ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Tuesday to update New Yorker’s on the nor’easter winter storm, as well as the state’s coronavirus response efforts.
On day 339 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:
- 150,199 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Monday
- 5.47% positivity rate overall statewide
- 4.95% seven-day rolling average positivity rate statewide
- 146 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
- 8,067 hospitalized
- 1,503 in ICU
- 1,004, intubated
The governor reported 539 virus hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes region, .04% of the regional population, and a 3.79% regional average positivity rate.
Increasing vaccination supply
The governor said more than 2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in New York, with a priority remaining on health care workers.
“If they get infected, they’re super-spreaders, and if they get infected the hospitals will close,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’ve seen this all across the board — hospital capacity is the key. If you get into trouble it’s going to be because they don’t have enough staff, not because they don’t have enough beds, so vaccinate health care workers. When we started, we started off at about 63% of health care workers [being vaccinated], and we’re now at 75%. That is great progress and I want to thank the hospitals.”
The governor said there is an existing disparity between health care systems and hospitals throughout the state in regards to getting staff vaccinated, and he urged local health departments to help bring underperforming facilities up to speed.
The governor again reiterated some 7 million New Yorkers are currently eligible to receive the vaccine — based on CDC guidelines — but supply issues persist with the state receiving about 300,000 doses per week, but that number is expected to increase in the coming weeks, according to the governor. Anticipating an expanded supply in the coming weeks, the state is preparing for an increased eligibility and distribution plan.
“It is a supply issue,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have 7.1 million people that are eligible, and we get 300,000 doses per week, so it’s a supply issue. The federal government has to increase supply, by increasing the production by the drug companies and the White House has been working on that, President Biden as made it a top priority.
“Federal supply will increase again,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If you remember, the federal government increased the supply to the state by 16% last week, and they said that 16% would continue for three weeks. That was a big deal, knowing what we’re getting so we could plan. Knowing what we get three weeks in advance is very helpful — knowing we’re going to get an increase is very helpful.
“The increase is now going to go from 16% to about 20% as a direct allocation,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That means the state will then turn around and supply 20% additional to the local governments, so they can count on an additional 20% in the coming weeks.”
The governor said with local governments getting 20% more vaccine allocation, they can add certain eligible populations to the Phase 1b priority, including:
- Restaurant workers
- Taxi drivers
- Developmentally disabled facilities
Recognizing different needs in different regions, the governor said the distribution of the added allocation, and which groups get priority, will be up to local governments.
“I said yesterday I think everybody should get the vaccine,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s a practical problem of supply and demand. You have many communities that are deserving of the vaccine. It becomes a question of allocation and prioritization. You have some local governments that believe firmly that their taxi drives are an issue and Uber drivers are an issue and they should be vaccinated.
“You have a limited supply,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The good news is I just got off the phone with the White House and we’re getting more. We’re getting more for the local governments and we’re getting more for the pharmacies and now there’s additional flexibility, and I’m leaving it up to the local governments to make the determination to see what fits their situation best.”
The governor said with supply ramping up, more distribution and administration sites will play a factor,.
“We now use private pharmacies,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We give private pharmacies part of our allocation for them to distribute the vaccine. Pharmacies are focusing on 65-plus. The federal government is starting its own program where they are going to supply private pharmacies also, which will expand the private pharmacies also. Private pharmacies do the flu vaccine every year. There’s a belief that the private pharmacies can be a significant distribution model.”
The governor said the federal government is going to give an additional 10% of the state’s allocation to private pharmacies. The governor said the state is awaiting further guidance from the CDC in regards to eligibility for New Yorkers who are immunocompromised, but said whatever is decided, additional supply will be required.
“I don’t know what the CDC is going to decide about the new guidance but you would need a significant additional supply,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have 7 million people eligible and we just hit 2 million doses administered, so we’re not even a third of the way there on the current eligible population.”
On Monday, the governor declared a state of emergency for 44 counties impacting all regions except for Western New York. Due to the weather, some vaccination appointments at state-run sites had to be rescheduled on Tuesday morning.
The governor thanked first responders for a swift and effective effort in mitigating storm risks.
“I want to thank all the first responders who did a fantastic job yesterday,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The storm was near historic proportion and it was well handled all across the board. It can be very dangerous, very quickly, so it was handled well across the board. Roads are open, trains are running today, but I want to thank everyone who worked long and hard last night. It was ugly out there and they did a fantastic job.”
“Airports have resumed operation, flights have been taking off and landing at a reduced level this morning,” said Rick Cotton, Executive Director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “The airlines have canceled 45% of their scheduled today, so check with your carrier.”
The governor said the storm now shifts northwest from the downstate area and into upstate New York. He said the Finger Lakes region is expected to see six-to-eight inches of snow.
“State police handled over 300 accidents across the state, including a fatal snowmobile accident in Orange County,” Gov. Cuomo said. “These can be deadly events if not handled properly. If you don’t get the road cleaned properly, people could die, people get stranded. They [first responders] did a great great job and we thank them. More storm is coming, but that is the period of life that we are in; we’re in a period of storms and attacks and assault.”
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available,