Gov. Cuomo: Counties can issue mask mandates for school districts

New York State

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference to discuss the first positive case of novel coronavirus or COVID-19 in New York State on March 2, 2020 in New York City. – Governor Andrew Cuomo said March 2, 2020 he expects the new coronavirus is spreading in New York, a global hub of commerce and finance, as it deals with its first confirmed case.”I’ve been saying for many days, it’s not if but when. We’re New York. This is a global situation,” he said on CNN.The city’s first confirmed coronavirus case was detected in a health care worker, a 39-year-old woman who tested positive after returning from Iran. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a conference call with media Wednesday to give an update on the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.

On day 242 of the pandemic in New York state, the governor reported the following data:

  • 129,660 tests conducted Tuesday
  • 3.8% positivity rate inside red zone clusters
  • 1.3% positivity rate outside of red zone clusters
  • 1.5% positivity rate overall in New York state (2,031 new cases)
  • 15 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 Tuesday
  • 1,085 New Yorkers hospitalized with the virus
  • 236 receiving ICU treatment

The governor said New York currently has the second lowest positivity rate in the country.

“We are No. 2 from the bottom, second lowest rate in the nation, only Maine is lower than we are,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Maine doesn’t test everyday — they have more of a periodic testing regiment, but besides Maine, above us is New Hampshire at 1.5%, Massachusetts is 1.59%, D.C. is 1.6%, Hawaii is 2.2%. Top of the list is South Dakota at 43%, Idaho at 34%.”

The governor clarified the rules of the tri-state travel advisory, to which 45 states and territories now meet the criteria for.

MORE | California added to New York coronavirus travel advisory, Massachusetts meets criteria

“People are are asking if we have a travel ban,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We do not have a travel ban in the state of New York. We never said people can’t travel out of the state or into the state. You can travel wherever you want to travel, whenever you want to travel; there is no travel ban. There is a quarantine policy that you have in effect, but you can travel wherever you want, for Thanksgiving or any holiday that you want to travel for.”

While the governor said New Yorkers can legally travel as they see fit, he advised against family gatherings for the upcoming holidays.

“My personal advice is you don’t have family gatherings,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Even for Thanksgiving. My personal advice is, the best way to say ‘I love you’ this Thanksgiving, the best way to say ‘I’m thankful for you’ is to say ‘I love you so much, I’m so thankful for you, that I don’t want to endanger you, so we’ll celebrate virtually,’ but that is my personal opinion. Factually, legally, New Yorkers can travel wherever you want. People can come into the state, but you have to live within the quarantine policy.”

The governor said there is increasing concern over small gatherings spreading the virus.

“We’re now getting it from small gatherings,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have a wedding that was in Genesee, Orleans area, 18 people, 18 cases from one wedding. A church in Lewis County, which is not a highly dense county, 57 case from one gathering.”

The governor said the state government would be giving individual counties in New York state authority to enforce mask mandates for school districts in that county. In Monroe County, that is something that Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza is supportive of.

MORE | Dr. Mendoza urges childcare providers to adopt universal masking

“This is particularly important for kindergartners on up, as it is a requirement in their schools.” Mendoza said in a statement Wednesday. “I believe adherence to masking and social distancing in schools have made them among the safest places in our community. It makes sense to extend the school guidelines, as much as possible, to childcare settings.”

New York State Department of Health guidelines for childcare providers, published in June, indicate children who have not entered kindergarten “do not need to wear face coverings when they are in child care,” and older children are “encouraged but not required to wear face coverings.”

However as cases in the county have increased, the commissioner said he is “strongly encouraging” universal masking to help control the spread.

MORE | Coronavirus town hall with County Executive Bello, Dr. Mendoza on News 8 tonight

The governor was again skeptical about how an approved vaccine would be be distributed and administered.

“How do the states do this?” Gov. Cuomo said. “I’ve done 12 million COVID tests in seven months, more than anyone else, I then have to do 20 million vaccines? And I have to do them twice?”

The governor then announced new legislation that aims to hold public utility companies accountability for mishandling storms, outages, and more provider issues.

“The recourse for government is basically twofold,” Gov. Cuomo said. “One: When a utility company doesn’t perform, repeatedly, we can penalize them. Two: If it is repeated and serious we can revoke the franchise. God did not give the utility company the franchise, the people of the state gave the utility company a right to operate.”

If passed by the legislature, the new law would increase penalties to shareholders for failing to adhere to emergency response plans and other violations of the Public Service Law, regulations or orders of the Public Service Commission. The new law would also expedite the process of utility franchise revocation for recurring failures. In addition, the bill requires the PSC to cap the amount of money ratepayers contribute to utility executive salaries.

The bill would also require the PSC to study whether private water suppliers like American Water on Long Island should come under municipal control. The majority of the state legislature’s Long Island delegation joined the announcement, pledging to sponsor the bill and help ensure its passage.

According to the governor’s office, the new legislation would also do the following:

  • Extend enforcement mechanisms to other types of utilities such as electric, cable, television and water
  • Give the state authority to seek up to $500 per household for consumer damages like spoiled food and lost medications due to extended outages
  • Require a plan for better communications to customers by utilities during an outage

New Yorkers will no longer be bullied by utility companies who have long believed they are too big to fail,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The abuse of public trust by utility companies will not be tolerated in New York State. The penalty should be commensurate with the damage caused by the utility companies. By removing the caps on penalties and easing the path to franchise revocation, utility companies will be held accountable.”

Below is the John Hopkins University positivity data, by state, over a seven-day rolling average.

Johns Hopkins University State Positivity Chart
2South Dakota43.44%
14North Dakota10.90%
22New Mexico8.30%
27North Carolina6.91%
33South Carolina5.66%
38West Virginia4.21%
40New Jersey3.66%
42Rhode Island3.03%
47District of Columbia1.60%
49New Hampshire1.50%
50New York1.39%

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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