New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that starting Tuesday, British Airways will require passengers on UK flights to NY to show negative COVID-19 test before departure.
A highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus has been found in the United Kingdom.
Governor Cuomo said, "Why the United States, after what we've been through, watching 120 other countries, why you wouldn't take action and require that people who fly to this country be tested first, is beyond me."
Governor Cuomo said his office has already spoken to Delta airlines and they have agreed to require their passengers to show negative test COVID-19 results before flying into New York and that he was also in conversations with Virgin Atlantic to do the same adding that New York cannot let history repeat itself with the new virus variant.
"British Airways, I have spoken to myself and they have voluntarily agreed to add New York to the 120 countries that will do pre-boarding testing. They will start that tomorrow. There are two other airlines, Delta and Virgin, I requested for them to voluntarily agree. If they do not agree voluntarily, then New York State will pursue other options," said Governor Cuomo.
"I would not be doing my job as Governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency and disaster that cost the lives of New Yorkers.
"We have been victimized by federal incompetence and federal negligence. That is a fact. We're not going to be victimized again."
The Governor is also continuing to call on the federal government to impose enhanced travel restrictions, as 120 other countries have done, to avoid the same grave mistakes of the spring where the virus entered New York from Europe with no warning.
"I've actually called the airlines that are flying into New York, primarily British airlines, and Delta airlines, and Virgin airlines, and I said you have 120 countries on the list that require testing, please add New York to those 120 countries. And they've agreed to do it, British has agreed, Delta has agreed. They're testing for 120 other countries, so they'll add New York," he said.
"When 120 countries ban the U.K., when the U.K. closes down and cancels Christmas, in essence, by it's own prime minister who didn't want to do it and says, 'This virus is deadly.' It's a gross negligence for this federal government not to act," said Governor Cuomo when he appeared as a guest on MSNBC with Alicia Menendez.
And Governor announced that more than 38,000 vaccine doses have been administered in New York State as of Monday morning – the highest reported total in the nation thus far.
Bolstering this effort, the first 346,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to begin arriving in New York today, with an additional 120,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected later this week.
The Governor also announced the launch of New York's Vaccine Equity Task Force chaired by Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, and Healthfirst President and CEO Pat Wang.
The Task Force will work to ensure vulnerable and underserved communities are not left behind by breaking down the barriers to vaccination and ensuring there is equitable distribution of the vaccine across the state.
And Governor Cuomo also announced that New York is developing Community Vaccination Kits to provide communities, particularly those located within health care deserts, with the supplies and resources needed for standing up vaccination sites.
The Governor also announced that a federal program to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff began Monday in New York State and is expected to vaccinate residents and staff at 618 facilities across the state, with first doses administered starting today and over the next two weeks.
"We're now talking about who's getting vaccinated, and let me be clear: there is no politics in the vaccination process," Governor Cuomo said.
"We went through this with COVID testing, with big shots, celebrities, and affluent people getting to the front of the line. This preferential treatment in COVID testing undermines our entire sense of democracy, equality and a government that works for all people.
"And in this time of COVID where we've seen gross injustices, politics has nothing to do with it. There's no governor, no county executive, and no mayor who controls the process, and anyone who says that is not telling the truth or violating the law. This is entirely done by medical professionals and our hospitals have already vaccinated more people than any state in the nation.
"We're now talking about who's getting vaccinated, and let me be clear: there is no politics in the vaccination process."
Health experts have projected that in order to win the war against COVID-19, between 75 and 85 percent of the population needs to receive the vaccine and as such, New York has made it a top priority to ensure vulnerable and underserved communities are not left behind.
To further this work, breakdown barriers to access and ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, the Governor is launching New York's Vaccine Equity Task Force.