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Cuomo Previews Post-2020 Plans for New York



The trial balloon floated earlier on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow fans to attend the first playoff game of the Buffalo Bills this year may or may not sink like a lead weight.

But the outline of the plan by the governor offered a big-picture glimpse at what 2021 could look as the pandemic continues, a vaccine rollout chugs along and policymakers work to keep the economy open.

“Here’s the challenge: You have an economy that is basically shut down,” Cuomo said a news conference. “You are battling the COVID rate daily. The weapon that wins the war is the vaccination. The vaccination will take months.”

Cuomo has pledged (and wagered) a broad shutdown of the economy statewide won’t happen, even as the COVID positive rate has reached more than 5% statewide and hospitalizations are nearing 7,000 patients.

In place of the springtime hammer that was the New York “pause” of earlier this year, the state has instead settled on limited openings for public gathering spaces and schools. Indoor dining has ended in New York City and has been further restricted elsewhere in the state.

Live music concerts have been postponed; major sports teams are playing in empty stadiums. What’s the point, Cuomo wondered on Wednesday, for people to live in a city if they can’t enjoy the in-person amenities?

“People couldn’t sustain it,” Cuomo said of another closure. “Forget the numbers, psychologically you couldn’t sustain it.”

New York’s economy has clearly suffered this year. Unemployment is above 8%, a recovery from the double-digit rate earlier this year, but still more than double what it was a year ago.

State and local governments are counting on billions of dollars in aid from the federal government to be made whole. Tax increases and spending cuts are likely.

But bringing thawing the freeze of 2020 is going to take something different.

“This next chapter is not about fixing a budget hole in the state budget or the city budget,” Cuomo said. “This next challenge for next year is how does the post-COVID world realign economies and society? What is the last effect of the COVID experience?”

The outline of the Bills plan would require the 6,700 people attending the game to be given a COVID rapid test. They would then watch the game in person wearing masks and portions of Bills Stadium would be restricted. Contact tracing would commence after the game.

That does not exactly a normal night out on the town. But, as cliché as the “new normal” is in 2020, it may be a new version of normal for 2021 while the country waits to hit a critical mass of vaccinations for the general public — estimated to be about 75% to 80% of all adults.

“We cannot go through a year with the economy shut down,” Cuomo said. “We’ve only been at this for 10 months. We could not do another nine months, 12 months. How do you balance that? How do you reopen or keep open the economy safely while you’re waiting to hit full vaccination? It’s never been done before, unchartered water.”

This is going to be outlined in Cuomo’s State of the State address next month, which presumably will be done virtually.