Apr 23, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 23
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 23, 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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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Today, don’t forget, statewide, we go to walk-in, no appointments for 60-year old plus. We want to maximize the vaccines for people who are older. They’re most at risk for the COVID if they get it for potential bad consequences. So walk-in for 60 plus, and we’re excited about that. Let me give you a quick update on the numbers on COVID for today, and then I’ll acknowledge our guests who are here. Positivity rate in the State of New York today, 2.03%. That’s very low. That’s very good news. Lowest positivity rate since November 5th, lower than the rate we had yesterday, so that’s headed in the right direction. 3,300 people hospitalized, that’s down. The number of people in ICU is down. The number of people intubated is down.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:07)
By region across the state, which I say three times a week, but it is something that has to pay attention, the variety, the variation, the range of positivity across the state, is something that people have to take seriously. We have some parts of the state with four times the positivity of other parts of the state. How can that be? It’s the same state, same message, same resources. But Western New York, 4.2%; Finger Lakes, 2.9; Mid-Hudson, 2.7; Long Island, 2.5; New York City, 2.5; Capital Region, 1.9; Central New York, 1.5; Mohawk Valley, 1.5; North Country, 1.4; Southern Tier, 0.8. Congratulations Southern Tier. Statewide, 2.45.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:59)
Here in the City of New York today: Staten Island, 3.3, highest in the city; Brooklyn, 2.9; Queens, 2.9; Bronx, 2.5; Manhattan, 1.6. In New York City, seven-day average positivity, 2.5, which is the lowest since November 26th, and 1600 patients hospitalized, lowest since the December 9th. So people hear that, and they say, ” Great news, great news. Great news.” Yes, but it’s not over. Don’t get cocky with COVID. It’s not over. 45 people died yesterday. So remember, it’s not over, but we are headed in the right direction, and we do have the tools to actually make a difference.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:58)
You’re going to hear from some special guests today. After I speak, you’ll hear from Radhames Rodriguez, who is the president of United Bodegas of America. You’ll then hear from Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez who’s the president and CEO of Urban Health and a member of our Vaccine Equity Task Force. She is a legend what she has done in healthcare in the community, and we’re honored to have her. Stuart Appelbaum, who’s the president of the RWDSU, one of the great progressive labor leaders in the State of New York and has been extraordinarily helpful all through COVID. We’re also joined by Dr. Debbie Almontaser, who’s the executive director of the Yemeni American Merchants Association. She is an internationally and nationally noted speaker and expert on diversity. And you’ll hear from Assemblywoman Inez Dickens, who is going to close out the show for us. So after I speak, Radhames, Paloma, Stuart, and then Inez.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:13)
Let me make a couple of points if I can today. First, it’s a pleasure to be with food workers and bodega owners. The Cuomo family was started in a bodega before we really called them bodegas. My grandfather, my father’s father, Andrea Cuomo, I’m named for him, Andrew Cuomo, had a little grocery store in South Jamaica, Queens. That’s what he did. That’s where my father was born. They lived behind the store. And it was a small neighborhood grocery store/delicatessen, but it wasn’t fancy enough really to be a delicatessen, so it was just a small neighborhood grocery store. The Cuomo family trajectory starts in South Jamaica, Queens winds up in Hollis, Queens. So the three generations made it about two miles.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:16)
My grandfather and I were very close. He lived just down the block, and I spent a lot of time with him because my father was very busy. And later in his life, my grandfather loved to tell the same story repeatedly, which is what tends to happen. But he told the story about running the store during the Great Depression. That’s what he would keep talking about. He’d go back to that. And nobody had any money, so they would come into the store for food and he would give them what he called credit. He’d give them food on credit. And I said, “But grandpa, nobody was working. It was the Depression. They had no credit because they had no work. There was no job. How do you call it credit, because they couldn’t pay back?” And he said, “I know, I know, but people have to eat. People have to eat.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:17)
He did it to such an extent that he was on the verge of bankruptcy with his store because he couldn’t pay his bills because there was no income that was coming in. ” What could I do? People had to eat. They had to feed their children. They had to feed their families.” To him, it was just an article of faith. You did what you had to do at a time of crisis because it was the right thing to do. “Well, it could hurt you. You could have gone bankrupt.” But it was not a factor. You did the right thing, the right thing. There was no law in the state that says, this is the right thing. The right thing, you feel here. “What could I do? People had to eat. They had to feed families.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:14)
We hit the COVID crisis. Bodega owners, food workers show up, open the store, run the store. COVID, what are the precautions? We were just speaking backstage. Nobody knew, but you showed up for work. Delivery people showed up, and made the deliveries, and people opened their doors, and they exchanged money and credit cards. Why did they do this? Because people had to eat. People had to eat, and it was the right thing to do. But maybe you put yourself in danger. Radhames and all his associates are running a store. People are going in and out. You’re stocking shelves. You’re talking to people. Why? Why put yourself in this danger? Because it was the right thing to do. Well, who told you you had to do it? Nobody, nobody. Nobody could order somebody to go to work at that time. People did it because it was the right thing to do.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:32)
Stuart Appelbaum is here. We had the first meeting yesterday of a memorial committee because we want to do a memorial to the heroes of COVID, heroes of COVID. What was a hero of COVID? I had to get up before the people in the State of New York during COVID, and I had to say two things and it bothers me to this day. First I had to say, “Everybody stay home. Close the schools. Close the businesses. Everything closes. You have to stay home to stay safe. Remote learning, work from your house. Keep the kids inside. Everybody stays home.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:22)
Second thing, “Not you, the essential workers. Oh, you essential workers, you should go to work tomorrow. You nurses, you have to go. You doctors, you have to go. You hospital staff, you have to go. You teacher, you have to go. You bus driver, you have to go. You train operator, you have to go. You policeman, you have to go. You firefighter, you have to go. You delivery worker, you have to go. You bodega operator, we need you to go.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:02)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:08)
“Because people have to eat. Because we need you to drive the bus because that people have to be able to get to the grocery store. We need the delivery people to deliver the foods. You have to go.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:24)
“Well, Governor, how can you say both things? How can you say it’s dangerous, stay home and be safe, but then on the other hand, say the essential workers have to show up for work? Why do some people have to put themselves in danger so other people can stay home safe? How’s that fair? Is there a law that says that, Governor?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:53)
“No, no. There’s no law. I’m asking you please essential workers, please go to work because we need you so others can stay home.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:12)
And they did. And they did. And they didn’t say, “I want more money. I want this.” They just did the right thing. They’re heroes. They’re heroes. My grandfather was a hero to me for what he did during the Great Depression. The essential workers are heroes. And the truth is they were essential every day. They’re the hard-working women and men who make this whole place work. It’s not the fancy bankers. It’s not the fancy lawyers. It’s the hard-working blue-collar women and men who show up every day, the essential workers. They are essential-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:03)
… and men show up every day, the essential workers, they are essential for us all. So we’re going to do a Memorial to them, to thank them for COVID, and food workers will be part of that. But it’s not just to thank them for COVID, and that’s what I was trying to explain to Stuart and the commission. It’s to honor the working men and women of the State of New York, who do it day in and day out. Not because they get paid a lot of money and they worked a lot of hours under dangerous conditions, because they do it out of their honor and their duty and their pride and their tradition. Because that’s who they are. Many are new immigrants, and they’re proud to be here and they want to do their part to be Americans. God bless America. Now, life is reciprocal. We say thank you to the essential workers, but also show thank you in your actions. Not just your words, the door swings both ways in the relationship of life. So we have the vaccine and we’re getting out the vaccine and it’s important that everyone gets the vaccine, but it’s important that everybody gets the vaccine equitably and fairly. And just saying, “We have a vaccine available,” isn’t enough. Because, people who have a hospital, people who have a doctor, people who have access, they can get that vaccine like this. People who know how to work that internet, they figured out how to get the appointment.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:57)
But how about if you had to go to work every day? How about if it wasn’t that easy for you? Then you’re going to see a lag in the vaccine. We see a lag in the vaccine, it’s in the numbers. Black community in New York City, 27% of the population. Well then they should be 27% of the vaccine, right? They’re only 19% of the vaccines. That’s not fair.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:27)
Latino community, 28% of the population. Well then they should be 28% of the vaccines. There are only 24% of the vaccines. Well, that’s not fair. That’s not equitable and we have to do something about that. “Well, there’s vaccine hesitancy.” Yes, that’s part of it. “I’m nervous about a vaccine, who knows?” Now, every major medical professional has said it’s safe, but hesitancy is part of it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:59)
Part of it is people, especially new immigrants, new Americans, new arrivals are not that quick to go to a government sponsored facility to get a vaccine. Why? “I don’t want to go to government and answer a lot of questions.” Well, government is here to help. “No, no, no, no. Government did not here to help me. I may be undocumented. I’m not so quick to walk in to a government sponsored facility.” Okay. We’ll make it easier. We’ll bring the vaccine to you. We’ll bring the vaccine to you through somebody you trust.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:54)
We’ll bring the vaccine to you through not-for-profit community- based health providers who you feel comfortable dealing with because you have a relationship with them. Government won’t even show up and we’ll make it available to you where you work. We will bring it to the grocery stores where you work to make it easy. And walk up, you don’t even need an appointment. We’ll bring it to the grocery stores, to the Latino community, to the Black community, through community health providers. And you just walk up and take it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:49)
SOMOS, which is a phenomenal health care provider that has done great work all across this state, all across this nation, by the way, is going to be doing grocery stores in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and right here at the mission society in Harlem. Paloma at Urban Health is going to be doing the Bronx, and they will be making vaccines available for grocery store workers, for delivery workers in the grocery stores on a walk-up basis.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:25)
We want to make it easy. We want to make sure they’re safe. We want to make sure the people they’re dealing with are safe. We want to make sure the delivery workers are safe. We want to get those vaccinations up because that’s what works for everyone. When do we beat COVID? When we hit herd immunity. That’s when we you’d beat COVID. That means, when we all together as a community decide that we’re going to get this vaccine done and we’re going to crush COVID. And that’s what we’re working on every way possible.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
It also says we need individuals to participate. I talk to people all day long, they say, “Well, I’m not sure that I want, I’m worried, I don’t like needles, I am strong, I’m a superhero, I’m 27 years old, nothing can hurt me. Strong, like bull.” Yeah. It’s not just about you, by the way. It’s not just about you. Sometimes in life it’s not about you, it’s about us. And you have a responsibility as a citizen, because you contact me and then I contact other people, and we are not living on a desert island.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:49)
It’s called New York State. A lot of people in a small place. We all get on a bus. We all get on the train. We all walked down the sidewalk. If I’m infected, I infect you, I infect you, I infect you. I have a responsibility to you and we have a responsibility to each other. That’s community. That’s the connection. My father used to say it nice and simple, “We’re a family, the family of New York,” he used to call it. We’re an extended family. Just think of family and how you treat a family and how you relate to a family, we’re the family of New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:27)
A member of the family has a virus, that member of the family takes precautions to protect the family. And that’s what we’re saying today. And that is our spirit and our ethic and our relationship. [Spanish 00:19:55] And that’s how we act. And with this vaccine, there are no more excuses. No mas excusas, No mas excusas. We aren’t going to bring it to you through your local house provider. You take it for your own safety and the safety of the family.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:26)
With that, let me please ask Radames Rodriguez to join us. You’ll then hear from Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez and then stood Stuart Applebaum and then our great Assembly Member, Inez Dickens who is here representing assemblymen Al Taylor and Robert Rodriguez. But before we do that, we’re going to show you an advertisement that we are going to run today that helps communicate this message a little bit better than I did. But it lends itself the “No mas Excusas” campaign. Please run the ad.
[foreign language 00:21:52].
Radames Rodriguez: (21:52)
Hello everyone. Thank you, Mr. Government, for inviting us to here today. On behalf of United Bodegas of America, my name is Radames Rodriguez. And I have to thank my partners [inaudible 00:22:11] Mr. [inaudible 00:22:13] Nunez, owners of the Bodega Supermaket; [inaudible 00:22:20] owner; [inaudible 00:22:21] Financial Director of the United Bodegas of America; Jose [inaudible 00:22:27] owner and member of the United Bodegas of America; Luis Ducasse, Executive Director of the United Bodegas of America; Randy Gonzales, owner of a Bodega and member of the United Bodegas of America in Brooklyn; Carlos Herrera, General Secretary of United Bodegas of America; Maria Ortiz, Operation Manager of the United Bodegas of America; Jose [inaudible 00:22:55] member [inaudible 00:22:56] owners; and [inaudible 00:23:03] coordinator of the woman and the United Bodegas of America and [inaudible 00:23:08] And thank you, all of them, for being here with me.
Radames Rodriguez: (23:18)
It’s an honor to be here today, representing the United Bodegas of America. We went through a lot of challenges, representing the grocery store supermarkets and across New York City. The United Bodegas of America representing about 14,000 Bodegas and employees only a New York. Bodegas is very important for New Yorker’s daily life. We are essential business-
Radames Rodriguez: (24:03)
… daily life. We are essential business during the worst day on the pandemic are hardworking men on the line and the line [inaudible 00:24:19] we are. That’s why I am so enthusiastic about this new targeted approach to reach out to all the bodegas, owners, employees, families and all the community, to make sure that they have the vaccine. Government, you’re the one who say [inaudible 00:24:54] is required, you give the help first to the community that needs us most. Our community and our employee, we serve this community and we need the vaccine to everyone to protect our family and to protect our community. All this year, it was very difficult for us in New York with this pandemic because we put our life in danger as we have to protect our customers. And I believe that we have the opportunity to finish with this COVID-19 and we need everybody to be vaccinated.
Radames Rodriguez: (25:49)
Otherwise, we’re not going to get normal like we used to be. So I’m very happy and I go to every bodega, every owner to a bodega, all the family, all the employees to please get vaccinated. Many other countries wanted to be vaccinated. They wanted to be vaccinated and they don’t have the opportunity that we have. So we thank Mr. governor to have the opportunity for every New Yorkers have the vaccine, and we want everybody to get it. And so we take over this problem that we have. Thank you very much.
Paloma Hernandez: (26:44)
Good afternoon. And thank you governor for being here today. It really is an honor for me to be here and like I said to the governor, when I first saw him today, thank you for your extraordinary leadership. During those very, very difficult first days of COVID, it was your strength and just your resilience that kept so many going. So thank you, thank you, thank you. And I just want to share that, like the governor, my grandfather from Puerto Rico started in east Harlem as a bodega as well. And it was through his hard efforts that we are here today. And so it’s just interesting how life has its circular ways of coming back, right? So I’m honored to be here representing Urban Health Plan. I’m Paloma Hernandez, I’m the CEO and president of Urban Health. And in a broader sense, I’m here representing all the healthcare professionals who have fought so valiantly over the past 13 months or so. The last year has been painful for everyone.
Paloma Hernandez: (27:48)
As someone who works in healthcare and as someone who works in their own home turf, the Bronx, Corona, and Central Harlem, this is something I’ve seen and felt up close and personally. But the pandemic hit some communities harder than others. Many of ours were those. The governor knows this, and he knows that the inequities highlighted by the pandemic existed long before COVID arrived in New York State, so he took action. Governor Cuomo and the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force have gone to great lengths to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective. And that is an extra layer that did not have to be done, but the governor was committed to doing that. The governor also created the State Vaccine Equity Task Force, of which I have the privilege of serving on, to make sure that we get access to the vaccine to all who need it. And the governor brought vaccines directly into our communities and to communities all over the state, through pop-up sites at churches and community centers.
Paloma Hernandez: (28:52)
Now he is making sure the vaccine is easily accessible for our another essential population. My grandfather would be very proud. Our grocery and bodega workers are people so vital to our communities. I know firsthand. I see them. I visit them every day, how access to good food changes health outcomes. And we’ve worked with them just to do exactly that. These are people whose faces we see every day in our communities. They are pillars of our neighborhoods. They nourish our bodies and our souls.
Paloma Hernandez: (29:25)
Their work helps us survive and flourish. Let’s make sure we do the same for them. The ability for these grocery and bodega workers to schedule an appointment or walk into a pop-up near their place of work, gives them much needed access to the weapon that will end the war on COVID. We are grateful to have the following: these five new pop-up sites opening across the city in all the boroughs, Manhattan we’ll start this weekend. SOMOs, a great friend organization will open and operate the sites outside of the Bronx, and Urban Health Plan will utilize our existing facility in the Bronx starting Monday, April 26th. So again, thank you governor for your leadership over the course of the pandemic, your commitment to equity, and we welcome and encourage everybody to get vaccinated. That is the only way out of this mess. Thank you.
Stuart Applebaum: (30:32)
Good morning, everybody. I’m Stuart Applebaum. I’m president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. Governor what you said this morning and what you’re doing are so important, and I want to thank you. You have consistently supported the members of my union throughout this pandemic, often when they couldn’t find support anywhere else. The members of my union work in a number of jobs that are considered essential. Many of them work in supermarkets and grocery stores. They went to work every day throughout the pandemic, despite the extraordinary fear they had. And if they had not, none of us would have been able to survive. Society would not have been able to survive. We understand that they are essential. They were essential before the pandemic, they are going to be essential after the pandemic.
Stuart Applebaum: (31:44)
All too long, they were invisible and the work they did was under appreciated. And that’s why I thought it was so important yesterday when the commission met, because while we are honoring the essential workers in New York, we are doing something else. We are also saying when the pandemic is long gone, that the work these people do is always essential and honorable and each and every one of them should get the respect they deserve. We also know that the way we end this pandemic is through vaccination. That’s the message the governor tells us every day. It’s a shame that our former president didn’t tell us that, but the governor gets it right. Everyone needs to be vaccinated. And I am urging all the members of my union and all working people to get this vaccine. Do it not just for your sake, do it for everybody’s sake. We all need to be vaccinated. And these five new pop-ups sites opening across the city in all five boroughs is going to be crucial for that effort. With this vaccine, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the vaccine only works if each of us gets it in our arms. Governor, thank you for your leadership. It is appreciated. Thank you.
Inez Dickens: (34:08)
Good morning. Good morning.
Speaker 1: (34:10)
Inez Dickens: (34:11)
I want to first acknowledge Mission Society and [MSINC 00:34:16] because they have rolled up their sleeves, New York tough, opened their doors to see to it that our bodegas, their members, their owners will all be able to get vaccinated in their communities. So thank you, Governor Cuomo. Thank you for bringing us here today. I also just want to say thank you for your leadership during this entire crisis.
Inez Dickens: (34:46)
A lot of other people would have buckled under the pressure or shied away from addressing the injustices COVID exposed in our healthcare system, but not you, my man, not you. Governor, you have called out those injustices and you addressed them head on. Today and so many days in the last few months, you delivered real solutions. You were concerned that grocery and bodega workers, many of whom from black and brown communities would be overlooked when it came to vaccine accessibility, And that’s the truth. I grew up not too far from here. I represented this community first in the city council, and now in the New York State Assembly. Bodegas were a big part of my life and they still are. They’re part of the lives of most of us in this community. Not only can you get your food and other necessities, but in some ways, they are an informal community center. They are part of the fabric of our communities, the folks who work at bodegas and the-
Inez Dickens: (36:03)
The folks who work at bodegas and the grocery stores have provided vital lifelines during the pandemic. I’m so thankful that we all are now recognizing that, and that we’re acting upon it. You’re bringing the vaccine to our heroic workers, right to the communities where they work, and you have fought to make sure that we have sufficient vaccines. Now we just need people to get the vaccinations. Vaccines don’t do any good for people if they don’t get it in their arms. I have been relentless in working with community leaders to let people know that these vaccines are safe, that we should take the vaccine, whichever one we are offered. I admire that you waited until you were technically eligible to get the vaccine before getting it last month just down the street at Mount Nebo.
Inez Dickens: (37:07)
You didn’t have to wait four months to get your shot. As Governor, you are essential as they come. You waited until others were eligible. I admire that about you, sir. You are a man of your word. When you say you will do something, you do it. I want to ask my two colleagues, [inaudible 00:37:33], and Bobby Rodriguez to stand with me, because in unity, there is strength. We had Council Member Bill Perkins here, and we stand with you. Today’s announcements will give hope to our hardworking grocery and bodega workers. They have sacrificed so much in the last year so that we could have food and necessities. And I for one, will be forever grateful to them. Five new popup sites across all five boroughs, Manhattan starts this weekend. United Health Plan will use their facility for the popup in the Bronx, and SOMOS, give it up for SOMOS, will operate the popups in the other four boroughs. All five new popups will allow walk-ins for bodegas and grocery workers.
Inez Dickens: (38:28)
Anyone whose eligible should get an appointment and get the shot. It’s the only way we can stop this crisis. So thank you, Governor, thank you for leading this State through one of its darkest hours. When I speak to people in other States across this great nation, as far as Oklahoma, where my family comes from, they applaud you. They stand up for you. They’re very pleased and wish they had had your leadership in their States. But the sun is rising on a new day. We will come out stronger thanks to your leadership. But something on a personal note, this community stands with you.
Inez Dickens: (39:15)
This community, you are working now the hardest, in the toughest time of your life, you’re working hard for our communities. As a Black woman, I know what it is to go without. I’ve seen my communities, the Black and Brown communities to not have the availability of due process, and the verdict that came out the day before yesterday was not justice, because the man is dead. Due process is what’s necessary. We must never forget this is America, and due process is what we expect, what we want, and what we will always demand from this country. So thank you.
Governor Cuomo: (40:06)
I just love to listen to Inez Dickens. She is such a powerful force. She does such a great job for her district, but not just for her district. She is a voice for justice for communities all across the State. Let’s give her another round of applause. And to all our guests and participants, let’s give them a round of applause, please. The Mission Society, for what you’ve done. God bless you. Let’s give them a round of applause. And now we’re going to have a couple of vaccine shots just to show how easy it is. Are you ready?
Speaker 2: (40:58)
Yes, I am.
Governor Cuomo: (40:58)
Now, just to show how easy the vaccine is I’m actually going to administer your vaccine. Yes. To show that it’s that easy. Even a governor can do it. That’s how easy it is. Yeah, whatever. That’s a different level of trust.
Speaker 2: (42:18)
[inaudible 00:42:18]. That’s it?
Governor Cuomo: (42:18)
How was it?
Speaker 2: (42:18)
Easy. Okay, thank you. Thank you.
Governor Cuomo: (43:13)
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!