Jump in NYC COVID vaccinations comes with concerns about how NYC’s handled the pandemic, as well as courthouse COVID scare

Coronavirus


NEW YORK — Even as vaccinations increase notably in New York, new information is emerging showing that the de Blasio administration fell short in its handling of the pandemic, and that COVID concerns are growing in courthouses around the city.

The criticism of the mayor’s management of the pandemic came in a report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city’s health care workers have stepped up to the medical challenges that COVID has presented, but the comptroller called for better planning as the pandemic wears on, and the threat of other pandemics persists.

Representative of part of the situation is Eze Igdo. He’s a local resident who approached a mobile vaccination site in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Wednesday afternoon, and asked if he could get a shot.

One of the vaccination specialists on hand took his information, and minutes later, he was entering the van a few yards from the specialists’ tent, to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“It’s for health care,” Igdo said.  “You need to be healthy.”

His vaccination is part of an overall number of first doses that are at their highest level since early June.

The mayor smiled as he talked about it at his daily briefing on Wednesday.

“We’re seeing lines again, and this is great,” he said.  

He said that a variety of factors were contributing to the increase in vaccinations, including the $100 debit card that people now receive for their first shot, along with required vaccinations for city employees, and the vaccine mandate that’s now in place for the second day.

Called the “Key to NYC,” it requires people to show proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, museums, and other cultural venues. 

The result of all of those factors is encouraging, said Dr. Ted Long, a senior vice president of NYC Health and Hospitals.

“Today, for the first time,” Long said, “75 percent of all adults in New York City have received at least one dose of vaccine.”

However, along with those successes was Comptroller Stringer’s new report.  It said that the administration didn’t have a basic plan fully in place to battle the pandemic, and that without a plan, the city’s medical community had inadequate or expired supplies, among other problems.  

The report also called for stronger planning ahead, as the pandemic continues, and the threat of other pandemics is a reality.

The mayor responded.

“There’s no way to fully understand a global pandemic until you’re in it,” he said. “None of us anticipated anywhere, anything like this, and we needed federal leadership that wasn’t there,” said the mayor.

“People in public service who made things happen and made sure that care was there for people,” he continued, “[and] put together the biggest vaccination effort in [the] history of New York City. I think there’s a lot that says this city responded very powerfully.”

A further challenge is happening now for the city, at its courthouses.  

Lawyers from five different legal defense organizations sent a letter to Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul asking her to provide greater COVID protections at court.  News of the letter comes after the administrative judge for all of Brooklyn was diagnosed with COVID on Tuesday, and a grand jury was sent home on Wednesday because at least one of its members tested positive.  

In the letter, the lawyers said that they’re regularly required to be in unventilated areas of courthouses, such as windowless client interview rooms, and hallways full of people waiting for arraignments.  They called for a return to virtual arraignments, and for masks to be provided and required at courthouses.  

The criminal courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn has seen COVID cases among defense attorneys rise significantly. Throughout the city’s system, a dozen defense lawyers have tested positive since mid-July. Seven of those cases were on July 28 alone.

For her part, Hochul, who’ll be sworn in as governor next week, said that she’s concerned.

“I’m digging deep into that issue,” she said, during a question-and -answer session following a school tour in the city on Wednesday.  “I’ve already asked my team to do an overhaul, and find out what’s going wrong there.”

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