WATCH: Governor Cuomo’s Daily Coronavirus Briefing

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Governor Cuomo’s daily coronavirus briefing can be seen on a viewer below.  Also below are recordings of most of the governor’s other coronavirus daily briefings.  The timing of each day’s briefing is set that morning and is posted here.  They are also broadcast live on WSKG radio.

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Video provided by the Office of the Governor of New York.

MAY 27, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo brought his plea for more federal relief from the corona virus to Washington Wednesday. Speaking at the National Press Club, the Democratic Governor said New York and other states hardest hit by the effects of the corona virus also pay billions more dollars in taxes to the federal government than they get back. And he called out leaders in red states, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Florida Senator Rick Scott, who say “blue states” should not get any more money.

“That’s a lie, they know that they take more money,” said Cuomo. “Senator McConnell has his hand out in the Senate, and he receives more money for his state than he puts in.”

“When they make it person to New York, and they are lying, I’m going to point it out,” Cuomo continued.

New York is facing a $13 billion dollar deficit due to a steep drop in revenues when the economy shutdown to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier, Cuomo met with President Donald Trump. The governor says the wo avoided politics, and he made the case for increased federal funding on infrastructure, that he says will “supercharge” the economy.

“It was a good conversation,” said Cuomo. “The President is from New York so he has a context for all of the things we are talking about.”

Projects include the long stalled gateway tunnel project, that would replace deteriorating train tracks under the Hudson River from New York to New Jersey, linking the Northeast with the Southern United States. Trump has opposed federal funding for the project, which would also benefit Amtrak, in the past. Cuomo also wants federal funding to expand the Second Avenue subway to Harlem.

The governor did not say whether Trump made any commitments to fund the projects.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 26, 2020

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’ll meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss an infrastructure program with federal funds for state projects, including repairing deteriorating commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River. Cuomo says he believes the state has finally “turned the page” on the Covid- 19 pandemic- for now, and it’s time to refocus on restarting the economy.

Cuomo began the day by ringing the bell to reopen New York’s stock exchange, after a two month shut down.

Wall Street is not only a symbol of New York and the nation’s economy, it also generates 17% of state’s revenues.

The governor, speaking during his daily corona virus briefing in the board room of the stock exchange, said all areas of the state except New York City are in the first phase of reopening, or will begin later this week. He says it’s time to jump start the economy, and one of the ways is building public works projects.

He said New York’s ongoing infrastructure projects will “accelerate”, including the long delayed renovation of Penn station, the redesign of LaGuardia airport, and building renewable power transmission lines that link Canadian power to New York .

And Cuomo said he’ll meet with President Trump in Washington on Wednesday to discuss joint projects with the federal government.

“You want to restart the economy, you want to reopen the economy, let’s do something creative, let’s do it fast, let’s put Americans back to work,” Cuomo said.

The projects the governor is seeking funding for include a train to New York’s major airports, and the replacement of the 110 year old commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River from New York to New Jersey. Trump in the past has resisted providing money to what’s known as the Gateway project.

Cuomo said the public works projects would provide needed jobs in an economy that will likely still be struggling for some time. The governor says he expects the recovery to be “uneven”, with lay offs in some industries that will harm workers.

“I believe it bounces back, but it bounces back differently,” the governor said. “There will be winners and losers.”

Cuomo said the economic recovery will only happen if the infection rate keeps dropping. He says everyone will have to get used to wearing protective masks for a while, and he predicts it will even become trendy.

“This is cool,” said Cuomo, who said some people coordinate their outfits with the color of their masks.

“This has to be part of who we are and what we do every day,” the governor said.

Cuomo said the thousands of contact tracers being hired around the state will also be key to identifying and containing any virus hotspots going forward.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 25, 2020

Local governments in New York will now be required to provide death benefits to public workers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also urged the federal government Monday to provide hazard pay to those individuals.

Those benefits will be paid for by local pension funds in the case of local government workers, and the state pension fund for employees of the state government, Cuomo said.

“Today, we’re saying we honor that service and we’re going to make sure that every government in the state of New York provides death benefits to those public heroes who died from COVID-19 during this emergency,” Cuomo said.

He also called, again, on the federal government to provide funding to allow frontline workers to receive hazard pay for their work during the COVID-19 crisis.

“There’s not a transit worker who drove a bus, or conducted a train, or walked into an emergency room who wasn’t scared to death,” Cuomo said.

The federal government, as of now, hasn’t committed to providing funds that could be used for hazard pay. There have been proposals in Congress, but none have come to fruition.

New York, for its part, continues to scramble from the economic consequences of COVID-19. The state is facing a $13 billion gap in revenue on top of funds it’s spent to respond to the disease, which Cuomo said again Monday could result in spending cuts statewide.

Members of the state Legislature are set to reconvene in Albany this week to consider a number of proposals related to COVID-19, though details haven’t been fleshed out.

That comes as the state continues to report a positive trend in the prevalence of COVID-19. Total hospitalizations were down to 4,348 statewide Sunday, the latest data available from the state. Of those, 1,058 people were intubated.

An additional 96 people died from the disease in New York Sunday — the second time the daily number has dipped below 100 since late March. The statewide death toll is now 23,488.
MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 24, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WMHT) – Professional sports teams in New York have been given the green light to start their training camps in anticipation that they’ll be able to play on television, but without fans in attendance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

“We are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible and we’ll work with them to make that happen,” Cuomo said.

Allowing sports teams to play the regular season, albeit without fans, will signal another return to “normalcy,” Cuomo said. Final terms haven’t been set for Major League Baseball, as of Sunday, but it’s possible the sport could return for a condensed season.

Campgrounds and RV parks will also be open to the public starting Monday, Cuomo said, after state beaches were allowed to open over the weekend for Memorial Day.

Cuomo said the Mid-Hudson region was still on track to open Tuesday, with contact tracers expected to be trained in time to start the first phase of reopening the economy. Long Island is still expected to start reopening Wednesday, he said.

The state’s major indicators continued to trend downward Sunday, with total hospitalizations and net intubations falling again Saturday, the latest data available from the state. The number of new hospitalizations ticked up slightly, with 229 new patients requiring treatment Saturday.

After dipping below 100 for the first time since late March Friday, the number of daily deaths from COVID-19 increased Saturday. An additional 109 people died from the disease in New York, bringing the statewide death toll to 23,391.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 23, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WMHT) – The daily number of deaths related to COVID-19 in New York has dropped below 100 for the first time since late March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday, marking another turning point for the disease, which has killed more than 23,000 people statewide.

There were 84 additional deaths in New York Friday, the latest data available from the state, bringing the total number of fatalities to 23,282.

“The fact that it’s down as low as it is is really, overall, good news,” Cuomo said. “That doesn’t do any good for those 84 families that are feeling the pain, but for me it’s a sign that we’re making real progress.”

That’s a good sign that New York City, where the deaths have been concentrated, could be on track to start the first phase of reopening its economy in the coming weeks. It’s expected to be the last of the state’s 10 regions to do so.

Counties in the Mid-Hudson Region could start the first phase of reopening their economy on Tuesday, Cuomo said Saturday, with Long Island expected to follow on Wednesday. Other regions could enter the second phase next weekend.

Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region were expected to open later next week, but new data showed each was expected to satisfy the state’s metric for average number of deaths over a number of days to qualify.

Both regions still need to train enough contract tracers to start the reopening process, which was expected to happen this weekend, Cuomo said.

As long as those contact tracers are trained, the Mid-Hudson region will be ready to start the first phase of reopening Tuesday. The region includes counties in the Hudson Valley and New York City suburbs, from Ulster County to Westchester County.

“No region opens before it’s ready to open,” Cuomo said. “To be ready to open, you need the tracing and testing system in place.”

The number of deaths on Long Island is expected to be low enough to reopen, but the state won’t know that for a few days. Local officials are training contact tracers in anticipation that they’ll be allowed to reopen Wednesday, Cuomo said.

Three of the state’s regions — the Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, and Finger Lakes — have now been in the first phase of reopening for a full week.

That means each could enter the second phase of reopening by next weekend. The state’s guidelines suggest that regions wait two weeks before moving to the next phase of reopening. There are four phases altogether.

As long as there doesn’t appear to be an uptick in the region’s COVID-19 indicators — like infections and hospitalizations — those regions should be given the green light to move on to the second phase of reopening, Cuomo said.

“We’re watching the numbers,” Cuomo said.

State Budget Director Robert Mujica said Saturday that the administration was preparing an executive order with guidelines for the second phase of reopening in anticipation that each of the three regions could be ready to advance next weekend.

“To go to phase two, we would modify the executive order and put out all the guidelines for the phase two industries,” Mujica said. “So, those are being prepared now, and those will be ready.”

The first phase of reopening allowed construction, manufacturing, and some retail curbside pickup to come back online. The second phase, according to the state, will allow professional services, administrative support, real estate, and more retail to open.

The state’s remaining regions — Central New York, Western New York, the Capital Region, and the North Country — all entered the first phase of reopening at different times over the last week.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 22, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WMHT) – Communities on Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region of New York could begin the first phase of reopening their economies as early as next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, which would leave New York City as the lone region still on full lockdown.

“If the number of deaths continues to decline, they get their tracing up and online, both regions could reopen this week,” Cuomo said.

Communities on Long Island could start the first phase as early as Wednesday, according to the state’s dashboard that tracks the region’s progress.

To start the first phase of reopening, regions are required to report either a 14-day decline in deaths related to COVID-19 or fewer than five deaths over a three-day rolling average. That’s one of seven metrics the state uses to track progress in each region.

Long Island has seen nine straight days of declining deaths due to COVID-19, according to the state. If the trend continues, the region will be able to start reopening in five days, on Wednesday.

The Mid-Hudson region, which stretches from Ulster County down to Westchester County, has reported seven days of decline in COVID-19 deaths, which would land its reopening at the end of next week.

Both regions will also have to increase the number of available contact tracers, which are employed to tell people they may have come in contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. Both are expected to do so, according to the state.

They’ll join seven of the state’s other regions, all of which entered the first phase of reopening at different times in the last week. New York is split into 10 different regions.

That means New York City, after next week, may be the only region that hasn’t qualified to enter the first phase of reopening. The city, which was hardest hit by the disease, doesn’t have enough contact tracers and open hospital beds, according to the state.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said in the past week that he expects the five boroughs to enter the first phase of reopening sometime in early to mid June.

“We’re seeing these numbers at a point that seems to be pretty consistent … We want to move forward,” de Blasio said. “We want to get to that first phase of restart.”

The first phase of reopening allows regions to green-light construction, manufacturing, and retail curbside pickup, among a select few other industries with limited contact. That includes things like wholesale trade and forestry workers.

Three regions of the state, meanwhile, could start the second phase of reopening by next weekend if all goes as planned.

The Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, and Finger Lakes regions were all allowed to start the first phase of reopening last weekend. Cuomo’s plan suggests two weeks between each phase to review how the changes have affected the prevalence of COVID-19 in each region.

That means that, if hospitalizations don’t see a major increase in those regions, they’ll be allowed to start the second phase of reopening by the end of May.

Statewide, the data continued to trend downward Friday, Cuomo said. The total number of hospitalizations dipped below 5,000 for the first time Thursday, the latest data available from the state. The total number of hospitalizations is now 4,844.

An additional 109 people died from COVID-19 in New York Thursday, bringing the statewide total of confirmed deaths to 23,192. Thousands more are presumed to be from the disease, but aren’t included in the state’s count.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 21, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Memorial Day weekend begins with beaches opening up, and other tentative steps to restart the economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo says, in his daily corona virus briefing, that the reopenings can be done safely, if people follow the rules.

State beaches reopen Friday at 50% capacity, with strict social distancing rules. Cuomo tried to tamp down expectations on how many people will actually get a swim in over the holiday weekend.

“Those beaches may reach capacity at 10, 11 o’clock in the morning,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something to take into consideration.”

Cuomo, who grew up in Queens, says he knows many people have a bit of a drive to reach the beaches.

“You don’t want to take that ride and get all the way out there and find out the beach is already closed,” he said.

The possibly of another hot weather tradition, summer camps, seems less likely. Cuomo says no decision has yet been made about opening day camps, but he says there are growing concerns and many unanswered questions about the pediatric inflammatory disease associated with COVID- 19.

Cuomo aide Robert Mujica says guidelines are also being revised for day care centers, because of the growing worries about the illness.

“Before we go ahead and say we want to open more places where children can congregate, we want to make sure that you can do it, and mitigate it, within the guidelines,” Mujica said. “And we haven’t made that determination yet.”

Cuomo says the state health department is investigating 157 cases of the syndrome, which has led to the deaths of 4 children.

“As a parent, until I know how widespread this illness is I would not send my children to day camp,” Cuomo said. “ And if I won’t send my children to day camp, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to send their children to day camp.”

The governor says in person summer school is cancelled for this year, though distance learning will be offered, and free meals will continue to be given out to those who qualify for them. A fall reopening of the state’s over 700 school district is still up in the air. Cuomo says in June, he’ll be working with the State Board of Regents and the districts on guidelines for varying scenarios on how to reopen safely. He says the Covid-19 related syndrome in children is a concern in making those decisions, as well.

“We don’t want to make that decision until we have more facts,” Cuomo said.

Meanwhile, the New York State Restaurant Association is asking that restaurants be allowed to open to outdoor dining in phase two of reopening plans, saying that the shut downs continue to devastate the industry. The governor did not address that issue in the briefing. But he did say an extension on sales tax filings, postponed from March 20th to May 19th, will now be extended until June 22nd.

County health commissioners are also urging the public use some common sense as the reopening starts and the Memorial Day weekend gets underway. In a statement, the New York State Association of County Health Officials said people should comply with all social distancing rules and use “caution, reason and patience” as regions of the state begin to reopen.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 20, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday appeared to be unbothered by calls from Republicans in Congress for a federal probe into New York’s handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 crisis, saying the state followed federal guidance for those communities.

Cuomo, who’s been selectively supportive of the federal government over the last two months, appeared to suggest that he wouldn’t care either way if the state’s actions were scrutinized.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

“If the federal government wants to start a probe, they can start a probe,” Cuomo said. “What do I have to do with whether or not a federal probe happens?”

“it is irrelevant to me. I have no role in determining a federal probe. I don’t welcome, not welcome. It doesn’t matter. President Trump does what he wants to do. He doesn’t listen to a governor,” Cuomo continued.

Late last week, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, joined a group of other federal lawmakers from New York in calling for a federal investigation into the state’s handling of nursing homes during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

New York, in late March, told nursing homes that if they had the capacity to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19, they had to accept those individuals to their facilities if they were well enough to be discharged from the hospital.

That decision has been criticized by state and federal lawmakers alike, mostly Republican, who say the directive endangered the lives of other patients at nursing homes who were vulnerable to the disease.

But Cuomo, on Wednesday, blamed President Donald Trump for the policy, saying it was his administration that came up with it in the first place.

“It’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance, so they should ask President Trump,” Cuomo said. “I think I think that will stop the conversation.”

Cuomo has since enacted a new regulation, saying patients can’t be discharged to nursing homes in New York unless they first test negative for the coronavirus. With fewer cases, hospital capacity isn’t as much of a concern, Cuomo said Wednesday.

The net number of hospitalizations dropped to 5,570 Tuesday, the latest data available from the state. The number of new hospitalizations hit the lowest point the state’s seen since March 20, with just 295 additional cases requiring treatment.

An additional 112 people died from the disease in New York Tuesday, bringing the statewide death toll to 22,976.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 19, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo has about 10 days before he has to make some big decisions about New York State’s estimated $14 billion dollar budget deficit. He is hoping that Congress will pass a bail out measure to avert some of the financial pain, but some Republican Senators are resisting.

The governor and state legislature set up rules for coping with an expected shortfall when they approved this year’s budget plan in early April, as tax collections were plummeting.

The timeline began on May 15th, when State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued his April cash report. It found a “drastic” revenue shortfall. DiNapoli spoke in an interview with public radio and television.

“The revenues are off compared to a year ago by close to 70%,” said DiNapoli. “It’s no surprise, the economy has been on hold.”

The governor’s budget director, Robert Mujica says that if the next federal relief package now being negotiated in Congress does not contain funds for state and local government, then New York will cut over $8 billion dollars.

“In the absence of the receipt of federal funds, 90% of the state’s spending is in the areas of school aide, health care, social services.”

Cuomo says those cuts would mean reductions to first responders and front line workers, who have been the heroes of the pandemic.

“Who do state and local governments fund? They fund the hospitals, they fund the police, they fund the firefighters, they fund the schoolteachers, they fund the foodbanks,” Cuomo said Tuesday on Long Island during his daily corona virus briefing.

The governor has said he does not want to raise taxes in a devastated economy to close the gap.

There’s cause for hope for closing the deficit in a federal relief package passed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who lead the chamber. The $3 trillion dollar measure gives 900 billion dollars to state and local governments hit hard by the virus.

But there is resistance among some Republican Senators, including Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said he’s unwilling to bail out “blue” states like New York and California.

Cuomo has alternately expressed confidence and deep worry over the future of the House bill, dubbed the Heroes Act. He has castigated McConnell, and said partisan politics have no place during a pandemic.

“In this situation, they should rise above, and this should not be about politics, it should not be about red and blue,” Cuomo said. “The people who are dying here are not Democrats or Republicans, they are Americans.”

But the governor has also said he thinks it is in GOP Senators’ own interest to bail out states, because many states led by Republicans are also suffering from the effects of the virus related economic shut downs. And many Senators, including McConnell, face reelection in 2020.

“Never underestimate a politician’s instinct for self survival,” Cuomo said on May 15th.

State Comptroller DiNapoli says, time is running out, though. The Senate is not expected back in Washington until May 26th at the earliest.

“The challenge is we need it sooner than later,” said DiNapoli. “If not, we will be faced with those budget cuts.”

The governor and his budget director have until May 30th to decide.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 18, 2020

BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Western New York has met all of the required metrics required by the state to begin the first phase of reopening from the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced late Monday morning.

Cuomo gave his daily COVID-19 update from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he said sectors of the regional economy will be allowed to reopen Tuesday.

Those sectors include residential and commercial construction; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; retail, limited to curbside or in-store pickup; manufacturing; and wholesale trade.

Western New York was the only upstate region that had not reached those criteria, until now.

As of earlier Monday, the western region of New York, which includes Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, needed to achieve one more of the seven metrics the state is using to reopen regional economies. Cuomo said the required number of contact tracers, which was set at 521, will be trained and ready to begin their work as of Tuesday.

Cuomo said the number of deaths in New York over the last 24 hours was down to 106, which was the level last seen on March 26, before a spike that saw more than 700 daily deaths when the virus’ curve was on an upward trajectory. Other tracked numbers, including hospitalizations and intrubations continue to go down.

The governor continued to urge New Yorkers to get tested for the disease and said the most recent test he took live during his Sunday briefing was negative.

In other updates, Cuomo said ECMC in Buffalo has been given the go-ahead to resume elective surgeries. Judge and other court staffers will return within 30 days. He encouraged major sports teams to plan to return without fans, naming the Buffalo Bills specifically. And his administration that clarified houses of worship fall under the final phase of reopening, due to continued concerns over large gatherings.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 17, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a plea on Sunday for more New Yorkers who qualify to get tested for COVID-19, even undergoing his own test for the disease on live, national television during his daily briefing in Albany.

New York will also expand the eligibility requirements for a test to all workers who qualify to go back to work under phase one of the state’s reopening plan, which is in effect for five regions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is tested for the coronavirus in Albany on Sunday. Credit: Dan Clark

Two more regions — the Capital Region and Western New York — took another step toward starting the first phase of reopening Sunday, Cuomo said. Both have now satisfied the state’s requirements for deaths and hospitalizations, but don’t have enough contact tracers.

Cuomo said he’d be speaking with leaders from both regions later in the day to discuss how they can meet the metric. If each can identify the required number of tracers, they may be able to start phase one of the state’s reopening this week.

If the Capital Region and Western New York are allowed to start the first phase of reopening, only New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson region will remain on full lockdown.

Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Southern Tier were allowed this weekend to start the first phase of reopening, which clears construction, manufacturing, and some retail curbside pickup to resume operations.

Cuomo said as each region starts to reopen its economy, people should continue to get tested if they’re eligible. That will help prevent an uptick in the disease, he said, which could trigger regions to roll back their reopening plans.

“We just don’t have enough New Yorkers coming to be tested,” Cuomo said. “Some people just don’t like to go to the doctor, and don’t like to get tested.”

New York has doubled its testing capacity over the last month, from an average of about 20,000 tests available each day to about 40,000 as of Sunday, Cuomo said. That’s separate from the 35,000 tests the state now has available for employees at nursing homes.

But some of the state’s testing facilities have been underutilized, Cuomo said. New York now has more than 700 testing sites for the novel coronavirus.

He said there’s a sense that people don’t want to get tested because it could be seen as difficult or intrusive, or people don’t know if they qualify. Testing is allowed for all essential workers, anyone displaying symptoms, and people who’ve come in contact with someone who’s positive.

Cuomo then invited a doctor into the room to swab him for the disease, which he’s tested negative for in the past.

“It is so fast, and so easy, that even a governor can take this test,” Cuomo said. “That’s how fast and easy it is.”

New York had performed more than 1.4 million tests for the coronavirus as of Saturday, the latest data available to the state. Approximately 350,000 people in the state have tested positive for the disease.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 16, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York state will allow horse racing tracks and Watkins Glen International to reopen — without fans — starting June 1, marking another step toward revitalizing the state’s economies in regions that were previously unsure if those venues would reopen this year.

Without fans, the regions will forego the usual boost in revenue they receive from large gatherings for racing, but televised events will still bring in some money.

“If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great,” Cuomo said. “For the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.”

The state is expected to issue guidance sometime in the coming week as to how employees at race tracks should handle themselves to operate safety, Cuomo said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Saturday, May 16, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

Horse racing tracks allowed to reopen include Saratoga Raceway, Saratoga Race Course, Monticello Raceway, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, Batavia Downs, Belmont Park, Buffalo Raceway, Finger Lakes Racetrack, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Yonkers Raceway.

The reopening is expected to help bolster the finances of regional economies, which could receive a significant cut from the state in the coming weeks.

New York state is projecting a $13 billion revenue loss over the next fiscal year due to COVID-19. That’s on top of the state’s direct spending in response to the pandemic, which has topped $3 billion since the beginning of March.

The U.S. House approved legislation Friday that would provide an additional $500 billion to states to aid their response fo COVID-19. It would also repeal a cap on state and local tax deductions for states most affected by the disease, like New York.

Cuomo called on the U.S. Senate to take up the measure, which he called a “smart bill,” though the upper house isn’t expected to approve it as written.

“If Washington does not make up that shortfall there will be cuts,” Cuomo said. “I’ve made it clear how important it is. I’ve made it clear what will happen to the state budget if they don’t pass that bill.”

The state Division of Budget has projected that state funding for schools, local governments, and hospitals could be cut as much as 20% without additional aid from the federal government. Those cuts are expected to be decided in the next two weeks.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has been reluctant to provide aid directly to state governments, saying it would amount to a “blue state bailout” for states like New York.

Cuomo said Saturday that, if federal lawmakers provide funding for New York state later this year, the cuts he’s expected to announce this month could be restored.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 15, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, but at 50% capacity and with strict rules about social distancing.

The governor says the beaches will open on May 22nd, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Parking areas will be limited to half of usual capacity, and beachgoers will have to adhere to a number of rules.

No group contact activities will be allowed , including volleyball and football, and picnic areas and playgrounds will be off limits. Masks must be worn by employees, and visitors will have to wear masks when they cannot remain six feet away from others.

Concession stands and pools will also remain closed.

Cuomo says beaches where the social distancing rules are not followed, will be immediately shut down.

Cuomo made the announcement one day after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced his state’s beaches would be open for Memorial Day. Cuomo says he’s been coordinating with the other governors to avoid any conflicts between neighboring states about what is open and what remains closed.

“If other states were opening and New York wasn’t, you would have millions of people from New York flooding those beaches,” Cuomo said. “There would be a problem.”

The governor spoke on a day when five regions of the state were in phase one of reopening , and could proceed with restarting manufacturing and construction companies. Retail stores were also allowed to reopen but only for curbside or in store pick up.

Cuomo also has decided when some personal care services, like hairstylists and barbers could reopen. He says that would likely come in phase two of a region’s reopening. But he warned of the risks involved in getting a haircut. He cites the example of a barber in the Hudson Valley who opened his shop and cut hair in defiance of the stay at home orders, who has now tested positive for COVID-19 and who helped spread the virus.

“(He) infected I think over a dozen people,” Cuomo said. “You can’t really socially distance and do a haircut.”

Cuomo also signed an executive order Thursday night that extends the shutdown for regions not yet authorized to reopen until May 28th. That now applies to the regions of the state not yet reopening- all of downstate, the Hudson Valley and Capital Region, and Western New York. But if a region does meet the all of benchmarks for reopening before that date, including declining rate of new cases and adequate bed capacity in hospitals, then those regions could begin to reopen earlier.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 14, 2020

Several upstate regions of New York are poised to begin reopening Friday. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Central New York can now join the areas that are starting the first phase of a reopening.

The City of Syracuse  and surrounding areas, along with New York’s’ North Country, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and Rochester – Finger Lakes area will begin phase one of economic reopening Friday. Construction and manufacturing firms will be allowed to restart, as well as all retail stores, for curbside or in store pick up of merchandise only. The businesses must work out a plan to keep their workers safe through adequate personal protective gear and cleaning and social distancing, and they have to submit it to regional boards set up a few days ago, for review.

Cuomo says while the news is welcome to people living in those areas, he says they should be sensible about it.

“People are going to say ‘hallelujah’, and run out of their house. They are going to want to get out, they are going to want to do things,” Cuomo said. “Phased reopening does not mean the problem has gone away.”

All of downstate, New York City and its suburbs, Long Island, and the Albany and Buffalo regions will  remain shut down for now, because either the rate of infection is not declining, or there aren’t enough extra hospital beds.

There are some limited businesses openings statewide. They include landscapers and gardening services, low risk outdoor activities, including tennis, and drive in movie theaters.

The regions that are allowed to open will be monitored each day to make sure the rate of new infections or hospitalization rates don’t spike again. If that happens, those businesses allowed to open might have to be shut down again. The governor’s Chief of Staff , Melissa DeRosa, says its hoped that if the phased in reopening is done carefully, with proper testing and contact tracing.

“Or else we go back to square one,” DeRosa said. “And I think we can all agree no one wants to live through this again.”

If Phase one is successful, phase two could begin in a couple of weeks. That step includes the full reopening of shopping malls and retail stores, along with professional and administrative services, as well as realtors and rental leasing agencies. Phase three would allow restaurants to reopen, and finally in phase four, arts and entertainment like sporting events and concerts could be held, and schools would be allowed to reopen.

There are still some details to be worked out. Cuomo, asked by a reporter during his daily corona virus briefing,  says he and his aides have not yet determined when some personal services can reopen, including hairstylists and barbers.

“I just don’t know where hairstylists fall,” Cuomo said. But he said he hoped to have an answer soon.

Houses of worship are also not specifically mentioned in any of the reopening phases, but the governor says they would fall under the category of large gatherings, which still need to be avoided.

While there are rules about businesses, Cuomo was asked about personal behavior, and whether people should continue to avoid visiting the elderly relatives, as a means to keep them safe. The governor says it’s up to the individual to decide.

“I suggest caution, because this virus  has only gotten worse, the more we know,” Cuomo said.

But Cuomo says he did approve a series of guidelines in an executive order on March 20th  that he dubbed “Matilda’s Law”, after his mother Matilda Cuomo, who is 88. It requires elderly or immune compromised New Yorkers to stay home and, in case of an emergency, limit visitors to immediate family or close friends who are not experiencing any symptoms of illness. Everyone should wear masks during the visit. Cuomo says he has not visited his mother since mid March, before the shut downs began.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 13, 2020

Speaking at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the North Country region has fulfilled the seven criteria set forth by the state to launch the first phase of un-pausing the economy on May 15th.

The North Country had fallen short in its testing capacity. Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa says the North Country reached the testing capacity benchmark yesterday. “We are confident they have the testing capacity they need to reopen,” she says.

Full story from North Country Public Radio:  https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/41407/20200513/breaking-north-country-ready-to-begin-reopening-may-15th

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 12, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging Congress to include money in its next federal aid package to help state governments who are financially decimated by the COVID 19 virus. Some republican senators have resisted the proposal.

The state’s projected deficit from lost revenue, increased spending on health care and the economic shut down due to the corona virus is $61 billion dollars over the next four years. Cuomo is asking the federal government to help make up for that loss. He says otherwise, he’ll have to slash aid to schools, hospitals and local governments.

“That’s police, firefighters,” Cuomo said. “Hospitals are the nurses and the doctors who just got us through this and everyone celebrates as heroes. If you don’t fund the state, that’s who you are cutting.”

Without federal aid, New York is poised to cut over $10 billion dollars from its budget later this month, and potentially could reduce money to schools, health care and local governments by even more than that later in the year.

Some of the other states that are most in need of the aid include California and Washington State, where the rates of infection have been highest. They are also run by Democrats. But Cuomo says party affiliation shouldn’t matter and some republican led states have also suffered.

“This is not a red issue, blue issue,” Cuomo said. “This is not about politics.”

Cuomo is sending to Congress a joint letter with the National Governor’s Association Chair and Republican Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, asking for the aid for states and local governments. Cuomo is Vice Chair of the organization.

Democrats who hold the majority in the House of Representatives unveiled a $3 trillion dollar stimulus bill Tuesday that would give nearly $1 billion dollars to state and local governments effected by the virus.

The house is expected to pass it by Friday, but there is opposition among some Republicans in the Senate to bailing out states.

GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has said that states who are in financial difficulties could consider filing for bankruptcy, remarks that enraged Cuomo. President Trump has also said he does not want to bail out state and local governments, and has said, falsely, that it’s only democratic states that are experiencing deficits.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 11, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – New York is poised for a first step in reopening businesses, as Governor Andrew Cuomo announces that three regions of the state have met his criteria to begin a slow reopen, starting with some construction and manufacturing businesses as soon as this Friday.

The news comes as the rate of hospitalizations for the corona virus, at 7226, and the May 10th death toll, of 161 fatalities, continues to decline. The numbers are now near what they were on March 19, before the worst of the present wave of the virus began.

Cuomo says three regions of the state , the Rochester-Finger Lakes area, the Southern Tier, and the Mohawk Valley, have met a list of 7 criteria to begin reopening some businesses.

“We start a new chapter today,” Cuomo said.

In addition to construction and manufacturing industries, Cuomo says all retail shops can reopen in those regions, for curbside pick up or in store pick up.

The criteria for partial reopening includes a 14 day decline in cases of COVID 19, as recommended in federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines. Hospitals in the region must have 30% of their beds open in case the virus spikes again, and there needs to be enough tests, 30 tests for every 1000 residents, and enough contact tracers, 30 contact tracers for every 1000,000 residents.

Two other regions, Central New York and the North Country, have met six of the seven requirements, but currently do not have the capacity for enough tests. The two regions might be able to begin reopening by Friday if they can demonstrate they have met the testing requirement.

Cuomo also announced some statewide business re-openings, for outdoor based companies, including landscapers and gardeners. Some outdoor low risk recreational sports facilities, like tennis courts, can reopen. And drive in movie theaters will be allowed to show films.

Many responsibilities for the gradual reopening now fall to the individual regions, Cuomo says. The businesses that want to reopen must submit plans to control boards that include state and local officials, to demonstrate that they can operate with safe social distancing, and that they have enough personal protective gear, including masks and gloves, for their employees.

And the governor says the control boards will closely monitor their health care systems to make sure that the re-openings don’t raise the infection rates.

“You’re increasing the activity, you’re watching the infection rate, you’re watching the hospitalization rate, you see that start to tick up. You have to have a circuit breaker,” Cuomo said. “Slow down the activity level, because you are increasing the infection rate. And nobody wants to be there.”

Cuomo admits that “nobody knows” how fast businesses can reopen and whether each phase of the planned re-openings will be sustainable.

Other countries, including China, South Korea, and Germany have had to retighten restrictions, after partial re-openings led to a flare up of the virus.

If phase one of the reopening is successful, the regions might be able to proceed to phase two by the end of the month. It would allow the opening of professional services, retail stores, real estate and rental leasing offices. After another two weeks, the third phase which would allow restaurants and hotels to open could begin. And finally, if all of the re openings do not lead to an increase in the spread of the virus, then concerts, and art museums, schools and universities could reopen.

There is no timetable yet for when regions that have had more incidents of the virus will be allowed to begin to reopen.

In the Capital Region, Western New York , Long Island, and the Hudson Valley, the number of new hospitalizations and deaths is not yet declining. In New York City, while there are fewer new cases and fewer fatalities, there is not enough free hospital beds to meet the reopening criteria. None of those regions currently have enough contact tracers, though they are expected to meet that requirement soon.

Cuomo signed an executive order that extends the shut down orders until June 7th, but he and his aides say a region could begin to reopen earlier than that, if it meets all of the criteria.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 10, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Select regions in New York state will start to reopen certain businesses next weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday, after no region of the state had initially qualified to begin reopening its economy at the beginning of last week.

Cuomo said he’ll make a more detailed announcement with leaders from the state’s counties Monday, but confirmed that some regions will be allowed to start reopening Friday.

Dan Clark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Sunday, May 10, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

“We’ll be going through it explicitly, but short answer is yes, there will be regions that are eligible on the 15th,” Cuomo said.

That’s when the statewide lockdown order, also called PAUSE, is set to expire. The order required all nonessential businesses to remain closed, and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery. It’s been in place since March 20.

New York is expected to allow each region of the state to reopen on its own schedule, depending on that area’s experience with COVID-19. Regions less affected by the disease will be allowed to reopen business sooner than others in a series of phases.

Cuomo, last Monday, had announced a set of seven metrics that each region had to meet to begin the first phase of reopening, which would allow construction, manufacturing, and certain limited retail companies to come back online.

Those metrics required each region to, essentially, see a decline in the number of hospitalizations and deaths from the disease while simultaneously ramping up testing for COVID-19 and the number of so-called contact tracers.

Contact tracers are either hired, or designated, to literally track connections between patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and people who they may have infected. It’s then their job to reach out to people who may have been infected and ask them to isolate themselves.

But, as of last Monday, no region of the state had met all of Cuomo’s seven metrics to begin the first phase of reopening.

No region of the state had reported enough contact tracers to meet the state’s standard, and most regions didn’t have the testing capacity to begin reopening. Four of the state’s ten regions were also struggling to reduce the number of hospitalizations.

Five of the state’s regions, as of Monday, had met all but two of the state’s metrics, making them the most likely to begin reopening next weekend: Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Southern Tier.

All five of those regions, while closer than others to reopening, still didn’t have the testing capacity or right number of contact tracers, as of Monday. It’s possible that’s changed over the last week, but the state hasn’t released an updated analysis.

Cuomo didn’t say Sunday which of the state’s 10 regions would be allowed to start reopening next weekend, but confirmed more details would come Monday.

Reopening is expected to happen in four phases for each region. The first phase will include construction, manufacturing, and some retail locations with curbside pickup.

The second phase will eye an expansion of retail, and allow professional services, finance, insurance, administrative support, and real estate businesses to resume operations.

The third phase will include restaurants, food services, hotels, and other accommodations. The fourth phase will involve education, arts, entertainment, and other recreational activities.

Regions are expected to allow at least two weeks between each phase to review how those changes affect the prevalence of COVID-19. If the data begins to trend in a negative direction, it’s possible that region’s reopening will be paused, or rolled back.

Some county leaders have suggested that the state’s ten regions be split further into subregions to make it easier for those areas to meet the state’s standards. Counties in the Mid-Hudson region are grouped with the adversely affected Westchester County, for example.

Cuomo said Sunday that splitting Westchester and Rockland Counties from their Mid-Hudson neighbors may not work because data from other counties in the region wouldn’t meet the standards to reopen.

“I think if we took Rockland, Westchester out of the region, the region still wouldn’t qualify because the Dutchess numbers themselves don’t qualify,” Cuomo said.

From a statewide perspective, New York’s COVID-19 numbers continued to trend in a positive direction Sunday. The number of new hospitalizations reached levels not seen since March 20, Cuomo said, with total hospitalizations now at 7,262.

Of those, 2,073 are currently intubated, which is a decrease of 130 compared to Saturday’s numbers. New York has now reported 58,006 discharges from the hospital.

The number of deaths continued to increase Sunday, but at the lowest rate since March 27. An additional 207 people died from COVID-19 in New York Saturday, the state’s latest data, bringing the statewide total to 21,478.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 9, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that state officials will have a close eye on how reopening plans in nearby states affect the COVID-19 infection rate in New York, which is expected to have a more drawn out revival of its economy than surrounding areas.

Some regions of New York could begin to reopen select businesses as soon as next weekend, but an all-out reopening is expected to be phased in over a series of months.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers a COVID-19 briefing in New York City. Credit: Cuomo’s Flickr account

But neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut announced this week that they’ll start reopening their economies on a different timeline than New York. Restaurants in Connecticut could reopen this month with strict guidelines. The same goes for beaches in New Jersey.

Cuomo said that, despite the differing plans, officials from New York are still coordinating with surrounding states on their strategies to reopen.

“We talk through everything we do before we do it,” Cuomo said. “”We can’t align every action, but we’re aware of it, and we’ll monitor it.”

Restaurants in New York won’t reopen in any region of the state before mid-June at the earliest, according to Cuomo’s plan.

They’ll be allowed to reopen in the third phase of the state’s strategy, which is spaced out to allow two weeks between each phase. If a region’s first phase starts next weekend, that would land the reopening of restaurants in that area around June 12.

But that’s assuming the region will be cleared to begin its first phase of reopening when New York’s statewide lockdown order expires on May 15. As of Monday, no region had met the state’s standards that would allow it to begin reopening at that time.

And when a region is cleared to begin reopening, each phase of the revival may take longer than two weeks to begin. It’s all dependent on if the region continues to see a decline in COVID-19 as it starts to reopen its economy.

If it doesn’t continue to see a decline, or if the disease becomes more prevalent, a region’s reopening would be paused. It could also be rolled back, according to the state’s plans.

Cuomo said Saturday he recognizes that, for some regions of the state, having businesses closed during the summer tourism season could be a major financial hit.

“The tourist season is the money making period for a whole sector of businesses, all across this state,” Cuomo said. “Tourism is one of the big job drivers, period.”

New York state, alone, is expecting a $13 billion loss in revenue due to COVID-19, which doesn’t count the economic downfall of individual businesses, and how that could snowball on the state’s fiscal health.

It also doesn’t count the direct spending the state has made to respond to COVID-19, which is well above $3 billion since the start of March.

Those financial troubles will likely lead to cuts in state spending across the board in areas like education, local government, and hospitals, Cuomo has said. He appeared hopeful Saturday that Congress would follow through with aid for the state government in New York.

“As bizarre as the federal government is at times, I can not believe they would turn their back on working Americans at this time,” Cuomo said.

Congress has already approved four stimulus bills aimed at helping individuals, small businesses, corporations, and others recover from the financial impact of COVID-19. Cuomo has said the legislation hasn’t done enough to directly fund state government.

“Everything relies on federal funding, whether it’s substance abuse or education,” Cuomo said. “Right now, everything is dependent on federal funding.”

Cuomo’s expected to propose a series of cuts in state spending within two weeks, which will largely be dependent on how much revenue the state took in during April.

New York has been the hardest-hit state by the disease, with the statewide death toll reaching 21,271 Friday, the latest data available from the state.

The total number of hospitalizations have now declined to levels not seen since around March 20, Cuomo said Saturday, a bittersweet sign that the state has continued its decline from the disease. As of Friday, 333,122 had tested positive in New York.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 8, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo is extending a one year look back window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for an additional five months, to mid January. The governor announced the change at his daily corona virus briefing, where he also said his health officials are looking into a new related illness in children that killed a five year old boy on Thursday.

The Child Victims Act opened a one year window for New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children, that lifts the statute of limitations to file civil suits against their alleged abusers. It was set to expire in mid August, but because the courts have been virtually closed since March, many have been unable to proceed with their legal actions. Cuomo says victims will now have until January 14, to sue.

“People need access to the courts to make their claim,” Cuomo said .

Sponsors of the original measure had sought to extend the look back window for another full year.

Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman says while he “applauds” the governor’s action, he would still like to pass a law to extend the time until August 2021.

Also- Cuomo says his health department officials are investigating a potential serious side effect of COVID 19 that has sickened 73 children. It inflames the blood vessels and major organs and is similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. It has sent dozens of children to the hospital, and resulted in at least one death, a 5 year old boy who passed away on Thursday.

“ This would be really painful news and open up an entirely different chapter,” said Cuomo, who said previously it was believed that while children could transmit, the disease, they did not become seriously ill from the virus.

“We may want to revisit that quote, unquote fact, that assumption,” Cuomo said. )

The child was one of 213 New Yorkers who died from COVID 19 on Thursday. The numbers are down significantly from mid April, when over 700 people died each day. Cuomo says while the daily death toll is still terrible news, he believes that for the first time, the state is finally ahead of the virus. And he hopes a slow and cautious reopening of society that could begin later this month, will keep it that way.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 7, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended a ban on evictions through August 20th to protect renters in New York who have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the corona virus shutdown.

Cuomo says the June 1st ban on evictions will be extended until late August, and there will also be a ban on landlords charging late fees for rental payments. Renters can also use their security deposits toward rent. The governor say he hopes it eases people’s minds.

“The number one issue that people talk to me about probably is rent, and fear of paying their rent,” Cuomo said. “This takes the issue off the table.”

The governor says he can’t predict what will happen after August 20th, but says the state “will handle it” when that time comes.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all along,” said Cuomo who says many decisions about how to react to the pandemic are being made on a two week basis.

Some tenant advocacy groups have called for rental payments to be waived altogether for people effected by the COVID 19 crisis. But the governor has said landlords need money, too, to maintain their buildings.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 6, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – A trio of billionaires will help New York reimagine its economy, health care system, and education strategy as the state begins to distance itself from COVID-19, a disease that has disproportionately affected low-income communities and people of color.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt would lead a new commission to examine how technology can improve the lives of New Yorkers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt Wednesday. Credit: Cuomo’s daily briefing

“Let’s look at what we just went through,” Cuomo said. “Let’s anticipate a future through that lens, and tell us how we can incorporate those lessons.”

Schmidt, joining Cuomo’s daily briefing via video conference, said his work would focus on how an expansion of broadband and remote communication could change how New Yorkers access health care services and educational opportunities, including primary school.

“We can take this terrible disaster and accelerate all those in ways that will make things much, much better,” Schmidt said. “The solutions that we come up with have to help people the most in need.”

Schmidt said any strategy developed by the commission would reflect the realities of different communities in New York, which have a range of technological capabilities dependent on geography and demographics.

He’s the third industry leader to be recruited by the state in recent days to help its strategy of keeping COVID-19 at bay, and rebuilding society in its aftermath.

Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, is leading the state’s efforts to reimagine education while students continue remote learning until June, at the earliest. The anticipated result of those efforts is unclear, as of now, but Cuomo questioned the “old model” of learning this week.

“Why, with all the technology you have?” Cuomo said.

That sparked frustration from education advocates, including New York State United Teachers, the state’s largest teachers union that’s often an influential player in policy.

NYSUT President Andy Pallotta suggested that, rather than reimagine education, Cuomo should fix the problems that already exist in New York’s schools. Those solutions likely won’t happen; education aid was kept flat this year due to a projected $13 billion revenue gap.

“If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state,” Pallotta said.

Neither Schmidt nor Gates have an anticipated deadline by which they’re expected to recommend technological changes that could benefit the state’s education and health care systems. Schools are closed through June, with some districts anticipating summer school.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the third billionaire selected to help the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, though his role has less to do with technology and more with containing the spread of the disease over the next several months.

Bloomberg’s been tasked with building a so-called “army” of contact tracers, which are employed to interview patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and contact anyone they might have infected. The state anticipates having thousands of those tracers in the coming weeks.

That’s not expected to be an easy task; the state is requiring regions to have at least 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents before their economy starts to reopen.

As of Monday, no region of the state had enough contact tracers to begin opening businesses later this month. That’s when the statewide lockdown order is scheduled to expire, though some regions aren’t expected to begin reopening for weeks, or months, after that deadline.

Most regions of the state have, at least, seen the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 decline in a way that would, eventually, allow them to reopen.

As of Tuesday, there were 421 fewer people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York, bringing the statewide total to 9,179 — the lowest in several weeks. The number of patients intubated dropped to 2,533 Tuesday.

An additional 232 people died from the disease Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 19,877.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 5, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) -The number of deaths in New York due to Corona Virus is steadily going down, with 230 on Monday, 4 more than reported on Sunday . But New York State is now adding 1700 more deaths at nursing home in the past few weeks that are believed to be from the from the corona virus.

The new numbers from the state Health Department, first reported by the Associated Press, now includes deaths presumed to be from the corona virus along with confirmed deaths. It brings the total to 4813 people passing away at nursing homes from Covid 19 since March 1.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, at his daily briefing says the state is now asking for both categories from nursing homes, but he says he expects even those numbers to change as health officials try to further verify the cause of the presumed deaths.

“I would take all of these numbers now with a grain of salt,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says nursing homes were always going to be “ a target” in a pandemic that more severely attacks the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Cuomo aide Jim Malatras, says the state already took a number of “aggressive” steps to try to protect the residents, including a now two month long ban on visitors, and requiring that staff wear personal protective gear like masks and gloves, and have their temperatures taken at the beginning of their shifts.

Covid 19 positive patients are separated from the rest of the nursing home residents. New York has continued a controversial practice of requiring that nursing homes readmit Covid positive residents who had to be hospitalized back into their facilities. Health Commissioner Doctor Howard Zucker has argued that the nursing homes are the residents’ homes, and they can’t be barred from returning to them.

The state recently changed a rule that allowed nursing home workers who tested positive for the virus but were asymptomatic to continue to report to work. The CDC still permits the practice.

The state’s Attorney General, Tish James, is investigating reports from families who say the nursing homes kept them in the dark about the condition of their Covid positive relatives, and in some cases, took days to notify them of the residents’ deaths.

The news of the previously unreported deaths angered state Assemblyman Ron Kim, the sponsor of a bill to strengthen protections for nursing home residents during a pandemic. Kim, in a statement, that Cuomo and his health department “completely failed at protecting our most vulnerable New Yorkers”, and he said “heads should role” and that the governor and Commissioner Zucker should apologize for the undercounting in recent weeks.

Cuomo says if there is anything his administration can learn from how the nursing homes have been handled during the pandemic, they will make changes going forward, and dealing with the expected second wave of the virus later this year.

The governor also called for more consideration for the human cost of reopening the country back up too quickly. The governor on Monday laid out a careful plan for a gradual reopening of the state, which includes four phases of business reopenings, and many rules on social distancing and personal protective gear.

The governor compared it to the faster reopenings now taking place in 30 other states. The faster track to ending shutdowns in many states led a key corona virus forecaster used by the White House to double the rate of deaths predicted from the virus in the US to 134,000.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in mid April predicted 60,000 total deaths.

The governor, saying says the discussion is really about how much a human life is worth, compared to potential economic gain.

“That’s the real discussion that no one is admitting openly or freely,” Cuomo said. “A human life is priceless. Period.”

Cuomo also took issue with comments President Donald Trump made to the New York Post, where Trump said he doesn’t want the federal government to bail out blue states whose budgets are suffering from the effects of the virus.

New York facing a $13 billion dollar deficit, largely due to revenue declines from the economic shut down.

Cuomo says it’s not a blue state versus red state issue, and that many states run by Republican governors are also facing large shortfalls.

“The states make up the nation and we need financial help because of the corona virus situation, and this is not any mismanagement by the states ” said Cuomo. “If anything the mismanagement has been on behalf of the federal government.”

The governor says the federal government has allowed an imbalance to exist for decades. New York and other large states run by Democrats have paid billions more dollars in taxes to the federal government than they receive back in programs and benefits. Cuomo says blue states have essentially been bailing out red states for years.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 4, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a seven-point metric for regions to follow in order to begin reopening businesses in less than two weeks Monday, but no part of the state currently qualifies to meet those standards.

The two most difficult metrics for regions to meet, according to state data, are requirements to increase the availability of diagnostic testing and contact tracers per capita.

New standards announced by Cuomo Monday will require each region to have 30 diagnostic COVID-19 tests available for every 1,000 residents, and 30 contact tracers employed for every 100,000 residents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new metrics for reopening by region Monday Credit: Cuomo’s Briefing Monday

“These are the facts that they have to have in place to do it,” Cuomo said. “This is what a community has to deal with to reopen safely and intelligently, in my opinion.”

Contact tracers, who track where a positive COVID-19 patient may have spread the disease, appear to be particularly difficult, with no region in the state currently at a level that would allow businesses to reopen.

New York City has the most contact tracers of any region, with 2,520 available. The North Country has the least, with 126, according to the state. Neither meets the new standard to allow businesses to reopen, nor does any other region, the state’s analysis shows.

And only three regions of the state currently have the capacity to test 30 people for every 1,000 residents: New York City, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson region, where the state’s first major cluster of COVID-19 originated in Westchester County.

None of the state’s seven other regions — all considered to be in upstate New York — test enough people to begin reopening businesses later this month.

Cuomo’s so-called PAUSE order, which closed all nonessential businesses and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery, is set to expire on May 15. Regions can thereafter begin to reopen businesses if they’ve met the standards announced by Cuomo Monday.

Some of those standards are set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Others are specific to New York state.

The full checklist ranges from standards on the number of hospitalizations over time to the share of hospital beds available in each region. To start reopening, regions must have:

  1. A 14-day decline in hospitalizations or fewer than 15 hospitalizations on average
  2. A 14-day decline in hospital deaths or fewer than five deaths
  3. Less than two new hospitalizations, on average, per 100,000 residents
  4. More than 30% of total hospital beds available
  5. More than 30% of intensive care unit beds available
  6. At least 30 diagnostic tests available for every 1,000 residents
  7. At least 30 contact tracers available for every 100,000 residents

Half of the state’s regions are close to meeting each of those standards. Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, and the Southern Tier have all met five of the seven standards, but they’re still behind on testing capacity and contact tracers.

Other regions have a long way to go. Long Island has seen a 14-day decline in the number of hospitalizations and has enough testing per capita, but hasn’t met any of the five other standards.

New York City and Western New York have both met only three of the state’s standards, though they’re different between the two regions.

Hospitalizations, deaths, and the testing capacity in New York City are above the state’s standards, but the five boroughs are behind on the four other metrics. In Western New York, the region has to work on hospitalizations, testing, and the number of contact tracers.

When each region has met all seven standards, it can begin to reopen businesses, which will happen in four phases, Cuomo said Monday.

The first phase will include construction, manufacturing, and some retail locations with curbside pickup. The second phase will eye an expansion of retail, and allow professional services, finance, insurance, administrative support, and real estate businesses to resume operations.

The third phase will include restaurants, food services, hotels, and other accommodations. The fourth phase will involve education, arts, entertainment, and other recreational activities.

Different industries are likely to be included in each phase as the state’s reopening plan moves forward.

Statewide, the COVID-19 data in New York continued to trend in a positive direction Monday. The total number of hospitalizations dropped again, with 9,647 people in the hospital as of Sunday, the state’s latest data. Of those, 2,743 were intubated.

More than one million people have now been tested for COVID-19 in New York, with the total number of positive cases now at 318,953. So far, 53,34 people have been discharged from the hospital.

An additional 226 people died from the disease in New York on Sunday, bringing the statewide total confirmed deaths to 19,415.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 3, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York is teaming up with six other states in the northeast to pool their purchasing power for medical supplies and equipment, with a goal of boosting their likelihood of buying those products on the open market and strengthening their collective bidding capacity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new partnership Sunday, saying the new strategy will likely save taxpayers money by removing the need for states to bid against each other.

“I’m bidding on behalf of New York. We’re bidding against other states,” Cuomo said. “Other states around the country are trying to buy the same masks from the same vendor.”

“It was totally inefficient and ineffective,” he continued.

New York will form the consortium with New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Those states are already working with New York to coordinate plans for reopening the economy across the northeast.

The partnership will drastically improve the chances of those states being able to purchase medical supplies and equipment from sellers across the globe, and at a lower price, Cuomo said.

New York, he said, has spent $2 billion on medical supplies this year alone, Cuomo said.

“I believe it will save taxpayers money,” Cuomo said. “I also think it will help us actually get the equipment, because we have trouble still getting the equipment.”

There’s still a strong need for medical equipment and supplies at hospitals in New York, Cuomo said, despite a decrease in hospitalizations from COVID-19 over the last few weeks. The total number of hospitalizations dipped below 10,000 Saturday for the first time since mid-March.

Hospitals in New York will also now be required, Cuomo said, to build a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment, like masks and gowns, measured against how quickly those supplies were used at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s to avoid another situation where the state has to ship supplies between hospitals based on daily projections, Cuomo said.

“We can’t go through this day-to-day moving masks all across the state, this mad scramble we were in, and still are in,” Cuomo said.

Outside the hospital system, Cuomo urged New Yorkers Sunday to not let more favorable weather conditions fool them into changing their social behavior. He said people should, ideally, still stay home, or at the very least wear a mask and maintain distance while outside.

“It’s not even a situation you can control yourself,” Cuomo said. “What happens to you is dependent on what I do, and how I act.”

The disease was found in 3,438 more people Saturday, the state’s latest numbers, bringing the total number of confirmed infections statewide to 316,415.

The number of people currently hospitalized with the disease went down again Saturday, with 9,786 now requiring treatment. Of those, 2,821 were intubated, according to state data. That’s also a decrease from Friday.

An additional 280 people died from COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed deaths to 19,189.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING…

MAY 2, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Nearly one in every eight New Yorkers may have contracted the coronavirus, according to preliminary results from a series of antibody tests conducted by the state in recent weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

New York has now tested 15,103 people for COVID-19 antibodies, Cuomo said, and 12.3% of those surveyed have come back positive.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tours the MTA’s facilities in Queens. Credit: Cuomo’s Flickr account.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies, it means they’ve already contracted the disease and recovered. It may also mean they’re less likely to catch the disease again, though the World Health Organization has said people shouldn’t assume they’re immune.

The preliminary results Saturday suggest the prevalence of COVID-19 in New York City far outpaces the disease in other areas of the state. About a fifth of those tested for antibodies in the five boroughs, or 19.9%, came back positive.

Outside New York City, the results show that Western New York has the highest share of cases compared to the region’s population, with 6% identified as positive for antibodies.

The Hudson Valley region, minus Westchester and Rockland Counties, had half that amount, according to the results, with the rest of upstate trailing below. The North Country had the fewest projected cases, with only 1.2% testing positive for antibodies.

Within New York City, there’s a wide gap between the share of positive cases in each of the five boroughs, according to the results.

In the Bronx, 27.6% of those tested for antibodies came back positive. That’s compared to 17.3% in Manhattan. The other three boroughs were below 20%, but above Manhattan’s numbers.

The results also showed that more Hispanic/Latino people tested positive for antibodies than any other race identified in the study. About a quarter of Hispanic/Latino people surveyed, or 25.4%, tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

Of the other races identified in the results, 17.4% of Black people and 11.1% of Asian people tested positive for antibodies. About 14% of those who either identified as multiracial or didn’t specify a race tested positive for antibodies.

Only 7% of white people tested came back positive for COVID-19 antibodies, according to the results.

New York is planning to continue testing residents for COVID-19 antibodies on a rolling basis to nail down how prevalent the disease is in specific areas of the state, and different communities. That’s expected to inform the state’s continued response to the disease, Cuomo has said.

Hospitals have also agreed, starting Saturday, to start providing the state with more detailed information about patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

They’ll now report every patient’s age, gender, race, ethnicity, residence, comorbidities, occupation, and how they travel to work. They’ll also disclose where that person was admitted from, whether from their home, the street, or a nursing home.

The number of total hospitalizations, statewide, dipped again to 10,350 Friday, the latest data available from the state. That’s a net decrease of 643. Of those, 2,923 are still intubated, which is also a drop from Thursday.

An additional 1,085 people were discharged Friday. That means that, since the pandemic began, the state has identified 51,652 people with COVID-19 who’ve been treated at the hospital and subsequently discharged.

The total number of people who’ve tested positive for the disease increased to 312,977 Friday, an increase of 4,663 over Thursday.

As of Friday, 18.862 people had died from the disease in New York. that’s an increase of 299 from Thursday’s statewide total.

MAY 1, April 30, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York state is now asking hospitals to provide more information about patients admitted for COVID-19, like where they live and how they commute, in an effort to study trends on who’s most affected by the disease and respond to those patterns with new actions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he’ll be speaking with hospital leaders about the request, which the state will use to form a more targeted response to the disease.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Friday, May 1, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

As of Friday, approximately 1,000 people were still being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 on average statewide, Cuomo said. That number hasn’t budged in four days.

“We need more specific information to have a specific battle plan,” Cuomo said. “Let’s get more specific information from the hospital to come up with a strategy that’s more tailored to the reduction of these 1,000 cases per day.”

It’s the first time the state is seeking to gather that information from hospitals, many of which were overburdened with COVID-19 patients in New York City in early April. The statewide number of hospitalizations has since gone down every day for nearly three weeks.

Cuomo defended the state’s choice not to request more specific data from hospitals until now, saying those facilities didn’t have the capacity to compile the information at the peak of the pandemic in New York.

Even now, he said, the request will be a burden for hospitals.

“You had emergency rooms that were overwhelmed, you had administrators that were overwhelmed,” Cuomo said. “To get this level of granular detail on people walking to the door, and get it to us on a nightly basis, this is going to be a significant administrative burden on them.”

New York doesn’t publicly report COVID-19 data per facility, instead opting to publish it by county. That data includes the county where a patient died, versus where they lived. Sometimes that’s different, depending on where the person is treated.

The state also reports the number of positive COVID-19 tests per county, though local health departments have more granular information on hospitalizations.

What’s missing from the state’s data, Cuomo said, are details about how the patient may have contracted the disease, and where they may have spread it. That’s why they’re asking for information about how the patient travels, and where they live.

That data, under Cuomo’s plan, would be collected from every person who’s hospitalized with COVID-19. It’s unclear when the collection would start, or if each hospital will have the capacity to do it.

The share of hospitalizations, according to Cuomo, appear to still be concentrated in areas of New York City. Both Manhattan and Brooklyn each share about 17% of the state’s hospitalizations, with the Bronx close behind.

As of Thursday, the latest data available, 10,993 people were still hospitalized statewide for the disease, which is a decrease of 605 over Wednesday. Of those, 3,033 were in the intensive care unit, also a dip from Wednesday’s data.

Another 289 people died from the disease Thursday, bringing the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 18,563. That doesn’t include probable, unconfirmed deaths.

The total number of people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in New York reached 308,314 Thursday.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

THURSDAY, April 30, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – New York City subways will be shutting down each night for disinfecting and cleaning starting May 6th, and a plan to greatly ramp up contact tracing is beginning, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily corona virus briefing that included guest appearances by the present and former New York City mayors.

Cuomo says the subways will be closed from 1 AM to 5 AM each night, for a complete cleaning and disinfecting of each car on all trains. The governor says ridership has plummeted, due to the corona virus related shutdowns. But he says essential workers , including health care and grocery store workers , still need public transportation to get to work, and they need to be protected from further risk of infection. Public transport workers have also been coming down with the virus at a higher than average rate.

“They’re on those trains. They deserve to be kept safe. They deserve to have a clean, safe ride to and from work, and they’re going to have it,” Cuomo said. “And we’re going to move heaven and earth to make sure that happens.”

The governor admits it’s a monumental undertaking, and predicts that “there will be bumps along the way”. In addition to the mass cleaning, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will also coordinate buses and even Uber and Lyft and other for- hire care rides for each worker that needs one during those hours.

Long Island Railroad and Metro North cars will also be cleaned and disinfected daily, but it will not require a shutdown of those services , which run from New York City to its suburbs.

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, who joined the briefing virtually, says closing the subways will also end the growing problem of homeless people using subways as a place to sleep during the night, which increases their chances of infection. He says police officers will work with homeless advocates to encourage them to go to shelters where they can receive other services as well.

“Because if you’re not going back and forth all night on a train you’re actually coming above ground, where outreach workers are there to help you,” deBlasio said. “ Where NYPD officers trained in homeless outreach are there to support homeless people and get them to a better situation.”

Also appearing remotely at the briefing- deBlasio’s predecessor, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is financing and organizing a vast contact tracing effort, that will provide 30 tracers for every 100,000 people. Under the present rate of infections, 17,000 tracers could be needed to help isolate future outbreaks of the virus and to enable businesses and schools to reopen and remain open. Bloomberg says the training will be conducted through Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and will be rigorous.

“It will cover all the basic information of epidemics, contact tracing and privacy,” said Bloomberg, who said trainees will have to pass a test at the end of the program.

“We’re not going to put people out there who don’t know what they are doing,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg says they are also developing cell phone apps to help tracers, though Cuomo says there are privacy issues with some app designs that can sense what other cell phones have been in close proximity to a user’s phone.

There are also plans to identify hotel rooms where a person infected with the virus can isolate for 14 days, if they live in a crowded house or apartment.

Bloomberg says the program, once completed, will be made publicly available to help other states and nations who want to undertake a contact tracing program.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo says many counties in the state with low levels of the corona virus will be allowed to resume elective surgeries in the coming days, while in the regions hardest hit by the illness, the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations are declining at a very slow rate, with 330 deaths in New York from Covid 19 on Tuesday.

Cuomo says the counties, all of them upstate, will be permitted to resume elective surgeries, but only if they can keep 30% of their hospital beds and ICU beds free in case the virus resurges.

“When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch, because that’s where they make their money, on elective surgeries,” said Cuomo.

The governor also devoted several minutes to a critique of the US Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans. McConnell has said that a federal bail out would amount to favoritism of blue states, who have more infected people, over red states.

Cuomo calls it an “ugly sentiment”, and says politics must be put aside in this crisis.

“You have human suffering, you have people dying, you can’t stop the politics, even in this moment?” Cuomo said. “That’s what this is about, and that’s why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level.”

The governor continues to argue that New York and other Democratic states pay more in taxes to the federal government than do red states, and that in proportion, Democratic states get less money back.

And he says regular Americans are not as politically divided. He cites the example of tens of thousands of health care professionals from across the country who volunteered to come to New York to help care for Covid patients.

Cuomo, who on Tuesday said the State Fair might not be held this year, also cast doubt on the re opening of another New York summer tradition. He says the Saratoga Race Track meet might not occur, saying it would be difficult to practice social distancing, and could only happen if neighboring states also decide to allow large gatherings.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says many counties in the state with low levels of the corona virus will be allowed to resume elective surgeries in the coming days, while in the regions hardest hit by the illness, the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations are declining at a very slow rate, with 330 deaths in New York from Covid 19 on Tuesday.

Cuomo says the counties, all of them upstate, will be permitted to resume elective surgeries, but only if they can keep 30% of their hospital beds and ICU beds free in case the virus resurges.

“When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch, because that’s where they make their money, on elective surgeries,” said Cuomo.

The governor also devoted several minutes to a critique of the US Senate Leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans. McConnell has said that a federal bail out would amount to favoritism of blue states, who have more infected people, over red states.

Cuomo calls it an “ugly sentiment”, and says politics must be put aside in this crisis.

“You have human suffering, you have people dying, you can’t stop the politics, even in this moment?” Cuomo said. “That’s what this is about, and that’s why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level.”

The governor continues to argue that New York and other Democratic states pay more in taxes to the federal government than do red states, and that in proportion, Democratic states get less money back.

And he says regular Americans are not as politically divided. He cites the example of tens of thousands of health care professionals from across the country who volunteered to come to New York to help care for Covid patients.

Cuomo, who on Tuesday said the State Fair might not be held this year, also cast doubt on the re opening of another New York summer tradition. He says the Saratoga Race Track meet might not occur, saying it would be difficult to practice social distancing, and could only happen if neighboring states also decide to allow large gatherings.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

TUESDAY, April 28, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) Governor Andrew Cuomo offered more details on what needs to be in place before portions of New York State can begin to reopen. But the governor says partial reopening for now likely won’t include major attractions like the State Fair.

Cuomo held the briefing at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, one of the regions that has a lower rate of the virus and may be among the first to reopen after the current restrictions begin to ease after May 15th.

The Governor says several steps need to be taken first, including adhering to the CDC guidelines. They say a region should have 14 consecutive days where the rate of infection is declining before anything can restart.

“It’s a very fact based, data driven reopening plan,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says reopening is also contingent on having enough tests to diagnose those who are ill, and hospitals in the region will need at least a 30% additional bed capacity, after resuming elective surgeries, in case the reopening refuels the infection rate.

There also needs to be enough contact tracers. The state is working with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to hire and train 100’s of workers. Cuomo says 30 contact tracers will be needed for every 100,000 people. The tracers can identify those who have been exposed to people who came down with the virus. The governor then wants to set up safe spaces for those who need to quarantine for 2 weeks until they can rejoin their family.

Cuomo says the partial reopening will be limited at first to manufacturing and construction firms that can demonstrate they can safely open, with masks and other personal protective equipment, and social distancing.

He says for now it will not include any businesses that might attract people from outside that area, and that means possibly no summertime events, including the annual state fair, which is held in Syracuse. He says any large events would only open when the rest of New York and neighboring states decide it’s safe to those big gatherings.

“Look, if you open the state fair you’d have the highest attendance you’ve ever had, I can guarantee it,” Cuomo said. “But it wouldn’t be good.”

The governor says other attractions like beaches and amusement parks would also likely have to remain closed.

The other regions that could be first to reopen include the North Country and the Mohawk Valley region. Cuomo says Western New York, the Capital Region, and downstate New York are not on the list for partial reopening , for now, because the rate of infection is too high.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

MONDAY, April 27, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York will launch a program to buy food from struggling upstate farms, whose revenue streams were limited last month when restaurants and schools closed amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state will purchase that food directly from farmers and direct it to the state’s food banks, which have reported a surge in demand in recent weeks.

“We’re seeing a tremendous demand in food banks, which is predictable in some ways,” Cuomo said. “But the numbers are very, very high, and we need to address it.”

Demand in Westchester County, for example, has more than doubled over regular numbers, Cuomo said. At the same time, farmers have struggled to market their products.

To bridge that gap, New York is starting the Nourish New York Initiative. The program will be led by Kelly Cummings, director of state operations, and a handful of other state officials, like Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball.

We have people downstate who need food, we have farmers upstate who can’t sell their product. We have to put those two things together. It’s just common sense,” Cuomo said.

Aside from those donations, New York state will also provide $25 million from the Special Public Health Emergency Fund directly to food banks and providers who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo said.

Companies that process dairy products have also agreed to partner with the state and purchase excess milk from farmers, Cuomo said. Those companies will then use that milk to produce various dairy products, which will be donated to food banks and those in need.

Dairy farmers, in recent weeks, have been forced to literally dump their milk to dispose of excess product that hasn’t been sold in stores. That’s not unheard of, but the COVID-19 crisis has made the situation worse, farmers have said.

“We’re also, immediately, to stop this dumping of milk, going to work with industries in our state who can use our milk and get it to people who need it,” Cuomo said.

Cabot, Chobani, Dairy Farmers of America, and Upstate Niagara Cooperative have each agreed to participate in the initiative.

The New York Farm Bureau said Cuomo’s announcement was welcome news to the countless farmers upstate struggling during the COVID-19 lockdown. Farm Bureau President David Fisher, a dairy farmer, said the programs will be a step forward for the industry.

“Today’s announcement will provide an additional pathway to move more nutritious, New York produced food from our farms to the dinner table, which will benefit everyone involved,” Fisher said.

Farmers in New York already donate to regional food banks, but this will provide an avenue for revenue from those products. Fisher said that farms in New York donated seven million pounds of food to regional food banks last year.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

SUNDAY, April 26, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Workers in the construction and manufacturing industries will likely head back to work in the state’s first phase of reopening the economy, which could come in less than three weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday.

The second phase of the state’s reopening, to come later, is expected to drag out over a period of several weeks, with the state approving businesses to reopen on a case-by-case basis.

The state doesn’t have an exact date for when either phase will begin, but Cuomo said Sunday that the first steps of the reopening plan could happen as early as May 16th. That’s assuming the state’s COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in a positive direction.

Those decisions will also be made on a regional basis, Cuomo said. Even if statewide hospitalizations continue to decrease, a region with less favorable numbers may have to wait for their economy to reopen, Cuomo said.

“We’re assuming we’ll have seen a decline in the state for 14 days,” Cuomo said. “But, what regions of the state have seen a decline for 14 days — that’s where you will start the conversation to get to phase one within that region.”

Cuomo said the North Country, Central New York, and the Mohawk Valley are likely to reopen before other areas of the state. The disease hasn’t hit those regions as hard as other areas, Cuomo said, making them early candidates for a phased-in reopening.

“Those regions have seen lower numbers from day one,” Cuomo said.

It’s more complicated downstate, Cuomo said, where decisions to reopen schools and businesses will involve a multi-state approach. On top of coordinating New York City and the surrounding counties, the states of Connecticut and New Jersey will also be involved.

But any plan to reopen businesses will hinge on the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19, which continued to decline statewide Sunday. The number of people hospitalized, as of Saturday, reached 12,839 — the lowest level since the end of March.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control requires that states observe a 14-day decline in the prevalence of COVID-19 before they begin to reopen their economy. The number of new hospitalizations in New York has declined for the last nine days.

Assuming that trend continues, New York will begin its first phase of reopening, on a regional business, by allowing construction to resume, and permitting manufacturers to continue operations. Those businesses will be required to take precautions to prevent infection.

The second phase will be broken out into several different stages. Businesses deemed by the state to be more essential than others, but also at a lower risk of spreading COVID-19, will be allowed to open first.

The state will require, during the second phase, that businesses submit plans for reopening that explain how they’ll prevent further infections. When an industry is approved to reopen, the state will take a wait-and-see approach before allowing more businesses to come online.

Regions will also be barred from allowing events or attractions that would draw a large number of visitors from another area, Cuomo said. That’s to prevent people from flocking to that area from another region, where the disease may be more prevalent.

From a statewide perspective, the disease continued to trend downward Sunday. Aside from a decrease in hospitalizations from COVID-19, the net number of intubations also declined by 115 to 3,577. An additional 1,423 were discharged Saturday.

The number of people tested for the coronavirus increased by 5,902, which is a smaller increase compared to recent days. The total number of identified cases in New York reached 288,045, as of Saturday, according to the state.

An additional 367 people died from the disease Saturday, Cuomo said. That brings the statewide recorded number of fatalities since the beginning of March to 16,966.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

SATURDAY, April 25, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York state will allow first responders, health care workers, and essential employees to be tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they’ve displayed symptoms, as the state begins to expand its testing criteria for the disease.

Independent pharmacies in New York will also now be allowed to test individuals for COVID-19. Those samples will be shipped to a lab for results.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reports Saturday, April 25, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that the state’s criteria for testing individuals for COVID-19 will continue to expand as the number of tests available continues to increase. New York is planning to double the average number of tests it performs daily to 40,000 in the coming weeks.

Any employee that’s been deemed essential by the state — which ranges widely from members of law enforcement to dry cleaners — will now be eligible to be tested for COVID-19.

“These people have been carrying the load, and they have been subjected to the public all during this crisis, and because they’re public facing,” Cuomo said. “These are the people who you interact with.”

Access to testing will also be made easier, Cuomo said. The state will allow independent pharmacists to conduct, and collect, tests for the disease. They’re not required to do so, but Cuomo said he expects many of the state’s 5,000 drug stores to offer the service.

“If your local rug store can now become a collection site, people could go to their local drug store. They would be collection sites,” Cuomo said. “That would quickly ramp up our collection capacity.”

Cuomo has said, on a number of occasions, that widespread testing will allow the state to reopen its economy sooner, rather than later. There still isn’t a definitive date for when businesses will reopen, but Cuomo hasn’t extended the shutdown past May 15.

That comes as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continued to decline, per Saturday’s numbers. As of Friday, 13,524 people were still hospitalized with the disease, a decline of 734 from Thursday.

An additional 2,317 people were discharged from the hospital Friday, but 108 fewer people were intubated compared to Thursday. An additional 10,553 tested positive for the disease Friday.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in New York reached 16,599 Friday after an additional 437 died from the disease. That’s more than the state had initially projected at the beginning of April, when New York had less than 2,000 deaths from the disease.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

FRIDAY, April 24, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state will send absentee ballot applications to all eligible state voters for the June 23rd primary, to give them the option of voting by mail if they don’t feel comfortable going to the polls in person on that date.

New York has strict rules on when a person can vote by absentee ballot. But Cuomo recently issued an executive order allowing for people effected by Covid 19, or who are worried about getting the disease, to vote by mail. He says after seeing the crowded ballot lines in Wisconsin elections recently, which resulted in at least 19 people getting the virus, he’s expanding on that order.

“Today, I’m asking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter …a postage paid application for a ballot,” Cuomo said. “So you don’t have to come out and get on line.”

Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa says New York’s constitution does not allow the state to send direct mail- in ballots, so voters are being sent the applications instead. She says it makes it easier for people stuck home without access to a printer or unwilling to call their local boards of elections and endure long wait times.

“You would have had to download the ballot, call to get a ballot, go to the BoE to get a ballot,” DeRosa said. “So people who don’t have access to the Internet, and don’t want to leave their homes for fear of Covid, are able to get an application directly sent to them”.

Groups on both the left and right, including the government reform group Common Case and the state’s Conservative Party, have expressed concerns about expanding mail in voting. They say the Board of Elections are not equipped to handle it properly, and might make mistakes that could bring the elections results into question. Cuomo says in light of the pandemic, he needs to offer people the choice.

“Life is options,” he said. “There’s only two options. Either people go to the polls or people vote by absentee, There’s no other way to do it.”

New York’s Presidential primary, which was moved from April 28 to June 23, has not been cancelled, even though Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden. There are a number of primaries for seats for Congress and for the state legislature.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

THURSDAY, April 23, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s opening an investigation of the state’s nursing homes who might have violated rules regarding how to care for Covid 19 patients. The announcement comes as the governor says a random antibody testing of 3000 New Yorkers finds 13.9% have already had the virus.

Cuomo says the tests were conducted in 40 grocery stores in 19 counties across the state earlier in the week.

“It means you are testing people who by definition are out of the home and not at work,” Cuomo said.

The preliminary results show the percentage of New Yorkers who have already had the disease varies in regions of the state, with the highest number, 21.2% in New York City, which has been the epicenter of the virus, 16.7% on Long Island were previously infected and recovered, 11.7% in Westchester and Rockland Counties, and 3.6% in the rest of state.

The governor says the lower rate of infection Upstate supports the views that perhaps some regions of the state could reopen earlier than others. But he says he continues to worry that people from areas still closed up will flock to areas that reopen first.

“You have a pent up demand,” Cuomo said. “Where one region opens up for business, you could see people come in, literally, from the tri state area, and overwhelm that region.”

The state’s nursing homes are facing new scrutiny, after some families have complained that they weren’t notified about the health status of their relatives in some facilities, or even told whether any residents were sick with the corona virus. Many nursing homes are privately owned, but they are regulated by the state. Under current rules, nursing homes are supposed to supply all staff with PPE, check the temperatures of all employees who enter the facility each day, and ban visitors. If a resident contracts the virus, they need to be quarantined from the others. If the nursing home can’t do that safely under CDC guidelines, , then they must transfer the patient to a facility that can care for them. And families need to be notified within 24 hours if their relative test positive for the virus, or has died from it.

Cuomo says the state’s Attorney General, Tish James, will work with the state health department to investigate allegations that some of the homes aren’t following the rules. The governor says he understands that the nursing homes are in a “crisis situation” and under a lot of pressure.

“This is a very intense situation for nursing homes, we get it,” Cuomo said. “But they still have to perform their job and do their job by the rules and regulations.”

But he says those found to be violating the rules will be fined, or in some cases, could lose their operating license.

Cuomo says the daily death toll is still “terrible” with 438 lives lost to the disease Wednesday . But that number is lower than it’s been for much of April, and the number of new hospitalizations for the virus is also waning, and the state is likely past the apex, though 15,021 are still in the hospital.

The governor says if the numbers continue to go down, the rate of infection may be low by the summer. But he says he and health experts have concerns about a second wave of the virus next fall, that could coincide with flu season, and he says the state has to be prepared.

“That’s then problematic,” said Cuomo, who said people with symptoms will be seeking test for both the flu and Covid.

“That could be a possible overwhelming of the testing system,” he said.

And he says the health care system could also again be overwhelmed, if steps aren’t taken now.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo says former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has offered to take over the complex and labor intensive process of contact tracing after someone becomes sick with corona virus, and is putting up $10.5 million dollars to help do so.

Cuomo and health experts believe that contact tracing will be very important during a predicted second wave or even a third wave of the virus. Along with more widespread testing of those who are experiencing symptoms, the method can help isolate those who are at risk of becoming sick or spreading the virus, without having to shut down the entire economy.

The governor says details still need to be worked out. He says no one has ever attempted contact tracing on such a large scale, and calls it a “monumental effort” that will also involve coordination with New York City and its suburbs, upstate regions, and neighboring states, including New Jersey and Connecticut.

“We have to expand this number tenfold, and we have to get it done, like this,” Cuomo said, snapping his fingers for emphasis. “You don’t have months to plan and do this. You have weeks to get this up and running.”

Cuomo’s Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa, says Bloomberg won’t be doing it all alone. He’ll be working with Johns Hopkins University’s public health program , of which Bloomberg is a major funder , and which issues the definitive map of corona virus cases worldwide.

“They, in partnership with us, are creating an online curriculum to train the tracers, to recruit them, to interview them and to perform the background checks,” DeRosa said.

The state will also be recruiting people to work as tracers through existing health department staff, investigators who work at state agencies and medical students at State and City University of New York medical schools.

Cuomo says he hopes, if successful, it can serve as a model for other states.

“We’re all eager to begin loosening restrictions on our daily lives and our economy. But in order to do that as safely as possible, we first have to put in place systems to identify people who may have been exposed to the virus and support them as they isolate,” Bloomberg, said in a statement.

State health officials have been trying to get more data about the rate of infection that’s already occurred among New Yorkers, and have been conducting random tests at grocery stores around the state to see if shoppers might have the antibodies in their blood to show that they already contracted the virus and recovered. Cuomo says it’s the largest study in the country, and will hopefully put to rest speculation on what has been the actual spread of the disease in the US so far.

“What percent of the population has been infected? Nobody knows,” Cuomo said “Nobody knows the facts.”

The results will not be known for several more days.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING…

TUESDAY, April 21, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out a plan to resume some types of elective surgeries in some portions of upstate New York. But all of downstate, and several upstate counties, will be excluded. Cuomo spoke before a planned meeting at the White House Tuesday afternoon with President Donald Trump.

Cuomo who conducted his briefing at the Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo says the meeting with Trump will focus on testing. The governor has been asking the federal government to step in and manage the national supply chain for testing materials, Cuomo says it’s something the states can’t do on their own.

The governor, who has alternately praised and berated the President in the past few weeks as the pandemic raged in New York, says he will try to find some middle ground.

“Life is a fine line,” said Cuomo, who says he will “tell the truth” to the President.

Cuomo also says elective outpatient surgeries will be allowed to resume in counties that do not have a significant number of people sick with the corona virus.

“We are going to allow it in counties in the state that do not have a Covid issue,” Cuomo said.

The entire New York City area and its suburbs, Long Island, Westchester and Rockland, will be excluded. Several upstate counties will also not be permitted to resume elective surgeries for now- including Erie County which includes Buffalo and its suburbs , Albany County, and Dutchess County. The governor says hospital beds there might be needed if the virus resurges.

The governor also says he plans to reopen the state differently in different regions of the state, depending on how many people are infected in a particular area. But he is not ready to announce any loosening of the business and school closures and stay at home orders. They remain in effect until May 15th.

Complaints about New York’s unemployment offices continue, even though Cuomo and his aides have said they are improving the antiquated system.

Several days ago, the state simplified the forms and said applicants would get a call back from the state department of labor in 72 hours. The governor was asked by reporters about jobless New Yorkers who say the state failed to call them back during that time period. The governor says he understands the frustration.

“I get it. There’s nothing worse than being unemployed, and nervous about a paycheck, and then you call for unemployment benefits, and you can’t get through on the phone.”

The system, which normally handles around 50,000 calls a week, had nearly 8 million calls in one week in late March and early April.

Cuomo says the state transferred 1000 workers from other departments to work phone calls.  Plus, Google will try to streamline the system.

On Monday, the state labor department issued a new application that fixed a glitch that required applicants to file twice, once for regular unemployment, and if they were rejected, to then file for the federal enhanced pandemic unemployment program.

Now they need only apply once. Cuomo says even if benefits are delayed, they will be retroactive to the date of the person’s job loss.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

MONDAY, April 20, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Workers on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, like health care professionals and transit employees, should receive a bump in pay from the federal government for their work responding to the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reports on Monday, April 20, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

He called for those workers to receive a 50% bonus immediately, paid for by the federal government, in recognition of their work during the crisis.

“Thanks is nice. But also recognition for their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate,” Cuomo said. “They are the ones who are carrying us through this crisis, and this crisis is not over.”

Nearly half of all front line workers are people of color, according to data from the Center for Economic Policy Research. That includes more than a third of health care workers and nearly two-thirds of building cleaning service workers.

About a third of all front line workers are from low-income households, Cuomo said.

“The economy did not close down,” Cuomo said. “It closed down, frankly, for the people who have the luxury of staying at home.”

It’s not the first time someone’s raised the idea. State Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, both Democrats from Queens, wrote a letter to Cuomo and legislative leaders last week making the same pitch.

They asked Cuomo and lawmakers to set aside funding from the federal government to provide hazard pay to front line workers.

“Such a step is not only necessary, but the least that we can do to offer compensation for the heroism and enormous risk that our community members are taking to save lives and support our state,” the lawmakers wrote.

New York is asking the federal government for more direct aid to pay for its response to the COVID-19 crisis. The National Governors Association, of which Cuomo is a co-chair, wants an additional $500 billion given to states in the next stimulus package.

That money, Cuomo said, would be used by the state, in part, to fill a looming hole in the state budget. If they don’t fill that gap, Cuomo said, the state may have to make cuts of up to 20% to local governments, schools, and hospitals.

“You can’t spend what you don’t have,” Cuomo said.

The state is anticipating a loss of revenue north of $10 billion because of the COVID-19 pandemic, State Budget Director Robert Mujica has said. That’s on top of the money disbursed to fund the state’s response to the crisis.

As of Monday, an additional 478 had died from COVID-19 in New York, bringing the statewide total to 14,347. That number is lower than in recent weeks, when the disease, at one time, was killing more than 800 people.

The net number of hospitalizations was down again, with 16,103 people in the hospital as of Sunday. That’s a net decrease of 110. Of those in the hospital, 4,102 are intubated. That’s also a net decrease from Saturday.

An additional 1,035 people were discharged from the hospital on Sunday, according to state data.

The number of positive cases identified by the state, as of Sunday, reached 247,512.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

SUNDAY, April 19, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – State funding for schools in New York could be slashed by nearly 50% if the federal government doesn’t send billions of dollars in aid for the state’s efforts in responding to COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Sunday.

Net Number of Hospitalizations, as of Saturday, in New York Credit: Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo, through legislation approved in this year’s state budget, has the power to reduce funding for schools and localities if the state’s revenues are lower than expected.

The budget, passed in early April, already left school aid flat compared to last year’s spending. But Cuomo said that, without money from the federal government, schools may have to work with less than what was set aside for them in the state budget.

“If we don’t get federal assistance, you’re looking at education cuts of close to 50% in the state of New York, where school districts would only get half the aid than they got from the state last year,” Cuomo said.

That would place a major burden on school districts, which are already considering layoffs later this year without an increase in education aid, officials have said.

The National Governors Association, of which Cuomo is vice chair, is asking the federal government to allocate $500 billion in aid for states to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected New York more severely than other states.

Cuomo made the comments at his daily press briefing, which he gave Sunday in Nassau County.

While New York continues to work with surrounding states on a long-term plan to open the economy, Cuomo said Sunday that the state Department of Health will begin testing thousands of people around the state for antibodies, which could show an immunity to the disease.

Cuomo said that’ll happen over the next week, during which the state has the capacity to test about 14,000 people for antibodies. Those results will be used to help inform the state about the share of the population that’s contracted the virus, but may not have been identified.

“That will tell us for the first time, what percent of the population has actually had the coronavirus and is now, at least short term, immune to the coronavirus,” Cuomo said.

As of Sunday, a total of 242,786 had tested positive for the disease in New York, according to state data.

New York continued to see a series of positive trends related to the disease overnight, Cuomo told reporters.

The net number of hospitalizations continued to decline, with 754 fewer compared to Friday. That brings the net number of hospitalizations, as of Saturday, to 16,213. Of those, 4,134 people were intubated. That’s a decline of 112 from Friday.

An additional 1,664 people were discharged from the hospital Saturday according to state data.

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 was lower Saturday than in recent days, with 507 additional fatalities. That brings the total number of deaths related to the disease to 13,869 in New York, as of Saturday.

Cuomo cautioned that, while the numbers appear to be headed in the right direction, the disease is far from over in New York.

“We controlled the beast. We apexed. We plateaued. It’s coming down the other side. That is good news,” Cuomo said. “But the beast is still alive. We did not kill the beast. And the beast can rise up again. We know that.”

SATURDAY, April 18, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York’s COVID-19 crisis may be on the decline, albeit slowly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Saturday, meaning the state may be past the peak of the disease and now approaching more favorable numbers.

That’s largely based on data from New York City and the surrounding counties, where the disease spiked in the last month and a half, but has since begun to slow.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Saturday, April 18, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

“If you look at the past three days, you could agree that we’re past the plateau and starting to descend which would be very good news,” Cuomo said. “Again, it’s only three days but that’s what the numbers would start to suggest.”

Cuomo said emergency rooms are still struggling, but now have fewer people in them than a few weeks ago, when the disease is projected to have been at its peak statewide.

The net number of hospitalizations in New York was down again Friday, according to data released Saturday. That’s the fifth consecutive day of decline, with a net 349 fewer people admitted to the hospital than the day before.

That number takes into account people who were admitted to the hospital, and subtracts the number of deaths and discharges.

An additional 540 people died from the disease Friday, Cuomo said. That brings the total number of reported deaths to 13,362 statewide.

A total of 1,760 people were discharged from the hospital Friday, according to state data.

The gross number of hospitalizations, meaning the number of people admitted to the hospital without subtracting discharges and deaths, was at 1,915 Friday. It’s been at about that level for the last five days after an initial decline the week before.

There were a net 48 fewer people intubated Friday than the day before, which means fewer people currently require treatment with a ventilator.

An additional 7,090 people tested positive for the disease on Friday, according to state data, bringing the all-time total number of cases in New York to 236,732.

Cuomo called, again Saturday, for the federal government to help states streamline testing efforts, to both detect the disease and antibodies, noting that it’s currently in the hands of states and a few hundred private companies.

Those companies, Cuomo said, contract with labs in New York state to sell their tests and testing equipment. But tests also require so-called reagents, or chemicals, which are in short supply, he said.

The National Governors Association, Cuomo said, is asking the federal government to set aside $500 billion for states to fund efforts related to the coronavirus. Aside from its direct spending, New York is anticipating a revenue shortfall upwards of $10 billion.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

FRIDAY, April 17, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is mandating in a an executive order that private labs in New York State work together to develop testing for the corona virus. He says he needs the federal government to coordinate and scale up testing to allow the economy to re open sooner, but so far that is not occurring. And Cuomo had some choice words for President Donald Trump, after Trump live tweeted criticism of Cuomo’s daily briefing.

Cuomo continues to press for more monetary aide from the federal government. The governor wrote a joint letter to the President and Congress with Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, asking for $5 billion dollars to help state governments pay for coping with the crisis.

President Trump said Thursday that it’s up to the states to determine when to reopen businesses and lift stay at home orders. Cuomo says if states are doing all the work, then they need the funds to help them.

During the governor’s briefing, which often run 40 minutes to an hour in length, Trump live tweeted that Cuomo “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining’”. The President also said that the federal government already gave New York hospital beds and ventilators that went unused.

“Governor Cuomo should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining”. Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use, gave large numbers of Ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with testing that you should be doing. We have given New York far more money, help and equipment than any other state, by far, & these great men & women who did the job never hear you say thanks. Your numbers are not good. Less talk and more action!”, the President said in two tweets.

Cuomo, who earlier in the week said Trump was spoiling for a fight, but that he chose not to argue with the President, was clearly angered by the needling.

“If he’s sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo has repeatedly credited Trump and his administration for providing additional beds and ventilators, saying the reason that they did not need to be fully used, is that New Yorkers cooperated with stay at home orders, and flattened the curve of the infection. But he says the federal government is just doing what it’s supposed to do in crisis.

‘Thank you for participating in a modicum of federal responsibility in a national crisis,” Cuomo said.

And the governor says the reason why he asked for the additional beds and equipment, was because the CDC projected that they would be needed. He suggested, sarcastically, that the President should revise his role on the TV series ‘The Apprentice’ and “fire” the head of the CDC, as well as leaders for White House corona virus task force.

Cuomo says he’s frustrated because he fears that without the federal government helping to coordinate the testing that’s needed to re open the economy, there will be a repeat of the chaos during the first phase of the pandemic, when he says the federal government was unprepared and hospitals struggled for beds and personal protective equipment.

“This is an important moment,” Cuomo said. “If we don’t have federal help on testing that’s a real problem, and I’m not going to go through the chaos that was created last time.”

Cuomo addressed other issues in the briefing, as well. There have been complaints from families with relatives in nursing homes that they have been unable to get information about their health conditions, or whether there is Covid 19 in the facility. The governor says he is now ordering nursing homes to disclose that information to families.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

THURSDAY, April 16, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended the stay at home order for New York residents through May 15th. And he’s reminding everyone in the state that the requirement to wear a mask while out in public begins Friday at 8:00 p.m.

Cuomo says the stay in place orders and businesses and school closures will remain in effect for another month. While the daily death toll , at 606 Wednesday, is down from previous days, 2000 more people were admitted to the hospital with COVID 19 and 17,735 are still in the hospital with the disease. The governor says he’s received some blowback on the requirement, announced Wednesday, that masks will be required while out in public starting Friday evening, but he says health experts now believe that they help reduce spread of the virus.

“I’m sorry it makes people unhappy” said Cuomo. “But it really is a simple measure that can save lives.”

The masks will be required where social distancing is not possible, as well as on public transportation, like buses or subways, and while driving or riding in an Uber or Lyft car.

Cuomo says when it is time to re open some businesses and allow for more public activities, it will have to be done in a carefully calibrated manner. He says because of the stay at home orders, the virus is likely being transmitted at a rate of .9%, which means for every person who gets sick, they give it to slightly less than one other person, on average.

He says if opening businesses or allowing more pole to congregate brings that ratio up to even 1.2%, meaning each person sick infects on average, slightly more than one other person, then, the spread could increase exponentially and the health care system could start to get overwhelmed again. The governor says he is not left with “a lot of wiggle room”.

“You start to turn that valve,” Cuomo said. “You see that number going up, turn the valve back right away.”

The governor says businesses can make modifications to keep things safe, by continuing to have some employees work from home, and rearranging seating to keep people six feet away from each other.

Meanwhile, a survey of business leaders in New York, conducted by Siena College for the Business Council of New York State, finds that the majority of CEO’s want to reopen as soon as possible, but only when public health officials determine that it is safe to do so. Siena’s Don Levy says the poll asked the business leaders about the May 1 re opening date that President Trump has pushed for in recent days .

“A majority, 57% said public health, but still a sizeable minority, 35% said it’s time to re open,” Levy said.

Levy says CEO’s in manufacturing, engineering and construction were the most likely to say it’s time to get back to work.

The majority, 61%, of the business leaders approve of the social distancing rules that have been put into effect by Cuomo.

Most business leaders are “bracing for a very long haul” in an economic recovery, says Levy. Only around one third foresee their companies recovering in the next six months, while most think it will be sometime next year. 40% have laid off workers, with 10% saying they expect to have to furlough more workers this summer. 90% of the employers, though, remain optimistic about their future, and say they plan to still be in business in a year from now.

Nearly all of them said, though, that they are relying on assistance from federal and state governments in the form of grants and tax breaks, to help them get through. Three quarters say they are trying to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s paycheck protection loan program, although money for that is already running out of money.

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

WEDNESDAY, April 15, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo is issuing an executive order beginning on Friday that requires every New Yorker out in public to wear a mask when it’s not possible to practice social distancing.

The governor says the order, which will be effective in 3 days requires that all New Yorkers when out in public wear masks or scarves or bandannas, that cover their nose and mouth when it’s not possible to practice social distancing.

“Put the mask on,” Cuomo said. “You’re right to go out for a walk in the park… fine, but don’t infect me. You don’t have right to infect me.”

For now, he says there will be no civil penalties or fines for not wearing a mask, but will consider doing so if people don’t comply.

Cuomo said the rate of hospitalizations may be past the apex, and on the decline with 18,335 in the hospital on Tuesday. But he says the death toll, at 752 on Tuesday, may be even higher, as the state will now be counting probable deaths from COVID 19.

New York City began using the new CDC guidelines to include in their count those who may have died from the virus, but did not go to a hospital. That put the City’s death toll from the pandemic at over 10,000 people.

Cuomo says New York State will now be going back and recounting, to include those who likely died from the corona virus but did not go to a hospital or were unable to get a test.

Cuomo says while he is eager to restart the economy, no one should expect that things will go back to the way they were before the pandemic. He says it will be a gradual reopening with many safety precautions.

The governor says criteria will include how essential the business is, and how high risk is the business for spread of infection. He says companies can make adjustments to make their workplaces safer, when they are allowed to reopen.

“Businesses can start to redesign their work places,” said Cuomo.

But Cuomo says a phased reopening won’t be safe without more testing and contact tracing. He says there are lots of testing obstacles, including not enough equipment like swabs, and vials. He says test kits are made by private companies and involve an international supply chain.

The governor says only the federal government can bring testing “to scale”, the states cannot do it on their own, and he urged the Trump Administration to act.

In the meantime, New York is seeking FDA approval for a finger prick anti body test, that could test up to 100,000 people a day, that the governor says will be prioritized for health care workers.

Cuomo says nothing will be truly safe until there’s a vaccine, in 12 to 18 months.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

TUESDAY, April 14, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning that he doesn’t plan to engage President Donald Trump in a political debate over the authority of the federal government, but that he’ll challenge the president in court if New York is ordered to reopen businesses before it’s ready.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

But Cuomo, who’s butt heads with Trump more than most public officials in the last four years, said he hopes it won’t come to that, and that the pair can come to an agreement.

“It takes two to tango. It takes two to get into a fight. It takes two people to get into a litigation,” Cuomo said. “I am not interested in fighting with the president, and I can’t be more clear in that.”

Cuomo and Trump have been at odds in recent days over whose decision it will be to reopen schools and businesses in New York.

Trump, at a press briefing Monday, said the decision would be up to him, and that he could, theoretically, order states to open schools and businesses at any time, even if states resisted the move. On that issue, he said his “authority is total” over states.

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Trump said. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

Cuomo, in a round of media interviews Tuesday morning and again during his daily press briefing in Albany, disagreed. He traced his position back more than two centuries, saying the country’s founders didn’t envision a president to have such power over states.

“That is not an accurate statement, in my opinion,” Cuomo said. “This is basic federalism — the role of the states and the role of the federal government.”

“We don’t have a king in this country. We didn’t want a king. So, we have a constitution and we elect a president,” he continued.

Cuomo said earlier Tuesday, during an interview on CNN, that if it came down to it, New York would bring Trump to court if an order was issued by the federal government to reopen businesses before the state believed it was ready.

“We would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government, and that would go into the courts,” Cuomo said.

When asked by New York NOW later Tuesday what the legal argument would be for challenging the president, Cuomo said it would be based on New York’s sovereign powers as a state. His position, in other words, is that New York has exclusive authority over reopening businesses.

Earlier Tuesday, during a different television interview, he warned that such a legal challenge would have dire consequences, both politically for Trump and for the country as a whole.

“It would be terrible for this country, and it would be terrible for this president,” Cuomo said.

Later Tuesday, he appeared to strike a different tone. He accused Trump of “spoiling for a fight” with him over the conflict, but said he wouldn’t take the bait.

“The president is clearly spoiling for a right on this issue. The worst thing we can do on all this is to start with political division,” Cuomo said. “The president will have no fight with me. I will not engage him.”

Cuomo’s previously praised Trump for his cooperation with New York during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump, among other things, allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary hospitals in New York and sent a medical naval ship to increase hospital capacity.

As of Tuesday morning, New York was reporting 18,697 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a net decrease of 128 from Monday’s numbers. Of those, 4,414 were intubated, which was also a net decrease from Monday. There were 1,134 new discharges from the hospital Monday.

The number of people testing positive for the disease passed a new milestone Tuesday, with 202,208 people confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 in New York. That’s the first time the number has surpassed 200,000.

The number of deaths from the disease reached 10,834 on Tuesday, according to state data. That’s an increase of 778 over Monday’s numbers, but still within what the state is considering a plateau of fatalities, Cuomo said.

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

MONDAY, April 13, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be over in New York, as long as residents continue to follow federal and social guidelines for social distancing and limit their interactions with others.

If residents begin to change their behavior by ignoring social distancing rules, or making non-essential trips outside their homes, numbers could spike up again, Cuomo said.

The warning came as New York reported, again Monday, that the net number of intubations related to COVID-19 had gone down Sunday, and that the three-day average net number of hospitalizations had continued to decrease.

That means that, while the number of hospitalizations and intubations from the disease has continued to rise over the last week, it’s done so at a slower rate than at the suspected height of the disease.

“The worst is over, if we continue to be smart moving forward,” Cuomo said.

As of Monday morning, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in New York had reached 18,825, a net increase of 118 over Sunday’s numbers. The net number of people intubated had decreased by 21, bringing the current total to 4,428.

A total of 1,238 people were discharged from the hospital Sunday after being treated for the disease, state data showed Monday.

At the same time, New York reported Monday that an additional 671 people had died of the virus Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 10,056. That’s the lowest day-to-day count in the last week, but it’s unclear if the daily number of deaths will continue to decrease in the coming days.

Dan Clark is host and producer at New York NOW.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

SUNDAY, April 12, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’ll begin discussions on Sunday with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on a tri-state plan for reopening businesses and schools as the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 continues to slow in New York.

Cuomo, speaking to reporters in Albany Sunday, said he would ideally like to see the three states develop a coordinated strategy for reopening businesses and schools.

“We want to reopen as soon as possible … The caveat is, we have to be smart in the way we reopen,” Cuomo said. “Nobody wants to pick between a public health strategy and an economic strategy.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on Sunday, April 12, 2020. Credit: Cuomo’s Flickr account

Cuomo said he doesn’t have a date in mind for when businesses in New York could plan to reopen, and that a decision hasn’t been made on whether schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Businesses may not reopen without a decision to send students back to class, Cuomo said. If businesses reopen, and schools remain closed, parents would have to figure out what to do with their children during the work day.

“I wouldn’t assume anything because if you say schools aren’t going to open, you’re saying businesses aren’t going to open,” Cuomo said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said again on Sunday that schools in the five boroughs would remain closed for the remainder of the school year, despite statements from Cuomo this weekend questioning that decision.

“When it comes to a decision like this … our job is to protect the children of New York City, to protect the families of New York City, to protect our educators, and our job is to make sure that we beat back the coronavirus once and for all,” de Blasio said.

“It’s abundantly clear that to do these things we have to keep our schools closed for the remainder of the school year,” he continued.

Cuomo, later Sunday, said again that any plan to keep schools closed through the end of the academic year would be made on a regional basis, between de Blasio and leaders from suburban counties. Ideally, Connecticut and New Jersey would also be involved.

New York is also seeking to coordinate new testing efforts with New Jersey and Connecticut, Cuomo’s said in recent days.

He said he’s planning to issue an executive order Sunday to expand who, in New York, can test for COVID-19 antibodies. Those tests will be critical to reopening the economy, Cuomo’s said, because they can, in theory, test who’s developed an immunity to the disease.

As of Sunday morning, 18,707 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York, with 5,198 of those patients in the intensive care unit. Both of those numbers were slightly up over what was reported Saturday.

Of patients currently in the intensive care unit, 4,449 were intubated as of Sunday morning, a net increase of 110 over yesterday. An additional 1,862 people were discharged overnight.

The number of people who’ve tested positive for the disease in New York reached 188,694 Sunday, according to state data.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

SATURDAY, April 11, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Schools in New York City may, or may not, be closed through the end of the academic year — we don’t know yet because Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively nullified an announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Saturday saying those facilities would remain shuttered.

Cuomo, speaking to reporters Saturday afternoon, said de Blasio’s announcement was an “opinion,” but that a final decision on keeping New York City schools closed hasn’t been made.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reports Saturday, April 11, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

“There has been no decision,” Cuomo said. “That’s the mayor’s opinion.”

That was news to the New York City Mayor’s Office, which announced Saturday morning, prior to Cuomo’s briefing, that schools would remain closed in the five boroughs through the rest of the academic year.

De Blasio said he didn’t want to risk a resurgence of COVID-19 in New York City, which has slowly seen a positive trend of the number of cases and hospitalizations from the disease. He later tweeted that digital devices would be made available for remote learning.

“This is a public health decision — and not an easy one. But it’s the right one,” de Blasio tweeted. “The social distancing strategies have been working, and we cannot risk a resurgence of the virus.”

But, according to Cuomo, no decision has been made on whether students will return to classes in New York City this year.

Rather than allow schools in New York City to remain closed on their own, Cuomo said he wants to develop a coordinated plan between leaders from Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, and the five boroughs.

“I understand the mayor’s position, which is he wants to close them until June, and we may do that but we’re going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities,” Cuomo said. “It makes no sense for one locality to take an action that’s not coordinated with the others.”

Freddi Goldstein, de Blasio’s top spokeswoman, predicted in a tweet after Cuomo’s remarks that their announcement would stand, and that schools in New York City would, indeed, remain closed through the school year.

“The Governor’s reaction to us keeping schools closed is reminiscent of how he reacted when the Mayor called for a shelter in place. We were right then and we’re right now,” Goldstein tweeted. “Schools will remain closed, just like how we eventually – days later – moved to a shelter in place model.”

As of now, schools in New York state are closed through April 29, through an executive order from Cuomo. He hasn’t said if that order will be extended.

It’s not unlikely, given the trajectory of the disease. As of Saturday, 180,458 people in New York had tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 9,946 over Friday.

The number of hospitalizations from the disease reached 18,654 Saturday, which is a net increase of 85 over Friday. Of those, 5,009 were in the intensive care unit, also an increase over Friday.

An additional 783 people died from COVID-19 between Friday and Saturday, Cuomo said, which brings the statewide total fatalities to 8,627.

But in a sign of good news, the net number of intubations due to the disease decreased for the first time Saturday in at least three weeks. It was at 4,339 as of Saturday morning, a net decrease of 26.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

FRIDAY, April 10, 2020

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at his Friday briefing that coronavirus deaths in New York jumped by 777 in one day on Thursday. That is slightly down from the day before. So far, the number of deaths from the virus statewide is 7,844.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized is growing far less than last week, a possible sign the outbreak in New York is peaking.

CREDIT OFFICE OF NY GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO

Cuomo said original models from various analysts had much higher numbers. He said the better numbers so far are likely due to state residents following guidelines about social distancing.

“The statisticians had to come up with a premise on how many would comply and we’ve actually exceeded that. But, we have to keep doing it.” Cuomo said that “what we’re doing is working, stay with it, even though it is a grind and even though it is difficult, we have to stay with it. We have to stay with it operationally, on our hospital system, where we’re coordinating statewide in what we call the surge and flex system.

New York state is getting help from Google to overhaul a decades-old unemployment benefits system that has left laid-off workers frustrated and awaiting help.

Google helped New York design a revamped website that launched Thursday evening. The state also added 300 workers to its 700-person staff to process unemployment benefit applications.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

THURSDAY, April 9, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the highest daily death toll yet, saying on Wednesday 799 New Yorkers died of the corona virus.

“You’re talking about 799 lives,” said Cuomo, who says he has to bring in additional funeral directors to deal with all of the dead.

“If you ever told me as governor, I’d have to take these actions, I couldn’t even contemplate, ” Cuomo said.

The trend of fewer people being admitted to hospitals with the virus continues downward, with 200 people being admitted Wednesday. Cuomo says that’s the lowest number since the “nightmare” began.

But he says it’s not time to ease any of the restrictions on businesses, schools and public gatherings. He says the social distancing is likely the reason why the numbers are starting to go down.

The governor says changes will be made later Thursday to the state’s unemployment website and phone system, in hopes of ending what Cuomo admits is the “infuriating” instances where jobless New Yorkers are faced with long wait times or constant busy signals when they try to file for unemployment. His chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, says the system will be shutting down between 5PM and 7Pm Thursday, to reboot what is hoped will be a better system.

“It’s streamlined, there are fewer questions,” said DeRosa, who said the new system will require one of the 1000 people now at the call centers to call back the applicant within 72 hours if any additional information is needed.

DeRosa says over 800,000 New Yorkers have filed claims for unemployment, and around 600,000 have been processed.

Once someone is successfully signed up for unemployment, the benefits will be paid retroactively to the day when the person lost their job.

 

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Voters in New York will be allowed to vote entirely by mail in June, when the state’s primary elections for president, members of Congress, and state legislative races are scheduled, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

It’s an option that Cuomo and his top aides have considered in recent weeks as the number of individuals infected with COVID-19 in New York has continued to grow.

While there’s evidence to suggest the disease could be less severe in New York by the election, scheduled for June 23, Cuomo said he didn’t want voters to forego casting a ballot if they didn’t feel comfortable visiting a polling place.

“I’ve seen lines of people on television voting in other states. This is totally nonsensical,” Cuomo said. “God bless them for having such diligence for their civic duty that they would go stand on a line to vote, but people shouldn’t have to make that choice.”

Voters will still have the option to cast their ballot at a polling place, Cuomo said, but absentee ballots will be made available for anyone who wants to vote by mail. Details on deadlines and how to obtain a ballot were expected in a forthcoming executive order.

There’s also a possibility that polling places will be closed for the election, but Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, said they’re still waiting to make that decision. Data in recent days has suggested the disease may be faltering in the face of aggressive social distancing.

“We’re saying the temporary illness provision of absentee voting will include the risk of contracting COVID-19,” DeRosa said. “I think we’re going to take a wait and see approach as we get closer on whether or not any polls should be open.”

Common Cause of New York, a good government group that’s urged easier voter participation amid the pandemic, cheered Cuomo’s decision in a tweet Wednesday, but said the Legislature should provide wider access in statute.

“This is a great start, however, New York cannot be ruled by executive order alone,” the group tweeted. “New York lawmakers must continue to hold a remote session to pass legislation that will protect New York voters forever.”

It’s unclear, as of now, if COVID-19 will largely subside in New York before the June elections, but the current trend appears to be headed in the right direction.

The number of hospitalizations, on average, were down again on Wednesday for the fifth consecutive day, according to state data. Cuomo said the pattern is evidence that the state may have avoided its previous projections for the disease, but that it’s still too early to tell.

“It is flattening the curve and we see that again so far,” Cuomo said. “If we continue doing what we’re doing, then we believe the curve will continue to flatten. But, it’s not a time to get complacent.”

New York, for the second day in a row, saw its largest single-day death toll from the disease Wednesday, with 779 fatalities reported overnight. The total number of deaths is now 6,268.

Cuomo has said the high number of deaths corresponds to a previous spike in hospitalizations, and that the number may increase again before it starts to fall. As of Wednesday, 149,316 people had tested positive for the disease in New York.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

TUESDAY, April 7, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 731 more people died on Monday due to the coronavirus, marking the largest single-day increase in fatalities in the state since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The latest surge brings the total number of deaths in New York to 5,489 — nearly half of all deaths caused by the virus in the U.S. — and comes even as the three-day average of hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are dropping, Cuomo said.

“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a brother, is a sister. So, a lot of pain again today,” he said at a press conference in Albany.

Cuomo called the death rate a “lagging indicator,” adding that current data suggests New York is in the apex of the outbreak and officials are projecting the state is reaching a plateau.

As a result, he said: “We have to start planning restarting life.”

“We are not there yet. This is not a light switch we can just flip one day and everything goes back to normal,” Cuomo noted.

But said he is engaged in discussions with the Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to develop regional strategies for how to do that.

An essential component of restarting life and the New York economy will be dependent on the ability to test for those who have developed antibodies, the governor said.

The New York State Department of Health has developed antibody testing and is working with the FDA to bring it to scale, but suggested that may impossible without the help of private companies.

Andrew Cuomo

@NYGovCuomo

We cannot restart life as we knew it without testing.

Testing is the essential component.

The NYS Dept of Health has developed antibody testing and is working with the FDA to bring it to scale

We are working with NJ & CT to ensure we move forward using a regional approach.

Cuomo said he plans to issue several executive orders later Tuesday, including one that doubles fines for those who violate social-distancing mandates, increasing the penalty from $500 to $1,000.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

MONDAY, April 6, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Schools and non-essential businesses will remain closed in New York through April 29 at the earliest, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, as officials evaluate whether the state has reached its so-called apex of COVID-19 cases and what that means going forward.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Monday, April 6, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 New York has appeared to plateau in recent days, Cuomo said, which could mean the state’s efforts to curb the disease have been effective.

“If we are plateauing, it’s because social distancing is working,” Cuomo said. “So we have to make sure the social distancing continues.”

While most residents in New York appear to be following the state’s social distancing rules, some are not, Cuomo said. He showed photos at his briefing Monday of crowds in New York City over the weekend.

As a way to encourage people to stop gathering in public, whether for recreation or religion, Cuomo said New York will now issue a fine of $1,000 to individuals who violate the state’s social distancing rules. That’s double what the state was charging before Monday.

“Now is not the time to be lax,” Cuomo said. “We have to respect the role we play because the role we play is a societal obligation.”

Cuomo said local governments in New York should be enforcing the state’s social distancing rules, meaning no mass gatherings, no group outings, and no non-essential travel. The state police could also administer sanctions for violations, Cuomo said.

If those rules are ignored, Cuomo said, the state’s bout with COVID-19 will last longer than currently projected.

As of Monday morning, officials in New York said the height of the disease may require fewer hospital beds than previously projected.

Models have previously predicted New York would need 110,000 hospital beds at the apex, but SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras, a top Cuomo aide, said Monday that the number may be lower. The increase in hospitalizations was down again Monday.

“This could suggest we are potentially at the apex or beginning to be at the apex at this moment,” Malatras said.

Cuomo credited the state’s aggressive enforcement of social distancing for the trend, but said New York would continue to keep non-essential businesses and schools closed until April 29 at the earliest as a precaution. It’s still too early to know if the pattern will continue, he said.

“We have to continue the social distancing,” Cuomo said. “I know it’s a negative for many, many reasons. I know what it does to the economy, but as I said from day one, I’m not going to choose between public health and economic activity.”

New York still has a shortage of ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients, but is now using alternative treatments, rather than waiting for the machines to show up. The state is now using BiPAP and anesthesia machines as ventilators, along with other methods, Cuomo said.

Those machines are needed for most patients who land in the intensive care unit from COVID-19. As of Monday, 4,504 patients were in the ICU, according to state data.

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 continued to increase Monday in New York, which now has a total of 4,758 fatalities related to the disease. The silver lining of that number is that the day-to-day increase appears to be on par with the last few days.

The number of people who had tested positive for the disease, as of Monday, reached 130,689 in New York, according to state data. The majority of those cases remain concentrated in New York City and on Long Island, though other areas of the state have seen spikes in recent days.

While the trends, overall, have appeared positive in the last few days, Cuomo said the state still needs to ramp up hospital capacity to meet its current need.

He said he’s planning to call President Donald Trump Monday and ask for the USNS Comfort, a naval medical ship docked in New York City Harbor, to only carry patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

 

 

SUNDAY, April 5, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to criticism on Sunday over a new executive order that will shift unused, excess ventilators from health care facilities in upstate New York to the COVID-19 epicenter in New York City, saying no locality will be left defenseless to the disease.

Dan Clark

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters Sunday, April 5, 2020. Credit: Dan Clark

The executive order, announced last week, was met with severe backlash from local officials outside New York City, who feared they would need the machines for their own residents.

“I guarantee the people of this state that as long as I’m governor of this state, we won’t lose a life if we can prevent it, and we’re not going to lose a life because we didn’t share resources among ourselves,” Cuomo said.

He first announced the executive order last week after the state’s stockpile of ventilators was projected to run out within a matter of days. As of Thursday, that stockpile was expected to be depleted by this coming Wednesday, though it’s unclear if that’s still the case.

New York announced a major donation of 1,140 ventilators from the Chinese government and the state of Oregon on Saturday, which has helped replenish the state’s stockpile for the time being.

Cuomo said the state hasn’t, as of yet, taken action to shift any ventilators from health care facilities upstate to New York City. The state has the authority to do so, per his executive order, but that need hasn’t yet presented itself, Cuomo said Sunday.

“All we’re asking for is ventilators that you aren’t using now, and you don’t foresee using in the foreseeable future,” Cuomo said. “I just want to know where they are if we need them.”

The order, Cuomo said, would not deplete health care facilities of their entire supply of unused, excess ventilators. The state would only be looking to borrow 20%, meaning if a facility has 10 excess ventilators, the state would shift two of them to New York City.

A coalition of Republican lawmakers from upstate New York, including Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, State Sen. Rob Ortt, and others, said in a statement last week that they were opposed to any order from the state to shift ventilators downstate.

“We have been watching the situation in New York City and we have an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in other parts of New York,” they said. “Taking our ventilators by force leaves our people without protection and our hospitals unable to save lives today or respond to a coming surge.”

Cuomo said Sunday that, when the number of cases outside New York City begins to overwhelm the state’s health care system, he’ll redeploy ventilators from downstate to areas of upstate where they’re needed.

“You cannot do this any other way,” Cuomo said. “New York City — the apex is either very,very soon, or we’re on a plateau. Do what you can then, and then you redeploy.”

It’s unclear when New York City will reach its apex, or the point where the number of cases exceeds the current capacity of the state’s health care system. Cuomo said Saturday that it could come in a matter of days.

But Cuomo said Sunday that New York City may already be at its COVID-19 apex, just in a different way than was envisioned.

The apex could happen at a high point, and then trail off, Cuomo said. But it could also be a period during which the number of deaths, and new cases, plateaus for a while, then slowly begins to decrease.

On Sunday, Cuomo said the number of deaths related to COVID-19 in New York had dropped slightly over the last few days. That could just be a blip in the data, Cuomo said, but it could also mean the number of deaths will remain relatively constant for an unknown period of time.

“You could argue you’re seeing a slight plateauing in the data, which would be good news because it means you plateau for a period of time, and then you come down,” Cuomo said.

The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in New York reached 4,159 Sunday, which is an increase from 3,565 Saturday. But in terms of the number of new deaths per day, that amount has decreased each day since Friday, Cuomo said.

It’s still too early to tell whether those numbers have any significance in the long term, Cuomo said.

As of Sunday morning, 122,031 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in New York, with 16,479 people currently hospitalized. Of those, 4,376 patients have required care in the intensive care unit.

New York is still facing a shortage of health care workers, Cuomo said, but will receive help from the federal government in that area.

The Trump administration has agreed to deploy 1,000 health care workers to New York immediately, Cuomo said, with 325 expected to arrive as early as Sunday.

SUNDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

SATURDAY, April 4, 2020

NEW YORK NOW – New York state will receive 1,140 more ventilators through donations from the Chinese government and the state of Oregon after an order for 17,000 of the machines fell through in recent days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The Chinese government will donate 1,000 of those ventilators, Cuomo said, while the state of Oregon has offered to send 140 of the machines through an unsolicited donation.

“This is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us,” Cuomo said.

New York will still receive approximately 2,500 of the 17,000 it ordered from companies in China, Cuomo said, but that still won’t be enough to treat the projected number of COVID-19 patients at the apex of the disease.

At that point, New York has projected it will need approximately 30,000 ventilators, and 140,000 hospital beds in total. The state currently has more than half of what it needs in terms of ventilators and beds, but is still lagging behind its goal.

Cuomo said the state is still shopping for ventilators and acting to increase hospital capacity. He signed an executive order Friday that will shift excess, unused ventilators from hospitals outside New York City to the downstate area.

The state is also facing a shortage of medical staff, which it’s seeking to fill by asking retired and out-of-state medical workers to join New York’s workforce. So far, Cuomo said, 85,000 people have signed up.

Cuomo is also signing an executive order that will allow medical students slated to graduate to immediately start practicing medicine and help fill the shortage of health care workers.

As of Saturday morning, 15,905 were hospitalized with the disease, with 4,126 of those patients in the intensive care unit. Two-thirds of those who have been hospitalized with the disease have, at this point, been discharged, Cuomo said.

New York also saw its largest one-day increase in the number of deaths from the disease Saturday, with 630 more deaths compared to Friday’s numbers. The total death toll from COVID-19 in New York is 3,565.

The majority of the state’s deaths have been reported in New York City, though the percentage of cases in the five boroughs compared to the state overall has decreased in recent days.

A week ago, New York City accounted for 71% of the state’s cases. As of Friday, that was down to 65%, while the share of cases on Long Island has slowly started to tick up. Cuomo said the state has a close eye on the trend on Long Island.

SATURDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

FRIDAY, April 3, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Cuomo orders upstate hospitals to give spare ventilators to overwhelmed downstate health centers

On the highest single day increase in corona virus deaths and new hospitalizations in New York , Governor Andrew Cuomo is mandating that upstate hospitals share their spare ventilators with downstate hospitals that are overwhelmed with dealing with COVID 19 patients and rapidly running out of the machines.

The governor says he understands why hospitals in parts of New York where there are fewer cases of corona virus want to hold on to their spare ventilators for when cases spike . But he says the market for ventilators has “collapsed”, and he’s now mandating, in an executive order that the hospitals give up the machines , for now, to downstate hospitals.

“Those institutions will either get their ventilator back, or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator,” Cuomo said. “So they can buy a new ventilator.”

Cuomo says the National Guard will be coming to pick up the spare ventilators, which he believes number in the hundreds.

He says a new concern that has emerged, the virus is increasing on Long Island, which has fewer hospitals than the New York City metropolitan area.

FRIDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

THURSDAY, April 2, 2020

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – During his daily briefing on the coronavirus on Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the state is quickly running out of ventilators.

“At the current burn rate, we have enough ventilators for six days.”

He also said the state will pay a premium to manufacturers – and cover the cost of converting their factories, too – to produce gowns and other badly needed protective gear.

The governor and his brother, during a video chat at Thursday’s press briefing. Credit Office of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In New York, where hospitals are getting swamped with patients and the worst of the outbreak is still probably weeks away, more than 85,000 medical volunteers have stepped forward, according to Cuomo, about a quarter of them from out of state. He thanked them profusely.

“I will be the first one in my car to go wherever this nation needs help as soon as we get past this. I will never forget how people across this country came to the aid of New Yorkers when they needed it,” he said.

Among the daily numbers Cuomo released on Thursday:

-The number of deaths in NYS: 2,373, up 432 from 1,941 on Wednesday.

-Confirmed cases: 92,381 in NYS, up from 83,712 (most cases are downstate, but Cuomo says all counties in the state now have confirmed cases).

-Hospitalizations: 13,383 up from 12,226. (of those, 3,396 are in ICU)

-Cuomo also notes that more than 7,400 patients have been discharged from the hospital.

Cuomo’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who revealed in recent days he is living in the basement of his home because he has the COVID-19 virus, called in for a video chat during the Thursday briefing.

“I’m doing pretty well, all things considered,” Chris Cuomo said. He also said that the illness is a tough one, and it will be a “long slog.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story

THURSDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

WEDNESDAY, April 1, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he’s reached a “conceptual agreement” on the state budget with legislative leaders, that will give Cuomo broad new powers to control spending increases and reductions, as the state continues to cope out with the fall out form the corona virus. The spending plan is now a few hours late, it was due at midnight.

Cuomo says it’s a “remarkable” achievement that the budget was agreed to at all, when he and state lawmakers are under such extreme stress dealing with the steeply rising cases of COVID 19 in the state.

A budget measure already in print, as part of the aid to localities budget, spells out special new powers that the Senate and Assembly will give the governor to amend the spending plan throughout the year.

Cuomo and his budget officials have said the state’s deficit could be as high as $15 billion dollars, and they may need to make cuts mid year to schools, health care providers, and local governments. But Cuomo says if the economy rebounds and there is more revenue coming in, then they might be able to increase aid.

“If money comes in during the course of the year, we’ll spend it. If we actually lose money, we have to adjust it. That’s life,” Cuomo said. We can’t spend what we don’t have.”

The governor’s budget director, Robert Mujica the most conservative estimates predict the state will have a $10 billion dollar deficit. He says if that happens, state spending overall would be reduced by 6.7%. It would be the first time in Cuomo’s 11 year tenure that spending would decrease.

Money to schools is expected to remain flat, and be close to the same amount spent last year. Schools have rising fixed costs though, like pension payments, so will likely feel the squeeze.

The governor says with the exception of the plunging revenue he believes it will be a “robust” budget, with many unrelated policy items that the governor proposed in January included in the spending plan. He declined to detail them, though, saying he did not want to get ahead of the legislative leaders, who were to brief their members on the details later Wednesday.

“With everything going, on we did not scale back our efforts or our ambitions,” Cuomo said. “You look at this budget, you would never know that anything else was going on.”

Cuomo and some Democrats in the state Senate were pushing to make changes to the state’s bail reform laws. Most forms of cash bail ended on January 1st. Law enforcement groups had called for a roll back of the reforms, saying too may potential criminals were being set free.

Bail reform advocates held a last minute news conference via Zoom to condemn a draft proposal that would end ALL forms of cash bail, but make it easier for judges to decide to hold defendants pre trial.

Marvin Mayfield, who spent 11 months in Riker’s Island because he could not meet bail, says the measure would lead to the mass incarceration of another generation of black and brown New Yorkers.

“What the governor is proposing will incarcerate an additional tens of thousands of New Yorkers across the state,” Mayfield said. “And take away the justice we fought for and won.”

Cuomo would not say whether the changes to bail reform are in the budget, saying, “you’ll have to see what’s in it” later, when the budget is ready for passage.

WEDNESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

TUESDAY, March 31, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Governor Andrew Cuomo says he knows many New Yorkers are trying to get through to the state’s websites and phone lines to apply for unemployment, and are facing long waits and crashing systems .

He says the Labor Department normally gets 50,000 calls regarding unemployment a week, now it is getting over one million calls a day, 1.2 million Monday and 7.8 million over the past week.

“It’s not working as smoothly as I’d like it to,” said Cuomo , who said the state is working with “literally hundreds” of tech experts to try to fix it. “It’s compounding people’s stress”

“I apologize for the pain,” the governor said. “It must be infuriating to deal with.”

The governor says once people get through and get signed up , they will get their benefits .

TUESDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.

MONDAY, March 30, 2020

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – 235 New Yorkers died of the corona virus in the past day, for a total of more than 1200 so far , a number Governor Andrew Cuomo calls “beyond staggering” . Cuomo, in his daily update on the virus, says hospitals and their workers are already overwhelmed, two weeks before the virus is expected to peak. He asked health care workers from around the nation to consider coming to New York to help.

“We need relief. We need relief for nurses who are working 12 hour shifts,” Cuomo said. “So of you are not busy, come help us, please. And we will return the favor.”

The governor met with the leaders of hospitals from around the state, and says he’s building a shared “stockpile” of personal protective equipment –that hospitals can share according to their need. They are also working out a way to share staff and distribute health care personnel to the places they are needed the most.

Cuomo answered President Trump’s accusation Sunday that masks and other protective equipment were mysteriously disappearing from New York hospitals. The President suggested someone might be stealing them out the back door, to sell on the black market. The President offered no evidence.

“I don’t know what that means, I don’t what he’s trying to say,” said Cuomo. “If he wants to make an accusation, let him make an accusation. But I don’t know what he’s trying to say by inference.”

Cuomo, asked if he is “afraid” to tangle with the President right now, said, no, that he considers himself “a tangler”, but he says participating in a political fight right now would be “un-American”.

MONDAY’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY BRIEFING.