Governor Hochul: “Here in New York, we don't panic. We prepare. And I want to thank the incredible doctors and scientists for their effort because now we have the tools to be prepared and deal with whatever the future brings. And we have the tools to manage the virus in a way that has little impact on your daily life to protect you from COVID. Because as governor, my number one job has been, will always be, to keep people safe.”
Hochul: “I'm calling on New Yorkers once again, as we have many, many times: take the right precautions, and we can handle this. There's no need to be careless. We have the tools we need – treatment, tests, masks. But the best, most effective way to deal with this is getting the vaccine. It's coming, it’ll be available, so let's use it.”
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul updated New Yorkers on the CDC’s approval last night of an updated COVID-19 vaccine and urged New Yorkers to get the shot once it is available later this week. The 2023-24 vaccine, previously authorized by the federal Food and Drug Administration, is expected to be available at pharmacies and physicians’ offices, as well as other health care providers, throughout New York State in the coming days.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Well, let me say this at the outset: I know everyone wants to be done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us. And hospitalizations are rising. People have questions about new strains, new variants, what's this all about? And as we're approaching the fall season, we've seen a pattern when all respiratory illnesses start to creep up.
Here in New York, we don't panic. We prepare. And I want to thank the incredible doctors and scientists for their effort because now we have the tools to be prepared and deal with whatever the future brings. And we have the tools to manage the virus in a way that has little impact on your daily life to protect you from COVID. Because as governor, my number one job has been, will always be, to keep people safe. And I want to thank people like Dr. [James] McDonald who is one of the members of the team that I rely on for advice as we navigate the challenges that come upon us, whether it's a resurgence of new variants, whether it's dealing with ensuring that we have equity in our health care system, the challenges we faced together, and I want to thank him for his leadership in this space.
Without trying to trigger bad flashbacks, if you think back to March of 2020, our only recourse back then was to lock down, hide, surrender. The future was bleak. People were scared. People were feeling hopeless. But everything has changed. It has all changed.
We are in a very, very different place. By the end of this week, New Yorkers will be able to get a new vaccine based on the strains, the ability to attack the new strains of COVID. And that's what we're talking about here today, which is why I've asked Dr. McDonald to join us.
So, before I get to the new vaccine, let's talk about the cases. Let's talk about where we are. Let's talk about the fact that cases are up. Yes, statement of fact, cases are up. Let's put that in context. If you look at statewide where we've been, the average cases per 100,000, 14, almost 15. That's a seven-day average. And you can see here, late August, the numbers are starting to creep up.
Yes, that is a trend. That is what we have come to expect every fall. But that 14, almost 15 cases per 100,000, pales in comparison to the end of 2021 when we hit 300 cases per 100,000. The second half of 2022, with the virus we thought was under control, we were at about 50 per 100,000. So, look at this curve. I mean, this is 15. This is a number that puts it in perspective.
Let's check out the various regions. We always want to know what's happening in my part of the state, right? Well, Long Island and New York City are above the statewide average. A little confusing because we have 10 regions, but that bold red line is the state of New York. And yellow is Long Island, and the blue is New York City. So, you just see them trending a little bit above the statewide average. But look back to December of 2022, when we were introduced the month before to Omicron. Look at the spike. Look where Long Island and New York City were just less than a year ago.
So, these cases, though, don't really tell the whole story, and here's why: people aren't reporting anymore. Remember the time when you got your test in a doctor's office or one of those large stand-up shelters? I mean, there was different ways to get tested because the test was so rare. Now you walk in and buy it in a drugstore, you test at home. You test positive, you're staying home, you're letting your family know, letting your office know. You test negative, you just go on. So, no one's calling in and reporting the real numbers. So, that makes it harder to track and draw comparisons to the other days.
But what tells the real story are hospitalizations. You can't argue or dispute the numbers of people coming in, presenting themselves into an emergency room or a hospital, recommended by a doctor that they go there, because we can compare apples to apples in that situation. So, here's the hospitalization curve, 7-day average. Again, you look back to July of 2022, August of 2022 over on the left here, December, we had our spike, and now August, the end of last month, we're starting to see a rise. They've been ticking up since mid-July, but they're nowhere near their peak of what they had been at the end of last year and into January. So, look at the curve, it's still well below any other point in the second half of 2022.
Hospitalizations by region. Again, it's Long Island. Long Island, but it's the Mid-Hudson region, that sit a little bit above the statewide average. Southern Tier, Western New York, just a little bit below the statewide average.
So, let's talk about who's at risk. Who's presenting themselves to the hospitals? Who are we seeing? Well, the most consistent thing about hospitalizations, your risk is based on your age. 80 percent of hospitalizations are people 65 and older. And 88 percent of COVID deaths are people 65 and over. As someone who turned 65 a couple weeks ago, I'm not excited about these numbers, but I will be getting my vaccine very soon.
So, the good news is this should be reassuring to everyone. We know a lot more than we did about the virus two, three weeks ago, or two or three years ago. And we know how to spot it. We know how to treat it. We know how to lessen the impact, how to fight new strains and how to fight the new variants. That's the fight we're in right now.
And that's why this news is coming at a perfect time. My team and I just got off a call with the FDA, confirming that the COVID vaccine is on its way to New York. Some doses shipped last night. We expect many more later this week. The updated vaccine guards against the newer COVID strains because it was built off the Omicron XXB1.5 variant. That's what we're calling it now. It matches the new variants that are now dominant.
So, it's really a customized vaccine. It's offered by Pfizer and Moderna and we're waiting to find out what age groups the FDA and the CDC are recommending should get the shot. Sometimes they would say people at risk, people over 65. In this case, they literally recommended that everyone six months and older should get a shot. You only need one, no more double doses.
Again, they'll be starting here in New York on Friday. Doctor’s office, pharmacies, healthcare providers. You can make an appointment online, that's still available, just takes a couple minutes. And what I want to talk about is what's different about this vaccine and why should people get it? A couple of points.
First of all, it is literally a new vaccine. It is not a booster shot. It is not an enhancer. It is a new vaccine designed to attack the new variants. A booster is a vaccine you get the same one over and over and over just to build up your resiliency. This is a new vaccine built specifically to match these circulating strains. So, it doesn't matter if you've already been vaccinated. Take no comfort in that. Thank you for getting vaccinated in the past, but that is not protecting you today. You need to know that. You don't have the immunity built up over time. So as the virus evolves, this is where our scientists and researchers and companies have to get ahead of it. The virus evolves, so must our response.
So, here's the simple message, New Yorkers. Get the vaccine. That is the best way by far to protect yourself and those around you. And we're smart, we're resilient, we protect each other. We've done this since March of 2020. No reason to stop now. And don't think about just yourself because there's a lot of people affected.
And one thing I want to point out here, which is troubling. All across the country, hospitalizations are on the rise for babies. We're seeing more infants having to be taken care of in a hospital because they're so sick. Now for a young parent that is scary, it is heartbreaking, a lot of uncertainty. You do not want your baby, your young child, to have to go to the hospital.
So, don't wait on this. Six months is the age. Sounds young, but children get shots from birth. They can do it. I encourage everyone, don't let your baby be one that is in a cold, dark, scary place, unknown to them, scary for your child. Think about them and get them vaccinated. They can't protect themselves. They have no choice. They're counting on their parents to do the right thing.
But even for healthy adults, COVID is serious. You don't want to get it. And it could be the difference of just feeling kind of under the weather for a couple of days or being bedridden for a week or longer. So, you don't need to do that. It is not necessary. I've talked to so many people who've had COVID and because there was not a vaccine available for this latest strain, people felt really bad. So, but also for older New Yorkers and those with preexisting conditions, it's really important because, as I mentioned, the hospitalization rate is high.
So, I need younger adults to talk to their parents, encourage them, if their parents are over 65. Remind them that it's simple. Do it. And if you have underlying conditions, you really truly have to do this because you are also in a point of vulnerability. So, people don't realize this, but 70 percent of adults have at least one underlying condition. Regardless of your age, 70 percent of adults have at least one underlying condition that puts you at greater risk of contracting a serious case. So, it's better to be safe than sorry.
I do want to mention another vulnerable population, our family members, loved ones in nursing homes. And I'm reinforcing that nursing homes are required to make this vaccine available to their residents. They shouldn't have to go out, go online, try to figure it out. They shouldn't have to go out and leave the nursing home. It needs to be available and will be available in the nursing homes. And today my office is sending a letter to every nursing home in the state reminding them of that responsibility.
We also want to remind nursing homes of the responsibility to stockpile tests. We have sent thousands of test kits to schools, we're also making them available to nursing homes, but they need to stockpile masks – PPE - because the whole idea of dealing with this is to be preemptive. We get ahead of it, particularly when it comes to our nursing home population. So, every nursing home has to confirm to us, and we'll verify, that they have stocked up and if they need them, we have more from our stockpile. Same with schools. Two vulnerable populations: older residents of New York, younger residents of New York.
And 2.5 million children went back to school in New York last week. So, they're not outdoors, they're indoors, sharing a lot of confined space, alot of interaction with other children who are exposed at home. So, we know there's a vulnerability here as well. It's our job to make sure that every school district has what they need to continue safe in person learning because we're still dealing with the fallout of what happened when children were disconnected from their normal environment. The effect it had on them emotionally. The effect it had on them academically. And they're still far behind. So, I directed our team to make sure that all the schools are contacted. Who needs more tests? Who needs more masks? And we'll provide it. So, let's get them stocked up as we're getting these early warning signs of what could be getting worse. Let's prevent any school outbreaks.
And just another message on the available treatment. If you test positive and you want to avoid the longer-term consequences and, you know, a week or so feeling really bad, ask your doctor about Paxlovid. That is still available. It's at all the pharmacies, and it is still free regardless of your insurance. So, again, this is just like the vaccine. This is what we could have only dreamed about years ago. We were so desperate for a solution, a remedy. And now we have these treatments at our fingertips. But just to recap, this is not the bad old days. At all. We don't anticipate getting there. But shame on us if we don't see the warnings, take precautions, be ready, and know that this can spread very quickly.
I'm calling on New Yorkers once again, as we have many, many times. Take the right precautions, and we can handle this. There's no need to be careless. We have the tools we need – treatment, tests, masks. But the best, most effective way to deal with this is getting the vaccine. It's coming, it’ll be available, so let's use it. Get the updated vaccine. It's very different. Again, tell everybody don't rely on the fact that you had a vaccine in the past. It will not help you this time around. So, that's what I wanted to share. We'll be able to take questions in a moment. Before we do that, any questions for myself or to get more detail on the vaccine and what we're seeing with the strains from Dr. McDonald.
I do want to say that beginning today, parts of New York's nation-leading gun law to protect New Yorkers are going into effect. These are part of our Concealed Carry Improvement Act, a special law we had to pass after the Supreme Court struck down my ability as the Governor of the State of New York to protect our citizens from individuals with concealed carry guns. We had to respond quickly. We called back the legislature. We took strong actions. And of course, it was challenged in court. Last night, we received a positive outcome on the journey. Last night, Justice Sotomayor issued an order rejecting the latest attempt by individuals dead set on thwarting our gun laws. This will ensure that the Concealed Carry Act's improvements related to stronger background checks for guns and ammunition remain on track. There was an effort to thwart this, to stop this, to get an order against it. As a result of Justice Sotomayor's actions last night, we can be assured and feel secure that our law is sound, that it is going to be implemented, and it also requires periodic on-site inspections of firearm dealers to make sure they're doing what they're expected to do. And this is just another way we can implement one of my highest priorities, and that is the public safety of all New Yorkers. So, I wanted to make sure we had a chance to address that.