Apr 29, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 29
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 29, 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 Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… center for all the good work that happens here. And we remember Father Belle and his great contribution. Let me acknowledge some of my colleagues who are here today. First, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who-
Speaker 1: (00:14)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:21)
Let me just say a word about Crystal. You know her as your representative in your voice and she does a fantastic job on that level, but majority leader means she is a leader in the New York State Assembly, and she is a powerful leader. We just went through what was probably the most difficult budget the state has done, but probably the most potent budget that the state has done, and I want to thank Crystal personally, for her leadership on the cannabis bill. She was fantastic. So thank you, Crystal.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:00)
Mayor Byron Brown. This COVID crisis was a test of people in general, and it was a test of leadership. No elected official had gone through this before. You really get to see what a person is made of frankly, when the pressure is on. And I can tell you, a better partner I did not have across the state than Mayor Byron Brown. He really stepped up when things were at their worst. So let’s give him another round of applause. Eunice Lewin is a great community leader. She’s also a great member on the SUNY Board of Trustees, and she came up with a creative idea that we’re going to be speaking about today. So let’s give her a round of applause. Lucy Candelario, who’s our host today, thank you for opening up The Belle Center. Thank you for all your good work.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:14)
Reverend Mark Blue, who is the pastor of the Second Baptist Church. He’s also the president of the Buffalo NAACP, which is doing extraordinary work. So thank you, Reverend Blue, for being with us. We have Thomas Beauford, who is the president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League. He works with Marc Morial who’s the National president, former mayor of New Orleans. They’re doing great work all across the country. Pleasure to be with you. Thank you. Thomas Quatroche, who has been leading the Erie Medical Center through this. Talk about challenging times and great work, Thomas, thank you very much, and thank the entire medical center. And Dr. Raul Vasquez, who’s the president and CEO of G-Health Enterprises, he’s going to be participating in the initiative we announced today. Dr. Vasquez, thank you very, very much. Thank you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:25)
Let me give you an update on where we are on COVID because this COVID situation changes almost day to day. It certainly changes week to week. And as the enemy changes tactics, then we adopt our tactics to meet the enemy, right? Because this is a war. You read about the great wars, you watch the enemy, the enemy moves, and then you move in response. So we track COVID on a daily basis to see what it’s up to. And it has tricks for us, and it has changed tactics. Don’t dismiss these variants of interest, they call them. The COVID virus changes all the time. It mutates all the time. They talked about the UK mutation, now they’re talking about the mutation that’s in India. We have to watch these mutations because of whatever happens anywhere on the world, it winds up here eventually. And eventually is becoming a shorter and shorter period of time. The world is shrinking. One person gets on an airplane, comes to New York, it’s here. It can be here within 24 hours. So we watch it every day.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:52)
Today, the numbers are good. Positivity rate statewide, 1.8%, and that’s really good news. Remember when we were up 7%, 8%, 10%, 1.8%. So let’s give New Yorkers a round of applause. 2,900 people hospitalized. That’s down 183. That’s the first day under 3,000 since November 24th, so that’s really good news also. 691 in ICU. That’s down. 425 New Yorkers intubated. That’s down, lowest since December 3rd. Positivity by region. And this is fascinating because it’s one state, we all get the same message, we all have the same access, but yet you see variations in the positivity across the state. Western New York, unfortunately positivity in the state today, 3. 5%; Finger Lakes, 2.8%; Mid-Hudson, 2.1%; Long Island, 2%; New York City, 1.9%; North Country, 1.8%; Capitol Region, 1.5%; Mohawk Valley, 1.5%; Central New York, 1.4%; Southern Tier, 0.7%. Okay? Statewide, that’s 1. 98% for the seven-day average. That seven-day average is the first day under 2% since November 7th, which takes us all the way back to pre-Thanksgiving, pre-holiday surge. So the numbers are going very well.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:46)
As the numbers move, we move. As the enemy moves, we move. So this is all very good news. “Well, good, then let’s throw off the masks, and let’s all go celebrate.” We’re not done with COVID yet. All those good numbers, 38 people died yesterday, 38 people died yesterday from COVID. So yes, we’re making great progress, but people are still dying every day from COVID. So we have to weigh those two facts, right? ” Well, Governor, you said we’re doing great and we’re making progress.” I did. “Well then, why can’t we get back to normal?” Because 38 people died yesterday, and people will die today. So we’re not through the woods yet. 3.56 in Western New York is the highest percentage in any region. We are working doubly hard in Western New York to get that number down. How do you get the number down? Two ways: precautions and vaccinations. What are precautions? Precautions are precautions. Precautions are common sense, wear the masks socially distance, be careful. Well, I’m tired of all of this. We’re making progress, I know, but we’re not home yet. And we have to keep up with the precautions. We’re relaxing the precautions as the numbers are getting better, but we’re not home yet. Precautions. And the ultimate weapon to win the war, the vaccinations. Get the vaccination. We’ve vaccinated 15 million New Yorkers so far, 45% of New Yorkers have gotten at least one shot, 45%. We have a massive distribution network, pop-up centers. We’re going into public housing. We’re going into hard-hit communities, mass vaccination sites. We have an elaborate distribution center. So people who want the vaccine can get the vaccine.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:15)
Unfortunately, the rate of people getting vaccines is slowing. Partially, that’s understandable. You’re up to 45% of the population. Those who were most eager to get the vaccine came in first. You get to 45%, now you’re starting to see a slowing in the number of people coming in for the vaccine. We were doing 175,000 vaccines every 24 hours statewide. We’re now doing about 115,000 shots every 24 hours. Did you reduce the distribution? No. We just have fewer people coming in. So we have to work harder to get people to come in for the vaccinations.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:05)
We’re focused on two groups: the doubtful and the youthful. Who are the doubtful? The doubtful are people who doubt the vaccine. “Well, government says I should get the vaccine. You know what? I don’t believe government.” To those people, I say it’s not government that says it. Yes, governmental leaders say it. Democrats say it. Republicans say it. Tall leaders say it. Short leaders say it. Females say it. Blacks say it. Whites say it. It’s not government telling you. And it’s every major medical source in the nation says, get the vaccine. “Well, I’m worried. I don’t want to go first.” 15 million New Yorkers went first. People all over the globe went first. ” Well, I’m afraid of it.” You have a greater risk to yourself not getting the vaccine than you have getting the vaccine. It is safer to get the vaccine. “Well, I don’t like needles.” Nobody likes needles, nobody. Take it from me. I get needled every day on various levels. Sometimes with a needle, sometimes other types of needles. Nobody likes a needle, but it will keep you safe. That’s the doubtful group.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:38)
And then we have the youthful group, 16 to 25. The 16 to 25 is the lowest percent vaccinated. Okay? Listen to these numbers, because the mayor, when I was here last time, raised this point, and I went back and I looked at the numbers, and he was right. Statewide: 75 plus in age, 72% vaccinated; 65 to 74, 80% vaccinated, 65 to 74; 16 to 25-year olds, only 34% vaccinated. In Western New York, your vaccination rate is higher than the state rate in 75 plus and 65 to 74 plus. It’s a little lower on 16 to 25. 16 to 25 is our target audience. Why? Why is their number lower? First, in truth, our emphasis on COVID from day one was always about older people. Older people are more vulnerable. Older people are more vulnerable.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:02)
Second, younger people became eligible later than older people, right? Eligibility for 16 plus just opened up fairly recently. But also younger people are younger people. They have been told this is less dangerous for them. They’re young. They’re strong. They’re superheroes. Nothing can hurt them. They’ll get over it. “Well, my friend had COVID, and my friend’s fine. I’m fine. I’m young. I’m strong.” That may all be true, but first of all, it’s not true. Young people have gotten very sick from COVID also. Young people get what they call long-haul syndrome. There’s a group of people who get COVID and it lingers for months and months. And they’re still studying this long-haul syndrome.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:11)
But younger people, yeah, maybe it’s not going to affect you, but you don’t live in a world alone. If you said to me, “I live in a cabin in the woods and I don’t see anyone,” all right. But if you live in Buffalo, if you live in Western New York, if you go into a shopping center, if you go to school, if you have a family, if you say hello to your grandmother or your father or your brother or your sister, or you shake hands with someone on the street, then you are affecting other people. So it’s really not just about you. Right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:50)
I know we like to think rugged individualism. I know, but we live in a community. We live in a society. I’m standing here today. Crystal is here. Byron is here. What I do affects other people. What we all do affects other people. Yes, you’re young and you’re strong, but what you do affects other people. We talk about social responsibility, social equity, community, helping one another, supporting one another. Get the vaccine; it’s the best way to help one another. You want to say, you care about me? You want to say, you care about us? Get the vaccine, and say, “You know what? I got the vaccine. I wasn’t afraid for me, but because I love you, and I care about you, and I understand that my actions can affect you. That’s why I took the vaccine.” And that is true for every 16 to 25-year old.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:04)
Now, we want to make it easier to do it, and we are targeting the 16 to 25. Eunice Lewin came up with a great idea, Dr. Vasquez. Tomorrow and Saturday, we’re going to have a pop-up at the Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network, 1195 Main Street. It will be open to everyone, but primarily focused on 16 to 25. NFTA has provided free bus vouchers for 1,000 young people, so they can get to the vaccination site without having to pay the bus fare. Let’s give the NFTA a round of applause. Why? We want to get to a point where there are no excuses. There are no excuses. The vaccine site is available. It’s been tested, it’s safe, and it won’t even cost you anything to go and get it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:12)
To high schools, I recommend high schools do this as an organized effort. School is still in session. A high school should organize where they will take their students, 16 plus, to a vaccination site. Put them on a bus, bring them to a vaccination site, and get them vaccinated. That’s the population that we have to get up. Why? Because we want to get back to life as usual. We want to get the economy fully open. We want to get back to social life. We want to start to see people. We want to get back to the old days. Right? Everybody talks about the future, and I want change, I want-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
Everybody talks about the future and I want change. I want change. Yeah. I want to get back to the old days. I want to be able to go to a restaurant with my friends. I want to be able to go to a bar. I want to be able to go to a ball game. I want to get back to the old days where life was normal. I want people working again and society thriving again, and the vaccine is the best way to do that. We’re taking another step forward since the COVID numbers are going to come down and we’re going to announce that the Buffalo Marathon is going to return this year, June 26th and 27th. And we want to thank Greg Weber very much for organizing that, but the marathon will go on. So congratulations to Greg Weber. And let’s move forward with that
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:52)
So we are reopening. We’re calibrating to COVID, but all the numbers in the right direction, we’re opening more and more. The Buffalo Marathon is another example of that. We are in the home stretch. We’ll use the marathon. We’re coming around the last corner. The tape and the end of the race is ahead of us. Now, there’s no time to slow down. Run through the tape. Let’s bring it home. Get those vaccinations done. Let’s get Western New York reopened. Let’s get back to life as normal. Thank you for having me here today. Let me now turn it over to Crystal People Stokes Majority Leader. You’ll then hear from Mayor Byron Brown. And then you’ll hear from Ms. Lewin from the SUNY board of trustees who helped organize today. Thank you very much, Crystal People Stokes.
Crystal People Stokes: (19:55)
Thank you, Mr. Governor. Thank you for being here in our beloved Buffalo yet again. Folks already know every time you come, there’s some good news. And so, I think this is also good news as well. I’d also like to thank Mayor Brown as well as Lucy Candalario for allowing us to be hosted in the Father Bell Center. I want to thank Reverend Mark Blue, Trustee Eunice Lewin, and Dr. Raul Vasquez for all of your hard work and partnership that’s been going on during the course of this pandemic. The last time you were here, Mr. Governor, we talked a lot about equity and what that means. You said it means basic justice requires that you give help to the communities that need it most.
Crystal People Stokes: (20:41)
Based on the numbers that you just laid out of how the numbers are looking in the state of New York, it’s clear that we need help. That help is here. Now, all we need is for people to come and take advantage of it. Throughout this pandemic, some seniors told me this just a couple of weeks ago, that they followed your lead on this Mr. Governor. And so, you have always taken the progressive steps forward and bringing us through what is the probably the most horrific time in any of our lifetimes. And so for those seniors at the Gloria Parks Center, I want to thank you personally for them, because that’s what they said to me when I went to see them, “Thank the governor for me.” So I’m thanking you for them. You also took the opportunity, which I think is awesome to create a vaccine clinical trial force that kind of just put New Yorkers together to figure out how do we get the vaccine out? You created the vaccine equity task force, which is clear everything needs to be done from an equity lens.
Crystal People Stokes: (21:48)
And you created the vaccine pop-ups here and across the state to literally meet people where they are. As opposed to someone needing to go to a hospital or a clinical setting, you create these pop- ups center so that they can go where they live. Over the last three weeks, we’ve seen COVID positivity rates increase in Western New York. This is a community that urgently needs the help. And we are grateful to you for providing that. Our region has the lowest share of young people getting vaccinated. And I think that can change based on the strategies that have been put together here today under the leadership of yourself, governor, as well as our SUNY trustee, Julius Lowen. A thought leader, a thought leader for sure, Julius Lowen. Everyone’s 16 years and older is now eligible to get vaccinated. Everyone 16 years and older is now eligible to get vaccinated.
Crystal People Stokes: (22:46)
So I really liked the way you presented, if you really care about the people who are around you and who live with you in your community, that should be one of the major reasons that you would get vaccinated. Not that you’re concerned that you’re going to get sick or it’s not going to be good for you. In the long haul, it is not good for people of color. All of these great myths folks have talked about it, but it’s because you’re concerned about the people who you live in and around. I’ve been vaccinated. I was vaccinated at the same time my mother was who was 95 years old, and I was vaccinated because I care about her. And because I care about my grandson. And by the way, I would like to go out to a restaurant, have a meal and a glass of pinot noir or something like that.
Crystal People Stokes: (23:32)
I would like to do that again. As much as restaurants are clamoring to have that access, I’m clamoring to get there, but I need everybody else to work with me so we can allow that to happen. I also want to take this opportunity to, along with the governor, thank NFTA who are providing a thousand passes. I mean, that is really… People often say, I can’t get there. It’s too far. I’m going to walk. Well, take the bus and you have access to do that because of the NFTA.
Crystal People Stokes: (24:04)
Again, I want to thank the governor for helping us all to understand why we need to get back to a normal life that we can all enjoy our families. Our president said this on the day that he was sworn in, that he would like to see us be able to hug our relatives on the 4th of July. I’d like to be able to hug my relatives before the 4th of July. And if we can get everybody vaccinated and get our numbers down in Western New York, like they are across the state, and soon they will be zero, then we can start hugging sooner than later with that. With that, I want to thank the governor again for being here and welcome to the podium our great mayor. You all know him well, he’s none other than Byron W. Brown.
Mayor Byron W. Brown: (24:54)
Thank you very much, Majority leader People Stokes. And thank you, Governor Cuomo for being here today and coming back to Buffalo so soon. It’s great to have you back in our city. I also, again, want to thank Lucy Candalario for hosting us here at the Bell Center. Governor, the last time you were here, we talked about the disparities highlighted by the COVID pandemic and the work you’ve done to increase equity and access to the vaccine. That is so critically important. I can share with all of you that last week, I attended a funeral of a young man, more than 20 years younger than me, that passed away from COVID. And any loss of a loved one, a friend, is a painful loss. The thing that was shocking at that wake is not only did that young man pass away, but COVID also took his brother and took his mother. So this thing is real as the governor has said, and people in our community are still getting very sick and dying from COVID-19. And while we are close to the end of this painful period in our lives, and we often say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we have to also continue to emphasize that we are not out of the woods yet. And we can’t take this lightly. These last three weeks, as you’ve heard, we’ve seen COVID positivity rates increase in Western New York, especially among our young people. We have got to stop this and make sure COVID cannot make a resurgence in our community. The governor saw this and answered our call, which is why he’s back here today. As you know, the governor expanded walk-in access to everyone 16 and up at all state run mass vaccination sites. Now, the governor is expanding access to an increasingly vulnerable group by partnering with our community to create a pop-up for our youth population.
Mayor Byron W. Brown: (27:25)
This pop-up brings 1,000 doses of the COVID vaccine into our community for our young people and creates an opportunity for them to get vaccinated, so that they can safely return to their normal lives. I want to just, again, recognize the partners in this. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, Reverend Mark Blue, the president of the NAACP, Thomas Buford, the president of the Buffalo Urban League, SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin, Kim Minko, the executive director of the NFTA, Dr. Raul Vasquez, the president of [inaudible 00:28:13] and his wife, Toni Vasquez. Tom [inaudible 00:28:16] of ECMC and many others that have all come together around this idea of a youth vaccination pop-up in this community to make sure that one of our most precious resources, our youth, are getting vaccinated. So let’s be clear. COVID isn’t defeated yet. We have to be careful and we have to get everyone vaccinated.
Mayor Byron W. Brown: (28:45)
And I want to send out a special appeal to our beloved young people in this community. Please get vaccinated. Protect yourself, protect your family, your friends, and our community. Again, I want to thank the governor for his great leadership and partnership throughout the pandemic, and governor for your continued commitment to Buffalo and Western New York. Now, it is my great pleasure to introduce someone that was incredibly passionate about this youth pop-up. I think she called all of us who could listen, who would listen around the clock morning, noon, and night. And that is none other than the great SUNY Trustee, Eunice Lewin.
Eunice Lewen: (29:46)
Thank you, Mayor Brown. Good morning.
Eunice Lewen: (29:55)
Eunice Lewen: (30:01)
I like it. Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, Mayor Brown, Reverend blue. It is an honor to be here with you on this very special day. Governor, thank you for continuing to fight tooth and nail to crush COVID-19. You are not leaving any stone unturned. For all the year, you have led the people of New York by focusing on what needed to get done to save lives.
Eunice Lewen: (30:40)
Early on, it was making sure communities had PPEs and COVID tests. Since the fall, you and your team had made sure the vaccine are safe and have fought to get New York State the vaccine it needs. Governor, your efforts to bring vaccination to the underserved areas all over the state have been remarkable. We thank you.
Eunice Lewen: (31:13)
Standing up mass vaccination sites, like the Delavan Grider Community Center here in Buffalo and pop up vaccine site at churches and community centers all over the state had made it possible for New Yorkers, including our heroic essential workers to get the vaccine more conveniently. I’m grateful to the governor and his team for making a special effort to encourage young people, young people, to get the vaccine and for making available 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for this group. Young people, especially for you. I’m grateful to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for providing 1,000 day passes to help eligible residents each reach the pop-up sight. We knew, and we learned early on that transportation, governor, was a challenge. So tomorrow, we do not have that problem. We have free transportation.
Eunice Lewen: (32:28)
At a time when we are becoming more and more hopeful that the long nightmare is close to a conclusion, we are seeing the COVID positivity rate going up here in Western New York. We need to do everything, everything we can to keep moving forward and not backward. As trustee of the State University of New York. I know that this has been a challenging time for our young people. I’m urging you to hang out a little longer and get yourself vaccinated. Get the shot for yourself, for your family, for your community. It could be the one of the most important things you do for your lifetime. Thank you once again, governor, our elected and community leaders, for demonstrating that leadership, teamwork, and partnership can save life. Young people, I am a cancer survivor. I got the shot. Thank you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (33:48)
Let’s give Ms. Lewin another round of applause for getting it done. I’m now going to ask Dr. Vasquez to administer two vaccines for us for two volunteers, two young people volunteers who are going to come up and receive the vaccine. The vaccine can be done faster than you text, faster than you post. I’ll tell you very cool post is you getting a vaccine shot. That is a very cool post. Dr. Vasquez? We have [inaudible 00:34:36] Moore from the Kenmore West High School and Gavin Adams from Williamsville East High School. I also heard a statistic. I don’t know if it’s true, but young people who were vaccinated got more dates I heard. Did you ever hear that? I don’t know if it’s true.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:28)
Okay. Let’s take some questions.
Press 1: (38:35)
[inaudible 00:38:35] New York Times. Why did your agency repeatedly over-rule health officials on nursing home data for over a period of five months?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:42)
Yeah. Let’s talk some facts. What was happening with nursing homes, you have to rewind the tape, right? Remember where we were. The whole COVID situation was highly politicized. It was politicized between the federal government and the state governments. I was critical of the federal government for not doing enough on COVID, and the federal government was blaming Democratic states for not handling it. And it was highly political, it was in the middle of a Presidential campaign.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (39:22)
The President was blaming Democratic governors and pointing to nursing homes as the problem and blaming the Democratic governors for nursing home deaths. Nursing homes were ground zero of COVID deaths, as we all know for obvious reasons. The concern from the State was that we provide accurate numbers. And that was what was most important, that the numbers we released were accurate. And the number of nursing home deaths was very hard to count because all states counted it differently. Some counted just the number of deaths that happen in a nursing home. Some states counted people who were in a nursing home, sent to a hospital and then died in a hospital. Some states counted what a nursing home considered a “probable death” from COVID. They didn’t know, but it was probable.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (40:34)
So this was a very amorphous and changing topic. Our number one concern, especially in this superheated political environment, was whatever number we put out, had to be accurate. Because it was being criticized by both sides. The number itself was always going to change. It’s not that anybody was trying to secret a number, because it wasn’t about the number. It was about the accuracy of the numbers. For example, we’ve now discuss this topic ad nauseum, right? How many people died in nursing homes in New York State? I’m asking you.
Press 1: (41:30)
I guess what I’m asking you [crosstalk 00:41:33] are you saying that [inaudible 00:41:35] isn’t trusting the Health Department?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (41:37)
Let me finish my point. How many people died in nursing homes? You don’t know, does anyone… You’re in the 99 percentile bracket of informed people. How many people died in nursing homes? None of you know. It wasn’t the number. It was the accuracy of the number and we did not want to release the number that was inaccurate because that would fuel the politics. “Oh, the State said it was 900, it turned out to be 2000. It turned out to be 800.” It had to be accurate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (42:18)
So we said to the Department of Health, “Make sure the number is accurate, audit the number.” What then happens is, President Trump not only uses political rhetoric, President Trump goes to the Department of Justice and starts an investigation against four states, all Democratic states, on the number of people who died in nursing homes. Once you bring in the Department of Justice, now it’s no longer just a political fight. Now it’s the Department of Justice that can indict someone, “Well, it was a political investigation.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:09)
Of course it was a political investigation. But the Department of Justice under Donald Trump was a political organization. Attorney General Barr was a political operative of the president. They started an investigation, you know what the lawyers say when an investigation starts from the Department of Justice? ” Be careful. Be careful because now whatever you say they can use against you.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (43:38)
So it started as, it was a political football, we then wanted to make sure the number was accurate because many different states counted it many different ways. And you were in the middle of pandemonium and we didn’t want an inaccurate number because then everybody would say, “Oh, it’s inaccurate.” And then the Department of Justice starts a political investigation. And that then quote, unquote, “freezes” the situation because the lawyers say, “We have to be very, very careful.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (44:17)
This was all politics and all a political football that then morphed into an investigation, which made all the lawyers very careful about what the information they put out was. What happened in nursing homes? People died in nursing homes. COVID came here before anybody knew it was here. Fact. It was here for months before anyone knew what was here. Fact. The federal government failed to diagnose the fact that it was here. Fact. The staff brought COVID into nursing homes unknowingly. Fact. There was spread, which was asymptomatic spread, which the federal government said didn’t exist. And staff were infected from asymptomatic people and they brought it into the nursing home. Fact. The federal government was wrong that there was no such thing as asymptomatic spread. The Federal government said early on, “You have to have a symptom to spread it. You had to sneeze on someone. You could get it off a surface. But it was a symptomatic person.” They said there was no such thing as asymptomatic. Meaning I have no symptoms, but I could spread the virus.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:02)
They were wrong. Staff got infected. They brought it into the nursing homes. That’s what happened in nursing homes. And that’s what happened in New York. Then it became a political football. Federal government saying the Democratic governors are to blame, not the feds, feds had nothing to do with anything, it was the Democratic governors. I said, other Democratic governors said, the federal government was asleep at the switch and now it was a political food fight.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (46:35)
We want to make sure the numbers are accurate because the numbers, the number changes every day. And it was never about any particular number, it was about the accuracy of the number. And that was always the point. And that’s why when I ask you the, Press Corps, how many people died in nursing homes you still don’t know. [crosstalk 00:47:05] Excuse me, one second. Because it’s not the number. It was the accuracy of the number. And if we put out a number and then Bob McCarthy did a column two weeks later saying, “Well, hold on. Connecticut counts the number this way and Jersey counts it this way, and California counts it this way.” Now there’s mayhem and there’s confusion. Connecticut just did a report a couple of weeks ago. You should pick it up. It’s by an organization called Mathematica, I think. Where Connecticut did an independent review on nursing home deaths. The report came back and said, “You can’t compare, because every state counted it differently.” So it was always about the accuracy and all we wanted from Department of Health was accurate and the numbers were changing, and then the Department of Justice started a political investigation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:08)
I’m a former AG, I’m a former Assistant District Attorney, when you are under investigation by the Department of Justice, every piece of paper you submit, you better be 100% right that is accurate. And yes, it was political. And yes, I think it was despicable and unethical that you use the Department of Justice to make a political investigation right after the Republican convention. But even a political investigation can generate liability.
Press 1: (48:48)
The Health Department was confident enough in the number to put it in a letter, reportedly, to the legislature that was never sent. How come? [crosstalk 00:48:57]
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (48:58)
The Department of Health was asked, ” Can you verify the number?” Their answer was unsatisfactory.
Press 1: (49:09)
What were the [inaudible 00:49:10]
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:11)
Plus or minus, accuracy was everything. We then had an audit done of the number. The numbers showed 600 variance, post order. Now you could say, “Well, so what? 600?” Yeah, 600 lives is a big deal. And accuracy is a big deal. Especially at that time when people were nervous.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (49:45)
When the audit was finished, basically the DOJ investigation started. And look, all this retrospective, “Well, you didn’t want to release the number because the number was high.” The number was high compared to what compared to what? Compared to what?
Press 1: (50:06)
Compared to what was publicly published at the Department of Health website.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (50:10)
Well, we always publish the total number of deaths, which was accurate. Which, by the way, is still the only number that means anything. Because whether you died in a nursing home or you died in a hospital, who do you attribute that death to? Do you attribute it to a nursing home or do you attribute it to a hospital? How about if you were in a nursing home and got sick and then were sent to a hospital and you died in the hospital, who do you attribute that death to? “Well, I think that should be a nursing home death.” Okay? How about if you were in a hospital and sent to a nursing home and you died in the nursing home, who do you attribute that death to? A nursing home or a hospital? “Well, I don’t know. How long were you in the nursing home before the person died?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:10)
The total number is what we put out every day, because that was inarguable. They then got into this political game, “Well, let’s count how many are in a nursing home versus how many in a hospital.” And now you have all sorts of questions and variables. ” I was in a nursing home for one week,” then the person was sent to a hospital, died in the hospital. But they died within one day of getting to the hospital. “Well, we’ll count that as a nursing home death.” You go to a hospital, but you die seven days later, is that a hospital death or a nursing home death?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (51:52)
You’re dancing on the head of a pin. We always put out the total number of deaths. Today, with retrospect, when you go back you find states have all different ways of counting. And the only number that mattered was the total number of deaths.
Press 2: (52:14)
I’d like to ask a question on a completely different topic. Governor, businesses across New York, many of whom are still trying to recover from the pandemic, are now learning that their unemployment insurance premium rates are skyrocketing 100%, 200%, 300%. This, at the same time that the Department of Labor is patting it’s on the back for all the fraud it’s caught. They won’t say, however, your administration won’t tell the public how much fraud has gone out the door. How many millions or billions has gone out the door to fraudsters? Is it fair that these businesses now have to refill a fund that may have been depleted by fraudsters?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (52:57)
Two points. One a little bit, “I told you so.” Second point, I don’t know, I have to check about the increase in the unemployment insurance. Again in retrospect, in the beginning of COVID the federal government authorized an unemployment insurance program. I was bombarded every day, “There are 4,000 people who are waiting for unemployment insurance checks and they can’t get them.” One person said they called, they were online for three hours. One person said they went and they’d been waiting for two weeks. One person was waiting for three weeks. What did I say to you, not you personally [crosstalk 00:53:50] Did I say it to you personally?
Press 2: (53:52)
[inaudible 00:53:52] come back here in a year and you’ll tell me, “Why is there all this fraud?” So you used that then to explain the delay. So if there was that delay for those folks, the proper checks and balances we assumed were being made?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:02)
No, no, no, no, you can’t have-
Speaker 2: (54:03)
The proper checks and balances we assume were being made.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:03)
No, no, no, you can’t have it both ways. I said to you last year, what you’re going to turn to me next year and say is, “There was fraud in the program.” I said you’re going to say that. Now, you’re saying, “Get the check out the door. Get the check out the door. Get the check out the door.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (54:23)
I’m saying we have to do checks. We have to do a verification. Just because you call up and you say, “I’m unemployed,” how do I know if you’re unemployed? You may just be sitting at home and going to work and just want to claim a second check. I have to verify that and verification takes time. And the populous represented by the evil press corps said, “Get the check out the door. Get the check out the door. Get the check…” I said we’re going to move as fast as we can and then you’re going to come back to me and you’re going to say some people got checks who shouldn’t have gotten checks.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (55:03)
That is the price of expediting the process. And look, the fraudsters wind up hurting the good people because you did have good people who just needed the check to pay the rent and weren’t conning anyone, and then you had some people who were committing fraud.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (55:23)
By the way, our level of fraud in the program is much, much lower than most states because we didn’t rush it that fast and we did do verification as fast as we could.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (55:37)
I don’t know about the issue you raised. I don’t know about increases to unemployment because of the fraud. I will check. I just don’t know about that. And I don’t mean to say you personally.
Speaker 2: (55:50)
I personally stood here and asked you that, but you said, “We got to take our time to prevent the fraud,” and it seems like the fraud has not been prevented.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (55:56)
Well, look, there was such a deluge, right? We did millions of claims and we did need to do them quickly. And if you were going to do full verification on everyone like we normally do, it would have taken months to get those checks out. But I don’t know about the inquiries. I will check.
Speaker 3: (56:17)
We’re being bombarded with emails from folks that are having this problem again, just as we did last time of this year. I had one woman this morning that she was in tears yesterday because she got a live body at the department, but then they could not verify from her. She’s been doing this for several weeks now and she’s just in this circle of waiting and literally in tear. What do you say to somebody that’s just lost their public trust when they have bills to pay and they’re unemployed?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (56:47)
You’re saying there’s a person now who is trying to claim unemployment insurance for the first time?
Speaker 3: (56:52)
[inaudible 00:56:52] work towards verification, and she actually ended up speaking to somebody, but they said they couldn’t verify [inaudible 00:56:59] the process went through. But she’s been in I believe a four week now of wait.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (57:05)
Well, something is strange about this story because the number of unemployment insurance claims have come way, way, way down. The time that we were talking about, we had millions of claims. People now, it’s the reverse. People are going back to work now. We don’t have anywhere near the number of unemployment insurance claims.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (57:33)
But this is the exact example. Sometimes there’s fraud and it has to be verified. “Well, I don’t want to wait for you to verify it.” Yeah, I know, but if we don’t verify it, then there’s going to be fraud. And then someone’s going to ask me a question, there was fraud, and the unemployment insurance rate went up. They have to be verified.
Speaker 4: (57:57)
Governor, two questions please.
Speaker 5: (57:58)
[crosstalk 00:57:58] said this morning that he wants New York City opened up by July, fully opened. Is that something that you would sign off on? And just to bring it back here to Buffalo, is that something the rest of the state planned on [crosstalk 00:58:09]
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (58:09)
I want it opened up on Monday.
Speaker 5: (58:12)
But he said we needs to open up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (58:15)
I want to open up New York City Tuesday. I want to open it up Wednesday. I want Buffalo fully opened on Thursday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (58:25)
It’s a statewide management system and we are managing it by the science, by the data. You look at the number and you will see the rate of opening. I would hope, I am reluctant to make projections because I think they’re irresponsible, July 1. You have May, you have June. What happens in May? What happens in June? I would like to get the reopening, hopeful reopening date before that, before that. I don’t want to wait that long. I think if we do what we have to do, we can be reopened earlier.
Speaker 4: (59:15)
Governor, you talked about wanting the state to reopen and get back to normal. What does that look like to you? What are the metrics that you’re going to count on when you can turn in your executive order pen for emergency orders and go back and maybe take a day off? Second question, I’m sorry for what my Red Sox have been doing to your bets over the last couple of nights, but the Blue Jays are headed to town, or at least we think they are. And if they do arrive, what kind of stadium capacity could we be looking at?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (59:44)
First, there are anomalies that happen in points in time. Everybody gets lucky once in a while, right? All right. So I would not place too much stock in this momentarily phenomenon.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:05)
The stadium capacity we have now at… I have to the exact percentages where we are now, but we are talking about increasing it. And some of the stadium owners are talking about a higher level of capacity for vaccinated people. And that is something that we’re pursuing with them. In other words, could you have X percent capacity plus Y percent of vaccinated people? Because the vaccinated people are less of a risk. So that is something that we are looking at.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:53)
What does reopening mean? Reopening means literally everything back to normal. Everything back to normal. The way we’re doing it is we are reopening, and I would say aggressively, but it’s phased to the change in the data. When you see the positivity and the hospitalization rate go down or stabilize, we reopen more. It is a mathematical function, if you will, to positivity and hospitalization rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:35)
So we’ve been increasing curfews, et cetera. We’re going to be increasing capacity level because the number is down low. I believe the number is going to stay low. I believe the vaccinations will continue. I believe the number will continue to drop. So I believe we’ll have a continued reopening. I would like to get to functional reopening earlier than a July 1.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:02:04)
There’ll always be some safety precautions in the near term, you know, six feet. This is less about government regulations because people are smart. Even if I said today you don’t have to wear this and forget the six foot rule, I think people would still be careful. It’s now culturalized to people. Some people don’t believe it. And by the way, the people who don’t believe it don’t wear the mask anyway, right? Some people don’t believe the six foot guideline and they don’t follow it anyway. But some people I think are always going to be more careful.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:02:51)
But functional reopening is getting to 100% capacity near-term with certain safety precautions, six feet, like that, mask wearing. We look to the CDC and the NIH for the main guidance. We’ve adopted everything basically that they have said. We’re actually a little more aggressive than the federal CDC and NIH because I think the cost of not being open is much greater than people think.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:03:35)
And people talk about it in economic terms. I think the social cost has been phenomenal. Divorces are up something like 300% worldwide. Children missing a year of socialization. I mean, what does that do to someone? Careers on hold, no celebrations, no mourning of deaths, no life experiences, a fear of proximity to people. There’s been all sorts of mental health issues that have been generated from this.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:20)
So I think the cost of closure is much, much higher than people think because it goes beyond the dollars and cents. So we are more aggressive than the CDC and NIH. I don’t think recklessly so, but there is no person who will safely reopen faster than myself. I’m not going to predict the future, but if you said to me July 1, I hope to get there before July 1.
Speaker 4: (01:04:53)
What I’m hearing is, if the CDC says the pandemic’s over, then we fold up this tent and go back to life.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:59)
Certainly if the CDC says the pandemic’s over. They’re not going to say that pandemic is over because they’re going to be watching it worldwide. There’s a major problem in India now. There’s a new variant in India. They’re afraid that variant is going to come to the United States.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:17)
So before the CDC says it’s over, because I don’t believe they’re going to say it’s over, we have to get back to reopen status, new normal, some safety precautions, yes, but we have to get open.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:05:34)
Bob McCarthey: (01:05:36)
Governor, thanks. You don’t need me to tell you there’s a lot of controversy swirling around you these days and we’ve got all kinds of Democrats asking for your resignation or pursuing impeachment. The Mayor of New York was on TV again this morning calling on you to resign. So in the midst of all this, my question is to you, can you effectively govern? Can you effectively do your job in the midst of all of this?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:06)
Well, first, the Mayor of New York, I don’t know what he’s indicative of, and I say that as a former New York City boy. Ask the people in New York City what they think of the Mayor of New York City, and I would second their opinion.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:06:28)
It’s not a hypothetical, Bob. You have the answer. People say resign. Yeah, people take political positions all the time, right? Since that occurred, look at what I have done. What’s the single most important governmental task for a governor during the course of a year? Getting the budget. I did the budget. There is no greater test of the premise, right? If you’re going to have trouble governing, you know where you’re going to have trouble governing? In the budget. That’s where you would have had trouble.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:07:14)
And we had a timely budget. And by the way, Bob, you’ve covered this for many more years than I’ve been in service. This was the most complicated budget in modern history. You had the greatest state need ever, tenant need, small business need. You had a federal infusion of funds which was not what we had asked for, right? I had asked for 15 billion, they gave us 12.6. We had to make up for that shortfall. And we wanted to pivot to reconstruction. And in the legislature, you don’t have a monolith in the legislature anymore. It’s not like the old days where you had a leader who could go back and say, “This is what it is,” and everybody said, “Aye, aye, Captain.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:18)
So it was probably the most difficult, but also the most impactful. And that was the litmus test for your question.
Speaker 5: (01:08:29)
Governor, [inaudible 01:08:30] interview as part of the Attorney General’s review into the sexual harassment allegations? And if not, do you [crosstalk 01:08:36]?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:08:37)
I have not, but I can tell you this. I have tried to be respectful of the process At the same time, it has been very difficult letting people make accusations and not responding. And people have only heard one side of the story. I used to tell people when I was attorney general, I learned when I was an assistant district attorney. They would always say, and I said as attorney general when someone came in and said, “Well, I heard this,” I said, “Until you hear both sides of the story, you haven’t heard anything.” People heard one side of the story. I can’t tell you how eager I am to tell my side of the story. And the time will come. Thank you, guys. I’m going to go back to work.
Speaker 6: (01:09:48)
[crosstalk 01:09:48], you said wanted people to hear from you. I’m not certain. You said at [inaudible 01:09:51] that you wanted New Yorkers to hear directly from you and now the answer is you look forward to when you can share your side of the story.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:10:01)
I’m trying to be respectful to the assembly process and the AG process. Theoretically, the way it’s supposed to work is the AG, the assembly say, “We’re doing a review.” They then do the review and the review is done privately. Here, what has happened is the complainants have continued to go to the press and make their complaint in the press. And I have not been able to respond. That’s not fair and it’s not right. So I’m trying to be respectful, but I’m very eager to tell my side of the story. And any good reporter, any good lawyer, any savvy New Yorker knows there’s always two sides to the story. Thank you, guys.