ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided an update on COVID-19 in New York state Friday.
“Today is day 342,” The governor said. “These have been the longest 342 days of my life I think most New Yorkers would say that. This has been an extraordinarily difficult, difficult stressful period and you really saw people rise to the occasion.”
On day 342 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:
- Statewide positivity rate: 4.3%
- Test reported: 203,627
- Deaths reported: 153
- Hospitalizations: 7,937
Following a State Supreme Court ruling in Erie County on indoor dining last month, New York state has changed its guidance temporarily for COVID-19 orange zones in regards to restaurants.
Last week, due to drops in positivity rate across the state, the governor says COVID-19 orange and yellow zones are lifted for everywhere in New York, except a few downstate areas, including spots in the Bronx, Queens, Washington Heights, and Newburgh.
However with all these changes, the governor said the 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars is still in effect.
Many have argued that with the curfew in place, it discourages New Yorkers from dining at local restaurants because they would have to leave at half time.
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Earlier on Friday, 91 restaurants who filed a lawsuit against the state over a 10 p.m. curfew found out they will be able to stay open later, for the time being. A temporary restraining order had been issued, lifting the curfew for those who were part of the lawsuit.
When asked about the consideration of lifting the curfew, the governor said he was not considering it.
“The curfew is complicated,” Cuomo said. “In this state, we don’t have different license for restaurants and bars. Many states bars are separate from rest, in retrospect I can see why. We have one license and it doesn’t distinguish between bars and restaurants. If we could distinguish between the two, then we could have separate times for restaurants and bars. We cannot so the curfew is because when people tend to stay later and they’re just drinking, there are more gatherings, you can’t drink and wear a mask. That’s the point of the curfew and no were not thinking of changing the curfew for Super Bowl Sunday.”
The governor also announced there are growing cases of the variant strains of COVID-19 in New York.
“We’ve identified 15 new variants of interest cases. 59 total UK strains in New York now. The UK strain is reportedly up to 70% more transmittable. that is a frightening thought. So we’re watching it closely CDC is watching it but we do now have 59 cases.”
According to the governor’s officer there aren’t any cases in the Finger Lakes region.
“We have used 99.02% of dosages we have received,” the governor said. “This is where we want to be. We’re reliant on the supply and the more supply we get the more we can vaccinate.” Over 2 million New Yorkers have now been vaccinated.”
The governor also announced that eligibility will expand to include New Yorker with comorbidities starting February 15. Qualifying conditions include:
- Cancer (current or in remission, including 9/11-related cancers)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Pulmonary disease, including (but not limited to) COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, cystic fibrosis, and 9/11-related pulmonary diseases
- Intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, including but not limited to heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system), including but not limited to solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, or other causes
- Severe obesity, obesity
- Sickle cell disease or Thalassemia
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
- Neurologic conditions including but not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
- Liver disease
“Our priority focus is on vaccinations for hospitals workers,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If there’s another surge, they will be more protected.” 75% of hospital workers have been vaccinated the state up to this point.
“When we started, we were at 63% of hospital workers,” He said. “We’re at 75%. That is exactly where we needed to be and it was a great effort to get there.”
The governor is asking local governments to looking to the lower performing hospitals. “There is still an uneven performance in this regard and this needs to be addressed you have some hospitals who are at 100% and you have some who are at 40%.”
The governor emphasized his concern for making the vaccine accessible to all and encouraging New Yorkers of its safety. According to the governor, the state surveyed New Yorkers and found that those hesitant of the vaccine were primarily minorities.
“There are two challenges in reaching the Black communities: access and acceptance,” the governor said. “The hesitancy must be addressed with facts and validation. Yes, there’s reasons for distrust of the system. It’s not true with this vaccine. It’s going to be a process of communication.”
The governor was also joined by New York Yankees President Randy Levine, Manager Aaron Boone, and retired pitched Mariano Rivera to announce the use of the Yankee Stadium for vaccine distribution in New York City.
The governor called for fair distribution for aid to the states from the federal government.
“What you call state and local relief has been debated for over a year. President Biden said when he was running for election that if elected he would provide state and local relief and he was true to his word He proposed $350 billion. It was accepted by the House accepted by the Senate so this is really good news.”
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“Now the question is fairness in the distribution of the $350 billion. That $350 billion goes to the congress they come up with a formula to distribute the $350 billion and that’s the next chapter in this story.”
Cuomo said he believe New York, New Jersey and Connecticut got hit the hardest from COVID-19, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy agreed.
“I believe it is factually inarguable but that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut paid a higher price for COVID than other state in other part of this country. That is just a fact.”
“New York and New Jersey were already disproportionally giving more to Washington then we get back from Washington to begin with. It’s double taxation as you rightfully pointed out,” Gov. Murphy said.
“It is high time that this thing gets taken off the books the longer it stays on the more people are going to get hurt.”
According to Cuomo, New Yorkers are paying $34 million a day for the SALT tax. “Every day that SALT is not repealed is another $34 million that is taken from the tax payers of this state. Think about that.”
“SALT was a tax provision passed three years ago. It was the first double taxation in history and what it did is it placed a federal tax in what a person paid in state and local taxes.”
In his briefing on earlier this week, the governor announced the federal government will increasing the vaccination supply to New York State. Cuomo then, increased eligibility.
“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.”
Since the State Attorney General Letitia James revealed the report the findings of the investigation into nursing homes across the state, the governor’s office has been receiving criticism of his handling of nursing home residents and reporting the COVID-19 related deaths during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court ruled Cuomo has five business days to respond to a FOIL request lawsuit and release data on COVID-19 in nursing homes.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the Empire Center for Public Policy and Senator Jim Tedisco seeks the release of Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) data regularly submitted to Department of Health (DOH) by facilities throughout the state.
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available,