May 4, 2020

Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Briefing Transcript May 4

Andrew Cuomo Briefing May
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsAndrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Briefing Transcript May 4

Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on May 4. Cuomo outlined a 10-point May 15 regional reopening criteria for New York.

 

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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… works with the Department of Financial Services, but he’s been working with us in Albany during this Coronavirus pandemic. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, who’s secretary to the governor, to her left, Robert Mujica, who’s the state budget director. He doesn’t smile much nowadays because the state budget is not in great shape, but when the federal government does the right thing and gives us funding, we expect that he’s going to smile that big smile again. It’s a pleasure to be in Rochester with so many of my friends who’ve done such great work for the state, former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, who worked with me when we first got started and has done great work for the entire state of New York. Danny Wegman, pleasure to be with you. Wegmans is a great New York corporation, and Dan is a great civic leader, and they’ve been very helpful through this situation. Also, thank you for allowing us to do the antibody testing at Wegmans. That’s been very, very helpful, and we thank you for everything you’ve done. And Nicole Wegman, thank you, pleasure. Thank you for being on our New York Forward advisory board to help us going forward and find our way through this.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:13)
Let’s give you an update on where we are today. The total number of hospitalizations is down. You see that curve coming down. You see that mountain that we went up, and now we’re on the other side of the mountain. You start to see the shape of the mountain. Unfortunately, the decline from the mountain is not as steep as the incline. And the big question for us in New York and every state across the nation has been how fast and how low does that decline go? How fast does the decline actually happen? And what is the lowest level that the decline will reach? Unfortunately, you see that shape. We were hoping for a quick up plateau at the top, which is what they talked about, but a fast decline. You see the decline is again not as steep as the incline, but it is a decline, and that’s good news. The net change in total hospitalizations is down, and that change in intubations is down, and that’s always good news. When a person is intubated, roughly 80% of the times there is not a good outcome. So the fact that the intubations is down is good news.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:48)
And then the other end is how many new cases are coming in the door every day, how many new diagnoses in COVID cases? And that number is also declining. So not only are the number of people in hospitals coming down, but the number of new cases coming in the door is down, and that’s good news because it had plateaued at about 900 statewide for a few days. But this number is down at 700, and that’s a good number. I would take this with a grain of salt, as they say, because this is reporting from yesterday, which was a Sunday. And sometimes we get different results on the weekend. Remember this whole reporting system is just been put in place. This never happened before. This is now every hospital in the state reporting every day for the first time. So it’s a plus or minus across the board. This is the number that haunts me every day, and this number is not declining anywhere nearly as fast as we would like to see it decline. Still 226 New Yorkers who passed away, and so we don’t become immune. We talk about these numbers. It’s 226 families. That’s 226 wives or brothers or sisters or children that are now suffering the loss of a loved one. So we remember them in our thoughts and our prayers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:28)
People are all talking about reopening, which we should be talking about. This is not a sustainable situation. Close down. Everything. Close down the economy. Lock yourself in the home. You can do it for a short period of time, but you can’t do it forever. But reopening is more difficult than the close-down. The close-down was relatively simple. You go into the basement, and you throw the big power switch, and everything just goes down. Close the businesses. Stay at home. It was a blunt operation, and that was done all across the country, just stop everything now. When you go to restart the reopening, now knowing what we know, it’s more nuanced. You have to be more careful. And again, no one has done this before. No one has been here before. So first, start by learning the lessons that we did learn through this experience. And second, let’s be smart about what we do. And I get the emotion, and I get the impatience, and I get the anxiety. We all feel it. When I say this situation is unsustainable, it’s unsustainable on many levels. It’s unsustainable economically. It’s unsustainable personally. A lot of anxiety is now all through our community. We see it in increased alcoholism, increased substance abuse, increased domestic violence. So this is a very, very difficult period, and people want to move on, yes, but let’s be smart about what we do, and let’s learn the lessons.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:14)
One of the lessons is we have never been here before, and we didn’t really know what was going on. CDC releases a report end of last week that says the virus was actually coming to the East Coast from Europe. Everybody was looking at China for all those months, China, China, China, China, yeah. China was last November, December. The virus migrated from China while we were all staring at China and went to Europe. And the strain that came to the United States came from Europe. We had people in the airports stopping people from China, testing people from China. The federal government did a lot of testing, a lot of screening people getting off planes from China, yeah, but meanwhile the people from Europe were walking right past them, and that’s where the strain came from that was infecting this area. And that’s what the CDC just learned last week. And this is going back to February on one of the most studied topics ever.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:27)
Again, just learn the lessons of what happened. You now add that piece of information on the Europe trips, and then you see the number of flights that came from Europe during that time, where they landed, and now it explains why you’ve seen the outbreak in Chicago that you’ve seen, why you’ve seen the number of cases in New York because, yes, the flights were landing here. People were coming from Italy and UK and from European countries, and nobody thought to screen them. Nobody was on guard, and you add that to the density of New York, especially in New York City, and that virus just took off. Okay, we didn’t know. We didn’t know. Now we do. We also can look back in history. You look at that 1918 flu pandemic that they talk about. The places that opened too soon saw that flu come right back. And by the way, that flu was not one wave. That was three waves, first wave, second wave, third wave. Second wave was worse than the first wave.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:44)
And watch the other countries that went through this before us. We’re not the first one down the shoot. There were other countries that went down before us. You see they wanted to reopen also. They were feeling the pressure on reopening. And you study those cases, and you see that you reopen too soon or you reopen unintelligently, and you can then have an immediate backlash. And that’s not speculation. That is looking at other countries, and look at what has happened around the world. And then you talk to the experts who know. Listen to what they’re saying. Dr. Fauci , who I think is one of the best voices and minds on this, Dr. Fauci has been through this in different iterations. He was one of the pioneers on the HIV virus and AIDS. And he says, “We could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.” Could be. Why? Because he doesn’t know. He’s not sure, but could be for a bad fall or bad winter. Okay, so put all of this in the equation.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:58)
And then also acknowledge and actualize that the truth is that nobody knows what happens next. And when it happens. Well, how can that be that nobody knows? We’re so sophisticated. We have so much intelligence. We have so many experts. This is the United States of America. How can it be that no one knows? Because no one knows. I speak to the best experts globally, globally, and nobody can tell you for sure. Now, experts, we look to experts, and we expect them to know, so we push them to know. Answer the question. Tell me when. What’s going to happen in September? What’s going to happen in December? Sometimes the answer is I don’t know. Sometimes that’s the honest answer. I was talking to my daughters last night, and they said, “You say at your briefings,’ I don’t know.’ How can you say that.” First, I’m not really sure they watch my briefings, but they’re right. Sometimes I say, “I don’t know.” Why? Because I don’t know. And if you don’t know, say you don’t know. And I speak, again, to the best minds in this country, the best minds around the globe, and they don’t know. So if you don’t know, say you don’t know. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart. No reason to get defensive. I don’t know. When you know what you don’t know and admit it, it will actually keep you safe.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:41)
My daughters don’t quite agree with this yet, but I haven’t given up on the concept. Know what you don’t know. Know when you don’t know what the future holds. You can be safe because then you can prepare for different possibilities, and that’s where we are. We don’t know, but we will be prepared for all possibilities. So reopening, chart a course with the best information you have, learning from the lessons you have, but be able to correct that course depending on what happens, which means don’t act emotionally. Don’t act because I feel this, I feel that, because someone said, “Well, other states are opening, so you must be able to open if other states are opening.” Forget the anecdotal. Forget the atmospheric. Forget the environmental. Forget the emotional. Look at the data. Look at the measurements. Look at the science. Follow the facts. And that’s what we’ve done here from day one. This is no gut instinct. This is look at the data, look at the science, look at the metrics, move forward, measuring what you can and what you know, and then be prepared to adjust. Well, I want specificity. I want to know for sure.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:03)
[inaudible 00:13:01] while I want specificity, I want to know for sure, you don’t. But there’s liberation in knowing that. So let’s do this intelligently based on metrics and we’ll see what happens and we’ll adjust to whatever happens. Well, what does that mean on metrics? You can measure this and we have to measure this. You look at that percentage and the rate of hospitalizations, which we have, right? That’s the chart that goes up and down. You watch that hospitalization rate. Do your diagnostic testing so you know how many people are testing positive and you can watch that rate going up or down or flat. Do the contract tracing. So, after the testing you follow up and you do that contact tracing, and you are then reducing the infection spread by isolating the positives.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:59)
If you do those things, you will control the rate of transmission of the virus, which is everything. Nobody says you’re going to eliminate the virus in the short term, nobody. But you can control the rate of transmission. And if you can control the rate of transmission, you can control the rate of transmission from becoming an outbreak or an epidemic or overwhelming your public health system. That is the best you can do. So, control the rate of transmission to what they call 1.1 or less. 1.1 is every person infects 1.1 other people. More than one other person. If you’re doing that, that is an outbreak. That means it’s going to increase exponentially and it’s going to be out of control.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:52)
As long as your rate of transmission is manageable and low, then reopen your businesses and reopen the businesses in phases, so you’re increasing that activity level while you’re watching the rate of transmission. Rate of transmission goes up, stop the reopening, close the valve, close the valve right away. So reopen businesses, do it in phases and watch that rate of transmission. If it gets over 1.1 stop everything immediately. That’s where the other countries wound up. They started to reopen. They exceeded the 1.1, it became an outbreak again. They had to slow down. Rather than starting and stopping, you’d rather have a controlled start so you don’t have to stop, right? And that’s what you learn from the other countries. You reopen too fast then you have to stop and nobody wants to have gone through all of this. And then start just to stop again.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:02)
Well, how does that happen? First of all, it’s not going to happen statewide. This state has different regions, which are in much different situations than other regions in this state. And rather than wait for the whole state to be ready reopen on a regional basis. If upstate has to wait for downstate to be ready, they’re going to be waiting a long time. So analyze the situation on a regional basis. Okay? And you look at a region on four measures, the number of new infections, your healthcare capacity. If the infections goes too high you overwhelm your health system. Now you’re Italy with people on gurneys in a hallway because your hospital system can’t handle it.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:57)
Do your diagnostic testing so you’re seeing how the infection is increasing or decreasing and do the contact tracing. Have that system in place so when you test, and you find the positive, you trace the contacts from that positive person and you’re isolating them to bring down the rate. And you do that on a regional basis. That system has to be in place for a regional basis.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:28)
How do you start? When can I start reopening? We looked at guidelines from the CDC which say a region has to have at least 14 days of decline in total hospitalizations and death on a three day rolling average, so you’d take a three day average. You have to have 14 days of decline. You can’t have more than 15 new total cases or five new deaths on a three day rolling average. This is telling you that you are basically at a plateau level that you can actually start to reopen. Then you’re watching the rate of infection and the spread of the infection and the benchmark there is fewer than two new COVID patients per 100,000 residents, right? It’s based on your population to account for the variance in the different sizes of regions across the state. Then anticipate, protect yourself from all possibilities. Well, what if we have a surge again? Never fill your hospitals to more than 70% capacity. Leave 30% in case you have a surge.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:50)
Remember this virus is tricky. The rate of infection… A person who gets infected today shows up in the hospital 10 days from today or two weeks from today. So, that infection rate goes up you don’t feel it for two weeks. There’s a lag to it. You want to make sure you have 30% of the hospital beds available in case you have that surge. Also, learn the lessons from before. Every hospital has to have 90 days of PPE for that hospital at the rate that they have been using it during COVID. We cannot have another med scramble where nurses and doctors don’t have gowns and masks, et cetera, because the hospitals don’t have the necessary stockpile. So, make sure every hospital has the stockpile.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:52)
On the testing, we have done a really remarkable work on testing. One million New Yorkers have now been tested, believe it or not, and the CDC Corona Virus Task Force for the White House recommends that for a region to reopen, you have 30 tests for every 1000 residents ready to go. So, what testing capacity do we need for a region to reopen? You have to be prepared to do 30 tests for every 1000 residents. New York is doing more tests than any country in the state by far. New York is doing more tests than any country on the globe per capita. So, we’re way ahead in testing, but it doesn’t matter what we’re doing with statewide. To open a region, that region has to have a testing capacity of 30 per 1000.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:55)
The national guard has been doing a great job for us in putting together testing kits and distributing testing kits, and we want to thank them very much, but we have to have those tests and we have to have what they call tracers, contact tracers in place. Mayor Bloomberg has been very helpful. Former mayor of New York City in putting together this tracing system. This has never existed before on this scale. A group of people who literally trace contacts from a person who’s positive. Who did you have dinner with last night? Who did you have dinner with two nights ago? Who might you have been in contact with? And then contacting those people to say, “Do you have any symptoms? If you do, you should know you were with John Smith. John Smith tested positive. He said he went to dinner with you. You should be on alert.” That whole tracing system has never been done. Not only in this state, but in this country. So, that all has to be set up and it has to be done.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:07)
Once that is all done, then you can talk about reopening businesses. Well, which businesses do we open first? You open businesses first that are most essential and pose the lowest risk. Okay? Most essential and the lowest risk. Phase one, we’re talking about construction, manufacturing, and select retail with curbside pickup. They are the most essential with the lowest risk. Second phase, professional services, retail, the administrative support, real estate. Third phase, restaurant, food services, accommodation. Fourth arts, entertainment, recreation, education.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:59)
Remember, density is not your friend here. Large gatherings are not your friend. That’s where the virus tends to spread. That’s why those situations would be down at the end. And then we need businesses to also re-imagine how they’re going to do business and get ready to protect their workforce. To change their physical environment to the extent they need to, and to change their processes to make sure people can socially distance. People remain in a safe environment. And that’s going to be up to businesses to come up with ways to reconfigure their workplace and their processes to make this work, and that’s business by business. Government can say these are the standards, but a business is going to have to figure out how to do that.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:58)
When you look at this state, there are some regions that right now by the numbers pose a lower risk. Some that pose a higher risk. We can tell you by region right now of those criteria that we went through, which ones are in place for which region? So which ones have the right hospitalization, the right testing regimen, the right contact tracing regimen, and which ones still have work to do in those areas. And this is going to be region by region and each region has to put together the leaders in those respective areas who put together this system and monitor this system literally on a daily basis.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:52)
So, they’re getting all that input, all those specifics, all that data, and then day by day they’re making a decision as to how to proceed with reopening based on the data. Based on the facts. And that’ll be a little different for every region in the state. May 15th is when the statewide pause order, P-A-U-S-E, not P-A-W-S, the pause order. The pause order was to stop all businesses, stay at home. That expires on May 15th. May 15th regions can start to reopen and do their own analysis, but these are the facts that they have to have in place to do it. Start now. Don’t wait to May 15th. Don’t call me up on May 15th and say, “Well, the pause order expired. I want to open,” because I’m going to ask you the questions I just asked… I just presented. Do you have a health-

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:03)
I just present it. Do you have a healthcare system in place? Is your health system ready? Can your hospitals handle it? Do you have testing in place? Do you have tracing in place? Have you talked to the businesses about how they’re going to reopen? So, we have a couple of weeks, but this is what local leaders, this is what a community has to deal with to reopen safely and intelligently, in my opinion. This can’t just be, we want to get out of the house, we’re going. No. Let’s be smart. Let’s be intelligent. Let’s learn from the past. Let’s do it based on facts. We are at a different time and place. Government is fundamentally in a different position than it was just a couple of months ago. This is for real now, right? Government politics, it’s not about optics, it’s not about celebrities, not about press releases, it’s not about what I put on Instagram yesterday.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:11)
This is about government leaders’ performance, their expertise. This is a situation where their competence and their ability can be the difference between life and death, literally. And what the governments have done, federal, state, local, what we’ve done in this state has literally saved lives. We reduced all the projected hospitalization rates dramatically by about 100,000 New Yorkers, 100,000 fewer new Yorkers were hospitalized than they predicted, 100,000, think about that, if we had 100,000 more people in our hospital system. First of all, our hospital system would have collapsed if the projections were true, if we didn’t change those projections. And we literally saved lives. How many of those 100,000 would have been hospitalized and would have died?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:13)
So, we’ve done great work at a tremendous cost and tremendous hardship, but we’ve done great work. We just have to remain vigilant and smart and competent going forward. And that’s what New York tough means. New York tough means we’re tough, but we’re smart, we’re disciplined, we’re unified, and we are loving. And it’s the love of community and love of each other and respect for each other, which is what has gotten us through this and will continue to. Thank you very much for taking the time to be here. Thank you for the social distancing. Questions for myself or any of my colleagues?

Speaker 1: (28:55)
Sir, do you think it’s about time that you tell local police that they should start ticketing people if they’re not wearing masks outside?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:04)
Mask wearing, I said, look, I believe this a time for honest, straightforward talk. I said that I think it’s disrespectful of people not to wear masks. Think about it. You see all these commercials on TV. We thank you to our heroes, thank you to the nurses, thank you to the doctors, thank you to the transit workers, thank you to the police officers. And we should be thankful, right? They went to work so all of us could stay safe and go home.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:43)
The least gratitude you can show is at least wear the mask so you don’t infect more people who place more of a burden on the hospitals and the nurses and the doctors who we’re all saying thank you for your great service. You really want to say thank you, then respect them and respect their job and wear the mask so you don’t infect people. Well, I don’t want to wear a mask. It’s not that big a deal. And by the way, you don’t wear a mask for yourself. You wear a mask to protect me. I wear a mask to protect you. We owe each other a certain amount of reasonableness and respect in society. And I owe you that level of respect, that if I’m sick, I should wear a mask.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:36)
Local governments have the ability to enforce and to penalize. That’s up to local governments. But do I think local government should be enforcing it and should there be sanctions? Yes. Yes. Because it is a public health emergency. This is not just, do me a favor. This is a public health emergency, and it’s a statewide order that I put in place that I’m proud of. And local governments have the responsibility to enforce it, and part of their right, their legal right, is they can have a penalty or a sanction that they impose. So Rochester can have one penalty, it can be appropriate to the community. New York City’s in a different situation. But yeah, I think local government should enforce it and I think there should be a penalty, because you could literally kill someone. You could literally kill someone because you didn’t want to wear a mask. How cruel and irresponsible would that be?

Speaker 1: (31:43)
Do you wear a mask when you’re not here?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:46)
Yes. Yes. You don’t have to wear… No one said wear a mask all the time, right? Wear a mask if you may be in a situation where you can’t socially distance. You go for a walk in the woods, you don’t have to be wearing a mask. You come to a point, even from your walk in the woods where you’re going to be in a parking lot or there’s an entrance and an exit and you may run into other people, wear the mask. You can have the mask down when you’re walking in the woods, but now you see someone coming the other way, I’m going to pass by the other person, you put the mask on.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:36)
It’s the least that we can do, right? Everyone is killing themselves. People are working 24 hours a day. Show some respect. Show some basic modicum of respect.

Speaker 2: (32:55)
In order to [inaudible 00:32:55] more tests, there’s a need for more clinical [inaudible 00:32:57] and other supplies at hospitals. Is there a [inaudible 00:33:02]?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:04)
Yeah, putting all of these new systems in place is an incredible task. And in society now, we have a temptation to blame. Well, who’s to blame? Who’s to blame? Nobody is to blame that we don’t have testing capacity for millions of Americans. We’ve never done this before. Our testing system was basically for the flu test or strep or some other blood test when the doctor would send you to a lab to get a blood test. We never had a testing system in this nation that could do this volume. So this whole thing is a scramble. And it was a scramble between the federal government in the states, who’s supposed to do it? Who’s responsible?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:53)
I had a good meeting with the president a while back where we sat down and we said, look, the states control the labs, we have about 300 labs in New York State, we regulate them. The state should be responsible for what they can do and we need the federal government to help where they can. The supply chain issue of reagents, manufacturing, et cetera, that is an international supply chain. Ironically, so much of this stuff comes from China, it’s incredible. On the testing, the reagents, the chemicals, as well as the PPE, when we were looking for masks and gowns, everything was in China. But the federal government has assumed the responsibility of that international supply chain, the reagents, et cetera. The states take over at the state line. But that supply has increased and we are distributing it. And, as you saw, we’re doing more testing than any other state or any other country per capita, so we’re coming online very, very quickly. But we still have more to do.

Speaker 3: (35:01)
Governor, on Friday you announced that schools won’t be reopening for the rest of the school year, and I spoke to local subordinates who said that they’ll be waiting on state guidance to start making those plans. So have you started reaching out to schools yet, or when can we expect that? What can they expect?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:18)
Yeah, they’re going to get guidance on what plan they need to reopen schools, which is basically the analog to what a business needs. Right? I want to reopen my manufacturing company. Okay, how do you do it and keep people six feet apart? How do you do it in the cafeteria? How do you do it in the transport? How do you run your business in a way that’s going to now meet these social distancing guidelines? Same thing for a school.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:49)
Part of the issue for school was just the gatherings in the school. You have 25 students in a class. How do you put 25 students in a class and they’re six feet apart? Look at this space, right? Even these press conferences. You need, for 20 people, you need a tremendous size room. How would you do that in a school? How do you socially distance students? Do you need more classrooms? Which means they need more teachers. How do you serve lunch? What do you do about the bus? How do you keep fewer students on the bus?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (36:26)
So, those kinds of details have to be in the reopening plan. They’ll get guidance on that. But it’s going to be easier said than done, especially for a school, because think about it, the problem is the gathering. A school is a gathering. That’s what it is.

Speaker 4: (36:41)
Sir, how can you go into [inaudible 00:36:41] practicing social distancing and mask up? Why shouldn’t I be able to go into any school under the same guidelines? If the people who work in these half empty hospitals now are masked up, why can’t I be masked up and go visiting dying relatives? Why can’t I go to church when we’re having it? What is the stance when perpetuating this lockdown?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:14)
Yeah. Look, I get the whole liberate movement. There’s no reason for a closing of anything. Just open everything up and let everybody go do whatever they want to do. I get that argument. I hear it, I understand it, I’m sympathetic to it. Everybody wants out. I also know the facts of what has happened to the places who have done that and what you suggest, that was all those countries that saw a spike in the number of cases right afterwards, saw a spike in the infection rate, saw a spike in the hospitalizations, saw a spike in the number of deaths. And I would like to see as few New Yorkers pass away as possible. So yes, people want to get out. On the other hand, we want to do it in a responsible way. And that’s the whole question.

Speaker 5: (38:15)
All these things for something that 89% of us can’t and we’re only going to get sick from it.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:25)
No, 80 and 90% of us don’t get the coronavirus. Nobody has gotten the coronavirus before. Some people say, “Well, this is like a flu.” Yeah, it’s not like a flu. Even 80 to 90% of us don’t get the flu. Right? But this is a different beast that we’re dealing with, and we learned that the hard way. You don’t hear anyone saying anymore, “This is like the flu.” Right? That was back in January, February. That was before we had 18,000 people in our hospitals in New York. This is not a flu. Let’s take one more. Yes?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:03)
This is not a flu. Let’s take one more. Yes?

Speaker 6: (39:03)
[inaudible 00:39:03] pending situation. Why is that happening, [inaudible 00:39:15] priorities in place who are stuck in pending status [inaudible 00:39:21]?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:22)
Yeah. This is a national problem. We have unemployment systems. The States run the unemployment system. In this case, we have a lot of federal benefits that are running through the unemployment system. The unemployment system was set up with phone operators and a website to handle like thousands of calls, thousands of input. We now have millions of inputs. It has overwhelmed every state unemployment website, office, et cetera. I talked to all the governors on these conference calls. They’re all struggling to deal with a number of unemployment claims. Federal government then just passed a piece of legislation several weeks ago that had additional benefits for people, which then required new signups and then it brought more people to the websites, et cetera. We have hired over 3000 people to actually run our unemployment service, our website, and to handle the telephones. 3000 people, which is just incredible.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (40:33)
Just for the unemployment line, and we’ve made great progress. There is still for some people a delay because you do have to document and certify that the person is eligible. It can’t be just somebody calls up and Bob Duffy calls and you say okay and you send them a check. Federal law and common sense requires that you affirm certain information. The good news is even if there’s a delay on the website, it doesn’t cost you any money when you get the check. The check is from the date of your eligibility, even though the website can be a pain in the neck to deal with. But I’ll ask Melissa Del Rosa who has been overseeing this if she has an update on the unemployment site.

Melissa Del Rosa: (41:21)
On those people who have pending status, and this is actually very important and commissioner Riordan is going to do a call later today to brief out on the latest. What we found in the last several days is that a lot of the people who are in pending status have not gone on and certified their unemployment status, which is a separate process from going through the application. So we filed the application, you do the phone call, you process through, but then you have to go into the website, into your account and certify that you’re unemployed. And that’s something you have to do every week by Saturday. So you can either do it on your website account or you can call and there’s two separate numbers for unemployment insurance. It’s (888) 581-5812, and for pandemic unemployment insurance, it’s (833) 324-0366, and you have to do that every single week and certify that you are still unemployed and eligible to work. And then they process that information. So we sent out 90,000 emails over the weekend to a batch of people we identified that were stuck in that pending status because of that.

Melissa Del Rosa: (42:18)
And as I said, commissioner Reardon’s going to be doing a more detailed call this afternoon to continue to get this information out to the public. But that is the number one thing that I would recommend to those people who are still sitting in pending status.

Speaker 7: (42:28)
[inaudible 00:42:29].

Melissa Del Rosa: (42:33)
Yes, priority status. And just to punctuate one other thing the governor said about the flu, the one big difference between coronavirus and the flu is that the flu has a vaccine. So for those people who are still making that comparison, I’d like you to consider that.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:50)
Well, you don’t know, what on the flu vaccine? Coronavirus, you don’t know what percent is going to wind up getting it. Nobody does. And the experts don’t know either.

Speaker 7: (42:58)
[inaudible 00:43:02].

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:03)
Well, that’s not true. But yeah, let’s say it is true that the overwhelming number of people who get it don’t die. Yeah, okay. Yeah, that’s fine. Unless you are the person who dies, then it’s not so fine.

Speaker 8: (43:24)
There is some state investigation. Has there been [inaudible 00:43:29] keep them inside?

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:35)
Yeah, the nursing homes have seen in many ways the most intense issue here. And when you think about where this even started, it started in a nursing home in state of Washington. The vulnerable population, our senior citizens, people with comorbidities, compromised immune systems, and a nursing home is a aggregation of those people. And that’s how it started. And that is where it is most dangerous in the nursing homes. I understand that. I understand the nursing home staff, people who staff these nursing homes have been doing a fantastic job because it really is very difficult. And we had to put some precautions in place that are just so harsh. I mean, we can’t have, we said no visitors to a nursing home during this entire time. I mean, just think how harsh that is, right? But all it takes is one person to walk into that nursing home with the virus and then you’re off to the races.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:43)
So we’re doing everything we can. The nursing homes, we’re working very hard. We also announced an investigation with the attorney general and the department of health to make sure the nursing homes are doing what they need to do. Many of them are privately run, but the state can regulate them. They have to notify families, et cetera. So we’re doing an investigation on that. But remember the basic premise of the nursing home. The nursing home can only accept or keep a patient if they can provide adequate care for that patient. If they have a COVID patient or non-COVID patient but they can’t provide adequate care for that person, it is their obligation to transfer the person. If they can’t find the place to transfer the person, it’s their obligation to call the state department of health, and the state department of health will transfer the person.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:44)
We have facilities for COVID nursing home residents. We have some facilities that adjust for COVID positive nursing home residents. So we have those facilities available. If a nursing home can’t care for a COVID resident, call the department of health. The department of health will transfer the patient, period. And that responsibility is on the nursing home. They have to know who they can care for and who they can’t care for. If they can’t care for them for any reason. My staff is out sick. I don’t have the PPE, I can’t quarantine, I can’t isolate, for whatever reason, they have an obligation to call the state department of health and say, “I have to transfer this person,” and we have existing facilities and beds for them. But the nursing home has to make that determination. And if they are caring for people or they have people who they’re not suited to care for, then they’re violating the state policy. And that’s part of what this investigation is going to look at. So I’ve said to nursing homes before, I say it again. If you cannot provide adequate care, then that person has no business being in your nursing home. And we do have facilities and we do have beds that can care for nursing home residents and do it well and do it safely. Last point I’d like to make, today we’re talking about what local government officials have to do, what each region has to do to be ready. May 15th is a possible reopening if you’re ready. This is how you’re ready. Learning from the lessons on the science, on the facts. But this is a situation where yes, government is first and foremost in a position where they have to make decisions and perform and do it well and competence matters and professionalism matters, and will hold government officials accountable. I want to be held accountable, hold government officials accountable, but we also need local officials. We need our hospital administrators to be a big part of this and we need every citizen to be part of this. You know who’s going to keep you safe? You are. You are, not me. You are by your actions. You know who’s going to keep your family safe? Your family and you are, by being responsible and reasonable in this situation. And then you know how we keep each other safe? By our individual responsibility and respect. By wearing the mask, by maintaining the social distancing. That’s how we get through this. Everybody has a role to play here. There is no pointing fingers. Nobody’s been here before. It’s no one else’s job. It’s all of us together, and that’s what has worked so well so far. We just have to stay at it. It’s been an honor to be with you. Thank you very much.