States need federal help with vaccine

AP FILE PHOTOIn this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said assembling a vaccine supply system is a task states "will not be able to do on their own." 

ALBANY — The federal government should provide a roadmap that spells out how states can assist in the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

"Government does not do these large operational complex functions easily or well," Cuomo said in a telephone conference call with reporters.

Cuomo, a Democrat, and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, lead the National Governors Association. The two sent a letter to President Donald Trump, urging federal officials to provide the states with a detailed blueprint for the rollout of the vaccine.

Cuomo said assembling a vaccine supply system is a task states "will not be able to do on their own."

The letter from the governors to Trump states: "We request a meeting with you and your team to discuss what is required to ensure a strong partnership, including but not limited to: the delineation of federal and state responsibilities; the funding needs associated with those responsibilities; and the planned supply chain management and vaccine allocation process."

The Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed, whose mission is to develop vaccines for the coronavirus on a rapid timetable, is hoping drug companies working on the vaccines will be prepared to file for emergency authorization by late November, Moncef Slaoui, an immunologist who heads the program, told MarketWatch this week.

Slaoui was also quoted as saying he expects the efficacy of the vaccines to be in the range of 80% to 90%. The project is striving to deliver 300 million doses of the vaccine by January.

Cuomo voiced concerns that "anti-vaxxers" — people who oppose vaccines for health or other reasons — will resist the treatments when they are authorized and could help spur more outbreaks of the contagion.

State officials have been stepping up enforcement on mandates limiting the size of gathering and requiring that masks be worn in communities identified as hot spots for the virus. State data released Thursday shows that those neighborhoods in the downstate region account for 11.5% of all virus-positive test results, though they are home to 2.8% of New York's population.

New York's overall positive test rate from testing stood at 1.09% Thursday.

In the upstate region, Western New York had the highest infection rate with 1.6% of those tested listed as positive for COVID-19.

The North Country and the Mohawk Valley were tied for the lowest infection rate from the latest testing: 0.5%. The Southern Tier rate was pegged at 1.1%.

Meanwhile, the state Labor Department reported Thursday the statewide unemployment rate declined to 9.7% in September. It was at 12.5% the previous month.

The statewide unemployment rate peaked this year in June at 15.7% after hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were idled from their jobs during the economic shutdown that began in March.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com

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