Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 16 Mass Vaccination Sites In New York State Will Accommodate Walk-in Appointments For Individuals Over The Age Of 60 Beginning April 23

April 21, 2021

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for being here this afternoon. Let me acknowledge my colleagues who are here with me today.

I'll make some opening remarks and then I'll turn it over to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and I want to congratulate her on getting the State budget done. It was a hard budget. A lot going on in the world, a log going on in the country and the state between the COVID situation and the federal relief but it's really a good piece of work and I want to congratulate her.

Same to Assemblyman Nader Sayegh who obviously, the Senate and the Assembly passed a budget. Speaker Carl Heastie is the head of the Assembly. I want to congratulate them. Assemblyman Sayegh also has the distinction of being the first Jordanian American who's ever served in the State Assembly, so good for him as a pioneer.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer who is a partner of ours in State and has done an extraordinary job and Mayor of Yonkers Mike Spano who is hosting us today. The Mayor as always has been a great partner and Yonkers should be very proud and I understand from a little birdie that the Mayor is going to be 21 years old again tomorrow so congratulations to you on 21-plus.

To Sergeant Archana Chong who is the site commander for the Yonkers mass vaccination site and the entire team. They are about to do their shot number 50,000 today so let's give the National Guard and everybody who is running this a big round of applause. Congratulations, guys. The National Guard has been fantastic. They really have stepped up all across the state.

Before I begin my remarks today I'd like to comment on what happened last night and the justice that was done in the George Floyd decision. I hope it brings some peace to the family. I hope it brings some peace to people, demonstrators, all across this country, people who are concerned all across this country.

But at the same time let's remember the context. The George Floyd killing was not just about George Floyd. This has been a long line of systemic injustices in the justice system which has made it even more repugnant. You can go back to Rodney King. You can go to Amadou Diallo. You can go to Sean Bell. You can go to Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Then George Floyd, and then after the George Floyd killing, Duante Wright, Adam Toledo. We don't need an episodic solution because this is not an episodic problem. It is a systemic problem and we need to attack this issue both from the top down and the bottom up. The National Government should step in. President Biden spoke about it in the campaign.

We need public safety reform in this country. You can't police the way you did decades ago. It's a different society. Things change. Things evolve. We don't educate the way we educated decades ago. No system has been static and we need to undertake the real reforms in our public safety system nationwide, and bottom up. Policing is done community by community. Policing in Yonkers is different than policing in Mt. Vernon, is different than policing in New York City, is different than policing in Buffalo. Let those communities design the public safety reform system that they want, that they need, that they believe is responsive to their community's needs.

New York State is the first state in the nation that started that public safety reform, mandating that communities come up with a reform plan in light of the George Floyd killing, but it's just the start. If communities need laws changed from the State, tell us. But otherwise, community by community. Let's reform public safety and understand that peace was done, justice was done with George Floyd, but until we change the system there will be another and another and another. Today we're at the Yonkers mass vaccination site which has done a really fantastic job. The mass vaccination sites are the most effective vaccination sites in the State of New York in terms of numbers that are just produced.

As I mentioned before the National Guard does a fantastic job. I want to thank Mayor Spano personally for his help and his administration's help in making this site work. 50,000 vaccinations - just think about that. It's an extraordinary accomplishment. The COVID numbers show that we are still making progress. All the numbers are headed in the right direction. COVID yesterday statewide was 2.14 percent. That's the lowest level since November 5 which is a very big deal. That means we're back to where we were in early November before Thanksgiving, before the whole holiday surge, so that's really good news.

But as good as the news is, we still had 53 people die yesterday, and those are 53 families that are grieving today and they're in our thoughts and prayers. 817 people in ICU, 505 intubated. When you look across the state you see different COVID positivity rates which are dramatically different, which makes the point again - this is up to your community and how your community behaves.

Highest positivity rate in the State of New York is Western New York, 4.4 percent. Mid-Hudson, 3 percent. Finger Lakes, 3 percent. Long Island, 2.9. New York City, 2.8. Capital Region, 2 percent. Mohawk Valley, 1.6. North Country, 1.4. Central New York, 1.4. Southern Tier, 0.8. Statewide 2.6.

But ask yourself, why is Western New York at 4.4 and the Capital Region, Albany District is at 2. Why is Western New York double what the Albany area is. It's a function of the human behavior in that area. We control the positivity rate. Nobody else.

The seven-day statewide average is 2.6 percent. That's the lowest since November 11. Here in Westchester County the seven-day average, 2.6, which is the lowest rate since November 6. That is a great piece of news and I want to congratulate the County Executive. County Executive Latimer, you have done a fantastic job - 16 vaccination sites in Westchester, and he has constantly, constantly been getting out the message. Let's give the County Executive a round of applause.

It has been a long horrendous year with COVID. We've all suffered the pain but spring is here, the sun is out, spring is a season of renewal, some of us just celebrated Easter, a spring of renewal, rebirth, and that's where New York is. We're poised for rebirth, and our goal in New York is not just to awake from the COVID winter but to rise ever stronger in this new spring. That is what New York does. You can knock us down but we get up and we get up stronger. We went through 9/11. We got knocked down but we got up and we got up stronger. We went through Superstorm Sandy. You knocked us down, but we got up and we got stronger and we have to do the same thing with COVID. We're not just going to rebuild. We're going to rebuild better than ever before and we have the agenda to do it. We're going to be the green energy capital of the nation, period. We have universal broadband access that no other state has in the United States. We're going to have more affordable housing than ever before. We're going to reform our health care system, learning from what we learned in COVID and the pandemic, so New York will be better on the rebirth if we make it better and the key to getting to rebirth is the vaccinations.

Now, yes, we have vaccines. Yes, I just gave you numbers that say we're headed in the right direction with COVID but don't get cocky with COVID. There are variants of interest, we've seen places around the world, we see states in this country where the number went down and then it spiked and went right back up.

The only way to address and defeat COVID and crush COVID is to get the vaccination. We have to reach herd immunity and that is important and I can't say it enough and we can't do enough and it takes all of us but it also takes people to come forward and take the vaccine. It is safe. 12 million doses just in the State of New York. It's being administered around the world. It is safe. Everybody is eligible.

There are no excuses now not to get the vaccine and today we're taking an additional step, where for people who are over 60 years old, you don't even need an appointment to get a vaccine. You can just walk in to any of the mass vaccination sites across the state and walk in and they will give you the vaccine. You don't have to go on the internet, you don't have to make a phone call, you don't have to do anything. Just show up at the vaccination site if you're 60-plus and they will give you a vaccine. Why 60-plus? Because the older you are, the more susceptible you are to harm from the virus. So for people over 60 years old, I'm one of them, really no excuses. Just show up and that starts this Friday.

But at the end of the day government can only do what government can do. We can set up the vaccination sites, the National Guard can be heroic, all the health officials can do their job, the Mayor can do his job, the County Executive can do his job, the Senate Majority Leader can do her job, but it's up to you to come and get the vaccine.

Last point, people talk about the vaccine and, well, this is a decision I have to make for myself. Yes, it's a decision you have to make for yourself. It's safe, it's smart for you. I believe that and every medical professional, 99 percent of all the medical professionals in this country will tell you the same thing. But think about this. It's not really just about you. Right? You are a member of a community. It's a great word, from the Latin "communitas," of the common. You are part of a community and if you get sick you can make somebody else sick, so yes it's about you, but you don't live on an island onto yourself. You live in an apartment. You live in a house. You go to a store. You get on a bus. You get on a train. You affect other people. You are part of the community and I believe it's a civic duty for you as part of that community to do the responsible thing. Community, communitas, my father said it more simply, God rest his soul, he used to talk about New York as a family, the family of New York. You're a member of the family. This is one extended family of New York and your behavior will affect the family. If you don't get vaccinated, even if you're young and you're a superhero and you're not worried, you could give it to someone and it could kill them. So yes, it's your decision, but you are part of a community. You are part of the New York family and you have an obligation and responsibility, one to another. Let's honor that responsibility.

With that let me turn it over to the Senate Majority Leader. Again, congratulations on getting the budget done. We've been through many of them. This is probably the most complicated and most difficult budget but it's probably the budget that also does the most for New York in terms of reform and good work which will allows us to rebound post-COVID higher than ever before and I want to thank the Senate Majority leader and the New York State Assembly for all their good work in getting it done. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins: Thank you so much, Governor, and thank you also for talking about the work that we did on this budget because it really, I think, it's extraordinary because it's a people-centered budget. We saw that happen over this past year which was incredibly devastating in so many ways. Our condolences go out to so many who have lost people due to COVID. We saw it as an opportunity to look at where we could be, pay off some of our past debts and really put people at the center of the not only our recovery but our resurgence. I know, I've been told, it's probably the best budget that has happened and I'm certainly proud of it and I think all of us have something to look forward to.

We're here because of what the Governor has said. At the center of all of us is making sure we have our health. Without health everything else frankly is secondary. To be at this site in Yonkers, in the community I represent, just a few blocks from my office and my home, to say that right now we are opening up to 60-plus, a walk-in option to come and get the vaccine that I've already gotten and I believe every one of us have gotten because it matters. You'll hear from all of my colleagues in government, all of us who are fighting this fight because all of us in the 10707 among other zip codes were so hard hit. The fact that FEMA heard our collective cries and the numbers show that we knew exactly what to do once this site got here. We got to work and did it.

Within the first few weeks there was just our zip codes, Mt. Vernon and Yonkers zip codes that were hardest hit, that were able to get the first round of shots in the first week. Twelve thousand shots happened just at the very beginning. Right now, there are 22,000 who are completely vaccinated and - as the Governor said - we'll be hitting 50,000 shots today. Still, we still, are fighting. We still have more to do. I'm glad that it's spring, I'm glad that people can, in many ways, walk to this site. I'm glad that the Mayor and the Council, my colleague Assemblyman Sage and, of course, the County Executive and the Governor will continue to push the importance of getting the vaccine so that we can all enjoy our people-centered budget recovery and really the resurgence of New York.

As it relates to the George Floyd verdict, I was so happy that they got the right answer. We also know that true justice would have been that George Floyd would still be here. We have so much work to do but we are prepared. We've been leaders in terms of police reforms and I think we will continue to do so until justice is really what we do and criminal justice is really justice for all.

Again, get vaccinated, roll up your sleeves. We'll be right here to help you through it and it will be good for you and good for your family. Thank you.

County Executive Latimer: Good afternoon. I'm George Latimer, Westchester County Executive. We want to thank the Governor and his team for terrific leadership that has helped us in local government and our area, both the mayor and myself and local government officials to be able to deal with this pandemic in a real-world context.

The site located at the County Center, it's a county facility, we turned it over to the State and with their leadership and their organization they turned it into a site where over 2,000 people a day are getting vaccinated, 7-days-a-week, 11 hours a day and that has really contributed tremendously to the amount of people in Westchester and in our neighboring counties in the Hudson Valley to be able to get the vaccination. We owe a debt of gratitude to the State and the leadership to make that happen.

This facility here in Yonkers, we're very excited to note, that now anyone 60 and over can walk up and get a shot very easily. At least that deals with one of the many reasons why we have some vaccine hesitancy which is the convenience factor. We know that a lot of folks are not always comfortable with going on a computer, having those skills necessary for how to get an appointment. In the early stages of this where appointments were hard to get, it discouraged people.

This announcement now and, of course, across this large State of ours, with similar centers available, we think this is going to help dramatically. I know the Mayor will talk about it more specifically since it's here in his backyard. I too want to join the voices in appreciation for our members of the National Guard. The work that these men and women have done has been really exemplary and if we go back to the beginning of the pandemic in March of a year ago, the first concentration of documented cases came here in Westchester County. It was at that time that members of the National Guard were deployed by the Governor to help our colleague and friend Mayor Branson of New Rochelle deal with certain issues in New Rochelle at the onset of this. They've been there for us all the way through this process and we could not have accomplished It without this type of situation.

Very briefly, I received 2 shots of Moderna and I had the same fears that many people did. Like many of us, I go on to the internet, I consult Dr. Google who will tell me all kinds of scary things and I talk to everybody else in my age cohort. I know I'm older than Mike and older than the Governor and older than Andrea, so you get a little scared and you say, 'gee, what's going to happen to me?' It's a human reaction that's not an unrealistic situation. You fear what you don't know. However, for me personally, the second shot reaction was new other than the standard sore arm. But the sense of confidence now to go out in the community and function rises dramatically. It's true of everybody once they go to their vaccination cohort, whatever it is. And that is the path to the reestablishment of our economy, the way we want it to be. How many of us say 'I'm tired of wearing a mask.' 'I'm tired of socially distancing.' I started out before in government I started as a sales and marketing executive. You shake hands, you pat people on the back and you interact with them in a certain way. And you don't do that now because of this. The path back to normal is through vaccinations. And whatever the fears are people are afraid of what their reaction is going to be. We've had a million-plus people, many more than that in the state, that have been vaccinated with no ill effects. There some folks who have an ideological element to it. It's not about ideology. It's about public health. And the fear factor or whatever factor that is there is what is blocking us from fully opening our economy.

I was talking with Assemblyman Sayegh about the catering situation. Governor's been very careful about what gets opened and what percentage and those things. We open fully if we're fully vaccinated. And then we know we've got that confidence. So it's hard to express how important this opportunity is. This Governor allows for more of us to get vaccinated her in Westchester County and for those in the Bronx and those in Orange and Rockland counties. We don't have moats at the borders of these governments. We are one state. In fact, we're one nation. And together we're going to get through this. But the vaccination is the route. So for those of you who have any vaccine hesitancy, please understand that this is how we get back to normal. And the faster we get back to normal, the faster we will enjoy our lives every day. Thank you very much.

Mayor Spano: Let me start off by saying thank you to our great Governor for being her in Yonkers today. Governor, especially for your leadership during this pandemic. It's always an honor to host you here in Yonkers. I want to thank my colleagues, the Senate Majority Leader. It's always a pleasure to see the Majority Leader. Yonkers is very fortunate to have the Senate Majority Leader as our state senator here in our city. Assemblyman Nader Sayegh, of course, my good friend Nader Sayegh and of course, my good friend, the county executive, George Latimer. I'm a life-long resident of Yonkers and we all know that the past year has been hell for a lot of us. It's painful to see our community, the community we care so much about, suffer so greatly. And now that we have the COVID vaccine, there's finally light at the end of the tunnel. But vaccines don't stop COVID. Vaccinations do. That's an important point to remember. Like I said, being born and raised in Yonkers, and I know the Governor can attest to this from where he's from, we like to hug each other. We are a hugging community. So we can get back to hugging as soon as we can get our vaccinations. So we all know it's not just easy telling people to get vaccinated, we know that there is a bit of hesitancy out there. There is a little bit of mistrust. But that all happened with the vaccines first came out. But now, we also know that there were barriers. And the Governor knows about these barriers and inequities. And they've existed in our society for a long time before the pandemic. And that's why he created the Vaccine Equity Task force -Governor, thank you for that. Working with trusted community leaders to promote the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccine. And that's why he brought a mass vaccination site to us here in Yonkers with the National Guard -thank you for your service. These popup sites all across the state are going to do so much to get us back to a normal life. You're going to here that over and over again: It's about us getting back to a normal life. And the way we do that is through vaccinations. With that, I want to say thank you. Say thank you to our great Governor as always. Protect yourself, protect your family and get vaccinated. I did. It was what we needed to do. My mother got it. She's a little bit nervous about things like that. She's 88 years old. She got through with flying colors, so I'm very, very happy about that. Let's get onto regular life. Wash your hands and make sure you practice social distancing.

Assemblymember Sayegh: Thank you very much. And it's a proud moment to join with Governor Cuomo, the mayor of the city of Yonkers, Mayor Spano, my colleague and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and County Executive George Latimer. It is today a very special day for Yonkers. I'm the assemblyman, I represent Yonkers. But the opening of this vaccination site was crucial not only for the city of Yonkers, but for the entire region. Most of us that know the city -that have lived in the city --understand that how crucial it is when an issue like a pandemic and vaccination. And individuals -old people and people that are minorities and immigrants -people that don't know how to use the internet and technology. The difficulty they had in booking appointments was extremely detrimental. And being from a family with many healthcare professionals, many with offices and facilities right here in southwest Yonkers, we understood the plight of many individuals. And joining the Majority Leader and my colleagues at the state, local and county levels to send the message to the Governor, to the CDC, how crucial it was to address this epicenter right here in Yonkers, New York, and to see that issue addressed with the opening is really a compliment. And today I wanted to commend the Governor for allowing this vaccination site and really for taking the lead, not only for Yonkers and Westchester and not only for New York State, but taking the lead in the entire country. And people I spoke to throughout America would tell me, 'you know during the pandemic, we looked to the New York Governor to give us guidance on what was happing and what we needed to do.' So today is a great moment. This vaccination site had a target of a thousand vaccines a day. And today is the 49th day and we're at 50,000 vaccinations. So to the National Guard, to our healthcare heroes and especially to Governor Cuomo, congratulations to each and every one of us. And the mission is to continue to focus on vaccinations. It is still dangerous, we're on the right track. Get vaccinated, it's for the benefit of each and every one of us. Our families, our co-workers and society in general. Thank you very much.

Governor Cuomo: Well thank you. I think we've all heard the message. To the Senate Majority Leader, thank you for being here and again congratulations on a great budget for the Senate, for all their members. Assemblyman Sayegh, thank you very much for your good work. Mayor Spano, County Executive George Latimer. None of this happens without the partnership of the mayor and the county executive. They make everything happen. Let's give them another round of applause. You heard it: Get vaccinated. For yourself, for your family, for your community. No excuses. 60-plus, you don't even need to make a phone call. Just walk up and get the vaccine at any of these sites.

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