Gov. Hochul: Current COVID-19 rates are ‘an alarm going off’

New York State

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon to update New Yorkers on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor said the current COVID-19 rates were an “an alarm going off.” She said New York as a state has an average of 49.83 cases per 100,000 on a seven-day average — up from 34 per 100,000 just two weeks ago.

Seven day averages of new cases per 100,000 by region:

  • Capital Region — 66.57
  • Central New York — 70.67
  • Finger Lakes — 75.92
  • Long Island — 60.03
  • Mid-Hudson — 43.35
  • Mohawk Valley — 83.04
  • New York City — 30.21
  • North Country — 72.9
  • Southern Tier — 80.07
  • Western New York — 79.05

The governor said rising case rates will lead to more COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“Hospitalizations keep me up at night,” Gov. Hochul said. “You can draw a direct correlation between areas with low vaccination rates and high hospitalization rates. We want to make sure we are alerting people, and people have to take this very seriously. Increase in hospitalizations means fewer beds, and less access to critical services.”

Currently, 32 hospitals statewide are affected by the pause on non-essential elective procedures and the status of this pause will be reviewed again on January 15, 2022.

“Hospitals have been through a lot these past few years,” Gov. Hochul said. “We want to be flexible, but we also need to be reasonable.”

Despite rising cases and hospitalizations, the governor said she preferred giving localities the authority to make their own decisions versus implementing statewide rules. New York City requires vaccination proof to participate in most activities. Erie and Oneida Counties have implemented mask mandates in public indoor spaces. The governor said county executives have expressed appreciation for her one-size-doesn’t-fit-all-approach, but said her team is continuing to monitor the situation.

“Plans are being developed to combat the impending surge,” Gov. Hochul said. “We have been taking very bold steps to help local institutions. I know the numbers, and we are preparing to assist all the regions in our state. I will continue to reserve the right to take proper steps if necessary, and the numbers right now — they’re not looking good.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the state’s vaccination progress is as follows.

  • 30,772,072 total doses administered
  • 138,694 total doses administered over past 24 hours
  • 91.9% of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose
  • 81.2% of New Yorkers 18 full vaccinated
  • 73.2% of New Yorkers 12-17 with at least one dose
  • 64.6% of New Yorkers 12-17 fully vaccinated
  • 20% of New Yorkers 5-11 with at least one dose
  • 5.8% of New Yorkers 5-11 fully vaccinated

“We were concerned that 5-11 were not going to get fully vaccinated,” Gov. Hochul said. “Last week it was 0.6%, now it’s 5.8%. That’s some progress, but we have a long way to go.”

The governor also said there’s been more demand for booster shots, and the state will be bringing more vaccination sites online to accommodate for that demand.

“50% increase in average daily boosters administered this week — more than 500,000,” Gov. Hohul said.

The governor said she was excited to hear that the FDA gave emergency use authorization Thursday to expand Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster eligibility to 16 and 17-year-olds, but there’s still one more step before that can happen: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must formally recommend the boosters for this age group and a decision is expected soon.

“It’s really important that millions of teenagers can get their extra shot,” Gov. Hochul said.

The governor said there has now been six new confirmed cases of omicron for a total of 20, with 13 of originating from New York City.

“It’s being spread within New York, it spreads very quickly,” Gov. Hochul said. “It isn’t being spread by travelers, it’s doing so from within communities.”

“This is consistent with community spread,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “We know that in this state there are more undetected omicron cases, but the current rise in hospitalizations and cases remains with the delta variant. We don’t know if omicron will outcompete delta.”

The health commissioner said much remains unknown regarding the new variant.

“We are assuming that this variant is circulating around the country,” Dr. Bassett. “It is too early to have the answers that all of us want. Will it prove more transmissible? How well are vaccines going to protect against omicron? Will it cause more disease? So far we know that it seems highly contagious, and that it’s not more deadly than delta.”

The health commissioner said she understands that people are tired of dealing with a pandemic, and admitted she is too, but says it’s important to remember that it is still ongoing.

“I know the world is weary of COVID, I am too,” Dr. Bassett said. “Fortunately, we are better prepared now than when COVID first made it to our shores. We have the tools now, we want people to get fully vaccinated, and if you are vaccinated, to get your booster. The best protection that children can have is when adults around them are vaccinated.”

The health commissioner also urged caution as upcoming holidays loom.

“Think carefully about the holidays,” Dr. Bassett said. “Stay home if you are sick. I want to encourage you to plan around the most vulnerable person. Look at your holiday plans from the perspective of that person, and remember the vaccine is how we protect ourselves — we are in this together.”

The governor said the state ordered 1 million at-home COVID-19 testing kits, to be distributed to local health departments by the middle of next week with a priority on providing them for schools.

“We have ordered an additional 1 million over the counter test cases that will be coming in soon,” Gov. Hochul said. “It is our desire that these go to schools. Test to return is vital to our communities. We have to give parents and kids what the need. These tests are good for six months.”

The governor said Attorney General Letitia James called her Thursday morning and let her know she was dropping out of the race for governor to run for reelection for her current seat. The governor endorsed James and said she would support her reelection bid.

“All I will say is this is a bad day for Donald Trump and the NRA when someone like Tish James, one of the best attorney generals in the country, is running for reelection,” Gov. Hochul said.

Regarding the contested Democratic gubernatorial primary she’s facing, the governor said she’s more focused on November than June.

“No matter what a poll shows, my focus has to be on the November elections,” Gov. Hochul sad. “We just saw what can happen in Virginia and New Jersey. It is on my shoulders to have unity in our party. I need to make sure Republicans can’ get a foot anywhere near my colleagues who are running for office. We will march unified.”

Watch the full press conference here


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

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