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Cuomo warns New Yorkers: "Don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" in coronavirus fight

Cuomo on protests and coronavirus
Cuomo: "We don't know the consequences" yet of coronavirus in mass protests 05:09

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday warned New Yorkers gathering in ongoing protests that "we don't know the consequences of the COVID virus in mass gatherings." As parts of the state continue to move ahead with reopening and New York City set to reopen on June 8, Cuomo said "don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."

"It took us 93 days to get here," Cuomo said. "Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening —  from the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough."

Both Cuomo and New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said they are worried about a spike in coronavirus infections from the protests, but they were encouraged that the infection rate has already dropped to low levels.

Cuomo used his daily coronavirus briefing to also speak about protests that have occurred in New York City and in cities statewide. He said he would be talking to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about enforcing a curfew. Curfews have been enacted in several of New York's other cities, including Buffalo and Albany, and there have been curfew enacted in some of the country's largest cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago.

Other governors have activated the National Guard to quell violence. Cuomo said he has the National Guard on standby and he has told mayors across the state he can deploy the National Guard if needed. But, he said it's unlikely to be activated in New York City, given the size of the NYPD. 

Cuomo repeated his message from Sunday about being "smart" in protesting, saying "violence obscures the righteousness of the message." If there is looting, he said people who don't want to make change will "make this all about the looting now." 

There have been videos circulating on social media of police allegedly acting violently toward protesters, especially one incident of an NYPD vehicle driving into protesters. Cuomo called the videos "disturbing", and repeated that Attorney General Letitia James would be reviewing police conduct. But he wouldn't comment further on the outcome.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea discusses his officers' response to protests 04:40

"If I was just Andrew Cuomo from Queens, it would be simple, I would say, that guy should be fired," Cuomo said. "Drive the car into a crowd, he should be fired. That's what Andrew Cuomo in Queens says. As governor, there's laws, there's processes, there's going to be lawsuits, I get it … that doesn't mean you do nothing in the interim."

Meanwhile, Cuomo announced the death toll from COVID-19 on Sunday had dropped again. The number of deaths, 54, is the lowest its been since March 16, the day that bars and restaurants shut down. Hospitalizations and intubations are also down, Cuomo said. 

While a final decision won't be made until Monday afternoon, Cuomo said he expected western New York, which includes Buffalo, to move forward with Phase 2 of reopening on Tuesday. The Capital region, which includes Albany, is expected to move ahead to Phase 2 on Wednesday.

Under Phase 2, all office-based jobs can reopen with 50% capacity.. In-store shopping can return at 50% capacity and employees must wear face masks, but malls will remain closed. Real estate services can reopen. Hair salons and barber shops can also reopen with restrictions: They will be appointment only and employees must be tested every two weeks.

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