Tag Archives: COVID-19 pandemic

Biden Administration Launches Whole-of-Government Effort to Get More People Vaccinated Against COVID

The Biden Administration’s Retail Pharmacy Program launched a few weeks ago and this week, will see an increase in allocation to neighborhood pharmacies to 2.1 million doses. The administration is well on its way to fulfilling the goal of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days.

The Biden-Harris Administration has launched a comprehensive, whole-of-government effort to get more people vaccinated—by increasing vaccine supply, increasing vaccinators, and increasing the number of places to get vaccinated. As part of this strategy, the Administration is supporting and launching federally-supported community vaccination centers nationwide in places people know and trust: community centers, schools, and stadiums. These community vaccination centers help achieve the President’s goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and getting vaccines to Americans more rapidly and more equitably.
On his first day in office, the President set a goal of launching or supporting 100 community vaccination centers in his first month. President Biden announced that since January 20, the federal government has provided critical support in the form of personnel, funding, and/or equipment to help establish or expand 441 community vaccination centers nationwide.

The government has reported that 50 million vaccinations have been administered in the first 38 days since Biden entered office, suggesting he will reach his goal of 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days much earlier.

This includes:

60% of people over 75 received at least one shot

50% over 65 have received one shot

75% of people in long term care facilities received at least one shot.

Meanwhile, a third vaccine, Johnson & Johnson, is about to be authorized for use. This is a one-shot dose that does not need special handling, and will supplement the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

On February 24, Jeff Zients, COVID-19 Response Coordinator, announced the fifth consecutive week of supply increases to states, tribes, and territories, from 8.6 million doses when Biden took office to 14.5 million doses this week.  That’s an increase in vaccine allocations to states of nearly 70 percent during the Biden-Harris administration.
 
The Retail Pharmacy Program launched a few weeks ago and this week, will see an increase in allocation to pharmacies to 2.1 million doses. 
 
So, with 14.5 million doses allocated to states, tribes, and territories and 2.1 million through the federal Retail Pharmacy Program, the weekly supply of doses has been nearly doubled in just five weeks.
 
Second, the Biden Administration is mobilizing teams to get shots in arms, deploying over 800 federal personnel as vaccinators, funding 1,200 National Guard members to serve as vaccinators, and deploying 1,000 federal personnel to support community vaccination sites in operational and support roles.
 
Third, the Biden Administration continues to create more places where Americans can get vaccinated, expanding financial support to bolster community vaccination centers nationwide, with over $3.6 billion in FEMA funding to 44 states, tribes, and territories for vaccination efforts. “We’re bringing vaccinations to places communities know and trust: community centers, high school gyms, churches, and stadiums nationwide.”
 
The administration continues to work with states to set up innovative, high-volume, federally run sites that can each give over 30,000 shots a week.  These sites are up and running in California and are ramping up in Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
 
Federal programs have been launched to get vaccines to pharmacies and local community health centers. 

“As we’ve always said, we’re committed to providing clarity on our progress, and that includes when we hit bumps in the road. Last week, we got hit with the very severe weather, which impacted the vaccination supply chain — from manufacturing, to shipping, to the ability to get shots in arms.  The manufacturers, the shipping firms, the states, the tribes, the territories, and pharmacies worked to overcome these challenges.
 
“And despite all the temporary weather-related delays, our seven-day average daily doses administered is at 1.4 million.  And we’ve already caught up on the weather-related shipping backlog.
 
Teams worked throughout last weekend to pack and ship doses.  On Monday, yesterday, 7 million doses — two days ago — 7 million doses were delivered.  That, coupled with the 14.5 million doses allocated this week, results in record supply going to the states.  We’ve encouraged states to get needles into arms by extending vaccine clinic hours, offering services 24 hours a day where possible, adding weekend appointments, and having more staff on hand.
 
“On this point, I want to stress that if states do not have the staff to work around the clock and on the weekends, the federal government stands ready to help.”
 
As soon as an Emergency Use Authorization is issued for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Zients said the government anticipates allocating 3 to 4 million doses next week.  Johnson & Johnson has announced it aims to deliver a total of 20 million doses by the end of March.  “We’re working with the company to accelerate the pace and timeframe by which they deliver the full 100 million doses, which is required by contract by the end of June….We will waste no time getting this lifesaving vaccine into the arms of Americans.”

FACT SHEET:
441 Federally-Supported Community Vaccination Centers in First Month of Biden-Harris Administration

Since January 20, the Biden-Harris Administration has supported the establishment or expansion of 441 community vaccination centers across 37 states, territories, and the District of Columbia.
 

As of this week:

  • 171 sites are being supported by federal personnel: The Biden-Harris Administration has deployed 2,225 personnel nationwide to support vaccination operations, including expert logisticians, vaccinators and non-medical operational staff serving as greeters, clerks and other critical support roles. Personnel are assigned from agencies across the federal government, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); U.S. Department of the Interior (DoI); U.S. Department of Defense (DoD); U.S. Coast Guard (USCG); U.S. Forest Service (USFS); Veterans Affairs (VA); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
  • 312 sites are being supported by federally-funded National Guard members under Title 32 orders: This means more people to deliver vaccinations, handle logistics, and coordinate the pandemic response. In total, the Administration is supporting 1,200 National Guard vaccinators across 43 states and territories.
  • 177 sites have received federal funding: At the President’s direction, FEMA is reimbursing 100% of costs for vaccination operations. This funding covers critical supplies, staffing, training, and transportation needs that support increased vaccination distribution and administration. The funding flows to states, localities, Tribes, territories, and eligible non-profits.  
  • 62 sites have received federal equipment: From folding chairs to sharps containers to dry ice, the federal government has provided a range of equipment to meet state, local, Tribal, and territorial needs and help establish or expand sites.

Federal Pilot Community Vaccination Centers
Additionally, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced 18 federally-established community vaccination centers, with the ability to administer a total of 61,000 shots per day at full capacity. For these sites, the federal government is directly working with state and local partners from start to finish, to help select the location for, staff, and operate these sites.

The Biden-Harris Administration is placing equity at the core of the federal government’s strategy to defeat the pandemic. FEMA has partnered with CDC and state and local partners to locate vaccination centers in places that aim to reach hard-hit, high-risk communities, deploying CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and similar state and local measures. Ensuring access is a priority in the design of the Federal Pilot community vaccination centers, with some featuring weekend and extended daytime hours, reserved slots for registration through faith-based and community-based organizations, and deployment alongside mobile vaccination units to help vaccinate surrounding communities.
Two sites opened in California on February 16, administering over 90,000 shots since opening, with additional vaccinations from the four mobile clinics based out of these locations and bringing vaccines directly to surrounding communities. Five other Federal Pilot sites opened this week, with three in Texas and two in New York. Additional sites announced in Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina are launching in the coming weeks, with more to be announced.

Launched Federal Pilot Community Vaccination Centers:

  • Oakland Coliseum – Oakland, CA: FEMA partnered with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to open the site on February 16, with the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 individuals a day. At the time of launch, 231 federal personnel were deployed to support site vaccinations and operations, including 125 from FEMA, 85 from USFS, and 21 from NDMS. The Coliseum is adjacent to the communities of Eastmont and Elmhurst, which have some of the lowest health scores in the state. The site operates 7 days a week with drive-through and pedestrian options. Appointments were reserved for faith and community-based organizations to register their communities.
  • California State University, Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA: FEMA partnered with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to open the site on February 16, with the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 individuals a day. At the time of launch, 256 personnel were deployed to support site vaccinations and operations, including 222 from DoD, 30 from FEMA, and four from USFS. The institution is one of the most diverse public universities in the country, serving a large Latinx community. The site operates 7 days a week with drive-through and pedestrian options. Appointments were reserved for faith and community-based organizations to register their communities.
  • NRG Stadium – Houston, TX: FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management opened this site on February 24, with the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 individuals a day. The 11-lane drive-through site operates 7 days a week, and the state is conducting targeted outreach to provide registration support. Harris County is highly diverse, home to the nation’s second-largest Hispanic and Latinx population of any U.S. county.
  • Fair Park – Dallas, TX: FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management opened the site on February 24, with the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day. The 12-lane drive-through site operates 7 days a week, and the state is conducting targeted outreach to provide registration support. Dallas County is highly diverse, with nearly two-thirds of its population Hispanic and/or Black.
  • Globe Life Field – Arlington, TX: FEMA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management will open the site on February 26, with the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day. The site operates 7 days a week with drive-through and pedestrian options, and the state is conducting targeted outreach to provide registration support.
  • Medgar Evers College – Brooklyn, NY: FEMA and New York State opened the site on February 24, with the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day. The site is located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. For the first week of scheduling, appointments were reserved specifically for eligible residents living in areas with low vaccination rates, before opening to all eligible borough residents. The state is additionally partnering with faith leaders to encourage sign-up, and the MTA is launching a pilot program to enhance bus service to connect New Yorkers to the vaccination site.
  • York College – Queens, NY: New York State and FEMA opened the site on February 23, with the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day. The site is located in Jamaica, Queens. For the first week of scheduling, appointments were initially reserved for eligible residents living in areas with low vaccination rates, before opening to all eligible borough residents. The state is additionally partnering with faith leaders to encourage sign-up, and the MTA is launching a pilot program to enhance bus service to connect New Yorkers to the vaccination site.

Announced Federal Pilot Community Vaccination Centers, opening soon:

  • Miami-Dade Community College (North Campus) – Miami, FL: With state partners, FEMA will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day.
  • Tampa Greyhound Track – Tampa, FL: With state partners, FEMA will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day.
  • Valencia College West Campus – Orlando, FL: With state partners, FEMA will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day.
  • Gateway Mall – Jacksonville, FL: With state partners, FEMA will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 3,000 individuals a day.
  • New York National Guard Armory – Yonkers, NY: FEMA and the State of New York will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.
  • Former Kodak Hawkeye Lot – Rochester, NY: FEMA and the State of New York will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.
  • Delavan Grider Community Center – Buffalo, NY: FEMA and the State of New York will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.
  • Washington Avenue Armory – Albany, NY: FEMA and the State of New York will open the site on March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 1,000 individuals a day and will operate with extended hours to better reach local residents.
  • Pennsylvania Convention Center – Philadelphia, PA: With state partners, FEMA will open this site as early as March 3. The site is expected to vaccinate 6,000 individuals a day.
  • United Center – Chicago, IL: With state partners, FEMA will open this site on March 10. The site is expected to vaccinated 6,000 individuals a day.
  • Four Seasons Center – Greensboro, NC: With state partners, FEMA will open this site on March 10. The site is expected to vaccinated 3,000 individuals a day.

Biden Announces Increased COVID-19 Vaccine Supply, Launch of Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, Expansion of FEMA Reimbursement to States

At the Yes We Can Center in Westbury, which became Nassau County’s second COVID-19 vaccination distribution site, Alex Miller of Port Washington, a special language pathologist, is vaccinated by Dr. Kevin Glassman, a volunteer with Nassau County’s Medical Reserve Corps. President Biden is dramatically increasing the supply of vaccine and launching the first phase of the federal distribution program through local pharmacies. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As the U.S. surpasses 26 million COVID-19 infections, President Biden took additional steps February 2 to implement his comprehensive National Strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. These steps include increasing the vaccine supply to states, Tribes, and territories and increasing funding to jurisdictions to help turn vaccines into vaccinations. And, the President announced that starting next week, the first phase of the federal pharmacy program will launch and select pharmacies nationwide will start offering vaccinations for their communities.
 
These new steps will help meet the President’s goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and expand access to vaccines to more Americans in the coming weeks.
 
The President is taking the following actions today:
 
Expanding Vaccine Supply: Building on last week’s announcement, the Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes, and territories to 10.5 million doses nationwide beginning this week. This is a 22% increase since taking office on January 20. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks, and we will continue to work with manufacturers in their efforts to ramp up supply.

Launching First Phase of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination: As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, starting on February 11, those eligible for the vaccine will have the opportunity to be vaccinated at select pharmacies across the country through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination. This program is a public-private partnership with 21 national pharmacy partners and networks of independent pharmacies representing over 40,000 pharmacy locations nationwide (listed below).  It is a key component of the Administration’s National Strategy to expand equitable access to vaccines for the American public.

As the first phase of this program launches, select retail pharmacies nationwide will receive limited vaccine supply to vaccinate priority groups at no cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked with states to select initial pharmacy partners based on a number of factors including their ability to reach some of the populations most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.  Americans should check their pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine is available as supply will be limited in the initial phase. More information is available at cdc.gov/covid19.

Increasing Reimbursements to States: Central to the Biden-Harris Administration’s COVID-19 National Strategy is ensuring states, Tribes, territories, and jurisdictions have the resources they need to defeat the virus. That’s why, in his second day in office, President Biden directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fully reimburse states for the cost of National Guard Personnel and emergency costs. Today, President Biden is announcing that the administration will go even further, retroactively reimbursing states fully for FEMA-eligible services – including masks, gloves, emergency feeding actions, sheltering at risk populations, and mobilization of the National Guard – back dated to the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020.  This reimbursement is estimated to total $3-5 billion and is only a small share of the resources that states need to fight this pandemic — including for testing, genomic sequencing, and mass vaccination centers. To fully support states, Tribes, and territories’ needs to contain the pandemic and vaccinate their populations, President Biden is requesting $350 billion from Congress in American Rescue Plan.

Participating Federal Pharmacy Partners (not all will be active in every state in initial phase)

Chain Pharmacies

  • Walgreens (including Duane Reade)
  • CVS Pharmacy, Inc. (including Long’s)
  • Walmart, Inc. (including Sam’s Club)
  • Rite Aid Corp.
  • The Kroger Co. (including Kroger, Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Ralphs, King Soopers, Smiths, City Market, Dillons, Mariano’s, Pick-n-Save, Copps, Metro Market)
  • Publix Super Markets, Inc. 
  • Costco Wholesale Corp.
  • Albertsons Companies, Inc. (including Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Star Market, Shaw’s, Haggen, Acme, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United, Vons, Pavilions, Amigos, Lucky’s, Pak n Save, Sav-On)
  • Hy-Vee, Inc.
  • Meijer Inc.
  • H-E-B, LP
  • Retail Business Services, LLC (including Food Lion, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Hannaford Bros Co, Stop & Shop)
  • Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. (including Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas)

Network Administrators

  • Topco Associates, LLC (including Acme Fresh Markets, Associated Food Stores, Big-Y Pharmacy and Wellness Center, Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Super One Pharmacy, FRESH by Brookshire’s Pharmacy, Coborn’s Pharmacy, Cash Wise Pharmacy, MarketPlace Pharmacy, Giant Eagle, Hartig Drug Company, King Kullen, Food City Pharmacy, Ingles Pharmacy, Raley’s, Bel Air, Nob Hill Pharmacies, Save Mart Pharmacies, Lucky Pharmacies, SpartanNash, Price Chopper, Market 32, Tops Friendly Markets, ShopRite, Wegmans, Weis Markets, Inc.)
  • CPESN USA, LLC
  • GeriMed (long-term care and retail pharmacies)
  • Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), Elevate Provider
  • Health Mart Systems, Inc.
  • Innovatix (long-term care pharmacies)
  • LeaderNET and Medicine Shoppe, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs 
  • Managed Health Care Associates (retail and long-term care pharmacies)

Biden Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plan: More Sites, More Vaccinators, More Cooperation Between Fed, Local Health

State and local public health officials have been frustrated by limited supply and vaccinators even as they try to expand COVID-19 vaccination sites. President-Elect Joe Biden announced his detailed plan to dramatically increase vaccinations, with a goal of 100 million in his first 100 days © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With a promise to “manage the hell out of this thing,” President-Elect Joe Biden laid out a cogent, detailed, realistic plan to “efficiently and equitably vaccinate” the population, with a pledge to administer 100 million doses in his first 100 days.

Biden plans to use a “whole of government,”  “whole of society” approach, enlisting FEMA, the Defense Production Act, the National Guard, to set up federally manned and funded sites including mobile clinics to complement local communities, and increase supply of vaccines and vaccinators.

Our plan is as clear as it is bold:

“Get more people vaccinated for free.

“Create more places for them to get vaccinated.

“Mobilize more medical teams to get shots into peoples’ arms.

“Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.

“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country.

“You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation.”

Biden continued
:

“For God’s sake, wear a mask for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country,” he declared in remarks from Wilmington on January 15. “These are life and death matters. We need you to stick with the hand washing, social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings with people outside your household.

“We’ll be a partner to the states and cities, so where things are working, we’ll help do more of the good work, and where things can improve, we’ll bring more resources to bear to get folks tested and vaccinated.

“We will work closely with nonprofits and the private sector who we know all want to partner with us in this effort. 

“The more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us.

“And the sooner we can build our economy back better, and get back to our lives and loved ones.

“As we’ve seen during this pandemic, we can’t solve our problems as a divided nation.

“The only way we come through this is together as fellow Americans and as the United States of America.

“Vice-President-elect Harris and I ran on that vision. And starting noon on Wednesday, that is exactly how we are going to govern and ask for your help.”

Here’s Biden’s plan:

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse by the day — more people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, the death rate is up almost 20 percent, and we’re nearing 400,000 deaths total. At the same time, there is a new, more contagious strain spreading across the country and we are woefully behind on vaccinating the U.S. population. 

President-elect Biden will confront this historic challenge with the full strength of the federal government — working closely with local communities already in the trenches. He will lead an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort that mobilizes every resource available — across the public and private sectors. It will take every American doing their part. 

As we move forward to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, we will not leave anyone behind. Communities across the country are counting on it. The health and economic security of our nation depend on it.

Today, the president-elect outlined key highlights of his plan to efficiently and equitably vaccinate the U.S. population. This includes taking action to: 

Get more people vaccinated

  • Encourage states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers. The process of establishing priority groups was driven by science, but the implementation has been too rigid and confusing. We now see doses of vaccines sitting in freezers unused while people who want the vaccine cannot get it. President-elect Biden’s plan encourages states to open up eligibility beyond healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff, to include frontline essential workers like teachers, first responders, grocery store employees, and anyone who is 65 and older. It won’t mean that everyone in these groups will get vaccinated immediately, as supply is not where it needs to be. But it will mean that as vaccines become available, they will reach more people who need them. For states with the capacity and supply to further expand, we encourage that as well. The federal government will continue to look to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) framework for an equitable, effective vaccination program.
  • Ensure equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those in hard-to-reach, marginalized communities. We will ensure that there is equity in the vaccination process by using data to target resources to hard-hit communities, ensuring no out-of-pocket costs for vaccinations, and equitable access to vaccines in marginalized and medically-underserved communities. Partnerships with state, local and community-based organizations and trusted health care providers, like community health centers, will be central to this effort.

Create more vaccination sites

  • Stand up new, federally-supported community vaccination centers across the country. Getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible will require close coordination between the federal government and all states and territories. Knowing that not all states and jurisdictions have the resources to scale vaccinations at the pace this crisis demands, the Biden-Harris administration will leverage federal resources and emergency contracting authorities to launch new vaccination sites and to expand state and local efforts across the country. With the support of Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), these sites will mobilize thousands of clinical and non-clinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams. The program will be scaled based on what is working best on the ground for state and local partners, and the communities they serve. 
  • Fully reimburse state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccinations and provide additional FEMA assistance. Many states are planning to use their National Guard to support vaccine distribution efforts, including to support critical transportation and logistics functions. To further support states, President-elect Biden’s plan fully reimburses states for the use of the National Guard and provides 100% cost match for state and local emergency costs through FEMA.
  • Launch mobile vaccination clinics and provider partnerships to reach underserved urban areas and rural communities. President-elect Biden will deploy mobile vaccination clinics in the most hard-to-reach communities and to support those who face challenges accessing vaccination sites, including individuals who live in underserved urban and rural areas. The federal government will partner with states and local providers, including primary care providers, to ensure that they have the resources needed to help get vaccines to the communities they serve. The federal government will launch targeted programs to engage community health centers, rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and tribal health services to ensure that we can meet the needs of all communities. 
  • Make vaccines available in pharmacies. Millions of Americans turn to their local pharmacies every day for their medicines, flu shots, and much more. Nearly 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy. President-elect Biden will quickly jumpstart efforts to increase capacity at chain and independent pharmacies across the country to get Americans vaccinated. 
  • Launch a new partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 30 million patients each year — one in 11 people nationwide. Many are people of color and many live in rural communities. FQHC patients are often individuals struggling to make ends meet. Given the critical role that these providers play in their communities, President-elect Biden will launch a new program to ensure that FQHCs can directly access vaccine supply where needed. At the same time, the administration will encourage jurisdictions to engage and work closely with health centers in their community vaccination planning. And to ensure that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs, President-elect Biden has called on Congress to provide additional funds to support community health centers, and HHS will launch a new program to provide guidance, technical assistance, and other resources to prepare and engage these providers nationwide. 
  • Launch new models to serve high-risk individuals. The administration will make programs available for high-risk congregate settings, including homeless shelters, jails, and institutions that serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Increase supply and get it out the door as quickly as possible

  • Ensure a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing. To help people get vaccinated more quickly, the president-elect will maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country, including using the Defense Production Act. This effort will prioritize supplies that could cause bottlenecks, including glass vials, stoppers, syringes, needles, and the “fill and finish” capacity to package vaccine into vials.
  • Be a reliable partner for states by providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery. To effectively plan and scale distribution, states and localities rely on both advanced understanding of their allocations and timely delivery of their ordered doses. Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the federal government will provide regular projections of the allocations states and localities will receive. The federal government will build on the operational plans in place to ensure the effective distribution, storage, and transit of vaccines to states, including support for maintaining or augmenting the vaccine-specific required cold chain. The federal government will also fully leverage the Defense Production Act to fill any distribution gaps, including with respect to any needed refrigeration, transportation, or storage facilities. 
  • Increase vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule. President-elect Biden’s plan will release the vast majority of the vaccines when they are available, so more people can get vaccinated quickly, while still retaining a small reserve for any unforeseen shortages or delays. To continue ensuring second-dose availability on the timeline recommended by the FDA, the Biden-Harris administration will closely monitor development, production and release of vaccines, and use the DPA as needed to ensure adequate supply for second doses on the timeline recommended by the FDA. 

Mobilize more personnel to get shots in arms. 

  • Surge the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort. A diverse, community-based public health workforce is essential to an effective vaccination program. President-elect Biden will address workforce needs by taking steps to allow additional qualified professionals to administer vaccines and strongly encourage states to use their flexibility fully to surge their workforce, including by expanding scope of practice laws and waiving licensing requirements as appropriate. The federal government, in partnership with states, will provide appropriate training, including thorough use of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The president-elect will also act swiftly to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals, including retired medical professionals, that are not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so with appropriate training in order to expand the number of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine. 
  • Mobilize a public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response. President-elect Biden has asked Congress to make an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce, funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the country’s community health roles. These individuals will be hired to work in their local communities to perform vital tasks like vaccine outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and to transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.

Ensure the American people have the information and confidence they need to get vaccinated 

  • Launch a federally led, locally focused public education campaign. The federal government will build public trust through increased transparency, communication around progress and setbacks, and a public education campaign that addresses vaccine hesitancy and is tailored to meet the needs of local communities. The campaign will work to elevate trusted local voices and outline the historic efforts to deliver a safe and effective vaccine as part of a national strategy for beating COVID-19.

Cuomo Details Plan to Distribute First Doses of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine to New Yorkers

FDA Expected to Authorize Pfizer Vaccine This Week; New York Could Receive Initial Allocation of 170,000 Doses Beginning this Weekend

Nursing Home Residents, Nursing Home Staff and ‘High Risk’ Hospital Workers Prioritized First

90 Cold Storage Sites Identified Across the State to Receive and Store Vaccines

New York National Guard Selected by Department of Defense to Participate in One of 16 Pilot Programs Aimed at Vaccinating Military Personnel

With the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed the priorities for distributing what is expected to be an initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed plan for distributing what is expected to be an initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines as soon as this weekend.

The state’s vaccination distribution effort will focus on battling skepticism, include outreach to Black, Brown and poor communities, as well as expedited distribution and administration.

“Distributing the vaccine is a massive undertaking. I think frankly, people have not focused enough on the extent of what this undertaking means. I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here,” Governor Cuomo said. “The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution. The military is doing the transportation with private companies, and they will send it where we ask them to send it. We then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff and high-risk health care workers. We’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA tomorrow. Immediately after that, our New York State panel will convene and review and approve it. They’ve already been speaking to the FDA about the process.”

As outlined in New York’s vaccination program, high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.

New York has opted into the federal government’s nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff in these facilities, much like the do for the flu vaccine. New York State will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as “high-risk” in line with state rules.

If authorized by the FDA, the first delivery of Pfizer vaccines for the federal nursing home vaccination program could begin arriving next week, with the federal program slated to begin on December 21. New York is dedicating a portion of its initial allotment of 170,000 doses to this program. Portions of future state allocations will also be used to help complete the program and ensure all residents and staff are vaccinated.

‘High risk’ hospital workers eligible to receive a vaccination from the state’s initial allotment include emergency room workers, ICU staff and pulmonary department staff. As part of the effort to vaccinate ‘high risk’ hospital staff, the state has identified 90 locations across the state with requisite cold storage capabilities and those sites will receive enough doses for approximately 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff, or 40 percent of the entire patient-facing hospital workforce. The state expects all ‘high risk’ hospital staff will receive a vaccine by the end of week two. Staff at every hospital in New York State, regardless of storage capabilities, will have access to the first allocation of a vaccine.

The vaccine will be allocated on a regional basis. Regional estimated distributions are as follows:

  • New York City -72,000
  • Long Island – 26,500
  • MidHudson – 19,200
  • Capital Region – 7,850
  • North Country – 3,700
  • Mohawk Valley – 4,200
  • Central New York – 6,400
  • Southern Tier – 4,500
  • Finger Lakes – 11,150
  • Western New York – 14,500

Following the vaccination of ‘high risk’ health care workers, the priority will shift to all long-term and congregate care residents and staff, EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population will follow those groups, and those with the highest risk will be prioritized.

Additionally, the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as one of 16 pilot programs across the nation to be part of the limited distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. Members of the New York Army and Air National Guard who serve as part of the state’s COVID response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.

In his daily update, Cuomo said, “New York expects the initial allocation of 170,000 doses. The federal government is doing the allocation based on state population. Again, they distribute it to the state, the state then turns around and does an allocation within the state. It could arrive as soon as this weekend. That assumes the FDA does act right away. The FDA does approve it and the military turns around and ships it immediately. It could actually be coming this weekend. Further allocations will be in the following weeks.

“Our state priority: Nursing home residents first, nursing home staff. There was a discussion about if you do the residents or do you do the staff. New York, we decided to do both residents and the nursing home staff. Then you go to high-risk hospital workers. We have about 700,000 hospital workers in this state so its’s a very large population. We’ll prioritize the high-risk hospital workers within that overall health care population. We have rules that we have established that we will send to hospitals about what is a quote, unquote high-risk health care worker. The hospitals will select the actual individuals who will get the first vaccines within that guidance. Emergency room workers, ICU staff, pulmonary department staff.

“The allocation by region, again, this is based on number of nursing home residents, number of nursing home staff and number of high-risk health care workers. The 90 locations across the state that can provide the cold storage will receive enough doses for roughly 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff. That is 40 percent of the total hospital patient-facing workforce of 225. The 225,000 is a subset of the overall 700,000, obviously. By the end of week two, if all goes well and the federal government sticks to the schedule, we expect all high-risk staff will receive the vaccination. Staff at every hospital will have access to the allocation, even if their hospital doesn’t have this cold storage capacity. They will have access to the vaccine by a hospital in their region that does have that storage capacity. After we take care of all the high-risk healthcare workers, we’ll then move to all long-term and congregate care staff and residents. NEMS and other healthcare workers and then essential workers, general population, starting with those who have the highest risk.

“The federal government offered a program that New York State opted into, whereby pharmacies will do the vaccinations in nursing homes, which will take a burden off the nursing home staff, and New York has opted into that program. It’s run by the federal government, but basically they subcontract with private companies to do the vaccinations in nursing homes. Flu vaccine we do this way. New York by participating in that program, we provide part of our allocation to that program, so we actually have enough vaccinations to cover all residents. Part of the future allocations will ensure enough doses to make sure we complete that program. Completion is all nursing home residents and staff.

“We expect deliveries to begin next week. The federal administration says they’re going to start by 12/21. New York is dedicating part of our initial allocation to the program, but we do expect to have enough to cover all residents and all staff. The staff is actually vaccinated on a rolling basis to make sure they have staff that’s receiving the vaccine and staff that’s working at all times.

We’re also pleased that the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as a pilot program where they will vaccinate people from the National Guard who have been working on our COVID-19 task force. And New York is pleased to participate in that. And the National Guard who have been doing a phenomenal job for the past nine months as we’ve worked through this barrage, they’ll be eligible for the vaccine also.

“The fairness of the vaccine is paramount, and I mentioned it before, but we have to make sure this nation understands that we can’t make the same mistake twice. Death rate among Blacks, twice what the death rate among whites is from COVID. Death rate among Latinos, one and a half times the death rate among whites. COVID testing, fewer tests taken in the Black and Latino and poor communities. It was just a manifestation of the disparity in healthcare, and it has to be corrected during the vaccination program. we have to get into public housing. We have to partner with Black churches and Latino churches, community groups. This has to be a fair distribution, and New York will lead the way. We’ve made these concerns known to HHS, I’ve sent letters, I’ve done speeches, I’m working with civil rights groups across the state. Made these points to Congress on several occasions, we’re working with the NAACP, Mr. Johnson, we’re working with the Urban League, Mayor Marc Morial. But this is a point that we have to bring home and we have to be successful.

“We do have good news that we waged a similar effort on the rules for vaccinations for undocumented people. The way the federal government constructed the program, basically they wanted the states to collect social security numbers, passport numbers or driver’s license numbers for anybody vaccinated. These are all bells for people who are undocumented, alarm bells. And it sounded like you were trying to use the vaccination to identify undocumented people. We have gone through this with the federal government at length wit the trusted traveler program previously. If undocumented people don’t get vaccinated, it compromises their health and it compromises the whole program. again, the program only works if you hit a critical mass of the population. If you say, well, the undocumenteds we’re going to exclude practically because they don’t come in and participate, you have 50 percent of the population that’s skeptical, if we’re not going to reach out to the Black, Latino and poor communities, it’s never going to be a success. So, we raised this point again. We did letters. I did speeches. I’ve spoken out publicly and HHS has agreed. The CDC specifically has agreed that the State will not send individual data identifying a person in a way that could be used to document citizenship or deportation, et cetera.

“We insisted on that in what’s called the data-sharing agreement, data use agreement, and the CDC agreed. So, that is a better vaccination program for this country and for this state. It took a lot of work, but I want to congratulate all the advocates and people who stepped up and spoke up, because it was a good service.”

Governor Cuomo Calls on Congress to Renew, Expand Federal COVID Relief

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, now the chair of the National Governors Association, entreated Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face record levels of coronavirus  infections, hospitalizations and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The programs provide critical benefits for millions of American families that have faced unemployment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including supplemental benefits for individuals and support for local and state governments. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face another surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed.

“The pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis. As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop COVID, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire. Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk,” Governor Cuomo said.”Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans.”

Separately, Cuomo, who is also National Governors Association Chairman, and Arkansas Governor and NGA Vice Chairman Asa Hutchinson issued a statement regarding ongoing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill:

“Even as COVID-19 vaccine trials show remarkable results and the pandemic finish line is in sight, the danger the virus poses has never been greater. Today our country is seeing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths — every single state has been affected.

“It is time for Washington to step up and deliver desperately needed relief for their constituents. Governors are heartened that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are now talking with each other to find a way forward. We encourage leadership to stay at the bargaining table and work out a deal that delivers the critical relief to the American people.

“As an interim measure to address states immediate and pressing needs, we support the bipartisan framework proposed by Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Bill Cassidy and a bipartisan group of their colleagues as a response that would bring meaningful relief to those who are struggling; situate states to quickly, effectively and equitably implement their vaccination plans; and prime the economy to allow for a faster rebound.

“Governors have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, procuring lifesaving medical and personal protective equipment, establishing field hospitals, and providing economic relief to small businesses and workers. But this is a national crisis, cutting across geographic, economic and demographic lines, and it demands a national, bipartisan solution. Congress should not leave Washington for the holiday recess without enacting a much-needed COVID relief package. We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration in the new year on a more comprehensive COVID relief package.” 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, New York State has paid more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.8 million New Yorkers — which represents more than 26 typical years’ worth of benefits. Nationwide, more than 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including 12 million covered by programs that will expire on December 31, 2020. In New York, that includes 1.2 million current claims from New Yorkers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and 682,000 claims from individuals who are receiving 13 additional weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after exhausting the 26 weeks of traditional benefits.

Here is Governor Cuomo’s full letter detailing the aid that is requested:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McCarthy:

As you are well aware, the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country, with the United States entering what appears to be another surge of infections this fall. While disturbing, this increase is not surprising — experts told us that as temperatures fell, cases would increase, and those predictions have unfortunately come true.

The physical toll of the pandemic is well known: 12 million Americans have been infected and more than 250,000 have lost their lives. 

But the pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis with unheard of levels of unemployment across the nation. Since March, more than 68 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, representing over 42 percent of the nation’s workforce. Last week, the number of newly filed claims nationwide grew by 31,000, representing the first week-over-week increase after four weeks of decreasing claims.

Unlike the federal government’s response to the virus itself, Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic — supplying Americans with federally-funded stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, and benefits for freelancers, the self-employed, and others who are not typically covered by traditional unemployment insurance.

However, as we enter the holiday season — and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — Washington’s inaction is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk. 

When the CARES Act was passed in March, roughly 10 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic — today, that number has increased by nearly 600%. At the time, the nation had only faced two weeks with unemployment claims above the pre-pandemic high of 695,000. Now, we have surpassed that level for 35 weeks straight.

Yet despite this worsening economic picture, many critical support programs that were put in place earlier this year have already expired and the few remaining ones are set to expire just days after Christmas. This is simply unacceptable and must be rectified.

The Senate and House must work to renew and expand federal unemployment benefits for Americans while supporting the state governments that are implementing these programs and disbursing the benefits. 

The following programs should be extended or renewed through the end of the federal Fiscal Year 2021:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)— This program, which is set to expire on December 31, 2020, allows freelancers, self-employed individuals, and others who are not typically eligible for unemployment insurance to receive 46 weeks of federal benefits. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 8.7 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PUA.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)— This program, which is also set to expire on December 31, 2020, provides an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to Americans who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 4.4 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PEUC.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)— Created by the CARES Act, this program provided federal supplemental benefits of $600 per week to all unemployed Americans. After expiring in late July, this program was temporarily replaced with the Lost Wages Assistance program, which failed to adequately address the continuing needs of the American public, while causing more administrative work for states.
  • Federal Support for Shared Work— Shared work programs allow employers to keep staff partially-employed while still cutting costs. Rather than laying off their staff, a business is able to reduce all workers’ hours, with unemployment benefits replacing some or all of their lost wages. To encourage use of these programs, the federal government fully funded states’ shared work programs, but this support is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
  • Reimbursements for Local Government, Non-profit, and Tribal Employers— Recognizing the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local governments, non-profit organizations, and tribal nations, the federal government agreed to reimburse half of unemployment benefits these employers paid out. That support is due to expire on December 31, 2020, putting further strain on organizations that are already struggling to stay afloat and provide needed services during this crisis.
  • Support for State Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds— Due to the unprecedented surge in unemployment insurance claims, states across the country have exhausted their unemployment insurance trust funds. Earlier this year, the Federal government allowed states to borrow to replenish their trust funds interest-free. Starting next year, those loans will begin accruing interest — even as unemployment levels remain at critically high levels. All states should be allowed to continue borrowing for their unemployment insurance trust funds without accruing interest next year. Further, the federal government must recognize the impact repaying these loans will have on businesses, especially already-struggling small businesses, and fully forgive all loans.
  • Cost-Sharing for Unemployment Insurance Administrative Costs— Every state’s unemployment insurance system has been tested by the pandemic response, and many state departments of labor have implemented multiple new federal programs using decades-old technology. The Federal government has so far paid half of these administrative costs — that should increase to 100 percent reimbursement, but at the bare minimum this cost sharing must continue. Failing to do so will significantly harm states’ abilities to support unemployed workers.

The United States of America’s economy remains in crisis. More than 20 million of our neighbors received some form of unemployment benefits during the week ending October 31st — over thirteen times the number receiving benefits this time last year.

Not extending these programs — which can largely be accomplished by passing the unemployment and workforce provisions of H.R. 925, the HEROES Act — is akin to abandoning millions of Americans in their time of need. Congress must take action before the calendar year ends, and anything less would be an abdication of your duty.

I look forward to your immediate attention to these matters.

Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, New York State
Chair, National Governors Association 

President-Elect Biden Calls for COVID Relief Now: ‘The situation is urgent. If we don’t act now, the future will be bleak’

President-Elect Joe Biden: “To truly end this crisis, Congress will need to fund more testing as well as the equitable and free distribution of the vaccine. We’ll need more economic relief as a bridge through 2021 until both the pandemic and economic crises are over. And, then we’ll need to build back better…my Build Back Better plan will create 18.6 million jobs. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The reactions could not be more stark between the ignorant, self-serving do-nothing response of Trump who is obsessively focused on overturning the free-and-fair election that deposed  him (and pardoning criminal allies and family members), and the thoughtful, insightful, methodical focus of President-Elect Joe Biden on how to combat both the coronavirus crisis and the related jobs crisis. Biden’s remarks come in response to November’s jobs report that, even before the massive skyrocketing in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the nation, showed a disturbing slowdown in economic recovery, with only 245,000 jobs added when well over 400,000 were expected, and an unemployment rate, which while dipping to 6.7%, does not reflect the 4 million people who have dropped out of the workforce and aren’t looking for jobs. The truer unemployment rate would be over 8%. Biden, in his remarks, was optimistic about a spurt of bi-partisanship that may produce a $900 billion COVID relief package, but says that is only a “downpayment” – an emergency relief to keep people from losing their homes and the ability to feed their family – on what will be necessary.

Already, the failure of Republicans to allocate aid to states and localities has resulted in 1 million layoffs of critical workers, with many more teachers, firefighters and hospital workers who will lose their jobs when they are most needed. Moreover, though the administration is touting the near availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, it has failed to actually contemplate how to distribute it, administer shots, or who will pay for the health workers to administer the vaccinations to the general public. (Reminder, you need 70 percent of the population to get the vaccinations in order to even begin to have “herd immunity” to end the pandemic.) But actually sparking the economy again will require real stimulus spending, for much needed and neglected infrastructure. Here are President-Elect Biden’s remarks, as prepared for delivery in Wilmington, Delaware: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Good afternoon.

Earlier today, the November jobs report was released.

It’s a grim report. It shows an economy that is stalling. 

We remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. 

If we act now, we can regain momentum and start to build for the future. There is no time to lose.

Millions of people have lost their jobs or had their hours slashed. They’ve lost their health insurance or are in danger of losing it. One in every six renters was behind on rent. One in four small businesses can’t keep their doors open. An ongoing gap in Black and Latino unemployment remains too large.

And it’s deeply troubling that last month’s drop in overall unemployment was driven by people dropping out of the labor market altogether. They’ve lost hope for finding a job, or they’ve taken on full-time caregiving responsibilities as child care centers remain closed and their children learn remotely. 

Over the last three months, 2.3 million more people are in long-term unemployment — by far the largest increase on record.

And this dire jobs report is a snapshot from mid-November before the surge in COVID cases and deaths in December as we head into a dark winter. 

For example, since October, cities are down 21,000 educators — just as schools need more help in the fight against the pandemic.

A couple of days ago I spoke with a school crossing guard, a server, a restaurant owner, and a stagehand. Good people, honorable people — decent Americans from across the country.

They remind me of my Dad who lost his job in Scranton and eventually moved our family to Claymont, Delaware, just outside of Wilmington.

He used to say, “Joey, I don’t expect the government to solve my problems. But I expect it to understand my problems.”

The folks out there aren’t looking for a handout. They just need help. They’re in trouble through no fault of their own. They need us to understand.

We are in crisis.  We need to come together as a nation.

And we need Congress to act — and act now.

If Congress and President Trump fail to act by the end of December, 12 million Americans will lose the unemployment benefits they rely on to keep food on the table and pay their bills.

Emergency paid leave will end.  The moratorium on evictions will expire. States will lose the vital tools they need to pay for COVID testing and public health workers. 

It will be harder for states to keep children and educators safe in schools and to provide assistance to keep small businesses alive. 

States and cities are already facing large budget shortfalls this year.

They have already laid off more than a million workers — and even more teachers. Firefighters and cops will lose their jobs unless the federal government steps up now.  And all of this weakens our ability to control the virus.

Emergency paid leave reduces the spread of COVID, because it allows people to stay home when they are sick.

States and cities need funding to direct COVID response — which is the only way we can end this crisis and get people back to work.

The situation is urgent. If we don’t act now, the future will be bleak.

Americans need help and they need it now, and they’ll need more come early next year.

I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in the Senate around a $900 billion package of relief. 

And as Congress works out the details of the relief package, we must focus on resources for the direct public health response to COVID-19.  

We need meaningful funding for vaccines now so that we don’t lose time and leave people waiting for additional months.  

We need serious funding for testing now so we can ramp up testing and allow our schools and businesses to operate safely.  

The sooner we pass this funding, the sooner we can turn the corner on COVID-19.

In the weeks since the election ended, there were questions about whether Democrats and Republicans could work together. 

Right now, they are showing they can. Congress and President Trump must get a deal done for the American people.

But any package passed in the lame duck session is not enough. It’s just the start.

Congress will need to act again in January.

Earlier today, I consulted with members of the economic team Vice President-elect Harris and I announced this week.

As we inherit the public health and economic crises, we are working on the plan that we will put forward for the next Congress — to move fast, to control the pandemic, to revive the economy, and to build back better than before.

We hope to see the same kind of spirit — of bipartisan cooperation —as we are seeing today.

And our plan is based on input from a broad range of people who Vice President-elect Harris and I have been meeting with since winning the election last month.

Labor leaders, CEOs, Mayors and Governors of both parties. Parents, educators, workers, and small business owners.

There is consensus that, as we battle COVID-19, we have to make sure that businesses and workers have the tools, resources, guidance, and health and safety standards to keep businesses and schools open safely. 

Because here’s the deal: 

The fight against COVID won’t be won in January alone.  

To truly end this crisis, Congress will need to fund more testing as well as the equitable and free distribution of the vaccine.

We’ll need more economic relief as a bridge through 2021 until both the pandemic and economic crises are over.  

And, then we’ll need to build back better. An independent analysis by Moody’s — a well-respected Wall Street firm — projects my Build Back Better plan will create 18.6 million jobs.

It’s based on a simple premise: reward work in America — not wealth.

We will invest in infrastructure, clean energy, manufacturing,  and so much more.

This will create millions of good-paying American jobs and get the job market back on the path toward full employment. This will raise incomes, reduce drug prices, advance racial equity across the economy, and restore the backbone of this country, the middle class.

Bottom line, it’s essential that we provide immediate relief for working families and businesses.

Not just to help them get to the other side of this painful crisis, but to avoid the broader economic costs due to long-term unemployment and businesses failing.

And by acting now, even with deficit financing, we can add to growth in the near future.

In fact, economic research shows that with conditions like today’s crisis — especially with such low interest rates — not taking the actions I’m proposing, will hurt the economy, scar the workforce, reduce growth, and add to the national debt.

I know times are tough, the challenges are daunting, but I know we can do this.

We can create an economic recovery for all. We can move from crisis to recovery to resurgence.

This is the United States of America. We’ve done it before. We will do it again.

May God bless America.
May God protect our troops. 

I’ll stop there and take your questions.

Biden on COVID-19 Surge: ‘Urgent Action is Needed Today’ In Absence of Federal Response, ‘Now is a Moment for Shared Responsibility and Shared Action’

President-Elect Joe Biden urged shared responsibility and shared action in response to a horrific surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, after meeting with the co-chairs of his transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. “Urgent action is needed today,” he said.  In absence of a federal response, “now is a moment for shared responsibility and shared action.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President-Elect Joe Biden urged shared responsibility and shared action in response to a horrific surge in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, after meeting with the co-chairs of his transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Here is his statement:

Today, I met with the co-chairs of the transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Dr. David Kessler, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. 

They briefed me on the accelerating public health crisis. The facts they presented were alarming. Our country is experiencing surges in reported infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities all over the country, with virtually nowhere getting spared. Our doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are under enormous — and growing — strain. This week’s news on progress toward a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is positive, but it will be many months before there is widespread vaccination in this country. 

This crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking. I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is. Resources for frontline health care workers, including personal protective equipment that is again in short supply. Surge capacity for hospitals that are at risk of running out of beds. Clear, science-based guidance for states, cities, tribal communities, businesses, and schools that are trying to manage the pandemic. Effective distribution of testing kits and supplies, as well as treatments and therapeutics. Making a priority of dealing with persistent race-based disparities in this pandemic.

Today, I renew my call for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others. I understand it’s not easy. I know people are tired. But this will not go on forever. We are moving toward a vaccine. We are improving our ability to test. We are developing better treatments. We can get through this — and come out the other side stronger. But right now is a moment for shared responsibility and shared action. Together, we have the power to rein in this virus. And I promise you, from the moment I am sworn in on January 20, I will do everything in my power to lead this unified national effort.

Cuomo Hits Back at McConnell’s ‘Drop Dead Blue States’ Remarks as GOP Says Will Put Brakes on Aid in Midst of Pandemic

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back hard on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch  McConnell signaling he would block aid to states most impacted by the coronavirus. McConnell boasted in a press release that he had no intention of bailing out “blue states.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back hard on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch  McConnell signaling he would block aid to states most impacted by the coronavirus. McConnell, boasted in a press release that he had no intention of bailing out “blue states.”

Cuomo, who is staring down a $15 billion budget deficit, said that without federal aid, states (which are not allowed to go bankrupt) would be forced to cut back on health workers, police, fire, teachers, mass transit and social services as the state.

“15,000 people died in New York, but they were predominantly Democratic so why help them? Don’t help New York State because it is a Democratic state? How ugly a thought. Think of what he’s saying,” Cuomo said during his April 23 press briefing.

“For crying out loud, if there were ever a time for you to put aside your pettiness, your partisanship, your political lens you see the world through – help Republicans but not Democrats – that’s not who we are. If ever there was a time for humanity, decency, now is the time.”

Except that is exactly who McConnell and the Republicans are, and demonstrated it through every crisis.

McConnell is clearly seeing the political advantage of pushing Blue States into near bankruptcy – that figured into how he constructed the 2017 Tax Act which limited the deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) because it would adversely impact blue states over red ones, force state government to cut back on services or risk a tax revolt.

But Cuomo also pointed to the stupidity of that: California is the world’s 5th largest economy and accounts for 14% of US GDP; New York State is the third largest economy in US, accounting for 8% of GDP – taken together, these two states alone account for nearly one-fourth of GDP.

“If New York and California are allowed to go bankrupt, that would take down the entire economy,” Cuomo said.

Moreover, Cuomo insisted, “When it comes to fairness, New York State puts much more money into the federal pot than it takes out. At the end of the year, we put in $116 billion more than we take out. His state, Kentucky, takes out $148 billion more than they put in. He’s a federal legislator distributing the federal pot of money  and New York puts in more money to fed pot than takes out, his state takes out more than it puts in. Senator McConnell,  who’s getting bailed out? It’s your state that is living on the money that we generate. Your state is getting bailed out. Not my state.

“How do you not fund schools, hospitals in the midst of crisis, police, fire, healthcare – frontline – if you can’t fund the state, the state can’t fund those services. It makes no sense.” (Probably the same way you cut $500 million in funding to the World Health Organization in the midst of a pandemic.)

“The entire nation depends on what governors do to reopen,  but then not fund state government? I am I going to do it alone?

“States should declare bankruptcy? That’s how to bring the national economy back? You want to see that market fall through the cellar, just let New York State declare bankruptcy, Michigan, Illinois, California declare bankruptcy. You will see a collapse of the national economy. That’s just dumb.”

Reports are showing that the $350 billion intended to help small businesses get through the crisis has almost entirely gone to big, profitable businesses and entities with close ties to banks. (See: Banks Gave Richest Clients ‘Concierge Treatment’ for Pandemic Aid)

The National Governors Association, a bipartisan group of governors from around the country, wrote federal officials this week pleading for $500 billion to help them make up for lost tax revenues during what they called “the most dramatic contraction of the U.S. economy since World War II.”

None of the four stimulus bills that have passed the Senate, amounting to trillions of dollars of funding, have provided any aid to states hardest hit by the virus. As it happened, these happen to be Democratic states – New York, which accounts for almost one-third of all coronavirus cases and deaths; New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and California.

Republicans have been gleeful at sending billions to corporations and well-connected, able to skirt whatever oversight and provisions the Democrats had tried to impose (Trump said he would take the reporting requirements as a suggestion and promptly fired the Inspector General), balked at expanding unemployment assistance, and reneged on promises to help states now billions in the red because of the expenses of maintaining services as revenues have all but dried up with the lock-down of all but essential work.

Mimicking his obstruction to Obama’s recovery when refused to allocate enough money for the Recovery Act, McConnell has been content to see the budget deficit rise by $3 trillion (on top of the $1 trillion Trump added even as the economy boomed, because of the Republican tax scam) as long as it could be steered to friendly industries and donors, now  expressed glee to let blue states go bankrupt.

“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has consistently asserted that future stimulus bills would send aid to states and localities, but McConnell is now signaling that now that they have gotten four stimulus bills amounting to a slush fund with little oversight and accountability, they will be unwilling to provide direct help to states. All of a sudden, they are concerned about rising debt. (Reminder: Republicans shut down government and threatened to refuse to raise the debt ceiling during Obama unless Obama would rescind Obamacare from the budget.)

Once this last stimulus bill passes the House, as is expected, Democrats will lose all leverage to get aid to states, localities, hospitals, workers and the unemployed.

Meanwhile, Cuomo reported on the preliminary results of the state’s first statewide survey intended to determine what percentage of the population has antibodies after being exposed to the infection.

The preliminary results suggest that 13.6% of the state has been infected (and now has antibodies), with the greatest proportion downstate: 21.2% of people in New York City, 16.7% of Long Island, 11.7% of Westchester/Rockland and 3.6% of the rest of the state. The 3,000 in the sample were randomly surveyed in grocery stores and box-stores – in other words, people who were out and about.

Based on that infection rate, it would suggest that 2.7 million New Yorkers have been infected. If that were true, the 15,500 fatalities would suggest a death rate of 0.5%. However, Cuomo stressed that the fatalities counted were only those that took place in hospitals and nursing homes, but do not include those who died at home.

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Extends COVID-19 Lockdown to May 15; Lays Out Strategy for Reopening Economy, Outlining ‘New Normal’

Reopening New York State after the coronavirus shutdown requires monitoring the rate at which the infection is spreading, says Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended the lockdown through at least May 15 while at the same time unveiling a strategy for phased reopening of the economy and society. What is clear is that what happens next will involve a “new normal” rather than a return to the way things have been, in everything from the health care system to workplaces and transportation systems to schools. “Nothing short of a transformation of society,” Cuomo said in his April 16 press briefing.

Cuomo also raised the alarm that New York and every other state is being bankrupted by the costs of bolstering health care while shutting down their economy, cutting off revenue streams, and chastised the federal government for passing legislation that is counterproductive because it did not provide adequate funding for states. He said that the state’s federal representatives should not pass “bad legislation” that doesn’t help states and localities, and do it based on need, not politics.

“Now that we’ve shown we can flatten the curve and our efforts to control the spread of the virus are working, we must focus on a smart, effective plan to un-pause New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “The first part of the plan is to do no harm – don’t let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability and don’t lose the progress that we have made. Second, now that we have some stability in our health care system after a weeks-long overdrive, we continue to strengthen that system and ramp up testing and contact tracing to identify those who are sick and isolate them so they don’t transmit the virus to others. Then we can focus on phasing an economic return to the new normal – but we need all those activities going on at the same time for our plan to un-pause New York to work.”

While the curve in infections and hospitalizations has leveled off, numbers of dead – 606 yesterday, down from the mid-700s of previous days – continue at “horrific” levels. New York State has had more coronavirus cases than any country, and accounts for about one-third of the nation’s total.

Indeed, the Governor confirmed 8,505 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 222,284 confirmed cases in New York State.

But Cuomo also noted that the numbers of “positives” are not an accurate reflection of infection since they only count people who are sick enough to get tested or have access to testing. Many many more can be infected who remain home. Indeed the death rate, now exceeding 30,000 in the US (nearly half of the entire country), may not account for those who have died at home. The CDC has only recently issued guidelines for a new list of “probable”  COVID-19 deaths- people who have died of symptoms that mimic COVID-19.

Still, the worst seems to be over – indeed, the only reason that the Trump Administration can even contemplate a reopening of the economy is because of the outsized impact of New York State that disguises even the uptick in other states. But Cuomo emphasized that the numbers have only leveled off as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures that have been imposed, and because of the cooperation of New Yorkers.

The Governor said that the threat coronavirus poses will not truly be over until there is a vaccine – which is not likely for 12 to 18 months – or if there are medical treatments so that even if someone is sickened, their life can be saved.

“How do we accelerate that, expedite that? New York is ready, willing and able to work with the FDA,”  Cuomo said, noting that the state is working with many companies to develop treatments and testing in hospitals, “but that is a medical R&D function, beyond us.”

Absent that, the strategy has to be “do no harm,” he said. “Control the rate of infection – don’t let the infection rate go up or we will lose the progress made.”

The strategy of “surge and flex” to strengthen the healthcare system, by which the state increased the capacity of hospitals by 50 percent and mandated sharing and redistribution of patients, equipment and staffing worked to get through “this horrific period.” Now that the crush is over – at levels at a fraction of what the models predicted the onslaught could have been had the state not imposed a lockdown – “we have a chance to be more intelligent about handling the health care system.”

Now a chance to be more intelligent about handling health care system.”

Reopening New York will necessitate wide use of testing and tracing which will require a federal partnership, says Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Reopening society will necessitate wide use of testing and tracing for which, he said, “we need federal partnership” because no state has the resources to handle the amount of testing and tracing necessary. Tracing contacts once a person has tested positive will require “an army” of people he said.

(Our suggestion: hire an army of people from among the 22 million newly unemployed; the job can be done by telephone with little risk.)

Testing and tracing is necessary to determine how much the “spigot” of economic activity can be opened.

Cuomo showed how this depends on determining how many people one infected person can infect.

Once infection rates and hospitalization rates have gone down phased reopening will come by analyzing businesses based on their degree of “essential” against their level of risk of infection.

Reopening New York’s economy will require an analysis of risk/reward to expand the definition of “essential businesses,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“How do do you restart the machine after stopping everything? In a coordinated way that doesn’t drive up infection. What businesses reopen is a nuanced question. There is no light switch.

“Are there more ‘essential businesses’, and what risks do they pose and what changes can they make in their businesses to make them safe?”  (But this will raise the question whether the new requirements enable them to still operate economically, such as if restaurants are required to operate at half capacity if they are to reopen.)

“In a new normal, new reality, tell us how they can adjust to it.

 “We now have an economy working with ‘essential workers’ – public transit, groceries, pharmacies.  Now as we start to bring the economy up, we move up one tranche on what is defined as essential. Are there ‘safer’ businesses that can be reopened, or can be safer? How do they reopen and operate? Where should they open first (or last)? When?

“There is a matrix based on how important the enterprise is to society and how risky is that business to the rate of infection. The lower the risk and the more a priority, the sooner they can reopen. We will do it in phases of priority, then phase up, the way phased down, by percentages.

Reopening New York’s economy will require an analysis of risk/reward to expand the definition of “essential businesses,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

“This will be an ongoing process, in coordination with other states. This is regional. Coordinating doesn’t mean we will always be in lockstep, but we will talk through first and hopefully not do something contradictory to other states.”

The analysis is underway, he said.

But just determining what enterprises can open based on how important and how risky is not enough.

“We must reimagine the workplace,” Cuomo said. “The private sector now has to think about what they do, how they do it, and what they need to do differently.”

That might mean determining which workers can continue to telecommute; how people can maintain social distance in the workplace.

“Businesses must strategize. There will be a new normal precaution and practice.”

“We must reimagine the workplace,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Mass transportation is critical before workers can be sent back to their workplaces, so there need to be guarantees for workers and commuters to have safe transport – public-interacting employees will need necessary protective supplies and transit-goers will need to wear masks.

“Our goal is that the ‘new normal’ will be a better New York,” Cuomo said. “This will be a moment of transformation for society. And we paid a high price for it.”

But to build the “bridge” to the “new normal” requires first and foremost testing. “It is the best tool to inform decisions, to calibrate progress of risk/reward,” Cuomo said. “This is a new frontier for all of us.”

New York State tests more than any other state (which is one reason why the numbers are so much higher than any other stte). We were very aggressive and set an ambitious goal and reached it – 500,00 tests in 30 days, more than California, Florida and Michigan combined.

“This is all about figuring it out first and creating a system that didn’t exist before. But we have 19 million people, 9 million workers; 500,000 tests in one month doesn’t sound so big.”

So testing has to be much more widely available, but there are logistical and practical problems: how to set up sites and have the personnel, obtaining the supplies including swabs and vials, laboratory capacity and the acquisition of chemical reagents.

Here the problem becomes coordination of the demand for testing, with all 50 states and the federal government competing for the same materials, posing the same “e-bay” problem of bidding up the cost, interfering with orders, as happened with the ventilators.

Testing is one part of the equation; tracing contacts is also critical. “We need to create a tracing army” because every person who tests positive, all their prior contacts have to be investigated, then all of them need to be tested.  “We need to assembling an army that does not now exist,” Cuomo said, who added that he spoke to the White House again this morning.

 “We are looking forward to working with the federal government. We need federal help. Period.”

Reopening also requires strengthening the health care system, and continuing the “surge & flex.”

“Every hospital system has been an independent enterprise until now.” Now the strategy has to continue to be sharing resources “like was never understood before.” This means building out the strategic PPE and equipment stockpile; sharing among states. (New York is sending 100 ventilators to New Jersey and has sent 100 to Michigan and 50 to Maryland.)

“The key is not to increase the infection rate. We need people to understand, we can’t allow the infection rate to go up.”

So far, the infection rate has been determined by the hospitalization rate, but people are only hospitalized after they are infected and severely ill. Advanced testing will help determine the actual infection rate.

Advanced testing will determine how quickly the virus is spreading. “As we bring people out of their homes, we have to be able to measure how fast is the virus is spreading and how quickly the infection rate is rising because as Dr. Fauci noted, COVID-19 is a virus that is quite good at transmitting from one person to another. “We learned that the hard way.”

 “The rate of infection is everything,” Cuomo said. “All those early projection models assumed a higher rate of infection.

Why were all projection models higher than actualized – so far? – controlled the beast, brought rate of spread down. But if rate of spread actually happened, we would have been in much much worse situation, in a really bad placed.

Early projects of the number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, deaths were based on not mitigating through social-distancing and a lockdown. “Plan for the worst, hope for the best,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Early projection models were based on modeling without lockdown measures:  the CDC on March 13 projected 160 million to 214 million Americans would be infected, or half to 2/3 the population – and 2.4 million to 21 million hospitalizations which would mean 925,000 staffed hospital beds or twice as many beds as there are; while the White House coronavirus Task Force on March 12 projected 1.5 million to 2 million deaths, or, in the best case scenario “if everything went perfectly,” 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.

All the models projected higher infection rates.

But, Cuomo said, that these projections have not materialized is proof that the actions taken in New York and other places have worked (and because New York accounts for the majority of cases, slowing the rate of infection here accounts for the flattening of the curve for the country).

The projected spread of the virus depends on how many people one infected person infects. If one person infects fewer than one person, the disease is under control; if one person infects just one more person, the rate is stabilized. But the infection is out of control if one person infects two or more people. “The number increases exponentially, like a fire through dry grass.”

 “This is what we have to control as we start to reopen the economy – if we turn the valve on the  economy a bit and watch the meter – the meter is hospitalization rate, or even better, the virus spread rate determined by testing and tracing– so as we start to turn on the valve, and people come out of homes and businesses reopen, if the infection rate goes up, we can turn back the valve right away.”

We have already seen this in action: on the Diamond Princess ship, one person infected on average 2.2 persons;

In Wuhan, one person infected an average of 2 to 3 people

During the Spanish Flu of 1918, one person infected an average of 1.4-2.8 people.

Here is New York State, at the severe spread,  one person infected 1.4-1.8 others, while as the rate moderated, the level was brought down to 1.2-1.45 people.

 “After mitigation – social distancing, stay at home – we brought that rate of infection to one person  to less than one other, .9. this compares to Wuhan, which locked up everything, and brought down the infection rate to .3.

So at the current infection rate of .9 there is only a margin of  of .3 before you get to 1.2, which would trigger new increases in hospitalizations.

“That doesn’t leave you a lot of wiggle room. So we start to phase reopening. We are at .9 now after an entire lockdown, if go back up to 1.2, we will have a problem.

The goal of “New York Pause” has been to cut down the infection rate to one person infecting fewer than one other, said Governor Andrew Cuomo. That will be the measure of how much the “valve” reopening the economy can be turned on or off (c) Karen Rubin/news-photo-features.com

“New York Pause has worked – the close down has worked. But we are not there yet: .9 is not enough. New York Pause will be continued with other states in the region to May 15. (That is New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts.)

The new shutdown will continue through May 15. “We don’t want to project beyond that – that’s one month, a long time. People need certainty, clarity to plan. We need a coordinated action plan with other states. “

After May 15, he said, “we don’t know. We will see, depending upon what the data shows. Tell me what the infection rate is, is it .9?  then experts will tell us the best course of conduct based on that. There are not political decisions.”

Cuomo has issued an executive order requiring everyone to wear a mask when in public.

 “As relatively simple but annoying as it seems, wearing a mask is one of the best things we can do.” He said he is well aware that people are not happy about it. I am sorry if it makes people unhappy, but I don’t consider it a major burden and is a simple measure that can save lives (and reopen economy). Understand, it is not just about you. I have rights, my kids and yours have rights also – we have a right for another to take reasonable safeguard not to infect.”

People will be required to wear masks on public transportation systems and private transportation carriers and for-hire vehicles, and the operators will also be required to wear masks at all times.

 “It’s inconvenient, yes, but in a closed environment, where you are not socially distancing, this is a precaution for everyone. It balances individual liberties with social conscience. After all, what determines infection rate spread? You!”

Cuomo made a big plea to emphasize that he has limited ability to enforce the measure, that it has to come down to people understanding the facts, believing in the urgency, and acting responsibly.

“It’s not about government, it’s about what people decide to do wand what people have decided to do. They have brought infection rate down. It’s about your behavior, your discipline, your education of your children, your consideration of others.

 “Wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance, educate your children on what to do/not, use hand sanitizer  – make smart choices. That makes all the difference in the world.”

Cuomo reflected, “Of all the unique aspects of this crisis, the most positive and surprising to me is how New Yorkers, how Americans rose to the challenge. The policies I communicated aren’t worth the paper they are presented on unless people decide to follow them.

“I can say as governor we must do this or that, these are the most life-changing policies government has ever issued – this isn’t government saying this is your tax rate, or how to vote – this is government saying ‘Stay in house, don’t touch, wear mask’.  I don’t have the ability to enforce these measures on any scale if people are not willing to do it.

“The policies are difficult, life changing are being implemented by people because people are choosing to do the right thing. It’s that simple.

“I trust that if the facts are presented, New Yorkers will do the right thing.

“What is the right thing? The appropriate path that is socially and morally correct. New Yorkers have very strong ‘right thing’ quotient. They know what the right thing is. What I must do is give the facts, the information to explain why I am suggesting these actions. They decide. I can’t put a mask on 17 million people. 17 million people will decide, but they have done it. They understand the facts, risks, rewards, consequences.

“We brought this state forward, and will bring the nation forward.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo chided Congress for passing stimulus measures that did nothing to aid states and localities drowning under astronomical health care expenses as revenue streams have dried up.

The Congress is presently preparing a fourth stimulus bill that so far again focuses on bailing out businesses, but not states.

As counties and cities throughout the state plead for more funding, he said, “I’m not in a position to help counties, cities. I’m in the hole,” he said, pointing to the ballooning $10-15 billion deficit as a result of the coronavirus. Congress “passed major legislation to protect the economy and move the economy forward but not fund state and local governments? Then state and local government has to turn around and cut everyone that relies on them (like police, teachers, transportation). That’s not smart, not right, and is counterproductive.

“They don’t get the same political credit if they fund New York State, New York City , Nassau County or Suffolk, because that doesn’t benefit their voters. I get that politically they want to pass legislation where they can call up their people at home and say, ‘Hey, I got money for you.’ How can you even pretend you are addressing the crisis when you are starving state and local governments? This is not Democratic or Republican. The National Governors Association, headed by Chairman Hogan of Maryland, a Republican and myself as vice chairman, sent a letter to the administration.  I say to our Democratic Congressional members- Senators Schumer and Gillibrand — you passed legislation that starved state and local governments; you’re not helping the country. Well, they say, we have to get to ‘yes.’ But I say, it doesn’t matter to get to yes if the bill doesn’t do what the purpose is.”

He said rejecting a new stimulus bill would be better than passing a piece of irresponsible legislation. “We are at a point financially where we have a $10-15 billion deficit. I hope and believe the federal government should have more inclusive policy.”

As Cuomo laid out in fairly meticulous fashion the strategy to phase in reopening of the metropolitan region’s economy, the Trump administration was getting set to issue its own guidelines. Trump had initially declared he had “total authority” to order states to reopen, but then retreated after an outpouring of objections.

The economic pain for the country became clear as unemployment numbers swelled a further 5 million, to bring the number of people filing for unemployment to 22 million in just four weeks. Economic data documented the sharpest drop in retail activity in history.

Significantly, though, though New York has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus and has seen a 783% increase in unemployment claims from the beginning of the year, the increase being the 21st smallest among the states, according to Wallethub.

 “This is better than the average increase of 1,709%,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Easter Sunday in New York Amid Coronvirus Pandemic

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

A dramatic change from what Easter Sunday usually looks like. Fifth Avenue is traditionally the scene of the Easter Parade, with elaborate hats and fancy dress and, since it is New York, wild sometimes whacky costumes. This year, the streets were desolate, the churches shuttered and famous boutiques closed. At Times Square, the Tower flashed electronic thank you’s to health care workers and first responders. Broadway theaters were shut down. Here are some images:

Fifth Avenue hasn’t been closed to traffic for the Easter Parade, it is just vacant. Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Rockefeller Center, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Plaza Suite,” starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, along with all other Broadway theaters closed. Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Times Square, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Times Square, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Times Square, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Times Square, Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Easter Sunday in New York City amid coronavirus pandemic © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In contrast, this is what the famous Easter Parade along Fifth Avenue looked like in happier times:

Easter Parade, Fifth Avenue, New York City, 2013 (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Easter Parade, Fifth Avenue, New York City, 2013 (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go towww.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin