Nov 29, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Press Conference Transcript November 29
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a November 29 news teleconference with updates on COVID-19. Read the full transcript of his press conference here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
That matters, right? Overall, the state, with focus zones included, 4.27, which is up from 3.9. It was the highest since back in May. The state without micro cluster zones is 3.75. Micro cluster zones is 5.8. 55 New Yorkers died from COVID yesterday, they’re in our thoughts and prayers. 3000 New Yorkers were hospitalized, that’s up 85. 667 COVID patients were in ICU, that’s up 13. 326 intubated, that’s down five. Western New York leads the show, 6.6. Finger Lakes, 5.1, Central New York, 4.6, Mid Hudson, 4.4, Mohawk Valley, 3.8, Long Island, 3.6, Capitol Region, 2.9, New York City, 2.7, North Country, 2.5, Southern Tier, 0.196. Statewide, 3.5.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:23)
If you look at New York versus the other states, New York is doing very, very well relative to the other States. Congratulations, New Yorkers. If you look at New York relative only to New York, you see the numbers going up, not as fast as in other States, but the numbers are going up. And it’s nice that we’re doing better in a national context and global context, but it’s irrelevant to one extent because we have to deal with the issues that we have here in New York relative to New York, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:12)
And that’s why when you hear Dr. Fauci say today that we’re looking at a surge upon surge … it’s interesting how language develops through this COVID situation. We talked about waves at first. We are still in the first wave. People say, “Oh, we’re in the second wave.” We’re not in the second wave. The second wave is a mutated virus, is a wave. This is a first wave, additional surge. Dr. Fauci then says today surge upon surge. So the first wave is increasing, and surge upon surge, it’s going to continue to increase. And he talked about through the holidays and New Year’s.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:11)
That’s what we’ve been talking about. We’ve been talking about the 37 days of the holiday season, starting at Thanksgiving, and then you go to Black Friday, and now all the songs are Christmas songs and holiday songs and holiday shopping and all the TV commercials are holiday shopping and buy this and buy that. So you’re in the holiday season, and that has increased social activity. And that means increased infection rate.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:43)
That is where we are. And that is what we are going to see. I expect, as I’ve said before, you’re going to see the rate going up through the holiday season, which ends after the New Year’s. So after New Year’s Day, look a week or 10 days afterwards, hopefully the social activity slows at that point and the infection rate starts to level off. And then you get to a vaccine, which is the answer ultimately. But the vaccine, then you have to have a discussion about how quickly you can distribute it and how effectively and what’s the critical mass point of the vaccine. But that is months away by every professional’s estimate. So that’s what we’re looking at.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:50)
This is a new phase for COVID. You want to call it the winter phase, you want to call it the holiday phase, you want to call it the surge upon surge phase, you want to call it the dramatic increase in COVID rate nationwide phase, you want to call it the international increase in COVID rate. Italy is using the army now to enforce close down. California announced another basic shutdown.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:25)
So that’s where we are. And we are spending this weekend finishing leftover turkey and talking to health officials and local governments about a winter plan, next phase plan. And we’ll be speaking to that tomorrow and this week with more details. The New York City announced that they are reopening schools. I think that’s the right direction. The schools, we do have new facts and new information on schools. And just about every professional says the schools, especially K through 8th, should be kept open whenever it’s possible to keep them open safely. And we have done testing in schools and we now know what we’re looking at in schools. And the positivity rate is much, much lower. So it’s literally safer for a child and the teacher to be in the school than in the community.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:44)
Last point, unrelated. East Greenbush Times Union did a good piece of reporting today on an East Greenbush police officer. We are trying to re-establish the police-community relationship. We have every community in this state, 550 municipalities with a police agency, now going through a reformation plan where they re-imagine their police department.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:24)
There’s a role for the state in all of this also, and people have to know that a police officer who breaks the rules and abuses his or her position is no longer going to be a police officer. And there can’t be these bureaucratic contrivances and loopholes that, “Well, he wasn’t fired because he was allowed to resign and therefore he can be a police officer somewhere else.” If a police officer is not qualified or does not perform to the standards for one police agency, that doesn’t mean you take a person who acted unprofessionally and you let them go work in a different police department. That doesn’t work for the people of the state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:28)
So the state will be making … I will be making proposals. I want the people of this state to know trust is a two=way street and the police should trust the community and the community should trust the police, and that the conditions exist for both of them to do it. And if there is a bad cop, that bad cop should no longer be a police officer. A bad cop does a disservice to the 99.9% of good cops. And we’ll make sure that happens. Let’s take some questions, and I’m sorry to do this call in the middle of an exciting Bills and the Giants and Jets game. Questions operator?
Speaker 2: (09:27)
Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, you may press star, then the number one on your telephone keypad. Once again, you press star, one to ask a question. Please stand by while we compile the Q and A roster.
Speaker 2: (10:01)
Your first question comes from the line of Shant Shahrigian from the New York Daily News. Your line is open.
Shant Shahrigian: (10:10)
Yeah, good afternoon, governor. Thanks for taking my call. I’m wondering if you see the model that New York City announced today for schools as potentially something to emulate for the rest of the state, or are you considering any changes for the rest of the state now? And also, now that a few weeks have gone by since the New York city schools were closed, any reflections or did you still think that was the right move at the time? Or do you have any other thoughts? Thank you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:44)
Let’s just restate the facts here a little bit. Local school districts have discretion to open, close, remote, hybrid, combination thereof, all of the above. They have that discretion up to the point where the state believes there’s an overriding public health interest to close. So you have a whole variety of actions by local school districts. And that’s all in their discretion. That’s between them and the parents of their local school district and the teachers. And I haven’t opined on local school districts’ opinions. It’s within their right. My advice is keeping schools open where safe is best. And I think New York City opening schools is the right direction and the right decision. I think schools should be open.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:02)
You have literally across the globe, World Health Organization officials, European experts, American experts, they all say that the infection rate in schools, as long as it’s under control and it’s below the community level, it’s better for children to be in school. It’s less disruptive for the student, it’s less disruptive for the family. The student is getting an education and schools are safer than the local community, right? Life has options. If the kid isn’t in school, then the kid is at home, which is a place where we’re seeing spread, or the child is out playing in the playground, where you have the community infection rate. So schools are literally safer. And where they are safer than the local community, I think they should be open, but it’s up to the local school district. Next question, operator.
Speaker 2: (13:09)
Thank you. Your next question comes from the line of Nick Reisman from Spectrum News. Your line is open.
Nick Reisman: (13:17)
Hey Governor, a couple of questions. One, I was wondering, how did you make of the way Mayor de Blasio handled the situation? I know local governments are … essentially it’s up to them how they handle the school situation. But I was wondering if you think he handled this well, and also as a follow-up to that, on a completely separate issue, there are some federal unemployment benefits and some aid for small businesses that are due to expire at the end of December. I was wondering if you could react to that, and what do you think Congress should be doing over these next several weeks, as we also have a federal government shutdown that is moving as well.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:58)
Okay. FYI, Nick, Buffalo’s ahead 14-6, because I know that’s what you really wanted to know. I was checking the score. I said that my advice generally is to all local school districts is keep the schools open where it’s safe, and if the school is below the community level and it can be opened safely and you’re doing your testing, keep it open. And I think what the mayor did today, reopening the schools, was the right decision. I think the federal government has done a terrible disservice to this nation. The federal government has done an extraordinarily aggressive partisan destructive impact on New York, but that we’ve talked about many times, solved, et cetera.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:00)
But what they’ve done here to the nation, you allow these benefits to expire in the middle of a public health pandemic? I mean, it is as irresponsible and reckless as you can be. And the election is over. If you want to rationalize their irresponsibility and paralysis because it was politically motivated during the middle of the election, it’s over. And now you’re going to let benefits expire when you have the top health officials saying surge upon surge, it’s going to be worse Christmas and the holidays? Still no state funding? And now we’re supposed to undertake a vaccine program? I mean, none of it makes any sense. I talk to governors all day long. Every state has financial difficulties and you still haven’t done a stimulus package? no, it’s just terrible, really terrible and irresponsible and reckless. Let me ask Melissa or Rob if they have any additional ideas on that point.
No, I think the Governor said this exactly right. And we sent a letter to Congress. The governor sent a letter to Congress a week ago to that effect. And actually, it’s even worse than that. There’s 9,000 people who were collecting unemployment insurance who started collecting just before the start of the pandemic who actually ran out of their unemployment insurance last week, and so we sent that letter a week ago, calling on them to act immediately to deal with those 9,000. But as the governor said, that 9,000 is going to continue to grow and it’s complete and total government malpractice to allow this to happen.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:58)
Rob, do you have any point? Is Rob on the phone?
Yep. I’m on. Those were the programs, you went through them. There were other items as well that Congress will allow to expire that has been extended in December. There are other things for them to act on, such as the hospital cuts that actually go into effect. So there are a bunch of things, including these unemployment programs that Congress would have to come back to renew. Otherwise they expire and they impact the state dramatically.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:33)
Yeah, let’s take one more. And by the way, the hospital cuts … in this next phase, and I’m going to talk more about this tomorrow, what is most important is the hospitalization rate and the burden on the hospital system. That’s the phase we are entering, and now is the time to cut aid to hospitals? Now is the time to tell cities you have to lay off essential workers? I mean, it’s self-destructive. Let’s take one more.
Speaker 2: (18:13)
Thank you, governor. Your last question comes from the line of Joe Spector from USA Today. Your line is open.
Joe Spector: (18:21)
Hey Governor, by the way, Nick Reisman and I are Jets fans, so you’re doing us a favor with this call.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:27)
Jets fans? The Jets went down, I think, right?
Joe Spector: (18:31)
Yeah. They’re down, so maybe this is not a bad distraction. They’re always tending to, so …
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:36)
They’re playing Miami, right?
Joe Spector: (18:40)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:42)
Well, hope springs eternal with the Jets.
Joe Spector: (18:45)
Yeah, let’s hope.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:46)
The Giants are tied.
Joe Spector: (18:51)
Yeah. Back on the schools, as part of the winter plan, might you consider separating the infection rates in a community from the schools? So that’s what de Blasio is doing to some extent. Test enough in the schools where you know what the number is in the schools, but forget about putting the school in an orange zone or a yellow zone, red zone, and just seeing what the rates are in schools?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:19)
Well, no, that’s what everybody is doing. You have two numbers. You have a school’s testing number and you have a community number, okay? So you have PS 10 in Rosewood, okay? You have a testing number for PS 10 and you have a Rosewood micro cluster infection rate. Both are relevant. Depending on the school district, they’ll close a school if the PS 10 rate reaches a certain level. So they close via … they test PS 10 and they close PS 10 if PS 10 hits a certain level.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:21)
The state says you can monitor PS 10. Our number now is we only look at the Rosewood number, the community number, and we’ll close a school dependent on the … well, we don’t even close. I’m sorry. If Rosewood goes to a yellow or an orange or even a red zone, they can always test to stay open. They just have to do enough tests to make sure we’re getting a good sample from the school, but we don’t close the school unless they can’t do enough tests.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:18)
But every district is doing both. In theory, every district, they’re testing the schools and they’re testing the community. Some districts will close the school because of the school. Some districts will close the school because of the community. And we tend to look at the community, but we leave the discretion to the local governments. So we are basically a failsafe. Stay open if you can stay open. Stay open if you want to stay open, but failsafe, if it gets dangerous, then you must close. And we sort of set a level where it’s dangerous.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:06)
And I’ll be speaking to that tomorrow also, because dangerous is also shifting with these new numbers. What was dangerous six months ago … dangerous is a relative concept. Okay, guys, have a good Sunday. I will talk to you tomorrow. Thanks very much.
Speaker 2: (22:34)
Thank you, Governor. Ladies and gentlemen, [inaudible 00:22:37] conference call. Thank you all for joining. You may now disconnect.