ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Cuomo held a briefing at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Albany to discuss the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts.
It’s been 220 days since the pandemic arrived in New York state, and the governor says the autumn season continues to present new challenges in regards to limiting the spread of the virus.
“What happens in the fall? The virus goes up — the leaves come down, the virus comes up,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In New York, statewide, we are doing very well, but we have a cluster problem. It’s serious. It can grow.”
The governor warned about the dangers of gatherings, wherever they may take place.
“Outbreaks are born; it starts in a mass gatherings and expands from there,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It happens in colleges, it happens indoors, and it takes off. “We’ve seen it in the Rose Garden, which was an outdoor event, and we see that growing list from that gathering. We see it at religious services. Mass gatherings cause infections, cause clusters, and then they cause community spread — unless we intervene and stop the spread.”
The governor said the state has identified a number of COVID-19 clusters, including Orange, Rockland, and Nassau Counties, Queens and Brooklyn in New York City, Binghamton, and college campuses across the state.
The state has developed a color-coded cluster system to decipher restrictions in those areas. The color-coded system splits clusters into three categories; red, orange, and yellow. It then dictates what restrictions are in place for those regions, including worship, mass gatherings, business activity, dining, and schools.
Schools in red and orange clusters are to transition to remote learning only, while those in yellow clusters are to implement mandatory weekly testing for in person instruction. These rules are to stay in effect for at least 14 days, the governor said.
“If schools need additionally testing resources, they should contact the state,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The governor said more strict penalties would be imposed for those who break the rules, including fines of $15,000 for sponsors of mass gatherings in COVID-19 cluster areas.
“Local governments must enforce the law,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We can sit here all day long — the rules are only as good as their enforcement. Lack of enforcement has led to this problem. ‘We have COVID fatigue, we’re tired of wearing masks.’ COVID isn’t fatigued. We don’t have the opportunity to be fatigued. I get that it’s not politically popular to enforce these laws, but blame me. I have no problem with that. I’m not going to pass more laws that aren’t going to be enforced.”
The governor said local governments must appoint regional representatives on a New York state task force that will oversee coronavirus compliance statewide. The governor said local governments face fines and other penalties for a failure to comply.
“Together we’re going to get this done,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s not easy, but we know where the cases are, and we know what we have to do, but individuals and organizations have to do their jobs also. We’re all citizens. It’s not government’s job to catch you, it’s citizens’ obligation to do the right thing.”
The governor said mass gatherings are the main problem with viral spread, specifically places of worship.
“This virus is not being spread by non-essential businesses,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It’s not being spread by schools. This is about mass gatherings, and one of the prime places of mass gatherings are houses of worship. I understand it’s a sensitive topic, but that is the truth.”
For Tuesday’s statewide update, the virus data is as follows:
- Infection rate in top 20 zip codes — 5.5%
- Statewide infection rate outside top 20 zip codes — 1.2%
- Statewide infection rate with top 20 zip codes — 1.45%
- Deaths — 9
- Hospitalizations — 705
- ICU — 158
- Intubations — 72
“If the infection rate increases, we’ll be forced to close down,” Gov. Cuomo said.
The governor addressed President Donald Trump’s battle with coronavirus, saying he is given privileged medical care that most Americans are not afforded.
“This is a frightening virus, but the president is not analogous to the average person,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If someone gets it, they’re not flown to Walter Reed to receive care and experimental drugs. From a public service point of view, 200,000 died. More people die in this country than other countries that were doing worse than us. Be fearful of COVID — it can kill you.
“We knew when it started, he knew it was going to be bad, and he just lied about it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “That cost this nation unnecessary pain and hardship. I was saying take it seriously, he was saying it was a hoax — none of it was true. Denial doesn’t work, it never does in life.”
Since late June, Tuesdays have been the day that New York updates its coronavirus travel advisory, which requires incoming travelers from areas of high infection rate to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, but as of Thursday afternoon, there has been no weekly update.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.