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Coronavirus and Food Security; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 11:30   ET




GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Once we have the protective equipment for employees in place and sanitizing stations, we have those protective measures in place, and we also have given the employees a time to heal and be ready to come back to work, that plant will be up and running.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but a lot of the unions around the country aren't so sure they're going to be able to make facilities like this safe during the age of the coronavirus.

If you take a look at just around the country, there are plants shutting down all across it.

In Columbus Junction, Iowa, they shut the Tyson plant there. Two people have died there. Three plants have shutdown associated with coronavirus in the state of Pennsylvania. One person died at the JBS plant in Pennsylvania.

And in Colorado, perhaps the case that really started all the attention to this, was this JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado. There are now four deaths there, more than 100 associated cases.

But, John, here's the thing, at a nearby plant, the Cargill plant, they have a death and several of these cases associated with it but they haven't shut down. They're still working on this altered schedule.

In Camilla, Georgia, three black women have died working at the Tyson plant there. They still are working. They have not shut down. People are still going to that poultry-producing plant every single day.

And that's a concern, John, because all these workers in these facilities that have rough conditions during a non-pandemic time are trying to work shoulder to shoulder, long hours, hard jobs, six days a week in some cases.

And according to unions, at multiple plants across the country, these companies are offering these bonuses that are incentives to not call out sick, to work every single day you're scheduled, extra hours, and they won't get paid until late May or June, which, of course, John, doesn't exactly tell people don't come to work if you're not sick.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Bonuses are great, but, yes, temperature screenings and safety equipment would be greater, I would think, in the middle of this.

Dianne Gallagher, appreciate your staying on top of this important story for us.

Joining us to discuss in more detail, Christine McCracken. She is executive director of Rabobank and a senior protein analyst.

Christine, let me start with the safety issue. America is having a conversation about when we can reopen the broader economy. And we are seeing pieces of the economy that are essential and that are open -- forgive me for interrupting here.

I need to take you to Albany, New York, to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- flattening, reducing slightly, depending on your point of view. Test if you're an optimist or a pessimist. A pessimist would say we're basically flat. An optimist would say I think we're starting to trend down. So it's a personality test.

Net change in total hospitalizations is undeniably on the decline. The three-day average, which is more accurate than any one-day number, also says the same thing.

The ICU admissions is down. That's not that telling to me, because, as I said, the entire hospital is now basically an ICU ward. But the number of intubations is down, and that is very good news. Because intubations 80 percent of the time wind up in a person not recovering. So that's really good news.

The reality and the counter counternarrative, counter-fact, the number of new cases, COVID cases that walk in the door of the hospital is still about 2,000 a day, and that is still very high. So, yes, fewer people in the hospital, fewer people being intubated, but still 2,000 people walking in the door.

If you'll notice, it's hovered about the same right for several weeks. It peaked, but 2,000, that's a very high number.

Number of deaths, unfortunately, refuses to come down dramatically, 630 That is still breathtaking in its pain and grief and tragedy. And basically flat again like many of the other numbers.

Just in terms of overall context, where are we, where are we going? Everybody wants to ask that question every day, and I understand that. We have to get to tomorrow what is the final conclusion of this ugly chapter. I still believe it's when we have a vaccine, when people know that this virus is totally controlled.

That's 12 to 18 months. Hopefully, it can be sooner. Maybe there's a medical treatment in between. We hope, we pray. A lot of medical companies are working very hard on it right here in the state and across the country. That would totally change the trajectory. People who are looking for a quick fix, a quick answer. It would be a

medical treatment. That would be the quick fix. And a vaccine would be a quick fix.


In the meantime, it's going to be an incremental process between today and tomorrow. As much as people don't want to hear that, that's the truth. You're not going to hear, any day soon it's over, the nightmare ends, and we wake up. It's going to be incremental.

And we have to be smart as we do this. Do no harm. Do we can control the rate of infection as we do this.

We also have work to do operationally with the health care system in terms of testing, which I'll talk about in a minute.

The testing tracing is the guidepost through this, right? As we're working our way over the next several months, the testing, which is informing us as to who can go back to work, helping us isolate people, it's about testing.

And testing is a totally new challenge. Nobody has done this, what we need to do on testing.

And then phasing the ramp-up of the economy to the new normal as we do this.

Again, in terms of perspective, I think of it this way. Our whole response thus far basically has been a response to a crisis, right? And as the numbers start to come down and as people start to take a deep breath and people start to feel we can control the beast, which we can, and they take comfort in the fact that we can control the beast, which I do.

I was afraid this thing was uncontrollable and that, despite everything we did, the numbers were going to continue to go through the roof. By the way, nobody could tell you otherwise.

But we proved we can control the beast. We can reduce the rate of infection. We did that by our response to the crisis.

Credit to all the New Yorkers, all Americans. They flattened the curve. Nobody else, no government agency, no public health expert. People's actions flattened the curve. We responded to the crisis.

That's sort of all in this first response, first phase. Bring down that infection rate. The infection rate was one person infected 1.4 other people. That's when an epidemic breaks out. That's fire through dry grass, right?

That's what we talked about yesterday. We had the infection rate down to .9. One person infects .9 other people. I've never met a .9 person, but the infection rate is less than one to one. That, then, sees the outbreak starting to subside, the numbers starting to come down, which is what we're seeing in the numbers. So we did that. This is all in our response to the crisis. And let's

say it's from minute one to where we are today.

This has all been crisis response. Bring down the infection rate. We did that. Bring up the hospital system to this projection level, which would have been impossible, but ramp up that hospital system so when you have all these infected people, you can handle it, you don't overwhelm the public health system, you don't have people dying in hallways, which is what we saw in Italy on TV, right?

That's all phase one. That's critical response. Hurry up, get it done, every day is vital, drastic measures taken quickly in a coordinated way. That's phase one.

We're still in that phase because you still have 2,000 people coming in the door every day. So don't get cocky, don't get arrogant. We're in control. No, you're not in crisis because you can control the beast, but you're only controlling the beast because of what you're doing. That's where we are.

We're starting to transition to another place. What's the other place? It's going to be the second half of this situation, which is un- pausing, right?

The situation we're in now is unsustainable. People can't stay in their homes for this length of time. They can't stay out of work. You can't keep the economy closed forever. You just can't. Society can't handle it, personally or economically.

So now we're moving into another phase, which is this reopening phase. How do you plan the reopening? Nobody has ever done this before.

And how do you plan a reopening of an economy and at the same time be cognizant of the public health crisis you're still in, right?


We have the infection rate down to .9. One person is infecting .9 percent, less than a person. OK. The epidemic outbreak percentage is 1.2, one person infecting 1.2. You only have between .9 and 1.2 as a margin of error.

We have to reopen, we have to reopen, we have to reopen. Yes. You only have a very slim margin to operate on. You open too fast, you bring people out too fast, you'll get to 1.2 in three days and we'll be right back to where we started.

So that's the -- I want to of my house versus public health balance that we're talking about.

How do you measure this? How do you calibrate it? You have to develop a testing capacity that does not now exist. And then you test people on a higher volume than ever before. You then trace them to find other positives and then you isolate them.

In the meantime, we have to stabilize the state's finances. Because we have a terrible economic deficit. We are spending money every day that we've never dreamed of spending.

We're asking all these hospitals to do things, all these local governments to do things. We're paying. And we're paying when we're in a position where we don't have any money. Which is also an unsustainable position in life.

You can't keep writing checks if you have no balance in your account. It doesn't work long term. At one point they come and knock on the door. I don't know who knocks on the door when you're a state government, but somebody is going to come knock on the door.

So that's where we are overall.

The next frontier is going to be testing. We don't have a testing system that can do this volume or that can be ramped up to do this volume. We don't have a public health testing system, by the way. It's de minimis, if you look at what the public health system has. It's a relatively de minimis capacity.

What's our private-sector testing capacity? That's relatively de minimis also. Think about what we're talking about. We're talking about labs that normally operate to do blood testing if you need a marriage license, if your child is sick, they send them for a strep test.

The doctor says go take a blood test for allergies. You go and you go to a lab to have blood drawn. That's basically the system we're talking about.

That system does not do large-scale COVID testing. This COVID testing first, in and of itself, is a very complicated new test. It's not as simple as drawing blood and getting it tested. This test in and of itself is complicated and expensive.

And you don't have the network that does that. It does not exist.

This is where we were with the hospitals. We came up with what we call surge and flex. What happened with the hospitals when this started, we started seeing these much-higher numbers that would overwhelm our hospital system.

Well, how do we ramp up the hospital system? You don't really have a public hospital system. Downstate New York, you have about 100 hospitals. You only have about 15 of those 100 are public hospitals. The rest are all private hospitals. Voluntary hospitals, but they're all private hospitals.

We had to get those private hospitals to work with government in a coordinated way. Never happened before. Extraordinarily difficult. We did it, but it was a phenomenal undertaking.

You now have 300 laboratories in hospitals across the state that do virology testing. How do we get 300 private labs in hospitals to become one system statewide to do testing for COVID? And how do we get them all coordinated? This is something that has never been done before and is going to be a tremendous undertaking. Also, to further complicate it, what they will tell you now, because

we've been having the conversations, the labs, if they can get the test, which they have to purchase from private-sector companies, the tests require certain chemical reagents to operate. So you take a sample and then you mix it with other chemicals. They can't get the chemicals that they need to mix to do the test.


Well, who has the chemicals? No one has the chemicals because everybody has been overrun with demand. And the chemicals come out of where? China! Where everything has come from over the past 40 days. Everything goes back to China.

And China is now in a position where they're being asked globally for these reagent chemicals. And that is a piece of the equation that I can't figure out. And that's why the federal government has to be part of this approach and part of this answer.

I can do what I can do on the state side, and I will. I'm going to issue an executive order that says the Department of Health will be coordinating those private-sector labs, which are private-sector companies, but they're licensed by the state of New York, they're permeated by the state of New York, and we need them to step up and work together.

But the federal government cannot wipe their hands of this and say, oh, the states are responsible for testing. We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help. I'm willing to do what I can do and more, but I'm telling you, I don't do China relations. I don't do international supply chain, and that's where the federal government can help.

Also remember, the federal government, at the same time, is developing testing capacity. So we wind up in this bizarre situation that we were in last time, 50 states all competing for these precious resources. In this case. it's testing and then the federal government comes in and says to those companies, I want to buy the tests also.

This is mayhem. We need a coordinated approach between the federal government and the states.

Second thing that is of immediate concern is we have to stabilize the finances of the state. The federal government has passed three bills to address this crisis. Of those three bills, the state governments have gotten precisely zero, zilch, nada in unrestricted aid.

The state should this, the state should this, the state should this. Yes. Well, what support have you given the states? None. I mean, how can that even be? How is it even plausible as a strategy? It doesn't work.

We need financial resources to stabilize the states because when you starve the state governments -- you know, I still eat. Dr. Zucker still eats. But we can't fund schools, we can't fund hospitals, we can't fund small business, we can't fund all these extraordinary efforts we're undertaking. It makes no sense.

We need to support the states because the states are the ones who are doing this.

Reopening is up to the states, right? That's the federal decree. It's up to the governors. The governors will decide. The states have to decide. Everyone is in a different position and it's up to the states, which I agree. It also happens to be in the Constitution. But put that aside. I also think it's the right approach.

OK, it's up to the states. But then don't ask the states, don't give them this massive undertaking that has never been done before and then not give them any resources to do it. That's not how this is going to work. The expression "don't pass the buck without passing the bucks." A.J. Parkinson.

Mark remembers him.

Don't ask the states to do this. It's up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK, is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks.

Passing the buck, which is the opposite of, "The buck stops here." The buck doesn't stop here. I'm passing the buck, and I'm not passing the bucks. I'm not giving the financial assistance to actually perform the responsibility.


So last point is we go from today to tomorrow. But we talk about the new normal.

This also has to be an opportunity where, after this horrendous period that we have horrendous period that we have gone through on every level, after the exorbitant cost of this, the personal pain of this, the death of this, this has to be one of most moments in time when we look back where we say society transformed. It was a learning and growth and transformational period where growth and evolution were accelerated.

Yes, society took a terrible blow but it became a moment of reflection where all sorts of new reforms and innovations happen. That's what we have to do with this period they look back at it.

So our goal. let's not get up and turn the machine back on and keep going the way we were.

How do you make the changes now that you have been talking about in some cases for years by the way? You never had the political will to do it or it is too hard or difficult. We talk about changes for assistance. It is too hard and controversial.

Now you have an opportunity in the window to make changes and improve things the way you have not. By the way, if you went through this, this pain and aggravation and

suffering and you did not learn, well, then shame on us. Shame on us. Because there's so many lessons to learn. You come back better than you were.

And 9/11. New York took a terrible beating. This nation took a terrible beating. We learned from it. We great. We're better.

And 9/11 transformed the country. If I told before you 9/11, you will take off your shoes before you can get on the airplane and they'll go through every bag and every -- you would say, I'm never doing that.

And 9/11 said this is a different world. Look at all the security measures that we had post 9/11 that we would never envision.

We went through Hurricane Sandy. We didn't build back what it was. We built back better than before. You take that moment and you learn that lesson and you improve society.

We have to do it here. We have to do it affirmatively. It just does not happen. You have to say, we pause. New York pause. You pause. You reflect and you learn, you grow, and you move forward.

Look at what we learned about the public health system. You know what we learned about the public health system? There is no public health system capacity.

Hospitals have the number of beds they needed to operate. What if, in a case of emergency? There's no emergency capacities in hospitals. Nobody had beds left empty. Oh, that wing is in case of emergency then we'll use that wing. It didn't exist. Why not? Well, that's not what we did.

So how do you improve the public health system? How do you improve the emergency response? Well, we never had to deal with a pandemic before. By the way, what is a pandemic? OK. Now, we did.

How are we going to be ready for the next situation like this because there will be another? I don't know when it is. I don't know if this virus coming back in a second wave. But here will be something. We have to be ready and better for it.

And not just what you learned but what have we been talking about doing that we should be doing that this is now an opportunity to do?

We been talking about reimagining the workforce and workplace. Does everybody actually have to drive in to the office every day? Or did we learn there are ways to telecommute and work from home where it is actually more efficient and effective?

What do we do about our transit system? How do we make it safer? Not just the way we have been talking about but from a public health point of view.

[11:55:01] And how are we now smarter about public interactions? I can't tell you how many doctors now have come to me and said, I have said for years that we should not be shaking hands. That's a way to transmit germs and viruses, et cetera.

How do we take this moment, since we are paused anyway, and come back smarter?

I also believe it will work. It is a moment of personal reflection. We have been in different circumstances. We've been a different circumstance vis a vis our family. What have we learned during this heartbreak and during this crisis?

I've spent a lot of time with my kids, 22, 25. My interactions with my kids have gotten so superficial over the last few years. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. What do you need? Everything good? You need anything from me? When do I see you? I miss you. That was the same conversation over and over.

Now I got time to sit with them and have really in-depth conversations that I have not had in a long time.

I will tell you one thing I learned is I was missing a lot. They're not seven or 10 years old. They're grown up. They have complex lives and complex feelings and complex situations. You don't understand that or you get to appreciate that when all you say is, how is everything, what do you need, when will I see you again.

I was busy. It's my defense to myself. I was busy. I was busy. Yes, except that's not an excuse. Take a deeper reflection on what's important in life.

You can't have a quality relationship with your child or another human being unless you take the time to get below that surface and really understand the person and take the time to talk about what's going on.

People don't work that way. They don't open up in a four-minute conversation.

So now I wind up in a situation where I have a couple of hours to talk to one of my daughters. There's a whole person and life and nuance that's going on that, frankly, I have been oblivious to. I am not going to let it happen again.

I have not been able to see my mother. She's a little older. And I see a lot of people and I'm exposed to a lot of people so I don't want to see my mother because she's in a vulnerable population and I am out and about a lot. We'll be carless to go see her now.

I think about all the times I've said to her - she lives in Manhattan. She says, can you come over for a cup of coffee today. How many times I said yes I'd come over for a cup of coffee and then call back and said I can't do it today and next time, next time, next time. Why? Because something came up. I was busy and I didn't have the time.

Wrong. Wrong. That was more important than anything else. Sometimes you don't miss something until it's been taken away.

And it made me rethink what was important and what was what I had been missing. I have been missing a lot because of all this and we are all busy, we are all busy.

What does it mean at the end of the day? What were you really busy with and did it matter? So I know I have learned a lot on a personal level.

But we may be physically distant for the foreseeable future. The key is to be connected individually and connected as a society and connected as a community. That's what we are going to do.



CUOMO: (INAUDIBLE) And let's take this situation and reflect on it and find a better way.

Here's my suggestion. Rather than everybody shouting, let's -- I will call on every person, and ask a question, and we'll go on so we don't have to yell at each other.