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Columbia University Chair of Education Policy, Aaron Pallas, Discusses School Closings & Impact; NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Discusses Drive-Through Testing Facility & U.S. School Closures; Outrage Increases as Trump Administration Puts Out Mixed Messages on Testing; Columbia University's Dr. Irwin Redlener Discusses Outbreaks to Get Worse & Trump Administration's Testing System Failure. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We won't be getting new episodes from most of the late-night television hosts as well. Of course, they have live studio audiences. And this is the concern here. You bring people together, that may be a risk of transmission. So, you see them there: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, all going dark.

This morning, Stephen Colbert tweeted, "I wish I could stay on stage to share this uncertain moment with you, but I don't do this show alone and I have to do what's best for my staff."

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Concerts also getting hit. Grammy award-winner, Billie Eilish, the latest to postpone her concert dates. Pearl Jam cancelled its summer tour. Coachella and Stagecoach festivals postponed.

This is going to continue. We'll be right here with you every minute with the facts.

We'll see you back here Monday morning. Thanks for joining us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

America, you are on hold. Life is disrupted. And in many parts of the country, shutting down.

Here are the latest numbers to keep you updated. More than 1,600 cases of the coronavirus across 47 states and D.C. The impact of that across the country, well, everywhere, but empty classrooms for one.

About five million kids, kindergarten through 12th grade, are at home today, according to "Education Week." And they will be, it appears, for the foreseeable future, as more schools, including, of course, universities, as we've been discussing, nationwide, are closing their doors.

Major attractions across the country are closing as well. Disneyworld, the Smithsonian Museum's closed. Broadway theater going dark.

And not one professional sport is still active. Just last hour, we learned the Boston Marathon is being postponed, adding to a long list of leagues canceling or suspending their seasons.

Once again, there's a lot to get to this morning.

Let us start on the wide-reaching impacts from these school closures that continue to mount.

CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us from the empty school in Yonkers, Yonkers, New York. He joins me now.

Martin, talk to us about the decision and the impact of the closure of the schools there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Good morning to you, Kate.

By the way, Yonkers, which is located, for those who don't know, just outside of New York City, they had six of what they believed are confirmed cases of the coronavirus. So, out of an abundance of caution, school officials say, they shut down public schools here for today. They have said that they expect them to reopen next week, although they also admitted it's a fluid situation.

And whether it is schools closing in Yonkers or whether it's schools closing in Seattle or all the points in between, the decision to close a school district is not one easily made, especially when you consider the impact it has on so many lives.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): As officials try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some states have begun shutting down their entire school systems. Maryland and Kentucky schools are down for two weeks. Ohio schools will close for three.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): This action is not an action I took lightly.

SAVIDGE: Elsewhere, school closures are more sporadic, but no less dramatic for parents left scrambling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really stressful that this is happening, but I understand why it has to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was necessary. You know, I was just listening and, in Italy, they said they wished they had done all of their closures a week early.

SAVIDGE: Across the country, thousands of schools and millions of students are expected to be affected by the closures, and those numbers are expected to rise.

In Seattle, one district explaining that dealing with the hardship of shutting down is still better than what could happen if they stay open.

ZACHARY DEWOLF, PRESIDENT, SEATTLE SCHOOL BOARD: This is the best decision we can make based on public health guidance and to mitigate future risks to our students, families, and communities.

SAVIDGE: Schools already on spring break are taking extra precautions to make sure their students stay healthy whenever they may return.

DR. BERNIE DUBRAY, SUPERINTENDENT, FORT ZUMWALT SCHOOL DISTRICT: I'm confident that we can provide safe haven for their children to be in.

SAVIDGE: The CDC's guidelines for schools with identified cases of coronavirus in their community leaves the decision whether or not to close it the school and local health officials.

In California, officials announce that schools there would stay open, but individual areas are closing schools.

And for many children who rely on school food, shutting down means more than just missed classes.

GAVIN NEWSOM, (D), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: We do deem that schools are essential, not nonessential. And 80 percent of that student body has a reduced meal program.

SAVIDGE: It's not just California. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, across the United States, millions of students rely on more than 20 million free school meals provided each day, leaving some parents to wonder, when schools close, how will their children eat?


SAVIDGE: The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, is saying that New York public schools will remain open, in part, because of the issue of feeding students and also providing security.

We should point out that other states that now have come forward and said they're shutting down their entire school systems, it's expanded and now includes Oregon and New Mexico as well -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, and all of them in discussion of the creative ways that they can get to those children, continue providing those meals, if the schools are shut down. But we'll see.

Great to see you, Martin. Thank you so much.

SAVIDGE: Thanks.


BOLDUAN: All right, let's discuss this with Aaron Pallas. He's here. He's the chair of Education Policy at Teachers College at Columbia University.

Aaron, thank you so much for being here.

So, Martin lays out kind of the -- what's the stake, the stakes of the decision to close schools and what the impact is, far beyond just the immediate actually being at school.

You have now Ohio and five other states deciding to shut down all schools and other states and cities kind of deciding differently of how to handle it, right? You've got New York City public schools. They're at the moment still open.

How are these decisions made today shut schools? What do you think the considerations should be?

AARON PALLAS, CHAIR OF EDUCATION POLICY & SOCIAL ANALYSIS, TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: They're very difficult decisions. And they involve, in many cases, weighing several different negative consequences.

On the one hand, you have public health officials who may believe that closing schools can help contain the spread of the virus and social distancing being a strategy for doing that, and that's probably the primary argument for closing schools.

But closing schools does have consequences for vulnerable children and families as well. As Martin mentioned, many children, close to 30 million across the country, receive meals, lunches, or breakfasts, through the national school lunch program, which is administered via schools.

Moreover, if schools close, young children need to be supervised, and parents will have to be home to take care of them. And many parents don't have the ability to work remotely from home or, alternatively, would not have paid leave benefits if they were to be taking time off from work.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.

Then also add to that the impact of just actual learning during this period of time. And maybe that's a different conversation for nursery school-aged child versus a high school student. But what is your, kind of your working assumption on the impact of learning on kids when schools are shut down?

PALLAS: When schools are shut down unexpectedly -- and that's obviously what this is -- no one's been able to plan for this in the way that you can plan for summer break.


PALLAS: When everyone knows, OK, school is out on this day and then it comes back in September.

When it's unexpected and when schools are shut in ways that remove access to the resources in the classroom, there's a lot of scrambling going on. No school district in the country is prepared to offer remote learning, online learning, to its students at any scale.

And most families don't have the resources in their households to be able to do that anyway. We know that broadband, Internet and Wi-Fi reach at most 75 percent of households. Many households don't have the devices that would allow them to connect.

My gut reaction is that no learning at all of any significance is going to occur during this period.

BOLDUAN: So troubling.

Thank you for coming in. I really appreciate your expertise.

PALLAS: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: All right, so, now facing the largest cluster of coronavirus in the United States, New York has taken a new step today to try and slow the spread. This morning, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, opened the first drive-thru testing facility on the east coast in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle.

And Governor Cuomo, he joins me now.

Governor, thank you for jumping on.

I know as I was coming up to set, you were still having a press conference. So, thank you so much.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): My pleasure. Good to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

This is the first public drive-thru on the east coast, and it's just getting under way. What are your expectations, how it's going to go? What are the hopes that this does for folks?

CUOMO: Well, Kate, no one's been here before, right? These are all uncharted waters for all of us. But new challenges, new solutions.

The number-one thing we have to do in this country and in this state to slow the spread is testing. We're behind on testing. We have to come up to speed quickly. We have to get more laboratories in. And we have to get better testing regimens, what's called automated testing.

And also, on the testing, we have to do it in a way that's safe. If a person walks into an emergency room, they expose people in the emergency room, they expose staff. We've had that problem.

What this drive-thru does is, you call, you make an appointment, you stay in your car. You drive in, just like a drive-thru. The medical staff comes to you. We have six lanes. We can do about 200 cars per day, and that can ramp up. You drive off and then we call you with the results.

So, as a way to bring this testing up to scale safely, I think this is a very innovative but effective way. BOLDUAN: You know, we heard Colorado is trying to do this as well. We

actually heard that they had to turn people away because the lines got so long. There's something like a three-hour wait at one point. Is that a concern here? How are folks to know if they can come in for testing?


CUOMO: Yes. What we did here is there's a phone number. You have to call the phone number first. You have to make an appointment. You can't just show up.

The compounding situation here is the anxiety and the fear. If you just put up a sign, "come and get tested," with all this fear out there, you'd have lines that go on forever, right? We have 18 million people in this state. If you said, anyone who wants a test can have a test, you know, you'll have nine million people.

So, we have to prioritize, because we don't have that kind of capacity. And that's what we're doing with this call first, then we set up an appointment.

BOLDUAN: So, Governor, someone that said, if you want to get tested, you can get tested, was the president of the United States.

And this, what you're trying to tackle with this drive-thru testing facility, it gets directly at the bottleneck, the inexplicable bottleneck that we're looking at when it comes to testing.

I heard you say this morning you have been in direct contact with the vice president about this. What is the holdup, quite frankly, on testing, getting the test kits out and getting the results back?

CUOMO: Yes. Look, the retrospective on this is going to go on for a long time, right? I'm on the ground, Kate, and I have to figure out how to make it better.


CUOMO: The bottleneck is the CDC and the FDA, the federal government has been controlling the tests -- who can do it, what the protocol is, whether it's manual or automated. And the volume is too high for this federal bottleneck.

My point to the vice president, who, by the way, has been very accessible and very cooperative -- he's a former governor himself. I said, look, the states do this. I have 200 laboratories in New York. We regulate them. We license them. Let me release the 200 laboratories and let me do the approval. It's not a complicated test.

If you make that shift, which is basically going to a decentralized testing system, you can bring in hundreds, if not thousands of laboratories overnight and get this testing where it needs to be.

Because you're exactly right, you had -- China was doing about 150,000 tests per day, South Korea, 15,000 tests per day. We haven't done that to date.

BOLDUAN: It's bananas.

CUOMO: That has to change, because --


CUOMO: Because that's the best way. Yes.

BOLDUAN: There's a reason -- as you're saying, you've got to -- this isn't politics, you've got to fix what you're faced with. But it is -- it sounds crazy that the United States, the best country in the world, is slower on testing than other countries.

Did the vice president seem open to your suggestion?

CUOMO: He did. As I said, we've had good conversations. He did. He said he would get back to me. He understood. As a former governor, he understood what I was saying, so we'll see what they do.

But if you don't do that, I don't know how you possibly solve this testing situation in a way that's going to make the difference we need to make.

BOLDUAN: So, Governor, another big issue is schools. I was talking about it at the top of the show, there are now six states, I believe, is where it stands, where the governors have decided to close down all the public schools in the state to protect against the spread.

And the governors, from all different parts of the country, acknowledge, it is an aggressive move and it is a tough decision, and it's a complicated one. Are you any closer to that?

CUOMO: We haven't decided to close the schools, Kate. We've left it to the localities to make the decision, whether or not they want to. Our state rule is, if you have a child who tested positive, you must close the school for 24 hours so we can look into the facts and the circumstances.

But you're right, Kate, closing the school is a complicated decision. There are significant pluses, significant minuses.

You close a school, that child may not get breakfast, may not get lunch. They're not learning. The parents now have to stay home.

Those parents may be nurses, may be doctors, may be health care workers. You could slow down your health care response, which, by the way, is going to be the biggest challenge here, is overwhelming our hospitals.

So, there are many, many possible negatives.

And also, children, thank god, are not being affected by this virus. Yes, they may be carriers by some opinions.

BOLDUAN: Yes, right. CUOMO: But they're not being affected. So it's complicated.

BOLDUAN: It sure is.

Governor, thanks for the time. I really appreciate it.

CUOMO: Thank you, Kate. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.


Much more to come from what is going on in New Rochelle and what the governor just opened up. We'll see what the vice president may say about that suggestion, or maybe what Donald Trump might say about it, as he has announced a press conference later this afternoon. See if he takes those suggestions there.

Coming up, the coronavirus is creeping closer and closer to some of the highest positions in government, including President Trump. Why has he not been tested? Are those considerations changing now?

Plus, in Italy, the entire nation remains in lockdown, 60 million people, as the death toll is climbing now to more than 1,000 people. We will speak to Italy's former prime minister about his warning, the lessons that can be learned from Italy, and his warning for the rest of the world.



BOLDUAN: President Trump just announced that he will hold a news conference about the coronavirus today, this afternoon, 3:00 p.m.

It comes as the administration is still struggling to get the message straight on testing for the coronavirus. And they are facing increasing outrage over a lack of testing. You heard my conversation with Governor Cuomo just a moment ago.

This morning, President Trump is seeming to try and respond to this criticism by blaming the Obama administration.

But then there are officials, like the administration's lead infectious disease expert, acknowledging that the administration has come up short.

Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci just yesterday.



UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESS MEMBER: OK. FAUCI: 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.


BOLDUAN: CNN's senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin. He's looking at this.

Drew, what's going on here?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you want a sign of how bad it is with the federal government and the coordination? Just less than an hour ago, Health and Human Services announced they're appointing somebody as the testing czar to oversee the testing.

We're weeks into this virus spreading across the country, and they really didn't have anybody overseeing this? It's really an issue.

You do see some bright spots across the country, like Governor Cuomo is doing in New York. But from doctors to nurses to hospital administrators all across the country, Kate, that we're talking to, they either can't get the test, can't get the test processed, can't get the test processed in quick enough time that they can do something with it, which leaves a huge blind spot.

And sick people, like a school teacher in Texas, like a person in assisted living in Florida, cannot get tested.


COURTNEY CHERRY, UNABLE TO GET CORONAVIRUS TEST: She said that I did not fit one of the two CDC guidelines, which, to her was, one, I had traveled somewhere where there's infection -- internationally is what they had initially asked me when I went to the doctor -- and two, I had not come in contact with someone who is positive for coronavirus.

DAWN CLEMENTIS, UNABLE TO GET CORONAVIRUS TEST: I didn't meet criteria because I did not travel out of the United States to one of the countries. In the meantime, I'm immunosuppressed with some health conditions.


GRIFFIN: If you can't get these tests, experts tell us you don't know what you're fighting. You don't know where you're fighting. You don't know where to put the resources to fight it. You can't contain it. And they're telling us we're six to eight weeks behind in this effort.


GRIFFIN: The big question, where the heck are these tests? Why aren't they going out? Nobody seems to have an answer.

But that tweet this morning from the president is just stunning, Kate. He has led the government since 2017. That government includes the CDC.

BOLDUAN: Hearing from those folks you just spoke with, it is just not enough, the response that we're getting, when you see what they're going through and how they're trying to do it right, especially that poor woman who's immunosuppressed, is so troubling.

Drew, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

All right, so, the latest sign of the spread of the virus is, it is reaching and threatening the most powerful offices in the world. The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, he's in isolation after his wife, Sophie, tested positive for the virus.

Brazil's president is awaiting test results himself after one of his top aides has tested positive.

And sources are telling CNN that President Trump is, quote, "very concerned" about his own exposure risk after spending last weekend with that very same Brazilian president and that aide.

Ivanka Trump also is seen in photographs with an Australian official a week ago who now has the coronavirus.

So, we know it's going to get worse, says top officials. We know the testing system has been a failure, says top officials. So, with all of that, what are the solutions? What can the U.S. be doing now?

Back with me is Dr. Irwin Redlener. He's the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

Doctor, thank you for being back with me.


Let's focus in. Drew is really drilling down on a really important part of this, and it feels like it has to be at a tipping point, which comes to testing. But then also, what we're talking about with Governor Cuomo, and he hinted at it, which is the threat and concern over overwhelming the health care system if they can't keep the line flat, if you will, keep the curve flat.

REDLENER: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: You told me yesterday the health care system's ill prepared to handle a surge. I'm going to play for you what one top member of the president's task force said about that. Listen.


SEEMA VERMA, ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES: At this time, we have heard from a couple of hospitals and we're working with them. I think that's why it is so important that we work towards mitigation to avoid that situation.

[11:25:07] I think we have ventilators in our stockpile. And we are prepared to work with the health care community to get them the ventilators that they need.

I think at this point, it's premature to say that we don't have enough. I don't think we know that right now.


BOLDUAN: What do you think?

REDLENER: It's stunning. That is nonsense. We have -- I thought yesterday, I thought we had maybe 50,000, 60,000 ventilators in the national stockpile. We actually have, I just found out this morning, probably around 30,000.

We are so incredibly underprepared for a major onslaught to the hospitals, which is basically now inevitable.

I think we have to look at Italy and see what happened to them, and I think we're actually in worse shape. We don't have enough hospital beds. We don't have enough ICU beds.

And by the way, even if we got the -- even if we had the 100,000-plus ventilators that we actually need, we don't have the staff to operate them.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask, then, if the administration does not think there's a problem --


BOLDUAN: -- Even though other experts like yourself do think there's a real problem in terms of --


BOLDUAN: -- in terms of preparing for the system being overwhelmed, what is possible right now to do then? Is there a way to mitigate what you see as -- it sounds to me like you are watching like the hurricane is approaching the shores and we're just watching it.

REDLENER: And we're watching it in slow mo. You know, it's like, we have to have every governor, every city administration right now be deep into the planning for what they're going to do when the surge comes, that it's not going to be able to be managed by the normal procedures.

In other words, we have to be looking at alternate sites for beds. We have to figure out where we're going to get the staffing. We have to figure out, what is our relationship with the federal -- you know, Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, which do have resources that could be applied here.

And we have some very good people in government, by the way, some of which have been there for many, many years. So, it is a total enigma. This whole issue with the testing, which I was very upset about, that

you know, weeks ago, that we hadn't started. It's still a problem.

Not only did we mess this up in the beginning, it's still not resolved, and I think it's unconscionable, really.

BOLDUAN: So, in the spirit of searching for solutions -- and it's hard when we're talking about --


BOLDUAN: -- preparedness, which is your expertise, needs to happen before. In the absence of the testing system actually being up to snuff or improving --


BOLDUAN: -- what are people to do?

REDLENER: Well, first of all, when we say people, I think there's the issue of the public.


REDLENER: And I think the public is actually doing very well. We do not want them to panic. And I think in general, the American public is doing a good job. So, we want to find that balance between complacency and panic, and I think we're OK with the public.

Where we're not OK is with the health system. They need to be just kicked into high gear right now so that they could start making the kind of plans I was talking about.

And I think there's some level of -- first of all, I think what's happening is that health officials are overwhelmed. The models are showing enormous impact on the health care system.


REDLENER: So, I think it's just the psychology of trying to -- you know, if the mayor says to you or governor says plan for a surge that's going to quadruple pressure in your E.R.s and your hospital beds, well, it's very difficult to deal with that.

So, I think there's been a lot of avoidance of what has to be done now. And we can't have that anymore. We have to have people knuckle down and really figure out what the steps are going to be --


BOLDUAN: First is highlighting the issue is one way to get people to start paying attention.

REDLENER: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, thanks for coming in. I really appreciate it. REDLENER: Sure, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, as the death toll from coronavirus soars to more than 1,000 in Italy and the nationwide lockdown there continues, what lessons can the rest of the world learn? Italy's former prime minister joins me next.