Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Lowest Percentage of Positive COVID-19 Test Results since Pandemic Began
June 17, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Changed seats, trying to confuse me. I know who you are, I know who you're not. This is one of the best days for New York since we have started this long journey into a dark night. Day 109 since we started this, a life-changing journey. Day 24 since the civil unrest started after Mr. Floyd's murder. We have the New York State Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. I believe this is going to be transformational for the State of New York. I believe it is the single best chance for real change, real reform. Seize the moment, carpe momentum.
People have said we have to change our police departments and our public safety strategy. Now is the time to do it, and they happen to be right. We have April 1 as the deadline. 288 days, and counting, for local governments to enact real reform. And we mean real reform, we mean start with a blank sheet of paper, and come up with your vision, for your public safety department, in your community. What do you want it to be, and what do you want it not to be? What is the use of force policy for your department? What is the staffing level? What does demilitarize the police mean in your community? People talk about defunding the police. What is the budget that you want for the police, which you can only arrive at after you determine what staffing you want for the police? What is your transparent disciplinary process? How do you want your police department to work in your community, in your city, in your county? And the collaborative means elected officials, police officials, community activists, put everybody at the table and answer the questions. What we have determined from this period of unrest and demonstration, from the beginning of which I said I stand with the protesters, we need to change. We need reform. Good. Second question, what change, what reform do you want? And how do we do it? That's the intelligent progression of this moment towards action. And this moment without action is a wasted moment.
Make change when you can make change. Make change when the planets line up to change. After the Sandy Hook massacre, passed sensible gun control. The nation saw children massacred in a classroom. They were outraged. They should have been. Turn the outrage into action. How do you turn outrage into action in society? By actually coming up with a new policy and making it a reality. But that starts with leadership, and it starts with the leadership on the local level. Somebody stand up and lead. Mayor, stand up and lead. City council president, stand up and lead. City council person in charge of public safety, stand up and lead. 288 days. Who has the paper, who has the pen, who's calling the meeting? I ask that question to every one of the 500 communities in this state that have a police department. Who's doing it in your city? Who's doing it in your county? Only 288 days, and a lot of work to do in 288 days. Everyone says what they're against. Great. What are you for? And how do we do it? That's the question. Show some leadership.
Friday is Juneteenth. It commemorates the emancipation of slavery in the United States. It is a day that we should all reflect upon. It's a day that's especially relevant in this moment in history. I'm going to sign an executive order today, hence all my pens, recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees, and I'm going to propose legislation next year to make it an official state holiday.
On the reopening, we're continuing to follow the data and the metrics. Our number of hospitalizations, lowest level since we started, amen, 1,400. Number of deaths, 17 deaths in the state of New York. 17. Lowest number since we started. The only way I can feel better is if that number ever becomes zero. But 17, we remember in our thoughts and prayers the 17 lives lost, but this is great, great news compared to where we've been. Lowest level on the three-day rolling average.
That is the mountain. There it is. We always were wondering about the configuration of that mountain. What did it look like? How high was it going up? When would it crest? What was the plateau? How do we flatten the curve? How long would it take us to get down?
And then to add to the good news, we almost have too much good news, we did about 60,000 tests yesterday. Put that in context. 60,000 tests on one day. No state in the united states is doing that. 60,000 tests across the state. Number who tested positive, less than 1%. That is the lowest percentage of positive that we have had since we have started. Period. That is one of the lowest levels in the United States of America and we once again have demonstrated that we've gone from the worst infection rate in the country to the best infection rate in the country. Just think about that for a minute. Those are not words. Those are powerful facts. We had the worst infection rate. The rate of transmission was the highest. We now have the lowest rate of transmission.
Just think about what this state accomplished, what the people of this state accomplished. If I told you 108 days ago we were going to accomplish that, what would we have said? What would I have said? I would have said I didn't believe it. I would have said I didn't believe it was possible.
But facts are facts and you look at these facts and I'm telling you today the federal government is making a mistake and it is making an historic mistake and that is not a political comment. That is a fact-based, objective comment that this federal government is making a mistake on the way it is handling this COVID crisis and how it is now advising states and the people of this nation.
On the facts it is a mistake. We had the political debate. How do we reopen? We should just reopen immediately, this is all overblown, it's fine - that was theory A. There was a partisan divide to it. More conservatives argued that. Government should just get out of the way, let the free market do it. Right? That was The Wall Street Journal, New York Post conservative theory. Just open the doors. And then there was another theory. Let's reopen based on data. Let's not just reopen blindly as an expression of political ideology. We're dealing with a virus. The virus doesn't have a political ideology. No doctor ever said to me, oh, we did a COVID test, found out it was conservative. Found out it was liberal. It's a virus. It moves as a matter of science. But there were two theories.
We tested the two theories. We went into the laboratory and we tested the two theories and now you have numbers. And numbers don't lie. You have 20 states where you have the COVID virus increasing as a matter of numbers. Fact. Look at the headlines. Facts. The COVID virus is increasing in 20 states across the country. The states without the smart reopening plans are going up. That is a fact. It's not a Democratic fact, it's not Republican fact. There are no Democratic facts and Republican facts. There are just facts. There's Democratic opinion, Republican opinion, but there are no Democratic or Republican facts. That is a fact.
Well what's New York's interest in the rest of the nation? First of all, we're Americans and we care about other Americans. Second, on a parochial level, if those states are going up, they could spread the virus to New York. They have a higher rate of infection than New York. What happens when those people get on planes and fly to New York? That's how we got here in the first place. People landing at our airports. So we do have a selfish interest. Same interest as so many states expressed when we were at the beginning of this and they were worried about New Yorkers going to their states. We lived through that and now it's the inverse.
Now people are getting on planes, they're traveling, they could actually be bringing the virus to New York. Well, you hear from the federal government the numbers are going up because we're doing more testing. That is just not true. As a matter of fact, as a matter of mathematics, as a matter of the data, that is just not a true statement. Forget the testing, hospitalizations are going up. The number of people going into hospitals is going up. How do you explain that? Are they pretending to be sick? Are they not really sick? You see the number of hospitalizations going up in those places where the percentage is going up in testing. First, their argument on testing doesn't make any sense because not only is testing going up but the percentage of positive is going up. Even put that aside, because it's complicated for people.
People walking into the hospitals are going up. Which, by definition, means more people are getting sick. Otherwise, more people don't go into hospitals. That's Arizona, that's Texas. And by the way, it tracks with the increase in the testing. But it is undeniable but that more people are getting sick when more people are going into hospitals. New York, the number of people going into hospitals is going down. The percent testing positive is going down. These are facts. This is undeniable. When I say the federal government is making a mistake, these policies have real consequences. This is a moment in history where it's not going to be about the partisan divide when they write the books.
They'll talk about the absurd politics. There's going to be real life and death consequences to this. They are now projecting, by the model that the White House uses, they have increased their projections to show almost 90,000 more people are going to die by August. Ninety thousand. What these projection models do is they change their projection when the facts change. In other words, when they see numbers going up in states, they increase their projection. So they watch today's numbers, they see more hospitalizations, they then increase their projected deaths because they see more people going into the hospitals, so they increase their projected deaths. In April, they projected 60,000 deaths by August. May, they projected 134,000 deaths. Now, they're projecting 149,000 deaths.
Why? Because they're seeing the virus increase and they're seeing the hospitalizations go up. So this federal policy has increased the number of people who they project to die by almost 90,000. It's not a Democratic projection. It's not a Republican projection. It's the projection of the model funded by Gates which is relied upon by the White House. 90,000 people, think about that - 90,000 people. "Well, that's the cost we have to pay to get the economy back up and running." Really? That hasn't helped the economy. When the virus goes up, the financial markets go down. When the virus goes up, consumer confidence goes down. When the virus spread goes up, people get more nervous and less confident about government and about the plan and about their future. "Feel good, invest in America. Oh, more people are dying. Oh, we're reopening, but it's actually increasing the spread of the virus. But feel good! Come out and shop." People aren't stupid. They're not. People are smart.
In New York, we stay smart. Being smart, Westchester, Rockland about to enter phase three. Long Island is on track for Wednesday. New York City is on track for Monday. New York City will have been phase one for 14 days. You look at all the numbers, all the numbers are good. You look at the number of tests, the positive tests. You look at it from the point of reopening. The numbers are good. Hospitalizations since reopening, the numbers are good. So New York is on track to enter phase two on Monday. The same metrics we use in New York City are the same metrics we've used in every region across the state. And they have all shown to be accurate and effective. We don't change the rules for New York City. We don't change the rules for Long Island. It's one set of rules for everyone. And they have worked everywhere in the state. They work when we are responsible in what we're doing.
So New York City, do what every other region has done thus far. Employers have to be responsible, store owners have to be responsible, employees have to be responsible, local governments have to be responsible and do their job. They have to have their testing in place. Their testing has to be ramping up. Part of the phasing is allowing the local governments to increase their capacity to handle the additional burden. They like to leave that out.
The role for local governments, the responsibility for local governments, has been going up. Every time you hit a new phase, they have to have more sophisticated tracing, more sophisticated testing, more sophisticated compliance because the number of people are coming up. The phases are not just automatic. The phases are allowing the local governments to get their act together. And they have to because this only works if the business owners are educated, if they're ready, if they have the plans in place, if the employees are ready, and if the local governments are ready.
Today I'm going to be signing legislation to protect the rights of healthcare workers who speak out, quote unquote whistleblowers should be protected. But New York has climbed the mountain, and it was the highest mountain in the State of New York. I'm going to declare the COVID mountain the highest mountain in the State of New York. It's not really a mountain because it doesn't exist. But it's a mountain to me, and it's a mountain to many people. And it's a mountain that we had to climb, which was unlike any other climb, because it went straight up and you couldn't see the top because the top was in the clouds, but the only strategy was every day to take the next step. Take next step. Take the next step. Take the next step. It's hard. It was exhausting. It hurt. But you'll find the top, even if you can't see the top through the clouds. Just keep climbing, you'll find the top, almost blind faith. And we determined the top by flattening the curve. You flatten the curve, you create the plateau, you create the crest. We created the crest. But then we had to come down the other side and that was a long journey. It was about 42 days up the mountain, about 66 days down the mountain, when you look back. Who's counting? I was counting every day. We climbed the mountain and we're on the other side. There are other mountains to climb and remember that we didn't create this mountain. We didn't create this crisis.
This crisis was created because the virus did not come from China. It did not come from China, mistake. The virus came from Europe. The virus came from Italy. The virus came from France. The virus came from Spain. How did that happen? I never heard that. I know. Because nobody ever said that. Nobody ever told us. The virus left China and went to Europe. That's what happened this past January. And then the virus came here from Europe. January, February, March. Federal government didn't do a European travel ban until when? March 16. January, February, March. How many flights flew into JFK and how many people came? Three million. Three million. JFK, Newark international. Did we screen those people? The federal government didn't screen those people because the virus was supposed to be in China according to them. That's how the crisis was created in New York. That's why New York had the high infection rate. It had nothing do with New Yorkers. Had nothing do with a blue state. Had nothing to do with anything about New York. It's because we were misled. We were misinformed and the virus was coming from Europe. That's what created the crisis. So, we had nothing to do with the creation. Then we had the worst crisis in the nation. And then we were left on our own by and large, but we managed it.
It is a lesson that will go down in the history books and a lot of lessons for us to learn on many levels. But we did it and in many ways we should be invigorated because of it. That which doesn't kill you can make you stronger. We are stronger for it. I believe that. We're stronger as a community. And now we have other situations that we have to confront, other mountains to climb. But we have confidence after the last thing we've been through. And we will climb those other mountains and we will do it together because we are New York tough, and smart, and united, and disciplined, and loving, and we are empowered to do that. And I look forward to doing that now that we are on the other side of this mountain, we'll climb new mountains together, and there are many new mountains to climb. For me, seeing those numbers back down, we went up, we came down, and we're back where we should be. It means we have to move on, stay vigilant. It could come back, if we don't stay smart, it will come back. Could be a second wave. But we did what we had to do, my friends, and we did it together, and we did it every day. And now we're going to move on to other things.
These daily briefings, while fun, take a lot of time, and I'm going to finish the daily briefings on Friday, and then we'll do briefings as necessary, and I'm sure they will often be necessary. But we're going to turn the page on the immediacy of this crisis. I hope people learn from what we accomplished here in New York. I hope people around the country look at New York and say, how did they do that? How did they go from the worst situation in terms of transmission to the best? How did they do that? I hope they look around and say, how can all these states be going up and New York is going down? How can that be? I thought New York had such a terrible problem. All that density, all that crowding. How's New York going down and our states are going up? What's the difference between what we're doing and what New York is doing? Isn't that peculiar? How can New York be going down and we're going up? That would be the logical question to ask. And there is a logical answer, and that answer can save lives. We have saved tens of thousands of lives, New York. And that is more important than any of this other stuff. I sign the executive order.
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