COVID-19 News and Long Island Resources: February 15-19

Rachel Hollander | February 16, 2021

A still from a February 15, 2021 NJ Spotlight News segment on CDC guidelines for in-person learning.

WLIW21 and PBS offer regular, in-depth reporting on the coronavirus pandemic’s COVID-19 cases and vaccine rollout and distribution, as well as repercussions on employment, social services, the economy and politics. Here is the most recent information from infectious disease doctors and medical professionals, government officials, and journalists who cover news about COVID-19 and its impact. This page will be updated as reporting continues.

Recent COVID-19 News and Numbers

Click for Hotlines and Information Sources for Nassau and Suffolk Counties

A new group is eligible for the vaccine in New York beginning February 15: adult New Yorkers of any age with health conditions (co-morbitities) that predispose them to a severe reaction to the coronavirus. See the list of qualifying health conditions. New Yorkers must provide documentation as required by the facility where they are getting vaccinated which must be either:

  • Doctor’s Letter, or
  • Medical Information Evidencing Comorbidity, or
  • Signed Certification

On February 14, the first day of eligibility for New Yorkers with co-morbidities, more than 250,0000 vaccination appointments were made at state-run mass vaccination sites–the largest single-day registration total since vaccinations began. Appointments were made at a rate of nearly 10,000 per hour.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on February 15 that New York State’s 7-day average COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to 3.71 percent, the lowest since November 28.

Sports and entertainment events in major stadiums and arenas in New York with a capacity of 10,000 or more people can re-open with limited spectators beginning February 23.

The FDA will meet February 26 to review Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine application.

WLIW21 offers coronavirus coverage updates via email or mobile. Sign up for email alerts here, or text INFORMATION to 30644 for mobile notifications.

MetroFocus Interviews

(l to r): Hosts Rafael Pi Roman, Jenna Flanagan and Jack Ford.

MetroFocus is on weeknights at 5, 7 and 11 p.m. on broadcast and livestream; listen weeknights on 88.3 WLIW-FM at 11 p.m.

February 17: COVID Nursing Home Controversy & Coverup

How many New York State nursing home residents have died as a result of COVID-19? That question is at the heart of a spiraling crisis engulfing the Cuomo administration and fueling accusations of a coverup, and calls for the governor to be stripped of his emergency powers. Beth Finkel, State Director of AARP’s New York Office, joins us with the latest developments on this breaking New York story.

February 3: COVID and Long Island

Tonight, MetroFocus is one-on-on with Nassau County executive Laura Curran as she shares the difficulties of balancing the needs of the people with preventing the spread of the disease and shares her personal experience of life in quarantine after she herself was exposed to the coronavirus.

PBS NewsHour Reports

PBS NewsHour is on weeknights at 6 p.m. and weekends at 6:30 p.m. on broadcast and livestream. Listen to half-hour broadcasts on 88.3 WLIW-FM weeknights at 6 p.m.

February 19: Trying to Build Trust of Vaccines Among Indigenous People

Native Americans have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a history of medical mistreatment has led some Indigenous leaders to brace for challenges in vaccinating their communities. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on those efforts.

February 18: COVID Causes Life Expectancy to Drop in Communities of Color

The pandemic’s toll was highlighted in stark terms again Thursday as the expected life spans fell in the U.S. by a year on average in the first half of 2020. It is the largest drop since World War II, and gaps along racial lines are profound. Dr. Reed Tuckson, Washington, D.C.’s former public health commissioner and a leader in the Black coalition against Covid-19, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

February 15: News Wrap: Average Daily COVID Infections Fall Below 10,000

In our news wrap Monday, average daily COVID-19 infections in the U.S. have fallen below 100,000 for the first time since November, and more.

Amanpour and Company

Amanpour and Company

Left to right: Walter Isaacson, Michel Martin, Christiane Amanpour, Hari Sreenivasan

Amanpour and Company is on Monday – Saturday at 12 a.m.; repeats at 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. Watch broadcast or livestream.

February 19: #TakeTheVaccine Campaign Fights Disinformation

Vaccine rollout in the UK is being hailed as a major success, with more than 16 million vaccinated so far. But the success rate is much lower in Black and minority communities. Historian David Olusoga is helping to tackle the problem head-on as part of the new campaign #TakeTheVaccine — aimed at increasing the rate of vaccination and fighting disinformation.

February 16: Dr. Eric Topol: The CDC Was a “No-Show for the Pandemic”

COVID numbers in general are coming down in the U.S. But the good news is tentative. Viral variants appear to be increasingly widespread, an important reminder that people must keep their guard up. Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, is one of the country’s top medical researchers. He joins Walter Isaacson.

NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi

NJ Spotlight News provides daily reporting on the coronavirus in New Jersey, as well as newsletters.

February 19: Here’s Why You Should Double Mask, And How To Do It Right

As highly contagious variants of the coronavirus begin to circulate more widely, Dr. Stephanie Silvera says it’s time to double up on masks. The Montclair State University epidemiologist says she’s been wearing two masks since November. But she warns that wearing any two masks isn’t going to cut it, and that a tight fit is key.

February 19: Report: Decrease in U.S. Life Expectancy Due to COVID-19

A new CDC report says the virus slashed a year off from Americans’ overall life expectancy, the biggest loss since World War II. The hardest hit are Black men, whose life expectancy dropped 3 full years.

February 19: Pfizer to Study COVID-19 Vaccine on Pregnant Women

Pfizer is now planning to enroll 4,000 pregnant women from the U.S. and several other countries in a new trial to study the effects of the vaccine. Women over the age of 18 and between 24 to 34 weeks into their pregnancy will be eligible. Some of the women will get the real vaccine while others will get a placebo.

February 18: Can Patients Choose Between COVID-19 Vaccines?

Patients at one North Jersey hospital have already started asking for one vaccine over another often based on which one did better in clinical trials. And with J&J’s version expected to soon receive federal emergency use authorization, health officials will have to grapple with the potential challenge of patient preference.

February 18: Menendez Provides Update on $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez delivered an update Thursday on the proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that’s being worked on in Congress.At a press conference, several residents shared their stories of how the pandemic has impacted them and their finances.

February 17: Slower J&J Vaccine Rollout Could Impact Vaccination Efforts

J&J will roll out its highly-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine much more slowly than the company originally indicated to health officials, according to the Biden administration. J&J would be able to ship only “a few million” doses right away, assuming it gets FDA emergency use authorization later this month.

February 16: UK Variant “Likely” More Deadly Than First Thought

Rutgers expert believes loosening restrictions is premature given variants are spreading and that many states have not achieved “herd immunity.”

February 16: New COVID-19 Testing Center Opens at Newark Airport

Air travelers can now get tested for COVID-19 and get the results before their flight takes off from Newark Liberty International Airport, thanks to XpresCheck.

February 15: Second Wave of Deadly Post-COVID Illness Targets Kids

A second post-holiday wave of the devastating post-COVID-19 syndrome called
Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is targeting Black and Hispanic kids across the US and here in New Jersey.

February 15: New CDC Guidance for In-Person Learning Education

In New Jersey, about three-quarters of schools are operating under some level of in-person learning. Nearly a hundred are fully in-person; close to 200 are fully remote. The CDC says even districts with the highest community spread can get back to some in-person learning by using strict mitigation strategies.

Firing Line with Margaret Hoover

February 20: Michael Osterholm

Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm says new COVID-19 strains will likely cause cases to surge in March. Osterholm, who was on Biden’s transition task force, says the U.S. needs to revise its vaccine and mask strategies now to save lives.

Hotlines and Information

NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065
For all New York State updates and announcements from Governor Andrew Cuomo, see the state COVID site.

Vaccine Distribution

To confirm eligibility and see list of vaccine providers closest to you, see this New York State site.

Those eligible can call the New York State COVID vaccine scheduling hotline; calls are accepted 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., though lines may be busy and hold times lengthy: 833-697-4829.

The state documents its vaccination distribution through a vaccine tracker that includes first and second doses given.

State-run COVID-19 vaccination sites (appointments required through include, among others:

  • Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York City
  • Westchester County Convention Center (Westchester County)
  • Jones Beach drive-thru vaccination site (Nassau County) on Long Island
  • SUNY Stony Brook (Suffolk County) on Long Island
  • The Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York City

See other community pop-up sites in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, on the New York State site.

Micro-Cluster Hot Spots

Look up an address to see if it is in a New York COVID-19 color-coded Hot Spot Zone with restrictions. There are currently micro-clusters in Upper Manhattan in the Bronx according to the state site last updated January 27. Maps of the cluster zones can be found here.

The places and activities regulated are non-essential gatherings, businesses, dining, and schools.

Governor Cuomo’s weekday coronavirus updates focus on hospital and ICU bed availability in New York State’s regions, based on seven-day averages. See the status of regions on

COVID Alert NY is a voluntary, anonymous, exposure-notification smartphone app. You will get an alert if you were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Learn more about how it works and download it to your mobile phone.

Nassau County

Text COVID19NC to 888777 to get updates on Coronavirus in Nassau County on your mobile device. See New York State information regarding vaccine distribution.

Nassau County Coronavirus Hotline: 516-227-9570

Nassau County vaccine information.

Nassau County COVID-19 information and resources. The site updates its data on cases, deaths, hospitalizations, number of ventilator patients and discharges daily at 5pm.

Nassau County maintains a map with number of cases by community.

Suffolk County

Text COVIDSUFFOLK to 67283 to get updates on Coronavirus in Suffolk County on your cell phone.

Call 1-888-364-3065 with questions about travel and symptoms.

See New York State information regarding vaccine distribution.

Suffolk County COVID-19 information and resources, including daily reports of deaths, cases, and cases by county.

Remote Learning Resources from WNET Education

WLIW21 is the home of a weekday broadcast block starting at 9 a.m. Grades 3K-Grade 2 are served by Let’s Learn, NYC!, followed by a NJTV Learning Live lesson for 3rd graders at 10 a.m., 4th graders at 11 a.m., and 5th graders at 12 p.m.

Broadcast schedules on WLIW21, WLIW World and PBS Kids were developed to help schools and districts bridge the digital divide and provide equitable access to learning for all students at home, regardless of access to the internet or computers.

Help keep students learning at home with tools for parents and educators on WNET’s Education site. All resources are free and standards-aligned.