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Coronavirus Pandemic; NY Governor Cuomo: Coronavirus Impact Is An Economic Tsunami; Florida's Unemployment System Goes Offline To Clear Backlog; Search For Vaccine Ramps Up With Accelerated Clinical Trials; Trump Refuses To Take Questions At Briefing; Governor Cuomo Gives Update On New York Coronavirus Cases. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired April 25, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


[10:59:56]

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: He's in a rehabilitation facility now as he recovers. And his family tells CNN they are just so thankful for the hospital staff.

We thank them, too. We're thinking about all of you. Thank you for spending your time with us. We hope you go out and make great memories today.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: NEWSROOM continues now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with a new warning from the World Health Organization. Researchers saying today there is no evidence that those who have already had coronavirus could not be re-infected. That news coming as some states begin to restart their economies. South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska allowing for partial re-openings. And 14 more states have stay-at-home orders expiring within days.

This as we are closing in on one million cases of the virus in the United States. And the number of deaths now more than 52,000 in the U.S.

Let's start our coverage in Georgia. CNN's Natasha Chen is there now. So Natasha -- are some businesses -- business owners rather, feeling reluctant to reopen?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly are -- Fred. And that is in spite of the fact that they may be opening anyway.

And so we're seeing a barber shop here, as well as another hair salon and a tattoo shop in the strip mall open. And one of the things that we're hearing is that some business owners really feel like this is a public health risk still but they also don't have the financial support and they feel they need to open. Like one barber who said that if he doesn't open, his competitor down the street definitely will. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Businesses like Jenkins Barber Shop opened on Friday for the first time in almost a month.

ERIC GREESON, BARBER: Sterilize your chairs between customers. As you can see we have the benches marked.

These are disposable here.

CHEN: Georgia's governor says the state is ready.

GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: We will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers --

CHEN: Barbers like Eric Greeson (ph) who happens to be diabetic.

GREESON: As a barber, what we have to do, and I definitely would not open anything against the health official recommendation or the President.

CHEN: The President who initially supported states to, quote, "liberate" pulled a 180 issuing a public rebuke of the Republican he once endorsed.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't like to see a lot of things happening and. I wasn't happy with it. And I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp.

CHEN: The state won't see a peak in daily COVID-19 deaths until next week, according to widely accepted data.

GREESON: Everybody's scared of this basically. But we're also afraid that if we don't open then the person down the street will and then we won't have business.

CHEN: this barber shop was one of two that were open out of the ten Donna Whitfield visited on Friday morning.

DONNA WHITFIELD, BARBER AND BEAUTY SUPPLIER: These here are our gloves we'll probably run out by the end of next week.

CHEN: She's a barber and beauty supplier in Georgia and Alabama. It was her first day back in the truck in a month. She'd rather not risk bringing the virus home to her husband who has cancer but she also can't afford not to work.

D. WHITFIELD: I'm just kind of on the fence, you know. I don't know, you know -- I hope we're doing the right thing.

RANDY HICKS, SOUTHERN LANES BOWLING ALLEY: They paid or not, what they have done --

CHEN: the right thing for Randy Hicks is making sure his 25 employees at southern lanes bowling alley could still support their families. And he knows people may criticize his decision. HICK: I'm sorry for that. I hope they don't hold it against us for no

reason. We're not trying to hurt anybody if you look. We just want to get our business going.

CHEN: Fellow owner Deborah Holland (ph) is a cancer survivor.

DEBORAH HOLLAND, SOUTHERN LANES BOWLING ALLEY: I'm conscientious about what we have, the cleanliness that we have, the exposure we have. Because I don't want to have to go to the hospital with this virus or anything. I'm missing half a lung.

CHEN: The phone kept ringing with eager customers who all had to do temperature checks before coming in, could only use half the 32 lanes and were limited on the number of bowlers per lane.

Even with restrictions, there was a strong sense of relief.

HOLLAND: I literally felt the burden being lifted off my shoulders.

CHEN: And many of their regulars felt the same, like Leon Perpignon (ph) who came before doors even opened.

LEON PERPIGNON (ph), CUSTOMER: I just want to do something that I enjoy doing, that I haven't done in a while. Besides all the honey to- do-list is all done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: And on Monday, Georgia restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in service with social distancing restrictions.

Now there will be some who choose to do that. And so far though, I've spoken to a few in the Atlanta area who say they still don't feel it's safe enough to start dine in -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Right. It looks like a lot of mixed messaging in terms of what kind of emotions people are feeling.

Natasha Chen -- thank you so much.

[11:04:57]

WHITFIELD: All right. This hour we're expecting an update from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. This, as that state appears to be on the downside of the curve. However, Cuomo says more federal funding is still desperately needed.

CNN's Cristina Alesci is in New York. Cristina -- this is an issue the governor spoke passionately about during his last briefing.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND MONEY CORRESPONDENT: That's right -- and we're going to hear him talk about it again. He is making these calls for federal aid loud and clear. And this week it really heated up because Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, essentially suggested that the state might want to apply for -- might want to file for bankruptcy instead of asking for federal aid. And Cuomo just blasted him in a briefing saying that that's a dumb idea. It's a mean idea. And by the way, it's not a legal course of action. So we'll probably hear more on that.

But the reason that Cuomo keeps talking about the budget short fall to the tune of $16 billion is because that money goes to paying for police, firemen, teachers -- that is a hole that New York is baring because it's fighting the coronavirus.

And let me just take a minute to explain why New York has that short fall. Essentially people are out of work. When they're out of work, they are not paying income taxes. They are not paying the state income taxes and that is, like many states that is for New York one of the major sources of revenue.

And this is causing problems throughout the country; New York is not the only state feeling the financial pain here. In fact, a conservative estimate by an independent research firm put the total short fall for this fiscal year alone at $200 billion.

And you cannot have this discussion, Fred, without talking about reopening. That's why we see states like Georgia and Oklahoma now, you know, trying to reopen. The challenge there is that it's going to be very complicated to do that.

For example, I was on the phone this week with the executive chairman of the Equinox (ph) who, you know, Equinox has sole cycle locations in Georgia. He said he wasn't opening because he didn't -- he felt like the company wasn't ready to do so in a way that kept customers and the employees safe.

So these are the kinds of complicated things that are going to have be figured out. And this is what Cuomo is going to talk about in his briefing in just a few minutes.

WHITFIELD: Right. So readiness isn't just gauged on, you know, willingness, but it's also on supplies. Businesses are trying to consider what kind of supplies, what kind of measures do they have to institute that are different from when business was open for them, you know, more than a month ago before the shutdowns across the country.

All right. Thank you very much. Cristina Alesci -- appreciate it.

All right. The infant daughter of a New York firefighter has become one of the youngest known victims to die from coronavirus. Jay-Natalie La Santa was just one week shy of turning fives months old when she died this week. She was born with a heart condition, which raised concerns about her ability to fight off the virus.

Her family says she had been in the hospital for a month and at one point seemed to improve, but then suddenly went into cardiac arrest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREL LA SANTA, NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER: I would always stroke down her nose from her forehead. So even when she was sedated she knew I was there. It happened so fast and --

LINDSEY LA SANTA, INFANT DAUGHTER DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS: We knew it was real when the nurse -- because the nurses were amazing over there. Those relationships, she grabbed my hand and she told me mom, go kiss your baby good-bye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Simply devastating. Jay-Natalie is at least the second child of a first responder now to die from coronavirus this month.

Florida's unemployment system is offline until Monday in order to process payments faster. This as only a fraction of the nearly two million new claims filed since mid March are currently being paid.

Here's CNN's Rosa Flores.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida's unemployment system is such a mess. People have taken to the streets to protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel it's like rigged.

FLORES: Even the governor calls his unemployment system a piece of junk.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The fact that the state paid $77 million for this thing. I mean it's a jalopy.

FLORES: Since March 15th, more than 1.7 million unemployment claims have been filed. The state says some could be duplicates but so far fewer than 117,000 claims have been paid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bills have to get paid and we paid our unemployment and we need it now.

FLORES: Images of the dysfunction went viral earlier this month.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm at the end of my rope.

FLORES: Reporter: the online and phone systems were so overwhelmed, people in Hialeah desperately waited in line for paper applications.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think this is the way you should treat people.

[11:09:59]

DESANTIS: The system was overwhelmed. They didn't have the capacity, the manpower either. And we said we've got to fix this.

FLORES: Governor Ron DeSantis announced he added 100 computer servers, brought call-center staffing to 2,000 workers and even waived some of the rules but the old jalopy just can't keep up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of people like me who are just wondering how long this is going to be.

FLORES: As the weeks drag on, Floridians have joined yet another line. This time for food.

"It's maddening," says (INAUDIBLE). She filed a claim in early April and hasn't seen a dime. This is her first time seeking assistance just like half of the 4,700 people who call Feeding South Florida daily where Paco Velez is CEO.

PACO VELEZ, CEO, FEEDING SOUTH FLORIDA: The sense that we're getting from the families is a sense of desperation. And they're scared. The fear of the unknown is probably their biggest fear. The unknown of when this is going to end.

FLORES: The same people who sounded the alarm about the broken unemployment system are worried about the governor's upcoming plan to reopen the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love my job, you know, but when they call us back to work are we going to be safe?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Rosa Flores -- thank you so much for bringing that to us from Florida.

All right. Still to come, he is one of the first in the United States to be injected with a possible COVID-19 vaccine. Why this 31-year-old medical student, despite the risks, wanted to volunteer.

And coming up at 2:30 here on CNN, a panel experts will join me to answer your coronavirus questions. Go to CNN.com to submit your questions on health, family, life and your legal rights.

Again, that's at 2:30 Eastern right here on CNN today.

[11:11:50]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

The World Health Organization says it could be weeks or even months before we know which drugs help treat COVID-19. In the meantime, the search to find a vaccine is ramping up with human clinical trials currently under way across this country and around the world.

So who is signing up to take part, despite the potential risk risks? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Did you ever worry about those kinds of side effects?

Yes, but those potential risks are outweighed I think by the potential benefits.

GUPTA: Within Sean Doyle's body, within his blood. may lie the path to a vaccine for COVID-19. Less than one month after the novel coronavirus's genome was sequenced, vaccine trials began. There are now at least six vaccine trials under way, including this one at Emory University, part of the National Institute of Health's first human clinical trials.

The vaccine is called mRNA-1273. And Sean is one of 45 people in Atlanta and Seattle that are part of the first phase of the study, testing it for safety.

I think to myself, if you were my son and you came to me and said I want to do this, what would I tell you? Did you have a conversation like that with your parents or anybody else?

SEAN DOYLE, COVID-19 VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANT: Yes, there were conversations I had with friends and family, but they trusted my judgment.

GUPTA: So here's how it works.

DOYLE: I gave some blood samples to be used as a baseline for assessing my health after getting the vaccine and to also use as baseline to determine whether or not there was any sort of immune response that my body was able to generate in response to getting the vaccine later.

GUPTA: If it's successful, it may not only help to get the world back to normal, but it could also be a game changer for other therapeutics and vaccines. Why? Because of its technology.

Instead of using the actual virus, which could inadvertently cause an infection or an inactivated form of the virus, this vaccine relies on mRNA -- messenger RNA, which is just a genetic blueprint of the virus. It directs her cells to make the coronavirus's unique spike protein, which is the virus' key to unlocking the door into our cells. Once our body recognizes that, our immune system should be primed to create antibodies.

If it works it's a potentially safer and faster path, shortening the development process from decades to years or even months.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Getting it into phase one in a matter of months is the quickest that anyone has ever done literally in the history of vaccinology.

GUPTA: But speed is just one consideration. After all it is a new technology.

DR. EVAN ANDERSON, LEAD INVESTIGATOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It's possible there's no actual production of the antibodies because either the mRNA didn't get into the cells, the cells didn't make the proteins from the mRNA or the immune system didn't recognize those protein or the dose was too low. GUPTA: Dr. Evan Anderson is the lead investigator for the trial at

Emerson University.

ANDERSON: There's a theoretical possibility that you could actually see an enhanced immune response that's actually a problem in the setting of subsequent COVID-19 exposure.

GUPTA: That's called sensitization and means the body would overreact the next time it is exposed to the coronavirus, causing a storm of potentially deadly inflammation. Plus anything new will have unknowns and risks.

DOYLE: You could have some pain or tenderness at the site of injection. You can have nausea. You can sometimes develop fever. Severe reactions could also occur in which you have something called anaphylaxis then you have a severe allergic reaction. But that only happens in about one out of four million people.

[11:19:56]

GUPTA: Just to be clear though, it happens at one out of four million people once you've studied it.

DOYLE: Yes.

GUPTA: You are being studied at that point.

DOYLE: For that particular vaccine, it was -- no one knew at the time.

GUPTA: As part of the trial, Sean gets two doses of the vaccine, his second just this past week. And he's followed up with check-ins and blood draws to measure potential changes to his system for the following year.

DOYLE: It's like nothing happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did good.

DOYLE: It really felt just like a flu shot. And after the tenderness subsided after about a day or two, I really felt totally fine afterward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Wow. Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- thank you so much for that and thanks to Sean, too for telling his side of the story.

All right. joining me right now to talk more about this is Dr. Carlos Del Rio. He is one of the lead investigators in the vaccine study that we just heard about. And he's also the executive associate dean at Emory University's School of Medicine. Good to see you -- doctor.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, LEAD INVESTIGATOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Good to be with you.

WHITFIELD: All right. So in the U.S., there are only a few trials under way. And at least 70 possible vaccines that are being studied overall. So how encouraged are you tat, among them a successful vaccine, you know, just might emerge, including the one that you're working on potentially?

DEL RIO: Well, again -- as Dr. Fauci said, it is really incredible that in such a short time we're already testing a vaccine in humans. We're already in phase one testing vaccines in humans. And there are three vaccines that have made it that far, that have made it out of the preclinical arena which is, you know, testing in animals and themselves into a clinical arena.

So this has gone very fast. Now, we need to complete phase one. We need to be sure the vaccine is safe. And it's also immunogenic and then we'll -- the vaccine, right now it's just expanded its range to now involve older individuals. Initially the vaccine just covered people between the ages of 18 and 55. Now, it's enrolling people over the age of 55 because a lot of the severe disease happens in older individuals.

And after that we're going to move into Phase 2. On Phase 2 it's going to require to enroll 4,000 to 5,000 people around the world. And that's the efficacy phase. That's when you'd see a vaccine truly protects.

And if that goes well, yes, I'm very encouraged we may have a useful vaccine in somewhere around, you know, 12 to 18 months. Now once we have the vaccine we still need to produce vaccine for millions and millions of individuals. And that's going to take a little longer.

WHITFIELD: So a vaccine, if one is proven to be, you know, viable, you're talking about 12 to 18 months, but then when you talk about that Phase 2 when say your experiment that you're involved in could, you know, be tested around the world, how many weeks, months away is that?

DEL RIO: Well, that all depends on what happens at the end of phase 1. If Phase 1 goes well, if there's no evidence of side effects, it's well tolerated and it's immunogenic, you know, Phase 2 will likely be starting, I would say, sometime in probably the summer -- sometime in late May, early June we will be starting the Phase 2.

WHITFIELD: Ok. So when there are other trials, you know, kind of your competition, you know, being conducted, you know, around the world. Researchers at Oxford University say that a possible vaccine from one of their experiments could come and could be ready as early as September. Do you believe that? Is that encouraging?

DEL RIO: You know, it could be. I just don't see how you can have results on an efficacy study that quickly. But again, one of the great things, is as you say, there are over 70 vaccines being looked at and in fact competition is what we need. We need the sooner we have -- and I suspect at the end of the day we may not have one vaccine but we may have two, three, or four different vaccines.

And that is good because there's just no way that you can have one vaccine in which you're going to be able to produce you know, millions if not billions of doses to get to people around the world.

WHITFIELD: Ok.

All right. Let's talk about what the World Health Organization is warning today that there is no evidence that people who have had coronavirus would be immune from a second infection. How do you digest that?

DEL RIO: Well, you know, I digest it by saying, we don't -- true, we still don't have enough evidence. But we have some evidence. I think we have significant evidence that there will be at least some degree of immunity between -- anywhere between 12 to 24 months to subsequent coronavirus infections.

The problem that the WHO is struggling with are two. Number one is just because you have an antibody test that doesn't mean you're immune. Because the antibody tests are just talking about exposure to the virus. And it's really -- and there are many, many antibody tests out there. It really is the wild, wild west out there.

And what the WHO is arguing and is strongly against is this whole idea of immune, you know, documents or immune passports saying I'm immune just because I had a test. Because I think that process at this point with the tests we have is flawed for abuse, it's flawed for discrimination, it's flawed to many, many things.

So I agree with them, this is not a good approach. We should not be saying, you know, if you're immune -- we will be able to hire you, but if you're not, you're not somebody we want to hire you. We need to be careful about the consequences that this could have on individuals.

[11:25:00]

WHITFIELD: Ok. And then this week, you know, the FDA, you know, approved the first at home coronavirus test kit. Is that significant in your view, or do you also have worries about it?

DEL RIO: No, I think it's very significant. Again, the more testing we have -- especially the more testing we have outside of the clinical setting is going to be important because remember, a lot of individuals with this disease are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, have very minimal symptoms. And we don't want them to be going to health care systems to get tested. They should be able to get tested, you know, at their local grocery store, at -- you know, at their local drugstore or at home.

I think just like we can do a pregnancy test at home, if we can do a coronavirus test at home, a rapid test that somebody can do at home, I think it'll be a game changer because then you can rapidly make decisions of isolation and then make decisions of not continuing to spread the disease.

So I think it's important. And again, the more tests we have, the more types of tests we have using different samples, the better it will be.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Carlos del Rio -- thank you so much. Appreciate it. Be well.

DEL RIO: Delighted to be with you.

WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump is facing pretty sharp criticism after telling reporters that he was being sarcastic for suggesting medical experts look into the possibility of injecting patients with disinfectant as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. And now CNN is learning his allies want to stop his briefings altogether.

A live report on that, next.

[11:26:24]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: President Trump continues to face criticism and fallout for his comments where he suggested injecting people with disinfectants could be a possible way to treat coronavirus. The President has since claimed he was being sarcastic when he made those remarks.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Thank you very much everyone.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The headline out of the White House briefing, not what was said but what wasn't. The President left abruptly without taking any questions, unlike all the previous marathon events.

A source tells CNN Trump is upset over the flack he's taken for his strange and dangerous musings.

TRUMP: And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or -- (INAUDIBLE) as you see gets in the lungs.

I was asking a question sarcastically.

LAH: President Trump again trying to rewrite history the whole world saw on television. A bizarre spectacle as the U.S. death toll crosses 50,000 lives lost. and states unevenly start to open on their own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they come in we will do temperature checks. They will be required to have a mask and gloves

LAH: In Georgia now allowed to operate are hair salons, gyms and bowling alleys.

HICK: We're not trying to hurt anybody. Look, we just want to get our business going.

LAH: Defying public health warnings, Georgia and Oklahoma allowed doors to open at some businesses although many chose to stay closed.

In Texas, curb side retail is open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walk out to their trunk, put them in there and go in the front seat.

LAH: The state pushed to restart the economy, happening from the south, the Midwest to Alaska -- a real-time experiment of the virus versus state policies.

In South Carolina department stores are now open with some restrictions. Wisconsin, golf courses and some retail open curb side. Alaska restaurants allowed to open at a quarter of capacity.

Into the weekend and next week more states open up. Tennessee will be allowing restaurants to open at half capacity on Monday, saying it's time.

GOVERNOR BILL LEE (R), TENNESSEE: It must be steady and methodical and empower opening in a way that doesn't jeopardize all of the strides that we've made.

LAH: but other local leaders say that's exactly what governors are doing by opening now.

BEE NGUYEN (D), GEORGIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: This is a premature and reckless decision on behalf of the governor.

LAH: New York's governor warned the country must learn from our very recent history as testing continues to be inadequate.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: What is the lesson? An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.

LAH: that's why Michigan's governor, facing small but vocal right wing protests to be open is extending the stay-at-home order for her state until May 15th.

GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: We know that if we do it too fast a second wave is likely and would be more even more devastating.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN -- Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: So the President's abrupt end to Friday's briefing, may be a sign of changes coming to the daily White House coronavirus briefing. CNN has learned that the President's aides and allies have been pushing him to stop conducting those daily briefings that have, on occasion, lasted more than two hours.

For more on this, let's bring in Kristen Holmes at the White House. So Kristen -- what more are you learning that people are urging not to have these briefings and that he would actually be he's listening to that kind of advice?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right -- Fred.

So just to keep in mind, allies and aids have long been concerned about these briefings for exactly what we saw on Thursday, that President Trump in one of these two-hour long, free-wheeling briefings was going to say something that wasn't only untrue but also dangerous.

We know we have heard from the health officials that are now warning people not to drink bleach, not to drink Lysol. That this is not something safe. So that's been going on for quite some time.

[11:35:01]

HOLMES: Now we're hearing that allies, aides are asking President Trump just to stop overall. That they're saying it's hurting him more than helping him. So that's on one side.

Now, if he does not want to stop, there are some conversations happening at the White House on changing the briefings. Maybe limiting them. Having less of them during the week, also perhaps limiting his appearances. Having him only come out when there's some kind of positive news.

So something we're going to stay tuned to here. And I asked him if they need a press secretary earlier today whether or not there are going to be these kinds of changes. Essentially she said I'll leave that to the President.

But this goes to your larger point here which is that all of them have to leave it to the President. We know that no matter what his aides want, no matter what his allies ask him to do, he's going to ultimately want to make this decision. He believes he knows best particularly when it comes to communicating with his base.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes thank you so much from the White House. Appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the desperate search for key equipment is being felt across the globe. Ecuador now sounding the alarm over the lack of ventilators. How the Trump administration is helping next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Governor Andrew Cuomo usually has them and here it is getting underway right now.

CUOMO: I can -- until they are fatigued and exhausted because exhaustion is our friend.

Total hospitalizations down again. You look at that overall curve. That is the mountain, a little perspective. We are back where we were 21 days ago. 21 days of hell. But we're back to where we were.

What we need to find out is when we will back -- be back to the point where only several hundred people showed up at the hospitals every day with the COVID infection. That's what we want to see. We want to know how fast that decline continues and how low the decline gets. And we would like to get back to the days of only 400, 500 people showing new infections every day.

All the numbers are basically saying the same. That we are, in fact, on the downside of the mountain. I've always been worried that there's a little tick up and that there would be some evidence that we're not on decline. But all the evidence says we're on decline.

Even the number of new cases actually ticked down yesterday after being stable for a number of days. It's down to about 1,100 new cases. Only in this crazy reality would 1,100 new cases be relatively good news, right? But 1,100 new cases. Again, we'd like to see that down into the 200, 300, 400 new cases per day.

Just when you think you're going to have a good day, this reality slaps you right in the face. 437 deaths yesterday, which is actually a tick up. This number is, as you can see, call it flat, call it flat with a slight decline, if you're looking for a silver lining. But this is just terrible, terrible, horrific news.

Testing is what we are compulsively, obsessively focused on now. Both diagnostic testing, which is a positive negative, the antibody testing. We do about 20,000 tests per day average, goes up and down a little bit depending on the day.

We had a great meeting with the federal government this week. And came up with a division of responsibility. I spoke to the other governors about it yesterday with the Vice President on a governors -- all governors conference call.

[11:39:50]

CUOMO: I spoke about the arrangement with the federal government. I hope the federal government and the other governors follow that template, because it's a template that makes sense.

We always said this was a federal/state partnership. And the President said that he understood the federal government had a role.

We came up with a division of responsibility, which is basically the states take responsibility for the labs in their state and getting those labs functioning. We regulate those labs and the federal government would take the responsibility of making sure the national manufacturers had the tests, the reagents, the vials, the swabs -- all the equipment that the national manufacturer needs to be able to send to our labs so our labs can actually function.

Our labs have these highly-sophisticated machines that they bought from national manufacturers. But the machine requires the test kit and the reagents specifically for that machine. It's like you buy a printer from a company for your computer, like a color printer, but the printer requires cartridges from that company. You can have a fancy printer, but if you can't get the replacement cartridges, that -- that printer is a paperweight, right.

So we need the national manufacturers to have the reagents, the test kits and that's what the federal government is doing.

But it's working here in New York. So we're seeing the number of tests increase and we want to get it stabilized and up.

New York state is already doing more tests than anyone. Because we did get into this first, we were aggressive. We were pushing the line. So we're actually doing more tests per capita than any country around the world, let alone any state in the United States.

The -- as we're increasing the capacity of the labs, ok -- so now our 300 labs are getting more equipment, more supplies, they can do more tests. Now we need more collection mechanisms. More places to collect the test data so they can send it to the labs. Right -- it goes collection, then send those samples to the labs, the labs run those samples, get the results back to the people.

We have boosted the lab capacity to an extent where we need more collection sites now. So where do you get collection sites? We're going to authorize all the independent pharmacists in the state to be collection sites for testing.

I assume, and my guess and my educated guess, is that independent pharmacists will take us up on this. And there are 5,000 pharmacies in New York state. Some of them have already been doing it, some of the larger national chains, but if your local drugstore can now become a collection site, people could go to their local drugstore. There are about 5,000 in New York. They would be collection sites that would quickly ramp up our collection capacity. So we're doing that.

And since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests, right. We had a protocol with eligibility. Not everybody could get a test. And that's been a big complaint across the board. Everybody wants a test and they couldn't get tests, because we had a tight screen on the eligibility because we had a limited capacity to test. As you increase the capacity to test, you can increase the eligibility.

And first responders, health care workers, and essential employees. Why? Because these people have been carrying the load and they have been subjected to the public all during this crisis. And because they're public facing, right. These are the people who you interact with. You get on a bus, this is the bus driver. You get in the subway car, this is the subway conductor. You are interacting with government, these are the people who you're interacting with. If they're infected they could possibly spread it to a large number of people.

So we're dramatically increasing the capacity with these groups. What are first responders? Firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, police officers. Police officers - state, local, county, sheriffs, et cetera. Also correction parole officers, probation officers. People who are in the prisons, they can now go to the increased number of collection sites in the state, they're eligible to get a test.

[11:45:03] CUOMO: Health care workers, broad definition -- direct care providers,

health care practitioners, medical specialists, occupational therapists, psychologists, psychiatrist, residential care program managers. So if you're working in a residential facility, mental health facility, et cetera, community group residence -- you're now able to get a test.

And quote/unquote "essential workers". Essential workers are the people who have been keeping everything running. You know, when we say we closed down the economy. We didn't really close down the economy, right. We closed down the economy relative to what the economy was doing.

But you still go to the store and buy groceries. Your lights are still on, right. Someone is picking up the garbage in front of your house. So those essential workers have been functioning all along. And these essential workers, and God bless them, we want to make sure they are now eligible for tests, again, because they've been working all along. They've been exposed and also because when you go into the dry cleaner, this is the person on the other side of the counter who's interacting with dozens of people a day. So we want to make sure those people get tested.

As we continue to develop our testing capacity and the labs are coming up to scale, the collection sites are opening, the more testing we have, the more we will open eligibility. Hopefully one day we get to the point where anybody who wants a test can walk in and get a test, right? That was the dream.

But we found out quickly that we couldn't do that. You have 19 million people in the state. So we had to prioritize. We're still prioritizing but we're opening up that prioritization. The more capacity, the more tests, the more we'll open the eligibility criteria.

We're also focusing on our health care workers and first responders. We're doing antibody testing for our front line health care workers. And we're starting today, coming up to scale with four facilities in down state New York. Obviously down state New York handled the bulk of the cases. Not just in this state but in this nation.

So we're going to those hospitals that had a large number of COVID cases come in. And we're doing antibody testing there. As quickly as we can, and to the largest scale that we can. Elmhurst Hospital was one of the city's -- New York city's public hospitals. When we talk about hospitals downstate, there are about 100 hospitals. About 11 of the 100 are what's called public hospitals. New York city runs them as part of their health and hospitals corporation.

Those public hospitals really saw a large number of people and they were in distress and they were under stress frankly even before the COVID situation. But Elmhurst Hospital, which made national news for the number of cases they were handling, Bellevue, Montefiore (ph), SUNY down state is now running a COVID-only hospital. So everybody in that hospital is a COVID patient.

And you want to talk about God's work, that's where it's happening. We want to get them the antibody testing. And we're also going to do significant antibody testing in down state New York with those front line transit workers also. People have been working for the MTA, they're transit workers union PWU members. They've kept the city operational. You need those buses and you need those subways.

If you want to have the hospitals running, if you want to have the grocery stores running -- those employees have to be able to get to work and the MTA, the buses, the subways they did that for us. God bless them, the MTA and transit workers.

And then the police, the first responders who were out there because we have to be safe and we have to be safe even during COVID. So NYPD was out there. They had large number of people who became sick because of the situation. State police same thing. So we're going to be doing significant antibody testing there.

[11:50:01]

CUOMO: We've said "thank you" to the first responders, and we meant it sincerely and saying "thank you" is a good start. People want to know that they're appreciated. But even better than saying "thank you", actions speak louder than words, right? So show me that you're thankful and act like you're thankful and get me the help that I need.

I'm out here doing my job. It's my public duty, I get it, but I'm sacrificing myself. I'm sacrificing my family. At least show me support. And support is you have the equipment you need, you have the tools you need, and we're going to get you the testing on a priority basis because you deserve it.

Last point, personal opinion. Somebody said to me, I can't do this anymore. People are feeling the stress on a number of levels. They're not getting a paycheck. Their life is on hold. Is my business going to come back? Do I have a job at the end of this? My whole life has been disoriented. I just -- I can't take it anymore.

I get it. I get it. I really do fundamentally get it. This has been a God-awful situation on many, many levels. And many people, I'm sure, are saying this in their own way.

So who said it to me is not important, but it was one of my daughters. So -- I won't tell you which one, though, just to protect her privacy.

I get the feeling. Today is day 56. It's been 56 long days. Generations are called upon to deal with high levels of difficulty. We are called upon to deal with this crisis. Day 56.

1918 pandemic went on for two years. We're in day 56. World War I went on for four years. The Great Depression went on for four years. You want to talk about economic anxiety, you want to talk about people losing homes, not being able to feed themselves, people living in camps, people living in cars. World War II, six years. Vietnam War -- that intensity every night. Every night to have to hear about the tragedies. It went up for eight years. I get 56 days is a long time. And I get it's the worst thing that we have experienced in modern history. I get that. But just a little perspective. Not that it makes our situation any better, but it gives you a sense of perspective.

Yes, in life, things happen. On an individual level and on a societal level, things happen. And you have to deal with it. And it's hard.

But on the other hand, it makes us who we are, right? You get shaped by your experiences. This is a terrible experience to go through. But we will manage it. We will handle it, and we will be the better for it.

56 days -- all this inconvenience, yes. Think of it this way. What you are doing is actually saving lives. That's not rhetorical. That's not overly dramatic. You are saving lives. What we have done here has saved lives.

Every expert, every expert -- CDC, White House task force, Cornell University, Columbia University, McKinsey, the group that Bill Gates funded -- every one of them projected that there would be at least 100,000 more serious infections in the state of New York. 100,000 more serious infections. More hospitalizations.

What happened? We did what we had to do, which was hard and is hard. What did we accomplish? 100,000 fewer serious infections. That's what 56 days of our relative living through hell has accomplished. And that is a heck of an accomplishment. So, yes, it's not for naught. 100,000 fewer infections.

[11:54:51]

CUOMO: And, look, life is better than death, even if it is not your own -- A.J. Parkinson. Even if you're 22 and you're 25 and you are strong and you're healthy and you say, well, you know what -- even if I get coronavirus, it's not going to affect me because it doesn't affect the young. With a little caveat there, except when it does. And your life might have been the one that it did affect. But even if you're right. I'm 22, I'm 25. I would have been just fine.

Yes. But who could you have infected and maybe they weren't going to be fine because they weren't 22 and they weren't 25? Because they were 65 and because they had diabetes or hypertension or they had an underlying heart condition or because they were recovering from cancer and a cancer operation. And you infect that person and that person dies because you got infected. That's the reality of what we're dealing with.

56 days of pain. Yes. Yes. Relative to the past and what other societies have gone through -- bad, but not the worst that people have gone through.

What did we accomplish? 100,000 fewer infections in the state of New York. And we actually saved lives. That's what we did. And that's what we're doing. And that is inarguable. Personal opinion is, I believe everything we did was worth it. People can argue that point, but that is what we did.

And for me, that is a heck of an accomplishment and one to feel good about and one which New Yorkers will be proud of because it is what New York is about, which is being tough and being smart and disciplined and unified and loving.

So maybe the life you saved is not your own. Ok. You still saved a life. And that's not a bad way to spend one day or 56 days.

Questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- you mentioned over the past week that we may take a regional approach in New York state to reopening things, but does that not undermine the tri-state approach of coordinating with the other states to reopen things when one state in itself may take various approaches?

CUOMO: Good question. And you're right. That's why it has to be balanced with the tri-state approach. Tri-state approach with then expanded to the other states, we have seven states. Understanding the individuality of a region within that context.

So you can look at one region. You can look at the north country, central New York and say, well, look, on our numbers, we are ok. Ok. On your numbers as a region. But people have cars and people are mobile and people have been cooped up and whatever you do, you could trigger a reaction in that tri-state area.

And you could see people from across that tri-state area come to your region because you are now a place I can get a haircut. You are now the place that I can walk down Main Street and I can go in and get an ice cream cone and have the kids go in and shop. Yes. So that's the balance to all of this. And that's what we're

working through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not something that's really been figured out yet, correct? At the end of the 14 days of consecutive --

CUOMO: That's exactly right. The whole discussion is premature, but it's something we're working through right now. We're working with the state coalition. We're working with regional coalitions. And we will marry the two. If not marry them, they'll be engaged for a period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just to further punctuate that point, we started meeting with our partners at the beginning of last week and one of the founding principles that we've laid out between the states is the importance of the border states. There was an understanding everybody is acknowledging -- in their own states, for example, trying to (INAUDIBLE) upstate New York and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and then really honing in the tri-state area with New Jersey and Connecticut.

and again, it won't necessarily work out that all aligns perfectly, but that was one of the major principles that we set out earlier in the week with our partners is that sensitivity to the regions on the borders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you still have a plan to unveil kind of in a formal way?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're working towards trying to come to a consensus on principles but there's an acknowledgment within the states that everyone is going to be on their own timeline.

The major goal is to not undermine one another's success in dealing with the infection rates within the state.

[11:59:59]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a timeline on when we might do that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, there's no timeline yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- April 29th date for all nonessential state workers to report back to work on that date.