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Trump's Faulty Narrative About "Reopening The Economy"; One-On- One With "New York Times" Editor Dean Baquet; Lawmakers Call For Local News Lifeline; Gov. Cuomo Updates NY Coronavirus Response. Aired 11a- 12p ET
Aired April 12, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter live in New York City. Welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES on this Easter Sunday.
We are standing by for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily briefing on the coronavirus crisis, and we will take you live to Albany as soon as it begins. Then we will come back for the last of RELIABLE SOURCES afterwards.
We have great interviews coming up, including editor of "The New York Times", Dean Baquet. He's here to talk about the paper's brand-new revelations about the coronavirus and what President Trump knew when.
Plus, we're going to take you behind the scenes of the latest White House press secretary shake-up and what it's all about.
And later, local news in dire straits. Senator Angus King is here with a potential source of hope. We're going to look at the nation's front pages today and talk with experts.
But let's begin with life on hold and why it's going to stay that way for a while longer, despite the faulty story President Trump is telling, because that's ultimately what he does at these near-daily briefings. The former reality show star tells a story about American resilience. What he lacks in empathy for the dead he makes up for in his insistence that the country will come back stronger than ever.
Now, all self-promoters are good story-tellers, and Trump might be the best of them all. He is the hero of his own story. He casts different villains every day -- Democrats, immigrants, journalists, et cetera.
So, all of us, whether you're a member of the media or a U.S. voter, or you're a citizen of another country watching us live on CNN International -- all of us have to see it for what it is.
These are story-telling sessions. These are infomercials, more than accurate sources of information. For example, the president called into the Jeanine Pirro show on Fox Saturday night, not to articulate a plan about testing or other ways out of this, but instead to ramble and make vague proclamations like, we are making our country back.
So, consider that less than three weeks ago, Trump cited this day, Easter, a great day to open back up. He said you'll have packed churches all across the country. That's what he said.
But within days, the administration was saying, no, no, please, don't plan on packing the pews for Easter. Social distancing is working. And Trump said this Easter idea was just an aspiration of his. A White House aide said it was more like wishful thinking.
Wishful thinking, optimism. It can be a good thing. It can get you out of bed in the morning.
But in a situation like this, it can also cause people to let their guard down. So, my advice is, don't fall for the frame President Trump is offering. Right now, he's trying to portray himself as the decider in chief, saying his decision about when and how to reopen the economy is the biggest decision of his life.
But it's not really up to him. This real-clear politics headline is the problem. It just takes Trump's word for it. Reopening the economy, "the biggest decision of my life." See the frame there? It's framed around Trump. That's the wrong frame.
Trump is sounding a little bit like the host of "The Apprentice" again, as if he has a big decision to make, but the reopen the economy frame is similarly artificial. It's not really his call. He didn't, quote/unquote, close the economy in the first place. Governors and CEOs and bankers and university presidents did that. All Americans essentially did that by choice.
So, this is a better frame. Here's "The Los Angeles Times" the other day. "Can Trump reopen the economy on May 1st? Not really."
And here's another, it's brand-new this morning from CNN's Maeve Reston. It says, Trump wants to open the country soon, but the power really lies with the governors.
And keep in mind where Trump is getting information what he's hearing, who he's hearing from. Here's a rather unnerving headline from "Vanity Fair." It says, Trump's decision could hinge on Fox News stars and Wall Street execs. But again, the problem with that headline is it's not really his call.
Yes, he is being influenced by figures on Fox News, but it's not really his call. Oftentimes the last three years, seems like all stories are framed around President Trump. But Trump is not the biggest story right now.
So, let's talk more with media critic for "The Baltimore Sun," David Zurawik, national reporter with "The New York Times" and CNN political analyst, Elaina Plott, and "The New York Times'" Nick Kristof, who's back from two days inside New York City hospitals. We'll talk to him about that later. His newest book is titled "Tight Rope: Americans Reaching for Hope."
David Zurawik, your reaction to the president's rhetoric the last few days. He's clearly back on this focus about reopening the economy. Obviously, that's the sentiment that many Americans, all Americans share. I think people around the world want life to get back to normal.
But he doesn't particularly have a plan to do that yet. What's your reaction?
DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: Brian, the rhetoric that we're hearing, you know, it reached a point -- and it reached a point a long time ago, but now people really are dying these horrible deaths.
Health workers are risking their lives daily. And to see him come out there and for 90 minutes, in two hours, sometimes, doing exactly what you said -- he's spinning a narrative, and the narrative is I didn't do anything wrong. I was ahead of everybody. I was great! The federal government's doing great work.
And it's an outrageous lie. But what's worse is every minute he spends doing that, he is not getting respirators to hospitals, he's not helping the states out with the kind of PPEs they need.
People are dying because of his foolishness. It's really foolishness at this point. You know, America -- you know, folks who loved him, fine. You voted for him. You stuck it to the elites for three years.
But now, your loved ones can die. The game's over. This isn't reality TV anymore. People are dying and this guy is acting a fool.
And when he blows off at reporters -- what's going on is, as soon as the reporters push back a little bit against that narrative, that's when he loses it, because he can't control that narrative. And I think really, you know, I wrote a column this week saying let's marginalize this guy.
STELTER: Don't you think it's too simplistic to say it's just Trump's fault, though? You're in Maryland. I grew up in Maryland. There's a nursing home near where I grew up. 18 people have died at that nursing home so far.
And I can't just blame the White House for that. There's local authorities got to be blamed for that, too.
ZURAWIK: No, yes, it's not just Trump's fault by any stretch of the imagination, but he is now the leader and he has to act like a leader. He has to act like FDR acted, or even LBJ. My God, for all his sins with Vietnam, to have somebody like lbj in the driver's seat. Now, you know what?
You think he would say, oh, well, we're talking to this company and we're talking to gm and they say they're going to get these respirators. No, we've got the power to make them do that and get respirators to Larry Hogan and Andrew Cuomo and all of the governors who need it.
Look, the only leadership we're really seeing is from governors. But Brian, we are so past, so past time for Trump's rhetorical games and his prancing around up there for two hours. It's over. We need to save lives.
You've seen Maryland. You know how bad it is in Baltimore right now and in Maryland. This isn't a time to go up there and try to polish up the mistakes you made three months ago. And God bless "The New York Times" for that story today.
STELTER: Yes, we're going to get to that --
ZURAWIK: In my column, I said "The Times" and "The Post" are pushing back.
STELTER: Yes, and we're going to get to that investigation by "The Times", with editor Dean Baquet in a few minutes.
Elaina, you work for "The Times," you think a lot about these briefings. For three years now, right? Well, two years, since the briefings really stopped, reporters have been saying bring back the press briefings. And now we have them, right, essentially every day, not this weekend, but every other day there have been these long briefings.
What is the fair, what is the unfair critique of the briefings now?
ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I wanted to push back against the monologue of it, Brian, and say that I actually do think that Trump remains a pretty big story here. In a procedural sense, you're absolutely right, it's not his call whether we, quote/unquote, reopen the economy, but just based on the reporting I've done in Republican states like Texas and Florida, these governors -- Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis -- they look to Donald Trump for political cover every step of the way as this virus unfolds, and its spread, economic implications and whatnot.
So, for Donald Trump to get, you know, behind that podium one day and say, I'd like to reopen the economy, that's who somebody like Greg Abbott is taking his cues from. So, yes, it is ultimately the governor who pulls the trigger, but Donald Trump's words matter in this moment.
And to keep, you know, putting forth whatever narrative he wants behind the podium each day, that doesn't just exist in a vacuum. He may have, you know, grandeur delusions of heroism and about a big decision to make, but that is correct in the sense that there are a lot of governors looking to him to do one thing or the other.
STELTER: So, Elaina, is this a coronavirus culture war where the blue states are going to go one direction and the red states are going to go in another direction?
PLOTT: I don't think that's an unfair dichotomy at all. I mean, look at, again, a place like Texas, a place like Florida, it was like pulling teeth to get them to finally declare stay-at-home orders. And when Governor Abbott finally did that, he sort of refused to call it a stay-at-home order and then back-pedaled a few days later. It's made for quite muddled messaging.
But that to me gets to the heart of how politics is interwoven with every step of this, and I don't think it's unfair to predict that you might see a world where, you know, the blue states of the world, and then even, perhaps, Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan, decide to keep restrictions in place when places like Florida are deciding to relax them.
STELTER: It just results in even more mixed messaging and even more confusion about what Americans should do in this situation.
Nick Kristof, you wrote in this morning's "Times" the best way to understand the crisis is not by tuning into the White House briefings but by tuning into the distress on the front line.
Where do you come down in this conversation about Trump's role in the center of the story here?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So, I mean, the problem with the Trump narrative is two-fold. A, he is not Winston Churchill, as he casts himself, but more like Neville Chamberlain in terms of his lack of preparedness for, in his response.
And secondly, as you noted earlier, that he doesn't have the authority to reopen the country.
But I do think Elaina is right, that what he says really matters. And you see that in the polling and in red states, there is much, much more suspicion about social distancing, about the slowdowns.
And so, you know, when we all got that little postcard urging social distancing, and they talked about the Trump guidelines and I flinched at that at first. I thought, this is a campaign ad, you know, paid for by tax dollars. But on reflection, I actually think that in a lot of households where people doubt the importance of these measures, it may actually carry a little more weight, that it talks about the Trump guidelines. Maybe people will be a little more willing to stay away from Easter services, for example.
So you know, I -- look, back in the H1N1 crisis, because of a similar polarization, Democrats were 50 percent more likely to be vaccinated against the H1N1. And I think we have something of a repeat here.
So, if President Trump puts his -- his backing behind continued social distancing, that does, indeed, save lives.
STELTER: I think the big question is if New York city and L.A. and Chicago are still closed in a month or two or three, is the country open? And the answer to that is no, right? If these big cities remain in a form of lockdown to keep people safe, then the country's not open, no matter what the president says he wants to do.
Everybody stand by. Let's take a break and bring everybody back and also bring in some more voices, because President Trump's ignorance has been on sad display this weekend. He's been complaining about coronavirus coming from the aforementioned "The New York Times." Does "The Times" have a response to these tweets? Well, the paper's executive editor Dean Baquet will join me in a moment.
And later, we're going to go live to one of the hospitals here in New York City at the epicenter of this fight. Hear from a health care worker at Elmhurst Hospital.
More RELIABLE SOURCES in a moment.
STELTER: Former President Barack Obama spoke with a group of mayors this week about dealing with the coronavirus crisis, and he said they should, quote, speak the truth, speak it clearly, speak it with compassion, speak it with empathy for what folks are going through. Obama said the biggest mistake anyone can make in these situations is to misinform.
It's hard not to read that as a subtweet of President Trump, who avoided the truth about the worsening pandemic for far too long and has misinformed people daily during those briefings.
Reporters are now reconstructing what went wrong.
Here's the headline from Sunday's "New York Times" front page. It says: Despite timely alerts, Trump was slow to act.
The web headlines even blunter. It says: He could have seen what was coming. He could have seen it.
With me now is executive editor of "The New York Times," Dean Baquet.
Dean, what are the main findings from your six-reporter investigation?
DEAN BAQUET, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's pretty clear from the story that the warnings about the virus and the possibilities that it would be as dangerous as it turned out to be were being widely discussed at all levels of government, starting with government scientists who early on predicted that it would be a catastrophe, all the way up to close advisers to the president.
And I think the theme of the story is the combination of the president sending out the notion that he thought it was not going to be a big deal, combined with bureaucratic infighting, combined with the sense that the president and people around him don't listen to experts. It meant that they were quite slow in responding to the pandemic, and I think that's a large finding.
I will also add, because the president has chosen to attack it, it is based on many on-the-record interviews, documents. There is a tremendous email chain among scientists inside and outside the government where they talk about the growing crisis.
So, I would suggest that people read it, rather than take the president's tweet at its word. It is a very well-documented, powerful chapter in understanding why the government was so slow in dealing with this pandemic.
STELTER: I remember about a month ago, you said to "The New York Times" newsroom that this was the biggest story to be covering since 9/11.
Does it still feel that way to you? Does this feel like a 9/11-level failure of the federal government?
BAQUET: You know, I don't know if it's a 9/11 failure. I think we have a lot more reporting to do. It's clearly a failure. 9/11 was also a dramatic failure.
But it's a large story in a sense that there's no part of America, no part of the world that's not touched by it. The fact that it touches everybody's lives, the tragedies of people dying alone, hospitals struggling, the sheer enormity of the story, I think, it's larger than any story I've been involved in in my career.
STELTER: In your career, wow.
And that makes the president's tweets toward you and "The New York Times" seem all the smaller. He's tweeting these small complaints, claiming that anonymous sources are made up.
Can you just help us reality-check, fact-check that?
BAQUET: I think if anybody reads the stories he's referring to, they will see quotes from emails within the government, quotes from reports from within the government, on-the-record interviews from people within the government.
Yes, there are some anonymous sources, but largely, this is a very powerful portrait inside the government based on the writings and the words of people in the government. I would actually hope that people read the story and the headline.
I would hope that the president reads it, because I think his tweet maybe indicates that he had not read it. And I think he will see a very important historic portrait of a government that was slow to deal with crisis.
STELTER: Yes, he reacted to these new findings from scientists about the virus arriving in New York City via Europe, so right from China, to Europe, then to New York City.
The president in his tweet implied that you all are going easy on China. He said, quote: They were recently thrown out of China like dogs and obviously want back in. Sad, he said.
The one glimmer of truth there, Dean, is "The New York Times," "Washington Post" and "Washington journal" were recently expelled from China, right? Your American reporters were expelled from China.
Can you tell us about that? BAQUET: It's also, I should back, there's a little bit of history. I
mean, "The New York Times" did extensive investigation several years ago into financial -- the financial dealings of some Chinese leaders that caused the government to block our growing website in China. More recently, the Chinese government, as you said, kicked out "The Post," "The Journal," and us.
So, we have a tense relationship with the government of China, which is frankly the kind of relationship we should have with governments, but the story he's referring to, and again, people -- I hope people read the story. Essentially, the story based on reports from Mt. Sinai's Medical School and NYU's Medical School did not say that China -- the virus began in China. I mean, began in Europe.
It says that it spread to the United States from travel in Europe.
BAQUET: Based on --
STELTER: Right, from -- yes, from China to Europe to the U.S. and we need to know this. The more that we know, the better.
Are you finding a lot of roadblocks? Are you finding a lot of -- is the government trying to stymie access to public documents and other information to reconstruct what went wrong?
BAQUET: We have filed a ginormous number of Freedom of Information Act requests, so I don't know yet. We're going to be -- we're going to do everything we can to find out what happened at every corner of the government. We're going to do everything we can to find out precisely when this was known and all of the government's reactions, because that's our mission and that's our job.
It's the job of "The Washington Post," the job of "The Wall Street Journal." That's our role in the story.
There was a front page earlier this week that I'd like to put up on the screen, showing the continued growth in jobless claims, as we see this spike. And the way it's designed is really striking. You put this spike right through the masthead, right through the top of the page, to try to get, you know, clear how dramatic this is.
You all are having to cover two stories at once, right, the public health story and the economic crisis simultaneously.
BAQUET: We're having to cover those two stories simultaneously, but we're also having to do what all Americans are doing, which is, we're actually living this story, which does two things. It makes us understand the story in our bones. It gives us ideas about how to cover it.
But it also makes us, I think, have tremendous amount of empathy for people who are going through what the country and the world are going through. But yes, we have two large stories to cover that we're very much all a part of.
STELTER: Yes. Dean, thank you so much for being here.
BAQUET: Thank you, Brian. It was great to be here, my friend.
STELTER: Next, from international to local news outlets, Senator Angus King says newspapers need a lifeline right now. Hear his proposal for a local news stimulus, next.
STELTER: We're back on RELIABLE SOURCES.
Awaiting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily briefing on the coronavirus crisis. It's scheduled to start in just a couple of minutes and we will take you there live when it does.
Photos have great power to help us feel socially connected during this period of physical distancing. Photos can show us where crowds are absent due to social distancing. Here you go. These are churches across America, sadly empty today on Easter Sunday.
Photos can also show us where crowds are forming, also for sad reasons. Take a look at this front page from the "San Antonio Express- News," "food lines so long it just breaks your heart." This was taken from a drone camera to show the scale of the need at the San Antonio food bank.
That's an example of local news outlets stepping up to cover the crisis in their communities, but those same outlets are struggling. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems in local news.
What we've seen since the beginning of march is, according to this count, at least 28,000 people working in the news media have been laid off, furloughed or faced a pay cut, a story that, of course, mirrors what's happening across America and around the world as unemployment rises due to the shutdowns.
Kristen Hair of the Poynter Institute's been keeping track as well. He has a long list of the cuts to local news rooms. She calls it devastating.
So, some lawmakers here in the U.S. are thinking about what to do and whether to step in. This new letter to Senate leadership calls for targeted funding to local journalism in the next stimulus package.
Right now, 19 Senators have signed on to this letter, all of them Democrats with one exception. The exception is Senator Angus King. He's an Independent, who caucuses with the Democrats. He's Joining me now from Maine. Senator, thank you for being here.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Absolutely, Brian. Good to be with you.
STELTER: Tell me why this is needed. Why should local news be supported financially in the next stimulus package?
KING: Well, local news, this is a time of particularly important for local news. You guys do a great job, but you can't tell us here in Brunswick where to go for testing, what the situation is at our local hospital or when the grocery store is going to be open. Local news has a critical information function in this particular situation.
The problem is they're also being hammered because they rely on advertising, automobiles, local restaurants, those kinds of things, all of which are also down. So that's why we felt that this is really a critical source of information beyond what can be available through a national outlets, that's really important to people to provide what they need when they need it.
STELTER: But what should the federal government be doing? Why is it appropriate for federal dollars, taxpayer dollars to go to news outlets?
KING: Well, I hate to break it to you, but taxpayer dollars are going all over the place right now, to small businesses, to individuals, to states to large businesses. And what we're saying in this letter, and I give a lot of credit to my colleague Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut for bringing this forward, but what we're trying to do here is saying, look, this is an important part of the national infrastructure.
In a -- in a pandemic, information is one of the absolute key resources, and we need to be sure it's still going. I mean, I don't view this as long-term support for local journalism, but we're talking about getting through a crisis here. And we just spent you know, $2 trillion, there's going to be more coming in the COVID four bill that's being worked on now.
And what we're saying is, this is -- this is part -- as I say, this is part of the pandemic of infrastructure that we have to have in place. And if we don't, then local people aren't going to know where to turn, and they're going to be that much more in the dark.
STELTER: You know, the pain is very real, especially local newsrooms. And look at this new polling from Knight and Gallup. It shows that news consumption is up, which of course makes sense, people are paying more attention to the news because of fears about this virus. But at the same time, revenue is down for all the reasons you just cited, because advertisers don't have anything to advertise when their businesses are closed. So that the problem is very --
KING: And if --
STELTER: Go ahead. KING: And if you look at that data, Brian, you will see that attention to local news media has doubled in the last three weeks. So to me that's as good an indication of how important this is, as anything you could possibly find. And there's also an underlying problem here of a loss of local resources across the country. There's a wonderful Web site called USNewsDeserts.com.
STELTER: Yes, it's a great resource.
KING: You could look in each county. And this situation where all the ad revenues is drying up could only accelerate that trend which is -- which is just no good for the country.
STELTER: That's right. Senator, thank you very much. I'm going to pause here and take it to Albany. Governor Cuomo is speaking now.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- great fear for us was always overwhelming the hospital system, the capacity of the hospital system. And we've added capacity, we've moved equipment around, but the great fear was always overwhelming the just raw capacity of the hospital system, the number of beds. So the number of additional net beds was always important to track and that's what we see here. The net bet is down to 53 which is the lowest number since we started doing these charts. So that is a good number.
Three-day average, which is a little more accurate than the day to day which tends to fluctuate is also down as you see. Total hospitalizations 18,700, but you see the 18, 18, 18, 18, that's the so-called flattening of the curve. The apex isn't just an apex, it's a plateau. You see that line flattening, and that's what the experts were talking about that it might have been a straight-up and then rapid down, or it might be up to an apex and the apex becomes a plateau. That's what these numbers suggest.
Changing ICU admissions ticked up. Again, the ICU admissions is a little questionable now because almost all the beds in the hospital have turned into an ICU bed. So how hospitals classify ICU admissions is a little dubious to me, but that's my personal two cents. The three-day average on ICU admissions is the same thing, tick up in the intubations, which is not good news. But you see, yesterday was great news that may have been a blip in the overall.
The intubations are very relevant because people come into the hospital, they get treated. Hopefully, they get discharged. If they don't get discharged, they stay in the hospital. They decline, they become intubated. If they become intubated, the longer you're on a ventilator, the less likely you will be to get off that ventilator. So that's the trajectory we see, right? And the intubations, most people who are intubated will not come off the ventilator. So that's a troubling number, the intubation number, which is real. But the three- day intubation rate, again is a down relative to where we were. So all the numbers are basically saying the same thing.
Number of discharges goes up because we have that high hospitalization rate. People stay for a week, two weeks, they get discharged. That's why the discharges are a function of the hospitalization rate. Three- day average of the discharges, you see, again, basically flat, so it's all reinforcing the same thing, a flattening of all these numbers. You're not seeing a great decline in the numbers, but you're seeing a flattening.
And you're also seeing a recurrence of the time terrible news, which is the number of lives lost, which is 758. Somebody asked the question once, can you ever get numb to these -- seeing these numbers? Unfortunately, no. 758 people lost their lives in a 24-hour period. I speak to many families who are going through this, many people who lost loved ones. Everyone is a face and a name and a family that is suffering on this weekend, which for many people in this state and in this nation is a high religious holiday, which is already distorted because we have churches closed, we have temples closed. So this is truly tragic news.
And I want every family to know that they're in our thoughts and prayers and we're sorry that they had to go through this. And I want them to know that New Yorkers did everything humanly possible to be there for their loved ones and try to save those lives, and we're proud of that.
You see also a flattening in the number of lives lost at a terribly high rate. But if you look back over the past several days, you see there's a certain continuity to that number. Again, that's the one number that I look forward to seeing drop as soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, and it is been flattening, but flattening at a terribly high level.
Again, to put it in context, 9,385 lives lost, when you were those from yesterday. But in the context of 9/11, which was Supposed to be the tragedy of my lifetime, 2,753 lives lost, we're now at 9,385. The big question for everyone is when do we reopen? People want to get on with their lives? People want to get out of the house, cabin fever. We need the economy working. People need a paycheck. Life has to function. When do we reopen? When do we reopen?
Look, the answer is we want to reopen as soon as possible. Everyone does on a societal level, everyone does on a personal level. Let's just end this nightmare, right? Groundhog Day, you get up every day, it's the same routine. You almost lose track of what day of the week it is because they don't even have meaning anymore. And there's all sorts of anxiety and stress that we're all dealing with. So we want to reopen as soon as possible.
The caveat is we need to be smart in the way we reopen. What does smart mean? It means a coordinated approach, a regional approach, and a safe approach. Nobody wants to pick between a public health strategy and an economic strategy. And as governor of the state, I'm not going to pick one over the other.
We need a public health strategy that is safe, that is consistent with an economic strategy. How do you reopen, but how do you do it in a way that is smart from a public health point of view? The last thing we want to see is an uptick in that infection rate and an uptick in those numbers that we work so hard to bring down.
So we need a strategy that coordinates business and schools and transportation and workforce. What New York pause did is it stopped everything at the same time. It was a blunt device, but it shut down everything at the same time. We're going to need testing, more testing, faster testing men we now have when you start to move people back to work, and we're going to need federal help. There is no doubt about that.
I did a joint statement with Governor Hogan, who is the chairman of the National Governors Association. He is a Republican. I am the vice- chair. I'm a Democrat, for those of you who don't know. And we did a joint statement that said, look, the federal government did a stimulus bill, a bill that was supposed to help move the economy along, called the Federal Cares Act. The Federal cares act, just almost ignored state governments.
When you ignore a state government, you ignore our situation. We have a $10 to $15 billion deficit. We got a budget done, but our budget was basically contingent on what happens going forward. And without federal assistance, how does this state economy come back? How do we really start to fund schools etcetera? And that's going to happen -- that has to happen from a federal level.
There is no level above a state government that can make a difference besides the federal government. We did a statement on a bipartisan basis that said the federal government has to fix this in the next bill. And we called $500 billion for funding for state governments. And again, we did that on a bipartisan basis.
From New York's point of view, the past bills were like most federal passed bills. They were -- went through the political process. And to get a bill passed in Washington, everyone has to get there piece of the pie to pass a bill. I understand politics. I understand it very well. That's not how they should be operating here.
And you did an injustice to the places that actually had the need, which from an American taxpayer point of view, that's what you were trying to correct. You were trying to correct the devastation of the virus. Well, then correct the devastation of the virus. Not everything has to be an opportunity for pork barrel, right?
You look at where the money actually went. Theoretically, the bill distributed funding to states for corrective action and expenses on handling the virus. Kaiser Health, which is a very notable organization, said that Nebraska, Montana, for example, Minnesota, are getting approximately $300,000 per COVID-19 case. New York state gets approximately $12,000. How can that be?
It can be because in the Senate, it became a game of political pork, and I want my share, as opposed to where is the need genuinely. And New York is vital to this Americ1an economy. It's not just about New York. Our economy is vital to this country. You want New York's economy up and running, not just for the good of New York but for the good of the nation.
So that was the purpose of the legislation. It missed the mark. I hope they do it next time. A simple easy way to help New York is right the wrong that the federal government did when it passed the SALT tax, State-Local Tax Deductibility. That was just a political maneuver in the first place. If you're trying to help places that are suffering from the virus, repeal the SALT Tax which should have never been done, as I said, in the first place.
We are going to work with our neighboring states because this is the tri-state area. It's a regional economy. I'm going to speaking with Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont later today on coming up with a reopening plan. That is a public health plan, safeguards public health, but also starts to move us towards economic activation.
We'll also do an executive order today, which directs employers to provide essential workers with a cloth or surgical facemask to their employees when they are interacting with the public. And they should provide those masks cost-free. New Jersey did a similar order, and I think Governor Murphy was right, and I want to do that here in the state of New York.
We have to also expand testing. One of the ways we want to do that is by executive order. We're going to expand the number of people who are eligible to do the antibody test. We have state regulations that say who can actually do the antibody test. There are two tests. One is the diagnostic test, one is the antibody test.
The antibody test tells you if the person had the virus and got over the virus. That would be a prime person who could go back to work because they theoretically have an immunity to the virus for a period of time. They're not sure what the period of time is. There aren't a tremendously large number of people with the antibodies, which is good news, because we kept down the infection rate. But that is an important test, and we have to get that test the scale and this executive order will help do that.
Happy Easter for all those who are celebrating. Happy spring for those who aren't celebrating. Spring is my favorite season. What spring says to all of us is it's a time of rebirth. That no matter how cold the winter, no matter how barren landscape got, the earth comes back to life. And it was flat, and it was barren, and it was closed down, and then it comes back to life.
And for me this spring especially, we have been closed down. We have locked the doors. We've isolated, we've hunkered down, we've closed down in a way we've never closed down before. We want to talk about a cold winter with the earth becomes barren. This has been a cold period from a societal point of view. And we've closed down in a way we've never closed down.
But we will come back to life and we will have a rebirth, and that's what spring is all about. And the rebirth is primarily about our people and about our spirit. It's the spirit lives. There have been a couple of moments through this that will stay with me for all time. And a couple of moments that were really dark periods. Looking at that number of deaths is a dark period.
The phone calls with families or dark periods. The fear of the worst- case scenario of those numbers going through the roof and overwhelming the hospital capacity was a dark period. Fears of seeing what happened in Italy and how their healthcare system got overwhelmed and it could happen here. That was dark. The number of conversations with people who lost their father, their spouse, their brother, their sister, out of the blue.
But there's also been some moments that just were so inspirational to me, that just showed such a positive spirit. You know, it's when things are at their worst is when you will see the good, the bad, and the ugly, right? When people are under pressure, you see, like their true essence will come out. And some people will break your heart. People who you expected to react differently will just break your heart and disappoint you. But then other people who you expected nothing from, will show you a strength and a resilience that just is an inspiration.
We were going through a period where we were afraid of the hospital capacity peaking, and we needed equipment, and we were focused on ventilators, because ventilators for this disease, it's a respiratory disease, you need ventilators. Nobody ever anticipated this kind of situation so we're in a mad rush for ventilators. And we're shifting ventilators all over the state. And I'm asking hospitals to cooperate with each other and lend each other equipment including ventilators.
And some hospitals were great and some hospitals were less great which you expect. But then out of the blue, a phone call came where a nursing home in upstate New York said we understand downstate may need ventilators, we want to let them borrow 35 ventilators, unsolicited. They just called and offered the 35 ventilators.
And we went, we picked up the ventilators, and we brought them downstate. But I remember when they came in and they told me, a nursing home in upstate, a nursing home is one of the most vulnerable places in this entire situation, right? Elderly populations and in a confined area of a nursing home. And here a nursing home comes forward and says we want to lend you 35 ventilators to bring downstate.
I tell you for me when I heard that news, with all this bad with all this negative, something inside me said you know what, we're going to be OK. We're going to find our way through this because there is an inherent goodness in people that will surprise you, and they will rise to the occasion. And at the end of the day, good will win against bad. I believe that. And love will conquer all.
So, I went, we brought the 35 ventilators back to Pathways, which is a nursing and rehabilitation center. I went by this morning when they were returning the 35 ventilators just to say thank you, thank you on behalf of all the people of the state, thank you for their generosity. Thank you on behalf of downstate New York. We're in a position now where we're not going to need the ventilators. We're going to be okay equipment-wise unless things changed dramatically.
But thank you on behalf of the people of the state as a governor of the state of New York, and thank you for myself, because the people from Pathways who are watching this broadcast, I couldn't go inside. So I didn't really get a chance to talk to them, but I wanted to say thank you for me, from me, because they brought me inspiration and hope and energy at a time when I personally really needed it.
And that call and that generosity and that love buoyed my spirit and my feelings and was such a lift for me. And I remember I went and I talked to the team. I said , can you believe how beautiful a gesture this is. So, I wanted to say thank you. As governor, and for me, myself, and I, Andrew Cuomo, thank you to the people of Pathways. Questions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, are there any updates on New York City schools? Have you had any discussions with Mayor de Blasio about the path moving forward on that issue?
CUOMO: Yes. We are where we are. We are where we were. The schools -- first, we have to have a coordinated approach on the reactivation, if you will. Schools, businesses, workforce, transportation, it all has to be coordinated. Number two, it all has to be coordinated regionally.
We closed everything down in a coordinated fashion, and we did it regionally. We did it with New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, that tri-state area. That partnership is very, very important for our individual states and our collective states. And we did it with Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, the hold downstate region together in the tri-state with the tri-state partners, and that's how we will go forward together.
So we'll have a coordinated plan, we'll have a regional plan. Hopefully, we can get on the same page with New Jersey and Connecticut. We're going to try. That is the optimum situation. I don't know if we can achieve it. States are a little different demographically, a little different places, but the optimum that we're still trying is a wholly coordinated approach.
Part of that process, not only will I be working with Governor Murphy and Governor Lamont, New Jersey and Connecticut respectively, also work with Suffolk County in Nassau county, and Westchester County, and New York City, but we will do it in a coordinated regional approach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to extrapolate from that, are you suggesting that New York City schools could reopen this year?
CUOMO: All the schools are closed. All the schools in the downstate and upstate area are closed. They will remain closed. We're not going to open any school until it is safe from a public health point of view. We won't open schools one minute sooner than they should be opened, but we won't open schools one late minute later than they should be opened either. And that has to work in a coordinated plan with businesses.
Am I, as I sit here, prepared to say what we'll be doing in June? No. I do not know what we will be doing in June. Nobody knows what we will be doing in June. As I said, I talk to the best experts around the globe on this, and the smartest ones all start by saying, I don't know, we have to watch and see and follow the signs, follow the data, and see what happens.
So I'm not prepared to say what we will do in June. We -- whatever plan we come up with will be driven by data and science. It will be coordinated to do all those functions at once because you can't do one without the others. If you say the schools are closed through June, you're effectively saying businesses are closed through June because you can't put the restart the economy fully without restarting schools. Schools also provide not just education, but they're also in many ways childcare for people can then go to work.
So coordinate all of that, do it regionally. And June is a long way from now. We go day to day to watch those numbers, and we'll work with Jersey and Connecticut and our local governments in each state to come up with a coordinated plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it make sense to open schools even if it weren't due to start for a couple of weeks or do you think people can just kind of assume that school isn't happening till September?
CUOMO: Well, I wouldn't assume anything. Because, Karen, if you say schools aren't going to open, you're saying businesses aren't going to open. Now, do you -- is anyone prepared to sit here today and say, businesses are not going to open through June? You know, that's -- June is a long way away. I've said from day one, all these predictions we're going to open businesses in May, we're going to do this in May, or this in June, I think that's all premature. I don't think anybody can make an informed decision right now.
And look, every informed projection by experts, by the way, has not turned out correct, which is good news, right? Our policy --
STELTER: Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Albany. And as he said, it is good news that these models have been overstating what is actually happening inside the hospitals and in these major metropolitan areas. Still, the death toll has been dire, this virus taking a terrible toll.
Governor Cuomo announcing the New York State is nearing 10,000 deaths, the current total in New York State 9.385. Governor Cuomo saying 785 New Yorkers died in the past 24 hours. Still he is saying that flattening the curve is working. He says Now is not the time to stop. Governor Cuomo cautioning people who seem to want to reopen everything right away. He's talking about May and June and beyond, and that is very notable from New York's governor there speaking in Albany.
We're going to take a break now and head over to CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper.