ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Wednesday to give an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been steadily rising statewide for the last few weeks, and the governor joined local and state officials in urging caution going into the holiday season.
The governor announced the following data Wednesday:
- 154,434 tests in New York state Tuesday
- 3.42% positivity rate overall statewide
- 4.73% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
- 3.1% positivity rate outside of micro-cluster hotspots
- 35 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 Tuesday
- 2,2020 New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus
- 423 in an ICU
- 192 intubated
“New York state was yesterday 3.4%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Seven-day rolling average, which balances it out, more accurate 2.9%. No state in the nation is below 2%, isn’t that shocking?”
The governor credited New Yorkers from bringing the positivity rate from its peak of 46% on April 8.
“New Yorkers deserve credit because they have done a phenomenal job,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That’s where we are — 2.8%, which is great news relative to everyone else. Look at the highest percentages; South Dakota 56, Iowa 51, Kansas 43. You’re higher than New York was when it was ambushed eight months ago? How could that possible be? That’s the story of this nation and COVID. Remember we were at 46, but remember we were ambushed, it was coming from Europe, nobody told us it exploded like sending a bomb over a tanker.”
The governor said the major concern areas for viral spread are currently in upstate New York.
“Western New York is the worst situation in the state of New York,” Gov. Cuomo said. “After Western New York is the Finger Lakes.”
The governor announced that portions of Western New York would be elevated to the orange zone, which comes with new restrictions, including:
- Closing high-risk non-essential businesses (gyms, personal care, etc).
- Schools move to remote-only instruction model
- Outdoor dining only, four people maximum per table
- 33% capacity for religious worship capacity, 25 people maximum
“Remember with schools, there’s what we call a ‘test out option,'” Gov. Cuomo said. “Schools closed in an orange zone, but the schools can reopen if they stay closed for four days, they clean, and then they test people who come back in — as well as faculty, staff — so the schools can reopen in an orange zone. And then there’s ongoing weekly surveillance.”
The governor said the micro-cluster restrictions put in place elsewhere have proven to be effective.
“The good news is microclusters work,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Following the rules work. Broome County was a yellow zone. It’s now under control and is back to normal. Orange County was a yellow zone. It is now back to normal. Brooklyn was an orange zone, it’s being dropped to a yellow zone. So the restrictions work, and just to make it very simple: If you’re socially distant, and you wore a mask, and you were smart, none of this would be a problem — it’s all self imposed. If you didn’t eat the cheesecake you wouldn’t have a weight problem.”
The governor said Western New York hasn’t experienced the worst of the pandemic, which led to worsening behavior in regards to pandemic regulations.
“Western New York never felt the full pain of COVID’s wrath,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Western New York read about New York City, they read about Long Island, but the numbers were never as bad in Western New York, and you want people to change dramatically their behavior.”
The governor again expressed concern over the upcoming holidays.
“Thanksgiving is coming up and you will see a tremendous spike after Thanksgiving — a tremendous spike after Thanksgiving,” Gov. Cuomo said. “No scientific data, no health commissioner said that — it’s just my personal theory because Thanksgiving is a holiday and people come together, and if you don’t have a real fear about COVID, you’re going to come together and you see people saying ‘nobody’s going to stop be from coming together, that’s my family you can’t tell me don’t socialize.’
“Your family sounds safe doesn’t it?” Gov. Cuomo said. “Your home sounds safe, your dining room table on Thanksgiving sounds safe. ‘This is a safe environment I’ll be safe.’ No you won’t be safe — it’s an illusion. My sister loves me. My sister could infect me, not maliciously, but accidently. It’s counterintuitive. What I thought was the safest place and the safest situation, in my home, at my table with my family. It can’t be any safer than that! That’s a dangerous situation. Canada, after Thanksgiving, the number went up.
“My advice on Thanksgiving? Don’t be a turkey,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You know what love is on Thanksgiving? ‘I love you so much and I’m so thankful for you that I’m not going to see you.’ That’s how you show me you love me. That’s how much I love you.”
The governor said he would be asking state officials and commissioners, including himself, to not accept pay raises at the beginning of 2021 in an effort to help the state’s fiscal issues that have been brought about by the pandemic.
On the issue of enforcement, the governor said that laws are laws and local governments need to take on a greater role of making sure the rules are followed.
“I don’t believe as a law enforcement officer you have a right to pick and choose what laws you will enforce,” Gov. Cuomo said. “An executive order is a law that has been litigated. ‘Well I don’t believe in that law and therefore I won’t enforce it.’ That is frankly frightening to me as an individual, frightening to democracy. It’s arrogant and it violates your constitutional duty. You didn’t say ‘I swear to uphold the laws I agree with.'”
Locally, all eyes are on Monroe County’s yellow zone micro-cluster, which could be upgraded to an orange zone — with new rules and restrictions — as soon as Monday if positivity rates and cases per 100,000 residents continue trending upward. As of 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, there was no update on Monroe County’s micro-cluster positivity rate.
MORE | Bello, Dr. Mendoza on COVID-19 yellow zone in Monroe County: ‘Wake up call for the community’
According to the New York state guidelines, microclusters are reevaluated 14 days after an initial determination. Monroe County’s yellow cluster was declared last Monday and brought about new rules and restrictions for schools, dining, religious worship, gatherings, and more.
While a zone update isn’t expected until at least Monday, based on the guidelines, the positivity rate has consistently surpassed the 4% criteria. According to the New York State Department of Health, the Monroe County micro-cluster positivity rates for the past eight days were as follows:
- November 9 — 4.76%
- November 10 — 6.21%
- November 11 — 5.69%
- November 12 — 5.90%
- November 13 — 5.09%
- November 14 — 4.68%
- November 15 — 4.77%
- November 16 — 3.68%
To qualify for orange zone designation, Monroe County would have to meet the following benchmarks:
- Geographic area has 7-day rolling average positivity above 4% for 10 days AND
- Geographic area has 12 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on 7-day average
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.