National News Content

House Cancels Session After Another Militia Threat

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 4:23pm
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Large numbers of police and National Guard were at the U.S. Capitol today to protect against a threat that never materialized. March 4 is a day that holds significance for some conspiracy theorists, and officials had been saying that they'd received reports of a plot by a militia group to attempt to breach the Capitol. Even though that hasn't happened, Capitol Police are asking the National Guard to remain on site for two more months. NPR's Sarah McCammon has been monitoring the situation and she's with us now. Hi, Sarah. SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. SHAPIRO: What more do we know about the threat to the Capitol? MCCAMMON: Well, thousands of National Guard members have been here since the storming of the Capitol on January 6. And now a Pentagon official has confirmed to NPR that the Capitol Police are asking for those troops to remain in D.C. for another 60 days or so. And today, March 4, as you mentioned, was a day that some conspiracy theorists had predicted

With Trump Out Of Office, Disinformation Online Is On A Decline

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 4:23pm
By almost any metric, the scope of disinformation in America has gotten steadily worse in recent years. But the deplatforming of Trump, and a subsequent dip in lies online, gives room for optimism.

Secretary Of State Described China As Biden's Biggest Political Test

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 4:23pm
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UR Medicine prepares to ramp up coronavirus sequencing in an effort to track variants

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 4:22pm
UR Medicine will begin genomic sequencing of local coronavirus samples within weeks, allowing local researchers and doctors to see a fuller picture of what kind of virus is infecting people in the community.

Expansion plans moving forward at Strong Museum of Play

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:55pm
The Strong Museum of Play is announcing a $1.5 million financial commitment from ESL Federal Credit Union for the museum’s expansion plans. That gives ESL the naming rights to “Digital Worlds,” a 24,000 square foot gallery focusing on electronic games. The overall 90,000 square foot expansion is part of the larger “Neighborhood of Play” project. Strong President and CEO Steve Dubnik says Digital Worlds will house exhibits exploring the history of video games and new technologies, will be the new home for the Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame, and it will also showcase underrepresented groups in the video game world. ``Women in games, people of color in games, and people of the LGBTQ community in terms of their games. We have collections that represent all of these different groups and we’ll have them on display and talk about the importance of the people behind them,” Dubnik said. Dubnik says the project is moving forward after the pandemic delayed the expansion by about a year. `

Ghana Greets Historic Vaccine Delivery With A Dose Of Skepticism

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:35pm
In the middle of a pandemic, Mavis Owureku-Asare is optimistic. The reason? On February 24, her homeland, Ghana, became the first low-resource country to receive free COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX. "I feel very hopeful," says Owureku-Asare, a food scientist with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and a 2020 Aspen New Voices fellow. "Ghana has become a role model for other countries." She's not the only one encouraged by the shipment from COVAX, an initiative set up in partnership with the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access to the vaccine, especially in low income countries. "This is a historic step toward our goal to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history" is how WHO phrased it in a statement. But the reality on the ground is a bit more complicated. There are still potential stumbling blocks ahead for Ghana — and no doubt for other countries on the COVAX

Connections: Local vaccine researchers on the state of COVID-19 vaccines

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:34pm
We're joined by local vaccine researchers to discuss the state of COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution in the U.S. Dr. Edward Walsh and Dr. Angela Branche have been involved in vaccine development and trials since the beginning of the pandemic. They join us to discuss vaccine effectiveness, Johnson and Johnson coming online, a Pfizer booster being tested locally, and they answer your questions about vaccines. Our guests: Angela Branche , M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), and co-director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center Edward Walsh , M.D., professor in the Department of Medicine (Infectious Diseases) at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and head of infectious diseases at Rochester General Hospital

Connections: Can "citizen panels" create more common ground on divisive issues?

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:31pm
A local organization called Civic Genius is hosting panels aimed at dismantling polarization. The organizers say the conversations neighbors and elected officials have during their panels can create more common ground on issues that affect the entire country. How do they work? And how effective are they? We discuss those questions with our guests: Howard Konar, founder of Civic Genius Jillian Youngblood, executive director of Civic Genius Steven Kull, founder and president of Voice of the People

OPEC And Allies Keep Oil Production Steady As Saudi Arabia Urges 'Caution'

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:31pm
Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET OPEC and its allies said Thursday they are keeping oil production largely steady, even as crude prices stage a remarkable recovery, betting that a restrained approach will lay the groundwork for prices to climb even more. Russia and Kazakhstan will raise their output modestly, but all other members of the alliance will hold their production steady instead of returning more oil to the global market. Saudi Arabia also said it will extend its voluntary cut in oil production of 1 million barrels per day into April. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, jumped 5% on the news. The powerful oil cartel and the non-member countries that cooperate with it are jointly known as OPEC+. The group includes most of the world's major oil producers, although the United States is a notable exception. They struck a deal last year to reduce oil supply after the pandemic sent demand and prices plunging. But oil prices have rallied recently amid signs of a global economic recovery,

Supreme Court Makes It Harder For Undocumented Immigrants To Fight Deportation

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 3:02pm
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday made it more difficult for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a long time to fight deportation. The court's 5-to-3 ruling came in the case of a man who had lived in the U.S. for 25 years but who had used a fake Social Security card to get a job as a janitor. Clemente Pereida was fined $100 under Nebraska state law after he pleaded no contest to the crime of "attempted criminal impersonation." The lower courts ruled the conviction was enough to trigger his deportation because it was a crime of "moral turpitude" under state law. That finding, in turn, meant that Pereida was ruled ineligible when he appealed to the attorney general to cancel his deportation because of the impact it would have on his son, a U.S. citizen, and the rest of his family. The attorney general does have such discretion but not if the applicant has been found guilty of a crime of "moral turpitude." In an opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court

A Former Police Chief In Md. Was A 'Serial Arsonist,' Authorities Say

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 2:59pm
YouTube Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET After David Crawford left his job as the police chief of Laurel, Md., in 2010, he spent the next decade nursing grudges and setting fires to punish others, investigators say. In a stunning turn of events, Crawford, a law enforcement veteran, is now under arrest and facing dozens of charges in connection to at least 12 fires at homes, garages and cars. Crawford was a "serial arsonist," according to the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department . It adds that investigators' suspicions about Crawford were confirmed when a search of his house turned up a " target list" of fire victims on his cellphone. Crawford, 69, was denied bond at a bail review hearing Thursday morning, Howard County Police Chief Lisa Myers said at a news conference. The charges against Crawford include 12 counts of 1st-degree attempted murder – because many of the victims were clearly at home when the fires were lit, officials say. Former Laurel, Md., police chief David Crawford is

KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Good and Not-So-Good News on Covid

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 2:58pm

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There’s good news and bad news on covid-19 this week. On the one hand, several million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine authorized by the FDA for emergency use are already going into the arms of people around the nation. And the Biden administration has brokered a deal with rival manufacturer Merck to produce even more doses of the J&J vaccine, which can be transported and administered more easily than the covid vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

But at the same time, the covid-19 caseload is starting to rise again, and public health experts worry that boost could be accelerated by the spread of more transmissible virus variants that might not be covered by the available vaccines. Nevertheless, Republican governors in several states, including Texas, are rolling back some public health precautions, including mask mandates, over the objections of federal health officials.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Mary Ellen McIntire of CQ Roll Call, Joanne Kenen of Politico and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization last week of a covid vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson could be a game changer for public health outreach efforts in some areas. In addition to being easier to store and transport, the J&J vaccine needs only one shot, instead of the two doses required by the two older varieties.
  • Some consumers have been put off by the efficacy numbers for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they are not as high as the ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. But those numbers may be deceiving. The J&J version was tested later, when more covid variants were being transmitted, which could have affected the efficacy in the trials. Still, the J&J shot prevented 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, which are the major markers researchers are looking for.
  • President Joe Biden promised this week that by the end of May there would be enough vaccine for every adult in the United States. But he didn’t say each of those adults would be vaccinated. Public health officials will still likely be dealing with some hesitancy in certain groups of people by then. A major publicity campaign about the benefits of getting vaccinated is planned by the government once supply is sufficient.
  • Federal efforts against the coronavirus could be hampered by decisions in some states to begin reopening without maintaining safety protocols such as mandatory masking and limits on indoor capacities. One way to persuade states to keep such public health precautions in place might be to financially reward those that meet the recommendations from federal health officials.
  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, received a tied, party-line vote in the Finance Committee this week. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t get some Republican support when the nomination goes to the Senate floor for confirmation.
  • The Senate is poised to try to push out the president’s covid relief plan with an arduous process that would allow passage with only 51 votes. Already Democrats have been forced to give up provisions that would raise the minimum wage and have scaled back the stimulus checks to higher-income workers. So far, no Democrats have deserted the bill, but it is still a work in progress.
  • As the covid pandemic took hold in the country, one issue that has gotten short shrift is mental health. There was a 20% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 and many health experts are worried that children have suffered mental health repercussions from being home so long. The issue is likely to generate new concerns and strategies as the immediate threat from covid diminishes.

Also this week, Rovner interviews KHN’s Jordan Rau, who wrote the latest KHN-NPR “Bill of the Month” feature — about an international college student whose mental health crisis was not helped by an unexpected hospital bill. If you have an outrageous medical bill you’d like to share with us, you can do that here.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Reveal/KHN’s “Into the COVID ICU,” by Jenny Gold

Joanne Kenen: Politico’s “A Complicating Factor in Combating Covid Hot Spots: Heat,” by Victoria Colliver and Nolan D. McCaskill

Mary Ellen McIntire: Stat’s “The Trump Administration Quietly Spent Billions in Hospital Funds on Operation Warp Speed,” by Rachel Cohrs

Sarah Karlin-Smith: The Atlantic’s “5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating,” by Zeynep Tufekci

To hear all our podcasts, click here.

And subscribe to What the Health? on iTunesStitcherGoogle PlaySpotify, or Pocket Casts.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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Categories: National News Content

The Movie Industry Holds Its Breath As New York Reopens Theaters

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 2:48pm
Movie theaters in Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and Philadelphia have been open for months. But attendance remains low, not just because of public safety concerns—but because there isn't much to see. Major studios are delaying their blockbusters, or releasing them straight to streaming. One big reason? The two biggest movie markets in the country, New York City and Los Angeles, remain closed. Now, New York City is reopening theaters at reduced capacity. AMC Theatres, the largest chain in the country, opens its doors on March 5. But the second-largest, Regal Entertainment, will stay dark. "It's entirely because of New York and L.A. being closed that other major markets simply don't have major movies to play," says Patrick Corcoran, Vice President and Chief Communications Officer of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). "Movies opening in New York and L.A. will give studios confidence that their larger titles are going to open well and do well, across the country, and

California Program Giving $500 No-Strings-Attached Stipends Pays Off, Study Finds

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 2:16pm
A high-profile universal basic income experiment in Stockton, Calif., which gave randomly selected residents $500 per month for two years with no strings attached, measurably improved participants' job prospects, financial stability and overall well-being, according to a newly released study of the program's first year. Michael Tubbs, at the time the mayor of Stockton, Calif., speaks during a 2019 interview. A universal basic income program run by a nonprofit founded by Tubbs gave $500 a month to 125 people who lived in census tracts at or below the city's median household income. Rich Pedroncelli / AP The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED , was founded in February 2019 by then-Mayor Michael Tubbs and funded by donors, including the Economic Security Project . It gave 125 people living in neighborhoods at or below Stockton's median household income the unconditional monthly stipend. A study of the period from February 2019 to February 2020, conducted by a team of

Kaiser Permanente, Big Player in State Vaccine Effort, Has Had Trouble Vaccinating Own Members

Latest Updates From Kaiser Health News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 1:52pm
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As managed-care giant Kaiser Permanente assumes a prominent role in California’s new covid-19 vaccination strategy, it is drawing mixed reviews from members across the country for the way it has run its own vaccine program over the past two months.

Conversations with 10 Kaiser enrollees in five states — Colorado, Washington, Virginia, Maryland and California — revealed a common frustration: difficulty snagging an appointment. Many also described receiving sporadic and sometimes confusing information from the company, though some said Kaiser has been doing better recently.

All of those who spoke to California Healthline were over age 65. Many were long-standing Kaiser members and, aside from the vaccine rollout, had mostly positive opinions of the health system. Some ended up going elsewhere for their shots; others said they would wait for Kaiser because its services were familiar to them and they felt more comfortable going there than to another site. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Kaiser’s CEO, Greg Adams, acknowledged the frustrations of his company’s California patients in a Jan. 30 email, explaining that the health system had received only a small fraction of the vaccine supply it needed.

Members did not blame Kaiser for the lack of vaccines, noting that insufficient supply has been the bane of providers across the country. But Kaiser could have been quicker to administer the vaccines it did receive and should have communicated more clearly about the shortage, they said.

Nino Maida, a San Francisco resident who’s been a Kaiser member for 14 years, said he couldn’t figure out why he was unable to get an appointment. “The frustration lasted about a month, until I got a clear indication from Kaiser that any waiting was due to a lack of vaccine,” said Maida, 74. “I thought they were being very inefficient instead of just poor at communicating.”

A Kaiser spokesperson defended the company’s communication strategy, saying that a page on its website (kp.org/covidvaccine) provides detailed answers about vaccine eligibility and appointments, and that a link prominently displayed on Kaiser’s homepage directs people there. The organization sends regular emails to members with information about their eligibility and instructions on how to set up an appointment, and call center operators also can answer members’ questions, he said.

Clearly, Kaiser Permanente isn’t the only organization encountering vaccination roadblocks. Sutter Health, the large Northern California health system, for example, may have to cancel 95,000 vaccination appointments because it doesn’t have enough vaccine on hand, company spokesperson Amy Thoma Tan said Wednesday.

But Kaiser, which is both an insurer and medical provider, has drawn particular scrutiny because of its size and because it has been chosen to play a significant part in state efforts to speed covid vaccinations.

The company, which covers 12.4 million people in the U.S., including 9.3 million Californians, was also fined nearly $500,000 for workplace safety violations early in the pandemic.

A memorandum of understanding with the state, released last week, stipulates that Kaiser will be part of a vaccination provider network assembled and overseen by Blue Shield of California, which signed a contract on Feb. 1 to administer the statewide inoculation plan. Kaiser will also serve as an adviser to Blue Shield to help the state meet its goal of expanding vaccine access to the most vulnerable communities, the memorandum says.

Under the agreement, Kaiser will receive no state funds. It will operate two mass vaccination sites — one at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the other at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, in Los Angeles County — and “may consider the establishment of future mass vaccination sites” that would target rural Californians and those with historically lower vaccination rates. Importantly, Kaiser will vaccinate members and nonmembers, as it has already been doing on a smaller scale.

The memorandum acknowledges the supply constraints Kaiser has faced, saying the state “shall ensure that Blue Shield understands that Kaiser is dependent on sufficient supply of the vaccine.”

Kaiser did not start vaccinating people age 65 and older — in line with state guidelines — until well after other providers had begun doing so. And some longtime Kaiser members were disappointed by the lag.

“It is not good PR to have week after week of news showing the four largest health care providers in Northern California, and Kaiser is the only one still working on staff and people over 75 years old,” said Elizabeth Wieland, 66, of Elk Grove, California, a member for 30 years.

When Kaiser sent an email to patients on Feb. 13 encouraging them to “get vaccinated somewhere outside Kaiser Permanente” if possible, it felt as if they were “throwing in the towel,” Wieland said. “It’s ‘fend for yourself.’ Not what I would have expected, but that seems to be the new normal.”

On Feb. 20, Adams sent an update to members informing them the supply outlook had improved, because “the state has increased Kaiser Permanente’s weekly vaccine allocation to better match the number of members we serve.” As a result, the CEO said, Kaiser was able to start scheduling appointments for people 65 and up.

Kaiser is also vaccinating people 65 and up in Washington state, Virginia and Georgia, a spokesperson said.

Member complaints were not only about the slow rollout. Members said that Kaiser sometimes posted key vaccination information in hard-to-find places, and that they often heard things by word of mouth before they heard it from the company. Some said that, once they managed to sign up for a vaccination, they were promised email updates that never arrived. Still others said that, after getting on Kaiser’s vaccination waiting list, they were suddenly bumped further back in the line with no explanation.

Janet Vorwerk, a retired Kaiser operating room nurse who lives in a suburb of Denver, said that when she got on Kaiser’s waiting list in January, she was No. 20,991 in line. On Feb. 15, she dropped all the way down to 9,989, then inexplicably bounced up to 11,258 two days later, which she said was “so disheartening.” As of last Friday, she was No. 10,269.

“I don’t understand how the numbers are getting jacked around, up and down,” said Vorwerk, 66. Still, she blames the circumstances more than she blames Kaiser. “I understand where they’re coming from,” she said. “You can’t pull a vaccine out of your backside. But at the same time, it would be good to have a better idea of when it might happen.”

Some members said Kaiser’s performance has improved recently.

For Tom Spradley, an 84-year old resident of Citrus Heights, California, initial frustration with Kaiser gave way to a happy ending. He said he called Kaiser for an appointment about a month ago and was on hold for two hours before giving up. He then started checking Kaiser’s vaccine page every day for updates, but said none came for several days.

Finally, he was able to get an appointment for himself and his wife at a Kaiser site in Sacramento, about 20 minutes away. The appointment, he said, was a model of efficiency. They got their first shots and were scheduled for second doses March 12.

“After a week of bad information on getting a shot, I think they have really come through, and I was really impressed by the job they did,” Spradley said.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

[Correction: This article was updated at 3 p.m. ET on March 4, 2021, to correct the amount Kaiser Permanente was fined for workplace safety violations early in the pandemic.]

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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This story can be republished for free (details).

Categories: National News Content

Trump's Deal To End War In Afghanistan Leaves Biden With 'A Terrible Situation'

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 1:37pm
TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. One of Donald Trump's campaign promises was to end the war in Afghanistan. Last year, he negotiated an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all U.S. forces by May 1 of 2021. That's less than two months away. Not represented in that agreement were members of the Afghan government. They're now negotiating with the Taliban. Meanwhile, President Biden, having inherited the Trump deal, faces some tough choices, as my guest, Dexter Filkins, explains in his new piece in The New Yorker. If Biden succeeds in pulling out troops, he will end a forever war. But with U.S. troops gone, civil war could flare up, the Taliban could take over and the war Americans fought could be deemed a failure. Filkins was in Afghanistan in December and January. He started reporting from Afghanistan in the '90s. He covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for The New York Times and joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2011. He coined the phrase "The

How China's Massive Corruption Crackdown Snares Entrepreneurs Across The Country

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 1:02pm
LULIANG, China — The meteoric rise of aluminum executive Zhang Zhixiong transformed his rural Chinese hamlet into a lucrative mining community. But his fall from grace was even more dramatic. In March 2018, he and 10 others were sentenced to harsh prison terms for supposedly forming a criminal organization and illegal mining, among other crimes. Zhang, chairman of Juxin Mining Co., was accused of being a crime boss and received a 25-year prison sentence. He denies the charges. Chinese state media branded him "an evil leader disguised in red clothes" — a kingpin pretending to be an upright communist citizen — and a high-profile target in a sweeping anti-corruption campaign. President Xi Jinping launched the campaign in 2018 with the slogan "Saohei chu'e," meaning "sweep away black and eliminate evil." After three years, the initiative concluded last year. China's legislature, which is convening this week, will likely hail the campaign as a smashing success: nearly 40,000 supposed

Empty Desks At U.N. Represent Millions Of Children Who Have Missed School In Pandemic

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 12:38pm
As President Biden pushes to get U.S. schools fully open soon , an art exhibit aims to help people visualize what it means that they're closed. The outdoor installation, called "Pandemic Classroom," is at the United Nations in New York, and represents schools that have closed around the world because of the coronavirus. UNICEF says the exhibit is a "solemn reminder of the classrooms in every corner of the world that remain empty." The exhibit features bright blue, unused school bags sitting at 168 empty desks. Each desk represents 1 million children who have missed almost all classroom instruction because their schools were closed. UNICEF's Global Chief of Education Robert Jenkins says that "168 million is a very difficult number to kind of wrap your head around. It's just so large. So we thought this would be a useful way of at least getting some sense of what the scale of the crisis is." UNICEF says the exhibit is a "solemn reminder of the classrooms in every corner of the world that

Coming up on Connections: Thursday, March 4

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 10:57am
First hour: Can "citizen panels" create more common ground on divisive issues? Second hour: Local vaccine researchers on the state of COVID-19 vaccines

NY adds vaccination sites using J & J vaccine in Western NY

WXXI US News - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 10:13am
There are new mass vaccination sites in Western New York that will help New York state expand the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced three new, short-term mass vaccination sites to use the J&J vaccine, including one at Genesee Community College in Batavia. The other two are at Marist College in Poughkeepsie and Jamestown Community College in Olean. Each site will administer 3,500 Johnson & Johnson vaccines. New York will partner with local medical providers in setting up the operating these sites. "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine's approval opens an important new chapter in our efforts to vaccinate all New Yorkers for COVID-19, and we're ramping it up thanks to a large initial influx of supply," Cuomo said. "These three new sites will get shots in arms on a large scale in critical parts of the state, and the vaccine's ease of storage and administration will help us simplify the process statewide.” The site at Genesee
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