The Governor has returned to regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefings.  He will be holding briefings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week, and more if needed.

As you may recall, the Governor created a New York State vaccine review board that would review any new vaccines once the FDA had completed their review.  The Governor started today’s briefing by announcing the New York vaccine board had already met and unanimously approved the FDA recommendation.  This means that as soon as the vaccines arrive in New York, they can begin to be administered.  On Wednesday, the Governor announced that the initial vaccines will go to nursing home staff and residents and high-risk health care workers, such as emergency room staff, ICU staff, and pulmonary teams.

Today, the Governor outlined a new approach to the red, orange, and yellow zone designations as part of his winter COVID-19 plan.  Starting next week, the zones will be designated based on the following criteria:

  • Red - A red zone is an area where data shows hospitals will be at 90% capacity within three weeks.
  • Orange - An orange zone is an area where there is a 4% positivity rate over the last 10 days and data shows hospitals will be at 85% capacity within three weeks.
  • Yellow - A yellow zone is an area where there is a 3% positivity rate over the last 10 days and the cluster is in the top 10% for hospital admissions per capita over the past week and week-over-week growth in daily admissions.

The Governor stated that his team will be reviewing the data over the weekend and an announcement will be made next week regarding any new or changed zone designations.

The Governor also reviewed data on the sources of transmission.  Right now, private household gatherings are far and away the highest source of spread in the state.  The Governor indicated that indoor dining is not as big a problem as it was in the beginning but said the data, and new CDC guidance, means this has to be reviewed closely, and for NYC, with its high population density, indoor dining will be halted beginning on Monday.  For the rest of the state, the data is still being reviewed, and an announcement will be made next week.  In announcing this, the Governor stated that the federal government must include relief for bars and restaurants in their next funding bill.  In addition, the Governor announced that the state will be extending its commercial rent moratorium.

For gyms and salons, the numbers are showing that they are not serving as a major source of spread, so for future orange zone designations, gyms and salons will be able to remain open with reduced capacity and increased testing.  The Governor noted that all of this data will be constantly reviewed and adjusted as needed.

The Governor also announced that hospitals must remain under 85% capacity, which they can accomplish by adding an additional 25% bed capacity, reducing and/or eliminating elective surgeries, or both.

We also wanted to let you know that there is a chance that the Senate and Assembly will return for a special session before the end of the year.  As we have indicated in previous LEGALcurrents, there is a $15 billion budget deficit.  The special session would be focused on passing legislation to generate revenue for the state.  As of now, the most likely legislation would be focused on increasing the tax rates for millionaires and billionaires in New York.  However, many different proposals are being considered and could be included on the agenda.  We’ll be monitoring this closely and will keep you updated.

If you have additional questions about this update, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance:

Amy J. Kellogg
John M. Jennings


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