Dec 1, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Teleconference Briefing Transcript December 1
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference via conference call on December 1. He provided coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates here.
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Speaker 1: (05:53)
Thank you for joining today’s conference call with Governor Andrew Cuomo. I will now turn over the call over to Governor Cuomo.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:04)
Good morning guys. Thanks for getting on a little bit early. I have a call with the National Governor’s Association after this. I’m joined by Melissa de Rosa, Robert Mohica, Beth Garvey, Howard Zucker, and Gareth Roads. Today is day 276 and the overall state with the micro clusters, 4.96. State without micro clusters, 4.4. The micro cluster positivity, 6.2. 66 new Yorkers passed away. They’re in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization is 3,774, which is up 242. 718 COVID patients in ICU, up 37. 348 intubated, up 23. Western New York, still the highest infection rate in the state, 7.2. Finger Lakes, 6.2. Central New York, five. Mid Hudson, 4.7. Mohawk Valley, 4.4. Long Island, 3.9. Capitol Region, 3.4. New York City, 3.1. North Country, 2. 8. Southern Tier, 2.6. Statewide, 3.9 on a seven day average.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:39)
The numbers are going up. We expected the numbers to go up. My projection is that the numbers will continue to go up through the holiday season. We focused on Thanksgiving as a day or as a weekend. Thanksgiving was not a day or a weekend. It was the commencement of the holiday season and the holiday season is a season of increased social activity and increased social activity increases the viral transmission. The COVID Grinch seizes the opportunity of the holiday season for increased viral transmission rate. COVID Grinch is an opportunist. You can quote Dr. Howard Zercher saying that. Sounds more official when it comes from a doctor. Sounds kind of silly when it comes from me. So I think the rate will continue through New Years.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:52)
I hope the rate stabilizes post New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. That would be seven to 10 days afterwards. So I think you’re looking at mid January for stabilization of the rate. I hope, I hope, I hope. But that’s just a projection. But the numbers are going up. The number one priority when you get into this situation, hospitalization and overwhelming the hospitals. And that’s what we announced we’re focusing on along with a five-part strategy and we’re continuing to do that. The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccination, and that will end this epidemic. The question is when does the vaccination hit critical mass? If you listen to the experts, they will project summer, late summer-
Andrew Cuomo: (10:02)
… summer, late summer, September before it hits critical mass. So that is a relatively long period of time although we can see the goal line. That also depends on how effective we are at distributing the vaccine. And distributing the vaccine is going to be the greatest governmental undertaking since COVID began. It is much more ambitious than COVID testing, which thus far has been the most ambitious governmental operation undertaken. Since I have been in government, how do you now vaccinate the entire population of the state of New York? And I use these numbers with you, I use them with President-elect Biden who repeated the numbers because he found them striking.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:10)
The country has done about 120 million COVID tests nationwide with everybody focused on doing COVID tests. Now you have to do 330 million vaccinations. It took you nine months to do 120 million COVID tests. How long is it going to take you to do 330 million vaccinations? Likewise, New York state. We have not yet we’re the number one state in the nation on taking tests. Nine months working at it every day. We still haven’t done a number that reaches the total population of the state of New York and that’s nine months. And that’s a COVID test, which is not by and large a frightening test or a test that has a lot of skepticism about it.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:04)
There’s a lot of skepticism about this vaccination and there’s going to have to be public education and outreach unparalleled to get people to the point where they’re going to take this vaccine. I’ve mentioned the Kaiser poll, 60% of Americans don’t trust the FDA approval process. Pew poll, 50%. So, the vaccination program is going to be a major governmental undertaking and it has to be done right. As we sit here today, there are three problems that I have been focusing on and bringing to the attention of the federal government that I think are gross omissions that are going to fundamentally impede effective vaccination.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:55)
Number one, it is an expensive undertaking and the federal government has provided virtually no funding for the states to do this. Literally $200 million provided by the federal government. The states are not in a position to fund the vaccination process. The states are running deficits. The federal government hasn’t even been funded the current deficit. Now you think the states are in a position to fund a vaccination program? They’re not. They’re pressing the states and local governments to actually cut the budgets, lay off essential workers who would be the same people who would implement this vaccination program. So the first issue is there’s been no federal funding to actually implement the vaccination program.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:48)
The Pfizer, the pharmaceutical companies develop the drug. Why? Because it’s what they do, it’s their business, it’s also their responsibility, corporate responsibility, also because they are going to make large profits. So they did what they had to do. Pfizer, God bless them, New York company, developed the first. By the way, Pfizer did not participate in Operation Warp Speed. They didn’t take any money from the federal government. They did it because there’s a market opportunity. So we have the drug. Government’s responsibility is now the administration and the federal government has no plan to do it and no funding to do it, that’s number one.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:30)
Number two, this is going to be especially difficult to administer to Black, Brown and poor communities, just like we went through with the COVID tests. They’re underserved by healthcare facilities and their rate of skepticism is higher. It’s going to be an extensive effort to outreach to Black, Brown and poor communities. You’re going to have to partner with Black churches. You’re going to have to go into public housing projects. You’re going to have to run public information campaigns. We just went through this with the COVID tests. There’s no such provision in the federal program.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:16)
I believe that is discrimination either by intent or by effect and I believe it’s illegal, and I am notifying the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups. We’re working with the NAACP, we’re working with the Urban League to inform the federal government that if they don’t have an outreach program for the Black and Brown community, they are furthering the discriminatory effect and unequal effect of COVID. The death rate was double in the Black community. The death rate was one and a half times in the Brown community. Those are the facts because they had more underlying illnesses, because they had less healthcare services and they received fewer COVID tests than the white community. So that’s the second issue, discriminatory intent or effect of the vaccine program for the Black, Brown and poor communities.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:29)
And the third issue, which I am sending a letter today to President-elect Joe Biden to notify him as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus, and is going to be addressed to the Trump administration, is in the vaccine process as outlined by the federal government, they have said the states must sign what’s called the Data Sharing Agreement where the states share data with the federal government as to whom they vaccinate. The Data Sharing Agreement from the federal government specifically says the state should identify recipients using such identifiers as social security number, driver’s license ID, or passport number. These are proxies for citizenship.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:41)
The Data Sharing Agreement also says that HHS can share this data with other federal agencies. Anybody who reads that language who knows what they’re talking about, a little bell goes off and it says they’re going to share it with ICE déjà vu all over again. This is what I went through with them on the driver’s license and Trusted Traveler Program. They specify they want indices of citizenship in the vaccination program that the state would provide to HHS and then HHS can share with anyone they want. That will dissuade the undocumented community from going near the vaccine. That will then impede the health of the undocumented community. But it would also impede the effectiveness of the entire vaccination program because the vaccination program only works if everyone is vaccinated.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:55)
You need to get up near 80% of the community for the vaccine to be effective. And if you are not reaching out to the Black community and the Brown community, and then you’re alienating the undocumented community, you are making it virtually impossible for this vaccine program to work. We have been speaking to HHS about this. There’s no reason why you need a social security number. We can identify people without using indices of citizenship. There’s no reason why we have to send citizenship data to HHS about a vaccine. And I’m releasing a letter signed by 54 of New York’s groups that work with undocumented people, immigration groups, legal groups, all protesting this.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:02)
– legal groups, all protesting this. I’m sending it to the New York delegation, I’m sending it to, as I mentioned, congressional black caucus, Hispanic caucus, president elect Joe Biden. I am confident knowing president elect Joe Biden and his team that they would not stand for this, but they’re not there until January 20th, and this vaccination program is all being put in place by the Trump administration. So it sounds like president elect Biden takes over very soon, but sometimes very soon isn’t soon enough, because the Trump administration is making states sign these documents now because they’re going to start distribution of the vaccine before president Biden takes office. So we are releasing that letter today, and as I said, I think it is illegal and I think it is discriminatory, and I think it’s a pattern of discriminatory acts taken by this administration and HHS.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:20)
Last point, today is also world AIDS day, and I know everyone has been consumed with the COVID pandemic, but we have also been consumed with ending the HIV AIDS epidemic by 2020. We announced in the epidemic campaign. We’re releasing today the 2019 data, which shows that HIV incidents and diagnoses have fallen to record lows in New York. The estimated number of new infections or HIV incidents that occurred statewide in 2019 fell to an all time low of 1700 cases. HIV incidents has declined each year since we started the End the Epidemic campaign, 38% decrease over that timeframe. So that is extraordinary, good news, and we’re going to continue to work on that. With that, let’s turn it over to questions, and you should have the letter that is being released and signed by 54 groups in your email as we speak, if the press office is awake and doing its job. Questions?
At this time, I would like remind everyone in order to ask a question, press star, then the number one on your telephone keypad. Again, that is star, then the number one on your telephone keypad. We’ll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster. We have our first question coming from the line of Zach Fink with New York One. Your line is open.
Hi governor. Good morning.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:28)
Good to see you yesterday, Zach Fink.
You as well, sir. I want to ask you, first of all, the mayor’s office and the New York City health department is going forward with some new restrictions, urging people who are elderly or with underlying health conditions to basically stay home, not go out unless it is essential. How do you feel about those restrictions? Do you feel as though they’re necessary in other parts of the state at this point? And just quickly, Garrett gave us a very alarming statistic yesterday regarding the number of hospitalizations, said that the 3,500 was, I believe from March 23rd it was the same number. How quickly … just for my own, I don’t totally remember … how quickly did we get to the peak from that point, and when was that? And I believe that peak was what, 19,000 total?
Andrew Cuomo: (24:17)
Yes. Two points. One, it is not a restriction that the city issued. There is no restriction against people over 70 leaving their home. The New York City offered guidance advice, which is the same advice and guidance that we have been issuing and they have been issuing and every expert has been issuing since this started. Senior citizens should be on alert, people over 70 years old should be on alert, immunocompromised should be on alert. Nobody is being restricted. The city did not say that. You’re 70 years old, you can do whatever you want to do in life. My advice is be careful, and my advice is if you can stay home, that’s best. That’s my advice. It’s the mayor’s advice.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:32)
That’s federal health officials’ advice. That is not a restriction in state of New York. You are not imprisoned in your home, unless you are imprisoned in your home, but that would be a whole criminal justice matter, et cetera. And as the numbers go up, the risk is going to increase. In terms of the number that we pointed out yesterday, the same number of cases today as the day Elmhurst was overwhelmed, that is striking. And I saw your news report and I thought you did it very well, considering the fact that you were holding an umbrella over your head at the same time. Probably made it more difficult. But the difference is this: the Elmhurst hospital situation was a creation of a hospital system that had not, what we call now, load balanced. H & H has 11 hospitals or seven hospitals. Does anybody remember how many they have? 11 hospitals. That’s the H & H system has 11 hospitals.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:59)
The highest number of cases were coming from the Elmhurst neighborhood, Corona, Queens, et cetera, but there were 11 hospitals. The other hospitals were not at capacity. What should have been happening was the people who were trying to enter Elmhurst, before they entered should have been moved to the other hospitals so you balance the load, not your scenario that you posed in the press conference. Well, once they come in, they’re in a bed and now they have tubes and now you have to move them. No, before they come in, you say, “I’m going to take you three blocks away to my other hospital that has lower capacity, more staff time, et cetera.” Systems were not load balancing. And that’s why I was so insistent yesterday, where we’re now mandating load balancing. H & H is not the only system in this state. H & H is a public system, but we have other public systems and we have private systems.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:23)
Northwell must have 30 hospitals. The Kaleida in Buffalo has a number of hospitals. EPMC in Erie County, a number of hospitals. Their normal course of business is each hospital operates sort of as a separate fiefdom. I get that, but forget the normal course of business. So that’s what the load balancing was all about. Also, the 3,500 number last time was predominantly in New York City. The 3,500 this time is all across the state. Now that’s good and that’s bad. It means it’s just not downstate hospitals handling the load. It’s state wide, but it also means we don’t have the same ability to move resources around the state the way we did. In terms of the 3,500 in the spring, what that was was the eruption of the cases that had come to New York and been circulating for months that we never knew about. What happened there was the virus was coming in January, February, March from Europe and they never told us, and once the first case presented, then you had this phenomenal wave that had been –
Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
… did. Then you had this phenomenal wave that had been building unbeknownst to us. And that’s why I say it’s the federal government that caused this because they did know, or they should have known, that the virus went from China to Europe. That’s why the rate of transmission last March was about five, meaning one person was infecting five other people. Our rate of transmission now is about one. So it is a much, much different situation than where we were in March, and our rate of transmission is much lower. But the difference between five and one is all the difference in the world.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:56)
And our rate of increase in hospitalizations is nothing like it was back in March. I’ll have Gareth run those numbers for you. But the rate of transmission, back in March, we were seeing thousands of increases almost on a weekly basis. The rate of transmission is much, much different. But let me ask Gareth now, we’ll see how smart he is. The growth in cases, hospitalizations back in March compared to now is what? Do you have any comparison?
Yes, exactly. What we look at very closely is, remember back in March, is the doubling rate, how quickly the number of patients in the hospital was doubling. We went on March 23rd from about 3,500, within four days, we had doubled that. And four days after that, we had doubled that. We went from 3,500 to more than 13,000 in the period of about a week. That is an extraordinary type of growth that we’re simply just not seeing now. We’re only seeing currently the number of total hospital growth every day, right now the average is about 150. So, the rate of growth is nowhere close to what it was back in March.
And we know based on the amount of data we have now, which we didn’t have then, the number of new cases today, which you might see in hospitalizations tomorrow or a week from now, or two weeks from now, just the amount of data we have and the amount of people who are seriously, the severity of infections, all this data we have now that we didn’t have then. But as the governor said, the rate of growth is, it’s night and day from what it was in March.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:53)
More critical is you could have that hospital overwhelming system that we saw in Elmhurst if you’re not careful, and that’s why we’ve been stressing that. But statewide, system-wide, there’s no comparison between the numbers. Dr. Zucker, did you want to add something?
Dr. Zucker: (33:12)
I just want to add one thing, which is that people stayed home back then because they didn’t know about COVID. So they probably thought they had a bad cold, maybe the flu, and they stayed home until they ultimately got sick enough to go to a hospital. So by the time they got to the hospital, they required much more aggressive care. And again, we didn’t even know how to manage it back then. So it’s a little bit different, what happened in April, than the cases that we see now.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:33)
Next question, operator.
We have our next question coming from the line of Jeff Kulikowsky with News Channel 9. Your line is open.
Jeff Kulikowsky: (33:45)
Hello, governor, how are you today?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:47)
Good, Jeff, how are we doing?
Jeff Kulikowsky: (33:49)
Okay, thanks. I’m curious with several parts of Onondaga County and yellow zones and even others in orange zones and cases going up all over the state, and high school, winter sports, the high risk sports on pause for now. Would you see any adjustment or anything as far as youth sports? So, youth basketball, youth hockey, youth indoor soccer, any kinds of restrictions on those at this point?
Andrew Cuomo: (34:18)
Who wants to answer this? Beth.
Yes. The organizing association for youth sports for the organized high school sports and other modified sports has delayed any of the winter activities until January 4th. So we are already on pause as it relates to a lot of those in competitive sports right now.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:51)
One more question operator.
Jeff Kulikowsky: (34:52)
I was looking at-
Andrew Cuomo: (34:53)
Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead, Jeff.
Jeff Kulikowsky: (34:54)
Oh, I’m sorry, governor, but I was looking at youth sports, so not the high school sports, but the sports that involve seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 year old kids that aren’t in those modified or high school level sports.
We have continued to prohibit those higher risk sports. Low and moderate risk sports has been permitted to continue. So things like swimming, provided that those areas where they are participating in those activities are not in one of the restricted zones, those are permitted right now, but any of the wrestling or hockey or contact sports like football or basketball even had still not been approved by the Department of Health.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:47)
Operator, let’s do one more question, please.
Next question, coming from the line of Terese Kreuzer with Downtown Post New York. Your line is open.
Terese Kreuzer: (35:56)
Hello there, governor. This is Terese.
Andrew Cuomo: (35:58)
How are you, Terese?
Terese Kreuzer: (36:01)
I’m all right, thank you very much. I’d like to follow up on something from a few days ago when the Supreme Court handed down its decision regarding churches and how many people could be in them. At the time, you were not terribly concerned about it. You said the problem in Brooklyn had already gone away and you didn’t seem concerned in general. Have you thought any differently about that since then?
Andrew Cuomo: (36:27)
No, I haven’t. As I said, the zone in Brooklyn had already been expired, whatever you want to call it, before the Supreme Court ruled. We will have restrictions on religious gatherings as we have restrictions on other gatherings, and they are going to be set at reasonable amounts. And there’s nothing that the Supreme Court said that would suggest that they were not open to that. Plus that case is still under appeal, so we don’t even have a final determination.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:09)
Just to recap what I was saying, the vaccination process has the work to end the pandemic. The vaccination process cannot work. We have three serious obstacles posed by this current plan. One, there’s no funding to do any outreach. Two, there’s no plan or outreach funding for the black, brown and poor communities, which have been hardest hit and will be the hardest to reach for the vaccine. And three, under the current plan, I believe the undocumented community will be dissuaded from participating in the vaccination program, and this hurts all New Yorkers and Americans because the vaccination program only works if you have a very high percentage of participation, and with this plan, you are eliminating and dissuading groups from participating. And that hurts all New Yorkers, white, black, brown, any ethnicity or race. Thank you all very much for taking the time. Have a good day.