Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 20, to congratulate President Joe Biden, express hope for the country’s future and lay out what it will mean for New York moving forward in the face of COVID-19.
“I’m very excited about the president and the change for this nation,” said Cuomo, less than two hours after Biden took his oath of office in Washington D.C. “This is going to be a different country.”
Cuomo expressed hope for the future of New York, and the nation, after Biden’s inauguration, and described him as “the right person for this time.”
The governor also emphasized the strength of his personal relationship with Biden and appeared confident that it would bode well for New York in terms of securing federal COVID-relief aid.
Cuomo described President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan as “what the nation needs” as well as “what the governors have been arguing for, for the past year.” The plan sets aside $350 billion for state and local relief aid. Cuomo asserted that he will “fight very hard” to secure the necessary state and local relief for New York, the allocation of which will be handled by Congress.
“We must make sure in that process, New York is represented,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also provided up-to-date numbers related to the pandemic and vaccine distribution across the state.
The areas with the most hospitalizations across the state are the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Long Island regions, with each region’s hospitalizations trending upwards by .06 percent. Cuomo stressed the importance of personal responsibility in these regions, stating that the hospitalization rates are a “function of your behavior.”
Speaking on the topic of vaccinations, Cuomo shared that 65 percent of the state’s health care workers have been vaccinated and that there are currently 1,200 vaccine distribution centers statewide with that number expected to rise. The state is averaging 65,000 vaccinations per day, but Cuomo warns that at this rate, the state will run out of supply in three days.
Shortage of vaccine supply was a recurring theme throughout the press conference. Cuomo made sure to emphasize that a short supply of the vaccines is what is limiting the speed of vaccinations, not a lack of distribution.
“We have more of a distribution network than we have product, so to speak,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo said that at the current rate of vaccine production, it will take anywhere from six to seven months to vaccinate the groups that are already eligible to be vaccinated — health care workers, first responders and essential workers as well as New Yorkers over 65.
Cuomo is hopeful, however, that the rate of vaccine production will increase and he urged the new administration to do all within his power to ensure that.
“I urge the president to do whatever he can to increase the supply,” said Cuomo, adding that New York officials tried to purchase vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna directly, but they are not legally licensed to sell to states without federal approval.
The governor is concerned about the new virus strains that have appeared in the UK, South Africa and Brazil. The UK strain has shown evidence of being anywhere from 30 to 70 percent more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, while the South African and Brazilian strains of the virus have not yet been studied enough to determine whether or not they’re more infectious or lethal.
Isolated cases of the UK strain have appeared in New York, but cases of the Brazilian or South African strains have not. Cuomo said he believes it’s only a “matter of time” until these strains started to appear in New York state and warned people of the possibility of a mutation that could potentially make the virus vaccine resistant.
He is asking that federal officials begin testing all international travelers who enter the country as a way to combat the spread of these new strains.
“Probability suggests there will be a strain, there will be a mutation, that is vaccine resistant, as frightening as that sounds,” Cuomo said.