedicating a portion of our initial 170,000 doses to this program. Portions of future state allocations will also be used to help complete the program and ensure all residents and staff are vaccinated.
3. There were 10,600 new positive cases yesterday. Total COVID hospitalizations rose to 4,993. Of the 194,595 tests reported yesterday, 10,600, or 5.44 percent, were positive. There were 952 patients in ICU yesterday, up 46 from the previous day. Of them, 521 are intubated. Sadly, we lost 95 New Yorkers to the virus.
4. The CDC has agreed to remove requirements on vaccine reporting data that could have been used to identify immigration status. This means that New York will not send any personally identifying information to the federal government in vaccine distribution—ensuring that no one feels dissuaded from getting vaccinated due to immigration status.
5. The New York National Guard will participate in a vaccine pilot program. The NY National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as one of the 16 pilot programs across the nation to be part of the limited distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. Members of the New York Army and Air National Guard who serve as part of the State's COVID response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.
Tonight's "Deep Breath Moment": Two otters in the United Kingdom who both lost their partners have found love once again. Harris, a male Asian short-clawed otter at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary was introduced to Pumpkin, a female otter at SEA LIFE Scarborough. Caretakers were nervous about introducing the otters at first, but now the two are happy together at the SEA LIFE aquarium.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo