November 22, 2020
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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Positive Testing Rate in All Focus Zone Areas is 4.39 Percent; New York State Positivity Outside All Focus Zone Areas is 2.29 Percent

Statewide Positivity Rate is 2.74 Percent

30 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "It's up to individuals and it's up to individual communities. Communities across this state behave very differently than other communities. This state as a whole operates much differently than other states across the country. So it's literally up to you and it's up to your community. That's what we mean by the micro-cluster strategy. It's up to you in your community. A micro-cluster is small. It's your neighborhood. It could be a couple of miles in geography. It is literally your community. The advantage is, we get to say to people, "beware of your own activity in your own community." We get to target more closely enforcement activities. If we put in economic restrictions, we don't have to restrict everyone."

Cuomo: "We have several communities that are in the warning track. I hate sports analogies. For those people who don't know them, the warning track is the track just before the fence when you run to catch the ball it's going to be a home run, a warning track turns into dirt so you don't run into the wall. I always ran into the wall anyway. Parts of Staten Island will go into an orange zone. Parts of Staten Island will go into a red zone at the current rate. Staten Island is a serious problem. Staten Island is also a problem in terms of overburdening hospitals, and we're running into a hospital capacity issue on Staten Island that we have to be dealing with over these next few days. Parts of the City of Syracuse will go into an orange zone at this rate. Parts of the City of Rochester will go into an orange zone. Upper Manhattan will go into a yellow zone. Parts of Nassau will go into a yellow zone. Parts of Suffolk will go into a yellow zone."

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. You can hear me with the mask off. Everybody knows to my right, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To my left, Gareth Rhodes, deputy superintendent for the Department of Financial Services, who's been working with us on this project over the past few days.

Today is day 267. Everybody asks me the same question. Where are we, and what's going to happen? That's all that people ask me. Where are we, just to get our bearings, today is Sunday. We're in New York City. That's in the United States of America. We're four days until Thanksgiving. Five days until Black Friday. 33 days until Christmas, 39 days until New Year's Eve. That's where we are.

This is the challenging period. Lot of discussion about COVID. You listen to the talking heads on cable news, you come up with all sorts of different variations of what's going to happen. "It's going to be terrible, it's going to be an apocalypse," another station will say "don't worry about it, it's all going to be fine." What is the problem we're trying to deal with and what are the consequences? The problem is that this is a dangerous period because you have increased social activity by definition. That's what happens between now and New Year's Eve. There are more parties, people are shopping, students are coming home from college in states with higher infection rates, there are more family gatherings.

37 days between today and January 2nd of significantly increased social activity. That's what's going to happen, right. What do we expect? We expect people will eat more than usual, and on average will put on five more pounds. Why is that relevant? It's not really relevant. Then why did I put it in there? Because it evidences the social behavior of the season. People put on average of five pounds. Why? Because they're eating a lot. Why? Because they're at family gatherings and sitting at the table, and visiting, and that is the season. That's what happens. Well, what is going to happen to the COVID rate. I believe the COVID rate will increase, just as I believe most New Yorkers will put on weight. The only question is how much, and how fast. And nobody knows, and there are scenarios.

You have moderate trajectory, you have a low trajectory that goes up, or, you have a terrible spike. Nobody can tell you because nobody knows, because it depends on how we act. How much weight are going to put on? It depends on how much you eat. "That's a silly analogy." No, it's not. It is a function of social behavior during this period. It's up to individuals and it's up to individual communities. Communities across this state behave very differently than other communities. This state as a whole operates much differently than other states across the country. So it's literally up to you and it's up to your community.

That's what we mean by the micro-cluster strategy. It's up to you in your community. A micro-cluster is small. It's your neighborhood. It could be a couple of miles in geography. It is literally your community. The advantage is, we get to say to people, "beware of your own activity in your own community." We get to target more closely enforcement activities. If we put in economic restrictions, we don't have to restrict everyone. Just because Hollis, Queens has a high infection rate, it's my hometown, I can say it, doesn't mean all of Queens has to close down just because Hollis, Queens is out of control. And then the micro-cluster zone increases if the zone increases, right.

Three levels of action, yellow zone, orange zone, red zone. Going up with the infection rate. You hit 2.5 percent, outside of New York City it's 3.4 percent. Why is it lower in New York City? There's more density. You go to a yellow zone. "What happens if I'm in a yellow zone?" House of worship goes to 50 percent, mass gatherings, 25, indoor dining, 4-person max. Schools are open, but you have to do mandatory 20; percent testing in the school. Up one notch is an orange zone. 3 percent in New York City, 4-5 percent outside of New York City. Orange zone scale up the restrictions. Houses of worship goes to 33, mass gatherings go to 10, businesses, we close the high-risk non-essential, such as gyms, personal care. Dining, 4 people, outdoor only. Schools must go to remote, no in-person, with a test out option. What does that mean? It means the school closes for a couple of days. You clean the school, the school can either go remote or the school can test the students and reopen.

You go to a red zone, that's our highest zone, red zone, 4 percent. Houses of worship 25, mass gatherings prohibited. Businesses, essential only. Dining, take out only. Schools remote, again with the test out option. Even in a red zone the school isn't closed. The school can be open, but you have to test the students and make sure that they are negative. Those are the three levels of zones. You get beyond 4 percent, you're in a different arena altogether and you're in serious territory.

Up to 3 percent, which makes the State orange zone, school districts control what they do with their local schools. Why? Historically, education is controlled locally. Local school district, local superintendent, they have local elections for the school board. Localities are very proprietary about the control of their school. New York City, you have mayoral control. The mayor is basically in control of the schools.

What the law says is up to 3 percent, local governments, you're in charge. Do whatever you want to do: Remote, hybrid - whatever your parents agree to, you can do. At 3 percent, State law governs because you go into an orange zone. Okay, is that clear? So they have local control up to 3 percent and you 700 school districts across the State. You have a whole variety of options. Some are in-person. Some are remote but at 3 percent, local control goes away, State law governs, and you go to an orange zone, the school has to be cleaned, you have to do additional testing, and you can reopen the school if the positivity rate is low. All right?

As you can see we want schools open. All the leading experts say keep K-8 open. The positivity rate in the schools is lower than the positivity rate in the surrounding community. It's safer for the child to be in the school than in the community, not to mention the child is getting an education, parents, etcetera, so we want to keep schools open. Junior high and high is a different story. There the students are less responsible and there's generally a higher infection rate.

Now I want to just clear up a little confusion. 3 percent - when is 3 percent not 3 percent? Because nothing is easy. 3 percent, the way the State determines 3 percent is it's an average over the past seven days because day to day the number bounces like a basketball going down the court, it's 2-4, 3-1, so it's a seven-day average and then hat number has to hold constant for 10 days. All right? We don't want zones going in and going out, so we want to make sure they're based on solid data, so it's a rolling average and then the zone has to stay at that number for 10 days. Local governments across the state publish their own numbers. How does this happen? The Sate collects all the testing data and then we send it to the local governments. Some local governments change factors and will have a slightly different number than the State. I believe it's confusing and unnecessary but it is also irrelevant because the State law governs and once the State says it hits 3 percent or 4 percent, that's what matters, but when people say, "Well my county says this, my mayor says this." We do all the testing; we send them the numbers. Sometimes they change which tests count because of timing sometimes they change- they don't remove duplicate positive cases, so there will be some fluctuations. It's confusing but it's also irrelevant.

Is 3 percent safe? Three precent is the safest margin being used in the United States of America. Three percent gives us a margin of error that if we hit 3, we have time to correct before the situation gets out of control and remember, the 3 is a real three, which will then designate a micro-cluster and then we work with that micro-cluster to reduce the number. How safe is 3? It is so safe that 46 states are now above 3 percent. If 3 percent was a national standard, 46 states would be a zone. Isn't that amazing. It's because New York State's overall infection rate is so low. We have the fourth lowest infection rate in the United States of America. God bless New Yorkers. The only states with a lower infection rate: Vermont, Hawaii, and Maine. Beautiful states all of them and more rural than New York, lower density than New York, doesn't have the big cities of New York. So, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, and then New York, every other state is higher. Three percent is right above New York. Massachusetts 3.2, that's how safe 3 percent is, and look at how high these numbers are going in the country. Wyoming is at 51 percent. We're talking about 3 percent and Wyoming is at 51, South Dakota 46, Iowa 45. I mean it's amazing what's going on in this country and it's amazing how good a job New Yorkers are doing at keeping the rate down.

Context is important. What people should be asking now is, what is my community's infection rate? Not what is the state rate, because it's different across the state. What is my community's infection rate because it's your community that's going to determine if you go into a yellow, orange, or red zone, right? The highest rates we have in Western New York, 6 percent. Lowest is the North Country 1.3 but look at that variance. Finger Lakes 2.5, Mohawk Valley 2.1, Central New York 2.6, Southern Tier 1.5. You see all across the state the variance. You see by community the variance. Tonawanda 6.8; Orchard Park 6.9; West Seneca 8 percent; Lancaster 9 percent - that must be the highest in the state Lancaster - 9 percent. So, it's not it's not what's the state infection rate, it's not even what's my regional infection rate. What is your community's infection rate? Look at the difference even on Long Island. You go from Massapequa 3.6; Freeport is 4.5; New Rochelle 5.4; Port Chester, Westchester 6.4. Look within New York City. If you're in Fort Manor 3.9; you have parts of Staten Island 5.6; Sheepshead Bay 2.9; Bensonhurst 3.2. Where's Queens? A Queens boy always looks for Queens. Elmhurst 4; Corona 4; Woodside 3.3. So, you see the variance even within New York City.

How high will the infection rate go? I don't know, but there's going to be two points of, I believe, increase. We don't know how significant. December 1 to December 10 you'll start to see the results of what happened over the Thanksgiving weekend, right? People get infected, you need an incubation period for the virus, they then start to get sick, they then start to show up at the hospital. So, December 1-December 10 you'll see the results of Thanksgiving weekend. After Thanksgiving, you go into that period of hyper social activity. I think after New Year's Eve January 2nd, January 10th, January 15th, then you'll see the collective impact of all 37 days, right? After New Year's Eve, everything slows down a little bit. New Year's Day everybody has a little bit of a hangover, they go home, they go to sleep. Hopefully the infection rate stops. I didn't mean that you personally have a hangover, I'm just saying generally. But, if you ask me when are we out of the woods here, this increased activity period, you'll know where you are January 10th, January 15th. So what if the rate goes up? So what? Everybody's talking about the rate going up, let it go up. The rate goes up; there are more restrictions to slow the economy -- that's bad for business. Rates go up, you overburden the hospital system, you overburden doctors, nurses, you can have possible equipment supplies. Numbers go up and people die. People die. Period. It is a mathematical equation. More people will die the more the rate goes up. Unless you are extraordinarily casual about human life, it matters. Even if you say, "I don't care what happens to the economy, close everything. I don't care about the hospitals." People will die, and that's a fact.

Best I can do - warn people and then show them the scale every day. Show you your numbers every day in your community, because you can change what you do, and you can change how your community acts. An aside, people say, "oh don't worry, there's a vaccine. I understand there's going to be a vaccine, what difference does it make? The vaccine is coming." The vaccine is starting to come in December, January depending on who you believe. It will be for first high need populations: nursing homes, et cetera. I will wager you dollars to donuts it's six months at a minimum before you hit critical mass with the vaccine. You can't take six months of unrestricted increase. The numbers for today, the micro-cluster zones: 4.3. Statewide with the micro-cluster zones - I'm sorry, statewide without the micro-clusters: 2.2. Statewide with the micro-clusters: 2.7. 196,000 tests. 30 deaths. 2,562 hospitalizations. 500 ICU. 234 intubations. 30 people passed away, they're in our thoughts and prayers. That's the only number on that chart that really means anything to me.

We have several communities that are in the warning track. I hate sports analogies. For those people who don't know them, the warning track is the track just before the fence when you run to catch the ball it's going to be a home run, a warning track turns into dirt so you don't run into the wall. I always ran into the wall anyway. Parts of Staten Island will go into an orange zone. Parts of Staten Island will go into a red zone at the current rate. Staten Island is a serious problem. Staten Island is also a problem in terms of overburdening hospitals, and we're running into a hospital capacity issue on Staten Island that we have to be dealing with over these next few days. Parts of the City of Syracuse will go into an orange zone at this rate. Parts of the City of Rochester will go into an orange zone. Upper Manhattan will go into a yellow zone. Parts of Nassau will go into a yellow zone. Parts of Suffolk will go into a yellow zone. How much weight will I put on over the holidays? How high will the infection rate go? It depends on what we do. You have a trajectory where it goes so high the whole scale changes. You know, we're now down there as the fourth state at 3. You see those other states, 20, 30, 40. You could see our whole scale change by the time this is over. I would not be shocked if they said on January 10th, January 15th we're up at 7, 8, 9, 10 percent. That could very easily happen if we are irresponsible. It could even be higher if we're irresponsible. It's purely a function of what we do.

Contact the Governor's Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640