May 13, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 13
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, May 13. Cuomo said 4 upstate regions of New York can begin reopening on Friday. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:25)
Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here. Let me introduce the people who were with me, those over you are not familiar with them. To my right Dr. Howard Zucker, who is the New York State Commissioner of Health and is doing a fantastic job here. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To her left, Gareth Rhodes, who’s Deputy Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services but has been working with us on this COVID situation. He’s been doing a great job, pleasure to be in the north country today, Jefferson County. I want to thank Dr. Ty Stone for having us and the hospitality today. I wear a mask. Apparently it doesn’t say anything. You don’t see any words on it. But when someone wears a mask, it says to other people, I respect you. I respect your family. I respect the work of our frontline heroes, the nurses, the doctors, et cetera. And I wear this mask to protect you and your family because I respect you. It’s a sign of respect, and all the New Yorkers, I believe, should do it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:39)
Let’s talk about the facts today and the situation we’re looking at today. Number of hospitalizations are down again, so that is good news. The rolling total of the number of hospitalizations has been down, and that’s good news. Number of intubations is down, and that’s good news. And new cases per day, which is something we watch very carefully, little bit up but overall down. I refer to that as the mountain. You see the outline of the Mountain Adirondacks. We know about mountains. You see how fast we went up and how much slower the decline was. And that’s important. That’s what the national experts are talking about when they say you could have an outbreak that you couldn’t recover from. The increase, the incline is very fast. The virus travels very quickly, and then the getting control of the outbreak is much slower and much harder.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:53)
And that was the experience had here in New York. You see how fast it went up and how many days of super effort by New Yorkers it took to get that spread under control and to reduce the rate of new cases. The number of lives lost, still painfully and tragically high. These are not numbers. These are families. These are lost individuals. They’re fathers, and mothers and brothers and sisters. And 166 families are in pain today, and they are in our thoughts and prayers. When you look at where we are today, we’re just about where we were when we started this terrible situation. So we have, hopefully, come through the worst. We paid a heck of a price for it, but we’ve come through the worst.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:52)
One of the things we’ve been very diligent in doing is taking care of our essential workers. We owe them. There’s still a right thing in life and a wrong thing. There’s still obligation and gratitude. And the essential workers we owe. We closed down everything. We communicated how important it was to do that, how deadly this virus was. And then we told the essential workers, “But you have to show up tomorrow even though this is a deadly virus. We need you to show up, nurses, doctors, transit workers, police officers. We need you to go to work while everybody else can stay home and try to be safe.” They made a tremendous sacrifice, and I ask them to do it myself day after day. And I told them we would do everything we needed to do to protect them. We’ve been doing testing of the essential workers to see if we have a problem anywhere. And good news has been the frontline workers are testing at lower rates than the general population.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:10)
So Downstate New York, the transit workers tested, about 14% of the overall number tested positive. That’s compared to New York City. We’re about 19.9% of the general population. The healthcare workers, 12%. think about that. Nurses, doctors in emergency rooms, 12%. You know what that means? That means PPE works. Masks work. Gloves work. hand sanitizing works. How do healthcare workers have a lower percentage of infection than the general population? Because people don’t wear these at home and they don’t take the precautions. But this works NYPD, 10%. Fire Department, 17%. We then sampled the New York State Police who’ve been doing extraordinary work. We sampled 2,700, which is a large sample of the State Police. Only 3% tested positive, and that’s general population Upstate New York of about 12%. So that’s also very good news. And then we tested the people who worked at work at DOCS, our Department of Correction Services.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:27)
Prisons we’ve also been very careful because prisons you have a congregate population. Wherever you have those gatherings that’s where we see that virus spread. So we did a test of those people who work at the Department of Corrections, primarily corrections officials. We sampled over 3,000. 7.5%. again, below the general population rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:53)
So that should give us all some peace of mind that the essential workers were out there. They are doing fantastic work for us, and we’ve made sure that they were protected in doing the work that they’re doing. All of the frontline workers, public service frontline workers, tested below the general population. So we should feel good about that. Also, I want people to know that elective surgeries are going to start in 12 more counties, and that’s important. We had stopped elective surgery so we had additional hospital capacity for COVID patients. But as the number of COVID cases has come down, we can restart elective surgeries. Also, ambulatory services. So that is good news. A lot of attention on reopening now.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:51)
And we’re doing something in this state that no other state is doing. We are doing the most transparent discussion and reopening operation of any state. Why? Because it only works if people understand it and if people are part of it. This is not a government exercise that we’re doing here. This is a social exercise. The 19 million people of New York State are doing this. And the best I can do is give them the information. And I believe in them. And I believe in the people. And I believe when they have the right information and they trust the information and they know the information is actually factual, as opposed to some type of political jargon, they will do the right thing. And they have, and that’s how we bent that curve and flattened that curve. Same thing on reopening. You will know exactly what is happening in your region and your county. You’ll know the facts. You’ll know the numbers on a daily basis. And you’ll know what…
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:03)
… a daily basis, and you’ll know what we’re doing. We heard testimony yesterday from the National experts, Dr. Fauci, who warns of suffering and death if the U.S reopens too soon. If you reopen the economy too soon, people are not taking the precautions, you have gatherings, the virus will transfer, and you’ll see a spike in hospitalizations, and you’ll see a spike in deaths. What’s the key in that expression? The key is too soon. If you open too soon. All right, what does that mean too soon? Too soon means you’re opening, you’re increasing activity at a rate that the hospital system cannot handle, and people are not taking the right precautions, that’s what too soon means. Well, then how do we calibrate too soon? You can measure exactly what you are doing. The red valve is the reopening valve. You start the reopening valve, activity increases, you’re doing diagnostic testing. Are you positive or you’re negative? And, you watch that rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:22)
You’re doing antibody testing, which tells you how many people were infected, and you watch that rate you know on a day to day basis now how many people are walking into the hospital with COVID. We have those numbers, never had them before. We have them now. You watch that rate every day, and if you watch those rates you know how fast the virus is spreading, what they call the rate of transmission, the RT, so too soon, watch the numbers, watch the measures. There is a science to this, and that has to be watched in every county, in every region, and it has to be monitored, and you see those numbers starting to move, you will know if you’re reopening too soon, and if people aren’t taking the right precautions, and if you see that virus spreading, so give the information to the people. That’s what I’m trying to do, that’s what I’ve been trying to do from day one, because government can’t do any of this. This is a function of the actions of every individual, and every family.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:40)
We’ll have a regional control group, for the north country, for every region in the state, watch those numbers every day. Make sure those businesses are complying, make sure people are complying, and watch it day to day, and you’ll know if the activity is increasing to a level that is increasing the rate of transmission, and act accordingly, and that has to be done on a region by region basis. Now, also with this virus, we must stay alert, because we’re still learning, and what we thought we knew doesn’t always turn out to be true. This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way in this country. When we first started with this virus, we were told it was coming from China, right? Wuhan province, it came from China, and it’s going to come from the China now to the United States.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:45)
It turns out it didn’t come from China to the United States. It did in some parts of the country, but the East Coast, it turns out it came from Europe. I talk to everyone all day long. In the beginning of this nobody ever said, “It’s coming from Europe.” And, we had two million Europeans come to New York, New Jersey, the big airports, international airport, JFK, and no one knew it was coming from Europe, because it had gone from China to Europe, and then, it gets here from Europe. No one knew. Once you have the virus, you have antibodies, and then, you’re immune from further infection. That was stated as a fact. Now, it turns out maybe you’re not immune even if you had it, maybe you have some immunity, but not total immunity. We’re not sure.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:45)
Then we were told children are not affected by COVID virus. Great. Sigh of relief. Less than 1% of New Yorkers who were hospitalized under 20 years old. Now, we’re finding out that may not be a hundred percent accurate either, because now we’re seeing cases. The Department of Health is investigating, and New York is in many ways the tip of the arrow here looking at 102 cases where children who may have been infected with the COVID virus show symptoms of an inflammatory disease, like the Kawasaki disease, or toxic shock like syndrome. We have lost three children in New York because of this. Five year old boy, seven year old boy, and an 18 year old girl, and these cases are all across the state, predominantly, where the population is.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:58)
60% of these children tested positive for the COVID virus, 40% tested positive for the antibodies of the COVID virus. That means children either currently had the virus, or could have had it several weeks ago, and now have the antibodies saying that they had the virus, and they recovered from the virus. 70% of the cases went into ICU, which means they’re serious. When you go into intensive care it means it’s serious. 19% resulted in intubation, which means they’re very serious. 43% of the cases are still hospitalized. On the age, when they say children it’s across the board. It can be under one year old, it can be up to 20, 21 year old. Majority between five years old and 14 years old. It’s… affects children of old races, and it’s not just in New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:09)
The Department of Health sent an alert to 49 other states. Dr. Zercher has been leading this conversation nationwide. 14 other states are now investigating cases in their state for possible inflammatory disease for children related to COVID, five European countries are now looking at this, because it happened after the fact, and does not present as a normal COVID case, it may not have been initially diagnosed as a COVID case. COVID cases are normally respiratory. This is not predominantly respiratory. It’s an inflammation of the blood vessels, which could affect the heart, so it’s more of a cardiac case than a respiratory case, which is a new manifestation of the COVID virus.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:07)
Department of Health is being very aggressive in doing the investigation, and also, talking to other states, countries about what they may have learned partnering with Rockefeller University, and the New York Genome Center to see if there’s anything in the DNA of these cases, but parents have to be aware of this. The predominant signs; fever, abdominal pain, skin rash. Other symptoms; change in skin color, difficulty, feeding, trouble, breathing, racing, heart, lethargy, irritability, or confusion, so it’s a wide array of symptoms as you can see, which makes it even harder for a parent to know exactly what they’re dealing with. If your child has been exposed to someone who had COVID, even if it was several weeks ago, that is a special alert in this situation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:14)
Department of Health has told the hospitals in the state to prioritize COVID testing for children who come in with any of these situations, and if you want more information, this is the health site to go to. Now, as a parent, I can tell you, this is a parent’s worst nightmare, to have a child, we thought that children would not especially affected by the virus to now find out that they might be, and it might be several weeks later, this is truly disturbing. We raise it because it’s something that parents should be aware of. We’re still finding out more about it. We’re working very aggressively. The more we know, the more we’ll communicate. For now, everything we know is on that website.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:05)
But, the parents say, “Should I be concerned?” You should be aware. You should be aware. First job is to protect our children. My baby’s 22, not really a baby anymore she likes to tell me. She’s theoretically, this is 21 and below. She’s 22. Maybe I have nothing to worry about. I still worry because that’s what you do as a parent, you worry. I tried to get her up to come with me today, Mikayla, 22 years old. You think you have any power in life try to get a 22 year old out of bed at 7:30 in the morning, and you will quickly come down to earth about any expectation of anything, but go to the website in the meantime. New York state, I’m proud of what our people have done, and we’re proceeding with caution, and with intelligence. We also need help from Washington.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:05)
I understand the federal government has said, it’s up to the states, it’s up to the governors, great, but we need help to make this happen, and we need help from Washington. I think the decision or realization that it should be done state by state makes sense, but it doesn’t mean the states are on their own either, and we need federal legislation. We need what’s called state and local aid. Our state budget, our state economy has suffered. We have a significant funding gap, and states need assistance. New York has about a $61 billion funding gap, which is a very, very serious funding gap. Who does the state fund? If we don’t have funds in our budget, what does it mean? States fund local governments. We fund police, firefighters, and schools. If our budget doesn’t work who gets cut? Police, firefighters, schools, local governments, the very people who we need to fight this virus, and the very people who we all call the essential workers, and the heroes who have been doing a great job, then how do we not give them the support that we need? We also need funding for state testing. Everyone says the key is testing. The key is testing. By the way, this is a tremendous operation to put in place. This will be millions of tests in New York, tracing, never been done before to this extent. It’s going to be thousands of people who have to do tracing. We need funding for that. The Washington Bill should finally provide a real economic stimulus that helps this nation rebuild.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:53)
Every president has talked about the need to rebuild our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our airports, every administration does a report. The bridges are falling, the roads are crumbling. Our country doesn’t build airports anymore, which it doesn’t. We’re building a new airport in downstate, New York, the LaGuardia Airport. First new airport in 25 years in this country. How can it be that we haven’t built a new airport in 25 years? You’ll fly around the world and everybody’s airport looks amazing, it’s like a shopping mall, hotel entertainment complex, and then, you come to an airport in this country.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:31)
You need to stimulate the economy, you need to create jobs. Do what every president has said, but none has done Democratic, and Republican. The bill that was introduced yesterday has something that’s very important to many states. It repeals what’s called SALT, S-A-L-T, the state and local tax deduction. This was a tax change made two years ago, three years ago in Washington. It increases the taxes of homeowners in certain states. New York is one of them. It costs New York state about $29 billion per year, state of Massachusetts, 11.8 billion dollars per year. It also affects New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland. That is repealed in this bill that the house put in.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:28)
It’s the single best piece of action for the state of New York, and we have representatives who know this very well, and Representative Lowey and Representative Neil, I applaud them for putting it in. They have to make sure it’s in the final bill, because the only thing that matters is what’s in the final bill, but that is good news in this bill, and the need for state and local aid. This is not a Democratic, Republican issue. You have Democratic governors, you have…
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
Not a Republican issue. You have Democratic governors. You have Republican governors. All governors will say they need assistance from the federal government. The governors work together in an organization called the National Governors Association, NGA. The chairman is a Republican, Governor Hogan from Maryland. I’m the vice chairman, Democrat. Governor Hogan and I did a joint statement on behalf of all the governors saying we understand what we have to do. We’re prepared to do it, but we need help from Washington, and we need that state and local funding. So this is not a partisan issue. Something else that Washington has to do, which is very important, special interests, always rear their ugly head and these bills that are coming out of Washington, they have a lot of funding to get the economy running, a lot of money for big businesses and a lot of money for millionaires and a lot of money for large corporations.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:09)
I fear what is going to happen is that corporations are going to use this pandemic as an excuse to lay off workers. They’re already telling analysts that their profits are going to go up because they’re going to reduce their payroll. So you’ll have Americans who are now out of work who think they’re going to get their job back, but the corporation is going to announce, by the way, we don’t need all those employees back. We’re going to reduce our number of employees, and you’ll see layoffs for Americans.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:48)
We went through this before. 2008, we had the mortgage fraud economic catastrophe, right? And we bailed out the banks. I was attorney general at the time. So many banks took the bailout from taxpayers and then gave themselves bonuses or gave their employees bonuses with taxpayer dollars. And as attorney general, I had to bring actions against these corporations to get the money back. How absurd they create a financial catastrophe in 2008. Because of these mortgage scams and mortgage frauds, taxpayers bail out the corporation, they turn around and use the money to give themselves a fat paycheck when they’re the ones who caused the problem in the first place. So we made this mistake before. We can’t make this mistake again.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:50)
I did an op-ed today in The Washington Post that speaks just to this. You want to provide subsidies to corporations? I understand that. Make sure the subsidies are tied to worker protections. Very simple. If a corporation gets a check from the government, that corporation must not lay off any workers, have the same number of workers after the pandemic that you had before the pandemic. And don’t think taxpayers are going to subsidize you, Mr. Corporation, so you can then lay off workers and then the taxpayers can then pay for that. I call it the Americans First law. No corporate bailout if you’re going to lay off workers. And it’s going to be introduced by members of the New York congressional delegation, and I’m very proud of them for their leadership. If we get that Washington bill passed, then it’s going to make a significant difference because it’s going to give states the ability to do what they need to do to reopen. And we can take it from there because we are New York tough, which is New York tough and smart and united and disciplined and tough enough to love. Thank you. Questions?
Jeff Cole: (34:11)
Governor. Good afternoon, Jeff Cole from Channel 7 here in Watertown. Hoping to be able to ask you a couple of questions. First, welcome to Watertown, and welcome back to the region. It’s good to have you here. First question, what’s the future of state prisons? The budget gives you the authority to close as many as you see fit, and now that we have this political climate and the fiscal climate of, sorry, many corrections officers’ families have a lot to worry about. They’re worrying perhaps about their job at a state prison right now. What do you tell those communities that host them? The COs, their families, is it still on the table? And if so, how many?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:46)
Well, first, I say to them, it’s really first, I say to them, I thank them for the service that they’ve been doing. Again, I feel very passionately about the frontline workers, the essential workers who have been showing up every day. Nobody wanted to stay home, but you know what’s worse than staying home? Going to work in the middle of this pandemic when nobody even knew what the virus was about or how contagious it was, and they still showed up. They still showed up to manage the prison system. I’m glad the results we’ve seen show that we did what we had to do to protect them, and they protected themselves. But that’s good news.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:26)
As far as the state budget, the state budget is purely going to be a function of what we get from Washington. We have a $61 billion deficit. There is no way I can make up that deficit. I am very good at controlling costs. You look at how our state budget has gone up year to year. It’s gone up at a lower rate than any past governor, so I’m proud of that. But I can’t make up $61 billion, and it’s going to be purely a function of what happens in Washington. If they act responsibly and they give state governments the assistance they need, just to balance the book, we just want to balance the books, then we’ll proceed with the budget plan that we had. But if we don’t get Washington to act intelligently, which wouldn’t shock any of us, right? We’re going to have a serious problem. And I can’t tell you what actions we would need to take to fill that budget hole because we’ve never been here before. It’s a larger budget hole than this state has ever faced.
Jeff Cole: (36:35)
Second question, unemployment. I know the system has paid out three times as much since last year, up compared to last year in what? Six or seven weeks. It’s still a problem though. State Senator Patty Ritchie’s office tells me today that they’ve had hundreds of calls this week from people that are still concerned. The Senator, along with some other senators, started a website FixDOLDisaster.com, and they’ve called for the commissioner to step aside. That prompted a response from your office, from a spokesperson, calling it cheap shots from cheap politicians. Is the system fixed? Is there a problem still? And to the senators that are asking questions for their constituents, are they cheap politicians?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:14)
Look, is it a cheap shot? Yes. It’s a cheap shot. Let’s look at the facts. And I understand that’s, it’s easy to pander, but let’s just be a little honest here. The states have unemployment systems. The states’ unemployment systems, because it’s not New York. It’s every state across the country. You know, we tend to think we’re the only ones in New York. I talk to all the governors periodically. Every state is having a terrible time with this. Normally, a state unemployment website would handle several thousand calls. Okay? We’re now handling in the millions. We have 3000 people working on the phones and the website. Just think about that, 3000 people trying to keep up with the increase in the volume. Washington passed a law just several weeks ago implementing new unemployment benefits. The states, they then hand it to the states. The states then have to figure out how to administer this law.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:24)
And the federal law doesn’t say anyone who calls gets money. Federal law says when the person calls, they have to certify the following 57 things before you can give them a check. All this information that you have to, get all this information that you have to certify. That’s all in the federal law. The states then have to handle literally millions of claims and meet all those certifications. It crashes the website. It crashes the new website. We literally have the people from Google who come in to redesign a website to handle this volume.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:05)
Every state is going through this. Our response rate is much, much better than any other state. But if you haven’t gotten your check, none of that matters. I understand that. The good news is when, you’re not losing any money because when you get your check, it’ll be for the full amount, but you still don’t have the check today. And all that matters to you is you want that check in your hand today because you need it. I get that. We have made tremendous progress in a very short period of time, but again, no one could have seen this coming, if no one would have built a website and an office apparatus to handle millions of calls when you never expected it to happen. But we have reduced dramatically the wait time and the response time. Melissa may have some updated facts on this.
Yeah, just to punctuate the governor’s point, in the last financial crisis, we had 300,000 lost jobs in the entirety of the 2008 crash. So when people say, “You’ve experienced these past crises, why weren’t you ready for this one?”, we were ready for this one. We’ve handled six times that in the first seven weeks of this crisis. We processed 1.8 million claims. The Department of Labor later today will announce that we’ve now released $7.4 billion to roughly 1.7 million New Yorkers who are struggling with unemployment and on the pandemic unemployment insurance the governor referenced, which was the new unemployment insurance that the federal government announced several weeks ago, that then they originally said, you have to apply, get rejected, reapply, and we put out a streamlined process before any other state in the country.
We’ve now paid out 330,000 of those claims, so we are making tremendous progress. The Department of Labor is going to have an announcement later today on the forfeiture days, which has been another issue that I know many are confronting, that I think is going to go a long way towards giving people confidence in the system and we’re continuing to work at it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (41:06)
I’ll tell you what’s a cheap shot, though. First, everybody knows nobody could have expected this. And when you have 1.8 million claims when in 2008 you only had 300,000, right? Which was the last fiscal disaster, financial disaster. 300,000 in 2008. This is 1.8 million. What’s going to happen two months from now? I’ll tell you what the cheap shot will be from a politician. A few months from now when this is over, they’ll find someone who got the benefits, who didn’t deserve the benefits. Right? And they’ll say, how did you give that person an unemployment check? They didn’t deserve the unemployment check. You gave away the taxpayers’ money unfairly. That’s what they’re going to say. They’ll get one person or two people.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (41:56)
And then I’ll say to you, “Look, we were trying to accelerate as fast as possible because people were waiting for their unemployment benefit and everybody was yelling.” Yeah, well, you should have checked. You gave away taxpayers’ money inappropriately. So that’s the tension. You want to get everybody processed, but you don’t want to give funds to people who don’t meet the federal criteria, which is extensive, their criteria. But you want to get it done in a day. But you have to get it done right. Sir.
Brian Dwyer: (42:27)
Brian Dwyer for Spectrum News, and welcome to Watertown as well. It looks like from the charts that I saw that the North Country hit seven of seven of the requirements to reopen, which I don’t believe was the case just maybe yesterday or 24 hours ago. Testing was the issue I think that was at six of seven. Can you kind of give me the story of what changed in the last 24 hours?
Sure, so the testing parameters that we’re using to determine whether or not a region is prepared to open, it actually came directly from Dr. Birx and the White House Coronavirus Taskforce. As the governor has continued to note, we do everything on the facts and the metrics and the data and ensuring that a region has appropriate testing capacity to be able to gauge what’s going on is critically important. They laid out that we should have 30 tests per thousand residents tested monthly. The North Country had been just beneath the 419 that is needed for the North Country. But as of yesterday, we had 454 tests, and so now the North Country has met the criteria, and moving forward, we are confident that they have the testing capacity they need to reopen.
Brian Dwyer: (43:26)
And for a longterm solution.
Brian Dwyer: (43:27)
They’re not testing longterm.
Yep. It’s per day average over the past seven days.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:33)
Yeah. But just to caveat, I’m all about the caveats nowadays. Because you see, they tell us a fact and then the fact turns out not to be the fact. Right? So we’re reopening, but remember what Dr. Fauci and the experts say. There’s a danger of reopening too soon. We are reopening on the metrics they gave us. We hit all the metrics. That’s the seven out of seven. But that doesn’t mean, okay, we’re done. We’re reopening. Monitor every day. And that’s the regional responsibility.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:11)
Look at those numbers every day. See what’s happening with those numbers every day, and respond to those numbers. And that has to be done right here at home. And that’s the responsibility of every county and every person. Wake up, have your coffee, go online, look at those numbers. Because that is a function of what people do, and that has to be watched every day. And you have to calibrate your level of activity by every day. So it’s not, okay, we were reopened and now we’re reopened, period. You’re reopening as long as it’s not too soon and it is done right. People get cavalier. People get cocky. People get arrogant. They forget the pain we just went through.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:02)
They forget the pain we just went through, we’ll be right back in the same situation.
Speaker 3: (45:06)
Is it possible for the numbers… Because I know that yesterday was, they were 500 or so test short, are there enough tests in the North Country to guarantee that number doesn’t go back below?
Speaker 4: (45:15)
Yep, we’re working with the county leadership to make sure that they have the test kits and the reagents they need to stay above that 419 number.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:22)
Once you have the testing capacity, you won’t lose the capacity, or you shouldn’t lose the capacity. It’s not what those tests say every day. That’s what you’re looking at, you’re looking at how many tests positive, what’s happening on the hospitalization rate. And that’s how you’re monitoring whether or not you’re making progress or you’re going backwards.
Julia Ritchey: (45:42)
Governor, Julia Ritchey, with North Country Public Radio. As you know, the North Country houses a large portion of the state’s inmate population, you mentioned earlier in your briefing about testing of correctional officers, but right now the state’s only testing about 1% of inmates and we have an outbreak, at least at one of our facilities up here. Is there a plan to test more and mates and to prevent further outbreaks in the prison population?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:09)
Yeah. And just let’s put the context, we are ramping up testing all across the board. That’s what everyone says, ramp up testing and ramp up the testing. I’m asking for additional funding to ramp up testing. North Country just came up to the standard of testing they need. And test special vulnerable populations, nursing homes, nursing homes, nursing homes, COVID children presenting inflammatory syndromes, essential workers, and the prison population is in that category. You need more tests all across the board. We’re testing nursing home employees twice a week, we’re trying to increase testing for nursing home patients. So you need more testing across the board. As we get more testing capacity, then we can do it in all the vulnerable populations, including prison population. And as that gets expanded, and as we have more testing, we make those results available, and when we see we have a problem, we respond to it. I don’t know what the next wave of testing… I don’t know if we did the next wave of testing, you have any update on that?
Speaker 4: (47:27)
We’re testing the prison population under the same criteria that we’re testing the general population. So people who have been in direct contact with people who are COVID positive or people who are demonstrating COVID symptoms and are not testing positive for anything else. At this point, there’s been 445 who tested positive within the prison system. 306 have recovered. We’re monitoring 113. I don’t know the specific outbreak you’re referencing. I will look-
Julia Ritchey: (47:53)
Speaker 4: (47:53)
In Green Meadow, so I’ll look into that as soon as we’re finished this and get you a more specific answer back, but if more testing that’s needed because there’s an out break, of course, that will be ramped up and the prisons have done a great job so far in terms of making sure everything is properly disinfected, getting hand sanitizer to the prisoners, and making sure that everything is being sanitized after every meal, after showers, et cetera. So they’ve done a tremendous job, the corrections officers, under very difficult circumstances, but as we continue to increase testing capacity, as the Governor says, we will increase it across the board, including our presence.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:25)
I’ll tell you, I was shocked at how low the infection rate was for the correction officers, less than the general population. And they are in the prisons obviously all day. And you can’t avoid contact with prisoners when you’re a prison guard. So it speaks very well of the correction officers, but it’s also an insight into the prison population because, and we’ll check the specifics, but if you had a significant problem in a prison, you wouldn’t have that lower number of the correction officers infection rate. And we didn’t see any deviations in those rates. It was uniform across the board.
Speaker 4: (49:07)
On Fort Drum, they’re relaxing restrictions a little more quickly than the state is. They’ve opened up barbershops again this week and the fitness center, does that undermine or conflict with what the state is trying to do when you have this large population here in Watertown, moving a little more quickly than what-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:24)
Look, I hope they’re right, I hope they’re careful. You have a lot of states that are moving quickly. I understand the pressure. I feel the pressure. I get it, I get it in stereo. I get it, I understand the personally, I understand that socially, I understand that economically. And as Governor, this state is taking a terrible beating every day that economy is slow. Because the state budget is just a function of the overall economic budget. And I don’t know what Fort Drum is doing, in particular, but look, the CDC came up with guidelines that said the federal government said and this is a federal government that’s very aggressive about getting the economy going. And that federal government came up with CDC guidelines that said, “Don’t start to open unless X, Y, and Z.” And some states are opening, even though they didn’t meet X, Y, and Z. I don’t understand that rationale. no one says that the President isn’t very aggressive about opening the economy, his agency, the CDC said, “You have to hit X, Y, and Z.” So I’m saying we have to hit X, Y, and Z. That’s our criteria basically. So I can’t speak to anyone else. And again, I don’t know what Fort Drum is doing or not doing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:52)
Rachel Burt: (50:53)
Hi, Rachel Burt from the Watertown Daily Times-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:54)
You have a very attractive mask, I had a very boring, bland mask.
Rachel Burt: (51:00)
Yeah, this used to be a dress and now it’s a mask.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:03)
That is a nice one.
Rachel Burt: (51:04)
So California announced that the state colleges will not be opening for the fall and they will be all online at least until January. So given that New York has a similar structure, do you see us following suit with SUNY schools? And when do you think that decision will be made?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:18)
I don’t know. I don’t know. I understand what California did. This situation changes, my perspective is the situation changes so fast, and the facts change, and assumptions change, and everything changes. Where are we going to be in September? I don’t know. I don’t know where we’re going to be in August. I’m trying to figure out June. I understand schools need a lead time and they need to plan. We’ve told our schools plan on how you will reopen for the new normal, because think about how dramatic it is in a school. You have 300 kids in a classroom, in a college lecture hall. Okay, now you can’t have 300 kids in a lecture hall. Well, how many kids can I have? Well, at six feet social distance that means you can only have 72. All right, how do you run courses now with not having a gathering of students? How do you have a cafeteria without a gathering of students? So we told them the plan for a new normal, but I want to see what happens between now and then, get some more data, get some more information, respectful of the time the schools need to actually plan, but I’m not ready to say what we should be doing in September on schools. Okay? Okay, really the last, last.
Speaker 5: (52:49)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (52:51)
Only because you have another very interesting mask.
Speaker 5: (52:53)
Thank you, I made it,
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (52:55)
Did you make it?
Speaker 5: (52:56)
Yeah. So starting with the requirement for nursing homes to be testing employees two times a week, some local officials here express concern about not being able to have enough tests to be able to do that. Does the state plan to supply the test or what do you do to help in that situation?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (53:14)
Yes. Look, nursing homes are the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable place. I know they’re not happy about testing, some people are not happy. Well, some people are never happy, so put them aside. Many of them in my own family. The next group, I know many people are not happy that we said nursing home staff has to be tested twice a week. This is the most vulnerable population, and if you only test once a week, let’s say the test is on Monday. That means somebody’s going to get infected Tuesday and go to work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and infect people. So twice a week is not that dramatic. We will help them with a number of tests, the tests will be no cost to the employees, and yes, it’s a inconvenience, it’s a pain in the neck, but we’ll help them get the tests.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:29)
And it is an extra activity. But I think, look, we have to be able to say we did everything we can. We have to look at that death number every day, 166 people died. The only way you put your head on the pillow at night is you say, “I did everything I could. They had a hospital bed, they had the best nurses. They had the best doctors. They had ventilators. They had the best treatment. We did everything we could do.” Up until today, as I am before you, I can look you in the eyes and say, “We did everything that we could.” As a society you can’t save everyone, you’re going to lose people. That’s life, somebody else’s in charge of that, much higher pay grade, but we did everything we could. I want to make sure the same is true until this is over. We did everything we could. And testing staff twice a week, yes, it’s onerous and I understand it’s a pain, but we have to do everything we could do and testing twice a week I know we can do, and I will help them get the tests if they can’t get them. Thank you very much for having us.