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Governor Cuomo is a Guest on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell

Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was a guest on MSNBC to discuss New York State's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


AUDIO is available here.


A rush transcript of the Governor's interview is available below:


Andrea Mitchell: And joining us now on the phone is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Thank you very much, governor. I know you're concerned the lag in testing, which make the tests, the numbers of tests, really useless given this lag. And also the president's reversal on masks now. What are you seeing from the White House right now after the president's comments last night?


Governor Cuomo: Well, Andrea, thank you for having me. I think it's actually a good sign. The president had a much different tone yesterday, just the fact he was doing the coronavirus briefing in and of itself was a different signal. And we need that. We need the federal government to step up, acknowledge the problem. I think there's been too much denial for too long and we need the commitment of the federal government. So I welcome the president's posture. I welcome what he said about masks, now urging Americans to wear masks. I'd like him to take the next step, which is a federal executive order on masks. The health experts have said 40,000 more Americans will die because we don't have a mask policy. I mean, as incredible as that is, if you can sign a piece of paper that will save the life of 40,000 Americans why wouldn't you do that? On the testing, there is now a significant delay in many states on the testing results. That means the testing numbers you get today, the results you get today, are not really results from yesterday. They could be eight days ago, 10 days ago. So they could actually be misleading. We don't have that issue in New York but I've been working with a number of local governments and I'm seeing that issue across the country.


Andrea Mitchell: Now, you talked to the president, I believe, yesterday. Did you suggest that he sign the Defense Production Act and authorize more labs to be involved in processing, more equipment, reagents, the swabs, anything else that's needed in order to try to reduce that lag time?


Governor Cuomo: Yeah, I spoke to the president yesterday. I didn't talk about the Defense Production Act yesterday. I had previously made many statements about the Defense Production Act and needing American companies to actually get into this testing. And not just the testing, but it's more the supply chain, it's the re-agents that are the problem, because we need them desperately. And we knew this was going to happen, it was just a matter of time. And now it's happening. But when you say you don't get test results for eight days, 10 days, 12 days, that's a serious problem because the data then is not correct, there's a significant lag, and a person who is positive was out there for eight days spreading the virus by the time you even find out. So, eight-day testing, you wonder what the validity of it is at the end of the day.


Andrea Mitchell: When you talked to him yesterday, did you sense a change in his attitude because there was a big change as you noted in his recommendation to wear masks. Is he now taking this more seriously? It is three months since his last health briefing. He didn't have his health advisors around him and 85,000 people have died since that last health briefing - Americans.


Governor Cuomo: The conversation with the President yesterday, for me, was about a more parochial issue, making sure that there were no federal troops that were going into New York City, which the President had been talking about, the rise in crime in cities across the country and his intention to send in federal troops. I don't think that would be a good idea in New York City and we talked about that - and the President heard me.


Andrea Mitchell: Can I just ask, did he commit to not sending the troops in? Because they are apparently poised to go into Chicago and we know they've been in Portland.


Governor Cuomo: I said to the President that I understand the issues in New York City and there are issues in New York City as there are in many cities across the country, and if there was a need, state would step in, which is the normal protocol, governmental protocol. And I was ready, willing and able to step in, but I think the federal involvement, there's no justification for it and would be counterproductive and the President said we would talk before he did anything. So that was a very good conversation. But, look, the President's concerns about New York City were well founded. There are issues in New York City. You put COVID on top of the unrest after the George Floyd murder, et cetera. There's been an increase in crime. So I get the concerns, but I don't believe federal troops are the answer.


Andrew Mitchell: And in terms of what he might do about testing, to try to shorten the lag time by dealing with the supply chain, did you get any positive answers, from your perspective, on that?


Governor Cuomo: I can tell you I've met with the White House on testing. They are aware of the supply chain issues. They have been working on the supply chain issues. And this is an issue, Andrea, where there's no one solution. You know, the states have to be responsible for the on the ground testing. The states have to organize the labs in their state, they have to set up the testing sites. We have 750 testing sites in New York now. We have 250 labs in New York that are doing the tests. That's the state responsibility. The federal government has to work on the supply chain issues so these national labs can actually process tests. So it's not that clean, but the federal government gets that they have to work on the supply chain, and that has to work in tandem with the state effort that has testing sites opened, that has the labs coordinated, so it's going to take both. This is a new system that was never set up before. You know, this COVID has put a test on government that never existed, and we're now seeing the results. The shame is we had four, five months to get ready, and that we are still talking about these basic operations - that's a shame, and that's what the history books are going to fault us for.


Andrea Mitchell: 150 public health experts have written an open letter saying that the country needs to shut down and reset now and actually prevent people from going from state to state, from hot spots to state. You already imposed some quarantines of people coming in to New York. Do you think another shutdown is now needed?


Governor Cuomo: I think the shutdown in certain states, yes, because they are right. Look at how bizarre the circumstance. New York State had the worst infection rate because the cases came from Europe, and we did not know at the time. Everybody was still talking about China. The virus left China, went to Europe and everybody missed it and it came to the United States from Europe. So we had a quick spike. We had the worst infection rate in the country. We had the worse infection rate per capita than any country on the globe. We now have one of the lowest infection rates. Our problem now is people coming from other states into New York. We've done a quarantine against the 21 highest states in terms of a rate of infection. But, I don't have really the enforcement mechanism for a quarantine. We're doing everything we can, but it's imperfect. You'll see this virus ricocheting across the country. One state gets it under control but then people from another state will come in. So unless you solve this everywhere, you don't solve it anywhere, and now people coming from Florida, from Texas, from Arizona, that's our issue. And I suspect our infection rate is going to go back up because of people coming into New York, which is so ironic because it went up in the first case because of people coming from Europe. You know, that's why it had to be federal and it had to be national, because if you don't solve it across the country you don't solve it anywhere, Andrea.


Andrea Mitchell: Do you think, by the way, just to return for a moment very briefly before we have to let you go, do you think that there's ever a situation where you would want federal forces to come in to help in New York City?


Governor Cuomo: No. No. I do not believe in this political environment I believe federal forces would be incendiary. If there's a reason, a justification, the State can handle it. A city is a creature of State law. The State government created cities in the state. If New York City has a problem, the State will address it. In this political environment, to send in federal troops would be pouring gasoline on a fire.


Andrew Mitchell: Well, we want to thank you for taking the time, Governor Cuomo. I know that you've got a lot on your plate, as do all the governors and you were just down in Georgia trying to help out there as well. So thanks very much for joining us today.