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Thirty-Three Deaths, 1,100-Plus Confirmed Coronavirus Cases in U.S.; Trump Administration Officials Say Coronavirus Travel Restrictions For Europe "Under Discussion"; White House Cancels Coronavirus Briefing; Dow Plunges Another 1,400-Plus Points, Enters Bear Market As Coronavirus Spreads; Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate "10 Times" Higher Than Flu; Trump To Address Nation On Coronavirus; Drastic Efforts To Contain The Coronavirus; Biden And Sanders Cancel Rallies Over Fears Of Coronavirus As Trump Sets March 19 Event; Italy To Close All Shops, Venues Nationwide Except Supermarkets And Pharmacies. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. And we're following breaking news, major new developments in the coronavirus pandemic. The Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, just revealing that coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe are, "under discussion." We're also standing by for a White House coronavirus briefing this hour as the number of known cases here in the United States climbs to more than 1,100 with 33 confirmed deaths.

And President Trump now says he'll address the nation about the pandemic from the Oval Office at 9:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

And in a dramatic new development, the NCAA recommended this year's men's and women's basketball tournaments will be played, without spectators in the stadiums due to coronavirus fears. We'll talk about all the breaking news with former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta as well as former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. And our correspondents and analyst are also standing by.

First, let's go to our National Correspondent, Erica Hill.

Erica, you're in New Rochelle, New York, that's a city just outside of New York City. It's really feeling the impact of the pandemic.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's been just over 24 hours since Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a containment zone here in New Rochelle. Important to point out and officials are stressing today, this is not a lockdown for the area but it is certainly changing daily life for everyone in this space.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HILL (voice-over): Life is changing, quickly and drastically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a scary time.

HILL: Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than in this New York suburb, home to the state's largest cluster of positive coronavirus cases and a new one-mile containment zone.

MAYOR NOAM BRAMSON (D), NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK: This is a situation that is evolving not only by the day but by the hour. We hope and expect that the measures that have been put in place, thanks to the leadership of the governor, will be helpful in mitigating the spread of the virus and helping make sure that especially we protect the most vulnerable populations, seniors, those who have compromised immune systems.

HILL: At the center of that zone, the synagogue where the first positive case in New Rochelle, a man in his 50s, attended services just before his diagnosis. And while the area is not on lockdown, large gatherings have been restricted and some schools are closed.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: We really need to take more aggressive actions. This is not going away on its own. Like it or not we're going to have to make some tough decisions and we're going to have to start to act united to reduce the density.

HILL: The focus on large gatherings, worship services, school events, upcoming St. Patrick's Day celebrations, extends far beyond New Rochelle.

San Francisco is limiting events to less than a thousand people including NBA games.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience where the NBA plays, so be it.

HILL: In three Washington State counties, the crowds will be even smaller, nothing over 250 people by order of the governor.

GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D) WASHINGTON: It is clear that our state needs a more vigorous and more comprehensive and more aggressive position if we are going to slow the spread of this epidemic.

HILL: Meantime, the number of those infected exploded as more are tested. Ten long term care facilities in Washington State now reporting positive cases. A Canadian passenger from the "Grand Princess" who was allowed to fly home because they did not show signs of the virus tested positive upon arrival. Others from that ship settling in for a protective two-week quarantine in Dobbins Air Base in Georgia. But the process of getting from the cruise ship to the quarantine on dry land hasn't been without its frustrations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It takes us awhile to get you guys off these buses, so please. I know you've been through a lot. I hope you have a little bit of patience left. But it's going to be about an hour and a half before we start getting your bus unloaded.


HILL: They are among the more than 2,000 passengers who will be monitored at multiple bases for the next 14 days.

FAUCI: We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now. How much worse it will get will depend on our ability to do two things, to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. Bottom line, it's going to get worse.



HILL: In terms of it getting worse, officials are stressing these numbers are going to rise. Part of the reason, though, is because of an increase in testing which is important. I do want to point out though, Wolf, there are still questions about who can get test and where.

I spoke with a woman this morning who lives in the containment zone here in New Rochelle. She hadn't been feeling well for a few days. Once the zone was announced she wanted to make sure she was being a responsible neighbor and wouldn't infect anyone.

She called her doctor who sent her to the hospital. The hospital told her to call the Department of Health for the county. The County of Health sent her back to her doctor. Bottom line, she couldn't get a test. And, Wolf, she had a really hard time getting a straight answer as to what she should do.

BLITZER: I keep hearing similar stories here in Washington D.C. as well. Erica Hill, thank you very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta is all over the story for us.

So, Jim, what are you hearing over there, what's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest is just a few moments ago the White House announced the Vice President's coronavirus briefing, something that they hold on almost a daily basis, has been canceled. That because President Trump will be addressing the nation tonight from the Oval Office at 9:00 p.m. to lay out his prescription for the coronavirus outbreak. The President is still insisting the economy is, "strong" despite the selloff on Wall Street.

And one of the recommendations we are hearing that the President may lay out tonight, the President may announce some new travel restrictions for passengers headed to Europe. One top Homeland Security official told lawmakers earlier today those restrictions are under discussion inside the administration.

But part of the problem for the President is that there is an outbreak of mixed messages and false statements coming from the White House.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the stock market plunging over fears of the coronavirus, the President told some of the nation's top banking executives he'll make an address to the nation to lay out measures aimed at stopping the outbreak and turning around the economy.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we get rid of the problem quickly and everything solves itself. We don't need stimulus.

ACOSTA: Top health officials for the Trump administration are cautioning the public that this virus is more dangerous than the seasonal flu, counter to what the President has been telling the public.

FAUCI: It is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. I think that's something that people can get their arms around and understand.

We do not know what this virus is going to do. We would hope that as we get to warmer weather it would go down. But we can't proceed under that assumption. We've got to assume that it's going to get worse and worse and worse.

ACOSTA: Contrast that stark assessment from the administration's top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the President's claim that the flu is worse than coronavirus, tweeting, "Nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on. Think about that."

TRUMP: When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done. Well, w're testing everybody that we need to test. And we're finding very little problem. Very little problem. Now, you treat this like a flu.

ACOSTA: While the President has been predicting the virus will disappear quickly, administration officials say they expect the outbreak to continue to spread.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We've been clear from the start, we're going to see more cases. This is a virus. This will spread. We need to take steps to slow that, buy ourselves time.

ACOSTA: Another flash point where there is disagreement in the administration, large public gatherings. The President's reelection campaign is planning a large event in Milwaukee next week, while Dr. Fauci appears to be recommending the opposite.

FAUCI: We recommend there not be large crowds. And as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.

ACOSTA: In an interview with C-SPAN, Vice President Mike Pence said he's not worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about appearing in these large venues, these large rallies, you personally?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not concerned. And -- but we'll follow the facts every single day about what makes the most sense for the American people.

ACOSTA: There was also a clash up on Capitol Hill over how to cure an economy that is reeling. The administration is calling for a payroll tax holiday that could last months.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: If you're home because you're in a sick situation, you would get that money as well. That money would go -- that money is -- goes to everybody across the board to stimulate the economy.

ACOSTA: Democrats say that's too expensive.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: The estimates I've heard are from $800 billion to $1 trillion on top of an already trillion-dollar deficit. This is a good example, by the way Alison, that we shouldn't have been cutting taxes in the middle of economic growth and adding to the deficit.


ACOSTA: Now, the President told the banking executives he just met with a few minutes ago that he believes there will be pent-up demand to spend money once the coronavirus outbreak eases, predicting that will help stimulate the nation's economy. The President also conceded there is some Democratic opposition already to his proposal for a payroll tax holiday up on Capitol Hill. That is a signal that there could already be a major clash over a stimulus package to respond to the outbreak.


And we did try to ask the president for his reaction to Americans who were simply worried he's not taking the situation seriously enough. Wolf, he did not directly respond to that question. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much.

The financial fallout from the pandemic is clearly worsening right now. The Dow closing just a little while ago, down another 1,400 plus points, only a few weeks ago it closed at a record high of more than 29,000. Since then, it shed almost 6,000 points, down more than 20 percent, officially a bear market right now.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us, former Defense Secretary, former CIA Director Leon Panetta and former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Gentlemen, thanks to both of you for joining us.

Secretary Panetta, let's begin with the breaking news, the acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary saying travel restrictions to Europe are now under consideration. Do you think that would be the right call?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think the right call right now is for the President to address the country, which I'm glad he's going to do. He should have done it, frankly, a few weeks ago.

And it's important, frankly, that the President do things that have not been comfortable for him. One is to talk the truth about what's going on and how serious this crisis is and how it has to be addressed.

The other is, he's got to unify this country. He can't keep splitting Republicans from Democrats. He can't keep splitting parts of the country one from the other. This is a time when we have to unify this country to deal with a very serious problem. It goes beyond, frankly, travel restrictions which I know he's prone to do. And certainly it could help. But there's much more that needs to be addressed by this President.

BLITZER: Secretary Johnson, you served as the Homeland Security Secretary during the Obama administration. What would you recommend to the President?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Well, like Leon, I think it's important that we have to get our messaging straight. The overall goal has to be to reverse the trend lines, to reverse and lessen the pace of the growth of this virus here in this country. We went from 15 cases 15 days ago to now over 1,100. That's an alarming rate of growth that has to be turned around.

I'm not in the situation room anymore so I don't know all the facts that those who are do know about whether or not we should be suspending travel to the entire European continent. I might be advocating a more surgical approach to this. But the problem in this country right now, as your lead-in points out, Wolf, is that there are not enough test kits to go around. So people who want to be tested for this virus who may have some symptoms are not able to get tested as they should, which is why I suspect the number of cases that are documented is probably a large under representation of the problem we actually face.

And so the key here is regulating human behavior. Whether it's large public gatherings, washing your hands, but regulating human behavior which probably in this circumstance is a state by state, community by community thing. And so it's up not just Washington, we all tend to look to Washington to solve our problems, but governors, mayors, county commissioners, to regulate behavior in those communities based upon the level of the disease.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect once those tests are really readily available those numbers are going to skyrocket here in the United States.

Secretary Panetta, the President issued a statement on Twitter just a little while ago saying this, "I am fully prepared to use the full power of the federal government to deal with our current challenge of the coronavirus." He says he'll have a lot more to say in his address later tonight. But what other powers does he have at his disposal right now to deal with this?

PANETTA: Well, the most important thing for a president, as I said, is to be truthful to the American people. And for the last few weeks, he has largely been trying to paint a very positive picture here that somehow this was temporary and that we would overcome it quickly when all of the science and medical information indicated that we have a growing problem on our hands, it's going to get worse.

So the first thing is for the President to, as I said, speak the truth to the American people about how serious this issue is and how all of us, all of the states, all of the communities, all have to come together to try to deal with it. But he's also got to say what steps we need to take to contain this, because it is serious. And that means that coming from the President, he ought to be advocating steps to try to make sure that for a short period of time here, this country is going to mobilize to contain this virus and then to mitigate it.


There has to be a sense of confidence. Right now the greatest threat to our country is total uncertainty about what the hell we're dealing with. The President has to eliminate some of that uncertainty.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Secretary Johnson, what options do you think the President should be considering? In other words, what would you like to hear from him later tonight?

JOHNSON: The facts. I know from my experience as Homeland Security secretary, you don't want to be alarmist in this circumstance nor do you want to, you know, give out facts and figures like, you know, it's worse if you have the flu, to try to intellectualize it. People don't want to hear that from their leaders. They want to know the facts and what they can do and what you're doing about the problem.

And so the public right now suspects that everything this President says has a political gloss on it because he's running for reelection. I think it's very important tonight for the President to give the American people the straight story and what they can do about it and where they can go to get tested, where they can go to get information and what they should be doing to regulate their own behavior. We're getting a lot of mixed messages from Washington right now on that.

BLITZER: Very good advice from Jeh Johnson and Leon Panetta. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us. These are really, really critical days here in the United States. We appreciate you joining us.

And to our viewers, stay with us, the White House, as you just heard, canceled today's daily briefing by the Vice President Mike Pence, and the coronavirus task force but the President, later tonight, will be making a statement to the American public at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN of course will have live coverage.

And within the past hour, the NCAA recommended this year's men's and women's basketball tournaments be played without spectators in the stadiums due to the coronavirus fear.



BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories as more and more coronavirus infections are reported around the country. President Trump will be addressing the nation from the White House later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

In the meantime let's bring in our medical and political experts. Dana Bash, as I mentioned, the President tweeted this a little while ago, "I am fully prepared to use the full power of the federal government to deal with our current challenge of the coronavirus." The Acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary says travel restrictions to Europe are now under consideration. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That very recently, like in the past day, the President is starting to get it, that reality is setting in on what this actually means. And more importantly, that he can't change it with his typical power of persuasion which in fairness to him, he has been able to do a lot of in his not only business career but also political career.

But this is different. And that he's got to get on board and figure out a way to show that he is leading it and not trying to suppress it in a way that actually causes more confusion. We'll see how that manifests I was the, the notion of getting it when it comes to actually governing and executing that leading.

BLITZER: He may be getting it because he sees, you know, Abby, what's going on in the stock market, the Dow Jones over the past about three weeks or so losing six -- almost 6,000 points, a 20 percent drop from 29,000 plus down to 23,000. that is something that hits home to him.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, if there's one thing that the President understands it's his own political fortunes. And he's always tied the performance of the stock market to his political future. And I think that that's been crystal clear to him, that the economy is reacting very strongly to this level of uncertainty and to the likelihood of real disruptions in people's way of life going forward.

And so for the President, he's clearly trying to forestall a really serious economic downturn that he didn't necessarily think was going to happen under his watch. And one of the ways of doing that, frankly, his advisers clearly have gotten this through to him, is to really deal with the problem from top to bottom, taking it on aggressively. And I think that's one of the reasons why we'll see him tonight because there was a perception that he was just in denial about this whole thing and that he wanted to blame political forces when in fact this is a virus that really needs really a whole of government leadership in order to stop quickly.

BLITZER: Let me bring Maggie Haberman into this conversation. What are you hearing, Maggie? What is the President's objective tonight?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, his objective tonight, Wolf, honestly, is impart to show that he is taking it seriously, as Dana said. There is a part of him that is starting to go get it. But candidly, and I've had a number of people at the White House say this to me, he has had trouble entirely letting go of this.

He didn't want to deal with it, he wanted to hand it off to Mike Pence, but he has struggled watching Mike Pence be the person talking about it while at the same time there are events taking place like stock market that is falling that he is trying to talk his way around and change. So he's going to interject himself into it.

What I don't have a sense is weather -- and he might still do this, but we don't know yet whether he's going to do, what a lot of people have been calling on the federal government to do from localities which announce a number of measures that will be more commensurate with, say, what officials in Europe are doing.


While the President does understand more now that this isn't something that is being manufactured by political opponents or overhyped, there are a lot of people in the White House who do share his view, that this is an alarmist take by the media, by Democrats, that it's not going to be that bad. The number of cases has doubled in the U.S. in the last couple of days. There is every reason to believe that it is going to continue increasing as they do more testing and find more people have it.

So it's not clear to me that he understands that he actually -- this is going to be one speech that he gives and that's that. This is going to be going on for weeks and weeks and weeks.

BLITZER: And the numbers, Sanjay, are really enormous worldwide right now. The latest numbers we have, 117,583 confirmed cases in 105 countries, 4,352 confirmed deaths. And I think as a result, the World Health Organization declared -- formally declared this coronavirus scare as a pandemic. We on CNN did that earlier in the week but now the World Health Organization has said it's a pandemic.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, you know, it certainly seems to have met the criteria for pandemic for some time. But I think, you know, there's been some reluctance I think from a lot of organizations to call it a pandemic because many people believe it's tough to say that word without causing panic as well. Which by the way, it shouldn't necessarily cause panic.

A pandemic really speaks to the spread of something, not necessarily to how lethal something is. Although we're getting a better handle on just how -- what the fatality ratio of this particular virus is as well.

You know, when we talk to public health officials about the fact that this is now a pandemic even when we called it a pandemic, you know, I think what we have heard back is, look, we've been operating under that assumption for some time. You know, it's not going to cause some massive shift in terms of how we're approaching things because we've been working under that assumption. But I think that the term now has caused I think more people certainly to pay attention, you know, at all levels of the government.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Sanjay, because I have to take a break, but Dr. Fauci of NIH, he said today this coronavirus is 10 times more lethal than the common flu, you heard that, right?

GUPTA: Yes, I did.

And look, I mean, you know, I think the numbers are still in flux a little bit. I mean, you know, the flu, just to give you the context, flu is about -- has a fatality ratio of .1 percent. So .1 percent of people who get the flu unfortunately die from it.

If you look at the world numbers, Wolf, and I think you just talked about them, about a hundred some thousand people who have the infection, 3,000 or so people who died, that's 3 percent fatality, you know, fatality ratio with the world. I think what Dr. Fauci is saying is look, we don't think it's going to be that high but we still think it could be close to 1 percent which is 10 times higher than the flu.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a serious, serious issue. Everybody stand by.

A quick programming note, tomorrow night Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our own Anderson Cooper will host a second CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus Facts and Fears." Tune in tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN. Much more of our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're back with our medical and political correspondents. Sanjay, schools are canceling classes, not only high schools and elementary schools but universities all over the country. Basketball games are going to be played without any fans in the stadiums.

Some of these measures similar to what they did in China. That seems to have had a positive effect there, although there are a lot of people with coronavirus, a lot of people who died in China. Do you think that kind of -- those kind of drastic steps will work here?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, Wolf, like you said, there's been evidence that some of these steps worked. Obviously, it would be harder to do some of these things in the United States and that's compared to China.

But, look, you know, as we been sort of looking into this, there are other models of success around the world. Singapore, for example, they've had fewer than 200 cases over roughly the same time period. Hong Kong, which borders Mainland China, has around 120 people who have become infected. And they haven't gone through the extreme measures necessarily that were done in China.

One thing I think that's really important, Wolf, and - is this idea that these types of measures seem to have the most impact if they happen early. And that typically means when less than 1% of the population has been infected. Now, if you do it at that point, it seems to make a big impact. After that, the proverbial horse is sort of out of the barn.

We don't know where we are right now with regard to the percentage of people who have been infected. Hopefully it's far below that 1% but we don't know. And hopefully the testing that's being rolled out will give us better sight on that, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Maggie, the other day, the President said there were 15 cases, and pretty soon there would be zero cases. You remember that sound bite from the President. The latest numbers here in the United States, 1,162 cases of the coronavirus and 37 deaths already.


Why was the President so upbeat, so optimistic when he spoke a couple of weeks ago?

HABERMAN: Wolf, it's what we've seen consistently from the President, not just in -- when he's been in office but when he was exchange in 2016, which is basically that the sun is always shining in Trump land. And things are very positive in his mind because he thinks -- everything is about selling, and everything is about painting a rosier estimate.

And he tends -- he's a numbers guy. He always has been, so he tends to treat numbers as if they're fungible. Numbers of cases of a new virus are not something you can just manufacture or claim are going to go in a certain direction. That was obviously a big mistake on his part just from a public policy and public health point of view. It is not helpful for any leader to be saying something like that when it's going to prove the other direction.

And again, it just goes to why it is that there are so many localities that are hoping to hear more from the federal government about what to do. You heard Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York today, say essentially the state is taking matters into its own hands because it's not getting guidance from the federal government.

You have Betsy DeVos, Education secretary, not a member of the task force, the Coronavirus Task Force. There are a lot of schools trying to figure out what they should do. So I think you've seen the President has wanted to go with his own gut and it's just not going to work here.

BASH: And can I just add to that? Maggie obviously is talking from experience of covering Donald Trump for a long time, about everything sunny in Trump world. It's also about keeping things sunny in an election year on the economy. I mean, he was like sort of one-man, you know, it was a one man effort to steer the economy into normalcy. And it seems as though he's realized that that is not possible in a situation like that.

And the more you say everything's fine here, and the economy and everything that drives the economy sees that everything is not fine here, and they hear from the President something that doesn't reflect reality, it makes people who affect the economy. It gives, particularly the markets, even more anxiety, it makes it even worse. And that is something that is being impressed upon them.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, Abby, because the Sanders campaign, the Biden campaign have announced they're canceling these big rallies, these political rallies. But the White House, the Trump campaign announced the President is going forward with a big rally.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it is - it has become on the political side, on the Democratic field, a mini leadership task force, these candidates, because they're running for president. They need to hold political events. But they have made the decision that they have to cancel them because they have become public health risks. When you have 5,000 or 10,000 people in a room for a political rally while the governor of that state is saying no more than a thousand people in one space, I mea --

BLITZER: Or 250.

PHILLIP: Or 250 people in the case of Washington State, it becomes a real problem. But the President does not want to acknowledge that. That's why tonight, it's going to be very important to see if they can get him back on track in terms of the truth, because he's been consistently misleading the public about the facts around the coronavirus. That is extremely dangerous.

And it really has to stop. This could be an opportunity, essentially if he's reading a teleprompter for him to correct that. But if it's going to out to the entire world, he needs to tell the truth and the unvarnished truth.

BLITZER: Soon to like there will be a teleprompter in the Oval Office, he'll be reading a prepared statement.

Everybody standby, there's much more we're following, including a closer look at efforts to contain the coronavirus by restricting people's movement and banning large gatherings. That includes the NCAA's announcement. It's recommending this year's basketball tournaments be played without spectators in the stadiums.



BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump just announced he will be addressing the nation from the White House later tonight, 9:00 pm Eastern, about the effort to cope with the spread of the coronavirus. It comes as more and more communities around the country are clamping down on large gatherings in an attempt to try to contain the spread of this deadly virus.

Let's go back to our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, tell us more.

GUPTA: Well, you know, one of the things I've really been struck by over the last couple of days is this change in tone. You hear Dr. Fauci now saying, look, life is going to change, you know, simple things in our lives are going to change as a result of the coronavirus.

So, Wolf, we wanted to look around the world and see what are some of these changes happening in other countries and what can we learn from those changes here.


GUPTA (voice-over): This lockdown of nearly 60 million people has been touted as the model to follow, the complete boarding off of one province in China. If you've heard anything, you've probably heard that the same can't happen here.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have to be realistic. I don't think it would be as draconian as nobody in and nobody out.

GUPTA: But there have been other models of success around the world. Singapore, fewer than 200 cases, Hong Kong, which borders China's mainland, has had just over 120 cases since the outbreak began. So what did they do?

Four main things, early testing. Thousands of people were tested within days. And then isolating the infected and carefully tracing their contacts, shutting down mass gatherings. And appropriate quarantines. Public health officials call these non-pharmaceutical interventions or NPIs.


Lately you've heard it described as social distancing.

FAUCI: If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it.

GUPTA: In just the last few days, Austin's South by Southwest canceled. Major music festival Coachella postponed, and Democratic presidential rallies, not happening.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were planning a big rally in Cleveland tonight. But the governor of Ohio asked the presidential campaigns to cancel their indoor public events in Cleveland, where there's large, large crowds of people. And that's what we did due to the coronavirus.

GUPTA: In New Rochelle, New York, the National Guard called into the center of what is likely the country's largest outbreak.

MAYOR NOAM BRAMSON (D), NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK: The containment zone is area in which large gatherings will be limited. It does have a significant impact on major institutions, on schools, on houses of worship.

GUPTA: But here's something important to know, all of these aggressive actions work best if they are done early, which means before 1% of the population is exposed to the virus. After that, the proverbial horse is out of the barn.

And so that means life in the United States is going to change, at least for a while, right in front of our eyes. And one of the biggest changes will be that schools and universities across the country will be shuttered.

ARTHUR REINGOLD, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: The basic idea is if children are not all together, they can't transmit their infections to each other as readily, and then take them home to their parents and grandparents and younger siblings.

GUPTA: But yet, another example of just how new all of this is, we don't even know how effective those school closures will be because much of the data for them has been based on the flu virus.

JENNIFER NUZZO, CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY, JOHNS HOPKINS: It's not clear to me that we're going to have the same benefits from school closures with this virus given that so few children have been reported among cases.

REINGOLD: And, of course, the other issue is where do the children go if they're not in school. If they're all together in some alternative day-care or child center, presumably they can transmit their infections justly as well there as they would in school.

GUPTA: And ultimately that's going to be the key. These social mitigation measures are only effective if we're able to do this early, honestly, and consistently.


GUPTA: And, Wolf, it's worth pointing out, again, there is no national trigger for sort of triggering some of these social distancing mechanisms. And things stand, as you've seen, Wolf, these are happening on a community by community basis so far.

BLITZER: Certainly. Sanjay, we're so grateful to you for your reporting and your coverage of this story, we appreciate it so, so much. Thank you very much.

Coming up, drastic actions trying to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Italy. Italy is now closing all shops, all venues around the entire country, except supermarkets and pharmacies. We'll go live to Italy.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight. Italy's prime minister has just announced that all restaurants, bars and shops around the entire country will be closed except for super markets and pharmacies. CNN's Melissa Bell is joining us from Rome right now.

Melissa, looks pretty deserted where you are right now, what, 12,000 coronavirus cases confirmed right now in Italy. What are you learning about these widespread closures? MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, already Italy was feeling just like it has never felt before, really quite odd being in Rome here today. Already, people being stopped, and, Wolf, we're talking about a western liberal democracy having to apply to a lock down of an entire country. So, already there was a sense of disbelief.

Rome practically deserted, the other touristic centers of Italy as well. And ordinary Italians trying to go about their business and having to justify themselves, the checkpoints where they can be asked for their papers to show that not just international travel, but moving from one region to another. Leaving your home to somewhere else, you can be asked in the street by police to explain why you're doing it, so extraordinary measures, a great deal of questions, a lot of anxiety as well from people about how to go about their daily lives.

And tonight, these extra measures already the country was on lock down. You had to justify getting in or getting out. You had to justify your movements around the country. The bars and restaurants were limited to a 6:00 pm closure, and within the last hour or so, the prime minister announcing this extra step.

So all non-essential businesses closed down, that means concretely, Wolf, that what we're going to see here in Italy is super markets and pharmacies remaining open, and the rest entirely closed down.

BLITZER: Yes. And there's enormous fear here in the United States among the experts that what we're seeing where you are, Melissa, in Rome and throughout Italy, we hope it doesn't happen. It could windup here in the United States as well. And Melissa Bell on the scene for us in Rome, be careful over there. Thank you very, very much.

Coming up, President Trump plans to address the nation later tonight, 9:00 pm Eastern as the coronavirus pandemic worsens here in the United States and indeed around the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following fast breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump plans to speak to the nation a few hours from now about the federal response to this crisis. That might include a new travel restriction to Europe. A top administration official confirms that's one option that's been under discussion.

Coronavirus fears have now driven U.S. stocks into bare market territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down more than 1,400 points today.