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House Passes $3 Trillion Stimulus Package Despite Dem Defections; NY Stay-At-Home Order Extended Until May 28, Five Regions Reopened; Arkansas Holds Off On Phase 2 Reopening Amid Rise In Cases; Interview With Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R); Some New Jersey Beaches Open For Memorial Day "Dry Run"; D.C. And Surrounding Suburbs Extend Stay-At-Home Orders; Grocery Stores Record Largest Spike In Prices In Nearly 50 Years. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 11:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with more states trying to reopen in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. As of Monday, 48 states will be easing restrictions or be partially reopened for business. So far, 41 states have seen the number of new cases hold steady or fall over the last week.

All of this comes as President Trump launches Operation Warp Speed promising that millions of doses of vaccines will be available by the end of this year. But adding the U.S. economy is open with or without the vaccine.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make something clear. It's very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back.


WHITFIELD: There are serious doubts about how realistic that timetable actually is with many health experts saying it will take at least 12 to 18 months to actually have a viable vaccine ready.

Let's start our coverage at the White House and CNN's Kristen Holmes.

Kristen -- President Trump says a vaccine by the end of this year. What's the plan to get it done? And when he says that, he doesn't necessarily mean ready for distribution by the end of the year, right?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he seems to be implying that it would be ready for distribution by the end of the year. In that Rose Garden press conference essentially he's saying the goal of Project Warp Speed was to have hundreds of millions of doses ready for the public by the end of the year.

And as you said, many scientists, doctors are pushing back on this notion and casting doubt for a number of reasons. One in particular being coronavirus itself. We are still learning what this virus does to the human body.

Now take a listen to what President Trump said is how they're going to speed this up.


TRUMP: Typically pharmaceutical companies wait to manufacture a vaccine until it has received all of the regulatory approvals necessary. And this can delay vaccines availability to the public as much as a year and even more than that.

However our task is so urgent that under Operation Warp Speed, the federal government will invest in manufacturing all of the top vaccine candidates before they're approved so we're knowing exactly what we're doing before they're approved.


HOLMES: Ok. So two things I want to note here. One is that manufacturing component is a big deal. We know the White House is ramping up, trying to procure syringes and as well as needles.

But that's not the only issue. Again, it goes to the science. The actual development and testing of the vaccine -- is that possible.

Now the other thing I want to note is something that Dr. Fauci said when he was testifying in front of the U.S. Senate -- or U.S. House, excuse me -- U.S. Senate earlier in the week. He said that even if they did make it through this very accelerated timeline, it wasn't sure that the vaccine was going to work.

And that really raises red flags to the medical community who believe that there's already an anti-vaccination movement out there. They do not want a situation which Americans lose faith in vaccinations -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. And then Kristen -- you also have some new reporting about tensions brewing between the White House and the Centers for Diseases Control. what are you hearing?

HOLMES: Well, that's right. So essentially there are two big components here. One is how quickly to reopen the country. The other is the method that is used for data collection.

We have learned that Dr. Birx, who has become a prominent member of the presidential task force, very close to President Trump, has really grown frustrated with the CDC. She believes that the way that they're collecting data is antiquated and it's causing a massive delay, meaning essentially that the numbers that they're putting out there are old or inaccurate which is dangerous in her eyes as they are reopening the economy. But there is a split here and I do want to note that it's not just Dr. Birx and the CDC, it's also the CDC officials feeling that way about Dr. Birx. I did the story with our colleague Nick Valencia who reports that those officials are really disappointed with Dr. Birx. They don't believe that she has pushed back hard enough on the President when he has touted some untruths during this period.

But this is also not really a period that you want the White House in disagreement with one of the top health agencies as we're trying to reopen the country.

WHITFIELD: And then Kristen -- you know, late last night, House Democrats approved a $3 trillion new stimulus package. But what more can you say about the President who is threatening a veto if it were to pass the Senate?


HOLMES: That's right. And it won't pass the Senate, just to be clear. Republicans have said it's dead on arrival.

But first, let's talk about what exactly is in this stimulus package. We have it here.

It's a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package. It has nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, something Democrats have been pushing hard for. $200 billion for essential worker hazard pay, as well as $75 billion for COVID-19 testing, tracing, isolation efforts, and then a new round of direct payments to Americans for up to $6,000 per household.

So just to note -- the White House is not saying that they're never going to do any kind of a phase four. What they're saying now is that it's on pause. They want the last stimulus, Stimulus 3, to finish cycling through to see how well that does, to see where the country and the economy stand after that point.

However, I do want to note, even though those are the White House talking points, we are hearing from experts, including the chairman of the Federal Reserve who says not to wait, that this could impact the economy for years to come if they don't act quickly -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes at the White House -- thank you so much.

All right. At any moment now, we're expecting to hear from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as some beaches and communities in upstate New York are set to reopen.

Our Polo Sandoval is in Binghamton, New York.

So Polo -- this partial reopening is just a sliver of the state's total population and it does not include New York City.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's a big key part here -- Fred, because if you recall about two months ago, that's when Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he would be ordering the closure of all nonessential businesses across the state until the evidence pointed toward a control of the problem.

Well, it seems that that moment has come but only for some of these upstate communities. As for New York City, people there still being asked to stay at home.


SANDOVAL: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extending the state's stay- at-home order through May 28th, maintaining restrictions for the more populated cities, including New York City which have not hit all seven of the benchmarks set by the state to begin the reopening process

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: If a region hits its benchmark at any time, regardless of the pause order, then that region can open. We're opening phase one in those five regions today.

SANDOVAL: that's allowing curb side retail, manufacturing and construction work to resume in some more sparsely populated communities in the state hardest hit by the COVID pandemic.

In upstate New York, building contractor Joe Dundon (ph) already busy fielding job calls.

JOE DUNDON, BUILDING CONTRACTOR: I think the most I'm going to have on the job is four, maybe -- and that's a lot different. I mean I used to have seven, eight guys on jobs. So things might take a little longer but at least we're going to be safe moving forward.

SANDOVAL: And New York's beaches will reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend with limited capacity and with the exception of New York City beaches.

Neighboring states New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut also planning on opening up their open shores.

By Sunday, 48 U.S. states will have partially reopened. Despite a recent uptick in COVID-19 deaths across the state, Texas is on track to reopen exercise facilities and also expand capacities in movie theatres and restaurants as soon as Monday.

And in Florida starting Monday, restaurants will be allowed to serve at 50 percent capacity and gyms also slated to reopen.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: If you're inside, make sure you're doing the social distance. And then sanitize machines and surfaces after use.

SANDOVAL: Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled new flowcharts designed to help communities and businesses decide whether they can reopen. The six short documents came after lengthier guidelines were shelved by the White House earlier this week.

The CDC also issuing a new health alert about a COVID-related inflammatory illness reported among children exposed to the virus. The agency putting an all call-out to doctors across the country asking they report suspected cases. Federal health officials say they're hoping to better understand the rare but potentially deadly condition.

DR. ROBERTA DEBIASI, CHIEF OF PEDIACTRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHILDREN'S NATIONAL HOSPITAL: We were all putting our SANDOVAL: Now, there's a heads and cases together to really get an answer to what is driving this, the best treatments. And then, we can then -- once we have those answers, have a -- be in a better position to make data- driven recommendations.


reminder for these communities entering phase one of reopening that nothing is permanent. In fact those local governments will have to monitor COVID cases. If there's a sharp uptick in those, Fred -- then that could mean that the business that reopened this weekend will have to close again.

And finally, as we look ahead to hearing from Governor Cuomo, it'll be interesting to hear exactly where New York stands. It had only met about half of the required criteria to reopen. So we'll see if everything has changed in the last 24 hours.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval -- thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

So as states reopen, you can read the complete CDC guidelines at We posted a link to the entire draft of the recommendations.


WHITFIELD: Arkansas is one of the states in the midst of a type of restart for businesses. Starting on Monday, all retail businesses except bars have the option of opening for business. But a recent spike in cases in Arkansas has state leaders holding off on that phase two reopening. This week saw some of the highest single day increases in cases for Arkansas.

Asa Hutchinson is the governor of Arkansas. And good to see you again after a couple of weeks.

So, you know, you were hoping to move into this phase two of reopening on Monday, but then you decided to hit the pause button after seeing the rise in cases. Tell us more about your observations and what was most influential in changing your mind.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, thank you. And it is good to be with you again this morning.

And Arkansas is anxious to move our economy forward and we are growing our economy steadily. But we have all of our retail shops, as you mentioned, open for business. Bars are the only one that is still pending a decision.

We do have restrictions on our retail establishments like restaurants at one-third of capacity. And everybody is just biding -- chomping at the bit in order to continue to get life back to normal.

But we have seen two days of increased cases. We have an outbreak right now in the prison, which is very troublesome because it's a confined environment. But we also are concerned about that being spread into the community.

So we have to be very careful about this. Without any question we're going to continue to open up our economy and expand it. But we still have to be mindful of this very serious virus that can take lives.

In Arkansas, what I look at is our hospitalizations, which is still one of the lowest in the country at less than 100. I look at the number of cases, but more importantly the testing that we're doing and our positivity rate. And that is still very low.

So there are a lot of good indicators in Arkansas but we still want to be careful as we continue to look for ways to lift up some of these restrictions.

WHITFIELD: Because everybody wants to reopen and return to some normalcy but doing it safely is what's paramount. So your state did not have stay-at-home orders but you had some restrictions in place such as state parks closed, you just mentioned with restaurants you did have limited seating. And now you're going to have daily health screenings for employees.

So besides, you know, watching hospitalizations, how will you gauge whether it's time to completely reopen, you know, send a message to people that it's safe to resume back to, you know, business as usual?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the things that we want to watch very carefully is our ability to manage and trace any additional outbreaks or areas of concern. And so, every day we study the data and, you know, if we have 100 new cases, we examine how many of those in a controlled environment, such as a prison setting. How many are in the community, where are they?

And generally they've been spread across the state and one here and another in another county. And those are ones that you know does not reflect broad community spread. So what we look at is whether we're doing everything in our tracking and our tracing so that we can prevent any additional outbreak from spreading into the community.

We've got the infrastructure for that. But we're also looking at the fall. We want to open school next fall and we want to have the infrastructure, in terms of our testing. And by the way, our goal this month for testing is 60,000 which is 2 percent of our population, in one month. We're on track to do that but that's a big step forward in our radar system as to where the potential problems are in the state.

WHITFIELD: What have been the biggest challenges thus far?

HUTCHINSON: You know, the challenges are actually, to a certain extent, public expectations. You know, at first it was public expectation that you have to close everything down and we try to follow the science. And then you've got to open everything up without any restrictions and you've got to follow the science, the data as well.

But one of the more substantive challenges is simply our prisons because that's a closed environment. You've got staff going in and out of the community, even though we don't allow any visitors there in the prison system. It's still a confined environment that is very difficult. whenever you get one case in there, all of a sudden you have a hundred cases and it's a challenge to manage because these are important lives for us, just as important as any Arkansan, and we want to try to keep them safe.


WHITFIELD: All right. So one effort to try to, you know, restart business or life, you know, as usual, had a bit of a set back. Musician Travis McCready, you know, was scheduled to hold a social distancing concert last night in Arkansas but then it was cancelled at the last minute after health official pulled the liquor license for the venue.

What do you know about what that plan entailed and what were the biggest concerns?

HUTCHINSON: Well, they've made some changes to their protocols for safety. And so we have now approved the concert for next week. And we look forward to the music coming back. But it was very important that they do it right and do it before it was permitted for those type of larger venues to have those concerts. And so, they've got a plan now, they're going to have the concert.

And let me tell you, nobody loves music more than Arkansas. From Johnny Cash to Glen Campbell -- it all started right here.

WHITFIELD: All right. Governor Asa Hutchinson -- thank you so much. Continue to be well.

HUTCHINSON: All right. Thank you. Good to be with you.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

All right. Coming up, beaches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, also Delaware are set to reopen Memorial Day weekend, but what's being done to control the crowds? We're live at the Jersey Shore.

Plus, President Trump wants to jumpstart the economy, but businesses in the nation's capitol aren't opening up any time soon. How life differs between Washington and the surrounding suburbs.



WHITFIELD: In New Jersey, preparations are under way today to reopen beaches in time for Memorial Day weekend.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins us now from Ocean City, New Jersey, one of the beaches that's part of this so-called "dry run". Evan -- what's this all about?


Officials in New Jersey are trying to answer two questions today in Ocean City, New Jersey. One, if you reopen the beaches will they come? And two, if they come, will they be responsible?

The answer to the first question is yes, they will come. We see people here on the boardwalk. The second question still remains to be seen.

The goal all over the entire state and a lot of the northeast states is to have beaches reopened on Memorial Day. Here in Ocean City and a couple of other beach towns around it they're doing a dry run process, they're going to see how that works.

And what that means is amusement parks are closed, restaurants can only do takeout. A lot of the things on the boardwalk are still sort of shutdown but the beach is open to hang out on and, you know, to have a beach day. But officials are hoping the people remain socially distant and practice responsible behavior.

And to do that, they're sort of urging everyone to do the right thing. When you drive into town you see signs put up by the police that say, "be kind". Over the P.A. system, a kind of a nice message from the cops comes over saying do the right thing, be nice.

And then we spoke with some police here in town, and their plan is to go around during the day and tell people, you know, to do the right thing and be socially distant but they're not going to sort of give citations or arrest anybody.

So after that the question is -- is that actually working? We brought our trustee drone down here with us. And you can see from the footage that here on the board walk it's pretty packed but on the beach, where officials know that they have a lot of space, people are using that space and at least like an hour and a half ago, they're staying pretty distant.

So we're going to keep looking at that and try to figure out what's happening. But that's the goal to figure out those two questions can be answered today and so we're trying to figure out what's going to happen and so does everybody here in New Jersey.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So people are rather distant on the beach but then behind you, teeming with people. I didn't hear you mention a requirement of mask. You did, you know, say social distancing and, you know, I don't know what you're observing in terms of people, you know, space between them on the boardwalk. But what about the issue of masks?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So they are asking people to wear them. My crew and I wear them when we're not on camera. When I'm on camera I want everybody to see my face so I can talk to them.

But we're not seeing a lot of other people on the boardwalk doing it. I would say maybe 35 percent given my just sort of unscientific look at it. That's an issue. The police are all wearing them, the people who run the businesses are wearing them. But we have not seen a lot of people in the public that are not yet wearing them -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Let us know your observations throughout the day. We'll check back in with you -- Evan McMorris-Santoro.

All right. Virginia and Maryland are easing COVID restrictions in most parts of those states. This weekend, some stores are reopening. You can even get a hair cut in some locations but not in the suburbs surrounding Washington D.C.

CNN's Tom Foreman reports for the D.C. area, most of the coronavirus restrictions are staying in place for now.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you want a sense of how much this pandemic is affecting life right here in the nation's capital region, take a look at this. This is a line of cars stretching reportedly more than a mile waiting for free food giveaway in Montgomery County, Maryland -- a D.C. suburb. This is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. And that is how much people are struggling with the economic shutdown.

So authorities in Maryland on the northern side of D.C., and in Virginia on the southern side, they would all like to get their economies started again.

And Maryland has taken some steps that way. They have now announced that they're going to allow some businesses to open up a little bit, some houses of worship to have people come inside with social distancing with limited crowds to some degree.

On the Virginia side, a little more open. There are business-types being opened down there including hair salons, barbershops, restaurants that have outdoor seating, churches as well -- that sort of thing.


FOREMAN: So in both cases, you see the states trying to open a little bit. But closer into D.C. proper that's a different story. Both Virginia and Maryland -- they're suburbs that run up next to D.C. -- they remain virtually locked down because D.C. remains virtually locked down. The mayor there saying she is just not ready to open up yet.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We have been looking to the public health experts for metrics that suggest we're ready for a safe and phased reopening. And all of those metrics point to a period of sustained decreases in community transmission. And we think we're on the way.

FOREMAN: Really what she's talking about here are the guidelines that the White House itself pushed early on. You should have two weeks of positive numbers before you start talking about opening up. And as long as D.C. stays that way, probably the suburbs in Maryland and Virginia will too.

So as much as the President wants to see America opening up, he's not going to see it outside his windows any time soon.


WHITFIELD: All right. I'm sure the density in the surrounding areas and, of course, the nation's capital are also big factors.

All right. Tom foreman -- thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to give an update on New York's coronavirus response. We'll bring you his news conference as it happens live.



WHITFIELD: While the price of clothes, gas and air fare drops dramatically, grocery prices are soaring. Coronavirus is putting a strain on the food supply chain forcing some retailers to pass rising costs on to consumers.

Here is CNN's Dianne Gallagher.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If it felt like you were paying more on those grocery shopping trips last month, it wasn't your imagination. Grocery store prices spiked the most that they had in one month since 1974, nearly 50 years.

And look, we're talking everything here -- fruits, vegetables, cereal, meat, dairy -- it all went up. Eggs jumped by 16 percent.

And of course, this happened as unemployment skyrocketed. Many Americans are dealing with much smaller budgets right now and for some of them food insecurity for the very first time.

Now, economists tell CNN that the grocery store sticker shock it stems mostly from this explosion in demand and a supply chain that was really slow to react. So as those stay-at-home orders went into effect, schools and restaurants started closing, people started cooking at home a lot.

At the same time the meat processing plants started shutting down because the workers who were mostly black and brown, immigrants, refugees became sick at an alarming rate with COVID-19 -- more than 30 of them have died from the virus so far.

The nation's top union has blasted Kroger's decision to end its hero bonus, pointing out the pandemic's not over, at least 65 grocery store workers have died from COVID-19. That extra $2 per hour that employees were getting for being on the frontlines, well that ends this weekend but Kroger said it is instead offering an up to $400 thank you payment.

Now restaurant owners are also dealing with the sticker shock here as they work to reopen across the country. Wholesale beef prices hit record numbers this week. One restaurant owner told us if I can reopen I'm probably going to have to increase my menu prices if it doesn't change, which doesn't bode well in this economy for an already struggling industry.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN -- Atlanta.


WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me right now to discuss, Dr. Luiza Petre, a cardiologist and nutrition expert. Dr. Petre -- good to see you.

So help us understand. How does a poor diet increase the risk that the coronavirus may present?

DR. LUIZA PETRE, CARDIOLOGIST AND NUTRITION EXPERT: Yes, Fred -- you're totally on point here because we know nutrition and immunity go hand in hand.

Food has incredible power to affect our health. And we've been already for two months in a lockdown. We are resorting more on canned food with preservatives. And as we learned, prices are higher and also the food chain supply is impacted.

So the question is, what consequences health wise we are going to see because if you're not --


WHITFIELD: And Dr. Petre -- I apologize. I'm going to have to interrupt you because New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is speaking now with his briefing. Let's listen in.


CUOMO: -- but resolves slowly. Net change in hospitalizations is down, net change in intubations is down. Number of new cases per day is also down, 400, which sounds like a large number, but this is on a statewide population of 19 million -- 50,000 hospital beds.

The number of lives lost 157 -- that number has been stubborn. You can see May 10th it was 161 and these are all basically in the margin of error, if you will. This system is not that precise, I believe when they actually go back weeks from now and calculate the total number of deaths, at-home deaths, et cetera -- you'll see a variation in this number.

Again, we're right about where we were when we started. We just don't -- want to make sure we don't go back to the hell that we've gone through.

[11:34:58] CUOMO: And when we talk about reopening, that's a discussion we have

half the state now, in terms of regions which is now in the process of reopening.

We have a dashboard that tells people where their region is, what's going on, what the hospital rates are doing. What the infection rates are doing. So everyone has information to inform themselves and to have conversations with their local government.

We have a smart-phased reopening plan. That has been reviewed by great experts in the field, and we feel very good about that. We're getting a little more nuanced in our analysis. Looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings. Remember, the problem here are crowds and gatherings.

So what can you do or what economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd, right? They're talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd. But it can still be televised. Great.

If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that's great. We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks. And we're going to do that. There'll be guidelines for the actual participants but no crowds, no fans. But for the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work

That is also true with Watkins Glen. That can operate and there's a big viewership for Watkins Glen. I may take my car to Watkins Glen. I've done it before; I can do it again. Wear a mask in the car. I don't even have to wear a mask in the car, I'll be alone.

Update on elective surgeries. We're going to open Westchester and Suffolk counties for elective surgeries and ambulatory care. We want to make sure people who need medical services are getting medical services.

There was a period where hospitals were dealing, basically, with the COVID patients. We are past that period. If you need medical attention, if you need a medical procedure, you should get it, right. And hospitals are safe places to go. To the extent people are worried about going to a hospital, there's no reason.

And the caveat, as always, as we reopen, this is a new phase, this is an unknown phase. Nobody can tell you exactly what happens, because nobody has been here before. That's stone-to-stone across the morass. Take a step that you know is a firm step and then you watch and see what happens.

What happens depends on what we do. That's why this has been such a unique situation -- not for government, but for society. What will happen? Well, tell me what you're going to do, and I'll tell you what will happen. How can that be? Because you're in control of what happens.

How you act will determine what happens to you -- literally. Will I get infected? Well, it depends on what you do. Will we have a higher infection rate? Depends on what we do.

You increase economic activity; we expect to see an increase in numbers. We don't want to see a spike. Well, will there be a spike? It depends on how people react and it depends on their personal behavior. Are they wearing masks? Are they using hand sanitizer?

It's getting warmer, there's going to be a natural increase in activity anyway. People are going to come out of their homes. They've been there for a long time. The weather is warmer, they're going to come out. How do they act when they come out? And that is the big question mark.

Have the reopening with all those question marks? I sit there and have the conversations with experts, what's going to happen? What's going to happen. They say, you tell me how people react and I'll tell you what's going to happen. But I don't know how people are going to react. Well, then I can't tell you what's going to happen.

So if people are smart, then yes, you will see some increase in the numbers but you won't see a spike. You've seen spikes in other countries that have opened. You've seen spikes in states that have opened.


CUOMO: We have an intelligent, and I believe the most intelligent system, but it is still reliant on what we do. It is reliant on human behavior. So be smart, be diligent and don't underestimate this virus.

Local governments will do their part. I've spoken to all the local government officials; they're going to be doing compliance. They're going to be doing compliance on businesses that are opening. They have to follow the protocols. They're going to be doing compliance on enforcement, wearing the masks, et cetera. But still, it's going to come down to what individuals do.

The only other big question mark on where we go longer term is what the federal government does. We have a significant economic problem in this state. It's the collective of all the individual economic problems. And when you add up the collective, it's $61 billion to the state of New York.

Well, we don't really care about the state budget. It has nothing to do with me. I know that's what you may say. But that's actually not correct. The state budget is very relevant to you because what the state budget funds -- we don't do space exploration in the state. We fund schools, we fund hospitals and we fund local governments. That's the state budget.

A lot of words but it funds schools, it funds hospitals and it funds local governments. Local governments fund police, fire, all the heroes that we talk about. Hospitals -- that's nurses, that's doctors, that's emergency room staff.

The House passed a bill yesterday, which is a smart bill, which finally provides funding for state and local governments. They funded businesses. They funded millionaires. They funded corporations. Who did they forget? They forgot the police, the firefighters, the working Americans. What a shock, right.

The House bill also has Medicaid funding. It increases food assistance. 100 percent federal reimbursement for FEMA costs, funding for testing which is so important. Everyone says testing, testing, testing -- fine we'll get it up and running but we need funding. And it repeals the SALT tax penalty to the state of New York -- $14 billion. $14 billion, which was a theft in the first place.

After the House passes a bill, it goes to the Senate. And that's where the bill is now. And to the Senate, they should respond quickly. I understand, from their point of view, they say we funded businesses, we funded millionaires. Yes, good. That's nice.

How about working Americans? And that's what the Senate should think about. How do you actually help the American people? And my two cents, they shouldn't delay. They shouldn't be captive of special interests. I don't care who gave you money to run for office, you still work for the people.

No corporate bailouts. Don't bail out corporations and then have them turn around and layoff American workers. Don't let them use government money to subsidize employee layoffs. Don't do that. That would betray the trust of the American people.

That's what happened in the 2008 bailouts. They bailed out the banks and the banks turned around and gave each other bonuses. I was attorney general. I brought actions against AIG. I brought actions against the banks like the Bank of America who took taxpayer money and then gave themselves a raise.

Don't give corporations money so they can then layoff workers in their restructuring to get liens (ph). And then the American taxpayer has to pay for the people who have been laid off. And I'm afraid if this isn't raised sooner rather than later, that's exactly what these corporations are going to do.

And let's put the politics aside. If there's ever a moment in this government, in this country where it's not about politics, this is the moment.


CUOMO: I mean for senators to be talking about I'm not going to bail out blue states because the blue states have more coronavirus cases -- shame on you. Shame on you to look at the death toll in this nation and say, I want to count how many people passed away by their political party. And I'm more interested in states where Republicans live than where Democrats live.

We're not Democrats and Republicans. We are Americans. That's what comes first. Then in a time of crisis we've always been Americans. And the great leaders -- Democrats and Republicans have always said that.

Go back and look at the great Republicans, go back and look at the great Democrats and see how they operated. And try to be great in this moment -- senator and congressperson.

And if you don't want to look at former politicians, go back to the Good Book which said the same thing that the great politicians said. I wonder where they got it from. They got it from the Good Book.

Everybody says they read the Good Book, Mark 3:25, if a House is divided against itself, the house cannot stand. Read the Good Book. And do what's right for the American people. And let's be together -- tough, smart, united, disciplined and loving.

Questions, comments, queries?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, do you have any regrets --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and raise Watkins Glen decision. Do you intend on expanding that to other sports? You mentioned baseball -- are you ok with the Yankees or the Mets having games without fans?

CUOMO: It's something we're -- look, what you want to do is increase economic activity as much as you can without spiking the infection rate, right. So if you have an economic activity that can take place but generates economic interest, also entertainment interest, right -- a lot of people are sitting at home, something is interesting on television to follow. That's great. It makes staying at home easier.

And all our admonitions -- stay home, stay home, stay home are easier if there's some entertainment. So those are -- when you look at the risk/reward, there's a lot of reward for minimal risk.

We don't control baseball. I've spoken to baseball organizations; one state can't make that decision -- John. But if it works economically, that would be great.

We do control the racetracks. We can open Watkins Glen. So that is in our control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you opening it -- is it just for the NASCAR race in August? Is this all racing? What is exactly happening?

CUOMO: I don't know, exactly. Do you guys know -- Rod?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's opening it to allow for fanless activity there. So to the extent that NASCAR wants to race, which they've indicated that they would, right, as long as there's no fans there, they can bring their staff with guidance and operate without fans.

And that's the same thing for the racetracks -- for the horse racetracks. And the vast majority of those employees are already on site on those tracks working with those horses and training them. So as the Governor mentioned, the risk there is minimal because the activity is already occurring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean there are -- for any of these sports, baseball in particular, there's a, you know, a large number of maintenance staff. There's support staff. I mean can you do -- can you allow games in these empty stadiums and still account for density reduction and social distancing among those staff?

CUOMO: Well they -- that's what they're doing. They're coming up with a plan that says, look, first I have to maintain the stadium anyway. There are people there watching the stadium anyway. It's a big venue. If I'm only doing a game, I can bring back a limited number of staff. This is how they'll be protected. This will be the PPE they're wearing. There is no density because they're just securing the stadium.

So those are the plans they're coming up with.

I also want to mention one note just in case you raise it with me later. I have brought my vehicle to Watkins Glen. I have driven my car on Watkins Glen. I'm not an official participant in NASCAR. I have no vested interest in opening Watkins Glen.

If they do open and if I am invited to the ceremony, I may go and I may bring my car and I may drive it around the track. But there's no self-interest involved in the Watkins Glen decision. Just to be clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Albany county executive Daniel McCoy and Rensselaer County executive Steve McLaughlin have both said numerous times this week that it's better if the nursing home stats are not factored into the reopening metric because that is an isolated sort of problem. Do you agree or disagree and is it possible to actually separate that because the Capital Region (INAUDIBLE) people are -- I've seen here outside -- getting pretty restless?

CUOMO: Yes. Well, people have been restless. I'm restless. I think I'm more restless than anyone. And I'm sure we all think we're the most restless person.


CUOMO: We're talking to them with the Department of Health. I understand the issue. It's not just the Capital District Region.

To the extent we're saying to hospitals, you should keep nursing home patients and not discharge them to nursing homes. They're saying that's artificially increasing the hospitalization rate.

I get the point, and there -- again, it's not a capital district point, it's a point all across the board because we changed that policy all across the state. So we're having those conversations now. We don't have a decision but we're having those conversations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Also on that point, when you talk about regional reopenings before, you had a fear that people from certain regions would go to others. Amsterdam is one of the reasons that it's open right now is it's pretty close to here. Is there a fear that people from a place like Capital Region will go to the Mohawk Valley to shop now that they have that option?

CUOMO: Well, the only shopping is -- the only differential on shopping is when you open in phase one, you have a curbside pick-up. You now have curbside pick-up in the Capital District region, but only one employee. So there's not much of a difference on that phase one between regions.

The other phase is -- the other activities in phase one almost by definition are existing employees. If a manufacturing plant opens up, they have their employees and the employees for that business are going to go. So there's not a lot of cross-region fertilization if you will on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- (INAUDIBLE). You said yesterday they had plateaued. We're about 400 net every day and you said that those were coming from home transmission. Is that new data from hospital surveys or --

CUOMO: That's from last week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's from last week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that survey is only --

CUOMO: Remember we looked at the -- can you excuse me one second, please. Remember we did the data last week where we looked at -- we want to know where those new cases are coming from.

I had a theory. It turned out to be wrong, like many of my theories. I thought it might be predominantly essential workers who were still out there working, showing up and that that's where the new cases may have come from.

That was exactly wrong. The infection rate among the essential workers is lower than the general population and those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where are they being infected, I guess is the question. What is the course of infection? Do we know?

CUOMO: At home. Well, we don't know. We know where they're --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I mean they must be contracting the virus in the world and then bring it home?

CUOMO: Well, someone in the home could obviously have left the home to go shopping or go for a walk or whatever they did and brought it back home, if a person was staying home or the person who went out of their home, not to work, but to socialize or do whatever they did.

That person got infected and either went to the hospital or that person got infected, went home and infected the other people at home. Did we have anything other than that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would just add that this -- we will learn a lot more about this when we continue. We started the contact tracing and we're going to get a lot of data from that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Started contact tracing -- where are we at this

point? How many people are out there? How many people are being contact traced? Obviously it's an enormous undertaking, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is just starting now. We are enrolling hundreds of people, obviously, to do this. We're working closely with the Bloomberg Foundation and with the Vital Strategies (ph) on this and we'll be able give you more data as we move this out.

CUOMO: Yes, but we have -- just excuse me one second. Ballpark -- how many tracers do we have set up across the state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have several hundred now for the five regions that are open. So they have met their metric of having those numbers, the training has begun with they've done the four to six-hour training with the Johns Hopkins University program. The call center has been stood up.

But yesterday was the first day we've opened. So have we gotten a call yet? I do not know. We can get that answer for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know if they're actually out doing their work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're ready to go.

CUOMO: They're ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday was the first day we opened some of those regions so we'll have to get that data as it comes in now. I don't have that right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But still, just considering the scope of this, I mean we did a report a couple of days ago that basically said that it would take a team of five contact tracers three days to contact 50 people -- exponential growth.

Are you still confident this is going to work, or is this merely a way to kind of like combat future outbreaks?


CUOMO: Well, if you look at -- you know, how many tracers we have -- because if you look at the regions who opened, they had a number of tracers that they had to have to open.

So those five regions that opened, they had to have a certain number of tracers proportionate to their population. And those are all in place. So if you just add up those five regions' tracers' numbers on the dashboard, you'll find out.

But the tracing is, as you say, a first time. Testing is a first time. Tracing -- all of this is a first time. The tracing operation is tremendously large and challenging. That's why Mike Bloomberg was so important here in his offer to help with his philanthropy, with Johns Hopkins, with this group Vital Strategies to come up with a training program, recruitment program. How does it work?

And then to coordinate it statewide, especially down state, because there's such cross-pollenization to stay with the analogy down state, right. You live in Westchester but you work in New York or you have a summer home on Long Island. So the regional coordination is also very important.

But that is all coming online. A region doesn't open unless they have that in place.

The data we took last week was more on the question of 400 new cases -- where are they coming from? And again, my premise was they're workers, and the data said they're not which is actually good news. Surprising but good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- do you have any outstanding COVID- related bills currently in the legislature? Is there any bill you would like to see passed as the legislature ends or are lawmakers' jobs effectively done here in Albany?

CUOMO: Well, the lawmakers in many ways are working harder than they've worked in a long time. I think all elected officials are working harder than they've worked in a long time, right. because if you're in a district, you're getting constant calls of people who need all sorts of help. So their constituency demands a way up.

Also the executive orders that I -- everything I do, we talk to the leaders about. And they're talking to their members about, right? So they may not be here physically, but they are all engaged, not just on the constituency work. They're also part of what I am doing.

I'm not taking actions that I'm not talking to them about. They're raising issues with me. I think we have to look at this. I think we have to look at this. So they're very much engaged in everything that we're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the new COVID hospitalization, they seem to have been leveled these past few days and also the number of deaths seems to not be going down. Do you think that more lockdown measures are going to be needed to get those numbers down even further or can you expect those numbers to stay low?

CUOMO: You can't do any more lockdown measures. You can't do any more lockdown measures than we've done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like nonessential trips outside to grocery stores. They're only going to the grocery stores on certain days.

CUOMO: No, we're not talking about any additional lockdown. The numbers are down, so the question is reopening, right? You're on the other side of the tunnel. And how do you reopen and reopening smartly, intelligently, with individual responsibility. So understanding you're going to see an increase in the numbers, but you don't want to see a spike.

It's just a higher -- you know, you can handle -- well, this is a conversation about the rate of transmission, et cetera. You can have -- and we do have now -- if you look at the numbers now, it's not a constant number. It's a little up, a little down. A little up, a little down. You can handle that. You don't want to handle any spike which gets up near your hospital capacity or anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Statistically, what does that look like? Is that a 20 percent increase? 30 percent? Like what is the metric --

CUOMO: Well, it depends on what your original number is, right. You have different numbers all across the state. Some regions you're in the single digits. Some regions you're in the double digits. So it's proportionate to that and the hospital capacity in that region -- everything is by that region. Did I say that correctly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor -- do you regret moving forward with the anti-malaria drug, given the whistle blower's complaint that in (INAUDIBLE) suggesting some patients receiving a cocktail of the drug had cardiac arrest at a slightly elevated level? Is the state aware of any such concerns through its own analysis?

CUOMO: You want to answer that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we looked at the hydroxychloroquine. We found that of the hospitalized patients there was no benefit or adverse harm. It was clearly known that there was an issue of the potential of abnormal heart rhythms when you gave that drug along with the Azithromycin. The Azithromycin which is the other drug.