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Cuomo expands vaccine eligibility to more public workers, people over 60

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks Tuesday at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse

New York will lower COVID-19 vaccine eligibility from age 65 to 60 this week, and soon loosen restrictions on vaccination sites that local officials have criticized, under a plan Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Cuomo made an appearance at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse Tuesday to make the announcement.

“That means people, like, as old as I am will now be eligible for the vaccine,” said Cuomo.

Those who are newly eligible can start booking appointments at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Additionally, more essential workers will be eligible for the vaccine starting next week on March 17.

This includes workers such as public works employees, sanitation workers, DMV workers, County Clerks, building service workers, election workers, social service and child service caseworkers, and government inspectors.

“These are the people who are the everyday heroes who are out there doing their job, they're putting themselves in a possible position of exposure, they are essential for us to continue operating,” said Cuomo. “They're going to become eligible on March 17.”

He noted that while pharmacies remain reserved for older adults and teachers, all other vaccination sites, state-run or not, can now vaccinate any and all eligible groups.

Cuomo said promises of more vaccine shipments have made him comfortable with increasing eligibility, even with overall supplies still too low to vaccinate everyone eligible in New York.

His office had previously estimated that 7 million New Yorkers were eligible before the list grew to include millions more with underlying medical conditions.

“But the supply is increasing,” said Cuomo. “If the supply is increasing we can then increase our distribution levels.”

Local and county officials statewide, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have pushed the governor for weeks to lift restrictions on which New Yorkers can get vaccinated and where. Officials applauded Cuomo’s move but also called for more transparency on exactly where vaccines are going.

About 18% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a vaccine, in line with the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s a lower percentage than New England and New Jersey.

Public health experts hope increased vaccinations will drive down COVID-19 infections in New York, which has the nation’s highest number of new cases and hospitalizations on a per-capita basis over the last seven days.

The state recorded nearly 50,000 new cases over the past seven days, with upticks in Staten Island and Rockland. Hospitals in Manhattan and the Bronx have disproportionately more COVID-19 patients than the rest of the state: 1,377 as of Sunday, compared with 1,410 for the previous Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.