Saturday, April 4, 2020

Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces 1,000 Ventilators Donated to New York State

  Let's go through some numbers. The increase continues. We're up to 10,482 cases. 23,000 people were tested yesterday, that's the highest number of testing we've ever done. That's good news. 283,000 total tested. Number of new cases, 10,841. New high. Total hospitalizations, 15,000 people currently hospitalized, 4,000 ICU patients. 10,000 patients discharged, right. That's the good news. Number of deaths, all-time increase up to 3,500, 6,500. Most impacted states, you see New York at the top again. New Jersey has a serious problem in New Jersey and a growing problem. Then Michigan, then California, then Massachusetts. Total number of hospitalized is down a blip, but we believe that's not statistically meaningful. You have the number of ICU cases are up. The number of intubations are up.

The number of discharges are also up. And this is interesting, two thirds of the people who have been hospitalized have been discharged. Okay? Two thirds of the people who have been hospitalized have been discharged. That's what we've been saying all along. Most people won't be hospitalized. People who are hospitalized will come in, be treated, and leave. That's two thirds. One third of that number has a serious condition which will require continued hospitalization. We're tracking the growth of the number of infections by hospital, and we can see just where the numbers are increasing.

We've been talking about hitting the apex. The apex is the point where the number of infections on a daily basis is at the high point, and that is the ultimate challenge for the healthcare system. Can we handle that number of cases at the high point of the curve? I call it the battle of the mountaintop because that's what it's going to be. That's going to be the number one point of engagement of the enemy. By the numbers we're not at the apex. We're getting closer, depending on whose model you'll look at. They'll say four, five, six, seven days. Some people go out 14 days. But our reading of the projections is we're somewhere in the seven-day range, four, five, six seven, eight day range. Nobody can give you a specific number, which makes it very frustrating to plan when they can't give you a specific number or a specific date, but we're in that range. So we're not yet at the apex. Part of me would like to be at the apex and just let's do it, but there's part of me says it's good that we're not at the apex, because we're not yet ready for the apex, either. We're not yet ready for the high point. We're still working on the capacity of the system. The more time we have to improve the capacity of the system is better, and the capacity of the health care system, beds, staff, equipment. We'll be doing a conference call with all the hospitals today to coordinate deployment of the equipment.

Watching the spread of the rate of infections is interesting. This chart is what we've been talking about, but you can see it here. The upstate number is the top bar. The rest of New York has been fairly constant, 4%, 5%, 4%, 5%, Westchester, Rockland 8%, 6%, 6%, 7%, 7, 7. Long Island is the area that is growing. You see Long Island goes from 16% to 17% to 18%, to 19 to 20 to 22%. New York City is actually dropping as the number of cases in Long Island increases, as a percentage of cases within the state. For us, this is about tracking the virus, tracking the spread of the virus, and then deploying as the numbers suggest.

In terms of beds, the 2,500-ed facility at Javits is going to make a major difference. That has to work. The White House agreed to make that a COVID-positive facility. Remember, originally the Javits Center, which is a state convention center, we worked with the federal government, they constructed a 2500-bed facility, it was supposed to be non-COVID. I spoke to the president, transferred that with his intervention to a COVID facility. The federal government will staff that and the federal government with equip that. That is a big deal because that 2,500-bed facility will relieve a lot of pressure on the downstate system as a significant number of beds and that facility has to make that transition quickly and that's what we're focused on. It's going to be very staff intensive, very equipment intensive but the theory there is the best we can to relieve the entire hospital system downstate by bringing those COVID patients to Javits and from the intake to the treatment and it's going to be very difficult to run that large a facility. But if that works and that works well that changes the numbers dramatically so that's a top focus for us. I spoke to the White House today on planning the logistical operation to get that up and get that running asap, and that's the top operational priority.

In terms of staffing, we have 85,000 volunteers, 22,000 out-of-state volunteers. How amazing is that? 85,000 volunteers. I'm also signing an executive order to allow medical students who are slated to graduate to begin practicing. We need doctors, we need nurses, so we're going to expedite that.

On ventilators, remember, we ordered 17,000 ventilators. To give you an idea of how many 17,000 is, the federal stockpile was about 10,000 ventilators for the nation. We ordered 17,000 just for the state of New York. When we ordered the ventilators we were paying for the ventilators. So, trust me, you know the financial situation of the state. We were not looking to spend a penny that we didn't have to spend. We placed that order for the ventilators and we were paying for that order. That order never came through. This goes back to the China situation. We had signed documents, we placed the order,Governor Baker talks about this in Massachusetts. But then you get a call that says we can't fill that order because you had all that demand going in. So, what do we do? We find what equipment we have, we use it the best we can. If you ask hospitals today what ventilators do you have that are unused and available that they don't need in the short term and take 20% of that number of available ventilators, that's 500 ventilators. 500 ventilators is a significant number now. China is remarkably the repository for all of these orders. Ventilators, PPE, it all goes back to China. Long term, we have to figure out why we wound up in this situation where we don't have the manufacturing capacity in this country. I understand supply chain issues, I understand the cost of manufacturing, but there's a public health reason, as we've all learned the hard way, why we need the capacity in this country to do this.

Anyway, it all comes back to China. New York has been shopping in China. We're not really China experts, here. International relations is not what we do on a daily basis. I've been to China before when I was HUD secretary, I did a trade mission with China. So, I have a basic understanding, but we went to the Asia Society to help us navigate China. I asked the White House to help us navigate China. I spoke to the ambassador and we got really good news today. That the Chinese government is going to facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will come in to JFK today. I want to thank Joe Tsai and Clara Tsai and Jack Ma from Alibaba, and the Nets, but I'm not stating a preference, for their donation. That's going to be very helpful and I want to thank Ambassador Huang very much for his help in making all of this happen because this is a big deal. It's going to make a significant difference for us.

Also, the state of Oregon contacted us and is going to send 140 ventilators, which is, I tell you, just astonishing and unexpected. I want to thank Governor Brown, I want to thank all of the people in the state of Oregon for their thoughtfulness. Again, this was unsolicited. But the 140 ventilators will make a difference. I was thinking about it, on behalf of New York and what it means for our - first it was a kind gesture. I know Governor Brown and she is a kind person, but it's also smart from the point of view of Oregon. Why? Because we're all in the same battle and the battle is stopping the spread of the virus, right? Look at what they did in China. It was in the Wuhan province. First order of business was contain the virus in Wuhan. Why? Because you want to contain the enemy. That's always the first step. Oregon, we're dealing with it now, we don't stop the spread in New York, it continues. And if you look at the projections, Oregon could have a significant problem towards May. Our problem is now. So it's also smart from Oregon's self-interest. They see the fire spreading. Stop the fire where it is before it gets to my home. That was the Wuhan province.

Somebody sent me a great quote from FDR, who had such a beautiful way of taking complicated issues and communicating it in common-sense language. FDR was dealing with trying to get the lend-lease program approved and accepted by the public. Why would this country help another country fight its war? That was the lend-lease program. His point was it's a common enemy. We want to contain the enemy. That other country's fight is actually our fight. If we don't stop the spread then it's going to burn down our own country. But this is how he does it, right? The concept is right, but how does he explain that? Suppose my neighbor's home catches fired and I have a length of fire hose 400, 500 feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it with his hydrant, I may help him put out his fire. Now what do I do? I don't say before that operation, neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15, you have to pay me $15 for it. What is the transaction that goes on? I don't want the $15. I want my garden hose back after the fire is over. All right, if it goes through the fire all right, intact without any damage to it, he gives it back to me, and thanks me very much for the use of it. But suppose it gets smashed up? Holes in it during the fire. We don't have to do too much formality about it. But I say to him, I was glad to lend you that hose. I see I can't use it anymore. It's all smashed up. He says how many feet of it were there? I tell him 150 feet of it. He says, alright, I will replace. Now, if I get a nice garden hose back I am in pretty good shape.

The State of Oregon has lent us 140 ventilators. It was kind, it was smart, stop the virus here. It's better for the state of Oregon, it's better for the nation. Their curve comes after ours. We'll return their 140 ventilators, and there's never been a discussion, but frankly I know New Yorkers and I know New Yorkers' generosity. We will turn it double fold, because that's who we are and that's what we believe. So, stop the fire in New York, kind, generous, also smart.

Personal opinion, look I want this to be all over. It's only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime. I think we all feel the same. This stresses this country, this state, in a way that nothing else has frankly, in my lifetime. It stresses us on every level. The economy is stressed, the social fabric is stressed, the social systems are stressed, transportation is stressed. It's right across the board, but the most difficult level is the human level. It is for me, anyway. It's every day, and it's everywhere. My brother catches the virus. That's stressful. My mother is worried about my brother, and she's concerned. We have a birthday party yesterday for Stephanie, was standing around a cake. 

Everybody's six feet from each other in this bizarre supposed to be just a fun usual celebration of a birthday. My daughter's cousin has a tragedy and that's just emotionally very painful. They can't hug each other and hold each other. They can't even grieve together. The cyberchats, I mean, this is so emotionally taxing that you can't even begin to -- you can't quantify the effect on society and the effect on individuals. And the burden that we're dealing with.

So, yes, I want it over. If there was anything I could do to accelerate getting it over, I would. In some ways I want to get to that apex, I want to get on the other side of the apex and let's just slide down that mountain. On the other hand, we have to be ready for the fight and we have to handle that fight. That's where we are. So, what do we do? You have to get through it. You have to get through it. There is no simple answer here. You're not going to wish this away. You have to get through it. You have to get through it intelligently, saving as many lives as you can. That's hard work, and that's perseverance, and that's mutuality and that's community, and that's finding your better self, and that's finding inner strength and dealing with a situation that is almost unmanageable on every level. Because you are out of control. This is a painful, disorienting experience, but we find our best self, our strongest self. This day will end and we will get through it and we will get to the other side of the mountain. And we will be the better for it. But we have to do what we have to do between now and then. That's just what we're doing here.

NYPD Expanding Successful Non-Injury Collision Pilot to Save NYPD Resources

  The NYPD is expanding the Non-Injury Collision Pilot citywide, beginning Monday April 6, to save time for NYPD patrol officers as well as New Yorkers without sacrificing safety. This means that vehicle collisions resulting only in property damage are not required to be reported to the police.

"These are unprecedented times and this citywide expansion will enable officers to respond to critical safety related calls faster, while also saving New Yorkers time," said NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. "In life or death situations, a matter of seconds can make all the difference. This expansion is also contact limiting which will help to keep the men and women of the NYPD -- and the New Yorkers they serve -- safe."
It is important New Yorkers know that if they feel unsafe for any reason, if there are injuries, or if the owner of one of the vehicles cannot be located, individuals should call 911 immediately and officers will respond.
The NYPD piloted this initiative starting in March of 2019 on Staten Island, and conducted an evaluation from March 18, 2019 through September 15, 2019. Following its success, the Department has been planning to expand the program citywide. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and the new challenges the NYPD faces, the Department determined now is the right time to expand for several reasons. From March 12 when the State of Emergency was first declared in New York City, New Yorkers have dramatically limited their driving. However, from March 12 - March 29, there have been 4708 non-injury vehicle collisions where NYPD has been called to the scene. In addition, this expansion assists with limiting contact and exposure between officers and New Yorkers and enables officers to continue to provide critical safety related services faster.
The pilot evaluation found that response times in Staten Island decreased 9% for all 911 calls, which means people in serious danger received help faster. In addition, 61% of 911 calls were deferred, saving an average of 45 minutes of wait time for New Yorkers. This also reduced traffic, as individuals did not have to wait on the road with their vehicles for police. As part of the pilot evaluation, the Department conducted a survey with Staten Island residents to evaluate the efficacy of the program, and from the results, clarified the automated message to ensure New Yorkers had clear instructions and next steps in advance of this expansion.
The NYPD consulted with other police departments such as the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which has utilized a non-injury collision policy since 1998.
Additional information about collisions:
  • Drivers are responsible for exchanging driver's license information, insurance, and vehicle registration with all other motorists involved and filing a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident (MV104) with DMV if property damage is more than $1000 to any one of the vehicles involved.
  • 911 call takers that continue to receive calls about property-only vehicle collisions will divert callers to an automated message that will explain the new policy and explain how to exchange information.
  • Leaving the scene of a collision before exchanging your information with other motorists is illegal under the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Furthermore, drivers are required to remain on the scene and contact the police immediately after a vehicle collision when: Any person is injured or killed; a domestic animal is injured or killed; or, a parked vehicle, or any other property is damaged, and the owner cannot be located.
  • For insurance purposes, a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident should be filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles. This form can be found online at, or at your local precinct or police service area.

  • For more information, go to

Attorney General James Demands New York Sports Club Stops Ripping Off Members by Charging Dues During Coronavirus Closures

AG James Leads Multistate Coalition in Letter to NYSC Fighting for Membership Freezes, Refunds, Credits, and Cancellations for NY Consumers

  New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a multistate coalition of attorneys general in sending a letter to the parent company of New York Sports Club (NYSC), demanding immediate changes to the unlawful manner in which NYSC has responded to the mandatory closing of gyms and health clubs in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged our country into an unprecedented public health crisis, businesses have shuttered their doors, leaving millions without a paycheck and scraping to get by,” said Attorney General James. “While the closure of all New York Sports Club facilities may have also placed a strain on the company, its financial straits do not relieve NYSC of its obligation to follow the law. New Yorkers have enough to worry about and should not be forced to pay for services NYSC is no longer providing. If NYSC refuses to do the right thing voluntarily, I will not hesitate to take every legal step necessary to protect New Yorkers from NYSC’s unlawful conduct and get their money back.” 
On March 16, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered all health clubs to close in an effort to stop the further spread of COVID-19. The vast majority of gyms and health clubs in New York responded by committing to freezing memberships at no cost until the clubs reopened, some going even further by promising to automatically credit consumers for days the clubs were closed. NYSC has refused to do the same, and has instead continued to charge membership dues and refused to honor cancellation requests — imposing fees and conditions on cancellation and freeze requests even though all clubs are closed.
The letter sent by Attorney General James and a coalition including the attorneys general of Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia to Town Sports International Holdings — the parent company of NYSC, Philadelphia Sports Club, and Washington Sports Club, among other health and fitness subsidiaries — demands that the clubs immediately implement a membership freeze at no cost to members and honor cancellation requests without charging any fees or imposing any conditions (such as advance notice requirements). The letter further demands that the clubs clearly and unambiguously communicate these policies to members. As described in the letter, NYSC’s conduct violates New York’s Health Club Services law, as well as New York’s consumer protection statutes. 
The Office of the Attorney General urges all NYSC members who have been unlawfully charged dues or fees by NYSC to file a complaint with the office's Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.
Additionally, NYSC members whose dues are automatically deducted from a bank account or credit card are encouraged to contact their financial institution to stop such automatic payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has published guidance on how consumers can do this on its website.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Settlement Of Fraudulent Billing And Kickback Lawsuit Against Compounding Pharmacies And Owners

  Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place, Director of the Defense Health Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”), Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), Michael Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Office of Investigations, Labor Racketeering and Fraud, of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (“DOL-OIG”), and Thomas W. South, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Inspector General (“OPM-OIG”), announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit and simultaneously settled civil healthcare fraud claims against FPR SPECIALTY PHARMACY LLC and MEAD SQUARE PHARMACY, INC. (“MEAD SQUARE” and together, the “Pharmacies”), and their owners, CHRISTOPHER K. CASEY and WILLIAM RUE (collectively, “Defendants”), for their submission of fraudulent claims for reimbursement to federal healthcare programs for compounded prescription drugs in violation of the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute.  Specifically, as alleged in the Government’s complaint, the Pharmacies sold prescription drugs to federal healthcare program beneficiaries in states in which the Pharmacies were not licensed, improperly induced patients to purchase expensive custom compounded medications by waiving all or part of the substantial co-payments required under the federal healthcare programs, and paid sales representatives per-prescription commissions to illegally induce more prescriptions to be written.  In connection with the settlement agreements, which were approved today by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, Defendants agreed to pay a total of $426,000, and admitted to and accepted responsibility for the conduct alleged in the complaint.  The amounts paid by Defendants under the settlements are based on the Office’s assessment of their ability to pay based on the financial information they provided.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Pharmacies, like other participants in the healthcare industry, must follow the rules.  The defendants here brazenly flouted basic rules on licensing and kickbacks to line their pockets with dollars from federal healthcare programs.  That is a prescription for intervention by my Office and our partners.”
According to the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court:
During the relevant period, from 2011 through 2015, the Pharmacies dispensed a compounded prescription analgesic cream known as Focused Pain Relief from their facility in Victor, New York, to patients around the country.  Many of the Pharmacies’ patients were beneficiaries of federal healthcare programs such as TRICARE, Medicare, federal employee workers’ compensation programs overseen by DOL, and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program.  CASEY and RUE co-owned and managed FPR SPECIALTY PHARMACY, while CASEY owned and managed MEAD SQUARE, for which RUE also worked for a time. 
The rules governing federal healthcare programs require pharmacies dispensing prescriptions to their members to be licensed with the appropriate state authorities in order to request reimbursement for the cost of the medications.  The Pharmacies violated the False Claims Act by dispensing and requesting reimbursement for hundreds of prescriptions of Focused Pain Relief dispensed to federal healthcare program beneficiaries located in states where the Pharmacies were not licensed to operate by the appropriate state authorities, and by failing to disclose that they were not licensed.  The Pharmacies also violated the False Claims Act by billing federal healthcare programs for prescriptions dispensed in states in which they had obtained their state licenses under false pretenses, including by failing to inform state authorities that they had previously dispensed drugs in the states without a license and by failing to disclose CASEY’s criminal history on pharmacy license applications.
In addition, the Pharmacies violated the Anti-Kickback Statute by engaging in two separate illegal practices.  First, the Pharmacies regularly charged federal healthcare program beneficiaries co-payments substantially below program requirements (which often exceeded $100) in order to induce them to purchase expensive prescriptions of Focused Pain Relief, for which the federal healthcare programs paid hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each.  And second, the Pharmacies often paid illegal kickbacks to their sales representatives in the form of sales commissions tied to the number of Focused Pain Relief prescriptions written by the physicians to whom each representative marketed. 
As part of the settlement agreements, Defendants agreed and accepted responsibility for the following:
  • The Pharmacies sold prescriptions to customers covered by federal healthcare programs who were located in several states in which they were not licensed or no longer licensed by the relevant state pharmacy boards to operate as out-of-state mail-order pharmacies or otherwise sell prescription drugs to residents of those states.
  • The Pharmacies did not disclose, in connection with their applications to state pharmacy boards, which were usually signed by CASEY, when they had previously sold mail-order prescription drugs to residents of those states where the Pharmacies either were not licensed or had license applications pending but were not yet licensed.
  • The Pharmacies often did not charge customers who were covered by federal healthcare programs the required co-pays or coinsurance payments mandated by those programs for prescription drugs, in connection with their sales of Focused Pain Relief to those customers.
  • The Pharmacies entered into agreements with independent sales agents and distributors to solicit physicians to prescribe Focused Pain Relief.  These agreements, which were often signed by RUE, generally provided that the Pharmacies would pay the sales agents and distributors specific sums as sales commissions for each prescription of Focused Pain Relief prescribed by a physician assigned to the particular agent or distributor.  The Pharmacies actually paid their sales agents and distributors sales commissions on a per-prescription basis, in accordance with these agreements.
As part of today’s settlement, MEAD SQUARE also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with HHS-OIG, through which it agreed to implement compliance measures and submit to monitoring.  FPR SPECIALTY PHARMACY dissolved in 2016.
In connection with the filing of the lawsuit and settlement, the Government intervened in a private whistleblower lawsuit that had been filed under seal pursuant to the False Claims Act. 
Mr. Berman thanked DoD, HHS-OIG, DOL-OIG, and OPM-OIG for their assistance with the case.


Businesses, individuals, and philanthropies from across the world donate to help fight COVID-19

  To strengthen our fight against COVID-19, Mayor de Blasio today announced partnerships with JetBlue and United Airlines to provide free round-trip flights for medical volunteers traveling to New York City. As we face an unprecedented strain on our healthcare system, the Mayor is asking all healthcare workers to join New Yorkers on the frontlines in the battle against this virus. Mayor de Blasio yesterday called on the federal government to institute an essential draft of all private medical personnel.
“Our healthcare workers are heroes, and right now they need reinforcements to save as many lives as they can. I am calling on medical professionals from across the country to come to New York City and help us win this fight. This invaluable partnership with JetBlue and United Airlines will ensure we can provide transportation to these fearless warriors at no additional cost,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.  

"Our nation's healthcare workers are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic, providing lifesaving support to our family members, neighbors and friends," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "We are deeply grateful for their courage and service, and we thank our generous partners for their support during this challenging time." 

“As New York’s hometown airline, we are honored to be able to help right in our own backyard. We are honored to provide critical travel needs for medical professionals and first responders,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. “The work of first responders is tireless, and the hours long. For those volunteering to help in areas of need, the last thing they need to worry about is how they will get here to answer the call. We applaud the healthcare workers who are helping us get through this challenging time and inspiring humanity along the way.”
“We are profoundly grateful for the extraordinarily talented and selfless individuals who are working around the clock and have an unwavering commitment to support our communities and medical providers at this time of exceptional need,” said Jill Kaplan, President, New York / New Jersey for United Airlines. “It is our hope that providing air travel at no cost will allow additional dedicated volunteers and first responders the ability to reach the Tri-State area, that has been hit hardest by COVID-19.”   

"The New Yorkers working on the frontlines of COVID-19 have been and continue to be incredibly brave and tireless in their efforts," said Toya Williford, Executive Director of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. "To know that there are health care heroes across the country who are willing to lend their support, and that United and JetBlue stand ready to fly them here, is wonderfully heartening. The Mayor's Fund is deeply grateful for our trusted partners in the business community during these trying times."

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and New York City Emergency Management will work closely with JetBlue, United Airlines, and other carriers to coordinate travel for medical professionals who are selected to provide their services in the City’s time of exceptional need. Medical professionals who want to step up to volunteer should register here.

JetBlue has already started transporting medical professionals, and has flown more than 50 in to New York City. These numbers will continue to increase in the coming weeks as medical professionals receive their New York City work assignments. JetBlue is headquartered in Queens and has always stepped up to help the City in times of need. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, JetBlue served more than 25,000 meals to New Yorkers and donated nearly $1 million to recovery efforts.

Business, individuals, governments, and philanthropies have rallied around New York City to provide support. The City thanks:

·         Facebook for 25,000 masks and 48,000 pairs of gloves
·         Missions of Qatar for 60,000 surgical masks
·         Natixis for 70,000 respirators and masks
·         Municipality of Shanghai for 20,000 masks
·         The Met for 33,000 gloves, 350 N95s, protective suits, and booties
·         Rudin Management for 10,000 pairs of gloves
·         New York Road Runners for 20,000 pairs of gloves
·         “A Million Masks” for 1,000 N95 masks
·         Ford for 50,000 face shields
·         American Express for 36,000 N95 masks
·         Louis Vuitton for 21,000 N95 masks
·         Discovery for airing PSAs about the City’s free grab and go meals
·         Uber for $750,000 in free rides for health care workers and first responders
·         UberEATS for $250,000 in food codes on the UberEATS app for healthcare workers and firefighters
·         JetBlue for free flights for critical medical workers who volunteered to serve in New York City
·         United for free flights for critical medical workers who volunteered to serve in New York City
·         Goldman Sachs for their donation to the Fund for Public Schools
·         Rihanna and the Clara Lionel Foundation for their donation to the Fund for Public Schools

Friday, April 3, 2020

Governor Cuomo Signs FY 2021 Budget

  State budget passed last night, 3:00 a.m., as you know. The state budget was extraordinary. First, it passed a lot of major policy initiatives that we should all be very proud of: the nation's first domestic terrorism law. It improved bail reform. It addressed this child vaping scourge going across the nation. We banned fentanyl, a ban against repeat subway sex offenders, campaign finance reform, paid sick leave, middle class tax cut, very aggressive airport construction program and accessible renewable energy sitings.

I understand we're all consumed with the coronavirus situation but we have to be able to walk and chew gum. We have to move forward at the same time and that's why passing the budget and these pieces of legislation were important. These issues are still important and child vaping, et cetera, surrogacy, these are major issues for people. And they passed last night and congratulations. 

The budget was difficult because the State has no money, and how do you do a budget when you can't really forecast revenues, and we came up with a somewhat novel budget that actually is calibrated to future revenues or losses. So we really start with an assumption and then what we're saying is when we see how much revenue the state makes, how fast the economy comes back, what the expenses are, we'll calibrate accordingly.

We are heavily reliant on the federal aid legislation that gets passed. The federal government has passed a couple of pieces of legislation. They're planning to pass another piece of legislation. It's very important that whatever legislation they pass helps state and local governments. When you deprive a state government all you are actually achieving is that that state government has to turn around and not fund the programs that were dependent on that state government. We fund education, health care. I spoke to Speaker Pelosi today. She's working on the program for the next piece of legislation. She understands fully the need of state government. She understands fully the need of local governments. She understands my position on how New York was shortchanged in the past bill and she said she's going to do everything she can do to help New York. I've worked with the Speaker many times. I've known her for 30 years and I believe her and her credibility and her competence is unparalleled, in my opinion. So I'll be working with the Speaker and the rest of the Congressional delegation going forward. But we need federal assistance. Depending on how much federal assistance we get, will be that calibration of the budget going forward.

Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Working New Yorkers: To further empower New York's workers and protect all consumers in the State, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget enacts a paid sick leave program for working New Yorkers. Businesses with five to 99 employees will provide their employees at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave per year and businesses with 100 employees or more will provide at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Smaller businesses, with four or fewer employees, will guarantee five days of job-protected unpaid sick leave to their employees every year. Small businesses already providing paid sick leave will be able to so.

Legalizing Gestational Surrogacy in New York State: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget legalizes gestational surrogacy in New York State once and for all, helping LGBTQ couples and couples struggling with infertility. The legislation will also establish criteria for surrogacy contracts that provide the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent at every step of the process, and will create a Surrogates' Bill of Rights, which would ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents. The legislation included in the Budget will also create a streamlined process for establishing parenthood when one of the individuals is a non-biological parent, a process known as "second parent adoption."

Passing the "New York Hate Crime Anti-Terrorism Act":  The FY 20201 Budget establishes a "domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate" crime as a new A-1 class felony punishable by up to life in prison without parole.

Closing the Out-of-State Gun Loophole: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes legislation to prohibit individuals from obtaining a gun license who commit serious offenses out-of-state that would disqualify them from obtaining a gun license if committed in New York. This will provide greater consistency in New York's licensing scheme and ensure individuals who are prohibited from purchasing a firearm are not able to do so. The Enacted Budget also includes legislation to require all state and local law enforcement agencies in the state to opt in to the ATF's crime gun trace data sharing program and submit crime guns recovered through the ATF's eTrace system. Additionally, the Enacted Budget includes legislation to amend the Mental Hygiene Law to allow New York to share reports of individuals who are a danger to themselves or others with other states.

Housing and Services for People who are Homeless, Including Those with Mental Illness: New York's homeless community and those with mental illness are among the hardest populations to help. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes an aggressive strategy and additional support to provide housing and services to these vulnerable populations. 

Enact a Comprehensive Tobacco Control Policy. Governor Cuomo has taken unprecedented steps to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers by combatting the use of harmful tobacco and nicotine products. The Enacted Budget prohibits the sale or distribution of e-cigarettes or vapor products that have a characterizing flavor unless approved as part of an FDA pre-market approval; prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in all pharmacies; restricts the delivery of e-liquid products only to NYS-licensed vapor retailers; restricts the public display of tobacco and vapor products near schools; requires manufacturers of vapor products to disclose to the DOH Commissioner and the public, information regarding the ingredients, by-products, or contaminants in vapor products, whether intentional or unintentionally added; bans certain carrier oils if they are determined to be harmful; bans coupons and manufacturer discounts and displays in shops; and increases penalties for illegally selling tobacco products to minors.

Prescription Drugs: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes a three-part plan to lower prescription drug costs for all New Yorkers. The Budget caps insulin co-payments at $100 per month for insured patients to help address the rising cost of insulin that has resulted in diabetes patients rationing, skipping doses and not filling prescriptions. Finally, the Enacted Budget establishes a commission of experts to study the feasibility and benefits of a Canadian drug importation program and submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review. 

Banning the "Pink Tax": The FY 2021 Enacted Budget prohibits gender-based pricing discrimination for substantially similar or like kind goods and services. The legislation would require certain service providers to provide price lists for standard services upon request and notice that gender-based price discrimination is prohibited under state law. Businesses that violate the law would be subject to civil penalties.

Authorized the Creation of a $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act: The Budget authorizes the creation of a Bond Act to fund critical environmental restoration and climate mitigation projects in every corner of the state to ensure New York is able to adapt to the intensifying impacts of climate change, and reduce emissions, while creating jobs and local economic development. As part of the larger Restore Mother Nature Initiative, the Bond Act will be a key source of funding for projects focused on reducing flood risk, investing in resilient infrastructure, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, preserving open space, conserving forest areas, and reducing pollution from agricultural and storm water runoff. It will also fund up to $700 million in projects to fight climate change, including green buildings. It also aims to spend 35 percent of the funds on projects to benefit underserved areas of the state. The Budget Director will assess the state's finances and the economic outlook later this year and make a determination as to whether to move forward with the Bond Act.

Permanently Banning Hydrofracking: The Enacted Budget codifies Governor Cuomo's ban on the Department of Environmental Conservation approving permits that would authorize an applicant to drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well. In addition, it places a moratorium on future gelled propane hydrofracking applications until the Department can conduct an analysis of the impacts of this completion method. This will protect the health of New Yorkers and ensuring permanently that our environment is not harmed by this practice.

Continuing Middle Class Tax Cuts: This year's Enacted Budget continues to lower Personal Income Tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. In 2020, the third year of the multi-year tax cuts enacted in 2016, income tax rates have been lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.09 percent for taxpayers in the $43,000-$161,550 income bracket, and to 6.41 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 income bracket. These cuts are expected to save 4.7 million New Yorkers over $1.8 billion this year. Furthermore, income tax rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent for taxpayers in the $27,900-$161,550 tax bracket and 6 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 bracket. When the cuts are fully phased in, middle class taxpayers will have received an income tax rate cut up to 20 percent, amounting to a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State's lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years. 

Increasing and Modernizing Emergency Response Capacity: Over 60 percent of New York counties have been flooded twice in the past 10 years. We must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget sustains $12 million in capital funding to increase and update the State's emergency response capacity so our brave women and men have the right equipment to do their jobs.

Addressing Veteran and Law Enforcement Suicides: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget invests $1 million to partner with organizations to help veterans, law enforcement and first responders with suicide prevention efforts. The Budget also directs state agencies to expand suicide prevention strategies for veterans, law enforcement, correctional officers and first responders, including a new campaign by the Office of Mental Health to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Additionally, the State will convene a panel of stakeholders and experts at its annual Suicide Prevention Conference to develop and implement strategies for preventing suicide among these special populations.

Adding E Pluribus Unum to the State Coat of Arms: Our founding fathers said clearly that the idea of unity was the key to America's future. In 1782, on the first seal of the United States, they said it in three simple words - E pluribus unum, out of many one. This federal government and our nation seem to have forgotten that essential American principle. In this time of turmoil, New York State will remind the nation of who we are by adding E pluribus unum to the State's coat of arms as part of the FY 2021 Enacted Budget, proclaiming at this ugly time the simple truth that without unity we are nothing.

Governor Cuomo Announces Executive Order Allowing State to Redistribute Ventilators & Personal Protective Equipment to Hospitals with Highest Need

  Good morning. Good to see most of you. No, good to see all of you. New state seal. That's right. This is the seal of the State of New York. The Legislature passed my modification to the seal. You see in the middle of the seal two words, Excelsior - State motto. Ever upwards. Aspirational. We can be better. We can lift ourselves. Excelsior. An we added e pluribus unum, which is actually more appropriate today than when we started this process. E pluribus unum - out of many one. It was our Founding Father's fundamental belief for this nation. Adams spoke to it. Madison spoke to it. Jefferson spoke to it. Although they had a lot of different opinions while they were doing the Constitution, the one thing they agreed was e pluribus unum. Out of many one. And it was good then and it's even better advice today.

The curve continues to go up. The number of tests has reached a new high. We did over 21,000 tests. Thank you to our great health department. We have over 10,000 new cases; 102,000 total tested positive, 14,000 hospitalized, 3,700 ICU patients, 8,800 patients discharged, that's good news. Number of deaths: Highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started, 2,300 to 2,900 deaths.
You see the totality for New York State, 102,000. New Jersey, California. Remember when this started, New York had airports that were designated entry zones. This is an international destination, international hub. You have people coming from across the world. Sooner and at a higher rate than anyone else. Total hospitalization, 1,400. It's also a new high. Daily ICU admissions is down a little bit, but you had more deaths, you have more people coming in to hospitals than any other night. Also more people going out which is obviously the ebb and flow that's coming in and out of the hospital system.

The hot spots we now track on a nightly basis. How many people go into what facility, so we can track the increase in what's happening? You see an increase in New York City as we knew. Certainly communities, frankly more in New York City than other communities. But you also see an increase on Long Island which is something we're concerned about. Long Island does not have as elaborate a health care system as New York City. We don't have the same amount of resources on Long Island and we see an increase in the number of cases on Long Island and that has us very concerned.

Supplies, PPE are in short supply as they are across the country. We need companies to make the materials. It is unbelievable to me that in New York State, in the United States of America, we can't make these materials and that we are all shopping China to try to get these materials and we're all competing against each other. These are not complex materials and will work with New York manufacturers. We'll finance the transition necessary to make these materials. We talk about them as if they're very complicated. This is an N-95 mask. This is it. It was 70 cents before this started. It's now as high as 7 dollars. But this is all that an N-95 mask is. It's fabric, it's material. The FDA has the specifications, then it's two pieces of elastic cord. It can't be that we can't make these. This is a gown. We call them gowns. This is a gown. There is nothing sophisticated about the manufacturing of this garment. There is nothing sophisticated about the material. It can't be that companies in this country, and in this state, can't transition to make those supplies quickly. Again, I understand if there's a financial burden. We will address that and we will work with you. So please, contact us.

Javits is going to be converted to a COVID facility. The original plan was to use Javits - Javits is a State convention center. It was retrofitted by the Army Corps of Engineers to hold 2,500 people. The original plan was that it would not take COVID-positive patients. It would take non-COVID patients and it would be an overflow for hospitals. As it turned out, we don't have non-COVID people to any great extent in the hospitals. Hospitals have turned into effectively ICU hospitals for COVID patients. We wanted to convert Javits from non-COVID to COVID. It is federally run. Frankly, the federal agencies were not eager to do that. FEMA was not eager to do that. I called the President. I spoke to him about it yesterday morning. That afternoon, yesterday afternoon, the president called me back and said he spoke to the task force. They would grant the request to transition the Javits center to COVID only. That adds 2,500 beds. That is a big deal. I thanked the President for doing it. He did it despite the fact that the federal agencies were not eager to do it, and he did it quickly. I thank him for that. It is a big deal for us.

We are still challenging the issue of ventilators. We don't have enough period. This situation is very simple now. People come in and they are almost all COVID people. Ironically, the number of non-COVID cases has dropped, because so many things are shut down that you don't have the same number of automobile accidents, people getting hit by cars. You don't have the same crime rate, so you don't have the same number of trauma cases coming into the hospital. They are COVID cases. Many of them go right to the ICU. In the ICU, you need a ventilator. And if you don't have a ventilator, the process stops and we don't have enough ventilators. We are doing everything possible, splitting the ventilators, using BiPAP machines by this new protocol, using the anesthesia ventilators. We're the government is being as helpful as they can from the federal stockpile. But in truth, I don't believe the federal stockpile has enough to help all of the states because you can't buy the material at this point.

We are still trying to buy from China. We are working with Alibaba, which has been very helpful to us. I spoke to Jack Ma and Mike Evans, who is the president. And they have been personally gracious and very, very helpful in trying to get us to source material from China. But we are going to have to redeploy ventilators from across the system. In other words, there are hospitals that have ventilators. There are hospitals that have PPE equipment. There are private-sector companies that have PPE equipment that they are not using that we are going to need to redeploy to the places in the hospitals where we need them. I had a conversation with the hospital administrator yesterday. I understand they don't want to give up their ventilators. Ventilators are expensive pieces of equipment. I understand that, even if they're not using them, they are reluctant to see them go out the door. The theory is if the government gets them, they will never get them back. I understand that. But I don't have an option.

I'm not going to get into a situation where we're running out of ventilators and people are dying because there are no ventilators but there are hospitals in other parts of the state that have ventilators that they're not using. I'm just not going to allow us to go there. I think it would be wholly irresponsible. I'm going to sign an executive order that says the state can take ventilators and PPE from institutions that don't need them now and redeploy them to other parts of the state and other hospitals that do need them. Those institutions will either get their ventilator back or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator so they can buy a new ventilator. I can't do anything more than that. But I'm not going to be in a position where people are dying and we have several hundred ventilators in our own state somewhere else. I apologize for the hardship for those institutions. Ultimately there is no hardship. If you don't get the ventilator back, I will give you my personal word, I'll pay you for the ventilator. I'm not going to let people die because we didn't redistribute ventilators. The National Guard are going to be deployed to pick up these ventilators which are all across the state and deploy them to places where we need them.

State budget passed last night, 3:00 a.m., as you know. The state budget was extraordinary. First, it passed a lot of major policy initiatives that we should all be very proud of: the nation's first domestic terrorism law. It improved bail reform. It addressed this child vaping scourge going across the nation. We banned fentanyl, a ban against repeat subway sex offenders, campaign finance reform, paid sick leave, middle class tax cut, very aggressive airport construction program and accessible renewable energy sightings.

I understand we're all consumed with the coronavirus situation but we have to be able to walk and chew gum. We have to move forward at the same time and that's why passing the budget and these pieces of legislation were important. These issues are still important and child vaping, etcetera, surrogacy, these are major issues for people. And they passed last night and congratulations.
The budget was difficult because the State has no money and how do you do a budget when you can't really forecast revenues and we came up with a somewhat novel budget that actually is calibrated to future revenues or losses. So we really start with an assumption and then what we're saying is when we see how much revenue the state makes, how fast the economy comes back, what the expenses are, we'll calibrate accordingly.

We are heavily reliant on the federal aid legislation that gets passed. The federal government has passed a couple of pieces of legislation. They're planning to pass another piece of legislation. It's very important that whatever legislation they pass helps state and local governments. When you deprive a state government all you are actually achieving is that that state government has to turn around and not fund the programs that were dependent on that state government. We fund education, health care. I spoke to Speaker Pelosi today. She's working on the program for the next piece of legislation. She understands fully the need of state government. She understands fully the need of local governments. She understands my position on how New York was shortchanged in the past bill and she said she's going to do everything she can do to help New York. I've worked with the Speaker many times. I've known her for 30 years and I believe her and her credibility and her competence is unparalleled, in my opinion. So I'll be working with the Speaker and the rest of the Congressional delegation going forward. But we need federal assistance. Depending on how much federal assistance we get, we'll be that calibration of the budget going forward.

Coronavirus response in general. There is a lot of conversations about how we should respond to this, governmentally, or from an intergovernmental perspective. People want to say this is a states' rights question versus federal interference. Who should decide what is done on a state level? There is no governor who is arguing that their state's rights are being trampled, right? It is not a states' rights issue. No one is standing up saying the federal government is trampling my rights. I have said that on other occasions. No governor, Democrat or Republican, is saying that here. Every state is saying the same thing. I need help, I need assistance. I don't consider this situation with federal government as interfering with a state's rights. This is a situation that is, by definition, a national disaster emergency situation, where the states need and welcome the federal assistance.
I was in the federal government, as you know. I worked on scores of federal emergencies. The only operational model that I see that could potentially work here at this stage, where we are today with the realities we are facing, where no state can get the supplies they need, no state can get the PPE they need. No state can get the ventilators they need. The market has literally collapsed. The only operational model that I see is you have curves - we have been talking about our curve - you have curves in different parts of the country. Those curves occur at different times. It depends on when the outbreak started in that region - how quickly it spread. So, you have different curves in different parts of the country, occurring at different times. I think the only practical solution at this point is focus on the emergency that is in front of you. Focus on the emergency that is at the place and time that is in front of you. And then, redeploy to the next situation.

New York is the tip of the spear, so to speak. We have the high numbers. We have the first major encounter. Deploy resources to New York. We will hit that curve. We will be at the top of the curve. Seventeen days, 21 days, we are on the others of the curve and we are coming down. And then I don't need the ventilators that we have amassed and split and the BiPAP machines. We can redeploy what we have, personnel equipment, to whatever locality is next. Now, it is not a perfect sequential timing. But, if you look at the projected curves, when it is going to hit Michigan, when it is going to hit Illinois, when it is going to hit Florida, you will see that there is a timing sequence to it. Why not, or what is the alternative, to now saying let's help each other? Let's focus on each situation as it develops, and let's move our resources and personnel as it develops.

What is the alternative to the crisis that we see looming nationwide? You can't. You do not have enough. The federal government does not have enough material to sit there and say whatever you need I can get you. Don't worry, California. Don't worry, Michigan, don't worry, New York, don't worry, Florida - they can't. They have essentially said I don't have enough in my stockpile to handle all of this. I will get into a blame game. Should it have been in the federal stockpile, should states have been stockpiled? Forget that. The reality is how do you handle this operation, unless you go from place to place and say each state has to help every other state as we go along? There is a simple analogy to this that we live all the time. When we have minor emergencies with disasters, when we have a minor hurricane that's regional in nature, or minor flood, power goes out. What do we do? All the power and utility companies from all across the country descend on that region that needs help. Right? After a hurricane, power lines are down. You look at the highways you see all those trucks coming in from different states, right? Arizona trucks, Colorado trucks. When Florida has a hurricane what do we do? We get in the trucks, everybody drives down to Florida, personnel, etcetera. When Puerto Rico got into trouble, what did we do? Con Edison, New York, Rochester Gas, they all went down to Puerto Rico. Why? Because help the place that has the crisis. This is that on a macro scale. New York is in crisis. Help New York and then pick up, decamp, and then go to the next place as this rolls across the country.

There's not a perfect timing. There will be two parts of the country that hit an apex at the same time. There will be three parts of the country that hit an apex at the same time. I do not see any operational practical alternative to dealing with this going forward. By the way, this is all operational. There is no concept. There's no abstraction. There's no philosophy to this. This is a person walks in the door. Do you have a bed? Do you have a staff person?  Are they wearing PPE and do you have a ventilator? Are they all present at that moment when that person walks in that door? That's all this is. That's all this is. Forget testing, vaccines, that's a separate project. That's not where people are going to die in the near term. People are going to die in the near term because they walk into a hospital and there's no bed with a ventilator. Because there's either no bed, or no staff, or no PPE, or no ventilator. That is what is going to happen. I think this is the only way to avoid it.

Look, I believe the American people are there. How many times have seen a disaster across this country and how many American just show up to help. I mean, it's in the American DNA to say were here to help one another. It is E Pluribus Unum. I didn't have to put that on the seal. That's just a reminder, out of many one. We're community. We're Americans. We're family. We're brothers and sisters. There's a commonality. Well, I am New Yorker. You're from California. I know those are lines on piece of paper. We are the same. We're the same. We know that here in New York.

I asked for people to come help New York, health officials, health professionals. 20,000 people volunteered in a matter of days to come help New York in the middle of a pandemic. 20,000 people. Think about that. 20,000 health professionals said I'll leave my home and come to your state. Systematize that volunteerism. Systematize that genericity, that charity, and that expertise. That's how we beat this damn virus as it marches across the country.

We just deploy in front of the virus as it works its way across the country. In any event, when our curve is over that's what we're going to do. New Yorkers are going to take what we've amassed. We're going to take our equipment, we're going to take our personnel, we're going to take our knowledge and we will go to any community that needs help.

We're learning things that fortunately no other community had to learn because we're first and because of the intensity of the situation here. When our urgent need is over we will help any community in this nation that needs it, because that outpouring has been there for us. You know I remember post 9-11 and I remember post 9-11 without asking anyone for anything, the people who showed up in New York just to help. Tradesmen bringing tools, people bringing food, people trays of cookies, whatever. They just showed up. Nobody asked. They just showed up and said, "I'm here to help," and stood on the corner helping people. That's America at its best and at this time when we're dealing with our worst, let's deploy America at its best. And we know what that is and that can help us.