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Coronavirus Hitting African-Americans Hardest; Acting Navy Secretary Submits Resignation; Did President Trump Ignore Coronavirus Warnings?; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 12,000. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:01]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Our special coverage continues now with Kate Bolduan. I'll see you later tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Here are the numbers that are driving today, unfortunately. Moments ago, the death toll in the United States surpassed 12,000. It's 12,021 deaths. Almost half of those deaths have been in New York.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, he announced today that the last 24 hours have brought the single highest number of deaths in the state, 731 people succumbing to the coronavirus. And, again, remember, this is so much more than just a number.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother, so a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers.

And they're in our thoughts and prayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: It's almost confusing, as the governor said just yesterday, that he thought he saw a glimmer of hope that the state could soon be reaching the plateau.

Even so, this is a cruel reality of this virus. It is clearly -- there is clearly still a long and rough road ahead. The state is now using the U.S. Navy ship Comfort to treat coronavirus patients. But just as quickly, we find out one crew member on board has now tested positive and is being isolated.

And more unsettling news in the nation's epicenter. The coronavirus is hitting the New York Police Department incredibly hard. Nearly 20 percent of the uniform work force is currently out sick.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is here in New York City with this and much more.

Shimon, how is the NYPD dealing with this strain on the work force?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so they have had done a couple of things to try and deal with this.

One of the things is, is that they have allowed officers who could be concerned that they're at risk for contracting the virus to try and work it out with their supervisors to work from home. They have done other methods, obviously masks and more protection for officers.

They are seeing some signs that officers who did contract the virus are coming back to work, so some good news. But it is important to know the number of officers that are out sick really is staggering, close to 20 percent of the police force now out sick, some 7,000 officers throughout the department out sick.

You have civilians who are out sick, and also the NYPD announcing another death today. This was a civilian member, a woman by the name of Ava Walker. She was with the police department for 20 years. And she worked in their communications divisions, which essentially what they do is they dispatch officers. They get 911 calls, and they tell officers where to go.

The police department announcing her death today.

Also very important to note, there are some 57 of people, officers and civilians who are hospitalized. I'm also told that five of them are critical.

So, nonetheless, of course, the NYPD is still dealing with this, more officers getting sick, more members of their department, civilian members getting sick. These are people who look in any community within the city and even outside this city, Kate, that are now getting sick.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

And, Shimon, about the U.S. Navy hospital ship that came to New York to offer help and really be kind of like a relief valve, if you will, for the system. What are you hearing about this crew member who's tested positive?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, we don't know much about the crew member.

That person is isolated. What we have been told by the Navy is that the crew member didn't have any contact with any of the patients aboard the ship. There are people, there are patients aboard the ship. Five of them -- there are about 41 patients now on the ship. Five of them are being treated for the coronavirus.

This crew member has been on this ship since it set sail really to New York City from Virginia about a week-and-a-half ago. None of the people on this ship, the crew members, are allowed off. So it would likely be that this person had contracted the virus sometime obviously before they boarded the ship.

We don't know exactly much about this person, but we're told that the person is OK and is being isolated, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's good.

Shimon, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Let's go to Washington now and the federal response. You have undoubtedly now heard that the president say, at least once, if not multiple times, that no one could have predicted this.

But it appears members of his own staff were issuing warnings and putting it on paper even as early as January.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, she's following this for us. She joins me now.

Kaitlan, this wasn't just talk, an aside at one meeting. These were warnings put into memos.

What are you hearing happened?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Peter Navarro wrote out pretty specifically what he thought would happen if this outbreak did turn into a pandemic. And, of course, now it did. So there are questions about why these two memos that Peter Navarro wrote, the president's top trade adviser, were not heeded at the time by other officials inside the West Wing.

[15:05:15]

And two people today, the president's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, and the surgeon general, are saying they did not see these memos. It's not really clear why, because "The New York Times," which first reported on them, said that they were circulated to senior staffers.

And, of course, the ultimately the question is the president's response to this, because the day of this first memo from Peter Navarro, warning that the U.S. was not ready if this did turn into a pandemic, that is the same day that the president announced his Coronavirus Task Force.

We should note Peter Navarro was not put on that task force then. He's still not formally part of it though he's certainly created a role for himself. And it was the next day that the president granted those travel restrictions from China.

But, publicly, Kate, you saw the president, as I did, where he continued to downplay it repeatedly. And now people are questioning, why wasn't he listening to someone he's put in a top job inside the White House?

BOLDUAN: He listens to on other things, at the very least.

The president just today also removed another inspector general from his post. This one was in charge of overseeing coronavirus emergency funding. What is happening, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, you have noticed an uptick in the president dismissing inspector generals lately. He did it on Friday, when he got rid of the intelligence community inspector general who remember pushed that whistle-blower complaint to Congress, the one that led to his impeachment.

Yesterday, we saw him going after the HHS inspector general who published that report about those severe shortages in hospitals across the country. And now today we have got the president removing the acting inspector general for the Pentagon.

This is the person who was selected last week to oversee all of the other watchdogs who are going to pay close attention to how that trillions of dollars in taxpayer money was going to be spent. Now, this is someone who had been in this job at the Pentagon, Glenn Fine, since before Trump took office. And he remained there ever since Trump has been in office.

But now that he was going to be in charge of this watchdog panel, the president has removed him from his position as acting inspector general. He's put in someone from the EPA in that role. So he's effectively removed this person from being in this top job without a lot of explanation as to why.

And, of course, people are going to raise questions, because this is someone who was known for his independence after 9/11 in the roles that he had. And so the White House hasn't really done a lot to explain it. The president may try at the briefing today, but we have not gotten anything really substantive out of them just yet.

BOLDUAN: Why right now?

Kaitlan, thank you very much. Good to see you.

So then there is this lingering question. How do communities start eventually opening back up? When will they know it is safe? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, he started talking about that today. And he had one very clear answer.

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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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Let's focus in there.

Joining right now is Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins.

Doctor, it's good to see you again. Thank you for being back in here.

Top government officials in charge of testing continue to say that things -- when it comes to testing, that things are in a good place right now. Do you think they are?

DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY OF AMERICA: No, they're not in a good place.

We now have many test kits that have been approved by the FDA, we have many people able to do it, but this is still logistically hard. It's not just having the test kits. It's having the reagents to run the tests, even the nasal swabs to actually get the specimens.

All of that needs to be intact. And we have to be able to get to a place where we can test for this just like HIV, without any kind of bureaucracy. It has to be seamless. And we're still far from that.

Even today, I'm still having testing problems trying to get results on patients, trying to figure out where the specimen went. And there's too long of a lag time. It's days in many cases before you know the result of a patient's test.

BOLDUAN: So, on the ground, it's a problem. If you take it from the macro sense of why is -- does it seem that testing is still the most important thing that people aren't talking about enough?

ADALJA: Because testing is how you really key all your public health interventions.

Testing not only helps you with patient care. It helps you with understanding what's going on with this disease in your community. How prevalent is it? Are your cases going up or down? Where are the cases? Who's linked to who?

All of that requires testing. It's really the cornerstone of a good outbreak response is being able to diagnose these infections and actually take that data and use it to tailor your response.

The fact that we have these big economic shutdowns is the result of the fact that we didn't have that precision tool of testing available, and we had to use very blunt tools, because there was no way to know where the virus was and where it wasn't.

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BOLDUAN: That's a great point. And then there's also the quality of a test, obviously, is of utmost

importance. You are a fellow with the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Today, the group is warning that drive-through testing may not be producing quality results because of the level of expertise of the clinicians who are providing the test.

Drive-through testing is all over the country at this point. Do you think this is -- how big of a problem do you think this is?

ADALJA: I hope it's not that big of a problem. But I do think we have to worry about the quality of the specimens, how well-trained the individuals are that are taking the specimens, because there's a lot of sensitivity issues to the test based on how good of a specimen -- how far do you put that swab into someone's nose?

And there are differences in techniques. And we want to make sure that we're getting true negatives when we're saying somebody is negative. And we don't -- we're not so much worried about false positives, but false negatives can be a real issue.

And that has to be -- there has to be quality control of these tests as well.

BOLDUAN: When it comes down to it, when it comes to testing, who is responsible? I mean, the president yesterday was asked about testing. And he essentially said, don't look to us. We're the federal government. We -- you can't expect us to be standing on every street corner testing folks.

ADALJA: Well, what I would say is, at the very beginning of this pandemic, it was the federal government that had the sole ability to do the testing, and made it very difficult for private labs, for university labs to make their own tests, based on certain regulatory hurdles.

So, in the end, the fact that we're playing catchup for all of these months is the federal government's responsibility because of the regulations that they put into place, and basically making the CDC the exclusive purveyor of those tests and the CDC releasing very restrictive guidance on who could be tested.

And they didn't allow you to test mild cases. They didn't allow you to test somebody that wasn't in China. That's why we're where we are today -- where we are, because the testing was so flawed, not just not having the kids, but who we could test, when we could test.

And the state health departments basically took the CDC guidance as gospel, and we were kind of stuck.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And playing catchup at this point, wherever we are in the point of this pandemic, is a truly terrifying concept when it comes to testing.

Doctor, thank you for what you do. Thanks for coming on. I really appreciate it.

ADALJA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, talk about truly disturbing. There's new data coming out that is revealing African-Americans are dying at a much higher rate from coronavirus.

Coming up, we're going to take a look at what is behind those numbers.

Plus, there's breaking news that is just coming in about the secretary of the Navy. We have got that. We're getting our reporters up.

We will have that for you right after the break.

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BOLDUAN: All right, we have this breaking news coming in.

The acting secretary of the Navy has submitted his resignation. This is just a day after that audio came out of the secretary calling the former commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt stupid and naive over the sound system of the ship.

That commander, you will remember, sounded the alarm about the growing problem of the coronavirus among the crew on his ship. And he was dismissed.

CNN's Barbara Starr joins me now.

Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, what a U.S. official tells our own Jim Sciutto is that Tom Modly has submitted his resignation as acting secretary of defense.

Of course, this comes one day after that very disturbing audio emerged of Modly speaking to the crew of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt out in Guam, where it is in port because it's been hit with coronavirus.

And he had, of course, relieved the captain of duty last week, when that captain, Brett Crozier, had publicly, in Modly's view, talked about the problem aboard the ship. Crozier had widely distributed an e-mail message saying that he was very concerned that ill soldiers were not being taken off the ship fast enough.

He wanted more action. Modly proceeded to relieve him of duty, saying that he had violated trust and confidence, and that he'd gone around the chain of command, that he must have known these complaints, these concerns, if you will, would become public.

Modly had said the captain was either naive or stupid. And that pretty much sealed Modly's fate. He had to apologize last night. But he still made clear that he thought the captain of the carrier had done all of this deliberately.

So his resignation has been submitted. There's pretty good reason to think it'll be accepted, the Navy very much wanting to move on from this. They want to get those sailors healthy. They want to eventually get the ship back out to sea.

But, most important, you will remember that video of hundreds of sailors cheering their captain as he left the deck for the last time, they want that crew to feel like the Navy and they want all the Navy sailors to feel like somebody is looking after them in this crisis.

And that's -- the fact that was even called into question may be the biggest crisis for the Navy at this point -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's an excellent and very important point.

Barbara, thank you so much. Let's see what the president has to say about this.

Right now, though, let's turn to this, a new and troubling trend emerging in the coronavirus pandemic. African-Americans are getting hit very hard, harder, in some communities, facing the -- and facing the brunt of the infections.

In Michigan, for example, about 40 percent of people who have died from the virus are black. But African-Americans make up only 14 percent of the state's population.

CNN's Ryan Young is live from Detroit with this.

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Ryan, what are you hearing? What are you hearing about this there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the stories here are starting to just sort of have a ripple effect throughout this community.

And to do this a little differently, Kate, in our travels throughout the city, we have talked to several people over the last week-and-a- half, and they are sort of terrified at what they are seeing.

In fact, when we talk to people, they say, at first, initially, they thought this was something that would skip over certain parts of the communities. But talking to an emergency room doctor, they're saying this has basically ripped the Band-Aid off the inequities throughout this city, because health care officials are seeing people who are coming into the E.R. sicker and sicker.

And when you talk to folks, they say they waited a little longer because they couldn't afford health care. They did not want to go to the hospital. By the time they arrive, they're almost too sick to treat in a lot of cases.

We went to a morgue, and in terms of the funeral home in the last few days, they had 60 bodies, COVID bodies, in one location, and they were having to expand. And when you talk about the numbers here, getting closer and closer to 900 people dying from COVID-19. Anywhere you go in the city, especially when you deal with food

service or any sort of travel, we're seeing front-line workers without protection .You think back to just last week when that bus driver died from COVID-19, after explaining that he didn't have the proper stuff to keep himself safe.

So, this is a story throughout the city that people are paying attention to. But it's spreading through the country. And a lot of people are scared.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And, Ryan, it's not just Michigan. I mean, we're going to show you this full-screen. There's similar data coming out of Louisiana, Illinois as well.

YOUNG: Yes. Yes.

When you think about that, in terms of the city, in fact, I talked to another doctor in Chicago, and they were saying today they're going to start going out to the West Side of Chicago, where they see the numbers high. They're going to try to target African-Americans above 60.

The reason why is, they think, if they can stop the disease from spreading in that area, it can really have a great effect of stopping the spread all over.

I can tell you personally, having friends who have lost parents to this disease, it is really hard when you start understanding how difficult and how fast this can take a loved one.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Thank you, Ryan.

Joining me right now for more on this is Jumaane Williams. He's the public advocate for New York City.

Thank you so much for being here.

If you look at just Chicago, African-Americans make up about less than a third of the city's population. But so far, Jumaane, they have made up 70 percent of those who have died of the virus in Chicago.

And Mayor Lightfoot, in seeing that data, told "The New York Times," these are numbers that take your breath away.

New York City hasn't reported this data yet. But what do you fear this is going to look like in New York?

JUMAANE WILLIAMS, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: And if you look in Milwaukee, 81 percent of the people have died are black

Here in New York, we have unfortunately seen a similar trend. Well, my office has recently demanded the data. I'm hoping to get it soon. But we saw a map of zip codes. And, unfortunately, it looks like the same thing is happening here in New York City and in New York state.

And what I want to impress upon folks is that many of these inequities existed long before coronavirus, and many of us have been fighting and trying to ring the alarm bells, to no avail.

But what happened now is a perfect storm of those inequities, and no leadership to provide a plan to deal with those inequities. There was no leadership from the federal government. And so you have a wide array of the way people are responding.

Here in New York state and New York City, we also did not see a plan put in place that would deal with the inequities that people were coming with. And so if you have a vague shelter-in-place message that here in New York was muddled and confused, at best, but what about the folks who can't shelter in place?

What about the folks who have to go out and can't get deliveries, like we see happening in Manhattan? And so we were saying that we were at war, but we didn't put a wartime plan in place.

And so black and brown folks, I also want to be clear, here in New York City -- and I'm sure it's the same across the nation -- are the front-line workers. And so the way we exacerbate it is, not only do we not have a plan. We said, you front-line workers, here in New York City, 75 percent black, brown, and immigrant, you go out there with no personal protective equipment and no plan.

And we need to see emergency plans starting now. We can't go backwards.

BOLDUAN: Right.

WILLIAMS: But many of us have been pushing for true lockdowns of cities and plans for the most vulnerable. That didn't happen.

But we can start today. And we also have a plan that's on my Web site for recovery and response. What we did was pretend that these folks were expendable for the rest of the community.

I do want to add that there are people in all socioeconomic statuses that are dealing with this. We want to make sure we lift up every family. The coronavirus does not discriminate. Unfortunately, our response and or lack thereof and our policies have.

And so we see some people who are clearly dealing with the brunt of this. And there has to be accountability and action.

BOLDUAN: That's an important message.

You have called on -- as you mentioned, you have called for this, just to get a baseline of what it looks like in New York City. You have called on the mayor to release data.

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The mayor and the governor's team say that they're going to be releasing it by week's end. Is that good enough for you?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's unfortunate, because what have we been making our policies based on? This thing has been speeding quickly. It was called a bullet train.

Well, we need bullet data. We have to have the data so that we can respond carefully to where the data is leading us.

And so we need the data today because we have to be responding today. We have to be figuring out, what is the wartime response that we have to get? Some I'm glad they're going to put it out by week's end, but we need it now.

And the clear message is that these folks are not expendable. And it's OK to be on TV providing calm, but we needed clear, concise, actionable steps for these communities. We didn't get it. And, unfortunately, these real people with families are going to suffer more.

We have cases of people in New York City that are dying in their homes, and we don't think those are being counted. And they're being found days later. This needs action, and we need it now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I do fear what the data is going to show when it does come out.

Jumaane Williams, thanks for coming in.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A nurse on the front lines helping an endless flow of coronavirus patients coming through her hospital, faced with three, though, that she did not expect, her own relatives -- her story next.

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