New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the coronavirus crisis will only be solved once an effective vaccine is developed and made widely available – and it could take a year and a half to get there.
"I don't think ultimate resolution comes until you have a vaccine," Cuomo said during a call-in appearance on infamous shock jock Howard Stern's radio show.
"Where someone can say to you, 'Don't worry, Howard, there's a vaccine, you take this, you never get it, it's a nonissue,'" then the virus will finally be resolved, Cuomo said. "That's 18 months."
Cuomo's remarks came amid a growing debate over when the U.S. will contain the virus enough to reopen parts of the economy that have been crippled by the pandemic.
President Donald Trump has expressed impatience with states' draconian social distancing rules, which led to a severe market rout and an unprecedented spike in unemployment.
Still, the White House recently extended its own social distancing guidelines through the end of April, making May the earliest time that his administration could consider encouraging some parts of the U.S. to bring people back to work.
Cuomo, whose state has been hit harder by Covid-19 than anywhere else in the U.S., praised New Yorkers for following the strict social distancing rules that he has imposed to try to contain the outbreak.
"People believed, and they acted responsibly," Cuomo said.
Those rules, including a statewide stay-at-home order and closing nonessential businesses, have helped reduce the number of deaths in his state compared with earlier projections of the impact of the coronavirus, he said.
"Remember, all the projections so far have said many more people would die, and many more people would be hospitalized," including studies from the White House and numerous universities and organizations, Cuomo said.
"They all said it was going to be much, much worse," he said. "The variable was, what government policies would be put in place … and the real variable was, would people listen?"
While the problem won't be solved for at least another year, Cuomo said, there will be "waves of resolution" in the meantime.
"The first wave will be fewer people dying, and that will be an initial resolution," Cuomo said. "We've figured out how to slow down the beast -- that's a resolution. We'll start to phase into an economy again, that'll be a wave of resolution."
But an 18-month battle is "the ultimate trajectory," Cuomo said.
"I'm scared," the governor said later in the interview. "I'm frightened."
Cuomo said he was worried for his mother and for his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who tested positive for the disease late last month.
Cuomo added that he has cried over the crisis, "I can't get over the death numbers every day."
More than 190,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in New York, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. At least 9,385 people have died in the Empire State, according to Johns Hopkins.