Coronavirus: Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives rousing speech thanking medical personnel, National Guard

Coronavirus outbreak: What you need to know

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held his daily press briefing, but instead of speaking from an office in a government building, he was at the site of an emergency hospital that was set up at the Javits Center.

During the briefing, he went over the statistics that almost 1,600 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state of New York are in intensive care and most are on a ventilator. Cuomo expects the number will climb as more than 44,600 people have tested positive, The New York Times reported.

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But in addition to the numbers, Cumo addressed the selflessness that many New Yorkers have shown during a time of need.

He said:

"New Yorkers never cease to amaze me, how big their heart is. You know they talk about how New Yorkers are tough. Yeah, you know we’re tough. But when you live in a place like this, you have to be tough. But as tough as we are, (we are) as loving as we are and as big as our heart is. And when someone needs something, there’s no place I’d rather be than New York.

“And the number of people who are volunteering, who are coming forward. We put out a call for additional medical personnel because we have to staff these additional beds. We put out a call, 62,000 volunteers. The number went up 10,000 in one day. How beautiful is that? These are people who are retired, who did their duty, who could just sit at home, but they are coming forward. Same thing we asked for mental health professionals who could provide mental health services electronically, over the telephone, through skype, etc. Many people are dealing with mental health issues. This is a stressful, taxing situation on everyone, on everyone. And isolation at home. You are home. You’re home alone, day after day after day. That is a stressful situation. You don’t know what’s going on. You’re afraid. You’re afraid to go home. You are isolated with your family. That is a stressful situation. Not that we don’t love to be with our family, we all do, but that can create stress and there is no place to go, no one to talk to about that, and so this mental health service over the telephone is very, very important.”

But before he took questions from the assembled media, he also highlighted and praised the members of the National Guard who built the makeshift, emergency hospital at the Javits Center.

"I want to speak to the most important people in the room for a moment, who are the people who are responsible for this great construction behind me.

"First I want to introduce Gen. Patrick Murphy. Gen. Murphy is tested smart and he is tested tough. I have been with the general for nine years and I’ve seen him in hurricanes and Super Storm Sandy and floods and everything Mother Nature could throw at us and I’ve seen him in attempted terrorist attacks. There is no one better. He leads from the front and he knows what he’s doing and you could not have a better commander at this time than General Patrick Murphy and I want you to know that, and I want to congratulate the Army Corps of Engineers for what they did here. I used to be in the federal government and I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers all across the country. I worked with them on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to build housing and one of the officers of the Army Corps of Engineers is still in service and reminded me of that. They are top-shelf. And what they did here is really top-shelf.

"I want to thank the Javits staff who really stepped up and I want to thank the national guard because you are the best of us, you are the best of us. and whenever we call on you. You are there and what you did in this facility in one week, creating a hospital is just incredible. I don’t know how you did it. Now you did such a good job, that I’m asking for four more from the president. That’s the downside for being as good as you are at what you did, but what you did is really incredible.

"And I want to make two points to you. And I want to make two promises to you. This is a different beast that we’re dealing with. This is an invisible beast. It is an insidious beast. This is not going to be a short deployment. This is not going to be that you go out there, you work a few days and we go home. This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks. And it’s going to be a long day and it’s going to be a hard day and it’s going to be an ugly day and it’s going to be a sad day. This is a rescue mission you are on. The mission is to save lives. That is what you’re doing. The mission is to save lives and as hard as we work we’re not going to be able to save everyone. And what is even more cruel. This enemy doesn’t attack the strongest of us. It attacks the weakest of us. It attacks our most vulnerable. Which makes it even worse in many ways because these are the people that every instinct tells us we are supposed to protect. These are our parents and our grandparents. These are our aunts and our uncles. These are our relative who is sick. And every instinct says [to] protect them, help them, because they need us and those are the exact people that this enemy attacks.

"Every time I’ve called out the national guard I’ve said you the same thing to you: I promise you I will not ask you to do anything that I will not do myself and I’ll never ask you to go anywhere that I won’t go myself. And the same is true here. We’re going to do this and we’re going to do this together.

“My second point is you are living a moment in history. This is going to be one of those moments that they’re going to write about and they’re going to talk about for generations. This is a moment that is going to change this nation. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, makes them stronger, makes them weaker, but this is a moment that will change character. And 10 years from now, you’ll be talking about today with your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear because you will remember the lives lost and you’ll remember the faces and you’ll remember the names and you’ll remember how hard we worked and that we still lost loved ones. And you’ll shed a tear, and you should, because it is sad.

"But you will also be proud. You’ll be proud of what you did. You’ll be proud you showed up. You showed up when other people played it safe. You had the courage to show up and you had the skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives. That’s what you will have done. And at the end of the day, nobody can ask anything more from you. That is your duty -- to do what you can when you can and you would have shown skill and courage and talent. You’ll be there with your mind. You’ll be there with your heart and you will serve with honor and that will give you pride and you should be proud. I know that I am proud of you.

"And every time the National Guard has been called out, they have made every New Yorker proud and I am proud to be with you again. And I am proud to fight this fight with you. And I bring you thanks from all New Yorkers who are just so appreciative of the sacrifice that you are making, the skill that you’re bringing, the talent that you’re bringing and you give many New Yorkers confidence, so I say my friends that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus’ ass. That’s what I say and we’re going to save lives and New York is going to thank you. God bless each and every one of you.”

In this March 24, 2020 photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York.
In this March 24, 2020 photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)