WANTAGH, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Jones Beach on Long Island Monday to provide an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.
During the briefing, the governor announced that based on current trajectories, all New York state schools will be set to reopen for full in-person learning come September.
“Our children lost so much as COVID struck our state. A year of socialization, a year of memories, and even more,” Gov. Cuomo said. “While teachers and school administrators did an incredible job pivoting to remote learning with virtually zero notice, there’s no denying the discrimination students who did not have the right equipment faced. With the way our COVID numbers are currently trending, there is no reason why our students should not get back to in-person learning as usual and we look forward to welcoming them back. If there is a change in the trajectory of the virus, we will revisit the decision.”
The governor provided the following data:
- 85,019 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Sunday
- 929 new confirmed cases in New York (first day under 1,000 since October 18, 2020)
- 1.09% positivity rate
- 1,305 COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide (lowest since November 4, 2020)
- 303 in ICU (lowest since November 9, 2020
- 185 intubated (lowest since November 16, 2020)
- 14 new deaths
- 42,608 statewide COVID-19 deaths to date
“Yesterday the positivity rate for the state of New York was 1.09%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “OK, that’s very, very low. To give you an idea of how low, the national average yesterday was 2.6% so we are less than half of the national average.”
The governor said the state’s seven-day average positivity rate was 0.9%, the lowest level since September 21, 2021, and the 49th straight day of decline for that metric.
The regional average positivity rates are as follows:
- Finger Lakes — 2.34%
- Central New York — 1.56%
- Western New York — 1.49%
- North Country — 1.45%
- Capital Region — 1.11%
- Mohawk Valley — 0.92%
- Mid-Hudson — 0.78%
- Long Island — 0.72%
- New York City — 0.69%
- Southern Tier — 0.64%
The governor said more than 10 million New Yorkers have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We hit over 10 million vaccinations done,” Gov. Cuomo said. “64% of New Yorkers now have at least one shot. Long Island, 69%, is the highest region in the state of New York for residents with at least one dose of the vaccine.”
The state’s vaccination progress, as of Monday afternoon, is as follows:
- Total doses administered – 18,441,242
- Total doses administered over past 24 hours – 63,443
- Total doses administered over past 7 days – 815,097
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose – 63.7%
- Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series – 54.9%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose – 52.0%
- Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series – 44.1%
Although the numbers are improving, the governor reminded New Yorkers that COVID is still a very real threat.
“Some people want to say ‘well, COVID is over now,'” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s not over. It’s managed, but it’s not over. 14 people passed away yesterday in the state of New York from COVID, and a troubling trend: The number of vaccinations is dropping off dramatically. We’re now doing fewer than 100,000 per day. That’s a dramatic decline, a 55% decline in how many vaccines we’re doing, so we have to make sure this complicated message is heard: We’re managing COVID, we’re doing well, the positivity rate is not misunderstood to say it’s over.”
To help improve vaccination rates, the governor announced a new incentive program called “A Shot in the Park.”
“Today we announce a new incentive: A Shot in the Park,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A Shot in the Park is if you get a vaccine this week, anytime this week, you will get a two-day family pass to any state park. If you come to a state park on Memorial Day weekend, if you get a shot when you come — Jones Beach is perfect, you’re driving in, you have to go right past the vaccine center — stop, get a vaccine, and you get a two-day pass to come into any state park.”
The governor said the two-day pass will be valid at any state park, adding that vaccinations sites will be offered at the following new pop-up sites:
- Belmont Lake State Park: May 30th
- Buffalo Harbor State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- FDR State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Grafton Lakes State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Green Lakes State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Harriman State Park at Lake Welch: May 29th – May 31st
- Heckscher State Park: June 5th
- Hempstead Lake State Park: June 6th
- Letchworth State Park: May 29th – May 30st
- Robert Moses State Park: May 29th – May 30th
- Roberto Clemente State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Sunken Meadow State Park: May 29th, May 31st
- Taughannock Falls State Park: May 29th – May 31st
- Westcott Beach State Park: May 29th – May 30st
The governor said the state parks system recorded a new record of visitors in 2020 with 78 million guests.
“So we’re going to use those state parks,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’re going to use Memorial Day; enjoy the park, come get a vaccine, we’re going to set up a vaccine site at everyone of the 16 state parks.”
Another vaccine incentive program began Monday and will run through the rest of the week: New Yorkers can win up to $5 million if they get vaccinated in the state’s new pilot program, Vax and Scratch.
Those with vaccination appointments at state run sites can get a scratch ticket with a first prize of $5 million and other prices that go down to $20.
With last week’s adoption of the CDC guidance on masking and distancing for fully vaccinated people, the governor said the focus turns to reopening, which he says is an opportunity.
“We’re in the reopening phase,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Reopening suggests we’re going to go back to where we were before COVID. No, life is not about going back. Life is about going forward. I don’t want to go back to where we were the day before COVID started. I want to go forward, I want to learn from this past year, I want to learn from the pain, I want to learn from the positive, of what we learned and make sure that we not only reopening, but we reimagine New York.”
Also this week, a pop-up vaccination clinic will also open at the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport Monday, as part of a state-run effort of making vaccines available at airports across Upstate New York.
With Memorial Day looming, the governor reminded New Yorkers to pause and reflect on the heroes who helped keep people safe during the pandemic.
“It’s Memorial Day and we remember those who gave their lives on Memorial Day and gave their lives for this country, and fought for freedom,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I also think we should remember this past year, on Memorial Day, remember the 42,000 New Yorkers who died, the 1,000 essential workers who died, giving their life.
“We went from the highest infection rate on the globe to the lowest infection rate,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We saved tens of thousands of lives because there are no people on the planet like the people of this state.”
Regarding fully reopening schools statewide in the fall, the governor was optimistic about it.
“We have to get back to school, and based on the current trajectory, there’s no reason why we can’t open schools statewide in September,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I believe, all across the state, the topic of mandatory vaccines will be a top of discussion — it already is and it’s a controversial topic. Remember, we mandated the Measles vaccine about two years, when there was an uptick in Measles, and it was very controversial. You have some people who never sent their child back to school because they’re against the vaccine, but if you asked me today, by the current trajectory we are on, I think there’s no reason why every school shouldn’t be open in September.
“Now, September is a long way away, and we will follow the science, and follow the data, but we’re under 1%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Unless something dramatic happened that contradicted, that a real variant of interest came along, I don’t see any reason why couldn’t open all the schools. Remote learning sounds fine, and worked fine enough for some students, but others paid a very heavy price for remote learning. Remote learning only works if you’re in a home that has the equipment, access to internet, and in a home that has someone who can help the student with issues.”
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.