ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he was concerned that mass protests over George Floyd's death like those in New York City could imperil the long, hard fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic in a worldwide hotspot.
"You turn on the TV and you see these mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done," Cuomo said in the city at his daily briefing. "We have to take a minute and ask ourselves: 'What are we doing here?'"
The Democratic governor said he agreed with demonstrators fighting racism and societal inequality. But he expressed frustration about possibly compromising more than two months of social and economic sacrifices. New York City is set to begin phasing in economic activity June 8.
"New York City opens next week. It took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart?" he asked.
Although many demonstrators are young, they could be spreading the virus to their mothers, fathers and grandparents, Cuomo said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed similar concerns at a separate briefing, saying: "For those who have made their presence felt, made their voices heard, the safest thing from this point is to stay home, obviously."
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Statewide hospitalization rates have been ticking down for weeks and the daily death toll has gone from almost 800 in early April to 54 on Sunday. Almost 24,000 people in New York have died from the outbreak, according to state figures.
Areas of the state outside of New York City have already begun phasing in economic activity.
Western New York, including Buffalo, was expected to be able to reopen hair salons, retail shops and offices on Tuesday under strict guidelines. Albany and the surrounding region could follow Buffalo into "phase two" on Wednesday, Cuomo said.
The Albany and Buffalo areas are currently in the first phase of reopening, which allows manufacturers to bring employees back and lets retailers operate with only curbside pickup.
Some other upstate regions started phase two on Friday.