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CNN NEWSROOM

Live Coverage of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Press Conference; Interview with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Interview with Amazon's Jay Carney. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: -- pneumonia on top of that, that's the coronavirus. They need to be intubated, they need an ICU bed, and that's the challenge. And that is -- remains the challenge.

And the numbers are daunting. What are we doing? Everything we can. First, flatten the curve. Continue to flatten the curve so you reduce that peak demand. We announced dramatic closings yesterday to reduce the density. It's possible we will be doing more dramatic closings. Not today, but I'm talking to the other governors in the other states.

Showing that expected flow into the hospitals, it's clear we can't manage that flow. How can you reduce the flow? You reduce the spread. How do you reduce the spread? You close down more interaction among people. How do you close down more interaction? Well, yesterday, we closed the bars, the gyms, et cetera. You would continue to close down things such as businesses.

Italy got to the point where the only things they left open were grocery stores and pharmacies. Those are essential services. But they closed down everything else. We're not there yet, but I am telling you, we have to get down that rate of spread. Because whatever we do on the hospital side, we cannot accommodate the numbers, that demand on the hospital system.

So again, we just enacted rules yesterday. We're not enacting any other rules today, but it is very possible because the numbers, as you'll see in a moment, are still going up. Whatever rules we come up with will be statewide rules.

Hopefully, it could be done with our surrounding states because the best way to do this is uniformity, no shopping, among states, among cities, among counties. Everybody lives with the same rules so we don't have people on the road, going back and forth, trying to game the system.

At the same time that you're trying to reduce the numbers coming into the hospitals, you're trying to increase the capacity of the hospitals. How do you do that? The hospital surge capacity. What is the surge capacity? Getting the existing hospitals to hold more people. Right now, there are rules and regulations about how many people can

be in a hospital, how many people per room, how many square feet per bed, et cetera. That's for normal operating conditions. These are not normal operating conditions. We're examining the entire hospital system, what is the maximum capacity per hospital. If Department of Health waives their spatial rules, how many people can you get into hospitals?

There is a meeting today with all the hospital administrators that I've asked Michael Dowling and Ken Raske to run. Michael Dowling is a former deputy secretary for Health and Human Services, former health commissioner. Michael Dowling worked for my father as a health commissioner, I've known him 30 years, he's extraordinary.

Ken Raske, the same, represents all the hospitals, sitting down with the hospitals, saying, change your headset, this is not about how you normally do business. Frankly, forget the economics, what's the maximum number of people we can get into your hospitals and what do you need to do that and what equipment do you need to do that and what staff do you need to do that?

We're going back to retired staff, and we're asking them to contact us at this website, health.ny.gov/assistance, to get former nurses, former doctors to sign up to be on call. We're also going to medical schools, nursing schools to try to get additional medical personnel.

And then we're talking about temporary construction of medical facilities. Obviously, when you're talking about 45 days, you have a limited capacity of what you can actually get done.

But I'm working with governments and organizations all across the state right now, how do we set up temporary hospital facilities. Even if they're not intensive care units, you can take people who are in the hospital beds, move them into a temporary medical care facility, and then backfill the bed. We're also working with FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Guard and the building trades, unions to help us on this issue.

[10:35:36]

The numbers -- total people tested to date, we're up to 10,000 people, which is obviously exponentially higher than it was and it's continuing to grow. Positive cases, up to 1,300. New positive, 432. Number of counties with cases continues to grow: Clinton County, Rensselaer County have been added to that.

Our cases are again, number one in the nation. Our number of deaths, now up to 12; 264 out of the cases are hospitalized. That's a hospitalization rate of 19 percent. That's higher than the normative hospitalization rate, which is at about 15 percent. But the 19 percent is higher.

Again, keep this all in focus with what we know, the facts we know of what this disease does and what the impact is, which is the Johns Hopkins study, which has tracked every case since China. A couple of other points, and then we'll take your questions. We have

-- we'll open today in Nassau County, a drive-through testing office. We opened one in New Rochelle, it worked very well. We'll open Nassau today. We're going to open a Suffolk drive-through testing office, and we're going to open a Staten Island drive-through testing office.

We're going to send up the paid family leave bill to the legislature today. I believe we have a three-way agreement on that. It will also have a provision to cover all people who are quarantined, and we will be doing that also. We'll also be opening a Rockland drive-through testing facility.

Two other points. One, this is an extraordinary time in this nation's history. It will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion and chaos. I lived through 9/11, I remember the fear and the panic that existed in 9/11, where a single moment, your whole concept of life and society can be shaken, where you need to see government perform at its best, you need to see people at their best.

Everybody's afraid, everybody's nervous. How you respond, how you act? This is a character test for all of us individually. It's a character test for us collectively, as a society. What did you do at that moment, when all around you lost their head, right? Rudyard Kipling. That is this moment.

What does government do in this moment? It steps up, it performs, it does what it's supposed to do. It does it better than it's ever done it before. What does government not do? It does not engage in politics or partisanship.

Even if you are in the midst of an election season, even if you are at a moment in time, in history where you have hyper-partisanship -- which we now have -- the president of the United States, Donald Trump, it is essential that the federal government works with this state and that this state works with the federal government. We cannot do this on our own.

I've built airports, I built bridges. We have made this government do things that it's never done before. This government has done somersaults, it's performed better than ever before. I am telling you, this government cannot meet this crisis without the resources and capacity of the federal government.

[10:40:16]

I spoke to the president this morning again. He is ready, willing and able to help. I've been speaking with members of this staff late last night, early this morning. We need their help, especially on the hospital capacity issue. We need FEMA, FEMA has tremendous resources. When I was at HUD, I worked with FEMA. I know what they can do, I know what the Army Corps of Engineers can do. They have a capacity that we simply do not have.

I said to the president -- who is a New Yorker, who I've known for many, many years -- I put my hand out in partnership. I want to work together 100 percent. I need your help, I want your help. And New Yorkers will do everything they can to be good partners with the federal government.

I think the president was 100 percent sincere in saying that he wanted to work together in partnership, in a spirit of cooperation. I can tell you the actions he has taken evidence that. His team has been on it. I know a team when they're on it, and I know a team when they're not on it. His team is on it.

They've been responsive late at night, early in the morning. And they've thus far been doing everything that they can do, and I want to say thank you and I want to say that I appreciate it. And they will have nothing but cooperation and partnership from the State of New York.

And we're not Democrats and we're not Republicans, we are Americans at the end of the day, that's who we are. And that's who we are when we are at our best. So this hyper-sensitivity about politics and reading every comment and wanting to pit one against the other, there's no time for this. The president is doing the right thing in offering to step up with New York. And I appreciate it. And New York will do the right thing in return.

Also, on a personal level, this is -- we use the word "disruption," it's such a clinical antiseptic word, it's a period of disruption. Life is turned upside-down, it's just turned upside-down. Remember those snow globes when you were a kid, and you -- you shook the globe and the snow went all over and the whole picture changed as soon as you picked up and shook that snow globe?

Somebody picked up our country and just shook it and turned it upside- down and it's all chaotic and things are flying all over and there's new information and there's mixed information and people don't know what to do and businesses are closing the rules change every minute and can I go out, can I not go out, how do I get the virus, how do I not get the virus. And now, I'm at home. And I'm stuck at home and the kids are at home.

And then there's a whole component to this, don't touch anyone, don't hug, don't kiss. We're human beings, that interaction is so important to us, that emotional affirmation is so important to us. And now you have all these weighty decisions. Should I go out, should I not go out? Is this safe for my kids, is this not safe for my kids? I'm stuck in my house.

I've used my experience just as a metaphor to communicate and relate. Having the kids in the house, sounds great, having the kids in the house. Yay, the kids are in the house.

I remember when my kids were young, I was divorced, my kids were three girls, six -- six and seven and eight years old. Six and seven and eight years old in a small apartment in Manhattan? That's a lot of fun and then that gets old very fast, right? The claustrophobia just sets in. Sets in for the kids, but set in for me.

[10:45:02] What I would do then is, I would go to my mother and father's apartment, which was also in Manhattan because it was -- to get out of my apartment. And I would go to my mother and father's apartment, and they had a little apartment in Manhattan. And my mother was magic with the girls, and she would play with them and she could play with them all day, my mother. My mother was pure sugar. She was just pure love, my mother.

But I'd be there for a couple of hours, and I'd be sitting there with my father. We'd sit on the couch, and we'd watch a ball game. And after a couple of hours -- now, the kids are running around and the kids are picking up this and they're picking up this and they're picking up his picture frame and they're -- my father's saying, put that down, put that down, don't touch that, don't touch this.

After a couple of hours, my father would say, I think you have to go work now, pal.

And I would say, no, dad, I don't have to go to work.

No, no, I think you have to go to work now, pal.

You know. Having all the kids in that tight environment, that's very stressful. That's why yesterday, we said all the fees on all the parks are waived. Get out of the house, go to a state park. We have beautiful state parks. By the way, traffic is down. Put the kids in the car, go to a state park, go to a county park, go to a city park, Shirley Chisholm Park in Brooklyn is beautiful, it's open, it's air, the weather's getting better. Spend the time with the kids.

There's also tension among families. I mentioned my mother, who is numerically a senior citizen, although not in her reality. I wanted her to stay home, I want her to be isolated. She's my mom, I want her protected.

One of my siblings said, I want to take Mom to my house and we're going to have a party at my house and I want her to see the kids, et cetera. I said, that's a mistake, you shouldn't do that. You should let Mom stay home. I'm more protective. The sibling was saying, I want to take Mom, she wants to get out of the apartment, expose her to the kids. I said, you don't know, all you need is one kid.

All day long, all I hear about is somebody coming up to me, saying, I didn't know. But my daughter was with this person, bah, bah, bah. So I can even see the tensions in the families. And that's real, too --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: OK, important updates from New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo there. Here are the highlights. He says all focus now is on the health care system in New York, which has the most cases in the United States right now. An update, 12 deaths in New York State, over 1,300 cases.

And he said if the peak is 45 days or so from now, we will need essentially double the amount of hospital beds available than what we have in New York City. So their focus is there now. And he complimented the president and his team, saying they have been responsive, they are on it.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator, I know we only have you for a few minutes here, but if I could just get your reaction to the latest developments here, and an update for everyone waiting for you guys to pass this Families First bill. Is it going to happen, and in what form?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I don't know the answer about timing in the Senate; it's in the hands of Senator McConnell. He received the entire package last night, it's ready to be voted on immediately and we should do it and as soon as possible.

HARLOW: OK.

DURBIN: It could have been considered by unanimous consent even a few days ago, but right now there's no need for delay. We should move on it quickly. Members are here, staff is here, let's get it done.

You were up in arms on the Senate floor last night, saying we shouldn't have to be flying back and forth for this and waiting and, you know, risking our families and other staff. Can you just tell me, there seems to have been a change in the bill overnight that would lessen the protection, the family leave protection for workers and would only include those who have to stay home to take care of their children, would not include a lot of first responders, et cetera. Is that true?

DURBIN: That's my understanding, and I can tell you, the White House negotiated that part. You can understand, the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi and others would like to expand medical leave coverage as much as possible. We -- I think the analysis, early analysis says about a fourth of American workers would be covered by this bill, it should be expanded.

But let's grab this part, take it now --

HARLOW: Right.

DURBIN: -- and the other provisions that are included, and then move into the third bill in this package as quickly as possible. I hope we can expand medical leave in that bill.

HARLOW: OK. Senator Dick Durbin, I know you have to go in about 30 seconds so I'm going to let you do that. We'll have you back to ask you the rest of the questions that we had planned for you. I appreciate your work. Thank you very much for your time.

[10:49:48]

Quick break. On the other side, we'll get back to Jay Carney from Amazon, talk about their discussions potentially with the White House on all of this, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, we're back to the news we were covering a moment ago. Amazon just announced they're hiring 100,000 new workers in the middle of this crisis. Back with us, Jay Carney. Jay, thanks for waiting. I appreciate it.

I want to get right to the conversations the president alluded to yesterday, saying he believes the Jeff Bezos has been in touch with the White House and that you guys are talking to them about what you can do in the middle of this crisis. Can you fill us in on those discussions, what it means?

JAY CARNEY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL CORPORATE AFFAIRS AT AMAZON: Well, sure. Jeff Bezos, Jeff has been in touch with folks in the White House. So have other senior members of leadership on both the Amazon retail side, our logistics network, our grocery network as well as AWS, our cloud computing division.

So we've been engaged with the administration, with the White House, with Congress, trying to brainstorm with them about ways that we can be helpful, ways that we can ensure both the security and safety of our employees --

HARLOW: Yes, right.

CARNEY: -- but also ensure that we can get the needed goods to our customers.

HARLOW: Well, here's why I ask because you guys are not only one of the biggest distributors in the world, in the country, but a big producer. And when we're facing a shortage of medical supplies here in this country, is there talk of a public-private partnership between the federal government and Amazon to ramp up production of the things we're going to need the most here?

CARNEY: Well, we haven't -- we don't manufacture goods, we certainly are a retailer --

HARLOW: But bringing them. Yes.

CARNEY: -- but as you know, nearly 60 percent of what you see on Amazon.com is actually not Amazon retailer, it's third-party sellers.

We're working closely with our sellers to prioritize the shipment of and delivery of needed supplies, medical supplies, household goods and the like. We're taking that action now in our fulfillment centers, to create that prioritization.

And we're working directly with our suppliers for Amazon retail --

HARLOW: Sure.

CARNEY: -- Amazon inventory to do the same.

HARLOW: OK.

CARNEY: Obviously there's a great demand for these products and we want to make sure customers get them. HARLOW: There are some Amazon warehouse workers around the world -- the report has been in Spain and Italy -- that have tested positive for coronavirus. Are you changing your worker protocols to protect workers more? Because you've seen, I know, this petition from workers that want to see more protective measures in the warehouse.

CARNEY: We have changed our procedures to enhance the amount of cleaning, to increase the amount of social distancing, to limit the amount of congregation that takes place in our fulfillment centers.

I can't remember, Poppy, if you visited one but our fulfillment centers --

HARLOW: I did.

CARNEY: -- are remarkably -- they're quite large. And while they employ many, many people, the sheer distance between employees is actually useful in this case, to ensure social distancing.

When we have had a handful of cases so far of employees testing positive, we're doing everything we can to make sure they're taken care of, they're getting health care, they're getting paid leave and they're getting quarantined.

HARLOW: Finally, one of the ironies in this is that it actually is -- it's good for Amazon's business, that's why you need to hire more workers. But it also could result in a number of bankruptcies for smaller and medium-size businesses.

[10:55:02]

And I know you're putting $5 million in a relief fund toward those businesses in Seattle. What about nationally? I guess does Amazon feel sort of a moral responsibility to step in and help those small businesses that actually could go out of business because of this?

CARNEY: Well, we do feel a moral responsibility overall for our customers, who are many, many millions of Americans and citizens around the world, as well as our sellers. And we have millions of small businesses who sell in our store, who stock our shelves and get goods to our customers and we're doing everything we can to partner with them, to bolster them.

You mentioned what we're doing in Seattle, and we're taking as many actions as we can and we're brainstorming every day in meetings with leadership about ways that we can do better and do well by our partners.

HARLOW: We'll watch for all of that. Jay Carney, appreciate your time. Good luck to everyone --

CARNEY: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: -- and your employees, I appreciate it.

CARNEY: You, too. You, too, Poppy. HARLOW: Quick break, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)