Governor Hochul: "Take it from someone who lived on the shores of Lake Erie during winter blizzard, it is all about the wind factor. It affects visibility. It is dangerous to be on roads when you can't see the vehicles around you. And common sense has to prevail here. I'm asking people to take heed of those warnings."
Hochul: "I'm taking the step at this time to announce that beginning 8:00 PM tonight will be under a State of Emergency. And what that does is it gives us the extraordinary powers that we may need for additional purchasing of equipment or transferring individuals, personnel."
Hochul: "People who are vaccinated and boosted did not end up in the hospitals with Omicron, they may have had symptoms, stayed home for the five days that they tested positive, but our hospitalizations are still, the vast majority, are people who are unvaccinated. And our kids are going to be sick if we don't get them vaccinated, so let's make sure that that happens as well. Let's give all the kids the protection they need to be able to stay in school and stay safe."
Hochul: "We still don't know much beyond where we are right now, but again, the trend is much more positive. And that is why I want to talk about the fact that we'll have a temporary extension of our business mask or vaccine policy. And that has been a critical tool in driving those numbers down...I want to thank all the businesses and the people who follow these policies. You are the reason our state is going to come out of this far sooner than other states."
Governor Hochul: Not just the 8.2 million New York City residents, but also 20 million people from the state of New York. It's been a heartbreaking day and I wanted to stay and show my respect as the procession left with the Mayor and the Chief of Police, and now the Commissioner. So that delayed us a little bit, but thank you for coming here today and just continue to keep them in our prayers and all of those who are on the front lines, protecting our safety. It's incredible to realize what they are willing to do every single day to make sure that New Yorkers are protected and safe. And for them, we are eternally grateful and our hearts go out to the families of officer Rivera who he had his final call today, as well as the funeral we're going to be attending next Wednesday, officer Mora. So it's a difficult day for all of New York.
And also we have a little bit of challenge before us. I just told the County Executive, I said, what's with Suffolk? I thought Buffalo had the most unusual weather patterns, and it seems like you're always on the front line lately. So, it's fascinating. And those who love to study weather like my Commissioner here, this is an exciting time for you. Commissioner Bray, our Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services was once the Chief of Staff of the national weather service in Washington. So she gets very excited on days like this. So unlike the rest of us who dread it, she looks forward to it.
So, we're going to look at some numbers on the storm, and I want to make sure you have a full briefing on what we're doing in anticipation of this storm, because storms can be devastating. They can be deadly, they can be dangerous. And we are on call right now with the warning we've seen coming up the East coast and this confluence of an incredible storm. It's calling us to be prepared and I want you to see what preparation looks and feels like. And you'll hear from the people who are on the front lines.
And I want to thank the members of the DOT who are here and the others who'll be out there driving the plows and really putting themselves in harm's way to make sure that we can get home from our commutes, make sure we can get home to our families. And I'm going to ask everybody to do their part in helping keep our roads clear this evening. So, I am joined by Commissioner Jackie Bray, our Commissioner, as I just identified her. Therese Dominguez, Commissioner of Department of Transportation. We've been at events like this from Buffalo to Albany, here in Suffolk County. So she is a seasoned pro, I feel very comfortable with her leadership.
And Janno Lieber, because we're going to be talking about the impact on the MTA, the newly named, the permanent, no longer acting, but the Chair and CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Also, we have Phillip Eng, who's the president of the MTA Long Island Rail Road, which is an important lifeline for our commuters here on Long Island so he's here as well. And Steve Vallone, our County Executive, who you'll be hearing from about the county's preparation.
So let's take a look at what we're doing here. These are the maps that we wake up and dread when we see them in the morning news. The orange is the blizzard warning. So there you go. It's coming our way. We've not seen any deviation from what we're seeing here. Sometimes you hope that it goes further out East and actually dissipates over the ocean, but I don't foresee that tonight. So what we're expecting is hopefully that doesn't really hit during the commute this evening.
We're tracking the timing of this, but we do believe that the highest totals would be coming tomorrow, which is actually given that it's a Saturday morning, it's very good, given that it could have happened during prime commuting hours tonight or even this morning. But the point is, we're on notice and so there's no excuses. People should not be on the roads unnecessarily. And we have that evidence right here. So we have been upgrading the wizard warning.
Suffolk County is under a blizzard warning right now. And the storm effect is in effect now until seven o'clock Saturday, and then it gets even worse. Here it's going to be Nassau, New York City, Westchester, Putnam and Rocklin County. So that's what we're looking at. And we think Long Island is going to be one of the hardest hit. So, 10 to 16 inches across Long Island. And it also comes down - if that happens over a course of a few days, you can handle it. It happens in a few hours, one to two to three inches an hour, that's when it becomes very treacherous.
So, we could end up with anywhere from six inches to two feet, but it's also the wind. Take it from someone who lived on the shores of Lake Erie during winter blizzard, it is all about the wind factor. It affects visibility. It is dangerous to be on roads when you can't see the vehicles around you. And common sense has to prevail here. I'm asking people to take heed of those warnings. We'll have sustained winds of 25 to 35 miles an hour with gusts. So this is where it really gets dangerous, when it's a complete white out condition and you do not want to be in your vehicle with your kids in the backseat and go off the road during those conditions and that's what can happen.
So, 50 to 55 mile an hour winds. We do not want to see the circumstance we saw in the Washington DC area. Everybody was glued to their television, watching the 30-some hour episode where people are stranded in their vehicles and that, my friends, is totally avoidable. That's what we're talking about here right now and the preparation we need to have. New York City and the lower Hudson Valley are getting lower predictions, but they're still going to get a good amount of snow. So we're preparing those areas as well, and they'll be getting lesser amounts through the next day.
So these regions, northern regions, minimal snow, but it'll be very cold and that cold is dangerous. It can be bitter. It can be dangerous, especially if you're in a vehicle. You go off the road or you're stuck in traffic and your gas is low - make sure you fill up your gas tanks - the gas is low, and all of a sudden you don't have anything, any heat in the vehicle, and your kids are hungry. Believe me, speaking from experience, I've been there. It is not a good experience at all. So watch out for the wind-chill factor as well. So, that's really significant.
So, heavy snow, gusty winds, difficult road conditions. So, yes, I feel like a weather person today and I'm willing to turn it over to our experts in a couple of minutes, but here's what I'm asking, New Yorkers. Just stay off the roads. Get through your workday today, fill up the gas tanks on your way home, make sure you've got all the necessary items in your vehicle. You got to have the scrapers, got to have extra gloves. You've got to get some blankets, have some water in your vehicles. And we all should be prepared for this, but the best way to handle this is stay home.
A famous mayor of Buffalo once said how to handle the blizzard - sit home with a six pack of beer and wait it out. So you could have a nice bottle of Long Island wine. I don't care what your preference is here, but stay home everybody.
We've been preparing for this since Wednesday. I feel we're as ready as we can be, but there's a lot of other dynamics at play here, including our utilities. The salting, getting our crews out, bringing people from other parts of the state to be ready, positioned in our key areas that have been identified already.
So, we're on notice. Everybody get home safely tonight and we'll get back and talk about our COVID report in a couple of minutes.
So, just so everyone knows that's how seriously we're taking it. 8:00 PM tonight. State of emergency here in the State of New York. And again, we are encouraging everyone to stay off the roads once the snow starts this evening and absolutely tomorrow, because otherwise you are complicating life for those who are out there trying to make your life easier.
So let's give them the room they need to do their jobs and make sure that we don't have anyone stranded. So as we talk about one storm well let's head into the next storm, and that is our Omicron storm, our winter surge that we kept talking about. And I think the winter snow clouds of Omicron are starting to part, that is a very good sign.
Our statewide cases went down about 13,592 to be exact. And that is down from January 7th. Not that long ago. Look how high it was, 90,000 cases. So we're keeping an eye on those numbers as well, but that is the trend we've been waiting for. It is arriving and I could not be happier to report this news.
Our seven day average is going down as well. Statewide, it's about 6.15%, but overall, again, this continues to drop as well, our positivity rate.
We've always watched our hospitalizations and luckily those are dropping from our high of 12,600 people hospitalized at the same time. And what a stress that put on our hospitals throughout the state. And yesterday we were down to 8,100, so we've dropped significantly more than 2,800 over the past week, but this is all a lagging indicator. We talk about infection start, you see the numbers spike there, people get sick, then hospitalizations. And sadly, we still see far too many deaths.
And yesterday we lost 171 fellow New Yorkers because of this pandemic. And I want to make sure that we're remembering them, but also, that is reminder, take this seriously until we are clearly out of this storm. And that is why as we talk about this, you know, we didn't know at the time when we put in our mask or vaccine requirement to protect people as this Omicron surge with spiking, it was spiraling out of control in the month of December, we did not, we could not have foreseen what January and February looked like.
We still don't know much beyond where we are right now, but again, the trend is much more positive. And that is why I want to talk about the fact that we'll have a temporary extension of our business mask or vaccine policy. And that has been a critical tool in driving those numbers down. They could be even more out of control, but we're going to continue doing this not by months, not by three months, we're going to do it every two weeks now. So we can be ready to suspend, give businesses the notice they've been waiting for. But again, I want to thank all the businesses and the people who follow these policies. You are the reason our state is going to come out of this far sooner than other states. The numbers are still going up in other states. And we've been smart here.
As we know, the school masking policy remains in effect, despite the fact that there was a little blip, but we are back on track legally. And I want to thank our Attorney General, Letitia James and her incredible team for understanding the urgency of us appealing a decision that came forth based on factors that we don't agree with. We happen to think that the Commissioner of Health and Department of Health have a responsibility to protect public health. That is why they do what they do. And we're going to continue to defend that in court. So the appellate decision, the second department, sided with us and let common sense prevail. So now we are back into ensuring that these are in place again for now. And the only reason we have this is because this is how we can keep our schools open.
When our schools are open and kids are safe there, moms and dads can get back to work. We can start that path to being normal and there'll come a time when we can talk about lifting this as well. We're just not there yet. We're going to continue keeping people safe and fighting to protect all New Yorkers. So just want to give those notices of what the lay of the land here is in the State of New York.