May 3, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo, Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont Announce Significant Easing of COVID-19 Pandemic Restrictions on Businesses, Gatherings and Venues

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo, Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont Announce Significant Easing of COVID-19 Pandemic Restrictions on Businesses, Gatherings and Venues
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New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to Lift Most Industry Capacity Restrictions Beginning May 19 Given Vaccination Progress and COVID-19 Case Decline

Business Capacity Limits to Be Replaced with Space Available to Maintain Six Feet of Social Distancing on May 19 in New York and New Jersey

Outdoor Social Gathering Limit Increases to 500 on May 10 in New York; Indoor Social Gathering Limit Increases to 250 on May 19 in New York

Outdoor Residential Gathering Limit is Removed and Indoor Residential Gathering Limit Increases to 50 on May 19 in New York

Large-Scale Indoor Venue Capacity Increases to 30% and Large-Scale Outdoor Venue Capacity Increases to 33% on May 19 in New York and New Jersey, Proof of Vaccination or Recent Negative Test Still Required in New York

New York City Subway Will Resume 24-Hour Service Beginning May 17

New York City Transit Currently Closed from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. Daily for Disinfection; Subway Ridership Surpassed 2 Million Passengers Per Day in April

MTA Continues its Historic Disinfection and Cleaning Effort; More Than 75% of MTA Customers Agree the Subways Have Never Been Cleaner

Mask Use Remains Mandatory in the MTA System

Governor Cuomo: "The key is smart reopening. Reopening is not a light switch. We said this from the beginning, it's not fully closed. Close the light switch fully open the light switch. It's a smart reopening. It's a measured reopening. It's a phased reopening, but we are point at a point now where we are going to take a major step forward in reopening."

Cuomo: "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, our mass transit system, which should have been done years ago, and we're going to lead the nation in the green economy period, because that is the future. And whoever gets there first wins. We're going to learn from this COVID nightmare that took this country unprepared and we're going to have the best public health system in the nation. That's how you seize this moment. To have a New York that's better than ever."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a significant easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on the region's businesses, venues and gatherings given significant progress in vaccinations and sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

The Governor also announced that the New York City Subway will resume 24 hour a day service beginning May 17. In April, MTA New York City Transit officials announced 2,009,025 trips were recorded on the subway on April 8, the first time that more than two million trips were taken on the subway since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. The MTA will continue its unprecedented disinfection and cleaning effort. More than 75 percent of MTA customers agree the subway has never been cleaner. The resumption of 24-hour service will coincide with the Governor's announcement lifting the 12 a.m. food and beverage service curfew for outdoor dining areas.

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 will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

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

Happy Monday. Oh, it's a better morning than that. Good morning, Mr. Siff. Good to see you. Pete, pleasure. Juliet, Zack. To my right Dr. Howard Zucker, our great health commissioner. I want to thank him for his good work. To my left Mr. Robert Mujica, budget director. If he doesn't look happy and peppy and bursting with love, don't take anything from it. He never looks happy and peppy and bursting with love. Man's face has no expression. Don't play poker with this man. He has no tells. Today is a milestone for New York State and a significant moment of transition so let's get to it.

We've been talking about COVID recovery, COVID recovery has two parts: managing COVID, precautions vaccinations, et cetera, and reopening. Two tracks simultaneously and balancing them. How do you do it? You follow the science and you follow the data. You follow the science and you follow the data. You disregard the politics which drove the COVID response in this nation last year. It was a political response, not a public health response and it caused a lot of damage. New York State always went a different way. There, there are numbers and there are data. There is data, and that should inform your decision. Look at your positivity rate. Look at your hospitalization rate. Now look at your vaccination rate and they will inform what you should do.

Our positivity rate has been going way down dramatically. 50 percent decline in the last month. Congratulations to New Yorkers. Hospitalization rate skiing down the mountain, 38 percent decline over the last month. Vaccination rate, the exact opposite, has been going straight up. We're now 9 million new Yorkers with at least one dose, 7 million new Yorkers fully vaccinated. Numbers overall, 1.9. Thirty-seven people still passed away yesterday and they are in our thoughts and prayers, but that's to chasten the exuberance. Well, it's over. It's over hallelujah. Spring is here. Yeah, 37 people died so it's not over.

Still variants across the state. Why? This is a function of community behavior. Western New York is still the highest. They're down, but they are still the highest. New York City, Brooklyn is actually higher now, which is a change. We've had Staten Island, which has had the highest positivity for quite some time. Not much of a difference with talking about 2.05 to 2.09. I don't even know if statistically that's relevant.

Vaccinations, 15 million total. 9 million, at least one dose. 7 million fully vaccinated. 35 percent of the population. Per the CDC, New York State has the highest number of adults fully vaccinated than any other large state. Thank you, New Yorkers. We still have more to do on the vaccinations and the vaccinations are key. This is the vaccination rate by week, which is interesting. We started back in March and we started slowly doing 1.3 million a week. Then we've been promoting it, we've been advertising it, I've been traveling all over the state giving everybody I know a vaccine. It's safe.

The President has been talking about the vaccines. Went up April 5th, went up April 12th, dropped April 19th, dropped April 26.

Why the drop? That's something we're studying. Obviously, the New Yorkers who were most eager to get the vaccine went out first. They got it and now you're having New Yorkers who are less eager to get it. Remember in the beginning, people were going on the website every 20 seconds and hitting the refresh button to get it.             We're past that population. Anybody who can get a vaccine now can just walk in and get it. There is no barrier to a vaccine, but you're starting to deal with a population that is just less eager to get it.

That's true. Some people hypothesize well after the J&J pause maybe that made people rethink. Nobody has any data on that. I think the J&J pause should have shown people the exact opposite. If they pause the vaccine because one person out of a million had a reaction that means they're studying these vaccines very carefully and you should take comfort in that fact, but we're seeing the number drop. Slight tick up last week, but you can see we're much lower than where we were.

Who were the groups who were targeting on the vaccination? Youthful and the doubtful. Those are our words. They're not like scientific words. Younger population and populations that have doubts. We're working very hard to get the younger people, incentives for younger people. I've asked high schools to organize events where they drive their students to a mass vaccination site. Put them on a bus and bring them to a mass vaccination site, because that is the population that we need to vaccinate. The doubtful, the hesitant population, that's more education, more information, more education, more information.

If you look at the percentage of vaccinated, which is interesting, 75-plus I thought was going to be the highest population. Actually, they're not. The 65 to 74 are the highest population at 70 percent. Now, there was a lot of emphasis on older people should get vaccinated, but 65 to 74, the highest you see it goes down by 55, 45, 35, 26. Lowest is 16 to 25. Why? Well, first of all, they were most recently eligible. They weren't eligible in the beginning. Second, they do have, some of them do have the superhero complex. I'm young, I can get it, I'll be fine. Don't worry about me.

I remember early on, there were young people who were down in Daytona Beach. I don't know if you remember the news story. They were running around in Daytona Beach like nothing was going on for spring break. They were on TV saying, ah, that's fine, if I get it, I get it. It's nothing. There's part of that. They were most reached recently eligible and there is an attitude that they'll be fine. Why should they take the backseat? My argument is, yeah, maybe you'll be fine. And by the way, you don't know that either. We've had a lot of young people who have died. Maybe you will get a long haul syndrome that we're not really sure what it is yet, but a lingering consequence of COVID or maybe you go home and kiss your grandmother and wind up killing your grandmother. So show some civic responsibility, but that's our target.

The doubtful, vaccine hesitant, anti-vaxxers are about 20 percent of the population and that's going to be a hard population to reach, but we're working on it all the time. If there's one thing that the global healthcare community agrees on with COVID and different people tell you different things every day, but I think if they agreed on one thing, the more vaccinated, the better. That's why we're working very hard, but look, it is irrefutable when you look at the numbers that New Yorkers have made tremendous progress. All the arrows are pointed in the right direction, have been for a while and are dramatically pointing in the right direction.

So it's time to readjust the decision made on the science and on the data. So today we announced a major reopening of New York State on May 19th. The key is smart reopening. Reopening is not a light switch. We said this from the beginning, it's not fully closed. Close the light switch fully open the light switch. It's a smart reopening. It's a measured reopening. It's a phased reopening, but we are point at a point now where we are going to take a major step forward in reopening.

When we did the close down, if you remember, we did it on a regionally coordinated basis, there is no - we live in a tri-state area. New York shouldn't be a competitor or an encumbrance to New Jersey or to Connecticut. If we are not coordinated, what you'll do is you'll drive people from New Jersey to come to New York. You'll drive people from Connecticut to come to New York or you'll drive people from New York to Connecticut. If we say the restaurants are open in Connecticut, but not in New York, you'll have New Yorkers driving to Connecticut. You'll have New Yorkers driving to New Jersey. The coordination is important because you're a mobile population. That's why it's important that Westchester has the same rules as New York City, as Nassau, as Suffolk. Otherwise you just swap locale. It makes no sense. So we worked with New Jersey, New York, other states on a Northeast coalition.

That's how we closed down and that's how we're going to reopen because the same theory is true. If New York has dramatically different rules than New Jersey, than Connecticut, you'll see people driving back and forth and that helps no one. So we we've been working with a coordination plan, especially on the tri-state area.

What we've agreed on a regionally coordinated basis. Beginning Wednesday, May 19th. Most capacity restrictions will end across the tri-state area. That includes retail stores, food services, gyms, fitness centers, amusement and family entertainment, hair salons, barbershops, offices, et cetera. No capacity restrictions on all of those activities.

So, museums, theaters, Broadway, retail, shops now they may make their own economic decision as to when they need to reopen, because they can have critical mass. We're talking to Broadway. Broadway, for example, has a schedule. They have to produce a play before they can sell the play. So there's a schedule for them, but from a capacity point of view they can all reopen on May 19th. Offices also.

New York State, we have slightly different rules than the tri-state coalition. Our variances are, as we've said, outdoor food and beverage curfew was lifted on May 17th. What does that mean? Outdoor restaurants, outdoor bars. The curfew was lifted on May 17th. Indoor food and beverage, indoor restaurant service curfew was lifted May 31st.

So we go right back to the old rules. Indoor catered events, the limit increases to 250, but if they do testing it goes to 500 on May 19th. Residential gatherings go to 50 on May 19th. Outdoor large stadiums go to 33 percent on May 19th. This is the Mets. This is the Yankees. It goes to 33 percent.

We're still working with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut on a joint protocol that would allow us to go higher with a testing or vaccinated caveat. So, for non-vaccinated people, you have X percent. If you have vaccinated people or people who took a test, you have an additional capacity. We're working through that now, but for now, the stadiums are 33 percent.

In New York, we're going to keep the six foot CDC requirements because we do err on the side of safety. CDC keeps the six foot social distancing requirement. That is still in effect, so our capacity restrictions are subject to the six feet, right? So this room has a capacity restriction and the capacity restriction applies.

Up to the point where you can afford six foot social distancing. If the CDC changes their guidance, then we'll change our guidance. Having said that, for events that can show proof of vaccination or recent negative tests, the six foot limit does not need to apply, okay? So it's six feet, but if you say, look, I'm only going to allow press in the room who are fully vaccinated, I'm only going to allow people in the restaurant who are fully vaccinated or just took a negative test, then you can go above the six feet. We started this with the playoff games in Buffalo. If you are vaccinated, you are in a different situation. If you have a recent PCR test, then you are in a different situation. I prefer vaccinated.

We're also starting to talk to other countries about if a person is vaccinated in New York and a person is vaccinated in another country, then those people life should be returning to normal. You're vaccinated. It's an incentive to be vaccinated. So six feet CDC requirement, unless it is organized around vaccinations or negative test results.

This is a major reopening of economic and social activity, right? And it's coordinated regionally, which is smart, but if you reopen economic and social activity, you also have to have transportation available. So we're going to coordinate the MTAs resumption of 24 hour service with the reopening. And immediately with the curfew lift - curfew lift will apply to restaurants, bars, et cetera, especially in Manhattan - workers are going to need to get back and forth. Now you'll have people working till four o'clock in the morning again, so the MTA will resume their 24 hour service on May 17th to coordinate with the economic and social economic activity increase.

Importantly to the MTA, we made significant gains with the MTA during this period of time. The MTA — subway trains have never been cleaner than they are now. I can't tell you how many New Yorkers say to me, "It's amazing. The trains are cleaner than they have ever been." I can't tell you how many New Yorkers say to me, "There are fewer homeless who are now on the trains." Because when they closed in the evening for a couple of hours at night, they did the cleaning and they referred the homeless to supportive services, which is what they needed in the first place. And that is, an indisputable fact that the MTA provided better service. Nobody wants the MTA to now go back to the old days. So, I told the MTA for my two cents, 24 hour service, yes, but the trains must remain clean and we have to help the homeless and we can't go backwards on the quality of service - that must continue.

I want to thank Governor Murphy of New Jersey and Governor Lamont for their cordiality and professionalism. The governors tend to work together. We have a weekly meeting with the White House where we all coordinate. I chair that as Chairman of the National Governors Association, but here locally we've really had a special working relationship with Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont. We don't have identical policies because we're in slightly different situations, but our policies do complement one another and I don't think they encumber one another. So I want to thank them very much.

What happens next? What happens next is what the science and the data says happens next. Well, what happens in two months? What happens in three months? What happens in four months? I don't know. Unless you have a crystal ball, you don't know either, and then you'd have to believe in a crystal ball, even if you had a crystal ball, I followed the numbers and the science and the data. I believe in the trajectory that we're seeing, I believe we'll continue to get people vaccinated. I believe it is indisputable that the more people vaccinated, the better the situation. We see our hospitalizations down, positivity down, vaccinations up — we just have to keep all of those headed in the right direction. God forbid, something happens, then God forbid something happens and then we deal with it at the time.

We're going to continue focusing on the vaccinations. Young people have to get vaccinated and I'm going to continue working on that. The doubtful population — there are also facts here and this is not a political argument. "Well, I'm a conservative, I don't believe in vaccines." It's not political, it's factual. There's no conservative theory of vaccines or liberal theory of vaccines. There's a medical theory of vaccines. So, I'm going to continue that fight.

But I also want to say, "Yay, we're reopening." Yes, but that's not the goal — reopening. A lot of damage was done on many levels — economic damage, social damage, psychological damage. Number of divorces worldwide went up something like 300%. What was the effect on children who were left at home for a year and didn't socialize? What's the effect on people who have been isolated from loved ones? I mean, there's tremendous damage that has been done, and not just in New York, everywhere. So I don't think of it in terms of reopening, I think of it more in terms of post 9/11, post Hurricane Sandy.

It wasn't about reopening and rebuilding what we were, no. If the house gets knocked down, we're going to build a better house than we had before, we're not going to replace, we're going to advance. Let's advance. And let's be honest, New York wasn't perfect before this happened. It's not like we had the perfect home that was destroyed and therefore we're going to rebuild the identical home because it was perfect. There was a lot of work to do. And part of being New York tough is, yeah you knocked us down, yes it hurts, yes there was pain, but we're going to get up. And we're not just going to get up, we're going to get up smart and strong and united, and we're going to make this a moment of opportunity because everybody has to rebuild. New York is rebuilding, so is California, so is Chicago, so is Canada, so is Europe. We're going to be the first and the fastest to rebuild.

We think there's a moment of opportunity here and we're going to build a totally different New York. We're going to re-imagine it. We're going to renew it. It's going to be a New York that never existed before. And we're going to take this moment of reset internationally, and we're going to use it to our competitive advantage because we're fast and we're good. And we're smart. And we're going to come out of this reset ahead of our other competitors. And we're going to fix a lot of the things that we should have fixed all along. It can be a moment for a New York Renaissance. Our New York has to be cleaner. It has to be safer. It has to be fairer. It has to be more economically competitive.

We have to reform public safety. The rate of crime, especially in New York City, is unsustainable. We have to repair the relationship between the police and the community. It has to be done. It came to a head at the George Floyd killing - it still hasn't been fully resolved - that has to be done. You know what New York's economics are tied to? The crime rate. Go back and look at the crime rate and look at the economic activity rate. When crime goes up, the economy goes down.

We have to repeal SALT. The taxes on the middle class, property taxes are a killer in this state. Yes, we're the greatest state in the nation. How much of a premium do we expect people to pay to live here? The federal government did it. It was an attack. It was wrong. It was political. Every federal politician promised to redo it. Chuck Schumer said, I promise. Kirsten Gillibrand said, I promise. Jerry Nadler said, I promise. All right. Repeal SALT. Because when president Trump did it, they all put out statements saying we're going to repeal it. It was terrible. Repeal it. That is a major tax cut for New Yorkers.

We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, our mass transit system, which should have been done years ago, and we're going to lead the nation in the green economy period, because that is the future. And whoever gets there first wins. We're going to learn from this COVID nightmare that took this country unprepared and we're going to have the best public health system in the nation. That's how you seize this moment. To have a New York that's better than ever. And we will.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640