Friday, December 24, 2021

Governor Hochul Delivers Virtual Update to New Yorkers on State's Progress Combating COVID-19 Or 'I don't Know What I Am Doing'


As you read this from current Governor Kathy Hochul, you will notice that just like her predecessor Andrew Cuomo She has no idea what is going on with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as Andrew knew nothing about the original virus called COVID-19 saying every death was due to COVID and no other disease. Governor Hochul is just calling all cases of COVID now the Omicron variant. 

December 2nd Governor Hochul states she went to New York City to announce the fact that the first case of Omicron was discovered in New York State. Sixteen days later on December 18th Governor Hochul announced there were only 192 cases of Omicron statewide and 41 cases citywide. Six days later there are now 44,431 new positive cases, and all are being considered Omicron cases by Governor Hochul. Are you kidding Kathy Hochul, don't you know a COVID-19 case, from a Delta variant, to a Omicron variant, or any other variant of COVID-19 that may be out there. Here is Governor Huchul's 'I Don't Know'.

Governor Hochul delivers virtual COVID briefing

 Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul delivered a virtual update to New Yorkers on the State's progress combating COVID-19. Governor Hochul also announced new guidance allowing healthcare workers and other members of the critical workforce who test positive for COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated to return to work sooner than previously allowed in order to provide healthcare and other essential services to New Yorkers.

I just want to take a moment here on Christmas Eve to give a quick COVID-19 update for all New Yorkers. I know it's Christmas Eve, I'm very conscious of that fact as we're here in the Capitol. Today also marks a milestone for me, it is my four months to the day that I became your governor and honor that I continue to be humbled by. And I thank everyone for the privilege to be able to not just protect all of your health, but the health of the people throughout the state, as well as the health of our economy.

As we knew the numbers would continue to climb, we foresaw this. This is not a surprise, and this is a very, very contagious variant. I will repeat this once again, this is not the same situation we had in March of 2020, or even last winter surge. We've had more testing and we've had more opportunities, but also, we know that hospitalizations are continuing to rise. So, our winter surge plan, which was activated months ago, making vaccines and boosters and testing widely available continues in full throttle here.

So, let's take a minute and go through some of the latest numbers. First of all, we've had 44,431 new positive cases. And part of that is because we've had such widespread testing. That's out of nearly 360,000 tests just done in one day. The testing demand continues to increase. There were about 200,000 tests requested just a little over a month ago, just before Thanksgiving. So, with a lot of testing, the upside is that we're getting a handle on where the cases are and how we can control that spread.

And we expect that many people who do test positive, they won't show symptoms, or even just very mild symptoms that won't require them to go to a hospital or even see a doctor. They can be managed at home, but we will still see numbers going up. 

You can see the cases per hundred thousand people, which is how we've been tracking the numbers very intently for months now. I mentioned hospitalizations, but also the people you've lost, 69 individuals and our hearts go out to their family members just on the verge of this beautiful holiday. So let's keep them all in our prayers and all the individuals we've lost, not just in New York, but the over 800,000 we've lost since the beginning of this pandemic.

We had 4,744 New Yorkers hospitalized just yesterday. We had nearly 7,000 in the hospital this very time, last year. So, hospitalizations are up. We are preparing for this, we've been ready. It is still a dynamic that is very hard on the individuals who are in those hospitals working day in and day out to keep people healthy. We've been addressing this since we first announced our winter surge as early as October 5th. And we're going to talk about where we are right now.

Our vaccines, we've had nearly 3.5 million vaccines administered since December 1st. This is not over a year, this is just in the last few months. And we reached a new milestone just yesterday. So, let's talk about that milestone. We hit 95% of New Yorkers over the age of 18 have had at least one dose. But one dose isn't going to be enough. You need to get that second dose, if you've had Pfizer or Moderna, please get that scheduled, get that on your calendar.

Don't miss the date when you get the second one, and then start planning for that third shot, the booster shot. The boosters, we keep talking about the booster shots, and we know with this variant Omicron, it has some breakthrough situations with respect to you may have been vaccinated, and certainly even one dose is not giving you the protection you need. But these boosters have been doing an incredible job and keep people safe. Not that you won't test positive, but the effect is much more diminished than it would have been for people who didn't have the booster shots.

So, we've had over 4.1 million booster shots already. So, here's a recap of some of the steps we've taken during our winter surge preparations and where we are right now. Again, the timeline, we talked about this October 5th, and I knew Halloween was coming cause they started seeing the candy show up in the stores and the costumes, and I thought, this is a reminder of what happened last year. We talked about the rising numbers, particularly upstate. This was a time when the numbers were fairly flat in the city, New York City, but also they were starting to rise elsewhere.

We talked about deploying more vaccine sites, we did this November 11th, we started talking about schools that were seeing an occasional case and how they can adopt if they wanted to a test to stay program, which is all about keeping the healthy kids in school. We announced that in November, but this is something I'll be mentioning, we'll be talking about even more, hoping that will become the case statewide on January 3rd.

November 26, which is the first day that the world health organization even named Omicron as a variant and a concern to all of us, we were just watching what was happening in South Africa, even before it came here. At that time, I signed an executive order in anticipation that I might need the powers that I did not have at the time to be able to be nimble, to be able to secure more testing kits as we've now been able to take advantage of, to deploy people elsewhere, to deploy the National Guard. 

At that time, again, before we even had a problem, we directed hospitals with 10 percent capacity or less to be starting to stop their elective surgery. 

Also on the 26 of November we required all nursing homes to make booster doses available, first of all vaccines, every nursing home made available to the residents the vaccine as well as their staff, and now we want to make sure that they knew, we thought boosters were very, very important. We can ease the stress on our hospital systems because we knew people in nursing homes really are the most vulnerable population.  

National Guard was sent to nursing homes on December 1 to ease, and on December 10 we implemented our option for businesses to either have a vaccine mandate or to require that people wear masks inside. This was, again, confronting the rising case numbers that we saw even a few weeks ago.  

December 17, we announced in addition to the vaccination sites that had already been standing up throughout this process, that we'd actually add 40 new ones and more booster sites and also launching money for counties that would participate as partners with us in enforcing the vaccination or mask mandate, and the directions have gone out to them on how to apply for this funding. That was December 17.  

December 22 we announced that we were able to acquire 37 million free take-home tests. They've all been ordered; they're not in possession yet but we've had them arrive, and I visited counties the same day that many of these doses had arrived and that's a very positive day.  

Also recognizing what's going on in New York City. We have now allowed for testing, created an opportunity for testing to go one at some of our MTA stops to meet the increased demand.  

So here's what we have: there are 1,800 testing sites in the state of New York. That's quite extraordinary. That includes the New York State sites, the ones we partnered also with the local governments and the county governments, the pharmacies, the doctors' offices, pediatricians, and we're continuing to launch even more even though it's been a challenge to find the staff. We're going to continue searching for them and make sure we can staff up sites, so we are announcing another 13 new testing sites that will be available this upcoming Wednesday.  

So we're focusing on high need areas, but also our smaller communities that may not have had the resources to put these up and we're also focused on making sure we continue to support New York City, a place that because of its dense population we know is more vulnerable.  So what did we do for New York City - let's go back quickly to the day we first learned of the very first Omicron in New York was December 2, literally that day I did a press conference, I went to City Hall to meet Mayor de Blasio, we talked about our collective readiness, how we would partner in this, our attack on this variant and our expectation at that time that certainly more cases were coming. Since then we've we rolled up our sleeves, our health department is almost imbedded with theirs, we're working very closely based on existing relationships and, again, our thanks to Dr. Mary Bassett and our entire health team for that outreach which is just ongoing and continuous.

As a result working in partnership with the city, literally in the last 48 hours we delivered over 600,000 tests to the city, so their department of health could have resource to get them out so we're continuing to bring resources to them directly. And again, Wednesday next week we've already announced five more testing sites that will be opening one per borough at this point. We're going continue to ramp this up. Again, we launched more pop ups too. These are the ones that may go on after a church service or at a community center or a school. We've had over got 37 new pop ups just since the beginning of December and we have 17 more planned in New York City alone coming up.  

So that's what's going on in New York City. We're watching their numbers, working closely with them, working with FEMA and New York City to meet any additional requests that come to us.  

Another dynamic that has been an area of great anxiety for individuals, particularly employers and people who work in health care in our essential workers - how do we make sure that all of our operations are running? And what happens is because there are so many positive cases, positive cases don't necessarily mean that you are too sick and require hospitalization. This is not Delta. This is not the first variant. This is Omicron which thus far, and again I have to qualify this, thus far, has demonstrated as we've watched around the globe and other places where it hit first, that it's not as severe in its impact. And therefore, we want to make sure that our critical workforce who we've relied on from the beginning, and my heart goes out to them filled with gratitude, that our workers can get back. And that includes our healthcare, eldercare, home health care, sanitation, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, you know who you are, you know you're the ones that got us through the first many months of anxiety. 

We need you again, we need you to be able to go to work. So today, I'm issuing new guidance on returning to work for our critical workforce. After they've tested positive and employers may allow healthcare workers and other critical workforce members, who've had COVID, to return after five days if they are fully vaccinated, again, fully vaccinated and are asymptomatic or their symptoms have been resolving and they have no fever for the last 72 hours and they don't have to be taking medication.  

So, in this select group, and we also say that when they come back to work, they have to wear a mask. So, we've working closely and seeing what the CDC guidance is. We waited for this to make sure that the longer period, the 10 days that was required - when we didn't have as much information. And we also had a different variant and now this is the predominant variant, different circumstances. Again, we're always trying to adapt to changing data as we receive it and process it. So, this is a new announcement from the CDC. We immediately wanted to translate that into the New York State workforce and people all over the state, and mainly focused on making sure we can get people back to work.  

So, these critical services that New Yorkers need - health care, transportation, grocery stores, all the things that we've identified as important. That they can get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. Again, vaccinated, wearing a mask, asymptomatic, and that is being released shortly after I conclude this presentation. Get people back to work. Keep kids in schools. And I've been talking about this for the last four months, literally. And I wanted to make sure that we had a strong plan. We required students have to wear a mask. There is an end in sight to at some point, but it is just not now. 

It does not make sense for us to remove that. I know some parents are frustrated, but others are grateful to know that their children will be safe, particularly as we approach this vulnerable time. Here's what we have. Kids have now left the school where they're contained with the same number of individuals, the same people day in and day out through this fall. And we've had very few cases in schools, which has been a blessing. Now they're back home. Now they're playing with maybe older siblings who went off to college who are coming back, visiting grandparents. So, there is a vulnerability that we saw coming. So, we want to keep our schools open when they're supposed to open January 3rd, we want healthy kids to stay in school. 

And we've been providing regular information since October, at the time giving options on how counties can deploy test to stay. There was an experiment that was done in Grand Island, which is not far from my original home in Buffalo. They embraced this, they worked very hard. They had a very good outcome. And so the CDC just confirmed that test to stay works. And now we are highly recommending that counties and school districts implement this. And we'll work with them. I have a call coming up in a few days with all the school superintendents. My team has been in non-stop communication with our counties, as well as our public local public health departments and the school districts, bringing all these partners together, working around the clock to make sure that when school starts, we have the tests to be able to give to the schools. 

So, parents will know. We want their kids to go back to school, that there'll be tests waiting for them, that they can take them home in their backpack. If someone in school tests positive, they don't all have to stay at home if they're asymptomatic, not been exposed directly. And also, we will get them tested and that's what's been missing. This opportunity to test the kids, to keep them in school. So we truly hope that this will be a plan that makes sense. We all saw the negative impact on the growth of children in terms of their educational development, but also emotionally what this did to everybody from kindergartners on up to high school kids, it had a devastating effect, and we cannot take any steps backward. 

I think everyone understands, professionals, parents, teachers. We'll keep a safe environment. We have the testing available. That's why we ordered such an extraordinary number. We'll have them available to get out to schools and work with them closely so they can stay open. This is also a time of year when we want to visit our loved ones in nursing homes. If you reflect back on the pain of last year, the inability to visit people that just sat there, looking out the window day after day after day, wondering where their loved ones are, their grandchildren and their children, why they had to be alone during the holiday times. And to all the nursing home workers who had to deal with those, the emotional trauma that everyone was going through. I am so grateful to you for staying open, being there and literally holding their hands at a time when they felt so, so isolated and lonely. 

This is a different year and what we have done worked, we've done an extraordinary job, doing everything we can to keep these individuals safe. And we required that vaccinations be made available to every nursing home. And in fact, we made sure that every nursing home offered booster shots made available starting right around Thanksgiving, the 26th of November. So, there is no reason why every single occupant or someone who works at a nursing home is not vaccinated and is not boosted, but the numbers are not where they should be. 

I think they should be at a hundred percent. They're not quite there. And as long as there's people unvaccinated in nursing homes, this is an area of vulnerability. So in some cases, family members need to give consent so the individual who lives in a nursing home can get that shot if they're not able to make the decision themselves. If you want to visit them, make sure they're safe and I'm encouraging all the visitors, please be vaccinated and boosted and keep your mask on. We're not mandating it, but we really, really, really encourage you to do that.  

Think of the most vulnerable person that you love deeply, and what you would do with the guilt if something happened to them because you wouldn't take these precautions. We know what to do. This is not that hard. We have so much more available to us than we had last year. And that's why you can visit them. But keep distant, wash your hands, wear the mask, and please I'm urging you be vaccinated, and boosted if you're already vaccinated, before you go see your loved one. We all know we got the vaccine, not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones. And think about them as you're making this life-or-death decision when you visit people in nursing homes.  

We also have people in congregate settings where there are gathered, such as correctional facilities. We know this is a time for increased visitations with people who are visiting family and friends. We also want to protect the staff, the corrections officers, the entire staff, and the incarcerated population within our facilities. We have made vaccinations available for staff and incarcerated individuals beginning last February. That is almost a year ago. So they all could be 100% vaccinated and there've been people who've made a decision not to. It is hard to protect them when they refuse to make that decision, because that is in their hands. 

But on December 27th, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is going to require visitors to at least provide proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative COVID test within 48 hours of the test. And the reason we're doing this, this is a population where this could run through like wildfire and that is not sustainable. 

We cannot have staff getting sick because there's not an alternative. There's not a lot of people in reserve who will go into our correctional facilities to do the very challenging work that they do day in and day out, and we're grateful to them, they are truly essential frontline workers as well. And what we're going to do over the next week is have a supply of at-home test kits in these facilities so people can be tested.  

We're doing all we can. The easiest thing, vaccinated and boosted, but we'll provide supplemental tests to make sure that this cannot spread through our correctional facilities. It's a very critical way to keep people safe while we continue visitations instead of shutting them down, we're trying to be very conscious of the emotional need to connect with loved ones, whether it's in nursing homes, correctional facilities, and elsewhere, we're taking these steps though, but asking New Yorkers to do the right thing, this is how we're going to fight this surge.  

Many people are traveling. I'm not traveling. I'm here in Albany, but that's okay. There's always next year. My family will gather and we'll do a nice Zoom get together like we did last year. But those of you who remember how hard it was last year and are making those steps of travel, if you're a vaccinated and boosted, wear that mask, you're fine. You should be fine. Embrace your family, love them. But also let's just talk about how we can keep people safe. Just don't put your grandparents and people who may be going through chemotherapy and other treatments, don't put them at risk. Be really smart.  

And all the data from experts are now telling us that unvaccinated people are 20 times more likely to die than the vaccinated. That is staggering. Let me just repeat that. The unvaccinated are 20 times more likely to die from this pandemic, from this virus, than people who are vaccinated.

So, start now, what are you waiting for? Please do this. Get the booster, pharmacies and clinics and state-run vax sites. And for all my friends in New York City, stop by your MTA stop and get boosted. We're going to continue pushing this out. We have them, we've talked about this since early October, and certainly know, as you travel, be conscious of crowds. It's hard to take two addresses if you're heading on a train or a plane, but we wanted people together. We don't want to have people isolated from each other. It's really important.  

And also, to support the businesses during this time, if you had reservations, try to keep them, but spread apart. I mean, let's not make it any harder on the businesses who've been struggling so hard during this whole time. So there is a way to strike the balance. We couldn't have done this before. We didn't have vaccines and boosters and testing kits available. We have all these tools in our arsenal and that's why this should be a very different holiday, but let's be smart. We are still dealing with a pandemic. If you still go out when you're showing symptoms, because you could harm someone that you deeply care about, and they won't be happy about it. So no unnecessary trips to the emergency rooms, keep wearing the masks, wash your hands.  

And I'll say as I wrap up here, this has been an extraordinary four months for me personally, but I was very engaged in this over the process beginning back in March of 2020. So this has been a long journey and I just want to say the people that I saw from the very beginning, who still to this day, are being called to do the extraordinary, way beyond what they ever thought they would have to do when they signed up for their jobs and their careers and their professions. 

And yes, this is a season of hope. I want this to continue to be a beautiful season. Christmas reminds us of hope, also gratitude. So those are still on the front lines. These healthcare workers, and I've met a number of individuals every day, reaching out and just looking in their eyes and saying, "We know you're tired. We know you're exhausted. We know you're exasperated because you knew it didn't have to be this bad because we have a vaccine and a booster shot. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to show up, leave your homes, put on your uniform. As you did from the beginning, we would not survive this without you." So, to all the nurses and doctors and aids and administrators in hospitals and nursing homes and our congregate settings and our group homes. We are so grateful for what you do, but also, the individuals and the National Guard who show up, I just thank them and say, whether it's a hurricane, it's flooding, going overseas to defend our freedoms in Afghanistan, or just keep people alive in your home state. We are grateful for our National Guard and all the staff at the vaccination sites that I've visited. And so many other people who are doing the right thing, and to the people who work in pharmacies, filling those prescriptions, administering the shots, the grocery stores, people that are still out there letting us buy things for the holiday season. I want to thank you.  

New Yorkers, I believe we will get through this. We will get through this stronger. We'll have a safe and healthy season, a season of gratitude, grateful for those who keep us alive, grateful for the privilege to live in the great State of New York.

So please thank everyone you see here in the stores, the restaurants, the transit workers, thank them for what they do. You cannot imagine what that simple word of gratitude will do. It makes us lift their spirits and remind them that what they're doing is an extraordinary thing during these extraordinary times. 

So, we're going to continue to spread holiday cheer, not COVID. We're going to keep things open. We're not shutting down business. We're not shutting down schools and we're going to get through this safely because we're going to continue to look out for each other and truly show what New Yorkers can do when we have been knocked down, we come back stronger, more resilient than ever before. And I look forward to meeting all of you again, literally in a couple of days. And thank all of you for your support of me, our administration, as we enter this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all of you. 

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