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Governors Charting Path Forward Amid Public Health Crisis; Trump Falsely Claims Total Authority Over States; Former OSHA Chief Says Agency Should Be Doing More. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

More than a thousand Americans dying every day from coronavirus still. Don't forget that. This morning, the question is not just how to relax some of the restrictions that have saved lives, but who gets to decide just how to do it.

Governors on both coasts now joining forces to formulate plans to reopen some businesses while minimizing the risk of reigniting the pandemic, but President Trump claims that he has total authority over what the states do. The Constitution, the Supreme Court, even some of the president's conservative allies do not agree because it's not true. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tells CNN, we have a Constitution, we don't have a king. We're going to speak live with Governor Cuomo this morning about what the governor's plan to do.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And, John, just to reiterate those numbers, more than 23,000 Americans have died. I mean, that number is just shocking to say and it's shocking to hear, 23,000 Americans. Hundreds more die every day.

And beyond the medical crisis, of course, is the financial crisis. millions of Americans suddenly find themselves without paychecks. But President Trump did not focus on those issues at Monday's press briefing. He focused on defending his own record and his slow response to the pandemic.

So we begin this morning not with politics, but with public health and we want to bring in CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, hold tight because we want to just get an assessment of where we are today with public health. Sanjay, great to see you as always.

I'm very interested in the models, and this is the University of Washington one. We have a graphic I want to put about where in the country the virus has peaked, where it is peaking this week, and where it still has a long time yet to peak.

So the colors that you see on your screen, yellow means the peak has passed. So those states are Washington State, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana, Illinois, the peak has, we believe, passed.

In orange are the states that within this week, it's going to hit. That's California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

And then all of the other states that you see there in red are the -- the peak is still to come. And some of them, Sanjay, are far away. I mean, Connecticut, though it's next to New York, 12 more days until the peak, Florida, 22 days, Georgia, 19 more days until the peak, Iowa, 22 days until the peak.

So, obviously, that, I would imagine, changes the equation for governors and mayors about, you know, when they would be able to possibly reopen anything.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think there's no question, the states don't want to think about reopening at all before the peak happens. I think that goes without saying. But even after the peak, as we're hearing from Governor Cuomo and several other governors up there in the northeast and the west, that there still has to be some caution here, an acknowledgement that the house is still on fire, as governor murphy put it, but also, you know, trying to be, you know, somewhat proactive in planning.

And in that planning, it was interesting for me, Alisyn, to hear what that might look like. And to think that they're starting to think about testing, obviously making sure you have hospital capacity, worrying about a resurgence of cases, but also thinking about what life might look like, touchless technologies as much as possible, people taking their temperature before going to work, masks, you know, even within the workplace, all these types of things.

But you're right, I think what's going to be interesting, Alisyn, is we're going to learn from other countries. We're seeing Italy go through this right now, but we're also going to learn from other regions of the country.

A virus -- somebody once said to me, a virus anywhere is a virus everywhere. And think that's something we have to keep in mind in the United States. That big area of red, that could affect the whole country depending on how significant those peaks are, not just that particular state.

BERMAN: Yes. And someone once said to me, I can't remember which expert it was, Sanjay, the second worst day in a pandemic is the day after the peak. So, yes, it's always good to peak and start going on the downhill. But a lot of people are still dying, a lot of people are still getting sick. What milestones are you looking for that you think are the most important in this reopening discussion?

GUPTA: Well, you know, there's been this list that we've been looking at in terms of milestones overall, what are going to need to happen. Obviously, you know, you hear about the idea that there could be a resurgence. So hospitals still have to be vigilant, there has to hospital capacity.

The testing -- and I'm talking about the testing for the virus here. The antibody testing is also important.

[07:05:01]

But testing for the virus is what we're talking about at the top of the screen, that's important because -- it's always been important, it will remain important, because you have to be able to find people who have the infection, isolate them and trace their contacts.

I think most people now understand the concept of this. But right now, we're in mitigation phase. We're trying to slow this thing down. Ultimately, as you come around the other side of the curve, you want to go back in to containment phase, where you're truly trying to contain this virus that is almost solely relying on testing and tracing.

And it's going to take a lot of people to get that done. That is a big task. That's one of the most laborious public health tasks we've been faced with in this country for a long time. I'm talking about hundreds of thousands of people that may need to be hired to do this sort of work. They're talking about pulling people from the Census Bureau, for example, to do this sort of thing.

It's going to be necessary. We have to do that for two reasons. One is actually to have real containment, but two is, I think, as I've talked to many people around the country now, the sense of confidence that people are going to actually have going back to work. How I do know that I'm confident that I'm not going to become infected?

John, people will become infected when we open back up. That's an inevitability. The virus is the virus. The virus is still there. I'm just really struck by this weekend, people said, hey, it's seems like the risk of anyone contracting the virus is low now. Yes, that's because of where we in this country. I mean, just think about the amazing changes that have happened over the past couple of months. We are doing a pretty good job of social distancing, so the risk is low right now. Once we start to open up, without a doubt, that risk will increase, it's just a question of finding the right balance.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's bring in Dana, who has been patiently waiting, to talk about what all of this means for our elected leaders.

So there was this -- I don't know how to describe it, Dana, the press briefing yesterday. It was magnus on some level because --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: On a lot of levels.

CAMEROTA: Well, the president wanted to get out this video that the White House team had put together defending his record. I mean, I think that we need to point out these are taxpayer dollars, these are not his campaign, though it felt a lot like a campaign video because he doesn't like the narrative that his administration was slow on this response.

And -- but as some of the reporters pointed out, even in his own video, February is omitted. Whatever actions could have been taken in February, you know. This is the video that touts the actions he took. February is not mentioned in the video. And so where does that leave us today in terms for Americans who are tuning in to find out what the plan is for when they go back to their lives?

BASH: Unfortunately, they don't know. And the president made it a whole lot more confusing and then some in that press conference on that fundamental question. And the reason is because of so many reasons, so many times, I should say, in the Trump presidency where his action or inaction is completely dictated by the fact that he feels an affront, whether it's by a political ally or rival or more -- usually it's the media.

And that's what happened this weekend. I spoke to somebody who was familiar with phone calls that the president was making on Easter Sunday when he didn't have a whole lot else going on, which history shows tends to be dangerous when the president doesn't have a lot else to do, making calls. And he was crabby, he was cranky, he was curt, all on one topic, the press that he was getting about what went wrong and what he could have done.

Specifically, he didn't say it, according to the source I spoke to in this one particular call, but it was obviously he was talking about The New York Times, and the fact that they did this in-depth report about just that. It was topped by CNN's own interview, Jake Tapper's interview with Anthony Fauci asking him about that, and Fauci giving an honest answer, which he backtracked from yesterday at the briefing.

So all of that is the backdrop that led to the president who thinks about, you know -- his gut is to think about one thing and that is how are they treating me? What does this mean for me? And that led to a lot of confusion with him saying that the president has total authority, not true, with him saying a whole bunch of things that is going to lead to much more confusion on the most difficult thing that Sanjay was just talking about, which is how to get out of this, which is much harder than how to get into the social distancing and lockdown situation.

BERMAN: Yes, he was answering the question that wasn't important. The only question that matters is how are we saving lives, how are we saving jobs?

[07:10:01]

In any minute not focused on that, including minutes behind a podium with a screen behind you at a news conference is not focused on either of those questions.

And, Dana, I'm curious if the president has seen the poll numbers and what he thinks when people are asked for their approval rating of their -- the handling of the crisis, the president or governors, like more than 70 percent of people polled across the country say that they approve of the way that their governors have handled this pandemic, and the president is underwater on that fact. Less than 50 percent approve of the president's handling of this, over 70 percent of the nation's governors. So I wonder how this is going to play as he's trying to seize power from them. BASH: You know, it's difficult. Part of the reason why the president was convinced to extend the deadline beyond what he called that aspirational deadline to reopen Easter, which was this past weekend, was because he was presented with the argument that the public understood what was going on and that -- and the need to keep at it.

And also at the time, his ratings were going up alongside that. And that is changing. And it's understandable that it is changing because the pandemic is changing, the nature of people sitting around watching, trying to figure out what's going on is also changing and the tone. And the message, the mixed messages that we're hearing from the president.

Just one thing. I talked to somebody who has a lot of experience with this last night who was saying, just think about it. The president at the beginning of this, he could have taken control, maybe not legally but at least rhetorically and been much more aggressive and saying, okay, shut everything down, I'm in charge here, instead, he let the governors do it. And now, he's doing the exact opposite. He's saying, no, the governors don't have the authority, I have the authority. So -- so which is it?

And so that is the situation that people in right now. And it is the exact opposite of what they should be feeling. They should be feeling a sense of security that the leaders of the country in this incredibly difficult time without a playbook are doing the best that they can keeping, as you said, John, their interest at heart, not their own personal, you know -- what's going on with them and their approval and how they're being treated, in their own minds.

CAMEROTA: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dana, thank you both very much for both angles on what we are dealing with this morning.

And we are going to try to get answers for our viewers very soon because we have governors that we're going to be speaking to coming up. They're forming their own coalitions to reopen their states. When do they think it's safe to do that? How do they think it's safe do that? We'll talk to them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The president of the United States calls the shots. When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be.

REPORTER: Your authority is total?

TRUMP: Total. It's total. And the governors know that.

REPORTER: So if the governor --

TRUMP: The governors know that. You have a couple of bands of -- excuse me, excuse me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That's President Trump falsely claiming he has total authority to reopen the economy over governors regardless of whether or not the state governors are on board. It comes as governors on both coasts unite forces to develop a plan to reopen their individual states.

One of those governors is Connecticut's Ned Lamont. He joins me right now. Governor Lamont, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

What I want to know is what's the practically impact of governors like you saying, we are formulating our own plans to ease some of these restriction when's the time is right? What is the impact of having you say that while a president is saying, no, no, it's up to me and completely me?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Good morning, John. Here is what it meant. A couple months ago, when we figured out that our bars and restaurants were packed leading up to a Saint Patrick's Day, got together with Governors Murphy and Governor Cuomo and said, let's do this together, we'll close them down. It doesn't do me any good to have a bar closed in Greenwich, Connecticut, and it's open right across the border.

Now, the same thing holds. The governors are getting together, taking the lead. We were early in taking care of the social distancing and we're going to take care of getting our economy open again but on a thoughtful and safe way.

BERMAN: So what's the impact, Ned, to someone in Bridgeport or someone in South Windsor of having the president say, no, it's not Governor Lamont who is going to make this decision, it's me?

LAMONT: It sends a mixed message, that's what's terrible. I'm trying to maintain the social distance, the birds are chirping, the tulips are coming up, everybody is ready to go out and I don't need the White House saying, hey, everybody, it's all going to be fine, go to church on Sunday and keep going. The governors are trying to speak with a unified voice and say, this is the time to make sure the social distancing stays disciplined. This is no time to take our eye off the ball. That would be dangerous.

BERMAN: And the main question to me, and I think the question to so many people is, how does what we saw at the White House yesterday help save lives? Do you have an answer to that?

LAMONT: Look, I think it sends -- let's say, passed a mixed message compared to the unified voice of what the governors are trying to do. A little shout-out, I tell you that the Pence task force, we meet with them once or twice a week telephonically and they are much more responsive, the federal government is stepping up in terms of their messaging, beginning to get some vents, maybe we'll see some PPE soon. So don't let the verbal hand grenades from the president distract from a lot of other good work that's going on. BERMAN: Your peak is still some days away, correct? What do you see as the current situation in Connecticut?

LAMONT: The current situation is that our hospitalization is leveling out now. At least it's not going up exponentially, that's a better way to say it in the southern part of the state, but it's still moving up away from New York and towards the northern part of the state.

[07:20:07]

But I think you'll find a lot of governors find the mixed messages confusing coming out of the White House because some of our -- parts of our state are highly infected and some more rural are not as highly infected. And we still are a small state, so we've got to work together.

BERMAN: Are you concerned or what are your concerns, what could the president do if you disagree, if you don't do what the way he wants to do? How could he punish you?

LAMONT: I think the virus would punish us. First of all, the virus does not work on some artificial schedule. Look what happened in 1918. I see what's going on in Singapore and Hong Kong where people had great social discipline, then they started leaking out and you see a second wave the pandemic early stages of maybe coming back and they've had to lock down a second time. That would be tough for our morale and tough for our economy and we're not going to let that happen.

BERMAN: What do you need in terms of testing to feel comfortable to start easing some of these restrictions and how far are you from that point of feeling comfortable?

LAMONT: We're just getting started, and I don't feel comfortable yet at all. We ramped up our testing, but it's just two or 3,000 a day. We've got the antibody testing just in preliminary right now to see how many people have been infected. That's a start. We're doing the molecular testing in other parts of the state to see the number of infections. But we have a long way to go. If you want to get this economy open again, you've got to make sure that people get back to work and they're safe.

I'll give you one example, John. We've got E.B., electric boat. We have thousands of people go into the factory. I don't have enough test gear. I don't have enough masks for them to make sure they go in that potentially contagious environment with all the safety they need. But we're taking care of that this week.

BERMAN: You have a ballpark of when you think you might be comfortable to start doing some of these things?

LAMONT: I told the people of Connecticut on May 20th, we'll make a decision about how and when we really can start opening things up. I think it's going to take at least another month being careful and doing the testing before we can get more aggressive than that.

BERMAN: So May 20th before even considering any of these measures? LAMONT: That's right. No schools opening before May 20th. The small businesses, we got to maintain our distance right now.

As I said, I still have an infection that's growing in most of the state. This is no time to relax.

BERMAN: Governor Ned Lamont, we wish you the best of luck going forward. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

LAMONT: Nice to see you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up in just minutes, the neighbor to Ned Lamont there, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, will join us.

So most of the country very much at home, under stay-at-home orders, but essential employees keep going to work. Are they getting the protection they need to stay safe? A former top official says, no, and he joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:25:00]

CAMEROTA: Thousands of essential workers, like doctors and nurses, grocery store clerks and bus drivers have gotten sick and died from coronavirus. So what's being done to protect these workers that we all rely on?

Joining us now is David Michaels. He's the former and longest serving head of OSHA. That's the federal agency that assures safe and healthy working conditions. He is now a professor at George Washington University School of Public Health.

Professor Michaels, it's great to have you here. OSHA, as we understand it, is tasked with protecting these workers and making sure that they're not in hazardous situations. And so what grade do you, as a professor, give to how OSHA has handled this coronavirus pandemic?

DAVID MICHAELS, FORMER ASSISTANT LABOR SECRETARY, OSHA ADMINISTRATOR: Alisyn, it's disheartening but I would give OSHA an F. OSHA is simply missing in action in handling this epidemic.

12 weeks ago, safety and health experts said OSHA should be preparing, should be issuing emergency standards to make sure workers are protected first in healthcare and then all these other essential workers. And OSHA still hasn't done that. OSHA has been invisible in this whole response.

CAMEROTA: Well, what should OSHA be doing? I mean, because you were there for so long, what can they be doing to protect the workers that I described?

MICHAELS: Well, first, it's got to come down from the top. It's not just OSHA. President Trump has failed. He's not made the order to employers to protect workers and to tell OSHA to get out there and very vociferously, prominently say that every employer, here are rules that you must follow. And those rules should be in the CDC guidelines.

But OSHA is not saying that employers have to follow those rules. OSHA is saying nothing and CDC is saying, employers should follow those rules. And that makes a big difference.

The other thing OSHA needs to be doing is making it very clear to every employer that you can't fire people, you can't retaliate against workers for raising safety and health concerns. And there have been workers fired from security guards to emergency room doctors for complaining about lack of safety.

And that is against the law that we haven't heard President Trump or Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia or anybody from OSHA out there saying, we will go after you if you fire workers for protecting their own safety.

CAMEROTA: You brought up Labor Secretary Scalia, and he seems more focused on making sure that workers aren't getting too much unemployment benefits, too many unemployment benefits. And he's talked more about how workers should be working instead of collecting benefits.

MICHAELS: That's right. This administration should be laser-focused on making sure workers are safe. Because, look, it's not just hospital workers, but everybody from farm workers to meat plant workers to grocery store workers, bus drivers, if they're not safe, if they get sick, the economy is going to collapse further and we're not going to be able to recover. We need them to be safe.

[07:30:00]

And OSHA's job is to make sure everyone of their employers follows clear rules, makes sure that when they're working.

END