January 6, 2021
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic
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8,665 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide

1,408 Patients in the ICU; 877 Intubated

Statewide Positivity Rate is 8.41%

161 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "This situation we're in I describe as a footrace between the infection rate going up, the hospitalization rate going up and our ability to vaccinate. What wins? Does the infection rate go up so far, so fast, that it closes down hospitals and then we close down the economy, or can we slow the infection rate until the vaccinations can kick in? that's what this is all about. You add to that the UK strain, and it's a dramatically different proposition. Once you say the infection rate can go up double or triple or quadruple, then it's no longer a race. Then we lose the race. Because the vaccine supply is what is the limiting factor on the vaccine, not the distribution. And if you dramatically increase the infection rate, the race is over. If you dramatically increase the infection rate, the next step would be overwhelming the hospitals. And that's the very real fear that we're dealing with now."

Cuomo: "Now, I've made this point before and we have seen a dramatic improvement in hospitalization vaccination. Hospitals are doing a better job, you'll see the numbers in a moment. If a hospital hits the refusal rate, if the staff in the hospital says, "I don't want to take it," then fine. We'll reallocate that to another health care or nursing home that needs it, but we want to give every health care professional who wants the vaccine, who will take the vaccine, the ability to take it. We need an acceptance rate of between 70 to 90 percent of this vaccine society-wide."

Cuomo: "News flash: viruses mutate. We know that. We've known that. 1918 pandemic, we know that. We know that recently because we paid a terrible price when the Wuhan Virus left China, went to Europe, mutated and came here from Europe. The virus that arrived in New York last Springwas a mutation from Europe, it was not the Wuhan Virus. Now, you see the UK strain, you see a South African strain, they're now finding a Nigerian strain, and the COVID virus mutates every couple of weeks and there have been hundreds of mutations of the COVID virus. This country is playing mutation roulette."

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo updated New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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. From my right, Gareth Rhodes, Chancellor Jim Malatras, Kelly Cummings, director of state operations, Dr. Howard Zucker. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left Robert Mujica, budget director. Today is day 312 and it is a bright sunny day in the State of New York, all across the State of New York, even if the sun isn't shining. The metaphorical sun is shining in the State of New York today. It was a late night last night, but it was a good night for the State of New York, which I'll mention in a moment.

Numbers today, 8.13 without the micro-clusters, 8.41. Micro-clusters are 9 percent. 161 deaths, and those people and their families are in our thoughts and prayers. Terrible way to start the New Year. Hospitalizations are up 75, discharges 940, and admissions, 1,161, ICU up 16, intubations up 26. We're seeing the continued increase from celebration of the holidays. It's the holiday COVID hangover. Celebrate smart, you reduce the infection rate. If you don't celebrate smart, you have a hangover. COVID hangover is increasing infection rate, increasing positivity rate, increasing hospitalization rate. And that's what we're seeing, that's what we're seeing all across the country.

In this state, Finger Lakes is still the highest percent hospitalized. Highest positivity, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Capital Region. In New York City, Staten Island has the highest infection rate. In New York City, Manhattan still at 3.9 percent. That variance is just incredible to me, and really shows how personal behavior can make a dramatic effect. The numbers, the variance all across the state makes that point also. Why is the Southern Tier 5 and Finger Lakes is at 10? Why is Western New York, which had a real problem, at 8, and Finger Lakes is at 10? It is a function of personal responsibility. There's a basic truth to this. It's not about government. It's personal responsibility.

This situation we're in I describe as a footrace between the infection rate going up, the hospitalization rate going up and our ability to vaccinate. What wins? Does the infection rate go up so far, so fast, that it closes down hospitals and then we close down the economy, or can we slow the infection rate until the vaccinations can kick in? that's what this is all about. You add to that the UK strain, and it's a dramatically different proposition. Once you say the infection rate can go up double or triple or quadruple, then it's no longer a race. Then we lose the race. Because the vaccine supply is what is the limiting factor on the vaccine, not the distribution. And if you dramatically increase the infection rate, the race is over. If you dramatically increase the infection rate, the next step would be overwhelming the hospitals. And that's the very real fear that we're dealing with now.

So three priorities. Slow the spread, increase the vaccination rate, and stop viral mutations, which his something that we're not paying enough attention to in this nation, in my opinion. On the vaccinations, there's two sides of the equation. There's the supply of vaccine, there's the distribution. Federal government is doing the supply. Distribution is done basically by the state with the federal government participating in the nursing home distribution. We are not satisfied with the federal government program to do nursing home distribution. State has stepped in, we're expediting it. We believe we'll have all nursing home residents vaccinated over the next two weeks, and that is s a very big deal. It's on the first dosage, but that is a very big deal because they are the most vulnerable population and finishing that is extraordinarily important.

Second, it's about protecting the hospital capacity in the hospital staff, okay. If the hospital staff get sick, then you hurt the hospital capacity. Many hospitals are now complaining that they have the beds, they don't have the staff. why don't they have the staff? Because the staff is stretched, the nurses are stretched, because the capacity is so high, and because they're getting sick from COVID. The UK strain now complicates that issue because if more nurses get sick, if more doctors get sick, it reduces your hospital capacity. And if you reduce your hospital capacity, then you have the worst-case scenario.

And the worst-case scenario is a very real possibility. This is not overly cautious or overly dramatic. We're cautious, but we're realistic in New York. And this is a realistic possibility. We know that because we're seeing the situation develop all across the nation, all across the globe. You overwhelm the hospitals, people die. That's what happens. You overwhelm the hospitals, you have to close down the economy again. There is no choice. Once the hospitals say we're at capacity, you have to close down the economy. We have a warning track, if you will, where when we get to within 21 days of overwhelming the hospitals, we start to close down the economy. So, it's game over when the hospital is going to be overwhelmed. And again, the UK stream greatly complicates this entire equation. The worst situations in life tend to be a combination of bad effects. We have a problem with the infection rate today and the hospital capacity, and we've been balancing that on a daily basis. You add to that equation the UK strain and a higher infection rate, that's when the train is going to come off the tracks and we're seeing it all around us.

That is California. The California the hospital system is overwhelmed, and more people will die because the hospital system is overwhelmed. We went through this in a spring. In the spring when we saw Italy overwhelmed with the hospital system and people die on gurneys in the hallway. I lived through these nightmares. So did every New Yorker and we're seeing it happen around the globe. The UK closed down because of the UK strain. In several weeks, the UK strain took over the original COVID strain. That's how strong it is. We see it in Germany. We see it in Italy, again they have to close down because they are overwhelming the hospital system. So, this is a very real possibility that we are worried about.

Vaccinating hospital staff is vital. They should be vaccinated because, first of all, they are the frontline. Everybody talks about, "our heroes, our nurses, our doctors." New Yorkers have celebrated nurses and doctors, we're celebrating nurses and doctors, and they deserve that celebration. You know what they deserve more than celebration? They deserve a vaccination. That's what they deserve, and they deserve it because they are the frontline workers. And they deserve it because selfishly, if our hospital staff gets sick it's going to reduce our hospital capacity.

Now, I've made this point before and we have seen a dramatic improvement in hospitalization vaccination. Hospitals are doing a better job, you'll see the numbers in a moment. If a hospital hits the refusal rate, if the staff in the hospital says, "I don't want to take it," then fine. We'll reallocate that to another health care or nursing home that needs it, but we want to give every health care professional who wants the vaccine, who will take the vaccine, the ability to take it.

We need an acceptance rate of between 70 to 90 percent of this vaccine society-wide. Herd immunity is somewhere between 70 to 90, if you listen to the experts, if you listen to the Dr. Faucis of the world, they'll say the goal is 90 percent, but you have to hit at least 70 percent society-wide. And society-wide, there are going to be a lot of people who don't want to take this vaccine. You have a lot of cynicism and skepticism. You have it especially in the black community, you have it in the antivaxxer community. Ninety percent is incredibly high. If you were giving out cash to New Yorkers, you wouldn't hit 90 percent, but the hospital staff, they're informed. They have to be above 70 percent and they want to be.

We have done a survey of hospital staff across the state. We're still in the midst of it but about 85 percent of the hospital staff say they want the vaccine. That is, by the way, hospital staff without doctors. Doctors are an even higher percentage, so the hospital staff want the vaccine, and they deserve the vaccine. We just have to get it to them, and hospitals are doing a better job.

The daily rate of vaccination over the past three weeks was about 10,000 hospital staff per day. Since Monday, they've been doing 30,000 per day. So, the vaccination rate has tripled since Monday. So, I'm glad they heard me, but you have to keep it up, because we need that hospital staff vaccinated. We need them vaccinated quickly. When you get to the point where your hospital staff says, "the only people left won't take it," fine. Tell us and we'll move the allocation to another hospital or nursing home.

This is again the top ten performing hospitals in terms of vaccinations and the bottom ten, and you see the gross disparity. Highest performing New York Langone 100; Oswego 100; Richmond, St. Barnabas, SUNY Downstate- Congratulations Chancellor. Chancellor Malatras was at SUNY Downstate yesterday. One day and it went to 100 percent. The Chancellor did 7,000 vaccinations himself yesterday and he's not even authorized to do them. New York Presbyterian 99; Kaleida-Buffalo, SUNY Upstate also 94 percent. That's a turn-around. Adirondack Medical Center, Lenox Hill 87 percent. On the other end, Montefiore Mount Vernon 11 percent; Montefiore New Rochelle 23 percent; Brookdale Hospital 24 percent; Wyoming 26; New York City Health + Hospitals/Queens 29; Catholic Health - Saint Josephs 29; Catholic Health - Saint Charles 33; New York City Health + Hospitals/Coney Island 34; and Vassar Brothers 37; Carthage Hospital, 39. So, you see the variant. Performance has increased. We want it to stay increased more Congratulations to those that are doing well. For those that are not doing well, pick up the performance or let's get another hospital to help you get it done more quickly.

Supply is still going to be the issue. Just to give you an idea, we have received about 900,000 so far. We have 2.1 million health care workers and nursing home people. So, nurses, doctors, nursing homes, which are the first priority, 2.1 million. We haven't even received have the number of dosages yet. So, we're pushing on the distribution side and I'm pushing the hospitals hard, but we don't even have half the dosages that we need to do all the hospital staff and nursing home staff. We're still receiving about 300,000 dosages per week from the federal government, and that means we still need about 1.2 million dosages just to get through the health care workers and the nursing home. Everyone asks me the same question: when can I get vaccinated? And I hear this all day long. I hear it from my mother Matilda, who is 75+, let's say, let's leave it at that. But, she would be eligible for vaccination when we get to 1b. So, everybody wants to know when will they get vaccinated. 1a is the health care workers, that's what we're doing now. 1b are the essential workers and 75+. 1b, just to give you an idea of the numbers, there are about 870,000 teachers, 200,000 first responders, 100,000 public safety workers, 100,000 public transit workers, 1.3 million 75+, which is surprisingly large, but it's good news.

So, we're getting 300,000 dosages per week. Obviously it would take us weeks to work through this population if not months. In 1b there are about 5 million essential workers and that 1.3 million 75+, so that's over 6 million people in 1b. You're getting 300,000 dosages per week, it takes a long time. Flip side is that the federal government will be increasing production. They say they will, I believe they will, and frankly the private market is increasing production. Pfizer and Moderna will be increasing. Johnson & Johnson, we're keeping our fingers crossed for their efficacy test, that would be then available and that's only one dosage, it would be a pleasure. Oxford-AstraZeneca. So, there are other vaccines that are coming online. The supply will go up. I can't say to my mother or to any New Yorker right now how long until we know what the supply actually is going to be, and we talk to everyone all day long. As soon as we have a more definitive answer I will tell you. The experts are talking about March/April for large scale general population distribution. We will have a truly extensive distribution network with literally thousands of distribution points across the state, plus drive-through vaccination centers, just like we did drive-through COVID tests, that the state will put up. We're going to be using SUNY facilities, CUNY facilities, but we will have thousands of points of distribution. We need the supply, that's what it comes down to and that's what we're working on.

Another issue, news flash: viruses mutate. We know that. We've known that. 1918 pandemic, we know that. We know that recently because we paid a terrible price when the Wuhan Virus left China, went to Europe, mutated and came here from Europe. The virus that arrived in New York last Spring was a mutation from Europe, it was not the Wuhan Virus. Now, you see the UK strain, you see a South African strain, they're now finding a Nigerian strain, and the COVID virus mutates every couple of weeks and there have been hundreds of mutations of the COVID virus. This country is playing mutation roulette. "Well the virus is going to mutate." Well, is the next mutation going to be more lethal? Is it going to kill more people? Is the next mutation going to affect children in a way COVID-19 didn't? Is the next mutation going to be vaccine resistant, which means you'd have to go back to the whole vaccination development process all over again? Is the next vaccine going to create organ damage? They don't even know what the long-term consequences of this COVID virus is, right? They're still doing studies of the long-term effects of COVID-19. Are we sure that the next mutation won't be more dangerous or more transmittable, which we found out it is in this UK strain? That is what is happening now every day, and we are literally playing Russian Roulette with it. Many countries around the world have said, "the virus is mutating, before any international travelers come into our country they need to be tested." Not a ban on travel, but they need to be tested. That makes all the sense in the world. This country hasn't done it. We talked about the UK strain days before this country took any action, New York State took action before this country took action, 140 countries took action before this country took action, And now we have the UK strain - surprise, surprise - which is creating a real complication for us. Where is HHS? Where is the President? Where is the Vice President? Technically they're in office until they're not in office and they should do their job but if they're not going to do it at least let New Yorkers protect themselves. We have the airports here. The flights from Europe come here. They come to JFK, they come to Newark, people in the LaGuardia Airport. Let us protect ourselves.

As Governor I don't have the legal authority to say international travelers must be tested. When it came to the UK strain, I called the airlines myself and asked them to voluntarily agree and they did. But the gateway, the entrance, is handled by the federal government Customs and Border Patrol. The State runs through the Port Authority the airport facility but Customs and Border is all done by the federal government. I am asking today the Customs and Border Patrol to either require in New York airports that the person shows that they were tested before admission, or allow the Port Authority staff to request that people coming through customs whether or not they were tested. But we don't want tens of thousands of people coming through our airports every day from countries around the world who were not tested. It's just that simple and it makes total common sense.

We have a UK strain case that we found in Saratoga. Doctor Zucker has been very aggressive about contact tracing. It appears now that there is evidence that that UK strain case in Saratoga Springs was actually connected to UK travel. So if we had tested people from the UK before they got here we wouldn't have had the UK travel spread. It's common sense and why common sense defies government I don't know.

But last night Georgia - and Georgia changes everything, changed the tone, the mood, now we all hear the music. Yes, they were Georgia Senate seats but it changes the US Senate, and one of the races still has to be completed but even the one victory is going to the landscape of the Senate, and the Senate has been a horrific to the State of New York and they have been political about it and it's been really devastating for the state and I would want to congratulate the incoming Senate Majority Leader Senator Schumer who obviously is a New York senator and now he's going to be the Senate Majority Leader and this was a very, very big win for the Democratic Senate and it bodes well for the State of New York.

Look, Washington has abused New York State for four years and that is not rhetorical. They have been unethical. They have been political. They've taken money out of this state and sent it to Republican states as a pure political exercise. They've used New York as a political piƱata to appeal to the conservatives around the country by demonizing New York and New Yorkers. They enhance the divisions in this country by using New York as an example and they've had not just moral and ethical violations but they literally have taken billions of dollars from us. That was a function of the Senate and the President and they are both gone and today Washington theft ends and compensation for the victims of the crimes of the past four years begins. New Yorkers have been crime victims as far as I'm concerned by the theft of the federal government. Our message to Washington is going to be very clear. We want a return of the state's property that was stolen by Washington over the past four years.

They wouldn't pass state and local funding even though this state has a $15 billion deficit caused directly from COVID which was caused directly by federal negligence and they were expecting this state to find $15 billion. We've had the lowest Medicaid reimbursement in the United States because they don't believe in providing health care coverage for low income people and we do. So they penalize penalized us through Medicaid. Basic infrastructure programs that every federal government passed and funded they didn't fund. They stopped the Trusted Traveler Program - which was illegal and then lied about it and got court by the prosecutor's office - as a political statement.

We had all sorts of great projects around the state that should have been going forward. Second Avenue Subway was funded by every administration in Manhattan. The Gateway tunnels, the President didn't fund them just ahead of political pique. I-81 in Syracuse, we could have been rebuilding, the Buffalo Skyway, they've done tremendous damage and then they literally changed the tax code to redistribute income from the state of New York to Republican states. That's all SALT was. They're against distribution? No, they did the greatest income redistribution in history. They took from a rich state and gave to the poor states. New York happens to be a rich state. The Republican states happen to be poorer states. They took our tax dollars and handed it to the Republican states, then raised our property taxes four billion dollars per year. An average family's taxes, property taxes, average, 26 hundred dollars a year for three years, average. It cost New Yorkers 30 billion dollars over the past three years. Pure cash, 30 billion dollars. We now have a 15 billion dollar deficit. They took 30 billion. At a minimum we have to get 15 billion dollars this year to cover our deficit.

So, the State of the State is coming up Monday. Given what happened in Georgia I now have to rewrite the State of the State, because it's going to be a totally different State of the State. My State of the State was talking about the issue we had closing a 15 billion dollar deficit when we couldn't count on Washington for any help, because Washington has been an enemy of the state for many years. So how do you close a 15 billion dollar deficit, the largest deficit in the history of the state, that's what I've been working on for weeks. Just to give you an idea of how big 15 billion dollars is. If you raised the income tax in this state to to the highest rate in the nation, which is now California. If you raised the income tax rate higher than California, and you taxes billionaires, multimillionaires, any income over one million dollars, just plain old millionaire, like a millionaires' tax would suggest, highest rate, any millionaire, it only raises about 1.5-1.6 billion dollars. We have a 15 billion dollar gap. That tax increase only raises 1.5. It just shows you how difficult closing the 15 billion dollars was going to be.

That was going to be the State of the State. This State of the State is going to be much different. It's a different Senate. The Senate knows darn well what they did to us over the past four years. And they did it over the objections of many good Senators, like Senator Schumer. Now they have to make it right.

So the good news is it's a good, very good development for the state of New York. The bad news is I'm going to have to rewrite the State of the State. And the really bad news is since I'm going to rewrite the State of the State, I'm not going to be able to get to the Bills game this weekend, which is going great. We started the drive through testing this morning, four thousands people will be tested in twelve hours, five minutes per car. It just gives you an idea of what you can do to scale in terms of testing. And again this is a model for us to see how testing works to open venues, because we have to get the economy moving.

But, I'm going to give my Bills ticket to a nurse from Eerie County Medical Center, ECMC, as a way of saying thank you and honoring all healthcare heroes, and I will be doing that, so I'll be here working on the State of the State, which will be a labor of love actually, because it's going to be better news, and we deserve better news.

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