Aug 3, 2020
NY Governor Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 3
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on August 3 to share updates on COVID-19. He said coronavirus infections in the state are decreasing, even after reopening measures. Read the full transcript here.
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Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
And New Jersey Port Authority, who’s doing been doing an extraordinary job. The Port Authority does, among other things, the administration of the airports, building the new John F. Kennedy, rebuilding JFK. So he’s been doing double duty. And we have a great announcement today that we joined in this morning, which I’m going to chat about in a moment.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:26)
Today’s day 156, for those who are counting. If you’re not counting, it’s still date 156. Number of hospitalizations, 536. What does that number mean? It is a new low since we were in the midst of the battle. So, that is great news. Number of COVID patients in ICU, 136. Also a new low since the height of the crisis. Number of intubations, 62. Also a new low. So, that’s great news. Number of lives lost, a new low on the three day average. Three people passed away yesterday. So this is really all great, great news. And I congratulate New Yorkers, because this is purely a result of the actions that they’ve been taking.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:32)
The progress is even better than we expected. Remember when we started reopening, all the experts said, “Expect the infection rate to increase when the activity rate increases.” That’s what you’ve seen all across the country. That’s what you’ve seen in other countries. And that’s what we expected here. We then were talking about calibrating the increase and making sure it didn’t go that high, but it was supposed to go up. After two, two and a half months of reopening, the numbers have actually gone down, which nobody suggested. And that is really to compliment New Yorkers. We started reopening May 15th. That’s where it was on the curve. You call it a curve. I call it a descent of the mountain. We get to the same place. We just have different metaphorical images. But that’s where the reopening started.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:37)
Since the reopening, the numbers continue to go down. No expert predicted that. So New Yorkers are doing better than anyone else even expected. Cautious still. Well, why shouldn’t we be celebrating? Because look around, that’s why. Look at what’s going on across the country. Look at those increases. Look at what we’re dealing with in terms of now 39 States on the quarantine list, and look at incidents of lack of compliance. The numbers are a result of the actions, and we have been disciplined and we have to stay disciplined. In terms of enforcement, local governments have to do a better job. I don’t know how else to say it. We’re doing everything we can on the state side, the SLA and the state police are working double duty. We have a problem with young people and lack of compliance. We have a problem, especially at bars and restaurants.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:47)
Last night, they did another 29 violations. They checked 874 establishments. Over the weekend, they checked 3,000 establishments and did 106 violations. All this to say to the bars and restaurants, follow the rules. Because if you don’t follow the rules, chances are, likelihood is someone’s going to be there to watch and to check. And that’s the way it should be. If you’re following the rules, fine. If you’re not following the rules, if I were you, I would be worried. And that’s the way it should be. We’re seeing continued situations that are just not intelligent, and local governments have to crack down on these, whether they’re in New York city or Long Island, or they’re in upstate New York. How a charter boat could put together a crowd on deck and leave. It’s just disrespectful. It’s illegal. It not only violates public health, it violates common decency. Look at all the people you endangered. What if one of those people on that cruise gets sick and dies? What if the one of those people on that cruise get sick and goes home and gives it to a parent who dies. I mean, it is just really reckless, rude, irresponsible, and illegal. Under the [inaudible 00:05:33] bridge, apparently dozens of people partying. We need better enforcement, all across the state. On the issue of schools, I want to be clear. We have 700 school districts in this state. The districts are putting in plans on how they will handle the reopening. I’ll make a determination later this week on the infection rate, whether or not we’re going to reopen schools. But just because a district puts out a plan, doesn’t mean that if we reopen the school, parents are going to come or teachers are going to come. It’s not, “Well, the government said the schools are open. Now everybody must go.” It’s not going to happen that way. I’m talking to parents. I am telling you it is not going to happen that way. They are not going to trust the school district. This is an issue of public health. Just because the school district says you shouldn’t worry about your child’s public health, that’s not going to be enough. Not in this environment. Not when you’re dealing with situations that everybody knows that nobody has the facts.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:50)
Parents are going to want to understand the information for themselves. I’ll tell you what they’re asking me. I’ll tell you what they’re going to ask every school district. How are you going to test? How many tests are you going to take? Are you sure you have them lined up? Are you sure those are enough tests? Is it a representative sample? How long is it going to take to turn around the tests? Is it two days, four days, seven days? They’re informed parents. They’re the most informed people on this issue, probably in the country. They’ve lived through it. They’re going to have questions. This is not going to be the school district puts out a plan, and then by Fiat, by dictatorship, that is the plan.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:43)
You need the parents to be comfortable. You need the teachers to be comfortable. You need the children to show up at school. And there’s going to have to be a discussion. You look at some of these plans, they’re indecipherable. Even if you can understand the plan, they raise questions. And parents are going to need to talk it through. I encourage every school district, set up a discussion room now. Start explaining to the parents now. Have those conversations now. You can’t call people into a conference room, but you can invite them onto a video chat or onto a chat room. But they have questions and they need answers. And time is short. That should start now, because the parents are going to make the decision. Nobody’s going to tell them me whether or not I should send my child to school. I’m going to make that determination. And I’m going to want to make sure it’s an informed determination. And I’m not going to trust just what’s on some school districts plan. I’m not going to do that. And parents have to be comfortable, and they should be comfortable because they are the ultimate decision makers here.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:07)
Just because I say the infection rate is low, that’s not going to cause a parent to send the child back to school. Just because of the school district says, “We have a safe plan.” I’m telling you, it’s not going to work. They have to feel comfortable, which means they have to be part of the process. We have to have a dialogue. I want to congratulate the Port Authority, Rick Cotton, who runs it. Chairman Kevin O’Toole. The Saint Nicholas Greek church has been a long saga for New York. Was destroyed in 9/11. It was supposed to be rebuilt. There were fits and starts. Bureaucracy was slow. This was slow. But I was just with his Eminence, the Archbishop, and it is now being rebuilt. It is magnificent. It really is a beautiful structure. It is the only church on 9/11. Part of…
Andrew Cuomo: (10:03)
The only church on 9/11, part of it is going to be a bereavement center. It’s not just a Greek church, it’s a universal center for reconciliation. It is a spiritual place. And we’ve been trying to get it done for a long time. Sometimes God works in funny ways that it is now being rebuilt at this moment, all these years after 9/11. Why this moment? Maybe because God says he needs or wants a symbol of renewal and rebirth at this moment. Maybe it was God’s way of saying to New Yorkers, yes, this is a tough time. Yes, we’ve been dealt a hard blow, but we can rise up, we can build back and we can build back better. St. Nicholas is better than the church that was there before. We didn’t just rebuild St. Nicholas. This is a vastly improved physical structure from what it was. This is going to be a national landmark, St. Nicholas, when it’s done.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:25)
And I think there’s a symbolism there for all New Yorkers. We’re going to have to build back. There’s no doubt about it. We don’t even understand the extent of the economic damage that has been done. And it’s going to be hard, I’m telling you that. But we’ve done it before, we’ll do it again. And that’s what St. Nicholas said to me today when I was there. In terms of the national situation, and I want to speak plain truth on this, we said we have two threats. We have the lack of compliance and we have the national situation. The national situation is getting worse, it’s not getting better. That is a fact, as I like to say. It’s an inarguable fact. You look at the numbers, look at what’s happening in Florida, look at California, look at Texas. Look at the numbers. Look at what’s happening all across the Midwest, where you’re seeing a dramatic rise.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:21)
Look at what the White House is now saying, where you entered a new phase of COVID. What’s the new phase? Extensive spread. Oh, that’s the new phase? What was the old phase? If the new phase is extensive spread, what was the old phase? That was limited spread what we went through? I mean, it’s absurd. It’s not a new phase. It was entirely predictable. It was the progression of a virus, its exponential increase, which is what a virus does. One person affects two people, two people infect four… It is the exponential pyramid of viral spreads. It’s not a new phase. It was a mathematical equation that you just have to factor out. You have medical experts who are now saying we should hit the reset button, that the nation should shut down and start over. That that’s the only way to stop the virus. That’s what medical experts are saying.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:25)
Hit the reset button, shut down everything and start all over again. That’s a damning commentary on where we are. Hit the reset button. Just close all the states and start over. Look, you want to start over, you want to hit the reset button? I’ll tell you how we hit the reset button in this country. We start this time with the truth. We do something different than was done in this country six months ago when this started. Start with the truth. Tell the American people the truth. And it starts on a reset with the president of the United States telling the truth, which he did not do six months ago. And if you want to hit the reset button, and you need to hit the reset button, and I believe we need to hit the reset button, then hit the reset button, but do it honestly and it has to start with the president telling the American people the truth. The truth is, it was a mistake to deny COVID.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:38)
It was a mistake to downplay COVID. It was a mistake to say, it’s just the flu. It was a mistake to say, it’s gone by Easter. It was a mistake to say, it’s going to magically disappear when it gets warm. It was a mistake to say, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a mistake to say, yes, we’re going to do testing, but I don’t think we need it. Those were all mistakes. Those were all untruths and they sent the wrong message to the American people, because some people heard the president and believed him. And if you believed him, you wouldn’t take COVID seriously. And if you didn’t take covert seriously, then you wouldn’t take the precautions that people were saying you should take. But that’s what the president of the United States was saying six months ago. The president of the United States said five months ago, reopen the economy, liberate the states, liberate the economy.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:41)
His governors are slow-walking reopening. They’re just playing politics. That’s what they’re doing. There’s no reason not to reopen the economy. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. Florida jumps, Texas jumps, Arizona jumps. Yes, we’re just going to reopen the economy. That was a mistake. It was an untruth. It denied the science, it denied what they’re saying now, the virus will spread if you do that. Tell the truth. The truth is, it was a mistake that when you saw what was going on in New York five months ago, you didn’t heed the warning. It was a mistake when you saw the spike in New York, you thought somehow those people were different and your people were immune. Your people aren’t immune. New Yorkers had no different immune system that made them more contagious to the virus. It was a mistake to deny the reality that happened in New York that was broadcast across the country. That was a mistake.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:50)
It was a mistake to see what we had to do here in New York; the testing, the hospital system, the contact tracing, the close down, the phase reopening, and pay no attention to it, no attention to it. Six months later, these states still don’t have testing and contact tracing. How can it be? You had six months. Here in New York, we had two weeks. We were ambushed because the virus came from Europe and nobody told us. These other states at six months, how did you not set up a testing operation? How did you not expand the capacity of your hospital system? How did you not locate additional staff? How did you not locate additional PPE? You had six months. The reason they didn’t, because they were listening to the president. There is no issue. There is no problem. It was a mistake. Tell them the truth. The truth is, COVID is serious. It is deadly serious, and it’s deadly serious for all of us.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:07)
It’s not deadly serious for Democrats, it’s not deadly serious for blue states only, COVID kills Republicans and COVID affects red states. It is deadly serious. It was not a political issue and it shouldn’t have been politicized. This is not a political issue and it shouldn’t have been politicized. This is public health. That’s what this was. And it should have never been turned into a political symbol, which is what this president did. Start with the truth. And the truth is, an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. That’s what we should have learned in China. That’s where we should have learned from MERS and SARS and Ebola and swine flu and H1N1. An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere, and it’s still true. And the truth is none of us are safe until all of us are safe. That is the truth. If we don’t tell the truth on the reset, COVID will never end and it will ricochet across the country.
Andrew Cuomo: (19:22)
It will just bounce back and forth. You see how it’s bouncing now, it’s ricocheting. It’s Florida, it’s Texas, it’s the Midwest, it’s California. Oh, it’s back to New Jersey is on the rise. Oh, it’s back to Massachusetts is on the rise. It will continue this ricocheting across the country because that’s what viruses do. It will never end. This was a colossal blunder how COVID was handled by this federal government, colossal blunder. Shame on all of you. Six months-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:02)
Shame on all of you. Six months, lives lost, hit the reset button, yes, but the way the medical experts are talking about it, it won’t work. It won’t work unless you hit the reset button and you start with the truth. Because if the American people are continued lying to, the confusion and the chaos and the denial will continue. Hit the reset button. It’s called the truth. It’s called the plain truth.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:36)
The American people are smart. If the President actually tells them the truth and says, “I made a mistake,” he’s not going to be telling them anything they don’t know. Every American knows he made a mistake. Every American knows this was the worst government blunder in modern history. Not since the Vietnam War have American sat in their living room to see the numbers on the TV screen every night saying what a mistake it was. During the Vietnam War, every night you saw the death toll, you saw the injury toll on TV. Every night they’ve seen this virus increasing all across the country and the death toll going up.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:33)
You don’t think they know it was a mistake, then you don’t know the American people. They are smarter than you think. Trust the American people. And if you don’t trust them and you don’t trust their intelligence, and you don’t trust their ability to handle the information, then you shouldn’t ask to be their leader. I trust the people of New York. I told them the truth. I told them the facts. I never sugar coated. I never shielded. I told them the truth so they knew what to do, and they did it. That’s what we call being New York tough and smart and united and disciplined and loving. They should try it in Washington.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:23)
Speaker 1: (22:27)
Are you going to ask the Mayor chase to submit a more detailed plan of the school opening?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:37)
I don’t know the status of the individual school plans. SED is looking at that, state health officials are looking at that. My point is different. My point is this is not going to be between a school district and the state, or a school district and the State Education Department. This is between the school district and the parents. The ultimate decision maker are the parents. And I don’t hear enough about the parents’ concerns and the parents’ involvement and the dialogue with the parents.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:18)
It’s not going to be school district to the state, school district, to the SED. Yeah, I’m not going to allow any school to open that I don’t believe… If we don’t have a safe environment. That’s not going to happen. And I think New Yorkers know that, by the way. That doesn’t mean that school is safe. It doesn’t mean the school they’re going to send their kid to is safe.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:41)
And by the way, all they care about is the school that their kid is going to. “Oh, it’s very nice. The infection rate is good in my region, that’s nice. How about my kid’s school? That’s all I care about. And just because you send me a form that says it has been determined that school is safe to return to, no, it’s not enough. It’s not enough for me. I want to review the plan. I want to understand the plan. I have questions that I want to ask.” They’re asking me the questions. I mean, they’re good questions. “The school district is going to test. How many tests? How many kids do you have? How many tests? Is that a representative sample? How long is it going to take you to get the test returns? Do you know? Where are you going to find these tests? You don’t have them now. Where are they going to come from? All the information says the test results are coming back slower. You’re going to get them done faster? How?”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:54)
I mean, these are smart people with good questions and you’re talking about my child’s health. Marcia?
Governor, another question about New York City’s school plan. It’s already been called insufficient by your own people, Mr. [inaudible 00:00:25:09], and the unions have threatened to walk, raising many of the issues you’ve raised, from the testing, how fast you can turn it around. They point out that 70,000 kids have no school nurse. I wonder if you can, as Governor, in good conscience approve a plan like that and tell parents, “Hey, send your kids back to school.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:34)
We’re going to approve an infection rate that says, from an infection rate point of view, the environment is safe to open the school. That’s all I’m going to say. I am not saying PS 109 is safe. In the city, I don’t even think the plan speaks to PS 109. And that’s what the teacher, what the parents are going to want to talk about, is PS 109.
So what do you say to the Mayor and to city education officials about the plan they submitted? Because even though you say the environment is safe, you’re, in a sense, putting your own credibility on the line by saying that they should send their kids back to school, but their schools may not be safe and there may not be testing and there may not be a school nurse.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:33)
Well, if there is not… SED is supposed to review that, and the State Department of Health. And if it is clearly on its face not safe, then it won’t be approved. But my point is, Marcia, I don’t care what any bureaucrat says. I trust the parents more than anyone. And I don’t care if a school district says reopen. If they don’t have a good plan for reopening, no kids are going to come and no teachers are going to come, so then you have no reopening, so you’re talking to yourself.
But you see, in New York City, you have 1800 schools. So when you approve a plan, does that mean you’re approving a plan for all 1800 schools and will parents at PS 109 in Queens and PS 12 in Brooklyn say, “Okay, the Governor said it’s okay.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:23)
Well, where you have a district with multiple schools, they have to address the plan for every school. Now, you’d have to have a uniform plan. You could have a uniform plan for every school. Every school will have 15% of its students tested on a weekly basis. That comes out to 8,000 tests. I’m getting those 8,000 tests from Quest Lab. They’re required. They’re going to be there. By the contract, it says Quest Lab will do the 8,000 tests, the turnaround time will be two days. If the child is positive within two days, that child will be removed for 48 hours. You know, you’re going to need that level of specificity.
So you’re saying there are lots of unanswered questions in New York City’s plan?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:11)
I haven’t seen the city plan. I don’t review the actual plans, but if you don’t have the details for each school, then you don’t have a plan. Because how can a parent make a decision? And it’s not just New York City, you know, it’s any school district. I’m talking to parents all across the state. And the questions I’m giving you are verbatims from parents, right? They’re what you would ask. They’re what I would ask. And, well, we have a additional information? No, we don’t. I’ve been doing these briefings for a lot of days. People know the questions about this issue. We’re not talking about some normal government issue, taxes, budgets, roads. This is their life. They know what they’re talking about.
So just one more question. So there’s 1.1 million students in New York City schools and you have to find a way to test them. How does New York state or New York City have the capacity to test not only the 1.1 million students, but the tens of thousands of teachers and principals who are going to be at those schools as well?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:17)
Great question, and it’s the number one question any parent is going to ask.
What’s the answer?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:23)
What is the representative sample, let’s say the universe is 1.2 million, what does your health department say is a representative sample? You need to test what percent of that 1.2 million to be meaningful on what basis? And then how do you do it? That’s why I’m saying the conversation is going to be all about the details.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (29:44)
Governor, there was a district in Indiana that opened. Day one, a kid is sick, exposes all these kids. Does that change your view on the risks here? Clarify your thinking about how to make sure this is done safely.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
Make sure this is done safe-like.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
It doesn’t, because I don’t think there’s anything unexpected there. I don’t think the Indiana School District is unexpected. I don’t think that Georgia camp is unexpected, that’s why we didn’t open camps. I don’t think the Israel experience with schools is unexpected. We know this point. We knew this six months ago, we knew all of this six months ago. That’s why it’s so frustrating that we’re still talking about this at such a level of ignorance and denial, and we’re so woefully unprepared.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:47)
I mean, I was in Savannah, I was talking to the mayor of St. Petersburg. We still don’t know that we have to do tests and we don’t have that set up? But anyway, you have a large congregation of people, you put them in a place, it’s the New Rochelle super-spreader. It’s the New Rochelle-super spreader. Our first week, one person goes to a congregation, goes to a wedding ceremony, infects dozens. School is no different. So I don’t care what the building looks like. It doesn’t matter. School, church, temple, mosque, cafeteria, restaurant, it’s all the same.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (31:40)
So is there the potential between now and the opening of school, if you see things happening, what you describe, and you say, “I cannot in good conscience, allow schools to open up for now, pull the plug for now, case closed”?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:53)
It would take to one of two things. Either A, the infection rate would have to go up where you knew you were dealing with a highly charged environment, or two, a particular school district wouldn’t have an acceptable plan. I believe the unacceptable plan is going to be determined more by the parents and the teachers. We have 1.1 million students, let’s say, in New York City. Okay, so you have roughly how many parents, 2 to 3 million? You have 2 to 3 million people looking at that plan. They’re going to determine if it’s safe, they’re going to blow the whistle. And then if a school does not have a safe plan, then we wouldn’t allow it to open.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:46)
The problem is you’re not dealing with an absolute. It’s going to be a relative decision. Not opening schools is also highly, highly problematic. You know that you were affecting socialization issues for children. You know that you may be subjecting some children to a dangerous situation at home. You know, you may be aggravating food insecurity, that children can’t eat. You know that you will be aggravating the disparity between wealthier households and poorer households, because remote learning is not an equalizer, it is a separator. It works better where you have two parents at home with a wealthier household that has technology, et cetera. So neither option is perfect. It is a relative decision.
Speaker 2: (33:47)
At this point in the process, are there any districts or regions that are problematic because of their plans or because of the numbers?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:56)
I don’t know that anyone has looked at the plans. Some plans have not come in. Some plans are too top line to actually answer the questions, because these are the questions. If a plan doesn’t answer these questions, the plan is not sufficient. So some plans are in that category. I know they’re talking to districts, many of the districts have said, “Oh, I’ll send more detail,” so we don’t even really have the plans, they sent in a top line, and now they have to send in the actual details. Because the devil is in the details. There’s no top line here. The top line is easy. “I can open the schools, everybody’s going to be safe, I’m going to do testing, I’m going to do cohorting, have a nice day.” But I don’t believe they’ve gotten to the point where they have declined any program. And I don’t believe SED has even started really looking through them. I don’t run SED, it’s a state agency. Everybody thinks I’m responsible, I’m not. The State Education Department is totally separate.
Speaker 3: (35:04)
The Federal transit funding money is still not materializing. Is there a point where did you reconsider a millionaire’s tax or some other?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (35:12)
I’m not going to let Washington off the hook. They have to deliver. They have to deliver. We have federal representatives, we have senators, and we have Congress people. We pay them to pass a piece of legislation that’s going to help New York. And it’s simple. If the legislation is not going to help New York, you know what I say to them? “Don’t pass it. It can’t pass without you. It can’t pass without you. Don’t pass a piece of legislation that doesn’t restore New York’s funds. If you pass a piece of legislation that requires New York to raise taxes, raise a millionaire’s tax in this economic environment in New York City, where we’re struggling…” We used to be worried, millionaire’s tax, people might leave. No, no, no. The burden shifted. We’re trying to get people to come back. We’re trying to get them to come back.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (36:23)
COVID is under control. We’re going to make progress helping the homeless. We’re going to clean up the graffiti. We’re going to fix crime. On top of that, you want to say, “And by the way, when you come back you even get a big tax increase.” Our population, 1% of the population pays 50% of the taxes, and they’re the most mobile people on the globe. I literally talk to people all day long who are now in their Hamptons house, who also lived here, or in their Hudson Valley house, or in their Connecticut weekend house. And I say, “You got to come back. When are you coming back? We’ll go to dinner, I’ll buy you a drink. Come over, I’ll cook.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (37:21)
They’re not coming back right now. And you know what else they’re thinking? If I stay there, they pay a lower income tax, because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge. So that would be a bad place if we had to go there. Senators, Congresspeople: don’t pass a bill that hurts New York again. And by the way, their argument is so easy. The federal government caused the New York state problem. It was the negligence of the federal government. How did they not know the virus went from China to Europe and came to New York? How did they not know that?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (38:10)
Department of Homeland security, CDC, NIH, all these federal agencies, all this taxpayer money, nobody said, “Oh, the virus is in China in December? Maybe it’ll infect someone who gets on a plane.” Nobody thought that? December, January, February, nobody thought in three months that the virus might be traveling? After MERS, after SARS, which also happened in China from a wet market, a poultry market and came to the United States. Nobody thought, “Oh, this might be like every other past viral transmission”? It was the federal negligence. And now they’re not going to pay for the damage they did? Don’t vote for the bill. Don’t vote for the bill. Have a nice day.