Governor Cuomo: "[W]e opened a drive-through testing location ... It's a new approach because these are all new problems ... We have to get our testing numbers way up quickly if we have a shot at slowing the spread and this is one of the ways we're trying to do it in the state."
Governor Cuomo: "[I]f we're going to wait for this federal government to figure it out it's not going to happen. I'm saying to them, let the state's do the testing. The states regulate laboratories. We regulate testing protocols. Let the federal government decentralize the responsibility and tell the state to take it over."
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin to discuss the state's first drive through COVID-19 mobile testing center in New Rochelle.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Craig Melvin: New York just got its first mobile testing center. It has been set up in New Rochelle. That is where a one-mile coronavirus containment zone has gone into effect after an order from the Governor, Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor Cuomo joins me now on the phone. I understand, Governor, you are in or around New Rochelle right now. What's the scene like there?
Governor Cuomo: Well, Craig, New Rochelle has the highest cluster in the country, highest density of cases in the country. We took special efforts, It's called a containment zone, but basically we closed schools, closed mass gatherings. People can still come and go. It doesn't really contain anyone and we have the National Guard coming to clean and deliver food and now we opened a drive-through testing location which will prioritize people from New Rochelle, but also the county of Westchester. It's a new approach because these are all new problems. It keeps people in their car so they don't walk into an emergency room and infect other people and testing is where it's at. We have to get our testing numbers way up quickly if we have a shot at slowing the spread and this is one of the ways we're trying to do it in the state.
Craig Melvin: Is the thinking that you're going to open more of these drive-through mobile testing centers? Also, how are they going to work? Can anyone just drive up?
Governor Cuomo: The way it works, Craig, if you put up a sign that said anyone who wants a test could get a test, I have 18 million people in this state. With this anxiety you'd have 17 million people on line. So what we did is we said there's a phone number, it prioritizes New Rochelle residents, Westchester residents, you have a phone number, you call, you make an appointment, they give you an appointment time and you show up at that time. We do about 200 cars per day but it's not open unless you have the appointment approval.
Craig Melvin: Governor, while I have you, as you know, multiple states have closed all of their schools, and many of these states, in fact, all these states if I'm not mistaken, they have far fewer cases than New York. A lot of New Yorkers are wondering why are schools still open.
Governor Cuomo: Well first many of the schools in New York are closed. It's right now a local decision unless you have a child who tests positive. Then we close the school for 24 hours to clean the school and assess the situation but, Craig, it's not a no-brainer to close the schools. You close the schools, many of those children don't get lunch, they don't get breakfast. Now what do the parents do? A lot of parents who have to stay home. That could jeopardize your health care workforce. One thing we can't do is diminish our capacity in our hospitals because that's going to be the next shoe to drop, by the way. You see this testing debacle. We're going to be overwhelmed in our hospitals. So you close the school, it triggers another set of issues. It's something we're looking at on a daily basis, but it's not without negative consequences.
Craig Melvin: Governor, really quickly here, how would you characterize where things stand right now in New York State with regards to response to the coronavirus in general?
Governor Cuomo: I don't think it's any different here than anywhere else. The anxiety and the fear is as much of a problem as the virus. I keep telling people in New York, look at the facts, look at the numbers. Eighty percent will self-resolve. We're really worried about senior citizens, underlying illness, because the anxiety and the panic in and of itself becomes a challenge. So we're dealing with the virus; we're dealing with fear also and we have to address both, and that's what we're trying to do here in New York and we're also trying to address the federal government to allow us more flexibility in testing because that's the real operational problem and if we're going to wait for this federal government to figure it out it's not going to happen. I'm saying to them, let the state's do the testing. The states regulate laboratories. We regulate testing protocols. Let the federal government decentralize the responsibility and tell the state to take it over. It can't be any worse, Craig.
Craig Melvin: The drive through testing center, the first in New York, opened in New Rochelle. Governor Andrew Cuomo joining us now on the phone. Governor, thank so much for your time. I know you're very busy. Thank you also for keeping the folks in New York really up to speed. You've been very accessible. We appreciate all of the information you've been providing, Governor, thank you.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, buddy. Thank you for what you do.