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Fears Over Spread of Coronavirus Force Schools to Close, Sporting Events Canceled & Some Workers Sent Home; Trump Causes Confusion with Inaccuracies, Omissions in Prime-Time Speech to Nation. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 12, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Whether it's conferences, or cruises, or NBA games.

It's economic growth here that's on the line, and investors are trying to price what a new landscape will look like, when we have a pandemic and possibly a recession, at least in the short term -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And you just heard the closing bell with the Dow down 2,300 points just in one day.

Alison, President Trump earlier today said that the markets would be just fine. Are his words of assurance actually serving to calm any concerns over there?

KOSIK: I would say no with an exclamation point.

And an indication of that happened after he finished his address to the nation last night on coronavirus. We saw the overnight trade tumble more than 5 percent. That's when we knew we could be in trouble today.

Investors were stunned that they didn't get more concrete details about any stimulus that can cushion the blow on the U.S. economy from the coronavirus. Investors were also shocked about the ban from travel from Europe to the U.S. The concern there is that it's going to slow down the U.S. economy even more, because visitors on any given month bring in billions of dollars.

Now, stocks did briefly -- very briefly -- move off their lows today, when the Federal Reserve announced it would pump $1 trillion of liquidity into the market to try to calm the market. But, by the looks of things, and with the Dow down over 2,000 points today, it looks like that didn't work.

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik at the exchange for us today, thank you so much.

As of right now, 39 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus. More than 1,400 are confirmed infected. Now, we do not know the actual number of people in the U.S. who are infected because so few Americans have actually been tested.

And that's because there are so few test kits actually available on the front lines, and even fewer labs that are now able to process samples.

President Trump continues used to lie to the American people and say that testing is going smoothly.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have them very heavily tested. If an American is coming back or anybody's coming back, we're testing. We have a tremendous testing setup where people coming in have to be tested.


TAPPER: That's not the case.

People landing in the United States today are walking right through customs. They are not being tested for the coronavirus. Even those who are being stopped and checked to see if they have a fever, what's called being screened, they're not being tested for the coronavirus either.

The U.S. is woefully behind other countries testing.

But don't take it from me. Here's President Trump's top health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's director since 1984 of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Here he is talking today about the failures in testing in the United States.



The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we're not.


TAPPER: As CNN's Elizabeth Cohen now reports for us, despite continued assurances from the Trump White House that all is well, when it comes to testing, all is decidedly not well.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of Hollywood's most famous couples, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, announcing they tested positive for coronavirus.

But that test wasn't done in the U.S. Instead, the pair are in Australia, where testing is free and easy to get, thanks to an early and coordinated response, a big difference from what we're seeing in the U.S.


COHEN: Just compare the U.S. to South Korea. As of Wednesday, only 11,079 specimens have been tested in the U.S. That pales in comparison to the nearly 200,000 people tested in South Korea.

And America's population is more than six times larger. Because of the test shortage in the U.S., not just anyone can get one.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: So, coming into a physician's office and saying, I have upper respiratory symptoms, I want to coronavirus test, that's not going to happen.

COHEN: At Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, following state rules, they're saying no to people under age 60 who have no underlying medical conditions, if that person just has a runny nose and a sore throat, but they might say yes if that person has been in close contact with someone with coronavirus or recently traveled to China or other coronavirus hot spots.

South Korea successfully ramped up its testing, even doing them at drive-throughs like this one, an idea the CDC director says the U.S. is not planning to use right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there any plans to have drive-through testing in America, so that we do not panic emergency rooms when people come in and cough?

REDFIELD: Not at this time. I think we're trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their health care providers.


COHEN: So how does the U.S. plan to get many more Americans tested for coronavirus? They're leaning on two commercial test makers, LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, that your doctor can order for you directly without going through a state lab.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, it's going to be the commercial laboratories that have the capacity to get tests all over the country.

COHEN: One of those commercial laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, telling CNN: "We expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests a week within the next six weeks."

CNN has contacted several large hospital systems, and they say they're not using these commercial tests right now, but they hope to very soon. That would lead to more testing, which would help public health officials get a better handle on containing the growing coronavirus outbreak.


COHEN: Now, here's something that helps explain the difference between the testing situation in South Korea and the U.S.

South Korea, like European countries and Canada, has universal single- payer insurance. And that means that it's easier to mobilize and also people know what to do. There is pretty much one answer for how to get testing.

The U.S. is a patchwork of countless different systems. And so you can't say, here's exactly the steps that every American should take in order to get tested -- Jake.

TAPPER: And the other thing, Elizabeth, of course, is government officials keep saying Americans should check in with their primary care physician.

One-quarter of the American people, according to a study by "The Journal" -- in "The Journal of American Medical Association," one quarter of the American people don't have a primary care physician.

COHEN: And, Jake, I would bet that many primary care physicians, even if you have one, if you call them, they would say, gosh, I really don't know what to tell you.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Joining me now is "New York Times" correspondent Dr. Sheri Fink.

Dr. Fink, thanks for joining us again.

You have been following how early testing has failed in the U.S. for some time in many areas. The Trump administration continues to claim that access to testing is not an issue, that testing is going very smoothly. Fact-check that for us.

DR. SHERI FINK, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, I'm hearing the same thing as Elizabeth is, that there are many people, doctors, patients, people who want to get tested, who just can't get those tested -- those tests.

And I have also heard about some innovative efforts. There are hospitals that are trying to get together who normally don't cooperate, because they're competitors, saying, can we set up something like what South Korea is doing, and actually have some drive-up tests?

Because they don't want to be inundated with people coming in for those tests.

TAPPER: The U.S. has tested only a fraction of what other countries have been able to test.

In the U.S., there's been a little more than 11,000 tests done. That does not include private lab testing, but it's the only numbers we have from the Centers for Disease Control.

In the U.K., a country with a population of about a fifth of the United States, they have tested more than 29,000. In South Korea, whose population is about one-sixth of our population, they have tested more than 200,000 people.

Why is the U.S. so behind compared to other countries?

FINK: We got behind for two reasons.

One is that official CDC test, when it got sent to the public health labs around the country, they couldn't validate it. They couldn't check if it worked. So they had to wait for weeks for new tests to come out. And then those private tests, those laboratory-developed tests, are waiting for approval from the FDA.

There's a whole process they have to go through. Now the FDA has loosened some of that, but we're still not seeing a big rollout of those tests. And those numbers you gave, the 11,000 for the U.S., those are just the samples.

In fact, some of those samples, more than one sample came from a person. They might have been checked on a couple days. So the actual people who were tested, you could expect might be even fewer than that.

TAPPER: Fewer than 11,000.

FINK: That's right.

TAPPER: The NBA is obviously shut down for the season.

The Utah Jazz just announced that they have tested 58 members of the team and traveling staff, after two of their stars tested positive for the coronavirus.

This is baffling to me, because I have been reporting on first responders that can't get their tests checked in the lab. We have been reporting on individuals in clusters like New Rochelle and Kirkland who have not been able to get tests.

How are these NBA players all of a sudden able to get tests and results so quickly?

FINK: I mean, that's a really interesting question. And we are seeing differences in different parts of the country.

But here are those really disturbing things that come out when there's a shortage of something. Who gets it? Who doesn't get it? Does that -- like, what is allowing some people to get things and not others?

We do need to think about fairness and those kinds of issues, especially, one day, hopefully, there will be a vaccine, and we want it to be distributed fairly. So you want to think about the need to test. There was a chance.

Of course, they were staying at a hotel, I understand. And you want to understand how many other people might be infected or exposed. So there could be a good reason for doing those tests. But certainly there's an importance in making that more widely available to the general public as well. TAPPER: Officials from the CDC and in the Trump White House,

including Vice President Pence, have not been able to answer how many tests have actually been done so far.


Even though we have the number 11,000, we don't know how many people that is, and we don't have the number that includes the private testing that's been done.

Can you explain why testing is so important for the government and health officials to be able to wrap their arms around this crisis?

FINK: Absolutely.

And you can understand why the CDC doesn't have tabs on all of that. But it is important, because we need a picture of what's going on in the country. That's really important, and so that individuals can take steps to protect themselves.

So it's important for individuals to know to understand their risk, and for public health authorities to get a sense of whether the virus has established itself in the community, and so they can make those really tough decisions about when to disrupt society, when to tell people, don't gather in big gatherings, don't go to church, those very fundamental aspects of our society.

It helps to have good information to make those hard decisions.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sheri Fink, thank you, as always, for your expertise. Appreciate it.

Schools are closing. Pro sports leagues are suspending their seasons -- a look at how life in America is changing in dramatic ways next.

Then: why one country in Europe may provide a frightening preview of what might happen here in the United States.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back and continuing, of course, with the health lead today.

The deadly coronavirus pandemic is quickly transforming life in the United States. States and cities are banning events that would have drawn large crowds. The remainder of the NBA and now NHL seasons have been suspended. Major League Baseball has delayed opening day and cancelled spring training. The 1.3 million school students have been affected by school closures according to education week.

Plus, as CNN's Erica Hill reports for us now, one spark example of societal disruption and New York City suburb, New Rochelle, transformed into a containment zone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up until 15 minutes ago, I thought everybody was going, you know, to Dublin tonight.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Life screeching to a halt across the country, as officials were to contain the spread of coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really stressful that this is happening.

HILL: In New Rochelle, New York, the National Guard arriving in the nation's first containment zone. As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces sweeping new restrictions.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're reducing the occupancy by 50 percent.

HILL: No gatherings over 500 people, prompting Broadway to suspend performances for the next month. College campuses from coast to coast closed, entire school districts shutting their doors, impacting more than a million children across the country.

LAURA FEIJOO, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW ROCHELLE SCHOOLS: I think for some it's going to be a bit of a challenge to keep kids home for two weeks.

HILL: Parents scrambling as concern grows for food and secure children who rely on daily school meals.

Hospital preparing for a potential influx of patients. In Boston, Tufts Medical Center rescheduling non-urgent appointments and elective surgeries.

The White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon suspending public tours and access, as lawmakers begin to shutter their D.C. offices.

Social distancing now the defining policy of this pandemic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIUOS DISEASES: Right now, we should be doing things that separate us as best as possible from people who might be infected.

HILL: At Palm Beach International Airport, a JetBlue passenger from New York alerted airline officials after landing he tested positive for the virus, he's now in isolation.

Across the sports world, spectators gone from college and high school games. Basketball analyst Charles Barkley suggesting that's not enough.

CHARLES BARKLEY, BASKETBALL ANALYST: I think March Madness should be suspended, and let's get these players tested. If even one player on all these teams have this virus, this thing can really get out of hand.

HILL: Late Wednesday, the NBA suspended the rest of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The game tonight has been postponed.

HILL: Thursday morning, the team announced a second confirmed case. As other professional sports leagues began to announce their own suspensions, the cruise industry hit hard by both the coronavirus and criticism for how it was handled, Princess and Viking halting operations. Businesses continuing to push for employees to work from home. Yet for those who work in the now empty arenas and campuses, there is no such option, only uncertainty.


HILL: And today in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine announcing that starting Monday, all K through 12 schools in Ohio, public, private and charter will be closed, Jake, through April 3rd. These closings coming in fast and furiously. We are learning that Live Nation and other live entertainment promoters, including AEG and the Town Agency Elite, they are suspending their event through the end of March as they also are working to help in many ways to contain the spread of this coronavirus.

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

And we have breaking news, the NCAA is, indeed, now cancelling its men's and women's basketball tournaments over coronavirus fears. Just yesterday, the organization announced it would ban fans from attending games, only allowing essential staff and limiting family members to attend. Now, the tournaments have been canceled entirely.

Joining me now is Dr. Marc Gautreau, director of pre-hospital care at Stanford University Emergency Medicine.

Doctor, thanks so much for joining us.

Since Monday, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has doubled. The number of dead has increased from 26 to at least 39. We've seen massive disruption to our daily lives.

Do you expect the spread of the disease and the increase in the number of fatalities to continue to grow exponentially as it has been?


DR. MARC GAUTREAU, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, STANFORD HEALTHCARE: I think we are going to see an increase over the next several weeks. It's hard to say how much of an increase. But the measures we're putting in place to increase social isolation should help mitigate some of that.

TAPPER: I'm going to list a few things. And if you could tell me if it's safe for most Americans to go to them. Obviously, people in containment or cluster zones are not who we are talking about. People in Kirkland, Washington or New Rochelle.

But is it safe for the average American to go to a restaurant? GAUTREAU: You know as -- I did go to a restaurant last night, so I

have to say yes to that. I think that being very aware of surroundings and quite frankly if somebody is symptomatic, they should certainly not be going out to restaurants or, you know, potentially exposing themselves to others. But in most communities at this time, I still think it is safe to go out to restaurants and supermarkets and you know making sure that they have the things that they need to continue living.

TAPPER: What about the gym? Is it safe for people to go to the gym?

GAUTREAU: Hard to say, but, in most cases, if you know -- I do go to the gym sometimes and, quite frankly, most people as long as they're about 6 feet apart and are keeping equipment clean, that should be OK.

TAPPER: What about elevators? Is it OK to use elevators?

GAUTREAU: I would be keeping a very close eye on the people around me, probably avoid elevators where people are coughing or sneezing or appear to be ill.

TAPPER: What about public transportation?

GAUTREAU: Again, it depends on how big the crowds are and how easy it is to increase the distance between people, especially those who are coughing. It's really -- it's a disease that is spread by respiratory droplets, coughing, sneezing, and then you know transfer of those droplets from contact surfaces, you know, to the nose and mouth, you know, which is why we are trying to get people to wash their hands so frequently.

TAPPER: What do you think when you see the run on places like Costco, where people are just stocking up for years on toilet paper? I mean, are people overreacting in those situations?

GAUTREAU: I think the stocking up on toilet paper is a considerable overreaction. I think that if people want to stock up on something, it should probably be liquid soap. Soap is an excellent way to kill the virus and essentially just making sure they have food in the refrigerator.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Marc Gautreau, thank you so much. I appreciate your time and your expertise.

GAUTREAU: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: One of the people in this pick has tested positive for the coronavirus. President Trump's response to that fact is next.



TAPPER: You're looking at an airport in Madrid, Spain, right now. Travelers are rushing to leave parts of Europe today after President Trump's confusing address to the nation last night about coronavirus. And in an apparent attempt to show leadership and offer some clarity,

the president's message instead sent his administration scrambling to a degree and they were forced to correct inaccurate statements the president made about his own policies, not to mention other confusing passages.

Moreover, experts say the president's address was inadequate in offering solutions for some of the biggest challenges the nation faces right now such as failures and getting Americans tested for the virus or the lack of capacity at U.S. hospitals to deal with any surge in new patients.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, the president seems to portray a sense of calm, but his words are having the opposite effect.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House says President Trump still hasn't been tested for coronavirus even though it just got much closer to him. After Trump hosted a dinner for the Brazilian president in Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night, the Brazilian press secretary has now tested positive for coronavirus. The White House says Trump had limited interaction with the senior aid. And there's no reason for him to be tested despite a photo showing otherwise.

For now, Trump says he is not worried.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's put it this way, I'm not concerned.

My fellow Americans --

COLLINS: After his primetime address created more chaos than calm, Trump caused more confusion about testing today.

TRUMP: Frankly, the testing has been going very smoothly.

COLLINS: That's not true, according to Democrats, Republicans or even the president's own health advisers.

Ask who is in charge of making sure tests are administered, the CDC director looked to Dr. Anthony Fauci for the answer today.

FAUCI: My colleague is looking at me to answer that.


FAUCI: It is a failing. Let's admit it.

The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that.

COLLINS: Trump also confirmed that European leaders weren't informed before he announced he was restricting most travel from Europe to the U.S. for the next 30 days. TRUMP: We had to move quickly. When they raise taxes on us, they

don't consult us.

COLLINS: The president made that announcement in an Oval Office address in primetime last night.

TRUMP: We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.

COLLINS: While the message was intended to show he was serious about coronavirus, the president left out major details. Less than an hour after he gave his address, the Department of Homeland Security clarified it didn't apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents.