COVID-19: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Weekly Highlights

NY State Government: Week in Review

Governor Andrew Cuomo provides daily press briefings on the status of New York State’s COVID-19 response and expected executive actions. The Manatt team provides daily updates of these briefings, and going forward we will provide the highlights of important weekly actions being taken in New York State. Some of the highlights below include announcements related to new executive orders and new agency guidance, information regarding the Governor’s plan to reopen New York’s economy, updated figures on the state’s unemployment, potential budget implications driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, and news about the state’s push to increase testing statewide.

Please contact Laura Manley at lmanley@manatt.com with any questions.

Top Line Items From Saturday, April 18–Friday, April 24, 2020:

Friday, April 24

  • According to Governor Cuomo, New York State revenues are projected to decline $13.3 billion from the original executive budget forecasts at the beginning of 2020.
    • He and his team plan to have further analysis of the state’s financial plan within the coming days.
  • The Governor announced he will be signing an executive order to make sure every New Yorker automatically receives a postage-paid application to receive a ballot for the June 23 elections.
    • Voters will be sent an absentee ballot application they can return to receive a ballot, or if they choose to vote in person, polls will be open on June 23.
  • Antibody testing will continue throughout New York State over the next several weeks, with results being reported as the Governor and his team have them.
    • Individuals who are participating in these tests can receive their results if they would like them, along with a fact sheet about what their results mean.
  • The Governor was asked whether there is a time frame for notifying New Yorkers about whether he plans to extend NY PAUSE past May 15.
    • He responded that a decision has not yet been made, but that he would provide advance notice of at least a week.
  • New York’s reopening plan is continuing to be developed.
    • CDC guidelines require any state to have a minimum of two weeks of flat or declining COVID-19 numbers before beginning the reopening process. New York has not yet reached that benchmark.

Thursday, April 23

  • The Governor announced that the state Department of Health is partnering with Attorney General Letitia James to investigate nursing home violations of executive orders requiring communication with families on COVID-19 test results and deaths.
    • They are directing nursing homes to immediately report to the Department of Health actions that they have taken to comply with all Department of Health and CDC directives.
  • New York State has received Phase I preliminary antibody test results that show a 13.9% infection rate across the state, meaning the death rate is lower than what some had predicted.
  • Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa reported that $2.2 billion in unemployment has been paid to over 1.1 million New Yorkers, compared to $975 million in California.
    • New numbers will be released today showing the state approved over 270,000 additional unemployment claims, bringing the total to around 1.4 million New Yorkers who have applied and been approved for unemployment insurance.
    • DeRosa said a majority of those who continue to wait are those applying for pandemic unemployment insurance, which was passed as part of the federal CARES Act; New York now has 3,000 people working on unemployment claims, and they continue to work to streamline the process as much as possible for what the state can control.
  • Governor Cuomo and his team were asked about the over 1,100 deaths and confirmed positive infections within the state’s prison population and whether any further state actions were being taken.
    • According to DeRosa, as of today 263 inmates have tested positive, and they are not seeing the outbreaks they feared.
    • The Governor implemented a number of strict policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including stopping visitation, implementing isolation protocols among the prison population, and releasing inmates who meet specific criteria.
    • The team continues to monitor the situation very closely, and as the situation warrants, they will make appropriate changes.

Wednesday, April 22

  • Governor Cuomo announced the launch of a contact tracing program across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg volunteering to lead and coordinate this effort.
  • Antibody testing is currently happening at random locations across the state; the Governor hopes to have new data in a few days.
  • Robert Mujica, the budget director, said they estimate $2.8 billion has been spent so far on the novel coronavirus, with at least half of that being spent in New York City.

Tuesday, April 21

  • The federal government will handle supply chain issues for national manufacturers; states will work with labs on administration functions.
    • The commitment between the President and the Governor today was to double New York’s current testing capacity from 20,000 to 40,000 tests per day.
  • The Governor was asked about his plan to reopen New York State by region.
    • He said that ideally opening would be coordinated, because opening something in one region might cause that region problems they weren’t aware of or ready for.
    • When discussing reopening the state, the Governor said increased testing and the infection rate are how we watch “the meter”.
  • The Governor announced today that the state will begin to allow elective outpatient treatment in selected counties and hospitals that do not have a significant risk of COVID-19 surging in the near term.
    • However, for now, this excludes Westchester and Rockland south, Erie, Albany, Dutchess and several other counties.
  • The Governor announced today that decisions to reopen New York State will be made on a regional basis based on specific COVID-19 case data, infection and hospitalization rates, and hospital capacity.
    • Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will be in charge of Western New York’s public health reopening strategy.
    • Former Lt. Governor Robert Duffy will be a volunteer special advisor for the Finger Lakes region public health reopening strategy.

Monday, April 20

  • The Governor announced the creation of the Reimagine New York Task Force.
    • Members announced include Westchester County Executive George Latimer, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
  • The Governor said that without federal funding, our state financial plan this week will make 20% cuts to hospitals, schools and local governments.
  • The Governor was asked about the potential to allow hospitals operating with a high vacancy rate to restart elective surgeries.
    • He responded that he would be announcing a policy tomorrow to provide for some elective surgery to resume that would take into account the COVID-19 infection rate in the region compared to hospitals’ vacancy rates and a variety of other factors. His concern is that allowing elective surgeries to resume could cause an issue if there is an uptick in COVID-19 infections and a lack of beds if they are needed.
  • The Governor is calling on the federal government to increase hazard pay for essential public workers—he believes they should get a 50% bonus.
  • DeRosa was asked for an update on New York’s unemployment numbers and the Department of Labor’s website.
    • She responded that they started with over 275,000 applications and are now down to 4,300 that are still outstanding. People should see money this week, with direct deposit being the best option for people to receive money within 48 hours.
    • For those who are gig workers or self-employed, the Department of Labor launched a new application this morning that can be filled out to determine whether one is eligible for unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment insurance.

Sunday, April 19

  • The Governor will sign an Executive Order today to allow anyone who is licensed to perform weddings to also be allowed to do so online; yesterday’s executive order allowed for weddings performed only by clerks.
  • The FDA has approved New York’s antibody testing, and the state will begin testing thousands of New Yorkers this week in a step toward “un-PAUSING” New York.

Saturday, April 18

  • DeRosa announced the Governor would be signing an executive order allowing for marriage licenses to be obtained online and for marriages to be performed by clerks remotely.
  • Health Commissioner Howard Zucker was asked about the progress on the antibody test the State Department of Health has been working on.
    • He responded that a letter has been sent to the FDA to gain approval, and the state’s proposal is under consideration; they hope to hear of a decision soon.
  • The Governor was asked about the Legislature reconvening for session.
    • He responded that they are a separate branch of government and that decision is up to them. He said he believes legislators are working harder than usual even though they may not be in Albany.
  • The Governor was asked whether he has considered allowing upstate hospitals, which are currently operating at less than 50% capacity, to begin performing elective surgeries.
    • He responded that he hasn’t yet considered that option but would discuss it with his team today; he hopes to have more to report on that idea tomorrow.
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