Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a novel approach to containing the spread of the new coronavirus: “NYS Clean,” a New York State-branded scented hand sanitizer that is being made by prison inmates and will be distributed in the state’s government agencies, schools, and prisons. “It has a very nice floral bouquet,” the governor reportedly said of the substance, which is being produced at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate Washington County. Cuomo added that the state, which has 142 confirmed cases, can make as much as 100,000 gallons of the hand sanitizer per week, but it will not yet be sold to the public. The announcement of the veritable eau de Saratoga Springs gel came on a day of sobering news for New York: Rick Cotton, the head of the Port Authority in New York and New Jersey, tested positive for the COVID-19 infection and is in self-quarantine: “He has been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus,” the governor said. Cuomo used the forum to condemn price gouging on hand sanitizer in New York—which is also being reported nationwide—as sellers seek to profit from the deadly outbreak. The governor also confirmed that New York schools will be closed for a 24-hour period if students test positive for the virus.
Two attorneys for equal justice organization The Legal Aid Society condemned the governor for “exploiting” prisoners to produce the hand sanitizer. They said that the New York inmates “work for less than a dollar a day under threat of punishment—including solitary confinement—if they refuse.” The attorneys, Tina Luongo and Adriene Holder, said in a joint statement that the practice is “nothing less than slave labor and it must end.”