April 10, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces New York State is Ramping up Antibody Testing, Critical to Reopening Economy

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Announces New York State is Ramping up Antibody Testing, Critical to Reopening Economy

Governor Offers Full Partnership with Federal Government as Part of State's Continued Efforts to Bring Mass Testing to Scale; New York Will Partner with Connecticut and New Jersey to Create a Regional Testing Partnership

Announces $200 Million in Emergency Food Assistance for More Than 700,000 Low-Income Households Enrolled in SNAP

Governor is Working with Congressional Delegation to Create a COVID-19 Heroes Compensation Fund

Announces New Partnerships with Private Sector to Provide Free Housing for Frontline Medical Workers

Releases 'New York Tough' Video Showing How New Yorkers are Spending Their Time at Home, Building on Ongoing State Efforts to Reach All Communities in New York with the Life-Saving Stay Home Message - Video is Available Here

Confirms 10,575 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 170,512; New Cases in 54 Counties

Governor Cuomo: "Let's make sure we study the waters ahead and proceed with caution before we set off on the next journey. When we talk about reopening, let's study the data and let's look at what has happened around the world. Let's make sure the best health minds in the country are giving us their best advice. How do we go forward? We stay New York tough. New York tough means more than just tough, it means discipline. It means unified. It means loving. And it means smart. Now is a time to be smart. Now more than ever. That's what it means to be New York tough and we are."

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State is ramping up antibody testing, a key component of any plan to reopen the economy. The state is currently conducting 300 of these antibody tests, and is on track to conduct 1,000 per day by next Friday and 2,000 per day by the following week. As part of the state's continued efforts to bring mass testing to scale, the Governor offered a full partnership with the federal government to conduct this important work. In the interim, the Governor announced that New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will create a regional testing partnership to bring mass testing to scale for residents in these states.

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

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good morning. Everybody knows the people with us today. Dr. Jim Malatras, from my right Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner. To my life, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor, to her left Robert Mujica. To our friends celebrating Good Friday today, I wish them a good, good Friday. To our friends celebrating Passover, I wish them the best.

Let's give you an update on where we are. To use and overused term, we are cautiously optimistic that we are slowing the infection rate. That's what the numbers say, that's what the data suggest to us. Change in total hospitalizations is down, not relative to yesterday, but when it's averaged over the 3-day average on the hospitalizations, you see a dramatic decline in those numbers and that's obviously very good news. Change in ICU admissions is actually a negative number for the first time since we started this intense journey. That means there are fewer people in the intensive units statewide than there were. Again, that's the first time we've seen a negative number so far. So that's good. The three-day average of that is down.

Change in intubations is little tick higher than it's been the past few days, but it's still overall down. The three-day average is also down. The bad news is we continue to lose a tremendous number of lives and endure great pain as a state. Seven hundred and seventy-seven lives lost. I understand intellectually why it's happening. It doesn't make it any easier to accept. What's happening is the number of people who came in two weeks ago when we had those very high hospitalization rates. Either you get treated and get better and get discharged or you stay in the hospital and probably wind up on a ventilator. The longer you're on a ventilator the less likely you will come off the ventilator and that's what's happening now.

These lives lost are people who came in at that height hospitalization period and we're losing them. The numbers are lower than yesterday for those who can take solace in that fact. As someone who searches for solace in all this grief, the leveling off of the number of lives lost is a somewhat hopeful sign. The number of total lives lost, 7,844. For people, just to put this in perspective. I lived through 9/11 as many New Yorkers did who are of somewhat advanced age. I believe 9/11 was the worst situation I was going to deal with in my lifetime. To put in perspective, 2,753 people lost their lives on 9/11. We're at 7,844. In terms of lives lost, that this situation should exceed 9/11 is still beyond my capacity to fully appreciate to tell you the truth.

We've been watching a spread to the suburban communities around New York City: Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland. That seems to have stabilized. We have a couple of hotspots in Suffolk County that we're watching, but overall we've been very aggressive in these suburban communities in jumping on those hot spots and the percentage of growth in upstate New York and the suburban areas around New York City is basically been stabilized and flat so that's good news too.

So overall, New York is flattening the curve and we have to flatten the curve because when they showed us the projection models of what the statisticians projected the curve would do we had no capacity to meet those projections. In other words, Columbia University who was projecting the highest case load said we needed 136,000 hospital beds in New York City when we started. It was just several weeks ago. One hundred and thirty-six thousand hospital beds in New York City. We only have about 33,000 to 36,000 hospital beds in New York City. So, that was obviously distressing to say the least.

McKinsey had projected we would need 110,000 hospital beds. They had a second scenario which they considered their moderate scenario, which was 55,000 hospital beds statewide. And again, we didn't have that capacity even on the moderate scenario. The Gates-funded IHME suggested we needed 73,000 beds. We didn't have that either. So none of these projections were, in any way, comforting to us. The actual curve is much, much lower than any of them projected. And, well what's the variance?

How do you come up with an actual curve that is so much different than what those experts predicted? First, in fairness to the experts, nobody has been here before. Nobody. So, everyone is trying to figure it out the best they can. There is no model to track against. Second, the big variable was what policies do you put in place, and the bigger variable was does anybody listen to the policies you put in place? I'm governor of the State of New York. You can announce a policy. That doesn't mean anyone is going to follow it. You can announce a policy, we're going to close down all businesses, everybody must stay home. And if people don't follow it, or they don't take it seriously, or they believe you're being premature or you're being political, they wouldn't follow it. And then what do we do? What do we, arrest 19 million people? Or ticket 19 million people?

So the big variable was, what policies do you put in place. And the bigger variable, does anybody care, and does anyone follow it? And all the social distancing stay at home, nobody has ever done this before. So the statisticians had to come up with a premise on how many would comply, and we've actually exceeded that. But, we have to keep doing it, you know. People tend to think, well this is a natural trajectory of the disease. There is no natural trajectory. The trajectory is the trajectory that we create by out actions. The natural trajectory would see that line continue to go up. It would continue to go up and up and up until you develop herd immunity, where you would see many, many more infections. So, we did that. We are doing that. And that's why we have to stay the course. I said to someone this morning, you tell me how we behaved today, and I will tell you the infection rate two days from today or three days from today. What we do today will determine the infection rate two or three days from now. So, what we're doing is working, stay with it. Even though it is a grind and even though it is difficult. We have to stay with it.

We have to stay with it operationally, on our hospital system, where we're coordinating statewide in what we call the surge and flex system. We have 50 percent additional capacity on our hospital system. We're sharing equipment all across the system. We have to continue helping people who are struggling every day. Food assistance is a real issue for people. We're going to add $200 million to provide more than 700,000 low-income households more funding for food, basic food. Continue to help our medical workers, who are the front-line soldiers in this battle, and have done a phenomenal job. I know I say it all the time, but every day, they're out there doing truly the Lord's work.

We're going to provide additional housing. I want to thank all the companies that have come forward to be part of this effort. Airbnb is contributing funding to provide housing for our healthcare workers. 1199 SEIU is working with Airbnb and they're providing their members with additional benefits. We have hotels that are coming forward and offering free hotel rooms, so we thank them all very much. Last night, as a signal of our thanks to the workers who are out there every day. We lit up landmarks in the New York City area and in Niagara Falls blue in their honor and that's a nice symbolic tribute. What's even better is to take action that shows our gratitude. Saying it is nice, doing it is even better.

After 9/11 Congress created a victim's compensation fund. I've been working with our Congressional delegation. We think the federal government should set up a heroes' compensation fund to compensate our health care and other frontline workers for what they did here. Saying thanks is nice. Actually providing assistance is even better.

The big question is going to turn to when do we reopen, especially in places like New York where we're going to see the numbers now starting to change. The natural trajectory, the human movement is going to be okay now let's reopen. I need to get out of my house, had been cooped up, cabin fever, I need funds, I have to work, and that's going to be the next question, next issue that we have to deal with.

What I say on that question, again, none of us have been here before so let's learn from what has happened so far and let's learn from what we have been seeing over these past few months so it informs what we're doing going forward.

First of all, the key to reopening is going to be testing. I've said that from day one. It's not going to be a light switch where you flip this economy like you flip a light switch. It's not going to be everybody goes back next Thursday. It's not going to happen that way. It's going to be a gradual phased process and it's going to be reliant on testing, testing of antibodies, testing for diagnostic results and testing on the scale that we have not done before.

New York State has been very aggressive on testing and our state lab has been very aggressive on testing. Our state lab is now developing an antibody test which is a fast and not invasive test. The State Department of Health can do 300 tests a day. By next Friday, they will be able to do 1,000 tests and 2,000 tests the following week. That's great, sounds like a lot but 2,000 tests are still a drop in the bucket, and I'm proud of how New Yorkers advanced on testing. You look at how quickly New York State has moved on testing and how many tests we have done - we've done a higher percentage of tests in New York State than other countries have done and New York State far exceeds what this nation as a whole is doing on testing. Even with our high capacity and high performance on testing it's still not enough. It's not enough if you want to reopen on a meaningful scale and reopen quickly so the testing front is going to be a challenge for us.

Why can't New York just develop more tests and do more testing? How do we get New York State Department of Health to scale? That's an issue that we've been working on it's harder than it sounds. You need certain reagents so you can do the testing. You need certain materials so you can do the testing. It's very hard to get these reagents right. You're in a situation where countries all across the globe are trying to do the same thing.

Federal government has something called the Defense Production Act, DPA they call it, which I've been saying from day one is a very powerful tool for the federal government to use when they need to secure a product in the defense of this nation. This is in the defense of this nation. The federal government has used it effectively. They've used that in this situation more as a point of leverage than anything else, basically saying to a company, you know, we need you to do this, we do have the Defense Production Act that we could use. But we need an unprecedented mobilization where government can produce these tests in the millions.

New York State Department of Health is doing is doing several thousand. We have 9 million people we want to get back to work. You need more than several thousand tests per week if this is going to happen any time soon. Private sector companies on their own, I don't believe will be able to come to scale. We're working with the private sector companies. They have the tests but they don't have the capacity to come to scale. You're going to need government intervention to make that happen and the federal government is in the best position to do that.

New York State offers to be a full partner with the federal government. We do have the largest number of cases in New York. New York is an economic engine. I can't do it as a state. If I had a Defense Production Act in the state, I would use it. I would use it. I don't have that tool, the federal government does. Any way we can partner with the federal government to get these tests up to scale as quickly as possible, we are all in. I like to operate as a coalition with New Jersey and Connecticut because we are the tri-state area. I have spoken to Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont of Connecticut. They will join in a testing coalition. So, I ask the federal government if you are willing to step in and use the federal powers, New York State and New Jersey and Connecticut would partner with the federal government. And let's get the testing up to scale quickly so we can start to build that bridge to reopening the economy.

Second on reopening, you need a federal stimulus bill. You need a federal stimulus bill - they passed a couple already. But you need a fair federal stimulus bill that is not a political pork barrel bill. You know where the cases are. You know where the need is. I understand the political dynamics of the U.S. Senate but this is not a time to be passing bills that really are to make sure your home state gets enough funding. That's not what this is about. This is about helping the country coming back and focusing on the need. When I says the bills were unfair to New York, the past bills, it is not just that I am advocating to New York. Look at the need. Look at where the cases are. Look at where the damage has been done. The federal government is trying to address that damage. You know where it has been done. Look at the chart on where the cases exist. Look at the number of deaths, the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations and help those places come back and come back quickly. That's what the stimulus bill is supposed to be doing.

Also, let's make sure we are learning from what we just went through and are going through. Because there are lessons I think we should all be aware of over the past few months. And before you take a step forward, let's make sure we know what we are stepping into. A question I had from day one, when you look back at this, where were the horns that should have been triggered back in December and January. Where were the warning signs? Who was supposed to blow the whistle? The President has asked this question and if think he's right. The President's answer is the World Health Organization should have been blowing the whistle. I don't know enough to know if that's right or wrong, but I know the question is right and sometimes the question is more important than the answer.

How did this happen? I still want to know how this happened. Because the warning signs were there. And if you don't know the answer, then how do you know it is not going to happen again, right? Fool me once - January, you go back and look at the headlines in January and you see questions and you see warnings. Now, they were all over the map, but we saw what was happening in Asia. We saw what was happening in Europe. Where were the international experts saying, "Well, if this is happening there, this is what we should expect to happen in the United States? Or prepare to happen in the United States?" January, February, you still had sources in this country saying basically there's nothing to worry about. You know, how did that happen? Did we really need to be in this situation where the United States winds up with a higher number of cases than the places that went before? We sat here and we watched China. China winds up have 84,000 cases, we wind up having 474,000 cases. I mean, how does that happen? We saw South Korea. They wind up with 10,000 cases. Italy, where we saw a collapse of the whole health system, winds up with 143,000 cases.

I raise the question because the answer, again, is less important than the question, but before we move forward let's make sure we're not repeating the same mistake that we made, right? George Santayana. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I don't want to repeat what we just repeated, what we just went through over this past month.

So, what are the relevant questions? Is there going to be a second wave? Let's look at the countries that have gone through this reopening process and what can we learn from them? Right? Well, we have to start to reopen. Let's look at what the other countries who have gone before us, what they did, what worked and what didn't work. When you take just a cursory review you see caution signs. Hong Kong appeared to have the virus under control, they let its guard down, the virus came back. Hong Kong recorded the biggest rise in cases and a new wave of infections. Is that true? Could it happen here? Article yesterday, Italy has seen a bump in the number of cases. You know, before we take a step make sure we are more informed and more aware than we were in the past. They're talking about a second wave in Singapore.

You got back and you look at the 1918 flu epidemic. That was over 10 months. There was a first wave, there was a second wave. The second wave was worse than the first wave because the virus mutated. Third peak and the whole experience was 10 months. Is there any extrapolation to where we are today? I don't know the answers. This is not what I do. It's not what a state does.

But, we know the questions and we should have the questions answered before we take a step forward. Yes, no one has been here before. These are totally uncharted waters. But we do know that none of this is predetermined and it is all a function of our actions. We are in total control of our destiny here. What we do will effect literally live and death for hundreds of people.

So, where do we go from here? First, keep doing what we're doing. Stay home because that works. We are flattening the curve, we must continue to flatten the curve. We have to get testing to scale. That is an entirely new exercise. It's something we still haven't done well in this country. We need both diagnostic testing and antibody testing. We need millions and millions of them. We need them in a matter of weeks, not months.

We have to be more prepared as a nation. We should never go through this scramble that we went through with states competing against other states to buy masks from China. I mean, we should just never have been here in the first place, but certainly we should never be here again. And then let's make sure we study the waters ahead and proceed with caution before we set off on the next journey. When we talk about reopening, let's study the data and let's look at what has happened around the world. Let's make sure the best health minds in the country are giving us their best advice.

How do we go forward? We stay New York tough. New York tough means more than just tough, it means discipline. It means unified. It means loving. And it means smart. Now is a time to be smart. Now more than ever. That's what it means to be New York tough and we are.

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