AUDIO is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s interview is below:
George Stephanopoulos: We’re going to go now to that breaking news now on the COVID crisis. Pfizer announced this morning that their two-shot vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials. Let’s talk about that now with New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. Governor Cuomo, thanks for coming back. Again, this morning we were talking about the importance of vaccine distribution in the next two months. What do you make of this news?
Governor Cuomo: It’s good news, bad news, George. The good news is that the Pfizer tests look good and we’ll have a vaccine shortly. The bad news is that it’s about 2 months before Joe Biden takes over and that means this administration is going to be implementing a vaccine plan. The vaccine plan is very important. It’s probably the most ambitious undertaking since COVID began.
Just to put it in focus, we did 120 million COVID tests in this nation over 7 months, scrambling, doing everything we can. We now have to do 330 million vaccinations, maybe twice. My state does more testing than any state in the United States. We did 12 million tests. We have to do 20 million vaccines. The Trump administration is rolling out the vaccination plan and I believe it’s flawed.
I believe it learns nothing from the past. They’re basically going to have the private providers do it and that’s going to leave out all sorts of communities that were left out the first time when COVID ravaged them.
George Stephanopoulos: So what needs to be done that the Trump administration won’t do that President-elect Biden could do?
Governor Cuomo: The Biden administration – when you deny a problem the way Trump did, you can never solve it and that’s true in life. The Trump administration denied COVID so they were never ready for it. There was no mobilization of the government. They’re still doing the same thing. They’re going to take this vaccine and they’re going to go through the private mechanism: through hospitals, through drug market chains, et cetera. That’s going to be slow and that’s going to bypass the communities that we call health care deserts.
If you don’t have a Rite Aide or a CVS, then you’re in trouble. That’s what happened the first time with COVID. Why do we have such a disparity in the infection rate and the mortality rate in COVID? Because some communities don’t have the same access to health care. I’m sure the Biden administration is going to address that. I think his first step saying let’s focus on the science, let’s depoliticize testing data. Listen to the science is the exact opposite of Trump, but you have 2 months and we can’t let this vaccination plan go forward the way the Trump administration is designing it. Biden can’t undo it 2 months later. We’ll be in the midst of it.
I’ve been talking to governors across the nation about that – how can we shape the Trump administration vaccine plan to fix it or stop it before it does damage.
George Stephanopoulos: And we’re in an emergency right now. We’re seeing the cases rise across the country and across over 10 million, at some point today if we have it, already. Even New York which had been below 1 percent positivity for so long, now climbing above 2.
Governor Cuomo: I feel good. New York is third lowest in the nation, okay. We learned over the past 7 months. We’re not in denial. We get it. Our infection rate is very, very low nationwide. Only Vermont and Maine, I think, have a lower infection rate and they’re more rural states, et cetera.
You have to control the virus. This is not really unknown. We’ve all had a virus in our home, George. We know how to deal with it. You isolate people who have a virus. You do the testing, you follow the data and you put in restrictions and government has to step up. You need a national mask mandate and when you see the virus starting to flare up – we call them micro-clusters – we do so much testing that we can see it in a neighborhood. Then you bring in restrictions to close down activity in that neighborhood.
I understand that politically it’s difficult, but that’s what you have to do. You see a little flame, you stamp it out and we’re doing that all across the state. You will see through the fall the number going up nationwide. That is going to happen. Scientists said that was going to happen. It’s going to be managing the infection increase, which is going to be the challenge.
George Stephanopoulos: Governor Cuomo, thanks very much for your time this morning.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, George.