Safety vital to reopen schools

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a pandemic briefing in June. Courtesy Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office

ALBANY — Investigators enforcing state COVID-19 mandates at New York businesses will issue violations to more than 130 downstate establishments for noncompliance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

State police and the State Liquor Authority are increasing patrols and investigations to ensure businesses enforce the state’s coronavirus mandates, such as social distancing or wearing face masks in public. SLA issued 105 violations to downstate and New York City establishments Friday and Saturday, and 27 more overnight Sunday in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Areas of the state, including a recent spike in Albany County following a Fourth of July party, have reported an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in young people ages 21 to 30, as they flock to bars.

“It’s a national problem,” Cuomo said Monday during a telephoned pandemic briefing. “The state will be doing everything they can with the most aggressive enforcement mechanism. ... I want the establishments to know we will diligently enforce the law. We have to protect public health, and we accomplish nothing if we have to roll back some rules and regulations on bars and restaurants.”

The SLA Board decides to suspend a business’ restaurant and liquor license, or suspending operations.

SLA issued violations to 37 New York City establishments Friday after more than 1,100 compliance checks on Long Island, in Queens, Manhattan and several New York City neighborhoods.

“Most of the bars and restaurants have been great, really have been great,” Cuomo said. “It’s a handful of bad actors who ruin it for everyone and it’s the bad actors who wind up hurting the good ones. ... If you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have to worry about the enforcement. But if it’s a way to stop the bad apples, great.”

The state is investing in 20 companies to make COVID-19 personal protective equipment, such as gloves, face shields and masks, testing and other supplies. Officials are preparing as the virus continues to spread in 35 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

“We won’t be out of the woods until COVID is contained all across the country,” the governor said. “New Yorkers have to remember that where we are is a function of what we do — the number are the numbers that we make happen. The numbers are the numbers that we make happen. That numbers are very good today because we made the numbers very good today.”

The state has reported 240 cases of virus complications in New York children — up from 110 on May 14 — causing inflammation of blood vessels and extremities, mimicking symptoms similar to severe illnesses such as Kawasaki disease and toxic-shock syndrome.

The complications have affected young New Yorkers from infants through age 21. The number of cases have marginally increased with about 15 new cases in the last month, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

New York’s instances of the complication have dwindled with its overall virus numbers and hospitalizations, Cuomo said, but cases are increasing in other states.

“As they’re looking for it, they’re finding more across the country,” the governor said. “We’re getting the word out to the other health departments that they should look for this. But we have not seen it increasing significantly in New York.”

The governor renewed his plea Sunday for federal aid to be sent to state and local governments following economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic to prevent a minimum 20 percent cut to schools, hospitals and localities. New York faces a roughly $14 billion budget shortfall and has spent roughly $5 billion combating COVID-19 to date. Officials said in May the state needs $61 billion in federal support.

New York’s deadline to make significant budget cuts is looming within the coming weeks, Gov. Cuomo said, as U.S. Republican senators released their $1 trillion plan to bolster the pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy in a series of bills that would trim extra unemployment benefits, send $1,200 payments to most Americans, and shield businesses, schools and other organizations from lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 infections. The plan comes weeks after negotiations over the $3 trillion federal HEROES Act coronavirus relief package House Democrats passed in May.

Lawmakers are set to leave for an August break in two weeks and will be facing a timetable compressed by the looming November election when they return in September.

Kicking off negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, were scheduled to meet in her office with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday evening.

“I think the drop-dead date is this round that they’re in now,” Gov. Cuomo said Sunday of federal aid to states and local governments. “They have been promising, promising, promising. They have been saying we’re going to do it, and they didn’t.”

Republicans have agreed to extend supplemental unemployment benefits, but they propose cutting supplemental unemployment benefits to $200 weekly from $600 until states are able to create a system that would provide 70% of a laid-off worker’s previous pay up to a state-set cap, according to two people familiar with the plan.

Schumer said tying the payments to actual wages will be “unworkable” for most state unemployment systems, which had trouble distributing the flat $600 payment that was part of the March stimulus bill.

President Donald J. Trump and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last week they support funding state aid. The pair and other Republican representatives railed against federal aid to localities earlier this year, saying the federal government should not have to “bail out” Democratic states ravaged by the virus this spring.

The governor called for all state Republican representatives Sunday and Monday to place pressure on federal lawmakers to support the people of New York and provide relief to local governments.

“It’s going to be this last action, whether that’s in one week or two weeks, but I don’t believe we’re going to get past that,” Cuomo said.

The governor expressed concern about the additional $600 unemployment check benefit, slated to end this month.

“That is really going to cause havoc and tremendous stress for people,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Washington is playing politics. There’s a gridlock — they don’t even have a proposal on the table. They’re about to end unemployment for people.”

State officials continue to monitor New York’s COVID-19 numbers as the virus soars in 35 states across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The state reported a slight uptick in virus patients in New York hospitals Monday, bringing the total to 642 hospitalized. Eleven New Yorkers died from the virus Sunday, up from three Saturday. The state’s virus-related fatalities have fluctuated below 15 per day for several weeks.

The state reported 608 new COVID-19 cases, or about 1.06 percent positive, of the 57,000-plus tests conducted Sunday.

The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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