A year after the first COVID-19 case in New York, Cuomo stays off camera

Governor Andrew Cuomo during his briefing on Dec. 11, 2020. There was no briefing on March 1, 2021 — the first anniversary of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Today is Monday, Day 365 of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York state — and Governor Andrew Cuomo didn’t have a televised press briefing about the milestone.

During the height of the pandemic last spring, the governor’s daily briefings garnered nationwide attention and acclaim. But amid several scandals facing him and his administration in recent weeks, Cuomo has seemingly stepped away from the spotlight. His last official press briefing was a week ago, on Feb. 22. 

Instead of holding his customary press conference from the Red Room in Albany’s State Capitol building or his Midtown office on Monday, Cuomo issued several press releases announcing the daily test results as well as an update on the vaccination effort — while also recognizing the anniversary of the first official COVID-19 case diagnosed in New York.

“It’s been exactly one year since we first identified COVID in New York, and while we’ve made incredible progress towards defeating it, testing and vaccinating more and more New Yorkers, we need to stay vigilant,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our ongoing effort to get shots in arms is producing increasing numbers of sites where New Yorkers can get vaccinated, but we’re going to need more supply to reach enough residents to put a serious dent in the virus’ spread. It’s critical that New Yorkers continue to practice safe behaviors — washing hands, wearing masks and social distancing — while we’re still working to vaccinate a large portion of the population. This has been an incredibly long 365 days and there are more ahead, but New Yorkers have already shown unprecedented perseverance and toughness throughout this pandemic — now we just need to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The statewide positivity rate, according to Cuomo, was 3.58% as of Feb. 28, continuing a downward trend in COVID-19 infections following a post-holiday surge at the start of the year.

New York City’s 7-day positivity rate was down below 4%, at 3.91%; the Bronx has the highest rate, but is now below 5% (4.96%), followed by Queens at 4.13%; Brooklyn at 4.03%; Staten Island at 3.94%; and Manhattan at 2.44%. 

After an inauspicious beginning, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in New York is in full stride. Cuomo reported Monday that more than 4.5 million first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been administered, with 122,455 shots given over the past 24 hours. 

In another statement, Cuomo expressed hope that the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine — which the FDA approved Friday and the State Vaccine Task Force recommended for use Monday — would be the game-changing shot in the arm that expedites the recovery from the pandemic.

The governor announced that it expects to receive up to 164,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. 

“Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine with less restrictive storage requirements will make it easier for the state to reach more New Yorkers, faster,” Cuomo said in his statement. “There’s a lot of work ahead, but this vaccine’s approval gives us cause for optimism as we move forward to a post-COVID future.”

Though the virus is on the decline, it’s still killing too many people.

Another 80 New Yorkers statewide died of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the death total to 38,557 since the first case was diagnosed on March 1, 2020.