The battle is joined with promises of new rapid-testing sites, and a statewide Public Health Corps

— From the Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Speaking from the War Room, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday gives his remote State of the State Address, laced with battle metaphors about COVID-19.

ALBANY COUNTY — The governor gave his State of the State Address this year — laced with battle metaphors — from the War Room of the state capitol, which he said was appropriate as New York continues its battle with COVID-19.

Much of Andrew Cuomo’s speech on Monday — to be followed with several later presentations — dealt with initiatives spawned because of the coronavirus. He detailed plans for vaccinations, ways to deal with the economic crisis, and to “address the systemic injustices exposed during this year’s low-tide in America: the inequity, the racism, and the social abuse.”

On vaccines, he said, “Today, we have about 1 million doses in New York State for over 4 million eligible people. We only receive 300,000 doses per week from the federal government. At this rate, it will take us 14 weeks just to receive enough dosages for those currently eligible.”

The state will launch a Public Health Corps — with Cornell University and Northwell Hospital System — to train 100,000 volunteers who can step up during the next health crisis, he said.

A network of new rapid-testing sites is to be opened across the state. “Rapid testing not only saves lives, but it is a key to our economic reopening plan,” said Cuomo.

To help get out of its largest-ever deficit — $15 billion — New York will legalize adult-use recreational cannabis, Cuomo said, and he also proposed  state-sponsored mobile sports betting to raise additional funding.

“The truth is we cannot stay closed until everyone is vaccinated,” said Cuomo. “The economic, psychological and emotional cost would be incredible.”

The Buffalo Bills playoff game, in which fans filling a tenth of the stadium were tested for COVID before entering, he said, showed signs that science could be used to open venues.

On health care, Cuomo said, “The pandemic has illustrated, once again, that health care must be affordable for all, and I propose this year we eliminate premiums for 400,000 more low-income New Yorkers.”

“COVID showed us the limits of our health system, but it also fostered innovation,” as he spoke of a plan to expand telehealth and remote care that would level the playing field for all New Yorkers.

“America must seize this moment of international transformation,” said Cuomo. “Some countries will succeed and some will fail. Some regions will rise and some will fall. But this is a moment that is made for New Yorkers. This will be a moment to reimagine, reinvent, and recreate.”


Vaccine sign-up

Separate from his address, in a release, Cuomo announced that New Yorkers in the second tier, 1b, can begin scheduling appointments for getting the COVID-19 vaccine but he warned that, because of limited supplies, it could take up to 14 weeks to vaccinate the 4 million New Yorkers in the tier.

These include anyone 75 or older as well as essential workers. 

According to Albany Medical Center, which is the hub for the eight-county Capital Region, residents age 75 and over will primarily be vaccinated at pharmacies and other sites that are part of the governor’s “retail network.”

These residents should use the state’s online tool to find a location. Beginning Monday, Jan. 11, the COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline opened for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

Public employees — such as firefighters, police, and public school teachers — will primarily be vaccinated through their groups’ relevant health programs or as organized by their unions.

Health-care workers who are part of the first tier, 1a, will continue to be vaccinated at hospitals and other clinical settings.

New Yorkers can visit the state’s Am I Eligible website to see if they fall in one of the top two tiers, allowing them to make a required appointment to get vaccinated.

The Enterprise is running on its website a detailed list of New Yorkers eligible to get vaccinated as part of tier 1b. 


Newest numbers

Four more Albany County residents have died of COVID-19, bringing the county’s death toll to 254. Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy announced the deaths in a release on Monday morning.

The latest casualties are a woman in her fifties, two women in their eighties, and a woman in her nineties.

As of Monday morning, Albany County has had 14,223 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which includes 216 news cases since Sunday.

Of the new cases, 174 did not have a clear source of infection identified, 34 had close contact with someone infected with the disease, and eight are health-care workers or residents of congregate settings.

The five-day average for new daily positives has decreased to 265.4 from 276.6. There are now 1,997 active cases in the county, down from 2,055 yesterday.

The number of county residents under mandatory quarantine decreased to 3,119 from 3,204. So far, 43,264 residents have completed quarantine. Of those, 12,226 had tested positive and recovered. That is an increase of 265 recoveries since Sunday.

There were 13 new hospitalizations overnight, and there are 148 county residents currently hospitalized from the virus — a net increase of one. There are now nine patients in intensive-care units, down from 11 yesterday.

Of the state’s 10 regions, the Capital Region has the second-worst rate for available hospital beds. Currently, 508 Capital Region residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, which is 0.05 percent of the region’s population and leaves 25 percent of its hospital beds available.

Statewide, 0.04 percent of New Yorkers are hospitalized with the virus and 33 percent of hospital beds are available.

The Capital Region has 254 ICU beds and 208 of them are filled, leaving 19 percent available. One other region, Long Island, has a worse rate, at 18 percent.

Statewide, 26 percent of ICU beds are available.

The Capital Region has an infection rate, as a seven-day average, of 9.11 percent. Three other of the state’s 10 regions — the Finger Lakes, Long Island, and the Mohawk Valley — also have infection rates above 9 percent.

Statewide, the positivity rate is 7.25 percent.

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