ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) – After witnessing the first COVID-19 vaccine in New York state, and overseeing the state’s electoral college meeting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Monday afternoon to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing response efforts.
On day 289 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:
- 159,844 COVID-19 tests in New York state Sunday
- 9,044 new COVID-19 cases statewide
- 5.66% positivity rate overall statewide
- 7.08% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
- 5.21% positivity rate outside of micro-cluster hotspots
- 83 New Yorkers died Sunday from COVID-19
- 5,712 New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus
- 1,040 in ICU
- 572 intubated
The governor said the Rochester and Finger Lakes region now has the highest rate of virus hospitalizations per population, and the highest positivity rate among all the regions in New York state.
“What you see in Finger Lakes is now the unfortunate leader in number of hospitalizations,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You see the same thing with positivity rate, Finger Lakes is the highest number at 8.09%. All the numbers are going up, they’re going to continue to go up. Welcome to the holiday season.”
Based on current projections, the governor warned of a dire situation for next month if the curve doesn’t flatten in the coming weeks.
“At this rate, if nothing happens, we could have some 11,000 people in hospitals and 3,500 deceased,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If you factor out these numbers, that’s what were looking at if nothing changes. The increase in hospitalizations could overwhelm some regions if nothing changes by January.”
Announced by the governor last week, if a regional reaches critical hospital capacity, it will receive a red zone designation, which is a shutdown similar to what New Yorkers saw in the early stages of the pandemic in the spring.
“What you should worry about is a shutdown,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If we do not change the trajectory we could very well be headed to shutdown, and shutdown is something to worry about. That is really something to worry about because all these businesses close. We go back to where we were. All non-essential businesses close, they go to zero. So yes we’re trying to change the trajectory.
“That, my friends, is a real problem,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Worry about that, because that is a real worry. Deaths and shutdown of the economy are the real worries and they are viable worries. This is not an overanxious personality, this is not far-fetched, this is something to really worry about.”
According to the governor, there are two ways to chance the current trajectory of the virus.
“No. 1: We’re trying to change hospital capacity and hospital management,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What happened in the spring, in my opinion — it was a first case scenario in the spring, it had never happened before — but there was a failure to balance patient load. Hospital managers must balance the patient load, align with hospitals in the system, align with neighborhood systems, alert department of health prior to being overwhelmed. We have capacity as a system and we could help the problematic systems, but we need notice.”
The governor said the second way to change the trajectory is to slow the spread of the virus, with a focus on small social gatherings and “living room spread.”
“This is much much tougher than you think,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who say ‘I’m not going out, I’m staying home and inviting my friends over so I’m being safe.’ That is the problem, and they say it to me as if they’re being prudent and diligent. The world changed since the spring, the problem in the spring was going out. The problem in the winter is staying home and inviting people over. I get how hard it is, I live it with my own family.
“The spreader is not malicious,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You’re wife can be a spreader. They’re asymptomatic, they have no idea. They could have got it from the delivery boy, that dropped off the groceries. So that’s why this is so significant.”
The governor said the state is recalibrating after the Thanksgiving holiday led to more cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
“It is a linear equation, just a difference about weather you’re measuring it earlier or later,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Positivity turns into number of cases, turns into hospitalizations, turns into death. You tell me the positivity rate, I’ll tell you what the death rate is going to be four weeks from today.”
The governor said December’s holidays will pose another surge threat statewide, and he urged New Yorkers to take precaution.
“These are all going to be situations with small social gatherings, that’s the problem,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The governor announced some new yellow zone designations, including for Batavia and surrounding areas of Genesee County.
Earlier on Monday, a critical care nurse who has treated COVID-19 patients in hard-hit New York City became the first person in the state to receive the vaccine as part of campaign to inoculate front-line health care workers.
Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the first New Yorker to received the Pfizer vaccine at 9:15 a.m.
The governor said Lindsay was the first of some 10,000 vaccines to be administered statewide Monday. While the governor said the vaccine is a cause for optimism, he cautioned that immunization is still, at minimum, half a year away, according to experts.
“I think of it as a foot-race between viral spread and hospital capacity vs. vaccination and critical mass,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The problem is, experts say the vaccine critical mass is six months away, at least. So we still have to run a marathon with this virus.”
The governor also said that supply wasn’t the only issue en route to vaccination critical mass, but also public skepticism.
“The vaccine does win the war, if we take it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And the big if is we need 75-85% critical mass, but 49% are skeptical to take it. So there’s work to do. Today we are in the process of administering 10,000 vaccines. Phase one distribution is for high-risk hospital workers, plus nursing home staff and residents. Phase two is other essential workers and general public.”
On the proposal of increasing taxes in New York state, the governor said it’s a budget-balancing decision, that mainly comes down to what the federal government plans to do as far as relief packages for state and local governments.
“State tax increase is not just a political decision, it’s a revenue decision,” Gov. Cuomo said. “How much money do you need to balance the budget? That is the question for the state tax increase, and it is enough to close the deficiency? There’s options on what we can do with financials as a state. We can do a budget now, but we need $15 billion: That’s the number we asked for from the federal government.
“So, the second option: Wait for Washington action before we do the budget,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Doing it without Washington funding is going to be really, really difficult. I don’t believe Washington gives us nothing at the end of the day. They’ll bankrupt the nation if they bankrupt the states, so I think its smarter to get the number from Washington.”
On Friday, the governor announced gyms and salons can begin reopening in orange zones, with restrictions of 25% capacity and weekly testing.
An orange zone designation has been placed on parts of the City of Rochester, along with portions of Irondequoit, Brighton, and Gates, since late November.
The orange zone brought about new restrictions, including some closures of non-essential businesses. The governor said new state data released Friday showed that fitness center and personal care facilities showed low transmission rates of the virus.
The governor said that regions that reach critical hospital capacity will be designated as a red zone. In this definition, critical hospital capacity is “if a region’s seven-day average hospitalization growth rate shows that the region will reach 90% within the next three weeks,” according to the governor’s office.
As of Monday’s update on the state’s tracking website, the Rochester and Finger Lakes region had 24% available hospital capacity, and 43% available ICU capacity.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.