Eric Schmidt Will Lead 15-Member Commission and Use What the State Has Learned During COVID-19 Pandemic, Combined with New Technologies, to Improve Telehealth and Broadband Systems Across the State
Outlines Results of New Hospitalization Data to Further Reduce Number of New Hospitalizations per Day
JetBlue is Donating 100,000 Pairs of Round-Trip Flights for Medical Personnel and Nurses
Confirms 2,786 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 323,978; New Cases in 45 Counties
Governor Cuomo: “We have to reopen the society. It's like asking when do you start breathing. You have to breathe. The economy must function. People need incomes. The economy has to work. The state needs revenues. People have to be able to live their lives. You have to be able to get out of the house. You have to be able to see friends. You have to be able to see family. It's not a question of do we reopen. It's a question of how we reopen. That's really the question that we have to grapple with and that we're dealing with in New York.”
Cuomo: “Nobody knows better than New Yorkers how our nurses really stepped up with our health care professionals. You know, when the pressure is on in our lives, you wind up seeing the best and the worst in people and heroes rise to the occasion, and that's what we saw here in the state of New York. Our frontline health care workers were just extraordinary. Showing up every day, working impossible hours, a virus that nobody understood, fear of infection, but they just kept rising to the occasion. And that's why New York and the nation just loves all of our health care workers, but our nurses especially have done a phenomenal job.”
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Schmidt Futures will help integrate New York State practices and systems with the best advanced technology tools to build back better. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and Executive Chairman and founder of Schmidt Futures, will lead the state's 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission and use what the state has learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with new technologies, to improve telehealth and broadband access.
The Governor also outlined the results of new hospitalization data that was collected from hospitals in a new targeted effort to further reduce the number of new hospitalizations per day. The state received 1,269 survey responses from 113 hospitals over three days and found that the majority of individuals were:
- Not working or traveling;
- Predominately located downstate;
- Predominately minorities and older individuals;
- Predominately non-essential employees; and
- Predominately at home.
The Governor also announced that JetBlue is donating 100,000 pairs of round-trip flights for medical personnel and nurses to honor their efforts, beginning with 10,000 pairs of tickets for New York medical professionals. Additionally, three painted JetBlue planes honoring New York's frontline workers will do a flyover above New York City on Thursday, May 7th, at 7:00 p.m.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of today’s remarks is available below:
Governor Cuomo: Good morning. Pleasure to be with all of you. Pleasure to be back on Long Island. Let me introduce the participants we have here today. From my far left, Dr. Jim Malatras from Empire State College. To my immediate left, Michael Dowling, who needs no introduction in this facility, but Michael Dowling worked for 12 years with Governor Mario Cuomo, who I believe was the best governor to serve in the history of the State of New York, I may not be objective on that. 12 years with Mario Cuomo was a long 12 years, when you worked with my father. Those were dog years, when you worked with Mario Cuomo. So 12 years. Michael basically ran the healthcare system for the State of New York and developed the healthcare system during that time, then went and now runs Northwell health system, which is the largest hospital system, health system, in the state, and he’s been extraordinarily helpful here in dealing with this virus and he’s going to be even more helpful as we go forward. So a pleasure to be with him. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and to her right, Dr. Howard Zucker, as you all know, who’s our commissioner of health, who’s been doing a great job. Pleasure to be here today.
This is one of the most challenging times that this state has faced in modern history. Challenging time all across the nation. Lot of questions, lot of anxiety. Lot of opinions out there, everybody has an opinion, everybody has a, watch the news, talk to people, everyone has an opinion on what we should be doing. Everyone has thoughts they want to share. One of the things that makes it frustrating for my team, is I say, I’m interested in your opinion, I’m interested in your thoughts, but let's start with facts first, right. And then once we agree on facts, then we can get to opinions and thoughts and beliefs, but let's start with facts. And that's what I’ve been doing for the people of the State of New York.
Let me give you facts. Our total hospitalization rate is down again. You see this curve, we talked about it on the way up, which was a painful journey. We talked about it at the quote, unquote, apex, which turned into more of a plateau, a flattening. And now we're seeing it gradually decline. We would have liked to see a steeper, faster decline, but this is where we are and it's a painfully slow decline, but it's better than the numbers going the other way. You see it on total hospitalizations. You see it on intubations, and you see it also in the number of new cases per day. This is important because while we're seeing that hospitalization rate go down, and you see the number of new cases going down, those number of new cases are still problematic, right. So it means 600 new cases yesterday. With everything we've done, we still have 600 new cases yesterday, either walking in the door to hospitals or people who are in hospitals who were then diagnosed with COVID. But that number is also going down. One of the most stubborn situations and the most distressing are the number of deaths, and that is down from where we were, but it's still 232 yesterday which is an unimaginable and painful reality that we have to deal with. And when people talk about how good things are going and the decline and the progress, that's all true. It's also true that 232 people were lost yesterday and that's 232 families that are suffering today.
Also a caution in the number of deaths, I know the reporters and everyone likes to trace these numbers and document these numbers. I think we're going to find, when all is said and done, that the numbers are much different than we actually thought they were. The amount of information that is now coming out that changes what we believed or what we were told happens almost on a daily basis. This was a virus that started in China. Now, last week the CDC says oh, it doesn't come from China. It actually came from Europe to the east coast. That's how it got to New York and that's how it got to Chicago, et cetera. That by the time we turned off travel from China, the China travel ban, the virus was already gone. And it was in Europe and then it came here from Europe. We didn't know at the time. So February, March, flights were landing, people coming from Italy, the UK, et cetera. They were bringing the virus. We didn’t know. They're now saying that the virus may not have come just in February, March – the virus may have come late last year. They're doing testing in Chicago now on people who passed last November and December to see if they passed from the COVID virus. So I think this is all going to change over time. So a note of caution. I think it's going to be worse when the final numbers are tallied. We're also not fully documenting all the at-home deaths that may be attributable to COVID so I think the reality is going to be actually worse.
But there's no doubt it's a time of unprecedented anxiety, stress. People want answers. People want answers now. Haven't had a paycheck, they don't know where their job is. They don't know if they're going back to work, where they're going back to work, when they're going back to work, and they want answers now. I understand that fully.
But before we look for answers let's make sure we're all understanding the same question and the question here is not, do we open or reopen the society, when do we reopen? We have to reopen the society. It's like asking when do you start breathing. You have to breathe. The economy must function. People need incomes. The economy has to work. The state needs revenues. People have to be able to live their lives. You have to be able to get out of the house. You have to be able to see friends. You have to be able to see family.
It's not a question of do we reopen. It's a question of how we reopen. That's really the question that we have to grapple with and that we're dealing with in New York. Our position in New York is, the answer to the question how do we reopen is by following facts and data as opposed to emotion and politics. Everyone has emotion. I want to go back to work today. I want to go see my family today. I want to be able to go to a bar and have a couple of drinks and socialize with my friends today. It's not about emotion. It's not about political position on reopening. There's no Democratic position, Republican position. This virus kills Democrats and Republicans. There's no politics to this.
Deal with facts and deal with data and use that to instruct you – even more important at a time of high emotion. Understand the emotion. Appreciate the emotion but deal on the facts and the data. You have it. You can calibrate by the number of hospitalizations, the infection rate, the number of deaths, the percentage of hospital capacity, the percentage that you're finding on antibody tests, the percentage you're finding on diagnostic tests, positive, negative. You're collecting tracing data. Make your decisions based on the information and the data. That's what we're seeing in New York. That actually works.
By the way, we know it works. When you look - there's a chart today that was published by The New York Times - you look at what's happening in New York, yes, our line is going down. Our number of cases is going down. We have turned the corner and we're on the decline. You take New York out of the national numbers, the numbers for the rest of the nation are going up. They are going up. To me that vindicates what we're doing here in New York which says follow the science. Follow the data. Put the politics aside and the emotion aside.
What we're doing here shows results. The hospitalization rate is down. The number of deaths is down and the number of new cases is down. For me, I've been focusing on this number of new cases. That's where our health professionals are focused. Why? Because with everything we've done, closed schools, closed businesses, everybody shelter at home, all the precautions about wear a mask, wear gloves, et cetera. You still have 600 new cases that walked in the door yesterday. Week before that we still saw 1,000 new cases every day. Where are those new cases still coming from because we've done everything we can to close down. How are you still generating 600 new cases every day? Where are they coming from?
Again, let's look at the facts, let's look at the data, let's understand and see what we can do. What we've done over the past few days is we asked hospitals, look at just those new cases who are coming in. Yesterday, 600 new cases. Where are those people coming from and what can we learn from those people to further target and refine our strategy. When you look at where they're coming from, they're primarily coming from downstate New York, which is not surprising. Basically, equally distributed. Long Island is 18 percent, so that's a number that jumps out at you. Rockland, Westchester which is where we did have a problem, that's down to 11 percent. When you look at the racial breakdown of who's getting hospitalized, you see it's disproportionately minorities, disproportionately African-American and Latino. Again, in downstate New York.
Higher percentage male, 52 to 48, we don't know exactly why, but the virus doesn't discriminate generally. A very high percentage co-morbidities, which is what we've been talking about which we understand which is not a surprise. This is a surprise. Overwhelmingly, the people were at home where there's been a lot of speculation about this a lot of people again had opinions. A lot of people have been arguing where they come from and where we should be focusing, but if you notice, 18 percent of the people came from nursing homes. Less than 1 percent came from jail or prison, 2 percent came from the homeless population, 2 percent from other congregant facilities. But 66 percent of the people were at home. Which is shocking to us.
Disproportionately older, but by the way, older starts at 51-years-old. I'm a little sensitive on this point, but if older starts at 51-years-old, then that's a large number of us old folk in this state, in this country. That whole vulnerable population being old, well, old is now 51 and up, so think about that. Sixty to seventy, 20 percent. Seventy to eighty, 19 percent. But 51-years-old is old, okay. Then I am very old.
Transportation method, we thought maybe they were taking public transportation and we've taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home. Two percent of car services, nine percent driving their own vehicle. Only 4 percent were taking public transportation, 2 percent were walking. Eighty-four percent were at home. Literally. Were they working? No. They were retired or they were unemployed. Only 17 percent working. That says they're not working, they're not traveling, they're predominantly downstate, predominantly minority, predominantly older, predominantly non-essential employees and that's important. We were thinking that maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work, that these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers. That's not the case and they were predominantly at home.
Now that's only three days, that's just about 100 hospitals. One thousand people, but it reinforces what we've been saying, which is much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself. Everything is closed down. Government has done everything it could. Society has done everything it could. Now it's up to you. Are you wearing a mask? Are you doing the hand sanitizer? If you have younger people who are visiting you and may be out there and may be less diligent with the social distancing, are you staying away from older people? Older starting at 51, by the way. It comes down to personal behavior. This is not a group that we can target with this information. It's really about personal behavior.
Another issue that we're looking at, we're trying to understand, what is happening in these hot spot clusters that you see popping up? You see it happening across the country in meat plants where you have a significant number of people getting infected and there's now a meat shortage in the nation.
We have a hot spot in New York State, we have a hotspot in Upstate New York, Madison and Oneida counties. It's around an agricultural business, but it's not a meat processing plant. It's actually a greenhouse farm, and we have dozens of cases coming from the employees in this situation.
So, what does that tell you? It's not really about meat or vegetables. There's nothing about the fact that it was a meat processing plant because we have a vegetable processing plant. It is about worker density and large gatherings. That's the caution flag here. That's the message. It's not about poultry. It's not about meat. It's not about vegetables. It's when you run a facility with a large number of workers in a dense environment. We learned that already in New York when we had the New Rochelle hotspot, which was the first hotspot in the nation, New Rochelle, Westchester, and the lesson was one or two people infected who go to a large gathering or a dense gathering, that virus just takes off on you. And we learn that in New Rochelle, we’re learning it again in meat processing plants and poultry processing plants across the nation, and we just went through it again and we're going through it now in Madison and Oneida county. So that’s something that we have to watch that and keep that in mind.
Also, at the same time we're going through this reopening exercise, I want to make sure we don't miss the opportunity in the moment. The opportunity in the moment is that we went all through this, so let's learn the lessons and let's take this moment in history to actually improve from where we are and build it back better. I want to set the bar high and set the goal of not just replacing what we did. “Okay, everybody go back to where we were.” I don't want to say we spent all of this time, all of this pain, all of this suffering, lost all of these deaths only to go back to where we were, go back to a better place. How do you take -- how do you find the silver lining in this viral storm and actually improve your situation? We're on Long Island. We went through Superstorm Sandy. It was horrendous. Thousands of people displaced, but we learned and we built back better. Long Island is better for having gone through Hurricane Sandy. “How can you say that?” Because it's a fact. We learned; we improved from a horrendous situation. How do we do that here? And that's part of what we want to do.
People talk about making changes in society. Change is very hard to make. Change is hard in your own personal life, right? How many New Year's resolutions did we make as a society that are still in effect here in May, right? “I was supposed to lose five pounds. I was supposed to be running every day. I was supposed to never lose my temper.” Forget it. One week – maybe ten days for the temper. But history does show that people are ready for change at certain moments, and I believe this is one of those moments. Like a Superstorm Sandy, like a 9/11, like we've seen from natural disasters around the country where people say, “I get it and I’m ready to make changes.” That's what we want to do. That's what we talk about when we say look, it's not just about reopening. It's about rebuilding, it's literally about reimagining and moving this day forward at this moment. And we want to do that. How do we come up with a better transportation system? How do we have more social equity in society, better safety system, better housing, better economy, better education, better healthcare system? And we need the best minds available to take this moment to put together with the best thinking that we can find to make the best improvement.
One of the lessons is in public health and our hospital system, we worked in an impossible situation when this started. We were told that we may need 130,000 hospital beds for COVID. That was the initial projections. We only have 50,000 hospital beds in state. How do you get 50,000 hospital beds to a 130,000 capacity? It was impossible. And by the way, we don't really have a public health system. We have separate hospitals all across the state. But they don't really function as one system. They never work together on a day to day basis, they don’t share patient load, they don’t share PPE. How do you do that? And we scrambled and we made it work, but now how do we institutionalize that and how are we ready for the next COVID or the next whatever it is? How do we use telemedicine better? How do we better allocate our health resources? How do we harden the healthcare system? But let’s take the lessons we just learned and institutionalize it. We’ve asked Michael Dowling to do that. He was a big part of the scramble that we went through to make it work and Northwell was a leader – it’s the largest and the, in my opinion, most innovative. But now how do we take that and institutionalize it so we don’t have to go through this again? So next time something like this happens we can just open a book and it says here’s what we do, step A, step B, step C. We want to thank Michael for his service with that. He’ll be working with Dr. Zucker from the Department of Health.
Another area is education. We went to remote learning overnight. That’s what happens when you close the schools. Okay, all the students go home, we’re going to go to remote learning. Well, what is remote learning? We weren’t really ready for it. We had all talked about it, thought about it, but we were not really prepared to do it. We then had to do it. We implemented it and God bless the teachers in this state, they did a phenomenal job. God bless parents who had to figure out quickly how to use computers and technology and Zoom this and Zoom that. But, how do we really learn those lessons? We went to Bill Gates and he’s going to work with us on reimagining the education system. I want to thank him very much.
How do you create a testing and tracing system? By the way, what is a testing and tracing system? We’ve never done this before. We have to take thousands of COVID tests, antibody tests, diagnostic tests, and then we have to trace – have an army of tracers to do this. We’re doing this for the first time ever. How do we learn and institutionalize it? Yes, we have to do this for COVID, but we’re not going to go through this trouble and then just forget it. This will happen again – some people say this virus comes back in the fall or the winter. Or there’ll be another health emergency. But Michael Bloomberg has generously said he would work with us and use his philanthropy to develop that testing and tracing.
Then, on a larger scale, how do we really use new technology in the economy of tomorrow? That’s the lesson that we’re all learning, right? Work from home, telemedicine, tele-education, it’s all about technology and a better use of technology and really incorporating the lessons into that. The best mind in this country, if not on the globe, to do this is, I believe, a true visionary, especially in the field of technology and that’s Eric Schmidt who was former CEO of Google, obviously. He saw a future that no one else envisioned and then developed a way to get there. We’ve asked him to come work with us to bring that kind of visionary aspect to government and society. Let’s look at what we just went through. Let’s anticipate a future through that lens and tell us how we can incorporate these lessons. Mr. Schmidt, who has tremendous demands on his talent and his time, has agreed to help and head an effort to do this. Eric, thank you so much for doing this and thank you so much for being with us.
Eric Schmidt: Thank you, Governor. You have been doing an incredible job for our state and, frankly, for our nation and I’m really pleased to help.
The first priorities of what we’re trying to do are focused on telehealth, remote learning, and broadband. We can take this terrible disaster and accelerate all of those in ways that will make things much, much better. The solutions that we have to come up with have to help the people most in need. People are in different situations throughout the state. We need to consider all of them and not pick one or the other. The intent is to be very inclusive and make this thing better.
We need to look for solutions that can be presented now and accelerated and use technology to make things better. My own view is that these moments are a chance to revisit things that are not getting enough attention. We have systems that need to be updating and need to be reviewed.
My commitment is to make this period, this sort of awful, to be a period that you described in Long Island where New York State, New York City, everyone comes out stronger. The public private partnerships that are possible with the intelligence of the New Yorkers is extraordinary. It needs to be unleashed.
Governor Cuomo: You are the person to help us do that. We are all ready. We're all in. We're New Yorkers, so we're aggressive about it and we're ambitious about it, and I think we get it, Eric. You know, we went through this period and we realized that change is not only imminent, but it can actually be a friend if done the right way. I hope that when we look back on this time, we talk about all the pain, all of the suffering, but we also say it was a moment in time where we came together and we brought a creative aspect and innovative aspect and we worked together in ways we never did before. And we made this place a better place. And I can't thank you enough for doing it. Eric, thank you very much. I look forward to continuing the conversation and working together. Mr. Schmidt, thank you.
Eric Schmidt: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. That is exciting.
Last point, today is National Nurses Day. As you know, nobody knows better than New Yorkers how our nurses really stepped up with our health care professionals. You know, when the pressure is on in our lives, you wind up seeing the best and the worst in people and heroes rise to the occasion, and that's what we saw here in the state of New York. Our frontline health care workers were just extraordinary. Showing up every day, working impossible hours, a virus that nobody understood, fear of infection, but they just kept rising to the occasion. And that's why New York and the nation just loves all of our health care workers, but our nurses especially have done a phenomenal job. And we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. And JetBlue had a beautiful idea of a way to say thank you, which is donating round trip flights to had 100,000 medical personnel and nurses to honor their efforts. Isn't that a beautiful thing? 10,000 to New York medical professionals. Michael Dowling is not eligible for that situation, but other than that because we need him here in New York. But it's a nice way that JetBlue is saying thank you. All of us will find our own way to say thank you, but I'm sure every New Yorker joins me in saying thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our heart. To all of the nurses who are here today, god bless you and thank you for getting us through this. And thank you for being New York tough, which is not just tough, but smart, and disciplined, and unified, and loving. God bless you.