Apr 6, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 6
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on April 6, 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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Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… be the vice-president, chief medical officer of Mount Sinai Health System. Mount Sinai has just been extraordinary all through this COVID crisis. Mario Cilento, who is the president of the New York state AFL CIO, who’s been a partner with us through day one. I’d also like to acknowledge Alan Steele, who runs this Jacob Javits convention center. This is a little outside of the work of a convention center, what Javits has served as for the past year, and Alan Steele has done a magnificent, magnificent job. We have Roberta Reardon, who’s been our labor commissioner and is doing a great job. Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York State building construction trades. Vinny Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council. Pat Kane, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:59)
I was just saying the [Patton 00:01:01] side, I’ve been to hospitals all across the state, the nurses have just been extraordinary. You have to remember where this started and how frightening the situation and how the nurses really stepped up. [Auron Barjole 00:01:18], president of the uniform, the EMT, paramedics, fire inspectors, and the FDNY. I have my special advisor for all things difficult, McKayla Kennedy Cuomo, who’s with us also today.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:36)
Coming to Javits, I’ll tell you frankly, I’ve been here many, many times, normally on shows, auto show, boat shows, trade shows. I always love coming to Javits, but coming here now is a very emotional experience for me and I was thinking about it on the way here today. Javits was really the site in New York for COVID, from the beginning and now as we are nearing the end. Through the full year of COVID, the winter of COVID turns into the spring of COVID and we’re now in the spring of COVID. But when it started, Javits was the main center for dealing with COVID. We came here in the very beginning, Dr. Zucker and myself, the National Guard, and I thank you for being here and Major General Naftali, for being here.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:44)
It was like a scene from a science fiction movie, 2,500 emergency beds set up, just to sea of emergency beds as far as you could see. National Guard, army personnel, Jeeps, Humvees, it looked like a military science fiction, apocalyptic movie. I spoke to the National Guard who was with us that day and their eyes were like this. Everyone was petrified, nobody knew what COVID was. Nobody knew how to deal with it. Nobody really knew how it transmitted and everybody was frightened. We met with the heads of the hospitals, Mount Sinai, et cetera, all the preeminent healthcare institutions. We had the meeting here at Mount Sinai, and I asked the best health experts in the state, “What do you think is going to happen?” Nobody knew, nobody knew. At that time, the number of deaths was just climbing, the number of people going into hospitals were climbing. They estimated that we would need 140,000 hospital beds for COVID patients. We only have 50,000 hospital beds in the entire state of New York. And the estimate was that we would need 140,000.
Andrew Cuomo: (04:29)
Even the best minds didn’t know what was going to happen. At that meeting, in this surreal circumstance, we find out, as soon as we leave the meeting, one of the people in the meeting had COVID. You remember? And that just brought home the fear. Then we had to go get tested and we were afraid, and the next few days we were worrying about it. It all started here. Luckily, those 2,500 beds, we didn’t need every one, but over 1,000 people came through Javits. Doctors, nurses, showing up and dealing with this terrible situation.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:23)
We’re now in the spring. Sun is shining. It’s a new day for those of us who celebrate Easter, we just talked about renewal and resurrection. Spring brings new hope, spring brings rebirth. The coldness, the darkness of the winter, the isolation of the winter, the alienation of the winter, the fear of the winter, the death of the winter, gives way to spring as the cycle changes, as the season changes. And we are in spring, there’s no doubt. And we’re starting to rebuild. We’re working on a budget up at Albany that’s going to be the biggest and the best action plan for the state of New York ever. We’re not just going to rebuild New York. This has to be a time when you re-imagine New York, where you learn from the lessons of COVID. What happened? Why did it happen? How do we make sure it never happens again? How do we build back a better New York than we had before?
Andrew Cuomo: (06:34)
You don’t just replace what was, when your house is destroyed by a flood, you don’t replace the home as it was, you take the opportunity to make it even better. And that’s what we’re going to do with the state of New York. And that’s the New York spring. It’s going to be chapter two of New York tough, being smart, being disciplined, being united, being resilient, saying, “Yes, you knocked us down, but we’re going to get up even better because that’s what life is really all about.” Life will knock you down. Something will happen in your lifetime that will knock you right on your rear-end. Could be a health issue, it could be a family issue, could be a job issue, but something will happen. And then the question in life becomes, what do you do when you get knocked down? Do you give up, do you stay down or do you stand up better and stronger and learning from the experience? That’s what New York does. That’s what New York tough means. And that will be the New York spring, but we’re not there yet.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:51)
We’re not there until we have crushed COVID. I was on a call with the White House COVID team this morning, vice-president, Dr. Fauchi, all saying the same-
Andrew Cuomo: (08:03)
Vice president, Dr. Fowchee, all saying the same thing. The vaccine is the weapon that wins the war, but we have not yet won the war. The vaccine is there. The vaccine will win the war, but we’re in a race with COVID now. Infections are going up. Vaccinations are going up. You tell me which goes up faster, I will tell you who wins the war. Do you vaccinate more people or do more people get infected? Do you vaccinate enough people where if God forbid, one of these variants hits and the mutation is resistant to the vaccine? Then you have a problem. Or do you vaccinate enough people that you have hit herd immunity, this center, Javits Center, what you are doing here today, this is the best, most productive vaccination center in the United States of America, thanks to you. God bless you.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:25)
But our message today is clear. We have to get the vaccine and the vaccinations done. Now, there are reasons why people say they’re not taking the vaccine. The first reason is the superhero reason. Have you heard the superhero reason? I’m a superhero. I’m not afraid of COVID. COVID can’t beat me. I’m strong. I’m tough. COVID can’t beat me. That’s baloney. Even if you’re young and you’re a superhero, you can catch COVID and you can transmit COVID, and you can transmit it to your mother or your grandmother or someone else who is not as strong. And you can wind up hurting someone. You can wind up killing someone.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:23)
Second excuse is what I call the scientists’ excuse. Well, I want to see more data on the risk analysis of the vaccine before I take it. 10 million New Yorkers have taken the vaccine. That’s your data analysis. There’s more risk in not taking the vaccine than in taking the vaccine. So take the vaccine.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:56)
The third excuse is the skeptics’ excuse. Well, I know the government says it’s safe, but I don’t trust the government. I know the federal government, Trump administration, said it was safe, but I don’t trust the Trump administration. I was in the skeptic school. I didn’t trust the federal verification. That’s why we got the best New York state doctors and professionals to verify the vaccine itself. And when the New York State health community said it is safe, then I said to the people of the state of New York, it is state safe. I would not have said it unless I was 100% confident that the best medical professionals in this state with no agenda said it was safe, and that’s why I took it, and my mother took it, and everyone in my family who was eligible took it because I believe it is safe.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:07)
And then the last excuse, which was a good one, was I’m not eligible. I’m not eligible yet. Well today, that’s gone. Today every person in the state of New York, over 16 years old is eligible for the vaccine. There is no excuse, no excuse not to go online, make a phone call today, make your appointment, get your vaccination done. It is your duty. It’s smart. It’s right. It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s safe. Get a vaccine, New York. No excuses. That’s what we’re saying today. No more excuses.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:57)
Last point is this. This past year has been hell, has been hell. We’ve had to make a lot of decisions. We all have. It’s been hell on all of us, on every level. It’s been hell for me personally. And you want to know the toughest decision that I had to make? The one that weighs on me the most to this day was when I had to say to the people of New York “Stay home”. I issued the stay home order. Everybody stay home. No school, no business, no movie theaters, no restaurants. Stay home. Be safe. COVID is dangerous. That’s what I said.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:57)
You know what the next sentence out of my mouth was? Except you essential workers. We need you to go to work. Everybody else can stay home and be safe, but not you, essential worker. We need you to leave your house because we need you to keep society stable. Not you, national guardsman. You have to come out and you have to help. Not you, police officer. We need you to come out. Not you, firefighter. We need you to come out. Not you, EMT worker. We need you to come out. Not you, construction worker. We need you to come out and fix things. Not you, transit worker. We need you to come operating the subways and the buses, so the nurses and doctors can get there.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:57)
Not you, nurse. We need you to work harder than ever before. We need you to leave your home, endanger yourself, worry that you may bring back the virus to your own family. Every night. We need you, nurse and doctor and person who worked in the hospitals to come to work, even though we may not have enough PPE, even though you’ve worked seven days in a row, even though your family is frightened that you’re going to infect them. We need you to go to work.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:33)
That decision weighed on me every day and weighs on me to this day, that you were here running this vaccination site, exposing yourself to people who will coming in, who may be positive. What gives me the right to ask you to put yourself in harm’s way?
Andrew Cuomo: (16:00)
Put yourself in harm’s way. As governor, that was my responsibility. But, I can ask you to do it, but I couldn’t tell you to do it. You did it out of your sense of duty and out of your sense of obligation. You did it out of your sense of honor. Nurses did it because they believed that was their professional obligation. Doctors did it because they believed it was their obligation. Essential workers showed up, not because they made more money, not because they were the rich people in society, not because society had given them more than they deserved. Society gave them less than they deserved. But they showed up out of obligation and honor, and courage and duty. All those things that seem to be slipping away in modern day society. The essential workers did it.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:10)
I will never forget and no New Yorkers should ever forget what they did to keep us safe. No New Yorkers should forget that while they were having the luxury of staying home and staying safe, that only happened because every morning people were getting up and leaving their home so you could stay home and you could be safe. Essential workers, it’s a new term. We never said it before. But it is the most profound, beautiful definition of a citizen and a professional. We lost many of them. 40,000 New Yorkers died to COVID. 40,000 New Yorkers died. More then when you combine the wars we’ve been in. We’re going to honor those essential workers and we’re going to build a memorial to those essential workers. And the commission we announced today is going to be charged with just that, finding a location and designing a memorial.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:32)
And the memorial says to the essential workers, “Thank you. We honor you.” Says to their families, “You did not lose your father or your mother or your sister or your brother in vain. They saved the lives of New Yorkers. COVID was a war and they were war heroes. They gave their lives in the midst of that war to save others.” And that’s what that memorial will say. And children years from now, when they say, “Why is mom gone? Why is dad gone?” they can be brought to that memorial and they can be told the story of COVID and the COVID war and what courage is all about and what honor and duty is all about, and how doing the right thing is something you carry in your heart and soul. Nobody can tell you to do it, but you know what it is. And many, many New Yorkers rose to the occasion. That will be the Essential Worker Memorial.
Andrew Cuomo: (19:55)
For me, it will make the point that a great journalist wrote in one of his last columns in New York, we just lost him, Jim Dwyer, Pulitzer prize winning journalist. He wrote, “In times to come, when we are all gone, people not yet born will walk in the sunshine of their own days because of what women and men did at this hour to feed the sick, to heal and to comfort.” That will be the point of the memorial.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:36)
Get the vaccine. Get the vaccine because it’s your duty as a citizen. Because when you get sick, you endanger others, you can infect others. If you get very sick, you endanger the people who have to drive the ambulance and the EMT and the firefighter and the police worker and the nurse and the doctor and the hospital staff. And you don’t have that right to endanger other people’s lives. It’s that simple? Get the vaccine. No excuse. Everyone is eligible, and do it today. Thank you and God bless you.
Speaker 1: (21:38)
Thank you, Governor Cuomo. It is an honor to be here at the Javits Center this afternoon. 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 the selfless collective actions of countless New Yorkers. That’s especially true for the more than 10 million 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 the eligibility as we’ve done here today with all New Yorkers over the age of 16 now eligible. This expanded eligibility and the continued efficiency at mass vaccination sites, like this one right here at Javits, builds on the systemic approach we’ve taken over the last four months to get shots into the arms of New Yorkers as soon as possible.
Speaker 1: (22:34)
It has never been more important to act smart and to act quickly. The race between vaccines and variants 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 mask and get your vaccine as soon as you’re able. We can win this race, but it will require us all to run unified as one towards the finish line. Thank you very much.
Speaker 2: (23:24)
Thank you Governor Cuomo. It is an honor to be here with you today and to be with everybody and to get a chance to thank everybody for their service. I want to thank you for your leadership during the pandemic. It has surely been a heroic battle for you and for all the people of New York. I’m honored to be here representing the entire Mount Sinai family, and really in a broader sense, all the healthcare professionals who have fought so valiantly over the last 13 months or so. Our colleagues went to work to protect our communities, our neighbors and our friends. The challenges have been immense, both the medical and emotional ones. I’m often reminded that even as our healthcare community went to work to save lives-
Speaker 2: (24:03)
I’m often reminded that even as our healthcare community went to work to save lives, they were still grappling with everyday challenges at home and in their own neighborhoods, and with family and friends near and far. I applaud you for launching the Essential Workers Advisory Committee and special gratitude to all the essential workers who helped us to get to this point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we will only get to the end of this brutal battle if we stay vigilant. The enemy still has a lot of fight in it. That is why it is so critical that every eligible person get the vaccine. As of today, everyone 16 and older is eligible to get the vaccine. And I can tell you, my daughter who’s 17, is on the website today getting signed up. These vaccines are safe.
Speaker 2: (24:45)
Millions of New Yorkers have taken the vaccine. The President and Vice President have taken the vaccine. Governor Cuomo and his family have taken the vaccine. Faith leaders have taken the vaccine. My family has taken the vaccine, and when close friends call and ask whether they should take the vaccine, I say yes unequivocally. And thanks to Governor Cuomo and his team, you can get the vaccine all over the state. He has brought the vaccine into vulnerable communities with pop-up vaccine sites at churches and community centers. He has created mass vaccination sites, like the one at Yankee Stadium or the Syracuse Fairgrounds, or like this one at Javits. I marvel when I look around at a site like this, a convention center turned into a medical type facility almost overnight. So please everyone, roll up your sleeves, get the vaccine. Let’s vaccinate New York and let’s get on with our lives. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, all.
Mario Cilento: (25:52)
Thank you. Well first, my middle daughter is 16 today. I don’t know how that’s supposed to make me feel. I think it’s supposed to be, it is a great thing. So I know this morning before she went to her first class, she was already on the website to try to get the vaccine. So that’s a great thing. So today’s a great day for that. Governor, as for the memorial, let me just say this. We’ve spoken about the memorial several times over the past several months, sometimes in person when I could look in your eyes, and sometimes just over the phone, when I could hear in your voice exactly how important this was to you to get this done, to pay tribute to the men and women who sacrificed themselves for others. So I want to say thank you because I recognize how truly important it was to begin this process and this initiative.
Mario Cilento: (26:37)
So on behalf of the two and a half million members of the New York State AFL-CIO, and really all working men and women in this state, thank you for that. And I will just say this, it’s sort of ironic because the men and women who we’re honoring as heroes, before the pandemic, if we’re honest, were sort of below the radar. They’d go to work every day, but they were below the radar in the shadows. They were part of the fabric of this state, but you didn’t always notice them. But then the pandemic hit and we recognized, as the governor said that they were performing things and their duties and their services, while I was home with my daughters, my three daughters protecting them, but no one was out there protecting them in their jobs. And they educated our children, they dug ditches, they worked in hospitals to make sure that we were safe and in good health, EMTs. They drove our buses. They drove our trains. They were up on utility poles. They taught our children in the classroom.
Mario Cilento: (27:41)
So they now are called essential workers, which is what we all should have known from the beginning, and now we do. And that’s why this memorial is so important. The most important thing to remember is this, that they risked their lives so that we could have some normalcy in our darkest times and the most scared times certainly of my life and I would think everyone else here. They were there for us. So this memorial is about making sure that we remember them, but not just generically as heroes and not just generically as working people, because we’re judged as an enlightened society, as a humane society, by how we help those who need our help the most. This memorial is a tribute to the humanity shown by these brave men and women, the humane standard that they have left behind for all of us now to attain moving forward. That’s why this is so important. That is the example that they sent to all of us, treating each other with dignity and respect and just the humane nature of being there for one another. That’s why this memorial is so important. So Governor, again I thank you very much for your dedication and your commitment to this endeavor. And we look forward to getting on this and working on it immediately. Thank you.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:13)
Thank you. Thank you to all the participants today. I think Mario Cilento summed it up well. Now they’re essential workers. Before COVID, they were working class women and men who did jobs that we all too often underappreciated and underrespected. Despite that, when they were called on to do more than anyone else in society, they stepped up and they did it and they sacrificed their families, and many of them sacrificed their lives. Let’s remember that going forward. Let’s remember that going forward. It is the working women and men who make this state run every day and sacrifice themselves every day. They’re not the richest. They’re not the fanciest. They’re not the most powerful, but they are the most essential. They are the working families. They’re the backbone of this state. And we saw that once again. And let’s honor them today. The memorial will be beautiful. Honor them today by getting a vaccination today. Let’s all of us show our respect and appreciation for the families who lost loved ones by getting a vaccination. Thank you and God bless you.