Nov 24, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 24
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on November 24 to address the spike in COVID-19 cases and virus safety for Thanksgiving. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus updates for New York here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
Today, socially distanced, it’s a pleasure to be on Long Island. It’s a pleasure to be at the [inaudible 00:00:06]. Wheatley Heights Ambulance Company, let me thank Chief Tonya Rivers for hosting us today. Thank you very much. Thank you, Chief. Is that what we call you, Chief?
Chief Rivers: (00:21)
Governor Cuomo: (00:21)
They call you Chief at home?
Chief Rivers: (00:23)
Governor Cuomo: (00:26)
I don’t want to tell you what they call me at home. I also want to think the [inaudible 00:00:31] Resource Center for all their help, and the Executive Director, Beverly Theodore. It’s a pleasure to be with her. Thank you very much. Thank you, Beverly. Thank you for having us here today.
Governor Cuomo: (00:43)
Wanted to talk about a couple of facts. Then we’re going to go give out some turkeys. I’m going to give out a lot of turkeys. We’re giving out thousands of turkeys, of course, the state of New York. One of the things with everything else we have going on today, you also have a lot of families in need, in need in an especially difficult time.
Governor Cuomo: (01:06)
Today is day 269 of this COVID situation, 269 days. It’s a long time. Certainly, when you live it every day, the way we’ve lived that every day, it feels like an eternity, right? In the scope of life, it’s not that long a period of time. There’ll be a day when we look back at this and we say, “Remember when we went through COVID? Remember when?” Remember when we went through 9/11, how terrible 9/11 was when we were going through it, but then life brings perspective. The question is, are we being smart now? I want to make sure you know everybody who was with me here today. To my left is Gareth Rhodes who is the Deputy Head of the Financial Services Division Department, Melissa de Rosa, who’s got a special Thanksgiving sweater on today, a special New York Tufts sweater, and to her right Jack Stern, who works with me in the Press Office and is one of the gurus who does these fancy PowerPoints, because I don’t know how to do any of it.
Governor Cuomo: (02:27)
Today is day 269. You turn on the TV, and everyone is talking about the concern about Thanksgiving and why we have to be safe during Thanksgiving, and the fear of COVID during Thanksgiving. I was watching the news this morning. Airline traffic is way up, and they’re all concerned about the increase in airline traffic. Why is everybody worried about Thanksgiving? Because we have to be on high alert. We have to be on high caution about the COVID increase. Let me just give you two facts because we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, but two facts that people need to understand, that explain why this whole level of concern.
Governor Cuomo: (03:19)
First of all, first fact, by the current rate of increase in COVID, we’re going to see a major spike. By the current increase, nothing else happens, you just look at the line of the COVID increase right now, you see it going up. Over three weeks, it has gone up 128%, three weeks. Why? All the reasons they told us. Remember they said, “Beware the fall. Beware the fall.” What happens in the fall? It gets cold. People start to stay in doors. College students start to come home. There’s less outdoor activity. They talk about COVID fatigue. I’m tired of being disciplined. I’m tired of wearing the mask. You’re seeing that spike now. Three weeks, we went from 1,200 cases in the state to about 2,800 cases now.
Governor Cuomo: (04:23)
Just by that current line, you just factor out that line and it just keeps going up, right? We used to talk about flattening the curve. Long Island, 149% increase in three weeks, higher increase than across the state. Went from 141 cases per day to 351 cases per day. That’s Long Island, worse than the statewide increase. Okay, so that’s the current situation, and then what happens?
Governor Cuomo: (04:58)
Now, you have the holiday season. Thanksgiving isn’t just Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season, and the holiday season is 37 days. What do you mean? Look what happens. Thanksgiving, next day, Black Friday, everybody’s saying we have to get ready for Christmas. Hanukkah is coming. Kwanzaa is coming. Right away, day after Thanksgiving, you go right to the Christmas season. Music changes, shopping, everybody’s starts, and then that increased activity goes all the way through New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and that is a period of increased social activity. Come over for a drink. We’re going to have an office party. I’m having a house party. Let’s get together for the holiday season, right? We do that every year.
Governor Cuomo: (05:57)
That’s increased social activity. The more increased social activity, the more that virus is going to spread. Let’s say that we have that current rate of increase. Let’s say the holiday season only increases at 20%, which is the low end of what the experts suggest. That holiday season, the increase in activity only increases the current rate, by 20%. Look what happens. New York state, today we have 2.9% positivity. We go to 12% positivity. That’s a problem. Long Island today has 3% positivity. It goes to 18% positivity. That’s a problem. Today, 351 people go into the hospital about every day because of COVID. It goes up 20%, 1,400 people per day, going into the hospitals. That, my friends, is a real problem.
Governor Cuomo: (07:16)
Thanksgiving, we urge caution. Really, it shouldn’t be about just Thanksgiving. Really, we’re saying this holiday season, we have to be smarter and different than we’ve handled past holiday seasons, because it’s not a normal holiday season. Celebrate with your family. State rule is no more than 10 people in the household. Nowadays, everybody has a different opinion about everything. Everything is politics nowadays. You know what I’m saying? Everything is political. This is not political. Donald Trump, his administration, his CDC, Centers for Disease Control-
Governor Cuomo: (08:03)
His administration, his CDC, Centers for Disease Control says, celebrate only with your household. Only with the people you’ve been with. Only your pod, you talk about a pod now. Only your family. That’s Donald Trump. President-elect Biden’s advisors say the same thing. When is the last time you heard Donald Trump’s advisers and Joe Biden’s advisers saying the same thing? Never. This is the only thing that I have heard them agree on. So this is not about politics, this is about just health experts looking at those facts that you just saw. It’s going up anyway. It goes up a little bit, we’re going to have a problem.
Governor Cuomo: (08:56)
This is not a normal Thanksgiving. It was not a normal summer. It was not a normal Labor Day. It was not a normal Memorial Day. It was not a normal school year. Nothing is normal, because it’s not normal. “You want me to act different than I act normally?” Yes, because it’s not normal. “Well, that’s hard.” I know it’s hard. It’s all been hard. Every day of COVID has been hard. And Thanksgiving is especially hard, I feel it. For me, Thanksgiving was the goal that I was looking forward to. When we were going through all those COVID cases, I would say, “Well, when we get to Thanksgiving, that’s when we can be together and that’s when things are going to be normal again, by Thanksgiving, by Thanksgiving.” And now, we’re Thanksgiving, and things are not normal. They’re not normal and it’s sad. And Thanksgiving is the one time, it’s family. It’s about family.
Governor Cuomo: (10:13)
I have one daughter… I have three daughters: one daughter, twins, and Michaela. One daughter is in Chicago, I had her on the phone. She was going to come home. She’s crying on the phone, the doctor said it’s not safe for her to come from Chicago, because even if you get a test, then you have to get on an airplane, then you go through the airport. Who knows what’s going to happen? So she’s crying on the phone. And you know as a parent, when your child cries, it just goes right through you, and you melt, just melts.
Governor Cuomo: (10:51)
I have my mother who is a senior citizen. She does not admit that she is a senior citizen. My mother somehow, became younger than me in age. I don’t know how she did that mathematical equation in her head, but you talk to her, she’s younger than I am. But she just doesn’t understand it, she just does not understand. I had to talk to her last night. She called me back this morning to go back through the same thing, “I don’t understand. You haven’t seen your sisters in a long time. You haven’t seen your nieces. You haven’t seen your nephews in a long time. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it.” And she doesn’t understand it. This is a Thanksgiving, 89 years old, it’s never been a Thanksgiving like this in her life, but that’s the fact. And it is hard, and it’s hard to do.
Governor Cuomo: (11:50)
And it’s so much easier just to say, “We’ll do it the way we normally do it. That’s the easy way. Come over. We’ll be careful.” It’s a mistake. It’s a mistake. I wanted to say to Mariah, “Come home.” I said to Mariah, “I’ll come pick you up.” That’s a long ride, Chicago. That’s how bad I felt. I said, “I’ll come pick you up.” But she said, “Even if I don’t take the plane, then she’s in the car with me for a number of hours.” And then she still winds up home, in front of people who she can infect.
Governor Cuomo: (12:33)
I didn’t want to disappoint my mother. 89 years old, she’s thinking, “How many Thanksgivings do I get?” You start to think that way. It’s hard, but sometimes hard is smart.
Governor Cuomo: (12:50)
The way I try to do it in my mind to help me sleep, this is not a normal Thanksgiving, this is a special Thanksgiving. This is more special than the other Thanksgiving, because this is truly about giving thanks and honoring people who sacrificed for us this past year. And there are a lot of people who sacrificed to get us through COVID. There are people who gave their lives to get us through COVID. There are nurses who died to get us through COVID. There are doctors who died to get us through COVID. There are police officers who died to get us through COVID. There are National Guards, people who died to get us through COVID. That’s why this is a special Thanksgiving. And for that special Thanksgiving, yes, the celebration is different, but it is special. And it is in many ways, more profound and more meaningful than the past Thanksgiving. So yes, it’s going to look different. It’s going to feel different, but in here, it’s more special, it’s more powerful than past Thanksgiving.
Governor Cuomo: (14:11)
I give thanks to all those essential workers who showed up for work every day, so we could stay home safely. Think about that. Every day, I’m standing at a briefing, sitting at a briefing, doing what I’m doing today, saying, “Stay home. Stay home. It’s dangerous. Don’t send the kids to school. Stay home, stay home, stay home. Except you, essential worker, you have to wake up and you have to go to work. Why? So we can stay home. You have to drive the bus and have hundreds of people walking past you and put your life in danger. You have to drive the train. You have to be at the food store to keep food on the shelves, because if we don’t have food on the shelves, you’re going to see panic. You have to show up at the utility company because if people flip that light switch and there are no lights in their home and there’s no heat, there’s going to be panic.” How brave were those people? Went out in the face of danger. I give thanks for them, and that is special.
Governor Cuomo: (15:21)
So, celebrate Thanksgiving. Celebrate Thanksgiving with your bigger family, your extended family. Your extended family is the family of New York. The extended family is representative of all those people who did the right thing this entire year for one another and acted as a family. When those essential workers went outside, they were your brothers and they were your sisters, and they did it out of love for you, even though they didn’t know you, but because they were
Governor Cuomo: (16:03)
Even though they didn’t know you, but because they were part of the family of New York, the family of humanity, the family of community, and they believe that. That’s what they were honoring, otherwise, they would have stayed home in bed and said, “I’m going to stay safe. Just like you’re staying home, I’m going to stay home.” Because we acted like a family, we acted out of love, and we acted out of duty and honor and respect for one another. That’s what I’m going to celebrate. So I won’t have my family at the table, but I have my broader family at the table, and I am honoring them this Thanksgiving. And this Thanksgiving, as usual, we remember the less-fortunate, but this is a special one and we have to be careful. New York set the standard for the nation in how people respond. We went from the highest infection rate in the nation to the lowest infection rate in the nation. How does a state do that? How about a state like New York? So complicated, so diverse, Black, Brown, white, LGBTQ, upstate, downstate, Democrat, Republican, how did new Yorkers do that? Because we were together. We came together. We rose above the differences. We didn’t focus on differences, we found the commonality that we are all connected. You are my sister. You are my brother. You’re my sister. You’re my sister. And I feel that responsibility and that connection to you, and that’s the family of New York, and that’s what we call New York tough. We’re smart, we’re united as a family, we’re disciplined putting on this thing, and we love one another. We love, and we’re tough enough to say, “We love.” We’re strong enough to say, “I love you. I love you.” And we’re acting out of love. That’s what New York tough means.
Governor Cuomo: (18:32)
We have a special mask for Thanksgiving, because we’re also creative in New York. We are creative and we do things a little different and we have a special mask. Don’t be a Turkey this Thanksgiving, wear a mask. Don’t be a Turkey. How good looking at this mask? You ready? Look at that. How beautiful is that? Tell the truth. Especially good on me, covers my nose and everything. I’m better looking with the mask. Questions?
Speaker 1: (19:16)
Governor, a couple of Long Island Central questions. First off, yesterday, you announced a couple of yellow-zone designations for Long Island. There’s at least a three communities, Freeport, Uniondale, Brentwood that seem to be on the brink. Any additional clusters zones designations for Long Island?
Governor Cuomo: (19:33)
Gareth Rhodes: (19:35)
Yeah, Robert, you’re right. There are. As you saw in our slide show yesterday, we put up the number of different infection rates in these communities. There are a number of that are on the brink, as you said, we’ve been in touch with the county executive offices in both counties, and as those meet the measures over the 10-day period, you can expect to see additional zone designation, but the hope is that, of course, the numbers come down before that’s required.
Speaker 1: (19:59)
On the enforcement measures for Long Island, both the Nassau and the Suffolk police departments have indicated that they will enforce the 25 person designation and they will respond to complaints, however, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has said they won’t take part in this. Your thoughts on how the sheriff is responding, and specifically Long Island as a whole. Are you comfortable with the enforcement measures that the law enforcement out here is taking?
Governor Cuomo: (20:25)
Yeah, let me say this. The law is the law. The law is the law. The law is no more than 10 people in a home, and that’s the law, and the law is the law. By the way, this is not a political situation. Trump Administration CDC says no one other than the household that you have been with. So, no one else beyond the household you have been with, nobody new come into the home. That’s Trump. Joe Biden’s advisors say the same thing. Sheriff says, “Well, politically, I disagree with that.” Well, are you a politician, or are you a law enforcement officer? You have to pick, because it gets very dangerous when a law enforcement officer says, “I’m only going to enforce the laws that I agree with.”
Governor Cuomo: (21:36)
You’re not a law enforcement officer, then you’re a politician. And by the way, sheriffs are politicians. They run for office. A lot of people think that’s a conflict. But, they’re giving their political opinion, and then saying, “I’ll only enforce the laws that I politically agree with.” That is a frightening precedent. What if they don’t agree with anti-discrimination laws? What if they don’t agree with domestic violence laws and say, “Well, that happened between a husband and a wife in a home, that’s their business. I don’t think government has a right to go into that home and tell the husband how to treat the wife.” I’m not interested in your political opinion. Enforce the law. And when they pick and choose, now you’re putting your politics above the law, and I think that is very dangerous, and I don’t consider them law enforcement officers. Then you’re a politician.
Speaker 1: (22:46)
Well, Governor, if you don’t mind-
Governor Cuomo: (22:47)
Hold on a second. Melissa DeRosa.
Melissa DeRosa: (22:49)
Just to add one quick thing. I believe the sheriff in Suffolk’s jurisdiction is actually the jail’s, not the constituent’s, so his opinion on this is even more irrelevant.
Speaker 1: (23:01)
There’s three hour lines-
Governor Cuomo: (23:02)
By the way, there are a lot of issues with his running of the jail, so focus on that, because you got plenty to do there.
Speaker 1: (23:09)
On here on Long Island-
Governor Cuomo: (23:12)
Speaker 2: (23:12)
Speaker 1: (23:12)
Here on Long Island-
Governor Cuomo: (23:12)
What do you say, Chief, you with me?
Speaker 2: (23:12)
I’m with you.
Governor Cuomo: (23:12)
All right, Chief.
Speaker 1: (23:17)
Here on Long Island, we’re seeing two and three hour waits outside of urgent care centers, city MDs, and whatnot, largely for COVID tests. They’re telling reporters, people online, “Hey, I want to be safe for Thanksgiving.” They’re giving them this idea that they’re going to get the COVID test on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, it gives them free rein to enjoy their Thanksgiving. What’s your reaction to people who are waiting outside for hours on end, specifically for this Thanksgiving?
Governor Cuomo: (23:46)
It’s better to get a test and not get a test. Also, just so people know on the point about the lines, we do more tests in New York state than any other state, by far. We do more states pro rata than any other state, by far.
Governor Cuomo: (24:02)
Than any other state by far. We have more testing sites than any other state by far. Make sure you know how many testing sites we have available because we have some sites that are backed up and some sites that have availability, so people tend to go towards certain sites. I use the analogy, we have Dunkin Donuts all over the place. Some Dunkin Donuts have a long line. Some have no line. You’re getting the same coffee. Go to look up where the available sites are and distribute the load better. Getting a test is better than not getting a test, but if you test negative today, it doesn’t mean you’re negative tomorrow, right? That’s why this whole situation is tricky. My daughter could have tested negative in Chicago, but then she had to get on a plane, go through an airport and come home and she could have picked up the virus during that period of time. And then you can have the virus for one, two, three, four, five, six, seven days without showing the virus on a test. So none of it is foolproof. Get a test. It’s better than not, but it’s not foolproof, especially when it comes to exposing yourself to a person who if they get infected, it’s a real problem like a senior citizen.
Speaker 1: (25:47)
Next one governor. You mentioned today about the projections through the end of the year for hospitalizations, particularly on Long Island. So the obvious question is how do we look in terms of capacity? Are we going to look at more potential pop-up hospitals like we did early on Stony Brook University? Is Long Island’s hospital capacity sufficient at this point to handle the projections that you guys outlined today?
Governor Cuomo: (26:12)
It’s all about projections, right? We are projecting a 20% increase through the hospital season. Some people say that’s low. Some people say it’s high. Experts, experts, experts. Nobody’s been here before, so nobody knows. If we are in that range, we have the hospital capacity. If we are above that range, then we would start to look at emergency hospital beds. On Staten Island, we had to already open an emergency hospital facility because on Staten Island the numbers went up so high that it overwhelmed the hospitals in Staten Island. So it’s a serious situation. So bottom line, see that good looking mask? Chief, how good looking is this mask chief? Is this the best looking mask you ever saw chief? Take a picture of that mask because it is so good looking. All right. Thank you all. Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe. Wear that good looking mask and we’ll be all right. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Let’s go give out some turkeys.