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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: 166 People Died In Past 24 Hours; Whistleblower Warns Of "Darkest Winter In Modern History" Without Ramped Up Countermeasures; Virginia And Maryland Set To Begin Phased Reopening; Federal Chief: Burden Of This Crisis Has "Fallen Most Heavily On Those Least Able To Bear It"; Nation's Largest University System Won't Bring Students Back In Fall. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): --no corporate bailout if you're going to lay off workers. And it's going to be introduced by the members of the New York Congressional Delegation and I'm very proud of them for their leadership.

If we get that Washington bill passed, then it's going to make a significant difference because it's going to give states the ability to do what they need to do to reopen. And we can take it from there, because we are New York Tough, which is New York Tough and smart and united and disciplined and tough enough to love. Thank you, questions?

JEFF COLE, CHANNEL 7, REPORTER: Governor, good afternoon. Jeff Cole from Channel 7 here in Watertown hoping to be able to ask you a couple questions. First, welcome to Watertown, and welcome back to the region. It's good to have you here. First question, what's the future of state prisons?

The budget gives you the authority to close as many as you see fit, and now that we have this political climate and the fiscal climate, I'm sorry, many corrections officers' families have a lot to worry about. They're worrying perhaps about their job at a state prison right now.

What do you tell those communities that host them, the COs, their families? Is it still on the table, and if so, how many?

CUOMO: Well, first I say to them, it's really - first, I say to them, I thank them for the service that they've been doing. Again, I feel very passionately about the frontline workers, the essential workers who have been showing up every day. Nobody wanted to stay home, but you know what's worse than staying home?

Going to work in the middle of this pandemic when nobody even knew what the virus was about or how contagious it was, and they still showed up. They still showed up to manage the prison system. I'm glad the results we've seen show that we did what we had to do to protect them and they protected themselves, but that's good news. As far as the state budget, the state budget is purely going to be a function of what we get from Washington. We have a $61 billion deficit. There is no way I can make up that deficit. I am very good at controlling costs. You look at how our state budget has gone up year to year?

It's gone up at a lower rate than any past Governor. So I'm proud of that. But I can't make up $61 billion, and it's going to be purely a function of what happens in Washington. If they act responsibly and they give state governments the assistance they need just to balance the books - we just want to balance the books - then we'll proceed with the budget plan that we had.

But if we don't get Washington to act intelligently, which wouldn't shock any of us, right? We're going to have a serious problem. And I can't tell you what actions we would need to take to fill that budget hole, because we've never been here before. It's a larger budget hole than the state has ever faced.

COLE: Second question, unemployment. I know the system has paid out three times as much since last year - compared to last year - in six or seven weeks. It's still a problem, though. State Senator Patty Richie's office tells me today that they've had hundreds of calls this week from people that are still concerned.

The Senator along with some other Senators started a website fixeddualdisasterprogram.com and they've called for the commissioner to step aside. That prompted a response from your office, from a spokesperson calling it cheap shots from cheap politicians. Is the system fixed? Is there a problem still? And to the Senators that are asking questions for their constituents, are they cheap politicians?

CUOMO: Look, is it a cheap shot? Yes. It's a cheap shot. Let's look at the facts. And I understand that it's easy to pander, you know? But let's just be a little honest here. The states have unemployment systems. The states' unemployment systems - because it's not New York it's every state across the country.

You know, we tend to think we're the only ones in New York. I talked to all of the Governors periodically. Every state is having a terrible time with this. Normally, a state unemployment website would handle several thousand calls, okay? We're now handling in the millions.

We have 3,000 people working on the phones and the website. Just think about that, 3,000 people. They're trying to keep up with the increase in the volume. Washington passed a law several weeks ago, implementing new unemployment benefits.

The states, they then handed to the states. The states then have to figure out how to administer this law. And the federal law doesn't say anyone who calls gets money. The federal law says, when the person calls, they have to certify the following 57 things before you can give them a check all of this information that you have to get, all this information that you have to certify. That's all in the federal law. The states then have to handle literally millions of claims and meet all those certifications. [12:05:00]

CUOMO: It crashes the website. It crashes the new website. We literally have the people from Google who come in to redesign a website to handle this volume.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, his daily Coronavirus briefing in Watertown, Northern New York State today. The Governor saying all indications on the medical front continue to be encouraging, hospitalizations down, new COVID cases down, intubations down.

The Governor spending much time on a reopening plan a regional reopening plan which is one of the reasons he is traveling the state. The New York Pause order ends this Friday. Several regions of the state are prepared to reopen, including in the North Country. The Governor saying it's very important to keep an eye on the data, the case count the hospitalization numbers.

Once that reopening begins and also appealing for help. This is a constant refrain from the Governor of New York, help from Washington. He says his state and others states need billions to repair holes in their state budgets caused by the economic collapse and to build the testing and tracing infrastructure states will need as we go forward.

The Governor of New York making his case. Some other important news here in Washington as the Governor was doing his briefing; we know a fired whistle-blower from the Trump Administration testifies before Congress tomorrow.

We now know he will warn Congress this - the United States is headed for, he says, "Its darkest winter", unless it has a much more aggressive preparation and response for the Coronavirus.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now live from the White House. Kaitlan, this is Dr. Rick Bright who was the Head of Vaccine Development in the Administration. He was pushed out. What is he prepared to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he's also trying to get that job back as well. He wants to be reinstated in that position. That's something that we know the office of the Special Counsel, which is the investigative office looking into this complaint that he filed last week, recommends he be reinstated while they investigate this.

And now he's going to testify tomorrow before a House Committee, and of course, the question is what is he going to say? We have a little bit of an indication, not only that he's alleged that he was retaliated against and that's why he was removed from this position.

But what we're looking at in his opening statement that he's expected to use tomorrow, when he does testify, John, is basically warning about what's to come. He's prepared to say that the U.S. was unprepared to deal with the pandemic that it is dealing with now, of course, not only talking about resources and whether or not they were prepared early on, starting to pursue a vaccine. But also, he's warning about what it's going to look like in the next few months if they don't start taking more aggressive countermeasures now? And in part, in this opening statement that Rick Bright has prepared, he says, "Our window of opportunity is closing" and that "Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history."

So, John, he's offering a pretty stark warning there. But of course, the other thing that he is going to be asked about is his own personal relationship with HHS leadership, with the President and the West Wing, his interactions there, because we know he did interact at times with Peter Navarro, the President's other senior adviser who was one of very few officials who has put in paper his warnings about the pandemic early on and what needed to be taken.

But of course, there are also going to be questions about Bright's own behavior. And we haven't really seen HHS push back on him in any meaningful way, because basically, they're aware that this is going to become an investigation. There is going to be oversight on Capitol Hill.

So it will be interesting to see, though, just what he gets into when he is testifying tomorrow about exactly what his interactions were and these warnings that he says went unheeded.

KING: Going to be fascinating to watch, obviously. You mention the administration being careful in public. We'll see if anything they provide to the Republican members for the questioning enlightens this but a stark warning, "A" about the preparations and "B" looking forward testimony important tomorrow. We'll track Kaitlan Collins live at the White House, very much appreciate that.

As we go through this reopening the nation's Capitol area is a fascinating example. Cases continue to climb in Virginia and in Maryland they're both beginning a phase one reopening. The Mayor of the District of Columbia, though, says, no, it's too soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Today we will extend on the district's stay-at-home order through Monday, June 8th. And I should note that based on the data, I can revise this order at any time to reflect a phased reopening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now is Angela Alsobrook; she is the County Executive for Prince George's County in Maryland, just across the D.C. line. Angela one of the hardest hit counties in the state right there we have the border with D.C. for people around the country who don't understand.

If you live as you do in PG County, you could run Sunday errands on a normal Sunday, go see family and friends. You might be in Virginia, 15 minutes later you might be in the District of Columbia then you're back in PG County. How is the coordination?

You just heard Mayor Bowser. She says D.C. needs to wait. Governor Hogan has said he understands. Your part of the state is hardest hit, needs to go more slowly. How is the regional coordination as we go through this very delicate question of reopening?

[12:10:00]

ANGELA ALSOBROOKS, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY: So you know, the regional coordination has really been excellent. The good news is that we were coordinating with each other even prior to the Coronavirus, and we find that the communication has been great.

We are the gateway to the Capitol region. And so, as you mentioned, you can be in Washington, D.C., one moment. I can literally walk from Virginia into Prince George's County. So, our borders are porous, which means that the Coronavirus has been particularly difficult for Prince Georgians, where we have a good number of essential workers.

We House the majority of the Federal workforce right here in Prince George's County. 70 percent of our residents go into the district each day to work and around the region. And so, it's been really difficult.

Our numbers are similar to the numbers that we've seen in Washington, D.C., and especially in Northern Virginia, where we have now well over 10,000 positive COVID cases, about 341 deaths. And so, we are averaging nine deaths per day as a result of the Coronavirus. And so, it is quite serious. This is the leading cause of death right now in Prince George's County.

KING: And so, just to that point, I want to put up the map again so people can understand. The District of Columbia's a tiny blurb on the map, but if you show the cases, you have Northern Virginia suburbs to the south of D.C. You see the red and the orange, a high number of cases there.

You have the Maryland suburbs, including Prince George's County just on the other side of D.C. You mentioned all the federal workers who come from Prince George's County into the District of Columbia. What is the testing plan as that happens inevitably?

We hope officials wait and do it when it's safe, but it will happen. You already have essential workers who are doing it every day now. As the Federal Government starts to reopen, you have people going back and forth.

Is there a regional testing plan in place, or is it your job as the county executive to say, even though, you know, my residents, some are going into Virginia, some are going into D.C., some are going elsewhere into Maryland - is it all on you or is there a regional plan?

ALSOBROOKS: Well, you know, so far it's been on us. And this has been the most challenging aspect, I think, of this entire crisis, is really the unavailability of testing. We need to get up to about 15,000 tests, according to my chief medical officer, per week in order to begin to think about safely reopening.

And you know what - it's been a real challenge. You've heard to those test kits were a challenge to get from the Federal Government. We had to wait for them to come to the state government. Our state government had such difficulty getting those tests that the Governor had to go out on his own and try to secure those test kits.

And so, we are continuing to work with private labs. We had to contract from the county with private laboratories to try to get those test kits, and that's part of what we are working on in order to be able to safely open. We need those test kits, contact tracers. We need the back-end support from laboratories.

And so, it is a process that we'll continue to coordinate with the Mayor of the District and also with Virginia, but we must each secure it on our own.

KING: And Prince George's County is predominantly African-American. You have a mix of middle-class families, professional family's people as I know who transit all around. Are you seeing in your data the disproportionate impact on African-Americans that we see when we look elsewhere around the country in terms of Coronavirus cases, and sadly, a disproportionate number of deaths as well?

ALSOBROOKS: Oh, absolutely! You know, Prince George's County, a jurisdiction of close to a million residents, is the wealthiest, predominantly African-American County in the country, yet, the COVID crisis has been one that's reflective of what we see around the country, the disparities in the delivery of health care, the disparity in the access to healthy foods has really caused the Coronavirus to attack Prince George's County in a very unique and disproportionate way.

So the Coronavirus doesn't care about how wealthy you are? It doesn't care your race or religion. It knows those underlying medical conditions that are predominantly present in majority African- American, impoverished and disadvantaged communities, and Prince George's County is that county.

KING: Angela Alsobrooks, appreciate your time today. Keep in touch as we move forward here as Maryland goes through the reopening, the District and Virginia as well. Because of the connectivity here, it will be a fascinating case study as we do it. Appreciate your time.

ALSOBROOKS: Thank you so much. Thank you. Stay well.

KING: Thank you. You do the same. Stay well, stay safe. Up next for us as more Americans struggle financially prices at the grocery store, spiking.

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[12:15:00]

KING: A stark and sad reality check today from Jerome Powell, the Head of the Federal Reserve. Chairman Powell warning, the economic downturn happening right now is worse than any recession we've seen since World War II and that it's an especially devastating impact on those least able to afford it.

Let's bring in CNN's Julia Chatterley. Julia, what else did we hear in depressing notes from the Fed Chief?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: It really was. It was a warning about the devastation being caused here John, but I think it was also a call to action. And this is really important. It doesn't get more stark than this.

Jay Powell said that in their estimation, almost 40 percent of households where the income is less than $40,000 a year saw someone in the family lose a job in March. He described it as causing a level of pain that's hard to capture in words. And the worst part is it's not over.

He also warned that the recovery could be drawn out here, particularly if the health crisis persists, and that takes me to the call to action. It's not often that central bankers point to lawmakers and say, look, guys do more. In fact, normally, it's the reverse.

He came about as close as it gets to say, look, Congress is likely going to have to do more. And I think the timing here is important in a week where the Democrats have come forward and said, look, here's $3 trillion worth of more. I think the hope from the Federal Reserve is that Congress overall is listening.

KING: Fascinating to watch there, fascinating to see if the President appreciates that input from his Fed Chairman. They have a dicey relationship, good of late, not always good.

Julia, also as you mentioned, Jerome Powell says 40 percent of households making less than $40,000 a year, somebody in that household has lost their job. So less money in people's pockets at the very time we're now seeing spikes in grocery prices, increases in prices we haven't seen in nearly 50 years.

[12:20:00]

KING: What's that about?

CHATTERLEY: It is exactly to your point again. It's those least able to bear it that are bearing the brunt again as grocery prices rise. Take a look at what we're seeing overall, prices rising more than 2.5 percent. But if you look at the breakdown, that's what's critical here.

The biggest rise was in protein. For every $100 that a family's spending on things like eggs, poultry, beef, you're paying over $4 more a month in the month of April, but it was broad-based. It was the same in vegetables. We saw breads and cereals, actually a record jump on the month.

A couple things are driving this. We know about it. We saw the empty shelves. More demand because we're cooking more at home, but also the supply chain issues with meat processing plants that have seen things like beef, wholesale prices spike to records.

The problem with these two things is it's likely to persist. This is probably not one month alone that we see these rises. And John, to circle back to your point, at a time when one in five households is saying they're suffering some form of food insecurity, the timing simply couldn't be worse.

KING: Some day we will have a pleasant conversation, Julia Chatterley. I promise you, some day we will.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, please.

KING: Don't forget, for the latest stock market news and strategy for your portfolio, check out markets now, streaming live at 12:45 pm eastern only at CNN Business.

Up next for us, one University President now, warning high school seniors against delaying their college plans because of Coronavirus.

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[12:25:00]

KING: The nation's largest four-year Public University System, Cal State, says it will not take the risk of bringing students back to campus for the fall semester, but one University President in Michigan argues fall is the right time to return to campus and that students should not take a gap year.

Listen here. "It's only natural to feel anxious or want to delay your education," says Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, but how do you fill a gap year now? You can't travel widely, easily find a good job or join the temporarily shuttered Peace Corps." The Oakland University President Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz joins us now. In addition to being a University President she is also a medical doctor specializing in Pediatric Endocrinology.

So Doctor Pescovitz, President Pescovitz, let me ask you, you say students come back to school, participate in our community. Dr. Fauci yesterday, I'm sure you're well aware, on Capitol Hill says if your hope is there will be a vaccine ready for students, listen here, won't be ready in time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: In this case, that the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far. Even at the top speed we're going, we don't see a vaccine playing in the ability of individuals to get back to school this term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, Cal State says we're not going to take the risk. We don't trust that we can have the social distancing, that there will be therapeutics. What makes you confident that you can bring students back to campus in Rochester, Michigan, and make it work?

DR. ORA HIRSCH PESCOVITZ, PRESIDENT, OAKLAND UNIVERSITY IN ROCHESTER, MICHIGAN: Well, thank you, John, for having me today. And actually, I agree with Dr. Fauci. I am also concerned about having a resurgence of COVID-19, and that is why we're actually proposing a hybrid approach to reopening our campuses. That means that for classes that are primarily laboratory-based, we think that we can do this in a safe way.

But for large classes, we think that we're still going to have to do it in a remote learning kind of approach. So, I do applaud the California State decision. But for universities like ours that actually have only about 20 percent of our students as residential, we think that we can open in a hybrid way, and we think that that is a safe and effective thing.

Those universities that are planning to open like we are can do it with a combination of testing, contact tracing, and also serology testing as well.

KING: And I want to read your op-ed piece. It's a bit of a pep talk, if you will. "Students, please don't sit on the sidelines. We need your talents, ideas and energy. We also need every ounce of your knowledge and expertise as we fight the pandemic and navigate soaring job losses. When the crisis ends, and it will, history shows that the best jobs will go to those with college degrees and advanced skills."

That's a pep talk for students-

[12:30:00]