Governor Cuomo: "As far as the quote, unquote quarantine, which means a lot of different things now obviously in this environment - but that's where we are, that's what we're doing. We started a mandatory isolation. You stay home unless you're an essential worker. So we're doing that and I think that makes sense. Makes sense for the state, makes sense for other states, our neighboring states, Connecticut and New Jersey, which the President mentioned are doing the same thing. So that policy, I think, makes sense.... If you said that we are geographically confining people, that would be a lockdown... I don't believe it's legal. I think it would be economic chaos."
Governor Cuomo: "With Rhode Island, they're a neighboring state. I think what they did was wrong, I think it was reactionary, I think it was illegal, but we'll work it out amicably I'm sure. We have conversations going back and forth. No state should be using police to prohibit interstate travel in any way."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN with Ana Cabrera to discuss New York State's ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available here:
Ana Cabrera: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joins us now. Governor, I know how busy you are, thank you for taking the time. What's your reaction to what you just heard?
Governor Cuomo: Good to be with you. Well, Ana, as far as the quote, unquote quarantine, which means a lot of different things now obviously in this environment - but that's where we are, that's what we're doing. We started a mandatory isolation. You stay home unless you're an essential worker. So we're doing that and I think that makes sense. Makes sense for the state, makes sense for other states, our neighboring states, Connecticut and New Jersey, which the President mentioned are doing the same thing. So that policy, I think, makes sense. I don't know what an enforced quarantine means, but that's what we're doing already.
Ana Cabrera: So do you have any problem with the idea of there being travel restrictions? Essentially what I heard from the President is perhaps New Yorkers couldn't leave the state.
Governor Cuomo: Well, that's not a quarantine. That would be a lockdown. If you said that we are geographically confining people, that would be a lockdown. Then we would be Wuhan, China, right? And that wouldn't make any sense. This is a time when the President says he's trying to restart the economy, New York is the financial sector. You geographically restrict a state you would paralyze the financial sector. You think the Dow Jones, the stock market has gone down - it would drop like a stone. I don't even believe it's legal. Interstate commerce clause, et cetera.
So I think it would be exactly opposite of everything the President is talking about. How would you ever operationally stop goods from coming to New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and food and trucks, et cetera? I can't believe he's considering that.
Ana Cabrera: What if he does want a lockdown? Would you sue to stop him? You said you don't think it's legal.
Governor Cuomo: Look, a lockdown is what they did in Wuhan, China and we're not in China and we're not in Wuhan. I don't believe it would be legal. I believe it would be illegal. You can't say you cannot leave the State of New York or the State of New Jersey or the State of California. And by the way, if you wanted to start to do that, that would ripple all across the country. It's New York, New Jersey, Connecticut today, tomorrow it's New Orleans, the day after Detroit. Then it's Texas, then it's Florida, then it's California.
At the same time we say we're trying to restart the economy, I can't remember in history when it was done. You'd have to go back to the Civil War to talk about borders of states like that. I think it would paralyze the economy, I think it would shock the economic markets in a way we've never seen before. As a governor, I'm not going to close off my borders. Trucks have to come in. Food has to come in. Mail has to come in. I'm not going to put the health and safety of my people at risk.
What the President has been trying to achieve, he's worked very hard to be working with the governors. He's worked very hard to be working with the State of New York. I spoke to him this morning. We have a good cooperative relationship so it would be exactly opposite everything he has said and everything he has done to date. And it would be wholly counterproductive.
Ana Cabrera: Have you talked to him this afternoon since he made those remarks?
Governor Cuomo: No. I literally spoke to him just a few minutes before. We had a good conversation. We talked about additional aid for the State of New York in terms of temporary hospital beds. We talked about the medical ship that is coming to New York. He never mentioned anything about a quarantine.
Ana Cabrera: How would this even work? Do you think he would send in the military to guard the bridges and tunnels going in and out, for example, New York City? If it's just the city that is locked down.
Governor Cuomo: No, it couldn't work. That's why I said it would be the pictures you saw on TV with Wuhan Province in China. I don't even know how you could possibly do it. We need goods coming in an out of New York. We need food coming in. We need mail coming in.
Ana Cabrera: On the point that you made also about the financial sector about being able to have interstate commerce, but also the financial sectors. It's the heart of Manhattan. What would this mean for the stock market? Would it have to shut down?
Governor Cuomo: Oh, it would drop like a stone. I mean, I don't know if it would operationally have to shutdown but it may as well shutdown. You say you can't come to New York to do business; business people can't leave New York to go to Chicago for a meeting. I mean, it would be chaos and mayhem. And that would drop this economy in a way, I think, that wouldn't recover for months if not years. So, it's totally opposite everything he has been saying. I don't even think it's plausible. I don't think it's legal, and it would really - it would be total mayhem. I don't have another word for it.
Ana Cabrera: The New York stock exchange specifically - I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt you. I think there's a slight delay with our signal here, but I was thinking about the New York stock exchange. Obviously if this - again, it's a bit vague right now about the quarantine that he's speaking of, but at one point he mentioned New York City. I imagine there's a lot of people who go in and out of New York City who don't live in the city that might part of the stock exchange. That's what I was talking about when it comes to the impact to the stock market, right?
Governor Cuomo: You're exactly right. There are people who come in and out all day long dealing with the stock exchange. There are meetings - thousands of people coming in and out that are directly related to the stock exchange. So, and I know the presidents very concerned about what's happened to the stock market. We all are. I am as governor of New York. Every person who has a retirement fund and has watched it dropped is concerned. So why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea.
Ana Cabrera: Well, if you think about the actions you took, right, when it came to New Rochelle, and you put in, you know, a zone that was somewhat restrictive, and you did that in order to stop the spread, if there isn't some kind of a lockdown, how do you get it under control? How do you prevent the spread from getting worse?
Governor Cuomo: We had the hottest cluster, if you will, the hottest hot spot in the United States of America was New Rochelle, Westchester as you said. And we did something called the containment zone that said we closed the schools and no large gatherings. We never said you can't come and go. We never confined people's mobility. We never imprisoned people in a geographic area, even in New Rochelle. We called it a containment zone, which was not the best word. It was to contain the virus - it was not to contain people. We never contained anyone. I can't remember the last time this country said we're going to contain you in an area.
Again, that's why I think - I don't even believe it's legal. You have all sorts of provisions - states' rights, interstate commerce, et cetera. So, it's a preposterous idea, frankly. And again, it's totally opposite what the president wants to do, which is work with the states, help the states, get the economy running and bring some sense of stability. You wouldn't at this point literally fracture the entire nation because it's not just New York, New jersey or Connecticut, right? It's Louisiana and New Orleans. And you're going to see these numbers continually going up. So, every few days it's going to be another hot spot. That's where we are. And if you start walling off areas all across the country you would just be totally bizarre, counterproductive, anti-American, anti-social. It wouldn't even be productive. Look, this virus, you don't know who has it. We've done more testing in New York than any other state. That's why we know better who has it in New York. But once these other areas actually start to have the right test and the volume of tests you're going to see it's all across the country.
Ana Cabrera: Governor, will you call the President tonight and speak with him about this?
Governor Cuomo: Look if the president was considering this, I guarantee he would have called me. I mean we talk about relatively trivial matters when it comes to dealing with this situation. This - this is civil war-kind of discussion.
Ana Cabrera: So, you don't believe he really is serious about it?
Governor Cuomo: I don't believe he's serious - that any federal administration could be serious about physical lockdown of states or parts of states across this country. I don't believe it's legal. I think it would be economic chaos. I don't think the American people would stand for it. It's just a question of time before you see the numbers growing in hotspots all across this nation. So I think it makes absolutely no sense and I don't believe any serious governmental personality or professional would support it.
Ana Cabrera: There are growing concerns though, that we're hearing not just from the president, but from governors in other states about travelers coming into their states from New York. There are reports that the governor of Rhode Island has ordered that all vehicles with New York State license plates be stopped when entering that state. What's your reaction to that?
Governor Cuomo: I think that's a reactionary policy. I'm concerned about people with the virus coming into my state, right. So I think that's a reactionary policy and I don't think that's legal. And we're talking to Rhode Island now. If they don't roll back that policy, I'm going to sue Rhode Island, because that clearly is unconstitutional. I understand the goal and I could set up my borders and say I'm not letting anyone in until they take a test to see whether or not they have the virus. But, you know, there's a point of absurdity, and I think that what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity. Again it's not even legal. They're a neighboring state, I'm sure we're going to be able to work it out. But I think we need balance in all of this. I understand people are nervous and people are anxious and this is a frightening situation, but we have to keep it in focus, and we have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive, rather than reactionary and emotional.
Ana Cabrera: So if you think that these actions are illegal, what are you prepared to do? Would you sue Rhode Island? Would you sue the federal government? What happens?
Governor Cuomo: Well, I've sued the federal government many times, by the way, over the past few years. We've had quite a number of policy decisions. I do not believe it's going to come to that on this. Again, I've been speaking to the president. This would be a declaration of war on states. A federal declaration of war. And it wouldn't just be New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Next week it would be Louisiana with New Orleans, and the week after that it would be Detroit, Michigan, and it would run all across the nation. And I don't think the president is looking to start a lot of wars with a lot of states just about now for a lot of reasons. With Rhode Island, they're a neighboring state. I think what they did was wrong, I think it was reactionary, I think it was illegal, but we'll work it out amicably I'm sure. We have conversations going back and forth. No state should be using police to prohibit interstate travel in any way. No state should be able to say, you know, I'm going to use my police to make sure you don't come in with a license plate. By the way, you're in Rhode Island, what if you travel to New York and you travel back to Rhode Island? Do you get stopped and you can't reenter Rhode Island? You know how many people from Rhode Island come to New York to do business? So, we have to be a little smart in all of these policies.
Ana Cabrera: I want to ask you more about the situation specifically in New York, because the stories that we're hearing from hospital workers are not good. We see the lines outside places like Elmhurst. What is the status when it comes to ventilators in New York State? Because I know that's been one of the big issues of concern for you.
Governor Cuomo: Well the ventilators, which, by the way, before this situation nobody really gave a second thought to ventilators. What has happened, one of the peculiar situations with disease is it's a respiratory disease, it affects the lungs very badly, and people who are acutely ill with this virus, they all need a ventilator. And they're on these ventilators much longer than most people are on ventilators with other disease. So you have more people needing ventilators and they are on them longer, which increases the need for the ventilators. And everybody is trying to get ventilators. You have 50 states bidding against each other to get ventilators. You have 50 states competing with the federal government trying to buy ventilators. You have countries around the world trying to get ventilators. So, we're trying to do the best we can. We're acquiring as many as we can. There's a new technology that we're using that splits, they call it splitting, where one ventilator can do two people. We're implementing that procedure across the state. And we're doing the best we can to move the people who need the ventilators to the places that have the ventilators. But that's one of the great logistical problems with this entire situation. The problem is you want to flatten that curve so you don't overwhelm the hospital system. The hospital system, it's beds, it's staff, but then it is equipment, and at the top of the equipment list are the ventilators.
Ana Cabrera: What is the latest on the fatality rate in your state?
Governor Cuomo: You know, it dropped today. It is still going, the overall line is still up. Today was a drop. We're not sure if it's a one-day drop, we tested 17,000 people overnight, 7,000 hospitalizations. But we still see it going up. The possible apex by numerical projections has us needing 140,000 hospital beds and about 40,000 ventilators, which is a very big number that would overwhelm the health care system. So we're trying to get down the curve, get down the spread of infections, and at the same time ramp up that hospital capacity, God forbid that actually happens. And we're getting very creative in doing that. We're opening temporary hospitals in locations across the state. So we are doing everything we can to increase the hospital capacity and flatten the curve at the same time.
Ana Cabrera: I hear what you're saying about the reaction in terms of providing the space, having the resources to deal with an influx and a rush of more and more patients. If you were completely against a federal lockdown, how do you get it under control?
Governor Cuomo: You get it under control the way we're operating. Look there's not a lot of options here, right? Reduce the spread, quote/unquote flatten the curve, that's what they all talk about. We've taken every action you can take there. Nobody can go to work except essential workers. Reduce density in places - close the restaurants, close the gyms, no gatherings. So you reduce the spread. You increase the hospital capacity. You test, test, test. We're doing more tests than any state in the United States, more per capita than China or South Korea. So you isolate the positive. And part of it is it runs its course. All you are hoping is that you slow down that spread of infection, you drop that curve to a level that you can treat in the hospitals. And that's what we're doing. We're anticipating an apex of that curve, the high point to be anywhere from 14 to 21 days. So, that is really the essential moment for us, when you get to that high point. And they say that is 14 to 21 days. With any luck at all, after that high point, the number of cases start to drop.
Ana Cabrera: Okay Governor Andrew Cuomo, you've taken a lot of time with us, thank you very much for the conversation. Wishing you lots of luck. Be well.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Ana.