Nov 23, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 23
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s November 23 COVID-19 press conference. He urged people not to congregate for Thanksgiving. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
Everybody knows to my far right, Gareth Rhodes, to my immediate right, Melissa DeRosa, to my immediate left, Robert Mojica, budget director of the State of New York. Today is day 268, a little bit of a reality check today, if we can. Because, these are dangerous times that we’re in. The COVID rate, number of deaths, number of hospitalizations, everything we watch all day on TV is all a function of our actions. There is no predetermined result here. It is a result of our actions, period. You tell me what New Yorkers do today, I will tell you the infection rate tomorrow. It’s a direct result. We are in a place now where there’s a bad synergy. People are talking about Thanksgiving, what’s going to happen by Thanksgiving. It’s not just about Thanksgiving. There is a sense of COVID fatigue, they call it. We’re social beings, we enjoy other beings, isolation is depressing, COVID fatigue, I don’t want to do this anymore. Well, there’s a vaccine, it’s over. There’s a vaccine, seize anything you can as a rationalization. There’s a vaccine, we’re going to get it in a few weeks. I don’t have to worry about it.
Governor Cuomo: (01:52)
You put that together with the fact that the cases are all ready on the increase. And, we are now coming into the high social season, Thanksgiving, Christmas. It’s the high social season. Social activity goes way up in this season. That is a bad combination. And, it is always the combination of events that creates the major issues. This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts. We are already in a bad period. Before you get to Thanksgiving, we are already in a bad period. The last three weeks, the number of hospitalizations has gone from 1200 to 2700. That is a 122% increase. Okay.
Governor Cuomo: (03:10)
Factor that out for the next three weeks, same rate of increase we’ve had for the past three weeks, factor out of that rate of increase, okay. Forget Thanksgiving, forget everything else, just factor out the current rate of increase. You know where we are in three weeks? 6,000 cases. Do you get that? 6,000 cases by the current rate of increase. That’s before we go into 37 days of the highest socialization period of the year. If nothing else affects it, you go up to 6,000 cases if you don’t get it down. But, you’re going into the period of high socialization. You put that rate of increase together with an additional increase from the high level of social activity, that is a dangerous situation. And, that is exactly where we are going.
Governor Cuomo: (04:28)
And, let’s be sure we understand the facts. Well, New York State is only a 3% infection rate, it has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States. We’re fine, we’re fine, we’re only at 3%. Yes, you’re right, we’re only at 3%. Only Vermont, Maine and Hawaii are lower than us. But, that can change in an instant. And remember how we got here, it took a lot of effort and a lot of pain to get to this point. How quickly can we forget what we just went through several months ago. We went to 3%, we got down to 3% because we went through the New York PAUSE Plan which had never been done before, required tremendous energy, and effort, and loss and pain. We were at a 50% infection rate, 50%. And, we brought it down from 50% to 1%, through a tremendous unprecedented effort. How do you forget all the pain that we went through?
Governor Cuomo: (06:06)
And we have to remember that, because if we’re not careful, we will go back there. Do you remember overwhelming? Having such a loss of life that we overwhelmed the cemeteries and the funeral homes. And, we were storing bodies in refrigerated trucks, literally, that we ran out of space. 800 people died on one day, 800 people died on one day. The emergency rooms and hospitals were like battle zones. We ran out of cemetery space, and in New York City, they were burying people on Hart Island. I mean, how do we not remember that? And, how doesn’t that chasten us and frighten us? It frightens me. I remember it like it was yesterday, walking into the Javits Center, which looked like an emergency hospital after an apocalypse. It looked like it should be in a science fiction movie. Hundreds of cots lined up one after the other, after the other. I mean, that was just a few months ago.
Governor Cuomo: (07:41)
That’s reality. That’s what can happen. We worked together, people were heroic, we go from 50% down to 1%. We brought the rate down. But, you know what? We can bring the rate up. You can bring a rate up a lot easier than you brought the rate down. If our actions change, the rate will change. If the actions change, the rate will change. 3% positivity statewide, yes, but that’s not relevant. That’s not relevant. What’s relevant is the variance in the infection rate, and what’s relevant to you is the infection rate in your community. This state, the highest infection rate is 9.6, the lowest rate’s 0.24. Those may as well be different states. It means we’ll be different countries by the way. So, the question is the infection rate in your community where your family lives and there is a wide variety. You look at New York City, Lenox Hill 0.69, lowest infection rate in New York City. Yes, but then you have 4% in Astoria. Just a couple of miles away as the crow flies. Brooklyn 3.6, and then you have Staten Island. Elm park, 5%. Great Kills, 5.45. Bay Terrace, 5.5. Tottenville, 5.8. That’s what you need to know. Long Island, same thing. You go from 1% infection rate in Woodbury to almost 5% in Freeport. That’s five times the infection rate. Suffolk, you go from 1% in Stony Brook to 5%, five times in Hampton bays. Same thing all across the Hudson Valley.
Governor Cuomo: (10:04)
It’s the infection rate in your community that matters. And, that’s why we talk about micro-clusters. We’re looking at the state in terms of communities. You should look at the state in terms of your community. That’s where you shop, that’s where you say hello to your neighbor, that’s where your kids play, that’s who your kids play with. Influence your family’s behavior and your community’s behavior, and be a COVID change agent in your community. Fact three, the vaccine is here. Happy days. A new therapeutic was just announced, great. And by the way, it is great news. It is great news. You had an international competition among big pharma companies, who could do the first vaccine. By the way, Pfizer, New York company. Regeneron, New York company. Great news. Well, the vaccine is here, the vaccine is going to save us. So, I don’t have to worry. It is going to be months, and months and months before you hit a critical mass on the vaccination. I will wager anyone who wants to wager, it will be at least six months before you hit critical mass. The vaccine is not going to be here in time to stop an increasing infection rate. Fact four, the numbers are going up. And, I’ll tell you how these numbers work. Because these numbers have kept me awake for many, many, many nights. Positivity rate goes up, then the hospitalization rate goes up, then the number of people in intensive care goes up, then the number of people in intubation goes up, and then the number of people who die goes up, that is what happens. People get infected, they go into the hospital, they go into the ICU, they’re intubated, they die. The numbers are going up. Fact five, we are threatened by everyone around us. All the surrounding states are higher than we are. They have a higher infection rate. Jersey’s over five. I’m sorry, Jersey’s over seven, Connecticut’s over five, Pennsylvania’s over 11.
Governor Cuomo: (12:55)
And, These people come in and out every day. They work here, they socialize here, they’re in the bar, they’re in the restaurant every day. You see the reflection of the numbers in today’s number. The micro-cluster areas, 4.4. Statewide without the micro-clusters, 2.7, with the micro-clusters, 3.8. That’s 190,000 tests. We still test more than any state in the nation, so our data is more solid. 33 people passed away. Hospitalizations up 162, and then the ICU’s go up 43, then the intubations go up, and then the death number goes up. That is what is happening. Those are the facts. We have a number of announcements of yellow zones, orange zones, red zones, remember what they are. Yellow zone in New York city is 2.5, reduces house of worships, gatherings. Orange zone reduces mass gatherings, more businesses close, high risk in an orange zone. Schools close to clean and test, and then can reopen if they test and the positivity rate is low.
Governor Cuomo: (14:34)
Red zone reduces house of worship to 25%, mass gatherings, prohibited businesses, essential only, dining, takeout only, schools close, but clean the school, test the school, reopen the school. All the leading thinkers now say, “K-8 should remain open, because it’s safer than the local community.” Junior high is a different story. New York City, Upper Manhattan is going to become a yellow zone. Basically, the Washington Heights area is 3.3. Staten Island, part is a yellow zone, part is an orange zone. You see in Staten Island, Tottenville, 5.89, Great Kills, 5.5; yellow zone, West Brighton, Mariners Cove, Elm Park etc. Staten Island is a problem. The number of hospitalizations in Staten Island have gone, over the last three weeks, they basically tripled, 33 to 91. It’s a consequence of action…
Governor Cuomo: (16:03)
It’s a consequence of action. These are all three weeks overall, 122% increase. This is where we wind up, 6,047. At the same rate of increase, if Thanksgiving did nothing, if Christmas season did nothing, if we don’t bring down the current rate, we go to 6,000. Staten Island has such an issue that it has triggered a hospital capacity issue, and the hospitals have contacted us and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island. And we’re going to open an emergency COVID patient facility at South Beach on Staten Island. Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that’s what we have to do on Staten Island. Long Island, Hampton Bays is a yellow district at five. Suffolk, Riverhead is a yellow zone.
Governor Cuomo: (17:24)
Great Neck and Massapequa Park, Finger Lakes, central New York, parts of Syracuse, Solvay, Dewitt, Lyncourt become an orange zone. In Monroe, parts of Rochester or Rhonda Coy, Brighton become an orange zone. On the warning track, parts of Erie County are on track to become a red zone. Westchester County, parts of it are on track to become an orange and a red zone. Orange County, on track to become an orange zone. Unfortunate coincidence between Orange County and orange zone. Putnam County, Brewster, is on track to become a yellow zone, Ontario, Victor on track to become a yellow zone.
Governor Cuomo: (18:20)
This is my last point, Thanksgiving. This is my personal opinion. So it’s worth what you pay for it, since you don’t pay for it, it’s worth nothing. This is not a normal Thanksgiving. This not a normal Thanksgiving, despite the commercialization. I’m sitting there last night, I’m watching television. All these commercials. Thanksgiving is coming. Here’s Thanksgiving. 20 people around the table, everybody drinking, passing turkey, laughing, kissing, hugging. Yeah. All beautiful pictures of Thanksgiving in the storybook setting, the way we wish it could be. Those commercials have nothing to do with what this Thanksgiving should be because those commercials are selling cranberry sauce and they’re selling liquor and they’re selling turkey stuffing. So they’re trying to say this should be a normal Thanksgiving, buy our product. I understand that.
Governor Cuomo: (19:34)
This is not a normal Thanksgiving. My daughter, Mariah calls. You know Mariah, she’s in Chicago and she calls and very calmly, we had a very rational conversation. She says, she talked to the doctors. It would be risky for her to come home for Thanksgiving. She’s in Chicago. Why? Well, they say, even if I get a test, I have to get on an airplane. An airplane is risky. I have to go through the airport. The airport is risky. It’s such a time now where I can actually test negative, but have the virus, but the antibodies haven’t shown yet, which is true. This is a lag. So she said, I’m not going to come home for Thanksgiving because it’s unsafe. And we talked through alternatives. I said, look, I’ll get in the car. I’ll come and I’ll pick you up. She said, that doesn’t make sense. Then we’re in a car together for 10 hours. And then from there anywhere can infect someone else. So we go through all the logic. We decide she’s not going to come home for Thanksgiving. And then she starts to cry.
Governor Cuomo: (20:53)
She said, I feel so bad. I feel isolated. I feel trapped. I feel like I was looking forward to seeing you and I can’t get there. And those of you who have children know when your child cries, it kills you, right? You feel pain worse than they feel pain. I hang up the phone, I’m talking to my other daughter Makayla. I said, boy, Mariah’s upset. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do it. Makayla, who’s the baby, but the baby sort of watches everybody else. And sometimes has an insight on wisdom. She said, well, this is not a normal Thanksgiving. This is a special Thanksgiving. This is better than a normal Thanksgiving because it’s more powerful and it’s more meaningful. And it’s not just about the commercialization and the trappings. Let’s think about what Thanksgiving really means and really should mean when we say we give thanks because this is a year when we really should be thankful. And she’s right, this Thanksgiving is more special than most Thanksgiving. It has a deeper meaning.
Governor Cuomo: (22:25)
This has been a horrific year where we have seen the worst in a generation. And we’ve also seen the best in a generation. And let’s think of Thanksgiving as a time to, yes, really give thanks to the people who really did phenomenal things this year, those doctors or nurses who were just amazing. All the essential workers, all the neighbors who went out and shopped for their neighbor and helped them out. All the senior citizens who had the worst year, who couldn’t see their family, who were in nursing homes with no visitation, who was scared for themselves because they were the number one targets for COVID. Every person who wears a mask, be thankful for them that they care enough to do it. Every restaurant owner, business owner, bar owner who lived by the rules and who suffered economically to keep their business open.
Governor Cuomo: (23:30)
Every police officer, every EMS worker, every bus driver and train operator who had to stand there with hundreds of people, walking past them all through COVID, every reporter who goes out there to cover the story to tell people the truth, those National Guard people. I remember looking at the National Guard when we were setting up the Javits Center and I saw fear in their eyes. It was like a stage from a movie. It was so frightening with all green uniforms, green trucks, Army rations, Army nurses. It was frightening. They were scared, but you know what, they were there. They were there. They didn’t call in sick. They showed up. Think about all the people who left their homes every day so that we could stay at home.
Governor Cuomo: (24:38)
Think about what I was saying to people every day, it’s dangerous. Stay home. I’m not kidding. Stay home, but not you, essential worker. You have to show up and you have to leave your house so everybody else can stay home. What a beautiful gesture, be thankful for that. How about the thousands of families who, this Thanksgiving, know the person who’s not there because thousands and thousands of families lost someone. Why don’t we really honor that this Thanksgiving and saying, yes, we’re going to be alone physically, but we are spiritually together celebrating in a way that is even deeper than just the approximate location of sitting next to someone. Yeah, Mariah is going to be in Chicago. But you know what, the feeling of this Thanksgiving and my love for her and her gesture and the way she helped me this year and the way she helped other New Yorkers, she did the Mask Up campaign.
Governor Cuomo: (25:55)
The fact that she cares enough not to come home was such a beautiful gesture of love. Thank you, Mariah, for thinking more of me than yourself and not coming home. We have to think of Thanksgiving that way. It’s not that table. You’re giving thanks and honoring your global family and the family of New York and everything that we did together this year. That’s what we’re thanking. That’s what New York tough, smart, united, disciplined, and loving means for this Thanksgiving. It’s not a normal Thanksgiving. It’s not the traditional Thanksgiving. It’s better than that. It’s deeper than that. It’s more spiritual than that. It’s more profound than that. Never in my life has there been a Thanksgiving that is more significant to me on such a deep level. It was about life and death this year. That’s who we should give thanks to.
Governor Cuomo: (27:29)
One unrelated point, we finished cashless tolling all across the New York state thruway, 527 miles. Today we are opening a new road that connects the Triborough RFK Bridge with the Harlem River Drive. It should have been done decades ago to reduce the traffic on the Triborough and it’s in place one month earlier. So I give thanks to the construction workers who showed up and did the work all during COVID because I insisted that the state keep moving. So I thank them also, but it’s a big deal. My father used to complain that this was one of the really dumb traffic patterns in New York City. But my father complained about a lot of dumb traffic patterns in New York City. But I remember this one.
Governor Cuomo: (28:31)
Speaker 1: (28:34)
The facility on Staten Island, how many beds and how quickly will that be up and running?
Governor Cuomo: (28:38)
Who knows. Gareth, Rob?
Speaker 2: (28:40)
This was a facility that we had, actually it was open in the spring. It’s right next to the Staten Island University Hospital, which is operated by Northwell. So it was open in the spring. I think we had just over a hundred patients there at the time. This is actually a new state, an OPWDD/OMH facility that was actually during Hurricane Sandy was destroyed and has been rebuilt. It never opened up again to OMH residents. So we opened it up as a temporary hospital in the early spring. And it’s right across from the Northwell Hospital on Staten Island.
Speaker 3: (29:15)
[inaudible 00:29:15] Or is there more capacity?
Speaker 2: (29:17)
There is more capacity. That’s what there was in there last time. I think they only had two floors last time, but there is more capacity if needed.
Governor Cuomo: (29:23)
We set up a number of emergency facilities in the spring. Thank God, we didn’t need them. Javits, we did use for about 2000 people. This was a plan, the emergency facility in the spring. We didn’t use it. Now we need it.
Speaker 4: (29:46)
Have you spoken to Joe Biden about what he can do about congestion pricing once he starts as president from day one?
Governor Cuomo: (29:49)
No, not yet.
Governor Cuomo: (29:51)
The conversation, just because the conversation hasn’t gotten to that level of detail. I’m sure he doesn’t know about the DOT. We have a lot of DOT issues. MTA congestion pricing plan is one of a long list of issues with Department of Transportation. Department of Transportation hasn’t approved the rebuilding of the Hudson Tunnel. The Department of Transportation hasn’t approved the LaGuardia Airport air train. Department of Transportation hasn’t funded Second Avenue subway while every other federal DOT has and the federal government hasn’t approved the congestion pricing plan. So it’s a long list.
Speaker 4: (30:33)
How important on the list is congestion pricing?
Governor Cuomo: (30:35)
They’re all important.
Speaker 5: (30:36)
In the spring we had problems with supplies and staffing, and you talked a lot about nurses from other places, those folks are not available now. what concerns you have about staffing and supplies and where do things stand now specifically on Staten Island and the city in general and the state?
Governor Cuomo: (31:02)
Supplies we had, the spring was a case of first impression, right? Nobody knew where we were and we were improvising every step of the way. As I’ve said before, and as a cathartic process wrote in my book that we had SARS, MERS, Ebola, dengue, Zika, H1N1, and then we have COVID and this nation was surprised that we had COVID is still incredible to me. Dot dot, dot, dot. Just factor out the dots. SARS, MERS, COVID, all coronaviruses, all from China or from wet poultry markets, all evaded the national-
Governor Cuomo: (32:03)
All from what poultry markets, all evaded the national health gurus, and then COVID travels from China to Europe, is in Europe for three months, nobody knows it and comes here from Europe for three months. Anyway. It was all a case of first impression. PPE became a major issue, masks, gowns, testing, reagents, staffing. Next, we have learned our lesson. We have the PPE that we need. We have the supplies that we need. We have this surge capacity now in the hospital system, we’re using it on Staten Island. This is surge capacity, which we never used in the spring, but now we need to use it on Staten Island. Did we ever fill Staten Island in the spring?
Speaker 6: (32:58)
The hospital system?
Governor Cuomo: (32:59)
No, the South Beach facility.
Speaker 6: (33:03)
We had about 200 patients over the period of the-
Governor Cuomo: (33:05)
In South Beach?
Speaker 6: (33:06)
In South Beach, yes. These are COVID [inaudible 00:33:07], so people who were recovered.
Governor Cuomo: (33:10)
We’re reopening that emergency facility. We have the surge capacity. We have the PPE. One of the problems with the staff in the spring was they were burnt out. They were working seven days a week and they were burned out and they were sick. We’ve identified additional staff, people who can work, but we don’t foresee that dire logistical crisis that we had in the spring. What you can’t deny is hospitalization goes up to 6,000. Hospitalization is a nice way of saying more people die, more people die. We had 1000 people in the hospital three weeks ago. Three weeks from today, we can have 6,000 people in the hospitals. Three weeks ago, death rate was about 10 15. Today, it’s about 33. If you’re at 6,000, you could be back in over 100 deaths.
Governor, can you clarify how schools can test out once they’re closed in an orange? You’ve said they can test out and reopen, but what’s the threshold there for a school? What’s the specific testing rate and along those lines, how quickly could schools in New York City reopen if they do adapt that test?
Governor Cuomo: (34:50)
Remember Andrew, we did this two weeks ago. We had the Brooklyn zone. Brooklyn went to a red zone, I think it was. And Queens went to an orange or a red zone, but schools closed in those zones. And what did they do? They closed for four days, clean the schools, test the students. Any negative student can return. Positive student can’t return. And then 25% of the student population is tested once a week. And on that basis, the school reopens, which happened in Brooklyn for some schools, not all school.
Speaker 7: (35:42)
Because of the mayor’s 3% threshold, is it a case of them needing to just renegotiate the threshold, then put in the testing protocol and they can reopen in a matter of days?
Governor Cuomo: (35:53)
No. Apples and Oranges.
Speaker 8: (35:55)
Are you coordinating with Mayor de Blasio, though, about [inaudible 00:35:58] reopening because I feel like there’s been a lot of-
Governor Cuomo: (36:00)
Yes. No, there hasn’t been. Let’s just be clear because there are facts. Let’s just know the facts. Education, and we did this yesterday, but not everybody was here because you don’t work Sundays. I work Sundays because I get overtime on Sundays, time and a half, actually. Education has historically been a locally controlled issue and local governments are very proprietary about education. You get outside of New York City, you go to buy a house in the suburbs upstate. You don’t say to the real estate broker, I want to buy a house in Mount Kisco. You say, I want to buy a house in the [inaudible 00:36:52] School District, I want to buy a house in the Scarsdale School District. So the school district, school board elections, school superintendents, it’s very intense. They wanted local control over the schools, which is what normally happens, subject to state regulation, always. 700 local school districts.
Governor Cuomo: (37:16)
I said, this is what we’ll do. You have local control up to 3%. When 3% happens, the state law takes over, but up to 3%, it’s up to you. Some school districts have hybrid, some open, some closed, some do remote, some do a combination, whatever the parents wanted. The one thing I insisted on was I said, consult the parents and the teachers. I don’t want the school superintendent to make a decision and then the parents say, that’s a crazy decision, I’m not sending my children. Up to 3 is up to them. Because local governments have different numbers, once it hits 3 on the state number, now it triggers orange zone. Above 3 is red zone. Once it triggers orange zone at 3, state law kicks in and state law is the school closes. I believe it’s four days. Four days, clean the school, you can test and reopen. You have to test every student on the way back in. If a student is negative, they come in, student is positive, they can’t come in. And then you test 25% of the population. Under 3%, if it’s not in an orange zone school, it’s totally up to the local government.
Governor Cuomo: (39:08)
[crosstalk 00:39:08] Excuse me a second. Over 3%, it’s not a union negotiation. I’m not negotiating with the teacher’s union. Mike Mulgrew is the New York City teacher’s union. You then have local teacher’s unions all across the state. The way you have a Mike Mulgrew, there’s an Andy Pallotta, who’s the head of the statewide. And then there’s Rochester teachers and Buffalo teachers and Nassau teachers and Suffolk teachers, multiple unions. The same rule applies to all at 3%. This is what happens, bing, one role, one law across the state. Under 3, it’s up to that local school district. It’s up to the city. Is that clear?
Speaker 9: (39:59)
Governor, on Thanksgiving [crosstalk 00:00:40:00]-
Governor Cuomo: (40:00)
Speaker 9: (40:00)
25 person rule. Upstate law enforcement and upstate politicians have said it’s either impossible to enforce or we refuse to enforce it. How do you react? How do you enforce the 25 person rule? Also, congratulations on the International Emmy. Your reaction to that as well, please.
Governor Cuomo: (40:23)
Thank you. Let me write this down because those are two different things. Yes, that’s the underlying point of this discussion. This is an emotional time, political time. Everybody has their own strongly held opinion. You have a strongly held opinion that says COVID is all an overreaction, it’s a hoax, I’m not wearing a mask, I’m not following these rules. You have sheriffs upstate who have said, I’m not going to enforce the law. Now, how a law enforcement officer says, I choose not to enforce that law. I believe that law enforcement officer violates his or her constitutional duty. I don’t consider them a law enforcement officer because you don’t have the right to pick laws that you think you will enforce and you don’t enforce laws that you don’t agree with. That’s not a law enforcement officer. That’s a dictator. You’re not a law enforcement officer. You can’t pick and choose and if that’s the way you run your law enforcement agency, I don’t consider it a law enforcement agency. God bless you, but don’t ask me for help.
Governor Cuomo: (42:08)
And I think it’s a dangerous precedent. Police officer says, well, I don’t think cocaine should be illegal, so I’m not going to enforce the cocaine laws. It’s not up to you. You don’t have that right. But it’s signifying because the upstate sheriffs what they’re doing is they’re being political. The no more than 10 rule people find intrusive. You’re telling me in my house, I can’t have more than 10 people. It’s none of your business what I do in my home. Now, of course it is. Laws apply in your home. Domestic violence applies in your home. Drug laws apply in your home. Yes it does. Well, I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving the way I always celebrate Thanksgiving. People on Staten Island, we are having the same big family Thanksgiving that we always have and nobody’s going to tell me not to have a big family Thanksgiving.
Governor Cuomo: (43:17)
I’m telling you that you are responsible for your actions and here are the numbers and the numbers don’t lie and this is the increase before any other increase from Thanksgiving. And if you increase social activity, then you’re going to see the number go further up. I said to one person, I had a conversation with somebody in Staten Island who said, I’m not following these rules, they’re all baloney. I said, I’ll make you a deal. I will exempt you from all the rules. You agree if you or anyone in your family gets sick, you’re purely responsible. He said, what do you mean? I said, if you get sick or your family gets sick, you are responsible. You stay at home and get better. If you have to go into the hospital, you pay the bill, you find a nurse to take care of you, you find an ambulance driver who wants to drive a COVID positive person to the hospital. You’re responsible. Well, no, no, no. I’m not doing that. I said, oh, see, so you want to be able to act irresponsibly, but then endanger the ambulance driver and endanger the nurse and endanger the doctor and endanger the 1199 member who has to come and change your bedding because of your actions. It’s not like your actions only affect you. You act irresponsibly, you get sick, now 30 people are effected because you are infected.
Governor Cuomo: (45:14)
But there is no doubt, that is an undercurrent. And it’s in the numbers. The numbers are reflecting the behavior. You look at the areas where the sheriffs say, I’m not going to enforce it. You look at their infection rates, some of the highest infection rates in the state, you look at the communities in Staten Island that say, I don’t believe this is true. They have the highest infection rates in the city. Was that a coincidence?
Governor Cuomo: (45:45)
On the Emmy, when I first heard I was flattered by it, but then I looked into it a little bit. Oprah Winfrey won it, Steven Spielberg won it, Al Gore won it for Inconvenient Truth, which I thought was just masterful. It is flattering, but it’s also symbolic. I just watched it before we came down. For it to be personalized to me, I want to make sure people understand that I’m just the symbol of a much larger effort. The people who are on this table, Rob, Melissa, Garreth, who were there every day, every public employee who is out there putting the numbers together every day and really, the people of the state who made it work. What they were saying on the presentation was I gave facts. They never mentioned my sense of humor, by the way, nor did they mention any charisma or good looks or charm.
Governor Cuomo: (47:15)
They didn’t mention a lot of things, but they said I gave facts, but it’s that New Yorkers responded and New Yorkers did respond. And that’s how you go from a 50% infection rate to a 1% infection rate. And now you’re at a 3% infection rate. And by the way, the parts of the country that didn’t have it in the spring, they’re now it 50% infection rate, Wyoming, North Dakota, and we’re one of the lowest. It was really one of the most beautiful, effective exercises of social action. We did this first in the nation-
Governor Cuomo: (48:03)
Right? We did this first in the nation. First state in the nation to have a mask mandate. We’re 99% compliance with masks. Why? Because I made it a law? No. Could never ticket. You know, I think we gave out 10 tickets in New York City all they use is sheriffs now. It’s not that we give tickets if you don’t wear a mask, it was just social action, social behavior, people accepted it. That’s what the Emmy’s all about. It was beautiful to see what people can do at their best, how they can come together and how they can sacrifice and how good they can be. Especially New York, all the diversity, Black, brown, gay, straight, LGBTQ, all this diversity. It’s a problem everywhere else. Differences, differences, differences, no commonality, commonality, commonality. That’s what New York said. That’s what won the Emmy. So congratulations to New Yorkers, which I’ve always said because it’s New Yorkers. We did it. Let’s take one more.
Speaker 10: (49:17)
Governor Cuomo: (49:18)
We’ll do more than one more. I’m sorry.
Speaker 10: (49:20)
Can you talk about what measures the state may be taking in the… Of belt tightening in the event that a federal stimulus comes out that doesn’t include aid for states and cities and could that even include maybe even job cuts in the public sector?
Governor Cuomo: (49:40)
If the federal government does not provide relief, state and local aid, belt tightening, it would be going from a 42 to a 29. Okay? To stick with your analogy. I don’t really know the relevance of that, but it sounds good. 44 to a 29 waist. You would have to do tax increases, government cuts and borrow and layoffs and you would still have a longterm issue. You’d have to do all of the above. Let’s say the number’s about 50 billion, Ray, go to the highest income tax in the United States of America. How much do you think it makes us? Billion and a half, 2 billion tops, highest income tax in America. We’re second highest now, we’d go higher than California. 2 billion tops. Okay, now you need another 48 billion. So you’d have to do all of the above.
Speaker 10: (50:58)
To put it another way, how vital is that stimulus-
Governor Cuomo: (51:06)
Oxygen. It’s oxygen. I had all the governors on the phone, chairman of the National Governors Association, it’s every state. And also there’s a broader point, one of the governors said and was exactly right, we were briefing Joe Biden. If as goes the states goes the nation, you can’t say to 50 states go bankrupt without saying to the nation go bankrupt. It’s a problem for every state. If they don’t fund the states, I think you’ll see a national recession. And do you really want me to lay off essential workers? You know who the essential workers are? They’re the teachers, the police, the healthcare workers who are supposed to be doing this new vaccine process, which is going to be an operational nightmare.
Speaker 11: (52:03)
Governor, speaking of the vaccine, Operation Warp Speed, the head of it said that the vaccine could be ready as soon as December 11th for distribution. What is the status of state efforts and has any thought been given to this idea of prioritizing vaccinations for people who are most at risk of spreading the virus compared to purely based on medical vulnerabilities?
Governor Cuomo: (52:24)
The prioritizations are done by medical personnel. You raise an interesting point, I don’t know how you would determine… Well you probably are hitting the same class, if you’re doing healthcare workers and essential workers, you’re doing people who are coming in contact with the largest number of people, right? Essential workers are coming in contact with the people, with the public-
Speaker 11: (52:59)
The current plan would just prioritize the frontline workers, not necessarily an essential worker at Starbucks or something who might see lots of people, right?
Governor Cuomo: (53:09)
Well, it depends on what… The first plan, the outline of the plan, the big question is how much product, how quickly, you know. Are you going to be getting 1 million doses a month? Are you getting half a million doses per month? And when you know the supply, you can come up with the actual plan, specifics of the plant. But right now the first priorities are people who are senior citizens, people who are immune compromised, and that’s going to be the first traunch.
Governor Cuomo: (53:49)
Rob, do you have anything newer on that or different?
No. I think the numbers are really going to depend on how much vaccine we actually get and then prioritizing, so we’re building categories of people right? Based in those categories. But as the governor said, it’s going to come down to how much vaccine we get and when.
Speaker 12: (54:09)
[crosstalk 00:54:09] two in person fundraisers over the weekend. Do you think mayoral candidates should be doing in person fundraisers as COVID spikes? And what examples do you think mayoral candidates should be setting right now?
Governor Cuomo: (54:21)
I think they should be setting the highest standards and they certainly shouldn’t be breaking the law, right? So, the law is the threshold and I don’t know what anybody did or didn’t do, but if it violated the law, one of the sheriffs should go give somebody a ticket. And I think if anything, they should be setting a higher bar.
Speaker 13: (54:47)
Pretty much anywhere you go in the city today, you see long, long lines of testing sites. City MD is very popular because people like those 15 minute tests and they have those now, but there are other sites as well and there are long lines, pretty much anywhere you look. Are there enough testing sites in the New York City area? Should there be more? And is one test enough to go celebrate Thanksgiving?
Governor Cuomo: (55:09)
Yeah. Just so you know, we do more tests than any state in the United States. We have more, we do more testing pro-rata than any state in the United States and we have more testing sites pro-rata than any state in the United States. In New York City, you have 420 testing sites, 420. People shop sites and as you pointed out, certain people like one shop better than the other shop or City MD versus this one. But many of the 420 had no waiting lines at all. Now, they’re not the shop that you want to go to, then it’s your choice. You can either wait on the line or go to one of the places that doesn’t have a line.
Speaker 14: (56:07)
Do you want to share any memories of Polly Trottenberg’s its time on the MTA board now that she’s leaving her job as DOT commissioner?
Governor Cuomo: (56:15)
No, I don’t have any special memories.
Speaker 15: (56:17)
Sir, the State Senate Democrats seem to have a super majority, so how is that going to change the power balance between you and the legislature since they have the power to override any of your vetoes, like raising taxes on the super wealthy?
Governor Cuomo: (56:33)
Well, two things. The way the state government really works is through the budget, all the main things are done in the budget and super majority or not, it doesn’t really make a difference. And I can’t think of a situation where every Democrat in the Senate, senators are individuals, they’re not really a monolith or sheep. So I can’t, I don’t think there’s ever been a situation where I disagreed with every Senate Democrat. And you have to remember, Senate Democrats, it’s just not just that they’re not sheep, they represent different parts of the state. You have senators from Buffalo, you have senators from Long Island and those are the places that I represent also, right? So what was your point? You want to make that point? Why don’t you make it?
Melissa DeRosa: (57:40)
I was just going to say, and I think that this is a little bit much ado about nothing. We fought to elect these candidates, the governor endorsed up and down, we fundraised for them. We’ve got personal relationships with many of them and we were thrilled when a bunch of the members that looked like on election night, they weren’t going to make it, have now pulled through. So this is great news.
Governor Cuomo: (57:58)
Yeah. I supported them all and worked very hard to elect them.
Speaker 16: (58:01)
Governor, you mentioned construction workers showed up during this pandemic. Do you consider teachers to be essential workers? And do you feel as though they lived up to that during this pandemic? I mean, it does seem like every union, MTA workers, nurses, police officers, all did show up in person, but the ones who didn’t really were the teachers,
Governor Cuomo: (58:21)
Well, the teachers did show up as required by the government, right? The MTA, we said we’re going to keep operating the MTA and this is how we’re going to do it and the MTA workers showed up. Construction projects, it was very important to me that New York pause didn’t mean we stop building, we stop improving, and they showed up as required by government. The teachers showed up as required by government, right? They fulfilled, in New York City, what the mayor said they had to fulfill. So it’s not the teachers who decided whether or not they were coming. They fulfilled their governmental obligation. Do you have another point?
Melissa DeRosa: (59:22)
And I would also just add that for the teachers a lot of them had to go above and beyond and figure out how to do distance learning and remote learning. Many of them were upset not to be in the classrooms, we know that that was their preference and so I think that they were just as essential and showed up the same, if not more than others.
Governor Cuomo: (59:38)
Please think about thinking about Thanksgiving differently this year, because it has to be a different Thanksgiving. We can’t have, you look at that current rate of increase, you’re going to 6,000 cases in three weeks. You can’t have an accelerant on that number. You really have to reduce that number. This is not a normal Thanksgiving. It’s a better than normal Thanksgiving. It’s a deeper Thanksgiving. It’s a more meaningful Thanksgiving. Mariah loves me so much, she’s not coming to celebrate Thanksgiving with me. That’s how much she loves me. We have to get our head there. Thank you guys.
Speaker 17: (01:00:34)
Since there’s no sign of COVID being transmitted on surfaces, should we be spending millions of dollars on [inaudible 01:00:42].
Governor Cuomo: (01:00:34)
Thank you very much. Have a happy Thanksgiving.