WPCNR CORONAVIRUS REPORT. From the Governor’s Press Office. April 21, 2020. 10 PM EDT:
Following his meeting with President Trump earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a partnership with the federal government to double testing capacity in New York State.
VIDEO of the Governor’s remarks is available on YouTube here
We had a meeting at the White House this afternoon and it was very productive and it was positive and we got a lot done.
I’ve been talking for a number of days as have most governors about testing as the next phase that we have to enter into. We’re starting to talk about reopening and planning reopening.
Everyone is obviously concerned about how you reopen and if you reopen in a way that is too rushed and you’re not prepared you could actually see the infection rate go up which is the last thing that anybody wants. Testing is the best way to inform and educate yourself as you go through the reopening process so you can watch not just hospitalizations – which we’ll have that data – but also testing so you can look at the infection rate across the state and see how the infection rate is increasing.
Also, testing for employees who want to go back, employers who want to know whether or not the employees are actually negative of the virus. Testing has been a very big task to undertake. There’s also been a lot of back and forth between the states, my state included, and the federal government about who does what on testing and who is responsible.
I said this morning that I think in many ways people are just talking past each other because the federal government is helping on testing and states are responsible for testing but testing is a very complicated issue with a lot of levels. To have a real progress you have to sit down and go through the various steps of testing and actually decide who does what and that’s what we did this afternoon.
We agreed that the state government should be responsible for managing the actual tests in their own laboratories. We have about 300 laboratories in the State of New York. We regulate those laboratories. It’s up to a state to determine how many tests, where those tests should be done, New York City versus Buffalo versus Long Island, et cetera, the staff to do those tests, how often you do the tests – those should all be state decisions and state responsibilities.
The antibody test, which is one of the tests, how do you use those, when – that should all be up to the states.
The tracing function – that is the function after testing that actually traces people who are positive, who did they come in contact with, to isolate them – that’s all the state’s responsibility.
The problem with testing and bringing testing up to scale has been the national manufacturers of the equipment who make the testing kits that they have to send to the state labs so the state labs can actually perform them. Those are done by national manufacturers.
The national manufacturers have said they have a problem with the supply chain to quickly ramp up those tests. They need swabs, they need vials and they need chemicals, quote, unquote reagents.
That is where the federal government can help. States cannot do international supply chains. I guess they could, but not in this time frame and it’s not what we do. You shouldn’t have 50 states competing to do international supply chains.
One of my colleagues, Governor Hogan the Chairman of the National Governor’s Association who is the Governor of Maryland – Republican, good man – he was bringing tests in from South Korea. Very creative and proactive on his part, but that’s not what states normally do. Let the federal government take responsibility for that federal supply chain for the national manufacturers. That’s what we agreed in this meeting.
That is an intelligent division of labor, in my opinion. Let each level of government do what it does best and it ends this back and forth, what do the states do, what does Washington do, who’s responsible, et cetera.
To quantify that situation in the State of New York, we now do, on average, about 20,000 tests per day. Our goal, which is very aggressive and ambitious but set it high and then try, our goal is to double the 20,000 to get to 40,000 tests per day.
We need several weeks to ramp up to that, but it is a very aggressive goal.
That is our current system at maximum. Our current laboratory system, 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day. The maximum our system, as it exists, can do is that number. That’s our goal and it was a very productive conversation.
Again, that is the biggest single task we have to do that is identifiable from today. It ends the whole back and forth and the finger pointing in a very fair and smart way. It’s a smart resolution so I feel very good about that. If we could double our tests that would be a home run. That is a really, really big deal.
We also talked about funding to the states.
The legislation that the Congress passed did not have funding for the states. It passed additional money for small business and that’s great and we need that and that’s a positive, but it did not fund state governments, which to me is just a mistake, frankly. Fund small businesses, fund airlines, but you don’t fund police, you don’t fund fire, you don’t fund healthcare workers, you don’t fund teachers, you don’t fund schools, you cut the aid to schools in this state.
You know the state governments are broke, to use a very blunt term.
You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening and the governors are going to do the reopening, and they have no funds to do it.
So, we talked about that, the President said he understood the issue and that he would work very hard to get funding for the states in the next piece of legislation that passes. And we hope there is another piece of legislation.
I also told the President, from my parochial point of view, we had a conversation with Secretary Mnuchin and the President, that there is a match.
What’s called a local match for FEMA funding. When the FEMA does something, the local government should match that funding by twenty five percent.
I said to the President there is no way New York can pay that match because we don’t have the funding period and it is disproportionate to New York, because we’ve had such a much larger number of cases than any other state in the United States. That it falls disproportionately on New York, which disproportionately is dealing with this crisis in the first place.
We get all the hardship and then we get a bill because we had the hardship. Makes absolutely no sense and as a practical matter we couldn’t pay it anyway.
The President said he understood and that he would work to waive the local match.
Secretary Mnuchin said he understood. Secretary Mnuchin was very supportive and I thank him for his support and the President said that he understood and that he would take care of it and I believe that he will, because he did understand it and that’s a big deal for the state of New York.
Again, the incongruity the state that had the most pain and death should get a bill because they endured pain and death. I mean it makes no sense. So, that was a lot and it was complicated, but vitally important and the resolution was good across the board.
We met not just with the President, but with members of his team because a lot of this is granular and detailed and if you don’t work out the details there is no conceptual agreement, right? It has to be on the details, so people actually know what we’re agreeing to and it was on that level.
So, I thank all the people on the President’s team who made themselves available and work this through with us in detail and it’s a really positive, positive resolution.