Governor Cuomo: "We're also increasing our testing capacity because, again, the more you can test the better. I want to thank Northwell and Michael Dowling and the Doctor and Stony Brook who will be doing testing in concert with the State and will be helping us not just on Long Island but in the metropolitan area. We're working with a number of other laboratories to increase our testing capacity.
"The State can test at what's called Wadsworth Laboratory, but Dr. Zucker, our Health Commissioner, has been working with the federal government. We now have approval to work with other labs also, so we'll be increasing that testing capacity.
"Let's keep the perspective. Let's understand what this is. We have data, we have experience Luckily in this country, and certainly in this state, we have the most sophisticated healthcare system probably on the globe. So we're coordinated, we're on top of it, we're diligent."
During a briefing on the novel coronavirus earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State has received federal approval to work with hospital labs to increase testing capacity.
AUDIO of today's update is available here.
PHOTOS of today's update will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Thank you. I'd like to thank all of my colleagues for taking the time today. A special thank you to County Executive Laura Curran and County Executive Steve Belllone. We work together on many situations and there is no doubt that this is one of those situations where government working together and being totally coordinated works for everyone's benefit.
Let me make some opening comments and then you will hear from the County Executives. Current status of the situation, we had 11 cases as of yesterday. With the testing we did last night, we have an additional 11. So we are at 22 cases. Eight of those additional cases are connected to a gentleman we have in Westchester County, who lives in New Rochelle, an attorney who works in Manhattan and lives in Westchester. We have been following up on possible contacts that that attorney had. Eight of the new cases are in connection with him.
Two people in New York City who are currently hospitalized and one in Long Island, in a hospital in Nassau County. That individual had underlying medical conditions, which is one of the populations that is at greater risk for this virus. And he has tested positive, and he is under care in a hospital, and his condition has been improving.
On the numbers, the number of people that we find with the virus is going to continue to go up by definition since we are testing more people. You will see that number go up. The number cannot go down it can only go up. And since many of these test are being performed as a follow-up to people who have tested positive, their family, people they've been in contact with, The likelihood of finding positives is even higher. These are not random samples that we're doing. We're most often testing people who were in contact with someone who already tested positive.
What is the point of all the testing is to do the best you can in terms of containing the virus, right. It's imperfect by definition, but the more you can contain it, the more you can limit it, the more you can reduce the spread, the better. And that's why we're doing this on a daily basis. We're also increasing our testing capacity because, again, the more you can test the better. I want to thank Northwell and Michael Dowling and the Doctor and Stony Brook who will be doing testing in concert with the State and will be helping us not just on Long Island but in the metropolitan area. We're working with a number of other laboratories to increase our testing capacity. The State can test at what's called Wadsworth Laboratory, but Dr. Zucker, our Health Commissioner, has been working with the federal government. We now have approval to work with other labs also, so we'll be increasing that testing capacity.
One of the points I'd like to stress today, you know, people, there's a level of anxiety and fear that is out there because of this virus and the constant press attention. Why do people get afraid? This is always one of two reasons. You get afraid either because you think you are not getting the right information or you're confused by the information. Or because the information itself is frightening. The information itself, the facts here, are not frightening. I think what's causing anxiety is that people are confused and they're getting conflicting messages. And if you listen to the radio or you're watching these cable stations all day long, you see all these people spouting different theories and different opinions. The way I handle it with doctors in general, I say to a doctor, and I love all doctors, my sister's a doctor - but I say to doctors, "Before you give me your opinion, give me the facts. Okay and then give me your opinion. There are facts and then there's an opinion that you draw from the facts." So in this situation what are the facts because there has been confusion.
A suggestion that maybe this virus is seasonal and then it's going to go away in the summer. That is not a fact - that is an opinion. Some people believe maybe it will go away in the summer, some people don't, but we don't have a definitive answer as to when the virus naturally will abate. When will we have a vaccine? The president says we're going to have it shortly. CDC says it's about a year. The president met with medical research companies, pushed them to work as hard as they could to come up with a vaccine. The companies say they will develop a vaccine in a matter of weeks or a couple of months. But whatever they develop then has to be tested, and by the time it's tested is 12 months to 18 months depending on how the tests actually go. How does it spread? It spreads like the flu spreads, but this is a respiratory illness, so it spreads from a cough, it spreads from a sneeze - theoretically a six-foot radius is the proximate radius that droplets of sneeze or a cough could travel. Or somebody sneezes on their hand and they put their hand on the surface and you touch the surface. The virus on a hard surface lives for about 24 hours. That's why we talk about disinfecting mass transit systems, et cetera and why that's important. So should we shake hands and should we hug or just bump elbows in this meeting. That is a different kind of feeling frankly and different look.
Every flu season Dr. Zucker recommends to me that I tell people they shouldn't shake hands and they shouldn't hug. I have never followed his advice personally nor professionally and I had never said to the public, oh it's flu season you should not shake hands and you should not hug. I have two issues with that. Number one, I'm in elected office. I shake hands for a living. That's what I do. Number two, I'm from Italian-American heritage. I'm a hugger. I'm a big hugger. So if as a matter of precaution don't shake hands, don't hug, it's good advice in a normal flu season, it's good advice now during the coronavirus situation.
Well, the number of people tested and found positive keeps going up. Yes, it will and it will continue to go up. I've said that from day one. When this is over we will have dozens and dozens and dozens of cases. Okay?
Now, the question that really matters is, so what? So what? What's the bottom line to all of this? The bottom line to all of this is 80 percent of the people who have the coronavirus will resolve themselves. Eighty percent will get the virus, they'll feel some symptoms, and then they will self-resolve. About 20 percent will be seriously ill, possibly requiring hospitalization, and for some very small percentage it will be lethal. The people who have to be most concerned - senior citizens, people who have an underlying immune compromised situation or an underlying illness - those are the people we have to work hardest to protect.
What am I worried about as Governor? Nursing homes, senior congregate facilities, that is where we have to do our best work because that is a population that could be subject to a serious situation if the coronavirus was present there.
What do I worry about personally? Because we all have family members and you know with family members you always have one member who's a little more nervous than the others. My family I have a brother who has an extraordinarily anxious personality, always has been always will be, he's just anxious by nature. So he has a lot of questions. I have a mother who is elderly - she doesn't think of herself as elderly and don't tell her I said she was elderly, I will deny it - but we have to be careful for my mother. I said, "You know you want to think about using hand sanitizer, you want to think about where you're going and what you're doing." Which would also be true during the flu season. Right? It's just extrapolating from a flu season. That's what this is all about.
So, let's keep the perspective. Let's understand what this is. We have data, we have experience. We're not dealing with an unknown situation. It's gone through China, there's been thousands of people who have experienced this disease. So, we know what we're dealing with. And also remember where this is going to be most problematic locally will be for those countries that don't have a sophisticated healthcare system. Luckily in this country, and certainly in this state, we have the most sophisticated healthcare system probably on the globe. So, we're coordinated, we're on top of it, we're diligent. But we also have to keep it all in focus.
With that let me turn it over to County Executive Laura Curran and then you'll hear from County Executive Steve Bellone. Thank you.