Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Promises Number of Cases "Will Go Down to Zero"; Dr. Birx: Social Distancing Will Happen Through Summer; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 11:30   ET



TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WASHINGTON POST": It will be a situation where we have to continue social distancing. The president's idea that it all disappears and it won't come back in the fall is based on a fallacy.

And they're really trying to distance themselves from some of the messages the president has put up.

In part, because not being on the same stage, they're able to contradict the president, maybe hope he doesn't see some of the interviews, and sort of not have that awkward situation where the president is proposing something like, you know, injecting light and bleach into the body and having them have to figure out a way to sort of massage that message and make it sound not as bad as it actually is.

When they're independent, when they're speaking directly to the American people on their own, they can put that much more disciplined and much more sort of hard medicine type of message in which we're going to have to stick with social distancing for quite a while, and there's a potential this virus comes back in the fall.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And, Tamara, one of the things we see in public opinion poll, we see two things. Number one, the American people. This is a consumer-driven economy, and they're reluctant. You see Americans across the board, up to two-thirds, saying slow down. I know my governor says reopen, the president wants to reopen, I'm not ready to reopen. I'm not ready to go into a restaurant, to ease the social distancing guidelines.

Another thing we see in this NPR/Maris poll is the president's disapproval when it comes to handling the coronavirus is up. Approval rating, still 44 percent in both April and March. But look at the disapproval rating in April, jumping up to 55 percent from 49 percent.

That has to be a number that hurts the president, has to sting him and his staff, because they know they're in the middle of a pandemic. They're also in the middle of a re-election year.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: They absolutely are in the middle of a re-election year.

And what you're seeing in some of these numbers with public opinion about social distancing is you're starting to see a little bit of a partisan divide in there, where Republicans -- in part, because President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, and his messaging is all about we have to get back -- Republicans are a little more eager to return.

But overwhelmingly, the American public is afraid. Yes, I interviewed Governor DeWine, of Ohio, somewhat recently, and he was saying, you know, it doesn't matter what I say. It doesn't matter what the president says.

What matters is whether people, consumers, are willing to go into restaurants, as you say, willing to go to sporting events. It doesn't matter if it's available. If they're scared, if they can't be reassured, then there's a problem. People won't go back out there.

So it continues to be an issue where the president, the public health officials need to come up with a plan that makes people feel comfortable if you're going to be able to see an economic recovery, too.

KING: And the president has to come up with a plan about how he wants to communicate, and it's been a bit scattershot. Uncharted territory, middle of a pandemic. Not everything will work out perfectly.

But one of the fascinating things in recent days has been the president's own political team and Republicans across Washington trying to get the message to the president -- you mentioned maybe we can just have some -- some sunlight inside the body or somehow inject disinfectants in the body. The president says he was musing aloud. They can try to explain it away or rationalize it. It's reckless medical advice from the White House podium.

A lot of messaging has been this president likes to control things. He likes to control the message. He likes to control the media, if you will, his appearances. But the incoming has been, please dial it back, you're hurting yourself.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. We have heard from top Republicans that they would rather hear from the medical experts. And they have sort of hinted to the president that the American people, the potential voters in the November election, would rather hear more from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and some of the medical experts than having the president speak for the majority of the time during the briefings.

That has not squared well with the president, who is sort of addicted to the media spotlight. He wants to dominate the conversation, as you said. He likes the ratings his briefings get.

Even after tweeting over the weekend, what's the point of the briefings, and a lot of reporting he was going to scale the briefings back, he's still gone out and spoken to reporters, spoken to the public, spoken in front of the cameras for the majority of this week. And he's spoken much more at the briefings than any of the medical experts.

It seems like he's taking more control while his advisers and Republicans are saying allow the medical experts to seize the spotlight.

KING: He trusts his gut and he trusts his instincts. It did work for him in 2016. We'll see if it works for him again.

Toluse, Tamara, great to see you both. Appreciate the reporting and insights.

KEITH: Thank you.


KING: We'll let you know we're standing by to hear from the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, his daily briefing. Comes up momentarily. We'll take you there live when it happens.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Everybody knows Joe Friday. My daughters tell me that nobody knows him, and nobody knows what I'm talking about. But that's OK.

Because what he would say is just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts, ma'am. Very droll, dry. Because people want to give their editorial comments, what I think this, I think this. No, no, no. Let's just start with the facts. Just the facts, ma'am. That's what we do. Joe Friday. Get to know him.

Hospitalization rate ticks down. Good news. Net change down. That's good news. Intubations down. That's good news. COVID hospitalizations, new ones per day, just about flat. That's not great news. Actually, up a tick. So that is not good news.

What we're watching now is how fast the decline, how low does it go. We don't want to see 1,000 new cases every day. We would like to see that in the low hundreds ideally of new cases every day.

Death rate, terrible news, 330. You see the decline has been slow at best and still disgustingly high. So we're making progress. That's for sure, but we're not out of the woods yet.

And we're proceeding with caution. And there are caution signs out there that we should pay attention to.

Singapore is talking about a second wave with 900 new cases. This is after they controlled the beast. They were on the decline. They're now looking at new cases.

Germany is a situation that we should also watch and learn from. They relaxed and started to reopen. They're now seeing an increase.

These are interesting. The rate of infection, which is what we watch, was at .7. One person infecting .7 percent. Obviously, less than one person. And 1 percent infection rate is one person infecting one person.

They were at .7. They started to reopen. In 10 days, they went up to a one on the infection rate. That's troubling. Shows you how fast the infection rate can increase if you don't do it right on the reopening. So proceed with caution.

Our reopening is different. We don't have a conceptual plan. We don't have an abstract plan. Because there's no conceptual plan. There's no abstract plan. You have to have a plan that is based on facts, based on specifics.

This is not about politics. This is not about spin. This is not about emotion. There are no conspiracy theories at work here.

We outlined a 12-step plan that is factual, that is based on numbers, based on data. And then it has a numerical circuit breaker that is not subject to personal emotion or desire but just checks and monitors that infection rate that we just saw in Germany and is watching for those increases. And if there's an increase, circuit breaker stops the reopening at that point.


Some of the specifics we're looking at, you must have 30 percent of your hospital beds available. We can't go back to where we were, where we overwhelmed the hospital system. We have to have a 30 percent buffer. We have to have 30 percent of ICU beds. We have to have that buffer before we start bumping up against total capacity.

And we have to watch the hospitalization rate and the diagnostic testing rate, how many are positive, how many are negative, which will take on a continuous basis. You see that number start going up, worry.

But it's all based on the data and the numbers. I'm sorry. And the rate of transmission, R.T., rate of transmission. Rate of transmission has to be 1.1 percent or less. We just said Germany is at .1. Because 1.1, that is textbook outbreak. So watch the numbers and watch the transmission rate.

And how do you do that? You do that with testing, right? And that's why everybody is talking about testing. The testing allows you to continually test sample how many people, how many people are positive, how many people are negative. You see the positives start to increase through your day-to-day testing, that is a pause sign.

We're about doing about 20,000 tests. We said we wanted to double that. We're now on average about 30,000 tests per day. Which is a dramatic increase. Not where we need to be, but a dramatic increase.

Where we are now, you should know, is New York State is doing more than most countries are doing. So we have been very aggressive in testing. And we have made great progress. And New Yorkers should feel good about that. But we have more to do.

On elective surgeries, we had canceled all elective surgeries so we could have increased capacity in the hospitals. When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch because that's where they make their money, is on elective surgeries.

So for areas that don't have a fear of a COVID surge, we're going to allow elective surgeries to begin. That's primarily in counties upstate. Again, counties where we're still worried about a surge in the COVID beds, we're not going to open it up to elective surgery until we know we're out of the woods on the COVID virus.

And this is a list of counties that are eligible now for elective surgeries. I'll do an executive order on that today.

We have been worried about frontline worker because they are the heroes who are out there every day so everybody else can stay home. Somebody asked me yesterday on a radio interview, well, you know, you're out there every day. Are you taking care of yourself? I'm out there every day. Forget me.

I'll tell you who's out there every day. The nurses who are in the emergency room, the doctors in the emergency room, the police officer who is going into homes and apartments because there's a domestic disturbance, the EMTs, the fire department, the delivery worker who goes to 50 doors a day and gets paid. Those people are out there every day. So they're the ones who are really doing the work.

Compared to them, what I do is de minimis. And they're doing it, not because they get paid a lot of money, not because people say thank you, God bless you. They're doing it because it's their value, and their honor, and their pride, and their dignity. And they show up. Even when it's hard, they show up. My hat is off to them.

But I want to make sure that we do what we need to do to protect them, that they have the equipment, they have the PPE, they have our respect, they have our gratitude. And I also want to make sure we're testing so we get them the results of tests so they can be taking care of themselves.

I also want to see if we have a significant problem in any of those frontline workforces, so we're doing testing.

We have started with the New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department. What we found so far, fire department, which also has the EMTs, tested 17 percent positive, NYPD, 10 percent positive. Number much higher in the FDNY EMTs. We believe that's because the EMT number is driving it up. But we have to do more numbers and more research to determine that.


Remember, the EMTs, they are the front line, the ones who are there assisting the person in the closest contact in many ways. FDNY also. But we want to find out exactly what's going on. They compare to a downstate average of the general population of about 18 percent. And again, we'll do further research, further surveys to look at it by race and gender also.

We're also going to do the same thing with the transit workers, the people who drive the buses, the subways, who clean the buses and subways. Without those buses and subways, the essential workers couldn't get to work.

Why didn't we just close down subways and buses? Because you close down the subways and buses in New York City, don't expect the nurses and the doctors to be able to get to the hospital. Don't expect the delivery worker to be able to deliver food when you ring on your telephone. So we need that public transportation to transport the essential workers.

But those frontline workers are at risk. So we're going to do additional testing for the transport workers.

I also commented yesterday, the daily news had pictures of things that are going on in the New York City subway system. Where the cars were filthy. They were disgusting. Homeless people were there with all their belongings.

And it was not just the daily news picture. It reflected what has been in the press and what people have been saying, which is the deterioration of the conditions in the subways.

Crime, some crimes are up in the subways, even though ridership is down 90 percent. I don't even know how mathematically that is possible. The trains are filled with homeless people, and you're not doing the homeless any favor.

I worked with the homeless all my life. To let homeless people stay on the trains in the middle of a global health pandemic with no masks, no protective equipment, you're not helping the homeless. Letting them endanger their own life and endanger lives of others and not helping anyone.

So I told the MTA yesterday, in two days, which means tomorrow, I want a full plan, how do we disinfect every train every night? Period. Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that that train was disinfected the night before. We want them to show up. We don't want them to stay home. We owe it to them to be able to say the train you ride, the bus you ride, has been disinfected and is clean.

Also, state and local funding from Washington is essential. This is now turning into a political brawl on state and local funding. More and more, some of the elected officials in Washington are saying they're against it.

They're led by Senator Mitch McConnell who leads the Senate, who makes it blatantly political. No blue state bailout. No blue state bailout. What is he trying to say? The states that have coronavirus are Democratic states. And he's a Republican, so he doesn't want to help the Democratic states.

He went so far as to say, well, he would be in favor of the states going bankrupt first. States have never gone bankrupt. States can't go bankrupt. There are serious constitutional questions about whether or not a state can go bankrupt, declare bankruptcy. And you need a federal law that would allow the states to declare

bankruptcy. Even if you got around the constitutional question on bankruptcy.

So if he believed that, if it wasn't just political rhetoric, and personal vitriol, then pass a law that allows states to declare bankruptcy. He would have to do that. And I dare him to do that and get that bill signed by the president.


So -- but to make it partisan is what is most disturbing. And you can see they're now rallying the partisan troops.

Senator Scott, from Florida, says we're supposed to bail them out. We versus them. We're supposed to bail them out. It's we and it's them. That's not right. Who is we and who is them? Who is we? And who is them?

Them, the people who had coronavirus. They are the ones who had the coronavirus. We, without the virus, are supposed to bail out those people who have the virus. What an ugly sentiment.

First of all, on the facts, it's not even close to right. And why they would even want to go down this road, when the facts damn everything they're saying. And they're still facts.

I know it's hard to communicate facts in this environment. I know a lot of the filters don't communicate facts. They all communicate spin now. Everybody has their own spin. But there are still facts that are not political theater, right?

New York State bails them out every year. They're not bailing us out. We bail them out every year. New York State pays $29 billion into that federal pot, $29 billion more every year that we never get back.

Our state contribution into the federal pot, the United States of America pot, every year. we put in $29 billion. more than we take out. On the other hand, they take out every year $37 billion more than they pay to the federal government!

Senator Mitch McConnell -- you are bailing out New York, when, every year, you take out more from the kitty, the federal pot, $37 billion more than you put in? Who is bailing out whom?

Senator Scott, Florida, you're going to bail us out? You take out $30 billion more every year than you pay in!

How dare they? How dare they when those are the facts? How long are you going to play the American people and assume they're stupid? They are not! And they can add. And they know facts. And I don't care what the news media tries to do to distort these facts, they are numbers and they are facts, and they can't be distorted. And this is every year.

And look, what this is really about, it's the Washington double speak. You look at the bills that they want to pass and who they want to help. They want to fund the hotels, the restaurants, the airlines, the big corporations. That's who they want to fund.

Well, who do state and local governments fund? State and local governments fund police, firefighters, nurses, schoolteachers, food banks. That's who I want to fund. And that's what it means to fund a state and local government. And that's the choice that they're making.

Everybody applauds the health care workers. Jets fly over in tribute to the health care workers. That's all nice. Saying thank you is nice. How about actually rewarding them and making their life easier? How about giving them hazard pay? How about helping with their childcare?

How about helping families who can't feed their kids right now? How about helping the police and helping the firefighters and all the people who are out there right now killing themselves to make life easier for us?

That's what this is really about. They want to fund corporate America. That's who puts money in their pockets. And I say, let's fund working Americans. That's the choice.


Bailout, us/them. No, it's just theater. It's just smoke and mirrors to avoid the American people seeing the reality, which is whose pocket they want to put money in versus whose pocket state and local governments want to fund.

The reason it is so disturbing to me -- I'm not surprised by anything in politics. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, for many, many years. I was in Washington for eight years. I know what it's like.

But if there was ever a time that one could reasonably believe you could put aside partisan politics, if there was ever going to be a moment where we could say, you know what, let's just stop, just for one moment, the partisanship, the ugliness, the anger, the depression. Let's just stop for one moment. If there was going to be one moment to hit the pause button, the moment would be now.

You have human suffering. You have people dying. You can't stop the politics, even in this moment? Even in this moment when people are dying all across the country, you still want to play your politics? That's what this is about, and that's why it is so disturbing on a fundamental level. Politics.

I'm getting up and I'm reading that death toll number. I'm speaking to the widows and the brothers and the sisters and the children of people who died. And then we're going to play politics? With funding that's necessary to save people's lives? I mean, when does it stop?

And the disconnect is between the political leadership and the people. Because the American people, it's not them. They are principled. They are kind. They are better than what they are getting.

The American instinct is to help each other in crisis. The American instinct is to be good neighbors. The American instinct was the farmer who sent me the one mask to help a New Yorker when he only had five masks and a wife with one lung and underlying illness. And he sends one of his five masks to New York. Think about that generosity, that charity, that spirit. That's America. Why? Because we're good neighbors, because we care about one another.

America was when I said we need help in our emergency rooms and hospitals and 95,000 nurses and doctors from across the nation said, we will come to New York to help. We'll come into the emergency room. We'll come into the hospital. I understand it's COVID. I'll leave my family and I'll come to help yours. That's America. That's who we are. And that's who we have shown ourselves to be in the middle of this crisis!

The crisis brings out the best and the worst. Yes! And the best of America is beautiful. And that's what we've seen. Because, yes, we are tough. Yes, we are smart. Yes, we're disciplined. Yes, we're united. Yes, we're loving. Loving. Because we are Americans. And that's who we are and how we are as Americans.

And I just hope the political leadership of this nation understands how good we are as a people. And the textbook says politicians lead, elected officials lead. No, sometimes the people lead and the politicians follow. And that's where we are today.


Follow the American people. Look at what they're doing. Look at how they're reacting. And, Politicians, try to be half as good as the American people.