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Talk of Reopening the Country as New Coronavirus Numbers Stabilize; Live Coverage of Andrew Cuomo Press Conference; Regional Governors Join Cuomo in Calling for Coordination in Reopening Safely. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 14:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: -- any moment now, the governors of six states will make an announcement -- including Governor Andrew Cuomo -- about how and when they'll try to reopen their states in a coordinated effort.

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo will be joined by his counterparts from New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The talk of easing -- and obviously, we'll bring you those comments, live.

The talk of easing restrictions comes as federal officials say they see some stabilization in the pandemic. Right now, more than 22,000 people have lost their lives nationwide, with more than 560,000 cases across the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, concedes lives could have been saved had the federal government acted earlier.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. Obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.


COOPER: Hours after Fauci's remark gained traction online, President Trump retweeted the hashtag, #FireFauci. Moments ago, the White House sent out a public comment that the president will not be firing Dr. Fauci, who has served under six presidential administrations.

As we wait for the governors to speak, I want to go deeper on what the surgeon general and the CDC director are both saying today, that the nation's sacrifices of staying home and staying away from people are working.

Our national correspondent Jason Carroll joins me now. And, Jason, may have to interrupt you if the governor's press conference begins. The positive signs there are, in identifying the debate on just when the U.S. economy should reopen.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. A lot of people are asking that, Anderson. The question is when. When will the country reopen, what is the plan, going forward. There is one point. Health officials are saying, whatever their plan is, if you open too soon in some parts, you're going to reverse all the progress that's been made to date.


CARROLL (voice-over): For the first time in history, every state is under a disaster declaration at the same time. The national death toll numbers are staggering. And yet in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, there are indications the number of infected is leveling off.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D=NY): Here's the good news: The curve continues to flatten. We talked all along, quote-unquote, the experts said that there were two possibilities. You could have a high point and then an immediate drop-off, or you could have a plateau. It appears that we have a plateau, it's flattening. It's the flattening of the curve. You -- the increases slow down, it flattens out for a period of time -- nobody knows how long because nobody's been here before.

CARROLL (voice-over): Across the country, the number of hospitalizations is down. The U.S. surgeon general says it appears the nation's hotspots -- places such as New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans -- are all showing some signs of improvement.

Dr. Jerome Adams, tweeting this morning, "In the midst of tragedy, there is hope... Social distancing and mitigation is working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel."

Still, this morning, Los Angeles County health officials reported seeing its highest number of COVID deaths in a 48-hour period: 31 people died. The U.S. military says a sailor on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt has died from COVID-19. To date, more than 2,900 service members have tested positive for the virus.

And the economic impact continues to take a toll. Disney announced it will furlough 43,000 Walt Disney World employees --


COOPER (voice-over): I'm going to bring in -- sorry, we had to jump into that -- let's listen to the governor.

CUOMO: -- state of Rhode Island. I want to thank them for their professionalism and the way they've been handling this situation respectively. I also want to thank them on behalf of the state of New York, for their good work in working with us through this very difficult time. Their -- their mutuality and partnership and cooperation has been of great benefit to the state, so I want to thank them for that.

I'm going to make some opening comments, and turn it over to Governor Murphy first and then we'll hear from the other governors.

I think most states -- oh, Operator, we're ready -- started hearing music.

OK, thank you, governors. I just said I thank you all very much for your professionalism and your cooperation, and everything you've done that has benefitted the alliance with the state of New York. And I also want to thank you and congratulate you on what you've done for your states. It's truly been outstanding, and it's my honor to be a colleague to you.

We've been talking today about the fact that New York believes we have reached a plateau in the increase in the number of cases. They're not going down, but they're not going up at the same rate. We believe it's a, quote-unquote, "plateau," and that is relatively good news in a world of bad options.


And we should start looking forward to "reopening," quote-unquote. But reopening with a plan, and a smart plan. Because if you do it wrong, it can backfire and we've seen that in other places on the globe. So everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work get the economy moving. Everyone agrees with that.

What the art form is going to be here is doing that smartly and doing that productively, and doing that in a coordinated way, doing that in coordination with the other states that are in the area, and doing it as a cooperative effort where we learn from each other and we share information and we share resources and we share intelligence.

No one has done this before. No one on this telephone has done it before, no other state has done it before. So it's one step forward after research and consultation with experts. I'm not a public health expert, but this has to be informed by experts and by data. You take one step forward, you see how it works and then you measure the next step. And to the extent we can do that together, that is the best course, there's no doubt about that.

I don't believe we wind up with a fully common strategy. You have different states in different positions. Within this state, you have different areas with different circumstances, and the plan has to fit the facts and the circumstances. It's one situation in New York City, it's a different situation in rural counties, different situation in suburban counties. So how do you address those different set of facts?

And I want to make sure all the people we represent, make sure that we are smart in the way we are doing this. Yes, we've never been here before, but that doesn't mean you can't ensure public confidence that you're doing everything you can to do it in a smart way, an informed way, guided by experts and data and science and not in a political way. And I think working together, we can do that.

Each state is going to name a public health official for that state, an economic development official for that state. We -- that -- those officials and the chief of staff of the governor of each state will then form a working group that will start work immediately on designing a reopening plan, taking into consideration the public health concerns and issues, and the economic reactivation issues and concerns. Study the data, study the research, study the experience of other countries and give us guidelines and parameters to go forward.

Again, we anticipate different facts, different circumstances for different states, different parts of states. But let's be smart and let's be cooperative and let's learn from one another. And that is in arguable.

With that, let me turn it over to Governor Phil Murphy.

Governor Murphy, thank you so much for being with us.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ) (via telephone): Governor Cuomo, thank you for hosting us so graciously and in the category of "you're known by the company you keep," I'm honored to be with you and Governor Lamont, Governor Wolf, Governor Carney, Governor Raimondo in this discussion and in this initiative.

You know, just as we harmonized as states, you know, we're -- New Jersey's the densest state in America, and we're in that -- that corridor that is so unique. And it was imperative to not just do the things that we needed to do within our four walls, as we closed our state down, but to do it in close coordination with New York and Pennsylvania and Delaware, Connecticut especially.

And it's that same spirit, that we're coming together and acknowledging, as we -- whenever it is -- and by the way, we have not yet plateaued, we're a couple of beats behind New York, our positive tests have begun to flatten but we're not yet -- we're not yet there.

But as we -- you know, whenever it is that we determine, based on the facts, the data, the science, that it is safe for us to responsibly begin the reopening and all the health care infrastructure that goes with that, to do that in coordination seems to be an overwhelmingly prudent approach. And we're honored to be very much a part of this group.


We do know this, that an economic recovery only occurs on the back of a complete health care recovery. And that order is essential. And getting that wrong, transposing those steps or jumping in too early or maybe jumping in by ourselves -- Governor Cuomo and I have talked about what's -- you know, if the protocols on the one side of the Hudson for a restaurant or a bar are different than the other, or similarly across the Delaware, you could have inadvertent unintended consequences, which could be grave.

So getting this right, both the timing, the infrastructure from -- as well as input, as Governor Cuomo has said, from both health care experts as well as economic development experts, in addition to our government colleagues, seems to me and to us to be an incredibly smart way to go. This is the -- this is the fight of our lives, let there be no doubt

about it. And we're not out of the woods yet, and reopening ourselves back up will be equally challenging beyond a shadow of a doubt. So I'm honored to be with my fellow governors, as I have been, every step of the way, over the past several months, and look forward to that spirit and coordination, going forward.

Thanks, Governor Cuomo.

CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you very much, Governor Murphy. And you're right, we started this journey together, we're going to end it together on a positive note.

Same with Governor Ned Lamont from the state of Connecticut. Governor Lamont, thank you very much. Thank you for being with us.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT) (via telephone): Andrew, thanks for getting us organized and everybody here. I'll just pick up where Phil left off. He mentioned the major transportation corridors that interconnect at least New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as part of a tristate workforce. And we all slowly closed down, methodically, parts of our economy in a way that we tried to mitigate the effects of the contagion, and we're going to be thoughtful about how we get this opened as well.

But, you know, Governor Cuomo, as you know, you know, all of our pandemics here in Connecticut is all along that I-95 Metro North corridor, where we have hundreds of thousands of people going back and forth between New York and Connecticut. It's the commuter corridor for us, but it's also the COVID corridor, which is why it's so important that we work together thoughtfully on this.

Listen to the experts, as you say, and make sure you don't pull the trigger too early. I'm looking over at Japan and Hong Kong and Singapore, and those places are unfortunately seeing a small resurgence, as the second half of the V, coming back again. And that would be so demoralizing for -- for our economy.

So that's why what we do, I want to do on a coordinated basis, have a database that we share, establish the same protocols so we know how we're working together, and get that information up to -- or down to Washington so they can coordinate as well.

I mean, we're going to be thinking about the mix of PCR antigens and probably the low infection areas in terms of testing, and probably the antibody testing in those areas where it's more prevalent, so we can put together a system that allows our people to get back to work.

And I couldn't agree with each and every one of you, that working together makes the most sense, listening to the experts, doing this methodically but doing it now.

Back to you, Governor Cuomo.

CUOMO: Amen, thank you very much, Governor Lamont. Thank you.

Governor Tom Wolf from Pennsylvania -- Tom, good to be with you again.

GOV. TOM WOLF (D-PA) (via telephone): Good to be with you, too, Governor Cuomo. Thank you for doing this and thank you to my fellow governors for making this effort possible.

You know, we all know that we can do anything better when we work together in this region, and we have done good things by working together. We've shared ideas and plans, and we've shared in going through this challenge. And this partnership, this council that we're forming here recognizes that simple fact.

And I agree with the sentiments of my partners that we need to do this right, and that's what we're trying to do. But this partnership recognizes something else that I think is really important: it recognizes that we need to come up with a specific and a smart plan for this uncertain future that lies ahead.

But it is also that we are creating a plan to let our people, the people that we serve, the citizens of our states, that we indeed do have a future. And this is as important as coming up with the specific elements of this plan. It has to be responsible, but it has to show us that we do have a future.

As we figure out how we're going to reopen our schools, how we reopen our businesses and our homes, we're also going to recognize that we're trying to figure out how we're going to restore the sense of hope that this pandemic has taken away from so many of us.


And I'm proud of the people who are going to be working on this for Pennsylvania: the secretary of Health, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, and my chief of staff. We're all going to do a great job for the people we serve, and I think we're going to show the people of the United States how you come out of something as devastating as this in a responsible fashion.

Governor Cuomo, thank you again for doing this and back to you.

CUOMO: Thank you, Governor Wolf. Thank you very much.

I couldn't agree more with what my colleagues are saying. And Governor Wolf's point, we talk about the economic toll, which you can quantify. You can't quantify the emotional toll this has taken on people, and I think Governor Wolf is exactly right. Knowing that there's another day, a new day coming, may not -- may be different than past days, but it can be a bright day. And that is true, and we have to focus on that.

Governor Carney, very good to be with you, John. Thank you very much for taking the time, and all the help and coordination. Governor Carney?

GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D), DELAWARE (via telephone): Yes, can you hear me now?

CUOMO: Yes, I can. Yes we can, John.

CARNEY (via telephone): Hello, can you hear me now?

CUOMO: Yes, we can.


CARNEY (via telephone): Sorry for that little glitch. I want to thank my colleagues for this cooperative effort, especially you, Governor Cuomo, for bringing us together and frankly for your leadership on a day-to-day basis under very difficult circumstances there in metro New York City and your state, been provide great leadership there and across the country and we certainly appreciate that.

Certainly, thanks for including Delaware. We are on the southern end of this region, but we're connected importantly by the I-95 corridor and the Amtrak Northeast Region, and so in a very important way, we're part of the region, if only a small part.

We have seen the connections among our states through this, as many of the folks who work in our state live in Governor Wolf's state or across the river in New Jersey. And they've obviously had to balance the various provisions and restrictions in each of our states, so this will help us as we think through what it takes to re-enter, and to get our economies moving again.

Frankly, it'll really just formalize for me what I've already been doing, along with Governors Murphy and Wolf, in our metro Philadelphia areas. We talked on a number of occasions about decisions that we've had to make in terms of shutting down businesses, in terms of business and supply chains that are connected among our states.

This will formalize that, and really put before us all the decisions that we have coming, ahead of us. And I think may be even more difficult than decisions on the front end of this, over the last month and a half, two months as we get on the other side of the peak, which it seems like the greater New York City area is reaching now.

How do we open things in a way that's safe? I heard Governor Murphy say, yesterday, that we need to get the patients healthy before we can get the economy healthy, and I think he's exactly right in that.

And so working together, our economies are connected, our states are connected in a real way in terms of transportation and visitation and the rest. And so our working together, sharing our information and intelligence, I think, will help each of us make better decisions.

So I want to thank all of you for your leadership. This is a time, we're experiencing uncharted waters here and I think ahead of us will be more uncharted waters. But working together, we will do a better job for the people that we -- we work for and we'll make smart decisions in reopening our economy.

We're a little bit different down here, a little bit behind, I think, those of you in northern New Jersey and New York City. Our message here at home still is be safe, stay at home. When you go out, you know, observe appropriate social distancing and we will continue with that message. But at the same time, think about the timing of re-entry and getting back, life back to normal again, if that ever occurs.


Again, Governor Cuomo, thank you so much for including the first state here in the southern end of this region. We appreciate your leadership there, in the great state of New York. And your leadership with this collaborative task force. Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you very much, Governor Carney, and you're so right. We're all learning, right? This is new for all of us, and it throws out a lot of the old rules and the old ways of doing business. And the state boundaries mean very little to this virus. And somebody can get on Amtrak or somebody can get in a car and go up the I-95 corridor, and it doesn't matter if they're from Delaware or New Jersey or Connecticut or New York, what state they're from, it can have the same consequence.

So we're learning and we're growing, every day. Thank you, John.

And Governor Gina Raimondo from the state of Rhode Island? Governor Raimondo, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. Thank you for working through all these issues with us on behalf of New York. Gina Raimondo?

GOV GINA RAIMONDO (D-RI) (via telephone): Good afternoon, can you hear me?

CUOMO: Yes, yes, we can.

RAIMONDO: Hi, good afternoon and thank you all.

And I thank you, Andrew, for leading us and convening this group. I think it's a terrific initiative. Like all of you -- all the governors who spoke and all the governors I've been speaking with -- I am constantly thinking about what it's going to take to safely reopen our economy.

Like you, I don't want to keep people out of work one day longer than necessary. However, we need to do it safely, which means we need a smart, targeted approach to slowly reopen the economy in a way that keeps everybody -- most especially the elderly, the vulnerable and those with pre-existing conditions -- safe.

So you know, like many of you, I have a team here that I've assembled to develop a plan for what we are calling the new normal, and we're looking at everything from how we screen people entering businesses, to how we utilize more touchless technologies in our day-to-day interactions, doing a deep dive industry by industry on new guidelines for this new normal.

And I'm looking forward to this initiative, I'm looking forward to being a part of the working group and exchanging ideas. Like you have said, we've -- none of us has ever gone through this before, and I am confident that by working together and sharing our best ideas, we will be much, much more likely to get it right for the citizens of our state and this region.

I will say, you know, throughout the crisis, the governors are the ones who have been showing great leadership and taking action to keep our residents safe, and so I think it's only appropriate that we do the same thing now by coming together and showing regional leadership to reopen the economy. And as everyone has said, I think if you take a coordinated approach on a regional level, we'll be that much more successful.

I know that over the past few weeks, I've spoken frequently with the governors on this call, with the governor of Massachusetts, governors all around the country. And our ongoing collaboration, idea exchange, coordination has certainly enabled all of us to keep people safe in our states.

The reality is, this virus doesn't care about state borders. And our response shouldn't either. So I am fully in support of this effort, and look forward to working with each of you to make sure that we do get to the business of getting folks back to work, and we do it in the smartest, safest way possible.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, Gina, thank you, Governor Raimondo.

And I couldn't agree more with all of my colleagues, and Governor Raimondo's point. None of us have done this before. Sharing information, learning from each other, pooling resources is only smart, and we have to be smart. You need the best public health plan, and you need the best economic reactivation plan. It's not either-or, it has to be both. No one is willing to sacrifice one at the expense of the other, and you can't have one at the expense of the other. But how you do it? That's the art form.

We're going to take questions for -- one question each from each state. And then I'll take questions from New York afterwards.

Governor of the State of New Jersey, Governor Murphy is ready for any question from any reporter in the state of New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): Thank you. As a reminder, to ask a question, you will need to press star then the number one on your telephone. Again, that's star-one on your telephone.


Please stand by while we compile the queue (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: We will not allow the New York reporters to question any other governor. I would not subject my colleagues.

MURPHY (via telephone): I believe it's -- this is Phil Murphy, Andrew. I believe it's in our constitution that that's not allowed.


CUOMO: That's right, it's state cooperation only goes so far. There have to be some -- MURPHY (via telephone): It only goes so far.

I'm actually going to do our own press conference at 3:00 p.m., so if there are Jersey folks on and they're not ready to ask, we're very happy to take them in Trenton in a half hour or so.

CUOMO: Operator, anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via telephone): We do have a few questions. The first one is from Charles (INAUDIBLE) from North Jersey.

MURPHY (via telephone): Hey, Charlie (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, good afternoon. Governor, you've made a point that the -- any plan that you devise will have to be on the -- any economic plan will have to be on the back of a public health plan.

Is that your way of -- and is, collectively, this a way of saying to the Trump administration that we're going to -- we disagree with your emphasis of putting economy first, that we feel we've most earnestly and strongly have to make that point, that public health comes first because you're not hearing that coming out of Washington?

MURPHY: Yes, Charlie (ph), I'd say -- good to hear from you, by the way. I'd say it's less that for me, and far more let's just make the calls as we have tried to make them from day one, based on the facts and the data and the science. And everything we're looking at tells us, you only get an economic recovery if it comes on the back of a health care recovery.

So our energies -- and I think the council that we're forming today -- speaks exactly to that. In other words, the house is still on fire, we still have to put the fire out. But we do have to begin putting in place the pieces of the puzzle that we know we're going to need, both health care infrastructure to make sure this doesn't reignite as well as the steps we're going to need to take collectively as a region in terms of economic recovery.

So I'd put it much more on the category of calling balls and strikes based on the data that we're looking at, and you know, again, I think if you get that wrong, you -- inadvertently, even -- even with the greatest of intentions, if you transpose those steps or if you -- if you jam it too early, you could throw gasoline, even inadvertently, on the fire and it could reignite. And that's the last thing that any of us need right now.

So as painful as the economic reality is right now -- and it's painful for all of us --

COOPER: A press conference with a number of governors from the Northeast, chaired by Governor Cuomo of New York. You're just listening right now to Governor Phil Murphy from New Jersey.

I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta who is with us in Atlanta, who has also been monitoring this conference. Sanjay, what we really heard from -- from all the governors of different states was the -- the need to let public health issues be really in the forefront, but also have, obviously, economic considerations as well as they try to figure out how to move forward.

And Governor Cuomo was stressing that while there is commonality among some states in some issues, not -- it's not one-size-fits all. And that each state is going to have to kind of figure out the timing for themselves in terms of what works best in their states.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. And I think this idea that this region, as opposed to any particular individual state, needs to be in some sort of lockstep here, acknowledging that, you know, this is still a virus that we're talking about, it can still spread, it doesn't respect the borders of the states. So, you know, they want to be able to speak, if not for the whole country at once, at least for a particular region .

it was interesting, the way that they sort of framed it. The house is still on fire, but we think it's OK to start thinking about what happens when the fire is basically put out. What is that going to look like?

Everything from what are screening procedures going to be like for people who are going back to work, are they going to get their temperature taken every day, are they going to get tested on some regular basis, are they going to wear masks at the office place, to things like touchless technologies, you know.

I mean, I think there's going to be a bunch of new technologies that come out in the aftermath of this that really decrease the amount of surfaces, for example, that we touch on a regular basis, things that we haven't really thought about as much. So it's interesting to hear about these things.


I think what I was listening for -- and I think a few of the governors made this point as well, is that whenever we start talking about what it's like -- going to be like as part of the reopening, it may send the message that it's OK to start --