December 2, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces State to Receive Initial Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses for 170,000 New Yorkers

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces State to Receive Initial Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses for 170,000 New Yorkers

State Expects to Receive Vaccines December 15 if All Safety and Efficacy Approvals Are Granted

New York Expects to Receive Additional Vaccine Allocations from Pfizer and Moderna This Month

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 5.88 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 4.21 Percent

Statewide Positivity Rate is 4.63 Percent

69 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "The first vaccine delivery to New York will be 170,000. The federal government distributes the vaccine by percentage of the population of that state. So, the state's population divided by available dosages is what the state gets. There's no discretion in how much the state gets. It's purely a percent of population which is what they say at least. We expect if all safety and efficacy approvals are granted, those doses will arrive on December 15."

Cuomo: "The goal line is in sight. And the goal line is a vaccine that we administer that people accept. That could happen as early as June, could happen as late as September. It depends on us. It depends on us, how many people go into the hospital; Depends on us, how many people getvaccinated, how quickly. More good news: New York is starting in a much better place than the other states. We are just starting at a much better place. We have a lower percentage of hospitalizations, lower percentage of hospitalization increase, less burden on our hospitals pro rata, less of a hospital emergency than the other states. Because New Yorkers have been smart - they did the best job in the country the first time around, going from the highest infection rate to the lowest infection rate, and I have no doubt if we do what we have to do, New Yorkers will handle this surge better than any state in the country."

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State will receive an initial delivery of enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for 170,000 New Yorkers. If all safety and efficacy approvals are granted by the federal government, the state expects to receive the vaccines—which were created by Pfizer—on December 15. New York State expects additional allocations of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna later this month.

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:

Good morning. For those of you who may not know who is here, to my very far right is Mr. Gareth Rhodes, Chancellor Jim Malatras, we have Commissioner Howard Zucker. To my left, we have Melissa DeRosa, Secretary the Governor, and we have Robert Mujica, Budget Director.

Today is day 277, believe it or not. Four important questions that are on everyone's mind, I get asked all the time: Where are we in terms of COVID now? Where are we going in terms of COVID? And when is COVID going to be over? There's talk about vaccinations, sounds like the end is imminent. Fourth question is, what do I get my spouse or significant other for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays. I have no good advice on the fourth question. Gratuitous advice is to get something that is easily returnable so if it doesn't work, then they return it - no harm done. A little more gratuitous advice,I have a birthday coming up, one of my daughters called me up this morning and said, "What do you want for your birthday?" I said that's up to you but not a sweater or a tie, which I consider default gifts. If a person can't figure out what to get you, what do they get you? A sweater or a tie. No sweaters, no ties.

The holiday season is 37 days. We talked about Thanksgiving. It's not about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is the commencement of a holiday season, and it goes from Thanksgiving, to post-Thanksgiving, Black Friday, to commencement of holiday parties, to commencement of holiday travel, to commencement of holiday celebrations. That is 37 days up to New Year's Day and I see that is one period of time that is a period of increased social activity. Increased social activity will increase the infection rate. My personal opinion is that you're going to see the increase continue all through the holidays. You'll see it continue through January 2 and then the lag for the testing and hospitalization which takes you to about mid-January. The question is, how fast do the cases increase? Nobody can tell you because it depends on what people do. It is up to us. There is no pre-determined fate. It is a pure function of what New Yorkers do. It's a pure function of social action. What can government do during this period? We can warn people. We can educate people. We can enforce restrictions. We can do testing and tracing.

What is the biggest fear? The biggest fear is overwhelming the hospitals, period. That's where we are and that is a serious, serious concern. We announced a five-point plan the other day. I'm sure you all recorded it to memory but for those of you who were out sick, first was my managing the hospital system and managing the load of the hospital system. We know the capacity of hospitals - 54,000 statewide. We know it by region. Manage that load. Increase and balance the testing. There is a lot of demands on testing. You have to test nursing homes, you have to test essential workers, you have to test business professionals who have licenses, who have to be tested as part of their work. You want to be fair in balancing that testing.

Keep schools open K to 8. Positivity rate in schools is amazingly low and shows that the schools are much safer environments than the surrounding communities both for the teachers and for the students. Small gatherings are now the number one cause for spread and that's new and that is different, and the public has to understand that. Fifth, get ready for the vaccine distribution. We hope for a flattening of the increase in mid-January. We hope that the increase in social activity is through the holidays and after January 2, people settle down, the social activity slows down, the travel slows down, and the increase in the rate slows down. Okay, then what happens after January 2?

We then turn to how effective is the vaccination program going to be because the vaccination program is really the end game here, right? And there are big questions on that. How fast does the vaccination program go into effect? How fair is the vaccination program? How inclusive is it? How many people partake in the vaccination and how much does the federal government provide for a state to actually do the vaccine and the percent of participation. You have a very high skepticism rate about this vaccine specifically. You have a high skepticism rate about vaccines in general. Remember what we went through with the measles vaccine where you had a lot of parents who just did not want their children vaccinated for measles. There's a whole anti-vaxx movement of people who are skeptical about vaccines.

On top of that, you have added skepticism about this vaccine. How long is the plateau? How long is the drop on the other side? Depends on the vaccine production and delivery schedule and the effectiveness of it. When do we get back to the normal economy? Experts will say you need 75-85 percent of the population vaccinated. That is a tremendously high percentage on every level - administration of it and acceptance of it. There is a range when the experts say you can get to that point; Some say as soon as June, some say not until September. Again, nobody knows because there are too many variables. It may also vary state to state, depending on how well that state does and depending on the receptivity of that state's population.

On the vaccines, we've spoken to the FDA. Dr. Hahn is the commissioner of the FDA. We have a New York panel. The New York panel will review the FDA's approval. Why? Because we know we have existing skepticism about the vaccine. Our panel did not create the skepticism. The skepticism existed and that's why we created the review panel. The Kaiser poll says 60 percent of Americans are skeptical about the vaccine approval process. Kaiser is not a political organization. Pew poll says about 50 percent of Americans are skeptical about the vaccine. That is very, very troubling. If people think the vaccine approval process was politicized, they're going to be less likely to take the vaccine. You saw the numbers we need to participate. You need 75-80 percent.

If you start with a public where 50 percent are skeptical about the vaccine, that's a major problem. To combat that problem, about seven states said, I understand you're cynical and skeptical about this administration's approval process. We'll set up a New York panel, California panel, to review the approval to help build confidence and to counter that existing cynicism. It's not that the states panels created the cynicism. The cynicism created the state's panels. The FDA and this administration created the cynicism. What happened on Hydroxychloroquine created the cynicism. The overt political influence that this administration has shown, repeatedly, that has been imposed on public health officials created the cynicism. So, it is real, and it exists and every poll has said the same thing.

We've also spoken to the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield. We communicated to him and I believe he understands: This has to be an inclusive process. The Black, Brown and poor community has paid the highest price for COVID. Why? Because it exposed an inherent discrimination in our health care system. They live in communities with less access to health care, they had a higher level of preexisting conditions. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Browns died at one and a half times the rate of whites. COVID testing was at a lower level in the Black, Brown and poor community. I'm not going to enhance and aggravate the discrimination that has already been manifested by now excluding them or discriminating against them in the vaccination process. New York State will not do that. I believe it's unconstitutional. I believe it's illegal. I believe the vaccine should be made available to everyone regardless of race, income, religion, et cetera. And we know that the Black, Brown and poor community has already paid a disproportionate price for this COVID virus. And we know the Black, Brown and poor community made up a majority of the essential workers who we relied on to do the most important work for us all through this. We also know that if you don't have the full participation of the Black, Brown and poor communities, you're never going to hit the goal of 75 to 85 percent. And that means the vaccination process will fail for all New Yorkers and all Americans.

We also know that you can't dissuade the undocumented population from participating. Federal guidance has the states signing something called a data-sharing agreement. The federal government suggests we identify recipients by using social security numbers, passport numbers, or driver's license ID numbers. Those are also proxies to determine citizenship. The federal agreement then says they can share that information with other federal agencies. That triggers ICE and Homeland Security. We have lived this fight in New York with the Trusted Traveler Program and the driver's license program, where we know they were trying to get our list to have ICE use it for enforcement actions.

And the third variable is going to be the vaccine funding. I'm working with the National Governors Association. The federal government is not providing any funding to speak of for the states to do the vaccinations. Who's supposed to pay for this? How am I supposed to do the distribution? We have a deficit from COVID. You have local governments who are starving and may lay off essential workers. Those are the essential worker you need to do the vaccine program.This vaccine administration will cost the state a billion dollars. The federal government has not provided funding to states anywhere near that amount.

I've also been speaking to congressional leaders across the board, senate leaders across the board. If they do a package, there has to be funding to administer the vaccines. It's not enough to say, "We'll deliver them to your state." That's very nice. FedEx can deliver them to the state. How do we then distribute it? How do we do the outreach? How do we do the public education? How do we convince 85 percent of the people to take the vaccine? How do we get into public housing? How do we get into Black and Brown communities? Who's going to do this and who's going to pay for it?

Yesterday, the CDC's advisory committee on immunization practices issued four more prioritization recommendations. They recommended front line healthcare workers and elderly people living in long term care facilities. That recommendation coincides with the priorities that we had established already so the CDC's recommendation reinforces the priorities we established.

The first vaccine delivery to New York will be 170,000. The federal government distributes the vaccine by percentage of population of that state. So, the state's population divided by available dosages is what the state gets. There's no discretion in how much the state gets. It's purely a percent of population whichis what they say at least. We expect if all safety and efficacy approvals are granted, those doses will arrive on December 15.

By the end of December, the administration suggests that there will be enough to vaccinate 20 million people with two dosages, which is 40 million dosages. That means 6 percent of Americans - gives you an idea of where we're going to be coming into January, and those 6 percent will be prioritized as the health care workers, seniors in congregate facilities, et cetera. But 6 percent of Americans, having available dosages by the beginning of January, you see how far we have to go.

New York State also expects additional allocation of the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine which has also been approved and we expect them later this month.

We're going to have to take two operations simultaneously. One is the hospital management situation, which is critical. We have to reduce the spread. We have to reduce the number of people going into hospitals, and we have to manage that patient load going into hospitals. We don't want the hospitals overwhelmed. At the same time, you have the vaccine management program. The vaccine management program, we need the federal funding, we need a real aggressive outreach effort, we need social acceptance and confidence to take the vaccine.

This is going to be the largest government the operation not just through COVID. This will be the largest governmental operation undertaken since World War II in my opinion. To give you an idea of how massive this is, I said this to President-elect Biden at an NGA meeting, this nation has done about 130 million COVID tests over the past nine months - 130 million from day one of COVID. We have to do 330 million vaccines, twice. How long does that take you? This state, more testing than any state in the United States, we have done just about the population of the state doing everything we could and that's taken us nine months to do a COVID test.

A COVID test, very few people refuse a COVID test. It's not a frightening test. It's a nasal swab. Now you're asking a person to take two vaccines and you're asking them to take two vaccines which is a more elaborate medical processand they're distrusting about the vaccine going in. So this is going to be an incredibly challenging period to undertake both of these at the same time.

We are going to bring back former Secretary to Governor Larry Schwartz who came and helped us out at the height of the pandemic. You can see by his face that he's very happy to come back and help once again. I thank him for the joy that is on his face and his willingness to come back and participate. Larry was former Secretary to me, former Secretary to Governor Paterson, Deputy County Executive Westchester, Deputy County Executive Suffolk. He'sprobably one of the most skilled government officials I've ever worked with. He ran the Surge the Flex program, the PPE shortage program the first time around, so he's going to come back and help. Linda Lacewell is going to come back. Simonida Subotic is going to come back. They helped the first time around. You can see they're also very happy to come back. They're also very big with hand gestures, both of them, if you notice which is a good way to communicate using the hands. I use hand gestures also, but they were very helpful in the first tranche and I thank them for coming back and helping again.

We're going to have a- this is a period where we need the public to understand the changing dynamics, and how this COVID is now spreading and how dangerous a period we are in with hospitalizations so we're going to going to do briefings every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and we'll start that next week.

These are the numbers for today: Micro-cluster zone, 5.8; statewide positivity, 4.2, overall positivity with the micro-cluster, 4.6. 193,000 tests, 69 New Yorkers passed away. They're in our thoughts and prayers. 3,900 hospitalizations, that'sup 150. 742 ICU, 373 intubations. You can see - we're looking at this now by region - the regional increase over the last three weeks, and you see the same basic curve on every region of the state. First time around, we had a New York City, downstate, Long Island, Westchester problem. That was actually beneficial in a way, because we could bring resources from Upstate to help downstate. We don't have that option here because you see that the increase is statewide.

These are the charts that we're going to focus on going forward. This is the increase in hospitalizations by percentage, okay? Highest increase in hospitalizations, Western New York, Mohawk Valley then Finger Lakes then Long Island then Central New York, Mid-Hudson, New York City, Capital Region, North Country, Southern Tier by percentage, and those are alarming percentages. And we take that into consideration. By number of cases, the prioritization shifts for obvious reasons by number of cases, it's New York City first, 600 additional hospitalizations over three weeks, then Long Island 366, Western New York 307. Now if you adjust for population you see Long Island's very high, Western New York is very high, Mid-Hudson is very high by population. And it's important to see it both ways, because, remember, the hospital capacity is roughly relative to the population of the region. So, New York City is up 600, yes, but New York City is many more hospital beds. So, you have to look at the percentage increase and you also have to look at the number of cases.

Bad news, we have another mountain - I know how much you like mountains. I've heard many of your comments about the mountains. I may make another mountain to symbolize the mountain because I know you like it. That's the bad news we have another mountain to climb. The good news is the goal line is in sight. And the goal line is a vaccine that we administer that people accept. That could happen as early as June, could happen as late as September. It depends on us. Depends on us, how many people go into the hospital; depends on us, how many people get vaccinated, how quickly. More good news: New York is starting in a much better place than the other states. We are just starting at a much better place. We have a lower percentage of hospitalizations, lower percentage of hospitalization increase, less burden on our hospitals pro rata, less of a hospital emergency than the other states.

Because New Yorkers have been smart - they did the best job in the country the first time around, going from the highest infection rate to the lowest infection rate, and I have no doubt if we do what we have to do, New Yorkers will handle this surge better than any state in the country. I also think New York State is going to be stronger and better for it. I know that you don't see it now, but this has been a global period of disruption. People say "Well, when are we going back to normal?" You're not going back to normal. Life doesn't go backwards; life goes forward. The question is, who finds the opportunity in this period of disruption? You're going to have new business practices, you're going to have new housing practices, you're going to have different development patterns. There is opportunity for the entrepreneur economy and entrepreneur government that seizes those changes, and that's what New York will do because New Yorkers are tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.

Before we do questions, we have a PSA that we want to show you, which is going to try to talk about the new situation with COVID and how it's changing. Do you want to run the PSA?

***PSA highlighting the dangers of covid-19 transmission through 'living room spread' plays***

Living room spread. Living room spread. So that's what we have to explain to people. It's not mass gatherings, it's not what it was. It's literally living room spread, which when you think about it, is understandable. People change the socialization pattern. Where did you socialize? We're social beings. We like to be with each other. Where did you socialize? "We went to the restaurant and sat around the restaurant and we talked and had fun." Okay, that doesn't work anymore. "We went to the bar and we sat around, and we talked to each other, and we had fun." Well, that doesn't work anymore. "Okay, come to my home and we'll socialize in my house. We'll go to Jesse's house on Friday night. We'll watch the game, bring the family, we'll hang out and we'll have fun." When you eliminate those other options, socialization is not going to stop, especially during the holiday season. It went into smaller gatherings in homes and that'snow over 70 percent.

That concept of living room spread is hard to communicate because the whole orientation is, "I'm in my house with my family and with my friends. This is my safe zone. I'm sitting in my living room. Of course, I'm safe. This is my best friend Jesse. He would never get me sick." It's not intentional. It's not that he knows. He was asymptomatic. Yeah, "I was with my kids. I was with my family." That's where it's happening. That's where it's happening. That's why states — dozens of states — went to no more than 10 people in a home. Kentucky went to no more than eight people in a home. The Trump administration, CDC says you should not be in a gathering besides your immediate household with whom you are normally with. That's the CDC, that's Trump. That's why these people want to play politics with this — whose politics are you playing? If Trump's CDC, Joe Biden's COVID Advisory Board says the same thing — the one thing Trump and Biden agree on is this concept of spread in small gatherings. Trump's guidance is more strict than the state's guidance. It's no politics. I mean you can't dismiss every health official. Every Republican health official, every Democratic health official, President Trump, President-elect Biden. "I know better than all of them." Okay, maybe you do, but maybe you don't.

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