October 14, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces State Will Withhold Funds for Localities and Schools in COVID-19 Cluster Zones If They Fail to Enforce Public Health Law

TOP Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo...

Sends Letter Warning Local Governments in Cluster Zones That They Will Lose State Funding If They Fail to Enforce Gathering Limit and School Closure Rules

 

Sends Separate Letter Warning Public and Private Schools in Cluster Zones That They Will Lose State Funding If They Do Not Comply with Closure and Testing Rules

 

Positive Testing Rate in Hot Spot Areas is 6.29 Percent; New York State Positivity Without Red Zone Focus Areas Included is 0.95 Percent

 

7 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 

SLA and State Police Task Force Visits 634 Establishments; Observes 2 Establishments Not in Compliance

 

Governor Cuomo: "The micro-cluster we're focusing on is the ultra-Orthodox communities. As you know, it is still the same. The question now is enforcement... We know there were violations where yeshivas were operating; we know there were religious gatherings happening that exceeded the guidelines. WABC and N.J. Burkett, kudos to him, he did a great piece where he had a yeshiva that was operating in plain view. Gothamist also had a piece to the same point - so kudos to them for good reporting. This is especially a problem in Brooklyn and Orange and Rockland Counties."

 

Cuomo: "Number one, we are sending a notification to local governments saying they must enforce public health law under Section 16, enforcing the public health law especially in the red zones. Especially when it comes to closing schools and religious gatherings. If the local government does not effectively enforce the law, we will withhold funds from the local government... We're also sending a letter to all schools in the red zones, saying to them they must be closed if they violate the Section 16 order - we will withhold funding from the schools... Third, for the schools that have been identified as violating the closure order they will be served today with a notice mandating they close, and we are withholding funding from those schools and we're withholding funding until the matter is resolved to our satisfaction."

WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will withhold funds for localities and schools in COVID-19 cluster zones that fail to enforce public health laws. The New York State Department of Health will send a letter warning local governments in cluster zones that they will lose state funding if they fail to enforce state limits on gatherings and the closure of schools. The letter will be sent to New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley.

 

Governor Cuomo also announced that DOH will send an additional letter warning public and private schools in cluster zones that they will lose state funding if they do not comply with state requirements on closure and testing.

 

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

 

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

 

Thank you very much. Good morning everyone. I'm joined by Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, Gareth Rhodes, Dr. Zucker and Richard Becker. Let's start at the top, which is always a good place to start. COVID has been with us for about 7 months. Let's learn the lessons and let's be smart. Smart works when you're dealing with a virus. Politics doesn't work. Unintelligent doesn't work. New York Tough, but part of New York Tough is New York Smart. 

 

If we did testing the way most states are doing testing, the report today would be very simple. Our testing shows that we are .95 statewide. That would be the whole report. I'd say, "Thank you very much," hang up, .95 is very good, we're below one percent. That's what testing means, nationwide. We tested statewide, did 100,000 tests and we're at .95. We go beyond that and we do more tests and we now do a series of tests where we over-sample. We test just certain, small geographic areas because the way of the world going forward is going to be that the virus will constantly flair up in certain locations. 

 

The trick, the art form, is going to be identifying these small sites where it flares up and be able to stop it before it spreads. That's the art form. A doctor said something interesting to me a couple of weeks ago. He said, you know, every week the body is attacked by dozens of viruses, but the immune system responds and defends against the virus. The ones that make you sick are the ones where the immune system fails to respond or gets overpowered by the virus. We've never actually killed a virus. 

 

That metaphor works for this larger scale. We have multiple viral attacks per week: Bars, one bar that has too many people; one birthday party with too many people; one religious gathering with too many people - that's a viral attack. Now, most states you don't realize it, you don't even know it, because you don't see it. All you have is the statewide number. We have the capacity given our heightened testing to see things that normally you don't see. 

 

We do the testing, we do the data analysis and we now can find these micro-clusters. These micro-clusters will continue, I would say, for at least one year because you need a vaccine, you have to administer a vaccine, there will be certain populations who won't take the vaccine. There will be certain populations who don't believe in the vaccine, religious reasons, the anti-vaxxers, and you'll continue to have clusters at least a year. By the way, this could go on for years, alright? Unless you assume that 100 percent of the population is going to be vaccinated. So, let's remember the context because if you don't have the context, then we report inaccurate data or misleading data.

 

So, statewide we're at .95 percent. We then oversample — separate test — on the micro-clusters and we call the micro-clusters now "red zones," right? The micro-clusters, we are at 6.2 today. If you take the oversample of the micro-clusters and roll it into the statewide numbers, you are at 1.1. That, however, is misleading. I used the analogy, I think the other day: if I did a political poll and I oversampled Democrats and included the oversample of Democrats in the poll and then said, "Oh look, my favorability is 99.9." You'd say, "Yeah, yeah, but hold on for a second — that's an oversample of Democrats in the poll," and you'd be right. You have an oversample of the highest infection rate in the state, the clusters, so it skews the number. So, it's 1.1 skewed in the state; it's .95 without the skew. Those are very good numbers. The 6.2 in the red zones, that number is actually lower than many statewide infection rates right now, so we call 6.2 a "red zone." In many states, it's less than the statewide infection rate. Orange is 7.4, Rockland is 7.2, Brooklyn is 6.4. 

 

When you look across the regions, New York City is 1.2. That's pulling us up. Capital is 1.2. Central is 1.2, Finger Lakes .7, Long Island 1, Mid-Hudson 1.6, Mohawk .1, North Country .1, Southern Tier 1 — which is actually good. Western New York 1, and that's actually good also.

 

Seven people lost their lives. Hospitalizations. Hospitalizations we have been tracking. Today it's +15, but it's the trend line that matters, OK? Let me give you the last 10 days on hospitalizations so you get the trend line. Ten days ago, it was +18, +69, then +43, then +6 which was an anomaly, then + 25, +47 +58, +45, today + 15. So, in that trend line, +15 is good, right? We also have education numbers on the dashboard that I would suggest you look at because all these school districts have plans, "We're going to do this, we're going to do this, we're going to do this." The dashboard actually shows you the reality of what's going on in the school system. The number of people who tested positive is up 334, that's on-site and off-site. It's 240 on-site which means teachers and students who were in school. New York City it's up about 86: 54 in public schools, 32 in private schools, but you can go to the dashboard for more information on that. 

 

The micro-cluster we're focusing on is the ultra-Orthodox communities. As you know, it is still the same. The question now is enforcement. It is enforcement. This is no longer question public education, its enforcement. I've made it very clear to members of this community what the law, is what the rules, what the science is. I've had personal conversations, dozens and dozens of them. It's not a question of education, it's a question of enforcement. Local governments must do enforcement. The primary responsibility in this entire situation for local governments is enforcement. They do two things: they do testing, which then goes back to the state, and they then do the enforcement. I don't have the resources to do enforcement statewide. If I had to do this all over again, one of the lessons learned, I would have had the state takeover or hire statewide enforcement. Because the enforcement from the local governments is very uneven especially when it's politically sensitive. And that's what we're running to with lot of these ultra-Orthodox communities, who are also very politically powerful, don't kid yourself. 

 

Suffolk County, Steve Bellone, kudos to him he just did a sanction against the Miller Place Inn. The Miller Place Inn is a restaurant Suffolk County. They had a Sweet Sixteen party - how sweet. Yeah, it wasn't that sweet. Dozens of people from the Sweet Sixteen party got sick it just shows you how one event can generate so many cases. He took enforcement action so good for him. There was a concert out in Southampton sponsored by a group called the Chainsmokers, they are going to be found today to have violated an Executive Order and what we call Section 16 of the Public Health Law. They're going to be fined $20,000. The town of Southampton that authorized the outdoor group gathering they are going to have a sanction placed where they cannot approve permits for group gatherings without first receiving State approval. So, if they want to approve an outside group activity, they're going to have to get it pre-approved by the State. I've spent time talking to the people in the town of Southampton - frankly, I don't know what they were thinking.

 

Moving on, we also know that in the red zones the schools are supposed to be closed, public and private. We know there were violations where yeshivas were operating; we know there were religious gatherings happening that exceeded the guidelines. WABC and N.J. Burkett, kudos to him, he did a great piece where he had a yeshiva that was operating in plain view. Gothamist also had a piece to the same point - so kudos to them for good reporting. This is especially a problem in Brooklyn and Orange and Rockland Counties. We are taking three actions today. Number one, we are sending a notification to local governments saying they must enforce public health law under Section 16, enforcing the public health law especially in the red zones. Especially when it comes to closing schools and religious gatherings. If the local government does not effectively enforce the law, we will withhold funds from the local government. The local governments that are receiving that are New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, Town of Ramapo, Village of Spring Valley. If these schools are operating, it's easy enough to find out, N.J. Burkett did it, Gothamist did it. You would think a local government would have that capacity to do it. If they don't, we will withhold funding from the government. I don't like to do that. Budgets are tough all across the board. I don't know how else to get them to do the enforcement they need to do. So, hopefully that will motivate them, because nothing else I have done has motivated them - not my rapier wit, not my since of humor, not my guilt, not my blame, not my admonition, and not my pleas. Maybe money works.

 

We're also sending a letter to all schools in the red zones, saying to them they must be closed if they violate the Section 16 order - we will withhold funding from the schools. Many schools receive funding - the yeshivas receive a significant amount of funding. I in past budgets increased funding to yeshivas, Rabbi TAP, additional funding per child, that all went up. If they violate the health order they will not receive funding. Third, for the schools that have been identified as violating the closure order they will be served today with a notice mandating they close, and we are withholding funding from those schools and we're withholding funding until the matter is resolved to our satisfaction. We do not know at this time when that will be, but we are commencing withholding funding against those schools.

 

There is a difference, just so you know, between providing child care and operating a school. You cannot operate a school and then say, "well, tomorrow I've turned it into a child care center. So, now I'm operating the school, but it's not a school it's a child care center." There's an apple, and there's an orange. There's a school, and there's a child care center. A child care center has a separate license, separate regulations, separate age categories, separate operating guidelines. Child care facilities can operate, but they have to be licensed child care facilities and then they have to be inspected to make sure they're following the rules. But a school is not a child care facility, and you fool no one by saying, "oh no, they're not walking into a school they're walking into a child care facility." Maybe you can fool some people, but you can't fool the State of New York.

 

The ultra-Orthodox community, the Hasidic community, we're not talking about a monolith here, right? Many groups have been cooperative and have been helpful, and I want to acknowledge that also. These rules were in effect for 14 days. We don't look at ZIP codes, we don't look at Census tracks, we don't look at any districts that are in any way arbitrary. We look at where the actual cases come from. If at the end of 14 days there are some areas where the cases have dropped, we will relax the regulations on those places. If there are places where the cases have gone up, we will increase the regulations on those places. Just because we're talking about Brooklyn, or we're talking Borough Park, we can distinguish block by block and we will. So, for those groups that are getting the numbers under control, God bless, and if the numbers are under control, we'll reduce regulations. For those areas that are not, we'll increase the regulations. 

 

Last point, we opened the Mother Cabrini statue this week; it is magnificent. Just on a personal note, when you're down by Battery Park City I would suggest you go by. It really is a - not just the statue, but the whole site and the spot is incredible. We're also going to be doing a statue - and by the way, we got that statue done in one year. I announced it last Columbus Day. We put the Commission in place, found the site, identified the funding, and the sculptors did the sculpture, which is a very large sculpture, and they got it done in just one year. Last month, I announced New York State will honor the life and legacy of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a statue in her native Brooklyn. Today I'm releasing a list of the 19 members that we appointed to a new Commission, but the Commission includes Jane Ginsburg, who is the daughter to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Clara Spera, who is the granddaughter; Mimi Ginsburg, who is also the granddaughter; and then some really quality people. And four honorary chairs: Secretary Hillary Clinton, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, and Gloria Steinem. So, I am looking forward to that and lord knows she deserves it. 

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