Governor Cuomo: "Why the United States, after what we've been through, watching 120 other countries, why you wouldn't take action and require that people who fly to this country be tested first, is beyond me."
Cuomo: "I've actually called the airlines that are flying into New York, primarily British airlines, and Delta airlines, and Virgin airlines, and I said you have 120 countries on the list that require testing, please add New York to those 120 countries. And they've agreed to do it, British has agreed, Delta has agreed. They're testing for 120 other countries, so they'll add New York."
Cuomo: "When 120 countries ban the U.K., when the U.K. closes down and cancels Christmas, in essence, by it's own prime minister who didn't want to do it and says, 'This virus is deadly.' It's a gross negligence for this federal government not to act."
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC with Alicia Menendez, where he announced that in the wake of a new, highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus found in the United Kingdom, British Airways and Delta Airlines have voluntarily agreed to require a COVID-19 test before allowing passengers to board planes traveling from the United Kingdom to New York. With this move, New York joins the list of 120 countries with a similar requirement on flights from the U.K. The Governor has asked Virgin Atlantic, the other airline that runs flights from the U.K. to New York, to do the same. The Governor is also continuing to call on the federal government to impose enhanced travel restrictions, as 120 other countries have done, to avoid the same grave mistakes of the spring where the virus entered New York from Europe with no warning.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the governor's interview is available below:
Alicia Menendez: Governor Cuomo joins me now. Governor, other countries have shut down travel with the UK. You called it reprehensible that the U.S. has not done the same. What do you believe needs to be done?
Governor Cuomo: Good to be with you, Alicia. This is the spring redux, this is what we went through with Covid back in the spring, when it ambushed New York and the rest of the country. We've been watching the Covid virus for a dangerous mutation. The virus does mutate, the question is, does it mutate into a new virus that's truly diabolical?
And all of the reports from the UK say that this could be a serious mutation of the virus. Remember when we first spoke about the second wave, everyone said the second wave. The second wave was a mutation of the virus, right? And that hasn't happened yet. But this would be a second wave. The UK shut down, essentially, after the Prime Minister said that he wouldn't shut down. He found out about this virus, he said it transmits 70 times as fast as the normal Covid virus, 120 countries have banned travel from the UK, EU countries, or mandated a health test before the people get on the flight and come to their country.
Why the United States, after what we've been through, watching 120 other countries, why you wouldn't take action and require that people who fly to this country be tested first, is beyond me. I mean how many times do you have to make the same mistake in life, it really is an act of just negligence by government, not to say, before somebody gets on the plane and flies to the United States they test negative for the virus, or for a variant of the virus.
Alicia Menendez: Well Governor to your point about negligence there's been little federal guidance from this outgoing administration. Are you confident that they're able to act now?
Governor Cuomo: No, no I'm not confident that they're able to act now. Look, this is even a more complicated situation because you're sort of between Administrations. But New York is not going to wait for the federal government to protect New Yorkers, we made that mistake back in the spring. I've actually called the airlines that are flying into New York, primarily British airlines, and Delta airlines, and Virgin airlines, and I said you have 120 countries on the list that require testing, please add New York to those 120 countries.
And they've agreed to do it, British has agreed, Delta has agreed. They're testing for 120 other countries, so they'll add New York. But it doesn't do New York any good unless it works for the nation, otherwise you'll have people just fly into Chicago or somewhere else and get on a plane and fly to New York. That's one thing this nation has never really realized, you can't control this virus state by state. It's impossible. We're one nation.
So, I took action as New York, but really this nation should just say we want to join the other 120 nations that require testing. You can't fly into the United States unless you test negative for COVID or this COVID-variant. That is just common sense.
Alicia Menendez: Governor, I just want to make sure I understand because as we came on air I know that British Airways had agreed to that. Are you saying now that Delta and Virgin have agreed to that as well?
Governor Cuomo: British Airways agreed this morning. I then spoke to Delta Airlines. Delta Airlines has agreed. I haven't yet come to conclusion with Virgin Airlines. They're doing it, Alicia, they're doing it for 120 other countries. Why wouldn't they do it for the United States? I am confident that they will wind up all, all 3, doing it for the State of the New York. Again, unless you stop the virus everywhere you don't stop the virus anywhere.
What's frustrating to me is we've learned these lessons. We went through this in the spring. We saw how COVID came and the federal government had no idea. Everything was retrospective. COVID was coming to New York back in February. It came February, March, April and the federal government didn't even know it. They thought it was still in China. They didn't figure it out until much later. Let's at least learn. When you have all the EU countries banning the U.K. - you have the UK itself closing down - what other signal do you need?
New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States. We're the fourth lowest state in the nation but I can't protect New Yorkers unless we protect the entire country. This virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. It's time we get ahead of the virus.
Alicia Menendez: To that point, Governor, I'm wondering if you're concerned this new variant of the virus could already be in New York?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I am. Yes, I am. They say that there's no evidence that there is; but you know I've been dealing with all the global health experts over the past year. A scientist will tell you what they know as a fact when they know it. They won't say there's smoke or water on the slope. They wait to see the fire. The smoke isn't enough. Once you see the fire it's often too late. For me, in a practical matter, when I see smoke I start to pour the water. When 120 countries ban the U.K., when the U.K. closes down and cancels Christmas, in essence, by it's own prime minister who didn't want to do it and says, "This virus is deadly." It's a gross negligence for this federal government not to act.
Alicia Menendez: Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you.