NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Kathy Hochul hosted a COVID-19 briefing Tuesday morning to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts.

Mask mandate

The state’s new indoor mask mandate went into effect Monday. It is meant to combat the rising cases of coronavirus and hospitalizations across New York. Masks are now required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement.

The mandate will remain in effect until January 15, 2022, at which point the state will reevaluate based on current conditions.

“The objective is to protect the health of New Yorkers and protect the economy,” Gov. Hochul said. “It is a short term effort. Given that we are in a different place now, we can can deal with it, this has a deadline on it.”

The governor said her initial plan was to handle measures county-by-county, but overall statewide surges in case rates and COVID-19 hospitalizations led her to implementing the policy for all of New York. According to the governor, cases per 100,000 people are up 58% statewide since Thanksgiving. She added that hospitalizations per 100,000 were up 70% since Thanksgiving.

“This is a holiday surge,” Gov. Hochul said. “Our statewide case rate has gone up 58% since Thanksgiving. We don’t always have a clear picture on cases immediately, so going by per 100,000 gives us a better look, and these are not rending in the right direction. 28% increase just last week for hospitalizations, 70% now since Thanksgiving. This is an alarming jump.”

Along with case rates and hospitalizations, the governor said vaccination rate was the third metric the state was evaluating when weighing additional COVID-19 mitigation measures. She said while case rates and hospitalizations have soared since Thanksgiving, the amount of New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated only increased by 2% in the same time frame.

“If more people got vaccinated, we would not be having these conversations,” Gov. Hochul said. “If more New Yorkers had done this, I’m not sure I would be having these COVID briefings, it would have been in the rearview mirror.

“Even though we have had 31 million shots in arms of New Yorkers, we still have 30% of New Yorkers who are not vaccinated,” Gov. Hochul said. “This is a crisis of the unvaccinated. This was preventable. If I sound a little frustrated, perhaps I am. This did not have to be the case. The vaccine was introduced a year ago. If we had 100% vaccinated, we would not be here.”

The governor said the state’s vaccination rate can be improved with younger age groups who more recently became eligible to receive their shots, but she added that more kids still need to take advantage of that eligibility.

“The number of children who now had the ability to be vaccinated is not where it should be,” Gov. Hochul said. “We have to stimulate more interest in protecting these kids. There’s not a huge number of them hospitalized, but they can be the spreaders to their older grandparents.”

Both Livingston County and Ontario County announced Monday they will not adhering to the governor’s new mask mandate. Other counties, like Erie in Western New York, implemented their own mask mandate before the state intervened.

“Governor Hochul derided the use of these types of measures just days ago,” said David LeFeber, Chairman of the Livingston County Board of Supervisors in a statement. “Now, we are back to Cuomo-era approaches. That is an unfortunate, and swift, switch of position by the Governor.

Livingston and Ontario join several other New York counties which have expressed they would not enforce the new mandate, including MadisonNiagara, and Rensselaer. Although some counties have expressed they would not enforce the mandate, the governor said most counties have expressed support for the new policy.

“With respect to those leaders, we’ve done a survey of the counties who are in support of our mandate,” Gov. Hochul said. “It’s not scientific, but if you want to do a quick analysis, they represent 73% of New Yorkers.

“Thanks to the leaders who have done what you’ve done,” Gov. Hochul said. “I will say, to an extent, that this is a circumstance … I read ‘The Arena” speech by Roosevelt: ‘It’s not about the critics who count, it’s about who is in the arena.’ I want to thank business owners who are helping us save lives.”

One of those business owners who the governor thanked was Danny Deutsch who owns Abilene Bar & Lounge in Rochester. The local small music venue has required proof of vaccination for entry since June, and he joined the governor’s briefing Tuesday to discuss why he’s implemented that policy.

“Things are going well,” Deutsch said. “We are a small live music venue. We went to a policy that required proof of vaccination. We felt it was the right thing to do for our staff, our customers, and the musicians that play here. They are aware that everyone in the building has been vaccinated, and we’re going to keep that going and we certainly hope that people get vaccinated.”

A violation of any provision of the new mask measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation. According to the governor, the respective business would face the fine for a violation, not an individual for not wearing a mask. She said it also comes down to local counties in terms of enforcement.

“In contrast to the steps that had to be taken in the past, it [masking] is truly a minor infringement,” Gov. Hochul said.

The governor said that, to date, there have been 38 confirmed cases of omicron on New York, but she said the presence of the new variant is not what’s driving the state policies.

“In my oath, I have promised to keep New Yorkers safe,” Gov. Hochul said. I’m not going to get into a political discussion over this — it’s too important. It is about getting us to an end, so we can say ‘you don’t have to wear a mask anymore.’ We have to get a point of rational discussion. I will always do what is right for the people in this state. Right now we are in a pandemic. We don’t know what the future brings. It [a mask mandate] is a preemptive measure that is not intrusive.”

New numbers

New York’s Tuesday COVID-19 data, according to the governor’s office, is summarized briefly below.

Cases per 100,000 on a seven-day average by region:

  • Capital Region — 58.65
  • Central New York — 64.92
  • Finger Lakes — 61.42
  • Long Island — 67.74
  • Mid-Hudson — 47.72
  • Mohawk Valley — 74.80
  • New York City — 42.59
  • North Country — 66.63
  • Southern Tier — 85.21
  • Western New York — 66.17
  • Statewide — 54.15

Hospitalized COVID patients by region:

  • Capital Region — 285
  • Central New York — 189
  • Finger Lakes — 516
  • Long Island — 537
  • Mid-Hudson — 360
  • Mohawk Valley — 148
  • New York City — 921
  • North Country — 106
  • Southern Tier — 193
  • Western New York — 517
  • Statewide — 3,772

Available hospital bed capacity by region:

Region% available this week% available last week
Capital Region13%13%
Central New York11%10%
Finger Lakes10%6%
Long Island23%21%
Mohawk Valley11%11%
New York City21%20%
North Country18%16%
Southern Tier20%17%
Western New York7%8%

“We talked about the bed capacity,” Gov. Hochul said. “The measures are working, which is great news. Overall beds are up 1% statewide since last week. Finger Lakes at 10% from 6% last week. Not where we want to be, but at least we’re trending in the right direction.”

Statewide vaccination progress:

  • 32,276,344 total doses administered
  • 62,934 total doses administered in past 24 hours
  • 93.4% of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose
  • 82% of New Yorkers 18 and older fully vaccinated
  • 73.7% of New Yorkers 12-17 with at least one dose
  • 65.1% of New Yorkers 12-17 fully vaccinated
  • 22.3% of New Yorkers 5-11 with at least one dose
  • 11.7% of New Yorkers 5-11 fully vaccinated

Full Press Conference:

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