Return to Transcripts main page


Coronavirus Pandemic; Governor Cuomo Updates New York's Response To Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 11:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me.

I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

We begin with significant new changes in the fight against the coronavirus.

Health officials in New York City and Los Angeles, two of the largest cities in this country, are recommending doctors avoid testing patients in cases where the result would not affect the course of treatment.

We're expected to hear from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at any moment. We'll take that as it happens.

This as the worldwide coronavirus pandemic hitting another milestone.

Johns Hopkins University now says more than 11,000 people have died globally. In the U.S., more than 260 people have succumbed to the disease and nearly 19,000 have been infected.

Governors in four states now are taking strict new measures to slow the spread issuing stay-at-home orders and shutting down nonessential businesses.

This as "The Washington Post" reports that the federal government may have missed its chance to respond to this pandemic months ago. "The Post" quotes officials as saying intelligence agencies warned President Trump in both January and February about the serious threat of coronavirus and what it could pose. CNN has also learned that congressional intelligence committees were also briefed during that time.

All of these developments will likely come up at the White House coronavirus task force briefing which happens in the next hour. Other big questions that the task force will be facing: the warning from experts and officials that critical medical supplies are in short supply and the economic fallout of this pandemic.

Right now senators on Capitol Hill are working to give Americans some financial relief. They are negotiating a massive stimulus package after a week of huge losses on Wall Street and an unemployment rate that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said could hit 20 percent.

All of this as we stand by for a briefing from the President and the coronavirus task force on the latest efforts to fight the outbreak.

Let me bring in now Dr. Syra Madad. She is a special pathogens experts. Also with me is David Sanger, a national security correspondent for "The New York Times" and a CNN political and national security analyst. Good to see both of you.

All right. Syra Madad -- let me begin with you -- your reaction now to this new recommendation by health officials in New York City and Los Angeles, two of the nation's biggest cities, to skip coronavirus testing for certain patients. What does that mean when you hear that?

DR. SYRA MADAD, SPECIAL PATHOGENS EXPERT: That means that we want to make sure that we prioritize testing for those that actually need it -- the high risk population and those that are coming with more severe signs and symptoms of coronavirus disease.

There is not, you know, right now diagnostic capability is still ramping up across the nation and we want to make sure that we're allocating their resources, not just diagnostic testing but obviously requires, you know, I always tell my staff to also wear PPE which is in scarce demand.

And so we want to make sure that we're prioritizing those that actually need testing along with the scarce resources that go along with it.

WHITFIELD: Does this say more about the availability or lack thereof of the tests that these measures would be taken?

MADAD: Well, the availability is there, especially here in the state of New York, the governor has been doing an amazing job trying to ramp up diagnostic capability across the state.

But it's also -- it's not just about the testing, it's also about the safety of our health care workers along with the personal protective equipment and other supplies that they need to be able to do that testing.

Now, as you know, the name of the game right now is making sure we have enough supplies across the nation for our front line staff. So we need to do whatever we can to minimize the use of PPE and what that means is that we want to test only the high risk so that way we're using the PPE in a more better fashion.

WHITFIELD: David -- if patients are denied testing for coronavirus, you know, how might the American public react to this, particularly as this crisis grows?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think there's been growing skepticism about why it is that the administration did not begin the production of more test kits or try to order that and coordinate it back in January when they had plenty of warning.

And so I think the reaction of the public is likely first to be, you know, the anger and anxiety that comes from the uncertainty of being able to be tested.

But then over time, although the administration keeps urging the press not to dig into this, the question is why not when obviously the South Koreans were able to ramp up in time and obviously others were as well.

And, you know, that gets to the critical question you raised at the beginning. Both the intelligence agencies and more importantly the Department of Health and Human Services ran significant scenarios last year that predicted a similar kind of pandemic for which the testing and the need for the ventilators would have been obvious.


WHITFIELD: Let me also bring in to the equation here, Natasha Chen. What more -- Natasha, are you learning -- if you can hear me right now -- about New York Governor Cuomo's announcement on this unprecedented move?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So what we're hearing, of course that you've been discussing, in L.A. and New York is this necessity to make sure that the testing is only done for the highest priority patients. And one of the quotes from a press release in New York is about the supplies rapidly diminishing.

Let me read for a second. It says, "At this point in the pandemic, demand for unnecessary testing is contributing to the rapidly diminishing supply of PPE, personal protective equipment, and leading to a decreasing supply of swabs and viral transport media used to the collect the specimen for the testing."

So I think that the lack of supply that you're discussing has a lot to do with this. There is an order that we're hearing about to immediately stop testing people who are not hospitalized for COVID-19. And so in L.A. there's a similar move to try and do this in attempts to really shift the focus to slowing the transmission between patients. Of course, slowing the community spread and perhaps not testing the people with minor symptoms -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: And David -- you know, you have a story in "The New York Times" today about how top levels of government ignored a cascade of warnings, you know, for the past year. You touched on this a little bit earlier, but -- oh, hold on a second.

Let me now go to Mario (SIC) Cuomo right now. Let's listen in.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: -- the rate of the spread. We're trying to reduce the spread to over a period of months. Over a period of months, our health care system can deal with the numbers. We have moved to zero nonessential workers. You can't go below zero. So we're doing everything we can there. And we put out new rules on personal conduct and what people should be doing and how they should be behaving and where they should be.

Matilda's law, which is for the vulnerable population -- senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems, underlying illnesses -- that was very specific. As I mentioned, I named it for my mother Matilda because I went through this with my own siblings. How do we help mom? Where do we bring mom? There was a difference of opinion.

The best health professionals put together guidelines that can not only help senior citizens but also their families who are trying to deal with this. I know it was helpful to my family and the question among siblings these laws and guidelines answered,

I don't want to mention which sibling. But turns out that he was wrong.

The personal conduct rules and regulations are also very helpful.

I want to thank Dr. Fauci, who is really an extraordinary American and has given me great guidance and help and assistance in putting together these policies. So I'd like to thank him. And we're doing those.

We're working on every level. Every piston is firing. Everything that can be done is being done. New Yorkers are lucky. We have a very experienced team that's doing this. This is not their first rodeo. They've been through a number of emergencies on a number of levels increasing hospital capacity. We want to get the capacity of 50,000 up to a minimum of 75,000.

We told the hospitals we're going to be ending elective surgeries. We're now working with hospitals to reconfigure the space in the hospital to get more beds and to find more staff to manage those beds. We're working on building new beds.

We're going to go out and review a number of sites today. I'd like to get the final list to the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers today. But we're looking at Javits, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Westbury, the Westchester Convention Center. And I'm going to go out and take a look at those sites today or the ones I can get to. That would give us a regional distribution and a real capacity if we can get them up quickly enough.

And then increasing supplies, which is one of the most critical activities. We are literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies. We've identified two million N-95 masks which are the high protection masks.


CUOMO: We have apparel companies that are converting to mask manufacturing companies in the state of New York and all sorts of a creative configurations. And I want to thank them. I put out a plea yesterday to ask them for help and we've been all the phone with all sorts of companies who are really doing great work.

We're also exploring the state of New York manufacturing masks ourselves. We are going to send one million N-95 masks to New York City today. That's been a priority for New York City. And one million masks won't get us through the crisis, but it will make a significant contribution to New York City's mask issue. And I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for working in partnership.

We're sending 500,000 N-95 masks to Long Island. We've been working with County Executive Laura Curran and County Executive Steve Bellone and I want to thank them.

We're gathering ventilators. Ventilators are the most important piece of equipment and the piece of equipment that is most scarce. We're gathering them from all different health facilities across the state. And then we're going to use those in the most critical areas. We also identified 6,000 new ventilators that we can actually purchase, so that's a big deal.

The -- from the federal government's point of view, I've spoken to the President a number of times. I spoke to the Vice President a number of times. They've issued a federal disaster declaration, which is a technical act by the federal government. But what it basically does is it allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency called FEMA, to step in and assist financially.

By that declaration, FEMA would pay 75 percent of the cost of a disaster, New York City would pay -- New York State would pay 25 percent of the cost. The federal government can waive the 25 percent of the cost. I am asking them to waive that 25 percent in this situation.

I've worked on many disasters, FEMA has waived the 25 percent. If there's any situation where FEMA should waive the 25 percent, this is the situation.

We're also working with the federal government. We're requesting four field hospitals at 250 capacity each. That would give us 1,000 field hospital beds. We're going to be looking at Javits as a location for those field hospitals.

We're also requesting four Army Corps of Engineers temporary hospitals. Those are the sites I mentioned earlier that I'm going to take a look at - the SUNY Stony Brook, West Bury, Westchester Convention Center and also Javits. Javits is so big that it can take the four field hospitals and an Army Corps of Engineers temporary hospital.

We're also requesting assistance with medical supplies, which has been a big topic of conversation all across the country. And we're also asking our federal congressional delegation to fix a law that was passed on the coronavirus federal aid. Because of a technical issue, the way the bill was written, New York state does not qualify for aid. That's over $6 billion -- that is a lot of money. And we need the federal delegation to fix that bill. Otherwise, New York state gets nothing. New York state has more coronavirus cases than any state in the United States of America that we should not be included in the bill obviously makes no sense.

We're also going to conduct, immediately, trials for the new drug therapy which we have been discussing. I spoke to Dr. Zucker about it. There is a theory that the drug treatment could be helpful. We have people who are in serious condition. And Dr. Zucker feels comfortable, as well as a number of other health professionals, that in a situation where a person is in dire circumstance, try what you can.

The FDA is going to accelerate to New York 10,000 doses. As soon as we get those doses we'll work with hospitals, doctors, and families on using those drugs and seeing where we get.


CUOMO: The President I spoke to -- he spoke to this drug therapy in his press conference yesterday. I spoke to him afterwards. I said that New York would be interested.

Again, we have the most number of cases. And health professionals have all recommended to me that we try it. So we will try it. We're also working on a number of other drug therapies and antibody therapy, possible vaccines. We have a company here in New York called Regeneron that is really showing some promising results. I've exempted them from the no work order because they could possibly have a really significant achievement for us.

The new numbers -- the more tests you take, the more positives you find. And I give this caution because I think people misinterpret the number of new cases. They take that number of new cases as if it is reflective of the number of new cases, the spread. It is not.

The number of new cases is only reflective of the number of cases you are taking -- right., where our goal is to find the positive cases. Because if we find a positive case we can isolate that person and that stops the spread. So we're actually looking for positives. The more tests you take, the more positives you will find.

We are taking more tests in New York than any place else. We're taking more tests per capita than China or South Korea. We're also taking more tests than any state in the United States of America. That is actually a great accomplishment.

Because if you remember back two weeks, which seems like a lifetime now, the whole question was coming up to scale on tests. How do we get the number of tests up and how do we get it up quickly?

I spoke to the President and the Vice President, and I said decentralize the testing, let the states do it. I have 200 labs. I can mobilize quickly. Let us do the tests. They agreed. We're doing more tests than any state.

So, for example, we've done 45,000 tests. California has done 23,000. Washington has done 23,000. So you see how many more tests we are doing.

And again, I credit the team that's working here, because this is exactly what the mandate was. Perform as many tests as quickly as you can. And that's the drive-thrus we put in place, the hospital management, et cetera. So our numbers should be higher and they are.

Total number of positive cases now is up to 10,000. Number of new cases has increased by 3,000. Just go back in case you can't read as fast as I can't read. 6,000 in New York City. 1,300 in Westchester. 1,200 in Nassau. You see the Westchester number is slowing.

We did a New Rochelle containment area. The numbers would suggest that that has been helpful. So I feel good about that.

You see Nassau increasing, you see Suffolk increasing. So that's just the widespread increase that we have been anticipating. But our hot spot of Westchester is now slowing. And that's very good news.

New York City, it is the most dense environment. This virus spreads in density, right. And that's what you're seeing in New York City. New York City obviously has many more people than any other specific location in the state.

Number of counties are increasing. You see the blue. I said to you early on, that blue is going to take over the whole state just the way every state in the United States has now been covered. Most impacted states, you look at the number and cases in New York is 10,000; Washington, California 1,000 each.

Does that mean we have ten times the number of cases as California or Westchester? Or does that mean we're doing more tests than California or Westchester? The truth is somewhere in the middle and nobody can tell you.


CUOMO: Total number of people tested, we're up to 45,000. Number of new tests -- this is a rate that we watch.

What is the rate of hospitalization? Again, because this is all about hospital capacity, right -- 1,600 out of 10,000. It's roughly 15 percent of the cases. It's been running about 14, 15. It's gone as high as 20 percent, 21 percent. So, actually, 15 percent rate of hospitalization is not a bad number. It's actually down from where it was.

The more refined the number is of those who are hospitalized, how many require the ventilators, because the ventilators are the piece of equipment that is most scarce. That's the next refinement of these numbers that we have to do.

And again, the context on the numbers is important. We're talking 10,000 et cetera. You look at any World Health Organization or the NIH, or whatever -- any of the other countries. They're saying you have to expect that at the end of the day, 40 percent to 80 percent of the population is going to be infected. So the only question is, how fast is the rate to that 40 percent to 80 percent, and can you slow that rate so your hospital system can deal with it? That is all we're talking about here.

If you look at the 40 to 80 percent, that means between 7.8 million and 15 million New Yorkers will be affected at the end of the day. We're just trying to postpone the end of the day so we can deal with the capacity. Again, perspective.

Johns Hopkins -- this is not a science fiction movie. You don't have to wait until the end of the movie to find out what happens. Johns Hopkins has studied every case since it started -- 284,000; 11,000 deaths; almost 90,000 recoveries; 183,000 still pending -- which tracks everything we know in the state of New York.

Our first case, first case, health care worker, 39-year-old female, who was in Iran, she went home, she never went to a hospital, she recovered. She's now negative. You get sick. You get symptoms. You recover. That is true for the overwhelming number of people.

Again -- context. People who died in the flu -- from the flu in 2018/2019 -- 34,000 Americans. 34,000. So when you hear these numbers of deaths, keep it in perspective. 34,000 people died of the flu. Over 65, 74 percent of the people are over 65. 25 percent were under 65.

So if you have an underlying illness, you catch the flu, you can die. More likely, if you have an underlying illness, senior citizens, et cetera, but not necessarily, you have 25 percent, under 65 years old die from the flu.

Also, in terms of context perspective, don't listen to rumors. I mean, you have such wild rumors out there. And people call me with the craziest theories. Just -- I understand there's anxiety and stress, but let's remember some basic context and facts. Society functions, everything works, there's going to be food in the grocery stores.

There's no reason to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper. There really isn't. And by the way, where do you even put a hundred rolls of toilet paper?

The transportation system functions. The pharmacy system functions. These things are all going to work. Nonessential workers stay home. But the essential workers are staying home, especially the health care workers.

There is not going to be any roadblock when you wake up in the morning that says you can't leave this place or you can't leave that place, right.


CUOMO: So if you have a real question, because you think there's a real concern from a credible source, contact my team. We have a special Web site, and ask the question and you will get a real, truthful, factual response. I have not -- I have not hidden anything from the people of this state. I have not tilted facts. Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- the American people deserve the truth, they can handle the truth, give them the truth.

When you don't get the truth and if you don't get the facts, that's when people should get anxious. If I think I'm being deceived or there's something you're not telling me or you're shading the truth, now I'm anxious. Everything I know, I've told you.

And I will continue to tell you. And these are facts. And you hear a rumor, and you want to check it out, go to that Web site. These are people who work for me directly, and you will have the truth.

We do have an issue with younger people who are not complying. I mentioned this before, but it has not gotten better.

You know, you can have your own opinion. You cannot have your own facts -- ok. You want to have an opinion, have an opinion. But you can't have your own facts.

Well, young people don't get this disease. You are wrong. That is not a fact. 18 to 49 years old are 54 percent of the cases in New York state; 54 percent 18 to 49 years old.

So if you're not Superman and you're not Superwoman -- you can get this virus. And you can transfer the virus. And you can wind up hurting someone who you love or hurting someone wholly inadvertently. Social distancing works and you need social distancing everywhere.

There's a significant amount of noncompliance, especially in New York City, especially in the parks. I'm going to go down there today. I want to see what the situation is myself. But it has to be stopped because you are endangering people.

And if it's because of misinformation, if it's because of noncompliance -- I don't care frankly. This is a public health issue, and you cannot endanger other people's health. You shouldn't be endangering your own but you certainly have no right to endanger someone else's.

This is my personal opinion. This is not a fact, you know. To me it's very important that, especially in situations like this, tell me the facts and then tell me your opinion. This is my opinion.

We talk about social responsibilities, especially young people talk about social responsibility and they should. We passed a lot of legislation in this, ground breaking legislation. National firsts on economic rights, first highest minimum wage in the United States, human rights, first state to pass marriage equality which I believe was a human rights issue.

We talk about environmental responsibility. This state has the most aggressive environmental laws in the United States of America. And I'm proud of it. But I also want people to think about the social responsibility when it comes to public health. We haven't talked about it before, it's not really a field. It's not really an issue. It's not really a hashtag. But social responsibility applies to public health just as it applies to human rights and economic rights and environmental rights. Public health, especially in a moment like this, is probably most critical.

So let's think about that. And let's act on that.

In this crisis, think of ourselves, we are all first responders. We are all first responders. Your actions can either save or endanger a life. So we are all first responders.


CUOMO: What's going to happen? We're going to get through this. We don't know how long it is going to take us to get through this. Fact is, we're trying to slow the spread of the virus to a number of months so the health care system can deal with it. So therefore, by definition it's going to be a number of months.

I know people want to hear, it's only going to be a matter of weeks and then everything is going to be fine. I don't believe it's going to be a matter of weeks. I believe it is going to be a matter of months. But, we are going to get through it.

And how long and how well it takes us to get through it is up to us. It depends on what we do. You know, when you're sick and you say to the doctor, how long until I get better and the doctor says it well, depends on what you do. If you follow the advice, you'll get healthy faster, but it depends on what you do. This depends on what we do.

China is now reporting no new cases. Let's assume that's true. Look at that trajectory and look at that turn around. Look what they did, right. We do have data we can follow. So how long is it going to take? It depends on how smart we are and how responsible we are and how diligent we are.

You tell me the percentage of compliance and intelligence and discipline on social distancing, et cetera, I'll tell you how long it takes us to get through it.

Also, something that people aren't really talking about but I think we should start talking about. We talk about the economic consequences of this situation. And they are going to be significant. And we are going to have to deal with it. And New York will be right on top of it, and as aggressive as we are with everything else.

But economic consequences come second, right. First is dealing with this crisis. And we talk about the economic consequences but we also need to talk about the social consequences. And it's hard to gauge and it's hard to measure because there is no Dow Jones index that we can watch on the screen that is measuring the social consequences and the social decline.

But the stress, the anxiety, the emotions that are provoked by this crisis are truly significant. And people are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.

And this state wants to start to address that. I'm asking psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists who are willing to volunteer their time to contact the state and if this works out, I would like to set up a voluntary network where people can go for mental health assistance where they can contact a professional to talk through how they're feeling about this. They're nervous. They're anxious. They're isolated. Can bring all sorts of emotions and feelings to the surface.

When you're isolated, you don't have people to talk to. So I'm asking the professional mental health establishment to contact us. Let us know if you're willing to volunteer time. It would obviously be all electronic. It wouldn't be in person. It would be over the telephone. It would be Skype, et cetera.

But I'd ask you to seriously consider this. Many people are doing extraordinary things during this public health crisis. I'd ask the mental health community, many of them are looking for a way to participate. This is a way to participate.

And if we get enough mental health professionals willing to volunteer their time, then we'll set up a mental health electronic health center and we'll talk more about that in the next few days.

What happens -- besides how long, what happens? The bigger question to me is what do we learn about ourselves through this? As a society we have never gone through this. Thank God we haven't gone through a world war. We haven't gone through any great social crisis.

Here in New York we went through 9/11, which I think is relevant in terms of some feelings that are now -- people are experiencing. 9/11 transformed society.


CUOMO: I was there, I was part of it. You were never the same after 9/11. You had a sense of vulnerability that you never had before, which I feel to this day there was a trauma to 9/11.

But as a society, as a country, we have been blessed that we haven't gone through something as disruptive as this. So what did we learn about ourselves? And I think what we're seeing already is that crises really brings out the truth about ourselves, first of all, and about others. And you see people's strength and you see people's weaknesses. You see society's strengths and you see society's weaknesses.

You see both the beauty and the vulnerability. You see the best in people and you see the worst in people. You see people rise to the occasion and you see people fall from the burden of the emotion.

So I think it's -- you take a step back, first there are people doing extraordinary work who deserve our thanks. And when you see a health care worker on the way to work. When you see a grocer who's been working a double shift trying to deal with the demand in these stores. When you see a pharmacist who's overwhelmed with the long lines. When you see a police officer, firefighter who -- they're out there doing their job. They're opening doors, they don't know who's on the other side of the door. They're walking up to car windows. These are just extraordinary heroes. Heroes.

Ask yourself -- would you do that? I mean, what kind of selflessness and courage? You talk about public service -- what does public service mean? This is public service. This is public service in stereo and on steroids. These are people stepping up.

When you see them, say thank you. The bus drivers, the subway drivers, public transit workers. These are people showing up. They're leaving their family. They are just as nervous as you are. But they're doing their job.

Child care workers who are watching people's children so they can go work in a hospital or do their essential function. They deserve our thanks. And I think understanding what they do in some ways gives us a perspective on how beautiful people can be. And how courageous people can be. And how great Americans can be.

My last point is, practice humanity. We don't talk about practicing humanity. But now, if ever there's a time to practice humanity, the time is now. The time is now to show some kindness. Show some compassion to people. Show some gentility, even as a New Yorker.

Yes, we can be tough. Yes, this is a dense environment. It can be a difficult environment. It can also be the most supportive, courageous community that you have ever seen.

And this is a time for a little gentility. It's a time for a smile when you're walking past someone. It's a time for a nod. It's a time to say hello. It's a time for patience. And don't let the little things get you annoyed. That's New York at its best. That was New York after 9/11.

Yes, we have a problem. Yes, we will deal with it. Yes, we will overcome it. But let's find our better selves in doing it. And let New York lead the way in finding their better selves and demonstrating their better selves.

That's the New York destiny and that's the New York legacy. And that's why I'm proud to be a New Yorker. That's why I'm proud to be the governor of this great state. And we're going to do it like we've always done it before.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- on the 6,000 ventilators where are those located and how soon could they be in hospitals in New York?

CUOMO: They were located in places all across the globe -- Jesse. They will be coming in over the next several weeks.


CUOMO: We're also looking, by the way, at technologies that would allow you to use one ventilator for multiple patients where one ventilator, for example, could serve two patients.

So we're getting as creative and as aggressive as we can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can we assume that most of those would end up in New York City considering that's where the bulk of the cases are?

CUOMO: They go where the cases go -- yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- a very emotional doctor locally here who tells me that they are out of hospital gowns, that they have no masks, that they are reusing hospital gowns that potentially could have been exposed to a patient with COVID-19 and without COVID-19. What's the message to them?

CUOMO: Look, this is a national problem, the medical supplies. States are scrambling all across the board. I'm proud of everything this state has done and the extraordinary efforts.

As I told you, we have people on the ground in China. I'm calling people all across the world for these supplies. We have apparel companies that will go into the gown manufacturing business. We have to secure the material, which we're trying to do now.

We're working on getting the New York state -- New York state also manufactures uniforms. If I can get the material, we'll make them in the state. I have companies in the -- in New York where we're buying equipment, sewing equipment for them so they can manufacture them. But we have a gown shortage statewide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just have a couple questions --

CUOMO: It's not just Albany, it's worse than that. It's a gown shortage statewide. We're doing better with masks. We're doing better with ventilators, nowhere near where we need to be with ventilators. So we need 30,000 ventilators, we're at 6,000. But at least we got to 6,000.

The masks -- the medical community has told me over and over again, the masks are the priority for the COVID-19. So we have made progress on masks. Gowns are also very important no doubt. But we have not been successful, as of yet, with finding a supplier of gowns. But we are searching high and low.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With the number of masks. I think you said two million, right, the N-95 masks, one million going to the city -- I forget the other numbers you're saying, but they're not staying here in upstate New York.

CUOMO: We have enough masks to handle all of upstate's needs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does that mean -- enough?

CUOMO: The numbers are very different between Albany and New York City, right. So we do the allocation based on where the cases are. And New York City -- New York City, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk -- that's the locus of the problem. Masks for upstate hospitals we can address that. So we can fill that need as of now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- testing -- first of all, people are wondering have you been tested?



CUOMO: Because I've not been exposed to anyone who is positive. I don't have a fever. I don't have any symptoms. And I don't want to waste a test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Albany -- the two major hospitals in Albany -- are saying they're not going to be able to test members of the public, even though they have symptoms. They have to save it for the health care workers, is that a concern?

CUOMO: The hospital -- we are testing by the same protocol all across the state -- Karen. If you meet that protocol, then you get a test. And it's on the Web site.

If you have been exposed to someone positive, if you are showing symptoms, if you meet that protocol -- you get a test. And again, we are testing more than any state in the United States of America. We are testing more per capita than China and Korea.

So yes, no state -- no country can give everybody a test who wants a test. But that shouldn't be the goal either. This is not just, you know, I want a test to make myself feel better.

And by the way, it won't even make you feel better because ok you didn't have -- you tested negative at 10:00 a.m., but then you went and you talked to six people, maybe you're positive again. You know, you'll never solve that neurosis, right. You know, that anxiety.

But anybody who fits that protocol can get a test. And more people are getting tests in this state than anywhere else. And that is good news.


CUOMO: And look, I'm very proud of what we did. We were all starting at the same place and for us to come up to scale that quickly and get to scale where we're doing more than anyone else, that was great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, you mentioned that the health care workers (INAUDIBLE) -- have you figured out how many people have recovered and what the (INAUDIBLE)?

CUOMO: We can get you those numbers. I don't have them with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talked about the technical issue with the federal legislation -- what do you mean by that? Is that in the house bill or is it the one -- CUOMO: The House bill that passed said -- this is a little weedy --

but the House bill that passed said for a state to get the federal money, it can't make any changes in the Medicaid procedures.

In this state, since January, I announced the MRT, the Medicaid Redesign Team. They issued their report that changes procedures in the Medicaid program. I've been doing that since January.

We can't do a budget without changes to Medicaid. And by the way, you need changes to Medicaid because there's a lot of waste and inefficiency on Medicaid on those long term programs as we've been discussing for six months. They then wrote a bill that said if you -- it's not really funny, it's like sad but it's either you cry or you laugh. They wrote a bill that said if you change any procedures in Medicaid you don't qualify for the federal funding. I know but we've been changing procedures since January.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The four field hospitals you're talking about, are those essentially outdoor MASH units? What would those look like?

CUOMO: The four field hospitals -- you have two types of, I call them pop up hospitals, and they say don't say pop-up hospital, which only makes me say pop-up hospital more.

The field hospitals are done by the FEMA. They are equipped hospitals that do 250 people each. They're basically a tent configuration with beds, with medical equipment, with staff. And they come in 250-bed capacities. We requested four of those -- so a thousand.

The Army Corps of Engineers, they basically do a tent-like facility. They can do it in a gymnasium. They can do it in the Westchester Convention Center. They can do it outside, but then it needs an HVA system, climate control system. That is more just a tent structure itself without the beds, without the medical equipment and without the staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the field hospitals would be set up where? Would they be adjacent to hospitals or would they be in parks?

CUOMO: We're talking about the field -- the field hospitals -- 1,000 beds in Javits. Again, if it works, if it fits -- this is all preliminary. I have to talk to the Javits people about the electrical service et cetera. But a thousand beds in Javits and we don't have a number yet in those other four locations.

Excuse me one second. Where's Gareth (ph)? Gareth -- is that all correct?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, you had any consideration of quarantining vulnerable people out of state prisons that if they get infected it might spread like wildfire there. CUOMO: If -- we're watching that situation very closely. We don't have

a significant issue yet of spread in the prison system. We've taken certain precautions. We've stopped certain visitation. But if we have a problem, we'll address it, but we don't have that problem yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're not letting people out yet. You're waiting to see what happens?

CUOMO: Right. If we have a problem then we'll address it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On those N-95 masks -- you said there are two million (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: No, those are two million that we are acquiring. How many -- how many new N-95s have we identified to buy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's most of the stock. And we've been at this for weeks. And then yesterday, of course, we've had so many people reach out and so we're sorting through that to get more. We're looking to buy in bulk obviously and get as much as we can.

CUOMO: Two million are the number of masks we have identified to buy. By the way, just a little caution. These are companies who say, I have the masks, I will sell you the masks, I will send them by this date for this amount of money. Just so you know what's going on.


Masks that normally cost 80 cents are now $4 -- ok. These N-95 masks. But look, it's price gouging, but we need them. And most of these are coming from overseas. But so far two million new masks we've identified.


CUOMO: There's a trade association called The Greater New York Hospital Association -- that's what Ken Raske runs. So between the voluntary hospitals and the public hospitals, they will be distributed proportionately.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- regarding the consequences to the state treasury, I agree that public health is job one, of course. I drove in here thinking about something Governor Mario Cuomo once said about advocates asking him to do this or that, fund this or that, and he said which SUNY campus do you want me to close?

Governor Carey (ph) once said that the days of wine and roses are over. So when these advocates are coming up in this climate, it seems to me that some of the press releases that I see, et cetera, are rather Pollyanna-esque because they haven't really fully adapt to this new reality.

So is it a time for a reboot as to expectations as what the state can do for towns, cities, or all these groups that are out there relying on the state for funding? And do we need a pay freeze? Which you probably can't do with the union contracts going forward. Are we going to see some very heavy duty measures?

CUOMO: Yes. Job -- thank you for remembering my father. My father governed at a time where frankly you could be a little more candid and blunt, and he was. He also didn't have a lot of tolerance for frivolity or nonsense.

Look, the advocacy community, their job is to ask for more money, right. Every budget, more money. Well, I'm giving you 100 percent more -- it's not enough. I'm giving you 200 percent more -- it's not enough. What number would be enough? No number because I get paid to say I want more, right. And an advocacy organization by definition can never say it's enough because then they put themselves out of business.

To be advocating -- and we did a budget proposal that was very rich to begin with -- to be advocating for more state funding in this situation is beyond the pale.

WHITFIELD: All right. You're listening to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and just one of the reporters there just like I did, invoking his father's name, Governor Mario Cuomo, at the top three-term governor. But this time it is Governor Andrew Cuomo's turn.

And he touched on a number of things there during that lengthy press conference, acknowledging the anxieties, impressing upon the personal responsibilities that everyone has at this time, as well as warning of economic consequences.

But let's touch on some of the highlights particularly where he said, you know, with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York -- 10,000 positive cases. He says now the federal government will give 10,000 doses of new trial therapy.

He showed a graphic up. He didn't mention it by name. But the graphic showed it was hydroxychloroquine which is a common anti-malaria drug treating the parasite causing malaria. But early tests have shown that there are signs of improving symptoms of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19, respiratory disease caused by coronavirus.

He also mentioned that these new trials of therapy will take place for those in dire circumstances there in his state. He also mentioned that there will be four hospitals, four field hospitals that will be set up including in the location of the Javits Center which is a convention center. He talked about FEMA helping, providing the resources so that 250 people could be treated at any number of these field hospitals.

He also said that he is scouring the globe looking for supplies, but at the same time mentioning that New York will provide a number of N- 95 respirator masks to New York City which has a number of confirmed cases.

I've got with me now an incredible team: CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci, and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. Good to see all of you.


So David -- let me begin with all of you. The governor covered a lot of ground at the same time while he was providing information. He was also trying to ease a lot of the anxieties that New Yorkers, Americans as a whole are experiencing.

What was so pronounced to you?

SANGER: I think what was most pronounced was the contrast between how the governor dealt with this and the way President Trump dealt with very similar questions in his press conference yesterday. When the President was asked how many ventilators have you ordered, he said a lot and wouldn't say from where. When the governor was asked he said 6,000 and it's not going to be enough, we need 30,000.

He discussed in some detail how they're getting the masks and how many they think are coming in and then got into a discussion of price gouging. So what struck me was that His approach to this was to give people sort of a set of facts that we can then come back later on and say, did these get delivered.

It also happened in his discussion of the experimental drug. He did not say that he had great enthusiasm this would work. He said he agreed that it should be given for compassionate use for those who most needed it and to determine whether it worked.

That's a very different sound than the sort of boosterism that we heard from President Trump yesterday.

WHITFIELD: And when Dr. Fauci said yesterday, he tried to kind of clean it up for the President saying, you know, the President is speaking from a hopeful perspective. But he's speaking from a more clinical way that, you know, it's anecdotal, no real promises here. And again people -- there have to be case, you know, testing.

Elizabeth -- so, you know, talk to me about how -- how remarkable, perhaps, it is that New York will be receiving these 10,000 doses and the governor was willing to share that publicly that there is some hope and it will be for the most dire of circumstances.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred -- I'm actually going to take a step back and say there is some hope that we could get an answer as to whether or not this drug is useful. We still don't know.

Right now we know that there was a small study in France, 20 patients that found that when people who were infected with COVID-19 when they took this drug and then they took secretions from their noses in the back of their throats, there was a lower viral load.

What that meant was that the virus -- there was a decrease in the virus in the respiratory secretions. That doesn't mean that they got better. It doesn't mean that if they were dying, they would have survived. All it means is that the viral load went down.

We need to see if this works. And Dr. Fauci made an excellent point yesterday when he said we haven't tried this drug with this disease before. We don't know if it will work and we don't know if it will be safe. We have to try it out.

(AUDIO GAP) trying out process that is fast, and that is a good thing.

WHITFIELD: And then Cristina, the governor there acknowledging this is going to be painful for a lot of people for a very long time. He didn't want to sugar coat it at all. He said the reality is, you know, this is something that everyone is being tested by and have to work together and be understanding, be compassionate and be patient and smart and responsible.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, a lot of anxiety also tied to the fact that the economy is taking a hit. We have never seen anything like this.

This is essentially a forced shutdown of large parts of the U.S. economy and it's going to impact people living paycheck to paycheck. And it is -- it's a dire situation for those people.

One of the biggest banks in America here, Goldman Sachs predicting that just this week alone, 2.25 million Americans will lose their jobs and the numbers just get more dire from there.

The good news is Congress is working on a rescue package over this weekend, happening right now, to try and get cash in the hands of people who need it the most and also companies out there who are really struggling like airlines.

WHITFIELD: Very sobering situation.

And Cuomo saying, you know, everyone needs to act as though we are all first responders. He warns that it will be a number of months in which everyone will be enduring this together.

All right. Elizabeth Cohen, Cristina Alesci, David Sanger -- thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up our next hour -- we do expect to hear from the coronavirus task force on the national response to the epidemic. We'll bring that to you live as it happens.

Also still to come, rather -- education in America is turned upside down as tens of millions of students are now forced to be away from school.