March 18, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces Deployment of 1,000-Bed Hospital Ship 'USNS Comfort' to New York Harbor

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces Deployment of 1,000-Bed Hospital Ship 'USNS Comfort' to New York Harbor

See here for a photo of the USNS Comfort

Issues Executive Order Directing Non-Essential Businesses to Implement Work from Home Policies Effective Friday, March 20

Businesses that Require In-Office Personnel Must Decrease In-Office Workforce by 50 Percent

Exceptions Made for Essential Services — Including Shipping Industry, Warehouses, Grocery and Food Production, Pharmacies, Media, Banks and Related Financial Institutions, and Businesses Essential to Supply Chain

Confirms 1,008 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 2,382; New Cases in 20 Counties

Governor Meeting Today with Army Corp of Engineers to Discuss Hospital Surge Capacity

Governor Cuomo: "[T]oday we are announcing a mandatory statewide requirement that no business can have more than 50% of their workforce report to work outside of their home. ... I'm going to do that by executive order and that is statewide. That will exempt essential services, meaning food, food delivery, pharmacies, healthcare, shipping supplies, et cetera."

Cuomo: "I understand that this is a burden to businesses. ... There is going to be an impact on the economy, not just here in New York but all across the country and we're going to have to deal with that crisis, but let's deal with one crisis at a time. Let's deal with the crisis at hand and the crisis at hand is a public health crisis."

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, earlier today Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the USNS Comfort will be deployed to New York harbor and is expected to arrive in April. The 1,000-bed hospital ship has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and will significantly increase New York's hospital surge capacity. The Governor is meeting with leadership of the Army Corp of Engineers today to discuss ways to increase hospital capacity in New York.

The Governor also announced he will issue an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent. The executive order exempts essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of today's remarks are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript is available below:

Good morning. I want to give you an overview of where we are today. I'm going to do this in a little bit of a hyper-speed because the President is going to do a press conference soon and I would like to give you a state overview before.

The context is important. Remember for everyone what we're trying to do on the overall management. The bottom line here is very simple. The number of coronavirus cases we have coming in to the health care system has to match the capacity of the health care system. That's what this whole conversation has been about from day one. We keep talking about the curve, the curve, the curve. What they're trying to say is the curve, the increase in the number of cases has to be reduced to a rate of admission that your hospitals can handle and right now we have 53,000 hospital beds, 3,000 ICU beds. That's what the entire country is doing. That's what the federal government is trying to do.

What is the particular problem here? That this is a respiratory illness - the people who come in often have an underlying illness. They need an ICU bed. An ICU bed is the equivalent of a ventilator. It's all about the ventilators. That's why you see so much about how we get additional ventilators.

Right now in New York specifically the rate of the curve suggests that in 45 days we could have up to an input of 110,000 beds, people needing 110,000 beds that compares to our current capacity of 53,000 beds. Thirty-seven thousand ICU units, ventilators, which compares to a capacity currently of 3,000 ventilators. That's our main issue. And again that's a projection and projections can change or you can change projections but that's the problem we're dealing with.

So what is the plan of action? Flatten the curve, flatten the curve, flatten the curve. Reduce the spread. How do you reduce the spread? Testing, isolate the positives, but frankly more move towards density reduction. Reduce the number of people in contact.

Second, increase the current hospital capacity. Hospitals currently have 53,000 beds. How do you get more beds in your hospital?

Third, identify new hospital beds - how do we increase the supply of hospital beds? Well, that's very hard. We are only talking about 45 days. So what? This is New York. There's nothing we can't do.

And, do all three of those things simultaneously, which is what we're doing. And identifying new hospital beds - we met yesterday with all the hospital administrators. I spoke to them. I said we have to increase the number of beds you have in your hospital. We're going to waive the Department of Health regulations for the time being. Department of Health says how many beds you can have in a room, the space between the beds, all good regulations by the way, but waive them so we can get more beds into existing hospitals.

We also have to make sure those beds are staffed. So more staff, reserve staff, we are reaching out to retired nurses, retired doctors, nursing schools, medical schools to build up a reserve capacity because also you have to anticipate that some hospital workers will get sick during this so you need a reserve capacity for that basis.

How do you create new hospital beds? That's probably the greatest challenge. First convert facilities and take people who are in current hospital beds and move them into a converted facility, who need a lower level of care. Second, the federal partnership which is key, and as we discussed yesterday, the State cannot do this on its own. We don't have the capacity, we don't have a workforce, we're very ambitious, we're very aggressive but the most important thing in life to know is to know what you cannot do. Know your limitations.

We can't build new hospitals in 45 days. The federal government can be extremely helpful here, and we need the federal government's help. I had a conversation with the president yesterday. It was an open and honest conversation. We've always had a very good dialogue. Even when we don't agree, we've always had a very good dialogue. But the president and I agreed yesterday. Look, we're fighting the same war. And this is a war. And we're in the same trench. And I have your back, you have my back and we're going to do everything we can for the people of the State of New York. And the president agreed to that. And I agreed to that. And his actions demonstrate that he's doing that. I've had a number of conversations with White House staff who are working on this. I had a conversation with the secretary of the army. President sent the Army Corps of Engineers here this afternoon. I'll be meeting with them this afternoon. I spoke to the president this morning about specific actions the president is going to take. I can tell you he is fully engaged on trying to help New York. He's being very creative and very energetic and I thank him for his partnership. As I said, the secretary of defense, they can be very helpful. The army corps of engineers, they can be very helpful. And FEMA, can be very helpful. And we're speaking with all of them and we're working with all of them as we speak, and we have been around the clock and all through the night. So if Commissioner Zucker looks a little tired today, that's why. Young people have no stamina.

The president, I spoke to this morning, he's going to be making arrangements to send up this hospital ship, which is called the US Comfort. It has about 1,000 rooms on it. It has operating rooms. And the president is going to dispatch the Comfort to us. It will be in New York City harbor. This will be, it's an extraordinary step, obviously. But, it's literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity and the president said that he would dispatch that immediately. The president also spoke about the mobile hospitals that the federal government has and where we could set up; mobile hospitals, where they come in with a mobile hospital that has a capacity of 200 people, 250 people. I told the president that we would do everything that we need to do to expedite siting of those facilities. We're talking about a couple of locations now. But that is also specific and concrete help. And something that we can get done within the 45 days.

At the same time, as I said we're proceeding on all these tracts simultaneously. Density reduction, we've taken a number of dramatic steps but I think they are necessary steps. You've seen the curve, we can't handle the number of cases in the healthcare system at that current rate of spread. We have to get it down. We've taken dramatic steps. I've said, and I'm going to repeat today, I'm asking all businesses voluntarily, if it is at all possible, work from home. And have your people work from home. We also have already announced a mandatory requirement that all schools are closed statewide. Mandatory requirement that no more than 50 percent of any government's employees can show up for work. Essential personnel yes, but no more than 50 percent of city, local governments.

We also have a mandatory requirement, as you know, of a tri-state agreement. Pleased to announce that Pennsylvania is going to be joining our state coalition, and that's very exciting because none of these measures work unless you have a large enough geographic basis. Makes no sense for a county to try to put its own rule into effect or a city to put its own rule into effect because people will just move. If I can't go to a bar in Queens, I'll drive to Nassau and go to a bar. If I can't go to a restaurant in Albany I'll go to Schenectady. So the geographic footprint, by definition, is essential for these to work. And frankly, even if I come up with a rule for the entire state, people will drive to New Jersey or Connecticut or Pennsylvania and that's why the first ever we have this statewide coalition. I want to thank Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy very much and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf who've been great colleagues and I thank them very much.

Again, I'm asking all businesses to work from home, but today we are announcing a mandatory statewide requirement that no business can have more than 50% of their workforce report to work outside of their home. No more than 50% of the workforce can report for work outside of the home. That is a mandatory requirement. I'm going to do that by executive order and that is statewide. That will exempt essential services, meaning food, food delivery, pharmacies, healthcare, shipping supplies, et cetera. Society has to function. People stay at home, people still need to be able to order food, et cetera, they need to be able to shop. So, you have to keep those essential services running.

I understand that this is a burden to businesses. I get it. I understand the impact on the economy. But in truth, we're past that point as a nation. There is going to be an impact on the economy, not just here in New York but all across the country and we're going to have to deal with that crisis, but let's deal with one crisis at a time. Let's deal with the crisis at hand and the crisis at hand is a public health crisis. Once we get past that, then we'll deal with the economic crisis. There's an old Italian expression that basically says, a rough translation, "a rich person is a person who has their health, everything else you can figure out." That's true for society, also. Let's maintain the public health, we'll figure out the economy afterwards.

We've consulted with a number of business organizations and I want to thank them for their cooperation and their receptivity. The Business Council, The Retail Council, ABNY, The Partnership for New York City, they're the main business groups in this state. They understand the concern and the crisis that we're dealing with and they're helping communicate the message. I thank them for their understanding and for their civic consciousness in this matter.

You can see from the number of cases why we're taking these actions. We are responding to science and data, there's no politics here. The health commissioner and health officials advise us of what we should be doing. The number of cases is way up. The number of cases is up because we're taking more tests. But the numbers are going up, hence the increased actions to reduce the spread, the density reduction. You see total positive cases, 2,300. New positive cases 1,000. You see the number of counties that now have cases spreading just as you see it spreading across the United States of America. This is just a metaphor for the entire country. You see our number of tests has gone way up. We've now tested over 14,000 people. That's a dramatic increase. Again, that's why you see the number of positive cases going up.

We have the highest number of cases in the United States, again, by a significant margin. We're now about double the next state. I don't know how much of that is due to our increased testing, but we are a more dense environment. We have more people than Washington State, so science would dictate, mathematics would dictate, that you'll have a higher rate of spread. Current hospitalizations at 549. Again, that is the number we watch because that's the number that are flowing into the healthcare system. That's the rate of cases flowing into the healthcare system. 23%, we had 20% yesterday, we had 14% last week. So, the number of hospitalizations is going up and again, this is all about the capacity of the healthcare system and it always has been. So the number of hospitalizations is going up and again, this is all about the capacity of the healthcare system and it always has been.

Again, perspective, perspective, perspective. I understand the anxiety; I understand the fear. You look at the pictures on television, empty grocery shelves - it's easy to get caught up in the emotion, but you also have to remember the facts of the situation, and the facts are still very clear. We know what this virus does, we know who it is, we know where it lives, we know what it does to people. It's been tracked since China. 200,000 cases have been tracked. 8,000 people have passed away. 80,000 have recovered. 113,000 are still pending.

We even know what it's done in the State of New York. Of the numbers we've seen in New York since it started, 108 people have already recovered and been discharged from the hospital. The first case we had in New York, which was the healthcare worker and her husband who returned from Iran and tested positive. She never went into a hospital. She was at home quarantined. She has now been recovering at home. She actually took a second coronavirus test and tested negative, okay? So 39-year-old female, came home, was at home, was on quarantine, recovered, two weeks later, tests negative, which means she has resolved the virus in her body, right? And now tests negative. And as we've said 80 percent of the people that's what will happen. She was never hospitalized and she resolved two weeks later. That's what people have to keep in mind.

And look, this is a health issue. It's a public health crisis, but more than that, I'm telling you worse than the virus is the fear that we're dealing with and the rumors and how they spread and "I'm going to be quarantined, I'm going to be locked out, they're not going to allow me to leave my house, I better stock up on groceries." That's not going to happen. So deep breath. We know what is going to happen here. People will get ill, they will resolve. People who are vulnerable we have to be careful. But the panic and the fear is wholly disconnected from the reality.

The only way I know to communicate it is just what I experience in my own life, and I get those calls every day and people are just disconnected from the reality of the situation. One of my sisters called me yesterday, "I have to have my daughter tested for coronavirus." "Why?" "She has a fever, she's sick, she has flu-like symptoms." I said, "Has she been exposed to someone positive?" "No, not that we know of." "Did she travel to a hotspot?" "No." Then I said there's no test and there's no reason for a test - leave her home, help her, be careful that she doesn't infect you, but that's it. And flu-like symptoms, couple of weeks she'll feel better and she'll get on with it. The one thing I said to my sister is, "Don't let her go near mom." That's my mother - my mother's in a different situation. Again, senior citizen - senior citizens, compromised immune systems and underlying illness. I said, "Don't let her go near mom, otherwise treat her as if she has the flu." "Well what do I do? What's self-quarantine?" Self-quarantine is what we used to do when somebody had the flu, right? My father would say, "Go in the room, stay there until you feel better." That's crude self-quarantine. Don't get infected, stay away, throw things away, use hand sanitizer, et cetera. That's the reality of the situation. I get the drama, I get the anxiety, but all in moderation and all in connection with the facts.

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Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640