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Interview With Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY); New York Deploying National Guard to Coronavirus Cluster; Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired March 10, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

This is CNN's special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

We're also standing by for the first votes on round two of Super Tuesday.

This hour, the coronavirus crisis, though, is worsening here on the East Coast of the United States, with the first death now reported in New Jersey. And New York state officials are also taking very dramatic action to contain an outbreak of the virus in New Rochelle -- that's just outside New York City -- including sending in the National Guard.

We will talk to the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, in just a moment.

Jake Tapper, though, is also with us.

Jake, this pandemic is hitting the United States harder by the day.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's right, Wolf.

And we're tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, hour by hour, as we work to help Americans understand the facts about this outbreak, the scope and the risks.

At this moment, at least 849 cases have been confirmed in 36 states and the District of Columbia. At least 27 people have died in the United States, most of them in Washington state.

As the illness spreads, life in this nation is changing in multiple ways. More universities across the country, include American University, Harvard, Ohio State, now are canceling classes and moving to online instruction.

Several airlines have announced deep cuts in international and domestic flights, as people are being discouraged from traveling. We have correspondents covering all the angles of this story.

First, let's start with Erica Hill in New York -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, good afternoon.

As you mentioned, these numbers jumping. It seems, almost as quickly as we report them, the numbers change, as more states report back.

We are now at 27 deaths, as you mentioned. One man in New Jersey is the first death in that state, a 69-year-old man who didn't have a history of travel, but did have underlying conditions, we're told, including emphysema.

Meantime, just north of New York City, in a big suburb of this city, New Rochelle, the National Guard is now being brought in to help distribute food and medicine to that community under new orders by the governor.


HILL (voice-over): Just north of New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing new containment measures today.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It is a dramatic action, but it is the largest cluster in the country. And this is literally a matter of life and death.

HILL: A one-mile containment radius in New Rochelle around the center of that outbreak, schools and houses of worship closed through March 25.

At a Seattle area nursing home where 19 deaths have been linked to the coronavirus, more than half of the residents have now tested positive.

And, in Oakland, California, disembarkation and medical testing under way for hundreds of passengers from the Grand Princess, many of whom will go into quarantine for the next two weeks. On board the massive ship, confusion and frustration.

JOHN HARRY SMITH, SHIP CAPTAIN: We have not been receiving timely nor accurate information from the government agencies, who have developed and are managing the disembarkation plan, making it virtually impossible for me to prepare you and guide you on their processes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, they had us doing this walk-around on the deck where we had to maintain six feet of distance from everyone. And they kept telling us, six feet, six feet. And then last night, to exit the boat, they have us standing next to each other.

HILL: As the number of confirmed cases rises, some communities working to limit interaction.

In San Jose, slapshots silenced. Santa Clara County, home to the NHL Sharks, banning gatherings of more than 1,000 people. Across the U.S., some schools and colleges moving classes online, counseling events or simply closing.

When pressed, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar offering this guidance:

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I would encourage any individual who is elderly or is medically fragile to think long and hard about going into any large gathering that would involve close quarters and potential spread.

HILL: As for who can be tested and where, confusion remains. Vice President Pence said four million tests will be distributed by the end of the week. The CDC only has records for 4,800 run in public labs.

AZAR: We don't know exactly how many because hundreds of thousands of our tests have gone out to private labs and hospitals that currently do not report into CDC.


HILL: And there have been questions about testing from the beginning.

One quick update, the man who is at the center of that cluster in New Rochelle, his wife, in a posting on Facebook, noting a short time ago he went to the doctor several times, they couldn't figure out what it was. And even once he got to the hospital, she said, it took them days to determine that he in fact had the coronavirus.


TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in New York, New York.

Let's go now to New Rochelle, New York, where we find Brynn Gingras.

And, Brynn, the National Guard is being deployed to New Rochelle. How are citizens there reacting?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're taking preparations now, Jake, the National Guard going to be here in two days' time.

And we have talked to some people here on the street who tell us they have already gone to the grocery store, stocking up on supplies, making sure they have everything at home.

Now, to be clear, the governor said that people will not be restricted to their homes, only if they have already been given the order to self-quarantine. However, of course, people know that the line for that one-mile radius isn't exactly a fixed line.

It could expand even further than that. So they are taking every precaution possible. Now, we know that there are several schools who will shut down, which will shut down in the next two weeks. The school district sending a notice out to parents, saying that the kids cannot get behind during this two weeks' time, offering to hand out computers to families who may not have access to one at their homes.

So, certainly, this is the time right now that the people in this town, no matter where you are, inside the zone, outside the zone, they're starting to prepare.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn in New Rochelle, thank you so much.

Let's go now to the New York Stock Exchange, where we find Alison Kosik.

And, Alison,it's been a bloodletting the last few weeks, but I guess stocks rebounded a bit today?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Big time they rebounded today, Jake. Plenty of wild action here at the New York Stock Exchange, as we have watched the Dow swing between gains and losses all day today, only to end in the green, deep in the green, up more than 1,000 points, cutting in half that massive loss yesterday of more than 2,000 points on the Dow.

Traders I'm talking to tell me get used to this volatility, get used to investors being on edge as long as the number of coronavirus cases continues to accelerate.

Today's mood, though, was much more upbeat. We saw oil jump 11 percent. Also, the president's plan that he flew did for a possible payroll tax cut, that put investors in a good mood. At this point, they're concerned about a possible recession. So any support is welcomed -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss, the governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

You have asked for a one-mile radius containment area around New Rochelle, which essentially means schools, synagogues, churches, other large gatherings are canceled for two weeks.

You have also activated the National Guard to help clean schools and other facilities and to deliver food.

What else can you tell us about this containment plan?

CUOMO: Thanks for having me, Jake.

Think of it this way. We have 173 cases in the entire state, right? We have 108 in New Rochelle. New Rochelle has about three times the number of cases New York City does. New York City is 100 times the size of New Rochelle.

So it's unique in the nation, in that it is a very dense cluster of positive cases, and it's been going up exponentially.

What we're doing is, we're bringing all resources to bear on that cluster. The -- quote, unquote -- "containment zone" really just says, in that immediate vicinity, no large gatherings, which people are doing all across the country. And it makes sense. If you have that high degree of a number of

positive people, you don't want them going into large gatherings. So, we're going to close the schools for a period of times, no large gatherings, meanwhile, clean the schools, clean the public transit system, and bring in a satellite testing system, where people in that community can get tested.

TAPPER: Governor, you noted that the cluster is in New Rochelle, and not in New York City.

Why? What's going on in New Rochelle that this is where it happened?

CUOMO: It just so happened that it started with one or two cases.

There were then a number of convenings in that community that brought several hundred people together for celebrations. And it took off like fire through dry grass in those convenings.

And that's why we have this very dense cluster of positives right in that area. And that's why no large gatherings, and let's go in and do what we have to do.

But, Jake, this is a microcosm of what we're going to be looking at. The numbers are going to go up consistently, because our testing is way behind the reality of what the situation is.

I have no doubt that the reality is a multiple of everything we're seeing in the numbers. And as we test more, that's what you're going to see. You're going to see those numbers skyrocket.

The only way this has ever been contained, what China did, what Korea did, you only have two options, quarantine or really increase the number of tests and the get the positive tests and then isolate.


China was doing 5,000 tests, 10,000 tests per day. This country, in total, we have done about 5,000 tests.

So we really have to get that testing capacity up if we're going to make a difference.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about a different cluster, the first cluster that we know of in -- outside Seattle.

A source tells me, a first responder tells me that seven firefighters in Kirkland who reported obviously to the Life Care Center there, seven of them were swab for testing. But there was such a bottleneck at the testing center that the tests expired. Those seven firefighters now have to be retested.

They have to remain in quarantine.

Are your first responders getting not only the testing they need, but the testing, is it being followed through?

CUOMO: Yes, it's a good question.

And you hear different people saying different things, because there -- it's apples and oranges. When they talk about the number of test kits they sent out, that's just the swab...

TAPPER: Right.

CUOMO: ... that you take, and then you send that swab to the lab.

And sending it to the lab can be a logistical problem. And then the lab turnaround time, if they have a backlog, can be a day, two days, three days. Some of these new labs they're bringing on nationwide, they tell you, I can't get you the results for three days.

So it's a long step between the swab and the test, the swabbing, and then the actual running of the test in a laboratory.

We have been dealing with that from day one, right? CDC first was doing all the tests themselves. They were sending them to Atlanta. Then we made a fuss. Then they allowed state labs to do the tests. And then we have been advocating to allow private labs to come in and do tests to increase our capacity.

In New York, yesterday, they finally authorized the private labs to do automated testing. That will increase our capacity.

But this is a very cumbersome process. And, again, according to the HHS secretary, about 5,000 tests after all this time? Korea, China were doing 5,000, 10,000 per day, and then tracking all those tests? That's how they stopped it there.

We're not going to stop it here at this rate of testing.

TAPPER: Governor, can I impose upon you? Could you stick with us?

I want to continue this interview, but we need to squeeze in a break. Is that OK with you?

CUOMO: Sure. Sure.

TAPPER: All right., we're going to be right back with more with Governor Cuomo of New York talking about the coronavirus pandemic.

Stick with us. We will be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of the coronavirus epidemic as well as Super Tuesday Two, which we will get to later in the broadcast.

I want to bring back Governor Andrew Cuomo of the Empire State, who's answering our questions about how New York is dealing with this.

Governor, thanks so much for sticking around.

You talked about how you have this zone around New Rochelle now. And the National Guard is being activated to go there and help clean schools and deliver food, clean public transportation. People are being discouraged from holding any sort of group event in New Rochelle. New Rochelle is just 20 miles north of New York City.

You've noted that because of the inadequate supply of testing kits that are out there, we really don't know how widespread this epidemic is.

Should people in areas surrounding New Rochelle start to consider not holding group events, self-quarantining if they need to?

CUOMO: Yes. Well, it's a good question, Jake. And we're mapping where we get the positive cases, and as we see them start to spread or pop up in a community, we identify that community and we talk to them and we make those kinds of decisions.

But remember, it's not testing kits. This is why the federal government will say, we have plenty of testing kits. They have plenty of testing kits. That's the swab. They don't have to capacity to scale to do the actual tests, and that's the issue, right?

And the way this stops -- and again, only two ways. You quarantine the area. That's China, that's Italy. Or you do enough tests, a high enough volume of tests, where you can run down most positives. At that in China and Korea were about 5,000 to 10,000 tests per day, Jake.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

CUOMO: The HHS secretary said we've only done 5,000 since this started. That's our issue.

TAPPER: Right, so that's my point.

CUOMO: If you're not testing more people.

TAPPER: Yes, that's my point.

If we don't have to testing going on right now, should the government and should local communities be taking more aggressive measures because we don't know how widespread it is?

CUOMO: Yes. But the question is, what do you -- first of all, it is much more widespread than we know with these tests because it's been out there a long time and our tests are nowhere near random sample or scale. So, yes, it's out there. But what do you do?

Unless you want to two to quarantine, where you have a density of cases, what do you do besides find ways to increase the testing capacity? What would this country tolerate? You know, you're not going to do what you did in China.

And I think it's about increasing testing capacity, and that's why I keep pushing the federal government and I annoy the president who will probably send me another nasty tweet after this broadcast, but I think they have to increase the number of tests.

Also, the deep breath point is, this is not going to end the world. You know, this is not the Ebola virus, which I went through. That was frightening. If you're a vulnerable -- member of the vulnerable population, you're a senior citizen, you're immune compromised, that -- then it's dangerous.


But that's really what this is about, right?

And let's keep it all in focus. Because the anxiety and the fear are not connected to the facts and the reality of this situation, and we have a virus to fight. More, we have the fear and the panic to fight.

TAPPER: Right. No, I agree with that.

Let me ask you -- the containment area approach that you're applying to New Rochelle outside of New York City, that was recommended by New York's health commissioner, Howard Zucker.

Is the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, are they on board with this plan?

CUOMO: Yes, we've spoken to CDC, the FDA, the whole alphabet soup of health care agencies, and, yes, this is in line with everyone's guidance. And it's also common sense, by the way.

You have one of the densest clusters in the United States. This is almost unique in the nation, Jake. So, what do you do? No gatherings, get testing for as many people as you can, get logistical support.

It's making it happen. It's not the concept. The concept is inarguable. What our government nationwide is dealing with is the actual capacity and the ability to do what it needs to do --

TAPPER: Right.

CUOMO: -- to respond, to mobilize. That's our challenge.

TAPPER: So, one of the -- one of the things that is so shocking to me is that the Life Care Center, which is that nursing home outside Seattle, in Kirkland, Washington, where 19 people have died already there. The idea that there are 180 employees, 65 of them have symptoms -- none of them, not one of them has been tested. Forget whether or not the test goes to the proper lab. Not one of them has been tested.

It just staggers the mind -- I mean, this is not your purview. This is in Kirkland, Washington, not New Rochelle, New York.

But I guess the question is, are you prepared? And what are you telling people at nursing homes in New York where the people are the most vulnerable perhaps? Because many of them have health issues, all of them are senior citizens and, obviously, they're in tight quarters, many of them.

CUOMO: Jake, that's my nightmare. And that's where you're going to see the pain and the damage from this virus.

Senior citizen homes, nursing homes, congregant senior facilities -- that is my nightmare. We've taken steps, some drastic steps in this area, in New Rochelle we're talking about, we said no visitors in the nursing home. All you need is 9-year-old Johnny to visit his grandma in a nursing home, give her a kiss, and you can be off to the races.

That's my fear, that population in those congregant facilities. That is really what we have to watch.

But look, on the testing, you're right. We're still not where we need to be on the testing. And I do not understand why -- I don't want to cast stones. I don't want to get in a fight with the federal government. We have to work together.

But, look, we saw China happening in November, December. We knew someone was going get on an airplane and come to this country. How does China and Korea have a better, faster testing mechanism than we do? And the only explanation you get is, well, their tests aren't as good as our tests. Our test haves a higher degree of accuracy.

Yes, but their tests are 5,000, 10,000 per day, and that's what you need to keep the scale to stay ahead of this beast. And if you don't have that scale, then you're going to be playing catch up from day one, and that's what we're doing now. We're playing catch up up.

First, the CDC said they had to do all the tests. Then they became the bottleneck. Then they said, OK, finally, the state laboratories can test. That opened up some more capacity. And now, they're moving to and private laboratories can test, and then you'll have an additional capacity.

But this has been a long time coming on this evolving process, and we're still not where we need to be, and everyone will say that.

TAPPER: Governor Andrew Cuomo, best of luck dealing with this crisis. We appreciate your time.

CUOMO: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: We're going to squeeze in another quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk about this with experts about what we just listened to from Governor Cuomo and about the epidemic of the coronavirus in general.

Stick with us. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: This hour, the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States has jumped to 27 after the first fatality reported on the East Coast in New Jersey. We're bringing you special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at well as tonight's presidential contests.

I want to bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, now. Also with us, Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. And also with us, Dr. James Phillips, assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University --