July 28, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Patient-Facing Healthcare Workers at State-Run Hospitals Will Be Required to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19 by Labor Day

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Patient-Facing Healthcare Workers at State-Run Hospitals Will Be Required to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19 by Labor Day
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All State Workers—Approximately 130,000—Will Be Required to Get Vaccinated for COVID-19; State Workers Who Do Not Get Vaccinated Will Have to Be Tested; New York State Working with Unions to Implement Requirement Fairly and Quickly

Governor Urges FDA to Expedite Final Approval of COVID-19 Vaccine and End Emergency Use Authorization Restrictions

Governor Urges Local Governments to Require All Employees to Be Vaccinated or Submit to Testing

Governor Cuomo: "President Biden is reported that he's going to announce soon that all federal employees must be vaccinated or get tested. New York State is doing the same and we're working with our unions to implement this quickly and fairly, but we want to get it done by Labor Day, and I encourage all local governments to do the same.

It's smart. It's fair. It's in everyone's interest, but we have to go further and New York led the nation in going down the path that made the most sense, even though it is hard, and this has been the frustration for this country from the beginning. Politicians don't like to suggest actions that are not popular. A politician who suggests too many unpopular options is not a long-term politician, but there's a choice of doing the political thing or doing the right thing and I've always chosen to do the right thing and I believe ultimately that is even the best politics, but I think we have to go further here. I think we need dramatic action to get control of this situation.

So in New York and our state hospitals, all patient facing healthcare workers must get vaccinated. There will be no testing option for patient facing healthcare workers. That is a point of contact that could be a serious spreading event and we want to make sure that those healthcare workers are vaccinated - period."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that patient-facing healthcare workers at state-run hospitals will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Labor Day. There will not be an option to be tested in lieu of vaccination for these patient-facing healthcare workers. The Governor also announced that all New York State employees—about 130,000 people—will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Labor Day. State employees who do not get vaccinated will be required to be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. New York State is working with state unions to implement the requirement quickly and fairly.

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 are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

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

Thank you. Thank you very much, Steven. It's good to see you.  And you're right, we go back many, many years. I liked the beard, but I consider it a COVID beard and I assume when we're past this next challenge of the Delta variant you'll go back to the beardless, Steven Rubenstein. But Steven, thank you very much for everything you do for everyone, everyone in this city and in this state. Your friendship, your leadership has been key. And ABNY, thank you. Thank you for having me once again to speak at this critical moment, because Steven is exactly right this is a quote unquote intense moment and it's a pivotal moment and we all have to work together. And ABNY is key to that.

Let me talk through some facts as to where we are, because this is an ever-changing situation. You know, we talk about the state of the state, normally we do that once a year. We talk about the state of the city, normally we do that once a year. In these times, the state of the state, the state of the city changes on a weekly, if not daily basis, depending on what's happening with COVID.

As Steven said, the economy is coming back. The numbers statewide are very good. The economy in New York City is not coming back as fast as we're seeing the economy in the rest of the state coming back. So we do have a special concern for New York City. But, what happens is going to be a function of what we do. There is no pre-ordained path here, my friends. You tell me what we do, and I'll tell you where we wind up.  And there's no doubt that this is truly a pivotal moment. And you can see two paths - it's a path of promise and growth and there's a promise of peril. There are tremendous challenges, but there is also tremendous opportunity.

Now we have to do two things at once. We have to manage this COVID increase and it is real, but at the same time, we have to have an affirmative plan to bring back New York State and New York City. New York City is not going to come back on its own, I firmly believe that. It's going to require a strategy, a plan and execution. What makes this an especially difficult time is we have to do both of these things simultaneously. So you need a plan to do it and then you have to execute the plan. And when government often falls down is frankly on the execution. Government does very good with press releases, it's the actual delivery where government tends to fail.

Let's talk about the COVID increase first. There's no doubt that that the Delta variant is real. You see it in the numbers. Today we have 2,200 cases. One month ago, basically, we had 275 cases. So the increase in the numbers is real. It's not an overstatement, it's not a fabrication. Great news - 75% of adults have been vaccinated. That is higher than the national goal that was set of 70% and it is extraordinarily high when you think about it - 75 percent of New Yorkers. This is a diverse state. If you ever told me that we could get 75 percent of New Yorkers to do any one thing, it was a very ambitious goal, but 75 percent got a needle in their arm. They got the vaccination. However, that leaves 25 percent. 

Now you can say, well, that's only 25 percent, but 25 percent in the State of New York is 3.5 million people. That's larger than the population of 21 states. That's a very large population of on vaccinated people and what we're seeing is a pandemic among those unvaccinated people, but it affects everyone. 

We have to go back and remember what we learned painfully but successfully over the past 18 months. We did have COVID first and worst in the nation. Why? Because the COVID virus went from China to Europe and came here from Europe through our airports. We know that now. We know that this federal government failed to detect the COVID virus moving from China to Europe. We know there was a failure to detect the virus coming from Europe to New York until it was late. We look back now with retrospect, hindsight is 2020, we had COVID cases before we knew it was COVID. We had a period of time where people were dying from what they called pneumonia. It wasn't pneumonia. It was COVID. 

But we took that highest rate and we brought it down to one of the lowest positivity rates in the country. No one thought it was possible. We were on the verge, my friends, of pandemonium and chaos. We were about to overwhelm our hospital system, but New Yorkers rose to a challenge that they had not done in a generation. Now, when we were going through this, remember what was going on. Other parts of the nation were saying, well, this is just a New York phenomenon, almost as if it was something about the immune system of New Yorkers or the political ideology of New Yorkers. State of Florida, for example, said, well, New Yorkers should be quarantined. We don't want them coming to Florida. You had a lot of New Yorkers leave New York in the beginning days of COVID because it seems like it was a New York phenomenon and go to Florida.

Meanwhile, Florida was saying, well, this is not a problem that we have to address. Now Florida is seeing the greatest increase in COVID cases in the nation. What's the lesson? Denial does not work. Follow the science, follow the facts. We were aggressive, we showed leadership and it worked and we have to do the same here. We did make hard decisions, but in battling a virus you have to make hard decisions. We learned that also.

We know where this Delta variant is spreading. We have done a zip code analysis. You have 117 zip codes in New York State, which is only about 6.7 percent of the state, but in those zip codes you have high positivity and low vaccination rates and that's the dangerous connection. We can tell you exactly where they are: primarily in New York City, over of 60 percent, which is not surprising because that almost mirrors the population, but even in New York City, it's in certain locations and that tracks the vaccination rate and the positivity rate of COVID almost from day one. You also see it on Long Island, but 18 percent of the zip codes, but again, targeted in places in Long Island. You see it across Upstate New York, but again, targeted in certain communities in Upstate New York.

The CDC announced new guidance yesterday and they have different colors for transmission rates. They have orange zones, they have red zones, they say at the same time schools from K to 12, everyone should wear a mask in those schools, and then special precautions for these orange and these red zones. 

The state is going to do a full review of the CDC guidance. I was on the phone with them this morning. We're talking to federal officials. We're also talking to international health centers. One thing I learned from the first go-around is this is happening in other places, so learn from that experience, and we're doing that. But the CDC guidance should be carefully reviewed. Local governments in those areas should seriously consider the CDC guidance and the basic guidance comes down to what we know. Get the vaccine and the precautions are important, especially important for elderly and immunocompromised people. Take the mask precaution. It's not the hardest thing to do in the world. 

But the Delta variant is in many ways deja vu all over again. This is just another variant of a virus and we know how it spreads and what will happen.

President Biden is reported that he's going to announce soon that all federal employees must be vaccinated or get tested. New York State is doing the same and we're working with our unions to implement this quickly and fairly, but we want to get it done by Labor Day, and I encourage all local governments to do the same.

It's smart. It's fair. It's in everyone's interest, but we have to go further and New York led the nation in going down the path that made the most sense, even though it is hard, and this has been the frustration for this country from the beginning. Politicians don't like to suggest actions that are not popular. A politician who suggests too many unpopular options is not a long-term politician, but there's a choice of doing the political thing or doing the right thing and I've always chosen to do the right thing and I believe ultimately that is even the best politics, but I think we have to go further here. I think we need dramatic action to get control of this situation.

So in New York and our state hospitals, all patient facing healthcare workers must get vaccinated. There will be no testing option for patient facing healthcare workers. That is a point of contact that could be a serious spreading event and we want to make sure that those healthcare workers are vaccinated - period.

If the numbers continue to go up the way they're going up, I think school districts in those affected areas should strongly consider taking a more aggressive action - and it will be hard and I understand the politics but I also understand if we don't take the right actions, schools can become super spreaders in September. It will happen. We have seen it happen before and trepidation and politics that stops aggressive action feeds the virus. The virus feeds on our lack of action and on our apathy and on our fear. Schools in September will be places of congregation and they can be super spreaders, especially when you put it together with the fact that you already know you have a high concentration of infection in those targeted areas.

I also encourage the FDA to issue final approval of the vaccine. This vaccine right now is under something called emergency use authorization. Under emergency use authorization states are limited as to what they can mandate. Once the vaccine is finally approved, then the state has more legal authority to mandate the vaccine. For those local governments who have the targeted zip codes, we're doing that advertising, we're doing incentives, we've done all sorts of giveaways. There is vaccine hesitancy. It is real. I don't think we get past it with television ads. I think you have to talk it through with people who are hesitant, give them the facts. And I think it has to be done with people who they relate to -community representatives, who they relate to, but we know the targeted areas reach out to them, use it for community organizations.

We just provided $15 million in funding for community organizations. Hear them out, talk it through, get them the facts, and let's get people past their hesitancy. I also think private sector businesses can help. And I think you can play a major role. You can admit vaccinated only people into your establishment.

I can argue that it is a smart business practice because I want to go to a safe restaurant. And I want to go to a safe theater, and I wanted to go to a safe bar and I think it's good business for the private sector. I also think it provides a real incentive for people to get the vaccine. We have done this before. New York pioneered this. 

Radio City Musical Hall, Jim Dolan showed real vision back in May. Radio City opened up with only vaccinated people. It was the first main venue in New York to do it. I believe it was the first main venue in the nation to do it. And it worked. Others have followed that model. Theaters have done it. We have sports stadiums that have done it. More businesses should do it.

It will, again, I think be an incentive for the business and it will be an incentive for people to actually get the vaccine. And I urge you all to do it. Second challenge that we must do at the same time. We're fighting COVID with one hand. With the other hand, we have to get to work reviving the New York economy.

What are the challenges? And let's be honest about this. This is what I hear from people all day long. Zoom does not go away. Zoom showed society a different way of relating and working. And you know what? It has upside. A lot of people would say, it's not so bad that I can work from a remote location and do my work, but still be at home.

People are going to have to want to come back to work and they're going to have to want to come back to New York City. And they are asking and saying good points that we have to here. They are afraid of the crime rate in New York City. And I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, I just don't feel safe in New York City. 

Homelessness is a major problem in New York City. It's sad to see people in that situation and it can be dangerous. That is the truth. That is the irrefutable truth. And too many people say New York City is too expensive. I'd rather stay where I am and not pay those New York City taxes. These are real impediments that are not easy to say, but if you don't acknowledge it and you don't overcome it, it will defeat. Now this is not a slight issue. Remember we have to get people back and we have to get people back in volume. If you were to see a 15 percent decline of people coming back to New York City, that would have a devastating impact on the commercial market and all the businesses, et cetera, that rely on it.

The flip side is also true. We are in an international competition. The first state and city that actually tackle these issues, I think has an opportunity to lead going forward in the new generation. Address, crime address, homelessness show people the future that you can build and provide tax relief. If we do that, you will see New York takeoff like a juggernaut, I believe.

On the issue of crime and gun violence, this is a national phenomenon, but New York is a place of leadership. We do have to re-imagine policing. We do have to deal with a very real tension between the police and the community that erupted at the George Floyd murder. That is real. You can't ignore it. And it is hard. The New York PD, NYPD, they have real concerns. The community has real concerns but ignoring it doesn't work. Admit it, address it, and let's make that relationship work once again. Same with gun violence 

On homelessness, we need a different political philosophy when it comes to the homeless. I've worked on this issue all my life. We know how to do this. I did this is a not-for-profit operator. I did this when I was in the federal government as HUD secretary. I worked on this issue all across the nation. We know how to help homeless people, but we have to change this philosophy that helping the homeless is allowing them to sleep on a bench or allowing them to sleep in subway tunnels.

How absurd is this is. This story starts with deinstitutionalization. The state mental hospitals were terrible 50 years ago. We have to get people out of state mental hospitals into community group residences. We then either didn't build the community residences or there were not enough rules to keep people in the community residences.

So now this sleeping subway tunnel, you made progress. You went from deinstitutionalization to people sleeping in a subway tunnel. Once again, that's not progress. Offer safe shelters and services. You know what the homeless tell me on the subway, why they won't go into a shelter? It's unsafe. When you get to a point where the homeless believe subway tunnels are safer than city shelters, you have a problem. And we need to build more supportive housing for the mentally ill and people with substance abuse issues, et cetera, and disabilities. We can't afford not to do it, but it starts with a change in philosophy. We are back to the days where we defended the civil rights and civil liberties of a homeless person to sleep on a grate. We should be asking more than that. Not defending their right to sleep on a park bench. But defending their right to a safe shelter and services and humanity in response.

I believe the New York City mayor gets it. I know Eric Adams many years. I worked with him when he was in the state Legislature. I know him, I know his values. I believe he understands this. Equally important, I believe he can actually do it. There's two elements. When you go to judge and elected official, do they get it? Do they understand it? Their philosophy? And second, do they have the competence to actually get something done, which is easier said than done, because this is a big bureaucracy and everyone has a political opinion and it takes a special personality to lead in the face of opposition.

I think Eric Adams is going to do a great job for New York and I'm excited to work with them. And third, we have to get about our business. We have to build a new New York for new economy. We must rebuild New York all across the board. We have to show people the future. 

You are people right now saying what's going to happen in New York City. Is it going to come back? Is it not going to come back? Are those people going to come back from the Hamptons and from Aspen and from Florida? They don't know, show them the future, show them the promise. We know how to build. We do it better than any state in the nation. We have the vision. We have the plans.

FDR was a great builder. FDR. I now live in his house and I I've read his works. He enjoyed building, FDR. But you know, when he was building more than buildings in tunnels? He was building confidence. He was trying to say to the American people believe in America, look at it, look at those buildings, come out of the ground. Look at the longest tunnels. The longest bridges. That's America. Yes, we want to build buildings, but we're also building confidence when we're doing that. That's what the airports are about. Yes, we had to build a new LaGuardia and we have to build a new JFK, but people land and they walk through LaGuardia and they look up and they say, wow, that was beautiful. And that builds confidence in New York. 

New Long Island Railroad, new Belmont Arena. The first national plan for accessible and affordable broadband for all families. We have the largest green energy plan in the country. $29 billion, not just to do green energy, but to train the workers here and bring the manufacturing jobs here. 

We are way ahead of any other state and we're doing it. Go and look at the Moynihan Train Hall. It's open. It's beautiful. It could be a museum. They talked about it for 30 years. It's now a reality. Go look at the new Pier 76 Park, which was a tow pound for 20 years. One of the most beautiful pieces of real estate in New York City. And now it's open as a park. 

We can do this, but we can't do it alone. We need federal fairness, federal fairness. 

Second Avenue, Subway. We need to build the next phase from 96 to 125th street. We finished it up to 96th street. It revitalized the whole east side. The next phase is 96 to 125th street. The Second Avenue Subway was promised when they took down the second avenue elevated line in 1940. Even I wasn't born in 1940. They take down the elevated line. It isolates Harlem. The government says, don't worry. We're going to build a subway to replace the elevated line. It'll be opened by 1951. 1951, I'm still not born. They have cut the ribbon and done groundbreakings on the federal government funding of the Second Avenue Subway for 50 years. I love this picture. Governor Rockefeller, Mayor Lindsay, Senator Jack Javits breaking ground on the Second Avenue Subway. 

Except it never happened.

It would be a Harlem Renaissance. Economic justice demands it. Let's do it. Let's do it now. The same thing is true with congestion pricing. The state passed it. The MTA can enact it. It's $15 billion. It reduces car traffic in Manhattan, which is strangling Manhattan right now. The federal government just has to approve it. It doesn't cost them a penny. Just to approve it, but approve it now. 

Gateway. We said we would fund the gateway program 25 percent. Now, remember what gateway is. It's federal tunnels owned by Amtrak. Amtrak is owned by the federal government. It's federal tunnels. What comes through those tunnels? Amtrak trains, and New Jersey transit trains. No New York trains run through those tunnels and we don't own the tunnels, but I agreed to 25 percent because I believe I can justify it from New York's interest because those workers are coming to work in New York City. And we want those Amtrak trains coming, and we want those New Jersey trains coming. So I can justify the New York expenditure, but it is a more than neighborly gesture. Here's the question, the next question, and we have to be smart about this. We can't repeat patterns of failure in the past.

How long does it take to replace the tunnel? Amtrak says 10 years, 10 years. Let's remember the federal track record on time. Right? Second Avenue Subway also was going to take 10 years. That was 50 years ago. So they say 10 years. But the real question is where do the tunnels go? We're going to build new tunnels. Great. Where do they go? They go into Penn Station, but there is no plan to fund the expansion of the rehabilitation of Penn Station. So right now you're building new tunnels, but you have no place for the tunnels to land. Right now they're the tunnels to nowhere. In 10 years we'll figure it out. Okay. 

For these new tunnels, you're going to have to expand Penn Station. The only way you expand Penn Station is you have to condemn one square block next to Penn Station which is called the 780 block. Condemning a square block in New York City hasn't been done in a generation. In and of itself it could take 10 years. And then you also have to rehabilitate Penn Station.

It's impossible now. It's not going to last another 10 years. So phase one was building on the tunnels. Phase two was building the terminal. You can't fit fund phase one without funding phase two, you can't build a tunnel without a place for it to land. That is not a high level engineering opinion. That's the opinion of a second grader who says, if you're going to build a tunnel, you need to have a station for it to land. And the basic point is, if we don't do this now, it will never be done. 

And fourth, we have to reduce taxes. You have to have an answer for the economic burden in New York City, especially when you're talking to people who are in different locations. And you're trying to get them to come back to New York City. This is the fastest and fairest way to do it. SALT, State and Local Tax Deductibility, was passed by Donald Trump. It was aimed at New York. It was a political gesture. It costs New York $12 billion per year. It has cost us $35 billion. It is the first double taxation in the nation's history. Where the federal government now taxes the tax that you pay in New York City in New York State. Never been done before. 

And it only hit democratic states and it hit New York harder than any other state because New York pays in more because of SALT and New York already paid in more than any state in the United States. We're the number one, what they called donor state. Every day that SALT is not repealed, it costs us $33 million. 

To give you an idea of these numbers because the 12 billion, 35 billion, what does it mean? I'll tell you what it means. 12 billion annually, the whole federal COVID relief plan that we had to fight for was 15 billion. Oh, the federal government agreed to fund part of gateway. They're going to give us five billion. Second Avenue Subway, I've been fighting them for decade for funding. It would be $3 billion in federal funding. Penn station, we would need 8 billion.

They're taking 12 billion annually from SALT. They could keep all their funding and just give us back the money you took. The past six months alone of not repealing SALT, which they all promise they would do, it cost us $6 billion. $6 billion. So the priority for us, by the math, is we need SALT repealed. 

By the way, everyone promised, promised - what's the politicians promise worth - everyone promised when Trump did this, it was an outrage and they would repeal it and they would repeal it immediately. Senator Schumer, state and local tax deductions are the bedrock of middle-class deductions, they help steady the cost of many middle-class families should not be eliminated or even reduced.

So we can give a tax cut to millionaires. Jerry Nadler, same thing. They wanted to punish the states, true. And they wanted to punish us for voting for Hillary Clinton. True. They wanted to coerce us, true. But they did. And you haven't repealed it. Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman from Long Island. My community has been devastated. Yes. She said that three years ago, you haven't done anything about it. Even conservative, extreme conservative Republicans from the North Country. It's a form of double taxation on hard working North Country families. True. Then, you know what? Do something about it and do your job and do it via reconciliation and do it without compromise.

It would be a tremendous immediate economic boost to New York. Taxes would be lower than they have been in the past four years. It would be the single biggest economic shot in our arm. It's time to act. 

There were no more excuses because my friends on these two issues COVID and bringing you back to New York, there is no tomorrow. If we don't act today and the stars are aligned for us. When it comes to the federal government, it is now or never. For so many years, well, if we only had a democratic president. You have Joe Biden. He believes in New York, he's a friend in New York. He's a friend to me, he's a friend to New Yorkers. He's there. What if we had a democratic Congress? You do. Well, if we only had a democratic Senate, then we could do these things. We do and it's headed by a New Yorker. If you don't do it now, when are you possibly ever going to do it? 

Last point, this is going to take everyone working together. And to my private sector friends, I want to say, you have to be part of this. Everyone has to be back to the office. I understand remote learning. I understand the trepidation, but the numbers are down. We know how to do this safely. We need private sector companies to say to their employees I need you back in the office. Remote working for short period of time, fine, but that's not how the entrepreneurial economy works. And that's not how the entrepreneurial spirit works. It's the synergy. It's the stimulation. It's having people in a room banging around ideas. It's the dynamic that is generated that I don't care what you say about Zoom. It's just a different experience.

We need people coming back. We can do it safely. We can do it smarter. Let's pick Labor Day as a date. Say to your workforce by Labor Day everyone is back in the office. We need that volume to support the restaurants and the shops and the services. It's not just about your business. It's about all the spinoff economic activity that your workers bring to the surrounding community. And that's what we need. 

Look, in short, we know what we need to do, and that is always the first step. And that's often the hard step. We know what to do with COVID. We know how to get back the New York economy. We have the plan. Yes, we can manage COVID. Yes, we have the aggressive government action. Yes, local governments will act. Private sector businesses can help. We know how to revive the New York economy. You have to get crime under control. We have done it before. We have to get homeless under control. We have done it before. We have to build the future and show people and generate optimism. We are doing it. We have done it and we're going to do more of it. And we have to reduce taxes and get that SALT reform passed, which everyone promised to do. All we're saying to our federal officials, is do what you said you would do. 

That's the plan, but we have to execute and it's going to take us all together to get it done.

The good news is this is who we are and this is what we do. We are a state of doers. We are a state of people who step up to the challenge. Otherwise you wouldn't be here. New York is a special type of energy and it is a special type of person. And we are people who are aggressive and we are New York tough. And we don't take no for an answer. And we don't fail when we put our mind to something. And I believe we're going to overcome this. And I believe we can open a generation of progress for this state and city by being the first to do it. Los Angeles, Phoenix, Florida, Paris, Rome. They were all in the same competition. They all have the same obstacles, but nobody's as good at getting it done as New York. And that's why I feel good about where we are in this moment. It's going to be hard. It will be controversial, but it is doable and that's where we excel. And that's what makes us the greatest state in the nation. 

Mr. Rubenstein together, my friend, we're going to do this.

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