Governor Cuomo: "In New York, we have already closed every valve that we can close. We learned from China. We learned from South Korea, and Italy. The lesson was loud and clear. Do everything you can as soon as you can, and that's exactly what we've done here in New York. I can't do anything else. I'm at zero non-essential workers. You can't go below zero. So we have everything off. Now, we keep testing. We keep tracking the positives. Isolate the positives. Slow the spread. Increase the hospital capacity and in the meantime, get the darn masks and ventilators and the PPE equipment."
Cuomo: "I have apparel manufacturers who I'm asking to stop making dresses, to start making the masks that people wear. This is what the federal government should be doing, and they should be doing it with their federal authority under the Defense Production At."
Cuomo: "Forget this Democrat, Republican. We're all Americans. And that's what matters, Wolf. Nothing else matters at this time. And I believe the President can do a great service for this country. Take over the supply of medical equipment. Let him buy it. Let him use his legal authority to the fullest extent. It's warranted and the people of this country will thank him."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN with Wolf Blitzer to discuss New York's plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Wolf Blitzer: Joining us now, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you have a ton of work you've got to do. It's so good of you to share some share some thoughts with out viewers here in the United States and around the world. You said something so dramatic, so powerful earlier in the day. I'd like you to elaborate. You said unless something is done, you estimate between 40 and 80 percent of the residents of New York State, we're talking millions of people potentially, will wind up getting infected with the coronavirus? Explain what you had in mind.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Wolf. Our projections looking at the numbers, looking at the trajectory and looking at what has happened in other countries is you're going to see that number continue to increase. The virus is that contagious. Remember, this is a virus that can live on the surface for two days. So when you get a dense environment like a New York City, a Los Angeles, a Chicago, the infection rate is going to be tremendous. We estimate anywhere between 40 to 80 percent of the entire population. What we're trying to do now is just slow that rate so that it doesn't overwhelm the hospital system because that's when we would have a real tragedy.
Wolf Blitzer: So what are the most important things you've got to do right now working in conjunction clearly with the federal government?
Governor Cuomo: Well, first, I said this morning, the clip you referred to, I think the federal government should nationalize the supply chain. They should take over the acquisition of all the medical supplies. You hear all day long about how people are running out of masks and PPE and protective gear, ventilators, et cetera. We now have a situation where every state on its own is trying to acquire these goods, and, Wolf, we're actually competing against each other. So we find a mask manufacturer, I'm trying to contract with them, California's trying to contract with them, Texas is trying to contract with them. Masks that we paid 85 cents for, we're now paying $7. Okay? Why have all of these states competing against each other to buy the equipment and have hospitals saying, we're going to close down if we don't get the equipment? Let the federal government take over that responsibility. A situation like this, you do what you can and everyone does what they do best. Here, the federal government should say, I'll do all the acquisition, stop competing against each other, and then the federal government allocates that equipment, depending on need. They know where the cases are. They know what the situation in New York versus California. Let them acquire. Let them distribute. That's the best role for the federal government. By the way, I said the exact opposite theory last week on testing. The federal government was doing all the testing, and that then was a bottleneck. I said, give the states the testing obligation. I have 200 laboratories. I can do it faster than you can. So sometimes the states are better equipped. Sometimes the federal government is better equipped. When it comes to buying the supplies and the volume, stop the price gouging, let the federal government take the responsibility, and number two, let them use the Federal Defense Production Act where the President can say to the manufacturers, I want you to use these products. Stop making what you're making. Make these because it's a matter of public health and actually get those big factories, those big machines, turned on to produce this equipment for the good of the people of United States.
Wolf Blitzer: I know you've had a steady stream of phone conversations with your fellow New Yorker, the President of the United States. I assume you've raised these issues with him. What does he say?
Governor Cuomo: The President has started down this track. He's doing voluntary public-private sector partnerships where he's asked companies to step forward and actually help make ventilators, et cetera. I think he should now take it to the next step and say I am invoking my legal right to order the production of these goods so we know the amount, we know the supply, we know the cost, we stop the competition. Theres' no reason why you should have hospitals across this country not having masks and gowns. This is not what we're supposed to be battling. We're supposed to be battling the virus, not masks and gowns and test tubes.
So I think the President should step it up. And he is a fellow New Yorker and I think this is the kind of guy he is. He is an executive. He is a get it done guy. In this situation, this is how you get it done. If I were President of the United States, this is what I would do. As Governor, if I had this legal power, you're darn right I would say to the companies in this state, you must produce these materials. You must run that factory 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I will pay you -- it's not a favor. I will pay you. But we need the essential medical equipment. We have nurses, doctors - these people are heroes - they're putting their lives at risk. At least get them the right equipment.
Wolf Blitzer: Yeah they're putting their lives on the line right now. You can't expect them to go in and deal with these patients if they don't have the right proper masks and gowns and surgical equipment and everything that they really need. The President tweeted a little while ago, another tweet that certain governors, in his words, shouldn't be blaming the federal government for their own shortcomings. He cited the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker. What do you say to that? He's going after the Governor of Illinois for example, right now.
Governor Cuomo: Look, everyone has their own style in life. I am working cooperatively with the President. This is not the time for politics. This is not a time for venting personal feelings. My feelings are wholly irrelevant. I have one job, I have one mission and that is to help the people of the State of New York. I said to the President, I put my hand out in partnership, if you can help my people, if you can help this country God bless you, I will do everything I can to do it with you. Forget this Democrat, Republican. We're all Americans. And that's what matters, Wolf. Nothing else matters at this time. And I believe the president can do a great service for this country. Take over the supply of medical equipment. Let him buy it. Let him use his legal authority to the fullest extent. It's warranted and the people of this country will thank him.
Wolf Blitzer: Let's see if he does that. There's a briefing at the White House, as you know, at 4:30 p.m. eastern. When it's scheduled, usually runs a little bit late. The coronavirus task force usually shows up for that. See if he shows up and makes the statement you and so many of your fellow governors would like to hear, so much of the American public would like to hear as well. As you're going forward the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I take it, in New York City and New York State, getting ready to build hospitals - temporary hospitals all over - not only in New York but elsewhere as well. How's that going?
Governor Cuomo: I went out yesterday and did the final scouting of sites. We took basically state universities that have big dormitories, big field houses where we can build inside that field house a temporary hospital, temporary medical facility. So we're building two. We have two sites on Long Island. One in Westchester where we have a terrible hot spot and then at the Jacob Javits center in Manhattan, one of the largest convention centers in the country, and we've cleared those sides. I cut all the red tape. I said to the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA, as soon as you can get here, we are ready to go. We cleared the buildings. I asked them to come tomorrow morning. I'm ready. I want to get up as many new hospital beds as possible, because at the current rate, Wolf, we don't have half enough hospital beds. We don't have a third enough ICU beds, intensive care unit beds, with ventilators. So we need tremendous capacity added immediately. We did our part. The president called out the Army Corps of Engineers. I applaud him for it. He signed what's called the Declaration of Disaster for New York with FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency. I applaud him for that. Now let's get to work. You know? We have all the paperwork done. Let's put the shovel in the ground, and let's do it tomorrow.
Wolf Blitzer: Before I let you go, I want you to elaborate on the headline that you delivered earlier today - that 40 percent to 80 percent potentially of the citizens and people of New York state - the population of New York, is what, about 15 million people? Is that right?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, 19 million.
Wolf Blitzer: Because I just want to say, if these steps are not taken and millions of people come down with coronavirus in New York State, even if the Army Corps of Engineers builds a lot of hospitals, you're not going to have enough hospitals.
Governor Cuomo: Well, that's the $64,000 question. It depends on what the rate of the increase and the rate of spread is. If you can get it over a period of months, then we could get it down to a rate that we could handle. Remember, let's not lose the forest for the trees, the overwhelming majority of people will self-resolve. Many people have had coronavirus, didn't even know it. We're talking about people who would need hospitalization, need acute beds. We're talking about senior citizens, immune compromised and people with underlying illnesses. That's the population we're talking about, but they will need acute beds. So get down the rate of spread so the hospital system can deal with it, increase the capacity of the hospital system at the same time, but that's who you're dealing with - that acute population. I don't believe for a minute that we don't see the spread. The only question is, how fast and how far?
Wolf Blitzer: One final question before I let you go, Governor. How long is this going to continue, based on what your experts are telling you right now? The lockdown, the shelter in place and all of that in New York State, for example?
Governor Cuomo: You know, experts, Wolf, they never want to answer a direct question with a direct answer, because nobody really knows. But, look, if you said the range was four, six, eight, nine months, look at China, about eight months. Depending on what you do, how fast you close it down, is how fast you get out of it. But it's a number of months by anyone's calculus, and in New York, we have already closed every valve that we can close. We learned from China. We learned from South Korea, and Italy. The lesson was loud and clear. Do everything you can as soon as you can, and that's exactly what we've done here in New York. I can't do anything else. I'm at zero non-essential workers. You can't go below zero. So we have everything off. Now, we keep testing. We keep tracking the positives. Isolate the positives. Slow the spread. Increase the hospital capacity and in the meantime, get the darn masks and ventilators and the PPE equipment. That's simple. I mean, I have apparel manufacturers who I'm asking to stop making dresses, to start making the masks that people wear. This is what the federal government should be doing, and they should be doing it with their federal authority under the Defense Production At.
Wolf Blitzer: Let's see what they announce, if anything, along those lines, later at the White House briefing. We will, of course, have live coverage of that. Thanks so much for everything you're doing, Governor Cuomo. I know the stakes right now are enormous for everyone in New York, around the country, indeed around the world. We're grateful for what you're doing. Appreciate you joining us.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, and I think someone turns 21 years old today, Wolf. I'm not sure who, but somebody.
Wolf Blitzer: I have no idea who you're talking about. Thanks.