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Governor Cuomo apologizes in first public appearance since harassment allegations

Governor Andrew Cuomo, making his first public appearance since three women came forward accusing him of making unwanted sexual advances, said he will not resign from office.

The announcement comes as elected officials at both the state and federal level, including members of his own party, have called for him to step down.

“I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Mr. Cuomo said during Wednesday’s briefing. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it and frankly I am embarrassed by it. I never touched anyone inappropriately.”

He said he was “sorry” and asked New Yorkers to “await the attorney general’s [investigation] before forming an opinion.”

State attorney general Letitia James is leading a review of the allegations and Mr. Cuomo said Wednesday that he will fully cooperate with the review.

The governor is facing allegations from three women who accused him of making inappropriate comments, kissing an aide without consent and making unwanted advances toward a young woman at a 2019 wedding.

Restrictions being loosened

As the statewide coronavirus rate dipped to 3.53%, Gov. Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state is planning to ease some pandemic restrictions.

Domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine or test out of the requirement within 90 days of full vaccination, while international travelers will be directed to still abide by Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines.

Starting March 22, changes will be made to the state’s current rules for gatherings.

For residential gatherings, indoor limits will remain at 10 people while outdoor limits will increase from 10 to 25 people.

Social gathering limits for public spaces will increase from 50 to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors, state officials said, noting the changes were in line with adjustments made by neighboring states in recent weeks.

Social distancing and mask requirements will still be in place.

Smaller event, arts and entertainment venues may also begin to reopen in April after a series of successful trial runs with fans present at Buffalo Bills, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks and Rangers games.

Currently, venues with the capacity to hold 10,000 or more people can receive health department approval to reopen at 10% of their full capacity. In addition to masks and social distancing, staff and spectators are required to receive a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering.

A new Excelsior Pass, essentially a COVID-passport, will allow people to show negative COVID-19 results or proof of vaccination using a mobile app. The pass can also be printed out, officials said. It was piloted during a recent Nets game at the Barclays Center and at Madison Square Garden for Tuesday’s Rangers game.

Starting April 2, venues with capacities smaller than 10,000 people may begin to reopen at 33% capacity, with up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. If testing requirements are put in place, state officials said those limits could be increased to 150 people indoors and 500 people outdoors.

According to data released Wednesday, there are approximately 922 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Long Island, which is still among the highest positivity rate at 4.18%, along with New York City and the mid-Hudson region.

Vaccination update

Overall there have been over 4.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered across the state, which includes 3.1 million first doses and 1.6 million second doses, Mr. Cuomo said.

With New York expected to receive an increase in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and an influx of approximately 164,800 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the governor also announced that three mass vaccination sites: Yankee Stadium, the Javits Center and the state fairgrounds in Syracuse would begin operating 24/7 as soon as Thursday.

“It’s good news, but we have to then get [the vaccines] in arms as soon as possible,” Mr. Cuomo said.

President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday that there will be enough vaccine doses for all American adults by the end of May. Previous predictions put that timeline somewhere in July.

Powers to be lifted

State legislators struck a deal to rescind some pandemic-related emergency powers granted to Mr. Cuomo nearly a year ago as the pandemic set in.

Some critical executive actions that relate to public health may remain in effect while others will expire April 30. The legislature may also repeal any executive order with at least 50% of the vote in both houses.

Lawmakers began calling for limits of Mr. Cuomo’s power in the wake of criticism over his administration’s management of nursing home deaths during the pandemic.