Cuomo Eyes Rapid Tests as Key to Faster Reopenings of Offices, Entertainment & More

"The truth is, we cannot stay closed until everyone is vaccinated. The economic, psychological, emotional cost would be incredible," the governor of New York says

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled the outlines of a seven-point plan to reimagine, rebuild and renew New York amid its ongoing battle with COVID-19; he says vaccination is the weapon that'll win the war
  • That won't happen overnight, though, or even for many months; Cuomo is looking for ways to mitigate the continued economic impact for businesses while protecting public health
  • Early evidence indicates his testing pilot program with the Buffalo Bills was a success, so much so fans can attend a second playoff game in person; that plan could be a blueprint for larger reopenings

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expanding on his plans Tuesday for a safe and smart reopening of New York before vaccination hits critical mass, which he says could be nearly another year out. The state -- and the vibrant city -- can't wait that long.

There may be a way to boost the struggling economy without waiting for that point, Cuomo says. Early evidence showed his first-in-the-nation testing pilot program with the Buffalo Bills over the weekend, in which 6,700 fans showed negative tests and agreed to contact tracing after attending the game socially distant but in person, appeared to be a success -- so much so that fans can attend the team's second playoff game Saturday in person under the same rules.

Could rapid testing be the answer? Could Broadway reopen this year? What about concerts at Madison Square Garden? The indoor vs. outdoor dilemma is a real one, Cuomo says, but rapid tests may be the key to a more immediate revival.

Monday was the first day that people over 75 and essential workers — including police officers, firefighters and teachers — were allowed to receive the vaccines in New York. NBC New York's Gaby Acevedo reports.

"With this new network of rapid testing locations, a customer can stop into a new rapid testing facility, get tested, and 15 minutes later be cleared for dinner or a movie," Cuomo's State of the State agenda read. (See more on his seven-point plan for rebuilding and reimaging New York here.)

In a follow-up State of the State Day 2 address Tuesday, Cuomo said he wants to work with the real estate community to open additional rapid testing sites so New Yorkers can take a test prior to whatever activity they plan to do.

Along with that come hopes of reopening office buildings; many commercial properties have already agreed to offer testing services to all tenants of their buildings on a regular basis, he said. Cuomo believes that will accelerate the return of the arts and culture scene across New York City and state.

To support that end, the state is launching New York Arts Revival, a private and public partnership to bring the arts back, the governor said. That group will organize pop-up performances and events throughout the state, beginning in early February. All of the events will be held outdoors to minimize risk of exposure.

"This groundbreaking initiative will help revive the arts while celebrating new York's resiliency and recovery from the COVID pandemic," Cuomo said.

He also announced the launch of a number of new initiatives, including one to put more than 1,000 artists back to work and fund community arts groups and another on future jobs as well as an overarching Commission on the Future of the New York Economy, led by NYU's Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

"The post-COVID economy is still taking shape. we know it will be different. we just don't know precisely how it will be different," Cuomo said.

"This commission will help draw a roadmap to find opportunities for New Yorkers to get back to work in jobs that pay well in industries that will grow rather than disappear in the coming decades," he added. "They will study the economic issues that the crisis brought to the surface and also the low-tide America issues: the inequalities and structural racism that COVID exposed."

Among other proposals, Cuomo called Tuesday to expand SUNY's online training center, converting hotels and office buildings underutilized amid the pandemic into affordable housing and sweeping reform as it relates to broadband access.

"I propose a first in the nation mandate that Internet service providers recognize their public responsibility and offer $15 per month high speed internet service to all low-income households," Cuomo said Tuesday.

To bridge the gap, he said the state would establish a fund to subsidize broadband for families that cannot afford the $15 monthly fee. Without universal broadband access, the governor said, "the public education system that was supposed to be the great equalizer, becomes the great divider."

Even as Cuomo looks to develop New York's plan forward in a safe, economically expeditious manner, he says all must bear in mind the painful lessons learned over the course of this current crisis.

As the governor said Monday, "As we all now realize, there will be a next time."

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