BUFFALO — Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul pledged Tuesday to work closely with local government officials as communities with low vaccination rates have driven a spike in COVID-19 infections as the holiday season and winter approaches.
The state’s coronavirus infection rate rose to 4.8% positive Tuesday and an average of 3.4% over the last week, and hospitalizations surged above 2,000 virus patients for the first time in months.
New infections remain far above the state average outside New York City and downstate counties.
The Finger Lakes region has the highest rate of new COVID infections at 8.73% on Tuesday, up from 8.25% on Sunday.
Western New York is close behind at 8.52% on Tuesday, up from just over 8% over the weekend.
“I am concerned,” Gov. Hochul said Tuesday during a coronavirus briefing at Buffalo’s Delavan Grider Community Center. “I am here because I’m personally deeply concerned about the rate of infection, not just here in Western New York, but we’re seeing in the Finger Lakes and some other regions.”
“We are seeing the spikes go up, we are seeing the numbers continue ... and a lot of it is concentrated in our rural areas,” she added.
The north country has the state’s fourth-highest coronavirus infection rates of New York’s 10 regions at 6.73% Tuesday, up from 6.50% over the weekend. The Capital Region falls in the middle of the pack, but still nearly double the state average, at 5.8% Tuesday, up from about 5.6% this past weekend.
Thirty New Yorkers died due to COVID complications Monday.
Communities with higher vaccination rates have lower infection rates. Communities with lower infection rates, common in upstate, rural areas, are seeing the inflated coronavirus transmission.
About 89.1% of New York adults ages 18 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, with 79.8% completing the series, according to the state Health Department on Tuesday.
About 71.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the state have at least one dose, and 62.9% are fully vaccinated against the fatal upper respiratory infection.
About 47% of people ages 65 and older have received a U.S. Food & Drug Administration-approved COVID booster vaccine.
Gov. Hochul pledged to work with local officials to increase booster shot distribution.
“That’s the population that’s going to get sick and end up in the hospital — we have to make sure that they’re getting boosters,” the governor said. “Let’s get those booster numbers up. We’re going to continue working with our local health care facilities and make boosters available. This is what the state is committing to do: Our counties need help. We’re there for them.”
The state Health Department confirms 137,380 breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated New Yorkers as of Nov. 8, which corresponds to 1.1% of the population of fully-vaccinated people ages 12 or older.
As of Nov. 8, a total 9,044 fully vaccinated New Yorkers were hospitalized with virus complications, or about 0.07% of the population of fully vaccinated people ages 12 and older.
The FDA authorized booster COVID vaccine doses for people ages 65 and older, and people of any age who are immunocompromised or essential workers older than 18, who had received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson inoculations. To be eligible for the booster, the individual must have completed the Moderna vaccination series at least six months ago, or the Johnson & Johnson single-dose inoculation at least two months ago.
The governor urged parents and caregivers of children ages 5 to 11 to get Pfizer’s approved one-dose pediatric COVID vaccine as soon as possible before the Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays.
“Our vaccination rates should be higher and there’s no reason why we’re not 100%,” the governor said. “There’s no reason. Children do not go into Kindergarten unless they’re vaccinated. There should be no fear associated with the vaccine. This is for children’s safety.”
Virus infections increase during the holiday season and winter months as people turn to frequent indoor gatherings.
The state’s COVID-19 infection rate started to increase this time last year, and peaked at 7.94% on Jan. 4 after the anticipated surge following Thanksgiving and accompanying holiday season, which continued through New Year’s Day.
“We’re heading into a vulnerable time,” Gov. Hochul said. “I want to make sure that we protect our kids in schools, keep our children safe, make sure you’re safe in the workplace safe and we gather for Thanksgiving.”
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