April 14, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Holds a Briefing on New York's COVID-19 Response

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Holds a Briefing on New York's COVID-19 Response

Governor Cuomo: "This is going to take us working together. ... Just because those numbers are flattening, it's no time to relax. We're not out of the woods. In this reopening, we could lose all the progress we made in one week if we do it wrong. We have a number of challenges ahead. We have to figure out how to do this."

Cuomo: "Everybody's anxious to reopen. ... People need to get back to work. ... The worst scenario would be if we did all of this, we got that number down, everybody went to extraordinary means and then we go to reopen and we reopen too fast or we reopen and there's unanticipated consequences and we see that number go up again."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo held a briefing on New York's continued response to COVID-19 in New York State.

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

AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

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

Good morning. Happy Tuesday. Day 44 but who's counting. Every day is Groundhog Day. Thank you for being here.

To give you some facts about where we are today, total hospitalizations actually basically flat, technically a tick down, which is probably the first tick down so that's a good sign but basically flat so we thing we're at the apex on the plateau. The number of hospitalizations went up, flattened, continuing to flatten, good sign. Technically the number is down a tad, statistically irrelevant, but better than being up.

The net change in total hospitalizations, if you look at the curve, which is what we look at, the curve is down. If we do a three-day average, which is more accurate than any one day, because remember this reporting mechanism is new, we just put it in during this situation so I wouldn't bet all the chips on any one day, but when you look at three days, you look at the overall curve, we think it's indicative, so the three-day average is down.

The net change in ICU admissions is down. Again the ICU admissions I take with a grain of salt, since hospitals are no longer what they were and they're basically all ICU wards. Intubations is a real number. That's the number of people who are being put on a ventilator. About 80 percent of those people will never come off a ventilator. So when you see the intubations that is proportionate to the number of people we will lose. That's what we've been watching all along. People going to the hospital, most get treated and are discharged. Some are not discharged. If they're intubated about 80% of the people who are intubated will not come off the ventilator. The number of new people going into the hospital per day is also down, but we still have 1,600 new COVID cases yesterday so we have 1600 people new coming into the hospital, some being discharged. The net is what we've been watching, but it's also interesting to note that you still have 1,600 new people walking into the hospital or who are in a hospital and then diagnosed with COVID so the volume is still high and the hospitals have still been working hard.

We've been watching for growth outside of New York City, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland. That's been basically been flat. There have been little hot spots here and there. The Department of Health has been very good and aggressive in jumping on those hot spots and tamping them down, test, isolate, trace. You can see the numbers by region across the state, proportionately obviously downstate, New York, which is what we've been talking about, but looking for growth towards Long Island, Westchester, Rockland. The rest of the state proportionately upstate is very, very low to everything else in the state.

This is something else we are watching - this is the number of deaths in nursing homes and the nursing homes have been an increasing issue. The nursing home issue was flagged by the first cases we had in the State of Washington because that is the vulnerable population in the vulnerable place and we've been worrying about nursing homes from day one, as we saw in the State of Washington. But you see the percentage of loss of life is getting higher in the nursing homes compared to the hospitals.

Lives lost yesterday, 778. That number is up. To me that's the most painful number and it has been the most painful number every day, and those New Yorkers are in our thoughts and prayers. You look at the past few days and the number of lives lost, it's basically flat at a devastating level of pain and grief but evidence is, everything else we're seeing is basically a flattening at this level.

The statisticians will say number of lives lost is a lagging indicator, which is a nice scientific term, but it doesn't mean it's not just terrible, terrible, terrible news. Nothing we can do about it. Although, many New Yorkers are doing everything they can to save peoples lives on a daily basis at a great personal cost to themselves.

Total number of deaths is 10,834. What we have learned through this process is that our actions determine our destiny and that's actually good news. We changed the curve. Every projection model, White House, CDC, coronavirus White House task force, Columbia, Cornell, Gates funded group - every projection had a higher rate of infection, higher rate of death. CDC was talking about over a million people. CDC was talking about projections that would have swamped the nation's hospital system. That didn't happen. Why didn't it happen? Because of what we did. That's important to remember and realize. We changed the curve. Better way to say it is we are changing the curve every day. We have shown that we control the virus, the virus doesn't control us. This is a big deal. We could have been in a place where we couldn't stop the spread of the virus. We could have done this whole lockdown, close down, shutdown and you still could have seen those numbers going up. That would have been a frightening place.

We should take some comfort in the fact that we have demonstrated that we can actually control the spread of the virus. Tremendous, dramatic pain to do it, shut down everything but thank God we can control the spread. Can you imagine how bad a situation it would be if we did all of this and you still saw those numbers going up. You lock up with your family, you protect them, but somehow the virus still infiltrated the house. That would have been frightening. So there is good news in this.

There's also a caution flag. We are, in some ways artificially, controlling that curve. We've taken all these extraordinary actions and we are reducing the rate of infection. That means whatever we do today will determine the infection rate tomorrow. It is total cause and effect. You stop doing what you are doing or you behave differently and you will get a different result. That's important to remember as we talk about reopening.

Everybody's anxious to reopen. I get it, I'm anxious to reopen. Cara and Michaela are anxious to get out of the house. Trust me, they love me, they love spending time with me, but they're sort of done with the entire experience. That's universal. People need to get back to work. The state needs an economy. We cannot sustain this for a prolonged period of time. Everybody agrees. Everybody will also say how you reopen is everything because of the first point which is we are now keeping down that rate of infection. If you start acting differently you will see a corresponding increase in that rate of infection. The worst scenario would be if we did all of this, we got that number down, everybody went to extraordinary means and then we go to reopen and we reopen too fast or we reopen and there's unanticipated consequences and we see that number go up again.

Well, you're being hyper cautious. Oh really? Go look at other countries that went through exactly this, started to reopen and then they saw the infection rate go back up again. So let's at least learn from past mistakes. We've laid out a way to reopen, coming up with a comprehensive plan first that is regional in nature. We have seven states that we're working with. The virus doesn't understand state boundaries. Doesn't understand that it needs a passport, you know, it defies all of our norms. So how do you put the best minds together in a seven-state area, come up with a regional strategy? Because the virus can get on Amtrak, the virus can get on a plane, the virus can get in a car and drive up 95. We're all connected. And in truth, since nobody knows where they're going, and nobody's done this before, let's think together, and let's plan together.

If we can't come up with a common plan, let's see if we can come up with a plan that's not contradictory, let's see if we can get to a place where what Connecticut does, New Jersey does is not counter to what we're doing here in New York. And that's the point of the seven states working together. Also the point is it also doesn't work unless you coordinate the reactivation of all the systems. I did this graphic because no one got when I went like this yesterday, and I said the gears have to mesh, this is what I was saying. I could see, Nick, you did not get what this meant, so that's a clarifier for you personally, from yesterday.

We also have to be clear on who is responsible for each element of the opening. The president said last night that he has total authority for determining how and way states reopen. That is not an accurate statement, in my opinion. Now that we know that government actually matters, and government is relevant, and that government has to be smart, because what government does is determining how this goes. It's literally determining in many ways life and death. We have to be smart about it.

The federal-state relationship is central to our democracy. This has been a topic discussed since our founding fathers first decided to embark on this entire venture, right. This is basic federalism, the role of the states and the role of the federal government. And it is important that we get this right. Our founding fathers understood, and we have to remember today that the balance between the state and the federal, that magnificent balance that is articulated in the constitution is the essence of our democracy. We don't have a king in this country. We didn't want a king. So we have a constitution and we elect a president. The states, the colonies, formed the federal government. The federal government did not form the states. It's the colonies that ceded certain responsibility to a federal government. All other power remains with the states, it's basic to our constitution and that federal-state relationship.

Hamilton, who in many ways was representative of this discussion of the balance of power. State governments possess inherent advantages which will ever give them an influence and ascendancy, ascendancy, a beautiful word, over the national government and will forever preclude the possibility of federal encroachments on the states, that their liberties indeed can be subverted by the federal head is repugnant is repugnant to every rule of political calculation. Strong language, but that was the permits. So, there are laws, and there are facts even in this wild political environment.

What do we do? We do what we do because we are New York tough, but tough is more complex than many people think it is. Within that word tough is smart, and united, and disciplined, and loving. They are not inconsistent, to be tough and to be loving. Let me make a personal point, not necessarily a factual point. President did his briefing last night, and the president was clearly unhappy. The president did a number of tweets this morning that he's clearly unhappy. Did a tweet about mutiny on the bounty and governors are mutineers. I didn't follow the exact meaning of the tweet, but the basic essence of the tweet was the he was not happy with governors and this was a mutiny. The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue. The worst thing we can do in all of this is start with political division and start with partisanship. The best thing we have done throughout this past 44 days is we've worked together, and we haven't raised political flags. Even in this hyper-partisan environment, even though it's an election year, even though the politics is so intense, we said, "not here, not in this." This is too important for anyone to play politics. It was a no politics zone, right? This just about doing the right thing, working together, and that's important and we have to stay there. We're all in a little bit of a reflective mood. I'm in a reflective mood. Everything we do here is so important. Every day is so important.

I was thinking after the President made his comments and looking at some of the remarks and looking at the tweets, reminded me of a poster I saw when I was in grade school. Saint Gerard Majella, Queens, New York, Catholic school - red blazer, gray pants, white shirt, little clip on tie - remember the tie with the hook? Remember the hook tie that you had to put the hook on, and then it looked like you had a real tie, which I never understood. The hook was harder to do, you had to hook, then you had to adjust the band, which was harder than just teaching the kid how to just tie the tie, would've been easier, but. I was in grade school and there was that poster, that came from a Sandburg poem, I think. "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came," and I was looking at the poster and I didn't really get it, because even then I was very literal. "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came." So, I'm looking at the poster and a priest came up behind me and said, "What's wrong, Andrew?" I said, "I don't understand that. Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. How could that happen? Then you wouldn't have a war." He said, "Well, that's the point. The point is, what would happen if people just refused to engage? They just refused to fight." I still didn't get it, because and he said, "You know, sometimes it's better to walk away from a fight than engage it. Sometimes it takes more strength, frankly, to walk away from a fight than engage it."

The President will have no fight with me. I will not engage in it, I've sat here every day for 44 years asking New Yorkers to remember that this is not about me, it's about we. I understand you're personally inconvenienced. I understand you're frustrated, and stressed, and anxious, and you're feeling pain. Think about we. Think about -- get past yourself and think about society, and think about your family and think about interconnection and act responsibly for everyone else. This is no time for politics, and it is no time to fight. I put my hand out in total partnership and cooperation with the President. If he wants a fight he's not going to get it from me. Period.

This is going to take us working together. We have a real challenge ahead. Just because those numbers are flattening, it's no time to relax. We're not out of the woods. In this reopening, we could lose all the progress we made in one week if we do it wrong. We have a number of challenges ahead. We have to figure out how to do this. How do you have a public health strategy that works with an economic reactivation strategy? Nobody has done this before. How do you start to increase the number of essential workers? How do you learn the lessons of the past? How do you start to do the massive testing that we're going to do have to do here? And that we don't have the capacity to do today? The capacity does not exist.

The private sector companies that do testing, we can only get about 60,000 tests per month. That's not enough. We're going to do the antibody testing, but that's not enough, either. How do we do this? Put together this whole testing system and do it in a matter of weeks? It is a real question. How do we use technology? Apple and other companies are working on using technology to do tracking. How do we do that? How do we do it fast? How do we take all our strength and our collective strength and take this nation's collective strength and figure out how to do those challenges?

50 years ago this week, Apollo 13 gets damaged 220,000 miles from earth. Somehow they figure out how to get a spaceship back 220,000 miles 50 years ago. That's America. Okay. Figure out how to do testing. Figure out how to use technology to do tracing. That's what we have to work on. We have to do that together. We have to do as a government what our people have done, right? Sometimes political leaders can learn best from following people who are normally ahead of the politicians.

Look at how people have been selfless and put their own agenda aside for the common good. Can't their leaders be as smart as they are? The answer has to be yes. So, I look forward to working with the president in partnership and cooperation, but he has no fight here. I won't let it happen. Look, unless he suggested that we do something that would be reckless and endanger the health or welfare of the people of the state, then I would have no choice. But shy of that, I put my hand out to say let's do this together.

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