COVID-19 Reports and Vaccine Rollout: May 24-28

Rachel Hollander | May 24, 2021

A still from an NJ Spotlight News segment on May 21, 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. The newest of vaccine incentives is a ticket to a basketball game. People 16 and older, who get their COVID-19 vaccine at The Pennsy Food Hall next to Madison Square Garden, will have a chance to win tickets to Wednesday night’s New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks playoff game or to a later game.

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 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. As of Friday, May 28, New Jerseyans will no longer need to wear face masks inside stores and restaurants, the 6-foot social distancing requirements will end and bars will be back to their normal operations (read more on NJ Spotlight News).

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.

Effective May 19, restrictions on most business capacities were 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 27: Why the US is Re-Investigating the COVID ‘Lab Leak’ Theory

Where did COVID-19 come from? In the midst of renewed questions about the novel coronavirus’ origins, President Joe Biden has directed U.S. intelligence to determine if the virus jumped from animals to humans, or somehow escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. Amna Nawaz and Nick Schifrin explore the possibilities and report what we know so far.

May 25: News Wrap: Moderna Says Its Vaccine Effective in Teens

In our news wrap Tuesday, Moderna announced its COVID-19 vaccine strongly protects children as young as 12, and plans to seek emergency FDA approval.

May 24: News Wrap: NYC, LA Schools Will Be Fully In-Person This Fall

In our news wrap Monday, schools in New York City and Los Angeles will make a return to full, in-person learning this fall, with remote options unavailable in NYC and available in only some cases in LA. The World Health Organization warned that unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is prolonging the pandemic, a warning that came as India surpassed 300,000 deaths — third most in the world.

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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.

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 27: Where Did COVID-19 Originate? Questions Arise Again

A U.S. intelligence report revealed that several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019. President Biden is now requesting a report into the origins of the virus, and Marc Lipsitch is one of a group of scientists calling for a thorough investigation.

May 27: Writer Ed Young Looks At “The Pandemic’s Mental Wounds”

Turning from the origins of the virus to the road ahead, one important question is: How will we emerge from the pandemic? Ed Yong has been chronicling COVID-19 extensively for The Atlantic, and in a recent piece he looks at “the pandemic’s mental wounds” and adds, “Things are getting better, so why don’t they feel better?”

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 face masks. 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.

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 26: Pressure on Gov. Murphy to Rescind Mask Mandate for Schools

As Gov. Phil Murphy has continued to ease pandemic-related restrictions, one setting where he says masks will be required to stay in place at least for now is schools. Criticism over that mandate is growing among some parents, educators and legislators.

May 25: A Jab for A Job: Some Workers Face Mandatory COVID-19 Shots

Many people — from baseball players to long-term care staffers — are getting pressure from employers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to keep their jobs. In New Jersey, private companies can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, but state law also provides for exemptions.

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.

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.

All New York State mass vaccination sites are now open to those age 12 and up who reside in the U.S. for walk-in vaccination on a first come first serve basis. The walk-in appointments are reserved for first doses only with second doses to be scheduled automatically after administration of the initial shot. In addition, all vaccine providers are encouraged to allow walk-in appointments. People who would prefer to schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site can do so on the Am I Eligible App or by calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX. People may also contact their local health department, pharmacy, doctor or hospital to schedule appointments where vaccines are available, or to find information on vaccine appointments near them.                

You can 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.