COVID-19 Pandemic – Governor Cuomo Announces Statewide Antibody Testing Survey
New York City Strong news – Albany, NY: Office of the Governor reports 4.19.2020.
Large-Scale Antibody Testing Will Help Determine What Percentage of the Population is Now Immune to the Virus and Help Get More People Back to Work
State Will Continue Working with the Federal Government to Assist with the Supply Chain and Coordinate Private Labs to Ramp Up Diagnostic Testing
Announces State is Ready to Transport 400 Ventilators to Massachusetts if Needed
Expands Executive Order to Allow Any Authorized Officiant to Perform Marriage Ceremonies Using Online Video Technology
Confirms 6,054 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State – Bringing Statewide Total to 242,786; New Cases in 46 Counties
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the State Department of Health will begin to conduct a statewide antibody testing survey tomorrow. The testing survey will sample 3,000 people for a population of 19.5 million people – for context Germany performed a 3,000-person sample with a population of 83 million. Large-scale antibody testing will help determine the percentage of the population that is now immune to the virus, allowing more individuals to safely return to work.
Governor Cuomo also announced the state will continue working with the federal government to assist with the supply chain and coordinate private labs to ramp up diagnostic testing, another key component of getting people back to work and restarting the economy.
The Governor also announced the state is ready to transport 400 ventilators to Massachusetts within 24 hours if they are needed.
The Governor also will sign an Executive Order allowing any authorized officiant to perform marriage ceremonies using online video technology. Yesterday, the Governor issued an Executive Order allowing New Yorkers to obtain a marriage license remotely and allowing clerks to perform ceremonies via video conference, a practice that is banned under current law. Many marriage bureaus have temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing New Yorkers from getting a marriage license during the current health emergency; yesterday’s Executive Order temporarily suspends a provision of law that requires in-person visits.
Any plan to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing, and we have to make sure our antibody and diagnostic testing is up to the scale we need so we can safely get people back to workGovernor Andrew M. Cuomo
“Any plan to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data and testing, and we have to make sure our antibody and diagnostic testing is up to the scale we need so we can safely get people back to work,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are going to start antibody testing across the state tomorrow – and we are going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation. This will be the first true snapshot of exactly how many people were infected by COVID-19 and where we are as a population and will help us to reopen and rebuild without jeopardizing what we’ve already accomplished.”
transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for being here today. I want to thank our host very much, Northwell. Michael Dowling, to my left, is head of Northwell. They’ve done an extraordinary job all through this situation. They have an extraordinary leader in Michael Dowling. Michael Dowling ran health care for the State of New York, health services for the State of New York. He worked with my father. Came for one year, wound up staying with my father for 12 years in State service. He’s one of the really beautiful and brilliant leaders in this State. It’s a pleasure to be with him. I want to say to all the people ofNorthwell who have done extraordinary jobs, thank you so, so much. Thank you for having us today.
To my right is Melissa DeRosa, she is the Secretary to the Governor. To her right is – what’s your name, young lady? – Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo, who is part of my team and it’s a pleasure to have her with me today. I’ll mention more about that in a second.
Today is Sunday, that is a fact. I know these days tend to run one into the other, but today is Sunday. I like to focus on the facts in this situation because facts are what’s most important. A lot of people have opinions and a lot of theories, but Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was a great Senator from the State of New York, liked to say, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” So let’s give the people of the State the updated facts.
This is the state of hospitalizations. We’ve been watching this 24-hours a day for it seems like most of our lives, but it’s only been about 40 days. The total hospitalization rate is down again in the State of New York. We’re down to 16,000. If you look at the numbers, we were at 18,000 people hospitalized for a period of time. It flattened there for a while, it paused there. Then it went down to 17,000 but this is a low from our high point of 18,000.
Big question of whether we’ve been past the apex, past the high point and it turned out the high point wasn’t a point. The high point was a plateau and we got up to a high point and then we just stayed at that level for a while. If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point and all indications at this point that we are in a descent. Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do, but right now we are on a descent. That’s in all the numbers. The hospitalization numbers are down. The 3-day average of the hospitalization rate is down. I was speaking to Michael and that’s what he’s seeing in his hospital system in emergency rooms across the state are saying. They see the maximum inflow is less than what it was. That all tracks with what the numbers are saying.
This number of intubations, which I watch carefully because intubations are the number of people who are put on ventilators and 80 percent of the people who are put on ventilators don’t make it. This is a very important chart to look at and the fact that those numbers are down is very important.
This is a reality check. With all the good news in the reductions, we still have 1,300 people that yesterday came in and tested positive and were hospitalized. Thirteen hundred is a lot of people coming into the hospital system with that diagnosis. Less than it had been, so that’s good news, but it is still 1,300 people who are testing positive and need hospitalization.
We’ve been watching the spread of the virus from the New York City area. There have been little outbursts on Long Island and upstate New York and we’ve been jumping on those outbursts. Overall, we have controlled it and the numbers are about the same. Westchester and Rockland where we had real problems. Remember, the first problem was in Westchester County, New Rochelle. Westchester County and Rockland, Long Island, Upstate New York is now only about 7 percent of the cases. We’re watching for a potential spread in other parts of the state, but so far we have contained it and we have controlled it.
Nursing homes are still our number one concern. The nursing home is the optimum feeding ground for this virus. Vulnerable people in a congregant facility, in a congregant setting where it can just spread like fire through dry grass. We have had really disturbing situations in nursing homes and we’re still most concerned about the nursing homes.
The worst news of all for us to live with every day and an everyday tragedy, we lost another 507 New Yorkers. Those are not just very large numbers we see deaths. Every number is a face and a family and a brother and a sister, mother and a father. People are in pain today and will be in pain for a long period of time. We remember them in our thoughts and prayers.
On this Sunday, a day of reflection, thank you from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all New Yorkers, for what the people at Northwell have done, the entire team. Talk about team effort, this is the team effort. And to all of our health care workers all across this state, 1 million health care workers, 445,000 hospital workers, 160,000 nursing home workers, they have made all the difference in the world. You know, a crisis like this, it tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. And certain people can break your heart in their response to this. But on the other hand, other people can rise to the occasion and give you such a sense of confidence in the human spirit, and the healthcare workers have done that.
I’ve been looking at this chart for 40 days and it looks like a bar chart, it looks like numbers and a line. I don’t see it as a bar chart as we’ve been going through this. To me, it was a mountain that just kept building, and building, and building, and you didn’t know where the top of the mountain was. And those numbers kept growing and we kept going up the mountain and we kept wondering where is the peak, where is the apex, what is the high point, when does this stop, and we get to the top of the mountain and by the way it’s not a point. And then it plateaus, and it plateaus at a very, very high rate, which means every day those health care workers have to come in and they’re seeing a tremendous number of people come in the door, overwhelming the capacity of the hospital. And remember, we asked hospitals to increase their capacity 50 percent. So if a hospital had a 100-bed capacity, now they had a 150-bed capacity. And it stuck at that very high level on that plateau, and it was day after day after day. People who were at their max and had given it all. And the next day, it’s the same thing all over again. But they did it, they got us through the plateau, and now they are getting us down the other side, and we just pray to God it remains down on the other side.
So this has been a lot of pain and a lot of anguish for a lot of people. But the skill, the courage and the love of our health care workers, of our first responders, of our police, of our essential workers, they have really gotten us through all of this. We also want to thank our neighbors. 95,000 medical professionals who agreed to help in this state and outside of this state, who said they would come and help us. And I want to thank the other states and communities who we put out a call for help, and we got help from all across the country. It reminds me in that post-9/11 time when we needed help, and other communities in the northeast needed help, and people came from all across the nation, and they just wanted to help, and they just showed up. That’s what happened here. And that, when I talk about seeing the best and the worst in people at a time of crisis, that outpouring of generosity, I’m sure you felt the same, gave us such a sense of confidence that we’re not in it alone, and humanity and the love of the American people was there for us. And I said we need your help today, but New Yorkers also never forget. And thank you for the help, and we will be there when you need us. And we will be there when anyone needs us.
Right now, our neighbors in Massachusetts are looking at an increase in cases. I spoke to Governor Charlie Baker yesterday. They may need 400 ventilators and we know how important ventilators are. If their numbers keep going up and they have to scramble, and I said you were there for us, and we’re going to be there for you. If they need 400 ventilators, we’ve already identified them, and we will bring them over on 24 hours notice. And we wish them well, and anything they need, we’re going to be there.
So the recent news is good. We are on the other side of the plateau and the numbers are coming down. But, that’s good news only compared to the terrible news that we were living with, which is that constant increase. And remember, you still have 1,300 people who walked into the hospitals yesterday testing positive. So, it’s no time to get cocky and it’s no time to get arrogant, right? We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. And this virus has been ahead of us every step of the way. We’ve been playing catch-up from day one in this situation. So it is no time to relax. And this is only halftime in this entire situation. We showed that we can control the beast and when you close down, you can actually slow that infection rate, but it is only halftime. We have to make sure we keep that beast under control, we keep that infection rate down, we keep that hospitalization rate down as we now all get very eager to get on with life and move on. So, it’s not over.
We have a whole second phase and in this second phase, first, do no harm. Don’t jeopardize what you’ve already accomplished by seeing that infection rate increase. We have to be smarter, especially when it comes to the new frontier of testing and how we test and how aggressively and how we get that organized. And then when we talk about rebuilding, we have to talk about not just rebuilding, but let’s learn from this horrific experience. Let’s take these lessons forward and how do we build back better than before? I don’t want to have on all through this and then just say we are reopening. No, we have to open for a better future than we have ever had. And we have to learn from this. As we go through this, I know people are eager to get on with life. We have slowed the infection rate down to .9 percent. 0.9 percent means one person infects .9 percent of a person, less than one. That means the virus is slowing. If one person is infecting 1.2 people, the virus is increasing and is an epidemic and an outbreak and is out of control.
So, we have a very small margin of error here, as we navigate going forward. Any plan that is going to start to reopen the economy has to be based on data, and that means it has to be based on testing. This is a new world for all of us. How do you get testing up to scale? How do you get it up to scale quickly and how do you find out where we really are right now in terms of this virus? You have all these scientists and experts who are basically trying to extrapolate from the data, but we don’t really know how any people were infected. How many people had coronavirus but self-resolved? We don’t really know, because we haven’t been able to do testing on that large a scale. But we are going to start, we are going to start here in the State of New York with antibody testing.
Antibody testing means you test the person to find out if they have the antibodies if they were infected with the coronavirus. We are going to do that in the most aggressive way in the nation. We are going to sample people in this state, thousands of people in this state, across the state to find out if they have the antibodies. That will tell us, for the first time, what percent of the population actually has had the coronavirus and is now at least short-term immune to the virus. This will be the first, true snapshot of what we are really dealing with. We are going to be doing that over the next week and the New York State Department of Health will be running that. There’s also another set of test that are called diagnostic testing.
Diagnostic testing is whether a person is positive or negative. We are coming up to scale on this, even though it is very, very hard. Northwell is leading the parade on this and I just looked at some of the technology they are bringing in. All of these different manufacturers who make different machines to run different tests and it’s a number of big manufacturers.Northwell is bringing in as many as they can, but this has to be brought to scale. Nobody has done testing at this level ever. We have to do this in partnership with the federal government, because there are all sorts of logistical questions and supply chain questions and people can’t get certain chemicals they need to do tests and the chemicals are made in other countries. So, we have to do this with the federal government.
I spoke to the head of the CDC yesterday and he was very smart and very informed. We talked about how we can do this together. Talk about being smart, the federal government is talking about passing another piece of legislation which would help in the reopening. They want to help small businesses, and that is great. They also have to help a governments and local governments, which have not been supported in previous legislation. Everyone is saying, “It is up to the states to come up with a reopening plan, it’s up to the governors, it’s up to the governors.”
Fine. That is true, and right, and legal. But the governors in the state have to have resources. And yes, you have to help small businesses, you have to help the airlines, all of these private sector interests as well as citizens. But if you don’t help the state government and local government, then how are we supposed to have the finances to reopen? If you don’t give state and local government support, we are the ones who support the schools, we support the police, we support the fire, we support the hospital workers, we support the transit workers.
So, if you starve state and local government, all that means is we have to turn around and reduce funding to the people who we are funding. If we don’t get federal assistance, you are looking at education cuts of close to 50 percent in the State of New York, where school districts would only get half of the aid they got from the state last year. You are talking about cuts to hospitals from the State. I mean, how ludicrous would it be to now cut hospital funding from state governments? So, the governors, bipartisan, Democrat and Republican, in this crazy and political environment where you can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything, all the governors agree and have said to Washington, “Make sure you fun the states in any next bill you pass.”
And we asked for $500 billion. Again on a nonpartisan basis. We also must remember as we go forward what we have done so well thus far. The mutuality and discipline that we have shown. I have many school districts in the state, over 700 school districts. They are calling saying they want to open up their local schools. They want to make these decisions. Local officials are calling, we have beaches, we have parks, we have businesses, we want to make the decisions. I understand the pressure that the local school districts are under. I understand the pressure that the local officials are under. I understand the mounting political pressure. You know, people see those numbers come down, they are like, OK, let’s go. Let me get out of my house. I get it. But, we have to stay smart and we have to stay united.
Now is no time, as I said, to get arrogant. We are working with our regional states, our partners, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc., the surrounding states. We are coordinating with them and we have to continue to do that. The weather is getting warmer, the numbers are coming down, cabin fever is getting worse. I believe that is going to be a documented disease when this is over, cabin fever. But we have to stay smart and we have to stay coordinated. We have been working with New Jersey and Connecticut because whatever one state does affects other states, right? You live in Nassau, Suffolk, New York City, you can get in your car and be in New Jersey, you can be in Connecticut in a matter of minutes.
So, it is very important to plan accordingly. It is not that we can be on the same page on everything, but at least let’s know what each other is doing. For example, on state parks, we are coordinating what our policies are because you can see people go from one state to another. I was in Albany yesterday, talked to a couple who drove up from Queens for Thai food to Albany. And I said, you came up for Thai food from Queens? That is a two and a half hour ride. They said yeah, we just had to get out of the house. I said, just for Thai food? Queens, they have good Thai food. I’m from Queens. It just shows how people need to get out and do something. So, we get it. New York State parks are open, New Jersey they are closed, Connecticut, they are open. New York, our beaches are closed, in New Jersey, the state beaches are closed, some of the local beaches are open, Connecticut, they are open. Connecticut marinas are open and New Jersey and New York also. Staying coordinated with our partners is very important and it is important within the state also.
I get the political pressure that everybody is under. I get the political pressure that local officials are under. But we have to be smart and we have to be coordinated. People have to have the best government from government officials in the State of New York. Government matters today in a way it has not mattered in decades. And it is important that government sends the right signal and one message and there is no confusion. Because if people don’t have confidence in government right now, if they think there is chaos or confusion or politics, that would be a terrible message to send. We have done a great job as government officials – all of us – Democrat, Republican, state, local. We have to keep doing it. And now is not the time to send mixed messages. And also on a very parochial level, I get that in the conversations I’ve had people feel political pressure. Hear is the simple answer. The State’s emergency powers now govern in this emergency. Blame me. Blame me. Somebody’s complaining about a beach, somebody’s complaining about whatever, businesses open, schools open, blame me. It’s true. It’s right. It’s the state law and I don’t have any issue with that. So blame me.
Also, as we are planning the reopening, let’s set the bar a little higher. Let’s all start to think about this now. What did we learn during this? Personally, what did we learn? Socially, what did we learn? Collectively, what did we learn? And how do we incorporate that into our reopening? How do we have a better health care system when we reopen? How do we have a better transportation system, better telecommuting, a smarter telemedicine program? Better technology and education? How do we have more social equity?
You can see the disparate effect of this disease and how it reinforced the disparity in the inequity in society. How do we remedy that? And how are we more cohesive as a community for having gone through this, right? It is not just reopen. It is not just build it back. It is advance. Use this as a moment in time where they look back, when they write the history books and they say oh boy, they went through a terrible time but they actually learned from it and they improved from it. They moved forward. We had 9/11. Yes, we built back.
We built back different, we built back smarter. We had Hurricane Sandy, devastated Long Island. I was governor. I didn’t say we want to replace, I said we’re going to learn how to do a new grid system. We’re going to learn how to do better infrastructure. And we did. Long Island, today, is better for having gone through Hurricane Sandy as terrible as that was.
We have to do the same thing here. How do we come back even better? So, the long and the short of it is thank you to all New Yorkers for all the good work. To our healthcare workers, a special thank you. To the police, to fire, to the transit workers. You know, the economy has not been closed down, right? All the essential services have still been functioning. You still can go to the grocery store and get food. Lord knows you could go to a healthcare institution and get healthcare. The transportation works, the buses work. All these people who kept everything working, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
But also remember we still have more to do. New Yorkers know that because New Yorkers are tough, but tough doesn’t mean just tough. Tough is easy. It’s tough but smart, but disciplined, but unified, and but loving. That’s who we are as New Yorkers.
Last point, on a personal point, I have my daughter Mariah who is with me. She is the third daughter for me. She just came home, if you will – she was quarantined – so now I have all three daughters with me. They can’t appreciate this, but it’s such a comfort to me, personally, to have them home. You know, when your child is not at home, especially at a difficult time like this, you’re always wondering where are they? Are they okay? Are they doing what’s right? And every instinct is you want to be able to protect them. When they’re not there you have this constant hole in your heart, right, and this constant question as you go through the day. So, you’re trying to do everything that you have to do but you still have this question in the back of your mind. Where is Mariah? How is she?
So, now that they are all three with me gives me a great sense of comfort in this crazy situation we’re in. But, if not for the craziness, I would never have my three daughters with me again. They’re 25, 25, 22 years old. The last thing they want to do is hang out with Pop, right? They have places to go, people to see. They’re taking life by the horns. So, I get this beautiful silver lining in the midst of this hell where my daughters are with me again. We get to celebrate family and we get to bring back traditions and we get to enjoy each other and have really in depth conversations that we haven’t had in years, right? Reconnect in a way we haven’t had the opportunity in years.
Today is Sunday and I come from an Italian American household where we had a great tradition on Sundays. The family had to come together at the table, you had to be there. They called it dinner, but it started at 2 o’clock in the afternoon – I don’t know why they called it dinner. But everybody was at the table. Spaghetti and meatballs every Sunday. I started my tomato sauce before I left. We’re going to go back, we’re going to sit at the table, have our spaghetti and meatballs on Sunday, and I know what I’m going to talk to them about.
My daughters, Mariah – and Mariah brought her boyfriend, who’s also here. The boyfriend is very nice and we like the boyfriend. Advice to fathers, the answer on what you think of the boyfriend is always I like the boyfriend. Always. Because there’s only two options. Either you like the boyfriend, in which case you say I like the boyfriend, or you don’t like the boyfriend. But you can never say you don’t like the boyfriend. I learned this lesson the hard way. Otherwise it triggers NDS. NDS is Natural Defiance Syndrome. It’s not documented, but it is a psychological condition where if you say as a father I don’t like him, Natural Defiance Syndrome kicks in and then they like the boyfriend more because he is opposed by the father. So the answer has to be I like the boyfriend. In this case, I actually like the boyfriend. But even if you don’t like the boyfriend, the answer can only be that I like the boyfriend.
But we’re going to be at dinner with the boyfriend and we’re going to have our spaghetti and our meatballs. They won’t eat the spaghetti and the meatballs because when I cook it they just won’t eat it. But they move it around the dish and that’s all I can ask. But I’m going to tell them – I’m going to recall to them – how important that meal was on Sundays. To have the family together, to take the time to sit and to talk and to reconnect. People talk about the Italians and they love the food. Yeah, they love the food, but the food was just a magnet to get the family to the table, right? It was just the device to get people to spend two hours at the table. That’s where you talked and you went through the week. I used to do it at my grandfather’s house. My father, mother, my kids, all the siblings would go to my grandfather’s house.
My grandfather’s name was Andrea. I’m named for him, Andrew. At the end of the meal, my grandfather would always say, he was at the head of the table and he would say, “Okay, that was my vacation,” and then he would get up and they would do whatever they were doing. I never really understood what he meant. Later in life, I said to my father, who is his son, “What did grandpa mean, that was my vacation?” He said, “Well your grandfather never had a day off. Your grandfather worked seven days a week.” He ran a little grocery store, delicatessen in Jamaica and he worked seven days a week. And he was saying that was his vacation. He never took a vacation and everybody would take a vacation on tv and in the tv commercials. That was his vacation. The three hours at the table for dinner with his family, that was his vacation. Then he would go back to run the store.
You think of how our immigrants work in this country and wherever the immigrants are from, what that whole immigrant philosophy and drive does for us, and I’ll will end where are started.
You think of all the essential workers. “Well we had to stay at home. I’m tired of staying at home.” Yeah, think of all the people, all the essential workers who had to go out there every day and work in the middle of this, who frankly would have much rather stayed home and they didn’t know what the virus was, and they are out there working with the public, exposing themselves. Why do we have a higher rate of infection among African-Americans, Latinos, et cetera? Well, who are the essential workers? We have a higher rate of infection among the essential workers, because they were out there driving the buses, and they were out there driving the trains, and they were out there running the hospitals and the emergency rooms, and the nurses, and the police officers.
They didn’t get to stay home and they got sicker and they died, more than anyone else. Because they were there honoring their responsibility to their job and to public service. Let’s remember that. Let’s remember them. Yeah, we are all going through a tough time, and it is a tough time. But a lot of people have shown a lot of courage and a lot of beauty and they’ve had very tough lives. Let’s appreciate them at the same time.