Governor Cuomo: "If you understand the facts, you would be calm That is the bottom line. Well, then why all this running and testing, et cetera? Because we want as few people infected as possible. But I think in some ways the anxiety is outpacing the reality of this situation."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN with Fredricka Whitfield to discuss the novel coronavirus and New York State's declared state of emergency to contain the spread of the virus.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Fredricka Whitfield: Governor, good to see you. You had already said before today that this is like a flu on steroids, but what does this now - declaration of state of emergency - mean for your state?
Governor Cuomo: Good afternoon, Fred. The state of emergency gives us additional flexibility to do things faster, purchasing, hiring of staff, et cetera. And for us, the challenge is, what the challenge is for every state, test as many people as you can. Once you find a person who has tested positive, run down that chain, test as many as you can as quickly as you can, just to get them into a place where they no longer infect other people, and that's what we're doing. At the same time Fred, it's important that we don't feed this undue hysteria and fear that is out there, right? If you're infected with the Coronavirus, 80% self-resolve, 20% could get ill and the vulnerable populations are senior citizens, people who have immune systems that are compromised or underlying illnesses. So we have to keep that basic reality in check.
Fredricka Whitfield: Well, this fear and hysteria among some people is really because they don't feel like they know enough and maybe they're a little confused about, you know, if they need to be tested, if there are enough tests, et cetera. You know, there were 21 new Coronavirus cases in your state alone today, bringing the total to 76 statewide. That in and of itself is enough to alarm many. So how do you allay the fears?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, I think facts allay the fear here, right? If you understand the facts, you would be calm. If you understand the bottom line, what happens if I get the Coronavirus? If I get the Coronavirus, 80% of the people who get the Coronavirus will self-resolve, 20% will be ill and maybe hospitalized. The mortality is primarily among senior citizens, immune compromised and people with underlying illnesses. That is the bottom line. Well, then why all this running and testing, et cetera? Because we want as few people infected as possible. But I think in some ways the anxiety is outpacing the reality of this situation. I think part of it is people don't know who to believe, you know? And they are listening to all of these experts. I also think part of it is they don't trust what they're hearing from the federal government. I also think the federal government further complicated it.
Fredricka Whitfield: What are your constituents telling or asking of you? What clarity are they looking for from you, the Governor of New York?
Governor Cuomo: Well, they're saying I don't know what to believe. The CDC says this, but this one says this. Their bottom line question is what happens if I get the Coronavirus or my spouse or my child gets the Coronavirus. And that's why the fundamental fact is most important, right? If you look at the number of cases we have in New York, we have 76 cases, we only have a handful who are hospitalized. If you look at Johns Hopkins, that has been tracing all of the coronavirus cases, 100,000 cases, you see that the overwhelming majority stayed at home, they had symptoms, they're feeling better, and now actually more are recovering than are getting the new infection. So the ultimate reality we can deal with. It's this current hysteria and confusion, frankly the CDC, I don't think has been helpful here because they have sent mixed messages. They say on one hand, anybody who needs a test, call your doctor and get a test. The vice president then goes on TV and says oh, by the way, we can't test enough people. That kind of confusion or the sense that your government is not competent, that is what is not helpful here.
Fredricka Whitfield: So a lot of folks are concerned. I can't help but be concerned about my 87-year-old mother who likes to go to the senior center, who likes to socialize with other seniors, who likes the exercise class, but is pulling back from doing that right now. And then we are also hearing that a number of people in Washington state were at an elderly facility where they had seen a spike and a large number of deaths. In Westchester County, there in New York, you've got, what 57 cases in that county. Are you finding any common thread, what the source is, why such a concentration in Westchester County?
Governor Cuomo: Westchester County is a cluster scenario where you had people who attended large gatherings together, and it spread from those gatherings, a bar mitzvah that had 400 people in it. So that is a unique case and we're dealing with it, but your point is right, Fred. Personally, what have I done? I've spoken to my mother, who is elderly. Don't tell her I said that, she doesn't consider herself elderly—
Fredricka Whitfield: Seasoned. I like the word seasoned.
Governor Cuomo: Seasoned. But as senior citizens have to be careful, yes, where they go, how they expose themselves, etcetera. People who are immune-compromised, if you're fighting cancer, if you're HIV-positive, etcetera, you have to be careful. Governmentally, nursing homes, I'm very worried about. Senior living facilities, I'm worried about. That's where we have our greatest vulnerability.
Fredricka Whitfield: And what are you turning that worry into? What can you do proactively, or what can be recommended, you know, proactively, for those areas that you are most concerned about and worried about?
Governor Cuomo: well, for example, in the nursing homes, we have a whole new protocol on how staff should be operating within that nursing home. This morning, in areas where we have high clusters, we said no outside visitors in the nursing home. I know that's difficult on one level, you know, family members can't visit, but no outside visitors, because if one person brings in the virus, in a nursing home, then we're going to be off to the races. That I can tell you.
Fredricka Whitfield: All right. We're all paying attention, trying to discern the facts, right? And make sure that people are not too fearful. but cautious. Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you.