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Coronavirus In New York: Gov. Cuomo Calls For Task Force On Changes, Essential Workers' 50% Hazard Pay Bonus

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The number of people dying each day in New York State from coronavirus-related illness dropped to 478 in the past 24 hours, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to urge people to practice caution and vigilance until a vaccine is available.

While the flattening of the numbers is a good sign, Cuomo said in Monday's daily COVID-19 briefing the numbers are on too thin a margin to make decisions.

"Does it take two weeks for it to come down?" he said. "Some projections say that. Does it take a month? Some projections say that. And again, the projections are nice, but I wouldn't bet the farm on them."

The governor said his priority is shifting to what New York State should be like after the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. Among his suggestions for a new downstate task force included a 50% hazard pay bonus to essential workers who kept working during the economic shutdown and PAUSE executive orders.

Comparing how New York City rebuilt after the attacks of 9/11 and Long Island arose again after Superstorm Sandy, Cuomo stressed the opportunity coming out of the coronavirus outbreak crisis.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Let's use this situation, this crisis, this time to actually learn the lessons valued from the reflection," he said. "Let's reimagine what we want society to be."

Hofstra University's Larry Levy says Cuomo's "rethink" plan is the kind of move that would be welcomed.

"He's suggesting this is a chance to take a terrible situation and maybe make something of it in the longer run," said Levy.

The governor also announced a plan to bring 500,000 masks to residents in NYCHA public housing, one for every person and a pilot program for providing onsite health services and testing.

"Stop saying reopen, but reimagine and improve and build back better," said Cuomo. "How do we have a better transportation system, a better housing system, better public safety system, better health system better, better social equity, better use of technology. Yet people are working from home, a lot of them are saying 'you know what, I should have been doing this all along.' Why haven't we incorporated so many of these lessons? Well because change is hard, and people are slow. Now is the time to do."

Among the opportunities Cuomo pointed to were the demographics of those being worst affected by the pandemic in New York as frontline workers keeping medical and food services running for the rest of society.

"Thanks is nice, but also recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate," said Cuomo. "They are the ones that are carrying us through this crisis, and this crisis is not over. If you look at who they are and the equity and fairness of what has happened, I think any reasonable person would say we should right this rule: 40% of the frontline workers are people of color, 45% in public transit, 57% of the building workers, 40% of the healthcare workers.

"People of color also disproportionately represented in delivery services and childcare services," he said. "Right, the economy closed down? The economy did not close down. It closed down for those people who frankly have the luxury of staying at home."

In addition to occupation, Cuomo cited the racial disparities seen in the number of infections and deaths from coronavirus. One part of the solution would be to add a 50% hazard pay bonus to those essential workers.

"All those essential workers who had to get up every morning to put food on the shelves, and go to the hospitals to provide health care under extraordinary circumstances, in the police officer who had to go out to keep you safe and the firefighter who still had to go out and fight the fire," he said. "Those people worked, and they went out there and they expose themselves to the virus."


To coordinate such changes, Cuomo said he's putting together a "Reimagine New York Task Force" downstate coalition of regional leaders including New York City's Bill de Blasio, Nassau County's Laura Curran, Suffolk County's Steve Bellone and Westchester County's George Latimer.

"Let's use this as a moment to really plan change that we could normally never do unless you had this situation," said Cuomo. "In the meantime, do no harm."

To fund rebuilding, Cuomo again said he is relying on help from the federal government and worries about empty promises from Washington DC.

"You can't spend what you don't have," said Cuomo about funding state infrastructure. "You would be cutting schools 20%, local governments 20%, and hospitals 20%"

And this is the worst time to do this. Now, federal government has said from day one: 'Don't worry. We're going to provide funding to the states.' Yeah. 'Don't worry,' but I'm worried because I've heard this over and over again."

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