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New York Governor Sounds Alarm On Lack Of Testing, Big Focus Needed Now; Study Shows People May Be Most Infectious Before Showing Symptoms. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 13:00   ET


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Turns up positive.


Okay. Who were you with over the past week? What family members were you with? Who do you sit next to in the office? You now have a list of 30 people. If it's Bernadette, even more, because she's highly social, has a lot of friends.

Now, somebody has got to run down that list of 30 people, from one positive. It's a detective-investigator in the public health space. That is a massive undertaking. It's intelligent, but it's massive. And that is an army of tracers. So, testing, you have to get that up to scale, and then tracing, yes, but that's a massive undertaking that we now don't do.

So, testing, tracing, isolation, yes. We have to do that in concert with the federal government. Again, no one has done it before, no one has done it to this volume.

And second, for the states to do this role of reopening, we need funding. And the passed federal legislation has not provided it. It's that simple. They funded many good causes, hospitals, small businesses, et cetera. Yes, but you now want the state governments to do all this work -- do this, do this, do this, do this.

Okay, I'll do everything I can. I need your help with the things I can't. But you have to provide funding, because at the same time, the state governments are broke. And that's not just me. That's every governor in the United States. That's the National Governors' Association.

The chairman, Governor Hogan, good man, Republican, and myself, vice chairman for the National Governors' Association, wrote a joint letter saying the states need $500 billion in funding because I have to be afloat and have some capacity to do all these things you want the governors to now do. And that has to be in the next federal legislation. And there can't be excuses about it.

So, from today to 18 months, which is the last date for a vaccine, that's what we have to work through. First rule, do no harm. This is a public health crisis. We're still in the woods. And just because that number has plateaued doesn't mean it's any time to relax what we're doing. So, do no harm. Don't go backwards.

Hope we find the medical treatment between now and 18 months. In the meantime, testing, tracing, testing, tracing, trying to get that up to scale, which is going to be the equivalent of trying to get Apollo 13 back to earth, 220,000 miles, 50 years ago.

It is a very difficult task. It can't be done perfectly. I can tell you that right now. But we can do better than we're doing. And in the meantime, a phased reopening of the economy as educated by testing/tracing.

Now, one other point on the phased reopening. What does that mean and how do we phase this reopening until we get to a medical treatment or a vaccine? This is what we're thinking about. We need clarity on what the federal government is going to do and what the state governments are going to do.

I heard the president last night night, the states -- it's up to the states, basically. Great. I get it. And the states can do the do no harm. It is their job to do the public health monitoring. The states can also do the phased reopening plan. We cannot do the states that have a large problem, cannot do the testing and tracing without federal assistance. And that's important.

On the reopening, we can do, and we have a blueprint for the reopening, again, as guided by testing/tracing. But there are two factors really on the reopening. How essential is the business service, product, or function?


The more essential a business, service, or product, the more urgent the need to immediately get them back online or as soon as possible. So, how essential is what the business does? And then second, what is the risk of infection spread of that business?

Some businesses can say, I can open tomorrow. In my business, I'll have all sorts of precautions. People will not be less than six feet apart, period. There will be no congregation of people. I won't do conferences. I won't do joint meetings. It's not the way my business operates. I can bring everybody back, put them at separate desks, they'll never be near each other. I have a very low risk of infection spread.

Businesses can start to redesign their workplace to think that way. All right, so, your business poses a low risk of infection spread. That's the second factor. And the first factor is how essential is your business. So, that is almost a business-by-business evaluation that has to go on.

And then once you determine the essential nature of the business, because right, now we have all, quote/unquote, essential workers who are working, right? This would be, well, what's the next tranche of essential workers? And how high or low is the possibility of infection spread if that business becomes operational? And then you basically have a matrix, where the lower risk of infection spread and the higher nature of essential services are the businesses that you would start prioritizing, right?

So, that's how we will inform our economic reopening as we're being guided by the testing/tracing, and as we're making sure we're not jeopardizing the success we've made in handling the public health issue. That's the whole outline, the whole vision, from here to 18 months, building that bridge to the new normal for the economy until we get to a conclusion.

In the meantime, for today, stop the spread. I'm going to show you a chart in the next couple of days. We've been tracking the infection rate, which is what? Which is one person, how many people does one person infect? Does one person infect one person, two people, three people? That rate of infection is the difference between a manageable situation and a pandemic. And they can calibrate that for what Wuhan did, where we are now and where we were. And it is a fascinating analysis.

But in the meantime, what do we do today? We have to continue to stop the spread. And this is a constant calibration also. I'm going to issue an executive order that says all people in public must have a mask or nose covering -- mouth and nose covering, and they must wear it in a situation where you cannot or are not maintaining social distancing. Meaning what? Meaning the same thing we've been saying from day one.

If you're going to be in public and you cannot maintain social distancing, then have a mask and put the mask on when you are not in socially distanced places. You're walking down the street. You're walking down the street alone. Great. You're now at an intersection and there are people in the intersection and you're going to be in proximity to other people, put the mask on.

Your right to go out for a walk in the park, park for a walk, because you need to get out of the house, the dog is getting on your nerves. Fine. Don't infect me. You don't have a right to infect me. If you are going to be in a situation in public where you may come into contact with other people in a situation that is not socially distanced, you must have a mask or a cloth covering nose and mouth.


That is by executive order. So, if you're going to get on public transit, you're going to get on a bus, you're going to get on a subway, you're going to stand on a subway platform, you're going to walk in a neighborhood that is busy, you're going to be on a sidewalk, you're going to pass other people on a sidewalk, you're not going to be able to maintain social distancing, you must wear a mask, or cloth or an attractive bandanna or a color-coordinated bandanna, cloth. But you have to wear it in those situations.

We'll give people three-day notice to allow compliance just on the off chance that someone doesn't have a cloth covering or a mask, and we'll go from there.

On the ventilators, we've stabilized our healthcare situation. New York had one of the earlier curves. There are other places in this country who are now seeing increases in the death rate and they're seeing stress on their healthcare system. I will never forget the generosity that people across this country showed to our state, and I said at that time, New Yorkers are generous and they are grateful and gracious, and when you need help, we will be there for you. And we will be.

State of Michigan is going through an issue right now. State of Maryland is going through an issue. We're stabilized. We're going to send 100 ventilators to Michigan and 50 to the State of Maryland.

Last point, personal opinion, build a bridge. We built a bridge. And I learned a lot by building that bridge. And it's a lesson that has informed me and a lesson that I think should inform people who are hearing about us needing to build this bridge.

There was a bridge across the Hudson River called the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in very bad shape, had been in very bad shape for 20 years. For 20 years, everybody talked about we're going to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Nobody did.

Tappan Zee Bridge was in such bad shape that there are actual holes in the roadway that they would put these large metal plates over. And when you were driving across the Tappan Zee, you'd go over one of these metal plates and the plate would bounce a little bit. And you could actually see glimmers of light that would come through the hole and the metal plate, traumatized two generations of drivers, me included.

And government kept saying, yes, we have to replace this bridge, we have to replace the bridge, never did. I become governor. I say, we have to replace the bridge. A whole raft of bureaucrats say to me -- I mean, in a nice way -- you know what, it's too risky a venture. And it goes across the Hudson River.

The Hudson River is an environmentally sensitive place. You try to build a bridge in the Hudson River, you have to put down piles, you have to do all that construction. It's going to annoy environmental concerns. It's going to be very expensive. It's a very high-risk, difficult project. And they cautioned me not to do it.

And by the way, for 20 years, nobody had done it. I said, yes, but then you don't build the bridge. I understand the risk. I understand you could get blamed. I understand something could happen. I understand whatever you do in life, people are going to have 57 different opinions, and it's never going to be perfect, and, yes, they can always write stories, this one criticized this, this one criticized this, and we love negative, the society, for some reason, but then you don't get anything done.

Long story short, we built the bridge, on time, on budget. It's beautiful. We did go through all of the heartburn of going through a construction project in the public domain. Yes, many people criticized. We picked blue. They wanted green. We did this, they wanted that. That's the nature of people. But we did it. We did it.

And it is a beautiful symbol for me and for anyone who sees it. [13:15:01]

Don't tell me that we can't do it. Don't tell me we can't do it because I know that we can do it, because we did do it and we did it very well.

Have we dealt with a situation like this? No. Can we build a bridge that takes us from today to 18 months? Yes. Yes, because we are bridge-builders. That's what we do. We build bridges, sometimes literally, sometimes symbolically, sometimes metaphorically. But we build bridges. The bridges can be a bridge. It can be an airport. It can be a new civil rights legislation. It can be new labor rights legislation, new minimum wage legislation, but we build bridges. That's what we do in New York. And we're going to do this.


REPORTER: Governor, on the mask issue, so, this will be any public space where there is congestion, we're talking busy streets, stores. What -- we're just trying to get clarity on what this means.

CUOMO: Any situation in public where you cannot maintain social distancing.

REPORTER: Six feet, is that what we're talking here?

CUOMO: Six feet. If you can't maintain that social distancing, because you're going to a congested area, or it's a situation where you can't maintain social distancing. You cannot maintain social distancing on public transit. You can't. You can on a street that is unoccupied. But if you're going out for a walk and you may come to a place where you can't maintain social distancing, you have to have a mask.

REPORTER: Are there any penalties, criminal prosecutions?

CUOMO: There's a possibility for a civil violation. You could get a penalty. You know, you're jaywalking erratically, you get a penalty. Local governments would enforce it.

I don't want to go to a penalty yet. I don't think it's -- we haven't seen flagrant non-compliance, so there won't be a penalty. But it is an executive order I'm directing. If people don't follow it, we could do a civil penalty. You're not going to go to jail for not wearing your mask, but if we get there.

But for now, no, there's no civil penalty. But local governments should start to enforce it and they should come up and say, you know, Jesse, you're supposed to be wearing a mask. And, by the way, people will enforce it. They'll say to you, if they're standing next to you on the street corner, where is your mask, buddy, in a nice New York kind of way.

REPORTER: Is it in the public interest for -- in the public health for New York to release the number of COVID cases and fatalities at individual nursing homes? CUOMO: Two interests?

REPORTER: To the public interest --

CUOMO: I know. Two interests. One interest is, release as much data as possible. We will release as much data as possible on people who have died in nursing homes. Second interest is respect and legal rights to privacy. You pass away in a nursing home or your parent passes away in a nursing home, God forbid.

Should your parents' picture really be on the front page of the newspaper the next day because they passed away from COVID? Did that mean their privacy should be violated and I should release their name so that they could be on the news that night? You know? So that's the balance. I've said to them, err on the side of more disclosure, and that's what they've been doing and that's what they're going to continue to do.

But don't discount a person's right to privacy about the death of a loved one and your right to publicize that death because you want to. So it's a balance. Just remember that.

REPORTER: I'm not talking about names. And I think talking about we're just talking those --

CUOMO: I got it. I got it. No, people are. Maybe you're not, but people are.

REPORTER: So, on this executive order, Mayor de Blasio -- what kind of coordination do you have with the city? Because Mayor de Blasio said today, if you go into a grocery store, you have to wear a mask. That's his new order. But did you talk to him at all?

And also going back to my question yesterday with those homegrown tests, you're talking about you need federal assistance in order to up capacity and capability, but if the city is already trying to do that as well, how much are you working with those city partners?

CUOMO: Yes. Melissa can talk about the overall coordination. We have 400 local government officials in this state. This is a statewide order.


I have 700 school districts. I have 50-something county executives. We coordinate as much as we can with everybody. Local governments should and must be doing what they think is necessary. And then we have statewide directives that everyone should do, because we have to have one state plan, right?

And then I have to turn around and coordinate with New Jersey and Connecticut and five other states. So, we have to have one state plan. And then I try to coordinate down and I try to coordinate up with the federal government. You have all this coordination.

So, you do the best you can. But when you have a statewide situation, which is what this is, you have to have rules that are statewide. And we try to coordinate with everyone. They can have their own rules. They just can't conflict with the statewide rule. That's the balance. That's the law. So, they can do anything they want, just they can't conflict.

There will be times when they take a local action, which happens usually also. They take a local action. The state then takes an action. The state action overrides the local action, whether it was plastic bags or whatever, you know. A lot of times we'll get into situations where you have a lot of local laws, different local laws, and then the state takes an action which overrides the local laws. That's not just in this situation. This is just a more condensed version of it.

So, I don't know all of the local laws that are out there on masks, to tell you the truth. And as long as they don't conflict, great. But if there's a conflict, the state law governs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, if I could just follow up on that. So the details here are obviously important. What the mayor announced yesterday was that he is going to be moving to the new testing system, that they're going to be acquiring testing systems. What he's talking about is the swabs and the vials that they go in.

What the governor is talking about is testing capacity. We've been limited by the testing capacity in the labs. So, there's two parts to that. There's the swabs that you use to actually get the sample, and then you send it to the lab, and you are constrained by the testing capacity in the lab.

So what the governor is talking about is increasing the capacities in the lab and we are working hand in glove with the city on that and all of our local governments.

On the masks, yes, I have been speaking to the city. We're fully supported of what they said this morning on grocery stores and we discussed it and this was the next logical step, was to build on top of that.

CUOMO: Just so we understand testing and how complex this is, the first issue is you can't bring it to scale. But forget that. Before you even get there, you can't get enough equipment, testing equipment, swabs, vials, literally, the material that you need.

When you talk to a private sector company -- this is all done by private sector companies -- when you talk to them about how do you triple capacity, they'll say, I can't get the swabs, I can't get the vials, I can't get the physical equipment. That's one step. They'll then say, I can't get the testing agents, the chemicals that they need to do the actual testing. They'll then say I don't have the machines that can do the testing. So, you have that whole supply chain.

On top of it, you have people contracting for tests, all the states, the federal government, local governments, cities, counties, towns, all across the country. You then have private companies that are trying to buy tests. Why? Because I have my workers coming in and I want to test my workers. I'm an essential service. I'm a food manufacturer. I have 200 employees. They're going out to buy tests to test their 200 employees.

All of this volume is descending on these private-sector testing companies that never anticipated this tremendous volume. So, you're one of these testing companies, they're getting calls from everybody. Private companies, local governments, states, federal government, I need more, I need more, I need more. So, you have this whole, it's just a complicated, chaotic. It is what ventilators was, probably even worse.

Now, can the federal government do this? Can the state government do it? No. Can anyone do it? No.


But we have to do the best we can to try to figure out how do you get the supply chain up? Where do the chemicals come from? What countries do they come from? And that has to happen with the federal government.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ACNHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. You've been watching New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, as he gives his daily briefing on how the pandemic is impacting New York, the state. Let me go straight to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Also here, Drew Griffin, CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent.

So, Elizabeth, the governor has spent a good deal of his news conference on the fact that the state cannot do large-scale testing, the kind that's going to be needed, and also tracing. And he said they need federal help.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. If ever there was a place where federal help would be useful, it's with this antibody testing. Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force, has called that kind of testing critical, and here is why. If someone has antibodies, then they could be immune to the disease. It means they already had a coronavirus infection.

Now they could be immune, they could go back to work or could help get the economy started back up again. But the problem is, is that last month, the Food and Drug Administration, a federal agency, loosened the standards and said, essentially, if you want to sell an antibody test, you go ahead. Just let us know that you're doing it. We're not going to check your data that shows it's a good test. So, guess what, we are now being told by experts that these tests are, in the words of one of them, crappy, that there's all these crappy tests out there and you can't trust the results. And so, we could be telling people they're immune when they're not immune.

So, right now, the federal government is scrambling to try to clean this up. But right now across the United States, it's very hard to get an antibody test, and if you get one, you really can't be sure that the results are correct.

COOPER: Yes. The governor was also talking about just the difficulties in the supply chain. It's not just the tests themselves. It's actually getting the tests, the results processed in order to get results to everybody, also the reagents, the swabs, even the entire supply chain is overwhelmed.

Drew, from the beginning of the pandemic, I mean, the U.S. has been behind on testing. The CDC's initial tests that they sent out, that didn't work. Has -- you know, there clearly have been improvements in terms of the number of tests out there, but it's still far from where it needs to be.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think Governor Cuomo laid it out, you know, very well. Testing capacity is ramping up at the labs, but it continues to ramp up, never geared for the kind of testing that we need in this country, which is exactly as he explained.

We need testing at such a basic level. Every time you walk out the door, basically, and go into a business, that business has to know its employees are clean. And you need that kind of level of testing, which we're nowhere near. There's still shortages of swabs, vials, reagent supply. In some areas, labs are having capacity issues, though that backlog has caught up.

But the overall testing program needs to be so much bigger by many, many-fold powers, that we are nowhere near that and still just testing the most sick or healthcare workers, first responders that are critical on the front end. You and I, you know, we're just not getting these kinds of tests that we're going to need to even plan to open up the country.

COOPER: Yes. Elizabeth, the governor was saying also that the state, and every state, is going to need what he called an army of people to trace, to do contact tracing, really serious contact tracing, in the future, in order to be able to open up and give people some sense of assurances that, you know, that this can be handled.

There's a new study also that raising concern, Elizabeth, that's out saying that people appear to be most infectious before they show symptoms. What more can you tell us about this study? Because that -- I mean, that's of great concern, obviously.

COHEN: Right. And, Anderson, actually, those two things are connected. So this study is saying, it is adding to a body of evidence that's been around for many weeks now, that people are infectious before they show symptoms.

If I could think of one way that this whole pandemic has been, shall we say, mishandled in the United States, is that we didn't recognize this early enough. So when you do contact tracing, when you have someone who's sick and you say, hey, who's in your family, who have you seen since you've been sick, you need to ask them, who were you seeing, who do you know from days before you were sick, because that's when they were most infectious.

We haven't been doing that in this country. We've just been asking about contacts since you've been sick. That's what the CDC was doing at the beginning. And so now, we have to think, wait a minute, we've got to ask people about who they knew before they were sick.

The fact that this disease, this infection can spread before people show symptoms is huge. It means that people don't even know that they shouldn't go out there and see other people.


And that's why you hear Governor Cuomo and others calling for people to wear masks.