December 1, 2020
Albany, NY

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 6.27 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 4.46 Percent

Statewide Positivity Rate is 4.96 Percent

66 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "The numbers are going up. We expected the numbers to go up. My projection is that the numbers will continue to go up through the holiday season. We focused on Thanksgiving as a day, or as a weekend, but Thanksgiving was not a day or a weekend. It was the commencement of the holiday season. And the holiday season is a season of increased social activity. And increased social activity increases the viral transmission."

Cuomo: "The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccination, and that will end this epidemic. The question is, when does the vaccination hit critical mass? If you listen to the experts, they will project summer, late summer, September, before it hits critical mass. So that is a relatively long period of time, although we can see the goal line. That also depends on how effective we are at distributing the vaccine. Distributing the vaccine is going to be the greatest governmental undertaking since COVID began. It is much more ambitious than COVID testing, which thus far has been the most ambitious governmental operation undertaken since I have been in government."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning, guys. Thanks for getting on a little bit earlier. I have a call with the National Governors Association after this. I'm joined by Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mujica, Beth Garvey, Howard Zucker and Gareth Rhodes. Today is day 276, and the overall state with the micro-clusters, 4.96. State without micro-clusters, 4.4. The micro-cluster positivity, 6.2. 66 New Yorkers passed away. They're in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization is 3,774, which is up 242. 718 COVID patients in ICU, up 37. 348 intubated, up 23.

Western New York, still the highest infection rate in the state, 7.2. Finger Lakes, 6.2. Central New York, 5. Mid-Hudson, 4.7, Mohawk Valley, 4.4, Long Island, 3.9, Capital Region, 3.4, New York City, 3.1, North Country, 2.8, Southern Tier, 2.6, statewide, 3.9 on a seven-day average.

The numbers are going up. We expected the numbers to go up. My projection is that the numbers will continue to go up through the holiday season. We focused on Thanksgiving as a day, or as a weekend, but Thanksgiving was not a day or a weekend. It was the commencement of the holiday season. And the holiday season is a season of increased social activity. And increased social activity increases the viral transmission. The COVID grinch seizes the opportunity of the holiday season for increased viral transmission rate. COVID grinch is an opportunist. You can quote Dr. Howard Zucker saying that. It sounds more official when it comes from a doctor. Sounds kind of silly when it comes from me.

So I think the rate will continue through New Year's. I hope the rate stabilizes post-New Year's Eve, New Year's Day. That would be seven to 10 days afterwards, so I think you're looking at mid-January for stabilization of the rate, I hope, I hope, I hope. But that's just a projection. But the numbers are going up. The number one priority when you get into this situation, hospitalization, and overwhelming the hospitals, and we announced we're focusing on along with a five-part strategy, and we're continuing to do that.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccination, and that will end this epidemic. The question is, when does the vaccination hit critical mass? If you listen to the experts, they will project summer, late summer, September, before it hits critical mass. So that is a relatively long period of time, although we can see the goal line. That also depends on how effective we are at distributing the vaccine. Distributing the vaccine is going to be the greatest governmental undertaking since COVID began. It is much more ambitious than COVID testing, which thus far has been the most ambitious governmental operation undertaken since I have been in government. How do you now vaccinate the entire population of the State of New York?

I use these numbers with you, I use them with President-elect Biden, who repeated the numbers because he found them striking. The country has done about 120 million COVID tests nationwide, with everybody focused on doing COVID tests. Now you have to do 330 million vaccinations. It took you 9 months to 120 million COVID tests. How long is it going to take you to do 330 million vaccinations? Likewise, New York State - we have not yet, we're the number one state in the nation on taking tests - 9 months working on it every day. We still haven't done a number that reaches the total population of the State of New York and that's 9 months.

That's a COVID test which is not a by and large a frightening test or a test that has a lot of skepticism about it. There's a lot of skepticism about this vaccination and there's going to have to be public education and outreach unparalleled to get people to the point where they're going to take this vaccine. I mentioned the Kaiser polls, 60 percent of Americans don't trust the FDA approval process. Pew poll, 50 percent.

The vaccination program is going to be a major governmental undertaking and it has to be done right. As we sit here today, there are 3 problems that I have been focusing on and bringing to the attention of the federal government that I think are gross omissions that are going to fundamentally impede effective vaccination. Number one: It is an expensive undertaking and the federal government has provided virtually no funding for the states to do this. Literally $200 million has been provided by the federal government. The states are not in the position to fund the vaccination process. The states are running deficits. The federal government hasn't even funded the current deficit. Now you think the states are in a position to fund the vaccination program? They're not. They're pressing the states and local governments to actually cut the budgets, lay off essential workers, who would be the same people who would implement this vaccination program.

The first issue is there's been no federal funding to actually implement the vaccination program. The pharmaceutical companies developed the drug. Why? Because it's what they do, it's their business, it's also their responsibility. Corporate responsibility. Also because they are going to make large profits, so they did what they had to do. Pfizer, God bless them, New York company, developed the first. By the way, Pfizer did not participate in Operation Warp Speed. They didn't take any money from the federal government. They did it because there is a market opportunity, so we have the drug.

Government's responsibility is now the administration and the federal government has no plan to do it and no funding to do it. That's number one. Number two, this is going to be especially difficult to administer to Black, Brown and poor communities, just like we went through with COVID tests. They're underserved by healthcare facilities and their rate of skepticism is higher.

It's going to be an extensive effort to outreach to Black, Brown and poor communities. You're going to have to partner with Black churches, you're going to have to go into public housing projects, you're going to have to run public information campaigns. We just went through this with the COVID test. There's no such provision in the federal program. I believe that is discrimination either by intent or by effect, and I believe it's illegal and I am notifying the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups. We're working with NAACP, we're working with the Urban League to inform the federal government that if they don't have an outreach program for the Black and brown community, they are furthering the discriminatory effect and unequal effect of COVID. The death rate was double in the Black community. The death rate was one-and-a-half times in the Brown community. Those are the facts because they have more underlying illnesses because they have less healthcare services, and they received fewer COVID tests than the White community. So that's the second issue - discriminatory intent or effect of the vaccine program for the Black, Brown and poor communities.

And the third issue - which I am sending a letter today to President-elect Joe Biden to notify him as well as Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus and is going to be addressed to the Trump administration - is in the vaccine process as outlined by the federal government they have said the states must sign what's called a data-sharing agreement where the states share data with the federal government as to whom they vaccinate.

The data sharing agreement from the federal government specifically says the states should identify recipients using such identifiers as social security number, driver's license ID or passport number. These are proxies for citizenship. The data sharing agreement also says that HHS can share this data with other federal agencies. Anybody who reads that language knows what they're talking about. A little bell goes off and it says they're going to share it with ICE. Déjà all over again. This is what I went through with them on the driver's license and Trusted Traveler Program. They specify that they want indices of citizenship in the vaccination program that the state would provide to HHS and then HHS can share with anyone they want. That will dissuade the undocumented community from going near the vaccine. That will then impede the health of the undocumented community, but it will also impede the effectiveness of the entire vaccination program because the vaccination program only works if everyone is vaccinated. You need to get up near 80 percent of the community for the vaccine to be effective. And if you are not reaching out to the Black community and the Brown community, and then you're alienating the undocumented community, you are making it virtually impossible for this vaccine program to work.

We have been speaking to HHS about this. There's no reason why you need a Social Security number. We can identify people without using indices of citizenship. There's no reason why we have to send citizenship data to HHS about a vaccine and I'm releasing a letter signed by 54 of New York group that work with undocumented people: immigration groups, legal groups, all protesting this. I'm sending it to the New York delegation. I'm sending it to the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, President-elect Joe Biden. I am confident knowing President-elect Joe Biden and his team, that they would not stand for this, but they're not there till January 20, and this vaccination program is all being put in place by the Trump administration. So, it sounds like President-elect Biden takes over very soon, but sometimes very soon isn't soon enough because the Trump administration is making states sign these documents now because they're going to start distribution of the vaccine before President Biden takes office. So, we are releasing that letter today. As I said, I think it is illegal and I think it is discriminatory. And I think it's a pattern of discriminatory acts taken by this administration and HHS.

Last point, today is also World AIDS Day and I know everyone has been consumed with the COVID pandemic, but we've also been consumed with ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2020. We announced the End the Epidemic campaign, we're releasing today the 2019 data which shows that HIV incidents and diagnosis have fallen to record lows in New York. The estimated number of new infections or HIV incidents that occurred statewide in 2019 fell to an all-time low of 1,700 cases. HIV incidences have declined each year since we started the "End the epidemic" campaign. 38 percent decrease over that timeframe, so that is extraordinary good news and we're going to continue to work on that. With that, let's turn it over to questions and you should have the letter that is being released and signed by 54 groups in your email as we speak — if the press office is awake and doing its job.

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