January 11, 2022
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces #VaxForKids Campaign to Increase Vaccination Rates among Children Five and Older

Video, Audio, Photos, & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces #VaxForKids Campaign to Increase Vaccination Rates among Children Five and Older

New Program Urging Pediatricians, Parents, and Guardians to Ensure Children Five and Older Get Vaccinated and Keep Up With All Recommended Vaccine Doses 

Multi-Pronged Marketing Effort Includes Television and Digital Media to Reach Parents and Guardians 

Follows Booster Dose Eligibility for Adolescents 12 and Older and Additional Dose Eligibility for Children 5 - 11 With Certain Immunocompromising Conditions 

New York Parents and Guardians Can Learn More and Schedule Their Child's Free Vaccine Today: ny.gov/VaxForKids 

Governor Announces 7.6 Million Tests Delivered to Schools Across State - More to Come

Governor Hochul: "Cases are slowing down. The rate of increase is slowing down, but they're still high and we are not at the end. But I want to say that this is a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of hope in a time when we desperately need that."

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a new campaign to increase vaccination rates among children five and older - urging pediatricians, parents, and guardians to help children get vaccinated and keep up with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses.

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

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

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

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. First of all, at the outset, I want to say I join all of New York in mourning as we think about the lives that were lost so senselessly just a couple of days ago here in the city and a place known as the Bronx. And it's an incredible neighborhood, I had a chance to go there and meet with the victims' families. It was painful to watch, but I was so proud of the way that the community came together and we're going to continue to come together for them. Every elected official, every level of government, committed to ensuring that they have what they need to resume their lives and to have all the services they need going forward.

That is why I've put in my budget a victims compensation fund, but we're also looking for an emergency appropriation at this time, early on, to make sure that they have the resources, not just the temporary services that they're receiving from the city, which are great, and other organizations like the Red Cross, but also longer term, what happens to these families. And that is a concern to all of us, to let them know that they will never be forgotten by any of us. And again, we mourn those we lost and our hearts go out to everyone in the community.

I am joined today by Commissioner Jackie Bray, the Commissioner of Homeland Security, as well as Dr. Mary Bassett, who'll be zooming in from far, far, far away, and I'll tell you where she is in a couple of minutes.

But first of all, I wanted to give our numbers and to let you know what we're looking at. We are continuing to activate and deploy all the resources we've identified and have been identifying for months now as part of our winter surge 2.0. Vaccinations, boosters, testing all widely available. And so the main objective, as you all know, is to make sure that our hospitals do not become overrun. And we'll talk about what we're doing with that, but let's look at the numbers.

Yes, that is actually going downward. 48,686 positive cases yesterday. Every one is one to many, and I look forward to the day when that plummets even more so, but right now we have an 18 percent, 18.6 percent statewide positivity - you can watch the trend line right here. And that's our positive. The seven day average is a little bit higher lagging behind, but looks like we might be cresting over that peak.

Continuing, cases are slowing down. The rate of increase is slowing down, but they're still high. They're still high, but we are not at the end, but I want to say that this is, to me, a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of hope in a time when we desperately need that.

Let's look at the cases by region though, because as we've seen throughout this entire pandemic, there are areas that lag behind others. New York City is starting to plateau even more so right now, the seven-day average reflects that, but take a look at the other numbers. You still see increases on the Southern Tier, the Capital Region, Western New York, a little bit of a dip there. So, these are areas of concern for us, and I'll be talking about, especially what that looks like and why we're taking some steps to address that as well. But, as far as New York City, that has been plateauing in a sense that we hope will continue then start dropping quickly.

We had 12,540 New Yorkers hospitalized yesterday, though, and we lost 160 of our fellow citizens here in the great state of New York. And that is a sad number to have to report every day. It's a sad number to have to report, but hospitalizations, as we've seen from beginning, continue to lag behind where the cases are. People don't get the case and end up in the hospital the next day. These are individuals that take a little bit of time, and if they can't resolve at home or through a doctor's care, then they end up in the hospital. So those numbers are continuing to go up, but the rate of increase is slowing. So hospitalizations continue to grow, but the rate of increase is slowing and to us that is very encouraging. It's just a constant reminder, you know, hospitalizations are everything to us. That is still a very high number of people in the hospital and that's what we're going to talk about in a couple of minutes.

We want to make sure that people see that this trend - these are COVID-19 patients hospitalized per one hundred thousand. It is still putting too much stress on our hospitals. I showed you a couple of days ago, the variance in individuals in upstate and downstate hospitals that continues to exist. Look at the numbers here and, you know, New York City, high numbers as well as Long Island, but managed better here downstate just because they had the volume, they have more hospitals, they can do more transfers. They have more options, they can share resources. And that's exactly what we've been asking them to do.

Upstate the numbers are continuing to go up, without a doubt. So we think that upstate is about two weeks behind downstate. We don't expect it to be any different trend in that. It'd be nice if that broke earlier, but we don't see that right now. And we'll talk about what exactly this looks like.

We talked about the cases that are actually truly admitted for COVID symptoms. And overall, let's look at the overall, the top line. We're still holding the line on the number of people in the hospital, you know, pre-Omicron it was about 27,000. Right now it's 27,000. So hospital volume is still about the same. So, we have not seen a spike in that, but if you see statewide, we can see that about half of them are COVID, 43 percent are COVID. And in some parts of the state, including statewide here, 57 percent are non-COVID patients. So, this is a differential I wanted to make sure we understood and saw what this really means. So, diving deeper into these numbers has really been important for us to manage.

It does not mean that these are empty beds. This is still a very high number of people in hospitals who need constant care, who need nurses, who need doctors. We need people to take care of them. So, but just to make sure that we have an, an expectation of what's going on with COVID cases, testing positive, but are not in the hospital because of those positive numbers.

That doesn't mean that everybody doesn't need help and that is still a tremendous stress. If you subtracted out all the COVID patients, obviously our hospitals would not be in trouble at all. We're not at that point, we're still looking at a situation that we're addressing very seriously.

We also talk about, as I mentioned, the variation statewide and the percent that are have are admitted due to COVID or non-COVID and an extraordinary variance here from 42 percent statewide, 49 percent in New York City, are people not admitted due to COVID reasons. They just happen to test positive while they're there - only 26 percent of those in Central New York and Capital Region, 24. The concern is these numbers are going to probably shift in parallel very shortly. So, here we go. New York City has the highest and overall 36 percent of statewide admissions were asymptomatic for COVID.

We've said all along this variant is less severe, highly, highly contagious. And that is born out since we first started talking about this. Our first case arrived here, I believe on December 2nd, when I stood with the then-mayor of New York.

So, hospital capacity is a concern of ours because what's happening is we have regions where vaccination rates are not what they should be, infection rates are going up and the hospital systems are overtaxed. And what you see in red here, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley, these are areas we've identified overwhelmed hospitals.

Now, we've talked about how we used our emergency powers to cease elective surgeries in the areas where anywhere the hospital fell below 10 percent capacity. That's what we did. Sometimes it was 30, 32, 35, dropped down to 21, but what we see now is that we have to take another shift because we have to create regional infrastructure, regional capacity. And the way we can do that is to temporarily cease elective surgeries, not just in the hospitals that are below 10 percent, but in the neighboring hospital, because I have to have the ability to transfer people to other hospitals when the hospital that they present themselves at. That is why we've taken this, this step of regional approach to dealing with hospital capacity, because for the first time we're seeing this confluence of factors, people getting very sick people, not having adequate hospital space. And that's why we're going to regionalize this and make sure that when anyone goes to a hospital, they have the capacity they need.

So, this is only going to be for two weeks. We assess this ongoing. These are not long-term strategies. I want everything to be short-term so it gives us the flexibility to adapt and adjust. And again, we do not want to have overwhelmed hospitals because if you end up at a hospital because you were in a car accident or a heart attack, you still need a bed as much as anybody. And we want to make sure that that's available for everyone as well.

So these are the areas we've identified as needing that expert, constant communication with the hospital leaders in those areas, they know what we're doing. We told them in advance, we gave them time to prepare. And that's what this is all about, working with our local partners.

Also, I mentioned downstate, upstate a little bit of a difference here. Downstate we've done very well in terms of capacity. Again, there's so many more hospitals that are available and I do want to thank our healthcare workers. Once again, always praised in the past. We had to make sure that we do not forget to thank them. They are exhausted. I spoke about what they're going through in my State of the State address just less than a week ago. We know what they're going through, but also the hospitals themselves. I want to thank the leaders of hospitals like Northwell, Montefiore, NYU and NYU Presbyterians as well as Mount Sinai.

They answered our call for help. I said, we need more help with capacity. Can you take patients? Some of our overtaxed hospitals in the region and they have stepped up and I want to give them a special recognition for what they're doing to help manage this crisis. It's the collaboration, which is incredible and we should not take for granted.

So, the other way we can help our hospitals, I've mentioned this before, but let's put an exclamation point on this, please don't go to the emergency room to get a test. 20 percent of people at an ER, 20 percent. When I ask a question what's happening at the ERs, we now research, we ask questions. We press. 20 percent are there simply to get a test. So we've deployed testing vans in the parking lot, so we can intercept them before they ended up going to the hospital and making our overworked emergency room teams have to deal with something that does not require admission. And we have a lot of locations. There's 2,000 locations across the state to get tests. So, please do not go to an emergency room and we'll hear more about how we're deploying resources when I turn it over to the commissioner in a couple minutes.

Vaccination update. Okay. Now what we're doing, we're trying to get people to get that second dose. Great number, probably nation leading in terms of people getting the one dose. Why aren't you getting the second dose? I keep asking this question. What are you waiting for? You overcame whatever objections you may have had, you got that first dose. That's great. With this variant, it does not have the effect to protect you. You have to get that second dose. You have to get boosted. So, I'm going to keep pressing on those numbers as well.

What have we done? We've sent over 763,000 text reminders. We sent out 2.4 million robocall reminders. So, please don't block us, it's us because we care about you, we want to make sure you're doing the right thing. And we actually had some very significant progress in getting the 12 to 17 year olds vaccinated. Since the school year started, you can see the numbers there. In September, we made it really made a push. And now we have, 77 percent have had their first dose. Moms and dads make sure they get that second dose. And we have 67 percent already completed so that those numbers should continue to improve as well.

This is the armor we need to wrap our children in as they go off to school and go off to play with their friends and engage in afterschool activities and sports. So, we've been talking about this for a long time, but I want to make sure you have a snapshot of what we're doing.

Part of this was to make sure that when kids went back to school after this vacation, that they had plenty of opportunities to be vaxed for school, 235 vax sites statewide over a 12 week period. TV, digital ads, you can see some of the ads we put out there, some of the visits we've made, some of the efforts. So this has been ongoing, it's been sustained. And we also have, you know, activities, free rides to - we've offered all sorts of promotions, a free ride to SUNY and CUNY, that was incredible. Ski packages, the Rockettes, we've been trying to find creative ways to get people and the numbers have been going up. 

So we need to continue getting more people. So this is so important because as you heard from Dr. Bassett on Friday, we are concerned about the rise in pediatric hospitalizations. One important finding though, and I say this every time, and I'm going to keep saying it because it's that important. 91 percent, 91 percent of 5 to 11 year olds newly admitted to hospitals are unvaccinated. Doesn't have to be that way. Unnecessary, preventable. And that's what we're going to keep talking about is how to make sure that we get our kids protected. So today we're launching a new Vax for Kids initiative campaign, and you can see Dr. Bassett there should be starring in a new ad, encouraging parents and guardians to get their kids vaccinated. 

It's safe, it's free. And it protects even the younger siblings who are not eligible. This is important. Get the older siblings vaccinated so the children who are not eligible yet, five and under, are protected as well. And so we're going to show you an ad right now and you'll see what we're up to.  

Ad [Dr. Bassett]: Hi, I'm Dr. Mary Bassett. As the state's health commissioner, a medical doctor, mother, grandmother, I urge parents to vaccinate their five to 11 year olds against COVID-19 as soon as possible. We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of children sick and hospitalized due to the Omicron. Vaccination is simply the best way to protect them. For decades, vaccines have kept our children safe from dangerous and deadly infections. They are one of the greatest public health success stories. Schedule your child's free vaccine or contact their healthcare provider today. And please don't forget to wear a mask. Learn more at ny.gov/vaxforkids.  

Governor Hochul: Okay, you'll see that all over. We're going to continue, different ways, through social media and television ads, to make sure that we have the message out there. The message is out there. I just want to take a moment, first of all, as we've seen what's been happening in other parts of our nation with respect to schools. I am so proud of our teachers here in the state of New York. 

It's been so hard on them. They struggled through remote learning. They made all kinds of adjustments, their own family lives, having to deal with COVID themselves. And I want to thank them for showing up because they care so deeply about the children that are entrusted to their care, they showed up. We gave them the resources and the confidence they needed by getting out all those test kits in advance, and our test to stay program and getting them literally in the hands of schools so they can make sure that they're sent home if there is a positive case. And they all put our children first, and I just want to give a shout out to our teachers and we don't take them for granted. We do not take them for granted.  

So that gets us to how we're going to get more tests to schools and I'll give the opportunity for the commissioner to talk about this, but we love those planes coming in, 7.68 million tests to schools so far. That is extraordinary. This is a goal we set in just a few weeks ago. It's just, it's hard to believe it was just a few weeks ago. We want to make sure that all the schools are ready for children to come back, over 3 million to New York City schools, 4.6 million to schools outside, and you would not believe the effort involved. The supply chain efforts, simply from scouring the country to find where we can get more tests from, putting in the orders, getting them delivered, getting them out there. It is incredible, what's been going on here and I want to thank everybody who's been involved with it and we have those tests going out. 

We have more going out to private schools this week as well. So, nursing homes, we're going to talk about nursing homes. I told you that we were concerned about our nursing home patients. We're starting to see an increase in cases going through our nursing homes. And again, these are vulnerable individuals, many with comorbidities, underlying health conditions. 

So we made a commitment and we've got out 952,000 tests, and 1.2 million masks. We want to get those in place before our requirement that people should have a negative test before they can walk in and visit. And that's an important way we're going to protect people. So we want to get those in place, and asking people to replace their homegrown favorite mask with a surgical mask, so we have them available at all of the locations as well. 

So they have to prove a negative test within 24 hours of visiting or do it right on site. So, let me give, turn it over to the commissioner right now for her thoughts on where we are. 

Commissioner Bray: Thank you Governor. So, as the governor said, testing has been a really important priority of ours. We have ordered 49 million over the counter tests. We have distributed, we've received 13 million, we've distributed all of those. Another half a million are going out today. We want to be really clear that schools are our top priority for access to these over the counter tests. We've got 3 million to New York City schools to date, another million going out at least this week. 

Over two thirds of all the tests that the New York City schools have distributed have come from the state. We've got 4.6 plus million out to schools in the rest of the state, and those will be weekly deliveries. We will continue weekly deliveries until our schools are in the clear. 

For our nursing homes, as the governor said, nearly a million tests have gone out as of the end of the day yesterday, along with over a million masks that will support the testing of visitors. And again, those will be regular deliveries to our nursing homes and to other congregate settings. In addition, we have 21 state testing sites that are open across the state. We have four more county-runs sites that the state is supporting with staffing.  

Those are in Dutchess, Broome, Oswego, and Oneida counties. We've got 11 MTA sites, will be open and testing people and testing commuters by the end of the day tomorrow, nine are open today, two more tomorrow. And last but not least as the governor said, when we identified the problem that folks were seeking tests in the emergency room we realized that we could help relieve that pressure. We'll have at least 10 mobile vans outside of New York City, New York City has several dozen additional right outside those emergency departments that are seeing the largest crunch, by the end of this week to help relieve some of that pressure. 

And each week more tests are coming and we'll get each week more tests out to folks that need them.  

Governor Hochul: Thank you, Commissioner, and for all you do, and please give our gratitude to your team as well. So we talked about tests, how many tests we did. This is incredible. A record breaking 425,782 tests were performed on the 7th of January. 

Just so you know, during this Thanksgiving period, we did 182,000 and we thought that was high at the time. So look at - this was all part of our effort to make sure we had tests available, probably more than other states are able to get their hands on because we're very aggressive about this. But also this number, you know, going upwards of half a million tests in one day does not include, does not include all the home tests that people are doing. Does not include tests that are being offered at other facilities. 

These are all just ones that have been tested in labs that we operate. So, so this is only a snapshot of it, but it is still incredible. We have more tests per a hundred thousand than any other big state, according to the CDC, and that's something we're proud of here. And just as you started, I showed at the outset, this virus is changing. 

First of all, we knew the characteristics early on were not as severe in terms of health outcomes, but we also knew it spread quickly and it's very contagious. That's why testing was so important. So people can find out if they're negative or positive, you're positive and you stay home and you stop spreading to others. 

If you're positive, you also know that you need to take care of yourself and rest and get better. And if you're negative, you can go on with your normal activities wearing a mask. So that's important for us to know, but I wanted to talk to Dr. Bassett about where we are, and also some adjustments we're going to make at this time. 

Dr. Bassett, if you're willing to join us. And Dr. Bassett is in a place I'm a little bit familiar with. It's about zero degrees, zero up in Buffalo today. Okay. You're there. And I did have to teach her some of the local customs - that this time of year, you don't say hello to anybody. What do you say, Dr. Bassett? You don't say hello, you say 

Dr. Bassett: Go Bills! 

Governor Hochul: Go Bills, you say go Bills. So I just wanted to make her feel comfortable. She's doing great, winning the hearts and minds, and I thank her, she's such an extraordinary partner to have at my side as we go through this. So Dr. Bassett, we're looking at some adjustments related to contact tracing, why don't you give us a little background on what that's all about. 

Dr. Bassett: That's right, and greetings it's six degrees here. Yesterday I was in Rochester where the hospital leadership expressed a lot of gratitude for the mobile units that are helping the testings outside of the emergency departments. 

So I'm talking today about contact tracing and the fact that we are changing our approach to contact tracing because of the winter surge. As everyone knows, the numbers of people who've tested positive has been setting records across our state, across the nation, around the world. Even with the welcome numbers today, we are up four-fold higher than we were in terms of the number of positive tests back in the beginning of December. Omicron is very contagious and has a very short incubation period. And as we've been discussing today, many more people are being tested. So the result is a very large number of people who have tested positive, a very short window for intervention to disrupt transmission, which is the purpose of contact tracing and brake transmission chains. 

So for all of these reasons, we've been talking with local and county health departments about how we need to leave more flexibility for what happens when someone tests positive, or has been exposed to someone who tested positive, and we're moving to more self-management when a person has either tested positive or been exposed to someone who tested positive, and less active outreach by departments. Our guidance remains aligned with the CDC, the reasons for this are first that it will help state and local health department staff focus on where we can make the biggest difference - that's in testing and vaccination. We will be providing very clear guidance for the public and for employers.  

We will be launching a website tomorrow. The website will be ny.gov/isolation or ny.gov/quarantine, and on it we will have attestations that can be used by people who have either been quarantined or isolated for their employers. We're going live with this change on Wednesday morning, and we'll be providing question and answer information, frequently asked questions.  

The big change for New Yorkers is that if you test positive, you should no longer expect a call from your health department. You should instead follow the isolation and quarantine guidance that will be made public tomorrow and go to our website to get more information on the isolation and quarantine. Things that you need to do to protect yourself, to avoid transmitting to others and to stay healthy.

So again, these will all be available tomorrow morning. And back to you, Governor. Thank you.

Governor Hochul: Thank you, Commissioner, and bundle up. So it was great to hear that, just to reinforce that based on CDC guidance, we are going to be allowing counties to decide if they want to contact trace. We'll leave that optional for them. It's not a requirement. It's just saying that they're not obligated to do it anymore. Should they decide to continue, they're more than welcome to, but this is in response to their requests. Given that we have 12,000 new cases a day, it is almost impossible to do contact trace in the way we have been in the past.

And people, everybody knows somebody who's had it, themselves, close family, friends. And so it spreads throughout the community in a way that it doesn't make sense to have the resources of the local public health departments - who'd rather be giving out vaccinations and testing - so they can move on to other responsibilities.

So I just wanted to say, wrap it up. You know, it was a good trend at the beginning of this conversation. I just want to keep you posted on what we're up to and we have the tools, the vaccination, the boosters, wearing the better masks. If you're not feeling well, please stay home, watch some football, watch whatever you want to watch, but just be safe - we're asking all New Yorkers.

We're getting through this. We are absolutely getting through this. It feels good to not see that upward spike that just dominated all of our slides for such a long time. But this is a very positive trend that we're seeing. And I look forward to, you know, to let the public know when we can start rolling back position - you know mandates and requirements that were put in place. All in anticipation of this, all to protect people and we know that those efforts work. So thank you very much.

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