May 12, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 12
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on May 12, 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: (00:23)
Speaker 1: (00:23)
Morning, [crosstalk 00:00:25].
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:26)
Pleasure to be here, a beautiful day at Sahlen Field. Let me introduce, to my far left we have Kelly Cummings, State Director of Operations, who keeps the trains running on time. Pardon the pun. We have Mike Buczkowski, from the Bisons. We have Kim Minkel, from the NFTA, who is the Executive Director.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:47)
To my right, a man who needs no introduction. Byron Brown won a big award, yesterday I believe, from a mayor’s association for economic development. I was the former HUD Secretary, Housing And Urban Development, I did economic development with all the cities. The mayor deserves that award. The economic development work he has done in the city is extraordinary. Let’s give the mayor a round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:18)
And to his right, we have Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez, who is the Transportation Commissioner for the State of New York, works with transit agencies all across the state. I want to thank her for being here.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:32)
Let me give you some facts, today. A lot to talk about today, because there is a lot to do. There is a lot going on. So let’s talk about today, and tomorrow.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:44)
Today’s COVID numbers. Some people get up every morning, they look at the stock markets, and people get up every morning and look at the gambling sheets. I get up every morning, and I look at the COVID numbers. We have great news on the COVID numbers, today. Our statewide positivity rate is 1.1. What does that mean? The national rate is 4%, we’re at 1%. Okay? So, we’re one quarter of what the national COVID positivity rate is. And that’s a function purely of the good work of New Yorkers. So let’s give them a round of applause. Hospitalization rate is down. The ICU rate is down. The intubation rate is down, and before anyone says, “Well, COVID is over. That’s it. We can move on,” 26 people passed away from COVID yesterday. So yes, we’re doing great. No, we have not yet fully conquered the COVID beast. And we have to remember that, and we have to continue that. We watch three basic metrics because, we decide what to do not on an act of faith, not because we have special information. We just look at the numbers. We look at the science, we look at the data, you follow the science, you follow the data. And, positivity rate, we’ve made great progress. Remember back in January, we had that holiday surge? And we were at 7.9%. We talked about it before the holidays, “Be careful, Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Kwanzaa, then New Year’s. People get together. They socialize. You’re going to see the positivity number go up.” That’s just what happened. And we came out of new year’s. We were at 7.9%. We’re now down to 1.2, 8%, 37 straight days of decline. You look at the positivity rate around the state. This is worth looking at, especially in Western New York. Why the variance? Why the variance? Why do you have New York City, at 1.1, Western New Yorker at 2.3? That question is for a better mind than mine, but it’s something that should be considered. Look at the variance. And the variance, I believe, is attributable to the actions of that community. “What’s my chance of getting infected?” your chance of getting infected depends on your behavior, and what you do. And that extends to a community, also.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:36)
Hospitalizations, way down. 2000. That’s lowest since November 19th, which is before we even started the holiday rush. To me, the most important metric now, is the vaccination rate. How many people are we vaccinating? We’ve done 17 million shots in arms statewide, which is phenomenal, when you think about it. And that’s a function of all the good work that everyone has done. You haven’t seen a marshaling exercise like this since World War II. And this is, thank you to the City, thank you to the County. Thank you to Tom Quatroche, at ECMC. This is everybody doing everything that they can. 17 million doses, 60% of people 18-plus have at least one dose. 50% of the people in this state, are now fully vaccinated. But, the rate of people coming in for vaccinations has declined. That’s troubling.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:50)
It’s partially explainable. People who were more eager to get a vaccine, came in first, right? You had people who were very anxious about COVID, and wanted to get a vaccine right away. They came in first, and now you’re seeing the numbers slow. And that’s what we’re fighting against now. Two areas of focus for us, what we call, the youthful and the doubtful. The youthful are much lower. You see 16 to 25, only 25%. 26 to 34, only 36%. Why? Well, in fairness, everything we’ve talked about with COVID was always, “Older people, older people, older people.” Older people were eligible for the vaccine. Younger people weren’t. Older people had more risk with COVID, younger people didn’t. That’s been our message, for the past year. Younger people just became eligible for the vaccine, just a few weeks ago, but we have to change that mindset. Because first of all, even if a younger person tends to be less affected by COVID, they can transmit COVID just as easily as anyone. So we have to change the headset, change the culture. We have to get those younger people in, and we’re working on that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:19)
And then the doubtful. Doubtful, “I’m hesitant about the vaccine. I don’t trust the vaccine. I don’t trust the government. I think it’s all a bunch of baloney. I don’t need it. I’m against vaccines, period,” is a big population in this state. “I just don’t believe in vaccines.” We went through this with the measles’ vaccine, a couple of years ago, people wouldn’t give their child the measles’ vaccine because they don’t believe in vaccines. With that, I think it’s about getting them more information. But look, we have a lot of political differences in our society now. I deal with my colleagues in Albany, in the State Legislature. We have the most rabid conservatives in this state, and we have the most rabid socialists in this state. We have both ends of the political spectrum, in stereo. We have, the ends of the spectrums. The conservatives and the socialists, they can’t agree on whether it’s day or night. This is not about conservative, socialist. This is not about Democratic, Republican. It’s not about political theory. There are still facts in life. Okay? “Well, I think this, I think that. My opinion.” That’s all nice. You don’t have to care about my opinion. You don’t have to care about my philosophy, but a fact is a fact. The inarguable fact, across the world, is that as vaccinations go up, positivity goes down. That is a fact. Not a conservative fact, not a Republican fact, not a Democratic fact. A fact. Get the vaccine number up, and the positivity rate will come down, and we can get on with life. That’s our focus. What’s the solution? Eliminate excuses for not getting the vaccine, make it easy and make the vaccine accessible. Communicate the facts about the vaccine. And we’re at a point where we have to get creative. “Oh, government can’t get creative. That’s not what you do.” I happen to be a very creative person. Wouldn’t you say I’m a creative person. Yes, sir. See mayor says I’m a creative person?
Byron Brown: (09:55)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:55)
Yeah, see? Mayor says, I’m a creative person. So let’s get a little creative. Here’s creative. Get a shot, take a ride on the NFTA. This Friday to Wednesday, we’re offering J & J one shot vaccines, at NFTA hubs across the region. You are getting on the bus anyway, you’re getting on the train, anyway. Put a vaccine site on your way to the bus or the train. You don’t have to go out of your way. You’re walking right past it. Stop, get a vaccine, and you get a free seven day pass on the NFTA, Metro Pass for anyone who gets a shot. So you have a financial incentive, in essence, it’s a $25 pass. If you get a shot, and it’s on your way, and it allows you to do all sorts of things that give you more freedom and flexibility. What could be easier and simpler than that? Thank you. NFTA and Kim Minkel, for cooperating in this idea.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:14)
We started this today, in New York City, with what they call the MTA. Their NFTA, is the MTA. Trains, buses, et cetera. Just started this morning. Early results were, long lines of people who actually get it. They’re on their way to the train. “Here’s a vaccine. Let me stop, and let me get a free pass.” And we hope it works the same way, here.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:45)
We’re going to start with eight centers, Niagara Falls, Buffalo University station, Utica station, Buffalo MTC, AppleTree Business Park, in Cheektowaga. Different times, different places. Why? Because, we’re just starting this, because it is creative. There are different theories. Maybe people will be more likely to stop in the evening, because they don’t want to stop in the morning, because in the morning they’re on a rush. They’re a little late. They want to get to work. Maybe they’ll have more time in the evening. So we’re trying different hours, we’re trying different places to see what works best. But, it is creative. It’s also common sense. And, I’m hopeful that it will work.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:31)
We’re asking other transit authorities across the state to join this pilot. You have the NFTA, Albany has this CDTA. Every region has a transit authority. We will partner with any of them, who do this. And I would ask them to consider it, strongly. You get more shots in arms. You get more riders on the trains. It’s a win-win.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:59)
And most of all, getting these vaccinations done. It allows us to get on with life. Life is about living. This past year has been hell, and life has been on hold, and untold damage has been done. We’re going to be assessing the damage of the past year, for years to come. Everybody talks about the economic damage. How about the social damage? How about the damage of isolation of people, not being able to see other people, not being able to hug, not being able to kiss? How about the damage to families, to senior citizens, who have been isolated? How about the damage to kids, who missed a whole year of socialization, even if they didn’t miss a year of school, and remote learning. Yeah, remote learning is great. If you have a computer and if you have broadband and if you had someone who could help you. But remote learning, in my opinion…
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:03)
But remote learning, in my opinion, discriminated between children who had that access and didn’t have that access. The mental health toll has been extraordinary. Divorces worldwide have gone up something like 300%. All right. A lot of stress. We have to get on with life. We have to reopen, but we have to do it smart. And that’s our strategy. And we have to get ready for a great summer. The weather is turning. The winter is over. We have to get on with life and we want to have a great summer. Statewide Memorial Day beaches and pools open with six feet social distancing. Our goal is by the 4th of July to go to 100% capacity, all beaches, all pools. If the numbers keep going the way they’re going, we’re going to be able to do that. So we would actually be able to have a normal summer finally, in beaches and pools. And that’s what we’re striving for.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:14)
Also, summer’s coming. Let’s play ball, right? Today, we’re announcing at the Salem Field opening on June 1, 50% vaccinated section normal seating, 50% unvaccinated Section six foot social distancing, masks for all. Tickets go on sale May 20th. This is another reason to get vaccinated. You go to a ball game. You want to sit next to someone. You want to sit next to your friends. You want them to sit next to your family.That’s the vaccinated section where you sit right next to people in a normal ball game setting. Unvaccinated, we have to keep the social distancing rule. So it’s another positive incentive to get vaccinated and creative, because we’re creative. Aren’t we? We are so creative. We have a new team in Buffalo, Bisons, Blue Jays, ECMC, and New York State Department of Health have come together and they formed a new franchise, a little different than most franchises.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:23)
Starting June 1, you can get a Johnson & Johnson shot at a Blue Jays game, and you get a free ticket to a Bisons game next season. We would give you a free ticket to the Bisons game this season, but then you would have to go to Trenton to watch the game. And we don’t want that. So a free ticket to the Bisons game next year, free shot at the stadium on your way in. Easy, no reason not to do it. Not only a free ticket, but then there’s going to be a Blue Jays raffle that has very cool prizes for anyone who gets a shot. So you get a vaccine, baseball, free transit, home team. We call that a grand slam.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:20)
Last point, little bit of a personal point. Salem Field Buffalo, New York opened 1988. It was funded by the State of New York, which was a little bit of a project of self-interest. My father loved Buffalo. As you know, my father also loved baseball and they had a dream. Jimmy Griffin, my father, the Rich family, that they would build the stadium for the Bisons. And they were very excited about the Bisons coming, but that they would build the stadium in a way that could be expanded to get a major league team to come to Buffalo. That was the dream. My father used to say, God bless his soul. Remember, the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner, “Build it and they will come?” My father would say, “You know that movie Field of Dreams, they got that from me. Yeah. I was Kevin Costner before Kevin Costner,” then he would pause. “And I’m better looking than Kevin Costner,” he would day. But that’s what the Salem Field is.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:44)
It brought the Bisons, which have excited Buffalo and Buffalo loves them, but it had the capacity to expand. And that was the dream. And the Rich family, God blessed them for what they’ve done. Mayor Griffin, God bless him for what he’s done. I just asked the mayor. You see the head in the background between my father and Mayor Griffin. You see that red head with glasses. Jerry Crotty, counsel to my father, part of the great Crotty family, which has been such a part of the Buffalo legacy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:23)
So the dream lives, the dream lives. And amazingly with the Toronto team playing here, this is the first time in 105 years the fans will watch major league baseball in Buffalo. Isn’t that extraordinary? Let’s give them a round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:53)
And the last point is this, New York better than ever. People ask me all the time what’s going to happen after COVID? What is New York like post COVID? And I say, I don’t know. And nobody knows because New York post-COVID, any city post-COVID is going to be what we make it. There is nothing predestined or predetermined here. Nobody’s been here before. Nobody in generations has survived a global pandemic that has transformed society. And we’re not going back to where we were. You’re not going to put Zoom back in a can. You’re not going to put remote working back in a can. You’re not going to put people’s anxiety about public health. That’s not going to disappear. The trauma of wearing this for a year, that’s not going to go away. How do you adjust for that? How do you rebuild for that? How do you reconfigure for that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:07)
How do you re-imagine Buffalo in Western New York for that and the state of New York for that? And who does that first? Because it’s a challenge to New York. It’s a challenge to California. It’s a challenge to Texas. It’s a challenge to Florida. Buffalo has to do it. Paris has to do it. London has to do it. Rome has to do it. The question is what place on the planet went through this moment of disruption and figured it out first on how to come out of the moment of disruption better and stronger for it. That’s the challenge. Well, what’s going to happen and what are we going to be? No, what are we going to make ourselves? What are we going to do to seize this challenge and to build this new future?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:08)
And there was a moment of opportunity because I talked to governors all across the state. I talked to international leaders, everybody’s asking the same question. How do I change the city of Buffalo? How do I change Western of New York to make sure I come through this transformation better than before? And it’s almost a massive global competition and who can do it best. And that’s what we’re looking at going forward. One hand managing the COVID beast, but one hand building a new future and getting ready for a new future. And the stars are lined up. And there is opportunity here. You have a federal government that is putting money on the table for urban development and infrastructure development like no federal government has done in 50 years, fact. You have a state government that is a full partner to Buffalo in Western New York. I will do whatever I can do. You could not have a governor more committed to Buffalo and Western New York than me.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:25)
And don’t take my word for it, you know what I have done for Buffalo in Western New York. And I put my money where my mouth is. I will be there. So you have the federal government, you have the state government. And we just announced the regional economic development council competition the other day. You have to come up with the vision for your future. And here’s my one word of advice to Western New York. You have great options on the table. What do we do about the Skyway? What do we do about the Kensington? What do we do about the [inaudible 00:24:05]? How do we improve our health system, so next pandemic, and there will be a next pandemic, there will be, we are better prepared than anywhere else. How do we improve our education system to make it world-class? How do we take this remote broadband access and make Buffalo and Western New York the first place in the country where every home has not only accessible broadband, but affordable broadband.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:40)
What an advantage economically. That’s a vision that you have to create. Those are the decisions that you have to make, and you have to we’ll make it through this regional economic council in the next couple of months. And the caution is this. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. The worst thing you can do is to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I tease my friends in Western New York. You debated the Peace Bridge for 20 years. What color should it be, I like blue. You like red. You like yellow. I want to see an arch. No, no. I like flat. I like wide, you like narrow. Debated it for decades and never built it. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:44)
You know the formula for success? Two steps. Step one, decide what to do. Step two, do it. Do it. Government is about the action. It’s about the accomplishment. Life is about the action and about the accomplishment. There’s a moment for New York and there’s a moment for Buffalo. Seize it and we’ll do it together. Thank you for having me here today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:23)
Let me now turn it over to Buffalo’s great mayor. Congratulations on the award. Once again, mayor, you deserve it. Congratulations for what you’ve done on COVID. Congratulations for your leadership in standing up to COVID. I worked with a lot of mayors and local officials across the state during COVID. You would be surprised at how people react when the pressure is on. And you had a lot of local officials who said not my job, not my job, too big for me. Not Mayor Brown. He stepped right up to the plate, as we would say here at Salem Field. Mayor Brown?
Mayor Brown: (27:05)
Thank you, governor. You can clap on that. Governor, certainly great to have you back in Buffalo so soon. We’re grateful for your strong partnership and continued commitment to Western New York. I also want to just thank Mike [inaudible 00:27:24] and John Dandies for hosting us here at Salem Field. As we all know, Western New York is still experiencing increased COVID positivity rates. We have to put a stop to this and make sure COVID can’t make a resurgence in our community. As always, Governor Cuomo is responding to our needs. The governor was here just a few weeks ago, making sure youth in our community have easy access to the vaccine. And I want to thank our partners in that effort. SUNY trustee, Eunice Lewin, school superintendent, Dr.-
Mayor Brown: (28:03)
… Rusty Eunice Lewin, school superintendent, Dr. Kriner Cash, Dr. Raul Vasquez, the president of the Buffalo Urban League, Thomas Buford, and the president of the NAACP, Reverend Mark Blue for making that such a successful effort.
Mayor Brown: (28:19)
Now, Governor, you’re back again today, making sure that Buffalo and all communities hardest hit by the pandemic are getting the resources they need to defeat COVID once and for all. Clearly, we all should know that the vaccine is the weapon that will end the war on COVID. But the vaccine means very little if we are not getting shots in arms. These additional pop-up vaccination sites will make it even easier for Buffalo and our neighbors across Western New York to get vaccinated and get back to our normal lives. Governor, we want to thank you for this and thank you for your creativity.
Mayor Brown: (29:05)
I’m also grateful to Kim Minkel and the NFTA. Two weeks ago, they provided 1000 bus passes so our community could travel to their vaccination appointments. Today, as you heard from the governor, they’re doing even more to make sure that vaccination is quick, easy, and simple for the members of our community. Let’s give Kim Minkel a round of applause.
Mayor Brown: (29:36)
Another special thank you to our partners at the Buffalo Bisons and Sahlen Field for hosting this vaccination site and their generous donation of vaccination prizes and tickets to Bison games next year. I have to say, since we are here at Sahlen Field, like the governor, I am a big fan of the Mets and the Yankees, but this season with the Toronto Blue Jays playing here in Buffalo at Sahlen Field, I am only rooting for the Toronto Blue Jays this season.
Mayor Brown: (30:18)
Buffalo is grateful to have these partnerships as we recover and work to build back better and stronger than before. Once again, I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his tireless and effective leadership throughout the pandemic and for leading us into a brighter better future. Thank you, Governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:40)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Mayor. Let’s give Mayor Byron Brown a big round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:45)
Now we’ll hear from Kim Minkel and the NFTA. Government can be creative. It’s just very hard. The NFTA and Kim Minkel really stepped up to the plate here and they thought outside the box and we want to thank them very much. Kim Minkel.
Kim Minkel: (31:04)
Thank you, Governor. And thank you for your tremendous leadership.
Kim Minkel: (31:08)
The NFTA is excited to assist in this important state effort. We want to ensure there’s easy access for the COVID-19 vaccine for all transit riders and for the public. We are committed to doing all we can to help the community. We want to build back better.
Kim Minkel: (31:28)
The NFTA will provide five convenience sites at our busiest location starting this Friday, May 14th, Saturday, May 15th and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. Transit riders and the public can walk up and receive a free one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccination without an appointment. As the governor had mentioned, the locations are at our University Station, Utica Station, our Buffalo Metropolitan Transportation Center, which is a block from here, the Portage Road Transportation Center in Niagara falls, and the AppleTree Business Park, where we will have a mobile bus providing access to the vaccine. As an incentive, the NFTA is also providing a free seven-day pass to everyone who receives the vaccination. If our region is really going to recover, we need as many people as possible to jump on the bus and get vaccinated.
Kim Minkel: (32:35)
Already over half of our workforce at the NFTA is vaccinated. These essential workers have done an incredible job keeping themselves and the public safe during the pandemic. I’m confident that we will emerge from this public health crisis and be stronger. Safety is our number one priority, so let’s work together for a safer, greener environment by getting vaccinated and taking public transit. Thank you. Thank you, Governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:10)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Kim.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:14)
Okay, I think the message is clear. The summer is right around the corner. We’re ready for it. We just need to increase those number of vaccinations to keep us safe. Ride the MTA. Ride the NFTA. Take mass transit. Get a shot. Get a free pass. See a ball game. Get a vaccine. Get a free ticket. Life is looking good. Thank you all for being here.
Speaker 2: (34:05)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:18)
[inaudible 00:34:18] I didn’t see you before. Good to see you.
Speaker 3: (34:21)
How are you, sir? It’s good to see you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:21)
Thanks for being here.
Speaker 3: (34:21)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:21)
Hey, Tony. Good to see you, bud.
Good to see you.
Speaker 2: (34:46)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:56)
Okay. We lost Marie Therese and Kelly. Any questions?
You recently announced conditions under which the New York State Fair will be opening in Syracuse, saying, “The fair must go on.” Here in Erie County, as you know, we have a very popular event called the Erie County Fair. Those folks yesterday presented some models and some work to the state, but they say they’re waiting on guidance from the state. [inaudible 00:35:37] starts just before the state fair. Will the Erie County Fair be permitted? And under what conditions?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:49)
Yeah. Good question. We announced the state fair guidance. Right now we’re considering guidance with the Erie County Fair that is comparable to the state fair. The Erie County Fair did a report yesterday, I believe, suggesting some alternative methods. We are going to review that. But time is of the essence, because the Erie County Fair needs an answer and they will have an answer within one week. We’re comparing the state fair guidance to the Erie County Fair, see if there’s any variance that would rationalize a difference in capacity, and we want to review the report that they put out. But that’ll have an answer in one week so they can plan.
May I also ask you, sir, if you have this vaccinated section at the stadium here and all the people in it are vaccinated, why do they have to still wear masks? In other states, in other parts of the country, you’ve seen full ballparks, no masks, no evidence of them being super-spreaders. What’s the thought behind still having to wear a mask outdoors when everyone around you is vaccinated?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (36:55)
Well, you have two things. You have a variance in rules across the state. You have some stadiums that are fully open. You also have some stadiums that have no participants. Well, why the difference between states? Why the difference between positivity?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:17)
We announced today a 1% positivity. The national average is 4%. You can have fewer safeguards and have a higher positivity rate. If you have a higher positivity rate that correlates to a higher death rate. I mean, I look at these numbers every day and I’m excited when I see the 1% positivity. I’m excited when I see hospitalizations down, when I see positivity down, and then I see 26 people died yesterday. For me, that number is a crusher. 26 people died, 26 families, 26 funerals, 26 children and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters. Yeah, you can be what I would consider reckless, but then you’re going to have more people dying. 1% positivity, we should be proud.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:24)
Now, also this, wearing a mask, when you have a beer, you take it off. When you have a hotdog, say Sahlen Field, when you have a hotdog, you take it off. But other than that, vendors are coming by, people are coming by, you will have children in a vaccinated section who are not vaccinated. In other words, if you, a family, comes and they bring their child to the game, the child will not be vaccinated. We’re allowing unvaccinated children with vaccinated families in the vaccinated section. You could theoretically be sitting next to an unvaccinated child. It’s a minimal precaution, but we think it’s wise.
Speaker 4: (39:31)
Governor, if I could go back to the county fairs, quickly. The Chautauqua County Fair has already had to cancel this year’s edition because they didn’t get the state guidance in time and their date was coming up in July. Is the state, I mean, I don’t want to imply you’re dragging your feet on releasing that, but why is it taking so long to get released?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:48)
Well, we did the State County Fair, which is going to be the general guidance. That fair guidance is going to be the general fair guidance. It’s not dragging your feet. It’s that the situation changes so quickly. We want to open at the greatest capacity and at a capacity that makes it economic. If you can’t bring in enough people, then the vendors don’t want to show up. That has been a problem. We could not say to the vendors, “We can get you X-percent capacity.” And the vendors have said to us, “If we can’t get X-percent, we’re not coming.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (40:38)
As our positivity rate has come down, we have been increasing the capacity. When you increase the capacity, you make more events, economically viable. That’s true in baseball. That’s true in music theaters. That’s true for Broadway. If you can’t increase the capacity to their economic threshold, it doesn’t work. Up until now for many venues, we’ve been below the economic threshold. They have said, “If I can only have 25% people, I can’t open. I just don’t have enough people to make it economically viable.” That’s what we’ve been running into. Now, with these numbers, I believe we can make it economically viable for almost every venue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (41:36)
Also, and I wanted to make this point, let’s take what we did today. 50% vaccinated, 50% unvaccinated. The unvaccinated section takes up space. Vaccinated, we’re in the stadium, it’s seat by seat. Yes, you wear the mask. You could be sitting next to an unvaccinated per-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:03)
Ask you wear the mask. You could be sitting next to an unvaccinated person, child. But it’s seat for seat in the vaccinated section. The unvaccinated section, it’s a six foot distance. That means you only get roughly half of the seating capacity. How did you come up with 50/50?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:24)
Right now the population of the state is 50% vaccinated. So there’s a symmetry between 50% vaccinated in the state and 50/50. But if I’m a stadium owner or if I’m a arena owner, or if I’m a county fair, I say, look, I can get more people if I increase the percentage of vaccinated. If this stadium said 100% vaccinated, you’re basically at full capacity.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:07)
Well, we only have 50% of the people vaccinated right now. And you don’t really want to say only vaccinated people can go to the game, but as that vaccine number goes up and you can have a larger vaccinated population, you’re going to get closer and closer to 100%.
If you go back to the original question, why not release the county fair guidance when you released that state fair guidance a few weeks ago?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:34)
I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know that it’s not applicable. I would have to check that. Do you know if the state fair guidance is the county fair guidance?
Speaker 5: (43:42)
No, I will get back to you though with that.
Governor, how do you avoid creating a class system of unvaccinated people and vaccinated people when you do things [inaudible 00:43:54]?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:53)
It’s not a class system, because there’s no class. It’s totally up to you. It’s free. It’s free. Do you have people who have vaccines and people who don’t have vaccines? Yes, but those are not classes. Classes suggests a connotation of wealth or access or privilege. It’s none of those. It’s free. You don’t want to get a vaccine, that’s your business, but I don’t want to sit next to you. That’s my business. And that’s the unvaccinated versus the vaccinated.
Governor, New York is one of only nine states that doesn’t have any date or metrics set for full reopening, full capacity everywhere [inaudible 00:44:40]. Can you just explain why, when other states are doing it-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:43)
Yeah, because I think they set a number, but it’s just the number. It’s just a goal. It’s not based on anything. I do it the other way. I say, you look at the numbers every day. We’ll decide what to do today on today’s numbers. I mean, I don’t know what could be more transparent or without theory or opinion.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:12)
Frankly, I don’t like when these politicians get up and say, “Well, I’m planning in September that we’re going to reopen because the numbers are going to be low.” How do you know what the numbers are going to be in September? What basis do you have for that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:34)
I’ve been involved in this from day one on the most intensive level of anyone in the country, frankly. Nobody knew what they were talking about. Nobody. Everything changed. When we started, don’t wear a mask. It’s unnecessary. When we started, it’s going to be over by Easter. When we started, oh, it gets transferred from surfaces. They’ve been wrong more than they’ve been right. It’s not a criticism. It’s just a fact.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:11)
So I don’t believe in prophesizing, because it’s a guess. We follow the numbers every day. We get that vaccination. If you are vaccinated, enjoy the ball game with other vaccinated people. You want to open the stadium tomorrow at 100% vaccine? God bless you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:35)
Well, then we exclude the unvaccinated. All right, but that’s a political decision. But the more the vaccine goes up, the lower the positivity rate goes, those are the numbers. React to the numbers that day.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:51)
Vice versa is also true. I go out a little bit on the limb today, saying 100% percent beach and pool capacity by July 4th. Now you could say to me, “July 4th? We’re in May. How do you know what’s going to happen in June?” I don’t. I’m extrapolating from the past month, and the way we run the numbers for the next month. But that is a leap of faith. 100% capacity at the beaches, July 4th. That’s why I add that caveat, if we keep moving forward.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (47:35)
If a variant hits, they’re talking about an Indian variant, a South African variant. Who knows what could happen in the next six weeks. But I don’t think you do the public a service suggesting a goal that might not happen.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (47:53)
You know, I like to stick with facts and if I say it’s going to happen, it happens. And if I’m not sure it’s going to happen, I tell you I’m not sure it’s going to happen. That’s how I feel most comfortable dealing with the people of the state. I give you just facts. And then I’ll give you my opinion, but by the way, you can throw my opinion in the garbage pail. But here are the facts.
What about the hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions of people, who just won’t get the vaccine, no matter what incentive you offer? Are you just resigned to the fact that there’s a certain population that won’t get vaccinated?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:40)
I am resigned to nothing. New Yorkers are resigned to nothing. Resignation suggests giving up. Do you know a New Yorker who ever gives up on anything? If we were people who gave up, we wouldn’t be here. If our ancestors were people who gave up, we wouldn’t be here. It’s not in our DNA. It’s not in our blood.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:08)
Having said that, are there a hardcore percentage of people who are anti-vaccine? Yes, that is a true statement. I went through this with the measles, as I mentioned, and it is an ongoing debate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:27)
There are people who are so opposed to vaccines that they did not give their children the measles vaccine and are homeschooling their children, because they couldn’t send their children to school. That is how committed they are to their theory that vaccines are dangerous. I have studied it. I’ve had many conversations with people. They’re very passionate about it. I don’t believe science backs up the theory, but there is a hardcore, devoted group that believes vaccines are bad.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:13)
I don’t believe you convince those people. I’ve been trying for two years after the measles vaccine situation, but I haven’t given up. But I’m telling you, they’re very difficult.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:26)
I don’t think that is a large numerical group. I think there’s a larger group who, they aren’t against it. They’re not for it. They don’t feel vulnerable. They tend to be younger people. Why should I do it? Things are getting better. I don’t want to go. I have to go make an appointment. I have to make a phone call. I have to wait online. Sounds like I have to go to a driver’s license, DMV office. I hate that. I can’t do it through the web. I have to show up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:08)
So that’s the group we’re trying to say, let me explain the facts to you. You were nervous about it. 17 million New Yorkers have it. You know, we have a lot of information. People all around the globe have taken it, and we’re going to make it very easy for you. I’m going to figure out where you go day-to-day, and I’m going to go to you. I’m not asking you to come to me anymore. Come to a mass vaccination site. Come to ECMC. No, no, no, no.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:41)
I’ll come to you. Where are you going? Are you going to the ballgame? I’ll be there. I’ll give you a vaccine. And by the way, if you come in and stop in and go get a vaccine, you get a free ticket to the Bisons, and you can be a raffle. You’re going somewhere, you’re getting on a bus? You’re getting on a train? I’ll meet you there. And by the way, to get you to walk the 10 feet to come in and sit in the chair and get the needle, I know you don’t like needles, nobody does, you got a free pass. $25.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (52:20)
So when I said creative before, it’s creative, but it’s a different mentality. People come to government. No, let’s flip that. Let us go to them. Your public housing complex, your community center. Get you during the commute, get you when you go to a ballgame. Pop-up centers in front of a grocery store. You’re going to work? We do a pop-up center right in front of a grocery store. Let me intercept you and give you an incentive. That’s the group we’re focused on. Let’s take one more.
Governor, the Bills [inaudible 00:53:07] announcing the schedule today. It seems they are going to be playing their first game that first week of the season. Is that 50/50 vaccinated, unvaccinated something that could be done for the Bills, and has there been any discussion?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (53:19)
Yes. Right now that would be the formula. You know, there’s no difference. The Mets formula, Yankees formula, is going to be the Bills formula, the Jets formula, right? Giants formula. Well Giants, Jets, when they play in this state, if they play in this state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (53:40)
Right now that’s the formula, but September is a long way away. But today, that is the formula. I hope it is better by September. As I said, we have social distancing at beaches, pools today. I hope 100%, July 4th. I hope by September it is better. Am I going to set a goal of saying September 100%? Well, not a goal. Am I going to say in September we have 100%?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:15)
No, because nobody knows. And anybody who heard me say, “In September, it’s going to be 100%,” would say, yeah, that’s just a typical politician. He has no idea what he’s talking about, but he’s talking.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:29)
I’ll see you later. Thank you very much.