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Homeland Security

New York State

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

January 5, 2021

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

Good morning. Let's start from the left today, sort of a change of pace. Robert Mujica, Budget Director; Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. To my right, Commissioner Howard Zucker; Beth Garvey, Special Counsel; Kelly Cummings, Director of Operations; Gareth Rhodes, from DFS whose been working with us on this.

Today is day 311. Here are the numbers. Statewide positivity without micro-clusters, 8.21; with micro-clusters 8.3. Micro-clusters, 8.8. Total results, 152,000, still a lower level of people getting tested so it's going to change somewhat the sample. Statewide deaths up to 149. Hospitalizations up 339; ICU plus 35; intubations plus 8.

Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes. Highest percentage of hospitalization and you see the numbers across the State. Again, this makes the point that that variance is due to the behavior of those communities. Your behavior matters, depending on the behavior of your community is how fast the virus spreads, how many people get sick. Positivity, same thing.

New York City positivity, Staten Island and the Bronx - Staten Island is higher than the Bronx today. Again, Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, you're double Manhattan. Doubled Manhattan. I'm from Queens, born in Queens. Queens is a residential community, more residential community. Manhattan is much more dense, more multi-family, more public transportation. What is the demographic explanation for a higher infection rate in Queens, in the Bronx and Staten Island than Manhattan? It's the behavior.

Let's talk about the vaccine. There are two elements to understand the vaccine. One is the amount of supply we have as a nation, as a State. Then one is the distribution. Two very different elements that have to be considered. The supply, the production by the drug companies, the purchasing by the federal government - that's all a national responsibility. How they can spur the drug companies to do more, how they can wind up buying more from the drug companies? The entire supply is controlled by the federal government.

We have been getting about 300,000 per week. That's roughly 1.2 million per month of vaccines. The State needs 20 million people vaccinated. You have to do that twice. That's 40 million. Obviously, it's a very long timeline at this supply rate. The supply rate has to increase and the supply rate is the limiting factor now. I've been talking to the federal government about this, there are possibilities that they're working on. You can acquire more Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. You can approve the AstraZeneca vaccine. You can approve the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single dose vaccine, which is a lot easier. There other drug companies that are also working on vaccines, so we hope, pray and expect the supply from the federal government will be increasing, but we need it to increase.

You then go to the distribution side. On distribution, the federal government is in charge of some of the distribution in the state, and then the state is in charge. Distribution, as we discussed yesterday, think of it in three tranches: nursing homes, hospitals, and what we call special efforts. The nursing home program is run by the federal government and it is a national federal program, where they said, we will do the nursing homes and will contract nationally with pharmaceutical change to do the nursing homes. That has not moved as quickly as we would like to see it move. The state is now going to step in and expedite that program. We would like to see all nursing home residents vaccinated, first shots, within two weeks. They're doing the staff along with the residents. That would be a very big deal if we can get the nursing home residents vaccinated.

You then go to the hospitals. 194 hospitals: 24 public hospitals, 170 private hospitals. Obviously, the overwhelming effort is done by the private hospitals. We need them to operate and we need them to operate quickly. We put in place the 7-day use it or lose it. You know, there are 194 hospitals. If a hospital is not competent and can't do this, we'll use another hospital. It's very simple. We have 194 hospitals, we have other hospitals who can do it, so I need the best hospitals with the best management in the best systems as part of this effort because it's literally a matter of life and death. And 194 hospitals, like anything else, some are better at certain things than others and here we need the best with the best management because the stakes are just too high.

On the special efforts, that's where we're going to talk about state sponsored efforts: drive-ins and the social equity efforts, the churches, the community centers, et cetera. Hospitals have been the primary focus because 1a, the people we're now vaccinating, are health care workers. How do you get health care workers? You get them to the hospitals. That's why the focus has been on the hospitals. Why has the focus on health care workers? That's the CDC guidance, basically every state in the nation has accepted health care workers, because they are the frontline. They are exposed to people with the virus. If a health care worker gets sick they are then a super spreader. We have it opened for all health care workers. All health care workers are now eligible, and the hospitals are focusing on the health care workers.

So far, 900,000 vaccines have been distributed for 2.1 million health care workers. Obviously, we don't have enough vaccine distributed for all health care workers. Well let's open it up to other people, forget the health care workers. These are the nurses, these are the doctors, these are the people on the front line, and it's, they are in the greatest risk, and they're also the greatest threat. We have a Saratoga jewelry store employee who has COVID, that we're doing the contact tracing. He was in a retail store, a lot of people walk in and out of a retail store. Super spreader.

What happens if a nurse or a doctor is COVID positive, and see 100 patients during a day? Healthcare workers at the first priority for both reasons, and we've only allocated half the vaccine to do the size of that population. That's why I say a lot of this is a supply issue as well as a dissemination issue.

If a hospital has done all their healthcare workers and saying "We're maxed out, we've done everyone." Fine. Then contact us, and we'll take that supply back, and we'll go to the next traunch, we'll go to essential workers. But as a group, we've only allocated, we've only distributed half the vaccine necessary to do the healthcare workers. After we finish 1a, healthcare workers, then we go to 1b, which is essential workers and people who are 75 plus. That's roughly 2.5 million. So again you go back to the supply issue. How long will it take you to do 2.5 million people, right?

On the hospitals, there's two dimensions. The hospitals now are the focus, because the hospitals are focusing on the healthcare workers. Once you get to 1b, essential workers and 75 plus, then you're dealing with members of the public. Then we're going to shift from the focus on the hospitals to what we call the retail network. What is a retail network?

The retail network is a public distribution for essential workers and the general public, and that is already underway. We have 5,000 pharmacies in this state. You can call a pharmacy and get it. We have federally qualified health centers. County health departments. Urgent care clinics. The doctor network. We'll be supplying all of these outlets with the vaccine to do the distribution when we get to the general public. So the distribution system is going to outpace our supply system right now, which is the way it should be. We should have more distribution capacity than we actually have supply. Right now we've employed 3,700 provider sites statewide, and we're continuing to grow that.

What are the providers who are going to be doing this? Medical practices, pharmacies, long-term care facilities, federally qualified health centers, hospitals will still be doing it, urgent care facilities will be doing it. Then community centers, rural centers, et cetera. We've signed up hundreds in every region across the state. We have 845 signed up distribution centers in New York City that are ready to go, 700 on Long Island, 150 in the North Country, so, we have a retail network. Retail network is not the best expression because also people don't have to pay for this vaccine. There'll be no co-pay, there'll be no charge. So retail can be a little misleading. But I couldn't come up with a better word.

Of the 3,700, 636 already have vaccine. They are distributing vaccine to the health care workers along with the hospitals. So health care workers can either go to the hospitals that we've been discussing or they can go to 600 sites that are across this State. Of those sites that actually now have vaccine for health care workers, 244 federally-qualified health centers, then the hospitals, urgent care centers, local health departments. This is where the sites are that can now serve health care workers. New York City, 200, Long Island, 105. So, there's a network out there besides these hospitals where people can go if they're eligible, if they're health care workers, right now.

In addition to the hospitals and the retail, there'll be what we call special efforts. First, I'm asking police departments, fire departments, transit workers, who are going to be essential workers, if they can operationalize their own vaccination system. In other words, New York City Police Department, NYPD, they can organize their own distribution system and vaccination system. The FDNY, New York City Fire Department, can operationalize and organize their own system. They have their own employees who can do the vaccine. To the extent we can have the essential workers use their own employees or their own health system provider to do their own vaccines that removes a burden from the retail system, if you will. It removes them from the hospital system, right.

So, New York City Police Department, they could go to the New York City public hospitals for vaccine, which would then overload the New York City hospitals, or, they could do their own vaccines. FDNY could do their own vaccines. The teachers union, the transit workers union, all these frontline essential workers, please now think about organizing your own system so it alleviates the burden on the retail system, which is going to have to be dealing with the general public.

If a police department doesn't have the capacity to do it, fine. Fire department doesn't' have the capacity to do it, fine. If a teachers union doesn't have a local health provider, then fine. But for those larger workforces, and those larger unions that can do this, I want you to start thinking about it now, and I would appreciate it, because it will take that much burden off the distribution system. And the larger police departments, Buffalo PD, Albany PD, Rochester PD, Syracuse PD — I think many of the larger police departments in the state, we have over 500, but many of the larger ones can handle the vaccine themselves. Same with the fire departments, EMS, EMT people can do these vaccines, so I'd like them to start thinking about that now because I'd like to reduce the burden on the hospitals and the private system whenever possible.

On the special efforts on top of this retail system, you're then going to have large state sites that are set up: Javits Center, we're going to use SUNY/ CUNY, where you'll have drive-thru vaccine operations. Again, we need the supply to do that, but we are already setting those up. We did it with the COVID testing. We'll do it again here and then I made a point to say that this State is going to make a statement as to social equity and we're going to make sure that the social injustice and the healthcare disparities that we've seen are not replicated. I'm going to be getting my vaccine when it's available for my age group in black and Latino and poor communities and we're going to be setting up pop-up vaccination sites in churches, in community centers and pharmacies and that's a priority for me.

The distribution system I'm outlining can deliver millions of doses. Again, we're getting 300,000 per week and we have to wait for that to increase. Again, there's a lot of possibilities for the feds to increase supply, but they have to.

Last point, the U.K. strain is highly problematic and it could be a game changer. First, for the Capital Region: we have the case in Saratoga. Anyone who was exposed, or anyone who was exposed to someone who was exposed, please contact us. There's nothing to be ashamed of. This is a virus, it travels, but we have to know. Containment is vitally important here. This is a virus we have to be extra careful with. We spent the morning talking to global experts on this viral strain. The numbers are frightening on the increase of the transmittal of the virus. Even if the lethality doesn't go up — the fact that it is so much more transmittable is a very real problem.

We are in a footrace right now as we've said between the vaccine implementation versus the infection rate and hospitalization capacity. That's the footrace. This U.K. strain changes the whole footrace because the U.K. strain, the rate of transmission goes way up, the rate of infection goes way up, and it's no longer the race that we were running. Apparently the U.K. strain can actually overtake the original COVID strain in a matter of weeks, that's how quickly it can transmit. This is something that we have to watch and we have to pay careful attention to.

The U.K. strain is not only in the U.K., it's in South Africa, it's in 33 other countries, but it dramatically increases our challenge and we have to be aware of it. You know this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way, and this country has been playing catch up every step of the way. It's time we stop, it's time we become more competent. Government was competent, government is supposed to be competent, government leaders are supposed to be competent. They're not supposed to be about excuses, and apathy, and bureaucracy.

Why do we not have mandatory testing of everyone flying in to this country? I mean why not? Not a travel ban, just mandatory testing. We have gone through this. Just test all international travelers before entry. Tell the airlines you have to test them before they got on a plane to come to this country, or say if you land in this country we're not going to allow you in until you take a test. 140 countries banned or required testing of U.K. travelers before the United States acted. 140 countries. New York acted before the United States. I called the airlines and I said I want New York to be added to the 140 countries, and they added New York to the 140 countries.

What's really infuriating, this is what happened to us last spring. Learn the lesson. The virus left China, the virus went to Europe, it was in Italy, it was in the U.K., people got on a plane and came to New York, and that's why New York had the explosion - that's what I call the COVID ambush. We've learned nothing? So now there's a second strain and it came from the U.K. again. And again, the USA did absolutely nothing.

Secretary Azar, Dr. Redfield - how you can explain to the American people your lack of action, your negligence, your irresponsibility. 140 countries banned people from the U.K. and you did nothing. You know that there are viral strains in other countries now. You know that is a fact. Why wouldn't you mandate testing? How many times do you have to learn the same lesson over and over? What happened to competent leadership in government? The USA must act. If the United States won't act, then New York State will act, but I can't allow people to fly in to this state who we know are coming from countries that have other viral strains.

New York loves being the gateway. We welcome people from all across the globe. We are on the eastern seaboard. That's always been our role, that's how we all wound up here. We celebrate it, but to allow the virus to be landing at our airports and to make New York a petri dish and the federal government does nothing, I can't allow that to happen. I wouldn't be doing my job as Governor of the State of New York.



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