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Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

November 14, 2020

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

Good morning, guys. I'm joined by Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Dr. Zucker, Gareth Rhodes, Beth Garvey. Happy Saturday to everyone. Today is Saturday. Today is day 259. Happy Diwali to our brothers and sisters who celebrate that holiday, the Indian festival of lights.

Let me give you some number updates. We did 184,000 tests yesterday. The overall state number with what we call micro-clusters is 2.9. Overall state without the micro-clusters, 2.5. The micro-cluster positivity is 4.8. It was 4.58 yesterday so that's up a tick.

Twenty-four New Yorkers passed away; 1,700 New Yorkers were hospitalized, 1,788; 367 COVID patients in ICU; 146 patients intubated.

We are seeing basically more of the same. It is a rising tide of COVID internationally. We see it in countries all across the globe. We see it in states all across the country. The rate of increase is less in New York but it is an increase. We have like the third lowest positivity rate in the country and I'm proud of New Yorkers for that.

But we're still seeing an increase. We don't have the same problem that other states have, not nearly so, but we're seeing an increase and the increase is continuing. We know the factors, COVID fatigue, winter, holidays, restaurants, gyms, living room family spread which is a new factor that we named.

Immediate problem, you still have flights coming in from overseas where they have high infection rates. We have surrounding states that have higher infection rates, Jersey, 6.8; Connecticut is 4.8; Pennsylvania, 9.6; and people go back and forth all day long within the Metropolitan area and that is a problem. If you have infection all around you, probability is you are going to get infected and we have infection all around us.

What's going to happen? Will we shut down? Will we have more restrictions? What has worked for New York from day one is it's a pure consequence of science. It's a pure factor of the numbers. There is no political decision making, no ideological decision making. Look at the numbers. If the numbers go up and if they are increasing and they are not slowing then you have to restrict activity. It's a pure consequence of actions.

Some people offer a false choice: I want no restrictions, but I want to take no precautions. That is not an option in life. If you take no precautions - I want to have a big Thanksgiving celebration, I want to be able to invite people over like everything as usual - then the infection rate goes up. But I want no restrictions. That is not an option. If the infection rate goes up more people get sick, more people go into the hospitals, more people die, and if the infection rate goes up too quickly you overwhelm the hospital system, which we are now seeing in Italy once again. It's like we saw this movie. So that reality does not exist. I want to do everything I want to do and I want no restrictions. I want to eat everything I want to eat. I don't want to exercise. It's too restrictive, but I don't want to put on weight. It doesn't work. It just does not work. It's unrealistic and that's what we're battling right now. It's not even logical, that position. That is nothing new.

I know, I understand COVID fatigue. I understand the holidays. I understand there's a vaccine coming. The vaccine is coming, not tomorrow. The President said in April. Well, he's not going to be here so take that with a grain of salt. But April - January, February, March, April - that's 4 months. We can't have the numbers increasing for 4 months. We've only been at this for 8 months. That's the overall situation.

I want to make a comment on New York City and the schools closing. I spoke with the Mayor. I understand we have 700 school districts. The State set parameters and then we left it to the local school districts to make decisions within those parameters. I think it was very important that the parents be involved in those decisions because if the parents didn't have confidence then the parents wouldn't send their child back to school. Then it would be an empiric victory. Schools are open, but no students came.

I was insistent that parents be involved, teachers be involved, et cetera. The local school districts went through that process. New York City went through that process and determined that at 3 percent positivity they would close down. I understand that and I understand that we're near 3 percent in New York City. Now, remember, 3 percent is a relatively low number. Just in context, New Jersey is at over 6. Connecticut is close to 5; Pennsylvania is 9. Three is relatively low number.

What I would suggest for the parents of New York City and the teachers of New York City and the Mayor and the leaders of New York City: I would consider adding a factor of the positivity in the schools themselves. Since the 3 percent was set, we have become more sophisticated and have more capacity than we had at that time. We now are testing extensively within schools. It's not that you just have the positivity for the jurisdiction, New York City. You're testing in the schools.

Add to your calculus a positivity rate in the school. If the school is not spreading the virus or if the school has a much lower positivity rate than the surrounding area, then the school is not part of the problem and you could argue that keeping the children in the school is part of the solution rather than the children spending time on the street in the neighborhood where the infection rate is higher.

We have that capacity now, we can test in schools. Even in what's called our micro-cluster zones; when we declare a micro-cluster red zone - the red, orange, yellow - the red zone is the highest infection rate. The red zone kicks in at 4 percent. But, a school can test out of a red zone. What does that mean? A school in a red zone, close the school because you're in the middle of a hot zone. But, you can test out of the red zone. You test the students in that school and if that school is not presenting a problem, then allow the school to operate.

I think New York City should seriously consider that. Again, I want the parents part of the decision and making the teachers part of the decision making. Closing the schools has ancillary consequences that people don't often think of. You close the schools, you make it much harder for parents to go to work because now they have to worry about who's going to take care of the children or at home. You close the schools; you create a whole issue with nutrition and delivering free lunches, breakfasts, et cetera. You close the schools; the children then are circulating in that neighborhood that you just said had a very high infection rate.

So, I think New York City should consider that. Now again, this assumes that New York City gets to three percent and closes. But even if that happens, I think they should consider reopening safely but I think added a calculus for that school is opening safely, that is my opinion. If the parents don't agree, then it's pointless. If the teachers don't agree, then it's pointless. But I think people should consider that. And again, it's the same logic that we use in our micro-cluster zones. You're in a red zone, you close until you test out by proving that the schools is not part of the problem, as a matter of fact the school is part of the solution.

The President made some comments yesterday and was tweeting today. The President tweeted, basically, "I love New York," and then went back to his point about the vaccinations in New York. "I love New York," if that's what the President thinks, then he just has an abusive personality. He has been nothing but hostile to New York from day one. Look at every action he took, it started when he passed that SALT tax. The Republicans are supposed to be against redistribution of income. They took wealth from New York and gave it to Republican states. $14 billion a year. He wouldn't repair the Hudson Tunnels that he owns because he owns Amtrak, that are in danger of collapsing. They never approved the LaGuardia train. They stopped Second Avenue funding. First federal administration in decades that refused to fund the Second Avenue Subway, which is a joint project. And then he won't fund state and local governments, which is a current issue. No stimulus package for state and local governments when we're suffering mightily.

The President says he created the vaccine - that is not a fact. There is still something called reality and truth. The federal government did not create the vaccine. Private drug companies, pharma companies are creating the vaccines. And the pharma companies internationally have worked very hard to create the vaccine because of their civic duty and also their economic interest. The pharmaceutical company that develops the first vaccine is going to have a significant commodity to sell. Pfizer, a New York company, developed a vaccine that shows promise and we are very, very excited about it. But Trump is not Pfizer. Pfizer is a company and Trump is a member of the federal government, so he did not develop the vaccine.

He has created problems for the vaccine because the vaccine is only relevant if people will take it, and we want people to take it. It's analogous to schools - yeah, we want to open schools, but parents have to send their children. If the school reopening plan doesn't make parents feel safe and they don't send their children, then the school reopening plan is worthless. Having a vaccine available is worthless if Americans don't trust the vaccine. Now, every major national poll has demonstrably proven that Americans believe Trump politicized the approval process. CNN poll: 45 percent of respondents said they wouldn't take the vaccine. Pew Research - not a part of the media so it's not fake news ­- 49 percent said they wouldn't get vaccinated. Kaiser Family Foundation poll: 62 percent of respondents said they're worried that the pressure from the White House could lead the FDA to approve a vaccine before it's determined to be safe. 62 percent. That's the Kaiser family. ABC News poll headline: Americans report no confidence in Trump to confirm vaccine safety. Fewer than 1 in 10 have a great deal of confidence in Trump to confirm vaccine effectiveness; 18 percent only a good amount, and 69 percent don't have confidence in the president vouching for a vaccine. Okay, that's a shocking number.

So, we need to develop confidence in people to take the vaccine. How do we do that? We will set up an independent panel of experts, ours is headed by a Nobel Prize winner, that can review FDA's approval and build confidence. New York set up such a panel. Seven other states set up such a panel, because everyone sees the same problem: Connecticut, California, West Virginia, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, they all set up these independent panels to create confidence in the vaccine, so people take the vaccine. That is smart and many states did it. It will not take any additional time. It's not that these panels are going to do tests, they are just going to review what FDA did, so it's just a review on the FDA process. It will take no additional time. We are ready now to receive the vaccine and then simultaneous with the FDA approval our panel will be looking at it. So, there's no delay. We're ready now. Send me a vaccine today; I will distribute it this afternoon.

Now, I'm chairman of the National Governors Association and I have raised questions about the vaccination process because I don't want to see this country make the same mistakes twice and this vaccination process is going to be the hardest governmental operation we have undertaken. It is going to make the testing operation look like a Little League activity compared to vaccination and I don't want to make the same mistake we made with testing where the federal government says, "Okay states, you're in charge of testing." That was their proclamation. "You're on your own." And then the states couldn't find the reagents, and states couldn't find a nasal swabs, and states were all competing for the same companies that were producing the tests. It was mayhem and chaos and should have been coordinated by the federal government. We now, after eight months, nationwide, did 130 million COVID tests. 130 million. Vaccines, we have to do 330 million. 330 million compared to 130 million. The vaccine also has issues of trust that we didn't deal with the COVID test. The vaccine is also more invasive. It's one thing to have a Q-tip put in your nose, it's another thing to have a needle put in your arm. And some of these vaccines say they need two doses, cold storage- two doses that is 260 million vaccinations. It is a massive undertaking, and the federal government is once again saying the states will do it. With what resources?

It's exactly what they did with testing except it's worse because now states have all these tremendous deficits. How am I supposed to pay for a comprehensive distribution program? And they're going to give it to the private health agencies to distribute. Yeah, but how do I get it to the black and brown community that doesn't have as many private health institutions? How do I get it into the poorer communities? Who's going to pay for that? I can't. There are also questions about how undocumented people get the vaccine, and the federal government wants information on who receives the vaccine that might very well trigger questioning their status as to whether or not they're undocumented. That'll just build more suspicion. So, yes it's a massive undertaking. Yes, I believe the federal government is not prepared to do it. Yes, I believe they're making the same mistake they made with testing and with PPE: we leave it to the states and then they provide no resources. Yes, I think it's worse because the states have less financial resources than we did when we started. But, as far as the panel and the review, that will actually help build confidence and people will actually have more reason to take the vaccine, and again if they don't have confidence in the vaccine it's all for naught.

The bottom line is the President has been unhappy with New York. He was unhappy with New York the day he took office. He was unhappy that he lost New York. He was unhappy that New Yorkers criticized him. New York is home to media that criticized him, and he communicated this to me. He moved his residence to Florida if you remember because Florida is going to be a swing state and he thought it'd help him and he thought he was rejected by New York. He bet a few weeks ago that he was going to win the State of New York in this past election. He lost by a huge margin. He's unhappy that the prosecutors in New York are investigating him and there's a chance that he could be indicted for tax fraud by New York prosecutors. That makes him unhappy. He was unhappy when they painted Black Lives Matter in front of Trump plaza. That makes him unhappy. I understand that, but to the extent he says that he wants to say we haven't done what we needed to do, or he wants to be critical of our operation, that's not even consistent with what he has said or the facts, because the facts, remember, we had the highest number of cases because the federal government blew it and the cases came from Europe because the federal government incompetently and negligently didn't follow the spread from China. So, we had that COVID ambush. We had a tremendous number of cases, more than anyone, and we went from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest, and as we sit here today we're still one of the lowest.

And the President said, and I'll quote him, "I spoke with Governor Cuomo. He's doing a great job." The President said, "I'm proud of the relationship my administration has forged with the state. They've been terrific to work with." The President said, "I thank Governor Cuomo. It was a very good job." "I'm dealing with Governor Cuomo. We're dealing very well together." "I spoke with Governor Cuomo. He's working really hard; we're all working hard. The relationship has been amazing." "I watched what happened in California, and with Governor Cuomo I applaud him. He's taking strong, bold steps." "I can say with respect to Governor Cuomo we had a great talk. We're both doing a really good job." So, that's all his words. It's all his words. But I understand he lost the election. I understand he's unhappy, and I understand that I have a job to do as Governor of New York, and I'm not going to allow New Yorkers to be bullied. I'm not. I wouldn't be doing my job. And that's how this President operates. He bullies. I'm going to tell the truth, and I'm going to protect the people of this state, and New Yorkers don't back down to bullies.

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