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CUOMO PRIME TIME
Trump: "I'm A Cheerleader For This Country"; Deaths Surge In New York & New Cases Flattening; Joe Biden: "Democracy Has To Continue To Function." Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 7, 2020 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: I wish you continued strength and peace in the days ahead.
MELODY ARAVENA, LOST HUSBAND, SONNY ARAVENA, AGE 44, TO CORONAVIRUS: Thank you so much. And thank you for considering my husband (ph).
COOPER: Yes. I'm sad I didn't get to meet him. But I appreciate you taking the time to tell us about him. He sounds like an amazing guy. And he was very blessed to have - to have you and to have all those, to have all your kids. It's quite a legacy. Thank you so much.
I want to go over to Chris who's standing by for CUOMO PRIME TIME. Chris, it's - it's a tough day. How are you doing?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: You know, we have to find a way to steel ourself for this new reality. I mean the shadow only grows.
I know today that we're being told that this spike in the death toll is potentially a sign that we're reaching an apex. Is that true? Should we really be investing in it that way? We're going to take a look at that.
And we're also going to look at what we now know for sure, which is how this is impacting us around the country, and what that should be reflecting in our leadership.
This Wisconsin primary today, it's not a political story. I don't even understand it as a legal story, to be honest with you, Coop. It is a really sad reflection of us not being on the same page of the reality that we're dealing with.
So, I thank you for telling the lives - the stories of the lives of the Fallen. It's so important in holding us together because every number we tell people, there's somebody behind that number, so thank you brother, appreciate it.
I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME. Thank you for joining me as always.
And I want to show you these images from Wisconsin. Can you imagine having to risk standing next to somebody, in my condition, because you want to exercise your franchise to vote?
Wisconsin is under a stay-at-home order OK? There are a lot of cases there. It is growing. They were not allowed. They lost decisively on two different layers of courts, State Court and Supreme Court, to extend absentee ballots, just for a few days, in the height of a pandemic.
Who wins in this, what value wins because the opportunity for loss is obvious. Now, as a political reality, the polls closed there.
Joe Biden is with us tonight. What does he think the right thing is for the country right now? Why did he have this phone call with President Trump? What was the point of that call?
And, of course, the big question is, I teed up with Anderson, are the most deaths in a single day, is that really a good sign for what is to come?
It has to be time for truth. We don't have time for anymore BS. Too many are sick. And the remedy is straight information, realistic plans that you trust, and us, using that, to tap into our national superpower.
No one comes together in crisis like America. But we only come together when we're on the same page. So together, as ever as one, let's get after it.
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CUOMO: Numbers are nothing out of context. 1,736, what does that number mean to you? It'll now mean, at least for this day, the most deaths that we've suffered in a single day so far.
So, why is that event a basis for our leaders to say "That's a good sign?" Is it fair to say that this is the most deaths that we will see on any day? Why or why not?
The last thing anybody needs is more BS. I know. I hear you. You're reaching out to me from all over the country.
You have just one request that all the games, and you've always seen through them, and you tell me the only thing more - more sickening to you, and this collective, than the virus, is being lied to about what's going on. I know.
So, let's expose something that you've been lied to for about for too long. This "But the Swine Flu" BS, it took a year for that virus in 2009 to claim the amount of lives we've lost in less than two months.
Do you understand that now? Do you understand that how quickly something can kill you, is a direct relationship to how threatening that thing is? Stop ignoring the facts for political advantage. Get real. The past is
over. There can be no more letting politics reinforce our worst instincts. We need to build on our best instincts.
And that said, while I'm asking you all to do that, the man at the top refuses to change.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said within a couple of days the cases will be down to zero.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well the cases really didn't build up for a while. But you have to understand, I'm a cheerleader for this country. I don't want to create havoc and shock and everything else.
I'm not going to go out, and start screaming, "This could happen. This could happen."
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CUOMO: That's exactly what leadership is. Anybody can tell people what they want to hear, and make it easy. And then you know what you get? Exactly where we are, right now.
That was the most asinine statement of leadership I have ever heard. And I can't even dismiss it on the President having a 102 fever, like I do, because that is clear thinking from him.
"I'm a cheerleader. So, I'm going to lie to you about the realities that your parents, your loved ones, and your kids, face. I'm not going to prepare the way I should because it reinforces the bullshit I'm telling you. And I'm going to hope that you're OK with it."
We've got to do better than that. This President must do better than that. The good news is he can. The bad news is he refuses to, and that, I have no answer for.
He said we'd be good by Easter. On Easter Sunday, you know what? I will be sick, and I will be sick for some time to come. And somebody telling me something else doesn't make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse about them.
I demand the truth for my situation. I demand the truth for you as well. Again, too many of us have parents, loved ones, and kids in the balance.
So, let's bring in Sanjay Gupta, and get some sense of what is real, and what people want us to believe is real, and we can't have any difference between those two things.
Sanjay, thank you for joining us. I know we had some trouble with your shot. But it's OK now. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course.
CUOMO: It is counter-intuitive to hear that the most deaths on a single day could be a good sign.
GUPTA: Right. I mean when you get to this peak, I mean, you know, that's what they're sort of predicting here, the number of deaths, and it's - it's jarring, I think, for people to see those numbers.
I don't know if we have the actual models. We can put them up as I'm talking. But I think it is jarring to obviously look at these numbers, and try, and remember that, you know, these are obviously a lot of the stories that you, and Anderson, and everyone else have been telling.
If there's any good news - and this is one model, Chris. There are many models out there. Someone once said that all models are wrong. But some potentially are useful. This is a useful one.
This week, it shows that the number of total deaths, potentially lower, around 81,766 compared to 93,000-some, 11,000 fewer deaths.
Why? In part, even though the peak deaths go up on that day, it may be a shorter peak, Chris. That's the thing. We are starting to see states that are peaking, perhaps sooner than the - the modelers of this model originally thought.
They're also looking at other countries around the world, Chris, to sort of inform this model, and looking at countries where they've also already seen the peak in Europe, for example. They were already basing some of their data on what was happening out of Wuhan.
And when they put this all together, it shows a slightly different picture. It shows that the peak is going to come earlier in these places. The number is going to be higher on that particular day, and that particular timeframe, I should say, may not be a single day, but then comes down more - more quickly as well.
That's what the model shows right now. It's predicated, Chris, on the fact that we all stay at home, the entire country. And, as you know, we're not all doing that yet. It's also predicated on the idea that that stays in place until the first week of June as well.
As you know, from a national standpoint, the stay-at-home orders are really only in place until the end of April, so we'll have to see if that changes, Chris.
CUOMO: Well those are two really important factors.
One is this is only as good as the continued acceptance of the self- isolation. That's important for people to know. So, it's not going to be good for us automatically, if we don't keep doing what we're doing.
And secondly, there's an outbound timeframe that a lot of people haven't accepted yet, which is June. And if it doesn't happen until June, if it ends in May, then what?
GUPTA: Well, you know, the way that they - they do these models, where does this come from, you know, the end of May, early June?
It's basically looking at, and again, I - I don't want to sound too clinical with these things, but it's looking at the number of people who are dying per day. And keep in mind, what's the trajectory?
People get diagnosed first, so the confirmed infection, followed by a certain percentage, a small percentage of them that are going to need to be hospitalized, and then a smaller percentage of them that end up succumbing to the illness.
So, they're looking at this sort of late, this last stage here, how many people are dying in any given day.
And the way Chris Murray and the folks at the University of Washington have said, when it drops below 60 people per day, then we start to think about the fact that we have this - this infection under some sort of control.
We can isolate those people. We can contact trace. We can do all those things. And we can talk about lifting some of these stay-at-home orders. What happens if you don't?
Well the numbers don't come down that low, Chris. It takes longer to get to that point, so you have to stretch out the - the stay-at-home orders' sort of length, and you worry that you're going to have a rebound, a resurgence, here.
So, we always look at this in terms of this curve, and that's a nice curve, if you - if you can - can abide by that as long as it stays below what hospital capacity is.
But if you start to see this, where it's going up and down, obviously you don't want to see that because you could have several peaks then again, within one - within one country, here in the United States.
CUOMO: You know, we got a weird paradox working right now, where the closer you get to the clinical community, the less they know, and the less they want to project. They can't even tell somebody like me--
CUOMO: --what course of - of symptoms I'm on, and what duration it will be.
And I'm not criticizing in any way. I'm saying that the closer you get to the science on this, the more doubt there is. The closer you get to the politics, the more enthusiasm there seems to be that this is going to work out the right way.
And I have to tell you that is a very uncomfortable mix for me, Sanjay, and that's how you got what we saw today in Wisconsin.
I know you're not a political analyst. But the idea of someone standing next to someone like me, in Wisconsin, to vote today, with a stay-at-home order in effect, what's the chance that pictures like these yielded no new spread?
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, look, we are going through something as a - as a country, as a world, and it's - it's different times now.
I think, you know, people obviously are trying to balance this stuff and the - and the science and the public health community, scientific community, public health community are pretty clear about this. You can't do that right now.
I mean I know that people are trying to maintain some sort of social distance, physical distance, from each other. But, you know, it's impossible probably. There's so many objects that are being touched. There's so much, it's impossible to maintain that social distancing--
CUOMO: What does six feet do, Sanjay? If we're six feet apart--
GUPTA: --in those kinds of settings.
CUOMO: --if we're six feet apart, and I go like this, what happened to that six feet?
GUPTA: Right. Right, exactly. I mean the--
CUOMO: It's gone.
GUPTA: --the primary guidance always, as you know, Chris, is that anybody who has symptoms should stay home regardless. I mean the people that should even possibly be going out for any kind of essential things, or people who don't have any symptoms, you know.
Now, we know that people can spread it asymptomatically. But a lot less so, obviously, if they're not coughing or sneezing, which - which, Chris, I have to ask. I mean, you know, how are you feeling today now? I mean any better than - than last night?
And I'll preface by saying, you know, we looked at your chest X-ray last night, which looked OK. But clearly, you have symptoms still, and it's an important point. People can have symptoms even with a normal chest X-ray. You're teaching us a lot by telling us what you're going through. How are you feeling?
CUOMO: I feel lousy because it's nighttime. And I'm a little depressed because yesterday, and today, the fever came back with a little bit more gusto than it had in the past couple of days before that. And that's depressing.
It's hard to have a fever for 20 hours a day. It just wears you down emotionally. And it makes you start to question things even though I know all the probabilities are on my side. I know I'm not dealing with metastatic cancer here. I get it.
But the less knowns there are, and the longer it takes, you start to doubt, you know. And you start seeing these stories that trickle out just often enough to freak you out.
"Holy cow! That guy was my age. Oh, she - she's in good a shape as I am. Oh, she - she had no underlying symptoms. Oh, that kid's only 25, what happened? Dead in 50 hours, what happened?"
There are enough of those stories mixed with the fact that even with all the access I have to the clinical community, and all these people who've been so generous with their time, nobody knows anything about how long--
CUOMO: --this is going to take except that you should expect long duration chronic illness, weeks.
I'm very interesting to talk to Congressman Diaz-Balart tonight because he had symptoms two weeks ago. Now he's saying there's an all- clear. Why, you know, like what was his progress? And is he still quarantining or not? What's the rule in Florida and what this has kind of taught him about this virus?
So look, I'm doing better than I deserve. And I'm doing everything that I can. But it is a humbling, humbling process, and it's really made me get much more easily frustrated, Sanjay, with what I see in the reactions by our leaders surrounding.
What happens in Wisconsin makes you even more upset when you're sick the way I am because I don't want people to have to deal with this. And I don't know why we're putting people in positions of risk for no good reason.
So Sanjay, thank you for asking the questions. Of course, I'll stay in touch with you. I appreciate your love.
CUOMO: And I appreciate your guidance.
GUPTA: You got it, buddy, keep in touch.
CUOMO: Thank you very much. Thanks.
All right, so the epicenter of this crisis, you have devastating news, but also hopeful news. How so? How do they go together? Well that's what we were getting at with Sanjay.
So, let's move a little bit closer to the source. Let's bring in the Commissioner of Health for the epicenter of the crisis in this country, New York State. Why are the numbers, proof of optimism? What are the variables? What would happen if New York were to hold an election right now?
And given that there was an election today, and this news of this phone call between Joe Biden, and President Trump, did you hear about it? It was supposedly about the Coronavirus. Why? Why did they talk about this? What motivated that call?
We have Joe Biden tonight. I want his take on how we should be conducting the election, and how we should be conducting truth with people right now.
So, let's take a break, and let's get to the people at the center of this, next.
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CUOMO: Hey, I hope this doesn't apply to you.
But if you're battling COVID right now, hold the prompter for a second, when you have a fever, over a number of days, it affects you not just physically. It affects you psychologically and emotionally, OK?
You're going to have some weird thoughts, all right, not necessarily suicidal ideations. Of course, you got to be in contact with your doctor about anything like that.
But just be mindful that there's a good chance that you are being lousy to the people who are being best to you. I'm trying to stay keenly aware of this because I've been hearing about it from so many different people.
And I feel my edge. I feel my frustration.
And just be careful. The people around you are so nervous. They don't want to get sick. They don't like that you're sick. They don't like that they can't get you better. Don't play into that by making it worse.
Be your best. I know it's hard, believe me. I get that it's hard. Most things that matter in life are hard. Most things that we have to do well in life are hard to do well. So, just be aware, OK?
If you have the virus, I get it. It sucks. Woe is you. But think about the people around you. You will get better faster, knowing that the people around you feel better too, OK? Just keep it in mind.
Hopefully, you're not dealing with that. I am a little bit. I'm getting a little mean from this right now. I got to deal with it.
Now, my brother, Governor Cuomo, he says that hospitalizations are reaching a plateau in New York. That sounds good. But the State also saw its biggest daily increase in deaths. How is that any good?
I know I keep asking this question. It's because I want to keep giving you different perspectives on it. So, let's bring in the New York State Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker.
Doctor, thank you very much, for joining us again. Help us understand what seems to be a logical disconnect. I heard Sanjay say well the models say that this high point could be just that, meaning we won't see anything more of its kind.
What percentage scientific accuracy do you think that claim carries?
DR. HOWARD ZUCKER, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT: So first, I want to thank you for inviting me back to the show.
And - and I gather it's been a rough couple days for you. And I hope you'll continue to feel better, and recover. And I'm sure this has been a rough time. And - and I appreciate your sharing your story with everyone. It's - it's very helpful.
Regarding - regarding some of the issues that you have raised, regarding this concept of a plateau, or whether we're at the apex, time will tell.
Time will tell as to whether we've reached that point. I - you want to sort of hope that we've reached that. But we don't know yet. We don't know yet. And we should be cautious.
CUOMO: But we hear the Governor of New York, federal leaders, saying "Well the most deaths, you know, the models say that - that's a good thing."
I'm very worried about the message it sends because I don't believe what the President says, Dr. Zucker. I don't believe that people like empty cheerleading. I don't think when it's this serious that that is comforting at all. So, what is the balance?
ZUCKER: So, I think it's, as the Governor - Governor Cuomo has said, is that any death is one death too many, right? And so, we've had this - today, we had more deaths today than previous days.
And granted, it is we - we have leveled out a little bit on the hospitalizations, and it is probably that there's a little bit of a delay in the number of people who have died compared to the number of hospitalizations.
But I am still concerned in - and the number of deaths that we've seen across this country, the number of deaths we've seen around the world, is - is worrying. And - and this is something we have to take seriously.
And obviously the message of staying home, the message of social distancing, must be adhered to as much as - as much as possible for everyone out there in New York, and across the country.
CUOMO: Doctor, we're taking it as good news that the President approved your State's request for the Navy hospital ship Comfort to see COVID patients.
And our understanding, please verify for us, that you're going to staff this with some 7,000 people, who've been hired from outside the State, any concerns about concentration?
Am I misunderstanding the dimensions of the ship by just assuming it's a boat, so it can't be as big as a real hospital? Do you have any concerns about changing the mission?
ZUCKER: So, with the - the Comfort ship, originally is a 1,000 beds, but it's 500 beds once we switch it to COVID-positive patients, it's 500 beds. I spoke with the - the Vice Admiral this evening.
And we are moving forward to have patients there. There are patients already there. And we are continuing to add more patients to, to the ship, and provide the care that these individuals need.
CUOMO: Doctor, what does restarting life look like from a public health policy perspective?
ZUCKER: So, I think what that really means is we - we - this is our new normal. And - and the life is not the way we are used to, where we are - we
are coming up on holidays right now.
It's Passover in tomorrow night. It's Easter Sunday, on Sunday. It's going to be completely different for - for me, for Passover. I'll be with my wife and just my two children. My mom, who's in her 80s, I wouldn't give her exact age out, but she's going to be alone in her apartment, alone.
This is not what - this is not what we - we expect. So, restarting life, moving it forward, is to start to get back to the way we're - we're used to things, being closer to each other, and we're not there. We are not there. We need to stay apart. We need to stay home. We're not there yet.
Getting back to the normal way, the normal way we operate, going back to work on a regular basis, spending time with our friends and family, that's what restarting life is. But we - we are not at that point yet.
We need to be sure that - that we don't have a false sense of security, and we start to do things when we're not ready to. And we need to be sure that anyone that's out there is safe to be around others, and that they're not potentially going to infect others, whether they're young or old.
CUOMO: Yes. It just seems like any progress we're making can be undone so quickly. I wanted to just slip in one frequently-asked question for you while I have you, Doctor, antibody tests. It is my new life goal--
CUOMO: --that if there were one thing that I could achieve outside of what I mean to my family, I want to be able to give antibodies to people, so they don't have to deal with this, the way that I am. That's my life goal is to get healthy enough to be able to do that.
A lot of people are telling me they can't get the tests, even though New York has developed an antibody testing regimen. Is this really not up to scale yet? And if people do want to be part of it, where can they go?
ZUCKER: So, I think we should break that down to two parts. There's the antibody test that will tell you whether you've had the infection, and we are scale - we are working to scale that up.
I spoke with the FDA Commissioner today about our Wadsworth lab tests that we have. We're going to move forward in getting thousands of those tests done each day. That's on the - in the pipeline. And that will be able to tell individuals whether they are - they have the antibodies from - from Coronavirus.
However, what you - I think you're raising is the ability to give some of your blood, some of your plasma, to help other individuals. So, once you know, you have the antibodies, and once you know that you don't have the virus anymore then we can move forward with that.
We are working with - with medical centers on that. We are moving forward. We have already given individuals antibodies. And hopefully, that will help individuals, who are sick right now.
We need to look at this from all angles from any kind of therapy that can help individuals because of the deadly nature of this illness.
CUOMO: Commissioner Howard Zucker, thank you very much for your well- wishing and your straight talk to the people on this show. It's as close to a cure as we have.
ZUCKER: Thank you very much.
CUOMO: Be well. God bless.
ZUCKER: Thank you. Thank you, you too.
CUOMO: And this year, as much or more than any, may the Spirit pass over the home of you and your loved ones.
ZUCKER: Thank you very much, and have a Happy Easter and a wonderful holiday. Thank you.
CUOMO: Thank you.
You know, ordinarily, Mishpachah, you know, Christians who consider themselves extended family of so many different Jewish people, my own family and abroad, usually say, you know, have - you know, have a good Passover, have an easy fast, whatever you want to say.
But this year, you know, the story behind Passover is worth looking up, and seeing whether or not the Spirit of death would visit a house or not has a little bit of a different suggestion these days than it ordinarily does.
The pandemic, Presidential politics, they're coming together. They should. Why? Leadership, leadership, OK? Time for all the BS to go away and the fake arguments, and reminding you guys so much of why you don't like one another. The opposite needs to be done.
How about this move with Wisconsin? Was it the right move? Where does Joe Biden stand on the elections going forward? Why did Joe Biden think it was important for him to have a phone call with this President about Coronavirus?
A lot to discuss, let's get after it, next.
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CUOMO: Lord knows we need leadership, right? I mean, if you think about it, that question will probably be what decides this election.
You got to hope that come into the fall there's somewhat of a return to normal state of play or what we used to know as normalcy, how we - will we remember these hard days, how will we process how we got past them, if that's the case.
All right, let's discuss where those questions find the head and the heart of the man who says he is the best to lead us right now, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Good to have you on the show, as always, Sir.
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to see you, pal. I hope you're doing better man. You're going through a lot. I can't imagine you continue to do this. But coming from you, it doesn't surprise me.
CUOMO: Well look, as you taught me, when you're in pain, what's the best thing to have is a distraction.
You know, I wish I could just sleep for the next two days, and be better. But there're hundreds of thousands of people, all over this country, who will tell you it's not that easy.
BIDEN: Yes. CUOMO: So, let's deal with - with the challenges that we share. And I appreciate the good word, VP. So, let me ask you something, just a little hypothetical.
You're President right now, and you're moving us through this situation. Do you think you'd have a little bit of an inclination to say "I don't know that we should have an election, it's too fragile, can't have people out there. Look what just happened in Wisconsin."
You think that that would be creeping into your mind?
BIDEN: No. It shouldn't creep into your mind.
Look, we've been through hell before. We had an election in the middle of the Civil War. We had an election in the middle of pandemic flu back in the turn of the century. We've had election in every major crisis.
We can take care of our health and our democracy. The idea of postponing an election is not possible. It should not happen. The democracy has to continue to function. We have to lead.
CUOMO: Do you think you won in Wisconsin tonight?
Ordinarily, I'd be hitting you over the head with all these exit polls, and cross tabs, and things that I know about people, all the way down to what they like for lunch. We're not going to have anything until Monday.
What's your gut?
BIDEN: No. We're not. Well my gut is that we shouldn't have had the election in the first place, the in-person election. This should have been all mail ballots in. It should have been moved in the way that five other states have done it.
It's - the idea didn't have enough poll workers, and what, over a 100 and some polling places in Milwaukee, and not, but that - this was all about Republican legislature pushing really, really hard, to maintain and make sure they had an election because I think they know that low turnout affects - affects their interest.
And - but, look, it's - it's been done. We're going to get the election results about - what, another week or so after this. I forget the date, the 13th.
And I, you know, but I - I think that, you know, I - I think if there is an election, if there was an election, if people, depending how many showed up, I think I will have done well. But who knows? We're going to find that out.
CUOMO: It's interesting how context can make things matter differently. Before all this, Wisconsin--
CUOMO: --would have been a huge cherry race. And now, you're just hoping people don't get sick being forced to go out and vote this way. Thank God, God love them, for--
BIDEN: That's exactly right.
CUOMO: --wanting to take up the franchise. But - but what risk.
Let me ask you something. When you're looking at the state of play right now, why did you feel the need to speak to President Trump about Coronavirus? What was the point behind that conversation?
BIDEN: Well the whole thing was, you may remember, well you maybe didn't remember, because you've been feeling so badly, you're - you had a high fever at the time.
CUOMO: I'm still in it. I'm still in it. Don't worry.
BIDEN: Kellyanne - Kellyanne--
CUOMO: I'm still in it.
BIDEN: Well, no, I know. But Kellyanne Conway, Ms. Conway, I don't know, I've never met, said about four or five day - can't remember the exact date, "If Biden really wanted to help, he'd stop criticizing, and call the President, and offer his help."
And so, my staff responded that I'm happy to talk to the President, if he wants to talk to me. And - and we didn't get any follow-up until yesterday, I got a call when I was going on a show, one of your colleague's show, and said they wanted to talk to me.
And so, I called the President, I called the White House. And sure enough, the President wanted to talk. We had a good conversation.
I laid out what I thought he should be doing. I laid out four or five specific points that I thought were necessary. I indicated that it's about taking responsibility and being the Commander-in-Chief, being - taking on the responsibility.
He asked whether or not we would not discuss the detail of what we talked about, just say that we had a good conversation.
He was very gracious in his - in his conversation. He and - and so, it was a, you know, the President, I had an opportunity to tell him what I would have done, what I thought the lessons we learned, and that's what he talked about.
CUOMO: Why is it a good thing for the American people for you guys to talk but us not really know what happened?
BIDEN: Well it's not a - he's laid out what happened. I laid out and my - I laid out the five things I thought he should be doing now, and suggested how I thought he should go about doing.
He should fully implement the Defense Production Act. He should appoint at the same time a - a Supply Commander who controlled it all.
He should create a Bank Defense Production Act because the big banks don't want to lend to - to small businesses. He should exponentially ramp up drug testing. And he should open up a new enrollment people - period for Obamacare.
And I thought he should collect a lot more data, and make it mandatory, the collection of data nationally on those African- Americans who are contracting or contacting - contracting the disease, and dying in a much higher rate and then - than other folks.
And then, I indicated a few other things that I thought. And he said, rather than us characterize what each of us said, and the - the reason I'm telling you this is because already he's said those things.
And he - he was very - he was very gracious. And that was the end of the conversation.
CUOMO: The pandemic has changed everything. I use that as an assertion. Do you agree? And if so, how has it changed what you need to do to lead this country, and what you need to convince the American people of?
BIDEN: Well a couple things.
Number one, I think that the biggest problem is the President was so unprepared. The Administration was so unprepared. Back on January 22nd, he said he had it totally under control, everything's going to be fine.
On the 27th of January, I wrote a piece for USA Today saying that we've - he left us unprepared for this dangerous epidemic. He dismantled the Office of Global Health et cetera, all the things he did.
And back on the 1st, I think it was, you know, I - I tweeted that we're in the midst of a - of a crisis with Coronavirus, and we had to act, and we had to listen to the science.
Then back in - again in the middle of the month, I talked to "Morning Joe" about the need that we had to - the President's claim that it would disappear with the warm weather, I said this is jest. He can't make things up. You got to stop.
I talked about, in a speech, I laid out a five-point plan on the 12th, what I thought we should do, fully implement the Act, fully empower Supply Commander et cetera.
And so, I've been talking about this for some time, to try to prod the President, prod them into moving more rapidly, rather than slowly. The Coronavirus is not his fault. But the way in which he responded to it is his problem.
He is the Commander-in-Chief. He should be taking full responsibility, not blaming everyone, not they - it's always somebody else's fault. He is the Commander-in-Chief. He should organize this.
CUOMO: I'll give you the same piece of free advice that I give the President here on a regular basis. Everybody knows the reality in this country. Everybody knows if you're being straight with them or not because they know the stories in their own lives and around them.
BIDEN: As I could (ph).
CUOMO: Nobody thought it was going to end by Easter. Everybody knew. And if there was a time not to lie to the American people, it's right now.
BIDEN: It's now.
CUOMO: Let me ask you this, former VP, not to - not to punish you for success. But if you were to win this election, win the nomination, win the general election, you may inherit an economy that'll make what you inherited in 2008 look like the Halcyon Days.
How daunting a challenge with the disruption of the American fabric of what keeps us together, we are afraid in a way I have never seen before. How big a challenge are you looking at?
BIDEN: Well I think it's probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly. I think it's going to - it's going to, I think, it may not dwarf, but eclipse at what FDR faced.
But like everything we've ever done, Chris, if we think about it now, we are able to - we're the only country in the world that's taken on crises and come out stronger for it.
We have an opportunity, Chris, to do so many things now to change some of the structural things that are wrong, some structural things we couldn't get anybody's attention on.
In a sense, no pun intended, the Band-Aid's been ripped off here. Everybody now understands that we have a voting system that is not - that is not transparent, and clear, and available for everyone.
Everyone understands that the environment has impacted on this Coronavirus, and mounting evidence of that. Everyone understands that we have to lead the world. We can't just sit back because no one else will.
Everybody understands we have to, in fact, not only deal with another significant increase in funding for people, who need the money, just to keep their homes, just to keep their apartments, just to be able to keep things going, we then have to have a reconstructed part of this, just like the Recovery Act.
And in that, we can do a lot to make things better across the board, including better - being better-prepared as we suggested to the President, and his team, back when they took over - when they became the - the new Administration came into Office.
We had CDC members in other countries to anticipate when viruses were going to occur. We should have had people in China, our people stayed in China, so see exactly what the Chinese were telling us, whether it was true.
There's so many things we've learned here that I think the public's going to be so much more ready to deal with some of the structural change that has to take place. But it's going to be very--
CUOMO: I hope so because--
BIDEN: --very difficult. But I have an incredible faith, all kidding a lot--
CUOMO: I don't know if we get to survive it again.
BIDEN: No, I don't think so. But we - we're not going to have to. We're going to be prepared. Here, look, here's the other thing.
One of the things, you know, you and I you, I've been on your show a number of times. And I talk about restoring the soul of America. You're seeing the soul of America now.
Look what Americans are doing, average Americans. They're not asking anything about - they're not talking about divisions based on race, or ethnicity, or any of that malarkey. What they're talking about is they're reaching out and helping everyone.
Look at these - look at these first responders. Without the equipment, they're going in, and there's trying to save people's lives, and they are saving lives. They're - they're doing things that are truly heroic.
The person stacking the groceries on the shelf, the first responder pulling someone out of a car crash, all these things people are doing, this is the America we know. This is who we are. This is the soul of America. And we're seeing it.
And, by the way, I'm not trying to be solicitous. You're the embodiment of the soul of America. You're the embodiment of it. Never giving up, just don't give up, never, never, never, just get up. And that's what you're doing. And you're an example to everybody, a lot of other people as well.
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, that's why I have faith. I have faith this is going to be really tough. It's going to hurt a lot of people. God love them.
They're going to be I - my heart goes out to all those people who've lost a husband, wife, child, mom, dad, those people who a friend of ours just had to listen to her - her mom die on a telephone because she couldn't go there. And when she was in the - and it wasn't because of the Coronavirus she was dying. She was dying because of a cancer ailment.
You know, I mean these things that the people are so alone. But look at what we're doing.
BIDEN: People are doing incredible things for one another. And that - that's who we are.
CUOMO: Everything has changed.
BIDEN: That's the soul of America. It really has.
CUOMO: Yes. Everything has changed. And--
BIDEN: And we just have to make it work.
CUOMO: And they're giving you guys a second look. I can feel it. I can see it in people's attitudes that they're giving people a second look. They're giving people in my business a second look.
BIDEN: They are.
CUOMO: But with that privilege comes a very, very high price. You know people are hurting. You know they're scared, and you know they're listening for any kind of BS, and they're going to hear it half a - half a second before it escapes any politician's mouths.
But VP Joe Biden, thank you very much--
BIDEN: The truth--
CUOMO: --for straight-talk on the show.
BIDEN: --truth, truth, truth. Thank you. Get well, pal.
CUOMO: Stay safe. Stay well.
BIDEN: I'm thinking a lot about you.
CUOMO: Thank you, Sir. You're always welcome on the show.
BIDEN: You're in my rosary, pal.
CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you very much. You've been good to me in the past and now. I appreciate it. Be well.
I told the story the other night, you'll remember as we go to break now, of what the former VP told me when my father passed. About at some - some point in the future, the idea of his face will bring a smile to your face before it brings a tear in your eye.
And I shared that with the young man, Arthur, who lost his husband, who's the ER doctor, who died knowing he was vulnerable to Coronavirus, did the work anyway, got the virus, and died suddenly, and in his husband's own arms. His husband, Arthur was staying in touch with, he had Coronavirus too.
The VP understands pain. How will that translate to a sense of purpose, we'll see in this election.
Now look, me, I'm one of these - I'm one of the lucky ones. I got everything I need to get better on this. And, most importantly, you know what I benefit from? You guys. You've been so good. Thank you so much.
And this next interview I'm going to do is really, kind of, for me, if you don't mind. I want to talk to Congressman Diaz-Balart about how he got through the virus.
What worked for him? What didn't? How does he feel now? What did it open his eyes to as a leader, OK? He's one of the first Members of Congress to test positive. He's fought through. He won. How'd he do it? Next.
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CUOMO: I don't know if you're keeping count. But at least five Members of Congress have tested positive for Coronavirus.
The first to confirm his diagnosis was Republican Congressman from Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart. He spent the last three weeks in isolation. This week, he found out from his doctor he's Coronavirus- free.
Congressman, always a pleasure to have you on this show. I've never been more grateful to have you than tonight. God bless you and your family. I hope that the gift of your health is put to good use.
REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-FL): Well Chris, and likewise.
I know that you're going through some very difficult times, like everybody who's gone through this. But you're an example. And I think it's important - an important example that this is something that we can defeat that we can beat.
But you tell people please (ph) this exceedingly serious. This is nasty. This is dangerous. But again, there is - there will be that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
CUOMO: I know. I just want to make sure that that light is not the train. What worked for you in terms of getting you through this? Do you think it's just time? Was there anything that you did that you think helped or hurt?
DIAZ-BALART: I - you know, it's interesting, Chris, because my wife is very healthy, but she has a number of pre-existing conditions, so I had decided, you know - you know that Capitol Hill is crazy.
It was - it was business as usual, by the way. This is just a month ago. In Capitol Hill, we had visitors. We have people from outside the country.
And so you deal with so many people that I had decided because the virus was out there, as a precautionary thing, to stay in isolation for two weeks because I didn't want to bring this - this to my wife, who again is at very high risk. And speaking to our family doctor, Dr. Mehta (ph), he suggested that.
And so, this was - we had votes Friday night. I was working. I had meetings. And we were working, had votes Friday night. I had a scheduled flight to go home Saturday morning.
Because, as I just told you, I decided to take this precaution, I stayed in Washington. And lo and behold, Saturday night, it was like a ton of bricks just falling on me, headache, fever, shivers, everything hurts. Heck even my hair, and I don't have a lot of it, was hurting.
DIAZ-BALART: But I - I was just basically in isolation. The only thing I took was Tylenol and as many fluids as I could actually tolerate because there, as you know, everything tastes horrifically bad.
DIAZ-BALART: And lo and behold, and again, look, and I appreciate the - the well wishes and the - and the prayers. One feels the prayers in these moments. And I think you would agree with that, Chris.
CUOMO: Oh, absolutely. And boy does it site--
CUOMO: --does it heighten your sense of responsibility to the people who have put their care in you because of what you matter as--
CUOMO: --because you're an elected official, what they hope for, me to be able to do, as a member of the media, it really heightens your sense of responsibility to these people that they put so much of their heart and their intentions into your well-being. I'll never - I'll never forget that.
How many days did it take--
DIAZ-BALART: Yes. CUOMO: --before you didn't have a fever for most of the day or you didn't need Tylenol?
DIAZ-BALART: That's interesting because I actually, after about four miserable days, or five, all of a sudden the fever went away. And I thought "Great. The - the worst part is over, right?"
And then, all of a sudden, next day, it was back. And so, that fever lasted for about two weeks. And - and then, eventually, it - it went away. And - and it stayed away. But again, it was - it plays, as you know, plays tricks on you, right? It might leave you for a few hours then come back.
But after those original - the first four or five days, where the fever is high, then I had a low grade fever, in essence, for another two weeks until things started getting better.
CUOMO: Did this sickness give you a different take on the political realities? Did you feel differently about your colleague, the Governor in Florida, for what was inarguably a slow hand in this situation?
Now that you've had it, do you think that people need to jump on this at first indication?
DIAZ-BALART: Look, you know, hindsight, right, in hindsight, you can - we can be very critical.
I will tell you that I've seen, and - and those videos are out there, right, on - on YouTube. You can see officials from every state, including New York, and others, saying "No, this is not a big deal. Go to the restaurants, you know, go out."
Again, the world was different a month ago than it - than it is today. And so, I obviously took it very seriously, which is why I had to self-quarantine, as a precaution, so that I would not come home, and again, potentially put my - my family, particular my wife, at risk.
But I understand that, again, it was a different world. This is something this country and the world has not seen in basically a 100 years. It's very easy to point fingers.
I think the most important thing, what I've focused on, because just like you, I've - I stayed working throughout this process, even though there were some days it was difficult.
I've - I've focused on try to find solutions. I've - I stayed in touch. I was in conversation with the Administration. I was in conversations with legislators and Congress. I was in conversations with the state officials and local officials, trying to be helpful.
And, by the way, I love what you said a little while ago about that now you got to make sure that you can help. And, you know, I - I've offered to donate plasma. I think it's going to take another week before I'm eligible to do that. And I know that that's something that you want to do.
And I commend - and I - and I ask others who are the fortunate ones like you and I to do what we can, even there, to help with plasma any way we can because it could save a life.
CUOMO: Thank you for jump on that question. I think that's something you should own, Congressman. It's not easy for people to get involved.
The system is not really there yet. They've got mixed priorities. They're too busy trying to figure things out that they don't know right now, to get as far ahead as the plasma reconstruction, and serum sharing.
You should own it that - and that program maybe have your name on it, and it may mean more than anything else we've seen done at this point because we've got to find a way to keep people from going through it the way you and I did.
And I'm so happy you are well. I've always been a fan. You're always welcome on the show to give straight-talk to the American people. It's not about pointing fingers. It's about pointing a direction, We got to do better than how we got here. That's why I ask.
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, the best to your wife. May she escape the fate that you had to suffer through. God bless.
DIAZ-BALART: Likewise Chris, please be healthy, and I know you're going to fully recover.
CUOMO: God willing! God willing!
And you know what? Listen, I only control what I do. And I don't - I don't get - I don't have any set of expectation. I just do every day what I can do because waiting for when makes you crazy.
Congressman, thank you very much.
No closing argument tonight. I'm not going to waste time telling you about what I know is wrong when what we need most now is reinforcement of what's right. I'm telling you, it's a tonic for us. A big dose, next.
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CUOMO: All right, time for tonight's dose of gratitude.