Nov 19, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Teleconference Briefing Transcript November 19
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference via conference call on November 19. He provided coronavirus updates. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Cuomo. I will now turn it over to Governor Cuomo. Please go ahead.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:07)
Hello, guys, guys being gender neutral. Today’s day 264. I am joined once again by Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey and Gareth Rhodes and Dr. Zucker. State positivity rate today with the micro-clusters zones, 2.7. That’s with the micro-cluster zones. That is down from 3.4 yesterday. State without focus zones, without the micro-cluster zones, 2.3. That’s down from 3.1. this is a big drop. Micro-cluster zones at 4%. 31 New Yorkers passed away. They’re in our thoughts and prayers. 2,276 New Yorkers hospitalized. Context, we had 18,000 New Yorkers hospitalized at one time. We have about 50,000 hospital beds. 437 COVID patients in ICU. That’s up 14. 200 intubated. That’s up eight. Around the state, Capital region 2.3, Central New York 3.5, Finger Lakes 3.8, Long Island 3.2, Mid Hudson 3.8, Mohawk Valley 2.4, New York City 2.5, North Country 1.7, Southern Tier 1.1, Western New York 4.8.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:11)
Western New York has been and continues to be the problem. After Western New York, it’s Finger Lakes, 3.8. And then it’s Mid Hudson, 3.8. Then it’s Central New York, 3.5. Again, context, we have an orange zone that is at 3%, on the micro-clusters red zone, which is at 4%. Those are very conservative guidelines. California just went to a close down. Their closed down number’s 8%. Chicago is at 15%. So our 4 is half the California number. We’re going to add some micro-clusters zones today. While some areas have improved over the past weeks, other parts of the Hudson Valley have seen a higher positivity rate. Mid Hudson is at 3.8 on the seven-day average, but there are some higher areas within that. In Rockland County, we’re going to expand the zone to include Pearl River, West Haverstraw, Stony Point and Suffern.
Andrew Cuomo: (04:07)
Orange County, we’ll be adding a yellow zone for Newburgh, New Windsor, Middletown and Highland Falls, just right near West Point. Westchester County, adding a yellow zone in New Rochelle, Ossining, Tarrytown, Yonkers and Peekskill. Remember the concept of the micro-cluster zones, targeted restrictions but targeted restrictions so you don’t disrupt the economy in areas where you don’t need to disrupt the economy. It’s also a warning sign for that community. New Rochelle is a yellow zone. To the people in New Rochelle, I’m not saying there’s a problem in Essex. I’m not saying there’s a problem in Suffolk. I’m saying there’s a problem in your backyard in New Rochelle. So I hope that gets your attention, because it’s your community, it’s your block, and this is personal to you. And I think that helps get people’s attention. When the problem is somewhere else, it’s a lot easier to dismiss.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:33)
New topic, we had Hurricane Isaias back in August. We once again had delays from the utility companies. Utility companies once again said to me, “Oh, what can we do? We had a storm.” I once again said, “We pay you to handle and be prepared for storms. That’s the essence of the agreement that we have with you.” They want to say the storm is the reason why the service was disrupted. I want to say, “I understand that, and we’re reasonable, New Yorkers are reasonable, but we’re paying you for the service of restoring power after the storm.” I have an emergency generator at my house. The emergency generator didn’t work because there was a storm. I know. But I have the emergency generator just in case there is a storm. That’s why I invested in it.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:48)
Anyway, I said to the utilities, “I’m tired of the back and forth. And I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that New Yorkers are compensated and certainly New Yorkers are not paying for service they’re not getting.” I asked the PSC to do an investigation. PSC did an investigation. I asked DFS, Department of Financial Services, to join in the investigation, because DFS is more of an investigatory agency than the PSC is frankly. DFS is headed by superintendent Linda Lacewell. She is a former Eastern District prosecutor. I worked with her in the AG’s office. She’s a prosecutor. She is an investigator. That’s what she does.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:48)
Anyway, they closed their investigation. It’s the fastest and best investigation DPS has ever done. The three utilities have been penalized $137 million, which is one of the most significant penalties. Con Ed., $102 million for 33 violations. Orange and Rockland, $19 million for 38 violations. Central Hudson, 16 million for 32 violations. They have a right to contest. Let them contest. We will remain diligent in pursuit of the penalties, because we are serious. We are serious. Also, I’m working with the Long Island delegation to put forward a bill that will remove the caps on the penalties and give the PSC greater determination in assessing penalties by looking at the actual harm and misconduct. Right now, we have a legal cap on penalties, which makes no sense to me. Also, the new law makes it clear that the penalty comes out of the shareholders’ profits. And then once the shareholders start to pay a penalty, maybe we’ll get their attention.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:20)
Let’s take a couple of questions, but then I do a Chairman of the National Governors Association meeting with President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris to talk about transition issues. But operator, let’s take a couple of questions please.
Speaker 1: (09:47)
Certainly. As a reminder to ask a question, you will need to press *, then the number 1 on your telephone keypad. Again, that is *, then the number 1 on your telephone keypad. First question comes from the line of Andrew Siff from NBC. Your line is open.
Andrew Siff: (10:03)
Good afternoon, Governor. We interviewed some parents in New York City today about the topic of schools having gone all remote. And one parent said to us, “My daughter can go get her nails done. She can dine indoors, but she can’t go to school. That doesn’t make sense.” What is your response to her?
Andrew Cuomo: (10:23)
Yeah. That’s the point that I raised. You didn’t have to go interview a mother. You didn’t have to go through all that trouble. You could have just quoted me, Andrew. You got to just run the tape of me saying the schools are safer than the surrounding community and the trigger for the schools in New York City is lower than the trigger for indoor dining, et cetera. I’ve said that repeatedly. The state law is yellow zone, orange zone. Orange zone is triggered at 3 in a micro-cluster, that local area, that is actually tougher on businesses than it is on schools. And in orange zone, indoor dining closes at 3:00. A school closes also at 3:00, but a school can test out in an orange zone.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:38)
So we did this in Brooklyn. You had an orange zone. Indoor dining stops, period. New paragraph. Schools close, but the school can test out and test the students, make sure it’s safe and then the school can continue operating, which they did in Brooklyn and Queens, some of them. So that’s the state law. I left discretion to the local school districts to come up with rules for their schools. And New York City came up with their role. Nassau has their rule. This school district has their rule. The 700 school districts. And they have their individual rules. The only state rule is the yellow, orange zone. And in our orange zone, just to repeat myself, because I like to hear myself talk, 3%, businesses close, schools can open if they test out.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:51)
Also, so you know, the 3%, these numbers bounce. So when we say 3%, we say 3% on a seven-day average, which means it’s balanced over seven days and it has been at that rate for 10 days. Okay? So it’s not a one-day spike. Just think about this. It’s a seven-day average at 3, which means it’s a consistent 3 for seven days, and you stayed at that number for 10 days. So this is not a hiccup situation. It’s a seven-day average and then you stayed there for 10 days. So it’s a solid 3. But even at that 3, the school can test out. There is no provision for a business to test out, unless the whole zone gets its act together and goes from orange down to yellow, which has happened.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:11)
I believe, we all have theories, because nobody’s been here before… Our theory, Melissa made it my theory, when you localize it, I think it minimizes the economic disruption and it maximizes the need for personal responsibility. See, I believe, Andrew, there’s something to saying, “It’s your block that’s an issue.” I think you take that more seriously. But on the 700 school districts, you have to talk to the 700 school districts. Operator?
Speaker 1: (14:56)
Thank you. Your next question comes from the line of Emily Ngo from Spectrum News NY1. Your line is open.
Emily Ngo: (15:02)
Hi, Governor Cuomo. How are you?
Andrew Cuomo: (15:04)
How are you? All good.
Emily Ngo: (15:06)
I’m well. Thank you. May we have some insight into what a reopening plan for New York City schools might look like, what sort of thresholds or measures you’ve been discussing with the Mayor and whether you believe such a plan should have already been in place or already been established?
Andrew Cuomo: (15:22)
The education in this state is primarily run by local districts. That is the long-held constitutional provision. People buy a house in a certain neighborhood for the school district. I moved into where I moved into in Westchester in part because of the school district. The localities have the prioritization of control of their local schools. So I said at the beginning of this, we have the statewide rule, which was just explained, the yellow, the orange, the red. And then 700 school districts, you can come up with a policy on your school as long as it doesn’t contradict my policy. And my policy is yellow, orange, red. So they can do a policy within parameters, but if there’s a conflict with the state policy, the state policy governs.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:36)
So what we now have is basically the yellow zone doesn’t really have a consequence for a school. The orange zone, as I just said to my friend, Mr. Siff, orange zone, 3% on a seven-day average for 10 days, the school closes, school cleans, school can take tests and reopen. That’s the state policy. Other than that, it’s up to the locality. And different localities have different policies. And you’d have to talk to the locality about that. I do believe more targeted responses are better. That’s my policy. That’s our program. In other words, all of the Erie County. We didn’t close schools in all of Erie County. We closed schools in the orange zone in Erie County. And those schools can test and reopen. So the more localized the data, I think the better. But on schools, it’s up to the locality, unless it conflicts with the state. In which case, the state policy governs. Next question, operator.
Speaker 1: (18:14)
Thank you. Your next question comes from the line of Kevin [inaudible 00:18:17] from Pro Standard. You line is open.
Hey, Governor. I’m wondering if you can help me understand the decision-making process that you guys go through on the cluster zones. I understand the numbers that you have. I understand the numerical metrics that you have. But for example, if you look at the numbers here in the Onondaga County yellow zone, where I am, it would seem that we are at the level where we should be in an orange or a red zone, but we’re not. And I know that you said there were other things you look at and other factors you take into account, but I guess help my readers here understand sort of what that decision-making process is and when you actually decide to pull the trigger on moving a yellow to an orange or red, for example.
Andrew Cuomo: (19:06)
Good question. You have the general point, I think, because you stated it. These are more localized decisions. And when you are looking at a locality, you can also look at the particulars of what’s going on in that locality. So we include those other factors. But I’ll have Gareth go through them with you.
Gareth Rhodes: (19:32)
[inaudible 00:19:34]. In Onondaga County to enter a yellow zone is above 3% on the seven-day average for 10 days. Orange zone is 4% on the seven-day average for 10 days. We also look at where in the area the cases are coming from. As you look at our guidance, if they can be explained by a single institution, such as a nursing home or factory or college, we look at the cases coming from those areas in consideration where we draw the boundaries and we consider where the cases are coming from in terms of the case count for recording the zone.
Gareth Rhodes: (20:08)
So for example, in parts of Syracuse with the student population, that we have certain areas that we’re seeing large number of positive cases, perhaps driven by singular clusters, which wouldn’t necessarily count for the zone designation. And then we’re seeing other parts, really general community spread, which these zones are aimed to get at, which is when we’re seeing new cases above these thresholds where we can’t explain [inaudible 00:20:35] coming from one area, that is what qualifies for a zone designation. And then we work with the Department of Health and the local department of health looking at case prevalence maps, where the cases are, and that’s how we draw the zone lines to determine exactly where the zones are.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:53)
Did that answer your question? Okay. Let me make one last point. Oh! Let’s take one last question please. Operator.
Speaker 1: (21:08)
All right. Your last question comes from the line of Jennifer Lewke from WHEC-TV. Your line is open.
Jennifer Lewke: (21:16)
Good afternoon, Governor. You said that this second wave of COVID-19 is being spread primarily in living rooms, small social gathering. So why then are gyms, hair salons, barbershops, who have implemented restrictions under your guidance, forced to close in an orange zone? What kind of data do you have that shows that they are contributing to the spread?
Andrew Cuomo: (21:38)
Yeah. Let’s paraphrase it a little bit. First, it’s not the second wave. I know everybody says second wave. Second wave refers to… That came from the 1918 flu pandemic where the second wave was a mutated virus. In other words, you deal with the first virus. It then mutates, and it comes back as a second virus, and even if you had the first virus, you can get the second virus, because it’s different. That’s the second wave. This is not a second wave. We’re still in the first wave. This is just an increasing spread of the first wave because of the fall.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:29)
The sources that have been identified nationwide for the increase by the CDC, by HHS, and which every state government acts on, indoor dining. Every state, when they closed down, what do they close? Indoor dining, gyms, personal services, hair salons. And there’s a new factor, which is hard to quantify, which is living room spread in addition to those other factors. We know indoor dining has been a problem. And that’s why every state closes the indoor dining and went to outdoor dining when they hit a trigger. The gyms, the hair salons, every national health agency has identified them.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:30)
We then add the theory, which is also from the CDC, that family living rooms spread is now a new factor, which was a societal behavior modification. “We can’t hang out at a bar. We can’t hang out in a restaurant. Let’s watch the Bills game. Why don’t you come to my house?” We call that living room spread. And that’s why many states have done the 25 person limit in the home. Many states have done that to get at that living room spread. But every health agency will tell you indoor dining, gyms, personal services are the top three.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:30)
Let me make one last point that follows that point. I have worked on this every day for 260-plus days. The virus has complicated, but the virus is simple. You know what it is going to do. You know what it is it’s going to do. You know what’s going to happen at Thanksgiving. People will travel. People will come together. I am telling you. I will wager you that if people are not extraordinarily diligent and act in a way they’ve never acted before, you’re going to see a very large spike. The travel is a real problem for us, because this state still has the lowest infection rate, except for Vermont and Maine. If people are coming from Vermont or Maine, they don’t pose as much of a risk. If they’re coming from anywhere else, they pose a greater risk.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:46)
It’s your family. It’s your home. It’s your table. These are all environments where you feel safe. And that is the beauty of Thanksgiving. “I’m at home with my family. I’m in my safe zone.” Your safe zone is not a safe zone. Your safe zone is dangerous this year. Please, love is sometimes doing what’s hard. This year, if you love someone, it is smarter and better to stay away, as hard as that is to say and hear, because if I had to predict, you’re going to see a significant spike post-Thanksgiving. It is then going to run into the Christmas holidays and you’re going to see these numbers go very high.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:54)
New York’s triggers are some of the most conservative in the country. Our 3%, our 4%, that’s half of California’s. Most States are already above our triggers. Okay? The overwhelming majority of states are already above our triggers, but better, safe than sorry. And we went through this once before and we want to minimize the damage. And that’s why I’m comfortable with the low triggers. But please, this is not just a rhetoric. I am telling you. Thanksgiving, you look at the infection rate, five, six, seven, eight days after Thanksgiving, it will be up. You’ll then be in early December. Early December, “I’ll meet you for a Christmas drink. Let’s celebrate Hanukkah. Let’s get together, celebrate end of year. 2020 is ending. It was the worst year in my life. Let’s get together and have a drink.” And you’re going to see a further spike. From here to January is very dangerous. A vaccine is on the way. Not in any time frame that is going to make any difference to the immediate future. Thank you very much. Have a good day.
Speaker 1: (28:27)
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This [inaudible 00:28:30].