Dec 9, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 9
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on December 9 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (05:29)
Good morning. Good to be with all of you. For those of you who may not know people who are with us today from my very far right, Mr. Gareth Rhodes, then Chancellor Jim Malatras, Commissioner Howard Zucker, Commissioner of Health, Dr. Zucker. My left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left Robert Mujica, budget director. Today is day 284 of the COVID crisis experience journey. As I mentioned, I’ll be doing regularly scheduled briefings Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 11:30. Depending on the circumstances, we may do additional briefings. We’re now following additional CDC guidance that they have been updating and offering. You see these very attractive partitions that we now have which are part of the CDC guidance. The numbers for New York State for today, the statewide positivity without the micro cluster zones, which are our high intensity zones is 4.86. If you include statewide with those high intense zones is 5.4%.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (06:53)
The positivity in those micro cluster zones is 7%. We did 194,000 tests. Again, New York does more testing than any other state. That gives us more data, more information. We make decisions based on the data. The more tests, the more data. Statewide deaths, 95. That is a sad number. Number one, one, it’s a death is a sad, number 95 is extremely sad. And those New Yorkers are in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations up about 158, ICU up 46, inter patients up 28. We now are conducting three COVID operations basically at the same time. First, we’re managing the hospitals on what we call our Surge and Flex program. This is a hospital capacity crisis, and more and more it’s becoming a greater crisis for hospitals as their capacity is further diminished. We sent a letter to all the hospitals in the state talking to them about this situation and what they’re going to need to do.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (08:08)
They’re going to have to be extraordinarily flexible and nimble to handle the additional caseload that is coming up. Hospital systems have to work as a system and balance caseload among hospitals in their system. We then may get to the point where we have to shift patients before they’re admitted to hospitals, to other hospitals that have a greater capacity. So it is a management logistical nightmare. And the more cases go up, the harder it gets. We released a letter that went to all the hospital administrators and there’s going to be a meeting with them today. So that’s one operation that’s going on. Second operation is continuing to work to slow the spread of the virus. We have the Thanksgiving surge, if you will. And we’re starting to see the full effect of that now. And we’re analyzing the data on the Thanksgiving spread.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (09:15)
We also talk to… Literally, we’ve been blessed with international experts who’ve given us guidance and are looking at our data and our situation, and actually recommend adding new factors to our plan, which I think is good advice. And we’re going to do that and we’ll announce a new plan on Friday. And then third, we have the vaccine which is the weapon that will win the war. If people take it, if we get it produced, if we get it delivered, distributed, and actually in people’s arms, right? So those are the big ifs and that’s what we are working on and that’s what we want to talk to you about today with the vaccine. First, we’re going to have a real public education campaign to battle the skepticism. Just think of the math on this. You have to get to 75% to 85% of the overall population vaccinated for the vaccine to be effective. 75 to 85%. 50% of the population says right now, they don’t want to take the vaccine. They don’t trust the approval process. They’re worried about vaccines in general, but 50% are now saying they don’t want to take the vaccine.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (10:32)
You cannot get to 75% if 50% don’t take it. Even I can do that math. So we’re going to need a real public education to dispel the skepticism that already exists. Second and very important to us here in the State of New York, this has to be done in a way that protects social justice. The healthcare system discriminates against black, brown and poor communities. By effect, you have fewer health care facilities in poorer communities. That is a fact. Higher death rate in these communities, higher infection rate in these communities, higher percentage of essential workers in these communities. We want to make sure when we do the vaccine, that it is done in a just and fair and equal way. And third, we want to expedite it. It’s a massive undertaking. I think frankly, people have not focused enough on the extent of what this undertaking means.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (11:46)
I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here. The scale of vaccinating every person in your state is just massive. New York has been very good at scaling up, and we’ve been very good at tackling challenges during COVID like COVID testing, but this is going to test capacity all across the board. The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution. The military is doing the transportation. They’re actually using private companies in part, FedEx, other private companies, to distribute the vaccine to the different states. The federal government looks to the state to set the distribution locations. They will send it where we ask them to send it. And we then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it as the first set of priorities.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (13:09)
Our priorities have basically tracked the federal government suggestion on prioritization. The first shipment is allocated on the base of number of healthcare workers and nursing home residents in the state. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff, and high risk health healthcare workers. So that’s how we’re allocating what Buffalo gets versus Monroe, versus Essex, versus New York City. The state has set up 90 regional distribution centers that are capable of cold storage. This is a different definition of cold storage. This is really, really cold storage. Not every facility can do it. Not every hospital can do it, but we’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA tomorrow. Immediately after that, our New York state panel will convene and review and approve it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (14:28)
They’ve already been speaking to the FDA about the process. I think the New York panel as a second panel to approve is going to go a long way towards battling that skepticism about the approval process and we hope that it does. If the FDA approves, its expected 6 million doses will be available nationwide. Half of those will ship immediately, the other half will be held for the second dose for those individuals who received the first dosage. Remember, everyone who gets this vaccine, you have to get two vaccines. So they’ll ship now the number of vaccines to do the first vaccination. They will then ship, 21 days later, the appropriate amount to vaccinate the people who received the first vaccination. New York expects the initial allocation of 170,000 doses. The federal government is doing the allocation based on state population. And again, they distribute it to the state, the state then turns around and does an allocation within places within the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (15:49)
It could arrive as soon as this weekend, that assumes the FDA does act right away, the FDA does approve it and the military turns around and ships it immediately, but it could actually be coming this weekend. Further allocations will be in the following weeks. Our state priority, nursing home residents first, nursing home staff. There was a discussion about, do you do the residents or do you do the staff. New York, we decided to do both the residents and the nursing home staff. Then you go to high risk hospital workers. We have about 700,000 hospital workers in this state. So it’s a very large population. So we’ll prioritize the high risk hospital workers within that overall healthcare population. We have rules that we have established that we will send to hospitals about what is a, quote, unquote, high risk healthcare worker. And then the hospitals will select the actual individuals who will get the first vaccine-
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (17:03)
Individuals who will get the first vaccines within that guidance. Emergency room workers, ICU staff, pulmonary department staff. The allocation by region, again, this is based on number of nursing home residents, number of nursing home staff and number of high risk healthcare workers. The 90 locations across the state that can provide the cold storage will receive enough doses for roughly 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff. That is 40% of the total hospital patient-facing workforce of 225. The 225,000 is a subset of the overall 700,000 obviously.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (17:58)
By the end of Week Two, if all goes well and the federal government sticks to the schedule we expect all high risk staff will receive the vaccination. Staff at every hospital will have access to the allocation even if their hospital doesn’t have this cold storage capacity. They will have access to the vaccine by a hospital in their region that does have that storage capacity. After we take care of all the high risk healthcare workers, we’ll then move to all longterm and [inaudible 00:18:37] staff and residents. Then EMS and other healthcare workers and then essential workers, general population starting with those who have the highest risk.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (18:51)
The federal government offered a program that New York State opted into whereby pharmacies will do the vaccinations in nursing homes which will take the burden off the nursing home staff and New Yorkers opted into that program. It’s run by the federal government but basically they subcontract with private companies to do the vaccinations in nursing homes, flu vaccine we do this way.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (19:22)
New York by participating in that program, we provide part of our allocation to that program so we actually have enough vaccinations to cover all residents. Part of the future allocations will ensure enough doses to make sure we complete that program. Completion is all nursing home residents and staff. We expect deliveries to begin next week. Federal administration says they’re going to start by 12/21. New York is dedicating part of our initial allocation to the program but we do expect to have enough to cover all residents and all staff. The staff is actually vaccinated on a rolling basis to make sure they have staff that’s receiving the vaccine and staff that’s working at all times.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (20:22)
We’re also pleased that the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as a pilot program where they will vaccinate people from the National Guard who have been working on our COVID-19 taskforce and New York is pleased to participate in that. The National Guard who have been doing a phenomenal job for the past nine months as we work through this barrage, they will be eligible for the vaccine also.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (20:58)
The fairness of the vaccine is paramount and I mentioned it before but we have to make sure this nation understand that we can’t make the same mistake twice. Death rate among blacks twice what the death rate among whites is from COVID. Death rate among Latinos one and a half times the death rate among whites. COVID testing, fewer tests taken in the black and Latino and poor communities. It was just a manifestation of the disparity in healthcare and it has to be corrected during the vaccination program. We have to get into public housing, we have to partner with black churches and Latino churches, community groups. This has to be a fair distribution and New York will lead the way. We’ve made these concerns known to HHS, sent letters, I’ve done speeches, I’m working with civil rights groups across the state. Made these points to Congress on several occasions, we’re working with the NAACP, Mr. Johnson, we’re working with the Urban League, Mayor Marc Morial, but this is a point that we have to bring home and we have to be successful.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (22:26)
We do have good news that we waged a similar effort on the rules for vaccinations for undocumented people. The way the federal government constructed the program basically they wanted the states to collect social security numbers, citizenship passport numbers or driver’s license numbers for anybody vaccinated. These are all bells for people who are undocumented. Alarm bells, and it sounded like you were trying to use the vaccination to identify undocumented people. We have gone through this with the federal government at length with the Trusted Traveler Program previously. If undocumented people don’t get vaccinated, it compromises their health and it compromises the whole program. Again the program only works if you hit a critical mass of the population. If you say, “Well the undocumenteds, we’re going to exclude practically because they won’t come in and participate,” you have 50% of the population that’s skeptical, we’re not going to reach out to the black, Latino and poor communities, it’s never going to be a success.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (23:44)
So we raised this point. Again we did letters. I did speeches, spoken out publicly and HHS has agreed, CDC specifically has agreed, that the state will not send individual data identifying a person in a way that could be used to document citizenship or deportation, et cetera. We insisted on that in the … What’s called the data sharing agreement, data use agreement and CDC agreed. So that is a better vaccination program for this country and for this state. It took a lot of work but I want to congratulate all the advocates and people who stepped up and spoke up because it was a good service.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (24:39)
We want to raise one other topic which is very important. The congressional back and forth on financial relief for state and local governments is essential and it’s probably essential to no state more than the state of New York and we sent a letter to Congress today that was co-signed by myself, elected officials, the Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie, the Senate leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, all our partners in labor. We need federal aid, period. We have been very good at dealing with economic circumstances in the state of New York. I have closed many budget gaps, I have closed the largest budget gap in the state’s history. I am telling you, we cannot close this financial gap without federal aid and that’s what the letter to Congress says and our most important point is whenever they come up with a program, there’s now a bill for $ 908 billion. I believe President Biden will come in and we’ll proposed a large package. The funding should be distributed by need, by need. Not by politics. The other funds that they have passed, what they call the CARES Act, they distributed the money politically. Everybody got x, they just cut it up like a piece of pie. This is supposed to be funding that goes to help states recover from COVID. Help cities recover from COVID. It wasn’t supposed to be political pork barrel.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (26:41)
The distribution should be by need. Who got hurt by COVID and what is the need from COVID? That’s what taxpayers were told they were funding. New York State paid the greatest price in the nation for COVID. Not because I’m the New York State governor. That is a fact. That is a fact. We were misinformed, we were misled, it was the negligence of the federal government that created this situation in New York. We were all there in the spring when the federal government was saying, “The virus is coming from China, it’s coming from China. Few cases in California because people flew from China to California.” The virus wasn’t in China, it was in Europe and either they didn’t know it or they didn’t tell us. I don’t know which is worse, but the virus was coming here January, February, March from Europe. Three million Europeans came, brought the virus while they were still pointing to China. China travel ban was February 1, it wasn’t a ban from Europe until March 16. March 16, the horse was out of the barn. We had thousands of cases in New York, planes landing in JFK and Newark, LaGuardia Airports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (28:12)
If we do not get federal funding, the consequences are going to be devastating to this state and the families and governments within the state. You can see the layoff of several thousand government workers unless the federal government is truly responsible and accountable and really gives New York the funding it deserves, you’ll see tax increases, you probably will see tax increases in any event pardon my skepticism about Washington, but you could see dramatic tax increases that would hurt families and hurt the economy. If the MTA doesn’t get funding they could lay off 7,000 MTA workers. They would have to raise bus and train fares and tolls. That’s the last thing we need now. You’d have to borrow money for New York City, for New York State just to make the ends meet and you put all of these things together, government borrowing, tax increases, layoffs, this is the last thing you want to do now. Not just on a state level or a city level or a local level, the last thing you want to do nationally. You want this economy picking up, not slowing down. Every economist from every ideology says if they starve states and local governments and make states and local governments lay off workers, you will hurt the economy and you could cause a recession.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (29:56)
Why you would want to lay off essential workers now when you’re just starting this ambitious vaccination program, I have no idea. I mean, a more obnoxious coincidence of facts you could not have. Greatest governmental undertaking on the vaccination program, oh now we’re going to starve state and local governments so they have to lay off the people who would do the vaccination. I mean it’s a level of idiocy that is unparalleled and forget government. You hurt people. You hurt people. You hurt families who don’t have a paycheck. You hurt small businesses that have been hanging on by their fingernails for months. It’s not politics. I talk to governors all across the country. Every state is in basically the same situation. They have to act responsibly and they have to act quickly and that’s in the best interest of everyone.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (31:03)
I’m pleased today to be joined by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio who is going to discuss this topic with us today. We’re also joined by Mario Cilento who is the president of the AFL-CIO. Obviously this has a dramatic effect on the people who work for the state, the people who work for businesses that rely on the state and New York City, which really dealt the brunt of the burden in the spring, remember those planes, they landed at JFK, they landed at Newark. Those people were going to Downstate New York and the need, the cost, the human sacrifice was nowhere higher. We’re dealing with it nationwide now but New York was ambushed. We were ambushed. We never saw it coming. We had no warning. We had no notice and we went from one case to literally thousands of cases in a matter of weeks. I do hold the federal government responsible. New York City and New York State, we don’t do international global pandemic watchdogs. That’s not what we do. It’s what the federal government does. It’s what the CDC does and the NIH does. They track global pandemics and they missed it on this one. Or they didn’t miss it and they didn’t tell us about it but that’s the issue that we’re facing now.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (32:47)
Mayor Bill DeBlasio, thank you very much for being with us today. We’re all meeting these new CDC protocols. I don’t know if I need a piece of plexiglass between me and a Zoom screen yet. That’s probably next week’s protocol but good to be with you and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today.
Bill DeBlasio: (33:17)
Thank you Governor. Plexiglass does not solve every problem, I just want to say. It’s like duct tape, it solves a lot of things but not everything but Governor, look. I want to join with you emphatically in reminding our colleagues in Washington what really happened here. [inaudible 00:33:40] right that [inaudible 00:33:42]. The federal government was not there for us. We found out months and months later that the disease was already spread in New York City in February when we [inaudible 00:33:57] resources from the federal government. They wouldn’t even let us do our own local testing when we said we were ready, they said, “No no no no.”
Bill DeBlasio: (34:03)
…own local testing. When we said we were ready, they said, “No, no, no, no.” Think about the lives that were lost because the federal government was missing in action. And governor, we all experienced… We were at those hospitals. I went to Elmhurst hospital, I went to Bellevue hospital. I talked to the families who lost their loved ones. I went to public housing, I heard the pain of New Yorkers who felt this silent killer already. And they wondered how on earth this could have happened in America. But the truth is, our federal government did not warn us, did not prepare us, did not support us. Even when we raised a warning, you did it, I did it. We begged for that testing, couldn’t get it.
Bill DeBlasio: (34:55)
So, is there anyone over there who wants to debate these facts? I don’t think there’ll be able to. Is there anyone who wants to contest the fact that this state bore the brunt? That this city was the epicenter of the United States of America in March and April, we went through the worst of this entire country and unfortunately tens of thousands New Yorkers are lost forever. They can’t be here with us to testify, but we testify in their memories. How much pain we went through. So it’s as simple as the way you laid it out, I’m going to amplify.
Bill DeBlasio: (35:31)
State and local aid is absolutely necessary, or else we are ignoring the pain and the death and the suffering that went on in this city, in this state. It is literally an insult to the family’s who’ve lost [inaudible 00:35:46] the support we deserve. You have to have support for the state government. The state of New York’s gone through hell. We need a strong state in New York. I can say of all cities, towns, counties in New York state, we all need [inaudible 00:36:01] as well. We will not be able to stay on our feet. We will not be able to provide the services people need.
Bill DeBlasio: (36:08)
Governor, people need the services more than ever! The vaccination, as you said, but all the other healthcare services. Keeping our schools going for our kids, providing safety for our people, folks need that more than ever. And if we can’t provide those services, how on earth are we going to have a recovery? And is the part that bothers me the most, the people who say they want a strong economy, they want to see America come back… How do you have a recovery if cities and states are collapsing all around you? If you can’t provide basic services? If you cut basic services, you cut off the recovery. That is the bottom line here. So I know what we went through. I felt it, I lived it with my fellow New Yorkers. I know we deserve help to recover from a crisis we did not create. And our federal government did not help us. I know that states and cities and towns and counties will do our all if we’re just given the opportunity to get back on our feet.
Bill DeBlasio: (37:13)
I also know this city and this state are amongst the strongest engines of the American economy. Let’s not leave this out of this special. If you want the United States of America to come back, you need New York City to come back, you need New York State to come back. In good times, and those good times were as recently as January, February, we were leading a nation in a strong economy. Now, we’ve been hit back on our heels. Do you really think the United States of America is going to come back without New York City and New York State returning to our full strength? It’s not going to happen. So Governor, [inaudible 00:37:52] cause, I say to [inaudible 00:37:54], and we honor our senators, our Congress members, but we need you guys now, we need you more than ever. We need you to tell our story and ensure we get just our fair share, that’s all we’re asking for, so we can come back strong for the people of this city and this state. Thank you, governor.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (38:12)
Well said, Mayor. And by the way, Mayor, what you said is exactly right. And there’s no disagreement on the facts. We know that the virus was now here in February, right? We found out too late. But scientists will attest to that fact. We know the virus came from Europe. Scientists will attest to that fact. You had Dr. Redfield of the CDC and Dr. Fauci testify before Congress, April, May, that we missed it. We missed that the virus left China, went to Europe, and then came to New York. We missed it. That’s what happened to New York City, New York state, they missed it. Okay. It’s a quite different conversation about their competence and how much they communicated. But they missed it, and they said they missed it. They created it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (39:12)
And your point about, you want to bring back the national economy… You don’t bring back the national economy without the New Yorker economy. You’re exactly right. Thank you very much, Mayor. It’s a pleasure to be with you, even though we’re on Zoom, but at least we don’t have plexiglass.
Bill DeBlasio: (39:28)
No plexiglass. No plexiglass.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (39:30)
I’ll see you soon, Bill. Mario Cilento, our partner, President of the AFL-CIO. Good to be with you, Mario. Thank you for the help on this.
Mario Cilento: (39:38)
Good to be here. Thank you Governor, thank you. Thank you for having me, I appreciate it. And let me just say this… First, I want to thank you for your leadership in the effort to secure funding from Washington. You continue to set a standard for leadership that we can all be proud of. And as you said, federal aid has to be proportionate to the damage we’ve already incurred as a state. Working men and women in New York have suffered more than any other state in the country and in every possible way. The damage done economically to New York and to New Yorkers is incalculable.
Mario Cilento: (40:10)
But in addition to the economic hit we’ve taken, physical, mental, as well as the emotional stress is something so many working people continue to deal with. Workers not knowing if they will have a job next week or next month, not being able to buy presents for their children on holidays. Family not sure where their next meal is coming from, or if they’re going to be able to pay their rent. And as a parent myself, I mean, it kills me to think that so many new Yorkers are going to have to disappoint their children this year. And I know Governor, you as well, the father of daughters like me, I know you feel the same way, and that’s why we desperately need the federal aid.
Mario Cilento: (40:49)
This isn’t a New York issue, this isn’t a union issue. This is a matter of humanity, of taking [inaudible 00:40:56] in a time of extreme need. Because without federal funding, we’re going to inflict even more harm on those who’ve already [inaudible 00:41:03] so much. The workforce who risk their lives and the wellbeing of their [inaudible 00:41:08] for the rest of us, who’ve seen their coworker sickened and in some cases die. And as you said, [inaudible 00:41:16] doesn’t receive four and a half billion dollars at least this year. We’re looking at thousands, thousands of working men and women. That’s thousands of individuals with families. Real names, real faces and real lives who are going to lose their [inaudible 00:41:31].
Mario Cilento: (41:31)
And if New York doesn’t receive a minimum, as we’ve said, of $15 billion in federal aid, we’re going to see the additional tens of thousands of workers out of work. Essential and non-essential, and I believe everyone’s essential. So the cycle keeps the churn and the more people out of work, the more funding we’re going to need to help those on unemployment. In addition to funding we’re going to need, for those who need public assistance, who don’t qualify for unemployment. And then the high unemployment hurts the mom and pop stores locally because if you’re not getting a paycheck, you can’t go to the store, buy a candy bar for your daughter or your son. Buy a newspaper, go to the dry cleaner. You can’t afford it, so they’re out of business. No federal aid for our state local governments, means a reduction in the services we all rely on.
Mario Cilento: (42:17)
No money for the MTA means, fewer buses and trains to take us to and from work, so now parents and children suffer as if children haven’t already the last year. And worse than that, we hurt our ability to get essential workers to and from work so that they continue to serve the rest of us. It’s insane. So no money for state government and local government, means less money for our schools, for our health [inaudible 00:42:44] patient system, sanitation workers who I think many of us forget sometimes, but they’re there everyday. Firefighters, on and on.
Mario Cilento: (42:52)
So Governor, I strongly believe this, that the measure of an enlightened society is helping those who need our help the most and it’s also defined by having a standard of living and a quality of life we can all be proud of. And without federal [inaudible 00:43:05] Governor, we are pushing the limit of our enlightenment. Not just as a country or as a society, but as human beings. And I pledge to you here today, Governor, that the labor movement will work with you in all capacities to ensure federal funding and to ensure that New York continues to have a standard of living and a quality of life that we can all be proud of. My two and a half million brothers and sisters in the labor movement in this state, Governor, we will stand by you, side by side and shoulder to shoulder, continuing to reach out to Congress and Senator McConnell, to let them know how critical the funding is for all of us. And Governor, I want to say [inaudible 00:43:44] and thank you Governor for leading this fight.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (43:45)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Cilento, thank you very much for being with us. You said it so well and it’s so true. We celebrate the essential heroes and they are heroes. God bless what the working men and women did in this state and all across the nation. And now we want to turn around and lay off the very people who we celebrate as essential heroes? We’re going to lay off the people we need to bring this economy back to do the vaccination? It is idiocy. We’ll stop it. We’ll stop it the way we stopped the undocumented exclusion, the way we’ll make sure that the vaccination is done fair. We’ll stop it, we’ll stop it together, Mario. God bless you.
Mario Cilento: (44:30)
Thank you Governor.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:30)
Thank you very much for being with us. God bless you.
Mario Cilento: (44:32)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:35)
Okay. We’ll take questions from the press now, please.
Thank you governor. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function at the bottom of your window. We’ll take a moment to compile the Q&A roster.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:59)
Governor, you now have Jon Campbell from Gannett. Jon, your line is now open.
Jon Campbell: (45:10)
Hi, Governor. Two questions for you. One, in terms of community sites for vaccination, at what point do you plan on rolling out a list or some sort of function where people will be able to find out where they can get vaccinated? And then my second question is on contact tracing data. Is there a reason why the state hasn’t released any sort of statewide data that shows the source of outbreaks so we can get a better sense of whether they’re happening at gyms or restaurants or whether it is living room spread? Can the state release that sort of data? Why isn’t it happening so far?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (45:50)
Yeah, two good questions as usual, Jon. The first, you saw the prioritization of the vaccination schedule. This is all subject to the federal government actually delivering that number on that day, right? And we outlined the first few stages. The general public go basically after the healthcare workers. We’re looking probably at the beginning of February, on this schedule, before you get there. Maybe late January. But, we have to see how it goes and before we get to that, obviously, general public distribution, then we will have designed and we’ll lay out actual sites where people can go to get vaccinated. But we have a ways to go before we get there.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (46:55)
On the contact tracing data, we collect contact tracing data from local governments. Local governments employ the bulk of the contact tracers in the state. We then put it together and we analyze it. We’re doing that right now, as a matter of fact, in coming up with the next configuration of our plan. We release it Friday and I’ll see if we can’t put together a compilation of the local contact tracers and put it out on Friday.
Jon Campbell: (47:31)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:34)
Thank you, Jon. Next question, operator.
Governor, you now have Karen DeWitt from New York Public Radio. Karen, your line is now open.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:46)
Hello, Karen. Long time, no see.
Karen, your line is now open. Please unmute yourself.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:54)
Long time, no hear.
Karen DeWitt: (48:00)
Okay. Now I’m here, right?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:01)
Karen DeWitt: (48:03)
I have to work through a soundboard. I only work in audio, so this should be easy for me, but it’s not. So, nice to talk to you. The question I have, I talked to the New York State School Boards Association this morning… They’re worried because of the 20% in state aid that has been continued to be withheld. They’re also looking for reimbursement because they used their school buses this spring when schools were shut down to send meals to hungry kids. When can they expect to see that money, or are they ever going to see that money?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:35)
The school aid number, Karen, is like every other number in our budget right now. We have about a 20% shortfall. What’s going to happen to that 20% shortfall, it’s going to depend on what Washington does and that’s what today is all about. We’re asking Washington for that 20%, that’s what we are asking Washington for. If they give it to us, then we’re made whole, right? We’re just made whole and they would receive the full funding. If Washington gives us some of it, then we’re going to have to redo a budget. We’re going to have to raise taxes. I believe we’re going to have to raise taxes at the end of the day in any event. But the question is, how much in taxes? Because then you have to do it as part of a budget and balance the budget. If Washington gives us nothing, that hole is so big that if we raise taxes, if we borrow, if we lay off people, you still will not be able to close a 20% hole. That’s how big it is.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (50:02)
On the school buses, I don’t have an update. Let me ask Rob Mujica. First, what I said on the budget numbers, do you have anything to add to that? And do you know anything about the school buses? Is that us, or is that SED?
Rob Mujica: (50:16)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (50:16)
Do you know?
Rob Mujica: (50:16)
Well, we’re talking to SED, so on the budget numbers themselves, we still have eight to $9 billion in school aid payments that go out at the end of the year. That is what we would withhold, up to 20% overall in the absence of federal funding. But to date, we have not been withholding 20% from the school districts out of each payment. So we’ve been waiting until the end. If there’s no federal funding, then we withhold the 20%. But as of today, we have not been withholding 20% from the school districts on these payments so far, but we will in the absence of the payments. As far as school districts that have used the school buses for delivery of meals, we are working with SED right now and we have a survey out to the districts and if in fact the-
Rob Mujica: (51:03)
… survey out to the districts. And if in fact the school buses were used for meal delivery, then we would allow for those services to be reimbursed.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:13)
Karen, that’s a good point though. The school districts haven’t yet had any reduction in funding. It would be this last payment which represents the 20%. Next question, please, Operator.
Governor, your next question comes from Morgan McKay from Spectrum News. Morgan, your line is now open.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:39)
Morgan McKay: (51:40)
Hello, Governor. How are you?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:41)
Good, how are you?
Morgan McKay: (51:44)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:45)
Yes, how are you, Morgan? Good to be with you.
Morgan McKay: (51:48)
I’m good, thank you. So many lawmakers in fiscal policy groups say federal aid will not be enough, and there should be other cost-saving measures implemented, such as raising taxes, different things like that. What are your kind of thoughts and feelings on some of those ideas?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (52:07)
I don’t want to give up on Washington yet, because if you give up on Washington and you assume there’s no way from Washington, balancing this budget is going to be detrimental to the state, the city, and every family in this state. And there’s no reason why New Yorkers should bear more pain. We bore more pain than any state in the nation, and as you heard from the mayor and Mario Cilento, this state paid the price for COVID in a way no other state paid the price. So I’m not willing to say Washington shouldn’t do what is fair and right and just help us with this financial crisis, especially since it’s in the nation’s best interest to get the economy going, and especially since it’s every state. And if you starve every state, you’re going to hurt the nation. But if you said there was no federal aid and we have to do the budget, you’re going to have to do tremendous tax increases.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (53:20)
You’re going to have to do massive layoffs. You’re going to have to do massive borrowing. You’re going to have to do all of the above. Schools will get less funding. There will be fewer essential workers. Taxes will go up, and it will hurt families and it will hurt the economy, and I’m not willing to go there. Tax increases, I do believe, given the current circumstances… I’m skeptical that Washington ever provides all the funding that they should provide. I think the distribution becomes more political than need- based. That’s what they’ve done thus far. And if Washington doesn’t provide enough funding, I believe tax increases are going to happen. The question though on tax increase is how much? A tax increase is not a political statement. It’s a policy statement, and it’s a revenue device. I want to raise taxes. Yeah, how much do you want to raise taxes?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (54:31)
How much do you need to raise taxes? How much do you need to close the budget? That then depends on the decisions in the rest of the budget. So people politically support a tax increase, fine, but it’s not really a political issue. It’s a policy issue and a revenue issue. How much on who, and how much do you need? And that’s why it has to be done within the budget. I believe there’s going to be a tax increase, and I believe a lot of tough decisions will need to be made. I believe there’re going to be a lot of cuts, but that all has to happen in a context of all the decisions in a budget. You can’t do taxes without doing cuts, without doing borrowing, without doing layoffs. It all has to be in the same budget, and it has to balance. And I’m not willing to give up on getting the funding from Washington, because as I said before, it will be devastating. There is no tax increase that can make up for the lost revenue from Washington. Let’s take one more, Operator.
Your last question comes from Marcia Kramer from WCBS- TV. Marcia, your line is now open. Marcia, your line is now open.
Marcia Kramer: (56:15)
Can you hear me now, Governor?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (56:17)
I can hear you. It’s a TV commercial for a phone company. Can you hear me now?
Marcia Kramer: (56:25)
I had to figure out how to unmute. What can I tell you? So I have two questions. The first one has to do with the fact that you’ve said that you’ll probably have to put new limitations on indoor dining as early as Monday. A number of restaurateurs are questioning whether there’s a nexus between the spread of COVID and indoor dining, if you have any information on that, and also if there’s a nexus between indoor dining and hospitals. And the reason I’m asking question is because New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, has said he’s not going to look at hospitalizations as a way to decide whether he’s going to eliminate indoor dining in his state. And my second question has to do with the man in Staten Island, the bar owner who, believe it or not, was released at his own recognizance after using his car to attack a sheriff. I wondered if you could comment on that as well.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (57:26)
Yeah. Thank you for both, Marcia. First question, New Jersey, some states count cases. We also count number of cases. Number of cases winds up being number of people hospitalized. It’s just an earlier determination, but a percentage of the people who are cases will wind up being hospitalized. So if you use cases, your X percent of the number of cases are going to be hospitalized. So you wind up using the same numbers anyway. We do have data on where the spread is coming from, and we do have data on the amount of spread coming from indoor dining. They are right that it’s not as bad as it was, but it’s not as bad as it was because we put significant restrictions on indoor dining. And when you reduce the capacity and you have masks and you have plexiglass partitions, et cetera, yes we have reduced the numbers, but they are still a source of spread.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (58:39)
You remember Dr. Fauci on Monday said the original guidance was close the bars and open the schools. It’s the places of gatherings, places of gatherings, and it was the bars, restaurants, mass gatherings, et cetera. Do we have any numbers here, Rob? Do you know off the top of your head what the numbers are, what the-
Rob Mujica: (59:00)
Yeah. The [interviews 00:59:01] keep going, and the bars and restaurants are the fifth or sixth category of the highest contact tracing when you have a known source of where the infection was. So it’s about the fifth or sixth number. Also, it’s the largest growing clusters of known infections is traced back to bars and restaurants, which actually starts to make sense as it gets colder and you’re moving into indoor dining. Those numbers are growing faster than every other category.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (59:34)
Also Marcia, the CDC came out with additional guidance on Friday, as I mentioned the other day. They specifically say, and I’ll read it to you, I don’t know if you can see it, “Avoiding nonessential indoor spaces and crowded outdoor settings: exposures at nonessential indoor settings and crowded outdoor pose a preventable risk. Indoor venues where distancing is not maintained, consistent of mask is not possible, e.g., restaurant dining, have been identified as particularly high-risk scenarios.” So this is the CDC just last Friday saying, again, restaurant dining… What they point to is you can’t eat and drink with a mask. Or if you can, nobody’s explained to me how you do that yet. So you take down the mask to eat and drink, and that’s why you’re in a restaurant to begin with, and that’s the spread. Staten Island, Marcia, is such a disturbing situation to me on so many levels, and I would ask people on Staten Island to think back over these past few weeks and what has been accomplished. I understand the political frenzy and the election.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:56)
The CDC guidance that came out on Friday, that is the President Trump CDC. That CDC director reports to the president. That’s the Trump’s team guidance, indoor dining, bars, restaurants. The Biden advisors say the same thing. So all this political rancor, Trump and Biden agree on the advice. Well, some elected officials in Staten Island said, “Well, we’re not going to follow it. Freedom, freedom.” Let me tell you what their advice has done for Staten Island, okay? Staten Island went from the lowest death rate in New York City… It now has the highest death rate. Staten Island has a 40% higher death rate than the Bronx, than Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan. A higher death rate on Staten Island. 25% of all the fatalities in New York city come from Staten Island. Staten Island is only 5% of the New York City population, and it’s 25% of the death rate. Five times their population, 25%. That’s what’s happened on Staten Island. More people have died on Staten Island. More people are dying on Staten Island. That’s what this movement on Staten Island has done. More people have died. And that’s the fundamental point that is inescapable. That when you follow the guidance, you’re more likely not to get sick. You’re more likely not to be a case number. You’re more likely not to go to a hospital. You’re more likely to die. How do you explain Staten Island having five times the number of deaths, 25%, 5% of the population? How do you explain that? Over the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan? That is a devastating reality and consequence of this action. Furthermore, why they would cheer on a person who violates the rules, which has now demonstrably resulted in more people dying… Well, maybe if we don’t follow the rules, it won’t matter. “Okay, let’s try it,” says Staten Island. We don’t follow the rules. Okay, now you went from the lowest death rate to the highest death rate in the city. I guess there was a connection there, wouldn’t you say?
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:04:16)
But then why they would cheer on a person who violates the rules, gets in a Jeep and runs into a uniformed police officer and hospitalizes the police officer, why would you cheer on that behavior? Why would you not condemn that behavior? NYPD-uniformed law enforcement, you’re going to abuse them, assault them? That’s not Staten Island values. That’s not New York values. Staten Island, there’s respect, law and order. They respect the NYPD. They respect the law enforcement. That’s who Staten Islanders are. That’s who they’ve always been. They don’t cheer people who drive their car into law enforcement officers. That’s not who they are, and I don’t want to second guess the district attorney, but you have a uniformed law enforcement officer on the hood of your car for 100 yards, and he’s hospitalized afterwards. That sounds like an extraordinarily serious situation. And when I was the attorney general, you assault a law enforcement officer, I would throw the book at you. I would throw the book at you, and that’s my 2 cents. Okay, thank you all for joining us.