Return to Transcripts main page


President Is Expected To Announce A National Emergency; Rep. Nancy Pelosi Speaks As Congress Works On Coronavirus Package; Frustration Grows Over Lack Of Virus Testing As Outbreak Spreads. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for joining me for CNN's Special Live Coverage of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Soon the President is expected to announce a national emergency and separately at any moment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will also give details on a major bill responding to the crisis.

American life is now on hold, sidelined and disrupted like never before all in the effort to contain the coronavirus. If you or your child have not already been directed to stay at home, the telecommuting and virtual teaching for many will begin next week.

Reportedly school is closed for more than eight million K through 12 students. Landmarks shut down. Broadway darkened. The Masters Golf Tournament joins an alphabet soup of leagues and conferences canceling competitions. More states are limiting the size of public gatherings.

The stock market though is back up after the Dow suffered its worst dropped since 1987's Black Monday.

So what may not be improving is the lack of testing. Many of the sick and possibly exposed continue to say they cannot find out if they're carrying the virus even though they strongly believe they are.

As the nation adjusts to its new normal, U.S. coronavirus cases have risen to more than 1,700 with 41 deaths. Worldwide, there are more than 132,000 people infected. But then keep in mind, Johns Hopkins has tallied that nearly 70,000 people have recovered from the virus and with confirmed recoveries in Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington State, Arizona and Massachusetts. We are continuing to watch that.

CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju is joining me now from Capitol Hill. Manu, what are we expecting to hear from the Speaker?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's lovely to be speaking about her exhaustive negotiations that have been occurring since yesterday with the Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. They spoke eight times yesterday. Already today, they have spoken eight times, including twice in the

last hour to try to reach a deal between House Democrats and the Trump administration to deal the coronavirus fallout, a deal that's under consideration would ensure that folks get free coronavirus testing, also enhancing unemployment benefits, would bolster food assistance, including food stamps, and also increased Federal funds for Medicaid and deal with a paid emergency leave for displaced workers.

But there is no deal yet according to Steny Hoyer, who is the House Majority Leader who just sent a letter to Democratic colleagues saying they are still negotiating this, but if they do not reach a bipartisan deal, Democrats plan to move forward on their own bill in the hours ahead.

Now, why I tis significant right now is what the President will do. If the President comes out in support of this plan, then he will ensure a big bipartisan vote here in the House and will put pressure on the Senate, which is adjourned until next week to take up this bill and pass it presumably by a bipartisan majority in the Senate.

But if the President opposes this measure, then it'll pass mostly on a party line basis here in the House and its chances in the Republican- led Senate are uncertain.

So a big question is what the administration will do and whether or not the Speaker can secure the support from the Treasury Secretary and whether the President will get behind it. So we're heading in some critical moments here as Congress moves into this emergency legislation to deal with this fallout -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Manu, thank you. And look, we are waiting to hear from the Speaker. Those remarks of hers just being put on the lectern. We've been told this is all going to happen here very shortly, so we're going to bring that to you later, as we wait for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to speak there on Capitol Hill.

I want to go to the White House now and CNN's Kaitlan Collins, and Kaitlan, just a warning here, I think I may have to cut out to you at some point. So if we see the Speaker, I'm going to do that.

And actually we see her approaching the lectern right now, let's listen to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to say.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Good afternoon, over the last several weeks, our nation has been faced with a grave and accelerating challenge, one that tests our compassion, ingenuity and resolve - the Coronavirus Crisis.

Sadly and prayerfully, we have learned of the tragic deaths of at least 41 Americans from this public health emergency so far. The American people expect and deserve a coordinated science-based and whole of government response to keep them and their loved ones safe. A response that puts families first to stimulate the economy.

To put families first, last week, the House passed a strong bipartisan $8.3 billion emergency funding package of entirely new funds. [14:05:08]

PELOSI: We made a well-funded, evidence-based investment in public health and developing treatments and a vaccine available to all in prevention preparedness and response measures and helping state, local, tribal and territorial hospitals and health systems and in supporting impacted small businesses with SBA loans and helping families by extending telemedicine services no matter where they live.

Democrats with action to pass this emergency funding was essential to our nation's long overdue response.

Next, Senate Democratic Leader Schumer and I last weekend called for further action to put families first. Today, we are passing a bill that does just that.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which is focused directly on providing support for America's families who must be our first priority.

The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing.

This legislation facilitates free coronavirus testing for everyone who needs to test including the uninsured.

We can only defeat this outbreak if we have an accurate determination of its scale and scope so that we can pursue the precise science-based response that is necessary.

To put families first, our legislation secures paid leave, with two weeks of paid sick leave and family and medical leave for those affected by the virus.

And for those who lose their jobs, we are strengthening unemployment insurance, a critical step to protect workers economic security.

Putting families first, our legislation protects our children, and particularly the tens of millions of little children who rely on the free or reduced price lunch they receive at school for their food security.

As schools are being closed, these children will be deprived of their meals. Our bill takes aggressive action to strengthen food security initiatives, including student meals, as well as snap seniors' meals and food banks.

As we develop our next steps, we will continue to listen to and benefit from the expertise of scientists, healthcare professionals, public health officials, and community leaders so that we can craft the most effective evidence based response.

Our nation -- our great nation has faced crises before and every time, thanks to the courage and optimism, patriotism and perseverance of the American people, we have prevailed. Now, working together, we will once again prevail, and we will come

out stronger than before. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you.

KEILAR: All right, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi there talking about what Congress is trying to do in this situation. I do want to get now to the White House and Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, tell us what is going on from your vantage point there at the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, that was a really notable moment right there as the Speaker was walking away and someone asked her does the White House support your bill? Because that has been something that has been going back and forth all day with the Treasury Secretary and Pelosi who have spoken multiple times today, I think it's like eight times now.

And she was asked about that, because the President has not come out publicly and supported this. He's kind of been a wild card as these debates have gone back and forth.

So I think that's something we're still waiting on clarity for, because she was talking about how this Families First Bill, she put the emphasis, of course, on testing, which is something that we've heard time and time again, people believe that's a short ball of the Federal government right now.

And we should note that as Pelosi is coming out and speaking, the President right now is meeting behind closed doors with CEOs of several companies and labs, including Walmart and Target right now as they are talking about exactly what the administration needs to be doing, how it can respond.

And of course, this is all leading up to this three o'clock event just in less than an hour after Pelosi spoke there, where the President is going to come out to the Rose Garden. We are expecting that he could likely say he is going to have an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act, which would free up resources and essentially supplies, logistics, that kind of thing to help states that are combating this right now.

Though, we're still really waiting on details. A lot of this has been very last minute here at the White House for the last several days, including that Oval Office address of the President.

This press conference was not initially scheduled either. So we're really just waiting to see exactly what these final decisions are going to be.

KEILAR: I think a lot of Americans are watching this, Kaitlan, wondering at what point does this sort of bipartisan opposition end? And I wonder if you can give us a sense of if you think that any of that has thought or if we're just seeing business as usual playing out, even as this moment calls for so much more?


COLLINS: Yes, this is so much more than what we typically see, these negotiations going back and forth on the Hill. This literally affects people's lives and whether or not they should go to work if they start to feel sick and that is what both sides seem to be trying to accomplish here, but there are sticking points that have gotten in the way.

They had a lot of sticking points last night that the White House didn't like that was in that bill. They felt like they had made a lot of progress on it based on what our Hill team has been reporting.

I do think it's a good sign that the Senate is not going into recess next week, they're going to stay here because I think it would have been really politically bad for them if they left without passing any kind of bill like this.

So that's the question here; and of course, you know, the Republican Party does control the Senate, so if the White House doesn't like this House Bill, they could just try to get it added later on. Those are still questions that remain right now.

But I do think people at home want to know, you know, if I don't go to work, am I going to get my paycheck? Can I stay home if I'm not feeling well? Those are really major questions that people are making on a day-to-day basis.

KEILAR: Yes, some of them, they don't have a choice. Right now, they have kids at home. They might have elderly parents at home that they're taking care of and they need to know what's going to happen for them.

Hey, Kaitlan, thank you so much, live for us from the White House.

There has been confusion over the availability of coronavirus testing. It remains a major problem across the country. The Trump administration facing widening criticism today announcing new steps aimed at expanding testing, including appointing a new Federal testing coordinator.

This as, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced that new labs in his state can double testing capacity there in New York.

CNS Drew Griffin is following all of this for us, and Drew, just tell us more about these new Federal changes and why they matter.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I just lost you there, but what the Health and Human Services did was appoint a Testing Coordinator who can try to relieve some of the bottleneck that is taking place and the disconnect between what people are hearing from in hospitals, doctors and nurse's office out in the field about getting their patients tested and what's actually happening on the ground.

What we're hearing from across the country is that patients cannot get tested because their doctors are following the C.D.C. advice, which is very strict even though they want to get tested.

What we're hearing in Washington, D.C. is testing capacity is increasing by the day. What we have yet to see are the real numbers that prove that.

The only positive thing I've seen today is what's happening in New York by New York State by New York State's Governor who went out and said, I'm going to slash through this bureaucracy and red tape in the Federal government. We're going to get our state labs up and running, and we're going to test now 3,000 a day, potentially 6,000 or so a day, next week.

But we still have this bottleneck situation going on, where people who need to be tested aren't being tested.

And let me just emphasize the testing because I've heard a lot about who should get tested and who shouldn't. What these experts are telling us is everybody who needs to get a test according their doctors should, just so we know where this virus is, just so we know how to fight it.

It's how we all fight it, to know where the tests are coming back positive and negative -- Brianna.

KEILAR: No, it's such a good point. Drew Griffin, thank you so much. You've been doing excellent reporting on this.

And with me now is Anne Rimoin. She is the Director for the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health. And she's a professor of epidemiology at UCLA.

So Doctor, let's start with this testing. Do you -- do you really even have a sense of exactly where it's going on? Do you really have a sense of the picture here, or is this just like flying blind?

ANNE RIMOIN, DIRECTOR, UCLA CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND IMMIGRANT HEALTH: Well, I think that testing is becoming ramped up faster and faster. But the bottom line is, it's Nancy -- as Nancy Pelosi just said, it is testing, testing, testing.

We need to get tests up and running. It needs to be widespread, and the longer we lag on widespread testing, the more difficult it's going to be for us to be able to get ahead of this virus at this point.

So our hopes of being able to flatten the curve as we all talk about, reduce the spread is being able to know how many people are infected. The only way you can do that -- more tests.

KEILAR: Yes. And I wonder why so many other countries are ahead of the U.S. on this.

RIMOIN: Testing failures here have been, you know, a mix of government, of lack of long term funding over and -- you know, there's hasn't been funding for a very long time to C.D.C., to local health departments. All of these things, you need to have them in place before you have an

outbreak. The whole idea of preventing pandemics before they start is like you want to be able to -- you need to be able to -- if you have a little nick in your windshield, you want to be able to fix it right away.

Otherwise, you start getting cracks and they spread quickly, and you're not able to contain it.

It's the same story here. We should have been investing a long time ago and we are now paying the price.

KEILAR: Quick reminder on social distancing, what should people do?


RIMOIN: Social distancing is going to be key in slowing the spread. So you want to be able to avoid doing anything in large crowds. Avoiding large crowds is number one.

If you don't have to travel, I would -- it's a time to reschedule. If you don't need to be going out to dinner, being in places where there are a lot of others around you, it's time to rethink.

I think everybody can do their part in being able to reduce the number of people that are out and about circulating.

So reducing or not going to concerts, not going to big sporting events, not going to any big gatherings. Following the advice right now, I believe they're saying anything over 250 people in some places, don't go.

I would say anything that you can avoid in general, meetings, also very important.

It's a big change for the American people. But it's going to be important. And everybody has to remember, if we all do our part, we will be able to slow the spread of the virus.

And if it works -- if it works -- that's the key with public health, if it works, everybody's going to feel like this was a big fire drill and nobody -- and it wasn't as big of a deal as everybody thought it was. But that's because public health is working.

KEILAR: That is a very good point, and I very much appreciate you bringing it up. Dr. Rimoin, thank you.

RIMOIN: It's my pleasure.

KEILAR: So we're awaiting President Trump. He is holding a news conference at the top of the hour where he is expected to announce really, a declaration, an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act. We're going to bring that to you live.

Plus, local governments are trying to stop the spread of the virus in their communities and they're shutting down school districts. We'll talk about what that means for students and parents.

And as coronavirus has spread around the world and now around this country, anxiety is setting in for many. We're going to talk about how to manage it, next.



KEILAR: Across the country, state and local leaders are facing a tough decision, close down schools to flatten the curve and slow down the spread of coronavirus or keep the schools up and running to provide stability, safety, and so importantly, meals for children.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Yonkers, New York. Tell us about what schools are doing there today.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, besides Brianna, those families possibly getting the coronavirus, the closing of a school is likely to have the largest impact of families nationwide because of the way that it impacts daily life.'

And so here in Yonkers, they've closed the school for the past two days because there were reports of coronavirus in the community.

Now, nothing in the school, but just out of an abundance of caution, they took that action. They may be open next week, very fluid.

There are states now, a total of seven that have decided to close their public schools. They are Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, and West Virginia.

These are decisions that are not made lightly, as you point out, it's not just the education that's disrupted. It's the meals. Millions of meals that go to many needy children in very difficult times and communities. And then there is the security that schools provide.

So when the districts weigh that decision, that's part of the mental math they consider and it's usually done on a very local level.

In other words, the school district discusses with the local health department as to how serious the circumstance is in their particular neighborhood.

Now, again, some governors have made that call for them. Other states though are going the opposite way. For instance, New York City, the governor -- mayor I should say, of New York City has determined that the schools there will remain open, because they are so critical, not just for learning but for feeding and for securing children there.

It's an extremely difficult call. It's one that leaders don't take lightly. But right now more and more, it's a call that many states and many districts are having to make -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, as they tried to figure out another way to provide those meals as well. Martin, thank you so much for that report from Yonkers. So whether you have school aged kids or not, there is one thing that

unites many people right now as coronavirus spreads across the country and that is anxiety.

Some may express it by stocking up on toilet paper. We've seen a lot of people doing that, right? Others may take comfort in sharing silly memes on social media, but realize this, you are not alone in your concerns. It is how you manage them though that is so important right now.

So joining me to talk about some psychological strategies that we can take is Professor Elissa Epel. She's also Vice Chair of the Psychiatry Department at the University of California, San Francisco.

Professor, thank you so much. And, you know, I think the moment that a lot of us are relating to right now is 9/11. And there may be some people who are younger and don't really remember that. But those were events that triggered a lot of anxiety for so many people.

Give us a sense of what's similar and what's different about the feelings that this, which is a pandemic are storing up?

ELISSA EPEL, VICE CHAIR, PSYCHIATRY DEPARTMENT, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA - SAN FRANCISCO: Right. Well, we certainly are at the maximum of an uncertain situation, right? No one alive today has lived through a global pandemic.

So the good news is that while anxiety is high in most people that is actually helping us flatten the curve. It is motivating us to lead to the social distancing, to the strict hygiene.

So we need to embrace and live well with our anxiety because this is not a sprint, it's actually going to -- we don't know exactly how long it's going to go on for.


EPEL: So there are many tips for living well with anxiety. One is using mindfulness. It is really just actually recognizing this is actually a natural feeling that everyone, let's say, many people globally are sharing with me at this moment. This is what it feels like in my body to be living in a pandemic. And I am okay at this moment.

And then doing the self-care and the safety for our community that we need to do is what is going to be most helpful. Being part of the solution and that means helping other people at this time, too. Social support, reaching out to people who may be stuck at home with symptoms or the elderly, through social media, seeing if they need meals, et cetera.

Now, the problem here is that because uncertainty so high, anxiety can easily turn to panic and panic damns us. Panic brings out the worst humans.

KEILAR: So how do we not panic? And how about people who already have anxiety, and then you add this anxiety to it? At what point -- how do you not panic and at what point do you get help?

EPEL: Right. So, we are, by nature, having these stress responses, when in the immediate moment, we are not under threat. We don't need to be mobilizing all of this glucose, adrenaline, and cortisol. And so we need to stay level headed and clear headed in the moment.

If you look at the facts -- in fact, we should be looking at the facts rather than the dire predictions and the worst case scenarios.

So this hoarding behavior is because people are thinking of worst case scenarios. In Germany, they call it, you know, hamster hoarding behavior.

The problem is, at first it was reasonable. We were getting supplies for dealing with you know, sanitation, but now it's extended to other items. I talked to a mother who can't get baby formula in her town.

We are creating problems. There are no real shortages. We are panicking and overbuying.

So yes, it makes sense to be cautious and be prepared, but we want to not fall into what we call in Psychology, the tragedy of the commons dilemma that we're viewing extremely limited resources now, when they're not, and then we're taking more than we need and others will be left without.

So this is becoming a problem. We just need to moderate our tendencies and to be very rational and really think about the common good. Take care of each other during this time.

KEILAR: We certainly do. Elissa Epel, thank you so much. We really, really appreciate your insight.

And soon President Trump expected to announce a nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. What it means ahead.

Plus the Masters and the Boston Marathon, just the latest sporting events to be canceled or postponed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The impact on the sports world, next.