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Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces Distribution of Health Care Supplies to New York City, Long Island and Westchester Hospitals

March 24, 2020

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning. Good to see you all here in masks, related gear. Let me introduce to my right we have General Patrick Murphy, to my left we have General Raymond Shields. 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 people that you want to be with. 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've done an outstanding job. They came in very quickly and they're setting up this emergency hospital, which is going to be badly needed. I want to thank Alan Steel, and all the people of 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 in certain stances that are not encouraging and I want to make sure people understand them and 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 have 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 at 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 Corey Johnson. We'll have a plan that I believe will be in place by noon today. And we have 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. 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 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 who 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 coronavirus which means they may had 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 healthcare workers that could go back to work, there are workers that 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. Again, the apex could be here in as little as 14-21 days and you're talking about a very significant logistical operational movement to increase that number of hospital beds and do everything that you need to do related to the increased 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 and a staff without the right equipment is virtually useless. So, you have to complete all three at the same time.

As far as beds, we have told the hospitals, I'm going to speak to every hospital administrator today, hospitals must increase their capacity by 50 percent. The goal is to ask them to try to increase it by 100 percent. Remember we have 53,000 beds, we need 140,000 beds. Even if they did increase it by 100 percent, you'd only be at about 100,000 beds. You need 140,000 beds. Emergency hospitals like the 1,000-bed facility that's being built here will be helpful. The emergency hospitals that we're building in Westbury and Stony Brook and at the Westchester Convention Center will be helpful. But they're nowhere near the number of beds that we're going to need. I have no problem using the dormitories all across our state campuses, our CUNY campuses, our state university campuses. I'm speaking to hotel owners about taking over their hotels to put patients in. I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need. But, we need the staff for those beds. We're calling and contacting all retirees in the healthcare field. We're calling all professionals in the healthcare field whether or not they work in a hospital. They could work at an insurance company, in a clinic, or whatever. But we want to enlist as many staff as we can and as many back-up staff because healthcare workers will get sick. This is going to go on for weeks and you can't ask a person to work 14 days consecutive or around the clock shifts, so we'll need a back-up reserve staff.

And equipment, equipment, equipment. Masks, PPEs, and ventilators. And of those three, the great 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 are under respiratory distress. They need a ventilator. The ventilators will make the difference between life and death literally for these people. This is piece of equipment that in a normal course of business you don't have a need for high levels of ventilators and our hospital system has about 3,000 or 4,000 that has 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, seven days or ten days. So, this is a critical and desperate need for ventilators. We're going so far as to you trying experimental procedure where we split the ventilator. We use one ventilator for two patients. Its difficulty to perform. It's experimental, but at this point we have no alternatives. We're working on this experimental application taking 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 mother of necessity is the mother of invention and we are working on this as we speak. Because life is options and we don't have any other options. There is no other 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 is two ways the federal government can do it. One is to use the Federal Defense Production Act. There is federal law where the federal government can say to manufacturers you must produce this product. I understand the federal governments point that many companies have come forward and said we want to help. 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 into this business. I will contract with you today for X number of ventilators. Here's the startup capital you need. Here's the startup capital you need to hire workers that 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 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 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 is 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 the 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 ten times the problem that California has. Ten 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 different magnitude and dimension.

The problem is the volume. Dealing with 2,000 cases is one thing. 2,000 cases, frankly, we could deal with in 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 is a smart way to do this. Deploy the ventilators around the country as they are needed. Different regions have different curbs 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 passed 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 and 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 healthcare workers. I'll send out professionals who've 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's second. And then let's all rush to whoever's 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's saying, this is unsustainable, that we close down the economy and we continue to spend money. There is 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 everybody in their home. In truth, that was not the most 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 now start 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 who it may be transferring to. People who are recovered, you test them, you test the antibodies, you find out that they resolved themselves of the virus. I believe once we get that test you're going to find hundreds of thousands of people who have had the coronavirus and resolved. Once they're 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 who you're trying to protect. And 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 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, providing equipment, providing PPE, 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 is no time to waste. The time to do this is now. FEMA is sending us 400 ventilators. It was on the news this morning. We are sending 400 ventilators to New York. 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 - 25,675, 4,700 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 communities 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 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 Yorkcity 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. The equipment we are bringing today will resolve that immediate need. There will be no hospital in the city of New York who will say today their nurses and doctors can't get equipment. And we're addressing that need not just for New York City but also 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, dealwith 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 thefirefighters 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. When you see them on the street, when you see them in a hospital, please, just say thank you and smile and say, I know what you're doing.

What happens? All these facts, all these numbers. Am I strong in my language vis-a-vis the federal government? Yes, I am. But what happens at the end of the day? What does it all mean? That's what people want to know. What does it all mean? What it all means is what we said it all means the first day this started. The first day I went before the people of New York State and I said, I'm going to tell you the truth, I'm going to tell you the facts the way I know it. Those facts have not changed. Those facts are not going to change. This is not a new situation. We've watched this through China. There are hundreds of thousands of cases. 80 percent will self-resolve. That's why experts say to me - tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands have had the virus, didn't know they had it and resolved. That's why we have to get that test that shows you had the virus because you have the antibodies and you did resolve. And once we do that, that's how you get the economy back to work. That's how you get the back-up healthcare workers.

But 80 percent are going to self-resolve. 20 percent are going to need hospitals. It's not about that. It's about a very small group of people in this population who are the most vulnerable. They are older, they have compromised immune systems, they are HIV positive, or they have emphysema, or they have an underlying heart condition, or they have bad asthma, or they're recovering from cancer. Those are the people who are going to be vulnerable to the mortality of this disease, and it is only 1 percent or 2 percent of the population. But then why all of this? Because it's 1 percent or 2 percent of the population. It's lives, it's grandmothers and grandfathers and sisters and brothers.

And you start to see the cases on TV. It's a 40-year-old woman who recovered from breast cancer but had a compromised immune system and four children at home. That's what this is about. It's about a vulnerable population. I called the executive order that I passed Matilda's law - my mother. It's about my mother. It's about my mother. It's about my mother. It's about your mother. It's about your loved one. And we will do anything we can to make sure that they are protected.

Again, keeping it in perspective, Johns Hopkins, 387,000 cases studied, 16,000 deaths on 387,000. 100,000 recoveries worldwide, 268,000 pending. Last point, it is about the vulnerable. It's not about 95 percent of us. It's about a few percent who are vulnerable. That's all this is about. Bring down that anxiety, bring down that fear, bring down that paranoia. It's not about 95 percent of us.

And we're going to get through it because we are New York and because we've dealt with a lot of things, and because we are smart. You have to be smart to make it in New York. And we are resourceful, and we are showing how resourceful we are. And because we are united, and when you are united, there is nothing you can't do. And because we are New York tough. We are tough. You have to be tough. This place makes you tough, but it makes you tough in a good way. We're going to make it because I love New York, and I love New York because New York loves you. New York loves all of you. Black and white and brown and Asian and short and tall and gay and straight. New York loves everyone. That's why I love New York. It always has, it always will. And at the end of the day, my friends, even if it is a long day, and this is a long day, love wins. Always. And it will win again through this virus. Thank you.

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