ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB/WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a coronavirus briefing Monday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing pandemic response efforts. When the graphic of a series of valves came up, it was a sign that more restrictions were about to be lessened or lifted.
“The numbers are stable and going down, so we can start to open up more economic activity,” Cuomo said, announcing a series of changes to capacity levels that are set to start April 26:
- Museums and zoos: Increased capacity to 50%
- Movie theaters: Increased capacity to 33%
And on May 19, large, indoor arenas can increase capacity to 25%. “May 19 is not a random date,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’ve been speaking with the teams and we’re optimistic and that would be a time when playoffs begin.”
As of Monday, the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are each slated for spots in the NBA playoffs beginning next month, as well as the New York Rangers and New York Islanders in the NHL playoffs.
“Our goal, our ambition is to make it better than it ever has been before and were not just thinking about it and talking about it were already in the action phase. We’re in the implementation phase. We have the most aggressive building program in modern history that is going on now.
“Many cities still suffer from the mistake made in the ’50s and ’60s, where we blocked up the waterfront. The waterfront is now the attraction and you want to reconnect the waterfront and we’re doing that in Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany.”
The governor said middle class New Yorkers can expected a reduction soon for state income tax.
“We have to rebuild the middle class and the best way we can help them is through lower taxes,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In the budget we just passed, we actually reduced income taxes for the middle class. The rate goes from 6.09% to 5.97%, for those making $43,000 to $161,550 your tax rate goes down. From there to $323,000, your tax rate goes down. So, middle-class taxes come down as soon as I sign this bill.”
The governor once again called on federal officials to repeal SALT. “For me, in life, it’s not what you say it’s what you do. Since January, President Biden — who’s a friend — Democratic senate, Democratic congress, no excuses, no Donald Trump, no Republican senate, the congress has passed multiple bills. They all promised to repeals SALT, they have not repealed SALT and they must.”
“We need results from Washington, SALT repeal means $12.3 billion to New Yorkers,” Gov. Cuomo said. “SALT repeal is so powerful it would lower the effective tax rate on New York’s highest payers by 37%. We just put a surcharge on the state income tax for the highest earners to finance our reconstruction effort in essence. Our top rate went to 10.9% from 8.8%. If they repeal SALT, the effective tax rate on the high earners goes to 6.9%, so if they repeal SALT, which I believe they must, the net effect in New York will be that we didn’t raise taxes on anyone, we lowered taxes on everyone.”
In addition to these changes, Gov. Cuomo also announced the latest COVID-19 numbers:
Western New York still has the highest seven-day average rate for COVID-19 positivity, at 4.78%. Cuomo says there are no current plans to institute additional restrictions at this time. “We looked at the comparison of other regions in the state, we’re doing some research right now on why we have certain places in the state that are extraordinary compared to other places in the state,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’re researching that now, we’re not contemplating additional restrictions, but we do have to get it under control, otherwise we will have a problem.”
Still, when looking at the state’s seven-day average for COVID positivity, the number is going down.
And hospitalizations are decreasing, too.
As of Monday, 8.3 million people in New York have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 5.6 million have received their final dose.