ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday to provide an update on the pandemic to New Yorkers. Beginning Wednesday, the governor’s briefings are going virtual, to be held over Zoom until further notice.
On day 284 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:
- 194,595 COVID-19 tests processed Tuesday
- 10,600 new confirmed cases in New York
- 5.44% positivity rate overall statewide
- 7.08% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
- 4.86% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
- 95 New Yorkers died Tuesday from COVID-19
- 4,993 hospitalized
- 952 in ICU
- 521 intubated
The governor laid out three COVID-19 focus points:
Surge and Flex
“We know are conducting three COVID operations, basically at the same time,” Gov. Cuomo said. “No. 1: We’re managing the hospitals with the surge and flex program. We sent a letter to all the hospitals in the state, talking to them about the situation and what they’re going to need to do. They’re going to have to be extraordinarily flexible and nimble to handle the additional caseload coming up.”
Whereas 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.
In his briefing on Monday, the governor warned that if the virus doesn’t get under control, and the hospitals become overwhelmed, then the state will need to initiate a shutdown of all non-essential businesses.
Slow the spread
The governor said the second point of emphasis is slowing the spread.
“The second operation is continuing to work to slow the spread of the virus,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have the Thanksgiving surge, if you will, and we’re starting to see the full effect of that now, and we’re analyzing the data of the Thanksgiving spread. Literally we’ve been blessed with international experts who have been giving us guidance.”
The third and final point of focus is about the vaccine and how it’s going to be distributed.
“Third, we have the vaccine, which is the weapon that will win the war,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That’s if people take it, if we get it produced, if we get it delivered, distributed, and actually in people’s arms; right so those are the big ifs.”
The governor said that the Pfizer vaccine could receive emergency use authorization from the FDA Thursday with the first shipment of the vaccine potentially arriving in New York state next week.
“The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff, and high risk health care workers, ” Gov. Cuomo said. “So that’s how we’re allocating what Buffalo gets vs. Monroe vs. Essex vs. New York City.
By region, here is the estimated allocation of the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine:
- Capital Region: 7,850
- Central New York: 6,400
- Rochester & Finger Lakes: 11,150
- Long Island: 26,500
- Mid-Hudson: 19,200
- Mohawk Valley: 4,200
- New York City: 72,000
- North Country: 3,700
- Southern Tier: 4,500
- Western New York: 14,500
Tuesday, University of Rochester Medical Center officials demonstrated the new freezers they purchased that will make the facility capable of handling and storing the vaccine.
“The state has set up 90 regional distribution centers that are capable of cold storage,” Gov. Cuomo.
The governor said the New York panel set to review the vaccine will help alleviate skepticism regarding the vaccine.
“I think the New York state panel, as a second panel to approve, is going to go a long way toward battling that skepticism about the approval process,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If the FDA approves, an expected 6 million doses will be available nationwide. A half million will be shipped immediately the second half will be reserved for the second dose.”
New York is expected to receive roughly 170,000 doses from the initial federal government distribution.
“It could arrive as soon as this weekend,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That assumes the FDA does act right away, the FDA does approve it, and the military turns around and ships it immediately, but it could actually be coming this weekend.”
The governor said vaccine distribution will be based on risk.
“Our state priority: Nursing home residents first, nursing home staff, then you go to high risk hospital workers,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have about 700,000 hospital workers in this state, so we prioritize the high-risk population. We have rules that we will establish that we will send to hospitals about what is deemed ‘high risk.'”
The governor said essential workers would follow high-risk health care groups, and then lastly, general population.
The governor announced a partnership with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate nursing home residents, much like is done with the flu vaccine.
Watch the full briefing:
The governor said the federal government dropped its plan to collect personal data — like social security numbers, or drivers license numbers — for those getting the vaccine. The governor said that proposal alienated undocumented immigrants.
“If undocumented people don’t’ get vaccinated, it compromises their health, and it compromises the whole program,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We raised this point again; we did letters, speeches, and HHS has agreed, CDC specifically has agreed, that the state will not send individual data identifying a person in a way that can be used to document citizenship or deportation.”
The governor said the discussions in Washington about a COVID-19 relief bill are missing the point, and that states simply need federal funding or the consequences will be dire.
“The congressional back and forth on financial relief for state and local government is essential and it’s probably essential to no state more than the state of New York,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We need federal aid, period. We have been very good at dealing with economic circumstances in the state of New York. I’ve closed many budget gaps I’ve closed the largest in the state history. I am telling you we cannot close this financial gap without federal aid.
“If we do not get federal funding, the consequences are going to be devastating to this state and families and governments within this state,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You could see the layoff of 7,000 government workers. You’ll see tax increases, but you can see dramatic tax increases that would hurt families and hurt the economy.”
State officials say indoor dining is the “fifth or sixth” highest cause of COVID-19 transmission. Earlier this week, the governor said that if a region’s hospitalization rate didn’t stabilize, there would be an impact on indoor dining capacity per region.
“On indoor dining, it’s not as bad as it was, but it’s not as bad as it was because we put significant restrictions on indoor dining,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And when you reduce the capacity, and have masks and plexiglass: Yes we have reduced the numbers, but they are still a source of spread.”
Locally, Monroe County Department of Public Health officials reported 627 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the seven-day rolling average to 580 new cases per day. The countywide seven-day rolling average positivity rate is now 7.45%, up from 7.3% reported Monday.
Officials say there are currently 4,054 active COVID-19 cases in Monroe County, the highest number of active cases since the pandemic began.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.