Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied rumors Monday he was being eyed for positions in a potential Biden administration and remained hopeful New Yorkers could squash the small pockets of virus outbreaks to avoid another statewide shutdown. He appeared on "TODAY" to promote the release of his book on the pandemic.
The governor of New York reiterated the message he has delivered for a number of weeks now: overall, the statewide positivity rate remains low despite spikes in a handful of counties. New York's overall positivity still holds steady just above 1 percent, despite the state's red zone clusters reporting 5.74 percent positivity late last week (the positivity rate over the weekend was 3.7 percent, but Cuomo's office noted that weekend results are often not reflective of current levels).
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Cuomo emphasized that the biggest cause of concern for New York remains the "micro-clusters" located in only a few locations throughout the state, and attributed the state's increased COVID numbers to testing levels that are higher than any other state.
"We do more testing than any other state, so we have more data. We also are obsessive about getting incoming case numbers from the hospitals. You map those cases and you find the greatest predominance of cases in a geographic area. That is a micro-cluster," Cuomo said, adding that the postivity rate is still very low when compared to other states.
"If we find an area where the rate is 2 percent, that's a micro-cluster. Three percent in a lot of states would be a safe zone — in New York, we consider it a micro-cluster," the governor said. "So we are doing very targeted analysis because we have so much testing capacity, and we will continue to let the data and science drive our approach to keeping the virus in check."
That said, hospitalizations have more than doubled in the last month, hitting their highest statewide total Monday (878) since July 1 -- a concerning sign with colder weather approaching and more people leaving their homes for work and school. The governor's office said Monday that 40 percent of the previous day's hospital admissions were in hot spot areas being monitored by the state — including Orange County, Rockland County, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as parts of the Southern Tier.
"We are coming into a fall and people should be worried. The experts, all along, have been telling us in the fall the flu comes back, people go indoors, schools open, so you should look for a rise," Cuomo said.
Over the weekend, the U.S. reported nearly 60,000 new cases in a single day, reaching one of its highest daily totals since mid-August, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Local, state and national health and science experts warned of the potential for a resurgence of the virus in the fall back in the early days of the virus' detection. So far, New York's numbers have stayed low and talk of expanding the latest wave of restrictions targeting the outbreak zones is not on the table -- yet.
"I don't believe it's inevitable. I believe it's possible," the governor remarked. "Look, we're closing down areas that are about one or two square miles, right? These are tiny areas. But we have that kind of data and if you can target that way and close down small areas, then it's not inevitable that the spread gets so large that you would have to close down an entire city or a state."
When pressed by NBC's Willie Geist, Cuomo didn't address his responsibility in sending COVID-positive patients back into nursing homes in the first months of the shutdown but took ownership of a delayed mask mandate.
"I should have done it earlier. The experts were saying the masks didn't work. Common sense said the masks would work," he told Geist.
This interview also came a day after Axios reported rumors the Biden team was considering Cuomo for the U.S. attorney general post. Cuomo's senior adviser Richard Azzopardi denied the buzz to Axios and the governor repeated that denial Monday morning.
"Those rumors, Willie, those are only from people who want to get me out of New York. I don't know why, but that's where that is coming from," he said.