Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New York City Indoor Dining Can Reopen Early on February 12
February 8, 2021
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Happy Monday. From my far right, Larry Schwartz, former Secretary to the Governor who has now volunteered to help us during COVID. We thank him very much for his public service. Commissioner Howard Zucker to my right. To my left Melissa DeRosa, and to her left Kelly Cummings, Director of State Operations. Happy Monday, again. Day 345 of Groundhog Day.
Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I would have liked to see a New York team in the Super Bowl, obviously, but that did not happen this year. Next year is a different story. It was an amazing game and what's right is right. Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They won, they won big, they deserve it. Mr. Tom Brady who has long been a nemesis to New York teams, played with the New England Patriots and we had a great New York rivalry with the New England Patriots for many, many years. And he is smart and talented and is going to go down in the history books just as an undeniably great player and a great team. Gronkowski. It was a fun game to watch, but there's next year and we look forward to next year.
Meanwhile we're focusing on our three priorities - three tracks, right. You have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Government has to operate on multiple levels now and it has to operate well and efficiently and produce. Control COVID spread; Vaccinate New York; Reimagine, rebuild, renew, which is the reopening. All three tracks must continue simultaneously.
On COVID spread, COVID numbers are down. Congratulations to New Yorkers because their behavior, their actions, their responsibility, their discipline, their sacrifice is what brought the COVID numbers down. Positivity rate: 4.2 percent. Statewide deaths: 114, they are in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations plus 67, ICU down five, intubations down 18.
Long Island. Long Island. Long Island has the greatest hospitalization rate, not dramatically higher but higher, and we've been seeing this for the past couple of weeks. Highest positivity is Long Island and Mid-Hudson. We've been seeing this for the past couple of weeks. Again, it's relative, all the numbers are coming down, but we focus on the highest numbers in our state.
In New York City, the highest number is the Bronx and getting higher. So, the Bronx is a problem. We opened the Yankee Stadium mass vaccination site, but the Bronx is still a problem. The numbers- 4.4 on the seven-day average is way down from where we started. Post-holiday surge is over. We see it in the positivity, we see it in the hospitalizations, and we respond to the data. We respond to the facts that we face today. The facts may change tomorrow and then we will change with the facts. The enemy changes tactics, we adjust with the enemy, but the numbers are down now.
We were planning to open the restaurants in New York City, 25 percent indoor dining on Valentine's Day. They have made the point that they'd like to open a couple of days earlier so they can be ready for Valentine's Day, get the staff oriented, get supplies into the restaurants, and that's a reasonable request. So, we'll start indoor dining on Friday at 25 percent. That will go into effect on Friday. They can go to 25 percent on Friday and they'll be ready for that weekend and for Valentine's Day. Crossing out Valentine's Day is not really accurate. Valentine's Day should be a big restaurant day but we'll open 25 percent indoor dining in New York City on Friday before Valentine's Day so they'll have a big Valentine's Day.
We, overall, are in a footrace with the COVID spread. We are watching for variants. We're watching for increased infection from variants. We're watching vaccine effectiveness with some of these new variants of interest as they call them, but the footrace is clear. It's rate of vaccination versus rate of infection. Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Overall statewide 2.465 updating at 11:15, obviously that didn't happen.
We're at about 90 percent of all doses allocated used in arms and it's only Monday, right? So, we get an allocation during the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Depending on location you'll get the deliveries Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It's Monday and we're already at 90 percent in arms and this is what I've been trying to communicate. We get a supply on a weekly basis. It comes in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It's Monday, already 90 percent of that allocation is done. So, we go week to week and by the end of the week we have basically exhausted the entire week's allocation and then we wait for the next week's allocation.
What has been helpful with the Biden administration is we know what we're going to get for the next two or three weeks. So at least we can plan and we can tell the local governments, this is the number you're going to get next week, you don't have it yet, but this is what you're going to get, so it has moved out the scheduling but it's still week to week.
We have a much larger distribution network than we have supply. We have many more distributors than we have products on the shelves. That's the tension that we're facing and that's why you have so many people chasing vaccines every week and vaccine appointments.
But at one point the supply will increase and we want to be ready when that supply increases. We have prioritized health care workers, doctors, nurses, our frontline heroes. We focused on hospitals administering to those nurses and doctors. They're exposed most. They would be super spreaders if they get it and if they get sick the hospital capacity comes down. We went from 63 percent on January 18. We need a big push. We've got to 72 percent. Between the 25 and today we're at about 75 percent so we're really hitting the refusal rate or the maximum rate that these hospitals can get done.
Since we are at that maximum peak number there are still hospitals that are slower than other hospitals which I'll mention in a moment. I've told the local health departments four weeks to get after those low performers but we're going to take the excess allocation from the hospital workers and use it for people with underlying conditions, comorbidities. This week they have the vaccines to vaccinate their workers and finish. But this is it. It will have been over two months that they had the vaccine for their hospital workers and they were charged with the responsibility of making sure every hospital staff person who would take it has taken it. Hospitals can't say to a nurse, "you must take the vaccine." The nurse has the right to decline but I want to make sure every nurse had the option, every doctor had the option to take that vaccine. If they don't want to take it at one point we understand and we'll give it to somebody else. So this is the last week for that.
There is still a gross disparity in the high-performing hospitals and the low performing hospitals. And again, I asked the local health departments to look into this, but how do you have some hospitals at 100 percent and some hospitals at 40 percent, 50 percent? Something is just not right somewhere. I've been on the calls with the hospitals myself. I understand that there's a declination rate. I understand that there are racial differences in declination rates. I get that but it still doesn't add up in my book because you still have some hospitals in the same region with the same demographics of the same workforce and you have a gross disparity.
So, the New York State Department of Health is going to review those slow vaccinating hospitals. We want to understand why and how but we're also going to use the excess supply for those with pre-existing conditions. That will start on February 15. We have a list on the website of what the comorbidities are. That's basically a clarification of some of the specifics of the federal CDC guidelines and these will be statewide regulations defining comorbidity for any site in this state.
People with comorbidities can begin making appointments on the State's site February 14, to open February 15, on the local health department sites. The appointments can start on the 15th. We'll leave it to the local health departments about when they start scheduling. But they can't schedule an appointment to be performed before February 15. Local health departments want to coordinate with their hospitals, with the local doctor networks, that is up to them how they do that. You do need- this is for people with comorbidities as defined by the CDC and State guidelines and the State guidelines are just a refinement of the CDC guidelines.
There will be validation of the comorbidity. People will need to bring a doctor's letter or medical information that evidences that they have this comorbidity, or they now sign a certification when they get the vaccination. They'd have to certify that they have a comorbidity. Those three options are all available. We'll leave it to the local health department to determine what exact validation they want, but they have to validate, and the state will audit the local validation system in coordination with a system called Tiberius, which is the federal data system that we all signed on to that actually documents where the doses went. This is a precious resource. There will be fraud, there will be mistakes, there will be inefficiency. We understand that. But, we will also audit to make sure the rules are followed. New Yorkers are fair. If you have a comorbidity, they get that 94 percent of the deaths are people with comorbidities. They also understood the prioritization of nurses, doctors, essential workers. So New Yorkers are fair minded, and everybody wants this vaccine, but the rules should be followed. We don't want people abusing the system.
New York State Department of Health will do a call with the county executives, local health departments to talk through and explain the comorbidity validation process, but it is still clear, and let's just understand the scope of where we are, we need an increase in the federal supply because we still have many people chasing a very rare and precious resource, the available doses. The Biden administration has increased the federal supply. Again, they're not making it in the basement of the White House. They're buying it from the drug companies. We understand that. But, they are the only ones who can buy from the drug companies, so really they control the spigot on the supply. They've increased it over 10 percent already in just a few weeks. And they have told us what the future allocations were, as I mentioned, which really helps our administration. But we need more. And I said on day one, when this started, everyone is going to say the same thing, "I need more." Every governor in the United States will say "I need more". Every County Executive in this state will say "I need more". Every politician will say "I need more, and we should help this group, and this group, and this group, and this group." I get it. Everyone understands the dynamic. But, you have a precious resource, and only Jesus could figure out how to feed hundreds with limited loaves of bread and fish, right? So, we need to be fair in the allocation until the supply increases.
What could make a big difference in the supply? Johnson & Johnson. They filed for emergency use authorization. That could be a game changer. Single dose, no super cold refrigeration chain needed. That could make a major difference. So we need that major difference. We need that bump in the supply. Second doses now are allocated by the federal government. Here's your first dose, here's your second dose. The Biden administration is against using the second dose for the first dose. They're against delaying the second dose. Obviously we follow federal guidance and we have the added luxury of actually partnering and trusting this federal government when it comes to the professionalism. So we're following the federal guidance.
There is still a question on excess doses. There's a Long-Term Care Facility program, the program that does nursing homes through pharmacies, et cetera. There will be excess second doses. Some people will not come back for their second dose for one reason or another. But there will be some falloff. We want to make sure we're using every dose, so excess in the nursing home program, or excess in the pharmacy program, or excess in second doses where people don't come back. How do we reallocate and use those? And those are issues that we're working through with the federal government. But bottom line, which is the bottom line on this slide, you have 15 million New Yorkers who are ultimately in need of the vaccine. The supply is still about 300,000 per week. That takes one year at this rate. One year. So just a sober note, but also a realistic note, "Well, why don't I get a vaccine today? Why don't we do all the police today? Why don't we do all the teachers today? Why don't we do all the developmentally disabled today?" You don't have the supply to do it. And if you want to prioritize someone, well then you have to deprioritize someone. We have 15 million total population. We have about 10 million now currently eligible. "Well, I think we should add this group." Okay, then tell me who you want to take out. You prioritized nursing homes. You prioritized nursing home staff. you prioritized nursing home staff and police. Who do you want to take out if you want to add someone? These are all difficult difficult decisions. But you need an increased supply, because you will have months and months just to get to the people who are now eligible. That's just a fact we have to keep in mind.
At the same time, multiple tracks. Keep the COVID spread down, get the vaccinations going, and at the same time start to reopen the economy. You have to rebuild and renew this economy. Yes, the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel. There's no doubt about that. But we have to create that light. We have to make it happen. It's not going to be a situation where the economy will just come back, we have to make it come back. And we have an opportunity, because COVID caused a global crisis. You have states all across this nation, you have cities all across this planet that went through this, and the question is going to be who adjusts to the new dynamics fastest and best. And there's an opportunity in that.
Whatever economy most quickly adjusts to the new dynamics, that will be the economy that thrives the most, right? So, step one, we need Washington to actually provide state and local relief. President Biden has proposed it and promoted it with $350 billion in state and local aid. The House has agreed, the Senate has agreed. Now the question is going to be the fairness in the distribution of the $350 billion. And our point is, I know the federal government wants to help many sources, but our point is, provide the state with state relief that it needs, so we can balance the needs in this state. And our needs are $15 billion.
Fairness also means repeal the unfair SALT assault, which, when the Trump administration passed the SALT tax proposal, that was targeted at this state, and cost this state more than any other state, everyone said it was unfair. Everyone. We sued the federal government, the litigation is still open. Everyone said it was unfair.
Okay, now you're in charge. So undo the unfair law, the SALT tax reform under Trump, and reduce New Yorkers' taxes overnight. Every day SALT stays in place costs the people of this state $34 million. $34 million dollars every day. We have so many needs that we want to take care of, and bona fide needs, and it's all about resources, and every day we spend $34 million more to Washington because of this SALT law.
Anyway, the economy is not going to come back on its own fast enough. It's not about taking the posture of, "Well the economy will come back when the economy comes back." No. We have to bring the economy back. It's how fast we reopen. How we reimagine. How we rebuild. This is not a passive time in life. This is a time where our actions will dictate the consequences. So we want to be aggressive about the reopening.
Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, that's true internationally, for a confluence of events. But, what makes a city a city, and the reason that people live in a city, rather than a home in a rural setting, is that a city provides cultural and creative synergies. That's what makes a city a city, that's why people want to be in density, because they want that energy, they want that stimulation, they want that sharing.
A big part of that is the arts, and the culture, and that has been shut down all across this country. It's taken a terrible toll on workers, actors and performers. We're going to accelerate that with something called New York PopsUp. And this is really cool and creative. It's the first initiative in the nation that's going to accelerate the restoration of the arts, and performances, and creative energy.
You have an entire sector of the economy that has been out of work. We talk about the restaurant workers and people who have been hurt at work, when you shut down Broadway, when you shut down movie theatres, you stop an entire industry. Everybody understands why, but we have to now nurture that industry to bring it back. And again it is vital for our cities to survive.
The arts industry workers, many of them have been out of work since March, so we're going to accelerate that reopening with 300-plus pop-up arts events all across the state. 300 events in 100 days of pop-up performances. And these are just pop-up performances. They're free. They are not designed to be pre-scheduled and draw a crowd because we actually don't want the crowd, but we're going to have the pop-up events happening all across this state â over 300 â and they will be happening over 100 days and it's going to be exciting. These will then be in-person pop-up entertainments with really great entertainers and then they will be shown online so there can be a social media presence to these online performances. Again, we're trying to thread the needle. We want the performances. We don't want mass gatherings. We don't want large crowds, so pop-up performances that will surprise people and bring the arts back â it will engage the acting and artist community that is very excited about this and then it will have an online presence â is an organic effort. It's being driven by artists themselves who are organizing the community and organizing the events and they've already put together a list of really great performers who, many of whom, have been idle for months and they want to be part of restoring the arts. They want to be part of restoring New York and bringing joy to people, so they've already enlisted quite an impressive list of people who will be participating in the online pop-ups. Opening day is February 20. There's going to be a special performance at the Javits Center as a tribute to healthcare workers who really have been phenomenal heroes all through this. This is who's going to perform on the opening weekend. We're also going to have a special series of events in Brooklyn, New York, so this is going to be exciting. Sunday Garth Fagan's company will have a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology, as a tribute to the staff at RIT, which just did a magnificent, magnificent job.
So, this is exciting, it's different, it's creative â but these are different times and we have to address them. Pops-Up will start with these pop-up performances and then migrate to the reopening of venues for arts. Again, our rapid testing, our testing protocol: opening sites with testing is something where New York wants to lead the way. You have venues like the Shed, the Apollo, Harlem Stage, Alice Busch Opera Theater that we can start to reopen with testing. So we'll start with the pop-ups. We'll then move towards reopening venues with testing on a limited basis and this will crescendo through the summer with the 20th anniversary of Tribeca and the opening of Little Island at Pier 55. This is dÃ©jÃ vu: 20th anniversary of Tribeca. Tribeca started out in New York City post-9/11 to get people comfortable with downtown Manhattan post-9/11 and reintroduce them in some ways to downtown Manhattan post-9/11. And now the expansion of the Tribeca concept is to reopen the economy overall in the state and reopen it through the arts. So, what Tribeca did so well 20 years ago, we now need on a massive scale statewide.
Also, Little Island at Pier 55 is on the west side of Manhattan and it is a great development that is done on the Hudson River Park by Hudson River Park Trust, which is a state agency, joint state city agency and the Barry Diller Foundation, which has created an architectural marvel and it's a great venue for the arts. So, that will, it will build up to that in the summer months. I want to thank Jane Rosenthal and Scott Rudin, who are fantastic New Yorkers and fantastic professionals and they've been very helpful in organizing this and as I said, it's exciting and it's different, but it's going to make a difference and New York leads and we're going to lead in bringing back the arts because we're at a point in time where the future, my friends, is what we make it. The future COVID rate is a function of our behavior. How fast does the economy come back? How robust? It depends on what we do and in New York we are very good at the doing because we are New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.
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