Long Island and Mid-Hudson Valley Regions Will Be Permitted to Begin Construction Staging in Anticipation of Phase One of Reopening
Launches New Pilot Program with 52 Independent Pharmacies to Conduct 7,000 Tests per Week
New York State Now Has More Than 750 Testing Sites
State is Making Contact Tracing Training Program Curriculum Available at No Cost to All States Through the National Governors Association
Reminds New Yorkers to Vote in the Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest by Monday, May 25th; 92,000 People Have Already Voted
Confirms 1,696 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 358,154; New Cases in 48 Counties
Governor Cuomo: "New York State is starting its own small business relief program, working with private banks. We have over $100 million available to make loans to small businesses. We're going to focus on MWBEs that did not receive federal assistance and focus on really small business. The federal definition of small business is what many could consider large business, but we're going to focus on true small businesses. Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues. People who are interested in participating in this program can go to the website."
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund to provide flexible and affordable loans to help small businesses, focusing on minority and women owned small businesses, that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance. The state will take a smart, targeted approach for distributing these loans, focusing on businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. Businesses interested in receiving a loan should visit esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.
Governor Cuomo also announced the Long Island and Mid-Hudson Valley Regions will be permitted to begin construction staging in anticipation of phase one of reopening. If the number of deaths continues to decrease and the tracing is online, both regions could reopen next week.
The Governor also announced the launch of a new pilot program with 52 independent pharmacies to conduct 7,000 tests per week. New York State now has more than 750 testing sites across the state. The Governor also encouraged eligible New Yorkers to visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov to find a nearby testing site and get tested.
The Governor also announced that the state is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states through the National Governors Association to speed the process of creating contact tracing programs. The state partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, to develop this comprehensive online curriculum to train potential contact tracers. Contact tracing is currently underway in seven regions of the state - the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier and Western New York.
The Governor also reminded New Yorkers to vote in the state's Wear a Mask New York Ad Contest, which was launched by the Governor on May 5th and is being overseen by his daughter Mariah Kennedy Cuomo. New Yorkers can vote for the winning ad until Monday May 25th at WearAMask.ny.gov, and 92,000 people have voted to date. The winning ad will be announced on Tuesday, May 26th, and that ad will be used as a public service announcement.
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, everyone knows the people who are here I think. Just in case, to my far left Dr. Jim Malatras, not a real doctor, not even a fake doctor. Rob Mujica, Director of the Budget. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my far right, real doctor, Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health.
Good morning to all of you. Happy Memorial Day weekend. It starts today. Summer is upon us. This will be the 155th Memorial Day. The press gets to ask me questions. Here is my question for you guys today. Where was the first officially recognized Memorial Day celebration? No answer. Let the record show that there is not a single submission from the assembled press. You guys should know. Waterloo, New York, Seneca County, 1866. President Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the birth place of the Memorial Day parade. And as you are a press corps from the State of New York, I would hope that you remember this going forward. And there's the sign in case you forget, Waterloo, New York, birth place of Memorial Day. Today is day 83 of the COVID-19 crisis. Some of my young guns saying it's 83 days, we haven't had a day off, it's Memorial Day weekend. Life is about stamina. It's Memorial Day weekend, imagine if you were in a real war, overseas war, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War. Day 83 is nothing towards the tour of duty.
News is good today, hospitalizations are down and net change in hospitalizations is down. Number of new cases per day is down. This is a level now that is lower than when we first began, so that is good. Number of deaths, painfully high at any number, right? And you see that this number has been stubborn on its way down, but it's 109 yesterday. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. Again, you see how quick that spike went up and you see how slow it is to come down. So, we want to make sure that we don't ever go back there ever, ever again.
We're talking about reopening. The question is not whether or not to reopen, the question is how do you reopen smart? How fast and safe can you reopen? Reopen as fast as you can as long as it is safe. And you are safe if you are acting smart. What does smart mean? Phasing it in by metrics, just study what is happening, continue to test so you have an idea of the growth of the virus, trace those cases, isolate those positives. Watch your hospital capacity and monitor what's going on so all your actions are based on data. We post all of the data. Anyone in the state can go online and see where they are by their region. Long Island, and mid-Hudson region, if the number of deaths continue to decline the way it has, and they get their tracing online - every region has a certain number of tracers that they need to reopen because we want to make sure when they reopen that they have the testing tracing operation working - but if the number of deaths continues to decline, they get their tracing up and online both regions could reopen this week.
In anticipation of that, we are going to allow construction staging. Phase one, construction begins. Before you can begin construction you have to have staged the construction, the materials have to be on-site, et cetera, and safety precautions have to be on-site. So, we are going to allow that construction staging now for the Long Island and the mid-Hudson. We are hopeful that the number of deaths continues to decline and then they would be reopening this week.
Testing is a big component of all of this. New York State tests more than any other state per capita. We test more than any other country per capita. We are far ahead in terms of getting this operation online. This is the first case, no one has ever done this before, putting together this tracing and testing capacity. We have signed up another 52 independent pharmacies, that brings the total number of testing sites to 750. Our message is very simple: Get a test. We have state run sites where we have more capacity than we're now performing tests. We have some drive-ins where we can do 15,000 tests. We're only doing 5,000 per day. Get a test.
If you have any symptoms of COVID, which are basically the same symptoms as the flu. If you have any symptoms, get a test. If you were exposed to a person who you find out was positive, get a test. Get a test. You can go to this website and it'll tell you exactly the site closest to you.
In terms of tracing, all of the regions that have come online had to have the right number of tracers. We're talking about Mid-Hudson and Long Island has to get their tracing numbers up. Every region has the tracing functioning. Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, volunteered to have his Bloomberg Philanthropies put together a tracing program, because there is no such thing as a tracing program. How do you train tracers? How do you recruit tracers? What software do the tracers use? They've been doing that with Johns Hopkins. They've been fantastic. We have that in place now and we're going to share that with other states online. We're going to do that with the National Governor's Association. New York is ahead and we do have more advanced curriculum and training and protocols, so we're going to work with the NGA and make that available to any state that wants to use it.
Small business is a priority. Federal government passed the Small Business Assistance Program. That has run out of money and small businesses are taking a real beating in this situation. They are 90 percent of New York's businesses and they're facing the toughest challenges. The economic projections, vi-a-vie small business are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don't have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, et cetera, when they have no income whatsoever. Minority owned businesses face a far greater risk and have received less in federal relief.
New York State is starting its own small business relief program, working with private banks. We have over $100 million available to make loans to small businesses. We're going to focus on MWBEs that did not receive federal assistance and focus on really small business. The federal definition of small business is what many could consider large business, but we're going to focus on true small businesses. Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues. People who are interested in participating in this program can go to the website that is on the screen.
It's Memorial Day Weekend, we expect people to be getting out, going to parks, beaches, et cetera. We understand that, but we have to remain vigilant at the same time. I know the weather is warmer, I know people have been cooped up, I know there's tremendous energy to get out. You have to remain vigilant. You read in the papers that they're talking now about a possible second wave or hot spots for places that have opened too fast or opened without testing and tracing or opened without doing monitoring. That would be the worst situation is if we went through everything we went through and you start to reopen, you're not doing the monitoring and the vigilance and it actually winds up with another hot spot or cluster or worse, frankly.
Remember, we are still learning about this COVID-19 virus. One of the things I find most infuriating is the facts continue to change with this virus. Nobody's fault, but since we didn't know about the virus, we had certain assumptions that quote, unquote, experts made and those facts change. From day one. From day one it started that this virus was coming from China. So, everybody is looking to the West Coast from the West and it turns out that the virus came from the East. Came from Europe and walked right through our airports, and nobody was screening, and no one was doing anything, and that it was not in March. It was coming here January, February and March. Virus was here much sooner than anybody knew.
Fact was, if you have the virus and you have the antibodies then you're immune. So, we can put together a work force that can go back to work, people who had the virus and now have the antibodies. Now they're not so sure if you're immune if you have the antibodies.
It started children were not going be affected by the corona virus. Now, we're not so sure that children are not affected and we are watching carefully this inflammatory syndrome that is starting to hit children for covid positive or have the antibodies for positive.
Most recently, CDC says infected surfaces are not a major source of transmission. When we started, it was about infected surfaces and you could get it from infected surfaces and that was a major problem. We have a very aggressive disinfecting campaign going on across the state, public transit, etcetera. Now the CDC says that's not a major source, it's airborne, it's droplets, that's a major source. If the major source, if they're right, and the major transmission source is airborne, it takes you back to wear a mask. Wear a mask. And you know this reminds me in some ways of the education campaign we went through after we learned about the HIV virus and transmission of the HIV. And I remember how many times and how long we have to talk to people about wearing a prophylactic and how it could make a difference between life and death. The mask can make a difference between life and death. I know it's a small thing, it's de minimis, it doesn't look like much, but if it's now primarily airborne you know the mask works.
How do you know the mask works? First responders have a lower infection rate than the general population. Nurses, doctors in emergency rooms have a lower infection rate than the general population. How can that possibly be? Because they wear the mask and they do the hand sanitizers. You feel out of control, you can't protect yourself, you can't protect family? Yes, you can. That's what the mask does. You want to be in control of yourself? You want to greatly increase your odds? Wear the mask. By the way, not just asking you. The mask is mandatory in public settings. Public transportation, if you are in a taxi or Uber, private carriers, or anytime you are in public within six feet of another person, the mask is mandatory. It is not just a nice thing to do, a responsible thing to do, for citizen duty, it is mandatory that you wear the mask within six feet of another person in public. You don't have a right to infect another person. You don't. Look at the constitution, tell me where it says you have the right to infect another person. You don't.
So, how do we reopen smart? It's up to you. It's up to us. And that's both the beauty and the conundrum of this situation. It is wholly dependent on social action. Wholly dependent on social action. You tell me what people do, I will tell you the results, period. Government can say whatever it wants. I can sit up here and say whatever I want. I can't control it. People can control it. May 5 we announced a wear a mask in public campaign and we asked people to submit videos and we would pick the winner by vote of the people. And the winner would become a public service announcement. We had over 600 submissions for videos. We showed you the five finalists that are now open for voting. Here is another question for the astute press corps. The voting has been opened for two-and-a-half days, you can go to the website now and you can vote. How many votes have been cast thus far on the website? How many people have gone to the website in two-and-a-half days, watched the videos and voted for the best video? What is the number of people who went to the website in two- and-a-half days?
Question: Didn't you just say 600?
Governor Cuomo: No, I said there was 600 - this is emblematic of my interactions with the press. I did not say that. I said 600 people submitted videos. Of the 600 submissions, five were picked as finalists. People could then vote on the five finalists. The question is over two-and-a- half days, you're all political geniuses, of the two-and-a-half days, how many people do you think went to the web site to vote for one of those five finalists?
Governor Cuomo: Fifty?
Governor Cuomo: Five?
Question: I'll go with 25.
Governor Cuomo: 25? 65,000 people. Isn't that amazing? Zack wins. The competition is still open and we are going to show you now five of the runner-ups. I tell you of the 600, all 600 are going to be put up. They are amazing what people did. Really amazing. But we will show you five more of the runners-up.
Very cool - a lot of the submissions, they had to be the right length of time. They couldn't use copyrighted music. A lot of them used music that you can't appropriate and run as a commercial but I tell you, real talent. I gave you the wrong number on the number of votes. I gave you last night's number. Number of votes, 92,000. 92,000. And you have a lot of late-night voters obviously. What you see there, in those ads, New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.