Vaccination cannot offer redemption for New York, just as the dead can’t be brought back to life. But it can provide hope for 2021. With the city’s economy in freefall, an aggressive, coordinated vaccination effort is needed to kickstart an actual comeback. So far, New York is lagging. While it roughly matches California’s rate of vaccination—California has vaccinated more than 4,700 per 100,000 people, compared to New York’s 4,605—there are other states racing ahead of New York. West Virginia has managed to vaccinate almost 7,000 per 100,000 people. Florida, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming are above 5,000. New York is not exceptionally behind—the vaccination rate is on par with other northeastern states—but it does not lead. It is not exceptional.
This is a problem. It’s not that these other states didn’t grapple with coronavirus and don’t face a serious threat today. It’s that their futures won’t be defined by how quickly they recover. Since their death tolls weren’t so extraordinarily high to begin with, their local economies were not as devastated. Several of New York City’s major industries have been crippled over the last year. Tourism has all but vanished. Hotels are shutting down. Restaurants are facing a winter of extinction. Broadway is closed and museums are operating at limited capacity. The commercial real estate industry, predicated on inflated rents in the midtown and downtown corridors, will probably never be the same, as more companies decide they can save money with smaller offices and telework. The city will return to its former glory eventually—the fiscal crisis, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy were all endured—but the longer the recovery is delayed, the more the aftereffects of coronavirus will linger. A slow 2021 can beget a 2022 that is weaker than it should be.