April 15, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Issues Executive Order Requiring All People in New York to Wear Masks or Face Coverings in Public

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Issues Executive Order Requiring All People in New York to Wear Masks or Face Coverings in Public

State Will Begin Conducting Antibody Tests Prioritizing Frontline Workers Beginning This Week -2,000 Tests Per Day Using a Finger Prick Test

Announces State Will Give 100 Ventilators to Michigan and 50 Ventilators to Maryland

Issues Executive Order Requiring Nursing Homes to Inform Family Members of Residents of COVID-19 Cases

Issues Executive Order Allowing Individuals Assisting with COVID-19 Response to Stay in a Hotel in New York City for More Than 28 Days without Becoming a Tenant

SUNY and CUNY Colleges Using 3D Printers to Produce Personal Protective Equipment for Frontline Medical Workers

Confirms 11,571 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 213,779; New Cases in 43 Counties

Governor Cuomo: "It's going to be a phased reopening, right. And during the phased reopening, the priority is make sure you do no harm and keep your eye on the public health issue. That is what is key in all of this. So it's going to be a calibration of reopening based on public health safety and that infection rate because what we have done, and the reducing of the infection rate, is a pure function of what New Yorkers have done and what people across the country have done. When you relax that social distancing, you could very well see an increase in the infection rate. So it's all a calibration to the public health. But it's going to be a gradual increasing of economic activity in calibration with the public health, public health standards. The single best tool to doing this gauging, right, is large-scale testing. Test, trace and isolate."

"Don't tell me that we can't do it because I know that we can do itCan we build a bridge that takes us from today to 18 months? Yes. Yes, because we are bridge builders, that's what we do. We build bridges. Sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically, sometimes metaphorically, but we build bridgesThat's what we do in New York and we're going to do this."

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will issue an Executive Order requiring all people in New York to wear a mask or a face covering when out in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation. The Executive Order will go into effect on Friday, April 17th.

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 afternoon. Bigger group than usual. More the merrier. Thank you very much for being here. We'll give you some updated information and then we'll go from there.

On this format of the presentation, I throw out my own personal bias to the way we do this. If you haven't noticed, I have an annoying personal habit that my children remind me of often. My staff too, they reminded me this morning. People love to give you their opinion of what they think, "I think this, I think this," and I often will stop them and say, "Ok, before you tell me what you think just tell me the facts." Just give me the facts first before your interpretation of the facts. I like to start with just the facts, just give me the facts. That's what we do in this presentation: here are the facts. No opinion. No filter. Then I'll give you an opinion, but I'll tell you what's my opinion versus the facts. Just the facts. It is an annoying personal habit because people want to tell you their opinion. I think this. I know, but tell me the facts first, then we'll do your opinion.

Total hospitalizations clicked down, still in the 18,000, but it clicked down. Good news. That's a fact. That's a fact that it's good news, not my opinion. You see the flattening of the curve - all these new expressions that we've never used before - plateau, flattening, rounding. Net change in hospitalizations, down. That's good news. Three-day rolling average, because remember any one of these days of reporting, this is a new reporting system. It's imprecise. I wouldn't bet the farm on any one days number, but a three-day average starts to be a little more accurate. ICU admissions is down, that's good news. Intubations are down, that's very good news. Just on a real life level. When a person is intubated, they're on a ventilator. Eighty percent of the people will never come off the ventilator or thereabouts, so that's good news.

Little reality check, you still have on a day-to-day basis, about 2,000 people who are being diagnosed with COVID. We're out of the woods? No. We're still in the woods. The good news is we showed them we can change the curve. Good news is, great news in my opinion, we can control the spread. That is great news. Could you imagine if we couldn't control the spread? If we did all this and the spread kept going up? So we can control the spread. You still have about 2,000 people a day who are new diagnosis coming into the hospital system. It's still a serious public health issue.

Lives lost yesterday, 752, which is the painful news of our reality day after day and they are in our thoughts and prayers. You see 707 in hospitals, 45 in nursing homes. People are interested in those numbers and how those numbers are changing. You see the terrible news has basically been flat over the past several of days. Again, the number of death is a quote, unquote lagging indicator. It's almost disrespectful to put it in scientific terms, but these are people who were probably intubated. They were on a ventilator and then again, the period of time you're on a ventilator, normally has a bad outcome.

The total losses, the total number of deaths number. The CDC changed guidelines on how they want information reported. They want deaths and then another category of probable deaths which is a new category that's done by the local departments of health or the coroner. We're going to rationalize those new reporting requirements with local governments and get that information out as soon as we can. We're also, since we have a little bit of period to take a breath, we're going to contact nursing homes and facilities to find out if there were other people who passed from COVID who were not necessarily in a hospital or in a nursing home. There is a sense that there may be additional people who passed away and they weren't included in the count because they weren't in a hospital or weren't in a nursing home. So we'll be going through that.

Basically, the health care situation has stabilized. The fears of overwhelming the health care system has not happened, thanks to the phenomenal front line workers. Thanks to all the additional capacity that the hospital system created. Over 50 percent additional capacity in one month. Just think of that. Thanks to the work that our federal government did, Army Corps of Engineers, providing the beds at Javits and Comfort.

By the way, Javits, which is 2,500-bed capacity is the overflow valve, about 800 people have gone through Javits. So thank you very much. And that was a great service that was done by the federal government in a very short period of time. So we have that stabilized. People are still getting infected but we have the infection spread down to a manageable number. We've accomplished that. People are restless.

We have to talk about the reopening of the economy, how do we do this? We have to build a bridge from where we are to the reopening of the economy. Well, what does that look like? Let's say that where we're going, it's not a reopening in that we're going to open what was, we're going to a different place. And we should go to a different place. And we should go to a better place. If we don't learn the lessons from this situation, then all of this will have been in vain. We learn a lot if we're willing to open our eyes and open our ears. So we're going to a different place, which is a new normal, and we talk about the new normal, we've been talking about the new normal for years. We're going to have a new normal in public health. By the way, the way we have a new normal in the environment, a new normal in economics, a new normal in civil rights, a new normal in social justice, right. This is the way of the world now. We're moving to a new place, more challenging place, but also potentially a better place.

Well, when is this over? I say, personal opinion, it's over when we have a vaccine. It's over when people know I'm 100 percent safe and I don't have to worry about this. When does that happen? When we have a vaccine. When do we have a vaccine? 12 to 18 months. Who determines that? The federal government has to test the vaccine, FDA. It's a big gap, 12 to 18 months, yes. I say the sooner the better, anything we can do to work with the federal government to get the vaccine done faster, we are all in. You want to use New York State as a laboratory? We are ready, willing and able. Any way the state Department of Health can work with the FDA to reduce that testing period? We are all in and energized and creative and ambitious about it. And so anything we can do to accelerate that vaccine, we will do. You need a place to test it in large numbers, think of New York. But that's the ultimate end, right? We have a vaccine. Now we don't have to worry about this. By the way, we'll probably have to worry about the next public health risk at that time, so don't forget everything we learned.

Besides the vaccine, there's a possibility that they develop a medical treatment. So we can't prevent you from getting the virus, but, we have a new medical treatment and if you get the virus, don't worry, it's no big deal, you go and you get this medical treatment. That's another way of having a natural end, right? And that's what convalescent plasma is all about and the antibody testing to find people who had the antibody and then injecting the antibody into a person as a treatment method. Maybe the hydroxychloroquine works. Now, this has been a very politicized topic. I have done my best to stay 100 miles away from politics in all of this. Everybody wants to see hydroxychloroquine work. Everybody. Well, the president says he believes it works. But he's not a doctor. You're right. He believes, says he believes it works but he's not a doctor. Find out. Find out. And everyone hopes that it works. And anything New York can do to test it, we will. We are now testing hydroxychloroquine.

There are a number of hospitals that are doing it. It's not a government decision. It's not a political decision. A medical doctor decides. And if a medical doctor decides it works, fine. We have an executive order that limits the prescription of hydroxychloroquine only because we don't have enough. And there was such a demand on it that people who needed it and were using it can't get it. So, if the federal government sends us more, we will dispense more. It's a pure supply side issue. Or maybe they develop another drug that they figure out has an effect. That could happen between now and the vaccine. And we all pray that it does. But until you have the vaccine, until you have the medical treatment, what do you do? How are you building the bridge?

Well, it's going to be a phased reopening, right. And during the phased reopening, the priority is make sure you do no harm and keep your eye on the public health issue. That is what is key in all of this. So it's going to be a calibration of reopening based on public health safety and that infection rate because what we have done, and the reducing of the infection rate, is a pure function of what New Yorkers have done and what people across the country have done. When you relax that social distancing, you could very well see an increase in the infection rate. So it's all a calibration to the public health. But it's going to be a gradual increasing of economic activity in calibration with the public health, public health standards. The single best tool to doing this gauging, right, is large-scale testing. Test, trace and isolate. Just what everybody is talking about. What does this mean? It means you test, find a positive, trace back who they were with, where they were, test those people and you isolate the people who are positive. It's inarguable, it's just very, very hard to do and it opens this new world of testing and this new world of testing is a new world to all of us, by the way.

This diagnostic testing, are you positive or negative? There is then testing for antibodies, were you exposed? If I find out that you were already exposed and had the virus, now you can go back to work because you had the virus, you have antibodies. Antibody testing, once you have the antibodies, you can help develop convalescent plasma where they can take your blood, take those the antibodies and use it as treatment.

There's saliva testing which is faster and easier. It's not blood testing. It's not a swab. It's just saliva. But that's a new form of testing that's just been developed. This finger prick testing which is less invasive but also being developed. There's full-blood sampling testing which is obviously more intrusive.

But to do the testing, you need testing equipment. You need swabs. You need vials and you need all of these things at a capacity that does not now exist. Where do you do the testing? We've been doing the testing in hospitals. Frankly, that's not a great place to do testing. You don't want people walking into a hospital emergency room who may be positive for COVID. Our drive-through locations are better.

But how do you bring that to scale? And then even if you have the equipment and the testing site and the personnel to do the testing, where do you get the labs to test all of these tests? This is a whole world of questions that nobody has ever seen before. The bottom line is, well, you need large-scale testing. Let's do it.

We can't do it yet. That is the unvarnished truth. I know, because New York has been doing this since this started, exploring this new world. We have done more tests than any other state. We've done over 500,000 tests which is more than the other states that are near us combined. Okay? So, we've been very aggressive here. But in all this time, we've only done 500,000 tests. Now that's a large number of tests, yes. But this is over a one-month period and even 500,000 tests, you're talking about a state with 19 million people. So you get a sense of the scale of what we have to do here.

We cannot do it without federal support and I've been saying this for days. If you have a state that has a lower need, yes. They may be able to do it. But when you have a state that has to do a large number of these tests, I'm telling you, we can't do it without federal support and I've said that to day one.

We will coordinate and we have been coordinating all of the tests in our state. That's how we got to that 500,000 number, more aggressive than I think anyone else. We have 228 private laboratories in this state. We will coordinate with them. We'll make sure that we're not competing with ourselves, because there are a lot of groups that are now testing.

New York State Department of Health developed their own antibody test and that test is going to be very important and It's in our control because we'll actually do those tests. We don't need a private lab. We don't need anyone else. With those tests, it will go to about 2,000 per day capacity and that is a finger prick test so it's not terribly invasive. Even I can endure the pain of that one.

We've asked the FDA to approve a state test that could get us to 100,000 people per day. To give you an idea, that's then 500,000 a week, if you don't work the weekends, I don't know if you do and I don't want to raise something I don't know about, but 500,000 a week, we've only been 500,000 to date, right? So you get a sense of how powerful that would be if the FDA approves that.

We're going to prioritize the antibody testing for first responders and essential workers and this is important. We've all been saying thank you to the health care workers and that's nice but I've been talking to George Gresham through this. He's the head of 1199 which represents many health care workers. His point has always been gratitude is appreciated but we need support. The health care workers need the support. They need the PPE equipment and they need the tests to make sure they're not getting infected and if they are infected what is the status. He's been exactly right - more than thank you, actions more than words.

Nurses, the same thing, NYSNA, they've been doing phenomenal work. They need support, they need the equipment, they need time off, they need to recuperate. And the first responders, the NYPD. Pat Lynch, who represents the NYPD, has said to me from day one, my guys need support, "guys" being gender neutral. They're out there every day, they live in the downstate area and they work in the downstate area. Many work—live in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, and they're working in New York City. They need not only PPE equipment, et cetera, they need testing. They need to know if they've been infected for themselves. And also, they could wind up being spreaders if we don't know. And Pat Lynch and the NYPD have been extraordinary here. Okay, make them a priority for the testing that we can do and we can control, and that's the antibody testing. And we will.

So, the more testing, the more open the economy. But, there's not enough national capacity to do this. I've been speaking to governors across the country. Every governor is now in the same situation. I was speaking with Governor Pritzker of Illinois, he has some companies that do this testing in his state. But everyone is in the same position. And we have to be clear on this, who does what, between the federal government and the state government. The states cannot develop national testing. There's no simple answer to it. It's basically controlled by private sector companies who have been doing it at a reduced volume. Because that was the world. You didn't need such a high level of tests. So the private sector companies only developed to the capacity that the market demanded.

This is an entirely new market and then when you talk to the private sector companies, which I have, they'll say, I can't increase my volume. I can't get enough swabs, I can't get enough vials, I don't have enough machinery to manufacture it or test it. They need chemical agents that are part of the test. Many of these chemical agents aren't even manufactured in the United States. So there's an international supply chain. All this to say, it is very hard to bring this to scale quickly and we need the federal government to be part of this.

Testing capacity, to me, is like what ventilators were over the past month. All of a sudden because of this virus and the respiratory attack, we need massive numbers of ventilators. I never heard about ventilators before this. I now know more than I ever wanted to know about ventilators. But it came out of the blue, they're very hard to manufacture. There's a whole supply chain, they're a sophisticated piece of equipment and you just—it's very hard to get them manufactured quickly. No one is to blame on ventilators. No one is to blame on testing. I know we're in a political world. Well, who's to blame, who's to blame? Sometimes there's nobody to blame, you know? On this testing situation, there's nobody to blame. Just how do we now do it? How do you now scale this up and scale it up quickly, because we want to phase the reopening as fast as we can between now and a medical treatment and a vaccine, right? That's what we're doing.

I do know this, it's along the lesson of ventilators. The answer on testing is not what happened on ventilators, which is 50 states competing against each other to buy testing capacity from these private sector companies and the federal government, which is also buying testing capacity, competing against the 50 states. That is not learning the lesson of what we did before. So partnership with the federal government, 100 percent. But we need that partnership to do this. Once you test, then you have to trace the contacts. So we test Bernadette, Bernadette turns up positive. Okay, who were you with over the past week? What family members were you with? Who do you sit next to in the office? You now have a list of 30 people. If it's Bernadette, even more, because she's highly social, has a lot of friends. Now somebody's got to run down that list of 30 people. From one positive. It's a detective, investigator in the public health space. That is a massive undertaking. It's intelligent, but it's massive. And that is an army of tracers.

So testing, have to get that up to scale. And then tracing, yes, but that's a massive undertaking that we now don't do. So, testing, tracing, isolation. Yes, we have to do that in concert with the federal government. Again, no one's done it before, no one's done it to this volume. And second, for the states to do this role of reopening, we need funding. And the past federal legislation has not provided it. It's that simple. They funded many good causes: hospitals, small business, et cetera. Yeah, but you now want the state governments to do all this work. Do this, do this, do this, do this. Okay, I'll do everything I can. I need your help with the things I can't. But, you have to provide funding because at the same time the state governments are broke. And that's not just me. That's every Governor in the United States.

That's the National Governor's Association, the Chairman Governor Hogan - good man, Republican - and myself, Vice Chairman for the National Governor's Association, wrote a joint letter saying the states need $500 billion in funding because I have to be afloat and have some capacity to do all these things you want the Governor's to now do. And that has to be in the next federal legislation and there can't be excuses about it. So from today to 18 months, which is the last date for a vaccine, that's what we have to work through. First rule, do no harm.

This is a public health crisis, we're still in the woods. Just because that number has plateaued, that doesn't mean it's any time to relax what we're doing. So do no harm, don't go backwards. Hope we find a medical treatment between now and 18 months. In the meantime, testing, tracing, testing, tracing, trying to get that up to scale which is going to be the equivalent of getting Apollo 13 back to Earth, 220,000 miles 50 years ago. It is a very difficult task. It can't be done perfectly, I can tell you that right now but we can do better than we're doing and in the meantime a phased reopening of the economy as educated by testing tracing.

Now one other point on the phased reopening, what does that mean and how do we phase this reopening until we get to a medical treatment or a vaccine? This is what we're thinking about. We need clarity on what the federal government is going to do and what the state governments are going to do. I heard the President last night, it's up to the states basically. Great, I get it. The states can do the do no harm. It is their job to do the public health monitoring. The states can also do the phased reopening pan. We cannot do the states that have a large problem cannot do the testing and tracing without federal assistance and that's important.

On the reopening, we can do, and we have a blueprint for the reopening, again as guided by the testing-tracing, but there are two factors really on the reopening. How essential is the business, service or product or function? The more essential a business, service or product, the more urgent the need to immediately get them back online, or as soon as possible. So, how essential is what the business does and then second, what is the risk on infection spread of that business? Some businesses can say I can open tomorrow. In my business I can have all sorts of precautions, people will not be less than six feet apart. Period. There will be no congregation of people. I won't do conferences, I won't do joint meetings, it's not the way my business operates. I can bring everybody back, put them at separate desks, they'll never be near each other. I have a very low risk of infection spread. Businesses can start to redesign their workplace to think that way.

Alright, so your business poses a low risk of infection spread. That's the second factor and the first factor is how essential is your business? So that is almost a business by business evaluation that has to go on. And then once you determine the essential nature of the business, because right now we have all "essential workers" who are working, right? This would be, now what's the next tranche of essential workers and how high or low is the possibility of infection spread if that business becomes operational. Then you basically have a matrix where the lower risk of infection spread and the higher nature of essential services are the businesses that you would start prioritizing, right? So that's how we will inform our economic reopening as we're being guided by the testing-tracing and as we're making sure we're not jeopardizing the success we've made in handling the public health issue. That's the whole outline, the whole vision from here to 18 months, building that bridge to the new normal for the economy until we get to a conclusion.

In the meantime, for today, stop the spread. I'm going to show you a chart in the next couple of days. We've been tracking the infection rate which is, what? Which is one person -- how many people does one person infect? Does one person infect one person, two people, three people? That rate of infection is the difference between a manageable situation and a pandemic. And they can -- they can calibrate that for what Wuhan did, where we are now and where we were, and it is a fascinating analysis.

In the meantime, what do we do today? We have to continue to stop the spread and this is a constant calibration also. I'm going to issue an executive order that says all people in public must have a mask or nose covering -- mouth and nose covering, and they must wear it in a situation where you cannot, or are not maintaining social distancing. Meaning what? Meaning the same thing we've been saying from day one. If you're going to be in public, and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask and put the mask on when you're not in socially distant places. You're walking down the street, you're walking down the street alone, great.

You're now at an intersection and there are people in the intersection and you're going to be in proximity to other people, put the mask on. You're right to go out for a walk in the park, go out for a walk because you need to get out of the house, the dog is getting on your nerves. Fine, don't infect me. You don't have a right to infect me. If you are going to be in a situation in public where you may come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced, you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth. That is by executive order. So, if you're going to get on public transit, you're going to get on a bus, you're going to get on a subway, you're going to stand on a subway platform, you're going to walk in a neighborhood that is busy, you're going to be on a sidewalk, you're going to pass other people on a sidewalk, you're not going to able to maintain social distancing, you must wear a mask or cloth or an attractive bandana or a color-coordinated bandana cloth, but you have to wear it in those situations. We'll give people three-day notice to allow compliance. Just on the off chance that somebody doesn't have a cloth covering or a mask, and we'll go from there.

On the ventilators, we've stabilized the health care situation. New York had one of the earlier curves. There are other places in this country now seeing increases in the death rate and seeing stress on their health care system. I will never forget the generosity that people across this country showed to our state and I said at that time, New Yorkers are generous and they are grateful and gracious and when you need help we will be there for you and we will be.

The state of Michigan is going through an issue right now. The State of Maryland is going through an issue. We're stabilized. We're going to send 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to the state of Maryland.

Last point, personal opinion. Build a bridge. We built a bridge and I learned a lot by building that bridge and it's a lesson that has informed me and a lesson that I think should inform people who are hearing about us needing to build this bridge.

It was a bridge across the Hudson River called the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in very bad shape, had been in bad shape for 20 years. For 20 years everybody talked about we're going to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Nobody did it.

It was in such bad shape that there were actual holes in the roadway that they would put these large metal plates over and when you would drive across the Tappan Zee you would go over one of these metal plates and the plate would bounce a little bit and you could actually see glimmers of light that would come through the hole and metal plate. Traumatized two generations of drivers, me included. Government kept saying, yeah, we have to replace this bridge, we have to replace the bridge. Never did.

I become Governor. I say we have to replace the bridge. A whole wrath of bureaucrats say to me, in a nice way, you know what, it's too risky a venture. It goes across the Hudson River, the Hudson River's an environmentally sensitive place. You try to build a bridge in the Hudson River, you have to put down piles, you have to do all that construction. It's going to annoy environmental concerns, it's going to be very expensive, it's a very high-risk, difficult project. They cautioned me not to do it. By the way, for 20 years nobody had done it. I said yeah, but then you don't build the bridge. I understand the risk. I understand you could get blamed, I understand something could happen, I understand whatever you do in life people are going to have 57 different opinions and it's never going to be perfect. Yes, they can always write stories, this one criticized this, this one criticized this - we love negative in society for some reason. But then you don't get anything done.

Long story short, we built a bridge. On time, on budget. It's beautiful. We did go through all the heartburn of going through a construction project in the public domain. Yes, many people criticized. We picked blue, they wanted green. We did this, they wanted that. That's the nature of people. But, we did it. It is a beautiful symbol for me and for anyone who sees it. Don't tell me that we can't do it because I know that we can do it. Because we did do it and we did it very well.

Have we dealt with a situation like this? Can we build a bridge that takes us from today to 18 months? Yes. Yes, because we are bridge builders, that's what we do. We build bridges. Sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically, sometimes metaphorically, but we build bridges. The bridges can be a bridge, can be an airport. It can be a new civil rights legislation, new labor rights legislation, new minimum wage legislations, but we build bridges. That's what we do in New York and we're going to do this.

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