January 4, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

8,251 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide

1,357 Patients in the ICU; 843 Intubated

Statewide Positivity Rate is 8.34%

170 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "2021, we're going to be focusing on controlling COVID and defeating COVID. They're two different functions, control the spread, control the virus and then put a harpoon in the beast and actually defeat COVID, and we're working on both simultaneously."

Cuomo: "We need to do more vaccines than we have done COVID testing, all across this country. Only this state, which has done more testing than any other state, has actually more COVID tests than the number of vaccines we're going to have to administer. But it is a massive undertaking for this nation."

Cuomo: "We have the hospital system all across the state being monitored daily and we're having those hospitals do what they need to do to the greatest extent possible within their capacity to manage the surge, what we call surge and flex."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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 Monday morning. From my right, Gareth Rhodes, Dr. Jim Malatras, Beth Garvey, Special Counsel, Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health, to my left Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, to her left Robert Mujica, Budget Director.

Today is day 310. Happy New Year. I hope everybody celebrated and celebrated smart and we will find out over the next few days. This is where we are today on the numbers. The positivity without the micro-clusters, 7.7 statewide. With micro-clusters 8.34. The micro-clusters themselves, 9.35.

We did 134,000 tests which is down from the high level of testing. More people got tested before the holidays, we believe as a prophylactic before people were traveling. Number of statewide deaths is up to 170. That is a terrible way to start the New Year. Statewide hospitalizations is up 288. The discharges are 537, the admissions 925, ICU is plus 13, intubations is plus 28.

If you look around the state there's no change in the regional allocation. Finger Lakes still the highest percentile in terms of hospitalizations. This is not a fluke. This has been going on for weeks. I've been speaking to people throughout the Finger Lakes. They have to take it seriously. This is a function of that region's behavior. People in the Finger Lakes should be more cautious than people in other parts of the state, taking more precautions because it's more likely people you're coming in contact with could be infected. That is just a mathematical fact.

Positivity, you have Finger Lakes again and Mohawk Valley, which was also a problem last week, but again if you are in those areas of the state, take it seriously. You should be using more precautions than people in other parts of the state. Downstate New York, we have the Bronx has ticked up, Staten Island still 7 percent, Manhattan only 3.52. You look at those numbers, you see the difference that behavior makes. Manhattan, you tend to have a higher percent of compliance to precautions and you see the result in the numbers. They have a lower positivity rate.

2021, we're going to be focusing on controlling COVID and defeating COVID. They're two different functions, control the spread, control the virus and then put a harpoon in the beast and actually defeat COVID, and we're working on both simultaneously.

On controlling COVID, we are seeing the spike that we talked about here, thatexperts have talked all across the country. We're warning about holidays and gatherings and we're seeing the spike that came from increased social gatherings. It is a fact. Yes, we had the holidays, yes, it was a long year, yes, we want to celebrate but when you increase social activity you're going to increase the spread of the virus if people don't take precautions. That's what we're seeing in New York State. That's what you're seeing all across this country and that's the growing numbers of hospitalizations, of infections and of deaths unfortunately, and it is a consequence of our actions.

If you look at, really this started at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was the first holiday and we saw an increase in Thanksgiving, but if you look since Thanksgiving which really triggers the holiday season, that triggered the 37 days i was talking about of the holiday season, the net daily growth went from 1.35 to 1.44. Number of people walking into the hospitals went from 6.99 to 8.99, so it is clear that the increase through the holidays, increase the infection rate and increase the number of people who are now walking into hospitals.

We have the hospital system all across the state being monitored daily and we're having those hospitals do what they need to do to the greatest extent possible within their capacity to manage the surge, what we call surge and flex. This is a totally new operation for hospitals and for the State but they're adding capacity, they're the closing down units that they don't need to add capacity, and we're watching very closely hospital capacity because that is the red line. That's the red zone. You are limited ultimately to your hospital capacity.

Right now, no region has less than 30 percent capacity. If you remember, when any region gets to within striking distance of 15 percent capacity, that's going to be a red zone closedown for that region. Right now, no region is above 30 but they're all hovering in that range. North Country obviously has more availability, Southern Tier has more availability because the Southern Tier is an example of the region that had a high infection rate, had a micro-cluster, and actually turned it around. Good for the Southern Tier. New York City is about 49 percent but where are you lowest? You're lowest in the Finger Lakes which makes sense because that's where you have the highest hospitalization rate in the state.

So we know what is going on and the numbers relate. If you have a high hospitalization rate you're going to have lower capacity for your hospitals and that's where we see right now the greatest problem is in the Finger Lakes.

How do we defeat COVID? We defeat COVID the way we've been controlling COVID for the past year. It is a function of our activity. It is the social gatherings. I know people say, how can you say we shouldn't gather socially? I understand. We are social beings. But it's how you do it. It is how you do it. Are you safe? Are you doing as much as you can outdoors? Are you wearing a mask? Are you keeping windows open? Are you keeping the crowd small? It's being smart. That is all this is. It is a virus. You've all had someone in the house with a virus. You know how the virus spreads and it's a consequence of being smart and being responsible. Those numbers go up, you overload the hospitals, the region will close down. We know what is going to happen. There's no unknown here. There's no arbitrary decisions being made. If the infection rate increases then the region closes and that's the last thing anybody wants, so if you don't want that then don't bemoan reality. Do something about it and be smart and reduce the infection rate.

In the meantime, while we're trying to control COVID with one hand, we're trying to defeat it with the other and a vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. Now, nationwide, there have been issues with the delivery of the vaccine, which, by the way, is no surprise. We've said many, many times that this was a much more aggressive undertaking than anyone thought, that this nation was not prepared, that the vaccine administration and delivery was going to be more testing than anything we had done before, because we had just gone through the testing for COVID. Testing for COVID is much simpler. It's a nasal swab. And by the way, nobody says no to a COVID test. Not like a vaccine. You don't have that same resistance, those same fears. We need to do more vaccines than we have done COVID testing, all across this country. Only this state, which has done more testing than any other state, has actually more COVID tests than the number of vaccines we're going to have to administer. But it is a massive undertaking for this nation.

Now, it's important to understand how we're doing the vaccine. And think of it in three tranches if you will. We're doing vaccines in nursing homes. Then it's being administered by hospitals, and then it's being administered through what we call special efforts. And I just want to go through one at a time so people understand this.

In nursing homes, we participated in a federally-run program that would send the vaccines directly to the nursing homes and the pharmacies, and the federal government contracted with pharmacies, national pharmacy chains, to do the vaccinations in the nursing homes. That has not been going as quickly as we would have liked. New York is now going to step in and actually expedite the federal program in nursing homes. We have about 611 nursing home facilities statewide. About 288 of them have completed the first dose for residents. You have residents in nursing homes, and then you have the staff in nursing homes. Both are being vaccinated. For the residents, about half of them have gotten the first dose. You won't get more than the first doses yet because the first doses, then it's 21 days to get the second dose.

We are going to supplement and expedite the federal program, and 234 additional dosages will happen this week, which will get us up to 85 percent of the nursing home residents by the end of this week. And that would be significant progress on the nursing home residents. That will leave about 15 percent of the nursing home residents that need to be vaccinated, and we want to get that done over the next two weeks. So the goal is, over the next two weeks, all the nursing home residents vaccinated, and simultaneously we're doing the staff. Under the federal program, they do one third of the staff in three tranches, just in case any staff member has an allergic reaction or something like that, they decided to do one third, one third, one third of the staff, and that will be expedited.

We'll be sending in additional personnel into nursing homes to do the vaccines. Some nursing homes can actually do the injections themselves. Nursing homes have staff, many of them, that can actually do vaccines. If they can do it themselves we're going to go to them and let them do it themselves to further expedite it. But the nursing homes have always been the most vulnerable populations, and we want to get that done and we want to get that done quickly. The federal program has not worked as quickly as we would have liked. We're going to step in and make it work.

That takes us to the hospitals. The hospitals are doing the administration, and that was purposeful. It's also the federal guidance. But it keeps politics out of it. There are two types of hospitals in the State of New York. There are public hospitals and there are private hospitals. There were 194 total hospitals in the state. 24 are quote unquote public hospitals. Public meaning they are managed publicly. And 170 are private hospitals. So clearly the bulk of our healthcare system are our private hospitals. That's been a challenge for us here because these are private hospitals that basically run as private entities, but they effectively are private hospitals, and they've never really been managed as one system before, and we're doing that here. So 24 public and 170 private.

The public hospitals are several in upstate New York, SUNY has six, the University of New York, runs six public hospitals, and then we have eleven public hospitals in New York City, which are run by the Health and Hospital corporation, which is run by the mayor of the city of New York. Westchester County has two, Nassau County has one. We need the public officials to manage those public hospitals. As I said, there are 24 of them, and they are in public control, we need those public officials, here they are, good looking, all of them, handsome, smiling. I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals. This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine, and they have to move the vaccine faster.

The hospitals have been receiving vaccines over the past three weeks, roughly 46% of the total allocation. These are the hospitals that have used the existing allocation the fastest, and those who have used the existing allocation the slowest. I don't mean to embarrass any hospital, but I want them to be held accountable. So what this is saying is the highest performing ten, the lowest performing ten.

For example, the highest performing hospital, New York Presbyterian hospital healthcare system. They administered 99% of their allocation. Great. Oswego Hospital, 99%. Richmond University, 93%. Adirondack Medical Center 87%. Now, in fairness, some of the smaller hospitals, it's easier to do a higher percentage when you have a smaller base, obviously. And we understand that. But, Northwell Health, 62%, Northwell is the largest hospital system in the state. So, it's not just a function of size, it's a function of administrative capacity. We want those vaccines in people's arms.

I understand they're private hospitals. I understand that everyone has a job to do. We need them to administer the vaccines faster. These are the highest performing, these are the slowest hospitals. Samaritan Hospital has only administered 15% of the allocation they've received. AO Fox, Nassau University, 19%. Montefiore only 30%. New York City H&H only 31%, Westchester Medical Center only 32%. H&H, Westchester, Nassau - those are public hospitals.

I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems. You have the allocation, we want it in people's arms as soon as possible. New York State Department of Health sent out a letter yesterday to all hospitals that said if you don't use the allocation by the end of this week, the allocation you've received, by the end of this week, you can be fined and you won't receive further allocations, we'll use other hospitals who can administer it better. It also says from the day you receive the allocation you have seven days to use that allocation.

This is a very serious public health issue and Department of Health Commissioner Zucker is very firm about making sure the hospitals step up and deliver here. So, any provider who does not use the vaccine could be fined up to $100,000, going forward they have to use the allocation within seven days otherwise they can be to be removed from future distribution. As you saw, we have almost 200 hospitals. If one hospital isn't performing, we can use other hospitals and if you're not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital. So, we are very serious about it.

Third level of operation is going to be special efforts. Special efforts are efforts that the State is going to take to supplement the pharmacies and the hospitals. The State is going to be establishing drive-throughs for public distribution. We're going to be using public facilities, convention centers, field hospitals, et cetera, for distribution and we're going to be using additional retired personnel, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, et cetera to staff those facilities. So, we want to finish the nursing homes. Hospitals are doing health care workers. Hospitals will then be doing members of the general public and essential workers, but the State will also be opening its own distribution effort to accelerate those vaccines.

Part of the State's effort will be a special focus on poorer communities where they don't have those pharmacies, they don't have the hospital, so called healthcare deserts, and will be working with health care partners to have pop-up vaccination centers, where we can transport equipment to a church, to a public housing authority, to a community center, and open up a vaccination center. This has been a priority for New York State. I have said personally that I think this is an issue that has not gotten enough attention or sense of urgency. COVID revealed many ugly things. One of the most ugly to me: Blacks died at twice the rate of whites; Hispanics at one and a half times the rate of whites. Higher infection rate, lower COVID testing rate, and more comorbidities. That's not America. So, to make the point about equality of distribution, I will receive my vaccine - and I want to receive a vaccine. I believe in the vaccine 100 percent - but I'm going to receive my vaccine when my age group is eligible and it's available in Black and Hispanic, and poor communities across the state through State efforts.

The next groups that are open today for availability who are now eligible to receive the vaccine are all doctors, nurses, health care staff who come into contact with the public. We're following federal guidance at this point which is working down the list of what we call 1A, the first priority in vaccinations. It's primarily health care workers which makes sense. Health care workers are the people who are in the greatest danger of contracting the virus because they are dealing with people who come in who have the virus. Also, if a health care worker gets infected, they can infect more people then probably any other worker. You know, if you have a nursing home staff or a nurse or doctor who is infected, they're dealing with hundreds of people. They would be a superspreader in and of themselves. So, we're making 1A- basically all health care workers are going to be eligible today and that is the first priority.

Also, these vaccines are about valuable commodity we appreciate how valuable yet. You're going to have some people who don't want to receive the vaccine, I understand that and we're going to talk about that we go through this, but you're going to have a lot of people who want the vaccine desperately. I would take the vaccine today. It could be a lifesaving situation. If any entity falsifies who they are; if there's fraud or fraudulent sale or fraudulent vaccination, that is very serious. That provider will lose their license, period. They'll be out. I don't care if you're a doctor, you're a nurse - it's a crime, in my opinion.

I'm going to be proposing a law for the Legislature when they come back to make it a crime. This vaccine can be like gold to some people. If there's any fraud in the distribution, letting people get ahead of other people or friends or family or if they're selling the vaccine, you'll lose your license. I do believe it should be criminal and I'm going to propose a law to that effect.

On education, State guidance for counties: There are some counties in the state that are over 9 percent on our numbers. Again, this is on State numbers. Different counties count differently, but for legal purposes, it's the State numbers that matter. For counties that are over 9 percent, they're doing school testing. If their schools are below the level of positivity in the community, then they can keep the schools open. It is up to the local school district to make that decision. My position has always been if the children are safer in the school than they are on the streets of the community, then children should be in school.

We're testing in the schools, so we know the positivity rate in the schools. We know the positivity rate in the community. If the schools are safer then my opinion, just an opinion not a fact, my opinion is leave the schools open. That will be up to the school districts across the State. I understand the privacy and the history of local control of education. I respect it. I gave my opinion, but it will be up to the local school districts to decide.

2021 State of the State will start this coming Monday. It's going to be a different kind of State of the State because it is a different time and adjust to the times. That will be this coming Monday.

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