SCHENECTADY — State and local governments will provide death benefits for frontline workers who died from COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
“The local pension fund, or state pension fund, will pay those benefits,” Cuomo said at his Monday coronavirus press conference.
Essential workers include medical workers, police, fire and emergency medical technicians.
“The people who showed up,” Cuomo said. “They showed up because I asked them to show up.”
The governor also renewed calls for the federal government to provide hazard pay for frontline workers.
Cuomo delivered his Memorial Day comments at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City and peppered his remarks with praise to first responders and references to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
Providing death benefits and hazard pay goes past simply issuing thanks and running fulsome TV commercials, Cuomo said, and echoes Kennedy’s call to “remember with your actions.”
The state Legislature will resume this week for the first time since early April.
As the state stares down a $13 billion deficit, Cuomo advised against passing legislation that would increase expenditures.
In the absence of federal relief, any COVID-related relief legislation that isn’t revenue neutral would result in 20 percent cuts to school aid, local governments and hospitals, he said.
“But it all takes money and we don’t have it,” Cuomo said.
With all regions open in the state except for Long Island, New York City and Mid-Hudson Valley, which is on track to reopen Tuesday, the governor said it’s too early to pin an uptick in hospitalizations in the Finger Lakes and Central New York to relaxing of the state’s shutdown order.
“Where we’ve seen the uptick in hospitalizations, I don’t believe factually that could be linked to the reopening because it’s too fast,” Cuomo said.
But he did acknowledge gatherings and activity will lead to a spike in the infection rate
“When we reopen, you can expect an uptick,” Cuomo said.
Coronavirus has a 14-day incubation period and medical experts have said indicators of slippage would likely occur in early June.
The Capital Region entered Phase 1 of reopening on Wednesday, which allows for the resumption of all construction and manufacturing alongside curbside and indoor retail pickup.
Statewide, hospitalizations are on the decline. Ninety-six New Yorkers died from the virus on Sunday, down from 109 fatalities the day before and the second time in three days the death rate has dipped below 100.
Schenectady County announced one new death on Monday, a woman in her 60s, bringing the death toll to 30.
Amid the warmer weather and risks of large gatherings, Cuomo implored the public to wear masks where social distancing is not possible.
First responders actually have a lower infection rate than the general public because of facial coverings, he said, a fact that remains “inconceivable.”
“Why you wouldn’t use it – there’s no legitimate rationalization,” Cuomo said. “The opposition is so trivial and nonsensical relative to the risk.”
Voting ends Monday for the state’s “Wear a Mask” public service announcement campaign and the state will announce a winner on Tuesday.