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NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update On Coronavirus Response. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 11:00   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): These are two gentlemen who I have been through many situations with. We've been through hell and back. And if you have to have two professionals dealing with a situation like this, these are the two situations -- two people that you want to be with.

So I thank both generals for being here today. I'm Private Cuomo but I'll be your governor today.

I want to begin by thanking all the Army Corps of Engineer people who are here today who have done an outstanding job. They came in very quickly and they're setting up the emergency hospital, which is going to be badly needed.

I want to thank Alan Steele (ph) and all the people at the Javits Center. This is a great exhibition hall, but this is not what they normally do. And they have really stepped up and risen to the occasion. So I want to thank them.

Let me take you through some facts today because we have some new facts, changes and circumstances that are not encouraging. And I want to make sure people understand and then we react accordingly.

The increase in the number of cases continues unabated. As a matter of fact, the rate of increase has gone up. We have the most sophisticated people you can get doing projections on this. They've been studying projections from China, South Korea, Italy, places all across this country.

And what they're now seeing is that the rate of cases, the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. That is a dramatic increase in the rate of infection.

And this whole discussion all along has been, how fast does the rate of increase spread. And can we slow the rate of increase? We're not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own.

One of the forecasters said to me, we were looking at a freight train coming across the country, we're now looking at a bullet train. Because the numbers are going up that quickly.

And the most challenging point about the increasing numbers is where the numbers will apex. What is the high point of the numbers? And the apex is the point where we have to be able to manage the capacity. We had projected the apex at about 110,000 hospital beds, and that's

the number I've been talking about. The new projection suggests that the number of hospital beds needed could be as high as 140,000 hospital beds.

So flatten the curve, flatten the curve. We haven't flattened the curve and the curve is actually increasing.

That means the number of hospital beds, which is at 53,000 beds, 3,000 ICU beds, the anticipated need now for the height of the curve is 140,000 hospital beds and approximately 40,000 intensive care unit beds.

Those are troubling and astronomical numbers. And as I mentioned, are higher numbers than had been previously projected.

We are exercising all options as aggressively as we can. That rate of increase, that apex, they project at this time could be approximately 14 to 21 days away. So not only do we have a spike in the increase, when you spike the increase in cases, it accelerates the apex to a point where it could be as close as 14 to 21 days.

We're exercising all options. We're doing everything we can on every level to, quote, unquote, "slow the spread, flatten the curve." We've closed businesses. We've reduced street density.

We had an issue in New York City. I spoke to Mayor De Blasio. I spoke to city council Speaker Cory Johnson. We'll have a plan that I believe will be in place by noon today.

And we've increased testing to the highest level in the United States and the highest per capita level on the globe. No one is testing more than we are testing.


So in many ways, we have exhausted every option available to us. We've closed all the businesses. We've reduced the street density. And we've increased testing to the highest level in the country.

We're also trying all the new drug therapies, the hydroxychloroquine, which the president speaks about and is optimistic about, and we hope for optimistic results also. We're actually starting that today.

The president and the FDA accelerated that drug coming to New York, so the hospitals will start using that drug today.

The FDA also authorized an experimental procedure by the New York State Department of Health where we -- the Department of Health actually takes plasma from people who are infected, who have the antibodies, and will try putting that plasma into a person that is still struggling with the disease, hoping that the antibodies make a difference.

We're also pursuing a new level of testing, which will test people's blood to see if they have antibodies for the coronavirus, which means they may have been infected and resolved and never knew it. But if you had the coronavirus and resolved, you now have an immunity to the coronavirus for some period of time. Most experts suggest it's a significant amount of time.

That would be very important for us to know, because then health care workers who could go back to work, these are workers who could return back to the private sector.

But the inescapable conclusion is that the rate of infection is going up. It is spiking. The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought. That is a bad combination of facts.

So slow the spread. We'll still keep doing everything we can, but it is clear that we must dramatically increase the hospital capacity to meet that highest apex. And we have to do it very quickly.

The apex could be here as soon as 14 to 21 days, and you're talking about a significant operational movement to increase that number of hospital beds and to do everything you need to do related to the increase in hospital beds.

There are three elements that are necessary to increase the hospital capacity. First are, obviously, the availability of the beds. A bed without staff is virtually useless, and a bed without a staff is totally useless. The goal is to ask hospitals to try to increase beds by 100 percent.

Even if they did increase it by 100 percent, you would only be at about 100,000 beds. You need 140,000 beds.

Emergency sites like the 1,000-bed site we're making here will be helpful. The site at the convention center will be helpful, but they're nowhere near the number of beds we will need.

I have no problem using the dormitories all across our state campuses, our CUNY campuses, our state university campuses. We're talking to hotels to put persons in. I will turn this city upside down to get the number of beds we need, but we need the staff for those beds.

And we're calling and contacting all retirees in the health care field. We're calling all professionals in the health care field, whether or not they work in a hospital. They can work in an insurance company, a clinic or whatever, but we want to enlist as many staff as we can and as many backup staff.

Because health care workers will get sick. And this is going to go on for weeks. And you can't ask a person to work for 14 days consecutive or around the clock shifts. So we'll need a backup reserve staff.


And equipment, equipment, equipment, masks, PPEs and ventilators. And of those three, the greatest critical need are ventilators. Now, ventilators, you say ventilators, nobody really knows what you're talking about. The people who are going to come in, the people who will have acute

needs, these are people who have -- are under respiratory distress. They need a ventilator. The ventilator will make the difference between life and death literally for these people.

This is a piece of equipment that in the normal course of business you don't have a need for high levels of ventilators. And our hospital system has about three or four thousand and that always met the need. This is a dramatic increase in the number of ventilators that you need.

We have been working around the clock, scouring the globe. We've procured about 7,000 ventilators. We need, at a minimum, an additional 30,000 ventilators. You cannot buy them. You cannot find them. Every state is trying to get them. Other countries are trying to get them. The capacity is limited.

They're technical pieces of equipment. They're not manufactured in two days or four days or seven days or 10 days. So this is a critical and desperate need for ventilators.

We're going so far as to trying an experimental procedure where we split the ventilator. We use one ventilator for two patients. It's difficult to perform. It's experimental. But at this point, we have no alternative, so we're working on this experimental application.

Picture two hospital beds, two people in beds, one ventilator between the two of them but with two sets of tubes, two sets of pipes going to the two patients.

Again, it's experimental, but necessity is the mother of invention, and we are working on this as we speak. Because we have no other options.

There's no way for us to get these ventilators. We've tried everything else. The only way we can obtain these ventilators is from the federal government, period.

And there's two ways the federal government can do it. One is to use the federal Defense Production Act. There's a federal law where the federal government can say to manufacturers, you must produce this product.

I understand the federal government's point that many companies have come forward and said we want to help. And General Motors and Ford and people are willing to get into the ventilator business.

It does us no good if they start to create a ventilator in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We're looking at an apex of 14 days. If we don't have the ventilators in 14 days, it does us no good.

The Federal Defense Procurement Act can actually help companies because the federal government can say, look, I need you to go into this business. I will contract with you today for X number of ventilators. Here is the start-up capital you need. Here is the start- up capital you need to hire workers who do it around the clock. But I need the ventilators in 14 days. Only the federal government has

that power. And not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me.

Volunteerism is nice and it is a beautiful thing, and it's nice that these companies are coming forward and saying they want to help. That is not going to get us there. And I do not, for the life of me, understand the reluctance to use the federal Defense Production Act.

Also the federal government has 20,000 ventilators, or thereabouts, in the federal stockpile. Secretary Azar runs an agency called HHS, Health and Human Services.

I asked the secretary, look at the first word in the title of the agency you run. It is "health." Your first priority is health. You have 20,000 ventilators in the stockpile. Release the ventilators to New York.

How can we be in a situation where you can have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator. But a federal agency saying, I'm going to leave the ventilators in the stockpile? I mean, have we really come to that point?


Also we have to be smarter about the way this is being done. The federal government has to prioritize their resources.

Look at where the problems are across this nation. California has 2,800 cases, Washington State 2,200 cases, Florida 1,200 cases, Massachusetts about 800 cases. New York has 25,000 cases. New York has 25,000 cases. It has 10 times the problem that California has, 10 times the problem that Washington State has.

You prioritize resources and your activity and your actions to where they are needed. And New York, you are looking at a problem that is of a totally direct magnitude and dimension.

The problem is the volume. Dealing with 2,000 cases is one thing. and 2,000 cases, frankly, we could deal with this this building with the capacity that we're providing. We have 25,000 cases. We need the federal help and we need the federal help now.

Also, there's a smart way to do this. Deploy the ventilators around the country as they are needed. Different regions have different curves of the infection.

New York is the canary in the coal mine. New York is going first. We have the highest and the fastest rate of infection. What happens to New York is going to wind up happening to California and Washington State and Illinois. It's just a matter of time. We're just getting there first.

Deal with the issue here. Deploy the resources. Deploy the ventilators here in New York for our apex. And then after the apex passes here, once we're past that critical point, deploy the ventilators to the other parts of the country where they are needed. I'm not asking for 20,000 ventilators and they stay in New York and

they live in New York and change their residence. As soon as we finish with the ventilators, then you move them to the next part of the country that has the critical problem. And then after that region hits its apex, then you move to the next part of the country that has its critical problems.

I will take personal responsibility for transporting the 20,000 ventilators anywhere in this country that they want once we are past our apex. But don't leave them sitting in a stockpile and say, well, we're going to wait to see how we allocate them across the country.

That's not how this works. They're not simultaneous apexes. They are a curve that is individual to that region. Deploy to that region, address that region, and then move on to the next.

And I'm not only talking about ventilators. We get past the apex, we get over that curve, that curve starts to come down, we get to a level where we can handle it. I'll send ventilators. I'll send health care workers. I'll send our professionals who dealt with it and who know all around the country. And that's how this should be done.

You know it's going to be on a different calendar. It's going to be a different sequence. Let's help each other.

New York, because New York is first, and then after New York and after the curve breaks in New York, let's all rush to whoever is second. And let us all rush to whoever is third. And let's learn from each other and help each other.

I want to make a point on the president's point about the economy and public health. I understand what the president is saying. This is unsustainable that we close down the economy and we continue to spend money. There's no doubt about that. No one is going to argue about that.

But if you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it's no contest. No American is going to say, accelerate the economy at the cost of human life. Because no American is going to say how much a life is worth. Job one has to be save lives. That has to be the priority.


And there's a smarter approach to this. We don't have to choose between the two. You can develop a more refined public health strategy that is also an economic strategy.

What do I mean by that? Our public health strategy was a blunt instrument. What we said, at a moment of crisis, is isolate everyone. Close the schools, close the colleges, send everyone home, isolate everyone in their homes.

In truth, that was not a refined public strategy. Why? Because it wasn't even smart, frankly, to isolate younger people with older people. But at that moment, we didn't have the knowledge, we needed to act, that's what we did.

You can ask to refine that public health strategy. You can start to say, look, the lower risk individuals do not need to be quarantined. And they shouldn't be quarantined with an older person who they may be transferring it to.

People who are recovered, you test them, you test the antibodies, you antibodies, you find that they resolved themselves of the virus, and I believe when we get that test, you're going to find hundreds of thousands of people who have had the coronavirus and resolved.

Once they resolved, they can go back to work. Develop that test. It's in testing now. Once they're resolved, let them go back to work. Let the younger people go back to work. Let the recovered people go back to work.

It's even better for the older, vulnerable people you're trying to protect. Then ramp up the economy with those individuals.

So you're refining your public health strategy, and at the same time, you're restarting your economy. Those two can be consistent if done intelligently.

Restart the economy with our younger recovered, tested workers. Don't make us choose between a smart health strategy and a smart economic strategy. We can do both and we must do both.

It's not the economy or public health. It's restarting the economy and protecting public health. It is both. But I understand restarting the economy.

The crisis today. Focus on the crisis at hand. Focus on the looming wave of cases that is about to break in 14 days. That has to be the priority.

And that is hospital capacity. And that is about providing hospital beds, providing staff and providing equipment and providing PPE and providing ventilators, coming back to that number of 30,000, and needing federal action to address it now.

If the federal government said today, I will deploy all 20,000 ventilators, it will take us two weeks to get those ventilators into hospitals and to create ICU beds and to locate the staff so there's no time to waste. The time to do this is now.

FEMA is sending us 400 ventilators. That was on the news this morning. We are sending 400 ventilators to New York. So 400 ventilators? I need 30,000 ventilators. You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000 ventilators?

You're missing the magnitude of the problem, and the problem is defined by the magnitude.

These are the numbers from today. You can see our testing rate is now over 90,000 people who have been tested. That's the highest rate of testing in the country and per capita on the globe. We did 12,000 new tests since yesterday.


Number of positive cases, state of New York, is 25,675, 4700 of those new cases tested. You see the entire state, county by county. More and more counties are being covered.

We have 3,000 people currently who are hospitalized. We have 756 people in ICU units. The ICU units are the ventilated units. That's 23 percent of the hospitalizations. That's the problem.

As the number of cases go up, the number of people in hospital beds goes up, the number of people who need an ICU bed and a ventilator goes up. And we cannot address that increasing curve.

Again, you look at the number of cases in the country, you'll see that New York is an outlier of the number of cases. It's not even close.

What's happening in New York is not a New York phenomenon. People in New York don't have a different immune system than other Americans. It's not higher in New York because we are New Yorkers. It's higher in New York because it started here first, because we have global travelers coming here first, because we have more density than most places.

But you will see this in cities all across the country. And you will see this in suburban countries all across the country. We are just a test case. We are just a test case.

And that's how the nation should look at it. Look at us today. Where we are today, you will be in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future. And what we do here will chart the course for what we do in your city and in your community.

I'm not asking you to help New York just to help New York. I'm asking you to help New York to help yourselves. Let's learn how to do it right. And let's learn how to do it right here. Let's learn how to act as one nation and let's learn how to act as one nation here.

And we learn the lesson here, we will save lives in your community. I promise you that.

We're delivering supplies that we've been able to purchase today. New York City has had a critical problem. I spoke to Mayor De Blasio. He's right, he had a critical problem on PPEs, gowns, masks, et cetera. What we are being brought today will solve a critical problem. There will be no hospital in the city of New York who will say today that their nurses and doctors can't get equipment.

We're addressing that need not just for New York City but also for Long Island and Westchester. We've acquired everything on the market there is to acquire. We've had a full team purchasing from companies all across this globe, buying everything that can be purchased. And we're bringing that here to distribute to New York City, Long Island, Westchester because that is the greatest need. This number of supplies will take care of our immediate need. It does

not take care of the need going forward three, four, five, six weeks. The burn rate on this equipment is very, very high.

I can't find any more equipment. It's not a question of money. I don't care what you're willing to pay. You just can't find the equipment now. But this will take care of the immediate need.

I don't want our health care workers, who are doing God's work -- they are doing God's work.

Can you imagine the nurses who leave their homes in the morning, who kiss their children goodbye, go to a hospital, put on gowns, deal with people who have the coronavirus? They're thinking all day long, oh, my god, I hope I don't get this. Oh, my god, I hope I don't get this and bring it home to my children.

You want to talk about extraordinary individuals. Extraordinary.

And it's the nurses and the doctors and the health care workers. It's the police officers who show up every day and go out there and walk into a situation that they don't even know what they're walking into.

And it's the firefighters. And it's the transportation workers. And it's the people who are running the grocery stores and the pharmacies and providing all those essential services.


Most of us are in our home hunkered down, worried. They're worried and they're going out there every day despite their fear. Despite their fear. Overcoming their fear. And not for their family, they're doing it for your family.