October 17, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Most Movie Theaters Outside of New York City Can Reopen on October 23

TOP Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript:...

Theaters Must Open at 25 Percent Capacity; No More Than 50 People in Front of Each Movie Screen


Theaters in Certain Counties Outside of New York City Do Not Meet State Requirements and Cannot Reopen


159,972 Test Results Reported to New York State Yesterday—New Record High


Statewide Positivity Rate is 1.11 Percent


Positive Testing Rate in Hot Spot Areas is 4.34 Percent; New York State Positivity Without Red Zone Focus Areas Included is 1.02 Percent


9 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday


Governor Cuomo: "The division aids and abets the virus, and it comes down to the mask. How this became a political symbol, in this nation, I have no idea. And how you can have every scientific expert say wear a mask, New York State was the first state in the nation to mandate mask-wearing, every scientific expert, projections saying 50, 60,000 people more will die because they don't wear a mask, and it has become a political symbol. Since when did basic humanity and saving lives become a political issue? Even after over 30 people get infected at the Rose Garden, you still want to say this is a political symbol?"


Cuomo: "None of us have been here before. We wear a mask, we socially distance. I urge everyone to do it, because to me it's exact opposite of harshness. It is out of love. And it is out of respect. And it is out of humanity. I want to make sure everyone does everything they can to protect each other. I want to do everything we can do to make sure nobody that nobody dies. That's what it comes down to - that nobody dies. Yes, it'shard; yes, it's going on a long time. But we do know how to do it and we are doing it. And we are saving lives and it will be over. We will get to a vaccine. And we will figure out how to administer a vaccine. Frankly, if the federal government doesn't do anything, we'll figure it out here in New York like we figured it out for the past seven months. We'll get there.'"



Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that movie theaters outside of New York City can reopen at 25 percent capacity under state guidance starting October 23. No more than 50 people are allowed in front of each screen in each movie theater at once. Theaters can only open outside of New York City in counties that have COVID-19 positivity rates of less than 2 percent on a 14-day average and do not have any cluster zones. Theaters will be subject to rigorous state guidance and enforcement.


The governor also announced that 159,972 test results were reported to New York State yesterday—a new record high.


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


AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.


PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.


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


Happy-looking group this morning. Let me introduce, for those of you who may not know someone who is here. From my far left, Beth Garvey, special counsel. To my immediate left, Dr. Zucker, health commissioner extraordinaire. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her right, Gareth Rhodes, who is deputy superintendent of Department of Financial Services and has been working with us in the Chamber coordinating COVID activities.


It is a beautiful fall day in New York. It is a great fall foliage weekend, you should know. We have a special I LOVE NY map that shows that. We were looking at it on the way down. Today is day 231. Today is Saturday. It's no-tie day. Dr. Zucker didn't get the memo. Before we go through exactly where we are on the numbers, let's take a little bit of a step back if we can. It's important to keep our perspective in this situation. It's been so intense and it's now been so intense for so long. What we do should be guided by what we've learned through this journey over the past seven months.


COVID has been a step ahead of everything we have done from day one. Literally, we didn't even know that it was here when it arrived. And as a nation, we were just wrong. The White House was pointing to China, "it's the China virus, China virus, China virus". It was coming to California; it was coming to the State of Washington. But that's not where it came from. It came from the exact opposite direction. We're looking to the west, it came from the east. It had migrated from China, had gone to Europe, and the virus was coming from Europe and we had no idea.


They talk about "well, we did the China travel ban, January 29th". Yeah, that's great, except it didn't come from China. It came from Europe, and there was no European travel ban until March 16. Which means January, February, March, the virus was coming and we never knew it. And that's why when we had that first case, it just exploded because it had been coming for months. "Well, nobody knew anything about these viruses." That's not true either. We had gone through this before. 2002 was SARS. Then the swine flu, then MERS, then Ebola, then Zika, and now COVID. COVID is a zoonotic virus. A zoonotic coronavirus. Like MERS and like SARS. From China, like MERS and like SARS. From a wet poultry market in China, like MERS and like SARS.


So we don't have the benefit of saying, "Who could have expected this?" And then the mistake was compounded. The federal government abdicated responsibility. This is a federal crisis. I was in the federal government. When you say it's a 50-state crisis, you know what you're saying? It's a national crisis. When you have 50 states, by definition, that's national. And that's when the federal government steps in and the federal government take an active role in the leadership. Here the White House literally said, "it's up to the governors. It's up to the states." Well if it's a 50-state problem, how is it not a federal problem? And when did states become in charge of handling global health pandemics? Right? And when you made the 50 states handle it on their own, and frankly, compete against each other, we couldn't even get enough masks and gowns going through this. We couldn't do enough testing. Literally, we couldn't get enough Q-tips to do the nasal swabs.


Learn those lessons, and the worst mistake is still ongoing. And that was the denial of the problem in the first place. You will never solve a problem you'reunwilling to admit. And this White House, from day one, has denied the problem and continues to deny the problem. The second mistake is diving the nation. It's a virus. You only stop the spread if everybody agrees to work together to stop the spread. That's the only way you stop it. the division, by definition, aids and abets the virus. That's what division does. Look at the great irony. They talk about community spread. "It's in the community, it's spreading in the community." What is the only way to stop community spread? Forge community. Literally, community, of the common. That spirit where I'mgoing to work to help you and you're going to work to help me.


The division aids and abets the virus, and it comes down to the mask. How this became a political symbol, in this nation, I have no idea. And how you can have every scientific expert say wear a mask, New York State was the first state in the nation to mandate mask-wearing, every scientific expert, projections saying 50, 60,000 people more will die because they don't wear a mask, and it has become a political symbol. Since when did basic humanity and saving lives become a political issue? Even after over 30 people get infected at the Rose Garden, you still want to say this is a political symbol? 


Now we're in the fall. The fall is a new phase. "Well, what does it have to do with the seasons?" It actually does have something to do with the seasons. And the scientists talked about this months ago, although the White House denied it. When you get to the fall, schools are reopening, kids are coming back to college, it's colder outside people are going indoors, you can't do the outdoor dining as much. The fall itself has an effect on the spread of the virus. Again, there was denial and now you're seeing the numbers go up all across the country. Literally, all across the country which causes a problem for us on a parochial level, because people from across the country come here. And we have states on quarantine list and we have people in the airports and questionnaires, but it is an imperfect system with the State protecting its boundaries. So, the numbers are going up all across the country. You can't play catch-up with the virus. You know who said that? A.J. Parkinson said that. New York, one of the lessons we learned: Look ahead look ahead and stay ahead, right? It's not checkers, we're playing chess with this virus. Look ahead and stay ahead. The fall, you're going to see increased viral transmission rate - fact, and it's happening. A look ahead to the winter which is going to be the season of the vaccine, hopefully science finds work, but then you're going to have another really difficult complex government issue. How do you administer the vaccine? But start thinking about it now.


For the fall, we are going to deploy what we call a micro cluster strategy. Well, there is no such thing as micro-cluster. You're right. There was no such thing as hotspot either. There was no such thing as a super spreader either. These are all post-COVID terminology. There should be a post-COVID dictionary for words that have come up only post-COVID. Micro-cluster would be in the dictionary along with the other words.


Up until now, what have we been doing? We have been targeting all our actions either on a statewide level, New York State on pause, we closed everything down, or we reopened on a regional level - regions, downstate, upstate, Western New York, Capital District region. That worked fine and frankly was our only option because we didn't have any more sophistication than that. We now have more sophistication because we've been at it for seven months. So rather than looking at it on the state level or regional level or even a county level or even a neighborhood level, we are now going to analyze it on the block by block level. We actually have data that is so specific that we can't show it because it would violate privacy conditions but we know exactly where the cases are coming from.


Okay, so then change the strategy, change the framework, the template, from a state to a region to a county down to the actual targeting by the block of the increase in the spread. So this is the Brooklyn zone. The blue dots are actual cases. So if you see the concentration of cases where it's most dense, that became the most specific targeted zone. We call that the red zone. A buffer area around the red zone that still has a density of cases but not as dense as the center, that's an orange zone, and then a zone around that by density of cases which is the yellow zone. That is how we are going to target going forward. So there's no more statewide, regional, literally block by block with specific targeting.


We said all along, I designed this graphic, nobody liked it but I'm the governor so I get one out of every 20 slides even if the people don't like it. You open up the economy, you watch what's happening with the viral transmission rate spread, and if the increased economic activity raises the viral spread too high, start to back off on the valve. But subtle, sophisticated calibrations, not these states that go full on, full off, full on, full off.  More sophisticated calibrations off the testing data.


This now, micro-clusters says, and not just turn on the state or calibrate the state, don't just calibrate the region, calibrate now just those specific geographic areas. Target it and target your strategy down to that level of activity. It requires more testing, more targeted testing, and then you have to be responsive to the situations in that specific locality with mitigation measures for that specific locality, but it has the advantage of causing less disruption. If you have a problem in Kew Gardens, Queens and that's your problem, then why affect activity in the rest of Queens, let alone Brooklyn, Bronx, etcetera? So it's much smarter. It's more effective. It's also less disruptive.


To make it happen is the trick. You have to have refined detection which is more targeted testing. You have to have mitigation measures for those areas that reflects why the virus is spreading in those areas. And then you have to do enforcement. That is how this works and again the devil is in the execution, not in the details. It's actually in the execution. Almost by definition, if you have a cluster it means there was a lack of compliance, almost by definition. If people are following the rules the virus does not spread. That's good news. That's good news. If people are following the rules the virus doesn't spread. You look at the situations where the virus spreads - it's always a lack of compliance, frankly, a lack of common sense. Sweet sixteen party on long island with too many people, bars in the Southern Tier with too many people, then everybody goes to a funeral with too many people and it spreads. It's always a lack of compliance.


The only answer to a lack of compliance is enforcement. So in these zones, yes, restrictive medic mitigation, back off on the valve, and then you have to do more enforcement because there was a lack of compliance. Otherwise, the cluster is not a cluster. It didn't exist unless there was a lack of compliance.


Now we're talking about micro-clusters in Orange, Rockland, Queens, Brooklyn. The targeting and the more restrictive targeting is working. For example, you look at this in queens, the Queens zone, in the arm area in the Queens zone when we called it a cluster it was one 1.59 percent. Last week, 1.3 percent. So far, this past week 0.4 percent. The compliance works, enforcement works, and reduction of congregate activity works. Also, you can now move the zone, reshape the zone, take certain areas out of the zone, because we want the less disruption possible, right? The more people can open their business, the more people can go to work, the better. So, we can adjust the zone quickly or the parameters of the zone. If you're at 0.4, frankly. you're in good shape, right? So, the number came down, make the adjustment, and we will.


This micro-targeting idea has been, we've talked to all sorts of global experts about this and national experts, and people think it's exactly right. Again, you need the sophistication to do it. But, the strategy is working, not just the micro-clusters, the whole statewide strategy is working. We have one of the lowest statewide infection rates in the country. Period. You look at where the other states are going, you look at where New York State is, we are doing much, much better. Frankly, we're much more rigorous and disciplined than the other states, many other states, and our strategy is much more refined. You look at where our statewide numbers are over the past 14 days, we have been remarkably constant. 1.1 today. We were at 1.1 two weeks ago, and this is one of the lowest rates in the country. 


You look at our red zone rates - now, red zones; red zones are what we define as red zones, and I'll show you that in a minute. These are in within our 1 percent; these are our highest cluster areas, right? And they then are red zones because they are our biggest issues, not absolute big issues, but relative to the state they're big issues. Brooklyn was 6.6; that's almost 7 times the statewide rate, right? Brooklyn has made some progress, now down to about 4.9. 4.9, the statewide rate is 1, it's still almost 5 times the rate. Queens, 2.39. Rockland, 5. Orange, 6. Orange was at 24 percent. 24 Percent is high in any state, that's not just a New York definition. And then you see the other statewide numbers.


The New York red zone infection rate is lower than 34 states' overall rate, all right? What we consider a red zone -- flashing lights -- those infection rates in our worst areas are lower than the overall rate in 34 states. So, when we say red zone, these are for us the high concentration areas, and we want to contain that because if you don't that's where it's going to spread.


Today's numbers, positivity and red zone areas, 4.3. Statewide positivity without the red zone, 1.02, with the over sample 1.1. We also hit a record number of tests: 160,000 tests, which is the highest level of tests we've ever done. When you're doing that level of tests, think about that, 160,000 tests in one day. Yes, you get down to the block level, and then when you start to see a cluster, you over sample in the cluster so you get even more data. Statewide hospitalizations is up 11. The discharges are actually down. Statewide ICU down 5. Statewide intubations up 6. And we lost 9 New Yorkers, they're in our thoughts and prayers. 


Beginning October 23, movie theaters outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity with up to 50 people maximum per screen. I don't know what that means, 50 people per screen, but it's 50 people. This is outside of New York City. Areas that are below 2 percent on their 14-dauy average and have no cluster zones. So, this will be Long Island -- not New York City -- Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, not Rockland, Orange, not some counties on the Southern Tier, not Greene. Anything else?


Gareth Rhodes: Schuyler in the Southern Tier as well and Cortland.


Governor Cuomo: Okay. This micro-cluster approach we're going to continue through the vaccine, because this is not over until the vaccine. The vaccine, depending on who you listen to and then depending on who you believe, should become available in December or the Winter; that's a whole separate topic. But, and I want to speak to this tomorrow and the next day, when is it available? Do people think it's safe? "Well, the federal officials say it's safe." All right. Might somebody question that judgement? New York, we're going to have a New York Task Force review that vaccine when it's ready, and if they recommend to me it's safe, then I'll recommend to the people of the state. How do you administer the vaccines? And let's not make the mistakes that we made in the beginning of this. "Well, the states will figure it out." No, the states couldn't figure it out. They couldn't manufacture masks, and tests, and reagents. It didn't work. This is a massive undertaking. What is the federal government going to actually do besides say, "here are the dosages, figure it out," because that's not going to work. What's the state role? Where are the resources? Where is the funding? And you cannot make the same incompetent mistakes you made at the beginning of COVID.


To give you an idea of the scale of this, all our testing - we do more testing than any state in the nation pro rata, okay? That's why we have all this data and then we can act on the data. Over 7 months moving heaven and earth, 300 private labs, more testing pro rata than any other state, how many tests have we done to date when you add it all up, all right? I've done nothing for 7 months except COVID, COVID, COVID. To date, 12 million tests. "Wow, that's a lot of tests." It is. Pro rata, more than any other place in the country. "What do you mean a test?" I mean a test. Que tip, nasal swap. Bloop. 12 million. You know how many dosages of vaccines we would have to do? 40 million. 20 million people and the projection is that the vaccine may require two doses. 40 million. If it's only one dose, it's 20 million. We only did 12 million tests in seven months moving heaven and earth, 800 testing sites, thousands of people and a vaccine is roll-up-your-sleeve, I'm going to put this needle in you, unless they have a different, but it's an intrusive intervention. And you have to administer either 20 or 40 million. It's not as easily said as done. I'm chairman of the National Governors Association. The National Governors Association represents all Governors in the United States - Democratic Governors, Republican Governors, tall Governors, short Governors, funny Governors, dry-sense-of-humor Governors. We sent a letter to the White House saying we need to know basically who is going to do what. How is this going to work, and we need to know that now because if you're talking about a vaccine in December, then we have, what, a matter of weeks to put this operation in place? We can have a plan - the plan is easy. Here's the plan: Vaccinate everyone as soon as you can. Start with the greatest priority - senior citizens, nursing homes, essential workers. That's the plan. Okay, now how do you do it? Yeah I got the first COVID plan - everybody wears a mask. Okay, but now I have to get 20 million masks. So, this is going to be a real issue and I don't want to make the same mistake as a nation that we made. 


Last point, we know how to manage COVID. The doctor told us when he came to the house how to manage a virus when we have it. And he told us when the doctor came to the house, in the old days, "You have a virus. Stay in bed. Don't infect the other people in your house in your home. Don't get out of bed too soon because then you go to work, you'll get them sick and then you'll have a relapse, right?" We know how to manage COVID. But we have to do it. This is just about doing it. And this is my personal opinion. Well, we have COVID-fatigue. COVID-fatigue is a real thing. It is a real thing. One day when they have time and a look back at these seven months, there's going to be all sorts of mental health issues, PTSD issues, trauma issues. I mean this is so stressful on so many levels I don't even know that we appreciate it - it's almost for me that one of those situations where your adrenaline kicks in and you just go on hyperdrive and you just getting it done and you're not even allowing yourself to feel and to process all the emotions because you just so functionally-oriented because of the fear. But seven months of adrenaline is a long time, and the adrenaline wears off. And then you're really exhausted when the adrenaline wears off. And this wasn't supposed to be seven months. I thought this was a few weeks when it started, right? Nobody knew but it came out of the blue what could be a month, two months. And here we are seven months later. We're talking about another holiday season and what's going to happen to the holidays? I get the COVID-fatigue. Beth, Howard, Garth, Melissa - they're tired. They've been doing this every day for seven months. I would admit to fatigue. I get it - I get it on every level. But we don't have the luxury as a society of operating under fatigue. If you allow the fatigue to take over, and you don't follow the rules, the virus will spread. It is that simple. We know how to control it. But you can't get tired when the virus isn't tired. The virus doesn't have fatigue. The virus is alive and well. And the virus is not letting down its guard. So, neither can we. 


Compliance and enforcement - I know these are harsh concepts. I don't like to talk about compliance. And I don't like to talk about enforcement. Compliance, you know, I'm like the nagging person, "Wear your mask, social distance." Enforcement - if you don't do it, then you're going to have a fine, if you don't do it, all sorts of people - nobody's happy with enforcement. I'm getting sued - I'm going to get sued by family members next. I get that people are tired of the enforcement and I get that they're tired of the compliance. And I would love to be able to say what some other elected officials say, "Don't worry be happy. Don't worry about it. Go out there live your life, open your business. It will be fine and if you happen to get COVID then don't worry about it - a couple of days in bed and then you get better and you feel stronger than you've ever felt before. Go ahead live your life, we can do it, we're New York. Go ahead, enjoy yourself don't listen to these whiners. Worry, worry, worry - go ahead." I would love to be able say that. I would love to. You know the problem?It's not true. 217,000 passed away - it's not true. I've had too many conversations with too many people who have paid too high a price for the past seven months. I've had too many conversations with wives of essential workers who died because they went to work to protect other people. I've had too many conversations with children who lost their father over the past seven months because they were trying to do the right thing. It's just not true. It's just not true. 


We know how to do it. We just have to do it. And I know it's hard. Nobody wants to wear a mask. You're only supposed to wear a mask at Halloween, right? Those with the rules. None of us have been here before. We wear a mask, we socially distance. I urge everyone to do it, because to me it's exact opposite of harshness. It is out of love. And it is out of respect. And it is out of humanity. I want to make sure everyone does everything they can to protect each other. I want to do everything we can do to make sure nobody that nobody dies. That's what it comes down to - that nobody dies. Yes, it's hard; yes, it's going on a long time. But we do know how to do it and we are doing it. And we are saving lives and it will be over. We will get to a vaccine. And we will figure out how to administer a vaccine. Frankly, if the federal government doesn't do anything, we'll figure it out here in New York like we figured it out for the past seven months. We'll get there. But we have to get there. And we have to get there together and we have to get there losing as few people as possible. And that's what this whole exercise has been from day one. And that's why to me every time I've clicked this slide. The last word is what it's really all about - everything else is a way to make the last word a reality. And we have done it. And we are doing it. And we just have to continue to do it.

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