May 7, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 7
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Thursday, May 7. Cuomo ordered that the eviction moratorium in New York be extended, and offered to help landlords out. Read the full briefing speech transcript here.
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Andrew Cuomo: (05:29)
Good morning. Pleasure to be here. Thank all of you for being here, appropriately, socially distanced I see. It’s a pleasure to be at the New York Medical College today. Thank you Doctor Kadish for having us. Westchester County, great county executive, George Latimer. Also home to our great senate leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and it is a beautiful day.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:54)
It is so beautiful. I’m going to go home after this, take the motorcycle out. I’m going to go for a ride. I’m going to wear my mask on the motorcycle. Protects from a COVID virus. Also keeps bugs out of your mouth. Works on both fronts.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:12)
It is a time of high anxiety. I understand that and a lot of pressure all across the country but even more at times of high anxiety, it’s important that we stay with the facts and the truth.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:28)
John Adams was defending the British at a time when the American people hated the British. “Facts are stubborn things and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Andrew Cuomo: (06:46)
Lincoln big believer in the American people, always. “Let them know the truth and the country is safe.” I love Lincoln and the wisdom and the economy of his language. “Let them know the truth and the country is safe.”
Andrew Cuomo: (07:01)
Here are the facts where we are right now. 8,600 total hospitalizations. That number is down. That is good news and it’s a fairly significant drop, so that is good news. The net change in hospitalizations you see is also down. That’s good news. Intubations is down. That’s good news. The three day rolling average of hospitalizations is also down. You see the curve, you see the outline of what we went through. You see how fast it went up, reminds you how fast the infection rate can spread.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:43)
Look at how fast those numbers went up and you see how once those numbers are up, how slow, how long it takes to get them down, right? We’re on the downside of the mountain. Downside of the mountain is a much more gentle slope than what we went through going up the mountain. We wish it was a steeper decline but it’s not. This is the worst number, every day, is the number of deaths; 231 and you can see how slow that has come down and how painfully high it still is.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:21)
This is a chart of the number of lives lost. And again, you can see how fast that infection took off and how many lives we lost and once that infection rate is high and people are getting infected, you can see how long it takes to slow it down and reduce the number of deaths and they’re coming down at a painful, slow level of the climb.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:50)
The top priority for us, one of the top priorities for us, has been protecting our frontline and our essential workers. You have to remember what happened here. It all happened so fast.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:03)
You have to remember what happened here. It all happened so fast that it’s almost hard to gain perspective on it, but the frontline workers, they showed up and went to work and put their lives in danger, so everyone else could stay home. I laid out the facts as Lincoln said, to the people of this state, laid out how dangerous this virus was. Advocated and argued based on those facts that we needed to close down. Close down schools, close down businesses, stay at home. People did that. In the next breath I said, and by the way, we need you essential workers to go to work tomorrow after just having explained how dangerous the virus was, to justify shutting down society in a way that it had never been shut down before.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:59)
Next breath, essential workers. I need you to go to work. Hospital care, I need you to go to work and help people who come in with the COVID virus. After we just discussed how dangerous the COVID virus was and how little we knew about the virus. Look at the courage that those frontline workers had to show. I mean it is still amazing to me and I just want to make sure on a human level we’re doing everything that we can for them. So we’ve been aggressively testing the frontline workers to find out who needs help, how many people actually have been infected. And we’ve been working with the police and transit workers and healthcare workers.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:43)
We tested 25 Downstate healthcare facilities, Downstate New Yorkers where the predominance of the virus was. Over 27,000 employees, so it’s a very large sample. And what we found out is really good news. And one of the few positives that I’ve heard in a long time, when you look at the percentage of people who have the antibodies, which means they were infected at sometime in the past and their now recovered. Of the healthcare workers in Westchester 6.8, New York City, 12.2, Long Island 11.1. That is about the same or lower then the infection rate among the general population. So Westchester, the infection rate among the general population is 13.8 almost 14. Westchester healthcare workers, it’s about half of the rate of the general population. I mean that is amazingly good news, right? We were afraid of what was going to happen and the health care workers actually are at about the same or lower than the general population in that area.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:58)
So that makes two points to me. Number one, our healthcare workers must be protected. They must have the PPE. We’ve been saying that all along. It was a mad scramble this last time to get the PPE. Internationally it was a med scramble for all of us. That can never happen again. We have to have the PPE, we have to have the stockpiles. We did an order that said every hospital has to have a 90 day supply of PPE at the COVID rate of usage. So we’ll never go through this again. But it also shows everybody, how important the masks and the gloves and the sanitizer are and that they work. It’s not that the frontline workers get anything, especially more sophisticated then the masks that people wear. The N95 masks, they wear a gown, they wear a mask, they wear gloves, but they follow protocol and those masks work. They work. If they’re working for frontline workers, they’re going to work for people in their day to day lives and the precautions of gloves and sanitizing. They work.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:13)
Also, during this time, it’s important that we protect New Yorkers who are facing financial hardships. You have people who live paycheck to paycheck. The majority of people in this state live paycheck to paycheck. All of a sudden the paycheck stops. Federal government issued a one time payment of $600, unemployment benefits, but it’s not making up the gap for many, many families and they are struggling and we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can. We have a problem in Upstate New York where many of the farms can’t sell their product. You had a lot of farms that were literally just dumping milk that the dairy farms had produced, but at the same time you have people in Downstate New York who are going hungry and can’t pay for enough food. Tremendous demand on food banks.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:09)
So we’ve been putting the two together. It makes no sense to have Upstate farmers who can’t sell their product and Downstate families that can’t get enough to eat. So we have been funding efforts to connect the farmers to the Downstate food banks and we’ve done that with about $25 million to what we call our Nourish New York initiative. And that has worked, we’re funding about 50 food banks that have 2100 farms that are delivering food to those food banks and about 20,000 households in the state are participating in that. The volume of food and product that is not being wasted, that is supporting Upstate farms and helping Downstate families is tremendous. We want to continue doing that. The state budget is very, very tight right now, with what’s going on with the economy. So philanthropies, foundations, there are a lot of people who want to help. This is a great cause and I would suggest that they help so we can do even more.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:13)
People literally are worried about being able to pay rent. You don’t work for two months and that rent bill keeps coming in. It’s not that the bill payers, the bill collectors have taken a vacation. The bill collectors work, right? They still send the bill and you still get collection notices. We did by executive order that I issued a moratorium on residential or commercial evictions. You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent related to this COVID situation and that went through June. So nobody has been and nobody can be evicted through June, either residential or commercial. We’re going to take additional steps of banning any late payment fees because the person couldn’t pay the rent during this period of time. Also, allowing people to use the security deposit as a payment and they can repay it over a prolonged period of time.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:15)
But also, I’m going to extend that moratorium an additional 60 days. It hasn’t expired in June, but people are anxious and June for many people is just next month and the rent bill is going to come due. So we’re going to extend that 60 days until August 20th. So no one can be evicted for nonpayment of rent, residents or commercial because of COVID, until August 20th and then we’ll see what happens between now and then. Right? Nobody can really tell you what the future is. So that will be in place. I hope it gives families a deep breath. Nothing can happen until August 20th and then we’ll figure out between now and August 20th what the situation is.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:05)
Also at this time, principles matter, and I understand the anxiety, I understand the stress, but let’s remember who we are and what we’re all about and what principles matter to us. People are talking about we should reopen the economy. It’s more important than public health or public health is more important than the economy. And that’s the underlying argument and discussion that you’re hearing going on right now. To me, it’s never been a question of whether or not we reopen. It’s not reopen or not reopened. You have to reopen. You don’t have a choice. It’s how you reopen, it’s how you reopen and to say, well, we either have to have a stronger economy or protect public health. No, that’s a false choice. It’s not one or the other. It’s both. We have to …
Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
It’s not one or the other. It’s both. We have to reopen, get the economy running, and we have to protect public health. I mean, this is not a situation where you can go to the American people and say, “Okay, how many lives are you willing to lose to reopen the economy?” We don’t want to lose any lives, and you start to hear these … to me, what are absurd arguments. “Well, yes, if we reopen, people will die, but people were going to die anyway.” Look, we’re all going to die at one point. The big question is when and how, right? The when and how matters. I understand that I’m going to die. I just don’t want to die now or next week, and I don’t want to die because I contracted the coronavirus unnecessarily, right?
Andrew Cuomo: (19:02)
So people are going to die. Yes, we’re all going to die. That is not a justification in my mind, right? It would be a novel defense. A person is before a judge, charged with murder. “Did you have a gun?” “Yes.” “Did you fire the gun?” “Yes.” “Did you shoot the person?” “Yes.” “Did the person die?” “Yes, but the person was going to die anyway.” “Yeah, I know, but it was the gun that killed the person and the bullet, and you fired the gun, right?”
Andrew Cuomo: (19:35)
So to go down this road, well, there are old people who will die predominantly, on the numbers. By the way, old, how do you define old? Not that old is a justification, but we looked at numbers yesterday. The new cases coming into hospitals, 51 years old is where the increase starts, right? It’s 51 to 60. 60 to 70 is the highest, 71 to 80. But 51 to 60. So 51 is not really old. I know that it’s all relative, and since I am beyond that 51, it’s easy for me to say, “But I don’t really see 51 as old,” when we start talking about the old people.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:29)
I also think, and I do this for myself, any leader who makes a decision in this situation should be willing to participate in anything they authorize. So there is nothing that we are going to authorize or allow in this state that I myself will not be part of. It’s too easy to say, “Okay, you can go do this, but I’m going to protect myself, and I’m going to stay behind the glass wall.” No. If all human life has the same value, if I say something is safe for New Yorkers, then I will participate in it, because if it’s safe for you, it’s safe for me, right? That should be our standard, going forward.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:20)
What we’ve been doing in New York is, look, make the decisions based on facts and data, not emotion and politics. I understand the emotion, and I understand the anxiety and the stress. I understand politics a little bit, but that’s not the basis for making a decision. That was every leader who’s told us that in different ways. That was John Adams. That was Lincoln. That was FDR. That was Teddy Roosevelt. When my team comes to me and says, “Oh, boy, we had a new prison break. There’s a flood coming. There’s a hurricane, Ebola virus,” and their hair is on fire, “Slow down. Deep breath. Let’s look at the facts. Let’s understand the situation, and let’s take action based on the facts.” That is the way to lead, and that’s the way I believe to lead one’s life.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:28)
Here we have a lot of information. We have a lot of facts. We know the hospitalization rate. We know the infection rate. We know the number of deaths. We’re taking antibody tests. We’re taking diagnostic tests. We’re doing tracing. Make your decisions based on the facts and the data. It sounds simple and basic, but it’s more important now than ever before, and it is working for us. It is working. That’s not just me saying that because I’m the governor.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:01)
You look at what’s happening in New York and look at what’s happening in the rest of the nation, in New York, the number is coming down, and it’s coming down dramatically. You take New York out of the rest of the nation’s numbers, the rest of the nation is going up, and we’re coming down. So what we’re doing is working, and when it’s working, stay the course. Quote attributed to Winston Churchill. “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” and that’s what we’re doing. We’re going through hell, but what we’re doing is working, so we’re going to keep going because we are New York tough, smart, disciplined, united, and loving. Questions?
Yeah, so a question about … You began the briefing with a term like “high anxiety,” and what seems to really increase that is when we think about a second wave later. You look at people who are concerned. Maybe if they’re diehard big city people, for the first time in their lives, they’re thinking, “Maybe I want to go to the suburbs.” It’s an individual family decision, but what do you tell folks like that or someone in your own family who would be like, “I think I’m going to leave the city and try something new?” If that becomes a trend, I’m putting it way out there, but what do you think is your advice, hope, or thoughts on a possible exodus or flight?
Andrew Cuomo: (24:27)
Yeah, look, you’re right. High anxiety. Emotions are high. Unfortunately, often, when emotion is high, logic is low, right? Well, New York had a lot of cases. Yes, and, by the way, we now know why New York had a lot of cases. It has nothing to do with New York. First of all, this was a national issue. “I’m going to leave New York.” Oh, yeah, and go where that didn’t have COVID cases? Suburbs? Westchester had them. Long Island had them. Other cities? LA had them. Chicago had them.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:04)
“Okay, well, New York had more.” Yes, but we know why. It had nothing to do with New York. It had to do with the fact that all the experts missed a very important fact, that while we were all watching China and talking about China and doing a China travel ban, the virus had already gotten on a plane in China and went to Europe and had infected people in Europe. Then people from Europe were coming to New York, because that’s where the flights come. Two million people came from Europe, February, March, and nobody was stopping European travel. Nobody was screening Europeans coming in through the airports. Nobody said to New Yorkers, “By the way, any European traveler, any person from Italy, from the UK, from Germany, they may have the COVID virus.” Nobody said anything.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:08)
So we had two million passengers from Europe. Everybody’s still talking about China. We do the China travel ban. We’re screening people from China. But meanwhile, it came through Europe. Millions of people came from Europe, and we had no idea. We had no idea. That’s why the number of cases in New York are so high. They’re now looking at people came from Europe, came into JFK or Newark, but then took a connecting flight and went to another city, and they think the whole East Coast may have seen cases come from Europe. The China flights were going more to the West Coast, but the European flights came to the East Coast. Had nothing to do with New York. Now, once the virus is in New York, any place of-
Andrew Cuomo: (27:03)
The virus is in New York. Any place of density is where this virus takes off, any place of density, any place. You look at the meat processing plants now that are in Midwest parts of the country, Southern parts of the country. Well, they are a problem. No, it has nothing to do with a meat processing plant, or we have a hotspot now in an agricultural facility in upstate New York. It has nothing to do with meat or agriculture. It’s the density. That’s what happened in Westchester here at the Mew Rochelle, the first hotspot in the United States. What did it have to do with New Rochelle? Nothing. It was the density. It was a person who went to a gathering with 2-300 people. It’s the density. Yes, in New York, any dense situation, a meat processing plant, an agriculture plant, city of Chicago, city of New York. Once it gets into density, it’s going to increase, but why here? Because of the flights from Europe, and nobody knew, and nobody told us, and nobody stopped it.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:04)
Also, post-911, you went through this situation in New York where people asked that question. Well, maybe New York is a target. No, we weren’t the only place attacked in 911, but it was highly impactful here. We lost a lot of lives. People said, “Well, maybe New York is a target.” Yeah, but that lasted for a very short period of time, and, look, New York then came back, downtown better than ever before, and we’re going to do the same thing here.
Speaker 4: (28:40)
Governor, you spoke about a couple of initiatives to help struggling, out of work New Yorkers, including extending work relief. What is your message to those New Yorkers, and who’s hiring in the state?
Andrew Cuomo: (28:52)
Well, we get to May 15th. May 15th is when what’s called the Pause, P-A-U-S-E Order, the close down order expires, and then we’ll look at different regions in the state by the data to see if they’re in a position to start reopening, and we’ll start with construction, manufacturing, etc. You will see the economy start to reopen on a regional analysis and, again, not a floodgate, but it will start so we can watch what’s happening and calibrate because we don’t want to see those numbers go the other way, but in the interim, look, everyone is just making do and everyone has hardships, etc.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:33)
We just want to make sure that those people who are most vulnerable are protected. One of the greatest vulnerabilities is, I’m not working, I can’t pay my rent, I can’t pay my rent, I can’t feed my family. We have to make sure that those people are protected. Nobody can be evicted because of nonpayment of rent. Let’s take that issue off the table. We have to make sure everyone has food to feed their family. We’re doing that through a number of ways, subsidy programs, etc., and last resort, these food banks that we’re talking about today, but the number one issue that people talk to me about probably is rent and fear about being able to pay their rent. This just takes that issue off the table until August 20th. Well, what happens on August 20th? You know what? I can’t tell you what’s going to happen two, three months down the road, but I can tell you whatever happens, we will handle it at the time, and that’s what we’ve been doing with this situation all along, literally in two-week increments.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:41)
This is unlike anything we’ve seen before, so I’m not going to sit here and say I have a crystal ball and I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen in a month or two months. Anyone who tells you that, I think I would question that person seriously because there has been no one who has gotten this right from the time it started.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:07)
Take one more.
Speaker 5: (31:08)
Well, I don’t want to take too many questions, but about the rent relief and the landlords who would say they’ve got to pay the mortgage.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:18)
I get it. I get it. That’s a trade-off. None of these decisions are easy. None of these decisions are easy. You’re right. The landlord will say, “Okay, so now the tenant doesn’t pay their rent, but I still have to pay the electric bill. I still have to pay the mortgage.” That is true. That is true, and we’re working on relief from the banks for the landlords, also, and there are programs that the federal government’s doing and the state is doing to make sure those banks also get relief so they don’t have to do any foreclosures, and we stop the foreclosures on the landlords, but you’re right, there is no data trade off between the tenant and the landlord. We are helping the landlords, also, but on a human level, I don’t want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:14)
My grandfather used to say, “If you have your health, we can figure out anything else. We can fix anything else. If it’s about money, we’ll figure it out, but you have to have your health.” That’s why public health versus the economy, I don’t see the trade-off. We have to have our health. We should protect human life. I don’t care if a person is old. I’m old by your definition. I still think I have a value. My mother’s old. She’s the most precious person to me. Protect every life, and I’m not going to trade off public health, and we’ll figure out the dollars, and we’ll figure out the economic impact, but we’ll protect people in the meantime, and we’ll protect their health.
Speaker 4: (33:05)
Governor, quickly, you’ve spoken about COVID-only overflow facilities that can take positive nursing home patients. Are you aware of any in the Hudson Valley?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:15)
We have facilities all across the state that can take any COVID-positive person from a nursing home. Any nursing home operator who can not provide, excuse me, adequate care for anyone in the nursing home, you call the Department of Health. We have beds and care for that person, and no nursing home should keep a person in that nursing home who they cannot provide adequate care, period. They violate their legal obligation and their ethical obligation to the state of New York. If they cannot provide care for any reason, and adequate care, they don’t have enough staff, they don’t have enough equipment. I don’t care what it is, any reason that person has to be referred from that facility, and they have to call the Department of Health, and that’s their legal obligation. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s their legal obligation.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:17)
Thank you very much. Thank you for letting us be here.