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Navajo Nation And The Effects Caused By COVID-19; Governor Andrew Cuomo Holds A Press Conference From Irondequoit, NY About The Coronavirus. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 11, 2020 - 11:30   ET



JONATHAN NEX, PRESIDENT OF NAVAJO NATION: That is partnership here because we're all in this together. What affects the Navajo Nation affects the states and vice versa. And I'm hoping the South Dakota governor sees the same thing here. We all got to work together to help our citizens.

And with the lockdown in Gallup, New Mexico, you know, Navajo Nation, John, has been in lockdown for some time, with the shelter-in-place order since the onset of this virus over a couple of months ago.

And, you know, and we have a curfew as well, from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am during the weekdays and during the weekends we have the 57 hour curfew.

We just come in off of a 57 hour curfew now 5:00 am this morning, to protect our citizens because of the slowness in the response from the Federal Government we have to use our own sovereign ability to govern ourselves and that's why we have to as far as saying we're going to cut off traffic.

We've been cutting off traffic to our Navajo Nation as well and telling people our tourism destinations are closed, please respect the sovereignty of our Navajo Nation. You know, we appreciate you coming back later after this public health emergency has gone --

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Mr. President, I think I --

NEX: But, we're doing everything in our power to help each other.

KING: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt there, I think I misspoke about the numbers, but you have 3,122 confirmed cases in the Navajo Nation and 100 deaths in the Navajo Nation on a per capita basis. That is incredibly high. It rivals when you look at places like New York or New Jersey.

I want you to listen here, this is from a CBS documentary, your medical director, a member of your nation, who says just like we just heard from Sara Sidner in South Dakota, one of the concerns is, that if you get a big outbreak, you don't have the medical facilities, the capacity to deal with it. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have a lot of funding to alert some very experienced doctors and nurses and medical staff, we just don't. We do carry a high rate of diabetes, hypertension, what we call metabolic syndrome that incorporates those two things. And per capita we actually have the highest rates,


KING: Dr. Tom (ph) there laying out, you have some of the preexisting conditions if you will on your nation there. What are -- what are you seeing? Are the people who are getting the coronavirus and dying of the coronavirus, are they people with obesity, diabetes, heart underlying conditions? What are you seeing on the ground?

NEX: You know, John, we're seeing young people that don't have any type of health problems getting COVID-19. We had a couple of young people who've lost their lives because of coronavirus and they were healthy. And so this virus is hitting everyone. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat, Republican, male or female or different faiths, it is a virus that's attacking everyone.

But here on the Navajo Nation, John, we have been testing very aggressively and we appreciate the work of Dr. Tom (ph) and Winslow (ph) and many others out there, Vice President Myron Lizer have been on the frontlines of -- since this pandemic started, except for the two weeks we had to, you know, be quarantined because we were close to an EMT that had COVID-19.

But back to the tests, 18,153 tests that have been given and 13,665 have tested negative. So, we've been aggressively testing our citizens here on the Navajo Nation, but it's, you know, the virus just spreads like wildfire. We have 30 plus percent of our Navajo citizens here on Navajo that don't have running water.

We have multiple generations of family members living under one roof, as well, and so the need for the Federal Government to reevaluate the needs of tribal communities throughout the country, and this is all tribes, 574 tribes, throughout the United States of America.

You know, we've been giving aid to various countries when there's an emergency. Don't get me wrong, John, I'm sure the need is great for all these other countries when times of emergency, but right here in the middle of the most powerful country, the United States of America, the first citizens of this country are still being pushed aside and I appreciate being on the show, because it magnifies the need to bring full attention to tribal nations throughout this country and the need to bring better infrastructure.

And in terms of the healthcare, it's not just on tribal lands, I think this pandemic, John, has shed light on the -- the -- the inadequacy of our public health system throughout this country, but more so here on the tribal communities.

KING: Mr. President, greatly appreciate your time. Need to shift now, the Governor of New York is giving his daily briefing, but I thank you for your time and we will revisit this as we go forward.


Let's take you now to Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York in Irondequoit today.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Since it began Dr. James Malatrus (ph) to my right, not a real doctor, but a Ph.D. doctor, which still counts to be a doctor. To my left Secretary Melissa DeRosa who is the top state official, appointed state official, a pleasure to be with here. It's a pleasure to be in Rochester today. Really Irondequoit, but for most people they'll relate to Rochester.

It's a pleasure to be in the Rochester Regional Health Facility and I want to thank the President and CEO Eric Bieber very much for having us here today. I also -- we're joined by a number of elected officials, I want to thank them for being here.

We have County Executive Adam Bello, pleasure to be with you. We have that great Congressman, who had a really challenging position before he went to Congress, because he was working New York State government, but he's now in Washington, and he's -- we need his voice there more than ever.

This is going to be a big in Washington. We need to get the Federal Government to recognize the situation that state governments face. And fund not just corporate America, but fund working Americans, police, firefighters, school teachers, they have yet to do that to the extent necessary. And hopefully, with the leadership of the House, we'll get that done this week.

We have Robert Duffy who is former Mayor of Rochester, my great Lieutenant Governor in the first term. Pleasure to be with him as we go forward.

We have elected officials here with us today. I also asked the elected officials all across the state to join us to understand today's presentation. So, we invited all the county executives, we invited all the mayors to listen to this presentation, because we started a new chapter today in many ways.

It's a new phase, if you will. May 15th, is the end of the statewide closure. May 15th is the end of this week and the question is now going to shift more towards localities and regions across the state to make sure they're in a position to open and the state will be working in coordination with them.

But, it's an exciting new phase. We're all anxious to get back to work. We want to it smartly. We want to do it intelligently, but we want to do it. And that's what this week is going to be all about. In terms of where we are, total hospitalizations, we're down again, that net change is down again. The net change in intubations is down again, the number of lives lost still too high, obviously at 161, but better than it has been.

So, we see all the arrows are pointed in the right direction. If you look at the number of new COVID cases per day, about 488, that is just about where we started this horrific situation, right? So, May 10th we're right about where we were on March 19th, before we went into the abyss of the COVID virus.

And when you see the number of lives lost, again, we're right about where we started before we really went into the -- the heart of this crisis. And that's what it's been, it's been a crisis and a painful one. But, we're coming out of the other side. So, in many ways, from my point of view, we're on the other side of the mountain, right?

We got hit with the virus, we saw that incline, we saw the number of cases growing, we saw the number of deaths growing, we finally hit a plateau because we did what we needed to do and we changed our behavior and we closed down and we -- we turned the corner and then we started to come down the other side and that was the decline. And now the decline has gotten to a point where we are just about where we started the journey.

So, to turn to reopening, because we have abated the worst by what we've done, and now we can intelligently turn toward reopening, and that's May 15th, that's this Friday, and local regions all across the state should start to prepare for it and people as well. And that's what we wanted to start to talk about today. We're going to open when we're ready to open.


What does ready to open mean? Well, first the number of hospitalizations, the infection rates show decline. The federal government with CDC guidelines have laid that out, and we think it's intelligent and we accepted the federal guidance. And we have testing, tracing in place in every local region. Testing, tracing, words we never really heard before this situation, but not people hear them every day. Testing, have the capacity to do enough tests, diagnostic tests so you're positive or you're negative. Antibody tests - did you have the virus and have you resolved the virus? Have that testing capacity in place. Tracing, when you find a positive case, trace it back. And then isolate the positives so you reduce the spread.

Sounds simple. Logistical nightmare, never been done before, but that's what testing, tracing is all about, and that has to be done region-by-region. That capacity has to fit every locality.

We talk about being New York tough and what tough really means, and the second work in New York tough is always smart, and we have been smart through this and we have to continue to be smart. There are seven metrics, if you will, to get it down to a quantifiable situation that each region has to look at. First are the infection rate, the number of hospitalizations, the 14-day decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations. That means you're controlling the hospitalizations. New hospitalizations under two per 100,000 so you know that the virus, again, is under control.

Then number four, let's learn from the past. We had a true public health emergency that we were in danger of overwhelming our hospital capacity. Let's make sure we have 30 percent buffer in a number of available hospital beds in case that virus takes off again on you. You want to make sure we have hospital beds so hospitals up to 70 percent but 30 percent available hospital beds. 30 percent available ICU beds. Many of the people come in with this virus need and ICU bed. We want to make sure we have the ICU beds if we need them. God forbid.

And then testing capacity so we know what the virus spread is doing. You don't know what the virus is doing unless you are testing. And then the tracing that fits with the testing program. We've been doing more tests than any state in the United States of America, so New York is way ahead in what we're doing on testing. We've come up to speed faster. We're doing more tests per capital than any country on the globe, so we're doing very well in that regard, but you need it in every region. It doesn't help the Finger Lakes if the capital district has enough testing. You ought to have enough testing and enough tracing in the Finger Lakes. So each region has to have that in place and we understand that.

We can measure this. This has always been about data and science for us, and you can look at each individual region and you will know where each region is in the state by those criteria. So you know what your infection rate is. You know what your hospitalization rate is. You know how many tests you need in place. You know how many tracers you need in place. This can be a science. It can be measured, right? And that's what we want to do. We want to demystify this entire issue. It sounds like a science fiction movie. I know. I feel like we've been living a science fiction movie, but you can also study it and analyze it because we have a lot of experience now, right?

We've been living with this for months. Other countries have lived with this for months, so let's learn. Let's be smart. That's who we are, and we can do that by each region in this state, and you see depending on the region and the state, some regions are ready to go today. They just need to get some logistical pieces in order by the end of the week.


Some places are very close. Central New York just one or two criteria that haven't been met yet, and you can do that with Long Island, New York City, all across the state.

When we reopen, we're talking about a phased reopening, that's what everyone basically is doing. The question is moderating that phasing and doing it intelligently but starting with construction and manufacturing, retail, curbside pickup, agriculture, forestry and fishing. Then to phase two, phase three, phase four, monitoring all along.

We start with businesses that are more essential and pose a lower risk, right, because once you say we're going to reopen, they say, well what first? Well, really everybody says me first. After me first, what business first? Those are the most essential and those that pose a lower risk because you can socially distance, et cetera. That's the matrix to make the decision.

And then businesses have to do this - their part also. This is not a one-sided affair. Businesses have to put safety precautions in place. We understand what has to be done, how the workforce has to have personal protection. They have to be socially distanced. The workspace itself in some cases has to be adjusted, reconfigured. How do you have people but they're six feet apart? They don't come to a cafeteria. There's no gathering, right? That's what we're trying to avoid. And then what processes do we have in place to test those employees or if the employee's symptomatic you can get them testing right away. You can then do tracing within the workforce. You look at what's going on around the country. Just listen to the news. Those meat processing plants where you have hundreds and hundreds of workers getting sick. We have an agriculture plant in Madison County that dozens of people got sick. It's not about the meat or the agriculture. It's the gathering. It's the density. That's what creates the problem. So learning those lessons and making sure that we don't make those mistake here.

On retail, all retail will be authorized to do curbside pickup or drop off or in store pickup. The essential retail, which we've been - has been open all along will continue operating under the current protocols. We'll also open certain businesses state wide which are low risk - landscaping, gardening, low-risk recreational activities like tennis, drive-in movie theaters. Talk about going back to the future, back to drive-in movie theaters. I'm OK with that by the way.

Local officials, they have to do their work and their responsibility. Testing and tracing, they have to have those systems in place. We have to have a system in place regionally to monitor the infection rate with the hospitals. That connection has to be very close. They have to know on a day-to-day basis if not an hour-to-hour basis how many people are walking into the hospitals.

I often do conference calls with all the hospitals in the state to find out exactly what is going on because they can tell you how many people walk through the door that morning or that afternoon, and you want to be able to watch that, and that has to be done on a regional basis. Businesses have to follow these new rules but we have to make sure they're following those rules also, and you will get calls from employees who say I went back to work, but by the way I'm not comfortable. I don't think this is appropriate social distancing. I don't think I'm giving - been given the appropriate equipment.

Regional governor - governments have to be in a position to respond to those. The local governments have to be in communication with each other. We do this on a regional basis. So there are a number of counties in that region, but it's one region and, you know, this virus doesn't respect county borders or state borders. Those governments have to be in contact with each other. If you know what's happening with your neighbor, you know what's happening in your district. So that has to be in place and that has to work.

And there's also something we call a regional control room which is made up of the top officials, government officials, academic officials, healthcare professionals that are watching the situation in that region developing. You are going to increase activity.

[11:50:00] Depending on how intelligently you increase activity will be the possible effect on the spread of the virus. You need to know what the impact is. You need to know it in real time, and you need to be in a position to respond.

If it does not go well and you see that infection rate moving because the hospitals tell you they see an increase or because your testing data shows an increase. You have to be able to pull the plug. Or, slow down the increase in activity and that's what we call the circuit breaker, right? So you're increasing the activity.

You're watching the infection rate. You're watching the hospitalization rate. You see that start to tick up. You have to have a circuit breaker. Slow down the activity level because you're increasing the infection rate.

And nobody wants to be there. That means you're going back to the other side of the mountain. And we just made it over the mountain. Nobody wants to go back to the other side of the mountain. So those regional control groups are very important. They have to be in place.

They have to communicate. Everyone has to know what everyone's responsibilities are going forward. And we have been working with the regions all across the states over the past few weeks.

We have those groups assembled but this week - it's Monday before Friday - start talking or communicating, understand who does what where and that's true in regions all across the state. I would urge them now to get on the telephone or Zoom or whatever they're - your preferred technology.

Start talking. Start understanding what happens on Friday. What do our numbers look like? And lets get that all set sooner rather than later. This is the next big step in this historic journey.

First phase was figure out what we were dealing with because we had no idea. Scramble - frankly - to deal with a situation that dropped from another planet. Stabilize - ramp up the healthcare system. Inform people - get people to understand what we were dealing with. And control the damage.

That's the mountain to me. We are now on the other side of that mountain. Next step, how do we reopen? How do we reopen intelligently? And how do we reopen without taking a step back?

What we have done thus far is really amazing. And it was because we were smart and because we were unified. And because we did that we obverted tragedy. Let's just remember where we were, right?

Remember where you were before you take a step forward. We had the virus that had attacked us from Europe. The virus was coming. They now say - the experts now say, the geniuses now say - the virus came from Europe in January and February. And you know what - no one knew.

No one knew with all the sophistication - with all the public health organizations, with that whole alphabet soup of agencies - nobody knew the virus was coming from Europe. Everybody's looking at China and the virus is coming from Europe. Why? Because by the time we moved the virus had traveled from China to Europe.

And then people are getting on flights from Europe coming to New York. Two million travelers came from Europe - we had no idea. So New York - the East Coast - people are landing at JFK.

They were landing at New York Airport, and that's where the virus came from. January, February, March - nobody knew. European travel ban goes into effect mid March - too late - it was already here.

OK. Let's learn the lesson going forward, but that was the situation. Those were the cards we were dealt. That's why New York had such high numbers. Not because there's anything special or different about New York, but because New York is where the European flights were coming in.

And we didn't know. That was the situation we were handed. They then say well we project hospitalizations to be 120,000. Said 120,000 - do you know how many hospital beds we have in this state? 50,000. How can we have hospitalizations of 120,000 if we only have 50,000 beds - counting every bed in the state of New York?

If you could coordinate every bed, you're at 53,000 beds, and they projected 120,000. So scramble to try to get more hospital beds, but the only real course was you have to reduce the infection rate? How you reduce the infection rate?

You have to close down, stop people from spreading, stop gatherings, stop density. We did that. Otherwise thousands more people would have died. Thousands more would have died. That is not rhetorical.

That is not dramatic. That is a factual statement. Thousands more people would have died. We made that happen; we changed that trajectory. I didn't even know it was possible at one time.

When this started we were at a truly bad and frightening place. If we didn't change the trajectory of this virus and we had a 120,000 show up at our hospitals, we would have made the situation in Italy look like a walk in the park. We were really at a very, very bad place. Again through no fault of our own.

[11:55:00] Virus came from Europe; who ever would have ever figured that? Somebody should have, but above my pay grade. We changed the trajectory, dramatically by what we did. And that was smart, but we have to stay smart and we have to stay united.

But if you look at what we've done, New York - the cases are now on the decline. You look at the nation outside of New York the cases are still on the incline. We took the worst situation in the nation and changed the trajectory, so now we're on the decline. The rest of the nation the cases are still on the incline.

That is because of what the people in this state did. If you would have said when we started this - yes, we have more cases than anyone else. Yes, we had this European virus attack us and nobody expected it.

But we're not only going to change our trajectory - we're going to change the trajectory more dramatically than any place else in the nation. And when you look at the nation compared to New York, you're going to see us on the decline - the rest of the nation on the incline. People would have said it was impossible, but we did it.

But we have to stay smart. On this next phase, we have to learn from the mistakes others have made. And we're not the first to reopen and that's a good thing because you can look around and learn.

Other countries reopened too fast. They didn't have controls in place and they reopened. And then they had to slow down or they had to stop. We don't want to do that. We want to monitor our reopening so that if there's any change we can immediately calibrate it.

Some states have not coordinated their actions so you have one county doing this another county doing this. You've confused the general public. And by the way, Monroe County can not open in and of itself. Onondaga County can not open in and of it self.

Albany County can not open in and of it self. There is no county by county plan here. It has to be coordinated. And it has to at least be in a region, and we did that. Other states didn't. It was smart.

And there's one set of rules and the public has to understand the set of rules. Some states are opening - even though they haven't met the CDC guidelines - which I don't even know how that happens. The Federal Government says here are the CDC guidelines - which are basic health guidelines. Some states don't meet those guidelines.