Mar 8, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 8
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on March 8, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
This brings back a lot of memories. First, let’s thank all the people who are working here today, the nurses, the doctors, the technicians, the National Guard. Let’s give them a big round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:19)
I’m pleased to be joined by Dr. Howard Zucker, our health commissioner for the State of New York. We have Reverend Gilbert Pickett, a pleasure to be with him. Mike Kopy who works on the State Emergency Management and has been heading up this operation. Alan Steel, who runs the Javits Center. This is a phenomenal convention center but what Alan Steel has had to do over the past year, no convention center on the planet has ever done. Let’s give him a round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:56)
I want to thank the members of the clergy who are here, who are making a very powerful statement today, and let me acknowledge them myself out of respect. Reverend Cockfield, Bishop Calvin Rice, Reverend Johnnie Green, Reverend Anthony Lowe, Reverend Renee Washington, Pastor Sean Gardner, Reverend [Carl Warp 00:01:20], Minister Stanley Smith, Bishop Findlayter, Pastor Duckett, Reverend Aker, Reverend Bolden, Minister Knight, [Corrina Aker 00:01:30], Reverend Byrd, Reverend Newton Rush, Reverend Williams, Reverend Carson, Reverend Trollinger, Pastor James [Osaikofee 00:01:42], Reverend Merriweather, Reverend Dr. Carl Washington, Jr. Let’s give them a round of applause.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:53)
I’m going to make some comments then you’ll hear from Dr. Zucker and then Reverend Pickett is going to be doing the real work today because he’ll make some remarks and then he’ll be receiving a vaccine. Coming into Javits, I was just checking with Dr. Zucker inside. In many ways, it’s emotional being back here. Javits Center in many ways represents the beginning and the end. The beginning of COVID, Javits was turned into an emergency hospital, when we believed the hospitals were going to be overwhelmed. 2,500 emergency beds were set up at Javits. It had never been done before. The entire floor was a sea of basically army cots and partitions. 2,500, as far as you could see, and it was being staffed by National Guard and Army personnel. We came down to supervise the setup of the hospital and I remember speaking to the National Guard, and these are young people who came from all over the state. They’re in this place that looked like it was a scene from a science fiction movie. It looked like it was after the apocalypse, 2,500 hospital beds. The National Guard were frightened. You could see it in their eyes. They’re wearing masks, they’re wearing gloves, they’re getting a briefing on how the virus transfers. Everybody’s nervous, everybody’s frightened, but they showed up, they showed up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:58)
That’s what was so powerful to me. In this frightening scene, jeeps, Army trucks, body bags, they showed up, they showed up. They had the courage to show up. That was the beginning, and we made it through. It was a long year, it was a hard year, it was a challenging year, it was a frightening year, it was a painful year. Death, suffering, anxiety, loss, but we made it through. We are now at the end, at the beginning of the end. Why? Because we have a vaccine that can stop the virus. We have a vaccine which is the weapon that can win the war. We know that for a fact.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:54)
Well then why is it only the beginning of the end? Because we still have to get the vaccine and President Biden, God bless him, has been doing a beautiful job on that, ramping up the amount of time that this nation will actually have enough production for the country and then people have to take the vaccine. We have to get it, we have to administer it, but people have to come in to take it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:22)
Why is Javits symbolic of the end? This center is a mass vaccination center, runs 24 hours a day. This weekend, the Javits Center did more vaccinations than any place in the United States of America. That’s what we’re doing here at Javits.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:54)
We’re also doing vaccines at 48 houses of worship across the state. We’re also announcing today another 10 new vaccination sites as the production from the federal government is increasing. So as we’re getting more, we are ready to distribute more. But it has to be done fairly. It has to be done fairly, and we learned this lesson the hard way over the past year.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:25)
COVID discriminated. Two times as many blacks died as whites. Two times as many blacks died as whites. Think about that. Black population had a higher infection rate. Black population had fewer COVID tests available. Black population had more comorbidities, more existing underlying conditions, because this is a disparate healthcare system in this nation and there are healthcare deserts and there are communities that are left behind and those people did not have the same level of healthcare and they fell prey to COVID at a higher rate. That is the God’s honest truth, before all these pastors and clergy members today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:23)
So when it comes to the vaccine, let’s correct that injustice that COVID has brought to this nation and this world. When we do this vaccine, let’s make sure it’s available to everyone and let’s make sure everyone is coming forward to take it. Now it is not currently being distributed or accepted fairly. New York City, 53% of the population is white, 57% of the people who have been vaccinated are white. 53% of the population, 57% of those vaccinated. Black population, 27% of the people in New York City are black, only 18% of the people vaccinated. Only 18% of the people vaccinated. Hispanic, 28% of the population, only 20% vaccinated. Asian population, 16% of the population, 23% of those vaccinated. The white population, the Asian population are getting vaccinated at a higher rate than their population. The black population, Hispanic population at a lower rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:00)
Well why is the question. We are making the vaccine available on an equitable basis, in community centers, in public housing projects, in houses of worship, geographically all throughout the state. There is a hesitancy problem in the black community. Now they call it hesitancy. I don’t like that word hesitancy because it’s a baloney word, hesitancy. It’s not hesitancy, call it what it is, it’s a lack of trust. It’s a lack of trust. The black community is saying, “I don’t trust the system that says it is safe.” The black community is saying, “Too many times we’ve been told to trust the system and the trust was broken.” The black community is saying, “Do you remember the Tuskegee experiment? And now you’re asking me to take a vaccine?” The black community is saying, “Well the Trump administration said it’s safe, but I don’t believe the Trump administration when they said it was safe.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:13)
By the way, I am saying I didn’t accept the Trump administration when they said it was safe, but here are the facts. We didn’t accept the federal approval. We then brought together the best healthcare minds in the state of New York, they all reviewed the vaccine, they all said it was safe. Number one. Number two, I have no agenda besides representing the people of the state of New York. That’s what I do. I don’t represent or work for the politicians in Albany. I work for the people of the state. I am telling you, I have gone through the research, five million people have taken this vaccine, it is safe. I’m telling you, my mother I recommended the vaccine to. I’m telling you, I am recommending my daughters when they’re available to take the vaccine. I’m telling you that the leading black medical professionals in this country say take the vaccine, and the pastors who are here today, who have no other possible agenda, no other possible reason to mislead the black population, say take the vaccine.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:47)
Clergy, pastors who are here today, they only work for one person. They only have one boss. Their boss would not take kindly to them misleading their congregation. When they say it is safe to take the vaccine, it is safe to take the vaccine. We now have Johnson & Johnson, one dose. Much faster, much easier and it’s going to ramp up production. We’ll make it available, we’re doing it in this site faster and better than any place in the nation, but we need people to come forward and we need the black population to come forward and we need the Hispanic community to come forward. They have to go first. We can’t put the needle in your arm if you don’t bring your arm forward and that’s what we’re asking you to do today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:50)
This vaccine can save your life. This vaccine can save your mother’s life, your grandmother’s life, your sister’s life, your brother’s life. It literally is a matter of life or death. COVID is over, no it’s not. We lose people every day to COVID. Every day I have to go through the number of lives lost. Well, it’s down from where it was, yes. But you’re still talking about hundreds of families affected every day, every day, every day.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:32)
Save lives. Do what you can to save lives. Take the vaccine. Thank you for being with me today. Please welcome Dr. Howard Zucker.
Dr. Howard Zucker: (13:51)
Thank you Governor Cuomo. It is an honor to be here at the Javits Center this morning. After a long year, we now have three vaccines that will finally help us end this crisis. It’s never been so important that we all do our part to get vaccinated. The sooner we can get vaccines into as many people as possible, the better off we will all be. Herd immunity will finally put COVID on the defense and allow us to move forward. Whether it’s Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna, each is safe and effective. New York State and the federal government have each done rigorous reviews to guarantee that indeed is the case. I’m especially relieved, we now have Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is being given out here at the Javits Center overnight. It’s only one shot, it doesn’t require the ultra cold storage that limits where it can be distributed. These factors will allow us to get as many doses of this effective vaccine into arms as soon as possible.
Dr. Howard Zucker: (14:51)
The governor has been right when he has said that the vaccine is what will end this crisis. Combined with our continued vigilance to wear a mask and other behavioral measures, the vaccine is driving down New York’s positivity rate. All three reduce the risks of COVID, taking a tremendous burden off of our hospital system. So please, when it is your time, get your vaccine. Do it. It’s the only way we will end this crisis, reclaim our lives, and create a better future for everyone. Thank you very much.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:29)
Reverend Gilbert Pickett: (15:34)
To our governor and to all the clergy who are here on today, it is a pleasure to be here as I am personally preparing to take the vaccine on today. Again, I want to acknowledge the clergy that the governor has named and I especially want to recognize my president, the Reverend Dr. Carl Washington of Empire Baptist Missionary Convention. We stand here today united to encourage New Yorkers, especially those who are part of the black and brown community, to take the vaccine today. Some of my colleagues have already taken the vaccine and we are a living testament to the fact that it works and it is safe. The virus may be race-blind, but it’s not affecting anyone equally. It’s hurting black and brown communities disproportionately. I want to thank the governor because he saw the need to get the vaccine to our communities and he is not just ringing the alarms of us taking the vaccine for months, but he’s planning and acting to get way ahead of this for nearly a year. I encourage more houses of worship to take part in the governor’s pop-up vaccinations, the drives in order to get members out to be vaccinated in our communities. We are not just lucky but blessed enough to have three vaccines. I’ll be taking the Johnson & Johnson today, and as Dr. Fauci has stated, take whatever vaccination is available.
Reverend Gilbert Pickett: (17:32)
To God be the glory for the great things that he has done and what he continues to do, now we must do our part. Which means getting vaccinated to keep ourselves, our families, our communities healthy. Otherwise we risk the ongoing cycle of this virus rebounding and mutating. We need to stop this virus here and now.
Reverend Gilbert Pickett: (18:01)
At these moments, we must remember the lessons of the community in which John spoke of in Chapter #15 of the gospel. “I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you cannot do anything.” The vaccine is safe, smart, and everyone should take it, and that’s why, as a New Yorker and as a pastor, I am taking this vaccine today. Thank you Governor.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:44)
Reverend Pickett makes a powerful case. He’s a beautiful orator but today, the old expression he’s going to put his money where his mouth is, we’re going to adapt it a little bit, he’s going to put a needle in his arm to show that he truly believes in this message. I volunteered to do the vaccine for the reverend, he deferred and said he wanted someone with a little bit more experience. I don’t take it personally, so we have … Praise the Lord. Good decision on the reverend’s part. So Reverend, if you have a seat, and we’ll watch you as you have your vaccine administered. Thank you all very much for being here today.
Speaker 4: (19:40)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:25)
Wow. That was great.