May 16, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York May 16 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Saturday, May 16. Read his news briefing speech here.
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Andrew Cuomo: (20:26)
To my left, Melissa DeRosa. Secretary Ms. Melissa DeRosa. To her left, Budget Director Rob Mujica. Today is Saturday. I know it’s Saturday because I don’t wear a tie on Saturday. That’s how I know it’s Saturday, which is a little convoluted reasoning, but it’s not the first time.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:46)
The total number of hospitalizations are down again. It’s interesting to look at the curve, how fast we went up and how relatively slow the decline has been. That shows you the problem of having a spike. Spike happens quickly but resolves slowly. Net change in hospitalizations is down. Net change in intubations is down. Number of new cases per day is also down 400, which sounds like a large number, but this is on a statewide population of 19 million, 50,000 hospital beds.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:33)
The number of lives lost, 157. That number has been stubborn. You can see May 10th it was 161. And these are all basically in the margin of error, if you will. This system is not that precise. I believe when they actually go back weeks from now and calculate the total number of deaths, at home deaths, et cetera, you’ll see a variation in this number.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:06)
Again, we’re right about where we were when we started. We just want to make sure we don’t go back to the hell that we’ve gone through. And when we talk about reopening, that’s a discussion. We have half the state now, in terms of regions, which is now in the process of reopening. We have a dashboard that tells people where their region is, what’s going on, what the hospital rates are doing, what the infection rates are doing. So everyone has information to inform themselves and to have conversations with their local government.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:50)
We have a smart phased reopening plan that has been reviewed by great experts in the field and we feel very good about that. We’re getting a little more nuanced in our analysis, looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings. Remember, the problem here are crowds and gatherings. So what can you do? Or what economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd? They’re talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd but it can still be televised. Great. If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that’s great.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:39)
We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks and we’re going to do that. There’ll be guidelines for the actual participants but no crowds, no fans. For the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work. That is also true with Watkins Glen. That can operate and there’s a big viewership for Watkins Glen. Let me take my car to Watkins Glen. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Wear a mask in the car. I don’t even have to wear a mask in the car, I’ll be alone.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:22)
Update on elective surgeries. We’re going to open Westchester and Suffolk Counties for elective surgeries and ambulatory care. We want to make sure people who need medical services are getting medical services. There was a period where hospitals were dealing basically with the COVID patients. We are past that period. If you need medical attention, if you need a medical procedure, you should get it. And the hospitals are safe places to go. To the extent people are worried about going into a hospital, there’s no reason.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:03)
And the caveat is always, as we reopen, this is a new phase, this is an unknown phase. Nobody can tell you exactly what happens because nobody has been here before. That stone to stone across the morass, take a step that you know is a firm step, and then you watch and see what happens. What happens depends on what we do. That’s why this has been such a unique situation, not for government, but for society. What will happen? Well, tell me what you’re going to do and I’ll tell you what will happen. Well, how can that be? Because you’re in control of what happens. How you act will determine what happens to you, literally. Will I get infected? Well, depends on what you do. Will we have a higher infection rate? Depends on what we do. You increase economic-
Andrew Cuomo: (26:03)
… depends on what we do. You increase economic activity, we expect to see an increase in numbers. We don’t want to see a spike. Well, will there be a spike? It depends on how people react and it depends on their personal behavior. Are they wearing masks? Are they using hand sanitizer?
Andrew Cuomo: (26:26)
It’s getting warmer. There’s going to be a natural increase in activity anyway. People are going to come out of their homes. They’ve been there for a long time, the weather’s warmer. They’re going to come out. How do they act when they come out? And that is the big question mark. Have the reopening with all those question marks, I sit there and I have the conversations with experts. What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen? They say, “You tell me how people react and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.” But I don’t know how people are going to react. “Well, then I can’t tell you what’s going to happen.” So if people are smart, then yes, you will see some increase in the numbers, but you won’t see a spike. You’ve seen spikes in other countries that have opened. You’ve seen spikes in states that have opened. We have an intelligent, and I believe the most intelligent system, but it is still reliant on what we do. It is reliant on human behavior. So be smart and be diligent and don’t underestimate this virus.
Andrew Cuomo: (27:36)
Local governments will do their part. I’ve spoken to all the local government officials. They’re going to be doing compliance. They’re going to be doing compliance on businesses that are opening. They have to follow the protocols. They’re going to be doing compliance on enforcement, wearing the masks, et cetera, but still it’s going to come down to what individuals do.
Andrew Cuomo: (27:58)
The only other big question mark on where we go longer term is what the federal government does. We have a significant economic problem in this state. It’s the collective of all the individual economic problems. And when you add up the collective, it’s $61 billion to the State of New York. “Well, we don’t really care about the state budget. It Has nothing to do with me.” I know that’s what you may say, but it’s actually not correct. The state budget is very relevant to you, because what the state budget funds, we don’t do space exploration in this state. We fund schools, we fund hospitals and we fund local governments. That’s the state budget. A lot of words, but it funds schools. It funds hospitals and it funds local governments. Local governments fund police, fire, all the heroes that we talk about. Hospitals, that’s nurses, that’s doctors, that’s emergency room staff.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:10)
The house passed a bill yesterday, which is a smart bill, which finally provides funding for state and local governments. They funded businesses. They funded millionaires. They funded corporations. Who did they forget? They forgot the police, the firefighters, the working Americans. What a shock, right? The house bill also has Medicaid funding. It increases food assistance, 100% federal reimbursement for FEMA costs, funding for testing, which is so important. Everyone says testing, testing, testing. Fine, we’ll get it up and running, but we need funding. And it repeals the salt tax penalty to the State of New York, $14 billion. $14 billion, which was a theft in the first place.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:10)
After the house passes a bill it goes to the Senate. And that’s where the bill is now. And to the Senate, they should respond quickly. I understand, from their point of view, they say, “Well, we funded businesses. We funded millionaires.” Yeah. Good. That’s nice. How about working Americans? And that’s what the Senate should think about. How do you actually help the American people. And my two cents, they shouldn’t delay. They shouldn’t be captive of special interests. I don’t care who gave you money to run for office, you still work for the people. No corporate bailouts. Don’t bail out corporations, and then have them turn around and lay off American workers. Don’t let them use government money to subsidize employee layoffs. Don’t do that. That would betray the trust of the American people.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:05)
That’s what happened in the 2008 bailouts. They bailed out the banks and the banks turned around and gave each other bonuses. I was attorney general. I brought actions against AIG. I brought actions against banks, like the bank of America, who took taxpayer money and then gave themselves a raise. Don’t give corporations money so they can then lay off workers in their restructuring to get lean. And then the American taxpayer is going to have to pay for the people who were laid off. And I’m afraid if this isn’t raised sooner, rather than later, that’s exactly what these corporations are going to do.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:50)
And let’s put the politics aside. If there’s ever a moment in this government, in this country, where it’s not about politics, this is the moment. For senators to be talking about, I’m not going to bail out blue States because the blue States have more coronavirus cases. Shame on you. Shame on you to look at the death toll in this nation and say, “I want to count how many people passed away by their political party. And I’m more interested in States where Republicans live than where Democrats live.” We’re not Democrats and Republicans. We are Americans. That’s what comes first.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:36)
And in the time of crisis, we’ve always been Americans and the great leaders, Democrats and Republican have always said that. Go back and look at the great Republicans. Go back and look at the great Democrats and see how they operated and try to be great in this moment, senator and congressperson. And if you don’t want to look at former politicians, go back to the good book, which said the same thing that the great politician said, I’m wonder where they got it from. They got it from the good book. Everybody says they read the good book. Mark 3:25, “If a house is divided against itself, the house cannot stand.” Read the good book and do what’s right for the American people. Let’s be together, tough, smart, united disciplined, and loving.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:32)
Questions, comments, queries?
On the horse racing and Watkins Glen decision, do you intend on expanding that to other sports, you mentioned baseball? Are you okay with the Yankees or the Mets having games without fans?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:47)
Something where, what you want to do is increase economic activity as much as you can without spiking the infection rate, right? So if you have an economic activity that can take place, but generates economic interest, also entertainment interest. A lot of people are sitting at home, something’s interesting on television to follow, that’s great. Makes staying at home easier. And all our admonitions, stay home, stay home, stay home. It’s easier if there’s some entertainment. When you look at the risk reward, there’s a lot of reward for minimal risk. We don’t control baseball. I’ve spoken to baseball organizations. One state can’t make that decision, John. But if it works economically, that’d be great. We do control the race tracks. We can open Watkins Glen. So that’s in our control.
For Watkins Glen is this just for the NASCAR in August? Is this all racing? What is exactly happening at Watkins?
Andrew Cuomo: (34:59)
I don’t know exactly. Do you guys know, Rob?
They’re just opening it to allow for fanless activity there. So to the extent that NASCAR wants to race, which they’ve indicated that they would, as long as there’s no fans there and they can bring their staffs, with guidance and operate without fans. And that’s the same thing for the racetracks, for the horse race tracks. And the vast majority of those employees are already onsite on those tracks, working with those horses and training them. So as the governor mentioned, the risk there is minimal because the activity is already occurring.
For any of these sports and for baseball in particular, there’s a large number of maintenance staff. There’s support staff. Can you allow games in these empty stadiums and still account for density reduction and social distancing among those staff?
Andrew Cuomo: (35:50)
Well, that’s what they’re doing. They’re coming up with a plan that says, “Look, first I have to maintain the stadium anyway. There are people there watching the stadium anyway. It’s a big venue. If I’m only doing a game, I can bring back a limited number of staff. This is how they’ll be protected. This will be the PPE they’re wearing. There is no density because they’re just securing the stadium. So those are the plans they’re coming up with.
Andrew Cuomo: (36:14)
I also want to mention one note, just in case you raise it with me later. I have brought my vehicle to Watkins Glen. I’ve driven my car on Watkins Glen. I’m not an official participant in NASCAR. I have no vested interest in opening Watkins Glen. If they do open, and if I am invited to the ceremony, I may go and I may bring my car and I may drive it around the track, but there is no self-interest involved in the Watkins Glen decision, just to be clear.
Speaker 2: (36:48)
Albany County Executive, Dan McCoy, and Rensselaer County Executive, Steve McLaughlin, have both said numerous times this week that it’s better if the nursing home stats are not factored into the reopening metric, because that is an isolated sort of problem. Do you agree or disagree? And is it possible to actually separate that, get the capital region open, because people are, as you can hear outside, getting pretty restless?
Andrew Cuomo: (37:11)
Well, people have been restless. I’m restless. I think I’m more restless than anyone. And I’m sure we all think we’re the most restless person. We’re talking to them with the department of health. I understand the issue. It’s not just the capital district region. To the extent we’re saying to hospitals, you should keep nursing home patients and not discharge them to nursing homes. They’re saying that’s artificially increasing the hospitalization rate. I get the point. Again, it’s not a capital district point. It’s a point all across the board because we changed that policy all across the state. So we’re having those conversations now. We don’t have a decision, but we’re having those conversations.
Speaker 2: (37:53)
Also on that point, when you talked about regional reopenings before, you had feared that people from certain regions would go to others. Amsterdam is one of the regions that’s open right down and it’s pretty close to here. Is there a fear that people from a place like the Capitol Region will go to the Mohawk Valley to shop now that they have that option?
Andrew Cuomo: (38:12)
Well, the only differential on shopping is when you open in phase one, you have a curbside pickup. You now have curbside pickup in the Capital District Region, but only one employee. So there’s not much of a difference on that phase one between regions. The other phases, the other activities in phase one, almost by definition are existing employees. If a manufacturing plant opens up, they have their employees and the employees for that business are going to go. So there’s not a lot of cross region fertilization, if you will, on that.
Speaker 3: (38:55)
Governor, on the issue of new cases, you said yesterday that they had plateaued. We’re about 400 net every day. And you said that those were coming from home transmission…
Speaker 3: (39:03)
… At every day. And you said that those were coming from home transmission. Is that new data from hospital surveys-
Andrew Cuomo: (39:06)
That’s from last week.
Speaker 3: (39:07)
That’s from last week. [crosstalk 00:00:39:09].
Andrew Cuomo: (39:09)
Remember we looked at the … Can you excuse me one second, please? Remember we did the data last week where we want to know where those new cases coming from. I had a theory which turned out to be wrong, like many of my theories. I thought it might be predominantly essential workers who were still out there working, showing up and that that’s where the new cases may have come from. That was exactly wrong. The infection rate among the essential workers is lower than the general population. And those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home.
Speaker 3: (39:54)
So where are they getting infected, I guess, is the question. What is the course of infection, do we know?
Andrew Cuomo: (39:58)
At home. Well, no. We know where they’re-
Speaker 3: (40:01)
[crosstalk 00:40:01] at home, I mean, they must be contacting the virus in the world and then bringing it home?
Andrew Cuomo: (40:06)
Well, someone in the home obviously left the home to go shopping or go for a walk or whatever they did, and brought it back home if a person was staying home. Or the person who went out of their home, not to work but to socialize or do whatever they did, that person got infected and either went to the hospital, or that person got infected, went home, and infected the other people at home. Did we have anything other than that?
Dr. Howard Zucker: (40:41)
I will just add that this week, we will learn a lot more about this when we continue … We started the contact tracing, and we’re going to get a lot of data from that.
Speaker 3: (40:48)
Can I ask about the contact tracing? Where are we at this point? How many people are out there? How many people are being contact traced? Obviously, it’s an enormous undertaking, correct?
Dr. Howard Zucker: (40:57)
So this is just starting now. We are enrolling hundreds of people, obviously, to do this. We’re working closely with the Bloomberg Foundation and with Vital Strategies on this. And we’ll be able to give you more data as we move this out.
Andrew Cuomo: (41:11)
Yeah, but we have just … Excuse me one second. Ballpark, how many tracers do we have set up across the [crosstalk 00:41:18].
Jim Malatras: (41:18)
We have several hundred now for the five regions that are open. So they’ve met their metric of having those numbers. The training has begun. They’ve done the four to six hour training with the John Hopkins University program. The call center has been stood up, but yesterday was the first day we’ve opened. So have we gotten a call yet? I do not know. We can get that answer for you.
Speaker 3: (41:39)
Well, you don’t know if they’re actually out doing their work.
Jim Malatras: (41:40)
They’re ready to go. Yesterday was the first day we opened some of those regions so we’ll have to get that data as it comes in now, I don’t have that right now.
Speaker 3: (41:49)
Just considering the scope of this. I mean, we did a report a couple of days ago that basically said that would take a team of five contact tracers three days to contact 50 people, exponential growth. Are you still confident that this is going to work? Or is this merely a way to kind of combat future outbreaks?
Andrew Cuomo: (42:08)
Well, you know how many tracers we have, because if you look at the regions who opened, they had a number of tracers that they had to have to open. So those five regions that opened, they had to have a certain number of tracers proportionate to their population. And those are all in place. So if you just add up those five regions, tracer’s numbers on the dashboard, you’ll find out. But the tracing is, as you say, a first time, testing is a first time, tracing is a … All of this is the first time. The tracing operation is a tremendously large and challenging. That’s why Mike Bloomberg was so important here in his offer to help with his philanthropy, with Johns Hopkins, with this group, Vital Strategies to come up with a training program, recruitment program, how does it work.
Andrew Cuomo: (43:10)
And then to coordinate it statewide, especially downstate because there’s such cross pollinization to stay with the analogy downstate, right? You live in Westchester, but you work in New York, but you have a summer home on Long Island. So the regional coordination is also very important, but that is all coming online. A region doesn’t open unless they have that in place. The data we took last week was more on the question of 400 new cases, where are they coming from? And again, my premise was, they’re workers and the data said they’re not, which is actually good news, surprising, but good.
Speaker 5: (43:55)
[crosstalk 00:43:55] Do you have any outstanding COVID related bills currently in the legislature? Is there any bill that you would like to see passed as the legislature ends or are lawmakers’ jobs effectively done here in Albany?
Andrew Cuomo: (44:07)
Well, the lawmakers in many ways are working harder than they’ve worked in a long time. I think all our elected officials are working harder than they’ve worked in a long time, right? Because if you’re in a district, you’re getting constant calls of people who need all sorts of help. So their constituency demands are way up. Also the executive orders that I … Everything I do, we talk to the leaders about and they’re talking to their members about, right? So they may not be here physically but they are all engaged. Not just on the constituency work, they’re also part of what I am doing. I’m not taking actions that I’m not talking to them about. They’re raising issues with me. “I think we to look at this, I think we have to look at this.” So they’re very much engaged in everything that we’re doing.
Speaker 5: (45:03)
With the new COVID hospitalizations, they seem to have been leveled these past few days. And also the number of deaths seems to not be going down. Do you think that more lockdown measures are going to be needed to get those numbers down even further? Or can we expect those numbers to stay level?
Andrew Cuomo: (45:18)
You can’t do any more lockdown measures. You can’t do any more lockdown measures than we’ve done.
Speaker 5: (45:24)
Like no non-essential trips outside of the grocery stores or only going to the grocery stores on certain days.
Andrew Cuomo: (45:29)
No, we’re not talking about any additional lockdown. The numbers are down. So the question is reopening, right? You’re on the other side of the tunnel. And how do you reopen and reopening smartly, intelligently with individual responsibility. So understanding you’re going to see an increase in the numbers, but you don’t want to see a spike. [crosstalk 00:45:54] It’s just a higher, you can handle … Well, this is the conversation about the rate of transmission, et cetera. You can have, and we do have now, if you look at the numbers now it’s not a constant number. It’s a little up, a little down, a little up, little down, you can handle that. You don’t want to handle any spike, which gets up near your hospital capacity or anything like that.
Speaker 3: (46:20)
Just statistically what does that look like? Is that a 20% increase, a 30%, what is the metric?
Andrew Cuomo: (46:26)
Well it depends on what your original number is, right? You have different numbers all across the state, some regions you’re in the single digits, some regions you’re in the double digits, so it’s proportionate to that and the hospital capacity in that region, everything is by that region. Did I say that correctly? [inaudible 00:46:46]
Speaker 6: (46:47)
[crosstalk 00:46:47] Do you regret moving forward with the anti-malaria drugs? Given the whistleblower’s complaints and a new study suggesting some patients receiving a cocktail of the drugs had cardiac arrests at a slightly elevated level. Is the state aware of any such concerns through its own analysis?
Dr. Howard Zucker: (47:04)
So we looked at the hydroxychloroquine. We found that of the hospitalized patients, there was no benefit or adverse harm. It was clearly known that there was an issue of the potential of abnormal heart rhythms when you gave that drug along with the Zithromycin, the Zithromycin, which was the other drug. But there are other groups studying and looking at the use of this for individuals who are outpatient and we’ll wait and see what that data shows.
Speaker 6: (47:33)
[crosstalk 00:47:33] Do you regret moving forward because obviously there’s been hearings this week?
Andrew Cuomo: (47:37)
Yeah, yeah. We didn’t move forward, right? The drug was tested in hospital trials for the FDA, which is how they test drugs. So drugs were tested in New York hospitals and the tests suggested not to go ahead with the drug. Yes.
Speaker 7: (48:00)
Can you respond to a tweet from the Rensselaer County executive yesterday stating, these are Steve McLaughlin’s words, not mine. “The falsehoods by Cuomo have to stop, saying quote the rest of the U.S. is increasing is false. Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania have reported five weeks of declining new cases. Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, showed two weeks of decline. Facts, exclamation point.” Just wanted to know what your response is.
Andrew Cuomo: (48:26)
Yeah, well, tell him, he should send a letter to the New York Times because the chart I showed was from the New York Times. So either that fellow’s right or the New York Times is right. Woe for me to pick between the two. Let’s take one more, did you have a question, Dan?
Speaker 8: (48:42)
Yeah, Governor, on the Senate, the Senate obviously will be looking at a bill, have you spoken to Senator Schumer about the bill? And has he said if it passed, we have to make those cuts to the state of spending?
Andrew Cuomo: (48:54)
Yes, I’ve spoken to everyone about the bill to such an extent that I’m sure none of our federal representatives want to talk to me about it anymore. I’ve made it clear how important it is. I’ve made it clear what’s going to happen to the state budget if they don’t pass that bill. In many ways, they are in control of the state budget this year, because we passed the budget. We have a shortfall. If Washington does not make up that shortfall, there will be cuts. The state legislature is not here. I can only respond to the shortfall if we don’t receive the federal funding. And I believe it would be so ludicrous to have taken the actions they have taken, where they’re funding big business, small business, airlines. They’re worried about hotels. They’re worried about restaurants and I’m not debating those issues. But then not to help schools and police and firefighters and give people food who are starving and need SNAP. I mean, how could you ever justify that on a moral basis, ethical basis, legal basis, political basis, I don’t care. How would you ever justify that?
Speaker 8: (50:24)
If they need the money in June and you’ve already made the cuts to the state budget, can you restore those cuts back?
Andrew Cuomo: (50:30)
Yes. Okay, it’s a nice day. I’m going to go out [crosstalk 00:50:37]. Be here tomorrow, Sunday [crosstalk 00:50:45]. Be here tomorrow.