The federal government is in the process of helping out businesses of all shapes and sizes right now, who have taken a hit during the COVID-19 crisis. But what about all the frontline workers? That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s message during his April 20 press briefing, during which he proposed the idea of “hazard pay” for frontline workers such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers, healthcare workers and nursing home staffers.
Cuomo made his appeal directly to the federal government for state funding, which he said it could then use to pay those workers. “Don’t forget [the frontline workers], because those are the people that I fund with the state budget,” he said. “You shouldn’t make us choose between small businesses and large businesses and people who are on the frontline doing the work day in and day out.” As he noted in a graphic, 41 percent of frontline workers are people of color. That, and minorities are disproportionately victims of COVID-19. “The economy closed down for the people who, frankly, have the luxury of staying at home,” said Cuomo. “All those essential workers, who had to get up every morning to put food on the shelves and go to the hospitals to provide healthcare under extraordinary circumstances and the police officer who had to go out and keep you safe and the firefighter who still had to go out and fight the fire—those people worked, and they went out there and exposed themselves to the virus.” Cuomo said that the “hazard pay” should amount to a 50 percent bonus.
All of the COVID-19-related data once again pointed to the continued flattening of the curve, with hospitalizations and intubations down and new COVID-19 cases flat, day over day. The total number of deaths was also at its lowest at 478 on April 19. Putting that into perspective, the previous day’s total was 507, while just five days ago, that number was at 752. But Cuomo warned that once the weather begins to get warmer, there’ll be a marked risk of the infection rate going up again, simply because more people will be outside and potentially putting themselves in the virus’ path. (New York still leads the rest of the nation in its number of COVID-19 cases with more than 250,000; the virus has killed just under 19,000.)
Of course, the state should have a much better idea of the spread of the virus in the coming weeks, as Cuomo yesterday announced a run of statewide antibody testing.