A steady drop in new COVID-19 cases, an FDA-approved single-shot dose, and more pop-up vaccine centers — like one in Lawrence on Sunday for Holocaust survivors — are fueling cautious hopes on Long Island for long-term success against the pandemic.
"The footrace between the infection, hospitalization and vaccination rates is at full speed and with the promise of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming online, there is no doubt we are getting closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
"While this is all positive news, now is not the time to get complacent. I encourage everyone to stay smart, stay tough and continue the practices we know are effective against this virus," Cuomo added.
There were 7,580 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Saturday out of 273,720 test results recorded by the state, for a daily positivity rate of 2.77%. That’s the lowest one-day average since Nov. 21, according to statistics released by the state Sunday.
Nassau County accounted for 638 of the new cases and another 611 were in Suffolk County.
In Lawrence, about 150 seniors, including 60 Holocaust survivors, received the Pfizer COVID-19 shot Sunday at a pop-up vaccination center at Marion and Aaron Gural JCC’s Harrison-Kerr Family Center.
The event was organized by the UJA-Federation of New York, Northwell Health and the Gural JCC.
The federation has helped vaccinate about 2,000 people at pop-up vaccination sites in Long Island, New York City and Westchester in recent weeks, said CEO Eric Goldstein.
It was important for Holocaust survivors and other elderly residents to get vaccinated Sunday, Goldstein said, because they will get the second shot before Passover. He said many senior citizens have struggled with isolation and depression during the pandemic because they have not been able to socialize with family and friends.
There are about 1,500 Holocaust survivors on Long Island and about 35,000 in the metropolitan area, Goldstein said.
Two survivors, Jack Rybstein, 96, and his wife Bonnie, 97, were among those who received the vaccine Sunday.
"God wanted us to be around so he saved us," said Jack Rybstein, who is originally from Poland.
"I went through the worst a person could endure," he said of his life decades ago. "I can’t believe I went through so much pain."
Holocaust survivor Abraham Rodstein, 92, of Amityville, also received the vaccine Sunday.
"Of course I’m glad I got the shot today," he said. "Once you take both doses, even if you get sick, you won’t die."
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said it's vital that local organizations reach out to older people in need of vaccines because they may not have the ability to make online appointments.
"So many Long Islanders and New Yorkers don’t have access to the computer screens and refreshing the internet and all the hard work that many of us do to find the elusive vaccine appointment," Kaminsky said. "Bringing them here is incredibly important. Vaccine access is uneven and certainly Holocaust survivors are among those people that don’t have access and who should be prioritized."
While the number of new COVID-19 cases has dropped dramatically since the post-holiday surge that saw double-digit daily positivity rates on Long Island, health experts and public officials have said people need to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and taking other precautions to prevent infections from ticking up again.
The state logged 90 new deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, including seven in Nassau and nine in Suffolk.
About 10 million New Yorkers are eligible to receive the vaccine, but the limited supply of doses, winter storms and the struggle to find appointments has slowed efforts to get people inoculated.
As of Sunday, the state said it had received 5.2 million doses and 4.4 million vaccines had been administered across New York. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine requires two doses given 28 days apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but has not yet been distributed, is a single dose.
On Long Island, 673,955 first and second doses have been received and 554,640 have been administered, or 82.3%, according to state statistics.