ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Friday, day 286 of the pandemic in New York state.
For local impact, the governor announced gyms and salons can begin reopening in orange zones, with restrictions of 25% capacity and weekly testing.
“In gyms and salons, they are not the problem that they were,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have restrictions, the restrictions made a difference, we’re going to allow them to operate in orange zones with reduced capacity and additional testing. Capacity will go to 25% they will do weekly testing.”
An orange zone designation has been placed on 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 (details below) showed that fitness center and personal care facilities showed low transmission rates of the virus.
The governor provided the following data:
- 212,672 COVID-19 tests processed Thursday statewide
- 4.98% positivity rate overall statewide
- 6.82% positivity rate inside micro-cluster hotspots
- 4.55% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
- 87 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 Thursday
- 5,321 New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus
- 1,007 in ICU
- 546 intubated
“We are doing three COVID-19 operations at the same time,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Managing the hospital capacity with the surge and flex plan, slowing the spread of the virus, and being as aggressive and efficient as possible with the vaccine plan.”
The governor said that the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force unanimously approved the U.S. Federal Drug Administration decision to move forward with the vaccine.
“We had a New York state panel review the actions and recommendations of the FDA, and their advisory committee, to give New Yorkers more confidence in the vaccinations process,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It has been quite the journey, and the journey isn’t over. It’s not really going to be over until the summer when we hit critical mass with the vaccinations, and we have to calibrate our way through.”
The governor shared new data which shows what situations and environments have the highest transmission of viral spread, which showed that household gatherings are the overwhelming cause of spread.
Below is a list of statewide contact tracing data, showing where new cases are coming from:
- Private Households are driving spread – 74%
- Households/Social Gatherings – 73.84%
- Healthcare Delivery – 7.81%
- Higher Education Student – 2.02%
- Education Employee – 1.50%
- Restaurants & Bars – 1.43%
- Travel/Vacation – 1.06%
- Sports – 1.04%
- Public Sector (Police/Fire/EMS/Military) – 1%
- Transit Public/Private – 0.96%
- Manufacturing – 0.84%
- Religious Activities – 0.69%
- Construction – 0.66%
- Retail – 0.61%
- Professional Services – 0.55%
- Elementary School Student – 0.49%
- High School Student – 0.46%
- Prisons/Correctional – 0.43%
- Middle School Student – 0.19%
- Auto Dealers & Car Rentals – 0.16%
- Hair & Personal Care – 0.14%
- Wholesale Trade – 0.14%
- Building & Dwelling Services – 0.13%
- Real Estate – 0.10%
- Arts & Entertainment 0.08%
- Gyms – 0.06%
- Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry – 0.06%
- Childcare – 0.05%
- Power/Utilities – 0.05%
- Accommodations – 0.02%
- Media Production – 0.02%
“The troubling information in this, is 74% of the new cases are coming from households gatherings, living room spread,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In many ways, you can understand what happened. You lose bars, you lose restaurants, you close theater, stadiums, mass gatherings. Where do people go? They go home! ‘Come to my house, or go over to Robert’s house, we’ll invite our friends and family.’ Compound that by the holiday season, which is a natural, ‘come to my house, my family, my friends, I know we’ll be safe.’ That is what is driving these numbers.”
While household gatherings remain problematic, the governor says other sectors of society have proven to have low transmission rates.
“Stop the spread where it exists and stop it where it’s being generated, but don’t waste time on areas that are not generators,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Indoor dining, it is a generator. We have made strides on that generator by the restrictions we put in place and the protocols we put in place, but it’s still an issue. Gyms are one of the lowest known spreaders now by the facts. We’ve increase the testing, we’ve reduced the capacity, gyms are now down to .06, hair salons are at 0.14.”
The governor announced that indoor dining in New York City would shut down, effective Monday. He said that decision was based on population density, and he said the health department would continue to monitor upstate data before making an indoor dining determination for that part of the state.
“The federal government must provide relief to these bars and restaurants in this next package,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’ll do what we can in New York, we’re going to extend the commercial eviction moratorium to help those businesses.”
The governor announced that in addition to the 170,000 Pfizer vaccine doses arriving this weekend, New York state will receive 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, expected to arrive December 21.
“When does it end? It ends when the vaccine hits the critical mass,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It could be June, it could be September, but between today and June … that is a long six months and we can’t get complacent. ‘Well the vaccine is here, everything is fine.’ Well, that’s not the reality. We’ve only been at this 9-10 months, and we have another six months to go. If the facts change, we will adjust.”
The governor said with more than 500,000 doses being delivered this month, the initial focus will remain on administering the vaccine to nursing home staff, and residents, and high-risk health care workers. Addressing concern over EMS workers not being in the top tier of those who receive it, New York State Budget Direct Robert Mujica said EMS workers would be among those first 500,000 people to receive vaccines doses.
The governor said additional hospital measures would need to be taken to ensure capacity is available, otherwise a red zone designation could be intiatied.
“Hospitals must remain under 85%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “By either adding an additional 25% of beds or reducing elective surgeries, or both. They have that flexibility, but we want every hospital to remain under 85% capacity.”
Previous zone designations were based on seven-day rolling average positivity rates in a specific area, and new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The new format dictates a red zone designation based on a region’s “critical hospital capacity.”
The governor announced Monday 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.
“So you’re calibrating the risk level of economic activity, the density level, retransmission rate and the hospitalization rate,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A red zone is NY Pause. It is stop all non-essential services and businesses. Its where we were [in the spring]. We don’t have any red zones in this state and we don’t want go there.
“If you get to 90% of hospital capacity, then you are effectively at the point where you’re going to overwhelm the capacity and capacity here includes staffing, equipment etc.,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Short of that, there’s an orange zone, which is 4% positivity rate over the last 10 days, or you’re at 80% capacity in the hospitals, or the rate of growth in hospital rate is dramatic. Yellow zone is 3% positivity and you are one of the highest percentage growth clusters in terms of hospitalizations.”
The governor said the state department of health was reviewing the data and could announce new zone designations as soon as Monday.
The governor added he understands the frustration with the zone restrictions, but added that it’s necessary, and reflective of neighborhood situations.
“If you are a yellow zone, or if you are an orange zone, this all determined on the facts,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What the facts are saying, is in your community, you have a problem. It’s not someone else, it’s your community. Your grocery store, your church, your temple, your mosque, your block and you can make a difference in your community and it means you have to take it serious.”
Sympathizing with small businesses carrying the financial burden from COVID, restrictions, the governor said the government had a responsibility to protect as many lives as possible.
“We don’t wanna lose people we don’t need to lose,” Gov. Cuomo said. “God will take people, we’re not going to stop death, but we should make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect every life we can.”
The governor said schools remain a safe place with low viral spread, and although he said the decision on schools being open is left up to local government, he encouraged all districts to open, reopen, or remain open, unless data suggests otherwise.
“The facts say that the schools are actually following the rules, and following the guidance, the children are following the guidance, the teachers are doing a great job following the guidance, and the school positivity rate tends to be lower than the surrounding community,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This has been a decision left to the local school districts and we’ve had a discussion back and forth. My advice is, unless you have data that says schools are problematic in terms of infection rate, then schools should be open.”
If its safer for the kids to be in school than have them be in school.
Rochester City School District has been utilizing a fully remote learning model since the beginning of the pandemic.
The governor was joined by Members of U.S. House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, Karen Bass, Joaquin Castro and Deb Haaland, to discuss equity in vaccine distribution for black, brown, and poor communities, as well as a federal relief package with a focus on aid for state and local government.
Watch the full briefing:
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.