Governor Will Propose Legislation to Grant Authority to DOH Commissioner to Ensure Appropriate Response Measures by Local Health Departments and Public and Private Hospitals Statewide
DOH Will Convene Conferences with Local Health Departments and Hospitals Statewide to Review Protocols, Best Practices and Procedures
Calls for Federal Government to Approve Emergency Authorization for Wadsworth and NYC Public Health Lab to Test for Virus, Allowing State to Expedite Process and Get Quicker Results
DOH Will Work with MTA, Port Authority and its Airport Operators, and the Authorities' Respective Workforces to Ensure Workers Have Training and Access to Supplies They Need to Continue to Operate Mass Transit Systems and Airports
Still No Confirmed Cases of Novel Coronavirus in New York State
Governor Cuomo: "Our operating paradigm is always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We have done that all across the board and it has held us in good stead. We are coordinating all the relevant agencies from the State...And we are working with the hospitals all across the State."
Governor Cuomo: "So we take every situation like this seriously and we prepare for it, but from a public point of view, I want to keep the perspective right. Yes, we're preparing, but this situation is not a situation that should cause undue fear among people."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $40 million appropriation for the New York State Department of Health to hire additional staff, procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic. The Governor will also propose legislation to grant authority to DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to ensure local health departments and public and private hospitals statewide take certain actions and measures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as needed. DOH will convene local health departments and hospitals statewide to review protocols, best practices and procedures to help ensure they are prepared to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Governor is also calling on the federal government to authorize the Wadsworth Center and NYC Public Health Lab to test for the virus, allowing for expanded testing capacity and expedited test results. New York State has independently worked to develop and validate a test using the CDC protocol. Upon FDA approval, Wadsworth can immediately begin testing to support New York State and other states in the northeast region if necessary.
Additionally, DOH will work with the MTA, Port Authority and its airport operators, and the authorities' respective workforces to ensure workers have the necessary training and access to supplies, including cleaning and protective equipment, they need to continue to operate mass transit systems and airports. The State is also coordinating with all state agencies to help ensure they are prepared to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic. More information is available here.
AUDIO of today's announcement is available here.
PHOTOS of today's announcement will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is below:
Good afternoon everyone. Let me introduce the people who are here with us this afternoon. From my far right. Mr. John Bilich from the Port Authority who is the Chief Security Officer. To his left, Ken Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association that works and coordinates all the voluntary hospitals in our state. Beth Garvey, who you know is Special Counsel. Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. Dr. Howard Zucker, who is the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health. Michael Kopy, Director of Emergency Management, and Patrick Murphy, Commissioner of the Department of Homeland Security. I want to thank them all for taking this time.
We have been talking about the Coronavirus and we want to give you an update and a briefing. Commissioner Zucker was in Washington yesterday working with the CDC and getting a briefing on what the CDC had to say about handling the situation. The CDC made it clear that they will be working with the States and the States have a significant role in coordinating the services that will actually be rendered. New York State right now has had 27 cases that we have explored - all of them have come back negative. There is one case that is still pending. There have been 53 cases of people nationwide who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
I have said before that it is highly probable that you will see a continuing spread of this virus. It is highly probable that we will have people in New York State that test positive. New York is the front door internationally. We have people coming here from across the world. We see how it is spreading and affecting different countries - Italy recently - and that will continue. Again, I think it is highly probable and no one should be surprised when we have positive cases in New York.
Our operating paradigm is always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We have done that all across the board and it has held us in good stead. We are coordinating all the relevant agencies from the State: Department of Health, Emergency Management, Port Authority is here that runs the airports. And we are working with the hospitals all across the State, and Ken Raske has been a great partner in that.
We are also incorporating lessons we have learned. This is not the first time we have gone through a situation like this. Remember we had the situation with Ebola at one time that caused great concern and we went through that situation. We went through SARS. We went through the Zika virus, the H1N1 virus, Legionnaires disease we had to deal with. So we've gone through a number of public health emergencies that we have dealt with and each one seems new and unique, but we've handled situations like this in the past and we're handling this one also.
Some specific actions we're going to take: we'll be sending an emergency supplemental appropriations bill up next week to the Legislature asking for an additional $40 million as an emergency supplemental appropriation for the Department of Health. That, again, is to err on the side of caution. We want to make sure the Department of Health has all the equipment that they would need. Obviously there is an international rush now to get the right equipment, the right masks, gloves, et cetera. Turns out that China is one of the main manufacturers of this equipment, which obviously makes it a little more complicated and problematic, so we want to make sure we're ahead of the curve on that.
The Legislature will also make sure that the Department of Health has the authority to do what it needs to do to manage the situation. Within the next two weeks the State Department of Health will be convening a meeting with all the local departments of health to communicate a standard protocol - all health departments should be doing the same thing. If there is a quarantine, what does "quarantine" mean? "Home quarantine" - how do we define that? "Quarantine in a hotel setting" - what does that mean? Sharing lessons learned, best practices, so the Department of Health will be doing that in the next two weeks.
We're also going to be convening private hospitals. The most logical situation to anticipate in this case is you may have a large number of people with flu-like symptoms who need healthcare attention and that would be our hospital network and making sure that we coordinate the capacity, the available beds among hospitals if we do have a rise in the number of people who need hospitalization, and we'll convene that group with Mr. Raske's help.
We're also bringing our airport operators - we have John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airport. JFK is the main airport and Newark Airport in this region that receives a lot of international flights, but people change flights so we'll be bringing in all the airport operators so we make sure we understand again the standard common protocol among all those airport operators, and also that they're talking to the workers in their airports about what this is and what to expect and concerns that might come up. Again you have people - every one of these situations there's a certain anticipation, certain number of questions, and people want their questions answered, and they should be.
We'll also be asking the federal government to allow the State to do its own testing - the State has a very sophisticated Department of Health system and a very sophisticated laboratory at Wadsworth - so one of the issues we now have is it takes a couple of days to get the testing results back. If we could accelerate that by doing testing in the State, and the CDC allowed that, that would be very helpful.
As a matter of perspective, you take in one of these situations very seriously, and that's what government should do. Whether it's SARS or Ebola or Zika or Legionnaire's, we took every moment very seriously. If you prepare correctly, you'll have less of an issue when or if a situation develops into something that is more problematic. I was at the Jewish Community Center this past Sunday. It was a bomb threat - an email bomb threat - something I heard when I was in the federal government in emergency management, they said, "The threat that you don't take seriously is the one that becomes serious." So we take every situation like this seriously and we prepare for it, but from a public point of view, I want to keep the perspective right. Yes, we're preparing, but this situation is not a situation that should cause undue fear among people. Yes, it is a serious illness, has a higher mortality rate than the flu, et cetera, but not like some of these situations. We had 17,000 people in the State of New York last week that had the flu - 17,000. So we've dealt with situations like this in the past and we'll deal with it again.