May 18, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York May 18 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Monday, May 18. Cuomo said N.Y. has ‘one of the best nursing home systems in the country.’ He also supported professional sports opening without fans. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Been living under a rock, to my far right, Robert Mujica, Budget Director for the State of New York. To my immediate right, Lieutenant Governor, Kathy Hochul, who’s done a great job for us statewide, but she’s taken a special role in coordinating Western New York. So we thank her very much for what she’s done. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To her left, Gareth Rhodes, who has been working with us through this crisis. It’s a pleasure to be at Roswell. Dr. Candace Johnson, thank you very much for the hospitality. I was thinking about our trip to Cuba and your great accomplishment. It was fun. It was fun and it was productive. And it’s always a pleasure to be with my friend, my partners, the great mayor of the City of Buffalo, Byron Brown, and the great County Executive of Erie County, Mark Poloncarz. Thank you for everything you’ve been doing to get us through this.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:59)
I’m pleased to report that I took a COVID test yesterday and I am negative from that test. So, that is good news. You take one of those tests. It’s very easy. I showed people how easy it was yesterday. And when you find out you’re negative, it’s actually a nice sense of relief. I didn’t have any symptoms or anything, but you don’t need to have symptoms and you can have the COVID virus. So you take the test. They tell you you’re negative 24 to 48 hours. And it is peace of mind. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be getting testing. We actually have now more testing capacity than we are using at many of our sites. And we’ve expanded the number of people who are eligible for testing. Anyone who has any symptom for a COVID virus, any symptom includes basically the symptoms you would have if you had the flu. Same symptoms. If you have any symptoms, get a test. Get a test. Protects you, protects your family, protects your colleagues. So get a test.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:16)
If you were exposed to a person who you find out is positive for COVID, get a test. Get a test. It takes 30 seconds. We have 700 locations across the state. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. You go right to the web. It shows you right where the location is. You can sign up and go.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:38)
Let’s give you some facts on today. Number of hospitalizations are down. So that’s good news. Not down a lot, but down. I’ll take it. Net changes down. Net change in intubations is down. The number of new cases per day is down by one. Not great, but I’ll take it. It’s going in the right direction. So that is good news.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:05)
The number that breaks my heart every day, the number of deaths, is still painfully high at 106, but it is down. And in this world where we’re looking for good news on a daily basis, that is good news. Although, in our thoughts and prayers are those 106 families today. And if you look at where we are, we have done a phenomenal job in reducing the spike, reducing what could have been cataclysmic. You see that incline on that curve? No one could tell you when we were in the midst of that incline, where it would stop or if it would stop. There was no global expert who said, “If you do this, if you close this and close this and close this, then we can tell you with certainty it will stop the spread of the virus.” Nobody said that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:04)
All they could say was, “Do your best. Try to close everything down and then hope for the best.” And New Yorkers responded. We had the highest number of cases in the country. New Yorkers responded with great unity and great discipline. And that’s why that curve turned. We hit the apex and we’re on the way down. You also see how slow the way down is. That’s why all the experts always say be careful of the spike because it’s a long time coming down from the spike. You want to avoid the spike because you can’t reverse it in a matter of days, it takes a long time to get those numbers back down. And this is with everything we did. And with all the loss and pain we suffered, this is how long it took to get those numbers down.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:57)
We now have a top priority, which we had from day one, which is our nursing homes. We were introduced to this virus in Seattle, Washington, where it attacked the nursing home. The most vulnerable population in the most vulnerable place: Senior citizens in a congregate facility. That’s how we were introduced to this virus. And I’m afraid that’s how we’re going to leave this virus. So protecting our nursing homes and seniors has been the top priority. Last week, we put in place a requirement to test all staff at a nursing home twice per week. Why? Well, number one, it keeps the staff safe.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:38)
Number two, if you see an increase in the positive among staff people, it’s an alert that you probably have a real problem in that nursing home because chances are the staff are getting it from the nursing home or giving it to people in the nursing home. So if you watch what happens with the staff, it’s a canary in the coal mine for what’s happening in the nursing home. And third, it clearly keeps the residents of the nursing home safe.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:14)
Now, to help nursing homes do this, we’ve worked with all the private labs, identified a number of tests that we can send just for the purpose of testing people in nursing homes. That’s about 35,000 per day. We’re sending 320,000 test kits to the nursing homes today to help them do this. With everything we’re doing, I know the nursing home’s operators are not happy about this. I get it. It’s very hard to administer. The staff all have to be tested twice a week. Okay. We’re giving test kits. We’ve set up lab capacity, but it is still an operational issue. I understand that. And I understand that no other state is doing this. And I hear that quite often from the nursing homes. No other state is requiring that the staff be tested twice a week.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:15)
I understand that. I understand we have the most aggressive standard in the nation, but I also know that it is necessary. And look, from day one, we said this was going to be hard. And we said we drew bad cards in this hand. New York did have the highest number of cases. Not because we did anything wrong, but because the virus fooled everyone and we were closing down China and the virus had already left China and gone to Europe. And by the time we closed Europe, 3 million Europeans had come from Europe and landed in New York airports. And that was happening and we didn’t know. Close China, it was already gone by the time we closed China. And it had left Europe by the time we closed Europe. That’s why New York had that cluster. Those flights from Europe, come here. They land in JFK. They land in Newark, people take connecting flights. They’re coming here.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:26)
So, that brought the virus here. That’s why we have the numbers we have. Okay. But we said, ‘We’re going to do what we have to do.” And we’re going to do what we have to do to protect the lives of New Yorkers. Who’s in a nursing home? This is your mother. This is your father, your sister, your brother. This is our family who are in nursing homes. That’s who they are. And there our senior family members who we owe nothing but gratitude and respect. And the one thing we need to be able to say at the end of this is we did everything we could. We did everything we could.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:09)
106 people died. How do you live with that? How do you sleep with that? Because we did everything we could. We still can’t save every life, but we can do everything in our power that we can do to try to save every life. And that’s why I’m comfortable with what we’re doing on nursing homes. I know it’s hard and I thank them.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:35)
On reopening overall, we’re opening regions that have hit the data points, hit the metrics. Western New York has one metric that they have to hit, which is the number of tracers. They need 521 tracers. They’ve identified 525. Great piece of work that they did over the weekend. I want to thank the mayor. I want to thank the county executive, all the regional officials who found people to serve as tracers. They’re going to be trained tomorrow. And that means all the metrics will be hit and Western New York will open tomorrow. So, that’s exciting. And it’s been a long, painful period, but we start to reopen tomorrow.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:23)
New York State Department of Health is also granting a waiver to restart elective procedures for ECMC. We want to make sure hospitals are in a position to provide care for people who need it. So this is a good step. I also have been encouraging major sports teams to plan re-openings without fans, but the games could be televised. New York State will help those major sports franchises to do just that. Hockey, basketball, baseball, football, whoever can reopen, we’re a ready, willing, and able partner.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:05)
Personal disclosure, I want to watch the Buffalo Bills, but I’m still objective. I’m acting as governor. There’s no personal agenda here. Yes. I do want to watch The Bills, but that is not subverting my role as governor. I think this is in the best interest of all the people and in the best interest of the state of New York, even though I do have a coincident personal agenda, because I want to watch The Bills, but they are separate agendas. At least someone say I have a conflict of interest. I want to disclose it. Judges and staff will be returning to courthouses in the 30 upstate counties that are open this week.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:49)
What will re-opening mean? That’s a big topic of discussion now. What does reopening mean? This is not a subject that is a political subject or where political opinions really matter. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent. I don’t care. I don’t care. This is not a political exercise that we are going through. People say, “Well, I have a personal opinion.” I don’t even care about your personal opinion. I don’t think you should care about my personal opinion because it’s not about a personal opinion. It’s not about an ideological opinion. It’s not about a geographic opinion. It’s not even an opinion that’s relevant, right? This is about facts and science and data. These decisions are being made as a matter of math. It’s numbers, it’s math. That’s all it is at the end of the day. You start to increase economic activity, you have more people coming out of their homes, more people contacting other people. And then you measure the impact of that increase with-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:03)
You measure the impact of that increase with numbers. Not with opinions, not with politics, not with partisanship. With numbers, and then you just measure the impact. You make sure that you don’t go above 70% of your hospital beds, so that if a larger number of people get infected, you have the hospital beds to take care of them. You make sure you don’t go over 70% of your ICU bed capacity, because when these people are infected with COVID, they do need ICU beds. We learned that the hard way. You have testing up and running, of 30 tests per 1,000 residents. Where did that come from? That’s the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Birx. You have 30 tracers ready for every 100,000 residents. That comes from the experts, and then you watch the infection rate, and you make sure that you don’t get near 1.1 on the infection rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:06)
It’s math, and there’s a liberation in that. At a time of such division and politics and elections and all this garbage, this is an exercise in science and math, and it’s data that we can all share and we can all participate in. I encourage people to go look at the data and look at what’s happening in your region, because that’s how we’re going to get through this, on the numbers, on the math, on the facts. We’re going to bring in advisors to the state advisors who are international experts, global experts who have dealt with these kinds of diseases, right? This is not just a State of New York issue. It’s not even an American issue. It’s a global issue, and I want to make sure we have people reviewing and then reviewing the reviewers, and then as many opinions of experts that we can get, are the best path forward.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:13)
Dr. Oesterholm is a nationwide expert in this field and he has agreed to review our data, what we’re doing, what’s happening, and to advise us as to how our progress looks on the numbers. I want to thank him very much. We all also have Dr. Samir Bhatt, senior lecturer at Imperial College, who has agreed to serve as an advisor to the State of New York. Dr. Bhatt is the senior lecturer in geostatistics at the Imperial College in London. Geostatistics is not my field of endeavor. I never heard of geostatistics before Doctor. That’s why we need you to advise us, Dr. Bhatt, because I know nothing about geostatistics. But Dr. Bhatt is joining us. I want to thank him very much.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:11)
The Imperial College in London, we have had a number of projection models that were done early on by a number of very prestigious universities, and we’ve been watching all these projection models since this started. As you know, many of the models were not 100% accurate because they couldn’t calculate the effect of the social participation and what people actually did to change the curve, and in a state like New York, what the people did dramatically changed that curve, so it affected the projections. But the Imperial College model, as we have been following this for weeks, was the best, most accurate model, and therefore I think Dr. Bhatt deserves all our thanks because they really helped us all through this to date, and I want to thank him very much for taking the time to advise us not just on how we constructed our model to date, but what happens going forward as we increase the economic activity and we start to see numbers change. So Doctor, thank you very much for being with us, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you today.
Dr. Samir Bhatt: (17:35)
Thank you, Governor. It’s a professional honor to work with you. I think your state has already shown what can be achieved when policies are driven by science, and I think the sacrifices people have made and will continue to make deserves an applause. The leadership shown in New York during this crisis should be commended, and I think yours is an approach for others to follow.
Dr. Samir Bhatt: (17:58)
At Imperial College in London, we have a huge COVID-19 response team, collaborating with scientists and government agencies globally. You in New York have successfully contained the virus for now, but New York is not out of the woods yet. No state, no country is. As you reopen, New York must continue to watch the data and follow the science. We are really eager to work with New York, as they’re approaching this crisis from a scientific perspective, driven by data. New York is leading the way with data collection, and this will help tie together as many sources of evidence as possible to reach a scientific consensus, which can then be used for decision making.
Dr. Samir Bhatt: (18:36)
Our team is focused on rigorous modeling to track R, or RD, as you had put it as well, the reproduction number of the virus going forwards. If R goes above one, this means the virus is no longer contained, and we need to track the spread of this virus and the disease using the best data possible and as much of it as possible. We are committed to open science so policy makers and citizens understand our conclusions, limitations, and of course the uncertainties.
Dr. Samir Bhatt: (19:06)
To date, my team at Imperial has released reports for Europe, Brazil, Italy, relying on data from Google, as well as open source statistical tools developed in Columbia University. Thanks to these tools and our research network, the code is available for everyone to see, test, and to improve. As countries around the world and states around the U S start reopening their economies, we will see cases rise once again, and so New York must continue to be vigilant and to follow the data. So I think I say, Governor, thank you for this opportunity, and truly thank you for the work you’ve been doing and you are doing. Thank you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:43)
Thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Bhatt. Thank you for being with us. Thank you. I look forward to speaking to you in the days ahead. I want to thank the doctor very much, and the whole college. Look, I’m a parochial New Yorker. I was not all that eager to seek the advice of a college in London, but I can tell you this: This is a global pandemic, and what we’re now doing, other countries have done before. We tend to think we are always the first. We’re not the first. We’re not the first to deal with this virus. Other countries have dealt with it. Other countries have gone through reopening. They’ve learned all sorts of lessons on reopening. I want to make sure that what we’re doing is the best informed approach, so I want to thank the doctor very much, and they’ll be looking exactly at what happens, at our data, our metrics going forward.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:32)
And then the last point is, what’s the impact of the reopening? We don’t know yet what the road ahead looks like. It is a function of what we do. So you tell me, how responsible are the employers in following the guidelines that have been put forth, right? We talk about reopening, and contracting, and agriculture, and fishing, and manufacturing, and there are safety guidelines that those employers must follow. How scrupulous they are in following those guidelines will matter. You tell me if the store owners follow the guidelines, and I’ll tell you what happens. You tell me if the employees are following the guidelines, and wearing the PPE, and using the hand sanitizer, and I’ll tell you what happens. You tell me how individuals react. Now that the weather is getting warmer, are they wearing masks? Are they acting socially responsibly? Are they staying within social distancing requirements? And I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. You tell me how effectively a local government enforces the guidelines, and I’ll tell you what is going to happen.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:56)
So none of this is predetermined. This is all a function of what we do today, going forward. And the smarter, the more disciplined we are, the lower that infection rate will climb. The lower the infection rate declines, the more you increase the economic activity. It is a formula. It is math, and that is that both, at the same time, it’s liberating, because it takes the politics out of it, it takes a personal opinion out of it, but it’s also something you can measure and track and you will know exactly what’s going to happen because it’s a function of what we’re doing. It’s up to us. It’s up to you. It’s the collective. We’re going to decide the future that starts today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:52)
We should also set our goal high, right? We’re coming back. We’re coming back from the closing. All right. So what is our goal? I say it should not just be about, “We’re going to reopen.” Reopen suggests you’re going to go back to where you were before the closure. “We’re going to go back to the day before the closure.” No. Life is never about going backwards. Life is never about, “I want to get back to where I was.” It has to be about building back better than before. We want to go forward. We want to advance, and that’s what we have to think about going through this. Yeah, we took a hard blow, and we got knocked down. No fault of our own. Whoever created that virus, Mother Nature, God, whoever, no fault of our own. Welcome to life. Things happen outside of your control that you couldn’t do anything about, but it just happens.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:59)
And then the question becomes, are you strong enough to get back up once life knocks you down, and are you smart enough to learn from what you went through in life? And when you get back up, you will be the better for it. I believe that. That’s my story. That’s our story. That’s the story of Buffalo, getting knocked down, change in the economy. ” All right, but we’re going to get back up because we’re strong enough and we’re going to learn from it because we’re smart enough.” That’s the story of Buffalo. That’s the story of New York. That is the American story, right? It’s what made this country the best country on the globe. Not that we don’t didn’t get knocked down. We got knocked down plenty, but we were smart enough to learn and strong enough to get back up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:58)
And that’s where we have to set our sights. Not about reopening. We’re going to make this place better than ever before, because what we went through is a transformative experience in life, on an individual level and on a social level. We’re not going to be the people we were the day before. We’re going to be better. We’re going to be smarter. We’re going to be stronger for what we went through. We’re going to be a stronger society for what we went through. I believe that, and we’re going to have a stronger Buffalo, a stronger New York, and a stronger America. And that’s what it means to be New York tough: Smart, united, disciplined, and loving. Thank you. Questions?
Speaker 1: (25:46)
Governor, it appears, if I understand the numbers right, the state reset some of the metrics to make Western New York eligible to reopen. That’s the way it looks at least. Can you explain that or clarify that? Specifically hospitalizations and hospital deaths.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:01)
The hospitalizations and hospital deaths are on-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:03)
The hospitalizations and the hospital deaths are on a three-day rolling average, so you have to compute it from a three day average and that’s what we’ve been doing. And then you pick a date and it’s three days from there. I don’t know anything beyond that.
Melissa DeRosa: (26:19)
No, that’s correct. It was the net change in the daily spike in cases couldn’t exceed 15 hospitalizations or five deaths over a three-day rolling average or the 14 day straight decline. It was always either or. So in this instance for Western New York, it’s on that rolling average and the rolling average of the last three days. The hospitalization is actually negative six on the three-day rolling average, and the deaths is two. So it falls under-
Speaker 2: (26:43)
Sorry. For most of the west side who don’t know, so it’s the maximum of that three-day rolling average, which is 28-
Melissa DeRosa: (26:49)
No. It’s over the course of the three-day rolling average, and it’s the last three days.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:54)
Three-day rolling average is just that. Take the last three days and average it.
Speaker 3: (27:00)
There is a large contingent of New Yorkers frustrated with your comments yesterday about unemployment. You said yesterday that the majority of the backlog had been cleared. Thousands of new Yorkers say they filed in March, they haven’t heard. They have recertified every week. They have no money and they can’t get through the state still. Have you heard from those people and what is your message to them?
Melissa DeRosa: (27:21)
Commissioner Riordan is going to be doing a call today to speak to that directly, but as of this morning, we’ve now given out $9.2 billion to two million New Yorkers. That’s not to say that everybody has been paid. As I said, there’s three major categories that are left outstanding for anyone beyond the three week backlog, and that is either has uncertified partial information. A lot of those people fit into the partial information category where either a social security number is wrong, or one of the pieces of information that the Feds mandate has not been turned in or has not been verified, or suspected fraud. And we actually have Department of Labor specialists that are actively not just waiting for people to fix those issues, but reaching out to those people directly to try to rectify them.
Melissa DeRosa: (28:02)
That doesn’t mean every single person has been cleared from the backlog. It’s the majority of the people have been cleared from the backlog and the fact that now two million New Yorkers have been paid and it aligns with the number of New Yorkers who have filed, we’re getting very, very close. So for the people who are outstanding, that is now the exception, not the rule and DOL is working around the clock to address those issues. And Commissioner Riordan will be speaking again, exclusively in a call today, just to answer questions on this,
Speaker 3: (28:25)
She won’t say how big the backlog is. How [crosstalk 00:00:28:27]-
Melissa DeRosa: (28:27)
She will today. She will today. She’s going to address it today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:30)
But also let’s remember the context. People are angry here. People are angry here. People are angry everywhere right now, with good reason. Here’s the needle you have to thread. We have an unprecedented number of unemployment claims. It has overwhelmed every state in the United States of America. I’ve talk to governors all day long. Everyone is dealing with this. The federal government just passes a new law a couple of weeks ago, changes all the rules, all the states have to change the program to fit the new rule. And you’re getting literally millions of calls where you got thousands of calls previously. Come up with a better system, a better website, more phones. We have 3000 employees on phones and the website. Get the money out the door, get the money out the door, get the money out the door.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:24)
Then you have another pressure, which is, hey, this is taxpayer money. Make sure there’s no fraud. I hope you’re not giving out money to somebody who doesn’t qualify. I hope you’re meeting every federal test, all that 476 criteria. I hope you’re checking every box. And now you’re getting fraud alerts. We think people are defrauding the unemployment system. We think there may be widespread computer cyber fraud, where these people don’t even exist. And it’s a fraud scheme all done on a computer because you’re not seeing people anymore. There’s no person who walks in the door. It’s all on the other side of a computer, and you’re giving out billions of dollars in this country. So be careful that you’re not being subject to some kind of computer fraud and you’re responding to Susie Smith, but there is no Susie Smith. Susie Smith is really a computer terminal in some other country.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:35)
So right? Because I guarantee you a few weeks from now, I’m going to be at a press conference like this and someone’s going to say, “People are really angry that you gave out a lot of money and the people didn’t exist, and they were just computer scam artists. And how did you not know?” Sir.
Speaker 4: (30:59)
Governor, a local law firm has filed suits in federal court against you and against the attorney general. In its claim, the order is to force people to work off site. They call it an abuse of power. Have you had a chance to review this lawsuit? And we’re eager for your opinion, if you have it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:16)
I have not seen the lawsuit or heard about it. The theory is its wrong to ask people to work offsite?
Speaker 4: (31:24)
They complain that by forcing some of their employees to go home, to work off site, they’re calling it an abuse of power by the state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:33)
Yeah, I don’t know, yeah. Look, a lot of people say a lot of things, right? That falls in that category of a lot of people say a lot of things.
Speaker 5: (31:42)
Governor, today is Victoria Day, which normally in Niagara falls, all the hotels would be full. These boats would be jam-packed. And I think Lieutenant governor last week heard an earful from the tourism folks. In the later phases, what any plan do you have to try to get tourists back to New York state?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:01)
Well, tourism is not going to be just a New York state question. It’s a national question. It’s an international question. When will people get back on planes? When does the economy bounce back that people have money to spend on tourism? The jam-packed boats, that’s going to be a question of when can you do jam-packed? When can you do a jam-packed stadium, a jam-packed restaurant, a jam-packed, a jam-packed boat? They’re all going to be in that jam-packed question.
Speaker 6: (32:36)
[crosstalk 00:32:36] on that note, when you say you’re encouraging professional sports teams to reopen without fans, is that just for the foreseeable future? Do you perceive that for the end of the NFL season and how much should state and local officials be part of those conversations about whether these professional sports teams should reopen?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:55)
Well, first my opinion is they have to do a ramp up anyway. They have to start. They have to have a camp, they have to go through administrative procedures. If they can economically have games with no fans and the numbers work for them, the economics work because the TV revenue is enough without the fan revenue, and that’s actually a sport by sport determination. Some sports actually rely more on the TV income, televised income than the stadium arena income. But if they can make their numbers work, I say great. Come back. The state will work with you, because remember government rules right now could stop a team come from coming back, what’s essential, what’s not essential.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:55)
So I’m saying the state will work with them to come back. They have to make their own economic decision, whether that economic model works for them. Can you do hockey without fans? Can you do baseball without fans? Can you do football without fans? They have to make that decision, but any way we can help, we would help. And then there’ll be up and running and then when we can fill a stadium again, we can fill a stadium. But why wait until you can fill a stadium before you start to bring the team back? And if you can televise it in the meantime, great. It’s not as good as going to a game or going to a bar and watching the game, but people who are at home, if you had the chance to watch sports … I’m watching the reruns right now of the old classic games and that’s fun, but I’d rather watch current sports on TV, if it works.
Speaker 7: (35:01)
Governor, what about houses of worship, libraries? Things like that-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:06)
Speaker 7: (35:07)
What’s the schedule for them? There’s a lot of clamoring about, especially worship.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:10)
Yeah. It’s the same thing. It’s all jam the boats, jam temple, jam churches, anywhere where you have the concentration and the density, the gatherings, that is the issue. The gathering is the issue. Remember what we learned. We’ve made mistakes so let’s not make the same mistakes twice. We had the first hotspot in the United States. The first they called it a hotspot before it was even called a hotspot. The first super spreader, before they even called them super spreaders, was New Rochelle Westchester. How New Rochelle Westchester? One person who went to a religious gathering and then a ceremony infected dozens and dozens. When they talk about the meat processing plants in the Midwest and the outbreaks in the meat processing plants, it has nothing to do with the meat. It’s the fact that you had a thousand employees, 500 employees. We have a situation in Madison County. You have a couple of hundred people and you have one person who’s infected, you have a problem. So they all come in that same category.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (36:31)
Nobody can tell you when you’ll be ready for that but the answer is follow … The answer is everybody will know, because if you follow the numbers and you follow the math, you will watch that infection rate and you will see the trajectory of progress. It’s that simple.
Speaker 7: (36:54)
Do they fall into, in terms of those four phases for reopening, do they fall into one, two, three or four?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:03)
Oh, that’s on the website. Does anyone know what-
Speaker 7: (37:05)
It wasn’t. I don’t think the houses of worship is on there.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:08)
Robert Mujica: (37:10)
The houses of worship, as if you were just to open them up regularly with new guidelines would fall in the last stage because as the governor said, that’s a mass gathering. The same thing with the stadium, the same thing with any situation where you have a lot of people together. The question is whether or not you could do something less than that. But that’s still an open question as whether or not you can.
Speaker 7: (37:34)
So that hasn’t been determined whether they could be a small group, like 10, 15, 20 people?
Robert Mujica: (37:40)
Right. Not yet.
Speaker 8: (37:41)
I spoke to a nursing home administrator Friday who said they had no idea the state was sending them testing kits and they were being told they had to pay for them themselves. Went out, procured some on their own. What’s the plan of communication between the state and nursing homes in terms of how we’re going to get these kits to you and how many you’re going to get?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:56)
Well, we’re on daily communication. This scale of testing is new for everyone. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get tests, how to buy tests, how to get the testing kits, how to get the testing machines. Hospitals are doing that, labs are doing that nursing homes are doing that, employers are doing that, so that is nothing new. We just worked very hard over the weekend, secured testing capacity from the labs, private labs, that will be set aside for nursing homes. And testing kits that we can procure and send to nursing homes to help them.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:40)
Also remember nursing home staff is a person. You could be a nursing home staff. Okay. Go to a drive-in, go to the CVS, go to Rite Aid. There’s a lot of places that you can now get a test. And we have many places that are under utilized. We have some drive-ins that can do 15,000 tests a day. They’re only-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:03)
Right? We have some drive-ins that can do 15,000 tests a day. They’re only doing 5,000 tests a day. I mean, we worked day and night to get this testing capacity up, we’re not even using it right now. So you can say, if you’re a nursing home, “It’s a operational pain. People don’t want to get tested twice a day.” I understand that, but we know that there’s the ability. 700 testing sites around the state. You can go right now and you could get a test right now, just go through a drive-in on the way home.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:39)
I stood up yesterday, I had it done, showed people how easy it was. I understand they don’t want to do it, but these are senior citizens and I want to be able to say on behalf of the State, “We did everything we could.” And testing twice a week of a staff member, I don’t think is excessive. “Well, why don’t we do once a week?” You do once a week, you take a test on Monday, you got infected on Tuesday. So Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you spread that virus in a nursing home and then you found out a week later when you tested positive. You know how many people you could have hurt by then? That’s why twice a week. Sir, I’ll take one more.
Speaker 9: (40:29)
You talk about how important it is to listen to the experts here on this stuff. If you talk to the experts on nursing homes, they’ll tell you before COVID-19 New York State had one of the lowest levels of care in nursing homes, and some of the most lax enforcement by the State Health Department. So is State not in some way to blame for what happened? [crosstalk 00:40:49]
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (40:48)
I don’t believe the experts would say that. We have over 600 nursing homes, we’ve had one of the best nursing home systems in the country for a long period of time. You can always have people that say we should do more, that always happens, and we are doing more. And, by the way, now we’re doing more and they’re complaining that we’re doing more than any other State. You can’t have it both ways. Right? [inaudible 00:41:21] Last question. Yes. Ma’am.
Speaker 10: (41:22)
Given the outside impact that some companies have on an entire region, has there been any thought given to publicly posting the county breakdown as far as the reopening metrics go? Because, right now those aren’t available. And, is there any more clarification you can give regarding how much time we need to wait between reopening phases? You’ve said 14 days is a general guideline, but depending on what the metrics show, maybe they might be a little sooner? Can you elaborate on that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (41:47)
Yeah. 14 days is the guideline because it’s basically the incubation period of the virus. It will show up in about 14 days. If lot of people get infected today, there’s then an incubation period, then there’s symptoms, or not. Then, if all else fails, the way you see the increase is in the hospitalization. You know when the hospitalization rate goes up. But when the hospitalization rate goes up, they call it a lagging indicator, it really is telling you who got infected two weeks before.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:26)
So when you wait for it to happen in the hospitals, you are behind the eight ball. But, you will see the infection rate every day. If the economic activity is increasing but the infection rate isn’t, and the hospitalization rate isn’t, and the testing rate isn’t, and the antibody rate isn’t, then you could say we can get a little more aggressive and increase the rate faster.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:58)
And again, what’s liberating here is it’s a pure function of management of numbers. It’s numbers. I want to lose 10 pounds, I’m going to try to lose two pounds a week. Okay. It’s going to take me five weeks. Well, first week I did better. All right, so then you calibrate that way.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:20)
This is just a mathematical calibration, and I want to keep it there because I want to keep it out of politics. I don’t want to get into what people say, “You should open faster.” People say, “You should open slower.” On what basis? Where do you get that from? “Well, I just think you could do it faster.” On what basis do you think I could do it faster? “Well, I think you should be doing it slower.” On what basis do you think… It’s not what I’m thinking, either. Let’s keep all our opinions out of it, and let’s just look at the data.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:55)
If the data says 14 days is the guideline. If there is virtually no increase in the indicators, could you argue you’re doing better than anticipated and open faster? Sure you could, and that’d be a reasonable theory based on the numbers. But let’s keep it on the numbers. Let’s keep it on the facts, is what I’m saying.
Speaker 10: (44:19)
[crosstalk 00:44:19] county breakdowns. What [inaudible 00:44:20] country breakdowns-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:22)
When you break down the numbers too far, I don’t know how reliable they are. Remember this whole system that we’re now putting online, this has all been developed in the last two months. None of this existed, all this daily reporting by hospitals, reporting by nursing homes, reporting by testing sites. So the fear is, if you get too granular in the numbers and the numbers get too small, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable in their accuracy when you start disaggregation them. But that is not my field, that’s geo-statistics, which I never even took.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (45:07)
So I just want to make sure… Well, that assumes that the County data is reliable on a daily basis. And as someone who knows what many of these counties are doing and how they’re struggling, I wouldn’t put it up and say it is reliable and I would count on any given day. That’s why I say on all these numbers from day one, don’t take any of these day-to-day numbers as gospel, because this is just a reporting system that is still being developed. So take them all with a grain of salt. [inaudible 00:45:48] Last question.
Speaker 11: (45:48)
Governor, what are you going really watch once things reopen. You talked about the individual responsibility, the store shop owner, the bigger business. Is someone going to come in and be that kind of watchdog to see that some of these precautions are being taken? Because I think there’s a level of different precautions that some people think they’re supposed to take and others aren’t taking. And who is going to police, whether its face masks are being worn than hair salons, who is going to watch out for that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:12)
First, the guidelines are the guidelines. The rules are very specific, they’re online. It says exactly what an employer needs to do, an employee needs to do, what curbside pickup is, that an individual should social distance less than six feet, an individual should wear a mask when they’re not in a position to socially distance or may not socially distance. So the rules are clear I think.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:38)
Enforcement compliance is done by the local governments, and we have talked about that a number of times. You have public health people who will be doing the enforcement. Some localities use police to do the enforcement. That’s up to the local governments. And also, I believe New Yorkers should enforce it. You know? New Yorkers should enforce it. Because this is all about us, this is not really a government function. This is about people working together to achieve a greater goal. I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me. It’s my respect for you, it’s your respect for me. How these rules are complied with… If they’re not complied with more people get infected, the infection rate will go up, and then you’ll see a necessary reduction in activity, which hurts everyone. So, that’s how we do it. Really, really last question.
Speaker 12: (47:44)
This is a metrics question from earlier. Why I think it’s important based on what I understand, is that the State moved the date for that spikes from basically the beginning of the outbreak to May 15. Based on what I’ve been reading, that changes the date that Western New York would have qualified by at least 10 days, that we were still at least 10 days off. So can you give a little clarification as to what exactly did move and how much that changed when this region qualified for Phase 1?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:15)
I don’t know anything more than I told you. A three-day rolling average is a three-day rolling average going back three days from today. Right? That’s a three-day rolling average.
Melissa DeRosa: (48:26)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:27)
And we have numbers for what that three-day rolling average must be. So today is Monday. Sunday, Saturday, Friday, that’s the three-day rolling average.
Melissa DeRosa: (48:42)
It’s based on the last three days. And what we’ve been very clear on was that once we hit May 15th, as soon as a region met the benchmarks, they could enter Phase 1. So the time reset on May 15th, which was the end of the pause, the last three days, Western New York met the benchmarks. The numbers that I gave you the negative six on the hospitalizations and the two on the deaths for the three-day rolling average, which allowed them to enter Phase 1.
Speaker 12: (49:04)
The New York Forward [inaudible 00:49:05] says that number can never exceed 15 or 5, respectively. So I think that’s where the confusion is.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:11)
I don’t know, you’re above my pay grade.
Melissa DeRosa: (49:14)
It’s on the net change in daily spike. It’s not, not exceeding at all… Like, not from a baseline of zero. It’s the negative six in hospitalizations and the two in deaths.
Speaker 9: (49:25)
How did we get so many contact tracers? Yesterday the Governor said we were 352 short.
Melissa DeRosa: (49:29)
Great work of our County Executives. They identified the bodies within the Counties.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:34)
County Executive, City, came up with contact traces, scrambled. Every region has a number of employees who they’re going to make available as contact tracers. Any other area L.G.?
Kathy Hochul: (49:49)
There are individuals from the various counties participating, people who work in County Public Health departments, County Social Services. Even in Niagara County, we have 50 sheriffs that have been identified. So, we’ve really enlisted the public servants from the Five County region. They have stepped up, they’ve been participating from the very beginning. They take a four hour training course and they’ll be ready to launch tonight.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:13)
You, too, can be a tracer. It’s a great second job.
Speaker 13: (50:17)
Constitutionality question. Governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:19)
[inaudible 00:50:19] Thank you.