Cuomo and de Blasio spar over heavily-criticized COVID vaccine rollout

Cuomo and de Blasio spar over heavily-criticized COVID vaccine rollout
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are blaming each other for the city’s failure to roll out quickly the COVID-19 vaccine, which has been available in the state for the past three weeks.

Speaking at a press briefing in Albany, Cuomo blamed the slow rollout on local leaders including de Blasio, and threatened that officials who don’t quickly distribute their allotted shots will be fined and barred from receiving future shipments of the vaccine.

The governor shifted the blame downhill after his own administration faced criticism for a rocky launch to the inoculation effort that saw significant quantities of the current COVID-19 stockpile remaining warehoused, the New York Post reported.

“We need the public officials to manage those public hospitals,” said Cuomo. “I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals. This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine, and they have to move the vaccine faster.”

Cuomo made his remarks alongside a gigantic PowerPoint slide containing photos of local leaders, including a blown-up picture of Mayor de Blasio. The slide was captioned with an all caps message stating, “MUST MANAGE.”

Cuomo intends to promote the distribution of the vaccines through a use-it or lose-it proposition. Cuomo says that providers with supplies must dispense their allocated doses before the end of the week, or face fines of up to $100,000. Moving forward, vaccines allocated to health providers must be used within seven days of receipt on penalty of fines and being cut off from future shipments of the vaccine.

During the press conference, Cuomo said that public and private hospitals across New York State have only used about 46 per cent of vaccines they were given. One hospital stood out from the rest — New York Presbyterian dispensed 99 per cent of its allotted shots. New York City’s Health and Hospitals network, which runs 11 hospitals across the city, administered only 31 per cent of its doses.

“I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems,” said Cuomo. “You have the allocation, we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible.”

Speaking at the same press conference, State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said that the Health and Hospitals network failed to vaccinate its own employees, despite being allotted a large supply of the vaccine. Slightly more than half of the network's 23,000 employees eligible to receive the vaccine have been given a first dose, despite being allocated some 38,000 doses, Zucker said.

“Those other 11,000 employees need to get vaccinated,” he said. “There needs to be a sense of urgency there.”

At a separate press conference, de Blasio blamed the slow rollout on logistical issues and public concerns over the safety of the new vaccine. “Getting it right in the first few weeks was the trendsetter that was the thing that was going to give confidence. Now it’s time to sprint,” he said.

De Blasio says that the city intends to administer 100,000 doses of the vaccine this week, ramping up to 400,000 per week before the end of January.

“From this week on, I expect these numbers to increase intensely. The groundwork is laid, now it’s time to put this into action on a 24/7 basis,” he continued.

In order to facilitate the city’s goals, de Blasio stated that everyone, including the state government, needs to assist in the effort.

“To get this done we need help: We need flexibility from the state of New York, we need support from the federal government,” he said. “We need the federal government to simplify the rules and to join us in making things move quicker.”

“We need the manufacturers of the vaccine to keep delivering on schedule,” he continued. “There is so much that can be done if everyone acts in partnership.”

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