Cuomo says state DOH will review feds’ research before recommending New Yorkers take any vaccine

Enterprise file photo

Casinos — this is an imaginary one, portrayed in a Hilltown play — will open for real across New York State on Sept. 9 with a 25-percent occupancy rate and other restrictions.

ALBANY COUNTY — As the curve in New York State and Albany County — where nine new COVID-19 cases were announced today — remains relatively flat, the push is to maintain safety as institutions from casinos to schools are slated to open.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today, as the COVID-19 infection rate statewide remains below 1 percent for the 27th straight day, that casinos will be allowed to open next week.

He also said that malls in New York City, the last of the state’s 10 regions to reopen, can open at half capacity next week.

At the same time, Patricia Fahy, a Democratic assemblywoman representing parts of Albany County, released a letter to the governor, calling for movie theaters to reopen, which was signed by herself and 16 of her colleagues.

Also on Thursday, Cuomo announced that school districts across the state will be required to provide the state’s health department with daily data on the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in each school, beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Finally, Cuomo, in a conference call with the press on Thursday, questioned the efficacy of vaccines being rushed into production to ward off the coronavirus disease 2019.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently issued guidelines to all 50 states on how to ship, mix, store, and administer vaccines labelled only as A and B to health-care workers and other priority groups.

Some health experts have raised concerns about the public using a vaccine before the drug has completed the final, third, phase of clinical trials, which typically involves tens of thousands of participants.

“The president says he’s going to have a vaccine,” said Cuomo on Thursday. “CDC is talking about a vaccine in early November. How convenient. It’s going to be an Election Day miracle drug. Some people are concerned that the vaccine may wind up being hydroxychloroquine,” said Cuomo, alluding to Donald Trump’s false claims that the drug meant to treat malaria, which Trump claimed to be taking himself, could prevent contraction of COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration later warned that hydroxychloroquine could cause serious heart problems for COVID-19 patients after which regulations from various states and medical boards restricted its use.

 Cuomo said on Thursday that the state’s health department will be reviewing “all the protocol and research by the FDA and whatever federal authorities say … before we recommend New Yorkers take any vaccine.”


Casinos and theaters

Casinos and video-lottery-terminal facilities will be allowed to reopen across New York State starting on Sept. 9 with a 25-percent occupancy limit.

Staff and patrons must wear masks except when eating or drinking. Additional staff will need to control occupancy, traffic flow, and seating to avoid crowding, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols must be followed.

Casinos must also have enhanced air-filtration, ventilation, and purification standards in place in order to open.

Casinos must leave six feet of distance between operating machines. No table games will be allowed unless and until casinos put in place physical barriers between players and the Gaming Commission approves those barriers.

No beverage or food service will be allowed on the gaming floor. The State Gaming Commission will be deployed to monitor casinos and ensure strict enforcement of these measures.

Fahy, in releasing the letter calling for theaters to open, stated that 42 states have allowed a limited reopening of movie theaters and that locally-owned theaters are a critical part of downtowns and local economies.

The legislators’ letter to the governor answers various concerns that have been raised about theaters reopening. For example, it says an average movie runtime is 96 minutes while restaurateurs plan on allowing between 105 and 120 minutes for diners.

Also, the letter says, unlike restaurant customers, theater-goers will wear masks and will be seated to face in the same direction rather than facing each other. The letter also goes over the air systems typically used in theaters with separate filtration units for each screening room, lobby, and bathroom.



On Thursday, the state’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, sent a letter to all of New York’s school districts, informing them of new reporting requirements and of the state’s new dashboard.

Daily, New York’s more than 700 districts will have to supply data on the number of staff and students who have tested positive for COVID-19. The districts must also provide a link to the daily dashboard on their websites with information updated daily. 

“On schools reopening, many of the school districts have testing protocols that will be in place as part of their plans,” Cuomo said in his conference call with the press on Thursday. “Those plans I said from the beginning are only as good as their implementation. Parents and teachers are obviously concerned about schools reopening. They should be.

“As I said, we’ve seen a lot of problem situations with colleges. Colleges have complicating factors with the socialization but the congregation will be a constant … As soon as the school district gets their testing report on a daily basis, they must send the state that information as well as whoever they send it to, the county, the local board of education, and that information will be posted online as soon as we get it so parents, teachers will know how many tests were conducted and what the results of those tests are.”

Cuomo concluded, “I hope this will give teachers and parents some confidence that the plans are being implemented and, if the plans aren’t being implemented, we want to know that also, right? Because if there’s a problem, the sooner you find out about the problem, the better.”


Newest numbers

As of Thursday morning, Albany County, according to a release from the county executive’s office, has 2,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nine new cases confirmed since Wednesday.

Among the new cases, two had close contact with people infected with the virus, six are healthcare workers or residents of congregate settings, and one did not have a clear source of infection identified at this time.

Currently, 440 county residents are under quarantine, up from 414 on Wednesday. The five-day average for new daily positives ticked up to 8.8 from 8.4.

Albany County now has 54 active cases, up from 50 a day ago. So far, 9,863 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those who completed quarantine, 2,496 of them had tested positive and recovered.

Thirteen Albany County residents remain hospitalized, with two patients in intensive-care units. The county’s hospitalization rate stands at 0.5 percent.

Albany County’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 133.

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