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U.S. Cases Of Coronavirus Hit 340, 17 Deaths Reported; Pence: Will Be Weeks Before Tests Are Available To Public; Twenty-One New Coronavirus Cases In NY, 76 Confirmed Statewide; Biden, Sanders Campaign In Midwest Ahead Of Super Tuesday II; States Asking Thousands Of Americans To "Self-Quarantine". Aired 12-1p ET

Aired March 7, 2020 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again everyone and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with the growing concern of coronavirus. Right now thousands of passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship remain quarantined off the California coast.

Twenty-one people on board have now tested positive for coronavirus. One of those passengers needed to be airlifted to a San Francisco hospital and we're now seeing cases reported from coast to coast. We just learned of two new cases in Arizona, the total number of people infected rises to 340 with 17 deaths.

The U.S. military is also reporting its first case in Europe. The Pentagon says a Navy sailor is being quarantined in Italy while investigators determined who else they might have exposed. Coming up this hour, we'll look at the concerns about the mixed messages about the outbreak, coming from the White House.

The growing number of festivals and concerts being canceled and how many companies are coping with the spread of the virus. We have a team of reporters tracking all of the angles of this deadly virus. Let's begin with Sarah Westwood in West Palm Beach, Florida. Sarah, in a couple of hours there will be yet another rare Saturday update at the White House.

This time involving the FDA on the very latest on the outbreak. What more can you tell us?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Fred. The FDA giving a briefing to reporters at the White House today. It will be off camera so we won't have sound or pictures of that event but we are expected for the FDA to take questions from reporters about its role in handling the coronavirus outbreak.

The FDA is particularly of interest right now because there's so much focus at the present moment on testing. The FDA approves the types of tests that can be used to verify whether a patient has coronavirus and their role has obviously been under scrutiny as people are worried whether screening is being done adequately across the nation as the virus has been spreading. Fred.

WHITFIELD: So there's also confusion about the availability you know of the testing after what the President said at the CDC yesterday compared to what the Vice President said.

WESTWOOD: That's right Fred. Absolutely. There have been some mixed signals from the White House about the widespread nature of the testing for coronavirus. We heard Vice President Pence earlier in the week strike a more measured tone, setting realistic expectations that widespread testing might not be available for another couple of weeks.

And that right now the administration is not prepared to handle what they anticipate will be future demand for screening for the virus. But President Trump, all along has been painting a much rosier picture of what an outbreak of coronavirus would look like in the U.S.

He continued that optimistic tone when he spoke out yesterday at the CDC in Atlanta about who can get tested and when. Take a listen to what he and Pence had to say.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test, kits or test. They're there. They have the tests and the tests are beautiful.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We trust in a matter of weeks the coronavirus test will be broadly available to the public and available to any American that is symptomatic and has a concern about the possibility of having contracted the coronavirus.


WESTWOOD: So clearly a stark difference there, Fred. President Trump giving the impression that people can go and get tested immediately for coronavirus wherever they live. That's not necessarily the case. Vice President Mike Pence setting that more realistic expectation that it may be a few weeks before that test is broadly available.

Now the administration had set a goal of distributing one million tests by the end of the week and earlier this week the Vice President's office told CNN that they are on track to hit that target. Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. All right, meantime the passengers and crew on board the Grand Princess, they just want answers. The cruise ship was scheduled to return to San Francisco this morning but 21 people tested positive for coronavirus.

It's leaving thousands of other passengers in limbo off the coast of California. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in San Francisco with more on this. So Lucy, is there any indication of when and where this ship might dock?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, just a few minutes ago I got a text from a passenger who says we're doing OK, trying to stay occupied, hoping to hear from the captain this morning. No updates on their end.

We know that overnight a sick passenger was taken off the boat by helicopter, airlifted to a San Francisco hospital. We are also trying to verify reports that another passenger, a female was taken off by boat and taken to hospital. Both of these - both of these illnesses having nothing to do with the coronavirus outbreak as far as we know.

But again we're working to confirm that second report. Now as per the 3500 or so people on board, the only information they have is what they learned from the press conference by the Vice President yesterday.


That they will be taken to a non-commercial port, that the crew will be quarantined on board, that the passengers will all be tested for coronavirus and potentially quarantined at military bases but the surprise they experience, learning this information not from the captain, not from the cruise company, but from the Vice President watching the news on TV, that's something that took them aback. Take a listen to one passenger's reaction.


VOICE OF DEBBIE LOFTUS, AMERICAN QUARANTINED ON GRAND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: I called passenger services and I said, hey I'm watching CNN or MSNBC now and Vice President Pence is telling us that there's positive tests.

So you better get the captain on the intercom and let us know what's going on. So about 10 minutes later the captain came on and he said, he hadn't been told either. It's all news to him.


KAFANOV: Now passengers are trying to keep their spirits up, they're trying to stay occupied, they're getting room service delivered to their rooms. I know that the dinner yesterday was beef stew.

We're not sure what they've been having for breakfast but a lot of questions about when they're going to be able to get off that boat, when they're going to be able to see their loved ones and if everyone on that ship is going to have to be quarantined or if it's only going to be the people who exhibit systems, symptoms, pardon me.

A lot of unanswered questions here. We're going to keep following this for you.

WHITFIELD: And presumably a lot of people on edge as a result. Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much in San Francisco. All right, here with me now CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So there's also a lot of talk right now about this social distancing and the key infectious you know, disease doctor Anthony Fauci commented about that yesterday. Let's listen.


INFECTIOUS DISEASES: That is often referred to as social distancing and what we mean by that is if you're are a person who is in that category, think twice even before you get on a plane for a long trip or you want to travel or you want to go to a place that is crowded.

If you're in that category or if you're the family of individuals in that category, take care to try and take care of the most vulnerable among them and there are simple things that you can do. Practical common sense about not putting yourself in a situation, whatever that might be, that might increase the risk given your situation.


WHITFIELD: So is it clear to people who need to be practicing the social distancing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, so Dr. Fauci refer to people in categories. Let's talk about what that category is. What Dr. Fauci was referring to is people in two categories. One, older people which infectious disease experts have been saying to me is 60 and over and also people with severe underlying medical conditions.

So Dr. Fauci talked about for example, maybe not taking that flight, not traveling. Let's look at how the CDC puts it because they actually put it quite simply. They say that people in this category should stay at home as much as possible. That's pretty blunt. I asked some infectious disease expert.

These are folks with close ties to the CDC to HHS, what does that mean? And they said, one of them said for example, my wife goes to a bridge club which she gets together with dozens of other bridge players. She's not doing that anymore. She might have a friend or two or three come over and play bridge but she's not going to go out and play bridge with dozens of people.

Another doctor and both of these doctors are over 60 themselves. He said you know what, I'm not going to fly as much. I'm not going to get into crowds as much. It's in those kinds of things. If you fall into these categories, maybe don't go to the movies or go to a concert. What about if you are at a senior center? Or what kind of precautions are being taken at places like you know, nursing homes, where the elderly you know are most vulnerable?

Right and where we saw the tragic events that happened to the nursing home in Washington state so what people ought to be - if you have a loved one in a nursing home, here are the things you want to talk to them about.

Are basic infectious disease precautions being taken. The CDC is recommending masks and gloves and they're recommending gowns. These are called contact and droplet precautions and to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

One of the problems here is that often times it's the health care workers who inadvertently spread viruses like this. With coronavirus you know a health care worker presumably is young and healthy and they may have the sniffles and a scratchy throat and maybe feel a little bit yikky but they feel OK enough to go to work.

The nursing homes need to be on guard. They need to be asking those workers. Hey, how are you feeling? And not just fever because there are some -

WHITFIELD: Because there are some similar - Yes, some similar symptoms.

COHEN: Right and also they can be pretty mild in a young healthy person. So this puts nursing homes in the position of really having to monitor those employees so that they don't spread it to the elderly.

The employees might be OK, just feel kind of like a little off but for an elderly person, it can be deadly.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you so much Elizabeth Cohen. Appreciate it. All right coming up, we are following breaking news in China where a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine center has collapsed.


The latest on the rescue operation straight ahead plus the popular South by Southwest festival canceled because of the outbreak here in the U.S. It's Coachella potentially next. I'll talk with riverside county's public health officer in just a moment.


WHITFIELD: We're following breaking news out of China where a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine center has collapsed. We're told 33 out of 70 people have been rescued from the debris, while the others are still unaccounted for.

So far we don't know if there are any fatalities or why the building collapsed and we'll be sure to bring you the latest as soon as we get it. As the Vatican reports its first case of coronavirus, Pope Francis says he is canceling all public events to help avoid the spread of the virus.


The Vatican says there were growing concerns about spreading the virus among crowds that gather in Saint Peter's square. The Pope is expected to give his usual Sunday greeting to pilgrims via video, this week and his private masses are being canceled until March 15.

Pope Francis has also been suffering from a cold in recent weeks. Officials in Austin, Texas are forcing the cancellation of hugely popular South by Southwest festival because of fears over coronavirus.

The music and arts festival which normally draws more than 400,000 visitors was scheduled to begin next week. Earlier this week, Miami canceled two of its music festivals set for later this month but other events like the March Madness, basketball tournament will go ahead as well the massive Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in California.

Which can bring in almost 1 million visitors over 3 weekends in April. Dr. Cameron Kaiser is Riverside county's public health officer, which includes the Coachella festival.

Good to see you, doctor.

You have the authority to cancel any public events you know in your county so what are you assessing as you try to determine whether these festivals should go on or not?

DR. CAMERON KAISER, RIVERSIDE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: Well, thanks for having me. I first want to lead off by saying that Golden Voice, the group that puts on Coachella and Stagecoach and a bunch of other festivals have been very good partners with the county. They know as you correctly pointed out, that there is a possibility we could shut this down at any time and they also know that public safety is job number one.

But I also have another thing to consider. This is an event that brings hundreds of thousands of people to my county and untold amounts of tourism dollars that people depend on and if I'm going to shut that down in a circumstance where I don't have any cases in my county and I don't have any community spread then I better have a very good reason.

WHITFIELD: So are you taking note of those you know, gatherings that had been canceled like the South by Southwest, like the Miami music festivals. There were two that were - that were canceled. Do those things at all influence your decision making?

KAISER: Well, they do to the extent that we want to make sure that if there is a coordinated response, we've done we do so but I think also the circumstance for Indio, California is going to be 180 degrees different than it is for someone like Kirkland, Washington so we need to be responsive to -

WHITFIELD: What do you mean?

KAISER: Well for example, I don't have any cases in my county and I don't have community spread. Kirkland may be a very different -

WHITFIELD: But people travel to the event.


WHITFIELD: Right? From places unknown.

KAISER: Oh, certainly they will but you know what, I could get anything coming through any door of mine at any time. I mean say, we live in a world where there's no coronavirus anymore, that we're you know burn itself out like SARS.

This is public health 101. We happen to have somebody who comes in through our gate. We identify that case, we find the source, we find people who may have been exposed and we deal with those things appropriately. This is public health 101.

It's what we do. It's a fact of life with any large venue.

WHITFIELD: So are you saying that you are standing firm that you would not recommend the cancellation or are you also saying you're malleable over the next you know few days.

KASIER: I know that an event like this cannot turn on a dime. You know they've got contracts, they've got lineups. They just announced their line up very recently but I also want them to know that the situation changes daily. You know I don't have any cases right now.

I hope, I don't get anybody. If I do, I could be up here tomorrow telling you something completely different and every venue in my jurisdiction including Coachella knows that. For now, the show goes on.

WHITFIELD: OK, so what kind of advice are you at least offering to the public as they you know, start to assemble their travel plans? They think about what they want to pack, when they you know hopefully do get to Coachella. What are you recommending to the general public?

KAISER: Well, first thing I want to say to attendees is it's really about the fundamentals, isn't it? Don't bother with mass. That's not going to protect you a great deal and something like an N95 mask, you're not going to have it on long enough to give you any kind of long term protection.

It's the fundamentals, it's hygiene, it's hand washing. It's staying away from people who are sick. It's notifying people if somebody there is in medical distress that they've been dealt with promptly.

But above all else, if you're sick, please don't go. There is going to be a next year. There's going to be a next time and by making sure that you stay home and don't cause any issues for anybody else, you'll help to be preserving that.

If people are feeling well, doing fine, come by and enjoy all the entertainment options we have in Riverside County, California.

WHITFIELD: OK, festivals are a little different though when you talk about being able to wash your hands, you know you've got outhouses or you have you know more communal kind of you know toilets and all that and maybe you know there's Purell and all that floating around, but the circumstances are a little different than you know in more controlled environments.

So do you have any other added advice for people when they go to events such as you know, this magnitude. We're looking at pictures of how many people and in the close proximity they are to one another.


KAISER: Well, that's the big one, isn't it for individuals but really, there's also a fair amount of advice that goes on for the actual venues themselves. Now we have talked about for example, making sure there's adequate hand sanitizer there.

Good messaging you know, people from a level 3 travel advisory country are supposed to do 14 days at home. They need to do that before they come anywhere including Coachella. We again, want to reinforce to people, if you're sick don't arrive and the other thing we also want to have and something specific to these kind of venues is flexible and appropriate refunds.

I don't want somebody who's sick feeling they're compelled to show up because they're going to have to eat that ticket and similarly Golden Voice and some of the other venues have been very appropriate making sure the people they think might be at risk or concerns, manage to have a low threshold for getting their money back so that way everybody can continue to enjoy the show safely.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there for now. Dr. Cameron Kaiser, thank you so much. Please do come back if you reconsider or you find any new assessments along the way.

KAISER: I certainly hope not but if you do, you'll hear it first.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you. All right, coming up next. Bernie Sanders versus Joe Biden in the Democratic race for President. Why women's issues and the so called Bernie brows are front and center? Also ahead, Mick Mulvaney is out as White House Chief of Staff as President Trump chooses his replacement.




WHITFIELD: All right, we have breaking news out of New York on the coronavirus. We are now learning that there are 21 new coronavirus cases which brings the total to 76 in that state. Governor Andrew Cuomo is speaking right now. Listen.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Go, get a test and tell your doctor you want to test and it's up to your doctor. That was the message, the reported message of the CDC. At the same time, the Vice President says by the way, we don't have the capacity to do the tests.

Well, now you created a real problem. You invited people into the house and you can't serve them. You said to people, come in, get a test. All that has to happen is your doctor approves it. By the way, we can't do the test. That's now reverberating and making people very nervous because we have a lot of people calling, saying, I want the test.

Well, we can't really handle that amount of tests right now and if you're not in a certain protocol for the tests, we can't get to you, yet. Well, I heard the CDC said all I had to do is go in and ask my doctor. I know but really if you listen to the Vice President, he also said we

don't have the capacity. That has called us to consternation, anxiety and worse than the virus, you know what's worse than the virus? The anxiety and the fear and the confusion.

So that was not helpful.


WHITFIELD: All right, the New York governor there underscoring that mixed messaging is quite problematic. CNN's Polo Sandoval joining us right now with more on this. Polo.

Polo Sandoval, CNN correspondent: Yes, clear messaging really Fred, that's what officials are stressing right now, to pay attention to that. Of the 76 cases that you just mentioned a short while ago that now been confirmed throughout New York state, important to point out that 57 of those have actually been confirmed in the nearby Westchester County, a suburb of New York City if you will.

What officials are saying right now, here in New York is that a lot of the focus is certainly there because as Andrew Cuomo said a short while ago, Westchester county is a problem hear. He recognizes that this cluster certainly increases the potential for more of these infections so as we hear a little bit more from what the governor just said a few moments ago, we know a lot of the attention remains and has been on testing.


CUOMO: We're testing aggressively, especially along suspected populations by following the infection tree because we want to identify people, because we want to put them in a position where they're not going to infect anybody else. We want to find positives.


SANDOVAL: Two more things that we - that are important to point out that we just heard from the governor, a short while ago. One of it is, is reminding people to adhere to these - these not only these warnings but also the precautionary quarantines that could be in place.

The governor reminding people if you have been ordered to take those steps, it's important to actually do that because the governor's office was receiving reports of people possibly not adhering to those.

And then finally we know that officials will be taking a good hard look at some of those elder care facilities in Westchester County. They know if there is any segment of the population that's vulnerable to coronavirus, particularly in that part of New York, it certainly would be some of the seniors, some of the elderly. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval, keep us posted from New York. Thank you so much and of course, we'll have more on the coronavirus in just a moment but first, a look at this week's race for the White House.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 1910, America is a nation divided between progressives and conservatives. The split reflected across both political parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the Republican Party, Taft is progressive in some ways, and yet his instincts are really quite conservative I think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taft was closely allied with the more conservative factions in the Republican Party, who were not at all interested in changing the way things were done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Taft's old friend and mentor, Teddy Roosevelt isn't enthusiastic, progressive in the Republican Party.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Roosevelt really felt that the Republican Party under Taft was starting to be lackeys to big business, that they were becoming poodles for the Wall Street entrepreneurs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Theodore Roosevelt is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the Taft administration and believes he's made a grave mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The truth of the matter is that he thought that the only successor to Roosevelt could be Roosevelt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I starting to think, maybe I could do this again.


WHITFIELD: Friends turned enemies, party divided in an epic four-way race. The election of 1912 shows how far some will go to get what they want in the "Race for the White House." That's tomorrow night, 9 o'clock on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. The Joe Biden campaign launches its largest ad by of the 2020 election season as the primary race narrows. The ad blitz coming as the 2020 Democratic candidates compete for votes in the Midwest ahead of Super Tuesday round two next week.

Senator Bernie Sanders is rallying supporters in Michigan last night after canceling a previously planned event in Mississippi. Joining me right now to discuss, Molly Ball, a CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for Time Magazine. Molly, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So this decision to skip Mississippi a sign that the Sanders campaign feels like it might as well give up on the south is that wise?

BALL: I'm sure they'd say they're not giving up entirely. But they obviously are putting their emphasis on Michigan for a couple of reasons. Number one, as you could just see from that map, it's where the most delegates are. So if you're going to try to get the most delegates out of those electorates --

WHITFIELD: More than a hundred.

BALL: -- that's where you want to go. And it's historically been a good place for Bernie Sanders. It's a place where he had an unexpectedly strong showing four years ago. It's a place where he feels like a lot of the elements of his base, whether you're talking about working class voters, voters who are concerned about trade, you hear him emphasizing NAFTA a lot, which has historically been unpopular, particularly with labor oriented, with union voters in places like Michigan, although Trump may have scrambled that equation with the stance that he's taken on trade has changed the way many Democrats feel about it.

So, you know, that -- it's a logical place for Bernie Sanders to be putting his emphasis. But as you say, it does raise the possibility that voters in other states feel like he doesn't care about them as much voters in Mississippi might feel like, well, jeez, what are we chopped liver?

WHITFIELD: So Senator Sanders is apparently also sharpening his attacks on Joe Biden's voting record on women's rights. Listen to what he had to say last night.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Two years after Roe v. Wade was decided, Senator Biden said this, and I quote, I don't like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to our body.

Further, Joe repeatedly voted for the Hyde Amendment, which denies low income women access to Medicaid funds in order to determine their own reproductive decisions.


WHITFIELD: So attacking one another or at least that exemplifies, you know, maybe the opening salvo or continuation of attacking each other between Biden and Sanders. What does that say about perhaps taking the eye off the ball of the opponent that collectively the Democratic Party had said, you know, it was taking AMAT, which would be the incumbent president?

BALL: Well, look, that can wait until November. This is still a primary. And if you're going to win a primary, you have to defeat the opponent that you're up against in the primary. There is a chance that this coming Tuesday is going to be -- we're going to look back on it as Bernie Sanders last stand. If the trends continue, that we saw in the last -- what I -- through the real Super Tuesday, you know, if Biden is really able to pile up a lot of big margins in a lot of these states, it's going to be harder and harder for Bernie Sanders to stay alive.

So he has to sharpen those contrasts. He has to convince a lot of people that Biden is unacceptable when what we're seeing is that so many Democrats just want to unify around a consensus candidate. And that's what's really been powering this Biden surge that we're seeing now. So you do have Sanders attacking Biden, Biden, not so much counter attacking on policy, not trying to draw division. His focus is on unity because that's his strongest argument right now.

WHITFIELD: Yes. In fact, the former Vice President said last night to supporters, you know, at a fundraiser that, you know, primary can't become a quote, negative bloodbath. You know, he warned against what he called an increasingly negative campaign that the Bernie brothers as he referred to them, you know, will run.

Meantime, the communication, you know, director for the Sanders campaign responded to CNN in a statement saying, quote, tens of millions are uninsured while coronavirus spreads, the planet is warming at an accelerating rate, working people haven't seen a real raise in decades, and Joe Biden is worried about some damn tweets. Let's try to stay focused on the big issues. So what's really going on here?

BALL: Well, I think it's the same dynamic that we've been talking about, right? The Sanders campaign needs voters to be focused on those issue differences. And they're pretty small differences, right? All of the Democrats in this field are pretty progressive. There are degrees of difference. There are things in the candidates record and both of these candidates record that both of them have called ancient history and other contexts. But now obviously, want to put before voters.


And the Biden campaign's emphasis is not on policy differences. It's on this idea of unity. It's on trying to tone down the negativity and say, hey, let's all get together, let's all get along because that is what the voters who have gravitated in this very, very late surge to Joe Biden because they were shopping around for a long time. They weren't sure if he was the most electable choice. But now that it is a two man race, you have a lot of voters saying, OK, let's all just get on that bandwagon. And that's what the Sanders campaign has to try to stop.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about the Trump White House briefly. You know, President Trump named Congressman Mark Meadows as White House Chief of Staff replacing Mick Mulvaney, after Mulvaney had been in that spot, you know, albeit acting for 14 months. Meadows, you know, has been one of the President's toughest defenders in Congress. So what's really behind this? What's the strategy that the President is carrying out here as he names his new chief of staff?

BALL: Well, I am a VP -- too much strategy to the President who as we know tends to act on impulse. This is something that we had heard for a long time might be coming, whether because of occasional dissatisfaction that the President had with Mulvaney, although they never really had a falling out or just because he likes to change things up, especially when he feels like things aren't going well. He likes to sort of find a scapegoat for that, get rid of somebody, shakes some things up.

And Meadows is someone who, as you said, has been a reliable ally of the President. They have a very good relationship. So, as the President looks to sort of get on his reelection footing and bring some stability to the operation because it's going to be a very tough political battle on top of all of the other issues that this White House is dealing with, so now is the time. I didn't -- he didn't really seemed to warn anybody that he was gonna pull the trigger now, but this was a change that had been potentially in the works for a while.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, no confirmation needed, Meadows just as the job. And we haven't heard the President use the word acting. So maybe he'll be there for a while.

Molly Ball, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BALL: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right still ahead, the coronavirus outbreak changing the way people work, the pros and cons of telecommuting and the challenges for companies around the world.



WHITFIELD: All right, we're following breaking news out of New York on the coronavirus. We're now learning that there are 21 new coronavirus cases which brings the total to 76 in that state. At least 377 Americans have now contracted the virus nationwide. And that number is expected to grow.

Thousands are being asked to self quarantine to stop the spread including employees at some of our nation's biggest companies. Here now is CNN's, Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Around the country, some workplaces are telling their employees, stay home, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Tech giants, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are asking employees in Seattle to work from home when possible with the encouragement of local officials.

DOW CONSTANTINE, KING COUNTY EXECUTIVE: We're encouraging employers to maximize telecommuting.

(voice-over): Other employers are preparing to make that move. NASA and JPMorgan Chase are preparing by conducting one day telework practice runs. In New York State, a few thousand people have been asked to self quarantine, teleworking, teleconferencing, refraining from travel, getting much of our work done at home, could soon be much more commonplace.

The University of Washington in Seattle said, classrooms will be shuttered for the next two weeks.

ANA MARI CAUCE, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: In many of our classrooms, there is incredibly close proximity.

(voice-over): Meanwhile, some schools like Saint John Vianney in Holmdel, New Jersey, can offer students their lessons, textbooks, and assignments online and are prepared to go into virtual days if the school needs to close. Is America ready to telework?

NICK SELBY, PAXOS: I think that we're already seeing over the past 15 years, a lot of companies, even very large companies, companies that might surprise you like IBM, which has a huge portion of its workforce working at home already.

(voice-over): But for many that means a shift in workplace culture. Employees will need to be outfitted at home with the computers and other equipment they'll need. And they have to be trained on how to use them.

STEPHEN WARD, RISKLENS: Luckily, the stuffs are very, very intuitive. You know, obviously, there's a number of different software solutions out there to enable telework or virtual conferencing very simple to set up.

(voice-over): Workplace analyst acknowledged there are many businesses like car makers, factories, food services, banks with retail branches, where employees working remotely is out of the question.

But in other sectors, they say, the psychological advantages of working from home could lead to better productivity. Employees feel less stressed. The freedom of being able to walk around at home and grab a snack can build creativity. The downsides sometimes employees feel isolated or lose focus on the mission.

SELBY: People who are not used to working in a remote location at home falling victim to the fact that they're at home and they get to work in bunny slippers which they might mistake for the opportunity to sort of goof off and maybe miss some deadlines.

(voice-over): Stephen Ward, whose cybersecurity firm has about half its people working from home has a formula for keeping those employees focused and motivated.

WARD: Use your calendar. You know, set tasks for yourself. Get up and take a shower. Simply just going through that process of like not working in your pajamas is a good idea.

[12:50:02] (on camera): Workplace experts say that when making the decision to ask people to work from home, corporate leaders have one other thing to take into account that for every office building where people are encouraged to work from home, there's an ecosystem of people who support that building. People who could be out of work or who could get their shifts reduce, people who work in restaurants, shops, and bars, who depend on that traffic of employees.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: I want to bring in now Jonathan Wackrow. He is a former Secret Service agent and a CNN law enforcement analyst. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. So we saw in Brian Todd's piece there explaining how some big companies are telling their employees to stay home if they can to restrict travel to all but the most essential. So is that at least a good starting point, in your view?

WACKROW: Well, it's a good starting point, if you can do it. I mean, Brian said there clearly in that last segment, that there's a major segment of businesses that cannot do it. I mean, airlines can't really send their employees to work from home nor can service oriented organization.

So what this highlights is that there's not one single solution that will align to all of the different business operations. And what this comes down to is building a strategy of how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak from a business standpoint. And the way that we are recommending that you do that is really in three phases. It is establishing, you know, an understanding what is your risk of your business, whether you're a small service based or a company or a large multinational corporation.

You need to educate your employee base. Understand, you know, how to prevent the virus from actually coming in to your environment. And the last part of that is, part of that strategy is going to be how do you respond once inside. There are things that we can do and focus on such as reducing the transmission among staff, protecting high risk individuals, and the critical aspect here is, is building out a business continuity plan specific to your business lawn.

WHITFIELD: Are there other things that a company should be doing, you know, to keep their employees safe, you know, and businesses safe?

WACKROW: Yes, absolutely, Fred. And what this comes down to is focusing on the employees. Typically in crisis situations, corporate crisis communication management is focused on brand reputational protection.

Here in this global health crisis, organizations need to shift that paradigm slightly and focus solely on the employees because the employees are going to be the ones that protecting that business. And the way that you focus on the employees is through communication.

Business leaders need to be communicating what are the risks that their employees face and what is their plan? How are they going to protect these employees for a long term sustained health crisis? Things that they should be communicating are travel restrictions, the ability to work remotely if it is aligned to the business operations, increased frequency of environmental cleaning, better cross-training employees.

And thinking about how on a long term basis, what are you going to do with your workforce if you have long term, you know, call outs from sickness or family members that that are sick? So thinking about this from a strategy standpoint, and when messaging the right tone and empathy is important when you're communicating with your employees.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much for that.

WACKROW: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Up next, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. soars to more than 300 as frustrations boil over on a cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco. Our live team coverage continues in a moment.


But first we want to go back and make a quick correction earlier. We showed a graphic with canceled performances due to coronavirus. It included the Metropolitan Opera in New York and that was an error. They remain open and their next show starts at 1:00 p.m.


WHITFIELD: We want to introduce you to the first CNN Hero of 2020. Growing up in Maine, Lynda Doughty developed a passion for the array of marine mammals living along its beautiful coast. So when stated government funding vanished and local organizations working to protect these animals close their doors, she dove in to fill the gap in care. Meet the seal rescuer.


LYNDA DOUGHTY, THE SEAL RESCUER: Releasing a seal is really bittersweet. And as much as I'm excited to see that animal be released, it's also hard in the sense of seeing the animal now gone.

You guys know that you're going back to the ocean.

So any seal that we rescue, the ultimate goal is for that animal to be released back into the ocean. I feel this intense responsibility to help these animals and really this is what I was put on this earth to do.

Yehey, woohoo.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: So sweet. Watch Anderson Cooper's full update and nominee, someone you think should be a CNN Hero at

And hello, again, everyone and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredericka Whitfield. We begin this hour with breaking news on the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus.


So far at least 377 Americans have contracted the virus, 21 new cases just reported in New York in the last hour.