Gov. Cuomo announces $15M to combat COVID vaccine hesitancy: ‘We can’t go back’

Editor’s note: The governor’s press conference will be streamed at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

BRONX, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Yankee Stadium Monday for a coronavirus briefing.

“We see the COVID numbers and we see the reality, and we know what we have to do,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The governor said 75% of adults in New York state are now fully vaccinated, but the 25% of those unvaccinated account for approximately 3.5 million people.

“3.5 million unvaccinated people,” Gov. Cuomo said. “These numbers can be hard to put into context, but 3.5 million is larger than 21 other states’ total population. We have an unvaccinated population larger than the entire population of 21 states, and then when you put this COVID delta variant — which is transmitted much easier than the normal COVID virus — you put that variant with 3.5 million people, that spells ‘spread of COVID.’ That is what is happening. We know that’s what’s happening, we see it in the numbers, and numbers don’t lie.”

The governor said New York state reported 1,982 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, up from 346 new cases exactly one month ago. The governor said 72% of the new positives were linked to the delta variant as it has become the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S.

The governor said the issue of breakthrough cases — when a fully vaccinated person becomes infected with COVID-19 — are rare in New York.

“The vaccines are working,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Only 0.15% of vaccinated New Yorkers have been infected by the delta variant. Think about that — only 0.15% of the people who received the vaccines had a breakthrough case. The vaccines work.”

Even in the rare circumstances of breakthrough cases in New York, the governor says vaccines still help protect those individuals from becoming seriously ill.

“Those who are vaccinated reduce the risk of hospitalization by 94%,” Gov. Cuomo said. “So if you’re vaccinated, you are much, much less likely to get the COVID virus to begin with, and if you get it, it is not as severe so you’re not hospitalized. Those are the facts.”

The governor said the issue of vaccine hesitancy isn’t new, but he said the state would invest $15 million in six statewide community organizations to run a community-based information campaign in targeted zip codes of where there are low vaccination rates.

“We’re looking for 25% of the population that hasn’t been vaccinated,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Target that population and target it in areas where you’ve seen COVID spread. We have zip codes across the state, 117 zip codes at only 6.7%.”

The governor said 61% of the targeted zip codes are in New York City, due to the larger total population, but added that there are zip codes with low vaccination rates throughout Upstate New York:

“We need a different approach and the approach has to be community-based organizations who can have conversations in the community with people who know them culturally, know their issues, their fears,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And it has to be a one-on-one conversation with that 25% because it’s not going to be a top-down message. It has to be someone who speaks their language, literally and figuratively and says ‘let’s talk about this, tell me what you’re worried about, tell me what your fear is,’ and then address it with facts. And that’s what we’re going to do today.”

The governor said increasing the vaccination rate has to happen statewide.

“We cannot go through what we went through over the past year,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We can’t, we can’t. You can’t, I can’t, the economy can’t, society can’t. We can’t go through it again.”

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.

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