COVID-19 Reports and Vaccine Rollout: May 17-21

May 18, 2021

New Jersey Governor Murphy holds a press conference on Friday, May 14, 2021.

THIRTEEN and PBS offer regular, in-depth reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. In place of the public’s frustration at the hurdles to book a vaccine appointment, now tri-state area governments are grappling with how to convince the unvaccinated to get a readily available vaccine. At the same time,  officials differ in how to respond to the new relaxed masking and social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC).

Our news and public affairs programs will continue to cover COVID-19 cases and vaccinations, 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 impacts. This page will be updated as reporting continues.

Recent COVID News and Numbers

Click for National, State, and City Hotlines and Resources

On May 17, New York State adopted the CDC recommendations made on May 13, that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks or social distance for most indoor and outdoor activities; masking on public transportation is still required. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he would not follow all elements of the CDC guidance, saying it is too soon to lift the mask requirement in indoor public spaces.

See COVID-19 vaccine questions and direct links to official New York, New Jersey and Connecticut sites with the most up-to-date vaccine information.

Pop-up vaccination sites at MTA stations will continue to administer the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for up to 300 walk-ins per day on a first-come, first-served basis, through May 22. Incentives to be vaccinated include a free seven-day MetroCard or free round-trip Long Island Rail Road or Metro-North ticket.  See hours and locations on the MTA site.

Effective May 19, restrictions on most business capacities will be removed in New York and New Jersey. Businesses will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet. This will also apply in houses of worship.

PBS NewsHour Reports

PBS NewsHour is broadcast weeknights at 7 p.m. and weekends at 6 p.m. and streams live. Listen to half-hour broadcasts on 88.3 WLIW-FM weeknights at 6 p.m.

May 21: 4 Ways the US Can Help Stem COVID Deaths Globally

While the pandemic’s toll is easing in the U.S., COVID-19 still has a deadly grip on many other countries. The estimated global death toll remains around 13,000 people a day, and the World Health Organization’s new estimates are far higher. William Brangham discusses them with Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases and global medicine specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

May 19: Why ‘Vaccine Passports’ May Be Critical for Equity

Despite good progress on vaccinations in the U.S., the Biden administration and most officials are weary of requiring “vaccine passports” to prove inoculation. William Brangham discusses the related concerns with Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, and Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law Center.

May 17: An Emergency Room Physician on the Relaxed COVID Guidelines

Ever since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask recommendations substantially for fully vaccinated adults, there’s been a wide range of reaction — including some outright confusion, anxiety and criticism — over how this will play out. William Brangham reports on those concerns and brings some perspective from emergency room physician Dr. Megan Ranney.

May 14: Is the CDC Guidance Easing Mask Requirements Premature?

In many states, fully vaccinated Americans can now resume most activities without wearing a mask. The new guidance announced Thursday by the CDC was met with jubilation in many quarters. But there are also concerns the changes for indoor masking are happening too quickly. Lisa Desjardins follows up on those concerns with Dr. Ranit Mishori, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University.

Amanpour and Company

Amanpour and Company

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

Amanpour and Company airs Monday – Friday at 11 p.m.; repeats at 4 p.m. Watch broadcast or livestream.

May 21: Masks Worked, But Why Vaccinated People Don’t Need Them Now

Last week, the CDC stunned many people by announcing that fully vaccinated people could ditch their facemasks. It’s something that has left a lot of Americans feeling uneasy, but Dr. Monica Gandhi is on hand to reassure them that there’s no reason to panic. She explains all to Hari Sreenivasan.

May 17: Masks Are No Longer Required Indoors. Are We Ready?

The U.S. meantime moving forward on mask guidance, telling vaccinated Americans that they may refrain from wearing masks indoors. While many cheered the new guidance, others were puzzled by it. To discuss all this and other areas of COVID-19 concern, infectious disease specialist Dr. Céline Gounder joins the show.

MetroFocus Interviews

MetroFocus hosts Rafael Pi Roman, Jenna Flanagan and Jack Ford.

MetroFocus hosts Rafael Pi Roman, Jenna Flanagan and Jack Ford.

MetroFocus airs weeknights at 6 p.m. (see schedule for late-night and weekends) and livestreams; listen weeknights on 88.3 WLIW-FM at 11 p.m..


NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi

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

May 21: COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: Will You Need One? 

Drugmakers are already developing COVID-19 booster shots, with clinical trials underway to develop safe and effective shots that could help strengthen people’s immunity and protect against new and possibly more deadly variants of the coronavirus. The shots could become available as soon as September.

May 19: Nation’s Largest Nurses Union Criticizes CDC Mask Guidance

National Nurses United says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new mask guidance used incomplete data and studies to make the decision.

May 18: Are Schools Ready for a Full Time Return to the Classroom?

Right now, most schools are either fully in person or on a hybrid schedule. Just five public school districts remain all remote. But by the fall, that option will be gone. Gov. Phil Murphy is requiring all schools to provide full-day, in-person instruction, just like they did before the pandemic some 14 months ago.

May 17: NJ Residents Are Confused, to Mask or Not to Mask?

New guidance from the CDC that says masks can be removed by fully vaccinated people inside stores. But Gov. Murphy’s executive order, keeps that mask mandate in force at least, for now. Grocery and healthcare workers unions cheered the governor while Republicans rebuked Murphy for not following the CDC’s guidance.

May 17: Rutgers Reports First Case of Blood Clot from COVID-19

Rutgers University reports the first case of COVID-19 triggering a rare blood clot, and not from a vaccine, in one man’s arm.

Government Sites and Resources

National: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

On May 10, the FDA approved use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, the youngest group to be approved for vaccination.

The CDC’s Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page includes links to national case reporting, symptom information, advisories by health condition and occupation, and more.

For those who are fully vaccinated, the CDC offers guidelines of behavior and safety precautions.

New York City

NYC’s official COVID-19 site with information on testing, resources (including rent and housing and more), and announcements:


Broadway theaters are ready to reopen at 100% capacity beginning September 14, and tickets went on sale May 6. Visit for links to shows and their box offices.

New York Yankees and the New York Mets have announced seating policies for full vaccinated and non-vaccinated attendees and are teaming up with the State Department of Health to offer the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for fans at games (read more on the New York State site). Each stadium is offering a limited number of free tickets to those who receive a vaccination; see the New York Yankees site and New York Mets site for details and dates.

COVID-19 Cases

For the latest number of cases, trends and a look at data by NYC neighborhood, see the New York City COVID-19 data page.

Vaccine Distribution

At New York City-run vaccine locations, all U.S. residents age 12 and older can now walk up to get vaccinated without an appointment.

New Yorkers can make their vaccine appointments using the City’s Vaccine Finder, which aggregates all vaccination locations including private providers like pharmacies. Appointments can be made by phone at 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. See the NYC vaccine information page for City guidelines.

COVID Testing

COVID Express sites offer free rapid COVID-19 virus PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, by scheduled appointment. Learn more on

Work, Resources and Assistance

To see all kinds of resources available to communities by zip code, begin by selecting a NYC borough on this City resource page.

The state has a web application to help struggling New Yorkers locate benefits they may qualify for. “Find Services” is an easy starting point for first-time users of social programs that relate to unemployment, food insecurity, and housing, among other services.

For labor law information and more, employers and employees can visit or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC).

New York City Public Schools and Learning

Create a NYC Schools Account to sign up for Department of Education notifications and track your child’s education.

For free homework help from a teacher, K-12 students and their parents or caregivers can call 212-777-3380 or visit the Dial-A-Teacher website Mondays through Thursdays 4–7 p.m.

New York State

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

COVID-19 Testing

Low-cost, rapid testing locations for COVID-19 are made possible by a public-private partnership in New York. Testing providers in the network must make rapid tests available for no more than $30, provide participants with their results within 30 minutes, offer a way for people to schedule in advance and report the results to the state. Find a test site and make an appointment.

Vaccine Distribution

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

New York States mass vaccination sites accept walk-in appointments for all U.S. residents age 12 and older. To make an online appointment, visit the ‘Am I Eligible’ website, or call the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline, daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.: 833-697-4829 (833-NYS-4VAX).

For a full list of New York State-operated vaccination sites, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sites, see the New York State site.

The Excelsior Pass is a free and voluntary mobile app platform for businesses and individuals that can be used to easily access secure proof of a recent negative COVID test or vaccination.

The New York State Department of Health posts a daily COVID-19 tracker case tally by county.

New Jersey

NJ State COVID-19 Hotline: 1-800-962-1253
NJ State Vaccine Appointments: 1-855-568-0545
Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive text updates.

The State of New Jersey coronavirus hub is

Vaccine Distribution

All individuals aged 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. See all who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccine and learn more about the vaccine distribution in New Jersey on the official state vaccine hub.

The state offers answers to more FAQs as well as outlines policies for health care providers on this COVID-19 vaccine page from the health department.

Remote Learning Resources from WNET Education

To better serve families during the COVID-19 pandemic, The WNET Group offers At Home Learning educational programming. Help keep students learning at home with tools for parents and educators on WNET’s Education site. All resources are free and standards-aligned.

Let’s Learn weekday lessons led by NYC DOE educators for grades 3K- 2 are broadcast at 11 a.m. on THIRTEEN and at 8 and 9 a.m. on WLIW21, followed on WLIW21 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.