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Valet to President Trump Tests Positive for Coronavirus; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 7, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:03]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: How long is going to be this window where there could be a real question of if the president or the vice president or anyone else at the White House, on the White House staff, could be at a higher risk right now?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. To your point, Kate, testing in this situation can only go so far. All you know is that that person is not getting a positive test at that moment. They could be incubating the virus and they could also feel perfectly fine so they're completely asymptomatic.

Just because someone has a negative test doesn't mean that they can't spread the virus. Is it unlikely? Yes, it's unlikely. But it doesn't mean that they don't have the virus.

So that's another question that comes to my mind is: Did this valet have a test before he entered the White House? And if it was negative, and it later turned out he was positive, what does that tell us?

BOLDUAN: Let me bring -- stick with me, Elizabeth.

Let me bring Kaitlan Collins back in. She's on the phone.

Kaitlan, maybe to answer the question that Elizabeth led off with at the top. What is known about how close the valet gets to the president and the vice president, the responsibilities of a valet?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's what's so notable. They get incredibly close to the president and sometimes the first family. This is someone who is personally assigned to President Trump. There's this elite military unit. They're assigned to the White House.

But the point is there are many valets. So did this valet interact with other valets who went into the residence where the first lady is? Questions like that is what the White House will be asked in the coming hours about this.

And in the West Wing, how much interaction did this person have with the president, other staffers, other staffers on the ground? Because we do know from sources telling my colleague, Peter Morris, and I, that this person was on the grounds yesterday. What's still unclear is if they were actually in the Oval Office yesterday or, of course, the days leading up to that.

So this is someone who works really closely to the president. They handle their food, their beverages, things of that nature. So that is why we are told by our source that the president was upset when he was informed about this, because, obviously, he knows this is someone close to him.

We should note the White House told us they were both tested after. They both tested negative. That's the president and the vice president.

The other question of staffers getting tested, oftentimes, they're tested in the executive office building next door. If you're looking to the White House right now, it's to the right of it. That's where the National Security Council is. And oftentimes, staffers go in and are tested, and they're sent on their way and told they'll get a call in 15 minutes if they tested positive.

Obviously, any news is not good news if you get a call from the medical unit. So often, they're not called back. Clearly, this person was. We were told they were exhibiting symptoms. And it's not clear which symptoms or -- that's what led them to get tested -- or if they were just being tested because they were on the grounds.

A lot of questions about the president's exposure here.

BOLDUAN: We have seen very clearly, over the past week-plus, the sensitivity that the president and the White House, in general, has to this issue of wearing masks. We saw that with the vice president when he was traveling and with the president as well.

Now the reporting coming in from Kate Bennett is that the valets do not wear masks in the West Wing. I wonder now if you're hearing that could be changing.

COLLINS: So far, the calculus on that is not only do the valets not, many staffers don't wear masks in the West Wing. There's one staffer who is famous for wearing it, the deputy national security adviser, who has been wearing one for weeks now, basically trying to signal to his colleagues about the seriousness of this.

But most staffers you don't see wearing masks with the president. So when they go on Air Force One, like they did to Arizona this week, the president was saying he felt comfortable because everyone had been tested before they got on the plane, things like that.

But as Elizabeth was saying, the concern is you could contract this and not know it. As even the press secretary pointed out yesterday, if people got tested, you would have to retest them every hour because, theoretically, you can get the virus at any moment.

So the question is, because this person is so close to the president, does this change their thinking going forward. And if not, how does it not change their thinking going forward?

Because, obviously, the number-one concern that people like the Secret Service and the medical unit are going to have is how to protect the president.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And that is a very -- a hugely important job in question.

And I think we also need to ask, is there any update on how this person is actually doing?

COLLINS: No update yet. They just said, the White House only confirmed when we reached out with this reporting this morning that it is true someone tested positive. But that's really all we know.

We don't know how the staffer is doing, where they are, if they were just sent home. We really don't have more details on who this individual is except that they are a male and that they are a valet assigned to the president.

BOLDUAN: Kaitlan is going to have more reporting throughout the day.

Kaitlan, thank you so much.

Elizabeth, thank you so much.

We have to jump over now to Governor Cuomo beginning his daily briefing.

[11:35:04]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Lincoln, big believer in the American people always. Let them know the truth and the country is safe. I love Lincoln and the wisdom and the economy of his language. Let them know the truth and the country is safe.

Here are the facts where we are right now. So 8,600 total hospitalizations. That number is down. That is good news. And it's a fairly significant drop. So that is good news.

The net change in hospitalizations you see is also down. That's good news. Intubations is down. That's good news.

The three-day rolling average of hospitalizations is also down. You see the curve. You see the outline of what we went through. You see how fast it went up. It reminds you how fast the infection rate can spread. Look how fast those numbers went up.

And you see how, once those numbers are up, how slow, how long it takes to get them down, right? We're on the downside of the mountain. Downside of the mountain is a much more gentle slope than what we went through going up the mountain. We wish it was a steeper decline. But it's not.

This is the worst number every day, is the number of deaths, 231. And you can see how slow that has come down and how painfully high it still is.

This is a chart of the number of lives lost. And, again, you can see how fast that infection took off and how many lives we lost. And once that infection rate is high and people are getting infected, you can see how long it takes to slow it down and reduce the number of deaths. And they're coming down at a painful, slow level of decline.

The top priority for us, one of the top priorities for us, has been protecting our frontline and our essential workers.

You have to remember what happened here. It all happened so fast that it's almost hard to gain perspective on it. But the frontline workers, they showed up and went to work and put their lives in danger so everyone else could stay home.

I laid out the facts, as Lincoln said, to the people of this state, laid out how dangerous this virus was, advocated and argued based on those facts that we needed to close down, close down schools, close down businesses, stay at home. People did that.

In the next breath, I said, and, by the way, we need you, essential workers, to go to work tomorrow. After just having explained how dangerous the virus was to justify shutting down society in a way it had never been shut down before, next breath, essential workers, I need you to go to work.

Hospital care, I need you to go to work and help people who come in with the COVID virus after we just discussed how dangerous the COVID virus was and how little we knew about the virus.

Look at the courage that those frontline workers had to show. I mean, it is still amazing to me. I just want to make sure, on a human level, we're doing everything that we can for them.

So we've been aggressively testing the frontline workers to find out who needs help, how many people actually have been infected. and we've been working with the police and transit workers and health care workers.

We tested 25 downstate health care facilities. Downstate New York is a place where a lot of the virus was, over 27,000 employees. So it was a large sample. What we found out was really good news, and one of the few positives that I've heard in a long time.

When you look at the percentage of people who have the antibodies, which means they were infected at some time in the past and are now recovered, of the health care workers, in Westchester 6.8, New York City 12.2, Long Island 11.1. That is about the same or lower than the infection rate among the general population.

So Westchester, the infection rate among the general population is 13.8, almost 14. Westchester health care workers, it's about half of the rate of the general population. I mean, that is amazingly good news, right? We were afraid of what was going to happen. And the health care workers actually are at about the same or lower than the general population in that area.

[11:40:16]

So that is -- makes two points to me. Number one, our health care workers must be protected. They must have the PPE. We've been saying that all along. It was a mad scramble this last time to get the PPE. Internationally, it was a mad scramble for all of us.

That can never happen again. We have to have the PPE. We have to have the stockpiles. We did an order that said every hospital has to have a 90-day supply of PPE at the COVID rate of usage. So we'll never go through this again.

But it also shows everybody how important the masks and the gloves and the sanitizer are and that they work. You know, it's not that the frontline workers get anything especially more sophisticated than the masks that people wear, the N-95 masks.

They wear a gown, they wear a mask, they wear gloves, but they follow protocol. And those masks work. They work. If they're working for front line workers, they're going to work for people in their day-to- day lives. And the precautions of gloves and sanitizing, they work.

Also during this time, it's important that we protect New Yorkers who are facing financial hardships. You have people who live paycheck to paycheck. The majority of people in this state live paycheck to paycheck. All of a sudden, the paycheck stops.

The federal government issued a one-time payment of $600, unemployment benefits, but it's not making up the gap for many, many families. And they are struggling. And we want to make sure we're doing everything we can.

We have a problem in Upstate New York where many of the farms can't sell their product. You had a lot of farms that were literally just dumping milk that the dairy farms had produced. But at the same time, you have people in Downstate New York who are going hungry and can't buy, can't pay for enough food. Tremendous demand on food banks.

So we've been putting the two together. It makes no sense to have upstate farmers who can't sell their product and downstate families that can't get enough to eat. So we have been funding efforts to connect the farmers to the downstate food banks.

And we've done that with about $25 million through what we call our Nourish New York Initiative. And that has worked. We're funding about 50 food banks that are -- have 2,100 farms that are delivering food to those food banks. And about 20,000 households in the state are participating in that.

And the volume of food and product that is not being wasted that is supporting upstate farms and helping downstate families is tremendous. We want to continue doing that.

The state budget is very, very tight right now with what's going on with the economy, so philanthropies, foundations, there are a lot of people that want to help. This is a great cause. And I would suggest they help so we can do even more.

People are literally worried about being able to pay rent. You don't work for two months and that rent bill keeps coming in. It's not that the bill payers, the bill collectors have taken a vacation. The bill collectors work, right? They still send a bill and you still get collection notices.

We did, by executive order that I issued, a moratorium on residential or commercial evictions. You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent related to this COVID situation. And that went through June. So nobody has been and nobody can be evicted through June, either residential or commercial.

We're going to take additional steps of banning any late payment fees because a person couldn't pay the rent during this period of time. Also allowing people to use the security deposit as a payment and they can repay it over a prolonged period of time.

But also I'm going to extend that moratorium an additional 60 days. It hasn't expired in June, but people are anxious. And June, for many people, is just next month, and the rent bill is going to come due so we're going to extend that 60 days until August 20th.

So no one can be evicted for nonpayment of rent, residents or commercial, because of COVID until August 20th. And then we'll see what happens between now and then, right? Nobody can really tell you what the future is, so that will be in place.

[11:45:12]

I hope it gives families a deep breath. Nothing can happen until August 20th and then we'll figure out between now and August 20th what the situation is.

Also at this time, principals matter. And I understand the anxiety. I understand the stress. But let's remember who we are and what we're all about and what principles matter to us.

People are talking about we should reopen the economy, it's more important than public health, or public health is more important than the economy. And that's the underlying argument and discussion that you're hearing going on right now.

To me, it's never been a question of whether or not we reopen. It's not reopen or reopen. You have to reopen. You don't have a choice. It's how you reopen. It's how you reopen.

And to say, well, we either have to have a stronger economy or protect public health, No. That's a false choice. It's not one or the other, it's both. We have to reopen, get the economy running, and we have to protect public health.

I mean, this is not a situation where you can go to the American people and say, OK, how many lives are you willing to lose to reopen the economy. We don't want to lose any lives.

You start to hear these, to me, what are absurd arguments. Well, yes, if we reopen, people will die, but people were going to die, anyway. Look, we're all going to die at one point. The big question is when and how. And the when and how matters.

I understand that I'm going to die. I just don't want to die now or next week. And I don't want to die because I contracted the COVID virus unnecessarily. Right? So people are going to die. Yes, we're all going to die.

That is not a justification in my mind, right? It would be a novel defense. Persons a person before a judge charged with murder. Did you have a gun? Yes. Did you fire the gun? Yes. Did the person die? Yes. But the person was going to die, anyway. Yes, I know. But it was a gun that killed the person and the bullet, and you fired the gun, right?

So to go down this road -- well, there are old people who will die. Predominantly on the numbers. How do you define old? Not that old is a justification.

But we looked at numbers yesterday. The number of people coming into -- the new cases coming into hospitals. And 51 years old is where the increase starts, right? So, 51 to 60. And 60 to 70 is the highest, 71 to 80. But 51 to 60. So 51 is not really old.

I know that it's all relative. And since I am beyond that 51, it's easy for me to say. But I don't really see 51 as old when we start talking about the old people.

I also think -- and I do this for myself -- any leader who makes a decision in this situation should be willing to participate in anything they authorize. So there's nothing that we are going to authorize or allow in this state that I myself will not be part of.

It's too easy to say, OK, you can go do this but I'm going to protect myself and I'm going to stay behind the glass wall. No. All human life has the same value.

If I say something is safe for New Yorkers, then I will participate in it. Because if it's safe for you, it's safe for me. Right? And that should be our standard going forward.

And what we've been doing in New York is, look, make the decisions based on facts and data. Not emotion and politics. And I understand the emotion, and I understand the anxiety and the stress. I understand politics a little bit. But that's not the basis for making a decision.

[11:50:03]

And that was -- every leader who has told us that in different ways. That was John Adams, that was Lincoln, that was FDR, that was Teddy Roosevelt.

When the -- when my team comes to me, oh, we had a prison break and there's a flood coming and a hurricane and Ebola virus and their hair is on fire. Slow down. Deep breaths. Let's look at the facts. Let's understand the situation. And let's take action based on the facts. That's the way to lead. That's the way I believe to lead one's life.

Here we have a lot of information. We have a lot of facts. We know the hospitalization rate and the infection rate and the number of deaths. We'll be taking antibody tests and diagnostic tests and we are doing tracing. Make your decision based on the facts and the data.

It is simple but it is more important than ever before. It is working for us. It is working. That's not just me saying that because I am the governor. Look at what's happening in New York and look at what's happening in the rest of the nation.

In New York, the numbers are coming down. It is coming down dramatically. You take New York out of the rest of the nation's numbers, the rest of the nation is going up. We are coming down.

What we are doing is working. When it's working, stay the course. Quote attributed to Winston Churchill, "if you are going through hell, keep ongoing." And that's what we're doing. We're going through hell, but what we're doing is working, so we're going to keep going. Because We are New York tough, united and loving.

Questions?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, a question about, you began the briefing with the term like "high anxiety." And what seems to increase that when we think of a second wave later. And you look at people who are concerned maybe if they're die-hard big-city people, for the first time in their lives, they're thinking I want to go to the suburbs. It's individual family's decision.

What do you tell folks like that? When somebody in your own family would be like, think I am going to leave the city and try something new, and if that becomes a trend -- I'm putting it way out there - but what do you think is your advice or your thoughts on a possible exodus or flight?

CUOMO: Yes. You are right, high anxiety, emotions are high. Unfortunately, often when emotion is high, logic is low, right? Well, New York had a lot of cases. Yes. And by the way we now know why New York had a lot of cases. It had nothing to do with New York.

First of all, this was a national issue. I am going to leave New York. Oh, yes, and go where that did not have COVID cases? Suburbs? Westchester had them. Long Island had them. Other cities? L.A. had them. Chicago had them.

OK, well, New York had more. Yes, but we know why. It had nothing to do with New York. It had to do with the fact that all the experts missed a very important, a fact that, while we were all watching China and talking about China, and doing a China travel ban, the virus had already gotten on a plane in China and went to Europe and infected people in Europe.

And then people from Europe were coming to New York because that's where the flights come. Two million people came to New York in February, March. And nobody was stopping European travel. Nobody was screening Europeans coming into the airport.

Nobody said to New Yorkers, by the way, any European travelers or people from Italy, from the U.K., from Germany, they may have the COVID virus. Nobody said anything.

So we had two million passengers from Europe. Everybody is still talking about China. We do the China travel ban. We are screening people from China. But meanwhile, it came through Europe. Millions of people came from Europe.

And we had no idea. We had no idea. That's why the number of cases in New York are so high.

They're now looking at people who came from Europe came into JFK and Newark but then took a connecting flight and went to another city. They think the whole east coast may have seen cases coming from Europe.

[11:55:08]

The China flights were going to the west coast. The European flights came to the east coast. It had nothing to do with New York.

Now, once the virus is in New York, any place of density is where this virus takes off. Any place of density. So any place - you look at the meat processing plants now, right, that are in the Midwest part of the country, southern parts of the county.

Well, they are a problem. No. It had nothing to do with the meat processing plant or you have a hot spot now in an agricultural facility in Upstate New York. It had nothing to do with the meat or agriculture. It is density.

That's what happened with Rochester here and New Rochelle, the first hot spots in the United States. What did it have to do with New Rochelle? Nothing. It was the density. It was the person who went to a gathering with 200 to 300 people. It's the density.

So, yes, in New York, any dense situation, meat processing, plant, an agriculture plant, city of Chicago, city of New York. Once it gets into density, is going to increase.

But why here? Because of the flights from Europe that nobody knew and nobody told us and nobody stopped it.

Also, post-9/11, you went through this situation in New York where people asked that question, well, maybe New York is a target. No, we were not the only place attacked in 9/11. But it was highly impactful. We lost a lot of lives.

People say maybe New York is the target. Yes, but that lasted for a short period of time and New Yorkers came back, downtown, better than ever before. And we are going to do the same thing here.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We spoke about a couple of initiatives to help struggling out-of-work New Yorkers, including extending rent relief. What's your message to those New Yorkers? And who's hiring in the state?

CUOMO: We get to May 15th, May 15th is when it's called the pause, P- A-U-S-E order. The close-down order expires. We'll look at different regions in the state by the data to see if they'll be in the position to start reopening. And we'll start with construction and manufacturing, et cetera.

So you will see the economy start to reopen on a regional analysis, not a flood gate, but it will start so we can watch what's happening and calibrate. Because we don't see the numbers goes the other way.

In the interim, everyone is making do. And everyone has hardships, et cetera. We just want to make sure those people who are most vulnerable are protected, right?

One of the greatest vulnerabilities is, I am not working and I can't pay my rent. I can't pay my rent and I can't feed family. We have to make sure those people are protected.

Nobody is evicted because they can't pay rent. Let's take that issue off the table. We have to make sure everyone has food to feed their family. We are doing that through a number of ways, subsidy programs, et cetera. And last resort, these food banks we are talking about today.

But the number-one issue that people talk to me about probably is rent and fear about paying their rent. This takes that issue off the table until August 20th.

What's going to happen on August 20th? You know what? I can't tell you two or three months down the road. I can tell you, whatever happens, we'll handle it at the time. That's what we've been doing with the situation all along, literally, it two-week increments.

This is unlike anything we have seen before. So I am not going to sit here and say I have a crystal ball and I'm tell you what's going to happen in a month or two months.

Anyone who tells you that, I think I would question that person seriously. Because there has been no one who has gotten this right from the time it started.

Take one more.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I just thought, I don't want to take too many questions. But about the rent relief and the landlords who would say they've got to pay the mortgage?

CUOMO: I get it. I get it. There's a tradeoff. None of these decisions are easy. None of these decisions are easily. You are right, the landlords will say, OK, so now the tenants does not pay the rent, but I still have to pay the electric bill. I still have to pay the mortgage. That's true. That's true. And we are working on relief from the banks for the landlords also.

[11:59:58]

And there are programs that the federal government is doing, the state is doing to make sure those banks also get relief.