Cuomo Hails Progress as Critics Attack on Deaths, Vaccine Equity

Governor Andrew Cuomo touted plans to reopen New York’s restaurants and arts venues, sounding a hopeful note amid criticism that his policies increased Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and that the state’s vaccination drive is inequitable.

“We have to make the economy come back,” Cuomo said at a Monday briefing. “We are going to be smart, but aggressive, about it.”

Cuomo said he would allow New York City restaurants to open indoor dining at 25% capacity Friday, a few days ahead of a planned Valentine’s Day opening on Feb. 14. He also touted plans for 300 free pop-up arts performances over 100 days, which could presage opening Broadway theaters, dark since last March. “We are heading to reopening. That’s the path we’re headed,” he said.

The moves come as coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates have declined since their January highs, which followed Thanksgiving and Christmas travel and gatherings. Of the 197,183 tests reported statewide Sunday, 4.28% were positive. There were 7,716 hospitalizations and 114 deaths. “The post-holiday surge is over,” Cuomo said.

The governor said people with health conditions that make them specially vulnerable can make appointments at mass vaccination sites starting Feb. 14. He warned that supply shortages persist.

“Ten million New Yorkers are chasing 300,000 vaccines every week,” Cuomo said. “Expect the portals to open, appointments to be booked very quickly.”

New York has administered 2.1 million vaccines since starting its vaccination drive. About 75% of health-care workers have now been vaccinated, nearing the upper limit of workers expected to accept the shot, he said.

Changing Subjects

Cuomo’s positive tone Monday stood in contrast with controversies that have swirled after his administration released two new bundles of Covid data over the weekend.

The first revealed a larger increase in the number of deaths among patients in nursing homes, assisted living, and adult care patients than previously thought, vaulting to about 12,000. That’s the nation’s highest, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Previously, the state excluded patients who died in hospitals or outside their facilities, which critics say contributed to an undercount.

A state Supreme Court justice last week ordered the health department to release the information after it a public-records suit by the Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany.

The Cuomo administration also released demographic data, revealing that vaccines are predominantly going to White and Asian residents.

Black people compose only 10% of health-care workers and 5% of essential workers who have received the vaccine, despite accounting for 17% of the eligible population.

Among people age 65 and older, 78% of those vaccinated are White, compared with 4% who are Black.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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