Gov. Cuomo: Buffalo Residents Tested – Don’t Have Corona Virus, But There’s 4 New Cases In Westchester

March 4, 2020

ALBANY, NY – From Governor Andrew Cuomo:

“We have an epidemic caused by Coronavirus but we have a pandemic that is caused by fear. Now what causes fear? Two things: People get afraid when they think they don’t have the right information or they don’t trust the information they’re getting. Or the information they’re getting is so frightening that they have the normal reaction. I think in this case, people are suspect about what they’re hearing because government now is so polarized in so many ways. The environment is so political that you hear different messages about the situation and then it gets politicized. The Democrats say the Republicans are trying to minimize it. The Republicans say the Democrats are hyping it. So I think it’s very important here in New York that I provide the factual information to people so they know these are just the facts.”

During a briefing on the novel coronavirus, Governor Cuomo announced that yesterday more individuals in Westchester County have tested positive for Coronavirus. Individuals in Buffalo, Oneida and Suffolk Counties tested negative for the virus.

The Governor also announced that the State University of New York’s and the City University of New York’s study abroad programs in China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea have been suspended effective immediately in response to concerns over novel coronavirus – or COVID-19. The decision was made based on recommendations from the New York State Department of Health. SUNY and CUNY are making arrangements to bring back all non-essential students, faculty and staff currently studying or working in those countries and begin 14-day quarantine. All five countries have either been issued a Level 2 or Level 3 travel notice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A rush transcript is available below:

We have some good news, we have some bad news. Gubernatorial preference, I will start with the good news.

The good news is we have a number of tests that have come back, Coronavirus tests. The tests for the people in Buffalo came back negative. The tests for the people in Oneida came back negative. We tested someone in Suffolk, that came back negative. And the husband of the healthcare worker who traveled to Iran came back negative. I actually wagered the other way. So that is the good news.

The not-so-good news is the case in Westchester, which is a fifty year old attorney who tested positive, his wife his wife has also tested positive, his 20 year old son has also tested positive, his daughter has also tested positive, and his neighbor who drove him to the hospital also tested positive.

The son is 20 years old and attends Yeshiva University. The daughter is 14 years old and is in the SAR school. And the neighbor is not just a neighbor, but actually drove the attorney to the hospital and therefore was in the car with the attorney in that closed environment – and the neighbor tested positive.

That then triggers the detective work where we go back and we try to make as many connections as possible. And do as much research and investigation as possible. And then notify people, right? Whenever you find a case it is about containment and doing the best you can to keep the circle as tight as possible. The head of Yeshiva University – I spoke to this morning – the school that the son attends will be closed for today. The SAR school is also closed for today. We’re going to meet in Westchester this afternoon at noon with the heads of the school and the county and the local health officials to get some more facts and start to track back to the best we can.

I also want to announce we’re going to recall SUNY and CUNY students from study abroad programs in five countries – China, Italy, Japan, Iran, South Korea – those are countries that have been on the quote-unquote watch list, recall list the federal government has set. The students will come back on a chartered plane which will land at Stewart Airport – they will then be quarantined for 14 days in dormitory settings. We’ll then stay in touch with them after the 14 days and do follow-up work. On all of this, the context is what is most important and we have an epidemic caused by Coronavirus but we have a pandemic that is caused by fear. Now what causes fear? Two things: People get afraid when they think they don’t have the right information or they don’t trust the information they’re getting. Or the information they’re getting is so frightening that they have the normal reaction. I think in this case, people are suspect about what they’re hearing because government now is so polarized in so many ways. The environment is so political that you hear different messages about the situation and then it gets politicized. The Democrats say the Republicans are trying to minimize it. The Republicans say the Democrats are hyping it. So I think it’s very important here in New York that I provide the factual information to people so they know these are just the facts.

Second point is, once you accept the facts, there is no reason to be frightened by these facts. Remember the context. You have to take a step back. There are going to be many, many people who test positive. By definition, the more you test, the more people you will find who test positive. If you went out and started conducting tests for the flu virus, you would find more people who have the flu virus. Who are walking around and didn’t know that they had it. Then you start testing, you’re going to see the number go up. We know what this coronavirus is. We’ve gone through it in China, they’re going through it in other countries. We know what it is. It is easily transmitted, but 80% of the people who get the virus will self-resolve. The other 20% may be medically ill and even require hospitalization, in which case we have that capacity. And the lethality rate, according to the CDC, is 1.4 percent, compared to .6 percent for the normal flu. And again these are just estimates, sometimes the .6 is a little higher, a little lower, sometimes the 1.4 is a little higher, a little lower, 1.2. But it’s roughly double the flu rate and the people who we are most concerned about who are most vulnerable are senior citizens, people with immune-compromised situations, those are the people who are most vulnerable. But we’re worried about nursing home settings, senior care settings, that’s what we’ve seen in other places and that’s where the situation is most problematic. And if you look at what’s even happening here in New York, it confirms that.

The 39-year-old healthcare worker who came back from Iran who tested positive, she is at home, has not been hospitalized and she’s getting better. Her husband, who didn’t turn out testing positive, he is getting better. The 50-year-old attorney in Westchester, he had an underlying respiratory illness, so he is in the category of people who we worry about in this situation. But, those are the facts, and if you understand the facts there is no reason for undue anxiety. We’re now in this loop where, “Well we’re testing one person, two people, three.” There are going to be dozens and dozens and dozens of people, and the more people you test the most people you’re going to find.

So that is the situation and let’s just keep that in mind. And when you ask the CDC what’s the variable on how many people this virus is truly dangerous for they say it depends on how the healthcare system operates. China was close to 2 percent but China did not have an existing, state of the art health care system compared to the United States. When China started to do better it dropped from 2 percent down closer to 1 percent. So the level of health care and the quality of health care is very important. Luckily here in New York we have one of the best health care systems on the globe, period. And we are doing everything humanely possible to improve even on that.