Governor Cuomo: "Let me be clear, the Black and brown communities that were first on the list of who died cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccine, period. We cannot and we will not let that happen. The Reverend Dr. King who spoke in this magnificent church said of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane because it often results in physical death. COVID proved Dr. King right. We need to make special efforts with the vaccine to reach the underserved Black, brown and poor communities. The private market alone will not do it. We need to enlist community groups to distribute the vaccine in their community. We need faith-based groups that the community trusts to distribute the vaccine. We need medical teams and outreach teams going into public housing projects and low-income communities. New York State will mobilize an army to vaccinate all New Yorkers fairly, equitably. No State will do it better."
Cuomo: "There can be no more fundamental right in this moment than access to the vaccine. Any plan that intentionally burdens communities of color to hinder access to the vaccine deprives those communities of equal protection under the law and equal protection is enshrined in the Constitution of these United States. The Supreme Court held in Plyler v. Doe, 1982, denial of certain basic rights to and, I quote, 'An isolated group poses an affront to one of the goals of the Equal Protection Clause.' The Trump Administration's proposed plan is such an affront. I tell you today if the Trump Administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process, we will enforce our legal rights, we will bring legal action to protect New Yorkers. The State of New York will join with the Urban League and Marc Morial and Arva Rice and the NAACP, Hazel Dukes and Derrick Johnson and we will fight to make sure every life is protected equally, because enough people and have died and enough injustice has been done during COVID. It stops now. It stops with this vaccine."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at Riverside Church on the inequities in the Trump administration's vaccine distribution plan.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Reverend Michael Livingston: Good morning and welcome to worship in the Riverside community here in New York and wherever you are. I'm Michael Livingston, the interim senior minister. You'll be able to follow the service online and you can also download the bulletin. I hope you'll share the video with family and friends and expand the screen to focus entirely on the service or you can participate in the lively chat if you're watching on YouTube.
The virus is surging and that means we'll continue to worship online from the safety of our homes. As much as we'd might like to gather in person we aren't going to do so now before late April or the beginning of May.
In light of the expected second wave of the virus, the utter seriousness of this moment, we are honored today to be joined by the 56th Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo. During the last nine years in office Governor Cuomo has been a champion of social justice. He raised the minimum wage, passed paid family leave, and enacted sweeping criminal justice reform, setting a model for what progressive government can achieve.
At the same time he has spoken out against hatred in all forms. Dr. King said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. We know Governor Cuomo isn't silent about the things that matter. While the Trump administration has remained silent during the civil unrest of this summer, or worse, tweeted conspiracy theories, Governor Cuomo wasn't afraid to speak truth to power. He said forcefully and with conviction, Black Lives Matter.
Governor Cuomo is a people's governor with a sensible approach. We are regularly in touch with his office on issues affecting our community. We talked about the importance of Juneteenth and I was thrilled that he made this an official state holiday.
Many of us have tuned in to watch his COVID briefings over the last 260 days, but who's counting? He showed the nation what true leadership looks like by delivering the facts, but also advocating for compassion, equality and unity.
He's been a great leader and we're honored to have him here today. Please join me from the safety of your homes and here in the sanctuary in welcoming Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. It's truly my pleasure and honor to be here and first, to the Reverend Michael Livingston and Riverside Church, this church is such a great part of history but it is not resting on its laurels. It is shaping a better future for all of us and Reverend, we are all grateful for your leadership and we thank you for what you're doing. Let's give the Reverend a round of applause.
I'm joined by my colleagues in government here today. We have Speaker Carl Heastie and members of the Senate and the Assembly delegation. It's great to be with you, Mr. Speaker and my friends. We have Congressman Adriano Espaillat, my partner in Washington. Thank you for joining us. We have the godfather of the federal government here with us today. We all learned at his knees, the great Congressman Charles Rangel. Thank you very much for being with us, Congressman. We also have the President and CEO of the National Urban League, once a Mayor always a Mayor, Marc Morial, pleasure to be with you. We have our great Hazel Dukes, my second mother, the president of the NAACP, let's give her a round of applause. We're also joined with Hawk Newsome and Chivona Newsome, who are the cofounders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pleasure to be with all of you. And to all the members of my administration, my special guests in attendance, thank you, thank you all very much.
2020 will go down in the books as a truly bad year, we all know that. I can't wait for it to be over and celebrate a socially-distanced New Year's Eve party. We saw great division. We saw anger, we saw violence, we endured great economic pain and fear. And we lost too many lives. There were some silver linings. Families came together. The quarantine brought my three daughters home. They are 25 and 25, twins, and 23, three girls. And they had flown the nest to make their own way because they needed liberation and individuality and freedom. And because Dad just didn't get it. So, they flew the nest, but then COVID happened and they all flew back to the safety of the nest. And apparently Dad had gotten a little bit smarter while they were gone.
We spent quality time together, and one of the issues we talked about was the reality that we will make mistakes in life. we try not to, but we do. The key is to be strong and secure enough to admit your mistakes and admit your shortcomings. Don't get defensive. Denying the mistake only assures repeating the mistake. We have made mistakes during COVID. I wrote a book on the lessons to be learned from the COVID crisis. I think of COVID as low tide for America. Do you know how when you stand on the beach, and you look out at the water, and the tide is high, and all you see is the surface of the water, and the waves, and everything looks nice and beautiful. But you stand at the same point at low tide, when the water goes out and the sea bottom is revealed, and you see rocks, and you see debris, and you see the ugliness that the water was covering.
COVID was low tide in America, and it showed us the ugliness and flaws deep down in our society. And if we are smart, and if we are secure, we must now acknowledge the ugliness and correct it as we go forward. COVID low tide showed the lack of trust in the federal government. We have a vaccine on the way, truly great news. But polls say 50 percent of the American people say they would not take the vaccine if it were available today because they don't trust the way this federal government has politicized the process. So New York, and other states, seven in total, will simultaneously review the vaccine approval with independent medical experts so people know it's safe.
Undocumented people distrust the federal government and believe they may use the vaccine process to identify them for deportation. New York must make sure they doesn't happen. We must restore trust in government, because a vaccine will only work if people trust the government enough to take it, and that has to be our mission here in the State of New York.
COVID low tide in America showed us the federal government's incompetence. We needed to test people for COVID, remember COVID tests. But we didn't have enough nasal swabs. Nurses and doctors battled brilliantly in emergency rooms, but we didn't have enough masks and gowns. Now we have to vaccinate 330 million Americans. This is a massive operation and by far the most challenging to date. For scale, just think about this: over the past eight months in this nation with everyone doing COVID tests- hospitals, doctor's offices, government- we've done 120 million COVID tests. How long will it take us to administer 330 million vaccines? The federal government must learn from its mistakes and dedicate the resources and supplies to get the job done right this time. Rhetoric only goes so far. We don't want to hear anymore. We want actions because it is results that matter at the end of the day.
COVID low tide in America also showed us the deep inequality in our country and the systemic discrimination in this nation. That is the sad reality and we must have the courage to face it and to admit it because you will never solve a problem that you are unwilling to admit. The truth is COVID killed Black people in this country at twice the rate of white people. The truth is COVID killed Hispanic people at 1.5 times the rate of white people. Those are ugly facts. The COVID infection rate was 2.5 times higher among Black and Hispanic people and the hospitalization rate for Black and Hispanic patients was over three times higher compared to white patients. Those are ugly facts. COVID low tide showed that the existing health disparities in this country made it more likely that Blacks would die from the virus. Black populations are 1.7 times more likely to have diabetes; 1.4 times more likely to have hypertension; 1.3 times more likely to face obesity; and three times more likely to have asthma. Those are the ugly facts. So now the vaccine is on the way, great news, but the big question now is who gets the vaccine? How is it going to be distributed and will it be equitable and will it be fair? The Trump administration is designing the distribution plan and their plan basically has private healthcare companies administer the vaccine: hospitals, big drugstores, doctor's offices, et cetera. It sounds fine, right? But hold on. We know that our Black and brown and poor communities have fewer health care institutions. Their communities are all too often healthcare deserts. That's why we have more underlying conditions and that's why the COVID death toll is so high for Black and brown communities. We're not going to make the same mistake again. Period. Majority Black zip codes are 67 percent more likely to face a shortage of primary care doctors. The president talks about CVS and Walgreens and national chains. Sure, but they are mainly located in rich communities not in poor communities. My friends we can't compound the racial injustice that COVID already created. Let me be clear, the Black and brown communities that were first on the list of who died cannot be last on the list of who receives the vaccine, period.
We cannot and we will not let that happen. The Reverend Dr. King who spoke in this magnificent church said of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane because it often results in physical death. COVID proved Dr. King right. We need to make special efforts with the vaccine to reach the underserved Black, brown and poor communities. The private market alone will not do it.
We need to enlist community groups to distribute the vaccine in their community. We need faith-based groups that the community trusts to distribute the vaccine. We need medical teams and outreach teams going into public housing projects and low-income communities. New York State will mobilize an army to vaccinate all New Yorkers fairly, equitably. No State will do it better.
Speaker Carl Heastie is here, the Assembly is here, the Senate is here. We've discussed it. We will do a better job than any state in the nation. That is our promise. But we ned the federal resources to do it. New York State already has a $15 billion deficit. The federal government has been starving state and local governments and they know it. Their own federal government CDC says it will cost $6.6 billion to do a fair distribution program. They've only provided $140 million.
All this federal government does is point fingers. It's about time they look in the mirror. Don't tell us it's a state's responsibility without giving the state the resources to do the job. You fool no one. We call that in New York passing the buck without passing the bucks. You're not going to get away with it anymore.
President Trump must learn the lesson: Stop the abuse. Stop the division. Stop the anger. Stop the hatred. Stop the narcissism and spend your last months actually trying to help people and repairing the damage you have done. Who gets the vaccine and who doesn't get the vaccine is not just a question of morality and principle, it's a legal question.
I've tried to work with the Trump administration and argue morality and principle for 4 years. You're better off trying to argue with a rock. But, it's not just about morality. I hope that Trump administration opens their eyes, but i'm dubious. I'm not going to allow New Yorkers to be bullied or to be abused. I'm not going to allow the injustice to continue. Let's look at the law.
There can be no more fundamental right in this moment than access to the vaccine. Any plan that intentionally burdens communities of color to hinder access to the vaccine deprives those communities of equal protection under the law and equal protection is enshrined in the Constitution of these United States. The Supreme Court held in Plyler v. Doe, 1982, denial of certain basic rights to and, I quote, "An isolated group poses an affront to one of the goals of the Equal Protection Clause." The Trump Administration's proposed plan is such an affront. I tell you today if the Trump Administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process, we will enforce our legal rights, we will bring legal action to protect New Yorkers. The State of New York will join with the Urban League and Marc Morial and Arva Rice and the NAACP, Hazel Dukes and Derrick Johnson and we will fight to make sure every life is protected equally, because enough people and have died and enough injustice has been done during COVID. It stops now. It stops with this vaccine.
And it's not just right for the Black and brown community. It's smart for everyone, because the virus shows us the simple truth. Unless everyone is protected, no one is protected. COVID doesn't discriminate - neither should we. As Dr. King said, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny," whatever affects one whatever, affects all indirectly affects all indirectly. COVID was low tide and we saw our ugliness. The truth is, COVID is not the only virus attacking us. We are being attacked by other viruses. COVID weakened our immune system. And when your immune system is weakened, then you get attacked by other viruses. And that's what happened to America - we're being attacked by multiple viruses at the same time. And we must fight them all, because racism is a virus; and sexism is a virus; and discrimination is a virus; and injustice is a virus; and division is a virus; and distrust is a virus; and abuse of power is a virus; and hatred is a virus. And our America is better than this. Our America is strong enough to admit her mistakes and to grow from them. Our America is not a low tide America. Our America is a high tide America. Our America rises up and confronts that which diminishes our belief in our America's potential and promise. Remember Langston Hughes: "Our America is the dream that dreamers dreamed let it be that great strong land of love. Oh yes, I say it plain. America never was America to me and yet I swear this oath America will be." And New York will lead the way. Thank you and God bless you.