SUNY and CUNY Will Prepare Plans for Distance Learning for Remainder of Spring Semester Starting Next Week
State Will Provide Two Weeks Paid Leave for State Workers Who Are Quarantined as a Result of Novel Coronavirus
Confirms 43 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 216; New Cases Include 13 in Westchester County, 16 in New York City, 9 in Nassau County and 5 in Suffolk County
Announces Cooperative Effort with New York State Business Leaders to Voluntarily Implement Different Work Shifts and Telecommuting to Help Reduce Density
NYS Department of Health Will Provide $200,000 to Local Food Bank in New Rochelle to Ensure Any Family Who Relies On Free School Lunches Can Continue To Access It During Containment Period
Governor Cuomo: "CUNY and SUNY, starting March 19th, will move to a distance learning model. And both systems will be doing that. CUNY will help reduce the density in New York City. SUNY will help reduce the density in downstate New York. That is SUNY Purchase, Stony Brook, Westbury, etc. Downstate is where we have the highest density of cases now."
Cuomo: "We are asking the Legislature to pass a bill that says people will be paid by their employer if they're on quarantine. Lead by example, New York State will pay any person who is quarantined who is an employee of New York State. So if you're on mandatory quarantine or on what we call precautionary quarantine you'll be paid if you're a State employee."
Cuomo: "Remember the overall game plan is we're operating on three tracks, right? First is testing, second is reducing density to reduce the rate of infection and third is communicating with the people of this state so they know the actual facts versus the hype, versus the hysteria, versus misinformation."
During a novel coronavirus briefing earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will contract with 28 private labs to increase testing capacity for the novel coronavirus. Following a call with the 28 labs, the Governor announced that he has instructed the labs to begin testing immediately as soon as they are ready. The 28 labs are specialized in virology and are routine partners with the New York State Department of Health.
The Governor also announced the State University of New York and the City University of New York will implement plans to maximize distance learning and reduce in-person classes, beginning March 19th, for the remainder of the Spring semester in light of the evolving novel coronavirus situation in New York. All campuses will develop plans catered to the campus and curriculum-specific needs while reducing density in the campus environment to help slow possibility for exposures to novel coronavirus. Distance learning and other options will be developed by campuses.
Governor Cuomo announced the state will guarantee two full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the novel coronavirus. Employees will not have to charge accruals during the time taken off work for quarantine. This will apply to all state employees, regardless of civil service classification, bargaining unit, and regardless of part time or accrual status.
Finally, the Governor also confirmed 43 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 216 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 216 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
Westchester: 121 (13 new)
New York City: 52 (16 new)
Nassau: 28 (9 new)
Suffolk: 6 (5 new)
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:
Good afternoon. Everybody know Dr. Howard Zucker to my left, Health Commissioner, Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor and Beth Garvey, Special Counsel to the Governor. We want to give you a few announcements and an update today. Remember the overall game plan is we're operating on three tracks, right? First is testing, second is reducing density to reduce the rate of infection and third is communicating with the people of this state so they know the actual facts versus the hype, versus the hysteria, versus misinformation.
On testing, you look at the experience in China, you look at the experience in South Korea - what changed the trajectory of the incline of the number of cases? It was a tremendous amount of testing and investigation. China - 200,000 tests per day. South Korea - 15,000 tests per day. They were so aggressive on testing that they actually found the people who tested positive, isolated them, and then ran down the track of who those people may have contacted. Massive testing. This testing we've done 5,000 tests to date, according to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. So our testing capacity is nowhere near what it needs to be. Now there will be a retrospective one day - what happened, why? We saw China - November, December last year - you saw the case coming. Why did it take so long for this country to get a testing protocol done? That will be for another day. I'm a Governor - I'm concerned about today. I'm concerned about tomorrow.
So New York State is going to take matters into its own hands. We're going to start contracting with private labs in this state to increase our testing capacity. Remember again the chronology - we started several weeks ago, CDC said they would do all the tests and they would send them to Atlanta. We said that was too little too late - they allowed the State laboratory to do testing. That capacity was several hundred. We said that's too little too late. We have great labs in this state - why the federal government wouldn't avail itself of the labs, why they wouldn't have had protocols and tests ready. So we are going to contract directly with the private labs in this state. There are about 200 labs in this state. The Department of Health routinely works with about 28 labs which are expert in this kind of testing and virology, and where the Department of Health has a preexisting relationship with these labs, where they are confident of the labs' work product, etc. We had a call with the 28 labs today. We informed them that they should get up, get running, and start moving forward with testing.
There is still some complexity that the FDA needs to sign off on the actual protocols of some of these tests and that is still complicating the situation. But this will greatly increase our testing capacity as we get these 28 labs up and running. We had them on the telephone today, had the communication today, and we are starting the mobilization of those 28 labs. But that will make a big difference. But frankly we are not in a position where we can rely on the CDC or the FDA to manage this testing protocol so we will be moving forward with that.
Second track is to reduce density. Why? Because if somebody is infected you do not want them to infect more people. That is what we are doing in New Rochelle. You have the intense cluster. You know you have an intense cluster. Stop large gatherings where you have a large cluster of people that are infected. It is called common sense and that is what we announced with New Rochelle.
We are also announcing that CUNY and SUNY, starting March 19th, will move to a distance learning model. And both systems will be doing that. CUNY will help reduce the density in New York City. SUNY will help reduce the density in downstate New York. That is SUNY Purchase, Stony Brook, Westbury, etc. Downstate is where we have the highest density of cases now. So, SUNY and CUNY closing March 19th thereabouts. There are some different campuses. There may be some variability. But that will be a way to reduce density and that is a good thing.
I've also spoken today with hundreds of business leaders - primarily in New York City. I have asked them voluntarily to help reduce the density. There are a number of ways they can do this, different work shifts. Some people work early. Some people work late, different teams, one team works the other week, but again, ways to reduce density in the city, telecommuting, working from home, all the experts say social distancing. You should be more than six feet from someone. Try walking down a New York City sidewalk and be six feet from people. It would be virtually impossible. So reducing density - how do you do that? Ask the businesses to cooperate.
We're also going to be making a decision on the St. Patrick's Day parade. We'll make that decision later on. I want to speak with a few more people but I've been speaking with health experts, Dr. Fauci who I believe is one of the best in the nation who I've spoken to a number of times. He testified today and this is his strong recommendation. Just reduce large gatherings. Why would you risk bringing thousands of people together knowing that this is a virus that easily communicates. Dr. Fauci was talking about sports events, etcetera, but St. Patrick's Day is one of the great convenings, right, of a large number of people. So we'll be making that decision today but if you listen to the experts they would say you should not be having a St. Patrick's Day convening at this time which I believe makes sense.
We said if we're asking people to be quarantined we are asking the Legislature to pass a bill that says people will be paid by their employer if they're on quarantine. Lead by example, New York State will pay any person who is quarantined who is an employee of New York State. So if you're on mandatory quarantine or on what we call precautionary quarantine you'll be paid if you're a State employee.
Public transit, we've asked them statewide to double the cleaning protocol. This conflicting information on how long the virus lives on a hard surface, plastic or stainless steel, it was at first a couple of hours. Then some people said up to 12 hours. Some people now say up to 24 hours. Some people say maybe a little longer than 24 hours. We want to double the cleaning protocol just to make sure New Yorkers are confident. There was a situation in White Plains where an attorney who practiced at Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains Courthouse tested positive. Six court rooms are closed for cleaning, and employees who had contact with that attorney will be on precautionary quarantine. And anyone who needs a test we will do.
The overall number of cases in Westchester, you see again, 13 new cases. That is probably the single most troubling point in the State right now. 48, 12 new ones in New York City. 28 Nassau. 212 Statewide. This number, as I have said from day one, will continue to grow every day. The more tests we get, the more positives we will get. That's exactly what we are seeking. These are not random survey tests. This is not a random sample. We don't have people who are random sampling the universe to find out what the infection rate is. This is when we find a person who is positive, asking them who they came in contact with, and then testing that chain. That's primarily where these tests come from. And we're looking for the positives. So that is actually good news because it says we're successfully tracking the chain.
These numbers will continue to go up dramatically. The more tests we do, the more these numbers will increase. These numbers do not reflect anyone's belief of what percent of the population is infected. My theory, talking to everyone else, having no medical experience whatsoever, is the coronavirus was in this country before people acknowledged and that it is much more widespread than people acknowledge. My guess is when we go back and we look at this, we will find people that there were many people who had coronavirus where it resolved and nobody even knew about it. We're looking at a test that would test for antibodies that the body produces to fight the coronavirus to prove out this point. If a person has antibodies that were produced to fight the coronavirus, it will show that they actually had the coronavirus at an earlier time, resolved, and moved on. But that's a test that the Department of Health is working on.
You see it goes New York and Washington State, number one and number two. It depends on the number of cases that day. Again, to the extent these cases, these tests are representative of anything. Death rate in Washington State much higher because it was of a vulnerable population, it was a nursing home. That is the vulnerable population in a congregate setting. That is the most dangerous situation posed by this virus. Senior citizens, people with a compromised immune system, people with an underlying illness in a congregate facility.
Third point is communication. Communication is making sure people have the facts, the right facts, the right information because the facts here do not justify the amount of fear. I understand it's a virus, I understand it sounds like a bad science fiction movie. This is not the Ebola virus, we've dealt with that. That was a much more dangerous, frightening virus. The facts here actually reduce the anxiety. We have 212 cases in the state of New York. 32 are hospitalized. Well how about everyone else? They're home. They're recovering at home or they have recovered. But only 32 out of the 212 require hospitalization.
To me, what is the most definite, factual information is the Johns Hopkins study. Let's go back and track every case of coronavirus since we first heard about it. Let's go back to China, to the first case, and track all of the cases and find out what happened. 121,000 cases from the beginning, 4,000 deaths. 66,000 people recovered, 50,000 pending cases. 4,000 deaths are terrible, yes, no doubt. How many people died in the United States from the flu last year? Roughly 80,000 from the flu. So, again, perspective.