New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that while states should be responsible for COVID-19 testing and reopening plans, the federal government shouldn’t abandon leaders trying to combat global supply issues amid the pandemic.
“It’s only appropriate that the state should be in charge of actual testing in the state. I agree with the federal government’s position on that,” Cuomo said during a press conference in Buffalo. “You shouldn’t expect all these governors to run around and do an international supply chain while they’re trying to put together their testing protocol in their state, coordinating their labs. That’s never been done before.”
Cuomo’s plea came just hours before he met with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss virus testing. While governor and Trump sparred last week over the president’s assertion he had “total authority,” Cuomo said in an MSNBC interview afterward that the “productive” meeting was “functional and effective.”
As officials across the nation are shifting their attention to reopening states’ economies after COVID-19, Cuomo said Tuesday that diagnostic testing will be critical to that effort.
But the ability to assess New York’s population is impossible without “millions of tests” that have not yet been created because state-regulated labs aren’t getting enough supplies from medical manufacturers—and those manufacturers don’t have what they need from the international supply chain.
That lack of supplies has prompted at least one government official to think outside the box. On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he had purchased 500,000 coronavirus tests from LabGenomics in South Korea.
While that Republican lawmaker was praised by his peers for using his wife’s connection to the country to help his state, Trump accused him of not understanding “too much about what was going on” with the federal government’s pandemic response.
But Cuomo praised Hogan for the “creative move,” stating that he felt “diminished as a governor” when his daughters asked him why he hadn’t thought of buying tests from South Korea.
“That piece is where the federal government can help us. Take that national manufacturer and that supply chain for the national manufacturers and let the federal government figure out South Korea and China and international supply issues, rather than have 50 states now figuring out how to go be like Governor Hogan and figure out how to buy tests in South Korea,” Cuomo said.
In New York, the coronavirus pandemic is “past the high point,” Cuomo said. To date, 14,828 people have died and 253,400 more have been infected by the coronavirus across the state.
“Overall, the total hospitalizations are basically flat from where they were yesterday,” Cuomo said, noting that thousands of New Yorkers are still showing up at overwhelmed hospitals daily. “Our definition of ‘good’ has changed here. ‘Good’ is now ‘not terrible.’”
Cuomo said that after another month of “closed-down policies,” state officials need to follow several coordinated steps with the federal government to ramp up diagnostic testing to determine when, and how, individuals will return to work. “The testing will educate you as you make your transition to open,” he added.
On Monday, the New York Department of Health began to conduct an antibody testing survey, sampling about 3,000 people across the state.
Cuomo said Tuesday that while New York has performed more than half a million tests to date—which is more than California, Florida, and Michigan combined—it is not nearly enough to meet the needs of the state’s 19 million residents.
“We are doing more faster than anyone else” on testing, Cuomo said, stressing that testing will be at the forefront of his meeting with the president. “But we have to do better. We have to do more. And that’s what we’re talking about here.”
Trump said in a White House press briefing Monday he looked forward to meeting with the New York lawmaker. When asked how he plans to approach his afternoon meeting with Trump, Cuomo said he plans to just tell him the truth.
“Life is a fine line. Being in government is a fine line. Everything is a fine line… I’ll tell you how you negotiate the fine line: You tell the truth,” Cuomo said. “Heck with it, just tell the truth.”
Cuomo told MSNBC after the Tuesday meeting that they spoke about testing and stimulus funding.
“For me, the substance of the agenda was testing—Who does what, how do we get up to scale. And somebody needs to stand up for funding for the states,” Cuomo said, complimenting Trump for not attempting to impose a deadline for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. “He never editorialized on what he thought was an appropriate timeline.”