Jan 25, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript January 25
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on January 25 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.
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Andrew M. Cuomo: (02:39)
Good afternoon everyone. Let me introduce the people who joined me, my colleagues today, to my right Mr. Gareth Rhodes who has been working on the COVID task force since we began, to my left a person who needs no introduction our great Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who’s been doing a fantastic job not just with COVID but with everything. And I thank her very much for all her great work. And Gareth and Kathy will help me answer all the tough questions that I don’t know the answers to.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (03:15)
It’s a pleasure to be at Roswell Park today and I want to thank Dr. Candace Johnson for their hospitality here at Roswell. It’s always a pleasure to be here. And talk about great work and life-saving work, congratulations to all the people at Roswell.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (03:33)
Let’s give you an update as to where we are, day 331, Groundhog Day, a little different, overall positivity 5.47, statewide deaths 167. That’s always the most difficult number in this presentation and that’s 167 lives, that’s 167 families, it’s 167 wives and daughters and sons and husbands and they’re in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization up 117, ICU’s down five, intubations plus eight. If you look across the state at the hospitalization rate, percentage of population hospitalized by region, you see it’s Long Island and Finger Lakes once again, highest positivity is Long Island. Within New York City it’s the Bronx. And the Finger Lakes which has made some progress over the past couple of weeks but the Finger Lakes is still an issue for us. Long Island is an issue and the Bronx in New York City is an issue. So we’re going to be focusing on those three areas.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (04:57)
We’re working on three tracks, simultaneously if you will. First keep the spread down, control COVID. That’s obviously the national priority. Second, vaccinate New Yorkers. And third, get on with life, rebuild the economy, get back to work. This is unsustainable, the situation that we’re in. It was never a choice between public health and reopening the economy, you have to do both but you have to do it intelligently. On controlling the COVID spread, the good news is the numbers down and it has been continuing to decline. You look at our high point where it’s 7.9 that’s in the beginning of January, we’re now down to about 5.85. That then tracks to the hospitalization rate. These are all connected. Infection rate, few days later person goes into the hospital so they call it the hospitalization lagging indicator. But the number of people being hospitalized has gone down.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (06:05)
You see this is true all across the state, these are the curves in different regions. I know they look like scribble from a fourth grader but they’re actually the curve in each region. A little different in each region but over all every region you see on the decline, some areas faster than others.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (06:28)
One of the most important numbers, we don’t talk about it every day, is the rate of transmission, what they call the RT rate. This is for every person who is infected how many people do they infect. And you can see at our high point one person was infecting two and a half other people. They say anything over one the virus is out of control. When one person is infecting more than one other person. And ideally you want to be under one and that’s where we are right now but it’s been a bumpy ride to get here.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (07:13)
The previous objection models done by the quote unquote experts in the field show New York’s positivity rate continuing to decline. So not only are we on the way down but the experts tell us that they believe that’s going to continue so that’s good news also. In western New York we also see the same basic pattern, positivity is down. December 25th, Christmas week, big socialization week and you see the numbers go up and then you see them coming down towards the end of January. Positivity in Erie County was 8.6, it’s down to 5.2 and it’s been on decline for three weeks. You also see the hospitalization number on decline so that is also good. We wish nobody went into the hospital but it’s good to see that number dropping as well. And we have a hospital capacity of about 48% in Erie County and that’s very good. Because remember the nightmare scenario is hospitals run out of capacity and then you have to shut down so 48% capacity is very good.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (08:43)
We talked about this and actually what we talked about happened, we talked about the holiday spike. We started talking about it at Thanksgiving time because Thanksgiving really is the kickoff of holiday season. You go to Thanksgiving, the next day is Black Friday everybody starts shopping. And you go Thanksgiving, Christmas party, meet me for a drink, celebration, into Christmas, into Hanukkah, into Kwanzaa, now it’s New Year’s Eve, now it’s New Year’s Day and that’s all increased social activity. We were saying, “Celebrate smart. Celebrate smart. Celebrate smart.” But just the increased social activity we were afraid you were going to see a spike. And we said, “Wear a mask. Celebrate. Lord knows it was a terrible year but celebrate smartly.” And we saw that holiday spike. We said, we hoped the spike would end after January one when people stopped socializing as much and then you start to see it trail off and we talked about mid January and late January where we would see the spike dropping. And that’s right where we are frankly, we’re seeing that spike come down, that’s the positivity numbers down and the hospitalization numbers down.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (10:12)
So now we can start making adjustments. I talk about open the valve, close the valve. When the positivity is down, and the hospitalization rate is down, and the infection rate is down and the RT rate is down then you can increase economic activity. And we’re through that holiday period. By the way, other states had a much higher rate of infection during the holiday period. I believe New Yorkers were smart about it. The increased activity was going to raise the rate but I think they were smart about it and I think that’s why you’ve seen the positivity rate did not go up the way it did in other states. But I think we’re at a new place now and we can start to adjust that valve and start to open up more economic activity and reduce some of the restrictions and reduce some of the what we call micro cluster zones, orange zones, et cetera. And we’re going to be talking more about that in the coming days. Department of health is going through that right now.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (11:29)
But for example, elective surgeries had been stopped in Erie County because we wanted to make sure we had enough hospital capacity for that spike, that we now feel comfortable about elective surgeries can start once again in Erie County. And as I said, we’re going to have some more adjustments over the next couple of days. But, don’t get cocky with COVID. It’s a great quote, I don’t know if it’s a great quote it’s my quote. Don’t get cocky with COVID. This beast changes on us all the time and you can watch TV news all day long and not really know what’s going on. Because I don’t know that anybody really knows what’s happening with the COVID virus.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (12:18)
We were told the UK strain was more transmittable but it wasn’t more dangerous. Now they’re rethinking that. We were told the South Africa strain might be more transmittable but the vaccine worked. Now they’re saying, “We’re not so sure about that.” They’re now talking about a California strain that developed in California that is a variant of the UK strain. So, don’t get cocky with COVID. This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. You know there are certain things to do that are smart. You know this is a changing situation. Socially distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, be smart. I know it’s been a long time and I know the numbers look good today but we have been down this road before and the road has curves and the road has potholes so please just be smart.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (13:22)
Second is on the vaccination front, we did over one and a half million vaccinations. Over 91% of the vaccine we’ve received has been put in arms and that’s a great number and I congratulate all the providers who were involved in doing this. When we say we’re at 91% people say, “A few more percent and they’re out.” We don’t run out of vaccine. We get a weekly allocation from the federal government and it goes week to week. When we say, “We’ve used 91% of our vaccine,” that means we’ve used 91% of all the vaccine that we have received to date. And then they start with a shipment every week from Washington. The shipment for week seven starts arriving tomorrow, the next day, the next day, the next day. It arrives throughout the week because literally it’s delivered, it’s mailed, FedEx, et cetera. So, it arrives at different times.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (14:37)
We have told the local governments 100 times, “Don’t schedule an appointment unless you have a specific allocation.” For people who took their first dose, you will get the second dose. The federal government protects that second dose allocation. So don’t worry about, “91%, will I get my second dose?” You will get your second dose. And if you have…
Andrew M. Cuomo: (15:03)
… I get my second dose. You will get your second dose. And if you have a scheduled appointment, that appointment will be fulfilled from the allocation that we’re receiving this week. But we are going week to week in terms of the allocation. And again, that will start tomorrow. So the issue with the vaccination plan is the supply. It’s how much vaccine we are getting. We were getting about 300,000 doses per week. Last couple of weeks, we got 250,000. This week seven, the incoming allocation is 250,000. But we are ready for distribution of the vaccine in a much larger quantity. We have 3,000 distribution sites, 3,000 providers already signed up. So we can get the needle in the arm, we just need the supply itself. But between the National Guard at mass vaccination sites, which are probably the most effective way to do volume, we have mass vaccination sites that could do 10,000 a day per site.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (16:25)
So we can literally do millions of doses. It is a national supply issue. And again, this is not a New York issue, it’s a problem all across the country. It’s a problem all across the globe. Every country is trying to get more vaccine. So that’s the situation we’re in. It’s also this whole COVID situation has been an eye-opener for Americans and I hope they take it to heart. We talked for a lot of years about public health. There are great institutions dedicated to public health. There are great public health professors. People dedicate their lives to being public health experts. But what we neglected to do as a nation was invest the money we needed to invest in actually having an operational public health system. It’s not just about studying it. It’s not the academic. It’s not the theoretical. It’s the operational. It is the practical.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (17:35)
That’s where this country fell down. You have to be able to do the screening. You have to be able to do millions of tests. You can’t run out of Q-tips, nasal swabs, which was the reason why you couldn’t do testing. Nasal swab is a big Q-tip. You can’t run out of ventilators. You have to have this vaccination capacity set up. You have to have the contact tracing capacity set up. You have to have the quarantine facilities set up before. You have to have a communication plan where people get factual information so they don’t have the same level of anxiety that people went through this last time. That’s all the operational capacity and it’s expensive. But plans alone are not enough if you can’t implement them and you can’t implement them to scale. You can do a desktop exercise. This is theoretically how I would do it.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (18:44)
And then COVID happens and it’s bigger and it’s badder than you expected. And we didn’t have the operational capacity. New York State is using the opportunity to put in what I believe is going to be the best public health operation in the United States of any state. We have a surge influx management system that now manages all hospitals statewide on how to handle a surge capacity. Never done before. PPE stockpiles. You can’t run out of N95 masks. We’re setting up a thousand people who are just public health corps trained the experts to work with communities across the country. We’re going to train citizens, free online training, to be ready for the next public health emergency so you can volunteer in your community and also inform yourself so you know how to help your family and your children and what advice you should be giving. Cornell University’s doing that curriculum.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (19:48)
I’m very excited about that. We’re going to train all the National Guard to be public health emergency responders. You have to be able to test people coming in at the borders. It can’t be, you landed JFK Airport or Buffalo Airport, and they check your fruit at customs, but you can walk in with a virus. I mean, we have to have that screening capacity. We’re setting up the quarantine facilities. We didn’t have enough lab testing capacity in this country to do the number of COVID tests we needed to do. We didn’t have any contact tracing capacity. We had plans for all of this, but no actual capacity to do it. So we’ve all learned. The Biden administration, I believe, gets it. And I believe they take public health seriously. And just in the past few days, you’ve seen a big difference and they’ve taken actions that I think were long overdue.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (20:52)
I think the mask mandate was long overdue. New York State was the first state to pass a mask mandate. It saved countless lives. They communicate factually. Let the experts speak and give people information because when people don’t get accurate information, they are more nervous about the situation. They’re increasing production of the vaccine and they’re going to give states projection allocations so states can plan. Right now, we go week to week and we don’t know what we’re going to get next week. So I can’t tell Erie County what we’re going to get next week. So they don’t know what to schedule. And every week you get a new number and then you have to figure out how to allocate that number, how to plan that number. There’s no operational intelligence to this. And I believe the White House is working on that. We’re going to have a call tomorrow with the governors, with people from the White House to talk about these issues. But we’ve already had many conversations.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (22:15)
The head of the COVID task force is a real pro named Jeff Zients. I’ve been talking with him. Our secretary, Melissa DeRosa is actually on the committee that is working to operationalize this. So I think it’s going to be better and smoother. You’re still going to have the fundamental issue of an international shortage of vaccine. But hopefully Johnson and Johnson gets approved in a couple of weeks. That would increase supply. And hopefully Pfizer and Moderna, which are the two big manufacturers now increase supply. In the interim, the top priority on vaccination was healthcare workers. We’re at Roswell today. You want to have hospital capacity. You want to make sure the hospitals don’t reach their capacity limit. We’ve seen that in California. We’ve seen that in Italy. When that happens, people die unnecessarily. They die because they couldn’t get into a hospital. If you ask the hospitals, of course, the state now, what is your main capacity issue? When you say capacity, what do you mean? They have the beds and they have the equipment. They’re worried about staff shortages. They’re worried about nurse shortages, healthcare professional shortages, staff shortages. Why? Because they have staff getting sick. So top priority was vaccinate the healthcare staff, right? Vaccinate the nurses and the doctors so they are healthy and they can provide medical treatment. We’ve remained focused on that priority. That was the top priority for the vaccine. That was what they called 1A. Then it was supposed to be essential workers. Then older Americans, older New Yorkers. But 1A, the top priority was always the healthcare workers. We have focused on it. I’ve said to hospitals all across the state, numerous times, personally, in these briefings, you have to vaccinate your employees first.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (24:43)
And it was initially a problem, but the focus has worked. We were at 63% last Monday of healthcare workers vaccinated. One week later, we’re at 72%. So that is a huge improvement. 70 to 90 was the range for herd immunity, right? That was the goal for the vaccine. So we wanted healthcare workers to be above 70%. And in one week we went up from 63 to 72. So I applaud the hospitals. I know we literally said what the percentage of hospitals was across the state. I think that got their attention, but it made a big difference. There is still a variance among hospitals that we have never gotten a good explanation for. So while we’re above 70 across the state, you still have hospitals that are lower and we need the local governments to focus on it. There are over 200 hospitals statewide. I can’t call every hospital and our state Department of Health can’t call every hospital and work out local issues.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:08)
But county governments, mayors, please, you know what hospitals are at what percent, congratulate the high-performers and ask the people who are at a lower level what help they need to get their percentage up because the variance is too great. And there is… Even if you look at regions within the region, you see a variance. It’s not like you can say, “Well, Western New York is different than the Capital District.” Within the region there’s a big difference. And again, I’m want the county executives and supervisors and mayors to really focus on this. But Capitol region, 85.5% at Albany Medical Center down to 72 is the low. So it’s 85 to 72 in the Capital region. Central New York, it’s 98 to 65. Finger Lakes, it’s 85 to to 48, right? Long Island, you go from 100% Syosset Hospital, 97% Plain View, to 51 St. Catherine, 53 St. Francis.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (27:27)
Why? Why does it drop by 50%? Mid-Hudson, you go from 93 to 40, right? Why? Why is Northern Dutchess Hospital, St. Luke’s, Health Alliance Hospital, what’s the differential among these hospitals? There are going to be a certain percentage of healthcare workers who say, “I don’t want to take the vaccine.” I get that. But why within the region do you have such a disparity? Mohawk Valley, 89 to 42. New York City, 100. Lenox Hill, 100. Staten Island University. 99, New York City Health and Hospitals/Woodhull. But New York City Health and Hospital/Harlem, 37, 38. How? Why? We’d like to see everyone as high as possible. I understand, again, there will be a certain percent that refuses. Fine. That’s their right. But why do some hospitals have 100 and others have half that amount?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (28:46)
Western New York, Roswell Park, 88. Highest number in Western New York. Congratulations again, Roswell Park. So 12% didn’t have it. My guess is 12% said, “I don’t want to take it.” But then why do you get to children’s hospital at 42%? So that’s for the local governments. But overall we’ve made great progress. The vaccine is scarce. So it’s important that we’re fair in the distribution. And this is how we distribute it. If you look at who’s now eligible, health care workers are eligible. That’s what we just talked about. Essential workers, police, fire, teachers, public safety, they’re eligible. And then 65 plus. If you look at the numbers, healthcare workers are 1.3 million, essential workers, 1.7 million, 65 plus, 3.2. So of the eligible population, from when we get an allocation, 21% goes to the health care workers. 27% goes to the essential workers. 52% goes to 65 plus. The way we do that is by giving it to providers who are-
Andrew M. Cuomo: (30:03)
Do that is by giving it to providers who are supposed to be prioritizing that population. The essential workers are being done by city Department of Health, county Department of Health. Healthcare workers are being done by the hospitals, FQHCs. 65 plus by the pharmacies and the mass distribution sites. If the providers don’t follow their prioritization, then you won’t get a fair allocation. If the pharmacies use their vaccine for police, fire, et cetera, then the 65 plus won’t get a fair allocation. So everybody wants it. I want it, but it has to be fair. And providers, please don’t schedule an appointment unless you have a specific allocation.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (30:59)
I’m the former attorney general. I said a few weeks ago, you’re going to see scams on the vaccine. You have a high demand for the product. You will see scam artists, and you will see fraud. I guarantee it. We’ve already seen it, and there are a number of situations that we’re looking at. If you get an offer that sounds too good to be true, 833- VAX-SCAM. Everyone wants it, but beware of fraudsters.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (31:41)
Third priority is rebuild the economy. First step, we need Congress to repeal SALT. It sounds technical. People don’t understand what it means. It was federal law that passed, that ended the deductibility of state and local taxes. It was the first double taxation in the nation’s history. Federal government taxes, the tax that you pay to the county or the city or the state. Federal government now taxes what you pay in property taxes. So you pay $4,000 in property taxes. The federal government now taxes that $4,000. Whereas up until now, you deducted that from your federal income. They now tax your property tax. First time in history. They did this three years ago. Everyone said it was unfair. It was partisan. It was political. It was terrible. It costs on average $2,600 for New York taxpayers. Everyone said they would repeal it. They now are in a leadership position. Repeal it. That will be a big deal for the state of New York.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:07)
Second, what they call state and local financing. The state has a very big deficit. If I have a deficit, we have to cut. If we cut, we have to lay off essential workers. We don’t want to do that in the middle of a pandemic. We have a $15 billion cost from the COVID crisis. That’s what Washington has to help this state and every state with. And that is number two.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:39)
And number three, which is part of rebuilding the economy, but people don’t often think of it this way, is public safety, especially in our urban areas. You want businesses to grow. You want people to move in. Public safety is essential. And this is also a national crisis. I said months ago, I understand the tensions from the community. I understand the tensions from the police. I’ve seen the demonstrations. We’ve all seen the demonstrations, but we have to work through these tensions because you need public safety. You need a relationship of trust and respect between the community and the police, and the police and the community. Trust is a door that swings both ways. And we have 500 localities with police departments in this state. I said, work with your police, with your community, work through the issues and come up with a plan that your community accepts by April one. And if not, April one is when we pass the state budget, that locality won’t be included.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (34:55)
I understand it’s a difficult issue. But in life, the problems you ignore do not go away. Those problems mount. It’s true in an individual’s life. It’s true in a family’s life. It’s true in society.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (35:13)
Some localities have done a great job. City of Buffalo is doing a great job, but they have to have a plan done in 66 days. It’s a difficult issue. I get that it’s a difficult issue. Police have strong feelings. I get it. Protestors and the community have strong feelings. I get it. I understand the problem. What’s the solution? There has to be a solution because you can’t allow the tension between the police and the community to exist. Divorce is not an option here. Once side feels this way, the other side feels that way. Yeah, reconcile it, or we get a divorce. We can’t get a divorce because we need public safety. So we have to reconcile these feelings and these tensions, and we have to get it done quickly because you’re not going to rebuild a city if people don’t feel safe.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:19)
Also gratuitously, communities that have elections this year. If I’m running for a city position, if there’s a mayoral election, this is a topic to discuss. What is your plan and your vision to make public safety work in our city? But it has to be addressed, and it’s community by community.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (36:47)
New York state is ready to go. We’re anxious to get on with the reopening and the rebuilding. And we are poised like no other state in the nation. We know how to move. We know how to build. We know how to get things done. And we have demonstrated that. And we have great plans that are just already in the works. And when the federal government actually starts to move, we are going to be the first out of the box, building a New York that is better than it has ever been before all across the state.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (37:25)
And then last point, I want to thank the Buffalo Bills for a really great, great season. It’s been many years since we had the opportunity to watch a game like we watched last night for the AFC championship. And they really did have a great season, a lot of great talent, a lot of great young talent with a lot of promise for the future. But best of all is the way they played together as a team and the way they supported each other. Even last night in the game, there was a couple of instances where you saw how the team rallied together to protect each other and defend one another. And it was beautiful to watch. Yes, we would have liked to have a different outcome, but that does not diminish the accomplishment that was achieved by this team.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (38:38)
And we thank all of them. Kim and Terry Pegula, they have been beautiful to work with, and they brought such pride to Buffalo. Coach McDermott, general manager, Brandon Beane. We will work together to get fans in the stands safely. And I know they appreciated that. And 7,000 fans cheered like 70,000 when they were in Buffalo, but that is the Buffalo.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (39:11)
And the Buffalo Bills, what’s beautiful about them and beautiful about the relationship between the team and the city, the county, Western New York, really, the team symbolizes Buffalo. There is no quit in Buffalo. There was no quit in Jim Kelly. There’s still no quit in Jim Kelly. There’s no quit in Thurman Thomas. There’s no quit in Buffalo. Tim Russert was a beautiful friend of mine, passed away too young. There’s no quit in Tim Russert. That’s Buffalo. That’s the the Buffalo spirit. That’s the Buffalo constitution. They’re not going to back down. They’re not going to give up.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (40:02)
And that’s the essential quality in life. That’s what resonates all across the nation about the Buffalo Bills. People have said it all different ways. Mark Twain, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Winston Churchill, “Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” That’s the Buffalo Bills. That’s Buffalo. And it’s beautiful to see.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (40:29)
To the Kansas City Chiefs, Mr. [inaudible 00:10:32], congratulations on a good game. Congratulations on the win. Not taking anything away from them at all, but Mr. [inaudible 00:40:43] Kansas City, we will see you next year, and I will wager today that the outcome is going to be different.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (40:53)
So let’s get on with it because we’re New York tough, smart, united, disciplined, loving. Let’s take a couple of questions.
Speaker 1: (41:05)
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 comes from Chris [inaudible 00:41:21] from WIVB TV. Chris, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.
Governor, two questions for you. You indicated a few minutes ago that the [inaudible 00:41:33] loosening restrictions. And I know you said you’d have more information in the coming days, but where might be the first areas we’d see that? But same question is in regards to the contact tracing that the state’s been doing, for fans were at some of the Bills’ home playoff games. Have you identified any spread of the virus at either of those two home games?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (41:56)
Thank you, Chris. Two questions. First on the adjustments, we believe that we are at the end of the holiday spike period. Somebody spiked the punch. This was the holiday spike period. From the increased celebrations, we believe it went up. We believe it came down, and we believe we’re seeing a flattening and a reduction. The experts say that’s what we should expect. My valve analogy, you watch the dials, watch the positivity rate, watch the hospitalization rate, watch the RT rate. When they’re down, open up the valve, allow more economic activity through the pipes. I believe we’re there. That’s why we opened elective surgeries in Buffalo. Department of Health, which ultimately makes these decisions, is reviewing the data that I just went through with you. The IHME model, that’s the Gates funded model that says we’re dropping the RT rate, et cetera. They’re reviewing that today.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (43:19)
I believe we’ll have announcements on Wednesday, but the situation is basically true all across the state. Even Western New York, which was a problematic area for many, many weeks, the numbers are much, much better in Western New York. And we are at the period of time where we believe those adjustments are sound. Again, don’t get cocky with COVID because God forbid something happens with one of these new strains, UK strain, South African strain, Brazilian strain, California strain. Always be on guard, but react to the facts today is the best we can do. And I’ll have those announcements Wednesday, but it would be a statewide… There’s no region that is extraordinary in that regard. We have some areas that are a little higher than others, but nothing that is extraordinarily different.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (44:19)
I don’t believe we have found any spread from any of the home games. Gareth will correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we found any spread. Remember the way we did it, it was a demonstration of a model. Had never been done before in the nation, by the way, roughly 7,000 people, everybody tested before they went into the game. And then they socially distanced, masks, et cetera. But you did it for 7,000 people. And I think that’s an important key on reopening the economy. If you can test people in large venues like that, and you don’t see any spread afterwards-
Andrew M. Cuomo: (45:03)
… large venues like that and you don’t see any spread afterwards. That’s a heck of a model to replicate. We have the Lieutenant Governor with us, and I want to just ask her if she has any comments on this question or in general, because she’s been living this with Western New York for the past few months. Governor?
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (45:25)
Thank you Governor. And first of all, thank you for acknowledging the spirit of Buffalonians who’ve been down and out for most of my life, but under your leadership. We thank you for seeing that resilient spirit that I also think is not just unique to Buffalo, I think this COVID pandemic in a sense has united us the way the Buffalo Bills united Western New Yorkers. And you’ve been a great quarterback, Governor, to help lead our team, New Yorkers to a safer place and to ultimately a victory over [inaudible 00:00:45:53], when that beautiful day comes sometime in the future.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (45:56)
It’s been tough to live in the zones. I’ve been living in an orange zone now since the middle of November. We totally understand it. And I have been out speaking to the media, helping them understand that the Governor forecast this spike, we talked about what could happen after the holidays and indeed in Buffalo, the holidays didn’t end January 1st because we went for weeks of playoff games and that brought more people together.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (46:19)
So it was very cautious and smart to wait and see what happens until these adjustments were made, but I would say this region’s ready. We’ve worked very hard to get hospital capacity up and that’s the most important dynamic. We do not want to be those states you see on television or those countries you see on television where people are literally dying on gurneys in waiting rooms. And you’ve prevented that from happening. And I do believe that most New Yorkers understand why you’ve done what you’ve done.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (46:46)
And lastly, on the vaccinations, I have to tell you, Governor, it has been a pleasure to, even as recently as a couple of hours ago here in Buffalo, at St. John Baptist Church, look into the eyes of people who have been vaccinated and they have this sense of relief, this sense that they’re going to be okay. It’s really beautiful to witness.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (47:06)
And I’ve seen that from Jones Beach to the Aqueduct to Binghamton to Rochester to Syracuse to Buffalo for our mass distribution sites. But now that we’re getting into the communities directly, particularly communities of color, they understand how important it is.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (47:21)
And I would say, lastly, that I was asked, one of the questions was, why are we diverting resources to go to one of these churches in a black community? The answer is not only have they suffered the most, but they will also be the ambassadors to go back to their communities, go back to their churches, go back to their friends and family and say, I did this and I’m okay, because someday will come when we have more than enough vaccine, just like we have more than enough tests. And that was a bumpy road to start as well.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul: (47:51)
But we also know that this is going to take some time, but eventually we’ll have more vaccines than there’s demand and they’ll be trying to create that demand and overcome people’s hesitation. So Governor, I want to report back that I think Western New York is in a good place as is the entire state and it goes to you, our quarterback.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (48:07)
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, but I’ll defer to Josh Allen on that one, because that is some talent, really is. Next question.
Speaker 1: (48:19)
Governor, your next question comes from Diane Caruso at News 12. Diane, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.
Diane Caruso: (48:26)
Good afternoon, Governor. Thanks for taking my question. Here at News 12, we understand there are a few cases of the UK strain in Westchester, but would you please just explain exactly where they are? Specific municipalities, any location? Thank you.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (48:42)
Diane, I’ll refer that to the Department of Health. I don’t know legally what they can say about that because there’s healthcare privacy. So I don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy or violate any law, which would be a bad thing. So I’m going to refer that to the Department of Health and they’ll have an answer forthwith. Do you know, Garrett, that we can say anything beyond Westchester?
I think that’s all we can say for now, but we can certainly have the Department of Health follow up, as the Governor said.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (49:23)
Next question operator.
Speaker 1: (49:26)
Next up you have Andrew Siff from WNBC-TV. Andrew, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.
Speaker 1: (49:40)
All right. We’re going to come back to Andrew. Next up we have Bart Jones from Newsday. Bart, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.
Bart Jones: (49:50)
Andrew M. Cuomo: (49:51)
Bart Jones: (49:51)
Couple of questions. How long do you expect us to remain in this 250,000 doses a week situation? Do you have any information from the Biden administration about that? Is this going to go on until April, or what is your best estimate on that?
Bart Jones: (50:08)
Secondly, when do you think we will be able to achieve herd immunity here in New York? What is your best estimate on that? And being able to return to some state of normalcy.
Bart Jones: (50:21)
And finally, you mentioned you’re concerned about Long Island what seems to be the problem there and what are they doing wrong?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (50:26)
Bart Jones: (50:27)
Andrew M. Cuomo: (50:28)
There’s a lot there, Bart. But, the Biden team has been in place just a few days, obviously. And I’ve been working with them. As I said, Melissa DeRosa, the secretary works with them on these issues and I’ve worked with many of them in years past. Many of them I worked with when I was in Washington.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (50:56)
Jeff Zients is the head of the COVID operation and he’s a real pro. They have a couple of initial things that they have to work through. Right now a state gets a weekly allocation. We get 250,000. I don’t know what the next week allocation is so I can’t even plan. Why?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (51:18)
I mean, why? Even from a planning purpose, why do we have to go week to week? There are two basic programs that operate. There’s a separate long-term care facility program. That gets a separate allocation. Right now we can’t mix between allocations. Could states get that additional flexibility?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (51:54)
The feds have said you can’t use second dose allocations for the first dose, for good reasons, because if you use second dose for the first dose and then you don’t get the second dose, now people have a nightmare scenario, which they actually talked to me about.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (52:12)
I got a first dose and then I can’t get the second dose. And then they have a national inventory control issue that they have to work through because you have different states operating at different rates of vaccine usage. Our rate of vaccine usage is very high. So I’m out today, effectively. I’m waiting now for the vaccine.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (52:43)
There are some states that are not out and they’re working on previous allocations. How does the administration balance that nationwide? So it’s complicated. I’m talking to them about it. We’re going to have a meeting tomorrow with all the governors and Mr. Zients is going to be making certain announcements on that tomorrow. I’m the Chairman of the National Governors Association so I’ve been working to coordinate that and we’ll do that tomorrow.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (53:21)
But the projections, the expectations, increasing the supply, I know that’s number one, two, three on the COVID Task Force priority list.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (53:35)
On the Long Island positivity rate being higher, in some ways as complex as this is, is as simple as it is, it’s personal behavior. We’re not getting large clusters where you can say, it was this, it was this concert, this party, this wedding. It’s just personal behavior and awareness across the board.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:03)
We’re having conversations with the large hospitals, the local elected officials because we want a targeted strategy for Long Island, because it’s not just, as you know, Bart, it’s not just one week or two weeks here. You’ve seen this line going up. And if you watch those lines, they don’t bend quickly anymore. They tend to follow the trajectory. So I don’t have a good single answer on what happens, why it’s going up in Long Island, but give us a few days.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:42)
Next question operator.
Speaker 1: (54:45)
Next up we have Terese Loeb Kreuzer from the Downtown Post NYC. Terese, your line is open. Please unmute your phone.
Terese Loeb Kreuzer: (54:53)
Thank you. Can you hear me?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (54:55)
Yes, I can.
Terese Loeb Kreuzer: (54:57)
Good. Hello there. I want to ask you about the 75 plus population, Governor. A lot of these people will have underlying medical conditions, and yet they’re being instructed that when their time comes, to go to a pharmacy or a mass vaccination site.
Terese Loeb Kreuzer: (55:13)
I think a lot of them would be a lot more comfortable if they go to a hospital setting where if anything untoward happened, they could get help. Do you have any comment about what you plan to do or might do with this population or indeed with anyone who has underlying medical conditions?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:29)
Well, it’s a good question. What the Department of Health, Commissioner Zucker is not here today, but the conversation has been going into a hospital… Hospitals are not equipped to be retail facilities, right? That’s not what a hospital does.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (55:49)
And we don’t want people filling emergency rooms in hospitals to get a vaccine. And it’s not their day-to-day business. And the hospitals are working to vaccinate their nurses and doctors, which still has not been fully performed and in many ways is a top priority.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (56:13)
But if a person has an underlying condition and is 75 plus and has some reason why they think they may have a potentially bad reaction to the vaccine, then I would have them contact their doctor and make arrangements privately. And that can be done also.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (56:38)
At our mass vaccination sites, we can also accommodate that because we have healthcare staff on site. We have not seen, over 1.5 million dosages, we haven’t seen but a handful of adverse reactions. And they haven’t really been age specific. They’ve been more allergic reactions, but so I don’t know that there is a cause for concern because they haven’t been comorbidity or age related reactions, but I’m beyond my depth in healthcare advice at that point. Operator, let’s take one more.
Speaker 1: (57:35)
Governor, your last question comes from Andrew Siff from WNBC-TV, Andrew, please unmute your microphone.
Andrew Siff: (57:41)
Good afternoon. Can you hear me now, Governor?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (57:43)
Andrew, do you have technology issues? This has happened before. This is a pattern of behavior, Andrew.
Andrew Siff: (57:50)
You know, that’s one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is I’m determined to get through, even when I have technology issues. And by the way, I lived in Buffalo for five years and still have family up there. Great place. So I just wanted to contribute [inaudible 00:00:58:06].
Andrew Siff: (58:06)
My question has to do with loosening restrictions. You talked about more announcements this week. Is one of the restrictions you’re going to lift indoor dining in New York City? And if so, how soon might that take effect?
Andrew M. Cuomo: (58:21)
Yeah. We’re focusing now on the micro cluster zones, Andrew, which are yellow zones, orange zones. That’s what we’re focusing on. And that’s what I was talking about. The indoor dining in New York City is a New York City specific condition. And we’re not, at this point, at this point, contemplating any changes.
Andrew M. Cuomo: (58:48)
Okay. Roswell Park, thank you very much for having us. I have my mask. I also have a hat because next year we’re not going to need these masks anymore. So we’re going to say go Bills in a different way. But, I’m ready. Thank you.