January 21, 2022
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Tours Brookhaven National Laboratory and Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress Combating COVID-19

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Tours Brookhaven National Laboratory and Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress Combating COVID-19

Governor Hochul: “For the first time, since December 20th, we are in the single digits again.”

Earlier today, after Governor Kathy Hochul toured the Brookhaven National Laboratory and updated New Yorkers on state's progress combating COVID-19.

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 here.

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

Good morning. Good morning. It is great to back here. People often wonder what a lieutenant governor does. I got to hangout of places like this anytime we just want - my curiosity was always so peaked. I remember being asked to speak to a national gathering of people on synchrotron light sources, like, okay, what is that? So, I came out here and this is where it all happens in the rest of the world is watching what we do right here at this incredible national lab and it is a national lab. Not every state can lay claim to having a laboratory like this that, as you heard from our previous speakers, draws people from around the world to come here to innovate and to help find solutions to the challenges we face, particularly in healthcare.

And now more than ever, we have needed the partnership, the synergy created by Stony Brook and Brookhaven as we try to work to find solutions to getting out of this pandemic. And so I came here six months into the pandemic and watched the incredible work that was being done, the microscopes, and seeing how the analysis of proteins to try and actually figure out what was going on here and now to come back and see that our state investments, a number of years ago, in these microscopes has paid dividends in that companies and pharmaceuticals are coming here to test and to research and find is there yes, another generation of vaccines and treatments that can be first thought of by brilliant people here.

So that's my way of saying, I'm glad to be back. And I'm glad we have Brookhaven here and Doon Gibbs. You been an incredible leader. We've worked closely through the REDCs as well, making sure that we make smart decisions with their economic development dollars and you've been incredible with that as well. Also, we have here Kevin Law, who will soon be my, once he gets through the Senate, Kevin don't screw up between now and then. As they say, keep your nose clean. I look forward to you be not just a voice for Long Island, as you were as for many years as the head of LIA where I spoke this morning, but also the way you champion the business community, but the fitting the right formula there so we can support labor and support business at the same time.

I want to thank Kevin Law for his willingness to be the Chair of Empire State Development. And as you know, I'm very fond of my SUNY institutions. I am so energized at the prospects of what it's going to be when we unleash the full power of Stony Brook. And that starts with my confidence in its leadership and President McInnis, you have just done an incredible job of inspiring that confidence in me, but all across our nation, people know that when we do hoist up the flag and call you an official flagship part of our institution, that we do that with tremendous pride.

So thank you for all you do, but also the innovative research that is occurring right here because of the partnership that we have. So I don't take that for granted. I think it's just absolutely extraordinary. Also a proud to have people like Sean McSweeney, who we've walked through and talked about this for a long time - many visits. And John Hill, our Deputy Associate Director. And also our elected officials are important. Assembly Member Julio, I want to thank you for first of all, being willing to run for office, it's not always easy. And I want to thank you for your contributions as well.

So I want to just talk about what has been going on here, how exciting this is, but also to talk about where we're going with this pandemic. The reason I want to do my update on the pandemic right here is because I believe that its places like this where we'll find the answers so no longer we’ll be paralyzed the way we were back in March of 2020 and for months and now years beyond - where we were brought to our knees, because we did not even have treatments or vaccines.

And Stony Brook working with Brookhaven have been at the forefront of the research that has helped us be what we are today. We have life-saving vaccines, but always asking the question, what's next? What's next on the horizon? Is there a way to analyze proteins in a different way, and attack them so we are prepared should this happen again? We've had the warnings. We now know that we have to be proactive in being anticipatory of what could happen in the future with respect to this pandemic.

So, it's great to be here. I will also I'll give an update on where we are in our numbers. And thank you again, I want to thank all the research that's being done here at Brookhaven, right here on long island. Yes, if you look closely at that, that's a model of all the proteins right? That's about as basic as I can say, John. Those red things are proteins. Don't ask me any more than that. Okay, we're done with that part. That's my knowledge - red is - they look kind of like chicken wings. I'm from Buffalo, so everything looks like a chicken wing.

But really, I was here to launch an electron ion Collider with Senator Schumer. That is going to be transformative and again, we continue to draw people from around the world right here. And I'm very excited about what we're seeing. You’ve see me here in the past and this is one of my frequent stops. But, here's a trend that you do not have to be a Brookhaven scientist to see, look at this.

The trend is heading in the right direction. The seven-day average cases is going down. Statewide, we are at 28,296. That's a down from 90,000 since January 7th in the same month, we were at 90,000 new cases. That's a 66.6% drop in two weeks. We have been waiting for this moment. We are finally trending the direction we want to go down, and that is downward. That's where I want to hit those numbers until we can get back to what you see, back just November. It seems like an eternity go, its just November 26 when the World Health Organization actually gave a name to Omicron.

And that is the exact day that I put forth an executive order to allow me to have emergency powers should I need to execute them so we can amass supplies and PPE as well as the testing kits, which we now have a record number of. So that's extraordinary. Statewide testing is still going on. Some days we're at 300,000. We're at almost 300,000 right now. Let's look at Long Island while we're here, though.

We have about 3,500 cases on Long Island. We hit a peak of 14,000 on December 31st. So what a drop from 14,000 to 3,500, a 75% drop right here on Long Island. So our positivity is going down. Our peak was January 2nd, 23% positivity. And that was what we had actually predicted when we saw people not changing their behavior for Thanksgiving, despite all of our warning, they gathered over the holidays and look at that peak the week after the Christmas holidays.

So for the first time, since December 20th, we are - for the first time in the single digits again. And that is something we're very excited about. Down below 10%. Long Island still a little bit higher, about 11%, but down from 27%. So we've dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks, but a lagging indicator is deaths and we still had 154 people we lost - lost their lives. And that is tragic, still losing people right here on Long Island.

So this is still to be taken very seriously. We are not letting our foot off the pedal until we can declare that we are in a place where we can manage without all the restrictions we put in place. But until then we do believe that everything we're doing, continuing to keep socially distant, getting vaccinated, and wearing the mask is making a big difference.

But our hospitalizations are down. That is what has been concerning. That's what kept me up at night, was whether or not we would have the capacity to handle the high number of hospitalizations. We had 12,000, almost 13,000 cases, just January 12th. And now we're down to 1100. So by region, you can see what's going on here.

Long Island hit a very high number. That's the yellow one at the top there. And they've been trending downward as well. And again, there's a lag of about two weeks for upstate New York. We're continuing to monitor upstate. We do have a lot of overwhelmed hospitals there, and we need to keep addressing that and deploying people.

So just looking state wide. Long Island, New York City, looking good. Mid-Hudson, these are all the numbers where there's been a change in the last seven days. Look at that, down 24% in the seven days here on Long Island. All the areas are trending downward except for a few. The Southern tier has an increase, central New York, and the North County. So we're watching those very closely. Adjusting hospitalizations, many of them still cannot do elective surgeries because we need that capacity. So, we're doing well, overall, statewide.

And another issue that we raised a couple of weeks ago is asking the question: is everybody who is in the hospital for COVID as we're identifying is in there for COVID, did they go to the hospital because they were so sick with COVID they need to be in the hospital? Or did they go there for another purpose? You know, maybe they had a heart attack, or were in a car accident, something happened? And they all get tested and they happen to be tested positive for COVID without the symptoms. So the question was, how severe is this?

And that's why we were the first state to identify that there should be a separate way of calculating. So, right now about 43% of COVID patients are admitted for non-COVID reasons. They're just in the hospital because of that. So that is another indicator that yes, people are hospitalized with it, there's as you can see the, the lower number upstate, New York it's much higher. But here on Long Island, about 58% of the people are admitted because of COVID, the rest are lower. So that's a trend we're watching as well.

I do want to announce today that we're deploying more people to nursing homes. Why nursing homes? We saw the incredible vulnerability of our nursing homes when the original COVID-19 hit, it just went through nursing homes like wildfire, and we have kept a close eye on our nursing homes to make sure that they had plenty of test kits. We deployed test kits, vaccinations required of people who work there, booster shots. And now we're realizing that the staff are exhausted. They've been overworked. And we literally have to send in the National Guard to help in a number of our nursing homes, even in New York City who need help, they need some relief. So we already had about 120 medically trained National Guard members in there. Now we're deploying 88 nonmedical, because we just need the extra set of hands in our nursing homes to give out support to our frontline staff. That's starting very shortly. And we're going to rolling that out again, upstate as well. It's, again, just another reminder that this is not over.

We still have stressed out, overworked healthcare workers who are on the front lines. They've been there since March of 2020, always waiting for that silver lining. And it just has not been coming. So we're adding some extra help. And just to amplify that, when I was trying to assess what resources I could deploy into hospitals, nursing homes, places to administer vaccines. I said, why not sending the National Guard? Could send them in for everything. But I realized that many of them were not medically trained. So literally for the first time ever, we requiring the National Guard to be trained, to be able to handle medical cases, administer vaccines, and our first class is going to graduate from that training in a matter of a couple of weeks. So I'm excited about that. That is a new shift. So even if it's a flooding situation or hurricane where you need people at medical hubs, our National Guard will literally be able to be there to support the MTs and the first responders. So we're excited about that as well.

I mentioned tests a couple of times. We have already secured 73 million tests. This was talked about by the President. We are all over this early on, again, November 26th, started seeing what was happening in South Africa and other countries realizing that this could get wildly out of control on short time. So we've already distributed over 16 million tests, 10 million to our schools. Why to our schools? Because I said after the winter break, when kids all go back after being in a fairly safe environment in school, but now they've been with their families and older siblings coming back from college, and aunts and uncles, we could be in trouble in our schools. So we ensure that every school district, private and public, had the tests to be able to send home with students so they can literally have them for the parents to test them.

If someone in a classroom test positive, they don't all have to isolate for 10 days anymore. Go home the next day, test again, come back if you're negative, stay home, if you're positive. So it's been part of our effort to keep our children in schools, because we saw how devastating the effect of having them work remotely for such a long time was, and that's an issue we're addressing in our budget as well.

So we're getting those out to childcare centers. All the counties have been grateful. I talked to our county executive, Steve Bellone, about getting more to them as well. So we've been very much hands-on and sharing that there were no shortages of tests available for people in the State of New York. Vaccines, we're still trying to get those numbers up, focusing on our kids. We need more children in that five-to-11 year old age group. You can see the numbers upward, but they kind of stabilize. I want to see those much, much higher. So please, parents, if you've not done this, there's still plenty of time. And we're continuing to focus on our vax-to-school efforts, vax-to-school.

Let's keep the kids in school. And so, now we're announcing new pop-ups, places where parents, yes, take your kids, anybody in your family. And these are sites all over, that we're amplifying this in addition to all the testing and vaccination sites that we already have. So that is what we're doing. Boosters, trying to get more up there. Long Island has about a large number of people boosted, but also, statewide, we're at about 5.5 million. There is no reason that you are not boosted. And this Omicron variant showed us that those who are vaccinated and boosted had a much lower chance of being hospitalized. Yes. A lot of people got it. We all know the stories. My sister, my son right now, they weren't with me. They lived somewhere else, but they're that sick. They're just going to be home for a few days. And otherwise the hospitals with people with COVID are the ones filled with ones, particularly our kids, 91% of children, hospitalized, are children who are not vaccine and that's entirely preventable.

So let's remind people that this is still something we have control of. We did not have this a year ago. This was not wildly available. If you remember this time, we were just talking about getting them into essential workers and nursing homes and everyone saying, “When am I finally going to get my availability of the vaccine?” They are plentiful. There are no excuses. And the boosters give you that extra suit of armor around. So let's wrap up. Trending in the right direction. We're not through the surge yet, but boy, those numbers look good. And I'm really excited.

Again, I want to thank everyone here. Just put a spotlight, or a Synchrotron light source on the work that's being done right here, because you were at the forefront, the individuals, the smartest people on the planet who gather here at Brookhaven. You've made a difference and I want everyone to know that your research and development and working with our pharmaceutical companies, have been so instrumental in allowing people like myself to say, “We will get through this.” So I want to thank Brookhaven and Stonybrook and all of our partners in the medical research field for what we're doing and what you continue to do. So thank you everyone. And I appreciate you joining us today for our update.

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