August 2, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces MTA and New York Port Authority Employees Will Be Required to Get Vaccinated For COVID-19 or Be Tested Weekly Starting Labor Day

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces MTA and New York Port Authority Employees Will Be Required to Get Vaccinated For COVID-19 or Be Tested Weekly Starting Labor Day
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MTA Vaccination Sites to Reopen for Employees
 
9 Vaccination Sites to Open in Areas with High Concentrations of State Employees

Governor Cuomo: "Delta variant spreads very quickly. If you are vaccinated, you're less likely to catch it. And you're very unlikely to be hospitalized. When you look at the infection rate among those who are fully vaccinated, four out of a 100,000, un-vaccinated 17 over 100,000. Fourfold increase. Hospitalization if you're vaccinated 0.19 per 100,000, unvaccinated 1.25 per 100,000."

Governor Cuomo: "So what do we do now? Everybody has to get vaccinated. Outreach, outreach, outreach. Deploy community groups, deploy people who have credibility in the community. Religious leaders. Educate people who still think that this is made up and it's a problem and nobody really tested this. And incentivize the vaccinations."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced today that MTA and Port Authority employees working in New York facilities will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly starting Labor Day. Employee-only vaccination sites that previously closed as usage dropped will be reopened while those that remained open will continue to operate. Nine new vaccination sites will open in locations with a high concentration of state employees to make getting vaccinated as convenient as possible for those who haven't been yet.

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:

Good morning.

We have the full team assembled here. From my far left, Beth Garvey, Counsel. Janno Lieber, Acting Board Chair and CEO of the MTA. Thank you very much for stepping up, stepping up and taking charge here, Janno. We all thank you on behalf of the people in the state. Robert Mujica, Budget Director. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To her right, Rick Cotton, Executive Director of the Port Authority who's been doing a magnificent job all across the board. Every time I go by LaGuardia, I smile thanks to you.

Happy Monday morning. We have a situation as they say and it's a serious situation and I want to start to address it. This COVID Delta variant has brought much confusion to not just people at the state, but people all across the nation. CDC came out with new guidance, which was dramatically different than the guidance they had said. Local governments are now trying to figure out how to deal with the local guidance. Obviously in this time of toxic politics, you then overlay politics on top. Far left, far right adds to the confusion and just the sudden reversal by the CDC is so abrupt as to cause cynicism and confusion to be frank. That's where we are.

What works with New Yorkers and what has always worked with New Yorkers, is give us the facts. Just give me the facts. I understand you have an opinion. That's nice. And I'd like to hear it, even if I don't want to hear it, they'll say I would like to hear your opinion, but give me the facts first, please, okay?

Here are the facts and then I'll give you my opinion. The Delta variant does spread very quickly. New York over the past month, number of hospitalizations basically doubled. Number of cases over the past month, basically a four-fold increase, okay?

So yes, Delta variant spreads very quickly. If you are vaccinated, you're less likely to catch it. And you're very unlikely to be hospitalized. When you look at the infection rate among those who are fully vaccinated, four out of a 100,000, un-vaccinated 17 over 100,000. Fourfold increase. Hospitalization if you're vaccinated 0.19 per 100,000, unvaccinated 1.25 per 100,000.

So that's a fact. If you are unvaccinated, Delta variant should be a major concern to you and you should be worried about it. Well, New York, we did a great job on the vaccine. 75% of the people have one shot. Yes, but that means 24% don't. 24% is a big number. It's 3.5 million.

Next fact. Vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant. This is the fact that caused the CDC to change their position quickly. This is what they called a pivotal discovery, largely based on the situation in Massachusetts on Cape Cod. They have other examples of it across the nation, but they basically focused on the situation on Cape Cod where they found that vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant. The problem with that is you then have 100% of the people spreading the Delta variant. That's why they consider that a pivotal piece of information.

At the same time, people who were vaccinated, much, much lower hospitalization rate, much, much lower. That was true in Cape Cod, also.

Fact, almost all new cases are the Delta variant. That's also not a good fact. Well, how bad can this get? What are we worried about? How anxious should I be? Because now I'm in a state of anxiety because of all these changes and sudden reversals and CDC says this, CDC says that. Local politicians don't know what to do. How bad can it get? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. Could get very bad. And then there's this set of assumptions. If 25% of the unvaccinated gets sick that's 1.79 million cases of our unvaccinated. 50% that's 3.5 million cases, 75% that's 5.3 million cases.

Well, how many cases did we have before? All of last year we had 990,000 cases in total. We had 2.1 million cases. So you see that if it spreads aggressively among the unvaccinated numerically, we would have a problem.

What's their worst fear? When I talked to the national experts, it's my New York bluntness. I said, give me the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario, a large number of unvaccinated gets sick and even worse than that, the Delta variant mutates to a vaccine resistant virus and now we're right back to where we started. Everybody has to get vaccinated again. And by the way, you have to come up with a vaccine for this new mutation. That's, in my opinion from talking to them, that's the fear that's really driving them.

Fact, denial of COVID failed the United States as a policy and a strategy.

That is a fact. What happened last year on the federal side, what happened with President Trump, what happened with the states that were slow to respond, those who lived in a state of denial, it failed. It just failed. We know that from the facts of last year.

New York State had the highest infection rate we had it first. Planes - they thought it was in China. The virus went to Europe, the planes from Europe come, they land here and New York exploded, but we exploded alone, if you remember, and the other states didn't have it. And they just looked at us and they said, oh, it's you New Yorkers. It must be something about New York. Must be something in the water. Maybe it's your lifestyle, maybe it's your accent, but it's a New York problem. It's not coming here.

I sat at this table and others every day saying, what if New York is not unique in this regard? And it is going to go to other states. No, no, no. It's going to be gone by Easter. It's going to be gone next week. It's going to be gone. This is all overblown. This is all politics. Oh yeah? The other states didn't act, look what happens. We act aggressively. We get the virus under control. It continues to grow in other states. When you now look back, Florida had more cases. Texas had more cases. California had more cases. Why?

Because they did not act quickly. They did not act quickly. New York. At the end of the day, winds up number 26 in terms of cases per 100,000 in this nation. How can that be? You were number one for months. Yes, but we acted, and they didn't. That's why. And that's what happened. And that's the lesson.

Nursing home deaths, nursing home deaths, they politicized the whole issue. Oh, the democratic governors in democratic states, we should investigate. Number 31 in nursing home deaths. Number 31. It was all part of the political strategy to deny. Part of the denial strategy was we don't really have a problem here. It's those democratic governors mismanaged it. That was not true. That was not a fact. It was part of a political denial strategy and it allowed it to spread in other places.

This is my opinion. It's not a fact. OK. So what do we do now? Everybody has to get vaccinated. Outreach, outreach, outreach. Deploy community groups, deploy people who have credibility in the community. Religious leaders. Educate people who still think that this is made up and it's a problem and nobody really tested this. And incentivize the vaccinations. President Biden, a hundred dollars per vaccine, free pass to the movies, whatever incentives you can come up with.

Private businesses, I am asking them and suggesting to them go to vaccine only. Go to vaccine-only admission. We did this Radio City Music Hall months ago. Reopened vaccine-only, sold out all the shows. Sports arenas. They went up to about 90 percent vaccine-only. Private businesses, bars, restaurants. Go to a vaccine-only admission. I believe it's in your best business interest.

You know, if I go to a bar and I want to have a drink and I want to talk to the person next to me, I want to know that that person is vaccinated. If I go to a restaurant and I'm sitting at a table and the table right next to me, I want to know that they're vaccinated. I believe it's in your business interest to run a vaccine only establishment. We're the first state in the nation to have something called the Excelsior pass. Rob Mujica made it a reality. We have passes.

They're on apps. They're on phones. It's very simple. You can operate a restaurant and just say, you have to show that you were vaccinated when you walk in the door. It's going to help your business. Call Madison Square Garden. Call Radio City Music Hall. Call the Nets. Call the Islanders, call the Mets, call the businesses that have done it. Call the theaters that have done it.

If you say to people, well, if you don't have a vaccine, you can't get into these establishments. Then you will see a real incentive to get vaccinated. And again, with our Excelsior pass, you can do what you can do. Local governments follow the CDC mask guidance. It is up to the local governments. CDC doesn't mandate local governments do it. They recommend it. The state has strongly recommended that local governments do it, but it's up to the local governments. The only way you overcome the local governments is with a state law, which is what we did last time, if you remember. And that cleared up all the confusion and it basically said it doesn't matter what the local governments decide. The state has control.

We're not there, so it's up to the local governments. But local governments, you should adopt that CDC mask guidance. Learn the lesson from last year. Don't deny reality. Better safe than sorry. Well, people will be upset if we do it. People are going to be upset no matter what you do, so show leadership and do it and save lives. Whatever policy they set, they then have to enforce. Let's not make the mistake we made last year where they set policies, but then they didn't enforce. So we had a New York City, people 300 people in front of a bar with no masks and no enforcement. Because when people see you're not enforcing the rules, then they think it's all a mockery. Then you're being arbitrary and capricious, and you don't enforce it anyway, so they're not going to do it.

Everybody is talking about a mask policy. Mask policy will be important. But I don't believe a mask policy is going to be enough. I think we're going to have to talk about a vaccination policy. What does that mean? Well, we've taken the first step federal government's done at state government has done at some local governments have done it, which is you either have to get a vaccine or a weekly test.

That's the first step, but it's only the first. And that I believe we need to expand. Today, the MTA, Port Authority, thank you very much, are adopting that policy, starting Labor Day in New York -Port Authority is in New York and New Jersey. So that's the first step vaccine or weekly test. I believe school districts should say today: Teachers, vaccine, or test, if you are in a CDC high risk area, the red or the yellow zones, I think they should say that today to the teachers in this current situation. For public facing people who are in a high-risk situation, I say there should be a mandatory vaccine policy and we put one in place in New York State. It is the first state in the nation to do it. In our hospitals, public-facing employees must be vaccinated. Not vaccinated or tested once a week, you must be vaccinated. Oh, that's a very harsh measure and no other state has done it. Yes, but I disagree with your word 'harsh' - even though it was my word - it's smart. It's smart. If you are a receiving nurse, receiving doctor and people are coming in from the public and you're dealing with dozens of people, maybe hundreds of people, you should be vaccinated. You should be vaccinated or don't work in a front line position. 

We put this in place, it is controversial. I believe in it. I understand the controversy, but it is smart. I believe it should be extended. Legally, I can only do it for our own hospitals. I believe this should be extended now to other public hospitals. New York City runs hospitals, H&H. Put in a mandatory vaccine policy. You're a front line worker in a New York City public hospital, mandatory vaccine. Well, the State did it first and you can use the precedent of the State. Counties run hospitals, local governments run hospitals, government is supposed to lead. Mandatory vaccines for public facing health care workers. Watch the numbers and adjust as the numbers adjust. 

Everything should be on the table and we should start talking about it now because if these numbers rise and start to rise quickly, it can't be that we're not ready to move. If the numbers don't come down I think you have to consider mandatory vaccines for nursing home workers. You know the nursing homes are the high-risk population. We learned that in a painful lesson. How did it get into the nursing homes? It came in with an aide. Mandatory vaccination for nursing home workers if the numbers go up. 

Mandatory vaccination for teachers if the numbers go up. Why? Teachers are in front of a classroom. How many kids does a teacher interact with during the course of a day? Thirty, forty, a hundred, hundred and fifty? That child can get the virus and go home. Why shouldn't the teacher be vaccinated? If the teacher doesn't want to be vaccinated, fine, but then don't be in front of a classroom. If the numbers go up. 

All healthcare workers in all private hospitals who are front line workers. Why? Because these are the places of intersection. These are the places where one person can infect literally dozens in the course of a day. I don't believe asking people to take a vaccination is a bad thing. I believe it's a good thing. 75 percent of New Yorkers have done it so it has been accepted as a social policy. If you want to teach my kids, I think you should be vaccinated. If you want to take care of my mother in a nursing home, I think you should be vaccinated. That's how it came into the nursing homes in the first place. People in the nursing homes are not giving it to each other until it walks in the door. That's the lesson from last year. 

Right now this is all up to local governments. If they don't act, then we'll be where we were last year where it becomes a statewide emergency and the State is going to have to act. Today, I want to thank Mr. Rick Cotton. I want to thank Mr. Janno Lieber for stepping up and making the right decision, which is also a hard political decision. They're going to go back to their offices today and their phones are going to ring. They're going to have a lot of people saying, "I don't want to take the vaccine" and it's a pain in the neck to get tested every week. They're going to take that political heat, but it was the right decision and I thank them for it. By the way, when you get that phone call don't say "the Governor made me do it." I thank them for that. 

We're also facilitating the testing. We're opening more vaccine sites for State workers and MTA and Port Authority, et cetera. There will be testing sites available, it won't be a hardship. In closing, remember the lessons we learned. If you wait to act until it's obvious, it's already too late. A. J. Parkinson. If you wait to act until it's obvious, it's already too late. The political system normally doesn't act until it's obvious and they have no choice because the political system doesn't like to make controversial decisions. Politicians want to make people happy. Well, it's 60/40 and I'm going to offend 40 percent of the people. I don't want to do it. Sometimes the right decision is not necessarily the political decision, doesn't mean it's not the right decision. 

Same situation with the New York shootings which are just continuing and continuing and getting worse. We saw it over the weekend. It is a fact, gun violence crime is out of control in New York City. That's a fact. That is not to be debated. It's not a political statement. That is a fact. Ask anyone in New York City, they will tell you. New Yorkers are smart, they get it. We have to act and we are in a state of political paralysis when it comes to the police issue. It is political paralysis and it's getting worse. Again, denial is not a life strategy. Good news, I believe the man who will be the next mayor and should be the next mayor, Eric Adams, I think he gets this. I think he's frank and he's blunt about it and I applaud him for it. New Yorkers get it. I'm a Queens boy, I get it. 

Last, last point. I'm with two of my daughters, they come up the other day. Twins, Cara and Mariah. We're going to watch a movie at night and I say you pick the movie, they pick the movie. We're watching the movie. During the course of the movie I selectively prophesize on what I think is going to happen. He's going to move too close to the window, he's going to get shot. Then he gets too close to the window - bang - he gets shot, he's too close to the window. Couple of minutes later. He's going to get in the car, he's going to turn on the car, the car blows up. Gets in the car, it blows up.

After the movie, one of my daughters says to me, you know, that that was really amazing how you figured out what was going to happen in that movie? I let her sit with that for a couple of minutes. And then I had to tell her the truth, which is, I said, no, I saw the movie already. It wasn't brilliant analysis of the plot; I saw the movie. We have seen the COVID movie.  

We've seen this movie. I've seen this movie. Melissa has seen this movie every day through the briefings. Rick Cotton runs the airports among other things, one of the first people to get COVID because it was coming through the airports. He's seen the movie. Beth Garvey saw the movie. She had to write all the laws. Janno Lieber saw the movie at the MTA. We had to figure out how to disinfect subway cars because the first piece of bad information was surface transmission, remember that? So, we had to come up with all sorts of chemicals and PPE, and then he had to operate a system with no riders. Rob Mujica dealt with it every day in the financial chaos.  

New Yorker saw the movie. You saw the movie. You know how this turns out. You know what happens with the Delta Variant. You know what those facts mean. You know what's going to happen in the movie. Don't wait for what you know is going to happen. We beat the damn thing by being smart the first time. Be smart again. "Well, the CDC. Well, this." New Yorkers did not make a decision the first time because of the CDC. It was because they got the facts. They're smart and they made a decision based on the facts.  

You have the facts. I'll give you the facts, but make the smart decision because you saw the movie. By the way, you've also seen the movie on homelessness. You've also seen the movie on crime out-of-control in New York City. I've seen that movie three times in my life. You know how the movie ends. Be smart. 

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