New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said mass protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis could threaten the state’s progress in containing the spread of the coronavirus.
New coronavirus hospitalizations across the state hit an all-time low since the beginning of the outbreak at a three-day average of 154 on Monday, according to a chart Cuomo presented at a press conference Tuesday. He said 58 people died from coronavirus on Monday, a figure that is also on the decline.
“We are doing very, very well when it comes to dealing with the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
However, physicians and health officials warn that there’s usually a delay in newly reported Covid-19 cases, and the outcome of days of protests attracting massive groups of people might not show up in case numbers until weeks from now.
“I know a lot of the protesters are so annoyed they don’t want to hear about Covid anymore,” Cuomo said. “‘Covid is yesterday’s news.’ No, Covid is still a problem. Covid still kills also, so be mindful and respectful of that.”
Two regions in upstate and western New York will be allowed to move into “phase two” of the state’s reopening plan beginning Monday and Tuesday, which would allow professional services, real estate, finance and insurance to resume work as well as expanded retail operations under strict safety protocols.
New York City is on track to begin “phase one” reopening on June 8. Construction and manufacturing are allowed to resume operations, and retailers will be able to reopen for curbside pickup and in-store drop off.
Earlier on Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would enact a curfew starting at 8 p.m. and lasting until 5 a.m. for the remainder of the week.
Cuomo said the curfew is intended to prevent people from looting the city’s stores, which he said has nothing to do with the protests. He said people are exploiting the moment by engaging in criminal activity.
“That is people breaking store windows, going in and stealing. That’s called criminal activity. They have no right to wrap themselves in the flag of righteous indignation of Mr. Floyd’s murder,” Cuomo said. “They’re different people, different issues, there is no comparison between those two.”
Cuomo said businesses in multiple boroughs were vandalized on Monday evening and criticized de Blasio and the New York Police Department for not protecting the community and the property.
“I am disappointed and outraged at what happened in New York City last night. Those looters, that criminal activity hurt everyone in the communities of the protesters, which are the communities that tend to be the poorest communities in New York City,” Cuomo said. “And the police in New York City were not effective at doing their job last night, period.”
De Blasio’s press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, said in an emailed statement, “These comments are offensive to the men and women of the NYPD, who are out there every night trying to keep New Yorkers safe. It would be nice if our officers knew they had the respect of their Governor.”
Cuomo said that “by and large” the protests throughout the state for Floyd’s death have been peaceful. He called on Congress to make reforms, including banning chokeholds, requiring independent investigations into reported situations of police misconduct and a national standard for the use of excessive force.