Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned he could stop reopened regions from advancing to the next phase, knock them down a phase, or send them back to “New York State on PAUSE” nonessential closings if they get too loose with safety regulations designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking of COVID-19, he said, “New York state has been following the data and, on the numbers, we're making really great progress – and today is another great day in terms of achievement by New Yorkers.” The state had its lowest number of coronavirus-related deaths in one day since the pandemic began in March: 23.
But he cautioned, “At the same time, you have another fact: the virus spread is increasing dramatically in post-reopening states across the nation. So, hold two facts in your hands. One: New York is doing better than any state in reducing the virus. Fact. Another fact. States post-reopening are seeing a dramatic increase. Not New York. Not yet. But that is a serious caution for us. And that's what I am focused on.”
Cuomo said, “It is our behavior (that determines our success), nothing more nothing less. ‘Well, the numbers a good.’ Those numbers can change in a week. They can change a week. You get undisciplined, you'll see those numbers change in a week once they change you can't change them back that quickly.
“Now we're getting reports from all across the state that there are large gatherings, social distancing is being violated, people are not wearing masks. We have gotten 25,000 complaints to the state of businesses that are in violation of the reopening plan – 25,000 complaints. We have never received more complaints in a shorter period of time: 25,000 – just think about that.
“What's alarming about the 25,000 is the volume, but it also shows how smart people are and how offended people are that they're calling and complaining. This is a time in history we've never seen before. Think about how concerned New Yorkers are not just to see the violation, but then to care enough to come back and write a letter or call registering the complaint. You know why? They're afraid for themselves. They walk past the business. They see the businesses violating the rules and they are saying, ‘My health is jeopardized’ – my health – and that's why they're complaining.”
The governor said establishments welcoming more than 10 people clustered together, ignoring social distancing and/or not, wearing masks, “They're also violating the law. This is a question of violating the law. Not just feel guilty – you're violating the law. All right? This is a very serious situation and I want to make sure everybody knows the consequences here.
“A bar or restaurant that is violating these rules can lose their liquor license. State Liquor Authority inspectors are out. We have a task force of state investigators who are out. You can lose your liquor license – and that is a big deal for a bar or restaurant. We are not kidding around with this. You're talking about jeopardizing people's lives. It's a legal violation, and the SLA inspectors are out there. I am telling you that.”
Cuomo said, “You violate the law, you can lose your license and you will. We're not kidding around about this. If you are an individual you can't violate the open container law. There is an open container law. You can't stand on the sidewalk drinking a beer. You're violating the open container law.
“The social distancing, mask-wearing, these are legal violations. Protesters and police, the law applies to you. ‘Well, I'm protesting.’ Yeah, I understand that. You can protest. The law still applies to you. Police department, your job is to enforce the law. Why don't you follow the law? It's a very bad signal when you see police people who are not wearing a mask and not following the law. How can you enforce the law if you're not following the law? So, wear a mask.
“And also to locally elected who are in charge of the police department, it's your responsibility to make sure your police department follows the law. The local governments, you are responsible for monitoring the compliance with the reopening plan. That is the local government's responsibility. We've been very clear about this from day one. We go to phase one, we go to phase two, we go to phase three – the local government is responsible for compliance.
“Mayors, county executives, you have to do your job. I understand it's an unpopular position to have to enforce the law. I understand nobody wants to go to a sidewalk with people drinking and say, ‘You can't drink on the sidewalk.’ I understand that. I understand nobody wants to say to a bar, restaurant, you know, ‘You're only supposed to be in an open-air area and you're not supposed to be violating social distancing.’ I understand that. I understand it's not popular. I get it. You know what's more unpopular? If that region closes because that local government did not do their job. That can happen.”
Cuomo explained, “Before I reverse a statewide position, I'll tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to reverse it in those areas that are not in compliance with the rules. I'm going to reverse it in those areas where those local governments did not comply with the law. That is what is going to happen here. I am warning today, in a nice way, consequences of your actions. We have 25,000 complaints statewide. I'm not going to turn a blind eye to that. New Yorkers deserve better. …
“Local government, do your job. If we have to close, then people are going to hold you accountable. Bars and restaurants, do your job, or you can have an SLA violation and possibly loss of your license. Individuals who are violating the law, you can be held liable also. We got here because people did the right thing, and if we stop doing the right thing we'll see a very different trajectory.
“I am telling you that you look at all the other states – it's not hard to figure out what is happening here. It's happened in half the states in the nation. So far, we have been the exception. We're not going to go back to that dark place, because local government didn't do its job or because some individuals exploited the situation besides the legal violation. Because our success here was not based on what government did. Our success here was based on individual action and social action. That's why this moment was so special. It's what 19 million people did, and they did what they had to do not because there was a legal sanction, not because I was going to knock on their door and hand them a ticket, that's not why they stayed home. That's not why they closed their business. They did it because it was the right thing to do. To these people who are now violating it. It's illegal. It's also wrong.
“It is just disrespectful not to wear a mask. It's disrespectful to the health care workers and the essential workers who sacrificed themselves for 100 days, some of whom died and gave their life to crush this COVID virus. They gave their life. It is disrespectful not to have the courtesy, the decency, to wear a mask. We all celebrate them, demonstrations, TV ads, ‘God bless the health care workers.’ Yeah, good, act that way. Act that way. Show a modicum of respect and wear a mask.
“It's also disrespectful to the people who you could infect. ‘Well, I'm 25, I'm a superhero, it's not going to bother me.’ First of all, you're wrong, it could kill you; but that's your life. It's disrespectful to the other people who you could infect. It's disrespectful to a parent, to a grandparent, to a cousin, to a brother, to someone who you run into on the sidewalk and you don't even know, but happens to have a compromised immune system, because they're battling cancer or because they're battling HIV, and you infect them you and wind up killing them.
“In some ways, we're in this great moment where society is so caring of the rights of one another and that's a beautiful thing. Well, then let's be caring about the rights of each other and respect people's health and respect people's lives. We're not asking for much. It's basic decency of a society and, again, that's what we did so well to get here in the first place.”
Western New York is expected to enter phase three on Tuesday.