Return to Transcripts main page


NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response; Dr. Michael Osterholm Discusses Coronavirus Spread, New York as Epicenter, Needed Stay-at-Home Orders; Death Rate in New Orleans Higher Than Rest of Country. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 3, 2020 - 11:30   ET



DR. HOWARD ZUCKER, COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH, NEW YORK STATE: And right now, there isn't data to suggest whether masks, except for those who are ill and those who are health care workers, and that's why we're reserving those for health care workers.


ZUCKER: Well, the evidence -- like I was saying, there's no clear evidence that suggests that face masks, whether made out of cloth or even whether the general public should use face masks. But we'll continue to look at all the data coming in. And we're examining that right now.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I think it's -- let me ask the doctor for a qualified opinion.

I think it's fair to say the masks couldn't hurt unless they gave you a false sense of security. You know, when a doctor talks about a mask, they're talking about a form-fitting mask that goes around your nose that doesn't allow any other air to come in. That's really what a mask is.

So to ask a doctor, does a bandanna help? I said to a doctor, I'll just give them the bandannas I wear when I ride my motorcycle. He said, that's not going to help. This is what a doctor thinks of as a mask, right?

Could it hurt? Might it help? I think it's fair to say yes. But don't get a false sense of security that now you don't have to social distance and you don't have to take the normal precautions because you're wearing a bandanna.

Is that fair to say?

ZUCKER: That's absolutely fair to say.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long do you expect to see upstate hospitals and how long do you expect the curve to hit in upstate as long as New York City still needs those ventilators?

CUOMO: Yes. First of all, don't use the word "seize." I didn't use that word. It's a harsh kind of word. It's a sharing of resources. We're going to share resources.

We're not going to have any part of the state that doesn't have the resources they need because we didn't share resources. We are tracking every night, every hospital, who comes in, what they have, what they need. We're just sharing and shifting resources, which is the only intelligent thing to do among one group of people.

Right now, the numbers in Upstate New York are lighter than the numbers in downstate New York. But that is going to change. It is in New York City. Now you're seeing Long Island start to light up. We had Westchester light up. The numbers are growing in Erie.

You're going to see that wave move through the state. You've been watching it every day on that map as every state, every county is now colored in.

We're going to shift resources all across the state to whatever place has that need at that time. And we're going to make sure every hospital has the resources they need to do their normal business.

What is fascinating is the normal business has dropped off dramatically for a hospital. Why? We canceled all elective surgery. So elective non-critical surgery is not happening. And when we close down most of society and people are staying home, less people are getting hurt. Less bicycle accidents, less crime.

So hospitals who are not dealing with COVID are seeing very low activity. And it's not that we're going to leave any health care facility without adequate equipment, but they don't need excess equipment now, right?

Most of these hospitals put together stockpile, you know? You'll have 50,000 masks. Well, 50,000 masks, how long does that last you? Five months it lasts me.

OK, you don't really need a five-month supply right now. Keep a one- month supply, give me four months, and, Doctor, if you need it because there's a problem, I'll redeploy it the other way, otherwise I owe you four months' worth of masks and I will pay you for it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, how many are we talking about, going from upstate to downstate?

CUOMO: We have to see how many. We haven't done that calculation, Jesse. You have to go hospital by hospital. How many do you have? How many do you need for the immediate future?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But ideally, how many would you draw down?

CUOMO: There could be several hundred excess ventilators in hospitals that don't have a COVID response right now.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And are you still anticipating or projecting that you still got basic the six days of supply in New York City, or would this fiddle with that number a little bit?

CUOMO: This is a number -- several hundred could represent several hundred lives, so am I willing to deploy the National Guard and inconvenience people for several hundred lives? You're damn right I am.

Several hundred ventilators doesn't fix the problem, obviously. But it's a significant number of ventilators when you can't find ventilators anywhere else and you've done everything else that you can do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We're still at six days.

CUOMO: Yes. Yes.


CUOMO: Well, let's do it this way.


CUOMO: Let's do it this way. You're burning about -- the burn rate is about 300 ventilators per day. If you find 300 excess ventilators, you've found another day.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you willing to release the ventilators if the states ask for them?

CUOMO: It's human nature, right? Let me borrow your equipment. No. I'd rather keep my equipment here. The government is going to take it, how do I know I get it back, how do I track it?

It's an expensive piece of equipment, by the way. Ventilators now -- well, now it's about $50,000. When we started it was about $20,000. So it's not like asking to borrow a cup of sugar, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you confident this order would stand up in court? Certainly these private hospitals could make a Fourth Amendment argument.

CUOMO: You think they might sue me?


CUOMO: It would be a slow day if I didn't get sued five times, John. But if they wanted to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it would stand up?


CUOMO: Yes, it will stand up. It will stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Javits Center is now becoming a COVID -- (INAUDIBLE) --


CUOMO: Excuse me a second. I will borrow them. I will return them or I will pay you for a new one. You want to hope I don't return it so I pay you for a new one. Lend me your drill. I will bring it back to you or I will buy you a new drill. How do you lose?


CUOMO: I'm not taking your last drill. You have five other drills in your toolbox. You're not going to use five drills between now and then. And if something happens where you go on a drilling frenzy, call me and I will bring you more drills.

Go ahead. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Javits Center now being converted to a COVID unit, will that house people who also need less intensive care or will they have ICU beds?

CUOMO: It will have ICU beds. I don't know the mix -- well, ICU bed.

For all intents and purposes in this conversation, it's a ventilated bed, right? So how many ventilators will be in Javits? It's federally staffed. They're going to have to find the ventilators for it. So it's going to be up to them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you find the ventilators in the stockpile or --


CUOMO: That would be from their stockpile.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The number of sick cops in the NYPD continues to rise. Is there going to be a percentage of how many cops would make you potentially take over the NYPD with the state police, or is there something you're considering there?

CUOMO: Look, we have the situation all across the board. We have TWU workers, transit workers, who have a very high rate of illness who, by the way, are doing heroic work. I want to thank them very much, John Samuelsen, the Transit Workers Union.

To run those trains, run those buses every day, talk about social distancing. You're a bus driver, right? It's hard to social distance. You're a train conductor pulling into stations all across the city. So these -- they're doing heroic work. Very high rate of illness. That's a problem. It's a problem in the

NYPD. It's a problem in the FDNY. It's a problem all across the board. It's a problem, serious problem, with health care workers, nurses and hospital staff.

So it will be on a case-by-case basis, Bernadette. We'll look to the localities. We have the same situation in Nassau and Suffolk, by the way. We'll look to the locality, what do they think is a level where they need backup, and then we'll do everything we can to provide backup.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But is there a point where you would require a state takeover at the NYPD?


CUOMO: No. You couldn't do a state takeover at the NYPD. I would be of assistance to helping the NYPD. We have to perform a policing function, right? That's state constitution. Provide public safety.

The NYPD, if they have a serious staff shortage, then I would work with them to figure out how we remedy that. But the NYPD is something like 30,000 employees. There's no replacing 30,000 employees.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, do you know the number of COVID patients in the New York City who have been transferred to upstate hospital, especially the capital region?

CUOMO: Does anybody know that?

ZUCKER: We have transferred over the course of the last two days several dozen patients back up to this area. We're working with the hospitals down there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you spoken with the federal authorities on the situation of "Comfort?" We reported last night that there were only 20 patients there. That seems to be a vast underutilization of that --


CUOMO: I did not speak with the president about the "Comfort" in any depth. The reason for the comfort was it was for non-COVID people. I think the Navy -- I'm going to speak to the secretary of defense.

The Navy's position is they don't want to put COVID people on the ship because it would be too hard to disinfect the ship afterwards. That's my rough interpretation of what they're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are also non-COVID patients they're rejecting as well, right?

CUOMO: I haven't heard that. We only have COVID and non-COVID patients, right? The need is really

for the COVID patients. I know they're not taking COVID-positive patients.

But they said that from day one, in fairness. Now, I don't know the science of ship disinfecting to know whether or not they're being overly dramatic, so I take their word for it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can we return to the slide with the total confirmed cases of coronavirus?

CUOMO: Yes, but that tests my technological ability, Zach. Which one do you want?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The county breakdown of the confirmed cases.

CUOMO: The county?


CUOMO: Can one of you -- can you do that?

There must be some better way of doing this. There's got to be a better way.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have the update on any measures taken by the administration to lessen crowding in state prisons where cases continue to grow?

CUOMO: We have no measures to lessen crowding in state prisons. We have put in a number of regulations and rules to reduce the risk. But reducing the prison population, we don't have any way to do that right now.

Is this the slide you were talking about, positive cases?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have any of those measures in state prisons been any different than those at nursing homes or other facilities?

CUOMO: Yes. I can get you a full list of both.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There's been an uptake of coronavirus patients having to shelter together. Is there any information or any assistance the state can provide for people?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state has a 1-800 number. It's 1-800-942- 6906. That's our domestic violence hotline.

Women should know they don't have to stay in those situations. We will help them relocate. We will help them find safe shelter. If there's an information where you're in immediate harm, call 911.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to Governor Cuomo with his update on the state, with another day of really sobering number of headlines coming from the New York governor.

The highest single day increase in deaths in the state. Another plea for supplies.

And also an announcement that he signed an order saying he can redistribute resources throughout the state as needed. That's where things stand right now.

New York State, New York City especially, very much in the thick of it right now.

Joining me right now is Dr. Michael Osterholm. He's the director for infectious disease research and policy at the University of Minnesota.

Thank you very much for being here, Doctor.


BOLDUAN: I really appreciate you for sticking around.

Just one question about what we're hearing from Governor Cuomo. When you see that at this point when New York has been the epicenter of the national outbreak, the last 24 hours being the highest single increase in deaths, what does it tell you?

OSTERHOLM: First of all, it's a COVID reality. That's what we're dealing with right now. I think the thing that's really hard for everyone to understand is that this is just the beginning of this situation.


We're going to see this spread throughout the United States. There will be more places, maybe not quite as severe as New York, but they clearly are going to be severe. We've already seen that in a number of metropolitan areas.

I think one thing that's really being missed here, if you look at 1918 and the big influenza pandemic that occurred then, that happened until almost 1920, until most people became infected and then became immune or died.

What we're talking about here, this is not the next couple weeks. We're talking about months and months. We're already running out of supplies now. Much of the rest of the country won't even have the supplies New York has when their first wave is up and active.

So I think that this is why we need a national plan that just doesn't look at the next couple of days, which are critical. If you're a person needing a ventilator right now in New York, it's number one. But it's going to be a much larger situation.

BOLDUAN: As you're talking about, we're not at half time here, folks. It might be day to day you're hearing this conversation, but you are an expert on this. We're at the beginning of this as a country. We're at the beginning of this still with New York. New York has been one of the state's aggressive, having done a statewide stay-at-home order.

You have called for a national plan, essentially a national lockdown strategy. How damaging is it, then, if you look at this every day that goes by without a national strategy in place?

OSTERHOLM: I think this is one of the key issues we have before us. We have choices. One of the choices, which is one I think most Americans would not agree with is we could go into a total lockdown for 18 to 20 months and hopefully have a vaccine. That's our redeemer, the vaccine.

Or we can say, you know what, we're going to let this go. We'll get our country back together and we'll see potentially 1.5, 1.6 million deaths. We will literally bring down the health care system. And many health care workers, who are on the front lines heroes today, will die.

I don't think either of those are the options we can accept.

We have to thread the needle with a rope right down the middle and say, how can we bring back our country, the world, and do it over the next months, where we allow part of our business world, our essential services to come back and, at the same time, trying to protect those who have the greatest risk of having severe disease or dying?

And I think that's the discussion we're not having. We're talking about numbers in the next couple of weeks, what will happen.


OSTERHOLM: We need a plan. We don't have a plan. We do not have a national plan.

BOLDUAN: And as you're talking about, we're often hearing from the local to national level. On the national level, it was 15 days to slow the spread, now it's 30 days to slow the spread. Executive orders state-by-state. They're going in some cases in two-week increments. That seems irrational and not based in fact at this point.

OSTERHOLM: It's not.

BOLDUAN: You've got a really interesting perspective on something that I think people need to have a really serious gut check on, which is the model that the White House is using in terms of estimates of the range of the potential death toll.

They're projecting it could be between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths at the end of this. And that's if everyone in the states abides by the social distancing guidelines, which isn't happening. They even acknowledge it at the White House.

So why are they even using that model?

OSTERHOLM: I don't know. And more importantly, it's a model that only lasts for four months.

Let me just give perspective to this. Right now, today, we are seeing transmission beginning back in China. Singapore had its single largest day of community-acquired infections for which they're not sure where they came from. Seoul, Korea, today if you look, Korea is reporting a very large number of cases of transmission from within.

Even areas that did it so well originally as people thought, now are realizing, unless you can completely suppress this virus, it's going to come back, and it's going to keep coming back as long as there are susceptible people.

I don't have a crystal ball, but I would give a rough estimate that only 10 to 20 percent of the nation has been infected so far. This will keep marching on like it did in 1918 until 50, 60 or 70 percent of the population are infected. That should give us a wake-up call that we're in this for the long haul.

How are we going to do that? I hear the desperate cry in New York right now. I hear it in Detroit. I hear it in Atlanta. I hear it New Orleans. Even in my own hometown of Minneapolis. Please understand that's real. It's now.

But we also have to have a plan for how we're going to deal with this day after day after day after day for potentially months. That is something all of us are begging, begging, begging a federal response to develop.

BOLDUAN: It might be scary, everybody, to hear what the doctor is saying. But it is reality.

Guess what? If you are an elected official, this is what you are paid to do. You may not like it but you need to deal with the consequences and you also need to make plans for the long hall.

Listen to Doctor Michael Osterholm. He has been sounding the alarm for a long time.


You have got this perspective.

Doctor, thank you for coming in.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: As New York continue to fight the virus, the top health experts, the nation's top health experts are increasingly turning their focus to another brewing hot spot, worrying about places like New Orleans. The new data coming out of there is startling. The death rate in New Orleans is significantly higher per capita than that of New York and other cities.


CNN's Ed Lavandera is tracking this. He's in New Orleans for us.

It's good to see you, Ed.

What are you hearing what is driving this really troubling trend in New Orleans?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line is, here in New Orleans -- remember, we've talked a lot about this the last few weeks -- that people with underlying health issues are the most susceptible to be really hit hardest by this coronavirus infection.

Here in New Orleans is a perfect storm of that. This is a city and a region of a country that routinely ranks near the bottom in most of the health categories. When you talk about obesity and when you talk about kidney issues and diabetes, all of those underlying factors exist here at a much higher rate than my parts of the country.

You combine all of that together. And then you throw into the fact that the vast majority of the cases that the Louisiana hot spot have seen is here in New Orleans area alone. That really is a recipe for very dangerous situation.

And it's what health experts and state officials, it's the reason why they continue to hammer home, at this point, that the city and this region around southeast Louisiana really needs to do -- practice social distancing and staying away, protecting themselves from getting infected because there are a lot of underlying issues here that could complicate matters for them as they try to get -- recover from this infection -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Ed, thank you so much. Being on being on the front lines there. I really appreciate it, man.

Coming up for us, as New York City hospitals are filling up with coronavirus patients, overwhelmed, in some cases, with coronavirus patients, the Navy hospital ship that has been deployed to help, as we heard Governor Cuomo talking about, it's only treating something like 20 patients, is the latest reporting.

What is going on with the federal response in New York? Is it going to be changing?

We'll be back.