After a full year of horrors unlike any in living memory, there is finally good news in the fight against the novel coronavirus. And to a greater degree than before, it’s coming from multiple fronts.
First is the number of new cases being reported. They’re down dramatically, across the city, state and nation. In the city, they’ve dropped from a seven-day rolling average peak of 6,374 on Jan. 8 to 3,843 on Feb. 7. See the figures in chart form and you can see they’re falling off a cliff. The change is much less dramatic with hospitalizations and deaths, but those always lag new cases, and they’re coming down too.
More vaccines are on the way. Although the program has gotten off to a slower start than it should have, and supply is nowhere near where it needs to be, the situation is improving. Citi Field opened as a vaccination center Wednesday. It will only be doling out 200 jabs a day at first, but the capacity will nearly triple in a week, according to the city. Once supply is high enough, it could inoculate 5,000 people a day, but getting there depends on Washington and the companies making the vaccine and all the necessary ancillary elements.
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo just expanded the list of those who are eligible for the vaccines to people with any one of a number of medical conditions — the comorbidities that more than 90 percent of people who die from Covid-19 have. Those include cancer, kidney disease, severe obesity, diabetes, COPD and more. Pregnant women also qualify now.
In the latter case, many won’t need any proof of their condition. But among the good news in the eligibility expansion is that other people will. The city is requiring proof that they have the condition they claim to have. The rules are flexible on what kind of documentation is needed, which is only fair, but you can’t just claim to have cancer and get a shot. That’s vital to minimize the number of people who cut the line.
And more vaccination sites are opening. Pop-up locations will appear in areas including Bayside, which is key because northeastern Queens has not had a vaccine site. And while Citi Field will only manage 200 shots a day for now, with the promise of 4,000 a week starting in about a week, York College will be doling out 3,000 a day, starting the week of Feb. 24. (Citi Field is being run by the city and York by the state — was Wednesday’s college announcement another case of Gov. Cuomo stealing Mayor de Blasio’s thunder?)
Commensurate with the precipitous fall in new cases and the rise in vaccinations, Cuomo and de Blasio are also loosening the restrictions on society they imposed last spring.
Here Cuomo wields the far greater power, and he’s finally beginning to use it for good, months after his own experts concluded that household gatherings drive the vast majority of coronavirus spread. Restaurants in the city finally can restart indoor dining, though at a measly 25 percent. That will at least help, and drive the push for eatery equity. If you can serve at 50 percent in Floral Park, LI, you certainly should be able to serve at 50 percent in Floral Park, Queens. Starting Feb. 23, large arenas such as the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum will be able to host events at 10 percent capacity, with Covid testing required. Just think: Citi Field will get the same treatment if not better. You’ll likely get to see the Mets play this year!
And in March weddings will be allowed with up to 150 people. The rule for now is no dancing, but that can’t last.
De Blasio, for his part, is allowing outdoor ticketed events starting in March. And middle school students can go back to the classroom Feb. 25. That’s vital — the damage done to children by school closures is incalculable. It must end.
We’re really turning a corner on the virus. Keep masking and distancing and we’ll reach that promised land together.