Apr 25, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 25
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus briefing on April 25. He said New York is expanding testing to 40K people per day, with more tests for essential workers. Full transcript here.
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Andrew Cuomo: (07:15)
Good morning. Happy Saturday. Today is Saturday. I know that because my calendar says today’s Saturday and it is a beautiful Saturday here New Albany. Sun is out. We’re going to do this. Then I’m going to take the girls hiking up at Thatcher State Park and bring the dog, get out of the house, hike until they are fatigued and exhausted because exhaustion is our friend. Total hospitalizations down again. If you look at that overall curve, that is the mountain little perspective. We are back where we were 21 days ago. 21 days of hell, but we’re back to where we were. What we need to find out is when we will be back to the point where only several hundred people showed up at the hospitals every day with a COVID infection. That’s what we want to see. We want to know how fast that decline continues and how low that decline gets. And we would like to get back to the days of only 400, 500 people showing new infections every day.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:39)
All the numbers are basically saying the same that we are in fact, on the downside of the mountain. I’ve always been worried that there’s a little tick up and that there’d be some evidence that we’re not on decline, but all the evidence says we’re on decline. Even the number of new cases actually tick down yesterday after being stable for a number of days. It’s down to about 1100 new cases only in this crazy reality with 1100 new cases be relatively good news, right? But 1100 new cases, again, we’d like to see that down into the two, three, 400 new cases per day. Just when you think you’re going to have a good day, this reality slaps you right in the face. 437 deaths yesterday, which is actually a tick up. This number is, as you can see, call it flat, call it flat with a slight decline if you’re looking for a silver lining. But this is just terrible, terrible, horrific news. Testing is what we are compulsively obsessively focused on now. Both diagnostic testing, which is a positive negative the antibody testing. We do about 20,000 tests per day.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:14)
Average goes up and down a little bit depending on the day. We had great meeting with the federal government this week and came up with a division of responsibility. I spoke to the other governors about it yesterday with the vice president on a all governors conference call. Spoke about the arrangement with the federal government. I hope the federal government and the other governors follow that template because it’s a template that makes sense. We always said this was a federal state partnership and the president said that he understood the federal government had a role. We came up with a division of responsibility, which is basically the States take responsibility for the labs in their state in getting those labs functioning. We regulate those labs.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:03)
Labs functioning. We regulate those labs and the federal government would take the responsibility of making sure the national manufacturers had the tests, the reagents, the vials, the swabs, all the equipment that the national manufacturer needs to be able to send to our labs, so our labs can actually function. Our labs have these highly sophisticated machines that they bought from national manufacturers, but the machine requires the test kit and the reagents specifically for that machine.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:38)
It’s like you buy a printer from a company for your computer, like a color printer. But the printer requires cartridges from that company. You can have a fancy printer, but if you can’t get the replacement cartridges that printer is a paperweight, right? So we need the national manufacturers to have the reagents, the test kits, and that’s what the federal government is doing.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:05)
But it’s working here in New York. So we’re seeing the number of tests increase and we want to get it stabilized and up. New York state is already doing more tests than anyone because we did get into this first, we were aggressive, we were pushing the line. So we’re actually doing more tests per capita than any country around the world, let alone any state in the United States. As we’re increasing the capacity of the labs, okay, so now our 300 labs are getting more equipment, more supplies, they can do more tests. Now we need more collection mechanisms, more places to collect the test data so they can send it to the labs. It goes collection, then send those samples to the labs, the labs run those samples, get the results back to the people.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:06)
We have boosted the lab capacity to an extent where we need more collection sites now. So where do you get collection sites? We’re going to authorize all the independent pharmacists in this state to be collection sites for testing. I assume, and my guess and my educated guess, is that independent pharmacists will take us up on this. And there are 5,000 pharmacies in New York state. Some of them have already been doing it, some of the larger national chains, but if your local drug store can now become a collection site, people could go to their local drug store. There are about 5,000 in New York. They would be collection sites that would quickly ramp up our collection capacity. So we’re doing that.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:03)
And since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests. We had a protocol with eligibility. Not everybody could get a test. And that’s been a big complaint across the board. Everybody wants a test and they couldn’t get tests because we had a tight screen on the eligibility because we had limited capacity to test.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:32)
As you increase the capacity to test, you can increase the eligibility. And first responders, healthcare workers, and essential employees. Why? Because these people have been carrying the load and they have been subjected to the public all during this crisis. And because they’re public facing, right? These are the people who you interact with. You get on a bus, this is the bus driver. You get in a subway car, this is the subway conductor. You are interacting with government. These are the people who you’re interacting with. If they’re infected, they could possibly spread it to a large number of people.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:15)
So we are dramatically increasing the capacity with these groups. What are the first responders? Firefighters, paramedics, EMT, police officers, police officers, state, local, county, sheriff’s, et cetera. Also correction, parole officers, probation officers. People who are in the prisons. They can now go to the increased number of collection sites in the state. They are eligible to get a test. Healthcare workers, broad definition, direct care providers, healthcare practitioners, medical specialists, occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, residential care program managers. So if you’re working in a residential facility, mental health facility, et cetera, community group residents, you’re now able to get a test and “essential workers”. Essential workers are the people who’ve been keeping everything running.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:20)
You know when we say we close down the economy. We didn’t really close down the economy, right? We closed down the economy relative to what the economy was doing. But you still go to the store and buy groceries. Your lights are still on, right? Someone is picking up the garbage in front of your house. So those essential workers have been functioning all along. And these essential workers, and God bless them, we want to make sure they are now eligible for tests again, because they’ve been working all along. They’ve exposed, and also because when you go in to the dry cleaner, this is the person on the other side of the counter who’s interacting with dozens of people a day. So we want to make sure those people get tested.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:14)
As we continue to develop our testing capacity and the labs are coming up to scale, the collection sites are opening. The more testing we have, the more we will open eligibility. Hopefully one day we get to the point where anybody who wants a test can walk in and get a test. Right? And that was the dream. But we found out quickly that we couldn’t do that. You have 19 million people in the state. So we had to prioritize. We’re still prioritizing, but we’re opening up that prioritization. The more capacity, the more tests, the more we’ll open the eligibility criteria. We’re also focusing on our healthcare workers and first responders. We’re doing antibody testing for our frontline healthcare workers. And we’re starting today coming up to scale with four facilities in downstate New York. Obviously downstate New York handled the bulk of the cases, not just in this state but in this nation. So we’re going to those hospitals that had a large number of coded cases come in and we’re doing antibody testing there as quickly as we can and to the largest scale that we can.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:42)
Elmhurst Hospital was one of the cities, New York City’s public hospitals. When we talk about hospitals downstate, there were about 100 hospitals. About 11 of the 100 are what’s called public hospitals. New York City runs them as part of their health and hospitals corporation. Those public hospitals, really saw a large number of people and they were under stress. And they were under stress, frankly even before the COVID situation, but Elmhurst Hospital, which made national news for the number of cases they were handling Bellevue, Montefiore, SUNY downstate is now running a COVID only hospital. So everybody in that hospital is a COVID patient. And you want to talk about God’s work, that’s where it’s happening. We want to get them the antibody testing.
Andrew Cuomo: (19:40)
And we’re also going to do a significant antibody testing in downstate New York with those frontline transit workers also. People who’ve been working for the MTA, their transit workers union, TWU members, they’ve kept the city operational. You need those buses and you need those subways. If you want to have the hospitals running, if you want to have the grocery stores running, those employees have to be able to get to work. And the MTA, the buses, the subways, they did that for us. God bless them, the MTA and transit workers. And then the police, the first responders who are out there because we have to be safe and we have to be safe even during COVID.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:26)
So NYPD was out there. They had a large number of people who became sick because of the situation. State police, same thing. So we’re going to be doing significant antibody testing there. We’ve said thank you to the first responders and we meant it sincerely. And saying thank you is a good start. People want to know that they’re appreciated. But even better than saying thank you, actions speak louder than words, right? So show me that you’re thankful and act like you’re thankful and get me the help I need. I’m out here doing my job. It’s my public duty. I get it, but I’m sacrificing myself. I’m sacrificing my family. At least show me support. And support is you have the equipment you need, you have the tools you need, and we’re going to get you the testing on a priority basis because you deserve it. Last point, personal opinion. Somebody said to me, “I can’t do this anymore.” People are feeling the stress on a number of levels. They’re not getting a paycheck. Their life is on hold. “Is my business going to come back? Do I have a job at the end of this? My whole life has been disoriented. I just, I can’t take it anymore.” I get it. I get it. I really do fundamentally get it. This has been a God awful situation on many, many levels.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:03)
God awful situation on many, many levels. And many people I’m sure are saying this in their own way, so who said it to me is not important, but it was one of my daughters, I won’t tell you which one though. Just to protect the privacy.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:20)
I get the feeling. Today is day 56. It’s been 56 long days. Generations are called upon to deal with high levels of difficulty. We are called upon to deal with this crisis. Day 56. 1918 pandemic went on for two years, we are in day 56. World War one went on for four years, the great depression went on for four years. You want to talk about economic anxiety. You want to talk about people losing homes, not being able to feed themselves. People living in camps, people living in cars, world war two, six years, Vietnam war, that intensity every night, every night have to hear about the tragedies went on for eight years.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:17)
I get 56 days is a long time and I get it’s the worst thing that we have experienced in modern history. I get that. But just a little perspective, not that it makes our situation any better, but it gives you a sense of perspective. Yes, in life, things happen. On an individual level and on a societal level, things happen. And you have to deal with it and it’s hard, but on the other hand, that makes us who we are. You get shaped by your experiences. This is a terrible experience to go through, but we will manage it, we will handle it, and we will be the better forward.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:06)
56 days or this inconvenience, yeah, think of it this way, what you’re doing is actually saving lives. That’s not rhetorical. That’s not overly dramatic. You are saving lives. What we have done here has saved lives. Every expert, every expert, CDC, white house task force, Cornell university, Columbia university, McKinsey, the group that Bill Gates funded, every one of them projected that there would be at least 100,000 more serious infections in the state of New York, 100,000 more serious infections, more hospitalizations. What happened? We did what we had to do, which was hard and is hard. Well, what did we accomplish? 100,000 fewer serious infections. That’s what 56 days of our relative living through hell has accomplished. And that is a heck of an accomplishment. So yes, it’s not for naught. 100, 000 fewer infections.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:35)
And look, “Life is better than death, even if it is not your own,” A.J Parkinson. Even if you’re 22 and you’re 25 and you’re strong and you’re healthy and you say, “Well, you know what, even if I get coronavirus, it’s not going to affect me because it doesn’t affect the young.” With a little caveat there, except when it does, and your life might’ve been the one that it did affect. But even if you’re right, I’m 22, I’m 25 I would’ve been just fine. Yeah, but who could you have infected? And maybe they weren’t going to be fine because they weren’t 22 when they weren’t 25 because they were 65 and because they had diabetes or they had hypertension or they had an underlying heart condition, or because they were recovering from cancer and a cancer operation, and you infect that person and that person dies because you got infected. That’s the reality of what we’re dealing with. 56 days of pain. Yes, yes. Relative to the past and what other societies have gone through, bad but not the worst that people have gone through. What did we accomplish? 100,000 fewer infections in the state of New York. And we actually saved lives. That’s what we did and that’s what we’re doing and that is inarguable.
Andrew Cuomo: (27:20)
Personal opinion is, I believe everything we did was worth it. People can argue that point, but that is what we did, and for me that is a heck of an accomplishment and want to feel good about and one which New Yorkers will be proud of, because it is what New York is about, which is being tough and being smart and disciplined and unified and loving. So maybe the life you saved is not your own. You still saved a life. And that’s not a bad way to spend one day or 56 days. Questions?
Speaker 4: (28:00)
Governor, you’ve mentioned over the past week that we may take a regional approach to New York state’s reopening things, but does that not undermine the tri-state approach of coordinating with the other States to reopen things when a one state in itself may take various approaches?
Andrew Cuomo: (28:15)
Good question. And you’re right. That’s why it has to be balanced with the tri-state approach. Tri-state approach with then expanded to the other States, we have seven States. Understanding the individuality of a region within that context. So you can look at one region, you can look at the North country, central New York and say, well look on our numbers we are okay, okay on your numbers as a region. But people have cars and people are mobile and people have been cooked up and whatever you do, you could trigger a reaction in that Tri-state area. And you could see people from across that Tri-state area come to your region because you will now the place that I can get a haircut, you are now the place that I can walk down main street and I can go in and get an ice cream cone and have the kids go in and shop. So that’s the balance to all of this and that’s where we’re working through.
Speaker 5: (29:28)
That’s not something that’s really been figured out yet, correct? At the end of the 14 days of consecutive [Crosstalk 00:29:29].
Andrew Cuomo: (29:28)
That’s exactly right. The whole discussion is premature, but it’s something we are working through right now. We’re working with the state coalition, we’re working with regional coalitions and we will marry the two. Okay, not marry them, they’ll be engaged for a period of time.
Speaker 6: (29:46)
And just to further punctuate that point, we started meeting with our LTC partners at the very beginning of last week. And one of the founding principles that we laid out between the states is the importance of the four States. There was an understanding everybody is acknowledging that everyone has regional differences in their home states. And so for example, [inaudible 00:30:06] upstate New York, Massachusetts and Southern to Pennsylvania and then really honing in the Tri-state area with New Jersey and Connecticut. And again, it won’t necessarily work out that all aligns perfectly, but that was one of the major principles that we set out earlier in the week with our partners is that sensitivity to the regions on the borders.
Speaker 7: (30:23)
Do you still [inaudible 00:30:24] financial unveil kind of in a formal way.
Speaker 6: (30:28)
We’re working towards trying to come to a consensus on principles, but there is an acknowledgement within the States that everyone is going to be on their own timeline. The major goal is to not undermine one another’s success in dealing with the infection rates within the States.
Speaker 7: (30:42)
Is there a timeline on when we might [Crosstalk 00:30:44]
Speaker 6: (30:44)
No, there is no timeline yet.
Speaker 8: (30:45)
The update will be the April 29th day for all nonessential state workers to report back to work on that date, I think it was an extension from March 16th and then April 12th, the memo that came down.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:57)
Yeah. We’ll be speaking to that in the next couple of days. Just a quick clarification. The tests at the pharmacies will be diagnostic test positive, negative, not antibody tests.
Speaker 7: (31:09)
And that’s what we are conducting at the pharmacy?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:11)
Speaker 7: (31:12)
Not just collected there? They’ll be conducted there, so you’ll be able to go into a pharmacy and get a test?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:18)
You will be able to go into a pharmacy and get a test. The parlance is the sample will be collected at the pharmacy. The pharmacy then sends it to a lab. The lab conducts the test. So the labs conduct, the pharmacy collects, in this new terminology.
Speaker 7: (31:41)
Quick question, Just in terms of what we’re seeing in terms of new infections, it’s been five weeks since the New York on pause orders took effect. Yesterday we saw 8,000 new cases, presumably that’s because of heightened test, but that would also seem 1300 people come into the hospital. Do we have any demographics, any research on who is getting infected? Are these essential workers? Are these people that are being infected by family members? Are they people that are being infected in communities? Do we know where people are getting sick if people are staying home?
Andrew Cuomo: (32:12)
We know on the hospitalization data, you know how many people come into a hospital, you know what hospital they go into and where that hospital is. I don’t know if you have demographic data. Did we get on her data? Did we get demographics?
Speaker 9: (32:32)
We don’t have broad demographic data. We basically have locations based upon where they are hospitalized.
Speaker 7: (32:38)
So we don’t know where they are being infected, I guess is the question.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:41)
You know what hospital they’re going into. Assuming the hospital they’re going into is located near where they live, but you don’t know where they’re getting sick, no. But they don’t know where they’re getting sick either by the way. Somebody walks into a hospital, you say, “Where did you contact the virus?” They’re not going to be able to…
Andrew Cuomo: (33:03)
You say, “Where did you contact the virus?” They’re not going to be able answer.
Speaker 10: (33:05)
Potentially, we will have that data. It’s aggregated now so we can do it in a real time, so we could present to the public every day the hospitalizations and things like that. Patient data gets submitted on a much greater lag, but for us it was, “Who’s going into the hospital now? What is those percentages so we could monitor the infection in real-time?” The patient specific data, which has more of the demographic data, comes in but much more slowly, so that’s going to be a much more retrospective look. But we were trying to monitor in real-time hospital capacity issues, intubation issues, ICU issues, so we looked for just the raw numbers.
Well, we have to believe that there is widespread community spread still going on, right?
There is. This is why the contact tracing that we’re going to do is going to be so helpful, because when we start to talk to individuals, we’re going to learn a lot about who they were exposed to. Perhaps someone they were exposed to is in the hospital. We’re going to get a lot more information. That’s why that’s so important.
Speaker 12: (33:55)
Dr. [inaudible 00:33:56], it seems like many of these nursing homes before the pandemic had problems with staffing and poor quality care. Do you think the Department of Health did enough leading up to this pandemic to ensure that they were providing quality care and had enough staff?
We have addressed this. Looking at the nursing homes, we continue to reach out to the nursing homes. We were doing that all along. If there was any concern, we were contacted. We reached out to them. We did investigations. As I mentioned once before, we actually even did video checks to be sure that they were doing everything correctly, and we provided the information that they needed. But as the Governor said previously, a lot of this is the nursing homes. If there was a concern, they needed to look into getting what supplies they needed.
Speaker 12: (34:39)
But do you think that your department should have done more in general when leading up to this pandemic to ensure that they had enough staff? That’s clearly going into this. There just weren’t enough people.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:50)
That’s not clear. Look, I did nursing home investigations as Attorney General. There’s a constant tension with nursing homes, any vendor to the state, vendor to the public where they are providing a service and they’re getting paid for a service, and the constant tension is are they actually providing that service? Should they be doing more? Should they be doing better? As Attorney General, we also did video cameras in patients’ rooms to see, hidden video cameras. How many times was the staff coming in? Was the staff doing what they were supposed to do? Were they turning the patient, et cetera? This has been a field of regulation and scrutiny and an investigation that goes back decades. It’s a field that when you look at the past, there have been quote unquote nursing homes scandals in the past.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:47)
It’s a highly regulated, highly investigated field. The Department of Health and the Attorney General, it’s a big staple of what they do. This crisis overwhelmed the nursing homes. And when I say no one is to blame, okay, you had a virus that prays on vulnerable people, concentration of vulnerable people in a nursing home. But the regulations still apply, right? Even though you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, the regulations still apply. And for the nursing homes, one of the central regulations is if you cannot provide appropriate care for that patient, you must transfer that patient, period. That’s the rule. And if you can’t find a place to transfer the patient, then Department of Health will find a place to transfer the patient; another nursing home, another facility, but that rule does not change.
Andrew Cuomo: (36:56)
Now, you can say, “Well, look. I can’t provide care because of this pandemic, because my staff is out ill, because I can’t get supplies, because I don’t have masks, because I can’t quarantine properly,” whatever reason. But if you can’t provide care, you’re not supposed to be keeping that person in your facility, period, and that’s what most of this is going to come down to. Now, they’re going to do an additional investigation to see what happened, if there were other instances, because there are other regulations also. You have to inform patients and their family. That’s a regulation. I understand your staff was stressed and this was a horrendous period, but it didn’t waive any of the regulations of good conduct of business.
Speaker 13: (37:44)
[inaudible 00:37:44] said that they’d have limited access to testing. If we’re offering testing at pharmacies, why not offer the same thing at American Home?
Speaker 10: (37:57)
Just to be clear, we’ve done as much… Nursing homes could do testing. It’s local options where we’ve set up testing in other places, but we’ve done 28 sites for nursing homes and we’re expanding that by another 15, so we’re adding as much testing capacity as humanly possible.
Andrew Cuomo: (38:15)
Let’s take one more. I’m going to put on my mask and go hiking, hiking with a mask. [crosstalk 00:38:21] By the way, I have a whole collection of really beautiful masks that have been sent to me from people all across the country. I’m going to show you. Mask art is a new boutique specialization that has developed. Mask art.
Speaker 13: (38:38)
Andrew Cuomo: (38:39)
Go ahead, please.
Governor, you mentioned some elections, some special elections last night in Queens and Syracuse. The Chris Collins one is still good to go? Do you expect that to happen?
Andrew Cuomo: (38:48)
Legally, I can’t affect a congressional race, a federal race. Is that right?
Speaker 14: (38:54)
Yeah, the law says that the governor may call a special election for the legislative races, but with the congressional, it’s a shall, so we were mandated to. That’s why that one race is the only one that will remain a special on that day.
Andrew Cuomo: (39:07)
Difference between may and shall, all the difference in the world. Go ahead, Jesse. Last question. [crosstalk 00:39:12]
You said yesterday that you would be evaluating and making a decision on the on pause order in the coming week. Could we anticipate that that decision, the on pause, whether to extend, would also be coupled with a decision on, say, [inaudible 00:39:24] reopenings or plans like that? Will that be part and parcel with that?
Andrew Cuomo: (39:29)
You can anticipate anything you’d like to anticipate. I do not control your anticipation level, so you can anticipate whatever you’d like. They’re not necessarily linked. We’ll make a decision at the right time because people need notice, but I don’t think there’s any specific linkage between them.
Didn’t you mention a scenario where certain industries, construction, manufacturing and such, might be open prior to say retail or mass gatherings or stuff like that?
Andrew Cuomo: (39:57)
Yes. Yes, by definition. By definition, nobody’s going to say, “Okay, region X is open,” and everything opens automatically. The phased approach, that’s what we’re talking about. Phased-in timing, phased-in industry, phased-in activity level. Remember we did that matrix? How essential is your business by how safe is your business, and that’s the matrix. Wear a mask. [crosstalk 00:40:33] Wear a mask.
Speaker 15: (40:35)
[crosstalk 00:40:35] unemployment? [crosstalk 00:40:36] pandemic unemployment assistance? Can we get an update on that?
Andrew Cuomo: (40:41)
We also get an update tomorrow on where we are, but there’s nothing much