Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that rapid COVID-19 testing could be the secret weapon in keeping New York's economy open and restoring the state’s famed arts and entertainment scene.
During Day 2 of the “State of the State” address on Tuesday, Jan. 12, Cuomo addressed how to best continue reopening during the pandemic while laying out a plan to get musicians, dancers, and other artists back to work.
“In New York, we’ve always understood the COVID reality was not about opening or closing the economy, but about striking a new balance where we use the science and technology to open intelligently,” he said. “It was never an issue of public health or economic activity. It was always both.
“We were always going to be safe and smart and it’s not determined by the actions of government alone, but by the actions of people,” Cuomo continued. “New Yorkers themselves determine our future.”
Days after the state launched a pilot program at the Buffalo Bills playoff game, where they allowed nearly 7,000 fans in the stands after being tested for COVID-19, Cuomo said that could potentially serve as a model moving forward to get other businesses open.
“Rapid testing is the key, and rapid testing poses a great possibility,” he said. “It can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, and we’ve seen New York’s spirit of innovation … We’ve done more COVID tests per capita than any state in the country.
“Now we’ll lead the way on rapid testing,” Cuomo added. “We’re also entering a time where more and more people are vaccinated, which means we can open more places safely.”
According to Cuomo, rapid testing could allow restaurants in designated COVID-19 “orange zones” to reopen, as well as office buildings, theaters, and other businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
The governor also made note that the state plans to open hundreds of rapid testing sites to facilitate a wider reopening of the economy.
“We’re opening additional rapid testing sites where one can get tested hours before they engage in a social activity or event,” Cuomo said, noting that it will take hundreds of sites to bring that plan to scale. “We’re working with property owners and management officers to reopen office buildings with certain protocols.
“Major commercial operators with more than 100 million-square-feet have already offered to provide testing on a regularly scheduled basis,” he added. “Office buildings are the engines of our economy. Bringing them back safely means more mass transit, and it gets customers back to restaurants, back in stores, and back on our streets.”
Cuomo also made note that it is imperative for New York City and the rest of the state to get the arts up and running - safely.
“Cities are by definition: centers of energy, entertainment, theater, and cuisine. Without that activity and attraction, cities lose much of their appeal,” he said. “What is a city without social, cultural, and creative synergies. New York City is not New York without Broadway - and people have found that with Zoom, they can still do their business from anywhere.”
The governor said that 52 percent of actors, 55 percent of dancers, and 27 percent of New York’s musicians were out of work in September last year due to the pandemic, impacting hundreds of thousands of people.
Cuomo proposed a series of pop-up performances across the state beginning next month, including events featuring Amy Schumer, Hugh Jackman, Chris Rock, and other famed thespians.
The performances and exhibitions will be held largely at outdoor sites, as well as “flexible venues” that are adapted to allow for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols.
“These artists are part of what makes New York, New York,” Cuomo said. “We’ve spoken with hundreds of artists and creative workers and one thing is clear: we must act, and we cannot wait until the summer to turn the lights back on the arts and provide a living wage to these artists.
“We cannot let the curtain fall on them,” he added. “None of what I’ve outlined is going to be easy. But we’ve all dreamed about turning the calendar back to pre-COVID days, and we must adapt and be strategic and visionary and move quickly when we see an opportunity.”
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