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Trump Claims Total Control Over Coronavirus Amid 3,300 Plus Cases in the U.S.; Fed Slashes Interest Rates to Zero to 0.25 Percent; Chaos at U.S. Airports Due to Travel Ban; Interview with Illinois Governor JB Pritzker about Delay at the Airports. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 15, 2020 - 18:00   ET



REPORTER: And how many more ventilators are you looking at ordering so people don't suffocate?

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me go -- let the secretary step up. I know that there is a long-term planning that takes place at HHS for those circumstances. And when I traveled to HHS yesterday and reviewed all the numbers about stockpiles, everything, from masks to ventilators, to gowns, the secretary might just speak about capacity issues. And let me say, it's a very good question on your part.

Right now, our focus, as the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is to have widespread testing across the country using this new partnership with our commercial labs that the president has forged and work with states to make those tests available. And we're also going to continue to work every single day to promote best practices for mitigation, working closely with and supporting state governments for decisions that they're making on mitigation to prevent the spread. But the whole issue of personal protective equipment and supplies and the capacity of our healthcare system is in the forefront of what we're talking about every day and the secretary can address it.

ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY: Thank you very much.

First, being here at the podium, I just want to especially talk about the people in blue behind me. These are the leaders of the United States Public Health Service Commission Corps that I am incredibly privileged to lead, over 3,000 of them, America's public health warriors. Whether it's going into the Eastern Congo or Western Africa to fight Ebola, or if it's staffing the nursing home in Kirkland, being on the World Health Organization team in China, or helping to facilitate community-based testing, these are America's public health heroes, and I just -- they rarely -- in fact, I doubt that there has ever been a time in American history where the leadership of the Public Health Service Commission Corps has had the privilege of standing here on this stage behind the president and vice president of the United States. I just wanted to commend that.

In terms of our capacities in our healthcare system, any pandemic like this runs the risk of exceeding our healthcare system capacity, and we must acknowledge that. That is precisely why the president and vice president's strategy is, as Dr. Fauci has repeatedly spoke, to delay and flatten the curve. The point of this is, instead of a spike of the curve, to delay and flatten that curve with the hope that you can keep the utilization of resources to be within the healthcare system's capacities.

In addition to that, the entire point of our pandemic planning over the last 15 years has been to put extra flex into our healthcare system. That's why we have hospital preparedness grants that we fund every year through our preparedness program. That's why we have in our strategic national stockpile ventilators, field hospital units, like mass units, if you'll remember those, that have capacity for hundreds of individuals.

In terms of supplies, obviously, this is an unprecedented challenge, unprecedented. And so, we will work to increase the supplies of personal protective equipment, of ventilators, of field medical unit hospitals that we can deploy. We have tremendous supplies, but we want to acquire more, and that's thanks to the bipartisan work of Congress funding the emergency supplemental. That gives us the money to scale up production here and abroad, and we're doing that.

We don't disclose concrete numbers on particular items for national security purposes, but we have many ventilators, thousands and thousands of ventilators in our system. We have received so far only, I think, one request for just several ventilators.

One of the things in terms of hospital capacity that's going to be really important -- this is a really good learning from China that we got from the World Health Organization team that went there -- is we have communities where we have enough capacity where we can put people who are positive with COVID-19 and have them be exclusively reserved for individuals who are positive for COVID-19, this reduces our need to try to protect patients from other patients, because they're all positive already.

We need to protect our healthcare workers and our service workers in those facilities. This gives us reduced burden on personal protective equipment, but it also can give us greater capacity as we put field medical shelters up, as we consolidate into single facilities, as we don't need individual rooms, negative airflow, isolation, et cetera, a vastly more efficient utilization of our healthcare system. This is all part of the planning work that we've done and are promulgating throughout our healthcare system.


So that's our strategy. We're going to keep building that capacity though.

REPORTER: -- use of the military?

PENCE: Go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. Vice President, you talked briefly about trying to make information more accessible online. So can you give us a timetable for when you think a website will be available based on your conversations with Google? And secondly, and this might be to the broader team, can you also talk specifically about how many of these tests have been sent out to states and how many you still have to send out?

PENCE: Well, let me say that we're working with Google, but we're working with many other tech companies, and we're truly grateful for the efforts of tech companies in disseminating best practices and guidance for citizens, online, all over the country. And today, those resources are available.

We literally heard not only from Google, but from Facebook and Amazon and the public spiritedness that's been reflected there is a credit to those great companies and a credit to all of the dedicated Americans who work there.

Our best estimate, and literally, the team has been working around the clock since Friday, is that at some point early in the week that we will have a website that goes up, the purpose of which will be for people to go and first fill out a questionnaire so that they can identify whether they fall in a category that Dr. Burks described would indicate a need to have a test. Once they go through that questionnaire, then our objective is, as more and more of these sites come online, run by state governments working in cooperation with our team, our public health service team and FEMA, and also working in cooperation with local businesses and retailers, the people will know how not only to find it, but also the objective would be for them to literally be given a time that they can go and report for the test.

But let me let the admiral speak to the timing on the testing and unpack that for you.

ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: So in our design, I just want to emphasize, we talk about testing and we talk about so many things, but we're really talking about people, and we're trying to make this a very person-centric experience to easily access the system, to be give clear guidance about how to go, when to go, information that even if you're not really indicated for testing, information you need to help protect yourself and your family. Then on the back end, very customized reporting, and we're talking literally about having telephonic services to call individuals who have been tested, let them know yes, no, and what the next steps are. So we've tried to envision this to a patient experience.

Let me talk about the testing. Progressively, over this week, there will be rollout to different laboratories of approximately 1.9 million tests. There are many centralized laboratories, the behind-the- curtain, that you never see after you give your blood -- and you saw some of the CEOs in the rose garden last week, like Quest and LabCorps -- that are fully able, ready to run. They have been testing already, but fully able, ready to run within the first part of this week, the very high throughput testing.

The 2,000 laboratories that are around the country that have a different platform, one that's amenable to so many labs, not the big, hugest output, but very high throughput laboratories, are progressing. They have to adapt the test slightly to their machines and get used to this. They will start lighting up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I can't give you the precise timeline, except it has been an absolute priority of the laboratory associations, of Thermo Fisher, the company that made this test. You heard the president predict that it might be approved within 24 hours on Friday. I think it was five hours after that in the middle of the night that the FDA approved that. And that's the one that's going to be widely disseminated, high throughput that's going to be available.

So I know you want a specific time when these will light up progressively over the week. When that happens, there will be a centralized opportunity like in Quest and LabCorps. There will also be distributed opportunities like in all of the major hospital systems and labs that are in your area. And then that number of 1.9 million goes up dramatically in the weeks coming forward.

I'm not going to say that the lab testing issue is over, because it's not. It's entering the next phase. But the much higher priority now is, now that we have the testing available, how do we get people into the system to be tested in the appropriate prioritized way, and that's what we've really been focused on, information, website, points of distribution model that are tried and true, enabling the states, providing them with equipment, supplies, know-how and commission corps officers as needed to help man these or staff these as we move forward.


So you'll see this rapidly developing over the week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys, last question.

REPORTER: Mr. Vice president, are you considering domestic --

REPORTER: Mr. Vice President, market futures are down despite the dramatic move from the Fed that the president applauded, which suggests that there's still concern about -- that we haven't done enough to respond to the economic impact of this deal -- or of the coronavirus. I'm wondering when specifically we're going to hear from the White House about how you're going to impact -- or help impact the industries, from the airlines, the cruise ships.

And, secondly, I wanted to talk about the legislation that came out. The White House fought to exclude workers at larger corporations from paid sick leave. And so I'm wondering what you say to, you know, somebody who flips burgers at McDonald's or works at one of these large chains that's worried about staying home and potentially missing a paycheck?

PENCE: Well, first, let me say, we strongly support the House legislation, which, while it gives some flexibility to small businesses, which will be reflected in the regulations going forward, no American worker should worry about missing a paycheck if they're feeling ill. And we can't say often enough to our fellow Americans, if you're sick with a respiratory ailment, stay home.

And as you've heard here today, over the course of this next week, we're going to see testing become much more widely available, beginning in the areas the CDC will focus us as the highest priority. But working with members of Congress, we've made sure that not only is testing free but we have every confidence that the extension of paid and family leave to Americans will be extended in a way that it should give every American that confidence.

And let me say -- let me say with regard to the economy as a whole, I think the treasury secretary is working very diligently on the president's behalf. We had the supplemental $8.3 billion bill. The House has now acted on important legislation that we fully support and we hope the Senate takes it up this week. But whether it be the airline industry or the cruise line industry or the hotel industry, as the secretary said recently, we are in just the first few innings of this effort.

And the president has directed us to bring the full weight of the federal government to bear to confront this crisis, first and foremost, on behalf of the health and safety of the American public, but strengthening our economy, ensuring that those vital industries will be able to find their way through and grow strongly once this coronavirus has passed, will be a priority. And we're already in discussions with members of Congress in both parties about that next phase of the support.

But let me say as I close, we will be back in the morning tomorrow for a briefing and also we'll have a health briefing in the afternoon. But, again, I know I speak on behalf of the president when I say how grateful we are for all of the governors in the country, for all the local health officials, everyone that's coming alongside Americans. We encourage every American to continue to use best practices and common sense. Even if you're not in a high-risk category, as the vast majority of Americans are, remember those people around you who may well be.

Remember those seniors with underlying health conditions. It's the reason why you need to keep washing your hands, you need to keep practicing good hygiene, cleaning those counters and surfaces to make sure that we don't convey the coronavirus to them.

And, finally, let me also just -- let me add to all the wonderful Accolades of the public health service personnel behind me. These are all heroes. And I have to tell you, having been over at HHS yesterday, having seen the way these people drop everything and are rolling into this effort to expand testing across the country, it will be these people in these blue uniforms that you see at an awful lot of these points of distribution, these community centers around the country. And for all they're doing today, for all each one of them have done throughout their career, I know they have the thanks of this president, the vice president and the American people. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So there you have it. It's been an hour since this briefing started.


The president came out right at the very beginning, and he was extremely upbeat about what's going on here in the United States right now. He says, we're doing great.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: -- an hour now since this briefing started.


The president came out right at the very beginning, and he was extremely upbeat about what's going on here in the United States right now. He says, we're doing great, this will all pass, just relax. And then he made this statement. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's a very contagious virus. It's spreadable. But it's something that we have tremendous control of.


BLITZER: Something he said that we have tremendous control over. And it was just a little after that, we heard from dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert here in the United States, who totally contradicted what the president said. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Because, as I've said many times, and I'll repeat it, the worst is yet ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that's going to determine what the ultimate end point is going to be.


BLITZER: All right, let's get some analysis. Dr. Zeke Emanuel is with us. A lot of people are wondering, where is the president right now. What is he thinking when he says specifically that we have tremendous control over this? The numbers seem to be doubling every few days.

ZEKE EMANUEL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't want to make a clinical diagnosis, but this was really disassociated from the reality that we're seeing out there, and he does not seem to be listening to the experts that he has. I also have to say that the whole briefing was about testing, and we -- testing is necessary, but it's not sufficient. We need interventions that are going to slow this thing down, social distancing, and we heard nothing about it. And that has to happen quickly. You can't keep putting it off and off and off, and yet the task force seems to be slowing that and not really responding as rapidly as we need. Time is of the essence here, and the sense of urgency, I didn't hear it from the task force or other people.

BLITZER: And we certainly didn't hear it from the president, did we, Dennis Carroll?

DENNIS CARROLL, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, certainly not, Wolf. and I think what we did hear was, good news, late, but the diagnostic situation is moving forward in ways it should have happened two months ago. It appears to be moving forward now.

But as was said, the diagnostic tells us where the virus is, it tells us who has the virus, but it doesn't stop the virus. And social distancing is the one tool we have in the toolbox, and we're seeing that spontaneously across the nation, independent actions are being taken, municipalities, cities, states.

And to really bend the curve, as Dr. Fauci talks about, this has to be more than just spontaneous random acts. It has to be well coordinated, thought through and ultimately led at a national level, and we're not hearing that. Hopefully, what Dr. Fauci said about guidance coming out tomorrow will speak to this in much greater detail.

BLITZER: It's a lot of work that has to be done. Dr. Seema Yasmin, is joining us. Also right now, Dr. Yasmin, let's talk a little bit about what the president said when he specifically said, this is something we have tremendous control over right now. Do we?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, DIRECTOR, STANFORD HEALTH COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE: No, we don't. We do not have control of this situation because we are so far behind in the epidemic response or the pandemic response. We heard so many assurances over the past hour, Wolf. And I have a legal pad with a long list of testing promises made since mid-February. None of these have transpired yet, so I really need to see this to believe it, this idea that 1.9 million tests will be available. We need to see that happen immediately.

And also I want to push back on this idea about 80 percent of people having a mild disease, sure. But when you read the fine print, when you read that clinical case definition, that mild disease includes people with a walking pneumonia. Anyone who's had that, anyone who's treated that knows that's a lower respiratory infection. It knocks people out. That's what we're up against here, and we're not in control of that.

BLITZER: Yes, I spoke the other day with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Seema, and it was very clear -- he made the point that even if you have a mild case of coronavirus, you may have long-term lung issues, lung disease, even if you don't necessarily feel it right away.

YASMIN: And, yes, we're still learning that day by day, and that's the point here. That's what makes us not be so much in control. This is a novel infection. We're on that steep gradient of the learning curve. And what you have even with the newer testing guidelines about who should get the test, who should get priority, we're still going to be deluged with people who just don't feel well, who are really worried and who are confused, Wolf, because the leading public health experts are saying one thing and the president and vice president are saying another. That's how you end up in a situation where healthcare systems become overwhelmed.

BLITZER: Let me get Elizabeth Cohen into this conversation, our Senior Medical Correspondent. Elizabeth, we hear one thing from the president, we hear another thing from Dr. Fauci. It's going to lead to confusion out there.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, it will lead to confusion. And what I've been saying all this time is, look, as an American citizen, as our viewers right now, they have a choice.


They can listen to the president or they can listen to the guy with the M.D. after his name. Donald Trump did not go to medical school. Donald Trump is not an infectious disease specialist. He is not an epidemiologist. We all get to choose who we listen to.

BLITZER: You know, and let me get some of our political analysts, Margaret Talev, are here with us as well. The president was very pleased by this extremely dramatic move by the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates to near zero right now. I want you to listen to what the president said.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You know, it just happened a minute ago, but to me, it makes me very happy and I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve. For starters, they have lowered the Fed rate from what it was, which was 1 to 1.25, and it's been lowered down to zero to 0.25, or 0.25, so it's 0 to 0.25. That's a big difference. It's quite a bit at point.

And in addition, very importantly, the Federal Reserve is going to be purchasing $500 billion of treasuries and $200 billion of mortgage- backed securities, and that number can increase. But they're going to start with that, and that's really good news.


BLITZER: Really good news. He was clearly very pleased about the economic impact.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He was. He said the Fed was phenomenal, what they had done was phenomenal. I was really surprised to hear the news conference start that way, although once the Fed's announcement came, it was obvious that's how it would start. But because so many Americans are really trying to understand their health risk right now, this was obviously about confidence-boosting. That's what the president was trying to do. What the Fed did was phenomenal, he said. It would all will pass, he said.

He talked about how people are buying more stuff than they do at Christmas time, and it was just in such a stark contrast to what we heard from Admiral Giroir, who says, this is not make-believe, Dr. Birx, who said, we're going to see a spike in cases before it gets better. But I do think it was noteworthy that President Trump was disciplined enough to leave the podium before the questions began and turn those questions over to other officials.

BLITZER: We heard a very different line coming from so many of these other experts. Cristina Alesci, our Business Correspondent, is with us as well. I take it Futures right now not necessarily all that upbeat about what they heard.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: No. I think investors are trying to digest exactly what this means and whether this was a move to prevent possibly a market crash, reassure investors that the Federal Reserve is aware of the nervousness in the market.

And let me just take you through what happened. So the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero. Let's put some context around this. This was an expected cut. But the fact that the Federal Reserve announced this on a Sunday night does signal some urgency.

So I was on calls and emails with my sources who are trying to determine, is this a panic signal or is this a reassuring signal? They're trying to sort that out over the next couple of hours. We'll be monitoring that trading to figure out where investors land along that spectrum.

Another notable thing that the Federal Reserve did here was quantitative easing, that is injecting cash into the system. That is supposed to reinsure the orderly functioning of the markets, Wolf, all of this in a bid to really calm the markets and reassure investors.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an important point. Toluse Olorunnipa is with us as well, our Political Analyst from The Washington Post. What was your bottom line?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought it was very interesting that Dr. Fauci said we're about to go into a very critical point which could really make or break the U.S. response. It was very different from the upbeat statements that we heard from the president. Some of the words that he used, tremendous, relax, everything is going to be fine, we're doing great, I'm very happy about what's happening with the Fed. That is not the words of a president who believes we're about to go into a critical make-or-break moment where people need to make changes in their daily lives.

We didn't hear anything about -- from the president about social distancing. We're hearing that there will be guidelines coming out from the White House, but nothing that would encourage someone not to leave their house this afternoon. With the president saying relax, with the president saying we have this under control, it would give Americans the sense that they can live their lives normally and not have to worry about what's happening.

BLITZER: Let me get Jeremy Diamond. He was there at the news conference. A pretty stark contrast between what the president said and some of the others said, Jeremy.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Wolf. And I think what we saw born out here was what we've been reporting throughout this coronavirus epidemic, now a pandemic, which is that the president's primary concern really is with the economy. And that is what we saw the president focusing on today in the wake of that announcement from the Fed. And the president also here really trying to calm Americans so that the economy doesn't suffer such dire consequences, rather than really focus on the public health impact of all this.


Hearing the president repeatedly say, relax, that everything is going to be great, that everything is under control, clearly, those remarks were aimed at keeping Americans spending, frankly, to ensure that they are still boosting the economy.

I asked the vice president about those comments and why the president's message is so different. He really dodged that one and said that everything that the administration is doing is at the president's direction.

BLITZER: Let me get Ron Brownstein with a quick thought. What do you think, Ron?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I'm just struck by the real world consequences of the president's kind of disassociated optimism. Look at the polling today, not only on the political reaction to this and the partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats over how he's handling it, but the enormous gulf between Republicans and Democrats and how they are responding and whether they are changing, in fact, the way they live their daily lives. There are consequences to the message the president is sending and that is being reinforced by so much of the conservative information kind of transmission belt.

BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody, thanks very much and thanks to everybody here in The Situation Room. Good that we're separating a little bit and we're living up to the CDC guidelines, unlike those officials at the White House that are all cramped on that little podium over there.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching this special edition of The Situation Room. The Democratic presidential debate pre-show with Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper starts -- actually with Chris Cuomo, I should say, Anderson Cooper and Chris Cuomo starts in just a moment.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper in Washington where the White House coronavirus briefing just wrapped up and where at least one topic from it is expected to dominate tonight's CNN-Univision Democratic presidential debate. The president's claim of, quote, "tremendous control," unquote, of the coronavirus.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And I'm Chris Cuomo here in New York. Messaging, as Anderson is saying, is going to be key in the country right now. Leaders must tell the truth. Government must be held to account. But we're all being tested, right, as much as any institution or office. Life is changing fast.

This is the first weekend of, like, the new abnormal in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Questions about schools, work, food, travel, and of course, testing. Stories of not getting clarity and not getting tested are spreading, Anderson, as quickly as the virus.

COOPER: And that's right. In just the last several moments, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced that all public schools in New York City, Westchester County, Suffolk County, and Nassau County, in other words, the New York metropolitan area, will close this week.

Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who's become the administration's primary truth-teller, ramped up his warnings that life needs to change even more if the outbreak is to be contained or slowed enough so that the health care system can actually handle it. He said life is not going to be the way it used to be. He said he wanted to see dramatic changes, talking about bars, restaurants, and at this evening's briefing, he was asked how seriously he meant it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I meant everything I said this morning on the shows, that, really, to protect the American people, we'll consider anything and everything on the table. You're going to see some advanced and updated guidelines tomorrow that are going to address some, but not all of the questions and concerns.

But on a day-by-day basis, we look at this and literally we will do everything that we can to ensure we safeguard the health and the well- being of the American people, and that means everything and anything we'll consider.


COOPER: Everything under consideration. We'll talk about that tonight. And to that point, we're going to talk about the large and crowded gatherings in the wake of the president's decision to bar foreign travel. Take a look at those pictures. Imagine you're an American. You arrive back in the United States. You've been told social distancing, three to six feet. And for hours -- hour after hour after hour, you were squeezed next to hundreds of other people in long lines waiting to get back into the country.

Late today, President Trump announced a major move to keep the economy afloat. The Federal Reserve cutting target interest rates to zero. The president praising that move by the Fed.

Joining us now for some perspective on what we just heard, emergency room physician and former Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.

So, Dr. Wen, we just heard from the president and the task force. What's your reaction specifically to what they said about this new effort to ramp up testing and this notion by the president that it's total -- that they have total control over the virus?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, look, I'm glad that we're ramping up testing, but the problem is, we've been hearing about that, that very same promise, for weeks now. And clinicians and patients are still just as confused as ever. I mean, there are all these promises being made. But what we need now are very clear deadlines because otherwise what I'm hearing from my colleagues around the country is that patients are showing up to ERs.

They're showing up to hospitals, they're showing up to doctors' offices, and crowding these spaces, asking for tests. And I wish that the president would just come out and say, we don't have these tests right now. We will have the capacity in a week or two weeks or whatever, but we don't have them right now, so stop coming to the ERs.

And you're right, too, we really need to ramp up the seriousness of social distancing, because we have a really narrow window to prevent the transmission of coronavirus, and that window is narrowing every day, and we have to take this extremely seriously, understanding that it's a great sacrifice and challenge that the American people are facing right now.

COOPER: It does seem like, I mean, to your point, that we have been hearing about, you know, oh, I feel like, I guess maybe it was two weeks ago that the million tests had gone out and there was all this happy talk about anybody who wants a test can get one.


They never seem to acknowledge, we weren't being truthful back then, but now what we're saying is what really is happening. It is hard to have confidence. It seems like there's a lot of plans afoot. People use that word efforting, but to me, efforting means it's not actually there, the tests are not actually in place and available yet, still.

WEN: And that's right, and that's exactly it. We know that in times of public health emergencies that we depend on the government to tell us what they know, what they don't know, and what's the timeline for everything, because otherwise, how can we trust that anything that's said is going to be done? I mean, we've been failed multiple times before, and we really need to have clarity, and these deadlines have to be met.

COOPER: Yes. I want to bring in Chris.

Chris, I know you've got some questions for Dr. Wen. She's been so great with us over the last several weeks with some just fact-based information.

CUOMO: All right, it's a really important conversation you're having also because you're getting mixed messaging, Doctor, right? I mean, that's been happening for a while now. It doesn't matter outwardly, because people have developed an understanding of what this president and his relationship to the truth is or is not.

The problem is whether or not the president gets in the way of certain steps that have to be taken because of messaging. Now, to that, my question is, testing matters. I think the argument can be made, though, that what you're saying, social distancing and the other preventive measures, now matter more because the horse is out of the barn. You're going to have community spread. That takes us to capacity.

What are your considerations and what is your understanding of where we are in terms of building up capacity to deal with the cases that will surely come?

WEN: That's a great question and that's exactly right, that we need to not just be looking at the problems of the past with testing. We have to move forward. And in anticipating what's next, we are anticipating a huge surge of patients, and our hospitals in the U.S. are nowhere near capacity in terms of being able to accommodate all these patients, especially these critically ill patients.

And that's why the idea of flattening the curve, reducing the rate of transmission so that even if we have the same number of ill patients, at least it's spread over months instead of days or weeks. But in order to do that, we need people to practice social distancing now. Actually, we needed them to do it yesterday and the week before, but at least if we do it now, we can make a difference.

And it's not just with the elderly and those who are vulnerable. I keep on hearing this message also from the Trump administration, oh, it's only the elderly, it's those who are chronically ill. Actually, all of us have to practice social distancing because that's how we're going to stop the transmission of the disease.

This really takes all of us. So, stay at home, don't go out, and do everything we can to protect our communities right now.

CUOMO: It is a real test of patriotism, because we have it so easy in this country in terms of doing what you want, when you want, how you want. And this is pretty much the first time that we've all collectively been told, no, and it will be really interesting to see how people respond. Because it really is about us as much as any institution or plan.

Dr. Wen, thank you so much, as always.

All right, now let's get a take on what we heard about the interest rate today and the big dose of monetary medicine that the Fed has been planning to pump into the economy. For that, of course, our chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

Rate cut, fiscal policy and injections to the banks. What can it all mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This was a powerful move, a really powerful move, and it showed you the Fed's throwing everything it has left, everything it has left at this problem, lowering interest rates essentially to zero, announcing $700 billion of other purchases, quantitative easing, and saying it's opening swap lines with a bunch of other central banks, too, so it's coordinated with other banks around the world, Chris.

This was meant to send a powerful message, but futures are down as much as they can be. The stock market tumbling as much as it's allowed overnight, 5 percent. I mean, one of the reasons here is, I think, you know, this is not a soothing sign but a worrying sign. And Fed policy, Chris -- Fed policy can't fix the virus, right? It can make sure the oxygen's flowing in the financial system, but the big concern is we don't know how far this virus will go and what the damage will be to the economy.

CUOMO: That's why the president was talking about pent-up demand. That was signaling, right, Christine? He was trying to say, boy, we're really going to bounce back. The question is how the economy responds between now and then. And let's be honest, one of the reasons the Fed doesn't have a bigger bat to swing at this is because the rates have been kept low, and there have been arguments both ways about that. So they didn't have a big cut in their pocket to bring.

ROMANS: No, they don't. And look, you know, a Fed -- lower rates is something you do for, you know, a financial crisis or once there's already a recession here.


We haven't seen a recession yet. I mean, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, today said he didn't think there'd be one, that there'd be a big snap back in the second half, and that is possible, the snap back in the second half, but a lot of the major banks, Chris, say there will be a recession, the question is how deep and how short, and we just don't have -- there's no guide book for this. We haven't seen this before, what we're seeing right now.

I mean, you have life on pause. Essentially, the way I've been describing it is we are moving ourselves into a recession on purpose to prevent a bigger public health crisis down the road. But we're pressing the pause button on the American economy. We've never done that before.

CUOMO: Well, we have never dealt with an impetus like this before, but we have seen reactions like this before and the concern is, are they just going to help the big guys again? That's why there was so much pressure on Congress to do something for workers, with paid leave and families.

Christine Romans, we know you'll be on it like nobody else. Great to see you, especially on a Sunday. Anderson?

COOPER: Chris, thanks very much.

The White House taking action to try and help the economy, as we've been talking about. Meanwhile, there's a lot of questions about the conflicting messages on coronavirus.

Want to bring in CNN's senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN's political director David Chalian and CNN political analyst and national reporter for "Politico," Laura Barron- Lopez.

Gloria, and we just heard that press conference. Again, just from a visual standpoint, all those officials tightly packed together on that stage, not social distancing. What did you make of the message that they gave and also that the president gave?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the message the president gave is completely at variance with the message that the experts are giving, and the president said, and let me get this right, we have tremendous control of the virus. That's not true. We don't have tremendous control of the virus, which is why the experts are saying you have to self-quarantine, you have to practice social distancing, which is why schools are closing --

COOPER: And the president said that, and he leaves, and then Dr. Fauci comes out and says --

BORGER: The worst is yet ahead of us.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: That's exactly what Fauci said. But Fauci on the one hand saying, uh-uh, and the president, who, by the way, leaves then, because he was so happy with the Fed news, obviously, and he wants to give the good news. He wants to tell the American public things are going great. And what he has done throughout this entire crisis, and continues to do, is box himself in, because he started out the crisis by saying, you know, this is small.

We've got it contained. It's like a light flu. You're not going to feel it. And then every day that it gets worse, he has to figure out a way to stick with a part of that message, even though the public health experts are saying, this is not true. And a lot of people in America -- and I guarantee you, it will be most Americans -- will be dislocated at some point to a great degree, and how does that message fit with what the president's saying?

COOPER: There is also, David, the financial market's reaction to the announcement by the Fed. I mean, at a certain point, there are fewer and fewer levers for the federal government, for financial institutions or the Fed to actually use.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As Christine was saying, and that's one of the really alarming things about this. But, you know, as to the president himself, he simply can't stop spinning, he can't stop selling. And this is a situation where when you're the president of the United States what you owe people more than anything else is the truth, because we don't have control of this. And the way we get control of it is collectively.

People need to take action themselves and they need the president and his team to be consistent in telling them how serious it is, and what actions they need to take, so he is doing material harm to people by trying to spin his way out of a situation that is unspinable.

BORGER: And you give people a false sense of security.


BORGER: And when you have a false sense of security, you go out to restaurants, as you always did, and you go to work as you always did, and you let your children play with others as you always did.

COOPER: I mean, again, it does harken back to Katrina, where you had administration officials slapping each other on the back, early days, saying, you know, oh, wow, you know, Brownie's doing a heck of a job. You had members of Congress saying -- you know, praising the administration's response to Katrina when there are bodies still in the streets. And, you know, a good amount of these press conferences are these individual officials, from the vice president to, you know, to various doctors and others who are on there, you know, praising the president, because that is what they have to do in order to maintain the president's -- the favor, I assume -- and praising everybody else for their hard work, as opposed to just focusing on facts.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, we talk a lot on this set and elsewhere about presidential leadership and what is that, and we talk about that during election time. As David was saying, this is a moment when the president of the United States sort of needs to grab the country by its lapels and say, listen up, folks, I'm not a doctor, but I'm here to sort of guide us through what it is you need to pay attention to, what's really important here, because this is the only way to move through this process is through community, the national community.


And he's not doing that at all. He's not taking the country and saying, it's so important that you're hearing what I'm saying right now. It's so important that, come here, Dr. Fauci, listen to exactly what Dr. Fauci is saying. He's not doing that. He is only, only touting happiness when the market is up and frustration when the market is down.

COOPER: Laura?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And on multiple fronts, it's not just Trump saying that there's tremendous control versus Dr. Fauci saying the worst is yet to come. Also when President Trump is talking about young people and the effect the virus can have on young people, he is saying that young people are not strongly affected. Moments later, actually earlier today, Dr. Fauci was saying, young people, you are not immune and you are not safe from getting seriously ill.

AXELROD: And these are a lot -- these are the kids who are filling the bars, the young people who are filling the bars.


AXELROD: When they should be home and mindful and not in a community setting like that.


BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, this is the -- you guys are making the point exactly, which is that one message that hasn't been coming from the president is that young people should be engaging in social distancing. This isn't just for the older population.

COOPER: And by the way, young people doing that is also beneficial to the older population --

BORGER: Of course.

COOPER -- because they are protecting the older population.

Up next, the big public health question about long airport lines as Americans flood home from overseas. Can you imagine being trapped in an airport surrounded by all those people, given what we now know about social distancing? Could this measure actually make people sicker?

Illinois governor joins us ahead.



COOPER: Disturbing images coming out of O'Hare International airport. It was another big topic in the Coronavirus Task Force briefing that just wrapped up. Thousands of travelers coming in from overseas, overwhelming the custom service there. The administration pledging to try and fix the problem. But there are more international flights scheduled to arrive tonight.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

I mean, authorities are obviously well aware of the problems now. What are they doing to fix it if anything?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, when you talk about those more international flights coming in tonight part of the reason we're keeping such a close eye on them is based on what we saw last night. Now Governor JB Pritzker, the governor here in Illinois, had requested along with other local officials, requested from the federal government more screeners to help with this process of trying to get passengers physically from their plane through customs and onto American soil.

In some cases passengers were reporting waiting up to five hours to go through that process entirely. And in the meantime, they were packed into spaces by the hundreds which in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic is the exact opposite of what health officials are recommending. And for context here, O'Hare is one of 13 airports across the country that is doing this advanced coronavirus screening for people coming into the country from international locations.

So to give you an idea what passengers are seeing and potentially part of some of these delays is you go through one round of screening which is the normal Customs and Border Protection that you'd probably see under the normal circumstances then if you're coming from one of these countries that are under these travel restrictions, you do a secondary round of screening by the Department of Homeland Security, and then if you are showing symptoms and again have that relative traveler history, you go through a third round of screening by the Centers for Disease Control.

Again, all of this part of this pandemic response at these ports of entry. And as we understand as I just heard from the head of the Chicago Department Aviation things are running much more smoothly now with those added resources. But we'll just have to keep an eye on it tonight -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, appreciate it.

I want to go to Chris -- Chris.

CUOMO: Anderson, thank you very much.

Let's bring in the governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker. He clashed with the acting secretary of Homeland Security over this exact issue, joins us now.

Governor, thank you especially during this time. What is your take on what you're dealing with in O'Hare which of course is being reflected around the country, and your ability to control that situation?

GOV. JB PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: Well, as you know, the Customs and Border Patrol are under the control of the federal government. So my control of what they do is somewhat limited. We only found out about the situation at O'Hare frankly because people are posting photos on Twitter.

CUOMO: Right.

PRITZKER: We didn't get a call from Custom and Border Patrol. We didn't get a call from the White House about the problem there. So what we saw was, you know, hundreds of people packed into a small area. This is precisely what I have given orders against and I am trying to protect people against in Illinois. So it's very upsetting to me and that's why I issued a -- you know, a fairly harsh tweet last night and I will say that this morning they reacted well.

They doubled the number of employees working. And it seems to be working well, although we're going to have another full day as a result of the, you know, cut-off of the U.K. and Ireland. We're going to have another full day of travelers coming into O'Hare and jamming their way in. So hopefully they will have managed through that tomorrow as well.

CUOMO: Well, look, we are seeing all across the country, governors are having to fight for their own. You're going to be no different there because anything that comes up, if those people are locals, there's going to be good cases, you're going to have to handle in your capacity for your healthcare system now.

In terms of what you do control, Governor. The primary for your state still being held on Tuesday. Are you questioning that decision?

PRITZKER: You know, we've had balloting going on for almost 45 days. We have early voting. We have mail ballots. In fact we as of today have a record-number of mail ballots from the city of Chicago, for example. We've had record early voting in a variety of areas across the state. And we've had long hours, longer hours, as a result of my requests to our county clerks. And the result of that is that we're going to have a very robust turnout.

You know, on Tuesday people don't have to choose to vote on Tuesday. They can pick later today. They can -- they're still open tonight.


The polls will be open long hours tomorrow. And frankly we expect that not very many people at any given moment will be at the polling places. So I am very pleased with the way that our county clerks have handled things. I think we're going to have a very good election day.

CUOMO: Well, Governor, I hope you are right. Safety obviously is a priority.

Governor Pritzker, we'll be watching. Good luck going forward. Be well.

PRITZKER: Thank you very much, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Now these issues of course are going to be discussed in just a little bit at the CNN Univision debate that's going to happen between Senator Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden, squaring off 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Just about an hour away. Stay with CNN. We'll be right back.


COOPER: And good evening, again. We are just an hour away from tonight's CNN Univision Democratic presidential debate here in Washington. It has been an hour since members of the president's Coronavirus Task Force as well as the president himself briefed reporters.

CUOMO: So obviously we're going to be covering both the big health and political headlines right now. And of course they are all coming together in this big election. The numbers of course rising fast. You must not be surprised. 3400 cases right now.