ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Resurrecting New York’s arts and culture, reopening business sectors with a rapid testing network, and expanding broadband internet were the focus on day two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State Address.
“2021 will be a year of continued challenges, transformational and change we will need to adjust to the new social economic realities of the post-COVID world,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We will begin by controlling the spread of COVID, while at the same time ramping up our vaccination plan.”
Earlier Tuesday on a conference call with media, the governor announced an expansion for vaccination eligibility to residents 65 and older, and those who are immunocompromised, but he stressed that adding to the eligibility pool without increasing supply means New Yorkers will need to have patience.
The governor said New York will seek to establish a rapid COVID-19 testing network to help businesses reopen with reduced capacity restrictions. He said the model used for the Buffalo Bills playoff game, which allowed fans in the stadium for the first time this season, was an “inarguable success.” He said the same model can apply to arts and cultural events and concerts.
“Testing is the key to reopening our economy before the vaccine hits critical mass,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Rapid testing poses great possibilities, as it can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. We will be entering a time where more people are vaccinated, and this will allow us to reopen more businesses safely. We piloted our strategy at last week’s Bills game, where testing was done in a drive-thru, at approximately five minutes per car. The New York State Department of Health is monitoring the contact tracing results, but all early indications suggest this model was successful.”
The governor said the state would establish hundreds of rapid tests sites throughout New York to reopen businesses with science and safety in mind.
“Why can’t we use rapid testing to open restaurants in orange zones?” Gov. Cuomo said. “Without activities and attractions, cities lose their appeal. New York City is not New York City without Broadway. We will open hundreds of these new pop-up rapid testing sites statewide to bring this effort to scale.
“We must act,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on for the arts. We will not let the curtain fall on their careers or our cities. New York state is launching New York Arts Revival; a public-private partnership to bring the arts back. We will organize a series of pop-up arts events to bring the arts back. We will use flexible venues, adapt with social distancing. All events will follow state guidelines, serving as a model for safely reopening arts venues across the country.”
The governor said in New York, the arts and cultural industry accounts for almost half a million jobs and generates $120 billion in economic activity annually. The governor said February 4 was a target date for the beginning of pop-up performances, which will feature top-tier entertainers and arts organizations.
“These are not just statistics,” Gov. Cuomo said. “These are our friends and neighbors. These artists are what makes New York New York.”
The governor said it’s important to consider the lessons learned during 2020 as plans are made for the future, and that includes widespread access to affordable, high-speed internet.
“Online businesses will continue to increase, we must embrace it , not deny it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “A remote economy requires high-speed internet for all. We need to ensure a level playing field, and no one can be left behind. Approximately 98% of New York homes now have access to broadband, but now we have a different problem, and that is affordability. A basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month, and for too many families this just isn’t affordable.”
Further addressing inequality gaps, the governor said the state would be working with property managers to convert unused commercial space into community space and affordable housing.
“We recognize the over-availability of hotel and office space as a side effect of COIVD. but the underutilized spaces also present an opportunity, especially with the growing homelessness problem,” Gov. Cuomo said “These commercial spaces can be adapted for other uses that benefit the community and make then viable. The state will provide building owners flexibility to covert these commercial spaces.”
Day two of the governor’s State of the State Address focused more on specific agenda measures and legislative items to tackle, while day one was a broader view at the state’s goals and initiative for the calendar year.
MORE | Gov. Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State: Beat COVID, invest in future, address systemic injustice
The governor’s 2021 State of the State will continue Wednesday.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we continue to update this developing story.
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