Mar 12, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 12
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference call on March 12, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. He said he will not resign amid sexual harassment allegations, and said he will not bow to “cancel culture.” Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Thank you for joining today’s conference call with Governor Andrew Cuomo. I will now turn it over to Governor Cuomo. Sir, please go ahead.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:00)
Good afternoon, everyone. We have Melissa DeRosa, Dr. Howard Zucker, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey. Thank you for joining us today. Let me give you an update.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:12)
COVID update, positivity, 3.11%. 74 New Yorkers passed away from COVID yesterday. They’re in our thoughts and prayers. Number hospitalized, 4634, down 101, lowest number since December 6th. That is great news. 935 patients in ICU, lowest number since December 7. 639 intubated yesterday, that’s down 26. That’s good news.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:47)
Positivity by region. Number one, which is not a good thing, you don’t want to be number one in this, 4.4, Long Island, 4.2, New York City, 3.9, North Country, 1.9, Capital Region, 1.8, Western New York, 1.7, Finger Lake, 1.6, Mohawk, 1.4, Central New York, 0.8, Southern Tier, 0.6. That comes out to 3.13. In New York City, take your guess. Bronx, number one, 4.9, Staten Island, 4.8, which is a turnaround, Queens, 4.6, Brooklyn, 4.3, Manhattan still only 2.82.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:38)
On vaccines, we administered 6 million to date. Percent of New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose, 21%. Percent of New Yorkers completed vaccine, 10%. We’ve done 178,000 vaccines in the last 24 hours. More than 1 million doses have been administered in the past seven days.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:05)
The president’s announcement last night is going to have a major ramification on states’ vaccination capacity. He has moved up dramatically the amount of vaccines that are available, and that is a good the thing, obviously. Remember when we started, we were talking about June, July, August. The president is now talking about May 1. That means we have to have a tremendous increase in our capacity to vaccinate. And that is a logistical undertaking unlike anything we have done before. So we’re going to be preparing for that.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:52)
But the president’s announcement that May 1, vaccines, everyone will be eligible for a vaccine. What that means is in New York, 15 million people will be eligible, and we have to have the capacity to address those people as quickly as possible. Now, the president said it doesn’t mean everybody gets a vaccine on May 1, but once you tell people they are eligible, then eligibility suggests now I should be able to get it. And we’re going to have to dramatically increase our capacity to do that because we are not at that capacity now.
Andrew Cuomo: (04:40)
We’ve been working on a marijuana bill. I’ve had a number of conversations with members. The staff is working on it over this weekend. We’ve been making good progress. The president has passed the federal budget bill, which is good news for New York. The federal bill, we asked for $15 billion. It’s still about two-and-a-half billion dollars short from what we asked for, but it is a major relief.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:18)
I’m going to sign the death benefits bill today. In May of last year, we signed a bill into law that provided enhanced death benefits for families of public workers who died from COVID. I extended it by executive order. Today, I’m signing a new bill into law extending that through next year, 2022. It’s the least we can do to say thank you and honor and remember the families going forward.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:48)
The vaccinations time off bill, I’m also signing, that grants each employee in New York, both public and private paid time off to get a COVID vaccine, up to four hours per shot. So this corresponds to the president’s new directive. This will ensure that all New Yorkers have an opportunity to get vaccinated. Our goal is to be the COVID-safe state.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:20)
There’s also a bill on unemployment insurance benefit changes. Many states have overpayment waiver options. New York does not have that currently, but going forward, we’re going to ensure it. You earn less than 150,000 of the federal poverty level through no fault of your own, you’ve been overpaid, this would constitute a hardship. So we’re not going to require people to repay or have it deducted from their future benefits. The pandemic was brutal on everyone and brutal economically. And if this is a way we can help, then that’s what we want to do.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:08)
Let me make a statement, and then, we’ll take your questions. As I have said before, and I firmly believe, and my administration has always represented, women have a right to come forward and be heard, and I encourage that fully. But I also want to be clear, there is still a question of the truth. I did not do what has been alleged, period.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:41)
I won’t speculate about people’s possible motives, but I can tell you as a former attorney general who’s gone through this situation many times, there are often many motivations for making an allegation, and that is why you need to know the facts before you make a decision.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:06)
There are now two reviews underway. No one wants them to happen more quickly and more thoroughly than I do. Let them do it. I’m not going to argue this issue in the press. That is not how it is done. That is not the way it should be done. Serious allegations should be weighed seriously, right? That’s why they are called serious.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:48)
As I’ve told New Yorkers many times, there are facts and then there are opinions, and I’ve always separated the two. When I do briefings, I put out the facts, and then I offer my opinions, but they are two different concepts. Politicians who don’t know a single fact, but yet form a conclusion and then opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous. The people of New York should not have confidence in a politician who takes a position without knowing any facts or substance. That, my friends, is politics at its worst.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:41)
Politicians take positions for all sorts of reasons, including political expediency and bowing to pressure, but people know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth. People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:14)
Let the review proceed. I’m not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians. I was elected by the people. Part of this is that I am not part of the political club, and you know what? I’m proud of it.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:32)
This is all that I’m going to say on this topic at this time. I made a promise to the people of the state. I have a job to do. I’ve been doing it for 11 years. This is probably the most critical time in the state’s history. Everything that I have learned in the federal government, as attorney general, as governor, I am bringing to the table at this moment.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:02)
We have a budget due in two weeks for a state that is in fiscal crisis. It will be the most difficult budget we have done. We have to perform 15 million vaccinations, and we have to be ready on May 1 for eligibility for the entire state, never been done before. And then, we have to rebuild our state from the bottom up because we have serious issues all across the state, especially in New York City. That is my job. That’s why I was elected. That’s what I am supposed to do, and that is exactly what I’m going to focus on.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:49)
For the people of the state, look, they have known me for 40 years. They elected me attorney general. They elected me governor three times. I have been in the public eye my entire life. My entire life I have been under public scrutiny since I was 23 years old and ran my father’s campaign. New Yorkers know me. Wait for the facts. Wait for the facts, then you can have an opinion. I am confident that when New Yorkers know the facts from the review, I am confident in the decision based on the facts. But wait for the facts, and opinion without facts is irresponsible.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:53)
I’m going to focus on my job because we have real challenges, and people who say, “Avoid distractions,” I’m going to avoid distractions, and I’m going to focus on my job. I have to get a budget done. I have to get vaccinations done. I have to rebuild the state. And I’m going to cooperate and wait for the reviews, so we actually have the facts, and then we can have an intelligent conversation. Questions, operator?
Yes, sir. As a reminder, to ask a question, you will need to press star one on your telephone. To withdraw a question, press the pound key. Your first question is from Andrew Siff of WNBC TV. Your line is open.
Andrew Siff: (13:43)
Governor, good afternoon. I have two questions for you. The first question is you say that an opinion without facts is irresponsible. Some of the lawmakers who called for your resignation today include Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman Grace Meng. Are you saying that those elected officials are irresponsible? And my second question is you have said repeatedly that you never touched anyone inappropriately. Is there a misunderstanding where there in your mind was consensual touching taking place in one or more allegations?
Andrew Cuomo: (14:22)
Yeah, let’s do two things. Look, I respect any elected official’s right to take a position on anything. But as I said, my way is know the facts before you have an opinion. “Oh, this is a serious allegation,” well, then you should take it seriously, right? And to take it seriously means you need the facts before you come to a conclusion. How do you come to a conclusion before you know the facts? “Well, this person alleged this.”
Andrew Cuomo: (15:01)
I was attorney general, Andrew. A lot of people allege a lot of things for a lot of reasons. You never heard me as attorney general go out and talk about an allegation until we were confident that there was a basis and we had reviewed the facts. Any politician can take any position on any given day. That’s their right. Do I think it is responsible to take a position on a serious allegation before you know any facts? No, I don’t think it’s responsible.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:42)
On your second point, look, it’s very simple. I never harassed anyone. I never abused anyone. I never assaulted anyone. And I never would, right? Now, is it possible that I have taken a picture with a person who after the fact says they were uncomfortable with the pose and the picture? Yes, and that’s what you’re hearing about.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:19)
Now, I have taken thousands of pictures. I never meant to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I never meant to make anyone feel awkward. There were times when I’d go to take a picture with a person, and I can feel that they’re standoffish or something, and I respect that. I never took a picture with a person who said, “I’m uncomfortable,” and then did it anyway. But yes, I apologized for people who I have taken pictures with and who, after the fact, said they were uncomfortable with that picture. Next question, operator.
Yes, sir. Your next question is from Morgan McKay of Spectrum News. Your line is open.
Morgan McKay: (17:18)
Hello, Governor, can you hear me?
Morgan, your line’s open.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:21)
Yes, I can, Morgan.
Morgan McKay: (17:23)
Thank you. So, Governor, at this point, many Democratic lawmakers, those in your party, have lost faith in your ability to lead. At what point would you step down? If an impeachment investigation were to begin, would you resign? Also, what is your current opinion on the launch of the impeachment investigation by the Assembly Judiciary Committee? And then, third question for you, why did you or administration edit a health report regarding nursing home statistics after it had been submitted by health officials? Why did your administration feel like it knew more than these health officials? Thank you.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:01)
Okay. First, Morgan, my point is let’s get the review, and then let’s get the facts, and then New Yorkers can make a decision once they have facts. You don’t have facts now. You have allegations. Well, why don’t I debate it in the press? No, that’s not the way things are done. So I think the Assembly and the attorney general, that’s the right way to do it. Do a review, get the facts, tell the facts to the people of the state, and then, we take it from there.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:34)
On the review, I’ll ask Beth to respond. But you should know it is commonplace where an agency works on a report with the chamber, that is the common operating procedure. It’s not that an agency just does a report and puts it out, and then we read about it in the press because there are a lot of… In the chamber, you have a variety of expertise. So that happens, that is the normal operating protocol. But let me ask Beth about the health department.
Beth Garvey: (19:14)
Yes, Morgan, we can send you our prior comments on this matter. The report was done in collaboration with the Department of Health. And so, we can refer you back to those comments.
Andrew Cuomo: (19:31)
Next question, operator.
Yes, sir. And the next question is from David Evans of ABC Channel 7. Your line is open.
David Evans: (19:41)
Hey, Governor, can you hear me?
Andrew Cuomo: (19:45)
Yes, sir, Dave.
David Evans: (19:46)
Hey, Governor, I wanted to ask, along the same line of question that Andrew asked just a second ago, and forgive me here for being a little blunt, but I think the question that a lot of us have is was there some kind of a consensual romantic relationship with any of these women that you understood?
Andrew Cuomo: (20:06)
Yeah. Look, my statement-
David Evans: (20:08)
I mean, I’m not talking-
Andrew Cuomo: (20:16)
Go ahead. Dave, my statement could not be clearer, I think. I never harassed anyone. I never assaulted anyone. I never abused anyone. To the extent you get these people who say, “Well, he took a picture with me, and I was uncomfortable,” I apologized for that.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:40)
And I’m sure, look, I took thousands of pictures. I’m sure you can do this all long. When we take these pictures, we take them in public, Dave. There’s a photographer there. It’s not like they’re done in secret. They literally are being photographed. I mean, I am in crowds of 100s of people when we’re taking these pictures. They stand on receiving lines for a long time to take the picture.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:17)
But what is being alleged simply did not happen, and that’s why you have to wait to get the facts. I’m not going to do [inaudible 00:21:30] press. It’s not the way it should be done. It doesn’t respect anybody’s rights. Next question, operator.
Your next question is from Juliet Papa, 1010 WINS radio. Your line is open.
Juliet Papa: (21:51)
Good afternoon, Governor. I was wondering how you think you can effectively lead amidst the allegations and the calls for your resignation and these growing investigations?
Andrew Cuomo: (22:07)
Juliet, I have to get a budget done with the legislature in two weeks. They are doing an investigation, and that’s fine, and we’ll cooperate with the investigation. In the meantime, we’re going to negotiate a budget. In the meantime, I have to do millions of vaccines. And this is not the first time that we’ve had to walk and chew gum here, right?
Andrew Cuomo: (22:35)
We had to fight COVID for a year, and we had to keep the state running. I’ve even gone through situations in my administration where we had terrible emergencies and floods and disasters, and we had to take care of that, and we had to do everything else at the same time. I had a fight Donald Trump for four years every day and run the state. I’ve had investigations before in the state that went on for years by federal prosecutors, and continued to operate the state.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:14)
So the Assembly has their job to do. They handed it off to a committee. They’re doing their job. Fine. We now have two weeks to do the budget. I have to do the vaccines. And this is how government works, you handle multiple issues at the same time. And I don’t think there’s a person in a better position to help the state get through this period than the experience that I bring to it.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:51)
This is not going to be an easy budget to do. I’m telling you that right now. This is not going to be easy to get these vaccinations done. I’m telling you right now. So I think I can be of tremendous help, and I’m focused on my job. The Assembly is focused on their job, and the Senate is focused on their job. So I’m confident that if everybody does their job, we’ll make do the best we can.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:23)
Now, the budget is hard. The budget is hard to get done on time every year, and this is probably the hardest budget that we’ve ever done. This is also probably the most polarized political climate that we have. You have very different theories within the Democratic party right now. You’ve seen it at play nationally. You’ve seen it at play here. That is one of the factors that is going on. No situation happens in a vacuum. This is a political environment that we are operating on, and politics is part-