Governor Cuomo: "If you want to get the economy running, do you really want to have states across the nation declaring bankruptcy? Do you want to see that stock market go through the cellar? Let a state or a couple of states declare bankruptcy. Do you want you want to see the economy in this nation suffer in a way that it won't come back for years? Let states declare bankruptcy. From an economic point of view it is bizarre. And then to say that reimbursing states for coronavirus cost is a bail out of the blue states, these are states that lost thousands of people. It's not red or blue."
Cuomo: "Is there a moment in this country in Washington where these guys are going to stop playing politics? Even with people who died in coronavirus, [Mitch McConnell] is going to say, 'Well they died in blue states, so they're Democrats.' I mean, they're Americans who died. Just at one point this corrosive partisanship has to stop, and if it doesn't stop when it comes to coronavirus. It'll never stop."
Last night, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC's Testing & The Road to Reopening with Nicolle Wallace.
Audio of the Governor's interview is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available here:
Nicolle Wallace: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor, we meet on a day of some pretty momentous political headline and pretty momentous science headlines. I want to start with the science. You shared information in your briefing today about antibodies. Is that encouraging? And can you take us through how many New Yorkers, based on this early study, may have already been exposed to COVID-19.
Governor Cuomo: Nicolle, it was surprising. We had about - We did a 3,000 person survey, which is fairly extensive, all throughout the state. Statewide it was about 14% of the people had the antibodies which was 14% had the virus. That's about 2.7 million people in our state. New York City it was close to 20% which was surprising. So, the good news is these are people who have the antibodies. They can then donate blood for the convalescent plasma which is probably one of the best therapeutics that show promise. The other good news is, you know, we talk about the death rate. We have about 15,000 people who have died in New York. That is hospitalizations and nursing homes. That does not count the actual death which we still have to calculate. But it's 15,000 on a much wider boundary. So, the death rate is like 0.5. The normal flu is 0.1-0.3. So, that gives a perspective on the death rate if you are looking for a silver lining.
Nicolle Wallace: I think we are all looking for silver linings. And I think it makes clear how much of the science is unfolding as we navigate the crisis. Another piece of reporting on that front is the New York Times report that suggests there was as many as 10,000 infections in New York at the beginning of March. What do you make of some of the news reporting, some of the studies that show it was here much earlier than we thought?
Governor Cuomo: Well, it's an eye opener and I think it is important because we have to do a retrospective on this. Because I am afraid it is not only in the past, it is going to be in the future. They have been talking about the possibility of a global pandemic for many, many years but it never really happened. And until it happens, it does not get people's attention and it is not actualized. But now look, we're learning. When they say that China has the virus last November, last December, then I think the flares have to go up at that point. Because if China has the virus, that virus is going to get on a plane. It is going to go to Europe. It is going to get on another plane. It is going to come to New York. It is going to come to California. So, they're now saying the virus was here in February, maybe January, so all these actions we are taking in March - the horse is out of the barn.
Nicolle Wallace: Well, and your message this week, we talked as you were leaving a meeting with President Trump, was testing, testing, testing. At this point, how does that fit into your strategy moving forward or any attempt to open up the state. It seems to me like it is a snapshot, it is a moment of time, but without it it's hard to understand how you even draw up plans for doing anything normal.
Governor Cuomo: Yes. Nicolle, it's snapshot but then it is snapshot, snapshot, snapshot, right? Then you put all those snapshots together and you have a motion picture. Reopening, alright, the only guideposts you have on reopening are the virus infections which you can only find from testing. The calibration is always going to be you want to open as fast as possible, yes, we want to make sure we don't increase the virus spread. The only way we find that out, we calibrate and gauge it, is if you are testing. So, you take a snapshot. We took a snapshot today. It was 20%. It was 14% statewide. Now, let's see how that progresses, how that changes. If people show the same discipline, we start to reopen. We have a little more activity. Weather is getting warm. But watch the gauge. Watch the meter. And the meter is the virus infections that you see from the testing.
Nicolle Wallace: You went to see the President to ask for some sort of a partnership. Can you talk about what you got and if there has been any sort of a follow up since you were at the White House this week?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, there's been a lot of back and forth on testing. Everybody says we have to test, right? It has now been left up to the states and there was back and forth. Do the states test? Does the federal government test? The federal government stands up and they talk about what they are doing on testing. But then there is a disconnect because some people say it should be left to the states. So, I just wanted to iron it out so to speak. This is a new frontier, this whole testing. Between the states and the federal government who does what? Who does what? I have private labs in my state. I have 300 commercial labs. I regulate them. I can administer the testing and planning the tracing operation which is also extensive. But, the manufacturers of lab equipment can't get the supplies so they can't provide it to commercial labs. That supply chain for the national manufacturers, that should be the responsibility of the federal government. Let them figure out how to deal with China or South Korea -
Nicolle Wallace: Did they commit to doing that?
Governor Cuomo: Yes, and that was the division of responsibility. So, the feds will take that piece. I will take the front end piece. The states will be responsible for the testing. They will be responsible to the supply chain for national manufacturers so my labs get the test kits and the reagents. And we agreed to a very aggressive plan of double amount of tests, from 20,000 to 40,000 tests. That is maximum capacity of my commercial labs.
Nicolle Wallace: And will that include diagnostic testing and antibody testing?
Governor Cuomo: That is diagnostic and antibody. We still have to work through what percentage do we want of the antibody versus diagnostic. The antibody testing has a role and has purpose. But diagnostic obviously has, I believe, the greater role going forward. So, you actually know when testing you're testing employees how to place the business, etc.
Nicolle Wallace: Take me through the partnership with former Mayor Bloomberg on tracing.
Governor Cuomo: You know we talk about testing. A big part of the function of testing is you find a person that is positive, you then trace the contacts of that person, find more positives, and isolate them. So that is the way to reduce the spread of the virus, one of the ways to reduce the spread of the virus. This tracing is a massive operation. You know, New York we have 250,000 people who tested positive already. How do you start to trace from 250,000 people. Think of what this is like. It is a detective who takes that one individual, finds out who they have been with, who they are in the workplace with, who they went for a walk with, and then contact all of those people. It is massive. It is literally thousands of employees. Nobody has done it before. And you have to do it for the tri-state area in our case because you have New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Everybody is in and out. Long Island, northern suburbs, how do you even being to do this? Nobody has done this. Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York, I've worked with him. He was New York Mayor when I was Governor. He has gone through this in his private business, through China, through Europe, opening and closing. He volunteered to help. He is a great talent. He knows public service. He knows this issue. So, he is going to help us design, train, and manage the testing-tracing operation,
Nicolle Wallace: Mitch McConnell today basically left it to the states to also pay for themselves and if they can't to file for bankruptcy. You had some strong words for him. Do you care to elaborate?
Governor Cuomo: It is just one of the dumb ideas of all time and, pardon my bluntness, but I don't know what else to say about it. First, everyone said, the House passed a bill today that did not have funding for state and local governments. Everybody said don't worry we will do it in the next bill. As soon as the Senate passes it, Mitch McConnell comes out and says he is not interested in it - the states should declare bankruptcy. If you want to get the economy running, do you really want to have states across the nation declaring bankruptcy? Do you want to see that stock market go through the cellar? Let a state or a couple of states declare bankruptcy. Do you want you want to see the economy in this nation suffer in a way that it won't come back for years. Let states declare bankruptcy. From an economic point of view it is bizarre. And then to say that reimbursing states for coronavirus cost is a bail out of the blue states, these are states that lost thousands of people. It's not red or blue. Is there a moment in this country in Washington where these guys are going to stop playing politics? Even with people who died in coronavirus, he's going to say, "Well they died in blue states, so they're Democrats." I mean, they're Americans who died. Just at one point this corrosive partisanship has to stop, and if it doesn't stop when it comes to coronavirus. It'll never stop.
Nicole Wallace: I want to ask you about the personal toll this has taken on you - I worked for George W. Bush on 9/11 and there was nothing that moved him more than the courage and the sacrifice and the service of the first responders, especially folks who were working down at Ground Zero for months and years. And I wonder if there's a parallel there, what this has been like for you to be in contact with the hospitals in crisis, one was described as apocalyptic as it neared the peak. To be advocating on behalf of healthcare workers who have been called everything from hoarders to liars by the folks down in Washington. Just the toll - I mean just the toll on our state, I live in New York City, on my city. How has that affected you?
Governor Cuomo: I'm not too sure I've figured that out. I can tell you this: When the pressure is on, not just in this situation as a society, but you really see what people are made of the when the pressure is on. You see the good, the bad and the ugly. You see some people who you thought were better just crumble and some people who you didn't expect anything from rise to the occasion. I think you're seeing both extremes here. You see people who really got scared and ran away and then you have people who find such courage and resilience - these nurses, these doctors in these emergency rooms. I don't know how they do it day after day after day. I ordered hospitals to increase capacity by 50 percent - so every hospital was at 150 percent. Emergency rooms were packed. People were petrified. They didn't know what this was, coronavirus, right? Reminded me of the early days of HIV - no one knew what it was. No one wanted to go near it. But these people got up every day. The outpouring from across the nation reminded me of 9/11. After 9/11, people across the country just showed up in New York, just to help. I can't tell you how many beautiful letters I've gotten, how many phone calls, how many gifts, how many cards, that just break your heart. The beauty of the American people. So you have both, right? You have the worst and you have the best and you get strength from the best to keep going. And they can give courage and inspiration to deal with the worst. But it is a - look, it's been every day for about two months, right? The human toll, the death toll. We went from 9/11, as you mentioned, 2,700 people died. We're at 15,000 deaths now. So living with that every day takes a tremendous, tremendous toll.
Nicole Wallace: Governor Cuomo, thank you for joining us, thank you for spending some time with us tonight. We're grateful for your time.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you.