ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided an update on COVID-19 in New York state on Wednesday, saying that New Yorkers will not have to pay for a vaccine whenever they ultimately receive it.

“In New York state, no person will have to pay a penny for the vaccination,” Gov. Cuomo said.

On day 291 of the pandemic in New York, the governor provided the following data:

  • 160,947 COVID-19 tests statewide Tuesday
  • 6.21% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 7.11% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 5.86% positivity rate outside of micro-cluster hotpots
  • 95 New Yorkers died Tuesday from COVID-19
  • 6,097 hospitalized
  • 1,098 in ICU
  • 611 intubated

The governor said the Rochester and Finger Lakes region has the highest positivity rate and hospitalization rate per capita of any region in the state.

“Finger Lakes is not doing well,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That’s been a problem for the past couple of weeks. Finger Lakes is now more of a problem than Buffalo. Positivity rate in the Finger Lakes is 8.21%. I spoke to a number of hospitals in the Finger Lakes area, but we need to really focus there.”

The governor said there is a possibility of a restrictive statewide shutdown if the virus can’t get under control, but he said if that happens will depend on the actions of New Yorkers.

“Is a close down possible in January? Yes, anything is possible, but second of all you look at these increases nationally, of course it is possible — you already see other states closing down,” Gov. Cuomo said. “But no one knows because it is up to us. What will happen in three weeks, what will happen in four weeks. You tell me what you’re goin to do over the next three weeks and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. Don’t speculate, ‘maybe this maybe that.’ Create the future. It is all in our control. New Yorkers can stop the shutdown, New Yorkers can save lives, it just depends on what we do.”

The governor said the ongoing holiday season will dictate the trajectory of the pandemic in New York, and he urged all to follow precaution.

“We’re starting a new series of the PSA campaigns, celebrate the holidays smart,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You know how they always say ‘happy and healthy holidays?’ Focus on the healthy.”

In the state’s surge and flex program for the hospitals, a red zone will be designated if that region reaches critical hospital capacity. Critical hospital capacity, defined by the governor’s office, is “if a region’s seven-day average hospitalization growth rate shows that the region will reach 90% within the next three weeks.”

MORE | What Gov. Cuomo’s ‘surge and flex’ hospital plan means for COVID-19 red zone designations

A red-zone designation would put restrictions in place similar to the NY PAUSE shutdown from the spring, when all non-essential businesses were closed. Under current guidelines, red zone restrictions would include:

  • Non-essential gatherings prohibited
  • Less than 25% capacity, or 10 person maximum, for religious worship services
  • All non-essential business are closed
  • Takeout or delivery only for dining
  • Schools closed, remote-only instruction

“Hospitals have to shift to crisis management mode,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Crisis hospital management is a different state of mind for hospitals. They run as individual hospitals, or as systems and then don’t really interact that much with each other. That culture has to change 180 degrees. We had one hospital overwhelmed and five blocks away we had a hospital with plenty of capacity. That can’t happen again.”

The governor said he is optimistic about the prospects of vaccination, but says it will be a timely process.

“We have started phase one of the vaccinations in New York,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I believe we did the first vaccination in the United States out at Northwell, nurse Sandra Lindsay. This woman is a champion. I don’t know her, but her face did not flinch when she took that needle and I respect that. I remember when I had to take the COVID test on TV, it is very hard to have someone probe you, poke you, and have absolutely no emotion on your face so good for her.

MORE | ICU nurse becomes 1st New Yorker to receive COVID-19 vaccine: ‘I am hopeful’

The governor says the vaccination process is now like a foot race.

“What’s happening now is as the vaccinations go up, COVID will go down, but it’s a foot race,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s a foot race over the next six-to-nine month period.”

The governor said the state received 87,750 doses of the vaccine so far, adding that he expects an additional 80,000 in the next few days.

The governor said University of Rochester Medical Center will oversee the vaccination process in the Finger Lakes region once it enters phase two of the vaccination plan — which includes essential workers and the general public who have underlying health conditions.

“They will work with city government, they will work with county government they will work with community based organizations and do outreach to communities that are hard to reach. But they’ll come up with a plan that meets the needs of that region. They’ll have a plan that’s tailored to their area,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The state will then approve the plan, will provide the logistics, the support that they need to get it done and get it done quickly. They’re going to put in their plans the first week of January. The Department of Health will go through them we want to be in place and ready as soon as we get the phase two allocation. When do we get the phase two allocation? Right now we’re looking at the end of January.”

The governor said New York’s vaccine program goals are ambitious.

“Our goal? To have the best vaccine program in the United State of America. Why is that such an ambitious goal? Because we are New Yorkers and we set the bar high on ourselves. We want to be first first covid-free state,” the governor said. “I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be the first state to kill this beast.”

The governor said a new website has been created to keep New Yorkers updated on the vaccination progress.

Monroe County Department of Public Health officials reported 620 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 616 new cases per day.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.