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Cuomo tells NYers to stay smart in regard to coronavirus; Signs police reform bill

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today warned that if New York residents fail to remain disciplined as the reopening of the economy from the COVID-19 shutdown takes place the state could find itself in the same position as other states that are experiencing increased outbreaks.

He told a New York City news conference that the number of new COVID-19 cases is on the rise in 23 states as of today, with 15 states hitting new highs.

“You look at what’s happening to these states; they reopened and then the number goes up,” Cuomo said.

“The number came down because you closed everything down. When you reopen and you increase activity don’t be surprised if the infection rate goes up unless you are very smart and disciplined about the way you reopened. The states that are having trouble reopened, and everybody wanted to reopen, reopen fast, there were protests, reopen fast, everything’s fine. I had one person tell me on the street, ‘I can’t see the virus. Can you see the virus? There is no virus.’”

Stewart-Cousins

Cuomo said that since New York has embarked on its reopening program the numbers have continued to go down. He said that New York state has the lowest rate of transmission in the country.

“We were the number one state in terms of infection. Number one in the nation. Number one on the globe per capita. And now we’re the last state in terms of rate of transmission,” Cuomo said. “Now is no time to forget what got us here. We have to stay smart.”

Cuomo used the news conference to sign into law the “Say Their Name” Reform Agenda package of bills passed this week by the state Legislature after Cuomo proposed them last week. The package was created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and the demonstrations that followed.

The reforms include:

  • Allowing for transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officers by repealing 50-a of the civil rights law;
  • Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officers;
  • Prohibiting false race-based 911 reports; and
  • Designating the attorney general as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the civilian deaths.

The bills were sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both of whom were at the news conference.

Stewart-Cousins said, “Black New Yorkers, like all residents of this state, deserve to know that their rights and lives are valued and protected by our justice system. The legislation … will help stop bad actors and send a clear message that brutality, racism and unjustified killings will not be tolerated.”

Heastie said, “These reforms have been championed by our members for years, and I want to thank my colleagues for their tireless commitment to seeing them through to the finish line. I would also like to thank the families of the victims and the passionate advocates who never tired in this fight for justice. They have courageously channeled their grief into a positive force for change and inspired us to deliver meaningful reforms here in New York.”

Section 50-a of the New York State Civil Rights Law created a special right of privacy for the personnel records of police officers, correction officers, firefighters and paramedics employed by the state or political subdivisions. It prevented access to both records of the disciplinary proceedings themselves and the recommendations or outcomes of those proceedings.

Cuomo also announced that he is issuing an executive order that will require local governments and police agencies to develop plans that reinvent and modernize policing strategies and programs in their communities.

The plans must deal with the use of force by police officers, crowd management, community policing, de-escalation training and practices, handling residents’ complaints and more. Localities will risk losing state funds if the plans are not turned into local laws by April 1, 2021.

According to statistics obtained this afternoon from the state Department of Health, statewide there have been a total of 24,495 COVID-19 deaths.

Deaths in Westchester now total 1,533, with 1,402 Westchester residents falling victim to the virus. The number of Rockland residents who died from the disease now is 503. The number of Putnam residents killed by the virus remains at 62. A total of 393 Orange County residents have died from the virus. There have been 155 deaths in Dutchess County.

New York has had 381,714 people test positive for the virus. There now have been a cumulative total of 34,175 cases identified in Westchester, 13,396 in Rockland, 1,282 in Putnam, 10,558 in Orange and 4,035 in Dutchess.

 

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