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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Interviewed on Reopening Economy of New York; President Trump Answers Questions in Press Conference on Reopening U.S. Economy; Growing Concerns About U.S. Food Supply. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 08:00   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: Operative theory as opposed to the dictatorial theory.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: One last question, and that is the president had washed his hands of some of the responsibility that the governors had to pick up in terms of find your own ventilators, find your own masks and protective supplies. He had famously said he doesn't want to play the role of a shipping clerk. He didn't ever issue a nationwide stay-at-home order. So why do you think that now he wants to assume the mantle of when this can all restart?

CUOMO: Yes, you're exactly right. This is a much different federal model that the president was alluding to than the federal model that he actually employed. He did declare a federal emergency, but he didn't close down the economy. He didn't close down the country. He keeps saying I closed down when he did the travel ban with China, and he did do a travel ban with China, and good for him. But he didn't close down the economy. He left it to the governors individually to decide how to do it and when to do it and to convince their people to do it, by the way. I could be in a position where I say to New Yorkers, close down, and if I haven't laid the groundwork and effectively communicated the need, they could tell me, forget it.

So he didn't do that, he left that to the governors. He, I think, was very frankly conservative in not getting engaged as a federal official. You're right. The states have to buy their supplies, figure it out. And now this is a 180. I have total authority. I'm going to tell the states what to do. So it makes no sense. It's schizophrenic. And this is even worse. The first position he stepped back and said it is up to the states. This is stepping forward and trying to step over the states, which is, frankly, I think more partisan, more divisive, and more dangerous.

CAMEROTA: Governor Andrew Cuomo, we always appreciate talking to you, thank you very much, we'll speak again soon.

CUOMO: Thank you, Alisyn. Your favorite Cuomo.


CAMEROTA: You know it. Thank you very much, Governor.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if the bar is very high there. But anyway.

CAMEROTA: There's a lot of them.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times." Sanjay, I do want to start with the public health aspect of this, but I do want to point out one marker that was just put down, and it does have public health implications. Alisyn asked the governor what if the president ordered the reopening of businesses or easing of restrictions and you weren't ready, and governor Cuomo flat out said I wouldn't do it. Let's play that one more time, because that's a significant moment.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn't do it.


BERMAN: That sets up a potential complicated situation, and I just don't know that it is in the benefit of public health.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it is a pretty, it is a pretty simple metric from a public health standpoint. We're starting to get real data from other places around the world. We know throughout history what happens if you open things up too quickly. There was a model that came out of L.A. County, you may have seen yesterday, John, that talks specifically about opening up too early and what sort of resurgence of cases, how many people are likely to be infected.

One thing I think is worth pointing out, and we are all learning together as we go along, there's no question. But the constant in this, John, is the virus. The virus is the one thing that hasn't changed. It is a contagious virus. It is out there. As we talked about last hour, people were saying to me over the weekend, it seems like it is OK, the risk is low. Yes. That's because we're doing something that is pretty unprecedented. It is unprecedented in this country. Staying home like this has had an impact.

And I guess that goes without saying, but sometimes you don't recognize -- it's like eating right and exercising and not having a heart attack. It's like, wow, that stuff really did pay off. It is the same sort of thing here as well. If you stop doing it, the risk is going to. And no matter what, we open up again, John, there will be people who do become infected because it is a contagious virus. At that point it's just going to be a question of how much are you willing to tolerate in order to reopen? And it is going to be a very individual sort of decision, it has to be, because every place in the country has gotten into this differently, every place in the country will probably get out of this differently as well. CAMEROTA: Sanjay, Governor Cuomo just alluded to that. And I think

that it applies to every state, not just New York. He has said that he will need widespread testing. They will need to be able to test people to figure out where the virus is going next and who is infected and be able to chart it better than we did this first time around before they reopen.


But we don't have the ability to do widespread testing right now. And so, he just said, well, we're going to have to gear that up, we're going to have to figure out a way to do that. How close are we to that?

GUPTA: I think we focus a lot on the numbers of tests, which I understand is an important thing. But I think what we really have to be thinking about -- widespread is the right way of describing it, Alisyn. That means, like, for just the practicality, I want to get a test, I want a test. What do I do? Where do I get that test? OK, you're telling me to stay at home, and I also want a test. How is this going to work exactly? Are these going to be at home tests? Are they going to be within every community? Are they going to be in every neighborhood? Again, it is going to be different depending where you live, but it's not just the number of tests at this point. It is the practicality of actually getting one, getting a result back in some sort of reasonable time.

And these are the -- these are the tests for the virus that I'm talking about, specifically because those are the ones that will tell you if you're currently infected, and -- or not, and if you need to be isolated or not, if you have to have your contacts traced. The antibody testing I think will be important as well, probably initially more so for healthcare workers who want to know if they have been infected, have antibodies, and maybe now have some immunity to this. Ultimately, I think that will become a more widespread thing as well. But the number of tests important, the availability to the average person is really what we need to be talking about. Just asking the average person right now how hard would it be for you to get a test. You know there is millions of tests done, what about you?

BERMAN: Sanjay, I want to ask one more question to you, which actually will serve as a segue into our more political discussion with Maggie, which is that the president has claimed that pretty much everything the administration has done was perfect and they were proactive from the beginning. But you have gone back and you have overlaid the calendar with the public health reality. What are you seeing?

GUPTA: One thing to point out, and I read Maggie's article very closely, as everybody did, and tried to overlay this from a public health standpoint, it's very interesting, and as you look at this timeline, one thing to keep in mind is that when a novel virus starts to circulate around the world, that obviously is always going to raise people's antennas. And January 7th we knew that.

The question I think a lot of people were asking themselves is this going to be something like SARS, which was really bad, another coronavirus, but ultimately affected 8,000 people around the world, 800 people died. I think only fewer than a dozen infections in the United States. Is it going to be something like that? We didn't know at that point.

As time went on, the level of concern kept increasing. So then the question becomes, at what point did it become just absolutely clear that this was going to be a problem? And on January 31st, when President Trump announced that travel restrictions from China, which probably was effective, at that same press conference, Tony Fauci also got up to the lectern and said, look, there could be evidence of asymptomatic spread of this virus. A small article had been written in the "New England Journal of Medicine" the day before suggesting that to be the case. I interviewed Dr. Robert Redfield on February 13th where he said it is absolutely true, there is asymptomatic spread.

That was a big flashing red light at that point for everybody in the public health world. So end of January and then through March 16th, which is when President Trump announced the 15-day pause, I think in retrospect, that's going to be the period of time everyone says, well, what happened there? We now know asymptomatic spread, we know this thing is spreading in communities, we have seen what happened in other countries, we know it is lethal. Do we have enough ventilators? Do we have enough personal protective equipment? Are we ready to handle this? I think that four to six week sort of period is going to be the question mark in terms of what did we do during that time?

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, thank you very much for all of the information. Let's bring in Maggie Haberman now, who can share with us her reporting on what is going on behind the scenes and elsewhere with the White House. So Maggie, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: Yesterday was a doozy of a press conference.

HABERMAN: It was unique.

CAMEROTA: It was unique.


CAMEROTA: And we'll get to the cameo that you played in a moment, but is your reporting that the president felt it necessary to come out and go after the press and to present the video which has been called propaganda video because it is really a political -- sort of a campaign video, because it has gotten to him, the reporting such as yours in "The New York Times" that they missed many opportunities to do anything about stopping the pandemic other than the travel restrictions from China.


HABERMAN: Alisyn, there has been a lot of reporting about missed opportunities over the course of the last three months by this administration. But those have generally been bureaucratic looks. Our reporting was the first that put him in specific places when this was all going on, and I think that really got to him because he knows, for all of the mocking of him, he is not dumb. And he does understand that this is actually going to be what he gets judged on in the fall, how he handled this, so he would much rather have it be a fight about the media. And that is what you saw yesterday.

He went on a recitation about the story, it was fake news. He didn't refute a single point in it. His White House had an opportunity to refute all of it. We sent them a very lengthy list of questions and fact checks, certain things they took issue with and pushed back on, but they were very well aware of what was in it, and the stuff that was in the story, we didn't hear pushback on. So that should tell you something.

And what it should tell you is that this is a portrait that is going to paint back to him in various ways, and even yesterday during his diatribe about the story and about his timeline, it confirmed everything we said in the story, which was that the month of February was basically squandered. You can look at certain things he did here and there. His campaign made an effort to try to suggest there were a bunch of things he did in February. The reality is he did nothing to warn the public, and that is a big issue.

BERMAN: And that omission, in the video, propaganda video, says everything.

HABERMAN: The month of February, you mean?

BERMAN: The month of February. The omission of the month of February in that. And also, I really don't want to make this about you, I would rather it be on your reporting, you were quoted in all of that --

HABERMAN: They made it about me, so it is what it is.

BERMAN: He omitted, he omitted a sentence which actually gets to the same point that Sanjay just made and the point that you just made.

HABERMAN: Two sentences.

BERMAN: So tell me what they were.

HABERMAN: Look, what I said in the audio, which was audio of "The Daily" with Michael Barbaro, which I would highly encourage people listen to not just that episode, but the show in general, but we were talking about the limited ban on flights from China, and I was going over the criticism that the president was receiving at the time, and then I said it was draconian but probably effective -- I don't think I actually used the word "draconian," but it was probably effective in limiting further cases, which is the truth. That's been said by a number of folks. But that was basically the last thing he did for six weeks. And that is also what I said. It was essentially something he is treating as his mission accomplished moment, the same way George W. Bush had a mission accomplished moment about Iraq, which is a war that lasted for many years later.

So, sure, I understand that it is upsetting to the president that people are pointing out that he didn't do anything for several weeks, but all he does in answer to that is keep pointing to the end of January. That's it.

CAMEROTA: So they selectively edited your words and it sounded like a campaign video. But Maggie, just in terms of his motivation now, having washed his hands of the state's decisions, he didn't issue a nationwide stay at home order, he repeatedly told the states that it was going to be up to them to try to bid -- outbid each for ventilators and for protective equipment, why does he want to step back in now? I understand wanting to take the glory of the country reopening and coming back to life, but so many things can go wrong. This is -- it is so complicated trying to reopen the country. Why now does he want to step back in and say it's all up to him?

HABERMAN: I think there is a couple of things, alisyn. I think there is some top advisers working for him who don't fully understand how the federal government works, and this is how it interacts with the states and, frankly, how the constitution works. He is being encouraged by a handful of advisers, among them Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks, to try to put himself out there more, to make himself more part of the reopening narrative.

When he has been at the briefings, he has had a handful of good moments, one of which was when he was warning the country there was going to be significant pain when they were going to be a number of deaths over two weeks. That was significant because he was telling the truth. And I think it was important for people to hear it. Now he wants to be the person who is providing this resurgence in America. He never wants to take the blame for things, he often wants to take the credit when it is going well, and that's what this is about.

To your point, though, there is a number of things that could go wrong. If you look at other countries that have eased up on their restrictions too soon, they have seen a spike in cases again. And that is the risk here. Another risk is a place like South Dakota where the president has highlighted, there are a number of places in the country not having a ton of cases like New York or Florida. Well, they have had a spike. And they will have a much later peak. This is a rolling virus, rolling across the rest of the country. It is not going to hit the country evenly. There is no one size fits all.


In fairness, I think they're going to try to come up with a solution that isn't one size fits all, but he speaks in such absolutes that it's not clear to me that people will understand that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much for being with us this morning and understanding your reporting, every last word of it. Appreciate it.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, meat plants across the country closing down or suspending production due to coronavirus. Is the U.S. food supply at risk? We'll discuss, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. This morning, new concerns about the nation's food supply after one of the country's largest pork processing facilities announced it is shutting down because of a coronavirus outbreak inside the plant.

Joining me now is Tom Vilsack, president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, the former agriculture secretary under President Obama, former governor of Iowa.

Secretary Vilsack, thank you very much for being with us.

We're talking about the Smithfield Food pork processing plant in South Dakota, which I guess processes about 5 percent, an enormous amount of the pork that we consume in this country.

Talk to me about two things. Number one, the immediate impact of that plant going offline and symbolically what it means.

TOM VILSACK, FORMER AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Well, I think -- I think people have to understand there's been a significant disruption of the food supply as a result of the virus. First and foremost, you had a situation where food service was shut down. Restaurants, school lunch programs, universities were shutting down, a significant misalignment of the demand and the supply.


Then you have panic buying in grocery stores which created the impression we were going to have shortages. And then, we had a number of unemployed -- millions of unemployed people all of a sudden finding themselves without a job. Going to food banks, finding out that they can't get their resources at the food banks because they're currently understaffed and they don't have the capacity to handle this incredible demand without a lot of help from the government.

Government couldn't help because USDA was out of money to provide the help and assistance because of trade assistance and now you got the situation with the plants. So, it's a complicated situation.

First and foremost, I think we have to protect the workers at these plants to make sure we don't have any more disruption. Secondly, I think we need to get resources to people as quickly as possible. Those unemployment checks, those stimulus checks, the loans to small businesses, they need to get out so people feel more comfortable being able to purchase.

And then we have to basically take a look at ways in which we can help food banks access to commodities necessary to be able to meet the demand. We don't have a food shortage today, John. We have a misalignment of where the supply (AUDIO GAP) created and the demand is needed.

BERMAN: I want to focus on that for a second because I think people have a hard time getting a full grasp of what is going on because they have a hard time getting eggs, for instance. They can't get a hold of the eggs, so they can't get a hold of the cut of meat they want today, so they might be thinking there is a shortage of food out there.

And your answer to that is --

VILSACK: There is not a shortage. There is plenty of food being produced. It's a question of making sure we meet the supply and demand at the same point. Right now, there is a misalignment.

And normally, you'd be able to adjust. Normally, you'd be able to take that excess supply and be able to distribute it around the country. Well, you got issues with transportation, you got issues with the people having the virus, who are critically important to all of this.

You also have issues in terms of getting stuff by overseas. Normally, we would export some supply to create a balance. Well, we can't do that because the rest of the world is suffering through the same stuff we're suffering.

So, it's a combination --


BERMAN: At every point in the supply chain, there is a problem along the way.

You know, take dairy producers, a lot of milk is being disposed of because school lunches don't exist right now. At least not to the extent that they once did and that was where a huge part of the dairy being produced would go, correct?

VILSACK: Absolutely. And that's why it's necessary to minimize regulation and maximize creativity. We've got to figure out ways in which the USDA can act quickly to get the resources realigned.

Maybe it's putting a tanker of milk, refrigerated up to a food bank that doesn't have refrigeration capacity and maybe there is a way of distributing from the tanker so you don't have to worry about the fact that the food bank doesn't have enough refrigeration capacity. I mean, these are -- it is a misalignment of infrastructure.

We weren't unnecessarily prepared for a wide scale pandemic. We were prepared for a problem in -- a particular locale if there was a tornado or hurricane, we could handle situations, but this is countrywide. So, it is a very significant challenge at a time when USDA itself is probably needs a few more workers, can't work together in the same room.

So it is a lot of -- it is very complicated and I think people have to understand and appreciate hopefully this -- what this will do is express appreciation for those of us who eat, but we never say "thank you" to the farmers, to the grocers, to the processors, to the folks, to the clerk who are checking out our groceries. These are the people on the front lines today, they are just as important to the survival of this country as our healthcare workers are, and God bless all of them. BERMAN: Thank every grocery store clerk, every delivery person,

everywhere along this chain.

Who needs to be organizing this? You're talking about someone or some organization orchestrating right now this distribution. Who should be doing it?

VILSACK: Well, I think the Department of Agriculture has a very critically important role because they run the school lunch program. They also run the commodity purchasing that goes to food banks. So, it's necessary for them to get engaged.

And I'm sure Secretary Perdue is getting his team together and hopefully they'll come up with a creative solution to get commodities as quickly as possible to food banks.

There is a 30 percent demand increase for food banks but they normally would get a lot of product from retail. Well, retail is basically, as you said the shelves are cleared out, so they don't get the normal donations. So, it's incredibly important for the USDA to be active and to get into this as quickly as possible now that they have resources from the -- from the Congress.

BERMAN: Secretary Tom Vilsack, we do appreciate your time, helping us understand what's going on here. Obviously, so many of us just stuck at home and we just want to eat the way we're used to, and it's hard to come to terms with the way things have changed.

Thank you, Secretary. Appreciate it.

VILSACK: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, workers in small business owners are afraid and frustrated as they struggle to stay afloat without work.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feeling as if I'm a failure, even though this is affecting everyone.


BERMAN: More on their personal stories, ahead.



BERMAN: More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment in just the last three weeks. Each person with a family, a story and a struggle.

Here is Martin Savidge.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPODENT (voice-over): It is the other American contagion, but with 25 times more confirmed new cases than coronavirus -- coronavirus unemployment.

REIGN FREE, OWNER, THE RED DOOR CATERING: This situation is absolutely devastating.

SAVIDGE: It struck 41-year-old Reign Free like a tsunami four weeks ago. She owns Red Door catering in Oakland.

FREE: I went from having events every day of the week to not having a single event in a month.

SAVIDGE: She's furloughed her entire staff and isn't sure if she has enough money to cover overhead.

FREE: So, I started to look at all the stimulus package and the funding that was available and realize that I wasn't qualified.

SAVIDGE: Now the woman whose company frequently catered to thousands is worried. She won't be able to feed her son or herself.

FREE: My fears are failure, feeling as if I'm a failure, even though this is affecting everyone.

SAVIDGE: From fear to frustration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure what else I'm supposed to.