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Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: During Coronavirus Briefing, Governor Cuomo Signs $40 Million Emergency Management Authorization for Coronavirus Response

March 3, 2020

A rush transcript is available below:

Governor Cuomo: Good morning everyone. I don't think anyone here today needs any introduction, but from my far right we have our great Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker, the great Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the phenomenal Speaker Carl Heastie and the great special counsel Beth Garvey.

A couple of issues today, I'm going to sign a bill at the conclusion of my remarks that the Houses passed yesterday that is essential, and I'll have more comments on that in a second. But first an update on the general situation. We said for the past several weeks that with this Coronavirus situation you're going to see continued spreading ad that spreading is inevitable. I said you'll start to see community spread cases where you can't track it back directly to one place or one visit. And I think that's what we're seeing today. We have a case in Westchester, a 50 year old gentleman who did not travel to any of the places that are on the "watch list." Did travel to Miami, but that is not a place that we have known that there's any cluster of Coronavirus. And he has tested positive. Lives in Westchester, works in Manhattan, has been with his family in Westchester. So we are now going through possible connections to track down possible connections to find people. The SAR School in Riverdale closed, that is today, that is a school that one of the children attended. There may be some more schools that voluntarily close just until they determine exactly if there were children who might have exposed other children because you have to now track back all of these situations. Our information is the gentleman had an underlying respiratory illness and he is ill and he is hospitalized.

That's juxtaposed with the case we talked about which was a 31-year-old healthcare worker who is positive but she's at home, she's not even hospitalized. And they said, "Why isn't she hospitalized?" Because she has mild symptoms, right? We're all focused on the spread trajectory. The real fact that's relevant is 80 percent of the people who get this virus will self-resolve, they may not even know they have the virus, it will be like a flu with mild symptoms. Twenty percent could get ill. And the lethality rate estimated by CDC, 1.4 percent, which is about double the normal flu rate, but again with populations, senior citizens, immune-compromised and people with an underlying illness. So that's the overall picture.

We also have two families in Buffalo who traveled to Italy and the part of the Italy that has had an outbreak. Those two families are now being tested and they are isolated in their homes. So we're seeing what we expected, what we anticipated, which was a continuing spread. The increased testing and getting up that testing capacity, you can see how important it is now. Our capacity was only a couple of hundred tests per day. You take one of these situations and you're tracking back possible exposures, you see the numbers increasing very quickly. So getting our testing capacity up is critical. We're working with private laboratories where the Department of Health will share their testing protocol with those laboratories. But increasing the capacity of testing by bringing on those proven labs and that is also ongoing, and we are making good progress on that. SUNY is contemplating having the students who are in abroad programs come home. We will have a final determination on that by the end of the day. There is a practical reason why you might want students to come home before travel in that country is stopped. So SUNY is going be deciding that today.

We announced as you know yesterday insurance regulations that will protect people who have to pay any costs. I am going to amend the paid sick leave bill that I sent to the legislature to add a specific provision that says people who because of this situation with Coronavirus have to be quarantined should be protected. Their employer should pay them for the period and their job should be protected. And I am going to make that amendment to the paid sick leave bill that I sent up.

Last point, the legislature passed yesterday an emergency appropriation of $40 million dollars and emergency measures to allow the State government the ability to handle this situation. I think first as a piece of legislation it was critical. These quarantines, when we say quarantined do we need to set up a congregate quarantine facility? You need the legal authority to do that. You can't just say, people it's a voluntary quarantine. To get all this testing capacity up, I have to be able to say to laboratories I need you to cooperate with the State government on this. So, those emergency measures were critical, the amount of money was critical. And if you needed any proof of how urgent that bill was, look at where we are this morning.

I want to applaud the Senate leader, I want to applaud the Speaker for how quickly they moved. The Speaker likes to say to me you have a conference of one. He has obviously a much larger conference. I say yeah, but my conference of one can be more difficult than your conference. But, it is important that people know that government is working and government sees it, and is doing what it has to do and is not caught up in politics and it's not caught up in any confusion. You know, they look at Washington, we have so much going on and you have Washington fighting with themselves. New York is the exact opposite. In one day both the Senate called back everyone to do the vote, the Assembly stayed late at night to work through the vote. And I can't tell you how confident that should make New Yorkers feel because here you need government to work, my friends. You need competent government that steps up and gets the job done, even when it's challenging and even when we're going down a path that no one has gone down before, which is where we are. So I'm very proud of what the Senate and the Assembly did, and with that I'm going to sign the bill and then we'll hear from the Senate Leader and we will then hear from the Speaker.

A conference of one, after much debate, signs the bill. Congratulations.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins: Often our conferences and the conference of one have heated discussion and disputes, but what we all understand is that we're here for one purpose, and that is to make sure that New Yorkers are getting the actions, the reactions that they need in order to be confident in their government. And so despite any of what might happen, because each of us have the same focus, the right things happened. I did not think when we gaveled out that we would be gaveling back in, this was a first for me as a Leader. But given the facts, given the circumstances, that was the right thing to do and I'm very, very happy that our House came back together and we passed this important piece of legislation. Little did I know that this morning I would wake up to find that the county that I live in, in the city I represent, there is an active case. I had to tell that to my daughter on her way to work at a hospital and because of our actions I was able to tell her with confidence that we are preparing to step up, to lead. We have amazing health professionals, you know Dr. Zucker here, and again a group that can come together quickly and just stay focused on what's right. Thank you Governor for your quick action and, of course, my colleague Speaker Heastie. I have a big conference but his is even bigger, but the fact is that size doesn't matter in this instance. Yeah, I figured I'd wake you guys up. And with, thank you Governor, I'll turn it back.

Speaker Heastie: Boy you had a lot of fun with that. Your comment about the Governor with the conference of one, I was going to say sometimes I don't know which one I'm going to side with, conference of one.

One of the takeaways that should be from the swift action, is that I think the coordination and the briefing by Doctor Zucker, I don't think there's a more prepared state, I don't think there's a more prepared health department to deal with the situation at hand. As the Governor said, it's a situation we've never dealt with before. Some of these decisions, time is going to be of the essence. So I think the quick coordination for the Department of Health to make swift decisions that may end up happening simultaneously in two different counties, I think is the reason why the members said they thought it was important to move this bill to allow the Governor as the head of the state to use his leadership and to allow Commissioner Zucker to use his leadership for what's best for the state.

Governor Cuomo: And I think, just to echo what the Senate Leader and the Speaker said, these are uncharted territories. Government has to respond. Government has to respond quickly. There can't be a situation where we have to do something, we have to quarantine people, and we have to say wait a second we do not know if we have the legal authority. We have to go pass a bill. We have to do this. We have to be able to move. Every day matters here and we have to have the funds to do that, the resources to do that. That is what the bill was about yesterday. Also, as a matter of course I work very closely with the Senate Leader and the Speaker, and as things come up I inform them right away. Sometimes in the middle of the night just to make sure they have the same amount of aggravation that I do. But we are in close communication on all of these events as they come up and the actions that we are taking.

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