Kathy Hochul

Hochul Issues Stern Warning on Rising COVID Rates, Vaccine Holdouts — and Shares Booster ‘Newsflash'

Across New York state, the number of people testing positive each day for the virus has gone up 45% since Halloween -- and the recent increase comes ahead of the busiest travel season of the year

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What to Know

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul addressed a number of COVID topics on Tuesday, blasting certain parts of the state for low vaccination rates and urging everyone who feels at risk to get a booster dose
  • The Democrat warned that if the recent increases continue, she may have to employ stricter protocol at a localized level, saying, "The warning is going out loud and clear today"
  • She also said parents should have "no fear" as far as vaccinating children in the newly eligible age group, age 5 to 11, against COVID; NYC has seen success with its in-school vaccine drive and expanded it

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul issued her sternest words yet on rising COVID-19 rates in parts of the state, vaccine holdouts and inoculation for kindergarteners, cautioning that if the situation doesn't improve, tighter protocol could come next.

"At some point, if the numbers don't start on a downward trend, we'll have to talk about larger protocols, which we know are available to us," the Democrat said Tuesday. "The warning is going out loud and clear today."

Hochul explicitly called out Western New York, where she held her weekly briefing, and the Finger Lakes, for their high infection rates. The latest state data shows those regions respectively are reporting 47.1 and 51.4 new cases per 100,000 residents per day, far and away more than the next highest region (Capital Region, 35.3 on that metric) and grossly higher than New York City's 12.5 stat.

The governor in stark terms blamed vaccine holdouts -- the 10% or so of New York adults who haven't yet had at least one dose -- for the latest spikes and for what could come next should these trends continue as they have been in recent weeks.

"There is a direct correlation between people being vaccinated and the infection rate. We have created a dynamic where you can get vaccinated anywhere. It's that last 10% that's holding us back," the governor said, calling that frustrating.

"We have to fix this. I want to know that when we get together we're not going to get one of our loved ones sick," Hochul said of the approaching holiday season. "We all went through this a year ago. Because there are still holdouts we cannot declare that it will be completely safe. It is so simple. Get more people vaccinated."

Gov. Kathy Hochul shared the latest vaccination numbers on Tuesday.

The governor pointed to the latest breakthrough case numbers, which are still a fractional share of new cases but have been rising in recent weeks. Fully vaccinated people accounted for 1.2% of new COVID cases this week, up from 1.1% last week. They accounted for 0.08% of new hospitalizations, up from 0.07% last week.

These are exceedingly small numbers, Hochul acknowledged, but given that research has shown COVID vaccine efficacy wanes over time regardless of brand -- and that a highly vulnerable stretch of time is approaching with the holiday season -- she says she won't wait for the situation to worsen before taking stronger action.

Just 45% of people age 65 and older, who have been federally authorized for COVID booster shots for some time now, have gotten those doses so far, Hochul said.

"That's the population that's going to be the sickest. Newsflash: We live in a high transmission area. Therefore there is risk," she said. "Anyone who feels they are at risk of getting the virus, get a booster. I want to be crystal clear."

hochul breakthrough infections
The governor also shared an update on breakthrough infections.

The Democrat's comments Tuesday came a day after New York City's health commissioner announced that all adults in the five boroughs were booster-eligible, given the density-associated risk. Federal officials have yet to recommend boosters for all adults, though developments on that front may come as early as next week.

Hochul also said she had allocated nearly 1.8 million more booster doses to the state's 10 regions, with more than a half-million of those going to New York City. Data shows the rolling weekly new confirmed COVID case average in the city is up 13% compared with the rolling average the prior four weeks.

Statewide across New York, the number of people testing positive each day for the virus has gone up 45% since Halloween. As of Monday, New York was averaging around 5,400 new cases per day over the past seven days, the AP reported.

The rising case trend is evident nationally, too, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday. He said two regions -- the northeast and midwest -- were primarily responsible.

Deaths and hospitalizations remain down, a testament to the power of vaccines to prevent serious illness, officials say. That's why Hochul wants the youngest vaccinated against COVID-19, too. She insisted parents should have no fear.

"Children do not go into kindergarten unless they're vaccinated," Hochul said, referring to mandatory shots for measles and chickenpox, among other diseases. "There should be no fear associated with this vaccine. We have plenty of supply."

The governor has said since before her swearing-in that she would not rule out mandating COVID vaccinations for eligible schoolchildren, should the numbers warrant such a decision. She didn't immediately address that specifically Tuesday.

More than 10% of the 660,000 kids aged 5 to 11 in New York City are now at least partially inoculated for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday. They also announced an extension of their citywide public school vaccine drive, which has accounted for a third of all vaccinations in that age group since those kids became eligible.

Hochul had said she had hoped to be rid of masks in schools by now, but that's not appropriate given the current climate. She said COVID rate increases need to stop and vowed to back any local health department that imposes stricter measures.

"This is how we get out of this," she said. The last thing iI want to do is have to talk about more protocols that will be needed in place so I am giving everyone a chance. We need more social distancing, more measures in place -- no more spikes."

The governor did indicate any potential changes would likely involve a targeted approach, perhaps one similar to that her predecessor rolled out a year ago.

"What I am not looking for is a broad-brush statewide approach to treat every region of the state identically when the circumstances are so vastly different ... The infection rate in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, it's about 1%," she said. "Walk down any street in the city of New York, people are wearing a mask, voluntarily. You cannot go into a diner, where I was yesterday, without showing my Excelsior pass, so that has made a profound difference."

"Every community needs to assess what's important for them," Hochul added, "but I want to make sure that the tools are out there so communities can make their own risk assessment."

New Jersey's governor says his administration is heading in a similar direction as New York City as far as making booster universally accessible to adults. Gov. Phil Murphy made the comments Monday as his health commissioner reported the highest number of new severe COVID-cases in children in some time.

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

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