Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 5.28 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 3.04 Percent
Statewide Positivity Rate is 3.62 Percent
41 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday
Governor Cuomo: "We have tremendous increases statewide here in Rochester in Monroe County that have been going up through the fall. We expected it. We knew it. We now have an added problem that we run into Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will be an added accelerant."
Cuomo: "We do more tests than any state in the nation, more tests pro rata than any state in the nation, so we just have more data to make decisions on and that's a welcome relief."
Cuomo: "The global experts have all basically been recommending the same thing to us now which is start to develop what they call a winter plan. We have been dealing with COVID in phases. We had a summer phase, we had a fall phase which we're in and we're going to move into a winter phase and the experts have advised us to prepare a plan for the winter and that's what we're going to be doing."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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, still morning, just a long morning. Pleasure to be with you all, to see you again. It's a pleasure to be in Rochester. I want to thank the Baber AME Church for their hospitality today and the Rochester Rise Up.
I also want to thank the National Guard who are here today to help us distribute turkeys. I want to thank the National Guard for everything they've done all year. They are just fantastic, what they've done all through this COVID situation. National Guard is always there when New Yorkers need them. The workforce for the New York State government is the National Guard, whether it's a snowstorm or Storm Irene or Storm Leigh or Superstorm Sandy or whatever it is, they are there so let's give them thanks this Thanksgiving season.
Today is day 270. It is also Thanksgiving Eve. The State is distributing 50,000 Turkeys statewide to people who are in need and less fortunate because there are many New Yorkers who are struggling on top of what's happened with the economy and on top of the fact that the federal government still hasn't approved financial subsidies for families who are struggling so we're doing everything that we can.
It is Thanksgiving eve and people are getting ready for tomorrow, people are starting to prepare their turkey, so we're going to do this in an expeditious way because I understand people have to get their turkey ready, I have to prepare my turkey and use my grandmother's hints in preparing the turkey so the turkey is not dry. She believed in the aluminum foil tent theory. You know the aluminum foil tent theory? Build a tent on top of the turkey with aluminum foil, keeps all the moisture in? Never worked. Turkey was always dry anyway, but then my grandmother didn't really take the complainers. Some say, oh, turkey's dry. That's why you have gravy. It's like a lubricant for dry turkey. Turkeys are dry. I'm not making turkey anyway.
Numbers today, positivity in what we call the micro-cluster zones, yellow, orange, red, 5.2. Statewide without the positivity, without the micro-cluster zones is about 3. Overall positivity with those zones, 3.6.
We did 173,000 tests. What does that mean? We do more tests than any state in the nation, more tests pro rata than any state in the nation, so we just have more data to make decisions on and that's a welcome relief. You know everybody has an opinion on COVID. We have facts that we deal with on COVID and that's the way to make decisions based on facts.
Forty-one people passed away. That number has been going up steadily again in this new phase and they're in our thoughts and prayers. Statewide hospitalizations has been going up steadily. It's up 126, 2,900. Number of people in ICU beds, number of intubations up.
We know what this means, right? The positivity rate goes up. That means you're going to see the hospitalization rate go up. That means you're going to see the intensive care unit number go up. That means you're going to see the intubation number go up. That means you're going to see the death rate number go up. That is the progression.
People get COVID, they're home for a few days, they get worse, they go to the hospital, they go to the ICU, they're intubated, and they pass away. So we know what these numbers mean. We've been here. We've seen this movie.
Why do health care officials say that we're now in a dangerous period with thanksgiving? Because two things. One, the COVID rates are already increasing.
You saw an increase today. You've been seeing an increase over the past few weeks. Now we said the COVID rate would increase over the fall because that's what was diagnosed.
All the experts said you get into the fall, what you're going to see is the weather gets colder, college students are going to be coming home, and college students will be coming home from other states, they'll be bringing the disease with them, there will be fewer outdoor gatherings because it's cold so people are going to be coming inside, and the COVID rate will be going up. They diagnosed that for the fall and that is exactly what we're seeing.
We have tremendous increases statewide here in Rochester in Monroe County that have been going up through the fall. We expected it. We knew it. We now have an added problem that we run into Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will be an added accelerant. Why? People travel, more social activity. The more social activity, the more the infection rate goes up. We know that. What was the point of the closedown? The point of the closedown was reduce the social activity, reduce the spread. What's the inverse of the closedown? Thanksgiving holiday. I'm going home to see my family and that's exactly what has been happening. The travel is way up. The airports are reporting travel that is way up and we're going to see an increase post-Thanksgiving. We expect that.
That is going to take a bad situation and make it worse because the numbers were already going up, we then have increased Thanksgiving travel that's going to be an additional accelerate. Those numbers are going to go up again. Those are the facts of where we are.
How much do the numbers go up over Thanksgiving? Nobody knows. It depends on how people perform. If you look at the facts we know, the increase in air travel, we expect there will be a significant rise. When do you see it? You'll see it about 10 days after Thanksgiving. Again, you get the virus there is a period where the virus is growing in your body and it can be seven to 10 days before you actually see the symptoms. You get sick and you move to a hospital and the hospitalization numbers go up but we expect that.
The global experts have all basically been recommending the same thing to us now which is start to develop what they call a winter plan. We have been dealing with COVID in phases. We had a summer phase, we had a fall phase which we're in and we're going to move into a winter phase and the experts have advised us to prepare a plan for the winter and that's what we're going to be doing.
To give you some aspects on the winter plan, December, January, February is what we're looking at. First thing we want to do as we're preparing to plan - prioritize highest infection rates with the highest hospitalization rates. What is the greatest fear during COVID? Greatest fear is you overwhelm the hospital system, that the infection rate goes up so high the hospitals can't keep up with the hospitalization rate. We're going to take a serious look at that hospitalization rate increase. We have an area in the state, Staten Island, where we have already opened a field hospital. I've been talking to governors across the nation. They are starting to open field hospitals again. Massachusetts is opening filed hospitals again. This is reminiscent of the bad old days when you had these emergency field hospitals that look liked something that you would see in a World War II movie because the hospitals were overwhelmed, so prioritize zones, orange, yellow, red, with hospitalization rate by the capacity in that local area because we don't want to overwhelm the hospitals.
Second in the preparation of the winter plan, we want schools open, K-8. Junior high, high school is different. K-8, the infection rate in K-8 is generally lower than the local community, so you want children in school because it's safer, not to mention they're getting an education, their parents can go to work, et cetera. So, how can we get schools open safely and keep them open safely with the amount of testing necessary to keep them open and safe?
Third, we have to move towards operationalizing the vaccine. Everyone talks about the vaccine like it's a silver bullet. God bless, it's great news that we have a vaccine. One caveat. You have to administer the vaccine, which is much easier said than done, I can tell you. so, we have to monitor Thanksgiving. Then we have to monitor what happened at Thanksgiving, where the increase is worse, and we expect it. We'll be developing a plan for the winter. Yellow, orange, red zones, adding the hospitalization factor and the hospitalization rate, and coming up with a plan to keep schools open, especially K to 8, where we can do it safely, and operationalizing a vaccine plan for the state.
The vaccine plan is not going to happen tomorrow. A lot of people say, "well, the COVID problem's over, we have a vaccine." Yes, we have a vaccine, but that doesn't mean the COVID problem is over. I guarantee you, it will be months and months before we distribute enough vaccine to actually solve the COVID problem. I've been speaking with governor's all across the country. I'm chairman of the National Governors Association, Democratic governors, Republican governors. The states are going to have to administer this vaccine program. It's going to be very hard. This afternoon I'm going to speak again with the Joe Biden COVID advisory team. And I'm going to be talking to them about just this. How hard it is for the states to actually administer the COVID vaccine program, and what states actually need to do. But, I can tell you it's going to be much harder than anticipated.
Think about this fact. Nine months, everyone across the country has been focused on one thing: doing COVID tests. Every hospital, every drug store, every doctor's office, it's been an all-hands-on-deck to administer COVID tests. A COVID test is relatively simple, right. Nasal swab, to the nose, that's a COVID test. With everyone doing everything they can, in nine months the nation administered 180 million COVID tests. Nationwide, 180. To do vaccinations, you have to do 330 million vaccinations. And you have to do them twice. Twice. If it took you nine months to do 180 million COVID tests, how long is it going to take you to do 330 million vaccinations? You do the math. But it's not an easy process at all.
The current vaccine plan that's on the table is going to have to be improved. First, the states are responsible for distribution, the states are going to need funding. The states are broke, to use a technical term. Washington never approved the state and local funding. They estimate that the cost to the states to distribute a vaccine — national guardspeople, trucks, vans, refrigeration, advertising, $8 billion. So far the federal government has provided $200 million.
Second, it's not like everyone is going to say "okay, here I am, give me the vaccine." Kaiser poll, which is a healthcare foundation, nonpolitical, 62 percent of the people said they were skeptical about the vaccine because they thought that the approval was politicized. 62 percent. Now we're going to set up a state panel that will affirm the federal approval to try to give people comfort. Btu just think about that number. 62 percent said they think the vaccine is political, politically approved. How many people are going to refuse to take the vaccine until you explain to them that it's actually safe?
Third, and this is a real problem, there have been no provisions to fund the distribution to Black, Brown, poor and rural communities. No public education effort, no outreach effort and no supplemental distribution effort. It's not going to be as easy as saying go to your local, national drug chain and you can get the vaccine. A lot of places don't have the same access to health care facilities. That's what caused the disparity in the death rate to begin with.
You want to hear something frightening, and something that should trouble everyone? The death rate from COVID was twice as high in the Black community than the white community. Two times more Blacks died than whites from COVID. One and a half times more Browns died from COVID than whites. Look at that disparity. Why? More Blacks, Brown and poor people had underlying health conditions, because there are health disparities in this nation. 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes, 1.4 times more likely to have hypertension, 1.3 times more likely to have an obesity issue, 3 times more likely to have asthma. Why? Because they don't have the same access to healthcare. And now we're going to go to that same healthcare apparatus to do the vaccinations, after you know that it is uneven and discriminatory in this nation? It makes no sense. There are just fewer healthcare private facilities in Black, Brown, poor and rural communities. That's why they have more underlying conditions. That's why you have twice the death rate in the Black community.
So you have to recognize the mistake and the injustice, especially when it comes to the vaccine. If you're going to prioritize the vaccine, shouldn't you be prioritizing it for the communities that have the higher death rate? Majority of Black zip codes, 67 percent more likely to have a shortage of primary care doctors. This is a social justice, and racial justice and economic justice issue. The NAACP, "any introduction of a vaccine plan devoid of the infrastructure we know is effective in the Black community reinforces the same incompetence that has affected so many thus far." Urban League, Mayor Marc Morial, "the current administration's plan is thoughtless, careless, and needs to be taken back to the drawing board." So, this vaccine is not tomorrow, and is not as easy as we think, and, it has to be done fairly and equitably, and it has to correct for the mistakes that we have made so far.
For today, the focus is Thanksgiving. There's a lot to be thankful for this year. We give thanks for the way New Yorkers have come together and the spirit of community that has managed this COVID-19 illness. New Yorkers have done an incredible job. That is not rhetorical. That's on the facts. We had the highest infection rate in the United States of America and now we have one of the lowest infection rates in the United States of America. Who did that? Who took us from the highest rate to one of the lowest? New Yorkers did it because it's all about the behavior and the actions of New Yorkers. What New Yorkers do determines infection rate in this state. Their actions, their discipline, their respect that [inaudible] rate next week. It's a pure function of social responsibility. We talked about community action, social action. This is it. What a community does is the infection rate in that community and New Yorkers have done an incredible job. You look at where we are today, New York has an infection rate of about 2.9 percent. The only states with a lower infection rate: Vermont, Hawaii and Maine. Now, Vermont, Hawaii and Maine - beautiful states, I've been to all three - less density, less urban, fewer cities. After us the entire United States has a higher rate. The entire United States has a higher rate. Wyoming 57 percent, South Dakota 43 percent. And by the way, that is without the density of New York and that's without the fact that we were at 50 percent at our height. They are now higher than we were at our height. How incredible is that? And that's all because New Yorkers are smart and we gave them the information and they acted intelligently. Added issue: Thanksgiving travel. If anyone is coming from another state into New York, they're coming from a higher infection rate place and they pose, by definition, more of a threat. Connecticut is at 5.4 percent; Massachusetts 2.97; Delaware 5.2; New Jersey has a higher percentage than we do. So, all the surrounding states are higher than we are, but I give thanks for the intelligence and the action of New Yorkers.
This Thanksgiving though we have to stay smart. We have to work together to keep the infection rate down through the Thanksgiving holiday and well, "I can be smart. I know what I have to lookout for." Oh, really? Twenty-four percent, according to the CDC, people who gave COVID to someone else never had symptoms. You don't have to have symptoms. It's not like you're going to walk into a person who's sneezing and coughing and is obviously sick, 24 percent never developed symptoms; 35 percent of the transmission is pre-symptomatic, which means you had COVID and you had no symptoms. "I'm going to be with my family. My family safe. My family would never infect me." They don't have to know. It's not that they have to be malicious or reckless. "My brother would never do that to me. My sister would never do that to me." They don't have to know because they don't have a symptom. That's why this disease is so insidious. Thirty-five percent never had a symptom, but yet they're going to spread the disease. You can't just assume because you have no symptoms that you're safe. That's why the advice here in New York is no more than 10 people. Celebrate, but celebrate with your household, meaning the people who you have had in your household - not inviting over uncle John and, Aunt Nancy, Aunt Marie. "Their part of my household." No, your household is who you are currently living with. This is not a political issue. Today this nation is so divided, more divided than it's ever been, and it's so divided politically. Everything is a political division. Every issue- this is now a political symbol. How did this become a political symbol? "Well, if you're a Democrat you wear this and if you're a Republican you don't wear this. If you're a Democrat you support this if you're Republican you know super with this." This is about public health. I don't care about your politics. I really don't care about your politics and you don't care about mine. I care about your health. I care about if we're overwhelming our hospital system. I care about how many people die. That's what I care about. Forget the politics. It's over. The election's over.
Even through the political lens, the CDC is Donald Trump's administration. Donald Trump's CDC says celebrate only with your household - that's Donald Trump. Joe Biden's COVID advisers say the exact same thing. So, even if you're in this political mindset, "I can't trust the other side. I can't trust Democrats. I can trust Republicans." They both agree on this issue to celebrate only with your household. They both agree. So, even in this hyper-political moment this is the one thing both sides agree on. And by the way, can you name one other thing that Donald Trump and Joe Biden agree on? One other thing? I can't. They both agree on this advice. So this is not a political fight. It's the one thing everybody agrees on and the one thing everybody agrees on is that, this is not a normal Thanksgiving. "Welll on Thanksgiving my uncle Joe always comes over." Yeah, I understand that. This is not a normal Thanksgiving. It wasn't a normal Labor Day. It wasn't a normal Memorial Day. It's not a normal Summer. It's not a normal anything - this is not a normal Thanksgiving, and to act like it's a normal Thanksgiving is to deny the reality of every health expert in the nation, Democrat or Republican. "Well, I know better." Then you know better than every public health expert on both sides of the aisle in the United States of America, so I don't know what to tell you, but I think that this is not a normal Thanksgiving. I think it's a special Thanksgiving and rather than the commercialized Thanksgiving, let's think about a spiritualized Thanksgiving, and let's think about what Thanksgiving really means as a matter of principle. We have a lot to be thankful for. I mentioned the National Guard; we have a lot to be thankful for the people we lost during COVID. The essential workers who showed up to keep us safe, who left their homes so everyone else could stay in the safety of their home. The bus drivers who showed up, the doctors who showed up, the nurses who showed up, the utility workers who showed up, many of whom died so other people could stay home. Think of how many thousands of families are celebrating Thanksgiving without a loved one this year. There are tens of thousands of families celebrating without a loved one. People who gave their life during COVID to help others -- that's something to be thankful for, and remember the less fortunate.
Everyone has to do their part, that's why we have this very attractive and pithy fashion statement mask, that I know you are all jealous of - I can see it on your face. Don't be a turkey. Wear a mask. You know New Yorkers, we cut to the chase, we say it as it is. Don't be a turkey. Wear a mask this Thanksgiving. Be smart. Let's get past this, let's get through the winter, get the vaccination done and then the end is in sight, but we're not there yet. They say, "Run through the tape". We have to finish it. Get through Thanksgiving, get through the holiday season, get through the winter, get vaccinated and then we'll get on with life. Don't be a turkey.