Governor Cuomo: "The bottom line realization that 80 percent of the people will self-cure, self-resolve the virus and the target problem, the 1.2 percent mortality, is senior citizens and people who have compromised immune systems. That's what we are focusing on. I think part of the hysteria and fear is people don't believe the information they're getting or they have an overhyped belief of the danger of this virus."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC with Chris Jansing to discuss the Coronavirus.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Chris Jansing: Joining me, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. So many questions I want to ask you, Governor. This is not the first time the President contradicted his experts, but how often and how closely are you in touch with members of the Coronavirus task force, the CDC, other federal officials and how confident are you in what they're doing right now?
Governor Cuomo: Well, Chris, thanks for having me. I speak to the federal officials, I speak to Vice President Pence, I speak to the HHS personnel, DHS personnel, the whole alphabet soup of personnel. I get my information from medical professionals. I would rather speak with the World Health Organization, CDC, my own health team to make sure we're getting medical information and not political information. And then the way this is actually working is the states are on the ground, and the states have to put together the system that actually addresses this. So I get the best medical information I can, put the politics aside and then we develop a system on the state level to actually address the problem.
Chris Jansing: Give us a sense of what you think New York might be dealing with. And I think when you look at any of these individual states, it gives us a sense of what to expect. I remember you when you had the first case in New York just a couple of days ago, you said it was a deep breath moment. Is there solid scientific projections of what the city and state should expect now that we have two cases? How does a city as big as New York even begin to calculate and notify the people the patients may have come into contact with?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, you're exactly right, Chris. I think part of the issue here is we have been unrealistic in the expectation, right? We have a daily revelation, there's a new case here, new case here, community spread case. I've said from day one, you look at the numbers, you look at the math, we're going to have dozens and dozens and dozens of cases in the State of New York. That's my expectation. Look how many people we had coming back from countries that we now have on the watch list. Literally hundreds, so there will be a lot of cases. I think the public, the calibration is off, the expectation is off. There are going to be many, many cases. Every case you track down to limit the exposure the best you can, testing capacity - we're trying to get our testing capacity up to 1,000 per day to limit it. Hospital capacity for those people that have to be hospitalized.
But also the bottom line realization that 80 percent of the people will self-cure, self-resolve the virus and the target problem, the 1.2 percent mortality, is senior citizens and people who have compromised immune systems. That's what we are focusing on. I think part of the hysteria and fear is people don't believe the information they're getting or they have an overhyped belief of the danger of this virus.
Chris Jansing: So, let me give you a chance to maybe calm some fears and give a reality check. I'm thinking I have been home the last couple days to New York City. Westchester, for people that don't know where this latest patient is from, is just north of Manhattan. Thousands of residents from Westchester come into the city for work every day. Add to that, New York being one of the world's top tourist destinations, and a population density that is enormous; it's larger than 40 of 50 states. What unique challenges does that pose for you as a government and what are you doing working on to deal with it, Governor?
Governor Cuomo: Look, first of all we expect to have a large number of people who test positive for the coronavirus. We expect that. You look at the way the virus is transmitted, look at the experience in China, we expect that. And you're exactly right. You have all these people coming to New York, it's the nature of who we are. So stop this manic obsession on one case, one case, one case. We're going to have dozens and dozens of cases. That's going to happen. Don't be surprised. And then have the testing capacity, track down each case, have the necessary hospitalization capacity, and communicate with people honestly on the facts and reduce the fear factor which is frankly the biggest single issue that we have now. I believe people are more afraid of this than they need to be. It has been politicized. They don't know who to believe. It sounds like coronavirus is a death sentence. I mean we went through Ebola, which is a much more deadly virus than this. And this coronavirus having twice the mortality rate of the regular flu is not good, but this is a manageable situation. That's where we are. We have 15,000 people in hospitals today in New York with the flu. 15,000. So this is going to be a large number of people who are infected by it. They'll go through a period, 80 percent will self-resolve, and we have to be very careful about senior citizen populations, nursing homes, people who are immune compromised or have an underlying illness, especially respiratory illness in the first place. That's where we have to pay attention.
Chris Jansing: So understanding that self-care is a big thing, certainly anybody that's gone into stores in New York judging by pictures on twitter know that New Yorkers and people around the country are heeding those warnings. They're buying anti-bacterial wipes and sprays and so on. I'm sure people are being reminded to wash their hands. But this is so fluid, there's so much we don't know. And you talked about the mortality rate, we have been using a figure around 2 percent as you said, you know, not that much more than for the flu. Now, just in the last hour or so, Governor, the World Health Organization bumped the global rate to 3.4 percent. Is it going to absolutely get worse in terms of that before it gets better, and how confident are you about the medical professionals, whether its testing to the equipment they need, will be ready if and when it escalates?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah. The variable, 2 percent as you said Chris, correctly so, .6 percent is mortality rate for the usual flu. This is about 2 percent. World Health Organization says it can go as high as 3 and change. That's depending on sophistication of the healthcare system of that country. In China they say it was about 2 percent. When China got better at dealing with it, they had better facilities, it went down from 2 percent to 1 and 1.4, 1.5. We have the best healthcare system on the globe in the United States and we have a highly sophisticated healthcare system in New York. If it is 2 percent in China and that went down, CDC said about 1.2, 1.4 percent. And I think that's where we're going to be. It's not great news, it's double the normal flu rate, but it's not as bad as the hysteria would suggest that it is. And that's, as Governor, I'm putting systems in place, the testing, the hospitalization, et cetera. But it's a communication challenge to get people's expectations in line with reality, and we have much more anxiety than this situation actually merits. I think part of it is people don't know who to believe. You have Democrats blaming Republicans for not doing enough. Republicans say Democrats are hyping it. And it's that political filter that says to people, "I don't know who to believe and I don't even know how bad this is." And that's what generates fear, it's the unknown. And it's a damning commentary, frankly, on where we are as a country that people can't even believe the information they're getting from government when it's a public health emergency. And that's a bigger problem, frankly.
Chris Jansing: New York governor Andrew Cuomo, we thank you for spending so much time with us and answering the important questions. We appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thanks. Thank you.