Jun 15, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript: COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted, 70% Vaccinated
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on June 15, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. He lifted COVID-19 rules and restrictions, as New York reached the 70% vaccination goal. Read the transcript of his briefing here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Well, good afternoon to everyone. Thank you for being here. It really is a great, great day. Let me acknowledge some of the special guests who are here, who have been so important to us over this past long, long year. First, let me thank my health commissioner and my team that did just extraordinary work every day. Let’s start with Dr. Howard Zucker and Robert Mujica, and Dana Carotenuto. Kathy Wylde, thank you very much for everything you did in the partnership that we had. Jane Rosenthal in Tribeca, thank you for bringing life back to the city. Ken Rasky and Michael Dowling, thank you for keeping our hospitals open and up to the challenge. [Carlos Desura 00:01:14], thank you for keeping this city building. Henry Muñoz, thank you for the healthcare in communities all across the state and contrary.
Governor Cuomo: (01:25)
To all our friends in labor, to all our friends in business, to all our community partners, thank you, thank you, thank you so much. This is a momentous day, and we deserve it, because it has been a long, long road. And it’s a day to look backwards, remember where we were, but also to look forward and where we’re going. When I would do the COVID briefings, I did them every day, because I wanted people to have a sense of consistency. I wanted people to have information as a source of comfort, and I would literally start by saying what day it was, what day in the pandemic, and then literally what day of the week it was. Because it was such a disorienting time, that one day just bled into the other, the normal calendar. What Friday meant, what Saturday meant, what Sunday meant, it was all gone.
Governor Cuomo: (02:28)
We were just in a different place in a different moment in time. And if you said to us on day one, in the beginning of COVID, that we were going to be capable of the accomplishment that we reached, nobody would believe you. New York State, the highest positivity rate on the globe, highest positivity rate in the country, of any state, but highest positivity rate on the globe. And everybody looked at New York like it was a New York phenomenon, because it was just New York back then, if you remember. And it was New York, and the other states didn’t have the issue, and many people pointed to New York as if, “Well, maybe there’s something about New York that caused this.” And nobody knew the facts. We were in the dark. The fact was that New York was the victim of COVID. The fact was that while everybody was talking about China and COVID, COVID had left China, and had gone to Europe. And it was in Italy, in Spain and France, and the flights from Europe landed where? JFK. They landed at Newark. COVID had been coming here for months, and nobody knew it. We were ambushed by COVID. We had people dying from COVID before we knew COVID was here. And then when we finally figured out as a nation what was going on with COVID, it was too late, because it had been coming for months and months. Highest infection rate on the globe. And we were alone, and it was frightening. It was like living through a science fiction movie. Jacob Javits Center, largest field hospital in the United States of America, 2,500 cots set up as far as the eye could see. All military personnel, all green uniforms waiting for the avalanche of ambulances to bring people. Streets deserted, Times Square deserted, people leaving New York. It’s not safe. It’s the density of New York. It’s something about New York. And people abandoned New York, but others stayed and others fought. But it was probably the most frightening moment that we have gone through, and a moment that we will never forget, and a moment that changed us, changed us individually and changed us as a society. It was a moment of trauma, and a moment that no one will ever forget, and nobody should ever forget. Where are we today? We have the lowest COVID positivity in the United States of America. And that, my friends, is a fact in this day and age where everybody has an opinion. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has a political ideology. Everyone has an opinion. Yeah, there are still facts, and facts are not Democratic facts or Republican facts or conservative facts or socialist facts. They’re facts.
Governor Cuomo: (06:39)
And on the facts, what New York has done is extraordinary. We went literally from worst to first. And not only do we have the lowest [inaudible 00:07:00], States of America have hit 70% vaccination. It is the national goal, and we hit it ahead of schedule. What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it. We have the highest vaccination rate in this state. Long Island, 75%, Capital Region, 74%. Congratulations to you. Mid-Hudson, 71%. Congratulations. Central New York, 70.5. Western New York, 69.5. Finger Lakes, 69. Southern Tier and New York City, 68.4. North Country, 63. Mohawk Valley, 60%. But overall, over 70%. Give New Yorkers a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (08:04)
And we enter a phase where we successfully deployed the weapon that was going to win the war, and the weapon was the vaccine. And we knew it, but the question was would we do it? Could you organize enough to get it done? Would people show up to get it done? Could you organize this massive operation and infrastructure not done since World War II, where you could actually get this task done? And we stepped forward and we stepped forward boldly, and we led the nation. We led with Nurse Sandra Lindsay, who was the first at Northwell to take that vaccine and to say to people it is okay, it is safe. And we’ve gone on to do more than 20 million vaccines, more per capita than any big state in the United States of America. New York State has fully vaccinated a larger share of adults than any other big state in the country, and that is saying something.
Governor Cuomo: (09:37)
Congratulations to new Yorkers, because they are the ones who did it. We’re no longer just surviving. We’re not in our homes, afraid to go out. We’re not in our homes disinfecting everything that we can see. Life is not about survival, life is about thriving. Life is about seeing people. Life is about loving. Life is about celebrating. Life is about enjoying. Life is about interacting. And now we get back to living in life. The state mandates that have proven right and correct and brought us through this pandemic are relaxed as of today, effective immediately. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (11:00)
So all the state mandated restrictions are lifted-
Governor Cuomo: (11:03)
So all the State mandated restrictions are lifted on commercial, social settings, sports and recreation, construction, manufacturing, retail buildings, all across the board. We can get back to living in businesses can open because the State mandates are gone. Social gathering restrictions, the capacity restrictions, the health screenings, the cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
Governor Cuomo: (11:29)
I’m not giving up my hand sanitizer just yet, by the way. I love that New York Clean hand sanitizer, it keeps everything clean. Plus you take a whiff of that, it opens up your sinuses like nothing I’ve ever seen. But, that is now voluntary and it’s up to individuals in places, but the mandates are gone.
Governor Cuomo: (11:54)
The CDC Federal mandates obviously continue for pre- K schools and public transit and healthcare settings. But the State mandates have been lifted. That’s not to say that 70% is the end, we want to do better than 70%, but it is an important milestone and we’re going to keep pushing to do more. But it’s a testament to the people of the state of New York. That is who did this. People who stayed tough and smart and united during the most difficult challenge of our lives.
Governor Cuomo: (12:33)
And most of all, most of all, the essential workers who came forward and whose effort and courage brought us through this day, and they are our heroes. We can’t say enough. We’ve said, thank you, but we want to say thank you again. On behalf of all the people of the State of New York for what has been done and we want to acknowledge them here today.
Governor Cuomo: (13:18)
What they did says who they are. It’s not that they weren’t scared. It’s not that we weren’t scared. I was scared. I was scared every day. But FDR, another great New Yorker, said it, “Courage is not the absence of fear,” but rather the assessment that says there’s something more important than me feeling that fear and succumbing to that fear, and rising above. And they did.
Governor Cuomo: (13:55)
We want to present a small token, our appreciation today to our first responders. And we’ll ask them to come up and receive a plaque and stay here, please, so that we can recognize you as a group.
Speaker 1: (14:15)
Presenting the building service workers, Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU. Representing the men and women of the National Guard, Major General Raymond Shields, Adjunct General of the New York and Commander of the New York National Guard. Representing the food and hospitality workers, Richard Maroko, President of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. Representing the store employees, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Representing the sanitation workers, Harry Nespoli, President of the IBT Teamsters, Local 831, the Uniform Sanitationmen’s Association.
Speaker 1: (14:57)
Representing the transportation workers, Earl Phillips, Secretary Treasurer for the Transportation Workers Union, Local 100. Representing the delivery workers, Thomas Jeswaldy, President of the Teamsters Joint Council 16. Representing the hospital staff, Maria Castaneda, Secretary Treasurer of 1199 SEIU. Representing the teachers, Colleen Chiauzzi, fourth grade teacher at PS 295 in Queens and member of the UFT. Representing the corrections officers, Benny Boscio, President of the Correction Officer’s Benevolent Association. Representing the government employees, Lester Crockett, regional president of the Civil Service Employees Association Region 2. Representing the EMT and ambulance workers, Oren Barzilay, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507.
Speaker 1: (15:58)
Representing the utility workers, Darryl Taylor, Senior Business Agent for the Utility Workers, Local 1 and 2. Representing the construction and manufacturing workers, Santos Rodriguez, Director of Community Affairs & Strategic Initiatives for the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.
Speaker 1: (16:18)
Representing the police officers, Thomas Mungeer, President of the New York State Troopers PBA. Representing the firefighters, James McCarthy, Executive Board Member of the Uniform Fire Officers Association. Representing the doctors, Dr. Arthur Cooper, former chair of the Medical Society of the State of New York’s Committee on Emergency Preparedness and president of the New York County Medical Society. And finally, representing the nurses, Pat Kane, Executive Director of New York State Nurses Association. [inaudible 00:16:56]
Governor Cuomo: (17:25)
We clapped for you every night. We thank you every day. One final round of applause. [inaudible 00:17:33] We thank you, let’s stand up. [inaudible 00:17:35].
Governor Cuomo: (17:35)
That is as heartfelt and as sincere as it gets. We applaud you. We thank you. To celebrate and honor, tonight we’re going to light all the State assets, Empire State Building, in blue and gold. And we’re going to have fireworks all across the State of New York tonight to celebrate and honor the essential workers. It’s our way of saying thank you, all across the state, to the essential workers, to celebrate our reopening, our re-imagining.
Governor Cuomo: (18:51)
And to remind all New Yorkers, join the success. Join the success. You want to honor essential workers, I’ll tell you how you honor essential workers. You get vaccinated so you don’t need the essential workers again. And literally, they’re going to be displayed all across the state. So wherever you are, there’ll be in your community. And you can be part of the celebration tonight.
Governor Cuomo: (19:25)
This is not to say that our journey is over, because it’s not over. We still have to manage COVID. As the health professionals will tell you, we’re still watching these variants of interest. We still have to be careful. And, as in any disease, you then have to move to recovery from the disease.
Governor Cuomo: (19:52)
We have to recover from COVID. And recovery is not going to be spontaneous and it’s not going to be automatic. The recovery itself is going to be challenging and is going to take time. But, in the same moment, there is opportunity in this recovery period. And it’s an opportunity that we have to seize, because it’s not just New York that is recovering. It’s every state in the United States of America, is in the same moment that we are in.
Governor Cuomo: (20:29)
I’m the chairman of the National Governor’s Association, today I talked to all the governors. Every state is now trying to figure out, “How do I recover? How do I come back?” Every city is trying to figure out, “How do I recover? How do I come back?” Internationally, every city, every country, “How do I recover and how do I come back?”
Governor Cuomo: (20:50)
We are in that international competition to see who recovers first and who recovers best. And there is an opportunity for us in this moment. People ask me all the time, “Well, what’s New York going to be like post-COVID?” There is no roadmap. Our future is not predestined or predetermined. Our future is going to be what we make it. You tell me what we do and I will tell you what we will be.
Governor Cuomo: (21:32)
It is going to be up to us. What do we build? How quickly do we recover? How many lessons have we learned? And it is going to be our contribution to this city, this state, this country, as our generation. Our most important work lies ahead. What do we do in this moment, when it is up to-
Governor Cuomo: (22:03)
… we do in this moment when it is up to us. Winston Churchill. “There will be a moment in time when you’re tapped on the shoulder and you have the opportunity to do something very special.” That is the moment for us. And what a tragedy would be if we miss this moment and if we don’t capitalize on this moment. It has to be a moment where we say as a united people, “We’re going to bring back New York and we’re going to make New York better than it has ever been.”
Governor Cuomo: (22:49)
Now you listening to cities and states across the country. They talk about reopening. I say we’re not reopening. That is not our goal. Reopening suggests we’re going to go back to where we were the day before COVID. We’re going to reopen. We closed for COVID and now we’re going to reopen post-COVID. No, I don’t want to go back to where we were last year. Life is not about going back to where you were. Life is about going forward. We’ve learned a lot over this past year. We’ve accomplished a lot over this past year. Our challenge has to be to reimagine New York and say we’re going to make a New York that’s better than it’s ever been before. We have to capitalize on this moment and seize this moment of transformation to remake New York.
Governor Cuomo: (23:57)
Let’s be honest, there were a lot of things that we should have been doing all along as a country, as a society. There are improvements that we should have been making and now is the moment to do it. This is an opportunity for us. There are things that we should have been building. How do we get to a place in this nation where you have airports all around the world that are building and developing, and you fly into countries and you see these magnificent airports. And then you fly into LaGuardia and you say, “What happened? What happened to the New York ambition, the American ambition.”
Governor Cuomo: (24:50)
We’re now going to have a new LaGuardia airport, the first new airport in 25 years in this nation, and a new JFK airport and new airports upstate New York. Let’s start rebuilding Manhattan, not what it was, but better than ever before. A new Moynihan train hall, a magnificent structure that when you go there, it fills your soul with pride, and you’re proud to be a New Yorker. And you see us building out of that pride and out of that optimism. New pier 76, a new Penn Station to welcome people to New York, a new Port Authority Terminal that you’re proud of. Extend that subway into Harlem so all New Yorkers can participate in New York. A New Belmont arena on Long island. Go Islanders, we say.
Governor Cuomo: (25:57)
Our cities in upstate New York who have never really shared in the full economic turnaround, now maximizing those urban potentials by reconnecting with the waterfront and doing it in Rochester and Albany all at once. Recognizing that we have been talking for years about the green economy and we have to stop using fossil fuels and carbon, and the future lies with the next green economy and it happens here in New York with the largest green transition in the nation. Broadband accessibility, and affordable to everyone, rich and poor and black and white and New York leads the way.
Governor Cuomo: (26:49)
A new public health system that says we’re going to learn from COVID the way we should have learned from MERS and from SARS and from Ebola and from dengue and from Zika. And we shouldn’t have been caught surprised, and we’ll never be caught surprised again. We’re going to have the best public health system in this nation and we’ll be ready for the next pandemic because there will be a next pandemic.
Governor Cuomo: (27:21)
We’re going to maximize remote learning so we make sure we don’t leave any child behind because of income or color of skin or race or ethnicity. Maximized telemedicine in the innovation and restore public safety to the streets of this city because we have nothing unless we have public safety. And that is job one and we have to help the homeless because we are embarrassed by the society we now see and the condition we now see where we have human beings living on the street and we say that’s not the best we can do and we’re going to do better.
Governor Cuomo: (28:13)
There is work to do, but we know that we can do it. And we are being tapped on the shoulder, as Winston Churchill says, and we are ready and we are willing. We know what we’re made of. We know what we can do in this moment. 20 years ago, 9/11, we got knocked on our rear end. And there are a lot of similarities between the 9/11 moment and the COVID moment. Remember post 9/11. Remember the fear. Remember the naysayers. Remember the people who said New York will never come back. New York is a target. We’re afraid to go downtown. The terrorists are going to target us again. It’s about New York. They want to target New York. Remember the people who fled, remember that people who said, “We’ll never come back. We’ll never come back.”
Governor Cuomo: (29:16)
Well, you know what? We came back. And we are standing in a monument to coming back better than ever before. COVID has similarities to 9/11. The recovery was not automatic. It was not spontaneous. We had to restore confidence and restore faith and restore security. We had to work at bringing people back. We had to build back and we had to build back better. The Tribeca Film Festival was formed to say, “Come back to New York. Celebrate New York. Celebrate the yards. Celebrate the energy.” And we came back better than ever, even with other obstacles. This site, One World Trade Center, a symbol of resilience and determination of faith. You knock us down, we get up. We get up stronger and taller than ever before, because that’s who we are. Same site that was overcome by Hurricane Sandy. And we said we’ll deal with it and we’ll come back better than ever before because we rise as New Yorkers.
Governor Cuomo: (30:48)
That is our motto, Excelsior, ever upwards, aspirational. That’s what a New Yorker is. Yes, there are setbacks. Yes, life is going to knock you on your tuchus, as we say in Italian. But the question of a person, the question of your character, the question of a society is what do you do when you get knocked down? Do you stay down? Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you wallow? Are you overcome by the obstacles or do you pull yourself up and say, “I’m going to learn and I’m going to be better” and reach out your arms to your brothers and sisters and lift one another up to a height that you’ve never reached before. That’s what we do in New York.
Governor Cuomo: (31:47)
Remember June 15th. Remember today because it is the day that New York rose again. June 15th is a special day for me. June 15th is the birthday of a gentlemen named Mario Cuomo who is no longer with us today. But today is his birthday. Mario Cuomo was quite a fellow, a great leader for the state of New York, did many good things for New York, taught New Yorkers many important lessons. Taught them about aspiration, talked to them about being their best selves, not giving in to the petty and to the negative, but to rise above, to rise above together, to see past color of skin, to appreciate our diversity as a source of strength, to welcome-
Governor Cuomo: (33:03)
… appreciate our diversity as a source of strength to welcome people, to find the humanity and the goodness in a person’s heart and a person’s soul. And not the apparent differences, but the human similarities and the human connections.
Governor Cuomo: (33:20)
Mario Cuomo was not a great believer in the system. It’s not that he believed that the system was infallible. He knew too well that the system had many problems. He didn’t have an inherent belief in politicians. He didn’t like to be called a politician. You called him a politician, he bristled because he didn’t have a high regard for the class of people called politicians and the pettiness and the lack of integrity that often goes with that. But he had a deep and profound belief in the people of New York. He believed that New Yorkers were special.
Governor Cuomo: (34:18)
He believed that coming to this place and being descendants of the people who came to this place made us special. That we came from people who got in little boats and went across great oceans just for the promise of opportunity. And that made us special. And it was done by hard work and by appreciating family and community and education and struggle and strife. And we dealt with discrimination and we all know what it feels like to be treated as being different because we are all different. We are all different. We all come from different places and that difference can either be a source of an alienation and isolation, or it can be a source of community and commonality. And New Yorkers have made it a source of strength. He believed New Yorkers were special. And as he looks down today, he would say, “I was right. I was right.”
Governor Cuomo: (35:35)
You know who beat COVID? The people of New York beat COVID. The courage of New Yorkers beat COVID. The individual strength beat COVID. Think about an essential worker. I’m saying to the people of the State of New York every morning, stay home, stay safe. If you go out, you could get COVID and COVID could kill you. Stay home, but not you essential worker. You have to leave your house. And you have to go to your job. Because we need you to keep other people safe. Not you, nurse. You have to go into the hospital and dress in a moon suit because we don’t know how deadly this virus is. And we don’t know how it transfers. You have to go and put your life at risk and your family’s life at risk because you have an obligation to show courage, to save others.
Governor Cuomo: (36:49)
Not you doctor, not you teacher, not you building operator. We need you to go to turn on the heat and run the elevators and make sure the building is safe for everyone else. Not you, store worker. You have to go and put food on the shelves and you have to run the cash register. And you have to make sure people have food. Not you, utility worker. You have to go to make sure there’s power and there’s electricity and cell phones work. Otherwise, there’ll be panicked. Not you bus driver. You have to go out and you have to drive that bus. And have hundreds of people walk past you who might be infecting you because we need you to drive that bus. We need you to drive that train. Not you, doctor. You have to work 18, 20 hours a day, saving lives. Not you EMS worker. You have to drive the ambulance. Not you police officer, firefighter. You have to bring the oxygen. Not you sanitation worker. You have to keep the city clean and they did. And they did.
Governor Cuomo: (38:17)
Not you, New Yorkers. I know everyone is looking at us. I know New York is unique. I know you’re scared, but you have to stay home. You have to protect your children. You have to wear a mask. You have to go out and get vaccinated and roll up your sleeve. And I know it hurts. And I know you’re afraid. And I know you think there’s a risk, but you have to do it because you have to be strong and you have to be courageous and you have to do it one for the other. You wear a mask because you care about me. I wear a mask because I care about you. And at the end of the day, we all wear masks as our sign of love and caring and community. And that we are one because we are New York. My father was right, New Yorkers are special. This is a special place. And we’re blessed to be here.
Governor Cuomo: (39:22)
And they say, well, New Yorkers are tough. You’re damn right we’re tough. We’re New Yorkers. But you don’t know what it means to be New York tough, unless you’re a New Yorker. Because yes, we’re tough, but we’re also smart. And we’re also united as a community. And we’re disciplined as a people. And we are loving as a people. That’s what it means to be a New Yorker. And that’s what it means to rise above. And that’s what we did. And that’s the moment that we’re going to hold and the strength that we’re going to hold as we move forward to build a state better than ever before. So that when our day is done, we can look at our children and our children’s children and say, ” We did what we had to do. We left you a home that is better and safer and cleaner and fairer than the home that was left to us.” God bless you and amen.