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Small Louisiana Parish Begins Drive-Thru Testing Today; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: Monday Was Largest Single-Day Increase In Number Of Deaths; Surgeon General Jerome Adams: I Expect U.S. Will Have Fewer Than 100K Deaths; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: How Quickly U.S. Can Restart Life Depends On Testing; Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards: There's A Disparity Happening With Coronavirus Deaths. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 12:00   ET




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The bad news is 5489 New Yorkers have lost their lives to this virus that is up from 47.58 that is the largest single day increase. And we talk about numbers but that's 731 people who we lost.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: In the United States this hour uncertainty over whether the President administer ignored January Coronavirus warning that the United States may be in the words of an aide "Defenseless" to stop a full blown pandemic.

Today there is also a clash over how and when to reopen the country? The President says he could do it sooner than most people think but there are giant questions about whether the science supports a quicker than anticipated returned to normal? Even amid growing evidence that social distancing is working.

Louisiana is not one of those places and relatively small community of Saint John the Baptist Parish with just 43,000 residents look at those numbers and alarming 366 cases confirmed 24 deaths. That has spurred the small communities to set up drive-through testing which began today.

With me now is the President of Saint John the Baptist Parish Jaclyn Hotard. Madam President thanks for being with us. Just explain to us you know Louisiana starting to get a lot of attention. You're in a smaller community but you have a crisis on your hands what is happening?

JACLYN HOTARD, PRESIDENT, ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH: Thank you Mr. King and thank you for having us. Yes, we do have a crisis on our hands. We know in our small community of about 43,000 residents. We have 366 cases and 24 deaths.

The numbers are very alarming that's why we have been working very hard with all of our local state and federal officials. We began drive-thru testing this morning at our Ashnoor ER Facility in Luvas.

And from what I've gathered so far my numbers from them we have completed 26 tests within the first hour and there were about 15 additional cars waiting for testing at about 10 am.

KING: I think you looking - at these the quick tests or these are the tests we are going to have to wait several days for results?

HOTARD: These are the quick tests. These are the Ashnoor Quick Tests, they told me about 36 hours is the turnaround time on these tests.

KING: 36 on these tests and let's talk about that because you can't understand the scope of this in your community. Some of the experts say when you see the numbers on your screen there they could be 25 or 50 percent higher because so many people are a symptomatic. What are your health officials telling you and how much more testing do you need to really understand the problem in your community?

HOTARD: We need testing until there's no longer a demand for testing from our community from those patients who have symptoms. And I will continue to make the case for the residents of St John Parish that we continue to increase our capacity for testing. Increase availability of testing until all of the individuals that we have that do have symptoms are able to get testing.

And will continue to make that case every single day and on weekends. We also know that the reporting from testing has been problematic, right? We saw across the region a one day jump death more than doubled a lot of the numbers because there was a backlog in testing.

And so we've again tried to push and say we need accurate numbers. This is obviously something new to everyone. And so there was probably some you know that's what attributed to some of the backlog in testing but again we're watching the numbers every single day to make sure that the health and safety of the residents of Saint John. It's our number one priority.

KING: And do you have a better understanding a good understanding of why you've emerged as a cluster in the sense that obviously this is happening urban more dense areas? Rural county in Arkansas they believe a Church gathering a lead to a cluster. Any idea why are you seeing your spike?

HOTARD: What we do now is that right we have more cases than our neighboring Parishes. Right now my main priority is just the safety of our residents. Once we get past flattening the curve and starting to see the numbers decrease and our deaths decrease and those types of things then we will take a further dive into understanding why our numbers were so high and address it at that time.

But right now Mr. King my number one priority is the health and safety of the residents of Saint John. And that's what we're working to do every single day.

KING: Jaclyn Hotard we certainly wish you the best and we hope you're getting the cooperation you need from your Governor from - they would be watching here in Washington as well best of luck in the days ahead.

HOTARD: Thank you.

KING: Thank you so much. Joining me now to discuss the Harvard Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Michael Mina, Dr. Mina thank you for being with us so we're at this interesting point where you have the New York Governor saying we think we're at a plateau.

But he says keep your foot on the gas when it comes to social distancing even though he says it is starting to have conversations about when you can start to re-open? You watch the President of the United States consider the briefing room. He seems a lot more anxious to get there sooner where are we today?

DR. MICHAEL MINA, DEPARTMENT OF IMMUNOLOGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASE HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We're still in a place where social distancing is absolutely essential. We are - we're ramping up right now this is sort of the surge phase that was anticipated based on when we started social distancing.

So hopefully in the next few weeks maybe the next month will really start to see cases decline but that doesn't mean that we can let up on social distancing just yet. We have to get this virus completely under control first and then we can really start talking about opening up the economy.


MINA: So it's going to be painful for the economy but to preserve and prevent this outbreak from taking off the second time. We are really going to have to keep being patient and continuing the social distancing for quite a while still so that we present for the virus from re spreading across the population again.

KING: And to that point again people get mixed signals in the sense that the models have been adjusted and they are less pessimistic. I do not want to call them good news because they're still terrible news. But they are less pessimistic because the researchers are now getting more data of what's happening here in the United States?

And it's not so much tilted based on what happened in Italy or Spain or somewhere else. And so in a couple weeks ago a couple days ago even they were saying a 100 to 150,000 now they believe with best behavior could be kept to a 100,000 maybe even into the 80,000.

So again that is a horrible number but 82,000, 83,000 is a whole lot better than a 130, 140,000. Listen to the Surgeon General today saying he thinks this is working.


JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: That's absolutely my expectation and I feel a lot more optimistic again because I'm seeing mitigation work. I am so impressed. I know I've said it a couple times with Washington and with California their public health officials there should be applauded because they've given us the blueprint for how we deal with this and the rest of the country?

And I really do believe that we will come in under those projections as long as we can continue to do our part for 30 days.


KING: It's the last part I want to ask you about Dr. Mina, continue to do our part for 30 days and he holds up the President's the CDC guidelines that the President and the White House team put out. He says 30 days that's the - they run through the end of April.

The President is clamoring behind the scenes to get open as soon as possible. Is there any possibility there could be a targeted a regional re-opening at the end of April? Most of those models are based on if you want to keep it to 80,000 now you have to run into the end of May correct?

MINA: That's correct. Running this through the end of April would be a big mistake to start opening everything else up again. We're not going to come out of this with a tremendous amount of what we call population immunity and the good thing about social distancing.

And frankly the good thing that America has really I think taken it seriously is that it's bringing down the curve of this epidemic to a manageable state hopefully by the end of April.

But what that also means is that the more - the better we do now the less population immunity we will come out with. And so we're going to have to - this is going to be an extraordinarily well thought out plan to come out of this period of social distancing.

This virus isn't going extinct. It's not going to disappear so if we rush to open everything else up again in just a few weeks by the end of April that would be I think a big mistake to do that because we would run a major risk of letting this virus spread rapidly again.

And I think it's I think we're going to take a much more measured response and keep social distancing at least there May. And then and then once we get everything calm down we can start to think about targeted in efficient ways to open back up.

KING: You say at least remain you talk about the targeting. It is again I can't pick the right words because this is such a horrible pandemic but it is better for researchers for health professionals like yourself that we have more data available. And some of that does suggest social distancing is working.

The rate of hospitalizations is dropping you know the rate of intensive care cases is dropping. And that is better news. I will not for second call good news. But what don't we know? And I ask in the context there is this University of Texas Study that talks about counties that may have your just one case.

It says the probability of COVID-19 outbreaks in all the U. S. Counties. If the county has detected only one case there's a 51 percent chance that there's already a growing outbreak underway. Public health officials are making great decisions amidst overwhelming uncertainty and are often waiting for compelling evidence of local transmission prior to issuing social distancing order.

So essentially my layman's language on that is if you're someone in a smaller rural area or a place that's been "Lucky" so far you see only one case or two cases. Do you think oh, we're good you're probably not right?

MINA: That's right if you see one case the chances of identifying that very one case that might be in your town or community are pretty low. So probably the moment you detect your first case there's probably already quite a few additional cases that have already been introduced.

And it generally reflects what the virus like this that does likely reflect that there's already some level of community spread. Testing I think has been on everyone's mind it's been on the front page of all the newspapers for months now.

And we know that testing remains limited. So I think it's very important for policymakers in particular when they're looking at the data to not be - to not make decisions purely on the data they're seeing when it comes to testing because oftentimes that data is not complete.


MINA: And we're finding that there are huge gaps in testing still across the United States. Many, many people I would say maybe the majority of people who should be getting tested are not able to get a test still. And so we can - we have to really be cautious when interpreting data that suggest for example only one person has been extracted into town.

KING: Because of that lack of testing persistent lack of testing were still blind in many ways to where this is and what it's doing? Dr Michael Mina I really appreciate your expertise and insights with us today. Thank you very much.

MINA: Absolutely thanks for having me.

KING: Thank you. Quick break when we come back the President and the Governor of New York both say it is time to think about re-opening, getting Americans out of the house and back to work but when they talk about it they do it very differently.



KING: One big conversation today is about when and how to reopen the country? Get Americans out of the house and back to work. The President last night says soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's win this and get our country open as soon as we can. I think it's going to be sooner than people think. Things are going really well again, light at the end of the tunnel.


KING: Some experts think the President might be getting out ahead of the science but that wish get the economy going again they shared by many, including the New York Governor just last hour.


CUOMO: We have to start planning, restarting life. We're not there yet but this is not a light switch that we can just flick one day and everything goes back to normal. We're going to have to restart that economy we're going to have to restart a lot of systems that we shut down abruptly. And we need to start to plan for that.


KING: Our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash joins us now. Dana, same goal very different tone the President and the Governor?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Very different and look you can probably say that about so many of the issues and the challenges that the President and the Governor are dealing with very similar obviously in a state level and federal level but the way that they're communicating them and expressing them.

But you know look there is no public leader in this country whether it's the President, a Governor or Mayors I've been talking to several of them who don't share that goal. Of course they want to re open the economy re-open the society that has been shut down by the government.

The issue is how do you get there? And one of the things that the President is being told I spoke to somebody who is communicating with them this morning is testing, testing and testing. The President continues to come out every day and say how great the testing is?

Yes, the testing is much better than it was a couple of weeks ago and even a month ago but it's not there yet. When you look at the goal that everybody has which is to re-open it's impossible to do it properly without knowing where people stand health wise?

And the number of tests available it's not even close to meeting that goal of re-opening restaurants, re-opening schools and getting people back out to work.

KING: And it's an important point because the President keeps saying we've tested more people than any other country. By numbers that may be correct, by per capita it is nowhere close and just in the last hour I spoke to the Mayor Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

He says I don't have enough tests. I spoke to a Parish President in Louisiana she says I don't have enough tests. And listen to Andrew Cuomo he says yes I want to reopen as soon as possible. I'm working with my neighbors in Connecticut and in New Jersey but I've got 19 million people in the State of New York and we need to have tests.


CUOMO: It's going to come down to how good we are with testing? You're not going to end the infection and end the virus before you start - restarting life. I don't think you have that luxury. How do you start the economy back up? How do you start getting back to work as quickly as possible? It's going to come down to testing.


KING: Yes, there has been recent progress especially in the development of these quicker test but you're talking about 19 million people in New York. Some states there's and smaller communities are still dealing with themselves as hot spots on the rise.

Wrapping this up it still feels like we are month, month and months away from a place we could say okay, anyone who needs a test can get a test. The President said that a long time ago it is still brutally not true.

BASH: That's right and there are people who are looking into - not just what America is doing? And what the private companies are doing? What the health community leaders are doing locally and on a federal level? But what they're doing internationally?

I spoke to someone this morning who said that you know look at Germany for example, they're coming up with a different kind of test that maybe we can learn from here that is about figuring out who has - who has it but also who is perhaps has the antibody in order to get those people back to work?

That is the key. And you know the Governor Cuomo said it the President is hearing it. I know that from talking to sources and we have to say it over and over again. That being - I wouldn't even know if it's negligence but the fact that this country is so behind and has been so behind no matter how much better we are right now?

That is determinative when you look at how much back to normal we can be and how long that is going to take? That is really, really the key.

KING: Right. And the President keeps asking is it possible to start - reset restart - to flip the switch if you was he calls at the end of this month when his guideline timetable currently--


KING: --runs out the testing will be nowhere near it needs to be by then. We'll hear from the President today, see what else to say. Dana Bash thanks very much. Up next for us here the painful and disproportionate impact that Coronavirus is having on the African- American community across the country.



ADAMS: When you look at being black in America, number one people unfortunately are more likely to be of low socioeconomic status which makes it harder to social distance. Number two we know that blacks are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and I and many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID, it's why we needed everyone to do their part to slow the spread.


KING: It's the U.S. Surgeon General just this morning talking about the heightened Coronavirus risk for African-Americans. Some states have released the racial breakdown of cases and deaths. And those numbers show a disturbing trend, a disproportionate number of African- Americans being infected with Coronavirus and dying.

Joining me to share their expertise and their reporting Dr. Camara Jones the Former President of the American Public Health Association POLITICO's Laura Barron-Lopez and CNN's Van Jones. Doctor I want to start with you and I've just put up some numbers. I'll get deeper into them in a moment but just this side by sides.

Illinois African-Americans make up 15 percent of the population they are 42 percent of the State's Coronavirus deaths. In Louisiana African-Americans make up about a third of the population 7 in 10, 7 in 10 of the deaths in Louisiana.

African-Americans in Michigan it's about 14 percent of statewide population more than 40 percent of the deaths in Michigan from COVID- 19 in the African-American Community. It's a combination of things I'm sure some it's the urban density. Some is the disparity in the health care systems. What is your biggest takeaway on why this is happening and what can be done?

DR. CAMARA JONES, FAMILY PHYSICIAN AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: So first of all we have to be clear that in December 2019 none of us was immune, right? So all of us which should have an equal opportunity being infected but what this virus has done is taken away the mask of the veneer that pulled the sheets off of this myth of equal opportunity in the society.

So what is happening is that black folks are getting infected more because they're exposed more. And once infected they're getting - they're dying more because they have their bodies, our bodies have borne the burden of chronic disinvestment active neglect in our community.

So when I look at it, it is because of structural racism which puts us in the more forward facing job so that we're more exposed and less value don't even have the protection that we need. And this chronic you know the residential segregation that turns into employment segregation, educational segregation and environmental hazards segregation. All of those insulted in our bodies have given us more of these so called pre existing conditions. So once we are infected we have more severe outcomes from the disease.

KING: I want you to listen, Van I want to come to next. But I want you to listen to the Governor of Louisiana who's looking at these numbers and says as the Doctor Jones just said this is a horrible thing and we better learn about it as soon as we can.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Right now, slightly more than 70 percent of all of our deaths are among African-Americans who make up about 32 percent or so of the overall population of our state. So obviously, this is a big disparity and we're going to try to figure out what that is attributable to and what we can do about that as quickly as possible?


KING: And Van, as you come in, I just want to put the numbers, just Louisiana's numbers up side by side because people need to look at the numbers and let them sink in when you look at it. 33 percent of the population in State of Louisiana is African-American.

7 in 10 of the deaths in the State of Louisiana are among African- Americans. It's just a more than double your proportion of the population. When you hear the Governor there Van, I take him at his word that he is very well intended you also know the history here.

We have a crisis everybody ramps up a lot of money gets spent and then some of the disparities that may have been a major factor contributing to the crisis. When they're over they either get forgotten put aside or there's not enough resources to deal with them.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look I was in conversation with the Governor yesterday. I know that he is well intentioned but here's a reality. We got off on the wrong click here from a media point of view and from a community point of view. Everybody started staying in the black community this is a white folks things. You're hearing about white folks at nursing homes.

You're hearing about white folks who went to China and in fact a rumor got started that black people were literally immune to this disease that was all over the internet. Started off as a joke people took it seriously. And in fact you've seen this before with HIV. With HIV, that was just for gay people. I don't have to worry about it. And then it spread everywhere.

This is a disease the numbers for the black community are going to be completely different than the numbers coming out of China or Italy because is an epidemic jumping on top of a bunch of other epidemics already in the black community.