Dec 22, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Teleconference Briefing Transcript December 22
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference via conference call on December 22. He provided coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… this conference. Mr Cuomo, you may now begin.
Governor Cuomo: (00:06)
Hello. This is governor Cuomo. Today’s day 297. We did 164,000 tests. We have a state-wide positivity without micro clusters 5.5, with micro clusters 5.8. Positivity in micro clusters, 6.8, 139 New Yorkers passed away. 6,661 New Yorkers hospitalized. That number is a two grains of salt number because the admissions into hospitals has been about flat, but the discharges are lower than they have been for some unexplained reasons. So the net number is higher, but the admissions is not necessarily higher. ICU is up 31 and incubations are up one.
Governor Cuomo: (01:23)
If you look across the state, highest positivity over the seven day average Mohawk Valley, 8.5. Second’s Finger Lakes, 8.3. Capital Region 6.9. Central New York 6.5. Long Island, 6.5. Western New York, 6.4. That’s a big turnaround for Western New York. Mid-Hudson, 6.2. North Country 5.2. New York City 4.3. Southern Tier 2.4. Statewide, 5.4. Positivity by borough in New York City: Bronx 5.03, Brooklyn 4.4, Manhattan, 2.75, Queens 4.9, Staten Island, the winner or in this case the loser, 5.5 with the highest positivity in New York City. Couple of points, the hospital capacity is a concern for New York. You see California is actually now has a hospital emergency and is rationing healthcare. So that gives you a sense of the ultimate collapse here is a collapse of the hospital system, that was Italy. We’re keeping a fine eye on our hospital capacity.
Governor Cuomo: (03:02)
Our metric is if a hospital is 21 days from 85% of capacity, okay? A little confusing. 21 days from 85%, meaning they only have 15% capacity left. Then they have to tell us high alert, high alert, high alert. If they’re 21 days from only having 15% capacity left, that would effectively give us a month before notice, before we run into a real hospital situation. No hospital in the state has told us that they are at that point 21 days, including all the hospitals in New York city, including the hospitals that New York City runs, which is called the H&H system, health and hospital system. Now, we do have Christmas coming. We do have Kwanzaa coming. We have Christmas week coming. We have New Year’s Eve coming. We have New Year’s Day coming, so we expect the numbers to go up and the motto on my unofficial season’s greeting card and the motto that the state is going to be promulgating through various means over the holidays, celebrate smart, stop shut downs. Celebrate smart, stop shut downs.
Governor Cuomo: (04:51)
It’s been a long year, celebrate. I’m going to celebrate, but celebrate smart and stop shutdowns. This UK variant issue is a real issue and I want to make sure we understand it and it’s been confusion and some of the stories I’ve read because it’s complicated. Boris Johnson shut down the UK one week after he said he would never shut it down for Christmas. The reason he shut it down, he said and did a total 180 degree shift, was because they found a variant on the virus. Now, there are hundreds of mutations of the virus. The reason we know the virus came to New York from Europe, rather than from China, is it mutated in Europe and came here and they traced the New York virus to Europe in the spring, from the mutation. So there have been hundreds of mutations.
Governor Cuomo: (06:02)
Yes, but one mutation can be deadly and that’s what everyone is worried about. That’s the 1918 flu pandemic second wave. Yes, the virus mutates. But, there is a chance that it mutates into something that is much more deadly, or as Johnson says, it’s 70 times more transmittable than the original COVID virus. That would be a real problem. 120 countries do a ban or require testing. The United States does nothing. I never said we should ban the flights. I said countries have banned or are requiring testing, but that the United States should do something. That the United States should either ban or test. I contacted the airlines that fly into New York from the UK; Virgin, Delta and British Airways. They have all agreed to test people before they get on the flight. I then said, “Okay, you have 120 countries on a list and the state of New York.” The United States should say the same thing that New York said. Say that people need to test before they come from the UK.
Governor Cuomo: (07:37)
I think actually the United States should say, we should test before anyone comes from any country, because the UK variant now has already migrated. Learn the lesson from the spring. The virus is in China, the virus is in China. The virus got on an airplane and within days the virus goes global. The UK variant is in the UK. Yeah, but within days it gets on a plane and it’s now global, and that’s where the UK variant is. So I would say to the United States, mandatory testing of anyone coming from any country and flying into the United States. Well, why doesn’t New York do that? I can’t because we don’t control the borders. The federal government does that with customs and border patrol. If I could do it, I would do it. What I did yesterday was an extraordinary measure where I called airlines and asked to be added to a country protocol, right? The other 120 countries are countries and they agreed. So it’s 120 countries and the state of New York. But that’s what I think the United States should do.
Governor Cuomo: (09:06)
Dr. Fauci said he doesn’t think a ban is necessary. He does think that testing would be appropriate, but not a ban. Dr. Fauci also said something that is frightening. He said he thinks the variant is already here, not that he has evidence of that. But I assume he’s referring to the phenomenon of global spread and how quickly it spreads. If the variant is here, I want to know, because that would be problematic. We have the state is now contacting hospitals all across our state to test for the variant specifically. And there are tests that can test for the variant. We’re working with Montefiore, MSK, Northwell, University of Rochester, Albany Med, Greater New York Health Care Association and the state lab at Wadsworth is coordinating it. They’re also going to reach out to Upstate today, medical and ECMC. We want to test for the variant. If it’s here, we want to know it. We want to isolate it, immediately/ but let’s learn from the spring. Dr. Fauci says he thinks it’s here. If it’s here where? Where is it?
Governor Cuomo: (10:55)
On the vaccine, as of yesterday we had done 38,000 vaccines. Today we have done 50,000 up to today total. We’ve done 50,000 vaccines. We are very aggressive about our vaccination program. We have 630,000 dosages that we have received thus far. We expect about 300,000 additional doses by the end of next week. We have 618 nursing homes that we believe will be back vaccinated within two weeks, which would be very good news. Again, there is no politics in the distribution of the vaccine. No mayor is in control. No country executive is control. No supervisor is in control. Nobody can put you in the front of the list. Local governments have absolutely nothing to do with this. This is all done by the hospital system, the medical providers. I am asking the hospitals and the nursing home operators and the medical personnel who are providing services for vaccinations in the nursing homes, to work over the holidays in providing the vaccinations.
Governor Cuomo: (12:32)
I understand it’s been a long year and everybody needs time off, but we are in a foot race. It’s the increase in the COVID spread versus the vaccination rate. So I am asking them to continue to vaccinate over the holidays. In many ways in a nursing home, a vaccine is the best gift that you could give a nursing home resident. The best gift that you can give a frontline healthcare worker is a vaccine. So let’s give them that gift over this holiday season. Just to clarify with the Buffalo Bills, we are talking to the Bills. We are researching teams and protocols across the nation. The Department of Health is looking at an experimental model of working with data and testing to see if there’s any way we could safely allow some fans into the game. We’re working with the Bills. It’s all a work in progress. You should know, I have been to the stadium many times. The state has invested in renovations to the stadium. I worked on the renovations of the stadium. So I haven’t been to the stadium in the past couple of weeks for obvious reasons. But I spent many days going through design drawings of the stadium, and I’m quite familiar with it.
Governor Cuomo: (14:31)
Okay. I will stop there and operator, let’s open it up to questions, please.
As a reminder to ask a question, you will need to press star one on your telephone. Again that is star one on your telephone keypad. To withdraw your question, press the pound key. Please stand by while we compile the Q&A roster.
Your first question comes from the line of Andrew Siff from WNBC. Your line is now open.
Andrew Siff: (15:39)
Governor, good morning. I wanted to ask two questions. The first has to do with you mentioned that the hospital discharges are down and you’re trying to figure out why that is. I’m wondering if that concerns you to the degree that it lowers your confidence from Friday, when you seemed very, very optimistic that New York would not need any kind of a shutdown. My second question is I’m wondering if you saw the video of that White Stone Republican party in Queens with an indoor unmasked celebration and what you make of that?
Governor Cuomo: (16:11)
Yeah, two things. On the discharge, I talk to the hospitals every day, Andrew and the length of stay is down. The rate of death is down. The rate of incubation is down. I believe the discharge rate is down as an anomaly, more administrative than anything else. But remember our protocol here. A hospital, we take a daily census of hospital capacity, right?
Andrew Siff: (16:55)
Governor Cuomo: (16:55)
They put in every night an attestation, which is a legal certification. And they say exactly what their capacity is, how many beds they have occupied, et cetera. No hospital is within three weeks of 85%. So no, I remain confident because I believe in New Yorkers. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this job. And by the way, if I didn’t, we couldn’t have made it through the spring. And New Yorkers should believe in New Yorkers because they did it, the impossible. Going from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest. So, no, I still am confident. We have to celebrate smart. But if we celebrate smart, you’ll see an increase the rate. But I do not believe we will shut down.
Governor Cuomo: (17:52)
But you have to celebrate smart and celebrate smart to your second question, you have to be smart if you’re a Democrat. You have to be smart if you’re a Republican. You have to be smart if you live in upstate, or if you live in downstate or if you’re short, or if you’re tall. If you do not take precautions, your likelihood that you will get the virus is higher. You look at places, neighborhoods, counties that have higher rates, they are, if there’s not a demographic reason or a medical reason, it means they are not following the precautions. I saw the video. COVID Conga lines are not smart. That’s my official position. Why you would do an unmasked Conga line in the middle of a COVID pandemic, whatever your political persuasion, defies logical explanation as far as I’m concerned. The COVID Conga line, I like that. Next question operator. Operator?
All right, your next question comes from the line of Robert from AM New York and his line is now open.
Governor Cuomo: (19:41)
Hello? Hello? Hello?
Excuse me, your line is now open.
Governor Cuomo: (19:55)
Operator, did you say how people open their line?
Yes. It should be a star one on their telephone keypad.
Governor Cuomo: (20:04)
All right, well let’s proceed to the next question and it’s from Lisa. Colangelo from Newsday. Your line is now open.
Governor Cuomo: (20:16)
Lisa Colangelo, always ahead of the press conference I’m in. Go ahead.
Lisa Colangelo: (20:23)
How are you doing? Thanks so much. So can you give us a little more details about the tests that the hospitals will be doing for the UK variant? It’s a complex test that can only be done in certain labs, I thought like Wadsworth and Northwell. But what will happen if you find it? What will the protocols be, as opposed to when you find somebody, when you find a COVID positive test? How will this be handled differently?
Governor Cuomo: (20:52)
It is a complex test, that is correct. But, the higher lab capacity hospitals in this state can perform it. Northwell you’re right on Long Island, and Northwell is one of the higher capacity laboratories that are also the largest hospital system in the state. And Michael Dowling is a great administrator, and he’s a great friend to the state. Michael Dowling was head of health services for the state for the entire time of my father’s tenure. Did you know that? Anyway, the Department of Health is working with the labs all across the state. Any state that can, any hospital that has the lab capacity to take the test, we will be providing them with the ability and the testing reagents. And the protocol is if we find the variant, we want to know where it is immediately, immediately. And then we will take it from there.
Governor Cuomo: (22:09)
We have no evidence at this point that it is in this state. We do know it has been moving globally. Chances are, if it’s been moving globally, it came here. And again, that was the lesson from the spring. And that was Dr. Fauci’s suggestion. But if it is here, I want to know exactly where it is and contact trace immediately from that point back and then isolate it immediately. This is about time and urgency, and this would be urgent. And that’s why we’re mobilizing every hospital lab in the state that can perform this test, to perform this test. Next question operator.
Next question is from Alison Cadence on six 11 news. Your line is now open.
Governor Cuomo: (23:09)
How are you Alison?
Alison Cadence: (23:13)
Hello. Good morning and good afternoon. What have been your conversations with the federal government regarding testing people as they get on the flights or banning these flights from the UK? I mean, are they taking your calls? Are they talking to you? Because a flight from the UK could still go into other states and those people could still come here.
Governor Cuomo: (23:36)
Well, yes. First a flight from the UK could go to another state and infect another state, right? And we’re New Yorkers, but we’re also Americans and first you don’t want to see Americans get infected. Second you’re right on a parochial level, the flight could go into Chicago and then the person would get off the plane in Chicago and fly to New York. That’s true also. That’s why through this whole COVID situation, I’ve always said one state cannot protect itself. Either you defend against the virus everywhere, or it’s fundamentally not effective. I have been talking to people in the federal government. First, this is a transition point in the federal government, between administrations as you know, and the federal officials I have spoken to are aware of it. There are various levels of concern. They frankly have various levels of engagement. I think what New York did is a very simple model for them to replicate.
Governor Cuomo: (24:54)
This comes down to simple testing and the requirement that we say we want people tested like the other 120 countries. Not to do it, I think, is gross negligence. There’s no reason not to do it, especially when you know it’s spreading and especially when you know according to the UK, it’s a dangerous virus. I just think it’s negligent not to do it, and we have been negligent with this virus before. That was the spring and this is to me, a redux of the spring. It came from Europe. It’s coming from Europe. I mean, it’s so frustrating, to tell you the truth, and just violates common sense. I’m glad that New York acted, but you’re right. New York can’t protect New York. We have one of the lowest infection rates in the United States, great. But then we have people who are flying in and driving in every day, and we’re coming into a holiday season where you’re going to see even more travel. Operator, let’s take one more.
Your last question comes from the line of Jeff Kulikowsky from News Nine. Your line is now open.
Jeff Kulikowsky: (26:17)
Hi, governor, how are you today?
Governor Cuomo: (26:19)
Hey Jeff. Okay, buddy.
Jeff Kulikowsky: (26:20)
Good. I’m curious governor with this test for the variant, and you said you were going to speak with, or somebody maybe from Dr. Zucker’s office with upstate today about that. Does that mean that every test that comes through upstate and these other laboratories will be tested for COVID and the variant, and could that potentially slow down getting test results back to people?
Governor Cuomo: (26:46)
There will be nothing that slows down, either the number of tests or the relaying of the results of the test. This will be in and above everything else we’re doing. And it depends on the testing capacity of that lab, because this is a complex test. And those are conversations that DOH is going to have with ECMC and upstate today. It depends on their capacity. The other hospitals I mentioned are already testing for it. They’ve done about 4,000 tests. And so far of the 4,000 tests, they haven’t found anything. But it only takes one Jeff. And the 4,000 that has been done has been a random sample of all of the tests that they are doing. Okay, operator, thank you very much. Thank you, bye.