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New York Governor Gives Coronavirus Update. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired May 17, 2020 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta. We want to take you straight to the daily briefing of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): That changes down. Intubations is down. And new COVID hospitalizations are down. So, it's a good day across the plate.
It is interesting and we've always been talking about this and been looking at this. It's interesting to see how the decline has actually been relatively flat. Remember, we always talked about we knew how it was a sharp, steeply incline was. What was the decline going to look like? What was the contour of the mountain going to look like? Look, how long it takes on the way down compared to on the way up. That's why those spikes are dangerous. In which we had the spike, coming down from the spike is a prolonged period of time.
The number of deaths are down. 139. In a different time and place, if I had that news to deliver, that would be incredibly shocking to people. Only in this environment is it not shocking. And relative to where we were, it's good news. Again, we're right about where we were when we started. We just want to make sure we never go back to where we were.
The question is reopening, not reopening or not. Everybody wants to reopen. Nobody wants to reopen more than I do. The question is how.
We've said the five upstate regions are reopening. We say this - have said there's a dashboard with all the facts and data that are driving these decisions. There's been a shift in the Capital Region and in Western New York where on the seven metrics.
On the metrics, they are now qualified for reopening. There is still a need to increase tracing. The number of people who prepared to do tracing. And that is a pure administrative function. And we'll be working with both Capital Region and Western New York to get that tracing up. But that is a purely administrative function.
In the Capital District, we have -- we need 383 tracers. We need an additional 166 identified. Western New York, we need 521. We'd need an additional 352. We'll be talking to the regional heads today to find those additional personnel and get them trained and get them ready. But that's the only function that has to be performed for those regions to open. And again, that's something that we anticipated. And that's just administrative and working together with the regions we can get that done. So, that's good news.
Today is day 78. Day 78 or 78 days a long time or a short time? You can argue both. When you shut down everything and you have gone through the trauma we have gone through. 78 days is a long time. And people are feeling it and they are feeling it in a number of ways.
We've talked about it but I don't know that any of us have really explored the depths of the mental health issues that have been created inadvertently through the 78 days.
We've been so anxious about the day to day. And operationally oriented. We've been talking about hospitalizations, talking about deaths, talking about infection rates but there's also a more subtle but very present mental health crisis that has been going on.
Don't underestimate the trauma that this has created for people. Out of the blue comes this virus. Something we've never seen before. You're living a science fiction movie. It's been incredibly anxiety producing, traumatic, disturbing, and we've felt and seen all along evidence that this is creating a significant mental health challenge for people.
Look at some of these numbers now that people are reporting. The number of Americans who are reporting serious mental distress, up to 38 percent. Doesn't even discriminate by age, right? 18 to 44. It's a multiple of what it's ever been. And this is something that I think deserves more attention than it has gotten because it's very real.
How are you? It's a simple question that we ask. How are you really? The Mental Health Coalition is working on a project. My brother-in-law Kenneth Cole, his daughter -- my niece, Katie Cole, who is a tech genius are working with the Mental Health Coalition. They have a website. How are you really? And they ask people to answer that question and share their feelings and their thoughts. But not just how are you.
How are you?
I'm doing fine. Thank you.
How are you?
How are you?
You know pretty much all right. Getting by.
Yes, forget that answer. How are you really means let's get to a deep, different depth in the question and different depth in the answer. How are you really? You can't be fine. Right? It's not a trite answer. We're going through hell. How are you when you're going through hell? Not good. That's what happens when you're going through hell. I'm not good. I'm anxious. I'm stressed. I'm nervous. I'm afraid. I'm afraid. I'm living a science fiction movie. I'm afraid. That's how I am.
We're not comfortable talking about that. Right? That's not the normal social back and forth. The "how are you doing" question is almost a throw away. How are you doing? The expected response is "fine." It's almost a rhetorical question.
How are you doing?
How are you doing really? And let's talk about it. And let's be aware of it. And yes, government can do a lot and groups can do a lot. We can also do a lot in our own lives, with our own families. And I'm trying with my family, on the telephone, the ones I have in person.
How are you doing? Really. Really. Let's talk about this. I want you to understand how I feel and the stress I feel. And how are you doing really? It sounds simple but I think it can be very constructive individually. I know it's been helpful for me. And this "how are you really" can actually provoke a good conversation. So, I would suggest people look at it. For people who have issues, we have a support hotline where we've asked mental health professionals to volunteer their time. Connect by Face Time on the telephone. We've had a tremendous response.
Use it! This is nothing to be ashamed of ever in life. But especially now. Of course, there's going to be mental health issues. And of course, people are going to have stress that they need to work through and anxiety that they need to work through. Nothing to be ashamed of. Ever. But especially now. Also, at headspace.com, that has been very helpful, and we thank them for their support.
On the reopening strategy, we've said all along that it is data driven and a big piece of the data-driven strategy is the testing component. We've all been talking about this testing. Especially diagnostic testing, which has been very important.
In the beginning, the challenge was what is diagnostic testing? How do we ramp up diagnostic testing? This is a scale that this nation has never done before. How do we do it? How do we do it quickly?
And it was involved -- it involved the federal government, involved the state governments, FDA had to approve tests. We then had to get our labs up and running, we set an initial goal, March 13th. It seems like a lifetime ago, but actually it was just about month. Right over a month. 6,000 tests a day we were going to try to do. That sounded like a very ambitious goal.
We then got the 10,000 tests a day. Then got to 15,000 tests per day. 20,000 tests. I then met with the president and we talked about an institutional agreement between states and the federal government would help with the supply chain and getting the materials to the national labs. The states would be responsible for organizing their labs. And we said we're going to try to double our capacity at that time on April 21 or thereabouts. And everybody said you've been too aggressive. You can't do it. You can't do it. I said what can I tell you that's who I am.
We're at doubling the goal. We're now at 40,000 tests per day. So, that's May 17th. We started with about 6,000 tests. So, we now have a really significant number of tests that we can do. So much so that per capita we're doing more than other countries. Significantly more.
Diagnostic tests by population. New York is 7.1. Italy is second 4.9. Canada, USA, nationally is doing 3.3. We're double the national average. So, thank you to the Department of Health team and everybody who has been working so hard to do that. When you compare us to other states in the nation, again we're double the percentage. Not raw numbers because we're bigger than many states. But by percentage, we're much, much higher.
And this is a very big advantage for us because testing originally was used to control the virus. Now testing is really going to be very helpful in monitoring the virus. Right? We're all talking about what is the spread of the virus when you increase economic activity?
How do you know what the spread of the virus is? Testing, testing, testing. Not only do we have a large capacity to process the tests, we also put together a network of testing sites all across the state. And we have a new agreement with CVS which has a tremendous network across this state where they're going to be bringing on testing capacity. So, we thank them for that.
We have 700 testing sites. OK. We can do more tests and we have 700 testing sites across the state. Which means there's a testing site near you. So many sites that it doesn't fit on a map. That's how many sites. That's what a map looks like when you plot all the sites. It's meaningless unless you like those blue things all over the state. So, it's 700 testing sites.
What's the new problem? The new problem is we have more sites and more testing capacity that we're using. OK. That's a good problem but that is the next from hurdle to hurdle, right? Stone to stone. Yes. I see it from hurdle to hurdle down the track. Now we have more testing capacity and more sites than we're actually using. We have drive-in sites that can do 15,000 per day, we're doing about 5,000 per day. The more tests, the better for the state, the better for society, the better for your family. The better for you.
Who can get a test today? Any individual who thinks they have a COVID symptom. COVID symptoms are coughing, sneezing, fever. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we have mentioned -
CUOMO: Sneezing, chest pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cough
CUOMO: Cough. Right? Because COVID symptoms are basically like flu symptoms. If you think you have symptoms, get a test! Get a test! It's up to you!
Any individual who had contact with a person who you find out had COVID. Right. You get the phone call. I was with you last night at a party. It turns out I tested positive for COVID.
OK. You now qualify for a test. You lose your sense of smell. You lose your sense of taste. That's a symptom of COVID.
Any individual who is on quarantine, precaution or mandatory, any healthcare worker, any nursing home worker, any first responder can go for a test today. Any essential worker who interacts with the public. Food delivery personnel, person working in a retail store, they're all eligible. And we're increasing it today, any individual who would return to work in phase one. Construction, manufacturing, curb side retail. OK.
But again, it's anyone who thinks they have COVID symptoms. So, it's a tremendously large universe of people who can get tested. And all you have to do is go to our website, find a testing site near you, and get a test! And it is a fast and easy thing to do.
Now, we've been working on this for a period of time. And first we have to get the testing capacity up the we have to get the sites up and we wanted to make it easy then we increase eligibility. And we just don't have enough New Yorkers to be tested. So, I've been asking people, have you been tested? No. Why not?
Well, they can't say it's inconvenient because we have 700 sites. They can't say they're not eligible because you have any symptoms, you're eligible. There's a general proclivity where -- I don't mean any disrespect to the medical professionals. My sister is a doctor. But some people just don't like to go to the doctor and don't like to get tested. On a personal level, they love doctor. How can you not?
But there's a reluctance to go to a doctor's office, which I understand. I am not good when it comes to this. I don't do the scheduled - all the scheduled check ins that I'm supposed to be doing. And it is sort of like -- do I really want to know. Do I really want to go and be poked and prodded and investigated and have a test and then worry about what the test says? Let's just be honest.
So, I'm not good at this. But this test is not an invasive test. There's no pain to this test. There is nothing about this test that should intimidate people from not taking this test. It is fast. It is easy. It is so fast and so easy that even a governor can take this test. That's how fast and easy it is. And for you doubting Thomases, which is what you all are, gender neutral because by profession you are doubting Thomases.
I'm going to show you how fast and easy it is to take a test and demonstrate why there should be no reluctance. This is Dr. Elizabeth Dufort who is in the appropriate PPE wear. Nice to see you, doctor. You make that gown look good.
DR. ELIZABETH DUFORT, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, ALBANY, NEW YORK: Head up a little
CUOMO: Head up.
DUFORT: Close your eyes.
CUOMO: Close my eyes. Why do I need to close my eyes? You can question the doctor. That's OK. Why do I need to close your eyes?
DUFORT: For comfort. It might make you tear a little bit.
CUOMO: I might fall asleep?
CUOMO: That's it?
CUOMO: That's it. Nothing else.
DUFORT: That's it.
CUOMO: I told you. Thank you very much, Doctor.
That is the whole test. I'm not in pain. I'm not in discomfort. Closing my eyes was a moment of relaxation. There's no reason why you should not get the test. And you don't even have to be New York tough to take that test. You do have to be smart to get that test and you have to be united and you have to be disciplined for the period of time that you close your time. And you have to love yourself and love your family and love New York.
QUESTION: Is there any update on unemployment? There are so many (INAUDIBLE) even after the new website came out saying that they haven't been called. (INAUDIBLE) it will be two hours or there are some sort of (INAUDIBLE) in the system is. Is there any problem (INAUDIBLE)?
CUOMO: When you say maybe that's a question. Are you saying - what are you trying to say there? That I am not competent and knowledgeable to answer that question?
CUOMO: Are you trying to say that -- do you think maybe I don't have a command of the facts? Is that what you're implying?
QUESTION: I'm saying that's your specialty.
CUOMO: All right. Well, that's a good thing to know. And you happen to be right. I don't know. So, I will defer to Melissa.
MELISA DEROSA, SECRETARY, OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR NEW YORK: There has been tremendous progress with the unemployment system. We'll have another update middle of this week but we're getting to a point where the only claims that are longer than three weeks old are either suspected fraud, not certified, or partial information, meaning the person that's applying has left out their social security number, some form of identification that is mandated by the federal government. So, we actually feel very, very good about the progress that we've made and the new system that we've put into place has been incredible.
The people -- I've seen people tweeting. People who have applied last week have already gotten their money this week. And so, we have gotten through the backlog. And the people there remaining it's either certification issues, partial information issues, or suspected fraud. And so, for those folks, we're trying to update the website to tell you specifically what it is that is holding you back in that pending status and those updates should come in this week, as well. But there's been tremendous progress in the unemployment system.
I also know that "The New York Times" reported this morning that there has been suspected fraud attempts on states on their unemployment insurance system. And so, that speaks to also the need to make sure that as we're processing these claims, we're making sure that the people are getting the money are actually the people that they say they are and not just jamming the money out the door so quickly.
That then at the end of this, when this is all over, you guys come to the press office and say, you gave out millions of millions of dollars to people who didn't believe it. Did you have a proper vetting system in place? Did you do what you needed to do?
And so, we are maintaining a very careful balance of making sure that people who are in need are getting the money that they need. And also, being diligent and vetting people properly so that taxpayer dollars don't fall into the wrong hands.
QUESTION: How many are still outstanding?
DEROSA: We can give you a number middle of this week. But it is -- we've got them batched into like pre-middle of April, post-middle of April, so we can break those down for you. I think we're going to have Roberta (ph) do a call tomorrow to go through all the numbers.
CUOMO: Yes. But just to reinforce a couple of those points. Backlog is a claim that's more than three weeks old. Is that what we call backlog? The backlog has been finished. It doesn't mean everyone has gotten the check. But if you don't get a check, just because you apply, it doesn't mean you necessarily automatically get a check. You have to meet certain criteria, which are in the federal bill for good reason.
So, there can be -- you filled out the application but there are questions. You didn't fill out the whole application. They're investigating something about what you said. But the backlog is done. And Melissa's point is very well taken.
And I said this. I said you know the pendulum swings in life, right? Process the claims, process the claims, process the claims. I said, yes, but just remember what is going to happen when the pendulum swings 30 days from now when somebody says I have John Smith here who got an unemployment check and he didn't qualify. It was a fraud. Why didn't you check it before you authorized payment? That is going to happen.
And that's why balance is yes, get the checks out the doors as fast as you can. But make sure the person who's getting the check is actually eligible for the check because no one is in the business of shoveling money out of a window. And nobody wants to be taken advantage of and these are tax dollars and they have to be exercised diligently.
So, every state is going through this. If you look at what we have done compared to the other states, it's not even close how many claims we have processed and how fast we have processed them. So, the backlog is all gone. But we still have to make sure eligible people receive it and you're starting to hear already where there was fraud in people who got it. So, that's the yin and the yang.
QUESTION: So, in a test review on average. What's our actual max capacity and what will the state do to better use our capacity, the testing made in nursing home residency (INAUDIBLE)?
CUOMO: We're at 40,000 today.
QUESTION: What's the max capacity because the slide said some of the drive through tests have a max of 15,000, but now we are getting 5,000.
CUOMO: Well, we're at 40,000 today which meets our goal of saying we were going to double our ability to test, right? We were at 20. We -- I met with the president, we said we're going -- our goal is doubling. We've met the goal of doubling. We're now at 40,000. We want to test as many as we can possibly test.
And what is the maximum testing capacity? You don't know yet. It's how many test kits can we get? How many vials can we get? How many reagents can we get? How many machines can we get? How many more labs can we get? How many more CVS can we get? How many more rite aids can we get? How many more doctor offices can we get? How many more hospital employees can we get? You calculate all of that, you'd be at a theoretical maximum.
DEROSA: On the nursing home question. In addition to those 40,000 a day that we saw up on the slide, we have reserved about to be on that 35,000 tests a day. It is 30,000 for now to 35,000 tests a day. On top of that 30,000 a day, we just dedicated to nursing home staff or the DOH mandated making sure that there's --
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) 75,000 tests a day --
DEROSA: That's the commercial labs that's issued out of state.
CUOMO: Excuse me. (CROSSTALK) But you want to add something, Doctor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Combined between in state and out of state will be 80 to 90,000 a day.
QUESTION: Can we get some clarity on summer camps? There's been some questions as to whether or not they should open. Will they open? We're approaching summer vacation. Obviously, parents are concerned.
CUOMO: Rob, do you - or Melissa --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking at summer camps. Coming up with guidelines with the new cases that were arising with children, right? We're looking at those guidelines. Other states around us. We're also moving to open summer camps. They've also slowed down that process. We do have guidelines for childcare but as far as camps where people sleeping away. How you do that in the context of the new cases we're relooking at them. So, we don't have an answer yet on summer camps. But we're looking at opening them. Their deadline close to when they generally open at the end of June. So, we will get guidelines out and make a decision way in time before that. But right now, the public health concern is the first.
CUOMO: Let's stay with this for a second. Let's just stay with this for a second. Summer camps, we've been looking at summer camps because they were gatherings and they obviously had density and they were posing issues. This issue with this Kawasaki like syndrome is I think very important. We have about 120 cases now that we're investigating in New York. People say that's only 120 children. I don't believe it's only 120 children.
I believe this is a syndrome that we are just discovering. And Dr. Zucker had a couple of conversations with health people across the country. Already like 16 states are saying oh, yes, we see that also. Five countries are saying we see that also. I think the numbers are going to be much, much higher.
And we need to know that as a society. We were told children are not affected. And we've been operating on that basis. And that's one conversation with summer camps when you say children are not affected. If you now change your facts again and you say, oh, children may be affected, not with the traditional COVID respiratory illness but they may have this more serious inflammatory illness, that could be a heart disease issue. That's a different set of facts, right? So, respond to the facts. And it's especially tricky here because the facts change. Do you want to add anything?
DR. HOWARD ZUCKER, COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH, NEW YORK: The governor covered the major issues. We need to make sure that we don't do anything to harm any of these children and the numbers keep rising. As the governor mentioned 16 states. But we have over 120 cases here. But if you look across the country it's past 200.
QUESTION: Does that change your thinking about school in the fall? I mean, if this is in fact attacking kids, I mean at what point do you start to consider cancelling school?
CUOMO: You're exactly right. You're exactly right. And look, nobody knows. One thing we've realized as a society there's an assumption that somebody always knows the answer and they're just not telling us. Sometimes nobody knows. I'm telling you nobody knows about this virus. Nobody knows what the effect may be on children. I think we discovered this Kawasaki like situation. I don't believe it's only 100 kids. I believe it's only 100 kids until you look. And I think that number is going to go up.
Good news about schools, you know, the fall is a lifetime away as far as we're concerned at this rate. Summer camps it's relevant. So, on the summer camps issue, on any of this children related issues, it's really important for us to get the facts on is this just 120 kids and it's an anomaly or is that just the tip of the iceberg and that represents thousands of kids who have had this reaction.
QUESTION: What do you say to families who suffered losses inside nursing homes? And they're looking for accountability and they'd like to see justice. For example, I've recently interviewed a family, three siblings, they've had two nursing home losses within a few weeks of one another on two separate floors in the same facility here in Albany. They felt so much solace when you got up and talked about Matilda's Law. And they said, great, we're protected. Like our loved ones are going to be OK because of Matilda's Law. And then, their loved ones passed away because we couldn't get the testing. So, they're looking for accountability and they feel that they were failed. What is the comment to that?
CUOMO: The comment is this. And I have those conversations all day long with people who have lost people, right? We lost 139 people yesterday in hospitals. Who is accountable for those 139 deaths? How do we get justice for those families who had 139 deaths? What is justice? Who can we prosecute for those deaths? Nobody. Nobody. Mother nature. God? Where did this virus come from?
People are going to die by this virus. That is the truth. Best hospital system on the globe I believe we have. Best doctors, best nurses who have responded like heroes. Every medication, ventilators. The health system wants for nothing. We worked it out, so we always had available beds. Nobody was deprived of a bed or medical coverage in any way and still people died. Still people died. Older people. Vulnerable people are going to die from this virus.
That's going to happen. Despite whatever you do because with all of our progress as a society, we can't keep everyone alive. Despite everything you do, and older people are more vulnerable. And that is a fact. And that is not going to change. And look, to me, the really difficult conversations for me are my son was 40 years old. He was not a senior citizen. Didn't have a corps morbidity and got this virus because he was an essential worker and doing the right thing and had an aneurysm. I thought young people were fine. And he was doing the right thing as an essential worker. There's a randomness to this virus that is inexplicable. Why do people die? You know, that's beyond this. Who is accountable? You can have a situation where everyone did the right thing, and everyone tried their best. And people still die.
QUESTION: So, what you're saying still that if the mandates that are currently in place right now that we've all been talking about in here were in place from the get go, they feel that their loved ones might still be here.
CUOMO: I don't - look, people rationalize death in different ways. I don't think there's any logical rational to say they would be alive today. We always had -- I said from day one the fear is we overwhelm the hospital system and then people die because we couldn't get them the medical care that was an accountable, avoidable situation. That was Italy by the way. People died in hallways on gurneys in hospitals because the doctors and the nurses were overwhelmed and because they didn't have a ventilator. They didn't have a doctor available and people died.
That is a heartbreak because then you say they didn't have to die. If the doctor had gotten to my mother, my mother would have been alive. That's what we protect against. And we did it successfully. I now get criticized that I had an over capacity of beds available. You didn't need all those beds, as it turned out. I'll take that. I'm guilty. I increased the hospital capacity to an extent that we didn't even need. But you know what, nobody died who didn't -- where we didn't do everything that we could. And that has been true from day one. It's true today and was true from day one. We always have capacity.
QUESTION: A few days ago, you said that there needed to be broad based testing for -- so that officials can then perform testing in the prison system. Now it appears a lot of those capabilities have come online. Can you please describe if there's a widespread -
CUOMO: We are testing in every congregate facility in the state.
QUESTION: Prisoners -
CUOMO: Prisoners, prisons, any congregate care facility in the state, nursing homes, top of the list.
QUESTION: But now it shows that prisoners are being tested four times fewer than the general public and there are still facilities that don't have any testing or sometimes somebody does test positive and there are few tests in a facility. And then very few tests are then performed there afterwards. Can you please comment on that or any --
CUOMO: Who found that? Who surveyed prisons? QUESTION: That's according to state data.
CUOMO: I don't know. Do we know?
DEROSA: We test prisoners at the same criteria that we test people outside prisons. So, the same criteria that's been applied outside of prison whilst if you're symptomatic, if you're know to have common contact with somebody who is COVID positive. That same rule applies within prisons. And we luckily have not seen outbreaks like we've seen in some of these other states like Ohio and in some of the other facilities that are not state facilities. So, if there is a reason or a need to expand the testing within the prisons, that's something that we're looking at, and we'll expand accordingly.
QUESTION: Is there a rational though for --
CUOMO: But let me tell you something. I'll tell you why you can't be right. Because the test of the correction officers, right, we tested all the essential workers. The correction officers test well below the general public. In terms of infection rate, right? The people who work in the prisons tested a much lower infection rate than the general public.
But how if you had a - we're testing nursing home staff twice a week. Why? Because they're a canary in the coal mine for the nursing home. If you have a problem with COVID-19 in a nursing home, you're going have it with the staff. Also, so it's a way of looking at the problem and the general population, right? That's the nursing home staff theory.
Also, the prison staff is the same theory. If you have a problem in a prison, you're going have correction officers who test positive. Because they can't avoid contact with the prison population. You grab in a cell. You put your hand on the counter. We've done extensive testing of all frontline personnel at higher percentage. The correction officers test way below the general public.
One more, Mark.
CUOMO: I'm sorry.
CUOMO: I'm sorry. It doesn't matter what state.
QUESTION: Well, thank you. This coming Thursday - you talked about mental health, you talked about emotions, talked about anxiety (INAUDIBLE) synagogues and meeting locality upstate (INAUDIBLE) and they're really feeling the need to go out and exert one (INAUDIBLE). I know that there's set of problem downstate but upstate we get 14, 15 people.
We could set chairs apart. Are there any guidelines, any protocols that to be set with the health department and county health officials or law enforcement come and make sure that they're doing things like they need to that can allow a segment of the population to at least observe this one.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) It really would relieve a lot of stress and anxiety on the small section and be safe at the same time.
CUOMO: Yes. Two things Mark. First, we're talking about the upcoming holiday. We're also talking about special provisions for Memorial Day celebrations, which are also coming up. We're going to have guidelines on that tomorrow or by Tuesday. If we can circumscribe a ceremony. Your number was 14, 15 people. Social distance with safeguards. Can we find a way to do a ceremony, religious ceremony or a ceremony that honors Memorial Day? I think we can. And that's what we're talking through, but we'll have an answer in the next day or two.
And on your mother's passing, there's an Italian expression. The two things in life that will never leave you. The eye of God and the love of a mother. She's still here.
Have a good day, guys.
WHITFIELD: All right. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo there saying while the deaths are down due to coronavirus there in New York, down to 139, today this pandemic is definitely taking a toll on people's mental health. There remains concern, particularly, he says, about children who are suffering from symptoms that are in correspondence with Kawasaki's disease may be related to coronavirus.
And as for tests, he says anyone who thinks they have symptoms can get a test with some 700 sites throughout New York. Even the governor demonstrating how easy it is by getting a nasal swab test himself right there during the briefing while we covered it live here on CNN.
All right. Joining me right now is CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter, and Dr. Celine Gounder, CNN medical analyst and host of the "Epidemic" pod cast. Good to see all of you.
Polo, you first -- some relief coming from the governor that the numbers are down but he says it is still really important for people to be vigilant and if they have a symptom, they think they have a symptom, to get a test.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Several things have said out Fred. The first one is what you mentioned that that decline is still relatively flat. And then referring to the decline of these cases here. And then he also referred to what he described as this new problem, also a good problem. And that is as the states' capacity is simply more than what is actually being used. It's all on about 700 sites across the city of New York. And reminded viewers that testing is fast and also easy.
And now that he say that, he also demonstrated, as you just pointed out, quite the interesting moment there when he actually had the test administered to him live on-air by a medical professional on PPE. And as the governor said, the state has to test as many as they can test. They've already met that earlier target of about 40,000 a day. But they certainly want that number to at least double because the governor certainly recognizes that's going to be key as more and more of these regions across -- not just the state of New York here but also across the country would like to enter those early phases of reopening.
And then, finally, of course, that mental health point that he also made describing this as the other crisis that not only New Yorkers but Americans are facing this right now. And something that's certainly not only has to be talked about more but also has to be phased and also resolved for many people who are struggling emotionally and financially.
WHITFIELD: And Dr. Gounder, let's talk about these, you know, tests. The importance of the tests. The governor saying it is there for your disposal. You need to take advantage of it, if you feel like you have a symptom. While New York says it's got some 700 sites and that they're able to conduct 40,000 a day for the nation's fourth largest state at 19 million people. Is that enough? Will that make a dent?
DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Fredericka, yes, we have dramatically scaled up testing availability and capacity in New York state. But what the governor did not explain in the briefing is that the big scandal in New York is the lack of collaboration between the state and New York City where many of the, you know, really the hardest hit part of the state.
And so, for example, New York City is about to launch its own website giving information about testing sites. And the state is not sharing basic information that could be included in that. So, if you're not seeing appropriate utilization of the capacity that is there, it's in part because they're not sharing of that information. I used to be an assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and I can tell you, I have friends sitting there now who have to wait until these briefings to get really basic information that should be shared with them.
WHITFIELD: So, let's talk about this mental health component, as well. You know, the governor underscoring what many have forecast for a long time. You know, this is putting a strain on everyone one in so many different ways. Even the "New York Times" today does a piece on frontline workers, healthcare workers who are suffering from PTSD. How serious is this mental health component to coronavirus, in your view?
GOUNDER: Well, you know, I have had to witness some of our coworkers, nurses, for example, who have had to be intubated and put on ventilators in the line of duty because they are putting themselves at risk in the work they're doing. We had, as we know, inadequate personal protective equipment early on. So that is very -- it's really traumatic. Because you're having to go back to the very places where you witnessed these things happening day after day after day.
And so, that is tremendously stressful working environment to continue having to function.
WHITFIELD: Brian, the governor is near masterful at these briefings. This time, you know, using himself as tool to really disarm you know the fear that some people might have about testing. About even going to their doctor. He used himself to demonstrate just how simple and easy it is.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And testing is what makes the invisible enemy visible. It's the only way you can see what is happening. So, you see him here undergoing the test with that swab up his nose.
I thought it was also important that he promoted this website called howareyoureally.org. To your point, Fred, about mental health. How are you really? I thought it was a great resource from the Mental Health Coalition. For people looking for information and ideas, Fred, to get through this pandemic and get through this upside-down nature about American lives right now.
At the same time, it's a good thing that Cuomo and other governors are being scrutinized for how they handled nursing homes and other vulnerable populations of individuals. Especially in the early days of this crisis. You know in that moment where things were really peaking because there were so many deaths that are so tragic that do need to be scrutinized. And he was at this conference today.
Look, the pandemic is clearly slowing but still expanding. Meaning most states are leveling off or declining. Some states are more worrisome than others. But as our colleague Dr. Sanjay Gupta says on his op-ed for cnn.com right now, he's worried for America. He says because the country has been infected and we're only part way through the miserable therapy. Dr. Gupta writing that stopping now will just make things worse.
I mean that the fear I have, Fred, driving through and hadn't seen some folks acting like it's a normal summer day and others bundled up with masks being very careful.
STELTER: But of course, those folks are interacting with each other. And so, ultimately, this is going to be not on a state level but an individual neighborhood by neighborhood level all across the country. Individual choices. Trying to help each other. Help our neighbors.
WHITFIELD: Yes. There are huge contradictions you know left and right in any city where you reside.
Polo, you know, the governor has been talking about his caution to reopening New York. And you know there was a question about schools. Well, if you have newer concerns now about children and this Kawasaki disease is like symptom that many are exhibiting, then what about those summer schools? What about returning to schools in the fall?
SANDOVAL: Right. There is a large part of the population here. Especially here in New York and parents who are - they certainly want that sense of normalcy return not just in their life but that of their children. So, it's certainly something that I'm hearing when I'm speaking to parents, for example, here in New York. And so, I think that the state government certainly has to walk that line and, to the doctor's point, also has to work with officials at the municipal level in New York City to try to find that solution.
And really trying to tell me when the right time is to enter phase one and then what follows that. And as what I saw yesterday in upstate New York is you are beginning to see some normalcy return but schools are certainly going to be something that will be explored at a later time.
For now, it's manufacturing, retail opportunities and construction, as well. And that is really kind of a test for many municipalities, not just here in New York but across the country. As to how it's working because those local governments who choose to actually initiate the reopening, they are the ones who will be tasked with monitoring those COVID numbers and they also -- our tests will essentially applying the breaks at any point and even reversing the car and returning to where we were perhaps a few weeks ago.
WHIFIELD: Sure. And Dr. Gounder, you know, people want answers now. Everyone is feeling really impatient. They want to go back to what they know or at least you know resume what could be, you know, the most realistic you know set of normalities. However, even the governor underscored that everything is not known right now. You know, so people have to be patient. But it's still important to press, whether it's the governor or anyone in the position of authority about the kind of information, what are we learning more about this pandemic? What are we learning you know in terms of how to apply this to everyone's day-to-day lives, resuming work, school, et cetera?
GOUNDER: Yes. There's still - as you say, much that we don't know. I think we do need to be approaching these things in a step wise fashion. I think we also really need to think carefully about how we target testing in that context. So, you know if you're going to be talking about essential workers, and starting to reopen parts of the economy, that's really where you need to be targeting your testing because those are the people who are going be at highest risk.
And, you know, if you're weighing between should you open summer camp versus should we restart manufacturing and construction? I think in terms of the economy it's pretty clear where the priority needs to be. And therefore, that's also where the testing needs to be targeted so that we can evaluate how things are unfolding and then as Polo said, you know, hold back if necessary, based on the data.
WHIFIELD: Dr. Celine Gounder, Brian Stelter, Polo Sandoval, thanks to all of you. We really appreciate it.
All right. Coming up, one-on-one with California Governor Gavin Newsom. We're back in a moment.
WHITFIELD: The state of California took aggressive steps early on to confront the virus by issuing the nation's first statewide stay-at- home order. Although those efforts appear to be paying off, the economic consequences are causing real pain that could last for years.
On CNN's "State of the Union" this morning, Jake Tapper asked Governor Gavin Newsom about his state's $54 billion budget deficit and the White House signaling that any money for states would be premature.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Well, it's not charity.
I mean, a year ago, Jake, we were running a $21.5 billion surplus. And here we are at $54.3 billion budget deficit that is directly COVID- induced. We have been managing our budget effectively, efficiently, paying down our long-term pension obligations.
We had a bond rating that went up twice last year, the highest in decades. So, we're not looking for charity. We're not looking for handouts. It's social responsibility, at a time when states not just California, large and small, all across this country, cities and counties, large and small, all across this country are facing unprecedented budgetary stress.
It is incumbent upon the federal government to help support these states through this difficult time.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Well, the House passed a bill on Friday night with money for states, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested it's dead on arrival.
Can you explain what you think will happen to California if the federal government doesn't give you money to help you out?
NEWSOM: Well, these same folks that say it's dead on arrival, I hope they will consider this.
The next time they want to salute and celebrate our heroes, our first responders, our police officers and firefighters, consider the fact that they are the first ones that will be laid off by cities and counties.
The folks that are out there, the true heroes of this pandemic are health care workers and nurses. Those county health systems have been ravaged. Their budgets have been devastated and depleted, their budget counts depleted since this pandemic. They're the first ones to be laid off.
So, we have got to square our rhetoric with the reality. Twenty percent of Americans are unemployed. In a few weeks, over 100,000 Americans will have lost their lives. These are Depression era unemployment numbers, and we have to own up to that.
So, I'm not looking to score cheap political points, but I do want to make this point, Jake. We have an obligation, a moral, an ethical obligation to American citizens all across this country to help support cities, states and counties.
TAPPER: You talked about the budget surplus that California had.
There are some who say that California wasn't in great financial shape. Stanford Professor Joe Nation, a former Democratic state lawmaker says that California has more than a trillion dollars in pension debt.
And just six months before the crisis began, he warned that -- quote -- "Even a mini-recession in which pension systems assets fall by one- half Great Recession levels would be a horrible development. Schools and municipal governments would be forced to cut even further. Taxpayers would be asked to chip in more. And public employees would face layoffs and salary cuts" -- unquote.
How much of the crisis you're in right now is due to preexisting financial obligations?
That $54.3 billion is direct result of COVID-19. Just a few months ago, I introduced my January budget with, again, a projected surplus. We paid off 100 percent of our wall of debt we had paid -- we had inherited over seven or eight years ago.