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CNN Returns To Wuhan After Lockdown Ends; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update On Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:39]

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Exclusive report now you can see only here on CNN, a return to ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our International Correspondent, David Culver, is in Wuhan, China, for the first time since that city went into lockdown three months ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Returning here to Wuhan, you get the feeling this is a city trying to navigate a new normal, life post-lockdown, trying to figure out how exactly they will be able to move forward and, yet, at the same time, find some sense of normality.

It's become a struggle, and quite frankly, folks here are realizing that it won't be the same as before. Especially after you consider what was a 76-day brutal halting of life in some cases. People sealed inside their homes, unable to leave for that long stretch of time.

Now, you can notice more and more people are starting to come out, starting to enjoy the outdoors a little bit more.

But also, as one American told us who has lived here on and off since 2009, they're very cautious of a second wave.

This makes you happy to see all this.

UNIDENTIFIED AMERICA LIVING IN WUHAN: It makes me happy, but I don't want to see people get complacent. Like, we are afraid that there's going to be the second wave. I think everybody here knows --

CULVER: You think it's coming?

UNIDENTIFIED AMERICA LIVING IN WUHAN: Absolutely. Whether or not it's the severity of it, but it's definitely going to come. And it's just, you know, because people are going to come back outside. They're excited. They're finally allowed out. It's been almost 80 days, 90 days, say, locked up inside the house.

To be able to go outside was just that explosion of light, excitement, but then you have the fear of can I go outside. Should I go outside? Is my family going to be OK if I go outside? You know, you have to start thinking about other people. We have our distance, you know, even as we speak.

CULVER: You also notice little things like walking into certain buildings like a hotel, for example, where they have put in some extreme measures to prevent any contamination.

For example, walking into an elevator, you now have to pick one of four squares to stand on to keep some social distancing. You also can pull a tissue that's provided in there so as to touch the buttons. The idea here is to be as sanitary as possible.

Even walking into the hotel, they sprayed us from head to toe each and every time with a pesticide-like spray bottle full of sanitizer.

The idea here is to keep things as clean as can be.

David Culver, CNN, Wuhan, China.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Fantastic reporting, David Culver. Thank you so much.

Still ahead here for us, the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes, sadly, from coast to coast.

Before we go to break, a chaplain at Mt. Sinai Hospital reflecting on the toll of this pandemic. Saying good-bye to patients was hard enough. Now the job includes losing colleagues, the front-line health care workers.

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[11:34:33]

UNIDENTIFIED CHAPLAIN: The hardest thing to deal with it seems to be when we lose one of our own. It really, really -- I think that's because it really makes the struggle -- it brings it home. Work then goes home. And this is a nurse that's been with us for 21 years. And what do you say to that? I don't have any words for that. I was fighting back my own tears and I never met her. But to share that was just gut wrenching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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KING: To Albany, New York, now for the daily briefing with the governor, Andrew Cuomo.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- tense, terrible situations for a long time in the past. But it feels very long. And it's very stressful. And that -- that's across the board.

You know, you have families that haven't had a paycheck come in in a couple months. And meanwhile, the bills keep coming in. That's tremendous economic anxiety and insecurity, and by the way, it's exactly right. When do I go back to work, when do I get another paycheck? That's a pressure that people feel in the household.

Even the good part of it, well, my family is together. I have all my three girls in my case with me, and that's nice, and that's good news. But you put even the family together, and you lock them up, cabin fever, and everybody has their own stress that they're dealing with, and everyone is trying to figure out their life and they're all together in this intense period. Even that is stressful.

I feel it in my own household. My daughters are getting tired of my jokes. Believe it or not, how that can happen, I have no idea, but somehow they manage to do that.

Even have trouble now picking a movie at night because the rule is if you pick a bad movie, then you are on movie probation. You don't get to pick the next movie. Everybody is on movie probation in my House now. So that's a problem.

Even the dog, Captain, is out of sorts and relating to stress. Maybe there's too many people in the house, and he's having trouble adjusting. Captain doesn't like the boyfriend. I said, I like the boyfriend, so it's nothing, I said.

But all sorts of tension that people are living with. Real tension. And then just the day-to-day stress.

So, yes, it's a terrible period of time. I get it. But we have to deal with it. And when you look at the reality of the situation, we are actually in a much better place. We're not home yet. But we're in a better place.

The really bad news would have been if we concluded that we couldn't control the spread of the virus. That was a possibility.

You looked at all those initial projections. How do you know that we could control the spread? We could have done all those close-down measures and it didn't work. And the spread continued. That would have been bad news. So relatively, we're in a relatively good place.

In Downstate New York, the curve is on the descent. The question is now how long is that? Is it a sudden drop off, is it one week, two weeks, three weeks, six weeks? We don't know, but better going down than to be going up, right?

Let's keep that in mind. And we are going down. How fast, we'll find out. But we're in a better place. Hospitalization numbers are coming down. Intubations are coming down. Number of new people going into the hospital every day is still troublingly high. But better than it was. But still problematic.

Number of lives lost is still breathtakingly painful. And the worst news that I have to deliver every day and the worst news that I have ever had to deal with as governor of New York. But at least it's not going up anymore and it seems to be on a gentle decline.

[11:40:16]

But make no mistake, this is a profound moment in history. Our actions are going to shape our future. And you're not going to have to wait for a ten-year analysis, a retrospective to find out how our actions affected our future. What we do today you will see the results in three, four, or five days. OK.

You tell me what the people of this state and this country do today, you will see the results in the number of hospitalizations in just a few days. We get reckless today, there are a lot of contacts today, unprotected contacts today, you'll see that hospitalization rate go up three, four, five days from today.

It is that simple. And it's that pressing that every decision we make is going to affect how we come out of this, how fast we come out of this.

So in this moment, more than any other, truth, not what you would like to see, what you hope to see, not emotions. Truth and facts. Truth and facts. That's how we operate here in the state of New York. Truth and facts. Give me the truth and give me the facts. And that has to guide our actions. Period.

We had a productive meeting at the White House yesterday. Productive, sort of everybody says productive. Very few people come out and say unproductive. What does it mean?

To me, a productive visit means we spoke truth. We spoke facts. We made decisions, and we have a plan going forward. And that was accomplished yesterday. And I feel good about it personally. Because it's what should have happened. Right? Big issues on the table.

In the political process, well, he said this, she said this. Then you get into a he said/she said, or you get into a blame game, finger pointing. But the meeting was very productive.

And by the way, these are people in the White House who politically don't like me. You know, that's the fact, right? You see the president's tweets. He's often tweeted very unkind things about me. And my brother.

Politically, he does not -- we have had conflicts back and forth. But we sat with him. We sat with his team. And that was put aside. Because who really cares how I feel or how he feels? Who cares? Get the job done. I don't care if you like him or he likes you. You know, we're not setting up a possible marriage here. Just do the job. Right?

When you're at war, you're in a fox hole. Nobody says, well, do you like the person you're in the fox hole with? Who cares? You protect the other person in the fox hole, then you get out of the FOX hole and you take the Hill. Charge up the hill. And that's how we should be operating now.

I don't care what your politics are. I don't care what you think about my politics. It doesn't matter. We both have a job to do. Let's do the job. That was the spirit of the meeting yesterday. And it was very

productive on what were very contentious unclear issues. So it was very good.

The main issue was testing, which I'll talk more about in a second. But we also talked about state funding. All the governors are united, Democrat and Republican, National Governors Association. Every governor is saying the same thing. We have to have state funding. The states have a role basically in a deficit situation, and we need funding from Washington.

They have passed bills that help a lot of Americans. That's great. Help small businesses, that's great. But you have to help state governments, because state governments fund people that the federal government can't fund.

You know, state and local governments, we're funding police, we're funding fire, we're funding teachers, we're funding schools. You can't just ignore them. When you don't fund the states, you're saying to the states, well, you have to fund them, and the states have already said in one united choir, we can't. We can't. So we talked to the president about that.

The president gets it. The president says he's going to work very hard in the next piece of legislation. But you know, I have been in Washington. I was there for eight years. The Congress has to insist that this is in the legislation.

[11:45:14]

And yes, they passed funding for small business and funding for testing, and that's good. That is a good thing. It's not a bad thing. But it's not enough either.

And they don't come back every day, the Congress. It's hard to get them to come back. And this was not the time for baby steps. This is when you should be taking bold action. Right? The action is proportionate to the issue. And you haven't had a problem that is any bigger than this that any of those Senators or Congress people have ever dealt with.

Well then, your action should be proportionate and responsive to the problem. And it wasn't. The president also agreed, which is a big deal for New York, to waive what's called the state match for FEMA.

Normally, a state has to pay 25 percent of the FEMA cost. That would be a cruel irony for New York and adding insult to injury. New York had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. Therefore, our cost of FEMA was the highest cost in the nation. And therefore, New York should pay the highest amount.

How ironically cruel would that be? You're going to penalize us for having the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. And at the same time, the Congress passed a piece of legislation not even funding the states. So the president agreed to waive that. That is a very big deal. That's hundreds of millions of dollars to the state of New York.

But the big issue was testing. And we have been talking about testing, tracing, and then isolating. And that is going to be the key going forward. That's how you are educated and have some data points as you're working your way through this reopening calibration, right?

How does it work? You test the person. If the person winds up positive, you then trace that person's contacts. Contact tracing. You have to start with a large number of tests.

And we set as a goal yesterday to double the number of state tests to go from 20,000 on average to 40,000. That is just about the maximum capacity for all of the laboratory machines in the state. OK.

We have private labs, about 300 of them, that we regulate. They have purchased machines over time. These are very expensive machines. If you took every machine we had and they had all the supplies they needed from the national manufacturers, and you ran that machine seven days a week, 24 hours a day, how many tests could you do? About 40,000.

So that's if you put your foot to the floor and brought the engine up to maximum rpm, up to the red line, you brought it up to 6,000, assuming the red line was 6,000. And you held it there seven days, 24 hours a day at red line, how many tests could you do? 40,000. Now, there's a lot of "but" and "ifs" in there.

But the machine has to stay together for seven days, 24 hours a day. You have to have enough people feeding the machine, but that is our maximum potential.

So where did we set the goal? At our maximum potential. Why? Because we need to. Well, it's unrealistic. Might be a little unrealistic, but I would rather set the bar high and try to get there and then whatever we get is what we get.

But once you do all those tests, every positive you have to go back and trace. And the tracing is a very big, big deal. Once you trace and you find more positives, then you isolate the positives. They're under quarantine. They can't go out. They can't infect anybody else.

This entire operation has never been done before. So it's intimidating. You have never heard the words testing, tracing, isolate before. No one has. We have just never done this. There are a few textbooks that spoke about it, but we have never done it. We have never done it anywhere near this scale. So it is an intimidating exercise.

[11:50:00]

But I say so what, who cares that you have never done it. That's really irrelevant. It's what we have to do now. So figure out how to well, we have to put together a tracing army.

Yes. OK. We've put together armies before. Never a tracing army. But we can put together people. We can organize. We can train, and we can do it. And, yes, it's a big deal, but it's what we have to do and it's what we will do.

We want to operate on a tri-state basis. I've spoken to Governor Murphy in New Jersey, who's doing a great job, and Governor Lamont in Connecticut is doing a great job, and who have been very great neighbors to New York.

It's best to do this tracing on a tri-state area. Why? Because that's how our society works. The virus doesn't stop at jurisdictional boundaries. Whoop, I'm at the town of Brookhaven, I stop here. No, the virus doesn't say that. The virus just spreads. And you look at the spread pattern of the virus, it is in a metropolitan area. So, we'll work together.

This is going to be a massive undertaking. Good news is Mayor Michael Bloomberg has volunteered to help us develop and implement the tracing program. Mayor Bloomberg was mayor of New York City, as you know, three terms.

As governor, I worked with Mayor Bloomberg. He has then developed an organization. He works with mayors all across the world, literally, in providing them guidance. He has tremendous insight, both governmentally and from a private-sector business perspective in this.

Remember, his company, Bloomberg, they went through the China closedown, open up, and went through the European closedown, open up. So, he's had quite a bit of experience in this area.

It's a very big undertaking and we thank you very much for taking it on, because it is going to require a lot of attention, a hot of insight, a lot of experience and a lot of resources.

We're also going to be partnering with Johns Hopkins and vital strategies in putting together that tracing operation. It will be coordinated tri-state and Downstate. Why Downstate? Because again, Downstate operates as one area.

About 25 percent, 30 percent of the workforce that goes into New York City comes from outside of New York City. I have a house in Westchester. I work in New York City. Who's supposed to trace me? Westchester or New York City?

If I turn up positive, yes, my residence is in Westchester county, but I work in New York City and I would have contacted many more people in New York City than I did in Westchester. Because that's where if I work in New York City, that's where I'm contacting people.

I live in Suffolk, but I work in New York City. I'm a police officer who has a house in Rockland, but I work in New York City. I'm a firefighter who lives in Rockland or Orange, but I work in New York City. I live in New Jersey, but I work in the city. I live in the city, but I work in Connecticut, right?

So, all those interconnections, if you're going to do these tracing operations, you can't do it within just your own county. Because you'll quickly run into people who are cross-jurisdictional. So, understand that going in, blur the governmental jurisdictions,

because they don't really make sense. Put everybody together, work together. Harder done than said, but 100 percent right, there's no doubt about that.

We're going to take the initial tracers that people have now. The state has about 225 today. Rockland 40, Nassau 60, New York City, 200. They're going to work together.

Mayor Bloomberg is going to start with that core, but we have to build on that, because we will literally need thousands. SUNY and CUNY have 35,000 medical students that we're going to draw from, but we have to put together a significant operation because the numbers get very big, very quickly here.

Today is also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

When you look at many of the numbers that we're finding and you look at the disparity between the African-American community, Latino community, that is a higher rate of infection than people in the white community, you start to ask why and you start to study those health disparities.

[11:55:08]

You also find that in those areas where the coronavirus infection rate is higher, they tend to be minority areas.

And by the way, those minority areas tend to be the places where we cited plants that pollute. The asthma rates, respiratory illnesses are three times higher among people in the African-American community, three times the asthma rate, the respiratory illness rate.

They're getting more coronavirus. They're a higher percentage of essential workers. You see how these two factors come together and make a bad situation worse.

Let's learn from that. It's one of the lessons that we have to learn and we have to go forward, and we will.

The positive message is look how well we do when we actually focus and we make a decision and we say, we have to do this.

If you had told me two months ago that I would be able to stand up before the people of the state and say, by the way, we have to close down everything, business is closed, everything closes, everybody going into their home, close the door, lock it, don't come out, I would have said, it's not going to work. It's not going to work.

You're not going to get 19 million New Yorkers, who are just a defiant group of people, questioning everything. They're not going to do it.

Well, maybe if you give them all the facts and they understand, then they'll do it. And we did.

Look at the potential! Look at the possibility of what you can actually do. Well, then, can you really make a real difference on these issues that we've been fighting for decades, but we haven't really made the progress we need to? Climate change, the environment. Yes, you can.

Last point. My phone is ringing. I'm talking to many local officials. They feel political pressure to open. I understand.

I said yesterday that we're going to make decisions on a regional basis because just as the nation has different states in different positions, New York State has different regions in different positions. North country has one set of facts. Facts. This is about truth and facts.

North country has one set of facts. Western New York has a different set of facts. Capital district has a different set of facts. Make decisions based on the facts, and the facts are different than Downstate New York in many areas.

Also, make them on the facts and realize the consequence of what you could do opening one region but not other regions and how you could flood that one region and give them a host of problems they never anticipated. But make the decision on the facts.

I get it. Don't make the decision based on political pressure. I'm not going to do that. I am not going to do that.

This is a profound moment. We make a bad move it's going to set us back.

And I get the political pressure and I get the political pressure that local officials are under. We can't make a bad decision. I get the pressure, but we can't make a bad decision.

Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly. Period! I don't know how else to say it.

And I've said it innumerable times to local officials on the phone. I get the pressure. I get the politics. We can't make a bad decision, and we can't be stupid about it.

This is not going to be over any time soon. I know people want out. I get it! I know people want to get back to work. I know people need a paycheck. I know this is unsustainable.

I also know more people will die if we are not smart. I know that. I have to do that count every day of the number of people who passed away. We're not going to have people lose their life because we acted imprudently. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to do that.

And I'm not going to allow the state to do that, and I am not going to have the obituary of this period be, well, they felt political pressure, so they got nervous and they acted imprudently. That's not who we are.

So, I've said to them, look, if you look at any of the facts, the 1918 flu, they're talking about it now. There can be waves to this, right? [11:59:52]

You walk out into the ocean, you get hit with that first wave, oh, great, I'm done. The wave hit me. I'm still standing. Beware, because there can be a second wave, or there could be a third wave.

So, don't be cocky just because you got hit by a wave and it didn't knock you off your feet.