By Rafaela Prifti/
On day 91 of the pandemic, Governor Cuomo delivered his daily briefing at the New Settlement Community in the Bronx. After introducing the officials standing next to him, Rossana Rosado, NY Secretary of State, and Melisa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Cuomo presented the data on hospitalization, intubation, and deaths at 67. He announced that the capital regions are moving forward with the next phases of the scaled lifting of restrictions, and announced that New York City plans to open on June 8. He called attention to the inequality in healthcare that was made painfully evident in the recent crisis. There are ten hotspots in the outer boroughs like Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and ten more testing sites will be added to each spot. “The challenge that we face,” the Governor said, “is a non-existing hospital system.” Mr. Cuomo placed emphasis on the fact that the approach to controlling the virus in the New York state, an epicenter of the pandemic, was driven by data and world specialists with expertise in the area of health crisis, not by politics or emotions.
He praised the discipline and mindfulness demonstrated by 19 million residents who rose up and heeded the stay-at-home orders to curb of spread of the virus, thanking the “people of New York” who protected one another by doing what’s right and “being smart.” Special credit went to frontline workers, “the ones who were asked to go to work when everyone else was under orders to stay home,” Governor said. To honor the legacy of the ultimate sacrifice made in the name of love for humanity, Mr. Cuomo signed a “bill that gives death benefits to the families of all the frontline workers that gave their lives for us, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in New York.” Statistics have shown that communities of color and low income levels have been affected disproportionately. He drew an analogy between the infection virus and the “virus of racism”, “racial injustice and social inequality.” Referencing the latest protests prompted by the death of an African-American man in police custody in Minneapolis, New York governor, who has served as the State’s General Attorney under President Clinton, stated that there is injustice in the criminal justice system. While he stands with protesters against police brutality, “the message of fighting discrimination is obscured by the acts of violence,” said Mr. Cuomo. In response to last night’s protests in Brooklyn and the police tactics used on demonstrators the governor said he has directed Attorney General James to review all actions and procedures, because “the public deserves answers and accountability,” adding that the impartiality of the investigation is an important factor. In the New York State, the General Attorney is not appointed by the Governor, it is elected by the people. At the end of the thirty-minute briefing, the governor took questions from members of the press. I asked if the state has any medical data in relation to COVID-10 such as hospitalizations, infections, fatalities in the Albanian community. The Governor, who is a Queens’ native, said that he will look into it and provide an answer. Mr. Jeorge Cymon, Deputy Press Secretary to Governor’s Office and Ms. Sophia Zayas, the Bronx Regional Representative of the Governor’s Office, were in contact with me. Mr. Sophia Zayas has been a dependable source of support for our community and lift the spirits of the Bronx residents. On June 1, Governor Cuomo gave his 93 consecutive press briefing at his office in midtown joined by Melisa DeRosa, Secretary, and Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner of New York State. Starting with a little steam, Mr. Cuomo issued the new low numbers on the pandemic statewide and repeated that the reopening date for the city is June 8 whereas all across the state the restrictions are being lifted following the phased approach. The briefing moved to another night of violent clashes with the police at protests against racial injustice prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Governor Cuomo restated the historic roots of racism and expressed his support for social justice and reform. Once again he strongly voiced his frustration that the massive gatherings are undercutting the efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus in the state that experienced the highest number of hospitalizations, infections and deaths in the country. “We will not know the impact of these gatherings for a few weeks now,” said the Governor, underlining the heightened risk of infections from potential “super spreaders”. Criticizing the looting and destruction by ‘outsiders and individuals with personal motives”, Mr. Cuomo repeated that acts of violence hurt the message of injustice and discrimination. Not only are such irresponsible actions harmful to the cause, they allow the critics to label protesters as “thugs” and serve as distractions for the politicians who want to divert from the real issue. New York has had its share of well-publicized racial killings by police going back decades. Some names on that list include Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner. To illustrate the point, Mr. Cuomo echoed the speech delivered by his late father and fellow Democrat at the National Convention in 1984. The key note address by then Governor Mario Cuomo was televised and watched by nearly 80 million people. The speech that spoke of ‘two Americas’ became the legacy of the elder Cuomo governorship. From the 1980s up to day, there have been several moments that have called for change like affordable housing, payment and gender inequities, gun laws, said the third-time Governor of New York. This is the time to rally “in a smart way” by presenting an agenda to the politicians. He opened the floor to questions. I followed up on the medical data for the Albanian-American community, more specifically the number of deaths of Albanians in the state. Melissa DeRosa, Governor’s Secretary answered: “So, it’s actually not broken out that way. The way the hospitals report the data, they report Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and other. We have asked the Health Department to follow your question on Friday if there’s a way to go back and discuss with the specific hospitals, and see if there’s a way to break down that number further. And we’re working on that right now. Also Governor Cuomo elaborated oninstituting for the first time the “surge-and-flex” operation under the coronavirus, which in essence directs all hospitals private and public to coordinate in terms of capacity, supply and man power. He added that “we’re now codifying that and refining that.” Governor Cuomo announced that he had a meeting with Mayor de Blasio to discuss the handling of last night’s protests by police and a possible curfew in the city. Governor of New York has received praised for his clarity of message, wisdom and leadership style during the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Cuomo took office in 2011. He will be eligible to seek a fourth term in 2022.