May 5, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Large-Scale Outdoor Venue Capacity Increase with New Fully Vaccinated Fan Sections Starting May 19

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Large-Scale Outdoor Venue Capacity Increase with New Fully Vaccinated Fan Sections Starting May 19

Large-Scale Outdoor Events Will Only Be Limited by Space Available for Patrons or Parties of Patrons to Maintain Required Social Distance

Fully Vaccinated Attendees at Large-Scale Outdoor Events May Be Seated at Full Capacity in Assigned Sections Designated Solely for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

New York State Department of Health Will Partner with Yankees and Mets to Offer COVID Vaccinations at Games

Yankees and Mets to Offer Free Ticket Vouchers to New Yorkers Who Get Vaccinated at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field

Governor Cuomo: "Life is about going forward. How do you take this as a moment for progress? And that's our goal. As we discussed last week, we are reopening the valve. That's what governors do."

Governor Cuomo: "They say, you're tough. You New Yorkers, you're tough. Yeah, we are tough. We are, don't deny it, but we're tough in a good way. Tough. When we say we're tough, it means with smart, we're united, we're disciplined and we're loving. That's how we got past COVID and that's how we're going to continue to recover and reimagine and reinvent and rebuild after COVID. So thank you."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that large-scale outdoor event venues will only be limited by the space available for patrons or parties of patrons to maintain the required social distance of 6 feet starting May 19. This will apply to outdoor sports, performing arts and live entertainment, and horse and auto racing venues statewide. Appropriate social distancing, masks and other applicable health protocols will still apply.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

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

Okay, good morning, everyone. Let me sport my special mask again. Talk about an appropriate mask for the day. Tell the truth. Welcome everyone. We have some special guests today, so let me introduce who's with us. To my right, you know Robert Mujica, Budget Director. To my left, you know our great Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner. Celebrating his seventh year anniversary today. Seventh anniversary stretch, we call it. It's also a pleasure to have Sandy Alderson with us who is the President of the New York Mets. Randy Levine, who is the President of the New York Yankees. I want to thank them very much for being here.

We're also joined by Doug Behar who's the Senior Vice President of Stadium Operations for the New York Yankees and David Newman who's the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Content and Communications Officer for the New York Mets. Big title, big job. Let's make some announcements and then we will get to some special business.

COVID, COVID, COVID, that is the order of the day. We're working on three tracks simultaneously with COVID. Responding to COVID, managing COVID, recovering from COVID, and then New York's revitalization post-COVID right. Places talk about reopening, states talk about reopening. New York has a higher standard. We don't want to just reopen. We want to be better than we were before. We want to re-imagine New York, reinvent New York, rebuild New York, okay? This is a moment of opportunity to grow. Don't just go back to where you were. It's not about, that's not what life is about, going backwards.

Life is about going forward. How do you take this as a moment for progress? And that's our goal. As we discussed last week, we are reopening the valve. That's what governors do. Sandy and Randy, I'm in the valve turning business. What does the governor do? He turns valves. We watched the positivity rate, we watched the hospitalization rate, we watched the vaccination rate. As those numbers change, we then calibrate our reopening of economic activity, social activity, et cetera. And that's what we've been doing. Even while we're doing that, we continue to watch the numbers every day. Just the way every play you watch what happens and then you adjust. We make a decision, we adjust, but then we watch what happens and we adjust to the current circumstances.

Today we have all really good news for New York overall state, right? Positivity is 1.4 percent. That is the lowest since October 28th. And that is a very big deal for us. October 28th means before November, obviously. And well before what we call the holiday surge. If you remember, Thanksgiving started the holiday season and we warned New Yorkers, be careful about the holiday season, more socialization, moreactivity. You're going to start to visit people and it's going to go up and the infection rate went up. We have back to October 28th. On the one day average 1.4 percent. So that is really a great news.

The hospitalization rate is 2,400, and that is lowest since November 21. People in ICU lowest since November 24th. Intubations lowest since December 2nd. So really great news all along. And that is congratulations to New Yorkers. You know who determines that day-to-day? New Yorkers. It is a function of the collective. It's the behavior of the collective. Statewide deaths, which to me is always the most important number on the charts, 31. It is much lower than it has been, but for people who say, well, this is over, this is a creation of the media, this is a creation of the politicians. 31 people died yesterday. So it's not over. 31 people died because of COVID. But positivity January we're at 7.9 percent. Now we're down to 1.7 on the seven day average. Hospitalizations, 8,900 in January post-holiday surge. We're now down to 2,600.

Positivity across the state, and I talk about this all the time, but I want people to ask themselves. Why is there a variance in positivity across the state? Same state, same governor, same health commissioner, same message, same briefing. Why is there such a variance in the positivity rate across the state? There's only one answer because it is the behavior of that community that is determining the positivity rate. It's the actions of the individual and the actions of that community. And some communities take more precautions, get more vaccines and some communities don't. So you go from a high Western New York, 3.1, you go to a low in the Southern Tier, abutting Western New York, 0.7. How do you explain that?

Within New York City, you have highest rate Brooklyn, 1.9. Staten Island, 1.9. Brooklyn is technically higher, but Staten Island has been right there. Number one, number two. Manhattan, 0.9. How do you explain Manhattan at half the positivity rate of the outer boroughs? How? Density? Manhattan is more dense, more people on mass transit. It is the behavior of the community.

COVID recovery, what's the best thing we can do? Vaccinate. Vaccinate New Yorkers. We're doing very well with that. 16 million shots in arms. We are at 58% of the eligible population. Out of the total population of the eligible population, you're only eligible at 18 plus, so we are at 58% of that population.

45% of eligible people have been fully vaccinated. Those numbers are very good and they exceed the national average, but we must continue to vaccinate. We're seeing the numbers slow on vaccination. And if there's one dial that gives me pause, it is the number of people coming in to get vaccinated has dropped despite the fact that it is now much easier to get vaccinated. You don't have to make an appointment. It's walk in. Everybody is eligible. We have one of the most extensive distribution sites in the United States of America. You go to one of our mass vaccination sites, people will tell you, not because I say it, it was a good experience, it was well run. I was in, I was out, it was organized, but we're seeing a drop-off.

I call them two groups, the youthful and the doubtful. Youthful, because in truth, they have been less of an emphasis all through this. They have not, as they have not been eligible as soon as the older people were eligible, they just were eligible a few weeks ago. And the attitude all along has been I'm young and I'm strong. I can get the vaccine and I'm going to be fine. Only old people have to worry about it. And the doubtful. Doubtful, we were just chatting about it, vaccine hesitancy. I don't like the word hesitancy. It's a distrust. I don't trust the vaccine. I don't know what's in it. I don't know what the long-term ramifications are. I don't believe it. Government says do it, I doubt government, I distrust government. So those are the two groups we're working on, but the arrows are pointed in the right direction. Vaccines are going up. Positivity is going down.

We announced a major reopening. We did it in concert with New Jersey and Connecticut, because we are a tri-state region. If you ask Mr. Alderson and Mr. Levine, they'll say we get people from New Jersey. We get people from Connecticut. We operate on a tri-state basis. Yes, we're in New York, but that's not how the region functions. So we've been functioning to the best we can coordinating with New Jersey, Connecticut and we have dramatically lifted capacity basically to the CDC, social distancing guidelines. That's really the capacity restriction that remains the six-feet social distancing.

Broadway tickets go on sale today at a hundred percent capacity for theaters. The show's open September 14th. That's a function of how Broadway operates. Obviously, they have to have a play to put on and they're in the process of doing that, but the tickets go on sale tomorrow.

Let's talk baseball. 'The crowd makes the game,' Ty Cobb. Everybody will tell you that, but it's a different experience with the crowd. I think Mr. Alderson and Mr. Levine can expand, but the crowd energizes, the crowd brings the rhythm. The crowd brings the dynamic into the stadium, right? So much of sports they talk about momentum and the crowd is part of that momentum. They build it, you know, great teams will say that one of their greatest assets are their fan base. When the fans are with them and the fans are cheering, it's a totally different feeling and it gets your energy up and it gets your adrenaline up. So they're part of the game, especially a New York crowd, because New Yorkers are not a shy crowd. You know, they don't sit there and clap politely. You know, they let you know that they're there and they're in the game. That's important.

For baseball reopening May 19th two different categories: not Yankees, Mets. Vaccinated, unvaccinated. Vaccinated people, normal capacity, normal seating for people who are vaccinated. Sit next to each other in a section, sit next to your friends, sit next to your family. Just normal capacity, normal seating. Vaccinated families who have a child 16 under who's not eligible, that child can be seated with the family. We ask them to wear masks, but you attend the ball game like you attended the ball game two years ago. For unvaccinated people the six-foot distancing applies with masks and that comes out to roughly 33 percent in those sections, capacity for unvaccinated people. So if you're vaccinated, that's one category. You're un-vaccinated, that's another category, no testing. But if you're vaccinated, you have the Excelsior Pass, you have proof of vaccination and that will determine where you sit.

Added advantage: Mets, Yankees, and the New York State Department of Health are going to team up. You didn't know that Dr. Zucker was a ballplayer, but you do now. He is now an official member of both the Mets and the Yankees. Doesn't strike you as a ball player. He's stronger and more agile than he may appear and he's younger than his years also. So he's an official member of the team and they have teamed up. You can get a vaccine at the game. You're going to the game, we will set up at the game a facility as you're going in, come a little bit early and get your vaccine at the game. You're going to the game anyway, it's on your way. Stop and get a vaccine. If you get a vaccine, you get a free ticket to a Yankees or a Mets game. You get a vaccine, it's convenient, you're going there. Thanks to the generosity of the Yankees and the Mets, if you get a vaccine, they will give you a free ticket to the game. Next time you go to the game and you're vaccinated, you can enjoy the game sitting next to your friends, sitting next to your family which to me is a big part, part of the enjoyment of the game. We call that a New York home run. It's smart, it recognizes the civic responsibility of all of us. It's generous, it's convenient, and it's another good, easy reason and reminder that we all have to get a vaccine.

Why do we get a vaccine? Because at the end of the day, we're Yankees fans, we're Mets fans, but we're all on the same team on this one. We're all on the New York team. There's no, I in team, they say. I get a vaccine to protect you and you get a vaccine to protect me. The way a team plays together and you win together or you lose together, with this COVID we either win together or we lose together. It is that simple. We, collective we either get the vaccine as a society, or we don't get the vaccine. There is no me here. It's about we and we have to do it. What New Yorkers have been great at through COVID great is acting as one, acting as a smart, unified group. I want to thank the Mets and the Yankees from the bottom of my heart. It's a pain in the neck for them to operate this vaccinated and unvaccinated. The gentlemen who run these stadiums are here. It's not easy to do this. Nobody's done this before. Nobody's done any of this before. Let's be honest. I want to thank them for the generosity of offering a free ticket to the game. I want to thank them for allowing the vaccine center to be set up at the stadium and I want to thank them for their cooperation. They didn't have to do it. It's not easy to do, but it's truly the New York spirit and it is the team spirit. Again, I thank them for being here and I thank them for their generosity and I thank them for being New York Tough.

They say, you're tough. You New Yorkers, you're tough. Yeah, we are tough. We are, don't deny it, but we're tough in a good way. Tough. When we say we're tough, it means with smart, we're united, we're disciplined and we're loving. That's how we got past COVID and that's how we're going to continue to recover and reimagine and reinvent and rebuild after COVID. So thank you. With that, let me turn it over to Randy Levine first. That doesn't show any favoritism between the Yankees and the Mets, I'm not going there, Mr. Levine.

Randy Levine: Thank you, Governor. And I want to thank you very much and your team, Dr. Zucker and Rob, because right from the very beginning last year you were a leader in allowing us to come back and play, even though there were no fans, and you've been a leader in opening up the facility, all the stadiums for fans. I think you said it well. Fans make the game, and if anybody was watching the game last night at Yankee Stadium or saw it on television or listened to it on radio, that point was crystal clear. We were at capacity, 10,850, and the building sounded like there were 50,000 people cheering, doing some other things from start to finish. And that's what it's all about. And it gave all of us spirit. It reminded us of the way it used to be and the way it can be again. So thank you because baseball goes every day and it really presents a sense of normalcy to everybody.

You know, we're like an ongoing story, every single day. Some days are good, some days are bad, and you just hope there are more good days than bad days. Similarly, thanks to you, we've been operating a vaccine center at Yankee Stadium, which is really important. We've vaccinated tens and tens of thousands of people, but we need more. We need more because in my opinion, and the Yankees' opinion, that's how we get back to normalcy. So we are excited to take that program, combine it with providing free tickets to fans. We'll put it all out on our website, how it's going to work. Basically, you come to the game, as the Governor said, you take a vaccine shot, you get a voucher. You can go to that game. If that game's sold out, you can go to tomorrow night and go to a game of your choice. So we're all in on this. We're excited to be part of this. We're excited to have more and more fans in the building, because our players love it, we love it, and it gives New Yorkers a chance to get back to normal and think about things other than what they've been thinking about in the past.

So on behalf of Hal Steinbrenner, the whole Yankee organization and the Steinbrenner family, thanks for your leadership. We're all in, and let's make this a great success.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Congratulations on how you've been playing and thank the Steinbrenners. Mr. Sandy Alderson. Thank you, Sandy.

Sandy Alderson: Thank you, Governor. First of all, similarly, I would like to thank you and all of your staff, including Commissioner Zucker and Director Mujica for all that you've done, not just with respect to baseball, but for public health throughout the state. You know, seeing the data today, it was a pleasing to us because it has led to some of these announcements, but more importantly, more fundamentally, it speaks volumes for where we are as a state and a city. And that this reopening of baseball is just another indication of how far we've come, and a lot of that has to do with the way you've led the state.

As I said, we've been very pleased with the data that has led to some new opportunities for us in terms of fans coming to the ballpark. But it's also fundamentally important to us as a community. I'm very proud of what the Yankees and the Mets have done together with Major League Baseball to support vaccinations and all things related to recovery. We are currently vaccinating at Citi Field, approximately 2,000 individuals a day. We are in the process of opening a drive-through lane, which will add to our daily capacity. And we are reaching out through our community department to those groups that don't have immediate access or transportation to these sites. There's always more that we can do, but, I'm very happy with, you know, the efforts that, all of baseball has made.

I was in Syracuse last night for their home opener, and it reminds us that this is not just a New York City issue. This is statewide, it's national. Their ballpark has just been refurbished, in part with funding provided by the state. And the sense of anticipation of that crowd going into the ballpark was really electric, and it reminds one, and Randy said that fans are what make the game. Fans are also what make memories. And they make memories for players as well as themselves. And with this new opportunity for us, I think that we will get more families to the ballpark. We will have more kids in the ballpark. And will return to creating those memories that are so important and so part of our lives. I can remember going to my first major league game when I was nine, Chicago White Sox against the Yankees, and you'll be happy to know that even then I rooted against the Yankees.

In any event, that's a memory that has stuck with me for, you know, 60 or 65 years, whatever the number is, and those are indelible. And what today means is that we can begin more extensively to create those memories again, and so again, Governor, I want to thank you for your role in this, and on behalf of all Mets fans, thank you.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Mr. Alderson. Well, consistency matters in life, 60 years. And also thank you for what you did in Syracuse. That's a big deal. We worked cooperatively on rebuilding a stadium up there, and it's very, very important to the people in Syracuse, so thank you for that.

Sandy Alderson: We also will be giving away Yankee tickets.

Governor Cuomo: Okay, we're going to end this now.

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