ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered a virtual update to New Yorkers Friday morning for an update on the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response effort where she discussed the latest data, new guidance on returning to work after having COVID, and an endorsement of the “test to stay” strategy for schools.

“It’s Christmas Eve and I want to thank those who helped with today’s presentation because it’s really important that we stay in close communication with New Yorkers during the holidays,” Gov. Hochul said. “Today also marks a milestone for me as it is four months to the day that I became your governor.”

The governor said there were more than 44,000 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide in the last 24 hours, up from nearly 39,000 reported Thursday.

“This [omicron] is a very, very contagious variant,” Gov. Hochul said.

The governor said new COVID-19 cases continue to surge, with a statewide seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents of 147.83. Aside from the highly transmissible omicron variant, the governor said an increased demand on testing has led to more confirmed cases:

Along with a rise in new cases, the governor said the state is also seeing a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations:

“Context here,” Gov. Hochul said. “Nearly 7,000 were in the hospital this very time last year.”

The governor said vaccines helped towards the lower hospitalization rate compared to 2020 and announced that as of Friday morning, 95% of New Yorkers 18 and older had received at least one vaccine dose. She added that nearly 3.5 million vaccine doses had been administered statewide since December 1.

“This [95%] is an extraordinary number and I’m very proud of it,” Gov. Hochul said.

The state’s vaccination progress, according to the governor Friday morning, is as follows:

  • 33,416,964 total doses administered
  • 149,125 total doses administered
  • 95% of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose
  • 82.5% of New Yorkers 18 and older full vaccinated
  • 74.9% of New Yorkers 12-17 with at least one dose
  • 65.9% of New Yorkers 12-17 fully vaccinated
  • 26.6% of New Yorkers 5-11 with at least one dose
  • 15.8% of New Yorkers 5-11 fully vaccinated

The governor also announced that New York would adopt new CDC guidelines pertaining to health care workers returning to work after a positive COVID-19 test.

According to the governor, these essential employees can return to work after five days if they are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, or if their symptoms have resolved, and if they have not had a fever within the past 72 hours.

“This is not delta, or the first variant,” Gov. Hochul said. “This is omicron, and thus far it has demonstrated it’s not as severe in its impact and therefore we want to make sure that our critical workforce, who we’ve relied on from the beginning, can get back to work.”

The governor said more details would be released from the state government regarding the adoption of this new guidance later Friday.

The governor said five days would be the new benchmark, while the CDC recommended seven days on Thursday when the organization announced a change to when health care workers who tested positive for COVID-19 should return to work. The CDC said these workers could return after seven days of isolation instead of the previous guidance which was 10 days.

“As the healthcare community prepares for an anticipated surge in patients due to Omicron, CDC is updating our recommendations to reflect what we know about infection and exposure in the context of vaccination and booster doses,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Thursday statement.

According to the CDC:

  • Healthcare workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic can return to work after 7 days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages.
  • Healthcare workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures. 

The governor also said keeping schools open remains a priority and she said the test to stay strategy has proven effective. She advised all counties to implement the policy as more testing allows for it.

“The CDC just confirmed that test to stay works and now we are highly recommending that counties and school district implement this, and we’ll work with them,” Gov. Hochul said. “We have the tests to be able to give to the schools.”

The governor encouraged eligible New Yorkers to get their booster shots. To date, 4,191,911 booster shots have been administered statewide.

“Respectively, vaccinated — even one dose — does not give the protection needed, but these boosters have been doing an incredible job of keeping people safe,” Gov. Hochul said. “Not that you won’t test positive, but the effect is much more diminished than it would have been for people that didn’t have the booster shots.”

Watch the full Press Conference here: