ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) – The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine could arrive in New York state in as soon as two weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced during a Wednesday morning briefing.

The governor reported the following data update Wednesday, day 277 of the pandemic in New York:

  • 193,551 COVID-19 tests statewide
  • 8,973 new confirmed COVID-19 cases
  • 4.63% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 5.8% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 4.21% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
  • 69 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
  • 3,924 hospitalizations
  • 742 in ICU
  • 373 intubated

Each region’s percentage of positive test results reported over the last three days is as follows:

Capital Region3.7%4.7%4.7%3.84%
Central New York4.2%5.5%4.8%5.12%
Rochester & Finger Lakes6.6%6.4%5.0%6.03%
Long Island4.5%4.7%5.5%4.14%
Mohawk Valley4.6%5.6%5.8%4.60%
New York City3.9%4.1%4.3%3.34%
North Country3.0%4.6%5.8%3.18%
Southern Tier3.8%4.9%1.2%2.39%
Western New York7.4%9.0%6.9%7.37%

“Questions that are on everybody’s mind, that I get asked all the time,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Where are we in terms of COVID now? Where are we going in terms of COVID? When is COVID going to be over?”

In the terms of the now and the going aspects of those questions, the governor said their is a focus on the holiday season.

“Holiday season is 37 days,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We talked about Thanksgiving. It’s not about Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is a commencement of the holiday season. That is a period of increased social activity, and increased social activity will increase the rate of infection. My personal opinion is that you’re are going to see an increase all throughout the holidays.”

The governor said that the actions of New Yorkers will determine what happens throughout the holiday season, and after.

“There is no predetermined fate; what happens is a pure function of what New Yorkers do,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What is the biggest fear? The biggest fear is overwhelming the hospitals, period. That’s where we are. That is a serious, serious concern.”

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The governor said that schools are safe and have an infection rate that is “amazingly low.” He said that small gatherings are the most problematic setting in terms of viral spread, which is why he predicted that COVID-19 rates would continue to rise through New Year’s Day.

“What happens after January 2?” Gov. Cuomo said. “We then turn to how effective is the vaccination program going to be, because the vaccination program is really the end game here, right? And there are big questions on that: How fast, how fair, how inclusive how much federal funding? How long is the plateau? How long is the drop on the other side? Depends on the vaccine production and delivery schedule and the effectiveness of it. When do you get back to the normal economy? Experts say you will need 75-85% of population vaccinated. That is a tremendously high percentage on every level. Administration of it, and acceptance of it.”

In Tuesday’s briefing, the governor addressed what he called “three gross omissions” from Washington’s vaccine plan, some of which was reiterated Wednesday.

“We have a New York panel, and the New York panel will review the FDA’s approval,” Gov. Cuomo said Wednesday. “Why? Because we know we have existing skepticism about the vaccine. Our panel did not create the skepticism, the skepticism existed and that’s why we created the review panel.

“If you start with a public, where 50% are skeptical about the vaccine, that’s a major problem,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A New York panel will review the approval to help build confidence, and to counter that existing cynicism.”

The governor said the same communities that were hit hardest by the pandemic deserve access to the vaccine.

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“This has to be an inclusive process,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The black, brown and poor communities have paid the highest price for COVID. Why? Because it exposed an inherent discrimination in our health care system. I believe the vaccine should be available to everyone regardless of race, gender, income, etc.”

The governor again expressed concern about funding in regards to the vaccine, both in distribution and administation.

“The federal government is not providing funding for the states to do the vaccinations,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Who is supposed to pay for this? How am I going to do the distribution? The federal government has not provided funding for states anywhere near the amount.”

The governor said that if Congress is to pass a coronavirus relief package, it must include funding for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine on the way?

Looking forward, the governor said that if the FDA emergency use authorization is granted, the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines could arrive in New York in less than two weeks.

“The first vaccine delivery to New York will be about 170,000 dosages,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The federal government distributes the vaccine by percentage of population of that state. First dosages could arrive in New York as soon as December 15.”

The governor said this expected delivery will be the round shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, if all efficacy and safety approvals are granted. He said he wasn’t sure yet on the status of Moderna vaccine distribution.

While the arrival of a vaccine will be happy news to many, the governor says context is important.

The governor said that the federal government expects to have 40 million COVID-19 vaccine dosages by the end of the month, but because the vaccine will require a double dosage for each person, that will only account for about 20 million people, or about 6% of the nation’s population.

“This is going to be the largest governmental operation, not just through COVID, this will be the largest governmental operation undertaken since World War 2, in my opinion,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This nation has done about 130 million COVID tests over the past nine months, from day one. Now, we have to do 330 million vaccines, twice. How long does that take you?”

Gov. Cuomo said vaccine administration would be ordered by priority, beginning with nursing home residents and staff, followed by long term health care facilities, and then patients and staff in hospital ICUs and COVID-19 sectors of hospitals. The governor said New York had approximately 600,000 health care workers statewide, and each will need two dosages of the vaccine, so the rollout will not happen all at once.

Still, the governor expressed confidence and optimist in regard’s to the state’s ability to handle the vaccine.

“My goal for this state is to have the fastest, most effective vaccination program in the Unite States,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I believe this state has the capacity to do that. If you look at our apparatus, and our ability to mobilize, and move quickly, and effectively — I don’t think any state can beat us. I think that’s what we proved during COVID.”

In Monroe County, local health officials echoed the concern and on Wednesday, the University of Rochester Medical Center paused all elective surgeries.

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Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said we now have to flatten an even higher curve than the one earlier in the year.

“The curve represented bed capacity, but more importantly the ability to provide for our community’s critical needs,” Dr. Mendoza said. “We are in a different place now, we face an even greater risk. Our health care workers are tired, and like you, they are frustrated.”

In Tuesday’s briefing, the governor addressed what he called “three gross omissions” from Washington’s vaccine plan.

“The vaccination process cannot work,” Gov Cuomo said. “We have three serious obstacles posed by this current plan. There’s no funding to do any outreach. There’s no plan or outreach funding for the black brown and poor communities, which have been hardest hit and hardest to reach. Under the current plan, I believe the undocumented community will be dissuaded from participating in the vaccination program and this hurts all Ne Yorkers and Americans because the vaccination program only works if you have a high percentage of participation.”

Watch the full briefing:

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