March 14, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: During Coronavirus Briefing, Governor Cuomo Announces Department of Financial Services Will Require Insurance Companies to Waive Co-payments for Tele-health Visits

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Audio & Rush Transcript: During Coronavirus Briefing, Governor Cuomo Announces Department of Financial Services Will Require Insurance Companies to Waive Co-payments for Tele-health Visits
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Authorizes State to Open Drive-Through Mobile Testing Facility on Long Island — Governor Opened First Drive-Through Testing Facility Yesterday in New Rochelle

Confirms 100 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 524; New Cases in 9 Counties

Confirms First Novel Coronavirus-Related Death in New York State, an 82-Year-Old Woman in Brooklyn with Underlying Respiratory Disease of Emphysema

Governor Will Sign Executive Order Today Waiving 7-Day Waiting Period for Workers to Claim Unemployment Insurance due to COVID-19 and Eliminating Aid Penalty for Schools Directed to Close

Governor Cuomo: "[F]irst, we are going to waive copayments for insurers for any telemedicine visits. We are encouraging people to use telemedicine. When the anxiety is high people have some symptoms. They're anxious — is this coronavirus or is it the flu? Is it just a cold? — we don't want them to go to emergency rooms. The emergency rooms back up. If you do have a coronavirus we don't want you walking into an emergency room and possibly infecting other people and staff and if you don't have the coronavirus we don't want you going to an emergency room where other people may have the coronavirus."

Cuomo: "[T]elemedicine — where they can diagnose your symptoms, you can speak with a health care professional — that is the best way for an individual's own health as well as the most beneficial for our overall community."

Earlier today during a novel coronavirus conference call briefing, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the State Department of Financial Services will require insurance companies to waive co-pays for telehealth visits. This action will encourage New Yorkers to seek medical attention from their homes rather than visit a hospital or doctor's office — ultimately reducing strain on the healthcare system and preventing further spread of the virus.

The Governor also authorized the State to open a drive-through mobile testing facility on Long Island in the coming week. This follows the success of the New Rochelle mobile testing center, which opened yesterday and serviced 150 cars and tested 263 people, exceeding the initial goal of testing 200 people in the first day. Once fully operational, the New Rochelle facility will be able to test up to 500 people per day. Drive-through mobile testing facilities help keep people who are sick or at risk of having contracted coronavirus out of healthcare facilities where they could infect other people.

The addition of a mobile testing facility on Long Island is part of the State's initiative to replicate the New Rochelle Mobile Testing Center model at other locations, helping allow the state to run at least 6,000 tests per day starting next week — six times the state's target goal when this outbreak first came to New York. This is on top of the testing that will be conducted at the 28 public and private labs across the state and the out of state labs that New York is already contracting with. All of this is a result of the proactive steps taken by Governor Cuomo and the Department of Health to get as many New Yorkers tested as possible.

Finally, Governor Cuomo confirmed 100 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 524 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 524 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

Albany County: 3 (1 new)

Broome County: 1

Delaware County: 1

Dutchess County: 3

Herkimer County: 1

Monroe County: 2

Nassau County: 68 (17 new)

New York City: 213 (59 new)

Orange County: 6 (3 new)

Rockland County: 10 (1 new)

Saratoga: 3

Schenectady: 1

Suffolk County: 33 (3 new)

Tioga County: 1 (1 new)

Tompkins County: 1 (1 new)

Ulster County: 5

Westchester County: 172 (14 new)

The Governor also confirmed the first novel coronavirus-related death in New York State - an 82-year-old woman in Brooklyn who had a pre-existing respiratory disease of emphysema.

Additionally, Governor Cuomo said he will sign an Executive Order today to help relieve the economic impact of COVID-19 on workers and assure school aid for schools that have been directed to close. As part of the Governor's Executive Order, the state will waive the 7-day waiting period for workers in shared work programs to claim unemployment insurance for those that have been put out of work by COVID-19. The Executive Order will also eliminate the aid penalty for schools directed to close by state or local officials or those closed under a state or local declaration of emergency that do not meet 180-day requirements if they are unable to make up school days.

AUDIO of the conference call where the announcements were made is available here.

A rush transcript of the conference call is available below:

Good morning, guys. Thank you all very much for being with us. As the operator said we have the Health Commissioner on the phone, Secretary to the Governor on the phone, Budget Director on the phone. Let me give you a couple of updates.

I think it's very important that at this time we communicate with the people of New York facts and reality in the midst of this situation where you have a lot of opinions and rumors. If people have information, information and facts defeat fear and the anxiety in society is obviously an issue that we have to address as much as we have to address dealing with the virus at this point.

So a couple of announcements - first, we are going to waive copayments for insurers for any telemedicine visits. We are encouraging people to use telemedicine. When the anxiety is high people have some symptoms. They're anxious - is this coronavirus or is it the flu? Is it just a cold? We don't want them to go to emergency rooms. The emergency rooms back up. If you do have a coronavirus we don't want you walking into an emergency room and possibly infecting other people and staff and if you don't have the coronavirus we don't want you going to an emergency room where other people may have the coronavirus.

So telemedicine where they can diagnose your symptoms, you can speak with a health care professional - that is the best way for an individual's own health as well as the most beneficial for our overall community. So the insurers will waive copays for telemedicine services. This is just another encouragement and benefit to do what's in people's best interest any way which is to use telemedicine at this time.

I'm going to sign the executive order today waiving the 180-day provision for local school district reimbursement. Just to clarify the situation on schools: local districts can decide to close the school district. That has always been the case. That is not a function of any recent actions. A local school district was always enabled with the ability to close a school. That remains true. There is an additional state provision that says if you have a child that is positive the school must be closed for 24 hours so the school can be disinfected and we can assess the situation, and they then consult with the Department of Health on the specific facts and circumstances to make a decision on whether or not that school should remain closed. That is a new provision and the state may have, in the future, a different position as to what local school districts should do depending on facts and circumstances. So, right now it is purely a local decision, unless you have a child who tests positive and then you consult with the Department of Health and it has to be closed. And if something has to be changed then we will do that. Right now, you have a very different situation across parts of the state. Some school districts have virtually minimal cases in their area, other school districts have many more - New Rochelle obviously is the extreme example. That's why we have the local discretion because right now you have a massive differentiation depending on parts of the state.

Unemployment insurance, we said that we were going to waive the 7-day waiting period, that will become effective today.

On political petitions, we need to address that issue. I don't have the answer now, but I know the question. We don't want people circulating political petitions now, going door-to-door. So we need to end the petition process and determine how people qualify for the election, I'm talking to the legislative leaders about that, but we don't have an answer today.

The New Rochelle drive-through testing facility worked very, very well. That does a number of things for us. It increases our testing capacity, but it also keeps people out of emergency rooms and it's a very controlled setting. The first one in New Rochelle opened yesterday, it worked very well. We're going to be opening a drive-through for Long Island and we'll be doing that this coming week. We're planning that as we speak. But we actually hope to get that up and functioning by the end of the week. This is a large logistical issue, because the facility itself, the tent itself, is a chore to construct, but we did it in New Rochelle; it is working very well and today I authorized and directed them to do one on Long Island, and we're in the midst of that right now.

The update on the number of cases in New York, we now have 524 - that's an increase of 100 from yesterday. We did 700 tests. Again, the number of positive cases is more a function of the number of tests were taking. The more tests we take, the more that number will go up. Nobody believes there are only 500 cases of coronavirus in New York today. We believe there are thousands of people who have coronavirus, maybe tens of thousands. We believe there are thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands who have had coronavirus and have resolved and never knew they had it. So, the 524 cases doesn't mean there are 524 positive people; it means the testing capacity is going up. The more you test the more you will find it.

And again, the majority of these cases are being done by "disease detectives" tracking down cases from positive cases. 117 of the 524 are hospitalized. We have the first case in Tioga County and the first case in Tompkins County. Also, we had last night a death in a New York City hospital of an 82-year-old woman who had coronavirus. She came in to the hospital on March 3rd, and again here the context is very important. This was an 82-year-old woman who had an underlying respiratory illness, emphysema, for which she had been hospitalized previously. She then contracted the coronavirus on top of the emphysema and she passed. Again, the context is important here. I was speaking to a healthcare professional about this case, and the healthcare professional said, look, if you are an 82-year-old, with emphysema, and you contract the normal slew, you're gravely ill. And when they talk about the number of deaths you have from the flu, again the normal flu is when you have a person who has a compromised immune system, there's new citizens, an underlying illness, and then you get the flu and you're 82 years old, yes, you're in a grave situation. And that's what we're going to see playing out here as the general rule.

Also, yesterday was a big step forward for the state as we've been discussing. On testing, the testing capacity is important because it is helping us identify positives and quarantining. The testing capacity across the country has been an issue that has been widely discussed and widely reported. What is the improvement? I had asked Vice President Pence to go back to the federal powers and say, let's get FDA and CDC out of the mandatory approval business, break that federal bottleneck, and let the states use their own laboratories. I then had a conversation with the vice president and the president yesterday morning, late morning, where they said they would do just that. That is a very big modification in the protocol. And that will enable New York to now go to our laboratories and dramatically increase that testing capacity, and we're ramping that up now. And you'll see the testing capacity go way up this coming week.

Now, as the testing capacity goes up, you're going to see the number of positive cases go up. Again, that doesn't mean there's a that percentage increase in the number of cases. It means we're just identifying what already exists.

I will stop there and we'll take whatever questions you have.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640