By Dave Lemery | The Center Square
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an agreement Tuesday with state legislative leaders to establish a paid leave program for workers quarantined during the coronavirus crisis — legislation that would also include a permanent paid leave plan for the state, drawing criticism from state Republican leaders.
“The single most effective way to contain the spread of this virus is to ensure people who may have come into contact with it do not interact with others,” Cuomo said in a news release. “Last week I said we would lead by example by guaranteeing two weeks’ pay for state workers who have been quarantined as a result of covid-19. The paid sick leave measure we’ve agreed to today expands those protections to all new Yorkers – because no New Yorker should lose their job or income for following a critical public health order.”
By including the permanent paid leave program in the bill, the governor drew accusations that he was using the ongoing outbreak as a wedge to force through unrelated legislation.
New York Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan insisted that his caucus was ready and willing to enact legislation along with Democratic policymakers to address the COVID-19 crisis.
“What we should not be doing, under any circumstances, is jamming completely unrelated and highly controversial policy measures in place when all New Yorkers are appropriately focused on dealing with this crisis,” Flanagan said. “At a time when we are practicing social distancing, and when the CDC recommends people not congregate in groups larger than ten, it is undemocratic to slip policies into a budget that cannot be discussed by stakeholders who visit Albany or debated on the floor.”
Among other steps taken by the state Tuesday was an announcement from Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James that the state would halt collection of medical and student debt owed to the state for at least the next 30 days.
“New Yorkers need to focus on keeping themselves safe and healthy from the coronavirus, and therefore can rest assured that state medical and student debt referred to my office will not be collected against them for at least 30 days,” James said. “This is the time when New Yorkers need to rally around each other and pick each other up, which is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to support our state’s residents.”
Cuomo also spoke about the impact on the businesses of New York as a result of his decisions to ban most social gatherings and close down many sectors of the economy.
“I made them because I believe they are in the best interest of the state,” he said. “I know they cause disruption. I know people are upset. I know businesses will be hurt by this. I don’t feel good about that. I feel very bad about that because I know we’re going to have to then deal with that issue as soon as this immediate public health issue is over, but my judgment is do whatever is necessary to contain this virus and then we will manage the consequences afterward.”
According to the New York Department of Health, there are 1,374 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in the state, with 644 of those in New York City. There have been 12 deaths from the COVID-19 disease in the state.
Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.