Feb 15, 2021
Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript Amid Nursing Home Scandal February 15
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a February 15 COVID-19 press briefing amid a scandal over withholding nursing home deaths. Cuomo admitted that he made a “mistake” not providing information on nursing home death from COVID-19 in a timely fashion. Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:55)
Good afternoon. Happy Monday. Happy President’s Day. Happy day 352. Happy President’s Day again. Let’s go through the numbers today. We have a number of announcements. Overall statewide positivity, 3.53. Good news. Statewide deaths, 103. Terrible news. They’re in our thoughts and prayers. Statewide hospitalizations, 6,600. That’s good news. Statewide ICU down 15, intubations down six. Good news. Good news overall, the positivity post-holiday increase has continued to decrease. Congratulations to New Yorkers. We went from 7.9 down to 3.7. That is very good news.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:51)
Hospitalizations are down. Hospitalized percentages, 0.04 is the high, Long Island, New York City. Hospitalization positivity, Long Island, 4.6, second, Mid Hudson, 4.5. Long Island has been a problem for a number of weeks. It continues to be a problem. And in New York City, it’s the Bronx, 6.1. That is a continuation. We opened Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, but that is a problem. Manhattan is down to 2.7. Queens, Brooklyn, 4.6, 4.5. We have new FEMA sites in Queens, in Brooklyn that we’re doing jointly with the federal government, state FEMA sites. Those are going to be very large mass vaccination sites. And Staten Island is below Queens and Brooklyn. So that’s good news. Variants of interest. This goes in the new dictionary of new COVID terms. And we’ve been watching these. There is a patient in New York City who has tested positive for the South African variant. The South African variant is the variant that they’re watching most closely. The UK variant is very transmittable, but the South African variant, they worry about how lethal it is and how it relates to the vaccine. But, but, and this is an important but, the patient was transferred from Connecticut directly to a New York City hospital. It was not a New York resident. It was a person in Connecticut who was transferred to a New York City hospital for a procedure. We have no evidence of any spread in New York State to date.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:02)
Let’s talk vaccinations, 3 million two. 2 million one first doses, 1 million second doses. Over 1 million New Yorkers now have received doses one and two, which is great news. There’s been a lot of confusion about the vaccinations, and I understand that. Buffalo News wrote an editorial, asking questions, which frankly are commonly asked questions. I’ve received them a number of times. So I just want to make sure people understand what’s happening with the vaccinations. The Trump administration had said they were increasing eligibility, and they were going to increase the supply of the vaccines. States increased eligibility. What happens is the Trump administration did not increase the supply. Biden administration comes in. Basically, the cupboards were bare of enough dosages. The Biden administration, a very short period of time, went back, secured more dosages. They’re now talking about getting 600 by the end of July. 600 would do 300 million Americans twice, so the nation would be fully vaccinated.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:26)
But there are more people eligible nationwide than there are now doses available. Federal government, as I mentioned, increased the eligibility, but never increased the supply. So now New York State, you have 10 million people eligible, 300,000 doses per week. 300,000 people chasing the doses. 10 million people chasing 300,000 doses. How does the federal government allocate doses? The federal government allocates to states based on the population of the state. Population of New York, population of California, you get an allocation based on your population. State allocates to count these regions by the population that is eligible for the vaccine, 1a, 1b, comorbidities, et cetera.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:28)
The federal government set up multiple distribution points when the program first started. Local governments also wanted to be in a position to distribute themselves. This is now the distribution system that we have in place. Federal governments give directly to pharmacies, an allocation that goes directly to pharmacies. Federal government has an allocation to pharmacies for nursing homes, which is called the Federal Nursing Home Program. Federal government gives them directly to what’s called Federally Qualified Health Centers, community-based centers, directly from the federal government. Federal government then gives to the state for FEMA-operated joint venture sites. We now have one in Queens and Brooklyn. We’re working for others upstate. But that’s feds directly to those joint sites.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:35)
Federal government then allocates to states, separate from all of that. The state then also allocates to pharmacies. The state also allocates to Federally Qualified Health Centers. The state allocates to hospitals, the state runs mass vaccination sites, and the state then gives to local governments. The local governments then allocate some to the Federally Qualified Health Centers, allocates some to pharmacies, and locals set up mass vaccination sites. That’s why you have this massive distribution network, many points of distribution, many options for people, but it also creates confusion. Let me have one site where I can go and find out where I can get a vaccine in Buffalo. That’s not how the system was set up from day one. That’s what creates the confusion.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:53)
And if I could figure out how to get this slide to advance, that would be good. When does this end? Because the system is set up the way it is, it’s not really going to end until you have increased dosages. When you have increased dosages, that extensive distribution network will wind up being a positive and not a negative, because then you’ll have multiple pharmacies getting allocations from multiple sources, multiple mass vaccination sites, but there is a downside to coordination in the meantime. Again, with the additional purchase of the vaccinations from the federal government, June, May, you should see the situation flip where all those distribution points will make it easier for the consumer. But right now, yes, there are multiple distribution points. County runs a site, state runs a site, city runs a site, federal government gives to pharmacies, et cetera.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:15)
The NGA, National Governors Association, I met with the president last week. We sent a letter today asking for more coordination and clarification of this distribution site. The letter basically said, when CDC does their reporting, please separate out all of these different distribution points so it’s clearer for people. In other words, when we receive allocations from the federal government, we being the state, some are for the first dose, some are for the second dose, some are for the nursing home program, and then you have the federal government sending to pharmacies and the federal government sending to Federally Qualified Health Centers. We need better coordination between the federal government and the state government so we know what pharmacies they’re sending to, we don’t send to the same ones, local government doesn’t send to the same pharmacies. Because some pharmacies do a better job than others. Some pharmacies are already getting a distribution. So if the federal government is sending to CVS, then I wouldn’t send to CVS. So we’re asking for coordination with the federal government in those regards. On COVID overall, follow the science, follow the data, my great graphic with the valve that nobody likes. The COVID numbers are down, so we adjust. We’ve opened indoor dining in New York City. We adjusted the curfew. Today, we’re going to talk about the MTA and increasing capacity there. And we have two special guests. We have Sarah Feinberg and Pat Foye from the MTA. And there they are, smiling Pat Foye. Take off the mask so we can see the smile, Pat. There it is.
Pat Foye: (18:23)
There you go, Governor.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:24)
Pat Foye: (18:28)
Andrew Cuomo: (18:28)
Good to see both of you. And we’ve been talking about increasing capacity in the MTA. The numbers are down. So let’s start with Sarah Feinberg, and then we’ll turn it over to Pat to tell us what the thinking is. Or do you want to go first, Pat? It’s up to you.
Pat Foye: (18:46)
Governor, let me start, and then I’ll turn it to Sarah. Governor, thanks for inviting us today. We’re here today to update on two key issues, Governor. The first is the safety and security of our system, and second is a phased reopening of the subways, coinciding with New York’s gradual reopening from COVID-19. First, a word on the events this weekend. The crime spree that occurred and resulted in two people tragically losing their lives was horrifying and shocking. We grieve with the victims of these terrible crimes and their families. I want to personally assure every customer and every single employee of the MTA that your safety is our highest priority. That’s why yesterday, my colleague, Sarah Feinberg, New York City Transit interim president, and I sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Shea, requesting that an additional 1,000 NYPD officers be assigned to the Transit Bureau of the NYPD to patrol subways and buses.
Pat Foye: (19:50)
As you remember, the MTA began calling for additional police officers in the system well over a year ago, and it was the right call then, and it remains the right call now. Make no mistake, however, we also need more mental health resources from the city of New York, dedicated to address the growing crisis facing the city, so that those suffering have access to the critical services they need and deserve. We and our customers and our employees need the city to meet its obligations on both these fronts. Additionally, this additional infusion of police officers will be crucial, as we were planning a phased reopening of the subways, coinciding with the gradual reopening of the city of New York.
Pat Foye: (20:35)
We are seeing positive trends, as you just outlined, Governor, with the deployment of the vaccine, a drop in the infection rate, the resumption of indoor dining, extended hours for bars and restaurants and the reopening of stadia and arenas. And today we are announcing the goal of beginning a phased reopening of the subway on Monday morning, February 22nd. As we all know, the subways have been closed overnight from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM since May 6th, but under this plan’s change, the subways will stay open until 2:00 AM and reopen at 4:00 AM. At the same time, this two-hour service suspension will allow us to continue our enhanced disinfecting regime, which has led the subways to be the cleanest they’ve ever been. We will never stop doing everything we can to protect riders and employees. And now I’ll turn it over to Sarah Feinberg.
Sarah Feinberg: (21:31)
Thanks, Pat. First, I just want to echo what you said and say my heart goes out to the victims of the crimes from the weekend and to their families. No one should ever be victimized, and certainly not in our transit system. I want to thank the NYPD for their effective work over the weekend, which led to the apprehension of the individual they believe is responsible for the weekend acts of violence. Since joining the board at Governor Cuomo’s invitation two years ago and becoming president of Transit one year ago, I’ve had to be focused on the issues of safety and security to a significant degree. On this issue of crime and those experiencing mental health illness, we started asking for additional resources nearly two years ago. By my count, myself and the chairman have asked the city for additional policing and mental health assistance in the subway system more than 30 times in the last 18 months. We’ve called for more uniformed officers. We’ve asked for them to be in stations and on trains. We’ve asked for them to assist us during the overnight shutdown, but also at other hours.
Sarah Feinberg: (22:37)
I would point out that our understanding of the Transit Bureau’s current staffing means that at current staffing levels, plus the additional 500 officers added by Commissioner Shea over the weekend, plus the additional 1,000 officers requested by us over the weekend, would bring the number of officers in the Transit Bureau to nearly 4,000. 4,000 officers is the number of officers we had in the system more than two decades ago, prior to the NYPD Transit Police merger. Additional policing will not solve the mental health crisis or the fact that so many in the subway system are experiencing homelessness and therefore are more likely to be victimized. We have to put additional resources to these items as well.
Sarah Feinberg: (23:21)
To that end, we’ve called on the city to expand the 311 system into the subway, so people using the system, including our own employees, are better able to report those who are clearly experiencing a mental health crisis. We’ve also called for additional resources to house individuals who do not have other options or those who don’t feel safe in the shelter system. Additionally, we’ve not just asked for more from the city, we’ve done more on our end as well. We surged MTA police officers into the subway system for the last year. A year ago, the governor called for and the MTA approved the hiring of 500 additional MTA police officers. We began executing on that hiring, hired and onboarded more than 200, and that hiring has now begun again. We’ve increased dramatically the number of cameras in our system.
Sarah Feinberg: (24:10)
When our Capital Program had to be stalled due to the financial crisis, Transit took on cameras and started installing cameras throughout the system on platforms and trains. We started tracking incidents in the system in real time so that our officers and security forces could better predict and respond to hotspots. We fought for, and in cooperation with the governor and the State Assembly and Senate, passed legislation that will allow recidivous criminals to be banned from the system on a temporary basis. So there’s no question that we’ve been doing all we can, but there’s also no question that these additional resources are needed in the system.
Sarah Feinberg: (24:47)
I feel responsible for every customer and every member of the transit workforce from the moment they enter our system until the moment they exit our system. Not only do they need to be kept safe and secure, they have to feel safe and secure. We need our customers to feel confident and safe as they use the system, whether they continue to use it daily as they’re commuting as an essential worker, or whether they’re contemplating returning to their commute as the city begins to reopen. That confidence is critically important. And we know how important it is to our customers because they’ve told us in survey after survey that the most important things to them are feeling safe in the system from both COVID and from criminal activity.
Sarah Feinberg: (25:29)
So we will continue to work on all tracks, policing, mental health, and our all of the above approach to cleaning. On our phased reopening of the subway system for overnight service, one year into the pandemic and 10 months into our overnight closure, New York is starting to look at a return to normalcy. As we look at the reopening of the city and the economy, we have been planning in recent weeks for our own reopening and return of overnight service. And we have determined that a shortened overnight closure is an appropriate step forward towards the return of around the clock service. To be clear, we will continue our cleaning regimen. We’ve been-
Sarah Feinberg: (26:03)
To be clear, we will continue our cleaning regimen. We’ve been doing so for many months now and we will continue to do so. We clean our system 24 hours a day. We clean and disinfect stations twice each day. We clean and disinfect subway cars multiple times each day. That will continue. When we are closed from 1:00 to 5:00, we are able to clean much more efficiently without customers in the system. That window of cleaning will now go from 1:00 to five, to 2:00 to 4:00. We are confident that we can maintain the cleaning and disinfecting that we have been able to do thus far.
Sarah Feinberg: (26:32)
The CDC, New York State Department of Health, FTA, and EPA all continue to advise that we should continue with our all of the above approach to cleaning and we will do so. Again, public confidence is paramount. In order for the city to truly reopen the subway system has to be safe and secure and our customers need to feel that. To our customers, I thank you for your patience and vigilance and for sticking with us. Thank you, Governor.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:55)
Thank you, Sarah. And thank you, Pat. Look, the MTA is critical to what we’re trying to do. As you know, we’re proceeding down several tracks at the same time. We want to control the COVID infection rate. We want to second track. We want to increase the vaccination rate. And third, we want to accelerate the reopening and stimulate the reopening of the economy.
Andrew Cuomo: (27:21)
Many people have had significant pain and suffering with this economic shutdown. The MTA is obviously vital to the reopening and the stimulation of the economy. Just so we’re all clear, the 2:00 to 4:00, you’re reducing the closure period in the middle of the night. It’s going to be reduced to 2:00 to 4:00. That goes into effect when? Yeah. Do we have Pat’s audio? I believe you said-
Andrew Cuomo: (28:03)
There you are.
Monday morning, February 22nd, Governor.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:08)
Monday morning, February 22nd. Okay.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:12)
You’ll still be cleaning the trains, which is very important. CDC says it, the health experts say it. The COVID virus is not transmitted as much as they originally suggested on surfaces, but it still can be transmitted on surfaces. I think it’s very important, Sarah said it, you want to be safe in the MTA system from crime and from COVID, and I think the cleanliness makes a very big deal.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:44)
Also, when you’re as old as I am, the trains have never been as clean as they are now. Silver linings. It is remarkable. I can’t tell you how many people comment to me that you walk onto a train, you walk into a subway station, it looks different, it feels different. I think that goes a long way towards confidence. So, kudos to you and to the entire team.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:11)
On crime, I can’t agree more. When you said, Sarah, 4,000 would be a level, which is going back probably 30 or so years, at 4,000. 4,000 was if the city gave you an additional 1,000 from where we are now, right? With the city giving 500 more police officers, we’re at 3,000, not 4,000. If they honored your request for an additional 1,000 above the 500, then we would be at 4,000, and 4,000 is only where we were 30 years ago. Is that right? Did I get it right?
Sarah Feinberg: (30:00)
That’s right. Obviously, I defer to the NYPD on their own employee list, but our understanding of the Transit Bureau staffing at this point is that they’re at about 2,500 officers. With the addition of the 500 over the weekend, that gets you to 3,000. With the additional 1,000 that we’re asking for would get you to about the level of officers that were in the system about 25 years ago, 1995.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:25)
Well, look, crime is a problem in the MTA, crime is a problem in New York City, generally. Crime is a problem across the nation, predominantly in urban areas. But if we’re going to get the economy back, we have to address this problem.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:39)
People don’t talk about public safety in terms of economic development, but it is the number one issue. If businesses don’t feel safe, if people don’t feel safe, if your riders don’t feel safe, they’re not going to go to a restaurant. I don’t care what we do with curfew, what we do with occupancy. If you don’t feel safe, you’re not going to get on the subway and go to the restaurant. That is a major concern in many areas.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:07)
Just please make sure you relay to everyone, to all the workers, TWU, you guys have done a masterful job all through this. I remember Pat got sick early on, but you kept the system running. The system has to run. That’s how essential workers get to work. And you really did a masterful job. I want to thank you all very much on behalf of the people at the state. Thank you and I’ll see you soon. Thank you very much for being with us. Thank you, Pat. Thank you, Sarah.
Thank you, Governor.
Sarah Feinberg: (31:43)
Thank you, Governor.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:45)
Thank you. Okay. As I mentioned, public safety is a top priority. You want to talk about reopening the economy, you have to talk about public safety. We mandated last year after the George Floyd killing, every locality has to come up with a new public safety plan. It’ll be different in different parts of the state, but we have 500 jurisdictions that have police departments. I get the tension between the community and the police department. There is no easy answer and there is no one size fits all, but you can’t ignore the tension. Ignoring a problem will never solve the problem. That is true in life and that is true in society and that is true in government. Put people at the table, let them vent their issues, and they will vent, but then let’s come to a collaborative and a consensus and let’s move on.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:45)
Many local governments are doing a great job. Again, this is a nationwide problem, but it’s New York’s mandate to lead the way, and many local governments are doing a great job. I applaud the New York City Council for putting out a set of proposals. I think that’s a positive step forward, but you now have to come to an agreement and get a bill signed, and that’s by April one. April one, tick tick tick tick tick tick, 45 days to complete.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:22)
We’re also going to be sending amendments to our state budget, which is also due April one. We have had conversations about legalizing recreational marijuana. We don’t have an agreement yet, but I believe we’re making progress. I’m sending an amended bill. Legalizing recreational marijuana is something we’ve tried to do for several years. It is overdue in my opinion. You have people who are incarcerated for crimes that frankly they shouldn’t have a record on. We also need the revenue from legalizing recreational cannabis. It is a controversial topic. It’s a controversial and a difficult vote. I get it. I believe if we don’t have it done by the budget, we’re not going to get it done. I think it would be a failing if we don’t get it done this year, and I think that would be a mistake. So we’re sending up a new bill that reflects the conversations we’ve had, but I’m hopeful that we can come to an agreement and we can get it done, but I believe, because I’ve seen this movie before, if we don’t get it done by April one, we won’t get it done, and again, that’s 45 days. 45 days sounds like a long period of time. In government, 45 days is a blink of an eye.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:52)
On my emergency powers, first, emergency powers have nothing to do with nursing homes. I have taken hundreds of actions. The legislature can reverse any action that I take, not even by a bill, just by passing 50% of the assembly in the Senate. They have never reversed a single action. The virus cannot be managed by state boundaries. We’ve learned that. It can’t be managed by county boundaries. We’ve learned that. I’ve always consulted with the legislature. I consult with other politicians. I have no problem consulting with the legislature. Anyone who wants to stand up and raise their hand and say, “Here’s my position,” great. But these are public health decisions. They’re not local political decisions, and they have to be made on a public health basis. This virus is serious. I understand these decisions are difficult politically. I get that. It’s difficult to close schools. It’s difficult to close restaurants. It’s difficult to impose curfews. But otherwise, people die. These decisions should not be politicized. If you made these decisions by a poll, none of them would happen and more people would die.
Andrew Cuomo: (36:20)
I want to clarify facts on the nursing homes, which has been an ongoing discussion. New York, as everybody knows, was ground zero for COVID and nursing homes were and still are ground zero for COVID. Losing a loved one is very, very painful. Losing a loved one in a nursing home during this situation was extraordinarily painful. There was no visitation. You couldn’t be with the person. You couldn’t talk to the person. It was hard to get them on the phone. People in nursing homes are not as conversant and facile on Zooms and on FaceTime. It doesn’t work that way. I understand fully how difficult it has been and I want to make sure people have all the facts, the facts, the information.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:26)
This past year there is a toxic political environment and everything gets politicized and there’s political spin and then there are facts. Two very different things. I just want to make sure people have facts.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:45)
Last August, Department of Justice sent a letter to Democratic governors, four of them, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, asking for information on public nursing homes. New York State Legislature also sent a letter asking for information on nursing homes. We paused the State Legislator’s request while we were finishing the DOJ request. We told the both Houses, the Assembly and the Senate that we had DOJ requests for information and we were prioritized that. We did give the DOJ request precedence, and we told both Houses that.
Andrew Cuomo: (38:35)
The August request we replied to fully. Separately, DOH got a DOJ letter signed by Jeffrey Clark, the attorney, in October, which we learned about from the New York Post. We didn’t even get a letter. Post called and told us about a letter. That request information on an investigation on private nursing homes. We have been voluntarily producing information for that on a rolling basis as recently as January eighth as offered by DOJ, the rolling basis production.
Andrew Cuomo: (39:20)
Second, we paused the State Legislature’s request. We paused the State Legislature’s request. We voluntarily complied with the DOJ request for information. Two very different things. The New York State DOH has always fully and publicly reported all COVID deaths in nursing homes and hospitals. They have always been fully reported. Nursing homes had the most vulnerable population. We know that. Nationwide, 36% of the deaths are in nursing homes. You know what percent of the population are people in nursing homes? One percent. 1% had 36% of the deaths. New York is 34 in nursing home deaths as a percentage of total deaths, 34 out of 50 states. New York is one of only seven states that counts what’s called presumed fatalities in nursing homes, where the nursing home presumed the cause of death was COVID.
Andrew Cuomo: (40:49)
To give you an example, New York state, 13,000 nursing home related deaths. That’s 30% of total deaths. Pennsylvania had 11,900. That’s 52% of their total deaths were in nursing homes. Florida, 34% of total deaths in nursing homes. Massachusetts, 54% of total deaths. If you look at the entire country and you look at the percentage of deaths in nursing homes, New York is number 34. You have some states that up to 73% of the people who died, died in nursing homes. COVID preys on senior citizens, older people, weaker people. We’ve always known that. That is a fact.
Andrew Cuomo: (41:45)
Now, there is much distortion around what’s called Department of Health memo on March 25th. I want to make sure that we get the facts on this. On March 13th, Federal Center for Medicaid and Medicaid services, they’re called CMS, and on March 23rd, the Center for Disease Control, CDC, put out guidance sending people from hospitals back to nursing homes. New York State DOH followed that guidance. 12 other states, at least, followed that guidance. The CDC, CMS DOH reasoning at the time, residents who were leaving the hospitals were not likely to be contagious because, at that time, the viral load is so low that you’re not contagious, and they were going to be what’s called cohorted, cared for in areas that are separate with other people under the right precautions. Patients, particularly senior citizens, should not remain in hospitals longer than necessary, because they can get a secondary infection. That’s true all across the board, especially with seniors. They try to get the procedures done, they try to get people out of the hospital before they can come up with a secondary infection that’s problematic.
Andrew Cuomo: (43:26)
The patients were not sent to nursing homes. The nursing home had to agree that they could care for this person. That is a matter of law. They cannot accept a patient who they are not prepared to care for properly, staff, PPE, ability to cohort. That is in the law. If they don’t do that, they violate the law. At the time, remember what was going on in March, the experts were projecting that our problem and our critical need was hospital capacity. We sat here every day with the hospitalization chart. We were looking at up to 140,000 people hospitalized. We have less than 50,000 hospital beds. That is the calamity.
Andrew Cuomo: (44:26)
Remember, March 25th, that’s right when the New York City Health and Hospitals, Elmhurst Hospital collapsed. It was national news. I remember it like yesterday. We’re watching the TV every night and watching Italy collapse and people die because they can’t get into a hospital. We’re watching China with a hospital capacity issue where they were building thousands of new hospital beds. That’s what was going on. That’s why the CDC and that’s why CMS made those decisions. At the time, CDC, CMS, there were White House task forces, there were daily briefings. Everyone was focused on this issue. This was not a little issue. All the best minds were looking at it.
Andrew Cuomo: (45:27)
Fact. Of the 613 nursing homes, we have 613 nursing homes in the state, 365 received a person from a hospital. Of the 365 that received a person from this March 25th guidance, which was then superseded in May, 98% of those 365 already had COVID in their facility. COVID did not get into the nursing homes by people coming from hospitals. COVID got into the nursing homes by staff walking into the nursing home when we didn’t even know we had COVID. Staff walking into a nursing home even though they were asymptomatic because the national experts all told us you could only spread COVID if you had symptoms. And they were wrong.
Andrew Cuomo: (46:32)
COVID may have been brought into a nursing home because visitors brought it in and didn’t know they were contagious because the guidance was you can only be contagious if you have symptoms, if you’re sneezing, if you’re coughing. That turned out to be wrong. That’s how COVID got into the nursing homes. 98% of the people who took a person back from a hospital who was probably no longer contagious, already had it in the facility, and they signed and agreed that they could handle it because they already had people who were COVID in the nursing home.
Andrew Cuomo: (47:18)
If you look at the rate of death before the March 25th order and after the order was rescinded, the rate of death is the same. By the way, if you look at the rate of death in the nursing homes in the spring overall and in the second surge, the winter/fall surge, the rate of death is the same.
Andrew Cuomo: (47:49)
These decisions are not political decisions. They’re all made on the best information the medical professionals have at the time. In New York, we talk to the best experts on the globe. I’ve said to the people of the state many times, nobody’s been here before, nobody knows for sure. COVID is new. They’re all giving you their best advice at the time. These are really quality people. Dr. Osterholm, Dr. Fauci, all the main institutes that were giving advice to the nation. We had people come from the World Health Organization who dealt with China, who came to Albany literally to advise us.
Andrew Cuomo: (48:40)
We’re blessed to have Dr. Howard Zucker as our health commissioner. He’s trained at Harvard, U Penn, Johns Hopkins, served at HHS, WHO, NIH, he teaches at Columbia and Yale University. If we had to pay him what he was worth, we couldn’t afford it. He gave his best advice on the information that he had at the time. I would trust Dr. Zucker with my mother’s care. That’s why I trust him with your mother’s care. I wouldn’t have anyone as the health commissioner who I wouldn’t trust with my mother, and that’s why I trust him with your mother. To be clear, all the deaths in the nursing homes and in the hospitals were always fully, publicly, and accurately reported. The numbers were the numbers, always. People did request information beyond the place of death, not just how many in a nursing home, not just how many in a hospital. They did request different categorizations beyond those counts. How many people died who were in a nursing home, but then went to a hospital? How many people died who were in a hospital, but then went back to a nursing home? How do you count presumed COVID deaths? Everyone was busy, everybody was here every day, we’re in the midst of managing a pandemic. There was a delay in providing the press and the public all that additional information. There was a delay.
Andrew Cuomo: (50:43)
What did we do learn from this entire situation? What are we still learning? There are hospitals that perform well and there are hospitals that performed less well. We still see hospitals performing less well. When you look at those vaccination numbers, hospitals with the same demographics of workforce in the same region, with different vaccination rates of their staff, that’s in this year of performance of those hospitals.
Andrew Cuomo: (51:16)
There are nursing homes that performed well and there are nursing homes that did not perform as well. We have to learn from it and we have to correct it before we have another surge and another pandemic. And by the way, we are going to have another pandemic. As I sit here, I would plan on it. Yes, this was never seen before, and yes, hospitals had to deal with something they never had seen before, and yes, nursing homes had to deal with something they had never seen before. But they will see it again, and now we have to learn from it before it happens again. Our focus, I believe, is going to be on the four…
Andrew Cuomo: (52:03)
Our focus, I believe is going to be on the for-profit nursing homes. Hospitals, low-performing hospitals, but also in the for-profit nursing homes. I have long believed that there’s a tension in a for-profit nursing home because those institutions are trying to make money. If you’re trying to make profit, it’s too easy to sacrifice patient care, everything becomes one or the other. Do you want to hire more staff or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy more PPE and stockpile more PPE, or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy new equipment, new beds, new sheets, new furniture, invest in the facility, or do you want to make more profit? That tension is a problem, and that has to be resolved legislatively because I don’t want to leave it to these for-profit owners to decide what’s right, what’s wrong.
Andrew Cuomo: (53:07)
Let’s learn these lessons, we have to implement hospital reform and nursing reform, and we have to do it in this budget cycle. COVID isn’t done with us, implement the lessons now, and we’re going to propose them in the 30 day amendments. If you’re a for-profit nursing home, I believe it should be mandated how much you put back into the facility and how much profit you can make, I believe that. Hospitals that have these issues, they have to improve and we have to take it into consideration when there’s a surge. If there’s an influx into hospitals, not all hospitals can handle it equally. And that’s why you saw some hospitals fail, if you could do it all over again and just rewind the tape.
Andrew Cuomo: (54:09)
I understand the public had many questions and concerns, and the press had many questions about nursing homes primarily, and I understand that they were not answered quickly enough and they should have been prioritized and prioritize those requests sooner, I believe that. I understand the reasons. I understand that there was a lot going on. Everybody was working 24 hours a day, everybody was overwhelmed. We were in the midst of dealing with a pandemic and trying to save lives. They were answering DOJ and nursing homes and the hospitals were also in the middle of hell and the middle of a pandemic. And they were scrambling and they were managing the crisis. I understand all of that, but the void we created by not providing information was filled with skepticism and cynicism and conspiracy theories, which furthered the confusion. Nature abhors a vacuum, so does the political system. You don’t provide information, something will provide the information.
Andrew Cuomo: (55:37)
Most of all, the void we created allowed disinformation and that created more anxieties for the families of loved ones. I’ve had hundreds of conversations. People couldn’t get into the facility to see their loved one. They couldn’t get them on the phone. They couldn’t get staff on the phone to get answers, they were powerless. They were helpless. They were literally physically removed and isolated. Loved ones died alone. Loved ones died alone. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters died alone. It was horrific. It was horrific. And then the void in information that we created started misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories. And now people have to hear that and they don’t know what is the truth.
Andrew Cuomo: (56:51)
The truth is everybody did everything they could. The truth is, you had the best medical professionals and advice on the globe. The truth is, it was in the middle of a terrible pandemic. The truth is, COVID attacks senior citizens. The truth is, with all we know, people still die in nursing homes today. People still die every day. We’re testing the staff twice a week, there’s no visitation, people still die. You would have to hermetically seal a nursing home. They actually tried this in France, where the staff lived in the nursing home. Anybody can bring it in, a delivery man brings it in, the heating repairman brings it in. The food service brings it in. Staff goes home, meets with their family. Someone in the family has it, staff member comes back. The staff member brings it in.
Andrew Cuomo: (58:06)
Even when you’re testing twice a week, twice a week, you’ll get people who have it and you’ll miss them in the twice a week. That is the reality, but not providing the information creates the void. The void allowed misinformation and conspiracy. And now people are left with the thought of, did my loved one have to die. And that is a brutal, brutal question to pose to a person. And I want everyone to know everything was done. Everything was done by the best minds in the best interest. And the last thing that we wanted to do, the last thing that I wanted to do was to aggravate a terrible situation. There is no good answer, when you lose a loved one. I lost my father years ago. I still go through it over and over and over again. What should I have done? What could I have done? What should I have said to the doctor? I probably always will. Last thing I wanted to do was to aggravate that for anyone. With that, let’s take questions.
Thank you, governor. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function at the bottom of your window. We’ll take a brief moment to compile the Q&A roster.
Governor, your first question comes from Steve Burns at WCBS 880. Steve, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Steve Burns: (01:00:09)
Governor, can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:10)
Hi. Yes, Steve. How you doing buddy? Happy Presidents Day.
Steve Burns: (01:00:12)
Hey, I’m good. Same to you and everyone there. Thank you. A couple of questions for you first regarding the nursing home information. Given that the explanation has been that there was the DOJ request that had to be handled first. The legislature, I’ve seen a few tweets from some lawmakers saying basically, why didn’t DOH inform the legislature that they had this DOJ request and that they couldn’t handle the lawmakers requests at the same time? Secondly, on subways, I know the MTA’s request for an additional 1,000 officers also coincides with this police reform initiative. And I’m sure a lot of those initiatives will have to do with mental health police responding to mental health situations. Do you feel like it’s the right move to send another 1,000 officers into the MTA system to primarily deal with people having mental health problems?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:16)
Yeah. Steve, good question. Two questions. First one, both houses were told, state legislators are wrong. Both houses were told that we had the DOJ request and we’re going to give precedence to a DOJ request. They were both told, and yes, we gave the Department of Justice request precedence over the state legislator’s request. True, federal government took precedence over the state legislator’s requests. I know they’re state legislators, I’ve spoken to them. They said, “Well, we’re just as important as the Department of Justice.” I understand they’re point of view. We gave precedence to the Department of Justice. We told the Assembly that, we told the Senate that, and that’s what we did.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:02:06)
And we’re also in the midst of managing a pandemic and Dr. Zucker is here every day. And Dr. Zucker is here every night at midnight and Dr. Zucker is dealing with the hospitals, et cetera. But yes, we prioritized DOJ over the state legislature and that’s what they focused on. Now, besides the state legislature, there were people requests, there were press requests that were not answered on a timely basis. And that created the void that I’m talking about. And then once you create a void, people spread disinformation, this conspiracy theory, this conspiracy theory. They’re not giving you this information because of this, because of this, because of this. And if you lost a loved one, and you’re hearing all these theories and all this negativity, then you say, “Maybe my father didn’t have to die.” And that’s the unfortunate circumstance, but short answer, Steve. They did know. They did know, they were told. Assembly and Senate, we have the Department of Justice, we’re giving them precedence.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:27)
On the police reform, I believe you need more public safety in the subway stations. I believe you need better safety, public safety in the city, overall. I believe you need better public safety in cities, large overall, you focus on New York City. We’ve had situations Rochester where a nine-year-old girl was pepper-sprayed. You have situations in Buffalo, where they knocked a protestor to the ground. He hit his head, he has ongoing damage. It was on videotape. It was brutal. You have public safety issues nationwide, George Floyd. All I’m saying to New York City is, you figure it out. You figure it out. You have community tension where they don’t trust the police. You have NYP tension, where they feel they can’t do their job. That’s not going to work until you reconcile that relationship.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:36)
And it has to be reconciled, Steve. It doesn’t happen on its own. You’re going to have a collaborative that does, that. Are many localities talking about taking public safety and breaking it down and saying, “Well, if you have mental health issues, then deal with it as a mental health issue, rather than just the police.” An answer to every situation may not be a police officer, maybe a mental health professional. When the MTA asked for a 1,000 police, that’s all there is to ask for now. If they come up with a new public safety plan and they say, “Look, we’re going to have mental health experts, and they’re going to deploy two mental health related complaints.” Fine. Then that sounds right. And that sounds, sound.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:28)
And if they come up with a different public safety strategy, then fine. Fit that to the subway station. But right now all you have are police. There are no mental health experts to request. But if they develop that in the plan, I’m sure the MTA will say, “Fine. Just send me people who are responsive to the problem.”
Steve Burns: (01:05:52)
Real quick, on the nursing home data, was there not the capacity in DOH to fulfill both the DOJ request and the legislature’s request at the same time?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:01)
They focused on the DOJ request. Steve, they were dealing with everything at the time. Remember when you wake up in the morning, job one for the past year has been dealing with the crisis of the moment. Dealing with whatever the issue is. Today it’s variants of interest. Today, it’s sorting out the vaccination system. Every day it has been something and that was given priority. In retrospect, should we have given more priority to fulfilling information requests? In my opinion, yes. Yes. And I think that’s what created the void. But do I understand the pressure that everybody was under? Yes. I understand that also. It’s not like people were in the South of France. It’s not like people were on vacation. They were here every day and fulfilling the information was not …
Andrew Cuomo: (01:07:15)
For example, the state legislators request was not given a priority, the DOJ request was given a priority. That is a decision that was made, but it was informed. The houses were both informed. They can’t say they didn’t know Steve. You ask me for an interview, I say, “I can’t do your interview now because I have to do X, Y, Z interviews.” They knew.
Governor, [inaudible 01:07:50].
Governor, next up we have David Evans from WABC TV. David, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:02)
Dave, excuse me. One issue. Beth was adding something. And then we’ll go to Dave. Go ahead, Beth.
Thank you. So the August 26th response or August 26th letter to the state was actually publicized by the DOJ with a press release and was widely reported in the papers as well. So irrespective as to whether or not we communicated with the legislature, which we did. Anyone who was following the press coverage at the time would have seen their press release related to issuing this letter to the four states, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New York, widely covered.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:42)
Yeah. So the point is Dave, if I might. The legislature knew full and well that we had a request from the Department of Justice in August. It was in the press that we received in August. It was in the press that we received the second one in October. We literally read about it in the paper ourselves. And they knew because they were told that, that was getting precedence over dealing with the state legislative requests, but that we would get to the state requests, but we needed to focus first on the DOJ request. Dave Evans.
David Evans: (01:09:27)
Hey, governor, can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:09:28)
I can hear you.
David Evans: (01:09:30)
Hey, I got my vaccine this morning, so I can thank you for that. But I wanted to for just a second, turn back to the nursing home for a second. So what you’re saying is all of these calls for investigations from the Department of Justice, what both Republicans and Democrats in Albany are asking for, you see this as toxic political payback. And the second thing that goes with that is, what you talked about with your executive powers. This story that’s out there this afternoon of, negotiations ongoing about the legislature could do something, holding your feet to the fire on that in order to get something on the budget. I mean talk about raw politics, that seems to smack of it.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:10:14)
Yeah. Two things, the Department of Justice had what’s called the request for information, not an investigation. The second letter you could construe from the Department of Justice to be talking about an investigation of private nursing homes. There are private nursing homes that are private nursing homes, state doesn’t run them. They’re just private nursing homes. And the letter from the Department of Justice asked information about the private nursing homes, because they were looking at the private nursing homes, but they-
David Evans: (01:11:00)
[inaudible 01:11:00], nursing home.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:11:00)
David Evans: (01:11:02)
I’m sorry. Go ahead.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:11:05)
But my point is, we then didn’t respond to the New York state legislator’s requests because we were … And we told them, we’re going to deal with the Department of Justice first. Also, by the way, because we were dealing with managing the pandemic, everything takes time. And we were dealing with managing the pandemic, but we told the state legislature, we would get to their request. They come back into session in January, this past January. We said, “We would get to their request.” You cannot Dave … Raw Politics is one thing. This is New York. We thrive on raw politics. Legally, you can’t use an investigation to leverage a person in another matter. You can’t use a subpoena or the threat of subpoena or the threat of an investigation to leverage a person to do something else, that’s illegal. That’s just illegal. It’s illegal for anyone to do it. As a lawyer, you get debarred for doing that, but that’s a crime. That’s not real politics. Next question, operator.
Governor next up, we have Denis Slattery from the Daily News. Denis, your line is now open, please unmute your microphone.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:12:53)
Denis Slattery: (01:12:55)
Yep. Governor, can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:12:56)
Denis Slattery: (01:12:59)
All right. Great. So I have two questions, just going back to the DOJ request. It was not initially a probe. It was a request for information, but the initial one from August was a very narrow scope. Only asking about state run facilities. I’m just curious when you informed the legislative leaders about your response to that and how that would slow down your responding to the state legislator’s questions that were posed earlier that month?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:13:26)
The first request was for public nursing homes. The second request was private nursing homes. We told the legislature, we had the request. We told them we gave that request precedence. More than anything, it was just a capacity issue. Remember at the same time we’re managing the pandemic, that’s what everybody was doing. And these things all take time and the number one priority was saving people’s lives every day. Do you have a point, Beth?
Yes, if I could just add on top of that. So we received this inquiry on August 26th. It was just a request for information, but it was public nursing homes, which are five state run facilities, as well as a number of county run facilities. And so data had to be collected and reviewed for a number of nursing homes. I believe it was 26 nursing homes that we provided voluminous documentation and all of that had to be verified.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:14:37)
Denis, you got a second question?
Denis Slattery: (01:14:40)
Yeah, just going back to the story that we had today about the budget negotiations and some lawmakers talking about the threat of subpoena or resending your emergency powers. You kind of touched on this earlier, but I’m just curious your response to that. And have you spoken to the legislative leaders about this?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:15:01)
Yeah. Denis, that is a crime. You can’t say, “I’m a former assistant district attorney.” You can’t use a subpoena or the threat of an investigation to leverage a person, that’s a crime. It’s called abuse of process, it’s called extortion. So the question before was, is that raw politics? No, it’s not raw politics. That’s criminal. I don’t know the facts. I wasn’t in the room, but in the room you have lawyers. You have former prosecutors who were in that room. They know it’s illegal. But no, I didn’t talk to the leaders about it. Next question.
Next up, we have Marcia Kramer from WCBS TV. Marcia, your line is now open. Please, unmute your microphone.
Marcia Kramer: (01:15:59)
Governor, can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:16:00)
Hey, you Marcia? How are you? Happy Valentine’s Day.
Marcia Kramer: (01:16:04)
So my question to you is this, several members of the legislature, some Republican, some Democrats have asked that there’d be an investigation of what happened. If that investigation was done, it might be, for example, be done by the attorney general. You’re a former attorney general, if you were in this situation and looked at this fact pattern, would you open an investigation of what has happened so far? And my second part of the question is, do you think that if there was an investigation and the attorney general agreed with everything that you said that it would help clear the air?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:16:44)
Marcia, I don’t think there’s anything to clear here. It is a fact that the state legislature did a request. We told them we were not going to address the request at that time, that we were going to honor the DOJ request first, we said that. That’s a fact, there’s nothing to investigate there. And then we provided information to DOJ. There is nothing to investigate. I’m telling you, I agree to the legislature’s point. They sent the letter and we said that we would deal with the DOJ first. I agree, I said that. They were told that, and by the way, they could have objected. They can send a demand letter. They’re now talking about subpoenas. They could have sent a subpoena and said, “We don’t want to wait for DOJ. We’re going to send you a subpoena.” They didn’t do that.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:17:53)
They understood that we were dealing with the pandemic and that we were giving DOJ precedence. And by the way, I think they were right in that. All the numbers we produced were …
Andrew Cuomo: (01:18:03)
All the numbers we produced were exactly right. We didn’t provide all the information that was requested that did create a void and misinformation did fill the void. And that misinformation gave people aggravation and confused people and confused people who lost a loved one and allowed conspiracy theories to fester. And that aggravated people who lost a loved one, because now you don’t know what to believe. And that is the last thing anyone wanted to create, but it’s not a legal question.
Marcia Kramer: (01:18:44)
So are you really saying that this is sort of the creation of a toxic political environment that’s existed for several years in this country and in this state?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:18:54)
Look, is the environment toxic politically? Yes. Was this happening last year with this toxic political environment? Yes. And do I think that’s part of the conspiracy theories that filled the void? Yes. And look, I understand politics. I was critical of President Trump. I also worked with President Trump. I get how strong the feelings are on both sides. But when you’re talking about loved ones dying in nursing homes, when you come up with conspiracy theories or this disinformation, then the worst thing you can say to somebody who lost a loved one is, “Maybe it didn’t have to be. Maybe there was a government issue.” Now we created the void, I agree to that, or, and/or, we didn’t constantly fight back every rumor, every piece of disinformation, which in this environment is a full-time job. And that’s what I want to do today to the people who lost a loved one.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:20:25)
All of these theories, March 25th memo did this. No, it didn’t. The state numbers were wrong. No, they weren’t. Well, that’s how COVID got into a nursing home. No, it isn’t. 613 nursing homes, 365 people went back. 98% of them have COVID already. Well, we made the nursing homes take these people. No, we didn’t. The nursing home had to say that by law, that they were in a position to deal with it. So I want people to have the facts because these were the best professionals doing the best they could. And by the way, [Marcia 01:21:10], I want people to have the facts so they have an understanding and peace with the situation.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:21:17)
People still die in nursing homes. They still die. Back then, we didn’t have COVID tests. We didn’t have the capacity. Nobody knew what COVID was. They didn’t know how it was transmitted. They were wrong about the way they were transmitted. Even with all of that. So now today, fast forward, now you know all this information. People still die in nursing homes. So yes, older people, vulnerable people get this disease. It is likely to kill them. 94% of the deaths are senior citizens with underlying conditions. People in nursing homes have underlying conditions.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:22:03)
And that’s why people died. Not because anyone did anything wrong or because there was a conspiracy. You couldn’t get better advice. You couldn’t get people work to work harder. You couldn’t get anything else done at the time. I understand the misinformation. I take responsibility for creating the void that allowed the information, but I’m not concerned about that and not concerned about the politics. I just want to make sure people know these are the facts. These are the facts. Everything that could have been done was done. You can’t say to a person who lost a loved one, or you can say it if it’s true, but, “Well, maybe something else could have been done.” That’s a cruel torture, especially when it’s not true and it’s not true here. Next question, operator.
Governor, your next question from comes from Clayton Guse from The Daily News. Clayton, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Clayton Guse: (01:23:22)
Yeah, hello. Can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:23:23)
Clayton Guse: (01:23:25)
How’s it going? I just wanted to ask about the subway. Over the past 10 months, a lot of the public’s watched you and MTA officials do some logical gymnastics over justifying the ongoing closure. A big point of contention has been that the trains are running on the same schedules overnight during the shutdown and from what I understand, they’re going to continue to run on the same schedules from two to four AM during this shutdown. They’re cleaning throughout the day. I mean, can you give us any more information on why this is justified moving forward and when 24 hours subway service will resume fully?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:24:06)
Yeah. Clayton, I know your theory, that there’s no reason to close the subways to clean them. That’s not what the MTA says. Also, by the way, if you were right, that you don’t have to close subways to clean them, then you have to answer why they’ve never been cleaned before. I don’t understand how you can spray, how you can send the people in hazmat suits through a train, spraying chemical disinfectant with people on it. I think that’s the problem with your theory. You’re a passenger, a guy comes through with a hazmat suit with a wand, spraying a chemical that kills viruses while I’m sitting on a train and they’re going to spray that on me? So I don’t get it. But I know your theory. The MTA says you can’t send people with hazmat suits through a train. You can’t clean stations with these chemicals with people in the station. They’re reducing the period of time of closure from two to four on Monday.
Clayton Guse: (01:25:19)
Well, I think you do understand that there has been a lot more money invested in outside contractors on cleaning the subway, especially after there were job cuts to cleaning crews before the pandemic, which could explain why they’re cleaner than ever before. And they are doing some of that spraying during the day. And new subway rules require that passengers exit stations at terminal lines, which would preclude them from being full of passengers at the positions of they’re cleaning them. So can you answer just that a little bit more given what I just said?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:25:52)
Yeah, I understand your question. You said repeatedly that you don’t need to stop trains and keep people from stations to clean them. I get it. It doesn’t make common sense to me. I don’t think you can… You can’t spray this chemical on people. I’m not going to stand in a station and have you spray me with a virucide and then I go to work, but you should ask the MTA because they say you can’t and that’s why they close the station from two to four. Let’s take one more question operator.
Governor, your last question comes from Michael Gormley at Newsday. Michael, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Michael Gormley: (01:26:44)
Hello, Governor. You said you in creating that void, why didn’t you tell the public and the press during that period that the federal inquiries we’re creating the delay? And how do you explain that legislators, including Speaker Heastie, are so surprised about the federal involvement here, if everyone knew it? And I’ll have one quick follow up question after that.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:27:10)
Yeah. Well, first Mike, let’s stick with the facts. Okay? The fact that we received a Department of Justice request for information was in the newspaper. The fact that we received a Department of Justice request for information on private nursing homes in October was in the newspaper. We learned about it from the newspaper. The New York Post wrote that we got a letter before we ever got a letter. By the way, we never even got a letter. We had to call the Department of Justice and ask for a letter. So that was in the newspaper. The staff of the Assembly in the Senate were told not just that we were responding to DOJ, because that was in the newspaper, but that we couldn’t respond to the state legislative request, or we wouldn’t respond to the state legislative requests because we were dealing with the DOJ request.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:28:15)
The staff was told that. Who the staff told on their staff, I don’t know. But if you tell Rob Mujica something, then he’s supposed to tell me. If he doesn’t, you still told my staff. So that’s what that is. But it’s not that we couldn’t have responded to other things also. We could have sat here all day and just take questions from people who had a lot of questions. We could have spent more time answering press inquiries who had questions. That’s all true. And in retrospect, I’m saying we should have done a better job providing more public information. Now we’re focused on the day-to-day and we’re focused on what we’re doing, but we should have spent more time focusing on the information request from press, from people, et cetera, because what happened as a result was it created a void.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:29:37)
And when you create a void in this world at this time, Mike, something’s going to fill that void. And well they didn’t answer, I wonder why, maybe this, maybe that, maybe this, political theories, maybe this, maybe this, maybe this, and I’m not even concerned about that, frankly, vis-a-vis. I’m less worried about that with the state legislature, et cetera. I’m more worried about that with the effect of on people people. What bothers me is people calling up saying, “They say the March 25th memo is the reason my father died, that that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.” Those are the people who were hurt by the void. And that was, well, I can say in my defensive mode, I didn’t create the disinformation. I didn’t create the conspiracy theory. “I know Governor, but you created the void and when you created the void, you allowed these other theories to fester.” That’s true. That’s true. We had a conversation-
Michael Gormley: (01:31:03)
Governor, you said earlier though-
Andrew Cuomo: (01:31:03)
Michael Gormley: (01:31:04)
You said legislators were told, now you’re saying staff was told and why didn’t you provide that information that the federal probe was slowing things down? Legislators even now said they would have accepted that, but they had never heard that. And then one last question, is there anything that you personally apologize for in this whole process?
Andrew Cuomo: (01:31:23)
Yeah, two things. One, let’s be clear, and legislative staff was told by my staff. Okay? So legislative staff was told, top legislative staff was told. Second, the DOJ letters were in the newspaper, Mike. There was no secret about the DOJ letters. They were in the newspaper. Staff was told that we were giving DOJ precedence. So we told both Houses through the staff. That’s communication on a day-to-day basis is how it happens. And the legislators have said the same thing to me, by the way, “We understand that if you get a DOJ request, it takes precedence.” They’ve said the same thing to me. They say nobody told them that. I understand. We did tell the Houses and I’m sure there was a breakdown of communication now between the staff in the House and the actual legislators, because every legislator I talked to said the same thing they said to you. “We understand if you have DOJ asking questions that that takes precedence.” So they’ve said the same thing to me, but the DOJ requests were in the newspaper. So that was not news. And the staff of both Houses were told, and that’s not news. Apologize? Look, I have said repeatedly, we made a mistake in creating the void. We made a mistake in creating the void. When we didn’t provide information, it allowed press, people, cynics, politicians to fill the void. When you don’t correct disinformation, you allow it to continue. And we created the void, not because people weren’t working hard, Mike, because you know how hard people were working and well, you should have prioritized providing more information. Yes, yes. In retrospect, we should have prioritized providing more information. I get the operational demand. I don’t like to second guess my team. They were all working 24 hours a day. Remember where this was? You’re in the middle of hell during this time, but no excuses, no excuses.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:34:35)
We should not have created the void. We should have done a better job in providing information. We should have done a better job of knocking down the disinformation. You’d never knock down all these conspiracy theories, the political conspiracy theories, because they generate 10 a day, but we should have done a better job of providing as much information as we could as quickly as we could and we should have done a better job on that, yes, and no excuses. I accept responsibility for that. I am in charge. I take responsibility. We should have provided more information faster. We were too focused on doing the job and addressing the crisis of the moment and we did not do a good enough job in providing information. I take total responsibility for that. The pain in it is it created confusion and cynicism and pain for the families of the loved ones.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:35:55)
My father didn’t die in a nursing home, but my father had a heart ailment for a long period of time and he looked to me to be helpful to him. And I spoke to doctors and different doctors had different theories and he should try this, he should do that, we should send him here, we should send him to Europe and I was responsible to help him. And I often think about if I did everything that I could. And I replay the conversations with the doctors in my mind. Did I make all the right decisions? Should I have pushed them to do something else? I can imagine the pain of someone who has to live with, “My loved one is in a hospital and I just read that maybe he or she didn’t have to die.” It wasn’t true, Mike. It wasn’t true, but it created pain. And that’s because we created a void and we didn’t answer every question, so it allowed the void to be created. The void begets disinformation. The disinformation begets pain of people. I take responsibility for that. Total death counts were always accurate. Nothing was hidden from anyone. But we did create the void and that created pain and I feel very badly about that. Okay, thank you all very much.