Cuomo also talked about the MTA expanding subway service. For the past 10 months, subways have been closed from 1 to 5 a.m. for cleaning and disinfecting. Beginning on Monday, February 22, the subways will be closed from 2 to 4 a.m., expanding ridership by two additional hours.
“The trains have never been as clean as they are now,” Cuomo quipped. “It is remarkable.”
As usual, Cuomo also updated the public on the state’s COVID positivity rate. On day 352 of the pandemic in New York, the governor provided the following data:
- 180,504 COVID-19 tests reported Sunday
- 3.53% positivity rate statewide
- 103 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
- 6,623 hospitalized
- 1,270 in ICU
- 875 intubated
“The good news overall: the post-holiday increase has continued to decrease,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Congratulations to New Yorkers; we went from 7.9% down to 3% — that is very good news, and hospitalizations are down.” More specific numbers can be seen in the slides below:
The governor said a New York City patient has tested positive for the South African variant. He said the patient was transferred directly from Connecticut to a New York City hospital.
“A patient in New York City has tested positive for the South African variant,” Cuomo said. “The South African variant is the variant they are watching closely. The U.K. strain is very transmittable, but the South African strain, they’re worried about how lethal it is, and how it relates to the vaccine, but the patient was transferred from Connecticut directly to a New York hospital, so not a New York resident. We have no evidence of any spread in New York state to date.”
The governor said more than 3.2 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, with more than a million New Yorkers getting both doses. The governor said as supply increases, so too does the points of distribution, which can cause confusion.
“It’s not really going to end until you have an increase in dosages,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The governor called for better coordination between state and federal governments so pharmacies don’t receive allocation from each branch. “If the federal government is sending to CVS, then I wouldn’t send to CVS — so I’m asking for better coordination,” Cuomo said.
The governor said he and the National Governors Association sent a letter to the Biden Administration to further clarify the distribution plans going forward. For now, supply remains the most pressing issue in the vaccination process.
“There are more people eligible nationwide than there are doses available,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Federal government, as I’ve mentioned, is increasing the eligibility, but it’s about supply. So in New York state, we have 10 million people eligible for the vaccine for about 300,000 doses per week in supply.”
The governor reiterated the April 1 deadline for municipalities to submit public safety reform, or risk losing state funding for their local police department. On legislative matters, the governor announced amendments to a bill for legalizing recreational cannabis. He said if it’s not done by the budget due date of April 1.
“I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement and we can get it done, but if we don’t get it done by April 1, then we won’t get it down and that’s 45 days away,” Cuomo said.
The governor announced that subways in New York City would change operating times: the MTA’s overnight shutdown hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. will switch to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. beginning February 22.
For the first time, during the briefing, Cuomo talked about nursing homes, including the deaths of residents and the controversy over last week’s New York Post report that the state hid nursing home data over the fear of a federal probe. Cuomo also commented on moving those who had been infected with COVID and hospitalized back to the nursing homes.“The truth is, everyone did everything they could do,” Cuomo said. “The truth is, COVID attacks senior citizens.”
The governor acknowledged that if he could “rewind the tape” when it came to releasing requested nursing home data, his administration should have put it out sooner.
“I understand the public had many questions and concerns and the press had many questions about nursing homes primarily, and I understand that they were not answered quickly enough,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And they should have been prioritized and prioritize those requests sooner.
Recently, state lawmakers called for investigations, stripping the governor of his emergency powers and even calls for his resignation from a few Republicans after new details emerged about why certain nursing home data was kept under wraps for months — despite requests from lawmakers and others.
“Executive powers have nothing to do with nursing homes and the legislature can overturn executive measures,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We know the virus can’t be mandated within state boundaries or county boundaries. These are public health decisions, not decisions to be made for local politics. I get these are difficult decisions, but otherwise, people die, and these decisions should not be politicized.”
The governor said facts have been distorted over the past year and he laid out a timeline of “facts” regarding the nursing home controversy:
“The DOH has fully and publicly reported all COVID-19 deaths in hospitals and nursing homes,” Cuomo said. “They have always been fully reported. 36% of all COVID deaths have been in nursing homes, and they make up less than 1% of the population. New York is No. 34 in nursing home deaths as a percentage of total deaths, and New York state is one of only nine states that count ‘presumed fatalities’ in nursing homes.”
The governor said there has been “much distortion” regarding a New York State Department of Health memo from March 25, 2020. It was a memo that included CDC protocols for sending hospital patients back to nursing homes, guidance that New York and a dozen other states followed. “Senior citizens shouldn’t stay in a hospital longer than necessary because of the risk of a secondary infection,” Cuomo said.
The governor said of 613 nursing homes, 365 received a person from a hospital. He said of those 365 nursing homes that received a patient from a hospital between March 25 memo, and the advisory being superseded on May 10, 98% had COVID-19 in their facility prior to when the patient was admitted.
“COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals,” Cuomo said. “COVID got into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home when they didn’t know they had COVID.”
The governor said the state has seen and continues to see guidance from medical professionals and scientists on COVID-19 decisions. “These decisions are not political decisions,” Cuomo said. “They’re all made on the best information the medical professionals had at the time. I’ve said to the state many times, nobody has been here before, nobody knows for sure — COVID is new.”
The governor gave a vote of confidence for New York State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “I would trust Dr. Zucker with my mother’s care,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That’s why I trust him with your mother’s care. I wouldn’t have anyone as the health commissioner I wouldn’t trust with my mother.”
The governor said the lessons learned over the past year will be important for the next pandemic.
“I have long believed there is a tension in for-profit nursing homes,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Do you want to hire more staff or make more profit? Do you want to buy more PPE or stockpile PPE, or do you want to make more profit? That tension is a problem that has to be resolved legislatively, because I don’t want to leave it to these for-profit owners to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. COVID isn’t done with us. I believe it should be mandated how much you make should be put make into the facility. I believe that.”
The governor said if he could go back in time, things would have been done differently, but he said “everybody did the best they could.”
“The void we created was filled with skepticism, and cynicism, and conspiracy theories,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The void we created allowed disinformation and that created more anxieties for the families with loved ones. Love ones died alone. It was horrific.”
The governor said the last thing he wanted to do as governor was to “aggravate a terrible situation.”
“I accept responsibility. I am in charge,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I take responsibility. We should have provided more information faster. We were too focused on doing the job and addressing the crisis and we didn’t do a good enough job.”
A statement Monday from New York State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt:
“Governor Cuomo’s failure to apologize this afternoon was a shocking slap in the face to the New Yorkers who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. His inability to take blame for the hurt inflicted on our families by his administration’s relentless disinformation campaign is wrong on every level.
The Governor seems incapable of comprehending that it was his Administration at fault, and nobody else. He continues to shift the blame anywhere but upon himself and his top officials.
The Governor’s major excuse for the failure of his Administration to provide accurate, timely information to the public was, ‘We were busy.’ This is a pathetic response coming from a man who had the time to publish and promote a book about his pandemic response while New Yorkers clamored for the truth.
To be clear, the Senate Republicans were never notified by the Governor’s Administration regarding the Department of Justice request. People want the truth and the only way that can be provided is through investigations by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. We know this even more now because Senate Democrats have shown they were willing partners in the lies and the coverup. For the thousands of New Yorkers who lost a cherished loved one in a nursing home, for those who can’t get a vaccine because of this governor’s tight-fisted yet incompetent administration of vaccines, and for the professionals who felt compelled to resign from a Department of Health driven not by science but by politics, justice must be served.“