Aug 31, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript August 31
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke on a conference call on August 31 to provide coronavirus updates and discuss schools and restaurants reopening. Read the transcript here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:00)
Please spell it correctly. Good morning, everyone. I’m joined by Melissa de Rosa, Gareth Rose, Robert Mojica. Let me give you some numbers. Today’s day 184. We did 66,000 tests yesterday on a Sunday. We had 418 New Yorkers hospitalized. That’s the lowest number hospitalized since this crisis began. 109 in ICU. That’s the lowest number since this began. 51 patients intubated. That’s up four from the prior day. We had a positive rate of 0.9%. So we’re under 1%, but just barely. And we had one New Yorker pass away from COVID. That is the lowest number that we have ever had. One New Yorker passed away, and that New Yorker’s family is in our thoughts and prayers. But I’d just like everyone to a pause for a moment on that fact, one New Yorker passed away. There was a time when we were going through this, when we literally had hundreds of people dying every day. I’m sure you all remember.
Governor Cuomo: (01:38)
And I asked New Yorkers, I besieged New Yorkers to understand the facts and to act responsibly. And I said that what the future holds is determined by what New Yorkers do and “flattening the curve.” We’ve used that expression over and over again, but flattening the curve actually saved lives. Remember, the initial projections were 110,000 to 140,000 New Yorkers would be hospitalized, a percentage of those would pass away. We never got anywhere near the 110,000 to 140,000 projection. And that projection was the projection of all the internationally renowned models, right? 110,000 to 140,000. That was the same modeling firm that the White House Coronavirus Task Force used, IHME model.
Governor Cuomo: (02:57)
The projection 110,000 to 140,000, we never went over 20,000 hospitalized. That’s how significant the flattening of the curve was, the reduction of the viral transmission was. No expert believed that we would be that successful. And I spoke to all of them. They just did not believe that a government could institute policies that quickly or even more important that people would follow policies with that level of compliance, right? This is United States. This is not China. China can dictate a policy and there’s no conversation. And this isn’t just the United States. It’s New York. No expert believed that New York State could enact a policy. And that New Yorkers would follow with to a level that would bring down the numbers the way the numbers came down.
Governor Cuomo: (04:06)
One New Yorker passed away. New Yorkers have saved tens of thousands of lives. If New Yorkers did not do what they did, tens of thousands of more people would have passed away. That is a fact from the projections. So God bless the people of New York because they saved lives. Western New York still has a caution flag flying. We did a rapid testing yesterday. The number yesterday was at 2%. The hospitalizations are ticking up. So we need a real alert in Western New York. And we’re going to continue testing, but we need increased compliance and we need the local governments to respond in Western New York.
Governor Cuomo: (05:06)
Oneonta, we are continuing our efforts in Oneonta. [inaudible 00:05:20], I have to get used to saying that, I think made the right decision and the courageous decision, but was setting up sites for our SWAT team testing in Oneonta. I believe colleges are the canary in the coal mine. I believe what you’re seeing across the nation is going to continue where colleges open, students come back, congregate settings, socialization, the infection rate goes up. Either the college administration is rigorous and disciplined in their administration of the precautions or the viral transmission rate goes up. And then the college has to close and go to remote learning. What we’re seeing with colleges, I think it’s going to be replicated on K to 12. I think you will see school districts reopen. I think they will have plans. The plans will say they are going to test this percent and this percent and this percent. The school district will say, here are our compliance measures. If they are not followed, you will see students come back. You will see students get infected. You will see the transmission rate go up. And then you will see schools closed. Now, some of that is inevitable, 700 school districts. Is it inevitable that when you bring a concentration of people together, the viral transmission rate is going to go up. The question will become, like on colleges, how well did that administration actually enforce compliance? And what was their parameter for number of students infected before the school takes quarantine measures, goes to remote learning, et cetera. That’s a decision for the school district. That’s also a decision for the local government.
Governor Cuomo: (07:28)
The local government could close the school district or the state could close the school district. But school districts would be well advised to look at what’s happening in colleges. Colleges have a somewhat more complicated situation. I understand that. You have more socialization on the college campuses, but the basic dynamic is the same and you will see it replicated. So don’t be shocked when we get to September and school districts say we’re starting with in person. And the in person will have a percentage of testing. And then, schools wind up going to remote or canceling certain classes, et cetera. That is going to happen.
Governor Cuomo: (08:21)
Enforcement with the SLA. Again, what we’re seeing on college campuses. I’ve told the local governments until I’m blue in the face, they have to enforce the bar and restaurant regulations. They’re not doing that uniformly cross the state. The state liquor authority and the state police are complementing it. Last night, they observed 1,000 establishments and found five violations. So the rate of compliance is getting much better, but remember with the super spreader concept, one bad-
Governor Cuomo: (09:03)
With the super-spreader concept, one bad bar situation, one bad restaurant situation can infect dozens. The five establishments were in Queens and no actions were taken outside of Queens. I again say in New York City, their using just the sheriff to do compliance with limited NYPD enforcement is a mistake. We’re releasing a letter today on the need for federal funding. The letter goes to our congressional delegation. It’s signed by myself with George Gresham from 1199, Gary LaBarbera, John Samuelsen, Transport Workers, Michael Mulgrew, Teachers, Andy Pallota, Teachers, Henry Garrido, DC 37, Wayne Spence from PEF, and Mary Sullivan from CSEA.
Governor Cuomo: (10:10)
And what it says to the congressional members is we need federal funding. If we do not receive federal funding, there is no way that the states and the local governments can cover the deficit. There is no combination of savings, efficiencies, tax increases that could ever come near covering the deficit. And we need the federal government to assist in doing that. Period. And if the federal government does not pass an economic relief program, they will in effect be responsible for the consequences. And the consequences will be significant reductions across the board. It is mathematics, my friend. The gaps are so large, 30 billion for the state, 9 billion for New York City, 12 billion for the MTA, 3 billion for the Port Authority, 4.5 billion for the local governments outside of New York City, which is New York city is nine. “Well, increase taxes.”
Governor Cuomo: (11:43)
I don’t care what you increase taxes to. You couldn’t make up that deficit. I don’t care how many savers you find, you couldn’t make up that deficit. I don’t care how many efficiencies you find, you couldn’t make up that deficit. There would have to be cuts, and then all labor leaders, because it’s a half truth, which is a half falsity. These people say, “Well, cuts, but don’t cut daycare. Cuts, but don’t cut education. Cuts, but don’t cut CSEA. Cuts, but don’t cut DC 37.” It doesn’t work. It’s not true. It’s not real. ” Fully fund hospitals.” Okay, fully fund hospitals. And what? We get the money from where? Deeper cuts to education?
Governor Cuomo: (12:42)
“Well, fully fund education. That’s the top priority.” Okay, and cut where? Hospitals? “Well, increase taxes.” Yeah, mathematically, it doesn’t get you anywhere close to the deficit. So it’s numbers, it’s math. I understand politics. Anybody can say anything. But you may want to ask before you quote them and write it in an article. Just explain to me how this coincides with reality. Fully fund this area and decimate every other area? But we’re going to release that letter to congressional delegation. It’s unclear whether the White House is willing, whether the Senate is willing to actually be reasonable. But if they’re not, then I want them to understand the consequences.
Governor Cuomo: (13:42)
Last point, the New Jersey and New York and Connecticut coordinate very closely. We coordinate with our seven state basic Northeast coalition. New Jersey accounts for 25% on indoor dining. Today they’ve done that all across the state. New York state has already been doing indoor dining in restaurants all across the state except New York City. When New Jersey goes to 25% indoor dining, I understand that especially for Southern New York, the New York City area, you will now have restaurants right across the river in New Jersey that are open for indoor dining and restaurants in New York City that are not open for indoor dining. I understand that that means people can go through the tunnel and go over the George Washington Bridge and go to a restaurant in New Jersey where they can’t do that in New York City. I’m aware of that competitive disadvantage for New York City restaurants.
Governor Cuomo: (15:07)
We’re coming into Labor Day. Labor Day will see more people going back to school. That is a factor we have to watch. We’re coming into the fall flu season. Flu season is a factor that we have to watch. I’m very aware of the balance. I am aware that the restaurants in New York City are unhappy with doing no indoor dining. I understand the economic consequences. I understand their argument will now be exacerbated when they say New Jersey can go to 25%, and it is something we are watching and we are considering. I want as much economic activity as quickly as possible. We also want to make sure the transmission rate stays under control. That is the tension. I get it with restaurants, I get it with casinos. I get it, and we’re trying to find the balance and we’re calibrating every day. But I understand this argument from New Jersey will exacerbate the discussion.
Governor Cuomo: (16:25)
By law, it is a state decision. It’s not up to Queens, the Bronx, Westchester, Nassau. It’s a state decision. It’s not up to New York City. But I understand and we are calibrating. All right, with that, operator, we’ll go to questions, please. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (16:45)
Thank you. You may press star one on your telephone keypad for a question. We will pause for one moment to compile the Q and A roster. We have a question from [Marc Gronich 00:17:02].
Marc Gronich: (17:02)
Hi. Hello, governor? Can you hear me? How are you?
Governor Cuomo: (17:11)
Good to hear your voice. It’s been a while.
Marc Gronich: (17:13)
Yeah, I’ve been… The calls, that I feel like I was the first caller of a radio contest and that I won to speak with you.
Governor Cuomo: (17:25)
Okay. Yeah, so that’s the booby prize you won, Marc.
Marc Gronich: (17:31)
I was wondering, we’re looking forward to the summer camps. There’s people coming, the kids coming home from [inaudible 00:17:43] camp when they were other states. Is there a two-week period from when they come home that we’re going to see a bump in numbers? Where [inaudible 00:17:59] with that point?
Governor Cuomo: (17:59)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
I am going to ask Melissa and Rob, if they have some information on that. Malcolm, I don’t know that we are anticipating a significant situation just in terms of numbers of people coming from summer camps. And we do have the quarantine in place, depending on where the camp was. So it’ll be the same rules, but let me see if Melissa or Rob have anything to add.
Speaker 2: (18:34)
No, that’s exactly right, Governor. As you know, Mark, we didn’t allow sleepaway camp in the State of New York this summer. That was the case for the majority of the Northeast. So to the extent that kids were going away to sleepaway camp, and they were in States that are heavily impacted, the quarantine rule applies to them when they return. So it will be 14 days of quarantine when they come home. Obviously, this is something that’s been very highly publicized, everyone’s aware of but, as I said, the majority of the Northeast did not have sleepaway camp. So we don’t anticipate this being a significant issue.
Governor, do you plan on visiting Oneonta anytime soon to make some set of statement to the students there and the organizations to make a personal appearance and say, “Cut this out. This is serious.” A lot of people say that the kids got away from their parents and then they just let loose and they didn’t think anything. They thought they were invincible.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:35)
Mark, I don’t have any plans to go to Oneonta specifically, but I think Oneonta got the message loud and clear when the chancellor closed the school to go back to remote learning. And frankly, that was part of it. That message in Oneonta has resonated across the country. And I hope it resonates across the state. And I hope private colleges heed the message. And I said, “Look, the chancellor’s actions were aggressive and appropriate. Compliance matters.” And I’ve spoken to a number of private school administrations. And they said, “But you know, with the students want to have parties, the students want to socialize.” I understand that. I get it. But the flip side is what happened at Oneonta. And I think you’re going to see more of what you’ve seen. 25 colleges across the country have run into the same problem.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:43)
You going see more colleges do it in New York. You’ll see, as I said, school districts with K to 12 that are going to run into this issue. And I think the transfers actions are an important precedent. If you don’t do compliance and you don’t do enforcement, then the transmission will go up. And then the remedy is going to be more severe, which is going to remote. So you wanted a party. Okay. Now you have to go to remote learning, which means you basically stay in the dorm. And that’s the lesson that we’ve been very good with all through this. It’s a function of discipline and compliance. It’s human behavior. And, yeah, “We want to do this. We want to do that.” It’s human behavior and it’s discipline. And it’s the administration that’s all ready to do the compliance. And the chancellor set a great example here. And I don’t think there’s anything that I can add. I think they got the message when they were told, “Stay in your dorm. We’re going to remote learning.” And he also suspended students who did the unauthorized parties. Let them explain that when they get home. And look, “Well, we want to party in college.” Yeah. Okay. Now you can go home and party with your parents. That’s what happened.
Speaker 3: (22:20)
Our next question comes from Thomas Prohaska with the Buffalo News.
Thomas Prohaska: (22:26)
Governor, do you have more detailed information about the testing results in Western New York, Sunday? How many tests were administered, especially at the fast-testing place where the SWAT team was set up?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:40)
Yes, I do, Thomas. Because I have Gareth Rhodes with me. So pardon the speakerphone. Yeah, Gareth will give you the breakdown.
Gareth Rhodes: (22:48)
So those eight rapid testing sites in Western New York did 1,200 tests yesterday with the overall positivity of 3.1%. City of Buffalo with a 4.8%. The County of Erie that, without including the City of Buffalo, was 0.6%. The County of Niagara was 4.0% and Chautauqua was 1.4% for those sites yesterday. And as the governor said yesterday, these are not random. This is not a random sample. These are self-selecting people who may have had symptoms, people who may believe they were exposed or coming to it. The overall testing for 4,200 tests were conducted for all of Western New York yesterday, not just the state sites, the overall a positivity was 2.0%. So, but those are the numbers for just the state sites.
Thomas Prohaska: (23:35)
When will the swab tests continuing, Gareth?
Gareth Rhodes: (23:39)
There was well we’ll run until the end of the day on Wednesday.
Thomas Prohaska: (23:44)
Speaker 3: (23:46)
Thank you. Our next question comes from Andrew Siff with WNBC-TV.
Andrew Siff: (23:55)
Governor, good afternoon. Two question for you. The first is on the indoor dining in New York City, is there a specific data metric that you’re looking at that is separating New York city from the other areas? And my second question is about inner city schools. Do you intend to take a more proactive role in terms of influencing that decision? They’ve got 10 days to go, you know there’s uncertainty on the part of the teacher’s union, or do you plan on sort of staying back and letting mayor de Blasio and the chancellor make the decision on their own?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:36)
New York City is one of 700 school districts. All 700, it’s working the same way. The state has guidance. It must be in compliance with the guidance. They all have the same basic theory, “Let’s try to do in person.” And we then have testing, numbers. We have rules on social distancing and we have rules on if X students pass positive, then we will do Y. X students varies, the Y varies, but they’re all about the same. If four students test positive, then we will close the classroom. If two students test positive in different classes, then we’ll close the school. They’re all basically the same that way. And then they go to remote learning.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:43)
We have said to the local school districts, “As long as you’re in compliance with the state guidance, then fine.” And you have a true variance among the school districts. You’re talking about some rural school districts in upstate. You’re talking about New York City, on the other hand. Don’t make the initial determination. However, that is subject to the local government’s health code and that’s subject to the state department’s health regulations. So they can decide, Andrew, to open. They can decide to do in-person, to do remote. We maintain the right to determine that there is an infection rate that is problematic and we could come in and override the locality or the school district to close schools, open schools, et cetera. So we have the legal right to override, but unless we override, they govern. On the restaurant-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:03)
… Override. They govern. On the restaurants, I’ll turn it to Rob, but look. Restaurants, indoor dining, malls, casinos… They’re all related, right? There is no calibration for restaurants. That’s different than malls. That’s different than casinos. It’s just that locality, the viral transmission rate versus the risk of increasing activity. Obviously, it’s worse in New York City because you have a higher concentration of people, more density, more proximity, but they are all elements in the same equation. And we monitor on a daily basis. Then you’d have to factor in, what does it mean that you’re opening schools? What does it mean that the flu season has started? But there’s no separate calibration, but let me turn it over to Rob, see if he has anything to add.
Just as governor mentioned, there’s no specific metric that we’re looking at in relation to bars and restaurants. The unique qualities of the bar/restaurants in New York city is, one is that they are together. Bars and restaurants are licensed together. We know that bar activity has a higher vector for transmission than many other activities. It’s one of the highest. So, you have to distinguish that. In New York City specifically, there is more density in relation to the restaurants in New York City, so there tend to be smaller spaces and more density, which when we know, when you’re indoors in a small space with a lot of people, there’s a higher chance of transmission.
So, how you put together guidelines that reflect that and increase that risk is what we are focused on. Also, knowing that in states around us, the Northeast, they still maintain, even when they have restaurants open, bars are still closed. Because we have that combination, we’re trying to come up with guidelines that would be able to decrease the transmission while allowing indoor dining activities.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:24)
Robert has two points that are important to remember. [inaudible 00:29:28] percentage of indoor dining, but they have no bars. In New York, we have bars, and this was that complexity because we don’t have a separate bar license from a separate restaurant license. We have bars open. Second factor is, what will the compliance be? Okay, a restaurant can do 25%. Okay. Who’s going to check to make sure it’s only 25%, and how good are they at checking? Because these restaurants are under a lot of pressure, and there’ll be some restaurant owners who say, “I know it said 25%, but I did 40%. I have tables in the back.” Well, who’s doing the compliance, and how good has the compliance been? We know in New York City they’re having compliance issues. We know that I had to put together a task force of the state police and the state liquor authority to go do compliance issues in bars and restaurants in New York City.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:33)
We know it’s an ongoing problem. We know, because I’ve said it to you every day for the past month, I need local governments to do a better job on compliance. We know that I said in New York City, if you think the sheriffs, 150 sheriffs, are going to be able to do compliance without the NYPD, it’s not going to work. 150 sheriffs cannot replace a 32,000 person NYPD. They can’t do the policing at the airports and the bridges to make sure that we don’t get out of state people and the city parks and the bars and the restaurants and the street gatherings. They are not capable of doing it. So, in that environment, what do you think about opening malls? What do you think about opening casinos? What do you think about opening indoor dining? Right? And that’s an important factor to consider also. Operator, go and pick one more.
Speaker 4: (31:54)
Thank you from Katie Honan with the Wall Street Journal.
Katie Honan: (31:59)
Hey, good afternoon, Governor Cuomo. I wanted to see if you had any comments or reaction to reports that the United Federation of Teachers is considering the authorization of a strike vote tonight. I know Mayor de Blasio said that’s just not happening, that [inaudible 00:32:14] members and officials from the union have said. So, I didn’t know if you had any take on that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (32:20)
I don’t have any specific knowledge on the UFT, but I have said repeatedly that this is not an issue where government dictation will work. The local school district cannot dictate whether a school district opens. The state will not dictate whether a school district opens. We can administratively say schools are open, but the decision is going to be made by number one, parents who will decide whether or not to send their children, and number two, teachers who will decide whether or not to enter the building. We can say, “New York City schools open September 7th.” Yeah. And we can be in the schools alone if the parents and the teachers decide they’re not coming back. So, I have been saying for weeks, include the teachers and the parents in the plan development because if the teachers and the parents are not convinced, you’ve accomplished nothing. And in New York City, you still have the teachers and the parents who have a lot of questions and who have significant reservations. So, they have to be resolved other, otherwise it’s a pure victory to say schools open. Unless the parents are willing to send their child, and unless the teachers are willing to teach, you’ve accomplished nothing. I know they haven’t made an agreement. I wish that this had been resolved by now because time is short, and it’s hard to make changes that can actually be implemented on time when you only have a couple of weeks. Right? You’re talking about moving a very large bureaucracy. I hope that there is a resolution and it is soon. I hope it’s a responsible one. Then we’ll see how it goes when it’s implemented.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (34:31)
With all these school districts, you’re going to see slip between the cup and the lip. They have plans. Everybody’s got a great plan. Okay. Could you then implement it? Question one. Question two, did it actually work? I think you’ll see K-12, just like colleges, they all have a plan. They’ll open, and then you will see a certain number that close. Melissa’s got a point.
[inaudible 00:35:02], Governor. You got it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:04)
Hold on one second.
No, I was just going to say that, I think that at this point in the game, it’s really unfair to be doing it to the children and to the parents. We’re urging both sides to come to an agreement as quickly as possible one way or another, so that parents and children can plan on what’s going on. We’re coming down the home stretch here.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:30)
Coming down the home stretch. We’re about to cross the finish line. Okay. Thank you all very much. Have a good day.