March 18, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New York Yankees and New York Mets to Start the Season with Fans in the Stands Beginning April 1

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces New York Yankees and New York Mets to Start the Season with Fans in the Stands Beginning April 1
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Professional Sports in Large Outdoor Stadiums Reopen at 20 Percent Capacity; Attendees Must Show Proof of Recent Negative Test or Immunization; Venues and Events Subject to Strict State Guidance

Regional Sports Venues That Hold 1,500+ People Indoors or 2,500+ People Outdoors Can Reopen; Capacity Limited to 10 Percent Indoors and 20 Percent Outdoors

Large Outdoor Performing Arts Venues That Hold 2,500+ People Can Reopen at 20 Percent Capacity

Governor Cuomo: "'The crowd makes the ball game,' said Ty Cobb. I believe that, we went through that with the Buffalo Bills. They said it was a totally different experience when you have the crowd and you have the noise and you have the people cheering. So we're going to play ball and we're going to play ball with a crowd which I tell you is just so good for the psyche. I was talking to Michaela about it on the way here this morning. Getting out of the house, getting out of the apartment, getting out of this entrapment that we've been in and going to a game and getting outside and seeing a new season start and just hope springs eternal, right, it's the beginning of the season, we're going to win, it's going to be better than next year, so I feel great about it. The Yankees' home opener is April 1, April 8 Mets' home opener. Yankees take on the Blue Jays, Mets take on the Miami Marlins, but I'm very excited about the news today."

Cuomo: "How do we renew New York? We're not just going to rebuild what was there before. Now is an opportunity to build back better. When you go through a tough situation in life, what do you do? You learn from it and you get up better and you get up stronger. That's what we have to do. We've done it before as New Yorkers. We went through 9/11. I remember during 9/11 all the naysayers. Remember all the people after 9/11? Oh, New York will never be the same, we're a terrorist target, nobody will come back - I heard the naysayers before. I hear them today. I'm worried about New York City, I'm worried about the crime and the homeless, I'm worried about this, I'm worried about that. Nobody is stronger than New Yorkers. Nobody is more resilient than New Yorkers. Nobody bounces back like New Yorkers."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York's Major League Baseball teams, the New York Mets and New York Yankees, can resume play with spectators in the stadiums, beginning April 1. Professional sports in large outdoor stadiums that hold 10,000 people or more will be allowed to reopen at 20 percent capacity. Attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or completed vaccination series prior to entry and are subject to strict state guidance on face coverings, social distancing, and health screening. The New York State Department of Health will re-evaluate the testing and vaccination entry requirements in May, and if the public health situation continues to improve, they may be discontinued in mid-May. Vaccinations will continue to be administered at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field during the MLB season.

Building on the recent reopening of large professional sports arenas, the Governor also announced that smaller, regional sports venues that hold 1,500 people indoors or 2,500 people outdoors can also reopen, beginning April 1. Initial capacity will be limited to 10 percent indoors and 20 percent outdoors. Attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or completed vaccination series prior to entry and are subject to strict state guidance on face coverings, social distancing, and health screening.

Governor Cuomo also announced that large outdoor performing arts venues, including stadiums, that hold more than 2,500 people can reopen at 20 percent capacity, beginning April 1. Venue capacity will continue to increase as the public health situation improves with more New Yorkers receiving vaccinations and fewer COVID-19 cases in the community. Attendees must show proof of a recent negative test or completed vaccination series prior to entry and are subject to strict state guidance on face coverings, social distancing, and health screening.

VIDEO of today's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of today's remarks is available below:

Governor Cuomo: Okay, good morning to everyone. A special day, special treat. Let me introduce the people who are with us today. First, we have from my far right, Dr. Howard Zucker, health commissioner for the State of New York. Then we have Mr. Andy Cohen, who's the vice chairman of the New York Mets. Al Leiter, pleasure to be with Al. Big fan of Al's, former pitcher, New York Mets, really a superstar, and it's just a real thrill for me to be with him.

Randy Levine: And New York Yankee.

Governor Cuomo: And New York Yankee. Randy doesn't let anything get by. CC Sabathia, God bless you, pleasure to be with you, former Yankees, great, great pitcher, and it's just an honor to be with you. Randy Levine, who is the president of the New York Yankees. He's been a great New Yorker, been so supportive on so many different levels. Kelly Cummings, we have, who's the director of operations for us, and has been running many of the state operations during COVID, which have been extraordinarily challenging, obviously. We have special guests in the audience. We have Susie Cohen, pleasure to be with you, Susie, who can photograph and wave at the same time, which is very impressive. And we have my daughter Michaela, who's a big baseball fan, and a New York baseball fan, okay. I'm a New York baseball fan, I'll tell you how we work this out, alright, this is how we work this out.

We, Michaela, myself, we support New York teams, alright. I'm a Queens boy, grew up behind what was called Shea Stadium, at the time, with those blue and orange sidings that used to flap in the wind. I could ride my bicycle to Shea Stadium for the Mets. First ballgame my father takes me to, and my father was a ballplayer himself, played on the farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates, first ballgame I went to, New York Yankees, Mickey Mantle. So, I support New York. This is the perfect mask, okay? You have the Mets when you're at a Mets game, you turn it around, you have the Yankees when you're at a Yankees game. So, we support both.

Let me go through a couple of facts today. All good news on COVID. Overall, the statewide positivity rate is down to 2.8 percent, and that is great news. We still lost 57 New Yorkers yesterday and they are in our thoughts and prayers. But the numbers are dramatically on the decline. Statewide hospitalizations are down 88, down to 4,500. The ICUs are down 20, the intubations are down 11. This gives you an idea of where we've gone over the past few weeks, when the holiday surge started, right, which we talked about and we anticipated. We talked about Thanksgiving, we talked about Hanukkah, we talked about Christmas, we talked about Kwanzaa, we talked about increased socializations, you're going to see the number go up, the number went up. Peaks about January 4th, right after New Year's, right after the holidays, we were at 7.9 percent. We are now down to 3.2 percent. So we are lower today than we were before the surge even started.

You look at the number of hospitalizations, it tells you the same story. Just before the holiday surge, we were at about 6,000. We then went up to close to 9,000 after the holidays, and we're now down to 4,500. So all the numbers are headed in the right direction. While COVID's coming down, vaccinations are going up. Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. And I want to thank both the Yankees and the Mets for their help in setting up vaccination sites. It is about getting people vaccinated. The vaccine is now coming in. It's going to come in in large quantities over the next several weeks, and then it's just going to be a logistical operation like you've never seen to get millions of doses in people's arms. But, the good news is it's working. We've done 7 million total doses so far. 2 million New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. 4,700 have at least the first vaccine.

I got my first vaccine yesterday. I took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine yesterday. I took J&J, first of all, it's only one shot. You don't have to go back twice. There's requirement for super cold storage, it's easier to handle. I took J&J purposely because I want New Yorkers to know, first of all, it's safe. Second of all, take any vaccine you can get. Should I get Pfizer? Should I get Moderna? Should I get this one? Take any vaccine you can get because they all work.

We're going to have more Johnson & Johnson coming because that's going to be the highest production and they're the easiest to administer. It's night and day between doing one dose and then two doses and having to schedule a person to come back and coordinate. I took J&J, it works and it's simpler. That's on the way up.

People have to take the vaccine. We can acquire it, we can set up all these mass vaccination sites, people have to put the needle in their arm, they have to show up. I took it yesterday. I'm ready. Want to arm wrestle? What do you have? I'm ready. I'm here, I felt fine, I feel fine. Maybe lost my mind a little bit asking CC to arm wrestle, but people have to do their part. Go to the website, make the phone call, set up your appointment.

COVID's coming down, vaccine rates are going up. Start to look to the future aggressively and let's get back to life and living and get that economy running because it is safe. It is safe. New Yorkers have always been smart and safe all through this. Remember we went from the highest infection rate in the United States of America to the lowest infection rate in the United States of America. We have beaten this virus like no other state in the nation has and we've done it by being smart. Dr. Zucker, our health commissioner, smart. The calibration is right but follow the science, follow the data, follow the numbers. The numbers are coming down, we have to start to move forward.

Sports travel. Currently, travel for sports is limited to contiguous counties and regions. Starting next Monday, March 29, statewide travel for sports and recreational activities will be performed. Second, outdoor performing arts can start April 1; 2,500+ capacity venues like concerts, shows, can open at 20 percent capacity. As the COVID rates continue to improve the capacity will continue to increase. This is our starting point, but as those numbers keep coming down which we believe they will, you'll see the capacity numbers go up.

We did a demonstration program when the Buffalo Bills were in the playoffs. It was the first in the nation ever done. We opened up the Buffalo Bills stadium. We did testing. It worked extraordinarily well. We started with 10 percent, it was a great demonstration, we're now going to move forward April 1, sports venues with 1,500+ indoor or 2,500+ outdoor capacity, indoor we'll do 10 percent capacity, outdoor will be 20 percent capacity. We'll have testing required when we open. If you get your vaccine, I have my card, I can go to a game as soon as it opens. You can take a rapid test, you can take a PCR test, but we're going to have testing as a precaution.

As time moves on and our experience grows and we see how the games work, we then right away do what's called contact tracing where we follow up on the game to see if anyone got infected, et cetera. I think you're going to see the capacity increase and the testing requirements decrease as we get more evidence. We want to start safe and smart.

That means Citi Field, 8,384 fans; Yankee Stadium, 10,850 fans. "The crowd makes the ball game," said Ty Cobb. I believe that, we went through that with the Buffalo Bills. They said it was a totally different experience when you have the crowd and you have the noise and you have the people cheering.

So we're going to play ball and we're going to play ball with a crowd which I tell you is just so good for the psyche. I was talking to Michaela about it on the way here this morning. Getting out of the house, getting out of the apartment, getting out of this entrapment that we've been in and going to a game and getting outside and seeing a new season start and just hope springs eternal, right, it's the beginning of the season, we're going to win, it's going to be better than next year, so I feel great about it.

The Yankees' home opener is April 1, April 8 Mets' home opener. Yankees take on the Blue Jays, Mets take on the Miami Marlins, but I'm very excited about the news today. It has been a long, dark winter. It's been a long, dark year. It's been the darkest experience we've gone through in generations. Let's be honest. You'd have to go back to World War II to have had an experience of this magnitude and this depth, and it's been difficult on a lot of levels. People talk about the disease and the economic. It's been mentally debilitating. It's been socially debilitating. It's been depressing. It's been hard on families. The emotional toll that this has taken on people, I don't think we're going to begin to understand this for months. I don't think we're going to begin to understand what it's done to children who lost a year of school in some cases, a year of socialization. Families to have cooped up in small quarters, it has been hellacious.

But it's coming to an end. It's coming to an end. Spring is upon us. Seasons change. Times change. Spring is upon us and spring is a new season and it is a new attitude and that's where we are and we have to start thinking spring. We have to start thinking about reopening New York and rebuilding New York and relaunching New York and reimagining New York and reuniting New York and those social bounds that connect us and that we thrive on.

How do we renew New York? We're not just going to rebuild what was there before. Now is an opportunity to build back better. When you go through a tough situation in life, what do you do? You learn from it and you get up better and you get up stronger. That's what we have to do. We've done it before as New Yorkers. We went through 9/11. I remember during 9/11 all the naysayers. Remember all the people after 9/11? Oh, New York will never be the same, we're a terrorist target, nobody will come back - I heard the naysayers before. I hear them today. I'm worried about New York City, I'm worried about the crime and the homeless, I'm worried about this, I'm worried about that. Nobody is stronger than New Yorkers. Nobody is more resilient than New Yorkers. Nobody bounces back like New Yorkers. Did we get through 9/11? We got through 9/11 and we are the stronger for it. We didn't rebuild - we rebuilt better than before. Are we going to get through COVID? We're getting through COVID, and we're going to be the better for it and the smarter for it and the more united for it and our success through COVID and what we did as a community in this state coming together is going to make our connections stronger and our fabric of community stronger and that's what it's all about at the end of the day and that's where we are.

Spring is here. It is time to rise up and it is time for the Mets and the Yankees to bring home a championship this year and we say, play ball. With that, let me turn it over to CC Sabathia. CC, thank you for being with us and why don't you take the first remarks.

CC Sabathia: Thank you, thanks, Governor. I'm excited to be here on this day that we're announcing that there are going to be fans back in the stands. I grew up on the West Coast but I consider myself a New Yorker now and, you know, dealing with COVID this past year, my family battling it, us being kind of stuck in the house not being able to go to games, do things that we're normally used to doing, we're excited to be able to get out. And as a fan now, being able to be in the stadium, cheering on the Yankees, I'm just excited. Like the Governor said, continue to get vaccinated, do the right things, and let's continue to battle this thing so by the end this season we can have a full stadium for the World Series.

Governor Cuomo: Now to Mr. Al Leiter. As you know, former pitcher, former Met, former Yankee, God forbid we forget, but a World Series champion, and he's been a great supporter for New York, for New Jersey, for the whole metropolitan region. Whatever we've needed Al has been there, so it's a pleasure to be with you. Al, thank you.

Al Leiter: Thank you, Governor. Well, it's a pleasure to be here for a lot of reasons, and listening to your daughter and seeing your mask with both sides, I am one of the few players that played for both the Yankees and the Mets, and the awkwardness of it all was that I grew up a Mets fan as a result of my father being a Mets fan because of Casey Stengel. At inception in 1962, he loved the whole lovable losers, the Leiter boys were all Mets fans, my dad grew up in Long Island, I grew up in New Jersey. I get drafted by the Yankees, three years later out of high school I'm pitching in Yankee stadium. So, the coincidence or irony of all of that, and then years later I get a chance to play for a team I rooted for as a kid. So, I get the whole pledge allegiance, I get the whole two hats. I was here in 2000 and I thought it was a thrill, even though the Mets we lost, to play the Yankees in a true Subway World Series was something that I'll never forget, again I wish we'd won. And then fast forward, I was able to finish my career with the Yankees. So, I got the whole two sided thing, and I got it. As my friend Michael Kay says, he says I'm a fraud as a fan because I like baseball. And you know, CC was with the Brewers, and the Indians, and now he's going to the Hall of Fame, by the way folks, as a Yankee; it's difficult to really relate to the fanaticism of where you pledge allegiance as a result of being a baseball player, but I'm a fan.

So, that 2000 when we were playing it and went down to City Hall, and we were wearing the hats and all of that -- that was fun. But I see this in relation to, not as tragic with what transpired in 9/11, but I was also with the Mets when we came back, we were the first team in New York to play the infamous Mike Piazza home run, how scared we were and nervous. And as you said, Governor, about would we ever rebuild and would we ever come back, well of course we did. But I remember what baseball meant, and we weren't sure, and Randy you can attest to it having been in baseball a long time, as well as CC, about whether it was the right thing to come back after the heinous tragedy of the World Trade Center and 9/11. I'll tell you, folks, the fact that we did and when we did, and wearing those hats of all the respective first responders and knowing how special it was as players at the time to be carrying the baton as a major league baseball player and being in New York City, it was the right thing. Governor, I'm happy now, I did some broadcast for the late George Steinbrenner, he gave me a chance to do some Yankee games watching CC do his Hall of Fame career. I do some things with Andy and the Mets, and I'm just thrilled that Fans will get a chance to get back in the stadium. I'm sure, as the Governor said, it will progress to where more people can go. And there's no doubt about it, when you play in front of a big crowd and they're cheering you or booing you, man there's nothing like it, and there's no better place than New York, really. And thank you for inviting me here, because play ball, man. It's opening day, no better place than New York and New York sports fans.

Governor Cuomo: Beautifully said. Let's give Al a round of applause. Randy Levine, who is the quintessential New Yorker. He's head of the Yankees organization, but he's been in government, he's been in civic society, he's seen it all, Randy, he really has from every angle. And I have to tell you, whatever New York needs, Randy's always been there. However extraordinary the request, however bizarre or difficult the request, Randy's always there. So, thank you again, and great to have you here, Randy, and thank you very much. We're rooting for you, and I'm excited to see the season start and, as Al said, I think it really is Spring, the weather changes, it's a whole new look at life and at New York and playing ball is part of it. Thank you for being here.

Randy Levine: I just want to say Governor - throughout this entire ordeal from the time we started until we had spring training here last year and then through the season - thank you because you and Dr. Zucker were great partners, great leaders. You listened to us, you accepted our ideas and we collaborated in order to get a baseball season in last year in a safe way, and thank you for that. And this is incredibly exciting now, as everybody said. First off, we have two of the great pitchers and great human beings of Major League Baseball in CC and Al. I mean, everybody in the game, and the fans will tell you, not only are they both some of the greatest pitchers of all time - no hitters, Cy Young Awards, everything - but they're two of the most quality people that there are. So, we're all lucky that they are here with us today and we're associated with them. Also want to thank Andy. The Mets and the Yankees, might surprise some of our fans but we have a great collaboration, you know we want to kill each other on the field, but on the business side and this stuff we have a great partnership. So on behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family, I want to thank you and thank the Mets for working with us in order to get things done.

You mentioned the vaccine center, which has been a great success. And we're going to keep the vaccine center open while the season is going. We're going to work it because that, in our opinion, is bigger than baseball. And thank you for that.

Yankee Stadium is ready. It's the, International WELL Building Institute said Yankee Stadium is the most healthy, safest stadium in the world. We've done everything we possibly can, our staff has just been tremendous, led by Doug Behar, our stadium operations executive. I mean, it's going to be safe thanks to your people. They came down there, the whole Health Department, they reviewed it, and it's going to be great, we promise you and we promise we're going to do everything we can to keep our fans safe because that's the most important thing.

But this is just so wonderful because, to me, opening day, like you all said, Spring, it's hope. Everybody starts even, everyone wants to go to the World Series, it's the end of cold weather. Our fans are really hungry for this - really, really hungry for this. And we got two great teams, hopefully if they all stay healthy maybe we have a Subway Series. And so thank you for all Governor, thank you for all Dr. Zucker, and let's play ball.

Governor Cuomo: Beautiful. Thank you. Well, I have the mask for the Subway Series, I'm ready. And Andy Cohen, Vice Chairman of the Mets, congratulations on the acquisition and taking over the Mets, we're all very excited. It's great to hear Randy talk about how you can have both a rivalry, but a commonality. Frankly, I wish we had more of that in politics, where you can have a difference of opinion but you can share a commonality and a decency. And we have that here because we are New Yorkers and that's how we treat each other. But thank you. Thank you very much Andy Cohen for being here today.

Andy Cohen: Thank you very much Governor. And on behalf of Steve and myself, thank you Dr. Zucker. And the Yankees organization, Randy, has been terrific, especially as we coordinated over these past important months and we continue to coordinate so we can do the best we can for all the fans. I don't want to start any trouble, CC is very big in person.

Governor Cuomo: That he is.

Andy Cohen: I don't want to start any trouble with my good friends from the Bronx, but I'm very happy our Governor is a Mets fan. It's an honor and a privilege to be here with you today representing the Mets. We're excited, very excited, as I'm sure all New Yorkers are that New York is opening up more and more each day. We're excited about the season ahead and welcoming fans safely back to Citi Field in April. It's another step forward for our hometown, New York State and the Tri-State Area. So, all of us at the Mets thank you, Governor, for your efforts, as well as Dr. Zucker and the New York State Department of Health. Looking forward to reopening the ball park in accordance with all government-prescribed mandates. I just want to thank you again and see you soon at Citi Field.

Governor Cuomo: I'll be there. I'll be there. So let's start, as we said before this is a process, it's an intelligent calibration of reopening the economy, watching the science, watching the data. But, all indicators are good. I believe this is the opening position. I believe we're going to see success in the games, I think we're going to see that they're safe and I think you're going to see increased capacity and more flexibility across the board as we're going forward. And that's only because we have been smart.

Last, last point, I promise. My daughter is giving me a look like, I want to go now. I get it. COVID, when you look at COVID across the state, across the country, it is very different in very different places. It is totally different rates of infection because it is a pure function of how that community behaves. There's no secret to this, it's a virus, and if you're reckless, you will transmit it. It's just like having a child who has a virus at home and if that child walks around the house, you get a household full of infection. And you can see different parts of the state, different parts of this country, very different infection rates. It's about being smart. The mask, the social distancing, get vaccinated, keep those numbers going down, keep reopening and reopening better than ever before. And let's play ball. Thank you very much for being here my friends. Thank you. Thank you all.

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