Coronavirus Daily Update from O’Donnell & Associates
Each afternoon, following Governor Cuomo’s daily briefing on the coronavirus response, the O’Donnell & Associates Team publishes a summary and other related news and analysis. If you would like to receive this in your email inbox each afternoon, sign up here.
June 1, 2020
COVID Numbers—Hospitalizations and intubations continue to drop, and the state’s 3-day average of new hospitalizations is now at the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic. Cuomo said 2% of tests are returning positive; less than 1,000 people tested positive out of 50,000 tests administered. Yesterday, there were 54 COVID deaths reported (44 in hospitals and 10 in nursing homes).
Reopening—Five regions in Upstate NY have begun Phase 2, and the Governor said that Western New York is expected to join them tomorrow, a final announcement will be held on that later today. The Capital Region is expected to move into Phase 2 on Wednesday. New York City is planning to open on June 8, but the Governor is now questioning whether this will still be possible, due to the large protest gatherings over the weekend.
Protests—Cuomo expressed worry over whether the protests could exacerbate COVID-19 spread and stated that he will be speaking with Mayor de Blasio today about imposing a curfew in NYC, as well as regarding the tactics police are using in response to the demonstrations. The National Guard is on stand-by to help deal with potentially violent protests.
Reform Agenda—After commending the State Police for the action they took in Upstate protests last night and expressing empathy with the peaceful protesters, the Governor laid out his “Positive Reform Agenda” to resolve tensions, which includes a national ban on excessive force and choke-holds, independent investigations of police abuse, disciplinary records disclosed of police officers being investigated, education equity, anti-poverty agenda, and a real national affordable housing plan.
As noted by a reporter, only one of these issues—education equity—really appears really to involve Cuomo taking concrete actions, and progress on that front is dubious, given the State’s budget realities and the Governor’s highly criticized efforts to “reimagine” education.
50-a—Referring to a reform or repeal of 50-a—a four decade old NYS law shielding certain police records—Cuomo also stated that something must be done while the State awaits results from Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the NYPD response to protests. Cuomo reiterated his interpretation that Civil Rights Law 50-a does not prevent local governments from publicly releasing police disciplinary records and claims that local officials are making political decisions to conceal them.
The Administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has interpreted 50-a as prohibiting disclosure of the results of disciplinary hearings against individual officers. But de Blasio said the law needs to be repealed and it’s something that can be done by the state legislature. “Let’s do that in the month of June,” de Blasio said, adding that it’s something that the legislature can and should do.
Senate and Assembly Democrats are conferencing today to discuss this issue. Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes said that the push to repeal 50-a is an effort to ensure cops with bad disciplinary records “can no longer hide behind the blue badge of honor.” An informal poll of Democratic members of the Senate showed enough support to approve the repeal of the law, with at least 32 votes in favor of the measure.