The Office of the Governor of the State of New York

10/18/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/18/2020 13:41

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Ski Resorts Allowed to Reopen With 50 Percent Indoor Capacity Beginning November 6

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. Let me introduce the people who are here today, just for those of you who may not know someone. To my far left, Robert Mujica, budget director. To my immediate left, Commissioner Howard Zucker, Dr. Zucker, commissioner of health. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, and Gareth Rhodes, deputy superintendent, Department of Financial Services, but working with us in the chamber through this COVID situation.

Happy Sunday. Today is day 232, but who's counting? I am. What's next? What's next? We've been at this COVID situation a long time. People want to know what's next? Where do we go? Well, we come into the fall and then we come into the winter, right. In the fall, as predicted, if people listen to science, virus is going to become more aggressive, people are going indoors, schools are opening, colleges are opening, less people are outside.

We have that issue, and then we have the quote unquote COVID fatigue issue. COVID fatigue is, we're doing this a long time, I thought it was a short-term situation, it's going on and on and on and I'm getting tired of it, and I'm tired of wearing the mask, and I'm tired of putting my life on hold. COVID fatigue can lead to less discipline, less compliance. Bad time for that to happen when the virus is increasing. But, we are ready for the fall.

We announced our micro-cluster strategy, which is smarter, more sophisticated, more data-driven. It targets neighborhoods as opposed to regions. It's not about the downstate region, upstate region, North Country region. Pinpoint an actual neighborhood, get to that cluster faster, and it's less disruptive. It's not all of Western New York, all of New York City. It's this part of Brooklyn, it's this part of Queens, this part of the Southern Tier. So it's not only better in terms of fighting the virus, it's also easier on people because the restrictions are in a smaller area and you're not disrupting a larger population. After the fall, and I believe these micro-clusters you will see continue through the fall, and they'll change, you'll have little pop-ups of viral spread. We have to move fast, jump on top of that virial spread cluster, that micro-cluster, and they'll change over time as we work through the fall.

Then we come to the winter, and hopefully the last chapter of COVID is this winter. Knock Formica. And last chapter of COVID this winter, we'll introduce the VAP. Do you know what VAP means? No. Okay, so we go to the semi-official post-COVID-19 dictionary, because there are new words and terms that have been used post-COVID that didn't exist, or words that existed pre-COVID but have a different meaning post-COVID. So we have a semi-official post-COVID-19 dictionary, and you can go to this dictionary and look up post-COVID terms. Blursday, when all the days of the week start to blur together, so you just become blursday and you don't have a Wednesday, you don't have a Thursday. COVID 15, the weight gain by stress boredom eating during the pandemic, can be COVID 15. There's also COVID 20, there's COVID 25. But we're looking, herd immunity. Two types of herd immunity, you have to be careful when people say herd immunity. One type is when people, herd immunity, h-e-r-d, when enough people are immune from the virus that the community becomes immune. There's h-e-a-r-d, heard immunity, when someone mistakenly believes they're immune because someone told them that they're immune. 'I heard that they're immune', two different immunities.

But, the surge and flex, VAP. VAP is the Vaccine Administration Program, a strategy to ensure the distribution and administration of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to all New Yorkers. That's the VAP. The semi-official dictionary is still in complication. If you have any suggestions, we are taking them as we're putting together the full dictionary. The Vaccine Administration Program, we have a draft of a plan that we are circulating today and we've sent to the federal government. That starts the administration planning process for a vaccine. As you know, we believe there's going to be questions about the safety of the vaccine, so we put together a special New York task force team of experts. I'm going to ask them to review any vaccine before I recommend it to the people of the state. I think that will give people added surety in the vaccine. But, we are coming up with a plan on many presumptions. We don't really know how many doses we're going to get. We don't know what vaccine we're going to get. We don't know when we're going to get it. So this is all preliminary. But, we would prioritize the vaccinations. The prioritization would be based on risk and essential workers would have a priority and people at risk would be prioritized and we'd set up a matrix on that regards, by that regards, and there'd be several phases to the administration of the actual doses. We're working with our health care partners all across the state. This is going to be a massive undertaking, hospitals, urgent care facilities , primary care facilities, pharmacies, local departments of health, mobile units, mass vaccination sites.

The State will have a statewide vaccination plan. We will do it in concert with the federal government. The federal government is in charge of producing the actual vaccines and distributing the vaccines so the State's position is we have to wait for the federal government to provide us the vaccines, what is the schedule, how many, etcetera.

On the State side within the state we will have one statewide vaccination plan and the local governments will participate through the State. So it's federal to the State. We have to work that out. Local governments will participate through the State. We have 62 counties. We're not going to come up with 62 county plans. We have 15,027 cities in New York State. We're not going to have 15,027 different city plans. There will be one statewide plan and the key is going to be working that out with the federal government.

But, big but, B-U-T, states cannot do this on their own, okay? Period. This is a massive undertaking. This is a larger operational undertaking, I would argue, than anything we have done during COVID to date. This is a more complicated undertaking and task and we need the federal government to be a competent partner with this state and with every state. Think about it. Twenty million people in the state. Most of the vaccinations they're talking about now require two vaccinations, two dosages, depending on which one, 21 to 28 days in-between. You would have to organize an effort to vaccinate everyone once, record when they were vaccinated with what vaccine, bring them back 21 to 28 days later to get that same vaccine. There will be several vaccines that are available. The storage of the vaccine would have to be at minus 80 degrees. There's a question about how many refrigeration units are even capable of doing that.

There's going to be trust issues about the vaccination, and there's going to be conspiracy theories, and there are going to be rumors and there's not a lot of trust, let's be honest, in the federal health organizations right now, and before people let you put a needle in their arm and inject something there are going to be serious questions and then people are going to want to know, well there is several vaccines available, is one better than the other, should I wait for the next one, is this really the best one.

In context, what does it mean to do 40 million doses? Testing has been the main operational nightmare for state governments since COVID started. There have been a number of operational nightmares but the single largest has been testing. We have mobilized the entire state, county governments, city governments, town governments, hospitals, pharmacies. We do more testing than anyone else in the country. How many test have we done from the time COVID started? With all of it, we've done 12.9 million tests. 12.9 million tests. Wait, more than any state pro rata. 40 million vaccines. A test for COVID is the nasal swab and it goes to the laboratory and the laboratory tells you the results. A vaccine is more intrusive. Roll up your sleeve, I'm going to give you a needle. Everything we've done, seven months it took us to do 12 million tests. How long is it going to take to do 40 million vaccinations? Or 20 million vaccinations? So it gives you a scale of how daunting this task is.

The National Governors Association sent a letter to the President of the President of the United States. I am the Chairman this year of the National Governors Association. Last year I was the Vice Chairman. We asked to meet with the President to discuss how this is supposed to work between the federal government and the states. Today the NGA is releasing a letter which is a compilation of questions from Governors all across the country. Democratic Governors, Republican Governors - 36 questions from the Governors sent to the White House basically asking, 'How does this work. We understand the concept but how does it work?' Some of the questions: How will the vaccine be allocated to states? What formula is used - in other words, are you going to allocate it by infection rate? Are you going to allocate it by number of cases of COVID? Are you going to allocate it by population? Who determines how many each state gets - what's the basis that you using.

Is there a national strategy on the prioritization - in other words, the federal government going to say, 'I think nursing homes should get it first. I think nurses should get it first. I think doctors should get it first. I think anybody over 70 should get it first.' Is the federal government going to do that prioritization? Can they tell us if they're going to condition the release of vaccines, right? The vaccines are controlled by the federal government. Are they going to turn around and say, 'Well we won't give you the vaccines, New York State, California unless you do X Y Z.' And can we know that now? Is there multi-state coordination? On our own, during COVID we coordinated with the Northeastern states to New Jersey, Connecticut, et cetera. Is there a multi-state coordination piece here, or is everybody on their own? Am I my responsible for all of New York and there's no connection to New Jersey and there's no connection to Connecticut, there's no connection to Pennsylvania?

And who is going to pay to do this? New York State is already $50 billion in debt between state and local governments. And they have not passed legislation on the state and local relief. If the state has a deficit and the local governments have a deficit, we can't fund essential workers. That's who gets cut when you cut state and local governments. And now you're going want undertake this vaccination program, which frankly requires more essential workers, not less? And they're talking about a vaccine possibly in December. We're here in October - this is just a few weeks to plan in this massive undertaking. Let's learn the lessons from the past seven months. Otherwise, we're going to relive the nightmares that we have lived through, right? Let's not repeat the mistakes of March, April, May. 'China Virus, China Virus, China Virus.' No, it was a European virus. It came from Europe. 'Well, the only people who can spread it are symptomatic people. It's when they sneeze, when they cough.' No, wrong it was asymptomatic people. And we weren't told that. So, we never screened asymptomatic people and that's how the spread continued because we thought it was only people with symptoms because we were told that. 'Well, you need to wear masks.' But we couldn't find masks and we couldn't find PPE and you had states competing with other states to buy masks and gowns from around the world. 'Well, we have to test.' Okay, but there are no test kits and there are no supplies and there are no Q-tips and there are no ventilators and there are no reagents. We can't go through that same confusion again. It's not a question of knowing what to do. It's a question of knowing how to do it. We know what we need to do. We need to control the virus, we need to take more tests, now we need to do vaccines. We know what we need to do. How do you do it? How do you do it - the devil's in the details. How do you administer 40 million vaccines in the State of New York. That's the trick. Everybody agrees with the concept. 'Yes, vaccinate everyone.' Got it. How? How?

And that's the art form of government by the way and that's what separates words from action and rhetoric from results and talk from competence - how do you do it? And that's what we have to focus on now and that's what the governors are saying to the federal government. Why? Because the way the federal government has structured it, the states are in charge of the doing. This person got to the COVID situation, he said, 'It's up to the Governors. It's up to the states'. I don't even know how that works by the way. It's a nationwide problem. 50 states have it. But it's not a federal response? The federal response is, 'It's up to you. You take charge, Governor. But I'm right behind you -go get 'em, tiger.' Yeah, thank you very much. So again, I'm sure what the federal government is talking about is we'll approve the vaccines, we'll appropriate the vaccine, we then deliver them to the state. You figure out how to do it. Who pays? Insurance companies? What happens for the uninsured people? How do I keep dosages cold, - 80-degrees? Well, those are details. No. That's the difference between life and death in a situation like this. And that's where we have to get.

Today's numbers, positivity in red zone: 3.19. Statewide positivity without the over sample of red zones: 1. Statewide positivity with the red zone over sample: 1.08. Total tests: 128. Number of passed New Yorkers: 7. They're in our thoughts and prayers. 913 hospitalizations, which is down 16. ICU, intubations. This is the red zone and the infection rates over the passed week. You can see by and large we've made progress. Brooklyn we started at 6.6, yesterday we have 4.9. Queens: 2.9 to 1.8. Rockland: 12, 9, 4, 2. Again, these are weekend numbers. I take them all with a grain of salt. 12 to 2 sounds like almost incredible progress, so we'll see what it is tomorrow. Orange: 24, 12, 4. So anyway, the numbers are all moving in the right direction. And that's what the data shows. You know, this is not rocket science; it's a virus. When you reduce congregate activity and people where masks, and people are social distanced, and you enforce it, you stop the spread of the virus. That's how it works. That's how it's always worked. You just have to do it.

We're going to watch the micro-cluster data. We can adjust what is in that cluster. We can make it a little bigger, we can make it a little smaller, we can relax some regulations, we can increase regulations. We'll do that all based on that data. Overall, we've been talking about the clusters, the clusters, the clusters. But, statewide we were at 1.08, which is great. Great. When you look at the past two weeks, we have been remarkably flat. If anything, the numbers have been trending good. So, that is great. Why? Because we're so aggressive on the micro-clusters -- that's why. Because we're so aggressive at every time we see the virus pop up, we run and hit it down. It's like whack-a-mole. Pop up in the Southern Tier, run, bloop. Pop up in Brooklyn. So, it's exhausting, but it's also effective.

Skiing. We talked about the winter. Once we start talking about the winter, skiing comes up. Ski resorts will be allowed to open at 50 percent indoor capacity beginning November 6. You have to socially distance when you ski. If you ski New York this year, not only do you have what I think is the best skiing in the United States in America. I know people talk about Aspen, Colorado, Wyoming. There are significant ski professionals who will say skiing in New York is better than skiing anywhere in the country. They happen to be personal friends of mine, but they will say that. But there's an added benefit, if you ski in New York not only do you have the best skiing in the United States, but you don't have to quarantine when you come back, right? Go ski in one of these other states, then you have to quarantine for 14 days. Ski for 2, quarantine for 14.

Last point is I know COVID fatigue. I feel COVID fatigue. We all do. but, we can do this. We can manage the virus. We've learned a lot. And you know we can do this because we are doing it. We had the worst problem on the globe at one time, and we are now managing the virus. Put out progress in context. New York is at 1.08. Other states would die to be as low as we are. Wisconsin is at 24 percent. Florida is at 12 percent. Pennsylvania is at 9 percent. You know, the 1 percent is incredibly low. Not even taking into consideration where we started, right? So, we're doing great. We know how to do this. I know we're tired. I get it. But, you can't stop fighting until the battle is over. The battle is not over. So, we just have to stay the course and we have to stay the course together, but it's working.