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NY Governor Cuomo Holds News Conference On Coronavirus. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:00:53]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you, everyone, for joining me.

I want to take us very quickly to the governor of New York holding a press conference right now following the announcement of new restrictions, really in coordination between New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, with regard to banning gatherings of 50 people or more, and there could be much more. Let's listen in to the governor of New York.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- one set for the entire state and it should be one set of rules for the entire nation. And that is the role of the federal government and national leadership. And it is lacking. The federal government should put one position in place and coordinate it with the states.

If the federal government isn't going to do what it should do, then the states have to try their best, right? And the best way is for me not only to have a uniform policy within the state of New York, but to the extent you can, cooperate with surrounding states so you all have a common set of practices, right?

I don't want to close down bars in New York but Connecticut leaves the bars open. Why? Because then many people will get into their car and they'll drive to Connecticut to go to a bar, which is the last thing we want. Now we have people who are drinking and driving. It makes no sense.

I don't want to have one set of rules here and a different set of rules in New Jersey because then I close down the bars, you'll get in the car, you'll drive to New Jersey. Makes no sense.

Well, then get the states to coordinate themselves. Yes, very hard to do. Luckily, we have set a template where our regional states work together.

Many of you came to our regional meeting on marijuana laws. And I have a good relationship that I've developed with the surrounding governors. So we have actually deployed that here.

And I just did a call with Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey and Governor Ed Lamont of Connecticut, and we are adopting the same policies. So there's no benefit to try to shop New York versus Connecticut versus New Jersey.

There will be no more gatherings of 50-plus people. So if you were hoping to plan a graduation party, you can't do it in the state of New York, you can't go do it in the state of New Jersey, and you can't do it in the state of Connecticut.

Casinos, we all have casinos. If I close my casinos, would New Jersey keep their casinos open? We're going to have the same problem. All casinos will be closed effective 8:00 p.m. tonight and they will stay closed until further notice.

On all these closings, they are all until further notice. And hopefully I can coordinate with the other governors so we can have the same opening period just the way we had the same closing period.

Gyms are closed effective 8:00 p.m. tonight. I know that's a specific hardship for the people in this room, because I can all see you're in masterful shape, buff, even. There are other ways to exercise.

Theaters closing at 8:00 tonight until further notice. Any bar or restaurant closes at 8:00 tonight.

[11:05:05]

However, there's a silver lining for these establishments because we're also very aware of the economic consequences for these establishments. So the state liquor authority is going to change its rules. They'll have guidance up by 5:00 p.m. this evening that will allow bars, restaurants, distilleries to sell their products off premises.

So whatever you could order in the bar or restaurant or distillery or winery, you can purchase through takeout. We hope that goes a long way towards alleviating any economic hardship.

Stay home and order from your favorite restaurant, order from your favorite bar, order from your favorite winery, order from whatever establishment that you were thinking of patronizing, just order it and stay at home.

And again, the state liquor authority will change their rules to allow that. It's not currently allowed. We will only allow it during this period of closure. But I think it will help those businesses.

As you know, we've done a lot of work from the wineries and distilleries in New York, and I want to make sure we protect them.

Now everybody is at home, and they're at home with their kids. My kids are a little older, but I remember the old days when you're in the house with young kids, the house can get very small very quickly. The kids can get very rambunctious very quickly.

We're going to waive all park fees in all state parks, local parks, county parks. So if you want to get out of the house, great. Go to the park. The weather is changing. Take a walk, enjoy, enjoy your family, and do it in an environment that is not a dense environment, which is exactly what the parks provide.

Other actions, all local governments must reduce their work force by 50 percent minimum. I'm directing all local governments to allow their non-essential personnel to stay home, work from home with a 50 percent minimum. Local government can go higher than 50 percent, but it must be a 50 percent minimum. Work from home.

Which is the same thing I'm asking private businesses. If we can ask private businesses to do that, government, I think, leads by example. So not just for New York state government, which will do this also, all local governments, non-essential people work from home and a minimum of 50 percent of the work force must stay at home.

Second, I'm directing local governments to make sure that all their local police departments and emergency management services are supplied with masks, surgical masks.

You have police officers who are encountering people in all different circumstances. EMS workers who traditionally wear masks, police officers who traditionally do not.

But I was at the New Rochelle drive-through testing center the other day. You know, if you're a police officer, you're walking up to a car, you're stopping a driver, they roll down the window. By definition, you're within more than six feet. You don't know who you're talking to. People are positive who don't even know that they're positive.

I want all the police officers who are showing -- all first responders are showing great courage getting up and going out and doing their job every day. I want them to know that we understand the situation they're putting themselves in, and we're providing the necessary precautions.

So every local government must provide their local police department, EMS workers with masks.

[11:10:05]

New York City, Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland, must have childcare and education services and meal programs in place by midnight. We've said that those schools will be closing. But we need to take care of the negative, the downside of closing the school.

This is not an easy decision. There are negatives when you close a school. Most notably, you don't have childcare for essential personnel. You don't have childcare for health care workers.

Remember, remember, please, the greatest challenge and the greatest damage is going to be done by an overwhelmed health care system. Nurses, health care workers, 1199 members, don't have alternatives to childcare.

Public education is also this state's childcare system. It's this nation's childcare system. And it's not that easy to say, well, let them get a babysitter. They can't afford it. It's hard to find. And we would have created a true negative situation if we lost health care workers or first responders because we closed schools and they had to stay home with their children.

This is solved easily enough. You're closing schools, don't close all the schools. Leave a couple of schools open or parts of schools open to provide childcare for the essential personnel.

We also have to have meal programs and meal services in place and educational services in place. On that condition, I ordered the schools closed. But it's on that condition. And I want those plans, and I want them in place by midnight, and they have to be approved.

We strongly advise that only services and businesses that are essential stay open after 8:00 p.m. Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, medical facilities. We want people home. We want less density.

We strongly advise this. This is not mandatory but it is strongly advised. And it's not mandatory at this time. And it may be in the future, but it is strongly advised at this time.

Testing, we have had a phenomenal increase in testing. We've been able to use our laboratories. Our emergency management team has done a very good job of reaching out to our state labs, getting them on track, getting them coordinated.

Our testing numbers are way up, as you'll see. Next week -- by the end of this week, we think we'll be up to about 7,000 tests per day, which is an exponential increase of what we have done.

I made this suggestion to the vice president. I made it to the president. I often tell you when I am unhappy with the federal response to this state. Fairness dictates that kudos where kudos are due, and here the vice president and the president responded very quickly. So I want to thank them for that.

We started a drive-through testing facility in New Rochelle, Westchester, where we have one of the highest clusters. It's one of the first in the United States, I believe the first on the eastern seaboard. It has worked very well.

It's safe for everyone. You drive up in your car, you never get out of your car, you're tested in your vehicle. They take the test kits back. The time that it takes to take the test is actually faster than we thought. It doesn't normally happen in government. We allotted 15 minutes per car. It's actually running ahead of that schedule.

We want to replicate that because it's just smart. The worst thing is a person walking into an emergency room. If you are positive, you infect other people. If you are negative, you may get infected by walking into the emergency room. So this is the best way to test someone.

[11:15:11] We said we were going to open one on Long Island after the positive New Rochelle experience. We're also going to open one on Staten Island. Staten Island does not have an abundance of hospitals. Staten Island is a community where people drive. And Staten Island, I believe, is an appropriate location for this.

I also think that Staten Island feels that they have not gotten the level of attention of health services that they need. And I've spoken to Max Rose, I've spoken to Senator Andrew Lanza, and I believe this is going to make a difference.

We'll also open one in Rockland County on the same theory.

We're going to a new phase in this entire process. We talked about early detection. We've talked about testing, we talked about containment. We see those numbers are going up. That means you're moving towards a mitigation phase, and you're moving to a phase where you must expect a significant inflow into the hospital health care system.

Now, again, this is the great curve they talk about, plus or minus. Flatten the curve, flatten the curve, flatten the curve. That's what you hear every day on TV. You see this curve. We must flatten the curve.

The concept is right. Flatten the curve, slow the spread so the health care system can handle it.

When they say this, I don't think of a curve. I think of a wave. And the wave is going to break and the wave is going to break on the hospital system.

We're doing everything we can to flatten the curve. I believe we've taken more dramatic actions than any state in the United States. I believe we've had the most effective response than any state in the United States.

I don't believe we're going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the health care system.

So in this business, plan ahead. Plan forward. Anticipate what's coming down the road and get ready for it.

Expanding the capacity of the health care system. For a state, it's virtually impossible. Building a hospital is a very elaborate, extensive, expensive undertaking.

Again, we need the federal government to play its role. The federal government has tremendous capacity.

I was in the federal government. I was a cabinet secretary. I worked with the military. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers. They have tremendous capacity.

This is what they do. This is what they do. They build airports, they build bridges, they build hospitals. This is exactly what they do. Deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to come work with states to build

temporary medical facilities. Get us backup beds, so when the hospital is overwhelmed, we can have some of the people who are in the hospital beds go to a backup medical facility. It makes all the sense in the world.

And if you don't do it, you know what is going to happen. You're going to overwhelm the hospitals.

You only have 53,000 hospital beds. You only have 3,000 ICU beds. Why? Because our health system is basically a private system. They don't build capacity that they don't need. They don't build extra ICU beds just in case. An intensive care bed is very expensive.

They don't build the wing of ICU beds that sit vacant for 10 years on the off chance that there's going to be a public health emergency and you'll need the beds. They don't. It's not economic. It's not a good business model. So we don't have them. We have the capacity that people use day in and day out.

[11:20:93]

And that's not just New York, that's every state in the United States. You now have this influx you can't handle it. You overwhelm the hospitals. You have people on gurneys in hallways. That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing. That is what is going to happen now if we do nothing. And that, my friends, will be a tragedy.

We know what lies ahead. Look at the numbers from China, South Korea and Italy. You don't have to guess. You just have to project. The numbers are on a chart.

Our numbers are on a chart. Just extend the current trajectory. Just go dot, dot, dot, dot, and you'll see the numbers rise, and you compare those numbers to our hospital capacity, and it's still math at the end of the day. And it doesn't work. The federal government must do this.

Assume the federal government doesn't do what the federal government is supposed to do, which would not be a wild assumption, as it hasn't happened to date. Well, then, as a fallback, the states have to do whatever they have to do. And the state has to mobilize to create backup medical facilities. And that is what we are going to do.

We're going to organize the National Guard, the work with the building unions and work with private developers to find existing facilities that could most easily be adapted to medical facilities. Meaning what? Meaning dormitories, meaning former nursing homes, facilities that have that basic configuration that could be retrofit.

Even that is not easy because you have the construction element and you also have the equipment element. It is very, very hard to get medical equipment now, because everybody on the globe is trying to buy the same medical equipment.

Everybody wants to buy a ventilator. Everybody wants to buy oxygen. Everybody is trying to buy the same equipment, and it's terribly scarce.

That's why I go back again to the capacity of the federal government, which operates and maintains a medical emergency stock where they have stocked medical equipment for domestic issues or for wartime, right?

When you go to war and they set up a wartime hospital, they have equipment. They have it stockpiled. That's why they're uniquely suited to do this. But in any event, we're going to do the best we can.

I need, first and foremost, to find available facilities that can be converted. And I'm asking local governments, especially in the most- dense area, to immediately identify a number of beds in facilities that are available.

Frankly, I hope there's surplus because we don't have -- this is very expensive and I don't want to pay money for acquisition of property and real estate. But we need the communities that are most effective to begin finding available beds.

New York City, we estimate conservatively. We, at this point, should identify five thousand additional beds. Nassau 1,000 additional beds, Suffolk 1,000 additional beds, Westchester, 2,000 additional beds.

Why more for Westchester? Westchester has the New Rochelle cluster, which, as you know, has a sufficient number of people who tested positive.

We will do everything we can. But we need federal assets, and we need federal assistance.

I am very proud of this state government and what it can do. And we have done things that no state government has done before. We built bridges, we build airports, we respond to emergencies.

[11:25:09]

But know what you can't do. We don't have the billions of dollars that you would need to implement an immediate emergency hospital construction program. This state can't do it. No state can do it.

To increase hospital capacity of the existing hospitals, in the meantime, DOH is going to be suspending its regulations to allow existing hospitals to increase their space and capacity.

DOH has regulations about how many beds per room, how much space between beds, et cetera, how wide a hallway has to be. Those are going to be suspended so hospitals can actually use their physical space with more efficiency.

We're leaving it up to the hospitals for their discretion and prudence in making these decisions. But we do have to get very aggressive about them better using their existing space.

I want the private hospitals to be on notice that we may soon be cancelling elective surgery. We are not doing it now. Elective surgery is between 25 and 35 percent of the beds. Some of the elective surgery is critical. Some is not critical. The noncritical elective surgery may be canceled on a mandatory basis.

I'm asking them now, as a precaution, to start to plan to cancel elective surgery that is not necessary. We will need that capacity in the hospitals when those numbers peak.

Michael Dowling, who was the former health commissioner of the state of New York, a phenomenal fellow. He worked with my father and was in my father's administration. He was health commissioner. He was deputy secretary. He's just a jewel of a human being,

And he's one of the best health care professionals in the United States of America. He runs NorthWell now, which is a magnificent organization.

But Michael and Ken Rasky. Ken Rasky runs the Greater New York Hospital Association. They coordinate all the hospitals.

I asked them to convene all the hospitals and now start developing the maximum surge capacity. So if a hospital's capacity is 500, OK, what if we bring in more beds? How many more beds can you hold? What if we brought in more staff, et cetera?

We also have a number of efforts going on, on finding more staff, more doctors, et cetera. Not just for the surge capacity but also for the additional facilities we may open.

These are the new number of tests. We're up to 7,000 tests, so it's a dramatic increase, 1,600 new tests. What happens when the testing capacity increases? The number of positives increase by definition. So the number of new cases has gone up 221 to 950 cases.

And you can see New York City is increasing. Westchester is still disproportionate to the population of Westchester. That still represents the New Rochelle cluster. Nassau 109, Suffolk 63, Rockland 16, Albany 12, Orange at 11, Dutchess 10, Monroe nine, Ulster seven.

Number of cases, New York City and Westchester, some in Nassau, some in Suffolk. But you'll see the cases rise in the most-dense areas. Because that's where people are transferring the virus among themselves.

Counties with new cases today, Allegheny, Onondaga, Ontario and Wyoming. You see the spread continues.

[11:29:58]

Most impact states in the United States, we're now at 950, number one in the country, 676 for Washington State.