Gov. Cuomo: Wedding reception capacity increases with rapid testing model

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Friday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

New numbers

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Friday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

On day 335 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 4.65% positivity rate statewide Thursday (lowest since December 11)
  • 270,518 COVID-19 tests reported
  • 151 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
  • 8,357 hospitalizations
  • 1,543 in ICU
  • 1,012 intubated

The governor said the state has moved past the post-holiday COVID-19 spike. Wednesday, the governor announced COVID-19 orange and yellow zones are lifted for everywhere in New York state, except a few downstate areas.

“We were 7.9% on January 4, that was the high point,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That’s the collective Thanksgiving, Christmas, parties, Hanukkah parties, Kwanza parties, gatherings, celebrations, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Buffalo Bills games — 7.9% was the high point, now we’re down to 4.6%. The experts say the trend for New York should continue to drop, that’s what the expert models are showing.”

Wedding receptions and events

With the state’s virus trends heading in the right direction, the governor said the state will use rapid testing models to open venues and events before vaccine reaches a critical mass.

Using the Buffalo Bills playoff game rapid testing model, the governor said the state would be loosening marriage receptions restrictions, with testing in place, and if approved by a local county health department — effective March 15.

“We’re going to extend, in New York state, safe marriage receptions,” Gov. Cuomo said “All persons who attend the event will be tested, you can have 50% of the venue up to 150 people. It has to be approved by the local health department and this will go into effect march 15.”

The governor said it could take six-to-nine months until the general population is vaccinated, and he said rapid testing would help reopen events and venues before then.

“Going forward, we are very excited about the possibility of reopening venues with testing,” Gov. Cuomo said. “W demonstrated it in Buffalo at the playoff game. We had virtually no cases of spread from that game with 7,000 people. We’re not going to get the full vaccine for many, many months. In New York we want to use testing as the key to reopening events.”

The governor said New York City is on track for indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity on Valentine’s Day.

“No pressure, but its just an idea: Get engaged on Valentine’s day, when restaurants in New York City are reopening and then March 15 you can have the wedding, 150 people,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Vaccination

The governor said the state’s vaccination program is going well so far, but supply issues persist.

“Vaccine, we’ve done over 1.7 million vaccines,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It is going very, very well. We have used all of the allocation that we have received for weeks one through six. We then start to receive the next week’s allocation which comes in during the week and that’s where we are now. We get another 250,000 doses that are starting to be delivered, so we will be using that new vaccine allocation.”

The governor told local governments to not schedule vaccine appointments until they are notified of updated allocation amounts. He said the Finger Lakes region, as of Friday morning, had administered 100% of the vaccine doses it had received.

“I’d like to see every region at 100%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We are going to get 16% more dosages from the federal government, that is good news. That will come next week and for the following two weeks. The governors have been pushing the federal government for months to give us an allocation of what were going to getting the next few weeks so we can plan. We now have a three week allocation, thanks to the Biden administration, which is much, much better than we were.”

The governor said 76% of health care workers in the Finger Lakes region have been vaccinated so far.

Nursing homes

On Thursday, the state Attorney General Letitia James released a report Thursday in regards to her office’s ongoing investigation into nursing homes and the state’s COVID-19 response.

According to the report, a larger number of nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than the New York State Department of Health’s published data reflected, and may have been undercounted by as much as 50%.

“The total number of deaths does not change, that number has not change, and to misrepresent that number is factually inaccurate,” said New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “In the report I saw, when they said there was under-counting, that was just factually inaccurate. Reporting the number of deaths is always the hardest number to report out there and we wanted to make sure that number is accurate.”

“Whether a person died in a hospital, or died in a nursing home — the people died,” Gov. Cuomo said “Died in a hospital, died in a nursing home, they died. When I dealt with the loss of my father, the pain is so incredible and inexplicable and why? It’s a tragedy, and I understand maybe the instinct to blame or to find some release for the pain that you’re feeling, but it is a tragedy and it’s a tragedy that continues today. I believe everybody did the best they could. I believe the federal government, CDC, gave the best guidance they could.”

Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa went on to explain that as the deaths were climbing, the state DOH counted deaths where they happened. “We tracked both of them and we add them together. If you recall since the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government never gave states clear guidelines on how they should be reporting anything. 13 states report 0 data on nursing home deaths and nine states in the county, New York being on of them, gives presumed number. I would argue at this point New York puts out more data on deaths than any other state in the country and at the beginning of this when it was a real crush, you had nursing homes reporting deaths, you had hospitals reporting deaths. I remember the DOH was trying to determine whether or not there was going to be double counting and the cleanest way to do that was say do it where the person died and after the fact, we’ll go back and do a full audit, which is what’s happening now.”

The AG report says the office also received numerous complaints that some nursing homes failed to implement proper infection controls to prevent the spread of the virus.

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

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