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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: Mandating That No Non-Essential Business Can Have More Than 50 Percent Of Workforce Reporting For Duty Outside Home; White House Updates Public On United States Coronavirus Response; President Donald Trump: We Will Invoke Defense Protection Act Against Coronavirus; Donald Trump Promises News Conference Later Today Or Tomorrow With Important Coronavirus News From The FDA; President Donald Trump: Coronavirus Testing Capacity Being Expanded. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 12:00   ET




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It is just like the flu the body has to develop its own immunity to that virus. We've been doing this testing just to slow the spread.

And again, it's what I said to my sister, keep her away from mom. Don't go into a nursing home. Don't go into a senior care facility. Don't expose a person who's immune-compromised, who's recovering from cancer, who has emphysema, who has a respiratory illness. That's all this is. We're going to go to work. Thank you very much.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Listened to the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo in Albany, his team discussing state responses to the coronavirus. We're also waiting for a White House briefing scheduled to begin any moment now. The federal response will be front and center there.

We expect the President to be part of that. He tweeted out this morning that he had some news he wanted to share with the American people today. That should be just moments from now alongside the coronavirus White House Task Force. The scheduled noontime briefing comes, of course, amid a big Washington push, both for progress on the health crisis, but also on the economic crisis.

The White House now asking for a stimulus package that has a giant price tag. You heard, if you were listening to Governor Cuomo, that you also heard a grave analysis about the stakes of this response. The Governor saying, "We're fighting a war."

The virus now in all 50 states the U.S. case count surging 7,111 confirmed cases, 117 have died here in the United States. The President this morning confirming among the new steps, the border between the United States and Canada will be blocked shuttered to all but essential crossings.

The shelter-in-place order in the California bay area expanding sad word from the Pentagon, too, 49 of our heroes, American service members, have tested positive for the virus. The New York Governor just moments ago mandating - listen to this number - half of the New York state workforce, stay home.

Governor Cuomo says the President is also going to send a U.S. Navy Hospital Ship to New York City Harbor to help that state, to help New York City and the state deal with the coming overflow of coronavirus patients.

Another, and maybe the biggest test here, can the American economy outlast this long-running natural disaster? The White House asking for big money, upwards of $1 trillion, to keep American industries and workers in urgent need afloat there is some contention over how to get this deal done, but the hope is for a bipartisan Senate compromise. This package will be in excess of $1 trillion, as early as today.

Now, that economic challenge would be less daunting if the health challenge recedes, but that won't happen for several months, at least. And the Surgeon General today saying the key is for all Americans, regardless of age, health, or where you live, to follow the government guidelines and significantly curtail contact with others.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: You should not change your approach to mitigation measures based on a positive or a negative test. You could test negative and still be early in the incubation period and still spread coronavirus. So, if you're sick, just like you did, stay at home. We should be acting as if we have the virus.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insight, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post" CNN's Jeff Zeleny and the Former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy join us.

Well, Doctor, I want to start with you and forgive me to everybody I may interrupt you if the White House starts. Doctor, when you hear the Governor of New York he just said number one said half of the workforce of state, a giant state like New York, must stay home.

He thanked the President sending a thousand-bed, you're familiar with "The Comfort," it is on its way to New York City Harbor right now, but he says we are 53,000 hospital beds in New York. We think we are going to need in excess of 100,000 perhaps in the next 45 days. What does that tell you about the tipping point in the health care system?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: What that tells me is that we're at a very dangerous moment, John. We have known that we have about 45,000 to 50,000 Intensive Care Unit beds in this country and that we may need 200,000, if this is even a modern epidemic.

This is serious, and we are already seeing our health care systems starting to strain under the lack of resources, doctors running out of masks and gloves, hospitals running out of materials that they need to protect patients and themselves.

So, this is urgent. And if we look ahead at what may come, at Italy, for example, we see a desperate situation that we want to avoid. We have the power, I believe, to stave off the worst, if we act now, but we've got to be firing on all cylinders.

KING: And Kaitlin, to the White House. We're waiting for the President. We're going to see him any moment in the briefing room with his team. He tweeted this morning that he had some news from the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA. We're not quite sure - I don't believe we are - what that news is.

But the Governor of New York just heaping some praise on the President. What are we looking for from the White House team today? Is this more to push the new economic plan or a mix?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's been a notable statement there from Governor Cuomo as he and the President had initially, you know, had this tense relationship with the President criticizing him. They just told us we've got about two minutes before the task force comes out here.

We think the President is coming. No one has confirmed that yet, though he says he was going to hold a news conference today. But of course there are several fronts that they are facing with the President teasing this FDA announcement though officials have not really shed any light on what that is going to look like.


COLLINS: But this is happening as these talks are still going on with Republicans that are incredibly fluid about what that stimulus package is going to look like. We know what they want to get in there, but of course, they're going to have to come to agreements with Republicans, see if they can get Democrats backing that plan so far, that has really been the focus for, of course, the Treasury Secretary right now as they are focusing on trying to blunt the impact of this.

But also, you've got the health aspect of this. As we are moving on from just this focus of this slowdown in testing to now the hospital aspect of this and whether or not the health care system is truly prepared for the numbers that they are going to see, and those are the questions that the President has been facing.

And of course, we've got to note that they have now, according to the White House, mutually agreed to close that border between the United States and Canada to any traffic that is nonessential. Of course, they say that does not include trade. And John, you can see the members of the task force are coming out behind me right now and we'll get an update shortly.

KING: We'll get an update shortly. As we do, Karoun, I just want to go to you quickly and again forgive me if I have to interrupt if the rest of the team walks in and starts. But we're seeing we just heard the Governor of New York heap praise on the President for his actions in the last 24 to 48 hours. Up on Capitol Hill, yes, there are some disagreements philosophical disagreements about how to do the some of this stimulus? About just how big the package should be? But it is quite remarkable to watch Mitch McConnell and then Chuck Schumer say we're going to try to get this done as soon as today, especially when you consider the White House wants $1.2 trillion $1.3 trillion.

The Democrats have asks that are not in the White House bill that are likely going to increase the cost. This is a staggering amount of money and it could be approved really in a matter of days.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's a staggering amount of money, but it just goes to show you what the seriousness of the crisis is, and the fact that, you know, a month ago, before we were in this mode, that this would not be really thinkable, that you'd be able to have the parties coming together over something like this. Again, it shows you that we're in a bit of a different world.

KING: Karoun, I need to stop. Sorry, I need to interrupt. The President of the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I would like to begin by announcing some important developments in our war against the Chinese virus. We'll be invoking the Defense Production Act, just in case we need it.

In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of good things, if we need it, and we will have it all completed, signing it in just a little while, right after I'm finished with this conference. I'll be signing it. It's prepared to go.

So, we will be invoking the Defense Production Act. Last week I signed an Emergency Declaration under the Stafford Act, which, as you know, we invoked previously, and which activated FEMA's National Response Coordination Center. FEMA now is fully engaged at the highest levels.

Today, FEMA is activated in every region. We are at level one, level one being the highest level. Which we will work with, and we've been working with FEMA. I've done a lot of work with FEMA they're incredible. It's always been on hurricanes or tornadoes.

They're right now in Tennessee, a large group working in Tennessee. They have been incredible it was a tragic event. Alabama last year also a tornado and then, obviously, the numerous hurricanes in different locations that were in some cases very devastating, and in every case, FEMA came through.

This is a very different kind of a work for FEMA, but they will come through as they always do. We have tremendous people, tremendous talent in FEMA. We're sending, upon request, the two hospital ships. They are being prepared right now. They're massive ships. They are the big, white ships with the Red Cross on the sides.

One is called "The Mercy," and the other is called "The Comfort." And they are in tip top shape. They soon will be. They're getting ready to come up to New York. I spoke with Governor Cuomo about it. He's excited about it, and I also - we haven't made the final determination as to where it's going to go on the west coast.

"The Comfort" is located now in San Diego, and it's going to be - we'll be picking the destination fairly shortly. So, those two ships are being prepared to go, and they can be launched over the next week or so, depending on need.

Earlier this week, the first clinical trial of the vaccine candidate for the virus began in Washington State, as you probably know. The genetic sequence of the virus was first published in January, but thanks to the unprecedented partnership between the FDA, NIH, and the private sector, we've reached human trials for the vaccine.

Just eight weeks later. That's a record by many, many months. It used to take years to do this, and now we did it just in a very short while. That's the fastest development in history of what we're doing with regard to the vaccine.


TRUMP: We're making very, very big progress. Today I can announce further steps to expand testing capacity. We're working with several groups to determine if the self-swab, a much easier process than the current process that's not very nice to do, I can tell you, because I did it.

But we have a current process that's a little bit difficult, if you haven't done. The groups are working on determining if a self-swab by an individual is as effective as the other. The other's very effective, very accurate. But we're going to see if we can do self- swab, which would be a lot more popular, I can tell you that.

And that would be administered also by a health official, but it would be a lot easier to do. The fact is that the health officials - it would free up a lot. Let me just say, the self swab is what it is, you do it yourself. The other has to be issued by a health professional, and it's something that is quite difficult, and we think it's working out for the self-swab.

And if it would test positive, the people would go and they would do what they have to do. But we think that's probably working out. I've asked the FDA to cut through the red tape and reduce regulatory barriers. We are looking at some very exciting things and I'll going to be holding a second news conference later today.

We're going to talk about the FDA. Some things are happening that are quite exciting, and we're going to be doing that either later today or tomorrow, fairly early tomorrow. So, we'll see what happens, but the FDA, my instructions, have been working very, very hard on a number of developments, and we'll be discussing them with you later today or tomorrow.

And this afternoon, I'll be meeting with nurses on the front lines of the battle against the virus. They're truly American heroes. They want to get it done. They're incredible people, so we're going to be meeting with nurses. And I actually look forward to that. They're very brave. They're taking a lot of risk, and they have done an incredible job, and they never complain.

Today I'm also announcing that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April. So, we're working very closely with Dr. Ben Carson and everybody from HUD.

Every generation of Americans has been called to make shared sacrifices for the good of the nation. In World War II, young people in their teenage years volunteered to fight. They wanted to fight so badly because they love our country. Workers refused to go home and slept on factory floors to keep assembly lines running, and you know, the numbers of ships that they built during World War II, to this day has never - nothing like that has ever been equal.

They were doing ships on a, literally on a daily basis. Nobody's ever seen anything like it. To this day, nobody's seen anything like what they were able to do during World War II. And now it's our time. We must sacrifice together, because we are all in this together, and we'll come through together.

It's the invisible enemy that's always the toughest enemy, the invisible enemy, but we're going to defeat the invisible enemy. I think we're going to do it even faster than we thought. And it will be a complete victory. It will be a total victory.

So, we'll have a second conference again, having to do with the FDA and this. I think it's going to be potentially a very exciting news conference, and we will do it as quickly as we can. So, whether it's today or tomorrow. And I'll, with that, ask Mike Pence to say a few words, and thank you very much.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. The White House coronavirus Task Force met this morning, and now that we have cases in all 50 states, we're continuing to move out on the President's call to bring the full resources of the federal government, the full partnership with every state and territory, the full power of the American economy, to support businesses and families.

As the President says to us and every day, we'll do whatever it takes, we're all in this together. Yesterday, the President met with the Tourism Industry Executives and also had an engaging discussion with all the top companies in our industrial and medical supply chain.

Now, the President, as you all are aware, also announced today that by mutual consent, the northern border to Canada will be closed to non- essential travel.


PENCE: This does not include essential travel or the transit of goods, but it was through mutual discussion that took place this morning between the President and Prime Minister Trudeau and the Department of Homeland Security will be effectuating that decision. The President spoke with some of the nation's top business leaders today, again, to speak about the supply chain in the country. And for our part, we're going to be conducting a conference call later today with state and local health officials to renew our ongoing commitment, cooperation and collaboration.

As the President said last week in signing the Stafford Act, he stood up the National Response Coordination Center. And today, at the President's direction, FEMA has gone to level one. FEMA's mission is to support disasters that are locally executed, state-managed, and federally supported.

And tomorrow, the President will be hosting all the Nation's Governors from a video conference at FEMA to ensure that they have full connection to all of the activated regions for FEMA going forward.

With regard to testing, I'm pleased to report that we're increasing the number of tests being performed by the thousands every day, thanks to the public-private partnership that President Trump forged with commercial laboratories around the country.

Our health experts tell us to remind every American, it's important to remember, people without symptoms should not get tested. We want to make sure that the supply of testing is there for those that need it most or are symptomatic or in the vulnerable population.

Dr. Deborah Birx in a moment will announce the progress that we're making on testing, the infection rate, our recommendations to every American as well as some important, new findings about the impact on youth that we're gaining from data that's coming in from Europe. That will be important to every American.

On the subject of supplies, the President has our task force extremely focused, as the President mentioned, that he's invoking the Defense Production Act today. Secretary Esper in a few moments will describe the ongoing efforts that the Department of Defense is taking to make medical resources available.

Secretary Robert Wilkie will announce decisions the VA has made to expand hospital capacity within their system. Also with regard to medical personnel, at the President's direction, HHS is issuing a regulation today that will allow all doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines to meet the needs of hospitals that may arise in adjoining areas.

In addition to that, we are again today asking every American and our medical community leaders and hospitals to partner with us in delaying elective procedures across the country in our health care system to ensure that medical supplies and medical capacity go where they're needed most. Seema Verma will describe guidance that CMS will be issuing on that front.

And finally, just, I want to remind every American of the President's 15-day guidance to slow the spread. We are grateful for members of the media and the general public that are adhering to these, sharing them with neighbors and friends. All of our experts continue to believe that if every American will do their part and embrace and put into practice these principles, that we can significantly limit the reach of the coronavirus in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Dr. Birx, please.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WH CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice president. So, you know, we continue to look at data every single day. There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill, and very seriously ill, in the ICUs.

We think part of this may be that people heeded the early data coming out of China and coming out of South Korea about the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions were at particular risk.

It may have been that the millennial generation, our largest generation, our future generation, that will carry us through for the next multiple decades - there may be a disproportional number of infections among that group. And so, even if it's a rare occurrence, it may be seen more frequently in that group and be evident now.

So, we're looking at that information very carefully. We have not seen any significant mortality in the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of Italy and France. So again, I'm going to call on that generation that's part of that group that brought us innovation, particularly throughout all of their ability to look around corners and skip through games.


BIRX: And I always went level by level. I didn't realize that you could go from level three to level seven. That's what they've taught us. They look for things that we don't see. We need them to be healthy.

So, again, not only calling on you to heed what's in the guidance, but to really ensure that each and every one of you is protecting each other. And so, we cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur throughout the country for people who are off work to then be socializing in large groups and spreading the virus. You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about and cause them to have a disastrous outcome.

Finally, on the testing piece, and what we're learning. I know you know last week in bringing the private sector, I think what has been exciting to me over the last 2 1/2 weeks is to see this administration harness the full capacity of the private sector understanding that a lot of our solutions that we need to confront this virus rely on the private sector.

Bringing the private-sector commercial labs was critical into this process. We are now beginning to see that they have spread out in a prioritized way, because we asked them to prioritize the regions that were mostly affected. And so, you still may have difficulty getting tests in areas that do not have significant cases. We've had them prioritize the regions where we need diagnosis, and their diagnostic percent - remember I told you South Korea was under 4 percent? So, 96 percent of people were negative.

The last report that we've seen from the laboratories have about a 7 plus percent positivity rate. Still, 93 plus percent or 92 percent are negative, but I think that's encouraging to me personally that we're prioritizing appropriately to those areas that have the greatest need.

Today and yesterday, Thermo Fisher pushed out most of their laboratory testing capacity, and that will dramatically increase the platform and the ability to run additional tests in addition to Roche.

So, I appreciate everybody's attention to these numbers. I'm excited that we've prioritized where the need was the greatest, but again, please follow the guidance and please make sure in every report that you're putting out that you're talking about the Presidential guidance to actually stop the spread of this virus. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you, Deborah, very much. Mark Esper?

MARK ESPER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. President. So good afternoon everyone and I want to provide an update on DOD's coronavirus efforts as we continue to focus on our three priorities. That's, first of all, protecting our personnel and their families second, safeguarding our national security mission capabilities and third, of course, supporting the administration's whole-of-government approach.

First of all, though, I do want to assure the American people that the United States military remains ready and capable of defending the country and our interests abroad. Now, with that, the department is leaning forward in our response to COVID-19. We have issued international and domestic travel restrictions to all DOD personnel and families. That should dramatically reduce potential exposure to the virus. Those have been in place for some time now.

As I announced yesterday, the Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million respiratory masks and other personal protective equipment from our own strategic reserves to the Department of Health and Human Services for distribution. The first 1 million masks will be available immediately.

We are also prepared to distribute to HHS up to 2,000 operational, deployable ventilators for use, as needed. Yesterday I was at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, which is probably the military's premier research institute, where I got updated on the incredible work our people are doing as part of the interagency team to work on vaccines and therapeutics. They are making great progress there.

And we also have announced that we've certified our 16th lab, or we'll soon certify our 16th lab to help with processing tests from across the country. Additionally, I have directed, as the President mentioned, that the hospital ships "Mercy" and "Comfort" be prepared to deploy to increase the nation's medical capacity, and we have also alerted a variety of field and expeditionary hospitals to be prepared to deploy as well, as needed, based on direction from the Commander in Chief.

Today, leadership from the army corps of engineers is in New York meeting with Governor Cuomo and his team. I spoke with Governor Cuomo yesterday, and other Governors. I will be speaking to more in the coming days to make sure that they know what DOD can provide through our system to address their needs.

In my conversations with Governors and members of Congress about DOD's resources, I've made it clear that we will continue to support the administration's comprehensive efforts and the country, every step of the way, while ensuring our nation's security remains the top priority.

I want to conclude by thanking, again, all of our service members and their families who have been affected by this outbreak.


ESPER: They are all great heroes. We are continuing to support them throughout this. We are all in this together. Thank you all very much.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Mark. Seema Verma.

SEEMA VERMA, ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Thank you. So, yesterday, the President made a very important announcement about Telehealth, and this is allowing our 62 million seniors to be able to get some medical services from the safety of their home, reducing their risk and without any co-pays.

But we're also making sure that the health care system is prepared and that those on the front lines have the support that they need. The reality is, the stakes are high, and we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those that are on the front lines of this fight. And to that end, we have put out guidelines over the last two weeks to expand the types of masks that can be used in routine care and saving those N-95s for the most risky situations.

Conserving personal protective equipment is also essential to combat the virus. Today, CMS will announce detailed recommendations to further promote this needed conservation, specifically by limiting nonessential, elective, medical, and surgical procedures, including dental procedures.

We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients, and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients. And we urge providers and clinicians and patients to seriously consider these recommendations.

They will not only preserve equipment, but it also allows doctors and nurses to help those that are on the front lines, and it will protect patients from unnecessary exposure to the virus. We fully appreciate that this is going to have a major impact on the health care system, but the shared sacrifice is essential to help those that are on the front lines.

And I want to thank the medical society, such as the American College of Surgeons and the American Dental Association that took a proactive approach and already posted these recommendations. And we've also talked to the American Medical Association, and they have fully indicated their support for this recommendation. We now invite the entire health care community to join us in this effort. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Robert, please.

ROBERT WILKIE, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Thank you, Mr. President. My instructions from the President were very clear. I was to do everything imaginable as aggressively as possible to protect the 9.5 million veterans who are part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last month, we established 19 emergency operations centers across the country. We began to limit the number of visitors who entered our facilities. We began - I think we were the first system to begin triaging across the country in our 170 hospitals, the entrance of anyone into our facility without being questioned or tested.

We expanded those restrictions to those in our 135 community living centers, which have about 7,800 veterans who are in acute, acute conditions, to make sure they were protected. We also took the next step and made sure that we limited the dental surgeries that we were provided. We've cut back by one-third the number of routine appointments we have had, and we have canceled elective surgeries.

These were part of the President's directive to be as aggressive in a public health sense as we could be, and I think we have set the pace for the entire country. I will say, we've often said that we work the most noble mission in the federal government.

Our veterans have been put in the toughest spots in the world, they have been put in conditions that are unimaginable to most Americans, and they have responded. They have responded clearly. They have responded with passion and also, the 400,000 members of our department who are out there on the front lines.

The last thing I will say is that you have heard a lot about the fourth mission that VA has. Our first three missions are health care, benefits, and memorial affairs. Our fourth mission is to support the federal government in times of natural disasters and pandemics.

We are the buttress force in case that FEMA or HHS calls upon us to deploy medical professionals across the country to meet crises. We plan for that every day, we are gaining out emergency preparedness scenarios and we stand ready for when the President needs us to expand our mission. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Robert, thank you. Thank you all. That's very nice. Any questions, please?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, two questions, if I may. Your Treasury Secretary was on Capitol Hill talking about the potential for what could come.