Governor Cuomo: "My health commissioner spoke to the CDC, people who are at the CDC, and they suggested to my health commissioner, on a confidential basis obviously, that this was basically more of a political position that they're taking. It's totally inconsistent with everything the CDC has said. It's totally inconsistent with everything we have learned about this virus. It's totally inconsistent with everything every public health official says."
Cuomo: "They now say this morning in guidance, even if you are exposed to a positive person you don't need to test unless you have symptoms. You cannot justify that on any public health basis. That's politics. That's this president saying, if you don't test, if we don't test, then we won't see the number go up and then we'll have this false comfort, right? President Trump has been saying we only know that we have cases because we test. If we don't test, then we won't know that we have the cases, which is obviously absurd and more of his denial strategy. If you don't screen for cancer, then you won't know that you have cancer."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC Live with Katy Tur to discuss the CDC's changing COVID-19 guidance.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Katy Tur: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state will ignore new federal testing guidelines released today by the CDC. The guidance states that only people with symptoms should be tested for the virus, even if they were in contact with an infected person. Joining me now by phone is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. This is confusing, because asymptomatic people can still spread the virus. Why would the CDC, have you gotten any clarity from the CDC about why they would say only people who are showing symptoms should get tested? It sounds like we're going back to the protocols in March and April.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, good afternoon, Katy. Good to be with you. A lot going on. Yeah, I don't think, yes, it's confusing. I find it more alarming. My health commissioner spoke to the CDC, people who are at the CDC, and they suggested to my health commissioner, on a confidential basis obviously, that this was basically more of a political position that they're taking. It's totally inconsistent with everything the CDC has said. It's totally inconsistent with everything we have learned about this virus. It's totally inconsistent with everything every public health official says. Remember, the CDC made this mistake early on. Early on they said that the virus can only spread from people who have symptoms. That was wrong, and they acknowledged their mistake, couple of months later after many more people were infected. And we know that people who are asymptomatic can spread the disease. They now say this morning in guidance, even if you are exposed to a positive person you don't need to test unless you have symptoms. You cannot justify that on any public health basis. That's politics. That's this president saying, if you don't test, if we don't test, then we won't see the number go up and then we'll have this false comfort, right? President Trump has been saying we only know that we have cases because we test. If we don't test, then we won't know that we have the cases, which is obviously absurd and more of his denial strategy. If you don't screen for cancer, then you won't know that you have cancer. Yeah, that doesn't turn out so well, Katy.
Katy Tur: So you're saying that this is, in your estimation, a political effort by the president or the administration to keep down the number of cases in this country?
Governor Cuomo: Katy, he has said as much. You know, if you listen to this president, he'll tell you where he's going. He has said that we shouldn't be testing this much because if we test, then we're going to find the virus and the number goes up. He has said that. You know this is totally opposite everything the CDC has said. You know that it's opposite the facts that we know that people who don't have symptoms can spread it. So, no, this is all political propaganda, the election season is in full cycle, and again, my health commissioner spoke to someone at CDC who said the administration wanted to do this and they didn't believe it was backed by science. And I said, shame on the CDC for allowing the president to politically interfere with public health, and that's another lesson we have to learn here. We need a real public health watchdog in this nation. They missed this virus coming to the country in the first place, they missed that it left China and it went to Europe, and New Yorkers paid that price. We need public health people who do public health, and not politics. and we're going to disregard the CDC guidance totally.
Katy Tur: So in New York, if you are asymptomatic, and you've come into contact with somebody, you can still get tested. I want to talk about more generally, more broadly, the trust we have in our agencies, our health agencies. The FDA just issued an emergency approval for a plasma treatment for coronavirus, one that only days earlier they had said wasn't ready. The president used it to announce a new breakthrough on the first night of his convention. There are serious questions and concerns that he pressured FDA Director Hahn on that and you're saying based on what the president has said publicly, that it looks like the administration, or according to your health official talking to the CDC, was pressuring the CDC to issue this new guidance. When we come to a vaccine, Mr. Governor, or Governor Cuomo, can we be confident that that vaccine is going to be safe?
Governor Cuomo: Katy, I don't mean to be unduly cynical about our federal government. I have dealt with this COVID crisis every step of the way more intimately than probably any other state official in the country just because New York had such a bad situation from the get-go because of the negligence of the federal government. Remember how the story starts. The virus left China in December, was in Europe January, February, March, they all missed it. CDC, NIH, Homeland Security, the whole alphabet soup of federal agencies failed and we paid the price in New York. And then the CDC made a mistake about symptomatic spread versus asymptomatic spread, they made a mistake that children couldn't get infected, they made a mistake on not being ready on testing, so we know that this has been a politically influenced situation. So no, I take everything with a grain of salt. I don't trust, frankly, and I'm sorry to say that, I was a cabinet secretary, I have great respect for the federal government as an institution, I don't trust their guidance on this. I believe they have a heavy political hand even in public health and unless my Health Department affirms their findings, I don't follow federal guidance, and, again, it saddens me to say that.
Katy Tur: So just to be clear, in talking about a vaccine, what are you going to need to know, what are you going to need to verify and what can you verify with your health commission about a vaccine and its safety for the American public? If a vaccine comes to market on January 20th or past January 20th and Donald Trump is still the President of the United States.
Governor Cuomo: Well, Katy, they would have to put out their studies and their protocols and their findings on the efficacy of the drug. And we can, a) review their material, b) we can do separate tests ourselves. You know, many of the tests that the FDA has done are done in New York hospitals, especially when it comes to COVID. I mean, we went through the whole hydroxychloroquine fiasco with them. Those tests, by the FDA, were done in New York State hospitals because we have some of the best hospitals and because we have many people who had COVID in New York. So we participated in these tests with the FDA and we're in a position to affirm or not affirm their findings. And look I happen to be a Democrat but I think anybody who has watched the circumstances who is subjective at all would have to agree that the competence of these federal health agencies has been called into question by documented mistakes that they have made and anyone would have to agree that this is a very political administration that doesn't see a line between politics and government and does interfere in legitimate government operations politically. They have done it again and again and again and they do it with public health. They don't discriminate. It's all politics all the time.
Katy Tur: You know we've heard that from doctors that we've had on air with us, trusted doctors saying that they are concerned about the politicization of a vaccine but to hear it from you, sir, as the Governor of New York, that you would be concerned about it, based on everything that you have experienced and seen with this Administration and now this new CDC guidance, that is worrying to say the least. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you for coming on with us and sharing some of your time. We appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. My pleasure, Katy. Have a good afternoon.