By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back at Republican lawmakers’ naked partisanship in coronavirus pandemic – specifically, the suggestion that the federal government abandon states suffering under the health and economic hardships, and after swiftly passing some $4 trillion in debt in order to fund Corporate America, telling states and localities to go bankrupt, rather than provide necessary funding.
“This is now turning into a political brawl on state and local funding,” Cuomo said during the Wednesday, April 29 press briefing. “More and more, some of the elected officials in Washington are saying they’re against it. They’re lead by Senator Mitch McConnell, who leads the Senate, who makes it blatantly political. No blue state bailout. No blue state bailout. What is he trying to say? The states that have coronavirus are Democratic states and he’s a Republican, so he doesn’t want to help the Democratic states.
“He went so far as to say, well he’d be in favor of the states going bankrupt. First, states have never gone bankrupt. States can’t go bankrupt. There are serious Constitutional questions about whether or not a state can declare bankruptcy and you need a federal law that would allow the states to declare bankruptcy even if you got around the Constitutional question on bankruptcy. If he believes that, if it wasn’t just political rhetoric and personal vitriol, then pass a law that allows states to declare bankruptcy. He would have to do that. I dare him to do that and get that bill signed by the President.
“To make it partisan is what is most disturbing and you can see they’re now rallying the partisan troops. Senator Scott from Florida says we’re supposed to bail them out. We versus them. We’re supposed to bail them out. It’s we and it’s them. That’s not right. Who is we and who is them? Who is we? And who is them? Them, the people who had coronavirus. They are the ones who had the coronavirus. We, without the virus, are supposed to bail out those people who have the virus. what an ugly sentiment.
“First of all, on the facts, it’s not even close to right and why they would even want to go down this road when the facts damn everything they’re saying. And there are still facts. I know it’s hard to communicate facts in this environment. I know a lot of the filters don’t communicate facts. They all communicate spin now. Everybody has their own spin. But there are still facts that are not political theater, right? New York State bails them out every year. They’re not bailing us out. We bail them out every year. New York State pays $29 billion into that federal pot, $29 billion more every year that we never get back. Our state contribution into the federal pot, the United States of America pot, every year we put in $29 billion more than we take out. On the other hand, they take out every year $37 billion more than they pay to the federal government. Senator Mitch McConnell, you are bailing out New York, when every year you take out more from the kitty, the federal pot, $37 billion more than you put in? Who is bailing out whom?
“Senator Scott, Florida, you’re going to bail us out? You take out $30 billion more every year than you pay in. How dare they? How dare they when those are the facts? How long are you going to play the American people and assume they’re stupid? They are not and they can add and they know facts. And I don’t care what the news media tries to do to distort these facts. They are numbers, and they are facts, and they can’t be distorted, and this is every year.
“Look, what this is really about, it’s the Washington double speak. You look at the bills that they want to pass and who they want to help. They want to fund the hotels, the restaurants, the airlines, the big corporations. That’s who they want to fund. Who do state and local governments fund? State and local governments fund police, firefighters, nurses, school teachers, food banks. That’s who I want to fund and that’s what it means to fund a state and local government. And that’s the choice they’re making. Everybody applauds the health care workers. Jets fly over in tribute to the health care workers. That’s all nice. Saying thank you is nice. How about actually rewarding them and making their life easier? How about giving them hazard pay? How about helping with their childcare? How about helping families who can’t feed their kids right now? How about helping the police, and helping the firefighters, and all the people who are out there right now killing themselves to make life easier for us?
“That’s what this is really about. They want to fund corporate America. That’s who puts money in their pockets. And I say let’s fund working Americans. That’s the choice. Bail out us, them. No, it’s just theater. It’s just smoke and mirrors to avoid the American people seeing the reality, which is whose pocket they want to put money in, versus whose pocket state and local governments want to fund.
“The reason that it’s so disturbing to me, I’m not surprised by anything in politics. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly for many, many years. I was in Washington for eight years. I know what it’s like. But if there was ever a time that one could reasonably believe you could put aside partisan politics. If there was ever going to be a moment where we could say, you know what, let’s stop just for one moment the partisanship, the ugliness, the anger, the deception. Let’s just stop for one moment. If there was going to be one moment to hit the pause button, the moment would be now. You have human suffering. You have people dying. You can’t stop the politics even in this moment? Even in this moment when people are dying all across the country, you still want to play your politics? That’s what this is about, and that’s why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level. Politics, I’m getting up and I’m reading that death toll number. I’m speaking to the widows and the brothers and the sisters and the children of people who died, and then we’re going to play politics with funding that’s necessary to save people’s lives? When does it stop?
“And the disconnect is between the political leadership and the people, because the American people, it’s not them. They are principled, they are kind, they are better than what they are getting. The American instinct is to help each other in crisis. The American instinct is to be good neighbors. The American instinct is the farmer who sent me the one mask to help a New Yorker when he only had five masks and a wife with one lung and underlying illness. And he sends one of his five masks to New York. Think about that generosity, that charity, that spirit. That’s America. Why? Because we’re good neighbors, because we care about one another.
“America was when I said we need help in our emergency rooms and hospitals and 95,000 nurses and doctors from across the nation said we will come to New York to help. We’ll come into the emergency room. We’ll come into the hospital. I understand it’s COVID I will leave my family, and I will come to help yours. That’s America. That’s who we are and that’s who we have shown ourselves to be in the middle of this crisis. The crisis brings out the best and the worst, yes. And the best of America is beautiful and that’s what we’ve seen. Because, yes, we are tough. Yes, we are smart. Yes, we are disciplined. Yes, we are united. Yes, we’re loving, loving, because we are Americans. And that’s who we are and how we are as Americans. And I just hope the political leadership of this nation understands how good we are as a people.
“And the textbook says politicians lead, elected officials lead. No, sometimes the people lead and the politicians follow, and that’s where we are today. Follow the American people. Look at what they’re doing. Look at how they’re reacting. And politicians, try to be half as good as the American people. I want to show you a self-portrait that was done by American people. This is a self-portrait of America, okay? That’s a self-portrait of America,” Cuomo said opening a curtain that revealed a collage of protective face masks.
“We received thousands of masks from all across America, unsolicited, in the mail, homemade, creative, personal, with beautiful notes from all across the country, literally. Just saying, thinking about you, ‘We care, we love you, we want to help.’ And this is just people’s way of saying we care. And we want to help. This is what this country is about. And this is what Americans are about. A little bit more of this and a little bit less of the partisanship and the ugliness, and this country will be a better place.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo gave specific detail for a phased reopening of the economy, starting in regions of the state which are comparatively unscathed, compared to downstate – New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island, Rockland and Westchester counties north of the city, where the number of COVID-19 cases exceeds every other nation.
He said that the “spigot” to reopen the state’s economy would be based on data, not politics or emotion – and would depend on area hospitals having 30 percent capacity available after re-starting elective surgery, and the rate of transmission staying below 1:1 (one person infecting one other person).
Testing is being ramped up from 20,000 a day to 30,000, to a goal of 40,000.
Using this criteria, 35 counties have been approved to resume elective outpatient treatments – necessary to help hospitals’ finances. The Governor previously announced that the state will allow elective outpatient treatments to resume in counties and hospitals without significant risk of COVID-19 surge in the near term. The counties now eligible are: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenango, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Putnam, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Sullivan, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
“We have made tremendous progress to stop the spread of this infection, but we are not out of the woods yet and we need to proceed with caution as we begin our re-opening plan,” Governor Cuomo said.”We know testing is key to re-opening New York – it is the indicator that will show if we are keeping the infection rate down throughout the re-opening process. We have been more aggressive than any state or nation in the world on testing and we are now halfway to our goal of doubling our testing capacity from 20,000 per day to 40,000 per day, but we still have more work to do.”
Cuomo provided the specific 12-point guidelines for the phased plan to re-open New York on a regional basis. Each region of the state – Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York – must follow these guidelines as part of the re-opening plan.
- CDC Guidelines: Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate they may begin a phased re-opening.
- Industries: Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.
- Business Precautions: Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.
- Building Health Care Capacity: To maintain the phased re-opening plan, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
- Testing Regimen: Regions must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a known COVID-positive person, and conducts frequent tests of frontline and essential workers. Regions must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate its population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested. The region must also use the collected data to track and trace the spread of the virus.
- Tracing System: There must be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the re-opening plan.
- Isolation Facilities: Regions must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate.
- Regional Coordination: Regions must coordinate the re-opening of schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing with other surrounding regions.
- Re-imagining Tele-Medicine
- Re-imagining Tele-Education
- Regional Control Rooms: Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its control room to monitor regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection, PPE burn rate and businesses.
- Protect and Respect Essential Workers: Regions must continue to ensure protections are in place for essential workers.
“Our reopening is different,” Cuomo said. “We don’t have a conceptual plan. We don’t have an abstract plan because there is no conceptual plan, there is no abstract plan. You have to have a plan that is based on facts, based on specifics. This is not about politics, this is not about spin, this is not about emotion. There are no conspiracy theories at work here. We outlined a 12-step plan that is factual, that is based on numbers, based on data and then it has a numerical circuit breaker that is not subject to personal emotion or desire, but just checks and monitors that infection rate that we just saw in Germany and is watching for those increases.”
Governor Cuomo also announced the creation of the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the state’s re-opening strategy. The advisory board will be chaired by Former Secretaries to the Governor Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow and includes over 100 business, community and civic leaders from industries across the state. A list of the members of the advisory board is available here.
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