Governor Cuomo: "I want to do more testing as quickly as possible, find the people who test positive, put them in quarantine, etcetera, and let the public know that we're on top of this."
Governor Cuomo: "Look at the basic underlying facts because there's really one question: what happens if I get coronavirus? ... 80 percent of the people who get coronavirus will self-resolve. ... So the ultimate reality is manageable. ... There are going to be new cases. ... government's responsibility is to be able to address the underlying issue in a way that provides confidence for people."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC with David Gura to discuss the novel coronavirus and New York State's declared state of emergency to contain the spread of the virus.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
David Gura: Joining me now is the man who declared that state of emergency, Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor, thank you very much for being here and just walk us through your decision if you would. Why did you decide to do this, and what is this declaring this state of emergency allow you to do?
Governor Cuomo: Declaration of emergency, David, basically allows the State to operate more quickly. It allows us to purchase materials. It allows us to hire staff more quickly without going through some of the normal government bureaucracy because my challenge now is getting government up, moving, ready, and actually handling the reality and the perception of this problem. So I want to do more testing as quickly as possible, find the people who test positive, put them in quarantine, etcetera, and let the public know that we're on top of this. We're handling it and things are under control, right? Number one problem is hysteria and fear as opposed to the virus and I think government can either address that or compound it.
I'm also battling against, frankly, the mixed messages from the federal government. You have the President saying anybody who wants a test, you can have a test; it's beautiful. You have the Vice President saying we can't do the tests, we don't have the capacity, and in weeks, if you're symptomatic, we can get you a test. Those kinds of mixed messages, that confusion, I think adds to the fear and the frustration of people because if government doesn't know what it's doing, well, then people feel they're really alone and this is really a problem.
David Gura: Governor, a lot of them are probably watching us right now, watching you on television wondering how much anxiety they should have, how nervous they should be. What is your message to them as they look across the country to what's happening in Washington State, look at the difficulty your counterpart, Governor Jay Inslee, has faced over these last days and is frankly worried about what might be hang here.
Governor Cuomo: It is deep breath time, David, and forget the chatter. Forget what you're hearing from the federal government. Look at the basic underlying facts because there's really one question: what happens if I get coronavirus? If I get coronavirus, 80 percent of the people who get coronavirus will self-resolve. They'll walk around. they have mild symptoms. Twenty percent will get ill and maybe hospitalized, and the vulnerable population are senior citizens, immune-compromised and people with underlying illnesses, and it is a problem for them. What happened in Washington, a nursing home, that's my nightmare, senior assisted living facility - that we're worried about, a person who's battling cancer, HIV-positive, those people are vulnerable to this. But that is it, you know, and if you look at all the numbers, you look at my numbers here in New York, 76 cases, only a handful are hospitalized. Most of them are at home, and they're recovering, and they're getting better like a flu. So the ultimate reality is manageable. Again, problem with the vulnerable populations, which tend to be in congregate facilities, so the hysteria is way ahead of the reality and if you know the facts you will be calm. Part of it is we're in this every day, new cases, new cases. There are going to be new cases. I'm going to have more new cases every day. I want more new cases every day because I'm trying to find the positive people so I can put them in quarantine so they don't affect anybody. The number of cases has to go up. It can't go down. But we're purposely looking for the positives because we want fewer people infected. But the ultimate facts here are reassuring. We don't want to lose anyone, but the flu, the normal flu, yes, it attacks senior citizens and people with immune compromised systems, and people die from the flu. That happens, and people who catch this, if they're in that category can also pass away.
David Gura: Governor, you said something extraordinary a moment ago, and that was ignore the federal government. I just wonder if you could draw that out a little bit more here. Give us your reaction to what you've been hearing from the administration. We've just been through an election cycle during which Mike Bloomberg made a huge component of his campaign the fact that he's equipped to deal with a crisis like this because he's been through it before. You have been through this before with Ebola just a couple of years ago here in New York City. I don't mean to be too crass in asking, do you have any regret here that you're not bringing that portfolio to bear, that this wasn't something you sought to do to seek the Democratic nomination now having experience dealing with crises like these?
Governor Cuomo: Look David, I was in the federal government in the Clinton administration. I was HUD secretary. I did emergency management all across the country, all across the world. I've dealt with everything in New York State from Ebola to measles to fires to floods, etcetera, and it is knowing how to manage a government in an emergency situation, right? And in every emergency management situation the fear and panic can be a greater problem than the underlying issue. Right now the fear and the panic are worse than the Coronavirus, and government's responsibility is to be able to address the underlying issue in a way that provides confidence for people. Communicate, I do daily briefings. Here are the facts. Here are the numbers. Now you have the information. Trust the information. It's not political. I'm not giving you my opinion. These are just the facts. That relaxes people. Let them see that government is functioning. That relaxes people. I think what they're getting from the federal government, they're getting mixed messages. You're listening to the President and he says one thing. You're listening to the Vice President, and he says something else. You listen to the CDC, they say one thing, and then people feel that nobody's in charge or you don't have a competent response, and that triggers panic among people.
David Gura: Try to relax today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who as I mentioned few moments ago declared a state of emergency here in New York State giving him more powers to manage and deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Governor, thank you very much for the time. I appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, David.