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Florida Governor Considers Reopening Schools Next Month; Louisiana Unable to Release Racial Breakdown of Cases; Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, Discusses Investigation into Holy Oaks Soldier's Home after 18 Veterans Died of Virus; Trump and White House Coronavirus Task Force Hold Press Briefing. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 13:30   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing is expected to begin shortly. The daily briefing is happening a little early today because of the Good Friday holiday. We'll bring it to you live as soon as it begins.

Just moments ago, according to Johns Hopkins University, the global coronavirus death toll passed 100,000.

Back here in the U.S., at least 16 states have mandated school closures for the rest of the school year, all part of an effort of keeping the virus from spreading further.

Even though Florida has more than 17,000 cases and hundreds of deaths, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis now says he's considering reopening some schools next month on a county by county basis.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami.

What's the governor been saying?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what he maintains is that he has not made the decision yet. However, the information he plans to use to make that decision is what is a problem. It's raising questions because it is not based on facts.

Here is what he said yesterday during a press conference. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason it just does not seem to threaten kids.


FLORES: Here are the facts. According to the CDC, at least five people, 24 years of age or younger, died from COVID-19. CNN have been reporting on a death of newborn in Connecticut and an infant in Illinois.

We reached out to the governor's office multiple times yesterday and today. We have not heard back.

However, in the past hour, a reporter asked the governor about this specifically and here is what he said.


DESANTIS: In Florida, we had no fatalities under 25. In the state of Florida, if you look, 85-plus percent of our fatalities are 65 and up.


FLORES: Now the governor also said yesterday, Anderson, he may consider reopening county by county, schools (INAUDIBLE). And he says that was because the state has been impacted differently in different areas of the state.

Now that's the exact same rational the governor used early on. It created a lot of controversy because he allowed all the localities, the cities and counties, to make decisions to stop the spread of the virus. It created this patchwork around this state that had different rules and different counties.

And so he mentioned yesterday and in today's press conference that he's in constant in communications with the White House and he's definitely, Anderson, taking his cues from the White House because only after, according to Ron DeSantis, only after President Trump changed his demeanor on this pandemic is that he issued the statewide stay-at-home order.

And as you know, Governor DeSantis was one of the last governors to issue that statewide order -- Anderson?

COOPER: Rosa, it sounds like planes are passing right over your head. Is that what's happening?




FLORES: I was a little concerned.

COOPER: No, I just want to check if you are in an OK spot. If you need to move, I'll give you a break.

I know the governor also exempted religious services from the state stay-at-home order. What does it mean for Florida's Easter weekend?

FLORES: Technically, it means these church services can happen. To be clear, the governor has mentioned during several press conferences that social distancing should happen and people should be responsible. But it means that services could happen in this state. Now there's one county in the state of Florida that made headlines

because there was a pastor there a few weeks ago that held Sunday services and he was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors.

I talked to the D.A.'s office right after this, Anderson, because the governor of Florida issued a separate order, in other words, bigfooting all of the local orders.


And it turns out that the D.A.'s office mentioned that because of that executive order, the new one was not retroactive, the charges against this pastor in Hillsborough County would still continue.

Back to your question, technically, services could happen here in the state of Florida.

COOPER: Rosa Flores, appreciate it. Thanks very much as always.

In Louisiana, the outbreak is showing signs of leveling off. There are currently more than 18,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.

It is known across the country that African Americans are at higher risks for the virus. The state's governor says he does not know the race of the individuals who tested positive. Here is why.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): We don't know currently from labs the race of the individual whose test results are at issue. We know the rate of deaths and we have been talking a lot about that lately.

But we are trying to see what whether -- what percentage of the positive cases, for example, who are African American, and compare it and contrast it to the percentage of death from COVID-19 if your African American.

Right now, we can't do that with respect to most testing because that information is just not available.


COOPER: CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans for us.

What are officials saying about the outlook in New Orleans and the state?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. The latest numbers just posted here in the state of Louisiana and we are now topping more than 19,200 cases here. And the number of deaths has jumped once again. We are at 755.

One of the glimmers of hope we have seen is the ventilators use in the state was dropping. There had been a temporary dip of hospital beds being used as well. Those two factors have jumped in the last 24 hours.

This is all what officials and health officials have been saying that they had hope to be seeing the beginning of the flattening of the curve. The two main indicators they are focusing the most on, ventilator usage and hospital beds usage, have ticked up again today. So we'll see how health officials are going to react to that.

For the most part, they felt that as long as people maintain their social distancing that would maintain the flattening of the curve and put the state on the right trajectory.

But, Anderson, I spent the last hour driving around the city of New Orleans and I don't know if because it is Easter weekend or Good Friday but there's a great deal of traffic around the city.

I saw a priest at a local church doing confession in the parking lot. The priest and the confessioner were sitting about six-feet apart. There are people out and about. The governor alluded this yesterday when he was talking.

So a great deal of concerns as we head into the Easter weekend. The mayor in New Orleans urging people to stay away from Easter services, to not congregate and, in her words, she says the Lord will understand if you don't show up.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, in New Orleans. Ed, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

The Massachusetts attorney general is launching an investigation into what happened in a veteran's home where at least 18 people died. She joins me live.

We also have the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. As soon as that begins, we'll take you there live as well.



COOPER: At any moment, the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing is expected to begin. We thought it will be at 1:15 or 1:30. We're still waiting for it. Looks like they are certainly close. Everybody is in place. We'll bring it to you as soon as it begins.

A deadly coronavirus outbreak is ravaging a veteran's home in west Massachusetts. The facility is under investigation by the commonwealth attorney general.

More than two dozen residents of the Holy Oaks Soldier's Home have died since March. Several staffers tested positive. The facility's superintendent has been placed on administrative leave.

Employee tell CNN the home was woefully unprepared to handle a virus outbreak due to long-standing issues like under staffing.

Maura Healey is the attorney general of Massachusetts, joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

We spoke to employees at the home and to their union. They alleged the administrator's recent decision of consolidating veterans into tighter quarters may have enhanced the outbreak in the facility. Do you know what the problem was, what happened?

MAURA HEALEY, MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Anderson, no, we don't. This is exactly why my office is investigating. This is really startling.

You reported on this and you talked to some of the families. It is heartbreaking when you think of these men, who served our country and living in this soldier's home, and it became a den for this deadly coronavirus.

That's why my office is launching this investigation and we need to get to the bottom of this and we will get to the bottom of this.

COOPER: The union also tells CNN that employees are not getting the proper protected gear, medical equipment they need to protect themselves and residents. Do you know at the home now do they have supplies to care for patients it's effecting? Is this an ongoing issue?

HEALEY: I've heard some of the same reports. And as I sit here today, I can't answer that question for you, which is a problem, which is why we are investigating.


As you know Anderson, there have been many problems that have come to light so far. This is a facility that was late in reporting the disease and fatalities. This is a facility that is alleged to have instructed staff not to wear PPE. This is a facility that is alleged to have not isolated patients or staff. It is concerning.

As you know, the numbers grow every day. We are now up to 32 veterans dead. And you know nearly a third of the patients there are infected. Obviously, staff is infected as well. We got to get a handle on this.

Obviously, something went terribly wrong. I am not going to prejudge anything. We'll go where the facts take us. But we have to, for the sake of these families, and to honor the men who served our country, we need to get to the bottom of this.

COOPER: I spoke to the widow of one of the veterans who died from the virus at Holy Oak. I asked her if she thought the administrator was taking cues from people that were downplaying the virus. Here is what she says.


PATRICIA COWDEN, WIDOW OF VETERAN THAT DIED AT HOLY OAK SOLDIER'S HOME: I understand the concerns of that worker. At the time that the administrator was making those decisions, nobody knew what was going on. He may have been listening to broadcasts saying that there was nothing to it, that there was nothing to worry about and it would go away. The commander-in-chief was saying nothing, you know.


COOPER: In terms of legal action, what do you potentially and how would this play out? Would an individual, if it's the administrator or one individual who seems to be at fault, what would that actually mean?

HEALEY: Well, Anderson, it could be criminal charges or civil charges. It could be against individuals, either those in management or other positions. It could be against the facility. We'll go where the facts take us.

This was a facility that was charged with a really solemn responsibility of caring for our veterans. They had an obligation.

It is a facility overseen by our Health and Human Services Administration. And so, you know, therefore, notwithstanding whatever Donald Trump might have been saying about the virus, there were still obligations that needed to be followed and responsibilities that should have been adhered to.

My view is that, certainly by march, we all knew that this coronavirus was out there. It started in this country or at least the first major outbreak in this country occurred in a group living home, the nursing home in Washington State.

I think it makes it all the more important for a home like that to be sensitive to the fact that this is out there and this could infect our people.

COOPER: Yes. Attorney General Healey, I appreciate your time. And we'll continue to follow this. Thank you very much.

HEALEY: Good to be with you, Anderson. Thank you.

COOPER: Take care.

We, again, are waiting for the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We believe it will be soon, any moment. We'll bring it to you live.

We'll be right back.



COOPER: As we head into Easter weekend, countries around the world urging people to celebrate safely by staying home and emphasizing this is not the time to let up on social distancing.

We're waiting for the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing -- and in fact, let's go there right now. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much,

everybody and good afternoon. Today is Good Friday, and this Sunday millions of Christians celebrate Easter, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this holy time we pray that God will heal the sick and comfort the heartbroken, and bless our heroes. As American families look forward to Easter, we are reminded that our story ends not in despair but in triumph and renewal. Very appropriate, isn't it?

I would like to provide an update on our ongoing efforts in the war against the invisible enemy. Before I do that, I will have a couple of notes. The United States in discussions last night with Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and dealing with OPEC nations. We are trying to get Mexico, as the expression goes, over the barrel. Mexico is committing to do 100,000 fewer barrels. The president and I spoke last night, we have a great relationship, a great friendship. They're helping us very much at the border.

They have 27,000 soldiers, Mexican soldiers on our border right now, stopping people from coming into our country, as our wall goes up. We're up to about 168 miles of wall. And in speaking with the president, they have a limit. The OPEC nations have agreed to a different limit, reduction of about 23 percent. So, what I thought I would do -- and I don't know that it's going to be accepted, we'll find out -- the United States will help Mexico along and they will reimburse us some time at a later date when they are prepared to do so.

TRUMP: And we had a great conversation, but we'll find out how that all works out. As you know, they're trying to get rid of a glut of oil. There is a tremendous glut of oil, and we don't want anything to hurt our incredible industry. We're actually the largest producer in the world now. So we don't want anything to hurt those jobs -- those great jobs in Texas, and North Dakota, and Oklahoma and everywhere.

We have a tremendous energy -- New Mexico. Tremendous energy business, and we want to keep those jobs. So we're working on it. I think eventually it's going to work out -- may work out quicker than what most people thought possible, and maybe it won't. But it'll work out eventually.

Our experts are monitoring the data from every part of our country having to do with the topic that we're here to discuss. In the midst of grief and pain we're seeing clear signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives. Tremendous progress is being made, although when you look at some of the numbers -- I just spoke with Governor Cuomo, we had a good talk.

When you look at those numbers, the numbers of deaths -- people that have died, it's so horrible. Now on the other side you have the numbers of beds being used, we were just saying are substantially reduced. That's usually the sign that it's heading in the downward curve.

So New York, we know where that is. But in the midst of all this grief and this pain we're seeing these signs, and we've seeing them very strongly -- and a lot of that has to do with the aggressive strategy in saving so many lives -- we're saving so many lives compared to what it could have been.

So, nobody knows what the number is, but we had a number of 100,000 lives -- as many as that is, it's impossible to even think of it, and that was the low-end with a tremendous amount of work, and a tremendous amount of -- you can call it many different things, our people had to be extremely strong and brave to be able to put up with what they've put up with.

But the minimum, if you did this social distancing and every other aspect, and I think I can say 90 percent, maybe even more than that were able to do it. The minimum number was 100,000 lives, and I think we'll be substantially under that number.

Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 you can never be happy, but that's a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking. So they said between 100,000 and 220,000 lives on the minimum side and then up to 2.2 million lives if we didn't do anything. But it showed a, just tremendous resolve by the people of this country. So we'll see what it ends up being, but it looks like we're headed to a number substantially below the 100,000, that would be the low mark. And I hope that bears out.

The situation in Detroit and New Orleans appears to be stabilizing. Detroit has really started to go up and now it is stabilizing, and New Orleans is a great place -- I have so many friends there, they can't believe what's happening, but it's really stabilized. I spoke with the governor of Louisiana and as you know we're building them additional beds right now, the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.

And that is going to be done, and I hope they're not going to be very well used because I think they're really -- I don't think they're going to need them, or certainly not very many of them. We built them a big hospital of 1,000 beds and now we're in the midst of doing another 1,000, I don't think they're going to be using very many of them and that's a good thing.

There was a time two weeks ago where we said that's not going to be nearly enough, we're going to have to build more but we wanted to wait to see -- and I'm glad we waited. It just looks like they're doing really well -- Louisiana and state of Michigan is doing really, much better than we thought.

In Washington State we've made enough progress that the governor is now able to return an Army field hospital, so we're going to take that hospital. We don't think we need any more hospitals. We built thousands of beds all over the country, and we think we're probably not going to need that hospital anywhere (ph) and if we do we're ready to move it to another location.

In New York we're seeing hospital admissions declining very substantially, as I said nationwide the number of new cases per day is flattening substantially, suggesting that we're near the peak, and our comprehensive strategy is working.

[13:59:57] Over time our guidelines to slow the spread are decreasing the rate of new cases very substantially and will result in fewer hospital admissions, and we're seeing that -- it's incredible, I think with no exceptions, it's looking like it's lower.