NEW YORK — Hotel workers in New York state will now be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.
Citing an overall increase to the state’s supply of vaccines and the dangers that hotel workers face as front-line workers — particularly with some hotels in New York acting as quarantine spaces for people who have tested positive for the coronavirus — the governor said localities can add them to the “1B” vaccine prioritization group.
About 10 million people in New York are currently eligible to receive the vaccine, according to the state.
Alexis Santiago works at the Hilton Garden Inn in Times Square. With the hotel now being used as a shelter and as lodging for travelers who need a place to quarantine, he says the likelihood of interacting with a guest who has COVID-19 goes way up.
“Regardless of the safety protocols that we have, and people still traveling, and the interaction that we have with guests at that time, at the front desk or cleaning their room, etc., you don’t know,” he said.
His union said it’s about time hotel workers are eligible for the vaccine. The Hotel Trades Council has been fighting hard over the past few weeks to convince the state to include hotel workers in the early rounds of the vaccine distribution.
The Hotel Trades Council estimates that more than 400 of its hotel workers have died of COVID-19, with thousands of others falling sick after contracting the virus.
Santiago said he was one one of them.
“I had to submit myself to the hospital,” he said. “I couldn’t get fluids in to my body. It was treacherous, the effects that I was feeling. My breathing was not upright.”
Santiago said he suffered severe breathing issues for several months after being released from the hospital.
“I could not have a conversation without sounding like I was running for miles before I had a conversation,” he said.
He encouraged all hotel workers to get the vaccine, saying he would not wish his experience with the virus on anyone.
Cuomo on Friday also called for the Yankee Stadium mass vaccination site to get more vaccines, and for a second site in the north Bronx to be added, in order to address concerns from elected officials and advocates in the Bronx that the borough is not getting as many vaccines as the other boroughs.
The governor said he agreed that the Bronx is getting too few vaccines, and said the state health department will work with the city health department to address the inequities.
It’s not yet known when Yankee Stadium will receive more vaccine doses or where in the north Bronx the new vaccination site will be located.
The Bronx currently has the highest COVID-19 test positivity rate (8.86% as of Monday, according to the city’s data) of any of the five boroughs.
The state in recent weeks has sought to ramp up distribution, with the opening of joint state and federal mass vaccination sites next week in Brooklyn, Queens, Albany, Rochester, and Buffalo. Pop-up clinics have also opened in parts of the state to vaccinate New Yorkers.
The governor’s office reported Friday that more than 4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in New York. In the last 24 hours, a record 179,038 doses have been administered in New York alone, Cuomo said.
Of the total vaccine doses, 2,674,839 first doses have been administered, Cuomo’s office said.
Hospitalizations due to COVID-19, meanwhile, have fallen to 5,626 patients, a decline of 529 people in the last week. That is the lowest hospitalization level since December 12, Cuomo said.
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