May 5, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 5
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on May 5, 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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Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… I want to thank them very much for being here. We’re also joined by Doug Behar, who’s the Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations for the New York Yankees. And David Newman, who’s the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Content and Communications Officer for the New York Mets. Big title, big job.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:22)
Let’s make some announcements and then we will get to some special business. COVID, COVID, COVID. That is the order of the day. We’re working on three tracks simultaneously with COVID, responding to COVID, managing COVID, recovering from COVID. And then, New York’s revitalization post-COVID, right? Places talk about reopening, states talk about reopening.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:55)
New York has a higher standard. We don’t want to just reopen. We want to be better than we were before. We want to re-imagine New York, reinvent New York, rebuild New York. Take this as a moment of opportunity to grow. Don’t just go back to where you were. That’s not what life is about, going backwards. Life is about going forward. How do you take this as a moment for progress? And that’s our goal.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:28)
As we discussed last week, we are reopening the valve. That’s what governors do. Sandy and Randy, I’m in the valve turning business. “What does the governor do?” He turns valves. We watched the positivity rate. We watched the hospitalization rate. We watched the vaccination rate. As those numbers change, we then calibrate our reopening of economic activity, social activity, etc., and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:02)
Even while we’re doing that, we continue to watch the numbers every day. Just the way, every play, you watch what happens and then you adjust. We make a decision, we adjust, but then we watch what happens and we adjust to the current circumstances.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:25)
Today we have all really good news for New York. Overall, statewide positivity is 1.4%. That is the lowest since October 28th. And that is a very big deal for us. October 28th means, before November, obviously. And well, before what we called the holiday surge. If you remember, Thanksgiving started the holiday season and we warned New Yorkers, “Be careful about the holiday season, more socialization, more activity. You’re going to start to visit people and it’s going to go up.” And the infection rate went up.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:08)
We’re back to October 28th on the one day average of 1.4%. So that is really great news. The hospitalization rate is 2,400, and that is the lowest since November 21. People in ICU, lowest since November 24th. Intubation’s lowest since December 2nd. So really great news all along. And that is congratulations to New Yorkers. You know who determines that day-to-day? New Yorkers. It is a function of the collective. It’s the behavior of the collective.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:50)
Statewide deaths, which to me is always the most important number on the charts, 31. It is much lower than it has been. But for people who say, “Well, this is over. This is a creation of the media. This is a creation of the politicians,” 31 people died yesterday. So it’s not over, 31 people died because of COVID.
Andrew Cuomo: (04:20)
But, positivity. In January we were at 7.9%. Now we’re down to 1.7% on the seven day average. Hospitalizations, 8,900 in January, post-holiday surge. We’re now down to 2,600. Positivity across the state, and I talk about this all the time, but I want people to ask themselves, “Why is there a variance in positivity across the state?” Same state, same governor, same health commissioner, same message, same briefing. Why is there such a variance in the positivity rate across the state?
Andrew Cuomo: (05:12)
There’s only one answer. Because it is the behavior of that community that is determining the positivity rate. It’s the actions of the individual and the actions of that community. Some communities take more precautions, get more vaccines and some communities don’t. So you go from a high Western New York, 3.1, you go to a low in the Southern Tier, abutting Western New York, 0.7. How do you explain that?
Andrew Cuomo: (05:51)
Within New York City, you have a highest rate Brooklyn, 1.9%, Staten Island, 1. 9%. Brooklyn is technically higher, but Staten Island has been right there, number one, number two. Manhattan, 0.9%. How do you explain Manhattan at half the positivity rate of the outer boroughs? How? Density? Manhattan is more dense, more people on mass transit. It is the behavior of the community.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:32)
COVID recovery, what’s the best thing we can do? Vaccinate. Vaccinate New Yorkers, we’re doing very well with that, 16 million shots in arms. We are at 58% of the eligible population, not of the total population, of the eligible population. You’re only eligible at 18 plus. So we are at 58% of that population, 45% of eligible people have been fully vaccinated. Those numbers are very good and they exceed the national average.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:10)
But, we must continue to vaccinate. And we’re seeing the numbers slow on vaccination. And if there’s one dial that gives me pause, it is the number of people coming in to get vaccinated has dropped. Despite the fact that it is now much easier to get vaccinated. You don’t have to make an appointment, it’s walk in, everybody is eligible, we have one of the most extensive distribution sites in the United States of America. You go to one of our mass vaccination sites, people will tell you, not because I say it, “It was a good experience. It was well run. I was in, I was out, it was organized.”
Andrew Cuomo: (07:59)
But we’re seeing a drop-off. I call them two groups, The Youthful and The Doubtful. Youthful because, in truth, they have been less of an emphasis all through this. They have been eligible as soon as the older people were eligible, they just were eligible a few weeks ago. And the attitude all along has been, “I’m young and I’m strong. I can get the vaccine and I’m going to be fine. Only old people have to worry about it.”
Andrew Cuomo: (08:32)
And The Doubtful, we were just chatting about it, vaccine hesitancy. I don’t like the word hesitancy, it’s distrust. “I don’t trust the vaccine. I don’t know what’s in it. I don’t know what the long-term ramifications are. I don’t believe it. Government says do it. I doubt government. I distrust government.” So those are the two groups we’re working on.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:59)
But the arrows are pointed in the right direction. Vaccines are going up, positivity is going down. We announced a major reopening, we did it in concert with New Jersey and Connecticut, because we are a tri-state region. If you ask Mr. Alderson and Mr. Levine, they’ll say we get people from New Jersey. We get people from Connecticut. We operate on a tri-state basis. Yes, we’re in New York, but that’s not how the region functions. So we’ve been functioning to the best we can, coordinating with New Jersey, Connecticut.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:35)
We have dramatically lifted capacity basically to the CDC social distancing guidelines. That’s really the capacity restriction that remains, the six feet social distancing. Broadway tickets go on sale today at 100% capacity for theaters. The shows open September 14th. That’s a function of how Broadway operates, obviously, they have to have a play to put on and they’re in the process of doing that. But the tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:15)
But let’s talk baseball. “The crowd makes the game,” Ty Cobb. And everybody will tell you that, that it’s a different experience with the crowd. I think Mr. Alderson and Mr. Levine can expand. But the crowd energizes, the crowd brings the rhythm. The crowd brings the dynamic into the stadium, right? So much in sports they talk about momentum, and the crowd is part of that momentum. They build it.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:55)
Great teams will say that one of their greatest assets are their fan base. And when the fans are with them and the fans are cheering, it’s a totally different feeling and it gets your energy up and it gets your adrenaline up. So they’re part of the game. Especially a New York crowd, because New Yorkers are not a shy crowd. They don’t sit there and clap politely. They let you know that they’re there and they’re in the game. So that’s important.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:25)
So, for baseball reopening, May 19th. Two different categories. Not Yankees/Mets. Vaccinated/Unvaccinated. Vaccinated people, normal capacity, normal seating for people who are vaccinated. Sit next to each other in a section, sit next your friend, sit next to your family. Just normal capacity, normal seating. Vaccinated families who have a child 16 under, who’s not eligible, that child can be seated with the family. We ask them to wear masks, but, you attend the ball game like you attended the ball game two years ago.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:20)
For unvaccinated people, the six foot distancing applies with masks, and that comes out to roughly 33% in those sections capacity for unvaccinated people. Okay? So if you’re vaccinated, that’s one category. You’re unvaccinated, that’s another category. No testing, but if you’re vaccinated, you have the Excelsior Pass, you have proof of vaccination and that will determine where you sit. Added advantage, Mets, Yankees, and the New York State Department of Health are going to team up. You didn’t know that Dr. Zucker was a ballplayer, but you do now. He is now an official member of both the Mets and the Yankees. Doesn’t strike you as a ball player. He’s stronger and more agile than you may appear. And he’s younger than his years, also. So he’s an official member of the team. And they have teamed up.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:36)
You can get a vaccine at the game. You’re going to the game, we will set up, at the game, a facility as you’re going in. Come a little bit early and get your vaccine at the game. You’re going to the game any way, it’s on your way, stop and get a vaccine. And if you get a vaccine, you get a free ticket to a Yankees or a Mets game. So you get a vaccine, it’s convenient, you’re going there anyway. Thanks to the generosity of the Yankees and the Mets, if you get a vaccine, they will give you a free ticket to the game. And next time you go to the game and you’re vaccinated, you can enjoy the game sitting next to your friend, sitting next to your family, which to me is a big part of the enjoyment of the game. We call that a New York home-run. It’s smart. It recognizes the civic responsibility of all of us. It’s generous, it’s convenient and it’s another good, easy reason and reminder that we all have to get a vaccine.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:08)
And why do we get a vaccine? Because at the end of the day, we’re Yankees fans, we’re Mets fans, but we’re all on the same team on this one. We’re all on the New York team. “There’s no, I in team,” they say. I get a vaccine to protect you and you get a vaccine to protect me. And the way a team plays together and you win together or you lose together with this COVID, we either win together or we lose together. It is that simple.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:45)
We, the collective “we”, either get the vaccine as a society, or we don’t get the vaccine. There is no “me” here. It’s about “we” and “we” have to do it. And what New Yorkers have been great at through COVID, great, is acting as one. Acting as a smart unified group.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:17)
I want to thank the Mets and the Yankees from the bottom of my heart. It’s a pain in the neck for them to operate this vaccinated and unvaccinated. The gentlemen who run the stadiums are here. It’s not easy to do this. Nobody’s done this before. Nobody’s done any of this before, let’s be honest. And I want to thank them for the generosity of offering a free ticket to the game. I want to thank them for allowing the vaccine center to be set up at the stadium. And I want to thank them for their cooperation.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:58)
They didn’t have to do it. It’s not easy to do, but it’s truly the New York spirit and it is the team spirit. And again, I thank them for being here and I thank them for their generosity. And I thank them for being New York tough. They say, “You’re tough. You New Yorkers, you’re tough.” Yeah, we are tough. We are. Don’t deny it. But we’re tough in a good way. When we say we’re tough, it means we’re smart, We’re United, we’re disciplined and we’re loving. That’s how we got past COVID and that’s how we’re going to continue to recover and reimagine and reinvent and rebuild after COVID. So thank you.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:46)
With that. Let me turn it over to Randy Levine, first. Doesn’t show any favoritism between the Yankees and the Mets. I’m not going there. Mr. Levine.
Randy Levine: (17:59)
Thank you, Governor. And I want to thank you very much. And your team, Dr. Zucker and Rob. Because right from the very beginning last year, you were a leader in allowing us to come back and play, even though we’re no fans. And you’ve been a leader in opening up the facility, all the stadiums, for fans. I think you said it well, fans make the game. And if anybody was watching the game last night at Yankee Stadium or saw it on television or listen to it on radio, that point was crystal clear.
Randy Levine: (18:38)
We were at capacity, 10,850. And the building sounded like there were 50,000 people cheering, doing some other things from start to finish, and that’s what it’s all about. And it gave all of us spirit. It reminded us of the way it used to be and the way it can be again. So thank you, because baseball goes every-
Randy Levine: (19:03)
So thank you because baseball goes every day and it really presents a sense of normalcy to everybody. We’re like an ongoing story every single day. Some days are good, some days are bad, and you just hope there are more good days than bad days.
Randy Levine: (19:22)
Similarly, thanks to you, we’ve been operating a vaccine center at Yankee Stadium, which is really important. We’ve vaccinated tens and tens of thousands of people, but we need more. We need more because in my opinion and the Yankees’ opinion, that’s how we get back to normalcy. So we are excited to take that program, combine it with providing free tickets to fans. We’ll put it all out on our website, how it’s going to work. Basically you come to the game, as the Governor said, you take a vaccine shot, you get a voucher, you can go to that game. If that game’s sold out, you can go tomorrow night and go to a game of your choice.
Randy Levine: (20:08)
So we’re all in on this. We’re excited to be part of this. We’re excited to have more and more fans in the building because our players love it, we love it, and it gives New Yorkers a chance to get back to normal and think about things other than what they’ve been thinking about in the past.
Randy Levine: (20:32)
So on behalf of Hal Steinbrenner, the whole Yankee organization and the Steinbrenner family, thanks for your leadership. We’re all in and let’s make this a great success.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:43)
Thank you. Thank you. Congratulations on how you’ve been playing and thank the Steinbrenners for me. Mr. Sandy Alderson? Thank you, Sandy.
Sandy Alderson: (20:51)
Thank you, Governor. First of all, similarly, I would like to thank you and all of your staff, including Commissioner Zucker and Director Mojica for all that you’ve done, not just with respect to baseball, but for public health throughout the state.
Sandy Alderson: (21:12)
Seeing the data today, it was pleasing to us because it has led to some of these announcements, but more importantly, more fundamentally, it speaks volumes for where we are as a state and a city, and that this reopening of baseball is just another indication of how far we’ve come. And a lot of that has to do with the way you’ve led the state.
Sandy Alderson: (21:39)
As I said, we’ve been very pleased with the data. This has led to some new opportunities for us in terms of fans coming to the ballpark, but it’s also fundamental and important to us as a community.
Sandy Alderson: (21:54)
I’m very proud of what the Yankees and the Mets have done together with Major League Baseball, to support vaccinations and all things related to recovery. We are currently vaccinating at Citi Field approximately 2000 individuals a day. We are in the process of opening a drive-through lane, which will add to our daily capacity. And we are reaching out through our community department to those groups that don’t have immediate access or transportation to these sites. There’s always more than we can do, but I’m very happy with the efforts that all of baseball has made.
Sandy Alderson: (22:39)
I was in Syracuse last night for their home opener, and it reminds us that this is not just a New York city issue, this is statewide, it’s national. Their ballpark has just been refurbished in part with funding provided by the state. And the sense of anticipation of that crowd going into the ballpark was really electric. And it reminds one that, and Randy said that fans are what make the game. Fans are also what make memories. And they make memories for players as well as themselves.
Sandy Alderson: (23:21)
And with this new opportunity for us, I think that we will get more families to the ballpark, we will have more kids in the ballpark, and we’ll return to creating those memories that are so important and so part of our lives. I can remember going to my first major league game when I was nine, the Chicago White Sox against the Yankees, and you’ll be happy to know that even then I rooted against the Yankees. In any event, that’s a memory that has stuck with me for 60 or 65 years, whatever the number is, and those are indelible. And what today means is that we can begin more extensively to create those memories again.
Sandy Alderson: (24:14)
And so, again, Governor, I want to thank you for your role in this. And on behalf of all Mets fans, thank you.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:27)
Thank you, Mr. Alderson. Well, consistency matters in life, 60 years. And also, thank you for what you did in Syracuse. That’s a big deal. We worked cooperatively on rebuilding a stadium up there and it’s very, very powerful or to the people in Syracuse. So thank you for that. And thank you for-
Sandy Alderson: (24:44)
By the way, we also will be giving away Yankee tickets.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:51)
Okay, we’re going to end this now. Any questions for Randy or for Sandy on this topic while they have Mr. Behar and Mr. Newman who could help them answer questions?
Yes, I have a question regarding capacity given that this is outdoors. And I happened to go to the game last night. And you show proof of vaccination, you show proof of a test, you get your temperature taken, they ask you for ID. This is an open venue. Why wouldn’t you go to 50% or 100% capacity?
Andrew Cuomo: (25:31)
Well, you could be at 100% if you have all vaccinated people. We’re doing away with the testing requirement, which was quite burdensome. But theoretically if you had 100% vaccinated, you could fill the entire stadium with 100% vaccinated. Vaccinated, it’s full capacity. Unvaccinated, it is still the six foot social distancing. In other words, our capacity restrictions have been relaxed subject to the federal CDC social distancing guidelines of six feet.
Speaker 1: (26:15)
[inaudible 00:26:15] fans whether there are vaccinated or unvaccinated sections, or will it be based on ticket buyers? How will that work?
Randy Levine: (26:25)
We’re developing it right now. And Doug Behar is going to run it from our end, but there are going to be separate sections for those who are vaccinated. We’ve been polling our fans. I think the majority are vaccinated rather than unvaccinated who are coming in, and hopefully those numbers continue to rise. But we will have separate sections and accommodate all our season ticket holders, make sure that they’re fine, and other people coming in.
Randy Levine: (27:02)
We just received this good news yesterday and we’ve been actively working on it to make sure that the stadium is ready by May 19th. And there’ll be ample notice. Doug and our people will get it up on the website so everybody knows where to go, where the seats are. And hopefully we have, both of us and the Mets, full house now we after full house.
Sandy Alderson: (27:27)
If I could just say a couple of things in response. First of all, we are committed to a gradual reopening. So to that extent, we are in full agreement with the Governor. There are criteria for entering the ballpark, vaccinations, testing, temperature checks, et cetera, but there are some people who are just not comfortable being in large groups, even at an outdoor facility.
Sandy Alderson: (27:58)
And so, from our standpoint, we still need some social distancing, which is not to say we agree with everything the Governor and the Commissioner have mandated, but generally speaking, we think a gradual return is appropriate in light of some concerns that people have about being in large groups, even if they’ve been vaccinated.
Sandy Alderson: (28:19)
So we’re working toward full capacity of course, but we’re happy with where we are and where we’re going.
Speaker 1: (28:27)
[crosstalk 00:28:27] buy a ticket. If I buy a ticket, do I buy a specific section or do you put me in a section based on my status?
Sandy Alderson: (28:38)
Yes. So right now, we’re limited to about 8,500 tickets. If you take out the holds for a visiting team and so forth, we’re down to about 8,000. Most of those tickets have been purchased by season ticket holders, partial ticket holders, small plans. So the remaining capacity that we have is very low, but in terms of what we have been doing, based on locations, we have relocated individuals. Now, if we go to a vaccinated section and an unvaccinated section, we’re going to have to move people around again. But as we sell tickets on an individual basis, they will go into one of those two areas, either unvaccinated or vaccinated because we will have some inventory in both types of location.
Speaker 2: (29:29)
What percentage of the Mets players, and Randy, if you can answer what percentage of the Yankee players have been vaccinated and what are you doing to get the players who aren’t vaccinated vaccinated?
Randy Levine: (29:41)
Major League Baseball has a rule that relaxes their protocols when you hit 85%. We’re way over that 85% mark. Virtually all of our players have been vaccinated.
Randy Levine: (29:57)
And just to answer the question before, season ticket holders have been, will continue to be accommodated, but under the new regime, when you buy a ticket, you’ll know if you’re vaccinated where that ticket is, where you can go, and if you’re unvaccinated, you’ll know where you can go.
Sandy Alderson: (30:15)
So our percentage right now is about 77%. So we’re under that 85. We continue to work on it. At this point, it’s a case by case, individual by individual campaign on our part. We continue to provide education. And as time passes, we get one or two more every few days, but we’re not at that level yet and we see the kind of resistance within the framework of the team that we see publicly. And all of the same reasons are being made to us by them as we see in the public domain.
Speaker 3: (31:01)
Can you just clarify what the mask rules will be come May 19th? Everyone is still required-
Andrew Cuomo: (31:07)
Everyone wears a mask.
Speaker 3: (31:07)
Everyone wears a mask?
Speaker 4: (31:08)
If somebody gets a shot at a game, when and where will their next shot be scheduled? Is that three weeks later at another game? What if that game is sold out? What’s the process there?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:18)
This starts May 19th. We’re planning to have enough J&J to do one shot, Johnson & Johnson.
Speaker 4: (31:22)
It’ll be Johnson & Johnson at games?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:23)
Speaker 4: (31:23)
Andrew Cuomo: (31:26)
Let me make one point before these gentlemen leave. We talk about COVID. For many months, we had COVID restrictions. I think what we’re doing now are facilitations. Because the main resistance now is people’s own fears and people’s comfort level. And when you have a set of rules and protocols in place where people feel comfortable, I think it’s going to have more people attending games. I think more people go to restaurants. I think more people go to museums if they know they are safe when they go there.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:15)
You’re vaccinated, you’re going to sit with only vaccinated people. I think that’s actually going to increase the public acceptance level of doing this. Because the main obstacle now on reopening is not government says this, government says that. It’s what you think and what you feel, and you want to be safe and you want your family to be safe and you want your children to be safe.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:39)
So if they know this ballpark is a safe arena and the person they’re going to be sitting next to is vaccinated if they’re vaccinated, and if they’re unvaccinated, there’s not going to be anyone for six feet, I think that makes them feel better and more willing to go to a ball game.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:58)
So I don’t see them as restrictions. I see them as facilitations as people start to become more comfortable doing things they used to do.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:08)
Let’s give a round of applause to Sandy Alderson and Randy Levine. Thank you very much for being here. Mr. Behar, thank you. Mr. Newman, thank you.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:16)
I’ll be back.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:17)
Andrew Cuomo: (33:17)
Did you see that, Dr. Zucker? I said that he’s now a member of the Yankees, and the Mets, he wanted to leave with the team. That team spirit is strong. Let’s take a couple of questions.
Speaker 5: (34:04)
Dr. Zucker, can I ask you a question about The New York Times report that came out a few days ago? It said that the Governor’s senior aides prevented a scientific paper from publishing, that they delayed the release of an audit on those nursing home deaths by months, and that they prevented or blocked your department from sending letters to state lawmakers. I guess just straight up question here, did the Governor or his senior aides do those things. Did he order you or the department to withhold that nursing home data beginning of April of last year?
Dr. Zucker: (34:34)
I think the Governor addressed that at a previous press conference. And as I have said before, this is an ongoing investigation, so I won’t answer any questions at this point.
Speaker 5: (34:42)
Governor, Congress, six Republicans have now asked the Senate Finance Committee to open an investigation into the whole nursing home scandal. Are you willing to testify in front of Congress or cooperate with any investigation?
Andrew Cuomo: (34:55)
Look, they want to play more politics, the Republicans. They have fully politicized COVID from the beginning. That’s where this all started, with the federal government’s politicalization of COVID. They were in denial of COVID. You had the President of the United States who said it wasn’t a problem. It was going to go away. We were going to reopen by April. He wanted to blame the Democratic governors for COVID. He did blame the Democratic governors for COVID.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:29)
At the presidential conventions last year, I got up and condemned the federal government and the Republican party for their lack of leadership on COVID. The President tweeted 31 times against me. And then Gretchen Whitmer from Michigan spoke at the convention and the Governor tweeted against her, saying she was a murderer, same thing with other Democratic governors.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:59)
They then seized on nursing homes as an issue because nursing homes were ground zero for COVID for obvious reasons all across the nation. And they’ve continued to politicize it because they don’t want to accept responsibility for what happened. They’re still in denial. They’re still pointing fingers. They’ve learned absolutely nothing.
Andrew Cuomo: (36:23)
And when you politicized public health and medical decisions, you are on a very dangerous course, my friend, because what you do is you chill medical decisions that are made in the best interest of public health when you put them through a political filter. And that’s what this federal government did. It was never about public health. It was never about doctors and science. It was all spin and all politics, and it still is.
Speaker 5: (36:57)
With respect, Governor, you’ve been accused of doing the exact same thing because you have said that the reason why you did not provide the data was because you feared that data would be used politically against you.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:05)
Speaker 5: (37:06)
So did you also-
Andrew Cuomo: (37:07)
No, don’t tell me what I said.
Speaker 5: (37:09)
Andrew Cuomo: (37:10)
The Republicans politicized an order, a health order that was put out by the state Department of Health on March 25th, which was, from a medical point of view, smart. They wanted to blame nursing home deaths on that order. They then wanted to blame a report that clearly said how COVID got into nursing homes. It had nothing to do with March 25th. They’ve taken every attempt to politicize it and blame Democratic states. They then not only politicized it, they tried to criminalize it. And the President refers, has the Department of Justice start an investigation against those Democratic-
Andrew Cuomo: (38:03)
… Justice starting an investigation against those Democratic states. How frightening is that? Not only do you politicize health decisions, you try to criminalize health decisions. That’s not the United States of America.
Speaker 6: (38:21)
Mayor DeBlasio was effectively canceling Columbus Day. Do you support that decision? What are your thoughts on it?
Andrew Cuomo: (38:29)
Let me give you a shocker. Are you ready for a shocker? I disagree with it. I know you’re taken aback. Look, cities have certain authority and a city can declare a city holiday. Buffalo can, New York City can, and other cities can. When it comes to appreciating and respecting indigenous people, I agree 100%. When you look at what has happened to the indigenous people in this country, it’s a shame. They deserve much more than a holiday. I would support a holiday. They deserve more than a holiday.
Andrew Cuomo: (39:14)
When I was HUD secretary, one of the things HUD did was provided housing on Native American reservations. And I visited dozens of them. You know the poorest places in the United States of America are Native American reservations. I spent time on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, 75% unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome. Some of the worst conditions. What we did to the Native Americans, we gave them reservations. You know what the reservations were? The land that nobody else wanted. We took what we wanted and the unusable land, the less valuable land, that became reservations.
Andrew Cuomo: (39:59)
And I’ve seen it firsthand all across the country. I have tremendous respect for the Native American people and the Native American culture, visited the [inaudible 00:40:11] tribe in Alaska and was given an honorary name of [inaudible 00:40:19]. So I’ve done a lot of work with the Native American community. I support an indigenous peoples holiday, but I also support Columbus Day. And you can have an indigenous peoples day without intruding on Columbus Day. And that is the spirit of New York. Columbus day is a day where we celebrate the Italian American contribution to this state.
Andrew Cuomo: (40:51)
And by the way, it’s not either/or. We’re not drawing lines and dividing. We’re trying to do the opposite. We’re the collective. We celebrate all. We celebrate the Jewish contribution, salute to Israel. Let’s have a Greek parade, let’s have an Italian parade, let’s have an Asian American parade. Celebrate everyone. You don’t have to exclude Italians to celebrate indigenous people. And why would you want to?
Andrew Cuomo: (41:35)
Look, you may accuse me of being biased. I come from Italian-American heritage, as do many people in this city and in this state. And why do you feel the need to diminish the Italian American contribution to recognize the indigenous people contribution? It’s not one or the other? Well, we can either have a salute to Israel day parade or an Italian Columbus day parade. No, have both. That’s New York, that’s celebrating diversity, celebrating immigration, celebrating us, celebrating the collective, celebrating the mosaic, celebrating the family. Why insult or diminish the Italian American contribution? Why? There’s no need and it’s unhealthy for the body politic.
Andrew Cuomo: (42:45)
So I would support an indigenous people day and I believe they should have more than a day. They should actually have the justice that they deserve. But Columbus Day is a state holiday and Columbus Day will stay a state holiday. And I recognize and support the Italian American contribution to this city and state, which is significant and should not be diminished. And I diminish no group’s contribution to this city. And I welcome more groups and more new immigrants to be part of this state. And I think the other message is destructive. You know,
Governor, what are the specifics of the Broadway reopening? Tickets or going on sale. Do you know how many shows are opening? How you’re doing this? What else can you answer on that?
Andrew Cuomo: (43:53)
I’m sort of at my maximum knowledge on the topic here, Juliet. The tickets go on sale tomorrow. Obviously, they have to get the plays ready. That will be in September. Do you have the list of the plays themselves?
There are dozens of them that are going on. It’s on a rolling basis, so not everyone is going to go at the exact same time, but they’re all positioning themselves to be able to open in September. And there’ll be selling at 100% capacity for September. So the stages will open in September. And the point is to also see what, as the governor pointed out earlier, what the appetite is like for people to start going back, right? Broadway is a little different than what you described actually earlier, open air, spacing, right? Six feet. Broadway can’t function that way. It’s not economical for them to function with reduced capacity. So they need to be at a much higher level of capacity. So having the tickets go on sale now, they can start to gauge how many people are interested, what they’re interested in, and then make adjustments as you get to the September stage openings and see which ones [crosstalk 00:45:12].
Andrew Cuomo: (45:11)
Let’s do this one at a time
[inaudible 00:45:13] will you require all vaccinations for people all the time to go to the shows? Is there going to be separate seating for the un-vaccinated? How’s that going to work? It is different indoors now.
So it’s not finalized yet, right? But we’re going to keep looking at the numbers, keep looking at how many people are getting vaccinated. In between now and then we’ll be doing pilots for indoor programs and slowly increasing the amount of capacity there. And then as you get to September, you can do it, but you can envision that there’ll be vaccinations and or testing, right? At that point to allow for that capacity. And again, as the governor pointed out, the question is, will people feel comfortable sitting right next to another individual without knowing their vaccination status? And what we do know from surveys is that the answer is no. And they would prefer to know the vaccination status of the person next to them. So that is where they would be headed.
Andrew Cuomo: (46:09)
And Juliet, excuse me a second. September in some ways is a world the way, right? Look how much changes month to month. I think Rob’s point is very well taken. And I’d like you to think about the point, COVID initially were restrictions. The restrictions now are more self-imposed. You have a personal level of comfort. You will take the subway or you won’t take the subway. You’ll ride a bus or you won’t ride a bus. You’ll go to a movie theater or you won’t go to a movie theater. And not because the government tells you, but you just have your own personal risk reward calibration.
Andrew Cuomo: (46:57)
I think what we just did with the bowl games, what we’re doing with the restaurants, I truly believe they’re not restrictions. They’re facilitations because you will feel safer. You’ll be able to say, oh, I’m going to sit next to a person who I know is vaccinated. Yes. Even though it’s outdoors, there’s a person next to you, you know they’re vaccinated and they’re going to wear a mask on top of it. I think that makes you more likely to go to a game. Theater indoors, you’re going to sit there for two hours. Are you willing to go into an indoor theater and sit there for two hours next to a person who you don’t know if they’re vaccinated or unvaccinated? I don’t know that New Yorkers are going to do that.
Andrew Cuomo: (47:54)
I will tell you today, the simplest formula, 100% vaccinated, 100% vaccinated. You want to come to a theater? 100% vaccinated. Now, the theaters are going to have to make those decisions. They’ll make those decisions in September, you’ll have a different vaccination rate, a different reality, et cetera. But what I’m saying now to places is you want to open with 100% vaccinated, god bless. And I’m looking for examples of that because I think that’s the smartest and safest. And by the way, I enjoy that it creates an incentive to get vaccinated, right? The vaccinations are slowing.
Andrew Cuomo: (48:47)
Well, why should I get vaccinated? Well, there’s a couple of ancillary benefits. You can go to a bowl game and sit next to your buddies. You can bring your family to a bowl game. You can go to a theater. You have more seats in a restaurant and you can sit there with a larger group in a restaurant, et cetera. So to the extent there are benefits to vaccination, I think that’s a good thing because my agenda is very simple. I want to incentivize people to get vaccines. Free ticket? Yes. We’re trying to incentivize vaccines.
Andrew Cuomo: (49:26)
Just to back up for a second so we’re clear, there is a Columbus Day because it is a state holiday. So that applies to every city. There’s a Columbus Day statewide.
Speaker 4: (49:41)
Governor, I wanted to ask you about the comments you had on the MTA the other day. You said you’ve riden the subway and you were scared. You famously don’t ride the subway. So can you tell us one, when was the last time you rode the subway? And then two with subways reopening, they closed down a year ago in large part because of the homelessness issue. But in my reporting, I haven’t seen this situation underground improve very much over the last year, whether it’s from affordable housing, mental health, addiction treatment. You’ve worked on this issue for decades and people are raising questions as to what you have to show for it. So what is your plan going forward to help this crisis? And back to the subway question, when was the last time you rode?
Andrew Cuomo: (50:21)
First, let’s separate the issues. You have not seen an improvement in the subway system in terms of the number of homeless and the cleanliness over the past few months?
Speaker 6: (50:36)
I don’t think you’re noticing any reduction in the amount of people who are relying on the system for shelter, regardless of the shutdown.
Andrew Cuomo: (50:43)
You have not noticed a reduction in the number of homeless people?
Speaker 6: (50:47)
I rode everyday-
Andrew Cuomo: (50:49)
You have a different opinion than your editorial board of your newspaper?
Speaker 6: (50:52)
I don’t work with my editorial board.
Andrew Cuomo: (50:55)
So are they wrong?
Speaker 6: (50:57)
It’s entirely possible.
Andrew Cuomo: (50:58)
Okay. Are most New Yorkers wrong? Who say in surveys, they’ve seen a reduction in the number of homeless and they believe it’s cleaner?
Speaker 6: (51:07)
I’m saying that it’s still a problem.
Andrew Cuomo: (51:08)
That’s not what you said.
Speaker 6: (51:12)
I’m saying that it’s still a problem.
Andrew Cuomo: (51:12)
I don’t want to give you a tough time. You want to say something different, you can say something different.
Speaker 6: (51:17)
Let’s say this. It’s still a problem and it’s still a crisis.
Andrew Cuomo: (51:20)
All right, let’s start over again. There has been a reduction in the number of homeless in subways. The subways are cleaner than ever before. Okay. So now new point, homeless in the subway is still a problem. Yes, I agree. Better than before, better than in recent history, but still a problem. Yes, I agree. And the fear is now when you go to 24 hours, the time when the subway was stopped was an opportunity for interventions where NYPD and social workers reached out to the homeless and brought them from the subways to shelters and to social services.
Speaker 6: (52:19)
You stopped doing that outreach amid the budget cuts last year.
Andrew Cuomo: (52:23)
Well, it was still getting better. So if the NYPD wasn’t doing it, then the MTA was doing it on its own. But my position is the subway system is not a homeless shelter. And I reject this whole notion of people who say, we should let the homeless live on the subways and we should let them live in subway stations. And we should let them sleep in benches. That’s our default homeless system. I started in my twenties building homeless family shelters. I spent eight years in the federal government working on homeless programs. I started the Continuum of Care program, which still exists at HUD through Republican administrations. Won the Harvard Kennedy School award for innovations in government, with the Continuum of Care. We know how to do this.
Andrew Cuomo: (53:34)
This is not where we have to reinvent the wheel. People should not sleep in the subways. People should be in a safe shelter environment. People need incentives to leave the subway and support to leave the subway. That intervention, that assistance has to be provided. If you do nothing, they will stay in the subways. If the shelters are dangerous, then they are saying I’d rather take my chances on a subway then go to the shelter. Then you have to improve the shelter system. But it’s not that we don’t know what to do. It hasn’t been done, but we know what to do, right?
Speaker 6: (54:23)
My point is you’ve been governor for 10 years.
Andrew Cuomo: (54:27)
Yeah. The state has the programs. We have the funding. There has been progress in certain cities where the situation has gotten better. And the situation has gotten better in New York City and in the subway system. New Yorkers say that in surveys. I believe your editorial board said it. Most New Yorkers say it. It’s cleaner and there have been less homeless. And that’s a great success story. My point is, now that you go into 24 hour service, don’t lose that progress. It was not perfect. You’re right. But it was better. And it showed that you can do it. We’ve gotten to a place.
Andrew Cuomo: (55:21)
I’m a little bit older than you. Just a couple of years. Where did we get to this point where the homeless are supposed to be sleeping on subways? It never happened. Never happened. We were talking about the subways in the “old days.” You rode the subways in the 70s, they were dangerous. There were chain snatchers. There were muggings. You had to be savvy. You were on the subway 10:00 at night, you were on your own. You found that car where the police officer was in the car, and you sat in that car with that police officer. And you kept staring at that police officer, but you didn’t have homeless in the subways the way you do now. When did this become okay? And when did we, the collective, decide that this was okay?
Andrew Cuomo: (56:25)
It just happened over time. People sort of gave up. This is how we treat people? They sleep in a subway station and we say, okay, that’s okay. No, I don’t accept it. I don’t accept it. Or what do you do? Run safe shelters. Run safe shelters. What do the people say to you when you go up to them in the subway system? What do they say to me? What do they say to the outreach worker? I don’t want to go to a shelter. Shelters are dangerous. I’d rather sleep here on a bench. It’s safer than the shelter system. That’s what they say. You hear it.
Andrew Cuomo: (57:03)
… safer than the shelter system. That’s what they say. You hear it all the time. Run a safe shelter system. I did it in the federal government, visited every state in the United States and reviewed their shelter system. It is entirely doable. It has to be done, but it’s entirely doable. And now in this snapshot on time where we just showed progress, we can’t go back. What the MTA is saying is we need the NYPD in the subways. I quoted a former police commissioner, “The subways are the canary in the coal mine for crime.” It starts in the subways first. It has, it did. It’s now on the streets. We need the NYPD. We need the same intervention. You’re not going to stop the trains so you don’t have that interval, but I argue you can do it without the interval. You just have to be willing to do it.
Speaker 7: (58:08)
When was the last time you rode the subway?
Andrew Cuomo: (58:11)
I, as governor, don’t really ride the system as a commuter. The subway system doesn’t really go to Albany. When a politician now does it, it’s really a photo op. You guys all come with me and we stand in the car, and it’s this publicity, public relations event. Yeah, it is because when I’m on the subway, I don’t just sit there and read the newspaper. I’m talking to people, et cetera. I don’t think you’ve had a governor who has spent more time in the subways than I have. I’m there when you’re not there. I’m there one o’clock in the morning, two o’clock in the morning, making sure the L train tunnel was built, making sure the train rehab plants are in operation, working with the drain clearing crews to make sure that’s happening. That’s when I’m in the subway system, when I’m making sure the MTA is doing its job. You can do the photo ops with someone else.
Speaker 4: (59:20)
Governor, can you talk about the legality of the seating? To go back to an earlier topic, the stadium seating. I mean, already on social media people are saying, “This is segregation.” Can you talk about the process that you all went through to ensure that this is legal? And once we open Broadway, for instance, once we have possibly a similar system indoors, what are you looking at regarding legality of this separation of seating, please?
Andrew Cuomo: (59:49)
The legality of public health rules, it’s not segregation. We have social distancing rules. We have requirements now in restaurants, et cetera, as to capacity. And we have rules if you’re vaccinated, then X, if you’re not vaccinated, then Y. And they are based on public health parameters, federal and state. Anyone is free to get the vaccine, and it is free, the vaccine itself, and it is available. So it’s a pure personal choice. But from a public health matter, you want to ensure that public health of the people of the state. This is a necessary public health matter. Do you have any data on that, Rob?
I mean, we’re also requiring masks, for example. You cannot run the subways unless you’re wearing masks. It’s a public health requirement because people need to be safer. The same thing on the stadiums. There’s the option. You can be in an unvaccinated section, not have to take a test, be six feet apart. You can choose, if you’re vaccinated, to be in this other section where you might feel safer, or not go to the game and watch it at home. And in the conversations with the teams, those are the choices. People don’t go to games, they don’t feel safe. Their view was they’ll feel safer if you have this option. That’s why they’re promoting it. Also, we’re giving away the free tickets because it’s in their interest to have more and more people vaccinated, and then all of these venues will be safer.
Speaker 4: (01:01:44)
I mean, I swear I’m saying this as open-mindedly as I can, but can you see how someone might, as has been done already, say this is separate but equal treatment?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:56)
No. You have no right to have to sit next to another person. That’s what it comes down to. If you’re in an unvaccinated section, there’s nobody sitting next to you. If you’re in a vaccinated section, somebody’s sitting next to you. So you’d have to argue, no, I demand a seat where someone is sitting next to me, and you’re infringing on my right by not allowing me to sit next to someone. You can sit next to someone anywhere you want, but in a stadium with a person who doesn’t know you and you are unvaccinated and you could infect them, then you don’t have anyone sitting next to you. You want to have someone sitting next to you, get a vaccine. What is the complaint, I don’t want the seat next to me empty?
Speaker 4: (01:03:00)
Governor, can you comment on-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:00)
Go ahead, Rob.
Yeah. I mean, there have always been capacity restrictions, pre COVID. Every restaurant, every facility has capacity restrictions that are related to fire code, how you can exit quickly and safely. You can’t, it’s not unlimited, put as many people in a building, put as many people in a room as you want. No, because the fire codes say you have to be limited to this amount of people so you can exit the building quickly. The same applies for the health rules. It’s the same thing. It’s safer with this many people. This is the air circulation. That’s what the science shows. And all of our guidance is coming from the CDC. So that’s what this all is based on. And that’s why the restrictions also are changing over time, as the disease evolves, as the science evolves.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:48)
Yeah. It’s a federal rule that says six feet. That’s the CDC. That’s why you don’t have anyone sitting next to you. That’s why you are the distance right now. Now you could say, “I don’t like the distance. I want to sit right up and rub elbows.” Yeah, but the CDC says six feet is the social distancing. If you’re vaccinated, we’re saying we’re going to relax the six foot rule in essence, because you’re vaccinated. And the theory of the CDC rule is keep people separate, they can’t infect one another. Yeah, but if they’re both vaccinated, we’re saying, and they’re both wearing masks, there’s not a risk of infection. Therefore, we’re going to let them sit together.
Speaker 8: (01:04:40)
Governor, what do you make of Sheldon Silver getting out of-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:41)
But by the way, it’s not like the sections are going to be, you get a good seat, I get a bad seat. You know what I mean? It’s not like you get the nosebleed seat because you’re unvaccinated and the vaccinated people get the better seats. It doesn’t work that way.
Speaker 8: (01:04:57)
Governor, what do you make of Sheldon Silver getting out of prison? Do you feel like he served enough of his sentence? What kind of a message does it send? And I’m curious what you make of Elise Stefanik’s ascendancy within the national party and what that says about where the national GOP is.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:13)
The decision on Sheldon Silver was a judicial decision. I’ll leave it up to them. That was their decision. Look, I think the GOP learned nothing from Donald Trump and learned nothing from their loss. I think they are still continuing with their hyper conservative, divisive politics. And I think that mean-spirited hyper conservative mentality is not representative of the United States of America.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:58)
Let’s take one more. Let’s take two more. Andrew and Pete, go ahead.
Speaker 2: (01:06:02)
Do you have a planned end date for either the Javits Center or any of the state run sites? The reason I ask is that yesterday President Biden said that FEMA would be moving towards down scaling or eliminating the mega sites, given the drop in demand. Are you looking at that same reality with the Javits Center or any of the state run sites, and when might that be?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:25)
We are currently looking at a reduction in the demand for vaccines. That is concerning to me. We’re at about 60% of first shots. 58. You want to say herd immunity, which some people say is unreachable, is 75, 80, 70. What’s their last number?
Speaker 9: (01:06:57)
Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:58)
70, 75. I’m not willing to give up. I’m not willing to give up. I talk about the two groups, the youthful, the doubtful. Rob is on the CUNY board. Something like only 19% of the CUNY students have gotten a vaccine. How can that be? Well, that’s the youthful. I think we can do more. I think we have to get more creative. Today is creative. It’s an incentive. You get a free ticket. We’re going to have more incentives for people to get a vaccine. I think you have a hardcore no how, no way anti-vaxxer mentality, but I think there are some people who still, I don’t think it’s really necessary, but I’m not really adamantly opposed. And I think we can still appeal to more. I think we have to do better.
Speaker 2: (01:08:07)
But people more likely to go to their neighborhood pharmacy than to the Javits Center? That’s what the White House is saying, that we’ve got to get it more into the communities. So are you looking at closing down the state vaccine-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:17)
Well, they’re saying something different, the feds. They’re saying we want to have it community-based. In this state, we already have it community-based. We have both. We had probably the most extensive network in the country. We had the mass vaccination sites, which are the highest throughput. And by the way, everybody went to Javits, not everybody. One of my family members didn’t like it. But most people who went to Javits said it was a great experience. And that the highest throughput at those mass vaccination sites. We also were the first to do not only community-based, church based, in public housing, mobile sites, pop-up sites. We’ve done that exhaustively, and we will continue to do that. The FQHCs, the private doctors. For us, it’s not either/or. We are always doing both.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:09:24)
And in terms of, well you have less demand, why don’t you start to reduce capacity? Because there is a drop-off, and you could probably justify that. We’re not there yet, because I want to still try to incentivize. I want to get that number up. Everybody says, in this field where everybody says something different every day on COVID, because it’s been politicized, frankly, but almost everybody says the more vaccines, the better. The more vaccines, the better. So I’m still working on more vaccines. Last question.
Speaker 1: (01:10:09)
Back to Broadway. You talk about this incentive to get a vaccine if they can buy tickets. Why not just mandate vaccines today, number one? And number two, did you say that theaters will decide their own capacity in September?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:10:29)
You cannot mandate vaccines because these vaccines are approved under something called an emergency use authorization, EUA. And by law, you can’t mandate a vaccine approved under an emergency use authorization. So you can’t say, for example, college students must have a vaccine. You cannot mandate a vaccine under an EUA. You can mandate measles, which had a full approval, et cetera, but you can’t mandate these vaccines, which are still all under emergency use authorization.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:11:25)
On Broadway, I said, September is a long way away and they will have to make a market decision because they need a high capacity. So, see where we are in September, and then they’ll have a range of options. My option that I like is 100% vaccines. I think if you said to people, “We’re 100% vaccinated. Don’t worry about the person to the right, don’t worry about the person to the left. It’s 100% vaccinated,” I think it would be a safer environment for people to go to. Now, is that feasible from a market point of view? I have no idea. And you won’t have an idea until September. And that’s a decision they’re going to have to make when they get closer to to September.
Speaker 1: (01:12:18)
The theater could mandate, but you could not. Is that what you’re saying?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:12:23)
Well, a theater can say, “This is who I allow into my theater.” I can’t legally mandate that people take the vaccine. I’m going to work. Thank you very much. Go Mets, Go Yankees, go get a vaccine, get a free ticket. Have a nice day.