New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are calling for a Congressional oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s politicization of government functions that have impeded the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, releasing this joint statement:
“It is an inarguable fact that the United States has had the worst response to the COVID-19 virus of any nation in the world. Nearly 7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 200,000 Americans have been killed by it — both more than any other country. The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of this tragedy is the direct result of President Trump and the federal government’s deceit, political self-dealing, and incompetence.
“Rather than turning to the advice and direction of public health experts and career public servants, President Trump instead put the health and security of the American people in the hands of political appointees whose first priority was securing the reelection of their benefactor, with predictably tragic results.
“Last week’s revelation that the White House blocked a Department of Health and Human Services plan to utilize the U.S. Postal Service to ship five life-saving masks to every household in the country, free of charge, in April was heartbreaking. Imagine the lives that could have been saved if every household were provided masks at such a crucial time.
“Even more dangerous, the nation learned last week that political appointees at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — over the strong objection of CDC scientists — published the indefensible guidance that said people without symptoms did not need to get tested for COVID. Coupled with the agency’s abrupt reversal earlier this week on guidance related to the airborne transmission of the virus, it’s increasingly clear that the President and his advisers are trying to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration’s political agenda.
“As a country, we cannot allow this type of politically-motivated decision making to take root. Logic dictates that COVID won’t be the last public health challenge we will face, and we can’t afford to again respond by playing politics, instead of listening to the science and facts. Congress must immediately conduct an oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s response to this pandemic, including the actions at HHS and the USPS the public learned about over the past week. Especially in light of Bob Woodward’s reporting, the question of, “What did they know and when did they know it?” cannot be left to the history books to answer. Our future health and economic security depends on holding the Trump administration accountable today.”
Cuomo commented, “Governor Whitmer and I today called on Congress to immediately conduct an oversight investigation into the Trump administration’s response on this pandemic. How can you not tell the American people what you knew and when you knew it? Just ask Peter Navarro. You had a memo that said millions of Americans would be infected. Did you tell anyone? Who did you send it to? Did anyone send you back the memo with a question mark? You met with the President 180 times since that memo – did you ever mention to the President, ‘By the way, I had a concern here that millions of Americans might be infected.’ It just doesn’t pass the smell test. It can’t be true.”
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa has issued a report to Governor Cuomo outlining the COVID-19 Domestic Violence Task Force’s initial recommendations to reimagine New York’s approach to services for domestic violence survivors. Governor Cuomo has accepted these recommendations in full and is directing the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, along with other sister agencies of the Office of Children and Family Services, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Office of Victim Services, the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the Department of Health, to use these recommendations to update and improve domestic violence services in New York State.
The recommendations identified by the Task Force recognize that the needs of domestic violence survivors vary greatly and there are different tools needed to allow each survivor maximum control over their situation including: mobile advocacy, flexible funding and housing choice. The recommendations offered by the Task Force are ready to be quickly implemented, cutting red tape and prioritizing cultural competency to better meet survivors where they are, give them what they need and set a foundation for continued innovation. The Task Force’s full report is available here.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drastic increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases in the state, leaving many survivors trapped at home with their abusers without access to help or resources,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York has been working to modernize our systems and the way we deliver services to survivors, and the recommendations made by the task force will help address this alarming spike in domestic violence incidents while building our systems and processes back better than they were before. I thank all the task force members for their work on this issue and for their dedication to ending domestic and gender based violence.”
“Domestic violence has been a pervasive problem in our society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation and exposed the limitations of our traditional systems and methods,” Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said.”Since the uptick in domestic violence incidents during the pandemic, New York has taken aggressive actions to find new and innovative solutions to safely reach domestic violence survivors and provide critical, life-saving services. These recommendations build on our efforts and will help to transform and reimagine the way we provide services by giving survivors of domestic violence choice in their future and control of their decisions.”
Recommendation One: Using New Technologies to Reach More Survivors
The Task Force recommends that the Governor direct the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to partner with national technical assistance providers to enhance knowledge around the use of technology to reach more survivors, including those in traditionally underserved populations and young people who may be impacted by intimate partner violence.
The Task Force also recommends that state agencies support programs in purchasing mobile devices and supporting technological infrastructure with federal funding related to the pandemic.
The Task Force also recommends that OPDV permanently incorporate a chat and text component into the functionality of the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline.
Recommendation Two: Providing Flexible Funding to Meet the Diverse Needs of Survivors
The Task Force recommends that state agencies provide funding for local programs that can be used to support survivors’ safety, housing stability, transportation or other needs. In tandem with the mobile advocacy strategy, the state should allow programs to use funds to conduct community-based mobile advocacy, with an emphasis on housing stability, economic empowerment, and safety planning, to enable survivors to remain safe and stably housed in the community, if possible. Support provided by local programs should have more flexible parameters, should meet survivors’ needs as quickly as possible and should be available until the survivor feels safe. Further, the state should continue its commitment to partnering with the philanthropic and advocacy community, collaborating to leverage support, fill in the gaps where existing funds fall short and foster further innovation.
Recommendation Three: Providing More Housing Navigation Services
The Task Force recommends that state agencies connect providers to diverse housing-related funding streams to support a housing navigator system. Navigators will work with survivors to help them access available resources and support for housing beyond shelter and work with domestic violence advocates to help them better understand and assist with their clients’ needs around housing.
Additionally, domestic violence programs should designate a portion of one staff member’s salary to be used for housing navigation services, and community-based resources should incorporate this information into their resource database in order to fully support those victims. The role of the housing navigator would be to “bridge the gap” between domestic violence services and housing providers in order to ensure that the housing needs of domestic violence survivors are met.
Recommendation Four: Removing the Requirement that Domestic Violence Victims File a Police Report in Order to Access Victims of Crime Act Funding
The Task Force recommends that the Governor issue an executive order to remove the requirement that domestic violence victims file a police report in order to access the Victims of Crime Act funding. Many domestic violence survivors may be unable or unwilling to file a police report against their abuser, and expanding access to this funding while the state of emergency remains in effect will allow survivors to navigate the COVID-19 crisis with crucial financial support to seek safety.
Recommendation Five: Addressing the Needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color Survivors of Gender-Based Violence
The Task Force recommends that the Council on Women and Girls establish a standing committee to prioritize and coordinate the creation of culturally competent service delivery designed to address the needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) survivors of gender-based violence. The committee will operate under a shared understanding of the impact of systemic racism on BIPOC survivors, and apply an intersectional lens to also consider sexuality, gender identity, age, disability, immigration status, and other identities and experiences in its work. The committee should meet bi-monthly to create an action plan for implementing these elements of service delivery across agencies, including comprehensive prevention strategies, improved language access and culturally competent outreach.
The Task Force also recommends that the state launch a paid and earned media campaign to promote prevention in a culturally competent way and reach specific populations across New York State.
Recommendation Six: Normalizing Domestic Violence Screening During Tele-Health Visits
The Task Force recommends that the Governor direct OPDV and the Department of Health to create guidelines for best practices in identifying and responding to intimate partner violence via tele-health. DOH and the Department of Financial Services should explore the rapid deployment of Medicaid (and commercial) payment mechanisms for intimate partner violence screening and response through telehealth, and OPDV should develop and provide training, technical assistance and appropriate literature to healthcare providers to encourage safe screening for domestic violence and appropriate responses when domestic violence is suspected or identified during tele-health visits.
Recommendation Seven: Coordinating a Program to Promote the Need for Representation of Immigrant Victims
The Task Force recommends that the Governor direct OPDV to coordinate a program with the New York State Bar Association and other bar associations and legal services providers to facilitate training and promote the need for representation of immigrant victims by large law firms through their pro bono programs.
Recommendation Eight: Launching a Public Awareness Campaign to Highlight Financial Abuse
The Task Force recommends that OPDV expands the functions of its existing text and chat line to serve as a conduit to address the various forms of financial abuse experienced by domestic violence survivors.
The Task Force also recommends the establishment of a pilot project with local domestic service providers to identify victims whose credit has been ruined as a result of their abuse and work to repair and rebuild their financial standing.
Recommendation Nine: Launching a New Prevention Initiative Specifically Directed at Educating Men About Domestic Violence
The Task Force recommends that OPDV exercises its oversight authority for abusive partner interventions programs in New York State and directs it to launch a new prevention initiative specifically directed at men, emphasizing the connection between domestic violence and harm to children.
Recommendation Ten: Setting the Stage for Future Progress
The recommendations offered in this report represent just a small fraction of the many ideas and best practices offered by the members of the Task Force over the course of their work. Among the long-term strategies to be further explored are policies around court innovation, ways to address the connection between child abuse and domestic violence, robust prevention programs, and more comprehensive data collection practices. While the Task Force will no longer formally convene, its members have generously offered to continue serving as resources for the state as it develops these long-term plans.
About the New York State COVID-19 Domestic Violence Task Force
In the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, data reported by law enforcement and domestic violence service providers pointed to an increase in domestic violence, with the New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline recording a 33 percent increase in calls for April 2020 compared to April 2019, and shelter occupancy rates upstate rising to 78 percent in April 2020, versus 59 percent in April 2019.
Since the pandemic began and the NYS PAUSE order went into effect, the state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and all relevant state agencies have been working diligently to reach domestic violence survivors and connect them with information about services and support. OPDV also implemented a new, confidential text line and chat program for survivors across the state. The creation of the Task Force built on that work, convening 27 experienced and knowledgeable advocates, service providers and thought leaders from across the country to meet virtually, share their expertise and create written proposals.
Members of the COVID-19 Domestic Violence Task Force include:
Scott Berkowitz – Founder and President, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
Alejandra Y. Castillo, Esq. – CEO, YWCA USA
Karma Cottman – Executive Director, Ujima, Inc: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community
Nathaniel M. Fields – President and CEO, Urban Resource Institute (URI)
Ruth M. Glenn – President and CEO, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Peg Hacskaylo – Founder and CEO, National Alliance for Safe Housing (NASH)
Jim Henderson – Probation and Domestic Violence Expert, Battered Women’s Justice Project
Grace Huang, JD – Policy Director, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence
Tandra R. LaGrone – Executive Director, In Our Own Voices
Cindi Leive – Senior Fellow, USC-Annenberg School of Journalism and Communications
Tonya Lovelace, MA – CEO, Women of Color Network Inc (WOCN)
David Mandel – Executive Director, Safe & Together Institute
Karol V. Mason – President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Joan S. Meier – Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School and Director, National Family Violence Law Center at GW
Connie Neal – Executive Director, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NYSCADV)
Ana L. Oliveira – President and CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation
Leslye Orloff – Director, National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project at American University Washington College of Law
Farzana Safiullah – CEO, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV)
Lynn Hecht Schafran, JD – Legal Director and Director, National Judicial Education Program at Legal Momentum, The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund
Lucy Rain Simpson – Executive Director, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC)
Joe Torre – Co-Founder and Chairman, The Safe at Home Foundation and Special Advisor to Major League Baseball (MLB)
Patricia Tototzintle – CEO, Casa de Esperanza/National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Community
Deborah D. Tucker, MPA – President, National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence (NCDSV)
Deborah J. Vagins – President and CEO, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
Troy Vincent – Executive Vice President of Football Operations, NFL and National Advocate to End Domestic Violence
Carole Warshaw, M.D. – Director, National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
Joanne Zannoni – Executive Director, New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an Executive Order — the ‘New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative’ — requiring local police agencies, including the NYPD, to develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs in their community based on community input. Each police agency’s reform plan must address policies, procedures, practices and deployment, including, but not limited to use of force.
During the same event, attended by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; NAACP President Hazel Dukes; Reverend Al Sharpton , New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Cuomo also signed the ‘Say Their Name’ Reform Agenda package following the killing of George Floyd and an ongoing pattern of police brutality against minority communities across the nation. These landmark policing reforms will help reduce inequality in policing and reimagine the state’s criminal justice system. The reforms include:
Allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by repealing 50-a of the civil rights law;
Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers;
Prohibiting false race-based 911 reports; and
Designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the civilian deaths.
“The murder of George Floyd was just the tipping point of the systemic injustice and discrimination that has been going on in our nation for decades, if not centuries,” Governor Cuomo said.”These are issues that the country has been talking about for a long time, and these nation-leading reforms will make long overdue changes to our policing and criminal justice systems while helping to restore community confidence in law enforcement.
Under Cuomo’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative executive order, police forces throughout the state, in cities, towns and counties- some 500 of them – must adopt a plan by April 1, 2021 to be eligible for future state funding and certify that they have:
Engaged stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools;
Presented a plan, by chief executive and head of the local police force, to the public for comment;
After consideration of any comments, presented such plan to the local legislative body (council or legislature as appropriate) which has approved such plan (by either local law or resolution); and
If such local government does not certify the plan, the police force may not be eligible to receive future state funding.
“The protests taking place throughout the nation and in communities across New York in response to the murder of George Floyd illustrate the loss of community confidence in our local police agencies — a reality that has been fueled by our country’s history of police-involved deaths of black and brown people,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input.”
Immediately following the death of George Floyd, Governor Cuomo laid out a series of reform policy items – called the “Say Their Name” agenda – including allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by reforming 50-a of the civil rights law; banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers; prohibiting false race-based 911 reports and making them a crime; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
This builds on prior executive actions the Governor has taken including appointing the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
“The horrific murder of George Floyd, the most recent in a long list of innocent people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and so many more, has led to a rightful outpouring of grief and anger,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, who recalled when her own son, at 18 years old, was taken into custody and left with a broken nose. “Black New Yorkers, like all residents of this state, deserve to know that their rights, and lives, are valued and protected by our justice system. The legislation that will be signed today will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism, and unjustified killings will not be tolerated.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said,”The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and so many others shake us to the core. This week, my colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority answered the call of New Yorkers by passing historic reforms to our law enforcement system. These reforms have been championed by our members for years, and I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless commitment to seeing them through to the finish line. I would also like to thank the families of the victims and the passionate advocates who never tired in this fight for justice. They have courageously channeled their grief into a positive force for change and inspired us to deliver meaningful reforms here in New York.”
Cuomo stressed that actions need to be taken at the federal level to create national standards that root out systemic racism in criminal justice and law enforcement, but that New York State, as the “progressive capital” of the nation, would serve as a model for other states and ultimately the federal government.
“Criminal justice reform should be done on a national level,” he said. “And the House has been very aggressive on reform, the Congress, and I applaud them for it. But New York State is the progressive capital. We never sit back and say just what the nation should do, we show the nation what it should do. We lead by example and we lead by getting it done. We are a state of action and that’s us at our best…”
“There is no quick fix to this,” Cuomo said. “There is no, ’”Well, stop tear gas. Well, change the uniforms.’ That’s not what this is about, my friends. And it would be a mistake if we went down that path. This is systemic reform of police departments. This is sitting down and taking a look at exactly what they do and have been doing and looking at it through a new lens of reform and reinvention, because this has been 40, 50 years in the making. Providing police with military equipment, increasing the number of police, it goes back to the ’90s in the crime bills. Looking at the population explosion in our prisons, this was a long time in coming, and this is not about a press release that’s going to solve it. The way we really solve this is we say to every police agency in this state, I believe it should happen in the nation, sit down at the table with the local community, address these issues, get to the root of these issues, get a plan, pass that plan by your local government, and if you don’t, you’re not going to get any additional state funds, period. We’re not going to fund police agencies in this state that do not look at what has been happening, come to terms with it and reform themselves. We’re not going to be as a state government subsidizing improper police tactics, we’re not doing it. And this is how we’re going to do it.”
Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins spoke personally: “But every parent, every mother who looks like me understood that scary notion with our kids, with our husbands, with our brothers. I got that call when my son, my youngest son was only 18 years old and he was quote unquote on the wrong side of the town, he was stopped, he was frisked. The next thing I know after we’re out of the police station, we’re in the emergency room because he has a fractured nose. Thank god I was able to bring him home. I ache for Gwen, Valerie. I understood that.”
She noted that her brother, Bobby, a Marine vet, a Vietnam War vet, served as a transit police officer for six years, before he left “because he was convinced that the department, that the system was designed so that every young black man would have a record. He knew. He was a good cop, he worked with good cops, but he couldn’t change that. And you knew the system couldn’t change itself.
“And so here we are. We know this isn’t a cure, as the governor said. We know that this is the beginning, but it’s a move to bring justice to a system that has long been unjust. And, again, I thank you for being a partner for making sure that we take to heart this moment that has taken too long to come to. And I thank all of the people in the streets and the leadership of the families to make this happen. So, thank you, Governor.”
Assembly Speaker Heastie reflected, “There are still many other issues of systemic injustice and systemic racism that people of color have to deal with. It’s education and health disparities and these are all things that we have to continue as Government to be a part of. Government is supposed to be problem solvers. When society can’t fix things that’s what government is supposed to come in and chart that costs so this is just a very it’s an emotional day.”
Many reflected on the long list of victims over the past 40-50 years, and sporadic flare-ups of outrage but nothing concrete to change the system. What was different now?
Cuomo opined, “But I think it wasn’t just about Mr. Floyd’s death. I think it was the cumulative impact and I think all the names on that list did not die in vain. I think it took that repeated articulation to get the country to this point. Reverend Sharpton— on every one of those situations— was out there making this point all over the country. All over the country. And finally, finally, the country heard! But the reason we’re here today, make no mistake, is because Rev. Sharpton and good people across the country, were out there making the point every time over and over and over again.
“So, Eric Garner did not die in vain. Shawn Bell did not die in vain. It took— it took a number of lives, unfortunately. it took a number of injustices, unfortunately. But each one was a part in getting to today and it was Rev. Sharpton standing up and making sure the people of this nation heard every time, every injustice happened. And that— that Reverend— is a special ability, a special contribution, and it happened year after year after year and we all respect your effort. We thank you for what you’ve done. We thank you for your voice, which the nation has heard. This state has heard. And not only did we hear you— we’re going to make a difference and this state is going to make a difference and I believe it’s going to be a difference that will resonate across the nation. Because what we’re doing here, making every police agency come to the table with the community— that should be done in every police agency in this country. Together we’ll make it happen. Reverend Sharpton.”
Sharpton replied, ”let us be very clear. There is no governor in this country that has said what he said this morning. He and I are debating sometimes, but he has, in many ways, done things that even I did not expect. To say that every mayor must come up with a plan along these areas or they will withhold state money, is a model for where we ought to be dealing with 21st century civil rights in this country. Make no mistake: this is a new level that all other 49 governors ought to look at, because to say, “I want to see mayors deal with this” and “I want to see city councils deal with this,” is one thing. But to say, “we’re going to hold funds— means that he means it.”
He noted that 20 years ago, when Sharpton organized a March on Washington, Cuomo, then Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, was the only member of Clinton’s cabinet to attend.
“Andrew Cuomo has raised the bar, and I hope every governor in this country will be asked today whether or not they’re going to do what he just did. Somebody has to raise the bar. Then we can say to the Floyd family and others that you really have seen a new day, and we’ve turned a new way in this country. And I think that he has done that and Andrew Cuomo knows that when I don’t think he did whatever, I will tell him. He has gone beyond even my expectations. So enjoy these few minutes. But I think this is a great day.”
Here are more details of the legislation Cuomo signed:
Repealing 50-a (S.8496/A.10611)
Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law creates a special right of privacy for the personnel records of police officers, correction officers, and firefighters and paramedics employed by the State or political subdivisions. The current law prevents access to both records of the disciplinary proceedings themselves and the recommendations or outcomes of those proceedings, leading to records of complaints or findings of law enforcement misconduct that did not result in criminal charges against an officer almost entirely inaccessible to the public.
Repealing 50-a will allow for the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records, increasing transparency and helping the public regain trust that law enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.
Banning Chokeholds (S.6670-B/A.6144)
In 1993, the New York City Police Department completely banned its officers from using chokeholds, but the ban has not prevented police officers from using this method to restrain individuals whom they are trying to arrest and the continued use of chokeholds has resulted in too many deaths. This new law creates criminal penalties when a police officer or peace officer uses a chokehold or similar restraint and causes serious physical injury or death.
Senator Brian Benjamin said, “Criminalizing the use of the chokehold by police or peace officers punishable up to 15 years in prison is an important step that will bringing sorely needed police accountability reform to New York State. It is time that we make it abundantly clear that no one is above the law. This is the first law that I am aware of that establishes an enhanced offense specifically on police officers and that is primarily because those who we hire to protect and serve must be held to a higher standard. I would like to thank the Senate and Assembly for passing the ‘Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act,’ and Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation that will help to save the lives of unarmed black men and women who encounter the police and hopefully begin the process of establishing trust and reducing tensions with law enforcement and communities of color.”
Assembly Member Walter T. Mosley said, “George Floyd and Eric Garner yelled out the same words as they were brutally killed by police officers. We need real change to protect black Americans, and part of that is ensuring there are consequences for misconduct on the part of police officers. This legislation is one of many steps in that direction. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and hope to continue working with his administration to make our state a fairer and more equal place to call home.”
Prohibiting Race-Based 911 Calls (S.8492/A.1531)
Recent years have shown a number of frivolous and false calls to 911 based on the callers’ personal discomfort with other people and not for any particular threat. This new law makes it a civil rights violation to call 911 to report a non-emergency incident involving a member of a protected class without reason to suspect a crime or an imminent threat.
Senator Kevin Parker said, “Social media is rampant with videos of people weaponizing the 911 emergency system against African-Americans hoping to see them falsely arrested or worse. This legislation is by no means a solution to the systemic injustices and prejudices that fuel these types of calls to the police. However, this law gives victims of this despicable behavior the beginnings of some recourse. I am glad that it was passed, together with other important police reform bills, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing it into law.”
Appointing Attorney General as Independent Prosecutor for Police Involved Deaths (S.2574-C/A.1601)
This new law establishes an Office of Special Investigation within the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases where the death of a person follows an encounter with a law enforcement officer. The law also requires the new Office of Special Investigation to produce a report explaining the reasons for its decision regardless of whether it chooses to pursue charges. This will help improve public confidence in the criminal justice system by removing a potential conflict of interest in these types of investigations. This law builds on the Governor’s Executive Order No. 147 from 2015 which established the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in instances of police-involved deaths.
Assembly Member Nick Perry said, “Over twenty years since police unloaded 41 shots killing Amadou Diallo, nearly six years after the merciless choking of Eric Garner, it took the videos of the heartrending death of George Floyd to finally help us break through the blue wall of silence and resistance to the public cry for criminal justice reform and changes in the prosecution of cases involving death at the hands of the police, who are supposed to protect us. We know that this new law will not end our quest for an assurance for fairness in the process for prosecuting crimes by bad police officers, but it is a big step in the right direction. Millions of New Yorkers and I are delighted that the Governor has signed this bill into law.”
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, after a meeting with Donald Trump at the White House, chided Washington for politicizing the coronavirus pandemic, and not acting swiftly enough to provide crucial funding to states and localities, especially those – New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, California – where the outbreak of cases and the death toll has been the worst. “This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” he stated in a press briefing shortly afterward at the National Press Club in Washington. He urged government to “do the right thing.”
Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have called such funding a “blue state bail out,” after having allocated billions to friendly industries and funneling millions to connected business interests. He stressed that New York and California, alone, represent one-third of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, so you don’t have a reenergized economy without them. New York and California are also are the biggest donor states, sending billions of dollars more to taker-states like Kentucky than they get back in federal spending (New York sends $29 billion a year more than it gets back; Kentucky takes $29 billion more than it sends).If the states do not get federal aid, he stresseded, they will be forced to cut spending for hospitals, schools, police and fire – all the services most essential during a public health crisis – and excess thousands of workers, which won’t do the unemployment rate much good. Or, he said, the federal government can use this time as Franklin Roosevelt did during the Great Depression, to finally build the big, bold infrastructure projects that have been put on back-burners for 30 years.
Cuomo noted that the The House of Representatives has already passed its Heroes bill that includes $500 billion for states and $375 billion for locals; Medicaid funding for the most vulnerable; increased SNAP food assistance; 100 percent FEMA federal assistance; funding for testing; and repeals SALT cap to help states most affected by COVID-19, “the politically motivated first double tax in U.S. history” that was implemented by the federal tax law in 2017.
The Governor also renewed his call for Congress to pass the ‘Americans First Law’ to help prevent corporate bailouts following the COVID-19 pandemic. First proposed by the Governor on May 10th, the legislation states that a corporation cannot be eligible to receive government funding if it doesn’t maintain the same number of employees that the corporation had before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo also urged President Trump to support a real public infrastructure program and to advance infrastructure projects in New York — including the LaGuardia AirTrain, the Cross-Hudson Tunnels, and the Second Avenue Subway expansion — to help supercharge the economy.
He listed a series of projects in New York State that are ready to go – including the LaGuardia AirTrain, the Cross-Hudson Tunnels, and the Second Avenue Subway expansion – that are just awaiting federal approval “to help supercharge the economy.” Significantly, Trump earlier has told agencies to dispense with regulations that are obstacles to speedy development, and during the 2016 campaign, boasted he would be the builder, with a $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan.
Cuomo also renewed his call for ‘Americans First Law’ which would require any company that takes government funding to rehire the same number of employees it had before the COVID-19 pandemic, and not use the pandemic to “right-size” or “downsize” and cut costs to increase profits.
“Washington is now debating their next bill that would aid in the reopening and the recovery. Prior bills have helped businesses, large businesses, small businesses, hotels, airlines, all sorts of business interests,” Cuomo said. “That’s great but you also have states and local governments and state governments do things like fund schools and fund hospitals. Do you really want to cut schools now? Do you really want to cut hospitals now after what we have just gone through when we are talking about a possible second wave, when we are talking about a fall with possible more cases? Do you really think we should starve state governments and cut hospitals? Would that be smart? Do you really want to cut local governments right now? That is cutting police. That is cutting fire. Is now the time to savage essential services and don’t you realize that if do you this, if you cut state and local governments and you cause chaos on the state and local level, how does that help a nation striving to recover economically?
“The Covid states, the states that bore the brunt of the Covid virus are one third of the national GDP. How can you tell one third of the country to go to heck and then think you’re going to see an economic rebound? Also, state governments, state economies, local economies, that is what the national economy is made of. What is the national economy but for a function of the states? There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town. But it is the obvious fact and we have made this mistake before.
“Again, look at history. If you don’t learn from your mistakes you are going to repeat the mistakes. It is that simple and we have seen in the past what has happened when state and local governments were savaged and how it hurt the national recovery. Wall Street Journal, not exactly a liberal publication, makes the point that on the economy cuts to employment and spending likely to weigh on growth for years. So even if you believe the rhetoric we are about reopening, we are about getting the economy back, great. Then if that is what you believe you would provide funding to the state and local governments.
“The Federal Reserve Chairman Powell, very smart man respected on both sides of the aisle, said we have evidence the global financial crisis in the years afterward where state and local government layoffs and lack of hiring weighed on economic growth. We want to reopen the economy. We want to get this national economy better than ever. Fine. Then act accordingly and act appropriately.
“This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country. You have people saying, well don’t want to pass a bill that we continue don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue state bailout is what some have said. Senator McConnell, stopping blue state bailouts. Senator Scott, we’re supposed to go bail them out? That’s not right. On Fox TV, Laffer, you want us to give our money to Cuomo and New York? Hello, not this week.
“First of all, this is really an ugly, ugly sentiment. It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States of America. Those words meant something. United States of America. First of all, Mr. federal legislator, you’re nothing without the states, and you represent the United States. Not only is it ugly, it is false. It is wholly untrue, what they are saying, 100 percent. And there are facts, if you want to pose the question, which is, I think, divisive at this period of time.
“But if you want to pose the question, what states give money and what states take money? Right? There is a financial equation that is the federal government. And if you want to ask, what states give money to other states and what states take money from other states, that’s a question that Senator McConnell and Senator Scott and Mr. Laffer don’t really want to ask, because the truth, the truth is totally the opposite of what they’re saying. You look at the states that give more money to the federal government than they get back. You know the top, what they call donor state, you know what one state pays in more to the pot than they take out to the federal pot than any other state than the United States? It’s the State of New York. New York pays more every year, $29 billion more, than they take back. You know the second state, New Jersey. Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, every year, they contribute more to the federal pot. You know who takes out more than they put in from that pot? You know whose hand goes in deeper and takes out than they put in? Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida. Those are the facts, those are the numbers.
“The great irony is, the conservatives want to argue against redistribution of wealth. Why should you take money from the rich and give it to the poor? That’s exactly what you are doing. That is exactly what you have done every year. So it’s only redistribution unless you wind up getting more money. Then it’s fine, then it’s not redistribution. Take from the rich, give to the poor, that’s redistribution, yes, unless you’re the poor, Senator McConnell, Senator Scott because you were the ones who have your hand out. You were the ones who are taking more than others. Redistribution, you’re against it, except when the richer states give you more money every year. Then the great hypocrisy, they actually make the redistribution worse when they passed three years ago a provision ending what’s called state and local tax deductibility. That didn’t level the playing field.
“What they did was they took the states that were already paying more money into the federal government, the quote, unquote richer states and they increased the money they were taking from the richer states. They took another $23 billion from California and another $14 billion from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut. The hypocrisy is so insulting because when you start to talk about numbers, there is still facts. People can still add and people can still subtract and they know what they put in and they know what they take out.
“I know it’s Washington, D.C. but the truth actually still matters. Americans are smart and they find out the truth even in the fog and the blather of Washington, DC. My point to our friends in the Congress: Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey. Stop abusing Massachusetts and Illinois and Michigan and Pennsylvania. Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the Covid virus through no fault of their own. Why did New York have so many cases. It’s nothing about New York. It’s because the virus came from Europe and no one in this nation told us.”
Cuomo hit back on suggestions that the state was at fault for having so many COVID-19 cases – indeed, more than almost any other nation, at 364,965, including 1129 cases added the day before, from 45 counties. Indeed, though Trump had intelligence briefings in January, he downplayed the threat and even later, only looked to China as a source, so the country’s attention was focused on cases in Washington and California.
“We were told the virus is coming from China. It’s coming from China, look to the West. We were looking to the West it came from the East. The virus left China, went to Europe. Three million Europeans come to New York, land in our airports January, February, March and bring the virus. And nobody knew. It was not New York’s job. We don’t do international, global health. It didn’t come from China. It came from Europe and we bore the brunt of it. Now, you want to hold that against us because we bore the brunt of a national mistake? And because we had more people die? We lost more lives and you want to now double the insult and the injury by saying, ‘Well, why should we help those states? Those states had more Covid deaths.’ That’s why you’re supposed to help those states because they did have more Covid deaths and this is the United States and when one state has a problem, the other states help.
“I was in the federal government for eight years. When Los Angeles had earthquakes, we helped. When the Midwest had the Red River floods, we helped. When Florida had Hurricane Andrew, we helped. When Texas had floods, we helped. When Louisiana had Hurricane Katrina, we helped. We didn’t say “well, that is Louisiana’s fault. They had the hurricane. Well, that is Texas’s fault, they had the floods.” It was nobody’s fault. And we were there to help because that is who we are and that is what we believe. What happened to that American spirit? What happened to that concept of mutuality?
“You know there still a simple premise that you can’t find in a book, and Washington hasn’t written regulations for, called doing the right thing. There is still a right thing in life. The right thing you feel inside you. The right thing is calibration of your principle and your belief and your soul and your heart and your spirit. And we do the right thing in this country, not because a law says do the right thing, but because we believe in doing the right thing. As individuals, as people, we believe in doing right by each other, by living your life by a code where you believe you are living it in an honorable way, acting on principle, and you are doing the right thing.
“Why can’t the government? Why can’t the Congress reflect the right thing principle that Americans live their life by? Pass a piece of legislation that is honorable and decent and does the right thing for all Americans. Why is that so hard? And if you want to talk about reopening the economy, then do it in a productive way. People think this economy is just going to bounce back. I don’t think it is going to bounce back. I think it will bounce back for some, and I think there will be collateral damage of others. We already know that tens of thousands of small businesses closed and probably won’t come back. We already know the large corporations are going to lay off thousands and thousands of workers, and they are going to use this pandemic as an excuse to get lean, to restructure, and they will boost their profits by reducing their payroll.
“We know it. We have been there before. We saw this in the 2008 Mortgage Crisis where the government bailed them out, the big banks that created the problem, and they used the money to pay themselves bonuses and they laid off their workers. They will do is same thing again that. That is why I propose the Americans First legislation that said a corporation can’t get a dime of government bailout unless they rehire the same number of workers they had pre-pandemic as post. Don’t take a gift from the taxpayer and then lay off Americans who are going to file for unemployment insurance paid for by the taxpayers. Don’t do that again.
“And if you want to be smart, we know that there is work to do in this nation. We have known it for years. You can fill a library with the number of books on the infrastructure and the decay of our infrastructure and how many roads and bridges have to be repaired, how this nation is grossly outpaced by nations across the world in terms of infrastructure, airports and development. Now is the time to stimulate the economy by doing that construction and doing that growth. You want to supercharge the reopening? That’s how do you it. This nation was smart enough to do it before. We did it in the midst of the great depression. We created 8 million jobs. We built an infrastructure that we’re still living on today. We’re still living on the infrastructure built by our grandparents, not even our parents. What are we going to leave our children? And now is the time to do it.
“We have major infrastructure projects in New York that are ready to go, that are desperately needed, that were desperately needed 30 years ago. Build them now. Supercharge the reopening. Grow the economy. That’s what we would do if we were smart. You’re not going to have a supercharged economy. You’re not going to see this nation get up and start running again, unless we do it together. That’s states working with other states. That’s a federal government that stands up and puts everything else aside.
“They were elected to provide good government. Nobody elected anyone to engage in partisan politics. There was a time when as a nation we were smart enough to say, “You want to play politics? That’s what a campaign is for.” Run your campaign against your opponent. Say all sorts of crazy things. That’s crazy campaign time. But when government starts, stop the politics, and do what’s right and smart. Don’t play your politics at the expense of the citizens you represent. There is no good government concept anymore. It’s politics 365 days a year. From the moment they’re elected to the moment they run again, it’s all politics. And that is poison. We have to get to a point, if only for a moment, if only for a moment, if only for a moment in response to a national crisis where we say it’s not red and blue. It’s red, white, and blue. It’s the United States and we’re going to act that way.
“In New York we say that by saying New York tough, but it’s America tough. Which is smart, and united, and disciplined, and loving, and loving.”
Cuomo said that the ninth of 10 regions, Long Island, began reopening today, joining Mid-Hudson Valley which opened yesterday, the Capital Region, Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions, which all have met the seven metrics required for Phase One of a multi-phase process. Each of the regions has to have a monitoring commission in place to make sure reopening does not trigger new outbreaks, and that any upticks are addressed.
New York City still has more metrics to complete before it can begin its formal reopening, though the New York Stock Exchange did reopen yesterday.
Governor Cuomo: “States are responsible for the enforcement of all the procedures around reopening but at the same time the federal government has a role to play and the federal government has to do its part as we work our way through this crisis. There cannot be at national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded.”
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund to provide flexible and affordable loans to help small businesses, focusing on minority and women owned small businesses, that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance. The state will take a smart, targeted approach for distributing these loans, focusing on businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. Businesses interested in receiving a loan should visit esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.
Governor Cuomo also announced the Long Island and Mid-Hudson Valley Regions will be permitted to begin construction staging in anticipation of phase one of reopening. If the number of deaths continues to decrease and the tracing is online, both regions could reopen next week.
The Governor also announced the launch of a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7,000 tests per week. New York State now has more than 750 testing sites across the state. The Governor also encouraged eligible New Yorkers to visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find a nearby testing site and get tested.
The Governor also announced that the state is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states through the National Governors Association to speed the process of creating contact tracing programs. The state partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University to develop this comprehensive online curriculum to train potential contact tracers. Contact tracing is currently underway in seven regions of the state – the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.
The Governor pointed to the urgency of continuing practices like social distancing, hand-washing and perhaps most critically, wearing a mask in public when six-feet separation cannot be maintained.
“How do you know the mask works?” he said. “First responders have a lower infection rate than the general population. Nurses, doctors in emergency rooms have a lower infection rate than the general population. How can that possibly be? Because they wear the mask and they do the hand sanitizers. You feel out of control, you can’t protect yourself, you can’t protect family? Yes, you can. That’s what the mask does. You want to be in control of yourself? You want to greatly increase your odds? Wear the mask. By the way, not just asking you. The mask is mandatory in public settings. Public transportation, if you are in a taxi or Uber, private carriers, or anytime you are in public within six feet of another person, the mask is mandatory. It is not just a nice thing to do, a responsible thing to do, for citizen duty, it is mandatory that you wear the mask within six feet of another person in public. You don’t have a right to infect another person. You don’t. Look at the constitution, tell me where it says you have the right to infect another person. You don’t.
“So, how do we reopen smart? It’s up to you. It’s up to us. And that’s both the beauty and the conundrum of this situation. It is wholly dependent on social action. Wholly dependent on social action. You tell me what people do, I will tell you the results, period. Government can say whatever it wants. I can sit up here and say whatever I want. I can’t control it. People can control it.”
Cuomo is so keen on mask-wearing, that he enlisted his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo to create the state’s Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest, which was launched on May 5th. Out of 600 submissions, five finalists have been selected. New Yorkers can vote for the winning ad until Monday May 25th at WearAMask.ny.gov, and 92,000 people have voted to date. The winning ad will be announced on Tuesday, May 26th, and that ad will be used as a public service announcement.
On the state’s decision to launch its own small business loan program, Cuomo said, “Small business is a priority. Federal government passed the Small Business Assistance Program. That has run out of money and small businesses are taking a real beating in this situation. They are 90 percent of New York’s businesses and they’re facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections, vi-a-vie small business are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don’t have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, et cetera, when they have no income whatsoever. Minority owned businesses face a far greater risk and have received less in federal relief.”
The state’s own small business relief program will make $100 million available through private banks.
“We’re going to focus on MWBEs that did not receive federal assistance and focus on really small business. The federal definition of small business is what many could consider large business, but we’re going to focus on true small businesses. Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues.”
Finally, the Governor confirmed 1,696 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 358,154 confirmed cases. Of the 358,154 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
The vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York State, still with the greatest number of cases in the world, are now coming from people at home, not from work, not from among essential workers, and not people taking public transportation. The majority are over 51 years old, retired, minorities and from downstate.
The finding comes from hospitalization data gathered in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days.
Governor Cuomo noted that the findings underscore the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing face masks when out in public to cut down transmission. The lockdown and mitigation protocols have helped the state avoid the worst projections: over 100,000 hospitalizations when the state only had capacity for 50,000.
At the same time, Cuomo is preparing the state to reopen, and looking beyond, to make the state’s public health and economy resilient should this pandemic or some other crisis strike again.
“As we begin re-opening parts of the state and re-imagining New York in the new normal, we should take this moment in history to use what we’ve learned and actually build our systems back better,”Governor Cuomo said.”I don’t want to replace what we did – I want to set the bar higher and actually improve our situation so we are prepared for the future. We’re working with some of the nation’s great business leaders to ensure we are thinking outside the box and improving and modernizing our systems for the future.”
Cuomo today announced that Schmidt Futures will help integrate New York State practices and systems with the best advanced technology tools to build back better. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Executive Chairman and founder of Schmidt Futures, will lead the state’s 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission and use what the state has learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with new technologies, to improve telehealth and broadband access.
Among the areas that Cuomo is targeting for greater resiliency in the economy and society against the next pandemic or crisis are public health, public transportation, and public education, using the lessons learned from the current crisis, in which many things have had to be innovated and implemented that had never before been done.
He noted “Hospitals must be organized to operate as one system in a public health emergency.” During the current crisis, the only way to accommodate the influx of patients needing hospitalization – at one point predicted at over 100,000 beds when the entire state only has 50,000 – was to “flex/surge” equipment, personnel and capacity among public/private/nonprofit hospitals, staffs, equipment, downstate and upstate.
“Reimagining” a better healthcare system will require analysis of how to ensure telemedicine is available to all; how to better allocate healthcare resources statewide; how to harden the healthcare system against future challenges; and how to better protect and support healthcare workers.
“This crisis presents a unique opportunity for us to learn and better ourselves: better transportation, social equity; better public safety; better housing; better economy; better education,” Cuomo said.
The day before, Cuomo announced that New York State is collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a blueprint to reimagine education in the new normal. As New York begins to develop plans to reopen K-12 schools and colleges, the state and the Gates Foundation will consider what education should look like in the future, including:
How can we use technology to provide more opportunities to students no matter where they are;
How can we provide shared education among schools and colleges using technology;
How can technology reduce educational inequality, including English as a new language students;
How can we use technology to meet educational needs of students with disabilities;
How can we provide educators more tools to use technology;
How can technology break down barriers to K-12 and Colleges and Universities to provide greater access to high quality education no matter where the student lives; and
Given ongoing socially distancing rules, how can we deploy classroom technology, like immersive cloud virtual classrooms learning, to recreate larger class or lecture hall environments in different locations?
The state will bring together a group of leaders to answer these questions in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, who will support New York State by helping bring together national and international experts, as well as provide expert advice as needed.
The Governor also announced that, on this, National Nurses Day, JetBlue is donating 100,000 pairs of round-trip flights for medical personnel and nurses to honor their efforts, beginning with 10,000 pairs of tickets for New York medical professionals. Additionally, three painted JetBlue planes honoring New York’s frontline workers will do a flyover above New York City on Thursday, May 7th, at 7:00 p.m.
Governor Cuomo also announced a new contest asking New Yorkers to create and share a video explaining why people should wear a mask in public. The winning video will be used as a Public Service Announcement. Videos should be less than 30 seconds long, should show a mask properly worn over the mouth and nose and must be submitted by May 30th. Interested New Yorkers can learn more at WearAMask.ny.gov.
“The last few months have been an incredibly stressful time full of change, but we have to learn and grow from this situation and make sure we build our systems back better than they were before,” Governor Cuomo said. “One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.”
Meanwhile, the state’s health experts, including Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, said there were still many questions to be answered about this novel coronavirus. The CDC has only recently determined that the virus that came to New York, New Jersey and Illinois came through Europe, not China, and is somewhat different and also appears to be more infections. Dr. Zucker was unable to say whether having antibodies, as determined with new testing, which means the person had been infected, is also immune from the other coronavirus or even immune from new infections, and if immune, for how long.
The Governor detailed the preliminary results of new hospitalization data, in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day by trying to figure out the source of the new cases. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days and found that the majority of individuals were:
Not working or traveling;
Predominately located downstate;
Predominately minorities and older individuals;
Predominately non-essential employees; and
Predominately at home.
Finally, the Governor confirmed 2,786 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 323,978 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 323,978 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced all K-12 schools and college facilities statewide will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and will continue to provide distance learning during that time. The schools will also be required to continue meal programs and child care services for essential workers. The state will make a decision about summer school programming by the end of May.
Also, the Governor today issued an executive order delaying school board elections and budget votes statewide until June 9, 2020. The school board elections and budget votes will all be conducted by mail and all qualified voters will be sent an absentee ballot with return postage paid. The Executive Order also delays local special district and village elections until September 15, 2020.
Governor Cuomo is directing all schools and colleges to create re-opening plans that re-imagine school facilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These plans should consider how schools can monitor the spread of COVID-19; how to reinforce student safety; when and how to resume extracurricular activities; protocols for special student populations; steps to ensure student mental health; alternative academic calendars; among other considerations. All plans will be reviewed and approved by the state.
The Governor announced the state is partnering with the Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to provide a 24/7 emotional support service for frontline health care workers. Those workers can text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741 to access these emotional support services.
The Governor also announced that the State Department of Financial Services will require New York State-regulated health insurers to waive cost-sharing, including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, for in-network mental health services for New York’s frontline essential workers during COVID-19. DFS will also issue an emergency regulation to prohibit insurers from imposing cost-sharing for telehealth and in-person mental health services rendered by in-network providers on an outpatient basis to frontline essential workers eligible to be tested at one of the State’s drive through or walk in COVID-19 testing sites.
“This COVID crisis has caused significant disruption and many unintended consequences, and ancillary issues that have developed, and one of them is when you have people who are put in this situation immediately with no notice, it has caused serious mental health issues,” Cuomo said. “You have anxiety, depression, insomnia, loneliness, that feeling of isolation. We’re seeing the use of drugs go up. We’re seeing the use of alcohol consumption go up. This is a chronic problem. If you are feeling these issues, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, half of all Americans have said that their mental health has been negatively impacted. Don’t underestimate the stress of the situation, and it happens on a lot of levels. Three out of four say that their sleep has been affected. You do not know where your next paycheck is coming from. You do not know if your job is going to exist. You are at work one day, the next day they say everything is closed, stay in the house. You are in that house, in a confined situation, or you’re in an apartment and in a confined situation. You can’t get out. It is difficult for emotional support, we have a hotline set up. People shouldn’t be shy in any way or have any second thoughts about calling for help. It is a pervasive problem, and people should make a call and get the help if they need the help.
“We also see, in line with what we’re talking about, a dramatic increase in the incidence of domestic violence. There was a 15 percent increase in March. A 30 percent increase in April. That is – March is when this started, 15 percent. April, 30 percent. That is a frightening rate and level of increase. Again, New Yorkers in need, we have a domestic violence helpline – 844-997-2121. You can call, just discuss the issue. You don’t have to give your identity, or say where you live, but people who need help should reach out. There is no shame in reaching out and saying, ‘I need help.’ This is a national epidemic. It is a statewide epidemic. Ask for help, and we are here to help.
“We are especially concerned about these issues for frontline workers. I mean, just think about what the frontline workers are going through. Think about what the healthcare workers are going through. They’re working extended hours. They’re seeing a large number of people die. They’re working in very frightening situations. They’re worried about their own health. They’re worried they get infected, they then have to go home, worry if they’re infected and bringing that infection home.
“So, this is a terribly, stressful, difficult time, especially for the frontline workers, and we want them to know that we not only appreciate what they are doing, but we are there to support them, right? Saying thank you is nice. Acting in gratitude is even nicer. We have a special emotional support hotline for our essential workers. And we are also going to direct all insurers to waive any cost-sharing, co-pay deductibles for mental health services for essential workers, which means the mental health services will be free for frontline workers. And they will be at no cost. And too many families and people have said to me, ‘You know, I would go for services, but I do not want to pay the cost. I can’t afford it. I don’t want to take that money from my family.’ That’s gone. There is no cost to get mental health services, so just wipe that reason away, and get the help that you need. It’s even in the best interest of your family.”
The Governor also announced new targeted efforts to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day, which has remained steady at approximately 1,000 over the last several day. This new effort will gather additional information and data from hospitals about the individuals who are being hospitalized for COVID-19, including if they are essential workers, where they work, how they commute, where they live and other demographics. This specific information and data from the hospitals will be used to come up with a new strategy more tailored to the reduction of new daily hospitalizations.
The Governor also announced five new drive-through testing facilities have opened and are now accepting patients in Monroe, Erie, Broome, Niagara and Oneida Counties. Residents who would like to be tested at these facilities must make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065 or online at covid19screening.health.ny.gov.
The location new facilities are:
Niagara County: Niagara County Community College, 3111 Saunders Settlement Rd, Sanborn, NY 14132
Erie County: Buffalo Sabres Lot, 125 Perry Street, Buffalo, NY 14204
Broome County: Binghamton University – Event Center (Lot F/F3)
Monroe County: Monroe County Community College, 1000 E Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY 14623, Lot G
“It’s critical that we protect our students from this virus, and given the current circumstances we are in we do not think it is possible to put the necessary precautions in place that would allow us to re-open schools this academic year,” Governor Cuomo said.”All schools and colleges will continue to provide distance learning, meal delivery and child care services for the remainder of the school year. And in the meantime, we want schools to start developing a plan to re-open with new protocols that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we have learned from this pandemic. This has been a hardship on everyone, but our educators across the state have done a phenomenal job stepping up to make the best of this situation.”
About mounting a mail-in vote for School budgets and board members, Cuomo said, “We’ve made great progress to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but we still don’t know when this pandemic will end and we don’t want to undo all the work we’ve already done to flatten the curve. We don’t want to put New Yorkers in a situation where they are possibly putting their health at risk, so we are delaying school board elections and conducting them by mail and delaying all local special district and village elections to help limit any unnecessary exposure to this virus among both voters and poll workers.”
Cuomo credited the social distancing and lockdown with saving 100,000 people from contracting COVID-19 and thousands who would have died.
“What happened is, New Yorkers, Americans, changed reality. Literally changed reality. They literally changed the path of the virus spread and reversed the spread. That’s what the close down procedures did, that’s what the masks have done, that’s what the social distancing has done. New Yorkers and all across this country, you saw that number change from that up trajectory to the downward trajectory.
“That shift in the trajectory reduced, by about 100,000, the number of New Yorkers who would have been hospitalized. One hundred thousand hospitalized. To be hospitalized you have to be seriously ill. A portion of those 100,000 would have passed away. So all this inconvenience, this turmoil, for what? To keep 100,000 people out of hospitals. That’s for what. The 100,000 in the hospitals would have overwhelmed the hospital system, would have been chaotic. That’s where Italy was and a number of those 100,000 would have died. So remember that context. Not just for the retrospective, but for the perspective.
“Our past actions changed the path’s trajectory. Our present actions will determine the future trajectory. It is that clear. It is cause and effect. You tell me what we do today, I will tell you the number of people sick tomorrow. So, everyday we get up, everyday everyone says, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this again.” Yes, but what you do today is going to determine the number of sick tomorrow. New Yorkers have continued to do what they have to do. You see that number of hospitalizations dropping. That is all good news and that is a credit to the community and the social conscience and the responsibility of New Yorkers.”
Indeed, even though the numbers of infected, of hospitalized, of incubated and of dead have declined, still, the number of new hospitalizations per day have hovered around 1,000.
“Let’s drill down on those 1,000 new cases,” Cuomo said. “Where are they coming from? Why is the infection rate continuing? Who’s getting infected? Let’s get more targeted in our response. We’re fighting this statewide, but you have to wage the battle, wage the war on many fronts. It’s a statewide battle. Now that we have it basically stabilized and on the decline, the enemy is on the run. The virus is reducing, let’s get more refined, more targeted. I’m going to be speaking with the hospitals this afternoon and say that we want to get more specific information on those new cases that are coming in the door.”
The Governor confirmed 3,942 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 308,314 confirmed cases in New York, more than any other country. The number of people confirmed to have died of COVID-19, 18,610, exceeds every other nation in the world.
Of the 308,314 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo hit back at Republican lawmakers’ naked partisanship in coronavirus pandemic – specifically, the suggestion that the federal government abandon states suffering under the health and economic hardships, and after swiftly passing some $4 trillion in debt in order to fund Corporate America, telling states and localities to go bankrupt, rather than provide necessary funding.
“This is now turning into a political brawl on state and local funding,” Cuomo said during the Wednesday, April 29 press briefing. “More and more, some of the elected officials in Washington are saying they’re against it. They’re lead by Senator Mitch McConnell, who leads the Senate, who makes it blatantly political. No blue state bailout. No blue state bailout. What is he trying to say? The states that have coronavirus are Democratic states and he’s a Republican, so he doesn’t want to help the Democratic states.
“He went so far as to say, well he’d be in favor of the states going bankrupt. First, states have never gone bankrupt. States can’t go bankrupt. There are serious Constitutional questions about whether or not a state can declare bankruptcy and you need a federal law that would allow the states to declare bankruptcy even if you got around the Constitutional question on bankruptcy. If he believes that, if it wasn’t just political rhetoric and personal vitriol, then pass a law that allows states to declare bankruptcy. He would have to do that. I dare him to do that and get that bill signed by the President.
“To make it partisan is what is most disturbing and you can see they’re now rallying the partisan troops. Senator Scott from Florida says we’re supposed to bail them out. We versus them. We’re supposed to bail them out. It’s we and it’s them. That’s not right. Who is we and who is them? Who is we? And who is them? Them, the people who had coronavirus. They are the ones who had the coronavirus. We, without the virus, are supposed to bail out those people who have the virus. what an ugly sentiment.
“First of all, on the facts, it’s not even close to right and why they would even want to go down this road when the facts damn everything they’re saying. And there are still facts. I know it’s hard to communicate facts in this environment. I know a lot of the filters don’t communicate facts. They all communicate spin now. Everybody has their own spin. But there are still facts that are not political theater, right? New York State bails them out every year. They’re not bailing us out. We bail them out every year. New York State pays $29 billion into that federal pot, $29 billion more every year that we never get back. Our state contribution into the federal pot, the United States of America pot, every year we put in $29 billion more than we take out. On the other hand, they take out every year $37 billion more than they pay to the federal government. Senator Mitch McConnell, you are bailing out New York, when every year you take out more from the kitty, the federal pot, $37 billion more than you put in? Who is bailing out whom?
“Senator Scott, Florida, you’re going to bail us out? You take out $30 billion more every year than you pay in. How dare they? How dare they when those are the facts? How long are you going to play the American people and assume they’re stupid? They are not and they can add and they know facts. And I don’t care what the news media tries to do to distort these facts. They are numbers, and they are facts, and they can’t be distorted, and this is every year.
“Look, what this is really about, it’s the Washington double speak. You look at the bills that they want to pass and who they want to help. They want to fund the hotels, the restaurants, the airlines, the big corporations. That’s who they want to fund. Who do state and local governments fund? State and local governments fund police, firefighters, nurses, school teachers, food banks. That’s who I want to fund and that’s what it means to fund a state and local government. And that’s the choice they’re making. Everybody applauds the health care workers. Jets fly over in tribute to the health care workers. That’s all nice. Saying thank you is nice. How about actually rewarding them and making their life easier? How about giving them hazard pay? How about helping with their childcare? How about helping families who can’t feed their kids right now? How about helping the police, and helping the firefighters, and all the people who are out there right now killing themselves to make life easier for us?
“That’s what this is really about. They want to fund corporate America. That’s who puts money in their pockets. And I say let’s fund working Americans. That’s the choice. Bail out us, them. No, it’s just theater. It’s just smoke and mirrors to avoid the American people seeing the reality, which is whose pocket they want to put money in, versus whose pocket state and local governments want to fund.
“The reason that it’s so disturbing to me, I’m not surprised by anything in politics. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly for many, many years. I was in Washington for eight years. I know what it’s like. But if there was ever a time that one could reasonably believe you could put aside partisan politics. If there was ever going to be a moment where we could say, you know what, let’s stop just for one moment the partisanship, the ugliness, the anger, the deception. Let’s just stop for one moment. If there was going to be one moment to hit the pause button, the moment would be now. You have human suffering. You have people dying. You can’t stop the politics even in this moment? Even in this moment when people are dying all across the country, you still want to play your politics? That’s what this is about, and that’s why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level. Politics, I’m getting up and I’m reading that death toll number. I’m speaking to the widows and the brothers and the sisters and the children of people who died, and then we’re going to play politics with funding that’s necessary to save people’s lives? When does it stop?
“And the disconnect is between the political leadership and the people, because the American people, it’s not them. They are principled, they are kind, they are better than what they are getting. The American instinct is to help each other in crisis. The American instinct is to be good neighbors. The American instinct is the farmer who sent me the one mask to help a New Yorker when he only had five masks and a wife with one lung and underlying illness. And he sends one of his five masks to New York. Think about that generosity, that charity, that spirit. That’s America. Why? Because we’re good neighbors, because we care about one another.
“America was when I said we need help in our emergency rooms and hospitals and 95,000 nurses and doctors from across the nation said we will come to New York to help. We’ll come into the emergency room. We’ll come into the hospital. I understand it’s COVID I will leave my family, and I will come to help yours. That’s America. That’s who we are and that’s who we have shown ourselves to be in the middle of this crisis. The crisis brings out the best and the worst, yes. And the best of America is beautiful and that’s what we’ve seen. Because, yes, we are tough. Yes, we are smart. Yes, we are disciplined. Yes, we are united. Yes, we’re loving, loving, because we are Americans. And that’s who we are and how we are as Americans. And I just hope the political leadership of this nation understands how good we are as a people.
“And the textbook says politicians lead, elected officials lead. No, sometimes the people lead and the politicians follow, and that’s where we are today. Follow the American people. Look at what they’re doing. Look at how they’re reacting. And politicians, try to be half as good as the American people. I want to show you a self-portrait that was done by American people. This is a self-portrait of America, okay? That’s a self-portrait of America,” Cuomo said opening a curtain that revealed a collage of protective face masks.
“We received thousands of masks from all across America, unsolicited, in the mail, homemade, creative, personal, with beautiful notes from all across the country, literally. Just saying, thinking about you, ‘We care, we love you, we want to help.’ And this is just people’s way of saying we care. And we want to help. This is what this country is about. And this is what Americans are about. A little bit more of this and a little bit less of the partisanship and the ugliness, and this country will be a better place.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo gave specific detail for a phased reopening of the economy, starting in regions of the state which are comparatively unscathed, compared to downstate – New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island, Rockland and Westchester counties north of the city, where the number of COVID-19 cases exceeds every other nation.
He said that the “spigot” to reopen the state’s economy would be based on data, not politics or emotion – and would depend on area hospitals having 30 percent capacity available after re-starting elective surgery, and the rate of transmission staying below 1:1 (one person infecting one other person).
Testing is being ramped up from 20,000 a day to 30,000, to a goal of 40,000.
Using this criteria, 35 counties have been approved to resume elective outpatient treatments – necessary to help hospitals’ finances. The Governor previously announced that the state will allow elective outpatient treatments to resume in counties and hospitals without significant risk of COVID-19 surge in the near term. The counties now eligible are: Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chenango, Delaware, Dutchess, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Putnam, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, St. Lawrence, Steuben, Sullivan, Tompkins, Ulster, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
“We have made tremendous progress to stop the spread of this infection, but we are not out of the woods yet and we need to proceed with caution as we begin our re-opening plan,” Governor Cuomo said.”We know testing is key to re-opening New York – it is the indicator that will show if we are keeping the infection rate down throughout the re-opening process. We have been more aggressive than any state or nation in the world on testing and we are now halfway to our goal of doubling our testing capacity from 20,000 per day to 40,000 per day, but we still have more work to do.”
Cuomo provided the specific 12-point guidelines for the phased plan to re-open New York on a regional basis. Each region of the state – Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York – must follow these guidelines as part of the re-opening plan.
CDC Guidelines: Based on CDC recommendations, once a region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate they may begin a phased re-opening.
Industries: Businesses in each region will re-open in phases. Phase one will include opening construction and manufacturing functions with low risk. Phase two will open certain industries based on priority and risk level. Businesses considered “more essential” with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered “less essential” or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. Regions must not open attractions or businesses that would draw a large number of visitors from outside the local area.
Business Precautions: Each business and industry must have a plan to protect employees and consumers, make the physical work space safer and implement processes that lower risk of infection in the business.
Building Health Care Capacity: To maintain the phased re-opening plan, each region must have at least 30 percent of hospital beds and ICU beds available after elective surgeries resume.
Testing Regimen: Regions must implement a testing regimen that prioritizes symptomatic persons and individuals who came into contact with a known COVID-positive person, and conducts frequent tests of frontline and essential workers. Regions must maintain an appropriate number of testing sites to accommodate its population and must fully advertise where and how people can get tested. The region must also use the collected data to track and trace the spread of the virus.
Tracing System: There must be at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people. The region must also monitor the regional infection rate throughout the re-opening plan.
Isolation Facilities: Regions must present plans to have rooms available for people who test positive for COVID-19 and who cannot self-isolate.
Regional Coordination: Regions must coordinate the re-opening of schools, transportation systems, testing and tracing with other surrounding regions.
Regional Control Rooms: Each region must appoint an oversight institution as its control room to monitor regional indicators during the phased re-opening, including hospital capacity, rate of infection, PPE burn rate and businesses.
Protect and Respect Essential Workers: Regions must continue to ensure protections are in place for essential workers.
“Our reopening is different,” Cuomo said. “We don’t have a conceptual plan. We don’t have an abstract plan because there is no conceptual plan, there is no abstract plan. You have to have a plan that is based on facts, based on specifics. This is not about politics, this is not about spin, this is not about emotion. There are no conspiracy theories at work here. We outlined a 12-step plan that is factual, that is based on numbers, based on data and then it has a numerical circuit breaker that is not subject to personal emotion or desire, but just checks and monitors that infection rate that we just saw in Germany and is watching for those increases.”
Governor Cuomo also announced the creation of the New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board to help guide the state’s re-opening strategy. The advisory board will be chaired by Former Secretaries to the Governor Steve Cohen and Bill Mulrow and includes over 100 business, community and civic leaders from industries across the state. A list of the members of the advisory board is available here.
In the face of a dangerous uptick of domestic violence incidents, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the immediate modernization of the state’s domestic violence hotline with a new text program and confidential online service to aid victims of abuse and provide potential lifesaving ways to get help. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary social distancing guidelines, domestic violence victims are even more vulnerable and unsafe while isolated at home without being able to get away from their abuser and there has been a reported uptick in the number of domestic violence cases in the state. Calls to the state’s domestic violence hotline are up 30 percent in April compared to last year and calls increased 18 percent from February to March 2020. State Police also report domestic violence incident calls were up 15 percent in March compared to last year.
For many victims, making a phone call to get help or accessing services may be impossible because their abuser can easily monitor their calls. The new text program and confidential online service will make it easier for these victims in isolation to contact the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and get the help they need.
New Yorkers seeking help can text 844-997-2121 or chat with a professional on the new confidential website at www.opdv.ny.gov. The text and online services will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with OPDV staff who are experts in the area of domestic violence.
“New Yorkers are living through an unimaginably stressful period and we’re seeing signs that domestic violence is on the rise as victims are stuck at home with their abusers and unable to access the help they need,” Governor Cuomo said.”We’ve been working with state agencies to help address this issue and provide more resources, and this new text program and confidential online service will help make it easier for victims to get the help they need and get out of potentially dangerous situations.”
“The reality is that abuse victims are often closely surveilled by their abuser,” Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said. “In New York, no one should be at risk because they can’t find a way to make their need for help known. The text and online confidential service programs we are rolling out today will provide additional and better methods for victims of domestic violence to get the help and intervention they need when they need it.”
Since NYS on PAUSE went into effect, OPDV and many state agency partners have been working diligently to pursue strategies for putting safety information in front of victims in places that such information would not normally be available, including on social media accounts of public utilities or tax/finance. Additionally, major efforts have been underway to get safety flyers with the Hotline number hung up in essential retailers, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and home repair stores, among others.
Such social services, though, would be in jeopardy because of the extraordinary financial crisis that New York State, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the world, is experiencing. The Governor outlined the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state. New York State revenues are estimated to decline by $13.3 billion – or 14 percent – from the Executive Budget forecast. Additionally, the revenues are estimated to decline by $61 billion over the financial plan period of FY 2021 to FY 2024.
New York State faces extraordinary costs to address the coronavirus pandemic at the same time revenues have come to a virtual halt. That is forcing Governor Cuomo to contemplate what cuts could be made.
“New York State was not, quote, unquote, in trouble before this happened,” Cuomo said. “New York State was very, very strong before this happened. Our economy was growing. It was growing at a very high rate. Our government spending has been at record lows. The spending increases. Our taxes today are lower than the day I took office….
“And then this economic tsunami hits and you shut down all the businesses, everybody stays home, they’re not getting a paycheck. They feel economic anxiety. The consequence to the state is the revenue projections are way down. What do we do about it?”
But despite passing nearly $3 trillion in economic stimulus virtually all of it going to businesses, Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell said he has no intention of bailing out “blue states.” States, he said, should go bankrupt, instead.
Cuomo, during his press briefing, said that states are not allowed to declare bankruptcy – that would require McConnell to pass a law and for Trump to sign it.
“It’s a really dumb idea. People are trying to talk about bringing the economy back, reopen, we have to get the economy moving again. And then rather than provide financial aid to the states that got hit by this economic tsunami through no fault of their own, the suggestion was made, states should declare bankruptcy. A few problems with that premise. Forget the morality of it and the ethics of it and the absurdity of it and the meanness of it. Legally, a state can’t declare bankruptcy. You would need a federal law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. So to the Senate that proposed it, I say pass a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. I dare you. And let the President sign that bill that says, ‘I give the states the legal ability to declare bankruptcy.’
“You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble? You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that, allow states to declare bankruptcy legally because you passed the bill. It will be the first time in our nation’s history that that happened. I dare you to do that. And then we’ll see how many states actually take you up on it. I know I wouldn’t. But if you believe what you said, and you have the courage of conviction because you’re a man of your word, pass that bill if you weren’t just playing politics. We’ll see how long it takes him to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Governor is addressing voting. “We still have elections in the midst of all this chaos. We have seen elections held where we had people on lines for a long period of time. It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote. So, we passed an executive order that said you can vote by absentee. Today, I’m asking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter what’s called a – automatically receives a postage paid application for a ballot. If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote, so you don’t have to come out and get in a line.
“Then looking ahead, more testing. We’re making great progress on that. New York State is doing more testing than any state in the country right now. New York State is doing more tests than any country per capita on the globe right now. That is what will educate our moving forward. Watch the spread of the virus. It’s getting warmer, more people are going to be coming out of their homes. That’s going to happen naturally. Watch that spread. Testing gives you those numbers on an ongoing basis. Maintain social distancing. Also, plan on a reopening and not just reopening what was.”
Cuomo stressed, as he has done in the past, that coming out of this “horrific experience” should be “a period of growth. It should be a period of reflection. If we’re smart and we use it that way, there are lessons to learn here if we’re smart and we have the courage to look in the mirror. We went through 9/11. We were smarter for it. We went through World War II. We were the better for it. We went through Superstorm Sandy. We learned, we grew and we were the better for it. We should do the same thing here. People have totally changed their lifestyle. What have we learned? How can we have a better health care system that can actually handle public health emergencies? How do we have a better transportation system? How do we have a smarter telemedicine system? How do we use technology and education better? Why do some children have to go to a parking lot to get Wi-Fi to do their homework? How do we learn from this and how do we grow?”
“And let New York lead the way because we’re New York tough. But New York tough, when they say we’re tough, yeah, we’re tough, but we think tough incorporates being smart and being disciplined and being unified and being loving.”
Virus Entered New York Through Europe
“People are also talking about a second wave, potential of a second wave. People are talking about potential for the virus to come back in the fall which means the game is not over which means the game could be just at halftime so let’s make sure we’re learning the lessons of what has happened thus far and let’s make sure we are being truthful with ourselves. Not that we are deceiving anyone else but let’s be truthful with ourselves. I don’t think we’re deceiving anyone else but let’s make sure we’re not deceiving ourselves. What has happened, what should we learn from as far as what has happened thus far so we make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again and let’s do that now.
“This was our first global pandemic. Welcome. There had been people who talked about global pandemics before. Bill Gates had talked about the potential of a global pandemic during the Obama Administration. They talked about being prepared for a global pandemic but it was almost always an academic exercise, what if, what if, what if. Once it happens, once it actualizes for people, then it’s different. Then people get it. We now know that a global pandemic is not just a text-book exercise, not just a table-top exercise. It can happen. When it happens, it’s devastating. Let’s just learn from what happened on the first one. Let’s just get the basic lesson of what happened on the first one.
“Last November, December, we knew that China had a virus outbreak. You can read about it in the newspapers. Everybody knew. January 26, we know we had the first confirmed case in Seattle, Washington and California. February 2nd, the president ordered a travel ban from china. March 1st, we have the first confirmed case in the State of New York. By March 19th, New York State is totally closed down. No state moved faster from first case to closedown than the State of New York. March 16, we have a full travel ban from Europe.
“Researchers now find, and they report in some newspapers, the virus was spreading wildly in Italy in February. And there was an outbreak, massive outbreak in Italy in February. Researchers now say there were likely 28,000 cases in the United States in February, including 10,000 cases in the State of New York. And, the coronavirus that came to New York did not come from China. It came from Europe.
“When you look at the number of flights that came from Europe to New York, the New York metropolitan area, New York and New Jersey, during January, February up to the closedown, 13,000 flights bringing 2.2 million people.
“So November, December, you have the outbreak in China, everybody knows. January, February, flights are coming from Europe, people are also coming from China in January, until the China closedown. And the flights continue to come from Europe until the Europe shutdown. 2.2 million people come to New York and come to New Jersey. We acted two months after the China outbreak. When you look back, does anyone think the virus was still in China, waiting for us to act, two months later? We all talk about the global economy, and how fast people move, and how mobile we are. How can you expect that when you act two months after the outbreak in China, the virus was only in China, waiting for us to act? The horse had already left the barn by the time we moved.
“Research now says, knowing the number of flights coming to New York from Italy, it was like watching a horrible train wreck in slow motion. Those are the flights that were coming from Italy and from Europe, January and February. We closed the front door, with the China travel ban, which was right, even in retrospect it was right. But we left the back door open, because the virus had left China by the time we did the China travel ban. That’s what the researchers are now saying, with 28,000 cases in the United States, 10,000 in New York.
“So, what is the lesson? An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. When you see November and December, an outbreak in China, just assume the next day it’s in the United States. When they say it’s in China, just assume that virus got on a plane that night and flew to New York or flew to Newark airport, and it’s now in New York. That has to be the operating mentality. Because you don’t know that the virus didn’t get on a plane. All you need is one person to get on that plane in China and come to New York. The way this virus transfers, that’s all you need. And you can’t assume two months later the virus is still going to be sitting on a park bench in China waiting for you to get there. That is the lesson. And again, why do we need to learn the lesson? Because they’re talking about this happening again with this virus where it could mutate in China, and get on a plane, and come right back. Or the next virus, or the next pandemic.“
With testing and tracing COVID-19 cases critical before the state can begin to reopen its economy, New York State is launching large-scale antibody testing to help determine what percentage of the population is now immune to the virus who would then be able to go back to work.
Following a tour of the Northwell Testing Laboratory, in remarks at the Feinstein Research Center on the Northwell hospital campus on Sunday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the State Department of Health was beginning to conduct a statewide antibody testing survey. The testing survey will sample 3,000 people for a population of 19.5 million people (for context Germany performed a 3,000-person sample with a population of 83 million). Large-scale antibody testing will help determine the percentage of the population that is now immune to the virus, allowing more individuals to safely return to work.
“Any plan to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing, and we have to make sure our antibody and diagnostic testing is up to the scale we need so we can safely get people back to work,” Governor Cuomo said.”We are going to start antibody testing across the state tomorrow – and we are going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation. This will be the first true snapshot of exactly how many people were infected by COVID-19 and where we are as a population and will help us to reopen and rebuild without jeopardizing what we’ve already accomplished.”
Cuomo cited the positive drops in numbers of infections, hospitalizations as deaths as proof that the policies have worked, that the state can “control the beast”. But that this is no time to get complacent.
“I get the political pressure that everybody is under. I get the political pressure that local officials are under. But we have to be smart and we have to be coordinated. People have to have the best government from government officials in the State of New York. Government matters today in a way it has not mattered in decades. And it is important that government sends the right signal and one message and there is no confusion. Because if people don’t have confidence in government right now, if they think there is chaos or confusion or politics, that would be a terrible message to send.
“We have done a great job as government officials – all of us – Democrat, Republican, state, local. We have to keep doing it. And now is not the time to send mixed messages. And also on a very parochial level, I get that in the conversations I’ve had people feel political pressure. Here is the simple answer. The State’s emergency powers now govern in this emergency. Blame me. Blame me. Somebody’s complaining about a beach, somebody’s complaining about whatever, businesses open, schools open, blame me. It’s true. It’s right. It’s the state law and I don’t have any issue with that. So blame me.
“Also, as we are planning the reopening, let’s set the bar a little higher. Let’s all start to think about this now. What did we learn during this? Personally, what did we learn? Socially, what did we learn? Collectively, what did we learn? And how do we incorporate that into our reopening? How do we have a better health care system when we reopen? How do we have a better transportation system, better telecommuting, a smarter telemedicine program? Better technology and education? How do we have more social equity?
“You can see the disparate effect of this disease and how it reinforced the disparity in the inequity in society. How do we remedy that? And how are we more cohesive as a community for having gone through this, right? It is not just reopen. It is not just build it back. It is advance. Use this as a moment in time where they look back, when they write the history books and they say oh boy, they went through a terrible time but they actually learned from it and they improved from it. They moved forward. We had 9/11. Yes, we built back.
“We built back different, we built back smarter. We had Hurricane Sandy, devastated Long Island. I was governor. I didn’t say we want to replace, I said we’re going to learn how to do a new grid system. We’re going to learn how to do better infrastructure. And we did. Long Island, today, is better for having gone through Hurricane Sandy as terrible as that was.
“We have to do the same thing here. How do we come back even better? So, the long and the short of it is thank you to all New Yorkers for all the good work. To our healthcare workers, a special thank you. To the police, to fire, to the transit workers. You know, the economy has not been closed down, right? All the essential services have still been functioning. You still can go to the grocery store and get food. Lord knows you could go to a healthcare institution and get healthcare. The transportation works, the buses work. All these people who kept everything working, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
“But also remember we still have more to do. New Yorkers know that because New Yorkers are tough, but tough doesn’t mean just tough. Tough is easy. It’s tough but smart, but disciplined, but unified, and but loving. That’s who we are as New Yorkers.”
Cuomo – along with Vice President Joe Biden – is proposing hazard pay for frontline workers, who have disproportionately suffered illness and death, are disproportionately women, people of color, in low-paying jobs and living in congested communities that have also not had the same access to medical care.”
No Time to Get Cocky
Cuomo reflected, “So the recent news is good. We are on the other side of the plateau and the numbers are coming down. But, that’s good news only compared to the terrible news that we were living with, which is that constant increase. And remember, you still have 1,300 people who walked into the hospitals yesterday testing positive. So, it’s no time to get cocky and it’s no time to get arrogant, right? We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. And this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. We’ve been playing catch-up from day one in this situation. So it is no time to relax. And this is only halftime in this entire situation. We showed that we can control the beast and when you close down, you can actually slow that infection rate, but it is only halftime. We have to make sure we keep that beast under control, we keep that infection rate down, we keep that hospitalization rate down as we now all get very eager to get on with life and move on. So, it’s not over.
“We have a whole second phase and in this second phase, first, do no harm. Don’t jeopardize what you’ve already accomplished by seeing that infection rate increase. We have to be smarter, especially when it comes to the new frontier of testing and how we test and how aggressively and how we get that organized. And then when we talk about rebuilding, we have to talk about not just rebuilding, but let’s learn from this horrific experience. Let’s take these lessons forward and how do we build back better than before? I don’t want to have on all through this and then just say we are reopening. No, we have to open for a better future than we have ever had. And we have to learn from this. As we go through this, I know people are eager to get on with life. We have slowed the infection rate down to .9 percent. 0.9 percent means one person infects .9 percent of a person, less than one. That means the virus is slowing. If one person is infecting 1.2 people, the virus is increasing and is an epidemic and an outbreak and is out of control.”
So, we have a very small margin of error here, as we navigate going forward. Any plan that is going to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data, and that means it has to be based on testing. This is a new world for all of us. How do you get testing up to scale? How do you get it up to scale quickly and how do you find out where we really are right now in terms of this virus? You have all these scientists and experts who are basically trying to extrapolate from the data, but we don’t really know how any people were infected. How many people had coronavirus but self-resolved? We don’t really know, because we haven’t been able to do testing on that large a scale. But we are going to start, we are going to start here in the State of New York with antibody testing.
“Antibody testing means you test the person to find out if they have the antibodies if they were infected with the coronavirus. We are going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation. We are going to sample people in this state, thousands of people in this state, across the state to find out if they have the antibodies. That will tell us, for the first time, what percent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now at least short-term immune to the virus. This will be the first, true snapshot of what we are really dealing with. We are going to be doing that over the next week and the New York State Department of Health will be running that. There’s also another set of test that are called diagnostic testing.
“Diagnostic testing is whether a person is positive or negative. We are coming up to scale on this, even though it is very, very hard. Northwell is leading the parade on this and I just looked at some of the technology they are bringing in. All of these different manufacturers who make different machines to run different tests and it’s a number of big manufacturers. Northwell is bringing in as many as they can, but this has to be brought to scale. Nobody has done testing at this level ever. We have to do this in partnership with the federal government, because there are all sorts of logistical questions and supply chain questions and people can’t get certain chemicals they need to do tests and the chemicals are made in other countries. So, we have to do this with the federal government.”
Federal Funding for States Necessary
Cuomo was critical of the failure of the federal government to include funding for states and localities in the stimulus packages.
“They want to help small businesses, and that is great. They also have to help a governments and local governments, which have not been supported in previous legislation. Everyone is saying, ‘It is up to the states to come up with a reopening plan, it’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors.’
“Fine. That is true, and right, and legal. But the governors in the state have to have resources. And yes, you have to help small businesses, you have to help the airlines, all of these private sector interests as well as citizens. But if you don’t help the state government and local government, then how are we supposed to have the finances to reopen? If you don’t give state and local government support, we are the ones who support the schools, we support the police, we support the fire, we support the hospital workers, we support the transit workers.
“So, if you starve state and local government, all that means is we have to turn around and reduce funding to the people who we are funding. If we don’t get federal assistance, you are looking at education cuts of close to 50 percent in the State of New York, where school districts would only get half of the aid they got from the state last year. You are talking about cuts to hospitals from the State. I mean, how ludicrous would it be to now cut hospital funding from state governments?
The National Governors Association has asked for $500 billion to be included in the stimulus package currently being discussed.
Cuomo said that the decline in infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths shows that the state’s actions have been effective.
“Now is no time, as I said, to get arrogant. We are working with our regional states, our partners, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc., the surrounding states. We are coordinating with them and we have to continue to do that. The weather is getting warmer, the numbers are coming down, cabin fever is getting worse. I believe that is going to be a documented disease when this is over, cabin fever. But we have to stay smart and we have to stay coordinated. We have been working with New Jersey and Connecticut because whatever one state does affects other states, right? You live in Nassau, Suffolk, New York City, you can get in your car and be in New Jersey, you can be in Connecticut in a matter of minutes.
So, it is very important to plan accordingly. It is not that we can be on the same page on everything, but at least let’s know what each other is doing.
Cuomo noted, “This is a reality check. With all the good news in the reductions, we still have 1,300 people that yesterday came in and tested positive and were hospitalized. Thirteen hundred is a lot of people coming into the hospital system with that diagnosis. Less than it had been, so that’s good news, but it is still 1,300 people who are testing positive and need hospitalization.
“Nursing homes are still our number one concern. The nursing home is the optimum feeding ground for this virus. Vulnerable people in a congregant facility, in a congregant setting where it can just spread like fire through dry grass. We have had really disturbing situations in nursing homes and we’re still most concerned about the nursing homes.
“The worst news of all for us to live with every day and an everyday tragedy, we lost another 507 New Yorkers. Those are not just very large numbers we see deaths. Every number is a face and a family and a brother and a sister, mother and a father. People are in pain today and will be in pain for a long period of time.”
In his press briefing on Monday, Cuomo announced a new initiative to address the disproportionate number of cases in public housing – ripe for the disease because the people are lower income, living in highly concentrated circumstances: the state is delivering 500,000 cloth masks – at least one for every resident – and 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to NYCHA residents.
“What we do determines our future,” Cuomo said. “Smart government shapes future. This is cause-and-effect on steroids. What we do today will determine tomorrow – you won’t have to wait to read history books. If we make smart decisions, you will see smart outcomes in two weeks. We make bad decisions, you will see bad outcomes in 2 weeks.
“The future is in our hands, really in our hands.”
“We can control the beast, the beast will not destroy us. We have a lot of work to do to keep the beast under control. A lot of work to do to reopen. But will set bar high, reimagine so what reopen will be better. Build. Back. Better.”