Governor Calls on Federal Government to Expedite Approval of Automated and Manual Testing to Expand Testing Capacity
Declared State of Emergency Yesterday in Order to Expedite Procurement of Cleaning Supplies and Testing Equipment
Governor Encourages Working from Home, Telecommuting and Avoiding Densely Populated Spaces Whenever Possible to Help Contain Spread of Virus
Governor Cuomo: "The single best thing we can do is testing. Why? Because the more you test, the more positives you identify, the more people you can isolate and stop the spread. That's why so much of this is about testing. On testing, we need more help from the federal government and the CDC. Wake up, let the state's test. Let private labs test. Let's increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity."
Cuomo: "Keep this in perspective. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus. The virus we can handle. It's the fear. And the fear is just unwarranted."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo confirmed 16 additional cases of novel coronavirus in New York State since his last update, bringing the statewide total to 105 confirmed cases. Of the 16 new cases identified since the Governor's last update, 12 are in Westchester County, one in New York City in the Bronx, one in Nassau, one in Suffolk, and one in Ulster. Additionally, the Governor today called on the federal government to expedite their approval of private labs and automated and manual testing to expand New York State's testing capacity. He also encouraged New Yorkers to work from home, telecommute and avoid densely populated spaces whenever possible to help contain the spread of the virus.
Of the 105 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:
New York City: 12
AUDIO of today's update is available here.
PHOTOS of today's update will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript is available below:
Good morning everyone. Let me introduce some of my colleagues who are here today. To my right is our great Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. I want to thank him for all of the good work that he has been doing. I want to thank Dr. Dwayne Breining, the Executive Director of Northwell Labs, who just took us on a tour of this amazing facility.
To my left, Michael Dowling who is the CEO of Northwell Health. I have known Michael Dowling for more years than I care to remember. He was head of healthcare for the State of New York under a gentleman named Mario Cuomo who served as Governor of the State of New York. Some of you may remember him. Some of the older people might. I do and I miss him every day. My father loved Michael Dowling and he has been phenomenal as a healthcare professional for this entire state in government and out of government. And Northwell, as I will discuss in a moment, is truly an extraordinary facility.
Let me take a step back. We are at the end of the week. We had a tumultuous week. We want to make sure everyone understands what we are doing with this Coronavirus. We are trying to contain the spread of the virus. How do you contain the spread of the virus? By testing as many people as you can. Find the positives and then isolate the positive people. That is how you contain the spread of the virus.
Why do we want to contain the spread of the virus? What happens if you do not contain the spread? Two things happen. First, you would have to take more drastic measures. What we have seen in China, what we have seen in Italy, you would have to do a massive quarantine which would be very disruptive to society and the economy. China basically closed down everything for two weeks. Closed restaurants, closed businesses, closed schools, closed down everything. It is massively disruptive for society, for people and for the economy.
The second consequence is the vulnerable populations here, senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, people with underlying illnesses, this is a dangerous disease for them - for the vulnerable populations. For most people, you get ill, you recover, you go on with life. So those are the two reasons we are trying to contain the virus. We do not want to have to do massive close downs, massive quarantines, and we don't want members of the vulnerable population getting sick. That is why we are doing what we are doing.
But there is a level of fear here that is not connected to the facts. There is more fear, more anxiety, than the facts would justify. Okay, that is why I want to make sure everyone understands what we are dealing with. You look at the facts here. This is not the Ebola virus, this is not the SARS virus, this is a virus that we have a lot of information on. Johns Hopkins has been tracking this Coronavirus - almost every case. Johns Hopkins has been tracking the 100,000 cases. What happens? For most people, you get the virus, you get sick, you stay home. Most people have mild symptoms, most people don't get hospitalized. The dangerous aspect again is people in that vulnerable population. Senior citizens, the elderly, et cetera. So we are trying to contain it. I've been speaking with business leaders across the state, the private sector has a role here in helping contain it. Basically we want to reduce as much as possible situations creating density. So I've been saying to business leaders.
First, have a liberal sick leave policy for your employees. If somebody is sick, stay home. If you feel symptoms, stay home. And I'd like the companies to communicate that to their employees that they will pay them liberal sick leave policy to stay home. To the extent private sector companies can stagger their workers. Shifts of workers - so one shift comes in early, one shift comes in late. To the extent the private sector company can say, "Stay at home, nonessential workers. Work from home." More and more this is a digital economy. To the extent workers can work at home, let them work at home. We want to reduce the density.
Citizens have a role that they can play. Wash your hands, let's not handshake now, a great new elbow bump - it's like the beginning of a new dance move. Commissioner Zucker recommends to me every flu season that we should tell people don't shake hands, so this is not an extraordinary precaution but it's something that citizens can do to help. If citizens are taking mass transit, if you can move to a train car that is not as dense, if you see a packed train car, let it go by, wait for the next train, same with if you're taking a bus. It's the density to proximity that we're trying to reduce. And private businesses can help, citizens can help in their day-to-day life.
The single best thing we can do is testing. Why? Because the more you test, the more positives you identify, the more people you can isolate and stop the spread, that's why so much of this is about testing. On testing, we need more help from the federal government and the CDC. The CDC I believe was slow to begin with, they were not ready for this, they should have been ready for this, we saw what was happening in China, anyone who didn't realize that someone from China was going to get on a plane and come to the United States was delusional, frankly. Second, the CDC has been slow in allowing states and other commercial laboratories to test - we were asking the CDC, which in the beginning was doing all the tests themselves. We said, "Let the State of New York do tests." We have a great lab, called the Wadsworth Lab, let us use Wadsworth. There was a delay in letting the states do the testing - finally, they let the states do the testing. Now we're saying the testing capacity is more than the state lab can handle, let us bring in private labs to help do the testing. Why? Because we want more capacity and we need more capacity.
We are at Northwell Laboratories today. This is a 150,000 square feet of laboratory space. Over $60 million. This is the most sophisticated lab in the State of New York. This is one of the most sophisticated labs in the United States of America. This lab has what's called automated testing. Which expands exponentially the number of tests that can be done. CDC has not authorized the use of this lab. Which is just outrageous and ludicrous. CDC, wake up, let the state's test. Let private labs test. Let's increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we identify the positive people so we can isolate them and we're successful in our containment.
Not to be using this laboratory, not to be using the other private labs around the state makes no sense whatsoever. Not to be using automated testing, which means rather than a person manually handling a test tube and a test, the machines we saw that handle 120 samples at a time place them in a machine, the machine runs the test. Of course you should be using that technology. And it's one thing for the CDC not to have the testing capacity in place themselves, but that was bad enough. For the CDC not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work, there's no excuse for that.
The other confusion that has been created and I think which fuels fear in people. President of the United States says, anyone who wants a test can have a test. Vice President of the United States says, we don't have the testing capacity. People say, how can you say both things? You can't say both things. We don't have the testing capacity that we need. Not everyone who wants a test can have a test. We have to prioritize the people who get the tests to fit our capacity, right. You can't ask more people to come in and get tested until you know you have the capacity to test them. The number of people coming in for a test must equal the number of tests you can perform. That's why in New York we have a standard protocol that's in place all across the state, prioritizing who can get tested to fit our testing capacity.
Once we increase our testing capacity and we can perform more tests, then we can change the prioritization of those people coming in for the tests. We have a statewide protocol because we don't want people shopping tests. I don't want someone from Nassau driving to Suffolk, driving to Manhattan, driving to Westchester because you have different rules on who can get a test. Everyone, everywhere in this state has the same rules, doesn't matter where you go. Hopefully, the CDC acts responsibly and acts quickly and we raise the capacity, we bring a great facility like this online with the automated testing. We can then get testing per day to about 1000 tests. And then we can calibrate the prioritization to the capacity.
As far as the ongoing testing that we're doing, we did more tests overnight and the State now has 105 people who have tested positive. So that number is up by about 16 overnight. Westchester has 82 cases, Nassau has five cases, Rockland has two, Saratoga has two, Suffolk has one, Ulster County has one, New York City has 12. Obviously on those numbers, Westchester at 82 is the clear issue and that is a warning flag for us. What happened in Westchester County is a person who was positive was in a very large gathering and people then got infected and then they went to very large gatherings. So that is my point about the density. An infected person, in a large gathering, can infect many people quickly. That's what we're seeing in Westchester and that's why we want to avoid large gatherings, we want to avoid density. That's why I'm reaching out to the private sector companies. By the way, local governments, I'm asking them to stagger their workforce. I'm asking citizens to stay home, telecommute. When you're on public transportation, find the least dense car or bus available because it is the density, it is the gathering.
So Westchester is a particular problem, we have more work to do there. Otherwise, we're testing to find the positives. Someone said to me, "Well I get nervous because the number keeps going up." I would get nervous if the number didn't go up, I want to find the positives because we want to find the positives because we want to put them in isolation so they're not spreading. The more positive people we find the better. The more tests we run the better. The more tests we run, the more positive people we will find, the better we can do the containment.
So in sum, CDC let's move, authorize the State to authorize private labs, get this most sophisticated lab in the State, one of the most sophisticated labs in the country, get this lab to work. Why you wouldn't makes absolutely no sense. And to New Yorkers, we understand the facts. Keep this in perspective. We don't want a lot of people getting this virus. We don't want to take more drastic measures. But, if you get the virus, you will get sick, you will recover, you most likely won't even go to the hospital. And the only the people who we really have to worry about are the vulnerable populations - senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems. So keep it all in perspective. I know there's a whole frenzy about it, the facts do no justify the frenzy, period. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus. The virus we can handle. It's the fear. And the fear is just unwarranted.