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NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update On Coronavirus Response; Dr. Rochelle Walensky Discusses Monday's Largest Single-Day Increase In Deaths In NY & Boston Mayor On Spike Happening In Massachusetts; Wisconsin Holds Primary Election Amid Pandemic; British P.M. Boris Johnson In Intensive Care; Mayor Paul TenHaken (R), Sioux Falls Discusses Why No Statewide Stay-At-Home Order As 70 Percent In South Dakota Could Be Infected. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 11:30   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): If the state lent 20 percent of the available units, as you define available, that would be 500. And 500 ventilators was a big deal, especially two weeks ago.

Frankly, since then, other things have happened. We have a thousand ventilators from China. California freed up 500 ventilators. Oregon sent 140 ventilators. The state of Washington freed up, I think, 400 ventilators, something like that. We've also acquired an additional 500 ventilators. So we're not in the position we were in. But that's what it always was.

The hospital says we have available, by their own definition, unused inventory. We're not using for the foreseeable future 20 percent of that number, leaving them with 80 percent of the unused was 500 ventilators.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That seems like a big change from Friday, though.

CUOMO: No. That's what I was saying.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there a presumptive line of duty officers -- (INAUDIBLE)

CUOMO: It's something that will come up. And I think it's something to look at.

I would like to find a way to say thank you to these health care workers who are out there every day. You know, we talk to them on the telephone, but what they have done is just incredible. Just incredible.

And not just the health care workers. I mean, the health care workers, just think of the mindset to walk into that E.R. every morning, putting on these gowns, putting on all this protective clothing, having to change the protective clothing several times a day, seeing people pass away and then go home and deal with the stress at home. But also the first responders, the transit workers, you look at the

rates of sickness, they know what they're exposing themselves to, and they still do it. Just -- God bless them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you expect any large numbers or any numbers in the prison system to be able to curb this virus?

CUOMO: We're looking at that. Any way we can, we are, and we're looking at that continually. I don't think there's anything new on that right now, but it's something we're exploring all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any specific plan you're considering or any specific models?

CUOMO: We've done the numbers but nothing right now.

Are there any more?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've done about 700 parole violators statewide. Those are people that were deemed to be low risk to public safety and also a high risk to COVID. We've done that so far. And we're continuing to evaluate it on an ongoing basis.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and his team with their daily coronavirus update.

Some of the numbers quite sad. The governor reporting the number of New Yorkers who have died because of coronavirus, 5,489. That is a record, 731 day to day increase from yesterday.

But even as the governor reported that sad news, he said that, overall, the rate of hospitalizations seems to have leveled off. The three-day average, he says, is actually down a little bit.

So the governor hoping New York has reached a plateau. The question is: How long do you stay flat? When do you start going down in the cases?

The governor going through a number of issues as well, including, much like the president of the United States, saying it is time to start having conversations about when you can restart the economy. The governor says he's coordinating with his neighbors, in New York (sic) and Connecticut.

But his tone is also much more cautious than the president of the United States when he says that, saying you have to have these conversations now, but this is no time, no time, in the governor's view, to let up on social distancing, workplace shutdowns, other restrictions that, he said, are beginning to work. He said the numbers are proving they are working and they must be kept in place even as you plan for the eventuality.

Let's discuss this and more on the impact across the country. Dr. Rochelle Walensky is the chief of the Infectious Disease Division at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us.

New York is going first through this. You're sitting in Massachusetts. So when you hear Governor Cuomo, after all they've been through, and those numbers are incredibly sad. Even when you think, OK, they've hit a plateau and that's, quote, unquote, "good news," death is a lagging indicator. Those numbers are stunning.

When you listen to that, what does it tell you about where New York is and how does that project to other places?


First of all, I would say our hearts go out to the workers of New York, the citizens of New York because we are watching them carefully. We know what they're going through. We're learning from them and we're grateful for what they're teaching us.

We feel like we're about a week, a week and a half, maybe two behind New York, so we're watching pretty carefully to understand. We had, yesterday, in Massachusetts a total of 260 deaths, 29 of them yesterday in Massachusetts. And our numbers are still going up.

KING: I want to show you those numbers. We can show the Massachusetts numbers. The known cases have doubled about every five days. So you're still going up the curve.


I want to listen to the mayor of Boston. Among the restrictions he's put in place -- it's a recommendation, I don't think it's a mandate -- but a nighttime curfew saying, please stay in your house, it's the only way to get better. Let's listen.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Is it your sense that Boston is on the steep side, the early side of the curve, as they say?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON: By looking at the numbers, I would say the answer to that question is yes. We have 235 cases of coronavirus in the city of Boston. And in the last three days, 33 percent of those have been diagnosed. So we're starting to see that spike happening.

It's really hard to manage these numbers a day at a time. You can't really tell. But I want to be on the -- err on the side of caution, if you will, as we make some very difficult decisions, yes.


KING: So, Dr. Walensky, help me from your perspective as an infectious disease expert. We'll go through this 50 times, 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, plus Puerto Rico, plus Guam and the American Samoa for that matter, the northern Mariana Islands. But in terms of the mainland United States, we're going through this 50 different times.

As the governor of New York starts to talk about he's hopefully reached a plateau but you've got to keep your foot on the gas when it comes to social distancing right now, but eventually start thinking about how to get the economy back going on.

You're 200 miles away from New York. What happens in New York and Connecticut will affect what happens in Boston, Massachusetts and northern new England. How do you figure this out?

WALENSKY: Right, we know this virus has no borders. We know we're still watching cases in Massachusetts General Hospital double every two or three days.

I would say that we don't have -- we have a lot of supportive care we can give to you if you walk in the doors of Massachusetts general hospital, but we don't have a treatment. We obviously don't have a vaccine.

So the best thing we can do against this disease is prevent it. While it is an inconvenient tool, it is a blunt tool. The best thing we have for prevention is to separate.

So the way we are doing that, the social distancing, it is working. It is the only thing that we have to prevent right now.

And I would say, until we are far beyond our peak cases, we need to continue this measure because it seems to me inconceivable of the alternative of watching people die is a good alternative.

KING: It's an excellent way to put it. It's a sobering way to put it but an excellent way to put it.

One more question, from your cases at Mass General, the conversation about this, who gets it, how it spreads, what helps, what doesn't, is different now than it was at the beginning because it's novel, we're learning. What are two or three most important things you have learned in recent days?

WALENSKY: Well, we are watching the numbers carefully. We have started several clinical trials. We have more underway. I think we have to watch the literature to see what happens from a treatment standpoint and be really vigilant to make sure we're following data from well- conducted clinical trials as we embark on those treatments.

I'm really hopeful, as we start our search capacity, that we will have the ventilators we need. I'm encouraged. We got 100 ventilators in Massachusetts from the stockpile just yesterday. That certainly helps and we can distribute those to our affiliates and other places so people have the ventilators that we need.

The other thing I wanted to just comment on in the governor's comments, is what we need to reopen. Everybody really is fixated on what's the end of this look like. The governor commented on testing. I would like to echo that we need a lot of tests for a lot of people. The other thing I want to really highlight is that we need to do

something with those results. So, you know, as we think about the vulnerable communities who might be heavily impacted by this disease because they have less capacity to social distance, because they have less capacity to stop working, we really need to make sure that they are kept safe and that they have the capacity to do what is needed, should they have positive tests.

So we're watching that space very carefully.

KING: That's an excellent point as well.

Dr. Walensky, I really appreciate your expertise and insights. I wish everyone in Dorchester as well. I'm watching Massachusetts very closely because it is home. Good of luck to you.

WALENSKY: Thank you so much.

KING: Thank you.


Up next for us, Wisconsin, believe it or not, holding a primary election today with extremely long lines, a primary in the middle of a pandemic, despite the Democratic governor's efforts to delay that vote.


KING: Joe Biden this morning got a very big endorsement from the civil rights icon, long-time Democratic Congressman John Lewis.

The 2020 campaign news just isn't getting much attention right now, but it is impossible to ignore this today. Voters in Wisconsin in line to cast ballots while trying to keep their distance. Many of them wearing masks. It is primary day in the middle of a pandemic.

Wisconsin's Democratic governor tried to delay voting, but Republicans in the state won a legal challenge that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court last night. Now voters faced with wait times as long as three hours.

CNN's Oscar (sic) Jimenez is in Milwaukee.

It is remarkable to see this. There's a lot of people in line and they know they're taking a risk, Oscar (sic).

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they really are, John. At this point, there has been a lot of debate, especially over the past 24 hours, on the policy side as to how exactly this day would play out.

And we know even at this location here in Milwaukee, we are at one of only five polling locations open throughout the city because of a lack of poll workers who wanted to work today based on some of those risks.

[11:45:09] Before the doors opened, even at this location, we saw lines stretch very long, even around the corner from this location, and into the next block.

And we now just confirmed a few moments ago with an official at the city of Milwaukee that another one of these five polling locations is now seeing wait times of about three hours. They typically have 180 poll places that they work with.

For the election overall, you look at absentee voting, that is one of the main aspects of this. You go back to a federal court order that was put in place last week. They extended the amount of time the absentee ballots could be accepted through April 13th. Then the U.S. Supreme Court jumped in and said those votes need to be postmarked by the Election Day, today, if they want to be counted until April 13th.

The reason that's so significant is we've seen more than a million absentee ballots requested, over 10,000 that weren't received yet and won't be received by the end of Election Day today.

Which means there are thousands of voters right now who have to decide if they will potentially risk their health and vote in person or not vote at all -- John?

KING: Oscar (sic) Jimenez, on the ground, thank you so much. It just proves that politics, partisanship, polarization does not end even in a pandemic. Watching this one play out. We'll county the votes later today.

Oscar (sic), appreciate that.

Back here in Washington, a campaign-related shake-up on the president's communications team. Stephanie Grisham now out as the White House press secretary, leaving that position without ever having a press briefing with reporters. The first lady confirmed Grisham is heading back to the East Wing to serve as her new chief of staff.

Sources tell CNN the new White House secretary will be Kayleigh McEnany, who has been the national press secretary for the president's re-election campaign. Also joining the White House communication team, the current Defense Department spokeswoman, Melissa Farrow (ph). She will be become the director for strategic communications. Yes, it is a campaign year even in the middle of this.

Next up, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now in intensive care. But we have an update on his condition. A live update from London just ahead.



KING: Anxiety and questions in Great Britain over the condition of the prime minister, Boris Johnson. He's in intensive care right now receiving oxygen treatment for coronavirus. Though his spokesperson says the prime minister is breathing on his own and has not diagnosed with pneumonia.

His condition, which worsened yesterday, took many by surprise, including some members of the British parliament.

Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is London, outside of the hospital where the prime minister is being treated.

Clarissa, what do we know of the latest of the prime minister's condition?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far, it appears, John, there has not been a huge amount of change to the prime minister's condition. He's, quote "stable," that's according to his spokesperson. He's given standard oxygen treatment and he was not intubated. He's requiring a ventilator to breath.

We're being told that he was moved into the ICU as a precaution measure. He had low oxygen level. They wanted to keep a close eye on him and be able to be in a position to intubate him or put him on a ventilator quickly if that situation arrives, which he not so far.

At the same time, John, I would say this is obviously still a very serious situation. While his condition has not deteriorated, we also have not heard his condition has improved. We are told that he continues to be in good spirits.

A lot of people now are feeling a little bit more skeptical about the information that they are getting from his spokesperson and from 10 Downing Street more broadly because, just 24 hours ago, I was standing at the same place saying, oh, 10 Downing Street says there's nothing to worry about, this is a precaution measure. He's getting some tests because he had persistent symptoms of coronavirus.

And a couple of days before that, they were categorizing his condition as mild. And obviously, this is a dramatic escalation that's not uncommon on day 10 or 11 of COVID-19, as we have seen again and again across the world with people suffering from the coronavirus.

Sorry, let me let that siren go by.

Still, there's a real concern here in the United Kingdom about the prime minister's health and his ability now, of course, to lead the country. He had deputized foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, where necessary, to take over his duties.

People here would like to see, on all sides of the political spectrum, John, people really want to see the prime minister get better and they want to see him take the reins again because there's so much anxiety already around the coronavirus. More than 6,000 deaths in the U.K. Obviously, that pales in comparison to what we have seen in the U.S. But this is a much smaller population -- John?


KING: Just one of the many examples that this virus does not discriminate and everybody is vulnerable. Clarissa Ward outside of the hospital where the prime minister is

being treated.

Clarissa, thank you so much.

Back here in the United States, South Dakota, one of the few states that still hasn't implemented a statewide stay-at-home order. Despite the fact South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, said last week -- get this -- up to 70 percent of the states could ultimately be infected with the coronavirus. Yesterday, the governor did cancel school for the rest of the academic years.

Currently, there are more than 280 confirmed cases and four deaths in South Dakota.

The governor concedes the state-at-home order could show of the virus but she says government should be weary of exercising such power and she worries the economic disruption would be too great.

As we have seen in many other states, some local officials are taking steps of their own.

With me now is the mayor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Paul TenHaken, who yesterday issued a proclamation with strict guidelines for his city.

Mr. Mayor, do you think the governor is wrong or do you think this is left up to you?


All along we've looked at this response as a federally supported, state-managed, locally executed sort of response. The position that we are taking, to say, hey, local municipality and local counties, we want to see you respond as you see best fit for your municipalities.

The challenge in South Dakota, we have a 850,000 people in the state but about 280,000 of those live in the MSA of Sioux Falls, so we have a dense population in a sparsely populated state.

So a blanket strategy that you could look at, doing a blanket shelter- in-place, stay-home order from the state, in some cases, is probably hitting a nail with a sledgehammer. But in a place like Sioux Falls, we have the density. I think people would be welcome to that, open to that.

I have to ability to do that at a city level. As you have said with other segments, the virus doesn't know city limits. It has only a little effect in our opinion.

KING: And so you are one of the more rural states. You have the most- dense area in your state.

Where are you in terms of testing? It was a novel virus and there were no tests. As they ramped it up, they had to stumble, and the priority has been in New York and Washington State and Louisiana and now Chicago and Detroit. What about you?

TENHAKEN: We are still one of the states with the lowest tests done. While we have the fewest cases, 288, 289 cases, we'll have more at noon, we still need more testings to be done.

Even though that's the confirmed case that is we have, it can be more due to testing limitations we've seen. The state is doing all that they can with the supplies we have and the testing kits available.

We had the benefit of having seen everything in the rear-view mirror watching some of the hard-hit municipalities and states around the country. We had the luxury to learn from their playbook and steps and missteps.

That's the approach that our governor is taking. In Sioux Falls, we are trying to stay in lockstep with those approaches. We have to do things differently because of the density of the municipality we live in here.

KING: You are more out in the west. People tend to be more skeptical of government. Are the people listening?

TENHAKEN: We are a red state here. I am a red mayor. Even though it is not a partisan office, people know I am a Republican.

You have two schools on this. You have, shut everything down and tell me what to do, government, and you have people who say, don't you dare and it is my right, it is my constitutional rights to assemble and do what I want to do. That's a delicate balance protecting civil liberties, protecting public health, and trying to do the right thing in the middle.

You are not going to make everyone happy. I realized it quickly in our response. I think we are doing a good job here in Sioux Falls.

KING: Mr. Mayor, we appreciate your time today. We wish you the best. Keep in touch. Let us know how it's going. We focus on the big cities right now, but that's going to ripple across America. Please keep in touch.

TENHAKEN: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, sir.

We're here at the top of the hour. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King, in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

New global restrictions today. Paris officials banning outdoor exercise during the daytime hours. In Honduras, you now must wear a mask everywhere you go.

In New York, Governor Cuomo with some somber statistics.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The bad news is 5,489 New Yorkers have lost their lives to this virus. That is up from 4,758. That's the largest single-day increase.