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Interview with President and CEO of Land O'Lakes Beth Ford; Live Coverage of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Press Conference. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 10:30   ET



BETH FORD, PRESIDENT AND CEO, LAND O'LAKES: -- manufacturers across the country are willing to pivot in their manufacturing platforms to provide the goods necessary.

On the food supply, I want to make clear, food is available, farmers are getting into the field. We're moving goods. Milk production is strong. We are moving and coordinating across the sector, and so it's not an availability issue right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: That's a welcome message, especially right now. Beth Ford, good luck to you and your team and the farmers. Thank you very much.

FORD: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Moments from now, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, will hold a press conference on the coronavirus, the latest in New York State. We're on it, you'll see it right here. Don't go anywhere.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- health crisis --

HARLOW: -- update from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking now.

CUOMO: -- it is a war in many ways and the government has to mobilize as if it is a war. The federal government is now engaged in a way they haven't been. I think that is very good news.

I've worked in the federal government, I was a cabinet secretary, one of the senior governors in the nation. I know what a state can do, I know what the federal government can do. And states don't fight wars. They did it one time in this nation's history, it was a tragedy.

The federal government has the capacity to mobilize the way we need society to mobilize today. And I've had numerous conversations with the president, I spoke with him again last night. He is mobilizing. He's mobilizing the federal government. We had a number of meetings with different federal officials yesterday, and I think that is the best positive sign that the federal government is actually stepping up to the plate. You will see that this has been diagnosed -- pardon the pun -- as a

health care crisis from moment one. This has always been about one thing: reducing the rate of spread so the health care system can manage it. And it's been a question of math and projections and it is still exactly that. Can we get the spread down to a rate that the health care system can manage?

What is going to be the issue in the health care system? It's going to be the number of hospital beds, it's going to be the amount of protective equipment and most of all, it's going to come down to ventilators, a piece of equipment that, up until now, was relatively inconsequential. But when you have respiratory illnesses and then this volume respiratory illnesses all of a sudden, the number of ventilators becomes critical.

Just to give you a sense of scope, we have about 5,000, 6,000 ventilators that we can identify. We need about 30,000 ventilators. This is nationwide problem. I was on the phone with the governors from the other states with the National Governors Association yesterday. Every state is shopping for ventilators. We're shopping for ventilators. We literally have people in China shopping for ventilators, which is one of the largest manufacturers.

So this is a major problem. It's an issue that the federal government can actually play a very constructive role. There's something called the Federal Defense Procurement Act, where the federal government can basically order companies to produce certain materials. And we're going to need protective equipment in hospitals, we're going to need ventilators. And that is something that a state can't do, but the federal government can do.


Also, as this has gone on, we've said we are fighting a war on two fronts. We're fighting the virus, and we're fighting fear. And they are two totally different situations that you have to deal with. In many ways, the fear is more dangerous than the virus.

I started working on disasters, emergency situations when I was in my 30s. My first experience was Hurricane Andrew in Homestead, Florida. And I felt it. I saw on the ground, what happens when people panic. And the panic and the fear is as dangerous or more dangerous than the hurricane. I've seen it in floods, I've seen it in fires.

We now have misinformation and fear and panic, which is as contagious or more contagious than the virus. And we have to deal with both of them. I've had some conversations that are just irrational with people who, heretofore, were wholly rational.

I had a conversation last night with a businessperson from New York City who I know, who was panicked that New York City was going to be locked down, that there were going to be roadblocks, that there were going to be mandatory quarantine, he was going to be imprisoned in his house.

I said, you know, where did you hear that? Well, that's what they say, that's what I'm hearing, they're saying.

And I was saying, you know, look, I would know, right? Because I would have to authorize those actions legally. It's not going to happen.

Well, I hear it is going to happen.

I said, but -- I know, but I would have to do it. And I'm telling you, I'm not doing it.

It must have taken me 25 minutes just to slow him down to hear the information. When you get that emotional, that fearful, you literally don't process information in the same way. So we have to be very aware of that.

Clear communication from everyone, from our friends in the media, from the health care professionals, from all elected officials: clear communication, consistent communication. Because misinformation, emotion, fear, panic is truly more dangerous than the virus at this position, in my opinion.

Because the facts on the virus, we know. We've watched it from China to South Korea, we've studied it here, we know the numbers. It is exactly what we said it was -- it's exactly what we said it was from day one. We talked about the increased spread, we talked about the vulnerable populations, seniors, compromised immune systems, people with underlying illnesses.

So we know what this virus does. We know how it communicates, and we know how to deal with it. It's not going to be easy, it's not going to be pretty. But we know the trajectory of the virus. Let's just take a deep breath and make sure we're all -- we're acting on facts as opposed to acting on fear. When you act on fear, then you're in a dangerous place. The facts, we can handle.

Let me give you a couple of the new facts today. Just to recap, we said we have a plan of action. There are three steps: flatten the curve, slow the spread, increase the current hospital capacity and, number three, identify new hospital beds. Do them all at the same time, which is the challenge. Make government work, mobilize, operationalize, get it all done, get it all done today.

On density reduction, this is a data-driven decision. Look at the increase in the number of cases, look at the hospital capacity, and do -- adjust, and do everything you can to slow the increase of the spread so that your hospital system can deal with the growth.


We've been taking increasing steps on density reduction because the numbers have been increasing. And again, this is driven by science and by data. We said voluntary work from home, mandatory closing schools statewide, mandatory reduction of state and local workforce, mandatory tristate agreement on bars, restaurants, gyms, mandatory in-office workforce cut by 50 percent. We said that yesterday. The numbers have gone up overnight. I am going to increase the density control today. No more than 25 percent of people can be in the workforce. Yesterday it was 50 percent, we're reducing it. Again, except the essential services that we spoke about yesterday. That means 75 percent of the workforce must stay at home and work from home. Again, voluntarily, I'm asking all businesses to have people work from home. As a mandate, 75 percent of your employee base must work from home.

In terms of increasing current hospital capacity, our current hospital capacity is about 50,000 beds statewide. Majority of those beds are in downstate New York. Commissioner Zucker is working with the hospital industry. He's going to put out new regulations assessing how many more beds we can get in our existing hospitals -- waiving Department of Health rules, waiving Department of Financial Service rules, how many more beds can we get in those hospitals? And we're working on that aggressively.

At the same time, identifying new hospital beds. The Army Corps of Engineers was with us yesterday. We had a very good meeting, we're looking at sites across the state to find existing facilities that could expeditiously be turned into health care facilities.

And again, when I said the federal response is very welcome, I want to thank the president. He said that he would bring the Army Corps of Engineers here, they came here the next day. I spoke to them last night to follow up on the meeting. So this is going forward aggressively.

We're also going to take a bold action but a necessary action, that -- offering 90-day relief on mortgage payments, waiving mortgage payments based on financial hardship, meaning if you are not working, if you're working only part-time, we're going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days. That will be a real- life economic benefit, it will also be a stress reliever for many families.

Waiving these payments will not have a negative effect on your credit report. There will be a grace period for loan modification. We're not exempting people from the mortgage payments, we're just adjusting the mortgage to include those payments on the back end. No late fees or online payment fees, postponing or suspending any foreclosures during this period of time. And waiving fees for overdrafts, ATM, credit cards.

This is a real-life benefit. People are under tremendous economic pressure. Making a mortgage payment can be one of the number-one stressors. Eliminating that stressor for 90 days, I think, will go a long way. Again, we'll reassess as the situation goes on, if that should be extended or not.

Number of positive cases, total positive, 4,000; number of new positives, 1,769. You see additional counties that are being added to counties that have cases. The spread mirrors what's happening in the country, just as the spread has gone through all states, the spread is going through our counties. It was downstate first, now moving upstate.

New York now has 2,000 cases. Washington State, 1,100 cases. Washington State had cases earlier because it went through a nursing home, if you remember. But New York State has more cases than Washington State, more cases than any state in the nation. And I made that point to the federal government and the president, he understands that. If there's a state that needs help, the state by the number of cases is New York.


In terms of testing, we have tested now 22,000. We tested 7,500 people last night. Why are you seeing the numbers go up? Because you are taking more tests. People see those numbers go up, they get nervous, they panic. Oh, look at how many more people have the virus.

That's not how many more people have the virus. You're just taking more tests so you're finding more positives. There are thousands and thousands of people who have the virus, who we're not testing. There are thousands and thousands of people who had the virus before we started testing. There are thousands and thousands of people who had the virus, and who resolved and never knew they had the virus.

We're still testing because you want to find those positive cases so you can track them down, isolate people and stop the spread. But you can't watch these numbers like the stock market and say, well, that's the indicator of -- of anything other than the indicator of how many tests we're taking.

It is good news that we're now up to 7,500 tests. We were, at one time, doing 200 tests per day, just to put that 7,500 in focus. So that's a tremendous increase in the number of tests, and you're going to see the numbers go up.

The hospitalization rate is very relevant because remember, this is all about the flow into the health care system. So 777 out of 4,152? Perspective, perspective, perspective. We know the virus, we know what it does, we know who it hurts, we know who it affects. Johns Hopkins since day one has tracked this virus through China, 222,000 cases, 9,000 deaths, 84,000 recoveries, 129,000 pending.

One last point. We talk about this as a government response, the federal government's doing this, state government is doing this. Government, government, government. This -- this manifests on a number of levels, and a government response is obviously very important.

But the impact I think is greater -- greater and probably greatest as a social phenomenon and on people, and on families. This is tremendously disruptive on all sorts of levels. It came out of the blue. For me in New York, it reminds me of 9/11, where one moment, which was inconceivable, just changed everything. Changed your perspective on the world, changed your perspective on safety.

Children who were young at that time but of school age, watched on TV. They didn't know if their parents were coming home. I think it changed their whole outlook on life after 9/11. This is a situation like that. It's obviously totally different

magnitude, but it's like that. It's a moment that just changes your whole life.

Yesterday, you were going to work and you were going to go to the office party. Today, you're at home and the kids are at home and you're worried about health and you're worried about your job and you're worried about economics and you're dealing with personal issues and you're dealing with family issues, and it's all happening at once. And then you turn on the TV and there's all this different information and nobody can tell you if this is going to be 30 days or 60 days or four months or five months or nine months.

The stress, the emotion is just incredible. And rightfully so. It is a situation that is one of the most disruptive that I have seen. And it will change almost everything, going forward. It will. That is a fact. It's not your perception, it's not just you. It's all of us. And it's true, and it's real. Nobody can tell you when this is going to end, nobody can tell you. I talked to all the experts. Nobody can say two months, four months, nine months, nobody.


It's hard, living your life with that big a question mark out there. Nobody can tell you when you'll go back to work. People can tell you that it's not just you economically, it's everyone. Take comfort in that. The federal government is actually acting on an economic package.

But it's true, having your family all together is a beautiful thing. It's also different for a lot of people, especially for a prolonged period of time. So these are major shifts in life and in the most emotional, stressful conditions that you can imagine. And I think my own personal advice is, understand it for what it is. And that it's not just you. It has changed everything. And it will for the foreseeable future. And think through how you're going to deal with it, and what it means. And even try to find a positive in it, right? It's a very negative circumstance.

But you're going to have time on your hands, you're going to have time with your family, you're going to have time at home. In this busy hurry-up world, all of a sudden, somebody said, OK, you have a couple of months where you're going to be home with the family, no work, you work from home. But it's a totally different situation. How do you use that? How do you adjust? It's not going to be done overnight, but it is something that everybody has to think through.

My last-last point is to the younger people in our great state and in our great society. And that's why I invited our special guest here today, Michaela. My grandfather Andrea, my grandfather on my father's side, his name was Andrea. I'm named for my grandfather -- Andrew -- Italian-American immigrant.

When I was youngish -- when I was like 16, 17, 18, and I would do something that he didn't like, he would just look at me and he would say, "We grow too soon old, and too late smart." And I would say, what does that mean, Grandpa? Are you -- is that a


We grow too soon old, too late smart. These pictures of young people on beaches, these videos of young people saying, this is my spring break, you know, I'm out to party, this is my time to party? This is so unintelligent and reckless, I can't even begin to express it.

Now, I had a conversation with my daughter about this. I'm governor of the state. I can order a quarantine of 10,000 people, but I can't tell my daughter to do anything, all right? And I have to be careful because there's almost an inverse response to a direct action.

But I did say to all three of them, from soon as they could crawl, I used the one line. What is the one line I used to say?


CUOMO: Yes. Risk-reward, risk-reward. Just pose the question. I couldn't offer an answer because whatever answer I would offer, they would do the other. Risk-reward. It makes no sense to go expose yourself to these conditions and expose other people, expose other people.

Michaela wanted to take -- first of all, Michaela was graduating this year and her school closed to online courses, so she's not going to have the graduation. We're going to have a big party at the appropriate time. We don't know what that time's going to be, if it's going to be two months, four months, six months, nine months. But at the first opportunity, we're going to have a big party. So that's going to happen.



CUOMO: But she was deprived of the last year and the last few months of college, which I'm sure were a very intense study period, and that's what she's deprived of, that intense study period of those last few weeks. I remember those last few weeks, a lot of study. But that's a shift in life.

But she was going to take a vacation on spring break, and go with friends and take a trip and risk-reward. And luckily, she made the right decision and I'm proud of her for that. No prompting from me beside the question, risk-reward.

What these people are doing is the risk does not justify the reward. They're putting themselves at risk. Young people can get coronavirus, that's one of the other myths, young people don't get it. Young people do get it, and young people can transfer it. And you can wind up infecting someone and possibly killing someone if you're exposed to it. Risk-reward.

Questions, comments?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your plan for the MTA? They asked the feds for a $4 billion bailout. How -- what if they can't get that from the feds, would the state step in?

CUOMO: The economic consequences here are for the MTA, for the state budget, for county budgets, town budgets, village budgets, all the public authorities. It's just a big question mark. They've all lost tremendous revenues, and we're going to have to figure out, as a nation, how to deal with this.

The ridership is down on the MTA, and the revenue is down on the MTA, and say hello to every other public transit system in this United States of America. So it's going to have to be a national response.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying you don't want to shut down transportation, how is that possible if the trains can't run and if the MTA can't make payroll? Is there any plan right now that you guys are going through to save the MTA?

CUOMO: The MTA will continue running. They're an essential service, on the essential service list. And the revenues, we're going to have to make do.

Rob , do you have anything that you wanted to add?

ROBERT MUJICA, NEW YORK DIRECTOR OF THE BUDGET: They're looking at -- so right now, we're looking at the ridership. Ridership is down in all of the systems, right? But the workers are there, the workers are running the trains, the trains are running on time and New York City still has -- right? There are still come businesses and essential services that are flowing. So the MTA is part of bringing -- bringing people back and forth.

So right now we're looking at that, but every transit system in the nation is facing the same reality.


MUJICA: We're looking at -- we're looking at the MTA as well. So this is part of the discussions that we're having with the legislature right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that's (ph) anywhere else, (INAUDIBLE)?

MUJICA: We're looking at -- as the governor mentioned, the entire budget is impacted, right? This -- right, so we're going to have to have flexibility in the budget to be able to prioritize certain services over others. As the governor indicated, the MTA is an essential service for New York City.

CUOMO: Also, guys, remember, all these broad statements. We have to run a government, we have to run and service a society, right? We need the health care system up and running. Doctors have to get to work, nurses have to get to work, health care workers have to get to work. We need police, we need fire, we need bus drivers, we need daycare workers.

That -- all those functions have to happen, so we need a transportation system because we need people getting to work, refuse has to be picked up, right? All these functions have to continue. So when they talk about shut down, you know, we have to make sure we're operational and healthy and functional.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you've had trouble with the phrase "shelter in place." But are you considering any kind of more stringent restrictions on people leaving the home or going to businesses or things like that?

CUOMO: Yes. The -- I believe communication is important, and I believe words are important. Say what you mean and don't say what might alarm people. The level of alarm in this country, in this state, especially in New York City is higher than I have ever seen it.

Somehow, people have the idea that New York City may be quarantined, may be locked off, that they may be imprisoned in their home. I don't know where they get it. This is the conversation I was talking about last night. This was a smart person who I know for a long time, just panic, just fear.


None of that is going to happen, none of that is going to happen.