Aug 27, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript August 27
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke on a conference call on August 27 to provide coronavirus updates and discuss the CDC. Read the transcript here.
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Gov. Cuomo: (00:01)
Gov. Cuomo: (00:03)
We have a number of items to go over. So let me go through them quickly, and then we’ll take some questions. Today is day 180. New York conducted 83,000 tests yesterday. 0.9% positive. 20th straight day with a positive rate under 1%. So that’s really good news.
Gov. Cuomo: (00:24)
Four New Yorkers passed away from COVID yesterday, and there’ll be in our thoughts and prayers. 490 hospitalized. 126 in ICU. That’s down 10. 52 COVID patients were intubated. That’s down two. So that’s very good news.
Gov. Cuomo: (00:45)
And again, congratulations to New Yorkers. Stay with it, stay with it, stay with it.
Gov. Cuomo: (00:53)
On the enforcement effort, ongoing enforcement efforts on compliance, as you know, the State Liquor Authority and the state police have supplemented actions where the local police have not been doing significant compliance efforts. They’ve done a really good job, the task force of the SLA and the state police. They did 1000 visits yesterday. So that’s really amazing. And they did two violations in Queens, New York City.
Gov. Cuomo: (01:31)
But what we’re finding is compliance is much better than it had been. So the establishments are getting the message, follows the law. And if you notice, over time, the number of violations has been dropping. That’s because the establishments know that we’re serious. And we’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks, and we stayed with it. And think about it, just one night, 1000 visits. And look, 99% of the establishments were following the law. It was a handful of bad actors. That’s what it always is, people who were exploiting the situation. And I think they got the message, or at least the numbers suggest they get got the message.
Gov. Cuomo: (02:24)
Western New York, we have a caution flag out, and we’re going to fly it a little higher today. The infection rate in Western New York was 2%, so that’s not good news. And we’re going to deploy a SWAT team from the Department of Health that are going to do additional testing in eight sites, three in the city of Buffalo, one in Niagara Falls, one in Lockport, one in Williamsville, one in West Seneca, in Dunkirk with what are called the Abbott testing machines in these eight sites, which we’ll get same day results, literally within an hour. People will have to make an appointment, but we’re focusing on Western New York, and we’re going to continue to focus on it.
Gov. Cuomo: (03:19)
We have colleges that are reopening. We’re seeing around the country, situations where colleges reopened and then have an outbreak of cases. We are going to set a threshold that says if a college has 100 cases, or a number of cases equal to 5% of their population or more, whichever is less, they must go to remote learning for two weeks, at which time we will reassess the situation. Let me say that one more time because it’s a little confusing. 100 cases or 5%, whichever is less. The 5% is the population that are onsite students and faculty. They must go to remote learning for two weeks. And then we’ll reassess in consultation with the local health department.
Gov. Cuomo: (04:28)
We should anticipate clusters. When you have large congregations of people, anticipate a cluster. We know that. Also, that’s what we’re seeing. You see it around the country. Be prepared for it. Get ahead of it. Be prepared for it. Get ahead of it. That’s what I say to my team five times a day. So we expect it. We want to be prepared for it. And that’s a threshold that we’re going to put in place. We’re getting a number of phone calls from some establishments that are raising questions specifically about indoor dining in New York City. We’ve said numerous times, state law governs openings, reopenings, closings. And there are a number of areas where we’re still calibrating the reopening. Casinos. Where working on malls. We’re working on movie theaters. We’re working on indoor dining in restaurants, is an issue that we are reviewing and monitoring on a daily basis. These are fluid situations, depending on the facts. We will make determinations at the appropriate time. Numerous people have opinions about what they think is going to happen. I used to have an opinion about what I thought was going to happen, but I turned out to be wrong on every occasion. So now I keep my opinions to myself, and I just follow the facts. But indoor dining in New York City, casinos, malls, movie theaters, we’re monitoring this situation. We’re calibrating the situation. It’s governed by the state law, as you all very well know. And we’ll make a determination at the appropriate time.
Gov. Cuomo: (06:36)
There were storms in Texas and Louisiana. We’ve called them up and offered National Guard assistance or whatever emergency assistance they need. And we hope that they get through it. So far, so good. They’ve lost one life, I believe, in Louisiana. And we’re with them in spirit. But Americans were very good to New Yorkers when we needed help, and we gave our word that we would repay it. And we’re going to live up to that.
Gov. Cuomo: (07:04)
We’re also expecting storms across the state today. Wind storms, literally all across the state. There’s a possibility of even tornadoes touching down. So we’re watching that. We’ve contacted the utility companies. We’re anticipating high winds. You know what happens with high winds. Trees fall down. Branches break. Poles fall down. They hit wires. Wires come down. Power goes out. Don’t be surprised, utility company. And don’t say, oh, it was a storm. It was an act of God. No, it’s an active of a utility company. We pay you to be prepared for the storm and to repair power in a short period of time after the storm.
Gov. Cuomo: (07:58)
We made a state determination that would allow certain high school sports-
Gov. Cuomo: (08:03)
… determination that would allow certain high school sports to commence and that we put out guidance and deadlines on that. That does not mean that high school sports must commence, it means it can commence. Can, not must. It’s up to the individual school districts to determine if they want to go ahead with the sports program. Different school districts are making different decisions and that’s fine. It’s up to them. But we gave guidance as to for those that decide to go forward, this is how you should do it.
Gov. Cuomo: (08:43)
The CDC, and we spoke about this yesterday, the CDC changed their guidance yesterday morning and said that people who were exposed to COVID positive people don’t need a test if they don’t have a symptom. My opinion, many public health officials have agreed with me, is that is really bad advice. And it is dumbfounding to use a word. Also I said yesterday, I believe that it was political propaganda rather than public health advice. And Dr. Fauci, who I believe is the most credible voice on the federal side, the administration said that Dr. Fauci was involved in the decision. Dr. Fauci then later said that he was under general anesthesia at the time. So if he was involved, he was involved while he was on general anesthesia, which is probably not the most effective way to participate in a decision, if you’re under general anesthesia.
Gov. Cuomo: (09:57)
But having watched Dr. Fauci and knowing him as I do, I think the only way he would have agreed with the CDC’s guidance is if he was under general anesthesia. So I believe it’s political and we’re not following it in the State of New York and I want to make sure all people are aware of that.
Gov. Cuomo: (10:21)
Okay, I will stop there and we’ll take questions, operator.
At this time in order to ask a question, please press star then the number one on your telephone keypad, that’s star one to ask a question, we’ll pause for a moment to compile the Q&A roster.
And your first question comes from the line of Dan Clark with PBS.
Dan Clark: (10:58)
Hey governor, how are you?
Gov. Cuomo: (10:59)
Dr. Dan Clark? How are you?
Dan Clark: (11:02)
I wish I was a doctor, they don’t pay me enough for that, but we’ll see someday.
Gov. Cuomo: (11:08)
You are a doctor. You operate on me all the time.
Dan Clark: (11:15)
Just a point of clarity on the colleges. If they have to go to remote learning for those two weeks, the students who live on campus, do they have to go back to their hometowns or can they stay on campus during those two weeks in their dorms?
Gov. Cuomo: (11:28)
Dan Clark: (11:31)
All right. Thank you.
Gov. Cuomo: (11:32)
One moment. While I compile the Q&A roster.
Gov. Cuomo: (11:48)
Did you get that Dr. Zucker? He operates on me, bada boom.
And your next question comes from the line of Lanesly Clammer with Syracuse Post Standard.
Gov. Cuomo: (11:59)
My daughters would say that was a dad joke. Dad joke. How are you?
Speaker 1: (12:04)
Good, no, I got it. Hey, quick question, just to follow up, you mentioned the high school sports. I was going to ask you about the letter that the Superintendents Group sent you yesterday. To clarify, does that mean you will not be issuing a delay on the potential return by September 21st? Schools can still do that, you’re not going to reverse your course and go back to maybe a January one start per that letter request?
Gov. Cuomo: (12:33)
No, I didn’t see a letter, so I don’t know what you’re referring to, but the guidance said if you want to do high school sports, this is how you can do it. If you don’t want to do high school sports, don’t do it. If a school superintendent or a school district doesn’t want to do it, don’t do it. Don’t do it in September. Don’t do it in January. Don’t do it in March. Just don’t do it. This is only guidance if a school district decided to do it, but it’s up to the school district. If the superintendent doesn’t want to do it, tell them don’t do it. That’s totally their call. Is that right? Rob? Beth? Anyone?
Speaker 1: (13:27)
Gov. Cuomo: (13:30)
And your next question comes from the line of Bart Jones.
Bart Jones: (13:35)
All right, Governor, a couple of quick questions. Do you feel confident that the PSEG and the other utilities that have received notices for their apparent violations during the last storm are ready for the remnants of Laura?
Gov. Cuomo: (13:50)
Bart Jones: (13:52)
Okay. And I just had one other question too. With everything you said yesterday about the CDC decision and calling it political propaganda, what do you think would happen if they come out with a vaccine and they tell everybody this vaccine is safe, are people going to take it? What is going to be that situation?
Gov. Cuomo: (14:16)
First on the PSE&G issue. Am I confident? No. That’s why I wanted to, we need to change the law. I want to have real authority, legal authority, to penalize these utilities when they don’t perform. There’s now a statutory cap on how much you can penalize a utility. It’s like a hundred thousand dollars or a point percentage of 1% of their gross revenues. It’s absurd. Why would you have a statutory cap on a penalty? They should pay the penalty that is commensurate with the damage they did. I don’t know why the state legislature thinks they should be protecting these utilities from paying for the damage they cause consumers. I also want a law to facilitate the revocation of an operating permit. The current state law in many ways protects the utilities from any penalty and makes it difficult to revoke the franchise. Then you wonder why these utilities keep doing the same thing, because it works for them. The penalties are just the cost of doing business. And the penalty is probably less than it would cost them to actually address the problem. How do you handle a storm and the-
Gov. Cuomo: (16:03)
That’s the problem, right? How do you handle a storm and the aftermath of a storm? You hire workers and equipment so you are prepared. Oh, but that’s expensive. I think some of them are just deciding, “I’d rather pay the penalty. It’s cheaper than remedying the problem.” And I need the legislature to fix that and I need them to fix it now. And if there are trees that are down on Long Island or anywhere else, and if those consumers are upset that their power isn’t restored, then it’s Groundhog day with these utility companies. On the second part, what was your second question?
Well, given everything you said yesterday about the political problem [crosstalk 00:00:56]. Yeah. What happens, for instance, in October and October surprise a week before the election, “Hey, we’ve got a vaccine.” What are your thoughts on that?
Gov. Cuomo: (17:07)
Look, Bart. I believe this federal government has forfeited its credibility [inaudible 00:17:15] large. I don’t believe this president has credibility. That’s my opinion. I don’t believe the federal health experts have any credibility. I think they have proven to be incompetent and political, which is a damning combination for a federal health official. They were incompetent when they missed the virus coming to New York to begin with, the European virus. They were incompetent when they said only people with symptoms can spread. They were incompetent when they said, “If you get infected, you can’t get reinfected.” They were incompetent when they said children can’t get it. So they have been substantively incompetent and they have been political. There is no justification for this CDC guidance, except manifesting what the President wanted them to do. The President said, “If we test less, we will have fewer cases.” He said that repeatedly. If we test less, we will have fewer cases.
Gov. Cuomo: (18:31)
He’s denied COVID from day one. How do you now further his agenda? Test less. And you know what’ll happen if you test less? The number of cases will apparently go down. Yeah, I know. If you don’t do cancer screenings, the number of people that you know about who have cancer will go down. That doesn’t mean you cured cancer. It just means you stop the screenings. So there’s fewer cases that you know about. It is actually dangerous from a health point of view. You want to know if you may have cancer because early detection works. You want to know if you have COVID because you don’t want to spread it and you want to get the care for yourself. So they are endangering health in furthering their politics. They turn around now and say, “There’s a vaccine. Don’t worry. Take it.” Who’s going to believe them, Bart? Not me.
Speaker 2: (19:52)
Next question operator.
Speaker 3: (19:55)
Your next question comes from [inaudible 00:19:57] with the Buffalo News.
Speaker 4: (20:01)
Hi Governor, thanks for the time. Regarding Western New York, do you have any additional information aside from the information you had earlier this week, as far as outbreaks, location, that sort of thing that has contributed to the rising rate? And at what point for you does a yellow flag across New York turn into a red flag?
Gov. Cuomo: (20:23)
Good question. Gareth, do you have any additional information you want to go through the clusters again, please?
Yes. We’ve tracked now about 53 total cases to a cluster in Chautauqua County regarding a food processing plant. And that is a number of those cases that are being reported today will be from that. And we’re also seeing some cases as a result of community spread. So this testing effort is going to be really aimed at testing members of the community where some of these clusters are located, so we can ensure that we’re not just testing employees of the plant, but also members of the community where these plants are located.
Gov. Cuomo: (21:06)
We will have a better idea. These eight additional sites are not just eight additional sites. They are rapid testing sites, which means you get the results, let’s call it, in an hour. All right. So we’ll know the same day what’s happening. We don’t have a two or three day lag or some of these national labs now are over seven, eight, nine, ten days. We’ll have a snapshot of exactly what is happening. And depending on what we see, we’ll act accordingly. There’s no hard number that we have that goes from a yellow flag to a red flag. We don’t even have a yellow flag. That was just my expression. And I don’t even know if it was yellow. It was just a caution flag.
Speaker 2: (21:58)
Operator, next question.
Speaker 3: (22:00)
And your next question comes from the line of Mary Murphy with WPIX TV, New York.
Gov. Cuomo: (22:07)
Mary Murphy: (22:10)
A Queens girl.
Gov. Cuomo: (22:12)
Yes. How are you? Good to hear your voice.
Mary Murphy: (22:14)
How are you?
Gov. Cuomo: (22:14)
I’m doing okay.
Mary Murphy: (22:15)
I know it’s been a long journey these last 180 days. I had a question I wanted to ask about your response to the letter that was sent out to you and three governors in other States last night from the Department of Justice, civil rights division, asking for all kinds of data relating to the number of residents, employees, and visitors who got sick or who died at nursing homes.
Gov. Cuomo: (22:41)
Yeah. Let’s do facts and then let’s do what it’s really about. They’ve asked for data of State run public nursing homes. There are five such nursing homes in the State. That information has been released already. We’ll provide it to them again. What is interesting, Mary, is there are about 14 States in the country that followed the same CDC guidance. The letter only went to four democratic States from the Department of Justice. This is all politics. They have their convention on the TV at night. They changed the CDC guidance on COVID to echo their political theme. And then they’re playing partisan politics at the Department of Justice. Mr. Barr cannot spell the word justice. He lost all credibility in this position. He doesn’t even…
Gov. Cuomo: (24:03)
– ability in this position. He doesn’t even feign to be impartial or a real attorney general. You can tell … we went through the same type of thing with them on the Trusted Traveler program with the Department of Homeland Security, where they didn’t like New York, they’ve made that clear. Everything they’ve done has been negative to New York. They then stopped the Trusted Traveler program from New York, and the US attorney threw out their lawsuit. I’ve never seen that done before. When the US attorney here in the Southern district in New York said, “We throw out the Department of Homeland Security’s lawsuit because it contains numerous false allegations,” that’s attorney general Barr. He has his own lawsuit thrown out for lying in court papers. That’s who they are, but Melissa knows the latest. If I misstated any fact, Melissa, or if you have anything to add?
No governor, I think that you got it all. I would just say that I thought that the press release said everything that you needed to know. It was so hyper political. They bent themselves into a pretzel to say upfront why they weren’t looking at Texas and Florida even though Texas and Florida have nursing home deaths in the 4,000 range. Florida actually has an executive order that they did a couple of weeks ago where nursing homes now have to accept COVID positive patients as long as they’re cohorted, which is the exact same policy where we had the no discrimination in nursing home, and so I think it was obviously very political. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that it was also directed at Gretchen Whitmer, who also spoke at the DNC on the Trump response on COVID, and so I think the governor got it exactly right on Trusted Traveler program.
We said that there were 12 other states that handled the database the exact same way that we did. They contended that that wasn’t true, and then ultimately they had to drop the case and apologize. Here it’s 14 states that have very similar policies, all based on CDC guidance, and yet they’re only targeting four democratic governors. So as the governor said, this is about five nursing homes in New York state that are state run. The information is publicly available. We can hand it over to them. It’s on our website right now. So it seems pretty obviously political.
Gov. Cuomo: (26:36)
Yeah, and just not to belabor the point, the policy that they criticized that we did in New York and 14 other states did, which we did four months ago when we were scrambling for hospital capacity and we were looking at the apocalypse, Florida just implemented … they just to implement the exact same policy that we had implemented and then rescinded, and Florida just implemented the same exact policy, even after all of this, and yeah, Gretchen Whitmer, governor Whitmer and myself, we were the two featured governors at the democratic convention. Coincidences, I don’t believe in them because I’m from Queens [inaudible 00:03:36]. One more question operator.
Speaker 5: (27:38)
And our last question comes from the line of Kevin [inaudible 00:27:42] with [inaudible 00:03:44].
Speaker 6: (27:46)
Hi governor. Down here in Nassau County the superintendents already decided to cancel or rather postpone high school sports until January. What would you need to see come January then in order for the state to say, ” Hey, let’s give them the green light to play?”
Gov. Cuomo: (28:07)
They have the green light to play. It’s now up to the local school district if they want to play. I said you can, not that you must play. You can play, but it’s up to you. Nassau County said, “We choose not to play.” Fine, that’s up to Nassau County. Nassau County could decide tomorrow that they reverse themselves and they want to play, or they could decide in January. It’s totally up to them. There are school districts that do want to play and wanted guidance on how to play and when to play. We put out that guidance, but the decision on whether or not to play is up to the local school district. Let me just say one more time, because people seem confused. The school districts said to us, “We want to play. What are the rules and regulations if we want to play?” We said, “Here are the rules and regulations if you want to play, but it’s up to you in your particular circumstances if you want to play or not,” because school districts are juggling a lot of things. In school, remote, hybrid. Some school districts just don’t want to start playing now. Fine, that’s up to them, and if they change their mind, that’s up to them. For those that choose to play, they have to follow the guidance. Am I making that clear?
Speaker 6: (29:56)
Yes you are governor. So by your stance, in terms of infection rates and numbers, it’s good to go, and I understand what you’re saying, that superintendents ultimately have the choice. That is their right. That is their job, but from what you’re saying, in terms of numbers of COVID, number of transmission rates, you don’t have a problem if districts want to play?
Gov. Cuomo: (30:20)
Exactly. If they want to play, they can play. If they don’t want to play, they don’t have to play. We’re never going to mandate that they have to play. If they don’t want to play, don’t play. That’s totally the call of the locality.
Speaker 6: (30:41)
Great. Thanks governor.
Gov. Cuomo: (30:43)
Guys, any … Dr. Zilker, anyone else? Anything I left out? Anything I misstated? Anything you want to clarify?
Dr. Zilker: (30:55)
I think you covered everything, governor.
Gov. Cuomo: (30:58)
Okay. All right. Thank you all very much for taking the time. Thanks guys. Thank you. Bye.