Governor Cuomo discusses COVID-19 hotspots and plan to stabilize New York

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, hold a press briefing on COVID-19 updates in New York City on October 5, 2020.

In a press conference on Monday Oct. 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed the potential rises in cases the fall may bring. He said that school reopenings and mass gatherings have been of major concern for rapid spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Cuomo showed photos of recent mass gatherings of the Orthodox Jewish community with no masks, and said that such major violations have been an ongoing problem. 

The governor will meet with members of major congregations Tuesday, Oct. 6 in Orange, Rockland and Nassau County to discuss an agreement and community enforcement to avoid “making the same mistake twice.” Gov. Cuomo said that he believes he has the legal authority to indiscriminately close institutions that do not comply with COVID-19 safety protocols which include mass gatherings at religious institutions. 

As of Oct. 5, the Orange County ZIP code, 10950, has an 17.6 percent COVID-19 infection rate on average for the period of one week. The ZIP codes included in the top 20 cluster hotspots are Rockland, Kings, Queens and Orange Counties. Kings County, otherwise known as Brooklyn, accounts for 11 out of the 20 at risk ZIP code.

Gov. Cuomo called this largest cluster New York has addressed so far, which deviated from the roughly 1 percent infection rate New York has reported for weeks. 

“If you look at those clusters and you look at those ZIP codes, you will see there’s an overlap with large Orthodox Jewish communities. That is a fact, “ said Gov. Cuomo in a press conference last week.  “I’ve said from day one, these public health rules apply to every religion, atheists — it just applies to every citizen of the State of New York. Period.”

Gov. Cuomo asked for a call to action among local governments in hotspot areas to enforce COVID-19 compliance. He emphasized the importance of compliance and testing for these areas, and announced that 200 rapid testing machines will be deployed to these areas for targeted testing. 

“A cluster today can be community spread tomorrow,” said Gov. Cuomo. 

He also acknowledged pandemic related anxiety for all New Yorkers, but specifically in New York City, with schools reopening, increased crime, COVID-19 related deficits, city cleanliness and homelessness which have cumulatively caused destabilization. 

Gov. Cuomo addressed the varying opinions on reopening schools with the teachers union which unanimously passed a “no confidence” vote to reopening city schools in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carranza. 

“I say to every parent in the city of New York, if those schools are not safe, I will not allow them to operate,” Gov. Cuomo said. 

Gov. Cuomo offered to send the National Guard to help clean up the garbage that lines the streets of New York City. He also emphasized the importance of reopening safe homeless shelters, in consideration of both the health of the homeless as temperatures are beginning to drop and the public health of the city overall.

On crime, Gov. Cuomo said that shootings with victims are up over 100 percent. Black and brown New Yorkers represent 86 percent of the victims of these increased shootings. He said there have been undeniable tensions between the community and the police following the murder of George Floyd, which occurred May 25. 

“It’s a real issue. And it’s also an opportunity,” said Gov. Cuomo. “A more multifaceted public safety function that has mental health response, substance abuse response, a domestic violence response, and then for violent crime, where someone’s life is at risk, yes, a person with a gun and a badge who’s equipped to arrest. That has to be redesigned.”

He again called local officials to action, requiring a redesigned public safety plan by April. Failure to redesign the public safety functions will result in loss of state funding. Gov. Cuomo said that 146 jurisdictions have already commenced this process. He noted that a jurisdiction that has not begun is New York City. 

“But somebody’s got to do it. Or, say I don’t want to do it. And then I’ll find somebody to do it. Maybe it’s better that it’s not a political official. But somebody has to convene and lead the effort to redesign the public safety functions,” said Gov. Cuomo. 

Regarding the historic $50 billion deficit New York faces due to COVID-19 related losses, Gov. Cuomo rejected liability and called the federal government to action for compensation. 

“The other states at least had several months’ notice. We had no notice. So, the federal government is liable, they’re going to pay that bill — not us,” Gov. Cuomo said. 

He addressed the future for New York’s economy as largely dependent on the presidential election. Joe Biden, he said, will do state and local relief funding. Gov. Cuomo said that the worst case scenario would be if the Senate and presidency remain Republican, which would result in raising income tax, budget cuts and borrowing. 

“If Trump wins again and the Senate Republicans win, yes, we have a terrible economic forecast,” said Gov. Cuomo.