November 23, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Updated COVID-19 Micro-Cluster Focus Zones

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

New Orange Warning Zones on Staten Island and in Monroe and Onondaga Counties  

   

New Yellow Precautionary Zones in Upper Manhattan and Nassau and Suffolk Counties  

   

Zone Changes Go into Effect Wednesday for Businesses, Thursday for Schools  

   

South Beach Psychiatric Center Will Be Utilized for COVID-19 Hospitalization Overflow on Staten Island  

   

Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 4.48 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 2.73 Percent       

   

Statewide Positivity Rate is 3.08 Percent  

   

33 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday 

  

Governor Cuomo: "There is the sense of COVID fatigue, as they call it. You put that together with the fact that the cases are already on the increase, and we are now coming into the high social season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, it's the high social season. That is a bad combination."    

   

Governor Cuomo: "We worked together, people were heroic, we went from 50 percent down to one percent. We brought the rate down, but you know what? We can bring the rate up. You can bring the rate up a lot easier than you brought the rate down. If our actions change, the rate will change. If the actions change, the rate will change."   

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Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced updated COVID-19 micro-cluster focus zones in New York State. Part of Staten Island's Yellow Precautionary Zone will become an Orange Warning Zone. Orange Warning Zones will also be established in Monroe and Onondaga Counties. New Yellow Precautionary Zones will be established in Upper Manhattan and Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Modifications to current focus zones and new focus zones go into effect this Wednesday, November 25 for businesses and Thursday, November 26 for schools. 

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. Everybody knows to my far right, Gareth Rhodes. To my immediate right, Melissa DeRosa. To my immediate left, Robert Mujica, budget director of the state of New York.  

Today is day 268. A little bit of a reality check today, if we can, because these are dangerous times that we're in. The COVID rate, number of deaths, number of hospitalizations, everything we watch all day on TV, is all a function of our actions. There is no predetermined result here; it is a result of our actions. You tell me what New Yorkers do today, I will tell you the infection rate tomorrow. It's a direct result. We are in a place now where there is a bad synergy. People are talking about Thanksgiving. What's going to happen by Thanksgiving? It's not just about Thanksgiving. There is the sense of COVID fatigue, as they call it. We're social beings. We enjoy other beings. Isolation is depressing. COVID fatigue, "I don't want to do this anymore. Well, there's a vaccine. It's over. There's a vaccine." Seize anything you can as a rationalization. "There's a vaccine, we're going to get it in a few weeks. I don't have to worry about it." You put that together with the fact that the cases are already on the increase, and we are now coming into the high social season. Thanksgiving, Christmas, it's the high social season. Social activity goes way up in this season. That is a bad combination. And it is always the combination of events that creates the major issues. This is a toxic cocktail of dynamics and facts. First, we're already in a bad period. Before you get into Thanksgiving, we're already in a bad period. In the last three weeks, the number of hospitalizations has gone from 1,200 to 2,700. That is a 122 percent increase. Factor that out, that rate for the next three weeks- same rate of increase we've had for the last three weeks - factor out that rate of increase. Forget Thanksgiving, forget everything else - just factor out the current rate of increase, you know where we are in three weeks? Six thousand cases. Do you get that? Six thousand cases by the current rate of increase. That's before we go into 37 days of the highest socialization period of the year. If nothing else effects it, you go up to 6,000 cases, if you don't get it down but you're going into the period of high socialization. You put that rate of increase together with an additional increase from the high level of social activity that is a dangerous situation and that is exactly where we are going. 

   

Let's make sure we understand the facts. "Well, New York State is only at 3 percent infection rate, it has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States. We're fine. We're fine, we're only at 3 percent." Yes, we're only at 3 percent. Only Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii are lower than us, but that can change in an instant and remember how we got here. It took a lot of effort and a lot of pain to get to this point. How quickly can we forget what we just went through several months ago? We got down to 3 percent because we went through the New York Pause plan which had never been done before, required tremendous energy and effort and loss and pain. We were at a 50 percent infection rate. 50 percent. And we went down from 50 percent to 1 percent through a tremendous, unprecedented effort. How do you forget all the pain that we went through? And we have to remember that, because if we're not careful we will get back there. Do you remember overwhelming- having such a loss of life that we overwhelmed the cemeteries and the funeral homes? And we were storing bodies in refrigerator trucks, literally, that we ran out of space? Eight hundred people died on one day. Eight hundred people died on one day. The emergency rooms and hospitals were like battle zones. We ran out of cemetery space and in New York City they were burying people on Hart Island. I mean, how do we not remember that and how doesn't that chasten us and frighten us. It frightens me - I remember it like it was yesterday. Walking into the Javits Center, which looked like an emergency hospital after an apocalypse. It looked like it should be in a science fiction movie. Hundreds of cots lined up, one after the other after the other.   

 

I mean, that was just a few months ago. That's reality. That's what can happen. We worked together, people were heroic, we go from 50 percent down to one percent. We brought the rate down, but you know what? We can bring the rate up. You can bring the rate up a lot easier than you brought the rate down. If our actions change, the rate will change. If the actions change, the rate will change. Three percent positivity statewide, yes. But that's not relevant. That's not relevant. What's relevant is the variance in the infection rate and what's relevant to you is in the infection rate in your community. This state, the highest infection rate is 9.6. The lowest rate is 0.24. Those may as well be different states - those may as well be different countries, by the way.   

   

So, the question is the infection rate in your community where your family lives, and there is a wide variety. You look at New York City - Lenox Hill, 0.69. Lowest infection rate in New York City. Yes, but then you have four percent in Astoria. Just a couple of miles away - as the crow flies- Brooklyn 3.6 and then you have Staten Island - Elm Park, 5 percent. Great Kills, 5.45. Bay Terrace 5.5. Todt Hill, 5.8. That's what you need to know. Long Island, same thing. You go from one percent infection rate in Woodbury, to almost five percent in Freeport. That's almost five times the infection rate. Suffolk, you go from one percent in Stony Brook, to five percent five times in Hampton Bays. Same thing all across the Hudson Valley. It's the infection rate in your community that matters, and that's why we talk about micro-clusters. We're looking at the state in terms of communities - you should look at the state in terms of your community. That's where you shop, that's where you say hello to your neighbor, that's where your kids play, that's who your kids play with. Influence your family's behavior and your community's behavior and be a COVID change agent in your community.   

   

Fact three: The vaccine is here, happy days. A new therapeutic was just announced. Great. And by the way, it is great news. It is great news. You had an international competition among big pharma companies who could do the first vaccine - by the way, Pfizer, New York company. Regeneron, New York company. Great news. "Well, the vaccine is here, the vaccine is going to save us, so I don't have to worry." It is going to be months and months and months before you hit a critical mass on the vaccination. I will wager anyone who wants to wager, it will be at least six months before you hit critical mass. The vaccine is not going to be here in time to stop an increasing infection rate.   

 

Fact four: The numbers are going up, and I'll tell you how these numbers work, because these numbers have kept me awake for many, many, many nights. Positivity rate goes up, then the hospitalization rate goes up. Then the number of people in intensive care goes up. Then the number of people in intubation goes up. And then the number of people who die goes up. That is what happens. People get infected, they go into the hospital, they go into the ICU, they're intubated, they die. The numbers are going up.   

   

Fact five, we are threatened by everyone around us. All the surrounding states are higher than we are. They have a higher infection rate. Jersey's over 7, Connecticut's over 5, Pennsylvania's over 11. And these people come in and out every day. They work here, they socialize here, they're in the bar, they're in the restaurant, every day. You see the reflection of the numbers in today's numbers. The micro-cluster areas, 4.4. statewide without the micro-clusters 2.7. With the micro-clusters, 3.8. that's 190,000 tests, we still test more than any state in the nation, so our data is more solid. 33 people passed away. Hospitalizations up 162. And then the ICUs go up, 43, then the intubations go up, and then the death number goes up. That is what is happening.   

   

Those are the facts. We have a number of announcements of yellow zones, orange zones, red zones. Remember what they are, yellow zone in New York City is 2.5, reduces house of worship gatherings. Orange zone reduces mass gatherings more, business close high-risk in an orange zones. Schools close to clean and test, and then can reopen if they test and the positivity rate is low. Red zone, reduces house of worship to 25 percent, mass gatherings prohibited, businesses, essential only, dining, takeout only, schools close, but clean the school, test the school, reopen the school.   

   

All the leading thinkers now say, K to 8 should remain open, because it's safer than the local community. Junior high, high is a different story. New York City, Upper Manhattan is going to become a yellow zone, basically the Washington Heights area's 3.3. Staten Island, part is a yellow zone, part is an orange zone. You see in Staten Island, Tottenville, 5.89, Great Kills, 5.5, yellow zone, West Brighton, Mariners Cove, Elm Park, et cetera.   

   

Staten Island is a problem. The number of hospitalizations in Staten Island have gone, over the last three weeks, they've basically tripled. 33 to 91. It's a consequence of action. These are our three weeks overall, 122 percent increase. This is where we wind up, 6,047. At the same rate of increase, if Thanksgiving did nothing, if Christmas season did nothing, if we don't bring down the current rate, we go to 6,000. Staten Island has such an issue that has triggered a hospital capacity issue, and the hospitals have contacted us, and they say they need emergency beds on Staten Island. And we're going to open an emergency COVID patient facility at South Beach on Staten Island. Remember when we had to set up field hospitals, emergency hospitals for additional capacity? Well, that's what we have to do on Staten Island.   

   

Long Island, Hampton Bays, is a yellow district at 5. Suffolk, Riverhead is a yellow zone. Great Neck and Massapequa Park. Finger Lakes, Central New York, parts of Syracuse, Solvay, Dewitt, Lyncourt become an orange zone. In Monroe, parts of Rochester, Irondequoit, Brighton become an orange zone.   

   

On the warning track, parts of Erie County are on track to become a red zone. Westchester County, parts of it are on track to become an orange and a red zone, Orange County on track to become an orange zone, unfortunate coincidence between Orange County and orange zone, Putnam County, Brewster is on track to become a yellow zone, Ontario, Victor on track to become a yellow zone.  

   

Here is my last point. Thanksgiving - this is my personal opinion, so it's worth what you paid for; since you don't pay for it it's worth nothing. This is not a normal Thanksgiving. It's just not a normal Thanksgiving despite the commercialization. I'm sitting there last night. I'm watching television. All these commercials, Thanksgiving is coming, here is Thanksgiving, 20 people around a table, everybody drinking, passing turkey, laughing, kissing, hugging. Yeah, all beautiful pictures of Thanksgiving in the storybook setting, the way we wish it could be. Those commercials have nothing to do with what this Thanksgiving should be because those commercials are selling cranberry sauce and they're selling liquor and they're selling turkey stuffing so they're trying to say this should be a normal Thanksgiving, buy our product. I understand that.   


This is not a normal Thanksgiving. My daughter Mariah calls, you know Mariah. She's in Chicago and she calls and very calmly we have a very rational conversation, she says she talked to the doctors, it would be risky for her to come home for Thanksgiving, she's in Chicago. Why? Well, they say even if I get a test I have to get on an airplane, an airplane is risky, I have to go through the airport, the airport is risky, it's such a time now where I can actually test negative but have the virus but the antibodies haven't shown yet, which is true, there is a lag. So she said I'm not going to come home for Thanksgiving because it's unsafe.   

   

And we talked through alternatives, I said look, I'll get in a car, I'll come and I'll pick you up. She says that doesn't make sense, then we're in a car together for 10 hours and then I'm there, anywhere I can infect someone else. So we go through all the logic and we decide she's not going to come home for Thanksgiving and then she starts to cry and she said I feel so bad, I feel isolated, I feel trapped, I feel like I was looking forward to seeing you and I can't get there and those of you who have children know when your child cries it kills you. You feel pain worse than they feel pain.   

   

I hang up the phone, I'm talking to my other daughter Michaela, I said boy, Mariah is upset, I don't know what to do, I don't know how to do it. Michaela, who is the baby but the baby sort of watches everybody else and sometimes has an insight on wisdom, she said, well, this is not a normal Thanksgiving. This is a special Thanksgiving. This is better than a normal Thanksgiving because it's more powerful and it's more meaningful and it's not just about the commercialization and the toppings.   

   

Let's think about what Thanksgiving really means and really should mean when we say we give thanks because this is a year when we really should be thankful. And she's right, this Thanksgiving is more special than most Thanksgivings. It has a deeper meaning. Let's think of Thanksgiving as a time to yes, really give thanks to the people who really did phenomenal things this year, those doctors and nurses who were just amazing, all the essential workers, all the neighbors who went out and shopped for their neighbor and helped them out. All the senior citizens who had the worst year, who couldn't see their family, who were in nursing homes with no visitation, who were scared for themselves because they were the number one targets for COVID. Every person who wears a mask be thankful for them that they care enough to do it. Every restaurant owner, business owner, bar owner who lived by the rules and who suffered economically to keep their business open. Every police officer, every EMS worker. Every bus driver and train operator who had to stand there with hundreds of people walking past them all through COVID. Every reporter who goes out there to cover the story to tell people the truth. Those National Guard people. I remember looking at the National Guard when we were setting up the Javits Center and I saw fear in their eyes. It was like a stage from a movie, it was so frightening with all green uniforms, green trucks, army rations, army nurses. It was frightening. They were scared, but you know what? They were there. They didn't call in sick. They showed up.   

   

Think about all the people who left their homes every day so that we could stay at home. Think about what I was saying to people every day, "It's dangerous. Stay home. I'm not kidding. Stay home, but not you essential worker. You have to show up, and you have to leave your house so everybody else can stay home." What a beautiful gesture. Be thankful for that. How about the thousands of families who this Thanksgiving know the person who's not there, because thousands and thousands of families lost someone. Why don't we really honor that this Thanksgiving? And saying yes, we're going to be alone physically, but we are spiritually together celebrating in a way that is even deeper than just the proximate location of sitting next to someone. Yeah Mariah is going to be in Chicago, but you know what, the feeling of this Thanksgiving and my love for her and her gesture, and the way she helped me this year, and the way she helped other New Yorkers - she did the #MaskUp campaign - the fact that she cares enough not to come home was such a beautiful gesture of love. Thank you, Mariah, for thinking more of me than yourself and not coming home. We have to think of Thanksgiving that way. It's not that table. You're giving thanks and honoring your global family, and the family of New York, and everything that we did together this year. That's what we're thanking. That's what New York tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving means for this Thanksgiving. It's not a normal Thanksgiving. It's not the traditional Thanksgiving. It's better than that. It's deeper than that. It's more spiritual than that. It's more profound than that. Never in my life has there been a Thanksgiving that is more significant to me on such a deep level. It was about life and death this year. That's what we should give thanks to.  

   

One unrelated point. We finished cashless tolling all across the New York State Thruway -- 527 miles. Today, we are opening a new road that connects the Triborogh RFK Bridge with the Harlem River Drive. It should've been done decades ago. It will reduce the traffic on the Triborough and it's in place one month earlier. So, I give thanks to the construction workers who showed up and did the work all during COVID because I insisted that the state keep moving. So, I thank them also, but it's a big deal. My father used to complain that this was one of the really dumb traffic patterns in New York City, but my father complained about a lot of dumb traffic patterns in New York City, but I remember this one.  

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