As we continue to see the number of COVID-19 cases surge across the nation, it is beyond critical that we ensure hospitals, and hospital systems as a whole, develop additional capacity and prepare to work cooperatively with each other to prevent any one facility from becoming overwhelmed. This work is already underway through the State's "Surge and Flex" program. At the same time we are also focused on what comes next and on ensuring that the vaccine's distribution is fair and equitable.
The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine will undoubtedly go down as one of the most massive governmental operations in history.
For it to be truly successful, underserved communities cannot be overlooked. I will continue to urge the federal government to fund outreach and take all the necessary steps to ensure that no communities are left behind during vaccine distribution. The communities that suffered the most during this pandemic must not be the last to get the vaccine.
what else you need to know tonight:
1. Tonight a critical step in the FDA vaccine approval process took place. Members of the FDA's vaccine advisory panel—which is made up of scientific experts, infectious disease specialists and more—met all day to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Around 6:00pm tonight they voted to recommend that the FDA grant Emergency Use Authorization to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine. The FDA will now decide whether to accept their recommendation and could do so very shortly. New York State's independent COVID-19 Clinical Advisory Task Force is meeting tonight as well.
2. Total COVID hospitalizations rose to 5,164. Of the 197,406 tests reported yesterday, 10,178, or 5.15 percent, were positive. There were 994 patients in ICU yesterday, up 42 from the previous day. Of them, 539 are intubated. Sadly, we lost 92 New Yorkers to the virus.
3. To date, New York has conducted over 21 million tests. If you are experiencing COVID symptoms or believe you may have been exposed to someone positive for COVID, get tested. Find a testing site near you. You can also call 1-888-364-3065 to make a free appointment at a New York State-run testing location.
4. Members of New York State leadership and I sent a letter urging Congress to provide stimulus funding. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, New York labor leaders and I issued a letter urging New York State's Congressional delegation to provide enough funding in the next federal stimulus package to avoid catastrophic cuts to the city and state budgets. New York State has been the hardest hit by COVID-19 and we need funding in the next stimulus to be allocated based on the needs of each state. Read the letter here.
5. New York is launching the New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership. Recognizing the economic impact of COVID-19, this program will provide small businesses and their landlords with informational resources and pro bono assistance to help both parties reach mutually-beneficial lease workout agreements. This service is available to all New York State small businesses and landlords, and participation is voluntary. Over the next year, the partnership has the capacity to serve thousands of small businesses statewide. Learn more here.
6. New York's Annual Toy & Coat Holiday Drive has been expanded to accept shipped packages. This new option allows New Yorkers to make online purchases and have them shipped directly to the drive-receiving locations in Albany and New York City—to be distributed to families in need—through December 18th. With many families struggling economically due to the pandemic, the need to spread cheer this holiday season is greater than ever. I encourage you to participate if you can!
Tonight's "Deep Breath Moment": Fifty cats who live in the basement of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, were designated beneficiaries by an unnamed French philanthropist. Founded by Catherine the Great, the world-renowned art museum relies on the cats to fend off rodents. The cats are a centuries-old tradition. Cats have lived in the massive facility and served as "mousers" since at least the 1750s.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo