coronavirus pandemic

Cuomo Signs Bill Granting Front-Line Worker Death Benefits

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What to Know

  • New York City is expected to begin its reopening on June 8, Gov. Andrew Cuomo; he also cleared the five regions that initially reopened on May 15 to enter the next stage of the process, Phase II -- effective immediately
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday that day care centers can reopen on June 15; you and day camps can resume the following month
  • The positive developments come amid the pandemic's staggering emotional and economic cost. The tri-state area has confirmed nearly 40,000 virus deaths, while the U.S. toll topped 100,000 this week

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday granting death benefits to the families of police officers, public health workers and other front-line workers who have died of the coronavirus.

“You gave your lives for us, we will be there for your families going forward,” Cuomo said as he signed the legislation at his daily briefing on the virus.

The bill passed by state lawmakers this past week provides an accidental death benefit that is more substantial than the regular death benefit that public workers’ families receive. Dozens of police officers, public health workers, transit workers and paramedics have died of COVID-19 in the months since New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

Cuomo said 67 people died of COVID-19 in the state on Friday, the same number as Thursday and a steep drop from the height of New York’s outbreak in April when more than 700 people were dying of the virus daily.

Speaking in the Bronx, Cuomo said he will focus this week on providing more testing for the coronavirus and more supplies like masks to neighborhoods in the outer boroughs of New York City where infection rates remain stubbornly high.

Cuomo said he is working with the leaders of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make sure the agency is prepared for when New York City enters the first phase of loosening coronavirus restrictions on June 8. “They have another week of work to do and they will be ready,” he said.

An upstate New York county executive said Friday he would ignore Cuomo’s phased reopening plan and allow businesses to open countywide, but Cuomo promised to enforce the state’s rules dictating a gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin said on TV station WNYT that he was “done playing the game” and added, “I’m urging every business to open your doors.”

Rennselaer County, east of Albany, is supposed to be in the first phase of Cuomo’s four-step reopening process, with industries like manufacturing and construction allowed to open. But McLaughlin said “there is no way the state of New York can come in and enforce” the rule that other business owners must wait.

Cuomo said in an interview with Spectrum Albany later Friday, “it’s not a county by county decision.”

He added, “This is about life and death and let’s act intelligently. We have a great process and its working and we brought down the curve in New York and we saved thousands and thousands of lives.”

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