Gov. Cuomo announces vaccine scholarship winners, new tourism campaign

NEW YORK CITY (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned to the Javits Convention Center in New York City Wednesday to provide an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

“The Javits Center looked like a scene from a movie of post-apocalyptic America in the beginning of the pandemic, but it was set up to be the largest field hospital in the country,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Now it’s the highest throughout vaccination center in the country — so it has seen both ends of the spectrum. Talk about a 180 degree development.”

New numbers

The governor announced the following data:

  • 71,019 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Tuesday
  • 0.61% overall statewide positivity rate Tuesday
  • 11 new COVID-19 deaths in New York
  • 1,007 statewide hospitalizations (lowest since October 21, 2020)
  • 252 in ICU
  • 136 intubated

“New York state had the highest positivity in the nation, and today New York state has the lowest positivity of any state in the United States of America,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Not only did we bring the number down initially, we have kept the number down to this day. New York did it, on one else. It was New Yorkers’ behavior, it was their sense of community, it was their unity that actually turned everything around.”

The state’s vaccination progress, according to the governor Wednesday afternoon, is as follows:

  • 19,149,539 total doses administered statewide
  • 10,744,805 New Yorkers with at least one dose, 65.5% of the state’s 18+ population
  • 9,186,551 New Yorkers fully vaccinated, 57.3% of the state’s 18+ population

“The priority remains to get shots in arms,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We are working very hard to get younger people interested in taking the vaccine. It’s smart, it’s right there, there’s very little risk — so we’re focusing on that population.”

Scholarship winners

Last week, the governor announced a new vaccine incentive for New Yorkers aged 12 to 17-years old. Those in that age group who are vaccinated, or will be getting vaccinated through July, can enter a pool to win a full four-year scholarship to any SUNY or CUNY school.

Wednesday, the governor announced the first 10 winners of that scholarship incentive, and two of the winners are based in the Rochester region: Jack Lucchesi of Victor and Chase French of Penfield.

“This is about a $100,000 value, this scholarship,” Gov. Cuomo said. “So congratulations to them, and congratulations to their parents. Funding college is a nightmare to families all across America. For the students it’s great, but for the parents it’s also great that they know this is something that they’re not going to have to worry about — so congratulations to all of them.”

To increase vaccination, the state has offered other incentives as well, including baseball ticketstwo-day passes to state parks, a lottery entry for $5 million, and an admission pass for the Saratoga Race Course.

Post-pandemic living

The governor urged New Yorkers to get their vaccine to help put an end to the pandemic.

“It’s time to get back to living,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What we’ve been doing for the past year — we have been surviving. Surviving is not living. Surviving is not thriving. Life is about more than just survival, but that’s the mode that we have been in the past year. We just wanted to survive, and live and protect the lives of our family members.

“But we’re on a new day now,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s time to start living again, start to see loved ones again, get out of the house, socialize again, participate in activities. We said follow the science and the science says it is now save because the vaccine was always the weapon that was going to win the war. And the weapon is now hitting critical mass and that’s why you see the numbers going down. So get the vaccine and get out and enjoy life.”

The governor said he was optimistic about how society would resume once COVID-19 is overcome.

“I think we’re going to see a tremendous burst of energy,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You’d have to go back to a past pandemic to come up with another situation where you had a city, a state, a country, a whole world on lockdown for a year. It altered life for young people, old people, and everyone in between. You are going to see a tremendous outburst of energy.”

The governor reiterated that to get to the point of post-pandemic living, and resuming a sense of normalcy, the vaccine is the route to get there.

“You’re going to see venues opening up with a preference for vaccinated people,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The venue wants a full venue. They want the revenue from a full venue. The entertainer wants a full venue. The sports team wants a full venue. So you will see more and more venues moving to more and more vaccinations. The vaccination card that you get — this opens doors and allows you to participate in life in a way you are going to want to do.”

Summer vacation

The governor said New York is the best destination for families planning summer vacations.

“You’re planning your summer vacation? Forget traveling,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Forget getting on a plane and going to Europe where you still have COVID infection rates that are much higher than the U.S. Stay in new York. This state has everything that you could possibly want to do and staying in New York and vacationing in New York is smart and safe. you know this state is responsible when it comes to handling COVID. So if you want a vacation, and you don’t want to have to worry about COVID, vacation in the state of New York.

“Upstate New York has the most beautiful rural areas,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It has the Adirondacks, it has the Finger Lakes and wineries. you can bike, you can fish, you can hike as well here as you can anywhere else in the United States.”

The governor said New York’s “arms are open” for international travelers as well.

“New York, our arms are open and we welcome international tourists,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Today you can land at an airport in New York; there’s no testing, there’s no quarantine, there’s no checking. You can come to New York.”

On the topic of tourism, the governor announced a new $40 million campaign aimed at revitalizing the state’s tourism industry. Officials from the governor’s office say the campaign will promote tourism attractions across all regions of the state through the summer, fall and winter tourism seasons.

“New York’s tourism industry has struggled for more than a year, but as we begin to turn the page on COVID we have a unique opportunity to build something that never existed before and lead the globe in the post-COVID world,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We want the world to know that New York is back and better than ever, and this new global campaign will help to spark the revitalization of our tourism industry by reminding travelers that there is nowhere else in the world like New York State – and we want them to come see it all for themselves.”

Loosening restrictions

Earlier Wednesday, the New York State Department of Public Health issued new guidance which made visitation at nursing homes less restricted.

Bars and restaurants no longer have to close at midnight across New York state, as its coronavirus curfew for indoor dining ended Monday. A similar pandemic curfew for outdoor dining ended May 17, although some local governments have their own closing-time rules for outdoor tables.

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

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