Cuomo Eases More Covid Restrictions, Grapples With Questions of Misconduct

Darren McGee/Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo

Offices will be able to allow workers to return at 75 percent capacity, and casinos and gaming facilities will go from 25 to 50 percent on May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a news conference in Syracuse on Monday.

In addition, gyms and fitness centers on Long Island and across the state, aside from New York City, can increase capacity from 33 to 50 percent on May 15.

Outdoor stadiums, such as Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, will increase from 20 to 33 percent beginning on May 19. Last week, Cuomo announced that indoor arenas such as Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum will be able to increase their capacity from 10 to 25 percent, also beginning on May 19.

“We are making tremendous progress in the fight against Covid-19. Our vaccination rates are going up and the positivity and hospitalization rates are going down, so now we are going to open the valves of our economy even further,” Cuomo said. “This is all great news, but we are not out of the woods yet. Washing hands, wearing masks, and staying socially distanced are critical tools each of us can use to slow the spread as we continue our efforts to defeat Covid once and for all.”

These announcements come as vaccination rates continue to rise while infection rates continue on the decline, according to the Cuomo administration, which hopes to ramp up commerce leading into the summer months which are usually the prime season for profit these venues.

But the governor also took a beating from members of the media who shot questions regarding the ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct against him as well as the U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into nursing home deaths due to policies put in place early in the pandemic, which were found to be under recorded by about 50 percent.

Cuomo denied all accusations of sexual harassment and expressed confidence that Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation will vindicate him, rather than force him out of office.

“Yeah, the report can’t say anything different, because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Cuomo said. “[The DOJ is] doing a thorough review of the nursing home situation, the nursing homes with that is just going to come down to in my opinion, is the politics of Covid. It was always a political debate. Frankly, it started between myself and President Trump about who was responsible for Covid.”

Cuomo said he did not regret asking former staffer Charlotte Bennett to come to the governor’s mansion to assist him with technology problems involving his smartphone, claiming his administration had opened opportunities for women to gain status.

According to Cuomo, none of the state’s managing the Covid-19 in nursing homes counted the deaths the same leading there to be a considerable level of “gray” area left open to interpretation to some degree.

“The number was always going to be what the number was, but making sure the number was accurate, is what was important. Nursing homes were ground zero for Covid. We all knew that that was true of all across the country,” Cuomo said. “The finger pointing, that is just more of the ugly politics of the time.”

The state recorded 41 Covid-19 deaths on Sunday while 44.1 percent of New Yorkers were logged for having at least one dose of a vaccine. The statewide Covid-19 positivity rate on a 7-day average is 2.13 percent and 2.27 percent on Long Island. The loosening of restrictions coming in May is a direct result of the improved numbers, according to the governor.

This story first appeared on amNY.com.

-With Briana Bonfiglio and Joe Pantorno

For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.