Gov. Cuomo Announces COVID-19 Infection Rate Below 1 Percent for Tenth Straight Day, Gyms to Re-Open

Average Infection Rate Has Been 1 Percent or Lower Since June

0.71 Percent of Yesterday’s COVID-19 Tests were Positive— Lowest Daily Positivity Rate Since Beginning of Crisis

All Gyms and Fitness Centers Able to Open by September 2; Indoor Fitness Classes May Be Delayed Beyond September 2

Facilities Required to Operate at 33 Percent Capacity and Follow Rigorous Health and Safety Protocols, Including Masks at All Times

Governor Issued Letter to 500 Jurisdictions with Police Departments in State 

Guidance Available Here

Governor Cuomo: “Congratulations to New Yorkers. They did what people said couldn’t be done. There was no way that we could reduce the rate of the infection and we were going to over burden our hospital system and our hospital system was going to collapse because we wouldn’t be able to handle it. New Yorkers did it. New Yorkers did what they said couldn’t be done because that’s what New Yorkers do.”

Good morning. Pleasure to be here today. To my right, everyone knows Melissa DeRosa. To my left, Beth Garvey, special counsel to me. To her left, Dr. James Malatras. Insists that I call him doctor as an official title, but he is not a real doctor. Someone has a health emergency, he can do absolutely nothing. He can do a paper on it.

Dr. James Malatras

Today is day 170. Right now, New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. Our infection rate, positivity rate yesterday was .7 percent. That is the lowest it has been since this began. So that is really great news. You can see the curve that we talk about, flattening of the curve, reducing the curve and flattening of the curve. That is just a beautiful image to me. Art is in the eyes of the beholder, to me that is beauty. Look at that slope.

Right now, we are averaging 1 percent or under since June. That is exactly where we want to be. Remember we said, we were told by the experts, quote unquote experts, that once we started reopening the infection rate would go up. We said well maybe if we were very careful and we do it right and it’s phased, that we can avoid that. And we avoided it. So that’s great news.

The hospitalizations are at 534. Up a tick, but basically flat. ICU patients 133, basically flat. Intubations flat. Number of lives lost, 6, which is the same and again those families are in our thoughts and prayers.

The 3-day average is just about the same also. But look at where we were at the peak, 763 deaths. When you look across the regions, they’re all basically consistent. When you look at the boroughs across Manhattan they’re all basically consistent. On all the numbers, it’s good news.

Again, congratulations to New Yorkers. They did what people said couldn’t be done. There was no way that we could reduce the rate of the infection and we were going to over burden our hospital system and our hospital system was going to collapse because we wouldn’t be able to handle it. New Yorkers did it. New Yorkers did what they said couldn’t be done because that’s what New Yorkers do.

Going forward, protect the progress, keep that rate down. One of the areas we’re focused on, bars and restaurants. Quote, unquote younger people. Wish I could consider myself a younger person. At one time I could. The State Liquor Authority and the New York State Police are attempting to supplement what the local police departments are supposed to be doing. That is their job. Local police departments are supposed to be enforcing these laws. Frankly, they’re not doing it in some places to the extent they should be doing it.

State Police and the State Liquor Authority are supplementing. They did 66 violations over the weekend. I hope establishments are getting them message because I said that we were serious about it. I said we were going to take enforcement actions and that’s exactly what we’re doing. These are serious enforcement actions. If the police and the locality aren’t going to enforce compliance to the extent they should, I want the establishments to know that the state is going to do it. And the state is doing it and these are serious violations.

Gyms. The guidance goes out today on gyms. Basically, the outline is 33 percent capacity. There are health requirements that are in the guidelines that have to be maintained to their ventilation requirements. This is a whole new topic where we can actually do a lot of good work and we are in New York with the HVAC systems and the filtration.

The gyms can open as soon as August 24. Oh, it tricked me. One of the requirements is mandating masks at all times. Gyms can open as soon as August 24, but the locality must open them by September 2. The localities have a role here. They have to inspect the gyms before they open or within 2 weeks of their opening to make sure they’re meeting all the requirements. That variation is to give localities time, if the localities need it. If the localities can get the inspections done or be ready to inspect, then they can open up August 24.

If a locality can’t get ready to do inspections, then they get another week. They can do it September 2. Localities can also determine whether or not the gyms have classes inside it. Some gyms have classes – localities can decide whether or not those classes can be undertaken. The local elected will make the decision in a jurisdiction and the local health departments must inspect before or within two weeks to make sure the guidelines are in place.

Porter School, Syracuse NY

On the issue of schools, we said that the by the infection rate they can reopen, right? If schools can reopen in the state in the country, they can reopen here. But it only means they can. The question then becomes how and that is the big question. How do they reopen? When do they reopen? Is it hybrid is it remote? Is it with cohorts? That’s up to the local school district. And the people who are going to make the decisions are not a bunch of bureaucrats. It is going to be the parents and the teachers. And I’m telling you, I have spoken to hundreds of parents and teachers. There are many questions that they have.

These are good questions because if you look around opening schools has proven problematic – by sophisticated governments, it’s been problematic. Israel had an issue, Hong Kong had an issue, in this country, we’ve had issues. So the parents are right to be concerned. It’s only natural for the parents and teachers to have questions – they’re not being obstructionist. And I want the local school districts to understand that. Local school districts are not doing the parents a favor by talking to them. They’re not doing the teachers a favor by talking to them. If the teachers don’t come back, you don’t have a school. If the parents don’t send their students, you don’t have a school.

So, the mentality of some of these school districts, “Well, we’re going to announce that the schools are open.” I don’t care what you announce – if a parent is not going to send their child, it doesn’t matter what date you pick or what plan you have. You have to make sure the parents and the teachers are comfortable and confident with it. And that’s why when I was getting a lot of calls from parents and teachers saying, “We don’t understand the plan, they’re not explaining it. It’s up on the web. I can’t understand what they’re saying. I don’t understand how they would find out if it’s a child is positive or not. How many tests are they going to do?” They have many good questions. Those consultation processes and sessions have to be real. They can’t be short, “Submit your question via website and nobody gets through,” because if they’re not comfortable it’s not a pro forma consultation, it is a determinative consultation because those have to be the people who feel good about accepting this decision. Otherwise, it’s all moot, right?

If a school district does open and there’s a COVID spread, the state will close the school. So, parents who are concerned and they are, “Well what if something happens?” If something happens and there’s a spread, then the state will step in and we will close the school. But we don’t want to get to that point. That’s exactly what we want to avoid and that’s why the how and the plan is so important.

Tonight I have the honor of addressing the Democratic Convention in a speech. It’s a remote convention, virtual convention, whatever they want to call it, but it’s the opening night and I give a speech. I’m going to speak about a national crisis that we are in. Because I believe this nation is in crisis, COVID in many ways was the symptom and not the illness. The COVID virus showed us how weak we were and how unprepared we were and how divided we were. I say in the speech, it takes a strong body to resist the virus because it really is a great metaphor, right? When does the virus wreak havoc? When the body is weak. And America’s body politic is weak. We’re divided. Our government was not ready to respond so I speak about that.

To me, this period of time has really re shaped not just our national dialogue, but our impression of government, right? Ask yourself when was the last time government was as essential as it is today? When? When did government matter the way it matters to you today to everybody today. Maybe the last time we went to war? Maybe the Depression? Maybe the last time they said they were going to draft your child to go into an army? Government affects every person’s life— and not in some political, theoretical, abstraction. What do you politically think? Are you politically a progressive? Are you politically a conservative?

Government is making life and death decisions. I think it’s going to reshape the way people think about government for a long time because I don’t care what you thought about government yesterday pre-COVID: “it was a waste of time. ‘m not political. Government doesn’t matter.” It all changed. Government matters today. Democratic, Republican, upstate, downstate. Government matters. Leadership matters. Leadership matters. Performance matters. Strip away all the rhetoric: Did you get the job done or not? Performance matters. It was the great crystallizer of truth and fact—what we’ve been going through. Social unity matters.

How did New Yorkers bend the curve? How did New Yorkers bend the curve? That’s the great question, right? It’s what all the experts now ask me: how did you do it? How did you do it? I said, “I didn’t do anything. I communicated information to the people of the state and the people acted intelligently and they were smart. And they acted as a community.” You know, we talk about the word “community.” We’re a community. Community: from the Latin “communitas” of the common, right? The Constitution speaks about common good, common good, common good. Yeah, what the founding fathers didn’t anticipate was people not acting in the common good. New Yorkers acted in the common good. I wear a mask for you, you wear a mask for me. I respect you and you respect me. That’s community. New Yorkers forge community. “Well, how? We’re so fractious, we’re so divided?”

No. they overcame the divisions and found the commonality. It matters. If we were divided, this would never happen. If a significant portion of the population said, “I’m not doing the social distancing. That’s a Democratic idea. I’m not doing masks. Ah, I’m not doing that.” If you had a significant portion of the population that did that, those numbers on that curve would be dramatically different. I also say in the speech, which probably is one of the most important things to me personally, I say thank you to all the Americans who came to help New York. I don’t know that you felt it the way I felt it, but one day I said, “We need help. Our medical staff is getting overwhelmed and they’re working too hard.” And I asked people across the country who are nurses or doctors, “could you please help? If you’re not busy in your state, could you please come help?”

I just asked the question. I didn’t talk about it before it wasn’t pre-meditated. It was just common sense and it was just spontaneous. 30,000 people volunteered. 30,000 nurses and doctors volunteered to come to New York in the middle of the pandemic at the hot-spot— nurses and doctors to go into an emergency room. 30,000. I mean, I was so touched. I was amazed. You know, sometimes we underestimate the goodness of people and the courage of people. I had seen snapshots of it.

You know, after 9/11, there were all sorts of people who just showed up here. After Superstorm Sandy, there were all sorts of people from other parts of the state who just showed up, and people who had plates of cookies, and people who just brought supplies. 30,000 people: “I’ll come and help.” God Bless the American people. And I’ve tried to say “thank you” on behalf of New Yorkers in a lot of different ways. I’ve said anything you need, anywhere in the state— we’ll be there. Because remember, we had Oregon sending us ventilators. We had people from upstate nursing homes sending ventilators. We had all sorts of people doing beautiful gestures. And I said, “New Yorkers will never forget.” New Yorkers will never forget.

That’s not who we are as our value. We’ll never forget and we will reciprocate: that is our value as New Yorkers and we’re sending supplies now to Houston, to Savannah to Florida. It’s our way of saying thank you for being there for us and we appreciated it and we feel the same about you that you felt about us. You showed us love and we show you love. So, I had an opportunity to say that in this speech also.

We now have to address the other crisis, right? The COVID crisis what could be worse? Another crisis on top of COVID could be worse. “Oh that could never happen.” Anything could happen and it happened and that was the tensions unleashed after the George Floyd murder, that are still ongoing today and these are now, let’s call them police-community tensions, right? A significant portion of the population that is unhappy with policing/public safety policies. How do you know that? Because we’ve had millions of protesters in the middle of a global pandemic that’s how I know and we’ve all seen it. The tensions are real. The tensions are there.

That has in some ways, distorted the public safety function in many communities. New York City murders are up 29 percent year-to-date; shootings are up 79 percent year-to-date; Bronx 60 percent; Brooklyn 102 percent; Manhattan 54 percent; Queens 75 percent; Staten Island 108 percent. You cannot dismiss these numbers. You cannot look at this reality and say it doesn’t exist because the reality is so clear. New York City recent data: over 90 percent of the victims are black and brown. 90 percent of the victims are black and brown. You want to talk about social justice? You want to talk about civil rights? You want to talk about social equity? How do you explain that? It’s not just New York City, it’s all across the nation. It’s also upstate New York. Upstate cities: shooting injuries up 70 percent year-to-date; Albany shootings up 240; Buffalo 66 percent; Rochester 54 percent; Syracuse 130 percent. So, it’s not just New York City.

I announced an Executive Order on June 12th which was ambitious. It was called the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. What it said is, we have an issue and we have to address the issue. Very little has been done. Today I’m sending a letter to 500 jurisdictions in New York State that have a Police Department and the letter is explaining that it is imperative that we address this urgent crisis. I understand it’s complicated. I understand it’s difficult. I also understand people are dying, right? It’s like the COVID crisis. “Oh this is complicated, this is hard.” Yeah, I know. It’s also a matter of life and death and so is this situation. Denial is not a successful life strategy – not in government, not in your personal life. This state does not run from a crisis. It’s not what we do. It’s not who we are and we’re not going to deny that this is a crisis. What do we do in a crisis? Leaders lead and leaders act. This is a time for leadership and action.

Acknowledge the tensions – they are real. Talk to members of the community; they have real issues. Talk to the Police Department; they have real issues. They will tell you there are policies in place that frustrate their ability to do their job. Talk to members of the community and they’ll say there are policies in place that they find repugnant. Their real feelings on both sides. I understand that. Acknowledge them and then you have to move to resolve them. How? Form a collaborative, put people at the table- we understand the issues, we understand the tensions, we understand the differences of opinion. Let’s design a public safety function, a Police Department, where the police say they can operate with these policies and the community says their reforms that they require necessary for social justice. That’s the only way out of this. There is no other option.

Denial doesn’t work. “Well, let’s ignore it. Maybe it’ll go away.” It’s not going away. It’s not going away. The relationship is frayed. The relationship is based on trust and respect and the relationship is ruptured. But divorce is not an option here. Divorce is not an option. You can’t say we don’t need any police. End the Police Department. Oh, really? And then what happens at 2 o’clock in the morning when sound is coming through the window and you hear the glass break? So divorce is not an option. You have to resolve the tensions and reconcile it. I understand it’s politically difficult. I understand politicians don’t like to get involved in politically difficult situations. I don’t lust for politically difficult situations but it has to be done. It has to be done quickly. I’m saying in the letter today if you don’t have a plan that is a reimagined police department by next April there will be no State funding for that jurisdiction. Okay?

What am I trying to do? I’m trying to force attention and focus and action on this issue. People are getting shot every day. It’s getting worse, not better. We have to act. Look, change is hard. Change, a large system, very hard. But there is an opportunity in that. If you don’t change you don’t grow. If you don’t change you don’t achieve progress. If you don’t change you don’t evolve and change happens when the people stand up and say we want change and we have generated enough energy to overcome the status quo.

When did we pass marriage equality? First state in the nation. When the people rose up and said we demand change. When did we raise the minimum wage? When the people stood up and said we demand raising the minimum wage. When did we pass gun safety?  After there was a shooting in Connecticut and people stood up and said I’ve had enough.

These are moments for positive change. They’re hard. They’re disruptive but there is no change without disruption. Disruption is the price of change and progress and this is a moment for disruption. The disruption has happened by the way. Now that we’re in the moment of disruption, let’s make the change. Let’s make it positive and let’s reimagine public safety in a way that works for the overall community.

That’s what has to be done even though it’s hard and that’s what we’re going to do because we are New York tough, which is smart, united which is disciplined which is loving.