NYC officials push COVID-19 boosters amid rise in cases

NEW YORK (AP) – New York City health officials urged COVID-19 vaccine providers Monday to make booster shots widely available to most adults who want one amid a statewide spike in infections over the past two weeks.

U.S. health officials have yet to authorize booster shots for all adults, but current federal guidance says they may be taken by anyone age 65 or older, or who has an underlying health condition or lives and works in a “high-risk” setting.

City health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said patients are better positioned than doctors to decide what qualifies as a high-risk setting, and he was advising doctors to provide booster shots to any adult patient who wants one as long as it has been at least six months since they received their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or at least two months since they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of the city’s public hospital system, added that he considered all of New York City a high-risk setting because of its density.

Meanwhile, across New York state, the number of people testing positive each day for the virus has gone up 40% since Halloween. As of Sunday, New York was averaging 5,282 new cases per day over the past seven days.

Officials in Erie and Monroe counties said in a joint online briefing that they were especially concerned about more stress on hospitals that are already near or over capacity.

“I understand systemic pandemic fatigue is real. I’m feeling it too, and it’s intense,” said Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. “We are living through another holiday season in the shadow of this pandemic, but with one significant change. Now we have a safe and effective vaccine to protect us all.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement that she believes “no one who feels they are at risk should be turned away from getting a COVID-19 booster shot.”