NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Demonstrators who participated in anti-police brutality protests this past week have a “civic duty” to get tested for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
Cuomo reported 52 new COVID-19 deaths during his daily briefing on Thursday, and said the state was still moving in a “positive direction.” But protests across the state calling for justice for George Floyd could end up contributing to a backslide in the numbers, he warned.
More than 30,000 people across New York state participated in the statewide protests this past week, he noted.
“If you were at a protest, go get a test, please,” he said. “The protesters have a civic duty also.”
“If you were at one of those protests, I would, out of an abundance of caution, assume that you are infected,” Cuomo added. “Tell people, ‘I may have been exposed.' And act like you may have been exposed, because, by the way, you may have been exposed."
COVID-19 symptoms can take four to five days to show up, and most people are only hospitalized with symptoms eight to 12 days after they contract the virus, he said.
“Two weeks is a lifetime in the numbers, so if you had a viral spread, through these protests, we’re not going to see it in the numbers for a while,” he said. "And in the meantime, we’re making all these decisions to reopen."
Westchester County, Rockland County and the Hudson Valley will move into Phase II of their reopenings next Tuesday, June 9, he said. Long Island will move into Phase II on Wednesday, June 10.
“So it’s important that people act responsibly for themselves,” he said. “You went to a protest, get a test, tell people.” Anyone who participated in a protest will be able to get tested, he said.
Cuomo also addressed videos circulating on social media that showed NYPD officers striking demonstrators with batons after New York City's curfew went into effect on Wednesday evening. During his briefing, the governor maintained he hadn't see any baton use.
"If you are violating the curfew, and you refuse to leave, so you continue to violate the curfew, the police officers have to enforce the law, which is, you are supposed to be off the street,” he said during the briefing. "If somebody's standing there, and they just walked up to somebody and hit them with a baton, clearly that's wrong. But I don't believe that's what happened. If they did do that, that's wrong."
In a tweet several hours later, however, the governor said he had asked New York Attorney General Letitia James to launch an investigation into the videos, including several showing NYPD officers hitting protesters with batons in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn.
"Peaceful protest is a sacred American right," he wrote. "No peaceful protester deserves to be hit with a baton and no self-respecting police officer would defend that."
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea on Thursday evening also said his department was investigating officer misconduct.
The department has reviewed numerous videos of interactions between police and protesters, and "about seven" of the videos are “probably going to result in change of duty status, up to suspension and possibly charges,” Shea said.
While Cuomo praised the peaceful protests that have taken place across the state over the past week, he denounced violence against police officers, including an an attack on three police officers in Brooklyn that was allegedly carried out by someone who may be linked to ISIS. He also spoke out against looting, but said that looting and protests should not be associated with one another.
“... (S)ome people would like to say the protesters are the looters. No no, they’re not," he said. "You have to keep them separate."
Cuomo called on New York City district attorneys to people arrested for looting with second-degree burglary, which would allow courts to set bail.
“To the New York City district attorneys, you look at these videos, it would be nonsensical if the police were arresting looters and they were then being arrested and returned to the street the next day to loot again. That would be nonsensical, right?” he said. "You have scenes of looting that are on video that are indefensible and inexcusable."
The governor also announced that New York state would hold a moment of silence at 2 p.m. on Thursday to honor George Floyd.
The pause will act as a symbolic moment, “to say, ‘We understand what happened. We’re sorry. We grieve, and this is an injustice that should never have happened…. We stand in solidarity with the senselessness of his brutal murder,'” he said.