ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a coronavirus briefing Friday morning to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.
In aim to further strengthen the state’s defence to the coronavirus, the governor announced ‘Winter Plan 2.0’ which outlines additions to safety guidelines for New York through a five-step recommendation.
The governor’s office reported Friday that there were 76,555 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide.
“This new year gives us an opportunity to right the wrongs,” Hochul said. “We said this from the start, we want to amplify the measures that we have in place from the beginning of 2022. We are breaking records everyday. However, New York is number three in the nation for the amount of testing we do.”
The governor also reported 80 new COVID-19 deaths statewide along with 7,919 hospitalizations from Friday. Finger Lakes reportedly has 518 patients currently in the hospital with COVID-19.
“You ask anyone in healthcare that work as a nurse or doctor, they would tell you that it didn’t have to be like this,” Hochul said. “We are seeing a rise in positive cases but those don’t correlate with deaths which is a good thing but that doesn’t mean we are out of this. We do not have a guarantee this is the future but it’s greatly enthusiastic. The way out of this pandemic is vaccination.”
‘Winter Plan 2.0’ is a series of measures expected to be followed at the beginning of the new year. The governor’s office said that it has been put in place because “the virus is changing so quickly.”
“Why were doing a 2.0? This is simply improving upon what we have been doing and to sound the alarm that numbers are continuing to increase,” Hochul said. “We need to start fresh using what we’ve learned in the last two years while dealing with this pandemic. This is a focused plan of how to protect New York.”
1. Keeping Students in School
“Kids need to go back to school,” Hochul said. “It’s not an option to keep our children at home after what they had to go through last time… our teachers, our parents and everybody.
According to the governor’s office, a supply of 37,000,000 test-at-home kits have been ordered by the state. A total of 5.28 million of them have arrived in New York with an additional 4 to 8 million coming to school districts in the coming weeks in anticipation of a challenging January and February.
“Our testing kits are coming and we are going to get them out as soon as possible,” Hochul said. “Parents, you should get your tests right now. We want to have as much supply as possible so we can backpack these kits with our kids so if someone gets a positive result.”
Additionally, the governor announced a completely new mandate for all students that attend SUNY and CUNY schools. Students will now need to be boosted in order to return to the classroom. This measure goes into effect on January 15th.
Under ‘Winter Plan 2.0’ university faculty members will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“This is how we are going to ensure that campus stay open, protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of our economy,” Hochul said. “When a smaller community college shuts down it is devastating for the local economy. Last time we didn’t have vaccinations, we didn’t have boosters so if we follow these new guidelines we can keep our state colleges open.”
SUNY and CUNY students will also be required to wear masks while inside a public space at the start of the new school year. They will have to show a negative test upon their return to campus this semester.
2. Masks and Testing
Gov. Hochul announced that the state’s mask or vaccine protocol that was put in place at the beginning of December will now extend by two weeks to the start of February 1st.
This safety measure asks that businesses in New York allow unvaccinated customers indoors by forcing them to mask or mandating a vaccination policy for entering.
“We now know that these masks are the number one form of defence along with vaccinations,” Hochul said. “We saw trends that were not promising when we asked businesses to roll out a vaccine or mask” rule code.”
The governor made it clear that masking is important to avoid another shutdown. Gov. Hochul urged state residents to wear KN95 masks and mentioned that five million of them have been sent out to counties in NY.
Along with masks, the governor reminded the state that testing sites have been set up across New York and said that additional locations will be set up next week. Rochester, Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo will all receive at least one new testing site under ‘Winter Plan 2.0’.
3. Prevent Severe Illness and Deaths
The governor’s office discussed the importance of keeping the healthcare systems, nursing homes and ICUs clear from the virus. Commissioner of the Department of Health Dr. Mary Basset also stressed the importance of getting a supply of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill at the hands of New Yorkers.
“This mean supporting our hospitals, we are working very close with the federal government with this,” Hochul said. “I asked for more resources from the White House. If you have a loved one at a nursing home, you need to get them to sign a form that says they give you consent to get them vaccinated. Visit your loved one but don’t be the reason that loved one doesn’t survive because you brought the virus in the home.”
“Happily last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to two oral, antiviral drugs,” Basset said. “These two drugs are ones that you take orally, this is a huge advance and it will give us a way to keep people out of hospital. But we need a bigger supply, right now we have 8,300 doses which are being distributed around the state. People can take this at home but the supply is miniscule compared to the number of infection we are seeing.”
According to the governor’s office, health officials have been in direct contact with the federal government to have New York receive a greater supply of these antiviral pills.
Governor Hochul also announced that a variety of medical resources are being sent directly to hospitals to assist in the expected overload on healthcare in the following months.
4. Increasing Vaccines and Boosters for Adults, Kids
“We are down from 35 hospitals that had their elective surgery measures seized because they were below a 10% capacity, down to 21,” Hochul said. “This is great news, we want to see this downward trend.”
The governor’s office reported on the correlation between the unvaccinated population and hospitalizations.
“Look at that chart, look at that chart — if you are vaccinated you have a very low chance of being hospitalized, if you are unvaccinated you don’t want to be that line,” Hochul said. “This is all avoidable, this is your opportunity to look at the numbers and see what this can do to you and your family. The answer is right the before our eyes.”
The state also reported that only 35& of 5-11 year-olds have had at least one does of the COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Hochul also mentioned that the state is monitoring FDA’s progress in authorizing a booster shot of those aged 12 to 15. That announcement is expected to come early next week.
5. Keep Working with Local Leaders
The governor thanked local leaders and county executives for being “the boots on the ground,” Hochul said.
“2022 is the year to beat the pandemic, we have the resources, we have medicine… so we can get back to the new normal of 2022 which is gonna be better than before,” Hochul said.
Four days ago the governor’s office reported a total of 86,162 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide from Christmas Eve and Christmas combined. New York had 76 deaths as a result of the virus yesterday.
Majority of coronavirus infections in the most recent surge have come in the form of omicron. The variant has been responsible for a record of new cases across the country and the northeast region.
Locally, the new increase in positive cases has driven an increase to 9.4% among Monroe County residents who have tested for the virus. According to county health officials the anticipated of positive cases in the area “will not be surprising if it rises above 2,000 cases per-day during next week,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said during a coronavirus briefing Thursday.
Although doctors agree that the variant’s ability to place someone in the hospital is lower compared to the delta variant, its contiguousness is more prevalent which can cause a strain to healthcare systems if positive cases increase in New York.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rolled out a recommendation Monday, advising those who have tested positive to isolate for five days instead of 10 — all in effort to protect businesses and avoid overwhelming hospitals.
Monroe County has stuck to the state guidelines however, urging that the current state of quarantine period is the most comfortable. Bello said that the county would follow New York’s recommendation to allow essential workers to isolate for five days and not 10 with a high quality KN95 mask.
Yesterday, the governor’s office reported 74,207 cases were positive among 336,469 tests. The current seven-day average for percent positive is 16.2% across the state. Additionally the Finger Lakes region had 506 people hospitalized, 41.1% per 100,000 — the highest in New York State and above state average.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.