Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces State to Decide Wednesday Whether to Slow Reopening of Indoor Dining in New York City
June 29, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning, pleasure to be here. Beautiful New York City, beautiful day. Let me introduce you to the people who are here. From my far right, Kevin Bruen is the First Deputy Superintendent of the New York State Police. To my immediate right, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my left, Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner for the State of New York. To his left, Colonel Tripodo from the New York State Police.
Thank you for being here. I hope everybody had their coffee this morning because it is time to wake up, America. The White House has been in denial on coronavirus from the get-go and their federal response has just been wrong. That's not a political statement. You look at the facts, that's exactly what it says. You have coronavirus increasing in 32 states across the nation. The rate of increase is only getting worse and a number of excuses have been made for this over the past weeks to further the denial. First they said "Well, it's because they're doing more testing, and that's why the number of infections are going up." Not true, because the number of hospitalizations are also going up. People don't go into a hospital unless they're sick, hat is a fact, or because they think they're sick. So, it's not a question of the numbers going up in the testing. It's the number of hospitalizations that are going up. So, you know that the virus is increasing.
And this has been getting worse, it's not getting better. You look at where the United States is now globally, Europe that got hit first before us - We didn't know it, but the virus went from China to Europe, came to New York from Europe, that's why we had that big spike - but America now trails Europe in the recovery from coronavirus. The White House has been saying "Reopen fast because that's good for the economy and we have to get the economy going." Yes, we have to get the economy going, but reopening fast was not good for the economy. What has been happening is when that virus spikes, the market goes down, not up. This was not a smart policy to rush reopening. It did not help the economy. It's the exact opposite, the volatility, the instability, the concern about the path of this nation has roiled the markets. And at the same time from a public health point of view, the number of deaths is increasing. IHME, the model that the White House follows, just increased by 10,000 their death prediction - number of people who will die. Why? Because they're extrapolating out from the increase in infections and the increase in hospitalizations.
The White House has been saying "Well, it's up to the states, it's up to the states." But the President didn't really leave it up to the states. The President has been pressuring states to reopen quickly. "Liberate your state. Liberate New York." Demonstrations that I've been dealing with all across the state pressuring governors to reopen. The denial by the federal government of the severity of this virus was followed by the federal government's abandonment of responsibility. If you don't believe it's a problem, you don't try to find a solution, and that's what happened with the federal government and coronavirus. They never believed it was a problem, so they didn't believe they needed to solve it. The key barometer in all of this has been testing. Everybody said that from day one, every federal official, every state official, get the testing up, get the testing ready. How many testing sites across America has the federal government set up and operated? 41. Well, is that a lot or a little? Well, for comparison, you know how many sites we have in the State of New York? 750. The federal government has put up 41 sites, FEMA and HHS, that they operate. How can that be? Because from day one, they told you they didn't believe it was a problem. They started day one, "It's like the flu." If it's not a problem, you don't try to solve it, and they didn't try to solve it. And as a matter of fact, they have been advocating from day from one, "Reopen the economy, reopen the economy," and now we see the results. It just plain hasn't worked, and it has been a failure. Will Rogers, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." Not a New York quote, but it's right.
Where are we in New York? We've been smart. We didn't do this politically. We followed the facts. We followed the data. And it works. We have the lowest level of hospitalizations since this nightmare began, 853. Amen. We had the lowest three-day average death total. We're down to eight deaths yesterday. We remember the eight in our thoughts and prayers, and we don't want to lose anyone in this state, but you look at where we are compared to where we have been, you remember at one time we had 800 deaths per day. Today we have eight. We do more testing than any state in the United States. We did 46,000 tests yesterday on a Sunday. And the infection rate was 0.8. When you're below 0.1, that's our goal, and 0.8 is lower than it was some points last week. You look at all the different regions, the numbers have been good all across the regions, regions that are opening, going through phased reopenings. The numbers are all constant. You look at New York City. Within New York City we studied the boroughs because there's a wide variance in the infection rate. It tends to be worse in the outer boroughs. But you can follow that day by day, and that's good.
We have a very elaborate tracing system so that when we find a positive case, we trace it back. That has been working very well, because we have found, traced back to clusters of cases. Westchester County graduation, where there was a young man who apparently came up from Florida and attended a graduation that generated 13 cases. There's an aluminum factory in Montgomery, 500 employees, 74 positives. Washington County, a slate quarry, 12 cases that we traced back. Oswego apple factory, 82 cases. This is actually good news. It means the system works. You find a positive, you trace it back, you find the common denominator, and that's how you stop the spread. You look at our curve compared to the rest of the country, you see the rest of the country is going up and we're going down.
As we continue to test, we continue to trace, we have the data, we're continuing on our reopening plan. Phase Four is ready for Western New York tomorrow. So, we're excited about that. In New York City, we have complications that we are studying now. New York City's currently Phase Two. Phase Three will begin on Monday. But there are issues we have to think through. One is there's a lack of compliance with social distancing in New York City. You can see it in pictures. You can see it if you walk down the street. You can see the crowds in front of bars. You can see the crowds on street corners. It is undeniable. That is partially the responsibility of citizens not to do it. It's also the responsibility of the local governments to enforce compliance. We ask everyone to comply, but we ask the local governments to enforce the compliance. I've said from the very outset of this to all the county executives, all the mayors across the state, look, the state is more than doing it's part. The responsibility for the local governments: help with testing, help with tracing but do the local compliance of the socially distance and mask wearing. That is a complication in New York City.
The other complication is the spread across the nation is also problematic for us. We are not a separate country in New York. Some people think we are, but we're really not. We're not an island. People from the other states travel to New York and New York is a hub. If other states have a high infection rate probability is they're going to wind up increasing the spread and the infection in New York. We learned that the hard way.
Why did New York have that big spike when we started? Why was New York so different from every other state? Because the virus came from Europe. When the federal government was telling us the virus was in China, it had left China, it went to Europe. We had 3 million people come in from flights from Europe, January, February, March. That's where the virus came from in New York. Likewise, we're bringing the rate down. Other states it's going up. People get on planes in the other states, fly through New York, fly to New York probability is they're going to bring the infection.
One of the issues we're working on in New York: Indoor dining has shown that it has been problematic. That a virus spreads in closed, indoor areas that have air conditioned systems. We know that indoor dining has been problematic. Outdoor dining has worked very well all across the state, New York City included. The state's going to be reviewing the data and consulting with stake holders in New York City. I've started speaking with restaurant owners, business owners about the risk, reward on indoor dining. We've been speaking with Comptroller Scott Stringer who raises a lot of good points about the risks of indoor dining. Speaker Corey Johnson, the same thing. The Mayor, the same thing.
I'm talking to business owners about it. We're going through the data, but this is a real issue. Our reopenings have worked very well. We're not going backwards, we're going forwards. Lot of these other states have actually had to go backwards. They started to reopen and they had to stop. But, we want to study this issue primarily New York City on indoor dining and we'll have a final decision by Wednesday so people who operate those types of businesses will know what we're doing.
The increase in viral spread across the nation is also a problem. Especially in New York City. New York City is where most of the flights come. New York City is where most of the travelers come. We have offered help to any state that is experiencing a spike. We have personnel who know this better than anyone in the United States. We learned it the hard way. We have equipment. We have testing capacity. Any state that needs help, we stand ready. I will never forget how good this country was to New York when we needed help. The door swings both ways in life. Relationships work both ways.
When I asked for help, we had 30,000 people from across the country, health care professionals, who volunteered to come to New York at our peak. That was an amazing sign of generosity. We don't forget as New Yorkers and we'll be there for other people.
A few additional announcements: The Video Music Awards are going to be held Sunday, August 30 at Barclays Center. There are air filtration devices— air filters that can actually help with the COVID virus and NASA has studied these. There are HEPA filters, which are High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters that can actually filter out the COVID virus. The COVID virus is 0.1 microns. There are HEPA filters that can filter out 0.01, so any malls that will open in New York— large malls— we will make it mandatory that they have air filtration systems that can filter out the COVID virus. For many of these systems, it depends on what filter you install, called the MERV rating of the filter. But they have different filters that filter out different sized particles, and they have filters that can actually filter out and catch the COVID virus. For large mall re-openings— which we haven't done yet— but we're going to make this mandatory. I would recommend— the state recommends— for all businesses and offices, they explore the potential for their air conditioning/ air filtration system, adding a filter that can filter out the COVID virus. We have been looking at this issue because we look around the country and you're seeing malls, you're seeing air conditioning systems, indoor spaces that have been problematic. And we think this offers promise.
Also, I'm a Queens boy and I want to remind New Yorkers that fireworks are dangerous and fireworks are illegal. Fireworks are illegal. Some nights in New York City, it sounds like the wild west with all the fireworks going off. I've never heard it like this before. They're disturbing. They bother people. And they are dangerous. And children, people, get hurt every year. It is illegal. You can't do it. It is illegal. And the Police Department needs to enforce the law. But the State Police are going to start a fireworks enforcement detail. We're going to try to prevent the fireworks from coming into the state in the first place before they get distributed. And I want to thank the State Police and the first deputy is here and the colonel is here. The primary supplier for New York State is the State of Pennsylvania. Not the state itself, but fireworks companies within the State of Pennsylvania. And we're going to be focusing on that route for the transmission of the fireworks. We'll also be helping local governments deal with this issue, but I need the local governments in this state to take it seriously. I know there's a lot going on a lot of levels, but this is illegal and it's dangerous, so we have to stop it.
And to the president— because if we're going to turn this around in this nation, it's going to take the White House— and to the president, I say today, if you want to help stop COVID-19, then they should start telling the people of this country the truth. And the truth starts with how large a problem this is and how real a threat COVID is. It's the leadership to stand up and tell the American people, "look at the increase across the country, look at what's happening to this country vis-a-vis the other countries, look how it's hurt the economy, it is a real threat."
And to start simply, the president can do two things. First, sign an Executive Order directing everyone to wear a mask. How we're at this point as a nation and we still haven't done the simple, easy, minimal step of saying you must wear a mask when you're in public. The president doesn't have to pass a piece of legislation, doesn't have to call the Congress, just sign an Executive Order saying wear a mask. We did it two months ago in this state. The other states are just starting to do it now. States that were recalcitrant. Governors that said, "We don't need to do this. Masks don't work." All the political nonsense we heard, now they're doing a 180 and you have the same states now wearing masks. Let the president have the same sense and do that as an Executive Order. Then let the president lead by example and let the president put a mask on it because we know it works. We've proven that it works in the state of New York. The president can still be New York tough and New York smart and united and disciplined and loving. I want to show you one other thing that makes the point.
This - do we know what this is? This is the mountain. What is the tallest mountain in the state of New York? Mount Marcy. This is the mountain that New Yorkers climbed. You know, I keep showing the curve, this is the curve. Factually proportionate. We started on day one and the numbers kept going straight up for 42 days. 42 days, New Yorkers dealt with that increase. Why did we have the spike? How did we get to day one? Because the virus came from Europe and nobody told us it was coming from Europe because the federal government didn't know.
We dealt with it. We paid the price. We dealt with that spike and we climbed right up the mountain. We got smart, New Yorkers stepped up. We wore masks, we socially distanced, we closed down and we stopped the curve. We plateaued. You look at the projections - they all projected that this spike would continue killing tens of thousands more people. New Yorkers came together and they turned the curve. Then we plateaued on day 42 and then we had to reduce the infection rate and that decline went from day 42 to day 111.
This was the trajectory of COVID in our state. We don't want to climb this mountain again. We don't want to climb this mountain again. That's why the phased reopening, staying smart, staying disciplined, and that's why the spread across the country that if that spread comes to New York, we could have to do this all over again. That's why we put in place quarantines, that's why we're offering help to all the other states, that's why we're saying the president has to step up because doing this once in life is enough.
We don't need to climb another mountain. One mountain was enough. We don't want to climb a mountain range. One mountain is enough. We don't want to do it again.
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