Jan 27, 2021

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript January 27

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript January 27
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript January 27

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on January 27 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.

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Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Happy Wednesday, middle of the week. We’re going to get past Hump Day today. Overall, statewide positivity 5.44. Statewide deaths 170. They’re in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations down 60. Good news ICU plus 14. Intubations plus 21. Across the state percent hospitalized, North country 0.02, Finger Lakes .05. Long Island 05. Mid-Hudson .05. New York City 0.04. Positivity, Long Island 6.8. Long Island, Long Island, Long Island. All the numbers are down across the state. So, then we focus on who’s highest, obviously. In New York City, it’s the Bronx 6.9%, which is significantly higher than surrounding counties, and it has been higher for a number of weeks now. So, that’s of concern to us. I’m going to mention it in a moment. Overall, 96% of our dosages received are in arms. 98%. So, 6%. So, we’re functionally out of doses, and we now go what we say week to week. The next week’s allocation is coming in today, tomorrow, the next day. It’s delivered by the federal government across the state. But we are now going week to week, waiting for the allocation from the federal government.

Andrew Cuomo: (01:57)
I have more to say about that in a moment. It has been very difficult to plan up until now, because we don’t know what we’re going to get next week in allocation. So, literally you have to wait to find out what you’re going to get from the federal government, what number of doses, and then plan the distribution. That’s a very start and stop from week to week. We were getting 300,000. Then we went down to 250,000 per week, after we were told we were actually going to be getting more. President Biden made an announcement yesterday, that is very, very helpful in this regard, that we’re going to get 16% more allocation. So, 250,000 per week up 16%. Frankly, just as important, that’s going to be the allocation for the next three weeks. So, now at least we can come up with a three-week plan. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s better than going from week to week. So, this was one of the announcements that President Biden made yesterday, and that is very helpful.

Andrew Cuomo: (03:21)
The federal Long-Term Care Facility Plan runs as a separate plan. That is a federal plan where we were vaccinating people in nursing homes. The federal government uses pharmacies to run that program. All nursing home residents have been offered a vaccine. 72% have been vaccinated. 100% have been offered, 72% have been accepted the vaccine. Some people don’t want to receive the vaccine. We’re seeing that all across all subgroups. In nursing homes, that number is 28%. Some may change their mind. Some may not have been ready yet. Some may say, “I want to watch other people go first.” But that’s 72%. the staff in nursing homes are being vaccinated in tronches, one-third, one-third, one-third. The federal thinking was they didn’t want to vaccinate all the staff just in case, there was a reaction to the vaccine.

Andrew Cuomo: (04:35)
So. They are doing one third, one third, one third, 44% have been vaccinated. They’ll all be finished or offered by February 7th. This is the vaccinations to date by the long-term care facilities, and you see there’s a variance across the state, but all have been offered and 72% is the overall norm. Some areas have taken a higher percentage. Some have taken a lower percentage. A little context where we are, because things are changing, as they’ve always been changing for 333 days. If we go back to day 277, which I don’t remember, but let’s call it December 2nd. What we said on December 2nd was, we were coming into the holiday season, and we expected to see an increase through the holiday season, because the holiday season brought more socialization, more groups, more spread. How high would the spike go was dependent on what people did and how they acted, and we cautioned every day. Be careful, be careful, masks, celebrate smart.

Andrew Cuomo: (06:04)
That’s what we were saying, and we then started the holiday season. It starts at Thanksgiving, goes through really, until New Year’s, and we said, “Don’t be a turkey. Or I said, “Don’t be a turkey,” on Thanksgiving, playing into Thanksgiving, Turkey. “Be smart about it.” At that time, Dr. Fauci said there could be a surge on a surge, if you remember. We came up with a plan for the winter, for that holiday season, and we adjusted the valve on economic activity, expecting a surge. We said we were going to get ready for a hospital surge influx, because the nightmare is always the hospitals get overwhelmed. Micro-cluster strategy, target areas of growth and cautioning about small gatherings, family gatherings. You think you’re safe. I’m only with family, but that can be quite losery. There was a spike, and it went from 2.9% to 12%.

Andrew Cuomo: (07:22)
That was the positivity rate of growth over those 37 days. We said hospitalizations would increase. It went from 2,800 to 10,500. So, there was a dramatic holiday spike. We went up that high, but we did not overwhelm the hospitals, for a number of reasons. What our surge influx plan did was it increased the capacity of hospitals, roughly 50%. So, we grew our hospital system, but we saw states and we saw countries where the hospital system became overwhelmed. If you did not manage your hospital system, and you allow just individual hospitals to operate, you would have overwhelmed this hospital system. You look at those numbers, 10,500. You would have seen individual hospitals overwhelmed, which by the way, is what happened in the spring, if you remember, with Elmhurst Hospital. So, that did not happen, and congratulations to the hospital administrators who literally never operated this way before. They did a great job, but that was a statewide phenomenon all across the state.

Andrew Cuomo: (08:46)
Remember, the red line for hospital capacity is 15% availability. If any hospital gets to a point where they’re under 15% availability, then we would go to a red zone, close down. Availability, meaning beds and staff, beds and staff. What hospitals will tell you is they always have enough beds because we increased it 50%. The red line is really about staff shortages, and that’s a function of staff getting sick. We’ve seen that in some nursing homes now, where they will talk about staff shortages because the staff is getting sick. But hospital capacity today, we are in a good place all across the state. North Country,s probably the highest at 51% capacity, Southern Tier 43. Long Island, Capital Region, Mohawk Valley would be 24, 24, 29, but all obviously better than 15%, which is the red line.

Andrew Cuomo: (09:53)
So, I think at this point, it’s safe to say the holiday surge was anticipated. The holiday surge did happen, but the holiday surge is over. If you look at the numbers over the past week, you see positivity on the decline. Our high point was 7.9. We’re down to 5.6. You see the hospitalization rate on the decline. First, the increased slows. We’ve even had some negative days. Every curve in every region. This is not just scribbling of a fourth-grader, different curves in different regions, but every curve statewide is down. That’s good news. We will then adjust the valves to those facts. This is not emotion. It’s not anecdotal. Follow the facts. Follow the science and follow the numbers. The micro-cluster zones are down all across the state. You look at where they were, Erie County was 7.8. We’re down to the 5.1. Chemung was 7.9, down to 4.3. So, these are dramatic, Onondaga, 8.8 down to 4.4. That’s true, all across the board.

Andrew Cuomo: (11:19)
Monroe was up to 10.5, down to 4.5. On the yellow zones, Oneida 11, down to five. So, you see a drop in both the orange and the yellow zones. Turn the valve, and these are now existing orange zones and yellow zones. Given the progress they made, the restrictions are lifted in those zones. The remaining yellow zones, there are no orange zones remaining. The remaining yellow zones, two in the Bronx, one in Washington Heights, one in Queens and one in Newburgh. Those are the only zones remaining. These yellow zones, the orange zones, are lifted. New York City restaurants, I understand the situation on the restaurants. New York City obviously, is in a different situation, given the density, given crowding and we’re hyper-cautious in New York City, but still following the data. We’re going to be talking to all the health officials. We have been already.

Andrew Cuomo: (12:37)
We’ll be talking to them during this week. We’ll be talking to the officials, elected officials, I’ll be talking to the Mayor. I’ll be talking to the relevant local electeds and the restaurant community from a planning point of view. By the end of the week, we’ll have a plan on New York City restaurants. I fully understand how difficult it is that they are closed, not just for the restaurants, but all the people who were employed there. On the flip side, is how fast this virus can take off. But we’ll have a plan for the New York City restaurants by the end of the week. Good news. President Biden announced yesterday, we had an NGA, National Governors Association, call with the White House team, and then President Biden made a public the statement. But first, they announced what’s called FEMA Aid. This will provide funding to New York state need to perform vaccines, about $450 million.

Andrew Cuomo: (13:56)
It’s actually advancing a reimbursement, the federal government had been reimbursing. New York State would pay out the money to do the vaccine. Federal government would then reimburse. They’re going to advance us the money rather than reimburse, which is helpful. They’re going to provide funding assistance for the National Guard. States are very, are relying on National Guard, much more heavily than they normally do. There’s a cost to using the National Guard, and that cost is normally born by the state. The federal government is going to pay for the cost of using the National Guard. That’s very helpful, because one of the constraints or one of the factors that is relevant to a governor is obviously the cost of operations. Deploying the National Guard can be expensive. So, now we have more liberty to use the National Guard. We don’t have to worry about the economic consequences to the state budget as much. Also, but the Biden administration announced-

Andrew Cuomo: (15:02)
The Biden administration announced that the federal government had not ordered enough vaccine to vaccinate 100% of the country, which was really shocking when you think about it. Federal government had only ordered 400 million vaccines. You have 300 million people in the country. Right now, people require two doses, 300 times two is 600 million. They had only ordered 400 million. That doesn’t get you to vaccinate the entire population. President Biden announced that they’re going to actually order 600 million, which is what you need and they would be coming in by about six months.

Andrew Cuomo: (15:54)
So first, it was good news that the federal government is actually ordering enough vaccine because that’s what the governors are concerned about. Just literally give us the supply. Federal government doesn’t produce it, but they do purchase it. A state cannot purchase vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna are operating under something called an emergency use authorization. They cannot sell the vaccine. I contacted Pfizer and Moderna and asked to purchase it. They cannot legally sell it. Only the federal government can purchase it and distribute it. And the federal government had not ordered enough to do the entire population.

Andrew Cuomo: (16:38)
So that was good news. It’s going to take six months to get the full supply, but at least we know that there is an end point where we’re going to get the kind of supply that we need. This is all great news from the federal government. But the federal government really is key right now in what they do. The most important thing for the federal government to do is to provide state governments with financial assistance. Every state has paid a dear cost of COVID. Just on the economics, tears address the lives lost. The economics, New York state needs $15 billion to do a budget this year, and that’s called state and local financing and that’s going to be key.

Andrew Cuomo: (17:37)
And the federal government has to repeal the assault on New York when they pass a punitive tax measure, ending state and local deductibility. So those are the two big things. And whenever I talked to the federal government, I remind them of those two things I can assure you. The Biden administration also announced a 16% increase in our allocation, as I mentioned for next week and the following two weeks. So now we can actually plan. Now I can turn around and say to local governments, you have 16% more for the next three weeks. Plan on it and schedule appointments for it. Do not schedule appointments beyond the 16% increase because the only thing that can aggravate people more than not being able to get an appointment is people getting an appointment and then you cancel the appointment.

Andrew Cuomo: (18:42)
So don’t schedule beyond the 16% increase, but schedule for your current allocation plus 16% over the next three weeks. And that’s for providers in city departments of health and county departments of health. The local governments, make sure social equity exists in your distribution. This requires forethought and additional planning, but we want to make sure that social equity is maintained in the distribution and availability of the vaccine. The state is open to partner with local governments to achieve social equity. If a local government believes there is an area that has received uneven coverage, let us know. We’ll partner with you, especially now that the National Guard has been freed up from an economic point of view.

Andrew Cuomo: (19:49)
National guard is great at setting up logistical mass sites. That’s what they do. They do it with military precision partnered up on, but we could partner with you to do that. I spoke to Mayor de Blasio in New York City about doing a site at Yankee Stadium together where we set it up and make a real difference through Yankee Stadium at a mass vaccination site. As I mentioned before, the Bronx has a very high positivity. Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx and we want to get that positivity rate down in the Bronx. So partnering at Yankee Stadium, mass site, state, and the city, but the state will do that with any local government across the state that has that kind of situation. They should let us know.

Andrew Cuomo: (20:49)
The 16% increase does not solve the fundamental anxiety that has been created here, which was due to the prior administration making so many people eligible with so little supply. Remember, the prior administration said 65 plus essential workers, plus healthcare workers were eligible. In this state, that’s seven million people. They said they would increase the supply to the state. We were receiving at that time 300,000. They said there was a reserve that they would send. That never happened. We didn’t get more than the 300,000. We actually got less. They dropped us from 300 to 250. So now you have seven million people who have been told they’re eligible for the vaccine, but the vaccine is scarce.

Andrew Cuomo: (21:49)
So they go to websites, they make calls all day trying to get an appointment for a vaccination, but there is no supply for the seven million and they never did increase the supply. So even when you increase the 250 to 300 with the 16%, you are still talking about multiple weeks before we can cover just the existing eligible population. We anticipated this. January 15th, I said, everyone will say, I don’t have enough. Hospitals will say it, local governments will say it, I will say it. And by the way, I am saying it. I said it on January 15th, I’m still saying it. We don’t have enough. What was startling was President Biden’s announcement that the federal government hadn’t even ordered enough, which was really staggering.

Andrew Cuomo: (22:50)
But we are where we are my friends and this is not just true in New York. This is every state in the country. Some states are still administering their inventory. They haven’t used everything they have received. That’s not the case in New York. We’re functionally out today. When you get that 96%, you’re out. So you’re reliant on what you’re going to get the next week. Also, we saw this coming January 8th, when they announced the eligibility. I announced the Matilda’s Rule. Matilda is my mother who is 65 plus. She doesn’t like that I say that she’s 65 plus. I am 63. Mathematically, it would be impossible for my mother not to be 65 plus.

Andrew Cuomo: (23:48)
So mom, I don’t think I’m giving anything away about your age when I say you’re in the 65 plus group. But that’s a personal family issue. I announced Matilda’s Rule, which was saying she was eligible, but making the point January 8th, that we don’t have the supply to get to everyone who’s eligible and we wouldn’t for weeks unless the federal supply was increased. So this is not new. I asked on January 8th, calibrate our expectations and I asked the same thing here. The new strains are a real concern. Everything I said about the holiday surge, we anticipated it, it happened, it’s over. The new strains are a real concern and the COVID threat is not over.

Andrew Cuomo: (24:43)
We still have to be careful about hospital capacity. And if we run out of hospital capacity, I am telling you today why it will happen. It will happen because a new strain happens and the staff winds up sick. And the hospitals will say, “I don’t have enough staff for the beds.” And their capacity will come down. The only way you prevent that is vaccinate the healthcare staff. That’s why the first priority one (a) was health care staff. When this started, it was nursing homes and healthcare workers, because they are the priority. Healthcare workers, because they were exposed at a much greater factor than anyone else. And if a nurse gets sick or a doctor gets sick, that’s a super spreader and the hospital capacity comes down.

Andrew Cuomo: (25:41)
We have made good progress on vaccinating healthcare workers. We still see a disparity in the percentage of healthcare workers by facility. And that is still of concern. We all have a 50% differential among facilities in the same region and that is inexplicable to me. I understand there are some demographic differences among staff, and there are demographic differences among acceptance of the vaccine, but not 50%. not within the same region. And we need the local governments to help in this regard. They have to look into the lower performing hospitals and get that number up on that disparity. In some regions, it’s not as bad as others. You see capital region, the highest 85, the lowest 74. Central New York, 99 to 65. Finger Lakes, 85 to 48 or 50.

Andrew Cuomo: (27:05)
What accounts for that? And I need the local governments, County Department of Health in this case to check into this and help us. Long Island 100 to 50. Literally, a 50% differential. Because we want to get this number up, this does jeopardize the hospital capacity in these areas. And if you’re going to see a hospital run out of capacity, it’s going to be these hospitals where the staff have been vaccinated at a lower percentage. And again, it’s almost a 50% differential in some areas. And some areas it’s even worse. Here you have 100 over 100, 37-38, 40-42, 43. What explains that? And you’ll have hospitals by the way that are part of this same system.

Andrew Cuomo: (28:08)
There are hospital systems that have a number of hospitals. So within the same system, you’ll have hospitals that are at 100 and you’ll have hospitals that are half that owned by the same company. So I need local governments to help on that. North Country, 89 to 54, 62-65, 67. Southern Tier 100-47, 47-54. Western New York, 88-42. Also, by the way, these numbers are submitted by the hospitals under penalty of perjury. These numbers are as of yesterday. Now, if you ask them today, the number may have gone up a little bit. If you asked them tomorrow it may have gone up a little bit, but these were the numbers as of yesterday, reported by that hospital under the penalty of perjury.

Andrew Cuomo: (29:10)
So it’s not a question of state numbers versus local numbers versus someone else. This is their number period. So there shouldn’t be any confusion. Great quotes from me. Don’t be a Turkey. Not one of my most rhetorical expressions, but appropriate for Thanksgiving. Don’t get cocky with COVID. These new strains are something to be aware of and something to anticipate and something to watch. We don’t know exactly what is going on with the new strains and the concept of not knowing is very troubling for me, but we have known what was down the road with COVID…

Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
But we haven’t known what was down the road with COVID from day one, let’s be honest. From before day one, we didn’t know that COVID was coming here from Europe for three months. And that’s why New York had the explosion it had. We have been behind the curve on this virus from day one. And the healthcare professionals will say, “You just don’t know.” People will have opinions, but this is a virus that mutates and you don’t know what it’s going to do next week. This is a hard concept. One of my daughters, who shall go nameless, called me up and she was obviously amped up and she said, “Dad, what’s going on with this Brazil strain now, and the South African strain and the UK strain? First, they said it was not more dangerous. Now, they’re saying it maybe is more dangerous. It may be more lethal. They said, “Don’t worry, the vaccine takes care of it.” And now they’re saying maybe the vaccine doesn’t take care of it.”

Andrew Cuomo: (31:08)
And she said, “What’s the truth?” And I said, “I don’t know. You’re right. They said this and then they changed. They said this and then they changed, because they don’t know. And I don’t know.” And she said to me, “Well, if you don’t know, who knows?” Well, first she thought I knew, but I wasn’t telling her, like it was a state secret. I said, “No, I really don’t know.” And then she was more anxious and she said, “Well, if you don’t know, who knows?” I said, “Nobody knows.” And yes, this produces anxiety. It produces anxiety for me. We like to have control in life, right? That’s a human condition. You don’t like the anxiety of just not knowing, but we don’t know. I can tell you where we are today. I can tell you that we’re watching these strains. I can tell you that I’ve seen this with the health officials.

Andrew Cuomo: (32:07)
And I talked to all of them, the best international minds on the globe. From World Health Organization, to the best epidemiologists, all the talking heads you see on TV, I talked to all of them. They don’t know, but there’s a big question mark on these new strains and when CDC and Dr. Fauci say the UK strain may be the dominant strain by March. That’s a big question mark, because that would suggest we’re going to see the numbers go up. So yes, it creates anxiety. And all I can tell you is we watch it and we adapt. This COVID beast has morphed four times since we’ve been dealing with it. We just went through a morphing during the holiday season. If it changes, we will change, right? We changed our plan in the winter to deal with the surge. It worked, surge is down, we can reopen and calibrate to today.

Andrew Cuomo: (33:24)
But tomorrow, could be different. Tomorrow will be different, if you ask me. And if something changes, we will change. We can only make decisions based on the facts we have today. If the strains come up with a different set of facts, then we will adjust to the new facts. Vaccine will take six to nine months by the production rate of Pfizer and Moderna. Federal government has put in the order, federal government is buying it. The production rate is the factor that affects the federal supply, right? White House doesn’t make this in their basement. They ordered it. Pfizer and Moderna manufacturer it, maybe Johnson & Johnson, which would be great. Single dose, no cold storage, which is a very big deal. But right now, we’re looking at six to nine months for the vaccine by the supply.

Andrew Cuomo: (34:33)
We could do literally, millions and millions of doses in a month. We could probably vaccinate all of New York in a month. Remember, we’ve done as many as 300,000 COVID tests per day. COVID test, nasal swab test, we did 300,000 per day. We could use those sites to do vaccinations, so we could literally do millions. We’ll never get that level of supply, because the federal government won’t get that level of production. Again, it would have been nice if the federal government had placed the order earlier, but President Biden is where he is also, so we’re looking at six to nine months. I’m not going to wait six to nine months, and we’re not going to wait six to nine months to start to reopen the economy. We’re going to calibrate that valve with the facts. And we’re going to start to build, assuming the post COVID reality, because COVID will transform the landscape. A lot of these changes are not going back in the box.

Andrew Cuomo: (35:51)
Zoom, doesn’t go away. This whole remote work style doesn’t away. People have adjusted to a new way of living, a new way of working and that is going to change the economy. We want to anticipate those changes, not deny those changes and adjust for it. In our cities, we have to start getting the arts and culture open again. That is what makes a city a city. If you don’t have arts and culture, why be in a city? Move out, get more space, if you can’t enjoy the assets of a city. And we’re seeing that. We’re going to start opening in the arts, especially in New York City. I outlined a whole plan in the state of the state with our pop-up arts.

Andrew Cuomo: (36:41)
We’re building. It’s about building literally the future. And we have the most aggressive reconstruction and construction program in the nation for statewide building. And we’re starting that now. I think the federal government will have federal infrastructure funding. But also we’re not waiting, because the future is what we make it. I fully believe that. And I believe in our capacity and our potential, because we’ve demonstrated it. We get things done. We can build. And we’re going to go ahead and start now and not wait for anyone, because that’s not what we do. We’re New York tough, smart, united, disciplined, loving. Let’s take a couple of questions. Operator?

Operator: (37:35)
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 and A roster. Governor, your first question comes from Marcia Kramer at WCBS. Marcia, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Andrew Cuomo: (37:58)
Oh, Marcia doesn’t-

Marcia Kramer : (38:01)
Good morning, governor. How are you?

Andrew Cuomo: (38:03)
Marcia doesn’t know how to unmute her microphone, what a shame. Marcia?

Marcia Kramer : (38:15)
Can you hear me?

Andrew Cuomo: (38:16)
I can hear you now. How are you?

Marcia Kramer : (38:19)
I can hear you, governor. Thank you very much for taking this question. So I actually, I have two questions. The first one has to do with indoor dining in New York City. A minority group of restaurateurs has sued you today, saying that they need to have restaurants open in New York City. You’ve held out hope today that that’s going to happen. I’m wondering are you leaning towards having New York City be able to open to 25%, which is what it used to be or to the 50% that now exists in the suburbs? And my second question has to do with going on at the Washington Heights Armory vaccination site, where there’s reports that a lot of people are driving from outside the city to get shots there. Do you think that a person’s address should be taken into account when booking a vaccine appointment at that location?

Andrew Cuomo: (39:11)
It’s always a pleasure, Marcia. First, when you say I have a question and then you say I have two questions, I would just question your syntax between I have a question, I have two questions. But two questions-

Marcia Kramer : (39:28)
Oh, governor, always picking on me.

Andrew Cuomo: (39:31)
I know. I know. That’s the nature of this relationship.

Marcia Kramer : (39:37)
And it goes back a lot of years.

Andrew Cuomo: (39:38)
Yeah. I pick on you, yes. That’s how this works. On the restaurants, we don’t have a plan today. We’re going to. I’m aware of the lawsuits. We have had a number of lawsuits from a whole host of businesses, religious organizations, right? Everyone understands the concept of restrictions, just not as it applies to them, frankly. It always makes sense when it’s someone else, but when it applies to their business, no. And I understand that by the way. And I understand, look, this has been economically devastating for a number of businesses, the restaurants included. So, I want to get them up and running as quickly as possible. And by the way, also remember the state has an economic… Not to be overly pragmatic, but the state has an economic interest in opening the restaurants. That’s sales tax revenue for the state.

Andrew Cuomo: (40:47)
And I’m begging, provoking, prodding the federal government for $15 billion. I also want to get our revenues back up. And opening up restaurants, opening up businesses, generates more revenue, which means we’re less dependent on the federal aid. We’ll have an announcement by the end of the week, but we’re looking at going back to the 25%, would be the question, and how and when do you do that? On the vaccination sites, I am in favor of using sites to target areas that need help. For example, the Bronx. We need to target the Bronx. The Bronx has a very high positivity rate. I have no problem saying that Yankee Stadium, we’re going to do a mass vaccination site for the Bronx, because a targeted approach can make sense.

Andrew Cuomo: (41:53)
And you’re right, you have people chasing this vaccine all across the state. And you’ll have a site open up, you’ll have people who will drive 100 miles to a site to get a vaccine. That’s a statewide phenomenon. But I do not have a problem with restricting the site, when you are targeting a problematic community by positivity or lack of coverage, et cetera. Does anyone want to add anything with that, Melissa? Rob? Kara? Nope. Okay. Next question.

Operator: (42:36)
Governor, your next question comes from Chris Horvatits from WIVB TV. Chris, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Chris Horvatits : (42:45)
Hey, governor, one question on restaurants. A lot of restaurant owners here we’re hoping to hear today that their closing time would be extended from 10:00 to midnight. Is the state anywhere in considering lifting that restriction?

Andrew Cuomo: (43:02)
That is something we’re looking at, but not at this time. If you listen to the federal guidance, or the federal experience or the CDC, or what we’ve seen here in this state, when you keep the restaurants open late, that tends to be more problematic. There tends to be more crowding, there tends to be more drinking, et cetera. And with restaurants, we’re trying to keep it to actual eating, as opposed to the restaurant turning into a bar. So at this time, no, we are not changing the curfew at this time. Next question, operator.

Operator: (43:51)
Next up, we have Ryan Whalen from Spectrum News. Ryan, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Ryan Whalen: (43:59)
Hi, governor. I’m going to apologize for asking such a broad question. But I think when we look at the yellow and orange zones and there’s been so many restriction changes over the time, we’re trying to just figure out what restrictions do remain in place for businesses, for gatherings. Could you give us kind of more specificity on what that is?

Andrew Cuomo: (44:19)
Yes. We said what zones are yellow zones. If you could just pull up that slide, please. There are no orange zones. There are only yellow zones. And, Gareth, do you want to go through what the restrictions in the yellow zone are?

Gareth: (44:36)
Sure. So the yellow zone, this is also on our website, there’s a school testing requirement, this is 20% for in-person students and faculty. There is limitations, for outside of New York City of course, on indoor and outdoor dining, four people per table. There’s no restrictions on businesses. In terms of houses of worship, a 50% maximum capacity. And then for the gatherings outside…

Gareth: (45:03)
… Capacity. And then for the gatherings outside of the home, the commercial gatherings, 25 people maximum, indoors and outdoors.

Andrew Cuomo: (45:14)
Operator …

Andrew Cuomo: (45:15)
Melissa, did you want to make a point?

Andrew Cuomo: (45:17)
Rob?

Andrew Cuomo: (45:19)
Dr. Zucker, who you know, should know, he is doing the analysis on the restaurants and the indoor dining, et cetera. So we’re going to be speaking to all the interested parties but, fundamentally, it’s a public health/safety decision.

Andrew Cuomo: (45:37)
Next question, operator?

Operator: (45:41)
Governor, next up you have Melanie West from the Wall Street Journal. Melanie, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Speaker 1: (45:46)
I’m not. Why do you accuse me of that?

Melanie West: (45:49)
Thank you, hello. This is a question about the variants, and the concern about one of them taking hold in the state:

Melanie West: (45:56)
Are you confident that there is sufficient genomic sequencing in New York State to say that the UK variant isn’t now spreading widely? And can you tell me what are the specific limitations, at the state level, to do more sequencing to detect the UK variant or others? Is it cost? Time? People?

Andrew Cuomo: (46:10)
I had trouble hearing the question. I think the question is about the variants?

Melanie West: (46:17)
Yes, I’m sorry. I’ll kick my husband out of the room. The perils of working from home.

Melanie West: (46:23)
Are you confident that there’s sufficient genomic sequencing in New York to say that the UK variant isn’t now spreading widely? And what are the specific limitations, at the state level, to do more sequencing to detect that variant or others? Is it cost? People? Time?

Andrew Cuomo: (46:40)
The question is on the variant testing.

Andrew Cuomo: (46:42)
Doctors Zucker?

Dr. Zucker: (46:45)
We are continuing to test across the state for the variant; we’ve looked at close to 3,000 samples. We sample the entire genome so that we can identify whether it’s a UK variant, South African variant, Brazilian variant, variant from Brazil or anywhere else, and we have identified cases from all regions of the state at this point. Actually it’s nine counties and the city, but they’re across all parts of the state.

Andrew Cuomo: (47:17)
Okay. The tests are from all parts of the state.

Dr. Zucker: (47:20)
Right. So we get samples from all different parts of the state. Hospitals send them in. Labs send them in to our Wadsworth lab, and then we run them from there. And, like I said, we’ve run about 2,800 so far. Since December 23rd, actually. We were running before that, but since December 1 this was picked up more. Great.

Andrew Cuomo: (47:38)
Great.

Andrew Cuomo: (47:39)
Next question, operator?

Andrew Cuomo: (47:48)
Operator?

Operator: (47:50)
Governor, your next question comes from Jeff Kolakowski from Channel 9 News in Syracuse.

Operator: (47:55)
Jeff, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Jeff Kolakowski: (47:58)
Hi, Governor. How are you today?

Andrew Cuomo: (47:59)
Good. How are we doing, Jeff?

Jeff Kolakowski: (48:01)
Good, thank you. I hope I’m not being too redundant with my question here, but I just want to make sure that I fully understand. There is no more orange or yellow zones in Onondaga County; I’m assuming that takes effect immediately. Are there still some restrictions? Because I don’t want people to get the false impression that everybody comes rushing back in, all times, like it’s pre-pandemic or something like that. So you know you mentioned the curfew? I assume that applies to restaurants across the state, in or out of the zone. Are there any other restrictions?

Andrew Cuomo: (48:33)
Yeah, let me ask Gareth. Melissa, besides curfew-

Melissa DeRosa: (48:38)
So the way … And, Robert, feel free to jump in. But the way that the state is operating right now, generally speaking, whether you’re in a zone or out of a zone, so retail is limited to, I believe it’s 50%. There are certain testing requirements on salons that are once every other week, regardless of whether or not you’re in a zone. So all of those requirements that exist as a result of COVID continue, so none of that goes away. It’s just the specific rules that applied to the zones which further limited mass gathering number, which increased the number of school testing, which related to indoor dining, that really changed here as a result of moving either from orange to yellow or orange entirely out of the zone.

Melissa DeRosa: (49:21)
Robert, is there anything else you want to add on that?

Robert: (49:23)
No, that’s all right.

Andrew Cuomo: (49:30)
Just FYI, to follow up on the question about the variants, there are 42 positives in this state for the UK variant. So when they talk about the UK variant growing quickly, there are now 42 positives of the UK variant.

Andrew Cuomo: (49:52)
Let’s take one more question, operator.

Operator: (49:55)
Governor, your last question comes from Luis Ferré-Sadurní at the New York Times.

Operator: (49:59)
Luis, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní: (50:03)
Hi, Governor. Can you hear me?

Andrew Cuomo: (50:04)
Yes, sir, Luis. How are you?

Luis Ferré-Sadurní: (50:07)
Good, good, thank you.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní: (50:08)
So I’m wondering: How concerned are you about lifting restrictions when we’re seeing new, more contagious variants that you’ve called troubling? And given the fact that while cases are trending down in New York, the numbers are still very high compared to a few months ago. How are you reconciling opening the economy with [inaudible 00:05:28]?

Andrew Cuomo: (50:30)
Yeah. Luis, this is the balance. First, the numbers are up all across the nation. The positivity index is up all across the nation. There is a new denominator not just in this state, but in every state in the country. There’s a new denominator internationally. Right? I don’t know that we’re ever going to see that positivity number go down until the vaccines really start to kick in. The vaccine is the answer here. And that’s six to nine months, my guess from what I’ve … Educated guess. Six to nine months, the vaccine will kick in before the positivity rate would have come down, and the vaccine will actually bring the positivity rate down. But without the vaccine, I don’t think that number comes down.

Andrew Cuomo: (51:34)
Your question is what I am trying to say to people. We make decisions on the facts we have today. And you’re talking about livelihoods, and the economy, and billions of dollars, plus people’s businesses and life-work at stake.

Andrew Cuomo: (51:59)
We make decisions based on the facts today. Based on the facts today, we anticipated the holiday surge. The holiday surge came; the holiday surge is over. We’re not back to where we were, but nobody’s back to where they were. And I don’t believe anyone’s going to be back to where they were until that vaccine kicks in on the other side. On the facts today, as presented, I believe these measures are justified. Because these measures were taken because of the surge that was coming, surge comes, surge is over. You make the decision on the facts today.

Andrew Cuomo: (52:42)
Well, the facts may change. Yes, the facts may change. They may not change, but they may change. The variant may wind up being a problem. Yes, the variant may wind up being a problem. If you listen to the CDC, it may be a problem in March. Not for sure, but the UK variant may be a dominant strain in March, two months.

Andrew Cuomo: (53:15)
What does that mean, if it’s the dominant strain? They won’t tell you. They’ll say you could have an increased positivity rate, increased infection rate.

Andrew Cuomo: (53:27)
How problematic would that be? They don’t know.

Andrew Cuomo: (53:32)
So if the facts change, I have no problem looking the people of this state in the eye and saying, “The facts changed. Our plan has to change.” I’ve said a number of times, this is a war. You look at the great generals. You go into the war with a plan and a strategy. But then that plan and that strategy adapts to what the enemy does. And when the enemy changes position, you change position. Well, I like to have a consistent plan. You can’t have a consistent plan when you don’t have consistent facts. And we don’t have consistent facts.

Andrew Cuomo: (54:21)
If one of these strains becomes problematic … And by the way, the UK strain being dominant is not the problematic scenario. The problematic scenario is a mutation, a new strain, that is vaccine-resistant. That, my friend, is the problematic scenario. And then Pfizer, Moderna, et cetera, have to go back and come up with a new vaccine and you have to re-vaccinate. That is the nightmare scenario.

Andrew Cuomo: (55:02)
So what’s the probability of that happening? It depends on who you talk to. So deal with the facts that you know; come up with a plan on the facts you know. If you were to anticipate possibilities and do nothing, you’d be frozen in place forever. Because even, Luis, you can always argue, even when the positivity rate comes down and everybody’s vaccinated, well there may be a new strain. Like the flu, every year there’s a new strain, every year you have to get vaccinated. Maybe there’s going to be a new strain that you can’t vaccinate against. Yes. I mean, there’s a scenario that says, “Don’t get out of your bed, ever. Stay at home and stay in bed.” There is a scenario that says that. It makes it hard to live your life, but there’s a scenario that says if you want to be hyper cautious, that’s what you do.

Andrew Cuomo: (56:11)
And again, even with any of these scenarios, it’s going to come down to what we do. That’s the incredible, fundamental truth that you can’t get past here: It’s all personal behavior, at the end of the day. Government says this, government says that. You know what it came down to? What you did during Hanukkah, and what you did during Christmas, and what you did on New Year’s Eve night after you had a couple of drinks. It comes down to what we do. Did you wear the mask? Were you smart? Did you socially distance? It comes down to that.

Andrew Cuomo: (56:53)
So if we did that, if we do the masks and we keep ourselves safe, frankly, what the virus chooses to do is less important. But you deal with the facts that you have today, and these are the facts today. And we’ve shown that when the facts change, we can change, and that we can overcome. And we have, and we will.

Andrew Cuomo: (57:16)
Thank you very much.