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New Jersey Testing Sites Open for Firs Responders; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 27, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Any moment now, we'll hear from the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He's in New York City giving his daily update on his state, now the epicenter of the coronavirus.

Next door, in New Jersey, now more than 6,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus, second only to New York. In New York City, a stunning 11 percent of the NYPD has called out sick.

Two state-run testing sites are now open in New Jersey for the first responders and health care workers who are the heroes on the front lines of this pandemic.

CNN's Athena Jones is at a testing site in Holmdel.

Athena, what are seeing there? How long is the line behind you?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. This site has been open since 8:00 a.m. And they've had this location since Monday. You can see cars are trickling in at three separate lanes to come in, be tested. They're required to keep their windows up when they drive up. You'll get yelled at if you keep your window down, because these are people who are New Jersey residents who have symptoMs.

Today is a day anyone can come. There's no appointment necessary. If you have symptoms and you can prove you live in New Jersey, you can get tested here.

We've been talking to folks here. Earlier in the week, when they first opened, they were reaching capacity about 15 minutes in. The line of cars, they would start turning away new cars. Now they're allowing people to trickle in, which means they have not reached their capacity of 250 tests.

As you mentioned, John, New Jersey second only to New York in the number of confirmed cases. We can't get a real picture of how many people have this virus or how well these isolation measures are working if we don't do more testing. That's why we're seeing the sites pop up in different areas around the state. I should say here, tomorrow and at the other state-run site, at Bergen

Community College, is where they'll test symptomatic health care workers and first responders exclusively.

That is important, John, because these are the folks who are on the front lines. Health care workers in the hospital obviously treating patients. But EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, these are people who are oftentimes having the first contact with these suspected coronavirus cases.

They're concerned with getting the virus, transmitting it to others and spreading it -- John?

KING: Absolutely, they should get preferential treatment. The question is, will they ramp up more testing.

Athena Jones, watching some progress in New Jersey. Athena, appreciate that.

Before we go to break, the United States has more coronavirus cases than any nation on earth. A very different trajectory than the president predicted one month ago today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't go out and say, it's terrible, it's terrible. We're doing incredibly. Think of it. And 15 people out of billions of people, 15 people.

We have done an incredible job. We're going to continue. It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- the men and women who assembled and did such a great job on this facility.

The increase in the number of cases continues. We still see that trajectory going up. Those are the dates, from March 3rd to March 25th.

Strategy, plan of action all along. Step one, flatten the curve. Step two, increase hospital capacity. Flatten the curve, meaning, if you do it as well as you can do it, hopefully, there's no high point of the curve. There's no apex. It's a flatter, lower curve.

Why? So the hospital capacity can keep up with it. That's what this is all about. Not overwhelming the hospital capacity. And at the same time, increasing the hospital capacity that we have so, if it does exceed those numbers, which it will in most probability, that we have the additional capacity to deal with it.

Flattening the curve, these are all sorts of measures we put in place. Bar non-essential workers, social distancing, closing bars, closing restaurants. All the things I did that made people very happy with me.


But the way you make a decision is the benefit and the burden, right? The risk and the reward. We are battling a deadly virus. Is there an intrusion on daily life? Yes. Is there an intrusion on movement? Yes. Is there an intrusion on the economy? Yes. But what's on the other side of this scale is literally saving lives, and that's not rhetorical. That's not drama. That's fact.

Public education is very important. It's important to all of us. On the other side of the balance beam is public health. I decided to close the public schools because I believed it was safer to close the schools and reduce the spread. We did that on March 18th. We said we would do it for two weeks and then we would reassess the situation at the end of two weeks. Two weeks ends on April 1.

We also said that we would waive what's called the 180-day requirement that every school has to teach for 180 days. We would waive that but that we would close the schools until April 1 and then we would reassess.

Also we said that every school district before it closes had to come up with plans to continue functions that they were doing. Because school districts do more than just educate, they provide childcare for essential workers, they provide schools, they provide meals in the schools. So everything that they were doing, they had to come up with a plan to mitigate the consequence of their closing, including distance learning for their students.

I have to reassess because April 1 is just in a couple of days. And I believe the schools should remain closed. I don't do this joyfully. But I think when you look at where we are and you look at the number of cases still increasing, it only makes sense to keep the schools closed. They have to continue the programs they're doing. They have to continue the childcare, continue the meals, continue the distance learning programs.

I'll continue the waiver on what's called the 180-day mandate they have to be in operations, but we're going to close the schools for another two weeks and then we'll reassess at that point. And that is statewide.

At the same time, we're working to increase hospital capacity. What is a possible apex of the curve? It changes a little bit depending on the data day to day. But now we're looking at about 21 days for a possible apex. So we want to do everything we can to be ready for that increased capacity that could hit us in 21 days and ramp up the hospital capacity.

We are doing everything we can. We're doing things that have never been done before. We're doing things that when we put them on the table, people thought they were impossible. But we are now doing the impossible, as you know well here with what you did over the past week. All hospitals have to increase their capacity by 50 percent. We're

asking hospitals to try to increase their capacity 100 percent. Because we need that many beds. We're also looking at converting dorms, we're looking at converting hotels.

We've been gathering equipment from everywhere we can, PPE equipment, most important piece of equipment for us are ventilators, and we're shopping literally around the globe to put it all in place. We're creating a stockpile of this equipment so that when and if the apex hits, we can deploy equipment from the stockpile to whatever region of the state or whatever hospital needs it.

So we collect it, we hold it. As a hospital needs it, a region needs it, then we deploy it. The N-95 surgical masks, examination gloves, protective gowns, coveralls and most importantly the ventilators.

Why ventilators? Because this is a respiratory illness. People need ventilators who come in for acute care. And the people are on ventilators much longer than most patients are on ventilators. Most people are on a ventilator for two, three, four days. These COVID patients can come in and need a ventilator for up to 20 days. So you see why that need for ventilators is so important.


And, again, all of this is to make sure we're ready for that apex when the entire system is stressed and under pressure. And that's what we're working on.

For the hospital capacity at the, quote, unquote, "apex." We need 140,000 beds. We have 50,000 beds. That's why we're asking you to scramble and do what you're doing. We need 540,000 ICU beds. When we started, we had 3,000 ICU beds with 3,000 ventilators. You see how monumental the task, how monumental the mountain that we have to climb.

Of the 140,000, how do we get to the 140,000? As I said, all hospitals increase by 50 percent. Some hospitals will increase 100 percent. They're going to get the gold star hospital award. I don't know exactly what that means, but we'll figure it out later.

FEMA and the Army Corps and the National Guard have been working to put up these emergency hospitals. So far, we have planned for four, the one we're in today at the Javits Center, one in Westchester County Center, one at Stonybrook and one at Westbury. That would be 40,000 additional units. They are all underway as we speak. Not as far along as your good work at Javits, but they are on their way.

Again, with all of these beds we still have a shortfall. So we're going to go to Plan B. What's Plan B? We're going to seek to build another four temporary emergency hospitals, which would get us another 4,000 beds.

And we just have been scouting sites for a few days. We have settled on a few sites working with the Army Corps of Engineers. And I'm going to ask the president today if he will authorize another four temporary hospitals for us.

I want to have one in every borough. I want to have one for the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, State Island, Brooklyn, one for Nassau, one for Suffolk, one for Westchester so everybody knows downstate, which is where the essence of the density is right now, that everyone equally is being helped and is being protected.

We looked at a site in the Bronx at the New York Expo Center. It's a 90,000-square-foot site. We think it would work well. The Army Corps of Engineers looked at these sites and thinks these sites will work. At the racetrack site, 1,000 square feet there.

One in Brooklyn called the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. It's owned by the port authority but it's a wide-open space. We could convert it very easily, 182,000 square feet.

And in State Island, the College of State Island, which is a CUNY facility, 77,000 square feet. Again, inside can be converted. It has power, it has climate control, et cetera. We would do the same thing that we've done here successfully so we know it works, we know it's feasible.

Building the interior space. We have exterior space that we could put up a temporary tent for supplies, equipment, et cetera. That would give us coverage all across the downstate area with proximate facilities to every location downstate. And it, frankly, is the best plan that we can put together and execute in this timeline.

We also have, beyond the next phase of temporary hospitals, if the White House grants that request, we have the Navy ship "Comfort" coming up. That is going to be on its way soon. It's going to be right here in New York Harbor. It is a massive facility in and of itself, 1,000 beds, 1200 medical personnel, 12 operating rooms. It has a pharmacy. It has a laboratory. And it should be here on Monday. So that will also help us in this quest.


And then we're looking at dormitories and converting dormitories downstate. We're looking at city college dormitories, Queens College. We have the dormitories because the colleges are closed, and the students have left, so we actually have dormitories that we can convert.

We're also looking at hotels and nursing homes. We're looking at the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge Hotel and a nursing home called Brooklyn Center.

So as you can see, we're looking far and wide. Very creative, aggressive and finding all the space that we can possibly find and converting it to be ready in case we have that overflow capacity.

We also have it planned out so that this will be coming online before we think the apex hits. And at the same time, we're trying to flatten the curve to delay and soften that apex, right? Those are the two strategies. Slow the spread, flatten the curve. In the meantime, increase the hospital capacity so whatever that surge

is that you have, you actually have the capacity to deal with it.

Right now, we have a plan where over the next three or four weeks, which is the same timeline as the apex possibly coming, we're going to have the capacity as high as we can possibly get the capacity.

In terms of where we are today, because we're tracking the numbers, we want to see what's happening and are we getting closer to the apex? Are we succeeding in flattening the curve?

We've been testing. We test more in this state than any state in the United States. We test more per capita than China or South Korea. So we ramped up very quickly on the testing.

New tests, 16,000. Total tested, 138,000. Number of positive cases, total cases 44,000. New cases 7,377. It continues to spread all across the state as it continues to spread all across the country.

The number of deaths, we're up to 519 in New York. That's up from 385. That is going to continue to go up. And that is the worst news that I could possibly tell the people of the state of New York.

The reason why the number is going up is because some people came into the hospital 20 days -- 25 days ago and have been on a ventilator for that long a period of time. The longer you are on a ventilator, the less likely you're going to come off that ventilator.

And that's not just true with this virus. That's true with every illness. When someone is on a ventilator for a prolonged period of time, the outcome is usually not good. So we're seeing a significant increase in deaths because the length of time people are on the ventilator is increasing. And the more it increases, the higher the level of deaths will increase.

And, again, we expect that to continue to increase. It's bad news, it's tragic news, it's the worst news, but it is not unexpected news, either.

If you talk to any health care professional, they'll tell you, if you're talking about a loved one, if they're not off that ventilator in a relatively short period of time, it's not a good sign.

Overall, 44,000 people have tested positive, 6,000 currently hospitalized, 1500 in intensive care units. That's up 290. Those are the people who need the ventilators. And 2,000 patients have been discharged. That's up 528.


So you have people coming into the hospital, getting treatment and leaving the hospital. Most people who get the virus will never even go into the hospital in the first place, right? So we have to keep this in focus. So 80 percent of the people who get the

You will feel ill or maybe you don't feel that ill or you think you have the flu and you self-resolve. So 80 percent of the people. And 20 percent will go into the hospital. Some of them will get short-term treatment and they'll go home.

A small percent -- and they tend to be vulnerable people, people with an underlying illness. This respiratory illness compounds the problem they have. They had compromised immune systems. They were battling cancer. And on top of that, they now get pneumonia, which is what this coronavirus is. That's the population that's most vulnerable.

They then go onto the ventilator and some percentage get off quickly, some percentage don't get off. The longer they're on, the higher the mortality rate.

New York is the most effective state in number of cases and numbers of deaths. Why? We welcome people here all over the globe. People from China came here and people from Korea came here. People stopping in China or stopped in Italy and came here.

Because we are a very dense environment. Social distancing. Stay six feet away. That's hard in New York City, right? Walk down the sidewalk that you can stay six feet away from someone. We are so dense and together, which is what makes us special, gives us that special New York energy and gives us that New York mojo. And that density becomes the enemy of a situation like this.

This is the total number of people who have been hospitalize hospitalized. We have been watching these numbers every day. We are now compiling the numbers in a smarter way before we were getting individual patient data.

Every hospital had to tell us each individual patient of what their address was and where they came from and what the underlying illness was and put all that information together, which was labor intensive. It was erratic the way the information would come in. Sometimes the hospital was too busy to put all that information together so they did not send it in until the next day or the day after.

This is a uniform set of data. The entire number of people in that hospital who have the COVID virus. Without getting through all the specifics of individual names and circumstances. It is easier for them to get us this data.

You see again the steady incline in the number. But, and this is good news. Early on, you see the number was doubling every two and a half days. Then it was doubling every three days. And now it is doubling about every four days. It is still doubling and that's still bad news because it still means you are moving up towards an apex right because that number still goes up.

There's good news that the rate of the increase is slowing. So there are two separate tracks. The rate of the increase is slowing but the number of cases are still going up. Those two-points consistent. That's what we are seeing.

We want to see the rates slowing and then we want to see the number of actual cases coming down or flattening. That's the flattening of the curve. But, this is where we are today.


Again, to keep it all perspective, people don't know what to make of the coronavirus and what's going to happen. Johns Hopkin's studied every coronavirus of China, 532,000 cases they studied. Of all those cases, there has been 24,000 deaths. That's a lot of deaths. Yes.

But compares to 542,000 cases, it gives you a sense of this disease. If you look at the 24,000, they're going to be overwhelmingly, older people and people with underlying illnesses and et cetera.

The amount of support that we have gotten from New Yorkers in the midst of this crisis is just extraordinary. I am a born and bred New Yorker, if you can't tell my Queens accent. I can tell when you are a Brooklyn accent or your Queens accent of your Manhattan accent and your State Island accent.

But New Yorkers never cease to amaze me. They're talking about New Yorkers are tough. Yes, we are tough. Living in a place like this you have to be tough. As tough as we are, as loving as we are, and as big as our heart is. When someone needs something, there's no place I would rather be than New York.

And the number of people who are volunteering and coming forward, we put out a call for additional medical personnel because we have to staff all these additional beds, we put out a call, 62,000 volunteers. The number went up 10,000 in one day. How beautiful is that. These are people who retired, who did their duty and who are sitting at home but they are coming forward.

Same thing we ask for mental health professionals who could provide mental health services electronically over the phone or Skype or et cetera. Many people are dealing with mental health issues.

This is a stressful taxing situation on everyone. On everyone. Isolation at home. You are home, you are home alone day after day, that's a stressful situation.

You don't know what's going on. You are afraid to go out. You are isolated with your family. That's a stressful situation. Not that we don't love to be with our family. We all do. That can create stress. And there's no place to go and there's no one to talk to about that. So this mental health service over the telephone is very, very important.

I want to speak to most important people in the room for a moment, who are the people are responsible for this great construction behind me.

First, I would like to introduce General Patrick Murphy, to my left. General Murphy is tested and smart and he's tested tough. I have been with the general for nine years and I have seen him in hurricanes and Superstorm Sandy and floods and everything mother could throw at us. I have seen him in attempted terrorist attacks and there's no one better. He leads from the front. He knows what he's doing. You could not have

a better commander at this time than General Patrick Murphy, I want you to know that.

I want to congratulate the Army Corps of Engineers for what they did here. I used to be with the federal government. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers all across the country. I worked with them on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation building houses. One of the officers of the Army Corps of Engineers are still in service and reminded me of that. They are top shelf. And what they did here is top shelf.


I want to thank you the Javits staff, which really stepped up, and our National Guard because you are the best of us. You are the best of us. Whenever we call on you, you are there. And what you did in this facility in one week, creating a hospital, is just incredible. I don't know how you did it.