Jul 20, 2020
NY Governor Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript July 20
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on July 20 to share updates on COVID-19. He said the state will have to reverse reopening if there is continued noncompliance. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:04)
Top of the morning to you. Beautiful day in New York City, but hot. Hot, hot, hot, hot. I’m going to flee the heat. I’m going to go to Savannah, Georgia. It may not be that effective. I think everybody knows the people who are joining me. To my left, Jim Malatras, President of SUNY Empire College. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To her right, Robert Mujica, Budget Director.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:33)
I want to thank the team for putting today together. We’re going to be visiting Savannah, Georgia, which I’ll discuss in a moment. I also want to thank JFK Airport and their staff for accommodating us this morning and the Port Authority who’s done an excellent job. I want to thank JetBlue who’s making it possible for us to get to Georgia. We have Billy [Kappalinitis 00:00:56] with us today, and I want to thank him very much for JetBlue’s hospitality. They have been a great friend to New York and a great corporate citizen, so we thank them very much and they stepped up in a big way here today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:10)
Let me tell you where we are. Day 142, but it feels like just yesterday. It’s a day for good news. Our hospitalizations are at the lowest level since March 18th, 716. Great. Number of lives lost to COVID, eight. Again, we don’t want to lose any life and they’re in our thoughts and prayers, but that is a great number relative to where we’ve been. The three-day average is down low. You see the overall curve there, and it’s at about 11. Number of tests yesterday were just under 50,000 tests. It was a Sunday, so the sample is always a little different on a Sunday, but 50,000 tests is an extraordinary number. We still test more than any state in the nation per capita, more than any nation on the globe. What does that mean? It means we’re making informed decisions. We know where we are because we’re taking 50,000 tests. just think about that, every day. 60,000 tests some day.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:18)
The positive rate is about 1%. That’s where we’ve been, so we’re holding steady. We’d like to see it at zero, obviously, but 1% is very good, so that is good news. You look across the regions of the state, we see good news all across the regions. No warning signs or no trouble spots. Same is true in New York City. We have a little take-up in the Bronx that we’ll watch, but Sundays we often tend to get slight deviations, but the progress is all very good. So, we did the impossible as New Yorkers. They really stepped up and conquered the COVID virus. Now we just have to stay there. We have to protect the progress that we have made.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:08)
You see the numbers, you see where we are. Our goal now is to stay there and not let that infection tick up. We are not in a static environment. A lot is going on, so we have to remain vigilant. We have two main threats. The first threat is the number of congregations that we’re seeing across the state, but especially in downstate, primarily of young people. I have talked about this before. We saw it again over the weekend and it is a problem. It is a problem. We know enough about this virus. We know that there are inevitable consequences to our actions. If you have congregations of people they are going to spread the virus.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:03)
Now, many of these congregations tend to be young people, and young people, as a general rule, believe they’re superheroes. I understand. I was a young person once. Just last week. Okay, maybe not last week. “Well, we can’t get sick.” First of all, that’s not a fact. There are facts and then there are wrong pieces of information. You can get sick in your 20s. You can get sick. You can die in your 20s. People have. Even if you live by the theory of you’re a superhero, you will take the virus and you will give it to someone else. Unless you live in a hermetically sealed bubble, that will happen. You will go home and you will transfer it to someone else who will transfer it to someone else, and you could kill someone. So, from an aspect of any social responsibility at all, it’s not just about you. It’s not just about you. It’s about who you could infect and who you could hurt, and it has continued unabated and it’s getting worse. I am telling you it is a problem. It’s not a new problem, but it is growing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:27)
To the partiers who come out, I understand the frustration. I understand you’ve been inside for a long time. I understand you’re young. I understand people like to socialize. I get that it’s the summer. I get that the work environment is not as tough so you have the flexibility to go out. I get all of that. I really do, but I’m telling you it has to stop. I’m telling you in plain New York speak as a born and bred New Yorker, it’s stupid what you’re doing. It is stupid. Well, that’s not a governmentally appropriate word. It’s a true word. Don’t be stupid. That is good advice in life. Take it from a person who’s lived a lot of life, don’t be stupid. What they’re doing is stupid and reckless for themselves and for other people, and it has to stop.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:22)
To the local governments, I have said repeatedly that the local governments are in charge of compliance and enforcement. If young people are going to come out and do something stupid the local governments have to enforce the law. That’s how it works in life and the police department has to enforce the law, and they are not doing it. That is their job and they have to do it. I will tell you what’s going to happen.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:53)
I spoke to a number of restaurant owners yesterday. We’ve had numerous conversations. The bad restaurant and bar owners are going to make it worse for the good ones. Most restaurants and bars are complying. They’re going through a very tough economic situation, but they’re living by the rules. The bad ones who are exploiting the situation and breaking the law, by the way … This is not just morality. They’re breaking the law, are going to make it bad for everyone. The local governments are not doing their job. We cannot allow those congregations to continue. If it happens, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. We’re going to have to roll back the opening plan and we’re going to have to close bars and restaurants. That is what we are going to have to do.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:51)
So, to the local governments I say, look, you don’t want to enforce the law because you think it’s politically unpopular and you don’t want to do something that’s politically unpopular. I’ll tell you what’s-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:03)
… and you don’t want to do something that’s politically unpopular. I’ll tell you what’s more politically unpopular, when you are going to have to explain to the people why we had to close all bars and restaurants. That’s going to be more politically difficult than telling the NYPD to do their job.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:19)
This is not a point of sending out the police department to inform young people to wear a mask. They’ve heard that message. The police department is not there to inform them of mask compliance. Police departments have to enforce the law. They have to enforce the law. That is the only line between anarchy and civilization. They have to enforce the law and they’re not. The bad operators, in terms of restaurants and bars, they are going to make it bad for everyone and for themselves. We will have to roll back the bar and restaurant opening. If the congregations continue, if the local governments don’t stop it, that is what is going to happen. One plus one still equals two. Right? And there is a logical consequence of actions. And that’s where we are. That’s the first threat. Second is, we see the infection rate increasing all across the country. It’s a fact. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. The theory that well, New York is going to be immune from what’s happening everywhere in the country, that does not work. We were not immune from what was happening in China and what was happening in Europe, when the virus went from China to Europe. And then, it came here from Italy, and from France, and from Spain. And the federal government never knew. And that’s how New York at the virus. An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere. That’s the saying that I’m going to put on plaques and give to people. If the virus is going up in the other states, we have a real challenge and a real threat because those people come to New York. We put in place an unprecedented quarantine program. We’re enforcing it. But it’s virtually impossible to enforce with total certainty.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:38)
People take trains. People drive. States don’t have border control agencies. We don’t do border control. When you drive in from another state, you don’t show your passport to anyone. Right? There is no New York passport. We don’t do border control. So, that is a very real threat. And I don’t see it turning around in the rest of the country anytime soon. That as a predicament that we’ll do everything we can to help the other states. And we are. But that is beyond our control. That’s not like the congregations and the partying. Those are the two threats.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:18)
Now, we’re going to go help Savannah today. When we were in the thick of things, and we were in the thick of things, when we had those numbers going through the roof, I sat at a table like this one, and I asked Americans, people all across the country, I said, we needed help. Please come help us. 30,000 health professionals from around the country volunteered to come to New York. 30,000. Think about that. When New York was at its worst point, to come into our emergency rooms, come into our hospitals to fight this dreaded disease. 30,000 people came to help us. I was floored. I was touched. I’ll tell you the truth, I was inspired. You want to talk about courage, and heroism, and love, and generosity, come volunteer to help in a New York City emergency room when COVID is going crazy. 30,000 people say yes. I said that day, we will never forget it. And we will honor it. And we will reciprocate. Those people did not come for me. I just asked on behalf of all New Yorkers. And I know New Yorkers. We don’t forget. We don’t forget. And we live by the same code of generosity, and love, and community. So, we’re doing everything we can now to pay it back. And states and people all across the nation… but not just governments, California gave us ventilators. Oregon gave us ventilators. New England Patriots owner was flying a plane to China from Massachusetts to get PPE. They did us a favor and put PPE on the plane from China for us. I mean, people just did amazing things. I said, when I was younger and healthier looking, when we get past our apex, we will be there for anyone who needs help. And whatever they need, we will be there. I said, I’ll drive personally and provide them with assistance. And again, that was a promise to pay forward that I made on behalf of New Yorkers. And we’re going to honor it. And we are honoring it. We’re sending drugs to Florida. We’ve been working with Atlanta, Georgia on their needs. We’ve been working with Houston, Texas. And we’re going to go to Savannah today.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:13)
The federal government is still in denial about this virus. It still refuses to follow the science. It still thinks it’s going to beat this virus by playing politics. And I’ve said to the president from day one, this virus does not respond to politics. It doesn’t respond to bullying. It doesn’t respond to rhetoric. It doesn’t respond to denial. It is the science. What did we do in New York? We did it as a science. We did it on the numbers. We did it on the data. You’re fighting a virus. The solution is medicine and science. It has nothing to do with the crazy politics of today. Five months later, this country is still totally unprepared to deal with this. I’ve been talking to other states, and mayors, and governors about testing. They still don’t have testing. They still don’t have tracing programs. They still don’t have PPE. It’s like we were on day one of COVID. They’ve done nothing in five months. This is so unnecessary that we are here and we’re seeing these Americans lose their lives. It did not have to be this way. And we’re going to do everything that we can to make it better.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:41)
We’re going to meet with Mayor Van Johnson and his team today. I’ve been speaking with the mayor. And we’ll be in Savannah, Georgia. We’ll tell them about what we did. We’ll help them with testing programs, tracing programs. We’re going to bring thousands of pieces of PPE. And, whatever they need from us, they’re going to get, because we are New York tough, which is smart, and united, and-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:03)
… because we are New York tough, which is smart, and united, and disciplined, and today’s about the last word. We are loving. Thank you, America, for what you did for us, and we won’t forget, and we’ll be there for you when you need it, and today is one of those days when you need it. Questions?
Speaker 1: (16:20)
Governor, are you going to quarantine when you return from Georgia [crosstalk 00:00:23]?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:22)
Speaker 1: (16:24)
You just spent 20 minutes talking about following the law.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:27)
What does the law say?
Speaker 1: (16:28)
The law says you must quarantine for 14-
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:28)
No, it does not.
Speaker 1: (16:28)
What does the law say?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:31)
What does the law say? Read the law. It says unless you’re an essential worker, bing, bing, bing. But I will take the test when I get back.
Speaker 2: (16:38)
It also says that if you are passing through a state for less than 24 hours, the quarantine doesn’t apply.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:44)
Got to read the law. Even if you’re a reporter.
Speaker 3: (16:47)
Why Savannah and why do you feel compelled to go? Is it just a publicity stunt?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:56)
I compelled to feel compelled to go, because I know a little bit about this. I’ve been in the midst of it. I think I have a value added and because I represent the people of New York. And it’s not me who’s going, it’s the people of New York who are helping Houston and Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. And any place that needs assistance, we will be there. We are in a position to help where we are now. Our numbers are down low. We have the medical staff, we have the equipment, we have the ventilators, and we have knowledge of how to do this. And I will go anywhere in the country that needs help.
Speaker 3: (17:42)
But if it’s not about you, you can send the supplies. Why are you going?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:47)
No, it’s not just supplies. It’s supplies and talking to their team about what they need to do now, how do you set up a testing organization? How do you set up a tracing organization? How do you handle hospital capacity? If your hospital system is going to get overwhelmed, which many of them are right now, how do you handle that? I know a little bit about that. I’ve been doing it for… I probably have more experience in addressing it than anyone in the country, right? On the ground. So however we can help, I will be there. By the way, it’s not just during COVID. When the people of Puerto Rico needed help with Hurricane Maria, New Yorkers were there and I go representing all New Yorkers.
Speaker 4: (18:35)
Governor, what do you say to the doubters or the people that say, oh, New York has reached herd immunity and we don’t have to do anything more.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:44)
Yeah. They’re wrong. Because again, the way there is a law and you have to read the law, herd immunity is a question of fact. What percent of the population has been infected and is that percent so high that it’s herd immunity. We’re nowhere near herd immunity in New York, nowhere near. We’re at about 20% in New York City, which is probably the highest in the state. To get the herd immunity, you have to be 50%, 60%, 70%. Is that right, Jim?
That’s correct. And there’s a question of whether the immunity really exists anyway, right? The scientific community has not said definitively that that actually exists, that we’re taking every precaution to keep the infection rate low.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:32)
By the way, there were countries that started this COVID situation on the theory of let it go, develop herd immunity. The countries that started with that theory did a 180 degrees.
Speaker 5: (19:49)
Regarding the first danger you were talking about, how many complaints has the SLA gotten? How many citations have they issued? Have there been any hearings or penalties issued?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:58)
They have issued dozens. I can get you the number. They have issued dozens, but this is the issue. The State Liquor Authority has 30 investigators for the State of New York. The way the State Liquor Authority works is the local entities find an issue because they are doing the local enforcement. So the local NYPD finds it violation. They call the SLA. The local public health department finds a violation. They call the State Liquor Authority. That’s how it works. So the State Liquor Authority does not have enough investigators to do the entire State of New York. You’re not going to cover the State of New York with 30 investigators. That was never the intention. It’s the local government that is doing the enforcement. The ultimate sanction is you call the State Liquor Authority to possibly revoke the license of the bar or the restaurant, which is the ultimate sanction, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:03)
The local government can give them a health citation. The local government can give them a sanitary citation. But if the local government really wants to get aggressive, then they call the State Liquor Authority and say, I’m forwarding you this complaint. I think you should close them down. We cannot do this level of enforcement without the local governments and the local police departments. We need them.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:32)
And part of this is it gets complicated, because part of these congregations, you have more violations of the open container law than anything else, right? The bar owner will say, I don’t even know those people. they didn’t buy their alcohol here, but they are standing on a street or on a sidewalk. And they’re drinking an alcoholic beverage. That’s a violation of the open container law. That has to be enforced. And then the question is, did they get it from that bar? And if you can stop the source, that’s obviously the best, but we need the local governments to do the enforcement. And look, I’m not saying it’s not hard. I get it. There’s 500 kids, they don’t want to go in there. And the State Liquor Authority has been much more aggressive. And we’ve added investigators to the State Liquor Authority. The Department of Health on the state side has more investigators and they have done dozens of citations, but that is not enough. You can’t do this without the local government or police.
Speaker 6: (22:45)
Few weeks ago, you expressed your concerns over interstate commerce, as it related to a COVID-19 rebound in New York. What would you suggest to the federal government, or rather, what would you do if it were within your powers to safeguard [inaudible 00:23:00] cross border transmissions?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:02)
Look, we have put in place a quarantine. I don’t believe the State of New York has ever done this before. We’ve put together an enforcement mechanism for the quarantine procedure, but we actually have police in an airport now. You get off the plane, you have to fill out a form as to where you’re going, so we can follow up on the quarantine. If you don’t fill out that form, it’s illegal for you to leave the airport. These are drastic measures that were inconceivable before this. I don’t believe there’s anything else we can do as a state. The problem is you have it increasing now in 40 states across the nation. How do you keep the virus in 40 states coming from New York? We now have people coming to New York, fleeing the other states.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:03)
People coming to New York fleeing the other states, because it’s the quote unquote, “Safe state.” So we have people coming here just for the purpose of fleeing the virus in their state. Really, the only answer is, those other states have to get the virus under control. And the federal government has been incompetent on this situation. The federal government has been in denial on this situation. The federal government has pressured these other states to reopen recklessly, which they did. President, “Liberate, liberate, liberate.” All the protests against New York. How many times did I get into confrontations with protesters? President Trump says you should reopen the economy. I said, “If I reopen the economy recklessly, all it’s going to do is increase the virus. And if the virus goes up, the economy is going to have to close back down. No, no, no.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:04)
Which is exactly what happened to these other states. Their mistake was they listened to the president and also the mistake the nation made was, this happened five months ago. How can you still not have a testing program?
Speaker 6: (25:20)
But sorry, but I believe you specifically referenced interstate commerce in as far as, what I would presume, truck drivers driving across the state lines and such or other people, that, which is required of their job, is they’re traveling across the nation. So that’s what I’m referencing, and I thought that’s what you were referencing too at the time.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:40)
Yeah. The main way people come into this state is through the airports. That’s 90% of everybody who comes into the state. We do not have a mechanism to get to people who may be driving into the state or passing through the state. We don’t have an enforcement mechanism for that.
Speaker 7: (26:03)
You talk about potential roll back. Do you have a timeframe if you don’t get this under control?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:09)
No. I’m talking about bars and restaurants are the problem. Bars and restaurants are the problem. And it doesn’t need to be, because it’s not just the bars and the restaurants. You have 700 people in some locations over the weekend. 700 people drinking in a public place, violating the open container law. I mean, give me a break.
Speaker 7: (26:33)
Did you say, “I give you another week. Get it under control or else.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:39)
Look, I have been talking about this for how many weeks? How many times have I made the same point? Two weeks, three weeks, four weeks this has been going on? I’m telling you what we’re right on the line. We are right on the line, because we have that dual threat. You have those other states with the virus increasing, that’s pressuring us, and you have these congregations that, by definition, have to be increasing the viral spread. And with both of those pressures pressuring our progress and our status, I’m telling, it’s math. It’s going to have an effect.
Speaker 8: (27:24)
Do you believe Mayor de Blasio is effectively to blame for not being strict enough in regard to this weekend with the bars and the problem we’re talking about here?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:33)
It is a problem in New York City. It’s a problem in places on long Island. It’s a problem in places upstate. You know very well where the congregations were because God blesss social media, you don’t have to guess, they’re on social media and they’re on TV news and they’ve been written about in the newspapers. So you know where they are. I wish it was as simple as just Queens or just Brooklyn. It’s been in a number of places in New York City and other locations in the state. So you know where those occurrences have been. We’ve had a high frequency in New York City, and it’s not a question. You had police in a Astoria, they showed up, but it’s not just showing up and watching. The crowd has to be dispersed. It’s violating the law, period.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (28:36)
I’m going to jump on the plane. Thank you guys.