Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State will establish two testing sites in COVID-19 Hotspots in Savannah, Georgia. The sites, located in Temple of Glory Community Church and Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship, will provide up to 500 tests per day. Both sites are located in highly-impacted minority communities. The governor made today's announcement with Savannah Mayor Van R. Johnson, II.
AUDIO of the Governor'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:
Mayor Van R. Johnson: As a child, his father, Governor Mario Cuomo, had a youth engagement program that I grew up with in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, and that was my first public speaking experience. And certainly to have all these years later and have his son come to my aid and to our city's aid is most gratifying to me. When you want to win you follow winners and that is our bottom line. New York State nearly went from worst to first and they have shown the entire country, the entire world, the way to do this right. And so we're excited because Governor Cuomo and his magnificent team of professionals are here in our city. We thank them for their kindness, we thank them for their benevolence and graciousness towards the people here in Savannah.
I certainly would be remiss if I did not thank our City Manager, Pat Monahan, nad members of team Savannah that have been engaged. We made this happen in a little less than a weekend. It happened quickly and so it is good to do business with people who know what they're doing. So certainly to the City Manager, I know Chief Minter is here. To Sergeant Billy Gray and our police details, to our PIO Office, to Nick, to Carol and the City Manager's office, Joe, Brad, Keith, Taffanye Young, and certainly in my office, Marty Johnston and Sharonte Turner, I thank them all so much.
We are pleased to have with us I believe the 64th mayor of our city, Otis Johnson, is here, and members of our wonderful city council I just want you all to stand so the Governor can see you as well. We operate on a team aspect here so - As you said Governor, we might be to faces but it's the teams that help make it happen. So, we're very appreciative of them. We also have, as you have met, members of Savannah's medical community, Memorial, Saint Joseph's Candler, Curtis Cooper of Primary Health Care, Jason Lewis of Primary Health Care and then Doctor Russell-Petty who is the Georgia State Medical Association President, and Doctor Bradley who is just a beast in his own right. And then members of our faith community that you've met, then Bishop Odum who is here, one of the churches that we will be doing testing. So we appreciate to him, the Temple of Glory and the Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship for helping us out as we move forward. We are just appreciative of all of the work that everyone has done in our local media as well.
The importance of today's discussion is to be able to dissect the minds, if you will, to do a post-mortem on people who have done it right, people have done it successfully, to take their lessons and then be able to apply their lessons practically to what we're doing here in Savannah. We recognize that you are blessed to be a blessing and you go through a test to have a testimony. And so in this the Governor said quite eloquently that everyone came to New York's aid when New York needed it. And certainly he's been gracious enough not to forget, to be able to offer to his assistance to cities like Savannah, that's doing our best to be able to make things happen. Today's discussion was about testing. Today's discussion was about tracing, it was about training, and more importantly it's about encouragement to a wary city that has been going through this since the beginning of March, to be able to look and see both to say if they can do it, we can do it, too.
And so I think just your presence here, Governor, to the team, Team New York, just your presence gives us hope. Because we want to be able to talk about COVID-19 in our rearview mirror, too and we want to do all we can help make that happen. So I'm very honored to introduce our friend, certainly my parents' Governor who took time off from his a very busy schedule to be here and he'll offer his remarks and I have some gifts - we are the host city of the South, so you know you can't stop us from being hospitable, it's kind of what we do. But I'm just very honored to introduce the 56th Governor of the State of New York, the Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Glad to have you, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you, thank you very much, Mayor. First, it's a pleasure to be back in Savannah. I've been here before - I was the Housing and Urban Development Secretary during the Clinton Administration, did a lot of work with Savannah at that time. A pleasure to be back - so beautiful, so beautiful the team I brought with me really taken aback by how beautiful the city is I mean it's just striking, you know you live with it every day but when you come in from the outside is just amazing how it exquisite that it is. To your mayor, I've been watching him, you know I watch public officials across the country. I've been impressed with his leadership, I've been impressed with his courage - he's really stepped up to the plate. And I applaud him for it, let's give a round of applause, Mayor Johnson.
We also have with us here today, Henry Muñoz from the SOMOS Community Care program. He's going to be helping us - he's done tremendous work for us in New York and he's going to be helping us here set up testing sites and Dr. Tallaj who is the co-founder of SOMOS Community Care. And they have so effective in New York and they're going to help us in Savannah, I want to thank them - thank you very much. COVID poses an extraordinary test to government. In some ways the toughest test that I have seen in my lifetime. I've been in the federal government, local government, state government. The government has never been called on to perform like this before. Nobody's ever heard of these operations - testing operation, tracing operation, testing the hospital capacity to its maximum. So, government performance really matters. And unfortunately, we have more experience in that area then I would like to have had dealing with COVID.
We got assaulted by the COVID virus in New York. It came from Europe. Nobody knew. By the way, the European strain is what infected the entire eastern seaboard. I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia was also affected by the European viral strain. Everybody was still watching China and the virus had moved from China to Europe and then came to the United States. But we had no warning. We had our first case March 1. Eighteen days later the entire state was closed. The numbers just exploded on us.
So we have to learn the hard way and we did and the purpose of being here today is first to share what we've done on the testing and the tracing, etcetera, and see how we can help Savannah set that up. It is hard. We've made a lot of mistakes. But if we learned from half of the mistakes we made in doing it, we are the wiser for it. So I look forward. We had a great conversation earlier which was a great start-off I think but we'll be working with you, Mayor, and I'm committed to following up and setting up testing sites, getting testing into lower-income communities which is a priority, setting up that contact tracing which is very, very important. If you want me to talk to your hospital directors I'll do that too. I don't know that my jurisdiction extends quite this far but I think we can come up with some executive order.
So the governmental capacity, the governmental challenge, we all talk about these operations, but it's one thing to talk about it, it's another nothing to set it up, so we will we will be full partners in helping you do that.
But the conversation we had I think makes a broader point also. A virus in and of itself is not deadly. It's how the body responds to the virus. The human body gets attacked with dozens of viruses on a weekly basis. A healthy body with a healthy immune system can manage the virus, can minimize the damage of the virus. It's the unhealthy body that falls prey to the virus, especially this virus. It preys upon the weak and the vulnerable. It's the week body that has trouble resolving the virus.
The American body is in many ways weak right now. The body politic is weakened. How do you defeat this virus? We all work together in a unified way to defeat the virus because the virus by its very nature defies resolution by any one person. The virus has a community spread component - community spread it. What does that mean? That it spreads across the community.
Okay, how do you defeat community spread? The community has to come together to defeat the spread. We all have to come together. We all- it's not enough that New Yorkers come together because the virus travels. We all have to come together. New York can't do it on its 'own. It's New York, and it's Savannah, and it's California, and it's Ohio, and it's Maine. Because if the virus is thriving anywhere, it will thrive everywhere. So New York- yes we got the virus under control and we're now down to one of the lowest infection rates on the globe. Great. I take no peace in that. Because if it's increasing in Georgia and it's increasing in Texas and increasing in Florida, guess what? It will be increasing in New York in just a matter of time. That virus - the way it got on a plane from China and went to Europe and then got on a plane in Europe and flew to the United States, that's why I was just going to get on a plane in Texas and fly to New York or get on a plane in Florida and fly in New York. And New York in-and-of-itself can't handle this.
And our American body politic is more divided today than it has ever been. We have political differences on Covid. How can you have a political difference on the virus? If there was one thing in life that you couldn't politicize it would be a virus. Somehow in this crazy partisan world we've even politicized a virus. And in many ways our biggest problem right now is that we are in is in a state of denial with this virus. I was saying before that we should be arguing about this. This- all this says is the virus is a problem. The virus is real, the virus can hurt me and can hurt you and the only way for us to handle it is if we do it together. I wear the mask because I respect you; You wear the mask because you respect me. The mayor was exactly right. This is effective, essential, and easy. And it says we're all in this together and together we can defeat anything. I think mayor today, in this conversation, we'll make great progress on setting up all those government operations but the unity between Savannah and New York, the single mission, the fact that we are interconnected and we are inter-related and our destiny is linked to your destiny. That is more powerful than anything else. The only way we beat is this virus is when we acknowledge that our fragmentation and our division is one of the main problems we have to resolve. We will get the government operation running. We, I can help you do that. I know how to do that. We can do the testing, we can do the tracing, we can do all that. But let's not forget, in some ways, the bigger point.
We have to realize that none of us is alone. That we are a community at the end of the day, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. And this nation is always strongest when it is the most unified. That is the strong body and the strong immune system— a unified nation. And a divided nation is a vulnerable nation. Vulnerable to religious differences, racial differences, economic differences, geographic differences. And vulnerable to the COVID virus. But that virus is just pointing out that the body was weak. And we have to strengthen the body. And today, we did. And it was my honor to be part of it. And Mayor, I thank you and your team for your hospitality. I thank you personally for your leadership.
This is a time when public servants have to stand up and lead. These are not easy days. The pressure is on. But when the pressure is on, is when you really learn about a person. When the pressure is on, you see what a person is made of. The pressure is on, if there's a little crack in the stone— that stone will explode under pressure. And it's been an honor to watch you under pressure because you have only gotten stronger. And pressure can truly forge a leader. And it has with you, mayor. So than you for the hospitality, thank you for having us today. This will be the first conversation and we have a lot of work to do together, but we will do it. And we will be there with you arm in arm. Thank you, Mayor Johnson.