Governor Launches "Roll Up Your Sleeve" Ad Campaign To Encourage New Yorkers From Hardest Hit Neighborhoods to Get Vaccinated
Statewide Ads Will Begin Running April 7
New Yorkers 16 Years of Age and Older Can Begin to Schedule Appointments and Get Vaccinated Beginning April 6
New York State Will Make Eligibility Universal Nearly a Month Earlier Than President Biden's May 1 Deadline
Governor Cuomo: "Let's take the moment and recognize the injustices that existed and correct them. And COVID showed us a lot of these injustices right up close and personal. The inequality in the education system. Now, we always knew we had two education systems, right? One for the rich and one for the poor, let's be honest, we're in Queens, we can say, honestly, candidly. But that remote learning exploded the injustice, remote learning. Yeah, remote learning works great if you have the internet, if you have the right computer and device, if you have someone who can help you. Otherwise, you got left behind at a hundred miles an hour, the speed of the internet. Worst income inequality in the history of this state and this nation. Not broadband accessibility for everyone. Let's rebuild with new airports like the Congressman is working on, and new trains, and new bridges, and new houses, and new home ownership. New job training that really gives people the skills, finally put in the green economy that we've been talking about and dreaming about, and everyone's been talking about, but nobody's been doing. We'll do that first here in New York in our renewal."
Cuomo: "But the first step towards renewal is what? Is defeating COVID. Do not get cocky with COVID. Do not get cocky with COVID. "Well, it seems like it's getting better." It is. Do not get cocky with COVID. There are variants, this virus changes on you, it mutates on you, hundreds of times a week around the world. All you need it one mutation that is vaccine-resistant, and then we have a problem. We have to crush COVID, and we have it on the run, but now is a time that we have to crush it once and for all. And the fist step towards doing that is you have to take the vaccine. You have to take the vaccine."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the start of the statewide "Roll Up Your Sleeve" ad campaign to encourage all New Yorkers, especially those from neighborhoods where COVID was most devastating, to get vaccinated. The ads will be shown on television and online statewide beginning April 7. The ads were directed by Contagion screenplay writer Scott Burns, and shot at New York City's Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. This effort comes as universal eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine goes into effect and all New Yorkers 16-years-of-age and older are eligible to receive the vaccine starting April 6. This comes nearly a month earlier than President Biden's May 1 deadline for states to enact universal eligibility.
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:
Okay, good morning. It is a good morning, isn't it? We have a great, great group of people here today. I want to thank everybody very much for coming. We're setting up a pop-up site right here in Rochdale Village, and we want to get the word out. Let's give a big round of applause. We have a number of guests you're going to hear from in a moment, starting with Congressman Gregory Meeks, who is a new grandfather. Let's give the new grandfather a bigger round of applause. Look at that. You'll then hear from Jennifer Jones Austin, who's the CEO director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. Jennifer Jones Austin has been such a force for social justice in this city and in this state in every way, fighting for equality. Thank you so much, Jennifer Jones Austin. We have Assembly Member Vivian Cook, who has been a great champion for Queens. We have Dr. Yomaris Pena, who is from SOMOS Community Care. SOMOS and Dr. Tallaj, thank you Dr. Tallaj. Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ is going to be joining us. We have Councilperson Adams with us today, thank you for your good work. We have the head of the NAACP, the indominatable Hazel Dukes, who is with us today. Hazel Dukes is my second mother. I'm always nervous when she's behind me that she's going to give me a little wakeup call.
It's a pleasure to be home for me. Queens is home. When people say to me, boy, you have a New York accent, I say I don't have a New York accent. That is a Queens accent, that is the Queens accent, and I'm proud of it. I've been to Rochdale Village many, many times. The Cuomo family all was Queens. My father started in Jamaica, Queens, South Jamaica, moved up to Hollis Queens. That was the entire trajectory of the Cuomo family, was about three miles. We went from Jamaica to Hollis, Queens. My first apartment, Sunnyside, Queens, my first house, Douglaston, Queens. So it's a pleasure to be back. Queens is a special place. To me, Queens really represents the heart of what New York is all about. It's diversity, it's unity, it's strength, it's people who are finding commonalities rather than differences.
Queens people also have an attitude, I want you to know. There is a Queens attitude. I have a Queens attitude, always have, always will. They used to say my father had a chip on his shoulder, and my father would say that's not a chip on my shoulder, that's my Queens attitude on my shoulder. You know, you grow up in Queens, you grow up in an outer borough.
What is Queens? It's an outer borough. Now, there's a meaning in that, outer borough. There is no inner borough, right? Have you ever heard of an inner borough? There isn't an inner borough, it's only outer boroughs. Queens is an outer borough. Brooklyn's an outer borough. Bronx is an outer borough. Staten Island's an outer borough. But they called you an outer borough because you were different. The outer boroughs are where the working people live. The middle-class people, the poor people lived in an outer borough. There is no inner borough, but the inner borough was Manhattan. That's where the wealthy people lived, in Manhattan, and when you lived in Queens, the attitude was always, well, why don't you live in Manhattan? Well, because you're outer borough people. you don't have the same level of wealth, you don't have the same level of power, you don't have the same level of resources. True, and that's why Queens and the outer boroughs need fairness and equity and justice and representation to make sure there's equality.
Yesterday was Easter for those who celebrate it. I celebrated Easter yesterday, I'm a Catholic. Easter is the spirit of renewal. It's the beginning of Spring. The Bible says in song of songs, "Behold, the winter is past, flowers appear on Earth. The season of singing has come." We went through a long winter, probably the longest winter of my life. we went through the COVID winter. It was the coldest, the darkest, most frightening winter we have ever gone through. People were isolated, people were afraid, you couldn't go outdoors, you couldn't touch, couldn't hug. You couldn't see family members, you couldn't see your mother, you couldn't see your grandmother, you're afraid, literally, to see one another. How cruel a winter. How cruel. And then deaths on top of it. Deaths where people died in hospitals and you never even had a chance to say goodbye. People died, you never had a chance to go to a wake, you never had a chance to go to a funeral. It's that they just disappeared, they died alone. And there was no way to grieve. And then there were rumors on top of rumors, and fears, and it was worldwide. And then this terrible politics on top of it, and who's denying it, and who's telling you the truth, and who's lying. It was the winter of hell, is what it was. But to me, Easter says seasons change, and there's a cycle, and things move on, and Easter is about Spring and renewal. And as cold and as dark as everything was, then you start to see the flower appear magically from the Earth that you thought was baren and frozen. And we are in the season of renewal. And we have to make it a season of renewal. It doesn't just happen. Renewal requires effort. You have to see a different reality, and you have to make it happen, and that's where we are now.
The Bible says the Spring rains don't feed the flocks. We have to sow what we want to reap. It is our effort. And what we're saying at this point in time, with the Spring, with the sunshine coming back, with the flower coming out, we're going to rebuild this state. We're going to rebuild this state, and not just rebuild it, we're going to reimagine it, we're going to reinvent it. We're going to take it to a place it's never been before. When I was in the federal government, I did emergency disasters, and I'll never forget, I was in the Midwest of the United States and there had been a terrible flood. And we were standing outside a house that was flooded, and floods are nasty. They're nasty. You think it's just water that comes and goes. No, it's sludge, and it's silt, and it's mud. And there was a family standing outside the house looking at a house that was basically destroyed, and they're picking through to find belongings. And the father calls the family together, and the father says "see the house now? Imagine what it's going to be. Imagine when we can get rid of that old refrigerator that didn't work anyway. Imagine now we can finish the basement that we never finished. Imagine now we can build a big family room that we always wanted to build. Imagine the renewal and the opportunity that comes in renewal. So we're not just going to rebuild what was. We're working on a plan in Albany now that's going to build a New York that is reimagined, reinvented, rebuilt, reunited in a way never before. We're going to advance this state.
Let's take the moment and recognize the injustices that existed and correct them. And COVID showed us a lot of these injustices right up close and personal. The inequality in the education system. Now, we always knew we had two education systems, right? One for the rich and one for the poor, let's be honest, we're in Queens, we can say, honestly, candidly. But that remote learning exploded the injustice, remote learning. Yeah, remote learning works great if you have the internet, if you have the right computer and device, if you have someone who can help you. Otherwise, you got left behind at a hundred miles an hour, the speed of the internet. Worst income inequality in the history of this state and this nation. Not broadband accessibility for everyone. Let's rebuild with new airports like the Congressman is working on, and new trains, and new bridges, and new houses, and new home ownership. New job training that really gives people the skills, finally put in the green economy that we've been talking about and dreaming about, and everyone's been talking about, but nobody's been doing. We'll do that first here in New York in our renewal.
But the first step towards renewal is what? Is defeating COVID. Do not get cocky with COVID. Do not get cocky with COVID. "Well, it seems like it's getting better." It is. Do not get cocky with COVID. There are variants, this virus changes on you, it mutates on you, hundreds of times a week around the world. All you need it one mutation that is vaccine-resistant, and then we have a problem. We have to crush COVID, and we have it on the run, but now is a time that we have to crush it once and for all. And the fist step towards doing that is you have to take the vaccine. You have to take the vaccine.
Now there are three reasons why people don't want to take the vaccine. My terminology, my medical terminology. First is the superhero theory. "I'm not afraid of COVID. Let COVID try to attack me. I'm a superhero. Go ahead. I can't be beaten by COVID." Okay, maybe you're Superman, maybe you're Superwoman. You can get it and give it to someone else who is not a superhero. Don't just think about yourself, think about other people.
Second theory is the I'm a scientist. Well, I haven't seen the full data on the facts of the vaccine and until I review the full data and the long-term effects. Yeah. There is more risk in not taking the vaccine than in taking the vaccine. The risk is not just to you, the risk is you're going to effect your mother, your grandmother, your grandfather or someone else.
The third theory is the skeptic theory. I'm part in the skeptic theory. Well, the federal administration of Donald Trump said the vaccine is safe. That means nothing to me. I mean, that's good. We never took Donald Trump and his federal administration's word on whether or not the vaccine was safe. We put together our own New York panel of the best doctors, the best scientists and we checked that vaccine.
On the skeptics, no one is asking you to be the first. Ten million New Yorkers have taken the vaccine. I've taken the vaccine. It is safe. We know that. We need people to take the vaccine. We have to do it in a way that is fair. Not only did COVID kill, COVID discriminated. COVID discriminated. COVID killed twice as many Black people as white people. COVID killed one and a half as many times Latino people as white people. Why? Because the Black community didn't have the same access to health care. They didn't have the same hospital system and the doctor system, the same primary care system. More underlying conditions.
COVID exposed that discrimination and fed on that discrimination. When it comes to vaccines, my point is very simple. The people who should be at the front of the line are the people who are at the end of the line when it came to testing and being able to deal with COVID. We have work to do. In New York City, population is 53 percent white. It's 54 percent of the population that has actually received the vaccine. The Black community is 27 percent of the population. Only 19 percent of the people who have gotten vaccines. Latino community, 28 percent of the population, only 23 percent of the population who has received the vaccine.
We are doing everything we can to get this equitable and fair. We are bringing the vaccines to the Black community, to the Latino community. 189 pop-up vaccine sites in communities of color. We're bringing it to Black churches so it's there and we have the faith-based community advocating it. We're bringing it to Rochdale Village tomorrow with SOMOS at the Grand Ballroom.
We need you to come out and take it. We need you to come out and take it. We're going to start a new effort today, a public education campaign that reminds people that it's smart and it's right and it's caring to come out and get the vaccine. We call it the Roll Up Your Sleeve public education campaign. It's been done with some truly talented people. We have Jane Rosenthal, who is an artistic genius who runs Tribeca Productions. Tribeca helped New York come back after 9/11, if you remember, by bringing people back to downtown Manhattan. Let's thank Jane Rosenthal. Charlie King, let's give him a round of applause. Scott Burns, who's the producer whose done a magnificent job and Columbia University.
Let's look at the Roll Up Your Sleeve ad. Get the vaccine because it's up to us. Then we'll hear from the great Congressman and new grandfather and great champion of Queens, friend of mine for a long time. We've worked together here in New York, we worked together in Washington, D.C. You'll hear from Congressman Gregory Meeks, then Jennifer Jones Austin, then Assembly Member Vivian Cook, then Dr. Yamaris Peña and then Kyle Bragg. We thank you all very much for being here. Thank you, God bless you.
Rep. Gregory Meeks: Let me first thank the Governor of the State of New York for all the work that he's done. Let me quickly recognize the partners here at Rochdale Village. Let me thank the members of the board of Rochdale Village. All of the clergy that are here and community leaders and my partners in government. From the State Assembly, the Honorable Vivian Cook and from the City Council the Honorable Adrienne Adams. 32BJ, 32 - and everyone that is here.
It's been a year. The Governor said it right, it has been a cold, cold, long year. Sometimes we forget where we were and how we progressed to where we are today. A year ago, it was almost day for a while somebody I knew was either hospitalized or dying because of this pandemic. It was confusing with all of the information that was coming out of Washington, D.C. New York had become the epicenter of the nation. Even the scientists and the doctors were trying to figure it out as we were dealing with this pandemic. We forget that the administration in Washington, D.C. did not have a clue or if they did, they were not telling us the truth about what was going on.
Governor, I want to thank you because you were the one person that on a consistent basis stood up and said this is a long war and I'm not making it up because you've got the doctors and the scientists to tell us as they were learning it every day. Didn't happen out of a vacuum. He wasn't guessing. He was going to doctors and scientists and as they were changing what they were saying, he would come and give us that information on the spot.
The information that we needed at the time to move forward to save lives, because around the world, we did not know. We had never seen anything like this in 100 years. We needed someone to tell us the truth. As we started to figure out what was happening in this pandemic, we needed someone who would not just make it up out of thin air. Every day he was going to the doctors, he was going to the scientists, he was talking to the experts. He was looking for the facts all around the world and he was coming back to give us what we were not getting from the presidential administration.
We owe him a deep need of thanks and gratitude for doing just that. As we come through and we start to see light at the end of the tunnel, we've got to not jump and think that we're out of the tunnel yet. We're still in the tunnel and we see that light and the nearer we get to that light, so that there's nothing that caves in before us is to make sure that we get tested and vaccinated.
Thank you Governor. You've come through. I can testify right here in the 5th Congressional District, working in a partnership with FEMA, we are now over 113,000 vaccinations at York College in Jamaica, New York. Some thought we cut the deal and said what we needed to do 3,000 shots a day, some questioned whether we can do it, we made it every day because if you make it accessible we can get it done.
And so, yes there's been a trust factor for the African-American community. When people came along, when you look at the history of the country and what has taken place there, but the way that you destroy the doubt is with facts and accessibility. So if you, as we see this taking place now, at one point when you look and you went to the African-American community 31 percent had said that they would get vaccinated, only 31 percent. But if you look at it now, because of the tests, because of bringing and making it more accessible, now it's up to 63 percent. And by bringing it here in Rochdale Village to people, to seniors - you know Rochdale Village is really a city in a city. I see the pastors here - it then gives that example because then folks will start to say even more, they see York College, it's accessible, they care about us. It's that Rochdale Village is accessible, you care about us. It's at Aqueduct, you care about us. And when they see the communities taking the vaccine, I've got my two shots, it lets them know that the way to get to the end of that tunnel is to be vaccinated.
And we're going to join you, Governor, I pledge, as I see the new President's - the 46th President of the United States - $1.9 trillion stimulus package coming out of the Federal government and we're making sure that the State gets what it needs so that we don't just build back, we build back better. And when we finish with this infrastructure program that the President of the United States is putting forward to deal with infrastructure with deference to closing the wealth gap and education and housing and bridges and airport like JFK Airport. We will indeed build back together and better and we will make sure that we are better prepared in the future to make sure that tomorrow, our tomorrow, is much better than our today or yesterday because we will be a stronger state.
Jennifer Jones Austin: Thank you. Thank you, Governor Cuomo. I want to begin by thanking you for your very kind and generous words concerning me. You spoke of my modest efforts in leading the fight for social justice, and as you did, I was reminded of my dad - like you, I had a dad who was larger than life, the late Reverend Dr. Augustus Jones Jr. And I'm one of the fortunate ones who grew up never having to wonder whether my parents loved me. My daddy and my mommy loved me dearly, my mom still loves me dearly. What mattered most in our household was working to make sure our parents were proud of us. And so when you talked about my efforts it made me think if my daddy were here, perhaps he'd be proud, so thank you for that. Thank you so much.
I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to Southeast Queens and to all of the communities hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. As the leader of the FPWA - which is more than 170 human service organizations and faith-based organizations working in communities hardest hit by COVID and many other ailments that discriminatorily affect them, people of color, and as a member of the African-American COVID-19 Task Force for Vaccine Equity and education, I'm glad that we're all here today, and especially our Governor. I consider it pure joy because it is our purpose to be here and to do all that we can for the people who are suffering the most.
I'm glad to see that many of our fellow members of the COVID-19 Task Force are here as well. They are Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, NAACP New York; Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ; Karen Boykin-Towns, Vice President of the NAACP National Board of Directors; Arva Rice, President & CEO of the New York Urban League; and Charlie King, Partner for Mercury Public Affairs.
We are grateful to you, Governor Cuomo, for creating and launching the Roll Up Your Sleeve Campaign and we are honored to be a part. This campaign will help spread the word that people in the hardest hit areas of our state can get the vaccine, and they can starting tomorrow if they are 16 or older. And everyone should get the vaccine, as the New York State Clinical Advisory Task Force has found the vaccine's Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna all are safe and effective. I've gotten my two, no side effects though.
It's been more than a year since COVID first began consuming so much of our lives, and sadly, since COVID began taking so many of our lives. So many have suffered. Thankfully, the COVID vaccine is proving we don't have to keep suffering unnecessarily. Throughout COVID, people of color have been talked about, especially those with health conditions and those who are essential workers, have suffered what once seemed unimaginable losses. But as the Governor has said, the first in line to suffer from COVID should not be the last in line to get the vaccine. And they shouldn't have to struggle to get it. Our communities have struggled enough - more than enough. And this is why community pop-ups like the one here at Rochdale Village are necessary. Fortunately, as the COVID vaccine proves effective, trust in it increases - the numbers are showing that trust in it, the numbers are increasing, trust is increasing. And consequently, demand for the vaccine is increasing. And Governor Cuomo is making sure that the hardest hit communities are not left behind, do not have to struggle anymore. We need the vaccine to be available in our communities, our communities deserve it. The Vaccine Equity Task Force and the Roll Up Your Sleeve Campaign have brought the vaccine directly to our doorsteps, and thanks to our Governor, you can begin tomorrow, getting the vaccine right here in Rochdale Village. I want to close by thanking the clergy from all faiths for opening their houses of worship to the Roll Up Your Sleeves Campaign. Your leadership, every day, day in and day out, serves as an example of the parable of Matthew 25 - 'What you do for the least of me, you do for me' said Jesus. In this season of renewal, we are thankful for our Governor for making sure that our communities are not left behind - that they're not left behind and they're not last in line. To overcome COVID, we need everyone, as the Governor has said, to take this vaccine. Thank you Governor, for making this possible.
Assembly Member Vivian Cook: My name is Vivian Cook. I'm a New York State Assembly Member and Rochdale Village is in my district which is in Jamaica, Queens and I want to welcome the Governor back home to Jamaica, Queens. We're always happy to see him because he is one of our sons and he has made a great, great difference in the state of New York and we thank him. I worked on his father's first campaign. A man called Saul Weprin called Tom and I and asked us if we would work on Mario Cuomo's campaign and Tom and I went to work there and this little boy grew up. And I can call him a little boy, but I want to thank him for being here today and I want to thank everyone in the audience for being here. I want to ask the Councilmember to come here - I want her to come here and stand beside me. This is one of the people here who is working in the district also. And I want to thank the Governor for bringing this vaccine here to Jamaica, Queens. York College, we opened, and now we're here in Rochdale, in Jamaica, Queens again. So the people of New York and the people of southeast Queens, please thank this son of Queens for making sure that we are taken care of. We have had syphilis, we have had polio, we've had measles, we've had chicken pox and we have had everything, but nothing like this. And I want to also say, everybody in this state is important. We want everybody to have the vaccine and whatever it is that they need to survive. So, thank you Governor and I want to thank my colleagues, I want to thank the Congressman, I want to thank everybody for coming here to Jamaica today, and to Rochdale Village which is a part of Jamaica, Queens. So, we're not going to separate Rochdale from Jamaica, Queens, we are a family here and we're going to take care of each other. And we have a Governor in this state who is going to be there and we're going to work with it and we're going to make sure he stays there, so do it loud. We are proud and we are proud of him. So, no matter what you say or what you do, we're going to stick by this man - he's staying with us. Thank you.
Council Member Adrienne Adams: At the insistence of my very, very capable Assemblymember, all I want to say is thank you, Governor Cuomo, for always being present in your home, Jamaica, Queens, and being raised in Hollis, Queens, where I was raised also. We thank him for never forgetting Jamaica, Queens, his home. As the Assemblymember said, welcome home and thank you.
Dr. Yomaris Pena: Good morning, everyone. I am thrilled to be here. My name is Dr. Yomaris Pena and I belong to SOMOS Community Care, and I just want to thank you, Governor. I want to thank you for your leadership, and this comes from a place where we have been in the battle against COVID since day number one when you called us we were there. On March 16, I remember when we walked into the New York Stock Exchange and those were very gloomy and black days. I remember that. And being here right now in front of all of you, it's truly the saying that spring is here and we are here all together, and we're alive, and that is because of your leadership. Thank you. For those that don't know, COVID has been, because of you and your amazing team, in the communities. We do all these pop-ups for the communities, all the NYCHA buildings, we go into the churches, we take care of the Afro-Latino community, of the African American community, of the underserved. Those that, during the beginning of this pandemic, were the ones that were there, the people that are called essential. So, those are the ones that we serve with honor under your name, your leadership.
With that being said, I am very happy to announce to everybody that we have what we call the Roll Up Your Sleeve program. So, I am really happy that you roll up your sleeve and you go and get those vaccines into your arms. So New Yorkers, what does that mean? That means that we are here right now, we have the light and we are making all these pop-ups and all these sites accessible for you. In terms of science, this means that you have the opportunity to go back and hug your family and be with your family members, not being isolated. Because if we go to that threshold where we need that 70 percent where all of us will get vaccinated, 70 percent to reach what we call herd immunity, that's where we are going to say we are truly at the end of the tunnel, we could see the light. So, please I am inviting each one of you, each New Yorker that is out there, go and get your appointments. Go online. We have a program called Am I Eligible online, you can go on your website, you can go to your local doctors, you can go to all your pharmacies and to your pods and you can get your appointment. We're starting to roll up starting April 6th the universal eligibility, which will be 16 and over, so that is amazing. This is great.
In that, I just have to say we are in mass vaccination sites, Queens, we are here right now in Rochdale, but we have been at the Aqueduct, where we have served more than 135,000 New Yorkers. So, that is in conjunction with you and SOMOS, and I am happy to announce that this community center will serve seniors, will serve the people that live around here, so the access won't be an issue. So, take advantage of this, and I would say roll up your sleeves and come and get vaccinated. So, now I'm going to say it in Spanish, because our people need to know about this.
Hemos comenzado un programa nuevo gracias al liderazgo gracias de nuestroGobernador Andrew Cuomo. Yo represento a Somos Community Care, los doctores que han estado en su comunidad. Hablamos sus idiomas, entendemossu cultura y no nos importa el estatus migratorio de ninguno de ustedes, así que necesitamos que todos entiendan que debemos vacunarnos, ¡así que súbete la manga y vacúnate! independientemente de tu estatus, de tu color y de tu raza, ¡así que vacunémonos!
Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ SEIU: Well, thank you, and good afternoon. I too welcome you to south Queens, Mr. Governor, my Hollis homeboy. I also want to thank all of our leaders here today, people who have led in this community, our elected leaders, but other leaders who have led in this community in trying to keep our community safe. I want to thank you Congressman, who's been fighting like hell down in Washington to make sure that we get our fair share of resources. I want to thank our leaders here for making this facility available to our communities. So again, I'm Kyle Bragg, I'm President of 32BJ. Our members have been on the frontlines of this pandemic for a year. I represent 170,000 members across the east coast, 85,000 right here in this city, with hundreds who work right here in Rochdale keeping these tenants safe and secure during this terrible pandemic. They have paid a heavy price for that. We have suffered over 153 of our members who have been lost to this pandemic, to this horrible disease. Thousands more have lost their jobs because of it. The coronavirus has obviously changed all of our lives. Our members live and breathe the collective grief that is shared in our city and our nation, that we all feel so acutely in this moment. But, as many have already said, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
The vaccine and the skilled nurses and doctors that will be administrating this vaccine is the light at the end of this tunnel. This vaccine will help us end the dreadful disease that has ravaged our city, especially our communities of color. The vaccine is our ticket out. I got my vaccine two weeks ago; I carry my card with me every day. My wife and daughter are actually getting their vaccination right now as we speak. I did it because I want to make sure that my family, my friends, my members are safe, that everybody that I come in contact with is safe. We run a strong program of education around this vaccine that the Governor talked about. We have many people that are doubters and skeptics, but we want to talk to them about the facts, the facts that have been given to us by our state, that they must roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. We are strongly advocating for the 85,000 members to get the access to the vaccine, and we've been assisted in that effort by the State of New York, where we're getting thousands of doses of this vaccine to administer to our members at our union health center. This program is starting to look really good for our members, and they're looking forward to getting the vaccine and keeping their family, their friends, their coworkers safe.
We are continuing to advocate for more vaccines, more doses, to get right here in this state, and I know our Congressman is working hard, I know our Governor is fighting to make sure that we get our share of vaccines to keep our community safe and bring us back from out of the darkness of this terrible pandemic. And we are focused on our robust education program with our members, and with the general public to make sure that people understand that this is the way out, that the vaccine is safe. I did mine publicly because I want to make sure our members understand how important it is for us to take this vaccine and to rebuild this city and our state. We know that protecting all workers that it's not only the vaccine but with the health and safety protections, health care and living wages that help get us on the other side of this dreadful pandemic. There's never been a more important time for unions to collective bargain and rebuild an economy that works for everyone, including the brave and dedicated working people that kept this city going during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a more personal note, this pandemic has wreaked havoc I know on many of us. Our next door neighbor lost two of her family members, her mother and her brother, within two weeks of each other. Her brother, the impact of that loss, of course the impact of a mother's loss is horrible, but her brother, Jermaine Miller, was someone who worked right here in this community with the youth, and that has impacted our community. We have now had the access to this vaccine thanks to our Governor and Rochdale Village right here for the community and the surrounding community to make sure that we get the opportunity to come out of this pandemic in a safe way. And these communities of color have been hit the hardest, but I want to thank our Governor for recognizing that and making the equity fair across the state. Thank you, Mr. Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Wow, what a program. Everything has been said that needs to be said. Let me say this in closing, back to the Queens attitude. Sometimes we blame other people, other forces, they have to do this, they have to do that. We have come together as a state in a way that I've never seen before. People are working together in a way that I have never seen before. The federal government, this federal government - not the last federal government, this federal government - has stepped up to the plate and is doing the right thing. Congressman Greg Meeks fights every day. The federal government is doing the right thing. The state government is doing the right thing. Vivian Cook, thank you. Our partnerships are in place, the faith-based community is helping, the social agencies are helping, Jennifer Jones Austin is helping. Everyone is together, Hazel Dukes, the NAACP is together; the unions are in partnership, 32BJ, everyone is working together. You know who it's up to now? It's up to you. It's up to you. It's up to you to show up and roll your sleeve and do your duty as a citizen of the State of New York. We have an opportunity right now to crush COVID. We have it on the run. The enemy is retreating. We have to crush COVID. And only you can help us do that. Thank you and God bless you.