Governor's Program Bill Guarantees Job Protection and Pay for New Yorkers Quarantined as a Result of Novel Coronavirus
Legislation Also Adopts Comprehensive Paid Sick Leave Proposal First Advanced in Governor's Executive Budget
Follows Governor's Announcement Last Week that the State Will Provide Two Weeks Paid Leave for Quarantined State Workers
Drive-Through COVID-19 Mobile Testing Facility Opens Today in Nassau County - Follows Success of Similar Facility in New Rochelle
State to Open Drive-Through Mobile Testing Facilities in Suffolk County, Rockland County and Staten Island
State is Reaching out to Retired Nurses and Doctors to Supplement Medical Personnel at Hospitals - Part of Governor's Hospital Capacity 'Surge' Efforts
Directs Greater NY Hospital Association and Healthcare Association of NYS to work with 1199 SEIU to develop plan to create drop-in child care and expand child care facilities at hospitals to ensure child care for hospital workforce
Confirms 432 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 1,374; New Cases in 10 Counties
Cuomo: "This is an extraordinary time in this nation's history, and it will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion. So my message to New Yorkers is this: Be a little bit more sensitive, understand the stress, understand the fear, be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative. We are going to get through it and we are going to get through it together."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a three-way agreement with the Legislature on a bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The program bill also includes the permanent comprehensive paid sick leave policy first advanced in the Governor's FY 2021 Executive Budget proposal.
This follows the Governor's announcement last week that 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.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS of today's remarks are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Good morning. Happy Saint Patrick's Day. I would use my brogue, but I was mocked mercilessly last time I did that - for good cause. But happy Saint Patrick's Day anyway. Sporting a little green just to carry on the tradition. Everybody knows James Malatras. Our great Health Commissioner Doctor Zucker. Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor. Robert Mujica, Budget Director.
Let me go through and update. As you know the situation changes daily now, which is expected. This is an evolving situation. The numbers ramp up, that's been the experience in every county this has visited. So we want to make sure that you understand that as the facts change, our strategy changes. We have a plan. We're sticking with the plan. The plan adjusts or moves as the facts move.
First step was testing and second step was containment and they work together. The testing has ramped up. It's continuing to ramp up. We'll be in thousands per day. That is going very, very well. The state is managing its testing capacity. We're working with the federal government on bringing on automated testing. That is all going very, very well and the numbers are going up.
Containment - we've taken a number of measures. Significant measures to do containment. And that is working very well. On the containment side, we had a tri-state strategy, which is highly unusual, but highly effective. We worked with Connecticut and New Jersey. We announced the same rules, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York. Why? You don't want people shopping different states because different states have different rules. You don't want people driving to Connecticut or New York or New Jersey because there's a different set of rules. So, uniformity works. It's hard to do, but we can do it.
Uniformity works and we did that yesterday with restaurants, bars, gyms - all closing 8 o'clock last night and staying closed today. With the caveat that they could sell off-premises by delivery and the State Liquor Authority changed their rules to make that possible. We closed schools. All schools are closed for a period of 2 weeks. And the 180-day ESD requirement is waived for 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, we may renew that period of time, but all schools have the same period. Why? Because once again, you need uniformity. You don't want a business having some employees in one school district that is open and one school district is closed.
So, in all this disruption and all this change, try to keep it as uniform as possible and the rules as uniform as possible so to the extent businesses can operate, people can live their lives. Keep it uniform.
My phone has been ringing off the hook with a number of local officials saying people are very, very upset. Who's upset about the gym being closed, who's upset about their restaurant is closed, who's upset about the bars closed. Actually I've had the highest number of calls being complained about bars being closed. I don't know if that is statistically representative of anything, but that's just anecdotal.
Some people are upset about schools being closed. I said to the local officials and I want to say to the people of the State of New York, if you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me. The County Executive did not do this. The village mayor did not do this. The city mayor did not make these decisions. I made these decisions. These are all state ordered rules. It's not their local elected officials. I made them because I believe they are in the best interest of the state. I know they cause disruption. I know people are upset. I know businesses will be hurt by this. I don't feel good about that. I feel very bad about that because I know we're going to have to then deal with that issue as soon as this immediate public health issue is over, but my judgement is do whatever is necessary to contain this virus and then we will manage the consequences afterwards.
The old expression, "the buck stops on my desk." The buck stops on my desk. Your local mayor did not close your restaurants, your bars, your gyms or your schools. I did. I did. I assume full responsibility. Again, these are all statewide rules because we don't want people shopping among different jurisdictions. We closed the bars in New York City, but if you keep them open in Nassau all you would see is the flood of cars going to the bars in Nassau, so the uniformity is important.
It's also important that no local government puts any rules in place without first checking with the Department of Health so the Department of Health can make sure they are consistent with all other rules that we're about to put in place.
Mitigation is continuing and is ramping up. There are many rumors out there - part of the fear, the anxiety. People spread rumors. Well, maybe you're going to quarantine New York City. We hear New York City is going to quarantine itself. That is not true. That cannot happen. It cannot happen legally. No city in the state can quarantine itself without State approval and I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.
Well, you contained New Rochelle. We did a containment zone on New Rochelle which was actually misunderstood. Nobody was contained in New Rochelle. There was no cordon around New Rochelle. You could come and go in New Rochelle as you wanted. The containment referred to the virus. All we did in New Rochelle was close the schools and close places of large gatherings so nobody was contained within New Rochelle and nobody is going to be contained in any city in this state. So that's a deep breath moment.
And the last part of the strategy is dealing with the health care system and this is where we are now going to shift our emphasis and I want people to understand what we're going to have to do with the health care system because that is now our top priority and remember what we've been saying all along.
There is a curve, everyone's talked about the curve, everyone's talked about the height and the speed of the curve and flattening the curve. I've said that curve is going to turn into a wave and the wave is going to crash on the hospital system.
I've said that from day one because that's what the numbers would dictate and this is about numbers and this is about facts. This is not about prophecies or science fiction movies. We have months and moths of data as to how this virus operates. You can go back to China. That's now five, six months of experience. So just project from what you know. You don't have to guess.
We have 53,000 hospital beds in the State of New York. We have 3,000 ICU beds. Right now the hospitalization rate is running between 15 and 19 percent from our sample of the tests we take. We have 19.5 million people in the State of New York. We have spent much time with many experts projecting what the virus could actually do, going back, getting the China numbers, the South Korea numbers, the Italy numbers, looking at our rate of spread because we're trying to determine what is the apex of that curve, what is the consequence so we can match it to the capacity of the health care system. Match it to the capacity of the health care system. That is the entire exercise.
The, quote on quote, experts, and by the way there are no phenomenal experts in this area. They're all using the same data that the virus has shown over the past few months in other countries, but there are extrapolating from that data.
The expected peak is around 45 days. That can be plus or minus depending on what we do. They are expecting as many as 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds will be needed at that point. That my friends is the problem that we have been talking about since we began this exercise. You take the 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds and compare it to a capacity of 53,000 beds and you understand the challenge.
As many as 18,000 to 37,000 beds, okay? An ICU bed is different than a hospital bed. An ICU bed has additional equipment, most notable ventilators and that's why you hear on the news ventilators are very hard to get globally. Why ventilators? Because we're all talking about acutely ill mainly senior citizens who have an underlying illness. They have emphysema, they're battling cancer, they have heart disease, and then they get pneumonia on top of that. That's the coronavirus. They need to be intubated, they need an ICU bed, and that's the challenge. And that is, remains the challenge. And the numbers are daunting. What are we doing? Everything we can.
First, flatten the curve. Continue to flatten the curve so you reduce that peak demand. We announced dramatic closings yesterday. To reduce the density, it's possible we will be doing more dramatic closings. Not today, but I'm talking to the other governors in the other states. Slowing that expected flow into the hospitals, it's clear we can't manage that flow. How can you reduce the flow? You reduce the spread. How do you reduce the spread? You close down more interaction among people. How do you close down more interaction? Well, yesterday we closed the bars, the gyms, et cetera. You would continue to close down things such as businesses. Italy got to the point where the only things they left open were grocery stores and pharmacies. Those were central services, but they closed down everything else. We're not there yet, but I am telling you, we have to get down that rate of spread. Because whatever we do on the hospital side, we cannot accommodate the numbers that demand on the hospital system.
So again, we just enacted rules yesterday. We're not enacting any other rules today, but it is very possible because the numbers as you'll see in a moment, are still going up. Whatever rules we come up with will be statewide rules. Hopefully, it could be done with our surrounding states. Because the best way to do this is uniformity. No shopping. Among states, among cities, among counties. Everybody lives with the same rules. So we don't have people on the road going back and forth, trying to game the system. At the same time that you're trying to reduce the numbers coming into the hospitals, you're trying to increase the capacity of the hospitals. How do you do that? The hospital surge capacity. What is the surge capacity? Getting the existing hospitals to hold more people. Right now there are rules and regulations about how many people can be in a hospital, how many people per room, how many square feet per bed, etcetera. That's for normal operating conditions. These are not normal operating conditions.
We're examining the entire hospital system. What is the maximum capacity per hospital? If Department of Health waives their special rules, how many people can you get into hospitals? There is a meeting today with all the hospital administrators that I've asked Michael Dowling and Ken Raske to run. Michael Dowling is a former deputy secretary for health and human services, former health commissioner. Michael has worked for my father as health commissioner, I've known him 30 years. He's extraordinary. Ken Raske, he represents all the hospitals. Sitting down with the hospitals saying, change your headset. This is not about how you normally do business.
Frankly, forget the economics. What's the maximum number of people we can get into your hospital and what do you need to do that, and what equipment do you need to do that, and what staff do you need to do that? We're going back to retired staff, and we're asking them to contact us at this website, health.ny.gov/assistance. To get former nurses, former doctors to sign up to be on the call. We're also going to medical schools, nursing schools, to try to get additional medical personnel. And then we're talking about temporary construction of medical facilities. Obviously when you're talking about 45 days, you have a limited capacity of what you can actually get done. But, I'm working with governments and organizations all across the state right now. How do we set up temporary hospital facilities, even if they're not intensive care units? You can take people who are in the hospital beds, move them into a temporary medical care facility and then backfill the bed.
We're also working with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard and the building trades unions to help us on this issue. The numbers, total people tested to date, we're up to 10,000 people. Which is obviously exponentially higher than it was and is continuing to grow. Positive cases, up to 1,300. New positive 432. Number of counties with cases continues to grow. Clinton County, Rensselaer County have been added to that. Our cases are, again, number one in the nation. Our number of deaths now up to 12. Two hundred and sixty-four out of those cases are hospitalized. That's a hospitalization of 19 percent. That's higher than the normative hospitalization rate, which is at about 15 percent, but the 19 percent is higher. Again, keep this all in focus with what we know. The facts we of what this disease does and what the impact is, which is the Johns Hopkins study, which has tracked every case since China.
A couple of other points and then we'll take your questions. We have and will open today in Nassau County, a drive through testing office. We opened one in New Rochelle, it worked very well. We'll open Nassau today. We're going to open a Suffolk drive through testing office and we're going to open a Staten Island drive through testing office. We're going to send up the Paid Family Leave bill to the legislature today. I believe we have a three-way agreement on that. It will also have a provision to cover all people who are quarantined. And we will be doing that, also. We'll also be opening a Rockland drive through testing facility.
Two other points. One, this is an extraordinary time in this nation's history. It will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion and chaos. I lived through 9/11. I remember the fear and the panic that existed in 9/11 where a single moment your whole concept of life and society can be shaken. Where you need to see government perform at its best. You need to see people at their best. Everybody's afraid, everybody's nervous. How you respond, how you act, this is a character test for all of us individually. It's a character test for us collectively as a society. What did you do at that moment when all around you lost their head? Rudyard Kipling. That is this moment.
What does government do in this moment? It steps up, it performs, it does what it's supposed to do. It does it better than it's ever done it before. What does government not do? It does not engage in politics or partisanship. Even if you are in the midst of an election season. Even if you are at a moment in time and history where you have hyper-partisanship, which we now have. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, it is essential that the federal government works with the state and that this state works with the federal government.
We cannot do this on our own. I built airports, I built bridges. We have made this government do things that it's never done before. This government has done summersaults, it's performed better than ever before. I am telling you, this government cannot meet this crisis without the resources and capacity of the federal government. I spoke to the President this morning again. He is ready, willing, and able to help. I've been speaking with members of his staff late last night, early this morning. We need their help, especially on the hospital capacity issue.
We need FEMA. FEMA has tremendous resources. When I was at HUD I worked with FEMA, I know what they can do. I know what the Army Corps of engineers can do. They have a capacity that we simply do not have. I said to the President, who is a New Yorker, who I've known for many, many years. I put my hand out in partnership. I want to work together 100 percent. I need your help. I want your help and New Yorkers will do everything they can to be good partners with the federal government. I think the President was 100 percent sincere in saying that wanted to work together. In partnership, in the spirit of cooperation I can tell you the actions he has taken evidence that. His team has been on it. I know a team when they're on it. I know a team when they're not on it. His team is on it. They've been responsive. Late at night, early in the morning, and they've thus far been doing everything that they can do and I want to say thank you and I want to say that I appreciate it and they will have nothing but cooperation and partnership from the State of New York.
We're not Democrats and we're not Republicans. We are Americans at the end of the day. That's who we are and that's who we are when we are at our best so this hyper-sensitivity about politics and reading every comment and wanting to pit one against the other - there is no time for this.
The President is doing the right thing in offering to step up with New York and I appreciate it and New York will do the right thing in return.
Also on a personal level, this is, we use the word disruption, such a clinical, antiseptic word, it's a period of disruption. Life has turned upside down, it's just turned upside down. Remember those snow globes when you were a kid and you shook the globe and the snow went all over and the whole picture changed as soon as you picked up and shook that snow globe? Somebody picked up our country and just shook it and turned it upside down. And it's all chaotic and things are flying all over. And there's new information and there's misinformation. And people don't know what to do and businesses are closing and the rules change every minute. And can I go out, can I not go out, how do I get the virus, how do I not get the virus. And now I'm at home and I'm stuck at home and the kids are at home. And then there's a whole component to this, don't touch anyone. Don't hug, don't kiss. We're human being - that interaction is so important to us, that emotional affirmation is so important to us. And now you have all those weighty decisions - should I go out, should I not go out? Is this safe for my kids? Is this not safe for my kids? I'm stuck in my house.
I've used my experience just as a metaphor to communicate and relate. Having the kids in the house sounds great, having the kids in the house, yay the kids are in the house. I remember when my kids were young, I was divorced, my kids were three girls, they were six and seven and eight-years-old. Six and seven and eight-years-old in a small apartment in Manhattan, that's a lot of fun and then that gets old very fast. Right? The claustrophobia just sets in, it sets in for the kids and it set in for me. What I would do then is I would go to my mother and father's apartment, which was also in Manhattan, to get out of my apartment. And I would go to my mother and father's apartment, and they had a little apartment in Manhattan, and my mother was magic with the girls, and she would play with them and she could play with them all day. My mother's pure sugar, she's just pure love, my mother. But I'd be there for a couple of hours and I'd be sitting there with my father, we'd be sitting on the couch and we'd watch a ball game. And after a couple of hours, now the kids are running around and the kids are picking up this and they're picking up this and they're picking up his picture frame and my father says, "Put that down, put that down, don't touch that." After a couple of hours my father would say, "I think you have to go to work now pal." I'd say, "No, I don't have to go to work." "No, I think you have to go to work now pal." You know?
Having all the kids in that tight environment, that's very stressful. That's why yesterday we said all the fees on all the parks are waived. Get out of the house, go to a state park, we have beautiful state parks. By the way, traffic is down, put the kids in the car, go to a state park, go to a county park, go to a city park - Shirley Chisholm Park in Brooklyn is beautiful, it's open, it's air, the weather is getting better. Spend the time with the kids.
There's also tension among families. I mentioned my mother who is numerically a senior citizen, although not in her reality. I wanted her to stay home, I want her to be isolated. She's my mom, I want her protected. One of my siblings said, "I want to take mom to my house and we're going to have a party at my house and I want her to see the kids." I said, "That's a mistake. You shouldn't do that. You should let mom stay home. I'm more protected." The sibling was saying, "I want to take mom, get her out of the apartment, it's closer to the kids." I said, "You don't know. All you need is one kid." All day long, all I hear about it is people coming up to me saying I didn't know, but my daughter was with this person. So I can even see the tensions in the families. And that's real too and people should expect that.
And lastly, there is something to this lack of ability to connect. Don't hug, don't kiss, stay six feet away. We are emotional beings and it is important for us, especially at times of fear, times of stress, to feel connected to someone, to feel comforted by someone. I mentioned my daughter. I have not seen my daughter in over two weeks. It breaks my heart. And then this concept of maybe I can't get next to her because of this virus, there is a distance between me and my daughter because of this virus, its saddens me to the core and it frightens me to the core. And I had her on the phone this morning and I said it to her. I just said it to her. I said I can't tell you how hard this is for me not to be able to be with you, not to be able to hold you in my arms, not to be able to kiss you all over your face - which she hates anyway. And that plays out a thousand different ways, you put all of this together - it is a hard time. It is a hard time on every level. It is a frightening time on every level.
At the same, it is this much time. Is it 3 months, is it 6 months, is it 9 months? I don't know but it is this much time. We will get through this much time. Understand what we are dealing with, understand the pressures that we are feeling, but we will get through this much time. Be a little bit more sensitive, understand the stress, understand the fear, be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative. And we will get through this time.
We will lose people, yes, like we lose people every year with the flu. We are going be challenged and tested. There are going to be periods of chaos, yes. We have been through that before also. But this is all we are talking about and we will learn from it and we will be better prepared the next time because this is not the last time my friends. This has been a growing rate of this emergencies and health situations and storms. But we are going to get through it and we are going to get thought it together. But understand the pressures that everyone is feeling and let's be considerate of those feelings that are now collective and societal.