Gov. Cuomo: Virus hospitalizations declining, vaccine supply issues persist

Around New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Friday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.

Friday numbers

On day 328 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor provided the following data:

  • 5.65% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 268,001 COVID-19 tests reported Thursday
  • 165 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
  • 8,846 hospitalizations
  • 1,546 in ICU
  • 992 intubated

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by 218 from 24 hours prior.

“The good news is we’re seeing the hospitalizations decrease over the past couple of days so that’s really positive news,” Gov. Cuomo said.

State and local aid

The governor said he was happy that President Joe Biden included state and local aid into the latest federal relief package. He says the National Governors Association wanted more than the proposed $350 billion, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but he said his focus now shifts to making sure New York gets its fair sure of the proposed allocation.

“We want to thank President Biden for including the state and local aid in his first announcement of the American Recovery Act,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We made it clear that New Yorkers are firmly committed to two things: Our fair slice of the $350, which we believe is modestly $15 billion, and the repeal of SALT.”

The governor submitted two versions of the executive state budget earlier this week; one was developed with $6 billion in federal funding earmarked for New York, and the other was for the aforementioned request of $15 billion.

Travel restrictions

The governor also credited the Biden administration for implementing new coronavirus restrictions for incoming international travelers. In his national virus strategy, President Biden said travelers from abroad must furnish a negative COVID-19 test before departing for the U.S. and quarantine upon arrival.

“Congratulations on implementing common sense and international travel procedures,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We see these strains walking through our airport. It’s easier to walk COVID through an airport than to bring fruit from another country. So this is welcomed relief, and it makes us feel like we’re not alone. This is a true partnership.”

The governor said the mutating strains pose a threat to overwhelming the state’s hospital systems. He said there are currently 25 confirmed cases of the UK strain in New York state.

“The new strains are frightening, and there are going to be more strains — I would wager on it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The UK strain has been spreading. It should have never been here. If this country did the testing and quarantine mandate like other countries did.”

Vaccination

The governor said the supply of COVID-19 vaccine remains problematic. He said he tried to purchase vaccine doses directly from the pharmaceutical manufacturers, but Moderna and Pfizer have deals with the federal government that prohibit such transactions.

“Pfizer and Moderna are both operating under emergency authorization use,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It does not allow them to sell it, so they cannot sell directly to the state of New York, so the supply comes from the federal government.”

The governor said New York has used 97% of the doses that have been allocated to the state so far. To date, the state has received 1,329,237 doses of the vaccine, and the governor said the state will run out of remaining supply Friday.

“We have 28,246 doses left in the state from weeks one through five,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Problem is we administer about 80,000 doses per day, so 28,000 does not get you through the day.”

The governor said the week six shipment is currently en route to New York, and will consist of 250,400 doses of the vaccine.

There are currently three eligible groups for the vaccine:

  • 1a — Health care workers (1.3 million to be vaccinated, 21% of eligible population)
  • 1b — Police officers, firefighters, teachers, public safety workers, grocery store workers, child care employees, and in-person college instructors (1.7 million to be vaccinated, 27% of eligible population
  • 1c — 65-years-old and older (3.2 million to be vaccinated, 52% of eligible population)

“We still have not received enough supply just to do 1a and 1b,” the governor said of the CDC’s guidelines opening up to include 1c. “It should have been opened as you had allocation. That is not what we did, it’s not what they did, and now you have a period of confusion and anxiety because you’re trying to hit 7.1 million people with 250,000 per week.”

MORE | New York expands vaccine eligibility to anyone over 65

The governor said even with increased supply, the eligibility phase was rolled out too aggressively.

“Even at 420,000 dosages per week, that still takes you 17 weeks,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is going to be a long several months in distribution of this vaccine and the anxiety that has been created. I’m hopeful that the Biden administration can figure out how to increase production and shorten that 17 weeks and I think the president is right: Increase production through the Defense Production Act.”

The governor said he didn’t work against the federal guidance of opening eligibility to 65 and older to avoid further confusion.

“I think there would have been more chaos if we didn’t allow the 65-plus in, then the federal government said they were eligible,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A lot of people think what the federal government says has wisdom behind it, and when the federal government said 65-plus, the entire community of 65-plus said ‘great, I’m now eligible.’ And it’s a tough balance, all of this is a tough balance, but I did not want to frighten the 65-year-olds by saying ‘even though you are eligible by the federal government, we’re not going to make you eligible here in New York.’ I think that would have increased the panic and the anxiety and the tension.”

Regarding vaccine skepticism, the governor said its important for those who have been vaccinated to spread the word of the safety and efficacy of it.

“They have all gone through the vaccine; it is safe and can save your life, but I need the clergy members the medical community,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have to get past this skepticism problem and we have to do it quickly. Otherwise, without this vaccine, the UK strain hits and you’re going to see the death rate go up.”

Police reform

The governor reminded law enforcement departments statewide of the April 1 deadline to submit their community-approved plans for policing, or risk losing state funding.

“Public safety is a crisis in this state and in this nation,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The lack of trust between police and the community is worse than anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. The feelings are very high. Police feel victimized, they feel terrorized, they feel the community doesn’t respect them, and they can’t do their job, and if they can’t do their job then they don’t try. The members of the community feels victimized they feel terrorized

“This relationship has to be fixed, and it’s not going to fix itself,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have 500 community with police departments — put the people at the table. Everyone in the state needs public safety, the police serve everyone.

“Some communities are doing a great job and they’ve been creative and they’re using it for the opportunity that it is,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Every system has to reform periodically. How you policed 20 years ago is not how you police today. We’re smarter, we’re more savvy, we have more technology. There are 70 more days until April 1. Don’t think the problem is going to go away, your communities have to be safe.”

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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