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NYC Governor Cuomo Gives News Conference on Coronavirus. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 11:30   ET



ANDREW CUOMO, (D), NEW YORK GOVERNOR: We also have to make sure those beds are staffed. So, more staff, reserve staff. We're reaching out to retired nurses, retired doctors, nursing schools, medical schools to build up a reserve capacity.

Because also, you have to anticipate that some hospital workers will get sick during this. So you need a reserve capacity for that basis.

How do you create new hospital beds? This is probably the greatest challenge. First, convert facilities and take people who are in current hospital beds and move them into a converted facility, who need a lower level of care.

Second, the federal partnership, which is key. And as we discussed yesterday, the state cannot do this on its own. We don't have the capacity. We don't have a workforce. We're very ambitious. We're very aggressive, but the most important thing in life to know is to know what you cannot do. Know your limitations. We can't build new hospitals in 45 days.

The federal government can be extremely helpful here. And we need the federal government's help.

I had a conversation with the president yesterday. It was an open and honest conversation. We have always had a very good dialogue. Even when we don't agree, we have always had a very good dialogue.

But the president and I agreed yesterday, look, we're fighting the same war. And this is a war. And we're in the same trench. And I have your back, you have my back. And we're going to do everything we can for the people of the state of New York. And the president agreed to that. I agreed to that. And his actions demonstrate that he is doing that.

I have had a number of conversations with White House staff who are working on this. I had a conversation with the secretary of the Army. The president sent the Army Corps of Engineers here this afternoon. I'll be meeting with them this afternoon.

I spoke to the president this morning about specific actions the president is going to take. I can tell you he is fully engaged on trying to help New York. He's being very creative and very energetic. And I thank him for his partnership. As I said, the secretary of defense, they can be very helpful. The

Army Corps of Engineers can be very helpful. And FEMA can be very helpful. And we're speaking with all of them, and we're working with all of them as we speak. And we have been around the clock and all through the night.

So if Commissioner Zucker looks a little tired today, that's why. Young people have no stamina. I like to say.

The president, I spoke to this morning. He's going to be making arrangements to send up this hospital ship, which is called the "U.S. Comfort." It has about 1,000 rooms on it. It has operating rooms. And the president is going to dispatch the "Comfort" to us. It will be in New York City harbor.

This will be an extraordinary step, obviously. But it will -- it's literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity. And the president said that he would dispatch that immediately.

The president also spoke about the mobile hospitals that the federal government has, and where we could set up mobile hospitals, where they come in with a mobile hospital that has a capacity of 200 people, 250 people.

I told the president that we would do everything we need to do to expedite siting of those facilities, and we're talking about a couple of locations now. But that is also specific and concrete help. And something that we can get done within the 45 days.

At the same time -- as I said, we're proceeding on all these tracks simultaneously. Density reduction, we have taken a number of dramatic steps, but I think they are necessary steps. You have seen the curve. We can't handle the number of cases in the health care system at that current rate of spread. We have to get it down. We have taken dramatic steps.

I have said, and I'm going to repeat today, I'm asking all businesses voluntarily, if it is at all possible, work from home. And have your people work from home.

We also have already announced a mandatory requirement that all schools are closed state-wide. A mandatory requirement that no more than 50 percent of any government's employees can show up for work. Essential personnel, yes, but no more than 50 percent of city local governments.


We also have a mandatory requirement, as you know, of a tristate agreement. Pleased to announce that Pennsylvania is going to be joining our state coalition, and that's very exciting. Because none of these measures work unless you have a large enough geographic basis.

It makes no sense for a county to put its own rule into effect or a city to put its own rule into effect because people will just move. If I can't go to a bar in Queens, I'll drive to Nassau and go to a bar. If I can't go to a restaurant in Albany, I'll drive to Schenectady. So the geographic footprint, by definition, is essential for these to work.

Frankly, even if I come up with a rule for the entire state, people will drive to New Jersey or Connecticut or Pennsylvania. And that's why the first ever we have this state-wide coalition.

And I want to thank Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy very much, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who have been great colleagues, and I thank them very much.

Again, I'm asking all businesses to work from home. But today, we're announcing a mandatory state-wide requirement that no business can have more than 50 percent of their workforce report to work outside of their home. No more than 50 percent of the workforce can report for work outside of the home.

That is a mandatory requirement. I'm going to do that by executive order. And that is state-wide.

That will exempt essential services. Meaning, food, food delivery, pharmacies, health care, shipping, supplies, et cetera. Society has to function. People stay at home, people still need to be able to order food, et cetera. They need to be able to shop. So you have to keep those essential services running.

I understand that this is a burden to businesses. I get it. I understand the impact on the economy. But in truth, we're past that point as a nation. There's going to be an impact on the economy. Not just here in New York but all across the country. And we're going to have to deal with that crisis.

But let's deal with one crisis at a time. And let's deal with the crisis at hand. The crisis at hand is a public health crisis. Once we get past that, then we'll deal with the economic crisis.

There's an old Italian expression that basically says, rough translation, a rich person is a person who has their health. Everything else you can figure out.

And that's true for society also. Let's maintain the public health. We'll figure out the economy afterwards.

We have consulted with a number of business organizations. And I want to thank them for their cooperation and their receptivity. The Business Council, the Retail Council, ABNY, the Partnership for New York City, they're the main business groups in this state. They understand the concern and the crisis that we're dealing with, and they're helping communicate the message.

And I thank them for their understanding and for their civic consciousness in this matter.

You can see from the number of cases why we're taking these actions. We are responding to science and data. There's no politics here. The health commissioner and health officials advise us of what we should be doing.

The number of cases is way up. The number of cases is up because we're taking more tests. But the numbers are going up. Hence, the increased actions to reduce the spread, the density reduction.

You see total positive cases, 2300. New positive cases, 1,000. You see the number of counties that now have cases spreading, just as you see it spreading across the United States of America. This is just a metaphor for the entire country.

You see our number of tests has gone way up. We have now tested over 14,000 people. That's a dramatic increase. And again, that's why you see the number of positive cases going up.


We have the highest number of cases in the United States. Again, by a significant margin. We're now about double the next state. I don't know how much of that is due to our increased testing, but we are a more-dense environment. We have more people than Washington State. So science would dictate, mathematics would dictate, you'll have a higher rate of spread.

Current hospitalizations of 549. Again, that is the number we watch because that's the number that are flowing into the health care system. That's the rate of cases flowing into the health care system. And 23 percent. We had 20 percent yesterday. We had 14 percent last week. So the number of hospitalizations is going up.

And again, this is all about the capacity of the health care system. And it always has been.

Again, perspective, perspective, perspective.

I understand the anxiety. I understand the fear. You look at the pictures on television, empty grocery shelves, it's easy to get caught up in the emotion.

But you also have to remember the facts of the situation. Right? And the facts are still very clear. We know what this virus does. We know who it is. We know where it lives. We know what it does to people. It's been tracked since China. And 200,000 cases have been tracked, 8,000 people have passed away, 80,000 have recovered, 113,000 are still pending.

We even know what it's done in the state of New York. Of the numbers we have seen in New York since it started, 108 people have already recovered and been discharged from the hospital.

The first case we had in New York, which was the health care worker and her husband who returned from Iran and tested positive, she never went into a hospital. She was at home quarantined. She has now been recovering at home. She actually took a second coronavirus test and tested negative. OK.

So 39-year-old female. Came home, was at home, was on quarantine, recovered. Two weeks later, tests negative, which means she has resolved the virus in her body. Right. And now tests negative.

And as we have said, 80 percent of the people, that's what will happen. She was never hospitalized. And she resolved two weeks later. That's what people have to keep in mind.

And, look, this is a health issue. It's a public health crisis. But more than that, I'm telling you, worse than the virus is the fear that we're dealing with. And the rumors and how they spread. And I'm going to be quarantined. I'm going to be locked out, they're not going to allow me to leave my House. I better stock up on groceries.

That's not going to happen. Deep breath. We know what is going to happen here. People will get ill. They will resolve. People who are vulnerable, we have to be careful.

But the panic and the fear is wholly disconnected from the reality. The only way I know to communicate it is just what I experience in my own life. And I get those calls every day. And people are just disconnected from the reality of the situation.

One of my sisters called me yesterday. I have to have my daughter tested for coronavirus. Why? She has a fever. She's sick. She has flu- like symptoMs. I said, has she been exposed to someone positive? No, not that we know of. Did she travel to a hot spot? No. I said, then there's no test. And there's no reason for a test. Leave her home. Help her. Be careful that she doesn't infect you. But that's it.

And flu-like symptoms and a couple of weeks she'll feel better and she'll get on with it.


The one thing I said to my sister is don't let her go near mom. That's my mother. My mother is in a different situation. Again, senior citizen. But senior citizens, compromised immune system, underlying illnesses. Don't let her go near mom. Otherwise, treat her as if she has the flu.

Well, what do I do? What is self-quarantine? Self-quarantine is what we used to do when somebody had the flu, right? My father would say, go in the room, stay there until you feel better. Right? That's crude self-quarantine. Don't get infected. Stay away. Throw things away. Use hand sanitizer, et cetera.

That's the reality of the situation. I get the drama. I get the anxiety. But all in moderation and all in Connection with the facts.

Questions, comments?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A few details. The essential services, does that include building supply stores like Home Depot? When does this order take effect?

Then for the doctor, obviously, health care workers are exposed. They're going to get sick. They're going to resolve. If you have been 14 days and you're resolved, do you get to return to the health care workforce?

I guess, Governor, start, maybe.

CUOMO: Jimmy, I'll answer your question, but I forgot one thing.

I want to show you the ventilator. Our main scramble now is for ventilators. And everybody says, well, what are the ventilators? What are the ventilators? This is a respiratory illness. We need ventilators, which will actually -- the ventilators actually help people breathe.

This is the machine you often see in hospitals. It's commonplace in hospitals. It's just the number that we need is much higher.

And any manufacturers of ventilators, this is a national need. Every state across the country needs it. I'm talking to governors all across the state. G.E. makes them. Philips makes them.

But this is the number-one device that we need because we can create more beds but it's literally the supply of ventilators now. And countries all across the globe are all trying to get these devices. So that's a major challenge.

The question on after 14 days if you test negative can you go back to work?

CUOMO: You can go back to work.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then for you, building supply stores and when does this take effect?

CUOMO: We'll have a full list of essential services. I believe -- I don't want to get into any specific business now, but we'll list all the essential services.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, do you have a timetable on how long these restrictions are going to last for parents, small businesses trying to plan?

CUOMO: No, but all of the restrictions are state-wide. They will track the trajectory of the disease. If we get that spread down, Jesse, if we slow the spread and can handle it in the health care system, we'll relax them as soon as possible.

Past data, China, South Korea, shows that if you take more dramatic actions sooner, you actually reduce the spread and you recover faster. So more dramatic on the front side, the faster you get out of it.

I have also spoken with elected officials all across the state. I have told them that this 50 percent mandatory requirement was going to be in place. And we have heard, nothing but support.

I want to thank all of the local officials and I want to thank them for their cooperation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaking of dramatic action, what about Shelter-in-Place? Can you explain why you're resistant to that and why it's no longer on the table for you?

CUOMO: Shelter-in-Place, first, would have to be done -- I don't believe any policy works unless the geographic footprint is large enough. I'm from Queens, New York. If you tell me Shelter-in-Place and I'm living in Queens, I'll go stay with my sister in Westchester and go out and have a good time.

So, it can't just be New York City. It would have to be Long Island, Rockland, Westchester, and the rest of the state.

Also, Shelter-in-Place, you close down your health care system. You close down your food system. You close down your transportation system.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But in the bay area, certainly essential services --


CUOMO: Well, it depends how you do it. And you close down businesses. You close down all businesses when you do Shelter-in-Place. So, that doesn't make sense to me because people have to eat, travel, et cetera.

Doing it this way, all workforce, 50 percent, except essential services. We'll see if that slows the spread. If it doesn't slow the spread, then we will reduce the number of workers even further. That 50 percent can be calibrated.

Now, you could get to a point where you almost -- you could get to 100 percent of workers stay home, besides essential services. That's what Italy wound up doing. And we're at 50 percent now.

But I would never shut down food, transportation, essential services.




(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: New revenue forecast, as you know. Worst-case scenario, $7 billion hit the state is facing. Will that require a cut in spending as you had initially proposed in the budget? Will this mean less spending for schools, for instance?

CUOMO: That's something we're going to have to work out in the budget. But as I said, you know, the original estimates we did were before any of this, and they are, any reasonable person would say, too high. So we have to do a budget on the best projections we can do and go from there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does that mean it's time to look at raising revenue? You were reluctant to do that in your proposed budget. Now do you have to raise taxes?

CUOMO: Look, you have businesses closing. You have people out of work. I don't think now is the time to tell people we're going to raise your taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, yesterday you said that you -- (INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: This afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what are you looking to -- (INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: Army Corps of Engineers -- well, let's say federal, writ large, OK, because you have DOD, you have FEMA, you have the Army Corps of Engineers. Additional hospital beds, the mobile hospitals, helping to retrofit existing buildings. Those are all within the per view of the federal government.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, is media considered an essential service? I know it's a tough question to be asking. And do we fall under the 50 percent umbrella?

CUOMO: That is a very good question. We have to ponder that. I think -- are they an essential service? Depends who you would ask. I personally consider it an essential service, but I don't know if that's a global definition.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dr. Zucker, are you investigating a cluster in Borough Park, Brooklyn?

ZUCKER: We've heard about that and we're looking into that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it a cluster or do you believe it's a result of -- (INAUDIBLE)

ZUCKER: Well, there's two possibilities. There's a lot of testing that's going on, or potentially one or multiple individuals that have been infected. So that's something that's new on the radar and we're investigating it today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, Westchester was the epicenter. It's sort of moved now to New York City. When you talk about expanding the capability of hospitals, is Westchester an area where you're looking at perhaps opening some new temporary facility, and can you describe where those might be at this point?

CUOMO: Definitely. Our planning will track -- again, it's science, it's data -- we'll track where the cases are. So wherever you have a cluster of cases, that's where you want to add to the capacity. You look at how many beds you now have, how many beds you may need, and that's where you add to the capacity.

New York City is the natural area for it to increase because of the density. Westchester was an anomaly, that whole New Rochelle situation. And look, we responded to it dramatically. And I want to thank the Westchester County executive, George Latimer, who's done a great job, but we'll increase the capacity in Westchester, that cluster, and New York City.

We also have a cluster in Nassau now. So wherever we see these clusters pop up.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the 50 percent rule apply -- it's just New York state? You didn't get an agreement from neighboring governors?

CUOMO: I have not spoken to them about it at this time, to a point where we have agreement. Our numbers are somewhat worse. We don't yet have agreement with Connecticut, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania.

But again, on this mandate, this one is not really geographically specific, because a business can't pick up today and move to New Jersey to get around the mandate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How fast are you looking to move on the state budget?

CUOMO: April 1.


CUOMO: If they want to do it sooner, great. But the date is April 1. I'm going to be here. Government is functioning. Government is here. Police officers are doing their job. Nurses are doing their job. Corrections officers are doing their job. A lot of people are putting themselves in harm's way.


You have great public service heroes. Those nurses who are at the testing stations, drawing blood, god bless them. This is public service. We'll be here. We'll be doing our job.

If they want to come up and do the budget early, fine. Otherwise, the date is April 1.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are you discussing with the D.A. then later today? Are you meeting with them?

CUOMO: I met with the district attorney and criminal justice experts talking about bail reform.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, can you give us --


CUOMO: This morning. I had that meeting this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you give us an update on New Rochelle, and if there's any evidence that the zone in that city has been affected?

CUOMO: You want to speak to that, Doctor?

ZUCKER: We are still tracking cases in that area, in the whole Westchester County, but we do believe that the effectiveness of decreasing numbers is happening with that.

CUOMO: Yes, but certain things are inarguable. It is inarguable, but to the extent you reduce density, you reduce the transfer of the virus. That is inarguable. So, closing schools, closing gatherings, that is inarguable.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Every sick leave bill's expected to be voted on today and passed. Do you expect to sign that today? And it's supposed to be --


CUOMO: As soon as they pass the bill, I'll sign it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When would people start benefiting from that?

CUOMO: The quarantine bill goes into effect immediately, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The quarantine bill goes into effect immediately. The larger paid sick bill, we're actually going to hold on and do in the budget, and that will come into effect in 180 days.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would people be getting checks from their employer as potentially next week or --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they're in mandatory quarantine or if they're in precautionary quarantine, it goes into effect immediately.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, why amend that bill? Because, obviously, what was introduced yesterday had the statewide system taking effect later. What led you to split it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're giving a message and we believe that's necessary immediately for the quarantine provision. But as this other part of the bill doesn't go into effect for 180 days, it's not necessary to give a message of necessity. CUOMO: Bernadette?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have a plan in place for law enforcement, specifically the NYPD and state police? But are the LAPD being provided with extra protective gear? And do you have a plan in place for anything that happens should any of these officers, et cetera, get ill?

CUOMO: Every --


CUOMO: Every police department has been advised to expect people to get ill. I mean, you know, you talk about a public-facing position in this environment, so reality would dictate you'll expect a number of people to get ill.

I have mandated that New York City and call local governments have masks provided to their police departments.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Right. Do you have any plan should NYPD cut hours? Or I just saw in Philadelphia, they relaxed certain -- they told officers to stop detaining people for certain crimes.

CUOMO: I'll leave that to the local police departments, unless there's a situation that requires state action. But right now, we're leaving it to the local police departments.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, could you please expand more your discussions on bail reform with the D.A. and the criminal justice expert?

CUOMO: We talked -- we spoke to the issue. You know, there's a divergence of opinion. I said to them that I'm very proud of what we did on bail reform. I think we made a significant difference. Obviously, there's people who have different opinions on what needs to be done now.

And it was just a general conversation without a conclusion. It will be concluded in the budget.

Let's take one more question and then we'll get to work.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You mentioned that 108 people have been released from the hospital, maybe sequester.

For Dr. Zucker, are those people out of the woods for getting coronavirus twice or do you build up an immunity?

ZUCKER: So, you do build up immunity to all viruses. Sometimes immunity lasts for years, sometimes a lifetime. And they are out of the woods. I mean, if they've recovered, that's a positive sign.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Doctor, you gave this --

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: One -- this conversation I had with my sister. If you take your daughter to get a coronavirus test and she tests positive, what do you think happens? They send you home and they say, chicken soup and take care of yourself, and if it gets worse and you need hospitalization, call me.

So, getting the test and getting the result, all it really does is inform us to isolate that person so that person doesn't transfer it.


But there's no medicine that you get for the coronavirus, right? It's just like the flu. The body has to develop its own immunity to that virus.

We've been doing this testing just to slow the spread.