Weather: Mostly cloudy, with a high in the low 40s.
Alternate-side parking: In effect until Wednesday (Three Kings Day).
The dreaded year 2020 is gone. Vaccinations around the state signal that an end to the pandemic is in sight. But a new crop of problems is emerging.
A more contagious variant of the virus has been found in the United States, a statewide surge in infections is continuing and the pace of vaccinations is falling far short of original goals.
The vaccination effort has not so far had the feel of urgency that many people expected. The number of vaccinations plummets on weekends and all but stopped for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Dr. Ronald Scott Braithwaite, a professor at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine and an adviser to the city, said that once 10 to 20 percent of the city was vaccinated, the number of new cases would begin to drop if people continued to embrace other precautions like mask wearing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that the city planned to vaccinate one million people by the end of January. But in the first 17 days of the rollout, just more than 88,000 people had received the first of two doses, the equivalent of about 1 percent of the city’s population.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Sunday that 7,963 people were hospitalized, up 149 from the day before and more than double the number at the beginning of December. The statewide rate of positive test results was 7.98 percent, compared with around 5 percent at the beginning of December.
In New York City, the seven-day average positivity rate was 9.08 percent, Mr. de Blasio said on Sunday. The rate was about 5.5 percent at the beginning of December. Hospitalizations have also been on the rise, with the seven-day average at 224 a day at the end of December, compared with 151 at the beginning of the month.
Questions about equity
Mr. Cuomo said that he worried about whether the vaccine would be distributed equitably. He said he would not get vaccinated until shots were available to Black, Latino and poor New Yorkers in his age group.
Some doctors have said that hospital affiliation, not risk, has become decisive in determining which health care workers get the vaccine. Poor neighborhoods have less access to some of the pharmacy chains that will be administering many of the doses.
“If we just do the vaccine the way they’re talking about doing the vaccine, frankly, richer people, white people, they’ll find the vaccine,” Mr. Cuomo said on MSNBC on Sunday. “It’s going to be the poor communities that are left behind.”
With distribution of a coronavirus vaccine beginning in the U.S., here are answers to some questions you may be wondering about:
- If I live in the U.S., when can I get the vaccine? While the exact order of vaccine recipients may vary by state, most will likely put medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities first. If you want to understand how this decision is getting made, this article will help.
- When can I return to normal life after being vaccinated? Life will return to normal only when society as a whole gains enough protection against the coronavirus. Once countries authorize a vaccine, they’ll only be able to vaccinate a few percent of their citizens at most in the first couple months. The unvaccinated majority will still remain vulnerable to getting infected. A growing number of coronavirus vaccines are showing robust protection against becoming sick. But it’s also possible for people to spread the virus without even knowing they’re infected because they experience only mild symptoms or none at all. Scientists don’t yet know if the vaccines also block the transmission of the coronavirus. So for the time being, even vaccinated people will need to wear masks, avoid indoor crowds, and so on. Once enough people get vaccinated, it will become very difficult for the coronavirus to find vulnerable people to infect. Depending on how quickly we as a society achieve that goal, life might start approaching something like normal by the fall 2021.
- If I’ve been vaccinated, do I still need to wear a mask? Yes, but not forever. Here’s why. The coronavirus vaccines are injected deep into the muscles and stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This appears to be enough protection to keep the vaccinated person from getting ill. But what’s not clear is whether it’s possible for the virus to bloom in the nose — and be sneezed or breathed out to infect others — even as antibodies elsewhere in the body have mobilized to prevent the vaccinated person from getting sick. The vaccine clinical trials were designed to determine whether vaccinated people are protected from illness — not to find out whether they could still spread the coronavirus. Based on studies of flu vaccine and even patients infected with Covid-19, researchers have reason to be hopeful that vaccinated people won’t spread the virus, but more research is needed. In the meantime, everyone — even vaccinated people — will need to think of themselves as possible silent spreaders and keep wearing a mask. Read more here.
- Will it hurt? What are the side effects? The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is delivered as a shot in the arm, like other typical vaccines. The injection into your arm won’t feel different than any other vaccine, but the rate of short-lived side effects does appear higher than a flu shot. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccines, and none of them have reported any serious health problems. The side effects, which can resemble the symptoms of Covid-19, last about a day and appear more likely after the second dose. Early reports from vaccine trials suggest some people might need to take a day off from work because they feel lousy after receiving the second dose. In the Pfizer study, about half developed fatigue. Other side effects occurred in at least 25 to 33 percent of patients, sometimes more, including headaches, chills and muscle pain. While these experiences aren’t pleasant, they are a good sign that your own immune system is mounting a potent response to the vaccine that will provide long-lasting immunity.
- Will mRNA vaccines change my genes? No. The vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer use a genetic molecule to prime the immune system. That molecule, known as mRNA, is eventually destroyed by the body. The mRNA is packaged in an oily bubble that can fuse to a cell, allowing the molecule to slip in. The cell uses the mRNA to make proteins from the coronavirus, which can stimulate the immune system. At any moment, each of our cells may contain hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules, which they produce in order to make proteins of their own. Once those proteins are made, our cells then shred the mRNA with special enzymes. The mRNA molecules our cells make can only survive a matter of minutes. The mRNA in vaccines is engineered to withstand the cell’s enzymes a bit longer, so that the cells can make extra virus proteins and prompt a stronger immune response. But the mRNA can only last for a few days at most before they are destroyed.
From The Times
Michelle Janezic of Queens wrote: My 98-year-old grandma, Sophie Janezic, survived Covid after catching it in the spring. She lives in a nursing home in the Rockaways, and through much of the pandemic we could only see her through a window. In October we were finally allowed to sit inside with her and hold her hand. Her memory is fading, but she was present there. It warms my heart that during such a confusing and challenging time, we shared this needed moment of comfort together.
Joanna Templeton of Northport, on Long Island, said: When Brooklyn restaurants closed during the worst moments of the New York City lockdown, my son, Paul Templeton, and his girlfriend, Olivia Marcus, opened their Bed-Stuy brownstone kitchen window and served homemade pizza to friends. The city was out of yeast, so they learned to make sourdough to leaven the dough. This picture from May gives me a rush of joy. The darkness of the interior of their tiny apartment, where they have been quarantined, is broken by the open window and the smiles. The hand sanitizer served alongside the pizza is a perfect summary of New York during the pandemic — joy survives.
It’s Monday — happy 2021!
Metropolitan Diary: At Damrosch Park
It was a clear August night. Clutching stuffed shopping bags from Zabar’s, we made our way down the aisles at Damrosch Park searching for the perfect spot. It was about an hour before the Paul Taylor Dance Company was to perform at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
The seats were not yet full, so we were somewhat surprised when an older woman with a beaming smile sat down next to me. She was wearing a brightly flowered dress and floppy hat adorned with red silk geraniums.
We smiled. She smiled. As we started to unpack our treats, we offered to share with her. She accepted graciously, and we began to chat.
About 15 minutes before the program was to start, she said, “I can tell you are a couple who likes poetry, so please have this.”
She handed us a self-published volume that was autographed and featured a photo of her on the back. We thanked her.
She stood up quickly, nodded and disappeared into the crowd.
— Peggy Epstein
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