December 11, 2020
Albany, NY

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

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

5,321 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide

1,007 Patients in the ICU; 546 Intubated

Statewide Positivity Rate is 4.98%

87 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday

Governor Cuomo: "We're going three COVID operations at the same time. Number one, the hospitals, managing hospital capacity and surge and flex as we call it. Number two, trying to slow the spread of the virus. And number three, being as aggressive as we can on vaccinations. We want to be the most efficient, most effective state in the United States in terms of vaccinations. As we said, we would have a New York State panel review the actions and recommendations of the FDA and their advisory committee to give New Yorkers more confidence in the vaccination process. Dr. Zucker met with the New York State panel yesterday, last night, and the New York State clinical advisory task force has approved unanimously the FDA decision to go forward with the vaccine, so that's good news, and we notified the FDA of that. Obviously there was no delay whatsoever in the timing, and New Yorkers will have more confidence."

Cuomo: "We're calculating the data of this and this weekend and by those metrics any new zones we'll announce on Monday. If you are yellow zone or if you are and orange zone, this is all determined on the facts and what it is saying is in your community you have a problem. It's not somewhere else. It's your community. It's your grocery store, it's your church, it's your temple, it's your mosque, it's your block, and you can make a difference in your community and it means you have to take it seriously. Yes, I'm tired. I've been doing this for a long time. I feel it myself. I get it but we can'trelax until COVID relaxes and COVID is not relaxing. We have the vaccine, we're going to beat it, but we have to finish the game and we have to finish the war."

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. Thank everyone for joining us today. Let me introduce the people who are here today. from my far right, Mr. Larry Schwartz to me, former secretary to Governor Patterson, and he's come back and he's helping us with the hospital surge and flex plan and the vaccination plan, both of which are major, major operations as you know. We then have Chancellor Jim Malatras, Commissioner Howard Zucker. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left, Robert Mujica, budget director.

I'm going to speak quickly today for two reasons. Number one, I'm from New York, we speak quickly. Number two, I have a lot of ground to cover and we have some special guests who are joining us and we want to be on time for them.

Today is day 286. We're going three COVID operations at the same time. Number one, the hospitals, managing hospital capacity and surge and flex as we call it. Number two, trying to slow the spread of the virus. And number three, being as aggressive as we can on vaccinations. We want to be the most efficient, most effective state in the United States in terms of vaccinations. As we said, we would have a New York State panel review the actions and recommendations of the FDA and their advisory committee to give New Yorkers more confidence in the vaccination process. Dr. Zucker met with the New York State panel yesterday, last night, and the New York State clinical advisory task force has approved unanimously the FDA decision to go forward with the vaccine, so that's good news, and we notified the FDA of that. Obviously there was no delay whatsoever in the timing, and New Yorkers will have more confidence.

We're now talking about a winter plan, and when you're talking about the winter plan you have to take the full context into consideration. Where we've been, where we're going. And it has been quite the journey, and the journey isn't over. It's not really going to be over until the summer and we hit critical mass with the vaccination. And we have to calibrate our way through the journey. You change strategies as the virus changes. Seasonal change, the growth pattern changes. And where the growth is occurring. The current numbers in New York State. The statewide positivity without what we call micro-clusters, 4.5. with the micro-clusters, 4.9. In the micro-clusters, 6.8. We did 212,000 tests. 87 New Yorkers passed away. They're in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalization, 5,300. ICU, 1,700. Intubations, 546.

Looking across the state, Finger Lakes, highest rate of hospitalization by population. Then, Western New York, Central New York, Mohawk Valley. Western New York, which we've been focusing on for quite some time, we've actually seen a flattening in Western New York. Not a reduction, but a flattening in the increase, and that's good news. But you see the varied picture across the State of New York.

We have said from day one, for us, this is a constant calibration. We want as much economic activity as possible, and respect public health and the cost of the virus, right. So that's always the calibration. Yes, economic activity. Yes, as much as we can, social activity, balanced with public health. Some states have had these dramatic opens and closes, full open, full close, full open, full close. I think that's highly disruptive and it's not the best way to go through this. Our approach has been different, where we've always been following the data and the metrics. And we have more data than any other state. Maybe New Yorkers have a little PTSD, but what we went through in the Spring, with all these experts giving us advise and the advice turned out to be wrong, all this anecdotal information, we invested very heavily in doing COVID testing, and we do more testing than any state in the nation. But, that gives us actual facts that we can base our actions upon. And we've now done 21 million tests. So we've actually done more tests than we have people in the State of New York, now.

On the facts, what we're seeing. Schools are almost without exception safer than local communities in terms of infection rate. This was not what was initially expected. Initially some of the experts said, "well schools are like mass gatherings and if you get a lot of students together there's going to be a spread." That is not what has happened. That's not what the facts say. The facts say that the schools are actually following the rules and following the guidance. The children are following the guidance. The teachers are doing a great job following the guidance, and the schools, the positivity rate tends to be lower than the positivity rate in the surrounding community. My point is, if it is safer for the children to be in school, then have the children in school. If it's safer for the teacher to be in school, then have the teacher in school. It's less disruptive, the children get the education, you don't have the same issues you had with remote learning.

Now, this is a decision that has been left to the local school districts, and we've had a discussion back and forth. We had this discussion with New York City. My advice, although it's their decision, is that unless you have data that says the schools are at a problematic infection rate, the schools should be open. City of Buffalo recently announced they're going to keep their schools closed. I respect local governments. I respect the prerogative of local governments with education. I understand the balance. But, my advice, and if you look across the nation and you look across the world, most informed experts will say test in the schools, but if the schools are safer, then leave the schools open.

By the facts, hospitalization rates are increasing dramatically, across the world, across the nation, and across this state. You see where we are now, and yousee how quickly the increase has been, and this is the ultimate cause for concern, right. The ultimate cause for concern is an overwhelming of the hospitals. With the hospitals, the situation in the hospitals is better than it has been in the past. Compared to the spring, you have 30 percent fewer people in the ICU; we have 50 percent fewer people intubated. The length of stay in the hospitals has dropped dramatically. The length of stay was on average 11 days in the spring. It's now down to 5 days. The medical community has made the most progress over the past few months. Not only the development of the vaccine, but therapeutics and having to deal with this disease. That's what you see in the reduction of the length of stay. That's what you see in the death rate.

We had a 23 percent death rate in the spring. That is now down to 8 percent. This is probably the most informative data. Where are the new cases coming from? You want to know what's generating the new cases so you know where you can stop them. The troubling information in this is 74 percent of the new cases are coming from household gatherings. Living room spread. In many ways, you can understand what happened.

You closed bars, you closed restaurants, you closed theaters, you closed stadiums, you closed mass gatherings. Where do people go? They go home. Come to my house or go over to Robert's house. We'll invite our friends, we'll invite our family. Compound that by the holiday season, which is a natural come to my house, my family, my friends I know will be safe. That is what is driving these numbers.

You get past the 74 percent, health care delivery, which is incidental to the provision of service. These are in hospitals, et cetera. Then higher education, colleges, which we have been battling. This is partially college students going back and forth. This is partially college students who at that stage in life are superheroes and they don't believe that they're going to get infected. If they get infected they're going to be able to deal with it. We've been dealing with colleges. Education employees. Restaurants and bars, 1.4 percent. You're now down to small numbers basically.

Travel, vacation; we've had quarantines, but people coming in that is an imperfect system on travel. That's about 1 percent. Sports is basically school sports. Public sector: police, fire, EMS, military. Now, a big part of this is people by their job are exposed to the situation. EMS workers, National Guard - people who have been helping. Police, fire, they're out there all the time. I've said repeatedly police, especially, they need to wear masks. It's the law and it's smart. It'sboth.

Transportation, private transportation. People who are in limo cars, call-in cars as well as public transportation. Manufacturing, religious activities, construction, retail, professional services, elementary school; .49. High school, .46. Prisons, correctional, .4. Middle school, .19. Auto-dealers, car rentals, .16. We're getting to very small numbers here now. Auto-dealers, car rentals and then hair and personal care which was much worse earlier on.

Wholesale trade, building services, real estate, entertainment, gyms, agriculture, hunting forestry, child care, power utilities, accommodations, media production. You're now in very, very small numbers. Stop the spread where it exists and stop it where it's being generated, but don't waste time on areas that are not generators.

Indoor dining which many people have spoken about. It is a generator. We have made strides on Indoor dining by the restrictions we put in place and the safety protocols we put in place. It is still an issue, but it's much better than it was. Gyms are one of the lowest known spreaders now by the facts. We'veincreased the testing, we reduced the capacity. Gyms are now down to .06. Hair salons, barbershops, personal care .14. Again, small gatherings are the greatest individual issue and we believe this is going to continue to increase over the holidays.

In general, also, you see compliance by people down. COVID fatigue, the holidays, the vaccine Is coming. I'm just tired of dealing with it. Government enforcement is down. One of the more troubling points in the data is the Rt is up 1.3. We haven't spoken about this in a while. Rt is the rate of transmission. 1.3means one person will infect 1.3 additional people. Once that number is over 1 you're in a problematic state. This is a problematic situation. We want to calibrate to the new material, the new facts, the new data.

The criteria, the metrics we use, what is the positivity rate? What is the hospitalization rate? What is the hospital capacity in that area? You don't want to overwhelm the hospitals. Considering the Rt rate, what is the density and what is the crowding? Which is a factor we have not been considering because the Rt was below 1 for some period of time. Then the risk level of that economic activity going back to the chart that shows where the cases are coming from.

You're calibrating the risk level of the economic activity. The density level, the Rt rate and the hospitalization capacity and the positivity rate. A red zone is New York on Pause. It is stop all but essential services and business. It's where we were. We don't have any red zones in the state. We don't want to go back to a red zone, other states have gone back to closure. We don't want to go here. The only reason you would close the economy is because you're going to overwhelm the hospitals. If you get to 90 percent of hospital capacity, then you are effectively at the point where you're going to overwhelm the capacity. The capacity here includes staff and equipment, et cetera. If we see that we're on a glide path towards overwhelming the hospitals you have no choice but to close down the economy. You cannot overwhelm the hospital system.

Short of that is an orange zone, which is 4 percent positivity over 10 days or you're at 85 percent of hospital capacity or the rate of growth in the hospitalizations is dramatic and as determined by Department of Health. Yellow zone as 3 percent positivity and you are one of the highest percentage growth clusters in the state in terms of hospitalization.

We're calculating the data of this and this weekend and by those metrics any new zones we'll announce on Monday. If you are yellow zone or if you are and orange zone, this is all determined on the facts and what it is saying is in your community you have a problem. It's not somewhere else. It's your community. It'syour grocery store, it's your church, it's your temple, it's your mosque, it's your block, and you can make a difference in your community and it means you have to take it seriously.

Yes, I'm tired. I've been doing this for a long time. I feel it myself. I get it but we can't relax until COVID relaxes and COVID is not relaxing. We have the vaccine, we're going to beat it, but we have to finish the game and we have to finish the war.

We don't want to lose people who we don't need to lose. God will take people. We're not going to stop death but we should make sure we're doing everything we can to protect every life that we can and that's the goal of all of us going through this.

Staten Island, 26 deaths on Staten Island. Staten Island is 25 percent of all the deaths in New York City even though they're only 5 percent of the population. Staten Island has one of the highest growth hospitalization rates in the state today and these are deaths, 26 people. You know we talk about numbers, statistics, you have to remember behind every statistic, every number is a family, is a father, is a mother, is someone who's going to go through the holidays with a lost loved one. You know for me I feel it. I have the conversations. I talk to the families. It's painful and we need people to understand that to the extent it is preventable we really must prevent it.

This is not a political issue. There is no politics to the guidance or these rules. It's the one issue that both the Trump team and the Biden team agrees with. The rules that we follow are basically CDC rules. That's the Trump administration, and the Biden advisers are saying the same thing so there is no politics to this. I have no politics in this. I represent every person in the State of New York. I don't care what party you are, what ideology, whether you're short, you're tall, I don't care your sexual orientation. It makes no difference to me.

These are rules that make sense for everyone and it is basically all common sense. This is not high science we're applying here. These are common-sense rules. Where the virus is highest then you have to take action.

We're also changing rules for the hospitals in the state. We've already announced that all hospitals have to do a 25 percent increase in staffed beds. Hospitals must remain under 85 percent. They can remain under 85 percent capacity by either adding an additional 25, up to 25 percent of beds, or reducing elective surgeries, or both. They have that flexibility but we want every hospital to remain under 85 percent occupancy. Over 85 percent that hospital is now in a critical situation. As we said, 90 percent riggers a red zone and every hospital has to have a 90-day PPE supply.

The increasing RT is a problem, rate of transmission. It's more of a problem in the most dense areas. We learned this lesson in the spring the hard way, New York Times, the pandemic is particularly devastating to America's biggest cities as the virus has found fertile ground in the density that is otherwise prized. Yes, the density which is the asset of the cities becomes a liability. The crowding is a problem.

CDC last week did a caution on indoor dining. In New York City you put the CDC caution on indoor dinging together with the rate of transmission and the density and the crowding, that is a bad situation. The hospitalizations have continued to increase in New York City. We said that we would watch it. If the hospital rate didn't stabilize we would close indoor dining and it has not. We're going to close indoor dining in New York City on Monday. Outdoor dining and takeout continues.

Outside of New York City and in the orange zones, we're going to watch the indoor dining data. The numbers are down in the chart but we're going to watch over this weekend and we'll make any adjustments next week if the data suggests.

Federal government must provide relief to these bars and restaurants in this next package. I understand battling COVID. I also understand you're wiping out businesses. We'll do what we can in New York. We're going to extend the commercial evection moratorium, so if a business can't pay the rent because of this situation they won't be evicted.

In gyms and salons as you also see, they are not the problem that they were. We have restrictions. The restrictions made a difference. We're going to allow them to operate in orange zones with reduced capacity and additional testing. They're at 33 percent now, capacity. We'll go to 25 percent. They do biweekly testing. It would be weekly testing but they can operate in an orange zone.

The winter plan, I went through with Dr. Fauci, I did it publicly at a briefing, he was very kind to give me a lot of time to talk it through privately, and we'replanning basically December, January. Everyone is expecting, Dr. Fauci expects, Dr. Redfield expects, the CDC director, that you're going to see a bad December, a bad January. We understand that. How bad is the question. We hope that you'll see a stabilization mid- to late-January. Why? Because Thanksgiving started, we may be seeing the tail end of the Thanksgiving surge, if you will, but we're about to walk into the Hanukkah surge, the Christmas surge. The Christmas week surge and the Kwanzaa surgeon New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and by the time that tails off, you're talking mid- to late- January.

When does it end? It ends when the vaccine hits a critical mass. That could be June, it could be September but between today and June, that is a long six months and we can't get complacent. "Well the vaccine is here. Everything is fine." That's not the reality. We've only been at this for 9 or 10 months. We have another six months to go.

If the facts change, we will adjust to the facts. We're going to look at the data over this weekend for determinations of zones. We will look at it for indoor dining,we will look at it for all those categories that we were seeing on the chart. Facts change, opinions change. Facts change, we adjust to the facts and will continue to do that. What's the optimal goal? To remain one of the lowest spreads in the nation. The tide is coming up. The boats are going to go up. You're not going to stop the tide, but you can do as much as you can, and this state has one of the lowest infection rates in the United States of America. Our highest infection rate in the state is lower than 40 states. Our highest infection rate is lower than 40 states. So, God bless the people of New York, because this state with its density, with its diversity, is really doing an extraordinary job and we have to continue to do it because we determine our future. Right? We determine the curve.

Last point is the vaccine. That is the weapon that ends the war. We're going to need a public education campaign to battle skepticism. We have to hit 75 to 85 percent of the population for the vaccine to be effective. We have 50 percent of the population saying they won't take the vaccine. That's a problem. We have to outreach to the Black, brown, poor communities. That's basic social justice. That has been overlooked, I'll speak to that in a moment. And we have to have the most aggressive distribution administration program and we're starting that right now. Good news is, the 170,000 doses from Pfizer that we announced should be here imminently, Sunday or Monday. We also will get through 346,000 doses of Moderna on top of the 170,000m and they'll be here the week of December 21. So, the vaccine is coming and we're ready to administer it.

Part of the vaccination has to be the fairness of the vaccination process. I believe during COVID many inequities were disclosed, health care disparities were disclosed. That's why the death rate for Blacks is twice what it is for whites; that's why the death rate for Latinos is one and one half times what it is for whites. We have to learn from that and correct it when it comes to the vaccine. I don't believe this HHS administration has provided for a fair distribution to Black communities and brown communities and poor communities and rural communities and Native American communities across the state. I think they're basically leaving it to the private sector. They haven't given the states any resources to do anything else. We sent the letter to Secretary Azar who is the political head of HHS, 110 leaders signed on from the state saying that, don't continue the discrimination that we have seen through COVID where Black, brown, and poor communities were left behind with higher death rates and higher infection rates. COVID doesn't discriminate, neither should the United States of America. We're all anxious to do the vaccine. Let's do the vaccine fairly, let's do it justly, and New York State is going to make sure that it makes that point loud and clear because we're not going to allow this federal administration to proceed with a plan that leaves out certain communities, and the communities that actually need the vaccine most will get it least. That would be the cruelest irony and an added injustice. I believe to leave out those communities is illegal; it is unconstitutional and is discriminatory by effect if not by intent. And I believe this administration knows that. I believe the incoming administration of President Biden will correct it, but we don't want this administration program to start discriminating against people, and we're going to start sending out the vaccine, let's make sure we send it out fairly with the first vaccine. That's our goal.

We're joined by some special guests today. It's a pleasure to have them with us. We have congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who needs no introduction in this state. Pleasure to be with Congressmember Karen Bass, that's our West Coast champion, Congressmember Grace Meng pleasure to be with you who is with the chair of the Asian-Pacific American Caucus and a great New Yorker. Congressman Castro pleasure to be with you, he is the chairman of the congressional Hispanic caucus and we have Congressmember Deb Haaland from the great state of New Mexico - I was speaking with your Governor yesterday, who is the Co-chair of the Native American caucus. Thank you all so much for being with us today. I know you're all busy. I know we wish you all success on that package you're working on. State and local, state and local, state and local. Not that we only have one agenda here, I want you to know. Thank you so much to bring for bringing attention to this issue and for pushing it forward in Washington because we want to make sure we correct the injustice and working together we can do just that. Let me turn it over to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who's been spearheading this effort and partnering with us. Congressman Jeffries thank you so much for being here and thank you for helping assemble today.

Rep. Hakeem Jefferies: Good afternoon, Governor and personally, thank you for your tremendous leadership here in New York State throughout this pandemic and of course in your capacity as the chair of the National Governors Association, for all that you've done to address these important issues on the public health side and economic side throughout the nation. It's great to be joined by an all-star lineup of my colleagues, in government, in the House. Really a Congressional dream team. And they have done so much for the Caucus, the Congress, and the country. Only Andrew Cuomo could assemble such a great team outside of the halls of Congress.

And so, this is a critical issue for us. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of pain, and suffering, and death to the American people, disproportionately communities of color, immigrant communities, low income communities, and throughout Indian Country. That is [inaudible], unconscionable, un-American in a country that promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of region, regardless of zip code.

And so we have to continue to press the case together to make sure that as the vaccines become available that they are disseminated in equitable, efficient, and effective fashion to everyone, but let the dissemination be driven by the data and the need, and we know that that in fact is going to be in communities of color and immigrant communities, and throughout Indian country.

So I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues, to make sure that the resources are provided here in New York state and throughout the country, to make sure that this can be done. It's going to take about $8 billion to do it. The government under this Administration has only provided states with about $200 million. That is barely a drop in the bucket, and we're going to work on this issue together.

So thank you to my colleagues, and thank you Governor Cuomo.

Cuomo: Thank you Congressman, thank you so much. Thank you for organizing your colleagues, I know they're very busy, and you're right they are the Dream Team. I've never seen them on one screen together like that, and I'm glad to have them here in New York.

Let's go to Congresswoman Karen Bass who's the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and she is just a superstar for all of us, and she's fighting the good fight and she's winning. So great to be with you, a pleasure. Thank you.

Bass: Thank you so much, Governor, and let me just join in to thank you for your tremendous leadership. I certainly haven't had the chance to speak with you, but the way you handled New York state, and educated the entire nation at the beginning of the pandemic was just stellar leadership, and we are all very grateful to you for that.

As we all know, the way COVID has impacted communities of color has been devastating. And one of the that's the most devastating is that we really don't know all of the impact because this Administration has [inaudible] compiled the data to disseminate the data, but we do know given the underlying health conditions that our communities suffer from, that we know we are dying in certain locations [inaudible] in extreme discrepancies.

And one of [inaudible] in addition, and before, the dissemination of the vaccine is really massive public education to get people to understand the virus because there has been so much [inaudible] information put out, so that people are comfortable taking the vaccine.

And so, I am behind you 100% and all of my colleagues that are here, [inaudible] frankly until January 20th, until we actually have national leadership that understands that there needs to be a national centralized strategy, we are going to have to fend for ourselves. And one of the things in that national strategy has to be focus concentrated in communities of color. And so we need to do everything we can to make sure we have state and local funding, and to make sure that we have all of the money that is needed for vaccine distribution, and we need to think of our frontline workers as being first and foremost in that line.

So thank you very much for inviting me here today, for your ongoing leadership.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, thank you so much Congress Member, thank you. And keep up the good fight. We're going to get there together. We have New York's own Congress Member, Grace Meng, who is also the Chair of the Asian Pacific American caucus. So good to be with you Grace, thank you.

Rep. Grace Meng: Thank you Governor Cuomo, it's great to be here with you [inaudible] here in New York and across the country. Your efforts have been such a model for other states, and I commend and thank you for all your tireless work to help Americans combat this pandemic. I think during this past year of uncertainty and lack of sometimes accurate information nationally, I can speak for many of my colleagues and their constituents that your updates daily and weekly have provided a very important and reliable source of information in helping us to save lives.

Thank you always to my good friend and our Caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries, for his tremendous vision and steady leadership that you have provided during this pandemic, and that you have brought to our Caucus.

It's always exciting to be here with this Dream Team. Chairwoman Karen Bass, one of my favorites in Congress, if I can say that, Chairman Joaquin Castro, and our superstar Deb Haaland. It's always an honor to be with you and I appreciate all of you.

As you may know my congressional district is actually in Queens, New York, and we were at one point a few months ago one of the epicenters of this pandemic. Elmhurst hospital, which was one of the hardest hit hospitals in this country, is in my district and the facility was at the heart of this epicenter.

And the impact COVID-19 has had on our communities of color, and particularly Asian, Black, and Latino, Native Americans throughout this country, has been really troubling. Asian Americans were impacted early on, not just by the virus of the coronavirus but by the virus of discrimination and hatred. And I stood with this exact group of leaders nationally as they stood shoulder to shoulder with the AAPI community to condemn discrimination against Asian Americans.

The CDC said that Asian-Americans' rate of hospitalization and death is almost one and a half times more than whites, and so we've seen that this pandemic exacerbated already existing vulnerabilities, inequities, disparities, particularly in access to healthcare and including language barriers, financial obstacles, etc. We must work together as our Governor said to ensure that immigrant and minority communities have equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine, that there is a fair, effective, and equitable distribution, that communities of color know when and how to get this vaccine, and there must be engagement and outreach with local grassroots groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits to assist with getting this information out. One of the things that I was concerned about and I was proud to partner with [inaudible] last week and he really led the charge in working with the Health and Human Services and the CDC Director to ensure that information, private and personal information that identifies recipients of the vaccine, would not be shared unnecessarily with other agencies in the federal government. I'm proud to announce, as you already know actually, that Governor Cuomo was successful in ensuring this result here in New York, but we must continue to work with the CDC and the Health Department to ensure that every other state achieves the same solution and protection. So, finally there must be adequate federal funding to implement this vaccine distribution. States cannot do this alone. The federal government must be there to support the distribution efforts of states. I have continuously urged with my colleagues Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass much needed coronavirus [inaudible] repeatedly. We know that Governor Cuomo and his team are working non-stop to ensure access to the vaccine for every New Yorker and to knock down barriers that have allowed disparities to exist in the past. We commend him, stand with him and continue to be partners with him as we continue to save lives here in New York and throughout the country. Thank you, Governor.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you very much, Congress member, and thank you for all the help. You're exactly right on stopping the HHS policy which would have identified undocumented people before they got a vaccination and I think would have been a real exclusion frankly of the undocumented community. And we raised that issue and with the help of this dream team, HHS actually changed their position and the state can now do the vaccination of the undocumented community without identifying them so that's a big step forward and I think they're going to hear us on this issue also.

Let me turn it over to Congress member Castro. Pleasure to be with you again and the Chair of the Hispanic Caucus — thank you very much for joining us and thank you for your good work on all of these issues. Congress member.

Rep. Joaquin Castro: Well, thank you Governor Cuomo and thank you to [inaudible] My connection is a little choppy, so I apologize if I'm breaking up a bit, but I want to say thank you for being a [inaudible] thank you for your efforts particularly in the early days of COVID-19, your press conferences were reassuring [inaudible]. As it's been said, we need to make sure that [inaudible] for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine [inaudible], especially to the most vulnerable Americans. I think it's safe to say that every American has been impacted in a way by COVID-19. In some communities, it's been especially devastating [inaudible] New York State. When this pandemic started, it was clear that Latino [inaudible]. They comprised a great share of the essential workers and they've been especially hit hard by COVID-19: higher rate of infection, higher hospitalization and higher rate of death. And at the same time, we know, when it comes to things like [inaudible] getting information out to the communities, [inaudible] and so it's going to be imperative on all of us, the federal government [inaudible] to make sure we do everything possible and send money to states to get that vaccine to all of our communities, so as we think about [inaudible] making sure that we're getting it to not only front-line heath care workers, but also to [inaudible] essential workers like teachers and the grocery store workers, meatpacking [inaudible]. Some of these folks who were literally in danger, and some of them endangering their lives to make sure our country [inaudible]. So thank you for bringing us together today and thank you [inaudible].

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you, Congress member, and thank you for your leadership and don't worry about the presentation being a little choppy. I'm always a little choppy and it has nothing to do with the technology. It's my presentation, so thank you very much. Let's go to Representative Haaland. It's a pleasure to be with you — Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus. I was former HUD Secretary and as Congressman Castro knows from his family, I spent a lot of time working with the Native American community and their needs are desperate and they've been made more desperate from COVID. So, thank you very much for being with us.

Rep. Deb Haaland: Thank you so much, Governor Cuomo. Thank you for your tremendous leadership and your allyship. It's always a pleasure to stand in solidarity with our Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and with the Tri-Caucus leaders fighting for equity for our communities of color. There's a simple truth: the federal government has failed to honor its promises to Native Americans for generations. There are places in Indian country where there isn't running water. How can we expect folks to follow hand-washing guidance without water? There's not broadband internet to ensure access to telehealth and for kids doing their homework virtually — and in some places, there's no electricity. Over the course of this pandemic, history repeats itself and the spotlight has been put on the disparities that have existed for far too long. The virus has ravaged our communities and the Trump administration has once again failed to provide the resources needed to protect the health of Indian country. For example, the Navajo Nation had infection rates higher than in any state. In New Mexico, Native Americans are 11 percent of the populations, but have been up to half of the state's COVID-19 cases. And like my colleagues have discussed here today, American Indians [inaudible] suffered disproportionately from health conditions that exacerbate COVID-19. The federal response to COVID-19 in Indian country is unacceptable. Far too many people have died and the White House has gone out of its way to fight against providing direct aid to native nations. And now vaccines are here, but again a comprehensive plan that will serve all people is missing. We have the opportunity to correct a history of [inaudible] of the federal government toward Native Americans. [inaudible] robust information and education of the vaccine to increase confidence, resources to make up for gaps that existed for generations, and the flexibility to develop their own distribution plan. Thank you again, governor, for having me and having us, and I'm very proud to be here today.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, all of you. and look, I believe that we will get changes to this vaccination program. I think it's important that we articulate it and we design it. If the Trump Administration doesn't make the changes necessary, I believe that it is illegal, and we'll pursue that course, because we don't want to get off to a bad start, and it shouldn't be that newly-elected President Joe Biden is going to have to correct a mistake so early. So we'll do it right and then we'll focus on the disparities that we learned through this COVID situation. And the healthcare deserts, and all the inequities that existed in the first place that manifested through COVID. And the agenda will be to make sure not only COIVD never happens again, but we answer those inequalities once and for all. God bless you, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Congressman Jeffries, thank you so much for organizing today. and to all of you on a personal level, I miss you, I can't wait until we're together again in person, and God bless you for the fight you're fighting. Keep going.

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