Millions of New Yorkers are waiting their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a potential life-saving measure that could mark a turning point in the city's battle with the virus. But once again, as New York finds itself in the grips of a health crisis not seen in generations, its top elected leaders can’t seem to agree.
Both the mayor and the governor held briefings on Tuesday and presented competing plans to ramp up vaccine distribution efforts over the coming weeks.
"This is a moment for partnership. What we need is the freedom to vaccinate," de Blasio told reporters Tuesday during his daily briefing at City Hall.
Faced with criticism that the city has been slow to set up vaccination sites, de Blasio responded by criticizing the state, blaming state guidelines on who can get the vaccine for the slowed-down process.
De Blasio is asking the state to expand the vaccine eligibility guidelines so city hospitals can also vaccinate older city residents even if they don't live in a nursing home facility.
"Give them the freedom to vaccinate, and they will vaccinate thousands, and tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands, then millions. What they don't need is to be shamed," de Blasio said.
Those comments were in response to comments made by Cuomo, who doubled down on a threat to fine hospitals that don't administer the vaccine fast enough.
During his briefing, Cuomo was critical of hospital leaderships across the state.
"For the hospitals that now have the vaccine, I need them to get that vaccine in people's arms and if they don't do that, they can get fined or we can retrieve the allocation," Cuomo said.
It’s the not first time Cuomo and de Blasio have clashed during the COVID-19 crisis. In the last nine months, they have sparred on several issues, including the city’s shutdown, and when to open and shut down schools, to name a few.
Meanwhile, the slow effort to vaccinate millions of New Yorkers is happening as infection numbers are rising and a more contagious strain of the virus has been found upstate.
So far, only health care workers and nursing home residents are eligible to receive the shot. Still, the city is barely keeping up.
"We needed to make sure it was safe. We needed to make sure we could do it right," de Blasio said. "But now, we have got to sprint. So, that's on us. That's on me, personally. I take full responsibility. I know the health care leadership of this city does too."
The sprint means the city is now looking to put up hundreds of vaccination pop-up sites across the city. All are expected to open in the coming weeks so eligible New Yorkers can access the shot.
"What you're going to see are a place where anyone can come any hour of the day, get a free vaccine, get it quickly," de Blasio said. "Sites will be in all five boroughs, but we need State approval and support to move this effort. We have the capacity."
The state approved a larger group of health care workers and other front line positions to get the vaccine.
The next challenge will be setting up appointments for what could amount to nearly 1 million people all in a matter of weeks.