17th Straight Day with Positivity Rate Below 1 Percent; 0.66 Percent of Yesterday's COVID-19 Tests were Positive
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New York City Health + Hospitals Will Set up New Testing Sites at JFK and LaGuardia Airports
7 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday
SLA and State Police Task Force Observes Violations of State Requirements at 34 Establishments This Weekend
Confirms 408 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 430,145; New Cases in 27 Counties
Governor Cuomo: "Today is a great day. The infection rate today is .66. That is the lowest infection rate that we have had since we started this. So that is really great news. And it's not just that the .66 as one day is great news. It's consistent with what we have been seeing all along. If you've been looking at our infection rate over the past couple of weeks, it has been below 1 percent. So it's not an analogy, the .66, it's basically tracking what has been going on, which is we've been doing a great job keeping control of this virus. Congratulations to the people of New York. It wasn't rocket science, just took the nation a long time to understand it. we're dealing with a virus. It's a question of science, not politics. You can manage a virus but you have to understand what you're dealing with. It's a virus. It's a function of medicine and science and biology and you have to treat it that way."
Cuomo: "The question of youth sports has come up. The state has done a lot of research on youth sports and the guidance we've come up with is this. What's called lower risk sports: tennis, soccer, cross-country, field hockey, swimming can start in all regions of the state - can practice and play - starting September 21. So schools will be coming back, there will be a little bit of a period to gauge what's happening and on September 21 they can start to practice and play all across the state. There is guidance posted by the Department of Health on just how they should do it."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a new record-low COVID-19 test positivity rate of 0.66 percent. The number of new cases, percentage of tests that were positive and many other helpful data points are always available at forward.ny.gov.
The Governor also announced the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New York City Health + Hospitals will set up new testing sites at JFK and LaGuardia Airports to limit the spread of COVID-19 from visitors coming from out of state.
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. It's a pleasure to be in New Hyde Park today. Let me introduce from my far right, Mr. Gareth Rhodes, who's been working with us from the beginning of this COVID crisis. To my immediate right, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. To my left, Mr. Janno Lieber, who is the chief development officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the MTA, and to his left, Beth Garvey, who is my special counsel.
First I want to thank the Clinton G. Martin Park Community Center for giving us this opportunity to be here today. Let me give you some facts and some briefing material and then we'll take whatever questions you have.
Today is day 177. I know it feels like just yesterday that this started. not really. Question is, when we get up in the morning, where are we with COVID on day 177, and what kind of progress are we making? And today is a great day. The infection rate today is .66. That is the lowest infection rate that we have had since we started this. So that is really great news. And it's not just that the .66 as one day is great news. It's consistent with what we have been seeing all along. If you've been looking at our infection rate over the past couple of weeks, it has been below 1 percent. So it's not an analogy, the .66, it's basically tracking what has been going on, which is we've been doing a great job keeping control of this virus.
Congratulations to the people of New York. It wasn't rocket science, just took the nation a long time to understand it. we're dealing with a virus. It's a question of science, not politics. You can manage a virus but you have to understand what you're dealing with. It's a virus. It's a function of medicine and science and biology and you have to treat it that way. We made a mistake early on. We made a lot of mistakes early on with this European virus. I call it the European virus. Some people call it the China virus. The virus did not come to New York from China. The federal government missed that. The virus came to New York from Europe. That's why it's the European virus. That's why if somebody knew what they were talking about, they would call it the European virus. When they say the China virus, which some people refer to it as, it actually makes the point of the mistake that the federal government made. They believed the virus was still in China. The virus was not in China. The virus had left China and gone to Europe and had come here from Europe and they never knew that the virus left China. And that's why New York was ambushed.
But, we then had an issue in this country where we treated this as a political issue as opposed to a medical issue, as opposed to a public health issue. And that caused the virus to raise out of control in other parts of the country. That's not what happened in New York. New York was a pure ambush because we didn't know it was coming from Europe. But, in New York, after the ambush we treated it seriously and we made a difference.
The other numbers, 482 hospitalizations, 122 ICU patients, 54 intubations. The number of lives lost is seven yesterday and they and their families are in our thoughts and prayers. The 3-day rolling average is 5. If you look across the State, the numbers are good all across the state with one exception, but you see Long Island over the past few days: 0.8, 0.7, 0.7, 0.8. Today from yesterday, 0.6. It's true all across the New York City boroughs.
Western New York we have a caution flag and we're focusing on it and trying to understand exactly what is happening. The number of positive tests is somewhat escalated. Not a cause for serious concern, but it is a caution flag and we're looking at it. There have been several clusters in Western New York. There was a steel plant in Erie County, a food processing factory, two nursing homes, people coming in for hospital procedures; a number of them have tested positive. There's seasonal labor forces that come in for farms. But, we do more testing in New York than any other state, so we can identify when you start to see an increase, a "cluster" as we call it. That's very important, so you can then attack that cluster and you can stop the spread at that cluster. So, that's what we're looking at in Western New York.
We have done a number of initiatives to protect our progress, as we call it. Our infection rate is low; the question is how do you keep it low? How do you make sure you're not getting infected from people coming in from other states where the infection rate is high, and how do you make sure you're maintaining compliance, bars, restaurants, young people? We're actually setting up testing sites at our airports to be able to do faster testing of people coming in, also hospital staff. We have beefed up our compliance efforts. I've said many times that's a responsibility of local government to use their police to make sure the health orders are being enforced in bars and restaurants. To supplement their efforts, we have the State Police and the State Liquor Authority that is inspecting bars and restaurants to make sure they're in full compliance with the rules and regulations. They've looked at just under 4,000 establishments and 34 additional violations. There was a drive-in in the Village of Westhampton over the weekend. It was a concert series, and it was a matter of concern. We've had bad experiences with several towns and villages on Long Island, but I want to thank the Village of Westhampton, the Trustees, Mayor Moore, and County Executive Steve Bellone. The concert series happened over the weekend and the village police force was there and they were enforcing compliance. I asked County Executive Bellone if he would have the county personnel also attend the concert and make sure that all the health ordinances were complied with, and I want to thank them very much. That's a positive sign. You can do these types of events, but people have to comply, right? The event is safe a prudent if people comply. The problem becomes when you stage the event, you host the event and people don't comply, and the local authorities aren't prepared to deal with it. We've seen that in Southampton. That's not the case in what happened at Westhampton - the exact opposite happened. That's why I want to thank them very much.
The MTA. The MTA had one of the really extraordinary challenges of all time, when you think about it. The MTA had to continue their service all through COVID because the MTA was the way that the essential workers get to work. The quote, unquote essential workers who are the heroes of this COVID situation, they are middle class, hard working New York families. They rely on public transportation to get to work. So we had to keep the subways, the Long Island Rail Road, the Metro North running all through COVID. All through the toughest times of COVID. And they did that, the MTA.
We then had to find a way to disinfect the trains. Just think of that concept for a second. Disinfect the trains. We've been fighting for decades to get trains clean and train stations clean and subway stations clean - clean of refuse, clean of garbage, et cetera. Nobody ever talked about disinfecting an entire public transit system. Nobody ever talked about disinfecting a transit system in the middle of a COVID crisis. But they did that. Phil Eng is here from the Long Island Rail Road and God bless what they did because it was really extraordinary. Buses, trains disinfected. So thank you very much, Phil, for everything.
It was really a masterful feat. One hundred and fifty thousand stations cleaned, 2.5 million cleanings of subway cars and commuter rails. It's really been fantastic and it was our responsibility to make sure the essential workers could get to work and could get to work safely. We as a society asked them to show up every day so that people could stay home and stay safe. You needed the essential workers to go to work and they did. Our obligation was to make sure they were safe or as safe as they could be and the MTA, doing what it did, is part of that.
It's not that the MTA slowed down during the COVID crisis. They actually used the opportunity to accelerate. What's the silver lining to less traffic and lower ridership? A lot of negatives. What's the silver lining? Well if there's less ridership and there's less traffic, maybe you can accelerate construction because you're inconveniencing fewer motorists and fewer riders. That's exactly what the MTA did. They completed the L train tunnel under budget, 6 months ahead of schedule and that was predicted to be one of the great construction complexities of all time. And again, they used this period to actually get more done than they would have normally gotten done.
We just cut a ribbon at a LIRR grade crossing and opened the New Hyde Park Road grade crossing. First, this is opened 2 months ahead of schedule. Supposed to take 9 months to give birth. It was 7 months to give birth. This is a project that I know from when I was just starting to drive and this was a traffic nightmare for decades. And it was one of those situations that you would just say as you were going through it, why don't they fix this? Right? why do you have traffic backing up 40 percent of the time, the train would be passing so the arms would come down, you would stop traffic. Why? Why back up traffic, why damage the environment, why burn all that extra gasoline, why don't they do something? Well, they were right and of course it's always easier said than done, but Janno Lieber, Mark Roche and his group pulled it off. they got it done fast. They got it done on budget, which normally just being on time and on budget is a great success for government. To have a government project come in early, that's like unheard of, right. sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But they did it and it was a pleasure for me to see.
This is a picture of what it was like before. Like so many other grade crossings. And this is it afterwards. So well done again, to Janno and his whole team. This project is part of a larger project that's called the Third Track Project. Which is a multibillion dollar project, it's going to make a significant difference for the Long Island Rail Road. And this is the latest milestone. The third track overall is about 10 miles. It'll be finished in 2022. We're at the halfway point and the project is on time and it's on budget. So again I want to thank the MTA because they're doing their part and then some.
We just on Long Island went through the response to the most recent tropical storm. The response by the utility company was unacceptable and it's even worse because this is not the first time we've had a storm. Storms have become more and more the norm, right. Because of Long Island geographic location, New York City's geographic location, they're subject to storms. It's unacceptable that the utility companies continue to have such problems during the storm and in the aftermath.
We know these storms are going to happen. We know that in the middle of a storm power's going to go out for consumers. We know the consumers are going to want to know when their power comes back on just so they can plan and they can live their lives. We know that trees are going to fall and branches are going to fall and wires are going to come down. Why is it, every time there's a storm, the utility companies are so slow in their response? Why?
We pay for the utility companies to provide a service. They're not doing us a favor. This is what we pay for, and we don't pay just to have the utility companies function on a nice day. The essence of what we pay for is be ready for a storm. Be able to handle the storm. Give me information when my power goes out and get my power on quickly. That is what we are paying the utility companies for. And the way the utility company works is they get a license from the state, franchise agreement, they then get paid by the ratepayers, and get a profit on top of their cost.
I believe some of these utility companies have now, have the attitude of too big to fail. "We have the license to operate. Well, there's nothing you can do about it." That's not true. They work for the people of the state. If they're not providing the service, then fire them. We pay for that service; if they're not providing the service, then find someone else to provide the service. The laws, right now in the State of New York— I believe— are too protective of the utility companies and that has to change. Right now, there's a legal limit on what you can penalize a utility company afterwards. And the current law says the penalty can be $100,000 or .02 percent— .02 of 1 percent of the gross operating revenues. That's the legal limit of what they can be penalized. If that's the limit compared to the money they're making— this is de minimis. They're just paying penalties basically is a cost of doing business. To give a silly analogy, there's a delivery company that operates in this state, that operates many trucks all across the state. The trucks, the delivery trucks, routinely park where they're not supposed to park and they get parking tickets. But they keep doing it. The delivery company just pays the parking tickets as a cost of doing business. They'll pay the $20, $30 for the parking ticket as a cost of doing business. We've gotten to a point with these utility companies where they basically say, "OK, penalize me. The penalty is going to be relatively de minimis compared to the overall cost of doing business. I'll pay the penalty." We have to change the law. Change the amount of the penalties so the penalty is actually a penalty. Look at the word penalty. It has to be a penalty that will change your behavior because it is significant. Saying a $100,000 per incident, to these companies, is not significant. Their cost of repair, their cost of the modification, is much more than they would pay a penalty. That has to change. Second, we have to have a faster process of revoking their franchise. They have to know that they can lose their operating certificate and it's not going to take years to do— and we're not going to wind up in the courts. We can do it and we can do it quickly. And, there has to be a mandatory communication system that operates during the storm.
People are reasonable: yes, there was a storm. My power went out. I got it. I need to know when it comes back. I have children in the house. I need to know if I should stay in my house, if I should leave, if it's one day, two hours, one week. I need that information. And they have to provide that information. This is going to require a change to the law. I've heard many legislators about how they're upset. If you're upset, do something about it. Change the law. That's what we need you to do. Take the upset; take the emotion and make change. Pass a new law and do it right away.
September: schools are back, and working through that issue. The question of youth sports has come up. The state has done a lot of research on youth sports and the guidance we've come up with is this. What's called lower risk sports: tennis, soccer, cross-country, field hockey, swimming can start in all regions of the state - can practice and play - starting September 21. So schools will be coming back, there will be a little bit of a period to gauge what's happening and on September 21 they can start to practice and play all across the state. There is guidance posted by the Department of Health on just how they should do it. But there will be no travel, practice or play permitted outside of the school's region. So, a school can play in the region. They can play with the contiguous region our county but nothing outside of that until October 19th. Again we're doing this in phases. We want to see what the effect is; We want to see how it works. Schools opening in general is a big question mark. What would the effect be? The Fall is a big question mark. Many of the experts are suggesting that may be a second wave or reoccurrence so phasing it will allow us to watch it. The "higher risk sports," where there is full physical contact, like politics: Tackle football, wrestling, rugby ice hockey, may continue to practice but they're not authorized to play at this point.
Last point, I signed several bills last into law that make it easier to vote. Allowing a voter to get an absentee because of risk of illness (that's COVID); Counting the ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by the Board of Education without postmark the day after election day; Eliminating the requirement that voters wait until 30 days prior to election before requesting an absentee ballot. Those were good bills. I signed them, that will make a difference. We're going to make the system even better I'm issuing five Executive Orders today extending the temporary illness option to elections not administered by the board of elections so the COVID exception will apply across the board. Mandate county boards send a mailing to all voters notifying them of the deadlines and methods to request an absentee because by law, you still have to request an absentee, you know just get an absentee, you have to request an absentee. They send it to you. You fill it out you send it back. There are two steps. There have been issues about the paperwork that board of election used. So they're going to make changes to that to make it simpler.
All board of elections make sure they have everything in place, the staff in place, to count the ballots as soon as possible. And the board of elections have to report staffing plans and any needs for additional staff. If they don't have the staff. Tell us tell us before. So you can get the staff because you have to be able to count the ballots. You have to be able to tabulate the vote. We want it done and we want it done right, but we want it done timely. We don't want to hear after-the-fact excuses for why you couldn't do it. Tell us how you're going to do it before-the-fact, and your staffing plan from the board of elections that will actually do that. This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history. It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it's fair and right and accurate. And we will do that because we are New York tough, and smart, and united, and disciplined and most importantly loving.