WASHINGTON — President Biden said Tuesday the federal government will boost COVID vaccine distribution sharply by ordering 200 million more doses from the two pharmaceutical companies that provide the U.S. supply.
With a previous order of 400,000, that will equal 600 million doses — more than enough for two shots for every American over age 16 who wants to be vaccinated.
Biden also said the full 600 million doses would likely be available this summer, as Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are working to increase production.
In the short term, Biden said he’ll boost the weekly allocation among the states, territories and tribal authorities from 8.6 million doses to at least 10 million doses. He also said the federal government would provide three-week look-ahead reports, so that states could plan their vaccination efforts knowing how many doses were coming their way.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has railed about the slow and unsteady rollout of the vaccination in the closing days of the Trump administration, welcomed the developments.
“Incompetent government can kill people,” Cuomo said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “This is not a joke, and more people died here than needed to.”
Biden has noted the problems with the vaccination program he inherited from the Trump administration, and initially said he wanted 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days in office, or 1 million a day.
However, this would not have been much of change. About 1 million people already are being vaccinated each day, through the plan put in place under Trump, and 600 million shots at that rate would take the better part of two years.
On Monday, Biden floated the goal of 150 million shots in his first 100 days. But in remarks to reporters Tuesday, he repeated the 100 million shots in 100 days goal, and said the emphasis now is on ramping up production of vaccine and vaccination supplies and increasing outreach so that shots can be administered at a greater rate in the spring.
“The brutal truth is it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated,” Biden said.
In the interim, he said, wearing masks could save 50,000 American lives.
“Let me be clear: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” he said.
Cuomo on Tuesday said 1,210,339 New Yorkers have received their first shot of the vaccine and 166,640 have received the second shot. About 93% of the first doses the state has received from the state have been administered, he said.
A state dashboard indicates that 74% of all vaccine received by the state — first and second doses — has been administered statewide. The rates in the state’s 10 regions range from 91% in Central New York to 57% in the Mohawk Valley. The Capital Region was slightly above the median, at 77%.
In other COVID-related news Tuesday:
- The official statewide COVID death toll reached 34,407 with 162 newly added deaths, including seven in Saratoga County, five in Albany County, two in Greene County, and one each in Rensselaer, Schenectady, Schoharie and Washington counties. Saratoga County’s death toll has more than doubled from 53 to 107 n the past two weeks.
- The seven-day positive test rate stood at 5.8% for all of New York state, 6.3% in the Capital Region and 6.4% in the Mohawk Valley. At the county level, the percentages were: Albany 7.1%, Fulton 9.5%, Montgomery 8.2%, Rensselaer 6.6%, Saratoga 6.3%, Schenectady 6.1% and Schoharie 8.5%. Fulton County was second-highest in the state after Lewis County (11.1%).
- Statewide, 8,831 people were hospitalized with COVID on Monday, including 483 in the Capital Region and 256 in the Mohawk Valley. The Capital Region continues to have the lowest percentage of hospital beds available — both regular and ICU beds — of the state’s 10 regions.
- New York state, with its aggressive COVID testing program, is showing one of the highest infection rates in the nation over the past seven days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. The rates are highest in Rhode Island (98.6 new infections per day per 100,000 residents); Arizona, 95.4; South Carolina, 83.1; New York state excluding New York City, 68; Georgia, 67.1; and New York City, 65.9. The lowest are all Pacific islands, including Hawaii at 7.5 and American Samoa, zero.
- The Landing Hotel in Schenectady, next door to Rivers Casino and Resort, said it would shut down Mondays through Thursdays starting Feb. 1. After a six-month COVID shutdown, the hotel reopened Sept. 18, a week after the casino. But with the limited hours at the casino, the hotel has not been hosting a lot of guests. The hotel had 60 employees pre-pandemic and has had 25 since it reopened; five full-time hotel employees will be furloughed and 10 full-timers will become part-timers once the partial shutdown starts.