Jan 4, 2021
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript January 4
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a January 4 press conference on COVID-19 in the state. Read the full transcript of his news briefing here.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… my right, Gareth Rhodes; Dr. Jim Malatras; Beth Garvey, special counsel; Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of health. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left Robert Mujica, budget director.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:14)
Today is day 310. Happy New Year! I hope everybody’s celebrated and celebrated smart, and we will find out over the next few days. This is where we are today on the numbers: The positivity without the micro-clusters, 7.7 statewide, with micro-clusters, 8.34. The micro clusters themselves 9.35.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:46)
We did 134,000 tests, which is down from the high level of testing. More people got tested before the holiday, we believe as a prophylactic before people were traveling. Number of statewide deaths is up to 170, and that is a terrible way to start the new year. Statewide hospitalizations is up 288. The discharges are 537. The admissions, 925. ICU is +13, intubations is +28.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:25)
If you look around the state, there’s no change in the regional, excuse me, regional allocation. Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, still the highest percentile in terms of hospitalizations. This is not a fluke. This has been going on for weeks. I’ve been speaking to people throughout the Finger Lakes. They have to take it seriously. This is a function of that region’s behavior. People in the Finger Lakes should be more cautious than people in other parts of the state, taking more precautions because it’s more likely people you’re coming in contact with could be infected. That is just a mathematical fact.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (02:08)
Positivity, you have Finger Lakes again and Mohawk Valley, which was also a problem last week. But again, if you are in those areas of the state, take it seriously and you should be using more precautions than people in other parts of the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (02:29)
Downstate New York, we have the Bronx has ticked up, Staten Island still 7%, Manhattan only 3.52. You look at those numbers, you see the difference that behavior makes. Manhattan, you tend to have a higher percent of compliance to precautions and you see the result in the numbers. They have a lower rate. 2021, we’re going to be focusing on controlling COVID and defeating COVID. They’re two different functions: control the spread, control the virus, and then put a harpoon in the beast and actually defeat COVID. We’re working on both simultaneously.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (03:21)
On controlling COVID, we are seeing the spike that we talked about here, that experts have talked about all across the country. We were warning about holidays and gatherings, and we’re seeing the spike that came from increased social gathering. It is a fact. Yes, we had the holidays. Yes, it was a long year. Yes, we want to celebrate. But when you increase social activity, you’re going to increase the spread of the virus if people don’t take precautions, that’s what we’re seeing in New York state. That’s what you’re seeing all across this country. And that’s the growing numbers of hospitalizations, of infections, and of deaths, unfortunately. It is a consequence of our actions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (04:13)
If you look at, really, this started at Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was the first holiday, right? We saw an increase in Thanksgiving. But if you look since Thanksgiving, which really triggers the holiday season, right? That triggered the 37 days I was talking about of the holiday season. The net daily growth went from 135 to 144. Number of people walking into the hospitals went from 699 to 899. It is clear that the increase through the holidays increased the infection rate and increased the number of people who are now walking into hospitals.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (05:04)
We have the hospital system all across the state being monitored daily, and we’re having those hospitals do what they need to do the greatest extent possible within their capacity to manage the surge, what we call surge and flex. This is a totally new operation for hospitals and for the state, but they’re adding capacity. They’re closing down units that they don’t need to add capacity. We’re watching very closely hospital capacity because that is the red line, that’s the red zone. You are limited, ultimately, to your hospital capacity. Right now, no region has less than 30% capacity. If you remember when any region gets to within striking distance of 15% capacity, that’s going to be a red zone, closed down for that region. Right now, no region is above 30, but they are all hovering in that range.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (06:25)
North Country, obviously, has more availability. Southern Tier has more availability because the Southern Tier is an example of a region that had a high infection rate, had a micro-cluster and actually turned it around. Good for the Southern Tier. New York City’s about 49%, mid-Hudson. But where are you lowest? You’re lowest in the Finger Lakes, which makes sense because that’s where you have the highest hospitalization rate in the state. We know what is going on and the numbers relate. If you have a high hospitalization rate, you’re going to have lower capacity for your hospitals. That’s where we see right now the greatest problem is in the Finger Lakes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (07:15)
How do we defeat COVID? We defeat COVID the way we’ve been controlling COVID for the past year, it is a function of our activity. It is the social gatherings. I know people say, “How can you say we shouldn’t gather socially?” I understand we are social beings. I understand the hospitals. But it’s how you do it. It is how you do it. Are you safe? Are you doing as much as you can outdoors? Are you wearing a mask? Are you keeping windows open? Are you keeping the crowds small? It’s being smart. That is all this is.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (07:58)
It is a virus. You’ve all had someone in the house with a virus. You know how the virus spreads. It’s a consequence of being smart and being responsible. Those numbers go up, you overload the hospitals, the region will close down. We know what is going to happen. There’s no unknown here. There’s no arbitrary decisions being made. If the infection rate increases, then the region closes, and that’s the last thing anybody wants. If you don’t want that, then don’t bemoan reality. Do something about it and be smart and reduce the infection rate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (08:48)
In the meantime, while we’re trying to control COVID with one hand, we’re trying to defeat it with the other, and the vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. Now, nationwide, there have been issues with the delivery of the vaccine, which by the way is no surprise. We’ve said many, many times that this was a much more aggressive undertaking than anyone thought, that this nation was not prepared, that the vaccine administration and delivery was going to be more testing than anything we had done before, because we had just gone through the testing for COVID. Testing for COVID is much simpler. It’s a nasal swab. By the way, nobody says no to a COVID test. Not like a vaccine. You don’t have that same resistance, those same fears. We need to do more vaccines than we have done COVID testing, all across this country. Only this state, which has more testing than any other state, has actually done more COVID tests than the number of vaccines we’re going to have to administer, but it is a massive undertaking for this nation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (10:07)
Now it’s important to understand how we’re doing the vaccine. Think of it in three tranches, if you will. We’re doing vaccines in nursing homes, then it’s being administered by hospitals, and then it’s being administered through what we call special efforts. I just want to go through one at a time so people understand this.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (10:31)
In nursing homes, we participated in a federally-run program that would send the vaccines directly to the nursing homes and the pharmacies and the federal government contracted with pharmacies, national pharmacy chains, to do the vaccinations in the nursing homes. That has not been going as quickly as we would have liked. New York is now going to step in and actually expedite the federal program in nursing homes.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (11:04)
We have about 611 nursing home facilities statewide, about 288 of them have completed the first dose for residents. You have residents in nursing homes and then you have the staff in nursing homes, both are being vaccinated. For the residents, about half of them have gotten the first dose. You can’t get more than the first dose yet because the first dose, then it’s 21 days to get the second dose. We are going to supplement and expedite the federal program, and 234 additional dosages will happen this week, which will get us up to 85% of the nursing home residents by the end of this week. And that would be significant progress on the nursing home residents. That will leave about 15% of the nursing home residents that need to be vaccinated, and we want to get that done over the next two weeks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (12:13)
The goal is: Over the next two weeks, all the nursing home residents vaccinated and simultaneously we’re doing the staff. Under the federal program, they do one-third of the staff in three tranches. Just in case any staff member has an allergic reaction or something like that, they decided to do one-third, one-third, one-third of the staff. That will be expedited.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (12:41)
We’ll be sending in additional personnel into nursing homes to do the vaccines. Some nursing homes can actually do the injections themselves. Nursing homes have staff, many of them that can actually do vaccines. If they can do it themselves, we’re going to go to them and let them do it themselves to further expedite it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (13:05)
But the nursing homes have always been the most vulnerable populations and we want to get that done and we want to get that done quickly. The federal program has not worked as quickly as we would have liked. We’re going to step in and make it work.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (13:19)
That takes us to the hospitals. The hospitals are doing the administration, and that was purposeful, it’s also the federal guidance. But it keeps politics out of it. There are two types of hospitals in the state of New York. There are public hospitals and there are private hospitals. There were 194 total hospitals in the state. 24 are quote, unquote, “public hospitals.” Public meaning they are managed publicly. 170 are private hospitals. Clearly the bulk of our healthcare system are our private hospitals. That-
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (14:03)
… of our healthcare system, or our private hospitals. That’s been a challenge for us here because these are private hospitals who basically run as private entities. Technically many of them are not-for-profits, but they effectively are private hospitals. And they’ve never really been managed was one system before, and we’re doing that here. So 24 public and 170 private. The public hospitals are several in upstate New York. SUNY has six, the University of New York runs six public hospitals. And then we have 11 public hospitals in New York City, which are run by the Health and Hospital Corporation, which is run by the mayor of the City of New York. Westchester County has two, Nassau County has one. We need the public officials to manage those public hospitals. As I said, there are 24 of them and they are in public control. We need those public officials. Here they are. Good-looking all of them, handsome, smiling.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (15:23)
I need them to take personal responsibility for their hospitals. This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine and they have to move the vaccine faster. The hospitals have been receiving vaccines over the past three weeks. Roughly 46% of the total allocation. These are the hospitals that have used the existing allocation the fastest and those who have used the existing allocation the slowest. I don’t mean to embarrass any hospital, but I want them to be held accountable. So what this is saying is the highest performing 10, the lowest performing 10. For example, the highest performing hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital System, healthcare system. They administered 99% of their allocation. Great. Oswego Hospital, 99%, Richmond University 93% Adirondack Medical Center, 87%. Now in fairness, some of the smaller hospitals, it’s easier to do a higher percentage when you have a smaller base, obviously, and we understand that. But Northwell Health, 62%. Northwell is the largest hospital in the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (17:01)
So it’s not just the function of size. It’s a function of administrative capacity. We want those vaccines in people’s arms. I understand the private hospitals. I understand that everyone has a job to do. We need them to administer the vaccines faster. These are the highest performing. These are the slowest hospitals. Samaritan Hospital has only administered 15% of the allocation they’ve received. AO Fox, Nassau University, 19%. Montefiore, only 30%. New York City H&H, only 31%. Westchester Medical Center, only 32%. H&H, Westchester, Nassau, those are public hospitals. I need those public officials to step in and manage those systems. You have the allocation, we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible. New York State Department of Health sent out a letter yesterday to all hospitals that said, if you don’t use the allocation by the end of this week, the allocation you’ve received by the end of this week, you can be fined and you won’t receive further allocations.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (18:39)
We’ll use other hospitals who can administer it better. It also says is from the day you receive the allocation, you have seven days to use that allocation. This is a very serious public health issue. And Department of Health Commissioner Zucker is a very firm about making sure the hospitals step up and deliver here. So any provider who does not use the vaccine could be fined up to $100,000 going forward. They have to use the allocation within seven days. Otherwise, they can be removed from future distribution. As you saw, we have almost 200 hospitals. If one hospital isn’t performing, we can use other hospitals. And if you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital. So we are very serious about it. Third level of operations, what were going to be special efforts. Special efforts or efforts at the state is going to do to supplement the pharmacies and the hospitals.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (19:54)
The state’s going to be establishing drive-throughs for public distribution. We’re going to be using public facilities, convention centers, et cetera, field hospitals for distribution. And we’re going to be using additional retired personnel, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, et cetera, to staff those facilities. So we want to finish the nursing homes. Hospitals are doing healthcare workers. Hospitals will then be doing members of the general public and essential workers, but the state will also be opening its own distribution effort to accelerate those vaccines. Part of the state’s effort will be a special focus on poor communities. They don’t have those pharmacies, they don’t have the hospitals, so-called healthcare deserts. And we’ll be working with healthcare partners to have basically pop-up vaccination centers, where we can transport equipment to a church, to a public housing authority, to a community center and open up a vaccination center. This has been a priority for New York State.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (21:10)
I have said personally, that I think this is an issue that has not gotten enough attention or sense of urgency. COVID revealed many ugly things. One of the most ugly to me, blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanic at one and a half times the rate of whites. Higher infection rate, lower COVID testing rate, more co-morbidities. That’s not America. So the point about equality of distribution, I will receive my vaccine and I want to receive a vaccine. I believe in the vaccine 100%, but I’m going to receive my vaccine when my age group is eligible and it’s available in black and Hispanic and poor communities across the state, through state efforts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (22:14)
The next groups that are open today for availability, who are now eligible to receive the vaccine are all doctors, nurses, healthcare staff who come into contact with the public. We’re following federal guidance at this point, which is working down the list of what we call 1A, the first priority in vaccinations. It’s primarily healthcare workers, which makes sense. Healthcare workers are the people who are in the greatest danger of contracting the virus, because they are dealing with people who come in, who have the virus. Also, if a healthcare worker gets infected, they can infect more people than probably any other worker. If you have a nursing home staff or a nurse or a doctor who’s infected, dealing with dozens, hundreds of people, they would be a super spreader in and of themselves. So we’re making 1A, basically all healthcare workers are going to be eligible today, and that is the first priority.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (23:40)
Also, these vaccines are a valuable commodity. I don’t think we appreciate how valuable yet. You’re going to have some people who don’t want to receive the vaccine. I understand that. We’re going to talk about that as we go through this. But you’re going to have a lot of people who want the vaccine desperately. I would take the vaccine today. It could be a life saving situation. If any entity falsifies who they are, if there is fraud or fraudulent sale or fraudulent vaccination, that is very serious. That provider will lose their license period. They’ll be out. I don’t care if you’re a doctor, you’re a nurse, it’s a crime in my opinion. And I’m going to be proposing a law for the legislature when they come back to make it a crime. This vaccine can be like gold to some people.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (24:45)
And if there’s any fraud in the distribution, you’re letting people get ahead of other people or friends or family, or they’re selling the vaccine. You’ll lose a license, but I do believe it should be criminal and I’m going to propose a law to that effect. On education, state guidance for counties. There are some counties in the state that are over 9% on our numbers. Again, this is on state numbers, different counties count differently, but for legal purposes, it’s the state numbers that matter. For counties that are over 9%, they’re doing school testing. If their schools are below the level of positivity in the community, then they can keep the schools open. It is up to the local school district to make that decision. My position has always been if the children are safer in this school than they are on the streets of the community, then children should be in school.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (25:49)
With testing in the schools, so we know the positivity rate in the schools. We know the positivity rate in the community. If the schools are safer, then my opinion, just an opinion, not a fact, my opinion is, leave the schools open. But that will be up to the school districts across the state. I understand the primacy and the history of local control of education. I respect it. I gave my opinion, but it will be up to the local school districts to decide. 2021 State of the State will start this coming Monday. It’s going to be a different kind of State of the State because it is a different time and adjust to the times. But that will be this coming Monday. With that, let’s take some questions operator.
Thank you, governor. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function at the bottom of your window. We’ll take a brief moment to compile the Q&A roster. Governor. Your first question comes from John Campbell from Ganette. John, your line is now open, please unmute your microphone.
John Campbell: (27:10)
Hi, governor, a couple things here. One on vaccines. On the one hand you’re telling hospitals to use their lot by the end of the week or face a fine, but on the other hand, you’re telling them if they mess up the prioritization, they can also face a fine. Are those competing principles there? And is that in any way, slowing down the vaccination process? And then my second question is about the Finger Lakes and the Mohawk Valley. You’re telling them to take extra precautions, but why aren’t you imposing any additional restrictions in those areas if they are being hit harder than the rest of the state?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (27:47)
Yeah. John, just stay with me. I didn’t hear the second part of the first question.
John Campbell: (27:55)
You have one fine for hospitals that don’t use up their allotment this week. You have another fine for people who-
John Campbell: (28:02)
Week, you have another fine for people who mess up the prioritization or administered to people who aren’t supposed to be getting the vaccine right now. Are those competing principles? And is that slowing down the vaccination process at all?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (28:14)
I got it, I’m sorry, I got it. First, the hospitals have been given the vaccines for expeditious administration. If you have been given an allocation and you’ve only used a third of the allocation, then you shouldn’t have the allocation. We have options, John, you have some hospitals that are doing 99% of the allocation. 60% of the allocation. They’re much better at administering. I want to get needles in the arms and I want to get that done as quickly as possible. If there are some hospitals that are better at doing that, then they should be doing that. If you can’t do that within seven days, then just raise your hand and say, “I can’t do this.” Fine, we’ll go to a different hospital. We know what hospitals are better at administering it. I’d rather have the faster hospitals administering it. The fine, and if you can administer it, if your hospital doesn’t have the capacity, then just say that.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (29:28)
But don’t say as a hospital, “I can administer it,” but then don’t. That’s why you would be fined. You would be fined for accepting an allocation that you can’t administer or won’t administer. You should just say, “I don’t want to participate in the program,” which is fine, and then we’ll give it to a different hospital. The second, “Fine,” that is not a mistake, John. I want to pass a criminal law to that effect. Criminal law is intent. It’s not a mistake. It’s not that you were defrauded. It’s you engaged knowingly in a criminal act. You sold the vaccines because you could make money. I came to you and I said, “Look, I’m not eligible, but I want to skip ahead to the line. And I’m willing to pay you for that.” That’s a crime. I’m talking about criminal conduct, not a mistake or not that you were defrauded.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (30:46)
If a hospital said, “Look, they gave me a phony driver’s license. And they told me they were 75, but they weren’t. I was defrauded,” fine. I’m talking about the opposite. I’m talking about an affirmative fraud using this vaccine. You will, mark my words, you’re going to see fraud in this vaccine. You’re going to see people selling the vaccine. We’re already investigating cases of fraud. It’s valuable, it’s money, and you will see fraud. And before it even starts, I want to say to people, I understand the possibility of this. And I understand this is a valuable commodity. And by the way, it’s going to become more valuable when people say, “I really want it and I want to get ahead of the line.” So that would be criminal. The main spread is now coming from social gatherings. I have said everything that I can say, we’ve closed and regulated every outlet that we can regulate. Some people mocked me, made a little picture of me looking in the window of a house that I was so intrusive that I was looking into your home to see how many people you had at a social gathering. The CDC has said no more than your immediate household. The state has said no more than 10. I talk about it every time I’m here, John, but over about 75% of the spread is coming from people’s social activities. And everything short of that, we have regulated. The only place to go over that is a hospital capacity becomes problematic. Then we go to full shut down and that’s a red zone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (32:52)
And the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, you see that number 30% availability. If that infection rate does not come down, you will see the hospital capacity diminishing, and then you will see the region shut down. That number keeps going up at that level, you will see the hospital capacity number come down, you will see the region shutdown. That is what they are looking at. It is math. You can predict the future here because it’s just the extrapolation of an equation. You continue at that hospitalization rate. You will reduce the hospital capacity and you will go to a red zone. That’s what the Finger Lakes in Mohawk Valley are looking at. Next question, operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Morgan Makai from spectrum news. Morgan, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (33:59)
How are you Morgan?
Morgan Makai: (33:59)
Good morning Governor, how are you? Good morning. I was wondering what’s the refusal rate right now with the vaccine among healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff? Do you know how many people have refused right now to take the vaccine?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (34:14)
We don’t know. I’ll ask Dr. Zucker and Dr… Not doctor, well, he’s technically a doctor, he’s a lawyer, he’s technically doctor, but I don’t call him doctor. Because then I would be a doctor too. Gareth Rhodes. We know the percent, the successful percent that most hospitals have administered of their allocation. We don’t have a definitive breakdown of staff who didn’t get it versus staff who wouldn’t take it. We have anecdotal, we don’t have hard numbers, but I would ask Dr. Zucker and Gareth, we’ll call him Dr. Rhodes, Dr. Rhodes if he knows anything beyond that.
Dr. Zucker: (35:03)
Thank thank you Governor. And as the Governor mentioned, we have some anecdotal evidence from the hospitals, but primarily with our nursing homes, we were saying we have some more data on that. It’s about 10% of the residents and about 15% of the staff. The healthcare workers were pushing very hard and they are also pushing to get everyone vaccinated. That’s the critical thing to do for them, but I don’t have a specific number for the whole healthcare system unless Gareth does.
Dr. Rhodes: (35:29)
I have nothing more to add, that’s good.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (35:31)
Nothing else, Dr. Rhodes? Next question, operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Jeff Kulakowski from channel nine in Syracuse. Jeff, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Jeff Kulakowski: (35:46)
Hi Governor, how are you? Happy new year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (35:47)
Happy new year, Jeff. How are you doing?
Jeff Kulakowski: (35:50)
Good, thank you, sir. Could you help me understand better, the release from the press office yesterday said the percent of hospital beds available in the central New York region is 20%. Your slide obviously earlier today said that that central New York was at 30.87%. So is there a difference I’m not understanding there? Because the 20% has a lot of us concerned that more restrictions are coming.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (36:14)
The number you saw today and I asked Dr. Rhodes to comment on this, the number you saw today is what that hospital could surge to in seven days. So you have… It is a little complicated, but it’s a good question. I want to make sure we all understand it. You have, what is your availability today, hospital? What is your surge capacity for staffed beds within seven days? Meaning you could have 20% today. What can you add within seven days and what would your capacity be? What would your capacity be in 14 days? We even asked what could your capacity be in 21 days?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (37:09)
So you can have a 100 bed hospital and I can have 80 people in those beds, so I have a 20% capacity, but I also have an ambulatory center and I can close the ambulatory center and I can make those hospital beds, but that would take me seven days. So then I could give you one number for today, but I have capacity to make some changes and add beds. And that’s the seven day surge. You give me a little more time as a hospital, I could hire more staff and I’d have a 14 day surge capacity that is a little greater. So you have capacity today, your ability to surge and add, which is either beds or staff, or sometimes both, in seven days, 14 days, 21 days. But Gareth, do you want to comment on that?
Dr. Rhodes: (38:08)
Yes, the governor is exactly right. The information the hospital gives the state every single day, this number of staff to acute care beds that are currently available. It’s a number we watch very, very closely. We’ve watched the rate of hospital admissions, what the growth rate is, and we can project that out. And then what can you build within seven days? Again, acute care, staffed beds. It’s an important metric to be able to know that these hospitals can provide the type of care to a certain number of patients over a period of time. So the governor is exactly right in the way he described it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (38:41)
Okay, operator, next question. Anyone want to add anything? Correct anything? Misstatements, misfacts, miscues, misinterpretation? Operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Dan Clark from PBS. Dan, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Dan Clark: (39:00)
Hey governor, can you hear me?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (39:01)
Yes, sir Dan happy new year.
Dan Clark: (39:04)
Happy new year to you as well. So you said something sort of ominous that next Monday will be the start of the state of the state. Can you give us any more details? Are we looking at more than one speech? Will it be done virtually? Just because obviously you don’t want to have a super spreader event. What are we looking at for state of the state?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (39:21)
Governor is super spreader, now that would be a story. Governor super spreader state of the state. It shouldn’t be ominous, first of all, Dan. It should be intriguing. Look this is a different year and there will be no crowd. So virtual, whatever you call this, but obviously you can’t bring a together. There’s no crowd, so you don’t have a convention center, you don’t have 1,000 people in the convention center, but actually you have many more people paying attention to these types of communications than we ever did before for the state of the state. We have hundreds of thousands of viewers on this, but it will be different. And this is also a different kind of state, not just in the mechanism, but this is going to be a different state of the state because it’s a more challenging year for the state and we have more to do so I’ll leave it at that for now because I want to have a little suspense, not ominous. It’s going to be good. I know you love to listen to my speeches and remarks, Dan. So it’s going to be very good. Question please, operator.
Your next question comes from Kevin Tampone from the Post Standard. Kevin, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (41:06)
How are you Kevin?
Kevin Tampone: (41:08)
Yeah, hi governor, given what you were just saying to John earlier on the zones, how should we think about the micro cluster zones going forward? There hasn’t really been much change over the last couple of weeks, either in terms of taking zones away or shrinking them or adding new ones. I know here in Syracuse, we’re hearing from a lot of restaurant owners and other business owners that are affected by the restrictions that are wondering where things are going, when things might be lifted, or whether more restrictions are coming. I guess I’m just curious for an update on how we should think about that at the moment.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (41:46)
Well, Kevin, think about it this way. The question one, reduced restrictions. To reduce restrictions, you would have to see a reduced rate. Why would you reduce…
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (42:03)
See a reduced rate. Why would you reduce restrictions when you see the rate increasing? What you’re seeing is despite the restrictions, the rate is increasing. Experts will tell you, and I believe, without the restrictions, it would be increasing faster.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (42:24)
If the rate continues to increase, you’re going to run into a hospital capacity issue. That is a function of math. When you run into a hospital capacity issue, then we have to close down the economy. And Kevin, “Well, we don’t want to close down the economy. That’s terrible.” It is terrible. It is. And yes, that is the last resort, but that is a function of our behavior.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (42:59)
You know, the Finger Lakes, you see for weeks the numbers going up. You see the positivity rate go up. You see the hospitalization rate go up. You see the hospital capacity go down. That is going to lead you to a close-down. There is no alternative.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (43:27)
So people are in control of their own destiny. This is not government. This is social behavior. New Yorkers brought the COVID rate down. And if New Yorkers are not careful, the COVID rate will go up. And we restricted everything we could. I’m not going to reduce any restrictions in a region where it’s still going up. And if it keeps going up and social gatherings are 75% of the cause, and they have pictures of me looking in the window and into people’s homes, if the rate keeps going up, then you’re going to reduce hospital capacity and it’s going to be a red zone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:12)
Operator, let’s take one more question.
Governor, your last question comes from Shannon Young from Politico. Shannon, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Shannon Young: (44:24)
Hi, Governor. Happy New Year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:25)
Happy New Year, Shannon.
Shannon Young: (44:28)
So just wanted to get a little bit more details on sort of what the issue is right now with the hospitals in reaching the vaccination levels that you would like to see. Has it been the priority issue? Has it been people refusing to get the vaccines, or has it been sort of a supply chain cooling issue? And then how many vaccines have been administered in the state as of today?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:50)
Okay. About 300,000 vaccines have been administered. I’ve spoken to dozens of hospitals. I may go to medical school after this experience. It’s all of the above Shannon. There is no one cause, but let’s just remember what we’re doing here.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (45:12)
The federal government set guidance on prioritization of who should receive the first vaccines. We agreed with the federal prioritization on the top priority, what they call priority one, hence top priority. Priority one is inarguable. It’s all healthcare workers who come in contact with the public. Why? Because they’re most likely to be infected because they’re coming in contact with the public, and they’re most likely to spread the infection because they come in contact with the public. And I’m going to ask Dr. Zucker to comment on this.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (46:02)
Look, you’re going to have a lot of people who I could argue are top priority. Police are top priority, bus drivers, subway operators, firefighters, right? But healthcare workers on the numbers come into contact with people and are most in a setting where they could get infected.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (46:32)
The hospitals get the vaccines. They can store these vaccines, both the Pfizer and the Moderna, and they are responsible for administering. This is to their staff, to their staff. How are some hospitals at 99% and some hospitals at 15%? I have heard nothing besides the urgency and the management capacity and efficiency. They all have the storage capacity. Some are at 99%.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:17)
Now, while some people will refuse to take it, some healthcare workers will refuse to take it, but that can’t be the issue because they’re at 99%. They have healthcare workers who they haven’t reached yet. So even if you want to say a small percentage of healthcare workers won’t take the vaccine, that’s not where they’re at.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:42)
Now, it’s only been three weeks and you could argue that, well, I’m being very aggressive in trying to get the vaccine out the door quickly. I am. I am. I don’t want the vaccine in a freezer. I want it in somebody’s arm. So yes, I’m being aggressive, but if some hospitals can get 99% out, you can’t explain the deviation between 99 and 15. And I haven’t heard a good explanation that’s anything other than within their own bureaucracy and their own administration within their own bureaucracy.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:27)
Now, they’ll say to me, “It’s only been three weeks.” And for some hospitals, it depends on your calibration. You could argue that three weeks is a short period of time. I think three weeks is a long period of time.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:40)
And also, Shannon, the hospital doesn’t have to participate. If they don’t want the pressure of doing it, I understand. Fine. Then just say, “I don’t want to participate,” and then we’ll send it to another hospital in that area that will participate and can do the employees of that hospital plus their own employees. I don’t have any problem with that. I do have a problem with a hospital saying they’re going to participate, receiving a scarce vaccine, and not administering it. But I have not heard any explanation other than it’s only been three weeks and not everybody comes in every day and people have different shifts. It’s all the bureaucracy. It’s bureaucracy.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (49:33)
But Dr. Zucker, who happens to be a doctor and probably is more sympathetic to the hospitals and the bureaucracy than I am. See, I operate by the doctrine of constructive impatience, Shannon, constructive impatience. There’s always reasons to go slow. There’s always reasons why it hasn’t gotten done, especially in government. Constructive impatience is I am impatient, but it is constructive. I’m impatient that it has been three weeks and the vaccines haven’t been administered. I am impatient. “Well, that’s a negative.” No, I think it’s constructive impatience. This is a matter of life and death. So yes, I’m impatient, but I think it’s constructive.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (50:21)
Dr. Zucker: (50:22)
Thank you, Governor. So I think part of this also is a sense of urgency, as the Governor mentioned. The hospitals that are sitting at 99%, there’s a sense of urgency within the hospital to move things forward. And having worked in the hospitals, when you feel there’s a priority, you push and you move it forward. So those at the top end, obviously there’s a sense of urgency there.
Dr. Zucker: (50:42)
On the other end of the spectrum, if you look there’s the 15%, there’s a 32%, 31%. So for example, in the H&H system, the Mayor runs an H&H system, the health and hospitals system. So they have 23,000 eligible employees. 12,000 of them have been vaccinated. They’ve received 85,000, sorry, 38,000 vaccines. So those other 11,000 employees need to get vaccinated. There needs to be a sense of urgency there.
Dr. Zucker: (51:10)
And as the Governor mentioned, the issue is that those employees, whether it’s in the system, the H&H system, or any of the other hospitals, they are the front-facing healthcare workers. They are sitting right opposite a patient who has a medical condition who, if they get COVID, are more likely to get ill, end up in the hospital, or stay in the hospital and unfortunately, potentially die.
Dr. Zucker: (51:34)
So there is this sense of urgency and I urge everyone to recognize that this is a high priority in the hospital system all across the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:43)
And Shannon, let me just double down on the constructive inpatients. We’re doing healthcare workers as the first traunch. First, we want those healthcare workers vaccinated for their safety and the safety of the public. If you are a nurse who was doing COVID testing, nasal swabs, if you are infected, you could come in contact with hundreds of people in one day. They have the greatest probability of being a super spreader.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (52:16)
So yes, constructive impatience to protect the healthcare worker and to protect the public who the healthcare worker is dealing with. That’s why healthcare workers are the first priority. And constructive impatience because we want to get through the healthcare workers so we can get to the next traunch, which are the police and the bus drivers and the train operators and people with comorbidities and older people who are most vulnerable. We have to get down that list to get to people who are very vulnerable today. So yes, constructive impatience. Thank you very much.