May 20, 2020
Andrew Cuomo New York May 20 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript
Governor Andrew Cuomo held his daily New York coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, May 20. Cuomo said the majority of coronavirus spread is in low-income communities. Read the full speech transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:32)
… a good way to start the day. From my left, we have Budget Director, Robert Mujica, always smiling because that is our financial forecast, it’s all smiles. Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. From my far right, we have Dr. James [inaudible 00:00:25:50], Dr. Howard Zucker. To my immediate right, Mariah Kennedy Cuomo, who is on special volunteer assignment for the state, working for her father, a very pleasant boss. We’re a little sad today, Mariah and I, because the boyfriend has left the premises, returned to his home state. That’s okay. That old expression, if you love something, let it go and it will return to you. And if it doesn’t return, then it was never meant to be… Words to that effect. Numbers are headed in the right direction today; hospitalizations are down. Net change in hospitalizations are down, intubations are down again. Number of new cases down, but it was a long road down, slow decline, fast spike, slow decline. That’s what has happened all across the country. Number of deaths still painfully high, not down, up a little bit. The overall direction is right, but this is a painful, painful, tragic number of lives lost, and they’re all in our thoughts and prayers. You look at the entire experience, you see we’re stabilized, basically with where we were before we had this dramatic increase. And one of the things we’ve learned through this is smart wins. It’s not about politics, it’s not about emotion. You’re dealing with a virus. The virus doesn’t respond to politics. The virus doesn’t have an ideology, virus isn’t red or blue. It is a virus that is attacking people. It’s about science. It’s about numbers. It’s about data and smart wins the battle. If you follow that guidance and that theory, we’re always looking at in researching the numbers, where are the cases coming from? How do we reduce the numbers?
Andrew Cuomo: (28:17)
You look all across the country, it’s lower income communities, predominantly minority, where we’re still seeing an increase in the numbers. We looked at that in New York City. We did a very extensive research project, and it is true. You can look at where the cases are coming, look at the testing data by geographic area, by zip code and find out where the cases are coming from. We asked Northwell Health, which is the largest health system in the state, to do an extensive test for us. We’re in the midst of that test, but we have back about 8,000 tests, which is a very large sample, and the data is very powerful and informs what we’re doing going forward. The test was done in New York City because that’s where we have the highest predominance of cases. But in lower income communities, communities of color, we partnered with the faith based community, with churches to conduct tests.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:32)
We found about 27% of the individuals testing positive. 27%, that’s compared to the New York City general population of about 19%, okay? The Bronx had the highest percentage, 34%, again, compared to a citywide average of 19%, then Brooklyn, then Manhattan, then Queens. Staten Island was right at the New York City overall number. But, you take a place like The Bronx, it’s 34% compared to 19%, just to give you an idea. And the data shows not just a high positive, not just that a high number of people had the positive, but the spread is continuing in those communities, and that’s where the new cases are coming from, okay?
Andrew Cuomo: (30:32)
And you can literally do that on a zip code basis. For example, Morrisania in the Bronx, 43% of the people tested positive, 43%, compared to New York City general average of 19%. Hospitalization rate, 3.2 people for every 100,000, compared to 1.8. It is double the hospitalization rate, okay? So be smart. Let’s use the numbers. Let’s research. Where were people who were infected? Where are the new cases coming from? Where’s the spread continuing? Low income communities, communities of color. They tend to be high Latino, high African American population. And we’re seeing that pattern continue in zip codes, lower income, predominantly minority. Brownsville, Brooklyn, 41%, double the city average. That happens to be 80% African American. But again, just about double the rate of hospitalization. So, that’s where the cases are still coming from. That’s where the virus is still spreading.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:04)
But again, you look at the data, you see it over and over again by zip code, by select communities within the city. My old neighborhood, Hollis Queens, 35% compared to 19%. So, it’s all across the city, less in Staten Island, higher in communities of color and lower income communities. I want to thank the congressional delegation who helped organize this partnership between Northwell and the faith based community. Getting 8,000 tests in a short period of time is not easily done. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries came up with this idea about 10 days ago, organized it quickly. I want to thank Hakeem. I also want to thank Congresswoman Valasquez and Congresswoman Clark for helping us getting it organized. The faith based community has been great here, Reverend Brolly and Reverend Rivera organized those churches for us. So we have the data, we have the research, and now we have to take the next step, okay?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:19)
Okay. We did the research, we have the data, we know what’s happening. Now, what do we do about it? That’s always step two. And we’re going to develop targeted strategies to these highly impacted communities. What we’re seeing in New York City is going to be true across the state. Northwell Health is going to double the number of churches that they’re working in, 44 total churches. We’re going to partner with SOMOS Community Care. And I want to thank them very much for stepping up. They’re going to open 28 additional testing sites in these zip codes that fit this profile. We’re going to focus on public housing. When you think about everything we’re talking about, socially distance, et cetera, and then think about public housing and how hard it is in public housing to do the things we’re talking about. I worked in public housing all across this country when I was the housing and urban development secretary during the Clinton administration.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:23)
Socially distance. How do you socially distance in an elevator in a public housing complex? How do you socially distance in the hallways of a public housing complex? How do you socially distance in the lobby? How do you socially distance in a small playground that is attached to public housing? So, we understand the challenge and ready responders are going to increase the testing in 40 public housing developments in New York City. So, this is going to be a very extensive effort between Northwell and SOMOS. You’ll have 72 faith-based sites. You’ll then have ready responders in public housing. And we want to now take the next step, which is outreach programs, getting the PPE into the community, getting the hand sanitizer into the community, explaining social distancing, and why that’s so important, and explain how this virus spreads. It’s a public health education effort.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:21)
And I’ve been all across the state. You drive through some of these communities and you can see that social distancing isn’t happening, PPE is not being used, and hence the virus spreads. And again, we did the research in New York City because that’s where we have the predominance of cases. But it is going to be true in every community across this state and across this nation. You tell me the zip codes have the predominantly minority community, lower income community, I will tell you the communities where you’re going to have a higher positive, and you’re going to have increased spread, and you’re going to have increased hospitalization. I’m asking all local governments to do the same thing that we did in New York City, focus on low income communities, do the testing and do the outreach, do the testing and do the outreach. That’s where the cases are coming from, that’s where the new hospitalizations are coming from, that’s what’s going into the hospital system, that’s where you’re going to see the highest number of deaths. So that is our challenge.
Andrew Cuomo: (36:35)
On reopening, which we’re doing across the state. We do it on the numbers, we do it on the metrics. Every New Yorker can go to the website and find out where their community is. Capitol district will reopen today. We’re working with religious institutions. Right now, they can have up to 10 people with strict social distancing guidelines at religious gatherings. We’ve asked them to consider drive-in and parking lot services for religious ceremonies. But we’re going to be working with our interfaith advisory council. Our interfaith advisory council has representatives of the religious community across the state, all different religions. I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible. As a former altar boy, I get it. I think even at this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting, but we need to find out how to do it and do it safely and do it smartly. The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:57)
Religious ceremony by definition is a gathering, right? It’s a large number of people coming together. We know from New Rochelle Westchester, the first hotspot, that religious ceremonies can be very dangerous. So, we all want to do the same thing. The question is, how do we do it, and how do we do it smartly and efficiently? And I’ll be talking with members of the religious community in doing just that, and I’m sure that we can come up with a way that does it, but does it intelligently? People ask all the time, well now we’re reopening, what’s going to happen? What’s going to happen is what we make happen. There is no predestined course here. There is nothing that is pre-ordained. What is going to happen is a consequence of our choices and a consequence of our action. It’s that simple. If people are smart and if people are responsible and if the employers who are opening those businesses do it responsibly, if employees are responsible, if individuals are responsible, then you will see the infection rates stay low.
Andrew Cuomo: (39:14)
If people get arrogant, if people get cocky, if people get casual, if people become undisciplined, you will see that infection rate go up. It is that simple. This has always been about what we do. It’s never been about what government mandated. Government cannot mandate behavior of people, and it certainly can’t mandate behavior of 19 million people. It can give you the facts. It can give you the facts that lead to an inevitable conclusion, and New Yorkers have been great about following the facts. But we’re at another pivot point. Yes, we’re re-opening. Yes, the numbers are down. Yes, we can increase activity and increase economic activity. What is the consequence of that? It depends on what we do. Do your part; wear a mask. Now, wearing a mask… I have been trying to communicate in a whole different set of ways. Mariah’s heading up a project that she’ll report on in a moment that’s helping to communicate this message, but it seems like a simple thing, wearing a mask.
Andrew Cuomo: (40:34)
And it’s apparently so simple that people think it’s of no consequence. It happens to be of tremendous consequence. It is amazing how effective that mask actually is. And don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor, I’m not a public health expert. Again, look at the facts. What shocks me to this day, and I would have lost a lot of money on this bet. How do frontline workers have a lower infection rate than the general population? If I said to you, who’s going to have a higher infection rate, nurses in an emergency room, doctors in an emergency room, or the general population, who has a higher infection rate? I think most people would have said the nurses in the emergency room, the doctors in the emergency room, the hospital staff. They’re going to have a higher infection rate because they’re dealing with COVID positive people all day long. Not true. How do nurses and doctors have a lower infection rate than the general population? How do transit workers, who are on the buses and subways all day long, have a lower infection rate…
Andrew Cuomo: (42:03)
long have a lower infection rate than the general population. How does the NYPD? Police officers who show up, who are dealing with people all day long, how do they have a lower infection rate? How does the NYPD have almost half the infection rate of New York City? How could it be? They’re the police officers. They’re wearing the mask. The mask works. Those surgical masks work, and it’s in the data. It’s not that I’m saying it. It’s in the data. Otherwise, it’s inexplicable. Just look at that list. Transit workers are lower. Healthcare workers are lower. The police department is lower. The fire department is lower, which also has the EMTs who show up first and help a person get into an ambulance. They have a lower infection rate. The DOCCS workers are the correction officers, who are in a prison. They’re at 7%. State police, 3%. They wear the masks. Wear a mask. Remember all those pictures of people in China always wearing masks? Oh, I wonder why they were all those masks. They were right. The masks work. They are protective and they work. Wear a mask.
Andrew Cuomo: (43:41)
So on May 5th, we launched the contest to come up with video messages prepared by New Yorkers to try to communicate the message of “Wear a Mask” better than I was communicating the message of “Wear a Mask” because my daughters were quick to point out that maybe it was my communication skills which were preventing the effective communication of the “Wear the Mask” message. Caveat is my daughters often say it is my communication skills which are the problem in the home, in society at large. So Mariah volunteered to run a competition where we asked New Yorkers to do a 30-second ad, and the winner of the competition would be the ad that the state runs. With that, I will turn it over to Mariah for her update and her report.
Mariah Cuomo: (44:51)
Today, we’re excited to be sharing the five ad finalists that our team has selected for the New York State “Wear a Mask” ad contest. And these ad finalists, which we will be showing shortly, are in the running for winning this contest and being shown as a public service announcement. Starting today, people can go to wearamask.ny.gov to vote for their favorite ad, and voting will be open through Memorial Day. On May 26th, we’ll be announcing the final winning ad, and we’re so grateful to all the New Yorkers who have submitted one of the over 600 submissions. And we will be sharing honorable mentions as well so that you can see even more of the great videos.
Andrew Cuomo: (45:42)
Great, 600 submissions, and these are the five finalists that people can view and vote on. Okay, let’s see the five finalists.
Female in Video: (45:55)
I wear a mask for my fellow New Yorkers.
Female in Video: (45:58)
My mama who’s a healthcare worker. Nurses and doctors.
Male in Video: (46:01)
For my father.
Male in Video: (46:02)
For the marginalized communities who don’t have access to adequate health care.
Female in Video: (46:05)
For my children.
Male in Video: (46:06)
Male in Video: (46:07)
Female in Video: (46:07)
Male in Video: (46:08)
Male in Video: (46:09)
I wear a mask so we can get back to work.
Male in Video: (46:12)
Go to school.
Male in Video: (46:13)
Share a meal.
Male in Video: (46:14)
See a movie.
Male in Video: (46:15)
Hug my friends.
Female in Video: (46:16)
Female in Video: (46:17)
Go to the theater.
Male in Video: (46:18)
See our families.
Female in Video: (46:19)
Continue to show support.
Female in Video: (46:21)
Take care of each other.
Female in Video: (46:21)
Male in Video: (46:22)
Male in Video: (46:29)
I love New York.
Male in Video: (46:30)
We love New York.
Female in Video: (46:31)
We’ve been stuck inside our homes.
Female in Video: (46:33)
While our everyday heroes have been working overtime.
Male in Video: (46:36)
For New York to reopen.
Female in Video: (46:37)
And stay open.
Male in Video: (46:39)
We all need to do our part.
Female in Video: (46:40)
And show that we care.
Male in Video: (46:42)
Female in Video: (46:42)
I wear a mask to protect you.
Male in Video: (46:44)
You wear a mask to protect me.
Female in Video: (46:46)
Let’s all wear a mask.
Female in Video: (46:47)
To stop the spread of Coronavirus.
Female in Video: (46:49)
And save lives.
Male in Video: (46:50)
When we show up in the mask.
Female in Video: (46:52)
We’re showing up for each other.
Male in Video: (46:53)
Show your love for New York.
Male in Video: (46:55)
Because New York loves you.
Andrew Cuomo: (47:02)
The textbook says politicians lead. No, sometimes the people lead and the politicians follow. Follow the American people. They will do the right thing. There is still a right thing. Maybe “Right Thing” is a New York expression. Great. I know that guy, by the way. I see him all the time. So those are the five finalists people can vote. They go to the coronavirus.health.ny.gov/wearmask to vote. Vote between now and May 25th. Winner announced May 26th. How many times can a person vote?
Mariah Cuomo: (49:03)
Andrew Cuomo: (49:04)
Once. No voter fraud on this election. No absentee ballots. No polling place. Is there early voting? I don’t think so. All right, so that’s great. Thank you very much for doing that. We’ll announce that winner May 26th. Over 600 submissions though, and they are really great. I’ve seen a number of them. We’re going to post the honorable mentions also, but all 600 will be available to look at, and they’re really creative, and they have different voices from all across the state. So I want to thank very much everyone who participated because they really are special. And with that, we’ll take any questions that you might have.
Female in Audience: (49:50)
Governor will New York be testing every nursing home resident and staff of our state like the White House is recommending? They set up a deadline by May 25th.
Andrew Cuomo: (50:03)
Everybody, every State wants to test every person in a nursing home. Every State wants to test every person in a congregate facility. Every person in a prison. Every person in the State. So it becomes a question of how fast can you get the testing up? We have the most aggressive and ambitious nursing home testing program, testing staff twice a week. And we’re testing people in nursing homes now. Could we ever get to… We have about 180,000 people in nursing homes? Right? 180-ish. Do you know the testing protocol in nursing homes?
Melissa DeRosa: (50:47)
We’re doing, as the governor said last Sunday, we mandated twice a week testing for staff. Last Wednesday, the nursing homes had to turn in their proposals to be able to meet that mandate. The feedback we got back from many of them were that they were struggling, and so we arranged to on Monday and Tuesday of this week have kits sent to every single nursing home across the State to do the testing. We also paired nursing homes with commercial labs to be able to run the actual tests so that is officially off the ground. That’s to help meet the mandate of the twice testing a week.
Melissa DeRosa: (51:21)
I believe there’s about 100,000 residents in our nursing homes. It’s about 180,000 staff between the adult care facilities and the nursing homes, and so it’s very aggressive. We are leading the nation on this, and yes, we believe we’re going to meet the goal.
Female in Audience: (51:35)
When will every single nursing home in New York get enough test, pre-tests to test every single-
Melissa DeRosa: (51:41)
They got the test kits on Monday and Tuesday.
Female in Audience: (51:43)
Melissa DeRosa: (51:44)
I’m sorry. Oh, the residents. We sent the resident kits out last week, over the last week, yeah. So this is separate from the staff.
Female in Audience: (51:51)
Is it enough to test every resident in the facility?
Melissa DeRosa: (51:53)
Female in Audience: (51:53)
Governor Cuomo, Tribal Nation has a phase reopening plan for its casinos to resume gaming June 10th. What do you think about the timing of that?
Andrew Cuomo: (52:04)
Yeah, we don’t have a date for opening up casinos. I spoke to the Connecticut Governor Lamont and the New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. We agree that casinos are, by definition, a large gathering spot. A lot of people touching equipment then someone else touches the equipment. So it poses real challenges. And we don’t have a date to open casinos. They would be in our phase four, our last phase. We don’t have a date for that yet. Tribal Nations are just that, they’re nations. So they are not bound by state laws. Some of the tribes are, some of them are federally recognized and are not bound by state laws.
Female in Audience: (52:51)
Governor, when it comes to the antibody testing, you’re saying that the rate is significantly lower for first responders. Have we tested grocery store workers, delivery drivers, people that don’t necessarily have access to medical-grade masks, or N95 masks, or even surgical masks for that matter?
Andrew Cuomo: (53:08)
Yeah, have we done select tests for-
Melissa DeRosa: (53:11)
We’ve actually just started, to your point Josepha, looking at people who work in pharmacies and people who work in grocery stores. So that’s just gotten underway, and we’re very eager to get those results as well.
Jim Malatras: (53:20)
We’ve done grocery stores statewide. We’re still in the process of doing that so once we have that data back, we’ll report it, but we wanted to get a random sample of grocery stores all across the state so that’s been underway.
Female in Video: (53:31)
That’s grocery store workers?
Andrew Cuomo: (53:33)
Jim Malatras: (53:33)
Female in Video: (53:35)
Governor, did your administration deny a pipeline permit last week that would supply gas for Long Island? Do you see any new natural gas supply being needed in the State given the climate goals that we have in law? And then given Mayor Bill de Blasio opposition to an alternative proposed by National Grid, how can the state ensure that there aren’t any moratoriums in the future?
Andrew Cuomo: (53:56)
The Long Island gas providers, the utility companies said that they didn’t need that gas supply, right, because the demand has dropped. It was a warmer winter. So the utility companies are the ones who say they don’t need additional gas. On the alternatives, I haven’t gone through them all, but whatever we need to do, we will do. But it’s the utility companies themselves that said they didn’t need the pipeline.
Female in Video: (54:27)
Whatever you do you will do to avoid a moratorium, or do you think that we can limit new gas supply to meet the clients?
Andrew Cuomo: (54:34)
We can’t have a moratorium, that doesn’t work for anyone, right. The big question was where we were last year was we need that pipeline. If we don’t get the pipeline, then the world is going to end as we know it. And we have to have a new pipeline. Now we don’t have to have a new pipeline. And the utility providers say they don’t even think in the future we’re going to need a new pipeline because of the reduced demand. That’s actually good news, but what will we need? I don’t know. We’ll work with them on it, and we’ll make sure that there’s enough supply because there can’t be a moratorium.
Male in Audiance: (55:19)
[crosstalk 00:55:19] re openings starting on Friday. Of course, the [Capitol 00:55:22] Region opens today. What has been the effect of that in these regions? Are infections picking up?
Andrew Cuomo: (55:29)
On the data that has come in so far, we haven’t seen any increases. You have, Jimmy, a deviation every day, right. That’s why I hate to repeat myself, but the day-to-day numbers, you always have to take it with a grain of salt because this whole reporting system, this does not come from the Old Testament, right. This is not gospel. This is a system we just put up so you’ll see a day-to-day bounce, but we have not seen anything significant anywhere that is worth mentioning.
Male in Audiance: (56:00)
When do you think New York City, Long Island could open? There were questions for the mayor today. And then even things like Saratoga. I know NYRA has banned or said it’s going forward at Belmont, without fans. Will there be fans at Saratoga? What’s sort of the update there?
Andrew Cuomo: (56:18)
There is no update. Watch the numbers, watch the data, watch the infection rate, and then you will know just as well as I will know.
Male in Audiance: (56:27)
Governor you just said that you’ve not seen anything significant in terms of an increase in the metrics in these regions that have reopened, but both the Finger Lakes and Central New York are at their highest number of hospitalizations at any point during this outbreak. Do you have any intention of rolling back their reopening process? Slowing it down, stopping it because of that hospitalization?
Andrew Cuomo: (56:48)
Yeah, any hospitalization you’re seeing today, I don’t know I’ll ask Jim if that’s true. Not that I doubt your credibility, but your capacity to track the numbers. By definition, a hospitalization rate couldn’t have anything to do with the opening because to be hospitalized that means you had to get the virus. It had to incubate. You had to get symptoms. You had to get very ill. And then you go to the hospital. There’s about a two-week lag on the hospitalization rate. So by definition, it couldn’t be linked to the reopening, but those are the data that we will be looking at. Have you seen anything there?
Jim Malatras: (57:28)
We’ve seen, and we monitor it every day, it’s not the highest point necessarily, but we have seen upticks. Next thing we do because we have contact tracing and those other processes now, is it limited to a specific issue? Like the Madison County agriculture business, where it’s not a spread, we identify a problem right away and then the Department of Health addresses it. We’re looking at Central New York, Finger Lakes, and those regions. So we’ve seen a little uptick, but nothing of note. The rate of transmission is still relatively low, but the next couple of days we’ll know. And if something changes then we’ll know.
Male in Audiance: (57:57)
Jim, how fast would you evaluate that? Is that a daily thing? I mean over three days, over five days-
Jim Malatras: (58:03)
We look at a daily, Jesse so if something pops significantly at a bunch of different areas, it’s not just the hospitalization rate we also look at the gross hospitalization rate because that’s net. Gross is who’s walking in the door which is a little different. That’s people may be transferring from one facility to another. The gross hospitalization rate in both of those regions right now are down so that’s a good sign. That means new people aren’t walking in the door. So we’d look at all of these things together. And if you see a number of things pop in real-time, we do this on a 24-hour basis, then we’ll note it to the Department of Health. And by the way, the positive testing rate is down in those regions as well so that’s also a good sign.
Andrew Cuomo: (58:38)
Yeah, let me just give you a little context without getting you lost in the details. You look at a number of indicators. The reason we have global experts who help us is because this is new to us, but this has been this global experience with other countries, et cetera. The hospitalization rate they will tell you is actually the lagging indicator because there’s a couple of weeks. You want to look at the number of new infections, your diagnostic testing rate. Is that going up? The new cases walking in the door. Is that number going up? Your antibody testing. Is that going up?
Andrew Cuomo: (59:23)
They’re very keen on looking at the nursing home staffing numbers, which is an interesting idea because what they’re saying is the nursing home staffing numbers that is indicative of community spread because they’re not getting it from the nursing home facility. So watching the nursing home staffing, which is twice a week, so you’d have two measures every week, right. But you look at the earlier indicators before the hospitalization because their point is hospitalization, that’s a two-week lag. If you see a problem there, that’s indicative, but it’s two weeks ago. And now you’re going to have that wave from the past two weeks.
Male in Audiance: (01:00:09)
Your dashboard is mostly based on hospitalizations with the thinking that there is no… Testing is spotty based on where you have the test available. I know that every day there are more tests, but are you now saying testing is-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:23)
Testing isn’t spotty at all. What’s the number of tests per week.
Jim Malatras: (01:00:26)
We’re doing it’s upwards of 40,000 a day of testing right now. There’s two different things Jimmy. There’s how do you start a reopening phase? And then how do you monitor in real-time new infections to the Governor’s point, which is something now as regions are reopening, we’re going to take a broader look at new infection rates, new positive tests because that’s real-time. We don’t want to be on a lag anymore. The reopening was what were the problems that we have? How did those dissipate or not dissipate to reopen? Now that we’ve reopened regions, let’s get the diagnostic testing right away. Let’s see what’s going on in specific areas. Hospitalization is one component of it, but the gross hospitalization, people walking in is more important. So some of those things carry more weight now because we’re trying to do it in real-time, not off of the apex.
Male in Audiance: (01:01:10)
What’s the threshold effect?
Jim Malatras: (01:01:15)
This is the new system.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:15)
Jim Malatras: (01:01:15)
The dial back threshold is different than the open threshold.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:18)
Well let’s just stay with the first point you raised first. It is not a spotty system. It is 250,000 tests per week. That is the largest percentage of tests done in the United States of America. That is the largest percentage done of any country on the globe. So that probably would not qualify as a spotty system, right. That would qualify as a comprehensive exhaustive look at what’s going on, 250,000 tests.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:51)
So you watch those 250,000 tests and that number. The experts have pointed to this, something that we didn’t think about, the nursing home staffing tests, which will be twice weekly, as opposed to just once weekly, right. And you look at that data. And basically what they’re looking for is a shift in that data. If you see a shift, then they’ll do a deeper dive on that data. More tests. Where’s it coming from? You can increase tests overnight. You can say, we might have a problem in Buffalo, let’s increase the number of tests. Another 10,000 tests in Buffalo. So if you see a shift, then deeper dive, more attention, and let them understand what’s going on. They look for clusters of activity. If you see a shift, you may have a cluster. May have a hotspot. Or you may not have a hotspot and it may be just a dramatically increased community spread. And that would trigger-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:03)
… community spread, and that would trigger a more systemic issue.
Speaker 1: (01:03:08)
[crosstalk 01:03:08] Last week, I asked you about OPWDD group home policy. There are 7,200 group homes that house disabled people in the state. The staff are telling me that they’re seeing cross contamination because of how short staffed these homes are. They fear that this is creating another situation, like what we’ve seen in the nursing homes. They have seen 2,000 cases in these group homes. You said you would check the policy. Did you have a chance to check it? And will you make policy changes to protect people in these group homes?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:38)
Yeah, who wants to speak to the group homes?
Speaker 2: (01:03:43)
The moving around of staff is something that they do, if it’s absolutely last resort. If there’s a staff shortage, if people are out because they’re sick and they need to have certain people with certain skill levels, step in to be able to cover. And so that is something that has had to happen up until this point. However, after you raised the issue last week, we’ve been having internal discussions about supplementing with the volunteer portals that we don’t do that. And we keep people more restricted to the homes that they work in to be able to address this very issue. We’re also doing temperature checks and we’re looking at a whole host of other things that we’re going to implement.
Speaker 1: (01:04:13)
One more, governor. There is a call for a federal probe into how the state handled the nursing home situation. Specifically the March executive order, allowing COVID positive patients back into the nursing homes. In reflecting on comments, I was wondering why was that executive order made at the time?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:37)
Yeah. Look, this is a political season. I get it. I’ve refrained from politics. I’m not going to get into the political back and forth, but anyone who wants to ask, why did the state do that with COVID patients in nursing home? It’s because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance. So they should ask President Trump. I think that will stop the conversation.
Speaker 1: (01:05:09)
Are you fudging the numbers? Because that’s an accusation that you’re facing. That you are changing the numbers to make-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:16)
Well, let’s go back. Let’s do one at a time.
Speaker 1: (01:05:18)
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:19)
Your first point, why did the state do that? Because the state followed President Trump’s CDC’s guidance. Okay. That’s that answer? No, numbers were changed.
You’ve shown a willingness to like thwart President Trump at other times. Why on that March 25th memo, did you not thwart him? Why did you follow the CDC guidance? And do you regret that? Considering the death toll.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:48)
No, not at all. Well, you have to remember the facts. I know you’re the New York Times, but facts are still facts, right? Even at the Times, okay.
Even at the Times, yeah.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:58)
So here are the facts. The CDC guidance said, a nursing home cannot discriminate against the COVID patient because at that time, the issue was hospital capacity, right? Remember hospital capacity. And we were dramatically increasing hospital capacity. If a person doesn’t need an urgent care bed in a hospital because they’re not urgently ill and they have … It can take two weeks to test negative. When you’re no longer urgently ill, is the best use of a hospital bed to have somebody sit there for two weeks in a hospital bed, when they don’t need the hospital bed, because they’re not urgently ill. They’re just waiting to test negative on the antibody test, which can take two weeks. And you need that hospital bed for somebody who may die without it.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:57)
Second fact, a nursing home cannot accept a patient who they are not qualified to handle. For a COVID patient, a nursing home must say, “I can quarantine. I can isolate. I have the right staff. I have the right PPE.” Or else that nursing home should not take that patient. And third point, we always had alternative beds, any nursing home that says, “I can’t take that COVID patient.” For whatever reason, I don’t even care what the reason is. I don’t have the staff. I don’t have the time, I’m overstressed. I don’t have the PPE. We always have alternative beds. We have had alternative beds all throughout this. We never got to a place where we were bumping up against the capacity. So any nursing home could just say, “I can’t handle a COVID person in my facility.”
In retrospect, do you think that was a bad decision? The March 25th memo, do you think that, that contributed to the death toll in this state? Which is even in nursing homes is over 5,000 people.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:25)
No, because you’d have to be saying the nursing homes were wrong in accepting COVID positive patients. That’s what you would have to be saying.
Why are you so resistant to an outside-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:39)
That’s what you would have to be saying.
Why are you so resistant to an outside probe here then?
Speaker 3: (01:08:42)
You signed, shielded nursing homes from most legal liability, if they had a shortage-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:47)
Do you believe a nursing home operator would accept a patient who they knew they couldn’t care for? Why would a nursing home operator do that? Why? We always had alternative beds. If they didn’t think that they could handle a COVID patient, they would say, “I can’t handle the COVID patient”
Governor, in the past, you’ve used outside entities to investigate things. When you were attorney general, you can be moral and act commissions. Why are you so resistant to an outside probe here-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:09:22)
I’m not resistant, Jimmy. I said, I’m just not playing politics. I have nothing to do-
[crosstalk 01:09:26] politic is, it’s Democrats, it’s Republicans. It’s short people talking-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:09:30)
I have nothing to do, if the federal government wants to start a probe. What do I have to do with whether or not a federal probe?
So you’d [crosstalk 01:09:43] an outside probe? Why do you think the death toll is so much higher in-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:09:44)
It is irrelevant to me. I have no role in determining a federal probe. I don’t welcome, not welcome. It doesn’t matter. President Trump does what he wants to do. He doesn’t listen to a governor.
Why do you think the death toll was so much higher in New York than it is in California?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:10:02)
Yeah. Well, first of all, when numbers 34, in terms of per capita deaths in nursing homes, right?
Governor, I mean in general.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:10:14)
You asked about nursing homes. You take 50 states and you can put all 50, where is New York? Number 34. Even though we had the highest number of cases per capita, we’re number 34. You could say, “Wow, how come you’re only number 34.” But that’s because you’re the New York Times. Who hasn’t asked a question?
Speaker 4: (01:10:38)
A number of students, teachers and parents have said, since the reimagine education edict, I guess came out, if you want to call it that. That they’re concerned that distance learning is a primary objective here, integrating that more. And that could destroy these student to teacher ratio. A lot of teachers unions will say things like a low student to teacher ratio is the best case scenario for children to learn. And if you’re expanding via distance learning, that could be counterproductive as far as the quality of the education. So I guess that’s a two part question, is that true? And the other half would be, are there other parts of reimagining that don’t include distance learning?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:11:18)
Yeah, reimagine education means let’s look at what happened. What can we learn that’s positive? I would agree with the teachers who say, “There is no substitute for classroom teaching.” There is no substitute. Saying a kid is going to be on the other side of a computer remotely. That is the classroom experience, it’s not. There is no substitute for the teacher student relationship. That’s why we worked so hard to reduce class sizes. So the teacher has more time with each student that is a 100% right. What happened to us here was you couldn’t do the classroom experience, because of the coronavirus, et cetera. So you have to go to remote learning. I don’t believe every school district was ready for this abrupt shift to remote learning. And how could they be? Nobody was ready for this abrupt shift of this coronavirus.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:12:21)
But with this abrupt shift, what did we learn? What skills do teachers need? What equipment do students need? Remote learning, that suggests every child has the equipment at home. Parents know how to do it. There’s an internet signal for every student, in every locale, none of these things existed. So for this possibility, what can we learn? How can we do better? But everybody wants the schools to open up as soon as possible. We just have to make sure when it’s safe. And there is no way in my opinion, that remote learning can ever be a replacement or a substitute for the classroom experience.
Speaker 4: (01:13:09)
So aside from a supplement, what does reimagining education mean? Does it mean we need to be prepared if there is another spike in cases at some point or a second wave? What does that mean?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:13:20)
Yeah. I believe the only intelligent conclusion from this is you better be prepared, if you assume this is the last time something like this is going to happen. I think that’s a foolish assumption. I think it’s a wishful thinking, right? It reminds me of the first time we had these super storms and floods and tornadoes and everybody said, “Well, that’ll never happen again.” Yeah. Except it did again and again and again. I think having gone through this, we should say, ” Let’s prepare for something like this again.” First, let’s look at what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Where was the response system? Where was the early warning system here, where the light went off? Beep, beep, beep, beep. China virus probably went to Europe. By the time we did the European travel ban, we had three million Europeans come to this country.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:14:28)
Now we have a hospital capacity question. We have to quickly redesign the public health system what the hospitals do. Increase hospital capacity. Let’s prepare for all of these things and may not be another coronavirus, maybe another virus, maybe some other public health threat, maybe a terrorists threat, who knows. But the world is full of surprises now. And I think this was an eye opener for all of us, but fool me once, let’s be prepared for the next one. Mark. [crosstalk 01:15:14] I said Mark and then I see you right here. I will go to you right next. You will have the last question.
Governor, thank you for the kind words on Sunday. I appreciate that, it meant a lot to me. I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Regarding your interfaith advisory council, it seems to be my favorite topic these days. When does the council report back to you? The number of congregants mentioned in your presentation, you said up to 10, when does that begin? Is that a statewide number including Long Island and New York City. And just so that the council doesn’t get caught up in something, Jewish Orthodox congregations need 10 men for a minion. And I’m sure a few women might want to attend services. Can you give any consideration to pump up the max number to 14? We have 14 reporters here, but 14 for Orthodox congregations. Your advisory council should be aware also that the Orthodox union has a four page guidance document on their website.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:16:18)
Yeah, Mark. There is no official report that the interfaith council is going to do. I’m going to speak with them myself. I want to talk it through with them. Everybody wants to get to the same place. Everybody wants to get to the same place. And by the way, they want to get to the same place safely, also. I’m very close to the Orthodox community as you know, for many, many years. I’m speaking to them already. I understand their issues. It’s complicated to set one number for one religion, another number for … You said, 14 for the Orthodox community. Then I’ll have the Roman Catholics say, “Well, how come they get 14? I don’t get 14.” So that’s what we want to talk through. And we’ll figure it out. I’ll do my best to try to figure it out. And the 10 goes into effect now. And it is statewide. Last question for you.
Speaker 5: (01:17:19)
Governor, so the legislature is closing all legislation that would require you or any future governor to submit a weekly report to legislature during an emergency declaration. It would also limit an emergency declaration to 30 days. Also, counties are hoping that you can give them an update on county fairs or any sort of guidance there.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:17:38)
Okay. We have no update yet on fairs, right? When do fairs open, when does Saratoga open? When does any of these things open? It all depends on the numbers. Nobody can tell you what the numbers are. People who tried to make projections on the numbers, frankly, they were all wrong. So we watch the actual numbers. You can start to see a pattern in the numbers. We see a pattern now where the numbers are going down and that’s why we’re taking the actions we’re taking. But are we at a point where anyone can forecast when will phase four happen? No, not at this point. And what was the first part of the question?
Speaker 5: (01:18:21)
So law makers are proposing a legislation that would require like a governor, you to submit a weekly report.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:18:27)
Yeah, whatever they want to propose, they can propose, and then I’ll look at it. I haven’t heard of anything and I haven’t seen anything. I think all through this in terms of my updates or informing people, I’ve probably have been the most informative elected official all through this. As you know, I’ve done this for about 80 straight days, Saturday, Sunday. I briefed every day. Every person in this state knows exactly what we’re doing when we’re doing it. I have people come up to me on the street who talk about rate of transmission and everything that we’ve done. So I feel very good about how exhaustive I have been in communicating. The news hasn’t always been positive and uplifting, but I said from day one, I’m going to tell New Yorkers, the facts, every day. And I have every day.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:19:33)
I don’t know. I haven’t watched what every other governor has done. I don’t know if everyone has done it for 80 straight days. So I feel good about how much information we’ve communicated. And I don’t think I can be any more public in the communication than I’ve been. Right? We televise these for anybody who wants to watch, but whatever legislation they come up with, they can propose and we’ll take a look at it. [crosstalk 01:20:02]. I will see you tomorrow, I will see you tomorrow. [crosstalk 01:20:09]. I will see you tomorrow.