New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) threatened hospitals in his state Monday with fines of up to $100,000 and cutting them off entirely from receiving any more doses if they do not distribute the allotted supply of coronavirus vaccines within a week of receiving it.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) reportedly announced a different approach Monday that appears to try to motivate hospitals to distribute doses of the vaccine for the Chinese coronavirus faster without the threat of fines, saying those that do not will lose their allotments to other medical centers.
Cuomo blamed hospitals for the slow vaccine rollout amid growing concerns that his administration’s strict prioritization guidelines for who can get the vaccine could be slowing down the process, Fox News noted.
Cuomo, however, dismissed those concerns.
“The hospitals are doing the administration, and that was purposeful,” Cuomo told reporters. “This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine, and they have to move the vaccine faster.”
In Albany holding a COVID briefing. Watch live: https://t.co/OG0KlkQrUQ
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 4, 2021
According to the governor, a letter his administration sent to hospitals said:
If you don’t use the allocation by the end of this week, the allocation you’ve received by the end of this week, you can be fined and you won’t receive further allocations. We’ll use other hospitals who can administer it better.
The apparent dual priority of vaccinating people fast and giving the shot only to people prioritized by the Cuomo administration triggered a question from John Campbell of Gannett who asked:
On the one hand, you’re telling hospitals to use their allotment by the end of the week or face a fine. But on the other hand, you’re telling them if they mess up the prioritization they could also face a fine. Are those competing principles there and is that in any way slowing down the vaccination process?
Gov. Cuomo retorted by lambasting the hospitals that have not administered their allotment.
“The hospitals have been given the vaccines for expeditious administration,” he said, pointing out that some of the state’s hospitals have used almost all of the doses they have received.
“If you have been given an allocation and you’ve only used a third of the allocation, then you shouldn’t have the allocation. We have options,” he also said.
“If you can’t do that within seven days, then just raise your hand and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ Fine, we’ll go to a different hospital,” Cuomo added. “We know what hospitals are better at administering it.”
From now on, hospitals will face fines of up to $100,000 if they do not use all their doses within a week of receiving them, Cuomo indicated.
“Statewide, [NY] hospitals so far have only administered approximately 46% of allotted doses,” Daily News reported.
Critics have warned the Cuomo administration’s micromanagement of the vaccine process is likely slowing down the distribution process.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) warned New Yorkers on Monday to limit their social gatherings to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, stating that increased infections, resulting in lower hospital capacity, will trigger regions to close down. https://t.co/KLzrTQxlu4
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 4, 2021
“It’s chaos out there,” Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin proclaimed, the New York Post reported. “There state has no idea what it’s doing.”
“The Cuomo handling of the vaccine is blithering incompetence,” McLaughlin added.
When asked about whether strict enforcement of prioritization was fueling delays, Cuomo did not directly address the question and instead defended his administration’s decision on who to prioritize.
In the wake of criticism of the governor’s order, Gary Holmes, a Cuomo administration spokesperson, has insisted that New York is still prioritizing nursing home residents to receive the vaccine.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when New York was the U.S. epicenter, Cuomo issued a directive that some epidemiologists and nursing home advocates assert led to thousands of senior fatalities.
Despite months of low deaths and infections earlier this year, New York continues to lead all other states in the number of coronavirus fatalities (38,549), data maintained by Worldometer showed Monday evening.
The slow vaccine rollout is not unique to New York.
As of Monday morning, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the federal government had distributed over 15.4 doses. Still, only around 4.5 million people have received their first dose. Both of the vaccines approved in the U.S. require two doses.
Gov. DeSantis, who has prioritized the elderly ahead of many essential workers for getting the vaccine, announced a policy under which the state would provide doses to hospitals that dispense them out the fastest.
“Hospitals that do not do a good job of getting the vaccine out will have their allocations transferred to hospitals that are doing a good job at getting the vaccine out,” DeSantis declared at a briefing Monday.
“We do not want the vaccine to just be idle at some hospital system,” he added.
The governor did not mention anything about fines.
He indicated the Sunshine State would deploy an additional 1,000 nurses to inoculate people and keep state-run vaccination sites all week.
The CDC has provided guidelines for prioritizing people for getting inoculated, but ultimately it is up to the states to decide.