WPCNR CORONAVIRUS REPORT. From the Governor Cuomo Press Office. March 24, 2020 8:35 A.M. EDT: Last night, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time to discuss New York’s plan to combat the novel coronavirus crisis. Here is an edited version of the program.
AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s interview is available below:
Chris Cuomo: What was your reaction to what the President said about I’m not looking at months, I’m not going to let the elephant jump off the ledge because of a cat, or whatever he said. We’re looking to open back up – surprised?
Governor Cuomo: I’m not surprised. The President is very concerned about the economy. The economy was doing well – the economy is now truly suffering. The consequences haven’t even been felt yet because not only have you stopped the revenue machine – you’ve increased the expense machine, okay?
So those two things are going to compound each other. So the President is very eager to get back to the economy. Everybody agrees this is an unsustainable situation. You can’t keep spending money and close down the economy and the President is eager to get it opened as quickly as possible.
I actually have a group that is working on the restart of the economy because I get it, too.
This is New York and we’re with the home of so much of this. So coming up with the plan to restart the economy is very important.
But this, you don’t want to – it’s a false choice to say public health or restart the economy.
Nobody’s going to make that choice, and by the way, if you have to make that choice, it’s public health. Because you cannot put a value on a human life. Nobody cares how long it takes to get the economy up and running if you actually saved lives.
But, Christopher, there is an art form here which is overlaying a public health strategy and an economic strategy.
In other words, what we did is, we just closed everything down as quickly as we could. Shut all the doors, border all the windows. There was no art to what we did, no nuance. Is there a public health strategy that says, “Look, you can start to bring young people back to work. You can start to test and find out who had the virus and who resolved from the virus, and they can start to go back to work.”
That’s how we’ll restart the economy with a smart public health strategy, because closing the door on everyone was only because we didn’t know better, right?
If you now look at it, it didn’t make any sense to close the schools, send my kids home with me or older people, or with grandmothers who were vulnerable to this virus. And young people were then maybe bringing it into the house.
We didn’t have any data or science to instruct us. But now you can come up with a smarter public health strategy that actually protects older people, lets younger people get back to work, and that can start the economic recovery. But it has to be that smart. It can’t be reactive. It can’t be emotional.
Chris Cuomo: This is the part I don’t get. From watching the coverage of what’s going on in the state, the rate of hospitalizations seems to be increasing, it seems like you’re just starting to feel what this enemy, what this war is really about. So how can people make sense and reconcile these two things, we’re getting close to figuring out how to open things back up at a time when it seems to be getting worse, and the idea that a month from today we may have the worst part of the capacity crisis and the president is saying he’s going to reopen things in a week or so? it doesn’t seem like those can go together.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah well, the so-called walk and chew gum. Do we have to think about restarting the economy? Do we have to plan for it? Yes.
Should we be thinking about a public health strategy that starts the economy? That to me is the art form for government in this situation. But what we’re looking at right now is this wave of increasing cases.
I just got off the phone (approximately 9:15 PM)with a new projection model that New York City was seeing double the number of cases every two and a half days, that can take your breath away. That curve they keep talking about, that we have to flatten the curve, flatten the curve, that’s not a curve, Christopher.
That is a wave. That is a tsunami. That’s the scene in The Perfect Storm where George Clooney is trying to go up the wave and he gives the boat all the gas he can to try to get over the top of the wave, and the wave crashes over him. The wave is going to crash over our health care system. It will crash anywhere from 10 days to three weeks.
Chris Cuomo: From now?
Governor Cuomo: It is going to overwhelm the health care system and where we’re going to feel it most, we can scramble and create beds. We’ll have a staff problem because staff are getting sick, and we’re doing everything we can to find reserve staff.
We won’t have the equipment, and we won’t have the ventilators. I have been saying for weeks, we need 30,000 ventilators. I’ve been saying it publicly,
I’ve been requesting it from the federal agencies, HHS, Secretary Azar sent 500 ventilators, we need 30,000 ventilators. If you don’t have the ventilator, a person who needs the ventilator will die without the ventilator. It’s a respiratory disease. And we’re not getting the ventilators. I’ve been saying, institute the darn Federal Procurement Act –
Chris Cuomo: So why do you think he doesn’t do it?
Governor Cuomo: Command companies to produce –
Chris Cuomo: Why wouldn’t he do it?
Governor Cuomo: Their theory is, companies are voluntarily saying I want to help, I want to help, I want to increase production. General Motors is saying, I’ll get into the ventilator business, that’s all well and fine and it is a nice thing, corporations are doing great things.
But you can’t, you can’t manage an operation on this ad-hoc basis of people saying, yeah I’m really going to give it a go. Order the ventilators, pay for the ventilators, say this is how much I need, this is where I have to go—
Chris Cuomo: Why wouldn’t he do it?
Governor Cuomo: Because their theory of operation is public-private partnership. You’ve seen them at press conferences, Peter Navarro, companies are coming forward and saying they’ll do it anyway. We don’t have to order them because they’re doing it. It’s a totally different theory of operating.
Chris Cuomo: We’re back with the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. You talked about ventilators right there at the end of the first block, Governor. They gave us 500, we need tens of thousands. What do you do?
Governor Cuomo: We need 30,000. First what I do is I say to Secretary Azar, look at the first word in the name of the department you run, it’s called health and human services, focus on health. You look at the projections in New York, you look at the hospitalization rate, look at how many people are going to an ICU, how many have to be vented and tell me how we save these lives without the 30,000 ventilators.
Second, we’re trying to buy the ventilators all across the globe, everyone’s competing against everyone else and that’s why the federal government should step up and do it. Third, we’re going to try an untested technology where we split the ventilator tubes. In other words, normally it’s one ventilator to one person. Is there a way to take that ventilator, which is essentially a pump, and split it?
Chris Cuomo: You’re the mechanic, do you have enough power in the pump to split it?
Governor Cuomo: You have enough power in the pump to split it, yes. But can you split that ventilator into two tubes for two patients, three tubes for three patients? They’re trying things like this in Italy. The tricky thing is, the ventilator has a set pressure and normally you regulate the pressure to that patient’s lungs. My lung capacity is better than your lung capacity, so the ventilator would have to give me more oxygen than it would have to give you. How do you put two people on that same ventilator? So we’re working through that. But this is a real stretch, Chris, because you don’t have the number of ventilators.
Chris Cuomo: Drug therapies, the president seems to have faith in them. They’re all over the internet, the antimalarial drug, that people are getting better, even in this country. You put any stock in any of that at this point?
Governor Cuomo: I put hope. We have three drugs we’re looking at. The hydroxychloroquine that the President it talking about – that comes in tomorrow (today). We’re going to start that right away in the New York City hospitals – the President expedited the FDA approval.
We have a second drug that New York State is working on developing, that actually tests the plasma of people who had the virus, extracts the antibodies and injects those antibodies into someone who’s dealing with the virus.
And the third drug is testing the blood to see if you had the virus and have the antibodies and have resolved, that would let you know you had it, you’re immune by most probability and you can go back to work.
Chris Cuomo: So there’s hope, but again that all takes time, and there’s empiricism in that and testing and protocols – Tony Fauci has talked about that. I would actually like to take a turn on that quickly. What is this straight talk on what it’s like working with the White House right now. I’ve heard you be deferential to the White House and say, look, we’re trying it, we’re doing it. It seems like your needs are not decreasing, at the kind of rate you need them to deal with a tsunami. What is the reality of dealing with the White House, straight talk?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, I always do straight talk, and I would disagree with your use of the word deferential, but it’s your show. I’ve been clear with the White House. I have an immediate problem on the equipment for this wave that is happens – PPEs, gowns, masks, most important are the ventilators. And there has been no response. There has been no response.
That’s why I said right here, looking at the camera on your show, to Secretary Azar, he has to be responsible here. Tell me where I get 30,000 ventilators, because, Christopher, people will die who need a ventilator, they will be mostly elderly, they’ll have an underlying illness, that’s true.
But some can be younger like Anderson Cooper’s show showed us, you can have an underlying illness, be recovering from cancer, be younger, you’ll need a ventilator and won’t get it.
We’re trying this splitting mechanism, but we shouldn’t be here. Just order a company to produce the darn ventilators. And when we get to two weeks and you have people in hospitals who are dying because we don’t have ventilators, that’s going to be a national tragedy.
We’ll try all the drugs, I’m trying everything else, we’re working on every level, but if it comes down to having the ventilators, and you have them or you don’t.
Chris Cuomo: What is the day like now? How is it managing a situation like this, I’m not talking emotionally, I’m just saying in terms of the daily activities, what is this like?
Governor Cuomo: Well, this is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and look, I’ve been in the federal government, I did disaster work, all across this country, all across the world, we did disaster recovery as you know. I’ve been in this state, handled everything in this state.
The hours don’t matter.
It’s the consequence here, it’s the consequence here, Christopher, the numbers are big. And it’s life and death.
And if they are anywhere close to right on these projections of how quickly these numbers are going to grow, the number of people who we’re going to lose can easily be in the thousands.
And god forbid we say, we could have saved them if we had the right equipment.
That’s what keeps me up at night. And that’s why I’m as strident as I am about these ventilators and the urgency of the ventilators and the equipment.
Because it literally is life and death, you see it coming, it’s two weeks, three weeks, four weeks down the road, but it’s coming, that wave is coming.
Chris Cuomo: What do you say to the people on the, ah, we misjudged it, the numbers aren’t going to be that bad, this was too much preparation.
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, they’re wrong,
they’re going to be wrong, because people will die and the numbers will be inarguable.
Look, I don’t make any political decisions on this. This is all follow the science, follow the numbers, follow the health professionals. You look at those numbers increasing every day, doubling every 2 1/2 days, just look at the trajectory, dot, dot, dot, dot, connect the dots, right? And then you tell me that anyone is over hyping this situation.
Chris Cuomo: Let me ask you something, why do you think New York is getting so much attention right now. People have such a spotlight on you that they’re watching your pressers every day. What do you think it’s about personally?
Governor Cuomo: I think it’s because New York, we have this density, we are the gateway to the world. The disease came here, the disease is growing here faster than anywhere else. So just on the numbers, New York is the epicenter.
Chris Cuomo: what was the right move that you’ve made so far and what was a wrong move you made? What have you learned on your level?
Governor Cuomo: The best decision was closing everything down. which politically may have terrible consequences, but so what, it was the right thing to do. That’s what pop (Mario Cuomo)taught us, you do the right thing, closing everything down was the right decision.
Chris Cuomo: What have you learned in terms of what you could have handled better sooner, because that seems to be the lesson is that states were listening to what was seen from the federal level, what is the lesson for how to prepare for the next wave that you’ll do differently?
Governor Cuomo: Every disaster has its own little hidden trick in it. This one was medical capacity, medical equipment and these ventilators. I did not see, no one saw these ventilators coming, and the urgency of ventilators, how many we have in this country and how many we can make.
So that I don’t think anyone saw. I was watching China, and it was inevitable what was happening in China was going to happen here. There was no theory that their immune systems were different than ours. we started very early on, Christopher, I started very early on, getting ready, preparing, blowing the whistle, blowing the horn, making the case, the ventilators, not having the ventilators and not being able to get the ventilators and the PPE equipment, which the federal government could help us with. That is the greatest frustration in all of this.
Chris Cuomo: Well you got to get it right, because there’s going to be another wave, right? If you look at the models, it goes down and comes back. Not to use 1918 as a go to, but that was the huge miss in that situation. So how do you get to where you need to be, where people don’t live through this a second time the same way?
Governor Cuomo: Yeah, I’m old but I wasn’t here in 1918, but you’re right.
The medical capacity, you know we have a health care system that is basically a private health care system.
They have private economics. They have capacity that they can sell. They don’t build beds as backup beds. They don’t build additional ICU beds for a public health emergency. These are expensive beds, it’s expensive real estate, so they don’t have a backup public health equipment stockpile that’s worth anything, or a backup medical capacity. That has to change. That has to change.