Jan 22, 2021

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript January 22

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript January 22
RevBlogTranscriptsAndrew Cuomo TranscriptsNY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript January 22

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a January 22 press conference on COVID-19 in the state. Read the full transcript of his news briefing here.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:02)
Okay. Happy Friday! To my far right, Gareth Rhodes, changed positions to try to confuse me, but they can’t. To his left, Dr. Jim Malatras, Dr. Howard Zucker, Secretary Melissa DeRosa, Budget Director Robert Mujica.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:21)
Today is day 328 and we welcome common sense and competence to the federal government. It is a relief for us here in the state of New York. President Biden’s inauguration was beautiful and it was uplifting and it was entertaining. A lot of great entertainers. We want to thank President Biden for including the state and local aid in his first announcement of the American Recovery Act.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (00:56)
State and local aid is something we fought for for about the past two years. All the governors were united. State and local aid is just what it sounds like: It is aid to the state governments, aid to the local governments. The Senate refused to put it in the previous bill. The Senate leadership has now changed obviously, and President Biden put in $350 billion.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:26)
The next obstacle on the federal side is 350 billion is in president Biden’s plan. They could raise that if they wanted, by the way, Speaker Pelosi had a higher amount in her Heroes Act. I would urge them to raise it. National Governor’s Association, Democrats and Republicans, asked for 500 billion. But the real fight is going to be the allocation of the 350 billion. What state gets what? What’s the distribution formula? And that is a slicing of the pie function, which is going to be done in the House and the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (02:11)
We made it clear that New Yorkers are firmly committed to two things: Our fair slice of the 350 billion, which we believe is modestly 15 billion, which we need for this year’s budget relief, and repeal SALT, which is not state and local, but it was something that every Democrat was outraged at when it was passed. It crushed New York, everyone said they would repeal it. Well, now is the time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (02:46)
Also, President Biden’s team is a welcome relief. The COVID Task Force Coordinator is Jeff Zienst. Jeff, I’ve known for 20 years. He is a true pro, and you see even on day one the actions they’re taking are just long, long overdue. Use the Defense Production Act. I had a number of conversations and statements going back over a year, urging the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (03:21)
Wear a mask. Look at that common sense. Lightening bolt from above. Congratulations on implementing common sense and international travel procedures. We see these strains walking in our airport. It’s easier to bring a COVID strain through an airport than it is to bring fruit from another country. It’s defied common sense, so this is a welcome relief. And it makes us feel, frankly, like we’re not alone. The federal government is actually doing something positive and it’s a real partnership.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (04:09)
Jeff Zienst is going to work in partnership with the governors. The governors are the ones who are administering this COVID vaccine. Governors are the ones who’ve been fighting this COVID battle. We felt like we’ve been battling it on our own. But we’re going to have a weekly meeting with Mr. Zienst, hear from the governors, hear what they need, and it’s a real functional partnership. I thank them all very much for that.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (04:41)
Where we are in this foot race, how fast does the infection rate go up? How fast do we vaccinate? This is where we are today. 5.6.5 positivity, 268,000 tests. Statewide deaths, 165 deaths. Talking about lagging indicator, which is a sort of antiseptic term. But you get infected. You go into a hospital. If you’re in a hospital long, ICU, intubation, and too often death. And that’s what we’re seeing now. Good news is we’re seeing the hospitalizations decrease over these past couple of days. Significant decrease, 400 over the past couple of days. That’s really positive news. ICU’s down 14. Intubations down 19. Positivity rate is down, continues to go down and that’s very good news. Hospitalizations are also a lagging indicator, but eventually they follow positivity. If fewer people are getting positive, fewer people are getting infected, fewer people are going into the hospitals, and that’s what we are seeing also.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (06:07)
This is a confusing chart, but just to make it confusing, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, start at the bottom. December 7th. December 7th is when you start to deal with the surge from Thanksgiving. People gathered for Thanksgiving, social gatherings. If they weren’t smart, infection rate went up. A week later or so you start to see it in the hospitals. From the bottom up, we had 150 new people a day, 164 new people a day, 97 people a day, 165 a day. Then it starts to turn. 111 per day, 48 per day, 32 per day, five per day. This again is more good news. We just need to keep the arrows pointed down. But never get cocky with COVID. Truer words were never spoken. I’ll take credit for that quote: Never get cocky with COVID.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (07:13)
The new strains are frightening. The UK strain, Brazil strain, now the South Africa strain. And they’re going to be more strains, I would wager on it. The UK strain has been spreading, should have never been here if this federal government had done the testing and the quarantine mandate that other countries did. But we are where we are. We’re up to 25 cases in New York. CDC has said the UK strain is going to overtake the COVID-19 strain by March. That’s how quickly this strain spreads. If that is true, you could see the infection rate go up again. Hence, don’t get cocky with COVID. Two cases in Westchester, one in Kings County. I’m a born and bred New Yorker, I still call Kings Brooklyn.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (08:12)
We adjust, right? We’re in a war with COVID. It’s a fluid situation. Government normally takes a position and stands there. That doesn’t work in war. In war, when the enemy moves, you move. They try a new tactic, you try a new tactic. That ability to flex and adjust is very important. Stay on the balls of your feet, to mix metaphors.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (08:42)
Hospitalization. Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, and now Long Island. We have seen Long Island ticking up, but now it’s Finger Lakes and Long Island, highest percentage hospitalized. Highest positivity: Long Island, Mohawk Valley. Highest positivity in New York City: Bronx, which has been growing for a while. Staten Island seems to have stabilized, and that’s good news. Thank you very much, Staten Islanders. Again, these numbers are a function of behavior. How you act is how the virus will spread. It’s that simple. Where are we in terms of vaccinations? Remember what happens, we get a supply from the federal government. We’ve tried to find the allocation on our own, purchase on our own. Pfizer and Moderna are both operating under something called an Emergency Authorization Use. They call it EAU. It’s a federal program. Everything has to be an acronym, because that’s the federal government. Emergency Authorization Use does not allow them to sell it, so they cannot sell directly to the state of New York, so the supply comes from the federal government.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (10:07)
We have used 97% of the doses we’ve been allocated thus far, through week one to five. Okay? This is the allocation usage by region for week one through five: Best, highest level of vaccination rate, kudos to Southern Tier. 100%. The Southern Tier is a real turnaround story, so hats off to the Southern Tier and to those county executives and supervisors. North Country, 99. Central New York, 98. Long Island, 97. Western New York, 96. Kudos to all of you.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (10:54)
Lower performing regions in the state: Mohawk Valley, 77, that has to improve and it should improve. People are in desperate demand for the vaccine. We want to make sure as soon as we’re getting it, we’re getting it out. Capital Region, 82. Mid-Hudson, 84. New York City, 90. Finger Lakes, 94. Overall statewide, 1,329,000 doses delivered.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (11:27)
We run out of allocation today. The week one to five allocation will be exhausted by the end of the day Friday. It may already be exhausted, frankly, midday on Friday. We’re now going week to week on the next week’s allocation. We have 28,000 dosages left in the state from week one to five. If you add up all the dosages that are not in arms in the state, it’s 28,000. Problem is, we administer about 80,000 dosages per day, right? 28,000 does not get you through the day when you’re doing 80,000 doses per day. We will, by the end of today, fully utilize all of the dosages that have been delivered. Week six dosages are being delivered as we speak. They come in throughout the week. They’re delivered by the federal government through various means. One of them, interestingly enough, is through the Federal Express, but they’re basically delivered through private carriers and they arrive at different times across the week. Some jurisdictions are starting to receive them already. That’s 250,000 dosages, and they are now being delivered. Week six allocations are arriving.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (13:12)
Providers should only schedule appointments for allocations they know they will receive. In other words, in this confusing situation, last thing we want to do is cancel appointments, right? Don’t schedule an appointment unless you know you have an allocation. A person who had a first dose, they have an appointment for a second dose. They’re going to get it. If you made an appointment at a pharmacy, we told the pharmacies, we’re going to give you X next week. But only schedule an appointment for an allocation you know you’re going to receive. Don’t gamble. Don’t bet. Some providers think if they schedule the appointments ahead of time, people will feel comfortable because we have waiting lists, not if you cancel those appointments. Don’t schedule any appointment unless you know you have an approved state allocation coming and appointments will be honored.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (14:35)
The moment the vaccines are arrived, our goal is to get them in arms as soon as possible. 80,000 a day, 250,000 doses per week is not enough. In truth, we can be doing more than 80,000 dosages per day. We have about 1200 distributors. We can ramp that distribution network up very quickly. The 1200 distributors are more distributors than we need. I can’t provide the 1200 distributors with all they could use now because we only get 240,000. We want to have that distribution network in place because we’re hoping to get more production. I want to anticipate more production and have that distribution network in place. I’d rather have more distribution waiting for vaccine than having vaccines sitting on a shelf waiting for distribution.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (15:48)
We have about 1200 distributors. We could go to 2000, 3000 distributors like that, and we could easily do 100,000 dose-

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (16:01)
… easily do 100,000 dosages per day. That would be 700,000 per week. So we’re limited by our supply. When we get the supply, we distribute it by region, right? And the region distributes it by subgroup by the different providers. So just stick with me for a second. It’s not that complicated, but I want to be clear once again. You have three groups, basically. You have healthcare workers, you have essential workers, police, fire, teachers, public safety, food workers, and you have 65 plus. Three separate groups. We want to be fair in the allocation. Well, then do it by percentage of population. We are. Healthcare workers are about 21% of the eligible population. So we distribute 21% of that region’s allocation to healthcare workers. Essential workers are about 27%, so we allocate 27% of that region’s allocation to essential workers. 65 plus are more than half, 52%.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (17:36)
So we distribute 52% of that region’s allocation to the providers who serve 65 plus. No one is happy, everybody wants more. What do you do? You just be as fair as you can possibly be with the allocation you have, and that’s what we’re doing. The three different groups are provided for by three different providers. Essential workers are done by city and county departments of health. Why? Because that’s the normal liaison with the police and the fire and volunteer fire, they have the most accessible relation to the city and county governments. We’re also asking the large unions, large forces to self administer. So the city and the county don’t even have to do the administration, they just hand it to the police department and let the police department’s medical officers do it. Hand it to the fire department and let the fire department’s EMS, EMTs administer it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (18:54)
Again, the vaccination is not rocket science, with all due respect to Dr. Zucker, it’s a vaccine and EMS workers, EMT workers administer a vaccine in the normal course of business. So essential workers and the percent that central workers represent, 21%, goes to city, county departments of health. Healthcare workers go to the hospitals. Nurses and doctors work in the hospitals. Doctor’s offices are affiliated with hospitals or FQHC, but that’s the normal accessibility for them. Healthcare workers get 27%, so 27% goes to hospitals and then 65 plus, we don’t want them walking into hospitals. There are a lot of people who are ill in hospitals. We don’t want them walking into city hall. So retail establishments, pharmacies, mass sites are where we’re doing the 65 plus. It’s important that the provider follows the prioritization because otherwise, they’re giving that group’s allocation to someone else.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (20:23)
And I’ve said this repeatedly, but I understand the stress level and the anxiety level. At least we have to be able to say, we are fair. If you give the police dosage to 65 plus, then the police don’t get it. If you give the 65 dosage to hospital workers, then the 65 year olds don’t get it. So please follow the department of health prioritization. Otherwise, you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. That’s all you’re doing. The Trump administration, and I said this, not because he’s out of office, I said it while they were in office, this was all unnecessary chaos and confusion and anxiety. Everybody agreed, nursing homes were the top priority. Everybody agreed with that. All Americans agreed with that. You have vaccines, they’re limited, give it to the people in the nursing homes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (21:28)
Everyone agreed with 1A. Nurses, doctors, give it to them. They’re on the front lines, they’re dealing with COVID positive people every day. I’m not, they are. And if they get it, they’re super spreaders. And if they get it, the hospitals close down. Everybody agreed. First responders, essential workers, everybody agreed. They could all be potential super spreaders, they’re more exposed. They then opened it up to 75 plus, which made sense. But again, you are already way over capacity. By the way, we still have not received enough supply just to do 1A and 1B. If they had only opened it up to nursing homes, healthcare and police officers, we still have not received enough supply even to get past nursing homes and 1A. We wouldn’t even be in 1B yet if they opened the categories sequentially. Then you open 75 plus, then they open 65 plus, all at the same time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (22:44)
So you now have 7 million people, all who are eligible and they’re chasing 250,000 vaccines per week. It made no sense and it created chaos. What should have been done, nursing homes first. You finish nursing homes, go to 1A. You finish 1A, go to 1B. Then after 1B, and again, we still wouldn’t be through 1B. We wouldn’t be through 1A. We’ve done 1.3 million dosages. How many people were in 1A? Who remembers?

Speaker 1: (23:28)
[inaudible 00:07:27].

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (23:28)
2.1? 1A is two million people. We’ve only done one million dosages. We would still be in 1A. Then go to 1B and then if you open the age groups, you should have opened it as a priority by age. I’m 90 years old, I should go before the person who’s 65. I’m 90, I should go before the person who’s 70. And it should have been opened as you had allocation. Anyway, that is not what we did. It’s not what they did. And now you have a period of confusion and anxiety because you’re trying to hit seven million people with 250,000 a week. That would take seven months. President Biden has said he’ll produce a hundred million dosages in a hundred days. That is about one million per day. New York State is about 6% of the population. That means we would get about 60,000 dosage per day, that’s about 420,000 dosages per day. That is higher than we are now.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (24:43)
Even at 420,000 dosages per week, I’m sorry, you still have to do 7.1 million, that still takes you 17 weeks. So all this to say, this is going to be a long several months in distribution of this vaccine and the anxiety that has been created. I’m hopeful that the Biden administration can figure out how to increase production and shorten that 17 months. And I think the president is right, I’m not accustomed to saying that, increase production through the Defense Production Act and let’s do it. We should have done it a year ago, but increase production because that is the bottleneck right now. With all of this said, hospital capacity is still our top priority and hospital capacity is going to come down to how many hospitals staff gets sick. That is what is going to happen. Much of what has happened since the first onset has not been a surprise.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (26:08)
I feel like I’m standing on the beach and you see in the distance a large wave building, and we’re standing on the beach and the wave is building and the wave is getting closer. Don’t be there when the wave hits, right? The UK strain is here. The UK strain is spreading. We still are only at 67% vaccination rate of our hospital workers. This is a problem. We’re supposed to be at 70 to 90% for herd immunity. And the hospital workers are the people who, if they get sick, the hospital capacity will collapse. The hospital capacity collapses, we have to close the economy. We’re working very hard on this message and we’re working very hard to get the hospitals to get their staff vaccinated. I’ve spoken to dozens and dozens of hospitals. There is a broad disparity. Some are at 100%, some are 50%. Average is 67, it’s ticking up.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (27:21)
It was 65 on Wednesday, it was 62 last week, but we have to do more and we have to do faster. This is the percentage of hospital workers across the region, and you see the variants. Central New York is 82%. You then go down to 61% on Long Island, 62% on Western New York. What accounts for that? 82, Central New York, 78, North Country, 69. We need the hospital staff vaccinated, that’s why they were 1A. More good news, we completed the first round of vaccinations of nursing homes because they were the most vulnerable population, 70% vaccinated so far. The vaccination rate among nursing home residents is higher than the vaccination rate among nurses and doctors. Social equity is also a pressing issue. We have a COVID-19 equity task force. We want to make sure that everyone has access to the vaccine.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (28:42)
There were two issues there. One is accessibility, and we’re working on that. The second is the willingness to accept the vaccine, and we’re doing everything we can on accessibility. We’re going directly to public housing projects, but we have a problem with skepticism about the vaccine, especially in black and brown communities. And I’m working with clergy, I’m working with community leaders, I’m working with respected doctors, nurses. I understand the skepticism about the past federal government and their vaccination approval. It gave the sense that it was political. I get the historic skepticism, especially among the black community, with the Tuskegee experiment, et cetera. That’s why we had New York doctors approve the vaccine in addition to the federal government approval. And people said at that time, oh, why would New York State do this? It’s redundant.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (29:59)
If the FDA says it’s safe and if HHS, federal HHS says it’s safe, then it’s safe. No, because people did not believe that administration and they did not believe that HHS and that FDA. And by the way, as I say to members of the black and brown community every day, I don’t believe them either. I had my own level of skepticism and cynicism about the previous administration, but I’m not taking their word for it. We had New York doctors go through it. We have the best hospital network on the globe in New York. They have all gone through the vaccine. It is safe and it can save your life, but I need the clergy members, I need the medical community. We have to get past this skepticism problem and we have to do it quickly. Otherwise, without this vaccine, the UK strain hits, you’re going to see the death rate go up.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (31:16)
As an aside, in the budget, we’re doing something called 21 day amendments where you can amend the budget and add certain things. I just want to make sure people are aware, we have consumer utility protections in the budget. Right now, there’s a statutory cap on what the utilities can pay for damages. So there’s a storm on Long Island, people get hurt, public service commission determines that the utilities were not ready or whatever, they charge a penalty to the utility. In the law, they have caps on the amount a utility can be penalized. NYSEG was penalized the other day, it was only 1.5 million. Why only 1.5 million? The-

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (32:03)
-only 1.5 million. Why only 1.5 million? The damage was much worse. Well, because the law capped the penalty. The laws, and these were old laws, but they were basically a utility protection program. Why would you cap a penalty? The penalty is commensurate with the damage. That’s what a penalty is. But at one time, the utilities were very powerful, and they were powerful with the legislature. The law protects them. That has to change. You can’t artificially limit the penalty. The penalty is what the penalty is. The penalty is equivalent to the damage. If you create $10 million worth of damage, the penalty should be $10 million. Also, they can’t shut off utilities because a person can’t pay in the middle of an emergency like COVID. That’s in the bill also.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (33:00)
Also, Internet providers, which now have limited regulation from the state and can often be very abusive to consumers, if you have a problem with an Internet provider, it is the most frustrating process that a consumer can go through. Really, there’s nobody to complain to. Many of them have basically a virtual monopoly, and they’re not responsive to consumer complaints. We also want to say Internet service providers, low-income families, you cannot charge more than $15 for the basic Internet service program. We go to remote learning, and kids are not in school. If the household doesn’t have Internet, that child doesn’t get an education. I’ll tell you who that child is. That’s a poor child, a Black child, a Brown child, a child in public housing, and education supposed to be for everyone.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (34:01)
So that’s in the budget also. Also, and this was announced last June, okay, about seven months ago, public safety is a crisis in this state and in this nation. The lack of trust between police and the community is worse than anything I have seen in my lifetime. The feelings are very high. Police feel victimized. They feel terrorized. They feel that the community disrespects them. They feel that they’re the scapegoat. They feel that they can’t do their job, and if they can’t do their job, they’re not going to try. Members of the community feel that they’ve been victimized and they’ve been terrorized.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (34:52)
Our great attorney general just did a report on the New York City Police Department that finds basically that the police have been using unfair tactics against protestors for a very long time, tactics that were supposedly no longer in place. This relationship has to be fixed, and it’s not going to fix itself. The communities, we have 500 communities with police departments. Put the people at the table like this, police community activists, representatives, and talk through the issues. Everyone in the state needs public safety. The police serve everyone. When you see these spikes in shootings now, you know who’s dying? Black and Brown and poor people. Those are the victims of the increase in crime and the increase in shootings. Forge a collaborative. Talk through the issues. It has to work for the police. It has to work for the local community, and I can’t do it from Albany because there are 500 different police departments. By the way, what works in Rochester is different than what’s going to work in the North Country, is different than what’s going to work in New York City. They have to do it. I said this in June. I said form the collaborative and let people talk. By the way, the collaborative itself can be cathartic. “I’m offended, and I want to be able to express my feelings and my fears and my thoughts. I want you to hear me.” That’s the collaborative. You never solve a problem in life that you refuse to acknowledge or you deny. I believe that’s true in our individual lives. It’s also true in our social lives. You deny a problem, it doesn’t go away. It gets worse, and that’s what we’re doing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (37:07)
I said in June, if you don’t have a new reform plan passed by your community by April 1, you won’t get funding in the state budget. I’ve said this 11 times. The plan is whatever your community wants. Nobody’s saying, “We’re telling you what’s in the plan.” “Oh, state government is telling us how to police.” No, we’re not telling you how to police. We’re saying, I’m saying figure out how you’re going to police. What is your plan? Get it passed by your local legislative body, but get it by April 1.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (37:57)
So I told you in June. That was June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April. Some communities are doing a great job ,I mean a really great job. They’ve been creative. I talked about them in the state of the state. They’re using it for the opportunity it is. Every system has to reform. Every system has to reform periodically. Education has to reform. Everything we do has to reform. The environment has to reform. Criminal justice system has to reform, and the police department has to reform. How you policed 20 years ago is not how you police today. We’re smarter. We’re more savvy. We have more technology. There are 70 days left until April 1. Don’t think the problem is going to go away. Your community has to be safe. 70 days for those communities who haven’t made progress is a blink of an eye. So this is just a reminder.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (39:06)
As I announced on the state of the state, New York is operating on multiple levels right now. Track one, defeat COVID, vaccination, stop the spread, manage the hospitals. Win the COVID war. Stop the streams. Win the COVID war, job one. At the same time, we are anticipating the post-war reconstruction, and we are actually energized by it. This is going to be a transformation moment, and places are going to rebuild all around the world. We think we can be the first and the best in the rebuilding, and that’s why build, baby, build. I love that expression. Who’s going to be the first to build? The first one with shovel-ready projects who can actually deliver.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (40:07)
When President Biden passes an infrastructure bill, which he will, which he will, he’s been dedicated to it all his life, he’s going to look for projects that are ready to go. I know that. He’s said it. I’ve been in the federal government. Nobody wants to fund the project that’s going to take three years to break ground that doesn’t stimulate the economy. New York is going to be ready to go. That’s why we’re queuing up all these projects. Ready to go, ready to go. As soon as that federal bill is passed, we are ready to go, and we’re going to be starting on our own, not even waiting for Washington, because I’ve been waiting a long time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (40:53)
So simultaneously, all of this is happening. Win the war. Post-war reconstruction. Do both at once. It’s hard. It’s not hard. We’re New York tough. We’re smart. We’re united. We’re disciplined, and we love it. Questions, operator?

Operator: (41:15)
Thank you, Governor. If you’d like to ask a question, please use the raise hand function at the bottom of your window. We’ll take a moment to compile the Q and A roster. Governor, your first question comes from Peter Haskell at CBS 880. Peter, please unmute your microphone.

Peter Haskell: (41:35)
Hey, Governor, you’ve been critical of CDC guidance saying 65-plus, but it’s just guidance. Some states, including Connecticut, are holding the line at 75-plus. Why did you decide to go to 65-plus, and did that add to the chaos?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (41:57)
I think there would have been more chaos, Peter, if we didn’t allow the 65-plus in when the federal government said they were eligible. A lot of people think what the federal government says has wisdom behind it, and when the federal government said 65-plus, the entire community of 65-plus said, “Great, I’m now eligible.” It’s a tough balance. All of this is a tough balance. But I did not want to frighten the 65-year-olds by saying, “Even though you are eligible by the federal government, we’re not going to make you eligible here in New York.” I think that would have increased the panic and the anxiety and the tension.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (42:59)
So I said very clearly, “We’re going to open it up to 65.” But, and I said this, Peter, explicitly, “We’re going to open it up to 65, but I want you to understand what that means. It means there are now 7 million people that are eligible for 250,000 vaccines a week.” At that time, it was 300,000 vaccines a week. I said, Peter, “I’m passing Matilda’s rule.” Matilda’s rule, it’s named for my mother. She’s 65-plus. That was close. She’s 65-plus. “Yes, you’re eligible, but it’s going to take weeks to get there. So good news is you’re eligible. Nobody’s saying you’re not eligible. Bad news is Matilda’s rule. It’s going to take weeks.” I think at that time, at 300, 000, it was 14 weeks of whatever we contemplated. But I said that at the same time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:08)
So yes, 65, we’re not arbitrarily discriminating against you. It’s not that we don’t like 65-year-old people. But we’re going to follow the federal guidance, not to create anxiety, but you need to understand what that means. That’s Matilda’s rule, and I said that from day one. My mother is still unhappy with me, but I told them the facts nice and clear on day one. Next question.

Operator: (44:48)
Your next question comes from Miles Miller from WNBC TV. Miles, please unmute your microphone.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (44:59)
Hello, Miles.

Operator: (45:02)
Miles, please unmute your microphone.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (45:07)
Miles does not want to unmute his microphone.

Operator: (45:12)
All right. We’re going to move on. Your next question comes from Gwen Hogan from WMYC. Gwen, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Gwen Hogan: (45:19)
Hey there, Governor. Can you hear me? Thanks for taking my question.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (45:22)
Yes, Gwen. Just hold on one second, Gwen, cause I had another thought for Peter Haskell, my friend. Also remember, Peter, when they said they were opening it up to 65-plus, they also said they were going to increase supply and production, right? That’s when they said they were going to free up their reserves, because they had more reserves and they were going to increase production. That never happened, either, which made it worse. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Gwen Hogan: (45:49)
Hi there. Yeah, this question is for Gareth Rhodes. I’m wondering what you can tell us today about the demographic breakdown of vaccine distribution at least for the state-run sites, which I know is data that the state has. Earlier this week, the governor said he couldn’t give information from the counties. 17 states already provide this information. Secondly, I just wanted to ask about the state of COVID outbreaks in the state’s prisons. There are outbreaks in about a half of them. No timeline for when inmates will start to receive vaccines, at least the most vulnerable of them. New York City has already started to vaccinate the most vulnerable inmates, so I’m wondering when the state will start that process.

Gareth Rhodes: (46:30)
Sure. So on the first question, we have over 1,200 providers who are receiving the vaccine right now and distributing it. There’s a lot of data coming into the system. We are compiling it. We are analyzing it and making sure it’s accurate. Once there is accurate data that we feel comfortable with, we can release it. But the key here is you can only put out data that you feel comfortable with. There’s lot of providers still getting used to the input into this system. So we’ll continue to do that, and once it’s ready, it will be released.

Melissa DeRosa: (47:01)
[inaudible 00:47:01] can take that one. So, obviously, this is something that we’ve been talking about, standing up and operationalizing. Just so everyone’s aware, in the 75-plus category, there’s about 250 prisoners who are 75-plus across the entire system. When it goes down to 65-plus, it’s roughly 1,100. So that’s the population, and we’re trying to figure out the best way to start to deploy resources, obviously, in the context of fairness, given that the demand is so great universally across the public, how we can manage both of those demands at the same time. But it’s a relatively … Not relatively. It is a teeny tiny population.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:35)
Next question, Operator.

Operator: (47:39)
Next up, we have Stacie Sherman from Bloomberg News. Stacy, please unmute your microphone.

Stacie Sherman: (47:46)
Hi, Governor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (47:47)
How are you, Stacie?

Stacie Sherman: (47:49)
Good. You said that you’re confident that the Biden administration will be able to increase supply. How do you recommend they do that? What would you advise him? What do you think is the quickest way for him to get you more supply?

Stacie Sherman: (48:03)
[inaudible 00:48:00] him what do you think is the quickest way for him to get you more supply? Then one more question is that UK is reporting that its variant of the virus maybe linked to higher death rates. Based on what you know and what you’ve seen, is that surprising to you?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:16)
Short answer on the second part is yes. I’ve heard the exact opposite. I’ll ask Dr. Zucker to comment because that would be frightening news because we know it’s more transmittable. We were told repeatedly it’s not more lethal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:34)
What was the first part of the question again? Do you remember the first part of the question?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:45)
Well, why don’t you talk about the-

Speaker 2: (48:47)
[inaudible 00:48:47] up additional vaccines from the federal government?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (48:51)
We know … well, the Biden administration has said when they say 100 million in 100 days, that is 1 million per day. That’s roughly 400,000 to the state of New York. That is more than we are now receiving because we’re only receiving 250,000. Just the 100 million over 100 days, that’s more than we’re now getting, point one. Point two, increasing the Pfizer production, increasing the Moderna production, accelerating the Johnson approval, using the Defense Production Act, those are all ways where you can increase production beyond that.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (49:47)
If any administration is capable of doing that, I believe it’s the Biden administration, especially compared to the Trump administration, which getting back to Peter Haskell’s point, remember, they said they were going to increase supply. They said they had a physical reserve and they were going to send the second doses immediately. That was all untrue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (50:12)
We then planned and the public heard, “Oh, 65 plus, and there are more doses.” That never happened. The worst case scenario, and that’s what I’m trying to do here, at least be honest and be straightforward and tell people the truth and don’t create false expectations. “Anybody can get it 65 plus and we’re going to increase supply, because we’re going to send the second dosages now.” That was just not true. It was just not true.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (50:52)
Dr. Zucker, did you hear anything about this UK variant?

Dr. Zucker: (50:52)
This is information which I heard a little bit about this just this morning, but the UK Science Advisor said that the issue of lethality is not yet strong. I have been in touch with them over the course of last week and will speak with them again. You have to also look at this from two perspectives. That’s one issue, the lethality. But also the fact that it’s more transmissible means that there are going to be more cases. If there are more cases, there’s more hospitalizations, and the more hospitalizations, obviously there’s a risk of more deaths. I haven’t heard the details of what you’re specifically reporting or hearing, but I do know that the UK Science Advisor said that it’s not … the lethality is not yet … evidence for that is not that strong.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:42)
Have any of our UK cases passed away?

Dr. Zucker: (51:46)
No we have 25 cases. No.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (51:48)
Nobody’s passed away. Well, that’s good news. Okay. Next question operator? Let’s take two more.

Operator: (51:59)
All right. Your next question comes from Dan Clark at PBS. Dan, your line is open. Please unmute your microphone.

Dan Clark: (52:05)
Hey Governor, how are we doing?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (52:06)
How we doing Dan?

Dan Clark: (52:08)
We’re good. Thank you. I’m wondering, in the Spring you were very critical of President Trump for not issuing a national mask mandate. President Biden has only been in office for a few days. You’re a close ally of him. Are you disappointed that he hasn’t issued a national mask mandate like how you wanted the former president to do?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (52:26)
Well look, New York was the first state to pass a mask mandate in the United States of America. I’m proud of it. I think New Yorkers, in many ways, were more informed about COVID. We had a different experience about COVID and I think New Yorkers got it. I was willing to propose it and push it. New Yorkers did it. The New Yorkers did it. Mask compliance is like 98% in public spaces. That’s because of New Yorkers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (53:14)
Now, is the country in a different place? Look, you have some States that still are in various stages of denial. I think what President Biden did was a step in the right direction and is going to make a significant difference. My position, as I did in New York, is I would mandate masks all across the board. But what President Biden did is actually much, much better than what had been done before. We had a president who was saying, basically, “Don’t wear a mask,” even though his advisors were saying, “Wear a mask.” It was total anarchy. President Biden himself wears a mask, his staff wears masks. He has a mask mandate. Obviously our mandate is broader and I support our mandate, but I understand his.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (54:17)

Operator: (54:20)
Your next question comes from Bernadette Hogan at the New York Post. Bernadette, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Gwen Hogan: (54:28)
Hi Governor. How are you?

Stacie Sherman: (54:30)
Hi Bernadette.

Gwen Hogan: (54:32)
Okay, two questions. One, you were just talking about President Biden and the mask mandate, but wanted to get your thoughts on the other day, he was at the Lincoln Memorial and he was not wearing a mask. This was hours after signing the executive order, mandating the use of masks on federal property. Wondering what you think of that. His top spokeswomen defended this and said, ” He has bigger things to worry about.” Should the President be setting a good example and wearing masks regardless of [inaudible 00:55:10] bigger things to deal with?.

Gwen Hogan: (55:11)
Then number two, with the vaccines, right now is the state allowed to use second dose allocations for first doses? Or how does that work and how does the Defense Production Act change our vaccination program? What do you hope that it smooths out going forward?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (55:36)
What does what … Bernadette, what was the last four words? You got broken up.

Gwen Hogan: (55:39)
Yeah. With the Defense Production Act and the Biden administration’s promise to utilize that, what bumps in the road, what problems with the vaccine program do you hope that will iron out?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (55:51)
Okay. Let me answer both. First, I don’t know what you’re talking about with the Lincoln Memorial. I just missed it. But I think President Biden has, all through his campaign, all his public appearances, he’s been a phenomenal example of wearing a mask. Every public appearance I’ve seen him, he comes up to the microphone, he has a mask, and then he takes the mask off. In public he has a mask. I don’t know about the Lincoln Memorial. But this is a dramatic contrast to President Trump who was the exact opposite. Yes, I think President Biden should wear a mask within the rules. I’m not wearing a mask now. You don’t always wear a mask. If you can socially distance, et cetera, partitions, et cetera. But I think everybody should set a good example all across the board.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (56:53)
On the Defense Production Act, there are no bumps. The Defense Production Act would allow the United States to increase production of PPE. It would allow increased production of N-95 masks, of gowns, of face shields. All that madness that we went through, where I was calling China on a daily basis, trying to buy masks, where the owner of the New England Patriots, I had to ask him if he had room on his plane that was going to China, to bring back masks for us. Governor of New York, trying to get masks so nurses can protect themselves. I have to ask a private person if they have room on their private plane to pick up masks in China. I mean, how more of a bizarre situation? By the way, they were very gracious and he was beautiful and he did it. The Defense Production Act can help on that.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (58:10)
It’s more complicated how the Defense Production Act can help on the production of the vaccine itself. But there are also ancillary products that it can help on. We ran out of nasal swabs in testing. We ran out of Q-tips. A nasal swab is just a big Q-tip. This nation couldn’t figure out how to make Q-tips. The Defense Production Act gives the President the authority to say to a manufacturer, “We’re going to pay you, but I need you to increase your capacity to make nasal swabs.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (58:47)
I know the Post didn’t support it, but it’s a philosophy question. I think a lot of damage was done. A lot of pain was caused. I think when this nation is at war and COVID is at war, the President should act accordingly. When we’re in World War I, World War II, you have factories transformed into factories to build tanks and bullets and rifles, because we’re at war. COVID is at war. Our front line, the nurses and doctors, didn’t have masks and didn’t have gowns. The Governor of New York is asking a football team owner if he has space on a plane. I mean, that’s not government. Next question, operator?

Operator: (59:41)
Governor, your last question comes from Jesse McKinley at the New York Times. Jesse, your line is now open. Please unmute your microphone.

Jesse McKinley: (59:49)
Hi, Governor. Two questions. Can you walk us through what sort of surveillance testing the state is doing for the UK variant, like how many samples it’s running to get a sense of how widespread that is in hard numbers? The second question would be whether or not the state has taken any supply from hospitals or clinics and taken them through state run sites?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:16)
Yeah, answer to the second question is no. Answer to the first question, I don’t know. Do you know the testing on the UK variant?

Dr. Zucker: (01:00:27)
We’re doing about a thousand genome tests a week. We’ve done over 6, 000 or so. We look for all the variants. We mapped the entire genome. It’s not just the UK variant, we look for the variant from South Africa, from Brazil, and anywhere else, to see if we’ve identified that in New York. So far, we’ve only identified the UK variant.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:00:47)
Okay. Just point of clarification. I have said multiple times, if there are faster providers, we’ll give them an additional allocation, if they can get the vaccine out quickly. I don’t know that we’ve actually … have we done that yet?

Gareth Rhodes: (01:01:07)
Where there are providers who are not able to use up their full supply, we have been in a position where we can move it to another hospital or someone who serves that same category of eligible population, but that is working together with that hospital or pharmacy to make that transfer happen.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: (01:01:23)
So maybe a hospital or a pharmacist. All right, guys, gals, guys that are gender neutral, New York tough go Bills, go Bills. Kansas City, big game. Bet Bills. Have a good weekend.

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