May 11, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces Three Regions of New York State Ready to Begin Reopening May 15th

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

Finger Lakes, Southern Tier & Mohawk Valley Regions Have Met the 7 Metrics Required to Begin Phase 1 of Reopening Plan, Which Includes Construction, Manufacturing, Retail for Curbside Pickup, & Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing


The North Country and Central NY Close to Meeting All Metrics


Governor Cuomo Releases the "NY Forward Reopening" Plan, Available Here


Certain Low-Risk Business and Recreational Activities --including Landscaping, Gardening, Tennis & Drive-In-Movie Theaters -- Will Reopen Statewide on May 15th


Launches Regional Monitoring Dashboard -- Available Here


Announces Members of Regional Control Rooms to Monitor Regional Metrics During Reopening Process


Governor Cuomo: "This is the next big step in this historic journey. First phase was to figure out what we were dealing with because we had no idea. Scramble, frankly, to deal with the situation that dropped from another planet. Stabilize, ramp up the healthcare system, inform people, get people to understand what we were dealing with and control the damage. That's the mountain to me. We're now on the other side of the mountain. Next step, how do we reopen, how do we reopen intelligently and how do we reopen without taking a step back? What we have done thus far is really amazing. And it was because we were smart and because we were unified, and because we did that, we averted tragedy."


Cuomo: "We start with businesses that are more essential and pose a lower risk because once you say we're going to reopen they say, well what first? Well really everybody says, me first. After me first what businesses first? Those that are most essential and those that pose a lower risk because you can socially distance, et cetera. That's the matrix to make the decision and then businesses have to do their part also. It's not a one-sided affair."


Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that as of today, the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions have met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state's regional phased reopening plan when NYS on PAUSE orders expire on May 15th. If the trend continues, starting on May 15th, these three regions can begin opening businesses for phase one, which includes construction; manufacturing and wholesale supply chain; retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup; and agriculture, forestry and fishing. The North Country and Central NY regions have met 6 of the 7 metrics and could be ready at the end of the week. A guide to the state's "NY Forward Reopening" Plan is available here. The Governor also launched the state's regional monitoring dashboard, which is available here.


The Governor also announced that certain low-risk business and recreational activities will be ready to reopen statewide on May 15th, including landscaping and gardening; outdoor, low-risk recreational activities such as tennis; and drive-in movie theaters.


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 are available on the Governor's Flickr page.


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


Good morning everyone. It's a pleasure to be here once again. Let me introduce the people on the dais. To my far right, Gareth Rhodes who is Deputy of Financial services in the State of New York, but he's been working with us on this since it began. Dr. James Malatras to my right, not a real doctor but a PhD doctor which still counts to be a doctor. To my left, Melissa DeRosa who is the top state official, appointed state official, pleasure to be with her.


It's a pleasure to be in Rochester today, really Irondequoit, but for most people they'll relate to Rochester. It's a pleasure to be in the Rochester Regional Health Facility and I want to thank the President and CEO Eric Bieber very much for having us here today. We are also joined by a number of elected officials, I want to thank them for being here. We have County Executive Adam Bello, pleasure to be with you. We have a great congressman, who had a really challenging position before he went to Congress because he was working in New York State government. But he's now in Washington and he's, we need his voice there more than ever. This is going to be a big week in Washington. We need to get the federal government to recognize the situation that state governments face and fund not just corporate America, but fund working Americans: police, firefighters, schoolteachers. They have yet to do that to the extent necessary and hopefully with the leadership of the House we will get that done this week.


We have Robert Duffy who is former Mayor of Rochester, my great Lieutenant Governor in the first term, pleasure to be with him as we go forward. We have elected officials with us today. I also asked elected officials across the state to join us to understand today's presentation. So we invited all the county executives, we invited all the mayors, to listen to this presentation because we start a new chapter today in many ways. It's a new phase if you will.


May 15 is the end of the statewide closure. May 15 is the end of this week. And the question is now going to shift more towards localities and regions across the state to make sure they are in a position to open, and the state will be working in coordination with them, but it's an exciting new phase. We're all anxious to get back to work. We want to do it smartly. We want to do it intelligently but we want to do it, and that's what this week is going to be all about.


In terms of where we are, total hospitalizations, we are down again. That net change is down again. The net change in intubations is down again. The number of lives lost, still too high, obviously, at 161, but better than it has been. So, we see all the arrows are pointed in the right direction. If you look at the number of new covid cases per day, about 488. That is just about where we started this horrific situation, right? So May 10, we're right about where we were in March 19 before we went into the abyss of the COVID virus. And when you see the number of lives lost, again, we are right about where we started before we really went into the heart of this crisis. And that's what it's been, it's been a crisis and a painful one. But we're coming out of the other side, so in many ways from my point of view, we are on the other side of the mountain, right? We got hit with a virus, we saw that incline, we saw the number of cases growing, we saw the number of deaths growing. We finally hit a plateau because we did what we needed to do and we changed our behavior and we closed down and we turned the corner and then we started to come down the other side and that was the decline. And now the decline has gotten to a point where we are just about where we started the journey.

So, to turn to reopening because we have abated the worst by what we've done and now we can intelligently turn towards reopening. And that's May 15, that's this Friday and local regions all across the state should start to prepare for it and people as well. That's what we want to start to talk about today


We are going to open when we are ready to open. What does ready to open mean? Well first, the number of hospitalizations, the infection rates, show decline. The federal government with CDC guidelines have laid that out and we think it's intelligent. We accepted the federal guidance, and we have testing, tracing in place in every local region. Testing and tracing, words we never really heard before this situation but now people are hearing them every day. Testing, we have the capacity to do enough tests, diagnostic tests, so you're positive or negative. Antibody tests - did you have the virus and have you resolved the virus? Have that testing capacity in place. Tracing, when you find a positive case trace back and then isolate the positive so you reduce the spread. Sounds simple, logistical goal nightmare, never been done before but that's what testing, tracing is all about, and that has to be done region by region. That capacity has to fit every locality.


We talk about being New York tough, what tough really means and the second word in New York tough is always smart and we have been smart through this and we have to continue to be smart. There are seven metrics, if you will, to get down to a quantifiable situation that each region has to look at. First are the infection rate, the number of hospitalizations, the 14 day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations. that means you're controlling the hospitalizations. New hospitalizations under two per 100,000 so you know that the virus again is under control. Then number four, let's learn from the past. We had a true public health emergency that we were in danger of overwhelming our hospital capacity. Let's make sure we have 30 percent buffer in a number of available hospital beds in case that virus takes off again on you. You want to make sure we have hospital beds, so hospitals up to 70 percent, but 30 percent available hospital beds, 30 percent available ICU beds. Many of the people come in with this virus need an ICU bed and we want to make sure we have the ICU beds if we need them, God forbid.


And then testing capacity, so we know what the virus spread is doing. You don't know what the virus is doing unless you are testing. And then the tracing that fits with the testing program. We've been doing more tests than any state in the United States of America, so New York is way ahead and what we're doing on testing. We come up to speed faster. We're doing more tests per capita than any country on the globe, so we're doing very well in that regard, but you need in every region so it doesn't help the Finger Lakes if the Capital District has enough testing. You have to have enough testing and enough tracing in the Finger Lakes. So, each region has to have that in place and we understand that. We can measure this - this has always been about data and science for us, and you can look at it each individual region and you will know where each region is in the state by those criteria. So, you know what your infection rate is, you know what your hospitalization rate is, you know how many tests you need in place and tracers you need in place.


This can be a science and it can be measured. That's what we want to do. We want to demystify this entire issue. Sounds like a science fiction movie. I know. I feel like we've been living a science fiction movie but you can also study it and analyze it because we have a lot of experience now. We've been living with this for months; other countries have lived with this for months. So, let's learn. Let's be smart. That's who we are, and we can do that by each region in the state and you see depending on the region in the state, some regions are ready to go today - they just need to get some logistical pieces in order by the end of the week. Some places are very close, Central New York, just one or two criteria that haven't been met yet and you can do that with Long Island, New York City, all across the state. When we reopen, we're talking about a phased reopening, that's what everyone basically is doing. The question is moderating that phasing and doing it intelligently but starting with construction and manufacturing, retail, curbside pickup, agriculture, forestry and fishing. Then to phase 2, phase 3, phase 4, monitoring all along.


We start with businesses that are more essential and pose a lower risk because once you say we're going to reopen they say, well what first? Well really everybody says, me first. After me first what businesses first? Those that are most essential and those that pose a lower risk because you can socially distance, et cetera. That's the matrix to make the decision and then businesses have to do their part also. It's not a one-sided affair.


Businesses have to put safety precautions in place. We understand what has to be done, how the workforce has to have personal protection. They have to be socially distant. The workspace itself in some cases has to be adjusted, reconfigured. How do you have people work but they are six feet apart? They don't come to a cafeteria. There's no gathering. That's what we're trying to avoid, and then what processes do we have in place to test those employees or if the employee is symptomatic you can get them testing right away. You can then do tracing within the workforce.


You look at what's going on around the country. Just listen to the news - those meat processing plants where you have hundreds and hundreds of workers getting sick. We have an agriculture plant in Madison County that dozens of people got sick. It's not about the meat or the agriculture. It's the gathering. It's the density. That's what creates the problem, so learning those lessons and making sure we don't make those mistakes here.


On retail, all retail will be authorized to do curbside pickup or drop-off or in-store pickup. The essential retail which we've been, has been open all along will continue operating under the current protocols. We will also open certain businesses statewide which are low -risk: landscaping, gardening, low-risk recreational activities like tennis, drive-in movie theaters. Talk about going back to the future, back to drive-in movie theaters. I'm okay with that by the way.


Local officials, they have to do their work and their responsibility. Testing and tracing, they have to have those systems in place. We have to have a system in place regionally to monitor the infection rate with the hospitals. That connection has to be very close. They have to know on a day-to-day basis, if not an hour to hour basis. How many people are walking into the hospitals? I often do conference calls with all the hospitals in the state to find out exactly what is going on because they can tell you how many people walk through the door that morning or that afternoon and you want to be able to watch that and that has to be done on a regional basis. Businesses have to follow these new rules but we have to make sure they are following those rules also and you will get calls from employees who say I went back to work but by the way, I'm not comfortable. I don't think this is appropriate social distancing. I don't think I'm being given the appropriate equipment. Regional governments have to be in a position to respond to those.


The local governments have to be in communication with each other. We do this on a regional basis so there are a number of counties in that region but its one region and this virus doesn't respect county borders or state borders. Those governments have to be in contact with each other. If you know what's happening with your neighbor, you know what's happening in your district. So that has to be in place and that has to work and there's also something we call a regional control room which is made up of the top officials, government officials, academic officials, healthcare professionals that are watching the situation in that region develop.


You are going to increase activity. Depending on how intelligently you increase activity will be the possible effect on the spread of the virus. You need to know what the impact is. You need to know it in real time and you need to be in a position to respond. If it does not go well and you see that infection rate moving because the hospitals tell you they see an increase or because your testing data shows an increase, you have to be able to pull the plug. Or, slow down the increase in activity, and that's what we call the circuit breaker, right. So, you're increasing the activity, you're watching the infection rate, you're watching the hospitalization rate, you see that start to tick up, you have to have a circuit breaker. Slow down the activity level because you're increasing the infection rate and nobody wants to be there. That means you're going back to the other side of the mountain, and we've just made it over the mountain. Nobody wants to go back to the other side of the mountain.


So those regional control groups are very important. They have to be in place, they have to communicate, everyone has to know what each other's responsibilities are going forward. And we have been working with the regions all across the state over the past few weeks. We have those groups assembled, but this week, its Monday, before Friday, start talking, start communicating, understand who does what where. And that's true in regions all across the state. But I would urge them now to get on the telephone, or zoom, or whatever your preferred technology. Start talking, start understanding what happens on Friday, what do our numbers look like and let's get that all set sooner rather than later.


This is the next big step in this historic journey. First phase was to figure out what we were dealing with because we had no idea. Scramble, frankly, to deal with the situation that dropped from another planet. Stabilize, ramp up the healthcare system, inform people, get people to understand what we were dealing with and control the damage. That's the mountain to me. We're now on the other side of the mountain. Next step, how do we reopen, how do we reopen intelligently and how do we reopen without taking a step back? What we have done thus far is really amazing. And it was because we were smart and because we were unified, and because we did that, we averted tragedy.


Let's just remember where we were, right, remember where you were before you take a step forward. We had the virus that attacked us from Europe. The virus was coming, they now say, the experts now say, the geniuses now say, the virus came from Europe in January and February. And you know what? No one knew. No one knew with all the sophistication, with all the public health organizations, with that whole alphabet soup of agencies, nobody knew the virus was coming from Europe. Everybody's looking at China, and the virus is coming from Europe. Why? Because by the time we moved, the virus traveled from China to Europe. And then people are getting on flights from Europe coming to New York, 2 million travelers. 2 million travelers came from Europe. We had no idea. So New York, the east coast, people were landing at JFK. They were landing at Newark Airport, and that's where the virus came from, January, February, March. Nobody knew. European travel ban goes into effect mid-March, it's too late. It was already here.


Okay. Let's learn the lesson going forward. But that was the situation, those were the cards we were dealt. That's why New York had such high numbers, not because there's anything special or different about New York but because New York is where the European flights were coming in, and we didn't know. That was the situation that we were handed. They then say well, we project hospitalizations to be 120,000. I said 120,000, you know how many hospital beds in this state? 50,000. How can we have hospitalizations of 120,000 if we only have 50,000 beds, counting every bed in the entire State of New York? If you coordinate every bed you have 53,000 beds, and they projected 120,000. So, scramble to try to get more hospital beds. But, the only real course was you had to reduce the infection rate. How do you reduce the infection rate? You have to close down, stop people from spreading, stop gathering, stop density. We did that. Otherwise thousands more people would have died. Thousands more would have died. That is not rhetorical, that is not dramatic, that is a factual statement. Thousands more people would have died. We made that happen. We changed that trajectory. I didn't even know it was possible at one time.


When this started, we were at a truly bad and frightening place. If we didn't change the trajectory of this virus and we had 120,000 people show up at our hospitals, we would have made the situation in Italy look like a walk in the park. We were really at a very, very bad place. Again, through no fault of our own. The virus came from Europe, whoever would have figured that? Somebody should've, but above my pay grade. We changed the trajectory, dramatically by what we did. And that was smart. But we have to stay smart and we have to stay united. You look at what we've done.


New York, the cases are now on the decline. You look at the rest of the nation outside of New York, the cases are still on the incline. We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory. So, now we are on the decline. The rest of the nation, the cases are still on the incline. That is because of what the people in this state did. If you had said when we started this, yes we have more cases than anyone else, yes we had this European virus attack us and nobody expected it, but we are not only going to change our trajectory, we're going to change the trajectory more dramatically than any place else in the nation. And when you look at the nation compared to New York you're going to see us on the decline, the rest of the nation on the incline. People would have said it was impossible, but we did it. But we have to stay smart.


On this next phase, we have to learn from the mistakes that others have made. And we're not the first to reopen and that's a good thing because you can look around and learn. Other countries reopened too fast. They didn't have controls in place. And they reopened and then they had to slow down or they had to stop. We don't want to do that. We want to monitor our reopening, so if there's any change we can immediately calibrate it. Some states have not coordinated their actions. So, you have one county doing this, another county doing this. You've confused the general public and by the way, Monroe County cannot open in and of itself. Onondaga County cannot open in and of itself, Albany County cannot open in and of itself. There is no county by county plan here. It has to be coordinated and it has to be at least in a region and we did that, other states didn't. It was smart and as there's one set of rules and the public has to understand the set of rules.


Some states are opening even though they haven't met the CDC guidelines. Which I don't even know how that happens. Federal government says here are the CDC guidelines, which are basic health guidelines. Some states don't meet those guidelines and they're opening anyway.  "Well there's a lot of pressure to open." I know, but pressure doesn't mean you act unintelligently, right.  Some states open and then saw a rush of people from surrounding states. We've talked about that here. Concept of an attractive nuisance. Finger Lakes opens, you can't open up an attraction or site that will be attracting people from outside the region and then you have a problem you never encountered, right. So that's something to watch. And some places never really made the people a part of the plan and that is a fundamental mistake. Because this is not, we are not at a point where government is going to solve anything, frankly. This is people who are solving the problem.


Personal opinions opposed to facts. I did one thing right as governor that I'm proud of. I got the people involved in this situation to a greater degree than they had been involved probably in modern history. Probably in modern history. From day one, this was of such a magnitude that unless people engaged and understood and bought into this, government was impotent. State government can't enforce any of these things that we did. Stay in the house, close every school, close every business. State government can't enforce that. People had to understand the facts and people had to engage in governing themselves in a way they hadn't in decades. I don't know what happened. I'm still trying to figure out when government got to a place, or when society got to a place, where people would accept the lack of professionalism from the government - the lack of competence from elected officials. I don't know when government became so political and it all became about rhetoric rather than actual competence, but it happened somewhere along the way. That government could not handle the situation. People had to be engaged, people had to be informed. And that's the one thing I did right.


Now, they got engaged because it mattered. This is not an abstract issue. You're talking about people's lives and people's health and the health of their children. So they were interested. They were engaged. But they were also informed and I worked very hard every day to make sure they knew the facts. Trust the people - Lincoln, right? An informed public will keep this country safe. True and that's exactly what happened here. That's what we're going to continue to do. People need to be part of this. The whole plan that we're outlining today is all down. It's online, it's in a book. People need to understand exactly how we do this second phase just the way they understood how we were going to get over that mountain and how we were going to flatten the mountain, they have to understand now how we reopen. They have to be part of it. Understand the plan, hold me accountable. Hold me accountable. Hold your local officials accountable. But people have to be part of it. They have to know the facts and know what we're doing because it's going to come down to how people react and how people behave. If they understand what we're doing, they will do it. Just as I couldn't enforce any of this on day one, the local officials are not going to be able to enforce it, either.


Nobody's going to mandate personal behavior. People have to wear a mask, people have to be smart when they show up to work, people have to be smart when they shop. They have to understand this is not the floodgates are open, go back, do everything you were doing. Be smart. No one's going to protect your health but you. No one's going to protect your children's health but you. Well, children aren't affected. Oh, really? That's another fact that they're going to change on us. Now we're worrying about - we have 93 cases that we're investigating of young children who have COVID-related diseases.


So, this is about keeping yourself smart and keeping yourself healthy and keeping your family healthy. We'll do everything we can, but you have to be New York tough - smart is the first word after tough - united, disciplined, loving.

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