May 8, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 8
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Friday, May 8. Read the full transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Just let me introduce the people who were with me today. From my right, Dr. Howard Zucker, our health commissioner has been doing great work. To my left, Melissa de Rosa, who is secretary to the governor, which is a top position in state government. To her left, Gareth Rhodes, who was deputy superintendent and special counsel to the New York State Department of Financial Services, but who has been working with the chamber on this situation has been doing an excellent job.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:32)
We’re at Marist College today. It’s a pleasure to be here. Dr. Dennis Murray, pleasure. Thank you very much for having us. Marist, go red foxes. We’re in Poughkeepsie, which is right down from Albany, New York, right down the Hudson River. Beautiful ride today, going down the Hudson River. Many people fishing, a little fishing envy. Striped bass season in New York. No fishing for me, but that’s okay. There’s always next year.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:06)
Albert Einstein. “I do not like to state an opinion on a matter unless I know the precise facts.” Good advice. Wouldn’t it be nice if all those talking heads on TV took that advice? No opinion unless you know the facts. Let’s talk about some facts. Total hospitalizations down to 8196, good news. Change in hospitalizations, you see has been going down. Change in intubations is also down, and that’s really good news. The percentage of people once intubated that actually successfully come off a ventilator is very low, so that is very good news. And the number of new COVID hospitalizations per day is just about flat, has been flat for a few days. These are the number of new cases that are coming in the door every day, or people who are in the hospital who then test positive for COVID. And these charts, I look at the line more than anything, and what the curve is actually saying more than the specific number.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:28)
We would have hoped to see a steady, sharp decline in those numbers. We went up very quickly, as you see on the left of the screen. We would have hoped that we would have come down very quickly, hit the top and then come down. That’s not what’s happening. It’s more flattening out. Question, when we look at these charts now, will it flatten out or will continue to drop? When you look at the actual projection model that IHME, this is one of the more accurate projection models, they showed going down, but you even have several hundred cases in mid-June, so these models have been instructive but not necessarily determinative in the past, but that’s what we’re watching now, going forward.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:29)
Same thing on the number of lives lost. This is probably the most important statistic and the most painful. 216 New Yorkers passed away yesterday. That’s 216 families. You see that it’s been persistently constant in the 200 range for the past few days. We’re also looking at that. What does that curve do? What does that line do? Does it slowly decline? We would have liked to see, again, up and then a fast decline. Possibility that it flattens out at one point. But again, we don’t know. We don’t know. So we go day to day, and we see and we react, given the facts that we’re presented with.
Andrew Cuomo: (04:23)
The lack of facts can hurt you. We’ve seen that, I believe, during this global pandemic. How did it happen? Why weren’t we ahead of it? Not just for a retrospective but also prospectively. If you don’t understand how it happened last time, and you don’t learn the lessons of what happened last time, then you will repeat them, right? And there’s a good chance that this virus comes back. They talk about a second wave, they talk about a mutation. And if it’s not this virus, another public health issue. And I think we have to learn from this, and unfortunately, you learn from it as we’re going through it because we may not have the luxury of time. If they are right on the speculation about a second wave in the fall or the winter. Well, we have to start getting ready now.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:19)
And it is shocking to me that so many months, so many weeks we talked about the virus was coming from China, from China, from China, from China. Now it turns out the virus didn’t come to the East Coast from China. It came from Europe. And all those talking heads, that is a relatively new fact.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:43)
When you then look back at the timeline of what was going on, I think it’s informative. We were talking about the virus in China last year, the end of last year, November and December. We had the first case in the state of Washington, January 21. We then had the China travel ban by the President on February 2nd, which was a right move in retrospect. Six weeks later, you have the travel ban from Europe, and then we still have John F. Kennedy airport open in New York, as what’s called the “funnel airports”. There are about four airports in the nation that were left open for flights coming from China and Europe. And John F. Kennedy airport, which is our main international airport, was one of them. When you look back, November to April is a long period of time.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:46)
And what happened, apparently, is the virus got on a plane from China, someone who was infected got on a plane and went to Europe. And then from Europe, the virus mutated in Europe and then flew to New York City. Newark Airport, flew to places on the East Coast, flew to Chicago. And you can see why, right? The virus wasn’t going to stay in China and wait for us to deal with it in China. Everybody talks about how mobile people are and global interconnections, et cetera, and that’s what happened.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:26)
But nobody was saying, “Beware of people coming from Europe.” We weren’t testing people coming from Europe. We weren’t telling anyone at the time, if you have a European visitor or European guest, make sure they get tested. They walked right through the airport. Well, I understand what happened in retrospect, but we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:51)
From December to March, three million Europeans came through our airports. You wonder why we have such a high infection rate. You put three million Europeans coming into this market undetected. You don’t tell anyone. There’s no precautions. There’s no testing. And then you let people circulate in this dense environment, you’re going to have the virus spread, and that’s exactly what happened.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:21)
And many of those people didn’t stay in New York. They just landed at JFK, connected to another flight, and flew to a city in the United States. That’s what happened. Flights from China proportionately go to the West Coast of the United States, but the European flights, they come to the East Coast. Three million Europeans is a lot of people. And again, it was months of people coming and people circulating, before we were really put on notice. So learning what happened is important. So we don’t-
Andrew Cuomo: (09:03)
So learning what happened is important so we don’t make the same mistake again twice and we’re better prepared in the future. And I think a word of caution would be today we must consider an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. You hear about an outbreak in China, you hear about an outbreak in Korea, just assume that it gets on a plane the next day. Somebody who’s infected gets on a plane and can go anywhere on the globe, literally. One fact we do know about COVID is we know that there is still a lot that we don’t know about this virus. And some things that we thought were facts are now being revisited. We were told if you had the virus, you then had antibodies, you would then be immune from getting it a second time. Now there are some questions about whether or not you’re immune, how immune you would be even if you have the antibodies.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:08)
We were led to believe that the good news about this virus was it didn’t affect children, which was taken as great news. Now we have a new issue that we’re looking at, which is something we’re just investigating now, but while rare, we’re seeing some cases where children affected with the COVID virus can become ill with symptoms similar to the kawasaki disease or toxic shock like syndrome. That literally causes inflammation in their blood vessels. This past Thursday, a five year old boy passed away from COVID related complications, and the state department of health is investigating several other cases that present similar circumstances. This would be really painful news and would open up an entirely different chapter because I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to who took peace and solace in the fact that children were not getting infected.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:24)
We thought that children might be vehicles of transmission, a child could get infected and come home and infect the family, but we didn’t think children would suffer from it. If this is true, some of these children are very, very old, so caution to all people who again may have believed that their child couldn’t be effected by COVID. This information suggests we may want to revisit that quote unquote fact, that assumption. And if you see any of the symptoms that are on the chart that your child is evidencing, caution should be taken because this is something that we’re looking at. And again, there has been at least one fatality because of this, and there may be others that are now under investigation. So this is every parent’s nightmare that your child may actually be affected by this virus, but it’s something we have to consider seriously now.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:35)
Another fact we do know about this and a common thread with the virus is that it affects minority communities more dramatically. Nothing biological about the minority community, but demographically, socially the infection rate is higher. New York state does not have the same disparities we see in other states around the country thankfully, but we do have a disparity. It’s again relatively modest, but something that we won’t tolerate. And you see it in the Hispanic community, you see it in the African American community where they are disproportionately affected. We asked the hospitals to look at the new cases that are walking in the door to see what we can learn about where we are now because we’ve taken so many actions, so many dramatic actions, closed down schools, closed down businesses, we’re testing. We still have new cases. We’re getting additional information on these new cases now. And when you look at the new cases and where they’re coming from in the state, it’s clear that a majority of the new cases in a disproportionate number are coming from minority communities.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:01)
21 zip codes with the highest rate of hospitalizations, 20 have greater than average black and/or Latino population. So this is something that were focused on and we’re going to address and we will address immediately, and we will have more information on this in the next couple of days. We must also adjust to the changing circumstances. Given the shut down, many aspects of society have been closed down or are less operational. The court system is among them. It’s done a lot of work thanks to what the court system has been able to manage by remote telecommunication, et cetera, but we passed a law in New York called the Child Victims Act, which was long overdue, which allowed survivors of sexual abuse as children to file a claim. We then had a window of time that they could actually file the claim. Because of the reduction in court services, we want to extend that window and we’ll extend it for an additional five months until January 14th.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:19)
Because people need access to the courts to make their claim because “justice too long delayed is justice denied,” Martin Luther King Jr. So we will extend that window for people to bring their case. The good news on the overall is we’re finally ahead of this virus. For so long, we were playing catch up. We talked about the facts and circumstances that we found out about it. It was in China. It had moved. And we were playing catch up. We were behind it. Now, I feel for the first time we’re actually ahead of it. We have showed that we can control the beast. You look at those numbers coming down. Remember our numbers are coming down in New York. Most states in this country, you still see the numbers going up.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:11)
You take New York out of the national numbers and you see the cases are on the incline. We have it on the decline. So we have the beast on the run. There’s no doubt about that. We haven’t killed the beast, but we’re ahead of it. And the hospitalization rate is coming down and the death rate is coming down. So that’s all good news. And I feel that we are, for the first time in this engagement, we’re actually ahead of the virus. We have to stay there and we have to figure out what the next move is that the virus is going to make and we have to stay ahead of it. But we are ahead of it and we are in control of our own destiny. Why is that virus on decline? Why are those cases going down? Because we’re making the number of cases go down.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:03)
We are reducing the number of infections. If we didn’t do anything, you would’ve seen that infection number keep going straight up. We reopen irresponsibly, you will see that infection number go straight up. We are reducing the rate of infection by our actions, wearing the masks, the close downs, the precautions. We turn that curve, no one else. And we are going to determine what that rate of infection is going forward. You tell me how we behave today, I will tell you the rate of infection three days from now. You tell me how we behave today, I’ll tell you the number of people who walk into a hospital in seven days or 10 days. It is that clear, cause and effect. It is that clear. That’s also liberating. Finally, our destiny, our future-
Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
Finally, our destiny, our future is in our hands and it’s not subject to the whims of the virus. We are in control of the spread of the virus and that is good news to me. We just have to stay there and we will because we are New York, tough, smart, united, discipline, loving and the great state of New York is showing the way forward, once again. Questions.
Speaker 1: (18:35)
A reopening question for you. We are all eagerly awaiting May 15th and 16th and what you’ve told us so far has us anticipating that you’ll talk about manufacturing and construction likely Upstate. Is there anything that might get added to it even if you can’t tell us now, is there a possibility we’ll get a nice surprise thrown in that’s a little more than maybe what we’re expecting on those two fronts?
Andrew Cuomo: (19:01)
Yeah, I think the nicest surprise could be that we are acting reasonably and responsibly and based on the facts and based on the data, right? I get the emotion. Everybody would like to see everything reopened tomorrow. Me first and foremost, right? Everyone on every level, personally, economically, et cetera. But as I said at the end, we are now in control and we have the virus on the run because we have been smart and because we have been disciplined and I know that’s hard and we want to stop doing what’s hard. That’s human nature but you tell me what the virus is doing. You tell me the facts on the virus. I’ll tell you what we can do in terms of reopening. You tell me what that infection rate is, what that hospitalization rate is. I’ll tell you the facts.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:01)
Your anticipation is right. If you look at these numbers now and you just factor them forward, Upstate New York, the numbers are dramatically different than Downstate. It’s like a different state and we’ll be talking about construction, manufacturing, reopening in Upstate. In Downstate, I don’t believe those numbers are going to change dramatically enough to make a difference in the next few days.
Speaker 1: (20:23)
So not a lot of improvisation. Meaning you’re more of a stick to the plan. A guy-
Andrew Cuomo: (20:27)
I’m more of a show me the facts and the numbers kind of guy. Yeah, because we know what happens when we don’t do that. Right. We’ve seen the full spectrum here. We’ve seen what happens when you go by gut instinct and by emotion and by politics. We know what happens. You make a mistake. That’s what happens. We also know what happens when you are factual and evidence based and make decisions on the numbers as opposed to on the politics and this is a virus. Part of this is math, right? It’s just numbers. It’s like an equation. You can punch into a computer, the hospitalization rate, the infection rate, the testing rate the antibody rate and say, what will happen if I increase activity 15%? And it will tell you the infections are going to go here and the hospitalization is going to go here and the death rate is going to go here. There is a science to this. Now, the science is contrary to emotions and politics. I get that. I get it all day long. Everyone’s yelling at me. We have to reopen. I have to get back to work. I need a paycheck. I get it. I hear it. I see it. I read the posters, they yell it at me. I hear it, but I know, I know, because we’ve seen it around the globe. You can pull up the countries that reopened because they had political pressure and then saw that infection rate go right through the roof and then they did 180 degree turn around two weeks later, whoops, we made a mistake. I don’t want to do a whoops, we made a mistake and I don’t want to have hundreds of more people go into the hospitals because of a whoops. I don’t want to have hundreds of more people possibly die because it was a whoops because I responded to politics.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:28)
So yeah, my advice to the people of the state from day one, here are the facts. I’m giving you the facts. Why? Because really they make the determination. I’m not in a position to enforce any of these rules. I can’t make anyone wear a mask, if 19 million people say, “I’m not going to wear a mask.” What am I going to do? If 19 million people said, “I’m not staying home.” What can I really do? What can government do? But I lay out the facts and New Yorkers have understood the facts. They don’t like them. It’s nothing cheery about some of those facts, but lay out the facts and they’ve acted responsibly. And we get to May 15th, I’ll lay out the numbers. Here are the numbers and this is what the numbers say.
Speaker 2: (23:16)
[crosstalk 00:23:16] Governor the April employment numbers came out today, 20.5 million jobs were lost. What is your message to out of work New Yorkers and other than unemployment benefits, how can they find their footing?
Andrew Cuomo: (23:28)
Look, there is no doubt that this is a horrendous period to live through and the greatest problem for most people besides the social issues, et cetera, and the isolation and the emotion that goes with that and the emotional trauma that goes with that, by the way, which is a problem unto itself. The economics are devastating. I’m not working. I live paycheck to paycheck. It’s been over a month for some people. Six weeks, two months. I haven’t gotten a paycheck. I don’t know if my job is still there and the bills keep coming, right? Nobody put the bills on pause. Those people are still, everybody’s still sending a bill. So that’s a tremendous pressure on people. And then the unemployment rate, 20% some people say that number is underestimated, it’s really closer to 25%, which I mean just imagine that. Greatest since the Great Depression.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:27)
So there is no doubt that this is a terrible period, but we have to get through it. Right. That was Winston Churchill. “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” You have to get through it and if we make a mistake and we react too quickly, the situation is only going to get worse and only going to get longer. I understand unemployment benefits are problematic and they’re not enough in the first place. I understand the speculation about whether or not my job is going to be there is terrible. We have taken some extraordinary measures to help people deal with the situation. The no evictions, I think is a significant point. Nobody can be evicted from their home. We’re providing food assistance in a number of different ways, but we have to get through it. We have to get through it.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:23)
And then not to get philosophical, but my grandfather used to say, he was right. If you have your health, you can figure out anything else, right? And if you don’t have your health, then nothing else matters. And we’ve all lived through that where we have all these issues, all these problems. And then somebody comes home and says, “I went to the doctor’s office and they said I have to go for another test. I may have this.” Right? And somebody says they have a terrible health problem and everything else becomes unimportant, immediately. We have people who are dying, we have people who are dying. We make the wrong moves, more people could die and it could be someone in your family or it could be you. And even if it’s not you, God forbid you get sick and you bring the virus home and someone who’s more vulnerable dies.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:20)
That is the problem that we can’t solve. That is the problem that I cannot help with. And that is the problem that thousands of nurses and doctors and police officers have been killing themselves for weeks to avoid. So let’s respect all we have done. I know it’s hard. Let’s get through it, let’s proceed intelligently and get this thing over as soon as possible without any further loss of life. And then we will figure out the economics. It’s not going to be easy.
Andrew Cuomo: (27:03)
We will figure out the economics. It’s not going to be easy. But it’s true. If you’re alive and you have your health, we’ll figure out anything else. And if we lose people, that’s the one thing that we can’t fix.
Speaker 3: (27:17)
Governor, what’s the plan to get those benefits out to people? Because a lot of people have been waiting. I mean we’re coming on almost eight weeks. So what’s the plan going forward? And also why does the state need a person to person certification system? Because a lot of people are getting either hung up on or unable, they’re not receiving calls. So again, what does that plan to get those benefits out?
Andrew Cuomo: (27:37)
I’ll ask Melissa to give you the update, but remember the context here. This is not a New York problem. This is every state in the country. The number of unemployment, 20%, it was like 2.8%. So a month ago you had 2.8% of the people asking for unemployment benefits, now we have 20% of the population asking for unemployment benefits. That takes a system that was designed to handle hundreds of applications. It now handles thousands of applications. It’s overwhelmed every state system period, and we have our response rate is far better than most states even though our population is far greater. But the certification and the details, I’ll ask Melissa because-
On certifying, you actually don’t need to do person to person. It doesn’t have to be over the phone. You can go online and do it. The person to person on the phone is if you don’t have access to the internet, but we urge everyone should go online and do it so that you don’t face the situation what you’re discussing right now, which is that the volume of the calls has been so great that it has literally crushed the phone systems time and time again. And just to underscore the governor’s point, we paid out $2.1 billion in all of 2019 and unemployment insurance in the last seven weeks, New York has paid out $6.8 billion to 1.6 million people. We’re continuing to try to streamline the process. We’re adding more bodies, we’re throwing literally everything we can at it. And again, none of that matters to people who are still struggling and who are waiting to get money put into the bank and we’re doing everything we can to try to streamline that.
Speaker 3: (29:19)
Why was the system so unprepared to handle this? I mean, we had 9/11, we had Sandy and several years in between. Why was the system so overwhelmed?
Bernadette, with all due respect, in the last financial crisis, we had 300,000 people who were unemployed in 2008 and that crushed the system. We’re talking about 1.6 million in the last seven weeks. So we haven’t experienced anything like this period. And there’s all of these different things when you go through government where you say, why didn’t you do this? Why don’t you do this? If we had spent $20 million to upgrade the text system and wasn’t necessary or there wasn’t a crisis at the moment, I’m sure we would have been getting phone calls from publications saying, why are you wasting $20 million of tax payers’ money on a text system? So we’re literally building the plane while we’re trying to fly it.
None of these are good answers to people who are waiting and who are struggling and to those people we continue to apologize and we are doing everything we can, but I think to the governor’s point, there are 20 states in the country that haven’t moved a dollar on pandemic unemployment insurance. New York is one of 20 we’ve moved it for 90,000 people so far. And again the governor has given the director of the Department of Labor anything you need to be able to move the money faster, get it out the door, do, and that’s what we’re continuing to do to build out the system.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:29)
Also to give you just a little context, it is not like anything else. You have more unemployed today than since the Great Depression. So you would have to go back to the great depression to come up with a comparable situation, right? That’s just on the facts. And then as you just heard, we have administered three times more than the state put out all of last year in six weeks. And I’m old enough to have watched the full merry-go-round go around.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:08)
We will sit in a room like this in three weeks and you will say, “My paper asked, why did John Smith who actually had money in the bank, why did he get unemployment benefits from the state when he didn’t really deserve unemployment benefits and why didn’t you check to make sure John Smith was eligible before you gave him taxpayer money?” That’s going to be a fair question and then we’re going to say, “Well, we were in a mad scramble to move as quickly as possible.” And then you say, “Yeah, but you were supposed to determine the eligibility of a person and you let this person get taxpayer money and you were a bad governor.” That’s why you can’t win in this business. One more, sir.
Speaker 4: (31:59)
Governor, unemployment forfeit days. I know that there are some people who have those days on their record and that’s keeping their state employment havens from being released. I know there’s legislation in the works to fix that. Can you fix it more quickly?
Andrew Cuomo: (32:14)
Can you say, I missed what you said, unemployment?
Speaker 4: (32:17)
Andrew Cuomo: (32:18)
Speaker 4: (32:19)
Andrew Cuomo: (32:20)
Forfeit Days. Do you know that issue?
It’s something that actually has come to our attention in the last week and we’re looking at and if it’s something that we can do, we’re going to do.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:27)
Sir, one more. I’ll give you the one more because you had your hand up.
Speaker 5: (32:31)
There’s been a lot of disparaging results about antibody testing coming from Washington so much so that 50% maybe inaccurate, is there anything that New York is doing to kind of vet the testing? Because as you said, wrong information is just as bad as information.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:49)
Yeah. I will ask Dr. Zucker to respond to that question, but I’m going to give you a warning. He’s going to be very defensive because see in New York we use our own antibody test, which is not one of the off the shelf antibody tests. It’s an antibody test that we designed here at the state department of health at their laboratory. So Dr. Zucker has total confidence in the test because it’s his test and we tend to like our own product.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:17)
But also we use the antibody tests more for an indicator of infection rate, right? So when we talked to you about infection rate with the minority community, [inaudible 00:33:30] workers, or first responders were using the antibody tests to make those determinations. We’re not taking action off that antibody test. It’s not like we tell you, okay, you can go back to work now because you are safe. We use it more for statistical purposes. So even if there is some deviation, it’s the numbers are so large with testing 20, 30,000 people. So for the purposes that we use the antibody test even if there’s some deviation wouldn’t really make a difference. But Dr. Zucker assures me his test is better than any other test in existence in the United States of America. Dr. Zucker.
Dr. Zucker: (34:14)
I absolutely agree with that. Our test is six standard deviations out, which means it’s an incredibly accurate test out of Wadsworth. But we also working with the hospitals. Others have developed tests and they do turn to our lab to ask us to confirm that their test is of high quality. So we work very closely with them and elsewhere.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:34)
Thank you all. Thank you very much.
Speaker 3: (34:36)
Governor, President Trump. Governor. Governor.
Speaker 6: (34:44)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:34:44] because of COVID-19, is there anything specifically you’re working on for people in that position? Because they’re not eligible for benefits?
Andrew Cuomo: (34:49)
The federal government has a number of programs to address that. If we get some state funding, the federal government will do whatever we can.
Speaker 3: (35:00)
Governor. Governor. President Trump apparently is okay. Governor. The next stimulus bill. Governor. The MTA?
Speaker 7: (35:03)
Governor, what are you having for lunch? [inaudible 00:35:08].