Thursday, April 30, 2020

Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio Announce MTA to Disinfect New York City Transit System Daily


  Governor Cuomo: We have that now with the New York City subway system. Daily News did a front page story, which crystallized it, but it had been happening for weeks. And no one anticipated it, but you have a virus outbreak and conditions on the New York City subway system, for a variety of reasons, have rapidly deteriorated. When you think about what happened you can put it together in the retrospective. The COVID outbreak happens. New York City's a place of density, subways, buses are a place of density. MTA employees who run that system, care for that system, get sick, call in sick as they should. They don't want to infect other people. The number of MTA employees comes down. Number of NYPD, New York Police Department, they get sick, their numbers come down. You now have fewer MTA workers, you have fewer NYPD workers on the trains and in the stations. We have now a greater need than ever to disinfect the subways, the buses, and the stations. Why? Because you're in the middle of a pandemic, this is a place of density and you have thousands and thousands of people going through these subway stations, these turnstiles and these buses, trains and ADA vehicles. Because MTA workers are sick, NYPD officers are sick you have fewer people to monitor and maintain the system. This all happens in the midst of a public health emergency. 

At the same time, you have more homeless people who now are on fewer trains and you have fewer people to outreach to the homeless people. Now you put all of this together, and then at the same time we need our essential workers to go to work. I said the other day, I have two great nightmares from day one: Nightmare one, you did everything you did, closed down, et cetera and you didn't stop the rate of increase of the virus. That would have been a nightmare. Can you imagine if we did all of this and we still saw that virus going up? That would have been a real problem. Second nightmare, the essential workers say I'm not going to work. I'm not going. The transit operators, the police, the food delivery people say it's too dangerous. I'm not going. I'm staying home too.  

You don't have food, you don't have power, you don't have transportation, you don't have electric, now you see society in a really difficult situation. We need those essential workers to go to work. I am pushing every day to get our essential workers to go to work even though they see a lot of their colleagues getting ill. You need those nurses, you need those doctors in very difficult circumstances. That's why I say, they are the heroes of today. All the essential workers. How do our essential workers get to work? They need the public transit system. It's true in New York City, it's true all across the state. They need the public buses, they need the trains, they need the subways to get to work. We need them, they need the buses and they need the subways. 

We are as a society, me as a spokesperson for the state, I'm saying to them every day, I need you to do this. I know it's hard, but I need you to do it. Okay, we need them to do it but what is our obligation. Our obligation is to make sure we're doing everything we can do to keep them safe. That's my personal obligation and it's the collective obligation. You want them to be there to deliver the food, what's your obligation is to do everything you're doing to make sure that they are safe while they're doing it. The MTA understood where we were with this global pandemic. They stepped up operations are were cleaning trains and buses every 72 hours, which is an amazing undertaking when you think about it. To clean all those buses and trains every 72 hours. We know the virus can live for hours or even days on a surface which means if somebody positive walks on to a train this morning, that virus can be there tomorrow and the next day. That then changes the whole focus of the problem.  

To say disinfect every train every 24 hours is just a task that nobody has every imagined before. I would wager in the history of public transportation in this nation you never had a challenge of disinfecting every train, every 24 hours. Disinfect, how do you even disinfect a train? We clean trains but how do you disinfect? This is a whole new process, these are new chemicals. This is new equipment for workers. It's new methods. Just think about it, you have to disinfect every place that a hand could touch on a subway car. Every rail, every pole, every door, wherever a hand could touch or coughing, sneezing. Wherever droplets could land. So you have to disinfect that entire interior of the car and then you have to disinfect the stations, the handrails, everything that people could be touching. It is a massive undertaking that we've never done before. 

That is the right thing to do. That is, as we said we've never done tracing before, we've done disinfecting train cars before, but so what? That's what we have to do. So figure out how to do what you have to do. This is what we have to do. I challenged the MTA to come up with a plan, they came up with a plan. They can disinfect all trains and buses every night. It can best be done by stopping train service from 1 am to 5 am every night during the pandemic so they can actually perform this service. 

Now, remember the context that we're in in this pandemic. Ridership is down 92 percent. One to 5 are the slow hours, 1 am to 5 am. It's the lowest ridership. Estimate is about 10,000 people ride the system overall during that period of time. So the MTA will launch what they call the essential connector program, they'll have buses, dollar vans and if necessary, will provide for-hire vehicles to transport a person. The Uber, the Lyft, the vehicles - at no cost to the essential worker during those hours to provide transport. So, people who need transportation during 1am and 5am can have it. Will have it. Even to the extent of a for-hire vehicle paid for by the MTA. Remember, 1am to 5am - we don't have bars open, we don't have restaurants open, so you don't have a lot of traffic that you would normally have. You do have essential workers who are using our trains and subways. They will have transportation during that period of time. 

I've consulted with the elected officials on the MTA's recommendation and we all agree to accept the plan on the Essential Connector Program. The MTA is undertaking something that people would've said was virtually impossible. Trains and buses will be disinfected daily. Service will continue. The MTA will also disinfect the fleet on the Metro North and the Long Island Railroad, which is what goes out to Long Island, goes to the Northern suburbs. They can do that without any disruption in service because of the volume of ridership, et cetera.

So, just think about it. The entire public transportation system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours. This is a joint MTA, state, city partnership. We're doing a lot of things here that we've never done before. I am never one to shy away from a challenge. I don't believe government has that option. I'm never one to say, "well, that's just too much, too hard, too ambitious." We can do it. I believe we can do it. I believe we can do anything. I believe we can build bridges, I believe we can build airports, I believe we can defeat global pandemics. But this is as ambitious as anything that we've ever undertaken. It's going to require a lot of extraordinary service and effort from multiple agencies all working together.

The MTA has stepped up by recommending this plan. The state will do whatever it has to do. A big part of this falls to the city. I've spoken to Mayor de Blasio. It's going to require a lot of assistance from the NYPD, it's going to require a lot of assistance from different city agencies. Again, close down every station, close down the trains. We've never been here before. I guarantee another ten things come up when we go to do this that are also anticipated consequences.

I think we have the mayor who is on the telephone or some electronic means. There he is, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Welcome to Albany.

Mayor de Blasio: Thanks, Governor, it's a pleasure to be with you. Governor, that point you made about all of us together doing something different, doing something necessary, and being willing together to go someplace we've never been before. You and I have talked about this kind of idea a lot over the years. I think when we first met each other, the word "disruption" was considered a bad thing. In recent years, it's taken on a very positive connotation. That when we disrupt something that isn't work or has been thought about in a very narrow way and we go someplace new and better, that's a positive. I think what we're talking about today is exactly that. I commend you and everyone at the MTA.

I want to talk about why I think this plan is so important - in terms of our essential workers, our first responders, our healthcare heroes - why I think it's so important in terms of also addressing homelessness in a new and powerful way.

But I first want to express my appreciation, along with you, really appreciate - back on one of your previous topics - the contact tracing. Really appreciate that my predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping up such a big way for New York City and New York State. Contact tracing, the test and trace approach, is going to change everything. You and I are united in that, as well. The aggressive approach. In fact, Governor, New York City is hiring 1,000 contact tracers with healthcare background to super charge this effort. I think we are going to be able to show this country a model that's going to be extraordinarily effective in beating back this disease. I look forward to that partnership as well.

Governor, you know for decades in this city somehow homeless encampments were actually tolerated. People thought oh it's the kind of thing, what can we do about that? I'm proud to say the last few years Homeless Services, NYPD, nonprofit organizations, we got together and said we're not allowing that anymore. We shut them down and we found it actually helped us to get the homeless to the help they need. This is another example of that, so I want to let you know that as we all talked about this idea and I commend you, your team in Albany, and obviously team at the MTA, Pat Foye, Sarah Feinberg. It's been a very productive conversation these last few days. And what I think we've come to together, is yeah we're going to do something unprecedented. We'll do something because we're in an emergency but we're also going to do something that's going to protect people and offer a new way to get people help who never got enough. So Governor, thank you. I think this is a partnership you're right it's not going to be easy. No one said it was going to be. But you have my full commitment, the commitment of the City commission, the NYPD and all of our agencies. We're going to make this work together and we're going to be able to look back and say we did something that actually changed people's lives for the better and as long as it takes we're going to stand with you and get this done. 

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mayor de Blasio. Mayor made a lot of good points. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. But nobody ever said it was going to be this hard either and I think the Mayor's point is very well taken. Look, we're doing things all across the board here that had never been done before and I think there are lessons to learn and lessons we'll take with us.

Telemedicine I think is a lesson we'll take with us, tele-education, remote learning, it's a lesson we'll take with us, a new public health system is a lesson that we'll take with us and I think we're going to improve and learn from this experience with the New York City transit system because the truth is it wasn't working well or as well as it should before. We did have a problem with the homeless and Mayor de Blasio is right. I've worked on it all my life. Outreaching to homeless people is very, very hard and getting them to come in to a place that actually provide services is very, very hard. So this can actually energize the connections with outreach workers and the homeless population. And we've never had to disinfect trains like this or buses like this and they will be cleaner than ever before.

Governor Cuomo Announces Contact Tracing Pilot Program Supported by Mayor Mike Bloomberg to Begin in Coming Weeks


Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York's contact tracing pilot program, with leadership from Mayor Mike Bloomberg, will begin in the coming weeks. This nation-leading tracing program will focus on areas with the highest rates of infection and on regions where data shows could be the first to open. The program will operate through the next flu season, and it will be implemented in coordination with tri-state neighbors New Jersey and Connecticut.

The program will include a baseline of 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 individuals and will utilize additional tracers based on the projected number of cases in each region. The program is expected to have 6,400 to 17,000 tracers statewide depending on the projected number of cases. Contact tracing teams will work remotely with state-of-the-art software to develop a secure database of information on the spread of the infection.

To meet the nation-leading scale and scope of this program, Mayor Bloomberg and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will support the State Department of Health's initiative to build an army of contact tracers through a three-step process: recruitment, interviewing and training. Bloomberg Philanthropies will help DOH to actively identify and recruit potential contact tracers for the program from State, City and County Health Departments.

As part of this effort, The Bloomberg School - the top-rated public health school in the country - in consultation with DOH, will develop a world-class online curriculum for the State's contact tracers that includes a training program and an online exam that must be passed to complete the program. Vital Strategies' initiative Resolve to Save Lives will provide technical and operational advising to New York State Health Department staff. 

Contact tracing will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 with four key steps. First, labs will report positive cases of COVID-19 immediately to contact tracers on a daily basis. The contact tracer will then interview the positive patient to identify people they may have been in contact with over the past 14 days. The contact tracer will notify and interview each contact to alert them to their risk of infection and instruct those contacts to quarantine or isolate for 14 days to be sure they don't spread COVID-19 to others. The contact tracers will monitor those contacts by text throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation to see if the contacts are showing any symptoms. 

South Carolina Man Sentenced To 78 Months In Prison For Trafficking 25 Handguns Into New York City


  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that TORRIE JOHNSON was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 78 months in prison for trafficking 25 firearms from South Carolina into New York City.  In May 2019, JOHNSON was arrested, charged, and detained.  In January 2020, JOHNSON pled guilty to one count of firearms trafficking before United States District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who also imposed the sentence.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Torrie Johnson illegally sold more than two dozen firearms in New York City without regard for where they ended up or how they would be used.  Thanks to the work of the ATF and the NYPD, the guns were taken off the street, and now Torrie Johnson is headed to prison.”
According to the allegations set forth in the Complaint, the Indictment, and the Superseding Information filed against JOHNSON in Manhattan federal court, as well as statements made in public court filings and proceedings, including JOHNSON’s sentencing hearing:
On at least five occasions between January 23, 2019, and May 9, 2019, JOHNSON sold firearms to an undercover New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) detective (the “UC”).  In total, JOHNSON sold 25 firearms to the UC in Manhattan and the Bronx, including a variety of 9 millimeter, .32, .38, .40, .45, and .380 caliber pistols and revolvers, as well as hundreds of rounds of assorted ammunition.
JOHNSON purchased the firearms in South Carolina, and transported them to New York City for the purpose of selling them here.  On at least two occasions, the UC specifically told JOHNSON that the UC was planning to transport at least some of the firearms that JOHNSON had sold to the UC to a foreign country, and resell them there for a profit.  JOHNSON told the UC that he was attempting to obtain for sale to the UC a Century Arms Mini Draco AK-47 semi‑automatic pistol.
In addition to his prison term, JOHNSON, 42, of Sumter, South Carolina, was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the NYPD, and the Joint Firearms Task Force.

Israel’s Largest Bank, Bank Hapoalim, Admits To Conspiring With U.S. Taxpayers To Hide Assets And Income In Offshore Accounts


Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Pleads Guilty and Bank Hapoalim B.M. Enters into Deferred Prosecution Agreement for Criminal Misconduct; Agree to Pay Nearly $875 Million

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Jeffrey A. Rosen, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Richard E. Zuckerman, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Don Fort, the Chief of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today the guilty plea of Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. and entry of criminal charges against Bank Hapoalim B.M. for conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to hide more than $7.6 billion in more than 5,500 secret Swiss and Israeli bank accounts and the income generated in these accounts from the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”). 

As part of the resolutions, along with resolutions entered into with state and federal partners, Bank Hapoalim B.M. (“BHBM”), Israel’s largest bank, and its Swiss subsidiary Bank Hapoalim (Switzerland) Ltd. (“BHS”) (collectively, the “Bank”), agreed to pay approximately $874.27 million to the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the New York State Department of Financial Services.  Today’s resolution is the second-largest recovery by the Department of Justice in connection with its investigations since 2008 into facilitation of offshore U.S. tax evasion by foreign banks.  Officers of BHBM and BHS appeared on behalf of the Bank to enter the guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, and its Swiss subsidiary have admitted not only failing to prevent but actively assisting U.S. customers to set up secret accounts, to shelter assets and income, and to evade taxes.  The combined payment approaching $1 billion reflects the magnitude of the tax evasion by the Bank’s U.S. customers, the size of the fees the Bank collected to provide this illegal service, and the gravity of the illegal conduct.”
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said:  “Today’s resolutions and payment of $874 million make clear that tax evasion cannot be taken lightly.  A fair tax system requires even-handed compliance, and honest conduct by all participants in the system.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman said:  “The Department of Justice continues to aggressively prosecute banks and other financial institutions that help U.S. taxpayers conceal their income and assets in offshore bank accounts.  Today, Bank Hapoalim is being held accountable for its conduct – it has admitted to its crimes and will surrender all fees it earned, repay the United States for lost tax revenue, and pay a substantial fine.”
IRS-CI Chief Don Fort said:  “There is no excuse for a foreign financial institution to unlawfully assist wealthy Americans in flouting their responsibilities to pay their taxes. With today’s guilty plea, Bank Hapoalim is taking responsibility for their role in deliberately breaking the law and undermining the integrity of this nation’s tax system.  Offshore tax evasion is a top priority for IRS Criminal Investigation and we are wholeheartedly committed to bringing offenders to justice.  Today’s resolution serves as proof that financial institutions engaging in tax fraud face dire criminal and financial consequences for their behavior.”
Today’s resolutions include agreements with BHBM and BHS under which the Bank agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct by stipulating to the accuracy of extensive Statements of Facts.  BHBM further agreed to refrain from all future criminal conduct, implement remedial measures, and cooperate fully with further investigations into hidden bank accounts.  Assuming BHBM’s continued compliance with its agreement, the Government has agreed to defer prosecution of BHBM for a period of three years, after which time the Government will seek to dismiss the charge against BHBM. 
According to documents filed today in Manhattan federal court:
BHBM is Israel’s largest bank and operates primarily as a retail bank with approximately 250 branches throughout Israel and more than 2.5 million accounts.  In addition to retail banking services, BHBM offered private banking services for onshore and offshore customers through its retail branches and its Global Private Banking Center.  BHBM also wholly owned Poalim Trust Services Ltd., which provided trust formation and management services.  Outside Israel, BHBM owned BHS, a Swiss subsidiary that provided private banking.  BHS is headquartered in Zurich and at times during the prosecution period had branches in Geneva, Luxembourg, and Singapore.  BHBM also had branches in New York, Miami, the Cayman Islands, the United Kingdom, and Jersey.
From at least in or about 2002, and continuing until at least in or about 2014, the Bank conspired with employees, U.S. customers, and others to:  (1) defraud the United States with respect to taxes; (2) file false federal tax returns; and (3) commit tax evasion.  Employees of BHBM and BHS assisted U.S. customers in concealing their ownership and control of assets and funds held at the Bank, which enabled those U.S. customers to evade their U.S. tax obligations, by engaging in the following conduct:
·          Assisting U.S. customers with opening and maintaining accounts in the names of pseudonyms, code names, trust accounts, and offshore nominee entities;
·          Opening customer accounts for known U.S. customers using non-U.S. forms of identification;
·          Enabling U.S. taxpayers to evade U.S reporting requirements on securities’ earnings in violation of the Bank’s agreements with the IRS;
·          Providing “hold mail” services for a fee, avoiding any correspondence regarding the undeclared account being sent to the U.S.;
·          Offering back-to-back loans for U.S. taxpayers to enable them to access funds in the United States that were held in offshore accounts at the Bank in Switzerland and Israel; and
·          Processing wire transfers or issuing checks in amounts of less than $10,000 that were drawn on the accounts of U.S. taxpayers or entities in order to avoid triggering scrutiny.
At least four senior executives of the Bank, including two former members of BHS’s board of directors, were directly involved in aiding and abetting tax evasion of U.S. taxpayers.
Under today’s resolutions, the Bank is required to cooperate fully with ongoing investigations and affirmatively disclose any information it may later uncover regarding U.S.-related accounts.  The Bank is also required to disclose information consistent with the Department of Justice’s Swiss Bank Program relating to accounts closed between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2019.  The agreements provide no protection from criminal or civil prosecution for any individuals.
BHBM will pay a total of $214.38 million, which has three parts.  First, BHBM has agreed to pay $77,877,099 in restitution to the IRS, which represents the unpaid taxes resulting from BHBM’s participation in the conspiracy.  Second, BHBM has agreed to forfeit $35,696,929 to the United States, which represents gross fees (not profits) that the bank earned on its undeclared accounts between 2002 and 2014.  Finally, BHBM has agreed to pay a penalty of $100,811,585.
BHS will pay a total of $402.53 million, which also has three parts.  First, BHS has agreed to pay $138,908,073 in restitution to the IRS, which represents the unpaid taxes resulting from BHS’s participation in the conspiracy.  Second, BHS has agreed to forfeit $124,628,449 in gross fees to the United States.  Finally, BHS has agreed to pay a fine of $138,998,399.  These payments were approved by Judge Vyskocil today in connection with BHS’s plea and sentencing.
Both the penalty and fine amounts take into consideration that the Bank, after initially providing deficient cooperation through an inadequate internal investigation and the provision of incomplete and inaccurate information and data to the Government, thereafter conducted a thorough internal investigation, provided client-identifying information, and cooperated in ongoing investigations and prosecutions.  The Bank further implemented remedial measures to protect against the use of its services for tax evasion in the future.
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System is also announcing today that it has reached a resolution with BHBM, by which BHBM has agreed to a cease and desist order, certain remedial steps to ensure its compliance with U.S. law in its ongoing operations, and a civil monetary penalty of $37.35 million.  Additionally, the New York State Department of Financial Services is announcing a similar resolution by which BHBM has agreed to a consent order and a monetary penalty of $220 million.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, and thanked the Justice Department’s Tax Division for their partnership on this case.

Attorney General James Calls on Cable and Satellite Providers to Cut Fees and Provide Financial Relief to Consumers


AG Sends Letters to Seven Major Cable and Satellite Providers in New York to Reduce High Fees Until Live Sports Return

  New York Attorney General Letitia James today called on seven major cable and satellite television providers in New York to provide financial relief for consumers amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by reducing or eliminating fees attributable to live sports programming. Despite the fact that all live sporting events in the United States have been cancelled, cable and satellite television providers continue to charge and collect high fees for live sports programming and refuse to reduce the cost of packages that normally include live sports programming. In letters to Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation, and Verizon Communications, Attorney General James requested that the companies immediately prepare and provide plans to the Attorney General’s Office for how they will provide financial relief to consumers until live sports programming is resumed.

“At a time when so many New Yorkers have lost their jobs and are struggling, it is grossly unfair that cable and satellite television providers would continue to charge fees for services they are not even providing,” said Attorney General James. “These companies must step up and immediately propose plans to cut charges and provide much needed financial relief. This crisis has brought new economic anxiety for all New Yorkers, and I will continue to protect the wallets of working people at every turn.” 
Cable and satellite television subscribers pay up to $20 a month in extra fees to access live sporting events, but even with the cancellation of all live sporting events in the United States, cable and satellite television providers are still charging consumers the same amounts and refusing to provide refunds or cancellations. 
In her letter to these cable and satellite television providers, Attorney General James requested that these companies prepare and provide a plan for “appropriate refunds, discounts and reductions of charges and fees, payment deferrals, and waiver of termination fees, at least until live sports programming is resumed.” 
With more than 1.2 million New Yorkers losing their jobs and countless more in financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Attorney General James urged these companies to act to minimize the financial burdens on consumers.   

MAYOR DE BLASIO DELIVERS REMARKS AT GOVERNOR CUOMO’S MEDIA AVAILABILITY


Governor Andrew Cuomo: I think we have the Mayor, who is on the telephone or some electronic means – there he is. Mayor Bill de Blasio, welcome to Albany.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: It’s a pleasure to be with you. Governor, I want to add to that point you made about all of us, together, doing something different, doing something necessary, and being willing together to go someplace we've never been before. You and I have talked about this kind of idea a lot over the years. You know, I think when we first met each other, the word disruption was considered a bad thing. In recent years, it's taken on a very positive connotation, that when we disrupt something that isn't working or has been thought about in a very narrow way and we go someplace new and better, that's a positive. And I think what we're talking about today is exactly that, and I commend you and everyone at the MTA. And I want to talk about why I think this plan is so important in terms of our essential workers, our first responders, our health care heroes, why I think is so important in terms of also addressing homelessness in a new and powerful way.

But I first want to say, I want to express my appreciation along with you. Really appreciate – back on one of your previous topics – the contact tracing. Really appreciate that my predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, is stepping up in such a big way for New York City and New York State. And the contact tracing, the test and trace approach is going to change everything. You and I are united in that as well, the aggressive approach. In fact, Governor, New York City, right now, is hiring a thousand contact tracers with health care backgrounds to supercharge this effort. And I think we are going to be able to show this country a model that's going to be extraordinarily effective in beating back this disease. So, I look forward to that partnership as well.

But right here on the issue of the MTA, we've all been throwing the biggest curve ball in our lives with this pandemic. But look at the consistent heroism of the health care workers, the first responders, the grocery store workers, the pharmacists, everyone who came forward. And Governor, I know you feel it too, it’s probably the proudest moment we've had as public servants in this state, in this city, watching the heroism of these New Yorkers who have stepped up. Now, we owe it to them to understand their lives and the notion that they have a daily routine where they go into battle, they go toward the danger, they go where they infection is, which so many people couldn't even imagine, but that's what these heroes are doing. We owe it to them to support them in every way possible. You and I have talked many times about the PPEs and the basic protections, but we also owe it to them to be safe on the way to work, on the way back home to their families. So, I think what we're doing here in partnership is exactly the right thing, to say we're going to find a way to make our subway system cleaner than it's probably ever been in its history, honestly, and address this crisis in a whole new way. I agree with that and I commend you for it. And yeah, it took some disruption to say we're going to do something there in this pandemic we've never done before, but it makes sense when it comes to protecting our heroes.

The second point, homelessness – look, another issue you and I [inaudible] decades. While we know it's been in many ways an intractable issue, because there wasn't always an impulse to disrupt, and here is an example of saying, look, we now have found new ways to get street homeless people off the street. And I want to commend Commissioner Dermot Shea and everyone at the NYPD who's really focused on how to help the homeless; Commissioner Steve Banks, everyone at homeless services and social services; and all those – also, those heroic outreach workers. Governor, you know about this work – we go out there day after day to engage homeless people on the streets and the subway, get their trust and get them to come in to shelter and ultimately to permanent housing. This work has always been in some ways stymied by the reality of a homeless person who is struggling with everything they're dealing with – a mental health challenge, a substance abuse challenge, riding the subway all night long. We're New Yorkers, we know about this reality, and it's been put in a stark light by this crisis like so many other challenges and disparities have. Well, it's an unacceptable reality and this new plan will disrupt that unacceptable reality and allow us to actually get help to people more effectively, because if you're not going back and forth all night on a train, then you actually are coming above ground where outreach workers are there to help you, where NYPD officer's training in the homeless outreach are there to support homeless people and get them to a better situation.

Governor, you know, for decades in this city, somehow homeless encampments were actually tolerated. People thought, oh, it's the kind of thing – what can we do about that? I'm proud to say, in the last few years, homeless services, NYPD, nonprofit organizations, we got together and we said we're not allowing that anymore. We shut them down and we found it actually helped us to get the homeless to the help they need. This is another example of that. So, I want to let you know that as we all talked about this idea – and I commend you, your team and Albany, and, obviously, the team at the MTA, Pat Foye, Sarah Feinberg – it's been a very productive conversation these last few days. And what I think we've come to, to get there is, yeah, we're going to do something unprecedented, we're going do something because of an emergency, but we're also going do something that's going to protect people and offer a new way to get people help who never got enough.

And so, Governor, thank you. I think this is a partnership – you're right, it's not going to be easy. No one said it was going to be easy, but you have my full commitment, the commitment of the City, the commitment of the NYPD, and all of our agencies. We're going to make this work together and we're going to be able to look back and say we did something that actually changed people's lives for the better. And as long as it takes, we're going to stand with you and get this done.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mayor de Blasio.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera Introduces Legislation To Further Reduce Insulin Cost Sharing


New bill caps New Yorkers cost-sharing to $30 per type of insulin per month to further protect New Yorkers from having to ration the life-saving medication

This week, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee, introduced a new bill in the State Senate as part of his Insulin For All package, (S.8255). This bill will further reduce the cap on cost-sharing for insulin from the current $100 per type of insulin per month to $30 per type of insulin per month.  

This new measure builds on the important step taken by New York State to enact a $100 cap on each type of insulin per month during the 2020-21 New York State Budget. Yet, people with diabetes often rely on two or three different types of insulin, which could result in a $200 to $300 out-of-pocket monthly expense. This legislation caps insulin copays and deductibles to $30 per insulin per month, which is more in line with Senator Rivera's original legislation, S.6492A, as well as similar measures initiated by several states across the country to address skyrocketing insulin prices. For example, Utah recently adopted a $30 copay cap while states such as New Mexico, Virginia, California, and Connecticut are all in various stages of passing and adopting copay caps ranging from $25 to $50 per insulin type. 

"The high cost of insulin is putting the lives of diabetic New Yorkers at risk, especially of those who are financially strained," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Chair of the Senate Health Committee. "While we took a very important first step during this year's budget, it is certainly not enough. This bill, along with the rest of the Insulin For All legislative package, will make insulin more affordable and accessible for diabetic New Yorkers, while moving New York State in the right direction." 

According to the American Diabetes Association, the average cost of insulin tripled in less than a decade and New Yorkers with diabetes face medical expenses approximately 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes. Consequently, this has led to patients rationing the small amount of medication they can afford. Unfortunately, complications from rationing insulin are extreme and in some cases result in amputations, diabetic ketoacidosis, and even death. The skyrocketing cost of insulin is not related to advances or changes to the drug, only to enhance profit margins in this country despite drastically lower prices in other countries for the same products. To further increase access to affordable insulin to diabetic New Yorkers who are insured, underinsured, and uninsured, Senator Rivera sponsors two other bills under his Insulin For All package:

- S.6492A:  Ensures access to insulin for New Yorkers by creating a drug assistance demonstration program and allowing for emergency refills of expired prescriptions in certain cases.

S.7771Creates an Emergency Insulin Program so uninsured or underinsured New Yorkers can get analog insulins at certain pharmacies when in need. 
"New York #insulin4all applauds the work of Senator Gustavo Rivera's Office to ensure that insulin, a life-saving and life-sustaining medication that costs just dollars to make, is affordable to every New York state resident who needs it to live during this exceptional time. The list price of insulin has increased over 1200% in the last two decades causing as many as 1 in 4 people with type 1 diabetes to ration insulin in the years leading up to this crisis, putting them at increased risk for potentially fatal complications including DKA. Lowering the copay price to $30 per prescription brings us one step closer to #insulin4all. However, not every New York State resident has the private, employer-sponsored health insurance that this important law regulates. We will continue partnering with Senator Rivera to ensure the passage of progressive legislation including the Insulin Drug Assistance Demonstration Program which paves the way to financially assist all uninsured and underinsured diabetics in New York State afford insulin. We work across city and state to make sure all people living with insulin-dependent diabetes, including those who are currently uninsured after losing their job amidst Covid-19, are able to afford the medications they need to survive," said Karlynn Holland, Chapter Leader, New York #insulin4all

BOROUGH PRESIDENT DIAZ RECEIVES 50,000 FACE MASKS DONATED BY BRONX AUTO DEALERS


 

  Today, franchise new car auto dealers in the Bronx, working through the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association (GNYADA), delivered a donation of 50,000 face masks to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s office.

The borough president will distribute the supply of 3-ply paper masks to Bronx residents who need them most, including seniors, essential workers, and other vulnerable populations.

It is part of a donation of half a million masks GNYADA is making to 12 downstate counties, including New York City.

“The Greater New York Automobile Association has ensured that thousands of Bronxites will be safer from the spread of COVID-19 infection with their generous donation of 50,000 face masks,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “We thank them for their support as we continue to work to meet the urgent needs of all Bronxites struggling with the tragic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are determined to persevere through this unprecedented public health crisis collectively as a united caring community, and this essential partnership with GNYADA will help us do to just that.”

“When New Yorkers are in need, time and again, franchise new car dealers and their employees are always there for the communities where they live and work. Auto dealers are the brick-and-mortar backbones of Main Streets and neighborhoods throughout the region, supporting little leagues, hospitals, schools, senior centers, and many charities large and small,” said GNYADA President Mark Schienberg. “During this extremely challenging time, when so many New Yorkers are suffering, losing loved ones, losing jobs, and struggling, car dealerships are once again here to contribute.”

Franchised new car dealers collectively are the fifth largest retail employer throughout the downstate region, helping to support 71,280 jobs, contributing $2.5 billion in local and state taxes, and supporting a total payroll of $4.5 billion, according to an economic impact survey conducted in 2019.


Above, and Below - As quick as the face masks were unloaded into the basement of the Bronx Courthouse, they were loaded into a van for delivery.




Wednesday, April 29, 2020

MAYOR DE BLASIO ANNOUNCES COVID-19 ANTIBODY TESTING FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS AND FRONTLINE FIRST RESPONDERS


City will offer free antibody testing to first responders and healthcare workers through two partnerships with NYC Health + Hospitals, CDC, and U.S. Dept of Health

  Mayor de Blasio today announced antibody testing for first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic. NYC Health + Hospitals will begin offering free COVID-19 antibody tests to all of its healthcare workers across its 11 hospitals. Through a partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services and CDC, the City will also offer testing for any healthcare worker or first responder across the FDNY, DOC, NYPD, and hospitals citywide. 

"Our first responders have worked around the clock to keep New Yorkers safe from the virus,"  said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  "While antibody tests are not a fix-all solution, they will give our heroes the knowledge and confidence they need to help us defeat the virus."
  
We are committed to the health and wellness of our heroic workforce during this public health crisis, and antibody testing provides our employees with additional information about their potential exposure to Covid-19,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “This new program complements our existing system-wide employee testing program, and all tests results will be completely confidential.”

Testing through NYC Health  + Hospitals will be prioritized for those working in high-exposure environments such as ICUs, emergency departments and labor and delivery departments. Tests will be offered on an appointment-only basis,  and available across 11 NYC Health + Hospitals locations and 7 community-based Gotham Health centers by mix-next week. Employees can schedule an antibody test appointment through a dedicated employee hotline. 

Antibody testing will not be used to determine whether employees can work. Test results are confidential and will not be shared with an employee’s work supervisor or Occupational Health Services (OHS) unless employees choose to disclose this information. At full capacity, approximately 400 employees can be tested at each acute hospital each day.

MAYOR DE BLASIO, FIRST LADY MCCRAY ANNOUNCE A COLLABORATION WITH U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TO HELP HEALTH CARE WORKERS ON THE FRONTLINES COPE WITH STRESS


City to provide additional emotional and mental support for frontline healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19

  Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray today announced a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), NYC Health + Hospitals, and Greater New York Hospital Association (GHNYA) to provide mental health programs to support health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new program will tailor elements of the US DoD’s combat stress management and resilience program for military personnel into needs assessments and a webinar training series to be used in civilian healthcare and first responder settings across the city. Trainings are expected to be available by the end of the month.

“Our frontline heroes are fighting a war on two fronts,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “They have been through so much to protect their fellow New Yorkers, and we will not allow them to shoulder the mental toll of this pandemic alone. To those who are struggling: your city hears you, we see you, and help is on the way.”

"Our city's medical professionals are laboring long days and nights under extraordinary circumstances, caring for our families and loved ones. It’s a different kind of war, but they are truly soldiers," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "As they continue caring for New Yorkers, we must care for them and their well-being. Their service goes beyond anything we could have asked for, and their mental health needs should not be overlooked. This partnership will ensure our healthcare workers on the frontlines have the support they need, now and after this crisis."

Behavioral health and staff support leaders at local hospitals will receive formal training from military subject matter experts. Those who receive training will facilitate trainings to mental health specialists, spiritual care and second victim program leads at their respective health care systems. The ‘Train the Trainer’ education will be available virtually on GHNYA hosted webinars for all participating NYC healthcare systems. To better support health care workers, in-person and virtual training sessions can be customized based on targeted needs assessments. 

The US Department of Defense-led webinar trainings will begin late next month for health care systems. NYC Health + Hospitals will begin to deploy trainers for facility-based trainings in early June.

This work builds upon NYC Health + Hospitals’ established “Help Healers Heal” program. The program offers frontline health care workers direct mental health support in the form of a dedicated, 24/7 behavioral health helpline staffed by psychiatrists/psychologists; peer support champions for one-on-one or group support; and 26 wellness areas across 11 hospitals and five skilled nursing facilities for staff to take a break from patient care areas. The program also supports wellness rounds at all facilities to actively engage employees working in areas heavily affected by COVID-19. Wellness rounds focus on identifying and supporting employees showing symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue and burnout, and connecting them to services if requested—including one-on-one telephonic, in-person debrief, or anonymous counseling.

“We are in the epicenter of this pandemic and our heroic healthcare workers are on the front lines providing lifesaving support to New Yorkers. Our providers are experiencing an immense amount of emotional-psychological trauma and stress, especially at our hardest-hit hospitals," said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “At NYC Health + Hospitals, we value each employee and we are grateful to the Mayor and DoD that we will able to support our workforce as they began to process, heal and move forward.”

“As our healthcare workers and first responders continue to battle on the front lines of our fight against COVID-19, we want to make sure we can take care of their emotional and psychological well-being. This program will be a cornerstone in helping them to navigate these traumatic events, and we are thankful to the DoD for lending their expertise to support the mental health of our heroes,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell.

“Paramedics, EMTs, and all healthcare workers in New York City have been on the frontlines of this pandemic for weeks now. Though they have seen so much pain and loss, they continue to answer the call by caring for their patients every single day,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “This partnership with the DoD will provide important additional mental healthcare and support for those heroic men and women bravely going into harm’s way for our city.”


No. 202.25: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency


No. 202.25
E X E C U T I V E  O R D E R
Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency

WHEREAS, on March 7, 2020, I issued Executive Order Number 202, declaring a State disaster emergency for the entire State of New York; and
WHEREAS, both travel-related cases and community contact transmission of COVID-19 have been documented in New York State and are expected to be continue;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law to temporarily suspend or modify any statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation, or parts thereof, of any agency during a State disaster emergency, if compliance with such statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule, or regulation would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster emergency or if necessary to assist or aid in coping with such disaster, I hereby temporarily suspend or modify, for the period from the date of this Executive Order through May 29, 2020 the following:
  • Subdivisions (a) and (e) of section 401.3 and section 710.1 of Title 10 of the NYCRR, and Part 709 and 710 of Title of the NYCRR, and any other applicable regulation, to the extent necessary to allow for the approval and certification by the Commissioner of Health of temporary dedicated birthing sites operated by currently-licensed birthing hospitals and currently-licensed birthing centers;
IN ADDITION, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law to issue any directive during a disaster emergency necessary to cope with the disaster, I hereby issue the following directives for the period from the date of this Executive Order through May 29, 2020:

  • The directive related to support persons for birthing patients contained in Executive Order 202.13 and 202.12 is hereby modified to require any article twenty-eight facility, shall, as a condition of licensure, allow any patient giving birth to have present with them: a support person, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19, for the labor, delivery and also the remaining duration of the patient’s stay; and/or a doula, who does not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the labor, delivery, and the remaining duration of the patient’s stay. The presence of a support person and/or doula will be subject to exceptions for medical necessity determined by the Commissioner.  

  • The directive contained in Executive Order 202.10 authorizing the Commissioner of Health to direct all general hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, office-based surgery practices and diagnostic and treatment centers to increase the number of beds available to patients, including by canceling all elective surgeries and procedures, is hereby modified only to the extent necessary to authorize general hospitals to perform elective surgeries and procedures so long as the following criteria are met:  within a county, the total available hospital inpatient capacity is over thirty percent and the total available hospital ICU capacity is over thirty percent and the total change, from April 17, 2020 to April 27, 2020, in the number of hospitalized patients who are positive for COVID-19 is fewer than ten; for each hospital within county that has met the eligibility criteria, the available hospital inpatient capacity is over thirty percent and the available hospital ICU capacity is over thirty percent and the change, from April 17, 2020 to April 27, 2020,  in the number of hospitalized patients who are positive for COVID-19 is fewer than ten.  The Commissioner of Health is authorized to issue guidance with respect to the implementation of these criteria.  General hospitals that are authorized to perform elective surgeries and procedures must report, at a minimum, the number and types of surgeries and procedures performed to the Department of Health, in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner.  General hospitals that do not meet the criteria to perform elective surgeries and procedures contained in this directive may seek a waiver from the prohibition, by submitting a plan that includes, at a minimum, their facility capacity, physical configuration, infectious disease protocols, and staffing capacity, including any applicable employment hardship information that includes any reductions in workforce, including furloughs, that have occurred due to the inability of such facility to perform elective surgeries or procedures, or any reductions in workforce, including furloughs, that may imminently occur due to the inability of such facility to perform elective surgeries or procedures, to the Department of Health, in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner.  General hospitals shall not perform any elective surgery or procedure for patients until each such patient has tested negative for COVID-19 through an approved diagnostic test, and the hospital and patient have complied with the pre-operative and pre-procedure guidelines in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner.

G I V E N   under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this twenty-ninth day of April in the year two thousand twenty.

BY THE GOVERNOR  
       
Secretary to the Governor