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Trump Pushing to Reopen Country by May 1 Despite Warnings from Business Leaders, Health Officials, Governors; Alexander Colvin, Cornell University School of ILR Dean, Discusses Need for Testing Before Reopening Country; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I remind our viewers we're standing by for Governor Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo's daily coronavirus briefing, and we'll take you there when it begins.

President Trump meanwhile is aiming at a major comeback, pushing ahead to reopen the country by May 1s t and signaling he'll unveil a new set of guidelines today that he believes should let governors lift stay- at-home orders even before that.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be opening some states, some states much sooner than others. We think some of the states can actually open up before the deadline of May 1st.

And I think that that will be a very exciting time, indeed. Governors are looking forward to it. They're chomping at the bit. They'll be safe. They'll be strong. But we want to get our country back. We want to get our country back.

There's death by doing -- by having this strongly closed country. We have to get back to work.


KING: But business leaders, many state officials across the country saying they're not ready to reopen, not until there's more testing and research. The question now is, how does the country reopen while ensuring workers are safe and not at risk.

Joining me now, the dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Alexander Colvin.

Dean Colvin, thank you for being with us.

A giant issue, have more testing. A giant issue, make advances in the antibody testing. A giant issue, build an infrastructure to do contract trading when some people come back to work and, inevitably, there are cases.

Set those aside to begin the conversation. If every place in America now has to reimagine its space, what do you see as the biggest challenge going forward when you can't have as many people in an assembly line, you might have plexiglass between customers in a restaurant?

What are the giant challenges ahead even beyond the medical infrastructure of testing to get people back to work comfortably?

ALEXANDER COLVIN, DEAN, SCHOOL OF INDUSTRIAL & LABOR RELATIONS, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: This could be an enormous challenge to organize work in a way that abides by the guidelines we all need to follow about how to stay safe.

You think about a typical business. They may have dozens, hundreds of employees all doing different kinds of work. Each of those individual employees have to be able to do their work in a way that meets the guidelines.

So think about the grocery store clerk you see cleaning off their conveyor belt in between customers, working behind a plexiglass shield. Replicate that to over 100 million workers across the country.

This is an enormous task for business to figure out for each worker what's the safe way to do work.

KING: It requires a lot of infrastructure changes. Number one, you just mentioned plexiglass there. There's going to be PPE required. I assume people will need to be more spaced out. Many offices, you see people in cubicles almost on top of each other. That will be a thing of the past.

How important, then, is communication between the management and workers about health, safety and other issues?

COLVIN: I think that's absolutely central. You have to have your business leaders talking to their workers, communicating about the approach that's going to be followed.


They need to be following the guidance that we're getting about social distancing. They need to have the right protective equipment if they're in contact with others.

But the really important thing is it's got to be a two-way communication. The business leaders have to --


KING: Dean Alexander Colvin, I'm very sorry to interrupt you. Governor Cuomo is starting his briefing in New York. I need to take our viewers there. Apologies, sir.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To her left, Robert Mujica, our budget director.

Let's give you some facts today. My man, Sergeant Joe Friday, just the facts, ma'am. My daughter says nobody understands who Joe Friday is. That's their mistake. "Dragnet" was an underappreciated cinematic treasure, in my opinion. Joe Friday, just the facts, just the facts.

Here are just the facts. Hospitalization rate is down from 18,000 to the 17,000 mark. That is good news. Total hospitalizations down. We talked about the flattening of the curve, the apex, how long is it flat, when does it start to curve? We don't know, but this is a good sign today.

If you look at the net change in hospitalizations, it's down more significantly than it has been. So that's positive news. Three-day average which, again, is more accurate than the day-to-day counts. I'm a little skeptical about the day-to-day counts. This is all a new reporting system. But the three-day average is more reliable.

ICU admissions number is also down significantly for the first time, so that's good news. Intubations is down and that's really good news because intubations ultimately lead to the worst news. And 80 percent roughly of people who get intubated never come off the ventilator.

The number of new people who are diagnosed with COVID, about 2,000 still yesterday. So when you see the reduction in rates, remember what we're talking about. We're talking about a reduction in increases. You still have 2,000 people every day, about, who are walking into a hospital for the first time or who are being diagnosed with COVID for the first time. And 2,000 is still a lot of people.

But the good news is it means we can control the virus, right? We can control the spread. And we did not know for sure that we could do that. We speculated that we could do it, but we didn't know. So now we know that we can control this disease.

The bad news is 2,000 people walked into a hospital yesterday for the first time with the disease. And the worst news is 600 people died yesterday from the disease. That is still continuing at a really tragic, tragic rate.

Of those deaths, 577 in hospitals, 29 in nursing homes. We've been watching the nursing homes, because nursing homes in many ways are ground zero for this situation. Last night, the number of nursing homes was relatively low.

Everyone asks the same two questions, when is it over, and, how do we get there. How do we start to make our way from here to there? When is it over? As I've said, you know, when is it finally over? It's over when you have a vaccine, and that's 12 months to 18 months.

We've said to the FDA, any way we can be helpful in the testing of that vaccine, how do we accelerate that, how do we expedite it. New York is ready, willing and able to do that with the FDA. Maybe there's a medical treatment between now and the vaccine. That would be great. But those are unknowns, and it's out of our bailiwick. We are working with a lot of countries that are working on treatments.

We're testing treatments in our hospitals. But that's a pure medical research and development function, which is beyond us.

At the same time, how do we un-pause New York? New York is now on pause. How do we un-pause it? First, do no harm. Don't let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability. Don't lose the progress that you have made.

Second, now go back that we have some stability, and we can actually work with the health care system, which we had on overdrive for many, many weeks. And we had increased the capacity, as you'll remember. Every hospital had to increase capacity 50 percent.


Just think about that, 50 percent more beds, staffing those beds during this horrific period. Now we have a chance to be more intelligent, frankly, about handling our health care system.

Testing and tracing, testing and tracing, testing and tracing. And we need the federal government to work with us on that. And then phasing an economic return to, quote, unquote, "new normal."

Those are all activities going on at the same time. And that's our plan to, quote, unquote, "un-pause" New York. You stopped everything. How do you then restart that machine in a coordinated way that doesn't drive up the infection rate? That's the balance that we're trying to strike.

On un-pausing and having businesses open, that is a nuanced question. There's no light switch. It's not all businesses go back tomorrow. It's what businesses, what do they do, what risks do they pose, and what changes can they make in their business to make them more safe.

You know, this is not just government deciding, it's government deciding with private businesses who now have to take a look at this new normal, this new reality and tell us how they think they can adjust to it.

One of our questions and evaluations is how essential is that business service, right? You have to start somewhere. Right now, we have the economy working with what are, quote, unquote, "essential workers." That's why the grocery store is open. That's why public transit is running.

All right, so we want to start to bring the economy back, move up one tranche on how you define essential. What's the next level of essential businesses? Are there certain businesses that are inherently safer or can be safer? And then let's talk about how we reopen them and where we reopen them.

And these are all questions that we have to work through on a case-by- case basis.

But there's a matrix. And the matrix is how important is the business to society, how essential a service, and how risky is that business from a rate of infection. And obviously, the more essential a business, the lower the risk, the more they are a priority.

And then how do you do it? You do it in phases of priority. And then you phase it up the way we phased it down, which is by percentages. And this is going to be an ongoing process over the coming weeks that we're working through with the other states.

But the what, the how, the when, looking at how important that business is and what the risk that business poses. And then do it in coordination with our other states. Because this is really a regional issue, and it should be addressed on that basis.

Coordinating with the other states doesn't mean we'll always be in lockstep. But we'll talk through everything first and, hopefully, we're not doing something that's contradictory to another state at a minimum. So far so good on that exercise. And then analysis is ongoing.

But it's not going to be all about what government does, what government does. The private sector now has to think about what they do and how they do it and how they can do it differently in this new normal.

Reimagine your workplace. We learned a lot through this situation. People work from home. How many people can continue to work from home and the business still work?

How do you socially distance in the workplace? Can you socially distance in your workplace?

What are your new normal procedures and practices? How do you think you're going to get workers back and forth and what precautions would you take?

In the workplace, how would people work and where would they sit or where would they stand, and how do you do it without conference meetings and how do you do it without gatherings?

How are you going to interact with the public in a way that keeps the public safe, right?


We're talking about businesses that pose a lower risk. Tell us how you intend to organize and conduct your business. And can you do it in a way that poses a lower risk? And what would you do with your work force to make sure, if an infection happens, that we can jump on it quickly?

As we're going through all this planning, this is going to be a moment of transformation for society. And we paid a very high price for it. But how do we learn the lessons so that this new normal is a better New York?

And there are lessons that we must learn from this. Because we do need to do things differently, or we can do things differently, and we can do things better.

Part of the way across that bridge is testing. It is the single-best tool to informed decisions and to calibrate all of this. This new testing world is a new frontier for all of us.

New York State has been very aggressive about doing testing. We set a very ambitious goal when we began. And I'm happy to say they did it.

We've done 500,000 tests in 30 days. That's more than California, Florida and Michigan combined. And this is all about figuring it out first and taking a system that, frankly, didn't exist and creating this testing system and this testing regimen.

And 500,000 tests in one month. That sounds great, and it was great. It was a great accomplishment. And congratulations to everyone who put it together. But when you think of 500,000 tests in one month and then you compare it to the fact that you have 19 million people in this state, you have nine million workers, the 500,000 doesn't sound so big, right?

So we have many questions to answer. Where do you test? How do you get the supplies? How do you coordinate the private labs? How do you coordinate the demand going to these private labs, right?

Everybody wants tested. Private-sector companies are calling for testing, and they're going right to the labs. Everyone is going right to these labs. And 50 states are competing and the federal government is buying product from these labs.

This has to be figured out. And it can only be figured out in partnership with the federal government.

On top of that, once you go from testing, you have to trace every person who comes up positive. Trace means investigate. Investigate all those prior contacts. And then one contact, you test that person, leads you to another person. So the tracing investigators are really assembling an army that does not now exist.

I spoke to the White House again this morning about it. I understand that this is a problematic area and the federal government is not eager to get involved in testing. I get that.

But the plain reality here is we have to do it in partnership with the federal government. You're talking about supply chains that go back to China. You know, a state does not have the capacity to do that. And there's no reason why you would have 50 states each trying to figure this out on their own, competing with the federal government, competing with the private sector.

So I'm very much looking forward to the federal government's willingness to tackle this, understanding that it will be imperfect at best. But if we work together, we can do better than any of us could do alone.

And that's what this is all about. You're not going to achieve optimum performance. You can't put together this national system with perfection so people are understandably reluctant to get involved.

But understanding the risk and understanding that it's never going to be done perfectly, if we work together we can do better, and that's what we have to actually accomplish.

We have to strengthen the health care system. Our surge in flex, which is the first time we've ever called upon these hospitals to work together and coordinate. Every hospital was basically its own enterprise. And then we go back and say, well, you all have to work together and coordinate and we're going to help you coordinate. It was the first time that's ever happened.


We understand about a stockpile like we've never understood before. We understand about sharing resources like we've never understood before. And we understand about sharing among states and how good people were to New York when we needed it. States stepping up and sending us ventilators.

And I said, New Yorkers, don't forget, New Yorkers are the most generous and gracious and we'll be there when people need help. New Jersey is looking at their curve rising. The wave hasn't crested in New Jersey. They are our neighbors. Anything we can do to help, I've told Governor Murphy, all he has to do is ask and we are here. And we'll send 100 ventilators to New Jersey.

The key to all of this, the calibration is the infection rate. This gets a little technical. I need people to understand this.

Why don't you open tomorrow? Because we're afraid the infection rate will go up. Everything we have been doing is to slow the infection rate.

How do you track the infection rate? We don't. We don't track infection rates. We see hospitalization rates, which are different.

A hospitalization rate is a person got infected and became serious ill so they had to go to the hospital. But we don't know how many are infected or getting infected. We only know, at this point, how many walk into a hospital, OK? Or how many people get tested in a nursing home.

If you have advance testing, then you will have a better idea of what percent of your population has been exposed. That's what the antibody testing is all about.

But they key is, as you're making this calibration on the reopening of the economy, as you bring people out of their homes, how fast is the virus spreading and how quickly is the infection rate rising, right?

Dr. Fauci says early on that this virus spreads. It does it very well. And we know that, and we've learned it the hard way.

The rate of infection is everything, OK? All those early projection models assumed a higher rate of infection, a higher rate of spread. That's why they were calling for so many hospital beds, many more mortalities. Because they projected a higher rate of spread. That's not happening so far. Caveat, so far. We've controlled the beast. We brought the rate of spread down.

If their rate of spread actually happened, we would have been in a much worse situation and we would have been in a really bad place. I mean their projections were staggering.

And it didn't happen because we slowed the models. But remember what they were talking about. CDC, which is supposed to be the preeminent force, 160 million to 214 million people infected they were projecting. That was on March 13th. That's what the CDC was projecting.

You know how many 160 to 214 million are? We only had 328 million people in the country. They were projecting more of half the population and maybe two-thirds of the population infected. And that was only a month ago.

They were saying 2.4 million people to 21 million people will be hospitalized. You know how many that is? We only have 900,000 hospital beds in the nation. They were saying, by their projection, a minimum of twice as many people will need hospital beds as we have it. Just imagine that. That's the CDC.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is saying the same thing. The White House says 1.5 to 2.2 million deaths. Deaths. That's the White House Coronavirus Task Force as of March 31st, OK?


Our best-case scenario is 100,000 to 240,000 with mitigation efforts. March 31. Just over two weeks ago.

So, and that's why all of these models said the same thing. They all believed a higher infection rate. And that's McKenzie and that's Columbia and that's Cornell. That's all of them. That's the Gates- funded model. They were all projecting a higher infection rate.

We slowed the infection rate by our actions. And that's why we are in a better position today.

Now what does the infection mean? I know it gets a little granular. People have to understand that, if they understand why we need to do what we do.

The infection rate is how many people does one person infect, OK? How fast is one person spreading to another?

And they talk about the R-naught factor. The R-naught factor is the projected spread of the virus, OK?

If one person infects less than one other person, the disease is on the decline. If one person infects one more person, the rate of spread is stable. I get infected, I infect one. One person infects one. When you have a situation out of control is one person infects two people or more. Because the increase is exponential. And that's fire through dry grass. This is what they're trying to project. This is what we have to control as we start to reopen the economy.

You say you turn the valve on the economy, we open a little bit and we watch the meter. What's the meter? The meter is the hospitalization rate, or even better, the virus spread rate.

So you start to turn the valves and start bringing people out of their homes and start to reopen businesses, and you see that number going up, turn the valve back right away.

This is what we are trying to deal with going forward. Again, nobody has been here before so we are trying to figure it out.

If one person -- if the virus increases to a place where one person infects two people, that's an outbreak. If one person is only infecting one other person, that's basically a stabling increase.

Ideally, one person is infecting less than one person and that's a decline of the spread of the virus. That's what we're shooting for.

Just to belabor this one more point. Where you see an outbreak epidemic spread it's when one person is infecting one other person. That's when you are out of control.

On the "Diamond Princess" cruise, the infection rate was one person infects 2.2 additional people. Wuhan was one person was infecting two or three people. The 1918 pandemic, one person was infecting 1.5 to 2.8.

On our severe projection, one person was infecting 1.4 to 1.8. On the moderate projection, one person was infecting 1.2 to 1.4, OK?

What we have done, because of our mitigation and social distancing and stay home, lock the doors, we brought it to less than one. Our infection spread rate is .9, OK?

Wuhan, which really closed down everything, everything, everything, and locked it up, Wuhan brought the infection down to .3, OK? So that's the range we are talking about.

But when you think about that, we are now at .9, we only have a margin of era of .9 to 1.2. And 1.2 takes you back to the high projection rate. We are at .9.


That does not leave you a lot of wiggle room. So you're going to start to phase the reopening. You're at .9 now after this entire close down. If you go to .2, you're going to have a problem again.