December 28, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 140,000 New Yorkers Have Received First Vaccine Dose

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 140,000 New Yorkers Have Received First Vaccine Dose
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New York State Expects to Receive 259,000 Additional Doses this Week -- 139,400 from Pfizer and 119,600 from Moderna

Priority Populations Expanding This Week to Include Urgent Care Center Employees, COVID-19 Vaccine Administrators and Residents of Office of Addiction Services and Supports Facilities

Vaccines Will Continue for High-Risk Hospital Workers, Federally Qualified Heath Center Employees, EMS, Coroners, Medical Examiners, Funeral Workers, and Residents and Staff of Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Mental Health Facilities

7,559 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide

1,222 Patients in the ICU; 717 Intubated

Statewide Positivity Rate is 8.33%

114 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "I hope New Yorkers took our caution and celebrated smart. Celebrate smart, avoid shutdowns. That's what my season's greeting card says this year. Celebrate smart. I can understand the celebration, the religious significance. Lord knows after this year we need a break but be smart. And if we're smart then we can avoid shutdowns because we control our destiny. There is nothing preordained here. What will happen will be a consequence of our actions. A year where we felt out of control, we're actually in ultimate control because we control the spread of the virus by our actions. Celebrate smart and avoid shutdowns."

Cuomo: "Another issue popped up because every day is a new issue to deal with. Possible fraud by a health care provider. You're going to see more and more of this. The vaccine is a valuable commodity and you have many people who want the vaccine. You'll have fraud in the vaccine process. It's almost an inevitable function of human nature and of the marketplace. Vaccines are valuable and there will be people who break the law. We're looking at one health care provider who may have done that."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 140,000 New Yorkers have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose to date. New York expects to receive another 259,000 doses this week, with 139,400 coming from Pfizer and 119,600 coming from Moderna. The Governor also announced that the state is expanding the priority populations eligible to receive a vaccine to include urgent care center employees, individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff, and residents of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports' congregate facilities. Vaccines will continue to be distributed for high-risk hospital workers, federally qualified health center employees, EMS, coroners, medical examiners, funeral workers and residents and staff of Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Mental Health facilities. Next week, the state expects to expand this universe further with the addition of ambulatory care workers and public-facing public health workers.

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning. Welcome, Gareth Rhodes to my far right, Chancellor James Malatras. We have Kelly Cummings who is our Director of Operations. Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To her left Robert Mujica, Budget Director.

Day 303. We made it. I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. Santa was very, very good to me, maybe better than I deserve. I hope New Yorkers took our caution and celebrated smart. Celebrate smart, avoid shutdowns. That's what my season's greeting card says this year. Celebrate smart. I can understand the celebration, the religious significance. Lord knows after this year we need a break but be smart. And if we're smart then we can avoid shutdowns because we control our destiny. There is nothing preordained here. What will happen will be a consequence of our actions. A year where we felt out of control, we're actually in ultimate control because we control the spread of the virus by our actions. Celebrate smart and avoid shutdowns.

This is what the numbers say today, which we're not quite sure what it means, but we're studying it. Statewide positivity without micro-clusters 7.8; statewide positivity with micro-clusters 8.3. That is an increase from the 5.9 seven-day average. Positivity in micro-clusters 9 percent and 124,000 tests taken. This is a jump from Friday, Saturday, to Sunday. Now Friday was Christmas. Sunday is two days after Christmas. We have been talking about potential for spread during Christmas. For it to go up in two days is dramatic and very, very fast, so we're studying what the uptick in that number actually means.

If you look around the country you've seen significant upticks in just the past couple of days. California went from 8 to 13; Florida went from 8 to 11; Texas went from 2 to 9; New York went from 5.8 to 8. Is that even possible? It's statistically improbable. Now, if you look at the numbers you also see that the number of people getting tests is actually much, much lower. So, these are people who got tests after Christmas and it a lower number of people who got tests, so it's a smaller population. So, one of the theories that we're going to look at is, people who were going to get a test because they were traveling because they were concerned about spreading the virus were getting tested up until Christmas and anyone who went and got tested post-Christmas, over the weekend, was a person who was showing symptoms and thought they might be positive, and therefore they went for a test. So, the sample is artificially skewed. Fewer people got tested and more of those people were showing symptoms, that's why they went, and they got tested. The number of positive cases didn't go up. It's that the number of people being tested went down by almost half.

So, fewer people get tested. Same number of positives, but proportionately it's a higher number. Evidencing that theory: the number of tests in an urgent care clinic went way up. Urgent care clinics tend to be the places where people go when they feel symptoms and they want to get a test. That's when you tend to see in urgent care clinics, and that's the number that went up: in urgent care clinics.

So, it may very well be that, and that may be a national phenomenon that we're seeing, but, we don't know, and we'll see what the numbers say over the next few days, and that will explain if this is a circumstantial situation post-Christmas, less people getting tested, and they have a higher positivity because the people who are getting tested are symptomatic, or was there spread pre-Christmas that's actually is being evidenced now?

You see the test results, 124,000 - we were doing 220,000 tests some days, so the number is significantly low. And again, these tests are not random, right? They are people who go for tests. So who went to get a test after Christmas over this past weekend? Possibly, people who were symptomatic, because people who were just doing it as a prophylactic went before, but we'll see over the next few days.

Statewide deaths 114, the hospitalizations up 376, discharges 425. Fewer people get discharged over the weekend so the net number goes up. Not necessarily the new admissions, but the discharges go down. ICU up 35, statewide intubation up 30. But the general caution remains the same: social gatherings spread the virus if you're not smart. A fact, not opinion, a fact.

You see statewide where the positivity is. Finger Lakes, again, is the most a highly problematic area. Western New York has actually made good progress, but that's on the percent of hospitalized. Positivity, you have Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Capital Region, other places that we have to focus on, and places frankly that have to focus on themselves.

If you live in those areas, then it's you and your community and the behavior in your community that is affecting the numbers. And again the numbers make it plain. It's not about theory, it's not about, "Well, I believe this. I believe that. Here's my theory. My opinion. My culture. Here's my politics."

Numbers are numbers, and there's no denying numbers. This is not testing a political theory or your medical theory of the virus. They are numbers, they're telling you the facts. Again, New York City, Staten Island has the highest positivity. Why is Manhattan 2.8 and Staten Island is 6? That defies logical explanation.

Manhattan is much more dense. Manhattan you're taking more public transportation, you're on the subways, you're in busses more than you are in Staten Island, you have more people on the sidewalk in Manhattan. it is the precautions that people are taking in those areas. Again, I think this, I think that, every politician has an opinion. Ask your local politician, explain the numbers to me? How does your political theory jive with the facts? And see what they say.

Post-COVID future, we're getting to the New Year, I'm going to do a State of the State. What does 2021 look like? 2021 looks like what we're going to make it look like. It's going to be what we do. And clearly, the key is going to be the vaccines. It is the one really good piece of news we had in 2020, was that the research community, the medical community, came up with highly effective vaccines. So, it's about getting those vaccines now in people's arms, right? It's nice they show you the vial or the box but what matters is getting it in people's arms. 140,000 New Yorkers have already received one vaccine. That would put New York at the top of the national chart on number of vaccines that have actually been given to people. We expect another 259,000 vaccines this week; 139,000 from Pfizer, 119,000 from Moderna.

Where are the vaccines going? This is where the vaccines will have gone to-date by the end of this week. They're shipping as we speak and by the end of this week, this is how many vaccines will be given out all across the State. They will not have been necessarily administered, but they will have been delivered. "Well why does one place get more than the other?" This is, again, math. This is proportionate the number of people eligible for the vaccine in that region. It's probably roughly proportionate to the population, but that's how we do the allocation. It's not that we like the Capital Region more than Central New York, it's all on the math.

Who's getting the vaccine? We have priority populations. As we have more vaccines, the priority populations expand. We're going down the list. You have the number one priority, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 more vaccines. You just work your way down that list. This week it's going to be urgent care center employees. Individuals who are administering the COVID-19 vaccines, for obvious reasons, including the local health department staff. Resident of OASAS facilities. These are congregant facilities, congregant facilities are problematic. It's where you have a lot of people in concentration. Nursing homes are obviously the most problematic because they're congregant plus older, vulnerable people. OASAS - what we call the O facilities - they're congregant, not necessarily older, but congregant facilities.

We'll then continue with high-risk hospital workers, federally qualified health center employees, EMS workers. They're the people who show up, God bless them, and respond to calls. Coroners, medical examiners, funeral workers, other OMH facilities, et cetera. These are all congregant facilities where you have a number of people in one location.

Who's getting the vaccines next week? We expect to open to ambulatory care health workers, public facing public health workers. Again, including those administering COVID-19 tests. We now have a whole group of people who are interfacing with the vaccines, with the testing, we want to make sure they get the vaccine.

Another issue popped up because every day is a new issue to deal with. Possible fraud by a health care provider. You're going to see more and more of this. The vaccine is a valuable commodity and you have many people who want the vaccine. You'll have fraud in the vaccine process. It's almost an inevitable function of human nature and of the marketplace. Vaccines are valuable and there will be people who break the law. We're looking at one health care provider who may have done that.

The New York State Police has actually been pursuing an investigation. They're going to refer that case to the Attorney General's office. Attorney General Letitia James and her office is going to take it on and make it a priority. We want to send a clear signal to the providers that if you violate the law on these vaccinations, we will find out and you will be prosecuted. I'm going to sign an Executive Order that says we're very clear, the vaccines are a priority, there's not going to be any politics at play as to who gets the vaccine. We look to the CDC, federal government, for guidance and we will not tolerate any fraud in the vaccination process.

Anyone who engages in fraud is going to be held accountable. The executive order I'm going to sign today says a provider could be fined up to $1 million and revocation of all State licenses which frankly may be more of a deterrent than the $1 million and that will apply to a provider, a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist, any licensed health care professional. So if you engage in fraud on this vaccine we will remove your license to practice in the State of New York so we are very serious about this and this is the type of fraud that will be uncovered on the old adage that people talk, people talk, and somebody gets a vaccine and goes out and tells his buddy, I got a vaccine, how did you get a vaccine, you're not ready, you're not on the priority list, well, you can go to this place. I was the attorney general for four years. People talk, we will find out, and it's not worth risking your license as well as a possible civil and criminal penalty.

We're also going to be extending the housing eviction moratorium by executive order. We are working with the Legislature. The Legislature is going to reconvene this week. We've been working with them on a piece of legislation that will also extend the eviction moratorium. We want to make sure that homeowners are protected, that it doesn't affect their credit rating, there's no mortgage foreclosure, the Legislature convenes today, and we have an agreement with them on a housing moratorium bill. We want to get to May 1 and we'll see what happens by May but we want to protect tenants. We want to make it simple. We don't want people evicted. We don't want them to have to go to court to fight the eviction. But we want to make sure they're not committing fraud either so they will make representations that will be legally enforceable. And again, we have an agreement and as soon as that bill is passed I'll sign it.

Today I'm also signing an executive order to withhold pay increases for all State commissioners and statewide elected officials. This is the right thing to do I think. Obviously it's easy for me to propose something that's going to affect myself. This also affects all commissioners and statewide elected officials.

Dr. Zucker for example won't be getting a raise this year. It's no reflection on what these commissioners have done. They probably worked harder this past year and performed better than any commissioner in their position frankly in decades. There has been no test like this test for a government official. But I appreciate their sacrifice and their showing of solidarity for the people of this state during this difficult period and during this difficult financial period. I also want to thank the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General and the Comptroller for the same statement that they're making. They've all worked incredibly hard this year and this is another sign of their commitment and their public service so I thank them very much.

The Bills and the New York State Department of Health continue to work together to develop a pilot plan that would allow the Bills to operate. Now this is not just about attending a football game. I want people to understand we are trying to find a way to reopen businesses and use our technology to reopen businesses. It is not going to be an option for us to keep the economy closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The experts are talking about hitting critical mass on the vaccine, herd immunity, maybe June. Some say September. Some are now saying the end of the year by the way and the percentage of the population that has to be vaccinated keeps changing also. It started at about 60 percent and I want to talk about 70 percent, now it's about 80 percent. Some people are saying as high as 90 percent. That is going to take many months. If you wait to hit critical mass for the vaccine, you are talking about closing the economy for six, nine, 12 months going forward. If it goes to 12 months, that means a longer period than since this began. That is not possible. It's not possible economically, psychologically. It's just not possible.

So how do you start to reopen businesses safely? How do you use our testing capacity to reopen businesses safely? And that's what we're working on and that's what Department of Health is working on. "Well, you should be giving tests to other groups." First of all, we have rapid testing that we provide to any nursing home, any county, any local government, free of charge, as much as they request we can provide. We have never not provided an amount of rapid testing that has been requested by a local government, local department of health. So it's not that we have a shortage of rapid tests, but we do have to have a model that shows we can start to reopen businesses. And anyone who thinks that we're going out make it another six, nine, 12 months, with a closedown economy, that's just not a realistic possibility. So that's what we're trying to work on and demonstrate. Can you do it? Can you use testing to reopen a business safely? And can you do it on a large scale, which would be the Bills. Also, many stadiums across the country are already open, and without any testing whatsoever. But the model DOH is working on is smart. How do you use testing to start to reopen businesses? Because that is going to be the challenge in 2021, and we're still working through that.

Western New York has also done a good job in getting ahead of their positivity rate. They had the highest positivity rate in this state. Today they're the fourth-lowest in the State of New York. So I think Western New York has heard the message. We now need Finger Lakes to understand it, Mohawk valley to understand it, Staten Island to understand it. But they are in control of their own destiny. And you see the variance across the state. There's also a story in that. Why is Manhattan 2 percent and the Finger Lakes four times the infection rate in Manhattan? How do you explain that, except the behavior of those people in that place.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640