Cuomo, a Democrat who has overseen some of the strictest restrictions in the nation over the past nine months, said during his State of the State speech that “we simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass.”
“The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely,” said Cuomo, whose state has struggled to quickly vaccinate people against COVID-19.
Cuomo ordered a near-statewide lockdown in March and has kept onerous restrictions on small businesses. The number of small U.S. businesses open on Dec. 30, 2020, compared to January 2020 was 30 percent lower, according to a Harvard University database tracking economic recovery. At one point in April 2020, more than half of small businesses in New York were closed. Today, many have permanently shuttered.
Cuomo has repeatedly said the economy shouldn’t be the focus, instead stressing the prevention of deaths through lockdowns.
“This is not a situation where you can go to the American people and say, ‘How many lives are you willing to lose to reopen the economy?’ We don’t want to lose any lives. You start to hear these, to me, what are absurd arguments,” he told reporters last year.
“What we did was we closed everything down. That was our public health strategy. Just close everything, all businesses, old workers, young people, old people, short people, tall people,” he said during a separate press conference.
During the speech on Jan. 11, the governor said the state “must energize our lagging private sector.” One way is to “seize the opportunity to make New York the global leader in the long-overdue economic shift to green energy.”
Cuomo also called for addressing “systemic injustices” related to racism.