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News Brief: Cuomo Says He Won't Resign, New Eviction Moratorium, NYC Mandate

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Gwynne Hogan of our member station WNYC joins us. Good morning.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how much evidence backs up these accusations by the state attorney general?

HOGAN: Well, this report reaffirms the stories of some of the women that came forward this year. It's in painstaking detail. Investigators interviewed 179 people.

INSKEEP: Wow.

HOGAN: They reviewed more than 74,000 texts, emails and audio files and pictures. Some of these are, you know, in the public record now. One of these allegations rises to a criminal offense. That's been referred to the Albany police and involves an aide who said Cuomo groped her inside the executive mansion late last year. But there were new accounts as well, three of them that had not been previously reported. One was from a state trooper who was assigned to Cuomo's security detail. She said Cuomo on two occasions rubbed her finger up and down and across her body and made comments - sexual comments and said comments about her sex drive.

INSKEEP: Now, Cuomo released this video response. And in the response, as he's talking, he showed images - photographs of himself kissing people on the cheek, on the forehead, on the hand. What was the governor saying as those images played?

HOGAN: That's right. He had this prerecorded denial that he put out just shortly after the report's release. You know, he, again, as we've heard him do before, he denied some of the most extreme allegations. He admitted to some of the accusations of kissing and touching faces. But he says they were misconstrued, and he insists he did nothing wrong.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW CUOMO: I've been making the same gesture in public all my life. I actually learned it from my mother and from my father.

HOGAN: He even released a report of his own from a personal attorney paid out of Como's campaign funds to specifically refute some of the state attorney general's conclusions.

INSKEEP: Apparently, he'd seen this negative report coming for a while then, I guess. But have any of his accusers responded now that he's denied their accusations once again?

HOGAN: Ana Liss was one of the women who publicly accused Cuomo earlier this year. Now, she spoke to investigators telling them that her experiences in his office were, you know, a toxic workplace while she was there between 2013 and 2015. She said she was treated like an ornament, and she says she couldn't bring herself to watch Cuomo's remarks.

ANA LISS: It's not up to him to decide whether there was any damage done. His victims spoke up and said, my career was hurt by this behavior; I felt ashamed because of this behavior; I felt targeted. I was one of those women. I certainly paid a price then up until now.

HOGAN: But she says she feels relieved that the report verified what so many women described.

INSKEEP: Suppose Cuomo sticks with his insistence he won't resign. What happens then?

HOGAN: So New York State Assembly has the power to impeach. State legislators were already investigating Cuomo, but the leader of the State Assembly had been reluctant. But last night, he changed his tune. He said that Cuomo had lost the confidence of the Democratic majority. But it's not clear what a timeline for this would be and exactly how it will play out.

INSKEEP: Gwynne Hogan of WNYC, thanks.

HOGAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: President Biden moved to protect renters after Congress did not and after the Supreme Court said he shouldn't.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Yeah. Last night, the CDC issued a new temporary eviction ban. An earlier moratorium expired last week. The new eviction ban applies to parts of the country where COVID-19 cases have risen to a substantial level. The thing is, right now that's most of America. Here's what CDC director Rochelle Walensky told All Things Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: I think there's a moral imperative here to make sure that people who are unstably housed in the period of time where we have extraordinary disease transmission in many parts of this country, that this is a true public health threat and that we need to keep people stably housed.

MARTINEZ: The White House faced intense pressure from congressional Democrats to do something to stop people from being evicted during this latest surge.

INSKEEP: NPR White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe's covering the story. Ayesha, good morning.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I just want to recall the Supreme Court not long ago said this eviction ban should expire July 30, and it did. Now the White House brings it back. Is this new order any different from the old one?

RASCOE: The 19-page justification for this one seems to be similar to the old one. The goal is to stop the spread of COVID among people who are less likely to be vaccinated. And a person who doesn't have a home may not have a lot of options other than crowded, shared living situations, which isn't great for COVID. Still, the White House is describing this as a partial ban. They said it's tailored to parts of the country experiencing a surge in cases. But of course, right now that's much of the country, the vast majority of U.S. counties. So the CDC has extended bans like this multiple times since 2020. This order will expire on October 3, though the CDC says it could be renewed again.

INSKEEP: How did this partial order, days after the other one expired, come about?

RASCOE: The rollout seemed really a bit haphazard, especially for this White House. Normally, policies have been unveiled in extremely organized and in a controlled fashion. But in this case, the previous eviction moratorium was expiring at the end of July, as you said. Everyone knew this. But when the time came last week, there was a lot of finger-pointing. The White House says Congress should have acted. Democrats in Congress said the White House needs to act. The White House was saying its hands were tied by that Supreme Court decision. And the administration was urging states and cities to release some $45 billion in aid for renters. But the political pressure continued to mount on the White House to do something before millions were out on the street.

INSKEEP: Yeah, there were Democrats who were saying, you think your hands are tied; just untie them. One of them was on NPR this week, Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, who told us that Biden should restore the moratorium and that it would just take a while for the court to strike it down. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

CORI BUSH: If there is a challenge to the White House, that will take a little bit of time, and that will give us time to be able to make sure that we don't have hundreds of thousands of people a day...

INSKEEP: So...

BUSH: ...Being evicted.

INSKEEP: ...I want to understand this. I think you're saying to the president, please, extend this ban and...

BUSH: Please.

INSKEEP: ...Tell anybody who doesn't like it, sue me.

BUSH: Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying.

INSKEEP: Ayesha, is that exactly what Biden is doing?

RASCOE: That seems to be the case. Biden basically said that while this is being litigated, the government will have time to try to get funding out to renters and to see - and that could give families time to see if this current COVID surge fades a bit.

INSKEEP: NPR's White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks, as always.

RASCOE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: OK. So the news on the eviction ban is, of course, tied to the pandemic. And we have another bit of pandemic news. We've been talking about vaccine mandates in recent weeks, and there is now one in the nation's largest city.

MARTINEZ: Yeah. Starting in two weeks, New York City will require proof of vaccination if you want to do things indoors, such as grab a meal or go to a movie. Virus cases are rising there, with the health department reporting the most new cases since May. Seventy-two percent - 72% of recent cases are testing positive for the delta variant.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jasmine Garsd is covering this story in New York City. Jasmine, good morning.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: How does this work?

GARSD: The program is labeled a Key to NYC Pass, and it will include indoor dining, entertainment venues and gyms. It launches August 16, and New Yorkers will be required to show that they got at least one shot, either with the state's Excelsior Pass - that's the new vaccine pass - or the CDC paper vaccine card. You know, it's pretty unprecedented in the U.S., but it has happened in places like France and Israel. Here in New York, they are only going to be requiring one dose of the vaccine, which, depending on your vaccine, may not be full immunization.

INSKEEP: What is the goal of this requirement?

GARSD: I think it's twofold. On the one hand, the city is experiencing a rise in the delta variant and is trying to curb the spread. But it's also definitely about encouraging New Yorkers to get vaccinated. Citywide, only about half of adults are immunized, and those numbers are lower in certain communities. Only 31% of Black New Yorkers are vaccinated. And we're starting to see what's being called a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

GARSD: So the city has said it's investing in organizations to promote vaccination. But at his press conference yesterday, Mayor Bill de Blasio sent a very clear message.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BILL DE BLASIO: This is what's going to turn the tide. And we also know that people are going to get a really clear message. If you want to participate in our society fully, you got to get vaccinated. You got to get vaccinated. It's time.

INSKEEP: But knowing, as we do, how politicized vaccines have become, how are people responding?

GARSD: Well, it's already causing controversy. One Republican city council member is calling it discriminatory and saying it creates two different classes of people. But the New York City Hospitality Alliance expressed support. Several gym chains like it. I think at the end of the day, nobody wants to relive 2020. And if this mandate avoids that, it's expected that a lot of people are going to sign on.

INSKEEP: I'm also thinking about enforcement, though, thinking about your typical little shop or store. Somebody walks in the door. Is the clerk supposed to demand their papers at that point? How is it supposed to be enforced?

GARSD: Enforcement is set to start September 13, and the city health department will be handling it. So far, what we know is businesses could be fined if they don't comply.

INSKEEP: OK. No, keep going. Keep going.

GARSD: Oh. One of the concerns that has been expressed by some business owners is what happens when tourists come to the city from areas where there is not a lot of vaccination. I've also heard concern about, on the ground, as this plays out, who is enforcing this? Are we asking a person on minimum wage or less to play enforcer? It's definitely a question that is coming up right now.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Is the restaurant server supposed to be saying that?

Jasmine, thanks so much.

GARSD: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: Jasmine Garsd in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF DJ CAM QUARTET'S "HERBIE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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