Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic, Announces Federal Vaccine Supply to Increase to 20 Percent for the Next Three Weeks
February 2, 2021
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning - survived another challenge. Think about this in this different world. You're a child, you're in school, you're waiting for a snow day, you get a snow day, except you're not in school. Can't even have a snow day. I don't think they have virtual snow days. New world, new times.
I want to thank all the first responders who did fantastic job yesterday all across the board. It was a danger situation. It was a challenging situation. The storm was of near historic proportion and it was well handled all across the board. More to do to clean up today certainly, but a situation like yesterday, people can die. We've had situations with people stranded on roads through the night. It can be very dangerous very quickly so it was handled well across the board. Roads are open and trains are running today. We'll get an update but I want to thank everyone who worked very long and hard last night. It was ugly out there and they did a fantastic job all across the board. Let's start with, to my left, Mr. Rick Cotton who is Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, runs the terminals, runsthe airports. Mr. Cotton.
Rick Cotton: Thank you governor. The airports have resumed operations. Flights have been taking off and landing at a reduced level this morning. The airlines have canceled 45 percent of their schedule for the day so check with your carrier if you are planning to travel. The Newark Air Train has two segments down due to icing but a shuttle bus service is in force. All of the bridges and tunnels are open and operating with light traffic. At the bus terminal all commuter bus lines have continued their suspension of service until further notice. There are a few inner city buses who are scheduled to depart later today. At PATH, PATH has resumed a limited 15-minute service from Journal Square to the World Trade Center to Hoboken and to 33rd Street. But service to Harrison and Newark remain suspended. Their target is to have full service restored by tomorrow morning. And Governor, that's my report.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Mr. Patrick Foye, Chairman and CEO of the MTA.
Pat Foye: Thank you, Governor. First I want to start by thanking the thousands of men and women of the MTA who are out there before, during, continue to be out there, Governor, cleaning and clearing. Thanks to their efforts we were able to restore subway service above ground and below ground for that matter at 5 o'clock this morning with residual delays. Long Island Rail Road began running weekend service at 4 am in Metro North's first trains commenced around the same time, regular service. Buses continue to operate with the reduced service today. As for bridges and tunnels, the empty and tandem tractor trailer ban was lifted at 6 o'clock in the morning. All things considered, Governor, everything went well. We have been planning for this particular storm for a number of days and in some ways for years and we're monitoring conditions minute by minute and hour by hour. The decision to suspend above ground service on the subways and Metro North and Long Island Rail Road yesterday was clearly the right one. Some subway cars and route prior to secession of above ground service did get caught in snow drifts. One in particular needed to be dug out. In terms of snowfall, this is one of most extensive snow events in the history of New York City, so our crews had an incredible job in front of them. Snow clearing and salting continues today. Safety is our highest priority and every decision that was made was taken with that in mind. Ridership, Governor, was light during the storm. Subway saw approximately 11 percent of pre-COVID ridership and about 30 percent of current ridership. Buses carried about 13 percent of the pre-COVID ridership. We continue to advise New Yorkers to continue to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel while the cleanup continues today. Earlier this morning there was a water main break, City water main, at 96th Street on the West Side which temporarily affected service on the 1, 2 and 3 lines. But Sarah Feinberg and her team have gotten that resolved. Crews acted quickly and worked with New York City DEP to get service up and running. Again, I want to give an incredible shoutout to our incredible workforce who once again showed their mettle. Sarah and her team had literally nearly 10,000 people working out clearing the snow. Long Island Rail Road approximately 2,000, and 1,600 approximately for Metro-North. I also want to give a shoutout to our partners in the sanitation department of the City of New York who closely coordinated ploughing activity with our busses. Finally, there's another storm on the horizon, and we're confident we can handle whatever comes our way. Thanks governor.
Governor Cuomo: Thanks. Thanks for that last point, just in case we forgot. Another storm, what a surprise. Who would have guessed? To the head of the New York City Transit Authority, Sarah Feinberg.
Sarah Feinberg: Thanks Governor. All great points from Pat, I'll try not to repeat you. As always, New York City Transit workforce rose to the challenge. Started prepping and planning days ago for the double-whammy of first, the extremely frigid temperatures at the end of last week and into the weekend, and then the snow. We continued to operate underground service throughout the storm. As Pat said, over 9,500 employees, hourly managers and supervisors were deployed to respond to the storm, keeping stations, tracks and yards operational and clear of snow. Every station, 472, were sanded, salted and shoveled. Several passes of snow removal were completed at above and below-ground stations through the storm. To the extent that we have residual issues this morning, some of those are related to continuing to clear stations. Crews are still out today working through that.
We had more than 100 portable snow blowers and throwers out, deployed over 40 pieces of snow fighting equipment, we operated sweeper trains with ice scraper shoes to assist with clearing ice on the third rail, responded to 52 switch malfunctions. Maintenance of way dug out the tracks at 68 locations where heavy snow was accumulating and dug out by hand eight revenue trains and one deicer train. Countless service delivery crews were digging out the stop arms of signals by hand. We maintained 20 major yards by continuously clearing the tracks and keeping signals operational. I want to thank our customers for their patience while we took these measures to keep them safe and closed above-ground service. On busses, as Pat said, 13 percent ridership. I think the decision to provide reduced service in order to remove the articulated busses and chain all 40-foot busses enabled us to continue to provide service throughout the entire event. We have some routes around the city still with minor detours as sanitation completes the snow clearing efforts.
As Pat said, looking ahead we're closely watching the weather forecast for the next storm, but my huge thanks to the men and women of New York City Transit who once again got us through.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, well said. Mike Kopy, who is the director of our emergency efforts statewide. Mr. Kopy?
Michael Kopy: Thank you governor. Just a quick update on the snow. Although it's not snowing here in the metropolitan New York City area it continues to snow in different places across the state. Over the next 12 hours, we expect to see another 10 to 12 inches in the North Country and Plattsburgh. Through the Syracuse, Finger Lakes region we're going to see six to eight inches. And other points north of the Catskills and even the northern suburbs should expect to see another one to three inches before the snow ends.
During the course of the event, the state police handled over 300 accidents throughout the state, including a fatal snowmobile accident in Orange County. A Department of Transportation truck was involved in an accident with somebody on the road. It resulted in minor injuries. And a state trooper who was assisting a disabled motorist in Seneca County was injured also. Fortunately, everyone there sustained minor injuries.
Just for those who may be venturing out today to the state parks, I'd ask you to please check the parks website. Due to the snow, there are a number of facilities that are still closed at this point. Just following up on what Pat said also, we have not one but two storms that are coming in, and so I just ask the public, it's always best to prepare early. We're expecting some form of winter precipitation on Friday, Friday afternoon. That'll be downstate and parts of upstate. And Sunday, for Superbowl Sunday, could be another, larger snowstorm that we're trying right now. So from a preparedness standpoint, it's always best to prepare early. Governor, that's it, we continue to be prepared.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you, Michael. I also want to thank Rick and Pat and Sarah, because we still have more snow moving Upstate, the storm is moving north, and they've agreed to go work in upstate New York today and help them with their snow issues today, so I want to thank them very much. Kidding. Only myself and Mr. Kopy do that.
The, as everyone has said, thank everyone, who did a great job. We tend to think that snowstorm, it's an inconvenience, it's a problem, things close, it's a problem shoveling snow. These can be deadly events if they're not handled correctly. If you don't get the roads cleaned, people have accidents, people die. If you don't get the roads cleaned properly, as I mentioned before, people get stranded. And if you're stuck in a car, in a highway, overnight, it gets very dicey very quickly. If you get stuck in a train overnight, and it gets cold, it gets very dangerous very quickly. So, they did a great, great job, and we thank them, and more storms coming, but that is the period of life that we are in, right? We're in a period of storms, and attacks, and assaults. Let's go to one of them.
Today is day 339 since we've been dealing with COVID. These are the COVID numbers today. 5.47, seven day average 4.9, 146 people passed away, they are in our thoughts and prayers, hospitalization up 64, ICU up 3, intubations up 17.
This is the percentage hospitalized: Long Island, Long Island, Long Island we've been talking about, and the Mohawk Valley has been problematic, but Long Island has been problematic for a period of time. Highest positivity, Long Island and Mid-Hudson. In New York City, highest positivity, the Bronx, 6.4, and that has been for a period of time, and again there's a significant difference. You look at Manhattan, you look at Staten Island, we've made good progress in Staten Island, and I want to thank the Staten Island community for that, but the holiday surge has tapered off, and we are on the decline, 4.95, that's the first time we've had that low a positivity since the beginning of December.
In the beginning of December, was just at the start of the holiday surge, right, you had Thanksgiving, a few days later you start to get the results of infection spread on Thanksgiving, so, that's where we are. You see the hospitalization rate is going down.
Vaccines, we've done almost two million vaccines, first doses 1.6, second doses 385. Healthcare workers are a priority, when we started this, nursing homes and healthcare workers were the two priorities. Nursing home workers we have vaccinated, and then it was hospital workers. Why hospital workers? Because they're the nurses, they're the doctors, they're the people who are exposed to COVID the most. If they get infected they're super spreaders, and if they get infected the hospitals will close. We've seen this all across the board. Hospital capacity is the key, hospital capacity, if you get into trouble, it's going to be because they don't have enough staff, not because they won't have enough beds. They won't have enough staff, because the staff got sick, so vaccinating healthcare workers.
When we got off, when we started, we started off at about 63 percent, we're now at 75 percent. That's great progress, and I want to thank the hospitals. We still have a differential, and it's a dramatic differential, and to me it's all but inexplicable, some hospitals in the state, some hospitals in all regions of the state, have done a hundred percent of their frontline staff. Some hospitals are 39 percent, 40 percent, 42, 44.
Hospitals within the same region go from 100 percent to 40 percent. How can you have a situation in New York City hospitals - sometimes in the same system - where some hospitals that are at 100 and some are at 40?
The local health departments need to focus on this. Work on those low-performing hospitals to get the vaccinations up and that'll make a dramatic difference because these will be the hospitals that will get into trouble if we have a significant outbreak in COVID again. So, please local health departments, please focus on that.
On vaccines, we say vaccine is a supply issue. That is a little bit shorthand. Yes, from a state's point of view it's a supply issue. We have 7.1 million people who are eligible; we have 300,000 doses per week that we get. Do the math, it's a supply issue. We have an extensive distribution chain, private pharmacies, local governments, hospitals, mass vaccination sites - which are the single most productive vaccination distribution mechanism - so we have the distribution, we just don't have the product, right? The shelves are empty. There's nothing we can do about that. That is dependent on the federal government providing us with a weekly allocation. "Well, why doesn't the federal government provide us with more," because the federal government isn't making this in the White House. The federal government is buying it from the private pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, et cetera. So, they have to increase supply by increasing the production by the drug companies, and the White House has been working on that. President Biden has made it a top priority.
We had a meeting this morning with the White House officials with the governors across the states and we actually got good news. Federal supply will increase again. If you remember, the federal government increased the supply to the State, what we call the state allocation, 16 percent last week - and they said that 16 percent would continue for three weeks. That was also a big deal, the knowing what we're getting so we could actually plan. Otherwise, we were going week to week and it was a surprise every week. "This week you're going to get 250, this week you're going to get this." So, knowing what we get three weeks in advance is very helpful. Knowing that we're going to get an increase is very helpful.
The increase is now going to go from 16 to about 20 percent as a direct allocation. That means the State will then turn around and supply 20 percent additional to the local governments, so they can count on an additional 20 percent in the coming weeks. That's the 16 plus the five, 21, rounded to 20 percent. So, that's good news.
The federal government is also starting a pharmacy program direct from the federal government. We now use private pharmacies. We give private pharmacies part of our allocation for private pharmacies to distribute the vaccine. Pharmacies are focusing on 65-plus. The federal government is starting its own program where they're going to supply private pharmacies also, which will expand the private pharmacy network. Private pharmacies do the flu vaccine every year, about half of New Yorkers get the flu vaccine and a large percentage of them get them through pharmacies. So, there's a belief that the private pharmacies can be a significant distribution model and we have started using private pharmacies. The federal is going to give an additional 10 percent of that state's allocation to the private pharmacies. So, private pharmacies going forward will have more. Ten percent in New York State is about 30,000 because we get about 300,000 vaccines per week. Private pharmacies will also have more. So local governments get an additional 20 percent from what they were getting - that's the 16 percent increase plus 5. Pharmacies are going to get an additional 10 percent directly from the federal government which will increase the pharmacy supply and those people making appointments at pharmacies. The White House is also going to reimburse the State government for FEMA reimbursement. It's a financial transaction for the states, but it's important for the governors and we thank them for that.
When this federal government sends the vaccine, they send it in two allocations. First doses and second doses. In other words, when you take a first dose then in 21 days that person has to come back for a second dose if it's a Pfizer, in 28 days they have to come back for a second dose if it's Moderna. The federal government segregates the second dosage and basically reserves that for the people who received the first dosage. There's been a dialogue by some governors and some health experts saying start to use the second dose as a first dose. In other words, we have about 300,000 second doses this week, use them for a first dose.
The federal government does not now allow them. Why? Because then you have to really know what your future production is. If you start using the second doses as first dosages that means your production has to ramp up very quickly because then in 21 days your numbers are going to exponentially increase. At this point in time, the federal government does not allow using second doses for first doses. They're reserved for people. This may evolve over the coming weeks when the federal government gets a better handle on what the actual production is but that's where we are now. It's just not allowed.
Local governments are getting more, pharmacies are getting more. Not what anyone needs. We go back to Matilda's Rule which I announced on day one. The one thing you're going to hear here every day from everyone is I don't have enough. You know what I just said on the White House call? I don't have enough. You know what every county executive says to me? I don't have enough. You know what every hospital says? I don't have enough. You know what every person says who calls looking for an appointment? I can't get one. No one has enough. That's 7 million with 300,000. But local governments are getting more.
Local governments across the State are getting more in a slightly different population and in different positions. Suffolk County is a little different than Erie County. Rochester is a little different than Binghamton. They are in different situations and we want to give them more flexibility. They're getting more vaccine. If a local health department, county government wants to add to their - what's called 1b - prioritization. If they want to add developmentally disabled facilities, if they want to add taxi drivers, Uber drivers, restaurant workers, they can do that if they think it works within their prioritization locally. In other words, some localities have already done a large percentage of their police, their fire, their teachers and they do have flexibility. There is no one size fits all here.
Yes, we have statewide priorities which are set by the federal government, but if a local government is now getting more and they believe in their local circumstance, they want to prioritize taxi drivers, Uber drivers because they think that's been a problem or developmentally disabled facilities or restaurant workers, they have that flexibility. And again, they are getting more, so theoretically they would have additional supply to make those decisions, but that's going to be up to the local government to add in the 1b category if they think it makes sense. We're also going to look at targeting vaccinations by locations with high positivity rates. We're going to do a demonstration in the Bronx. The Bronx has a very high positivity rate in New York City and it has had for weeks. We're going to do a mass vaccination site at Yankee Stadium, which is only for Bronx residents. This is to accomplish two purposes. Number one: to vaccinate a large number of people, but also to bring the positivity rate down. So we are using the Yankee Stadium demonstration to see how that works. Mass vaccination, get the high positivity down, and target people in areas where the positivity is higher, which tend to have a high predominance of Black, poor, hard to access communities, Latino communities. So, we're also working on that.
Local governments are working on a public safety reform collaborative. Public safety is part of economic development. They have to have a plan passed by April 1. More importantly, they have to move forward with a productive police-community relationship. Crime rate is a problem in urban areas nationwide. The tension is a problem nationwide, I understand that. But we're in the problem solving business, right? COVID is a problem, snowstorm is a problem, police-community relations are a problem - I know. Solve it, and they have 58 days left to pass a new plan, otherwise they're not going to be eligible for funding in the State budget. But, forget the funding, they should be doing that anyway.
Also, it has been a long year. Snow storm yesterday, two new storms on the way -- the people I'm with they enjoy it, they thrive on it. Look how healthy and happy they look. Sarah Feinberg is smiling, Pat's smiling, Mike, Rick doesn't smile but he doesn't smile anyway. It has nothing to do with the storm or anything, just Mr. Cotton doesn't smile. I've worked with him for many years, he's just not a smiling kind of person. But, take a breath, do a little something different. There is the Moynihan Train Hall. This is like an art gallery, the Moynihan Train Hall. Forget going to the Moynihan Train Hall to take the train, go to the Moynihan Train Hall just to walk around and be amazed at something that is creative, beautiful, and historic. Shirley Chisholm Park is 400 acres on Jamaica Bay off the Belt Parkway. You would never know you were in an urban environment. I mean it's just transformative when you walk through Shirley Chisholm Park. It's the largest State park in New York City, it's also new and it really is extraordinary. You're on the water, and it's a totally different view, but it's just a change of pace. And Pier 76 in Manhattan, the West Side will see construction activity in the coming weeks. It's going to be turned into a public space. It has been a tow pound for many, many years, and the West Side was saying it's a beautiful pier that goes out into the Hudson. So, we're going to have that finally as a public space.
So, take a breath, a little change of scenery, and yes it's been hard, and yes we're going to get through this together. And we are getting through this together, and the vaccine is coming, and we got through the snow storm, and I believe in New Yorkers. I just believe in New Yorkers and their ability to overcome, and their ability to accomplish, and that's what we've seen day after day, after day. That's what we've seen over the past few weeks after the holiday surge. So, let's keep going and one day we'll look back, and it will be a distant memory, and we will be the better for it.
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