Governor Cuomo: "This has to be a national effort. There is no country that has done this that didn't make it a national effort ... You look at the national headlines today, every state doing their own thing ... It's confusing. It's chaos. They don't know which way to go."
Cuomo: "The federal government should come up, step in, and say this is what we're going to do. This is what we do in schools, this is what we do in businesses, here are the rules, and then the states can adjust the rules to their particular circumstances."
Cuomo: "I see a wave and the wave is going to break on the health care system ... You take any numerical projections on any of the models and our health care system has no capacity to deal with it."
Earlier tonight, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time to discuss New York's plan to combat the novel coronavirus crisis.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Chris Cuomo: It's good to see you, brother. What is the reality on the ground? What is working and not working for you?
Governor Cuomo: Well, the reality is exactly what you said, Chris. We have to engage this. We have to engage it fully. This is a war. It's a long-term war. This is not a few weeks. We have to get the American people set for it. They have to get the facts. They hear so much different information. They don't know what to believe. It makes them for anxious rather than more confident and I think the president is getting it.
This has to be a national effort. There is no country that has done this that didn't make it a national effort - China, South Korea, Italy. It's the federal government that has to do this. You look at the national headlines today, every state doing their own thing, different cities doing their own thing. It's confusing. It's chaos. They don't know which way to go. The federal government should come up, step in, and say this is what we're going to do. This is what we do in schools, this is what we do in businesses, here are the rules, and then the states can adjust the rules to their particular circumstances.
Second, what you said about capacity is exactly right. They all talk about flattening the curve, flattening the curve. I don't see a curve. I see a wave and the wave is going to break on the health care system and I am telling you, my little brother, it is going to be a tsunami. You take any numerical projections on any of the models and our health care system has no capacity to deal with it. We in New York have 3,000 ICU beds - in case you don't understand, intensive care unit beds.
Chris Cuomo: I get it.
Governor Cuomo: We already used 60. We need multiples of that. You're talking about thousands because the people who are going to come in are the older people with the underlying illnesses,emphysema, heart disease, etcetera. They need acute care. We don't have those beds. What I'm saying now is we've been behind this disease all along. Let's get ahead of it. Let's get ahead of it and let's bring in the army corps of engineers and let's start building temporary medical facilities because we know we're going to need them, as many as we produce, if we started today. As many as we can produce, we would need twice.
Chris Cuomo: Too scary. Too scary. You wrote the op-ed. I obviously read the op-ed. Too scary, they say. The military? I don't want tanks, I don't want guys, I don't want marshal law. It's too scary. We should have enough hospitals. Do it another way.
Governor Cuomo: No marshal law. The Army Corps of Engineersbuilds. I used to be in the federal government. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers. They build bridges. They build airports. They're builders. They're engineers. Army Corps of Engineers. Right? Look at the word 'engineers'. They build. Let them come in, build with me. I'll find an old dormitory, an old nursing home, let's convert it to a hospital and let's do it quickly so we have somebackup space when the wave crashes on the health care system.
Chris Cuomo: You can't do that. You don't have the resources and you don't have the control. It has to be the federal government. The question becomes it is no secret that the people around the President, let's take him out of the equation, they know that you have capacity issues. They have not enlisted the military. What does that tell you?
Governor Cuomo: I think they have not yet fully owned this. I think they've been watching it. I think they don't understand the capacity of the federal government and what it can do, and I think they have to own it, step into it, understand this is not working, every state do your own thing, figure it out. Look, in truth, I'm very proud of my state. We're New Yorkers. We have that New York arrogance. I don't have the strength and capacity and resources to build thousands of hospital beds in a matter of weeks. This state builds more than any state in the United States. Bridges, airports, tunnels, but we can't build thousands of hospital beds. It's a federal response.
Chris Cuomo: You say weeks, that's the window, crises. You think bad numbers are coming your way in a matter of weeks.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. I think you look at that trajectory, just go dot, dot, dot, dot, connect the dots with a pencil. You look at that arc, we're up to about 900 cases in New York. It's doubling on a weekly basis. You draw that arc, you understand we only have 53,000 hospital beds total, 3,000 ICU beds, we go over the top very soon.
Chris Cuomo: What about all these social contacting? What you're asking us to do. You know, because I want to make sure people don't hear this and say, Andrew, well, then I'm not going to do it, I'm going to go where I want to go then and open everything back up because you're saying I can't. Doesn't make a difference, you're going to be over capacity. What is the message to people about what they need to do to give us the best chance of controlling this spread and giving the system a chance to deal with the worst cases?
Governor Cuomo: Well, we're talking about, you know, it's also deep breath time, right? because we have all this fear, all this anxiety, I think part of it is people hear so much information, they don't know what to believe, and I think part of it is they hear some federal official say one thing then they say something else, and that, that adds to the anxiety. This is what is going to happen. The numbers are going to go up. we're going to run out of capacity on the ICU beds if we don't actually engage the Army Corps of Engineers, etcetera. and the disease is going to affect older people, immune compromised people, people with underlying illnesses. We have [nine] deaths. There's a common denominator. Older people, emphysema, heart disease, cancer. It's pneumonia. When someone is sick, they get pneumonia, they say, well, pneumonia killed them. Yeah well the pneumonia killed them but, by the way, they had cancer. That's what's going to happen. We're only talking about the vulnerable population, but won't to save as many of them as we can.
Chris Cuomo: What about all the economic victims of this, Andrew? How do you deal with that? you know, look you're got going to get the virus, a lot of people won't get it, but you're going to have more people out of work because of this than probably at any other time since the Great depression. How do you deal with that at the same time?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, two quick points. One, don't give up on America. and don't give up on what America can do when she steps up full force. You bring in the Army Corps of Engineers, you're working in partnership with the states. I was there post-9/11. That spirit, that energy, we can do anything and we'll be the better for it. Economically, the bill is going to come due. It is a big bill and it's going to take a long period of time. You just start to add up, because we've never done this, Chris. Add up all the costs. Add up all the businesses closed. All the people who are going to be unemployed. The economy was teetering to begin with. They were talking about when the recession was going to start. I believe this has triggered a recession. I believe the bill and the bailout is going to be the second big federal episode here. You're going to have mortgages foreclosed like 2008. Going to have business loans you're going to have to repay. No, no, this is a deep, deep economic hole. You'll have businesses close that never re-open, Chris. And you'll have billions of dollars, not just in loss, but billions of dollars spent in getting ready for everything that we have to do.
Chris Cuomo: Let me do this, gov.
Governor Cuomo: Ask me a tough question. Come on, ask me a tough question.
Chris Cuomo: I have a few. Let me do this. Let me keep you a second block. I'm going to take a quick commercial. You can prepare yourself what's going to happen on the other side of the break because I want to ask you about what the eventualities are. Let me take a quick break. I'm going to change this show because this is an important conversation. The governor is going to stay with us. Believe me, it's harder for me than it is for anybody else, but we do have to understand, where is the federal government in terms of giving him what he just asked for? Because other states are going to ask for it also. And how do you balance that with the economic pain? You know, what are our solutions and where will they come from? We'll be right on that right after this.
Chris Cuomo: You and the President go back and forth a little bit. He cleans it up later up in a press conference. The substance of the back and forth was about what needs to happen and who needs to do it. And in a rejoinder tweet you that you sent to President, you said you'd love to be doing more, give me control of the Army Corps of Engineers and I'll take it from there. First of all, do you have any reason to believe that you will get that kind of assistance?
Governor Cuomo: Look, you don't know. You don't know how he's going to react and you are right, we go back and forth. Look, I tell him the truth, right? And I said, by the way, a week ago, I said the testing is a debacle and we're not testing fast enough in this country. We knew China was coming in November. Why didn't we start ramping up testing? And the federal government should decentralize testing and give it to the states. I have 200 labs in this state. Let me use my 200 labs. Why am I waiting on the FDA and CDC? And the president, to his credit - I credit the president. He said, you're right, and he gave New York the authority to do the testing -
Chris Cuomo: Good, what about on this?
Governor Cuomo: New York still needs more authority to do the automated testing. So he heard it. Now I'm saying, look, I don't have a crystal ball and it's not that I'm making a prophecy. If you track the numbers of China, South Korea, Italy, and overlay the United States, you know where it's going.
Chris Cuomo: Why haven't they done anything?
Governor Cuomo: It overwhelms the healthcare capacity - Because I don't know, you'd have to ask him. But it's a big step. You have to know how to mobilize the federal government. You have to know how to manage the federal government. You have to get that Army Corps of Engineers which is not that easy to move around. I worked with them when I was in Washington. They a big, huge, bureaucracy, but has a lot of power. You have to get that mobilized. It's not easy. But I think he hears it. I think he gets that this is now a national issue. I think he gets what he says matters. Calm leadership matters. That you're not going to assuage the American people by just saying, don't worry, don't worry, take two aspirin and call me in the morning. That's not going to work. They need to hear the facts. They need to hear the truth. It has to be consistent and you need the federal government to stand up and do it.
Chris Cuomo: What if they don't?
Governor Cuomo: - and the mechanism is the Army corps of Engineers.
Chris Cuomo: What if they don't? What if they say they are not going to do it? They don't think the need is there. You have got a lot of facilities, you have got a lot of different resources, you say it all the time, use what you have. Then what?
Governor Cuomo: If they don't do it, then I'm on my own. But by the way, I assumed I was on my own from day one.
Chris Cuomo: But can you handle the capacity?
Governor Cuomo: This has not been an - I cannot create enough hospital beds in time.
Chris Cuomo: So then what happens?
Governor Cuomo: - with the Army Corps of Engineers, we probably won't. We'll have a shortage of ICU beds. It will be ugly. The good news is, or the moderate news is, the people who are in danger are going to be in danger anyway. These are going to be older people with underlying illnesses. If it wasn't the coronavirus, they would be in danger if they got a flu, Chris. That's what people are missing in this overreaction. But we won't have the intense ICU beds to take care of all the people who need it, that's what happens in the worst case.
Chris Cuomo: More curfews, more restrictions, shutting down the city. Every day I get like 500 people saying I hear it's coming, there's going to be a federal shutdown of the entire country. New York City is shutting down, you're not going to be able to go on the roads, curfews. Do you have any reason to believe that you need to do any of that as of now?
Governor Cuomo: Look, because there's been no federal or national guidance, what I did today is I joined with my neighboring states, with Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont who's a great guy, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who's a great guy, and we came up with a common set of rules. I believe it's the only region in the nation, because you can't do this state by state, so we said we're going to close all the bars, the movie theaters, etcetera, 8:00 tonight, everything closes, don't try to go for a drink after this show. So we came up with a common set of rules for the three states because there's been no federal leadership. It will ratchet up if the numbers don't come down. This is pure data and science. You watch those numbers, the numbers keep going up, you tighten the valve more to get less density, less density, less spread. Curfew, I don't like the word curfew. Dad tried to have a curfew for me. I never got past the resentment. But I do believe you'll see more tightening if the numbers don't slow.
Chris Cuomo: The least of your problems, by the way. Your problems with the curfew were the least of your problems, just so you know.
Governor Cuomo: I never -- you violated the curfew all the time, caused much pain. But that's a different story.
Chris Cuomo: I don't believe in rules. Governor Andrew Cuomo, I appreciate you coming on the show. I love you. I'm proud of what you're doing. I know you're working hard for your state, but no matter how hard you're working, there's always time to call mom. She wants to hear from you, just so you know.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. I called mom. I called mom just before I came on the show.
Chris Cuomo: Not what she said.
Governor Cuomo: By the way, she said I was her favorite.
Chris Cuomo: She never said that.
Governor Cuomo: Good news, she said you are her second favorite, second favorite son, Christopher.
Chris Cuomo: We both know neither of us are mom's first or second favorite in the family. I can't believe you're lying to my audience. You've blown the credibility of the entire interview. I should have ended it before.
Governor Cuomo: Second favorite son, listen to the word.
Chris Cuomo: Politicians are very tricky, throw a word in there after the first time you said it, it creates a lot of doubt.
Governor Cuomo: Not me. Straight across the plate. Straight across the plate.
Chris Cuomo: Stay strong. Stay for your people and I appreciate you being here. I love you, brother.
Governor Cuomo: You, too, brother.