New York outlines vaccine rollout, warns of future virus mutations

State News

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state’s COVID-19 response on Friday, day 335 of the coronavirus pandemic.

By the numbers

Cuomo first gave the following information on daily numbers across the state:

  • 4.65 positivity, the lowest since December 11
  • 270,518 tests administered
  • 151 deaths
  • 8,357 hospitalizations
  • 1,543 patients in the ICU
  • 1,012 intubations
  • Over 1.7 million vaccinations

The governor said Friday showed a continuation of recent promising trends, now that we are in the “post-holiday surge reduction,” as Cuomo calls it. “If you look at the positivity decline, we were 7.94% January 4. That’s the high point,” he said. “We’re down to 5.3%. We had discussed this, we were expecting this surge, and we handled it. We’re on the other side of it.”

Even so, the governor highlighted that numbers in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island are not ideal.

Vaccination progress

On vaccination progress, Cuomo said that New York has successfully administered 100% of its supply so far. He said that the Biden Administration has been able to increase distribution by 16% over the next three weeks. This will allow states to plan their rollout better. “Again,” Cuomo said, “local governments: Don’t schedule any appointments until you know you have an allocation from the state.”

Even with Biden’s welcome increase, the governor said it will still six to nine months for a fuller vaccine rollout.

“Vaccinating hospital workers protects hospital capacity,” Cuomo said on prioritizing health care workers in the distribution plan. Although Cuomo decided to decommission upstate microcluster focus zones earlier this week, he said Friday that if any hospital hits 85% capacity, restrictions would be reinstituted. “Because hospital capacity is the red line. That’s when you’re in the danger zone.”

With that in mind, Cuomo said that 73% of hospital workers are vaccinated as of Friday, compared to 63% as of January 18.

The governor also echoed his commitment to social equity in the vaccine rollout. He said that local governments should let his administration know if they are having trouble distributing the vaccine fairly. Cuomo said that would be a matter of overcoming accessibility and supply issues in poorer communities, as well as counteracting hesitancy and skepticism from individuals.

“I’m saying to my local colleagues: Don’t play politics with vaccines.” Cuomo said. He called it divisive for elected leaders to try to pick and choose favorite special interest groups. “It’s cheap, because if you want to be honest? You think the police should get more? Who on the list would you take it from? Would you take it from the nurses? Would you take it from the doctors? Would you take it from 65 plus? It’s a zero sum game. you can’t stand up and play hero to anyone on that list. if you have any sense of honor or integrity, where would you take it from?”

He said New York is committed to rationing the vaccine fairly: currently, Health care workers get 21% of the supply, essential workers get 27%, and people over 65 get 52%.

Reopening

The governor announced new guidelines in New York City, where microclusters remain in place. One major announcement is the impending opening of a max vaccination site at Yankee Stadium. “You cannot play baseball when you come,” Cuomo said. The governor also announced that indoor dining in New York City would be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity starting Valentine’s day.

Following Valentine’s, Cuomo says, New Yorkers can holding public marriage ceremonies starting March 15, as long as:

  • All present are tested
  • 50% capacity, up to 150 individuals
  • Local health department approves

“We’re not going to have the full vaccine for many many months,” Cuomo said. “In New York, we want to use testing as the key to reopening events.” He cited the successful initiative of testing fans ahead of the Bills playoffs games, and said that going forward, his administration will examine the possibility of reopening other venues and events using a similar testing regiment.

Variants and upscaling supply

“This virus is mutating all the time. there are not five or six mutations of this virus. there are hundreds and hundreds of mutations of this virus,” Cuomo said on the new variants of the coronavirus that have been diagnosed in New York. “Yes, I feel the anxiety. and I feel that we’re not in control. And yes, I like to be in control.” Even so, according to Cuomo: “This is a situation where nobody knows what’s coming down the road.”

He warned that facts change quickly, and that new information is constantly emerging about these “variants of interest” from the U.K., Brazil, and South America. “These strains could take over. They could be dominant. They could increase the infection rate.”

Cuomo said biden should reinstate the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing capacity—as with ventilators, cloth masks, hand sanitizer in the spring— and turn it toward the vaccine supply.

“We have proven multiple times that we can manage changes that have developed,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo again called for fairness from the federal government in helping New York close its $15 billion budget shortfall, demanding federal relief in the form of funding and the repeal of SALT.

Cuomo also responded to a controversial report from the Attorney General’s Office that said the state undercounted nursing home deaths.

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