Feb 22, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 22
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on February 22, 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 Cuomo: (00:00)
Let me get a list of this if you have it. Everybody assembled, social distance, all that good stuff? Welcome all. Today is a very exciting day. We’re in Medgar Evers today in Brooklyn, New York. It’s light snow falling out, a beautiful New York City day. Let me acknowledge the people who are here today and you’ll then hear from a number of them.
Governor Cuomo: (00:47)
First, I would like to acknowledge the elected officials who are here with us today. We have Assemblymember, Latrice Walker, we have Assemblyman Dilan, we have Assemblyman Nick Perry. You’ll hear from Latrice Walker in a moment. We have with us Reverend Adolphus Lacey, you’ll hear from Reverend Lacey in a moment. Pastor Aker, Reverend David Brawley, Bishop Dr. Ismael Claudio, Reverend Al Cockfield II, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Reverend Rashad Raymond Moore. This is an exciting day. This is the largest vaccination site in the State of New York.
Governor Cuomo: (01:35)
This vaccination site can do 3000 vaccines per day, 21,000 vaccines per week, so it really is extraordinary. It’s a joint effort between the state and the federal government. Bob Fenton is here, who’s the head lead for FEMA and this is going to be staffed jointly by the federal government and the state government. You’ll actually have federal officials here who were doing the administration of the vaccine, the National Guard which you see here today setting up. They’re going to help administer the actual site, the site will open for operation this Wednesday. So today they’re all preparing for it and we thank them all very much for their good work.
Governor Cuomo: (02:24)
The National Guard is just phenomenal. Whatever it is they come from all over the state, they drop everything and they show up. You have National Guard here from all over the state. And whether it’s a snow storm, a hurricane, a flood, Superstorm Sandy, COVID, whatever it is, they’re always there and we want to thank them. Let’s give them a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (02:48)
We also have from the New York City Council the Majority Leader, Laurie Cumbo and we want to thank her very much for her assistance in getting this set up today. And the MTA officials, Pat Foye, who is the chairman and Sarah Feinberg, who runs the Transit Authority. Part of this site is going to offer special transportation from the MTA so people can get to this site. The main point of this site and everything we’re doing is this, the vaccine is the weapon that will win the war we know that. The vaccine is coming. There are three obstacles, number one, the supply of the vaccine.
Governor Cuomo: (03:43)
This nation does not have enough supply of the vaccine, period. When President Biden walked into office the cupboard was basically bare and the federal government had not procured enough vaccination from Pfizer, Moderna, et cetera, so we have more Americans searching the vaccine than we actually have the vaccine. In New York State 10 million people are eligible, 10 million. Nursing homes, first responders, essential workers, 65 plus, that is 10 million people.
Governor Cuomo: (04:28)
We only get 300,000 doses per week. That’s the problem we now have. It’s not a problem just in New York, it’s a problem in every state in the nation. Not enough supply for the number of people who need the vaccine. The federal government understands it, they’ve been increasing the supply week-to-week. The president announced the last week by the end of July there’ll be enough vaccines for all Americans, and that’s great news. We still have to get from today until the end of July but at least the end is in sight, that’s the first issue, is the supply.
Governor Cuomo: (05:15)
The second is making the vaccine accessible and making it accessible in an equitable way. This is the truth about COVID. COVID discriminates, COVID highlighted the injustice and racism in society. It’s not a pleasant statement but it is a true statement. I say that COVID created low tide in America. At high tide when the water is up everything looks nice because all you see is the surface of the water. Low tide, the water goes down and then you see all the ugliness that was on the battle. It didn’t create the ugliness but it showed the ugliness. Low tide in America, COVID showed you the racism, the inequality, the injustice that was just below the surface.
Governor Cuomo: (06:17)
Under COVID blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Just think about that for a second, blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at one and a half times the rate of whites. How shameful? Why? Because blacks, Hispanics, poor communities, did not have the same health service, they had more pre-existing conditions, they had higher infection rates of COVID but less testing. So now we get to the vaccine for COVID. And what we’re saying as a state is we have to be equitable in the administration of the vaccine and we have to correct for the injustice that we just saw perpetrated by COVID.
Governor Cuomo: (07:18)
You have to correct for the fact that twice as many blacks died, you have to correct for the fact that one and a half times as many Hispanics died, and you have to get the vaccine to the community where they are, and that’s what this is all about. Now, not only is this the largest site ever created in the State of New York, it’s special because it recognizes the equity that must be achieved. And this site opens Wednesday, but it has a priority for the surrounding community to make appointments first. So, East New York, Brownsville, Sumner Houses, Broadway Triangle, Ocean Hill, Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights, Bushwick, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Canarsie, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, East Midwood, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill.
Governor Cuomo: (08:22)
These communities have a priority for appointments. They will get the appointments first, all they have to do is call or go to the website or starting Wednesday, step in. If you’re like me and you’re not crazy about doing work on the website, step in, make an appointment and then come back when your appointment is due. But these communities get the priority, use it. Once we get past the week of priority then it will be open to the entire borough of Brooklyn, and that’ll be good news too.
Governor Cuomo: (09:05)
The third obstacle to the vaccine, and I’m glad the electives are here and the pastors are here because they have to help us with this. Is what they call hesitancy. That the black community especially is hesitant to take the vaccine. I don’t like the word hesitancy, it’s an antiseptic word, it doesn’t really express what it is. It’s not that people are hesitant, it’s that people don’t trust the vaccine. It’s a lack of trust. It’s a lack of trust in the system by the black community, because the black community has gotten the short end of the stick by the system many, many, many times.
Governor Cuomo: (09:56)
People will go back to the Tuskegee experiment, they are right. There are reasons to distrust the system. People say to me, “I don’t trust the Trump administration, they approved it.” I don’t trust the Trump administration but we set up a separate panel in New York, the best New York doctors, they approved this vaccine. The top black medical professionals in the United States of America say trust the vaccine it can save your life. We have a base of information.
Governor Cuomo: (10:37)
Nobody is asking you to go first, two million New Yorkers have taken the vaccine over the past two months, two million. And you know what? The results have been great. We have every nursing home resident was offered a vaccine, 75% took it and the results have been great. So there’s a body of science, there’s a body of evidence. And literally this vaccine can save your life and it can save the lives of others. If you get the vaccine you are less likely to spread the virus. Save your own life, save the lives of others.
Governor Cuomo: (11:25)
We’re making it accessible, you’re getting a priority. The MTA is going to set up special bus routes to get people here. You have a priority for the appointment, you can walk in and make an appointment but the vaccine only works if people take it. It only works if there’s a needle in the arm. And asked Nick Perry, your representative in the Assembly, ask Assemblyman Dilan, ask Assemblymember Latrice Walker, “Should I take it? Is it safe?” They will say, yes. Ask the pastors who are here today, “Is it safe? Should I take it?” They will say yes. Ask the top black medical professionals in the United States of America, they’ll say you should take it.
Governor Cuomo: (12:21)
My mother took the vaccine, my mother took the vaccine. She’s in the 65 plus category. She doesn’t like when I say she’s in the 65 plus category, she thinks I’m giving away her age. It’s not really giving away her age, she looks younger than 65. But I am 63. Biologically my mother has to be 65 years old. I do not believe it is a betrayal of my mother’s privacy to suggest that but she does look much, much younger than 65. I would not tell my mother to take the vaccine unless I believed in the vaccine. My daughters will take the vaccine when they are ready. Please, please, please, take the vaccine. I’m going to now turn it over to Assemblymember, Latrice Walker, and then you will hear from Reverend Lacey. Thank you.
Latrice Walker: (13:37)
Greetings, and I want to first acknowledge Assemblymember, Diana Richardson and Senator Myrie whose district we stand in and thank them in their absence for allowing us to be here and will ask council member Cumbo if she would stamp my passport coming from the 55th Assembly District. Thank you so much for being here. I also want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and for all of the respected clergy members who are among us.
Latrice Walker: (14:11)
It’s important to make sure that not only we advocate and deliver the sites of Brooklyn, but that we are also walking hand-in-hand and delivering each and every one of our constituents and the residents of Brooklyn to this very important site. It’s historic, it’s meaningful, we are here at Medgar Evers College, and not only that, it also represents the best of state and federal partnerships and more importantly the focus is on fairness, it’s on equity and it’s on justice.
Latrice Walker: (14:51)
We know that this vaccine will end this crisis. It has already taken so much from communities of color, from our NYCHA residents, from our churches, from our families, especially, especially here in Brooklyn. I encourage residents in the qualifying areas for this site to come down and get the vaccine. As we heard the governor mention, vaccines are essential, but vaccinations save lives. The governor heard our call and he put this vaccine center right here in the heart of our communities, as well as opening up mass transportation to this site. I would like to take the time on behalf of myself, my district, and my colleagues to thank him, FEMA, and all of the essential workers, staff members, and the administration members for hearing our call and for acting on this moment. Thank you.
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (15:58)
Thank you, Governor Cuomo. And I thank the administrator Fenton for bringing these vaccines right to the heart of Brooklyn. Thank you as well to our partnering elected officials who have always fought with this community for this community, especially through crises. It is also my pleasure to be joined by my colleagues, Reverend Al Cockfield, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Pastor Rashad Moore, Pastor David Brawley, Bishop Ismael Claudio, and Pastor Lawrence Aker.
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (16:47)
The last year has been very hard on our community. In the 138-year history of the Bethany Baptist Church, this one will forever stand out for its challenges, losses, and lessons that we faced. But the Book of John tells us, blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him. COVID indeed presented many trials but faith among Brooklyn residents remained steadfast.
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (17:26)
Now, we are stronger today, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership. In our collective action COVID is on the run. It began in May when lines for testing at the Bethany Baptist Church which we set up with the state stretch down the block. It demonstrated the need for resources and people came out to trust the process, but it also showed that COVID was hitting black and Latino New Yorkers harder than other communities.
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (18:00)
We know today that this virus kills black people at a rate twice as high as whites. This virus has demonstrated, has discriminated, but we must not. The foundation of this mass vaccination site is laid on the ideal of equity. It is the recognition that the communities it will target over the next week represent a vast healthcare desert, and these residents are wary of this vaccine. We see that in the numbers, so far as 6.1% vaccination rate. So I speak directly to my congregation and to all congregations when I say, “Trust this vaccine.”
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (18:45)
I have worked with the governor for months specifically on the issue of vaccine equity. Just this weekend my fellow clergy members and I joined with the governor where he made clear that getting people down here will be an all-hands on-deck mission. We are ready to answer your call with, Mr. Governor, to drive up the vaccination numbers in these communities because it’s the only way that we can save lives. That’s why we are hitting the phones this week to let people know in these zip codes that the vaccine sites opens up Wednesday. MTA is making it easier for you to get down here so you have no excuse. And you can make appointments onsite or you can come here.
Reverend Adolphus Lacey: (19:35)
I’m glad to join my colleagues here in this endeavor. In this moment we must work like a community. The vaccine isn’t about keeping only our lives safe, the more of us that get the shot the safer we all are. 1 Corinthians reminds us that we are all one body. We have faith in each other and that we will all fulfill our respective role, so I implore you today to do your part. This shot will save all of us. Thank you again governor for your leadership in ending this crisis.
Governor Cuomo: (20:17)
Well, thank you very much, Reverend. Corinthians has it right, as usual. I thank my colleagues, Assemblymember, Latrice Walker, Majority Leader, Laurie Cumbo, Nick Perry, Assemblymember Dilan, let’s give them a round of applause. All the pastors, thank you very much for joining this effort. Everything has been said, now we just have to do it.
Governor Cuomo: (20:47)
This is the first site like it in the State of New York. It’s the largest, it’s a model of social equity, it has a preference, it has transportation, we’re doing everything we can. The pastors, the electeds will get out the word but it’s up to you at the end of the day. God helps those who help themselves. We need people now to step forward and do this.
Governor Cuomo: (21:17)
To the people who are here today and exposing themselves to a dangerous situation, to the “essential workers,” we have such a respect and debt of gratitude to all of you. You have shown up… The essential workers showed up so other people could stay home and be safe, essential workers went out and put themselves in danger to keep others safe. There is no greater sign of humanity and love and courage by that action, and you will save lives in what you are doing at this site. We say, God bless you. Thank you all for being here. Reverend, thank you very much, thank you very much.