By Barrett Seaman—
Applying the foot race metaphor to the COVID-19 pandemic is no doubt overdone, but with good reason. It is apt.
Truckloads of the three approved vaccines are racing into the states and distributed frantically to vaccination sites and pharmacies in towns and cities across the country, including Westchester. The four Westchester sites, not counting pharmacies, have in aggregate vaccinated 225,000, the County Executive said on Monday. “We are now reaching the point where 30% of our population has been fully vaccinated,” said George Latimer.
Meanwhile, governments are throwing open the floodgates to new categories of eligible recipients so that by Tuesday, April 6th, every category of citizen 16 years of age and older can make an appointment and get a shot.
They are all racing not just against the virus but against pandemic fatigue, impatience and in some cases ideology that is causing people to throw caution to the wind while they cause governments to loosen the constraints even before it is warranted—largely (let’s face it) for the benefit of politicians.
For all his other problems, New York’s Andrew Cuomo has been a prudent arbiter of those constraints. His latest loosening measure went into effect Monday with the lifting on overnight curfews currently in place for casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, billiard halls, gyms and fitness centers. He claims that his moves are dictated by the metrics, but the metrics for infection rates have not gotten better in the last month, since the precipitous drop that took place at the end of January.
The overall trend, reflected in Westchester’s numbers, indicates a flattening—no better, no worse. It is uneven, with some parts of the state doing well while others, including the mid-Hudson region that covers Westchester, teeter on the high side. The county still has nearly 6,000 active cases with 985 new cases over the three-day Easter weekend. How many of these are new, more transmissible variants is not clear, but the more new cases there are, the more likely other, perhaps more deadly, variants will emerge.
If the trends for post-holiday spikes noted last week by Dr. Sherlita Amler bear out, we are likely to see a big jump up over the next two weeks. That may cause the governor to reinstate restrictions—at his own political peril when he can least afford it. And so he repeats his warning, as he did at an event in Queens on Monday. “Don’t get cocky with COVID,” Cuomo said. “COVID wins when you get cocky. This is a formidable enemy.”
The only reliable opposition to this enemy remains the vaccines. Their rapid delivery cannot be expected to run without glitches. One such, which appears to be affecting administration by pharmacies, is that second doses of either Pfizer or Moderna are not getting through as required. On Monday, Latimer advised that either the pharmacy or the recipient should call 813-5000 to report the problem and have it resolved.
The other glitch is more insidious: there is evidence that some pharmacies in the northern part of the county are charging uninsured people $20 for their vaccinations, which are supposed to be free for any resident, regardless of their insurance coverage or immigration status. Anyone who knows of instances where eiligible residents are being charged is encouraged to report it to the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS or the website TIPS.HHS.GOV.