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President Trump Expected to Declare National Emergency Over Coronavirus. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do I get in the car and go to the store? I mean, really basic things.

Now, any president is not an M.D., but they do want to have some guidelines. And people want to follow those guidelines.

But the issue that the president still has is the fundamental disconnect between being a leader, but also wanting to make sure that he doesn't say anything that goes too far that makes the economy tank even more.

And, so far, he's done the former, and, ironically, it's made the economy even more jittery.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let's go now to the Rose Garden, where we expect President Trump any moment now.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us from there.

And you have some new reporting, Jim, on what we're expecting to hear from Mr. Trump.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake.

We do expect the president to issue some kind of declaration about there being a national emergency with respect to the coronavirus outbreak. That is a -- that is a way for him to invoke the Stafford Act and pump some money, billions of dollars, into the economy, into the system right now that is, I guess, really at the heart of trying to deal with this coronavirus outbreak.

One thing I can tell you, Jake, is, I have just been told that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the top of infectious diseases expert with the administration, is on the Coronavirus Task Force, that he is expected to be here at this press conference.

He was alerted to come down to the White House just a short while ago. So he is en route for this press conference.

In terms of what's going to be asked at this press conference, we should point out, Jake, there aren't any teleprompters set up for the president, unlike the other night, when he was in the Oval Office. He's going to be speaking extemporaneously and presumably taking questions from reporters.

But we expect the top questions for this president to be, where are the tests? That has been a question all week.

And speaking of Dr. Fauci, the president was saying earlier this week that everything is going smoothly with these tests, as Dr. Anthony Fauci -- this was just yesterday -- was describing it as a failing on the part of the administration that the tests haven't been able to get out to the American people, so people can be tested.

Obviously, the other question that is going to be asked to the president Jake is when whether or not he's going to be tested personally for the coronavirus, after coming into contact with that Brazilian official who tested positive for the coronavirus after the weekend trip down to Mar-a-Lago for President Trump and President Bolsonaro of Brazil.

And then, obviously, I think the other question that is going to be asked is, what is going to happen moving forward?

Talking to various experts -- we have all been talking to various experts, as you as well, Jake, they are telling us that this is not going to peak for weeks from now. What is this country going to do? How are they going to handle the fact that this economy is just going to be clobbered, the airline industry, the travel industry is just going to be clobbered for weeks and weeks?

And how is the president going to deal with that, especially when his administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear to be some distance apart on some kind of coronavirus stimulus package, Jake?

There's some key, critical questions right now.

TAPPER: All right, ones we hope, of course, that President Trump will answer when he speaks to the country in just a few minutes.

Sanjay, let me bring you back in.

There's something about catch-22, I can't help but notice. If somebody has symptoms, and they call the Department of Health, the Department of Health says, well, have you come in contact with anybody who's been tested positive for the coronavirus? If they say no, then the Department of Health says, well, then you can't be tested because that doesn't meet our requirements in order to meet a test.

But we know that there are probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of individuals, out there who are carrying coronavirus, but also have not been tested.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

TAPPER: And it just becomes this catch-22, where there are no tests -- there are so few tests that you don't have one, unless you have been in touch with somebody who has the coronavirus, but there are so few tests, we can't even prove that those people who have the coronavirus have the coronavirus.

It doesn't make any sense to the average person.

GUPTA: No, it doesn't. And I will say that the guidelines that you describe, first the guidelines where you have had to have traveled to a place where the virus was circulating or come in contact, as you mentioned, with someone known to have the virus, there was a loosening of the guidelines, if you will, Jake, where it left it more to the doctor's discretion, and then doctors, if they could get the test -- and that's a big if -- if they ruled out other causes of the symptoms, like the flu, for example, they could then order the test.

So the guidelines were loosened a bit. But your point is still a very valid one. It is confusing to the average person. Most people don't know when to get tested, or even if they can get tested.

One point I want to just make, though, as we look forward a little bit -- and I realize there's going to be a lot of questions about testing, as Jim Acosta was just talking about, but at some point, within a community, once it's established that the virus is definitely here, and it is circulating, the testing actually takes on less significance.

On an individual level, there's not a lot that you do differently based on testing, because there's no particular therapeutic. You don't say, well, now you have it, so I'm going to give you this medicine. It doesn't matter to the individual.

[15:05:00]

And, on the community level, once you have established that it is present, that it is becoming endemic, as they say, it doesn't make as big a difference in the public health sphere as much either.

So I don't know -- we're not at that point yet. But we may be there sort of quickly. And I think people will be surprised. I myself, Jake, back in 2009, had H1N1. I contracted that virus early on, as I was traveling overseas doing some of the reporting.

And I remember coming back and having this whole discussion with public health officials, who told me now in the United States it had become endemic. And I couldn't actually get the test, because they said it -- there was no reason to test me anymore.

We may get to that point in this country as well.

TAPPER: Interesting.

And one of the things, Dr. Murthy, that I found disturbing yesterday, when we found out about a 72-year-old man at a nursing home in a small town in Kansas, somebody who had never traveled, I don't think that they know any individual who tested positive for coronavirus, this individual who died, the first death in Kansas, is, it made we feel like, wow, this just must be everywhere.

If you are confined to a retirement home in a small town in Kansas, and you don't travel, and you don't know that you have come in contact with somebody, and then you die of it -- and I understand older people are more susceptible -- it really must be out there all over the place that we don't even know.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, that that's one of our concerns is that we usually use testing to tell us how widespread something is.

Because we're not able to look as carefully, we can't see everything that's happening.

And just to put that in stark relief, I will tell you that I spoke to a number of doctors yesterday from one of the top medical institutions in our country and in the world, a hospital which has saved many, many lives. People all over the world come here for care.

And what those doctors told me is that they are seeing many people who are coming in with coronavirus-like symptoms, which are not distinguishable from the flu, fever, body ache, cough. They want to test them for the coronavirus, but they can't because they are limited by the capacity that the state lab has.

And what they're having to do is ration tests. They can only now get tests to the people who are the most sick. And so they're having to turn people away who may have the coronavirus and send them back to their homes and into the community.

They don't like doing this. They know this is not their best practice. But they're also running out of supplies. They're having to share masks with each other, share masks after using them with the patient, instead of throwing them away and getting a new one, because they don't have enough masks.

This is happening at one of the top institutions in this country. And I guarantee you it's happening in many other institutions that are on the front line.

TAPPER: This is just the beginning of the epidemic, a pandemic. It's just the beginning of it. I mean, this is not -- that's stunning, what you're saying.

MURTHY: It is.

And it's frightening. And when I spoke to these doctors, what they're telling me is that the doctors and nurses at their hospitals are anxious and they're scared. They're worried about their ability to take care of patients the way they should be taken care of. They're worried about their own health.

And what we really need now is, we need to find a way to inspire confidence and calm. We need to lay out a plan that people can believe in.

BASH: Which is why you have medical professionals, leaders, people who have done this before, from people like you and Sanjay, to Tom Bossert, the president's former homeland security adviser, basically saying that, as a society, we start to have to start all acting like we have it, which is what the social distancing is all about.

And so many companies are telecommuting. But then it goes to the question of how the government is going to deal with that, with the new incredibly different social and economic realities, which is why what is going on right now on, on Capitol Hill is so crucial.

Nancy Pelosi and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, trying to get together on a package, and one of the things that is separating them now is paid leave, because people are staying home.

And if they're in the service industry, you can't telecommute. How much and how to give people that kind of money. And the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, she's saying, we've got to get it out and we have got to get it out fast in order to encourage people to stay home in order for this not to spread.

And the pushback from Republicans is, well, we don't want to encourage people too much to stay home, because we think that will have a devastating effect on the economy. So it is still the rub between what is socially, medically acceptable and necessary vs. what it could do to the economy.

TAPPER: If they don't want people to be -- I mean, just wait.

BASH: Yes. Well, that's the point.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: If they're afraid of discouraging people from being at home, just wait until this really hits--

BASH: Exactly.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It does strike me that there's so much wishful thinking at the White House, among Republicans on Capitol Hill,that there's a perception that all of this is an overreaction.

But it seems that this is -- we are in the phase of trying to prevent this situation from getting worse in a way that we probably should have been maybe two weeks ago or three weeks ago.

And, you know, the president himself keeps going out in public and saying, it's all going to go away soon, it's all going to be fine soon.

[15:10:04]

And that's not the reality that I think people need to hear right now. They need to be preparing right at this moment, so that it doesn't get worse.

TAPPER: Dr. Fauci says the exact opposite. He says it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Everyone, stick around. We are waiting for President Trump to speak at the White House any moment.

We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're waiting for President Trump. He is expected to speak any moment.

We're expecting that he will declare a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.

[15:15:01]

Let's get back to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Kaitlan, you have some new information about the president's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake.

So, we learned this morning that Ivanka Trump had met with a top Australian official when he was in Washington who has since tested positive for coronavirus. She was not the only White House official in the room. The attorney general, Bill Barr, was there, as well as Kellyanne Conway and several other top aides.

But we reached out to her spokesperson to ask what measures they were going to take in response of learning that news. They said they just got back to us just a short while ago, and they said she did work from home today, but, after consulting with doctors, they say that she is not showing symptoms, and therefore does not feel the need to self- quarantine at this time.

Now, what they don't say in that statement is whether or not she's been tested for coronavirus, because, of course, this would be an interaction with someone who is testing positive, something that we have seen other lawmakers go and self-quarantine after just having something as brief as a handshake, not something as long as a meeting.

But, right now, they say Ivanka Trump is only going to self -- or essentially staying for today, and then there are no plans for her to continue to self-quarantine any time after that.

TAPPER: All right, we certainly hope she's OK.

Thanks, Kaitlan.

We're going to continue to wait for President Trump.

Let's go now to New Rochelle, New York, of course, which is a home to America's first coronavirus containment zone. New Rochelle is just north of Manhattan. It's now one of the first to have drive-through coronavirus testing.

And that's where we find CNN's Brynn Gingras. And, Brynn, there's a system to try to prevent a potential rush on people who may want to get tested all at once.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is, Jake.

And there's some good news that came out of a news conference from the governor this afternoon. And that's that the federal government sort of released those reins on the state of New York. And now 28 private labs are also going to be allowed to help with the testing process.

Now, here's the thing. These little testing kits, right, this is what people are going through the drive-through to get swabbed, and then into this culture, finding out if this culture has coronavirus, that was what was being limited.

And now, with this, they think the state can do about 6,000 tests daily. So that is some good news.

But let me get out of the way really quick, so you can kind of see what people encounter when they come to this testing facility. It's actually on an island. In front of you, what you're seeing is a bridge. The cars pull up here, they're greeted by the state police, who don't even get out of their cars.

They use a megaphone to communicate. And, basically, they move on to that island, where there's three tents set up, six separate lanes. And there are people in full hazmat suits doing the testing, where they just have to roll down their window, they get the swab taken, and they're in and out of there in about 15 minutes.

They expect about 200 people a day test daily. I can tell you, I have seen cars, people inside those cars, all wearing masks, families, sometimes individuals.

So it's quite a procedure. It's definitely the fastest way to get the most tests here in this big area, where there's a lot of cases and also it's the safest.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras in New Rochelle, thanks so much.

Right now, Americans around the world are frantically trying to grab flights back to the United States before the president's travel restriction goes into effect.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Heathrow Airport in London.

Nic, tell us what you're seeing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Jake, speaking to people lining up to catch flights back home today, some of them were students saying that their colleges have told them they needed to get back home.

I spoke to people who were here on business. They said that President Trump's message was a little confusing for them, worried them. And, therefore, even though they were in the United Kingdom, which isn't part of that European travel ban, they felt that they should just get back home.

All of these people I'm talking to here, Jake, say they are paying a lot more for their tickets to get home. They weren't so much panicked, but they were focused.

I talked to another couple who were on holiday in Spain, tried to get back quickly, directly a flight from Spain, couldn't manage it, had to fly through London. They were still trying to figure out how to get a ticket back to the United States tonight.

But one of the interesting takeaways from my conversations today, Jake, of course, the British prime minister here has told the British people to expect many loved ones will be lost. I said, look, do you feel safer going back to the United States, leaving Europe, where this is -- the virus is spreading heavily? Do you feel safer going back to the United States?

And they said, you know, not really. We know it's coming to us. But the underlying feeling there, of course, they would rather, if they're going to go through it, be there at home with friends, loved ones in an environment that they know -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson at Heathrow Airport in London, thank you so much.

Let's continue to talk while we wait for President Trump to come out.

And, Dr. Murthy, I want to show this chart. This is the flatten the curve chart. And the red part of the chart is -- that would be a surge of patients. And it would override the U.S. health system. They couldn't take that many patients.

And then the blue is basically the same number of patients, but spread out over a longer period of time. And that is the goal of health officials when it comes to mitigation, flattening the curve.

I assume that inherent in this chart is the idea that, if we don't flatten the curve, as a country, we will have more fatalities, because, if the hospital system is overburdened by a surge of patients, then they're going to have to make choices, where, I'm sorry, you get a hospital bed, you don't, you get a ventilator, you don't.

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And people will die as a result. Is that -- am I reading that right?

MURTHY: You are.

Our hospital systems are often excellent, but they're limited in their capacity. And keep in mind, we're dealing with flu season right now. So, as it is, the hospitals and ICUs are filled with patients who are struggling with complications of flu.

If you add to that a surge of coronavirus patients, that will overwhelm many hospitals. And we are simply not equipped to deal with a massive surge of patients.

That's why flattening the curve is so important. And what flattening the curve is driven by are aggressive social mitigation efforts. That includes people staying away from crowds, companies moving to teleworking.

In extreme cases, which we're in now in many states, schools actually closing down, and also shutting down events. The fact that you have seen many the sports leagues suspend or cancel their seasons is, I think, a positive sign that we're all stepping into this.

And this is, I think, the last point that's really important for people to keep in mind, that this is an all-in moment for America and for the world. We have not seen something like this pandemic in over 100 years, since the Spanish Flu.

TAPPER: Well, explain that, because there are naysayers out there who say, the flu goes on every year and thousands of Americans die.

This is that -- this is not -- just for the record, this is not what I believe, but this is what skeptics say. The flu goes on every year. Thousands of people die. We went through MERS, we went through SARS, we went through Ebola, we went through Zika.

Like, we go through these things. Why is this worse?

MURTHY: So, there are a couple of reasons why this is worse.

Number one, it has to do with the mortality. If you compare the mortality, which means how many people who get the illness actually die, the mortality of this coronavirus, of COVID-19, seems to be significantly greater than the flu, probably at least 10 times greater, but possibly even more.

The other reason, though, is how contagious this is. If we think about SARS and MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which were in the news some years ago, those were deadly. In fact, those were deadlier than COVID-19. But they were much harder to spread.

And so what you have in this situation is a virus that's deadlier than the flu and that's just as efficient, if not more so, at spreading than the flu. And we have already seen evidence of that. We only need to look at China and South Korea. We only need to look at what's happening in Italy and in many other countries in the world to see just what the human and economic costs can be of this virus.

The thing about public health is, when you do it right, when you act early enough, people say that you overreacted because nothing happens. But when you don't act early enough, that's when you run into problems.

And this is a moment where, if we step up, all of us, not just the government, but businesses and schools and local government and individuals, if we step up to take the steps we need to protect ourselves, to wash our hands, stay away from crowds, to stay home if we're sick, if we do these things, then I believe that we can overcome and address this virus, because we have done it before.

But this is a solidarity moment for America.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

We're going to squeeze in one more quick break. We will be right back with President Trump from the Rose Garden.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:28:13]

TAPPER: Any moment, we're expecting President Trump to come out of the White House and speak in the Rose Garden and announce the use of emergency action to address the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Let's discuss.

Dana, President Trump's top health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has been since 1984, widely respected, he said he would not get on a plane for personal travel, if anyone asked him. He wouldn't do it.

But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin gave the opposite answer. He said he would feel perfectly comfortable flying to L.A., if he wasn't so busy working.

And this is one of the issues that I think a lot of Americans have, is that we're getting mixed messages.

BASH: Exactly right.

TAPPER: There are the doctors, like Fauci, and then there are people who might have other considerations.

And, look, the treasury secretary wants to keep the economy strong.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: I don't begrudge him that, but it's different. It's mixed messages. It's confusing.

BASH: Absolutely confusing.

But people have to keep in mind who the messages are coming from. Dr. Fauci, as you said, has impeccable credentials and is an M.D., full stop. And this is his expertise, infectious diseases.

If he is saying, don't get on a plane -- I mean, I can tell you, just in my world, I have lots of friends who watched him last night on CNN say that and canceled their spring break plans. So people are listening. And you're right. I mean, there is a reason

why the treasury secretary, who is in charge of making sure the economy stays where it is, says what he said.

TAPPER: All right, here's President Trump and some of the leading members of his coronavirus response team.

Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you. Thank you.

Beautiful day in the Rose Garden. Appreciate everybody being here.