Gov. Cuomo to sign executive orders on vaccination fraud, eviction moratorium, state pay raises

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would sign three executive orders during a COVID-19 briefing Monday.

The executive orders will:

  • Withhold scheduled pay raises for state commissioners and elected officials
  • Extend the residential eviction moratorium through May 1st, 2021
  • Impose penalties for health care providers found guilty of vaccination fraud

On day 303 of the pandemic in New York, the governor provided the following data:

  • 124,866 COVID-19 tests reported statewide Sunday
  • 8.33% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 5.90% seven-day rolling average positivity rate overall statewide
  • 9.66% positivity rate in micro-cluster hotspots
  • 7.83% positivity rate outside micro-cluster hotspots
  • 114 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 Sunday
  • 7,559 hospitalized
  • 1,222 in ICU
  • 717 intubated

“This [statewide positivity rate] is a jump from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Two days after Christmas — we have been talking about potential for spread during Christmas; for it to go up in two days is dramatic and very, very fast. So we’re studying what the uptick in that number actually means. If you look around the country you’ve seen significant upticks in just the past couple of days.”

The governor said it remains to be seen whether the positivity rate spike is an indicator of a post-holiday surge, or just a short term result from isolated testing efforts over the extended weekend.

“It’s statistically improbable,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If you look at the numbers you also see that the number of people getting tests is actually much, much lower. It’s a smaller population — so one of the theories were going to look at is people who were going to get a test, because they were traveling or concerned, were getting tested up until Christmas, and anyone who went and tested positive over the weekend was a person who was showing symptoms, thought they might be positive and therefore they went for a test — so the sample is artificially skewed. Fewer people got tested and more of those people are showing symptoms, that’s why they went and got tested. The number of positive cases didn’t go up, and the number of people getting tested dropped by half.”

The governor said with an 8.55% seven-day rolling average positivity rate, the Rochester and Finger Lakes region remains a concern.

“Finger Lakes, again, is a highly problematic area,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Western New York is actually doing much better than they were.”

The governor said New York is vaccinating its population at a better rate than any state in the country.

“140,000 New Yorkers have already received one vaccine dose — that would put New York at the top of the national chart on number of vaccines that have actually been given to people. We expect about 259,000 vaccines this week..”

The governor said the distribution of incoming vaccine shipments would be allocated based on regional population.

“Priority population [for vaccination] expands this week,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This week it’s going to be urgent care center employees, and individuals administering the COVID-19 vaccines. We’ll then continue with high-risk hospital healthcare workers. Next week we expect to open to ambulatory care, healthcare workers; including those administering COVID-19 tests.”

The governor said the state was investigating an incident of possible vaccination fraud, in a situation where a health care provider wasn’t following the priority population process.

“Vaccines are valuable and there will be people who break the law and were looking at one health care provider who may have done that,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We want to send a clear signal to the providers that if you violate the law on these vaccinations, we will find out and you will be prosecuted. I’m going to sign an executive order that says we’re very clear: The vaccines are a priority and there’s not going to be any politics into play on who gets the vaccine.”

The governor said the executive order could fine result in a health care provider being fined up to $1 million as well as the revocation of licenses.

“If you engage in fraud on this vaccine we will remove your license to practice in the state of New York,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And this is the type of fraud that will be uncovered.”

The governor also announced additional executive orders to be signed Monday, including one that would withhold pay raises for state commissioners and elected officials.

“This is the right thing to do, I think,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s no reflection on what these commissioners have done; they’ve probably worked harder than anyone in their position in decades, there can be no test like this one.”

The governor acknowledged that the executive order would prevent himself from getting a pay raise, which would have made him the highest paid governor in the country.

Another executive order will extended the residential eviction mortarium. The governor said the legislature, which convened Monday, is close to finalizing a bill which would make the eviction mortarium a state law through May 1, 2021, at which time the state government would reassess the situation.

The governor said officials from the Buffalo Bills continue to work with the New York State Department of Health to propose and approve a plan which would allow 6,700 fans to attend the upcoming playoff game in Western New York.

MORE | Gov. Cuomo on Bills fans attending playoff games: ‘It’s a work in progress’

The current plan calls for rapid testing fans on the way into the stadium, and contact tracing as they leave, in a first-of-its-kind experiment to see if large venues could operate safely in the months to come.

“We’re working together to develop a pilot plan that would allow the Bills to operate,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is not just about attending a football game. We are trying to find a way to reopen businesses and use our technology to reopen businesses. It is not going to be an option for us to keep the economy closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. Can you use testing to reopen a business safely and can you do it on a large scale?”

The governor said the Bills plan was being helped by its region getting the virus under control.

“Western New York has done a good job in getting ahead of their positivity rate; they had the highest positivity rate in the state, now they are the fourth lowest,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Now we need the Finger Lakes to understand it.”

Regarding the $900 billion federal relief package, the governor said Washington came up short of what was needed.

“Where Washington failed, is what is was called state and local funding,” Gov. Cuomo said. “They dropped that from the bill and that’s what would have provided state and local relief. They make it sound like they accomplished something. They accomplished nothing. When you compare that with the need, it’s telling a starving family, ‘well I gave you two pieces of bread.'”

Watch the full briefing:

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