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Former NYPD Commissioner Returns to Fight Coronavirus; Mike Pence Blames CDC and China for Delay in Response. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JAMES O'NEILL, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: I'm going to be looking at sourcing, I'm going to be looking at transportation distribution, making sure the supplies that we do get go to the hospitals that are in most need. So, it's a bit of a daunting task because we have supplies coming in from many different sources, we have the federal government, we have the state government, we have the city.

We have the private sector, and everybody in this great country is stepping up because they know for now, we can't get together now, we'll never be able to get together. So, you know, it's an honor for me, for the mayor to appoint me to this. I'd also like to thank Al Kelly; he is the CEO of Visa for giving me the opportunity to do this while I maintain my day job.

JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: So, you've been at this for all of, like I said just today. But based on what you have seen, what is your need? How many days does New York City at this point have sufficient supplies for?

O'NEILL: Yes, so the mayor and the doctor talked about it yesterday. That, you know, Sunday is going to be a crunch day for us. And it's important that we get those masks, we get the ventilators, we get the goggles, we get the face shields, the N95 masks, the surgical masks. And that's going to be the task. He asked me to assemble a team, and I know there's a lot of great people in New York City and the NYPD, lot of different agencies in the private sector, an he wants me to assemble a team, get them together and work as hard as we can to make sure we get what the health care workers need.

BERMAN: We are -- we just got the word this morning, overnight, that the federal stockpile of many of these supplies is depleted. What is that going to mean for New York City? How will that affect your ability to get what you need?

O'NEILL: Yes, John, that's -- I mean, that's going to be a challenge. But you know, take a look at the history of the United States, take a look at the history of New York City, we're always facing challenges. So we're going to have to do our best to get the equipment, to keep the -- so as I said, the healthcare workers safe. And look at what they do. Look at the doctors, the physician assistants, the nurse --

BERMAN: Yes -- O'NEILL: Practitioners. All the people that work in the hospital. If

we can't do our best for them, then, you know, there's no other time that everybody needs to do their best here.

BERMAN: Yes, the courage they're showing right now, there's no question that they are heroes on the frontlines, very much so of this battle, I should say. Where is the bottleneck? Where do you see the supplies being held up? What do you need to fix most?

O'NEILL: Yes, John, I don't see that yet, you know, the mayor asked me, I had a conversation with him yesterday morning, went down to city hall around 1 O'clock, did that press conference, was on the phone last night for a couple of hours, and I'll -- you know, talk to you later on in the week, I'll have a better end where the bottleneck is.

BERMAN: Where do you get the stuff if you can't get it from the federal government, if factories aren't making it yet when it comes to ventilators, where do you get the stuff?

O'NEILL: It's -- that's the challenge. You know, we have to make sure that everybody is engaged that needs to be engaged. Know this -- as I said, I can't say enough. This is a great country. This is a great state and a great city. And everybody is going to come together and we're going to do our best to make sure that the people that are sick get what they need.

You know, our goal here is to save as many lives as possible. And I can't tell you definitively right now exactly how we're going do that. I'll have a better idea of that in a couple of days. But now, I have a lot of faith in the men and women of this country. I came from an agency that, look at all the challenges that the NYPD has faced in the past and how they've stepped up each and every time --

BERMAN: Well --

O'NEILL: And we're going to do it again.

BERMAN: They're facing new challenges. Let me ask you about the NYPD. Let me ask you to put your old hat on right now. I understand what is it, 1,400 NYPD employees, including officers have tested positive for COVID-19. Some 6,000 have called out sick, 17 percent of the NYPD workforce was out sick yesterday. How much of a challenge is that? How much of a problem is that for the force and for public safety in New York City?

O'NEILL: Yes, it is a challenge. But you know, look, who is leading that great agency, Commissioner Dermot Shea, he's one of the smartest people I know. And this is -- this is what we -- you know, when I was there and the previous commissioners that were there, this is what we think about, we plan for. You know, did anybody think there was going to be a situation like this arise? No.

But this is what we think about, right? This is -- this is how you plan. So the plans that they have in place, the contingency plans, there were 36,000 uniformed officers in the NYPD, Dermot is going to do his best to keep them safe -- BERMAN: Yes --

O'NEILL: And he's going to do his best to keep the public safe.

BERMAN: Well, commissioner, in your new job of getting supplies, we wish you the best of luck. I know Sunday is a huge day for this city. We hope you get what you need by then.

O'NEILL: All right, thanks, John, thank you, appreciate it. And hopefully I'll talk to you again.

BERMAN: Absolutely.


All right, so a New Jersey community is mourning a beloved baseball coach taken by coronavirus in the prime of his life. His wife remembers him next.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: A New Jersey community is reeling over the loss of a beloved elementary school teacher and coach who died of coronavirus. Ben Luderer was only 30 years old, he was a special education teacher and a varsity baseball coach. He passed away in his home this week just a few days after feeling symptoms.

Joining us now is Ben's wife, Brandy Luderer. Brandy, what a shock this story is to, of course, you and your family and the entire community. And everything that I've read about Ben is just what a special guy he was.


BRANDY LUDERER, HUSBAND DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: Yes, he really was. You know, there are so many different aspects of his life where he has touched so many people, whether it be, you know, just being a son or a husband or a friend, you know, a colleague, a baseball coach. Even when he was a baseball player, you know, he's met so many people and touched them in so many ways. It's just hard to believe, you know.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God, I mean, we're so sorry that this -- I mean, it's horrible on any level and then the suddenness of this. So, just take us back to just this past Friday night. What happened on Friday night?

LUDERER: So Friday night is when we actually had to go to the E.R., he was feeling, you know, shortness of breath and like really struggling to breathe. And you know, he was really concerned, and he knew it himself. So, he come -- he came into our bedroom where I was laying, and he said, you know, I've got to go, I've got to take myself to the hospital.

And I said are you sure you want to go there, you know, like are you sure? He said yes, I need to. So, I ended up driving him there. You know, at that time they weren't accepting any visitors, so I wasn't able to go in with him, but he was updating me the -- excuse me, the whole time. I was out sitting in the car, you know. So they gave him oxygen. He responded well to the oxygen.

He had fluids and Tylenol, and you know, they let him go home. They said he was, you know, responding well to the oxygen. Just keep doing what he was doing at home, drink lots of fluid and he was given, you know, some prescriptions to take. So that's where it ended on Friday.

CAMEROTA: OK, and then by Sunday, by Sunday night, he was feeling better. I mean, you say that he got out of bed, he ate dinner for the first time in a while. And then what happened?

LUDERER: So, yes, like you said, Sunday was a great day. He was up moving around, talking to us, and then, you know, nights he had always said were the worst, it was hard to get comfortable. He was, you know, sweating and you know, when he laid down a certain way, it was hard for him to breathe. So, he, you know, texted me because I was out at that point on the couch, and he was in the bedroom, you know, trying to get comfortable.

And he said, you know, I'm struggling, like, this is -- this is hard, you know. And I said, well, do you need to go back to the E.R.? And he was like, you know, I don't know right now. So I just tried to do as much as I could to make him comfortable, you know, calm down his breathing, you know, get him to cool down.

I ran out to a friend's house, you know, she was willing to let me borrow the humidifier to kind of, you know, try that and something new because you know, like I said, the nights were the worst. And he finally settled in after taking his bath, the humidifier was on and he was ready to like try the night, you know, go to sleep. You know, so, I came back out to the couch, and I could hear through the door that he was still breathing and I fell asleep. And then, you know, when I woke up that morning, he wasn't with us anymore.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God, Brandy, it's just so shocking. It's just so shocking. You saw him at 2:00 a.m. and then you woke up at 6:00 a.m. to go and check on him?

LUDERER: Correct, yes.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Brandy, I just -- I feel for you because obviously, that is such a shock to the system for anybody. And that you were alone and having to discover him.


CAMEROTA: What did you do?

LUDERER: I am very -- I am -- my youngest brother lives with us. He goes to Montclair State University, so he's been living with us and going to school and stuff. So, I am very fortunate that he's here and I am not completely alone with everything going on. You know, nobody can come over and visit. But being that he lives with us, he's here to support me and we're here to support each other. Because you know, my whole family, Ben's whole family, you know, all the communities that he's been a part of, you know, we're all just trying to get through this, you know, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day because it's tough.

CAMEROTA: Of course it is. And the reason that you have to be alone is because you've tested positive for coronavirus.

LUDERER: Correct. I tested positive, you know, a couple of days before Ben started showing symptoms. So I had a very mild case, you know, I only had a low-grade, you know, temp. They weren't even considering it a fever, you know. And so nasal congestion. But I was, you know, on the mend, getting better, and then that's when he started showing symptoms. So --

CAMEROTA: Have the doctors given you any idea of why a young, 30- year-old, healthy, no pre-existing conditions, young man declined so suddenly and died?

LUDERER: No, you know, we don't really know. I don't really know.

CAMEROTA: So I know that you want people to know who your husband was. And I know that he was such a special person, and you want all of us to be able to understand it. And so just tell us about his life.

LUDERER: I think from the moment, you know, that he was born, you know, he was adopted. His parents, you know, were fortunate to, you know, get him into their life, you know for the 30 years that they had him. They said from day one, you know, he had the biggest smile on his face and you know, you can see it all the way up for the 30 years.


Every single picture that he was in, you know, he had a huge smile on his face from playing baseball to becoming a coach and a teacher, and you know, husband, a colleague. Every single person, whether he knew you for five minutes or he knew you for, you know, his whole entire lifetime, he would give you the same respect and try to reach out and help you and make you laugh in any way possible. You know, that was just the type of selfless person that he was, always worrying about everybody else before himself, you know.

CAMEROTA: Brandy, when will you be able to be around other people? I mean, are you still self-isolating?

LUDERER: You know, just to be safe, you know, with Ben having symptoms so recently. We've just tried to been cleaning up the house and stuff. But I am no longer showing symptoms or anything like that. You know, now with my brother here, he has not been showing symptoms. We're just trying to make sure that he stays that way, stays healthy.

CAMEROTA: And Brandy, what's next for you? Do you even know where you'll begin next week?

LUDERER: No, I have no idea. I have no idea where this goes. It's like I said, I'm trying to take it minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and day-by-day. Because you know, Ben and I were the type of couple that did everything together. You know, as you can see, we have a lot of similarities, we work in the same school district, so we were able to drive to school every day.

So, it's very hard understanding where to go with this when you don't have your partner in life that you did everything with. So, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

CAMEROTA: Brandy, you're just way too young to have to have this situation. I mean, that's how people in their 80s feel when they lose their partner, and the idea that you have had to deal with this, and that it was also sudden and that you had to find him. It's really heartbreaking and so, we're thinking of you and we're sending our love. And we're just hoping that you stay healthy and get all the support you need. We're so sorry for your loss.

LUDERER: I appreciate it, thank you.


BERMAN: Look, we get so caught up in the numbers, the overwhelming numbers from coronavirus that we lose sight of what might be the most important number, which is one. Which is that every person who passes away has a family, has loved ones in mourning this morning, and we're thinking of all of them. We do have two significant losses in the music world we want to mark this morning.

Ellis Marsalis; New Orleans Jazz legend. The performer and teacher paved the way for obviously his son, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Branford Marsalis. He also taught Harry Connick Jr., Ellis Marsalis was 85.




BERMAN: I defy you to listen to this without smiling. Adam Schlesinger's band Fountains of Wayne had a big hit with "Stacy's Mom" in 2003. Schlesinger won multiple Emmy Awards and a Grammy. He was an Oscar and Tony Award nominee.




BERMAN: He wrote the title song for the Tom Hanks film "That Thing You Do", that was in 1996. Adam Schlesinger, much too young, just 52 years old. We'll be right back.


[07:50:00] CAMEROTA: Vice President Mike Pence is blaming the CDC and China for any delay in the Trump administration's response to coronavirus.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In mid-January, the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case which was someone who had been in China, I believe, took place in late January around the 20th day of January. Reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Ian Bremmer; he is the president of Eurasia Group. Ian, great to see you. Tell us --


CAMEROTA: About that. Is that revisionist history? Is this all China's fault? I mean, you always give us a great global perspective.

BREMMER: No, great to see you guys, and Pence is absolutely right about that. Just a few days before the 20th, the World Health Organization was reporting that there was no human-to-human transfer in China according to Chinese authorities. For the first month when they knew about this, they were covering it up. And while they were covering it up, 5 million Chinese minimum were going about traveling from Wuhan, the epicenter as we know originally of this virus, around China and around the world.

And that's how we got the original explosive outbreak in China and in places like Italy and Iran and Washington State. So there is no question we'd be in a very different position today if the Chinese had been forthcoming both with us and with their own people. And that's not to say that the United States hasn't made plenty of mistakes since. But the original sin --

BERMAN: Right --

BREMMER: Here lays firmly on the door of Beijing.

BERMAN: Two things can be true, and in fact, two things are true. One is that China acted irresponsibly. And, two, there were incredible failures in the American system, the testing failure, which to an extent you can never recover from, things of that like. Ian, again, you come with an interesting global perspective, China lied and covered up. But now, you look at what China is doing and you say it creates an interesting juxtaposition with U.S. behavior toward the rest of the world.


BREMMER: Yes, it does, in a couple of ways, right, John? I mean, first of all, the Chinese economy is back up and almost fully running. If you look at satellite imagery, you look at traffic patterns, they're about 65 percent, 75 percent in terms of the supply chain right now. By the end of April, they will be back and fully functioning. When the Americans and Europeans are still under lockdown.

And so that's important. And also, internationally -- I mean, I certainly -- if I look at the United States right now, I would say on the fiscal monetary policy side, we're doing a really good job. On the healthcare side, we're late, but we're taking it seriously. But internationally, we are nowhere. There is no American leadership outside the U.S. on this issue.

We're not sending medical personnel around the world, we don't have enough for ourselves. We're not sending masks around the world, same thing. The Chinese are. And, you know, even though some of those early tests and masks proved to not function very well, and they're putting new regulations in place to make sure they are. I've seen the Chinese sending medical personnel into almost every European country, sending humanitarian aid across the emerging market world, while the Americans are absent.

In fact, the one thing I've heard from the Europeans when we put that travel ban on for the non-American citizens, where they found out about it on CNN, not from the Trump administration. The next morning, the European Union actually condemned the United States. Literally, in the midst of the worst crisis since World War II, our allies condemning us, thanking the Chinese.

There's no way the Chinese should be running laps around us right now with their propaganda and their public diplomacy. And they are. And that's a really big problem for what happens to the world when we eventually, God-willing, come out of this crisis.

CAMEROTA: But Ian, what can be expected from the U.S. right now since we are all hands on deck trying to contain and control and recover from our own outbreak here.

BREMMER: Coordination, Alisyn. I mean, when Mohammad Bin Salman was interested in organizing a snap G-20 meeting to respond to this, because they're the chair of G-20, this right now, this year, President Trump initially was telling the Saudis we don't want you to do that. We should be taking the lead. We should be coordinating. We should ensure that any policies we're putting in place, our allies know about them in advance and we're trying to work together.

We should be calling on a common response, both inside the United States among our states, but also with allies in terms of trying to secure the critical medical supplies and personnel we need at one common price. Again, coordinating. After 9/11, when there was a war in Afghanistan, the United States led the coordination with our allies and everyone else.

After 2008, stimulus, fiscal response, the G-20 was set up by the Americans at the head of state level. We drove that response internationally. And Alisyn, you're completely right, that we're on our back in responding to some of this right now. But that doesn't mean the Americans can't lead internationally. We're still the largest economy, we still have the military capabilities, and Lord knows, we still have the political capability in our bureaucracy, but we are not leading right now.

BERMAN: Do you have an answer for why? Is it just a lack of will?

BREMMER: You know, I think part of it is a lack of will, part of it is a lack of interest. I mean, the America first philosophy, which, you know, won in 2016, a lot of Americans, because they didn't feel like they benefitted from free trade, because they didn't feel like they benefitted from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fought on the backs of average Americans.

Look at the rest of the world and said enough of this, pay attention to us, stop with immigration. How about the Americans that are already here? I think that's a loss. When you give up on a lot of average Americans for decades, a lot of average Americans say we're sick of playing this role of being the world's policeman, of being the world's leader of last resort.

And I think that the Trump administration and President Trump personally has really taken that to heart. But you know, the fact is that when you have this kind of a crisis, if it's not the Americans that are leading, it's not like China can really take our place, not at all. I mean, they will be able to make significant advantages for themselves in terms of in-roads with relations individually with allies.

But they can't lead. They don't have the capacity. They don't have the know-how, they don't have the willingness. And the Americans aren't there right now. Which means the response to this crisis is going to be a lot more anemic than you otherwise would have expected.

CAMEROTA: Ian Bremmer, great to see you, thanks so much for giving us your perspective on all of this, really helpful and we'll talk again soon.

BREMMER: Talk soon, yes.

CAMEROTA: NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really should have a national strategy instead of a patch work of policies. But that's what we're doing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, some states don't have much of a problem. You have to give a little bit of flexibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a New York problem today. Tomorrow, it's a Kansas problem and a Texas problem.