Cuomo talks vaccine scam hotline, loosening microcluster restrictions

New York News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press briefing from Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Monday is day 331 of the pandemic, by Cuomo’s reckoning, and he included the following COVID statistics to kick off the briefing:

  • 167 deaths
  • 5.47% overall positivity
  • 219,538 test results

The governor said that the state is launching a new hotline to report vaccination abuse or fraud. “If you get an offer that sounds too good to be true,” Cuomo said to call (833) VAX-SCAM. “Everyone wants it,” Cuomo said. “But beware of fraudsters.”

Throughout Monday’s briefing, Cuomo echoed many points he has made in recent weeks and months. He introduced three priorities he’d previewed in recent State of the State and budget addresses:

  1. Control the COVID spread
  2. Vaccinate New Yorkers
  3. Rebuild the economy

The governor said that the current situation is unsustainable. Still, “The good news is the number is down, and it has been continuing to decline,” Cuomo said. “You see this is true all across the state.” Cuomo said that the increase in hospitalizations is slowing down.

The governor also highlighted an obscure metric—the rate of transmission—which appears to be down statewide. This number represents how many people one infected person can transmit coronavirus to. “At our high point, one person was infecting 2.5 other people,” Cuomo said. Officials have told him that a rate of transmission below 1 is ideal. “That’s where we are right now,” the governor said, “but it’s been a bumpy ride to get us here.”

Cuomo said that when metrics like these lower, “then you can increase economic activity.” He said that within the next few days—perhaps as soon as Wednesday—the state would adjust measures, loosen restrictions, and reopen sectors of the economy.

Experts told him that the downward trend is likely to continue and that the predicted “holiday spike” has probably passed. Cuomo says this means that “We can start to adjust that valve,” and that the states’ many microcluster zones will be reevaluated.

Even so, the governor warned that the virus has been ahead of the response every step of the way, and that now is no time to succumb to COVID fatigue. “This beast changes on us all the time,” he warned, talking about different messaging about different COVID variants. “The numbers look good today, but we have been down this road before, and the road has curves and the road has potholes.”

With 250,000 doses allocated to New York per week, and over 1.5 million vaccinations completed so far, Cuomo says that over 91% of first doses received by the state have been administered. “We get a weekly allocation from the federal government,” he said. “That means we have used 91% of the vaccine that we have received to date.”

Cuomo says that the country’s major mistake was inadequate capacity for screening, testing, supplies, facilities, contact tracing, vaccination, and communication. “We have 3,000 distribution sites, 3,000 providers, already signed up. so we can get the needle in the arm, we just need the supply itself,” he said. “We have mass vaccination sites that could do 10,000 per day, per site. We can literally do millions of doses. It is a national supply issue. This is not a New York issue.”

Cuomo said that he believes the Biden Administration plans to take public health seriously. “I think the mask mandate was long overdue,” he said. “It saved countless lives.” He said he looks forward to working with the Administration and the governors of the other 50 states moving forward.

The governor said that hospital capacity remains a top concern, though beds or equipment are not the issue. He said hospitals are worried about staff shortages. “Why? because they have staff getting sick.” Cuomo says this is the rationale behind prioritizing health care workers, to make sure there are enough health care workers to keep hospitals operational.

Cuomo said that last Monday, 63% of health care workers have been vaccinated. As of his Monday briefing, he said that percentage had risen to 72%. This is an important threshold, as 70% to 90% is the range suggested by experts to attain herd immunity. At Capital Region hospitals, percentages ranged from 72% to 85%.

The governor also said that vaccines depend on an equitable, fair allocation of dosages. “If the providers don’t follow their prioritization, then you won’t get a fair allocation,” Cuomo said. “If the pharmacies use their vaccine for police, fire, etc., then the 65+ won’t get a fair allocation.” Cuomo also said that providers should not schedule appointments if they don’t actually have their hands on adequate vaccine supplies.

“We’re anxious to get on with the reopening and the rebuilding. We are poised like no other state in the nation,” Cuomo said. “When the federal government actually starts to move, we are going to be the first out of the box building a New York that is better than it has ever been before all across the state.”

Cuomo said the state’s vaccine supply depends on a limited federal supply and urged elected federal officials to push for rolling back SALT. Both of these measures would benefit New Yorkers, either by providing greater access to the vaccine or by saving an average of $2,600 per household in the state, according to Cuomo’s numbers. He also reminded localities that the deadline for submitting plans to ease tensions between police and the communities they serve is April 1.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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