May 30, 2020
New York, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Signs Into Law New Measure Providing Death Benefits for Families of Frontline Government Workers Who Lost Their Lives Due to COVID-19

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

State Will Add 10 Additional Testing Sites in NYC Hotspots — Covering Predominantly Low Income and Minority Communities — as City Prepares for Phase 1 Reopening on June 8

 

Confirms 1,376 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 369,660; New Cases in 45 Counties

Governor Cuomo: "We beat this damn virus and if we're smart we will continue to beat it. But the way we beat this virus we can beat the virus of racism, we can beat the virus discrimination, we can beat the virus of inequality. If we can beat this virus, we can beat anything. Look at the strength that people showed. You can do anything with that strength.They gave their lives out of love and we respect that. I'm going to sign a bill today that gives death benefits to the families of all of the front-line workers who gave their lives for us. It is the least we can do to say thank you, and we honor you, and we remember you. You gave your lives for us. We will be there to support your families going forward."

 

 

 

Cuomo: "These hot spots are not coincidently predominantly low income and minority communities, and that again raises the issue of disparity and inequality. We are going to be adding more testing sites in these areas. We need people to come out and get tested, find out who has the virus and who has the antibodies, who is possibly contagious.You can give it to your mother, your father, your aunt, your people living in dense communities. You have many people in one housing complex. You can't socially distance in an elevator in public housing.This is where the infection rate is spreading. We're going to do more PPE, more hand sanitizer, more education, more communication about how important these things are. But we have to get deeper also. And we are working with Northwell Healthto develop better healthcare connections in these communities. Where you see a high death rate, is where you have people with underlying illnesses. If you have diabetes, if you have hypertension, if you are immune-compromised, then you're more likely to die and that raises the question why didn't we address these health disparities better? And we want to take this opportunity to do that with Northwell Health. Because we have to address the inequality in healthcare. If you look across this nation, proportionately many more people of color died from the COVID virus than white people. That is a fact."

WYSIWYG

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law a new measure providing death benefits to the families of frontline workers who lost their lives fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. The bill, S.8427/A.10528, establishes a COVID-19 death benefit for the families of state and local government employees who have been on the front lines of response to this public health emergency.

 

The Governor also announced that New York State will open 10 additional testing sites—one for each zip code—in New York City COVID hotspots. Controlling the virus' spread in the city's hotspots, which are located in predominately low income and minority communities, is a top priority as it moves toward Phase 1 of reopening on June 8. Six testing sites will be in the Bronx, three will be in Brooklyn and one will be in Queens.

 

Governor Cuomo also said that New York State continues to monitor progress fighting the virus in the Capital Region and Western New York, which will reach two weeks of Phase 1 reopening next week.

 

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

  

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here

    

PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

   

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

 

Good morning to everyone. It's a pleasure to be in the Bronx this morning. To my left we have Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my right, we have our great Secretary of State, Madam Secretary of State is the appropriate protocol, Rossana Rosado. I thank them very much for being with us today. I thank the New Settlement Community Center for having us today and for all of you being here. 

 

Today is Saturday, day 91 of this coronavirus pandemic. It's a hard day. It is a day of light. It is a day of darkness. It's a day where we see how far we have come in so many ways, but yet a day where we see how far we need to go in so many ways.

 

In battling this coronavirus, we have made great progress. The numbers today again are all good news in terms of total hospitalizations are way down. Intubations are way down. The number of new COVID cases walking in the door every day is also way down. So, that is all good news. The number of New Yorkers we lost is at an all-time low. Same number as yesterday, but overall that has been tremendous, tremendous progress from where we were. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families we lost. And I want to thank the hospital workers, the nurses, the doctors who have saved literally thousands of lives all through this and I want to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. I want New Yorkers to take note of what we have done. We, we accomplished this. This is not government action. This is we the people action. This is when New Yorkers come together and New Yorkers are informed and they understand the challenge and they understand the facts and the information. They did the impossible and that is what this was.

 

Five regions in Upstate New York entered phase two of the reopening yesterday. We have a next week coming up the Capitol Region and Western New York will end their 14 days. And then we will have to make a decision whether or not they enter phase two. We made that decision by reviewing the data, and the numbers, and not just the state officials because nobody has dealt with this pandemic before. One of the most important things in life to know is to know what you don't know, right. And know what you don't know means none of us here know about this coronavirus. We've been wrong from day one. All the experts have been wrong from day one. The projection models turned out incorrect because we were better with social distancing. We were told the virus was coming from China. Really the virus came to New York from Europe. Nobody told us we had three million people get on flights and land in New York airports from Europe. So, on these decisions of reopening I am making sure that we have the best science available and the best minds.

 

I said from day one we have to reopen smart. This is not emotion. This is not politics. Some people want to open, "We should have never closed, right, when we started. This was just like the flu." Yeah. The flu doesn't kill a hundred thousand people. This was not the flu. So, be smart and avoid the politics and avoid the emotion and stay on the data. And when we get to these phases of reopening we have the best global experts, people that have worked with countries that have gone through this before that have closed, that have reopened and closed again because they reopened too fast. I understand you have local officials who have opinions, I have opinions, but you know what, I'm not acting on my opinion. I'm not a public health official, I'm not a doctor. Know what you don't know. I go to global experts and this is a matter of life and death and I want to make sure I get the best advice for the people of this state. I'm not going to put anybody's life at risk unless I feel confident that we have had the best advice. That's what we do in all of these determinations.

 

New York City is going to open on June 8. We have work to do still, but we'll get it done by June 8. Remember, New York had the worst situation and that we've made this remarkable turn around this quickly is something we should all be proud of.

 

We're going to be focusing this next week on the hospital system. We learned painful lessons with our hospital system. We came up with a new program called surge and flex in the midst of this. When it comes to hospitals, we don't really have a public hospital system. We don't even really have a hospital system. We have, in the New York City area, 100 private hospitals. Private hospitals operate as private hospitals. They have their own mission, they're own business interests. They operate unto themselves. That's how it's always worked.

 

We only have about 11 public hospitals. They're in New York City, operated by New York City, called the H+H Hospitals. But there are only 11 of them. The public hospitals cannot handle any outbreak of any size. We've learned. We need those private hospitals operating in a way they've never operated before, which is basically managed as one public health system. That's a dramatic difference from anything that happened before. On the first go-around, we had to design the airplane as we were flying it. The surge and flex was coming up with a management system for those private hospitals who had all acted independently. We want to make sure we have that refined over this next week. If we have a problem, we need all of those hospitals to work together. We can shift patients, we can share resources, that kind of coordination.

 

The MTA, the public transportation, has been getting prepared. They're disinfecting trains like never before. They have another week of work to do and they will be ready. Then, we want to focus on the 10 hotspots. The ten hotspots are those areas that we have identified through testing where we're still generating new cases. We're the most aggressive state in the country in actually doing testing and the testing tells you where the new cases are coming from. We call them hot spots.

 

If you look at them, we can actually identify them by zip code. It's a dramatic difference between the overall city situation and the situation in these zip codes. Overall city situation is about 19-20 percent infection rate. Some of these zip codes, you have an over 50 percent infection rate. Just think about it. We're targeting those zip codes as places. We want to get down that infection rate. Get down the new cases in those hot spots. They tend to be in the outer boroughs. Non-New Yorkers, there is a concept called, "outer boroughs." There is no "inner borough." Manhattan is the inner borough but no one calls it the inner borough. I am a child of an outer borough - I'm from Queens. Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, those are the outer boroughs. You are not in Manhattan, so you are in an outer borough, which has all sorts of ramifications. But if you look at where the hot spots are, they are in the outer boroughs. They're in Bronx, Brooklyn, predominantly Bronx, Brooklyn, a little bit in Queens, actually my old neighborhood in Queens. Let's focus on those zip codes over the next week.

 

These hot spots are not coincidently predominantly low income and minority communities and that again raises the issue of disparity and inequality. We are going to be adding more testing sites in these areas. We need people to come out and get tested, find out who has the virus and who has the antibodies, who is possibly contagious. Even if you are a young superhero and you think you are immune from the virus, you can give it to someone else. You can give it to your mother, your father, your aunt, your people living in dense communities. You have many people in one housing complex. You can't socially distance in an elevator in public housing. It does not happen. This is where the infection rate is spreading. We're going to do more PPE, more hand sanitizermore education, more communication about how important these things are.

 

But we have to get deeper also. And we are working with Northwell Health, which is the largest hospital system in the state of New York to actually develop better healthcare connections in these communities. Where you see a high death rate, is where you have people with underlying illnesses. If you have diabetes, if you have hypertension, if you are immune-compromised, then you're more likely to die and that raises the question why didn't we address these health disparities better? And we want to take this opportunity to do that with Northwell Health. Because we have to address the inequality in healthcare. If you look across this nation, proportionately many more people of color died from the COVID virus than white people. That is a fact. There is a slight disparity in New York State, nothing like what it is in other states and we are proud of that. But there is a disparity and there is an inequality, especially across the country. That has to be addressed. That has to be addressed. It came to light. It was exposed because of this situation. But it was there and it has to be addressed.

 

And there is a larger context for this conversation today, right? For 90 days we were just dealing with the COVID crisis. On the 91st day, we had the COVID crisis and we have the situation in Minneapolis with the racial unrest around the George Floyd death. Those are not disconnected situations. One looks like a public health system issue, COVID, but it is getting at the inequality in healthcare also on a deeper level. And then the George Floyd situation, which gets at the inequality and discrimination and the criminal justice system. They are connected. The George Floyd death was not just about George Floyd, and we wish his family peace and they are in our thoughts and prayers. But we tend to look at the situations as individual incidents. They are not individual incidents. When you have one episode, two episodes, maybe you can look at them as individual episodes. But when you have ten episodes, 15 episodes, you are blind or in denial if you treating each one like a unique situation. We have an injustice in the criminal justice system that is abhorrent. That is the truth. It doesn't make me feel good to say that. I'm a former prosecutor. We have injustice in the criminal justice system, which is the basic purveyor of justice in this society. And it is not just George Floyd - you look back even in modern history in my life time. This started with Rodney King. Rodney King was 30 years ago. We suffered in this city through Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Eric Garner. How many times have we seen the same situation? Yes, the names change, but the color doesn't. And that is the painful reality of this situation.

 

And it is not just 30 years. It is this nation's history of discrimination and racism dating back hundreds of years. That is the honest truth and that's what behind this anger and frustration and I share the outrage at this fundamental injustice. I do. And that's why I say I figuratively stand with the protestors, but violence is not the answer. It never is the answer. As a matter of fact, it is counterproductive because the violence then obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission. And you lose the point by the violence in response. And it allows people who would choose to scapegoat to point violence rather than the action that created the reaction. The violence allows people to talk about the violence, as opposed to honestly addressing the situation that incited the violence. The violence doesn't work. Martin Luther King, Dr. King, God rest his soul. He taught us this. He taught us this. He knew better than anyone who is speaking to us today on this issue. "Returning hate for hate, multiples hate. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Yes, outrage. Yes, anger. Yes, frustration. But not violence. Last night we saw disturbing violent clashes amidst protest right here in New York City in Brooklyn. And we all saw the video last night, I'm asking Attorney General James to review the actions and the procedures that were used last night because the public deserves answers and they deserve accountability. I spoke with the Mayor, he wants an independent review of what happened yesterday. I agree and we agree that the Attorney General is an independently elected official in the state of New York. In many other states the attorney general is appointed by the governor - not here. She is an independently elected official. She has proven herself competent and capable and being independent. And we are going to ask her to take a short period of time, review last night and to do a report to the public and let's see what we can learn, what was done right and what was done wrong because people do deserve answers. We had legislators who were at the protest, state legislatures, last night. And there is a significant amount of concern about what actions were taken. But on the larger point, in this pandemic, over the past 91 days, we have done extraordinary things.

 

When they first talked to me about this virus, they were not sure it could be controlled. When we first talked about socially distancing, nobody knew what that meant. Nobody knew that you could even do it. Would people listen? Would New Yorkers listen? Which that takes the question of people to a different level because we are New Yorkers. Could a government official, could a governor get up and say to 19 million people we need to close down everything, we need to socially distant, six feet, wear masks, PPE? Could a community rise to that occasion? Could this virus be stopped? Was that curve going to continue to go up? Nobody knew. And it was all dependent on what people did, what people did, what the community did.

 

And on top of it, New York was hit the worst. We have more cases than any state. We have more cases per capita than most countries. But because we were hit the worse, I think it brought out the best and I think our better angels won. I think our better angels responded and I think our better angels rose to the occasion. We helped each other. We respected each other. We protected each other. We were there one for the other. People across the state volunteering to help other parts of the state, people from upstate coming down to help downstate, people from downstate going to help upstate. People from across the country coming to help us, leaving their homes in other states to come here. It was really community and mutuality and all of the things we hoped to be, manifested, it happened. We needed people to rise above themselves, to get past the pettiness, to get past the selfishness, to be bigger than themselves and they did it. For me, the microcosm of it, the metaphor for all of it was the frontline workers.

 

What they did, they are modern day heroes. I was saying to the people of this state this is dangerous, stay home, protect yourself, protect your family and in the same breath I was saying to the frontline workers, "Not you. You have to go to work tomorrow morning." In the same breath. I was saying to myself, what happens if they don't. What happens if they don't? What happens if the frontline workers say, "This is dangerous. I'm afraid. I'm going to stay home like everybody else." What would have happened if the doctors didn't show up and the bus drivers didn't show up and the subway conductors didn't show up and the food delivery people didn't show up and the pharmacists didn't show up and the delivery women and men didn't show up? What would have happened if there was no food on the shelves? What would have happened if there was no one in the emergency room when you showed up? You want to talk about crisis, you want to talk about pain. These frontline workers, despite the risk - because I had to highlight the risk, because I needed people to stay home so I spoke to the risk - but then despite the risk, I had to ask them. My voice speaking for all of us, "Please, help us and go to work tomorrow. Please, show up for work because it's your role, it's your duty, it's your obligation to us," and they did. They did. I was not comfortable asking, I will tell you the God's honest truth. I knew they were putting themselves at risk. I knew it and I don't envy any chief executive of this nation who has to order women and men to go to war. I can't imagine how that would feel. I know how I felt having to ask our frontline workers, "I need you. I need you to show up." And they did. They put their lives at risk to serve others and in that moment, they were not black frontline workers, they were not white frontline workers, they were not Latino frontline workers, they were not Bronx frontline workers, they were not Brooklyn frontline workers, they were not Buffalo frontline workers - they were just Americans.

 

They were New Yorkers, they were linked by the commonality of humanity and their better angels said get past your fear. Get past your weakness. Don't stay home. Rise up. Be strong. Be better than you think you can be yourself. Get in touch with your strength and hear that strength and they did it. We acted as one. This diverse community of New York, people from all over the globe. Different languages. We acted as one. Many of those people gave their lives for us during that time. They gave their lives because we asked them to show up for us and they did.

 

Let's learn from their example. Let's understand what they did. We see all of the success in those numbers and how far we've come. It didn't just happen. People literally gave their lives so others could live. They are the frontline heroes. They are the ones who charged up the hill when they knew the enemy was firing. They showed that same bravery. They showed that same courage. And they did it only because we asked. Not because they were getting paid more money or they were going to get a medal because they didn't. They did it because it was the right thing to do. They did it out of love. That's what they did. They didn't die in vain. They have changed me. And I believe they have made me a better person by their example and by their lesson. And I will never ever, ever forget what they did. And I will strive to be half as courageous and half as brave as they have been. And to hear those better angels and to get in touch with that strength and to respond from that strength, that's their spirit.

 

Yes, be outraged. Yes, be frustrated. Demand better. Demand justice. But not violent. Not violent. Productive and smart. Act from strength, not fear. Love, not hate. And there is nothing that we can't overcome. We showed that here. We beat this damn virus and if we're smart we will continue to beat it. But the way we beat this virus we can beat the virus of racism, we can beat the virus discrimination, we can beat the virus of inequality. If we can beat this virus, we can beat anything. Look at the strength that people showed. You can do anything with that strength. Our leaders may not be as good as the American people, and as strong as the American people, and as kind as the American people. But it's still we the people. It is still we the people. And we the people shall still overcome. They showed us the way forward. And the way forward is to be New York tough. Smart, united, disciplined, loving, loving, loving.

 

They gave their lives out of love and we respect that. I'm going to sign a bill today that gives death benefits to the families of all of the front-line workers who gave their lives for us. It is the least we can do to say thank you, and we honor you, and we remember you. You gave your lives for us. We will be there to support your families going forward. That's what this bill does and it is my honor to sign it now. We say to their families, we thank you. We grieve for your loss. And we will always be there for you the way you were there for us. Thank you.

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Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office