Governor Cuomo: "At the end of the day you only have 300,000 dosages for a population of 7 million on the other side. I said in the State of the State patience - we need patience at an impatient time in history. This compounds the request for patience because how do you say on one hand 7 million people are eligible and then on the other hand say we only have 300,000 dosages per week? But there will be a new federal government and the new federal government at the top of the list has to be increasing the priority of production of dosages."
Cuomo: "The biggest capacity element in the hospital system is we're losing staff. We're losing staff because the staff is getting sick from COVID. That's why continued prioritization of the hospital staff is key and in the webinar we said hospitals must continue to prioritize hospital staff."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's COVID-19 response and made an announcement.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning, guys. Melissa DeRosa, Commissioner Zucker, Robert Mujica, Kelly Cummings, Beth Garvey, Gareth Rhodes on the phone.
The CDC made another change in the vaccine policy. Seems change is constant with the CDC and I'll tell you the truth I'm looking forward to the incoming administration to get ahold of this because this federal policy is making it extraordinarily difficult.
The CDC just announced that states should open up vaccines to 65-plus. This is another major change in a very short period of time. It's not just 65-plus. They suggest we open it up to 65-plus and immunocompromised and they don't define immunocompromised. Immunocompromised is a category that can be defined a number of ways Obviously it's people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, Down syndrome, heart conditions, obesity can be considered immunocompromised, pregnancy, sickle cell, smoking can classify a person as immunocompromised, type 2 diabetes is immunocompromised, asthma, so that has to be defined.
But just so we understand what's happening now, the federal guidance started with prioritizing health care workers which made sense because if nurses and doctors get sick then the hospitals collapse and that's what we're looking at as a worst case scenario around the country. That's California. That was Italy at one time, and if a nurse or doctor gets sick, they come in contact with a lot of people, they can be a superspreader, and for us keeping the doomy open is all about the hospital capacity.
The prioritization for the health care workers then melted into prioritization for essential workers, police, fire, et cetera. That then morphed into prioritization for 75-plus because they have the highest rate of mortality and that now morphs into 65-plus and immunocompromised.
Just to give you an idea of what that now does. That is a population of 7 million New Yorkers. 1A was 2.1. 1B was 3.2. You just added 1.8. The immunocompromised number we don't even have yet because it depends on how you define it, but you have a population that's eligible now of about 7 million.
We receive 300,000 dosages per week That has not changed. The federal government didn't give us an additional allocation. That's 300,000 per week. How do you effectively serve 7 million people all of whom are now eligible, without any priority?
So in other words if I'm 90 years old, I'm in the same class as a person who is 65-plus. If I'm 90 years old and I have cancer and heart disease, I'm in the same category as a person who is 65-plus.
Nurses and doctors who still haven't been vaccinated, and there is hundreds of thousands who haven't been vaccinated are now in the category of 7 million, so the policy and the intelligence of the federal system alludes me. But we will do the best we can but this is a - I happen to be Christian - loaves and fishes situation. 7 million eligible people, 300,000 dosages per week, and 7 million people who desperately want the vaccine quickly.
Now we've open up the largest distribution system ever operated in the State of New York. All the pharmacies, and there are thousands of pharmacies that are coming up to speed, and State-operated sites, and county-operated sites, and doctors' offices, and federally qualified health centers, so, and the unions of the essential workers have been very helpful. A lot of the teachers' unions are self-administering, police are self-administering, firefighters are self-administering. So the entire distribution system is open. But at the end of the day you only have 300,000 dosages for a population of 7 million on the other side. I said in the State of the State patience - we need patience at an impatient time in history.
This compounds the request for patience because how do you say on one hand 7 million people are eligible and then on the other hand say we only have 300,000 dosages per week?
But there will be a new federal government and the new federal government at the top of the list has to be increasing the priority of production of dosages. You need more vaccine, whether it's Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, or they no longer stockpile the second does and they release the second dose - those are all decisions they have to make, but they have to make those decisions.
They did a webinar here. I did a message on the webinar. The priority is open, 1A, 1B, and now 65-plus, and we have to put out a list of what's immunocompromised but within the distribution network, the hospitals and the country departments of health, I'm sorry, the hospitals have to continue to prioritize hospital workers because our number one risk is still collapse of the hospital system. That is our number one risk and we're seeing it in states all across the nation and we are balancing on the head of a pin our hospital capacity.
This U.K. strain is the X factor. I'll get to that in a second, but if that U.K. strain increases the infection rate the way they expect and the way we are seeing, we're going to overwhelm the hospital system.
The biggest capacity element in the hospital system is we're losing staff. We're losing staff because the staff is getting sick from COVID. That's why continued prioritization of the hospital staff is key and in the webinar we said hospitals must continue to prioritize hospital staff.
The county health departments should focus on the essential workers, police, fire, et cetera. That's who they deal with. City health departments and pharmacies, the general public because they're best equipped to handle the general public. Remember, pharmacies do the flu vaccine. Fifty percent of New Yorkers take the flu vaccine, but pharmacies have these, are accustomed to scheduling vaccines and dealing with the public and now there's going to be a massive number of public between 75-plus and now 65-plus. But that we're going to have to do. So, focus on the populations especially doctors, nurses so we don't overwhelm the hospitals.
The U.K. strain is the x factor. The federal government, CDC says the reason they're moving up the population to 65-plus is because they're afraid of the U.K. strain. Again, if you don't have the vaccines to give them, I don't know what opening up the eligibility does, but U.K. strain nationwide is up to 80 cases and this again, is just a situation that did not have to develop.
The United States did not ban or test people from the U.K. even though 120 other countries did. When you don't close the front door, don't be surprised when you have the U.K. strain here. It's now up to 80 cases nationwide. It's up to 12 cases in New York. We found eight more cases, so we have 12 in New York and we have 80 in the country and that is what's panicking the federal officials with good reason because this is a much higher rate of infection.
As far as our numbers are concerned, today is day 318. We did about 196,000 tests. Our positivity rate without micro-clusters is 7.6, with micro-clusters is 7.7. Positivity in micro-clusters is 8. 154 New Yorkers died. May they rest in peace and may their families have peace. Hospitalizations are up 281 to 8,926. ICU up 66, 1,492; intubations up 18, 909. If you look at the numbers over the past two weeks, you could see a flattening in the numbers after a spike from Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year. We said we would hope, hope, aspire for a flattening in late January. You could argue that you start to see a flattening now. Positivity in almost every region is down from the high during this holiday spike. Number of hospitalizations, this is from just about Thanksgiving, okay: new hospitalizations was about 100 a day. Let me give you this per week: 100 per day, 131 per day, 152 per day, 164 per day, 100 per day, 165 per day, 111 per day, and this past week plus 48 per day. So, you could see a post-Thanksgiving increase growing through Christmas, growing through New Year, and starting to flatten. By region now, 7-day average: Mohawk Valley tops 9.5, Long Island: 9, Capital Region: 9, Finger Lakes: 9, Mid-Hudson: 7.8, Western New York: 7.6, North Country: 7.6, Central New York: 7.2, New York City: 5.9, Southern Tier: 4.6. Statewide average is 7.2. By borough in New York City: Bronx is highest: 7.4, Queens: 6.7, Staten Island: 6.6, Brooklyn: 5.9, Manhattan: 3.5. Good news to see Staten Island no longer at the highest amount, and I hope - it seems like that community is responding.
In terms of hospitalizations: Capital Region is 0.05 - well, let me give you this in order. Mohawk Valley is highest and Finger Lakes is highest at 0.07. Then Long Island at 0.06. Everyone else is 0.05 or 0.04. We are going to accept the federal guidance of the 65+ and the immunocompromised. I don't want New Yorkers to think that we are not doing everything we can to make them eligible for the vaccine, because I want to keep people in New York as calm as we can keep people in these anxious times. And I don't want people to think that people in any other state are eligible when they're not. But, the dose of reality is great. Now we have 7 million people eligible, and we still have a drip, drip, drip from the faucet of federal dosage availability at 300,000.