May 11, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 11
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on May 11, 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)
… people who joined with me today. To my right, we have Kelly Cummings who is the State Director of Operations. To my far left, Eric Gertler who heads the empire state development team. And they are a great team. And to my immediate left, Mr. Alan Steel who has done such a phenomenal job over this past year, not just with completing an entirely new facility that we opened today. But also being key personally and institutionally in everything we did to battle COVID. Let’s give Alan and the entire team around of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:49)
I’m also pleased to see Reuben McDaniel here and Gary LaBarbera here and Waheed here and the Regional Planning Association and the Building Congress, the hotel industry. So many important partners to this facility in what we do. I’ve been to Javits countless times over the years, but I was just saying to Alan and to Eric, it has a totally different feeling for me now when I come to Javits. And we just have to think back over the past year and in many ways, Javits was at the heart of what happened over the past year.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:37)
We came here at the very beginning of COVID, Lee Perlman and the hospital executives, we gathered in the first days of COVID to discuss what we were dealing with and no one had an idea. Javits became the first and largest field hospital in the United States of America. It was a sea of cots and cubicles, 2,500 beds, all military personnel getting prepared, military vehicles. Nobody knowing what we were dealing with COVID. Nobody wearing masks at that time. It was before we even knew to wear masks. And all you saw was a sea of cots and military personnel, everyone frightened. It looked like an apocalyptic situation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:41)
The National Guard were here and I was talking to the National Guard to try to reassure them about what they were doing and how valuable what they were doing was. And then Javits goes from the largest field hospital to the largest mass vaccination site in the United States of America. More vaccines were given at Javits than any facility in the United States of America. Isn’t that amazing? And all at the same time, this construction of this facility is going on and being built. Over the past year we went from that frightening field hospital in a state that had the highest infection rate on the globe, on the globe because we had COVID coming here for months before anyone knew about it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:43)
And we went from the highest rate of infection to the lowest rate of infection. That’s what the people of the state of New York did. That’s how they responded. That’s how our essential heroes responded. They made it happen. Let’s give another round of applause to the National Guard and to Alan Steel and all the people. To all the people, the nurses, the doctors, everyone who really stepped up and delivered for us. To me, one of the lasting lessons, one of the positive lessons, the silver lining is it really showed over this past year what we can do when we do it together, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:33)
We faced probably the greatest challenge in a generation. It was a problem and an issue that nobody knew anything about. It was a matter of life and death. It hit here hardest and first. We were on our own, but New Yorkers came together and they rose to the occasion. So today is a new day, but we are buoyed by what we just went through. Yes, it was painful. Yes, we lost a lot of loved ones, but it also showed us what we can do and what we are capable of. And that’s what I want to hold on to. It’s a new day today. You look at where New York is today. 1.5% positivity. What does that mean? That’s less than half of the national average. That’s where New York is today. We are less than half of the national average.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:36)
And all the arrows are headed in the right direction. We’re doing everything we can to get vaccinations up because although you get different opinions across the country, one thing is clear as the number of vaccinations goes up, the positivity comes down. So the message is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. We’re over 16 million vaccinations. Over 60% of the people of New York have at least one dose. And we are going to continue until we get that number as high as possible. We had good news today on the White House call with the governors, the White House is setting up a program where Uber and Lyft will be offering free rides. New York is going to participate in that program and coordinate it and we’re going to target it towards young people.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:28)
We want to get our ” young people,” which we were all young people once. We want to get the vaccination rate up for young people and I think Uber and Lyft offering free rides to the vaccine site can actually be very helpful in that regard. So I want to thank them for that. But at the same time, we are at a different point. We are in a post-COVID world. Not entirely, we still have one hand managing the COVID beast, but with the other hand it’s time to plan our rebirth. And not just plan our rebirth, but to make our rebirth happen. And that’s what we’re focusing on.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:15)
People ask all the time, “Well, what is New York going to be like post COVID? What do you think? It’s like? What happens to New York post-COVID?” What happens to New York post-COVID is what we make happen post-COVID. There is no pre-destined future here for New York. It is what we make it to be. It is what we build it to be. And yes, this has been a hell of a year, a historic hell of a year. But this is not the first time that we have been knocked on our rear end. This is not the first time that we have dealt with adversity, right? We went through Superstorm Sandy. Where we are today was underwater.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:02)
I was here and they said, “Oh, the devastation after Superstorm Sandy. We’re not going to recuperate for years.” Baloney. We rebuilt. After 9/11, I remember people saying, “New York will never be the same. Now we’re a terrorist target and people are going to be afraid to come back to New York City. People are going to be afraid to go to downtown.” No. We came back and we came back stronger than ever before. We have been here before. I’m old enough to remember what New York City was when it really went through the tough times, what the 1970s were like and what the 1980s were like. You had New York City bankrupt. You had crack, you had crime. You had impossible obstacles to overcome.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:59)
But what did we do? We rose from where we were and we built back better than ever before. Middle of the Great Depression nobody’s working. What does New York do? We built the Empire State Building. Why? To show that we could. Everyone’s depressed. Everybody’s worried. We’re going to be build a building that reaches higher than ever before. Where do you get that courage? Where do you get that moxie? We’re New York and that’s what we do. How did we handle the 1970s? We built our way out of the 1970s. We built Battery Park City. That didn’t just happen. That was landfill. And all you see now on Battery Park City, that was all a function of vision and daring and action.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:53)
The World Trade Center, building and daring and action. We made that happen and it rejuvenated the entire economy of New York. Roosevelt Island and the Javits Center was part ironically of that economic rejuvenation. We’re going to make the future of New York City better than ever. We’re going to build the economy. We’re going to generate the economy. We’re not going to wait for it to come back automatically and spring back automatically. No, we’re going to make our future and we did. And Javits was a cornerstone of it. Javits was bold. It was ambitious. It was going to be a nationally competitive convention center and it was.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:47)
In 1986, it opens. Governor Mario Cuomo, a uniquely magnificent achievement. A very articulate fellow Governor Mario Cuomo, God rest his soul. New York Times said, “A focus on efforts to revitalize the city’s economy.” Why did you build the Convention Center? Because it was an economic engine and we were rebuilding the economy. And it was the biggest and it was the best, but that was 1986. And what happens? Time goes on and other places develop and other places build. And Javits 1986 is no longer large enough to compete with the really international and national shows.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:44)
17 convention centers across the country are larger. And we want to have the biggest and the best. Why? Because we’re New York and should have the biggest and the best. And once again it’s time to generate our future. So today we’re announcing the completion of the new expanded Javits Center, which is going to be an economic engine for years to come. It is a 1.2 million square foot expansion. It goes from 2.1 million square feet to 3.3 million square feet, a 50% increase. And it’s remodify for the needs of today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:32)
It’s not just a convention center with massive open space, which is what convention centers were 20, 30 years ago. Now it has to 200,000 square feet of meeting room space, exhibit hall space, a 54,000 square foot ballroom; the largest in the region. Glass enclosed rooftop, a new glass atrium and while it did phenomenal things for-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:03)
… while it did phenomenal things for New York City, this convention center also created traffic for the West Side. We built a four-level, 27-loading dock marshalling facility that will take all the trucks that are coming to the convention center, puts them in an indoor facility, more than 20,000 event- related trucks off the street annually, freeing congestion on the West Side, reducing pollution on the West Side, and making life better for the communities that surround the convention center. $1.5 billion expansion works in partnership with the hotel industry, the tourism industry, will generate 6,000 new jobs and nearly 400 million in additional economic activity annually, and it could not come at a better time. We worked to continue the project through COVID, because we knew that we would need it post-COVID, and that is exactly what has been accomplished here today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:22)
As the economy is reopening and crowds are re-gathering, we have the place for them to come at the new Javits Convention Center. We are excited. As soon as we can get to full capacity, Javits is ready, and we’re going to give you a quick idea of what this facility looks like. Alan is going to do a tour afterwards, because it’s no longer just one large space. It is a multi-purpose facility that can accommodate any kind of show, any kind of convention that seeks to come this way. We have a short video that gives an idea.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:40)
Beautiful. And as I mentioned, it couldn’t come at a better time, and it’s part of an overall what we believe will be an historic building period for the state of New York and for Manhattan. It’s part of a comprehensive rejuvenation of the West Side of Manhattan, where you have individual pieces, yes, but there’s a synergy among all of them. We are at the Javits Center. Right across the street is going to be the new Pier 76 that was vacant for over 20 years, used as a tow pound. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces of real estate in the city of New York. That’s going to be open in a few weeks as a beautiful public access point. Right down the block, we’re going to have the new Moynihan Train Hall that is open and is magnificent. And even if you don’t have to take the train, it is worth going through to see, because it is really… Harkens back to when things were built beautifully and well, and built for the ages.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:54)
We’re redoing the existing Penn Station. We’re building a new Penn Station. We’re going to extend the High Line, which has been a phenomenal, phenomenal success for the community and for tourists. A new Port Authority Bus Terminal, finally, which has been a blight on the city of New York for years, it’s supposed to be an entrance way. We can do much, much better than that. There’s two phases to the new High Line development, but it will tie in with Javits, with Pier 76, and with the overall revitalization, and it is all happening now. We’re also going to be accelerating our new airport construction. We’re going to have LaGuardia Airport, first new airport in the United States of America in 25 years, being built right here in New York, our new JFK. We’re going to accelerate the MTA’s plan, $51 billion. For us, extending the Second Avenue Subway now to 125th Street is our top priority for federal funding.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:06)
Open up 125th Street and that entire East Side corridor. And we’ve seen what the Second Avenue Subway can do when we opened it up to 96. Now, you go up to 125th Street. It’s a whole new region of economic development and opportunity for us. Getting people into the city, making the commute pleasant and functional and safe and getting that Long Island Rail Road to operate well, and then you’ll come into the new Penn Station from a new Long Island Rail Road with a new second track, a new third track, new stations. A new Belmont Arena that we’re building on Long Island to house the islanders and for music venues, et cetera. And then in cities all across the state, we are turning the corner and reconnecting with the water, and just turning the city around. Where it used the waterways as the backdoor, now we want to make waterways the front door.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:10)
And we’re doing that in Buffalo and Rochester, and we’re doing that in Albany. We are going to have the first state in the nation where every home has accessible broadband and affordable broadband. No child is going to be left behind because they’re in a home that can’t afford broadband in the state of New York. The only state that is doing that. We will be the green energy capital of the nation. We are building more renewable energy than any other state, more wind, more solar, hundreds of projects, and a whole new transmission grid, all across the state a green grid to bring that power from Upstate New York, from the oceans, from the bays, and connect it with Downstate New York, which is where we actually consume the power. I believe this: I believe that this is a moment of global transformation and reconfiguration. This was not a New York experience.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:20)
COVID hit the entire nation, so it’s a new competition. It’s a new day. What happens post-COVID? It depends. What nation rises? What region rises? What country rises? What city rises? It depends on what that city and that state and that country do. Post-COVID is going to be a different reality. Pre-COVID was yesterday. Tomorrow’s different. Zoom and remote work are not going to go away. People’s feelings are not going to go away. The anxiety is not going to go away. It’s going to be what place anticipates the future and builds for that new future and that new reality. So it’s a reset of the table. And in that, there is an opportunity. You tell me who’s the most creative, who’s the most entrepreneurial, who’s the fastest, who’s the most futuristic thinker, and I’ll tell you who is going to lead the globe in the post-COVID world.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:36)
And that is what New York is all about. That is our game. We are fast to adjust. We are ambitious. We do take risk. And we have a moment here where we have to say this is a time when we’re going to rebuild, but not rebuild to where we were. We’re going to build something that never existed before. We’re going to build the way our forefathers built, when they built those great tunnels and those great bridges that served generations. It’s our time now to build a New York that serves our children and their children and their children for years to come, the way we inherited a built space and a built New York. They handed it to us. Here. The most developed, most sophisticated place on the globe, they handed to us. It’s a state called New York. And now, what do we in this moment? It’s our time to renew that legacy and renew that gift and build back.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:47)
Is it going to be hard? Yes, yes. It’s always hard to be first. It’s always hard to do what has never been done before, but New Yorkers are ready for it. We can do anything we believe we can do, but we must believe that we can do it. New Yorkers know, after what they went through this past year, that there is no challenge they can’t meet. Today, we’re announcing a competition for what we call Regional Economic Development Councils, $750 million, and saying to regions all across the state, ” You plan your economic rebirth. And if you come up with a smart plan and a daring plan, the state of New York will fund it.” And we have $750 million available to do that, but the regions have to come up with their own plan. Long Island has to come up with its plan. Western New York comes up with its plan.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:54)
Capital District comes up with its plan. Hudson Valley comes up with its plan. And you tell us what your best ideas are to build an economy for all, and if they’re smart and if they’re feasible and if you can actually get it done, then New York state will fund it. We’ve done this before. It’s worked tremendously well. But it’s more important this year than ever before, because the stakes are higher this year than ever before. And we’re going to be doing what we need to do on the state level, as you’ve seen, but we need that same kind of energy and expertise region by region across the state. So we announced the competition today, but I want them to understand this is not business as usual. This is a different day in a different time, and we rise or fall by what we do at this moment in time, and this is a time to think outside the box. This is a time to think big. This is a time to think transformative. This is a time to reimagine. Just get your head-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:03)
It’s formative. This is a time to re-imagine, just get your head to a different place. Don’t be limited by your old view of, well, this is all we can do. These are our limitations. There are no limitations. Re-invent the way we do it. Take all those little chains that have inhibited your creativity and say, well, what if we could actually get past this? What if we could actually get out of the negative headset of, well, this is why we can’t, and focus on this is how we can. That’s where this state has to be, because if we can dream it and we believe it, then we can build it and we can make it a reality. We have proven that time and time again. Look at what we’ve accomplished over the past. Look at what we’ve done over the past year. And then tell me we can’t. And I’ll show you that we have, and that we can. Because there is nothing that we can’t do if we join together in doing it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:19)
We’re also today launching a statewide public awareness campaign about the post-COVID New York, about rebirth, about reimagination and setting the bar high on what we want to do. We’re going to now run three ads, four ads that are narrated by famous New Yorkers. Three of them are, one of them is a great animated version ad that we’ll use in various media, including social media, including on billboards, et cetera. But I think they communicate our message.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:04)
I want to thank all the people who worked very hard on this. I want to thank our narrators. I’m going to ask you to guess who the narrators are after each ad. And I want to thank Jane Rosenthal, especially, for all her help in coordinating and bringing expertise to this project.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:23)
You want to show the ads?
Ad 1 (De Niro): (28:25)
New York state is no stranger to a challenge. And after a most difficult year, we are rising up stronger and building back better. We’re building new airports and rail stations, revitalizing downtowns, opening small businesses, stimulating growth across the state, and providing affordable internet access for all New Yorkers.
Ad 1 (De Niro): (28:48)
We’re New York tough. So let’s re-imagine, rebuild, and renew New York together.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:54)
Who was that? Who? Got it. Next.
Ad 2 (Whoopi): (29:01)
New York state is no stranger to a challenge. And after a most difficult year, we are rising up stronger and building back better. Because when times are at their worst, our state is at its best.
Ad 2 (Whoopi): (29:12)
We are stimulating growth across the state, building up universities, opening up access to our waterfront and revitalizing our downtowns for all New Yorkers.
Ad 2 (Whoopi): (29:25)
We’re New York tough. So let’s re-imagine, rebuild and renew New York together.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:34)
Gary LeBarber gets the coin. Next one.
Ad 3 (Billy Joel): (29:37)
New York state is no stranger to a challenge.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:40)
He was faster, thought.
Ad 3 (Billy Joel): (29:40)
And after a most difficult year, we are rising up stronger and building back better. We are stimulating growth across the state, building new airports, improving infrastructure, constructing new arenas, and creating urban recreational spaces for all New Yorkers. We’re in New York tough. So let’s re-imagine, rebuild and renew New York together.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:10)
Come on. Who is it? Oh, you’re going to be so embarrassed when you find out who it is. No guesses? It’s not Whoopi, it’s not Robert De Niro. Not Danny DeVito. Billy Joel. Oh, you are embarrassed. You should be.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:36)
Now let’s show the animated version.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:57)
Let’s give a round of applause to the team who made this work.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:05)
You get the message of the day. Our future, my friends, is what we make it. We are at a moment in time. Yes, it’s been a hell of a year. Question is what we do. In life, I tell my kids all the time, there will be moments of hardship. Life will come along and knock you right on your rear end. Sometimes you’ll deserve it. Sometimes you won’t deserve it. But that’s going to happen. Somebody’s going to get sick. You’ll have a problem in a family. You’ll have a problem in a marriage. Something’s going to happen. Life is not about not getting knocked down. Life is about getting back up, and having the strength to get back up, and learning from what happened and having the resilience.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:57)
That’s the moment where we’re at today. What do you do in a post-COVID world? Who does it best? Who does it first? Who does it fastest? The answer is the state of New York and the great people of the state of New York. Thank you for being here today, and it’s my pleasure.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:23)
It’s my pleasure to introduce Alan Steel. As I’ve said before, I said to Alan, you’ve lived lifetimes in the past year. From the field hospital for COVID, to the vaccination site, to building this facility all at the same time, and he’s made it all happen brilliantly, brilliantly. And the people of New York are blessed to have him. Alan Steel, please.
Alan Steel: (33:01)
Thank you, governor, and thank you for your vision, which has led us to where we are and the support you gave us to make all of this possible.
Alan Steel: (33:10)
I also want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to wear a tie again. This is the first time in 12 months I’ve been able to put one of these things around my neck and I’m really enjoying it.
Alan Steel: (33:22)
Today really is a landmark day for us. This is a historic expansion project, because as the governor mentioned, it’s not just about increasing size, it’s about building for the location in which we’re in, about making the right decisions about the kind of services that we provide and the kind of community impact we have and the way we do that.
Alan Steel: (33:43)
We did have a hell of a year and it would not be, it would be inappropriate if I didn’t mention my executive team who were all standing over here on the left, because this did not happen without everything they did. The reality for us is we went through a period of being a hospital, and now, still in our period of being a vaccination center, is that we never lost sight of what was coming. And with the governor’s support we saw the future as bright. What we are seeing now is the culmination of many years of effort, many years of design, many years of thinking, but it was done with a particular vision to make New York great again, and to find a way to put economic impact into all that we do. We were, before the pandemic, the busiest convention center in the country. It is our intention to be the busiest convention center in the country again, as soon as we can move back into the marketplace, because we will never be the biggest convention center in the country, but we will be the busiest. And from my perspective, that B word is the most important one. It keeps people working. It keeps economic benefit flowing into the city, and if we can continue to be the busiest, we will take the position that we are entitled to in the event industry lexicon.
Alan Steel: (35:07)
I want to pay particular reference to the four level truck marshaling facility, which the governor mentioned. This is unique. There is no other convention center in the country that has a similar expansion. In fact, I think there is no other convention center in the world that has the same level of logistics support that we’ve created.
Alan Steel: (35:27)
When we saw Hudson Yards development, we saw the opportunity, but we also saw the challenge. It was unlikely that the community which had tolerated us for 30 years would like to continue doing that if we simply added more trucks to the roads. By bringing those trucks and those vehicles off the streets, we reduce pollution, we reduce traffic, and we make the whole area more habitable for everyone. And most importantly, we will make it more efficient for our customers by adding the loading docks that we mentioned.
Alan Steel: (35:59)
We expect to play a critical role in what happens in the governor’s reimagination plan, and we look forward to doing it. We look forward to not being a vaccination center for the rest of this year. Hopefully by the time we get through the summer, that will all be behind us. But we’ll never forget what we did. And importantly, New Yorkers won’t forget what we did either. This was an exceptional moment for us. We stepped up to the plate, and now it’s time to step up to the convention center plate again and bring business back to the city. Thank you.
Alan Steel: (36:37)
Governor, one thing, if I may, when you came here last, we gave you a Lego model of the original building. I’m now going to give you a Lego model of the expansion, which you can use to add to your existing model. I’m sure you play with it very frequently.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (36:57)
Thank you, thank you.
Alan Steel: (36:58)
And now we will cut the ribbon.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:24)
Great. Okay. We’ll take some questions, and then Alan is going to conduct a tour. The press are invited on the tour to get a sense of the new facility. Press?
-the space has fundamentally changed?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:46)
What about the spaces has fundamentally? Alan, do you think the demand for the space has changed?
Alan Steel: (38:55)
I think in the short term, we will obviously see some easing of the demand. But I can tell you that we are seeing new business coming to the building that’s-
Alan Steel: (39:03)
… but I can tell you that we are seeing new business coming to the building that’s never been in New York before because we now have the capacity to accommodate it. Organizations like the American Retina Society, the International Gynecological Cancer Society. These are institutions that never been in the city before. And so they will come back. I think what we have seen, and this has been part of the experience of the vaccination center, is that as much as people are cautious, people still want to meet.
Alan Steel: (39:27)
The way in which the interaction has been seen between people who have been vaccinated and are waiting out their 15 minutes is really quite remarkable. Especially when we’re playing a two hourly lunchtime concert, it creates an ambience that is hard to believe, but it creates an expectation that people really want to be in the same space with each other again.
Speaker 1: (39:49)
[inaudible 00:39:49] first bookings?
Alan Steel: (39:51)
We have bookings now that we anticipate opening in August of this year. We have a show at the beginning of August called New York Now. We have the New York International Auto Show in the later part of August. We are currently working with the governor and his staff to see what limits there will be, if any, on the groups that come to those events. But we expect to be open fully for business by the fall.
Speaker 1: (40:24)
[inaudible 00:40:24], what do you do to try to get 12 to 15 years olds to come in?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (40:29)
It’s a good question. Pfizer is the only company that we’ll probably get approval and that will probably officially happen tomorrow. Once the federal government acts, we have a second approval by the state. This started early on when people were dubious about the federal approval process under the previous administration. I said, we’ll have our own approval process. Right after the federal government meets, then the state board will meet. If the federal approves it, I would expect the state would approve it. Then we’ll change the protocols for all the vaccine sites and start to reach out to that population. But it will only be for Pfizer. So, that will really be up to the parents who are going to have to bring in the child. And we’re still going to be focusing on getting that population vaccinated 16 to 40, is really where we’re making the greatest effort. The 12 year olds have to come in with their parent.
Speaker 3: (41:43)
I have a follow-on question to that. So Mayor de Blasio had said that he would not mandate vaccines for children, pending approval for 12 to 15 year olds. Obviously that makes up a large proportion of middle school and high school students. He does not have power though, to mandate that, that’s up to you and your administrator. Pending approval of the Pfizer vaccine, do you plan on requiring immunizations for 12 to 18 year olds, consider doing that for college students?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:14)
Yeah. Just so we’re clear on the law of it. You’re right, it would require a state law to mandate the vaccine. And you cannot mandate any of these vaccines yet because they are all emergency use authorization. A state cannot mandate a vaccine that is authorized by emergency use. It has to receive a full federal approval first. We discussed that today with the White House.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:51)
That could take months. Obviously, if it takes months, then it gets you past September, which is where there would be a logical decision point. The decision point would be if you had the vaccine and children were going back to school, would you mandate the vaccine? I don’t know that there’s going to be a federal approval in time for that. If there was a federal approval, it is going to be a legitimate topic of discussion. I can tell you that. I went through the measles vaccine a couple of years ago, and I understand the opposition to vaccines by parents. I don’t see it backed up by science or data. And I’m not saying that we’re considering doing it, but it would be a topic of discussion, if you had the federal approval.
Speaker 2: (43:42)
And I just had another quick wonky question. So New York City-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:46)
Speaker 2: (43:47)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:47)
Okay. Allen, it’s for you. I don’t do the wonky, as people say. I don’t do it.
Speaker 2: (43:58)
So New York had rolled back religious exemptions, so we’re no longer able to say, “My religion says I can’t get vaccinated.” So now you just have medical exemptions. Specifically for college students, is there any issue with that with the COVID vaccine in particular?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:09)
Not that we have come across. We’re doing everything we can to encourage students. And again, the mandatory college vaccination is dependent on the federal approval prior to that. Let’s take one more, and then we’re going to do a tour.
Speaker 4: (44:33)
Yeah, I was going to ask, because I know there was a conversation about a lack of masks indoors. [inaudible 00:44:33] so I was wondering, have you considered how soon you will allow people to come inside [inaudible 00:44:38] without masks [inaudible 00:44:39]?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:43)
When we do our reopening for ballgames, for indoor theaters, we just talked about the Islanders playoff games. We talk about a certain capacity of vaccinated people, a certain capacity of unvaccinated people. If you’re vaccinated, we have three feet between people. If you’re unvaccinated, we have six feet between people. But everyone wears a mask, even indoors. That’s also the federal CDC guidance, we’re now keeping that guidance. If the federal CDC changes, then we would reevaluate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:29)
But to me, after what we have been through … And I tell you coming here today, every time I walked into this building, I get chills all through me. Just thinking about it, the first meetings we had, we weren’t even wearing masks. We didn’t even know enough to wear masks. One of the first meetings, we had the leadership of all the hospitals here, and we had a meeting in a conference room with the head of all the hospitals, the heads, no masks. Someone had COVID in the meeting. As soon as we walk out of the meeting, a person gets sick, phone rings a little while later. Person had COVID, we were all in the meeting room together. I think to myself, “God forbid these other people got sick. They’re the leaders of the entire hospital industry.” Right at the critical point. So we have been through so much.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:52)
Yes, the numbers are better. But there are also variants that are frightening. And it takes so little, over half a million people have died in the nation. It takes so little to wear the mask. “Well, you don’t really need it.” You don’t need it until you do need it. Okay. Mr. Steele is going to conduct a tour. I want to thank you again the executive team at Javits, who’s done a fantastic job and all the women and men who worked so hard to get this done through COVID, while it was a field hospital, while I was a vaccination site. You did the Lord’s work and you did it magnificently well. Thank you very much.