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American Life Changes Rapidly For Schools, Culture, Offices And Travel; Top Infectious Disease Doctor Says U.S. Is Failing On Testing; New York Governor Bans Gatherings Over 500 People. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 12, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you very much. Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN's Special Coverage of this Coronavirus Pandemic. Thank you for being here.

Here's the biggie. Is the U.S. prepared? Just one of many, many questions being asked in the Halls of Congress along with cities and towns from coast to coast as life we know it takes this dramatic shift. Travel restricted, schools shuttered, sports seasons just totally canceled. And the stock market halted briefly for the second time this week before plummeting once again.

All of that as the cases in the United States continues to climb nearing 1,300, and sadly, the number of deaths is also on the rise, now standing at 39.

Let we begin this hour with Erica Hill, there's so many developments. It's hard for everyone to like wrap their heads around everything. Where does -- where do things stand right now?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Brooke. It's not just the numbers that keep changing. Our phones, our e-mail inboxes are blowing up with all of the cancellations as you mentioned around the country -- everything that is happening on a local and a state level.

Here in New Rochelle, where I am, this is the first day of the official containment zone here in New Rochelle. So what does that mean?

Well, the mayor stressing again this morning, this is not a lockdown. This is not a quarantine of this one mile radius. What this is, is simply an attempt within that area to limit large public gatherings, to limit large gatherings of people to ideally contain the spread. So they're waiting to see for these next two weeks how that works.

For the first time today, in the City of New Rochelle, we did see some of the National Guard. The mayor also stressing that they are here for logistical and operational help. They are not here again to put this area on lockdown.

But New Rochelle, of course, just one of the many areas across this country that is feeling the change as life becomes a new normal. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

HILL (voice-over): Life screeching to a halt across the country as officials work to contain the spread of coronavirus.


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


HILL (voice-over): In New Rochelle, New York, the National Guard arriving in the nation's first containment zone, as large gatherings quickly become a memory.

College campuses closed. Entire school districts shutting their doors, impacting more than a million children across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think for some it's going to be a bit of a challenge to keep kids home for two weeks.


HILL (voice-over): Parents scrambling as concern grows for food insecure children who rely on daily school meals.

Hospitals 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.

And New York's Mayor warning that Broadway, where an usher recently tested positive may be next.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): We're going to have to think very differently. Our society is changing by the hour right now.


HILL (voice-over): Social distancing, now the defining policy of this pandemic.


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

HILL (voice-over): Across the sports world, spectators are gone from college and high school games. Basketball analyst, Charles Barkley suggesting that's not enough.


CHARLES BARKLEY, BASKETBALL ANALYST: I think the March Madness should be suspended. Now, let's get these players tested.

If even one player on all of these teams have this virus, this thing could really get out of hand.


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


ANNOUNCER: The game tonight has been postponed.


HILL (voice-over): Thursday morning, the team announced a second confirmed case.

As other professional sports leagues began to announce their own suspensions.

Hollywood's first confirmed cases announced in this Instagram post from Tom Hanks. The couple filming a movie in Australia said they're following official protocols there including isolation.

The cruise industry hit hard by both the coronavirus and criticism for how it was handled taking a major hit. Princess and Viking halting operations.

Businesses continuing to push for employees to work from home. For those who work and then out empty arenas and campuses, there's no such option, only uncertainty.


HILL (on camera): Brooke, we also have an update for you. There's been a lot of talk, of course over the last few days about whether the President had been tested, whether he needed to be tested.

What we just learned that the Press Secretary for the President, for President Bolsonaro of Brazil has, in fact tested positive for coronavirus.

And there was a picture posted just in the last few days when the President met with President Bolsonaro. So questions there about whether or not there could have been some interaction from the President and the Vice President, anything to be concerned about.

The White House putting out a statement. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham saying, they're aware of the reports about a member of the Brazilian delegations visit who tested positive for COVID-19.


HILL: Going on to say, "Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time," -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Except for being photographed standing next to one another. Okay. Erica Hill. Thank you.

Listen, life as we know it for the moment is changing. There could be another travel restriction, but this one may be within the United States. President Trump did not rule out a domestic travel ban when he was asked about it today.


QUESTION: Are you considering travel restrictions within the United States, such as to Washington State or to California?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We haven't discussed that yet. Is it a possibility? Yes. If somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot, you see what they're doing in New Rochelle. Which is -- which is good. Frankly, it's the right thing.

But then it's not enforced. It's not very strong, but people know they're -- they're being watched.


BALDWIN: In the meantime, the ban that the President just announced does not include Americans abroad. It targets most foreigners from more than two dozen European countries.

We should note the U.K. is excluded. That begins midnight Friday and has sent passengers and airlines and airports scrambling.

So we've got -- we cover from both sides of the Atlantic. CNN's Nick Valencia is at Hartsfield Jackson International there in Atlanta. CNN's Scott McLean is standing by at London's Heathrow Airport.

But Nick, let me begin with you on this other story. Before we talk about the ban, you have information about this passenger who jumped on the plane in New York at JFK, flies all the way to Palm Beach in Florida. And then what? As he is getting off the plane he says hey, by the way, I have coronavirus.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Extremely unsettling. We're learning this information, Brooke, from Palm Beach Fire and Rescue saying that this individual, not identified as yet a man or woman got on a flight at JFK, went to West Palm Beach and waited until they arrived to notify the airline that they in fact had tested positive for coronavirus.

We don't know much more beyond that. That's really all we know at this point JetBlue releasing a statement saying that they are sanitizing the area where this passenger was.

We also know that the West Palm Beach International Airport took the unprecedented step of shutting down a concourse to sanitize and clean that area as well.

But everyone that I've spoken to here in Atlanta International Airport, Brooke, very unsettled about this news, and depending on who you ask, there is mixed reaction. Some taking this more serious than others.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what my aunt packed for me. It's like our little travel kit.

VALENCIA: That's not an everyday thing that you take.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is not, so this -- she actually -- since she works at C.D.C., she just wants me to be like safe, like hand sanitizer and everything.

VALENCIA: Show us what you have in there. What do you have in there in that bag?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a mask. This looks like a constructor's mask. So Clorox wipes, gloves, hand sanitizer.

VALENCIA: Any second thoughts about getting on your flight this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Completely, I almost didn't come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I almost didn't come. I almost just cancelled because I was just scared.


VALENCIA: There's one thing that is clear. A lot of people woke up this morning, knowing that life is about to change, if it hasn't already, for a lot of us -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Nick, thank you very much. Scott McLean to you there at Heathrow. I'm wondering. I mean, that's a massive international hub, as we mentioned, the U.K., not part of this ban. Can you tell me why not?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke, we don't have an official explanation. But one possible explanation is that the U.K. is not part of the Schengen zone of 26 European nations that allow free movement within the borders of those countries.

So the U.K. does have some control over its borders, but as of right now, there's nothing stopping any Europeans coming from the U.K. and bringing this virus with them.

This virus really doesn't have -- it doesn't really know any borders. This ban is likely or these restrictions are likely to have a massive impact on Europe.

Last year, there were more than 500 flights a day coming from the Schengen zone to the United States. We were over at the terminal earlier today, and we expected to find Europeans trying to get into the United States before these restrictions came into effect.

We actually found the opposite. We could not find, as hard as we looked, any Europeans trying to go to the United States. We found a couple of Brits who had not been to Europe recently.

But by and large, we found Americans, many of them who had spent a small fortune trying to get home before these restrictions took place, worried that perhaps the rules might change or worried that they might be subject to mandatory quarantine when they got home.

What they likely do not know though, is that the C.D.C. is already telling people who have been to any of these countries in Europe, that they should self-isolate for 14 days.

And Brooke, one other thing and that's that it is not outside the realm of possibility that the U.K. could be added to this.

And that's because, just this afternoon, health officials in this country said that they think that the U.K. is only about four weeks behind Italy in terms of the progression of this epidemic.


BALDWIN: Oh boy. Oh boy, Scott McLean. Thank you in London. So that's air travel, right?

We began the hour asking this question is the United States prepared for the coronavirus? But there's another key question. Where are all the tests?

Sources telling CNN that in a congressional briefing today, lawmakers were told that only 11,000 tests have been completed in this country thus far -- 11,000 in a country of more than 300 million.

Let me put that in perspective for you. South Korea is testing nearly that many people -- 11,000 -- each and every day.

Dr. Saad Omer is the Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. Dr. Omar, thank you so much for being with me.

I've got some questions, but let me play again with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the expert of all experts on this, right, told Congress today about the state of coronavirus testing in the U.S. right now compared to what President Trump said just a couple hours later. So listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FAUCI: The system does not -- is not really geared to what we need

right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing.


FAUCI: Yes. 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. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're not.

TRUMP: We are going to have a million tests now. They're going to have, over the next few days, they're going to have four million tests out.

And frankly, the testing has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test. Now with that being said, as you know, millions are being produced. This is a brand new thing that just happened.


BALDWIN: Dr. Omer, you know where I'm going with this. I mean listening to Dr. Fauci saying the U.S. is failing. Are we failing?

DR. SAAD OMER, DIRECTOR, YALE INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: Unfortunately, yes. So -- and it's a surprise, it's a sad surprise that the country, which is ahead of everyone else, in terms of biomedical innovation doesn't have enough tests.

And according to my understanding, obviously, these numbers change as academic hospitals come online, et cetera. Right now, our testing capacity is slightly over 18,000 tests. This is not acceptable.

It is unfortunate, obviously, we'll have to have a look at it after this epidemic passes. But this is unfortunate.

BALDWIN: But as we're in it, right now, what's the issue, Dr. Omar? Why aren't more tests available in the U.S.?

OMAR: Well, this is a system's issue in the sense that initially, there was a technical issue with the C.D.C. test. Everyone relied on the C.D.C.'s guidance, reagents, test kits et cetera, and so that was part of the issue.

Since then, the hospitals that were not supposed to be doing this, they have been allowed to do, develop their own test and evaluate and start testing. But there are several steps there.

And now, there are some shortages of other equipment and supplies that are required for setting up these tests. So it is a little bit --

BALDWIN: You mean things like respirators, et cetera?

OMER: No, no. That's a separate thing. I'm talking about just tests themselves are -- BALDWIN: Because we are. There is a dearth of respirators, I know

that's a whole other issue, not to pile on here, but that's a whole other issue.

OMER: Yes, that is indeed a little bit of an issue. And so therefore, the social distancing measures, what they do is, even if they don't reduce, and they do reduce the overall number of cases, if they flatten out the spread of this epidemic, so if they decrease the pace of this outbreak, what it does is it lets the health system catch up.

It doesn't result in acute shortages of for example, respirators and other things that are required to provide care for this disease.

BALDWIN: Why do you think South Korea has been so good at this? Has been able to handle this as well as they have?

OMER: Well, to be fair, they are a smaller country, but they are not a small country. So they're a big country. And they did a few things.

It was a scientist or a public health official-led response, as I understand. They did really proactive testing, and in order to do this testing sequentially on a series of contacts, the biggest bottleneck that they didn't have and we have is testing capability.

So all of these things came together.

BALDWIN: I hear the key word in that sentence -- proactive. What about long term, short term impact in the United States, sir, just have this inability to test adequately and identify accurate numbers of coronavirus cases?

OMER: Look, I think we have to err on the side of caution right now because we don't have precise testing and even if we have the perfect surveillance, once we -- if we identify a case today, it's like light from the stars, as someone said, meaning that if we look at a star exploding now, it has exploded billions of years ago.


OMER: So in this case, because there is an incubation period, if we identify cases now, the transmission occurred a few days ago.

And so therefore, it becomes more pronounced if you don't have perfect testing. So focusing on social distancing proactively is the more appropriate strategy right now.

BALDWIN: And just quickly, define social distancing. Because this is a phrase being tossed around a lot. Define it?

OMER: Yes. Yes. Exactly. It's an umbrella under which there are several things that includes -- continue to include some type of contact facing, but it also has a lot of emphasis on basically reducing contact between humans through cancelling large gatherings, sometimes school closures or university closures are required, recommending people if they have to work or they have to interact, they interact at a distance of six feet. That's the C.D.C. recommendation.

The W.H.O. recommends three feet, but I think the C.D.C. recommendation is more appropriate for this country. So these are some of the examples of social distancing measures.

BALDWIN: Yes. That's being recommended for every single one of us. Dr. Saad Omer over there at Yale. Dr. Omer, thank you so much.

So that's one piece of this, right? The massive piece of the testing and then the medical piece.

Then there's this Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, are now revealing they are sick. They have coronavirus.

But the most revealing thing about this is how they actually managed to get tested, so standby for that.

And the NBA, the NHL and Major League Soccer have all suspended their seasons and the big tournament cancellations continue to rack up. We'll talk sports.

And the markets continue to fall despite the Fed pumping billions of more dollars into the financial system. Can anything be done to avoid a recession?

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Okay, so we're getting some breaking news. If you are headed to the New York area, two pieces of information to you. This is just coming down from our New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Number one, they're saying that Broadway theaters are required to have a maximum capacity of 50 percent of total seating as of five o'clock today. So the theater can only be filled halfway to have a show.

And number two, the other piece of this, this is from the Governor, all gatherings of 500 people are also banned, so that is reflective of other states, other mandates we're seeing beginning around the country. They're saying stay away from these large gatherings, it's official in New York. No gathering above 500.

Schools are also being hit hard as well. More and more colleges and universities across the country are canceling face-to-face classes and switching to online because of this outbreak.

Many local school districts across the country are following suit even when cases haven't been confirmed.

In Nashville, for example, there are currently no reported cases among students or staff in the city's public school system, but they are shutting down and will stay closed through spring break. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Boston with more there and so Martin,

according to "Education Week," more than 2,000 schools have closed or scheduled to shut down across the country and they say that'll affect more than 1.3 million kids. That's K through 12.

This doesn't just mean a pause in education. I mean, this means the end to critical lifelines for so many kids in this country, doesn't it?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Yes, many people may not realize that. Of course, Brooke, school provided a lot of cities and in rural areas more than just education. They're the heart of their community, and most especially food is something that they provide.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are about 20 million student meals that are served every single day that includes breakfast and lunch.

So for a lot of students who live in very poor areas that is the best meal that they are going to get, and here's the problem, of course, it can't continue that if the school is shut down.

I've talked to a number of school districts for weeks over what their plans are in this particular circumstance and they do vary.

Some school districts are going to treat it like they do in the summertime. What that means is that they continue to distribute the food, but it'll be off site, either at community centers or maybe at churches.

Then the other school districts are actually contemplating sending students home with a lot of food, in other words, bulking them up before they get home.

Then there's another concern beyond just feeding the students. For many students that live especially in urban areas, there is a concern for safety. The school and being in school is perhaps the safest part of their day. Otherwise they go home to rather unsteady family life.

And the worry is that a lot of students may just go and hang out on the streets, which is, of course, a dangerous place for them. So beyond the education, there is the impact on just life in general for many young people that's going to be heavily disrupted -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Will -- and childcare issues for some parents, right? Not everyone gets paid sick leave. Certain people have to go to work. How is this all going to play out over the next couple of weeks or potentially months?

Martin Savidge, thank you, in Boston for covering that angle.

Let me come back to what I was just reporting this breaking news out of the state of New York especially regarding Broadway.

So Brian Stelter is here with me, and so the deal from Governor Cuomo is that he is saying Broadway theaters require to have a max capacity of 50 percent of total seating, so if you have a ticket to "Hamilton" tonight or tomorrow night, who gets to stay and who gets to go?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The show is off. It is even more than that, the show is off.

BALDWIN: The show is off.

STELTER: These Broadway shows will be cancelled because producers can't stay in business, if they can only fill half the seats.



STELTER: So essentially, starting tonight, the Broadway theaters will be dark for the foreseeable future and this idea about filling the theaters to 50 percent, this applies to other concerts and other events like that as well.

So you're going to see Broadway shows shut down, but you know, maybe concerts or comedy clubs will try to stay open. But under these new rules where you can't have more than 500 people, and you can't be at capacity.

So they're trying to essentially require social distancing at these theaters. It's part of obviously something much broader that's happening.

Broadway is very important. It's hugely important to tourism in New York City. We're seeing this across the country, Brooke. We're seeing movies be postponed in one case, "The Fast and Furious" movie has been postponed an entire year to next April of 2021.

A film called "The Quiet Place - Part Two," which was supposed to premiere next Friday, that's been delayed as well. No new date for that film.

So all of the things that we normally go and do as escapism, right, we watch sports, we go to movies, we go to Broadway shows.

BALDWIN: That's getting shut down.

STELTER: That's getting shut down.

BALDWIN: Erica Hill, to you, on the other piece of this news from Governor Cuomo the fact that large gatherings -- what is it? Five hundred or more, no longer in New York.

HILL: Five hundred or more. Yes, you're right, no longer and so that's part of what we were seeing. So even here where I am in New Rochelle, we're about a half a mile outside that containment zone, which again, is not a lockdown or a quarantine. But large gatherings are already banned there.

You're seeing different numbers in different states, Brooke, and experts that I've spoken with have said this is one of the problems. In fact, I was speaking with the Westchester County Executive here last night, George Latimer, who said, you know what I want? I want an exact number, whether it's 15 people, whether it's 500 people, whether it's 250, what is that magic number wherein we need to be below that threshold?

Because we were seeing of course, yesterday in Washington State, the number was no gatherings above 250. And just one other note, too, on Broadway that's fascinating is, earlier this week, we heard from Scott Rudin, who's a major producer on Broadway, and he put out there that starting today at noon, he was going to start selling the remainder of the tickets for the month of March to his shows for $50.00 a piece to do his best to keep Broadway going.

So one of his shows, Brooke, is "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is phenomenal, which is on a separate note, that theater alone, that's some 1,300 seats.

Keep in mind where "Wicked" plays at the Gershwin, that's some 2,000 seats. And as Brian said, if you have to cut that in half, even just trying to fill them and they were trying to do it with reduced pricing on these tickets, and now this is where we're at.

You think of the hundreds and thousands of people who are involved in that industry, the actors, you know, everybody who's involved behind the scenes when it comes to wardrobe, when it comes to the sets, the orchestra, the ushers. This is massive for the economy of New York City.

STELTER: But at the same time, I was driving through Times Square last night and you know that saying about it is eerily quiet, I thought it was eerily loud.

I thought there were too many people out. I was concerned by how crowded the streets were. And I do think that's changing today. I think every hour we're seeing people adapt in different ways.

But we all know what's coming. It's like a hurricane, but we don't know when it's going to hit.


STELTER: As one "New York Times" reporter said. I'm seeing events in May and June are to be canceled -- May and June because those staffers won't be able to go to work in March in April to plan for events and later in the spring.

BALDWIN: I just -- I just think what Erika said hit the nail on the head in terms of you think of just using Broadway, you could use a sports arena --

STELTER: All the staff.

BALDWIN: And all the staff, it's this trickledown effect. You know, if you have that the folks who work behind the scenes, the stage crew, or you know, where you get your classic cup of wine.

STELTER: Or the bar next door. BALDWIN: Yes, you know, the bar next door, and then those people

aren't getting paid. And so then they're not going to go out and do X, Y, and Z, and it's this whole domino effect.

STELTER: And it's happened just in the last day or so. I mean, think about where we are now versus a day ago. Virtually every major sporting league canceling events. March Madness is hanging on by a thread, but March Madness is going to have to be cancelled because these tournaments aren't being played to get to March Madness.

Essentially, everything is being frozen, and it's happening in the last two days.

BALDWIN: Brian and Erica --

HILL: And if I could make one other point, too, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

HILL: Sorry, Brooke. I was just going to say one thing quickly. One thing that really stood out to me, I commute into the city every day from Westchester County. I actually don't live very far from New Rochelle, and what I've noticed, really a drop off in the last couple of days and today, it was markedly different.

Far fewer cars in the parking lot. I take the same train every day. Definitely fewer people on the train and Grand Central itself, it felt so much less congested at 8:30 in the morning.

BALDWIN: It's affecting everywhere, every slice of life. Erica and Brian, thank you.

More on the breaking news here as we continue our coverage. In the entertainment world, Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson say they have tested positive for the coronavirus, adding they probably only know that because they're not in the United States.

We have those details and how can you tell the difference between symptoms right now?

I mean, it's the change in seasons. Maybe you have allergies. Maybe it's the flu. Maybe it's coronavirus.

Let's go through those symptoms just so you know what it might be, and also should everything just be canceled right now? Let's talk to an ER doctor about all of that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.