Last night, New York's independent COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force unanimously approved the FDA vaccine panel's decision to recommend the Pfizer vaccine. The Task Force, which is chaired by Nobel laureate Dr. Charles Rice, was able to review data on the vaccine concurrently with the FDA, allowing for a thorough review for New Yorkers.
This added level of approval should give New Yorkers additional confidence in the vaccine. As we prepare for the great task of administering the vaccine, we simultaneously continue to act to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure hospital capacity. We are constantly calibrating our strategy with the goal of maintaining as much economic activity as possible, while protecting public health. Today we took several new measures to that end.
what else you need to know tonight:
1. To protect hospital capacity, New York will implement new metrics to determine micro-cluster zones. Under these updated metrics, Red, Orange and Yellow Zones will now be determined as follows: A Red Zone will be implemented when a region reaches a critical hospital capacity—that is, when 90 percent of beds are full (after measures to increase capacity have been taken). An Orange Zone will be implemented if an area has a 4 percent positivity rate over the past 10 days (on a 7-day average) and is located in a region that has reached 85 percent hospital capacity. A Yellow Zone will be implemented if an area has a 3 percent positivity rate over the past 10 days (on a 7-day average) and is in the top 10 percent in the state for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and is experiencing week-over-week growth in daily admissions. It sounds complicated—but the basic idea behind these metrics is to ensure that hospital systems are not overloaded.
2. Starting Monday, December 14th, indoor dining in New York City will be suspended. This is in response to the continued increase in positive cases and hospitalizations, in addition to recently issued CDC guidance emphasizing the high risk of indoor dining. Outdoor dining, delivery and takeout will remain in place. This suspension will continue to be re-evaluated based on updated data over the coming weeks.
3. The State Department of Health is directing New York hospitals to take additional steps to help keep capacity below 85 percent. Under the directive, hospitals must either add additional capacity, reduce elective surgeries, or a combination of both, in order to remain under 85 percent. This measure expands on the previously announced "Surge and Flex" protocol.
4. I will sign an Executive Order extending the State's moratorium on commercial evictions. This moratorium will provide support to small businesses and other tenants during these difficult times. These businesses need help now more than ever, and Congress must include support for bars and restaurants in the next stimulus package.
5. Total COVID hospitalizations rose to 5,321. Of the 212,672 tests reported yesterday, 10,595, or 4.98 percent, were positive. There were 1,007 patients in ICU yesterday, up 13 from the previous day. Of them, 546 are intubated. Sadly, we lost 87 New Yorkers to the virus.
6. Gyms and personal care services will be permitted to open in Orange Zones with limited capacity. Starting Monday, December 14th, gyms, fitness centers, salons and barber shops—which are currently closed in Orange Zones—will be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity. Employees must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. This is good news for establishments in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, among other Orange Zone locations—and a testament to the success these industries have had across the state in keeping patrons safe.
Tonight's "Deep Breath Moment": The Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, are one of the most incredible natural wonders of the world. Every year, travel and photography blog "Capture the Atlas" hosts an annual Northern Lights Photographer of the Year competition to showcase stunning photos of the aurora borealis. The blog recently shared 25 of the best photographs of the Northern Lights from around the world. Unfortunately, an initially promising forecast that parts of Upstate New York might glimpse the lights earlier this week failed to come to pass after the forecast changed—maybe next time!
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo