Hello, everyone. It's great to see you again. And I thank you for coming in person. Just for the record, everyone here is vaxxed, everyone here is boosted, we’re six feet apart. We'll keep our masks on when we're not speaking. In the interest of making sure that you can hear me, I'm going to invoke the rule we have in place for people who are using microphones. So just so you know, all the rules have been followed here.
We just wrapped up my very first cabinet meeting and it was such a privilege for me to see the individuals, the very diverse individuals from all walks of life and gender diversity, racial diversity, cultural diversity, who have become part of our team. And I'm really energized by what they bring to the experience of reshaping state government. And as I said on the first day in this very room, it is my highest priority to restore people's faith in state government. And they are the dream team that are helping me execute that every single day.
We had a chance to hear from Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin on all the initiatives he's working on, whether it's a public safety, eradicating gun violence, dealing with the housing insecurity crisis we have. And I want to thank him and also economic development initiatives. He has a lot on his plate. I've challenged him to beat my record in miles around the states. So he's on track to do that, he's been everywhere. And I thank him for his, his friendship and his partnership, our Lieutenant Governor, Brian Benjamin.
Also, we heard from Robert Mujica on our budget priorities as everyone knows our budget is due in a matter of weeks, we will keep to that proper schedule as well as giving an analysis of our fiscal condition right now and how we're heading into an uncertain time, particularly with the variant spiking again, and creating more havoc than we’d anticipated, but we now will have the reserves in place to be able to deal with whatever comes our way. And that was an important priority of mine to make sure we have the resources to deal with the future challenges.
I also had a chance for my administration to hear directly from Dr. Mary Bassett, who is an extraordinary individual leader who has tremendous service in the city of New York. And we were able to pull her out of a very nice position at Harvard to join our team. And when she said, yes, I knew that we would have someone who was a very confident leader, but also an inspiring leader. And I want to thank her for her work. And I asked her to give an update then, and because it's so important in light of the Omicron variant and what is happening all across our state. No state is untouched by what we anticipate will be a very serious situation.
It's not something we haven't spoken about. It's not something we haven't warned about. It's not something we haven't prepared for. However, it is upon us. That winter surge is in full force, and I believe it's going to get even stronger and more virulent. And we are in for a rough ride this winter season.
So I asked Dr. Bassett to speak then, but I wanted to have her present to you a synopsis of what she shared with us. Just so you have the data in real time with when I was briefed and Dr. Bassett, if you could share some of the highlights of your presentation, I’d appreciate it.
Dr. Bassett: Thank you very much governor. So I'm going to start out with this graph, which really shows where we've been in the last couple of months.
I hope that you can read it, some of the print is a little bit small.
But in the summer, after having sort of had a lull in transmission and beginning to open up, which we've continued, we began to see what we now call the Delta surge, a new variant that was first described in India. It was the fourth variant of concern, according to the World Health Organization. And now we're at the winter surge, something that was anticipated because as the weather gets colder, more people go inside and also more people were mixing in ways that they didn't do a year ago. So the winter surge has been substantial.
We have seen levels, if you compare the level of hospitalizations, that's what the red line is, on December 14th, compared to where it was back in July, or even at the peak of the Delta surge, you can see that hospitalizations are the highest that we've seen in months and are still going up.
At the same time, that line at the bottom shows the rate of increase of vaccination. Just to give you an idea of the numbers. As this winter surge began, we went from 65 to 68% of the population fully vaccinated. And that line just shows that we've had a flattening out of the rate of uptake of the vaccinations and I hope that all of you are vaccinated. I recommend that everyone be vaccinated and boosted.
And we’ve seen a little uptick recently that I think reflects the efforts of the governor, my department and the occurrence of the concern about new variants. Let me show you this, at the risk of acting like a math teacher, for the press, this shows you what happens with exponential spread, in the green or something equivalent to the Delta variant, that we think each person can infect a one and a half to two people. If you look at the bottom there in 10 cycles, that means 10 cycles of transmission. You get up to 2000 cases. With a more contagious variant, the difference in the total number of people infected becomes really huge. Say each case, infects four people at the end of 10 cycles, you have nearly 1.4 million infections.
Now think about how serious this virus is: say that 10% of people infected end up hospitalized, that’s at the bottom of the new admissions line there, you get about 200 cases. But in contrast, if you have so many more people infected, this goes up to about 14,000. I was inspired to show you these data because these type of data, and to show the cabinet these data, because these types of data were shared by the president of Cornell University.
So this sets me up to talk about Omicron and we are keeping an eye on what's going on of the world. Here we have data from Norway and Denmark, highly vaccinated populations with an age distribution more like the United States than South Africa. Look at the peak there. These are new cases. So this is infections, not hospitalizations. But we know that even if it's much less likely to cause severe disease, which seems to be the case, if you have a lot of people infected, even a small proportion will lead to big numbers.
And of course we're also in flu season and I have to always use the chance to remind people that they need to get both vaccinated for COVID and for flu when everybody was sort of living very constrained lives. We hardly saw any flu last season. But this year we're already ahead of where we were in the last big flu season two years ago. So we're concerned also about flu and the fact that we have both of these in our midst. So that's where we are.
We are in the midst of a Delta surge. We have Omicron in the wings. It's been identified here in New York State. And we also can't forget that with winter comes seasonal influenza. Thank you, Governor.
Governor Hochul: Thank you, Dr. Bassett for sharing that. And just as far as our regular update goes, we lost 71 New Yorkers yesterday, heartbreaking experience for families, particularly heading into this holiday season and our hearts go out to them and the numbers statewide continue to rise. The hospitalizations continue to escalate.
And our vaccinations not quite plateaued, but I want to make sure everyone knows that particularly individuals who received their first vaccination early on, and these are the people who lived in assisted living and nursing homes and who were immunocompromised, they may have been vaccinated back in December, January, February. You need to get that booster shot because otherwise you are not nearly as protected as you need to be against this new variant.
And why I thought the point that Dr. Bassett made was really important, people are underestimating the power of Omicron because they're saying, well, people aren't getting really sick, they're not in hospitals. Look at the percentages she just showed us based on that graph. You may only have 1% of people infected hospitalized versus 10% from Delta, but if you have a million more people infected because it's spread so much more quickly, that means you'll have overflowing hospitals at this rate.
That was not the reality, she showed you what could happen, but she wanted you to see clearly what an exponential transmission looks like. So that is why, people are saying it's not that big a deal. It's going to spread to some people who have not been fully vaccinated or they didn't get the booster, or they may have just received their vaccine this fall, which is still effective, but at some point it'll wane. And that is why we are taking very common sense, simple measures, like wearing a mask, which I know I'm going to get questions about. And go ahead because I know it's coming, but this has to be the least intrusive thing that we can do.
We're asking people to follow common sense. Get vaccinated, get boosted. Please don't take a chance. Please don't take a chance. You know, we've lost members of our extended family for people who just refuse to get vaccinated on principle because they thought there was some sort of affecting their personal liberties and freedoms. People have a right to stay alive and people that you affect have a right to live as well. And that's something we all should remember.
So I want to thank the press for reminding everyone how important this is. Your intense coverage of this is critically important. So people know what we're heading into. And I thank you for that again.
Lastly, yes, it's 20 days from now, I'll be delivering the State of the State address. It will be my first. I'm very excited to do it in the legislature. I've heard from countless members of the legislature who remind me that it's technically not a State of the State, it’s called a Message to the Legislature. So returning it to the home of the legislature is the right thing to do. And also, it will be much more scaled back because of this pandemic. We hope it'll be a different dynamic, but just as I was disappointed not to be able to have my cabinet meeting in person, to have everybody get to know each other better, we’ll also have to suspend the normal activities around the State of the State, the Message to the Legislature. We’ll announce what that's going to look like as well as making sure we have policies in place for people coming into this building.
I had a meeting with the leaders of the Assembly and the Senate just recently to talk about making sure we have a policy in place, certainly before we invite people back at the beginning of next year. So stay tuned for the details on what that will look like. Again, we have a very evolving situation here. Not that we're surprised. Not that it was unexpected. But it continues to be as bad as we had expected. And that's what we're dealing with right now.