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Cuomo to hospitals: Use the vaccine or lose it

Governor Cuomo announced new guidelines for hospitals administering the vaccine. All medical professionals can now be vaccinated.

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided an update Monday on the latest data involving the state's ongoing battle against the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cuomo announced hospitals will have to "use it or lose it," in reference to the vaccine, and that public officials must be held accountable for their local public hospitals. Additionally, the state will be stepping in to expedite the federal nursing home vaccination program.

Beginning Monday, all doctors, nurses and healthcare staff who come in contact with the public will also now be eligible to be vaccinated. 

Currently, vaccinations are planned to be distributed through three entities: nursing homes, hospitals, and what the state calls "special efforts" such as pop-up vaccination clinics.

In New York State, there are 194 total hospitals, which includes 24 public and 170 private hospitals. For public hospitals, Cuomo says that public officials in charge of those hospitals must be held responsible. 

In Erie County, the one public run hospital is the Erie County Medical Center. 

While ECMC was among the highest performing public hospitals, meaning it was one of the public hospitals that has distributed its allocation the fastest, it has distributed 62 percent of its allocation to individuals. 

"We want it in people's' arms as fast as possible," Cuomo said. 

If hospitals don't use their existing allocation by the end of this week, the hospital could be fined, and won't receive further allocations. From this point onward, each time a hospital receives an allocation, they now have a week to administer that allocation.

Additionally, the state plans to step in on the federal vaccination program for nursing homes and will help to expedite the vaccination of residents. 

Cuomo said the federal program, which sends pharmacies into nursing homes to vaccinate residents and staff, is not going as quickly as the state would like. 

As of Monday, 611 nursing homes or long term care facilities were enrolled in the program, and 288 had received the first dose of the vaccine for residents, which is 47 percent of the facilities.

The governor says that the state will expedite 234 first doses for residents happening in the next week, which will bring the total number of enrolled facilities with vaccinations to 85 percent. That will leave 15 percent of the total enrolled facilities still in need of a first dose for residents. The governor says that last 15 percent will be completed in the next two weeks. 

Cuomo says that the state is continuing to see an increase in COVID-19 rates due to the holidays. 

Over the past week, the net daily growth of COVID-19 patients hospitalized and the daily number of COVID-19 hospital admissions (both a seven day average) were at a higher rate than the week after thanksgiving. For example, the daily COVID-19 admissions seven-day average the week after thanksgiving was 699. Now, it's 899.

The governor again warned that a shutdown can and will happen if rates continue to increase. 

"So if you don't want that, then don't bemoan reality, do something about it," Cuomo said.

The state has also updated its guidance for schools in counties where the virus is spreading rapidly. For counties that have a positive test rate of over 9 percent, students can be in school as long as testing in schools shows a rate lower than the community’s average.

Additionally, COVID-19 has continued to spread and rates have remained high in many parts of New York State, including the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley.

"Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes.... still the highest percentile in terms of hospitalizations," Cuomo said on Monday.

The Finger Lakes have 930 people hospitalized, with the highest amount of people hospitalized relative to the population, at 0.08 percent of the population.

“This is a function of that regions behavior," Cuomo said. 

“People in the Finger Lakes should be more cautious than people in other parts of the state,” Cuomo added, saying that is more likely for someone to come in contact with someone with COVID in the Finger Lakes region.

The Finger Lakes had the second highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the state, at 10.22 percent. Mohawk Valley had the highest rate at 10.38 percent.

The Southern Tier had the lowest rate in the state, at 5.77 percent. Western New York falls more towards the middle, at 8.43 percent.

Across the state, the average positivity rate including micro clusters is 7.78 percent. On Sunday, 170 people died from the virus statewide and 925 people were admitted to the hospital. 

Patients currently hospitalized for the virus across the state is now 8,251, with 1,357 of those patients in intensive care units. Of those patients in intensive care units, 843 are intubated or on a ventilator.