Feb 8, 2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 8

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 8
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript February 8

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on February 8, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.

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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
… the governor, who is now a volunteer to help us during COVID. We thank him very much for his public service. Commissioner Howard Zucker to my right, to my left, Melissa, DeRosa. To her left, Kelly Cummings, director of state operations. Happy Monday, again, day 345 of Groundhog Day. Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Would have liked to see a New York team in the Super Bowl, obviously, but that did not happen this year. Next year is a different story. It was an amazing game and what’s right is right. Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They won, they won big, they deserve it. Mr. Tom Brady, who has long been a nemesis to New York teams, he played with the New England Patriots and we had a great New York rivalry with the New England Patriots for many, many years. And he is smart and talented and is going to go down in the history books, just as an undeniably great player and a great team. Gronkowski, it was a fun game to watch, but there’s next year. And we look forward to next year.

Governor Cuomo: (01:25)
Meanwhile, we’re focusing on our three priorities, three tracks. You have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Government has to operate on multiple levels now, and it has to operate well and efficiently and produce control. And COVID spread vaccinate New York, reimagine, rebuild, renew, which is the reopening. All three tracks must continue simultaneously. On COVID spread. COVID numbers are down congratulations to New Yorkers because their behavior, their actions, their responsibility, their discipline, their sacrifice is what brought the COVID numbers down. Positivity rate 4.2%, statewide deaths, 114, they’re in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations, plus 67. ICU down five, intubations down 18. Long Island, Long Island, Long Island, as the greatest hospitalization rate, not dramatically higher, but higher. And we’ve been seeing this for the past couple of weeks, highest positivity, Long Island and mid Hudson.

Governor Cuomo: (02:37)
We’ve been seeing this for the past couple of weeks. Again, it’s relative, all the numbers are coming down, but we focus on the highest numbers in our state. In New York City, highest number is the Bronx, and getting higher. So the Bronx is a problem. We opened the Yankee Stadium mass vaccination site, but the Bronx is still a problem. The numbers 4.4 on the seven day average is way down from where we started. The post-holiday surge is over. We see it in the positivity. We see it in the hospitalizations. And we respond to the data. We respond to the facts that we face today. Facts may change tomorrow, and then we will change with the facts. The enemy changes tactics, we adjust with the enemy. But the numbers are down now. We were planning to open the restaurants in New York City, 25% indoor dining on Valentine’s Day.

Governor Cuomo: (03:45)
They have made the point that they’d like to open a couple of days earlier so they can be ready for Valentine’s Day. Get the staff oriented, get supplies into the restaurants. And that’s a reasonable request. So we’ll start indoor dining on Friday at 25%, that will go into effect on Friday. They can go to 25% on Friday and there’ll be ready for that weekend and for Valentine’s Day. Crossing out Valentine’s day is not really accurate. Valentine’s Day, it should be a big restaurant day. But we’ll open 25% indoor dining, New York City Friday before Valentine’s day, so they’ll have a big Valentine’s day. We overall are in a foot race with the COVID spread. We’re watching for variants. We’re watching for increased infection from variants. We’re watching vaccine effectiveness with some of these new variants of interest as they call them. But the foot race is clear.

Governor Cuomo: (04:56)
It’s a rate of vaccination versus rate of infection. Vaccinate, vaccinate vaccinate. Overall statewide, 2.465 updating at 11:15, obviously that didn’t happen. We’re at about 90% of all doses allocated used in arms and it’s only Monday. So we get an allocation during the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, depending on location. You’ll get deliveries Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It’s Monday, we’re already at 90% in arms. And this is what I’ve been trying to communicate. We get a supply on a weekly basis. It comes in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It’s Monday, already 90% of that allocation is done, so we go week to week. By the end of the week, we basically exhausted the entire week’s allocation. And then we wait for next week’s allocation. What has been helpful with the Biden administration, is we know what we’re going to get for the next two or three weeks.

Governor Cuomo: (06:07)
So at least we can plan and we can tell the local governments, “This is the number you’re going to get next week. You don’t have it yet, but this is what you’re going to get.” So it has smoothed out the scheduling, but it’s still week to week. We have a much larger distribution network than we have supply. We have many more distributors than we have product on the shelves. That’s the tension that we’re facing. And that’s why you have so many people chasing vaccines every week and vaccine appointments. But at one point, the supply will increase and we want to be ready. When that supply increases, we have prioritized healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, our frontline heroes. We focused on hospitals administering to those nurses and doctors. They’re exposed most. They would be super spreaders if they get it. And if they get sick, the hospital capacity comes down.

Governor Cuomo: (07:14)
We went from 63% on January 18th, we made a big push, we got to 72% between the 25th and today, we’re at about 75%. So really hitting the refusal rate or the maximum rate that these hospitals can get done. Since we are at that maximum peak number, there are still hospitals that are slower than other hospitals, which I’ll mentioned in a moment. I’ve told the local health departments four weeks to get after those slow performers. But we’re going to take the excess allocation from the hospital workers and use it for people with underlying conditions, comorbidities. This week, they have the vaccines to vaccinate their workers and finish. But this is it. It will have been over two months that they had the vaccine for their hospital workers. And they were charged with the responsibility of making sure every hospital staff person would take it has taken it.

Governor Cuomo: (08:28)
Hospitals can’t say to a nurse, “You must take the vaccine.” The nurse has the right to decline, but I want to make sure every nurse had the option, every doctor had the option to take that vaccine. If they don’t want to take it at one point, we understand them, we’ll give it to somebody else. So this is the last week for that. There is still a gross disparity in the high-performing hospitals and the low performing hospitals. And again, I asked the local health departments to look into this. But how do you have some hospitals at 100%? And some hospitals at 40%, 50%, something is just not right somewhere. I’ve been on the calls with the hospitals myself. I understand that there’s a declination rate. I understand that there may be … but that there are racial differences in declination rates. I get that, but it still doesn’t add up in my book, because you still have some hospitals in the same region with the same demographics of the same workforce and you have a gross disparity.

Governor Cuomo: (09:44)
So the New York State Department of Health is going to review those slow vaccinating hospitals. We want to understand why and how. But we’re also going to use the excess supply for those with preexisting conditions. That will start on February 15th. We have a list on the website of what the comorbidities are. That’s basically a clarification of some of the specifics of the federal CDC guidelines. And these will be statewide regulations defining co-morbidity for any site in the state. People with comorbidities can begin making appointments on the state sites February 14th, to open February 15th on the local health department sites. The appointments can start on the 15th. We’ll leave it to the local health departments about when they start scheduling, but they can’t schedule an appointment to be performed before February 15th. Local health departments want to coordinate with their hospitals, with their local doctor networks that is up to them how they do that.

Governor Cuomo: (11:06)
This is for people with comorbidities as the fined by the CDC and state guidelines. And the state guidelines are just a refinement of the CDC guidelines. There will be validation of the comorbidity. People will need to bring a doctor’s letter or medical information that evidences that they have this comorbidity, or they now sign a certification when they get the vaccination. They’d have to certify that they have a comorbidity. Those three options are all available. We’ll leave it to the local health department to determine what exact validation they want, but they to validate. And the state will audit the local validation system in coordination with a system called Tiberius, which is the federal data system that we all signed on to that actually documents where the doses went. This is a precious resource. There will be fraud. There will be mistakes. There will be inefficiency, we understand that.

Governor Cuomo: (12:19)
But we will also audit to make sure the rules are followed. New Yorkers are fair. If you have a comorbidity, they get that 94% of the deaths are people with comorbidities. They also understood the prioritization of nurses, doctors, essential workers. So New Yorkers are fair-minded, and everybody wants this vaccine, but the rules should be followed. We don’t want people abusing the system. New York State Department of Health will do a call with the County executives, local health departments to talk through and explain the comorbidity validation process. But it is still clear, and let’s just understand the scope of where we are. We need an increase in the federal supply, because we still have many people chasing a very rare and precious resource, the available doses. The Biden hat administration has increased the federal supply. Again, they’re not making it in the basement of the White House.

Governor Cuomo: (13:34)
They’re buying it from the drug companies, we understand that. But they are the only ones who can buy from the drug companies. So really, they control the spigot on the supply. They’ve increased it over 10% already in just a few weeks. And they have told us what the future allocations were, as I mentioned, which really helps our administration, but we need more. And I said on day one, when this started, everyone is going to say the same thing, “I need more.” Every governor in the United States will say, “I need more.” Every county executive in this state will say, “I need more.” Every politician will say, “I need more. And we should help this group in this group and this group and this group.” I get it. Everyone understands the dynamic, but you have a precious resource and only Jesus could figure out how to feed hundreds with limited loaves of bread and fish.

Governor Cuomo: (14:43)
So we need to be fair in the allocation until the supply increases. What could make a big difference in the supply? Johnson & Johnson, they filed for emergency use authorization. That could be a game changer. Single dose, no super cold refrigeration chain needed. That could make a major difference. So we need that major difference. We need that bump in the supply. Second doses now are allocated by the federal government. “Here’s your first dose. Here’s your second dose.” The Biden administration is against using the second dose for the first dose. They’re against delaying the second dose. Obviously we follow federal guidance and we have the added luxury of actually partnering and trusting this federal government when it comes to the professionalism. So we’re following the federal guidance. There is still a question on excess doses. There’s a long-term care facility program, the program that those nursing homes through pharmacies, et cetera. There will be access second doses-

Governor Cuomo: (16:03)
There will be excess second doses. Some people will not come back for their second dose for one reason or another, but there will be some fall off. We want to make sure we’re using every dose. So excess in the nursing home program or excess in the pharmacy program, or excess in second doses where people don’t come back. How do we reallocate and use those? And those are issues that we’re working through with the federal government, but the bottom line, which is the bottom line on this slide, you have 15 million New Yorkers who are ultimately in need of the vaccine.

Governor Cuomo: (16:43)
The supply is still about 300,000 per week. That takes one year at this rate, one year. So just a sober note, but also a realistic note. Well, why don’t I get a vaccine today? Why don’t we do all the police today? Why don’t we do all the teachers today? Why don’t we do all the developmentally disabled today? You don’t have the supply to do it. And if you want to prioritize someone, well then you have to deprioritize someone. We have 15 million total population. We have about 10 million now currently eligible. ” Well, I think we should add this group.” Okay, then tell me who you want to take out.

Governor Cuomo: (17:36)
“You prioritized nursing homes. You prioritized nursing home staff. You prioritized nurses and doctors, and police.” Who do you want to take out if you want to add someone? These are all difficult, difficult decisions, but you need an increased supply because you will have months and months just to get to the people who are now eligible. Okay? And that’s just a fact that we have to keep in mind. At the same time, multiple tracks, keep the COVID spread down, get the vaccinations going. And at the same time, start to reopen the economy. You have to rebuild and renew this economy.

Governor Cuomo: (18:23)
Yes, the vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no doubt about that, but we have to create that light. We have to make it happen. It’s not going to be a situation where the economy will just come back. We have to make it come back. And we have an opportunity because COVID caused a global crisis. You have states all across this nation, you have cities all across this planet that went through this and the question was going to be who adjusts to the new dynamics fastest and best? And there’s an opportunity in that. Whatever economy most quickly adjusts to the new dynamics, that will be the economy that thrives the most, right?

Governor Cuomo: (19:17)
So step one, we need Washington to actually provide state and local relief. President Biden has promoted it and proposed it with $350 billion in state and local aid. House has agreed. Senate has agreed. Now the question is going to be the fairness in the distribution of the 350 billion. And our point is, I know the federal government wants to help many sources, but provide the state with state relief that it needs so we can balance the needs in this state, and our needs are $15 billion.

Governor Cuomo: (19:57)
Fairness also means repeal the unfair SALT assault, which when the Trump administration passed the SALT tax proposal that was targeted at this state and cost this state more than any other state. Everyone said it was unfair, everyone. We sued the federal government. The litigation is still open. Everyone said it was unfair. Okay, now you’re in charge. So undo the unfair law, the SALT tax reform under Trump and reduce New Yorkers taxes overnight. Every day SALT stays in place, cost the people of the state $34 million, $34 million every day.

Governor Cuomo: (20:51)
We have so many needs that we want to take care of and bonafide needs. And it’s all about resources and every day we sent $34 million more to Washington because of this SALT law. Anyway, the economy’s not going to come back on its own fast enough. It’s not about taking the posture of, “Well, the economy will come back when the economy comes back.” No, we have to bring the economy back. It’s how fast we reopen, how we re-imagined, how we rebuild. This is not a passive time in life. This is a time where our actions will dictate the consequences. So we want to be aggressive about the reopening.

Governor Cuomo: (21:49)
Cities have taken a real blow during COVID. That’s true internationally for a confluence of events. But what makes a city a city and the reason why people live in a city rather than in a home in a rural setting is that a city provides cultural and creative synergies. That’s what makes this city a city. That’s why people want to be in density because they want that energy, they want that stimulation, they want that sharing. A big part of that is the arts and the culture. And that has been shut down all across this country. It’s taken a terrible toll on workers, actors, performers. We’re going to accelerate that with something called New York PopsUp, and this is really cool and creative.

Governor Cuomo: (22:49)
It’s the first initiative in the nation that will accelerate the restoration of the arts and performances and creative energy. You have an entire sector of the economy that has been out of work. We talk about the restaurant workers and people who’ve been hurt at work. When you shutdown Broadway, when you shutdown a movie theaters, you stopped an entire industry. Everybody understands why, but we have to now nurture that industry to bring it back. And again, it is vital for our cities to survive.

Governor Cuomo: (23:31)
The arts industry workers, many of them have been out of work since March. So we’re going to accelerate that reopening with 300+ pop-up arts events all across the state. 300 events in 100 days of pop-up performances. And these are just pop-up performances. They’re free. They are not designed to be pre-scheduled and draw a crowd because we actually don’t want the crowd. But we’re going to have the pop-up events happening all across this state, over 300 and they will be happening over 100 days. And it’s going to be exciting. These will then be in-person pop-up entertainments with really great entertainers, and then they will be shown online so there can be a social media presence to these online performances.

Governor Cuomo: (24:49)
Again, we’re trying to thread the needle. We want the performances. We don’t want mass gatherings. We don’t want large crowds. So pop-up performances that will surprise people and bring the arts back, and will engage the acting and artist community that is very excited about this. And then it will have an online presence. It is an organic effort. It’s being driven by artists themselves who are organizing the community and organizing the events. And they’ve already put together a list of really great performers, who many of whom have been idle for months, and they want to be part of restoring the arts. They want to be part of restoring New York and bringing joy to people.

Governor Cuomo: (25:47)
So they’ve already enlisted quite an impressive list of people who will be participating in the online pop-ups. Opening day is February 20th. This is going to be a special performance at the Javits Center as a tribute to healthcare workers who really have been phenomenal heroes all through this. This is who’s going to perform on the opening weekend. We’re also going to have a special series of events in Brooklyn, New York. So this is going to be exciting. Sunday, Garth Fagan’s company will have a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at RIT, Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute to the staff at RIT, which just did a magnificent, magnificent job.

Governor Cuomo: (26:37)
So this is exciting. It’s different, it’s creative, but these are different times, and we have to address them. PopsUp will start with these pop-up performances and then migrate to the reopening of venues for arts. Again, our rapid testing, our testing protocol opening sites with testing is something where New York wants to lead the way. You have venues like The Shed, the Apollo, Harlem Stage, Alice Busch Opera Theater that we can start to reopen with testing. So we’ll start with the pop-ups, we’ll then move towards reopening venues with testing on a limited basis. And this will crescendo through the summer with the 20th anniversary of Tribeca and the opening of Little Island at Pier 55.

Governor Cuomo: (27:40)
This is deja vu. The 20th anniversary of Tribeca. Tribeca started in New York City post-9/11 to get people comfortable with downtown Manhattan post-9/11. And re-introduce them in some ways to downtown Manhattan post- 9/11. And now the expansion of the Tribeca concept is to reopen the economy overall in the state and reopen it through the arts. So what Tribeca did so well 20 years ago, we now need on a massive scale statewide. Also Little Island at Pier 55 is on the west side of Manhattan. And it is a great development that is done on the Hudson River Park by Hudson River Park Trust, which is a state agency, joint state-city agency, and the Barry Diller Foundation, which has created an architectural marvel, and it’s a great venue for the arts.

Governor Cuomo: (28:50)
It will build up to that in the summer months. I want to thank Jane Rosenthal and Scott Rudin, who are fantastic New Yorkers and fantastic professionals. And they’ve been very helpful in organizing this. And as I said, it’s exciting and it’s different, but it’s going to make a difference. And New York leads and we’re going to lead in bringing back the arts because we’re at a point in time with the future, my friends, is what we make it. The future COVID rate is a function of our behavior. How fast does the economy come back? How robust? It depends on what we do. And in New York, we are very good at the doing because we are New York tough, smart, united, discipline, and loving. Operator.

Operator: (29:46)
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 brief moment to compile the Q&A roster. Governor, your first question is from Marcia Kramer of WCBS. Marcia, please unmute your microphone, your line is open.

Marcia Kramer: (30:08)
I’m un-muted, governor. Can you hear me? I’m un-muted, governor. Oh, I see you going. I can’t hear you, but you must hear me if you’re like that.

Governor Cuomo: (30:23)
That’s very good. That’s very good, Marcia.

Marcia Kramer: (30:26)
You know what? My eyesight hasn’t failed me yet.

Governor Cuomo: (30:30)
How are you?

Marcia Kramer: (30:32)
I’m good. Thank you very much, governor. So I guess the biggest question that people have is this the next step in terms of what reopening Broadway? Will Broadway theaters or any number of Broadway theaters be considered in the second phase so that you can with testing get some of those theaters open as well?

Governor Cuomo: (30:52)
Marcia, I think that is where we are headed, right? The overall effort is headed towards reopening with testing. And we’re going to be smart, but also aggressive about it. The Buffalo Bills game, the Buffalo Bills playoff game, 7,000 people in a stadium all tested prior to entrance. No evidence and contact tracing of any increased spread. 7,000 people.

Governor Cuomo: (31:32)
Now, the stadium was outdoors, but it’s 7,000 people and you tested all the 7,000 people. If you can reopen using testing, take it to the next step. We just said, catering halls, wedding ceremonies can go up to 150 with testing, right? Which is say from a public health point of view and by the way, it will give people confidence to actually go to the wedding, right? You invite 150 people to a wedding-

Governor Cuomo: (32:03)
… go to the wedding. You invite 150 people to a wedding now, who wants to go stand in the middle of 150 people? But if you say all 150 people were tested and they’re negative, well, then I would go to that wedding. So testing as a way to reopen, we’re going to start to expand that. You saw it in the arts. There are venues that we want to start to reopen with testing and capacity limitations, and I’m going to be speaking more about that in the coming days. And then yes, theaters, arenas. Why can’t you do it with Broadway? You can. You can open a Broadway stage with a set percentage of occupants where people have tested prior to walking into that Broadway theater. Both, again, from a public health point of view and a practical point of view, would I go see a play and sit in a play house with 150 people?

Governor Cuomo: (33:09)
If the 150 people were tested and they were all negative, yes, I would do that. And the social distancing and the air ventilation system is proper, yes, I would do that. If it was reviewed by the State Department of Health and they said there was an intelligent protocol to it, I would do it. So I think reopening with testing is going to be the key.

Marcia: (33:38)
Do you have a time frame for that though?

Governor Cuomo: (33:41)
We are already moving. We started the demonstration at the Buffalo Bills game. The wedding ceremonies, catering halls, that’s just 150 people with testing in the right space. And if you can do a wedding catering hall at 150 people with testing, well, can you do a Broadway theater where the size would allow 150 people with social distancing with testing? Whether you’re at a wedding or you’re sitting in a seat in a theater, what’s the difference? So that’s what we’re working through now. And we’re moving down this path, we’re watching the infection rate, and it’s always a calculation. That graphic that I do that I know you don’t like with the valve that says you reopen the economy while you’re watching the gauges and the gauges are infection rate, hospitalization rate, et cetera, that’s what we’re doing.

Governor Cuomo: (34:45)
I don’t have a timeline for you, but we announced we had the Buffalo Bills games a couple of weeks ago. We then announced the catering hall wedding ceremonies last week. This pop-up arts says it’s going to lead to venues, like the Shed, like the Harlem Theater, et cetera. So we’re working down that path. I don’t have a firm timeline for you, but that’s the path we’re headed while we’re watching the infection rate, hospitalization rate at the same time. One hand on the valve, one eye on the gauges of the infection rate, et cetera. One hand, one eye doesn’t really work, but I hope you get the basic point. A.J. Parkinson said, “One hand and one eye is really all you need.” Thank you, Marcia. Next question operator.

Operator: (35:48)
Thank you, Governor. Next up we have Gabe Gutierrez of NBC News. Gabe, please unmute your microphone. Your line is now open.

Gabe Gutierrez: (35:57)
Hi, Governor. How are you? Thanks for taking the question.

Governor Cuomo: (36:00)
Thank you, Dave.

Gabe Gutierrez: (36:03)
So Governor, I get that you’ve said that it’s important for public officials to be nimble, flexible, and that the coronavirus changes tactics, but there have been some questions about how you reversed your position on restaurant workers being eligible for the vaccine and it took a few days for the screening website to reflect that. And on Friday, as you mentioned earlier, you announced hospitals would have a week to vaccinate the rest of their workers. That caught some people off guard. And the co-morbidities that you announced in that tweet on Friday have yet to be reflected in any of the screening websites. You said earlier, you’d have to wait until the 14th to make those appointments. But Governor, what would you tell people who say that the entire process is too confusing or that you’re winging it?

Governor Cuomo: (36:52)
I would say, Dave, they don’t understand where we are. There is no plan or strategy that does not adjust to the virus and the circumstances, and the virus changes. And by the way, if you don’t change with the virus, you lose, you lose. You have two variables, the infection rate of the virus, by the way, variants of interest of the virus, hospitalization rate of the virus, effectiveness of the vaccine against the virus, that’s one cluster of variables. And then you have the supply of the vaccine and how much you’re getting. And those two variables change. You have to change. You are responding to variables outside of your control. I don’t control what COVID does. I don’t control the infection rate and I don’t control how many vaccinations we get, how many doses we get. I can just react to those changes.

Governor Cuomo: (38:07)
We talked about 11 times before the holiday season, celebrate smart. If you have large social gatherings, you’re going to see the virus increase. You’re going to see the virus increase, you’re going to see the virus increase. The number went up. What did we have to do, Dave? We had to work just to the COVID increase in infection rate. “Well, why didn’t you just ignore it?” Because if we ignored it, it would have overwhelmed the hospitals, more people would have died. “Well, why didn’t you stay consistent?” Because the facts changed. You’re planning to stay home today. Somebody walks in the house and says, “The house is on fire.” Why don’t you say, “Well, my plan is to stay home. So I’m staying home despite the fire.” It wouldn’t be smart.

Governor Cuomo: (39:01)
So you adjust to the increase in infection rate. “How many vaccine doses do you have?” I can tell you what I have next week. I can’t tell you more than that. Now, if Washington tomorrow announces we’re going to get more dosages, you know what we’re going to do? We’ll adjust to that new fact and that new information. And if our doses increase 5% tomorrow, then I’m going to have a new plan as to how to use that 5%. That’s called intelligent adjusting to the plan. Yes, you adjust the plan when the facts change. You’re staying home today, Dave, the house is on fire. Next question.

Gabe Gutierrez: (40:03)
The plan changes, I understand. Thanks, Governor.

Governor Cuomo: (40:05)
Melissa has an analogy of my house is on fire.

Melissa: (40:08)
I don’t know that I have an analogy, but I was just going to say to the Governor’s point, we woke up, I think it was two Tuesdays ago and we had a plan, and then the CDC went out and announced, “You should do immunocompromised and 65 plus.” Maybe it was three weeks ago. The days all run together. But immediately the public and the press says, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” And we do our best understanding the demands of the public wanting information, wanting answers. We sympathize with people who desperately want this vaccine and who are eager to get more information as to when they can go, when they can sign up. “When is it my turn?” But to the Governor’s point, we are in a position where we are reacting to things that are directly out of our control.

Melissa: (40:51)
So we’re doing our best. On Friday, we said it was going to be the 15th. That’s the most lead time I think we’ve given out almost anything during this pandemic. I remember early on, we announced in the morning that the entire state was closing that night. But it’s going to continue to be a push and pull and a frustrating process, and we ask the public just to be patient and we’re doing our best. And as the information changes, you are going to see changes coming from the administration. As we can get more vaccines out there, we are going to be adding to the eligibility category. And everyone here is just striving to make sure that every new Yorker can get on with their lives as quickly as possible, which I think is what we all want and need.

Governor Cuomo: (41:27)
Yeah. And Dave, let’s not lose all intelligence and all common sense. When the federal government announced, we were getting 10% more vaccine doses, then I said, “We have more doses available,” and we added restaurant workers. We are now I believe at our max on hospital workers, where we’re at about 75% of hospital workers have received the vaccine. We were at 72, 73 about 10 days ago. I don’t see that number going any higher. We do have an issue why the low performing hospitals were so much lower, but let’s free up those unused vaccines. I’m not going to leave unused vaccines on a shelf waiting for hospitals to get past the declination rate. So you adjust to those facts. The White House controls the supply. They’ve increased it once. We’re going to have a conversation tomorrow. They may increase it again. They may reduce it. Depending on what they decide we will then change our plan. So yes, well there’s a lot of changes. Yeah, welcome to the war, my friend. Next question, operator.

Operator: (43:05)
Thank you, Governor. Your next question comes from Sandra Tan from the Buffalo News. Sandra, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Sandra Tan: (43:15)
Hi, Governor. Thank you. I had two questions. First is, if an otherwise healthy individual falsely certifies that they have some underlying condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, would that individual face any consequences for getting the vaccine under false circumstances? And my second question is, the state’s vaccine tracker shows how many doses have been administered in each region, but not how many people have actually been vaccinated. The site also doesn’t provide any breakdown of how much vaccine is being delivered to different parts of the state and to which types of distribution sites like hospitals or pharmacies or governments. Given the interest in vaccine distribution, is that information that can be added?

Governor Cuomo: (44:00)
Yeah. I have to check. Maybe Larry or Dr. Zucker or Melissa can speak about the vaccine tracker. On your first question, look, everybody wants this vaccine. When this started, the skepticism about the vaccine was very high. And by the way, the skepticism about the vaccine is still high, and is it higher in Black and Hispanic communities? And it’s a problem, and we have to deal with it. But when it became so rare and hard to get, there was a shift where the demand went way up when people knew they couldn’t get it. When it became rare and precious, then more people wanted it. So you now have roughly 10 million people every week chasing 300,000 vaccines. And you have people who sit on a computer all day trying to get an appointment for their mother or their grandmother or their grandfather, or their brother or their sister, and they just sit there hitting the refresh key.

Governor Cuomo: (45:14)
And they look at all different sites from county government, state government. They’re making phone calls. You have people who are desperate, because they’ve been at home, they’re locked up, they’re afraid. So it is a precious resource. It is so precious that I believe some people will commit fraud. I was a former District Attorney. I was a former Attorney General. You tend to view these situations with an eye towards when you have a scarce resource and high demand what might happen. There may be fraud. We’ve already seen cases of people selling the vaccine, wrongfully, stealing the vaccine. It’s a valuable commodity. People would pay a lot of money for a vaccine right now, some people. So, yes, fraud is fraud, and we’ve asked the people of this state to be reasonable in prioritization, and I feel good defending the prioritization.

Governor Cuomo: (46:32)
People in nursing homes? Yes. Staff in nursing homes? Yes. Staffing hospitals? Yes. Essential workers? Yes. 65 plus? Yes. Co-morbidities? Yes. I feel good with all those prioritizations. I’m a 63. I’m not 65. I’m an essential worker. I said, “I’m not going to take it as an essential worker.” I’m not in any eligible category. If a person commits fraud and says they have a co-morbidity when they don’t or lies about their age, then yeah, they committed fraud. And that has to be enforced. Otherwise, the whole system’s a mockery. On the tracker, I don’t know. Do you know, Melissa?

Melissa: (47:25)
Yeah. So the tracker, which we’re continuing to build out, it’s been a work in progress, much like the original site when we had testing and the mortality information, and then we added race, so we’re going through that process again right now. I know it’s not as fast as some in the public and the press would like, but we’re working on it. Over the weekend, we added demographic data broken down by sub category so you can see the race and ethnicity of the consumption of the vaccine by 1A and 1B and 65 plus. We also added the hospital tracker so you can see the hospital workers by region and broken down by county at the county level, and the nursing homes. So yes, we will continue to build that out. I will-

Melissa: (48:03)
… level and the nursing homes. So yes, we will continue to build that out. I will take back those specific ones today and I’ll see how quickly we can get them updated on the website.

Speaker 1: (48:10)
Thank you.

Governor Cuomo: (48:12)
We’re also, just to be clear, whatever doses we have, every dose is precious. As I just explained, every dose is precious. So we want to make sure every dose we get is in an arm. Slow performers versus high performers, we give the vaccine to higher performing distributors because we don’t want to provide the vaccine to a distributor who then is slow in actual vaccination. If there are any excess doses, we’re working with the federal government to get approval to reallocate excess doses. In other words, we participate in a federal program that has pharmacies doing nursing homes and nursing home staff and part of that comes from the state’s allocation. So CVS gets an allocation to do nursing homes and nursing home staff. I believe there’s an excess allocation in that program. How do we reallocate excess allocations? Second doses.

Governor Cuomo: (49:35)
Some people won’t come back for their second dose. I get all the scientists say, “Give the second dose when you’re supposed to give the second dose,” which means don’t use the second dose as a first dose. I get it. Everybody has to get the second dose at the right time. I understand that, but somebody doesn’t come back for the second dose. How long do I have to hold the second dose? There’ll be some people who don’t come back who forget, who just here’s something else in the meantime, who changed their mind. How do we use those excess second doses? That’s something else. So we’re constantly scraping and scratching to get any available doses and getting them to the fastest distributors. Frankly, the single fastest distribution mechanism are the mass vaccination sites. If you’re talking about just throughput, those are the fastest mechanism to get the vaccine in the most number of arms in the shortest period of time. Javits Center, Yankee Stadium, Jones Beach, Stony Brook, mass vaccination sites. Next question operator.

Operator: (50:59)
Thank you Governor. Next up we have Sonya Rincon from 1010 Wins. Sonia, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Sonia Rincon: (51:09)
Hi Governor. Question about New York pops up in the performances and performers. Will these be union performances? As you know, many union performers now no longer qualify for their usual health insurance because they barely worked in 2020 and unions help set safety guidelines.

Governor Cuomo: (51:26)
I would have to… Sonia, first, good to hear your voice, Sonia. I do not know is the honest answer so I would have to check. The question is are all the performers union performers? I don’t know. I will check and I will have them get back to you.

Sonia Rincon: (51:46)
Thank you.

Governor Cuomo: (51:51)
Next question operator.

Operator: (51:54)
Thank you Governor. Next up we have Narmeen Choudhury from WPIX. Narmeen, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Narmeen Choudhury: (52:05)
Thank you. Hello everyone. I want to ask you a bit of [inaudible 00:52:12]. To the healthcare workers. You essentially said this is a final week for hospitals to get their healthcare workers get the vaccine [inaudible 00:52:20]. But a point of clarification, should they change their minds, do they have to go through the state like everyone else [inaudible 00:52:33]? Also want to slip in one more quick one. Long Island you’ve mentioned for a couple of weeks as being a problem area, but I have not seen any [inaudible 00:52:41]. Intention to do so.

Governor Cuomo: (52:45)
Yeah. I only heard about one out of every four words. So I think I get the gist of the question. The healthcare workers, hospitals had over eight weeks to vaccinate their healthcare staff, okay. And these are people who don’t have to go anywhere else. They’re in the hospital, just come to in the hospital [inaudible 00:53:12]. The staff in the hospital. I have been pushing every briefing hospital management to get as many hospital workers vaccinated as possible. We’re up to about 75% which is good. When we started, we were in the low sixties. There is going to be a percentage of people who will not take it and I understand that. There’s a differential now between the black and Hispanic community that has a higher declination rate than the white community. We’re working on that. But you’re at 75%. Is the declination rate about 25%? Maybe, but it’s been eight weeks and we’ve done everything we can and we’re going to use the excess.

Governor Cuomo: (54:01)
Anybody who changes their mind, we get from the hospitals on a nightly basis how many people are on their staff who have not declined and would take it and we’ll make sure anyone who will take it will have the allocation. We just don’t want to allocate more than we’re needing. That’s true on the hospital program, that’s true on the nursing home program, and that’s true for the second dose program. Allocate what you need, but not more than what you need. Hospital worker who changes their mind, the hospital says, “I need some dosages for them.” And the hospitals will continue to get an allocation, just not as great as they have been getting. The nursing home program, I believe there is excess in that program that we can reallocate. Second doses, I believe there are some people who are not coming back for the second dose and I believe we can better allocate that excess. So we’re doing that across the board. Let’s take one more please operator.

Operator: (55:20)
Thank you Governor. Your final question comes from Andrew Siff of WNBC. Andrew, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Andrew Siff: (55:28)
Good afternoon Governor. So with regard to making appointments for the comorbidities, if I understand correctly, your website will open with that as a possibility on Sunday. We’re talking about potentially millions of people in these categories. How ready is the state’s portal to accommodate that? And should people expect it to be sort of sold out and filled up almost instantly?

Governor Cuomo: (55:55)
I think Andrew, I will confirm either Melissa or Larry or Howard or Kelly on the time it’s opening. Look, you are right and let’s state it even more bluntly. 10 million New Yorkers are chasing 300,000 vaccines. 10 million New Yorkers are chasing 300,000 vaccines every week. That’s what’s happening. So yes, expect the portals to open, expect the appointments to be booked very quickly. And this will be an ongoing tension until the supply is greatly increased and dramatically increased. Look, if you got the supply up to 500,000 a week, right, you’re still talking about months. So yes, this is going to be a long anxiety-producing time. Well, how did we get here? I don’t know why the federal government didn’t order enough vaccine last year is one of the great questions in life. Operation Warp Speed if you remember was the federal program that was doing the vaccines. How we wind up in a situation where the taxpayer spent billions to expedite the vaccine except we didn’t produce enough I don’t know, but that happened at a federal level. Melissa, Larry, does anyone know about when the appointments open up?

Melissa: (57:51)
They’re going to open up on the 14th so it’ll be that morning. I anticipate it’ll go live just after midnight. There will be a crash. This will not be perfect. We’ve made a lot of changes since the vaccine website initially launched to be able to handle much more volume. I think the system itself has smoothed out. There are people constantly on a daily basis right now, hundreds of thousands of people on that website refreshing. That traffic is only going to increase. As a reminder, you can also do this through your local health department so-

Andrew Siff: (58:22)
She’s giving me the goods that I wanted on this.

Governor Cuomo: (58:23)
Say it again, Andrew.

Melissa: (58:23)
Sorry, Andrew.

Governor Cuomo: (58:27)
Andrew was talking to someone else.

Melissa: (58:29)
Well, in any event, the local health departments are also going to be doing this. As the Governor said, we’re taking the allocation that was going to the hospitals that have finished their hospital workers and we’re giving it to the local health departments. And so you should also be consulting with your local health department in the city. Obviously the city has a lot of city-run sites on how they’re going to do this. They may be doing it differently. We’re giving them that flexibility. So the state sites are going live on the 14th. The local health departments will announce on their own how and when they’re going to take appointments and so be looking to your local health departments for that guidance as well. But everybody should go into this with our eyes wide open. It’s going to be frustrating. It is going to be a crash. There are going to be problems. It is not going to be perfect and everyone’s going to do their best to try to in real time catch glitches and get things up and up and running, but it’s going to be a tough period here.

Governor Cuomo: (59:17)
Yeah. And again, Andrew, calibration of expectations. I said when we announced this, I announced Matilda’s rule, right. We knew this was going to happen because the federal government said they were going to increase the supply and then they never did. And Matilda’s rule was understand the reality of the situation. I’m sorry, 10 million people chasing 300,000 vaccines. That’s the reality. That’s not going to change for months, for months. So if you think well, I’m eligible. Well, that means I can get one next week. No, because you still have to deal with the fact that there are only 300,000 doses and 10 million people chasing the 300,000 doses. That’s the difficulty in this situation. That’s a difficulty that the Biden administration inherited by the way. And what you’ll see is people’s patience will get frayed more and more because this is going on for months at this rate, for months. So Melissa’s point is patience. Yes, patience and they need to understand the facts why this is happening. It’s not because there’s a portal problem or a software problem or… It’s because you are 10 million people chasing 300,000 vaccines every week. And that’s not going to change. Okay. Thank you very much.