Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces Eighth Region Hits Benchmark to Begin Reopening Today –

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the Mid-Hudson Region has met all seven metrics to begin phase one of reopening today, joining the Capital Region, Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley Regions. Long Island is still on track to reopen tomorrow May 27th when their contact tracing operation comes online and if deaths continue to decline.


The Governor also announced he will meet with President Trump in Washington D.C. tomorrow to discuss infrastructure projects that need federal approval – including the LaGuardia AirTrain, the Cross-Hudson Tunnels and the Second Avenue Subway expansion – to help supercharge the economy.


The Governor also announced the state will fast-track the construction of the new Empire Station at Penn and the new LaGuardia Airport while rail ridership and air traffic is down. To further jumpstart the economy, the state will work to increase low cost renewable power downstate and production upstate with building of new cross-state transmission cables; expedite a power cable from Canada to New York City and increase renewable energy resources.


The Governor also announced the state is continuing to direct resources and focus targeted efforts on reducing the spread of COVID-19 in lower-income and predominately minority neighborhoods in New York City that are most impacted by the COVID-19 virus and continue to see a disproportionately high number of new COVID cases every day. These efforts will help New York City meet the seven metrics required to begin reopening.


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


AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.


PHOTOS are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.


A rush transcript of today’s remarks is available below:


It’s a pleasure to be here today. Hope everyone had a good weekend. I had a great weekend. Stayed at home Saturday, went to the beach Sunday, went to the Intrepid yesterday, plus I changed the oil in the car, so I had a good day, good weekend. I want to thank the Stock Exchange for hosting us today. This is a beautiful room. I was here this morning, the stock market reopened today, so it’s a pleasure to be here. I want to thank Stacey Cunningham, who’s the president of the New York Stock Exchange, for her hospitality and courtesy.


Let’s start with the facts, facts first. That’s what the American people need. Number of hospitalizations down, great news. Rolling average down, number of intubations down. Number of new COVID cases down to the lowest level since this ever started, just about 200. Amen. Number of lives lost, 73. That’s the lowest level that we have seen since this started. So again, in this absurd new reality, that is good news. any other time and place, when we lose 73 New Yorkers, it’s tragic. It’s tragic now. But relative to where we’ve been, we’re on the other side of the curve and that’s the lowest number that we’ve had. So we thank all the health care staff once again, doctors, nurses, who’ve been doing a fantastic job. And you see we went up the mountain very quickly, that spike took us up very quickly, and it took a long time to come down but we’re still coming down.


Yesterday was Memorial Day. And traditionally, Memorial Day is a pivot point, it’s a transition point, summer is starting. Fashion changes, mindsets change, and it shouldn’t be that much different this year. Memorial Day is going to be a point where maybe we don’t all run back to the beach, but we’re going to turn the page on COVID-19 and we’re going to start focusing on reopening, and how we reopen, and how smart we are in reopening, because that’s the whole issue. You look at what’s happening across the country, it was never a question of reopen or not reopen. The answer was always reopen. The question was always how smart are you on this reopening? How intelligent are you on the reopening? How informed are you, how disciplined are you on the reopening because that determines how successful the reopening is.


The stock market reopened today, I had the honor of ringing the bell. And it didn’t reopen the way it was. It reopened smarter than before. Fewer people, wearing masks, new precautions, that the stock exchange has incorporated, not because government said they had to, but because the stock exchange is smart, and they wanted to get back the business but they wanted to be smart and they’re doing it in a way that keeps people safe, and that’s an example of exactly what we’ve been talking about. So two tracks going forward from Memorial Day. Number one, monitor the reopenings. We’re reopening in regions all across the state because regions are different all across the state, so we’re reopening in regions. Monitor the regions. We have a dashboard that is up. Every New Yorker can see the numbers and what we’re doing is gauged by the numbers.


Mid-Hudson opens today. They met all the metrics, all the numerical criteria, so they’re opening today. Long Island will open tomorrow. We’re going to bring on the last of what’s called the tracers who do the contact tracing after testing. They’ll be coming online today and Long Island will open tomorrow.


Each region has a regional control group. I’ve spoken to many of the county executives across the state who are key on these regional control groups. I said to the county executives, watch the numbers. When you see a cluster of cases, jump on it. Jump on it. That’s what the contact tracing is all about – what happened? Where did they come from? Is there any commonality among the people in the cluster? Is there a geographic identity to that cluster? But that has to be done region by region.


You have to stay disciplined and focused. Study the numbers, the numbers inform you. The numbers tell you what’s happening. That dashboard tells you what’s happening. Those regional control groups have to be disciplined. Steve Bellone in Suffolk, Laura Curran in Nassau, Mark Poloncarz in Buffalo, Adam Bello in Rochester, and Ryan McMahon in Syracuse. Focus on what’s happening in those numbers. You see a little movement, you pounce on it. Find out what it is, explore it, and resolve it.


New York City is the one region that is not reopened yet in New York. That’s for obvious reasons. The numbers have been worse in New York City. The number of cases was worse in New York City. Again, nothing endemic to New York City. What happened in New York City was the virus was coming from Europe, we didn’t even know. Nobody told us. We all were told it was coming from China, China, China. Look to the west, it came from the east. We’re looking west, it came from the east. It was coming from Europe. January, February, before we did a European travel ban, 3 million Europeans landed at our airports and the virus came that way. So, once the virus got here it spread. This is a dense area. New York City, public transportation. It had the worst problem in the nation, one of the worst problems on the globe. It’s the one region that’s not reopened yet. We’re now going to focus on reopening New York City.


Again, we do it smartly. We have data, we have tests. We can focus on the new cases in New York City. Where are those infections still coming from? And we literally can now focus on those areas by zip code. We’ve done so much testing. We do more testing in New York than any state in the United States of America. We do more testing per capita than most countries on the globe. We do so much testing that we can actually identify zip codes that are generating the new cases. If you have that kind of intelligence, that kind of data, then you can target your resources right to those areas. Those zip codes tend to be predominately minority communities. The infection rate is not spreading among essential workers. It’s speaking among workers who have stayed home or who are unemployed. It’s spreading in the home, it’s spreading in the community.


We’re going to focus on those zip codes. We’re going to focus on those communities and we want to slow the infection rate even in those communities. And that will really bring the numbers down in New York City. We started that last week, but we’re going to bring it to a new level starting this week. And you can see that the infection rate in some of these zip codes is double the infection rate in the city. The infection rate in the city general population is about 19 percent, almost 20 percent. In some of these communities the infection rate is 40 percent. Literally double the city-wide average. And when we look at those new COVID cases coming into the hospitals, where are they coming from? They’re coming from these zip codes. And we can literally identify it, so we want to attack the virus at the source. That’s what we’re going to be doing in New York City. In New York City we also have to get the number of tracers up, and trained, and online, and we’ll be focusing on that.


Statewide, we all have to remain smart. Regions that are opened, regions that are reopening, New York City that hasn’t opened yet where we have to get the numbers down. It’s about citizens. And it’s about what people do. That’s been the great riddle in this whole thing. We don’t understand it. It’s about government. Government this. Government that. Forget government. This whole trajectory is decided by people. It’s personal behavior, that’s all it is. You tell me what people do today, I’ll tell you what the infection rate is tomorrow. And it’s simple, it’s wash your hands, it’s socially distance, it’s use the hand sanitizer, and it is wear the mask. Wear the mask. And this is almost a point of cultural communication.


Wearing a mask is now cool. I believe it’s cool. If I could sign an executive order that says wearing a mask is officially cool. There is a certain amount of informing the public and accepting a new type of standard. Wearing the mask has got to be something you do every day when you get up, when you walk out of the house you put the mask on. And I said the other day, you know, New Yorkers want to reinforce it for other New Yorkers. This is cool. You want to encourage people to do this. By the way, they have all sorts of colored masks. You don’t have to have a boring mask like my mask. I’m a boring guy. They have color masks, they have masks that say things. Some people coordinate their outfit with the color of their mask. And this has to be part of literally who we are and what we do every day. That does not mean when someone doesn’t wear a mask, we should be rude to that person or be obnoxious to that person. But this has got to be part of every New Yorker’s fashion, and design, and clothing, and outfitting. Wearing the mask. It makes a real difference. And if you think that’s all talk, answer for me why all the first responders have a lower infection rate than the general population? The only difference is they wore a mask. And they wore the PPE. So, wear a mask, everyone has to do their part.


Second track is while we’re reopening, supercharge the reopening, right. Stock market opened today. We want that economy to come roaring back. We want it to come roaring back. And that’s not going to happen just by wishing it to be so. We have to take an affirmative action, we have to be part of that, and today is page one of that chapter. I don’t believe that the economy just bounces back. Some economists say, “We artificially stopped the economy and we release it and it went down and it’s going to come right back in a straight line.” I don’t believe it comes straight back. I believe it bounces back, but it bounces back differently. We talk about the normal and the new normal. I think you are going to see the same thing with the economy. I don’t think it comes right back to where it was. It’s not like bouncing a basketball. You bounce a basketball, it goes down and comes straight back up. It’s like dropping a football. You drop a football, depending on how it hits, it goes off on different angles.


The economy is going to come back up. I don’t think it comes straight back up. And I think there will be winners and losers in this new economy. I think the top end of the economy will be fine. They always are. It always works out for them. You look at the 2008 recession after the mortgage fraud, we did the bailouts. The big banks were the first one to come back fine. But I don’t think the economy comes back for everyone, everywhere the same way. I think you are going to see American workers who are laid off, that’s why I’m pushing the Americans First Law in Washington. I think you are going to see corporations use this as an opportunity to, in their words, “restructure, to get lean, or show the analysts we can increase the profit,” and how do you increase the profit fast in a corporation? You lay off workers – that’s what you do. And I think you are going to see corporations do that. We’ve lost thousands of small businesses that just are not going to reopen their doors. So, you are going to see pain in this new economy. And let’s start to anticipate that and let’s start to deal with that now.


We know that government can stimulate the economy. This country has done it in the past where we have engaged in major public works that made the nation better and when we did it, we stimulated the economy. You look at all the great things that this nation did, building the Hoover Dam and the Lincoln Tunnel, all these magnificent public improvements, that made the nation the nation – and created thousands of jobs at the same time. Now, everyone has been talking about the need to do major infrastructure in this nation. Every president. Democrat, Republican, President Clinton talked about it, President Bush talked at it, President Obama talked about it, President Trump talked about it, Vice President Biden talks about it. “We have major infrastructure needs, we’re not building, the rest of the world is passing us by.” It’s true. Well, then, do something about it. Don’t just talk about it. Everybody’s identified the same problem. Democrats and Republicans. But nobody has done anything. If there’s ever a time to actually take on this overdue need, of major infrastructure construction, now is the time. There is no better time to build than right now. You need to restart the economy. You need to create jobs. And you need to renew and repair this country’s economy. And its infrastructure. Now is the time to do it.


It’s especially the time to do it when some of the volume is lower, right? The time to fix the hole in the roof, we would say in Queens, is when the sun is shining. That’s when – you what, you don’t think that’s a Queens expression? That was a Queens expression as far as I’m concerned. That’s when you fix the hole in the roof when the sun is shining. The time to do this work is now when you need the jobs and the volume is low and New York will lead the way.


We are going to accelerate our big infrastructure programs. We have the Empire Station project, which is building a new Penn Station, which is long overdue. That Penn Station has been torturing people for too long. Let’s now accelerate the Empire, Penn project while the ridership is low and when we need the jobs. Accelerating LaGuardia Airport which is going to be the first new airport in this nation is 25 years. Traffic is low, passenger volume is lower, let’s accelerate that construction now. Let’s do things that we’ve been talking about for a long time but we’ve never actually pulled the trigger on.


We know that we need renewable power. We know we can generate renewable power in Upstate. We know we need it downstate. Let’s build the cross-state transmission lines to develop that renewable market upstate and satisfy the need downstate. We know they have low-cost hydropower in Canada. Let’s run the cable, the transmission lines from Canada to New York City to get that power down here and let’s stop talking and let’s start doing. Let’s invigorate this whole renewable market.


There are other big infrastructure projects that we’ve been talking, talking, talking about, which we have to do where we need federal help and federal approval. Let’s put those on the table. The AirTrain to LaGuardia. New York City is one of the only major cities that has no train from the airport into the central city. We’ve been talking about the cross-Hudson tunnels where the Amtrak trains come through that are old and that are crumbling and that if they become a problem, you literally stop Amtrak travel to the entire Northeast. Let’s stop the politics on it and let’s get it done and let’s build those new tunnels.


The Second Avenue Subway, the next extension for the Second Avenue Subway goes from 96th Street to 125th Street would open up that whole 125th Street area. It would bring a whole new chapter of revitalization to New York City. Let’s do that in partnership with the federal government.


I’m going to go Washington tomorrow. I’m scheduled to meet with the president to talk about a number of things, but this is one of the things I want to talk to the president about. 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 and let’s make America better. It is common sense. It is common sense. So many of the things that we need to do you don’t need to be a government expert or an engineer to figure out. It’s common sense. You have an infrastructure that’s crumbling, you need to jump start the economy, you need to create jobs, do it now. Do it now. That’s one of the things I’m going to talk to the president about tomorrow.


Last point, we did the Wear A Mask New York PSA contest. I asked my daughter Mariah to help out, volunteer, pro bono, no money. Supervised by her very nice, easy going boss – moi. And Mariah agreed and she did a fantastic job, and frankly this contest has gone much bigger and generated much more energy and excitement than I anticipated. And with that I will turn it over to Mariah.


Mariah Kennedy Cuomo: Thank you. We launched the Wear A Mask ad contest in May asking New Yorkers to create ads about the importance of wearing a mask in public. And we received over 600 video submissions from across the state. We selected five finalists and put it to a vote, and people cast 186,117 votes. And today, we are proud to announce the winning ad, which is We Heart New York. And with that, we’d like to play it.


[Winning Ad Plays]


Mariah Kennedy Cuomo: Thank you and congratulations to Bunny Lake Films, a female founded boutique production company based in Brooklyn, New York, who created that incredible ad. And we now would like to show the second-place ad which is You Can Still Smile.


[Second-Place Ad Plays]


Mariah Kennedy Cuomo: Thank you to everyone who submitted ads, who voted, who shared ads, and helped spread this important message that it’s absolutely critical to wear a mask in public. And we’ll be continuing to reach out to New Yorkers for help in spreading the message about how we can get through this together because New Yorkers are clearly ready and willing and able to help.


Governor Cuomo: Beautiful, that is a great job. Now, I have to make an executive decision, not order, there is no election that we have nowadays that doesn’t raise issues it seems. This was extraordinary. We opened this up to competition. There were 96,000 votes for the first and second place winners. 96,000 votes and only a 500-vote differential between number one and number two, okay? Which if it was a normal election would normally trigger an automatic recount, all right? It was that close. There is also an issue with the selection that we never really defined an eligible voter. And we have people who voted in this competition all across the state, all across the country, all across the world, we had international people voting in this competition, which I did not really fully think through. So rather than have a debate about who would have been an eligible voter, because that 500 votes between first and second is so small, if you start to have a question about who’s an eligible voter, it could get dicey. So I’m going to make an executive decision.


The state will run both ads, first and second, because they’re both great and obviously yes, one won by 500 votes. But it was a tremendous turnout, people loved both, that’s clear, so the state will run both and we don’t have to get into a debate about who’s an eligible voter in a video competition. So we’ll run both of those PSAs. I want to thank all the voters who participated. That tremendous number just shows how engaged people are all through this. This is about life and death. This is about their lives, this is about their community, and they’re engaged, and they should be, because they are New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.


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