Gov. Cuomo: COVID-19 numbers trending down, mutating strains cause for concern

Coronavirus

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave an update on the state’s coronavirus response efforts Monday.

Daily data

On day 324 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 186,205 COVID-19 tests reported Sunday statewide
  • 6.54% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 153 New Yorkers died Sunday from COVID-19
  • 8,868 hospitalized
  • 1,523 in ICU
  • 997 intubated

According to the governor, the Finger Lakes region has a seven-day rolling average positivity rate of 6.87%, which is no longer the highest in the state. Sunday, Monroe County officials reported the lowest average positivity rate since early December. However, the Finger Lakes still has the highest hospitalization rate per population, according to the governor.

Trending down

“We said we’re in a footrace between the vaccination rate and the COVID positivity rate, so where are we in that footrace?” Gov. Cuomo said. “Good news: We’re seeing a decline in the COVID rates post-Christmas, New Years Eve surge. We said during the holiday season, people gather, depending on how you gather would depend on the infection rate.”

The governor said he was encouraged by slowed increase of positivity rate and hospitalization rate.

“Depending by region, and how smart and careful people were, it then plateaued, and it looks like we’re coming down. so that’s good news, relatively,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Mutating strains

The governor warned against mutating strains of COVID-19 discovered in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil, and said the federal government should start restricting incoming flights from these places.

“Any of these three strains could be a second wave,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If the CCDC is right and the UK strain becomes dominant strain in March, that would then see an increased infection rate and that would not be good. Why are you still allowing people to just fly into this country?”

Vaccine progress

While the state grapples with reducing the spread of the virus, and the mutating stains, the governor said Monday that more than 1 million New Yorkers have now received their first dose of the CVID-19n vaccine.

“More and more New Yorkers are getting vaccinated,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Over 1 million doses total administered. The health care system has ramped up aggressively and we have been very aggresive in our efforts to have the health care system ramped up.”

Here’s a look at how hospital systems ae performing with their allocated COVID1-9 vaccine supply in the Finger Lakes:

“For the lower performing facilities, we are going to give them less, if any of the new allocation,” Gov. Cuomo said. “They’ll all have enough to do their staff, but we want to make sure the faster, higher-performing facilities get more of the new allocation, because we want it out the door, we don’t want it sitting on the shelf.”

The governor said the state is expanding its mass-vaccination sites throughout New York.

“We have five open and were going to open eight additional max vaccination sites this week, so that’s good news, and we also have special efforts to make sure social equity is being performed and we’re reaching out to communities who have less trust in the vaccine,” Gov. Cuomo said.

MORE | Phase 1B vaccination explained: How to book an appointment and what’s the hold-up?

Commenting on that trust in the vaccine, the governor said health care workers refusing the opportunity to be vaccinated is problematic.

“Unvaccinated doctors and nurses are still a problem,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You put unvaccinated doctors and nurses together with a second strain, that should keep us up at night. Recognizing that priority is still important.”

The governor said 68.6% of health care workers in the Finger Lakes have received the vaccine as of Monday.

“My concern is a low vaccinated hospital staff will be the first hospital system to have capacity problems in a surge,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Management differential, the performance differential, the expertise differential is what you end up seeing in a surge situation.”

The governor said the most pressing issue with the vaccine is the limited supply and availability of it.

“Our allocation is nowhere near enough,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A stress to this entire nation is the federal government increasing eligibility, dramatically, but never increased the supply.”

The governor said the Trump administration did “a 180” on a previous committment to release the second doses of the vaccine.

“Now you have 7 million New Yorkers chasing 300,000 vaccine doses per week,” Gov. Cuomo said. “At that rate it would take six months [to vaccinate 7 million eligible New Yorkers]. Six or seven months is a lifetime, so I’m not really eligible if there’s no supply. It was a fraud. ‘You told me I was eligible, but you don’t have a vaccine for me?’ What was the point of it?”

Buying direct

The governor said the state would attempt to bypass the federal government and try to purchase doses pf the Pfizer vaccine directly from the pharmaceutical company.

“It would be a first,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Pfizer has only sold to the federal government, but look my job as governor of New York is to pursue every avenue and that’s what I’m doing. if Pfizer were to agree to sell, then we have that conversation, but first they have to agree.”

In the letter to Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, Gov. Cuomo wrote in part:

“Because you are not bound by commitments that Moderna made as part of Operation Warp
Speed, I am requesting that the State of New York be permitted to directly purchase doses from
you. The distribution of any doses obtained directly from Pfizer will follow the rigorous
guidance the State has established, while enabling us to fill the dosage gap created this week by
the outgoing federal administration. All of this will further our goal to vaccinate 70 to 90 percent
of New Yorkers as soon as possible and reach herd immunity.”

Inauguration

The governor said he changed his travel plans for this week’s inauguration for President-Elect Joe Biden.

“I was planning to go to the inauguration, but I’m not going to go,” Gov. Cuomo said. “There have been reports from law enforcement sources that there is talk of demonstrations at state capitals and they have done an advisory that state capitals should beware. We have made preparations here, we have the state police who have made preparations, we have police officers there on standby. I think my place is to stay in New York state.”

Bills

The governor congratulated the Buffalo Bills on their Saturday playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens, and said the pilot testing program continues to be successful.

“How bout them Bills on Saturday?” Gov. Cuomo said. “That was just a huge game and a huge congratulations. We’ve also used the playoff games to test a reopen strategy using testing: 7,852 tests before the game, only 1.4% positive.”

The governor also complimented Bills fans, who raised thousands of dollars for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s charity of choice after he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

News 8 WROC will provide updates to this story as they become available.

Watch the full briefing:

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