Biden, Hochul urge COVID-19 vigilance

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President Joe Biden and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have renewed calls for Americans to stay diligent in protecting themselves and others against spreading the COVID-19 virus with new infections on the upswing.

“Today, we mark a tragic milestone: One million American lives lost to COVID-19. One million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each an irreplaceable loss. Each leaving behind a family, a community and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic,” Biden said Thursday.

“As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”

New COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have been on the rise across the U.S. over the past several weeks. The seven-day average of new cases increased 21.4% from the last week of April through May 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

A total 78 counties across the nation have high COVID-19 transmission levels, with the highest concentration of new cases in New York and northeastern states, according to the CDC. COVID-19 infections are highest in Western New York with an average positivity of 18.33% on Tuesday, and second-highest in the Finger Lakes at 13.34%. The Capital Region’s number of reported positive COVID-19 tests continued to increase to 12.39% over a seven-day average — the third-highest transmission in any of the state’s 10 regions.

All upstate New York counties have a medium or high risk of COVID-19 transmission, reflecting an impacted local health care system and more people with severe illness throughout the community. The CDC recommends people wear approved N95 and KN95 face masks in public in medium or high-risk communities to reduce virus spread.

“Today, our country marks an unthinkable milestone — 1 million lives lost due to COVID-19,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement Thursday.

“These were mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends and neighbors, and I don’t want any more New Yorkers to go through the pain of losing a loved one to this awful virus. Thankfully, we have the tools to fight COVID-19 and save lives. Vaccines and boosters are effective and provide the highest level of protection. More than 3 in 4 of all New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, and over half of all eligible New Yorkers have received a booster dose — but that still isn’t enough.”

The governor pressed every New Yorker ages 5 and over to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and for every eligible New Yorker ages 12 and older to receive an additional booster dose.

The state’s daily COVID-19 positivity rate was 9.02% on Wednesday, and 7.18% over a seven-day average. Twenty-one New Yorkers died from coronavirus complications Tuesday, totaling at least 55,672 virus-related fatalities in the state since the pandemic began.

“I know first-hand how tests can help stop the spread to our vulnerable loved ones, so be sure to get tested, and if you test positive, ask your doctor immediately about getting treatment,” Hochul continued.

“These tools have made the difference, which is why it’s critical that Congress pass additional federal funding to ensure that we are prepared to respond to COVID-19 in the future. As we mark today’s tragic milestone, let’s remain vigilant against this virus and continue to look out for each other so we can move safely forward through this pandemic.”

About 82.7% of people over age 5 in the United States have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, according to the CDC. About 92.5% of New Yorkers ages 18 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, with 83.8% of adults fully vaccinated against the fatal upper respiratory disease, according to the state Health Department.

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