Cuomo, other leaders say federal vaccine plan shortchanges minority areas

The federal plan to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine is woefully inadequate and will shortchange communities of color, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General Letitia James and leaders of two prominent national civil rights organizations Sunday.

“COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society,” Cuomo said during a teleconference with reporters where he also gave an update on the state’s ongoing effort to tamp down the coronavirus.

The governor was joined by on the call by James, National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc Morial and NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Derrick Johnson.

James pointed out that while the federal government has given pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars to help develop vaccines for COVID-19, very little has been set aside to help states administer the vaccine when it becomes available.

Statistics show COVID-19 infection and death rates have been higher among communities of color for a myriad reasons, including poor access to health care, according the leaders on the call.

The federal plan to distribute vaccine relies on chain pharmacies and other sites where flu shots are currently available.

“You might see big chain pharmacies … every other block in communities in Manhattan but let’s be clear,” James said, “the neighborhoods where more of our communities of color live do now do not have this type of access and that’s the core of the federal plan.”

Morial and Johnson both said the federal government needs to explore the use of other sites for vaccinations, such as schools and community centers.

There were 2,255 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide Saturday including 141 in Nassau and 142 in Suffolk, according to statistics released by the state.

New York’s overall COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.5%, Cuomo said. In the red zones, neighborhoods with high infection rates, the positivity rate is 3.1%.

Across the state, 17 people died from COVID-19, including one person in Nassau and another in Suffolk, Cuomo said. There are 1,125 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide including 125 in intensive care units.

Cuomo said only less-densely populated Maine and Vermont have lower COVID-19 rates than New York.

“New Yorkers should be very proud of that,” he said. “We expect an increase in the fall but it’s managing the increase which is what this is all about.”

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