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CNN NEWSROOM

NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:31:54]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I like the boyfriend. Boyfriend is part of the premises.

Monday. This is the total hospitalization rate. What you see is basically flat. Flat is not great. But flat may be a reaction to the weekend. Sunday. Sunday discharges may be down.

But we have the same question: How fast and how steady is the decline? We don't want to see flat. We want to see an increase in decline. And we want to see how fast that decline goes, and how low does the decline go, right?

When does that hospitalization rate get down to a truly manageable number? When does the incoming case number get down to a manageable number?

You see again overall hospitalization rate is on the decline. Again, yesterday, a little less than we would like to see. But hopefully, it was a Sunday anomaly because of the weekend.

Intubations is down.

Number of new cases, still 1,000 new COVID cases every day. Puts it in perspective. Down a tad from where it was, but, again, these weekend numbers sometimes are a little strange.

Number of lives lost, 337. Still tragically high. But on the decline if you look at it over the past few days. Not that that gives any solace to 337 families who are suffering today.

On testing, this has been a big topic. Increasing testing. It's been a scramble for all the states. We're doing well on it.

The testing tells you where we are, right? And whether the infection rate is going up or going down. We've now tested 7,500 people statewide, so that's a very significant number. And it gives us a snapshot of where we are. It's just a snapshot. But snapshot, snapshot, snapshot, you look at the different pictures and you have a movie at one point and you can track what is happening. So at 7,500 people, the number statewide that's positive is 14.9. When

we tested five days ago it was 13.9, 13.9 to 14.9. One point, statistically, it's in the margin of error. I would like to see the margin go the other way, but.

Male/female, they both went up a point. Men are still more likely to have the virus than women by a couple of points. Whatever that bespeaks. I care not to speculate.

[11:35:06]

These are the regional numbers in broad strokes. Long Island 14, New York City is up a couple of points. Rochester/Rockland is up a couple of points. Basically, the rest of the state is flat.

This is infection rate by region.

People hear New York, they think New York City. Yes, we have New York City. We also have Upstate New York, north country, which is predominantly rural or suburban. And you see different situations across this state. This is not a homogeneous state.

So the Mohawk Valley, 2.6 percent. North country, 1.2 percent. Capital district, 2.1 percent. Hudson Valley 10.4 percent, but that has Westchester and Rockland in it. Central New York, 2.13 percent. Southern Lakes, Western New York, 7.1 percent. Western New York is the high point of the state.

Hudson Valley, again, has Westchester/Rockland. We had a significant problem in Westchester, less so in Rockland, so I think that skews that number.

But when you see 1.2 percent in the north country, 2.6 Mohawk Valley, capital district, you see a much different situation than you're looking at in New York City where you're in the 20s, right? So different situations, different strategy going forward.

We're coordinating as a state. We're coordinating with our neighboring states. But you still have to take into consideration the variations across the state, and that's what we're trying to navigate.

By race, you see the percent for Asians has ticked up. African- Americans actually down. Latinos went up 10 percent. Nobody can explain what caused that jump in this survey, and it's something we're going to watch. And we're doing more testing in lower-income communities and African-American and Latino communities, as we discussed.

The age breakdown is fairly consistent with where it was.

So that's where we are today in New York.

New York City, obviously, high point number of cases in the country. Higher than some countries globally. And Upstate New York a very different reality.

Big question is reopening, especially for those places with less of an issue to begin with or places that have reduced their problems.

I get a lot of local officials calling me. We want to talk about reopening, reopening, reopening. Know about what you're doing before you do it. Those are words to live by. I don't know who said it, but it is a true axiom.

So we want to un-pause. May 15th is when the pause regulations expire statewide. I will extend them in many parts of the state. But in some parts of the state, some regions, you could make the case that we should un-pause on May 15th.

But you have to be smart about it. We all have to be smart about it. As we said, there's no light switch where you flick a switch and everybody goes back to what they were doing. We have to take these circumstances into consideration. We have to learn the lessons. We have to move forward. And we have to be smart.

Because if you are not smart, you will see that infection rate go right back to where it was, we'll be right back to where we were 58 days ago and nobody wants to do that.

So what I want to say to my regional colleagues is be smart. Well, we want to reopen. Well, have you thought through reopening? We have a couple of weeks. But start thinking through what it means to reopen.

First question is: Do we need the CDC guidelines that is you reopen when you see a decline in numbers for 14 days?

Second, we talked about, on the reopening, bringing back construction and manufacturing as the first two industries. But how do you bring them back and what precautions are going to be in place? What precautions do you want those businesses to institute when they start?

And part of this is on business. You know your business. I don't know your business. I don't know how you do business. How do you incorporate into how you do your business and where you do your business the precautions that we want to take going forward?

[11:40:12]

How do you do social distancing? How do you do monitoring? Are you going to take the temperature of people who walk in the door, et cetera? And that's for government but it's also a question for businesses.

Health care capacity. You want to reopen a region, what is the health care capacity in that region? How many beds will you have available if that number goes up? How many ICU beds will you have available?

And are you contemplating what's going to happen when the flu season kicks in, in September, where we could potentially now be dealing with COVID cases on top of flu cases? You have to test for both, and possibly have hospital capacity for both.

Do we have testing in place? And is testing ready to go? Because testing is one of the main monitors, right? Do we have a tracing system in place? We all talk about testing,

tracing, isolating. That has to be in place.

Test people, you then trace the contacts, you find the positive people and you isolate them. But you need a tracing system. And this is something we've never done before, right? So that system has to be in place.

When we isolate people, where do they go? Isolation, once you find the person who is positive, basically, you can say to the person, you can go home, but then you run the risk of infecting those people in your house, or we could put you in an isolation facility. We have a hotel, et cetera, that we can put you in for two weeks. But you have to locate those facilities first.

We have to coordinate as a region. There's no one county in a region. It's a region. And these are the Economic Development Council regions that have worked together. But we have to coordinate that region. So everybody in that region has to have the same policy when it comes to schools, when it comes to transportation, when it comes to testing, when it comes to tracing. And that region's plan has to fit into our overall multi-state plan.

No attractive nuisances. Attractive nuisance is a legal concept where you have a potentially dangerous situation that actually attracts people, normally children, to it.

We can't open an attraction that might bring many people from outside the region and then overwhelm people in that region. You have a lot of pent-up demand.

And we have seen this before, where when we're not coordinated, we have New York people going to Connecticut because Connecticut has parks or waterslide access that's open. We don't want to create a situation where people flood an area because they're looking for something to do.

And then we need a regional control room, I call it. We have to be monitoring what happens when we start to reopen. And that entire region has to have a control room function where we're watching what's happening.

For those friends who are more graphic, we're going to turn the valve on reopening, turn it a little bit, start to reopen, and then you watch the dials.

What are the dials? Hospitalization rate, which we know now. We've been watching that.

What is the antibody testing telling you? Antibody testing is important because it tells you the people who were infected, the infection rate and now resolved because they have antibodies.

What is the diagnostic testing, which is a different type of testing, tell you? Positive and negative. But what's happening on the diagnostic testing? Those dials will give you the fourth dial, which is the infection

rate, what's called the R.T. rate, the rate of transmission.

So turn that valve a little bit for a region. Watch those four gauges very carefully every day. See what's happening on those gauges. You can either close the valve, open the valve a little bit more, or leave the valve where it is.

But when I talk about the regional control room, that's what I'm talking about. Getting that data in to one central place where everybody agrees on the numbers and everybody agrees on what we do the next step.

[11:45:04]

We have medical centers that were built. I spoke to President Trump about this, this morning. When we were worried about the lack of capacity in the hospital system, the federal government was good enough to send in the Army Corps of Engineers. They did a phenomenal job in building beds quickly. We built a number of facilities.

We're now talking about the possibility of a second wave of the COVID virus or COVID combining with the regular flu season in September, which could be problematic again for the hospital capacity.

So the facilities that were built, I spoke to the president about leaving them in place until we get through the flu season. God forbid we need extra capacity again. I don't want to have built -- asked the federal government to build capacity, then take it down, and then wind up in another problem area.

Javits Center we have to think about, because the Javits Center is in the Javits Convention Center. It has 2,500 beds so it is a great facility. But it's also in the convention center. You can't reopen the convention center, obviously, with the hospital beds in it. Westchester County Center the same issue. It's also the Westchester Convention Center.

So question mark on those facilities, when we take them down or how we take them down. I'm going to speak to the county executive in Westchester County, George Latimer, about that. But Javits will be on hold for both those facilities now until we decide. But again, anticipate an issue in the future and make sure we're ready.

But I want to thank, again -- the Army Corps of Engineers did a fantastic job. And President Trump got it done, and he got it done very quickly.

So those facilities -- Javits, over 1,000 people went through Javits. We didn't need the whole facility. But a thousand people is a large number of people.

On Saturday, as you know, we expanded our diagnostic testing criteria for frontline workers, essential workers, et cetera. We'll be opening additional drive-through testing sites for those people this week. People can't just show up at a drive-through center. You have to call first, make an appointment, so we can handle the flow.

We're also very concerned about making sure we get testing to our essential workers and our frontline workers. We're going to be doing a survey of the New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department this week, 1,000 and 1,000 respectively, just to find out, again, with the antibody testing what is the infection rate.

NYPD was out there every day, and they paid a terrible toll. The attendance rate is now good again. Many were out sick. But we want to know exactly where those frontline workers are. If they have been infected, we want to make sure people are getting help and we want to know exactly what happened.

We'll also be doing 3,000 health care workers. These are hospital staff, nursing staff, doctors who are in the emergency rooms to find out their situation.

And we'll be doing 1,000 transit workers. These are the bus drivers, the train operators who keep the public transit system working. And we want to do testing to find out how they're doing.

We're seeing a tremendous demand in food banks, which is predictable in some ways. But the numbers are very, very high, and we need to address it. A 200 percent increase in Westchester, 100 percent increase in New York City, 40 percent on Long Island, 40 to 60 percent across Upstate New York.

We're going to commit $25 million for emergency funding for those food banks. I'm also asking philanthropies to help. Many philanthropies said they want to help and step up. This is, I would say, the number- one thing they can do to help. And if they're interesting, please let us know and we'll supplement the state funding with philanthropies' funding.

We also have an issue across upstate where, because the markets are so roiled, some farm cooperatives are actually dumping milk because the market can't consume it. This is just a total waste to me.

[11:50:12]

We have people downstate who need food and farmers upstate who can't sell their product. We have to put those two things together. That's common sense. But we have to make the marriage between product upstate and need downstate. And we'll launch a special initiative to do that.

We are also immediately, to stop this dumping of milk, going to work with industries in our state who can use the milk and get it to people who need it.

So I want to thank these companies who will be working with us to buy the excess milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and give it to the food banks that are downstate.

When it comes to reopening -- and I talked about what I'm going to speak with the regions about. But I don't want to just do reopening. We have to use this moment to reimagine and be smart and grow. This is one of those moments.

If you look back in history, sometimes it takes a crisis to wake people up. And it takes a crisis to change the body politic to actually accept change. Because change is hard to make.

And if you look at the instances in the past where we've had significant problems, you'll see we were normally smart enough to learn and to grow from them. So reimagine New York means don't replace what was but build it back better.

And we've done that in the past. Chicago fire, 1871, killed 300 people, but we learned, stricter fire safety laws. San Francisco earthquake, 1906, the same thing. It was devastating but that lead to better construction and earthquake standards.

Triangle Factory fire here in New York, 1911, started a whole workers rights movement and safety in the workplace. Mississippi flood, 1927, that's when the Flood Control Acts started and we woke up and started building levies and dams, et cetera. Great Depression, FDR pivoted from that crisis to entire economic structure.

We went through 9/11 and we are better and safer as a society for it. The Department of Homeland Security was formed on the federal side, which has been the single-largest innovation in the federal government.

Even Superstorm Sandy that we went through, 2012. I was part of that. It was devastating. But New York is better for it. We have a power grid that's now better. We raised all our electric stations. We changed our infrastructure along the waterfront. We built houses back to different codes.

So it's that process that we have to go through here. What did we learn? How do we change? How do we improve?

We talked about tele-education. Yes, we went through it. We had to go through it. But it didn't go as well as it could have gone. We didn't have any notice. But let's learn the lessons. Let's do better.

Telemedicine showed great potential. You don't have to go to the doctor's office. You can do a lot by telemedicine. How do we learn that?

Public transportation, we are still learning. How do we clean and disinfect a public transportation system on a daily basis? Just think of the scale of that undertaking. How do you do it?. We're still trying to figure it out.

And how do you have a better public health system? Because we were not ready for this. Our health system was not ready for any public health crisis that would demand more capacity or more coordination. So let's learn from that.

And let's have a society that is more social equity. You look at the people who paid the highest price for this crisis, they were the people who were in the least-good position to pay. The poorest among us always pay the highest price.

Why is that? Why do the lower-income communities see this disease in higher proportions? Why were the essential workers who had to show up disproportionately African-American, Latino?

[11:55:04]

So is life going to be different? Yes, life is going to be different. But different in this case can mean better if we are smart about it. And when we are finished going through this, we should be tougher and smarter and more resilient and more unified and better than before.

Last point, A.J. Parkinson, great quote: "I respect elected officials who aren't typical politicians."

An elected official does not have to be a politician. Politician has bad connotations to politicians. The word "politician." You can be an elected politician who is not a typical politician, not a go-along, get-along kind of guy, not a make-no-waves kind of guy.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear stood up, said to his senior Senator in the state, Mitch McConnell, that Mitch McConnell was wrong on saying he wouldn't provide funding to state and local governments and wrong in saying states should go bang bankrupt.

It is hard for a governor, especially Andy, who is a relatively new governor, to stand up to a senior official and speak truth to power. That is hard. It takes guts. It takes courage. And you don't get that from a typical politician. So it warms my heart to see an elected politician who is not a regular politician.

Thank you, Governor.

Questions, comments?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, are you confident the president will use the Defense Production Act to make more chemical reagents and swabs?

CUOMO: I don't know exactly what the president has said about using the Defense Production Act. I know he's used it in some situations. I don't know if he said he would use it for swabs or reagents.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of the models that appear to have overestimated hospitalizations but, sadly, appear more accurate when it comes to lives lost, particularly when it comes to New York?

CUOMO: Look, we have said all along, every projection model showed many more people being infected. CDC model, coronavirus White House task force model, Cornell Weill model, Columbia model, McKenzie model, they all showed a higher projection rate.

They were not wrong. We changed reality. We changed reality. They said the curve was going to go like this. We changed reality. We shut down, we closed schools. We closed everything. And the reality was the number was much, much lower, which is a beautiful thing, and a good thing. And a testament to the intelligence of the people of this state and this country.

So were they wrong? No. You changed reality. And the reality was much more beneficial. And hundreds of thousands of people, who they projected would get infected if we did nothing, was basically their projection, weren't infected.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- specifically, about the 16,000, the estimated lives New York would lose. That seems to be accurate. I was just wondering --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I haven't studied those projections so I just don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, Mayor De Blasio, today, said that the city is opening up 40 miles of streets near parks. I was wondering what your reaction is to that idea.

CUOMO: Yes. I had said early on that, you know, you have to be realistic about the situation of people. You have people in a very dense urban environment. And stay at home, stay at home, but you can get out, get some air, go for a walk, et cetera.

Go out for a walk in New York City, but social distance. This is almost an oxymoron, right? It's very hard to walk down a sidewalk in New York City and maintain social distancing.

So I had said New York City should open streets. Because, remember, New York City the traffic is way down, way, way down. I don't know the percentage, but it's like night and day. You look at pictures of New York City, you see one or two cars going.

So open streets. I know the -- and I spoke to the city council speaker about it, and the mayor. And they were -- we did open streets, and it there was a program that was operational. Apparently, they have a disagreement about how it works. I said figure it out. If they can't figure it out, I'll get involved.

[11:59:55]

But you need to have streets that are open. You have less traffic. You need streets open so people can walk and socially distance. You can't do that on the sidewalk. And there has to be a way to close streets because you have no cars.