January 18, 2021
Albany, NY

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

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

8,868 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide


1,523 Patients in the ICU; 997 Intubated


Statewide Positivity Rate is 6.54%


153 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday


Governor Cuomo: "Happy Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Remember Dr. King's great contribution and his vision and his wisdom today. And that's what we are all doing, especially with this vaccination with our social equity component is very much in keeping with Dr. King's words of advice and his pursuit for justice."


Cuomo: "We said that overall, we're in a footrace between the vaccination rate and the COVID infection rate. How many people can you get vaccinated, how quickly, which largely depends on how many dosages you have, and how fast is the COVID infection rate going up? Where are we in that footrace? We're running around the track, who's ahead, who's behind? Good news, we're seeing a decline in the COVID rates post-Christmas, New Year's Eve surge, right. We said during the holiday season people gather. Depending on how you gather will depend on the infection rate, how far it goes up. But, we expected mid-January, late January, to start to see that number come down because the concentration of social gatherings was coming down, and that's apparently what is happening."


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 morning. Happy Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Remember Dr. King's great contribution and his vision and his wisdom today. And that's what we are all doing, especially with this vaccination with our social equity component is very much in keeping with Dr. King's words of advice and his pursuit for justice. 


To my right, we have Gareth Rhodes. To my left, Melissa DeRosa. Robert Mujica's not with us today. Budget day is tomorrow, so he is busily crunching numbers as we speak. Today is day 324. We have a lot of information to communicate today. The more factual information that people have, I think the better. So they can make their own decisions, hopefully the right decisions. 


Positivity, 6.5. Total results reported, 186,000. Statewide deaths, 153. Somebody mentioned to me, they said, "well, when you say the death number you tend to go past that number quickly." I do, if I do, it's because the most painful number for me every day, and that is number of people, number of families, multiply that number by three, that's how many people are grieving today and crying today. So they're in our thoughts and prayers. 


Hospitalizations up 97, ICU down 27, intubations down seven. This is percentage hospitalized by percent of the population around the state. Finger Lakes has again with the Mohawk Valley, has the highest percentage of people hospitalized. There is a major component of this is how people react to COVID and their behavior. And it's worth noting the variants across the state, because that's the variance in behavior across the state. 


Long Island has taken a relative jump, which is concerning, and we're watching that, because Long Island jumped up, not in the right direction. Positivity rate, again you see that in Long Island, has taken a jump. But again, you see the variation across the state. You go from the Southern Tier, which, by the way, had a big spike at one time, and reversed that. It shows you what a community can do when it comes together and recognizes this threat. Long Island, 7.8. That's problematic, and that's new, by the way. 


Within the city, the Bronx is the highest. Then we have Queens, then Staten Island. Bronx has been ticking up over the past few weeks, so that continues. We said that overall, we're in a footrace between the vaccination rate and the COVID infection rate. How many people can you get vaccinated, how quickly, which largely depends on how many dosages you have, and how fast is the COVID infection rate going up? Where are we in that footrace? We're running around the track, who's ahead, who's behind? 


Good news, we're seeing a decline in the COVID rates post-Christmas, New Year's Eve surge, right. We said during the holiday season people gather. Depending on how you gather will depend on the infection rate, how far it goes up. But, we expected mid-January, late January, to start to see that number come down because the concentration of social gatherings was coming down, and that's apparently what is happening. Positivity rate is down, hospitalization rate is slowing. That's the curve statewide since Christmas, okay? So Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, lot of gatherings, number goes up. Depending by region, in how smart and careful people were, then plateaued and it looks like we're coming down. So that's good news, relatively. These are the curves across the State. You see all are a little different. Again, shows the variance across the State, that's all reflective of community behavior. They look like, if you put them all together, you have a mountain range. I still see mountains, different shapes, but they all went up and they are all coming down. Some at faster rates, some went up higher than other places and they're coming down at different rates. 


This is the hospitalization rate and you can see, really you want to start at the bottom of this chart. Last November, we were 21 new hospitalizations and then it started to tick up: 46, 82, 104, 131, 152, 164, 97, 165 and now it looks like it's reducing and we're coming down the other side of the curve; 111, 48, 32 and we just hope that continues. 


Here's the issue: People have been a little loose with the discussion of a second wave. First wave was the spring. The second wave was not a holiday surge. Second wave originally came from the 1918 flu pandemic which had one strain and then after that strain there was a second strain and the second strain did more damage than the first strain. We have not seen a second strain. People started to call the holiday surge a second wave. It was a second surge, it wasn't a second wave. A second wave would be a new strain being introduced. That's what happened in 1918. 


That's what we are afraid we're seeing now - a new strain which could cause a second wave. That's what the UK strain is all about. CDC says over the weekend, we're afraid the UK strain will be the dominant strain in March. That would be a second wave because the UK strain is much more contagious than the first COVID strain. There's then a South African strain which they're studying now and they're concerned about. 


There's now a Brazilian strain which may actually be worse than the South African strain or the UK strain. Any of these three strains could be a second wave. If the CDC is right and the UK strain becomes dominant in March, that would then see an increased infection rate and that would not be good. 


I still don't understand how the CDC and the federal government can project or anticipate an action but do nothing. If you know there's a UK strain, if you know there's a South African strain, if you know there's a Brazilian strain why don't you do something? Why don't you stop those people from coming here? We went through this last spring. China, Europe to the United States. We then went through it with the UK strain. 120 countries banned people from the UK or required testing and the United States did nothing. Now they're talking about a South African strain and a Brazilian strain, but then why are you still allowing people to just fly into this country. Then it's too late. Once somebody comes from Brazil with the Brazilian strain, you're off to the races and we know that. 


In terms of vaccination rate the good news is more and more New Yorkers are getting vaccinated. We're over 1 million doses total administered. Most people are overwhelmingly in the majority of first doses but 21 days later, people starting to get the second doses. The healthcare system has ramped up aggressively and we have been very aggressive in our efforts to have the healthcare system ramp up. This is a new activity. I understand that, but life is in the doing, and you see, week one week two, three, four, five, it feels like we've been at it for a long time, but it's only been five weeks, but you have a tenfold increase in the number of vaccines that are being done. 


We still have uneven performance, not surprising because you have hundreds of facilities doing this, and you have population differences and you also have performance differences. Whenever you ask 100 facilities to undertake a new and challenging activity, some are going to do better than others. That's life. Not all facilities are the same and not all regions of the state of the same. Vaccination performance is uneven and this is, in total, hospital performance, local health department performance, et cetera, but you have a low of 65 percent in New York City. You have a high of 83 in the Southern Tier; 81 in the North Country and then, good news, Mohawk Valley, Long Island, Finger Lakes, Western New York, but you see the variance. 


If you look by region which is, I believe, an important analysis. You can argue there are differences among regions of the state, different populations, different sizes, et cetera. Okay, let's look at differences within the region itself. You have Saratoga County Public Health Services: 100 percent. Lower performing in the Capital Region: Ellis hospital at 86, but you're between 86 and 100. Central New York, Onondaga County Health Department: 100 percent - great. Cayuga health Department: 100 - great. Upstate University Hospital great; Auburn: 100 percent; Oswego Hospital 100 percent. Great. Crause, Oneida, Richard Hutchings, that is all great, but you have the ConnextCare Pulaski: 28 percent; ConnextCare Fulton: 34 percent. That's a dramatic and troubling variance. Finger Lakes, you go from 100 for number of facilities 64, 72. Long Island you have 100 percent down to 50 percent. Part of this is just inexplicable, right? Mid-Hudson, number of facilities at 100 percent, you go down to 26 percent. So, this is obviously a cause of concern for us and it's basically the same story across the state. New York City you have a number of facilities at 100, number in the 90s/80s, and then you go to Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center: 20 percent. Union Community Health: 26. New York City Health + Hospitals / Jacobi 50: percent; New York City Health + Hospitals/Morrisania: 50 percent. So, the variance is obviously problematic. North Country the range is only 100 to 88 - good for the North Country. Southern Tier 100 to 62. Western New York 82 is the low performing in Western New York. 


For the lower performing facilities, we are going to give them less, if any, of the new allocation. They will all have enough to do their staff but we want to make sure that the faster facilities, the higher performing facilities, get more of the new allocation because we want it out the door. We don't want it sitting on the shelf. So, those that can vaccinate faster will get more of the new allocation. 


100 percent of the nursing home facilities have had their day one, first vaccination. That is great news. I want to thank the partners who did this. This was a federally designed program and federal government contracted with these pharmacies, but getting 100 percent of the nursing homes done is a big deal. Even there, you see, this is long-term care facilities, you see a variance in the number of staff especially that has been willing to be vaccinated, and sometimes the declination rate in some facilities is double what it is in other facilities.


We had set aside 225,000 doses for long-term care. 105,000 have been used, 120,000 remain. We're going to reallocate those that are unused in the long-term care facility program to the state program, but we'll make sure that the residents who want to take it and the staff who want to take it, we will reserve their doses, but any unused doses we're going to reallocate to the main program. 


We've set up a number of state sites, which are large mass vaccination sites, which have been going well. We have five open, and we're going to open eight additional mass vaccination sites this week, so that's good news. And we also have special efforts to make sure social equity is being performed, and we're reaching out to communities who have less trust in the vaccine, to have interventions, to speak to those communities about the facts of this vaccine, and try to reduce the cynicism and the distrust. 


I spoke about that today in my King message to the National Action Network. We're also reaching out to the healthcare deserts, parts of the state community that have fewer healthcare services. So we're reaching out through public housing, churches, community centers. We're opening up pop-up vaccination sites in these healthcare deserts because they don't have the pharmacies, they don't have the hospitals, they don't have the doctors' offices. We're working with Somos Community Care and Northwell Health, I want to thank both of them for this partnership. It's not easy. 


Hospital capacity is still the danger zone, red line, shutdown area, whatever you want to call it. All these discussions, micro-clusters, yellow zone, orange zones, when the hospital capacity is endangered that's when we have to go to full shutdown. Well, the numbers are coming down. Yes, the numbers are coming down. If the UK strain hits, if the Brazilian strain hits, if the South African strain hits you can see those numbers turn around, right? So deal with today, anticipate tomorrow. Yes, the numbers are coming down today, if you see a new wave via a second strain you'll see the numbers go back up. 


Unvaccinated doctors and nurses are still a problem. You put unvaccinated nurses and doctors together with a second wave, that should keep us all up at night. When we talk about hospital capacity, it's not that hospitals are running out of beds or equipment. Hospitals are running out of staff, that's what's happening, and if the staff gets sick then the number of eligible staff comes down. That's what we're concerned about. That's why they were prioritized nation-wide in receiving the vaccine. 


So, because they're exposed more, and if they get sick they could be a super spreader, and if they get sick then the hospitals are in trouble, so recognizing that priority is still important, I get the overall dynamic that we now have about half of the eligible people in the state on the approved list to receive the vaccine, but we still have to take care of the 1A priority. We're only at 60 percent of nurses and doctors statewide, and remember, herd immunity was supposed to be 70-90 percent. And, again you have a variance across the state by what percent of healthcare workers, hospital workers have been vaccinated. And you have, again, the variance by region. 


Across the state, 95 percent Cayuga Medical Center at Ithaca, great job. NewYork-Presby Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian Center, 93 percent. Presby, Lower Manhattan Hospital, 90 percent, Maimonides, 89. NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley, 89, 87, 86. And then you go to 23, 27, 29 at Bellevue. 35 at Harlem Hospital. 36 at Brookdale. 36 at North Central. 38 at Lincoln Medical. 


And you see the same variance by region across the state. Glens Falls at 85, Samaritan at 45. Central New York, Kraus Hospital, 76, down to 54. 76 in the Finger Lakes, 54. Long Island, 81, 43. Mid-Hudson, 89, 43. Mohawk Valley, 69, 40. New York City, 93, 27. Bellevue, 29, Harlem Hospital, 35. 


So, again, you see the disparity and the differential. North Country, 79 to 55. Southern Tier, 95 to 23. Western New York, 84 to 41. My concern, our concern, Department of Health's concern, more important. The low-vaccinated hospital staff will be the first hospitals to have capacity problems in a surge situation, for two reasons. Number one, they'll have more staff getting sick because you have fewer that were vaccinated. Number two, I do believe there's a management component, and performance component, to what we're seeing, and that management differential, the performance differential, the expertise differential, is what you wind up seeing in a surge situation. You look at the hospitals that got in trouble in the surge in the Spring, and let's learn something. But I think this is an indicator going forward. Again, facilities with slower vaccination rates will get less of the new allocation. Our allocation is nowhere near enough. We want to maximize it. So, places that can get it out first will get priority. 


A stressor on this entire situation, and a stressor on people across the state, is the federal government increased eligibility dramatically, but never increased the supply of the dosages. Remember what happens here. The federal government sends us a supply, and then we distribute the supply. Trump Administration announced last week that they were expediting the second dose to increase the allocations. Secretary Azar said all the doses that have been held in physical reserve will be allocated and sent. They then increased the eligibility to 65 plus and created this wave of expectation. They said there would be more supply to meet the wave they were creating. That was not true. And now they did a total 180 on whether or not there's going to be any more allocation, and as a matter of fact, they say there's not going to be any more allocation. And when you look at what we've been getting, it hasn't gone up. If anything, it went down. We had 169 the first week, we went up to 466, 273, 239, and 239. So there was no increase. But, there was this tremendous increase in eligibility. So now you have 7 million New Yorkers chasing 300,000 vaccines a week. At that rate, it would take six months. The 300 goes down to 250, now you're talking about seven months to get the 7 million vaccinations done. Why did you raise that expectation? You tell me I'm going to be eligible for a vaccine. Great, I'm all excited. By the way, it's going to take seven months to get to you. Seven months is a lifetime. So I'm not really eligible if there's no supply. It was a fraud. And you told me I was eligible, but you don't have a vaccine for me. So what was the point of it? 


I sent a letter to Secretary Azar that said look, the problem was created by the federal negligence in the first place. You learnednothing. The handling of the vaccine has been incompetent up until now. And, you actually increased the damage and anxiety by lying to the American people about what you were going to do. And you made a bad situation worse. You know, public confidence is very important now. And they created public chaos by this situation. The federal government is in control of the supply. They must increase the supply. Approve Johnson & Johnson, expedite that. Buy more Pfizer, buy more Moderna, buy more Oxford AstraZeneca. Do whatever you have to do to increase the supply. 


As a state, we're trying to do everything that we can. I sent a letter to the Pfizer Corporation today. Pfizer is technically not bound by any federal agreement, because they did not get engaged in what the federal government called Operation Warp Speed, where they gave money to drug companies to expedite the vaccine. Pfizer is a private company. They produced it on their own, they can do what they want with it. I sent the president and chairman, Mr. Bourla, Dr. Bourla, a letter asking if New York could buy directly from Pfizer so we could increase our supply. Pfizer is a New York company, they're headquartered here, and I sent a letter asking if New York could buy directly from Pfizer. 


Wednesday is inauguration day. I was planning to go to the inauguration. I'm not going to go to the inauguration. There have been reports from law enforcement sources that there is talk of doing demonstrations at state capitols, and they have done an advisory that state capitols should beware of potential demonstrations. We saw what happened in Washington a couple of weeks ago. We have made preparations here. We have the State Police, who have been making preparations. We have police officers on standby. I think that my place is to stay in New York State given this possible circumstance. I have no problem asking our public servants to step up when the time is required. If it's a hurricane, if it's a flood, if it's seven feet of snow in Buffalo, if it's Superstorm Sandy or if it's possible large-scale demonstrations, but when I do that, I, my personal inclination is I like to be there also. I'm a little old school. I don't like to ask anyone to do anything that I'm not willing to do. So when I call them up to go shovel seven feet of snow in Buffalo, I go shovel seven feet of snow in Buffalo, or as much snow as I can shovel. So if there's a possible situation here at the capitol, I'm going to be at the capitol. That's my place. And I want to make sure that I'm here if I need to be here. 


I sent my best wishes to President-elect Biden. He's a good friend and it's going to be a great day, and many members of his team I've worked with for many, many years. I chatted with them this morning and they understand. But, everyone makes their own decision. And people of the State of New York elected me governor, and I think the governor should be here on this day. 


Last, last point. How 'bout them Bills on Saturday? That was just a huge game and it was a huge win. Congratulations. We've also used the playoff games to test a reopening strategy using testing. We did 7,800 tests before the game. Only 1.4 percent positive. So, it was a great game, it was a great result, and I'll tell you what was very beautiful. Not just the victory, but afterwards the Buffalo Bills fans donated to Lamar Jackson's favorite charity after an in-game concussion. What a beautiful gesture by the people of Buffalo, the Buffalo fans. And that's what I mean when we talk about New York loving, right. We're New York tough. Yeah. But tough is not just tough. You know, that's what people think about New Yorkers. It's smart, it's united, it's declined, and it's loving. And that was Buffalo Bills fans being loving, and I appreciate it.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office