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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the Coronavirus Crisis; Doctors and Nurses Come out of Retirement; Federal Reserve Signals Help for Economy. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 08:30   ET



MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): All of the towns, all of the counties around this country that are going to be overwhelmed. The only way they can make it though is with federal help. And right now that's hanging in the balance in Washington.

So, John, I want to appeal to everyone in the House and Senate, you have got to help cities, towns, counties, states, public hospitals, private hospitals, you've got to give all of us direct relief because we're losing billions of dollars day after day, week after week. No more revenue coming in. You know that, John, but we still have to serve people. We still have to save lives. And we need that help from Washington, starting today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, at this point, the Democrats in the Senate, they voted no on the stimulus package because they say they want more oversight over some $500 billion in money. Are you calling on Democrats to drop their objections and just vote yes?

DE BLASIO: No, John, I think what the Democrats are saying, I think oversight's a part of it, but they're saying we should not prioritize bailouts for the airlines and the big corporations. The first bailout should go to the American people. You know, millions of people have lost their jobs suddenly. So money back in the pockets of working people. And then help cities, towns, counties, states, to be able to handle extraordinary, huge new needs that we simply can't handle. I mean you're going to see cities and towns and counties go broke unless there is this direct aid that needs to be in this package and of course direct aid to hospitals. That's what Democrats are fighting for.

BERMAN: So at the Javits Center, which is here in New York City, the president announced four sets of 1,000 bed facilities. When are those beds going to be available in the city?

DE BLASIO: John, we are waiting to confirm that. I'm certainly encouraged to see that. I think it could be absolutely crucial because we're at a point literally this week where our public hospital system, the largest in the country, is getting increasingly stressed and running out of equipment. So that operation, the Javits Center, could be a life saver for us. We expect to see a lot of that up and running this week, but we're still wait for, you know, to see it and get the final details in place. BERMAN: You said last week you needed millions, tens of millions of

masks in numbers of supplies. Last night the president said that some are on the way. Have you received an exact count of what's coming here?

DE BLASIO: No, John. No. I spoke to President Trump and Vice President Pence last night in detail, and I'm glad we had the conversation, and I appreciated the focus of the conversation. But what I want to see is the real material support for the people of my city, 8.6 million people who are right now in the cross-hairs, as you said, the epicenter for America. We have not yet seen quantities of ventilators, of masks, of all the supplies we need.

And -- and I went over it with the president and vice president, the ventilators, if we don't get a supply of ventilators quickly, our public hospital system literally after about a week or so, we will not have enough ventilators to keep people alive who could live through this crisis and could be saved. And then, even after equipment, John, I talked to the president and vice president about personnel. There's not going to be enough medical personnel in New York. We're going to need help from the military and from other parts of the country.

BERMAN: What did they say?

DE BLASIO: And we talked, of course, about direct aid in the stimulus bill. If we don't get all those things, our hospital system will not be able to hold.

BERMAN: What did they say in terms of the ventilators when you made that request?

DE BLASIO: Look, I don't want to typify their part of the conversation. That's for them. I will say I -- I'm appreciative that they took the time and we went into real detail, but I made clear to them what I need right now is action, not words. And every day counts because we're literally in that very tight window now that if we don't get the ventilators in particular, we will actually start to lose lives that could have been saved.

BERMAN: You said that this week is going to be bad. April is going to be worse and you're worried that May could even be worse than that.

DE BLASIO: That's right.

BERMAN: That's a different bit of a different message than we got from the president this morning who suggested at the end of this 15-day period, this national 15-day pause, it will be time to reassess and he says we have to make sure that the cure is not worse than the problem.

What do you say to people who say that these measures, these social distancing measures, saying 100 percent of New Yorkers not in essential industries have to stay home is worse than letting coronavirus run its course?

DE BLASIO: John, I understand. Honestly, I think for all of us it took days and weeks to fully understand the magnitude of this. But now that we do, we have to do this intense social distancing. We have to do these shelter in place measures, as New York and California have done. They need to be everywhere, because here's the reality, this is a disease that unless you cut off its oxygen, if you will, which is to stop people from having all the kind of interaction we're used to as human beings, unless you create social distancing, it moves so fast, John, that it simply overwhelms any effort by the health care community to address it and therefore thousands of lives will be lost that could have been saved.


It's as simple as that. And I think we have to take these extreme measures. But it's not forever. I mean that's why I'm trying to get people in my town acclimated to, we have a couple of rough months ahead, but then you come out the other end.

BERMAN: I guess the question is -- I guess the question, though -- the question, though, is, the president's raising is, is it worth it? How do you answer the question to people who ask you, is it all worth it?

DE BLASIO: Well, I think we start with a human reality, John. How many -- how many members of our family, especially our older relatives, who are the people, you know, really vulnerable here. Are we simply saying as a nation, we're going to turn away and ignore the challenges facing them? I don't think that's right. I think we have to understand that if we act intensely, we can save thousands, tens of thousands of lives all over this country and stop this thing from becoming even more total and more intense. And we have to recognize, if it gets, if it -- if coronavirus was not checked in some ways and slowed, then you're talking about a health care system that can't function at all, including for all the people with other challenges, with all the other health care challenges we deal with all the time.

So I understand people who say, you know, wow, this is a -- this is an extraordinary sacrifice. It is. But if you don't slow this thing down, they'll sacrifice a lot more on the other end of the equation. And we've got to think about the human cost here.

BERMAN: How close are medical facilities in New York City now to the brink as far as you can tell, and what will keep them from going over?

DE BLASIO: In our public hospitals, our 11 public hospitals right now, this week, I can only guarantee you right now, John, that we can get through this week with the equipment and supplies we have. That's the blunt reality. If we don't get some relief quickly, and I can count, John, I literally want to see hundreds of ventilators, I want to see, you know, first, hundreds of thousands and millions of masks. If that doesn't come in starting this week, we will get to a point where people can't be saved who could have been saved.

BERMAN: So just to reiterate that, you're talking a number of days at this point, within seven days you think that New York will have more than it can handle?

DE BLASIO: John, it's shocking to have to say this. Even just a few days ago I thought we could get, you know, safely into April. It's moving so fast right now that I can't even say that anymore. Public hospitals handle the toughest cases and the folks with, you know, the biggest health care problems, the fewest resources. If we don't get ventilators this week, we are going to start losing lives we could have saved. I can't be blunter than that. And I appealed to the president and vice president. I've appealed to the private sector. And I'll say it to everyone watching right now, anyone in the United States of America who has a ventilator that you can get to New York City, we need it now. We need to save lives. We need it now.

BERMAN: You're asking for private citizens with ventilators? You're asking private citizens with ventilators to drive them in at this point?

DE BLASIO: John, I will take any help from anywhere because what's happened, John, this is a blunt reality your viewers need to know, the national supply chain is totally roiled at this point in the sense that you could try to order ventilators or masks from anywhere in the country and then someone outbids you somewhere else in the country or in the world and suddenly your supply is gone. I mean I've been hearing stories the last few days from my emergency management team where they expected millions of masks to come in and they had to tell me that somehow we got outbid somewhere else in the world and they're going someplace else. I mean the price gouging that's happening here and, bluntly, the opportunism by some is disgusting.

So there's not now a national mechanism for ensuring, and there has to be. And I talked to the president and vice president about this, there has to be a national intervention by the federal government to say, OK, here is the place first that needs the ventilators and the masks, here's second, here's third, and that's where they're going to go, not an open market based on who can spend the most money and make the quickest deal because right now we have no guarantees from the private sector. So anyone out there who could help us get these supplies, we have only days to get them in place. That is the reality.

BERMAN: All right, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio we appreciate your time. Thank you very much for being with us. We will let you get back to work this morning.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Mayor.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of retired health care workers are now heading back in and straight to the front lines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is kind of who we are and what we're made for, and it's hard to sit on the sidelines.


HILL: How they're heeding the call during the coronavirus crisis, next.



HILL: As the coronavirus crisis gets worse, many doctors and nurses on the front lines are going to get sick themselves. Reinforcements are among the many things in short supply. You've just heard New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio say he's worried about having enough health care workers. Well, now, thousands of retired doctors and nurses are raising their hands to help.

Here's CNN's Miguel Marquez with more.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): High risk but highly motivated, 67-year-old Doctor Anne Sacks-Berg retired last year. No longer can she watch as the Covid-19 coronavirus kills and changes the way we live.

SACHS-BERG: I feel I have a moral obligation to share my skills.

MARQUEZ: For 28 years she was an infectious disease and palliative care physician at Huntington Hospital on New York's Long Island. It's one of nearly two dozen hospitals run by Northwell Health, New York state's largest private health care provider. She is exactly the sort of health care profession hospitals everywhere need right now.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Why, may I ask, do you get emotional talking about this?

SACKS-BERG: I think it is because I feel it is a moral obligation and I, you know, I feel I have this in common with other health care workers, they're putting themselves on the line every day and going to work.


This is kind of who we are and what we're made for, and it's hard to sit on the sidelines.

MARQUEZ (voice over): She is also one of thousands of Americans heeding the call, helping take on the biggest challenge the U.S. and the world has seen in generations.

SACHS-BERG: We can't imagine what it's going to be like a week or two from now. I think it's going to be -- it's going to be a bad situation and we are going to lose a lot of people.

MARQUEZ: Hospitals know what's coming. Not only are they critically short of protective masks, gloves, gowns, beds and ventilators, they also expect doctors, nurses and first responders to get sick and face quarantine themselves.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): So we're asking former doctors and nurses, contact your previous employer, Department of Health, we'll accelerate your recertification.

MARQUEZ: Northwell Health, where Dr. Sacks-Berg worked for her entire career, has 72,000 employees helping run 23 hospitals and nearly 800 outpatient clinics throughout New York. Seventy-five employees have tested positive for the virus, mostly from community exposure, but a larger number, 270, have been forced to stay home and self-quarantine due to exposure.

SACHS-BERG: I've got everything I need right here.

MARQUEZ: For now, Dr. Sacks-Berg is devouring every scrap of information about the disease she can, waiting for the inevitable call to return to work and get back in the game, whose rules are still not fully understood.

SACHS-BERG: I don't think we have any idea of how many people are going to end up requiring hospitalization in a very compacted period of time.

MARQUEZ: If and when a wave of critically ill patients need care, Dr. Sacks-Berg fully expects to be on the front line.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Huntington, New York.


BERMAN: And those are the heroes on the front line of this.

There's a medical issue, a public health issue and then serious financial concerns, and we have major breaking news in the financial front.

The Federal Reserve stepping in a way we have not seen yet. What exactly the Fed is going to do? That's next.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news. The Federal Reserve signaling moments ago it will take major new action to prop up the economy.

Joining us now, CNN International anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, there are some technical terms at play here, but this is a big deal.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR, "FIRST MOVE WITH JULIA CHATTERLEY: This is a huge deal, John. This is what we call a "whatever it takes" moment to shore up the finances of households, to tackle what I've been describing to you as a financial crisis here. We often talk about the Federal Reserve using a bazooka to tackle markets and the economy. This is bazooka, cannons and tanks all at once. They are saying they will buy corporate bonds in whatever size to stabilize that part of the market that's been putting a lot of pressure on the banks. They'll also help municipalities and buy those bonds as well. This is a key part because we've seen borrowing costs for some of the states really rising.

But there's a separate part to this, too, as well. They're saying they'll buy treasuries, mortgage-backed securities to try and protect the mortgage market as well and they're saying they're establishing a lending facility for small and medium size enterprises that will also try and protect some of the money, the credit that flows through to households as well. It's tackling one of the crises that I've said to you and the hope is that we need to find the details out and we haven't got those yet.

If borrowers, if corporates and if small and medium sized enterprises take this money, they will hold onto their employees. So the hope is that it stops some of the immediate flows and redundancies, the firings that we're seeing. So it's about tackling the financial crisis, tackling the jobs crisis that's happening immediately, and the hope then is, I think, that the recovery that we see off the back of this will be that much stronger.

These moves today, John, are pivotal.

BERMAN: And you can see the market, the futures going up right now in response to this move, after they had been negative.

And, Julia, just to be clear, this is distinct from what the Senate is voting on today and what Congress is deciding, which is an upwards of $2 trillion protection and stimulus package. How is it different?

CHATTERLEY: This is a great question. Some of this is part of what was being discussed, the terms and conditions that are going to be attached to some of these lending facilities. That will be separate from the unquantifiable amount of buying that they're going to do.

What we're seeing here is support for financial markets, which, in the end, will protect jobs. The stimulus that we need Congress now to agree on and sign is going to put checks, money in the hands of individuals. So it's the process that we see this money applied that's important. It doesn't negate the need for immediate action for Congress. But it is going to lend some stability in the short term and shore up confidence, guys, which is, again, important for the recovery and stabilizing the system over the next two to three months.

HILL: And the fact that this is specifically going to address also small and medium sized businesses, which are such a large part of the American economy. I mean, Julia, just put that into perspective for us, what that does, not only in terms of confidence, but for the economy itself.

CHATTERLEY: It is absolutely critical. Eight-five percent of the employment in the United States is small and medium-sized enterprises. They hold less than a month of cash in hand, so instantly what we've seen is people being fired. It's not a great decision. It's an incredibly tough one. But we're seeing it. So pumping money to these guys and not loans because we don't want them to be in debt as a result of this, we want it to be grants, if they hold onto their employees.


For these it's lifeblood. You know, again, I'll reiterate, guys, this is an investment again in survival for many of these companies. So, so critical. And, of course, for the workers, too, that live paycheck to paycheck. We need to see action and big size. And this is what we're starting to see now. A little bit late, but better late than never.

BERMAN: All right, Julia Chatterley, thank you very much for that.

Just one of the major developments taking place really all over the last few minutes.

The Fed taking action. The Senate about to vote. The president seeming to cool on the idea of social distancing. And the surgeon general, moments ago, telling the nation, brace yourself, this week is going to get worse.

Our coronavirus coverage continues right after this.



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto. It is Monday and we're all in this together. And today we are hearing a warning from --