New York entering dangerous, but potentially ultimate, phase of COVID-19 crisis: Cuomo

(Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that while the infection rate statewide is on the rise, but relief is in sight for Americans, not only with the potential of Pfizer vaccine but also with shrinking numbers in the tough-to-tackle Brooklyn red zone.

While announcing new clusters in the state, Cuomo said the red zone in Brooklyn, which came with outcry from the Orthodox Jewish community believing their religious rights were being infringed upon with restrictions on gatherings, will be reduced to an orange zone with new maps being issued later on Monday.

“[Brooklyn], which is a truly urban area, as we all know, Brooklyn has made good progress. We’ve reduced the red zone by 50% last week based on the progress which has continued and now we’re announcing that for Brooklyn the red zone will be all eliminate and what is now the red zone will go to orange,” Cuomo said.

As of Monday, the governor’s office says the statewide infection rate including all micro-clusters is at 2.8% with 26 fatalities on Sunday.

Pfizer’s newly developed COVID-19 vaccine is expected to come within the next month with 94% efficacy, raising doubts from the governor of how the federal government plans to distribute the elixir through private interests.

“We have definitely entered a new phase with COVID, the fall season has brought the expected increase in COVID that all the scientists predicted. The numbers are undeniable, across the globe, 10 million cases,” Cuomo said. “The federal government says they want to start to ship within a matter of days the Pfizer vaccine so that when it’s fully proven states will be in a position to distribute it. That’s great, I have serious doubts about the distribution methodology that the federal government anticipates… The federal government has always been wrong throughout COVID and has been incompetent in their operation so we have to get it right this time.”

Sending the vaccine to private markets through drug stores, hospitals, clinics will leave poorer, black and brown communities already disproportionately affected by the virus without access to the tincture as they often lack these services to begin with, according to Cuomo.

Although he expressed relief that a new White House administration would be taking the reins in late January, Cuomo said in a morning TV appearance that it still leaves states in a tough position until then.

President-elect Joe Biden seemed to share Cuomo’s sense of urgency in a statement released with the news of the Pfizer vaccine, telling Americans to buckle down and befriend their masks for a few months longer.

“This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country,” Biden said. “This is why the head of the CDC warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine. Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact.”

According to Pfizer, the vaccine seems to work well with young and middle-aged individuals, but the results for the elderly leave some unanswered questions. The company said they would be seeking emergency-use authorization from the Federal Drug Administration by the end of November.