Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Over 9 Million COVID-19 Tests Conducted to Date in New York State
September 10, 2020
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning, everyone. We have an extended cast this morning. We have Melissa DeRosa with us. We have Robert Mujica with us. We have Dr. Zucker with us. We have Gareth Rhodes with us. We also have MTA Chairman Pat Foye and New York City Transit Head Sarah Feinberg, and I want to turn it over to Pat and Sarah in a moment. Let me make a couple of announcements at the front.
Today is day 194. Yesterday we did 76,813 tests. The positive rate is 0.98 -- that's 34 straight days under 1 percent. New York State has now done over 9 million tests, more than any state in the country and more than most countries on the globe. 7 New Yorkers passed away yesterday, and they're in our thoughts and prayers. 482 hospitalized. 120 in ICU. 55 patients were intubated. Just a point on the testing, because there's a scam that is going on in this country that I think people should be alerted to. States report the number of cases that they have found by testing. The question that needs to be asked is how many tests are you taking. President Trump said that if we do fewer tests, we will have fewer cases and he said "I told my people do fewer tests." If you do fewer tests, you will find fewer cases. It's a deception. It's a scam. It's a fraud, because it suggests to the American people that there are in fact fewer positive cases. That's not reality. You're just finding fewer cases because you're testing less. So, for example the state of Florida, in July they were testing about 65,000 tests per day, okay? They're now doing about 20,000 tests per day. Yesterday, they did 14,000 tests per day. So, some states are following the President's proposition, test less and the number of cases will go down; that's what Florida is doing. They were on average 65,000, now they're on average 20,000 -- that's one third of the number of tests that will probably find one third of the number of positive cases.
So, this is a deception. This is a fraud. It's the same deception that the President admitted to Woodward on tape. It's the same deception that every American knows he's undertaken since this COVID crisis began. It's the same fraud that he perpetrated when he stood up and he said, "this will be gone by Easter." That it's going to be disappear, as if a miracle. It's just more of the same. He now has states participating in the fraud with him. So, I would suggest that people enquire when you're reporting the number of positive cases how many tests are you taking per day, and has the number of tests gone down, right? So, we did 76,000 tests yesterday. We found 757 positives. If I did half the number of tests, I would have half the number of positive cases. Yes, but it would be meaningless and it would be deceptive. That's what's now going on in this country. It's a political ploy and I think fair reporting would point that out. A couple of other points, we've been talking about enforcement on the bars and the SLA Task Force with the State Police Task Force. They did 900 visits yesterday. They found 4 violations. Compliance on the bars has gone way up since we started because enforcement works, right?
The peculiar expression: "locks keep honest people honest." If bars know that somebody may be checking they're going to be more diligent and that has been happening. Likewise, when we say we're going to restaurants at 25 percent indoor dining at the end of the month New York City has agreed to provide 400 inspectors, health club inspectors, et cetera, to add to the task force because the number of restaurants now will be about 10,000 - that's the group that has to be monitored and we will do that. But we will try - that's new with the restaurants which I think is going to work. We're going to ask New Yorkers to be the compliance officials. New Yorkers are the ones who have flattened the curve. New Yorkers are the ones who have been acting intelligently and who is going to do the enforcement in restaurants on the 25 percent? New Yorkers. And the restaurant association is going to do public service announcements and I'm going to be speaking about it.
Restaurants have to post what the 25 percent capacity is and we'll also post a phone number and a text number where if a patron in the restaurant between courses counts heads in the restaurant and sees that it's more than 25 percent I'm asking them to text and report the violation to the task force so the task force can respond.
I believe New Yorkers are going to do that. I believe New Yorkers have been looking out for one another which is the only way we defeat COVID and this is going to institutionalize that. So I think that's going to work.
On schools I just want to point out again there's a lot of calls from teachers, from parents. I've had dozens and dozens of conversations. School districts did plans on reopening. The plans were circulated. The plans were the subject of discussion. People are anxious about whether or not the plans will work. The anxiety is normal. We don't know how well the plans will work. We've never been down this road before. This is an entirely new function for a school district. You not only have to educate students. You now have to keep them safe, social distancing, test taking - it's complicated. But everyone agrees that if we can do it we should do it so we will undertake the endeavor.
The State will have a dashboard on a daily basis because the parents' questions and the teachers' questions and concerned citizens' questions should be, how is it going? Is the plan working? Is it being implemented. Is this entire new mechanism functioning well? We'll see it on the dashboard. You can punch in your address. It'll tell you what school your child is in. You look at the school. You'll see how many tests they took, what the positive rate was, so people will have all the information they need and then they can make an informed judgment. What battles anxiety? Information battles anxiety and we'll be providing that on the State side.
If the school reopening plans do not work as anticipated, we will see that. You'll see it in the numbers. The labs that are doing the tests have to report to the State Department of Health. The school districts have to report. The school has to report. We did that by executive order. So we will have the information. If there's a problem, we will see the problem and then we will respond. That is where we are in life now. You look at the infection rate every day and then you respond to the facts. Well, it produces a lot of anxiety because we don't know what's going to happen. That's right. That is the nature of the situation we are in. We don't know what's going to happen because we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know when there's going to be a vaccine. We don't know how effective it's going to be. That is the moment that we are in but we are gathering all the information on an immediate basis. The information is empowering. I will share that information with New Yorkers. They will know everything I know and then we will respond to the information as we get the information. If we have to do something different, we will do something different.
The federal government is still talking about whether or not they're going to pass financial relief for state and local governments. The news stories today and people I'm talking to suggest that it's not a positive outcome. This is another situation that is fluid and we're going to have to watch. If Washington does nothing, and this state has a $30 billion deficit, that will be a deficit of historic proportion. That will be a hole in the financial dam that is so large it will be impossible for us to fill. What would we do to try to fill it? Taxes, cuts, borrowing, early retirement, all of the above. And all of the above won't fill that hole. This has been a serious decline in revenues. So if Washington ultimately doesn't act, and ultimately doesn't act means first Congress doesn't act, and then you have an election in November, and that election, I believe, is what's going to be determinative.
President Trump has made it clear that he is no friend of the cities and the metropolitan areas in this nation. His entire campaign is running against cities and metropolitan areas as Democratic bastions and Democratic bastions are bad. His politics is the politics of polarization and division. Portland is bad, and Chicago is bad, and Los Angeles is bad, and Detroit is bad, and New York City is bad.
So, President Trump wants to see the demise of the cities in some cruel twisted psychology that he's brought to bear. But, I think if the nation takes a different course in November you're going to see a much different response to this national crisis. So we won't really know until November. That will be the time when we'll see exactly the path forward. Up until then, we're waiting to see if Congress does something. But, without federal help, yes, you'd have to increase taxes. Yes, you'd have to do cuts. Yes, you'd have to do borrowing. No one has ever tried to close a gap this big. I don't believe it's going to come to that. I believe this nation's going to take a different course, and I believe if the legislature in Washington doesn't do it, the people of the nation will do it in November.
Last point, and I mentioned this yesterday, but this is going to be a serious issue and it's going to be an ongoing issue. Labor Day has come and gone. After Labor Day, traffic on the roads increases dramatically. That's always been the way. Traffic gets lighter in the summer; traffic gets heavier in the New York City area after Labor Day. And markedly so. I've experienced it all my life. It's a good sign that people are coming back to work in New York City. That's a positive. We encourage that. When you look around the world, at cities that have reopened, almost all across the board, the first wave of reopening is people drive into the metropolitan area. Because they feel safer in their vehicles than they do on public transportation. And that's understandable. My whole message for months has been social distancing, be careful, protect yourself. So if you leave your house and you get in your car and you drive to work, that is apparently the safest course. I understand that.
It is also a situation that is fraught with peril on a different front. New York City cannot deal with the vehicular traffic of everyone commuting by car and not taking public transportation. Now, Pat and Sarah are on the phone. The MTA has done an extraordinary job throughout this whole COVID pandemic. It really has been a masterful admiration and managerial act. The decision to curtail train service in the late night hours so that they could disinfect the entire system - just think, that is an unimaginable chore and they did it. And they did it. The trains have never been cleaner. Homeless people have been better served after years of going around and around and around. Homeless people are - nobody wants people sleeping on the trains. They're now going into the shelter system, getting services they need. So they've done a masterful job.
Mask compliance on the MTA system is very, very high. It's roughly 90 percent, but we want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming back to public transportation. We want people on Metro North, we want them on the Long Island Rail Road. We want them on the subway system. They know the cars are cleaner. They know they're disinfected. The last variable is, are the other riders on the trains recognizing social distancing and are they wearing masks? That's what people want to know. If I get on the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, subway car, will other people be wearing masks? Yes. Ninety percent of the time.
Well, I'm nervous about COVID, I want to make sure that compliance is very high and they're right. I said to the MTA, you have to come up with an enforcement plan for people who are not wearing masks. We have to be able to say to the riding public, "Yes, everyone will be wearing masks." If they don't have a mask, MTA will give them a mask to wear. If they refuse to wear a mask, they will be evicted from the system. If they're not wearing a mask, we will enforce the mask wearing rule.
We have to be able to say that to give riders comfort to reengage the system. Labor Day has come and gone, the volume is up and I've asked the MTA to come up with an enforcement regimen so people know that not only are the cars clean and the stations clean, but the riders will be acting appropriately. With that, let me turn it over to Pat and Sarah to explain what the MTA is going to do in terms of compliance. Pat?
Pat Foye: Thank you, Governor. As a result of the Governor's prior Executive Order, wearing a mask on public transit is mandatory. The Governor's Executive Order has the force of State law. Compliance on subways, buses, Metro North and Long Island Rail Road, mask compliance remains high. Ninety-six percent on buses, 90 percent on subways, well over 90 percent on both Metro North and Long Island Rail Road. We want to drive it even higher.
Achieving universal mask compliance is our goal. Global health experts agree that wearing a mask is the best thing that all of us can do to limit the spread of COVID-19. As the Governor has said in the past, it's a matter of respect for one's fellow co-commuters and MTA employees.
I'll note that we have distributed over 4 million to customers on Metro North and Long Island Rail Road, subways and buses. Those masks have been provided by New York State and New York City. At the Governor's direction, on Monday the MTA will file a rule on an emergency basis with the New York Secretary of State. That new rule will provide a $50 fine for failure to comply with the mask directive on subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.
That emergency rule will be effective immediately upon filing on Monday. It will provide for the $50 fine I just mentioned. There will be a 60-day public comment period after, which the MTA board will consider the public comments and adopt a final rule. Again, the rule will be effective immediately upon filing with the Secretary of State on Monday.
Lastly, the Governor noted that extraordinary work has been done on disinfecting subway stations and Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, buses and Access-A-Ride vehicles. I do want to thank our workforces and New York City Transit MTA Bus, Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.
Sarah Feinberg: Thanks, Pat. It's Sarah Feinberg it's great to be with you, Governor, as well. As Pat said, again, we're seeing very high compliance of mask usage on the subway system and on buses. We'll go over the numbers again, but I think we're seeing that high compliance rate for a couple of reasons. One, because of the Executive Order masks are required. Two, the vast majority of people tend to do the right thing. And finally, three, because we have masks in booths and on buses and in the system for those who need them.
The vast mask majority of folks have their own masks and are wearing them, but if you lose your mask, if it falls out of your pocket, if it breaks, we have a mask for you at the booth in every station. We have them on buses, NYPD officers have them and MTA police officers have them, conductors have them. So for all kinds of reasons, compliance is very high. But to the Governor's point, transit is key in people coming back to the city and coming back to work, so even if it's just one or two people in the system, they don't have the right to endanger anyone else and frankly they don't have the right to scare anyone away from the system, so today by starting to draft this regulation will really allow us to use another tool in our toolbox to ensure mask compliance.
We already have fines on the books for violations of our rules and regulations, for smoking, for fare evasion, for items like that, so this is very similar to that - it's just another tool in our toolbox to ensure compliance. So again, this is a last resort, this is for those very few people who refuse to wear a mask when offered and it will be enforced by the MTA police and of course we will be reliant on the NYPD for enforcement as well. We will not be asking our own workforce to enforce this regulation. They've already got plenty to do and that's not their job. But believe that this will be really helpful in getting us closer to the goal of 100 percent mask compliance, so thank you and happy to take any questions.
Governor Cuomo: Great, and Pat and Sarah, thank you very much. As I said before, during this COVID crisis, you've really seen the good, the bad and the ugly, and it's made government work in a way that government hasn't had to work in decades and you saw government agencies that collapsed, you saw leaders that failed to lead, but on the other hand, you've seen some agencies really rise to the occasion and some leaders rise to the occasion, and Pat and Sarah have done amazing work. I said it before, but people know the subway system, they know the MTA system, but how incredible that you could actually disinfect the system? I mean, how incredible? It's a lesson we learned and New Yorkers are the better for it, and we want them back on the system. It's safe and this will make it more safe, so I feel good about it, and this is the handful of people who are noncompliant. Again, the reason we're asking New Yorkers to help on the restaurant compliance is because New Yorkers get it - we're smart, we're savvy, we're tough, they have the facts, we gave them the facts every day, they know what has to be done so for the handful of noncompliant people, this will reinforce that.
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