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Gov. Andrew Cuomo Orders One-Mile Containment With The National Guard; Democratic Candidates Cancel Rallies Over Coronavirus Concern. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 10, 2020 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jennifer Nuzzo, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and also with us, Dr. James Phillips, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine in George Washington University Hospital.

Sanjay, let me start with you. So you saw there Governor Andrew Cuomo talking about this kind of strong, some might even say drastic measure.


TAPPER: In New Rochelle where it's the biggest cluster right now, the most -- the highest number of cases in one area, where basically no public events are going to happen for the next two weeks. They're sending in the National Guard to clean schools, to clean public transportation, to deliver food.

Is that the future? Or is that just one governor doing the most he can for this one cluster?

GUPTA: Well, I think right now it's just one governor doing this for one cluster but I think obviously a lot of people are going to be taking their cues from what's happening here in New York. It's a significant measure. I mean, and, you know, you have to basically -- with all these things, figure out the risk-reward relationship.

Listening to your interview with him, he said exactly he wants to really decrease these mass gatherings, get rid of them, make sure people get tested, all that. One does have to ask, in order to achieve those objectives, was a one-mile containment with the National Guard necessary? Is that going to be reproducible in all these places where this happens, probably not.

So, you know, I -- tough decisions, but I understand what he's trying to accomplish. I think it's just a question of how do you get there. And maybe this is the best way or maybe it can be done slightly with less drastic measures.

TAPPER: Doctor Nuzzo, you were saying that people shouldn't misunderstand the idea of testing. It's not like every American needs to run out and get a coronavirus test. JENNIFER NUZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Right, exactly. I

mean, as you're hearing people call for expanded testing, that's absolutely appropriate because of the policy fix that needs to happen, this is hopefully happening. But that does not mean that everybody who's got a mild illness at home needs to go to the health system to try to get tested. In fact the health system can't absorb it.

And we very much right now need to offload from the health system, preserve those resources for the severely ill. And at this point given the number of tests, the tests should be prioritized for those people who are severely ill. Doctors need that information to treat and to be able to isolate those patients.

TAPPER: Most people who get coronavirus, it will be only mild or they'll have some symptoms but it will not be deadly or damaging.

NUZZO: Absolutely. And if you fall into that category of someone who has a fever and respiratory symptoms, absolutely stay home. If your condition worsens, shortness of breath, then contact your healthcare provider, but don't just show up announced at doctor's offices or emergency rooms looking to be tested because you just need to know or feel like you need to know. I understand that people are very interested in doing their part to try to control the spread but really the best thing they can do is to stay home when they're sick.

TAPPER: And Doctor Phillips, you heard Governor Cuomo there talk about something you and I spoke about a few days ago on air which is the real threat that there is to individuals who are in nursing homes or retirement centers, where people are older, where people, many of them, have underlying health conditions. And if there is somebody who gets coronavirus, who enters that home, the real risks that are inherent there.

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Yes. I reiterate that, I still agree with it. I think nursing homes are perhaps our biggest risk right now. But anywhere where you have people gathered together in large amounts, there is a risk of disease transmission there.

We're still trying to figure out the nuances of when you're transmitting virus, when you're not, for how long, are you doing so without symptoms. So, you know, I speak to a lot of docs around the country, ER docs, and these (INAUDIBLE) folks, and you know, everyone has their team of experts that they speak to and get advice from, and there's growing concern about mass gatherings and growing concern about whether or not it's advisable for people to go do that.

Now my primary focus is in keeping our healthcare workforce safe. And you see medical conferences canceled around the country right now. And I think it's imperative that doctors and nurses, no matter your specialty, I think we have to take that extra step, beyond what the CDC is saying, beyond what is being recommended about mass gatherings right now, and just take responsibility for ourselves and for patients and stay home.

TAPPER: Stay home. And, Sanjay, so a first responder told me, he's a first responder

outside Seattle, that there were seven firefighters who were tested, and those tests went to I think the University of Washington clinic or wherever they get tested. There was such a bottleneck that they didn't get tested in time, that they expired, and now those seven firefighters have to be retested and they have to remain in quarantine.

Meanwhile, the Life Center, Life Care Center nursing home there, 180 employees, 65 of them have symptoms, zero of them have been tested at all. If this is the first bad cluster and this is how the firefighters and employees --


TAPPER: -- are dealing with this, what does that say about the U.S. healthcare system?

GUPTA: Well, this is a failure of testing for sure. You know, there's no question about it. I mean, and, you know, Governor Cuomo said it, we're in the bottom tier really of the world where this is circulating in terms of testing, and that's a shame.


Look, I think there's many things about our healthcare system that can work really well. A public health system at full capacity can work really well. We may have limited resources to handle what's about to come. We can prepare for that sort of stuff. But one of the basic pillars of public health, the surveillance upon which so many other decisions are predicated, didn't work here, obviously. And it's terrible, I mean, I don't know how to justify that, I don't know that there's any excuse for it.

Obviously, again, Governor Cuomo, still, after all his conversations, people can't explain it. I've been interviewing people for six weeks on this now, Jake. I still don't understand exactly what happened here, why we failed so miserably with regard to testing.

TAPPER: Yes. It's in more than 30 states and Washington, D.C.

Coming up, the coronavirus pandemic having an impact on the presidential campaign trail tonight. We'll explain after the break.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper. We're following two major stories this hour. Super Tuesday II and the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the United States and around the world. Those two stories are colliding on the campaign trail right now.

I want to go to Abby Phillip covering Bernie Sanders' campaign.

Abby, Senator Sanders is canceling a rally tonight, correct?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it is the first time we have heard of a campaign event being canceled due to coronavirus concerns. But the campaign's spokesman Mike Casca says in a statement that after consultation with Ohio public health officials they have made the decision to cancel the rally that was planned for here in Cleveland, in just a few hours. Just a few blocks from where I'm standing right now.

A source tells CNN that Sanders made the decision to cancel this rally himself. This is after several days of saying that they've been consulting with public health officials wherever they go before hosting a rally. They had about 5,000 people RSVP'd to tonight's event. That's according to the campaign. So it was a major decision for them to do that but it was one that Bernie Sanders made himself.

Anderson, in recent days we have had many conversations with Sanders himself and with the campaign about what their plans were to adjust for the coronavirus. Sanders, a 70-something-year-old man who has prior health concerns, he had a heart attack several months ago, said that he is consulting with doctors all the time and that he is running for president and it takes a lot of work.

So he said that his personal routine has not changed much except that he is using perhaps a lot more hand sanitizer. But this is the most telling sign that the campaign is responding pretty aggressively to these growing concerns that these large indoor gatherings could pose a public health risk -- Anderson.

COOPER: Abby, thanks very much.

Want to go also to Jessica Dean covering Joe Biden's campaign.

What's the status of Biden's campaign events tonight?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're just hearing from their deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield that they are also canceling their rally here in Cleveland tonight. You see people were still setting up and kind of continuing to.

Let me read you what Kate Bedingfield said, "In accordance with guidance from public officials and out of abundance of caution, our rally in Cleveland, Ohio, tonight is canceled. We'll continue to consult with public health officials and public health guidance and make announcements about future events." She goes on to say that, in the coming days Biden will thank supporters here in Cleveland and they're going to have additional information on where he'll address the press tonight.

But, Anderson, we started to see yesterday at the event in Detroit, everyone that came in was getting squirts of hand sanitizers from volunteers and staffers there and trying to keep their hands as clean as possible as they came in. But the big news right now, Anderson, just hearing from the Biden campaign their event here in Cleveland will be canceled tonight out of an abundance of caution and over public headlight concerns -- Anderson. COOPER: Any sense moving forward or is this just for today?

DEAN: Yes, that's a great question. We're still kind of figuring that out. What Kate said is that they're going to kind of assess moving forward. We know he has events scheduled for the rest of the week. He's supposed to be in Phoenix for a debate over the weekend here on CNN.

So, Anderson, we'll see. We're hoping to learn more here in the next few hours about what they're planning ahead.

COOPER: Yes. Ohio's governor recommended rethinking these kind of events, obviously both campaigns making the decision that they have made to cancel events today there in Ohio.

Back now with our team. There are a lot of folks who have actually dealt with public health emergencies, Andrew Gillum here, Mayor Landrieu, and we actually have a doctor, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

Talk about what public health officials are going through, what the governor in New York is considering, how you get your arms around it.

MITCH LANDRIEU (D), FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Every governor in America, every mayor in America, every county executive right now is meeting with their emergency preparedness team, from their firefighters to their first responders, to their public health -- in this instance your public health officer would be your incident commander. And you're beginning to figure out exactly what you're supposed to do, when you're supposed to do it, how you're going to get it done.

There's a lot of clarity right now. There is a playbook here that works. Clear command and control. Clear coordination. Clear communication between all levels of government. And you have to be honest, you have to be transparent, and you have to have a high level of competence. Those are the things that really produce confidence. Right now there's a lot of uncertainty about who can get tested, when the tests are available, whether or not we're past containment and into mitigation. All of these things have to get cleared.

COOPER: But for all the talk about the vice president last week about a million tests going out by the end of the week --

LANDRIEU: Well, just to give you a scale of that, I mean, we have 330 million people in the country. This thing is going to spread, clearly everybody cannot get tested and there are not enough tests and there's not a protocol set up. If you don't have insurance, you can't get a test. You can't get a test if it's not prescribed by a doctor. And you certainly can't get it soon. And so that's not accurate information today. They could be getting ahead of it, but it's going to be a challenge for them.

COOPER: Doctor?

[16:45:06] DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, SANDERS SUPPORTER: Yes, to piggyback off what the mayor said, I think that's entirely right. Even if you have these tests, you need to triage them to the highest probability of action. There's a saying in medicine that you don't run a test the outcome to which you can't respond. And so you've got to put the test where they're most useful. And the fact that we're so behind this is a real issue.

And one of the things people need to understand about containment is that containment literally means tracing every single individual who's plausibly exposed to the virus and then finding their contacts and tracing them. What you have to be able to do is rule out the negative cases, and say, look, we're going to stop tracing them because we tested them and we found them to be negative. But without that capacity, you've just got to assume everybody is a presumptive case.

But if they're a presumptive case, you have to keep tracing, which means that you very quickly overwhelm your ability to contact trace. And that's where we find ourselves and these mitigation strategies are really about saying, well, look, once we've overrun that ability out of an abundance of caution, we have to reduce the potential that somebody could be spreading it to another and that really is where we are right now.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more immediately on the coronavirus with our experts. We'll be right back.



COOPER: And we're back with our special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Two more deaths were just reported in Washington state bringing the total up to 29. That's nationwide in the United States, 29 fatalities thus far.

Back now with our panel.

Mayor Gillum, you look at what the governor is doing in New Rochelle, which is an unusually large cluster. Does it make sense to you?

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FORMER TALLAHASSEE MAYOR: I mean, obviously the governor has got to do what he's got to do to keep the people in his community safe. What I think he is demonstrating, however, is a lot of our attention is toward what the president is doing, what the federal administration is doing, which I think is critically important, and there have been a lot of missteps.

But state government and local government right now are our strongest holdups against the spread of this virus as well as the containment of the virus. Right now, as Mayor Landrieu mentioned before, my home state of Florida, 67 counties, you have 67 different tables that are convening where you have schools, nonprofits, hospitals, all the cities, municipalities that are located there, first responders, and they're right now plotting through how it is that they will contain the spread of this disease should their communities be impacted by it, which what I would say to folks is, don't be distracted, overly distracted, rather, by some of the chaos that we may see happening in Washington.

I trust that it will come under control. But do listen to your local officials, your mayors, your superintendents of schools. Those individuals have a good handle on how it is that local communities can respond.

COOPER: Let me ask you too, because this is something I've been wondering and I get a lot of e-mails from people about this, and tweets and stuff, which is, there's this, you know, on the one hand you look at it and people say, well, OK, it's going to be like a bad flu, 2 percent mortality rate overall perhaps, although we don't exactly know because we don't know what the total number of cases actually is, but for most people, the vast majority of people, not the elderly, it will be kind of a flu, a bad flu in some capacity.

If that is the case, then some people look at that and say, well, that doesn't seem so bad, why -- you know, for the flu, we don't have schools closing, we don't have these drastic measures, the National Guard coming in. Why -- is this an overreaction or what is that missing out on?

EL-SAYED: Let me just put this in context. So the flu kills thousands of people a year. It's a terrible disease and we really ought to be doing all of the things we're talking about doing to prevent it.

COOPER: Half of Americans do not get the flu shot.

EL-SAYED: Right. Right. And those are things we have to do. The thing about this disease, though, right, is that there's a difference in the experience of coronavirus. If you're young and healthy versus if you're older and if you have chronic disease. So overall, the mortality rate is 2 percent but that's driven by a very high mortality rate, one in six among people who are over 80 and people with underlying chronic disease. And so public health is --

COOPER: So it's much higher for them.

EL-SAYED: Much higher for them. And the only way we protect them is we prevent the spread to them. And so public health is about all of us collectively coming together to keep our society safe. And so for folks, I hear, I say, look, yes, for you it may not be that serious but for us it's going to be a lot worse and we have a responsibility to do the things that we need to do to prevent those of us who are most vulnerable and those who are seniors and people --

COOPER: And with a death toll that high in the elderly population, the potential is it would overwhelm hospital resources.

EL-SAYED: Absolutely.

LANDRIEU: No, I'm just saying that if you just count the numbers, you know, we say it's just 2 percent, 2 percent is a large number of people. And you asked how many hospital beds --

COOPER: And that's 2 percent overall. In the elderly population, you're talking a much higher percentage.

EL-SAYED: Yes. There's no question about it.

LANDRIEU: Fifteen percent mortality rates. Look, we don't want people to panic and it is accurate that 80 percent of the people that get touched by this are going to be OK. But in the other 20 percent, this has the potential to upset our institutions. It's already having upset with the public health system, the economic system. We're going to see the healthcare system through a new prism. It is going to be something that is with us longer than I think people expect.

COOPER: So when -- I mean, I was reading what the president was saying, he said today, you know, it will go away, just stay calm, it will go away. We want to protect -- he talked about the shipping, airline, cruise industry, but everybody has to be vigilant, has to be careful, but be calm. It's working out, a lot of good things are going to happen. The consumer is ready, it's going to go away.

LANDRIEU: Well, it is true that the admonition that people should be calm and not panic is the correct thing. But the notion that somehow it's just magically going to disappear is not going to occur. It's going to appear to get worse because we're going to do more testing and there's a reason to believe that the more testing you do, the more positives you're going to have. And so we have to manage it but you have to be vigilant and it's going to be an all-hands-on-deck issue for the country.

EL-SAYED: The president is used to being able to drive the news cycle. And unfortunately you can't drive biology. And so, yes, people should be calm. They should be focused on their leaders which, as the mayor noted, in this case are the state and local leaders who've got a real handle on what's happening on the ground.


I do want to say a couple of things, though. Our public health infrastructure in this country has been decimated since the great recession. We haven't built it back up. And the thing about public health is that it's the thing that's quietly operating in the background to keep you safe. I remember when this had first emerged, and I had done a couple of interviews about coronavirus, I said, you know, it's going to be OK, because our public health infrastructure is fantastic.

I didn't appreciate the point to which it had been decimated under this administration. And a failure to lead at the top creates a whole lot of chaos because people are looking for some sense of how we make sense of the situation. They're not finding it from the usual suspects.

COOPER: All right, still ahead, we're going to talk to the mayor of New Rochelle, New York, about urgent efforts to contain the coronavirus in that community. The National Guard is being deployed. Stay with us.