Jul 24, 2020
NY Governor Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript July 24
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on July 24 to share updates on COVID-19. He called for an investigation of the DHS for New York’s ban from the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP). Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (00:01)
My captain mask, somebody sent it to me. Wear it in honor of captain. Captain Is having a difficult time with COVID also pack disruption. Do you know what pack disruption is? Dog has a sense of a pack and all of a sudden other people come into the home and now the pack is disrupted. It’s a very real issue that we’re dealing with. To my right everybody knows Kelly Cummings, director of state operations. To my left everybody knows Beth Garvey, special counsel to me.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (00:34)
Today is day 146 in beautiful Albany. It is all good news today, 650 hospitalizations. 650 hospitalizations is about 56 lower than yesterday. It is the lowest since March 18th. So this is really good news and exciting news. Good news for a Friday. 156 total ICU’s, that’s the lowest number of people we’ve had in an ICU since March 16th. So that is all really good news. Number of deaths nine. When anyone dies, it’s not a good day. We want to get to a point where nobody dies in the state of New York, as impossible as that would be. But our thoughts and prayers are with the nine people who passed away. But that is also very, very good news compared to where we were. Infection rate, 76,000 tests taken yesterday 0.9% positive. So that is also very good news.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (01:42)
So on this Friday, there’s going to be a lot to celebrate this weekend. Not that this weekend is much different than during the week. We look across the regions of the state. It is all good news, no issues. You see a little slight fluctuation, but you always see a slight fluctuation in the numbers. Looks across New York city, same thing, slight fluctuation, but all good news.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (02:11)
We are very proud of what New Yorkers have done. We’re now protecting our progress. Right? We just want to make sure we don’t have a second wave, or we don’t have a ricochet where the virus comes from other states, or we don’t have an increase from young people who are congregating. We went up the mountain, we went down to mountain, New Yorkers flattened the curve, but we don’t want to do it again. Right? One and done. Thank you. But no thank you. We don’t want to go through it again.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (02:47)
One of the things we’re watching are the bar and restaurant violations and the congregations in front of bars and restaurants. We believe that’s connected to the increase in the number of young people. The infection rate among the number of young people, 21 to 30. It went from nine to 13, so we’re watching that. I’ve asked local governments repeatedly to step up and do the enforcement. That’s what they’re supposed to do, enforce the law. They’re not enforcing it aggressively enough. I said the state liquor authority and the state police would help and we are doing just that. Yesterday, they went out last night through primarily the downstate area, Manhattan, Long Island, Queens, Astoria, Rockefeller Center, Baldwin, Jackson Heights, Lower East Eide. They found a number of violations. They’re issuing violations, the 37 establishments today. So they’re doing their job. They’re doing it aggressively.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (03:55)
But again, the state police and the SLA are not going to be enough. Local government step up and do your job. And NYPD do your job, Nassau County Police do your job, Suffolk County Police do your job, Erie County, the same thing. SLA and state police will continue and they’re there to work hand in hand with the local governments.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (04:20)
Something happened yesterday that was actually very troubling. And it’s something you’re aware of. I just want to bring it back and give you the context. Yesterday, this is on the Trusted Traveler Program, and this has been going on for six months. When I was a young man, I was very anxious to cut to the chase and see wrongs righted quickly. You get a little older, you realize sometimes things have to play out before the truth will out. But ultimately I believe the truth will out. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Lancelot, but that’s Shakespeare. Yesterday, two o’clock in the afternoon Department of Homeland Security issues a statement that they are dropping their opposition to our lawsuit. We had sued the Department of Homeland Security for stopping the Trusted Traveler Program, if you remember. Yesterday, two o’clock Department of Homeland Security drops the lawsuit. And they drop the lawsuit and they say, “Well, because New York amended the Green Light Law, so now there’s information sharing. So we’re dropping the lawsuit.” Came out of the blue.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (05:53)
I do a statement in response to their dropping it saying basically, ” I’m glad it’s over.” Later in the day, the Department of Justice files court papers saying they’re dropping the lawsuit because revelations have come to light suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security’s position was not truthful. Department of Homeland Security made a startling revelation yesterday late afternoon. New York State was not the only state to have a green light law. And as there were other states that also had the Green Light Law, there was nothing unique about New York to justify their punitive action against New York because there were other states that had also passed the Green Light Law. It is impossible that the Department of Homeland Security, I just figured that out yesterday afternoon. It’s impossible because I have said it 480 times. Everybody knew there were other states with Green Light Laws. It has been written about in a number of papers.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (07:23)
What happened yesterday is they got caught. They got caught. That’s what happened yesterday. And today, the Department of justice, the Southern District said, “I’m not going to advance a lawsuit with false representations.” Okay? That was yesterday. So now let’s go back just to review this. You remember the Trusted Traveler Program. January, February, President Trump does the State of the State, State of the Union. State of the Union address. President Trump makes a point of saying he’s going to be very aggressive on the issue of immigration. And that New York sanctuary policies got in the way of ICE doing their work. All right? That’s in the State of the Union. Okay?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (08:20)
Same day, Chad Wolf Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security goes on TV, Fox News and says, ” New York’s Green Light Law, compromises, Customs and Border Patrol’s ability to do their job and therefore they’re canceling the Trusted Traveler Program. Okay? Same night as the State of the Union Address. Next day, we get a letter from the Trump Administration saying the Trusted Traveler Program no longer will be eligible for people of the state of New York, 200,000 people who use Trusted Traveler Program. Trusted Traveler program allows a person to get pre-clearance.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (09:03)
Trusted Traveler Program allows a person to get pre-clearance on border checks. So Trusted Traveler Program, you show up at the Department of Homeland Security, you have an in-person interview, you show all your papers, you show your passports. They certify you that you are a citizen and then when you come across the border you show your certification. It frees up you from having to go wait online going through that customs and border check every time you come in. It’s better for customs and border patrol because they get a full check. It speeds the line, et cetera.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (09:42)
So February 5, they say New York is out of the Trusted Traveler Program. February 10, a DHS memo gets leaked. BuzzFeed runs a leaked DHS memo. The memo from DHS says the Trump administration drafted a number of options to penalize states and politically make the point that they’re aggressive on immigration and other states aren’t. The plans include retaliation measures against states that limit access to records such as cutting the TSA pre-check which is exactly what the Trusted Traveler Program is. That’s a DHS memo.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (10:36)
I say it is political extortion. We disagree with their position on driver’s licenses for undocumented people which we do. Because we disagree, we’re going to revoke participation in a program called Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program. That is what I said and now we know that is what they did. I also said, “By the way, 15 other states in the United States have the same program. If 15 other states have the same green light program, why just New York? There are Republican states that have the green light program. Why would you just eliminate Trusted Traveler Program for New York when 15 other states have the same law?” I said, “There are more than a dozen states.” So more than a dozen, about 15, also have Washington, D.C. in there and we count as one of the states. There are more than a dozen states including red states with similar laws, but President Trump and his enablers are once again taking aim at New York’s economy.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (11:55)
We knew there were other states that had the same law. I then said, “They disagree with our green light law. Many other states have it, but it triggers the immigration debate they’re so fond of having.” Polarization, et cetera. Their chairman of the congressional committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, said it is clearly a blatant attempt by the White House to score political points and perpetuate a partisan fight with New York elected officials. February 6. February 12, I called their bluff. I said is your issue really our green light law? Is that why you took away Trusted Travel Program? I’ll tell you what. Anyone who applies for the Trusted Traveler Program, I will make available all the DMV data. If that’s what you say it is, I’ll do it.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (12:57)
February 13, we had a meeting in the White House with the president, with Wolf and his cohort Cuccinelli and I said, “I will pass the law that will ostensibly address their issue.” We can’t give you the Trusted Traveler Program because you won’t give us DMV information. Okay, you got it. That’s your issue? I’ll do it. You have it. April, we passed that law in the budget. If a person applies to the Trusted Traveler Program, I would give the DMV data. That was the only apparent rationale they had. You know what has happened since April? Nothing. Nothing. They have done absolutely nothing since April. It has been six months since they started this political exploitation of New York. It’s been six months since they clearly had no basis whatsoever to do this.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (14:13)
What they said yesterday in dropping the lawsuit was, “There are other states that also had green light laws. There are other states that also had green light laws.” We knew that and I’ve said that and I said it to them and I’ve said it publicly and it’s no secret that 15 states have green light laws. You just realized that yesterday? You just realized the state of the laws in this country yesterday? Is that at all plausible? Is that at all credible? You just realized yesterday that New York isn’t the only state that had green light laws. Why didn’t you look at the law? Why didn’t you listen to Andrew Cuomo when he said 11 times there are other states that have green light laws? You are the Department of Homeland Security. Is it plausible that you didn’t know what the laws were in this nation? No. They got caught. It was all politics all the time. It was all exploitation all the time and they hurt this state because of it.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (15:39)
You cannot use government for political exploitation. News flash, it’s called government. You can’t play politics with government. You can’t use the Department of Justice as a political tool. You can’t use the Department of Homeland Security as a political tool. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s not just not right and unethical and immoral, it’s illegal. It’s illegal. I was a federal cabinet secretary. I was attorney general of the state of New York. It is illegal what they did and I believe it violates Acting Secretary Wolf and Acting Deputy Cuccinelli, they violated their oath of office. Nowhere in your oath of office does it say you can use government resources to advance political purposes.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (16:51)
Six months, you filed court papers, making representations that this was a bonafide act by the federal government and now yesterday you say we had no idea that it wasn’t just New York, there were actually other states. I believe Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have possible criminal liability. I believe there is civil liability. It was a clear abuse of government power for political purposes. I called it out as soon as it was done. I called it out in February, I called it out multiple times since then. It was brought to the attention of the highest people in the White House. It continued and it continued and it continued, and it has done significant damage.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (17:50)
Without the Trusted Traveler Program, you know what else happened? The lines at the airports backed up. You know when the lines at the airports backed up in February and March, you know what was going
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (18:03)
Up in February and March, you know what was going on in the airports in February and March? What was going on? It’s when the COVID cases were coming from Europe. That’s when the COVID cases were coming from Europe and they were playing their political games and they backed up the lines of people waiting to get through customs and border patrol in dense areas, in tight quarters, waiting on a line because they were playing politics.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (18:39)
Attorney General Barr heads the department called the Department of Justice. The concept of justice is relevant to the Department of Justice. It’s why the name is Department of Justice. I don’t know that Mr. Barr’s going to go down in the book of the most distinguished attorneys general of the United States, but if you wanted to have a modicum of credibility, you know that this agency played politics. You know that they lied. They’ve admitted that they lied.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (19:18)
Can you allow this blatant, egregious misconduct to go uninvestigated? No. If you can do what he’s done at the Department of Justice, I guess you can let anything go. But this is really egregious.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (19:38)
I also call on Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Nadler and Congressman Bennie Thompson to do a congressional investigation on this issue. It has hurt New Yorkers. It’s hurt our economy. It’s only one in a barrage of political abuses that we’ve endured by this federal government but it’s emblematic and it has to stop and I hope they do their legal duty because there is no, no plausible way, you spent six months. You filed papers. You contested a lawsuit. You inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people and just yesterday, it was revealed to you that there were other states like New York. I believe there are civil damages that New York state is owed and we’ll be pursuing possible claims for that.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (20:52)
On a lighter note, I spoke to the Commissioner of Baseball this morning because we never give up in New York. Never give up. Never give up, never give up. Quote, attributed to Winston Churchill. I don’t believe Winston Churchill really said it, but quote is attributed to Winston Churchill. That’s good enough.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (21:13)
The Toronto Blue Jays, we are still pursuing to play in Buffalo. It’s not done yet, but I had a good conversation with the commissioner this morning. Fingers crossed. Fingers crossed. Maybe we get the Toronto blue Jays in Buffalo after all and we didn’t give up because we are New York tough, smart, united, disciplined, and loving.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (21:40)
Speaker 1: (21:40)
What about the legal battle over the 58 [case 00:21:45] and the union’s push to keep records secret? You and lawmakers, it seemed pretty confident that the law is protected officers privacy. Should the law be change?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (21:54)
No, we passed the law. It’s now being litigated. We’ll see what the courts do. Jesse.
What sort of legal action could the state take to redress this issue with DHS? When you say you want to get some sort of compensation, what are you looking at?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (22:09)
I think it goes on a number of levels. Number one, Department of Justice should do an investigation. They filed lawsuits. When you file a lawsuit, you have to make a representation to the court and they represented to the court that they had a bonafide reason to stop New York because New York was going to do a unique harm. New York was unique, was their point. So I think the Department of Justice should investigate that. I think that Congress should investigate it because they lied and they did a lot of damage. There’s also a possibility of New York seeking civil damages for this wrongful act by the federal officials.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (22:54)
We have to figure out how we would quantify the damages and we’re talking now to ESD. You backed up commerce at our borders, Trusted Traveler Program was for people coming in at airports. It was also for commercial truckers and you backed up commerce coming into our state for six months at border crossings. It hurt new Yorkers who would be traveling. It cost the port authority more money to run the airports and administer the airports. It is at the exact same time that we know COVID is coming in on European flights and now you pack people into waiting rooms and on lines who didn’t need to be on the line because you were playing politics.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (23:49)
How do you quantify that? So this is just yesterday, right? So we just started on it today.
But are you basically suggesting that that action by DHS, that slowed down TTP, that that contributed to the spread of COVID in New York?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (24:02)
I’m saying it’s a possible. First, the federal government is total liability for COVID coming to New York. The virus went from China to Europe and then from Europe to New York.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (24:18)
How did that happen? How did that happen? Where were all the international health officials? Where was the CDC? Where was DHS? Where was this whole alphabet soup of federal agencies? How did it not occur to anyone that the virus is in China, in December and January. Where do you think it’s going to be in January, February, March? Oh, the virus is going to wait for us in China. You don’t think somebody in China is going to get infected and get on a plane and go somewhere, which is exactly what happened.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (24:55)
So the whole spread from China to Europe, Europe to New York, where we don’t even know that it was coming from Europe until late March. There’s no European travel ban until mid March. We now know scientists go back and trace the strain. It was coming in February. So that’s all federal liability.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (25:21)
On top of it, you now, during that period of time where it was coming from Europe and you didn’t even know, now you backed up the airports because you were playing political games with this Trusted Traveler Program and how much of a factor was that? I don’t know. How would you quantify it? I don’t know. But that happened, coincidentally, at the same exact period of time.
CDC has just put out guidelines basically saying on another topic that schools should reopen. That they should have the resources. Will that sort of guidance influence your decision, which is do I think in the next couple of weeks on schools in New York?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:03)
I look at the CDC guidance, but my point is very simple. If the virus is under control, open the schools. If the virus is not under control, don’t open the schools,
Speaker 2: (26:15)
Wondering if you’re going to extend the eviction moratorium. I think it’s mid August now.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:20)
If we have to, we will.
Speaker 2: (26:22)
Also both of the budget, is there a hard deadline? Congress is trying to work out something, does it sound like enough right now?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:30)
They say, they say, maybe this month may be the end of August and we can deal with that.
Speaker 3: (26:39)
You’ve got, you’ve gotten a lot of pressure and a lot of suspicion cast on the Department of Health’s independent report or internal report on nursing homes. Why not just appoint an independent investigator to produce their own report and then put it to bed? Why?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (26:55)
Yeah. I don’t believe your characterization is correct. I believe it is a political issue. I think it’s the New York Post.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (27:03)
I believe it is a political issue. I think it’s the New York Post. I think it’s Michael Goodwin. I think it’s Bob McManus. I think it’s FOX TV. I think it is all politically motivated. If anybody looked at the facts, they would know that it was wholly absurd on its face. People died in nursing homes. That’s very unfortunate. Just on the top line, we are number 35th in the nation in percentage of deaths in nursing homes. Go talk to 34 other states first. Go talk to the Republican states now. Florida, Texas, Arizona. Ask them what is happening in nursing homes. It’s all politics. Mark? [Crosstalk 00:27:54].
Speaker 4: (27:54)
[crosstalk 00:27:54] as a follow up, what do you think about the epidemiologist … Governor, can I just get a follow up quickly on this? Sorry. Governor, what do you think about epidemiologists quoted-
[crosstalk 00:28:04] local government officials need to do their job regarding compliance and enforcement. In Sullivan County, the State Health Department’s district office in Monticello is checking on the camps instead of county health officials. Why not let local health departments do their job and not allow the state to usurp the county government’s role?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (28:23)
I don’t know that we usurp their role at all. Department of Health can do investigations. The local Department of Health can do it also. Right? Do you guys have any idea, Kelly or Beth?
[inaudible 00:28:40] They’re saying we’re just a resource, an educational resource. County Health Department is not doing it because they say the state’s doing it and they say why should we-
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (28:50)
The county’s saying they’re not doing it because the state is doing it?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (28:54)
Well, the county has primary responsibility.
Oh. Okay. They’re saying why should the two people, two departments do the same thing.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (29:03)
The State Health Department does not have the resources to do every health facility in the state.
Well, in Monticello, they’re doing the summer camps. They’re inspecting the summer camps and doing enforcement and compliance.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (29:18)
Well, I have to check that. I don’t know, Mark. I will check.
[crosstalk 00:00:29:23]. New York overnight camps have opened up in Pennsylvania and Poconos and in New Hampshire, two states not under the warranty rules. It seems those New York campers will be coming back to our state with the possible contagion you fear and based on your reason for not opening in New York. Is there an unintended consequence to your ruling for not opening overnight camps in New York?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (29:45)
Well, if they come back, they’re subject to the quarantine rules.
Even though they’re not-
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (29:52)
Oh yeah. You come back from the state, if you were in camp at a state that is under the quarantine rules, you’re quarantined when you come back.
New Hampshire and Pennsylvania’s not.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (30:07)
If you’re not, if the state is not on the quarantine list, then you’re not quarantined. But then in all likelihood, you’re coming from a state that doesn’t have that rampant an infection problem. [crosstalk 00:30:23]
Speaker 5: (30:23)
Governor, the Canadian government and said no to the Blue Jays playing there. The state of Pennsylvania said no. It seems the state of Maryland may be raising concerns too. Why is New York comfortable with it when all of those other regulators said now?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (30:35)
We believe that Major League Baseball can play on a fanless basis. We had the Yankees and Mets do their spring training camp here, which I think was very cool. I think we want people to stay home. I think giving them sports to watch on TV actually is a good thing, not a bad thing. Working with the Department of Health, I think we can come up with protocols that keeps people safe and we’ve done that. And if we can get Toronto playing here, I say great. We have the protocols in place. It will be done safely. But the horse is out of the barn on this one. Major League Baseball is going to play. They’re going to play all across the nation fanless. If it’s going to happen, I’d rather it happen here. That’s good for Buffalo.
Speaker 5: (31:29)
Do you intend on throwing a first pitch this year?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (31:30)
I intend on doing a lot of things this year.
Speaker 6: (31:34)
There was legislature earlier this year passing legal immunity law for hospitals and nursing homes. Can you kind of take me through your thought process on approving that legislation and why was the Greater New York Hospital Association allowed to write that into law?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (31:50)
I don’t believe Greater New York wrote any measure into law. You’re talking about the law that passed yesterday?
Speaker 6: (31:55)
No, I’m talking about the law that passed back during the budget. They said on their website that they had ” drafted and aggressively advocated for the bill.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (32:04)
Yeah. Well, that’s different than saying they wrote the law. They had a legitimate concern, all hospitals did. They’re in COVID. We were asking them to increase capacity 50% overnight. We were asking them to share staff, share resources, and everybody was doing extraordinary work. And they just wanted to make sure that we were doing things never done before that they didn’t have liability because of it. The law passed yesterday is consistent with that because it says you can be liable for negligence outside of the COVID circumstance. Just because we’re dealing with COVID doesn’t excuse negligence or liability on something having nothing to do with COVID. I break my leg, I go into the doctor’s office and they set the wrong leg. You’re liable for that. Had nothing to do with COVID. So I think the two are consistent.
Speaker 6: (33:05)
And [inaudible 00:33:05] political contribution to the Greater New York Hospital Association, having your decision making on-
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:08)
Speaker 4: (33:10)
So Governor, should you have spent more time preparing for COVID? [crosstalk 00:06:13].
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:16)
People who didn’t ask a question, we’ll take two more. Nick, and then you [crosstalk 00:00:33:21].
Speaker 4: (33:21)
Yeah, I think they’re follow up.
Speaker 7: (33:23)
But people didn’t get follow ups.
Speaker 4: (33:23)
Yeah, a couple people talked over [crosstalk 00:33:24].
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:23)
Yeah, you don’t do follow ups and [inaudible 00:06:26]. You’ve got a question, that question is the question. Go ahead, Nick. [crosstalk 00:33:27]
Governor, just a follow up actually on what [inaudible 00:33:30] was talking about with nursing homes. Why not have an independent review of what went on in these nursing homes? Just would there be harm in doing something like that?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (33:39)
No, you could do a lot of reviews and investigations, but you need facts first. You look at the facts in that report. It’s not even close. There’s no factual basis. The timelines don’t even work.
Speaker 4: (33:53)
You’re talking about your own report, that there’s no facts, Governor?
Speaker 7: (33:55)
Can you provide an update on COVID-19 complications in children? We haven’t heard about when symptoms were presenting as Kawasaki disease and all of that, especially as we’re talking about reopening schools, potentially? Why has that conversation kind of fallen by the wayside? And is that still a concern?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (34:10)
Yeah, that’s a good question. I have not done an update on Kawasaki in the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t gotten one. We did not see a dramatic increase in the number of cases, so that was really good news. But I can get you an update. I know that there was no bad news, but I don’t know if there’s anything new beyond that.
Speaker 7: (34:35)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: (34:37)
I don’t believe the numbers went up. I had a quick conversation. The numbers have not gone up, so our anxiety did not increase, but I have to check. I don’t know anything more than that. Okay guys, thank you very much. Thank you guys. Thank you. Thank you very much.