Editor’s note: A replay of this press conference is being rendered and will be uploaded here shortly.
ALBANY, NY (WROC) — Governor Kathy Hochul hosted a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts and monkeypox infections.
The Governor was joined by New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, who opened the conference by addressing the monkeypox virus.
More than 670 cases of the disease were reported Wednesday morning, three of which are based in Monroe County, with the majority of outbreaks originating in New York.
New York State is currently reporting the highest number of monkeypox cases across the country.
“Anyone can get monkeypox,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “Almost all of the cases not in New York are in the state, but we expect cases to increase everywhere.”
Monkeypox is rarely fatal but is particularly unpleasant. According to health officials, there have been no deaths from the disease. Spread is mainly by respiratory droplets.
The Monroe County Health Department has listed the following ways the disease spreads:
- Direct contact with monkeypox sores or rashes through intimate or skin-to-skin contact
- Contact with objects or fabrics (eg, clothing, bedding, towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox
- Respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox; historically, these respiratory droplets can only travel a few meters and are a major concern in those with very close or prolonged contact
Testing for the virus is minimal and rapid tests do not currently exist.
“Testing depends on an injury, we all wish there were rapid tests like there are for covid, but there is no test like that at the moment,” the commissioner told state health.
Vaccines are in limited supply, according to state officials. Doses are available for those most at risk, including people in close contact with someone diagnosed.
Although they have received the most monkeypox vaccines per capita, monkeypox treatment for New Yorkers is based on those at the highest risk of exposure.
Monroe County reported its first case of the virus on July 14. The initial case arrived from outside the United States and an unidentified individual has been practicing since isolation.
Despite the tripling of cases over the next three days, county health officials say “this is not another COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Dr. Mendoza.
The governor on Tuesday announced an expansion of “emergency powers,” allowing his administration to call for changes to the state’s COVID-19 response without legislative approval.
“We don’t want to take our foot off the pedal because we know the trend is that the numbers are going to go up, so that’s what it’s all about,” Hochul said.
New York health officials reported 37 statewide cases per 100,000 population over a seven-day average on Wednesday. These figures are equivalent to an increase of 50 cases compared to the same period last year.
“The key message that I want to make sure everyone understands is that the key tools we’ve developed over the past 18 months – vaccines, treatments, our diagnostic tests – continue to work against BA5,” said the Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coordinator. on COVID-19. “And probably the most important message I want to get across today is: if you’re over 50, and you haven’t had a covid vaccine this year, if you haven’t had a vaccine this year in 2022, you need to go out and get one now.
According to Hochul, the COVID BA-4 and BA-5 subvariants are the biggest challenges before the fall.
Locally, Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said he anticipates more people may be reinfected even if they have COVID in the spring.
Currently, the only groups who can get a second booster are those over 50 or at least 12 with a weakened immune system.
Although not considered serious, the subvariants can be more contagious.
The governor said another spike in COVID cases is expected before the school season. To avoid strains on the health system, recovery has become the focus of the pandemic response.
“One thing has always been very clear to us: there is not much we can do here in the federal government,” Dr. Jha said. Public health works best in America when it’s a close partnership between states and the federal government.
In an effort to keep businesses and schools open to the prospect of a new coronavirus outbreak, more than 3 million tests will be sent to schools across the state. Additionally, as part of the fall action plan, state health officials will meet in the coming months to discuss how they would prepare for a possible COVID resumption in the fall. before the kids go back to school.
The Centers for Disease Control’s COVID tracker shows nine southern counties in the state with high levels of COVID transmission. The majority of the state has low to medium levels.
“If we’ve learned anything, we know the kids need to be in school,” Hochul said. “One of the key takeaways that we talked about during our analysis is the effect on children who are not in school settings. And we still face the consequences today. So that’s our goal: to keep our students safe, but back in the classroom for in-person learning this fall. »
New York State has the highest number of vaccinations in the nation for adult and adolescent residents. It is currently second in the number of vaccinations among 5-11 year olds.
Despite this, state and local health authorities are urging residents to catch up on vaccinations, as immunity may wane.
Globally, the increase in coronavirus cases has been steady for the previous five weeks. According to the World Health Organization, there has been a 6% increase in infections in the past week.
“The virus is circulating freely and countries are not managing the disease burden effectively,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “New waves of viruses again demonstrate that COVID-19 is far from over.”
COVID-19 cases reported to WHO have jumped 30% in the past three weeks, largely due to omicron’s highly infectious relatives, BA.4 and BA.5.
Pandemic After Action Review
The governor’s office will officially begin a year-long review to access the state’s COVID policies.
Members of the Hochul administration will ask for submissions that will help shape the exam. The governor promised a six-month update as part of the project.
“We don’t have to, it’s not mandated by law, but it’s something I think is important,” Hochul said. “Because New Yorkers deserve the best from their government, they need to identify what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and why. And I believe that can’t just be a guide for future leaders of New York State, but also for other states as we respond not only to COVID but to future emergencies.
“No state has done this, we will be the first in the country, and we hope this can be a model for others to follow,” Hochul said.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.