February 17, 2021
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Four Additional FEMA & State Partnered Vaccination Sites to Open in New York, Targeted at Increasing Equitable Vaccination Access

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Four Additional FEMA & State Partnered Vaccination Sites to Open in New York, Targeted at Increasing Equitable Vaccination Access

Sites Located Outside of New York City Will Target Underserved Communities, Part of Cuomo and Biden Administrations' Efforts to Distribute Vaccine Equitably and Efficiently

Sites to Be Established in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Yonkers and Will Each Vaccinate 1,000 New Yorkers Per Day, Opening First Week of March

Follows Announcement of Similar Sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens Which Will Vaccinate 3,000 New Yorkers Per Day Starting Next Week

Sites Serve as National Model for Equitable Distribution of Vaccine

Governor Cuomo: "It is very important that the distribution be fair. ... If you look at the racial data you are going to see a lower vaccination rate with Blacks. Part of it is access but we're working very hard on access. Part of it is hesitancy, I know. Then we have to work harder in those areas to get those numbers up."

Cuomo: "We're also announcing today ... mass vaccination sites in what they called socially impacted, socially vulnerable communities. ... We're opening another four in socially vulnerable communities ... They start on March 3."

Cuomo: "I want to thank President Biden for that and the coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients. This is a very big and aggressive effort to address vaccine hesitancy in the Black community, and I thank them very much for that."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that at the Governor's request, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will establish four additional community-based vaccination sites in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Yonkers. These four major vaccination sites outside of New York City will vaccinate approximately 1,000 New Yorkers each day beginning the first week of March, and appointments will be initially reserved for members of the community in which the sites are located. The establishment of these sites follows the announcement Governor Cuomo made on Wednesday, February 10 when he joined with White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients and White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to announce similar sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning, guys. I'm joined by Melissa DeRosa, Howard Zucker, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, Kelly Cummings, Gareth Rhodes. Let me give you the latest and the greatest. Today is day 354, positivity 3.58, good news, post-holiday surge reduction. Maybe just the post-holiday reduction continues. Seven-day average positivity has declined for 40 straight days. It's 3.6 today. It's the lowest seven-day average since November 28. 109 New Yorkers still passed away with all that progress and they're in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization is down 46 - 6,574. The ICU is up 2. The intubation is down 24.

By region, number 1, not winner, a born loser, Long Island, 4.5. Mid-Hudson, 4.4. New York City, 4.3. North Country, 3.7. Western New York, 3.1, remember when they were on the top of the highest infection rate. Finger Lakes, 2.2. Capital, 2.0. Mohawk Valley, 1.9. Central New York, 1.6. Southern Tier, 0.8. Statewide, 3.6

In New York City, Bronx, 5.7, highest but down so that's good news. Queens, 4.5. Staten Island, 4.4. Brooklyn, 4.3. Manhattan, 2.5. Manhattan is still the lowest.

Variants of interest - 82 UK variant cases, up 12 since Saturday. Eleven of the new cases are in New York City. One is in Broome.

Vaccinations, more than 3.3 million total doses, 2.2 million first doses, 1 million second doses, 94 percent of the doses of weeks 1 to 9 - that's what we're now administering - are in arms. Good news in President Biden announced another increase in doses for week 11.

I spoke with the county executives yesterday and local health commissioners and mayors. I went through with them the number of distribution programs that are now running which I did in my presentation on Monday. The federal government runs a number of direct allocation programs. The federal government gives the pharmacies. The federal government gives to federally qualified health centers, community health centers. The federal government runs FEMA sites in concert with the State. The federal government gives to the State. The State gives to mass vaccination sites. The State gives to pharmacies. The State gives to FQHCs. The State gives to the local. Locals give to pharmacies. Locals give to FQHCs. Locals run mass vaccination sites. So you have a multiplicity of distribution outlets run by federal, State and local governments. Well, there is no central point of clearing. Yes, because there is no central point of clearing. NGA letter to the federal government said let's please coordinate what pharmacies you're doing, what FQHCs we're doing, so at least we know what pharmacies are getting what and what FQHCs are getting what. But there is a multiplicity of distribution. That is now creating confusion. Now this was a system set up originally by the Trump Administration and it does create confusion.

At one point the situation will reverse, I believe, because at one point we'll have a significant amount of doses and when you have a significant amount of doses and they are available and you don't have an availability problem you don't have a supply problem, then the multiplicity of distribution points will actually be a positive. That's when you have enough supply and enough supply, they're talking about the end of June now. Why so long? Because when the Biden administration came in the cupboards were bare. They had to secure the doses from the pharmaceutical companies, which the Trump administration had not done.

March, April, May - it will continually get better as the supply increases. Right now it is, no doubt, confusing. I spoke to the county executives and mayors, it is essential that they are doing a fair distribution. Fair by geography and race. In other words, if you take a county, you can see where the distribution sites are and you can see who is getting the vaccine. It is very important that the distribution be fair. This is a precious resource. Everybody wants it. There's not enough. The best you can do is make sure you are fair. You're fair among 1a, 1b, 1c, 65-plus. You're fair geographically - that it's not just the urban areas that get a vaccine or urban areas don't get more vaccine versus rural areas. That when you look at the demographics that the vaccination rate is fair.

Now, we know we have a vaccine hesitancy problem, especially with the Black community. We know in the hospitals when you offered it to everyone, repeatedly, easily, just come to floor 3 and get a vaccine - you had a lower vaccination rate among Blacks. I know that, so let's make special efforts in that regard and that has to be done. The fairness of the distribution, I've asked all the locals to take a look at. Erie County, you have - and I'm going to announce in a minute - additional mass vaccination sites. You then have a county run site, you then have pharmacies. Erie County, when you look at the totality of distribution, when you look at the vaccination rates, look at the fairness and correct for the fairness.

If Cheektowaga is low, open up a second Cheektowaga. If the East side of Buffalo is low, open up a site in the East side of Buffalo. New York City, we're going to have a big FEMA site in Queens, FEMA State site, 21,000 per week just for Queens residents. We announced we're going to have a Brooklyn site, 21,000 per week just for Brooklyn residents. Alright, how about the Bronx? When you put that much vaccine into Queens and Brooklyn for those residents, the Bronx now has the highest positivity, how do you make sure the Bronx is equal?

If you look at the racial data you are going to see a lower vaccination rate with Blacks. Part of it is access but we're working very hard on access. Part of it is hesitancy, I know. Then we have to work harder in those areas to get those numbers up.

To date, we have set up 91 pop-up vaccination sites to help with the vaccine hesitancy with the Black community - churches, community centers, public housing complexes. Those sites have done about 43,000 first doses to date. We're opening 13 more pop-up sites this week, Onondaga, Rochester, Ithaca, Schenectady, Buffalo, Haverstraw, Port Chester, East Hampton, and one pop-up in each of the five boroughs. We're also announcing today, the way we announced Brooklyn and Queens as joint state-FEMA, federal sites, mass vaccination sites in what they called socially impacted, socially vulnerable communities. That's Queens and Brooklyn, 21,000 at each site for that county. We're opening another four in socially vulnerable communities in Buffalo at the Delavan Grider Community Center; in Rochester, Former Kodak Hawkeye Parking Lot at Avenue E; in Albany, Washington Avenue Armory; in Yonkers, the New York National Guard Recruiting Center. Each site will do a thousand per day, that's very large. That's 7,000 a week. They start on March 3. They get an allocation from the federal government, they're jointly run between the state and the federal government. We're going to use National Guard personnel to help us do that. But I want to thank President Biden for that and the coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, this is a very big and aggressive effort to address vaccine hesitancy in the Black community, and I thank them very much for that.

Also, on vaccines, we have concluded vaccination of all nursing home residents and nursing home staff who would take the vaccine. There are some nursing home residents who refused. There are some staff who refused. But, they have all been offered first and second doses, and the only people left in that category are residents who refused or staff who refused. We'll continue to watch it, and if you have new residents who come in, people who changed their mind, new staff, we'll be able to provide them doses. But, of the people who are all there now, they have been all addressed. Okay?

Amusement parks, let's look forward a little bit to some warm weather and some amusement. Beginning March 26th, indoor family entertainment centers can reopen. Department of health will list the guidelines, 25 percent capacity, face coverings, social distance, temperature checks, frequent cleaning and disinfection. Riders attractions that cannot be socially distanced or clean must remain closed. Outdoor amusement parks can reopen starting April 9. Outdoor amusement parks, April 9. 33 percent capacity, face coverings, social distancing, temperature checks, cleaning, disinfection. Tickets sold in advance, stagger entry, exit.

Summer camps, as of now overnight summer camps in New York can plan on reopening. That doesn't happen until June, and we hope the current trajectory stays until June, one eye on these variants of interest. But they can plan on reopening. They're going to have to have a testing protocol, but by the way, no parent is going to send their child to a summer camp unless there's a testing protocol anyway.

Storm update, some of the deliveries from the federal government of the allocations may be delayed this week because of storms across the country. They made that clear on the White House call this week, and we are experiencing that. Not storms in New York, but storms at the transportation hubs. We also have potential of storms in New York starting tomorrow, lasting into Friday. This is a set of storms moving across the country and the State is acting appropriately but these are serious storms and people should take them seriously.

Last point, I just want to comment on a story that was in the Post today, and look, I have been open and candid when I have disagreements with someone politically. I had ongoing disagreements with elected officials in the past, Mr. Trump among others, and I've been very honest about them. I've had a, my office more than me, has had a long and hostile relationship with Assemblyman Ron Kim. It goes back to the issue on nail salons. We passed a bill that we worked very hard to protect nail salon workers who were often victimized by businesses, exposed to dangerous chemicals, wage theft was prevalent. We passed a bill, Assemblyman Kim supported the bill, he then flipped 180 degrees because the nail salon business owners found the bill onerous. There was a big New York Times story on it at the time that said basically, and I don't want to paraphrase a Times story, but it basically said he supported the bill, he signed the bill, he was at the bill signing, then the business people in his community got upset, and then he changed his position, actually used his lobbying firm to lobby on behalf of the business owners, continued to use that lobbying firm and that political operative as his own, and then raised money from those business owners and continues to and I believe it was unethical if not illegal and I believe it's a continuing racket because he is still doing it. Citizens Union says in the New York Times piece that corrections are always needed when enacting policy but it doesn't look right when this new bill is coming on the heels of strong financial support from the nail salon owners.

The euphemism is pay to play and I believe that as I said Mr. Kim acted unethically if not illegally on that matter and my office is in that story so it's been a long running situation but as far as his point that we didn't provide the Department of Justice with information, that is 100 percent wrong, he knows it. We paused the State Legislature's request with information, which I've now said 15 times, so we could comply with the Department of Justice information and the Assembly and Senate knew we paused the State legislative and there is no obstruction of justice in not providing the State Legislature with information and they knew about it so that is 100 percent wrong.

As far as the suggestion that the immunity bill for hospitals and nursing homes was passed because of campaign contributions which is the allegation against Mr. Kim, that bill was passed in the budget by the Assembly and the Senate, so if he want to accuse his Assembly colleagues and Senate colleagues of the same conduct he's been accused of, pay to play, that's what his doing.

Also with Mr. Kim, he has a meeting last week with the legislators and members of my staff. On the tape at the meeting, he says positive things. There's then a story that moves in the New York Post where he says the exact opposite and is very negative in quotes. I called him up and I said, "I don't understand, you were positive — you said positive things in the meeting — and then the Post has you saying negative things." He told me, "the Post has misquoted me and I called the Post reporter and she refused to correct it." I said, "really?" "Yes, she refuses to correct it." I said, "Well, my suggestion is, you then do a statement where you put out your correct statement because, you know, if the reporter doesn't want to include it — fine. Then do a statement that corrects it." "Yes, I will do that," he says and then he never did it.

So, so much for Mr. Kim's credibility, and I said to him on the phone, "You know, there is still integrity and honor and decency in politics," but that's that for Mr. Kim.

On the Post, look, the essence of this — the Post's continuing point on nursing homes, which is the Republican's point on nursing homes and it has been for the past year. Donald Trump started it. That is true. Fox News. New York Post. Tom Reed, Stefanik, Ortt, this is the Republican's point. They want to say the March 25 nursing home order was wrong. They want to say that the March 25 order brought COVID — is how COVID went into the nursing homes. Now, the coincidentally leave out that the March 25 order was done after guidance by Trump's CDC and CMS. How do you get to the fact that we were wrong following CDC and CMS without saying, "It was Trump and CDC and CMS?" I understand this is politics and you don't need facts, but this is a kind of blatant deception. We followed the CDC and CMS, so if you want to say it was wrong, then you have to say Trump was wrong and the CDC and CMS. My health experts don't believe it was wrong and we've gone through all the facts several times. If we did believe it was wrong, then we would say we believed it was wrong and we made a mistake following CDC and CMS guidance and then I would sue the federal government for malpractice on their CDC and CMS guidance. The same way I sued the federal government on SALT and sued the federal government on their immigration policy and sued the federal government for their global Trusted Traveler Program. I would sue the CDC and CMS for malpractice and we followed their advice, which was malpractice. That's what I would do if I believed the March 25 memo was wrong, but our health experts don't agree with that and the facts don't support it, so I understand the political argument, but even the political argument has to have some credible logical basis and leaving out the fact that we followed federal guidance is just wholly distorted. I understand it dissolves their theory and I understand they don't want to give up a political theory, but at one point, they think fact has to have some place in the dialogue.

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