April 24, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Issues Executive Order to Make Sure Every New Yorker Automatically Receives a Postage-paid Absentee Ballot Application

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Issues Executive Order to Make Sure Every New Yorker Automatically Receives a Postage-paid Absentee Ballot Application

Governor Previously Issued Executive Order Allowing All New Yorkers to Vote Absentee in June 23 Primary Elections

New York State Revenues Estimated to Decline by $13.3 Billion from Executive Budget Forecast; $61 Billion Shortfall Over Financial Plan Period of FY 2021 to FY 2024 Due to COVID-19

Confirms 8,130 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 271,590; New Cases in 46 Counties

Governor: "We still have elections in the midst of all this chaos. We have seen elections held where we had people on lines for a long period of time. It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote. So, we passed an executive order that said you can vote by absentee. Today, I'm asking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter what's called a - automatically receives a postage paid application for a ballot. If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote, so you don't have to come out and get in a line."

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will issue an Executive Order mandating that the New York State Board of Elections automatically mail every New Yorker a postage-paid application for an absentee ballot. Earlier this month, the Governor issued an Executive Order allowing all New Yorkers to vote absentee in the June 23rd primary election.

The Governor also outlined the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state. New York State revenues are estimated to decline by $13.3 billion - or 14 percent - from the Executive Budget forecast. Additionally, the revenues are estimated to decline by $61 billion over the financial plan period of FY 2021 to FY 2024.

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. Everybody looks bright and happy and bursting with love. No? Today is Friday and I hope you all have big plans for the weekend. Can you have a weekend if you didn't have a weekday? Philosophical questions

Total hospitalizations, down. Good news. 14,200. All the evidence suggests we are on the downside of the curve. We are headed down. Net change in hospitalizations is down. Net change in intubations is down again and they have been down for a while. This is still not great news. Number of new people coming into the hospital, number of new infections is slightly down but that's basically a flat line and that is troubling. About 1,200 new, 1,300 new infections every day. Number of lives lost is still heartbreaking news. 422. Again, this is at an unimaginable level and it's dropping somewhat but it is still devastating news.

The question we are watching now is we hit the high point, we're on the way down, how far does that number come down and how far does that number drop? We have projections again, like we had projections on what the disease was going to do on the way up the mountain. We had projections on what the disease would do as a rate of decline but, again, they are just projections. Some projections have it going down and flattening at about 5,000 people in hospitals still. Some projections have the decline slowing between now and June but these are again all projections, just like they had projections as tow how fast and how far the disease would increase. Those projections, as we know, were wrong but they weren't wrong. We didn't hit those projections because of our actions, because of what we did, because of what the federal government did. Luckily, the disease did not go as high as they thought in the projections.

You now have the corresponding question, how fast is the decline, how low is the decline? Again, the variable is going to be what we do. We can change the projection on the way up. We can change the projection on the way down. But it is purely dependent on what we do. Are we socially distancing? Are we testing? How fast do we reopen? How do we reopen? You answer those questions and you will determine what the rate of decline is.

If you say, well, we're done, can't stay in the house anymore, let's just reopen, just start business tomorrow, let's go - what happens? That's what happens. All the progress we made is gone and all experts or virtually all experts will say not only does the virus spread increase but it increases to a higher point than we had increased the first time. Again, this is a remarkably effective virus at spreading and growing. I know that everyone is impatient. Let's just reopen. That's what happens if we just reopen. So we have to be smart.

People are also talking about a second wave, potential of a second wave. People are talking about potential for the virus to come back in the fall which means the game is not over which means the game could be just at halftime so let's make sure we're learning the lessons of what has happened thus far and let's make sure we are being truthful with ourselves. Not that we are deceiving anyone else but let's be truthful with ourselves. I don't think we're deceiving anyone else but let's make sure we're not deceiving ourselves. What has happened, what should we learn from as far as what has happened thus far so we make sure we don't make the same mistakes again and let's do that now.

This was our first global pandemic. Welcome. There had been people who talked about global pandemics before. Bill Gates had talked about the potential of a global pandemic during the Obama Administration. They talked about being prepared for a global pandemic but it was almost always an academic exercise, what if, what if, what if. Once it happens, once it actualizes for people, then it's different. Then people get it. We now know that a global pandemic is not just a text-book exercise, not just a table-top exercise. It can happen. When it happens, it's devastating. Let's just learn from what happened on the first one. Let's just get the basic lesson of what happened on the first one.

Last November, December, we knew that China had a virus outbreak. You can read about it in the newspapers. Everybody knew. January 26, we know we had the first confirmed case in Seattle, Washington and California. February 2nd, the president ordered a travel ban from china. March 1st, we have the first confirmed case in the State of New York. By March 19th, New York State is totally closed down. No state moved faster from first case to closedown than the State of New York. March 16, we have a full travel ban from Europe.

Researchers now find, and they report in some newspapers, the virus was spreading wildly in Italy in February. And there was an outbreak, massive outbreak in Italy in February. Researchers now say there were likely 28,000 cases in the United States in February, including 10,000 cases in the State of New York. And, the coronavirus that came to New York did not come from China. It came from Europe. Okay? When you look at the number of flights that came from Europe to New York, the New York metropolitan area, New York and New Jersey, during January, February up to the closedown, 13,000 flights bringing 2.2 million people. Alright?

So November, December, you have the outbreak in China, everybody knows. January, February, flights are coming from Europe, people are also coming from China in January, until the China closedown. And the flights continue to come from Europe until the Europe shutdown. 2.2 million people come to New York and come to New Jersey. We acted two months after the China outbreak. When you look back, does anyone think the virus was still in China, waiting for us to act, two months later. We all talk about the global economy, and how fast people move, and how mobile we are. How can you expect that when you act two months after the outbreak in China, the virus was only in China, waiting for us to act? The horse had already left the barn by the time we moved.

Research now says, knowing the number of flights coming to New York from Italy, it was like watching a horrible train wreck in slow motion. Those are the flights that were coming from Italy and from Europe, January and February. We closed the front door, with the China travel ban, which was right, even in retrospect it was right. But we left the back door open, because the virus had left China by the time we did the China travel ban. That's what the researchers are now saying, with 28,000 cases in the United States, 10,000 in New York. So, what is the lesson? An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. When you see November and December, an outbreak in China, just assume the next day it's in the United States. When they say it's in China, just assume that virus got on a plane that night and flew to New York or flew to Newark airport, and it's now in New York. That has to be the operating mentality. Because you don't know that the virus didn't get on a plane. All you need is one person to get on that plane in China and come to New York. The way this virus transfers, that's all you need. And you can't assume two months later the virus is still going to be sitting on a park bench in China waiting for you to get there. That is the lesson. And again, why do we need to learn the lesson? Because they're talking about this happening again with this virus where it could mutate in China, and get on a plane, and come right back. Or the next virus, or the next pandemic.

Whose job is it to warn us of these global pandemics? The president says it's the World Health Organization. And that's why he's taken action against them. Not my field. But he's right to ask the question, because this was too little, too late. And let's find out what happened so it doesn't happen again. And it will happen again. Bank on it. Let's not put our head in the sand and say, "This is the only global pandemic that we'll ever have to deal with."

In the meantime, let's keep moving forward. One of the things we're working on is how do we clean, how do we disinfect. We're talking about reopening. We still have public transit systems running. We still have buses running. So we've been working on how to come up with new cleaning and disinfecting protocols. I asked a simple question to our team a few days ago, how long does the virus live? It's something we need to know, but frankly, i think it's something everybody needs to know. The virus can live up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces and stainless-steel surfaces. Just think about this from a transit point of view or from your car point of view. It can live on a vinyl car seat up to 72 hours. It can live on a pole in a bus or on a seat in a bus for up to 72 hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard, up to four hours on materials like copper, and the droplets can hang in the air for three hours. This was a shocker to me. When they were talking about droplets, i thought it was a droplet and then it falls, right? It's a droplet that can hang in the air for three hours. I don't even know how that works. And many of the people who spread it are showing no symptoms at all. So just factor that in in your daily life when you're going through your own precautions.

We're also going to do the state finance report this week. And what you're going to see is what we expected, roughly a $13.3 billion shortfall from our forecast. Total effect all over the period of the financial plan is $61 billion. Now, what happened? New York State was not, quote, unquote, in trouble before this happened. New York State was very, very strong before this happened. Our economy was growing. It was growing at a very high rate. Our government spending has been at record lows. The spending increases. Our taxes today are lower than the day I took office. "Oh, you're a Democrat, how can that be?" They're numbers. Tax rates on individuals, businesses are lower today than the day I took office. Every tax rate, as incredible as that sounds, is lower today than the day I took office. So, the state finances were very, very strong.

And then this economic tsunami hits and you shut down all the businesses, everybody stays home, they're not getting a paycheck. They feel economic anxiety. The consequence to the state is the revenue projections are way down. What do we do about it? Some people have suggested, well, "States should declare bankrupt bankruptcy." I think, as I said yesterday, it's a really dumb idea. People are trying to talk about bringing the economy back, reopen, we have to get the economy moving again. And then rather than provide financial aid to the states that got hit by this economic tsunami through no fault of their own, the suggestion was made, states should declare bankruptcy. A few problems with that premise. Forget the morality of it and the ethics of it and the absurdity of it and the meanness of it. Legally, a state can't declare bankruptcy. You would need a federal law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. So to the Senate that proposed it, I say pass a law allowing states to declare bankruptcy. I dare you. And let the President sign that bill that says, "I give the states the legal ability to declare bankruptcy."

It's your suggestion, Senator McConnell, pass the law, I dare you. And then go to the president and say sign this bill allowing states to declare bankruptcy. You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble? You want to send an international message that the economy is in turmoil? Do that, allow states to declare bankruptcy legally because you passed the bill. It will be the first time in our nation's history that that happened. I dare you to do that. And then we'll see how many states actually take you up on it. I know I wouldn't. But if you believe what you said, and you have the courage of conviction because you're a man of your word, pass that bill if you weren't just playing politics. We'll see how long it takes him to do it.

Also moving on, voting, we still have elections in the midst of all this chaos. We have seen elections held where we had people on lines for a long period of time. It makes no sense to me to tell people you have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote. So, we passed an executive order that said you can vote by absentee. Today, I'masking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter what's called a - automatically receives a postage paid application for a ballot. If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so you can vote, so you don't have to come out and get in a line.

Then looking ahead, more testing. We're making great progress on that. New York State is doing more testing than any state in the country right now. New York State is doing more tests than any country per capita on the globe right now. That is what will educate our moving forward. Watch the spread of the virus. It's getting warmer, more people are going to be coming out of their homes. That's going to happen naturally. Watch that spread. Testing gives you those numbers on an ongoing basis. Maintain social distancing. Also, plan on a reopening and not just reopening what was.

We went through this horrific experience. It should be a period of growth. It should be a period of reflection. If we're smart and we use it that way, there are lessons to learn here if we're smart and we have the courage to look in the mirror. We went through 9/11. Wewere smarter for it. We went through World War II. We were the better for it. We went through Superstorm Sandy. We learned, we grew and we were the better for it. We should do the same thing here. People have totally changed their lifestyle. What have we learned? How can we have a better health care system that can actually handle public health emergencies? How do we have a better transportation system? How do we have a smarter telemedicine system? How do we use technology and education better? Why do some children have to go to a parking lot to get Wi-Fi to do their homework? How do we learn from this and how do we grow?

And let New York lead the way because we're New York tough. But New York tough, when they say we're tough, yeah, we're tough, but we think tough incorporates being smart and being disciplined and being unified and being loving.

Last point I want to make and this is personal, not factual, my grandmother on my father's side, Mary, was a beautiful woman but tough. She was a tough lady. She was New York tough, gone through the depression, early immigrant, worked hard all her life. And she was a little roughhewn. She was roughhewn. I would say to her, "you know grandma, met this girl, met this guy, they're really nice." She would say "nice, how do you know they're nice? It's easy to be nice when everything is nice." I said grandma "what does that mean?" She said "you know when you know they're nice? When things get hard. That's when you know if they're nice. And I never really got it.

But her point was it's easy to be nice and kind and affable when everything is easy. You really get to see people and get to see character when things get hard, and when the pressure is on is when you really get to see true colors of a person and see what they're made of. It's almost as if the pressure just forces their character and the weaknesses explode or the strengths explode and that's what we've gone through. This is been hard. It's put everyone under pressure and you've really seen what people are made of. And you've really had a snapshot of what individuals are made of, and what we are made of as a collective. And personally, I'll tell you the truth. Some people break your heart. They just break your heart. People who I thought would rise to the occasion. People who I thought were strong, under pressure they just crumbled. They just crumbled.

On the other hand, you see people who you didn't expect anything from who just rise to the occasion, and you see the best and you see the worst. You just see the best and the worst of humanity, just comes up to the surface on both ends. It just, everything gets elevated, the strength in people and the weakness in people, the beauty in people and the ugliness in people - you see both. For me, the beauty you see and the strength that you see compensates and balances for the weakness. And I get inspired by the strength so I can tolerate the heartbreak of the weakness.

Here is a letter that I received that just sums it up.

Dear Mr. Cuomo, I seriously doubt that you will ever read this letter as I know you are busy beyond belief with a disaster that has befallen our country. We are a nation in crisis, of that there is no doubt. I'm a retired farmer hunkered down in northeast Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes. We are in our seventies now and frankly I am afraid for her. Enclosed, find a solitary N95 masks, left over from my forming. It has never been used. If you could would you please give this mask to a nurse or doctor in your state. I have kept four masks for my immediate family. Please keep on doing what you do so well. Which is to lead. Sincerely, Dennis and Sharon.

A farmer in northeast Kansas. His wife has one lung and diabetes. He has five masks. He sends one mask to New York for a doctor or nurse, keeps four masks. You want to talk about a snapshot of humanity? You have five masks. What do you do? You keep all five? Do you hide the five masks? Do you keep them for yourselves or others? No, you send one mask one mask to New York to help a nurse or a doctor. How beautiful is that? I mean how selfless is that? How giving is that? You know that's the nursing home in Niskayuna that sent one hundred ventilators down to New York City when they needed them. It's that love that courage that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful. And makes Americans so beautiful, and it's that generosity of spirit, for me, makes up for all the ugliness that you see. Take one mask, I'll keep four. God bless America.

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