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NY Gov: Buying Supplies "Like Bidding On eBay" Against Feds, States; Acting Navy Secretary On Military's Battle With Coronavirus; Kentucky Has Nearly 500 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- appropriation authority to make those payments personally.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be delayed though because just the way the pay period fell, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. It has nothing to do with how the pay period fell. They presently have the authority to do it. They presently have full legal authority and appropriation authority to make the payments.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Never, not paid the state employees. Even when the budget was late. Yes? Hold your questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what's the update with the budget at this point?

CUOMO: No update, see how easy. It's either coming or it's not coming. We are where we are, you know, the numbers are what the numbers are. The numbers don't lie. The numbers leave you fewer alternatives. Federal Government says they're going to provide funding. If they provide the funding, then the next few months we should have some additional money.

But am I going to say to the people of the state, I believe the federal government is going to deliver money to the state government, heard it before. And it didn't happen. So I'm not going to count on money that we don't have, especially when the political process is the process that's supposed to deliver the money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it doesn't look like there's going to be a new relief bill anytime soon, at least by tomorrow. So what options are left now for the state when it comes to -- what spending is ultimately going to be hard here in the budget?

CUOMO: You -- well, it's also sort of -- it's interesting, because it's all basically contingent. We have the budget. We do a budget on the projections we now have. If we get more funding, we increase the allocation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talking about state budget issues now after a lengthy briefing talking about his state's response to the coronavirus. The numbers are damning. The governor's anger raw. First the numbers, New York 75,795 coronavirus cases, more than half of them in New York City. The death toll in New York, 1,550 as of today, that is a day to day increase of 332 from yesterday.

Because of that, the governor says the apex depending on which model he looks at, is anywhere from seven to 21 days away. New York needs help now, the words from the governor calling for a federal surge of equipment and openly voicing his frustration at the federal government, particularly FEMA. The governor says trying to get ventilators right now is like being on eBay competing with 50 other states. And he says even as the 50 states compete, that of late FEMA has come in further driving up the prices.

The governor also saying this is not the time for on the job training for the FEMA officials helping the New York State response. He is clearly frustrated there. He also said the ventilator need continues in his state. Again, he says he's hoping for help from the federal government.

Let's discuss more of what we heard from the government from the governor with one of the doctors on the frontlines of this pandemic. Dr. Megan Ranney, she's an emergency physician in Rhode Island, also an associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University. We're also joined by Dr. Harvey Fineberg. He's the former president of the Institute of Medicine in 2014. He chaired the International Committee directed by the World Health Organization to evaluate the global response to H1N1, the virus.

And Dr. Ranney, I want to start with you. You're in a smaller state. You're behind the curve, if you will, of the caseload in New York. But when you hear the governor talk about his frustrations with the federal government, he also talks about his frustrations between the private health systems and the public health systems within his own state. You can see the rawness of his emotion, trying to get the two systems in New York to stop their normal turf battles and cooperate. And more importantly, on the issue of ventilators, we keep hearing from the White House, the supply chain issues have been fixed. He clearly believes they have not.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Listen, here in Rhode Island, just like in New York, that we're experiencing the same frustrations that Governor Cuomo articulated so well. The supply chain is absolutely broken. Prices for simple things like masks have gone up by 10 to 20 times. Normally an N95 mask would cost my hospital somewhere around 40 or 50 cents. Current going rates are 5 to $7 per mask.

And we're talking about systems that literally need a million masks in order to outfit their providers. Now, imagine that the increase in the price for ventilators, this is beyond the capability of most individual hospital systems, much less state governments. We really do need the federal government to step in, to moderate the prices and to distribute those supplies where they are best needed.

My governor and Department of Health and Health System are working day in and day out to try to get supplies. But as Governor Cuomo described it has become a bidding war out there, which is not fair to the people trying to take care of patients.

KING: And Dr. Fineberg, using New York as an example but then looking at the country, Dr. Ranney's experiences in Rhode Island, California seeing these cases go up, we're seeing in the Louisiana, particularly New Orleans, in Michigan, particularly in Detroit, the arrow going in the wrong direction straight up.

[12:35:06]

What do you look at to try to figure out, you know, if and when it starts to bend? And is this a factor in the State of New York, when you look at the death numbers, and you'll see the number on our screen, we're showing them every day. It's just depressing. When you look at the numbers from Friday to Saturday, the day to day increase was 209. Saturday to Sunday, it was 237. Sunday to Monday, it was 253. And now Monday to Tuesday is 332. So every day New York is setting a sad day today record. Is that a factor if you're trying to build a model or is it more on the number of new cases?

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE: It's both John. You have to look at the number of new cases and also the number of severe cases. And what's most important for the nation as a whole is that we're at different stages in this pandemic. And that's both a problem for the states that are at the epicenter like New York, but it's also an opportunity for the states that are not yet suffering the severe brunt of this pandemic.

Our goal should not be simply to flatten the curve across the country, it should be to crush the curve. We should be in a position with a unified command from the federal through the state and local levels, to be able to mobilize all the resources that we have to track this pandemic by testing, to treat the people who need treatment, to isolate the cases, quarantine anyone expose, and take advantage of the ingenuity and creativity across the country to put real solutions in place.

KING: And Dr. Ranney as we go through this, there are so many elements of it and I don't pretend to understand them. But when you listen to the governor, he talks first about the equipment. I need these ventilators. I have -- do you see my caseload going up? Either whether it's seven days from now or he hopes he has three weeks, he's going to be at the apex in New York and he's got all these patients needing critical care.

But he also then talked about the physical, the emotional distress on the frontline workers, people like yourself saying, he's worried that by the time that the apex gets here, they are going to be wiped out both physically and emotionally. Tell us what that is like.

RANNEY: John, first, I give you credit, you actually do a great job of understanding what's going on out there. But I will echo his concerns. My text messages and e-mail are full of messages from my fellow providers, my residents, my colleagues, my nurses, who are terrified and exhausted. The process of donning and doffing this protective equipment is in and of itself physically exhausting.

Taking care of patients who are our age, who are parent's age, or kids age and seeing them critically ill is also emotionally exhausting. And then the fear for what comes next and whether we ourselves could be infected and die, brings it to a whole new level. The other part is that we've never before he had to practice in a way where we simply cannot get access to the supplies that we need.

American healthcare system does not normally work this way, right? And so we're used to saying, hey, we need more medications, more medications get delivered. We need more protective equipment. We've never been without before. And so there's this massive shift in the mindset of healthcare workers across the country that some are saying is causing moral injury and putting us at risk of anxiety and burnout. I am worried about my colleagues.

KING: Right, as the governor put it, I'm tired of being behind this virus. And so you have the equipment issues, you have the stress issues, the emotional issues, Dr. Megan Ranney, Dr. Harvey Fineberg, really appreciate your insights and perspective as we continue to fight our way through this.

And another aspect of this, a very somber one, a coronavirus first, an Army National Guardsmen from New Jersey passed away over the weekend marking the military's first coronavirus fatality. The death underscores big concerns inside the Pentagon about the coronavirus and why sailors, for example, still packed into aircraft carriers.

In a letter to Navy fleet commanders the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Captain Brett Crozier says he cannot isolate the virus on his ship. His ask, get the sailors off board, please. He says quote, we are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors.

Joining me now from outside the USNS Mercy, the Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for taking the time today. I want to talk about the critical mission of that ship behind you and its partner on the east coast. But to the point we just heard there, what are your complications? What is your plan? And when you hear from commanders on vessel saying, I need to get these sailors off my ship? How do you weigh that with National Security concerns and what will happen?

THOMAS MODLY, ACTING SECRETARY, U.S. NAVY: Well, thanks, John, it is a balancing act and we're working very hard in trying to make that balance acceptable.

[12:40:00]

I heard about the letter from Captain Crozier this morning. I know that our command in the organization has been aware of this for about 24 hours. And we've been working actually in the last several days to move those sailors off the ship. And to get them into accommodations in Guam.

The problem is that Guam doesn't have enough beds right now. And so we haven't talked to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create some tent type facilities there. But we don't disagree with the CEO on that ship. And we're doing it in a very methodical way. Because it's not the same as a cruise ship. I mean, that ship has armaments on it, there's aircraft on it. We have to be able to fight fires, if there are fires on board the ship, we have to run a nuclear power plants.

So there are a lot of things that we have to do on that ship that make it a little bit different and unique. But we're managing it and we're working through it. And we're taking all the input and we appreciate all the input both from the CEO of the ship and the Medical Command on that ship, and we're going to work on those issues are immediately.

KING: I want to -- you have a very tough job, an incredibly tough job. And so, you know, you're going to face some criticism, you're going to deal with things as you go. I want you to listen to your boss here, the Secretary of Defense, because as you deal with this pandemic, and you are the leader of an organization, and you're trying to help your workers, if you will, those sailors on these ships, you also have a job to protect America, listen to the Secretary of Defense who says we will figure this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: As this virus ramps up, and spreads, we'll obviously see more and more impact of persons in our ranks. I'm confident that they may have some impact on readiness, it will not affect our ability to conduct our National Security missions both at home and abroad. So I'm very confident in terms of, again, the fitness, the health of our force, and the commander's ability to make sure they manage our resources and our people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so in your case, as the Secretary of the Navy, I would argue and tell me if you think I'm wrong, your challenge is even more complicated because the Navy is so critical to projecting American strength, the visibility of American strength around the world, whether we're talking about the Persian Gulf, whether we're talking about the South China Sea area. And yet at the same time, your men and women live in the most cramped environments because of the bunks below decks on those ships. So how do you balance, I need to protect my force with I need to protect America?

MODLY: Well, that is part of the challenge of my job, John. And that's what we're trying to do. The people, the Navy and Marine Corps team, our teammates out there, they're all over the world have one mission, we all have one mission that's to defend the nation.

And this is a unique circumstance. And we're working through it and trying to maintain that proper balance to ensure that our friends and allies, and most importantly, our foes and adversaries out there understand that we are not standing down to watch. We still have a responsibility to protect the seas, to protect our friends and allies around the world. And we're just going to have to adjust on the fly in the best way that we possibly can to do that.

KING: Do you have the supplies you need? I want to read just a little bit, this is Bryan Clark, he's a retired submarine officer speaking to "The Wall Street Journal". It's really hard to disinfect the ship of that size. There's just so many surfaces where the virus could be living and you just can't have everybody leave the ship for two weeks.

Again, every family in America, every business in America, every governor in America, every mayor in America is trying to deal with this. You have unique sets of circumstances because of the size of the vessels, the unique. You've mentioned, nuclear power plants on some of these vessels. Do you have, as we listen to all these governors and we listen to FEMA, listen to the President, do you have a supply search underway to help the men and women aboard all your ships and vessels?

MODLY: Well, we absolutely do in terms of, if you look at the situation with a Teddy Roosevelt, our initial capacity to test the sailors on that ship was limited to about 200 a day. And we're going to start ramping that up by sending some of those tests out to other areas so we can test them more quickly.

But the key is to make sure that we can get a set of crew members that can man all those critical functions on the ship, make sure that they're clean, and then get them back on while we take the other clean the ship and get the other crew members off. And that's the process that we're going through. It's very methodical. We're absolutely accelerating it as we go. I think there are things that are happening within the last 24 hours that actually came after some of those letters and some of the comments that were made by the CEO written in that letter.

So we're working it. We are in constant communication with that ship both the Seventh Fleet, the Pack Lead Commander, my own office, he was talking to the CEO yesterday. So we're very engaged in this. We're very concerned about it. And we're taking all the appropriate steps.

KING: So let me ask you in closing, let's focus on it. Let's end on a more positive note. You're standing on the west coast in front of one of your medical shifts. There's another one on the East Coast, they were mobilized incredibly quickly. Most of that I believe neither ship will treat COVID-19 patients, but they are critical to offering support services for other patients on both in the Los Angeles area and the New York City area. Just talk a bit about the task of getting those up and running so quickly.

MODLY: Well, I think this is what we expect our Navy to do when they're given a challenge for them to step up and do what's required and do it as quickly as possible. And that's exactly what happened with these ships. I asked the question back in early February how they might be used. And the timelines were really not acceptable. And we started ramping up some of the procedures for that.

[12:45:16] When we finally got them on the path going, the President and other said, let's get it to New York faster, particularly the Comfort and they accelerated that schedule by a couple of weeks, which has really been phenomenal. And so we're really, really proud of the sailors on this ship. I think the nation should be proud. And I think the nation should take some comfort that the United States Navy and Marine Corps are here, and they're here to help and unload the burden on some of these hospitals that are dealing with COVID-19.

KING: Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, thank you for your time, sir. You're absolutely right, the Nation does owe a thanks to every one of those men and women. And I wish you luck with the big challenges you have in the days and weeks ahead, getting help to your men and women on the front lines. Appreciate your time.

MODLY: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Up next, the governor on the front lines on the response. Kentucky's Andy Beshear joins me live as he getting what he needs to keep his hospital supply.

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[12:50:11]

KING: In Kentucky, nearly all out of state travel by residents is now prohibited. That after a Monday order signed by the state's governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Of the next at least a couple of weeks, folks are really, really critical. And I have issued a new executive order that instructs Kentuckians not to travel to other states, your likelihood of getting infected and potentially bringing back the coronavirus may be greater in other states than ours right now. If you travel to a different state for any of -- any reason other than those exceptions, that you will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now the Democratic Governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear. Governor, thanks for your time today. I know you're very busy.

So some states, you've heard them say, you know, we're going to look for New York plates. We don't want people coming from New York or New Jersey or Connecticut. You're taking a different approach, telling your state residents stay at home, don't drive into Ohio, don't drive into Tennessee, don't go anywhere. Why do you think that approach is better?

BESHEAR: Well, first, let me say thank you for having me. And I start every interview or every opportunity, telling my people and here, the people of America, that we're going to make it through this, and we're going to make it through it together. Here in Kentucky, we're taking aggressive steps to protect our people. I believe it's a test of our humanity, whether we're willing to put each other in the health and the lives of our neighbors, head of our personal self-interests. And right now, we're seeing our social distancing, our aggressive steps, helping to flatten the curve with at least the limited data that we have.

And right now in Kentucky, we see fewer tests than -- fewer positives, cases of the coronavirus than many of our neighbors. I can't control what other states do and how they go about it. But I can say that the people of Kentucky have bought into what we're asking. And by limiting travel to other states, but also trying to limit travel in general. People need to be healthy at home. Stay at home, unless you're going to work or to get supplies.

Your patriotic duty as an American, your duty as a Kentuckian is to stay home, limit your contacts, and prevent the spreading of this virus. If we can do that, we'll have the healthcare capacity to take care of our sickest at their moment of the greatest need. And we can ultimately blunt or lessen the number of cases and the severity of them that we see.

KING: I just want to put, you know, we're going through this state by state. And every state is different, I know you're not here to criticize other states. But I just want to put on our screen to your point about you had the first case, you declared a state of emergency that very first day, I believe it was March 6th. And you've moved through your social distancing and other restrictions since then.

This is Kentucky versus Tennessee, if you will, the yellow gold line going up quickly is your neighbor, Tennessee, where the governor did not move as quickly as you did. That's just a fact. And if you look at the Kentucky case there, do you believe that those two curves are different because you look, you're a newly elected democratic governor of a state that tends to go red. And early on a couple months into office, you decided we're going to be aggressive about this, do you believe that is the difference there?

BESHEAR: I believe that how aggressive we've been is working. But there are really two parts to that. There's first, what you put into place. And there's second in whether your people, here the people of Kentucky, buy into it and come together and ours have. Now, here in Kentucky, we've been saying that there aren't Democrats or Republicans. They're only Americans versus this coronavirus.

And I will say, I've never been prouder to be the governor of my state than seeing our people come together. And in large part follow all these directives and it's hard. You know, this is a time of major anxiety. And what we're asking people to do is to stay away from each other that can just increase the feelings of isolation and that can be tough on our mental and emotional health. But this is our calling. And this is this generation's great challenge, we look back on what we call a greatest generation, and they had to come together to change the American economy in World War II. This is our time.

And what we have to do is very different. You know, we have to come together by staying apart. But the people of my state are heeding the call. And let me tell you, them understanding the sacrifices that we're making, so many people not going to work when they otherwise would have had a job. So many small business is closing. It's incredible to see people understanding that we have to make this sacrifice for each other. I'm very proud --

KING: -- few seconds. Forgive me for interrupting. So we only have a few seconds left. I just want to ask you, the President had a call with governors yesterday. He said he hasn't heard any complaints about testing in weeks. We have had array of red state governors, blue state governors, all saying we still have a problem with testing and access and supplies. Do you have that problem or is it solved?

[12:55:00]

BESHEAR: We do. In Kentucky and everywhere across the country, there are critical shortages of PPE and of testing kits. And I don't want to place blame out there. We're all fighting for these resources. And this is a virus that didn't exist, at least to our knowledge four months ago. So yes, we need more. But we've also got to be open and transparent about the fact that we don't have enough. For us, that means we got to be a good neighbor.

We got to make sure that if we are younger and healthy and strong, that we make sure that test is available to someone who is the most vulnerable, same thing, when it's going to come to hospital beds, how we get through this, how we protect our most vulnerable is to truly pass that test of humanity to say, I can ride this out at home as long as I'm checking in with a doctor because that frees up a bed for somebody who truly needs it.

This is us in Kentucky, this is us in America. We're all going to have to do our duty. And if we do that we can protect one another.

KING: Governor Beshear really appreciate your time today. Best of luck in the days and weeks and months ahead because it will be that long. Governor, again, thank you very much. We'll be right back.

BESHEAR: Thank you.

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