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NY Governor Cuomo Holds News Conference on Coronavirus Response; Dr. Ashish Jah, Harvard University's Global Health Institute Director, Discusses Drastic Measures Taken by NY & California; Trump & Coronavirus Task Force Hold News Conference. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 20, 2020 - 11:30   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Now, again, New York may very well be testing at a multiple of the other states. So does New York necessarily have seven times more people who are infected than California? You don't know. You know that we are doing more tests per capita. But you don't know what the actual infection rate is.

In total, we have tested 32,000 people. We did 10,000 tests last night. I had said last week that we would hope to get to 6,000 tests. We've gotten to 10,000 tests, which, again, I'm very proud of the operation, but again, that's why you see the number going up.

The rate of hospitalization -- watch this number. It's 18 percent, 1,200 out of 7,100. Again, overall perspective. Look at the Johns Hopkins numbers. People will get sick. People will resolve.

You look at our cases. The first case we had, the first health care worker, that case, she was never hospitalized, she stayed home, and she now tests negative. That's what's going to happen with 80 percent of the people.

So why is New York taking these dramatic actions? We know from past history that what a locality does matters. The 1918 Spanish flu -- which also reminds us that this has happened before in society, right? This tendency to think, oh, this is something new, it's a science fiction movie.

Yes, in 1918, they had a flu epidemic. But St. Louis took one course of action. Philadelphia took another course of action. And it made a dramatic difference in the number of people that died. What government did at that moment made a dramatic difference. Not nationally. Locally.

Yes, New York has the tightest controls in the country. You look at those numbers, and you understand why. Look at the increase in the number of cases. Sixteen days ago we were at zero. Today, we are at 2,900. Those numbers are why we're taking these actions.

Just increase that curve and you will see it more than doubles our health care system capacity. It more than triples the number of ICU beds with ventilators that we could possibly arrange. That's why we're taking these actions.

These actions will cause disruption. They will cause businesses to close. They'll cause employees to stay at home. I understand that. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that also.

I've spoken to my colleagues around the state, the elected officials. I've spoken to business leaders. There's a divergence of opinion. There's a spectrum of opinion.

Some people say, we don't need to do this, it's going to hurt the economy. I understand that. Some people want to make it clear that they are disassociated from these actions. I understand that.

And just so we're all clear, this is a statewide order. It's not what your county executive is doing. It's not what your mayor is doing. It's not what anyone else but me is doing. And I accept full responsibility.

If someone is unhappy, somebody wants to blame someone or complain about someone, blame me. There's no one else who is responsible for this decision.

I've been in public service for many years on every level of public service. I've managed dozens of emergencies. The philosophy that always worked for me is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That's what we're doing here.

When we look back at this situation 10 years from now, I want to be able to say -- I can say to the people of the state of New York, I did everything we could do. I did everything we could do. And this is about saving lives. And if everything we do saves just one life, I'll be happy.


Last point, I'd also like people to think about -- and I don't have an answer for this and it's not what I do. But the isolation that people are feeling and the mental health consequences of what we're doing.

When we quarantined people -- you know, we quarantined about 10,000 people. For 14 days you have to stay at home. And I spoke to many of them. And what they would say is physically, operationally, it was difficult. But most of all, they would all talk about the sense of isolation and the feeling of isolation and not having human contact. And how difficult that was.

I, as you know, had my daughter who was in isolation. I was very aware of what she was dealing with and what she was feeling. And I'll tell you the truth, I had some of the best conversations with her that I have ever had. She was alone for two weeks with her own thoughts, not talking to anyone else, no noise, no activity.

And we talked about things in depth that we didn't have time to talk about in the past or we didn't have the courage or the strength to talk about in the past. Feelings that I had about mistakes that I had made along the way that I wanted to express my regret and talk through with her.

People are in a small apartment, they're in a house, they're worried, they're anxious. Just be mindful of that, you know? Those three-word sentences can make all the difference. I miss you. You know, I love you. I'm thinking about you. I wish I was there with you. I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm sorry we're going through this.

That's going to be a situation that is going to develop, because we're all in quarantine now. I mean, think about it. We're all in various levels of quarantine. And it's hard. It's hard economically. It's hard everywhere, but it's going to be hard here, it's going to be hard here. And it takes each of us to try to help with that.

The last announcement. With all that's going on, I want to protect the people of the state of New York as much as I can. I'm going to stop any evictions of any residential or commercial tenants for 90 days. There will be no -- there will be a moratorium on evictions, residential or commercial, for 90 days.

I understand that may affect businesses negatively. And I've spoken to a number of them. I don't know who you think you're going to rent an apartment to now, anyway, if you kick someone out. By my mandate, you couldn't even have your real estate agent out showing the apartment. Same with the commercial tenants.

But I know that we're going to put people out of work with what I did. I want to make sure I don't put them out of their house.

Questions, comments.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What made the change in thinking in terms of what seems to be a shelter-in-place order, the turn to that?

CUOMO: It is not a shelter-in-place order.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's effectively the same idea.

CUOMO: No, it's not. First of all, words matter. California does not have a shelter-in-place order. Right? They put in a new policy. It is not shelter-in-place. Right? Because, and this is why words matter, Jesse, because people are scared and people panic.

Shelter-in-place is used currently for an active shooter or a school shooting. It was, during a nuclear event, isolate yourself in the interior room, no windows, stay there until you get the all clear sign.

The quote, unquote, "shelter-in-place policy" was never shelter-in- place. It said shelter-in-place, except this, except this, except this, except this. And it scared a lot of people and it panicked people. And even California doesn't call it that anymore.


So why am I increasing the mandates? Because the numbers are increasing. And I said from day one, this is science and math. Watch the number, watch the trajectory. You have the density control valve. The number starts to go up, tighten the valve. If the number doesn't slow down, tighten the valve more. If the number doesn't slow down, tighten the valve more. If the number doesn't slow down, close the valve. We're closing the valve.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When does this take effect?

CUOMO: Sunday evening.


CUOMO: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about restaurant workers who do delivery and all that?

CUOMO: Delivery service of food is an essential service.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about mass transit? Obviously, you've got --


CUOMO: Mass transit is operational because we have to get people to hospitals. Mass transit is operational because we have to get the essential workers to work.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have a weekend schedule or anything?

CUOMO: We're not doing any of that right now. Remember, this all comes down to the health care system, and we're scrambling to increase the capacity of the health care system. We have to get nurses, doctors, health care workers, childcare, and we need to get them to work. So the public transit system will be operational.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, is someone monitoring or policing these businesses to make sure they're abiding by this 100 percent rule?

CUOMO: We said, for the first time, this is not voluntary, it's not helpful hints. We are going to monitor it. There will be civil fines and there can be mandatory closures for businesses that don't comply.

I am not kidding about this. The numbers are going up at such a rate that, as I said, it's more than double the capacity of the hospital system. It's more than triple the capacity of the ICU system. We can't get more ventilators. I can't increase that side of the equation. I can't create more ICU beds with ventilators.

The only option available to us is to reduce the spread and reduce the rate of the spread. So close the valve.

Step two, make sure people follow the regulations and the guidance, and that's enforcement. So if a business that's not supposed to be open is open, yes, we will enforce it and they will be penalized.


CUOMO: It's also, by the way, rude, disrespectful of basic social obligations.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you please speak to individuals -- any penalties or fines individuals might face if they break these rules? You know, a cluster of young people at a park. Can you speak to --


CUOMO: We don't have any individual fines at this point. I hope they get the information. I think with young people -- we talked about this yesterday. Part of it is they're just wrong. They have the wrong information.

And that's what I'm trying to say today. They're just wrong. I mean, I can't tell you how many young people are out there saying, oh, I can't get the infection from people. You're just wrong. I can't transfer it. You're just wrong.

And this is lunacy what they're doing in some parks and some areas, hanging out on a park bench and they're playing basketball. When you're young, you think you're invincible.

Yes, you're wrong. And social distancing means social distancing. It means no more than six feet. You can't play basketball and stay six feet from each other.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Governor Andrew Cuomo right there announcing now the toughest controls in the country in New York State. His words, "This is the most drastic action we can take."

Let me bring in right now CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, you have California, you have New York. What's your reaction to what we just heard from Andrew Cuomo?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I think this is necessary. I've been saying this for some time along with several public health officials, and obviously, it is drastic. He said he's not kidding. He needs to close the valve, is how he described it.

And, look, Kate, these are -- I don't think anyone takes any joy in having these types of conversations. But I think very clearly what needs to happen now given the toll that is already taking place on hospital systems -- and we're seeing that, and this is the beginning, really, for many of these states -- something needs to be done.


If it's going to be done, it needs to be done early, these types of measures, otherwise they're not as effective. They need to be done early, they need to be done consistently, they need to be done honestly, and they need to be done diligently.

Again, these are drastic actions. In California, you have stay at home. They got rid of the shelter-in-place name because --


GUPTA: -- it didn't make sense. Here, I think they're calling it "pause." I don't know how long. I heard it's going to start this Sunday. But basically with potential fines, they're going to mandate that only essential people be outside.

And, look, there's evidence, Kate, that it makes a difference. I could talk about this all day. But let me show you one graphic. The governor showed this. The 1918 Spanish flu, if we have that graphic. He was using this to illustrate a point. I think this is the correct way of looking at it.

Philadelphia is the dark line. St. Louis is the dotted line. The picture is a thousand words here.

In Philadelphia, they had a parade and they didn't bother cancelling hundreds of thousands of people, and what they found was that the fatality rate, because they did not physically distance people from each other, was not only higher but also quicker, overwhelming the hospital system.

I think that's the final point I would say, Kate. I mean, there's a lot to talk about here. But when you look at the fatality rates of this virus -- yes, the virus is deadly, yes, the virus is a problem. But why are some places having so much higher fatality rates than others?

Part of it is because the crisis on the health care system, the impact on the health care system. They simply can't take care of all these patients.

That's the real tragedy here. Patients that would have otherwise lived who die, because you have too many of them coming in at the same time. I think that's what Governor Cuomo and Governor Newsom are trying to prevent.

And, frankly, because we haven't been testing, I think there's many other communities that, when they sit down and really look at their numbers, are likely, are going to follow suit as well. And maybe the entire country should.

BOLDUAN: I was going to ask you that, Sanjay. This might be the right move for New York and this might be the right move for California, but what do you think this means for other states?

GUPTA: I really think that -- we know that the first patient was diagnosed in January in this country. And the virus had probably been here quite a while before that and has been circulating around this country.

Look, thankfully, that also means that many people who have already likely been exposed, don't know it, and are not having much in the way of symptoMs. That's obviously good for them.

But the problem is they are probably continuing to spread this virus as well. So there's very good evidence, I think, in extrapolation, that this virus is spreading in many communities around the country.

I think many states, cities, whatever, are looking and saying, we seem to be OK right now. We're good. California and New York, you're doing your thing. I don't think we can look at it that way. A virus does not respect borders, it did not respect geography. It does not respect any of those types of things.

So maybe everybody should be considering this -- and again, I take no joy in saying that.

And maybe, at the federal level, they need to basically say, look, we can possibly get our arms around this nationally if we act aggressively and early. If we wait, those same actions won't have the same impact. They'll just cause a lot of disruption without the same gains in terms of curbing the spread of this. And that would be the worst tragedy of all -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Look, this is a drastic measure. The governor is not mincing any words on that. And it does feel scary to hear that if you're a non-essential worker, you need to stay home. The governor did list out essential services will remain open, access to essential services will remain open. But this is where we are right now.

Sanjay, if you could stick with me.

GUPTA: Sure.

BOLDUAN: I also want to bring in Dr. Ashish Jah. He's the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Doctor, your reaction to what we now see from New York?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: This is not a close call. I think Governor Cuomo clearly has made the right decision.

I want to echo everything Dr. Gupta said. It's clearly painful for New Yorkers. It's hard for all of us to be going through the period we're going through. It is essential.

It's also important for people to know we're not going to see the benefits of this in the next few days. The numbers are going to continue rising.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

JHA: The benefits of these actions are going to show up a week, more like two weeks from now. That's when we'll see the impact. So people have to be patient. This is not an over overnight fix.

BOLDUAN: Also, as we're talking, just to update our viewers, we're looking at the White House briefing room for the latest updates from the Coronavirus Task Force. That will be coming any moment and we will bring that to you when it begins.

Also, I'm looking here at what Gavin Newsom said in California, Dr. Jha. He said, "This is not a permanent state. It is a moment in time."


I think that's maybe an important thing I'd like to get your take on as people are now staring down -- as the governor said, we are now going to face -- we are facing a level of quarantines. That's where with are at this moment.

JHA: Yes. Look, about the week ago, I said the whole country should vote in on this. Because we ought to do it now or we wait a week or two and we're are falling further and further behind. So I love the leadership of Governor Newsom. Governor DeWine, of Ohio, hasn't quite gotten this far but he has made a lot of progress.

So what we're seeing is leadership --


BOLDUAN: Dr. Jha, I am going to jump in, only because President Trump has walked into the White House's briefing room. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a very good telephone conversation, extremely good with Senator Schumer a little while ago. We are working on various elements of the deal. And the Democrats are very much wanting something to happen. And the Republicans, likewise, are very much wanting something to happen.

And I think it will. I spoke with -- at length with Mitch McConnell and there's tremendous spirit to get something done so we'll see what happens. But my conversation was very good with Senator Schumer.

I thank you all for joining us and I'd like to begin by providing an update on what we are doing to minimize the impact of the Chinese virus on our nation's students.

With the many schools closed due to the virus, the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements -- very importantly -- for students in elementary through high school for the current year.

They've been through a lot. They've been going back and forth: schools open, schools not open, it's been all standardized testing and, you know, it's -- we're not going to be enforcing that, so I think you can let the people know.

I think probably a lot of the students will be extremely happy; some probably not. The ones that work hard, maybe not, but it's one of those things. Unfortunate -- very unfortunate circumstance.

We've also temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans. They'll be very happy to hear that. And I've instructed them to take that action immediately. And today, Secretary DeVos has directed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next 60 days. And if we need more, we'll extend that period of time.

Borrowers should contact their lenders, but we've given them very strong instructions, so we've temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans. That's a big thing. That's going to make a lot of students very happy. And we have more to come on student loans, more good news for the students, but we'll do that at a different time.

This morning, the Treasury Department also announced that we're moving tax day from April 15th to July 15th. So we're -- we're moving it out to July 15th so that people will have time and people will be able to -- hopefully by that time we'll have people getting back to their lives.

Families and businesses will have this extra time to file with no interest or penalties. We're getting rid of interest and penalties. However, if you have refunds or credits you would like to claim, you may still file -- in other words, you can file early if you are owed money by the IRS. Other than that, we're moving it all the way out to July 15th; no interest, no penalties. Your new date will be July 15th.

Today, our team will also provide an update on our continuing effort to prevent the transmission of virus across America's borders.

And I watched what's been happening in California with Governor Newsom and this morning with Governor Cuomo, and I applaud them. They're taking very strong, bold steps and I applaud them.

And we're all working together -- we're working very closely together, including those two governors. But I would say, based on the call -- the media was there -- I think we can say that with respect to virtually every governor on that call -- I think every governor -- we had almost all of them, if not all of them -- and I would say that you could see for yourselves that the level of respect and esprit de corps working together was extraordinary. There was no -- nobody angry, nobody upset.

We were able to help them and that's what we're all about. We want to help. We're doing things that a lot of people wouldn't be able to do.

But the relationship with governors in states is, I -- I think, very extraordinary, especially under the -- the circumstances, where this just came upon us.

We're working with Canada and Mexico to prevent the spread of the virus across North America -- very closely. You heard what we did yesterday with Canada. And Secretary of State Pompeo will be making a statement in a little while having to do with Mexico and the border, and Chad, likewise. Chad Wolf will, likewise, be making a statement.

[11:55:05] This is a joint comprehensive effort in collaboration with our neighbors. The measure and all of those measures that we're putting in place will protect the health of all three nations and reduce the incentive for a mass global migration that would badly deplete the health care resources needed for our people.

And so we are working very closely with Mexico; very, very closely with -- with Canada, and the relationship's never been better. We're all working for the same -- toward the same goal.

Our nation's top health care officials are extremely concerned about the great public health consequences of mass, uncontrolled cross- border movement, and that would be mostly, and even beyond, but mostly during this global pandemic.

Every week, our border agents encounter thousands of unscreened, unvetted and unauthorized entries from dozens of countries, and we've had this problem for decades, for decades.

You know the story, but now it's a -- with the national emergencies and all of the other things that we've declared, that we can actually do something about it. We're taking a very strong hold of that. And we have before, but this is now at a level that -- that nobody's ever approached.

In normal times, these massive flows place a vast burden on our health care system. But during a global pandemic, they threaten to create a perfect storm that would spread the infection to our border agents, migrants and to the public at large.

Left unchecked, this would cripple our immigration system, overwhelm our health care system and severely damage our national security. We're not going to let that happen. So we have a lot of information, and they'll be discussing that in a moment.

To confront these public health degrees (ph), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to exercise its authority under the Title 42 of the U.S. Code to give customers (ph) and Border Protection the tools it needs to prevent the transmission of the virus coming through both the northern and the southern borders, so we're treating the borders equally, the northern border and the southern border.

It's being treated -- they're both being treating equally. A lot of people say that they're not treated equally. Well, they are.

As we did with Canada, we're also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend non-essential travel. These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.

Furthermore, Mexico is taking action to secure our own southern border and suspend air travel from Europe. So we're coordinating very closely on the air travel going to Mexico, and then trying to come into the United States. The actions we're taking together with our North American partners will save countless lives.

At the conclusion of my remarks, Secretary Azar, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Wolf -- we're going to be also taking some questions with Tony and Deborah, who you've gotten to know very well.

But they'll be discussing certain things, and I think you'll find them of great interest. We're going to be providing tremendous amounts of detail over the coming days, but a lot of it will be provided right now, if you'd like to find out about it.

This has been a week of resolute action, tremendous action, tremendous relationships have developed with people that, frankly, didn't get along. People that didn't like each other, they're now working together, and maybe even in some cases, learning about each other and liking each other. That's a nice thing.

I invoked the Defense Production Act, and last night, we put it into gear. We moved the National Response Coordination Center to the highest level of activists. If -- I mean, if you -- if you take a look at what we did, the level of activation has been increased to a grade one level, which is the highest level.

We're providing historic support to small businesses and to the states. The states need support. Normally, they'd do this themselves, but because of the magnitude of it, the federal government has gotten very much involved in terms of getting the equipment they need.

So we're helping them. It's -- it's a responsibility they have, but we are helping the states a lot. That's why the governors, I think, in every case have been very impressed and very nice.

We enacted legislation guaranteeing paid sick leave for workers at no cost to employers, and I think it's very important.