November 6, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Updated COVID-19 Micro-Cluster Focus Zones

TOP Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo...

Based on Progress Controlling COVID Spread, Zones Change in Brooklyn, Queens - Far Rockaway, and Rockland and Orange County

 

Zones Do Not Change in Queens - Kew Gardens/Forest Hills and Broome, Steuben, Chemung Counties

 

New Yellow Precautionary Zone in Port Chester, Westchester County

 

SUNY to Test All On-Campus Students Before Holidays; Private Colleges Asked to Consider Similar Plans

 

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 3.16 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 1.84 Percent     

 

Statewide Positivity Rate is 1.99 Percent

 

18 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

 

Governor Cuomo: "As a matter of context, day 251, we are obviously in a different phase with COVID and we've been talking about it for weeks but we have to fully acknowledge it. The fall phase the scientists all predicted was going to be worse. You're seeing global and national surges that are dramatic, and that's the new reality of COVID, okay? So the numbers are all changing, all across the globe, all across the country. The challenge for our state, like other states, is managing the increase. How do you manage the increase? We manage the increase by the most aggressive testing in the country and our micro-cluster strategy, which is identify a small spread, increase enforcement, increase restrictions."

 

Cuomo: "If you look at the numbers, Queens, the micro-cluster approach is working. We had two micro-clusters in Queens. We had one in Far Rockaway, and that micro-cluster is going to be extinguished as of today, because the numbers were under control, the micro-cluster worked, and the micro-cluster for Far Rockaway is being terminated. The micro-cluster in Queens in the Kew Gardens area is unchanged. The Brooklyn micro-cluster, the red zone, is working, and it's working well, and we're going to reduce the size of the red zone by 50 percent. And we'll put out a map today that shows the exact parameters of that reduction, but it's a reduction of 50 percent and the yellow zone is also reduced 50 percent. So it's working in Queens, it's working in Brooklyn."

WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced updated COVID-19 micro-cluster focus areas in New York State. Brooklyn's Red Zone focus zone area has new boundaries to reflect a decreased positivity rate and new daily cases in certain neighborhoods. Based on data metrics including testing results and hospitalization rates Queens - Far Rockaway's yellow zone has been removed; Rockland County's red zone focus areas will change to an orange warning zone; and Orange County's orange zone will change to a yellow precautionary zone. Focus zones in Queens - Kew Gardens/Forest Hills and Broome, Steuben and Chemung counties will not change. The Governor also announced a new yellow precautionary zone focus area in Westchester County. 

SUNY will test its in-person students before sending them home for Thanksgiving and will keep them home for the rest of the semester. The Governor asked that private colleges in New York consider adopting similar plans.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

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

Hiya guys, guys being gender-neutral. I'm joined by Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Gareth Rhodes and Beth Garvey and Howard Zucker. As a matter of context, day 251, we are obviously in a different phase with COVID and we've been talking about it for weeks but we have to fully acknowledge it. The fall phase the scientists all predicted was going to be worse. You're seeing global and national surges that are dramatic, and that's the new reality of COVID, okay?

 

So the numbers are all changing, all across the globe, all across the country. The challenge for our state, like other states, is managing the increase. How do you manage the increase? We manage the increase by the most aggressive testing in the country and our micro-cluster strategy, which is identify a small spread, increase enforcement, increase restrictions.

 

Numbers today in the zones, 3.16. Statewide without the zones, 1.8. Statewide with the zones, 1.9. Relative to the nation, we are doing extraordinarily well. We're something like, only Vermont and Maine is doing better than New York. And these states are very rural states with very low density, and they never had a COVID problem, period. So relatively, New York is doing very, very well. Numbers going up, yes, because the numbers go up. Temperature drops in the fall. That's not remarkable. Temperature drops, question is how do you manage the drop in the temperature? So, the state is doing very well.

 

Interesting phenomenon is we have a disparate scene across the state, and what's happening is what we said would happen, which is people are in control of the spread of the virus. How you behave today determines whether or not you get sick tomorrow. Individual action, it's all about individual action. If you take it seriously, and you act that way, you will be safer. If you are reckless, you will be less safe. If you don't believe there's a risk, you will be less safe. And we're seeing that vividly.

 

In general, downstate New York is doing better than Upstate New York, which is a total reversal from the first phase of COVID, where it was primarily a downstate problem and Upstate New York said oh, this is not a problem, this is not a problem. It's a total reversal.

 

If you look at the numbers, Queens, the micro-cluster approach is working. We had two micro-clusters in Queens. We had one in Far Rockaway, and that micro-cluster is going to be extinguished as of today, because the numbers were under control, the micro-cluster worked, and the micro-cluster for Far Rockaway is being terminated. The micro-cluster in Queens in the Kew Gardens area is unchanged. The Brooklyn micro-cluster, the red zone, is working, and it's working well, and we're going to reduce the size of the red zone by 50 percent. And we'll put out a map today that shows the exact parameters of that reduction, but it's a reduction of 50 percent and the yellow zone is also reduced 50 percent. So it's working in Queens, it's working in Brooklyn.

 

Long Island is basically flat. Mohawk Valley, basically flat. Southern Tier, making progress. Broome has done a good job and Broome is even down. But by and large, the Southern Tier is flat. North Country is flat.

 

Westchester is basically flat but for Port Chester, which is right on the Connecticut border, and Connecticut has taken serious dramatic action, because the numbers in Connecticut are not good, and Port Chester is going to become a yellow zone. I spoke with County Executive Latimer today. The state is going to work with him on that Port Chester yellow zone. We're going to set up rapid testing, and County Executive Latimer is a real pro and truly knows what he's doing. But we want Port Chester to understand this is every public servant's job to do, right? I'm a policeman, I'm a fireman, et cetera. But every public servant has to work on COVID also. So, it will go to a yellow zone. Hold one second, please. Sorry.

 

Western New York is a problem. The infection rate in Western New York has gone from 1.5 to 2.8. Erie County has the highest infection rate in Western New York at 3.1. Within Erie County the highest clusters are Buffalo, Hamburg, Tonawanda, Orchard Park. Finger Lakes, Monroe County is a problem. It's gone from 1.7 to 2.6. Monroe: Rochester, Pittsford, Webster, Penfield. Central New York is a problem. 1.1 to 2.2. Onondaga: Syracuse, Cicero the number of cases doubled. Now, when I say it's a problem these numbers are below states all across the nation. You have New Jersey, you have Connecticut - these states are 5 percent in New Jersey, 3.7 in Connecticut. Pennsylvania is 14. So, when I say they're a problem, they are lower than states surrounding us, but with relative to New York they are the high spots in New York, and frankly I compare New York to New York, right?

 

Western New York -  Dr. Zucker, who's on the phone, said that given the dramatic increase we're seeing in Erie County, it would be reckless from a public health point of view to open the stadium to spectators at this time, which I find disappointing on a personal level but this is a public health issue first, and as I've said I follow the advice of the public health experts. Hopefully we get the numbers under control and we continue to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis. If we get the numbers under control I would very much look forward to watching a bills game myself. In these areas, Western New York - well, let's just call it Erie, Monroe, Onondaga; in these areas we're going to study them over the weekend. We're going to talk to the elected officials over the weekend and try to find out exactly what is going on so that we can design a micro-cluster strategy that is responsive. But at these numbers and in these areas a micro-cluster response is appropriate. We tailor the micro-cluster strategy to the particulars of that area and, therefore, we want to have conversations over the weekend and then I'll have an announcement on Monday as to exactly what we're going to do. Again, in Erie: Buffalo, Hamburg, Tonawanda, Orchard Park. Monroe: Rochester, Pittsford, Webster, Penfield. Onondaga: Syracuse, Cicero. Those are the highest places in the state. Again, before you scare people, they're lower than Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, but relative to New York they're high. Congratulations to Queens, Far Rockaway. Congratulations to Brooklyn, which made real progress. Also, Rockland County is going from a red zone to an orange zone so congratulations to Rockland County. Also, congratulations to Orange County, which is going from orange to yellow.

 

When I said there's a different picture across the State, individual actions matter: Orange, congratulations; Rockland, congratulations; Queens, congratulations; Brooklyn, congratulations. Long Island, good news. Southern Tier, good news. North Country, good news. Mohawk Valley, good news. Erie, Monroe, Onondaga - not good news. So that's that.

 

A few things we're doing: Number one, we're worried about the holiday season. We're worried about behavior in the State, we're worried about behavior out of the State. I've cautioned before, people should beware of small gatherings this year. I've said that we have a very strict quarantine policy in place for the holiday weekend travel, period. We're going to be increasing enforcement personnel at the New York airports. You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing. You're supposed to take a test where you're coming from within 3 days and it is supposed to show a negative test. I'm increasing the National Guard. I spoke to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about increasing the New York Police Department at the airports, but I want people to know we're serious.

 

Second, colleges, which have been highly problematic: SUNY is going to send kids home for the Thanksgiving break. They're going to do what's called exit testing, another new concept. They're going to test every student on the way out so students that are infected will know where they're going and what to do and how to get there. SUNY is also going to cancel the return from the Thanksgiving break and do remote learning for the rest of the semester which takes us to about February and then we'll figure out in February what we do. In other words, from SUNY go home for Thanksgiving, don't come back, go to remote learning and then we'll figure out next semester, next semester.

 

I'm asking private colleges to review what SUNY did, take that action into consideration, but announce what their policy is going to be because I need to make a decision whether the State should set a policy for private colleges. To send children home for Thanksgiving could then bring them back, basically for a couple of weeks, from across the country and then end the semester literally 2-3 weeks later, doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The SUNY policy does make sense, I applaud them for that. I'd like to hear what the private colleges are thinking.

 

Two other points: There was a story in the Times today that was so disturbing on so many levels I can't even begin to tell you. I want to applaud Councilman, soon-to-be-Congressman Ritchie Torres, who did an investigation that disclosed a well-known, long-term police blog that was in existence for about 20 years where police officers, NYPD police officers, would speak basically to each other on this blog. This is one of the most disgusting, disturbing, discriminatory, vile blogs that you can find on the internet.

 

This is a blog where they referred to Barack Obama as a "Muslim savage." Darcel Clark, the District Attorney of the Bronx, Black a "gap-toothed wildebeest." They called the Mayor's son, Dante, "brillo-head." They call Representative Omar, a federal Congressperson, a "filthy animal." This, from NYPD. This from the NYPD and it's gone on for years. Some estimate this blog is 20 years old. It was only called to light by Councilman Torres' investigation. Now, all respect to Councilman Torres - and I'm a big fan of the Councilman. I've worked with him on NYCHA. I think he's extraordinary and I think he's a star for the future.

 

But the City Council is not the most sophisticated internet investigatory body. As Attorney General I did internet investigations. You indicate a subpoena, you give it to the internet company, you mirror a hard drive - that's how you do these investigations. The City Council was just doing it by reading the blog and then piecing together who these geniuses were. It's almost incredible that this went on for so long, was so widespread, so many police involved. How did nobody stop it? How did nobody blow the whistle? You're in a time, George Floyd murder, Eric Garner in New York, demonstrations, are the police culturally sensitive and in touch with the needs of the people of the city, and you have this blog up which could not be a more damning representation of the NYPD? It is one of the most disturbing situations. George Floyd was disturbing to watch, to use a mild word.

 

This blog is just as disturbing to read because they both suggest discrimination and racism and abuse of power that has gone on for too long. This is not about one person. The New York Times writes a story; it's one person, it's one person. It's not one person. It's hundreds of people who are on the blog. How about everybody else? How about all the other police officers? One person? Come on.

 

The NYPD says they're going to do a full investigation. It's not about one person. This has to be fully disclosed. It went on for years. There are hundreds of contributors. The blog mysteriously came down. Any investigator worth their salt issues a subpoena today to the internet company, gets everything. Any investigator worth half their salt goes on the blog right now, copies it, starts reading it and tracks down the hundreds of submissions on the blog. NYPD says they're going to do a full investigation. I think it should be expeditious, I think it should be full, I think this is misdirection to be pointing to one person, that's not what it's about, I would urge a real investigative journalist, go to this blog right now. You can put it together the way Councilman Torres put it together a good investigative journalist could put it together because they give you their information. I joined the NYPD in 1982, I'm in precinct this, I was on this case, you can figure out who they are. It's not one person. NYPD, full investigation, quickly, expeditiously.

 

I think they should tell us what they have as soon as they have it because this is going to inflame the current tension between the NYPD and the community and frankly it's uglier than I thought it was.

 

Last point, Times did a story, McKinley, Dana Rubenstein, and said I made the Mayor a scapegoat for the election. That's false. It's classic attempt to dramatize but in the meantime actually pervert facts. What I said was in the New York elections, first count the votes, like I said about the presidential, count the votes. When you count the votes, Joe Biden is going to be the president of the United States. You have to count the votes. I understand President Trump - "stop counting, I'm ahead, stop counting when I'm ahead." It's so classic Trump, but they are counting the votes. Joe Biden is going to be the president.

 

I said when they count the votes in New York, I think you're going to see the Assembly and the Senate do much better than what we see now. However, I said, it shouldn't have been that close. That's a factual statement. If you look at what happened in Connecticut — Connecticut picked up Democratic seats, right? They have a supermajority in the Senate in Connecticut. New Jersey picked up seats, right? So, New York is a little bit of an anomaly, right? So, an inquiring mind would say, "well what was different in New York than in Connecticut and New Jersey?" In New York, I think the Republican message that they orchestrated saying, "Democratic chaos must be stopped. Democrats are anti-law and order." I think that resonated in New York. It's untrue. What Democrats are saying is, we object to racism and police abuse and what happened to George Floyd — and we believe that every American should be treated equally. But we believe in law and order and we respect the police and we respect the police who deserve respect. We don't respect the police who are on that blog using that ugliness. They should not be police in my opinion, period. But we all understand that public safety is job one for government. We respect the police and we have to restore the relationship and that's just what I did with my initiative statewide and governments are doing it statewide. First in the nation where you have to repair and rebuild the relationship and you have to redesign it. Public safety. This is no longer the 1930s, or 40s or 50s. Design a public safety function community by community for today.

 

But they did use New York City and in New York City, there were pictures of demonstrations for multiple days. There were pictures of looting for multiple days. Those pictures were shown on TV. The President said multiple times, I want to send the National Guard to New York City because Democrats can't do law and order." Those TV pictures, the President, the actions in New York City I said resonated the Republican message. So, I understand you like the drama of "the Governor doesn't like the Mayor, the Mayor doesn't like the Governor." I get it. I get it. You should be playwrights, McKinley and Rubinstein. But reporters are reporters.

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