Most Popular Buildings at State Fairgrounds to Reopen and Adhere to Health Guidelines
State Fair to be 18-Day-Long Event Featuring New York's Best Food and Drink, Rides and Games, National Performers and Live Entertainment, and Agriculture Education and Awareness
Governor Cuomo: "Another reason to get a vaccine now, we are going to have a cooperative relationship with all public transit across the six upstate transit agencies. If you get a vaccine, you will get an unlimited seven-day transit pass. So you wouldn't have to pay for any commuting costs on public transportation for the week. Every upstate transportation agency is working with us on that. So, Central New York Regional Transit Authority, if you get a vaccine now you will get a seven day pass. That's another good reason to get it done."
Cuomo: "We're going to reopen the New York State Fair at 100 percent occupancy. Everything will be open at the New York State Fair, all the buildings, all the events. It will be the great New York State Fair that we are all so proud of and I am so excited about this because the Fair is such a beautiful representative of the state and especially Upstate New York. As you know we've been breaking records every year in attendance. We've made a great investment in the Fair and the Fair is a different fair. Anyone who says, well, I went to the New York State Fair, four years ago, five years ago - you didn't go to the New York State Fair. You went to the old New York State Fair which is different than this State Fair - it's improved, it's bigger, it's better, it's more convenient, there are more attractions, so we are not only reopening, we're reimagining. It's better than ever before and we invite not only all New Yorkers, we invite people across the nation to come."
Cuomo: "We're going to lean into this with our I Love NY campaign. We're going to advertise upstate opportunities in the I Love NY campaign. It's going to be a $40 million international campaign. It is probably the quickest way to jumpstart and reinvigorate our economy by getting that tourism industry up and running and we're very proud of what we have here in Upstate New York. You put that together with the new advantage of our super low COVID positivity rate in the state and I think it's going to be a natural tourist destination for people."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the 2021 New York State Fair, an end-of-summer celebration at the New York State Fairgrounds from August 20 to September 6 in Syracuse, will increase capacity to 100 percent and reopen many popular buildings with additional vendors, given the significant progress New Yorkers have made against COVID-19. In accordance with the State's evolving health guidelines, indoor spaces will be subject to capacity limits to allow attendees to be socially distanced within each building.
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. Oh, it's a better morning than that, Van. Good morning. It really is a good morning. It's my pleasure to be back in Syracuse. Thank you. Thank you, Ann Marie. Let me welcome the people who are with us today. We have from my left, Troy Waffner, the great director of the New York State Fair. We have to give him a round of applause. We have Kelly Cummings, who is the director of state operations, who gets everything done, through pandemics, through storms, through everything. She's doing a great job. Pleasure to be with her. I'm going to move around a little bit because I want to say something about your electeds. We have Marie Therese Dominguez, who's the DOT commissioner, transportation commissioner, pleasure to be with her. Let's give her a round of applause. Richard Ball, who's the commissioner of Ag and Markets and, agriculture and markets, runs the State Fair, and the commissioner has brought hands-on experience and years of experience where he has done a really phenomenal job in his position. Let's give him a round of applause.
And to my right, Bill Magnarelli, and to my left, Al Stirpe, who need no introduction from me, you know the quality of elected officials they are. And you're going to hear from Bill and Al after my comments, but I just wanted to make a remark about them. This legislative session, which just concluded, was obviously a difficult one. These are difficult times, they're extraordinary times. Going through COVID, dealing with COVID, planning a reopening after COVID, making up for the damage done during COVID. It was the most challenging period in government, I think you could say, in modern history. Government didn't have to deal with a pandemic, right? It was something that, you saw documentaries on pandemics, but government didn't actually have to manage it. And government at all levels was really under pressure, federal, state, local. And when the pressure is applied, if there's any crack in the foundation or in the stone, and you apply pressure, then the foundation crumbles, the stone crumbles.
Vice versa, when you apply pressure, you can actually solidify that which is strong. And this legislative session, more was done intelligently than probably any legislative session that I've participated in, and that's from the budget right through the end. And it is not easy. It is not easy, especially now in this super-heated political environment, you know?
State of New York, we have the most conservative people in the country in the State of New York. And that's their ideology and they're represented in the legislature. We also have, at the other end of the spectrum, literally socialists who stand up and say "we are socialists." And they're at the other end of the political spectrum. And to get something done, you have to somehow find a way to forge consensus and to bring people together, even if they're diametrically opposed. And that's what Bill and Al had to deal with, along with their colleagues. Also, superheated political environment, everybody has an opinion. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody knows what should be done, what should have been done, everyone has 20/20 hindsight.
But then there are facts, right? Opinions are nice. My father, God rest his soul, used to say, that's nice, I like to hear your opinion. He didn't really want to hear my opinion, but he used to say that just to sort of be nice. Yeah, but he said it in a way that you knew he didn't really mean it. Yeah, I like to hear your opinion. You know what I like more? Facts. I like facts, because there are no Democratic facts and Republican facts, or there are no conservative facts or socialist facts. A fact is a fact.
Here is the fact. New York State had the highest COVID positivity in the country, if not on the globe, okay? We had the highest rate of positivity. Why? Because COVID may have started in China, but COVID went to Europe first. And then the flights from Europe landed in New York. JFK airport, New York airport, in that tri-state region. And COVID was coming to New York before anybody knew it. Everybody was still pointing towards China. Forget China. It left China, got on a plane and went to Italy and Spain and France, and nobody knew it, and all those flights were coming here for months. And that's why our COVID number exploded early on. Because it had been coming for months and nobody knew it. Highest positivity in the country. You remember those frightening days.
We've gone from that point to today where New York State has virtually the lowest positivity rate in the United States of America. That is a fact. And that is what these gentlemen accomplished. That is a fact, and you can't argue with facts. So it's my pleasure to be with them, and you'll hear from Bill and then Al in a moment.
Let me tell you where we are today. We are fighting on two fronts. We're managing COVID. Yes, we're doing well. It's not over. Don't deceive yourself and don't underestimate the enemy, ever. And at the same time, we're moving forward. We're re-imagining, we're rebuilding, using this opportunity, this moment in time, to make New York better than ever before. On the numbers, on the facts, it's amazingly good news. If you had ever predicted this, people would have thought that we were being overly, overly ambitious. Where we are today is 0.4 positivity rate. Where we were in January, 7.9, almost 8 percent. From 8 percent to 0.4 percent. You look across the state, it is down all across the state, COVID. There is a direct correlation. These are numbers, so there's a logic to it. The more people get vaccinated, the lower the positivity rate. The more people get vaccinated, the lower positivity rate. The more the vaccine rate goes up, the lower the positivity rate. That's why we've been working so hard on vaccinations. And we're now over 20 million. Our vaccination rate is 69.9 percent of New Yorkers. 69.9 percent of New Yorkers have gotten a vaccine. God bless the intelligence of the people of the State of New York.
Now the national goal is 70 percent. With 69.9, and we're going to hit 70, it's just a matter of time and it is going to be cause for celebration and we want to celebrate, but we want to remember what we are celebrating. 70 percent is a great milestone. The president set 70 percent by July 4th as an optimistic milestone. Not all states will hit it, but we will reach it earlier than anyone thought and in truth, our progress is much more advanced than anyone predicted. You had people in this state saying the economy is going to open in July. We'll start reopening in June, in September. No, we beat all those predictions, but it doesn't mean when we hit 70 percent it's over. It means it's working. It means we're doing well, but it also means keep going. And that's what the celebration is going to be. It's not the finish line at 70, but we're coming around the last turn on the track and we have to focus and we have to know that we're doing well.
But we need one more push to really get vaccinated and get the COVID beast under control. So we're going to focus on those areas in the state that have the lowest vaccination rate, because we know where they are. We track vaccination rate by zip codes and we have 1,700 zip codes in the state of New York. If you were ever wondering. Nobody would really wonder how many zip codes there are in the State of New York, but Bill Magnarelli wonders how many zip codes there are in the State of New York. So he knows there were 1,755. And if you look at the bottom 10 percent, that are below 38 percent, okay, and the vaccination rate is 69 percent. So they really are much lower vaccination rate than the rest of the state.
We want to focus on these zip codes. Zip codes are relatively small, so you can really get in there and focus an intensive effort. And I want local governments to pay attention to these zip codes. Get in there, go door to door, go to churches, go to social events, go to community events. These are the places where we have to target to get that vaccination rate up.
And we are going to post this so all the local governments know this, these are the target areas. You want to increase the vaccination rate, go to the lowest performing areas in the state and get them up. And you see they're all across the state of New York, but this is where local governments should be focusing to make a difference.
Also focus on the demographics of who's lowest. Who's lowest? 12- to 17-year-olds. Why? Because they're 12 to 17. That's why. Because they are young and they are immune from everything. Also remember when COVID started, it was all about older people. We weren't as focused on younger people, the mortality rate was not as high among young people. They weren't even eligible for the vaccine early on. Remember, so they are a little bit late to the vaccine race.
But now we're focusing on the 12 to 17 and one of the incentives we have is 12- to 17-year-olds who come and get a vaccine. They are eligible for a raffle every week. 10 winners win a full four-year scholarship, room and board, to a state school. That's about a hundred thousand dollars value. So 12- to 17-year-old. You want to go to college? You're worried about how you're going to pay? Get a vaccine. It's good for you to get a vaccine anyway and you're in the running. Parents, you're worried about how to pay for college? Tell your 12- to 17-year-old, get out of the house, go get a vaccine, say a prayer on the way back and hope you win because I don't want to have to pay your college tuition if you can get a full scholarship.
Another reason to get a vaccine now, we are going to have a cooperative relationship with all public transit across the six upstate transit agencies. If you get a vaccine, you will get an unlimited seven-day transit pass. So you wouldn't have to pay for any commuting costs on public transportation for the week. Every upstate transportation agency is working with us on that. So, Central New York Regional Transit Authority, if you get a vaccine now you will get a seven-day pass. That's another good reason to get it done.
On the second trajectory of recovery from COVID, a lot of damage was done during COVID, unfortunately a lot of people who are poor and lower income, they paid the brunt during COVID. You look at the children who had to do remote learning, you look at the children who are in households where they lost their jobs, they tend to be poorer, low-income communities, and we want to make sure that we're repairing that assistance. Beginning today, $2.2 billion in food assistance will be available to 2.5 million poor families in the State of New York because we take care of our own and everyone should have enough to eat and I'm proud of New Yorkers for doing this.
And we're looking forward to a great summer. This summer has to make up for everything we went through the past year. There is a lot of making up to do, a lot of socializing to do, a lot of friends to see, a lot of activities because we've been in the house for too long. We've been in isolation for too long. We're not meant to be in isolation. We are social beings. We're meant to see friends and family and smile and enjoy activities and that's what we have to do this summer, and we're going to start with the New York State Fair.
We announced guidance for the New York State Fair. We announced guidance for the New York State Fair at a totally different time. At that time the statewide positivity was 2 percent. It's now down to 0.4 percent so we're going to revise the guidance. When the facts change then change your strategy and this has been an evolving changing situation all along. So, when the facts change, change. The facts changed. We're going to reopen the New York State Fair. We're going to reopen the New York State Fair at 100 percent occupancy. Everything will be open at the New York State Fair, all the buildings, all the events. It will be the great New York State Fair that we are all so proud of and I am so excited about this because the Fair is such a beautiful representative of the state and especially Upstate New York. As you know we've been breaking records every year in attendance. We've made a great investment in the Fair and the Fair is a different fair. Anyone who says, well, I went to the New York State Fair, four years ago, five years ago - you didn't go to the New York State Fair. You went to the old New York State Fair which is different than this State Fair - it's improved, it's bigger, it's better, it's more convenient, there are more attractions, so we are not only reopening, we're reimagining. It's better than ever before and we invite not only all New Yorkers, we invite people across the nation to come.
The State Fair is not just a great event - it's also a great economic engine to bring the economy back. It brings in $1.3 million visitors, 28 states, 6 countries come to our Fai. Isn't that fantastic? $100 million in economic activity, so we want to lean into this. We want to be aggressive about it. We want to advertise it. We want to push it. We want to say New York is not just reopening. We're reimagining. We're coming back in a big way. Get your vaccination, but enjoy the State of New York, and I, people say, well, you're a salesman for the State of New York. I'm a salesman for the State of New York and I believe in the product that we have here in the State of New York. You want to go visit a place - I don't care what you want to do, you can do it in this one state. We have it all. We have the most advanced urban areas on the globe. We have the most beautiful rural areas on the globe, all right here in the State of New York, and Upstate New York has been a hidden treasure. You know, you say New York internationally, or nationally, people think New York City. No, that's part of our story. But we have beautiful Upstate New York that has still not been fully explored and fully discovered. I also think we have an opportunity because we have the lowest positivity rate in the nation. We literally go between the lowest, second-lowest. You want to travel this summer? Then travel safe and go to a place and a state that you know is safe from COVID and that is the State of New York, so I think it's a special opportunity for us to market this year.
And we're going to lean into this with our I Love NY campaign. We're going to advertise upstate opportunities in the I Love NY campaign. It's going to be a $40 million international campaign. It is probably the quickest way to jumpstart and reinvigorate our economy by getting that tourism industry up and running and we're very proud of what we have here in Upstate New York. You put that together with the new advantage of our super low COVID positivity rate in the state and I think it's going to be a natural tourist destination for people. We just have to get the word out and that's what we're going to be doing with this advertisement campaign and I want to give you the first look at the I Love NY tourism ads that are going to run.
So with that, let me turn it over to my colleagues Bill Magnarelli and Al Stirpe and let me thank them again from the bottom of my heart, for a job really well done. Public service, you serve the public and in this past year, the public needed quality service and leadership like they've never needed it. And they got it. And that's a fact. Bill Magnarelli.
Assembly Member Bill Magnarelli: Well. Thank you, Governor Cuomo for visiting us again here in Syracuse and the town of Geddes and the 129th Assembly District. The greatest district.
Governor Cuomo: Who's the assemblyman in the 129th district?
Assembly Member Bill Magnarelli: And thank you to everyone for being here today. It's good to see people live and in person and without masks. I'd like to make a few acknowledgements right now, Central New York Regional Transportation Authority CEO Brian Schultz is here. Visit Syracuse President and CEO Danny Liedka. President of the Central New York Area Labor Federation, Ann Marie Taliercio. And former president of our Syracuse Common Council and good friend to all of us, Dan Robinson.
Governor Cuomo: And his better half.
Assembly Member Bill Magnarelli: And his better half. Hi Linda, how are you? And representing just some of the fan favorites, I want to thank the food vendors and exhibitors who are here with us today. Our great New York State Fair would not be the same without them.
OK, well summer is almost here. It's hard to think about where we were just a year ago today. The last year has been painful for all of us For our own safety, we couldn't gather with our friends and family, sadly, that meant no in-person attendance at the iconic New York State Fair. We went from record attendance of over 1.3 million here for the state fair in 2019 to zero in 2020. It was painful, but necessary to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. The New York State Fair never stopped its programming during this time. They connected with the community through virtual events. But nothing beats being able to visit these great fairgrounds in person. Between testing and vaccination sites, like the ones here at the state fairgrounds, Governor Cuomo made sure our community got what we needed to make it out of this pandemic.
And I want to say something personally, make no mistake about it. He was the leader in this pandemic. Now the end of this painful period is in sight. We can begin to focus on healing and getting back to our lives. We can look forward to food, farm exhibits, and of course the annual butter sculpture all live and in-person. This will be vital to our recovery as we finally begin to put COVID behind us. Recovery will be a long road, but thanks to our partnership, we've set New York up for success.
We worked together to pass one of the hardest and most important budgets we've ever done. And at the end of this session, when our communities needed it the most, we work together to deliver real results for New Yorkers across the state. Thank you, Governor for your leadership and partnership. I look forward to our continued work together in building back a better New York.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. And Assemblyman Al Stirpe, who again, as you know, from his local leadership is a great, great representative. But in these difficult times, his voice has been powerful all across the state and he has stood up and fought the good fight through this difficult political year. And we all owe him a debt of gratitude. Al Stirpe.
Assembly Member Al Stirpe: Thank you, Governor. Hello, it really is an honor to be here today for this important announcement. I mean the New York State Fair is so important to this region's identity and economic well-being. We're all anxious to get back to some semblance of normalcy as safely and as soon as possible.
Thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, we're almost ready to close the final chapter on COVID. Today's announcement means more than getting back to normal. It means healing for this community. It means something to look forward to. And we certainly look forward to the excitement we saw two years ago when the New York State Fair saw record attendance. The State Fair is a summer tradition that generations have cherished a special time with family and friends celebrating the joys of community and time spent together.
But this is just one step in a longer recovery. More than ever, New Yorkers are counting on their governments to deliver real results. And thanks to our partnerships, we're getting it done. This budget was the hardest one our state has ever seen, but we worked together and got it done. And at the end of this session, we work together to set New York up to recover and rebuild. Together, we can ensure a strong recovery for communities across the entire state. Once again, thank you, Governor. And I look forward to our continued partnership. Thank you. Thank you.