New York will offer $15 million in grants for community organizations to dispatch messengers to promote the COVID-19 vaccines in areas with high infection rates and low levels of inoculations, as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to gain ground in the Empire State, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
“The approach has to be community-based organizations who can have conversations in the community,” Cuomo said at a press conference at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx on July 26. “It has to be someone who speaks their language literally and figuratively and says, let’s talk about this. Tell me what you’re worried about. Tell me what your fear is. And then addresses that with facts.”
The state will allocate funding to six non-profits and community health centers with an aim of targeting outreach in areas that have below-average vaccination rates and above-average infections.
Some 117 ZIP codes in the state fit that criteria, 71 of which are in New York City, mostly in Staten Island, southern Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
The city’s Health Department started its own $9 million effort to boost vaccine confidence through local organizations and faith groups two months ago, but there appeared to be little coordination with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was also in the Bronx on a separate visit Monday.
Almost three-quarters, or 72% of new positive cases are linked to the Delta variant, according to Cuomo. Meanwhile only 0.15% of vaccinated New Yorkers have been infected with the strain, he said, and getting your shot can reduce the risk of hospitalization by 94%.
Rates have flared up in most of Staten Island in recent weeks as six out of 10 of the top ZIP codes in the Big Apple for infection rates came from that borough, according to city statistics.
Statewide, 62.3% of eligible New Yorkers have gotten at least one shot, and 56.6% are fully vaccinated, meaning 37.7% have yet to get vaccinated at all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In his first public appearance in 12 days that have seen a surge in cases, Cuomo used more flattering statistics, referring to a 75% vaccination rate among adult New Yorkers who got at least one shot only, while neglecting to account for the 12-to-17-year-olds that are now also eligible for the shot.
The governor said his goal was to target the remaining 25% with the help of the community groups.
“The problem now is vaccine hesitancy. They don’t want to take the vaccine. And look, I’ve had thousands of these conversations. I get it. I truly get it. Some people, communities of color, have had really horrific historic experiences with vaccines. It is true,” he said. “They are going to organize to get into these communities door-to-door and have these conversations with people in the community to get those numbers up.”
The $15 million allocations is divided up into the following six organizations.
- $5.5 million to Hispanic Federation
- $5.5 million Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies
- $1 million to New York Immigration Coalition
- $1 million to Asian American Federation
- $1 million to Charles B. Wang Community Center
- $1 million to APICHA Community Health Center