New York Gov. Cuomo on George Floyd protesters not wearing face masks: 'You have a right to demonstrate. You don't have a right to infect other people.'
At a news briefing on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo underscored the need to wear face masks as thousands protest George Floyd's death while subdued under the knee of a Minneapolis policeman. "I think you're putting other people's lives at risk needlessly," he said, adding, "Demonstrate — wear a mask." On Thursday, Cuomo signed an executive order permitting New York businesses to refuse customers who aren't wearing masks. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed concern at a news briefing on Saturday about the absence of face masks at protests over George Floyd's death. "You have a right to demonstrate, you have a right to protest — God bless America," he said. "You don't have a right to infect other people. You don't have a right to act in a way that's going to jeopardize public health." Cuomo expressed confusion at why people disregard "the effectiveness of the mask, as simple as it" is to wear one. "Demonstrate with a mask on," he said. "What's the difference?" This is a topic that Cuomo has raised frequently in recent days. On Thursday, he tapped actress Rosie Perez and comedian Chris Rock to underscore to the public the importance of coronavirus testing, social distancing, and face masks. Both celebrities are Brooklyn natives, and were on hand to help the governor who said he's just "not cool enough" and needs "reinforcements to help us communicate that message." Cuomo also signed an executive order allowing New York businesses to turn away customers who refuse to cover their faces in public. "No Mask – No Entry," he wrote on Twitter. Studies have shown that face masks can slow the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the spread of droplets expelled through a person's nose and mouth. However, President Donald Trump claims that masks propagate a "culture of silence, slavery, and social death."
Of nearly 1.75 million coronavirus cases and 102,900 fatalities in the United States, New York has reported 368,284 patients and 29,646 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The Bronx has been particularly hard-hit, with six of the state's 10 "hotspots" where the infection rate remains between 38% and 51% versus New York City's 19.9%, Cuomo said. Income inequality, housing issues, food deserts, and poor clinical care have complicated the Bronx's response to COVID-19. According to Cuomo, the same systemic issues that have rendered minorities worse off amid the pandemic were also at play when Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on Monday, pinned under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. One is a public health issue, while the other is a criminal justice issue, but both lay bare societal disparities that are hundreds of years old, he said. "We have an injustice in a criminal justice system that is abhorrent," Cuomo said, echoing the outrage of thousands of protesters who have hit the streets across the nation amid flaring racial tension. That said, "violence is not the answer," Cuomo added. If anything it's "counterproductive" because it "obscures the righteousness of the message and the mission." A video surfaced late Friday of a New York City police officer violently shoving a woman to the ground at a protest after yelling obscenities at her. She was rushed to the hospital and calls for him to be charged with assault are mounting. Footage from the protests also showed people — many of whom are masked — carrying signs, marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, congregating at the Barclays Center, and facing off with officers at Foley Park. Asked about clashes, Cuomo said he has been in touch with Mayor Bill de Blasio and is calling on Attorney General Letitia James to conduct an independent review of the crowd's actions and police department's responses. The goal is to offer people "answers" and "accountability," he said.
Expressing his solidarity with protesters and their demands for justice, Cuomo reiterated the dangers associated with being part of large gatherings with a highly contagious virus in our midst, without a face mask. "Even if you think you're a superhero because you're young and you're strong, you can get it and then infect someone else so it's just wholly responsible and I don't see any justification not to wear it," he said. In fact, he signed an executive order on April 15 that requires people to cover their faces if they're in public and unable to maintain social distance. This is particularly critical now, with parts of the state having reopened and New York City preparing to do so on June 8. "You're wrong not to wear a mask," he said. "I think you're disrespectful. I think you're putting other people's lives at risk needlessly. Those are facts, right? "So demonstrate — wear a mask."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
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