NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Opening Day is months away, but Yankee Stadium was full of people Friday.
The line snaked around the stadium all morning as eager Bronx residents waited for their COVID shots.
“It’s a blessing. We, the Bronx people, we are blessed to be here,” said Emma Olivensia from Melrose.
“I came here at 3 o’clock in the morning to try and make an appointment,” said Antonio Artulo from Soundview.
— John Dias (@JohnBDias) February 5, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a notorious Boston Red Sox fan, put the baseball rivalry aside and wore a Yankees hat to celebrate a different kind of opening day.
“For one day only, I will declare myself a Yankee fan,” de Blasio said.
The Yankee Stadium site is only open to Bronx residents who meet the requirements for the vaccine.
“This is about equity. This is about fairness. This is about protecting people who need the most protection, because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus,” the mayor said.
Hall of fame pitcher Mariano Rivera encouraged Bronx residents to get vaccinated.
“Now it’s time to support you and let you know that it’s OK to be vaccinated. I’m on line, OK. When my time comes, I’m on line to get it,” Rivera said.
CBS2 also caught a glimpse of filmmaker Spike Lee talking to people in line.
City officials and doctors are trying to get the word out, especially to those who are hesitant. The health care network SOMOS Community Care is running the vaccine site with a medical staff as diverse as the borough.
“We speak the languages, understand what the problems are, live in the same community,” said SOMOS Chairman Ramon Tallaj. “We have been underserved a long time.”
Margarita Perez, of Riverdale, had an appointment Friday, but still arrived two hours early.
“I wanted to be sure that I got it,” she said.
The long lines were met with some frustrations. One woman said she was denied a vaccine.
“I’ve been out here since it was dark,” she said. “I have an appointment… They can’t find me. I’m giving them my information. But that’s it.”
While the mayor’s office said it sent canvassing teams to help get hundreds of people signed up, many in line said the city could do a better job getting the word out.
“People don’t have access to the internet,” Highbridge resident Antonio Soto said. “Wifey here is computer savvy. If it was up to me, forget about it. I’m still stuck in the olden age.”
Statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is expanding vaccine eligibility on Feb. 15.
Cuomo said hospitals have one more week to vaccinate staffers before unused doses will be reallocated to include New Yorkers with comorbidities, including adults with cancer, obesity, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Ninety-four percent of the deaths, people with comorbidities, and that’s why I feel comfortable about this decision,” Cuomo said Friday.
Mayor de Blasio said 13,000 out of 15,000 appointments available at Yankee Stadium for the next week are already booked.
Appointments can be made online, over the phone at 1-833-SomosNY, and in person at Yankee Stadium ticket windows.
The site is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
CBS2’s John Dias contributed to this report.
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