April 20, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos and Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Calls on Federal Government to Provide Hazard Pay to Essential Public Workers

TOP Video, Audio, Photos and Rush Transcript: Amid...

Launches New Partnership with Ready Responders to Expand Health Care Services and Testing to NYCHA Residents


State Will Deliver More Than 500,000 Cloth Masks and 10,000 Gallons of Hand Sanitizer to Public Housing Communities


Announces Creation of Reimagine NY Task Force to Improve Systems in Downstate New York Once the State is No Longer on Pause


Announces SUNY is Distributing Over 8,800 Laptops and Chromebooks to Students in Need to Complete Their Spring Semester Coursework


Confirms 4,726 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 247,512; New Cases in 40 Counties


Governor Cuomo: "I would propose hazard pay for front-line workers. We all say, "boy, they did a great job. The health care workers did a great job. The police, they're heroes." Yes, they are, but you know what, thanks is nice but also recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate. They are the ones that are carrying us through this crisis. This crisis is not over. If you look at who they are and the equity and fairness of what has happened, I think any reasonable person would say, "We should right this wrong.""


Cuomo: "What we do determines our future, right? The smartest government is as smart as people are. That is how you shape your future, but this is cause and effect on steroids. What we do today will determine tomorrow and we are not going to need to wait to read the history books. We make smart decisions, you will see smart outcomes in two weeks. We make bad decisions, you will see bad outcomes in two weeks. So, when they say the future is in our hands, the future is really in our hands and we are going to get through this."


Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on the federal government to provide hazard pay for essential public workers on the front lines, proposing a 50 percent bonus for these workers. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 41 percent of frontline workers are people of color. Of those frontline workers, 45 percent of public transit workers, 57 percent of building cleaning service workers and 40 percent of healthcare workers are people of color. People of color are also disproportionately represented in delivery and childcare services, and approximately one third of frontline workers are members of low-income households.


Governor Cuomo also announced the state is launching a new partnership with Ready Responders to bring health care services, including COVID-19 diagnostic testing, to residents of public housing in New York City. The state will also partner with Representative Greg Meeks, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Attorney General Letitia James, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on this effort. An initial pilot program will begin this week at locations across New York City, including Highbridge Houses, Edenwald Houses, Washington Houses and Andrew Jackson Houses in the Bronx; Queensbridge Houses and Brevoort Houses in Queens; and Red Fern Houses and Hammel Houses in Brooklyn.


The Governor also announced the state will deliver 500,000 cloth masks and 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to public housing communities.


The Governor also announced the creation of the Reimagine NY Task Force to improve systems in downstate New York once the state is no longer on pause. The Task Force will be led by the state and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and will be comprised of other local elected officials and housing and transportation experts.


The Governor also announced that SUNY is distributing more than 8,800 laptops and Chromebooks to students in need who are currently completing their spring semester coursework online amid the COVID-19 health crisis. As SUNY and campuses began planning the shift to distance learning in March, SUNY System Administration surveyed all 64 campuses and colleges to gauge student technology needs, and is providing the laptops and Chromebooks based on those findings. SUNY will continue to monitor and fulfill technology needs while remote learning continues.


VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here, with ASL interpretation available on YouTube here and in TV quality format here.


AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.


PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.


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


Good morning. Happy Monday. All devices off, by the way. To my far-right, Dr. Jim Malatras, to my right, Dr. Zucker, a real doctor. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, to her left, Robert Mujica, budget director, calls himself doctor of the budget, not a real doctor.


Today is 51 days since the first case in New York, just for perspective, so we know where we are. 92 days since the first case came to the United States of America. It was in Seattle and in California. These are the hospitalization numbers for today. A tick down yesterday, but a slight tick, statistically irrelevant. The question for us is, are we passed the apex? We have had a number of days that have seen a reduction, reductions across the board. Hospitals also say anecdotally that they have less patients in their emergency room, which, again, perspective, the emergency rooms were way over capacity. It was chaotic. It was hellish. And the emergency rooms are still at or over capacity, but it's better than it was. The total change in hospitalizations, you see that has been going down. The three-day average of hospitalizations is going down. Number of intubations is down again. That is great news, not down as much as yesterday, but down. Number of new people coming in the door with COVID diagnosis is again, just about flat with yesterday. This was reporting over a weekend. Sometimes the weekend reporting can get a little funky because it's Saturday and Sunday, and they have less of the staff. The reporting may not be as accurate but it's basically flat.


The question that we initially dealt with at the beginning of this as the numbers were going up. The question is, how long until we reach the top of the mountain? Every day, it was the number's higher, the number's higher, the number's higher. The question is, when do you get to the top, how high can it go? Then, we get to the top, the top turns out not to be a peak, it turns out to be a plateau, and then we're on the plateau, and it's basically flat, and then the question is, how long are we going to be on this plateau? How long, how wide is the plateau? The question now is, assuming we're off the plateau, and we're seeing a dissent, which the numbers would suggest we're seeing a dissent, the question is now, how long is the dissent and how steep is the dissent? And nobody knows. Just the way nobody knew how long the ascent was, nobody can tell you how long the descent is. And that's what we are trying to figure out.


The number's coming down, but how fast does the number come down? And how fast does the number come down to where it becomes a low enough number that we have some confidence that we have a margin of error? Does it take two weeks for it to come down? Some projections say that. Does it take a month? Some projections say that. And again, the projections are nice, but I wouldn't bet the farm on them. And I don't even have a farm. Worst news is the number of lives lost, that number is still horrifically high. If you're looking for the optimist's view, it's not as bad as it was, but 478 New Yorkers died yesterday from this terrible virus.


Everyone is anxious to reopen. Everyone is anxious to get back to work. So am I. Question is, what does that mean? How do we do it, when do we do it? Nobody disagrees that we want to get out of this situation. Nobody. You don't need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work, and we have to get the economy going, and we have to get out of our homes. Nobody. The question is going to become, how, when, how fast, and what do we mean in terms of reopening? With reopening, I want to set the bar higher. Meaning the question shouldn't be, when do we reopen, and what do we reopen? The question should be, let's use this situation, this crisis, this time, to actually learn the lessons, value from the reflection, and let's reimagine what we want society to be.


Since we are going to have to go through all of this, and it's not going to be fast, let's at least make this a moment that when we look back, we can say, wow, we went through hell but look at all the lessons we learned and look at how much better we made this place from this incident.


We went through 9/11. It was hellish when we had to rebuild but we were smart enough to say, how do we build it back better? You look at downtown Manhattan now, it is better than it was before 9/11. You look at the security procedures that this nation has. We're better than we were before 9/11. We had Superstorm Sandy here on Long Island. Terrible, terrible. Thousands of peoples' homes gone. Long Island is better today for having gone through Superstorm Sandy.


Okay, how do we use this situation and stop saying reopen, but reimagine and improve and build back better? And you can ask this question on any level. How do we have a better transportation system, a better housing system, better public health system, better social equity, better use of technology? People who are working from home, a lot of them are saying, I should have been doing this all along. You have telemedicine that we have been very slow on. Why was everybody going to a doctor's office all that time? Why didn't you do it using technology? Why haven't we been using more technology for education? Why haven't we incorporated so many of these lessons? Because change is hard and people are slow. Now is the time to do it.


And that's what we are doing in a multi-state regional coalition and that's very important because that is the smartest way to do it. On a more granular level here in New York, we will have a "reimagine task force" that focuses primarily on downstate New York, which has been the most affected area, and led by the State with those local elected officials, but let's get the best housing experts. Let's get the best transportation experts and let's use this as a moment to really plan change that we could normally never do unless you had this situation.


In the meantime, do no harm. This is my number one concern every day. Do no harm. Don't let that infection rate go up and that's testing and that's watching the dials, right? We know what's going to happen now. The weather is going to warm. People are a little more relaxed because they see the numbers coming down, and we know human behavior. They want to get out of the house and they want to be more active. And there is a sanity quotient to this whole situation. There's only so long you can say to people, stay in the house and lock the door, right? They have to go out do and something, and they will. They will come out with the warmer weather and we do have parks and there are recreation areas. It is not even healthy to stay in the house all the time. But that is going to happen. That activity level is going to increase naturally.


When that activity level increases you can very well see that infection rate spread. Infection rate is primarily a function of contact. You touch a surface and then I touch a surface. You cough and the droplets go on me. It's contact. And that's why a place like New York City or anywhere you see a hotspot cluster, New Rochelle, it was about contact. People start coming out. They start moving around more, there will be more content. That contact will increase the virus spread. Watch the dial. Watch the virus contact spread. You will see it in the hospitalization rate. To the extent we are doing testing you will see it in the testing rate, but remember how thin our margin of error is.


We were at 1.2, 1.3, 1.4. That's when the virus is outbreak. One person is infecting more than one additional person. When you get the infection rate below 1, theoretically, the virus is slowing. We are at .9. We are at .9 to 1.2. That is a very fine margin of error. I don't even know that it is statistically relevant, frankly, because all of these numbers are a little loose, but that is what we have to watch and we will. And we have to watch this until we have a medical treatment, or we have a vaccine. That is when this is really over.


In the meantime, I say to my local government officials, I am getting a lot of calls from a lot of supervisors, town, elected officials, et cetera, they are under increasing political pressure, and they want to do things. The state rule is now everything is closed, and the state rule is they cannot take any action that is contrary to that. Because coordination and discipline is now key. Beaches, public facilities, schools, parades, concerts - these would all be magnets for people. I work with our other states because frankly, if they open up a beach in Connecticut, you could see a flow of people from New York going to a beach in Connecticut, if i don't open our beat his, but if they have a concert in New Jersey, people who are cooped up here, you could see them get in a car and drive to New Jersey to a concert. By the way, people drive to new jersey for concerts anyway without COVID. I told someone yesterday - I ran into a couple in Albany who said, we are from Queens. They are in a car eating out of Styrofoam trays. They drove up from queens to buy Thai food in Albany, take out, because they liked the Thai food restaurant in Albany. As said, you drove from Queens to Albany to buy Thai food, 2.5 hours, three hours. I see enough Thai restaurants in Queens, all due respect to the Thai restaurants in Albany, they're very, very good but would you really drive three hours. They said, we had to get out of the house, we had to do something, so we liked to take a drive.


So, anything that Jersey, Connecticut, does can affect everyone else. Westchester does something, Suffolk does something, New York City do something, it affects everyone else. That is the reality. So, everything is closed, unless we say otherwise, and the most important thing - I just had this conversation with a local official. Look, people need government to work. Government has to be smart, and if it looks confused between the state and the county, or the state and the town, that's the wrong message for everyone. So, let's just be smart.


On testing and funding, those are the two areas we are working with our federal partners. Testing is going to require everyone to work together. Federal and state, state and locals by the way, we are starting the largest antibody test every done today in New York, the largest sample, but this has to be a multilevel government coordinative project because we have to do this on an ongoing basis. Also, on the funding issue, this is obviously a unique period in a lot of ways. We did a state budget in a way we have never done it before. Since our state didn't have any revenues, the way we did the budget is basically said, it's dependent on what we get from the federal government, and the federal government had promised funding all along. We said, whatever we get from the federal government will determine our state budget, right? Because the state has a $10 billion to $15 billion hole right now, and that has never been done before. It basically said, I will tell you the state budget when I know the state budget, and the state budget is going to be a function of whatever the federal government gives us. The federal government has not funded states to date. The National Governor's Association, bipartisan, headed by a chairman, Governor Hogan, Republican. I'm the vice chairman. We have said with one voice, you want the governor's to do the job, we need you to provide funding for state governments. There's now another piece of legislation they're talking about passing in Washington and, again, it doesn't have state and local governments in it. This week, we're going to do a state forecast, if they exclude state government again, our state forecast will project - without any federal funds, you can't spend what you don't have - if you were to allocate the shortfall relatively on a flat basis across need, you would be cutting schools 20 percent, local governments 20 percent and hospitals 20 percent. This is the worst time to do this.


Now, the federal government has said from day one, "don't worry. We're going to provide funding to the states." Yeah, don't worry. I'm worried because I've heard this over and over again. My job is very simple. I have one agenda. I have one purpose. I fight for New Yorkers. That is my job. I don't have any side jobs. I don't have any other places to go, people to see. That's all I do. I'm telling you, New Yorkers need funding for this budget because we can't do it otherwise. Washington is saying what, we want to fund small business. Yeah, great. You should fund small businesses. They want to fund financial services and large corporations and airlines and hotels. Yeah, that's all great. Fund all those businesses. But, at the same time, don't forget teachers and police officers and firefighters and transit workers and health care workers and nursing home staff. Those are the people who I fund with the state budget and you shouldn't make us choose between small businesses and large businesses and people who are on the front line, doing the work day-in and day-out.


I would even go a step further and I would propose hazard pay for front-line workers. We all say, "boy, they did a great job. The health care workers did a great job. The police, they're heroes." Yes, they are, but you know what, thanks is nice but also recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate. They are the ones that are carrying us through this crisis. This crisis is not over. If you look at who they are and the equity and fairness of what has happened, I think any reasonable person would say, "We should right this wrong."


Forty percent of the frontline workers are people of color. Forty-five percent in public transit, 57 percent of the building workers, 40 percent of the health care workers. People of color are also disproportionately represented in delivery services and child care services. The economy closed down - the economy did not close down. It closed down for those people who frankly have the luxury of staying at home. All those essential workers who had to get up every morning to put food on the shelves and go to the hospitals to provide health care under extraordinary circumstances, and the police officer who had to go out to keep you safe and the firefighter who still had to go out and fight the fire - those people worked and they went out there and exposed themselves to the virus.


Two-thirds of those front line workers are women. One-third come from low-income households. So they've been doing this work, they've been stressed, they're going home to a household often had 2 wage earners, one of them is now not working, they're living just on that one salary. And, after all of that, we see the infection rate among African-American and brown Americans higher proportionately than other groups. Why? Because they were out there exposing themselves. That's why. You can talk about health disparities, et cetera. But, I believe all the studies are going to wind up saying, "Yes, when you are home with your doors locked, dealing with cabin fever, they were out there dealing with the coronavirus." That's why they are more infected. Pay them what they deserve. I would say hazard pay, give them a 50% bonus, and I would do that now. Yes, airlines, also frontline workers.


Also, we have a need and responsibility to get the assistance we need to people in low income communities. We have—NYCHA is public housing in the city of New York, high concentration of people in one place. Many people in the small lobby, many people in elevators, many people in hallways, a higher number of people in the apartment, just a higher occupancy. That's where the virus spreads. We are going to set up a test program in NYCHA, where we're going to have on-site health services and testing in the New York City area, with New York City Housing Authority projects, working with local officials. We're doing it as a pilot program to see how it works. If it works well, we will go further with it. We have as you see Congressman Meeks, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Attorney General Letitia James, Speaker Carl Heastie, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz who will be working on this and coordinating it, and I thank them very much. We're also going to bring 500,000 cloth masks to NYCHA. That is one mask for every person who is in public housing, and hand sanitizer, etcetera. Just so they have the necessary equipment they need to do the social-distancing and protection.


Personal opinion, not a fact, throw it in the pale, what we're are doing here, you know as a general rule, what we do determines our future, right? The smartest government is as smart as people are. That is how you shape your future, but this is cause and effect on steroids. What we do today will determine tomorrow and we are not going to need to wait to read the history books. We make smart decisions, you will see smart outcomes in two weeks. We make bad decisions, you will see bad outcomes in two weeks. So, when they say the future is in our hands, the future is really in our hands and we are going to get through this. We can control the beast. The beast will not destroy us. We can control the beast, great news. We have a lot of work to do to keep the beast under control, and we have a lot of work to do to reopen, but we are going to set the bar high, and we're going to reimagine, and what we reopen will be better than what we had before. Built back better, built back better, BBB. And that is what we are going to do because we are New York tough and tough isn't just tough. Tough is smart, tough is disciplined, smart is united, and smart is loving.

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office