Governor Cuomo: "We have an agreement now with the 3 airlines that fly from the U.K. to the New York airports: Virgin, Delta and British Airways airlines that are flying into New York from the U.K. that have all agreed that they will test people before they get on the flight in the U.K. en route to New York."
Cuomo: "The people who now fly into New York will be negative, but we'll have flights into Chicago, we'll have flights into other parts of the country and then those people can get on flights and come back to New York or infect other states. This whole notion that any one state can protect itself was foolish from the beginning. New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States, but that doesn't stop the virus from coming in from other states."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Wolf Blitzer: Tonight, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is raising some very serious red flags and taking new action as the new COVID-19 variant is spreading, potentially dangerously, in the United Kingdom. We're joined now by Governor Cuomo. He's also the author of the new book American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Governor, thank you so much for joining us. I know these are difficult times for everyone. I know you've reached an agreement with British Airways and Delta to test all passengers for coronavirus before they enter New York, JFK for example the airport there. Have you made any progress convincing other airlines that fly from the U.K. to the United States to sign on as well?
Governor Cuomo: Short answer is, Wolf - first, good to be with you. Short answer is yes. We have an agreement now with the 3 airlines that fly from the U.K. to the New York airports: Virgin, Delta and British Airways. The point is bigger than just New York. We have been worried about a mutation of the virus, that's what everybody's been worried about. The quote, unquote second wave was a mutated virus which was creating a second, more diabolical viral infection.
You have the U.K. saying, Boris Johnson that the new variant is 70 percent more transmissible than COVID. You have countries in the EU that have banned travel from the U.K. You have 120 countries that have required that no one comes from the U.K. unless they test negative prior to getting on the plane from the U.K and the United States has done nothing.
Now I acted proactively, frankly, for New York and I have the airlines that are flying into New York from the U.K. that have all agreed that they will test people before they get on the flight in the U.K. en route to New York. We've learned this lesson before and that's what's frustrating, Wolf. The way we got COVID in the spring was the federal government thought the coronavirus was still in China. It had gone to Europe and it came here from Europe. This is almost redox.
Yes, the people who now fly into New York will be negative, but we'll have flights into Chicago, we'll have flights into other parts of the country and then those people can get on flights and come back to New York or infect other states. This whole notion that any one state can protect itself was foolish from the beginning. New York has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States, but that doesn't stop the virus from coming in from other states.
Wolf Blitzer: The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, says that this new variant is 70 percent stronger in terms of transmitting the virus. That's obviously very disturbing, 70 percent stronger. As you know, Dr. Anthony Fauci, he's advised against additional restrictions on U.K. travel. He says that everyone should be careful but advising against additional formal restrictions. I take it you disagree with Dr. Fauci. Is that right?
Governor Cuomo: Look, I have great respect for Dr. Fauci. He's a friend and he's been very helpful to me personally and New York all through this. From a science point of view, Wolf, scientists can only tell you facts that they know. They don't predict. I went through this in the spring. The scientists want to see a flame before they tell you there's a fire. From my point of view, if I see smoke, I'm going to douse water on that spot. The scientists will say we're not sure if it's 70 percent more transmittable.
We're not sure that the vaccine won't solve this COVID virus also. Their working assumption is it will, but, you know, these are all hypotheticals. You have 120 countries that have banned travel from the UK. You have Boris Johnson who closed down the UK one week after he said he would never close down the UK for Christmas. He did a total 180, Wolf, in one week, and he closed for Christmas. Why would Boris Johnson do that? Unless he was really worried. Why would the EU countries ban the UK? And why run the risk? If 120 countries are requiring a test before somebody gets on a plane, I called up the airlines and I said, look, you have 120 countries, can you make it 120 countries and the State of New York? And they said yes, but if they'll do that for New York, they'll do it for the United States of America.
Wolf Blitzer: Yeah, I think everybody agrees. In a situation like this, more than 300,000, I'm looking right now, more than 319,000 Americans have died from the virus since February. You've got to err on the side of caution. Governor, while I have you, the second coronavirus vaccine, Moderna, is now rolling out today. They've got millions of doses ready to go. What's the latest on vaccine distribution in New York State?
Governor Cuomo: We have distributed more vaccines so far than any state in the nation, and we've had more vaccinations than any state in the nation. So as soon as the federal government sends it to us, Wolf, we get it out. We had a bad snow storm, as many other states did, but we delivered it in any event. The hospitals are administering it. We started today with the nursing homes, administering it with both the residents and the staff of nursing homes. We should have about 600,000 doses at the end of the week. And as soon as we get it, we get it out, and we're getting people vaccinated.
Wolf Blitzer: Do you have enough doses to cover the essential frontline health care workers who are every day putting their lives on the line?
Governor Cuomo: You know, not yet. New York, like every other state, is subject to the production level as distributed by the federal government. We have tranches of the people who need the vaccine most. We start with the high-risk essential health care staff then go to nursing homes, then go to congregate care facilities, then high-risk essential workers. We'll get to high-risk essential workers probably in February. But we have to see how many doses we get from the federal government and on what schedule. As soon as they can get it to us, we'll get it out. But for us, the limiting factor is how many doses we get from them and how regular the delivery schedule.
Wolf Blitzer: This is so, so critical. These are life-saving moments in our nation's history. Governor Cuomo, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Governor Cuomo: You, too. Go Bills, Wolf. Go Bills.
Wolf Blitzer: I know, you're talking about my buffalo bills. We won, but we're not done. That's what we say. We've still got a few more games to go all the way, God willing, to the Super Bowl. Alright, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it very much, Governor Cuomo.