March 11, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is a Guest on Morning Joe

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo is a Guest on Morning Joe

Governor Cuomo: "I think what the coronavirus reminds people is that there's nothing theoretical about government, right? This is about making a difference in people's lives, mobilizing, and being effective - and that's what we're seeing now."

Cuomo: "What the other countries did is they did the massive testing. You know, China was doing 200,000 tests a day. South Korea was doing 15,000 tests a day. We've done 5,000 to date. So what I would say, what I have been saying to other governors, is you're on your own, you know. Let the states take action because when they do the retrospective here, Joe, I think this is going to be the public health version of Hurricane Katrina. The federal government has just fallen down on the job, so let the states do it."

Cuomo: "I'm going to speak to business leaders in New York today. I'm going to ask them voluntarily to do telecommuting, two shifts, a morning shift and a late shift, and let people work from home voluntarily. We have closed some schools. We've closed schools in this hot spot in New Rochelle. At the same time, we're trying to slow it down but ramping up the testing and hopefully the federal government is going to release the handcuffs - they've been controlling the process."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on Morning Joe to discuss New York's new emergency measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in New Rochelle.

AUDIO is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:

Mika Brzezinski: Joining us now, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. In New York, state officials have set up a one mile containment area. In New Rochelle, public schools in the area will be closed until March 25 and the National Guard has been deployed to the area. As of yesterday, Westchester County has seen 108 confirmed cases of the virus. Governor Cuomo, how does the containment area work, and for people who are infected or are worried that they're infected, are they still going to the hospital?

Governor Cuomo: Well, thanks. Good to be with you, Mika. You know, all of this talk about politics, I think what the coronavirus reminds people is that there's nothing theoretical about government, right? This is about making a difference in people's lives, mobilizing, and being effective - and that's what we're seeing now. On the New Rochelle area specifically, it's the most dense cluster of cases in the United States. We have 108 cases in New Rochelle. I think you get an idea, New York City only has 36. New York City is 100 times the size of New Rochelle, okay? So what the containment means is just large gatherings in that area are postponed. People can go and come, etc. It's not a quarantine area, but no large gatherings because that's where it's spreading obviously. And the numbers are going to go up exponentially. We don't see it in the testing yet because we're not testing enough and it's much bigger out there than we even know. So we have to take real actions and we have to take them quickly.

Joe Scarborough: So, governor, just so other communities can learn from what happened in New Rochelle, could you just briefly walk us through how one man being infected has now led to the densest cluster, the most dense cluster in the United States, and what other communities should do to avoid what happened in New Rochelle? What's required you to take such a dramatic step.

Governor Cuomo: Joe, it's math. You know, this community happened to have a couple of large gatherings back to back. They had a large religious gathering where you had about 400 people. They then had a couple of days later another large gathering, and it's just math. It's just the trajectory of exposure. There's nothing extraordinary. And what the other countries did is they did the massive testing. You know, China was doing 200,000 tests a day. South Korea was doing 15,000 tests a day. We've done 5,000 to date. So what I would say, what I have been saying to other governors, is you're on your own, you know. Let the states take action because when they do the retrospective here, Joe, I think this is going to be the public health version of Hurricane Katrina. The federal government has just fallen down on the job, so let the states do it.

Mika Brzezinski: So I'm still trying to understand, though, how the containment area is going to work because if somebody has symptoms, like, for example, the man who, you know, this story began with, he went to the hospital in neighboring Bronxville and then ended up in the city. So what is happening to people who have the virus who are feeling symptoms, perhaps need care?

Governor Cuomo: Well, in this area in New Rochelle, the hot spot, first, no large gatherings. Second, we're bringing testing into the community. You know, this testing has been such a fiasco. Even people going to a hospital is a problem. They get into care, they expose the cab, they get into a hospital, they expose workers. So we're bringing testing, mobile testing units to New Rochelle and you literally can drive in to a mobile testing unit. It's all contained. It's all isolated, and you get the test right there. We are getting very aggressive on the testing because if you look at the way it has been stopped in other countries, it's either massive quarantine or massive testing and we don't want to quarantine so we're going to have to do the testing and we can't wait for the federal government because it's not going to happen.

Willie Geist: Governor, it's Willie Geist. Tom Bossert who is President Trump's Homeland Security Secretary said yesterday we are ten days away from the hospitals in the United States here getting creamed. He wrote an op-ed in the Washington post on Monday that said we're headed toward the crisis in what it looks like in Italy, frankly. I'm getting even this morning from doctors and people in Italy flashing red lights that what we have here is headed your way if you don't get smart about this. So what is your threshold, Governor, for closing schools? I know that's a municipal question, but for closing schools, for canceling any gatherings, for telling people just stop going to work, work electronically, we can now do Google Chat. We can do this. Where do you see the next turn in this? Is there a moment where you all get together and say we've got to shut things down for a while?

Governor Cuomo: Willie, I think you see the trajectory going straight up. I'm going to speak to business leaders in New York today. I'm going to ask them voluntarily to do telecommuting, two shifts, a morning shift and a late shift, and let people work from home voluntarily. We have closed some schools. We've closed schools in this hot spot in New Rochelle. At the same time, we're trying to slow it down but ramping up the testing and hopefully the federal government is going to release the handcuffs - they've been controlling the process. And that's the way the other countries have gotten ahead of it, with testing. But I think you're right. All the numbers say it's going to be a wave. We're worried about the health care system. We're studying very closely our vacancy in the health care system and we're planning backup hospitals, quarantine centers if you will, just in case we overwhelm the health care system.

Because that's the real challenge. Can you deal with the number of sick in the hospitals? And then my number one concern, my nightmare, nursing homes, senior citizen centers, congregate care facilities for seniors. That's the vulnerable population and that's what we have to keep an eye on because that's where we could have a real issue. That was Washington State and these congregate senior facilities where vulnerable people are all close together, that's my number one concern.

Mike Barnacle: So, Governor, I went back yesterday and watched an address to the nation by President Obama of the Ebola crisis in which he was pretty straightforward in terms of what we were doing, what the government was doing, what the government could do. In the case of New York, in the case of New Rochelle, you were talking about the government's failure. What would you expect the federal government to be doing and what are they not doing that is critical to both New York, both your needs, and every governor, every state?

Governor Cuomo: Yeah, look, Mike, let me be candid but let me be careful because I don't want the president tweeting at me of that broadcast. I have to work with the federal government to make it work here. But, we knew this was coming in November and December. We knew what was happening in China. We had to know that somebody was going to get on an airplane and come to the United States, right? How we get to this point where we do not have testing capacity anywhere near what we need, literally the HHS Secretary says yesterday, 5,000 tests to date. South Korea, 15,000 tests a day. China, 200,000 tests a day. That's how you stay ahead of this thing. That's how they turned the curve. We're nowhere near that. It reminds me of Hurricane Katrina, just a failed federal response and failed federal mobilization. They underestimated the challenge. Now, who and how and why, I don't know.

I'll tell you in this whole political conversation we're having I think it's said to people, "Hey, remember government matters, guys. This is not all theory and abstract - this is who can manage and who can get things done in a time of crisis." And I think that's what this coronavirus has done partially on the political scale. But, the federal government has just had a really poor response. And what I'm saying to them is, at least get out of the way. You know, CDC, FDA control all the approvals. They've been controlling the test process. I'm saying to them now, we know the horse is out of the barn, we know this is much more widespread, at least let the states scramble and do what they can.

Mika Brzezinski: Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you very much for being on the show. We'll see you soon.

Joe Scarborough: Great to have you with us and good luck with those Tweets.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640