MTA Will Launch Pilot Program to Enhance Bus Service from NYCHA and Community Centers in These Boroughs to State-FEMA Vaccination Sites
State Will Partner with Faith Leaders in Brooklyn and Queens to Launch Vaccination Drive Aimed at Encouraging More Community Members to Sign Up for a Vaccination Appointment
Sites in Brooklyn and Queens to Open February 24 - Eligible New Yorkers Can Make Appointments for Brooklyn and Queens State-FEMA Vaccination Sites through New York's 'Am I Eligible' Website, by Calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829) or by Visiting the Sites
Governor Cuomo: "This is an exciting day. This is the largest vaccination site in the State of New York. This vaccination site can do 3,000 vaccines per day, 21,000 vaccines per week. So it really is extraordinary. It's a joint effort between the state and the federal government. Bob Fenton is here, who's the head lead for FEMA, and this is going to be staffed jointly by the federal government and the state government. You'll actually have federal officials here who are doing the administration of the vaccine. The National Guard, which you see here today setting up, they're going to help administer the actual site. The site will open for operation this Wednesday. So today they're all preparing for it and we thank them all very much for their good work."
Cuomo: "The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. We know that. The vaccine is coming. There are three obstacles. Number one, the supply of the vaccine. This nation does not have enough supply of the vaccine, period. When President Biden walked into office, the cupboard was basically bare. And the federal government had not procured enough vaccination from Pfizer, Moderna, et cetera. So we have more Americans searching the vaccine than we actually have the vaccine."
Cuomo: "This is the truth about COVID: COVID discriminates. COVID highlighted the injustice and racism in society. It's not a pleasant statement but it is a true statement. I say that COVID created low tide in America. You know, at high tide when the water is up, everything looks nice because all you see is the surface of the water. Low tide the water goes down and then you see all the ugliness that was on the bottom. It didn't create the ugliness but it showed the ugliness. Low tide in America, COVID showed you the racism, the inequality, the injustice that was just below the surface."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced additional efforts to expand access to community-based vaccination sites at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens being established through a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As part of this effort, the MTA will launch a pilot program to enhance bus service in Brooklyn and Queens to connect New Yorkers in these boroughs to the two vaccination sites. The state will also partner with faith leaders in Brooklyn and Queens to launch a vaccination drive aimed at encouraging more members of the leaders' communities to sign up for vaccination appointments at these sites using phone banking. These new initiatives are part of New York State's ongoing efforts to fight vaccine hesitancy and bring the vaccine to communities underserved by traditional health care institutions.
The community-based vaccination sites located in Brooklyn and Queens will begin vaccinations on Wednesday, February 24th and will operate between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day with the capacity to administer 3,000 doses at each site every day. Eligible New Yorkers can currently schedule appointments for the Brooklyn and Queens sites by utilizing New York's 'Am I Eligible' website or by calling the state's COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). Appointments can also be made by visiting the sites beginning when they open on Wednesday. For the first week of scheduling, appointments at these two sites are initially reserved specifically for New Yorkers currently eligible for vaccination living in areas with low vaccination rates in counties and boroughs. After one week, appointments at each site will then be made available to all eligible residents of the site's host borough.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of today's remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Welcome all. Today is a very exciting day. We're at Medgar Evers today in Brooklyn, New York. It's light snow falling out, beautiful New York City day. Let me acknowledge the people who are here today, and you'll then hear from a number of them. First, I would like to acknowledge the elected officials who are here with us today. We have Assembly Member Latrice Walker, we have Assemblyman Dilan, we have Assemblyman Nick Perry. You'll hear from Latrice Walker in a moment. We have with us Reverend Adolphus Lacey, you'll hear from Reverend Lacey in a moment. Pastor Aker, Reverend David Brawley, Bishop Dr. Ismael Claudio, Reverend Al Cockfield II, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Reverend Rashad Raymond Moore.
This is an exciting day. This is the largest vaccination site in the State of New York. This vaccination site can do 3,000 vaccines per day, 21,000 vaccines per week. So it really is extraordinary. It's a joint effort between the state and the federal government. Bob Fenton is here, who's the head lead for FEMA, and this is going to be staffed jointly by the federal government and the state government. You'll actually have federal officials here who are doing the administration of the vaccine. The National Guard, which you see here today setting up, they're going to help administer the actual site. The site will open for operation this Wednesday. So today they're all preparing for it and we thank them all very much for their good work.
The National Guard is just phenomenal. Whatever it is they come from all over the state, they drop everything, and they show up. You have National Guard here from all over the state, and whether it's a snowstorm, a hurricane, a flood, Superstorm Sandy, COVID, whatever it is, they're always there, and we want to thank them. Let's give them a round of applause.
We also have from the New York City Council, the majority leader, Laurie Cumbo, and we want to thank her very much for her assistance in setting this set up today. and the MTA officials, Pat Foye, who's the chairman, and Sarah Feinberg, who runs the transit authority. Part of this site is going to offer special transportation from the MTA so people can get to this site.
The main point of this site and everything we're doing is this. The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war. We know that. The vaccine is coming. There are three obstacles. Number one, the supply of the vaccine. This nation does not have enough supply of the vaccine, period. When President Biden walked into office, the cupboard was basically bare. And the federal government had not procured enough vaccination from Pfizer, Moderna, et cetera. So we have more Americans searching the vaccine than we actually have the vaccine. In New York State, 10 million people are eligible. 10 million. Nursing homes, first responders, essential workers, 65-plus. That is 10 million people. We only get 300,000 doses per week. That's the problem we now have. It's not a problem just in New York. It's a problem in every state in the nation. Not enough supply for the number of people who need the vaccine. The federal government understands it, they've been increasing the supply week to week. The president announced last week by the end of July there will be enough vaccines for all Americans, and that's great news. We still have to get from today until the end of July, but at least the end is in sight. That's the first issue, is the supply.
The second is making the vaccine accessible and making it accessible in an equitable way. This is the truth about COVID: COVID discriminates. COVID highlighted the injustice and racism in society. It's not a pleasant statement but it is a true statement. I say that COVID created low tide in America. You know, at high tide when the water is up, everything looks nice because all you see is the surface of the water. Low tide the water goes down and then you see all the ugliness that was on the bottom. It didn't create the ugliness but it showed the ugliness. Low tide in America, COVID showed you the racism, the inequality, the injustice that was just below the surface. Under COVID Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Just think about that for a second. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at 1.5 times the rate of whites. How shameful. Why? Because Blacks, Hispanics, poor communities, did not have the same health services, they had more pre-existing conditions, they had higher infection rates of COVID but less testing. So, now we get to the vaccine for COVID and what we're saying as a state is we have to be equitable in the administration of the vaccine and we have to correct for the injustice that we just saw perpetrated by COVID. You have to correct for the fact that twice as many Blacks died. You have to correct for the fact that 1.5 times as many Hispanics died, and you have to get the vaccine to the community where they are. And that's what this is all about.
Now, not only is this the largest site ever created in the State of New York, it's special because it recognizes the equity that must be achieved. And this site opens Wednesday but it has a priority for the surrounding community to make appointments first. So, East New York, Brownsville, Sumner Houses, Broadway Triangle, Ocean Hill, Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights Bushwick, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Canarsie, Bedford Stuyvesant. Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, East Midwood, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill - these communities have a priority for appointments. They will get the appointments first. All they have to do is call or go to the website, or starting Wednesday, stop in if you're like me and you're not crazy about doing work on the website, stop in. Making appointment and then come back when your appointment is due, but these communities get the priority. Use it, once we get past the week of priority then it will be open to the entire borough of Brooklyn and that'll be good news too.
The third obstacle to the vaccine, and I'm glad the electeds are here and the pastors are here because they have to help us with this. It's what they call hesitancy, that the Black community especially is hesitant to take the vaccine. I don't like the word hesitancy. It's an antiseptic word. It doesn't really express what it is. It's not that people are hesitant; It's that people don't trust the vaccine. It's a lack of trust. It's a lack of trust in the system by the Black community because the Black community has gotten the short end of the stick by the system many, many, many times. People will go back to the Tuskegee experiment - they are right. There are reasons to distrust the system. People say to me, "I don't trust the Trump Administration, they approved it." I don't trust the Trump Administration! But, we set up a separate panel in New York, with the best New York doctors, and they approved this vaccine. The top Black medical professionals in the United States of America say trust the vaccine, it can save your life. We have a base of information. Nobody is asking you to go first. Two million New Yorkers have taken the vaccine over the past 2 months. Two million. You know what, the results have been great. We have every nursing home resident offered a vaccine - 75 percent took it. The results have been great.
There's a body science, there's a body of evidence and literally this vaccine can save your life and it can save the lives of others. If you get a vaccine, you are less likely to spread the virus. Save your own life, save the lives of others. We're making it accessible, we're getting the priorities. The MTA is going to set up special bus routes to get people here. We have a priority for the appointment, you can walk in and make an appointment. But the vaccine only works if people take it. It only works if there's a needle in the arm.
Ask Perry in the Assembly, ask Assemblyman Dilan, ask Assembly Member Latrice Walker, should I take it? Is it safe? And they will say yes. Ask the pastors who are here today is it safe, should I take it? They will say yes. Ask the top Black medical professionals in the United States of America, they'll say you should take it.
My mother took the vaccine. My mother took the vaccine. She's in the 65-plus category. She doesn't like when I say she's in the 65-plus category. She thinks I'm giving away her age. It's not really giving away her age. She looks younger than 65, but I am 63. Biologically, my mother has to be 63-years-old. I do not believe it is a betrayal of my mother's privacy to suggest that. She does look much, much younger than 65. I would not tell my mother to take the vaccine unless I believed in the vaccine. My daughters will take the vaccine when they're ready. Please, please, please, take the vaccine.
I'm going to now turn it over to Assembly Member Latrice Walker and then you will hear from Reverend Lacey. Thank you.
Assembly Member Latrice Walker: Greetings and I want to first acknowledge Assembly Member Diana Richardson and Senator Myrie whose district we stand in and thank them in their absence for allowing us to be here. We'll ask Council Member Cumbo if she will stamp my passport coming from the 55th Assembly District. Thank you so much for being here.
I also want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and for all of the respected clergy members who are among us. It's important to make sure that not only we advocate and deliver this site to Brooklyn, but that we are also walking hand-in-hand in delivering each and every one of our constituents and the residents of Brooklyn to this very important site. It's historic, it's meaningful here at Medgar Evers College and not only that, it represents the best of State and federal partnerships and more importantly the focus is on fairness, it's on equity and it's on justice.
We know that this vaccine will end this crisis. It has already taken so much from communities of color, from our NYCHA residents, from our churches, from our families. Especially, especially here in Brooklyn. I encourage residents in the qualifying areas for this site to come down and get the vaccine. As we heard, the Governor mentioned, the vaccines are essential. The vaccinations save lives. The Governor heard our call, and he put this vaccine center right here in the heart of our communities, as well as opening up mass transportation to this site. I would like to take the time on behalf of myself, my district, and my colleagues to thank him, FEMA, and all of the essential workers, staff members, and administration members for hearing our call and for acting on this moment. Thank you.
Reverend Dr. Adolphus Lacey: Thank you, Governor Cuomo, and Acting Administrator Fenton for bringing these vaccines right to the heart of Brooklyn. Thank you as well to our partnering elected officials, who have always fought with this community, for this community, especially through crises. It is also my pleasure to be joined by my colleagues Reverend Al Cockfield, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Pastor Rashad Moore, Pastor David Brawley, Bishop Ismael Claudio, Pastor Lawrence Aker. The last year has been very hard on our community. In the 138 year history of Bethany Baptist Church, this one will forever stand out for its challenges, losses, and lessons that we face. But the book of John tells us blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. COVID indeed presented many trials, but faith among Brooklyn residents remained steadfast.
Now we are stronger today, thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership and our collective action, COVID is on the run. It began in May, when lines for testing at the Bethany Baptist Church, which we set up with the State, stretched down the block. It demonstrated the need for resources and people came out to trust the process. But it also showed that COVID was hitting Black and Latino New Yorkers harder than other communities. We know today that this virus kills black people at a rate twice as high as whites. This virus has demonstrated, has discriminated, but we must not. The foundation of this mass vaccination site is laid on the ideal of equity. It is the recognition that the communities it will target over the next week represent a vast healthcare desert, and these residents are wary of this vaccine. We see that in the numbers, so far as 6.1 percent vaccination rate. So, I speak directly to my congregation and to all congregations when I say trust this vaccine.
I have worked with the Governor for months, specifically on the issue of vaccine equity. Just this weekend, my fellow clergy members and I joined with the Governor, where he made clear that getting people down here will be an all hands on deck mission. We are ready to answer your call, Governor, to drive up the vaccination numbers in these communities because it's the only way that we can save lives. That's why we are hitting the phones this week to let people know in these ZIP codes that the vaccine site opens up Wednesday. The MTA is making it easier for you to get down here, so you have no excuse. And you can make appointments on-site or you can come in. I am glad to join my colleagues here in this endeavor. In this moment we must work like a community. The vaccine isn't only about keeping our lives safe. The more of us that get the shot, the safer we all are. First Corinthians reminds us that we are all one body, we have faith in each other, and that we will all fulfill our respective role. So, I implore you today to do your part. This shot will save all of us. Thank you again, Governor, for your leadership in ending this crisis.
Governor Cuomo: Well, thank you very much, Reverend. Corinthians has it right, as usual. I thank my colleagues, Assembly Member Latrice Walker, Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, Nick Perry, Assembly Member Dilan, let's give them a round of applause. All the pastors, thank you very much for joining this effort. Everything has been said, now we just have to do it. This is the first site like it in the State of New York. It's the largest, it's a model of social equity, it has a preference, it has transportation, we're doing everything we can. The pastors, the elected, will get out the word, but it's up to you at the end of the day. God helps those who help themselves. We need people now to step forward and do this. To the people who are here today and exposing themselves to a dangerous situation, to the quote unquote essential workers, we have such a respect and debt of gratitude to all of you. You have shown us, the essential workers showed up so other people could stay home and be safe. Essential workers went out and put themselves in danger to keep others safe. There is no greater sign of humanity and love and courage by that action. And you will save lives in what you are doing at this site. We say, God bless you. Thank you all for being here.