ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday the state is preparing for how it will alter its COVID-19 plan during the coming winter months.
“We want to access the consequence of Thanksgiving,” Cuomo said in a brief morning telephone news conference. “There are a number of theories about how bad the increase will be after Thanksgiving, but they all project an increase post-Thanksgiving. We see the air travel has increased, we see the car travel has increased and we know that the more social activity there is the higher the infection rate.”
The state is going to continue to follow its microcluster response to the virus because it targets COVID from spreading more rapidly throughout the state, and has the ability to minimize the economic impact state wide, Cuomo said. This process puts more emphasis on community responsibility and is strategy health experts have said works well.
The positivity rate statewide is 3.1%, Cuomo said. Locally, the 14-day rolling average positivity rate in Columbia County is 2.4% and 2.7% in Greene County, according to the New York State dashboard. Cuomo said 217,721 COVID-19 tests were reported to the state yesterday, which is a new record number of tests.
“Thanksgiving Day affords us the opportunity to reflect on our blessings and enjoy meaningful traditions that make the holiday special,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-120, said in a statement Thursday. “This year, like so many holidays and milestones, the day may be observed a little differently. While families across New York celebrate in their own unique ways, they’ll remain connected with those closest to them.”
Updates to the state’s yellow, orange and red zone classification system are likely, Cuomo said. In addition to positivity rates, hospitalization rates and availability of hospital beds and intensive care unit beds will be factored in to determine designation of yellow, orange or red zones.
“That is the worse case scenario right? Is that you run out of hospital beds,” Cuomo said. “We had to do a field hospital in Staten Island, Massachusetts is opening field hospitals, other states are opening field hospitals, so we want to add a number of factors to the yellow, orange and red.
“Criticality has to weigh in hospital capacity and infection rate,” the governor added. “In a place that has a shortage of hospital beds, it’s more serious than an infection rate in a place that has fewer hospital beds.”
Columbia County has 14 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, three of whom are in the intensive care unit, according to the Columbia County Department of Health. Greene County has three people hospitalized because of COVID-19, according to Greene County Public Health.
Another piece in the state’s winter plan will include keeping schools open.
“Keeping the schools open and keeping them open by setting a safe positivity rate,” Cuomo said. “All the data says the schools are safer than the surrounding communities. We want to continue testing in the schools but we need a sustainable testing rate in the schools.
“In other words if we want to keep the schools open, it has to be a level of testing that the local school districts can provide for a prolonged period of time,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo noted he has been in discussion with President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID transition team. The governor called the team a welcome relief from the Trump administration’s lack of leadership.
“We do have issues with the current federal administration on the vaccination plan, the immigration data as well as an outreach for Black and brown communities, and poor communities and rural communities” Cuomo said.
The winter plan will contain a vaccine distribution mechanism to prioritize a fair and judicious apportionment.
“The spread is going to be from pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic people,” Cuomo said. “People who don’t even know they have the virus. It’s not that they are going to be malicious, it’s going to be accidental, it’s going to be involuntary. So what appears safe is no longer safe in this crazy world.”