Governor Cuomo Called President Trump Earlier Today to Make the Request
Provides an Additional 1,000 Beds with Federal PersonnelDedicated to Caring for COVID-19 Patients
Governor Cuomo: "I spoke with the President this morning and asked if the USNS Comfort, the United States Navy Ship the Comfort, which is an additional 1,000 beds, could also take COVID patients. The original plan was they would do non-COVID patients from the hospital system. As it turns out, we don't have many non-COVID symptoms because when you close everything down, the silver lining was traffic accidents, crime went down. So, we really need help with the COVID patients. The President spoke to the Department of Defense and granted that request to use the Navy Ship Comfort for COVID patients. So, that's an additional 1,000 beds with federal personnel managing that ship. So, that's a welcome relief and the President granted the request. ... Between the 2,500 at the Javits Center and the 1,000 beds of the Comfort, that should be a major, major relief system for already overtaxed hospital system."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the federal government has granted his request to allow COVID-19 patients to be treated on the USNS Comfort. The approval will provide an additional 1,000 beds, staffed by federal personnel, to care for COVID-19 patients in New York. Governor Cuomo called President Trump earlier today to make the request. The Governor made today's announcement during an interview with MSNBC's Katy Tur.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:
Katy Tur: We go now to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is joining us by phone. We understand, Governor Cuomo, thank you first of all for being here, but we understand you have an announcement about the USNS Comfort. Tell me what you have.
Governor Cuomo: Yes Katy, thank for having me - good afternoon. As you just heard on your coverage, obviously, the entire downstate metropolitan area has been a hot spot, Long island, Westchester, New York City, and the system is at capacity and people have been working at capacity for 30 days now. The outlet valve, if you will, that we are creating for the entire downstate area is a major facility at the Javits Convention Center, 2,500 beds, which the President agreed to and will be staffed by federal personnel, which is a major benefit because these are professional personnel who can take a load off the existing system.
And I spoke with the President this morning and asked if the USNS Comfort, the United States Navy Ship the Comfort which is an additional 1,000 beds, could also take COVID patients. The original plan was they would do non-COVID patients from the hospital system. As it turns out, we don't have many non-COVID symptoms because when you close everything down, the silver lining was traffic accidents, crime went down. So, we really need help with the COVID patients. The President spoke to the Department of Defense and granted that request to use the Navy Ship Comfort for COVID patients. So, that's an additional 1,000 beds with federal personnel managing that ship. So, that's a welcome relief and the President granted the request. He did it quickly. I spoke to him this morning and he called back this afternoon and he said that it was done. So, between the 2,500 at the Javits Center and the 1,000 beds of the Comfort, that should be a major, major relief system for already overtaxed hospital system.
Katy Tur: You talk about an overtaxed system. I can tell you from personal stories that I'm getting from loved ones of mine. I have a friend whose mother is a 73-year-old woman, sat in a chair in the emergency room of Interfaith in Brooklyn for over 30 hours. She tested positive for COVID. She had a cough, fever, chills, has COVID-related pneumonia. There just wasn't a bed for her, no shade toward the doctors or nurses or that hospital. There just was not a bed for her. So, given that a lot of these ERs are overloaded, there is giant wait times, will ambulances start to be redirected to the Javits Center, to the USNS Comfort and how quickly can that happen?
Governor Cuomo: Well, the Javits Center - What you're talking about is happening all over the downstate area. We have a system that is overcapacity, period. Physical bed capacity in most cases, staff, stress, supplies, et cetera. The relief valve of the Javits and the Comfort will help alleviate the situation you're talking about. We're not planning the ambulances to go directly to Javits and Comfort because these are emergency facilities that are obviously just being set up, and they don't really have the intake assessment that you need. So, the ambulance would still go to the local hospital, which is the shortest trip, you know. We're talking about the downstate area, but it can take you a significant amount of time to drive from Nassau county, let's say, to the west side of Manhattan, which is where the Comfort is.
Governor Cuomo: We're talking about the down state area, but it can take you a significant amount of time to drive from Nassau County, let's say, to the west side of Manhattan, which is where the comfort is. So you still go to the local hospital and do the intake there, but then the hospital would refer the person and the person would be transported to the Comfort. So the person receives immediate assessment, immediate relief and then gets transported to Javits Center or the Comfort.
Katy Tur: Are you hearing about any issues with that or any issues that might come up with that? When I was speaking to an ER doctor yesterday, I asked about moving patients to facilities that might be less overwhelmed than others. They said the issue that they are having with patients with COVID is that their conditions can turn on a dime. They can be fine one moment and then in respiratory failure the next, or cardiac arrest the next. Are there going to be issues with transferring some patients?
Governor Cuomo: Well, we have so many, Katy, that the condition that they are in ranges. Some are more towards the convalescent stage; some are in the earlier stage. And then you're right, you have many which are sort of right on the bubble where they could become an acute situation right away. That's why the hospital as the assessment center, determining which patients to refer to the Javits Center and the Comfort, makes sense because if a person can turn acute on a moment's notice, then they shouldn't be taking the ambulance ride. So that's a determination the hospital will make. But any relief that we can bring to these emergency rooms and intensive care units is good. And this will be significant capacity on, basically, a back-end relief valve basis.
Katy Tur: Can you clear up where the State stands with ventilators? I know you deployed the National Guard the other day to redistribute ventilators from upstate to downstate to the places that need it the most immediately. Today, you said that the hospital system is overcapacity with ventilators, but then there are also some still in reserve. Can you explain how we can be over capacity and still have some in reserve?
Governor Cuomo: Because we have gotten very creative on how we use ventilators and what can be used as ventilators. There's a machine called the BiPAP machine, which is not technically considered a ventilator in the way we define it. But you can use BiPAP machines. You can use ventilators that run a system that handles two patients. So we have gone to strategies like that, and right now we have ventilating capacity for every hospital. We have a couple hundred in reserve. We sent out 800 ventilators today - actual ventilators. So there's no hospital in downstate New York that needs ventilating capacity today. As you heard on a previous report that you did, every hospital will say we're okay for today. We're okay for the next couple days. But beyond that, we can't answer, and that's true for the entire system. We are hoping, hoping, that we're see a flattening of the increase and if the increase in cases is flattening, then where we are today we think we can stretch and manage that need. God forbid, the cases go up again, we're going to have a real problem. If the curve is flattening for the next 2-3 days, the entire system, we're okay and we have some in reserve. Again, that's only if the curve is flattening. If the curve continues to go up we're going to have a different set of issues to deal with.
Katy Tur: Governor, I know you said you don't want to get into a back and forth with the President, but it seems like the President is constantly responding to a request that you made publicly by saying that you're exaggerating the need or that you're always asking for more or that you're not grateful enough to him. Do you have to be grateful to the President in order to make sure that New Yorkers and the hospitals here are getting the equipment they need?
Governor Cuomo: Katy, what's most important to me right now is that New York gets the help that it needs. That's my singular focus. I will do whatever I can do to help achieve that. The President is right, I have continually asked the federal government for assistance. You look at the numbers in New York, no one anticipated these numbers and this level of need and the state can't do it on it's own. We do need federal assistance. I was in the federal government, I believe that the federal government in these types of situations, it's a federal emergency they obviously have a role, so I believe the requests are justified. He's right. I've constantly requested assistance because we need it and I said that to the President from day one. There's no doubt that he and I have different views on many issues. I'm probably the governor in the country who's been most critical of the President's policies and I can tell you that I am the governor in the country who the President has most criticized in the past. When this started I said, "Look, I need help for New York. We have to work together and if you help me for New York, I will call it the way it is and say you delivered." And he delivered today. And if I don't think the federal government is meeting its responsibility, I will say that. So, it's just the plain truth. Sometimes it comes down to the plain truth and where we are as a nation, this is plain truth time. There's no political nuance. There's no spin. People are dying. Everybody has a role to play. Everyone has to do their job. And we have to cooperate and work together. And if I believe you're doing your job, I will say it. And I will thank you. If I believe you're not doing your job and you're not being helpful where you should, I will say that too. And I don't care what political party you are. I don't care what happened in the past. It's the here and now that matters.
Katy Tur: Spoken like a true New Yorker, plain truth. I'm sorry to hog all your time, but I want to ask one question before we go to the briefing. We're under two minutes. How is your brother?
Governor Cuomo: He is doing okay. There's no doubt this is a tough one. And we will all experience it with different people, if we didn't experience it ourselves. I can tell you that Chris is a tough guy. He's truly a tough guy. He's gone through a lot. He's had a lot of illnesses. And I talked to him, obviously, constantly. And this is really been difficult for him. And he's not a complainer, by and large. This has really been a tough one. He's in good shape. He's relatively young. So, he's not in the vulnerable category we talk about. But I can tell you he's suffering.
Katy Tur: Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you so much. Best to you and your family. Stay safe, sir. We appreciate your time.