With roughly one in four New Yorkers still unvaccinated against Covid-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said the state will attempt to boost the vaccination rate by targeting 117 ZIP codes that have both low vaccination rates and a high spread of Covid with outreach efforts by community-based organizations.
Twenty-five of those ZIP codes are outside New York City and Long Island and include two in Western New York: 14215 in Buffalo and Cheektowaga and 14770 along the Pennsylvania border in Cattaraugus County.
Because the problem now is "vaccine hesitancy," New York needs to take "a different approach" with those who have not yet been vaccinated, Cuomo said.
Community-based organizations, who will be going door to door, are in a better position to connect with individuals who remain hesitant to get vaccinated, Cuomo said.
"It almost has to be a one-on-one conversation with that 25%," he said.
The 14215 ZIP code includes Buffalo's Kenfield, Schiller Park and Delavan-Grider neighborhoods, and follows Route 33 (Kensington Expressway) east into the Cleveland Hill portion of Cheektowaga.
University Council Member Rasheed Wyatt, whose district includes part of the 14215 ZIP code, welcomed the governor's announcement.
Wyatt said he understands why some people are hesitant, and acknowledged "it's a tough hill to climb" to overcome some of its causes, including historical issues and misinformation.
"My district was hit pretty bad by Covid-19 and for the governor to continue his push is very prudent and I appreciate it," Wyatt said.
The 14215 ZIP is one of several areas in the city that had been targeted in earlier vaccine efforts. When a mass vaccination site was opened in the winter in the Delavan-Grider Community Center, residents of that area were among those eligible for an appointment.
Cuomo singled out several community groups to aid the effort. Organizations sharing $15 million in funding are Hispanic Federation, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, New York Immigration Coalition, Asian American Federation and two community health centers in New York City.
The effort comes as the number of Covid infections continues to rise, according to state data.
On Sunday, there were 1,982 new Covid-19 cases across the state. A month ago, on June 26, there were 346 new cases recorded.
At its peak over the winter, there were 19,942 new cases statewide on Jan. 14, according to state data.
Of New York's new positive cases, 72.2% are from the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the governor said. The Delta strain of the virus spreads more easily than other versions of the virus. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 83% of new Covid cases across the country were from the Delta variant.
State data shows that the Covid vaccines have proven effective even against the more transmissible strain of the virus. Of vaccinated New Yorkers, 0.15% have had a "breakthrough" infection with the Delta variant, according to Cuomo.
"If we do not make progress on vaccinating that unvaccinated population, 25%, with the Delta variant, you're going to see numbers go up," Cuomo said. "And that is a large number. And we're going to lose lives. And it will be disruptive. And we cannot let that happen."