Earlier tonight, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time to discuss New York's ongoing effort to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Chris Cuomo: We have the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. Good to see you, big brother.
Governor Cuomo: Good to see you, little brother.
Chris Cuomo: You're good for a reality check? I want to try to nail down some of these things that are going on.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, let's start with the reality check, but let's start with our own reality. Your appearance suggests you didn't have the best day. Your buttons are undone. Your shirt is a little tattered and wrinkled. How are you doing? How's it going over there? Wasn't a great day, huh?
Chris Cuomo: First of all, that's a cheap shot. And you know what, it wasn't.
Governor Cuomo: Looks better. Not great, but it looks better.
Chris Cuomo: Thank you. I'll take anything better right now. I've had my own struggles. They're common and now we have another common aspect of this as you know well - you've been telling me all day, families all across the state and the country are experiencing. It's very rare for a family to be one and done. Cristina now has COVID. She is now positive and it just breaks my heart. It is the one thing I was hoping wouldn't happen and now it has.
Governor Cuomo: Well, look, it's something we talked about when this first started. It's very hard for a person to quarantine in a home and other people not to get infected. That's why we talked about people who quarantine in hotels. They quarantine in a hotel room. The food - for 14 days - the food that comes in, they don't even take the plates out for 14 days. I mean, you want to talk about intense quarantine, right? But to do it in a home where a person's bringing you dishes, bringing you food, even if they're wearing a mask and gloves, you know, that virus can live on some surfaces up to two days. So in some ways this was inevitable. Luckily it was Cristina, not one of the kids. Now this is what families are dealing with, right? The point of you communicating this rather than just taking a couple of weeks off is you're communicating to Americans what this is like. And, by the way, this is what it's like. One person gets the virus. Other people in the home get the virus. You now have a mother and father with a virus. You have three kids that you have to take care of. This gets very complicated very fast so there is a reality to this. The good news is, look, to the extent you think maybe Cristina's going to blame you for this, there is a lot of other things we know she can blame you for so this is going to be number 17 on the list so i wouldn't worry about that.
Chris Cuomo: That's true.
Governor Cuomo: You're going to be getting better soon because you have to be getting to the tail end of this thing. So you'll be up and you'll be strong. And look, for the kids, when all is said and done, I don't think this is a bad experience for them to go through. You want to talk about growing up a little bit and seeing reality a little bit. Bella will step up. So it's all going to be fine. I know it makes a bad situation worse, but it's all going to be fine at the end.
Chris Cuomo: Look, just to be a little more transparent here, obviously, I've been a little bit of a mess about this today so I've been talking to Andrew about it a lot. The person who is not upset is Cristina. Cristina takes everything in stride and so far we're hoping - and a lot of this is anecdotal because we don't know that much - talking to so many of you who've experienced it in your own families, she lost her sense of smell and taste. This is not science. But anecdotally, the cases I hear about that are more mild tend to have that. I didn't have that. I didn't lose, and my friends who've had the long fevers like I have and the bad chest aspects, most of them didn't lose sense of smell. That's more about hope than it is about, you know, anything hard in terms of fact. But Andrew is telling you the truth about one thing. My 17-year-old stepped up. The kids stepped up. Because mom is the core. Right? I mean, when mom goes down, you feel it. And they have stepped up. They're helping each other. They're more quiet. They're focused on her and hopefully it makes the family even stronger. But I got to tell you, it's tough. It really makes me understand how people are dealing with so much and so much more than we are all over the place and for a long time.
Governor Cuomo: You'll get through it. You'll get through it.
Chris Cuomo: All right. So let's do this. Let's talk about getting through. Reality check. Who has the power to reopen New York State? The President said, me. You said, nah, nah, nah, you're not the king. You're a president. He said, okay, okay, but I give Cuomo and the other governors the power. He said, yeah, not really. Today he said, yeah, really, because I have all the power. Where are we?
Governor Cuomo: I don't think I said, "Nah, nah, nah" but I think -
Chris Cuomo: What it sounded like.
Governor Cuomo: The essence of what you're saying is - well, to you, that's what it sounded like. But I said Tenth Amendment. I said states' rights. I said the states have clear legal authority when it comes to issues of health and quarantine. That was the Prince case. It was a New York case, 1992 New York versus United States. So, it's clear on the law, and I did establish that - when the president said it, the president said he had total authority. That's not legally correct. I'm a governor. I represent the people of the state. Other governors all across the country said it. Governor Lamont said it. Governor Pritzker said it. They all said it. Democrats and Republicans. So, it was important to establish that basic legal fact. It's the governors' power. I think the president walked it back as best he could and he basically said, "Okay, it's the governors' power, but he's going to talk to the governors," or something which was - look, at the end of the day, it's fine because he said it's up to the governors and it's up to the governors when the governor will open their state and that's true and that's the law. And it is up to the governor and -
Chris Cuomo: But what -
Governor Cuomo: The states are in a different position, Chris.
Chris Cuomo: I hear you. But let's say he goes bad on that and he goes, "no, I'm going to reopen right now." Can you take him on? I mean, let's - I'm not baiting you. I believe you about not wanting fights. It would be much better if this goes smoothly. But this guy's a power player, and he's a good one and if he says, "you're going to reopen, Cuomo, you're going to pay because I'm not going to let you keep New York closed and hurt all these people because you don't know how to get your act together. You will pay if you don't play." How do you fight it?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, look, you're right. I don't want to fight. I don't want unnecessary fights, right? This is a very important time. You have this politically charged atmosphere. Everybody is in their respective corner. Anything can trigger a political brawl. We have a political brawl in the middle of this situation, it's - you want to talk about going from bad to worse. So, I am bending over backwards to stay out of politics, right? That's why I said 57 times I don't have any political agenda, I'm not running for anything, period. If people think -
Chris Cuomo: Is that anything, by the way, you'll reconsider?
Governor Cuomo: No, I've not reconsidered. The answer stands. So why did I got to such great lengths, if people think there's any political filter here, then their backs are going to get up, their antenna is going to go up and they're going to say, "well, something's funny." No politics. I don't want any unnecessary fights. The president would never say, "I'm going to overrule the governor of New York or any state," because he would have no legal basis whatsoever. So, he will never get there. Obviously, if you put a governor in a corner and he poked him with a sharp stick, the governor would say, I would say, "I'm not going to put welfare and health of my people in danger." But he would never go there.
Chris Cuomo: I would like to see him poke you with a sharp stick, by the way. Just as an aside.
Governor Cuomo: I know you would. I never doubted that.
Chris Cuomo: I would pay to see that actually. Raise revenue for the state.
Governor Cuomo: I know. I know.
Chris Cuomo: The idea of his ability to do it. Okay, let's say you're right. We've seen him do things that he didn't have a legal basis to do before. He does it because he believes might makes right. But let's say that doesn't happen. We have a bigger problem. All the plans and the phases and we'll do this and I'm going to push the states to do it earlier. It's all neglecting the reality that frightens all most: Testing. He says we don't do the testing, it's on you. You, the Governor of Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio. You all say, "We're not prepared to test. We can't handle the scale." Can you open anywhere if you can't do testing, tracing and treatment?
Governor Cuomo: That's a legitimate issue. I knew you would get to one sooner or later. Look, the way I think of it is, when is it over, over? It's over, over when you have a vaccine. Then people know the virus is dead. That's 12 to 18 months, so the question is how do you get from here to 12 to 18 months? Well, maybe they'll come up with a medical treatment, convalescent plasma, et cetera. Yeah, maybe. Otherwise, we have to get from here to 12 months, 18 months. We have to start to phase in the opening of the economy while we're watching the public health consequences and the number of hospitalizations, et cetera.
Testing is the best mechanism for you to get through this 12 to 18 months. Now, why doesn't the President want to go near testing? Because testing is a quagmire. No one can do it. No one can bring it up to scale quickly. It is very complicated. I have spent days and days on this. Government doesn't really do testing, it's really a private lab function. To now take testing and ramp it up to where you have to bring it, Chris, is an impossibility.
Chris Cuomo: We have to take a break, but this matters too much. So let's go to break on this thought. Help me understand, because when people hear you say, "nobody can do it," why? Why is it so hard? Is it about not having enough tests? Not enough people? Not enough labs? Why can't America do it when we can do everything?
Governor Cuomo: It's all of the above. It's all of the above. Can we do it? Yes. Can you do it in one month? Well, no. So everybody's reaction is hands off because this is now going to be the blame game. Well, there wasn't enough testing. Who's to blame? That's why the President said 11 times, after I said 11 times, the states can't do the test. You've never heard me say, "I'm not capable. I give up." I don't like to say it. It's not who I am, it's not what I believe. I said it because I want to make sure we're clear: I can't do it. I can't bring it to scale. This gets very complicated. It was all of the above. They don't have enough manufacturing equipment, they don't have enough vails, they don't have enough swabs, they don't have enough machines. The private labs don't have the capacity. They need testing agents that don't even come from this country. There's a whole international supply chain to this.
To grab hold of this is very problematic and we just went through this situation of how do we build ventilators in 14 days. That turned out to be very complicated. This testing is now what ventilators was in this new phase. I said I can't do it. President said the states must do it. The states are saying, "we can't." This has to be justified, this dispute. It's not even a dispute. The truth is nobody can do it well. You can't bring that industry to this volume, this scale, nationwide. We can't have 50 states - what's happening now, is I'm competing against all the other states for those private sector companies that have some capacity.
I'm trying to buy tests. I called Governor Pritzker. There's a company in his state that does these tests and they're one of the leading companies. I said, "How do we do this? I don't want to compete with you." But every state is now competing and the federal government. This is madness. We did this with ventilators. It can't be 50 states scrambling and bidding for the same product from the same 10 companies in the country. It can't be.
Chris Cuomo: Alright. Let's take a break. This is very sobering because what's the difference between ventilators and testing? Well, ventilators is for a very distinct part of the population and so far, hasn't burst. But all of us need the testing equipment. The reach has to be complete. Anywhere you want to open up and you want me to go with my kids, I'm going to want to know I'm safe. Let's take a break. When I come back, we'll talk with the Governor about how do we get somewhere better? And what is the impact that New York is already going to have to deal with economically and in terms of our lifestyle. Next.
Chris Cuomo: All right, we're here with Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo. A sobering discussion about how testing is everything. Quick question, Admiral Giroir okay, he is the official in charge at HHS for doing all the testing. I've never interviewed him. I've rarely seen him out front. He is in charge of the most important component. Have you had any back and forth with him? Is there any kind of, you know, interconnectedness on that level?
Governor Cuomo: No, I'll take your word that he exists, but I wouldn't know otherwise.
Chris Cuomo: Wow, the Governor of New York, and I'm not calling this about ignorance. I'm talking about this process is not where it needs to be, big brother. Economically, are you doing your budget right now, how big a bite has this taken out of your state budget, and what will that mean in terms of needs and your ability to deliver on bigger needs than you may have ever seen before?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, we actually got the budget don't, but I wouldn't suspect that you would know given that you've been sick and in your basement for two weeks. The budget, we have about a $10 billion to $15 billion gap which is all the money in the world to us. It's been devastating to the economy. That's the other part of this equation. The federal government says it's up to the states. The states should do this. The states should do this. The National Governors Association, NGA, Chairman is a Republican. I'm the Vice Chair, Democrat. We sent a joint letter saying to the President, we've been cut out of the other federal bills, you expect us to do anything, we need funding as a state because otherwise we can't do any of this.
Chris Cuomo: You say "cut out." He says "what are you talking about?" He's like, I gave you the most amount of money of anybody.
Governor Cuomo: No, he didn't give the state government - the state governments got cut out. What they did was, it was political pork barreling - especially on the Senate side. They give every state that has a senator, winds up with a big chunk of money, whether it has to do with COVID or not and proportionality or not, and they fund funded entities in the state, hospitals, this entity, this entity, but they didn't give any money to the state government. So, then I had to cut all sorts of funds and I don't have any money to implement any of the things we're talking about. So, look, it's not - you don't pick up a lot of political chits giving money to a state government. So, the politicians don't want to do it. But that's the responsible thing to do and I've made that point abundantly clear, I think, to my delegation.
Chris Cuomo: His criticism is you asked for too much. Cuomo's always on the phone, give me, give me, give me. He didn't even need it. He didn't need the hospital ship, didn't need the ventilators, didn't need the beds. But we gave it to him anyway because I'm a nice guy. True?
Governor Cuomo: I don't think he said exactly that. I guess the basic message -
Chris Cuomo: That was the gist. Just answer it -
Governor Cuomo: Well, you say it in a more provocative tone. But I'm not going to rise to the bait from you, for anyone. I'm not in a fighting mood. There will come a time when I may be in a fighting mood, but that is down the road when we're over the bridge.
Chris Cuomo: Yeah, a cool dude in a loose mood, is that you?
Governor Cuomo: A cool dude in a loose mood. Don't you forget it.
Chris Cuomo: What a joke. It's making me sweat.
Governor Cuomo: I said - everything makes you sweat. It's called a fever. But anyway, the President did say I asked him for help. He was right. I did ask him for help. He is the federal government. And we were afraid of going over capacity in the hospital system. He brought in the Army Corps of Engineers. He did it quickly. They did a great job. 2,500 beds at Javits. The U.S. Navy Ship Comfort. I said great job. I applaud the Army Corps of Engineers. The President did it in one day. It was the overflow valve. We've also had about 800 people go through Javits and you needed that buffer because we were looking at numbers that said we needed three times the number of hospital beds that we had. And by the way, those numbers came from the CDC, from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, so it's not, you know, who was dealing with bad projections. The numbers from the CDC, from -
Chris Cuomo: Hey, look, thank God the flattening is happening. Fattening is happening, too.
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: Give yourself credit.
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: Give everybody credit. People have done the right thing.
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: That's why. It's not a gotcha that the projections aren't right. It means we're doing the right thing. The question is how do you keep doing the right thing?
Governor Cuomo: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: You just put up a muscular measure. Masks everywhere you go? Everybody?
Governor Cuomo: No, the executive order had a proviso. The executive order said masks when you are in public. If you are in a situation where you can't maintain social distancing, right? So, you don't have to wear the mask if you're in public or outside and nobody's around, but when you get close to someone. Then you have to wear the mask because, and muscular, I know people aren't crazy about it, and it's an inconvenience, but, look, in the scope of things, you don't have a right to infect me, right?
Chris Cuomo: Right.
Governor Cuomo: And we're spending all this time, all this money, closing down everything to lower this spread. A mask is not that big a deal, right? It could be a mask, it could be a cloth, a bandanna.
Chris Cuomo: Two pushbacks. First pushback, you can't enforce it. You don't have the police. 20% almost are out sick. You can't be chasing around people about masks. You can't enforce it. Nobody's going to do it.
Governor Cuomo: We can enforce it. And the proviso I can enforce personally. The local governments have police forces. They can enforce it. They will enforce it. We don't have a civil fine that goes with this now, but we could. And I believe people are going to follow it. Look, Chris, nobody had to listen to anything I said. From day one, I had no ability to enforce this. The reason I communicate so much with the public right now is I want them to understand the facts and the plain truth and why I'm taking these actions. If they believe it makes sense, they will do it. This is New York. They aren't going to force anyone to do anything. But I spend the time to lay the groundwork so people have followed the advice that I give them and the executive orders that I give them because they could have told me to pounce on any of these things.
Chris Cuomo: Fair point. Second point of pushback, you can't set an example, true or false, for wearing the mask because you can't find one that fit over that huge double-barreled shotgun in the middle of your face.
Governor Cuomo: See, I'm not going to rise to the bait. I love you. I love you. Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. We drew a circle of love that drew him in. I love you. Hit you with dad.
Chris Cuomo: Don't you go floating pop's poem to me, although that's where you got that schnoz. You drew a circle that kept me out.
Governor Cuomo: I love you. I love you.
Chris Cuomo: But love redrew a circle that kept you in.
Governor Cuomo: We drew a circle that included you in. I love you.
Chris Cuomo: But not that nose.
Governor Cuomo: I know you love me deep down inside.
Chris Cuomo: No, I love you all the way on the outside. You are my big brother. I'm proud of what you've been doing. I can't say it enough. But I got to ask you one more thing and then I'll let you go. Garcetti in Los Angeles, he's been steady, the mayor. Mike DeWine, the governor, Republican, in Ohio, steady. Sports, they're, like, I don't know, it's going to look different. In Los Angeles they say maybe not until 2021. Sports huge for New York. Will we see a Yankees game this summer?
Governor Cuomo: Governor DeWine is a great guy. He's been very helpful. I've been a long-term fan of his. Mayor Garcetti is really top shelf. Look, nobody knows. What I say to all these guys, you know, they come up with all these projections, we're going to do this in May, we're going to do this in June, we're going to do this in July. They have no idea. We have no idea where we're going to be. Let's find out where we are. Let's find out the facts and then we'll make a decision. Everyone has been wrong about everything for this entire duration. Right? 45 days. To now project 60 days forward and say, this is what I think we need to do - stop. Stop with the game. Let's follow the data. On sports, look, I talked to Jeff Wilpon today, the owner of the Mets. Go, Queens, go, New York. I said, why can't we talk about a baseball season with nobody in the stands? Why can't you play the game with the players? And, look, I think it would be good for the country. I think it would be good for people to have something to watch and do to fight cabin fever. And it's something that I'm going to pursue. Apparently, major league baseball would have to make a deal with the players because if you have no one in the stands then the numbers are going to change, right? The economics are going to change. But if Major League Baseball would have to make a deal with players. If you have no one in the stands, then the numbers are going to change. The economics are going to change. If Major League Baseball and the players could come to an agreement on how to adjust the economics for that reality, I think that would be a good thing. We have to start to move to normalcy. People have to start to see some hope and light.
Chris Cuomo: Absolutely. Let's end on that. Everybody's having their little picture of what normal will look like. What they want to get back to. With the summer coming, what does the future look like in your minds eye? What are you looking forward to being able to do again?
Governor Cuomo: I think this is one of those situations in life that shows us really what to be thankful for and gives us some perspective. It's simpler than we tend to make it. What do I want? I want to be able to go fishing with you and throw my cellphone in the ocean and not worry about it. I want to be able to sit around the table with Mom and laugh and your kids and my kids and be able to hug them without worrying about social distancing. I never want to hear about social distancing again. I don't want get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and the first thing I have to go through is understanding how many deaths we had the night before. I don't want to talk to any more families who lost family members. I want the pain to stop. I want the fear to stop. I want the anxiety to stop. I want you to get out of your basement. I want Cristina to be okay. I want those hospital workers to be able to go home and sleep a full night. Just let's get back to normal. Let's get back to family. Let's get back to all those simple things that we took for granted and we were wrong and now we miss. And when we get them back, maybe we'll cherish them more than we ever have.
Chris Cuomo: That is beautiful. I share your dream. You get a big amen. I was reading the other day, you quoted FDR beautifully a short while back and I was reading some of his stuff last night about the four freedoms that came up running into World War II. I'll tell you, freedom from fear and freedom from want. Boy, do those ring true in a way they never did before now. Governor Cuomo, my big brother, Andrew. Thank you. I love you and I appreciate you.
Governor Cuomo: I love you. Thanks.