GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES NEW YORK CITY INDOOR DINING CAN REOPEN AT 25 PERCENT CAPACITY ON VALENTINE’S DAY
Change Takes Effect Assuming COVID-19 Positivity Rate Continues on Its Current Trajectory; Guidance Available Here
Receptions Can Take Place Under Strict State Guidance Starting March 15
8,357 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide
1,543 Patients in the ICU; 1,012 Intubated
Statewide Positivity Rate is 4.65%
151 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday
Governor Cuomo: “Post-holiday surge reduction continues, numbers are down. … We were expecting this surge and we handled it and we’re on the other side of it. You also see it in the number of hospitalizations that are dropping.”
Cuomo: “The governors have been pushing the federal government for months to give us an allocation of what we’re going to get in the next few weeks so we can plan. This is incredibly difficult if not impossible, only to tell me what I’m going to get next week and then I have to scramble to get the distribution for next week. We now have a three-week allocation thanks to the Biden administration which is much, much better than where we were, so I can then say to local governments you’re going to get 16 percent more next week and the week after and the week after.”
Cuomo: “There are levels of extremism. What happened in Washington did not just happen overnight. It developed and you could see it increasing over time. It was a building storm and it starts with ugliness and threats on the internet. … I see it here in New York on the internet, this building ugliness. Once you start to light fires, don’t be surprised when the fire is out of control. … First of all, the law is the law and in New York, I will never allow the insurrection that happened in Washington, D.C. That made a mockery of law and order and that was a disgrace to democracy and to every citizen of this nation. Second, when you see the ugliness being fomented – for selfish political reasons often – everybody should condemn. Everybody should condemn it.”
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that assuming New York State’s COVID-19 infection rate stays on its current trajectory, indoor dining in New York City can reopen at 25 percent capacity on Valentine’s Day. The reopening will be subject to strict state guidance, which can be found here.
The Governor also announced that marriage receptions will be able to resume in accordance with state guidance on March 15. Events must be approved by the local health department. There will be a 50 percent capacity limit and no more than 150 people can attend the event. All patrons must be tested prior to the event.
AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Good morning. We have a lot of news for you today on this Friday before the weekend. This was we can all have a nice quiet weekend and get everything done today. I wish that was so because today is day 335 and there really aren’t anymore weekends or weekdays. One day just blends right into the next. Good news, the post-holiday surge reduction continues, surge reduction, confusing language.
Post-holiday surge reduction continues, numbers are down. Positivity, 4.65, lowest since December 11. December 11 is where you started to see the holiday surge go up, after post-Thanksgiving hangover surge. 151 people passed away. They are in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations down 163. That’s good news. It’s a big number. ICUs down 41, intubations down 12. Percent of people hospitalized by regions down all across the state, Finger Lakes, Long Island, still the highest hospitalization rate.
Finger Lakes has been a problem for weeks, Long Island for a shorter period, but we’ve been seeing Long Island problematic relative to the rest of the state. Now you can say well Finger Lakes are down, Long Island is down from where it was. True, but from our point of view it’s relative across the state and who’s highest across the state, and that’s Finger Lakes and Long Island. Positivity highest rate, Long Island, Mid-Hudson. In New York City, the Bronx, and that has been a continuing trajectory. Staten Island has made good progress. Manhattan has always been low. Again, it’s fascinating when we have the time and go back to look at the behavior of people in communities during COVID because that is what is determining these numbers. If you look at the positivity decline, we were 7.9 January 4. That was the high point. That’s the collective, Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, Hanukkah parties, Kwanza parties, gatherings, celebrations, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Buffalo Bills game, excitement. 1.4, is the high point, 7.9, we’re down to 5.3.
So we had discussed this. We were expecting this surge and we handled it and we’re on the other side of it. You also see it in the number of hospitalizations that are dropping. The “experts,” in quotes, those air quotes because I don’t believe anyone really knows what’s coming with COVID, and that’s been true since day one. I think they give us their best medical advice but nobody knows. But the experts say the trend for New York should continue to drop. That’s what the expert models are showing.
Vaccinations, we’ve done over 1.7 million vaccinations. It is going very, very well. Total 1.789 first doses, and some people are starting to get their second doses. We have used all of the allocation that we have received for weeks 1 to 6. The way this works is we get a weekly allocation. We have used all of the allocation. That means you run out. No, calm down, I didn’t say we ran out. We’ve used the allocation we’ve received. We then start to receive the next week’s allocation which comes in during the week, and that’s where we are now. We get another 250,000 doses. That’s starting to be delivered. So we’re going to be using that new vaccination allocation. Again, local governments, don’t schedule any appointments until you know you have an allocation from the State and which means we get the allegation from the federal government, we then tell the local governments what the vaccination is.
Vaccination usage rate, needles in arms, is much higher than it was. Again, we’re at 100 percent, but you still see a differential across the state and places that are lower than 100 percent, you know, I’d like to see every region at 100 percent and we are going to get 16 percent more doses from the federal government. That is good news. That will come next week and for the following two weeks. We did this on a call with the White House. The governors have been pushing the federal government for months to give us an allocation of what we’re going to get in the next few weeks so we can plan. This is incredibly difficult if not impossible, only to tell me what I’m going to get next week and then I have to scramble to get the distribution for next week. We now have a three-week allocation thanks to the Biden administration which is much, much better than where we were, so I can then say to local governments you’re going to get 16 percent more next week and the week after and the week after. Plan on that.
Hospital workers, 1a priority. They are still the priority even though we have a lot of other categories eligible because vaccinating hospital workers protects hospital capacity. If hospitals get overwhelmed, I’m telling you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say we have a staff shortage. Not that nurses and doctors disappeared, but that they got sick. If they are vaccinated they won’t get sick. Vaccinate the health care workers. We’re up to 73 percent and that is great news. January 18, we were at 63 percent. We then did a full court press. I used my most persuasive charm offensive to convey to hospitals that they had to get this vaccination done, convey to local governments they had to get the vaccinations done. We went from 63 to 70 percent in 10 days. That’s a point a day so that’s phenomenal progress and I thank them all very much for doing a good job. Yes, it was urgent. Yes, I said it was urgent, but they responded and I thank them very much. Again, you see a variation across the state. Some places are higher. Some places are lower. 73 is the average but places that are below we’d like to see everybody rise up and there is a variation by hospitals across the state. These are the top 25 percent performing hospitals and the bottom 25 percent of performing hospitals. We have about 200 hospitals, give or take in the state. This is the highest vaccinating 25 percent and the lowest vaccinating 25 percent. I can’t read this chart. You can read it at your leisure. These are the top 25 hospitals, not percent, top 25 hospitals, and the bottom 25 hospitals, and this I can almost read. Syosset Hospital, 100 percent, great job. Cayuga Medical Center, 100 percent, great job. Staten Island University Hospital, 100 percent, great job. New York City Health + Hospitals, Woodhull, 100 percent, great job. Northern Westchester, 97, very good. Not great because you’re not 100. If you were 100 you’d be great, but 97 is very good. University Hospital, Stony Brook, 96, good, not great. 37 percent, New York City Harlem Hospital Center. New York City H&H North Central Bronx Hospital, 38 percent; 40 percent Montefiore; Mount Vernon Health. How do you have some hospitals that are 100 and some hospitals that at 37 percent? Please, local departments of health, look into this. I will wager you this, if we get into trouble with hospital capacity, the hospitals that are on the bottom of this list will be the first hospitals to have a problem with hospital capacity and getting overwhelmed. That is my wager, I just hope it never happens.
Bronx positivity is still high and we’ve been talking about this for weeks. It’s at 7.6 percent. We’re going to open a mass vaccination site at Yankee Stadium. You cannot play baseball when you come, but you can come to Yankee Stadium. It is a joint effort. I want to thank the City Mayor de Blasio; I want to thank the Yankee’s Randy Levine. I told him that we would not disturb the grass. Please honor that commitment.
SOMOS Community Care is actually going to operate it. Henry Munoz who’s done a fantastic job for this state, I want to thank him very much. The National Guard will be constructing and administering the site. I want to thank all the National Guard people who I’ve been out there with them many, many times through COVID and many other emergencies. They do a great job and when I ask them to come out, I go out and I join them and I will join them again at the stadium. Going to be more a construction supervisor manager role. Not that I won’t do the heavy lifting. Dr. Zucker is going to do a lot of the heavy lifting: poles, tents; but I will do the supervising of the operation.
Any local government that needs help in providing social equity efforts, let us know. There’s 2 issues on social equity. People have to have access. Poor communities, Black community, Latino community and they have to accept it and get past the vaccine hesitancy which we are seeing and it is a very real issue. We’ve been talking about it for weeks and we expected it, but it is a very real issue. Any local government that wants a specialized effort, we will work with them to do it.
Overall, we’re reopening the economy and we’re protecting public health. We said it was never one or the other, it was always both so it’s smart and safe. It’s following science and following data. You watch those numbers and you react to the numbers. What is happening with the positivity? What’s the cases per capita? What’s happening with the hospitalization rate? Adjust the economic valve as follows.
New York City, we went from 7.1 in January – that was our high point in New York City – it was the high point across the State. That was the post-holiday surge high. Went down to 4.9 percent. Again, all the models project that model to continue to drop.
New York City restaurants, on our current trajectory, we can open indoor dining at 25 percent on Valentine’s Day. Give the restaurants a period of time so they can notify workers, they can get up to speed for indoor dining, order supplies, et cetera. We’re saying indoor dining, 25 percent on Valentine’s Day.
Going forward, we are very excited about the possibility of reopening venues with testing. We demonstrated it in Buffalo at the Buffalo Bills playoff game. Seven thousand people tested before they went into the stadium. We’ve had virtually no cases of spread from that game, 7,000 people. We’re not going to have the full vaccine for many, many months. In New York, we want to use testing as the key to reopening events and we tested it in Buffalo and we want to start to extend it.
We’re going to extend it in New York State safe marriage receptions. A promise of marital bliss is returning. All patrons who attend the event will be tested. You can have 50 percent capacity of the venue up to 150 people. It has to be approved by the local health department and this will go into effect March 15. We are developing more rapid testing capacity all across the State. We’re also developing an app which a person, once they receive the test, can have on the app. We’re excited about this.
We’re also developing guidance, much like marriage receptions for events where you can do testing and you can do monitoring and the local health department can regulate it. New York says I do.
I don’t want to create any pressure for anyone, especially undue pressure. I don’t want to create any personal pressure. I don’t believe that’s government’s role to create personal pressure. Here’s an idea that you may want to consider: Restaurants are open on Valentine’s Day, you could make a reservation now or plan dinner on Valentine’s Day. You propose on Valentine’s Day and then you can have the wedding ceremony March 15, up to 150 people. People will actually come to your wedding because you can tell them with the testing it will be safe. Everybody there will have been tested, everyone will be safe.
For a lot of these venues, I don’t believe it’s about the government’s restrictions. I believe if I said today movie theaters can open to 100 percent, I don’t believe people go. I believe people have to be confident that it’s safe and if you can say everyone in this reception is going to be tested. Again, no pressure, but it’s just an idea.
Get engaged on Valentine’s Day on the restaurants reopening and March 15 you can have the wedding. 150 people. New York State is exploring a low-cost New York State engagement ring that we would actually make available. It was a hard to put an I Love New York little COVID remembrance – that’s not true.
General caution on all of this: We make decisions based on facts, based on the numbers. New York City numbers are down. These numbers are now down. But facts change. It sounds inconsistent. We like to think a fact is always a fact. No, facts change. COVID facts change dramatically and they change often. There’s now another new term in the COVID lexicon. Variance of interest. Variance of interest. That’s a new one.
Variance of interest refers to these new strains that are popping up that we are just learning about. The UK strain, the Brazil strain, the South Africa strain – and medical experts are saying these strains could take over. They could be dominant. They could increase the infection rate. Six weeks, you could have a dominant UK strain that could increase the infection rate. South Africa strain may be more resistant to a vaccine. I understand all the possibilities, and if there are facts, and if the facts change, then we will have a different situation. One state response that is a given, basically our precaution, if any area’s hospital capacity hits 85 percent, then we go back to restrictions, right, because hospital capacity is the red line. That’s when you’re in the danger zone. Hospital capacity, that’s why I’m so persistent on the vaccination of health care workers. But, we are subject to the facts if the facts change.
I mentioned this the other day, I had a conversation with one of my daughters who has all sorts of “what if” scenarios. “What if it’s true about the UK variant, becomes dominant? What if the South Africa strain is vaccine-resistant? What if the Brazil strain connects with the UK strain, connects with another strain?” What if this, what if this, what if this. Yeah, there are possible scenarios that could develop that are problematic. That is true. This is the same daughter who said “don’t tell me to relax. Tell me why I should relax.” I understand the anxiety. I feel the anxiety. I don’t like knowing what is going to happen in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks.
I don’t like the feeling of being out of control. I don’t like the feeling that you can wake up any morning and there’s going to be a headline that says there’s a new variant that is vaccine-resistant. There’s a new variant. Because this virus is mutating all the time. If there are not five or six mutations of this virus, there are hundreds and hundreds of mutations of this virus. And remember, the flu virus every year, you get a new vaccine, because it changes a little bit. So yes, I feel the anxiety. And I feel that we’re not in control. And yes, I like to be in control. “Well, control freaks.” Yeah, I like to be in control. I like to know what’s coming down the road so I can prepare.
This is a situation where nobody knows what’s coming down the road. Nobody knows. I talk to the best experts, they’ll have a theory, maybe this, maybe that, maybe this, but nobody knows. So what do you do? You deal with the facts when you know them. If the numbers change, we change. If the enemy changes, we change. If the infection rate changes, we change. If a variant comes, we change. “Well, why should I feel calm about that?” Because we have proven, multiple times, that we can manage changes that develop. We managed the greatest change in this country. This state had more infections at one time than any country on the globe. This state. And we were alone when we got ambushed. And COVID came and nobody knew. It was here for months, nobody knew. We dealt with it. The infection rate went crazy. We dealt with it. Hospitals were overwhelmed. We were right on the brink of hospital capacity collapse, like California, like Italy, but it didn’t happen, because we handled it. We handled the fall surge. We handled the holiday surge. If the facts change, we will handle it. Should it relax us? No. It doesn’t relax me. But I believe whatever happens, we can manage it, because we have already managed the worst that has happened in this country. So I’m confident that if the facts change, the circumstances change, we will manage it. I can’t predict what it will be, but I am confident that whatever it is, we can handle it. The reality on the vaccines, all of this is subject now to the production capacity of private drug companies and the United States’ ability to procure. It’s not about distribution. We have far more distribution capacity than we have supply. We have thousands of distributors, and more distributors that can be brought online. The question is not really supply, the more accurate way to say supply is, it’s a question of production. United States government right now is a pass-through, right? You have private drug companies producing. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson hopefully, Moderna, Novavax. They’re producing. The U.S. procures it, and then the U.S. sends it to us. But, the faucet is the private production. We’ll distribute all that we receive, but even with President Biden’s new announcement of increase, which is very welcome, it’s six to nine months to get enough vaccine to vaccinate people in this country.
I think President Biden, the federal government, should now consider the Defense Production Act. We went through this in the spring, and we paid a very high price for it. When we ran out of PPE, we ran out of reagents for testing, and we ran out of Q-tips, they call them nasal swabs, I call them big Q-tips. And we ran out of ventilators. And the manufacturers could not produce any more ventilators. What the Defense Production Act says is, the federal government can say to private companies, “you must produce this product.” The problem on the drug production, the vaccine production, is the manufacturing capacity of the drug. These are very specialized machines, specialized equipment. This is not going to go away anytime soon. There probably will be a new virus that requires a new vaccine and a new booster shot, if you will. This is going to be multiple years. Use the Defense Production Act. Let’s increase our manufacturing capacity of the drug. This is war. The Defense Production Act was used in wartime. That’s what the previous administration said to me, “well, that’s for wartime.” This is wartime. COVID is a war. More Americans died from COVID than World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam combined. So yes. We are at war. Use the Defense Production Act, because it’s not about the next the six to nine months. This is about the next two to three years.
New York State needs federal fairness. And they’re discussing the COVID relief package now. We need $15 billion in federal relief, and we need SALT repealed. On the COVID relief, finally, President Biden, thank you, put in state and local financing, $350 million. The Governors, Democrat or Republican, have been calling for that for over a year. We need fifteen of the three hundred and fifty, we need fifteen of however they make the sausage, between the Senate and the House. We need fifteen billion dollars in federal relief. And this is a fair request.
New York State was ground zero. New York State had a different problem with COVID than any other state. That is a fact, yes I am the New York Governor, and yes I fight for the people of New York. That is my job. I represent the people of the state of New York and I will fight for them and advocate for them. But, I have no problem, same to any Governor in this state, which I have. New York had a different problem than you had. New York was ambushed. New York got hit harder. New York was hurt by the federal negligence for letting the damn virus come here without telling us. New York lost more people. New York was the laboratory for all the other states to watch so they had notice. New York was ground zero. We expect fairness from the federal government, but we also demand fairness from the federal government.
And to my federal colleagues, Congresspeople, Senators: there are no excuses now. You are in charge. You are in many ways executives. The buck stops with you. Democrats control the Senate, Democrats control the House, we have a Democratic president. This is a different time in history. There’s no one to point the finger to. We need you to deliver for New York. And when it comes from, to SALT. SALT was just a political fact. What they did in the federal government was they increased our taxes, and they gave it to Republican states because they had Republican control. And their theory was if you can do it, do it.
It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t just, it was pure politics, they took from the blue states to give to the red and the state that they took from most was New York State. And New Jersey, and Massachusetts, and California, and Connecticut, they took the most from those states. Those are all northeastern states, and it hurt the Northeast and economy, and they gave it to the Republican states.
Every Democrat, every Democratic Congressperson, every Democratic Senator said it was an outrage, and we’ll fix it. Would you know what, fix it? Because now you’re in charge. I’m going to organize the national SALT repeal effort, this is not just about New York, this is about all the states were that were hurt.
Public safety is a top priority. We want to talk about the economy coming back, the economy does not come back unless people know it’s safe. Cities don’t come back unless people know cities are safe. That is a blunt truth. We all understand the tension between police and certain members of the community. Loss of trust, loss of respect. That’s been true for over a year. I’ve said numerous times. Problems don’t go away if you deny them, they only mount. They get worse. It’s true in life, it’s true in society, it’s true in government.
Government leaders: put people at the table, work it out. Make it a cathartic, collaborative process. Police have to police, they have to be able to do their job safely. The community has to believe they’re treated fairly, and they’re not discriminated against and they’re not abused. Come up with a new plan, a new understanding to do it by April 1. April 1 is only sixty-two days away. Many localities are doing a great job. We have other localities that are trying to ignore the problem. The problem won’t go away. Ignoring it will not address it. It’s a failure of leadership, and the problem will only compound because in April 1, that locality will not be eligible for state funding. Sixty-two days.
Bottom line, the vaccine is scarce. Everybody wants more. And I said when this started, “Everybody’s going to say the same thing, including me.” Everybody wants more. When I get on the phone with the White House, I say I want more. Every County Executive says it, every group says it. The vaccine is scarce. We are rationing the vaccine. That is what we’re doing. And we’re rationing it fairly. There are one point three million health care workers. They get twenty-one percent. There are one point seven million essential workers. They get twenty-seven percent. This sixty-five plus, three point two million, they get fifty-two percent.
That’s the percent of the population they are. I’m not picking a health care worker over an essential worker over a sixty-five plus person. We’re doing it fairly by population because every life is as valuable as every other life, and these were the national priorities that were set, and we’re doing it fairly. And I feel good about that.
I’m saying to my local colleagues, don’t play politics with vaccines, don’t play politics in this moment. You have health care workers, you have long term care facility, residents of long-term care facilities, staff, developmentally disabled staff, college professors, police officers, fire professionals, mass transit professionals, grocery store workers, childcare, and then you have people who are sixty-five plus.
It is the divisive for a politician to say, “Well, I think police should get more. I think grocery-store workers should get more. I think nurses should get more.” It’s divisive and it’s cheap. Yes, you want to be a hero to the police, you say “I think the police should get more.” It’s cheap. Because, if you want to be honest, you think the police should get more, who on the list would you take it from? Would you take it from the nurses? Would you take it from the doctors? Would you take it from sixty-five plus? It’s a zero sum game.
You can’t stand up and play hero to any one group on that list. If you have any sense of honor or integrity, where would you take it from? I believe health care workers should get more. I believe developmentally disabled workers should get more. I believe school teachers should get more. I believe first responders should get more. I believe the subway and bus drivers should get more. I believe grocery store workers should get more. I believe daycare workers should get more.
Yes, I believe the health care workers should get more. Yes. But, if you want to say well they’re not getting their fair share, then say at the same time who you would take it from on that list. Otherwise, you’re playing politics, you’re dividing people, you’re scaring people, you’re upsetting people at a very delicate time. We get 300,000 vaccines per week to do seven million people. You can’t do everyone group, at least do it fairly.
Political extremism is a problem in this country, we’ve seen in Washington DC, they’re now doing investigations. Government cannot tolerate criminal insurrection and New Yorkers will not tolerate it.
There are levels of extremism. What happened in Washington did not just happen overnight. It developed and you could see it increasing over time. It was a building storm and it starts with ugliness and threats on the internet. Anonymous threats, “We should confront them. We should get them. We should attack them.” The internet and social media can really be a breeding ground for a lot of positive but also for lot of hate and it builds. I see it here in New York on the internet, this building ugliness. Once you start to light fires, don’t be surprised when the fire is out of control. That was the lesson of what happened in Washington and that was the lesson that I hope many of the extremists learned in Washington. Unfortunately, I don’t think they did because we see it here in New York.
First of all, the law is the law and in New York, I will never allow the insurrection that happened in Washington, D.C. That made a mockery of law and order and that was a disgrace to democracy and to every citizen of this nation. Second, when you see the ugliness being fomented – for selfish political reasons often – everybody should condemn. Everybody should condemn it. There are no secrets in life. We know who spreads the ugliness on the internet. You can think, “Oh, I’m anonymous, Capitol watch.” You’re not anonymous. People know who you are and who you work for and any decent elected official – I don’t care Democrat or Republican, if you want to have differences, have differences. I represent Democrats and Republicans, but don’t get ugly and don’t get ugly now when society is so fragile, and personalities are under such stress.
Times of extreme pressure show us who we are. Times of pressure reveal the true character in people. I believe that. Over this past year with COVID, I’ve learned so much about individuals, about myself and about society and about New Yorkers. You put pressure on people and any little personality crack or flaw, when you put the pressure on, it explodes. And little insecurities explode. And little neuroses explode. People who I thought were strong and capable, crumbled. I saw them crumble during COVID. At the same time, you put the pressure on, you put the stress on and it solidifies the stone. It makes some people stronger and I’ve seen people rise up and really respond to their better angels. New Yorkers by and large did that. That’s how we beat COVID. You see the beauty in people, and you see the ugliness and people. It is disturbingly exposing.
Find your best self in this moment and let’s all of us applaud each other when we find our best and let’s strive for that. That’s what we mean when we say New York tough, not the way they always think, yeah, we’re that. Yes, we are tough but we are more than just tough. We’re smart, we are united, we’re disciplined, and we’re strong enough to love. That’s what we have to find in this moment and that’s what we have found and when you don’t see that – speak up. Speak up. This is our ethos and this is our morality and this is what we expect from each other, to be New York tough, and if you’re not – speak up.