Cuomo, Trump Meet in D.C. to Discuss Testing as NY Tops 250k Cases, Nearly 15k Dead
New York’s single-day death toll fell below 500 (481) for a second straight day Tuesday, but New Jersey posted its highest single-day toll yet
If social distancing is continued, new projections say the tri-state may be able to relax restrictions after June 1; when NYC fully opens up, Mayor de Blasio says it’ll celebrate with a ticker-tape parade for healthcare workers
More than 20,000 confirmed lives have been lost to coronavirus in the tri-state area to date; 360,000-plus people have been infected — and those are just the ones we know about
Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, in a bid to smooth an at-times fractious relationship that boiled over last week into a tweet-induced quarrel played out on live TV.
The governor told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace that it was a “productive” meeting, adding that the bulk of the conversation focused on testing. Cuomo said that while virus tracing is a state issue, “we need help from the federal government to make the supply chain work for the manufacturers” for COVID-19 test kits.
Essentially, Cuomo and Trump agreed on roles that states and the federal government can play in testing. While each state will be responsible for the actual testing in labs — including tests for COVID-19 antibodies — as well as tracing virus cases, the feds will responsible for maintaining the supply lines for the testing kits. That means getting the necessary supplies needed for testing kits (swabs, vials, chemicals, etc.) so that the states aren’t competing with each other for those goods, and driving up prices in the process.
Cuomo said he wants to work with the federal government to achieve his “very aggressive goal” of doubling the state’s current daily testing capacity — from 20,000 per day to 40,000 — which he said will take at least “several weeks” to accomplish. The governor also wants private testing to increase tenfold. One of Cuomo’s biggest criticisms against Trump in the last weeks has been over a lack of scaleable testing, an infrastructure he says is necessary to reboot state economies and sustain the reopening once it happens.
“I wanted to have a face-to-face conversation. This issue of testing, and who does what on testing, we had to get this ironed out,” Cuomo said, using the topic of testing to smooth out the pair’s testy relationship. “It’s important for states that have a more difficult time reopening like New York.”
Trump consistently has said testing is a state responsibility. Cuomo, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have taken it upon themselves to expand capacity to their maximum abilities. A new antibody testing plan launched Monday in New York to supplement current and emerging diagnostics.
“No one ever imagined this testing system was going to become hyper-relevant to survival and would need a capacity of 20, 30, 40, 50 times what the system was doing,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “This came out of the blue in many ways, and it’s one of the lessons we will learn.”
The governor said in a press conference following his D.C trip that the antibody testing plays a crucial role in determining just how many people may actually have been infected with COVID-19, rather than just who was hospitalized. It also will determine who can potentially donate plasma to those fighting the virus, and who could possibly return to work safely.
It was the first in-person meeting since the crisis began between the man charged with leading the nation out of the pandemic and the man whose state has shouldered the brunt of the impacts. Trump said at a later press conference that the two “had a great talk on testing, very good meeting.”
“It was just honest and open. The president is communicative of his feelings, and I’m communicative of what I think,” Cuomo said. “This is not about anyone’s emotions about anyone else. I mean, who cares about I feel, what he feels. We have a tremendous job to get done.”
Aside from testing, the governor also told the president that the USNS Comfort, the Navy medical ship docked on the west side of Manhattan, is no longer required for New York City and that the federal government can take it back to deploy it elsewhere that needs assistance. The ship had treated 172 patients as of Monday morning, and had capacity for around 500.
The two also discussed the need for states to get funding, with Cuomo saying states are in “desperate shape. Everything is being left to the states to do the reopening.” President Trump is open to the states getting more funding in the next piece of legislation, Cuomo said.
What didn’t happen during the conversation: Trump pushing for New York to re-open sooner. “He was inquisitive about what we were doing, and what we thought and what we needed. He never editorialized on what he thought was an appropriate timeline,” Cuomo said.
With a virus that can transmit even among asymptomatic people, it’s difficult to ascertain the full scope of the pandemic in a given place — and understanding that full scope is critical to getting states back on track, experts say. That’s what antibody testing does: Identify people who have recovered from COVID-19 even if they never knew they were infected. By painting a picture of how many people may have really been infected, it helps develop a more risk-balanced regional “return to work” strategy — one that has a greater chance to stick.
Cuomo said that while New York would “ideally” like to test asymptomatic people as well, right now the aim is to find if the infection rate going up, down or if it’s stable, which can’t be found without additional testing being done. He also said that the testing “can give people a sense of security.”
“It’s one thing for government to say it’s OK its safe to go out,” Cuomo said. “If people don’t believe its safe, they’re not going to go. So the data and the testing goes both ways.”