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USNS Comfort is no longer needed, but widespread testing is, Cuomo tells Trump at White House

Posted at 10:12 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 22:12:47-04

In the Oval Office on Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Governor Andrew Cuomo talked about how to do widespread testing, the prospects for a federal stimulus package for state and local governments and how a plateauing of cases in New York can allow the Navy's hospital ship to leave port as soon as it's able.

The USNS Comfort was deployed to New York on March 30. In the White House meeting between Trump and Cuomo, around 3:00 on Tuesday afternoon, the governor told the president that the USNS Comfort, which is docked on the Hudson River on the Far West Side of Midtown, has fulfilled its mission.

"I said we don't really need the Comfort anymore," Cuomo said in a interview on MSNBC after the meeting. "It did give us comfort, but we don't need it anymore, so if they need to deploy it somewhere else, they should take it."

In the meeting, the two men also talked about the roles that the federal and state governments need in widespread coronavirus testing.

Last week, Pres. Trump had said that he has " total control " over how and when states reopen from their stay-at-home orders, including potential testing protocols. After learning that his initial statement is unconstitutional, Trump changed his position, and now he and Cuomo have agreed that states have to handle the testing.

Gov. Cuomo said at his daily briefing on Tuesday morning that while the 211 testing laboratories in New York that he regulates know how to test, there's a much bigger problem. Each lab needs testing supplies from different national manufacturers, and thousands of labs across all 50 states are competing for those supplies. Cuomo said they need federal oversight.

"I'm gonna ask them to take this piece of this national manufacturers getting the test kits, and the vials, and the cotton swabs, and chemicals," Gov. Cuomo said at his briefing. "If the national manufactures can feed my 211 labs, then the states can take it from there."

The two chief executives were brought up within a mile-and-a-half of each other in Queens. Cuomo lived in a modest family bungalow in Holliswood, while Trump was raised in a 32-room mansion in Jamaica Estates.

The two men also talked about federal stimulus money for state and local governments.

Before the meeting, the president sent out two tweets that said in part, "we will begin discussions on the next Legislative initiative with fiscal relief to State/Local Governments for lost revenues from COVID-19."

Gov. Cuomo said at his briefing that a stimulus for state and local governments is vital in order to fund "police, firefighters."

He said that without a stimulus package in the hundreds of billions range, "We're not going to fund schools? I don't get it."

Congress on Tuesday approved a $500 billion stimulus for small businesses. Both the president and Democratic congressional leaders said that they'll next good to a stimulus for state and local governments.

This article was written by James Ford for WPIX.