October 15, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces State to Provide 200,000 Rapid Test Kits to New York City Schools in "Yellow Zones"

TOP Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo...

Statewide Positivity Rate is 1.09 Percent

 

Positive Testing Rate in Hot Spot Areas is 4.84 Percent; New York State Positivity Without Red Zone Focus Areas Included is 0.99 Percent

 

13 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 

Governor Cuomo: "Dealing with COVID is not checkers. It's chess. So, let's start to think ahead. We're dealing with the fall. The next step is going to be dealing with a vaccine. We all hope and pray that the vaccine comes sooner rather than later. It gets very complicated very quickly and we need to know what is the plan, what does the federal government do, what do you expect the states to do. When does it start? Who funds it, et cetera? Let's figure it out now because this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. It's about time this country catches up."

 

Cuomo: "I asked local governments to do testing in the schools surrounding the red zones, what we call a yellow zone, where we've asked local governments to do testing in those schools in the 'Yellow Zones,' they're basically buffer zones. Some of the local governments have said they don't have enough test to do it. I said if you need something tell me and I will provide it for you. We're going to give New York City 200,000 test kits so they can do the tests in the schools in the 'Yellow Zones.'"

WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the state will provide 200,000 rapid test kits to New York City schools in "Yellow Zones." On October 9, Governor Cuomo announced that COVID-19 rapid result testing will be made available to every county in New York State. Those tests will also be made available on an as needed basis to help schools in "Yellow Zones" test students and staff as part of new requirements to monitor COVID-19 spread as part of the Governor's Cluster Action Initiative.

 

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

 

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

 

Good morning. I have Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Dr. Zucker and Beth Garvey on the telephone with me today.

 

Let's start off walking about the overall situation we're in in a national context. We've been talking about the fall and the challenges that the fall has brought for COVID and we see an increasing number all across the nation. We see it all across the globe and we're in the midst of dealing with that.

 

I think it's also very important that the next time that we start to think ahead. Dealing with COVID is not checkers. It's chess. So, let's start to think ahead. We're dealing with the fall. The next step is going to be dealing with a vaccine. We all hope and pray that the vaccine comes sooner rather than later.

 

There will be a question when the vaccine comes out. The first question will be do the American people trust the vaccine. We've anticipated that in New York. We said we'll put together a committee of professionals that will review the protocol and efficacy of the vaccine. If that committee tells me that the vaccine is safe I will tell the people of the state that the vaccine is safe. I do believe there will be distrust about the vaccine because I believe there is distrust about this federal administration's reliance or lack thereof on science.

 

That'll be the first hurdle but let's get past that first hurdle, so the vaccine comes out, people believe it's safe, people are willing to take it. You then have to administer it. How do you do that? How do we administer 20 million vaccines in the State of New York and how do you do that quickly and how do you do that safely? How do you do the vaccines all across the country?  Government does not do these large operational complex functions easily or well. "Well, government just administers it." It's not that simple and the federal government has shown that it doesn't have the operational capacity to do these things. That's why the federal government at the beginning of COVID just delegated it all to the states. All right and then you handed the state the responsibility but the state wasn't in a position to procure PPE and we weren't in a position to manage an entire hospital system that was a private system or do hundreds of thousands of tests.

 

When we started we could only do 500 tests a day. Our Department of Health is not an operational agency. It's a regulatory agency. We are now doing over 100,000 tests per day. We could only do 500 when we started.

 

Well, then we administer the vaccine. It's not that simple and I want to anticipate that and I've been speaking to my colleagues around the country on and the National Governor's Association, of which I'm Chairman this year, is sending the President a letter today that says, in essence - we released the letter, I believe, "Dear President Trump, The States have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, working tirelessly. Governors are willing to assist your administration on the national vaccine program to make it's smooth and efficient. However, guidance and clarification is needed on the roles and expectations of the states in that vaccination distribution implementation program. To that end, we request a meeting with you and your team to discuss what is required to ensure a strong partnership. Delineation of state responsibility, funding needs, with those responsibilities and the planned supply chain management and vaccine allocation process." 

 

That letter will go to the President today. It is a massive, monumental undertaking and if you listen to the White House it could be just a matter of weeks away. I'm telling you, there's no simple answer. "Well, the military will do it. The states will do it. Well the CDC will do it." It's not that simple and it's very expensive and it's very complicated. And, by the way, there is going to be a subset of people who will not take the vaccine. 

 

We went through that in this State with measles. You will have a group of people who, they call themselves the anti-vaxxers. You'll have a group of people who will say, "We're not taking the vaccine." How do you deal with that? It means you'll have ongoing small flare ups of COVID. That letter goes out today. I hope we get a response. It's clear the states won't be able to do it on their own. We don't produce the vaccine, there's also very specific storage requirements for the vaccine. There's also some specifications that some people would need to receive two doses of the vaccine - it would have to be the same vaccine. It gets very complicated very quickly and we need to know what is the plan, what does the federal government do, what do you expect the states to do. When does it start? Who funds it, et cetera? Let's figure it out now because this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. It's about time this country catches up. 

 

Next point, we talk about the fall. Very few of the outbreaks that we have had in New York - the clusters that we talk about in New York - would have happened had we had compliance and had we had enforcement. In other words, if you look at where the outbreaks are coming from, there are situations where there was a lack of compliance. Lack of compliance matched with a lack of enforcement. If it was just a lack of compliance but there's enforcement, then the situation is corrected. If there's a lack of compliance and there's a lack of enforcement, then there's an outbreak. 

 

If you go through the outbreaks we're looking at, which are I call them micro-clusters, which Is a word - another new word - a new expression, that we just designed during COVID, but in New York we talk about micro-clusters. These are small situations. This is a Sweet Sixteen party on Long Island. This is a bar in Broome County that violated the rules. They are episodic, but one episode can create dozens of cases, so it's a lack of compliance and a lack of enforcement. 

 

I was in a briefing one day when, a transportation briefing, and a point was made that stuck with me: something like the overwhelming majority of all traffic fatalities are involved with speeding — that if people weren't speeding, you would dramatically drop the number of fatalities. So, speeding enforcement actually saves lives. You can have an accident, but the fatalities are much less if you're not speeding. If we have better enforcement with COVID, we will save lives and that's what we're trying to do with the enforcement. Some of the complexity on the enforcement here, especially with members of the Ultra-Orthodox community — they have never complied with the rules and I have had dozens and dozens of conversations. It's not that they are not complying with the current "red zone" rule, they never complied with any of the close-down rules going back to March. That's why some find this shocking because they didn't follow many of the rules all along and that's why they think this is abrupt. What is abrupt is that they would comply with any rule. I also want to make the point that the majority of Ultra-Orthodox groups that I've been speaking with are cooperative. There are a relatively small number — loud but small — that are uncooperative and just believe that they should be exempt from these types of government regulations. But what's complicating it for this smaller number of groups is that they really have not ever followed any of these rules back from March, which is surprising. But, that's why I want to be nice and clear with local government because it's not that they haven't enforced the rule in the past couple of weeks. Some of them have not enforced the rules for months, and that's the shock to some of these communities and that I find inexplicable at this point, you know. Local enforcement, which I've been talking about every week, and when you're talking about whether or not a school is open, or a yeshiva is open, or a church is open, you're not talking about fine detective work, right? If a yeshiva is open, you can tell because you see school buses with children in them. School buses are normally large and yellow - they're designed to stick out, that's why they paint them yellow, from a safety point of view. It's not that I'm asking local government to take fingerprints, right? Just see the school buses, guys.

 

Let me give you the numbers for today - oh, one other point. I also asked local governments to do testing in the schools surrounding the red zones, what we call a "Yellow Zone," where we've asked local governments to do testing in those schools in the "Yellow Zones," they're basically buffer zones. Some of the local governments have said they don't have enough test to do it. I said if you need something tell me and I will provide it for you. We're going to give New York City 200,000 test kits so they can do the tests in the schools in the "Yellow Zones."

 

Okay, today's numbers - today's day 229. The "Red Zones" are 4.84; the state without the "Red Zones" to 0.99. The state with the "Red Zones" is 1.09. Thirteen New Yorkers passed away - they're in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization is down 41 to 897. 197 ICU, 95 intubated.

 

Last point, I've asked you all please to watch the school dashboard. Many parents have anxiety about the school re-opening - I've said that the anxiety is justified, these are frightening times. School districts put out the plans but that we would see how the plans were implemented, and if there was a problem we would react and we know if there was a problem because we were watching the testing data. And the testing data are the only facts we receive. The dashboard is up - if you look at the testing data on the dashboard, yesterday 131 positive test results from 111 schools. 95 onsite, meaning students, teachers who were onsite at school, 36 offsite. 672 public school districts submitted data. New York City showed 38 positives, 31 onsite from 28 schools. Two schools showed two or more student cases - PS 131 in Queens, PS 194 in the Bronx. Two or more cases in New York City triggers a review by the New York City plan. And I think that is the bulk of the information.

 

The regional positivity - New York City 1.0, Capital District 0.8, Central New York 1, Finger Lakes 1.3, Long Island 1.1, Mid-Hudson 1.6, Mohawk Valley 0.5, North Country 0.5, Souther Tier 1.1, Western New York 1.6. 

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