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Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Four States Added to Travel Advisory Requiring 14-Day Quarantines

September 8, 2020

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

Good morning. Happy post-Labor Day. Go Islanders! Very excited about the Islanders. First game was yesterday. Not successful, but that's okay - giving Tampa Bay a false sense of security. It's a good tactic.

To my right, we have Mr. Gareth Rhodes, which everybody knows. To my immediate right, we have Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my left, Robert Mujica, Budget Director, State of New York. To Robert's left, Dr. Zucker, Health Commissioner extraordinaire.

Let's talk about where we are today and the number of issues and then I'll take whatever questions you have. Today is day 192, but we're entering a different phase. This is now a post-Labor Day phase. The situation started in March, then blended into basically people starting an early summer vacation in April, May. Labor Day starts a different phase. Labor Day people start to get back to work. Labor Day schools are opening, activity is increasing, colleges are opening. You see traffic starting to increase, which we're seeing now. More road traffic than ridership and public transportation, which other cities have also seen on the reopening. People feel more comfortable being in their car to commute than being on public transportation and being in an environment with other people.

We anticipated that. That's to be expected. That has consequences. We'll see more traffic on the roads, longer commutes. We will be encouraging people to take public transportation. The trains are clean, they're disinfected - first time in history - but you're going to see different factors in this new phase.

Flu season is starting. Flu season is going to be a complicating factor. Flu season means there will be more stress on the testing system. Same testing that does COVID testing does flu testing. You'll see more stress on the testing system. Flu symptoms are much like COVID symptoms so people are sneezing, people who are sniffling - could be the flu, could be COVID. That will cause additional complications. So keep that in mind as we move forward.

On the numbers today - and remember, these were Sunday numbers which are always a little different than during the week. Four hundred and forty-five hospitalizations, 114 ICU, down 1; intubations down 5. The number of lives lost is 5 yesterday and they're in our thoughts and prayers. Three-day average of deaths lost is about 5. You look across the state, basically it's stable everywhere. Western New York was actually down yesterday and we've been watching Western New York. Again, that was a holiday sample so I take this with a grain of salt, but it's better news for Western New York. We'll see where they are tomorrow.

All across the city, the numbers have basically been good. The infection rate, .96, which is extraordinary. Means it's been below 1 percent for over a month now and it is an obvious outlier to what's going on across the rest of the country. Under 1 percent for 32 days and my hat's off to New Yorkers. Who's doing this? The continued compliance and discipline of New Yorker's. That's who's doing it. Who's wearing the masks? Who's doing social distancing? Who's being smart? New Yorkers. The infection rate is a pure function of what New Yorkers are doing. I know these are tough time, et cetera, but at one point you have to take a step back and say what an extraordinary accomplishment by the people of this state. It really has been.

What is our priority now going forward? Protect the progress we've made. You're under one percent. You're not by any practical measure going to get much lower. Just make sure you don't go up and that's what we're doing, protecting the progress. Protecting the lead, if you will, in a sports game which is always hard.

There are certain, special conditions that we are watching. Bar non-compliance, that means non-compliance in bars. We're not barring non-compliance, we want compliance. We are promoting compliance and we want compliance in bars. A little unartfully worded, I hope you'll excuse it the way I excuse your stories when they are unartfully worded - not that you would ever do that.

Visitors from out of state, which is an ongoing problem for us. You look at the clusters that we've seen developing, many of them are from out of state visitors. Colleges are a problem and will continue to be a problem. K-12 schools are opening. This is an entirely new enterprise and entirely new world and it's something that we have to be very careful about.

Then voting - making sure people vote and they feel safe in voting and they're participating, but making sure voting does not become a cluster. We don't want a lot of people on long lines. On the enforcement with bars, the local governments did not do the level of enforcement that we believe necessary and we've put together a task force of the State Liquor Authority and the State Police to supplement local governments. That has been working well. They did 4,000 establishments and found 37 violations.

The rules we put up we promulgate. A rule is only as good as the compliance. I can say anything from up here. But, it's only as good as people's willingness to follow it, and it's only as good as the establishments that follow it. And we have learned, frankly the public has been more accepting and more compliant, there are establishments who are not compliant. And if you're not doing enforcement, then they're going to violate the rules. It's human nature, they're under economic pressure, and if they can increase economic activity by violating a rule, and nobody's going to catch them, then you tend to see violations.

There's an old expression. Locks keep honest people honest. Have you ever heard that? No. Locks keep honest people honest. Don't tempt people to cheat or to steal. Do the compliance. Let them know you could do compliance. Somebody could walk in the door. Locks keep honest people honest. We have all our state resources on this task force. We don't have any more resources than we can put on this task force. We have all the State Police we can spare and investigators from all across the state, from all different agencies, have been put on this task force, and they're doing a good job. But, we're at the state's max, which will be relevant in a moment.

Individuals coming from other states continue to be a problem. We now have 35 high-risk states in this country, which is incredible. Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia have been added. Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands have been taken off the list.

Colleges across this country are seeing outbreaks. To be expected, commonsense, young people going back to college, first thing they want to do is study, study, study. That's the first thing I wanted to do, study, study, study. Let me get in the library, be alone, study, read. Some students, unlike myself, want to socialize. So they come back to college, I want to see my friends, I want to enjoy libations, we want to go to a bar, we want to have a party. Yes, those situations are increasing the spread. Why? People coming from around the country and around the world to these colleges. And in many ways, your people, the same point we're trying to protect against on the quarantine from other states, you have students coming from those states to the colleges. And then they go out to party and they wind up spreading the virus.

Nationwide, 108 colleges have already reported more than 100 cases. In New York, we have a problem, SUNY Oneonta, Cornell, Buffalo, Hofstra, Oswego, Colgate, Fredonia. That's all across the state. that's the entire state, it goes from Long Island all through upstate. So this is going to be a problem. I am telling you that. One of the lessons we learned is just anticipate what's happening and be ready for it.

NYU in Washington Square Park this weekend in New York. They had large gatherings in Washington Square Park. Frankly, NYU security didn't do anything about it. The local police didn't do anything about it. You will have NYU students who come from other countries. You have a large gathering, many people without masks, it went on for hours, what do you think is going to happen? You know that 108 colleges nationwide have this problem, you know we're closing colleges all across the state. What do you think is going to happen?

You know, we say we're New York Tough. That is not tough, that is not tough by the NYU administrators, who as soon as they heard about it, they should have said stop it. Send the NYU security, break it down. It's not tough by the New York City enforcement. They saw the large gathering, violation of social distancing, it wasn't smart. It's totally contrary to everything you know. We're not acting in a spirit of unity, it's not disciplined, and it's not loving. Violates everything.

Department of Health is going to do a regulation, any school that goes over 100 COVID-19 positive cases has to report to the Department of Health immediately. And if they go over 100, then the school can be closed down to do remote learning, alright. So who gets helped? It's not good for the students, except for those students like myself who want to be in the library and only want to read a book. But, the students who want to socialize and party, now you're going to do remote learning. It's not going to be helpful to the school administration, but it is going to happen. I am telling you that as I sit here. It will happen. And 100 cases can happen very easily. You saw all the other colleges that have it. That Department of Health regulation is going to go out today. It is going to be unequivocal. And as soon as the college has notice from any source they have to immediately report it.

On K to 12 schools, some are opening in person, some have hybrid, we have 700 school districts, you have every flavor and variation all across the state. Parents and teachers are anxious. They have been all throughout this I've been speaking about this from day one. I've received thousands of phone calls from parents and teachers. They don't understand the plan the plan changed all of a sudden last week the plan changed. Over the past 2 weeks the plan changed; they're confused and they're anxious. Why? Because it's their child. That's why. And they want to make sure their child doesn't get sick, right? As a parent, your first instinct to protect your child; they're nervous, teachers are nervous.

Some teachers are older, they're in a more vulnerable category. The teachers are nervous. School districts say "well I have a plan." Plans are only as good as your ability to implement a plan. I've seen many bureaucracies with plans and the plans sound great on paper. The rubber hits the road when you go to implement the plan, and can you actually do it, and can you take all those tests, and do the tests come back, and are the tests right, and when the tests come back are you actually following up and doing something? That's what parents want to know and that's what teachers want to know. And they're right. I said from day one I'm with the parents and the teachers. If I'm going to make a decision to send my children back to school I'm going to be darn sure that the plan is smart, they can do the plan and then I want to know if they're implementing the plan.

So, that's where we are; plans, are they actually happening, and the parents. And the teachers don't want reassurances, "don't worry it'll be fine, the board of education said this, local school district said this." They want the facts. You know what they wanted all through COVID? They wanted to facts. I do the briefings; they separate facts from opinion. Why? They don't really want my opinion. I want the facts. Tell me the facts and then I'll come up with my own opinion. The facts empower people and the facts give people comfort. If a fact is a fact, not a political fact, but a real fact. We're doing a regulation every school district has to report every day to the Department of Health as to how many tests were taken, what type of test, what was the result. State Department of Health is going to put that all on the web site. They're going to have a COVID report card for every school in the state.

Any parent, "how's my school doing?" Thank God they didn't have this for students. Can you imagine if you had a daily report card for a student on how the student is doing? That would have been bad for me. Daily report card, how is this school doing on implementing their plan. The state will maintain it. They have to provide the information to the state -- by the way to school district has to provide the information. The local health department has to provide the information. The lab that does the test has to provide the information. So the department of health is getting the information from 3 different sources so we'll know if it's right. But a simple web site even I could use it. If you go to the website, you punch in your address, it tells you what school district that your child is in.

Once you go to that school district it will tell you everything you need to know about where that school district is with COVID; how many tests they've taken, how many they took yesterday, what the results were, who's doing the tests, what's the turnaround on the tests. So, positive cases by the date of students and staff by school and school district, whether that school or schools district is remote, in-person, hybrid, because if a student tests positive but the student is doing remote learning, that's one situation, right? If a student tests positive and a student is in the class with your child, you want to know that. The number of students and staff that are on site. Percentage of on-site students and staff who test positive. The number of tests being administered, what type of test, what lab was used and the lab time.

Some labs have a 7-day turnaround. Some labs can do a rapid test, which can tell you in an hour whether or not a person is positive. There's a big difference if you're giving me data that's 7-days old or if you're giving me data that was current as of that date. And the date of the last submission and the update. It's a big undertaking. I thank the Department of Health in advance, but it is very important. I think this will give parents confidence, and teachers confidence. They will know on a day-to-day basis exactly what is happening. They won't be reliant on communication from the school district, from the principal, from anyone else. Once the reporting starts, the website will go live. The website has the very catchy address of It rolls of your tongue: That's because we try to make things simple, creative and attractive.

On voting, we want fair voting, we want easy voting and we want accurate voting. Because of COVID this year. you can vote by absentee or you can vote early. Vote in-person on election day if you choose. You can get your ballot online; you can do that now. The request for the ballots. If you have concerns about COVID, you can call it a temporary illness, which is what makes you eligible for absentee voting. You can then drop off a ballot at locations and polling sites in your area. You can drop off a completed ballot today at a board of elections, or any early voting site in your county during the early voting period October 24th to November 1.

So you request a ballot, you get the ballot. Now I have the ballot. Fine, you can drop it off anywhere at an early voting site from October 24th to November 1st, so you have about a week to drop it off. This is our way of developing a drop box system, right? People talk about drop boxes, basically set up a substitute U.S. Postal Service where you have of metal box where everybody can go to a metal box and put the ballot in the metal box. Cause us to create a whole new the post office system all across the state. This, I think has the same purpose and effect, it's just easier. You drop it off at a location where it's secure some will actually have a box, some will take it from you in person, but it is in effect a drop box system. And you can early vote or you can drop it off October 24th to November 1. To find out where you can do it,

On restaurants, in New York City, I'm very aware of the economic pain that restaurants are dealing with. It's bad for the restaurant owner. It's bad for the staff, the sheriff, the waiters. The entire team that works there. We have experience in this area. We opened bars, and it turned out to be a nightmare. There were many violations and there was very little ability to police the violations, to enforce the compliance. I talked about this every day for two months. I beseeched the local governments to help. They didn't. We then put together the State, SLA, State Police Task Force. And we did local bar enforcement. As you saw earlier, we did about 5,000 visits in the past couple of days. That is the maximum capacity for the State Task Force. If you now increase indoor dining, you are going to have to have a compliance and enforcement function. If you go to indoor dining, you are roughly doubling the number of places that you're going to have to monitor.

There would be about another 10,000 establishments in New York City that could do indoor dining. You know you had a bad experience with bars. You know that you're at your maximum in terms of enforcement capacity. You're now going to double the number of establishments that you need to monitor. How do you do that? That's the conundrum that we face. You also know that when we opened indoor dining in Upstate New York, we had issues. When we opened indoor dining, we had clusters in Upstate New York. This is not without risk. Right? We're managing risk. But there is no zero risk. So we know in the indoor dining is problematic from our own experience in Upstate New York.

We know there's a risk of noncompliance because we went through it with bars. We know the local governments were very slow to provide additional enforcement. We know the state had to step in to do the enforcement and we know that the state is that the maximum capacity for enforcement. That's the issue that we're dealing with. I would need additional enforcement capacity from local governments. And the additional enforcement is not that complicated to function. Right? It could be a local police department or it could be local health inspectors.

This is not vis-a-vis the public - it's vis-a-vis the establishment owner. If you own a restaurant, and let's say the indoor capacity is 25 percent. If you are in the restaurant and it is exceeding 25 percent, you're not out of compliance, the restaurant owner's out of compliance. It can be a health inspector. We have on our task force now, on the state side, environmental inspectors, industry inspectors. It is any regulatory compliance officer who could be detail to do this. If we have the enforcement mechanism in place, then we can talk about opening restaurants. It would be negligent and reckless to open indoor dining, knowing that you have issues in Upstate New York, knowing that compliance is going to be a problem, and knowing that you have no enforcement mechanism. And we're still working through that because I believe local governments could help us accomplish this goal if they wanted to.

The good news is this: reopening is proceeding and our strategy is working. New Yorkers are doing a better job than any state in the United States of America– period– and I'm proud to be a New Yorker. The bad news is we have after-effects of COVID, social after-effects. We have economic issues. we have quality-of-life issues. We have increasing crime issues. We have habitability issues.

I can't tell you how many phone calls I get from people, especially in New York City, who are literally worried about the degradation of New York City– and much of it stems from the economic problems. And Washington is doing absolutely nothing. They're going back and forth with gridlock. This was the last piece of legislation that they were supposed to pass to handle the aftermath of COVID and they haven't done it. The Republican Senate doesn't want to fund state and local governments and that's the sticking point. Not to fund state and local governments, but to provide all the money that they did to businesses– but you're not going to provide funding to state local governments, who basically support police, fire, hospitals and schools is just totally ludicrous to me. And it starts with the President.

There was a headline in the Daily News once: "Ford to City: Drop Dead," and the city was outraged Ford wouldn't provide financial resources. What Ford did pales in comparison to what Trump is doing; not only did he tell New York City to "drop dead," Trump is actively trying to kill New York City. It is personal. I think it's psychological. He is trying to kill New York City. He passed SALT, which was targeted just at New York City tax reform; it cost us $14 billion. He's refused to fund the extension of the Second Avenue Subway from 96th to 125th Street. Every prior administration has funded the Second Avenue Subway. It is always been a federal-state partnership. Only this President, a former New Yorker, refuses to fund the Second Avenue Subway– even after we opened it up to 96th Street and did an amazing turn-around on the construction project that everybody celebrated.

He won't approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia. And you want to talk about really ironic, repugnant logic? You know why he won't approve the AirTrain to LaGuardia? He says he has to do an Environmental Review statement. The same President who has lamented about the delay of Environmental Reviews and how they take so long, and how they stop development and how bad the SEQRA is and how the environmentalists are all full of baloney when it comes to ANWAR. Now he says, "I can't approve the AirTrain from LaGuardia that's been talked about for decades because I have to do an Environmental Review. Now Trump, as the environmental bureaucrat. How incredible is that?

He won't approve congestion pricing for the MTA. What does he have to do with congestion pricing? Nothing! It is just gratuitous. It is just gratuitous. There is no federal involvement with congestion pricing. Their approval is purely technical and it's been over a year– we passed it in New York State. He won't approve it. He won't rebuild the tunnels between New York and New Jersey that are dangerous. They're Amtrak tunnels. Do you know who owns Amtrak? Who owns Amtrak? The federal government owns Amtrak. They're his tunnels. They're decaying. I went to the tunnel; I took a video of water seeping into the tunnel. I took a video of bricks crumbling. I sent them the video. He watched the video. Still, no money to fund the Amtrak tunnels. This weekend, they stopped FEMA funding from cleaning schools and trains. "We want students to go back; we want schools to reopen." But you don't want to clean the schools? Students should go back to a dirty school? Is that what you want your child to do? Gratuitous and arbitrary, and now no federal funds for New York City and New York State post-COVID.

Donald Trump caused the COVID outbreak in New York. That is a fact. It's a fact that he admitted and the CDC admitted and Fauci admitted. "The China Virus, the China Virus, the China Virus." It was not the China Virus; it was the European Virus that came to New York. They missed it. They missed it. The China Virus went to Europe. It got on a plane and went to Europe. They never even thought of the possibility and then 3 million Europeans got on a plane and came to New York and they brought the virus. January: they brought the virus. February: they brought the virus. March: they brought the virus. And in mid-March, the federal government does a travel ban from Europe. Mid-March. Too little too late, Mr. President. He caused the COVID outbreak in New York. Donald Trump and his incompetent CDC and his incompetent NIH and his incompetent Department of Homeland Security.

Department of Homeland Security- "We're going to protect the people of this nation "We're not going let the immigrants come across the southern border; we're going to create a wall" Why didn't you stop the virus? The virus killed many more Americans than anything you were worried about on the southern border. This nation loses more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. Do you hear that point? We lose more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe. You know who did that? Donald Trump's incompetence. And now they won't provide federal funding to help repair the damage from the ambush they created. That's where we are. The federal government must provide a response; if they don't provide a response the national economy will suffer for years. Every economist says that They don't want to provide a response, why? Because they're playing politics. They don't want to help Democratic states. They don't want to help Democratic cities.

This is a war on cities: New York City, Portland, Chicago. Right? These are the enemies from the president's point of view. Look at his tweets. "These are the locations and the outposts of the enemies, so don't provide them any funding even though we caused the COVID virus. it is an unsustainable position for the federal government. Either this president will figure it out or the next president will figure it out. If Congress doesn't figure it out, there will be mayhem in this country and there will be a different Congress in January. That is my political opinion. In the interim we have to be smart. We've gone through tough times before, New York, we had the fiscal crisis of the 70s; post 9/11 - I experienced it was a whole disruptive period - we went through the Great Recession, but we have to be smart we have to be smart we have to be financially smart and we're going to have to come together and figure this out in the interim before we have a federal government that is sane and functional.

The good news is, this is going to be a challenge, yes, but nothing like the challenge we just went through. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. COVID was the challenge of our lifetime. I hope and pray. But compared to what we went through with COVID, dealing with the fiscal crisis is a mere bump and we'll get through it, and we'll get through it together because we're New York Tough, Smart, United, Disciplined and most of all: Loving.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias