Governor Cuomo Declares A State Of Emergency

March 7, 2020

From the Governor’s Office:

Governor Cuomo: “I have officially [declared a state of] emergency which gives us certain powers. We’re going to be doing purchasing and hiring more staff, especially to help local health departments that are very stressed. We’ve said to the local health departments you have to do the monitoring on the quarantine, the mandatory quarantineSo this is labor intensive. We need the staffing, we need the purchasing. Under the declaration of emergency, we have a more expedited purchasing protocol.”

Governor Confirms 32 Additional Cases – Bringing Statewide Total to 76

Directs Investigation into Illegal Price Gouging Connected to Outbreak – Consumers Can Report Suspected Gouging by Calling 1-800-697-1220

Governor Cuomo: “I want businesses to be aware that you could lose your license for price gouging. This is serious. It is not just price gouging. It is price gouging in an emergency situation where you are being exploitive of the public. And there are specific legal provisions for price gouging in an emergency situationIf you are a store, you can lose your license and we are very serious about this. For the few dollars that you are going to make during this situation it is not worth your while.”

During a briefing on the novel coronavirus, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today declared a state of emergency to help New York more quickly and effectively contain the spread of the virus. The Governor also confirmed 32 additional cases, bringing the statewide total to 76.

Additionally, the Governor directed the New York State Department of State’s Consumer Protection Division to launch an investigation into reports of unfair price increases of consumer products such as household cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, and launched a toll-free hotline – 1-800-697-1220 – for New Yorkers to report suspected price gouging.

This state of emergency declaration allows, among other things:
• Expedited procurement of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other essential resources
• Allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct testing
• Expedited procurement of testing supplies and equipment
• Expedited personnel onboarding
• Expedited leasing of lab space
• Allowing EMS personnel to transport patients to quarantine locations other than just hospitals
• Providing clear basis for price gouging and enforcement investigation
The 32 new cases identified today are located in New York City and Westchester and Saratoga counties. Of the 76 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

Westchester: 57
New York City: 11
Nassau: 4
Rockland: 2
Saratoga: 2

VIDEO of the Governor’s update is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of today’s update is available here.

PHOTOS of today’s update will be available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript is available below:

Good afternoon, nice to see all of you. As we’ve said, providing information to people during this time, positive information, factual information, so people have a realistic basis to act upon rather than listening to all the hype if you turn on cable TV that you’ll hear. We have now been testing around the clock as you know – we are aggressively testing following up leads because we want to find as many people who test positive so we can get them out of circulation. We have 21 new cases that we found, so our total of 76 in New York right now. We have 11 in New York City, 57 in Westchester County, two in Rockland County, four in Nassau County and two in Saratoga County – the two in Saratoga County are obviously new.

The additional numbers are seven additional in New York City from yesterday and 23 additional in Westchester. The 23 cases in Westchester are all related to the New Rochelle situation. Seven in New York City – two people got off a cruise ship, five appear to be community spread, one of those people is in a hospital in the Rockaways. In Saratoga the two, one is a 57-year-old pharmacist, one is a 52-year-old woman who was in contact with a positive person from Pennsylvania at a conference in Miami.

So as I said, that’s 76 and that brings the total for Westchester to 57 cases. Westchester is an obvious problem for us – they talk about the contagion in clusters and then the clusters tend to infect more and more people. So obviously you want to pay special attention to those situations. I spoke with the County Executive of Westchester County George Latimer, the Mayor of New Rochelle Noam Branson, Congresswoman Nita Lowey. I spoke with Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins about this and all the respective health commissioners. We already said that we would close the S.A.R. school and the Westchester Day School and the Westchester Torah, S.A.R. school. With this new information we may need to reset that quarantine information. We are checking out to see if one of the new cases was in proximity with people later than the initial setting of the quarantine – the quarantine is 14 days from the last possible exposure, so with these new cases, was there a possibility that there was a later additional exposure, and that’s what we’re checking now, so there’s a possibility that those quarantine periods may be extended.

We’re also going to instruct that nursing homes, senior living situations in that immediate area of New Rochelle will suspend outside visitors. Again, the nursing homes are the most problematic setting for us with this disease so we are hyper cautious with nursing homes, assisted living facilities, senior housing, et cetera. We are now doing a census of those types of facilities in this immediate New Rochelle area to put that position in place – no outside visitors.

Voluntary quarantine – there’s been some reports that people who are on voluntary quarantine are not following the voluntary quarantine. When we say you are precautionary quarantine, that is a serious situation. We are assuming that you will act in good faith and that you will be following the rules of voluntary quarantine. People who are on voluntary quarantine are issued specific rules – violating those rules is first I think disrespectful to members of the community. It doesn’t honor your responsibility as a citizen and you can be putting people in danger. So, even though it is called precautionary quarantine, that is a serious situation and we expect you to comply with it. If you do not comply with it, and we know that people are not complying with voluntary quarantine, there are other measures that we could take. So please respect the voluntary quarantine order.

Also, price gouging continues to be a problem. I was the former Attorney General. I brought these cases. I want businesses to be aware that you could lose your license for price gouging. This is serious. It is not just price gouging. It is price gouging in an emergency situation where you are being exploitive of the public. And there are specific legal provisions for price gouging in an emergency situation. I went through this during Superstorm Sandy. We have a customer hotline number at 1-800-697-1220. We have reports of stores selling hand sanitizer for $80 dollars a bottle. It is not worth it. If you are a store, you can lose your license and we are very serious about this. For the few dollars that you are going to make during this situation it is not worth your while. The State Police are doing an investigation. They will be thorough. I have asked local police departments to also do investigations. So please, not only again is it disrespectful, this is also illegal and you will be caught.

As far as this fearmongering with selling of masks on E-Bay, Facebook, etc., we are also investigating those. I did cases as Attorney General where those were tracked back as stolen property. I think E-Bay and Facebook should play a more constructive role here. Let them police their own sites. I understand freedom of the internet. But it is not supposed to be selling stolen products. And I think E-Bay and Facebook are basically on notice that when you see these masks – these are medical masks – where did they come from? The person did not manufacture these in his or her basement. They had to come from somewhere. So, I would ask E-Bay and Facebook, without getting into a whole philosophical argument about freedom of the internet, just act as good corporate citizens and police your own websites and what you are offering people.

A couple of other points. On the federal aid, I spoke to Congresswoman Nita Lowey today. As I said yesterday, I do not believe the supplemental appropriation bill provided enough funding for New York. New York got in total $35 million dollars. We had already appropriated $40 million. We are probably spending at the rate of about, rough estimate, $30 million per week right now. That is without taking into consideration capital costs for purchasing of equipment, potential testing costs, reimbursement to local health organization, so I told the Congresswoman that $35 million is nowhere near sufficient. The Congresswoman also knows my general feeling that New York has been getting the short end of the stick from this federal government from day one right across the board. They started with the SALT income tax, they won’t approve the Second Avenue Subway next phase, they won’t approve congestion pricing, they won’t approve the AirTrain from LaGuardia Airport, they won’t approve the Gateway Tunnels coming from New Jersey. And then they took this gratuitous action of ending our Global Traveler program to extort and exploit us into actually providing access to the DMV database because they want the undocumented drivers. So these are all gratuitous acts. At one point, enough is enough. Congresswoman Lowey has been phenomenal. I’ve known her for many years. She worked with my father, actually. She’s a great advocate for New York. She got us the funding for the Tappan Zee Bridge. She’s very effective as a legislator. I went through the situation with her and she said this is just a starting point and she will work deliberately to make our case to the federal government and if she gets a chance in subsequent legislation or a subsequent opportunity to amend this legislation that she would take that into consideration.

Our relationship with the CDC is also problematic on an ongoing basis. We have the capacity to preform tests. We have a sophisticated state lab, we have sophisticated in our state. We are not reliant on CDC for doing the testing. CDC is a bottleneck for this nation in doing the testing. You go to CDC, the tests have to go back to Atlanta, they have to do the test, they then have to send it back. I believe the CDC was caught flatfooted. I believe they’re slow in their response and I believe they’re slowing down the state. We needed CDC approval for a lot of these things. First, we could only use the CDC – we could only send tests to the CDC. We then implored them to allow the state to do its own testing. Finally, they allowed the state to do its own testing. It became clear that we needed more capacity than just the state tests performed at a state laboratory. So we asked to allow to contract with our commercial laboratories. That took a long time to get that approval. We now have the approval for the outside laboratory contacting.

The next hurdle is something called automated testing, which is done by robotics and it’s much faster. So the labs that we are now going to contact with and we have several approved: Northwell Health, which has a tremendous laboratory facility and testing capacity, New York Presbyterian, Memorial Sloan Kettering, University of Rochester Medical Center, Roswell Park, and SUNY Upstate Medical University. We will be contracting with them to do testing. Many of them has automated testing available, but right now CDC does not allow the automated testing. So, my position with CDC is look, it’s one thing that you don’t do anything to help us, but at least don’t handcuff us. That’s where we are right now. So, the next hurdle to jump with CDC is to get them to allow us to do automated testing. If we get these labs on board, we get automated testing, we increase our testing capacity exponentially and that is critical to what we are talking about at this particular time in this evolving situation.

I have officially done a declaration of emergency which gives us certain powers. We’re going to be doing purchasing and hiring more staff, especially to help local health departments that are very stressed. We’ve said to the local health departments you have to do the monitoring on the quarantine, the mandatory quarantine. Somebody has to go knock on the door once a day at random intervals. They have to make sure that the person is there. Even on the voluntary quarantine, we want electronic check ins. So this is labor intensive. We need the staffing, we need the purchasing. Under the declaration of emergency, we have a more expedited purchasing protocol and we’re going to be doing that.

Last point is always the most important point. What are we doing? We are testing aggressively especially along suspected populations by following the infection tree because we want to identify people, because want to put them in a position where they’re not going to infect anybody else. We want to find positives. We’re sending mixed messages every time we do these numbers because people say, oh no, more people have it. We say that’s good news that we know who the people are so now we can put them in an isolated situation and they won’t continue to infect people. That is the point of the exercise, my friends, is to find these people. So we’re doing more tests. The more tests the better, the more positives you find the better because then you can isolate them and you slow the spread. That’s been the focus.

The real question if you’re just living your life, okay, so what happens if I get coronavirus? That’s the question. So what happens if I get the coronavirus? If you get the coronavirus 80 percent of the people will walk around and self-resolve. Twenty percent will be hospitalized. The vulnerable population, senior citizens, immune-compromised, underlying illness. We’ve said that from day one. All the data backs that up. Even take our situation. Seventy-six cases in New York. Ten people are hospitalized of the 76. Ten people hospitalized of the 76. That’s about 15 percent which is in line with what we said, about 20 percent will be sick and may require hospitalization. So that is actually what we’re seeing.

And there’s another piece of data from Johns Hopkins which is so informative. Johns Hopkins has been doing just a tracking, right, because the real question is what has happened to the people who have` gotten the coronavirus. This has been going on for weeks now. What’s happened to the people who have gotten the coronavirus? Johns Hopkins is tracking just that. This is what they found: 102,000 cases so far worldwide. Johns Hopkins is working with World Health Organization, etcetera. One hundred two thousand cases. Mortality rate: 3,400 cases. Fifty-seven thousand recovering, 41,000 sick. Over the past two-and-a-half weeks, listen to this, more people are recovering than are getting infected. Okay? So it’s exactly what we said. Know the facts; be calm.

If you get the coronavirus, 80 percent walk around and self-resolve, 20 percent get ill and may be hospitalized, senior citizens we have to be very careful of. That’s why I a m hyper-cautious, nursing homes, senior congregate facilities, immune-compromised. And of the 100,000 people who have gone through this, that’s what the numbers show.

So that’s what happens if you get it but we still want to do everything we can to make sure you don’t get it. And how do we do that? Contain, contain, get a lead, chase it down, get a lead, chase it down, find the positive, quarantine. That’s exactly what we’re doing and it’s going very well.