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Mayor Lyda Krewson, (D-St. Louis), Discusses Why She's Keeping City Closed as Governor Reopens Missouri; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 11:30   ET



LYDA KREWSON (D), MAYOR OF ST. LOUIS, MO: We know everyone wants to get back to work. But we are very concerned that we continue to see a decrease in the number of hospitalizations before we are able to go back to work.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I know one of the things you have also flagged is testing capacity. How short do you think you are on testing capacity right now for what you need?

I know one of the things you have also flagged is testing I know one of the things you have also flagged is testing capacity. How short do you think you are on testing capacity right now for what you need?

KREWSON: We're extremely short, as I think many other places in the country are as well. But we are extremely short.

Part of the reason that we may be seeing a bit of an uptick in the number of cases is that we have begun being able to do a little bit more testing in the last week or so. So these cases may have always been present in our community and we just weren't able to test them to find them.

But having 154 cases reported over the last two days, Saturday and Sunday, is very concerning to us. And, of course, the number of hospitalizations, number of people in ICU beds, the number of people on ventilators is also concerning to us, as well as trying to get back to work.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

How much more pressure, if you do feel more pressure, how much more pressure do you feel now that the governor is saying the stay-at-home orders are going away, and they are not yet in the city? What is the impact of that?

KREWSON: Of course, there's some pressure to that because businesses have been devastated by the stay-at-home order. When businesses are devastated, that means workers are devastated. We have 30 million people in the United States who have applied for unemployment. That's one in six workers.

So we are very anxious to be able to get back work in some limited capacity. We know folks have to continue to practice social distancing. We have to all wear our masks. I have mine right here. And we have to continue to wash our hands.

If we don't continue to take those precautions as we open up our economy a bit, then we're going to see a big second spike. And that, of course, is something no one wants.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

KREWSON: Because the stay at-at-home orders have been painful.


KREWSON: They've been painful for people staying at home. But they're also painful for people going to work every day, policemen, firemen, water department, refuse workers, hospital workers, grocery store clerks. Hard on them, too.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right.

What is the impact -- it's not just Missouri. It's other states I'm talking to as well -- the impact of the different strategies from city to city, county to county, state to state. As you're positioned right there between Missouri and Illinois -- Illinois' governor is extending stay-at-home orders through the end of May.

What's the impact as it's been well described as this patchwork?

KREWSON: I think the most challenging thing is the communication aspect of that. I thank you for doing this story.

But we have to have a clear communication strategy to people. There's enough confusion as there is out there that people know that, in the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis immediate region here, the stay- at-home order is still in place, which is with Illinois' stay-at-home order.

But in other areas of our state, more rural areas of our state, the stay-at-home order has been lifted with conditions.

The other thing we know, though, is we are also interdependent. Many, many of the hospital beds that folks rely on if they do get sick are located in the St. Louis region here. So we don't want to see a big uptick anywhere in our state because that affects all of us.

BOLDUAN: It does. And across city, county and state borders as well because this virus knows no border at this point.


BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you very much. Good luck. I appreciate your time.


Coming up for us, still, why is Chinese state media calling the U.S. secretary of state evil over the coronavirus? That's next.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): To my right is Gareth Rhodes, who works with the Department of Financial Services but he's been working with us in Albany during this coronavirus pandemic. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, who is secretary to the governor. To her left, Robert Mojica, who is the state budget director.

He doesn't smile much nowadays days because the state budget is not in great shape. But when the federal government does the right thing and gives us funding, we expect he'll smile that big smile again.

It's a pleasure to be in Rochester with so many of my friends who have done such great work with the state.

Former lieutenant governor, Bob Duffy, who worked with me when we first got started, and has done great work for the entire state of New York.

Danny Wegman, pleasure to be with you.

Wegman's is a great New York corporation. Danny is a great civic leader and they've been very helpful through this situation.

Also thank you for allowing us to do the antibody testing at Wegman's. That's been very, very helpful. And we thank you for everything you've done.

And, Nicole Wagner, thank you. Pleasure. Thank you for being on our New York Forward advisory board to help us going forward and to find our way through this.

Let's give you an update on where we are today. The total number of hospitalizations is down. You see that curve coming down, you see that mountain that we went up. Now we're on the other side of the mountain. You start to see the shape of the mountain. Unfortunately, the decline from the mountain is not as steep as the incline, right?

And the big question for us in New York and every state across the nation has been how fast and how low does that decline go, right? How fast does the decline actually happen? And what is the lowest level that the decline will reach?

Unfortunately, you see that shape. We were hoping for a quick-up plateau at the top, which is what they talked about, but a fast decline. You see the decline is, again, not as steep as the incline. But it is a decline, and that's good news.

The net change in total hospitalizations is down. Net change in intubations is down, and that's always good news. When a person is intubated, roughly 80 percent of the times there's not a good outcome. So the fact that the intubations is down is good news.

[11:40:09] And then the other end is how many new cases are coming in the door every day. How many new diagnoses in COVID cases? And that number is also declining. So not only are the number of people in hospitals coming down, but the number of new cases coming in the door is down. And that's good news because it had plateaued at about 900 statewide for a few days, but this number is down at 700, and that's a good number.

I would take this with a grain of salt, as they say, because this is reporting from yesterday, which was a Sunday, and sometimes we get different results on the weekend.

Remember this whole reporting system has just been put in place. This never happened before. This is now every hospital in the state reporting every day for the first time. So it's a plus or minus across the board.

This is the number that haunts me every day, and this number is not declining anywhere nearly as fast as we would like to see it decline. Still 226 New Yorkers who passed away. And so we don't become immune, we talk about these numbers, that's 226 families, right? That's 226 wives, brothers, sisters or children that are now suffering the loss of a loved one. So we remember them in our thoughts and our prayers.

People are all talking about reopening, which we should be talking about. This is not a sustainable situation, close down everything, close down the economy, lock yourself in the home. You can do for a short period of time, but you can't do it forever.

But reopening is more difficult than the closedown. The closedown was relatively simple, right? You go to the basement and throw the big power switch and everything just goes down. Close the businesses, stay at home. It was a blunt operation. And that was done all across the country, just stop everything now.

When you go to restart, the reopening, now knowing what we know, it's more nuanced, you have to be more careful. And, again, no one has done this before. No one has been here before.

So first, start by learning the lessons that we did learn through this experience. And second, let's be smart about what we do.

And I get the emotion. And I get the impatience. I get the anxiety. I feel it. It's unsustainable on many levels. It's unsustainable economically. It's unsustainable personally.

A lot of anxiety is all through our community. We see it in alcoholism, increased substance abuse, increased domestic violence. This is a very, very difficult period and people want to move on, yes. But let's be smart about what we do and let's learn the lessons.

One of the lessons is we have never been here before. And we didn't really know what was going on. CDC releases a report end of last week that says the virus was actually coming to the east coast from Europe. Everybody was looking at China for all those months. China, China, China, China. Yes, China was last November through December. The virus migrated from China while we were all staring at China and

went to Europe. And the strain that came to the United States came from Europe. We had people in the airports stopping people from China, testing people from China. The federal government did a lot of testing, a lot of screening, people getting off planes from China. Yes.

But meanwhile, the people from Europe were walking right past them. And that's where the strain came from that was infecting this area. And that's what the CDC just learned last week. And this is going back to February, right? One of the most studied topics ever. Again, learn the lessons of what happened.

Now that piece of information on the Europe trips, then you see the number of flights that came from Europe during that time, where they landed, and now it explains why you've seen the outbreak in Chicago that you've seen. Why you've seen the number of cases in New York.


Because, yes, the flights were landing here. People were coming from Italy and U.K. and from European countries and nobody thought to screen them. Nobody was on guard. And you add that to the density of New York, especially in New York City, and that virus just took off. OK. We didn't know. We didn't know. Now we do.

We also can look back in history, look at that 1918 flu pandemic that they talk about. The places that opened too soon saw that flu come right back.

And by the way, that flu was not one wave. That was three waves. First wave, second wave, third wave. Second wave was worse than the first wave.

And you see -- watch the other countries that went through this before us, right? We're not the first one down this chute. There were other countries that went down before us. You see they wanted to reopen also. They were feeling the pressure on reopening. And you study those cases and you see if you reopen too soon, or you reopen unintelligently, and you can then have an immediate backlash.

And that's not speculation. That is looking at other countries and looking at what has happened around the world.

Then you talk to the experts who know. Listen to what they're saying. Dr. Fauci, who I think is one of the best voices and minds on this, Dr. Fauci has been through this in different iterations. He was one of the pioneers on the HIV virus and AIDS.

And he says, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter. Could be. Why? Because he doesn't know. He's not sure. But could be in for a bad fall or a bad winter. OK. So put all of this in the equation.

And then also acknowledge and actualize that the truth is that nobody knows what happens next and when it happens. How can that be, that nobody knows? We're so sophisticated. We have so much intelligence. We have so many experts. This is the United States of America. How can it be that no one knows?

Because no one knows. I speak to the best experts globally. Globally. And nobody can tell you for sure. Now, experts, we look to experts and we expect them to know, so we push them to know. Answer the question. Tell me when. What's going to happen in September? What's going to happen in December? Sometimes the answer is, I don't know. Sometimes that's the honest answer.

I was talking to my daughters last night and they said, you know, you say at your briefings, I don't know. How can you say that? First, I'm not really sure they watch my briefings, but they're right. Sometimes I say, I don't know. Why? Because I don't know. And if you don't know, say you don't know.

And I speak again to the best minds in this country, the best minds around the globe, and they don't know. So if you don't know, say you don't know. It doesn't mean you're not smart, no reason to get defensive. I don't know. When you know what you don't know and admit it, it will actually keep you safe.

My daughters don't quite agree with this yet but I haven't given up on the concept. Say you don't know. Know when you don't know what the future holds, you can be safe because then you can prepare for different possibilities. And that's why we are. We don't know. But we will be prepared for all possibilities.

So reopening. Chart a course with the best information you have, learning from the lessons you have, but be able to correct that course depending on what happens. Which means don't act emotionally. Don't act because I feel this, I feel that, because someone said, well, other states are opening so you must be able to open if other states are opening.

Forget the anecdotal. Forget the atmospheric. Forget the environmental. Forget the emotional. Look at the data, look at the measurements, look at the science, follow the facts. That's what we've done here from day one. This is no gut instinct. This is look at the data, look at the science, look at the metrics. Move forward, measuring what you can and what you know, and then be prepared to adjust.


Well, I want specificity and I want to know for sure. You don't. But there's liberation in knowing that. So let's do this intelligently based on metrics and we'll see what happens and we'll adjust to whatever happens.

What does it mean on metrics? You can measure this. And we have to measure this. You look at that percentage and rate of hospitalizations, which we have, right -- that's the chart that goes up and down -- you want that hospitalization rate.

Do your diagnostic testing so you know how many people are testing positive and you can watch that rate go up or down or flat. Do the contact tracing and you will reduce the infection spread by isolating the positives. If you do those things, you will control the rate of the virus.

Nobody can eliminate the virus during a short time but you can control the rate of transmission. If you can control the rate of transmission, you can control the transmission becoming an outbreak or overwhelming your public health system. That's the best you can do.

Control the rate of transmission to 1.1 or less. 1.1 is every person infects more than one other person. If you are doing that, that's an outbreak. It is going to increase exponentially and it is going to be out of control. As long as your rate of transmission is manageable and low, then reopen your businesses.

Reopen your businesses in phases so you are increasing that level while you are watching the rate of transmission. Rate of transmission goes up, stop and close the valves right away. Watch the rate of transmission. If it gets over 1.1, stop everything immediately.

That's where every country wound up. They started reopening and they see the 1.1, it became the outbreak again, they have to slow down. You want a controlled start so you don't have to stop. That's what we should learn from other countries.

You reopen too fast and you have to stop. Nobody wants to go through all of this and then start just to stop again.

This state has different regions, which are much different situations than other regions in the state. Rather than wait for the whole state to be ready, reopen on a regional basis. So analyze the situation on a regional basis, OK?

And you look at a region on four measures, the number of new infections, your health care capacity. If infection goes too high, you overwhelm your health system. And now Italy with people in the hallways because your hospital system can't handle it. Do your diagnosticating so you see how your infection is increasing or decreasing and do contact tracing.

When you test, you find the positives, you trace the contacts from the positive person and you are isolating them to bring down the rate. You do that on a regional basis. That system has to be in place for a regional basis.

How do you start reopening? We look at guidelines from the CDC, which says a region must have at last 14 days of decline in total hospitalizations and deaths on a three-day rolling average. You take the three-day average and you have to have 14 days of decline.


You can't have more than 15 new total cases or five new deaths on a three-day rolling average. This is telling you that you are at a plateau level, that you can actually start to reopen.

Then you are watching the rate of infection and the spread of the infection. The benchmark, there is fewer than two COVID patients for 100,000 residents. It is based on your population to account for the variance in the different sizes of regions across the state.

Then, anticipate, protect yourself from all possibilities. Well, what if we have a surge again? Never fill your hospital to more than 40 percent capacity. Leave 30 percent in case you have a surge.

Remember, this virus is tricky. The rate of infection -- a person who gets infected today shows up in the hospital 10 days from today or two weeks from today. That infection rate goes up. You don't feel it for two weeks. There's a lag to it.

You want to make sure you have 30 percent of the hospital beds available in case you have that surge.

Also, learn the lessons from before. Every hospital has to have 90-day of PPE for that hospital at the rate they've been using it during COVID. We can't have another mad scramble where nurses and doctors don't have gowns and masks and et cetera because hospitals don't have the necessary stockpile. Make sure every hospital has the stockpile.

On the testing, we have done -- many New Yorkers have now been tested, believe it or not. The CDC Coronavirus Task Force for the White House recommends that, for a region to open, you have 30 tests for every 1,000 residents ready to go.

What testing capacity do we need for a region to reopen? You have to be prepared to do 30 tests for every 1,000 residents.

New York is doing more tests than any country (sic) in the state by far. New Yorkers are doing more tests than any country on the globe per capita.

So We are way ahead in testing but does not matter what we do statewide. To open a region, that region has to have a testing capacity of 30 for 1,000.

The National Guard is doing a great job by us in putting together testing kits and distributing testing kits. We want to thank you them.

But we have to have those tests and we have to have what they call tracers, contact tracers in place.

And Mayor Bloomberg has been very helpful, the former mayor of New York, in putting together this tracing system. This never existed before on the scale.

A group of people who literally trace contacts from a person who is positive, who did you have dinner with last night, who did you have dinner with two nights ago, who may you have been in contact with.

And then contacting those people to say, do you have any symptoms and, if you do, you should know you are with John Smith. John Smith tested positive. He said he went to dinner with you. You should be on alert.

That tracing system have never been done, not only in this state but in this country. That all has to be set up. It has to be done. Once that's all done then you can talk about reopening businesses.

Which business do you open first? You open business first that are most essential and pose the lowest risk. OK? Most essential and the lowest risk.


Phase one, we are talking about construction and manufacturing and select retail with curbside pickup. They are the most essential with the lowest risk. Second phase, professional services, retail, administrative support, real estate.