Since Thanksgiving in New York, COVID-19 cases have increased by 58%. Hospitalizations due to the virus have increased by 70% since that time as well.
"If I sound a little frustrated, perhaps I am," Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday morning during a briefing on the pandemic.
Hochul at her briefing defended the new mandate for businesses and public gathering spaces to require people to be masked while indoors or proof of vaccination prior to entering. At the same time, she encouraged more people to get vaccinated and get their booster shots if they qualify to do so as the omicron variant of the virus has the potential to further the spread of COVID-19.
"The objective is protect the health of New Yorkers, protect the health of our economy," Hochul said, while pointing to the mask mandate due to lapse on Jan. 15 as a way of getting through a holiday surge.
There are now 38 confirmed cases of the omicron variant in the state, including 23 in New York City, Hochul said. So far, 3,399,017 boster shots have been distributed in New York statewide.
Multiple county governments have indicated they will not enforce the mask-or-vaccinate mandate in their municipalities, including areas of the state with spiking COVID-19 rates. Hochul had spoken with local government officials last week, as well as with county leaders on Tuesday.
Compliance for the mask mandate is up to county governments themselves, Hochul has said, and she has urged them to enforce it. On Tuesday, Hochul said 73% of the state's population resides in an area that is enforcing the mandate (that number could change as incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has signaled he will not enforce the mandate when he takes office).
"That is a pretty large number of individuals represented by people doing the right thing," she said.
New York has also limited some elective surgeries and procedures in 32 hospitals that have faced a staffed bed capacity shortage in upstate New York.
More plans are under development, and Hochul indicated on Tuesday state officials are considering sending at-home COVID tests to targeted zip codes. The plan is not yet fully fleshed out, and Hochul did not give any specifics on how it would work.
The governor added "holiday themed" vaccination sites will be getting underway in the coming days, with state officials holding them at houses of worship this month. More than 3,000 people in New York state hospitalized with COVID-19.