Governor Cuomo: "New Rochelle has about three times the number of cases New York City does. New York City is 100 times the size of New Rochelle. So it's unique in the nation in that it is a very dense cluster of positive cases and it's been going up exponentially. What we're doing is we're bringing all resources to bear on that cluster. The quote unquote containment zone really just says in that immediate vicinity, no large gatherings, which people are doing all across the country and it makes sense. If you have that high degree of the number of positive people, you don't want them going into large gatherings. So we're going to close the schools for a period of time. No large gatherings."
Cuomo: "Also the deep breath point is, this is not going to end the world, you know? This is not the Ebola virus which I went through. That was frightening. If you are a member of the vulnerable population, you're a senior citizen, you're immune compromised, then it's dangerous. But that's really what this is about, right? And let's keep it all in focus, because the anxiety and the fear are not connected to the facts and the reality of this situation. And we have a virus to fight. More, we have the fear and the panic to fight."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss the latest updates on coronavirus in New York State.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Jake Tapper: Joining me now to discuss, the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo. Thank you so much for joining us. You've asked for a one-mile radius containment area around New Rochelle, which means school, synagogues, churches, are canceled for two weeks. You've activated the National Guard to help clean schools and other facilities and to deliver food. What else can you tell us about this containment plan?
Governor Cuomo: Thanks for having me, Jake. Think of it this way, we have 173 cases in the entire state, right? We have 108 in New Rochelle. New Rochelle has about three times the number of cases New York City does. New York City is 100 times the size of New Rochelle. So it's unique in the nation in that it is a very dense cluster of positive cases and it's been going up exponentially. What we're doing is we're bringing all resources to bear on that cluster. The quote unquote containment zone really just says in that immediate vicinity, no large gatherings, which people are doing all across the country and it makes sense. If you have that high degree of the number of positive people, you don't want them going into large gatherings. So we're going to close the schools for a period of time. No large gatherings. Meanwhile, clean the schools, clean the public transit system, and bring in a satellite testing system where people in that community can get tested.
Jake Tapper: Governor, you noted that the cluster is in New Rochelle and not in New York City. Why? What's going on in New Rochelle that this is where it happened?
Governor Cuomo: It just so happened that it started with one or two cases. There were then a number of convenings in that community that brought several hundred people together for celebrations and it took off like fire through dry grass in those convenings. That's why we have this very dense cluster of positives right in that area and that's why no large gatherings. Let's go in and do what we have to do, but you know, Jake, this is a microcosm of what we're going to be looking at. The numbers are going to go up consistently because our testing is way behind the reality of what the situation is. I have no doubt that the reality is a multiple of everything we're seeing in the numbers and as we test more, that's what you're going to see. You're going to see those numbers skyrocket. The only way this has ever been contained, what China did, what Korea did. You only have two options, quarantine or really increase the number of tests and get the positive tests and then isolate. China was doing 5,000 tests, 10,000 tests per day. This country in total, we've done about 5,000 tests. So we really have to get that testing capacity up if we're going to make a difference.
Jake Tapper: I want to ask you about a different cluster, the first cluster we know of outside Seattle. A source tells me, a first responder tells me that seven firefighters in Kirkland who reported obviously to the life care center there, seven were swabbed for testing but there was such a bottleneck at the testing center that the tests expired, those seven firefighters now have to be retested, they have to remain in quarantine. Are your first responders getting not only the testing they need but the testing, is it being followed through?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, it's a good question and you'll hear different people saying different things, because it's apples and oranges. When they talk about the number of test kits they sent out, that's just the swab that you take and then you send that swab to the lab and sending it to the lab can be a logistical problem. Then the lab turnaround time, if they have a backlog, it can be two days, three days. Some of the commercial labs coming online say to a get it you to before two or three days. We've been dealing with that from day one. CDC first was doing all the tests themselves, they were sending them to Atlanta, then we made a fuss, then they allowed state labs to do the test and then we've been advocating to allow private labs to come in and do tests to increase our capacity. In New York yesterday they finally authorized the private labs to do automated testing that will increase our capacity. But this is a very cumbersome process, and again, according to the HHS secretary, about 5,000 tests? After all this time? Korea, China are doing 5,000, 10,000 per day and then tracking all those tests? That's how they stopped it there. We're not going to stop it here at this rate of testing
Jake Tapper: Governor, can I impose on you, I want to continue this interview but we need to squeeze in a break
Governor Cuomo: Sure.
Jake Tapper: Great. We'll be back talking to Governor Cuomo. We'll be right back.
Jake Tapper: I want to bring back Governor Andrew Cuomo of the Empire State who is answering our questions about how New York is dealing with this. Governor, thanks so much for sticking around. You talked about how you have this zone around New Rochelle now and the National Guard is being activated to go there and help clean schools and deliver food, clean public transportation. People are being discouraged from holding any sort of group event in New Rochelle. New Rochelle is just 20 miles North of New York City. You've noted that because of the inadequate supply of testing kits that are out there, we really don't know how widespread this epidemic is. Should people in areas surrounding New Rochelle start to consider not holding group events, self-quarantining if they need to?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. Well, it's a good question, Jake. We're mapping where we get the positive cases. As we see them start to spread or pop up in a community, we identify that community and we talk to them and we make those kinds of decisions. But remember, it's not testing kits and this is why the federal government will say, we have plenty of testing kits. They have plenty of testing kits. That's the swab. They don't have the capacity to scale, to do the actual tests and that's the issue, right? And the way this stops, and again, only two ways: you quarantine the area, that's China, that's Italy, or you do enough tests, a high enough volume of tests where you can run down most positives. That in China and Korea were about 5,000 to 10,000 tests per day, Jake. The HHS secretary said we've only done 5,000 since this started. That's our issue.
Jake Tapper: Right, so that's my point.
Governor Cuomo: They're not testing more people.
Jake Tapper: That's my point, if we don't have the testing going on right now, should the government and should local communities be taking more aggressive measures because we don't know how widespread it is?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, but the question is -- first of all, it is much more widespread than we know about these tests because it's been out there a long time and our tests are nowhere near random sample or scale, so yes, it's out there. But what do you do? Unless you want to go to quarantine, where you have a density of cases, what do you do besides find ways to increase the testing capacity? What would this country tolerate? You know, you're not going to do what you did in China. I think it's about increasing testing capacity and that's why I keep pushing the federal government, and I annoy the President, who will now probably send me another nasty tweet after this broadcast. But I think they have to increase the number of tests.
Also the deep breath point is, this is not going to end the world, you know? This is not the Ebola virus which I went through. That was frightening. If you are a member of the vulnerable population, you're a senior citizen, you're immune compromised, then it's dangerous. But that's really what this is about, right? And let's keep it all in focus, because the anxiety and the fear are not connected to the facts and the reality of this situation. And we have a virus to fight. More, we have the fear and the panic to fight.
Jake Tapper: Right, no, I agree with that. Let me ask you, the containment area approach that you're applying to New Rochelle outside New York City that was recommended by New York's Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. Is the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, on board with this plan?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, we're working with CDC, the FDA, the whole alphabet soup of health care agencies. And yes, this is in line with everyone's guidance. And it's also common sense, by the way. You have one of the densest clusters in the United States. This is almost unique in the nation, Jake. So what do you do? No gatherings, get testing for as many people as you can, get logistical support. It's making it happen. It's not the concept. The concept is inarguable. What our government nationwide is dealing with is the actual capacity and the ability to do what it needs to do. To respond, to mobilize. That's our challenge.
Jake Tapper: so one of the things that is so shocking to me is that the Life Care Center, that nursing home outside Seattle, in Kirkland, Washington, where 19 people have died already there. The idea that there are 180 employees, 65 of them have symptoms, none of them, not one of them has been tested. Forget whether or not the test goes to the proper lab, not one of them is tested. It just staggers the mind. This is not your purview, this is in Kirkland, Washington, not New Rochelle, New York, but I guess the question is, are you prepared, and what are you telling people at nursing homes in New York where the people are the most vulnerable, perhaps, because many of them have health issues, all of them are senior citizens and obviously they're in tight quarters, many of them.
Governor Cuomo: Jake, that's my nightmare and that's where you're going to see the pain and the damage from this virus. Senior citizen homes, nursing homes, congregant senior facilities. That is my nightmare. We've taken steps, some drastic steps in this area, in New Rochelle, we're talking about. We said no visitors in a nursing home. All you need is 9-year-old Johnny to visit his grandmother in a nursing home, give her a kiss, and you can be off to the races. That's my fear. That population in those congregate facilities. That is really what we have to watch.
But look, on the testing, you're right. We're still not where we need to be on the testing. And I do not understand why. I don't want to cast stones, I don't want to get in a fight with the federal government we have to work together. But look, we saw China happening in November, December. We knew someone was going to get on an airplane and come to this country. How does China and Korea have a better, faster testing mechanism than we do? And the only explanation you get is, well, their tests aren't as good as our tests, our tests have a higher degree of accuracy. Yeah, but their tests are 5,000, 10,000 per day, and that's what you need to keep the scale to stay ahead of this beast. If you don't have that scale, then you'll be playing catch-up from day one. And that's what we're doing now, we're playing catch-up. First the CDC said they had to do all the tests. Then they became the bottleneck. Then they said okay finally, the state laboratories can test, that opened up more capacity. Now they're moving to, and private laboratories can test. And then you'll have additional capacity. But this has been a long time coming on this evolving process. And we're still not where we need to be and everyone will say that.
Jake Tapper: Governor Andrew Cuomo, best of luck dealing with this crisis, we appreciate your time.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you.