New York easing restrictions on gathering capacity, travel guidance as COVID-19 situation improves

Cuomo Investigation

ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a media briefing Wednesday where he updated New Yorkers on the state’s coronavirus response efforts and discussed allegations of sexual harassment.

The governor has been under fire with dueling controversies regarding the state’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, and three sexual harassment allegations against the governor.

Before the question and answer session of the briefing, the governor addressed the allegations of sexual harassment:

“I want to address the recent allegations that have been made against me,” Gov. Cuomo said. “As you probably know the attorney general is doing an independent review and I will fully cooperate with that review. Now the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, but I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward and I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It wasn’t intentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it. And frankly I am embarrassed by it and that’s not easy to say, but that’s the truth.

MORE | Here’s what we know about Cuomo’s accusers

“But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I never touched anybody inappropriately. I never touched any inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making any feel uncomfortable. I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable and I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do. I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts please before forming an opinion and the attorney general is doing that review and I will fully cooperate with it and then you will have the facts and make a decision when you know the facts.

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me, as well as other people and I’ve learned an important lesson,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it. And I will be the better for this experience.”

New numbers

The governor began the briefing with an update on the state’s coronavirus numbers:

  • 218,069 COVID-19 tests reported Tuesday
  • 3.53% positivity rate overall statewide
  • 75 new COVID-19 deaths statewide
  • 5,323 hospitalizations
  • 1,047 in ICU
  • 735 intubated

“We’ve made tremendous progress and this is very good news,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s not over by any means, but this is good news. The numbers have dropped to below a level before it started to peak.”

In the Rochester and Finger Lakes region, once the highest in the state for percentage of population hospitalized and positivity rates, is now down to .01% of population hospitalized with the virus and a 1.89% positivity rate.

“What people should get from these slides or these numbers — ask yourselves why is there such a variance within one state,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Why is there such a variance in demographic areas that are basically very similar. Why is mid-Hudson four times higher than Central New York? It is about behavior. It’s about what we do. You take Western New York at 1.9%. Western New York, for weeks, was a trouble area. And now its 1.9% because the community changed, the community adapted, the community heard. It is about behavior.”

Vaccination

“Just under 5 million vaccine doses administered in New York overall,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Really good news.”

The governor expressed optimism about the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine which requires only one does, and no cold storage. The first shipment of this vaccine arrived in New York this week.

“From a practical point of view, not a medical point of view, it’s much easier than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s one shot, you don’t have to come back for a second shot, and there’s no cold storage for Johnson & Johnson — so it’s a very big deal we are expecting an initial tranche of about 164,000 dosages.

The governor announce state-run mass vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium, the Javits Center, and the New York State Fairgrounds will add additional appointments and operate 24/7 while administering the first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“That [24/7 sites] will only last for the duration for that initial first large tranche of Johnson & Johnson,” Gov. Cuomo said. “After that first tranche of Johnson & Johnson the production is actually going to slow and lag and build back up again so we have this one time large tranche, good news, then it will slow then it will ramp up again.”

Schools

Part of Joe Biden’s plan to make vaccines available to all adult Americans by May includes vaccinating teachers in an effort to fully reopen schools for in-person instruction.

“President says prioritize teachers and he wants the state and local government directed by the states to prioritize the teachers,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I believe President Biden is right. We need children back in classrooms. Children not in classroom hurts the child, and it puts additional stress on the family.”

Easing restrictions

The governor announced updates to state COVID-19 restrictions, including traveler quarantine police and gathering capacity limits.

For travel restrictions, the governor announced domestic travelers are no longer required to quarantine or test-out within 90 days of full vaccination. International travelers continue to follow CDC quarantine guidance.

Effective March 22, outdoor gathering capacity increases from 10 people to 25 people. Indoor gatherings remain at 10 people limits.

For social gatherings in public spaces: Indoor event capacity increases from 50 people to 100 people and outdoor event capacity increases from 50 people to 200 people.

The governor said social distancing and mask requirements remain for gatherings.

Beginning April 2, event and arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity for up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. With attendee testing, capacity increases to 150 people indoor, 500 people outdoor — with distancing and face covering requirements.

New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said New York state will roll out an app where people can track COVID-19 test results for access to events.

“So we have an app that we have been working with IBM on that app, when you get tested, with your consent, the results of that test will be reported automatically to the app,” Mujica said. “And then you can show proof of a negative test upon entrance to any of these events that require testing.”

New poll

A new Emerson College/WPIX-TV/NewsNation poll released Tuesday found the governor’s approval rating down to 38%, with 48% saying they disapprove of his performance.

Of those polled, the governor’s lowest approval ratings came from the 18-34 age group (22% approval), and those who are white (26% approval). The governor’s highest approval rating came from those who identify as Black (62% approval), and those living in New York City (53% approval).

For context, the same poll found President Joe Biden to have a 52% approval rating, 33% disapproval, and 15% unsure among polled New Yorkers.

Last summer the governor’s approval rating was at its highest since he was elected in 2010.

A majority — 64% — of those polled say that Gov. Cuomo should not be reelected for a fourth term in 2022.

Even Democrats are split on the issue, with 52% saying Cuomo should be reelected and 48% saying he should not serve another term.

Cuomo was elected to his third term as New York’s governor in 2018, defeating Republican Marc Molinaro after defeating Cynthia Nixon in a primary.

Respondents were even split on if New York is heading in the right or wrong direction, with 50% saying right direction and the other half saying the state is on the wrong track.

Notably, a strong majority of Independent voters in New York — 70% — said the state is on the wrong track.

When asked about the recent allegations of sexual harassment involving the governor, 90% of New York voters reported knowing “at least something” about the issue.

Of those who were aware of the allegations, 32% said they were “somewhat satisfied” with Cuomo’s response to the controversy so far, with 42% saying they were “unsatisfied.”

When asked whether or not they believe the allegations are true, the majority — 44% — said they were unsure at this time while 38% believe he’s guilty and 18% said he’s not guilty.

Of those polls, 37% said they believe claims of sexual harassment are ground for a resignation, while 34% said they believe Gov. Cuomo should not resign as a result of the claims. The remaining 29% said they were unsure if the governor should resign at this time.

When asked about Gov. Cuomo’s reporting of nursing home deaths near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 92% of respondents said they have heard of the news.

Among those who were aware of the reports, a majority — 59% — reported they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with the governor’s response to the matter.

Of those polled, 14% said they felt unsure or neutral towards the governor’s response while 27% felt “somewhat satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the governor’s response.

Most New Yorkers polled — 45% — said Gov. Cuomo should resign over his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic, with 36% saying they do not think they governor should resign, and 18% reporting they were unsure or held no opinion on the matter.

Most New Yorkers polled — 39% — believe these controversies will “seriously affect” Gov. Cuomo’s ability to lead the state for the remainder of his term.

Of those polled, 31% said they did not think it will make a difference, 14% said he was never a good leader for the state, and 16% said they were unsure about how the controversies will affect his ability to lead.

Despite the nursing home and sexual harassment controversies, voters polled said they were more concerned with the pandemic presently.

A majority — 62% — said that availability and plan for COVID-19 vaccines ranks as the most important issue currently, followed by 28% who said an investigation into the nursing home controversy was most pressing, and 10% who were primarily focused on sexual harassment allegations as the most important.

Poll data

For the poll, 700 New Yorkers were surveyed between March 1 and March 2, 2021. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, race, party affiliation and region with a margin of error of +/- 3.6%.

Watch the full briefing:

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

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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