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Cuomo gives in to pressure from de Blasio to expand COVID shots Monday

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After days of unrelenting criticism, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday afternoon that elderly New Yorkers and frontline workers — including cops and teachers — across the state will be able to begin getting coronavirus vaccinations starting next week.

Currently, only hospital workers, paramedics and seniors who live in nursing homes are eligible to get COVID inoculations under strict state guidelines that have frustrated local officials across the Empire State, including his frequent sparring partner, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“On Monday, you can start to schedule appointments. Pharmacies will start coming online, some on Monday, more on Wednesday,” said Cuomo, who talked around the announcement for more than an hour before finally laying out his decision in response to a question from a reporter — in a seeming attempt to avoid handing de Blasio a visible win.

“Monday, basically, is when the registration website will open to make an appointment,” he later reiterated without ever officially saying when the jabs could begin.

Under the rules, those in Group 1B — the second-highest priority category — will be able to get their first dose of the two-shot inoculations. It covers New Yorkers who are 75 or older, teachers, police, firefighters, bus drivers, train operators and other frontline city and MTA staff.

Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly celebrated Cuomo’s reversal and announced Gotham would begin rolling out the shots to the newly-eligible employees beginning Monday.

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Matthew McDermott

“New York City has heard enough. We will begin administering shots to City Workers and the elderly in 1B starting on Monday,” Hizzoner said in a tweet.

Alongside the expansion in eligibility, Cuomo also announced new plans to dramatically expand the availability of the coronavirus vaccine by allowing urgent care, community health clinics and pharmacies to dispense it.

Hospitals that were already providing COVID jabs will also be able to vaccinate front line workers, but Cuomo warned they must continue to give priority to health care workers.

The announcement ended a week-long firefight between Albany and City Hall as New York’s two most powerful politicians traded blame over the sluggish pace of the vaccine rollout.

De Blasio and his team of public health advisors argued that Cuomo’s eligibility rules to ration New York state’s 300,000-dose per week vaccine supply were so restrictive they were slowing down injections and risked wasting valuable shots.

Cuomo fired back by turning New York City’s public hospital system into his whipping boy, regularly finding ways to blast the Health and Hospitals Corporation for failing to get its shots into arms.

That largely stopped after The Post exposed Health and Hospitals had already offered all of its then-eligible employees shots — and that its large surplus of doses was due to Cuomo rules that threatened stiff fines and the loss of its licenses if they were administered.

The H&H was not the only medical system in New York that was struggling to find arms to jab with vaccine under Cuomo’s initial rules, which restricted eligibility to doctors and nurses likely to treat coronavirus patients.

Callen-Lorde — which serves the city’s LGBT population, including many New Yorkers with compromised immune systems — also received hundreds of doses they couldn’t use.

Officials initially shipped the system of clinics 600 doses of vaccine, even though it employs roughly 400 people. And Callen-Lorde’s top physician, Dr. Peter Meacher, said they’d just received another 300 shots — bringing the total to 900.

“We’ve been waiting for this announcement,” Meacher told The Post on Friday. “We plan to have people who are over 75 come in starting next week.”

He added that the new rules would make it much easier for Callen-Lorde to get the shots out the door — compared to the old.

“This is an emergency situation that we’re in,” Meacher said.

“On the one hand, we’re very committed to playing by the rolebook and only doing the things that we’re allowed to do,” he continued. “We’re also extremely driven not to waste not a single vaccine.”

“But the combination of all these things means we’re had to be very structured in delivering the vaccine — and that means it’s been slower than it would have been otherwise,” the doctor added.

Clinics and hospitals in New York City have administered roughly 168,000 of the 489,000 doses delivered here so far, 34 percent of the total.

Those frustrations also took the face and voice of elderly Gothamites who have gone public with their pleas for coronavirus vaccinations.

“I’m 89. My husband is 90. We live on our own and we need to be vaccinated. I want to know how,” said Anthea Lingeman to Hizzoner during a heartbreaking moment on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on Friday.

All the while, the state’s public and private hospitals are struggling to keep ahead of the second wave of coronavirus cases, a challenge that officials fear will become much harder if the more-contagious British variant takes root here.

The Empire State clocked another 18,832 cases Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic’s outbreak to at least 243,903. The lethal virus has killed more than 25,000 people across the five boroughs so far.

Cuomo — sounding more dire than he has in weeks — warned at the press conference that regions of New York could again face economic shutdowns if the virus continues to run rampant and, again, urged residents to wear masks and cancel indoor gatherings.

“Usain Bolt was a phenomenal sprinter, holds records, that’s what the UK strain is,” the governor said. “So in the footrace, between the infection rate and the vaccine, you just add Usain Bolt on the side of the infection rate.”

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