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Coronavirus Surging Across Country; Interview With Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 15:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us this hour.

CVS and Target are joining a growing list of businesses, including Walmart and Kroger, that are now requiring face coverings in all of their stores. It is one example of a trend that is emerging that cannot be overlooked and should not be ignored, from corporations to church leaders, local officials, to school officials, all taking matters into their own hands now, looking to science and data to drive their decision-making in the midst of the pandemic, no longer looking to the White House.

Here's the Alabama school leader who is not bringing students back into classrooms, despite what the White House says.


AVIS WILLIAMS, SUPERINTENDENT, SELMA CITY SCHOOLS: We have to make decisions that fit our community. And for the Selma community, this was the right decision and it's the right course moving forward.


BOLDUAN: And here is the church leader out of Georgia who is shutting down Sunday service, despite what the White House says.


PASTOR ANDY STANLEY, NORTH POINT COMMUNITY CHURCH: We're for our communities, and we don't want to accidentally do something to our communities.


BOLDUAN: And here is a local judge in Texas who's taking over the county testing operation because he can't wait any longer for the federal government to catch up.


JUDGE CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: So it wasn't working at all. We're going to take it over. We're going to do those tests in two days or less, turn around in two days or less. And we appreciate the federal offer, but I politely declined.


BOLDUAN: They're stepping up because they are left with no other option, clearly, considering that the president continues to say we are in a good place with taking on the virus and continues to try to change the subject.

Remember, he went to go talk about infrastructure? But you can't press -- you cannot press release your way out of this. Nearly every state is seeing a rise in cases week to week.

And even more concerning, look at this graph of people with COVID requiring hospital care. This is the hospitalization rate that we see in the country right now. It shows that the country is almost back to where we were in April, not a place anyone wants to return to.

In addition to the lack of leadership from the president, also not helping are a handful of governors still taking his lead, governors in some of the hardest-hit states. Take Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp just banned cities and counties in the state from implementing mask requirements.

Leaving the mayor of Savannah, the first local official in Georgia to issue a face covering order, to declare this -- quote -- "It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us."

So they are left to go it alone in Savannah, which is, at the moment, the unfortunate overarching message in America: You are on your own.

How does that work with a virus, an invisible enemy that knows no political party and no physical boundary? Let's see how that's working out today in Florida.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami. She's joining us right now.

Rosa, what is the latest there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the Florida Department of Health reporting today nearly 14,000 new coronavirus cases, and the state of breaking its record for the most deaths reported within 24 hours, 156.

That's 156 families today who are mourning their loved ones, this as the city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced today during a press conference that hospitals in his city are at 95 percent capacity.

So, what is driving the surge? According to the mayor, individuals that are between the ages of 18 and 34. What about transmission? According to the mayor, he says most of that transmission is through households.

Here is how the mayor described the situation in hospitals in his city.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA: We're at the highest level of hospitalization that we have seen throughout this pandemic. We're at the highest level of ventilators that we have seen through this pandemic, which obviously is worrisome, because that's an indication of the death rate that will increase most likely over the next couple of weeks.


FLORES: Now, the mayor expressing his concern, because, as these numbers continue to grow and surge that, of course, means that more people could end up in the hospital system.

So, to give you a clearer picture of what's going on inside these hospital systems, here's a statement we have received from Jackson Health. It says -- quote -- "Jackson Health System has continued increasing ICU capacity by converting beds and equipment and deploying staff. We are also not admitting new cases if their medical needs can wait. Our focus right now is on caring for COVID patients who require hospitalization and those patients with true emergencies."

Kate, when you hear a hospital say, we are not admitting new cases if their medical needs can wait, you know it's a dire situation -- Kate.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Rosa, thank you so much.

Let's turn to Texas now, where, despite another record-breaking day of cases and deaths just yesterday, the governor continues to resist calls from local officials to slow down and even shut back down.

The governor saying, Texas does not need to.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): People are panicking, thinking I'm about to shut down Texas again. The answer is no. That is not the goal. I have been abundantly clear. I have been saying exactly what the head of CDC said today, what the head of CDC said today.

And that is, if everyone can adopt the practice of wearing a face mask for the next four weeks, we will be able to get COVID-19 under control.


BOLDUAN: I will tell you though, the local officials in Texas that you talk to, they say that's actually not the case, there needs to be more.

So is that enough? Take a look at the new projection model out of Harris County, Texas -- that includes Houston -- and what direction it's headed, if only the current measures stay in place. It's that dotted blue line link right there. That's terrifying.

Joining me right now is Dr. David Rubin. He's director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital Philadelphia, the group behind that projection model I just showed you. And also Celine Gounder, CNN medical analyst and the former assistant commissioner of health for New York City.

Thank you both for being here.

Dr. Rubin, your projection for Harris County in Texas is jarring. You have described it as a deteriorating situation. How so?

DR. DAVID RUBIN, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, I think we're doing a lot of messaging around universal masking, which is really important.

But people are underestimating just how much distancing is going to be required to contain transmission. In those areas like Houston, Texas, now, with a runaway epidemic, I think a strong argument can be made for significant mitigation efforts, even shutting down for a few weeks, before resuming what I would call a smarter reopening that would be very focused on learning gathering size, indoor restaurant occupancy and the closure bars of nightclubs.

BOLDUAN: Because that is not the type of reopening that we saw in Texas the first time around, very clearly. That's for sure.

Dr. Gounder, off of what Dr. Rubin is saying, is this -- what we see, does this make the case crystal clear that governors have to do more, they have to lead more? It can't just be local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction, because the virus isn't stopping.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, there's been a complete abdication of leadership from the president on down, which is really unfortunate.

And in states like Georgia, as we heard, not only are they abdicating their duty, they're obstructing what mayors and others are trying to do in their local areas. So, if you're going to talk about, well, we want to take a local approach to this epidemic in this country, then at least let the local officials do their jobs.

But even that is being obstructed at this stage.

BOLDUAN: And, Dr. Rubin, you're also seeing increasing risk once again heading north. You call out places like in Maryland and Virginia, D.C., even to New Jersey and back to New York City.

And I want to show folks a look at the projection model that you have for Baltimore to see how difficult the next four weeks really could be there. I mean, is this virus just ping-ponging across the country because of the 50 different strategies in 50 different states?

I don't know how much more clear people need to see that it's not working, other than looking at these projection models, that now you have got the virus, once in the Northeast, it's now traveling to the South, the Midwest and West, and now, as your projection model shows, you're seeing trouble once again in the East.

RUBIN: Absolutely.

I think we know now that we are failing because of the lack of some national agreed-upon standards, even within states to protect communities around them. (AUDIO GAP) hard to see areas like New Orleans really begin to deteriorate (AUDIO GAP) hard to see areas around Kansas City.

Even in the Colorado region, we're now seeing some evidence that things are starting to worsen a bit. But the Northeast is something that people need to really pay attention to. The lack of significant mitigation efforts in the South is just pulsing the rest of the country right now, particularly up the Atlantic Seaboard.

We have seen now areas in Maryland and Virginia and certainly the D.C. metro area look more like North Carolina this week than they do like their counterparts to the north.

In Philadelphia, we're just beginning to see the surge that has started already down in the D.C. and the Baltimore area. And we're now seeing significant increases in risk throughout the counties around the New York City metro area.

And I think the public would be surprised, given all the hard work that they have done, that it's back, and the resurgence has begun. And now is the time for decisive action. We have got schools that were supposed to reopen here around Labor Day. And the public will not send their kids to school and teachers will not return to school unless there's some confidence that we can get this back in control.


And so this really is a time of sacrifice, that people have to ask, what are we trying to accomplish in the next six weeks? And is it realistic that we can get our communities back to a place where we can feel safe opening after Labor Day?

BOLDUAN: I think you have hit on something that has been lacking in many places, which is setting a clear goal, setting a clear goal from state to state or, and clear messaging on what that goal is and how it can be attainable in this projected time frame, if we do the following, which is following the science and following the data, which you so very clearly lay out, Dr. Rubin.

And Dr. Rubin -- Dr. Gounder, Dr. Rubin mentioned Maryland. The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, he made it pretty clear in an op-ed in "The Washington Post" today that he has essentially given up on the federal response.

You talked to this, but this kind of gets exactly to your point. At one point in this op-ed, he's talking about problems with testing kind of overall. And he said this: "Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation's response was hopeless. If we delayed any longer, we'd be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death." That is a Republican governor. Are you at a place, Dr. Gounder, especially leaning on your experience with -- in New York City with the health department, are you ready to declare the federal response a failure?

GOUNDER: Well, in New York, it's really been the New York response that controlled the virus, whether it's the New York state or the New York City response that you're talking about.

And I am concerned that this is one huge game of Whac-A-Mole across the country and that we're now here in New York City, after all the work that we have done, and all of the effort that we have made and slowly, on a scientific basis, lifting each of our phases of lockdown measures, that we're already dealing with a situation where our control of the virus is again in peril.

We're already seeing an uptick in transmission of cases among the 20- something-year-olds, who, unfortunately, in the area have been a bit more lax about their practices of safe social distancing and wearing masks.

And now, as you mentioned, all throughout the area around us, the surrounding counties, there's also been an increase in cases. And I had hoped that our second peak here in New York wouldn't really hit until October, November, but I am very fearful that it's going to come a month or two earlier than that now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, which is a problem for all sorts of things, number one, especially, as Dr. Rubin points out, what that means for getting kids safely back into schools.

Thank you both for being here. I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us: The CDC finds that the U.S. travel ban on Europe came too late for New York City. New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo joins me next.

Plus: President Trump makes a big change to the top of his campaign team.



BOLDUAN: A new study just out from the CDC calls into question the signature move taken by the president that he has touted as such a success and a major success in slowing the spread of the virus in the United States, shutting down travel from China and Europe.

The CDC now finding that the president moved too late in shutting down travel to stop the virus from getting to New York City. Researchers examined data from the New York Department of Health and found that the strain of the virus in New York City early on closely resembled the strain from Europe.

And here are the dates. The administration banned travelers from Europe on March 13. The study determined, by March 8, the virus was in New York, and, by March 15, community transmission was already widespread in New York City.

Joining me by the phone right now is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor, thanks for jumping on the line. I really appreciate it for your getting on so quickly.

So, the CDC now says that the travel ban came too late. It was already in and spreading in New York City. What do you -- what's your reaction to that?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Oh, well, thanks. Good to be with you, Kate, this afternoon.

Look, we knew that in New York. I'd been saying it. But it's a damning admission by the CDC. The CDC is a federal agency. It's the president's agency. And they admitted in the report today, clearly, that the virus came. The federal government missed it. They were all looking at China.

The virus had gone from China to Europe. It mutated in Europe. It came to New York. They traced the strains back to Europe. And the president talks about his travel ban against China and the travel ban against Europe.

It was too little, too late. He closed the barn door after the proverbial horse was gone. And what happened in New York didn't need to happen. It was a clear federal failure.

BOLDUAN: The president's campaign spokesman was just asked about this report, and actually turned it around and said that you acted too late and you deserve blame.

I want to play this for you, Governor. Listen to Hogan Gidley.


HOGAN GIDLEY, TRUMP 2020 NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: Well, let's talk about too late for a minute.

Governor Cuomo is to blame for too late; 65 percent of the cases in this country can be traced back to seeding in New York City, because Governor Cuomo refused to listen to this president and, quite frankly, ignored the CDC guidelines and the health experts and the medical experts.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That happened because of the shutdown from Europe happening on March 13, when there was already community spread in New York.

GIDLEY: He refused to clean all the subways.

And when he finally did shut down subways, he only shut down a few of them, so they'd all be funneled into a tighter place, making it even easier to seed this virus and spread it across the country. (END VIDEO CLIP)


BOLDUAN: Governor, do you want to respond to that?

CUOMO: Yes, I don't know who he is or what he's talking about. I didn't close down any subways ever.

His problem and the president's problem are the facts. The CDC is a federal agency. The CDC, the federal agency, says the virus came from Europe and the travel ban was too late.

So, Mr. Trump's problem and his campaign manager's problem is their own government, is their own health officials. It's the facts. It's the science.

They have been in denial from day one. They thought they were going to handle this virus politically. You can't. A virus does not respond to politics. A virus responds to science and medicine. And let them learn the lesson, because they're still doing it.

Thousands of Americans are dying who don't need to die. Look at the increase in the 40 states. This is now seven months after they have been on notice, and we still don't have the science in place and the testing and the tracing.

That's what's killing people. The denial of the virus and the incompetence of the government is what's killing people. And they should listen to their own health officials. This is no conspiracy. I'm not saying anything. It's their CDC that is saying it.

BOLDUAN: Governor, you have been taking some heat for celebrating what you call kind of crushing the curve. I have heard you say that many times.

You said that the country is going to talk about what New York did for decades to come in taming the beast, and also for the poster that you put out earlier this week kind of celebrating what New York accomplished.

The country, as you know, Governor, is objectively nowhere near through this crisis. Are you celebrating too soon?

CUOMO: No, we're not celebrating at all.

That was Mr. Tapper's misconstruction -- misconstruction and his own political interpretation, which everyone is allowed.

No, not at all. What we're saying is, New Yorkers did step up and did flatten the curve. That is a fact. The people of New York unified. The people of New York were disciplined. They helped each other. And they did it.

We went from the worst infection rate in the country to the best, to the lowest. That is a fact. Good for New Yorkers. I applaud New Yorkers. I'm proud to applaud New Yorkers.

Unfortunately, we're now afraid that the virus is going to have a second wave.


CUOMO: Not the second wave they talked about, but is going to rebound because all these other states have such a high infection rate, and the people are coming to New York.

We're trying to impose a quarantine, et cetera. But I'm very afraid of an increase in the infection rate because of what's happening in the other states. And that's why I want the federal government to wake up and do their job.

BOLDUAN: Governor, let's throw -- I want to throw that poster up one more time for folks, so they know what we're talking about.

And of the points that my colleague Jake had pointed out was that there's a lot in this poster that you all put out, but it also -- it doesn't -- it doesn't also mention how there are more deaths than any other state -- than any other state, in New York.

Do you think the poster was a mistake in the midst of all this?

CUOMO: No, Tapper's point -- as you just heard from the CDC report, Tapper should say that Trump is to blame for the virus coming to New York, because that's the fact. That's what the CDC just said.

If Trump's government had done its job, the virus wouldn't come here. We don't do -- governors don't do global pandemics. I was trying to explain that to Mr. Tapper. State governments don't do global public health.


CUOMO: That's not in the state charter.

The federal government does that. The virus didn't come here because of anything New Yorkers did. The virus came here because the federal government missed it. That's what the CDC, the federal government, says today.

We then had to deal with it. And New Yorkers did. They did. They came together like never before. Good for New Yorkers. And I can tell you, as a born and bred New Yorker, I have never seen them do that. I have never seen them come together like that before.

And if Mr. Tapper doesn't think that New Yorkers did something great, I disagree with Mr. Tapper.

BOLDUAN: I know that Jake thinks New Yorkers did great things. I do not believe that he was trying to disparage the efforts that--

CUOMO: That's not what he said, Kate. BOLDUAN: -- you or anyone in New York -- I mean, I'm here, and I saw it with my own eyes, what every New Yorker came -- how New Yorkers came together to pull off some incredible -- some incredible, incredible things, against insurmountable, unbelievable challenges.


But you also are starting a new campaign, actually. You just announced a national -- a mask up campaign, as a series of PSAs. If my viewers haven't heard of it, this is video of one of them, voiced by big names like Morgan Freeman and Ellen Pompeo and Jamie Foxx.

They're going on air, not just in New York. They're going on air all over the country. Why are you doing this?

CUOMO: Well, look, I believe this president has made a terrible mistake.

There are governors across the state -- across the nation who have made a terrible mistake. We know that masks work. The IHME projection model, which is a model accepted by the president, they say 40,000 more new -- Americans will die than would have died if you wore a mask; 40,000 more Americans die than if you had just done a mask policy.

It is just insane--


CUOMO: -- that we would not at least do a mask policy.

And if the federal government won't do it, I will do everything I can to try to get that message across the country. And that's what these ads are all about.

BOLDUAN: Listen to the data. Listen to the science. It's the only way to get through this. And we're nowhere near close.

It's good to talk to you, Governor. Thank you for jumping on the phone.

CUOMO: Good to be with you, Kate. All the best.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

Coming up for us: Hospitals are not just at capacity in the hot spots in Florida and Texas. The mayor of Wichita, Kansas, is now sounding the alarm.

He joins me next.