Apr 12, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 12
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 12, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
County Community College, which is also serving as a mass vaccination site now. This mass vaccination site has only been in operation for a couple of weeks, but the doctors, the nurses, the administrative staff here is doing a phenomenal job. They’ve already done over 20,000 doses right here. Let’s give them a round of applause and thank them for everything they’re doing.
Governor Cuomo: (00:29)
It’s my pleasure to be joined by the greatest health commissioner who’s ever served, Dr. Howard Zucker. Let’s give him a round of applause. We have Kelly Cummings who’s the state director of operations who has been setting up all these vaccination sites all around the state, responding to COVID. You have to remember this is an entirely new exercise for government. There was no pandemic response. There were no mass vaccination sites, mass testing sites, and she really has done an incredible job. Let’s give her a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (01:14)
And the reason it has worked so well in New York is we’ve had extraordinary partners all throughout the state and local government. But if there is one partner who really stands out as never saying no, always finding a way to say yes, no matter how impossible the task seemed, and in the dark days of COVID, it seemed impossible, that’s County Executive Steve [Balone 00:01:45]. He always made it happen. Let’s give him a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (01:52)
We also want to wish county executive and all the people of Suffolk and the Suffolk police department good wishes on Officer Christopher [Rossiopo 00:02:01] who, as you may have heard, was stabbed last night in pursuit of doing his job, which is keeping us all safe. And we remember him in our thoughts and prayers today for speedy recovery.
Governor Cuomo: (02:17)
Let’s welcome Dr. Maurie McInnis, who is the president of Stony Brook University. Stony Brook has been doing an amazing job. They have one of the earliest mass vaccination sites. They’ve done over 250,000 vaccinations.
Governor Cuomo: (02:37)
We have two types of vaccination sites, basically. One is what we call a mass vaccination site, like this site. By definition, they are the most efficient facilities at just distributing the vaccine. The throughput, as we call it, is the highest. But we also have smaller community- based operations because we’re making a special outreach to certain communities that are hard to reach, the black community, Hispanic community, et cetera.
Governor Cuomo: (03:10)
So we run two types of facilities, but Stony Brook has… Talk about a great partner. Stony Brook has really been fantastic, and I want to thank them. And all the health organizations, especially on Long Island. We lived the nightmare, and we got through the nightmare because we had true heroes, none more than Michael Dowling, who is the CEO at Northwell. God bless Northwell and what they did. Michael’s here. Let’s give him a round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (03:48)
To Patrick O’Shaughnessy, head of Catholic Health Services. Thank you very much, Patrick O’Shaughnessy. And to all the [SUNY 00:04:00] personnel who are here today, let’s give them a great round of applause.
Governor Cuomo: (04:08)
When I was in college, I learned a few things, but there’s one thing a professor said to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “Never forget the lessons that life teaches you.” I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time, but as you go through life, life will teach you lessons. Things will happen. Things that you never expected could happen, and you will learn a lesson. But if we’re not careful, time goes by, and then we forget the lesson we learned. I tease my daughters that history is only as long as a tweet now. Everything happens so quickly. Things turn over so quickly. Memories become short.
Governor Cuomo: (05:03)
Remember what we went through over this past year. Remember the hell of COVID. Remember the 40,000 New Yorkers who died from COVID. Remember the businesses that closed. Remember the number of people unemployed. Remember the mental health anguish, the domestic violence anguish, the isolation of children, that we’re not even still sure of the impact. If I had said to you a year ago, “Take a vaccine, and we don’t have to go through any of this.” Everybody would have said, “Yes. Of course, I’ll take a vaccine to end this nightmare.”
Governor Cuomo: (05:53)
But that was yesterday. That was last year. We’re making progress. COVID isn’t a problem anymore. Wrong. We are making progress. The numbers are better than they were. Positivity rate is back to where it was in November before the “holiday spike.” But we have not beaten COVID. Do not kid yourself. We can beat COVID, but we have not beaten COVID. And this beast can flare up again, or this beast can flare up with a new variant. Variants of interest, another new term. Somebody should write a COVID dictionary, all these new terms that came up during COVID. Now we’re watching variants of interest. We still have to be diligent and affirmative, and we have to get the vaccine in people’s arms. Yes, the vaccine can win the war, but the vaccine has to be in an arm.
Governor Cuomo: (07:08)
Young people are a focus for us now. The infection rate among young people is going up. It was about 9%. It’s up to about 14% now. Why? Well, we were focusing on older people. That was the priority. Science says that younger people deal with it better. True. That’s all true. But the numbers are going up. We have to get people vaccinated.
Governor Cuomo: (07:43)
There are three theories that I hear of why people are vaccine resistant, which is another new term that goes into the dictionary. One I call the scientist’s theory. Scientist’s theory is I don’t think there’s enough data on the vaccine yet, and I’m not ready to take it because there’s not enough data. Okay, maybe you’re a scientist. 12 million New Yorkers have taken the vaccine. No one’s asking you to go first. The overwhelming data says that the vaccine is safe and effective, not just in this country worldwide. The second theory is the skeptic theory. I’m a little bit of a skeptic myself. Well, government says take it, but I don’t really trust the government. So I’m not quite so sure. On the skeptic theory, it’s not just government that says take it. Yes, the federal government said it was approved. The state government then didn’t accept the word of the federal government. We put together a whole state panel ourself. We affirmed the medical intelligence-
Governor Cuomo: (09:03)
We affirmed the medical intelligence of the vaccine and the entire medical community across the globe has accepted the efficiency and efficacy of the vaccine. So the skeptic theory doesn’t work. Third theory is the superhero theory. Do you know the superhero theory? Superhero theory is I’m not afraid of COVID. I’m not afraid of COVID. COVID can’t hurt me. It’s especially prevalent among the young.
Governor Cuomo: (09:38)
My daughters are all… just finished college and they would say, “Dad, you should get the vaccine.” I said, “How about you?” Well, you know me, I’m different. I’m young, I’m resilient. If I get it, it’s not a problem. If you are young and you get it, you can still die. You can still die. Chances are lower that you will die, but you can still die. Or you could get very sick or you could have long haul syndrome where the virus stays with you.
Governor Cuomo: (10:18)
Do you want to play Russian roulette with your life really? Second point, even if you believe I’m young and it won’t really bother me, you can give it to someone else. You can bring it home and give it to a parent, give it to a grandparent, give it to an aunt. You can walk into a store and mistakenly give it to the person on the other side of the counter.
Governor Cuomo: (10:47)
You have a civic duty to make sure you are not a transmitter of COVID even if you believe you’re a superhero and you have super immunity, you have a civic duty to do it. We are now focusing on students. We want to get students vaccinated before the end of the school year. They’re in colleges, the 18 to 24 population is a population that is growing in positivity.
Governor Cuomo: (11:27)
We have them in schools, let’s use the schools as the base for the vaccine. Makes all the sense in the world. We have the staff at the school, we have the students at the school, let’s vaccinate them at the schools. State University of New York, the SUNY system will take the lead in being a model for vaccinating students on colleges, on campuses.
Governor Cuomo: (11:56)
The state of New York announces today we will be giving direct allocations to schools, colleges, universities so they can vaccinate their students in their facilities. And let’s stamp this beast to death while we can. This is the moment of opportunity. We have COVID on the run, but we still have to be New York tough and New York smart and New York disciplined.
Governor Cuomo: (12:28)
And let’s make sure that yes, we focused on all the people and that was the priority, but we need herd immunity, we need every New Yorker vaccinated, and that includes New York’s young people and students, and we’re going to make it a reality. And I want to thank the SUNY in particular for taking the lead, but I encourage all colleges to come forward. Thank you. Who’s next? And now let’s give a big round of applause to a great partner and also a great person, a leader in the truest sense of the word, county executive Steve belong.
Steve Bellone: (13:23)
Thank you, governor. It is great to be here for this absolutely critical announcement and discussion. And I can’t thank you enough for the partnership that we’ve had throughout this crisis. At the beginning, the focus was on ramping up testing, and we worked so closely together to do that, and now vaccinations, the way ultimately out of this crisis, this pandemic.
Steve Bellone: (13:57)
We can’t thank you enough for the partnership with the state on this critical issue. And governor, thank you for your words about our officer here. We got another reminder last night of the dangers that our police officers face every day when they go out to serve the community. And all of us are praying here in Suffolk County for his full recovery and those prayers and wishes all across the state are a great help as well.
Steve Bellone: (14:29)
It’s great to be here with the team at Suffolk Community College. Thank you for the kind words about them. They have done an outstanding job here. We have three campuses, the largest, as you know governor, the largest community college system in the state of New York and we know the best in Suffolk County. We’re very proud of them.
Steve Bellone: (14:58)
And we have two other sites at our campuses in Riverhead and Selden, and they really have been at the forefront on this vaccination effort. So I thank them and the entire team here at Suffolk Community College. I want to thank all of the healthcare workers here at this facility and at the other facilities who are working tirelessly to get shots in the arms.
Steve Bellone: (15:23)
Our healthcare workers of course have been at the forefront from the very beginning. I’ve described the pandemic and what our healthcare workers in our hospitals have faced as the medical equivalent of a war zone. And they have seen the worst and now they continue to lead us through this crisis and lead the way out of this crisis so I cannot thank them enough.
Steve Bellone: (15:48)
Our health systems, we’re incredibly fortunate to have these great hospitals and hospital systems here. Michael Dowling, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, I want to thank them, Good Samaritan Hospital here for leading the effort in Brentwood. This campaign, this Vaccinate New York Campaign is so important and so timely. We have focused all our efforts in Suffolk County.
Steve Bellone: (16:14)
And again, I thank the governor for the partnership here on getting these shots in the arms and vaccinating people here in our county, and also doing it in a way that is making sure that we’re touching every community, doing this as equitably as possible. That has been a big focus of our efforts here in the county and we’ve worked together with the state on that as well.
Steve Bellone: (16:40)
But I think now getting the message out to students, to young people, vaccinating students, they can be the best evangelists out there, to communicate that this vaccine is safe, it works, it’s fine, I took it, it’s not a problem. For some of the people who may be reluctant, young people who may be reluctant, these students here at Suffolk Community College, on our SUNY campuses, they can deliver the message to other young people about the importance of getting the vaccine and that it wasn’t a problem.
Steve Bellone: (17:15)
It’s not an issue, and it is not. We’ve gone from a place where not many people were eligible to now very quickly we are in a place where everyone is eligible and we have to get the message out and that’s what this Vaccinate New York Campaign is about. It is absolutely critical, it is timely and this will be the thing that ultimately allows us to say that we have defeated this virus, that we have moved beyond the pandemic, and we are fully into recovering and building back stronger and better than ever before. So I’m proud to be here. Governor, thank you for your partnership on this effort and your leadership on this effort. And now I’m proud to turn it over to the commissioner.
Steve Bellone: (18:03)
And now I’m proud to turn it over to the commissioner of the Department of Health. And I want to say thank you also because our teams work closely together, the Health Department in the Suffolk County Health Department on a daily basis, working with the State Health Department. And I thank Dr. Zucker for his support and the great work and the great working relationship with the state health department throughout this pandemic, Dr. Zucker.
Dr. Zucker: (18:36)
Thank you Governor Cuomo and County Executive Balone. It is an honor to be here today, out in Long Island at Suffolk County Community College this morning. With each week, we find ourselves a little closer to the end of this crisis. Our success isn’t simply because of what New York State has done. It’s also because of the selfless collective actions of countless New Yorkers. That’s especially true for the millions and millions of New Yorkers who have already received a vaccine. As the federal supply has continued to increase, we’ve been able to broaden our network of partners and expand eligibility. All New Yorkers over the age of 16 are now eligible, which of course includes college age students. This expanded eligibility and the continued efficacy and of the mass vaccination sites like this one builds on the systemic approach that we’ve taken over the last four months to get shots into the arms of as many New Yorkers as quickly and safely as possible.
Dr. Zucker: (19:40)
It has never been more important to act smart and quickly and vaccinating college students statewide before they returned to their hometown communities at the end of the semester is the next step in this methodical process is the best way for students to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Just as the governor said, you could bring this virus home to others in your family or to those in your community. The race between the vaccine and the variance is very real and it is intensifying. The sooner we can hit critical mass, the faster we will stop COVID in its tracks. So please continue to be vigilant, wear your masks, get your vaccine as soon as you’re able to. We can win this race, but the way to win it is it requires us all to run together in a unified way towards the finish line. We will achieve this. We will get there. I look forward to that day. Thank you very much. I’d like to turn over. Thank you. Turn over to the president of the university.
President McInnis: (20:52)
Well, good morning, everyone. Governor Cuomo, County Executive Balone and all my SUNY and local colleagues. Thank you for having me here this morning, before I go any further, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge one of my Stony Brook colleagues here with me, Dr. Margaret McGovern in the steps, our Dean for clinical affairs and vice president for clinical programs at Stony Brook Medicine and the one who’s really led our vaccination efforts. I am honored to be here representing Stony Brook University and the SUNY system. This is a banner day for Suffolk County and for SUNY students and I am so pleased that all SUNY students will have access to vaccines. I am proud to be a part of the SUNY community. I joined the Stony Brook family just last July in the midst of the pandemic and since then I have been awed by Stony Brook strengths in research and healthcare and the vital role that the university plays in providing opportunities to a diverse and talented group of students. Our students go on to make a difference here on Long Island and throughout New York, as well as the country and around the world. And Stony Brook University gives them access to great faculty research opportunities and the real world experiences that provide them with a strong foundation to succeed. Thank you Governor Cuomo and your team for making all those 16 and older eligible for the vaccine and for providing vaccine allocations to Suffolk County Community College and the local SUNY campuses. The governor’s clinical advisory task force, that includes Dr. Sharon Coachman at Stony Brook medicine, has determined that the vaccine is safe. Additionally, the governor’s vaccine equity task force has worked diligently and creatively to make sure that all New Yorkers have access to the vaccines. Getting vaccines into arms is critical to crushing COVID. I’ve been so pleased to see the effort that this administration has taken to create pop-up vaccine sites at churches and community centers throughout the state, partnering with local groups to ensure that people who are often underserved would have access to the vaccine. This is in addition to the many mass vaccination sites throughout the state that they’ve set up including five now here in Suffolk County.
President McInnis: (23:48)
I am also very grateful to the Stony Brook team that has been running some of these vaccine sites in Suffolk. Stony Brook has mass vaccination on its main campus and in South Hampton and has run numerous pop-up sites in communities across Long Island. We’ve done around 250,000 shots in total and thousands of Suffolk County residents have been vaccinated thanks to the tremendous dedication of Stony Brook health professionals and their colleagues and our partnership with the state. Now it is time for college students to become part of this effort. I encourage all students in Suffolk County and throughout New York to get this vaccine. I hear from students all the time that they want the campus and frankly life experiences that they have been missing in the course of this deadly pandemic, the vaccine will help you return to those experiences to be able to live life to its fullest.
President McInnis: (24:58)
The end of this difficult time is within reach, but it takes all of us taking recommended safety precautions and getting the vaccine. I will do whatever I can to support the Vaccinate New York campaign and Stony Brook will continue to provide vaccines to Long Islanders whenever and wherever it can. Let’s save lives. Let’s get out there and get the vaccine. It is my privilege to introduce our next speaker, Kierra Arias, who is a senior at Stony Brook University, majoring in political science and minoring in journalism and media arts. Kierra is one of our deeply engaged student leaders who is committed to service and advocacy to her peers. She serves as the director for diversity affairs for Stony Brook’s undergraduate student government. She is also a resident assistant and moderates a weekly podcast on social and racial justice. Please join me in welcoming Kierra.
Kierra Arias: (26:16)
Hello. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining me today. Governor Cuomo, President McInnis. Well it’s an honor to be here today, representing the SUNY students throughout Suffolk County. It’s a privilege to be here to support the Vaccinate New York campaign. Since last March it has been a challenging time for college students in many ways, whether we decided to stay home or move back to campus, the uncertainty has placed many obstacles in our lives. Not only have we had to keep track of what seems like endless amounts of Zoom calls and Blackboard discussion board posts, but as college students we wear many different hats. While we are students, we are also-
Kierra Arias: (27:03)
While we are students, we are also campus leaders, essential workers, caregivers, brothers, sisters, parents, and neighbors. But above all, we are New Yorkers.
Kierra Arias: (27:15)
For the past year, New Yorkers have been fighting. They have been fighting to maintain relationships with our friends and families during months and months of quarantine. New Yorkers had been fighting for racial equality by ending systematic racism. Of course, New Yorkers have been fighting to keep COVID-19 rates low. Luckily, vaccines are making it possible to return to our normal lives.
Kierra Arias: (27:42)
Up until now, unless you had special circumstances, many college students weren’t eligible for the vaccine. But now all college students can start receiving the vaccine. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for making it possible for New York state to allocate 21,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines to SUNY. For those who aren’t familiar with the vaccines, this vaccine only requires one shot as opposed to two shots with the other popular vaccines. As college students, we generally interact with a lot of people. This is why it’s important for all of us to get vaccinated as it’ll minimize the risks associated with COVID-19 not only for you, but for your loved ones as well.
Kierra Arias: (28:23)
Remember, just because COVID-19 cases are decreasing, doesn’t mean that fight is over. New York, please make sure you get vaccinated. Thank you again, Governor Cuomo, and thank you all for joining me here today. Let’s get vaccinated, SUNY.
Governor Cuomo: (28:49)
Okay. Let’s have a big round of applause for County Executive, Steve Bellone, and Dr. Zucker, and President McInnis, and Kiara Arias. Thank you very much to our healthcare providers who were here, Northwell, Catholic Health Systems, to all of SUNY.
Governor Cuomo: (29:08)
Kiara said it right. New York is a state of fighters. They talk about New York Tough. We are tough. You have to be tough to be in New York. You have to be tough to make it through what we made it through this past year. You have to make it tough to rebound from 9/11. It’s tough to rebound from Hurricane Sandy the way we did. It was tough to have the highest COVID infection rate on the globe in New York. We were ambushed by COVID before anybody knew what was coming. But New York Tough is a good thing because we went from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest in the nation. That’s because New York are fighters, and New Yorkers are tough, and they’re smart, and they’re disciplined, and they’re united. Let’s give a round of applause to all New Yorkers.
Governor Cuomo: (30:17)
To recap, we’re going to make vaccines available to colleges, universities, so they can do the vaccinations onsite. SUNY will model the program. CUNY will also model the program, but we’re inviting all colleges to participate. You will get an allocation from the state and you can vaccinate your students on the campus, in this school, before we get to the summer break.
Governor Cuomo: (30:52)
To conclude the program, I’m going to invite up three students who are going to take the vaccine, Jason [Saraveya 00:31:01], Gabriela Flores Benavides, [Keysha 00:31:05] McCoy, and Brian Higgins, who are going to come up and show you exactly how easy it is to get the vaccine. Thank you all.