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Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Opens the State's First Drive-Through Covid-19 Mobile Testing Center in New Rochelle

March 13, 2020

A rush transcript is available below:

Okay, good morning to everyone. I would like to acknowledge my colleagues that are here with me today. To my left, you will hear from him in a moment, Michael Dowling from Northwell Health, which has done a fantastic job not just at this facility but all across the State and I want to thank him very much.

We have Jon Cohen, who is the Executive Chairman of BioReference, which is a private laboratory that is going to be working with the State of New York and tremendously increase our capacity. I want to thank Jon for his professionalism and for the way his company has stepped up.

Mike Kopy, who is our Director of Emergency Management and his entire team which has been doing a great job. And Simonida Subotic who works with me in my office and has been coordinating much of this response.

We are in New Rochelle this morning. New Rochelle has the highest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country. The highest density of cases. We made New Rochelle what we call a containment zone, which means we closed the schools, the closed the large gatherings. And we brought in the National Guard to help the community. The National Guard has been helping clean. They've been distributing meals and they've really done an outstanding job and I want to thank them very much. They're here today, thank you for the beautiful job. Let's give them a round of applause.

As you know, our strategy in this state with communities all across the countries are trying to do is slow the spread of this virus. There are two ways to do that. First, reduce density. Reduce the concentration of people so you reduce literally the likelihood of communicating the disease. We announced yesterday we're reducing large gatherings that's all density reduction. The second leg of the strategy is testing. Testing, testing, testing. You want to find positive cases because you want to be able to isolate those positive cases and then find out who that person may have been in touch with so you can get them the assistance they need.

This is a very creative way of testing. This is drive through testing. Something I didn't hear of last week, but something that we're doing this week thanks to the good effort of the team we have here. Drive through testing means people in this community can call a telephone number, make an appointment and then can come to be tested and literally drive through the testing facilities. There are 6 lanes that are operating. You drive in your car and the medical staff comes to you, does the test, takes the swabs and then you pull out. Then the swabs get sent to a laboratory, in this case BioReference. They do the testing, we get the results back to the person. This facility can do about 200 cars per day. So depending on how many people are in the cars, how many people you actually can serve, it's not only faster and easier it's also smarter and safer because you're not exposing people who may be positive.

Up until now, if somebody thinks they're positive, they might walk into a hospital. They walk into a hospital, they're now exposing people in the emergency room, they're exposing staff, etcetera. So it's actually safer to keep them in their car so they can come in for the testing. It's less exposure overall. We have a phone number. You can't just come, you have to call first to make an appointment and then come. Each car is here for about 15 minutes. The phone number's 888-364-3065. We are prioritizing people in New Rochelle first because again, that's where we want to reduce that density and reduce those cases. But, people from all throughout Westchester can be served at this facility.

We are also prioritizing vulnerable populations, and this is what we have to keep in mind. Many people will be exposed to this virus. Many people have already been exposed to this virus. Didn't know it, and have what they call self-resolved, where they had the virus, they thought they had the flu, they're now better, they may have had mild symptoms, so many people have already been exposed to the virus, and 80 percent of the people will self-resolve. Our priority, because our concern is the quote-unquote vulnerable populations, and we have to keep that in mind. This facility is new and different. I understand that. Senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, and people with underlying illnesses, especially respiratory illnesses.

This is basically pneumonia, and if you have an underlying respiratory illness, then this situation is more problematic. For 80 percent of the people, you'll self-resolve, God bless. We're focusing on the vulnerable populations, and we need to keep that in mind. This facility is new and different. I understand that. But, our job is to find ways to respond to the situation, and this is a new situation, so by definition you're going to see new and different responses to it and that's what you're seeing here. I spoke to Vice President Pence again yesterday and I want to thank the Vice President who's been very cooperative and very accessible and very cooperative. On the issue of testing I said to the Vice President and I've said publicly I think the federal government should decentralize testing. What does that mean? Rather than trying to control it all through Washington, through CDC and through the FDA, the volume is just too high. States regularly regulate labs.

We have 200 private labs in the State of New York. Those laboratories are doing HIV testing, Zika testing, they're doing all sorts of testing for us. Our State Department of Health routinely regulates those 200 labs.

Let the federal government decentralize the authority to the state governments and say to the state governments, God bless you, you can do authorized testing, you can authorize what's called automated testing which takes a lab capacity from like 30 tests a day to like 1,000 tests per day.

But we do have a crisis in testing. We're not up to scale. You need to change that quickly and let the federal government turn that function over to the states. The states do it anyway. That's our bread and butter. You could open up 501,000 laboratories overnight if you just turn that responsibility back to the State.

I hope the federal government takes this recommendation seriously. I know that in New York we have dozens of laboratories that could start testing tomorrow and to increase their capacity dramatically if we left it up to the State regulatory bodies.

I also, in closing, want to say a special thank-you to the health care professionals who are here. These nurses, these doctors, they get into this line of work because they have a calling and they have a passion to help other people. As simple but as profound as that is, and there's no finer demonstration of that than what you're seeing today. People who come here to help other people, put themselves in a precarious position just to help other people. It says something about who they are, it says something about their character, and it says something about their heart and their soul that is just truly beautiful, which I respect and I admire and I am very grateful for.

So I thank each and every one of them, not just here at this facility, but all across the state, where in emergency rooms today and laboratories today who are really stepping up to really help their brothers and sisters. It's humanity at its best. At times of crisis, we tend to see what people are really made of. You see the good and you see the bad. Today, the people who are working here are showing us the best. I truly respect them and I thank them all.

To BioReference and Dr. Cohen, we'll have the capacity starting next week to do 5,000 tests per day with BioReference. That is a huge step forward and I want to thank them very much. Northwell and Michael Dowling, who I've had the pleasure of working with for many years. Michael Dowling used to work for a person who I consider the greatest governor in the history of the state of New York. A gentleman by the name of Mario Cuomo, who had Michael as his health commissioner and head of health for the entire state. My father was a great judge of character and a great judge of talent as evidenced by Michael Dowling. I give you Michael Dowling. Thank you.

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