Directs Schools and Colleges to Create Re-Opening Plans that Re-Imagine Facilities to Be Approved by the State
State is Partnering with Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to Provide 24/7 Emotional Support Service for Frontline Workers; Workers Can Text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741
Department of Financial Services to Require New York State-Regulated Health Insurers to Waive Out-of-Pocket Costs for Mental Health Services for Frontline Essential Workers
Announces New Targeted Efforts to Further Reduce Number of New Hospitalizations per Day
Five New Drive-Through Testing Facilities Now Open in Monroe, Erie, Broome, Niagara and Oneida Counties
Confirms 3,942 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 308,314; New Cases in 48 Counties
Governor Cuomo: "Nobody can predict what the situation is going to be three weeks or four weeks from now, so we are trying to stage decisions at intervals that give us information, but also enough time for people to make preparations they need to make."
"We are going to be asking businesses to come up with plans that safeguard workers when they reopen. We need schools to come up with plans also that bring those precautions into the schoolroom. That is also for colleges, and the state will approve those plans."
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced all K-12 schools and college facilities statewide will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and will continue to provide distance learning during that time. The schools will also be required to continue meal programs and child care services for essential workers. The state will make a decision about summer school programming by the end of May.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Pleasure to be with you. Everybody knows Dr. Malatras, Dr. Zucker, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor; Robert Muijca Budget Director, also a member of the MTA Board. Today is day 62, feels like just yesterday. Before we look at the numbers, I just want people to recall the context for these numbers and remember what we have accomplished. We were faced with a situation where the infection rate numbers were going straight up. That was only 30 days ago that we saw the number of cases and the number of cases going into the hospitals, the infection rate everything was going straight up.
That number would have just continued to go straight up and that's why all the projections, national projections, state projections, local projections turned out to be incorrect because they were all believing that that line was going to continue to keep going up. What happened is, New Yorkers, Americans, changed reality. Literally changed reality. They literally changed the path of the virus spread and reversed the spread. That's what the close down procedures did, that's what the masks have done, that's what the social distancing has done. New Yorkers and all across this country, you saw that number change from that up trajectory to the downward trajectory.
That shift in the trajectory reduced, by about 100,000, the number of New Yorkers who would have been hospitalized. One hundred thousand hospitalized. To be hospitalized you have to be seriously ill. A portion of those 100,000 would have passed away. So all this inconvenience, this turmoil, for what? To keep 100,000 people out of hospitals. That's for what. The 100,000 in the hospitals would have overwhelmed the hospital system, would have been chaotic. That's where Italy was and a number of those 100,000 would have died. So remember that context. Not just for the retrospective, but for the perspective.
Our past actions changed the path's trajectory. Our present actions will determine the future trajectory. It is that clear. It is cause and effect. You tell me what we do today, I will tell you the number of people sick tomorrow. So, everyday we get up, everyday everyone says, "Oh my gosh, I have to do this again." Yes, but what you do today is going to determine the number of sick tomorrow. New Yorkers have continued to do what they have to do. You see that number of hospitalizations dropping. That is all good news and that is a credit to the community and the social conscience and the responsibility of New Yorkers.
The question now is, as we're on the decline, how fast is the decline and how far is the decline? How low will the number actually wind up? Right now, we're at about 1,000 new cases per day, in the 900s: 954, 933, 970, 973. That's four days. The day before that it was 1,076. That looks like the number is flattening, is plateauing at about 900, 1000 cases. Three, four days, five days if you want to say between 900 and 1,100. That is still too high a number of new cases to have everyday. Not where we were, a lot better than where we were for sure, but 1,000 new cases every day is still a very high infection rate. It's still a burden on the hospital system.
We now want to take it to the next level. Let's drill down on those 1,000 new cases. Where are they coming from? Why is the infection rate continuing? Who's getting infected? Let's get more targeted in our response. We're fighting this statewide, but you have to wage the battle, wage the war on many fronts. It's a statewide battle. Now that we have it basically stabilized and on the decline, the enemy is on the run. The virus is reducing, let's get more refined, more targeted. I'm going to be speaking with the hospitals this afternoon and say that we want to get more specific information on those new cases that are coming in the door.
Where are they coming from? Who are they? To see if we can come up with a more specific target. If you look at the past few days where the cases have been coming from, this is a 3-day what they call rolling average, you see 17 percent from Manhattan. Much of it correlates to population but much of it also correlates with downstate New York. Seventeen percent Manhattan, 17 percent Kings, 12 percent Bronx, 11 percent Queens, but then 10 percent Nassau. Seven percent Westchester and Suffolk. So it's the downstate region and then upstate it's Erie County to give you snapshot of where the cases are coming from.
We need more specific information to have a specific battle plan. Literally where do the new cases come from? Are they essential workers? Are they people who are staying home and getting infected by a family member? Or are they essential workers who are still traveling and possibly getting infected at work? Where do they work? How do they commute? Is this a question of getting infected on public transportation? We just announced new subway, buses, Long Island Railroad, Metro North protocols. Where in the state are these people being transferred from a nursing home? What is their sex? What is their age? What is their previous health status? What are the demographics? Let's get more specific information from the hospitals to see if we can come up with the strategy more tailored to the reduction of these 1,000 cases per day. The number of deaths, 289, lower than it has been, but still tragic and terrible, and all the good numbers, the good news for me, every day this number just wipes that all away.
We have announced a statewide policy for our schools. We did it last March 18th. We said we were going to close schools all across the state, k-12 and higher education schools. We waived what was called the 180-day requirement, which is a state regulation that schools have to have 180 days of teaching. Schools then transferred to distance learning programs, meal delivery services, child care options for essential workers. That has actually worked out well, not perfectly, we had to do it in a rush, but there are lessons we can learn here that could change teaching going forward and teaching in these types of situations going forward - but it did work. Basically, it functioned well, and teachers did a phenomenal job stepping up to do this. It was a hardship on everyone, but we made the best of the situation. Colleges and universities were also moved to distance learning. Campuses were closed, unless a student really needed housing on the campus. Schools, obviously by definition, have higher density. They have transportation issues, kids getting on buses. We did not have the protection measures to put in place. You have 700 public school districts, 4,800 schools in this state, and then you have 1,800 private schools, 89 SUNY and CUNY campuses, and 100 private campuses for a total of 4.2 million students.
So, the decisions on the education system are obviously critically important. We must protect our children. Every parent, every citizen feels that. We must protect our students and educators. Given the circumstances we are in and the precautions that would have to be put in place to come up with a plan to reopen schools with all those new protocols: How do you operate a school that socially distances with masks, without gatherings, with a public transportation system that has a lower number of students on it? How would you get that plan up and running? We do not think it is possible to do that in a way that would keep our children, students, and educators safe. So, we are going to have the schools remain closed for the rest of the year. We are going to continue the distance learning programs. Schools have asked about summer school and whether we will have attendance in schools for summer schools. That decision will be made by the end of the month. Again, nobody can predict what the situation is going to be three weeks or four weeks from now, so we are trying to stage decisions at intervals that give us information, but also enough time for people to make preparations they need to make. So, any decisions on summer school will be made by the end of the month. In the meantime, meal programs will continue, the child care services for essential workers will continue. And then we want schools to start developing our plan to reopen, and the plan has to have protocols in place that incorporate everything that we are now doing in society and everything that we learned. We are going to be asking businesses to come up with plans that safeguard workers when they reopen. We need schools to come up with plans also that bring those precautions into the schoolroom. That is also for colleges and the state will approve those plans.
Related issue that we need to discuss and pay attention to, this COVID crisis has caused significant disruption and many unintended consequences, and ancillary issues that have developed, and one of them is when you have people who are put in this situation immediately with no notice, it has caused serious mental health issues. You have anxiety, depression, insomnia, loneliness, that feeling of isolation. We're seeing the use of drugs go up. We're seeing the use of alcohol consumption go up. This is a chronic problem. If you are feeling these issues, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, half of all Americans have said that their mental health has been negatively impacted. Don't underestimate the stress of the situation, and it happens on a lot of levels. Three out of four say that their sleep has been affected. You do not know where your next paycheck is coming from. You do not know if your job is going to exist. You are at work one day, the next day they say everything is closed, stay in the house. You are in that house, in a confined situation, or you're in an apartment and in a confined situation. You can't get out. It is difficult for emotional support, we have a hotline set up. People shouldn't be shy in any way or have any second thoughts about calling for help. It is a pervasive problem, and people should make a call and get the help if they need the help.
We also see, in line with what we're talking about, a dramatic increase in the incidence of domestic violence. There was a 15 percent increase in March. A 30 percent increase in April. That is - March is when this started, 15 percent. April, 30 percent. That is a frightening rate and level of increase. Again, New Yorkers in need, we have a domestic violence helpline - 844-997-2121. You can call, just discuss the issue. You don't have to give your identity, or say where you live, but people who need help should reach out. There is no shame in reaching out and saying, "I need help." This is a national epidemic. It is a statewide epidemic. Ask for help, and we are here to help.
We are especially concerned about these issues for frontline workers. I mean, just think about what the frontline workers are going through. Think about what the healthcare workers are going through. They're working extended hours. They're seeing a large number of people die. They're working in very frightening situations. They're worried about their own health. They're worried they get infected, they then have to go home, worry if they're infected and bringing that infection home. So, this is a terribly, stressful, difficult time, especially for the frontline workers, and we want them to know that we not only appreciate what they are doing, but we are there to support them, right? Saying thank you is nice. Acting in gratitude is even nicer. We have a special emotional support hotline for our essential workers. And we are also going to direct all insurers to waive any cost-sharing, co-pay deductibles for mental health services for essential workers, which means the mental health services will be free for frontline workers. And they will be at no cost. And too many families and people have said to me, "You know, I would go for services, but I do not want to pay the cost. I can't afford it. I don't want to take that money from my family." That's gone. There is no cost to get mental health services, so just wipe that reason away, and get the help that you need. It's even in the best interest of your family.
Last point, personal opinion, who said when life knocks you on your rear, learn, grow up, and get back up. Was it A.J. Parkinson? It was not A.J. Parkinson, it was me. Nobody ever said that, just me. "When life knocks you on your rear learn, grow, and get back up." This has been a very difficult, difficult situation for everyone, but when life knocks you on your rear, learn and grow, and we will collectively learn and grow. We are going to learn many difficult lessons from this situation. We are going to learn about public health threats that we never saw before, we never heard of, we never really anticipated, we never actualized. Everyone talked about global pandemics in that possibility, but you know what, until it happens people do not really get it. Our hospital system, and how that works, and how it works in an emergency. How tele-education works, how tele-medicine works. How you keep society functioning during an emergency. How you communicate to people the dangers of a situation without panicking people, because you still need essential workers to come out and do their job. You do not want to panic people where they say, "I'm not leaving the house." But you need to communicate the facts, so people act responsibly. How do you do that in a short period of time? What do you do about public transportation? Learned a whole lesson with the downstate public transportation system.
There will be a lot to learn from this, which we will learn, and we will be the better for. I believe that. That's part of life. In the meantime, we have to go day to day, and we try to make the best of a bad situation. You try to find that silver lining through the dark clouds. All of us try to do it in our own way. Everybody is struggling with it in their own way and that's all across the board. In many ways, this is the great equalizer. Doesn't matter who you are, where you are, this impacts your life, dramatically. But, personally, if you work at it, maybe you can find a little silver lining.
I am sitting there last night with my daughter Michaela, she's my baby, the baby's now 22. She says to me, "You know, dad, think about it, I've spent more time with you now then I will probably spend with you in the rest of my adult life." I said, "Wow, what does that mean?" She said, "Well, think about it. I have been with you for over a month. I won't be with you for another month for the rest of my adult life." Which is kind of jarring because I still think of her as my baby, but you know what? That is probably right, you know. She is 22. She is going to go off and do whatever she does, and then you see her at holidays for a few hours here. Maybe you steal a Saturday once in a while. It reminded me of the Harry Chapin song "The Cat's in The Cradle" which was a great old song, from a great man, great New Yorker too. But these are, with all the bizarreness, I have not been able to see my mother in two months, but I have my daughter probably for a longer period of time then I'll probably have for the rest of her adult life. That's probably true.
So, you try to find the silver lining. You try to stay positive. We stay socially distanced, but we stay spiritually connected. New Yorkers have been so supportive of each other. You can feel it. There is a spirit of community and mutuality. People are there to help one another. People understand that everybody is going through this, everybody is in stress. You look at the way people have complied with these rules, as annoying as they are, masks, six feet this. That is out of respect one for the other. I love the metaphor of the mask. The mask does not protect me. I wear the mask to protect you. What a beautiful sign of caring, of mutuality. I wear a mask to protect you. That's the spirit, even in this terrible time of difficulty. So, yes, you can be socially distanced, but you can be spiritually connected and closer in ways you've never been before. I believe that's where we are. Because we are New York tough, which means tough, smart, united, disciplined, and loving.