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NY Governor Cuomo Holds News Conference On Coronavirus; E.R. Physician, Dr. Leana Wen, Reacts To Cuomo's Press Conference; School Closures Affect Millions Of Students Nationwide; Former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Discusses Impact Of Closing Schools. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 11:30   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Counties with new cases today, Allegheny, Onondaga, Ontario and Wyoming. You see the spread continues.

Most impact states in the United States, we're now at 950, number one in the country. And 676 for Washington State.

Again, these cases are more an example of how many tests you're doing and who you're testing rather than a raw number of cases in that


Our deaths have increased to seven. Washington is the next highest at 42. Total deaths in the United States, 67.

Hospitalizations are 158 out of 950. That's 17 percent of the cases.

When we talk about hospital capacity, just take that 17 percent and it's always, if you notice, 14 percent, 15 percent, 16 percent, 17 percent. Run that 17 percent against whatever you think the total infected population will be. And then compare that to our hospital capacity.

And that will keep you up at nights. Hence, the situation that Dr. Zooker and myself and my colleagues are in.

Again, perspective, perspective, perspective. I went through the numbers in Italy. I went through the numbers in South Korea and China last night. You look at all these numbers, they're the same story. You look at the deaths in New York, it's the same story.

People who had underlying illnesses, if they got the flu in a normal season, they would be in grave trouble. Instead they got the coronavirus, and they had existing illnesses and they passed away.

Remember, before any of this, somebody would pass away in a hospital, an older person, and you would say, how did they die, and they would say pneumonia. You would say, pneumonia? How did they catch pneumonia? Well, it wasn't really pneumonia, it was they had heart disease, they had emphysema, they were struggling with cancer. Then the pneumonia becomes an accelerant to a bad situation.

That's what's happening here.

Any of my colleagues, additional points?

KPR, why don't you make them. Melissa?


CUOMO: Robert?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said that gyms will be closed. Can you elaborate on that? And also, did you confer with city hall and Mayor De Blasio on this? Because he was at the gym this morning, and just wondering if he knew about the fact you're going to close the gym.

CUOMO: He can be in the gym this morning. You can be in the gym this afternoon. You can be in the gym this evening. You just can't be in the gym after 8:00.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So you can go to the gym as it is already with social distancing?

CUOMO: Yes, you can use the gym.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you use the gym?

CUOMO: Are you asking me if I go to a public gym?


CUOMO: I have my own workout routine that I have developed over a number of years that I do alone. So I don't do it in a gymnasium.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, have you heard back from the White House about the matter of deploying the Army corps of engineers?

CUOMO: We're having ongoing conversations. None have been conclusive.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the overall prediction or projection for the number of people who could potentially get this in New York? And what's the overall projection for the need for hospital beds? I know we've got like a cap of 50,000 or so beds, but what's the need looking like at this point?

CUOMO: It's an unfair question for Commissioner Zooker because it's anyone's guess.

But I will recommend this to you. Google that question and you will get a range from 40 percent to 80 percent of the population. Merkel said, what, 70 percent? So 60 percent of her population. So 40 percent to 60 percent.

Take 40 percent to 60 percent of 18 million, take a hospitalization rate of our sample of about 17 percent, and then compare that to 50,000 hospital beds. You will then break out in a sweat, maybe hives. You will feel great anxiety, panic attack, and you'll be right.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A warning and a call to action. And an announcement of a lot of measures and action being taken by New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, right there.

He's going to continue taking questions. But we have a lot to work through as these are just more Announcements rolling in from New York's governor and also other governors throughout the country while we were watching this press conference.

Let me get over to Brynn Gingras. She's been following the very latest on these new Announcements coming from New York, coming from New Jersey and Connecticut.

Brynn, we just heard new restrictions and new actions being put in place just now from Andrew Cuomo. What's the top line?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and this has been how the governor has acted. Essentially, really, it's important to know, Kate, he said we have to do this because criticizing the federal government saying they're not doing enough.

And really, the big headlines that come out of this, Kate, is the fact that the three states, the tri-states, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, have banded together and sort of said that they are now going to shut down a lot of places in order to really get control of this coronavirus.

So, essentially, restaurants that sell food, they'll be able to do takeout-only orders. Bars that don't sell food, just alcohol, well, they're going to close, as are gyms, movie theaters, casinos.

And the idea here, as Cuomo nicely put it, was that someone in New York, if they don't like the fact that the bars are closed in New York, they can just head on over to New Jersey and go drinking there. They want to really mitigate that process. They said that's the next phase of this.

Honestly, at this point, Kate, I've been on this over a week, I feel like each day is a new phase. We're seeing more and more restrictions.

New Jersey taking an additional step saying they're going to have a curfew in place for the entire state. That means non-essential employees who don't have to go to work between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., everyone must stay in their homes.

The governor there, Cuomo, saying we need more states to participate. It needs to be a united effort in a sense.

During his phone call with the tri-state governors, we're hearing that Governor Murphy, from New Jersey, is going to ask the Pennsylvania governor to possibly participate in this as well. Is this the beginning now of a rolling effect? We shall see. But a lot

of restrictions now put in place certainly for the tri-state area.

BOLDUAN: Already seeing Announcements coming in in regard to shutting down the restaurants and bars. A lot more coming in from other states just as we were on air listening to Andrew Cuomo announce these new measures.

Brynn, thank you so much.

Let me bring in, for some perspective on this, Dr. Leana Wen. She's an emergency room physician, former Boston City health commissioner.

Doctor, thank you very much.

I hope you got a chance to listen to some of what the governor was announcing there.

I wanted to get your reaction first and foremost to kind of the scope of what Governor Cuomo and the tri-state governors are kind of announcing here. Things are shutting down. They're putting restrictions on where people can go and when.

And then Andrew Cuomo explaining that he has to take the aggressive action now because of his fear of what he's calling the wave if they -- the wave that is going to be hitting the hospital system if action isn't taken to slow the spread of the virus.

What do you think of these measures they're putting in place?

DR. LEANA WEN, E.R. PHYSICIAN & FORMER BOSTON CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: They are exactly what we need at this point in time. We have a very narrow window that's closing. We only have a window of a few weeks where we can stop this sudden escalation of the cases of coronavirus. We're already seeing this.

At this rate, we'll be overwhelming our hospitals. They're not going to have enough beds. They're not going to have enough ventilators and we won't be able to take care of our patients.

We have a very narrow window to prevent that from happening. And we can only do that by keeping people at home away from social gatherings.

We're seeing increasing restrictions in different parts of the country that are a bit piecemeal. We really need a federal coordinated response. But at least governors are taking responses into their own hands.

And I would say, as individual citizens, we have to do our part, too. If schools are closed, we shouldn't be sending our kids out on playdates. That negates the point of school closures. We should not be getting together for dinner parties and birthday celebrations.

We have to stay at home to protect our loved ones. Because if we're at home, the virus has nowhere else to transmit. And that's how we're going to contain this epidemic.

BOLDUAN: I spoke to the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics last night who was so kind to jump on the phone with me for these questions. She said, remember, this is not a snow day when it comes to how you need to be reacting when it comes to your children and school closures.

You hit on something I want to get your take on, leaning on your experience as a health official in Baltimore. The rule of local and state governments and the federal government, Andrew Cuomo said very clearly we're now going to have one set of rules for the entire state and it should be one set of rules for the entire nation, meaning we need the federal government to play its part.


You have the federal government, you have Mike Pence, he's had basically daily briefings, if not more than one over the weekend and will continue today.

Where specifically, in this critical moment you're talking about, where does the federal government need to step up more where you're not seeing it?

WEN: Testing, we've been talking about a lot. I think that's a logical one we just don't have a test --


BOLDUAN: Yes, and which is so frustrating as to why we still have to ask that question of, where is the testing. Despite all the promises, it's kind of remarkable to have to ask, where are the tests and why can't these things be put out there and processed faster. I'm hearing from doctors myself that they have not seen a change.

WEN: That's right. And patients are really frustrated and are showing up in E.R.s and clogging up the waiting rooms in the E.R.s and effectively affecting other people because they need answers, too.

We need the federal government to say, here's exactly what needs to happen. The CDC issued guidelines yesterday, last night about not having gatherings for more than 50 people.

We need very clear guidelines like that because, otherwise, we're going to have piecemeal approaches, depending on the city or the county you live in. That doesn't make any sense, because if schools are closed in one area but not another, how are we going to stop the virus from spreading across the U.S.?

BOLDUAN: Real quickly, Doctor, on the CDC guideline of no gatherings, of no guidance that people shouldn't be having any gatherings of 50 people or more, at first, it was gatherings of a thousand people, then 500 people, then 250 people depending on what official you were talking to.

Is there something specific, unique, special about 50 people gathering that 49 people gathering together makes it safe?

WEN: I think that is a ballpark figure. And ultimately, the idea should be nobody should be gathering except for family members and essential purposes, as in hospitals workers still have to be in close spaces, but not others.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right.

Well, a lot more restrictions. It sure seems like a domino snowball rolling effect we'll be seeing at least on the state and local level. We'll see what comes out of the White House this evening.

Doctor, thank you, as always, for coming in and giving your perspective. I appreciate it.

Coming up for us this hour, 10 million students are now out of class as over 30 states have closed schools. And 30 states have closed schools at this point, guys. Some officials warn that schools could stay closed for the rest of the academic year. We're going to talk to a former secretary of education about the impact on America's children, next.



BOLDUAN: Turning now to the widespread school closures in America right now. It is all aimed at not only protecting children but also to trying to slow the spread of the virus among the entire community. Thirty-three states have closed schools. And some officials warn that they could stay that way through the rest of the school year. Listen.


GOV. MIKE DEVINE (R-OH): We've told schools that we have closed for three weeks that the odds are this is going to go on a lot longer, and it would not surprise me at all if schools did not open this year.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I've been very honest about the fact that there's a real possibility that by closing our schools now we may not have the opportunity to reopen them in this full school year.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Martin Savidge is near a high school in Atlanta.

Martin, what's the latest you're hearing about all of this?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Kate. The whole thing here is that you have about 25 million students roughly across the country now that are not attending schools.

And embedded in that population are millions of students who daily used to rely on government food programs. This would be like lunch and breakfast. Many school systems, like the Fulton school system here, are trying to continue to keep that important food going.

Looking behind me, you can see their setup. The way it works, there are six distribution points now set up throughout Fulton County in which every Monday and Wednesday and on Fridays, they are distributing meals to students.

The students have to be present in the vehicle, but they are given one hot meal. On top of that, they're given cold lunches and breakfasts, which will carry them through to Wednesday, then Wednesday they come back and repeat and then they'll do the same on Friday.

There are about a thousand meals that have been prepared at this one location.

So far, the flow of traffic has been very slow. Not that many people showing up. There's also a walkup point. Even though it's slow, it doesn't mean it isn't going to be needed eventually.

Here's one grandparent's perspective that I talked to.


PAT YEARTA, CONCERNED GRANDPARENT: The parents can't afford to get the food. Yes, there's food stamps, but they do run out. So I think it's a good program that they're offering to the kids. They're entitled to it. And they should have it. If the parent can't get up here, they should find a way or send somebody to get it for them.


SAVIDGE: This is a program that was very similar to one adopted by the Fulton County schools in the summertime. They've merely had to accelerate it.

Something else they're working on, Kate, they know, of course, the food is only for students. And that means there are other family members that could be going hungry.

So Fulton County schools are working with the Atlanta food bank and other food distribution people to try to get food so they can have for other family members as well when they show up. That's still in the works right now -- Kate?


BOLDUAN: That's why this consideration of closing schools is such a serious one because it is so complicated.

Martin, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now is Arne Duncan. He was the secretary of education during the Obama administration.

And importantly for this discussion, you were ahead of the Chicago of schools for years.

It's really great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

When you hear what Martin is laying out there, that millions of kids are out of school and millions of kids are not able to get more than one meal, breakfast and lunch because they are underserved families and that's the only way they're going to get those meals, what is the first thing you think and what is your first concern?

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: Well, Kate, I was the guy in Chicago of 7.5 years, never had a snow day and never took a day off. Frankly, I was proud of that.

This is a very, very different time. So about 30 states closed schools and about 30 million kids out of school. But it does not mean learning stops or feeding kids stops or taking care of family stops.

Over the weekend, I talked to the superintendents in Boston and L.A. and New York and Chicago. They are so thoughtful and smart and committed. They're working hard.

We have to think differently and every crisis provides an opportunity. You have schools now as food distribution centers. You have Chicago giving out three-days-worth of food to students. You have Cleveland using bus routes to drop both homework and food along the way.

And so we have absence of leadership, unfortunately, at the federal level. But as Governor Cuomo was talking, we have wonderful governors coordinating and we have wonderful school superintendents and public health officials working together to do the right thing by kids.

I am really hopeful of what we can do to continue to serve children and their families.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned the role of the federal government here. I've got two questions on that front.

To be honest, Betsy DeVos is the current secretary of education -- has not been front and center in the response to the coronavirus that the federal government has been putting forth, not at these briefings and not speaking out at these briefings with task force where Mike Pence is leading the charge.

What should her role be? What would you have been doing?

DUNCAN: Well, this is an absence of leadership at the federal level. There's no competence, credibility and interests and accountability. Again, we have great governors and great local officials stepping up. That's where the trust is. That's who's telling the truth. That's who are trying to solve problems. And that's where my focus is today.

BOLDUAN: One head of education policy for Teachers College here in New York told me last week that his gut tells him that there's going to be -- and these are his words -- quote, unquote, "zero learning" during this period of time when kids are out of school.

If kids don't go back to school for the rest of the academic year, as some officials as we know are suggesting, what does it mean? DUNCAN: I fundamentally disagree with that. It is a different way of

learning. We've had online learning for long time. We saw in Boston every child is sent home are a Chrome book. Teachers work so hard every single day culling the Internet for great lessons and so many free resources.

And again, I think you will see a combination of high-tech -- you have in South Bend, Indiana, neighborhoods that don't have access to wi-fi, they're putting wi-fi on buses and parking them in those neighborhoods to enable that.

You will see high-tech answer and you'll see low-tech answer.

You'll see, in L.A., they're using public television to transmit lessons. We have "Sesame Street" that could come back now. We're having some conversations there last night.

So learning will absolutely continue. Feeding kids and families will absolutely continue. Taking care of families will absolutely continue. We'll see it happening in different ways.

And you can see schools superintendents work together. They'll make some mistakes. There are some real challenges here.


DUNCAN: Children living in homeless shelters, children with disabilities, vulnerable populations. How do you make that extra touch, extra reach out to them?


DUNCAN: But they're talking and communicating. We'll see some real successes and replicate those. We'll see failures and we'll fail fast and learn from that together.

So learning will absolutely continue, starting today, across the country.

I will also say that while basically half the schools are closed, in the not-too-distance future, as soon as this week, you may see all the schools in our country closed. And again, nobody wants to see that --


BOLDUAN: I mean, at this point, does it almost feel inevitable to you?

DUNCAN: I think it is. I think it, honestly, should happen. I am not a doctor. But the only way I know how to stop spreading a disease is to stop spreading it. We need to have social distancing.

Frankly, it is a little counterintuitive, but it's the truth. The faster we shutdown things and the faster we close schools, the faster we'll be able to open them down the road with confidence that our children and our teachers be safe.


So we have to work together and be thoughtful here. But, again, continue to innovate the team to create, continue to help each other. And I am really, really hopeful that we'll do that collectively to solve problems and take care of kids and their families.

BOLDUAN: I am going to take a little bit of your optimism and bank on that today as it is hard to find the bright in a lot of the darkness that we are seeing and with every number and every bit of anxiety that continues to grow in this story. But I will take what you are saying and we'll end with it today.

Thank you for coming in today, Secretary. I really appreciate it.

Thank you all so much for being here.

DUNCAN: Thanks for having me, too.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

Thank you.