Apr 16, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 16
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 16, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (00:00)
… Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Pleasure to be with you once again, Crystal. To Crystal’s right is also a gentleman who needs no introduction anywhere in this country. The founder of Google, Dr. Schmidt. Headed the Reimagination Commission for us and did a brilliant job. And I want to thank him very much for being with us. Dr. Eric Schmidt. To my left, we have the great mayor of the city of Buffalo, Byron Brown. And to Byron’s left we have Charles Phillips who is the managing director and co-founder of Recognized. He was the chairman of Infor. He was also a key part of our Reimagine Commission which did extraordinary work. Let’s give Mr. Phillips a round of applause. We have with us Kate Harris who was the director of the commission and an advisor to me. They had over 50 meetings, this commission. So they took it very seriously. Kate, thank you for your leadership. And then we have with us a good friend and just a man who embodies the spirit of Buffalo, Thurman Thomas. Thurman, good to be with you. And Patty Thomas, who also is the spirit of Buffalo. Patty, good to be with you. Buffalo Bills, we had a good season. I think if Thurman was out there, we would have gone all the way with Thurman.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:50)
Okay. This is an exciting day today. And let me talk to you about a number of matters. The COVID crisis, which we are all aware of. We’re still in the midst of. It is not over. It is better, but it is not over. We shouldn’t act like it’s over. We have to appreciate that we have made progress, but we are still dealing with it. It’s been an international event that has done tremendous damage all across the board. Number of lives lost, economic loss, jobs lost, businesses closed, social isolation. The damage has been unlike anything we’ve seen in my generation. It is a war and it’s a war that we’re still in the midst of. One of the great questions I think in life is what do you do when life knocks you down. And life will knock you down. COVID has knocked us down.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (02:58)
Something in life will come along. No matter how hard you prepare, no matter how smart we are, no matter how good we are, something will come along in life and knock you down. There’ll be something that happens in the family. There’ll be a health issue. There’ll be an economic issue, but there’ll be something that comes and knocks you on your rear end. And then the quite time of a view into character is what do you do when life knocks you down? Do you stay down? Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you blame every one else, or do you get up and dust yourself off and say, let me learn from this experience. Let’s learn what happened here. And let me learn so that when I get up, I am the better for it and I have learned from it and I have grown from it.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (04:03)
That’s how we have to think of COVID. Yes, it knocked us on our rear end as a nation, as a state, as a people, as a planet. But what do we do now? I say COVID was low tide in America. Meaning what? That COVID did damage in and of itself. What COVID also did was it exposed so many of the underlying conditions in this country that were unfair and inequitable. When the tide is high, it covers a lot of sins. When that tide goes out and you see the bottom of the ocean, you see all sorts of ugliness. Well, it just developed. No it didn’t. It was there. It was just covered by the high tide. And when COVID went out, you saw so much of the systemic injustice and discrimination in society. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at one and a half times the rate of whites.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (05:22)
Why? Because they didn’t have the same access to healthcare. Because they didn’t have the same access to COVID testing. There were more underlying conditions. Well, remote learning. Who got left behind in remote learning? Poorer children, poorer communities who didn’t have the same access. That’s something else we have to learn from them. The injustices that COVID exposed and let’s take this moment and make it a productive and a constructive one. Recognize the pain and the loss, but recognize that we can learn from this. That’s why we formed the Reimagine New York State commission. To say yes, while we’re focusing on fighting the virus and we’re fighting the vaccines and we’re fighting this and keeping the healthcare system, we want the Reimagine Commission to take a look at what we’ve seen during COVID. And that’s the charge that was to the Reimagine Commission and Dr. Schmidt and Charles Phillips and Kate Harris.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (06:37)
Learn from this so that when we come out the other side, we come out better. The Reimagine Commission was some of the best minds on the globe, on the globe literally, who gave us their time in all different fields to assess the situation and find out how to learn and how to grow. The commission came back and basically said, in my words, the key to success is always the same. It is access. It is access. Access to education, access to capital, access to banking. It is about access. The commission says equal access to high quality affordable internet connectivity is a prerequisite to making the many other hard and essential changes. Access today is not a highway system. It’s not a phone call. Access today is the internet system and the broadband system. Access to remote learning. Great concept.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (07:44)
If, if, if you have the equipment then you have the training and you have the assistance to make remote learning work and if you have access to broadband. Telemedicine. No doubt there was a great potential in telemedicine if you have the access to broadband, otherwise it is non-functional for you. Well, now you can apply for a new job, you can apply for new training and for new skills. So much information on the internet. Yes, but you have to be able to get there and you need access to broadband. You can connect with loved ones around the world. You can form friendships and social groups. Yes. And you can access government services. You can get a driver’s license. You can get a vaccination appointment. All done faster and easier than ever before if you have broadband. And for many, many people, they are precluded by not having access.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (08:58)
Now, there are two barriers to broadband. One is literal access. Can you get it? And the second is, if you can get it, can you afford it? Good news on access. 98% of the state now has access to high-speed broadband. We’ve been working on this for years and we’re up to 98%. But 98% still says 2% is out and we’re not done until we hit 100%. Part of this bill we’re going to do an in-depth study of the places that don’t have access to high speed broadband. Identify them specifically and get them the access. The second is the affordability. Oh, you can get it if you can pay for it. And these internet packages are often very, very expensive because they bundle it with TV and with this. And it can be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year to get access to the internet.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (10:06)
And many New Yorkers just can’t afford it, especially today, especially in a post COVID economy. So we’re going to sign a law today that is very simple but very profound. The law requires all internet service providers in the state, if you do business in this state. So if you are Spectrum or Optimum of Verizon or Frontier or Windstream, either big ones or small ones, all internet providers must offer high speed internet at an affordable cost, $15 a month, period, all equipment, all fees, et cetera. That’s the cost that they must provide to any low income family in this state. And low income are people who qualify for governmental assistance because they are low income. That my friend will democratize access to society and services. And we’re very excited about that. For families that can’t afford the $15 dollars, ConnectED New York will finance 50,000 students and their families for that $15 a month so they have access during this period, especially important during this remote learning.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (11:41)
And that is going to be done by an emergency fund that is going to be funded from Schmidt Futures and Ford Foundation. 50,000 students and their families free access. Let’s give them a round of applause. For America broadband holds great power. It will either be the great equalizer for society, or it will be the great divider. It can either equalize the playing field where anyone can get access to information and education, or it will divide the society by income, by race and by class. And as a divider, if you’re not on the internet, you can be left behind at a hundred miles an hour. This low cost broadband access in this state is the first law of its kind in the nation. New York leads once again. Thank you to Mr. Schmidt, Mr. Infor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (12:56)
Thank you, the Reimagine Commission, chairman Schmidt, Charles Phillips. I want to thank the New York State legislature for passing this progressive ambitious bill. It is the question of the time. And people ask me this every day, what will New York State be like post-COVID? What’s going to be New York after post-COVID? What’s going to be America post-COVID? It will be what we make it. It will be what we make it. It’s that simple. And in New York we will be better for what we went through. Yes, you knocked this down, but we’re going to get up and we’re going to learn, and we’re going to grow. Today, we made New York State better than it was before COVID because we learned and we saw the inequities. We just have to re-imagine New York. We have to learn from low tide and the ugliness that we saw and we have to correct it and we have to correct it now. Come up with a vision of what you see as a better society, a fairer society, a more just society, and then make it a reality.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (14:25)
That is what we do and who we are as New York. We dream big. We’re a state of dreamers. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. We dream that we can do the impossible, and then we do it time and time again. That’s what makes this state special and what makes the people of New York State special. Knock us down, we get up and we get up better and we get up stronger. Thank you. Let me now turn it to Crystal People-Stokes, majority leader of the assembly who was key in this bill. Let me also add that the majority leader was also key in getting the cannabis legalization legislation passed this year. We had tried two times before, and it’s the right thing to do, but it was politically the difficult thing to do. And it had to be worked extraordinarily hard in the legislature. And the way it tends to work in any endeavor, somebody has to say, I know it’s hard, but I’m going to take on this challenge and I’m going to get it done. And cannabis legalization does not happen without Crystal People-Stokes. With that, the majority leader.
Crystal People-Stokes: (16:05)
Thank you, governor. And thank you for being here today are. We’re always excited when we have the opportunity for you to be in Buffalo. We want to thank you for your leadership in getting us through, well, almost through the pandemic. We are still there and there are still a lot of concerns that we have to pay attention to. But it is without question that your leadership during the course of this pandemic has got us to this point. And for those of us in Western New York, we’re grateful and we’re thankful to you. And so we want to applaud you for that. The community has suffered a lot during the past year. So many communities across the country, but more importantly, across New York State. And while we remain socially distanced, there is an issue of connectivity in communities that’s critical and that has to happen. You mentioned it in your comments that students are at home trying to learn remotely, there’s telehealth issues. People need to have access to good quality internet. And I think most people are walking around with a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean that they have access to the internet just because they have a smartphone. And I know that there are some people who literally have to bring their children to libraries in order to do homework. Some folks are sitting in parking lots outside of McDonald’s and Taco Bell to get access to the wifi. So the action that was taken in this year’s budget to provide this service to New Yorkers across the state who need to have that is really critical. And it’s critical that the governor’s study of broadband has to happen. Because we know that there are a lot of people who live in cities and inner cities and maybe even towns and villages that have may have better access, but those who live in rural communities do not.
Crystal People-Stokes: (17:59)
And in fact, some of those who live in cities do not. And so we really do need to do the research, find out where they are. There’s that 2% that still needs attention as the governor mentioned, and he’s committed to finding where that 2% at and so is the legislature. So we look forward to certainly providing that. I also want to add my sincere gratitude to Schmidt Future and Ford Foundation for creating the ConnectED partnership with the state. That’s critical. That’s like public partnerships working together in the interests of people. And I quite honestly think that’s the way society should be designed. And so I’m honored to know these folks and honored to know that they’re willing to weigh into what we need in our school systems and our communities. Again, I want to thank the governor for being here. I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to introduce a couple of my friends. Governor, I heard you introduce a couple of yours at the beginning.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (18:55)
Crystal People-Stokes: (18:56)
Ours. But these folks are important to Buffalo and Western New York.
Crystal People-Stokes: (19:02)
… to Buffalo in Western New York, continuing this leadership in the State of New York, and I want to start with Reverend Mark Blue, who is the Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna and the President of the Buffalo NAACP. Everybody doesn’t know you Reverend Blue. So if you could just raise your hand or something like that so folks could recognize you.
Crystal People-Stokes: (19:24)
Secondly governor, our friend Eunice Lewin, member of the SUNY trustee board and a champion for STEM education.
Crystal People-Stokes: (19:34)
Thirdly, governor, our friend Brenda McDuffie, former President and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League.
Crystal People-Stokes: (19:44)
Lastly, our friend and a true champion of Buffalo, we’re so happy that he decided to relocate here. He is Thomas Beauford and he’s the President and CEO of the Urban League, Currently, Mr. Beauford.
Crystal People-Stokes: (19:58)
Finally, New York will certainly bounce back better than ever, and once again, I want to thank the governor for his commitment to equity and for his vision in renewing New York. Thank you Mr. Governor. Thank you all for being here.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (20:11)
Thank you. Thank you very much. Let me turn now to a truly phenomenal mayor. The government has been tested like never before during this COVID crisis. This is not something you can just talk your way through. This is something where real leadership was required. You had to step up, you had to accept the challenge. You have to accept the challenge that frankly many people ran from because it was so frightening and that’s leadership.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (20:52)
Then you had to perform at the same time. You have to get those vaccination centers set up. You have to educate people about COVID. You have to deal with the controversy and the opposition, and it’s not easy, but it was also a time when you could see into a person’s soul, and you could see what a person was made of and the people of Buffalo were blessed to have Mayor Byron Brown lead Buffalo, and he’s been an extraordinary partner to me, Mayor Byron Brown.
Mayor Byron Brown: (21:32)
Thank you very much, governor, and thank you for being with us here today in Buffalo. It’s always an honor to welcome Governor Cuomo to the city of Buffalo, in Western New York, and whenever the governor is here, he is bringing good news for our community. So if it was possible, I’d like to see the governor here in Buffalo every single day.
Mayor Byron Brown: (21:58)
Before I say a few words, let me just make some acknowledgements as well. I want to recognize Jonathan Dandes, Chair of the Board of Directors at Erie County Medical Center. Allegra Jaros, President John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. And [Joyce Markowitz 00:22:30], Chief Business Development Officer at Catholic Health in Buffalo.
Mayor Byron Brown: (22:36)
Let me start out by saying that I trust Governor Cuomo’s leadership. We share a real commitment to Buffalo, and I’ve worked with him long enough to know that he truly cares about our great city. As mayor, I have always been committed to making Buffalo a thriving, innovative city where no one is left out and where no one is left behind. Governor Cuomo shares these values.
Mayor Byron Brown: (23:08)
He also knows about the inequities that existed in our society long before the COVID pandemic began. That’s why he created the Vaccine Equity Task Force, working with trusted community leaders to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. That’s why he helped us create pop-up vaccination sites across Buffalo, tackling racial disparities in access to the vaccine, and that’s why governor Cuomo is here in Buffalo today, signing this affordable broadband bill.
Mayor Byron Brown: (23:50)
We know all too well how isolated and anxious this pandemic has made New Yorkers feel. We know the tremendous frustration that has been in our community. Those feelings were compounded for those without access to the internet, for the students who struggled to log into their school sessions and the parents who tried to help them, for the families struggling to talk to a doctor without the option of telehealth, for those looking to work or to find workforce training, and for those who simply missed seeing their loved ones.
Mayor Byron Brown: (24:34)
A member of my staff yesterday told us that she was going to see her mother for the first time in a year. The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot consider high speed internet a luxury, it is a necessity for modern life. The governor has already taken great steps to expand the state’s broadband infrastructure. Now we need to make sure it is affordable. Signing this bill does just that.
Mayor Byron Brown: (25:11)
Again, governor, I want to say thank you for your vision and your bold leadership toward building back a better and stronger New York. Thank you, governor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (25:23)
Thank you very much, mayor. Thank you.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (25:28)
Now, the head of the commission, Dr. Schmidt, you know him, obviously, as a great technology innovator, it started even before Google, but Google was just a brilliant invention. Curiously, I had the idea for Google before Eric Schmidt had the idea for Google. I saw it, and I had the name, I had everything, the icon, I just couldn’t figure out how to turn on the computer. But if I had figured out how to turn it on …
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:02)
But what’s most remarkable about Dr. Schmidt, it’s not what he has done in the past, it’s what he continues to do. What he’s doing with Schmidt Futures, his work with defense, his work with the environment, his work with the oceans, he could just be sitting on the beach somewhere taking sun, but he’s trying to make this place a better place.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:32)
He’s been so kind to us here in New York State, he is an internationally desired commodity with his expertise. He’s working on national issues, international issues. He took the time and made the time to run this commission for New York and he did brilliant work and all New Yorkers owe him a debt of gratitude and the proof is in the pudding. We just signed the first law in the nation to provide access to low income Americans and we did it because of the good work the Reimagine commission did. Thank you, Dr. Schmidt. Thank you.
Dr. Schmidt: (27:17)
Governor your leadership, in general, over this pandemic has been extraordinary. Majority leader, thank you for working hand in hand with the governor to make these things happen. Let me introduce two folks from our group who did all the work, Eric Braverman, Elizabeth Rosenblatt, sitting here in the front. We were able, by virtue of your convening of this commission, one, to frankly have a really good time as a commission. We learned a lot from each other. You picked the right people.
Dr. Schmidt: (27:48)
More importantly, we started off thinking, “Well, maybe there’s a big problem with telehealth,” and we realized that people were getting their health checkup and so forth because of administrative matters and systems matters, which we studied pretty extensively. Your team made the changes necessary to make that possible in New York. You did it, you and your team.
Dr. Schmidt: (28:12)
We looked a lot at this workforce training question. There’s lots and lots of evidence that there are high paying jobs available for people who can do the jobs, but they’re either not in the right place or they don’t have the correct certificate or what have you. I think Northland, where we are today, is a really good example of the kind of stuff that you’re doing in the state and I really want to congratulate you for your leadership running it and that’s frankly why we’re here.
Dr. Schmidt: (28:41)
But over the many meetings of the commission, you get a sense of what matters and it became pretty clear that people were very concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who apparently had no internet access at all and because we were fact finding, and we had this idea that we should talk to 10,000 people, try to figure out what people really cared about.
Dr. Schmidt: (29:07)
Over and over again, we were given these stories of the form, “We have a minority teenager who’s in a poor family situation. They want to learn. They have no facility to do their work from school because of their housing situation. They may or may not have their own computer and they certainly don’t have affordable broadband,” and that resonated with the commission, I think, more than anything else.
Dr. Schmidt: (29:32)
So we ranked, as you noted governor, that this issue of universal connectivity was the first and most important that has come out of Reimagining New York. I am beyond proud of what the state has done to make this $15 a month affordable broadband for the appropriate people. I think it’s exactly the right thing that we should be doing for all the reasons everybody has said.
Dr. Schmidt: (29:55)
The internet is no longer optional. I used to give these speeches about how it was optional and just turn it off. You can’t do that anymore. It’s essential to education. Think of the generation that we could be creating that are not learning because we didn’t give them the right access and they’re the ones most at risk that need it most of all. It’s a moral duty. It’s the right thing to do and you guys did it.
Dr. Schmidt: (30:20)
We were chatting with Darren Walker, who’s a fantastic member of the commission, and together, we decided to combine forces with the Ford Foundation, my group and the state to put this ConnectEd solution together for 50,000 homes, which is both hardware, as well as conductivity. This will bridge the gap between the connectivity needs of their students and families and it’s part of the longterm policy solutions that we need to be doing.
Dr. Schmidt: (30:47)
So you combine, frankly, the leadership from the state, the assembly, the governor, the governor’s office, and then private philanthropy and you can pull these things off. Frankly, I think we should do more. This is when New York does its best, a combination of private actors and the public doing the right thing for the benefit of all the citizens.
Dr. Schmidt: (31:11)
So I’m committed to doing that. I could not be happier to be sitting here today over what, from my perspective, was a high-impact and interesting challenge that the governor laid out, look at how successful that was. Governor send us more challenges.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (31:27)
Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Schmidt. I remember the first conversation we had when we were putting together the commission. It’s just as Dr. Schmidt said, I had the same conversation with Charles Phillips and a number of people on the commission. They said, “Look, we’re busy, we’ll do this, but we don’t want to just be part of a commission that does a report, and the report winds up on a bookshelf. We’ll do the work if you promise you will actually get it done afterwards.” Thanks to the legislature and the people of the state of New York, we got it done. So I feel good that we lived up to our side of the bargain, which was actually the easier side of the bargain. You come up with the brilliant ideas and then we’ll do it.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (32:15)
Charles Phillips is a technology pioneer and wizard. He was Oracle Chair and CEO of Infor, he runs Recognize, again, an international talent, 10 times over. He’s been extraordinary in his service to this nation and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for what he has done here for the State of New York. Charles Phillips, thank you very, very much and thank you for coming today. Charles Phillips.
Charles Phillips: (32:53)
So governor, majority leader, my old friend, Eric Schmidt, Mr. Mayor, it’s an honor to be here for this milestone for the state today. I’ve seen the power of the internet, actually from its very inception and I can’t overstate how important access to broadband is for our kids. I was a computer science major at the Air Force Academy and took my commission in the Marines.
Charles Phillips: (33:13)
During that time, the ARPANET, the forerunner of the internet, was being built by the military. Understanding and take advantage of that connected world to find my career trajectory, as it did for many others. Fast forward, many years later, I was CEO of a large software company and the defining value add was running on the internet in the cloud. We use that to make sure our software is accessible for thousands of people around the world, ended up with 77 million customers.
Charles Phillips: (33:39)
But it’s more important than business now. The internet touches all aspects of life, including educational opportunities. After the academy of Marines, I followed up with an MBA in Virginia and law school at New York law school. I’m a product of excellent educational opportunities, but those opportunities start with proximity and exposure to ideas and opportunities. I was always a bit of a gadget guy. I loved computers and software. I built my first computer in high school, but because someone exposed me to those concepts early. The internet can provide access to information and the art of the possible like no other medium. Now, especially in the context of this pandemic, I can see the adverse impact of the lack of broadband access to many kids and I live in New York City and it’s a big issue there as well.
Charles Phillips: (34:26)
They say it takes the village to raise a child. Well, the village has been moved to the internet. We want our next generations to have outstanding opportunities to learn and grow. For that to happen, they need to be on the internet and that means having access to reliable, affordable and high-speed internet. Today, high speed internet is not a luxury, it’s a basic necessity like food, water, and shelter.
Charles Phillips: (34:49)
The legislation the governor will sign today was the top recommendation of the Reimagine New York commission. I was honored to serve on that commission as the Workforce Co-Chair. The commission concluded, affordable internet is a prerequisite for a better education, for telemedicine, workforce training and all aspects of a Reimagine New York. I want to thank the governor for making this a reality.
Charles Phillips: (35:12)
The legislation will impact lives. It will make it possible for young people to dream about their big education and their careers, even if they don’t come from money or privilege. A workforce of the future demands nothing less. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” These young people will now have the tools to change the world.
Charles Phillips: (35:34)
Thank you, governor for your leadership and for your vision, for your bold innovative Reimagine New York, and I want to comment on your leadership during the pandemic, which the entire nation needed. Thank you again, governor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (35:46)
Thank you, Mr. Phillips.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (35:49)
I would ask my colleagues to join me today, right here, as I sign the bill and we actually make this happen.
Crystal People-Stokes: (36:08)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:09)
Nothing is easy in government. Just signing a bill is a little complex, but otherwise it wouldn’t be a signing pen unless it was used for the signing, you see,.we are very technical in the way we do business.
Dr. Schmidt: (36:33)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:36)
It was not just redundancy. [crosstalk 00:36:39]. Congratulations, the bill is signed.
Crystal People-Stokes: (36:45)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:45)
Thank you. There you go Byron.
Dr. Schmidt: (36:53)
Thank you very much governor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:54)
Let’s give them a big round of applause. Thank you all. Thank you for being here today. Thank you. Congratulations New York.
Crystal People-Stokes: (37:02)
Thank you for coming to Buffalo to do this.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (37:02)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (37:02)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (40:45)
If this works, we are supposed to be joined by Melissa [inaudible 00:40:52], Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, Kelly Cummings, and Dr. Howard Zucker by Zoom. I take that as an article of faith that it’s working. Let me talk through the COVID numbers today. Overall statewide positivity is 2.8%, statewide deaths of 43. We remember them in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations, 3,800, that’s good news. That’s down 79. That’s the lowest since 11/30, which is basically Thanksgiving. So we are fully back at this point before the holiday surge. ICU down 18, intubations down 16. Positivity continues to decline. You look at where we are now at 3.04, it’s a long way from January 4th so that is good news statewide. Hospitalizations also continue to decline, and that’s also very good news. Again, the positivity across the state varies and it varies widely, and we have some of the lowest and we have some of the highest. Western New York is again, one of the highest positivities in the state.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (42:32)
Now I want to speak to that in a moment, but if you look at Western New York at 4.9 and then look at the Southern tier at 0.8 and ask yourself why? Why? Why is the Southern tier 0.8 and Western New York 4.93? Mohawk Valley, 2. Central New York, 1.4. Capitol region, 2.3. New York City, 3.2. Western New York, the positivity has gone up and down, but recently we have seen an increase and it is concerning. Western New York, we’ve seen again in hospitalizations up and down, but we have seen an increase and again, it’s concerning. Our vaccination efforts are going very well. We are dependent on the supply from the federal government, but we have literally hundreds of vaccination distribution sites. We’re spending millions of dollars on vaccinations and public education about vaccinations. As you know, it’s now just a race between the rate of infection of COVID, the spread of COVID and the number of vaccinations.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (44:10)
That’s what this is. There are two lines. One line is the rate of increase of COVID, possible variants of COVID. The second is how many vaccinations are we getting in arms. To Western New York, where the numbers are dramatically different than other parts of the state I want to make it especially clear that it is the actions of a community that matter, actions of an individual, actions of individuals and then as a collective actions of that community. It is a function of human behavior, it is that simple. As complicated as COVID is, is as simple as COVID is, it’s a virus and we know how the virus spreads. So it’s a question of your behavior and your precautions. The more precautions you take, the fewer people get infected. The less precautions, the more. So we’re at a point now where everyone knows the facts, we’ve communicated all the information that we can communicate.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (45:37)
We’ve besieged people to take it seriously, but it is now up to you. It’s up to you as an individual, you as a family, you as a community. What is going to happen in Western New York over the next several months? We want to get back to life as normal. We want to get back to going to Buffalo Bills games and Saber games and picnics and school as we knew it and socializing as we know it, it’s going to be a function of what we do between now and then. It is that simple. It’s going to be a function of how many vaccinations we take. I do believe that there is a civic and community duty for individuals to take a vaccine.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (46:34)
No one can be safe unless everyone is safe. And I do believe that no person really has the moral right to transmit COVID. You can say, I have a legal, right. I don’t have to get a vaccine. That’s true. But ask yourself, do you have the moral, right? Do you have the social right to infect other people? Some people are healthier than others, some people are younger than others and they say, “Well, I don’t have to take it.” I understand that. But you could infect someone who winds up dying. Some people say, “Well, I don’t want to be a scientific experiment.” 12 million doses in the state of New York, 12 million. No one’s asking you to go first. 12 million people have taken doses. We have international experience on Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson, which they paused was one of the acts of hyper caution, six people out of 6 million people had a bad reaction. That’s one in 1 million, you have a greater chance of getting infected by COVID and dying from COVID then even with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (48:18)
So those are the facts. And I would urge people to know the facts and to respond to the facts. Those who say, well, I look at numbers, I look at facts, I look at statistics, I look at logic they all point in one direction. And this should be a decision that is made logically and intelligently and not politically or emotionally. There is a reason why Western New York is higher than the rest of the state and that reason is communal behavior. We got the number down once because Western New York was at a high point once before. We got the number down once we can get the number down again, we just have to choose to do it. With that, let’s take some questions.
To ask a question, please use the raise hand function at the bottom of your window. We’ll take a brief moment to compile the Q and A roster. Governor your first question comes from Jonathan Epstein of the Buffalo News. Jonathan, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Jonathon Epstein: (49:45)
Thank you. Governor, can you hear me?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (49:47)
Yes, sir. Jonathan.
Jonathon Epstein: (49:49)
Okay. I wanted to ask about from earlier a little more about the fund for the students. How big is that fund going to be? And what exactly is it going to provide for those students or those people who fit the low income category? And do you expect pushback from companies on all the broadband issue?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (50:13)
Two things. One the law says if you are a low income family… And low income family is defined in the law basically by eligibility to other programs that determine low income. If you are a low income family, the company cannot charge you more than $15 per month. That is the law. Do I expect pushback from the companies? Yes. The companies are not happy with me and they’re not happy with the law. Why? Because they will make less profit. I understand that. This is a franchise that they have in the state of New York. And I take a different posture against these big corporations than they’re accustomed to, utility companies, et cetera. They don’t have a God-given right to be a provider in New York State. There are many utility companies that would do business in New York State. There are many telephone companies.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (51:23)
There are many internet companies that would like to do business in New York State. What we’re asking as a state and what we’re demanding as a state is it has to be fair and internet service is now an essential service. It is what the telephone was 50 years ago, you needed a telephone to call a doctor. You needed a telephone to call the police. Now you need a broadband service if you’re going to be able to get an education, if you’re going to be able to access information, if you’re going to be able to access government services, talk to your family, socialize. So the law says for low income families as defined in the law, $15 per month total fee. Not, and then taxes, and then this surcharge and this surcharge. And yes, that will limit the profit of some of these big corporations. But trust me, they’re not going to starve.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (52:36)
There’s a second provision that says for families that can’t afford the $15, which is a relatively modest sum, but there’ll be families that can’t even afford the $15. For those families, there’s a separate effort, Connected New York, which is to connect the students with remote learning, especially during this COVID period over the next year where if you don’t have broadband, you don’t have remote learning, which means you’re basically losing a school year. And that program will fund 50,000 students for one year who can’t afford the $15 a month so they can access remote learning until we get back to in-class learning. Next question, operator.
Governor your next question comes from Karina Gerry at WUTR. Karina, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Karina Gerry: (53:52)
Hi governor, how are you?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (53:54)
How are you doing Karina?
Karina Gerry: (53:56)
I’m good. I’m good.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (53:57)
Do you have your-
Karina Gerry: (53:58)
So I wanted to speak… Yes?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (53:59)
Do you have your New York State Clean sanitizer?
Karina Gerry: (54:04)
I actually do. Yes.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:06)
Karina Gerry: (54:07)
Yes, I do.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:09)
How remarkable was this product? Maybe I didn’t invent Google, but I did invent New York State Clean hand sanitizer.
Karina Gerry: (54:21)
Yes you did Governor. Congratulations.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:23)
Put that in my eulogy. Go ahead.
Karina Gerry: (54:29)
So here in the Mohawk Valley in Marcy, [inaudible 00:54:32] is near completion. And right now, Danfoss is the only occupant at Quad-C. We hear of expansion from chip manufacturers in the Albany area, like GlobalFoundries. Do you expect that there will be more processing plants coming into the Marcy site? I know we haven’t heard anything from Empire State Development in awhile.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:51)
Yeah. I don’t have a recent update for you, but in theory we have Rob Mujica on the phone or Kelly Cummings on the phone. I would ask them if they have any recent update or we can get you one after this call.
Karina Gerry: (55:11)
Robert Mujica: (55:11)
Governor this Robert. Don’t have a recent update, but we’ll get one from ESD after this.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:16)
Okay, we’ll get one. And we’ll get back to you.
Karina Gerry: (55:19)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:21)
Next question, operator.
Governor your next question comes from Jayne Chacko of WHAM. Jayne your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Jayne Chacko: (55:35)
Hi, good morning, Governor.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:36)
Jayne Chacko: (55:37)
I wanted to ask you about the curfew for restaurants. I know it’s extended to midnight, but many still having issue with that, especially with summer and more events happening. Can they expect it to be extended anytime soon?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:56)
The curfew has been extended to midnight for catering facilities to 1:00 AM. Jayne they can expect a logical connection to the progress we make with COVID. There’s no mystery to what we do here. You look at the COVID numbers and the trajectory of the COVID numbers and then we adjust the famous gauge. We either open it when the numbers are going down or we close it when the numbers are going up. If we continue to make progress, then we will continue to relax the regulations. I understand everybody wants to get back to normal. I get it. Nobody wants to get back to normal more than I do, but we’re not back to normal. Right. Look at the numbers in Western New York today, the numbers are down, but we’re not back to normal. So when people say, “Well, we should live life as if we are back to normal.” But we’re not back to normal.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (57:03)
… Are back to normal, but we’re not back to normal. We still have to vaccinate people. We still have people who are hesitant about getting the vaccine. We still see rising rates in some parts of the state. We see rising rates in some parts of the country. We see rising rates on some part of the globe. So you have a tension where people are saying, “I want to be back to normal. I want the anxiety to stop. I want the fear to stop. I want the isolation to stop. I want the mask wearing to stop. I want things back the way they were.” Yes, yes. I want the stress to stop. Yes, but we’re not back to where we were and if we act prematurely, we will make this situation worse and prolong it. That’s where we are. Next question, operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Dave Evans of WABC. Dave, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Dave Evans: (58:21)
Hey governor, can you hear me?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (58:22)
Dave Evans? How are you, friend?
Dave Evans: (58:25)
Good, good. Good to see you, governor. Hey, I wanted to ask you, just a followup to the question that you just got about the bars and restaurants. I know it’s going to be a little bit better here, starting on Monday, but we still have the rules where you have to sit down, you can’t walk around in a bar, they’ll be closing at midnight. But then we see, for example, the casino in Queens open till five o’clock in the morning. Folks here need a break, what can they hope for?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (58:53)
Well Dave, I hear you. We need a break. We all need a break. The question is, how do we get a break? We have loosened the restrictions dramatically, right? All across the board. The number of people in restaurants, the curfew in restaurants, arts are reopening, museums are reopening and increasing capacity. The city is reopening and things are getting back to normal.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (59:33)
I understand what you’re saying, Dave. People are saying, “Well, it’s the summer, it’s been the year from hell, and we want to be back to normal today.” But Dave, we’re not back to normal. That’s the problem. And we still have a lurking risk. And if we don’t act intelligently, that number will go up, and then you’re going to have to tighten restrictions. So we are in the last quarter, we have to get people vaccinated. We have to maintain discipline on the restrictions, and let’s crush COVID before a variant kicks in, before anything else happens. And that’s how we get back to normal, by getting back to normal.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:00:33)
And it would be irresponsible and reckless to say to a patient who wasn’t fully recovered, go out and live a normal life. That would be irresponsible by a doctor. The doctor would say, “You’re not at a hundred percent. Don’t push yourself, relax, stay home. Don’t expose yourself.” And the patient of New York State is not back to 100%. We haven’t beaten the virus yet. And that’s why I keep saying don’t get cocky. New Yorkers understand what that means. But I also get the frustration, and I believe our calibration of the reduction in restrictions, and the progress on COVID has been correct. I don’t think we’ve been overly restrictive. I don’t think we’ve been overly permissive. And that’s the calibration that we weigh every day. Operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Ed Drantch of WKBW. Ed, your line is now open, please unmute your microphone.
Ed Drantch: (01:01:52)
Governor, good afternoon to you or good morning, rather. We heard you a couple of days ago addressed the vaccine issue at Highmark Stadium with the Buffalo Bills. After you said that you think that the county executive may have overstepped his bounds, a spokesperson for the county said essentially that they can do what they want because it’s on county property. So where do you stand at this point about getting Buffalo Bills fans back into Highmark Stadium?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:02:23)
Yeah, I don’t want to get into a legal, this is not a legal question. Legally, whether it’s county property, or city property, or private property, doesn’t matter, the state has to approve the regulation. But that’s neither here nor there. The question is, what should the intelligent regulation be when the season reopens? The county executives’ suggestion is everybody should be vaccinated, and then we can have 100%. That is a theoretical possibility. Hopefully, that is not only a possibility, but a probability. If people still take the vaccine, if there’s not a variant of interest, if the infection rate, which is now going up, stops going up and becomes under control.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:03:34)
But my basic point is, I’m not going to try to guess what’s going to happen months from now, and what should the best policy be months from now. We’ll find out the facts at that time and we’ll make a determination on the facts. But months are a lifetime here. A few months ago, Western New York, the infection rate was way down. A few months before that, it was way up. So it was up, down, it’s up again. What’s it going to be in a few months? It depends on what we do in Western New York. And you make the decision with the facts when you have them.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:04:19)
But it’s not a legal question. I have a good relationship with the county executive, we both want to do the same thing. We’re working together on the vaccinations, et cetera. I think his recommendation is plausible. I said my position is premature to try to determine what’s a smart policy in a few months, because you don’t know the facts.
Ed Drantch: (01:04:45)
Can I just follow up, if I may? We have been used essentially as Buffalo as an example for the rest of the state in getting back to bigger events in terms of the testing before the Bills’ playoffs games at home. So could that be a possibility that we see before the start of next season, these mass testing clinics so that we can prove that we’re COVID negative, if not for a vaccine?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:05:15)
Yeah. Oh yeah. That would be one of the discussion points, right? If you said, “Well, I had to be vaccinated,” I would say, “Well, I don’t want to be vaccinated, but I will take a test before I walk in. And if I’m negative, why can’t I go to the game?” Right? That would be one of the discussion points when we get to that decision. So all I’m saying is I understand the point. I understand the suggestion. I’m not rejecting the suggestion. It’s a theoretical possibility. There are other possibilities. What we did before with testing, there’s a combination of vaccination and testing that we’re doing right now for events, you can either have been vaccinated or test a rapid test within a certain period of time, or a PCR test within a certain period of time. So there are a variety of models that can be deployed once we know the facts. Let’s take one more, please operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Marcia Kramer of WCBS. Your line is now open, please unmute your microphone.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:06:45)
Marcia Kramer, do you have your New York State Clean hand sanitizer?
Marcia Kramer: (01:06:49)
I do not, but I have a whole bunch of other sanitizers.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:06:53)
Oh, but this is better.
Marcia Kramer: (01:06:54)
In what way, governor? Why is your invention better than the other hand sanitizers?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:07:03)
Because my hand sanitizer has two advantages, well, really three advantages. Number one, my hand sanitizer has a higher percentage of alcohol than most other hand sanitizers. And the key ingredient for the effectiveness of the hand sanitizer is the percentage of alcohol. Second, my hand sanitizer has a special scent that also clears the sinus passages. So you’re not only sanitizing your hands, you’re also clearing your sinus passages at the same time. Third, mine is free, which is also better.
Marcia Kramer: (01:07:57)
Governor, I actually have two questions for you. The first one is pretty simple. I just wondered how many people will be able to get this $15 internet. And my second question has to do with gun violence. In New York City, it seems to continue unabated. And I know you’ve asked for police reform plans from New York City, which I don’t think includes a plan for dealing with gun violence. I wonder if you would accept their reform plan, even though it doesn’t have a plan for dealing with gun violence and what should you do to stop the killing?
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:08:32)
Yeah. Marcia, a very good question. First, on the $15, it applies to all low-income families. There is no cap, all low income families as defined by the law, can only be charged $15. It’s a first in the nation, and it is statewide, and it is massive in its benefit. Any family that is a low-income family, must be offered a $15 high-speed internet package, total expense.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:09:13)
Second, when you look at these attacks across the nation, which are terrible, I want to applaud New Yorkers, Marcia, because you remember this. We passed the SAFE Act in New York, and it was hard, and it was controversial. We banned assault weapons, and it was the best gun control law in the United States of America. We took a lot of heat for doing that. Some legislators I believe, lost their seat for doing that. I still have continued political opposition because of it. I don’t know how anybody can now look around this nation and everything that has happened over the past few years, and not say we were so right to pass the SAFE Act, ban assault weapons, limit purchasing requirements, et cetera. That was really, I think a piece of legislation that was visionary. And I believe that it’s saved lives here in the State of New York.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:10:36)
Third point, crime rate in New York City. You are right, it is a major problem. I’m going to speak more to it next week, by the way. So I don’t want to say too much today, but we did something in this state that no other state did. We have the most aggressive reform plan in the United States. And what we did was, we said every locality that has a police department, 497 or so in the state, had to pass a collaborative police reform plan by the city council, or they wouldn’t get any money or they’d get a monitor. I’ll give the full report next week, but the vast majority have done it. New York City passed the reform plan, the council passed the reform plan. So that’s a first step.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:11:35)
But the question for New York City is, is it enough, and is the reform plan enough? And that’s what we’ll speak to next week. Because if you want all this re-imagine, rebuild, renew, bring the economy back. Dave’s question about open bars, open restaurants, open museums. You’re not going to see New York City come back until people believe New York City is safe. You are not going to see the New York City economy rebound until people believe the New York City area is safe. And the gun crimes and the increase in crime is frightening people. I hear about it all the time. And the question is, is that police reform plan enough? And that’s a discussion we’ll turn to next week. I’m going to see you next week. I’m going to bring you the purse size, New York State Clean, pocket size, purse size, briefcase size, because I want you to have this. Have a good weekend in the meantime, everyone.