On Monday, both the mayor of New York City and the governor of New Jersey urged adults over 18 who are already vaccinated to get a booster shot. That is a shift from the CDC guidance limiting boosters only to some Americans.
New York City is "seeing an uptick" in coronavirus cases as weather turns cold and more people stay indoors, Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi said Monday. He said waning immunity for people who received their vaccines more than six months ago could be to blame for the resurgence.
He said the increase was "anticipated," and even though 630,000 booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far, more people need to get the shot.
"Although hospitalizations remain low right now, we are seeing an uptick in recent days," he said. "We had anticipated that this might occur as the weather gets cooler and people spend more time indoors, but compared to this time last year, we have many more tools to fight COVID-19 and work to keep a winter wave at bay."
Dr. Chokshi also announced that he's issuing a Commissioner's Advisory to all health care providers to ensure there are no barriers for New Yorkers to get a COVID-19 booster shot if they are over 18 and at least six months since their second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two months since a J&J shot.
"Clinicians should allow adult patients to determine their own risk of exposure, based on their individual circumstances," he said on Twitter. "In practice, this means that providers should not turn a patient away if they request a booster."
Eyewitness News spoke to Dr. Chokshi, who attempted to clear up any confusion regarding the availability of boosters in relation to CDC guidance.
The Commissioner argues that he's not overstepping CDC guidance, but simply interpreting it to fit everyday New Yorkers.
"First, an important point in the CDC guidance is that booster doses are important for people who have a higher risk of exposure, it could be because of your living situation, it could be because of your job. But it could also just be based on the level of community transmission or the geography that you're in," he said.
He also says that while he's in touch with the CDC daily, there weren't any specific conversations about Monday's guidance.
"There weren't specific conversations about about this, because it's consistent with the recommendations that have already been put forward, but really represents a way for us to ensure that even more New Yorkers benefit from the protection that an additional dose of the vaccine can confer," Chokshi said.
Lastly, when asked about last-minute complaints from those who can't get a booster appointment even after the announcement, he says the system will need a few hours to update.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that with the holidays coming up, "we must continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19."
"Dr. Fauci recently noted that making the booster shot available to all is 'absolutely essential' to fighting this deadly virus - especially as people start to congregate indoors for holiday gatherings," she said. "I am strongly encouraging all New Yorkers who live or work in a high-risk setting to get the booster. I received the booster, and believe no one who feels they are at risk should be turned away from getting a COVID-19 booster shot. If you feel at risk, please get the booster."
Meanwhile in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy all but approved booster shots for residents 18+ and acknowledged "that's the direction we are going to be headed."
He also encouraged residents who are six months out from their vaccine or two months out from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and are over 18 to go get a booster.
Murphy said his state health officials have been cautious throughout the pandemic, but encouraged residents to "read between the lines, that's kind of what I'm saying today."
The city's final scheduled day of pop-up clinics at public schools for 5- to 11-year-old vaccinations is Monday, but Mayor Bill de Blasio announced "we will be doing more" school-based vaccinations, with details forthcoming.
"We will be announcing some additional steps in our school based vaccination effort this week," he said. "We love the fact that parents have decided this is a great place to get their kids vaccinated, so we will be doing more with our schools. And look, everyone, this is a time to focus even more intently on vaccination, of course, for the youngest New Yorkers, because it's new. Let's make sure every single child gets vaccinated. But let's go back on all the rest of us and make sure anyone not yet vaccinated gets vaccinated."
Watch: Mayor discusses vaccines at press conference
Officials said that 62,000 doses have been administered to 5- to 11-year-olds citywide, along with 80% of 12- to 17-year-olds having at least one dose.
Roughly 87% of adults have had at least one dose, and 93% of city employees are vaccinated -- including 92% of EMS workers, 86% of firefighters, and 87% of sanitation workers.
"We find this has been an incredibly effective approach," de Blasio said. "There is one last piece when it comes to our public employees, Department of Correction officers, who have a December 1 date to report to work vaccinated."
Just 57% of uniformed Correction Department staff is vaccinated.
"That is up 10% since the original announcement, but we've got a lot more to do," de Blasio said. "We want to make sure all the uniformed staff know the deadline is coming up, encourage everyone to get vaccinated in time."
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The mayor reminded officers that they still qualify for the $500 incentive, through November 30.
Anyone who wants to apply for an exemption or accommodation has until Tuesday, November 23, to do so.
The vast majority of city workers who have sought exemptions to the COVID vaccination mandate are police officers, about 6,000.
"I expect all of those to be adjudicated in the next few weeks," de Blasio said.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 COVERAGE
New York City COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus
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