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New York Governor Cuomo Briefing On Coronavirus Crisis; Majority Of U.S. Intel Community Believes Coronavirus Originated In Chinese Lab; White House Blocks Fauci From Testifying Next Week; All Major Airlines To Require Passengers To Wear Masks. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 2, 2020 - 11:00   ET




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

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We want to take you straight to the daily briefing of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. This time in Flushing, New York at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Let's listen in.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: -- uncharted waters that we've never been here before. And that's true. But even when you are in uncharted waters, that doesn't mean you just proceed blindly, right. You give whatever information that you can because you want to stay informed.

Even in the old days, when sailors would sail into uncharted waters, this is before GPS and radar and depth finders. They would throw out a piece of lead with a rope. The lead would fall to the bottom and they would call back to the captain how deep the water was. The lead even had on the very bottom a piece of wax that would pick up what was on the ocean bottom -- whatever sand, rocks, et cetera. So the captain could tell basically where he was.

So uncharted waters doesn't mean proceed blindly, right. It means get information, get data the best you can and use that data to decide where you're going. So -- especially in this situation -- we have so much emotion, you have politics, you have personal anxiety that people feel, social anxiety, social stress.

Let's stick to the facts. Let's stick to the data. Let's make sure we're making decisions with the best information that we have.

So we do a lot of testing, a lot of tracking to find out where we are. We test the number of hospitalizations. Every night we found out how many people are in the hospital the day before and we've been tracking that.

Good news is that number is down a tick again today. The net change in hospitalizations is down a tick. Intubations is down which is very good news. The new cases walking in the door, the new COVID cases, the number of new infections was also down a little bit, 831. It had been relatively flat at about 900 every day, which is not great news. Yesterday was 831. We'll watch to see what happens with that.

The number that I watch every day, which is the worst, is the number of deaths. That number has remained obnoxiously and terrifyingly high. And it's still not dropping at the rate we would like to see it drop. It even went up a little bit, 299 -- 289 the day before.

So that is bad news. 276 deaths in hospitals. 23 in nursing homes. As everybody knows, nursing homes are where the most vulnerable population is, and the highest number of the most vulnerable population.

But again use the data, use information to determine actions. Not emotions, not politics, not what people think or feel, but what we know in terms of facts. We've been sampling all across the state to determine the infection rate so we know if it's getting better, if it's getting worse.

And we've done the largest survey in the nation testing for people who have antibodies. If somebody has antibodies, it means that that person was infected, right. That's what the antibody test does for you. It tells you that that person was infected. They've now recovered so that they have antibodies.

I went through this with my brother, Chris. He got infected; he now has the antibodies. So if you test him he tests positive for antibodies. So we've been doing these antibody testings all across the state. we have the largest sample now, over 15,000 people, which is an incredibly large sample.

And when we started on the 22nd we had 2,900 people surveyed at that time, we had about a 13.9 percent, just about 14 percent infection rate statewide.


CUOMO: It then went up to about 4 -- 14.9 and today it is down to 12.3. Now statisticians will say this is all plus or minus in the margin of error, but it is a large sample, it is indicative -- 14 to 14.9 down to 12.3.

And as you can see, we test about every four or five days. We have so much at stake, so many decisions that we have to make, that we want to get those data points as quickly as we can.

And seeing it go down to 12 percent -- it may only be a couple of points but it's better than seeing it go up. That's for sure. And again, this is outside the margin of error, so this is a good sign. And it is 15,000 people surveyed so it's a large number.

You can then start to look at where in the state, who in the state -- so that will inform our strategy. You can see it's a little bit more male than female, not exactly sure why that is. In New York City, you see the number went from 21 to 24, and it's down to 19.9. So again, that's a good sign. You will always want to see the number dropping rather than the number increasing.

Within New York City, you see the Bronx is high, 27 percent; Brooklyn 19; Manhattan 17; Queens 18; Staten Island 19. And we're going to do more research to understand what's going on there. Why is the Bronx higher than the other boroughs?

Statewide you see it's basically about flat. This is predominantly an issue for New York City, then Long Island, then the northern suburbs, then the rest of the state. But Erie County, which is Buffalo, New York has been problematic.

The racial breakdown -- we're looking at to see -- study disproportionate impact. Who is paying the highest price for this virus? What's happening with poorer communities? What's happening in -- with racial -- with the racial demographics overlaid over the income demographics. And also, if there's any information in different ages that could be instructive.

We're still getting about 900 new infections everyday walking into the hospital. That is still an unacceptably high rate. We're trying to understand exactly why that is, who are those 900, where is it coming from, what can we do to now refine our strategies to find out where those new cases are being generated. And then get to those areas, get to those places, get to those people to try to target our attack.

If you remember, we had the first cluster in the nation, the first hot spot even before they called them hot spots was New Rochelle, Westchester. And there was a tremendous outbreak in New Rochelle. We then sent all sorts of resources into New Rochelle and we actually reduced that hot spot.

So if you find a specific place or pattern that is generating infections then you can attack it. But you have to find it first. And that's what we're looking at especially on these number of new infections that are coming.

And you see, if you look at the location of it, it's not telling us much. But we asked the hospitals yesterday -- we have all the hospitals on a conference call and I spoke to all the hospitals -- and asked them to take additional information from people who are walking into the hospitals to try to find out where these infections are coming from.

Are they front line workers? Or are they people who are staying home? Are these infections that are being spread in the home? Or are they front line workers, which means they're getting up every day, they're getting on public transit, they're going to work and maybe they're getting it on public transit, maybe they're getting it at the workplace.

But getting more information on where these new cases are coming from. Where do you live -- not just borough but what community within the borough? Are there different health factors that are affecting the new infection rate, comorbidities? How are they traveling? Are they in their cars? Are they on public transportation? Is it the New York City transit system, Long Island railroad, et cetera?


CUOMO: So we asked the hospitals to collect that data yesterday. We'll be getting that over the next couple of days and that will help us again get more information.

In the meantime we know that vulnerable populations are paying the highest price -- our seniors, our nursing homes and our poorer communities. They are the ones where you have higher infection rates and you have higher risk and higher exposure. We're going to distribute today seven million masks to just those communities in nursing homes, poorer communities, people in public housing in New York City -- New York City Housing Authority. So we'll be doing that today. Seven million masks is a large number. There's about nine million people in New York City total. So seven million masks is obviously -- will make a big difference.

We're also funding food banks. The more this has gone on, the longer people are without a job, the longer people without a check -- are without a check, basics like paying rent, and buying food become very important.

We have addressed the rent issue -- the immediate, urgent need. Nobody can be evicted for nonpayment of rent and that's true through June. So people are stable in their housing environment.

The next basic need is food, right. And we're operating food banks. We just funded $25 million more in food banks. All the food banks will tell you that the demand is way, way up.

And we need help in funding the food banks. There are a lot of philanthropies, a lot of foundations that are in the business of helping people. Well, if you're a foundation or a not-for-profit or a philanthropy or a person who wants to help, we could use more funding for food banks.

The state budget is also very stressed with what's going on. So we don't have the state funds to do what's needed, but we would appreciate donations for the food banks.

As I said, the antibody testing has been very important and we're going to undertake a full survey of antibody testing for transit workers. Transit workers have very much been at the front line. We talk about essential workers, people who are out there every day running the buses, running the subways all through this. We know that there's been a very high infection rate among transit workers.

We've said thank you and we appreciate what you're doing 1,000 times, but I believe actions speak louder than words. If you appreciate what we're doing, then help us do what we do. And we're going to be doing that with more testing and more resources. That's going to be going on right now.

And to keep our transit workers safe and to keep the public safe, the riding public, we're going to do something that has never been done before. And that is, that the MTA is going to be disinfecting every train 24 hours. This is such a monumental undertaking; I can't even begin to describe it to you.

The New York City subway system has never been closed. It operates 24 hours a day because we have a 24-hour city. We're taking the unprecedented step during this pandemic of closing the system for four hours at night, from 1:00 a.m. To 5:00 a.m. when the ridership is lowest.

The ridership is lower to begin with. It's down about 90 percent because of everything. But it's lowest during 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. We'll close between 1:00 a.m. And 5:00 a.m. The MTA is going to literally disinfect every train.

And I just viewed the operations on how they're doing it. It's smart. It's labor intensive, people have to wear hazmat suits. They have a number of chemicals that disinfect. But literally you have to go through the whole train with a misting device, where they spray disinfectant literally on every surface.

You know, this virus, they're just studying it now. But there are reports that say the virus can live two or three days on some surfaces like stainless steel. You look at the inside of a subway car, you look at the rails, you look at the bars -- they're all stainless steel.


CUOMO: So to make sure the transit workers are safe, to make sure the riding public is safe, the best thing you can do is disinfect the whole inside of the car as massive a challenge as that is.

But that's what the MTA is doing. And they're doing it extraordinarily well. And it's just another sign of the dedication, the skill, the capacity of our transit workers which is indicative of the story of New York. I mean they are stepping up in a big, big way.

And not just the cars, they're also doing station, all the handrails, et cetera. And it's good and smart for the transit workers who have to work in that environment. But it's also right for the riding public. And we want people to know, who need to use the subways and the buses, because they are working, that they are safe.

And the essential workers, who have kept this entire society functioning, have done an extraordinary job. And we want them to know that we're doing everything we can do to keep them safe.

You know, this was a delicate balance all along. We needed New Yorkers to understand how dangerous this virus was. And we communicated that early on, so that when we said, stay home, people understood they should really stay home, right.

New Yorkers can be a cynical bunch. And just because a governor says stay home, they're not going to stay home, unless they understand why they need to stay home. So we presented those facts.

But at the same time we're saying to essential workers after just hearing how dangerous the virus is, and by the way you have to go to work tomorrow. And they did. And if the essential workers didn't, then you would have seen a real problem.

If you don't have food on the shelves, if you don't have power to homes, if you don't have basic services, if the police don't show up, if the fire department doesn't show up, if the EMTs don't show up, if the ambulances don't run, if the nurses don't show up, if the doctors don't show up, then you are at a place where you've never been before.

So after communicating how dangerous this situation was, the next breath was, but front line workers you have to show up. And they did. And they did. And they did their job. And that is an extraordinary, extraordinary example of duty and honor and respect and love for what they do and who they are and love for their brothers and sisters in the community.

And they demonstrated it. They didn't say it, they demonstrated it. Every day. When they get up and they leave their house. So god bless them all. But we also have to do what we have to do to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep them safe. And this heroic effort on cleaning the subways is part of that. And we will continue it because we are New York tough.

But tough doesn't mean just tough. It means smart. It means united. It means disciplined. And it means loving. You can be tough and you can be loving. They're not inconsistent. Sometimes you have to be tough to be loving. And that's what New York is all about.

Questions, comments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, given that the homeless will have to be leaving the subway system, what resources, what actions is your administration taking to provide, you know, hotel rooms, funding, any other resources to make sure they don't just move the problem from one area to another?

CUOMO: Look, the homeless -- I've worked with the homeless communities since I was in my 20s. I ran a not-for-profit. I was the largest provider for homeless families in the country. I then went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development which for the federal government is in charge of homeless programs. Came up with a whole new program to help the homeless nationwide and implemented that. Did more for the homeless than ever before. So my knowledge of helping the homeless I think is sufficient.

And I know there's a lot of politics about helping the homeless. You do not help the homeless by letting them stay on a subway car and sleep on a subway car in the middle of a global pandemic when they could expose themselves or others to a virus. That does not help the homeless.


CUOMO: I mean, it is common sense. To the extent people need a safe, clean, decent place and shelter, we should provide that. Even more to the extent people need services and help with an underlying issue -- mental health services, substance abuse, job training, et cetera -- we should provide that.

So the notion of well, you should let everyone sleep on the train and just stay on the train, the homeless because that's good for them -- it's not good for them. We owe them more and we owe them better. We are funding an unprecedented amount in housing and services for the homeless.

Part of what the problem has been connecting a homeless individual with those services. That is the difficulty. Because homeless people who have an underlying issue or have been homeless for a period of time, it's not as simple as saying, come with me I want to help you. Come, I'm going to bring you to a community group residence.

That connection is very difficult. It's not that we're not funding services, we're not funding housing. You have to get that homeless person to a position where they trust and they're accepting. I think this actually poses an opportunity to engage homeless men and women who have been sleeping on trains, some of them for years, for years.

Now to disinfect, you have to get the people off the trains. You have to engage homeless men and women with the appropriate skill set. And I think it's actually an opportunity to get them off the trains and actually connect them to the services they've needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, Governor, is -- there's been talk of using FEMA money, emergency aid from HUD to pay for hotel rooms for the homeless, the street (ph) homeless, you know. Have you taken any action to make those sort of resources available?

CUOMO: We have funding for local governments. It's up to the local government to decide the best strategy. But I think there's an opportunity here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a picture that our editor took this morning, about 9:30 this morning on an F train (INAUDIBLE). And unfortunately there were three men sleeping in the car, you know, spread out. I mean do you realistically think that with this increased outreach, because you pushed them out in the middle of the night -- can we see an end to that, do you think, realistically? Or is that --

CUOMO: Well, Let's separate the issues. Can you end all homeless people, no. I don't believe you will. I would like to say yes, but I don't believe you will. You always had a certain number of people who were homeless for one reason or another going back decades.

I mean not like it is today, but you always had some people who, for one reason or another, wanted to sort of getaway from society, drop out of society, had an issue that they were dealing with. I don't think you'll help everyone 100 percent, but I don't know that that's the real question. You help as many people as you can.

And this will be the first time that I can remember that every homeless person by definition has to get off that train at one point. You know, to disinfect the trains, everyone has to be off the train. And I think that's an opportunity to actually engage homeless people and find out what they need and try to link them up with services and the help. Will you help everyone? No. But you help everyone that you can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor (INAUDIBLE) -- like many workers are calling for rent strikes (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: If somebody can't pay the rent now, and they don't pay the rent, they cannot be evicted by the landlord -- period. You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent. I did what's called an executive order, but it's basically a law. So a landlord cannot evict a person for nonpayment of rent.

If you can pay the rent, you should pay the rent, right. I'm not saying don't pay if you can pay. There's a morality in this. But if you can't pay, and many people can't pay because of economic circumstances, you cannot be evicted. And that is a law that is in place through June. And then come June, we'll see where we are and we'll figure it out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor -- back to the subway. Can you describe more of how it's going to work; how many more employees or police officers are going to be needed? And what about essential workers that need to travel between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Is there any sort of help for them?


CUOMO: Yes. We have the Chairman Pat Foye with us and Sarah who runs the transit bureau. So I'll turn it to them to give you some more details.

PATRICK FOYE, CHAIRMAN & CEO, NEW YORK METROPILITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY: Well, let me start with the alternative service plan and Sarah will talk about the program of closing the subways from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

What we are going to do -- let me say this. Step back. When the pandemic began we reached out to the hospital association, to labor unions and to trade associations to get data on where their employees lived, what hospitals they went to, what food preparation facility as an example they went to. We did that in early March

As a result we have very granular data as to the number of passengers that travel from 1:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. We know that in the period from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., approximately 10,000 to 11,000 of our customers travel.

What we have done in connection with the announcement -- the Governor's announcement earlier in the week in Albany about closing the subways, I and a bunch of my colleagues have reached out to the AFL-CIO, to the Transit Workers Union, to New York State and New York City, to the hospital association, 1199, 32BJ, the building trade, grocery stores and grocery store unions -- that's a partial list.

And we're getting very granular data about where their employees or members travel from and to and we are going to, to the extent we can, tailor service to accommodate their needs. And I'll turn to Sarah, in terms of the alternative service program. SARAH FEINBERG, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY: Sure. So thanks.

So like Pat said, 10,000 to 11,000 of our riders travel between 1:00 and 5:00 a.m. over the last several weeks. We know which subway stops they use, we know a lot of origin and destination information.

But we're going to prioritize bus service. We're a public transportation agency and so we want to prioritize bus services. So we're going to be running a lot of buses. In most places, the subway headways are about 20 minutes. So we're going to have bus service that matches the subway headway. So if you were -- if you were depending on the subways, we're going to try to match bus services so that you have a similar wait in commute.

We're going to have a Web site and additional details that we provide in the next couple of days, but people should know that if they were counting on the subway, bus service will be provided, taxi and livery service is an option and for-hire vehicles are an option.

Look we're not going to leave behind the folks who need to use the system overnight to go to hospitals, to go to medical centers, to go to their -- to go to their jobs. We're going to make sure we take care of them.

But we have to do everything we possible can to make sure that our workforce is safe and to make sure our riders are safe. And so we're going to take this time overnight and then through the day to make sure that we clean every single car.

So on the cleaning, you know, we have a team of 900 cleaners already. So heroes, essential workers who show up day in and day out and do some really difficult work in really difficult moments. Those folks are going to be working. And then we've also got additional folks that we are bringing on as contractors to make sure that we can get this all done.

So for those folks who are riding the system during the day, they're going to see an uptick in a lot of cleaners that they probably didn't see before. So you ride the train to the end of the station or to the end of the line, you get out at the end of the line station, instead of just going off onto the platform and going upstairs, one of the things you're going to see this week is a whole bunch of cleaners boarding that train immediately starting disinfection work right then.

That's going to happen during the day. So people are going to see that. That hasn't -- that hasn't happened as much before. And then we've got cars in yards, cars on layups and then cars in the system. And so that's -- cleaning is going to be happening 24 hours a day with the goal of cleaning every single car every day,. Some cars will get cleaned more than once.

FOYE: Governor -- can I mention one additional point.

CUOMO: Sure. FOYE: This program is possible only based on Mayor de Blasio's commitment and Commissioner Shea's commitment to a robust and sustainable police presence in terms of closing the stations in the 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. period.

Mayor de Blasio zoomed into the Governor's meeting in Albany earlier in the week and affirmed that robust and sustainable -- and it's both robust and sustainable that is going to make a police presence. And NYPD and MTA police department presence that will make this program possible.

FEINBERG: That's right.

CUOMO: Yes. And look, just to be totally straightforward about it, this has never been done before. You've never closed the subways from 1:00 to 5:00. You have never tried to disinfect trains. You've never tried to disinfect every train every 24 hours. So nobody has been here before.


CUOMO: And whenever you do something different, there's always opposition. There's always someone who raises the other side, especially in New York. We love to argue about everything. And so yes, we're closing the trains. Yes, they'll have service but somebody may have to take a bus instead of a train. It's the lowest period of ridership in a time when you have the lowest ridership in probably a century, ok. But you'll still have people who have to take a bus instead of a train, and they'll be inconvenienced.

Except we have no option. I'm not going to say to essential workers you need to come every day. The food workers need to come. The nurses need to come. The doctors need to come. And by the way I don't know if I can tell you for sure that the trains and buses are clean. I'm not going to do that.

I'm not going to ask essential workers, please leave your home so others can stay at home, come work in a grocery store, work in a hospital, put yourself at risk and I can't even tell you that the buses and the trains are clean.

I can't ask the transit workers, who are seeing a high rate of infection, who are dealing with some of the most difficult circumstances they ever have, I need you to come work on the buses and the trains but I don't know that the buses and trains are clean. I'm not going to do that.

No New Yorker is going to do that. You know, New Yorkers we live by the right thing -- quotes, right. The right thing. Do the right thing. The right thing. What is the right thing? It's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it, right.

And to do the right thing, the essential workers are doing the right thing by us. They're showing up. They're putting themselves at risk. We have to do the right thing by them. The trains and buses should be clean. For the transit workers, for the riding public, for every essential worker that gets on them -- period, end of story.

Well, how do we do that? We'll figure out how to do it and it's going to be hard. But it's the right thing to do and it's never been done before but we'll step up and we'll do it.

And look, everything we're doing here has never been done before. How do you do 15,000 tests? It's never been done before. Yes, I know. But we have to do it.

How do you come up with a tracing system to trace all the positives? You need thousands of tracers. And by the way, there are no tracers really now. I know. We'll figure out. We'll do it.

That's the story of where we are in this moment. We are called upon to do things that we've never done before. And either we do them and we rise to the occasion, or we fail. And we're not about failing in New York. We're not. We're about rising to the occasion.

We did after 9/11. We did after Superstorm Sandy and we're going to do it here, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- (INAUDIBLE) rather large demonstration of people who want the economy and the state to reopen. They were blatantly ignoring social distancing. There are about 300 people. They are also -- many of them refusing to wear masks around one another.

So two questions. One, what message do you have to people who are doing things like that -- ignoring social distancing, either in demonstrations or parks, beaches, things like that?

And then two, we notice that Suffolk (ph) police were there but they weren't doing anything to enforce social distancing. So what do you want to see happen when it comes to enforcement on things like that going forward?

CUOMO: Yes. Look, this is a highly politicized time, right. We know that. Having nothing to do with COVID. It was highly politicized before that. Everything was Democrat, Republican, left, right. That was the environment that we were living in.

I've worked very hard to keep politics out of this situation. We have to make a lot of tough decisions here, we have to make them fasts. And the worst thing that could happen is politics collide with what we're trying to do.

Take even today. we're cleaning trains. You know, if you want to take a bipartisan politicized view to that, you know, people will argue just because now they're supposed to, because it's politics. So I stayed 100 miles away from politics.

For myself, I've made it clear that I have no political agenda whatsoever because people are always ready to look at a politician and say, well, this is in their personal interest. I have no personal interest. I'm not going anywhere. I'm here until they fire me, ok. So I have no political interest. And I think that's been very helpful.


CUOMO: But having said that, I understand people's frustration with the economy not being open. I get it. I want to see the economy open. For myself, for my family, and by the way, the state has a tremendous financial problem. And the faster the economy comes back up, the better our financial situation. So I feel it. I get it.

I disagree with people who say, open the economy even though you know there's a public health risk. I disagree with that. I'm not going to put dollar signs over human lives. I'm not going to do that. Not for my family, not for yours.

But I understand their point of view. So -- and I understand the first amendment, you have an argument, you want to make your argument, God bless America.

You don't have a right to jeopardize my health. You want to jeopardize your health, God bless you. You have no right to jeopardize my health. The mask is not about your health. The mask is about my health and my children's health and your children's health. And that's why you have to wear a mask if you can't -- if you're in a situation where you can't stay six feet apart.

said to law enforcement all across the state -- enforce the mask executive order. I said the state police will help you enforce it if you can't enforce it. So I believe it should be enforced because it's reckless, it's irresponsible and it's not about your life, it's about other people's lives. And you don't have a right to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How often are even New Yorkers, you know heeding your words and you know, (INAUDIBLE)?

CUOMO: Look, I believe in New Yorkers, I'm a life-long New Yorker. We have many New Yorkers who have moved here, and that's great. I was born here, bred here, I'm going to die here.

I have been so impressed with what they have done. We communicated the facts, but they have closed down in a way that is just remarkable. You see that curve, that drop in the projections of the number of cases. That curve didn't drop, New Yorkers grabbed that curve and bent it down. That's what happened. That number was going like this. That's why all the projections were wrong.

New Yorkers grabbed it, pulled it down. They changed that curve, because they stayed at home, they closed, they wore masks, et cetera. At the same time that New Yorkers understood how dangerous it was -- essential workers, TWU, food workers, nurses, doctors showed up for work. Beautiful. Beautiful.

And with masks and compliance, people do it, it's extraordinarily high the compliance. And I believe with the warm weather people will come outside. You can't stay indoors all the time, right. So people will come outside and that's great. Go for a walk, but just respect the social distancing and wear the masks. And New Yorkers are doing it, they're doing it all across the state.

Ok. I'm going to go to work. Thank you guys very much. Thank you for being here.


WHITFIELD: All right. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo there saying hey, while there are some impressive numbers that the hospitalizations, the cases may be down, still there are a lot of vulnerable areas -- that being mass transit. And that's why he says for the first time ever, mass transit will be closed after -- during certain hours so as to thoroughly disinfect.

Let's talk more about this and the other potentials, perhaps even, you know, good signs, encouraging signs coming out of this.

CNN's Alison Kosik in New York, Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dr. Aneesh Mehta who is leading the Remdesivir drug trial at Emory University Medical School.

Alison -- let me begin with you because the Governor there saying yes, you know, new infections may be down, hospitalizations may be down -- there are still a lot of great needs from addressing the hunger issue in New York to making sure that everyone who is an essential worker who has to get from Point A to Point B is able to do so safely, and that means disinfecting public transportation.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi -- Fredericka. So we did see Governor Andrew Cuomo hold his daily news conference today from the Metropolitan Transit Association's maintenance hub, which is located in Queens, New York where we got more detail about what kind of undertaking will have to happen to thoroughly disinfect these trains.

You know, he made a good point earlier when he was talking about, you know, where are these infections coming from. He said 900 infections are still walking into hospitals which he says is not acceptable.

So now he's asking hospitals to ask more questions. You know, where are they coming from? Who are they talking with? Trying to get more information. And part of that, I think, is the reason we are seeing him now target the disinfection of the subway cars, of buses, and doing this by shutting down the subway system, which is unprecedented, between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., allowing those hours for people to go in there and he says wear hazmat suits and do this labor intense activity, basically spraying a misting device and spraying down each and every car.

He called this heroic on the part of transit workers who, by the way, have a high infection rate. And also he credits not just the transit workers but who is riding the subway at this hour and who's riding the subway even during the day. It's those essential workers. It's those food service workers. It's those hospital workers.

And he says, ultimately he does not want to put them at risk and that's why he wants these trains shutdown four hours every night, every 24 hours and clearly and thoroughly disinfected -- Fredricka. WHITFIELD: All right.

And Dr. William Schaffner, you know, how much is New York in your view, used as a barometer. When you hear the Governor talk about, you know, the drop in some cases yet the numbers he said are still terrifyingly high meaning the number of deaths at 299, the day before it was 289 and last week it's been in the 300s.

Do you see signs of encouragement based on what New Yorkers are experiencing and how it may be a barometer for the rest of the country, particularly hot spots?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Fredricka -- I think the country has been listening to Governor Cuomo. He's been so articulate and forceful, promoting the fact that we're all working together on this and we need to protect each other.

And he's doing this huge, now intervention, to try to disinfect the public transport system. Borrowing actually some of the things that they have been doing in the eastern countries, in Asia. And this is unprecedented and it is a powerful commitment of municipal resources to try to flatten the curve even more and indeed, bend it down.

WHITFIELD: And Dr. Aneesh Mehta -- let's talk about this Remdesivir which has received this accelerated FDA approval to be used as treatment on perhaps the most grave of conditions. Explain, you know, how intravenously, this will be administered to those who are in the most grave conditions. Who are those patients, generally? And then, how confident are you that it actually helps the outcome for those patients and whether there are also any side effects?

A lot of questions there central to that Remdesivir.


I think we are just learning about Remdesivir at this point. Institutions like Emory and Vanderbilt and many others have participated in this well-organized clinical trial from the NIH. We only have preliminary data to this point but it does show that at least in certain patients we are able to make an impact and get them home to their families more rapidly and prevent some of the complications of long-term hospital stays.

But we still need to learn more about how to use this medicine, in which patients it will be most impactful and particularly if there's any other medications that we can use in combination with Remdesivir to further improve our outcomes and get that mortality rate down even further.

So I think in the coming weeks, we will have access to Remdesivir to use for the severely ill patients, but we need to continue our research to figure out how we take care of patients with COVID better than we are doing today. And we are seeing wonderful outcomes through the dramatic and heroic work of our nurses and doctors but we need to continue to give them more and tools so that we can help patients can get home.

WHITFIELD: Right and that cannot be said about the heroic work of these doctors and nurses and all of the medical staffers.

Dr. Aneesh Mehta, Dr. William Schaffner and Alison Kosik -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the White House blocks Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before a Democratic-led congressional committee but he's cleared to talk on a Republican-led panel. Is the White House playing political games with public health?

Plus big changes ahead for air travel as we know it, as airlines enforce new pandemic guidelines, including a requirement to wear masks. A live report next.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

A special honor for health care workers and first responders across the country during this pandemic. The Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Airforce Thunderbirds holding a flyover in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Right there.

and then also at the national -- over the National Mall there in the nation's capital. You see right there -- oh, the Lincoln Memorial and that the flyover and all the spectators there, who stopped at attention to see this special flyover of the U.S. Airforce and Navy forces there, paying homage and honor to the nation's first responders and medical workers.


WHITFIELD: All right. A senior administration official now tells CNN, a majority of the U.S. intelligence community believes the coronavirus somehow originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. And that its release into the public was likely due to a mishap or mistake.

This clarification comes after President Trump said on Thursday, that he has seen evidence that gives him a high degree of confidence that the virus came from a Chinese lab.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House for us. So Kristen -- what more are you learning about this?


So essentially you want to backtrack in time, you mentioned that statement that President Trump made on Thursday. But that was actually incredibly conflicting to what we had seen earlier in the day. We had seen a rare statement from the intelligence community that said that they were still assessing what was going on. That they could not yet determine whether or not it had been passed through animals or if it had been in fact made in a lab. So that offered a lot of confusion there.

Now, of course, the senior official basically trying to clean up those remarks, hedge a little bit there, saying that the President was going off of that idea that the majority of the intelligence community believed that. But this official also said that there were still several areas of the intelligence committee there that didn't quite believe this, that they were still looking into it.

WHITFIELD: So -- all right, so that being said, and that contradiction is still one that's very puzzling, because the head of the intelligence community had already said earlier in the week that the belief was that it probably did transfer from animal to human in Wuhan. Perhaps even, you know, involving a wet market there.

So now the White House pushing out this new messaging, I guess to be consistent with what the President has been trying to say.

That being said, now you've got the White House blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading infectious disease expert for this country, trying to keep him from testifying before a house committee this week. What are administration officials saying about that decision?

HOLMES: Well Fred -- they described it as counter productive. They said that Dr. Fauci shouldn't be testifying in front of a House committee, when they were still responding to this coronavirus pandemic.

However, we now know that in two weeks Fauci will be allowed to testify in front of the Senate. So raising a lot of questions here because no model that we've seen shows that the coronavirus response will be over in anyway in two weeks.

Now, of course, this is also raising questions as to whether or not this is political. Of course, as we know, the House is run by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans. And it should be noted that Dr. Fauci has often clashed with President Trump. As recently as this week went on CNN, he offered much caution on easing those social distancing restrictions as well as slowing down on opening up the states, something we know President Trump has been very eager to do -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes -- thank you so much.

All right. Join CNN's Jake Tapper as he investigates what really happened during the U.S. fight against COVID-19. "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: THE PANDEMIC AND THE PRESIDENT" airs tomorrow night at 10: 00 p.m.

So this pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the airline industry and it will likely change the way we fly in the future. Right now passenger traffic is down about 95 percent. But as more travelers start flying again, they'll see new policies in place to keep them and airline employees safe.

CNN Aviation Correspondent, Pete Muntean joins us right now. Pete -- welcome, first off. And also help us understand what kind of changes, you know, can people expect when they start to fly again?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well Fredricka -- all major airlines are now requiring that passengers wear masks. A move that the industry made voluntarily in the absence of a requirement from the federal government.


MUNTEAN: A scene too similar to travel before this pandemic -- new videos of packed planes, passengers bottled up in rows and aisles, raising new fears about social distancing when flying and new calls to restrict air travel even further.

This week, JetBlue became the first airline to require passengers to wear masks. Its COO calling it the new flying etiquette.

Now, all major U.S. airlines -- Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and United have volunteered to do the same. But the leader of the Association of Flight Attendants goes further, telling CNN there must be a federal ban of leisure travel by air.

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Because the flights have been pulled down, we're seeing more and more full flights without policies that really address proper social distancing.

MUNTEAN: But the nation's air travel is at a virtual halt, nearly half of all commercial jetliners are now parked. The TSA says only 5 percent of passengers are passing through checkpoints compared to a year ago.


MUNTEAN: Thanks.

I set out to see what it's like to fly right now. Traveling from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta and back.

It's hard to find someone not already wearing a mask.

Airlines are stepping up their use of electrostatic sprayers that disinfect passenger cabins.

Crews handed out these Purell Wipes as we got onboard.

Airlines are also not booking middle seats -- hoping to keep up social distancing on board. Industry groups say the average domestic flight is now carrying 17 passengers -- up from 10 passengers just over a week ago.

ELIZABETH CHRISTIE, FLYER: I think the people that are traveling are probably healthy. They're not ill or critical or in a bad situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody should be wearing a mask.

MUNTEAN: The Department of Transportation gave airlines permission to start scaling back service to small city airports. Plane maker Boeing's CEO is forecasting a year's long recovery for airlines. Even still, the industry is holding out hope that new measures will mean a new normal of flying again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hopeful that that will happen.


MUNTEAN: Now Fredricka -- I've been talking to folks at every level of the airline industry and they say the tricky part of these rules will be enforcing them, especially as a flight goes on. Say someone takes a mask off to eat or drink, or maybe it falls off of someone's sleeping on a red eye. Airlines do not want to be in the position to boot passengers off a flight right now.

WHITFIELD: All right. Pete Muntean -- thank you so much.

All right. Next A critical test for states as more than 30 governors ease restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Could that move help jumpstart the U.S. economy? Or are governor's putting the public's health at risk?

We're live -- next.


WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.


WHITFIELD: We begin with several states reopening this weekend for the first time in more than a month amid the coronavirus pandemic. More than 30 states are now partially reopened.

By the end of the next week, that number will be at least 42. Easing restrictions means that restaurants, stores and even shopping malls are permitted to get back to business.