Rush Transcript: As New York City Enters Phase One of Reopening Today, Governor Cuomo Announces New York City is Now Eligible for Elective Surgery and Ambulatory Care
June 8, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Let me introduce the people who are with us today. From my far right Robert Mujica, Budget Director of the State of New York. To my immediate right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my left, Janno Lieber who is the President of the MTA Construction and Development Corporation. I thank all of you, smiling faces, for being here today.
Today is day 100 and it is a day that New York City begins to reopen. It's a day that I am so glad to see finally come. Day 100. Day 100 since we had the first case in New York. First coronavirus case. That's when we first started counting. Day 100. When we first started, all the experts - I talked to all the global experts. People who had studied this all across world. I said, "What's going to happen and where are we going to go?" Nobody knew. Nobody knew if you could control the spread of the virus. Nobody knew how fast you could control the spread of the virus.
They all said the same thing: It's all going to depend on what people do. It's going to depend on what people do. It's going to depend on whether or not people take it seriously, people accept the warnings, people understand the virus. Do we understand how serious it is? I am just so proud of how New Yorkers have responded. Look, I can say this, I'm a born and bred New Yorker all my life. We can be a tough crew and New Yorkers heard the message. New Yorkers did what they had to do. They did it with discipline.
If you had told me 100 days ago that we would be reopening when we didn't even know how bad it was going to get. We had some dire predictions. Remember what those early projection models said? That it would overwhelm our hospital system by doubling the capacity in the hospital system. We have 50,000 hospital beds in the State of New York. They were projecting we would need over 100,000 hospital beds. It was frightening, but New Yorkers did it. New Yorkers did it. It's that simple.
We said thank you yesterday. We lit up all the city and state landmarks with colors of the state to say thank you because we're not out of the woods, but we are on the other side certainly. That's why we're starting the reopening in New York City. As you know, we've started it across all the other regions of the state. I want to thank the people for what they did.
New Yorkers always rise to the occasion. Always. They rose to the occasion after 9/11. In many ways, New Yorkers - I think - represent courage and unity and when things are tough, New Yorkers are tougher and that's what they did here. I'm so proud to be Governor of New York and I'm so proud to be a New Yorker. I want to say thank you to the people of state. I also want to thank all the essential workers, the police officers, the fire fighters, the health care workers. The nurses, the doctors - everyone who stepped up. You know, if those essential workers hadn't showed up, you would have had total anarchy in society. If those essential workers said, "Well, if it's so dangerous, I'm going to stay home too. I'm not going to open the grocery store. I'm not going to open the pharmacy. I'm not going to drive the truck to bring the groceries to the grocery store. I'm not going to drive the train. I'm going to stay home like everyone else." If they had done that and there was no food and there was no transportation, you would have seen bedlam. God bless the essential workers.
I'd also like to thank my team. One hundred days. They haven't had a day off. We've done these briefings every day for 100 days, sometimes twice a day, and it's been hard. It's been emotionally hard. It's been exhausting dealing with the unknown. We've never gone through a period like this. We've gone through a lot. I've gone through a lot, but never anything like this. They did an extraordinary job and I want to thank them. And I want to thank you guys for talking to me every day for 100 days. The joy of our interaction and our dialogue. The joy that you had dealing with me. The joy that I have dealing with you. I think you have more joy, but we can discuss that over a beer sometime. Congratulations. We are back. We are back.
Not only are we back, but we went from the worst situation in the nation - frankly, one of the worst situations on the globe - to not only flattening the curve, but to bending the curve. Remember we talked about how we had to flatten the curve? That means we had to stop the increase. We didn't just stop the increase, we bent the curve and we brought the spread down dramatically. And you look at where we are today 100 days later, we are continuing our decline, the rest of the country is still spiking. How remarkable is that? How remarkable is that? So congratulations to New Yorkers.
It's also day 15 of the civil unrest after the murder of Mr. Floyd and now we're dealing with the two situations simultaneously. In many ways, they both compound each other. It's not just the protest, it's protests happening during the Covid situation. We have to deal with both. The protests continued yesterday all across the state. They were by and large peaceful. The protesters are basically right. It's not just a New York State phenomenon or an American phenomenon, it's happening all across the globe. It is amazing. I was watching this morning protests in Rome, protests in Spain - it's all across the globe.
People are saying enough is enough. And it is enough. It is enough. It's been the same point over and over and over again. Bring reforms to the criminal justice system. Bring reforms to policing. We've seen the same situation happen 20, 30, 40 times. How many times do you have to see the same situation before you act?
We're going to act in the State of New York. Transparency of disciplinary records for police officers - what they call the repeal of 50-a. Which, by the way, what 50-a says is the records of police officers will no longer be exempt from disclosure so the records of police officers will be like every other public employee. They'll be like teachers; they'll be like CSEA employees or DC-37 employees in New York City. Their records will be available. If people make complaints about them, they will be in the record and they will be released. Ban chokeholds. We went through that with Eric Garner. How many times? But pass a law that says that.
The Attorney General as special prosecutor. Five years ago, I did an executive order that said the Attorney General should investigate cases where police kill an unarmed person. Why? Because the local District Attorney– and I have tremendous respect for the District Attorneys; I was an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan– but a District Attorney works with that police force day-in and day-out. How do you expect the public to think that the local District Attorney as an arbiter is going to be unbiased? Attorney General: statewide elected official who can do the investigation of police misconduct and give the people of the State confidence that it's a fair investigation. And banning false-based 911 reports. We worked with the legislature over the weekend. I think we have an agreement on the bills that are going to be introduced. If they pass the bills that we discussed, I will sign the bills and I will sign them as soon as they're passed. I want to thank both of them for their leadership.
This is a difficult time. People are angry. People are angry on multiple issues.
And feelings are intense on multiple issues. So, in the midst of it, you have to find out what's right, rather than what's politically-expedient. And I want to praise the Senate Leader and the Assembly Leader, the Speaker for their leadership. And I hope we have a good productive week this week.
But this is not about what an individual state can do. It's actually broader than that. New York State will take this legislative action– and I hope it then becomes a model for other states to follow. We've done that in New York a number of times. We did it with marriage equality, we did it with free college tuition. We did it with raising the minimum wage. New York acts and then it provides a spur for progressive action by the rest of the country. But this is also bigger than what states can do. What this protest really is about is systemic racism, and systemic injustice and systemic inequality. Yes, when it comes to policing. But frankly, it's worse than just policing. It's the fundamental institutions in our society that systematize discrimination. It's the fact that we have two education systems– one for the rich and one for the poor. And poor children receive a different education than rich children. Because there's a gross funding disparity.
It's the lack of an affordable housing agenda, where the federal government just doesn't provide affordable housing anymore. They used to provide Section 8 vouchers. They used to provide what's called project-based Section 8 vouchers so you could build. They used to build public housing. That's all stopped. That's all stopped. It's the healthcare system: what we saw with COVID– that you have inequality in the healthcare system and that the neighborhoods that COVID ravaged are the neighborhoods that had less healthcare to begin with. That's not a coincidence. That's the fundamental cause of the injustice and that's what we should be addressing along with policing issues. And there is a moment to do this. There's a global moment– there's certainly a national moment– for that change.
Carpe diem? Carpe momentum? Seize the moment! There's a moment Change comes in a moment. When did we pass gun safety? Right after Sandy Hook. Why? Because people said, enough is enough! People are saying enough is enough again! Seize the moment and end the systemic injustice and inequality. Education, healthcare, housing, policing, and criminal justice.
Reopening of New York City– we did it all based on data and facts. There was no political ideology at work here. We're talking about a virus. The virus doesn't do Democrat or Republican. It doesn't do liberal or conservative. It's based on facts and we have followed the facts. You look at where we are now with our testing results. On Sunday, we did 58,000 tests across the State. We're at 1.2 percent positive– the lowest level in the State since March 16. That's a fact. Over the past few days, 58,000 tests we did on Sunday: 1.2 percent statewide. Saturday: 60,000 tests: 1.3. Friday: 77,000 tests, 1.4 Thursday: 66,000 tests.
Why are we reopening? Because these numbers say we can. It's no guess. There's no ideology. Based on the numbers, we can reopen. We are doing more tests than any state in the United States. We're doing more tests than any country on the globe per capita. That's why I have confidence saying to 19 million people that we can do this. Based on yesterday, 58,000 tests– that is a lot of tests. That is a large sample. And I feel confident making a decision on these numbers. Now, we can change the numbers, just like we changed the numbers the first time and reduced them. New Yorkers get sloppy, you can see those numbers go back up.
Those numbers go back up because they're purely a function of behavior. You tell me what New Yorkers do today, I'll tell you that number tomorrow and we literally study it on a day-to-day basis. If you look at yesterday's numbers- just yesterday across the state New York City 9 weeks ago- 59 percent were testing positive, four weeks ago 10 percent with testing positive, 2 weeks ago 4 percent were testing positive, yesterday 2 percent just yesterday. And you see the other numbers for the other regions. Mid-Hudson: percent, Long Island: 1 percent, Western New York 2: percent, Capital Region: 1 percent. That's how we're making decisions.
Westchester, Rockland, Hudson Valley will enter Phase 2 tomorrow. Long Island is on track to enter Phase Two on Wednesday. What does Phase One reopening mean? It means companies/businesses can reopen pursuant to specific guidelines-this is not reckless reopening we know what happens when- it is done by the guidelines. Construction and manufacturing wear masks, no congregate meetings. In terms of businesses, curbside pickup- how curbside pickup happen? In-store pickup only if curbside is not practical and that has to be with prearranged orders. You're just going into the store to pick up an order because you can't do curbside. That's all. Curbside obviously in New York City is a different phenomenon than curbside in other markets with less traffic but that's what store shopping is. These guidelines work they have been enacted in every other region in the state.
Those other regions have entered Phase One follow these guidelines and there has been no spike. We know that it works if it's followed, so the same guidelines applied to New York City and if we follow those guidelines in New York city there should not be a spike, just like there hasn't been a spike across the rest of the state. We're also going to keep a special eye on New York City to see what happens we'll do 35,000 tests per day in New York City, take a snapshot every day. If you see any increase in the infection rate then react immediately. And 35,000 tests per day is a healthy snapshot, then watch it literally every day and calibrate what you're doing.
Again I'm asking all the protesters to please get tests. That is a new question that has been dropped into the mix- we had all these at-home measures and then we had thousands of people show up for protests, did that did that affects the spread of the virus? We don't know. So I'm asking the protesters, please go get a test. It's free, it's available. If there is a chance that you were in proximity to people. Again we've gone through this, what they call a super spreader. One person in a crowd of 100 people can infect dozens. We've seen it so please we have 15 testing sites in the New York City area that are prioritized just for protesters. Were also focusing on the hotspot neighborhoods in New York. These are zip codes where we know there's a much higher infection rate than other parts of the city and it's dramatically high. Overall the infection rate in New York City is about 19 percent. Some of these communities are over 50 percent, so we're targeting these hotspots. More testing, more treatment in these hotspots and more awareness.
We're also setting up additional testing- thank you very much Northwell Health and SOMOs Community Care. More testing sites in those zip code areas for people in those zip codes to get tested. So 240 testing sites alone in New York City, so you can get a test it doesn't cost anything and there are 240 sites available so there's no reason not to do it. There's a website where you can go, punch in your address, find the availability, call and set it up. I'm asking the protesters to get tested and take as a precautionary act as if you have been exposed. You may want to tell people that who you're interacting with- stay away from people who are in a vulnerable population until you take a test and you know that you're not infected. People in those zip codes where you have that high infection rate, get tested. And that's all on that website.
Also as we're working through this, we're going to extend the deadline for filing property taxes and tax abatements by 90 days that gives businesses some assistance. We're going to restart elective surgery an ambulatory care in New York City. The MTA is reopening. Roma Torre asked me on an interview, "How do you know the subway is going to be safe on re opening day?" I said because if it wasn't safe I wouldn't ask anyone to go on the subway. I make these decisions. And for me, it's very simple. I just assume I'm making the decision for myself and for my children. And I said to Roma if the subway isn't safe for me then I wouldn't ask anyone else to go on the subway. And today I took a ride on the 7 Train.
The MTA has done phenomenal work. You know, I'm old enough to remember the bad old days in New York City. And when we would talk about how dirty the cars were and the garbage that was in the subway cars and the stench, frankly, that was in the subway cars. The subway cars are cleaner than they have ever been in my lifetime. I mean they had to disinfect the subway cars. Just think about it, I mean it's almost a bizarre task, right? "We're going to disinfect a subway car." So many years they couldn't figure out how to get the newspapers and the coffee cups out of the subway car. Now they're disinfecting and they are disinfecting the cars and the stations.
They've done 30,000 station cleaning disinfections. 500,000 subway car cleaning disinfections. They've applied anti-microbial treatment to the surfaces in the subway cars and the stations. They're using UV light technology to clean facilities. So, they are doing everything they can. We are giving them an additional 1 million masks and 25,000 gallons of hand sanitizer that we make in the state, 500,000 2-ounce bottles. I think after the ride on the subway I have about 10 2-ounce bottles that I collected.
Masks are mandatory when you are riding public transportation, subway, bus, you are in a station. Stay six feet away when possible. Use the hand sanitizer, use the hand sanitizer and observe the guidance that is on the trains, et cetera. The MTA is also launching the "It's Up To Us New York" campaign. You'll see this if you're riding the subways or the buses. It's up to us. How do you stop the spread? It's what we do. Are the subway safe? It's how we act. Are the sidewalks safe? It's how we act, right? If you're wearing the mask, if you're keeping distance, yes, it's safe. But it is a function of us, each one of us and us as a collective.
While the ridership has been reduced, there was also an opportunity in the reduced ridership, right? One of the ongoing challenges the MTA has on construction is to do construction you have to reduce the train usage. You reduce the train usage, you inconvenience commuters. When the ridership was reduced the MTA smartly increased their construction because the ridership was reduced. So, fewer riders were inconvenienced by the construction. And they accelerated $2 billion in capital projects, rehabilitating the F Train using the lessons they learned in the L train, where I want to applaud Janno Lieber and his team for literally setting a record in smart government construction. Smart government construction does not have to be an oxymoron.
You can have smart government construction and Janno Lieber showed that. They're accelerating 11 ADA stations, 24 new elevators, rehabbing the 138th Street Grand Concourse station. Accelerating steel and concrete defects and leaks on the 2345 Eastern Parkway line in Brooklyn.
New Yorkers did what many experts told me was impossible, 100 days. I don't think I've had a good night's sleep in 100 days, knowing some of the things they've told me. New Yorkers bent the curve by being smart. We're celebrating. We're back. We're reopening. We're excited. Our mojo is back. Our energy's back. Great, stay smart. Stay smart. Look at facts around us. Other states the spike is going up. California, the numbers are going up. Florida, the numbers are going up. Texas, the numbers are going up. Look at the reopening date and look at what happened after they reopened. That is the cautionary tale, my friends.
Gentlemen on the subway car just said to me he has family in Arizona. They reopened and they're seeing a spike. He's right. Look at the spike in Arizona. You have to stay smart after the reopening, because if you don't you can see a spike. That is the last thing that we want to see, but I don't believe we will because we are New York Tough. Smart, right there second word, Andrew, smart right after tough. Smart, united disciplined. Last word is for me, loving.
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