Governor Cuomo: "Uncharted waters doesn't mean proceed blindly, right? It means get information, get data, the best you can, and use that data to decide where you're going. So, especially in this situation, you have so much emotion, you have politics, you have personal anxiety that people feel, social anxiety, social stress. Let's stick to the facts, let's stick to the data, let's make sure we're making the best decisions with the best information that we have."
Cuomo: "We want people to know who need to use the subways and buses, because they are working, that they're safe. And the essential workers who have kept this entire society functioning have done an extraordinary job, and we want them to know that we're doing everything we can do to keep them safe."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the results of the state's completed antibody testing study, showing 12.3 percent of the population have COVID-19 antibodies. The survey developed a baseline infection rate by testing 15,000 people at grocery stores and community centers across the state over the past two weeks. Of those tested, 11.5% of women tested positive and 13.1% of men tested positive. A regional breakdown of the results is below:
The Governor also announced that the state will distribute over seven million more cloth masks to vulnerable New Yorkers and essential workers across the state. The masks will be distributed as follows:
- 500,000 for NYCHA residents
- 500,000 for farm workers
- 1 million for vulnerable populations, including the mental health and developmental disabled communities
- 500,000 for homeless shelters
- 2 million for elderly New Yorkers and nursing homes
- 1 million for faith-based organizations and food banks
- 2 million for grocery stores, supermarkets and food delivery workers
The Governor also announced the state is distributing $25 million to food banks across the state through the Nourish New York Initiative. The Nourish New York initiative, announced earlier this week by Governor Cuomo, is working to quickly reroute New York's surplus agricultural products to the populations who need them most through New York's network of food banks. Funding will be distributed as follows:
- New York City Region: $11 million
- Westchester Region: $1 million
- Long Island Region: $1.6 million
- Capital/Hudson Valley Region (includes portion of North Country and Mohawk Valley): $4.4 million
- Central NY Region (includes portion of North Country and Mohawk Valley): $2.2 million
- Southern Tier Region: $1.1 million
- Western New York Region: $2.1 million
- Finger Lakes Region (includes portion of Southern Tier): $1.7 million
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Pleasure to be with everyone this morning. We are in Corona, Queens. Always a pleasure to get out of the state capitol, tell you the truth, and talk to the people who are actually doing the work. I am a Queens boy, so it's coming back home for me. Corona, Queens, was called Corona, Queens before the coronavirus. There's no connection between Corona, Queens and the coronavirus.
Let me introduce my colleagues who are here. from my far left, Pat Foye, who is the chairman of the MTA. To my immediate left, Sarah Feinberg, who runs the New York City transit bureau. To my right, Gareth Rhodes, deputy superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, but has been with me for many years and is now helping on this up in Albany.
Today is Saturday. I know that because it's on the slide, otherwise I may not have known that. I follow the days by what's on the PowerPoint. Everybody talks about this is uncharted waters, that we've never been here before, and that's true. But even when you are in uncharted waters, that doesn't mean you proceed blindly, right. You get whatever information that you can because you want to stay informed. Even in the old days, when sailors would sail into uncharted waters, this is before GPS and radar and depth finders, they would throw out a piece of lead with a rope. The lead would fall to the bottom and they would call back to the captain how deep the water was. The lead even had, on the very bottom, a piece of wax that would pick up what was on the ocean bottom, whatever sand, rocks, et cetera, so the captain could tell basically where he was.
So uncharted waters doesn't mean proceed blindly, right? It means get information, get data, the best you can, and use that data to decide where you're going. So, especially in this situation, you have so much emotion, you have politics, you have personal anxiety that people feel, social anxiety, social stress. Let's stick to the facts, let's stick to the data, let's make sure we're making the best decisions with the best information that we have. So, we do a lot of testing, a lot of tracking to find out where we are.
We test number of hospitalizations. Every night we find out how many people are in the hospital the day before, and we've been tracking that. Good news is that number is down a tick again today. The net change in hospitalizations is down tick. Intubations is down, which is very good news. The new cases walking in the door, the new COVID cases, the number of new infections, was also down a little bit, 831. It had been relatively flat at about 900 every day, which is not great news. Yesterday was 831. We'll watch to see what happens with that. The number that I watch every day, which is the worst, is the number of deaths. That number has remained obnoxiously and terrifyingly high, and it's still not dropping at the rate we would like to see it drop. It even went up a little bit, 299, 289 the day before. That is bad news. Two hundred and seventy-six deaths in hospitals, 23 in nursing homes. As everybody knows, nursing homes are where the most vulnerable population and the highest number of the most vulnerable population.
Again, use the data, use information to determine actions. Not emotions, not politics, not what people think or feel, but what we know in terms of facts. We've been sampling all across the state to determine the infection rate so we know if it's getting or if it's getting worse. We've done the largest survey in the nation testing for people who have antibodies. If somebody has antibodies, it means that that person was infected. That's what the antibody test does for you. It tells you that that person was infected. They've now recovered so that they have antibodies. I went through this with my brother Chris. He got infected, he now has the antibodies. So if you test him, he tests positive for antibodies.
We've been doing these antibody testings all across the state. We have the largest sample now, over 15,000 people which is an incredibly large sample. When we started on the 22nd, we have 2,900 people surveyed at that time. We had about a 13.9 percent, just about 14 percent, infection rate statewide. It then went up to about 14.9 and today it is down to 12.3. Now, statisticians will say this is all plus or minus in the margin of error, but it's a large sample, it is indicative, 14.9 down to 12.3. As you can see, we test about every 4 or 5 days. We have so much at stake, so many decisions that we have to make that we want to get those data points as quickly as we can.
Seeing it go down to 12 percent, may only be a couple of points, but it's better than seeing it go up, that's for sure. Again, this is outside the margin of error so this is a good sign. It is 15,000 people surveyed so it's a large number. You can then start to look at where in the state, who in the state, so that will inform our strategy. You can see it's a little bit more male than female, not exactly sure why that is. In New York City, you see the number went from 21 to 24 and it's down to 19.9. Again, that's a good sign. You always want to see the number dropping rather than the number increasing. Within New York City you see the Bronx is high, 27 percent, Brooklyn 19, Manhattan 17, Queens 18, Staten Island 19. We're going to do more research to understand what's going on there. Why is the Bronx higher than the other boroughs?
Statewide, you see it's basically flat. This is predominantly an issue for New York City, then Long Island, then the northern suburbs, then the rest of the state. But Erie County, which is Buffalo, New York has been problematic. The racial breakdown we're looking at to study disproportionate impact, who is paying the highest price for this virus what's happening with poorer communities, what's happening with the racial demographics, overlaid over the income demographics, and also if there's any information that could be instructive.
We're still getting about 900 new infections every day walking into the hospital. That is still an unacceptably high rate. We're trying to understand exactly why that is, who are those 900? Where is it coming from? What can we do to now refine our strategies to find out where those new cases are being generated, and then get to those areas, get to those place, get to those people to try to target our attack.
If you remember we had the first cluster in the nation. The first hot spot even before they called them hot spots was New Rochelle, Westchester. There was a tremendous outbreak in New Rochelle. We then sent all sorts of resources into New Rochelle and we actually reduced that hot spot.
So if you find a specific place or pattern that is generating infections then you can attack it but you have to find it first, and that's what we're looking at, especially on this number of new infections that are coming. You see if you look at the location of it, it's not telling us much but we asked the hospitals yesterday we had all the hospitals on a conference call and I spoke to all the hospitals and asked them to take additional information from people who are walking into the hospitals to try to find out where these infections are coming from. Are they frontline workers or are they people who are staying home? Are these infections that are spread in the home or are they frontline workers which means they're getting up every day and getting on public transit to go into work and maybe they're getting it on public transit, maybe they're getting it at the work place? But getting more information on where these cases are coming from - where do you live, not just borough but what community within the borough. Are there different health factors that are affecting the new infection rate, comorbidities, how are they traveling, are they in their cars, are they on public transportation, is it the New York City transit system, Long Island Railroad, et cetera, so we asked the hospitals to collect that data yesterday. We'll be getting that over the next couple of days and that will help us again get more information.
In the meantime, we know that vulnerable populations are paying the highest price as seniors, as nursing homes, and our poorer communities. They are the ones where you have higher infection rates and you have higher risk and higher exposure.
We're going to distribute today 7 million masks to just those communities in nursing homes, poorer communities, people in public housing in New York City, New York City Housing Authority, so we'll be doing that today. Seven million masks is a large number. There is about 9 million people in New York City total 7 million masks will make a big difference.
We're also funding food banks. The more this has gone on, the longer people are without a job, the longer people are without a check, basics like paying rent and buying food become very important. We have addressed the rent issue, the immediate urgent need. Nobody can be evicted for nonpayment of rent and that's true through June. So, people are stable in their housing environment.
The next basic need is food right and we're operating food banks. We just funded $25 million more in food banks. All the food banks will tell you that the demand is way, way up and we need help in funding the food banks. There are lot of philanthropy, a lot of foundations that are in the business of helping people. Well if you're foundation or not-for-profit, or philanthropy, or a person who wants to help, we could use more funding for food banks. The state budget is also very stressed with what's going on. So, we don't have the state funds to do what's need. But we would appreciate donations for the food banks.
As I said the antibody testing has been very important and we're going to undertake a full survey of antibody testing for transit workers. Transit workers have very much been at the front line. We talk about essential workers. People who are out there every day running the buses, running the subways all through this. We know that there's been a very high infection rate among transit workers. We've said thank you and we appreciate what you're doing 1,000 times but, I believe actions speak louder than words. If you appreciate what we're doing then help us do what we do and we're going to be doing that with more testing and more resources. That's going to be going on right now.
And to keep our transit workers safe and to keep the public safe, the riding public, we're going to do something that has never been done before. And that is that the MTA is going to be disinfecting every train 24 hours. This is such a monumental undertaking I can't even begin to describe it to you. The New York City subway system has never been closed. It operates 24 hours a day because we have a 24-hour city. We're taking the unprecedented step during this pandemic of closing the system for four hours at night from 1:00 a.m. to 5 a.m. when the ridership is lowest. The ridership is lower to begin with. It's down about 90 percent because of everything, but its lowest during 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. We're going to close it from 1:00 a.m. to 5 a.m., the MTA is going to literally disinfect every train and I just view the operations on how they're doing it, it's smart, it's labor intensive. People have to wear hazmat suits. They have a number of chemicals that disinfect, but literally you have to go through the whole train with a misting device where they spray disinfectant literally on every surface. You know this virus, they're just studying it now, but there are reports that say the virus can live two or three days on some surfaces like stainless steel. You look at the inside of a subway car, you look at the rails, you look at the bars, they're all stainless steel. So, to make sure the transit workers are safe, to make sure the riding public is safe, the best thing you can do is disinfect the whole inside of the car, as massive a challenge as that is. But that's what the MTA is doing and they're doing it extraordinarily well.
It's just another sign of the dedication, the skill, the capacity of our transit workers, which is indicative of the story of New York. They're stepping up in a big, big way. And not just the cars, they're doing stations, all the handrails, et cetera. And it's good and smart for the transit workers who have to work in that environment, but it's also right for the riding public. We want people to know who need to use the subways and buses, because they are working, that they're safe. And the essential workers who have kept this entire society functioning have done an extraordinary job, and we want them to know that we're doing everything we can do to keep them safe.
You know, this was a delicate balance all along. We needed New Yorkers to understand how dangerous this virus was, and we communicated that early on, so that when we want stay home, people understood they should really stay home, right? New Yorkers can be a cynical bunch, and just because a governor says stay home, they're not going to stay home unless they understand why they need to stay home. So, we presented those facts, but at the same time we're saying to essential workers, after hearing just how dangerous the virus is, and by the way, you have to go for work tomorrow. And they did. And if the essential workers didn't, then you would have seen a real problem. If you don't have food on the shelves, if you don't have power to homes, if you don't have basic services, if the police don't show up, if the fire department doesn't show up, if the EMTs don't show up, if the ambulances don't run, if the nurses don't show up, if the doctors don't show up, then you are at a place where you've never been before.
So, after communicating how dangerous this situation was, the next breath was, but frontline workers, you have to show up. And then did. And they did. And they did their job. That's an extraordinary example of duty and honor and respect and love for what they do and who they are and love for their brothers and sisters in the community. And they demonstrated it. They didn't say it. They demonstrated it, every day when they get up and they leave their house. So, God bless them all, but we also have to do what we have to do to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep them safe, and this heroic effort on cleaning the subways is part of that. And we will continue it, because we are New York tough, but tough doesn't mean just tough, it means smart, it means united, it means disciplined and it means loving. You can be tough and you can be loving. They're not inconsistent. Sometimes you have to be tough to be loving. And that's what New York is all about.