Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 33rd Straight Day with COVID-19 Infection Rate Below 1 Percent
September 9, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good afternoon. Pleasure to be with you. Let me introduce the people who are joining me today. To my far right, Gareth Rhodes. To my immediate right, Melissa DeRosa. To my left, Robert Mujica. I think you know who they are by now. If not you can Google them, G-o-o-g-l-e. My name is Andrew Cuomo. Today is day 193.
The facts today are 463 hospitalizations, that's up about 18 from yesterday. 121 ICU patients. We have 59 intubations. We lost 3 New Yorkers yesterday and they're in our thoughts and prayers. Three-day average is 3. You look across the state all the numbers are constant. We still are watching Western New York; Western New York is at 1.5 percent. That's not good, but we have been taking a lot of actions in Western New York and I think people got the message and we still have a caution flag, but the number's not increasing and that's good news.
Across the city the numbers are all good and the outer boroughs. Infection rate .9 yesterday. That means we're under 1 percent for 33 straight days which is great news and a credit to New Yorkers and what they're doing. And by the way, that is with more testing than any other state. If you want to see something interesting, go look at how many tests different states are taking. Remember the President said I told my people not to test as much because if you don't test as much, you won't see that there are more cases? Some of these states are testing at very, very low levels. If you don't do many tests, you won't find many cases. And the number of cases will drop. Yeah, but that is false comfort. If you want to see a reduction in the number of people with cancer, take fewer cancer screenings. You can then say, look, we have fewer people who have had detected cases of cancer. Yes, but that's only because you're not looking.
That's what's happening across this country. It's a scandal, frankly, because it allows more people to get sick and more people to die. But that's what's happening, exactly what the President said. If you listen to him, he will tell you the scandal that he is about to perpetrate. States are testing less. Just look at the number of tests. New York, it's the opposite. We're testing more than anyone else. So when we say this is how many cases we have, that's accurate because we're testing more than anyone else.
The SLA and the New York State Police have a special task force that is working on compliance on bars. They've observed 969, they did 5 establishments. Compliance on bars is way up, 99.2 percent. Compliance on bars has increased dramatically from when we started. Why? Because if you know someone is going to check, if you know there's monitoring, people tend to increase compliance. For a bar or a restaurant, if you lose your liquor license, that is very serious business. So they're making a calculated decision. The bad actors who were violating the rules now know they could very well lose their license. What has happened? Compliance has gone up. That's good news. Rules are only as good as their compliance. I can sit here all day and promulgate rules. Wear a mask, stay home, six feet. The rule is only as good as the compliance, and the compliance is only as good as the enforcement. Bars, you must do X. Well, bars want to do business. I understand the economic pressure. The compliance, the bars, is only as good as the enforcement, and the enforcement was lax. The state put together the task force, there's now real compliance, they've heard about it every day, they've heard about the enforcement, they've heard about the number of enforcement actions. They knew that the chance was very high that somebody may check. What happened? Compliance went up. That's good news.
I want to thank New Yorkers for the increase in compliance, and because the compliance has gotten better we can now take the next step. That takes us to restaurants. Opening restaurants, I understand the economic benefit. I understand the economic pressure that they've been under. A restaurant is not just the restaurant owner. Restaurant is the kitchen staff, the wait staff, there's a whole industry around restaurants. And restaurants also pose a possible risk, right, concentrations of people inside, indoor dining. But there's also a great economic loss when they don't operate.
We had a caution flag with restaurants and indoor dining for two reasons. Number one, we're doing indoor dining at 50 percent across the rest of the state. we have seen clusters outbreak from restaurants. So that was a reason for caution. Second, we knew that compliance was lacking in New York City. That was a reason for caution. We've been speaking with stakeholders, we've been working on this issue every day, and we're now announcing today that we can go to 25 percent of indoor dining with certain restrictions that will be enacted on September 30th.
Indoor dining, the rules will be temperature checks for anyone who comes in at the door, one member of each party has to leave information, phone number, email, so that there's contact tracing information if there is an outbreak. One person from every party. No bar service. The bars will only be for service bars for wait staff. They can make drinks, they can transfer them over the bar, but nobody will be sitting at the bar. Masks must be worn at all times except when you're sitting at the table. All tables must be six feet apart. Restaurants will close at midnight. Strict adherence to the State guidance that has been promulgated. Restaurants will have the air filtration requirement, the enhanced air filtration requirement that is specified in the State guidance. There will be limited air recirculation, we want air from the outside to provide additional ventilation. Outdoor dining can continue along with 25% of indoor dining.
How do you do compliance? The State will expand the SLA State Police Task Force. New York City will provide ultimately 400 code enforcement inspectors to work with that task force. The number of places that are going to have to be checked for compliance are about 10 thousand. So, even with the State expanding the task force and the City adding 400 code compliance inspectors to that task force, 10 thousand is still a very large universe. So, I have a new idea. The new idea to assist with compliance is this: New Yorkers themselves will help with compliance. New Yorkers will keep New Yorkers safe. The New York Community, community of New Yorkers, is the best compliance unit. New Yorkers have shown all through this that they have forged community, right? What does community mean? Community means I look out for you and you look out for me. Community means I understand our connection; I understand our interdependence. I understand that I can't keep myself safe and you can't keep yourself self, and the only way we'll be safe is if we work to protect each other. That has worked extraordinarily well.
The Restaurant Association and New York State will run public service announcements asking New Yorkers to be part of the compliance of this 25 percent rule. New Yorkers, I'm asking to report violations of that 25 percent capacity. We call it "New Yorkers Protecting New Yorkers." We'll have a special alert phone number, text number, that will go to the task force. And we ask people if you're in a restaurant and you see more than 25 percent in that restaurant and indoor dining, you text the violation, the information to the task force; it will all be anonymous. The restaurant will not know that you were the one who provided information, but it will help that task force, because then the task force can send an inspector to that specific restaurant. And again, you have a universe of about 10 thousand beyond the bars that we're already monitoring, and we're asking New Yorkers to be part of the solution. Every restaurant will post their 25 percent capacity of indoor dining. Every restaurant will post that text number, that phone number where people can call and report the violation and I'm asking New Yorkers to be a part of the solution.
I believe in New Yorkers. I believe in New Yorkers' ability to do the right thing. That is not blind faith. That is a result of the experience we've had going through COVID. New Yorkers got the information. We did the briefings every day. New Yorkers I think are more informed about COVID than anyone in the country and New Yorkers stepped up, right? Mask compliance– I put out the rule; New York was the first state to have a rule on mask compliance, but I couldn't enforce it. We don't have enough police to enforce it. New Yorkers enforced it. The society enforced it. If you all were to pass somebody without a mask, they gave you a look and it became socialized in the New York community that you should wear a mask.
You look at our infection rate, why is it so low? Why is it lower than any other place in the country? Because New Yorkers are doing the right thing That's why we're below 1 percent, so I believe in New Yorkers. They put a lot of trust and faith in me. They believed in the actions that I was proposing and trust is reciprocal. They trusted me, I trust them, and I trust that if they have the right information, they will do the right thing. We will continue to watch the infection rate the way we do every day. If there is a spike in the infection rate, then we can always hit the emergency pause button. We can do that at any given time. If you see an increase in the infection rate, the first thing we do is to look for a definable cause– something that generated a cluster. That actually is good news when you can find something that generated a cluster because then you can go stop that source.
If you can't find the origin of the increase and it's just community spread across the board, then you hit the pause button. We can hit the pause button on restaurants' indoor dining. You can hit the pause button on any of these activities we're allowing. So, we always have that as a backdrop. It gives us comfort, and especially because the information we're receiving is timely, and it's based on a lot of tests, and we can identity it all across the state. That's the good news about having the amount of data that we have, so if the infection rate goes up? Bang. Hit the pause button.
At the same time, if the infection rate doesn't go up and these restaurants have gone through very tough economic circumstances, we can always reassess the guidelines and go from 25 percent to 50 percent, would be the next increase. And we can do that at any time, but we've set November 1 as a deadline to determine whether or not we can go from 25 to 50. Again, we can do it at any time before November 1, but we have November 1 as a benchmark where we could go to 50 percent.
On the issue of childcare, people are coming back to work. It's after Labor Day. We want people to come back to work; we want people to come back to their jobs in Manhattan. To get people to come back to work, they need childcare. The state is going to release $88 million today in additional childcare funding so we can provide that childcare so people can come to work. Post-Labor Day is normally a time when people start to come back to work.
As a lifelong New Yorker, I can tell you, you can always tell post-Labor Day because the traffic increases. That's normal. We're seeing the traffic increase dramatically in the downstate area - the commute from Long Island and Westchester into New York City - I experienced it myself. Vehicle traffic is heavy, and it is disproportionately heavy. Public transportation is still very light. What's happening? People are starting to come back to work but they're commuting by their cars why because they're nervous about public transportation. This has happened by the way everywhere across the globe. When urban areas have reopened people have tended to commute by car rather than using public transportation because they're nervous about public transportation.
Public transportation is safe. These cars - commuter cars, subway cars, buses -are disinfected every day. They have never been cleaner, that's the silver lining to this entire debacle of COVID. We're cleaning our public transportation system more than we ever have in history. Ridership is relatively low compared to what it was. Public transportation is safe. Leave the car at home; take public transportation. Try it. I think you are going to be favorably impressed with what you see but we're not going to get back to normal if the new normal is everybody is driving their car into Manhattan. The traffic back up will be horrendous. It's bad for the environment. It's expensive. Try public transportation. I've been on it. I know the condition of it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised but please try it.
In terms of federal help, the U.S. Senate put in a proposed package on relief, again it has no state and local aid. It is malpractice for this Senate to suggest a relief package that doesn't have state and local aid. Remember what state and local aid goes to. It goes to all the essential workers who we've relied on and we continue to rely on. We're talking about having a vaccine and being able to dispense a vaccine: How many nurses? How many schools? How many police? How many firefighters? How many EMS? How many medical personnel is it going to take to handle a vaccine? And now you want to cut funding for essential workers? It's ludicrous.
If they don't provide state and local funding it will be financial chaos. The deficit is so large that we would have to do everything. We'd have to cut the budgets and cutting the budgets hurts, especially now. We have to raise taxes on the state and local level, which should be done at the federal level. We would also have to borrow, and you would see continued urban decay because you know how a state government and local government cuts its budget. You're going to lose essential workers when you're supposed to be doing a vaccine. The streets would get dirtier and by the way, they're too dirty already. Cities would not be as safe and by the way, there's increasing crime already in New York City. You would have to raise taxes which would put states and cities that had the COVID concentration at a competitive disadvantage and it would destabilize the national economy for years.
Every economist says the same thing. Looking at past recessions, when you starve the state and local governments and you cause more layoffs, that destabilizes the national economy. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. I'm head of the National Governors Association. This is every state. This is Democratic governors, Republican governors, all saying the same thing. It's an American issue. Senator McConnell- they have to stop this political nonsense. This is their own politics that they're playing, and they have to remember that they're supposed to be serving in the best interest of the nation.
These people took an oath. They took a constitutional oath. This is a nation in crisis. Remember your constitutional duty. You raised your hand and you took an oath. It meant something. Your word means something. The constitution means something. Do your basic duty. Step up to the plate. Do the right thing, the way New Yorkers did the right thing. And New Yorkers showed that they were tough and smart and united and disciplined and loving. We need a little bit of that in Washington D.C.
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