Monday, December 20, 2021

Governor Hochul Announces Comprehensive Winter Surge Plan

Clinical specimen testing for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at Wadsworth Laboratory

10 Million More Free At-Home Tests Coming to New York State

2 Million Tests for Schools

Each State-Run Mass Vaccination Site to be Stocked with Tests

$65 Million to Help Counties with COVID-19 Response Costs

7 Test Sites Launching Across the State

6 Million Masks to Be Distributed

Governor Hochul: “This is not March of 2020. It is not even December of 2020…We don't even make those comparisons because they're not comparable to what we went through when we did not have vaccinations and boosters and the knowledge we have now.” 

 Thank you for joining us, once again. We have the COVID response dream team here assembled. You'll be hearing from Kathryn Garcia, who is our head of everything, head of state operations. As well as Jackie Bray, the Acting Commissioner for the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

So, we'll get started with today's report. One thing I do want to say that we would have had one more seat here this morning to join us, but Dr. Bassett will not be joining us. She has tested positive through a COVID rapid test. Everyone who sees me is tested or all the team that comes through here is tested every day. We’re following the strict protocols. She’ll be having another PCR test just to confirm that. So, in the meantime, we're going to take all the necessary precautions and she left the office immediately and we're just waiting for those results. Of course, she is vaccinated and boosted so this would be a breakthrough case, but she's feeling fine and we're thinking about her and her family and all the New Yorkers who are just having their family plans disrupted because of this virus. So reminder, there's no better time to be vaccinated and boosted and wear your masks and your symptoms, if it's following the trends that we've been experiencing this far, will not be very serious.

So, what did I do today? I got on the road again. It was great to be here. Everywhere from Wyoming County to Tioga County to Broome County and made a quick stop up in Wayne. But, I had a chance to do some things that were important to me. First of all, to thank the healthcare workers who are on the front line every single day. When I went to the hospital, the community hospital in Warsaw, in Wyoming County, just to have a chance to talk to the nursing staff, the skilled nursing staff, the head of the hospital, as well as a lot of nurses, these individuals are just incredible. They're tired. They've been working so hard, but they never show it. They stay every single day, no matter how exhausted and exasperated they feel, because they also know that did not have to be this way. We did not have to have so many hospitalizations and even a small hospital, it has 24 beds filled with patients. Nearly half are COVID patients. And so, this is putting a real stress on our smaller upstate healthcare systems.

This is even before this Omicron surge hit upstate. We knew the winter surge was coming. We've been talking about this. It's one of the reasons I also went to a vaccination site, a test site down in Broome County, and I had a real good conversation there and thanked our National Guard. But as we talk about this winter surge and the vertical increase in the number of cases, and it is vertical, it's going straight up. This is not March of 2020. It is not even December of 2020. And I'll talk about why we don't even make those comparisons because they're not comparable to what we went through when we did not have vaccinations and boosters and the knowledge we have now.

We're taking it very seriously. This does not mean we're not being very aggressive in our approach, we've been since the very beginning, but we have to just meet this moment with action and not fear, but also just lean into the strengths we know we have, and that we'll get through this. And so, asking everyone to do something that you're going to hear from me over. Vaccinations, get the booster shot, get tested, stay home if you're not feeling well. And that's how we're going to get through this together, New York. I know we can do this.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers. Yesterday we broke another record with 23,391 cases. You can see the cases per 100,000 people has been rising a four time increase in cases from last week. We had about 6,000 last Sunday to 23,000 this Monday. So, that is a very high spike in cases. We've been watching this closely, just what we've been seeing in the places it started, another place in the world, just what we're seeing all over this country. Something that was foreseen once Omicron made its way to this nation, and we knew this was going to be the case, but we are starting to see some other encouraging news from the other nations that have been affected. Those numbers went up quickly and they dropped quickly. And that's what we expect to see happening as well as in cases where people are vaccinated and boosted. Again, the severity is not what it was at all with respect to Delta or even our early variants of this.

So, that's something just to keep in mind when we're just calibrating a response, we're going to be as aggressive as possible. And we have. But in terms of people's own personal anxiety about it, just know that it's very likely to be minor symptoms if you’re vaccinated and boosted.

Another very important metric to us, our daily hospitalizations. Sadly, we had 60 people die yesterday, their families will be devastated during this holiday season. People who had been hospitalized, very sick, and this is just a horrific time of the year to have to experience this loss and that is why our hearts go out to these individuals and their families, and their loved ones, their neighbors, their friends. But also a reminder that we have to take the steps now to make sure that everybody we love is with us for the next holiday season. And we have the power over that.

But the hospitalizations, if you look at where we were on this graph the beginning, March of 2020, April, very, very high numbers of people hospitalized in our state. Just to compare, about almost a year ago, a higher spike, you can see the trend is starting to head upward, but it also, because this Omicron variant does not result in such severe cases that require hospitalization. We may not hit those peaks again, but we're preparing.

We're preparing for the worst and that's what I've been focused on in particular. So, we had people hospitalized, but we're still under two thirds of what we were this time last year during the winter surge. So, let's just remember that, again, I mentioned it's not March of 2020, it's not even December 2020, just to keep things in perspective.

And it is milder than Delta. We're going to give a quick update on Omicron, and we're still keeping a close eye on the science and the data, but from the early reports and what we've seen in, as I mentioned, other countries and elsewhere, it does seem to be more minor and that's a very good dynamic.

What do we have to fight against here? What do we have to fight with? It's the vaccination. So, I'm really, really pleased that we've had over 3 million doses just since December 1st. Thank you, New Yorkers, those of you who may have been waiting a little bit, you wanted to have more time to think about it and, you know, have more time lapse from the beginning when this first entered the marketplace and now, I really thank you for doing the right thing. So that's an enormous jump. We'll be hitting 95 percent of people with at least one dose, that is incredible, over age 18. Completed vaccines 82 percent. Would like to see that higher. Those people who have had one dose and have not had the second one and are eligible, you do not want to wait. Don't wait a second longer. We want to make sure that you are protected.

Where we need improvements. More children need to get vaccinated. So ,mom and dads, moms and dads, use this holiday break to go into one of our ever expanding locations. You know, not just your pediatrician office if you can’t get an appointment. You can go to one of our vaccination sites. They're on every corner. They're everywhere throughout the state. There's literally thousands of locations where you can get vaccinated and we encourage you to do so. Get your children protected before they head into the next school year.

I do want to take a moment to share some of our winter surge plans that we're undertaking. Some we've spoken about and some are newer. We want to talk about again, focusing on the boosters. 80,000 people got a booster shot yesterday. I was really delighted to see that, that's nearly 1.4 million boosters since December 1st. People are getting the message. They're hearing what we're saying every single day about these. And you can see the increase throughout the state. I'm really pleased to see that.

Right now we've had about 40 percent of New Yorkers who are eligible for a booster get one, let's get that up. I'd like to see it hit 70, 80, 90 percent. There's no reason, if you're willing to get a vaccination and the boosters are now available and you're eligible again, not everyone's eligible. There's a certain timeline, a lapse between the time you received either your Pfizer or your Medina vaccination, or your J&J to get one. So, when that time hits, whether it's five months, six months, you need to be ready in line to get that booster. So, because so many people have gotten their first vaccination, typically all the healthcare workers, this fall, a lot of our workers that we required to be vaccinated. They are not yet eligible. So, this number is going to continue to move up, but it's not going to be a huge jump because we have a lot of people who won't even be eligible for a number of months, but at least they got the vaccination and they're on the path, which we're very happy about.

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