Oct 1, 2020

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript October 1

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsNY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript October 1

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a briefing via conference call on October 1 to provide coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Governor Cuomo: (00:01)
Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Dr. Zucker, Gareth Rhodes, Beth Garvey, and a special guest reappearance from Lawrence Schwartz, who has been helping us out as a volunteer during this COVID situation. As you know, he’s Former Secretary to the governor, Former Secretary to two governors, actually. Today’s day 215. 109,000 test results were done yesterday. Stay with me because the numbers are important today. We have to keep apples to apples, oranges and oranges. We are now testing, basically, the overall state, the way we’ve been testing the overall state. Then we are oversampling the hotspot zip codes, the cluster that we’re saying in Rockland, Orange, Brooklyn, mainly.

Governor Cuomo: (01:08)
The 20 hotspot zip codes… The positivity is 6.5. That’s up from 5.5. Within those hotspot zip codes, there are increases, primarily, in Brooklyn, where we’ve seen zip codes, 11223, went from 4% to 8%, 1121O, from 3.8 to 7.4, 11235, from 1.9 to 4. We’ve also seen an increase in Rockland, most notably, 10901, from 4 to 12, and 10950, from 3 to 16%. The Rockland numbers are small samples, so I would take them with a grain of salt. The overall hotspots have gone from 5.5 to 6.5. That’s up a point. We’ve seen growth in Brooklyn and a little bit in Rockland. These 20 hotspot zip codes require full attention, and effectiveness, and action. As I’ve said before, a cluster today can become community spread tomorrow. These zip codes are not hermetically sealed, right? People from these zip codes go to the surrounding communities. They shop in the surrounding communities. They take buses, et cetera. That’s how you have community spread. I’ve said to the local governments, “We need an all-out compliance effort.”

Governor Cuomo: (03:16)
It has to be enforcement. It’s no longer about public education. The public has been educated about masks. I don’t think there has been a topic in my lifetime that has been more exhaustively communicated to the public in terms of public health than mask wearing. If they’re not wearing masks, they should be fined. There should be enforcement. Enforcement works. If you speed in your car, you get a ticket. That’s how it works. If you don’t pay a toll when you go over a bridge, you get a ticket. That’s how it works. Compliance works. Enforcement works.

Governor Cuomo: (04:06)
We’re in this situation partially because the local governments haven’t been doing the compliance and we need them to do it, or if they don’t want to do it, assign personnel to the state. I will do it the same way we did the SLA Task Force in the bars and the restaurants, which is a very analogous situation to this. We need enforcement and compliance.

Governor Cuomo: (04:33)
If you take out the hotspot zip codes, the rest of the state without the zip codes is better than where it’s supposed to be. It’s 0.98, so it’s under 1%. Again, remember 1% is the lowest infection rate in the United States of America. It’s a very high standard. It’s the highest. It’s the gold standard in the country. If you included the over-sample of the hotspot zip codes in the state number, it’s 1.2, but including the over-sample, really, is not statistically relevant.

Governor Cuomo: (05:23)
The 20 hotspots are 26% of all cases in New York state. Remember, 20 zip codes outside of 1,740 zip codes. The 20 zip codes are only 6% of the state population. 11 New Yorkers passed away. 612 were hospitalized. 141 were in ICU. 63 were intubated. When you look across the state, Capital District, 0.5, great. Central New York, 1, great. Finger Lakes, 0.7, great. Long Island, 1, great. Mid-Hudson, 2.8, not good. That’s Orange and Rockland. Mohawk Valley, .8, great. North Country, .1, super great. Southern Tier, 1. Western New York, 1.7, caution flag. New York City, 1.3. New York City, proportionately, is the largest region by far. That’s driving the number. Within New York City, it’s Brooklyn, a little bit of Queens. Those are the numbers.

Governor Cuomo: (06:38)
The SLA enforcement task force has been continuing. They have done a great job. They turned around the bar and restaurant situation, which would have been the most problematic situation. The bar and restaurant lack of compliance was throughout New York City and throughout Long Island. If we hadn’t got a hold of that, that would have really increased community spread right away. Compliance is way up. We had 99% compliance yesterday. The bars and the restaurants have gotten the message.

Governor Cuomo: (07:18)
We’re doing enforcement. You will be ticketed. You can lose your license. It works. Bars and restaurants are not happy that they’re getting tickets. I understand that. I also understand that it worked, and that’s what I need the local governments to understand. They wouldn’t do the compliance in the bars and restaurants we did than not doing the compliance in these hotspot zip codes. That’s why we have the problem. Enforcement actions by the SLA yesterday: two in the Bronx, one in Manhattan, four in Suffolk.

Governor Cuomo: (07:56)
On the education Dashboard, the education Dashboard is up. It will provide facts to parents, anxious parents, and teachers across the state. There’s been a lot of controversy about opening schools. Principals in New York City think it’s a mistake. Teachers union, Mike Mulgrew, thinks they can do it. Parents have gotten mixed messages, and they’re unsure. I’ve said, “We’ll provide the data, and then we’ll make a decision on the data.” I understand everybody’s theory, but let’s get the actual numbers.

Governor Cuomo: (08:38)
The Dashboard is up. The Dashboard will show you that there are 1,206 positives reported, both onsite and offsite, from teacher staff, and students, total of 1,206 positives on the school system statewide. Then they will tell you where those 1,206 positives are. You can look up your school district. You can see how many teachers are positive, how many tests were done, how many students are positive. That data then can inform an opinion. Dr. Zucker, do you want to give any more information on the school Dashboard, how that 1,206 breaks down?

Dr. Zucker: (09:30)
We’re working on that right now, governor, what the percentages are. I don’t have it right this second, governor, but [inaudible 00:09:42].

Governor Cuomo: (09:45)
Well then, people can go and look at the 1,206 and see by their particular school district what they’re most interested in. I’ve spoken to the Orthodox community with the hotspot zip codes. We had a good conversation. They’re going to take action on their own, community action. I appreciate that. We’re going to have public education. I appreciate that. We’re going to be handing out flyers and mailings. That’s a good step. The community also says, “Government is in charge of enforcement.” I told them it’s going to be stepped up. They understand that.

Governor Cuomo: (10:36)
We have a very exciting announcement that has taken a lot of work, and it’s really creative and smart. I think it can make a big difference. This is a technology-based contact-tracing app. Larry Schwartz has been working on putting together the contact-tracing operation for the state. As you know, testing is only as good as your contact tracing.

Governor Cuomo: (11:03)
Dave, as you know, testing is only as good as your contact tracing, right? Testing is to identify a person but so you can isolate and quarantine that person and then find the connections from that person and that’s contact tracing.

Governor Cuomo: (11:17)
We have about 15,000 people statewide who do contact tracing. They call them disease detectives but we’ve been looking for a technology-based solution and Larry has been working with Bloomberg Philanthropies on this. They brought in Google, they brought in Apple and some other technology companies near Formtech, New York City and the Linux Foundation and today we are announcing an app that you can download for free from the App store, Apple store called COVID Alert. What this app will do is it will tell you if you were within six feet of a person who tested positive and if you were within six feet of a person who tested positive for 10 minutes. So it will tell you if you’re “in contact” with a COVID positive person.

Governor Cuomo: (12:34)
How does it work? It works from your cell phone data. The app knows where your cell phone is. The app will know where a person who tested positive was through their cell phone and the app can tell you if you were within six feet of that person. The way it will work is when a person tests positive, the Department of Health contacts that person, asks that person if they have an iPhone, gives that person a password. That person types in their password for their phone and then any other phone that comes within six feet of that phone is on the app. It doesn’t give names. Doesn’t give any privacy information. It’s voluntary. You have to download the app but it’s a great tool to alert you if you happen to be within six feet of a person who tests positive. It’s called COVID Alert. Not only will it be for New York residents but it will be New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut will be coming online soon.

Governor Cuomo: (14:12)
So even if you’re traveling in the metropolitan area, it will tell you if you were in contact with a person. It’s using technology really on a level it’s never been used before. Google has been very helpful on this. Apple has been extraordinarily helpful on it and I think it’s going to give, not only bring contact tracing to a new level, but it’s going to give people comfort.

Governor Cuomo: (14:41)
Larry, do you want to correct any misstatements I made or give some more information on how it works?

Larry Schwartz: (14:50)
Well, I’ll just embellish some of the things governor that you had mentioned. So as the governor stated the COVID Alert, New York app goes live today. It works on both Apple iPhones as well as an Android phone. So you can either go to the Apple store or the Google Play store and download that app. The notification tool is an enhancement to the traditional contact tracing that the state is currently using. So this is an additional tool. We’ve been adding tools since May 15th, as the governor’s alluded to, to minimize community spread, which is the ultimate goal of contact tracing.

Larry Schwartz: (15:38)
We did two pilot tests. We did one with SUNY at Albany, Plattsburgh and we go with a thousand students who also did a pilot test with Columbia Engineering. This is an open source app, so anyone can go in there and take a look at the app and the actual program. It’s completely confidential. We don’t collect any data. We don’t track people. So if there’s any concerns, it’s completely a voluntary program. It’s for 18 and above. It’s ADA compliant. We’ve had security experts review the app. It’s also in the top six languages spoken in New York state.

Larry Schwartz: (16:22)
What will happen is, the governor mentioned, if you have the app, if Governor Cuomo and Larry Schwartz both had the COVID Alert, New York app on their iPhones and I tested positive and I was within six feet for at least 10 minutes with Governor Cuomo, which would be my pleasure, I would get a notification and the notification would tell me to quarantine, to stay at home and to call my physician or called New York state or the New York city hotline about either getting tested or getting additional information.

Larry Schwartz: (17:05)
So again, it’s using technology as an additional tool to our traditional contact tracing program to prevent community spread throughout the state.

Governor Cuomo: (17:22)
Thank you, Larry. This, we believe this is the first in the nation usage of this. It really is an advancement, an advancement that was done very quickly. Again, it’s going to be for the states that we work in concert with because people do travel throughout the region and all the states in the region will be on this.

Governor Cuomo: (17:46)
I want to thank Larry Schwartz very much. I’ve known Larry for more years than I care to say. He’s been a total government professional and then I called him up and I asked him for a personal favor to come help here once again, to do public service and he’s done an extraordinary job.

Governor Cuomo: (18:04)
I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, who took on this contact tracing task and Bloomberg Philanthropies. We were overloaded when this first started. We had to put together Surge and Flex system. We had to put together a testing system and then we had to put together contact tracing.

Governor Cuomo: (18:24)
So Larry Schwartz and Mayor Bloomberg really took this task on and as I said, we’ll make it available to any other state in the country that wants to use it and it’s a great, great tool. It will not only help us do contact tracing, but can also give people a sense of security and confidence. You know, anxiety is very high. Everybody’s wondering, I was next to this person. I was next to this person but this can actually give you some data and facts can help reduce anxiety and that is a good thing. Sometimes facts can increase anxiety but that’s more in my position in life.

Governor Cuomo: (19:14)
With that, operator questions?

Operator: (19:16)
At this time, I would like to remind everyone in order to ask a question, simply press star, then the number one on your telephone keypad. Once again, that’s star one on your telephone keypad.

Operator: (19:50)
The first question is from the line of Jeff Kolakowski. Your line is now open.

Jeff Kolakowski: (20:01)
Everybody, hi, governor. How are you today?

Governor Cuomo: (20:02)
Good, Jeff. How are you?

Jeff Kolakowski: (20:05)
Good. Thank you. I’m just curious. I know you spoke about taking a look at the Bills Stadium and allowing the limited number of fans possibly, depending on how you can get them in and out in Buffalo.

Jeff Kolakowski: (20:15)
Just curious if you’re taking any look at the Carrier Dome here in Syracuse and whether you’ll be able to allow a limited number of fans in the Dome, especially for the next few Syracuse football home games. The next one is October 10th against Duke and then October 17th against Liberty.

Jeff Kolakowski: (20:34)
Any idea, if any fans will be able to get in there anytime soon?

Governor Cuomo: (20:38)
Well, the NFL has actually been very aggressive in setting up protocols to make this possible and they reached out to us and they’re doing it across the country. They’ve rolled out their protocols. They have some evidence on how they work and they have been innovative in the way they’re doing business.

Governor Cuomo: (21:04)
So they reached out to us and that’s why we’re really responding to their initiative. I want to see if it works in Buffalo. And again, the question is the entering the stadium and the exiting the stadium.

Governor Cuomo: (21:24)
When we have a fraction of the capacity, it’s not as much an issue during, when fans are actually in their seats, it’s coming and going and I am going to meet with the Pegula family and the stadium officials and NFL officials and engineers actually looking at the system. But the NFL has put together a program. I’m not aware of if other leagues have done that. They haven’t contacted me but I’m open to working.

Governor Cuomo: (22:03)
But I’m open to working with whatever league believes they can do it.

Operator: (22:12)
Your next question is from the line of Will Feuer from CNBC. Your line is now open.

Will Feuer: (22:20)
Hi. Thanks. This is Will Feuer from CNBC. I wanted to ask about the launch of a COVID Alert New York. Are there protections in place for data privacy concerns and what private companies are involved and might have access to that data?

Governor Cuomo: (22:38)
Yes, we’re very aware of data concerns and that’s one of the reasons why the development has taken that long. No one has access to any data besides the location of the cell phone and that location only in proximity to a person that tests positive. But let me turn it over to Larry or Melissa, whoever knows more details.

Larry Schwartz: (23:09)
Well again, the app code is open source. Anybody can go to the Linux Foundation and get the code and take a look at how the program actually works. And you’ll see that we don’t collect any data. There’s no locator device on the app. So it doesn’t track anyone who downloads the app at all. We were very sensitive to making sure … The key to this is to get people to voluntarily download the app, otherwise it doesn’t work. So we want as many people … We have a whole social marketing campaign that’s going to start today. We’re contacting all kinds of stakeholders throughout all the business organization, labor unions, clergy, many, many other community groups to get their members and their employees to download the app because this helps protect them, but it also helps them protect their friends, their families, their neighbors. So like I said, it’s ADA compliant in six languages. So we went through great lengths when we’ve had expert security people review the application to ensure that everything is confidential, no one’s privacy has been … Traditional contact tracing does too. It preserves your privacy and no personal information will be collected.

Governor Cuomo: (24:39)
They have had the app and the technology reviewed by a host of experts to make sure that there’s no data breach possible.

Will Feuer: (24:50)
Great. Got it.

Governor Cuomo: (24:54)
Next question, operator.

Operator: (24:56)
Your next question is from the line of Kate Lisa from Johnson newspaper. Your line is now open.

Operator: (25:08)
Hello? Ms. Kate Lisa, your line is now open.

Kate Lisa: (25:19)
Hi governor. Sorry. I was on mute. So my question is about, I wanted to know if you have any plans to bolster or change travel advisories, the requirements of the travel advisory, when you’ve expressed concerns that states like Florida have altered their testing strategies. Do you think that it could kick states off the list that should be on it?

Governor Cuomo: (25:47)
The states that are on the quarantine list are just by a basis of their infection rate. We haven’t made any modifications based on to correct for what some states are doing. Basically what some states are doing is they’re following the president’s advice. The president said, “If you test less, there will be fewer cases.” That is technically true. And that avoids his frustration with the news media announcing an increase in cases. In other words, when the headline says, “1000 more cases.”

Governor Cuomo: (26:31)
The more you test, the more cases you will find. That is true. The relevant number is not really the case number. It’s the percentage number. And I’ve said that to the media in our state. Some days we do 50,000 tests. Some days we do 100,000 tests. The days you do 100,000 tests, you’re going to find more cases. So they report increase in cases. No. It was an increase in tests. And you should look at the percentage of tests that show positive because that won’t change. Or if it does, it’s relevant. Some states are just reducing the number of tests. Florida has greatly reduced the number of tests they take, which means they show fewer cases. Yeah, because they’re doing fewer tests.

Governor Cuomo: (27:36)
We look at the infection rate. So even if you reduce the number of tests, it won’t change the infection rate. The only problem would be if you reduced the number of tests to such a low level that it was not statistically relevant, but we don’t follow, on our quarantine protocol, number of cases. We follow the infection rate, which doesn’t really change even though they play this game by reducing the number of tests.

Governor Cuomo: (28:16)
But even for New York, reporting of case numbers can be misleading because it is a function of the number of tests. That’s why I always point out and highlight the infection rate is more important than the number of tests.

Governor Cuomo: (28:36)
Next question, operator.

Operator: (28:39)
Your next question is from James Mulder from Syracuse Post Standard. Your line is now open.

James Mulder: (28:47)
Hi, Governor. Jim Mulder from Syracuse Post Standard.

Governor Cuomo: (28:50)
How are you, Jim?

James Mulder: (28:52)
I’m doing great. Thank you. I was just wondering what it costs to develop this new COVID Alert app and if the entire cost is being picked up by Mayor Bloomberg’s Philanthropy?

Governor Cuomo: (29:10)
Huh. Good question. I don’t know the answer. Larry, do you know?

Larry Schwartz: (29:15)
The cost of the app was about $700,000 and the app is being paid for from a combination of federal dollars that we have as well as the support of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Foundation.

Governor Cuomo: (29:30)
Yeah. Melissa, do you have something to add?

Melissa: (29:33)
I just wanted to make one quick point just very crystal clearly. The COVID Alert New York does not track your location, your movement, or use GPS. It does not collect or store any personal information. The app is completely anonymous. It uses Bluetooth technology to sense proximity to another phone with the same app, but not geographic location. So I just wanted everybody to understand that on the call, in terms of the very obvious concerns about privacy.

Governor Cuomo: (30:04)
It uses Bluetooth technology, Melissa?

Melissa: (30:14)
Yeah. Bluetooth technology.

Governor Cuomo: (30:14)
Larry, the companies that have been helpful here in doing the app, obviously Bloomberg Philanthropies, Google, Apple, the Linux Foundation.

Larry Schwartz: (30:27)
New York City Tech worked with us and helped us perfect the app. Those were the companies. And obviously [inaudible 00:30:39], it’s their application. The Bluetooth technology comes from Apple and Google.

Governor Cuomo: (30:42)
Okay. One more question, operator.

Operator: (30:47)
Your next question is from the line of Zack Fink from New York One. Your line is still open.

Zack Fink: (30:54)
Hey Governor. How are you?

Governor Cuomo: (30:55)
How are you, Zack?

Zack Fink: (30:57)
Two part question. Actually full disclosure, they’re two totally separate questions, but if you’d indulge me, I’d appreciate it. The first one regarding the ballot snafu in Brooklyn. Are you concerned that this is going to kind of fuel the president’s spire on this? He’s been trying to claim that the election’s going to be invalid based on a fraudulent ballots being sent out, there’ll be extra ones out there. Does this sort of play into his narrative and does that concern you? And the second one, I just want to ask you regarding the homeless, you had talked about getting them back into the shelter system. Does that mean you’d like them out of hotels, which has kind of been the mayor’s stop gap plan here?

Governor Cuomo: (31:33)
Yeah. Two things. On the ballots, if you listen to the president, he will tell you where he’s going. Subtlety is not a weapon in his arsenal. He has been saying for weeks mail-in ballots will create fraud. He’s talked about the Carolyn Maloney primary race for weeks. There is no doubt that when you made this rapid shift to mail-in ballots, there have been technical issues. There have been. Whenever you change a system this abruptly, when you went from education to remote education, when you went from healthcare to telemedicine, when you went from voting mostly at the polls to mostly by mail, there have been glitches. The president talked about the Philadelphia glitch. He’s highlighting them. Brooklyn was a glitch, was a mistake. Frankly, New York City Board of Elections has a history that has been less than stellar performance. So yes, there will be glitches. He keeps highlighting them. The question is why? Why would you constantly sew suspicion about-

Governor Cuomo: (33:03)
Instantly. So suspicion about an election, unless, Zack, you thought you were going to lose the election. Think about it for a second. If you think you’re going to win on Election Day, the last thing you want to do is cast aspersions on your victory. If you think you’re going to win, you want to be able to say, “That was the most credible election in history. And I am the winner and there’s no dispute.” Remember when the President, how he recoiled when people suggested there was Russian influence in his first election? And he was adamant, “It was a clean election. There was no meddling. Russia made no difference.” He didn’t want his victory diminished.

Governor Cuomo: (33:58)
This is the exact opposite. He is now already constantly diminishing the election results. Why would he do that? Because he knows he’s going to lose. Because he reads the polls too. There is no other logical answer. It’s totally inconsistent with what he did in the first election with the Russia meddling. He is discrediting the election because he believes he’s going to lose. And then he’s going to have his political puppet, William Barr, say there was fraud in the election. He’s going to bring a court case. And he’s going to try to get to the Supreme Court where he has his new handpicked appointee.

Governor Cuomo: (34:57)
That is what he is telling you. That’s why at the debate, he wouldn’t answer the question, “Will you abide by the certified ballots?” He won’t answer it. That’s why he said, “Proud boys, stand by.” Stand by for what? For what? Stand by. Yes, he is sowing doubt about every technical glitch he can find because he believes he’s going to lose. So he is establishing evidence now where he can say on election night, “I told you so. I told you this election was going to be flawed.” That’s what he’s doing.

Governor Cuomo: (35:52)
And is Brooklyn one of those situations? Yes, like Philadelphia, like Carolyn Maloney’s race, like California, like every other glitch that he can seize upon to highlight. And that could be a real constitutional crisis, my friend. I mean, either way. I mean, just think about it. The election happens, he loses. He says, “Well, it was a bad election. I’m going to legally contest it.” If he’s successful getting his Supreme Court nominee on the ballot, and then if the Supreme Court Justices all become hyper political, which would really be a constitutional crisis in and of itself, and the Supreme court hears the case, I mean, we’d be in a place in this country we’ve never been before.

Governor Cuomo: (36:57)
On the homeless, the state is constitutionally charged with the responsibility for the homeless. It delegates it to local governments. It’s a state law. It’s a state responsibility. And the state delegates, subject to its supervision, homeless care to cities across the nation.

Governor Cuomo: (37:26)
New York City has used hotels. They’re doing that on the thought that FEMA is going to reimburse them for the funding. My gratuitous two cents is I wouldn’t trust FEMA half as far as I can throw them. I announced with the President of the United States that FEMA would waive the local match and that would save New York state 300 million. FEMA has a match, which normally they pay 75% of the cost and the locality pays 25%.

Governor Cuomo: (38:06)
The President said to me in the oval office, he’ll wave the match from New York state, which is quite common. When I was in the federal government, the federal government often waived the FEMA match. The President announced it. I announced it publicly. I announced it to you after the meeting with the President. FEMA then disavows the President’s announcement and says we have to pay the local match. So New York City is relying on FEMA for reimbursement for the hotel rates. Good luck.

Governor Cuomo: (38:47)
But local governments went into hotels, motels, some local governments sub-state did different things because they couldn’t operate the shelters because the COVID hit and they didn’t want to congregate shelters, and the hotels worked plus or minus, depending on the location, depending on who you talk to. But they were very expensive and they’re hoping for the FEMA reimbursement, which I told you what I think about that.

Governor Cuomo: (39:18)
But now it’s getting cold. You have homeless people on the streets. You have homeless people on the streets in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, New York City. New York City obviously worse than the other areas. It’s not only now a social issue with homeless people on the streets, it’s a public health issue. And there are a lot of people in New York City who are getting annoyed and anxious, afraid that homeless people on the streets may be COVID positive. You walk past the COVID person, their not wearing a mask. They ask you for help or they are just exhaling, and you could now be infected by a homeless person on the street. And homeless people aren’t supposed to be on the streets in the first place. It’s a social disgrace.

Governor Cuomo: (40:11)
So reopen the shelter. You know how to make a shelter COVID safe. We’ve learned a lot. We’re opening schools, et cetera. We know how to make a facility COVID safe. Reopen the shelters, make them COVID safe. It’s up to the locality.

Governor Cuomo: (40:32)
Once the shelters are reopened, first, people have to be off the streets. Homeless encampments have to be taken down. And second, if they reopened the shelters, do they need the hotels? The rationale for going into the hotel was because the shelter was closed. If the shelters reopened, do you still need the hotels? You know, there’s a certain logic there, but that’s up to the localities.

Governor Cuomo: (41:05)
Okay, operator. Thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Check out the app COVID Alert. I’m going to download it right now. Thank you very much.

Operator: (41:19)
And with that, this concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for attending. You may now disconnect.