Aug 26, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript August 26
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke on a conference call on August 26 to discuss coronavirus updates. Cuomo said President Trump has the CDC “carrying forward his political agenda, and it is frightening and it is alarming”. Read the transcript here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
… And Robert Mujica. Today’s day 179, New York did 71,000 tests yesterday, and that’s continued good news for New Yorkers who are continuing to act smart and united and disciplined. 0.79% is the infection rate, that’s the 19th straight day that it’s under one, so that’s very good. Three New Yorkers passed away from COVID and they’re in our thoughts and prayers, 492 hospitalized, 136 in ICU, 54 intubated. The situation was good all across the state. We still have a caution flag for Western New York, which is at 1.4% today. It’s better than it was, but not where it should be so we’re focusing on Western New York and we’ll continue to do that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:05)
Our enforcement efforts are continuing. The infection rate isn’t staying down by anything other than the consequence of our actions, so we’re continuing the enforcement actions. We did one in Brooklyn, one in Queens, one in Staten Island, one in Suffolk, those are done by the State Liquor Authority and the State Police.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:34)
I again, call on local governments. They’re supposed to be doing the compliance. They don’t make the decisions of what opens and what closes, but they do do the compliance and they have to do a better job. New York city needs to use the NYPD. New York City relying on its Sheriff’s Department to do compliance is not going to be effective, there’s only 150 people in the Sheriff’s Department, there’s 30 something thousand NYPD. I understand the issues they have in New York City, but they have to do compliance, otherwise you’re going to see the numbers go up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:19)
A couple of comments on national situations. The President announced that he would have be nominating his acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, to be the permanent secretary. This is just a couple of weeks after the US Attorney in the Southern District refused to advance Wolf’s lawsuit against New York State, where we sued them on the Trusted Traveler Program. I was former Attorney General, I’ve never seen a US attorney say that they will drop a lawsuit because the allegations made by the Department are false. Chad Wolf made false allegations, he said that New York State was the only state that had a Green Light Law that didn’t allow disclosure. That was false. That was knowingly false.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:32)
It had been publicly discussed, Wolf and his department very well are aware of those laws. And the US Attorney said that he was making false statements. Trump’s response is to nominate him to be confirmed. The House of Representatives said that they were considering an investigation and the Attorney General Bar, if he was a real Attorney General and actually serious about his oath of office, he would be investigating how a department for many months was conducting a political vendetta against New York State, rather than allowing the President to advance Wolf and Cuccinelli who are thugs. That’s what we would call them in New York, rather than advance them for nomination, they should be advanced for investigation. And I hope the House of Representatives does do the investigation. And if the US Senate confirms these people, it is the ultimate disregard for the rule of law, which is a continuing theme with this administration, but would literally take it to a new level.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:06)
Talking about the hyper political nature of this administration, the CDC put out new guidance that really strains credulity. The CDC on Monday changed the guidance to say, “If you have been in close contact with a person who was infected with COVID, you do not need to get a test.” This reversed their previous guidance, which was, if you were in close contact with a COVID positive person, you needed to get a test, they reversed their own guidance. If you are in close contact with a person, you don’t need to get a test.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:04)
I’ve spoken to health experts from around the globe. None of them will say that this makes any sense from a health point of view. The only plausible rationale is they want fewer people taking tests because as the President has said, ” If we don’t take tests, you won’t know that people are COVID positive, and the number of COVID positive people will come down.” Yes, that is true. That is his policy of deny the problem. If you don’t take your temperature, you won’t know that you have a fever. Yes, that is true, but it totally violates public health standards and rationale, and just fosters his failed policy of denial. COVID’s not a problem. It’s going to be gone when the weather gets warm. It’s going to be gone by Easter. There’s only a COVID problem because we take tests. He now has CDC carrying forward his political agenda, and it is frightening and it is alarming. And when you can politicize public health, which is actually politicizing national security.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:53)
Now, he’s consistent in his politics over government because he is politicizing national security when he nominates Chad Wolf to be the Head of the Department of Homeland Security, who is just a political operative. Department of Homeland Security is what the President uses to build his wall, to put children in cages, that’s all done by the Department of Homeland Security. So he made the Department of Homeland Security a political operation, and now he’s making the CDC a political operation. It is frightening. It should be frightening. This is the same CDC that was supposed to guard public health and was supposed to track the virus that was in China last December. It’s the same CDC that-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (09:03)
It’s the same CDC that showed that they either lied to the American people or they’re incompetent because they didn’t track the virus in China and they didn’t track the virus leaving China and going to Europe in January, February, March and that’s why New York was ambushed. That is a fact, it’s not a political statement, it’s not hyperbolic, it’s not rhetorical, it is a fact, and that’s why New York had the number of cases it had because the flights from Europe came here. It’s not the China virus, it’s the European virus. The European virus, because it came here from Europe and the CDC either totally missed it or they were ordered not to speak about it, and this just evidences once again political control over what’s supposed to be a public health organization.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:15)
The history books are going to record this. Shame on the people in the CDC. These will be indefensible actions in the light of history, indefensible. What possible rationale is there to say you’re in close contact with a COVID positive person and you don’t need a test? What plausible rationale? And this from the same CDC that already disgraced itself when they said there’s no such thing as asymptomatic spread and then totally reversed themselves. This is the same CDC that said the transmission is when a person who is symptomatic coughs or sneezes and then did a full 180 and said, “Whoops. They can also transfer it if they’re asymptomatic.” When by the way doctors around the world were already saying that, and how do they rationalize their position where you can have asymptomatic spread by now saying you don’t even have to have a test?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:28)
They also did a 180 on the quarantine rule, where now they say you don’t have to quarantine if you’re coming in from a country that is a hotspot. On what theory? Why would you reverse yourself on the quarantine order? Because they don’t want publicity that there is a COVID problem. Because the president’s politics are COVID isn’t a problem, we’re past COVID, it’s all about the economy and the economy’s doing great and we’re going to focus on the economy and that’s his re-election strategy. So he’s using the CDC as a campaign rhetorical device. This is all his political public relations. Also on the wildfires in California, Americans were very good to New York when we needed help and I will never forget it personally and New Yorkers will never forget it and we’re going to show the same love and mutuality they showed for us and we’re going to be sending forest rangers to California to help fight with the forest fire. With that, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Zucker for some comments and then we’ll take questions. Thank you. Dr. Zucker?
Dr. Zucker: (13:04)
Sure, thank you Governor. Regarding the CDC situation, this is indefensible from a public health point of view and I have to say it makes absolutely no sense and I’ve spoken with the scientists at the CDC and they say it’s political. So I concur with all that you’re saying, that this is just indefensible.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:27)
Thank you Doctor. Okay, questions?
Speaker 1: (13:37)
Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press star one on your telephone. Again, if you wish to ask a question, please press star one on your telephone. Please hold while we compile the Q&A roster. First question from Fred [Mogel 00:14:10], your line is open.
Fred Mogel: (14:14)
Yes hi, good morning Governor. I had a quick question for you. Obviously you said and have emphasized repeatedly that it’s up to local law enforcement agencies to enforce the problems with gatherings and so forth. I wonder nonetheless if you could give an opinion about reports that there have been steadily increasing massive weddings in various parts of the state and city but particularly within [inaudible 00:14:42] communities.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:46)
Look, there’s all sorts of rumors. If anyone has any specific information, they should forward that to authorities because it violates the law. It’s that simple. It violates the law, and in the case of New York City, if there’s any evidence of or plans for a wedding that would violate the law, they should forward those complaints to the NYPD and the mayor. If the mayor is not doing the enforcement actions, then the state will, but it is the primary responsibility of the local governments and the state, the state liquor authority, the state police, we don’t have the capacity to substitute for the local police department all across the state. There are about 6,000 state troopers let’s say. 6,000 state police, there are 32,000 NYPD. 6,000 statewide troopers can’t substitute for 32,000 NYPD or Nassau County Police, Suffolk County Police, Westchester County Police, et cetera, and that doesn’t even count the local police departments, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:11)
But if they have … That violates the law, we will enforce it, we’ve been enforcing the law very aggressively. That’s how the infection rate stays down. So if anyone else has … Go ahead.
Fred Mogel: (16:24)
No I mean … So obviously the enforcement issue and jurisdictional issue is massive but just I wonder if there’s anything that you’re concerned about, aside from enforcement, just that these culturally, that this phenomenon seems to be returning to a status quo and seems to be building up. Is there anything you want to say about that on the cultural or political level in addition to the strictly law enforcement level?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:51)
Yeah, Fred, it’s ignorant to do that. It defies everything we learned. We’ve had super spreader events. We’ve had super spreader events in New Rochelle with the Jewish community. We’ve had them in the Catholic community. The virus does not discriminate by religious or racial lines. This is an equal opportunity situation, so we police it in every circumstance. We don’t have any evidence that it’s worse in [inaudible 00:17:36] community. We haven’t gotten those complaints. If we do we will follow up and investigate but in any situation it’s just not only illegal, it’s ignorant and whether it’s young people at a bar or it’s a religious wedding, it’s the same thing to me. It’s ignorant, it’s disrespectful, and it –
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
It’s ignorant, it’s disrespectful and it violates the law. If we get a complaint, we’ll follow up and we’ll investigate immediately, which we’ve been very aggressive in the enforcement and we’ll continue to do that. But Fred, the other point is also important. If we do get complaints, do we have the capacity to investigate all the complaints? Not without local enforcement and that has not been happening and I have said it repeatedly. But somebody has to answer the question in New York city. How do you expect 150 sheriffs to do all compliance on these matters and quarantine control and border control? It doesn’t make sense on any level.
Speaker 2: (19:06)
Next question, Andrew [Seft 00:19:08] from WMBCTV.
Andrew Seft: (19:11)
Governor, how are you? Hope you’re doing well. Today, Pat Foye and other MTA executives said without the $12 billion in federal funding, they’ll have to cut service 40% and lay off 7,000 people. My question to you is why does that money have to be federal funding? Is there not a measure you as governor can take such as a tax increase, such as shifting state funds to prevent the MTA from these kinds of job cuts and service reductions?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:44)
No, it is not mathematically possible. Because if there’s no federal aid for the MTA, that means the federal legislation wasn’t passed. If the federal legislation isn’t passed, it means there’s no funding for the MTA. There is no funding for the Port Authority that is trying to build airports and operate the tunnels and crossings. There’s no funding for schools. There’s no funding for hospitals. There’s no funding for local governments. There’s no funding for police. There’s no funding for nurses. There’s no funding for teachers. It would be a financial catastrophe for the state of New York and there wouldn’t be one hole in the dike called the MTA. There would be 50 holes in the dike.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:46)
It will be a shotgun blast at the dike and you couldn’t possibly fill all the holes, right? It’s not a situation… We’re not anticipating a situation where the MTA’s the only thing not funded, Andrew. There are 30 items in that federal legislation and it means none of the 30 would have been funded, and there is no way if you increased taxes to the highest level in the country, to the highest level ever established, you wouldn’t come near the amount of money needed to fill the holes. That’s why the messages to these congressional representatives, don’t come home and run for election in November and think that New Yorkers are not going to hold you accountable for what you did.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:59)
Yes, Long Island Rail Road service will be cut, Subway service will be cut. Yes, Port Authority will slow construction. Fairs will go up. Tolls will go up. Hospitals, schools, police, New York city workers, New York state workers, Nassau County workers. It would be a financial catastrophe.
Speaker 2: (22:33)
Next question, Lindsay Kramer from Post Standard.
Lindsay Kramer: (22:39)
Hi governor. Thank you for your time. Today’s question for me is sports related. It’s the followup on your announcement earlier this week about football and other sports, specifically football, high school football. So my question is of a two-part question. With states around New York with similar or maybe not as good as the infection rates jumping and playing high school football. Can you take me to a little bit of the rationale as far as opening up in New York? At some point, there needs to be decision made because they’re practicing. Would there be a season? What is it specifically that you’d like to see and by when for you to say that football is doable in the fall season?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:22)
Okay. I’ll ask Rob or Beth to comment. But just on the premise of your question, these are all value judgements that we’re making, and the balance on the judgment is always the same. Increase as the activity to the rate of normalcy as quickly as possible for the economy, for sports, for cultural activities. On the other side of the scale, don’t let the infection rate get above 1% and keep the virus at a manageable level. That’s always been the balance. New York has achieved that balance extraordinarily well. Well, you’re the New York governor, of course, you’re going to say that. Yeah, but also it’s undeniable the numbers, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:20)
How did we go from the highest infection rate after ambush to one of the lowest infection rates? Because we achieved that balance well. Not a personal opinion, it’s a numerical, quantifiable fact. So yes, other states have done other things. Really on the numbers, you’d want to go to those other states and say, “You notice your infection rate keeps going up and ours keeps going down. Maybe you want to reconsider your balance beam of decision making.” But on the balance beam of decision making, our decisions have been proven correct on the numbers over these months, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:14)
So at one point I know you’re at Post-Standard, but at one point it’s not political opinion. It’s not political theory. It’s not Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. It’s just in the numbers. But Robert, Beth, do you want to comment on football specifically?
This is Robert. So, as the governor mentioned, we’re using the guidelines that we’ve been used in limiting low-risk sports, medium-risk sports, and then high-risk sports. All right, those definitions really coming from the Department of Health, looks at the activities, and then as the governor points out, because we allowed low-risk sports, that has contributed to our very low infection rate at this time. We have seen clusters of infections that have happened and be related to sports and high school sports. In other states, and even people that have violated our guidelines and have gone to other states in tournament’s have become infected. Those have been documented.
So we’re continuing to look at the sports. We’re continuing to look at, work with the Department of Health. Once we feel comfortable that you can go to the higher risk sports, and higher risk, what does that mean? It really means closer contact, more touching, more difficulty in mitigating that fact. The guidelines, we’ve updated the guidelines multiple times in the last month. So we’ll continue to do that as we monitor the infection rates and as we see what is happening. So you’re asking for a timeline, to have a specific timeline, but as you can see, we…
From the timeline, to have the specific timeline. But as you can see, we’ve updated the guidelines multiple times, and as soon as we feel it’s safe and the department feels it’s safe, we will update for additional supports.
Speaker 3: (27:13)
Is there a specific… I mean, so the kids can start practicing, obviously, as the governor said. At some point, maybe it’s more prudent to think about, you know, winter, spring season. Is there any general guidelines as far as, well, we can have them practice two or three weeks before making the decision? Or is it a kind of floating thing along the way?
No, I think we’ll do it before. Right? So, we wanted to… These guidelines that came out came out in advance of the season, to give time for preparation. So I think we’ll do the same again, right? As we head into the fall, the sports that have started, we’re going to monitor them, and if we see that worked out well, then we can modify the guidelines in advance of certain tournament play and certain seasonal play. It’ll be before those games start.
Speaker 3: (28:04)
So there’s no magic number, as far as infection rate? You know, point seven, point six? It’s just a feel of extended [inaudible 00:28:12]?
It’s not a feel. Right? So, it is we actually are looking at the rates themselves, but the rates fluctuate, right? As the governor points out. We’ve been low, but there are parts of the state that we’re seeing fluctuations in as well, and have gone up above 1%. So, we’re looking at that, so it’s not a feel for it. We’re looking at it, and we want an extended period of time with a low infection rate. Where we see clusters and where we’re seeing infections are social gatherings to large groups in close contact. Right? That is the majority of clusters and infections that we’re seeing. We want that to slow.
And as now we’re going into school, we’re going to see a lot more of this activity that we haven’t seen before. Right? School starts, all those low risk, medium risks sports are going to start. We’re going to see those people together, and then we’re going to watch that activity. And if there’s no infection, and the guidelines are working, then you can go to the next step.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:11)
Yeah. And Rob’s point is very well taken. Remember, there are factors that you have notice of that are developing. We’re coming into the fall. The flu virus will start. That will reduce your testing capacity. Schools are coming back. You have evidence already of clusters popping up with universities. K through 12 schools will be starting. You can anticipate, if you’re logical, clusters popping up when schools start reopening. You have evidence already of caution flags. Western New York, 1.4%. So you are already on notice, and have evidence of factors that are coming that could very well complicate the situation. So, don’t be reckless. Act intelligently, and follow the science.
Just one other point on that, Governor. We’re also in line with 16 other states that have delayed competitive play at this time, so we’re consistent with those other states, as well.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:39)
Operator, let’s take one more.
Speaker 3: (30:40)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Next question, Jessica Moore from WCBS TV.
Jessica Moore: (30:47)
Good morning, Governor. In the past, you’ve said that you do take some guidance from the CDC when implementing rules for New Yorkers. My question is, will these new quarantine guidelines change your position on the quarantine rules for New Yorkers, and how would you advise companies in the state to move forward? A lot of them look to the CDC to say, “Our employees need to quarantine 14 days if they come back from a hotspot.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:11)
I would… We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance. I consider it political propaganda. I would caution private companies against following the CDC guidance. I think it is wholly indefensible, on its face. I think it is inherently self-contradictory. It is the exact opposite of what the CDC has been saying. So either the CDC is schizophrenic, or they’re admitting error in their first position, or this is just political dictation. In any of those events, I would urge people not to follow the CDC guidance. I’d urge them to follow the state guidance, and I’d also gratuitously recommend to them, speak to public health experts, speak to the leading epidemiologists, speak to the academic university health experts, and ask them what they think of the CDC guidance. Which I have done, and none of them recommend following it. Dr. Zucker, anything else on that?
Dr. Zucker: (32:37)
Yeah. As you said, Governor, we’re staying the course. Stay the course. I agree.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:44)
And remember, the CDC has been wrong repeatedly. They were wrong in saying the virus was still in China. They were wrong in not realizing the virus had come to New York January, February, March. They were wrong when they said there was no such thing as asymptomatic spread. They were wrong when they said children were unaffected. They are wrong when they said, “If you get the COVID virus, you can’t get it a second time.” You know? They have been wrong more than they have been right, and we know that they’ve been bullied by the president. We know that, because he has said it. Okay. Thank you guys very much. Bye.
Speaker 4: (33:36)
Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect.