Gov. Cuomo addresses three ‘gross omissions’ in Washington’s vaccine plan

Local News

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a conference call with media Tuesday to give an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response effort.

On 276 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 146,675 tests conducted in New York Monday
  • 7,285 new COVID-19 cases statewide
  • 4.96% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 6.27% positivity rate inside microcluster hotspots
  • 4.46% positivity rate outside of microcluster hotspots
  • 66 new COVID-19 deaths in New York state
  • 3,374 hospitalized (up 242 from 24 hours prior)
  • 718 in ICU
  • 348 intubated

The governor announced positivity rates for the state’s regions:

  • Western New York — 7.2%
  • Rochester & Finger Lakes — 6.2%
  • Central New York — 5%
  • Mid-Hudson Valley — 4.7%
  • Mohawk Valley — 4.4%
  • Long Island — 3.9%
  • North Country 3.8%
  • Capital Region — 3.8%
  • New York City 3.1%
  • Southern Tier 2.6%
  • Statewide — 3.9% seven day average

“The numbers are going up,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We expected the numbers to go up. My projection is that the numbers will continue to go up through the holiday season. We tend to focus on Thanksgiving as a day or a weekend. Thanksgiving was not a day or a weekend, it was the commencement of the holiday season, and the holiday season is an increase in social activity.”

The governor said he expects virus numbers to continue to increase for another month or so.

“I think you’ll be looking at mid January for a stabilization of the rate, I hope,” Gov. Cuomo said.

On Monday, the governor laid out the state’s five-point strategy for combatting the virus this winter, broken down into the following categories:

  1. Hospitals
  2. Testing
  3. School testing
  4. Small gatherings
  5. Vaccine plan

MORE | Gov. Cuomo unveils winter COVID-19 strategy: ‘Hospital capacity is our top concern’

“The No. 1 priority when you get into this situation is hospitalization,” Gov. Cuomo said during Tuesday’s conference call.

While realizing the potential dangers of increased viral spread statewide, the governor is putting a focus on vaccine distribution plan, once the vaccine gets federal approval.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccination and that will end this epidemic,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The question is, when does the vaccination hit critical mass? If you listen to the experts they will project late summer, September, before it hits critical mass. So that is a relatively long period of time, although we can see the goal line. That also depends on how effective we are at distributing the vaccine. And distributing the vaccine is going to be the greatest governmental undertaking since COVID began.”

MORE | Rochester doctors ask for more volunteers in vaccine research trials through the holidays

The governor, as in the past, expressed concern of how a federal government can handle vaccine distribution.

“So the vaccination program is going to be a major governmental undertaking and it has to be done right,” Gov. Cuomo said. “As we sit here today, there are three problems that I have been focusing on and bringing to the attention of the federal government, that I think are gross omissions.

“No. 1: It is an expensive undertaking, and the federal government has provided literally no funding for the states to do this,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The states are not in a position to fund the vaccination process. The states are running deficits. The pharmaceutical companies develop the drug, why? Because it’s what they do. Also because they are going to make large profits. Government’s responsibility is now the distribution.

“No. 2: This is going to be especially difficult to administer to black brown and poor communities,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Just like we went through with the COVID testing, they’re underserved with the health care facilities, and the rate of skepticism is higher. It’s going to be an extensive effort.

“No. 3: Federal government wants states to share data for those who get the vaccine,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We just went through this with the COVID test. There’s no such provision in the federal program. I believe that is discrimination, either by intent or by effect and I believe it’s illegal and I am notifying the congressional black caucus and other groups.

“In the vaccine process, as outlined by the federal government, They have said the states must sign a data sharing agreement,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Where the states share data with the federal government as to whom they vaccinate. The data sharing agreement from the federal government specifically says the states should identify recipients using such identifiers as social security numbers, drivers license ID numbers, or passport numbers. These are proxies for citizenship. The data sharing agreement also says that HHS can share this data with other federal agencies.

“Anybody who reads that, a little bell goes off and knows they are going to share with ICE,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That will dissuade the undocumented community from going near the vaccine. That will then impede the health of the undocumented community, but it will also impede the entire effectiveness of the vaccination program because it only works if everyone is vaccination. You need up to 80% of community for the vaccine to be effective and you are not reaching out to the black communities and the brown communities and you are alienating the undocumented communities. You are making it virtually impossible for this to work. There’s no reason you need a social security number, we can identify people without using citizenship. There’s no reason we have to send citizenship data.”

The governor expressed confidence in President-Elect Joe Biden’s administration in regards to reversing this federal proposal.

“I’m confident President-Elect Biden and his team will not stand for this, but they’re not there until January 20 and this vaccination program is all put in place by the Trump administration,” Gov. Cuomo said. “So it sounds like President-Elect Biden takes over very soon, but sometimes very soon isn’t soon enough because the Trump administration is making states sign these documents now because they’re going to start distribution of the vaccine before Biden takes office.”

With a vaccine still unavailable for the short term, the governor is urging representatives in Washington to fix the issues.

“The vaccination process cannot work,” Gov Cuomo said. “We have three serious obstacles posed by this current plan. There’s no funding to do any outreach. There’s no plan or outreach funding for the black brown and poor communities, which have been hardest hit and hardest to reach. Under the current plan, I believe the undocumented community will be dissuaded from participating in the vaccination program and this hurts all Ne Yorkers and Americans because the vaccination program only works if you have a high percentage of participation.”

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

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