Albany – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily press conference became a direct message to President Donald Trump today, after the president, who was apparently watching, tweeted criticism of Cuomo's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After discussing the state's current rate of infection, which appears to be stable at just below one to one, with both hospitalizations and ICU rates in decline, Cuomo again called for the federal government to step up and help coordinate test development and administration nationwide.
When he took questions, a reporter read a tweet from the president which had been posted during the press conference.
“Governor Cuomo should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining,” Trump had posted. “Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use, gave large numbers of Ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with testing that you should be doing. We have given New York far more money, help and equipment than any other state, by far, & these great men & women who did the job never hear you say thanks. Your numbers are not good. Less talk and more action!”
“We built 2500 beds because we listened to you, Mr. President,” the governor said.
Cuomo pointed out the projections indicating the state would need two and half times its bed capacity came from the president's own CDC. He showed quotes from both the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force in March and a memo from Trump trade adviser, Peter Navarro, in January, a memo he said the president claims to have never seen, indicating the virus had the potential to sicken anywhere from 100 to 214 million people and kill one to two million.
The governor suggested if the president isn't satisfied with the reports his advisors wrote, if he's looking for someone to blame, he should fire them all.
“He should read the report he issues. 'The projections were high?' They're your projections, Mr. President. I thought New York relying on information from the federal government was appropriate,” Cuomo said. “I won't make that mistake again.”
Cuomo said he's thanked the president over and over for his assistance in providing emergency beds in the Javits Center and the USN Comfort.
“I hear I should show gratitude. How many times? This was doing your job. I'm not running for anything. I don't have an agenda. I've said thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for doing your job with Javits and the Comfort with a modicum of responsibility in a federal emergency.”
The governor said he does not want a repeat of the “chaos” that surrounded attempts to get necessary equipment during the worst of the pandemic once the nation moves to the testing phase of the gradual move toward reopening. Just as happened with ventilators and PPE, Cuomo said all the needed components of testing are made in China, and every individual state is competing against the others, the federal government, and other countries for those components.
“The supply chain issues pose international challenges. We're competing globally,” he said. “This is mayhem. We need a coordinated approach.”
“What the president has said is 'I don't want to get involved in testing because it's too complicated and too hard,'” Cuomo continued. “What if I said to the people of New York, 'I've done all this. I'm done.' That's what he's saying. 'I'm done.'”
Cuomo called on the president to “show as much consideration for the states as he's showing to his big business friends or the airlines.”
“If state governments are the only ones responsible, then fund them! You say reopening is up to the states. Don't give them this massive undertaking without giving the funding to do it.”
The National Governors' Association, a bipartisan group of state leaders, has written a letter calling for $500 billion in unrestricted aid for the states, an amount Cuomo said should be allocated by need.
Asked why, after weeks of trying to be conciliatory with the White House, Cuomo chose to respond to the critical tweet, the governor said, “This is an important moment. He doesn't want to help the states, help with testing. We cannot do it without federal help.”
It's a message Cuomo has been sending for days, and one he'd touched on earlier in the press conference.
Cuomo announced there would be an Executive Order coordinating all public and private labs in a similar fashion to what was done with the state's hospitals. There will also be an Executive Order requiring nursing homes to inform family members when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a facility, something some nursing homes reportedly refused to do voluntarily.
Despite relatively flat numbers in the overall hospitalization rate, that plateau is at a high level, with 1,974 new cases hospitalized since Thursday, and 630 people dead.
“We are still in phase one, the critical response phase,” Cuomo said. “We still have 2,000 people going into the hospital with this every day.”
Before a phased re-opening can begin, the governor said a testing capacity has to be developed that “does not now exist.”
New York State, he said, has 301 labs and hospitals that do virology testing. He called testing a “totally new challenge,” and warned, “You open too fast, we'll be right back where we started.”