Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered pre-recorded remarks at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.
AUDIO of today’s remarks is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Thank you, Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts. Thank you for this courtesy, it’s a pleasure to be with the congregation of Abyssinian once again. And Happy New Year to all. 2020 is over and I say amen. It was obviously a terrible experience for all of us. It was a dark time indeed.
But let us remember, even in the darkness, there were rays of light. The New Yorkers who rose to the occasion and gave of themselves are modern day heroes. The nurses, the doctors, the bus drivers, the food clerks, the teachers. The people who left the safety of their homes so we could enjoy the safety of ours. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
2021 promises to be better, but 2021 will be what we make it. This coming year poses challenges that we must also rise to meet. We must maintain our diligence in stopping the spread of the COVID virus. I understand COVID fatigue as well as anyone, but we can’t get fatigued from COVID until COVID is fatigued. If we tire before the enemy, the enemy wins. It’s that simple.
We are also preparing a massive vaccination program. The vaccine works, but it only works if we take it. We are told that we need to vaccinate 70-90 percent of New Yorkers for it to be effective. That is an enormous number. Think of it – 90 percent of New Yorkers don’t agree to do anything, let alone take a vaccine. This is not only an individual responsibility; it is a community obligation. There is a simplicity to the virus: no one is safe unless everyone is safe.
That’s why I wear a mask for you, and you wear a mask for me. Now, I am not a doctor, but I’ve spoken to all the experts around the globe and they say the vaccine is safe and smart to take. Knowledgeable and trained people who I trust and respect in every field all agree that we should all take the vaccine. I would take the vaccine today, but I think it’s more important that our essential workers be given these first vaccines.
My mother, Matilda, who is going to be 90-years-old, don’t tell her I told you. As soon as the vaccine is available for her, my mother will take the vaccine. My three daughters, Cara, Mariah, and Michaela, who I love more than life itself, will take the vaccine when they are eligible. Now, I understand the cynicism and skepticism; it is not without cause. The Tuskegee Experiment is a terrible stain on the soul of this nation. The system does have biases and injustices. But that is not true in the case of this vaccine.
One of our pressing challenges is to make sure that the vaccine is made available fairly. COVID exposed many existing injustices in our society. It showed us the health disparities that exist, and how many communities don’t have fair access to healthcare. COVID showed that racism is a public health crisis also. COVID killed Black people in this country at 2x the rate of white people, and Hispanic people at 1.5x the rate of white people. Testing for COVID was more available in richer, whiter communities, and the infection rate was higher in Black, Hispanic and poor communities. This can’t happen again, and it can’t happen with this vaccine.
In New York, we are committed to making the vaccine available to everyone everywhere. We have a special task force headed by Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President & CEO Marc Morial, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, and Healthfirst President & CEO Pat Wang.
Your pastor, the honorable Reverend Dr. Calvin Butts, a great talent, will serve on that task force. We are designing special portable units that can be pop-up vaccination sites and brought to public housing authorities, churches and community centers around the state. I understand that people are skeptical about government. When I was a young boy, watching TV with my grandfather, my father’s father, every time a politician came on the TV, he would do this and make me change the channel. One day I asked him, I said, “Grandpa, what’s this?” and he said “politicians, that’s all they do is talk, talk, talk and they do nothing.” Now, he didn’t do that when my father was on the television speaking, but my father was different – he was not a typical politician and neither am I.
I am committed to social and racial justice in the distribution of this vaccine. It will be available as fairly and as quickly as we can make it happen. Race or income will not determine who lives and who dies. And I mean it. And that’s why I say to you today that I want to take the vaccine. I move around a lot and come into contact with many people and I would feel much safer if I took the vaccine, but I will not take the vaccine until the vaccine is available for my group in Black, Hispanic, and poor communities around the state.
The Governor’s license plate is #1. Big deal. The good book says, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” in Matthew 20:16. Until the vaccine is available in the South Bronx, and the East Side of Buffalo, and Wyandanch, and South Jamaica, and Edgerton and East Utica, our health care deserts, our job is not done. I’ll do my part, but you have to do your part. We all need to have faith and trust in the vaccine, and we need to have generosity in our souls, where we act for the good of one another.
The Good Book says, in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, “carry each other’s burdens.” That is our mission today. 2021 will be what we make it. We are New York Tough. Let’s make it smart, loving, caring, safer, fairer, and sweeter than any year thus far. Together I know we can do it, and together we can set a new example of what community really means and let New York will lead the way. Thank you.