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It’s Monday. We’ll be off Thursday through Jan. 3. Happy holidays!
Weather: Patchy fog in the morning, turning partly cloudy this afternoon with a high in the upper 30s. A chance of snow showers tonight.
Alternate-side parking: Suspended through Saturday for snow removal. Parking meters will remain in effect.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has called the onset of coronavirus vaccinations the light at the end of the tunnel.
The rollout, which began last week, is slow, but picking up steam. As of Friday, some 19,000 New Yorkers had received the vaccine, Mr. Cuomo said. The effort should continue to ramp up, particularly after a shipment of 346,000 doses made by Moderna arrives this week.
But a thorny question has emerged: Outside of some high-priority groups, how will the state decide who gets vaccinated next?
Companies, unions and trade groups are making pitches to the state and to the public that their workers should be prioritized.
The first vaccinations in the state are taking place amid a statewide surge in cases and hospitalizations. Mr. Cuomo said on Sunday that 6,185 people were hospitalized statewide, a number comparable to the total in May.
New York City on Sunday reported that the seven-day average rate of positive test results was 6.25 percent. Between late June and October, that number did not cross 2 percent, according to city data.
The first vaccines
Phase 1 in New York will target frontline health care works and those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities where a disproportionate share of deaths have occurred.
Mr. Cuomo said that vaccinations in nursing homes are set to begin today.
Who comes next?
An advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made new recommendations on Sunday for who should be prioritized next: “frontline essential workers” like emergency responders, teachers and grocery store employees, and people 75 and older. The next priority group would include other essential workers, such as those with jobs in restaurants, construction and law.
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.
States, however, have final say in how to distribute vaccines, and an urgent lobbying effort is now underway in New York.
The chief executive of Uber wrote to Mr. Cuomo last week to ask that its drivers be prioritized in the next round of vaccinations. Rich Maroko, president of the Hotel Trades Council, wrote a letter to state health officials advocating for the 35,000 hotel employees the union represents in New York City.
And finally: Show us a positive moment from 2020
The Times’s Hannah Wise writes:
There is no way of getting around it: 2020 has been a challenging, and for many, a terrible year.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people around the world. Millions more have lost their jobs, and governments have offered uneven support. In the United States, a reckoning with race and discrimination poured into the streets during the summer, and its effects have rippled into the fall. The country’s presidential election saw record-breaking turnout but led to a debate over the very essence of its democratic process.
Yet even in this dark year, there have been moments of lightness, growth and utter joy. In our isolation we have had time to reflect and find inner strength. We learned new hobbies. We took leaps into the unknown. Some of us even fell in love.
As we enter what will most likely be a difficult end of the year for many, let’s remember those moments and find strength and resiliency in those memories.
We’re asking you to look back through your camera roll and share with us a photo or video that captures one of the most positive moments from this year. It can be one that is particularly memorable, or a quiet moment that resonates with you more now. Maybe it was the sight of a loved one at a distance after a long isolation, your first pandemic sourdough loaf or a life change made for the better.
Along with the photo or video, include a brief written reflection on what that moment means to you now in this form.
It’s Monday — keep going.
Metropolitan Diary: In Kings County, looking up
A dark blue star balloon —
a king might call it royal blue —
hovers over Avenue U,
then, loosed from its string,
rises six flights up between
and coasts away on the ocean breeze
to grace gray skies over Brighton Beach
and anyone with eyes to see.
— Tom Furlong
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