Unfortunately, the Wadsworth Laboratory in Albany has confirmed the first known case of the U.K. variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in New York State. An individual from Saratoga County, NY, with no known recent travel, tested positive for the strain, which scientists say is more contagious than other strains. It is not believed to be deadlier or to cause more severe disease.
We are asking anyone who visited N. Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs, NY, between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24, to please get tested as soon as possible. Because the individual who tested positive for this variant did not travel recently, it is likely that the strain is spreading in the community.
Because the virus strain is more transmittable, it could lead to a higher infection rate and possibly a higher hospitalization rate. I ask New Yorkers to continue to do what is proven to reduce the spread. Wear a mask, social distance and be cautious.
Photo of the Day: Nurse Sandra Lindsay of Queens, who became the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine three weeks ago, received her second dose today (Photo by Kevin P. Coughlin)
Here's what else you need to know:
1. More than 2 million individuals are now eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phase 1A. Today, the list of eligible New Yorkers was expanded again to include all doctors, nurses and health care staff who come in contact with the public; ambulatory centers staff; and all public health care workers who provide direct in-person care, including those who conduct COVID-19 tests and handle lab specimens. Beginning this week, eligibility will also be expanded to include home care workers, hospice workers, and nursing home and other congregate setting workers who have yet to receive a vaccine through the federal nursing home vaccination program. See the full list, including previously announced priority groups, here.
2. Total hospitalizations rose to 8,251. Of the 134,360 tests reported yesterday, 11,209, or 8.34 percent, were positive. There were 1,357 patients in ICU yesterday, up 13 from the previous day. Of them, 843 are intubated. Sadly, we lost 170 New Yorkers to the virus.
3. A new web application will help New Yorkers determine if they are eligible to get the vaccine. By answering a series of simple questions, New Yorkers can find out if they are eligible for the vaccine and, if so, where to make an appointment. See if you're eligible here.
4. New York State announced new "Use It or Lose It" vaccine regulations. We are laser-focused on speeding up the vaccination process, and to that end, hospitals and facilities that are not administering their vaccine allocations in a timely manner could be fined or lose receipt of future allocations to other, more efficient facilities. With so many people waiting to get the vaccine, facilities must "use it or lose it."
5. We expect 85 percent of all nursing home residents to receive their first vaccine dose by the end of the week. New York State is committing resources to expedite the federally run nursing home vaccination program. There are 611 facilities enrolled in the program. We will expedite the vaccination of the remaining 15 percent of nursing home residents over the next two weeks.
"Deep Breath Moment": In the Village of Cherry Valley, New York, founded in 1739, locals decided to brighten up the small historic town with old-fashioned commercial holiday windows over the holidays. A group of residents, including Anne Loretto and curator Jessica Marx, partnered with local artists, members of the community and building owners to transform the shop windows into festive displays with hopes to raise the spirits of residents and visitors alike, who have all been affected by the pandemic. The holiday windows of Cherry Valley's historic downtown will remain on display through February.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo