Mar 30, 2020
Governor Andrew Cuomo New York COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 30
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… Is Major General Raymond Shields from the department of Military and Naval Affairs. Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of health, who you all know, Ken Rasci, who is the president and CEO of the greater New York Hospital Association. To my left, Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, to his left, Larry Schwartz, former secretary to the governor who’s been volunteering to help us here. Michael Israel, president and CEO of Westchester Medical Center network and Ann Creswell, commissioner of New York city Emergency Management Department. Let me thank them all very much for being here. We just had a great meeting, which I’ll refer to in a moment. Let me also wish everyone happy national doctor’s day, and this is a day that doctors are truly busy and truly stepping up to their oath and their passion and literally saving lives. So we honor all the doctors in the state of New York today. Let me also thank the people from the Javits Center.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (01:10)
Alan Steele, who’s the director here. Javits Center has done many magnificent exhibitions and transformations and they never cease to amaze me, but this is a transformation that I don’t think anyone could ever anticipate. 2,500 beds as an emergency hospital. It’s a partnership between the state and the federal government and I want to thank the federal government very much for what they’ve done. The Army Corps of Engineers did a fantastic job moving in here and getting everything set up as quickly as possible. It will become operational today, receiving the first few patients, and we’ll start to run the facility and then we’ll take it from there. Let me go through a couple of facts to give you an update on where we are today, and then we’ll take your questions. In terms of the numbers of cases you see the curve continues to go up, 7,195, you see the number of people tested continues to go up.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (02:13)
This state is testing more people than any state in the United States, more per capita than China or South Korea. That is a good thing. We want to test. We want to find the positives, and we want to find the positives so we can isolate, stop the transmission. We tested 14,000 people yesterday. The number of cases continues to go up. 6,984, total number of cases, 66,000 cases, and those numbers are daunting to be sure. You see, it’s continuing to move across the state of New York. There’s only one county now that does not have a COVID case. Anyone who says this situation is a New York City only situation is in a state of denial. You see this virus move across the state. You see the virus move across this nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus. I don’t care if you live in Kansas, I don’t care if you live in Texas. There is no American that is immune.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (03:29)
What is happening to New York is not an anomaly. There’s nothing about a New Yorker’s immune system that is any different than any other American’s immune system. So in many ways New York is just the canary in the coal mine. What you see us going through here, you will see happening all across this country. So part of what we’re doing here is not only serving New Yorkers, but we believe that we’re dealing with this pandemic at a level, intensity, and density that no one has seen before, and hopefully we’ll learn lessons here that we can then share with people across this nation.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (04:09)
In terms of the overall numbers, 66,000 have tested positive, 9,500 people are currently hospitalized, 2,000 ICU patients, 4,000 patients are discharged. That’s an increase of 632. You don’t often focus on this line when we have these conversations, but people go into the hospital and people leave the hospital and that’s important to remember. We’ve dealt with some really deadly viruses before, we dealt with the Ebola virus. That’s not what this is. Most people will get sick. Most people will get sick and stay home and have some symptoms. That’s 80%. 20% will get sick, need hospitalization, they’ll feel better and they’ll leave. It tends to be those people who are acutely ill, have an underlying illness who have the most problems.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (05:11)
Most impacted States. New York you see is at 66,000, New Jersey is next with 13, California 6,000. So we have 10 times the problem that California is dealing with. 2,739 deaths in the state of New York. Total of 148,000 cases. 2,739 deaths. That’s a lot of loss. That’s a lot of pain. That’s a lot of tears. That’s a lot of grief that people all across the state are feeling. 1,200 is up from 965 deaths yesterday. What you’re seeing is people who have been on ventilators for a long period of time. The longer you’re on a ventilator, the less likely you will ever come off that ventilator, and as we have now some period of time when people first entered the hospital and were first intubated, we’re seeing that death number go up as their length of time on the ventilator increases. To keep it in perspective, the Johns Hopkins numbers are still instructive. We’ve been studying this since China, so 732 deaths, 34,000 worldwide
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (06:42)
Total hospitalized, we’re still looking for a pattern on these cases that are coming in. We’re still looking for a pattern in the data. The number goes up, the number goes down. There’s no doubt that the number is still increasing. There’s also no doubt that the rate has slowed. We had a doubling of cases every two days. Then a doubling every three days, then a doubling every four days, then every five, we now have a doubling of cases every six days. So while the overall numbers going up, the rate of doubling is actually down. The daily intubation rate is way up. Again, sometimes it’s just an anomaly. There’s no clear pattern, as you can see from those past several nights. Discharge rate, again, that by and large is going up. People come into the hospital, they stay for a period of time, number of days, and then they move on. But big picture is the situation is painfully clear now.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (07:58)
There’s no question what we’re dealing with. There’s no question as to the consequences. There’s no question as to the grief and the loss of life, and there’s no question about what we must do. There are only two missions. There are only two operations that we need to perform. First, the public has to be responsible. Stay at home. When I issued the stay at home order, it wasn’t it would be nice if you did. It is a mandate. Stay at home. If you’re a non-essential worker, stay at home. If you leave the house, you’re exposing yourself to danger. If you leave the house, you’re exposing others to danger. You can get infected, go home and infect whoever’s at home. So stay at home. I know the isolation can be boring and oppressive. It is better than the alternative.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (09:04)
Life has options, right? Stay at home. That is the best option. If you are out, no proximity, six feet distancing. You don’t want proximity to other people, and you want to stay away from places that are dense. Still in New York City, you have too many places with too much density. I mean, I don’t know how many different ways to make the same point. New York City parks, we made the point there’s too much density. You want to go to the park, go to the park, but not in a dense area, not in playgrounds where you’re playing basketball with other people, and I have said that New York City is trying to reduce the density in those playgrounds. Thus far, they have not been successful. If that continues, we’ll take a mandatory action to close down playgrounds, as harsh as that sounds, but it can actually save people’s lives.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (10:10)
So that’s mission one. Mission two, and this is going to be more and more clear as we go on. The front-line battle is in the healthcare system, the front-line battle is going to be hospitals across the city, across the state, and across this nation. That is where this battle is fought. It’s that simple. You know exactly where it’s coming. You know exactly where the enemy is going to attack. They’re going to infect a large number of people. That number of people descend on the healthcare system, the healthcare system can’t deal with that number of people, you overwhelm the healthcare system. That’s what’s happening. So first step was-
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (11:03)
… Happening. So first step was flatten the curve, reduce the density, keep people home. We’ve done everything that we can possibly do there. Second step is, don’t let the hospital system get overwhelmed.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (11:15)
The soldiers in this fight are our health care professionals. It’s the doctors, it’s the nurses, it’s the people who are working in the hospitals, it’s the aids. They are the soldiers who are fighting this battle for us. You know the expression, “Save our troops”, troops, quote/unquote. In this battle, the troops are healthcare professionals. Those are the troops who are fighting this battle for us. We need to recruit more healthcare workers. We need to share healthcare professionals within this state and within this country.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (12:03)
As Governor of New York, I am asking healthcare professionals across the country, if you don’t have a healthcare crisis in your community, please come help us in New York now. We need relief. We need relief for nurses who are working 12 hour shifts, one after the other, after the other. We need relief for doctors. We need relief for attendants. So if you’re not busy, come help us please.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (12:36)
And we will return the favor. We will return the favor. New York, yes, we have it now intensely. There will be a curve. New York at one point will be on the other side of the curve and then there will be an intense issue somewhere else in the nation. And the New York way is to be helpful. So, help New York, we’re the ones who are hit now. That’s today, but tomorrow it’s going to be somewhere else. Whether it’s Detroit, whether it’s New Orleans, it will work its way across the country. And this is the time for us to help one another.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (13:21)
We need supplies desperately and we’re working on that. We just had a very good meeting where we discussed supplies. I want to thank Michael Evans from Alibaba who is here with us today, I want to thank Elizabeth Jennings from the Asia Society who is here with us today, who are helping us source supplies. Because we’re in a situation where you have 50 States all competing for supplies. The federal government is now also competing for supplies. Private hospitals are also competing for supplies.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (13:55)
So we’ve created a situation where you literally have hundreds of entities looking to buy the same exact materials, basically from the same place, which is China, ironically enough. And we’re fighting amongst ourselves. We’re competing amongst ourselves. We’re driving the prices up. When we started buying ventilators, they were under $20,000. The ventilators are now over $50,000 if you can find them. The ventilators didn’t change that much in two weeks. The prices went up because literally we are driving the prices up. But we need to give our front-line, our healthcare professionals, the supplies they need and we need to do it now.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (14:56)
Our rule here in New York has been plan forward to get ahead of the problem. The old expression is, “Don’t fight the last battle.” This virus has been ahead of us from day one. We have been playing catch up from day one. You never win playing catch up. Get ahead of the problem. Don’t fight today’s fight. Plan for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks from now when you’re going to have the apex and make sure that we’re in a position to win the battle when the battle is truly drawn, which is going to be at the apex.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (15:38)
That’s why we are preparing stockpiles now. We’re building a stockpile. The word stockpile by definition means not for immediate use. It means you’re preparing for a battle to come and you have to have the equipment and you have to have it now. I’ve done disaster work all across the nation. I can tell you this, if you wait to prepare for the storm to hit, it is too late, my friends. You have to prepare before the storm hits. And in this case, the storm is when you hit that high point, when you hit that apex. How do you know when you’re going to get there? You don’t. There is no crystal ball but there is science and there is data and there are health professionals who have studied this virus and its progress since China. We now have months of data. Listen to the scientists, listen to the mental health, the healthcare professionals, and follow the data and that’s what we’re doing here in New York.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (16:53)
We just had a great meeting where we brought the healthcare system from across the state of New York together to come up with one coordinated plan. Not private hospitals and public hospitals, not New York City hospitals and Long Island hospitals and Westchester hospitals and Upstate hospitals, not big hospitals and small hospitals. The entire healthcare system convened, coordinated, working as one for the first time in decades. No one can ever remember the way we have deployed and coordinated like this.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (17:34)
Why? Because this is a statewide battle and we want to make sure that we are all coordinated and we’re all working together. And that’s exactly what we’ve accomplished at this meeting. No politics, no partisanship, no division. There is no time for that. Not in this state, not in this nation. This is a deadly serious situation. And frankly, it’s more important than politics and it’s more important than partisanship. And if there is division at this time, the virus will defeat us. If there was ever a moment for unity, this, my friends, is the moment.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (18:24)
In this situation, there are no red states and there are no blue states and there are no red casualties and there are no blue casualties. It’s red, white, and blue. This virus doesn’t discriminate. It attacks everyone and it attacks everywhere. The President said, “This is a war.” I agree with that. This is a war. Then let’s act that way and let’s act that way now and let’s show a commonality and a mutuality and a unity that this country hasn’t seen in decades because the Lord knows we need it today more than ever before.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (19:09)
Speaker 4: (19:11)
[inaudible 00:19:11] Trump commented yesterday regarding [inaudible 00:19:17] suggested that it’s possible New York is not keeping track of the equipment. It might be going out the back door, might not be being used in the proper fashion. Curious if you can respond to that directly in terms of what he was implying.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (19:27)
Yeah. The question is that the President suggested that PPE equipment may be going out the back door. First, there is a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey. It’s the New York City warehouse. We’re creating a stockpile. For someone to say, “Well, the warehouse has equipment in it, you should be using that equipment today,” that defies the basic concept of planning and the basic operation that we have to have working not just in this state but across the country.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (20:09)
If you are not preparing for the apex and for the high point, you are missing the entire point of the operation. It is a fundamental blunder to only prepare for today. That’s why in some ways we are where we are. We’ve been behind this virus from day one. You have the scientist and the data projections showing you a curve. The curve goes like this, you’re over here. Prepare for the high point of the curve and do it now.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (20:49)
When are you going to do it? The night before? What am I going to tell the hospitals when they call up and they say, “We just had an influx of 50% more people and we need more equipment and we need more ventilators.” Sorry. So the whole stockpile concept is to prepare for the future.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (21:09)
In terms of the suggestion that the PPE equipment is not going to a correct place, I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what he’s trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation. But I don’t know what he’s trying to say by inference.
Speaker 5: (21:29)
Governor, can you explain how New York City is better coordinating hospitals and overcame obstacles by discharging patients to other hospitals?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (21:39)
We just had a conversation about exactly that. In New York City, there are basically two systems. There’s what’s called the Greater New York Hospital Association, Ken Raske represents it. It’s basically the private, voluntary hospitals, Mount Sinai, Columbia, et cetera-
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (22:02)
… Colombia, et cetera. Then there’s the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which are the public hospitals. You have those two systems. We just discussed that those two systems have to, in this situation, undertake a balancing that they probably have never had to do before. In other words, you have 11 public hospitals. One hospital starts to get overrun. There’s a high load in one hospital. Before that happens, transfer people to one of the hospitals that has more vacancies and less load. Distribute the load among those public hospitals, and do it immediately. Do it on a daily basis. One hospital is starting to overload, distribute, transfer, same thing with the Greater New York Hospital Association.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (23:04)
Then we said, “Take it a step further.” Once one system is near capacity, then the two systems will work together to share the load. We just discussed that, and we all agreed to do it. There are no legal barriers. If a hospital… Let’s stay with the public system, because the public system, I think, is going to face the greatest stress, if a public hospital starts to get overloaded, transfer to another hospital with less of a load. I don’t believe there are any restrictions. Ken Raske, who is the expert on this, I’d ask him to chime in.
Ken Raske: (23:50)
Oh, thank you, Governor, to that fine question. We’re going to work as one cohesive family system through New York, and then New York is beyond the city itself. It’s including the Downstate area, both the island as well as Westchester. I think what we’re going to see is that balancing that the governor is talking about, balance within the system, balance without the system, beyond it. As we go forward, as we encounter more and more stress with each day that goes on, the stress points will increase, and as a result, that balancing is absolutely essential, and because of the leadership of the government, it is clear to everybody that we are going to be one cohesive family in tackling this.
Just a quick followup. I know you relaxed the regulations to make sure the hospitals can take in this capacity. There are federal regulations that say hospitals can’t just discharge patients because they’re Medicaid patients or commercial patients.
Ken Raske: (24:52)
So, how does that work, and then how does the Javits Center play in to this? Are hospitals going to be shifting their [inaudible 00:24:58] patients here when they’re at capacity?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (24:58)
Can you just walk me through that?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (25:00)
Yeah. We just spent a couple of hours doing it, and it’s complicated, but let me give you the top line, if I might. Right now, basically the hospital systems operate as, basically, separate systems. You have the public hospitals, you have the Greater New York hospitals, you have Westchester hospitals, you have Long Island hospitals, and then you have Upstate hospitals, and they have their own trade associations and public of public, and then the privates of the privates. We said we have to work as one system, so share staff, share resources. If one hospital doesn’t have enough masks, rather than that hospital have to scramble, let the other hospitals help, more mutual.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (25:46)
Ken’s word is a good one, a healthcare family as opposed to these distinct operations, and we worked that through. To add on top of the state system, you then have now Javits, this facility, 2,500 beds, and the Comfort, the ship that the president sent, 1,000 beds. These 2,500 beds at Javits and the 1,000 beds at Comfort are non-COVID beds. The federal government, I asked them to make the facilities COVID facilities. They want to handle non-COVID people at Javits and Comfort, which means their function will be basically an overflow valve for existing hospitals. They can’t take COVID patients, but they can take non-COVID patients. When we talk about a hospital getting near capacity, they could then download, if you will, to Javits and the Comfort.
Governor, can I ask you [inaudible 00:27:00] because it’s one thing [inaudible 00:27:07] wondering about [inaudible 00:27:09]
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (27:13)
Yeah. How many years have you known me? The question is, am I unwilling to tangle with the president? How many years would you say you’ve known me?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (27:24)
All right, 20 years. Have you ever known a time in the 20 years that I am unwilling to tangle… I’m a tangler. Look, I understand what the president said about the… Well, first, I thank the president because I take his comment as a compliment. The president commented on a poll that said people were pleased with my leadership, and I thank him for that. That was a compliment. As far as the president’s comment about having a political contest with me, I am not engaging the president in politics. My only goal is to engage the president in partnership.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (28:12)
This is no time for politics, and lead by example. I’m not going to get into a political dispute with the president. I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge. I’m not running for president. I was never running for president. I said from day one I wasn’t running for president, and I’m not running for president now. I’m not playing politics. I just want partnership to deal with this. I said to the president quite clearly, “Look, when you do good things for my state and you’re a good partner, I will be the first one to say you’re a good partner,” and I have. I went to the ship Comfort today. I said, “Thank you, Mr. President.” We opened up this Javits Center. I said thank you to the Army. They did a great job here, the Army Corps of Engineers.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (29:09)
When you help my state, I’ll say thank you. If I believe that New York is not being served, the federal legislation that they passed, I will say that too. Sometimes it’s simple. Just tell the truth, right? That’s where we are. Tell the truth. If you’re doing the right thing by New York, I’ll say it. If he’s doing the wrong thing by New York or the rest of the country, I’ll say it, but I’m not going to engage in politics. It’s not because I’m unwilling to tangle, but because I think it’s inappropriate, and I think it’s counterproductive, and I think it’s anti-American. Forget the politics. Forget the politics. We have a national crisis. We are at war. There is no politics. There is no red and blue. It’s red, white and blue, so let’s get over it, and again, lead by example.
Governor, [inaudible 00:30:06] that Mayor de Blasio says he supports [inaudible 00:30:07] to use security deposits to pay for rent next month. Would you support that?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (30:22)
Well, we have said that no one can get evicted for nonpayment of rent, and that to me is the fundamental answer. Right? That solves all of the above. You can’t pay the rent? A lot of people can’t pay their rent. They’re not working. There’s no income. I can’t pay the rent. Landlord technically legally had a right to say, “Okay, you’re evicted.” I said by executive order there can be no evictions, period. If you pay the security deposit, you don’t pay the security deposit, you pay part of the rent, none of the rent, you can’t be evicted for three months, period.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (31:04)
Yeah, if they want to pay, they can pay. Yeah.
[inaudible 00:31:07] for 90 days [inaudible 00:31:07] commercial tenants [crosstalk 00:31:12]
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (31:13)
Again, I think our policy answers it. You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent. It’s not that you won’t owe rent at one time, because you signed a contract, and even the people to whom you pay the rent have to pay the rent, and they have expenses. So, no evictions for nonpayment of rent, and then we’ll see where we are, and we’ll see how long this goes on. Yes, sir?
[inaudible 00:31:41] called the epicenter of the epidemic [inaudible 00:31:41] What will be done to help [inaudible 00:31:59]
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (32:00)
Yeah. Well, we spoke about that today. Elmhurst Hospital is a New York City public hospital. We talked about the Health and Hospital Corporation. It’s one of the New York City public hospitals. It is struggling. That’s clear to everyone, and we spoke about it directly in this meeting, and I’ve asked other hospitals to pitch in and help Elmhurst, and they’ve agreed, and to also anticipate other public hospitals that may struggle as the numbers continue to increase, and be ready to help them also.
The White House [inaudible 00:32:42] What is your assessment of that?
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (32:42)
White House estimates 100,000 to 200,000-
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (33:00)
It’s 200,000, White House estimates, 100 to 200,000 as a death toll. We don’t have projections in this state as to numbers of deaths. We’re studying models, which by the way are done by very professional companies. I don’t come up with these models. We have Cornell Weill working on it, McKinsey working on it, the Bill Gates Foundation has an Institute that does projections. We’re studying the projections to see how we best deploy to make sure we’re ready for the next battle. Make sure we’re ready for the apex. Is it 100,000, is it 200,000? Look, whatever the number is it’s going to be staggering. The number is already staggering. All human life is a human life. We’ve lost over 1000 new Yorkers. To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering and the only point now is do everything you can to save every life possible. That’s what this is all about.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (34:24)
Yeah. Right now a hospital, this is my opinion, a hospital is basically an isolated entity, right? One hospital has its own employees, has its own logo, has its own finances, does its own purchasing, has its staff. You then have associations of hospitals and then you have the public New York City public hospitals, which are one system but still individual hospitals. That doesn’t work in this environment. It just doesn’t work. No one hospital has the resources to handle this. No one hospital can do its own procurement. No one hospital has enough staff. No one hospital can deal with the capacity. There has to be a totally different operating paradigm where all those different hospitals operated on as one system. So when I run out of masks, I can call brother Ken at the other hospital and say, “I’m out of masks. Can you send me some masks? When I refill I’ll send them back.” We have to get to a point where I can say I have too many people walking in the door.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (35:44)
I can’t handle it. And we are going to set a load threshold so that when you get near that load threshold, you can send people to other hospitals that have a lower vacancy rate. Purchased together, you staff together, download patients together, balance the load and do it all across the state. Look, we have hospitals upstate New York that are experiencing none of this, where they have staff capacity, they have bed capacity. We need you now here in this fight and engaged. And that’s a totally different concept, but that’s what we did today. Ken, you want to comment?
Yes, thank you, Governor. To the question, what we’re going to do is work very cohesively with the US state government, the department of health, particularly in putting together a command center that will receive all this information on an instantaneous basis and then begin feeding out that information and instructions as to what to do. For example, just simply in discharging patients to this facility, this huge facility that has been built by our colleagues here. This will create a way of decanting the pressure on our institutions and that information will go to a central place and transfers will be made and that is part of this cohesiveness that we’re talking about. The same thing applies to supplies, ventilators and all the other stuff that goes into making a hospital work. This is going to be done and we’re now in the process of pulling it off in a complete basis.
Tomorrow. Yeah, it’s in the works right now, Gov. Absolutely.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (37:49)
And we’ll do central purchasing, central stockpile rather than everyone have their own stockpile and then distribute by need. We’ll take one more, all the way in the back.
Gov Andrew Cuomo: (38:19)
The doctors are exactly right. The message is God bless you and thank you. We all applaud you. We are in awe of you. We’re all inspired by you. We all wonder secretly would we have the courage to really step up at a time of challenge? And they are doing it and they are doing it every day. And we are all in their debt and we respect them and we love them for what they’re doing. And they should have every piece of equipment that they need to do their job. That is the least that we can do. And we are all doing everything we can to make that a reality. Thank you, guys. Let’s go to work. .