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NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response; Cuomo Orders All Hospitals to Increase Capacity by 50 Percent; Surgeon General Warns Upcoming Week Will Be "Very Bad" as Trump Hints at Rolling Back Social Distancing . Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 11:30   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I'm very proud of the measures we've taken to address this public health crisis. You look at our numbers, we've done things that no other state in the country has done.

But I'm also very aware that you cannot -- it is unsustainable to run this state, this country with the economy closed down, right? We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars, you're people laid off. You have to get the economy up and running. So, that has to be planned at the same time. And Steve Cohen and Bill Murrow are going to do that.

There's another complication, which is what Dr. Katz is talking about, can you have a public, a more refined public health strategy that is also more productive or less destructive to the economy.

Could there be a more intelligent public health strategy that is more productive or less destructive for the economy? Meaning, is it smart to put Cara with me? Right? Is it smart to have college kids coming home, kids staying home from school next to their grandmother, is that a smart public health policy?

Shouldn't you have stratified the risks, that's the public health question. And if you stratify the risk, can people start going back to work and you start to restart that economy? So you're doing smart public health policy and smart economic policy. I think there is a line, a dot where those two lines cross. You have to identify it and that's what we're going to start to work through.

QUESTION: Do you feel it's overkill at this point?

CUOMO: No, I have no -- I have no second thoughts on actions that I have taken. I would make the same decisions today. I have no second thought on going to zero non-essential workers.

We sat here everyday, Jesse (ph), we saw that scale ticking it up. I turned the valve a little bit, I turned the valve a little, made no difference, I turned the valve off, by the way, it still hasn't brought the rate down low enough. So, I have no second thoughts. I'm sure there will be political consequences.

I know people are very angry about it. I had a gentlemen tell me, you know, there's no way this state will every reelect you because of what you did. Frankly, I don't even care about that. I did the right thing, and I'm proud of it. At the same time, at one point you have to open the valve, right? You have to open the valve, because that is oxygen for the economy and this is not sustainable.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) it doesn't appear in the two executive orders issued over the weekend that there were specific rules on canceling all gatherings and large gatherings. Can you speak to if those rules are recommendation or do you plan on putting those in writing in an executive order?

CUOMO: Yes, I'm not sure what you're referring to. Do you know what --

QUESTION: No, it's a directive. We put it out a couple of days ago. There's no gatherings of any kind, including weddings, parties, birthday parties, it's a directive across the board. If you're saying that there's some confusion about that, I'll ensure that it's an executive order today, but that was a directive, it's not a recommendation.

CUOMO: You can get married, it's just a very small convene, which is also very cost effective. It's like elopement. It's a government policy.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) state budget, the Medicaid bill in Congress is still the same. Senator (inaudible) said that (inaudible) should (ph) be (inaudible). Where does that all stand at this point?

CUOMO: She doesn't think what? I'm --

QUESTION: She doesn't think that (inaudible) are going to be (inaudible) at this point (ph).

CUOMO: The legislature is going to do their job, just like the executive is going to do their job, just -- which is our way of honoring the hero's in public service today, the police officers, the firefighters, the nurses, the health workers, the food delivery workers, the pharmacy workers, all those people who have to go out and do their job, right?

So, the legislature will do their job, the executive will do their job. We will pass a budget, and not just a budget, we will pass a budget and address the policy items that we laid out and we discussed because it's not just about passing a budget and the numbers, there are many policy initiatives that I laid out back in January and we're going to purse all of them.


The only caveat was if you have a really complex issue that normally would require weeks of nuanced detailed negotiation to do it right, that we won't do. Because I don't want to pass any bills that are not really intelligent that I then have to come back and deal with again next year.

So, if it's a highly complex issue, I get it. And then let's put it off because we don't want to do something sloppy but otherwise no.


The other reform has to be done.

QUESTION: And (inaudible) has to be done?

CUOMO: I want to do legalizing marijuana.

QUESTION: What does BEAR reform look like (inaudible)?

CUOMO: What does BEAR reform look like?

QUESTION: Yes, (inaudible)?

CUOMO: I think -- well, you have different positions on BEAR reform, right? You have the assembly, you have the Senate, you have my proposal that I did last year, you have people that are very concerned out there, strong opinions on both sides. I just want to see a resolution and progress. And I want to see it in the budget.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) recommended $2.5 billion worth of cuts for people. That's a structural thing for the budget but we're also really spending the healthcare system now. Can you do that now? Do you agree with those cuts? And are you thinking about any other way to get through this Medicaid issue?

CUOMO: The -- there are different things in there, right? You have many costs in Medicaid that have absolutely nothing to do with anything we are doing now. And you have many parts of Medicaid that have grown exponentially where frankly there is gross waste, gross waste.

And almost periodically you have to go to any of these government programs and you have to question every premise, every premise. Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this? And you will find there are ways to save money and that's what we're doing here.

The -- we have a -- I want to show you videos that the state is running to help communicate to New Yorkers they need to stay home, they need to isolate because we're trying to get out the message.

I've been saying it. And everyone's been saying it. But we have to do a better job communicating so we're trying a number of other vehicles. So just show them the -- oh, I have to do it. Have to do everything myself.


ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Hello, this is Robert De Niro. We all need to stay home. We need to stop the spread of this virus and we can only do it together. Not just to protect ourselves but to protect others and all the older people you love. Please. I'm watching you.

(LAUGHTER) DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR: Hi everybody, it's Danny DeVito. And I'm asking you from the bottom of my heart all over the state of New York stay home. I mean everybody. I mean we got this virus, this pandemic and young people can get it and they can transmit it to old people.

And the next thing you know -- I'm out of there. So, Governor Cuomo asked me to ask you please do us a favor, all of us and stay home, not spread this virus around. Thank you. Watch a little TV why don't you?



CUOMO: One more question, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about how the infrastructure of New York City, people living on top of each other, giant apartment buildings, subways, how that might just be contributing to the spread to coronavirus?

CUOMO: Density controls, density contributes to the spread of the virus, airborne, sneezing, coughing and density in that I touch this table. The virus could live here for two days. You come tomorrow, I'm gone. You touch that spot.

In New York City, all that density, a lot of people are touching a lot of spots, right? Park bench, grocery counter, just picture the city in daily life.


And that's why in denser areas you'll have a higher rate of spread than in more than in more communities. It's just a function of interaction and proximity. I have to go to the Javits Center. Thank you very much, guys.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You were listening to the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, about 50 minutes, a briefing in Albany, New York, another reminder of the unprecedented waters we are in fighting the coronavirus and the complexity.

The governor, in Albany, talking in a different tone and in a different way about an issue the president is also tweeting here in Washington: When do you find that sweet spot where you can go from dealing with the public challenge and go back to fighting the economy? That was one of the issues the governor talked about today.

He also said there's a new order in New York, ordering hospitals in New York -- get this, it's a big number -- to increase their capacity by 50 percent. Add 50 percent more beds. And he would like it if the hospitals could get to 100 percent more beds.

The governor poking the federal government, saying it's time for President Trump to use the Defense Production Act to order manufacturers around the country to produce more protective equipment for health care workers. He said the states are now competing and that process is not working.

But he also, the governor did, the Democratic governor of New York praising the president of the United States for help with emergency hospital beds in New York.

Let's continue the conversation. Joining me, Brynn Gingras in New York, Shimon Prokupecz as well, Dr. Leana Wen, and emergency room physician and former Baltimore city health commissioner, and Dr. Katie Passaretti, the medical director of infectious prevention at Atrium Health.

Brynn, I want to go to you first.

You listen to the governor essentially saying people need to follow his orders but also saying there has to be a point in the near future, he's trying to figure out when, to hit the go button on the economy again.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he says he has assembled a team to get this answer, not making any promises to any New Yorker at this point but saying, it's on our minds, which is reassuring.

John, we're always playing on our air, CNN, the governor's press conferences in full. There's a reason for that. Partly because a lot of people like hearing from this government. He's reassuring in his language and his leadership. That's not a personal opinion. I hear it from strangers all the time on that.

But also this might be repeated. What we're seeing here in New York might be repeated in other states and other major cities. This is just really the beginning of all of it. So let's also keep that in mind.

We're seeing here on the ground incredible surge of the hospitals. We've been hearing it from medical professionals all along. Well, we are certainly seeing it.

I'm going to get out of the way, John, so we can zoom in. Just look at all those umbrellas that are lined up here in sometimes hail conditions to get a test, to get into the E.R. of this hospital. John, have you ever seen a line to get to the E.R. of a hospital? That's what they're experiencing at this point.

Keep in mind, in New York City, there's an order to not test anybody unless they are at high risk, essentially saying what Dr. Sanjay Gupta has said, that people who come in with symptoms of coronavirus that are not high risk, they're using the precious hospital space, they're using medical equipment from the staffers who are looking out for them, so really keep that for the people that really just need extra care.

That's also something the governor was alluding to, creating this extra capacity in the hospitals. There's a number of ways the state is doing that. They're telling all the hospitals they have to increase their capacity by at least 50 percent with the goal of trying to get to 100 percent. He wants that plan in place.

Essentially, hospitals, saying, you know, cancelling elective surgeries, also putting more beds into hospital rooms, using different places to create hospitals, which I know Shimon will get to. But, this is an issue the state is facing and likely could get repeated. That's just one level there.

And we didn't even get to the protective equipment that all these hospitals are facing, a major shortage and the governor admitted it's a shortage that might run out by the end of this week. He can't even make promises by about the kind of equipment the health care workers will receive next week.

KING: And 20,000 cases across New York right now. The governor saying he can get through this week with that gear but he can't make any promises. A very important point

Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Shimon, you're outside the Javits Center in Manhattan, 1,000 beds expected there as FEMA rushes in to help the state. The governor was very complimentary about that. Tell us how this process is likely to unfold and how quickly.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How quickly is a great question, John, because, right now, we don't know. What I've been told is that there are officials inside, they're doing a walk-through, getting a sense of everything inside and how they're going to construct these hospitals.

What they're going to do is there are going to be four separate sections of these hospitals, federal hospitals. They're going to be divided into four sections with 250 beds each, making 1,000 beds.


What the governor has said, by having FEMA come in and do this, they bring the staff, they bring the equipment, and, of course, the ventilators, the critical equipment that we keep hearing the governor talk about, saying that we are going to need those ventilators.

So with this, with the construction of these hospitals behind me here at the Javits Center, you're going to have that additional critical equipment.

The other thing we heard at the governor's press conference -- and I think this is a number we're going to see rise -- is that there are now at least 600 people in the ICUs across this state. Of course, as that number starts to grow, they're going to need more resources. They're going to need more ventilators. So behind me here, will be one of those places where they're going to have some of these ventilators.

What we don't know is how this is going to work, who is going to be brought here, how are they going to decide what patients ultimately get brought here. The governor himself said he is coming here today. He's in Albany, so

it's going to take a couple hours for him to get here. He will walk through himself and THEN perhaps we will hear more later from him how this is going to work.

The president said yesterday all of this should be done in the next 48 hours, FEMA should be here -- 48 hours being tomorrow. We'll see if that's the case.

The good news, at least, is that the process has started. We have people inside walking through, and we should hear more from the governor later this afternoon -- John?

KING: A lot of unhappiness, a lot of frustration, and a lot of demands of the federal government. It was nice to hear, at one point, the governor saying, at least on this front, saying he believes the president is helping he appreciated it.

Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate that.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll put the question to our doctors. The surgeon general today said the week ahead is going to be, quote, "very bad." Yet, the president seems to be hinting it's time to roll back those restrictions that require us to social distance.

We'll be right back.



KING: Welcome back. Sources telling CNN's White House team today, President Trump is getting antsy at the restrictions put in place over the coronavirus, hoping, because of the economy shutdown, hoping that, a week from now, when we hit that 15-day covered by the president's recommendation, that America can start to get back to normal, that there will be less social distancing and the like.

Contrast that, the president getting antsy, thinking it's time to get the economy back in the grove, with this from the president's surgeon general on television just this morning.


JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad. Really, really, everyone, stay at home.

You don't think people are taking it seriously?

ADAMS: I think there are a lot of people who are doing the right things. But I think that, unfortunately, we are finding out a lot of people think this can't happen to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Let's discuss this with Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and a former Baltimore health commissioner, also Dr. Katie Passaretti, the medical director of infection prevention at Atrium Health.

Doctor Wen, to you first.

There seems to be a bit of a conflict there. The president, we're told, is getting antsy. He thinks 15 days is enough, you can dial back those restrictions. But if you listen to Dr. Adams, Dr. Adams says this week will be bad. Governor Cuomo says this week will be bad and next week may be worse. Which is it?

DR. LEANA WEN, E.R. PHYSICIAN & FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: This week is going to be bad. Next week will be worse and the following week is only going to be worse. We are on this rapid escalation of the number of cases. We have 8,000 new cases from this weekend alone.

And this is really the last time we should be dialing back or our approach. What we need to do is scale things up dramatically. Because that's what's happening. People are dying. Our health care workers don't have equipment. We don't have nearly enough beds and supplies. Our staffs are going to be suffering as a result.

I appreciate what Governor Cuomo had said early, which is there's something that each of us could be doing. The states and local officials are doing their part. Each of us are doing our part.

But the federal government really needs to step up and have a unify message and put forward a national coordinated effort because this is the time. We have a very narrow window of opportunity to save lives.

KING: Dr. Passaretti, on that point, in the sense that you have the governor of Michigan a short time ago imposing new restrictions in her state and the governor of Massachusetts asking for new restrictions in his state. Yet, and you understand the public officials need to talk about this, whether the president of the United States or the governor of New York. At some point, you have to flip the switch and try to get people back to work and the economy.

But from a communication standpoint, when people are out there, they hear the president say maybe it is time to let these restrictions go or they hear the governor saying it may be time to get New York back to work, is there a risk, even though they have to think about that, they're talking about it and would make people think, oh, they're getting through this.

DR. KATIE PASSARETTI, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF INFECTION PREVENTION, ATRIUM HEALTH: Yes, you always run that risk. If we learn anything throughout the past couple of weeks it's that the situation is changing day by day and we need to assess that as we go. It is too early to tell exactly what the next couple of weeks.

But certainly, as Dr. Wen is mentioned, the trajectory we are on is not good. So we need to reinforce that the public and hospitals all need to be taking very seriously, doing things differently than they've ever done it before. And then adjusting as we learn more of what makes the most sense.

KING: Dr. Passaretti, let me stick with you. The governor says New York hospital must increase by 50 percent their capacities, their number of beds. Is that feasible?

PASSARETTI: It varies from place to place as to whether it's feasible. I think everyone does have more capacity than we traditionally had, so looking at traditional places, seeing where we can squeeze in extra patients. Looking at areas of the hospital we have not traditionally used for patient care and assessing those and seeing what's safe to provide the best patient care for people. Something everyone needs to be doing right now.


KING: Dr. Wen, back to the supply issue, the PPE, the personal protection equipment, the governor, on the one hand, as I said, praising the president for help with the temporary hospital beds, the emergency hospital beds. But saying get over it, Mr. President, please use your Defense Production Act to take federal control over the ordering the manufacturing, setting the pricing and then distributing masks, gowns and other protective equipment.

Is that the biggest issue at the frontline right now?

WEN: There are a lot of issues facing our frontline workers. But, frankly, they can't focus on taking care of patients if they believe that they're not protected themselves. My colleagues are terrified to go back home for fear they're going to be infecting their young children and their elderly parents.

We can't have our health care workers fearing for their lives because, first, we'll run out masks and then we'll run out of health care workers

We need it all. We need the beds, we need the equipment, and we need the staff. We need to protect our staff. That's really the least that we can do for these frontline workers that are putting their lives for us every day.

KING: Dr. Wen and Dr. Passaretti, thank you. Appreciate your patience during the governor's new conference.

Coming up for us, we'll continue to cover the medical debate. But also, one hour from now, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to take a key vote on the massive stimulus bill. Can they strike a bipartisan deal? The negotiations continue.

Stay with us.