Two scenes from Queens this week: In one, a Chronicle staffer with a face mask on his chin walks into a car repair shop with the bay door and regular door to the office right next to it both wide open, the wind blowing all over. The manager says, “I’ve got my mask here somewhere” but as he starts fishing around in a drawer, the newspaperman says, “I’m vaccinated. I don’t care if you don’t.” The drawer is shut, the doors remain open and the two conduct business almost as if it’s 2019. Just no handshake.
In another scene, a Chronicle staffer goes to Aqueduct Race Track for his second shot. Compared to his first visit, and two others accompanying his wife, the place is virtually empty. Where is everyone? Already vaccinated? Hardly.
Even as we’re making great progress against Covid-19, that progress is being slowed by people who aren’t getting vaccinated. The number of New York City residents receiving their shots each day has fallen off a cliff over the last three weeks. The peak was on April 8, when 115,325 doses were administered. On April 27, only 31,716 were. That’s a drop of 72.5 percent — it’s catastrophic.
In Queens, a little under 700,000 people have been fully vaccinated, and a little more than a million have gotten their first dose. We’re proud to say that Queens is the first county in New York State to jab a million people. But that’s still only about 55 percent of the population. We need much more, at least 70 percent, to reach herd immunity.
For almost everyone, there’s no excuse not to get the shot at this point. There are no age requirements anymore, beyond being at least 16, and neither city- nor state-run sites insist upon an appointment now. Some are open 24 hours a day. The only people who face a significant hurdle are the homebound, and the city is getting to them as best it can.
Vaccination rates vary widely across Queens. In Breezy Point, 73 percent are fully inoculated and 87 percent partially so. But in Howard Beach, which has some similarities to Breezy Point, the figures are 34 and 47 percent. And in Southeast Queens, the numbers are 10 points less than that.
Infections are way down. We’re beating Covid, thanks to the restrictions we’ve endured and, above all, the vaccines. But we’re not there yet — not even close to filling restaurants, playhouses, movie theaters and baseball stadiums. Let’s all get vaccinated so we can do that, and so we can have more scenes in our everyday lives like the one in the repair shop. Normalcy is so near if we just do the right thing.