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Cuomo Won't Commit To Reopening Timeline

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Saranac Lake
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Saranac Lake

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, facing resistance to lingering COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, says the virus is not yet conquered, and is urging caution on reopening up society too quickly.New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the city would fully reopen on July 1, saying vaccinations are increasing, and infection numbers are going down.  

“Our plan is to fully reopen New York City on July 1st,” said de Blasio who explained that includes, restaurants retail stores and theaters, though he says Broadway shows will likely be delayed until September.  

For much of the pandemic, Governor Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, has been calling the shots on when businesses and arts venues must close down, and when they can reopen. Cuomo says the state continues to have authority over the decisions, which are being made using science and data. 

“I am reluctant to make projections because I think they’re irresponsible,” said Cuomo who said it’s too early to know what July will be like. 

“What happens in May, what happens in June?” he said.  

Mayor de Blasio, like most leading Democratic and Republican officeholders in New York, continues to call for the governor’s resignation over several scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment and a cover-up of nursing home death numbers during the pandemic, allegations that Cuomo has denied. The governor, who has long feuded with the mayor, dismissed de Blasio’s opinion.    

“The mayor of New York, I don’t know what he’s indicative of,” Cuomo said, with a chuckle.

The governor says New York City and the rest of the state could open up sooner than July, but he says there’s still a ways to go before enough New Yorkers are fully vaccinated. While over 70% of state resident 65 years of age and older are now vaccinated, younger populations lag behind. Only 34% of those 16 to 25 have received the shot. Access to the vaccine for younger New Yorkers began earlier this month.   

“We’re making progress, I know, but we’re not home yet,” Cuomo said. “And we have to keep up with the precautions.”  

Cuomo, at an event in Buffalo, announced that the region’s public transportation system would offer free bus fare to vaccination clinics for youths who are seeking doses. 

The state legislature also acted this week to end other pandemic restrictions, including the repeal of an executive order that required bar and restaurant patrons to order food whenever they ordered an alcoholic drink. The governor, hours before the vote, announced the rule would end in May. He also lifted controversial curfews on restaurants and bars. 

The governor also reacted to a New York Times story detailing a month’s long effort by Cuomo and his aides to withhold from the public the total number of nursing home residents who died of COVID-19, by not releasing the number of residents who died of the disease in hospitals.

The report says a scientific paper written by health department officials that showed the total number, including the hospital deaths, was never published, and that two letters to state legislators disclosing the total death count were never sent. The delays came while Cuomo was writing and promoting a book on his successes in managing the pandemic. 

Cuomo, who has denied that there’s any connections, continues to say that any accusations against him are politically motivated, and began when the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump began an inquiry into the nursing home deaths in Democratic states. 

“It wasn’t the number, it was the accuracy of the number,” Cuomo said. “We did not want to release a number that was inaccurate because that would fuel the politics.”

Cuomo says the total number of deaths from coronavirus has always been accurately measured, but he says the number of deaths of nursing home residents were not always separated out of that data. 

The governor released the nursing home death numbers in late January, after a state Attorney General’s report found, correctly, that the deaths had been under reported by 50%. Since then, federal prosecutors have opened up a new investigation into whether there was a cover-up.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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