March 19, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order Mandating Businesses That Require in-Office Personnel to Decrease In-Office Workforce by 75 Percent

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order Mandating Businesses That Require in-Office Personnel to Decrease In-Office Workforce by 75 Percent

Exceptions Made For Essential Services

Announces 90-Day Mortgage Relief for New Yorkers, Including Waived Mortgage Payments Based on Financial Hardship and No Negative Reporting to Credit Bureaus - Waived Fees for Overdrafts, ATMs and Credit Cards

New DFS regulation to free up staff and speed hospital admission and discharge process

Implements New Regulations and Waives Department of Health Rules to Add Hospital Bed Capacity

Confirms 1,769 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 4,152; New Cases in 30 Counties

Governor Cuomo: "We said voluntary work from home, mandatory closing of schools statewide, mandatory of state and local workforce, mandatory tristate agreement on bars, restaurants, and gyms. Mandatory in-office workforce cut by 50%. We said that yesterday. The numbers have gone up overnight. I'm going to increase the density control today. No more than 25% of people can be in the workforce. Yesterday was 50%, we're reducing it again, except the essential services that we spoke about yesterday. That means 75% of the workforce must stay at home and work from home. Again, voluntarily, I'm asking all businesses to have people work from home. As a mandate, 75% of your employee base must work from home."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order mandating businesses that rely on in-office personnel to decrease their in-office workforce by 75 percent. This follows the Governor's directive yesterday that all businesses implement work-from-home policies. Exemptions will be made for essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.

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 of today's remarks are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript is available below:

Good morning, everyone. Let me introduce the people who are with us today. We want to give you an updated briefing. From my far right our Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, to my immediate right special guest Michaela Kennedy Cuomo, to my left Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, to her left Budget Director Robert Mujica.

Let me make a couple of points if I can today. Again, the context perspective is probably what's most important. Coronavirus is a critical governmental situation. It's a public health crisis. Government has to respond to it and that's what the coverage is all about.

It is a war in many ways and government has to mobilize as if it is a war. Federal government is now engaged in a way they haven't been. I think that is very good news. I worked in the federal government. I was cabinet secretary. I'm one of the more senior governors in the nation. I know what a state can do. I know what the federal government can do and states don't fight wars. They did it one time in this nation's history. It was a tragedy. The federal government has the capacity to mobilize the way we need society to mobilize today.

I've had numerous conversations with the President. I spoke with him again last night. He is mobilizing. He is mobilizing the federal government. We had a number of meetings with different federal officials yesterday and I think that is the best positive sign that the federal government is actually stepping up to the plate.

You will see that this has been diagnosed, pardon the pun, as a healthcare crisis from moment one. This has always been about one thing: reducing the rate of spread so the health care system can manage it and it's been a question of math and projections and it is still exactly that - can we get the spread down to a rate that the health care system can manage.

What is going to be the issue in the health care system? It's going to be the number of hospital beds. It's going to be the amount of protective equipment and most of all it's going to come down to ventilators, a piece of equipment that up until now was relatively inconsequential but when you have respiratory illnesses and then there is volume of respiratory illnesses all of a sudden the number of ventilators becomes critical.

Just to give you a sense of scope, we have about 5,000, 6,000 ventilators that we can identify. We need about 30,000 ventilators. This is a nationwide problem. I was on the phone with the governors from the other states with the National Governors Association yesterday. Every state is shopping for ventilators. We're shopping for ventilators. We literally have people in China shopping for ventilators which is one of the largest manufacturers. So this is a major problem. It's an issue that the federal government can actually play a very constructive role. It's something called the Federal Defense Procurement Act where the federal government can basically order companies to produce certain materials and we're going to need protective equipment in hospitals. We're going to need protective equipment and hospitals. We are going to need ventilators. And that is something that a state can't do but the federal government can do. As this has gone on, we said we are fighting a war on two fronts. We are fighting the virus and we are fighting fear. And they are two totally different situations that you have to deal with. In many ways, the fear is more dangerous than the virus.

I started working on disasters, emergency situations, when I was in my thirties. My first experience was Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida. And I felt it, I saw on the ground what happens when people panic. And the panic and the fear is as dangerous or more dangerous than the hurricane. I have seen it in floods. I have seen it in fires. We now have misinformation and fear and panic, which is as contagious or more contagious than the virus. And we have to deal with both of them.

I have had some conversations that are just irrational with people who heretofore were wholly rational. I had a conversation last night with a businessperson from New York City, who I know, who was panicked that New York City was going to be locked down, that there were going to be roadblocks, that there were going to be mandatory quarantines. He was going to be imprisoned in his house. And I said where did you hear that? "Well, that's what they say. That is what I am hearing." And I was saying I would know, right? Because I would have to authorize those actions legally. It is not going to happen. "Well, I hear it is going to happen." But I would have to do it and I am telling you I am not doing it. It must have taken me 25 minutes just to slow him down to hear the information.

When you get that emotional, that fearful, you literally don't process information the same way. We have to be very aware of that. Clear communication from everyone, from our friends in the media, from healthcare professionals, from all elected officials, clear communication, consistent communication because misinformation, emotion, fear, panic, is truly more dangerous than the virus at this position in my opinion. Because the facts on the virus we know, we watched it from China, South Korea. We studied it here, we know the numbers. It is exactly what we said it was. It is exactly what we said it was from day one. We talked about the increased spread. We talked about the vulnerable populations - seniors, compromised immune systems, people with underlying illnesses.

So we know what this virus does, we know how it communicates, and we know how to deal with it. It is not going to be easy. It is not going to be pretty. But we know the trajectory of the virus. Let's just take a deep breath and make sure we are all we're acting on facts as opposed to acting on fear. When you act on fear, then you're in a dangerous place. The facts we can handle.

Let me give you a couple of the new facts today. Just to recap, we said we have a plan of action and there are three steps. Flatten the curve, slow the spread, increase the current hospital capacity, and number three, identify new hospital beds. Do them all at the same time, which is the challenge. Make government work, mobilize, operationalize, get it all done, get it all done today. On density reduction, this is a data driven decision. Look at the increase in the number of cases, look at the hospital capacity, and do adjust and do everything you can to slow the increase of the spread so that your hospital system can deal with the growth. We've been taking increasing steps on density reduction because the numbers have been increasing. Again, this is driven by science and by data.

We said voluntary work from home, mandatory closing of schools statewide, mandatory of state and local workforce, mandatory tristate agreement on bars, restaurants, and gyms. Mandatory in-office workforce cut by 50%. We said that yesterday. The numbers have gone up overnight. I'm going to increase the density control today. No more than 25% of people can be in the workforce. Yesterday was 50%, we're reducing it again, except the essential services that we spoke about yesterday. That means 75% of the workforce must stay at home and work from home. Again, voluntarily, I'm asking all businesses to have people work from home. As a mandate, 75% of your employee base must work from home.

In terms of increasing current hospital capacity, our current hospital capacity is about 50,000 beds statewide. Majority of those beds are in downstate New York. Commissioner Zucker is working with the hospital industry. He's going to put out new regulations assessing how many more beds we can get in our existing hospitals. Waiving Department of Health rules, waiving Department of Financial Service rules, how many more beds can we get in those hospitals? We're working on that aggressively.

At the same time, identifying new hospital beds. The Army Corps of Engineers was with us yesterday. We had a very good meeting. We're looking at sites across the state to find existing facilities that could expeditiously be turned into healthcare facilities. Again, I said the federal response is very welcome. I want to thank the President. He said he would bring the Army Corps of Engineers here, they came here the next day. I spoke to him last night to follow up on the meeting.

So, this is going forward aggressively. We're also going to take a bold action, but a necessary action offering 90 day relief on mortgage payments. Waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship. Meaning if you are not working, if you're working only part-time, we're going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days - that will be a real life economic benefit, it will also be a stress reliever for families. Waiving these payments will not have a negative effect on your credit report, there will be a grace period for loan modification, we're not exempting people from the mortgage people, we are just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the back end, no late fees or online payment fees. Postponing or suspending any foreclosures during this period of time and waiving fees for overdrafts, ATM credit cards. This is a real life benefit, people are under tremendous economic pressure, making a mortgage payment can be one of the number one stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days I think will go a long way. Again, we'll reassess as the situation goes on if that should be extended or not.

Number of positive cases - total positive 4,000. Number of new positive 1,769. You see additional counties that are being added to counties that have cases, spread mirrors what is happening in the country just as the spread is going through all states, the spread is going through our counties. It was downstate first, it's now moving upstate. New York now has 2,000 cases, Washington State, 1,100 cases. Washington State had cases earlier because it went through a nursing home if you remember, but New York State has more cases than Washington State. More cases than any state in the nation, and I've made that point to the federal government and the president and he understands that if there's a state that needs help, the state by the number of cases is New York.

In terms of testing, we have tested now 22,000 - we tested 7,500 people last night. Why are you seeing the numbers go up? Because you are taking more tests. People see those numbers go up, they get nervous, they panic, "Oh look how many more people have the virus." That's not how many more people have the virus. You're just taking more tests so you're finding more positives. There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus who we're not testing - there were thousands and thousands of people who had the virus before we started testing. There are thousands and thousands of people who had the virus and resolved and never knew they had the virus. We're still testing because you want to find those positive cases, track them down, isolate people and stop the spread. But you can't watch these numbers like the stock market and say, "Well that's the indicator of anything other than how many tests we're taking." It is good news that we're now up to 7,500 tests. We were at one time doing 200 tests per day - just to put that 7,500 in focus - so that's a tremendous increase in the number of tests and you're going to see the numbers go up.

The hospitalization rate is very relevant because remember this is all about the flow into the health care system. So 777 out of 4152, perspective, perspective, perspective. We know the virus. We know what it does. We know it hurts. We know who it effects. Johns Hopkins, since day one, has tracked this virus through China, 222,000 cases, 9,000 deaths, 84,000 recoveries, 129,000 pending.

One last point, we talked about how this is a government response. Federal government is doing this. State government is doing this. Government, government, government. This manifests on a number of levels and the government response is obviously very important. But the impact that I think is greater and probably greatest, as a social phenomenon and on people and on families. This is tremendously disruptive on all sorts of levels. It came out of the blue for me in New York it reminds me of 9/11 where one moment which was inconceivable just changed everything. Changed your perspective on the world, changed your perspective on safety. Children who were young at that time, but of school age, watched on TV. They didn't know if their parents were coming home. I think it changed their whole outlook on life after 9/11. This is a situation like that. It's obviously totally different magnitude, but it's like that. It's a moment that just changes your whole life.

Yesterday, you were going to work and you were going to go to the office party. Today, you're at home and the kids are at home and you're worried about health and you're worried about your job and you're worried about economics and you're dealing with personal issues and you're dealing with family issues. And it's all happening at once. And then you turn on the TV and there's all this different information and nobody can tell you if this is going to be 30 days or 60 days or 4 months or 5 months or 9 months. The stress, the emotion is just incredible. And rightfully so. It is a situation that is one of the most disruptive that I have seen and it will change almost everything going forward. It will. That is a fact. It's not your perception, it's not just you. It's all of us. And it's true and it's real.

Nobody can tell you when this is going to end. Nobody can tell you. I talked to all the experts. Nobody can say 2 months, 4 months, 9 months. Nobody. It's hard living your life with that big question mark out there. Nobody can tell you when you go back to work. People can tell you that it's not just you economically, it's everyone. Take comfort in that. Federal government is actually acting on an economic package, but it's true. Having your family all together is a beautiful thing, it's also different for a lot of people. Especially for a prolonged period of time. So, these are major shifts in life and in the most emotional stressful conditions that you can imagine. And I think my own personal advice is, understand it for what it is and that it's not just you. It has changed everything and it will for the foreseeable future. And think through how you're going to deal with it and what it means. Even try to find a positive in it. It's a very negative circumstance, but you're going to have time on your hands. You're going to have time with your family, you're going to have time at home in this busy, hurry up world. All of a sudden somebody said you have a couple of months where you're going to be home with the family. No work. You work from home. But it's a totally different situation. How do you use that? How do you adjust? It's not going to be done overnight, but it is something that everybody has to think through.

My last, last point is to the younger people in our great state and in our great society. And that's why I invited our special guest here today, Michaela. My grandfather, Andrea, my grandfather on my father's side - his name was Andrea, I'm named for my grandfather, Andrew. Italian-American immigrant. When I was young-ish. When I was like 16, 17, 18 and I would do something that he didn't like, he would just look at me and he would say, "We grow too soon old and too late smart." And I would say, "What does that mean, Grandpa, is that a criticism?"

We grow too soon old, too late smart. These pictures of young people on beaches, these videos of young people saying this is my spring break, you know, I'm out to party. This is my time to party. This is so unintelligent and reckless, I can't even begin to express it. Now, I had a conversation with my daughter who got this. I'm Governor of the state. I can order a quarantine of 10,000 people but I can't tell my daughter to do anything, alright. And I have to be careful because there's almost an inverse response to a direct action. But, I did say to all three of them, from as soon as they could crawl, I used the one line. What is the one line I used to say?

Michaela Kennedy Cuomo: Risk, reward.

Risk, reward. Risk, reward. Just pose the question. I couldn't offer an answer because whatever answer I would offer they would do the other.

Risk, reward. It makes no sense to go expose yourself to these conditions and expose other people. Expose other people.

Michaela, was graduating this year and her school closed to online courses. So she's not going to have the graduation. We're going to have a big party at the appropriate time. We don't know what that time is going to be, if it's going to be 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months. But, at the first opportunity, we're going to have a big party, so that's going to happen. But she was deprived of the last year and the last few months of college which I am sure were very intense study period and that's what she's deprived of that intense study period of those last few weeks. I remember those last few weeks, a lot of studying. But, that's a shift in life. But she was going to take a vacation on spring break and go with friends and take a trip and risk, reward. Luckily, she made the right decision and I'm proud of her for that. No prompting from me, besides the question: risk, reward.

What these people are doing is the risk does not justify the reward. They're putting themselves at risk. Young people can get coronavirus. That's one of the other myths, young people don't get it. Young people do get it and young people can transfer it and you can wind up infecting someone, and possibly killing someone, if you're exposed to it. Risk, reward."

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