Governor Cuomo: "We're all excited about the possibilities about a vaccine. It's not that people don't trust the vaccine companies, the pharmaceutical companies ... an overwhelming percentage of Americans are worried about political interference in the vaccination process and the approval process by the President."
Cuomo: "Seven states have independent panels to review it because the majority of Americans say they think it was a politicized approval process because the President has been so overtly political in manipulating health officials ... The question becomes, how do you shore up confidence, and a number of states said we'll set up our own scientific panel, they'll review the information, I then get to go to the people of New York State and say, I know you're worried, don't be worried, this is safe."
Cuomo: "The day they distribute the vaccine, we will be ready to start the distribution. Our review of the FDA protocol will be simultaneous concurrent with their delivery. We're not going to have any lag in time. But I do want to say to the people of this state, 'trust the vaccine'."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called into MSNBC Live with Katy Tur.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Katy Tur: Joining us now is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor, thanks for joining us. What is your response to the President?
Governor Cuomo: Katy, none of what he said is true. Surprise, surprise. We're all excited about the possibilities about a vaccine. It's not that people don't trust the vaccine companies, the pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer is a great New York company, Regeneron is a great New York company, but an overwhelming percentage of Americans are worried about political interference in the vaccination process and the approval process by the President. The American people trust the drug company more than they trust the President. Kaiser poll said 60 percent of Americans are worried that the approval was political. Pew poll said about 50 percent of Americans are worried that the approval is political. So a number of states, New York included, to try to build credibility so the people will actually accept the vaccine, put together their own scientific review panels. Ours is headed by a Nobel Prize laureate who will review the FDA process so we can say to people, it is safe, you should take the vaccine.
Katy Tur: Are you going to be doing that concurrently? Will there be any delay between the approval process and distribution of the vaccine?
Governor Cuomo: No, Katy, it'll be concurrent. It's a way to build confidence in people and, again, it's not just a New York issue. Seven states have independent panels to review it because the majority of Americans say they think it was a politicized approval process because the President has been so overtly political in manipulating health officials. So yes, we're excited about a vaccine. Now you have to get people to take it. Over half the country is saying they're worried about the approval. The question becomes, how do you shore up confidence, and a number of states said we'll set up our own scientific panel, they'll review the information, I then get to go to the people of New York State and say, I know you're worried, don't be worried, this is safe. And then we can actually administer and distribute the vaccine quickly. That's what it is about. The President likes to point out New York because it's been an ongoing issue. The President lost New York State in the election by a huge margin. You have New York prosecutors who are investigating the President for tax fraud. So he has issues with New York and he likes to point to New York. But this is his issue. It's his credibility issue. It's the fear that he politicized the health process of this nation which is a well-founded fear.
Katy Tur: Is it an issue with New York State? A number of other states have set up advisory panels as you just said, or is it an issue with you directly?
Governor Cuomo: Oh, i think it's both. You know, I have been an outspoken opponent to many of President Trump's policies over the past four years. I opposed what he did on the border, I opposed his putting children in cages, I opposed his separating children from their families, we've had litigation over it, the President has retaliated, he raised our taxes in New York, he's refused to fund any infrastructure projects in New York, but that's been his MO, Katy. Everything is personal with this President. There can't be a disagreement on principle and he retaliates. He uses the government as a retaliatory tool. That's what he does. He's also a bully.
Katy Tur: Hold on. Let's put the President aside. He's only in office for another couple months, a critical couple of months, but Joe Biden is going to be the president on January 20th. He's the president-elect right now. I know he's trying to set up his administration for day one. He's trying to figure out what exactly they are going to do about the coronavirus and be ready to go. He's having a hard time doing that because he hasn't been given full access to transition resources. Specifically on the subject of the coronavirus, have you or has anyone on your team been in touch with Joe Biden's team about what New York needs when he comes into office?
Governor Cuomo: Oh, yes we have, on an ongoing basis. And by the way that's another point of view, point of difference I have with the President. I think it's shameful what he's doing. You're in the middle of a national pandemic, your ego is going to get in the way of a formal normal transition of power? You're not going to inform the incoming administration of the day-to-day need to make a decision? Meanwhile you have Americans dying and the COVID pandemic raging? I mean, he should be ashamed of himself. But we have been working with the Biden team. This is a very difficult period. The numbers are going to go up. They're going to continue to go up through the winter. It's not as simple as saying, well we'll get to the vaccine and the vaccine will solve it. The time between today and the administration of the vaccine is a very long period of time, Katy, and the administration of the vaccine is also something that the Trump administration in my opinion has no idea how to handle, just like they've done this entire COVID situation. It's like testing. We'll just do it and then in it never happened. How do you administer a vaccine to 330 million people?
Katy Tur: Let's talk about logistics because the vaccine needs extremely cold storage. It needs to be distributed. What is going to happen in New York? where does it go first? Do we have the resources in place in the state to facilitate that sort of cold storage and then how do you as the governor go through and figure out who exactly is going to get this vaccine first? You have everybody on a list somewhere and are you going to go down? Are you working with doctors' offices? How exactly does that work?
Governor Cuomo: Well that's my point. You know, the federal government on COVID has been very short on details and has frankly been incompetent in the administration. In New York we have many questions. First off all, before you can come up with a real distribution program, how many doses do we get and how quickly do we get them? They talk about basically a private health institution distribution mechanism. They'll give it to hospitals, they'll give it to drug store chains, et cetera. That's fine for a segment of the population, but that doesn't get to the poor communities and the black and the brown communities that actually have the highest COVID mortality rate and infection rate, and they won't provide the sufficient resources so a state can put together that apparatus to get into those black and brown communities. The prioritization, it will be somewhere between the federal government and the states. I think the Biden administration really will have to up a prioritization list. But it's health care workers, it's nursing homes, it's senior citizens, it's essential workers, so there is some agreement on the prioritization, but there is still a lot of details that have to be worked out and the federal government's position, like on testing, like on PPE, like on masks, they point to the states, and while it's up to the states, they don't provide the resources for the states to do what they need to do.
Katy Tur: So on January 20th, Joe Biden will be president. But if this vaccine gets FDA approval before then an starts getting rolled out, are you saying that we need to wait until January 20th for everyone to get vaccinated, or do you believe there is a way to work with this administration to start the process if it comes in mid-December or early January?
Governor Cuomo: The day they distributethe vaccine, we will be ready to start the distribution. Our review of the FDA protocol will be simultaneous concurrent with their delivery. We're not going to have any lag in time. But I do want to say to the people of this state, trust the vaccine. I do want to be able to say, I know you have doubts about Trump and about Trump's politicization of the health process but we had a separate panel headed by a Nobel Prize Laureate and it is -
Katy Tur: I understand that and I'm not arguing with that point. I'm sorry, Governor. I don't mean to interrupt. But more specifically, the logistics of working with the Trump administration, are they going to be able to get you, are you confident they'll going to be able to get you the doses you need. Take the politics aside, just the logistics. Can they get it to you? Can you start the distribution fast enough with this administration?
Governor Cuomo: I can do whatever I need to do in the state. We brought this state from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest. I am not confident in the competence of this federal administration, and that has been the ongoing story, right? You name one thing, Katy, that they did where they were competent. They were late in diagnosing when the virus came. They didn't know how to do COVID tests. They couldn't even produce nasal swabs. So, now when they say, "Well we're going to distribute hundreds of millions of vaccines, and cold storage," am I confident of their ability, no. But I also think it is irrelevant because I think that's really going to fall to the Joe Biden administration and I am confident in Joe Biden's capacity.
Katy Tur: So, it sounds like January 20th might be the earliest that we start this just because of logistics and your confidence with the current administration? That's obviously a big if. I know you have to go - I have one more question for you. New York's positivity rate is rising and there is some concerns -
Governor Cuomo: Excuse me one second.
Katy Tur: Go ahead.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, excuse me one second. As soon as Trump delivers me a dose, I will be ready to administer it, period. As soon as it's available to New York, I'll be ready to administer it. You ask me am I confident in their ability to administer, and the answer is no. But as soon as they're ready -
Katy Tur: Yeah, I don't think we're talking past each other on that. I think my point was you're saying the confidence level is not so high right now, so the confidence level will be restored on January 20th. But beyond that
Governor Cuomo: Right.
Katy Tur: The positivity rate in New York is going up. There are people who are worried about another round of shutdowns. Bill de Blasio today was talking about potentially closing schools on Monday if we rise above 3 percent. Can you say to the population of New York and the surrounding areas that there is a way to continue life and continue trying to keep this economy alive while also combatting the virus? Is there something that we could do right now so that we avoid another shutdown?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, Katy, we can and we know that because we have, right. New York was ambushed by COVID so we had the highest infection rate and we got it under control. But, you have to do what you have to do. You have to wear a mask and you have to do the social distancing and you have to be prudent. We still have one of the lowest infection rates in the United States. Now, you have it going up nationwide. You have it going up in internationally. People are flying into New York. The surrounding states around New York have a higher infection rate and we have the winter and we have the holidays. So, we are seeing an increase, but it can be controlled if people choose to control it. That is the "if." There is no magic here. This is a function of our actions. And to the extent it's COVID fatigue and people are now gathering in home parties, that is where the infection is coming from. So, we urge the same precautions with more diligence. I think people hear about a vaccine and say, "Well the end is near, I can start to relax." You can't. And we're seeing the numbers all across the country go up, and we're adding restrictions as the numbers increase. I do not believe - or maybe I'm just pray and hope - I don't think we've get back to where we were. I don't believe it will be that bad again. But we want to save as many lives as possible and we want keep the economy functioning and that's the balance we're working to reach.
Katy Tur: Are schools going to close on Monday if we top 3 percent?
Governor Cuomo: Yep, because the way it works in New York with schools, we have 700 local school districts, and we set parameters and we let local governments then set parameters for their particular district with their parents and with their teachers. New York City set 3 percent as the agreement. If the number goes over 3 percent, the infection rate which by the way is very low, right, almost 80 percent of the states are above 3 percent. 3 percent is a low number. But, if it goes over 3 percent, the schools will close. The question then will be, how quickly can we reopen them. And we've learned a lot over the past few months. We now do a tremendous amount of testing in the schools. And what we've learned, Katy, is we're not seeing spread in the schools. You see a very low percentage of positivity in the schools. So even though you have a jurisdiction that may be at 3 percent, that doesn't mean that the schools are what is spreading it and we have to take that into consideration and I think that will facilitate a reopening.
Katy Tur: So why close the schools - if the schools aren't the problem, why do that to parents?
Governor Cuomo: Well, because the agreement, local school districts, remember where we were: Parents were nervous and everybody was nervous. The local school districts consulted their parents, the teachers at the time, the teacher's union at the time and they came up with an agreement about the conditions that would open the schools and what would close the schools. The agreement in New York City was just that. If the infection rate in New York City went above 3 percent, the schools close. That was the agreement.
Katy Tur: Governor Andrew Cuomo, I have dominated way too much of your time today. Thank you so much for sticking around and answering all of the questions. We appreciate it. I certainly appreciate it. Thank you, sir.