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U.S. Deaths Surpass 77,000, Confirmed Cases Top 1.2 Million; White House Officials Testing Positive For COVID-19; Growing Concerns About Accuracy Of Some Tests; At Least 73 Kids In New York Show Symptoms Of Kawasaki Disease; Rock And Roll Pioneer Little Richard Dies; Forty-Seven States Partially Reopen By Tomorrow Despite Health Warnings; Governor Cuomo Updates New York's Response To COVID-19. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired May 9, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with a staggering new coronavirus death toll here in the U.S. The number now surpassing 77,000 with more than 1.2 million confirmed infections. Despite that, 47 states are, at least partially reopening for business this weekend without having met U.S. government guidelines on reopening safely.
We are also learning about a new case involving someone close to President Trump's daughter. Ivanka Trump's personal assistant has now tested positive for coronavirus.
The news coming just hours after Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary Katie Miller tested positive. She's on the right without a mask there. This photo was taken on Thursday, before her test.
Meantime, former president Barack Obama is speaking out about the pandemic in a private call to former members of his administration. Obama had some harsh words for the way the crisis is being handled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or political party. But what we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy -- that has become a stronger impulse in American life.
And by the way, you know, we're seeing that internationally as well. And it's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. And it would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of what's in it for me and to heck with everybody else -- when that mindset is operationalized in our government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Let's start our coverage at the White House with CNN's Kristen Holmes.
Kristen -- former president Barack Obama there not holding back on his observations. Has the White House said anything?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning -- Fred. Well no, we have not heard back from the White House, but we, of course, have requested comment.
But one thing to note here, this is really the harshest criticism we have heard from the former president about the current administration. And it gives us a little bit of an insight as to what exactly Obama's role might look like in terms of campaigning for Biden as we get closer and closer to November.
As you mentioned, this was on a private call with the Obama alumni association, as you said, ex-staffers here. Now, sources tell us that this call was held in order to encourage these ex-staffers to get more involved with the Biden campaign. So something we'll be watching closely to see if this is just the beginning of that campaigning for Barack Obama.
And one thing I want to point out is that these comments are coming after a particularly chaotic week here at the White House. Just as you said, you know, we're looking at a point in which the Trump administration, the President himself, is pushing these states to reopen. We have some of the most dire unemployment numbers that we've seen.
And at the same time, people here at the White House are testing positive for coronavirus leading many to wonder if they're safe to go back to their jobs.
WHITFIELD: And Kristen -- Obama was also critical of the Department of Justice's decision to drop the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. What did he say on that?
HOLMES: Well, he absolutely excoriated the Department of Justice for the decision to drop those charges. Of course, Flynn was a national security adviser to President Trump before he pled guilty to lying to the FBI.
Obama saying that the rule of law was at risk. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who's been charged with perjury getting off scot-free.
OBAMA: That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic -- not just institutional norms -- but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So two things I want to note here. One you hear the former president saying the word "perjury". That is not what Flynn was charged with. He was charged with pleading guilting to lying to the FBI, he wasn't under oath.
The other thing I want to point out that sometimes is forgotten in all of this is that Flynn actually worked for the Obama administration before working for the Trump administration.
WHITFIELD: Right. And it was President Obama who, and his administration, advised against President Trump incorporating Flynn within his administration.
All right. Thank you so much. Kristen Holmes -- appreciate it.
All right. The coronavirus now hitting the White House staff, impacting the Trump administration. Dr. Steven Hahn, the head of the FDA is now quarantining himself after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.
This coming as Katie Miller, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, there on the right, has tested positive. She is also the wife of President Trump's senior adviser, Stephen Miller -- you see him on the left. And she is the second White House staffer to test positive for coronavirus this week. President Trump's personal valet also testing positive a few days ago.
For more on this let's bring in CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood.
Sarah, good to see you.
So what kind of changes might be afoot at the White House in response to these developments?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Fred -- White House officials moved quickly yesterday to respond to the news that Katie Miller, Pence's press secretary, had tested positive. They quickly initiated the contact tracing.
That is, they went back, they tested everyone who had come into contact with Katie recently including her husband, Stephen Miller -- the top White House adviser. And including a handful of Pence staffers who were actually on Air Force 2 with Vice President Pence preparing to take off for its trip to Iowa when they received the news about Miller's test results. All of those people thankfully did test negative.
Now, A senior administration official described to CNN some of the things that the White House will be doing to respond to this. So one of them is more frequent cleanings of White House spaces. Those were already getting sanitized. They're going to step up that sanitization there. Also going to step up COVID testing and temperature checks throughout
the White House. Right now you cannot get on to the White House grounds unless you have a temperature check but that does not catch people necessarily who are asymptomatic.
CNN had reported earlier this week that testing was in the White House was really limited to the people who are most closely around President Trump and Vice President Pence, that testing is going to be broadened.
Also CNN reported that compliance with mask and social distancing guidelines were not exactly being followed to the letter within the White House. Those are expected to be more strictly enforced.
We should not that President Trump and Vice President Pence, they both stepped out of the White House this week and neither of them wore masks while they were in public.
Miller tweeted yesterday that she was feeling well and looking forward to getting back to work -- Fred.
Sarah -- I also understand that one of Ivanka Trump's personal assistants has also tested positive. What do we know about that person's circumstances and proximity to Ivanka Trump?
WESTWOOD: That's right. Technically that assistant was the third White House official to test positive this week after Miller and the President's personal attendant -- that valet. But Ivanka's assistant was not working inside the White House and had not been around Ivanka Trump for nearly two months. She had been teleworking.
But nonetheless out of an abundance of caution, that aide was tested. She had no symptoms but she did test positive. Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were also tested on Friday, their tests both came back negative as well -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood -- thank you so much.
All right. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S., testing has been a pretty serious problem. Even now as more tests become available there are significant concerns about how accurate some of the kits are.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you've heard anything lately about tests, it's that we haven't performed enough of them in the United States.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today everyone is so focused on getting tested, they miss the point that a bad test is worse than no test.
GUPTA: That may be another more fundamental problem. Just how good are the tests in the first place? OSTERHOLM: The FDA basically has created a wild, wild west environment
for this testing where, under their approval process on an emergency basis, they've let tests on the market that basically have a very, very wide range of results.
GUPTA: Michael Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
OSTERHOLM: The quality of these tests right now vary a great deal. And that's the challenge in terms of understanding if you'll get a negative result, is that really negative.
GUPTA: A molecular diagnostic test can determine if you have actual virus inside of you by drawing a sample from your nasal pharynx or from your saliva by spitting into a vial like I did and then testing it for genetic traces of the virus.
How well the tests can find those genetic markers is known as sensitivity. If a test has poor sensitivity, it will result in too many false negative results. That means too many people testing negative for the virus when they are actually infected.
DR. GARY PROCOP, DIRECTOR OF MYCOLOGY AND PARASITOLOGY, CLEVELAND CLINIC: We undertook a study where we looked at 200 specimens and tested them by all five methods. And there are differences between these tests.
GUPTA: Dr. Gary Procop is head of virology at the Cleveland Clinic. He and his team found three tests to have sensitivity over 95 percent. The ones from CDC, Cepheid and Roche meaning they caught nearly all but 5 percent of cases. But the highly-touted Abbott ID NOW test which can give results in minutes, missed up to 15 percent of infected patients. Another study found that it potentially missed 25 percent of infections.
And that's a concern. because despite their negative test results, those people are actually infected and can still spread the virus.
DR. PROCOP: You would never want to use that test to screen somebody in the hospital to put them into a COVID negative unit because in that case you can't afford to make a mistake.
GUPTA: In a statement Abbott said that the type of viral transport media, the chemical used to carry the virus sample could be diluting samples. We immediately communicated with our customers that they should use the direct swab method.
The findings of Procop's study are still yet to be peer-reviewed.
DR. PROCOP: Just because we need something put out emergently doesn't mean we should put out things that don't work appropriately.
GUPTA: When asked if accuracy was sacrificed at the expense of speed an FDA spokesperson told CNN "FDA oversight doesn't end with an EUA or emergency use authorization. We will continue to track these tests and take action if required.
Obviously testing is important. We've been talking about that for a long time. But not getting the infection is still the ultimate goal. So you want to do everything you can to protect yourself.
We know in the White House now they're getting tested every day. That might in fact be too many tests. So you know, every day may be too frequently. But actually doing everything to slow the spread within the White House, people wearing masks, I mean I think that's something that we're going to have to see.
Now, with regard to the tests themselves, there's a lot of people in the public health community that say the FDA needs to be making sure these tests are accurate; that they're validated. A bad test can be worse than no test at all.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.
All right. At least two children in New York have died after experiencing complications of an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the coronavirus.
Health officials investigating after 73 pediatric patients across the state displayed symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes persistent fever, swelling of the hands and feet, and redness in both eyes.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joining me now with more on this -- Evan.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Yes. We're expecting to hear from the governor later this after -- well, actually in just a few minutes with some more information about what's going on here in New York.
But the news so far is of a potentially scary nature. People here have been worried about the health effects on older people for the past couple of months but there's been some conversation now that potentially there might be a potential that children could be getting a strange new disease involving inflammatory effects that have so far claimed the lives of two young boys, we learned yesterday, two boys under the age of ten.
Now, it's very early days of this and we've heard from one of the hospitals involved that it's still a very rare condition. But obviously it adds a new level of potential fear here in New York.
WHITFIELD: It's a big fear. All right. Evan McMorris-Santoro -- thank you so much for that.
All right. Still ahead, as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, many businesses are facing an uncertain future and some tough decisions-- when and how to reopen after their states give them the green light. A live report next. And from false claims to false cures. Tons of misinformation and outright lies about the virus are saturating the Internet. What's being done to stop it and who is being held accountable?
WHITFIELD: All right. This very sad news to bring to you. Cultural icon and founding father of rock and roll, Little Richard died today. He was 87 years old. His son Danny Penniman confirmed the death saying the cause is related to bone cancer.
The legend is remembered for his 60 plus years in show business. George Howell looks back on his incredible career and how he changed music.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Little Richard changed the course of rock and roll history with that iconic song. He sang "Tutti Frutti" with raw inhibition and it became a hit.
LITTLE RICHARD, MUSIC ICON: When I started in the business I've never heard rock and roll media before.
HOWELL: The singer who inspired the evolution of rock and roll was born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia in 1932. Even though his roots were planted in gospel music, Little Richard signed with Specialty Records in 1955 and began his incredible journey to becoming a rock and roll icon.
HOWELL: During the 50s, Little Richard made several more hit songs including "Long Tall Sally", "Good Golly Ms. Molly" and "Lucille".
LITTLE RICHARD: I always felt that I would be a star.
HOWELL: A star, he certainly was. Little Richard even landed a part in the musical comedy "The Girl Can't Help It" in 1956. His flamboyant persona captivated audiences and his soulful voice paired with his piercing screams made him a household name.
However, at the height of his stardom, the self-proclaimed architect of rock and roll quit the music business. He became an ordained minister and travelled across the country as an evangelist and recorded gospel music between 1959 and 1963.
LITTLE RICHARD: I went through those different periods but I've always loved rock and roll. HOWELL: During the late 60s and 70s, Little Richard returned to the spotlight and began recording rock and roll once again. His influence on many unknown artists at the time proved to be invaluable.
LITTLE RICHARD: You know, The Beatles were with me. They started with me. James Brown was my vocalist. Jimi Hendrix was my guitar player, 18 years old.
HOWELL: For a period of time, Little Richard lived the wild life of a rocker but he never lost his faith.
In 1985 the 52-year-old singer was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles and thanked God for saving his life.
LITTLE RICHARD: Everything else is secondary to have God -- oh glory to god.
HOWELL: He experienced a career resurgence in the 80s after landing a coveted role in "Down and Out in Beverly Hills". Then Little Richard became one of the first icons to be inducted in the rock and roll hall of fame in 1986.
LITTLE RICHARD: I'm just glad if you're alive at this time. I'm glad to be in Cleveland. I'm glad that I mean the originator and I'm glad that I'm now protected by the Lord. I'm glad that God has seen (INAUDIBLE) to let me still be here.
HOWELL: In 1993, the National Academy of Reporting Arts and Sciences awarded the fiery performer with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Little Richard, the showman, performed well into his twilight years.
WHITFIELD: And American businesses face an uncertain future as the coronavirus pandemic drags on, and many are also facing tough decisions on how and when to reopen as states begin to restart their economies.
CNN's Natasha Chen has been talking to many of those business owners. Natasha -- what are they telling you?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- there is sort of a mixed reaction here. Everyone's very desperate to try and earn any kind of money at all right now but they also know it comes with a risk. And a lot of the places that are reopening have restrictions like requiring face masks or limiting the number of people who can be in any given space.
But there is risk, as I mentioned. The Mississippi governor said yesterday that there will be a risk to anyone going back to any of these businesses that have reopened. But he said he's doing this because he cannot allow small businesses to fold. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
CHEN: By the end of the weekend all but three states will have eased quarantine restrictions in some way. Even in once hard-hit Rhode Island where the governor said Friday her state will be the first in the northeast to lift a stay-at-home order.
GOVERNOR GINA RAIMONDO (D), RHODE ISLAND: If you look at the facts on the ground, the data on the ground, we're doing better. And so, therefore, we're in a better position so we can start to lift our restrictions a little bit sooner.
CHEN: Restrictions are lifting from coast-to-coast. In North Carolina retail stores have reopened but at 50 percent capacity. In Delaware, stores can now offer curb side pick up.
That goes for California as well where stores can also now deliver just in time to send flowers for Mother's Day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me as a small shop I'm not going to let anybody in but at least I can operate. We cannot just open everything because we will have a second wave and then we will go back to square one.
CHEN: San Francisco has decided to keep businesses closed until May 18th but the rest of the state has some businesses reopening with modifications.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stay out of the politics. I just -- I need to open, you know. We're ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we have right now for takeout.
CHEN: Nevada and Alaska have now joined more than a dozen states to resume dine in service in restaurants with restrictions. People can also now get a drink at a bar in Alaska at 25 percent capacity. In Arizona, people can get their hair cut by appointment only. Same for Texas with owners eager to open their doors.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is ready and my clients are more than ready.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything. I lost everything. Destroyed my business. I lost my business. That's what it has done.
CHEN: In Iowa, people can go back to the dentist, go to campgrounds, the drive in movies and tanning facilities following special guidelines.
Tennessee now joins Georgia in allowing people to go to bowling alleys. Pennsylvania is taking a county by county approach to reopening. Welcome news for this chocolatier in the town of Williamsport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hoping that the people, especially those who are let's say under age 60 come out more. Because again, they need to just get out, I think.
CHEN: And the rollout continues across the country. On Monday we're expecting barbershops, nail and hair salons to reopen in Florida. And the same goes in Alabama where restaurants and churches will also reopen -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.
All right. Joining me right now to discuss, Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist and the director of the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health. Good to see you -- Anne.
So we've got 47 states that are at least partially reopening this weekend. What are your concerns?
ANNE RIMOIN, DIRECTOR, UCLA CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND IMMIGRANT HEALTH: Well, I think that the biggest concern that I have right now is that we still do not have the kind of widespread testing we need. And the ability to do the contact tracing or the case identification and then contact tracing which are the things that we've been saying from the very beginning are needed to be in place across the board and widely available before we can reopen.
So, you know, we put all these gates in place in order to say, ok, we're not going to start -- we're not going to open up until we've met these criteria. But we have not, in fact, met all of these criteria and are beginning to reopen.
WHITFIELD: Former federal vaccine chief Dr. Richard Bright, who claims he was fired from his post for his reluctance to back hydrochloroquine (SIC), he had this to say about what he sees as a national response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. RICHARD BRIGHT, FORMER FEDERAL VACCINE CHIEF: We see too many doctors and nurses now dying and I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those supplies to them sooner. And if we had, would they still be alive today? It's a horrible thought to think about the time that passed when we could have done something and we didn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Anne -- do you agree with his criticism that this nation responded too late?
RIMOIN: The fact of the matter is we need PPE -- we needed PPE from the beginning. And it is truly a shame that we have not been able to get these supplies and equipment to everybody that's needed them. And it's really brought forward the -- you know, the idea that we were not prepared and we should have been more prepared. And we have lost many lives because of this lack of preparedness. So I -- you know, think that Dr. Bright has valid points.
WHITFIELD: Separate from that the White House released a statement by the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, which said, in a 17-page CDC report, on reopening America, and it was sent around earlier in the week. And what was sent it claims was a draft. It had not yet been vetted properly and that is why it was not released.
This after CNN learned that the task force was not going to implement the recommendations for reopening America. And you know what, Anne -- I'm going to have to interrupt my own question because we have to go to New York now and Governor Andrew Cuomo for his briefing.
Let's listen in.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: People ask me often what do you think about our situation? And I say, I think about what I know. What does that mean? Good question.
It means, in New York what we've been doing is we follow the facts, we follow the data, we follow the science. We focus on what we know and the facts that we know, and we make our decisions based on the facts.
So every morning we look at the facts. Facts today are that the hospitalization rate dropped once again which is very good news. The total hospitalization rate has dropped. The intubation rate has dropped. The number of new cases per day has dropped -- it's down to 572. And those are new cases, people who walk in the door of a hospital or people who are in the hospital and test positive. But that's down to 572.
You see it hasn't been that level since we started back March 20, March 21. So that is welcome news.
This is not welcome news, and this has been heartbreaking every day -- 226 deaths. 226 families. And you see how that number has been infuriatingly constant. 226 is where we were five days ago.
CUOMO: So we would like to see that number dropping at a far faster rate than it has been dropping. And these are 226 people who lost their lives despite everything our health care system could do, right. That's despite the best hospital care, the best nursing, the best doctors, the best equipment. So it's -- they are people who we know we made every effort possible to save.
And to the extent there's some peace in that, then we're looking for peace wherever we can.
Priority for us today is dealing with a new issue that has come up, which is truly disturbing. And that is the issue on how the COVID virus may affect young people, very young people -- infants, children in elementary school. We had thought, initially -- and again so many of what the initial information we had turned out not to be correct or turned out to be modified.
But we were laboring under the impression that young people were not affected by COVID-19. And that was actually good news, right. The vulnerable populations were older people, people with comorbidities. But the -- one of the few rays of good news was young people weren't affected.
We're not so sure that that is the fact anymore. Toddler, elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome. Now these are children who come in who don't present the symptoms that we normally are familiar with with OVID. It's not a respiratory illness. They're not in respiratory distress.
I think that's one of the reasons why this may be getting discovered this far into the process. It's more an inflammation of the blood vessels which can then cause problems with their heart.
And there are 73 cases that the Department of Health, Dr. Zucker, is now studying. But the illness has taken the lives of three young New Yorkers. So this is new. And it's developing.
The Department of Health has communicated with the federal officials, the CDC. And the CDC has asked New York to develop national criteria for this so that other states, other hospital systems can also be checking into this and looking into this.
Again, as it turns out, these children happen to have the COVID antibodies or be positive for COVID. But those were not the symptoms they showed when they came into the hospital system. So, it's still very much a situation that is developing. But it is a serious situation.
The Department of Health is also going to be working with the New York Genome Center and Rockefeller University to conduct a genome and RNA- sequencing study to see if there's something about these children that may present a definable situation.
But rest assured the Department of Health is on top of it. This is the last thing that we need at this time with all that's going on, with all the anxiety we have. Now for parents to have to worry about whether or not their youngster was infected. And again, symptoms that don't even seem like the symptoms we associate with COVID-19.
So we still have a lot to learn about this virus. And every day is another eye-opening situation. But rest assured, the Department of Health is doing everything that they can do. I think it's fair to say that the New York State Department of Health is the first one that has been on this situation.
And again, working with the CDC and whatever we find out we'll not only share with the public but we'll also share with other states and other hospital systems, because it is very possible that this has been going on for several weeks and it hasn't been diagnosed as related to COVID.
CUOMO: So again, we'll keep you updated. I know many people are concerned about that, as they should be.
A priority that we've been working on throughout has been protecting our frontline workers. We're very aware of the sacrifices that our frontline workers are making so, so many of us can stay home and stay safe. And we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to protect our frontline workers.
We've been working with the health care workers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs and our transit workers. In New York, we have to keep the transit system operating, that's how many essential workers, frontline workers get to work.
If we got to a situation where we had to close down public transit, our hospital system would have suffered. That's how nurses get there. That's how the hospital staff gets there.
But our transit workers had to operate that transit system right in the midst of this COVID virus and it never stopped -- bus operators, train operators, the station cleaners. So while everyone was trying to get home, trying to stay safe, they were showing up for work every day to make sure that the people who did need to go to work could get to work.
We've already conducted the largest antibody test in the country -- 15,000 people in that sample. What the antibody test tells you is who has been infected by the virus and then has the antibodies as they recover.
And that gives us a baseline, that 15,000 survey statewide, to compare other groups against so we know what the average infection rate is in different parts of the state. We can then compare groups to that baseline.
We recently tested the transit workers writ large who have been doing the operations of the transit system. We tested 1,300 -- so that's a large size sample. 14 percent was the infection rate among transit workers and that's actually good news.
We'd like to see zero, but 14 percent is below the average infection rate for New Yorkers. So it means that the transit workers' infection rate is below the norm for New York City.
Within the transit workers, it's a little higher with station workers than with bus operators or train conductors, assistant conductors. But all categories are below the New York City norm. And the New York City norm was 19.9. So that is good news.
And that also affirms the news we've heard on the other essential workers, frontline workers. Our health care workers, nurses, doctors, we were afraid that because they were literally in the emergency rooms they'd have a higher infection rate. But turns out that's not true. 12 percent was the infection rate among those workers. Shows that the PPE works when we talk about masks and gloves, et cetera. It's not that nurses and doctors in those emergency rooms have fancier equipment, a more sophisticated equipment. This is the same type of masks that they wear. So it works.
New York Police Department had an infection rate of 10 percent. Fire Department and EMT had an infection rate of 17 percent, which is the highest of all those groups. We think it's higher because of the EMT workers. But again, all below the New York City rate of 19.9.
Another issue that we've been aware of and we're working on is the fact that poor and minority communities are suffering most. The numbers in this state are not nearly as bad as the disparity in many other states. But any disparity is bad. And that's what we have been focusing on here.
We did surveys and data that show if you look at the 21 zip codes with the highest number of hospitalizations for COVID, 20 of those 21 have greater than average African-American or Latino populations -- 20 of 21 of those zip codes.
So there's no doubt that it is a problem. And you can -- we've mapped this and you can see exactly where people are coming from as they're walking into hospitals.
Part of the new system that we've implemented through this is hospitals report nightly how many cases they have, where they come from, and we can now literally map the number of people and where they're coming from throughout the state.
CUOMO: And then when you look into that information, especially in Brooklyn and the Bronx, it's clear that the communities are heavier minority population and heavier low income population. And when you compare that with the overall city rate, it makes the same point. That hospitalization rate, infection rate among the minority community, among lower income communities is higher than the average.
Unfortunately, in a cruel irony, this is often the case. When you look at disasters, emergencies -- I don't care if they're hurricanes, floods, whatever they are -- cruel irony is, the poorest people pay the highest price. I've seen this across the country when I was at HUD.
You're there to take care of a flood or storm, it's the poorer communities that get wiped out first, right. It's the low land. It's the land that tends to flood that has the lower value and that's where the lower community -- lower income community tends to locate.
So we understand why, we understand the health disparities, we understand comorbidities. But we also understand it is just not right. It is just not right. And we have to address it.
We saw the same thing in Hurricane Katrina. Those people who were on rooftops were not the wealthy, white part of the community. They were predominantly minority. They were predominantly low income. Those roof tops very often were public housing.
So this has been the pattern. Flint, Michigan -- the people who were drinking water that was poison, they were low income minority populations. If you even go back to 1927, the great Mississippi flood, where does the Mississippi flood? It floods the low lands. It floods lower income communities.
We get it, but we have to break the cycle. New York we're going right at finding the reasons for the disparity and resolving them. We're doing more testing in low income communities of color. We're doing testing in public housing aggressively -- excuse me.
Partnering with Ready Responders, which is a group which is doing great work. We've delivered PPE equipment, masks over 1 million, hand sanitizer, et cetera, to public housing.
And today we're launching a new initiative again to address exactly this, which is to expand access to testing in low income communities and communities of color.
We're partnering with Northwell Health, which is the largest health system in New York. And they're going to set up 22 additional testing sites at churches in predominantly minority communities.
This is a different kind of partnership. It's creative, but it's necessary. We're working with both churches individually and association of churches and Northwell. Northwell will provide the testing in churches in lower income communities and communities of color. The churches will help us outreach to the community to get people to come in and explain why it's important to explain why it's important that people come in and get tested. And Northwell will do the testing.
We have 24 sites in the New York City area. Some will be opening the week of May 12th. Some will be opening the second week of May 19th. But you see the coverage when we add the network of churches is very broad. Again, focused on these communities that we want to reach out to
These 24 new sites will be working with the current network of sites and we've already located many testing sites in minority communities and low income communities. But when you put the church based sites together with the drive-thru sites, together with the walk-in testing sites and our sites in public housing, the coverage will be extensive.
So these sites will be there. We now need New Yorkers to go get the tests. I know -- you know, I do this with people all day long. I feel fine. I feel fine. You can feel fine and test positive for COVID. You can. You can be asymptomatic and still have the COVID virus.
Well, if I feel fine, what's the difference? Because you can give it to someone else who will not feel fine. And you can give it to a person who is more in a vulnerable community -- group. Older person, person with an underlying illness and they could be in serious trouble. So you want to know if you have it, not just for yourself but so you don't communicate it to anyone else.
I want to thank our partners who are -- have been working on this. It's exactly what we want to do all through this situation. We said we don't want to just deal with this virus. We don't want to just replace what was there. We actually want to make sure that we build back better than before.
I understand that this inequity, this disparity exists. I understand it's existed for decades. I understand it exists all across the country. But not New York -- not New York. It shouldn't be here.
I want to thank our congressional leaders who are partners in this effort who have been very instrumental in organizing the churches and putting it together with Northwell Health, especially Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke from Brooklyn and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who we're going to hear from in a moment.
I also want to thank the church groups. This is not in the normal line of business for churches to be setting up testing sites for a COVID virus. But I think it is the mission of the churches. They're there to serve the community. They're there to work with the community and meet the needs at that time, and this is the need at that time.
So they've been extraordinarily helpful and cooperative. I especially want to thank Reverend Rivera and Reverend David Brawley (ph) for coming up with the idea and working with the other groups to get them to all participate.
So we've never done anything like this before, but there are a lot of firsts for all of us in this situation. So I want to thank them very much for what they're doing here.
And it's my pleasure to announce that we've been joined with Congressman Hakeem Jeffries who is a personal friend of mine. He's a great star for the state of New York in Washington. His voice, his leadership has been pivotal, not just for New York but for the entire nation.
And this is a time when we need the federal government to actually work and work well and work efficiently and work effectively and work for the people which sometimes doesn't happen in Washington.
And the people -- the police, the firefighters, the people of this state couldn't have a better, more powerful advocate than Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. And the congressman worked tirelessly to put together this arrangement that we're announcing today with the churches.
Again, it is a different type of partnership. But we do what we have to do in New York, and the congressman saw the need and he reached out to the church groups and brought them together to be where we are today.
Congressman -- thank you so much for everything you do, but especially thank you for what you did to bring these church groups together with Northwell so we could announce this initiative. Congressman -- good to be with you. REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D) NEW YORK: Good morning -- governor. Great to
be with you and, of course, thank you for the tremendous leadership that you have provided to the people of the empire state and the nation in so many ways during this moment of trial and tribulation.
And I just appreciate the fact that your leadership has been evidence- based, data-driven, compassionate and comprehensive. And today's announcement is just another example of that.
We know that this is an extraordinary pandemic, and it requires an extraordinary governmental response at all levels of government. It's all hands on deck at the city, the state and the federal level. And the New York delegation is committed to continuing to work with you to make sure that we can drive the federal resources into New York state to match the level of infection, pain, suffering and death that we've all had to endure.
It's an all of government moment and, of course, an all of America moment as you've encouraged all of us to dig deeper here in New York and throughout.
And in that spirit, we know that the houses of worship, the spiritual community has always been there to help the community get through a storm.
These churches have been there through the crack cocaine epidemic to welcome people in while others were rejecting them. Our churches have been there, for instance, to address the high rates
of gun violence in our community through gun buyback programs, taking thousands of guns off the streets in their congregation buildings.
And we also know that these houses of worship, our churches, our spiritual leaders have been there to partner with the state and with law enforcement organizations like the Brooklyn district attorney's office through Begin Again Initiatives to address old warrants and summons and citations that can impact the ability of people from communities of color to be able to get all of the opportunities to benefit from our full economy.
And so now, at this moment, thanks to their continued engagement and your leadership and willingness to partner, we can address this COVID- 19 pandemic with these houses of worship and religious leaders who have the credibility, the authenticity and the capacity to reach those in the community who need to be tested because at the end of the day this is not over for any of us until it's over for all of us.
And as you've indicated, we know that communities of color have been hit particularly hard. We are disproportionately overrepresented amongst our essential frontline workers, live in dense environments and have historically been under resourced throughout the nation.
And so this testing initiative will be incredibly essential into ensuring that we can turn the corner in communities of color such as those that I represent as well as those represented, of course, by great members of the delegation like Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clarke, Greg Meeks, Adriano Espaillat and so many others.
So thank you, Governor, for your partnership. I thank EBC and the other church coalitions for their initiative and willingness to do what is necessary for us to confront this storm.
The scripture says, weeping may endure during the long night, but joy will come in the morning. And I'm thankful for your leadership -- Governor Cuomo. Thankful for the partnership with our houses of worship. And we're all going to be there with the community until it's morning time in the United States of America once again.
CUOMO: Beautiful. Thank you so much -- Congressman. So well said. Some people say, well, churches are closed. No, churches are open. Churches never close, and they're doing their work and they're performing their mission.
And Congressman -- big week for you. What you're doing in Washington is so important to all of us. This legislation that may be passed by Washington getting this country the aid they need, getting this state the aid we need, pass legislation, did great for small businesses, et cetera.
But I know your priority now is to bring funding for working New Yorkers, working Americans, the police, the firefighters, the health care that have gotten us through this, making sure the state governments can function so we can do the reopening.
And we could not have a better voice. We couldn't have a stronger voice, more capable voice than yours and our delegation fighting for us and for the nation. You make the case for New York; you are making the case for America. Because we are just a microcosm -- New York. We did get hardest hit in the number of cases, but you addressed the need here. You addressed the need in America and we know you can do it.
God bless you. Thank you very much for being with us. Thank you -- Congressman Jeffries.
JEFFRIES: Thank you. God bless you.
That's our congressional delegation -- representing all New Yorkers who are tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, question about you and your fellow northern governors. You have a cooperative regional approach. Does that change at all if Connecticut on the 20th has restaurants open so that Stanford is open but White Plains is not. And if in New Jersey you have some of the beaches open.
I know that's them and we're us, but how does that make you feel?
[11:59:55] CUOMO: It makes me feel fine. There's a lot that doesn't make me feel
fine but that I'm fine with. We said from the get-go, we all have slightly different situations.