December 23, 2020
Albany, NY

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 89,000 New Yorkers Have Received First COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

TOP Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor...

22,000 Doses Administered in 90 Nursing Home Facilities So Far as Part of Federal Program


DOH Authorizes Use of Extra Moderna Vaccine Doses; Guidance Available Here


6,864 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide


1,166 Patients in the ICU; 633 Intubated


Statewide Positivity Rate is 5.84%


164 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday


Governor Cuomo: "We're in a race between the vaccinations and the increase in the COVID rate. 89,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose. Nursing home program in the first two days, 90 facilities, 22,000vaccines administered. Great job."


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 89,000 New Yorkers have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose to date. 22,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose in 90 nursing home facilities as part of a federal-private partnership program. 


The Governor also announced that the New York State Department of Health has authorized the use of extra doses that have been found in Moderna vaccine vials. The vials were previously believed to contain 10 doses, but may now contain up to 11 doses. DOH guidance on administering the extra doses is available here and a letter from Commissioner Howard Zucker is available here.  


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. Welcome everyone. From my far right, Gareth Rhodes, Chancellor Jim Malatras, Kelly Cummings, Director of Operations, Dr. Howard Zucker, Health Commissioner, to my left Melissa DeRosa Secretary to the Governor, to her left Robert Mejica, Budget Director of the state of New York. Today is day 298.


Numbers for today: statewide positivity without microclusters, shouldn't say without all microclusters, it's just without microclusters, they put that in there just to test me, and test you. Today it's 5.37, it was yesterday 5.58, overall positivity with the microclusters 5.8, it was 5.89, positivity microclusters 7.09, was 6.81, 200,000 tests, 164 statewide deaths. They are in our thoughts and prayers, especially during this holiday season. What a terrible, aggravating circumstance to this miserable year. 


Statewide hospitalizations 6,800, discharges 672, admissions 1,008, ICU up 40, intubations up 19. By percentage of population, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes, Finger Lakes. Finger Lakes has been a problem for the past several weeks. It is not getting better. It's a serious concern for us. I'm going to be speaking to the elected officials in the Finger Lakes and to the hospitals, and we're considering several options, because that is a serious and deadly situation. And it's not getting better. 


Western New York, we've made progress. The rest of the state is basically flat.Positivity, it's Finger Lakes and it's Mohawk Valley. 

Mohawk Valley is actually higher now than the Finger Lakes, so the same situation with Mohawk Valley. New York City when you look at the numbers, Staten Island 5.51, and there's no reason for that. Follow the precautions, save lives. 


The issue of the new strain is very serious, and I don't believe this country is taking it as seriously as it should, and more importantly, I don't think country is taking the action that it should take. So let's just talk facts first. 


Fact: it is in the U.K. and it is more dangerous. Boris Johnson says it's 70 percent more transmittable. Boris Johnson closed parts of the U.K., other European countries have banned travel from the U.K., but it is more dangerous. How much more dangerous? We don't know. We don't know if it's more deadly. We don't know if the vaccine works on it or not. 


We think the vaccine works on it, that's our quote unquote "working assumption," but it is real and it is dangerous. It is traveling around the world as we speak, right? It's on planes, and it is transmitting, and other people are getting on planes, and it's the holiday season, and it is traveling around the world. That is a fact, it's not a personal opinion. 

120 countries now require testing before people leave the U.K., or ban people from the U.K. That is not a personal opinion. That is a fact. 


Number 4: France went so far as to stopping truck traffic from the U.K., caused massive backups by stopping the traffic coming into France. That's how seriously France took it, and then you have federal officials in this country who say, "Well, it may be here already." Ok? Those are five inarguable facts. 


When you hear those facts you have to say to yourself what? What happened, and what are we doing, and why are we not doing what 120 other countries that are far less sophisticated, that paid far less of a price for COVID, that didn't have the experience that we had-- why aren't we saying test the travelers in the U.K.before they get on a plane? 


Why aren't we saying test travelers, period, before they get on a plane and come to the United States? Why wouldn't you do that? This is what happened in the spring. It is deja vu. It is the same mistake the federal government made that killed thousands of people and cost billions of dollars. They lost track of the virus. They knew it was in China and then they lost track of it. What happened is the virus got on a plane and went to Europe. Then it got on another plane and flew to the United States and nobody knew it. That's what the history books will write was the gross negligence of this federal government. That will be the legacy and we are doing the same thing again and it makes no sense. 


When did common sense leave government? When did government become so bureaucratic and so apathetic and so slow that basic common sense alludes them? That's what this is. 120 countries around the globe, any official who hears anything, test before they come. It's not banning, it's not impeding. Test before they come the way we did 200,000 tests in this State - just this State - yesterday. Test travelers before they come. 


That HHS and the CDC have not acted on this is really reprehensible. I don't know if they're just checked out and if they're checked out, they should resign. I don't know if it's a transition, then you should say Mr. Joe Biden, why don't you make this decision. To do nothing when you know the virus is coming here, when you say it may already be here - which would then mean you would be concerned that you want to isolate it and stop the spread. It's the greatest failure to do ones job. This is not a special insight and this is not political, it's the U.K. Every other European country has done it. It just - why? Why would you put people's lives at risk? 


Dr. Redfield, Secretary Azar - they were part of a political administration and they're going to have to answer for their political activity over the past 4 years. It's over now, the politics. Why didn't you do your job now, Mr. Secretary? Why didn't you do your job now, CDC Director Robert Redfield? I'm sure the President isn't pressuring you anymore, so just do your job. 


New York Times, which I believe in the free exchange of the free press. When I disagree, I say I disagree. When I agree, I say I agree. The New York Times wrote a smart editorial today. A contagious variant of the coronavirus has been detected. Trump administration is doing little to address it. Because the federal government doesn't act, it puts the onus on states. It doesn't help me or help the people of New York. I'm not in the finger pointing business. Well, the feds should have. Okay, but at the end of the day my job is to protect New Yorkers. If the feds don't act, I'm going to do whatever I can do. 


We made tremendous progress. The airlines that fly into New York, there are 3 airlines, all 3 agreed to do testing before those flights land in New York. New York is the only state that has made that request. 


New York now is safer than any other state because the people who are landing here are being tested. If I could do it why can't the United States do it? I did it in three phone calls. They didn't fight me. Why wouldn't the United States do it and the Times says this is reminiscent of the early days when the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China. They enacted a travel ban against China but it was already gone. They closed the barn door after the horse left - my expression, not the Times. The Times would never speak in such colloquial terms. 


But that is the situation. Well, there are limitations to Mr. Cuomo's plan. I think that's a little pejorative. No. my plan can only affect the state of New York and they're right that you can fly into another state and I can't prevent flying into another state. Only the federal government can do that and the federal government should do it and they should have done it already. 


One of the great political hypocrisies of 2020 - here is one of the great political hypocrisies, elected officials, don't you worry about COVID, it's a hoax, it's overblown, the government is being over reactive, freedom, they're trying to shut us down, don't worry about those restrictions, protest, go to the bars and the restaurants, don't wear a mask, that's what you should do, maybe I want a vaccine. If your constituents shouldn't worry about it because it's a hoax and it's overblown and it's oppressive, then why do you Mr. Politician want to take the vaccine? You know, that is one of the great hypocrisies, don't you worry about it, but me, I'm taking a vaccine as soon as I can. 

United States, CDC, HHS, do something, do your job on the way out the door. Just tell the U.K. test travelers before they land in the United States. State lab is doing specimens from across the state. We're looking to find out if it's here, where it is. We want to isolate it. If it more easily transmitted we want to catch it in the crib. That's what contact tracing is all about. Find it, Patient Zero, where is Patient Zero, we want to find Patient Zero on that variant and in the meantime stop other people who are infected from coming. 


This is the holiday season. The next 10 days are going to be key for us. If you look what has happened around the nation you see a spike that has increased since Halloween. It got colder, people when indoors, but then you see a spike that happened in other parts of the country in Thanksgiving and coming out of Thanksgiving. Those parts of the country had more travel at Thanksgiving than we did. More travel is a proxy for more social gatherings, more social gatherings, fewer precautions, more spread. We did not have that same post-Thanksgiving spike because we were more cautioned and more intelligent about it. The question is what happens through Christmas and Kwanzaa and Christmas week and New Year's. Do we stay as diligent? Or does that number go up, does it stay flat, how high does it go up, how fast does it go up? We are not destined for a shut down. 


I want to do everything I can to avoid a shutdown. The shutdown this tremendous economic damage and collateral damage to families. We can't survive with these economic shutdowns and no hospital in the state, no hospital, has advised us that they are within 21 days, three weeks of 85 percent capacity, on the fear of overwhelming the hospital system. No hospital has said that they're within 21 days. But, that could change if the spike goes up dramatically. And that's what we need to watch over these next 10 days. Celebrate, I'm going to celebrate, I deserve to celebrate, I was good, I'm on Santa's good list, I have that on inside information. 


Celebrate. But just be smart about the way you celebrate, right? Avoid the density, open the windows, take a walk outside. Just be smart about the way you celebrate. Celebrate smart, stop the shutdowns. that's what's going to be on all our travel signs and flashing signs. Kelly Cummings is doing that to remind New Yorkers, celebrate smart, stop the shutdown. Celebrate smart, stop shutdowns. Smart is part of being New York tough, right. It's part of our DNA. In the meantime we're in a race between the vaccinations and the increase in the COVID rate. 89,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose. Nursing home program in the first two days, 90 facilities, 22,000 vaccines administered. Great job.


More good news. Well, more surprising news. The Pfizer vaccine, we found out, had more dosages than they said per vial. That's good news. This is the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination kit. This is the Moderna vial. The Moderna vial was supposed to have 10 doses. This vial would do 10 doses. Actually, they're getting 11 doses per vial, which is different but good different as opposed to bad different, and after a year of having a lot of different pop up, and 90 percent of it being bad, I'm glad that this is different but good. So, we actually have more Moderna vaccines than we thought because there is more vaccination in the vial. That was also true for Pfizer. So, they both made a mistake, but it was a mistake in a positive direction. 


I'm working on the State of the State now. State of the State I issue in the beginning of the year. The overall balance for the State of the State is how do you stay open safely and how do you reopen safely, right? And the balance is going to be how do you use vaccinations and testing to determine safety, okay? You have two tools. We're now the most proficient state in the nation on testing. We have vaccinations coming. There will be people who will receive two vaccinations shortly and they will have been vaccinated. 

How do you use the vaccinations and the testing to define or determine safe in terms of reopening? You can't wait for the vaccine to hit critical mass. 75 to 85 percent of the population. That is months and months away. And by the way, the more they talk, the further the timeline. First it was going to be June, then it was going to be September, now some people are suggesting even longer. We can't go through nine months with restaurants shut. We have to come up with a smarter way to do this, and this is going to be a different period in history. You're going to see a global competition and a global sorting out where certain states, certain regions, figure this out first and better than other places. And there will be winners and losers through this period. And that's the really smart long-term vision that we have to have in this state. 


But we're talking about a demonstration. Can you reopen venues using rapid testing? Ancillary question, can you reopen venues using vaccinated people? We're not there yet with vaccinated people, but can you reopen venues using rapid testing? That's the question the Department of Health has been analyzing because I want to speak to it in the State of the State, but we're looking to test a hypothesis.  


The National Football League currently does games without testing. The Buffalo Bills are going to have a playoff game. Could we allow fans to the game with testing and then contact trace after the game? That's what the Department of Health has been working on. The Buffalo Bills proposed 6,700 fans. Department of Health is working on a model where you would test the fans before they go in. If they are negative, they go in and then contact trace afterwards to see what the effect was and Commissioners Zucker and Robert Mujica have been working with the Bills on this and I'm going to ask them to comment. 


Commissioner Zucker, in the picture he's using his hands, that's because he's Italian and they tend to talk with their hands. Robert Mujica is not smiling, that's because the man is incapable of smiling. I have known him for 10 years and I've yet to see him smile, so don't take anything from his facial expression. There's no negativity intended. That's just his face in repose, but Dr. Zucker would you like to make a comment?  


Dr. Zucker: Thank you. Thank you, Governor. So, as the governor mentioned, this would be a demonstration project. It's a public health model that's never been done anywhere in the country before. As the governor mentioned, what we will do, we will work with the team to get all the fans tested who are coming in beforehand, 6,700 people prior to the game. We will have proof of a negative result prior to entering. We will work with the team and we will do contact tracing afterwards and as I said, this is a demonstration project.  


My concern here is, we can control how fans come into the stadium. We can control other factors as well dealing with the stadium, but the ancillary events, the parties where this virus can spread, the events of the airport is a classic example which we saw the other day. Thousands gathered without masks and that's how disease spreads. So, how do we control that? That is really the question. That's what we are working on as well and this is all obviously community spirit. We are extremely proud of the Bills. We are all New Yorkers. We work on these things together. We will get through it but that is our plan as a demonstration project, governor, and no one else has done this in the nation before. Thank you.  


Governor Cuomo: Mr. Mujica? 


Robert Mujica: So, the Bills have submitted a plan that the state is reviewing, and we've gone back and forth with them on the elements of the plan, but they will control ingress and egress in the stadium. They will have social distancing within the stadium; masks will be required at all times. Fans who are not wearing masks or won't wear masks would be ejected from the stadium if they if they are not. There will be ushers in every section, some sections will be closed off and as Dr. Zucker mentioned previously, the Department of Health actually went to another stadium to see how some of these protocols could work, and they're comfortable with that. The testing is the newest piece which no one else is doing anywhere in the country, but as the governor points out, this would be the beginning to start to show how you could start events with testing and all of the other mitigation factors we have. This would be the first in the nation and the first in the northeast. 


Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Countdown to Christmas: two days. We're distributing 7,300 toys, coats, school supplies. New Yorkers are the best even with everything that's going on, they were so generous, and we want to thank them all. We want to thank Walmart and the China General Chamber of Commerce and the literally hundreds of New Yorkers who donated toys. Even though the economy is terrible and everyone is suffering, New Yorkers are just beautiful people. I mean I don't I don't even have another way to say it.  


Happy Festivus for those who celebrate Festivus. Today is Festivus, if you're putting up your pole today, we hope you enjoy. My Festivus gift to the LCA is no Christmas briefing. We're not going to do a briefing on Christmas. So, you have the day off. The LCA, for those who don't know, that is the Legislative Correspondents' Association. Those are the reporters who we work with here in Albany, but Friday is also the airing of grievances for the LCA, which is our extended family. You know where to get me on the airing of grievances. If you're not going to be here, I have some grievances that I would like to air, so I would just ask people who are not going to be at work, if they could leave their home numbers with the press office so I can contact them to air my grievances.  

10 days. 10 days. The holiday season is 10 days. What we do in the next 10 days is going to be key. Let's be smart, it's part of being New York tough.


Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office