Gov. Cuomo: Arenas can reopen Feb. 23 with safety precautions, state approval

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Wednesday where he was joined virtually by White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Reverend Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial, and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

New numbers:

On day 347 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 176,750 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Tuesday
  • 4.02% positivity rate
  • 136 new COVID-19 deaths in New York
  • 7,593 hospitalized
  • 1,423 in ICU
  • 955 intubated

The seven-day rolling average positivity rate in the Finger Lakes region is 2.82% and percentage of population is .03%, continuing a downward trend for both metrics after being among the highest in the state during the holiday surge.

“Overall the trajectory is down, and that is all good news,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Vaccination equity sites

The governor announced plans for added vaccination sites in “health care deserts” where poor communities and people of color have been historically underserved. The first two sites will be in Queens and the Bronx and open on February 24, with plans for upstate sites forthcoming.

The governor said each new site will vaccinate 3,000 people per day and “serve as a model for the nation.”

“Today were announcing a federal and state partnership to announce vaccine sites where they are needed in socially vulnerable communities,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The federal government is going to provide a special dosage allocation for these sites and they will be staffed jointly by the federal government and state personnel. It’s the first step, but only the first step — we have to do more. They’re going to address a dramatic need to bringing the vaccine to the people who need the vaccine the most.”

“The vaccine equity taskforce is really a model for the nation and I hope those in Washington see this,” Rev. Sharpton said. “These mass vaccination sites in Queens and Brooklyn will have a huge impact. Many Black Americans live in health care centers where there are no hospitals no doctors.

“Access is one thing, but as you know, we also have a big challenge of skepticism in the African American community,” Rev. Sharpton said. “This vaccine is different and we’ve had to get out there and say that we are working around the clock to ensure to the people in our community that the vaccine is safe and effective.”

“At the governor’s request we’re working with the state to identify additional locations throughout the state to get more shots in arms,” Zients said. “We’re meeting communities where they are in places they know and trust this is a central part in our strategy an we look forward to continuing to grow.”

“This is a perfect example of our equity work coming to life,” Nunez-Smith said. “We have to do this here, as well as across the country. We’re keeping equity front and center across these sites.”

“We must recognize that this should be a zip code focus approach where we have high incidents of death and the virus, we should have high distribution of the vax,” Johnson said. “What’s logical to us often times is political to others. What we see as solutions to us, others see as problem, but in this moment everyone must see the same solutions to the problem that’s in front of us.”

Vaccine allocation

In a conference call with the media on Tuesday, the governor announced the state would be receiving a 5% increase in COVID-19 vaccination supply from the federal government.

“The vaccine supply is going up, we said yesterday after our discussion with the White House,” Gov. Cuomo said. “New York state will get 5% more and that will be the allocation for the next three weeks. That’s all we know.”

MORE | New York state guidance for those with underlying conditions looking to receive COVID-19 vaccine

The governor said 2,658,313 COVID-19 vaccines had been administered by the time of Wednesday’s briefing.

“93% of what we have received has been used,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That means were virtually out of allocation and then we wait for the next week’s allocation that comes in.”

In addition to the increase in supply, and the announcement of the federal government providing vaccines directly to qualified community health centers, the governor said as the process rolls out other areas are being looked at to see where the state can get more vaccines.

Reopening arenas

The governor also announced that additional guidance on how to safely open large venues will be available next week.

“The Buffalo Bills demonstration program was an unparalleled success,” Gov. Cuomo said. “7,000 people in a stadium, everyone tested. Only stadium to open up for football with testing believe it our not.”

This guidance will be based on the Buffalo Bills playoff games model, which the state has said was successful in keeping the virus from rapidly spreading.

MORE | New York state to release guidance next week on reopening large venues

“We’re going to now extend the Buffalo Bills example: Any large stadium or arena can open on February 23,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Their plan has to be approved by the New York State Department of Health: It’s 10% capacity for arenas 10,000 and above. A negative PCR test with face coverings, social distancing, and then mandatory assigned seating. This hits the balance of safe reopening.”

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

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