Governor Cuomo: "We have to treat it like a war here in New York."
Cuomo: "In this war ventilators are what the missiles were in World War II. We have to make those missiles, we have to make those ventilators, get them made and that's what the President's talking about. But the question is, how will we manage it now? How will we operationalize and mobilize, and that's why the federal government is going to be key."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on NBC's The Today Show to discuss New York's plan to combat the novel coronavirus crisis.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Savannah Guthrie: We are joined by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor, good morning. It's good to see you again.
Governor Cuomo: Good morning, Savannah.
Savannah Guthrie: I know the cases in New York State have really shot up overnight. I think according to the stats I have, a thousand more just in a day. For you is that a function of more testing or do you think this is a spike in the virus itself?
Governor Cuomo: It's your first point. The testing is so accelerated. We're doing so many more tests that the positives have to go up. These tests were never indicative of how many people actually had the virus in society because we didn't have the tests in time, frankly. So there are tens of thousands of people who have the virus, who had the virus, who probably had the virus and resolved themselves. But as the number of tests go up the number of positives go up. But it doesn't mean that that's the rate of increase in society.
Savannah Guthrie: Governor, there's been a bit of a back and forth between you and New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio. He was on our show just yesterday and I asked him if he's getting close to the point where he will recommend to you, it's your decision, but recommend that city residents shelter in place. I know it's something you've said you don't want to do. But can you rule it out? I mean, we've seen it in places like Italy, in France. Is that likely to happen?
Governor Cuomo: You know, we're fighting two things right now, Savannah. We're fighting the virus and we're fighting fear and panic, and the fear and the panic is actually a worse problem in my opinion than the virus right now. We know what we have to do on the virus. It's going to be hard, it's going to be disruptive, but we know what we have to do there. The fear and the panic can actually get out of control more than the virus can and I think that's what you're seeing. You're seeing confusion. You're seeing a population that doesn't even know what some of these terms mean. They're all new. They don't know the rules. So we're doing everything we need to do with the virus and reduce density, etcetera—
Savannah Guthrie: Okay, but to the question.
Governor Cuomo: Are we reducing density? Yes. Do we want people to stay home? Yes. Are we going to do quarantine, are people imprisoned in their homes? No.
Savannah Guthrie: You've asked the Army Corps of Engineers to come in and start building capacity to house the sick. I believe the President has met that request. What do you expect them to do?
Governor Cuomo: I think that's the best news, frankly, that has happened. This is a war, Savannah. We have to treat it like a war here in New York. We had 9/11 which basically immediately oriented us to a possible war scenario and in a war you need the federal government. States don't fight wars. They did once but that was a big mistake and the federal government stepping up and saying we're in this, Army Corps of Engineers to build more hospitals, equipment, equipment, equipment is going to be key. Ventilators is going to be key and the federal government recognizing that responsibility and fully mobilizing the way the President now has, I believe, that's a very positive step.
Savannah Guthrie: I mean just taking a step back here, everything that Americans are being asked to do and are doing is to prevent the onslaught, the sudden onslaught of the virus that would overwhelm the healthcare system. Do you think it's already in a sense a fait accompli? In other words, do you already think the healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed?
Governor Cuomo: The health care system is going to be overwhelmed. The question is, now, to what extent and with what consequence, Savannah. That's what we're dealing with. We know that by all projections we're going to have more people than we can deal with in the healthcare system so we're trying to increase capacity in hospitals. We are trying to build more hospital beds. That's the Army Corps of Engineers. We have a major problem on equipment, the gloves, the protective equipment and, again, the ventilators. In this war ventilators are what the missiles were in World War II. We have to make those missiles, we have to make those ventilators, get them made and that's what the President's talking about. But the question is, how will we manage it now? How will we operationalize and mobilize, and that's why the federal government is going to be key.
Savannah Guthrie: Governor, very quickly, you know, some have said that it seems like prominent politicians, athletes, celebrities seem to be getting access to these tests regardless of whether they're showing mild symptoms or any symptoms at all. What say you about that?
Governor Cuomo: I say that should not happen. It would be terrible if it happened. We have a very specific protocol in New York because we don't have enough tests to test everyone. If you just put up a sign in New York,Savannah, that said come get a test if you want a test, we have 19.5 million New Yorkers, you'd have 19 million on the list. So we have a protocol. You have to have -
Savannah Guthrie: Do you think it's happening?
Governor Cuomo: I believe it's happening. I have no reason to believe it's not happening. And if someone is getting a priority, that's 100 percent wrong.
Savannah Guthrie: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, another busy day for you, sir. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.
Governor Cuomo: Thanks. Thanks, Savannah.