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School Closures Affect 35 Million Students in 35 States; At Least 70 Deaths, More than 4,000 Confirmed Cases in U.S.; Ohio Gov. Recommends Delaying Tomorrow's Democratic Primary Due to Coronavirus; Source: Trump Admin May Encourage States to Enact Curfews; Trump: Gov. Cuomo of New York Has to Do More; President Trump Updates Efforts to Combat Coronavirus; White House Holds Briefing on Coronavirus Response; Trump Announces Tougher Guidelines to Slow Coronavirus Spread. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In minutes, the White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a briefing, where we expect new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to be announced.

We will bring that to you live, as many state and local governments are currently taking action of their own.

Schools in 33 states and the District of Columbia have been shut down, affecting close to 36 million students in the U.S. The states of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and others are banning gatherings of more than 50 people, as the CDC has recommended.

States are also closing nonessential businesses, such as casinos, gyms and movie theaters. The states of Illinois and Washington are shutting down bars at restaurants, trying to transition to takeout food only.

The state of California also shuttering bars and asking residents who are 65 or older to stay at home.

The country of Canada is now denying entry to almost everyone that is not a citizen or permanent resident.

Now, many individuals who contract the virus will suffer minor symptoms, but its effects can be debilitating and, in a minority of cases, but far too many, fatal.

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has increased dramatically in just a matter of days.

Here's a graph of where the U.S. is and the spread of this virus; 70 people in the U.S. have now died from coronavirus. That's up from 22 this time last week, last week, when there were just about 600 cases. Now there are more than 4,000 cases.

As you can see, the trajectory is terrifying.

New York state alone has 950 confirmed cases of coronavirus. That's up by more than 220 cases in just 24 hours. And with that, the governor of New York wants only essential businesses to remain open past 8:00 this evening.

CNN's Brynn Gingras live for us in New York City.

And, Brynn, this new restriction for businesses is, as of now, only a request. But might it be made mandatory?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let's separate the businesses that we're talking about here, Jake.

We know, as you said, that there's going to be movie theaters and gyms and casinos. Those are all closing, right, because a lot of people go to those if they remain open, that idea of keeping these crowds 50 -- less than 50. Retail, other businesses that happens in New York City, yes, the governor wants those to close, if they can, because, at this point, you can see behind me all these people that are walking around.

The key here is that the governor of New York wants people to stay home. He wants people to take this seriously. And, of course, this approach that was taken today by the tri-state governors, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, this was a pretty aggressive approach.

And it might be copied in other states, but the hope is that it gets copied in neighboring states. We know that the New Jersey governor talked to Pennsylvania's governor to see if they're going to make similar measures, because, of course, with neighboring states, one person who doesn't like the rules here can go to another state and do it in a state that allows it.

So this is really an aggressive move. And the whole idea, of course, is to just get people to take this seriously and stay home, so this virus can get contained.

TAPPER: And, Brynn, the New York City has the country's largest single school system. And that school system has a deadline of midnight tonight to get meal programs in place for all those public school students who rely on school lunches for their -- really their only nutrition of the day.

What precautions might these schools used to try to keep the distribution process of these meals safe?


I mean, the state and the cities have been talking about this making sure that there's obviously masks for people that are doing this sort of stuff, especially with emergency personnel as well.

But the plan has to be in place by midnight tonight. The -- actually, carrying out that plan, we have already heard from the city. They hope to have this up and running for the next week, at least having schools open for kids to go to. After that, there's going to be distribution centers, as you mentioned.

And that's going to be an area where people can not only get meals, like you say, because they are so dependent on that, more than -- thousands of kids here in New York City, but also to get lessons. There's going to be teachers who are really going to be taught by -- according to the mayor, on like a battlefield ground, learning quickly about how they can handle different ages, different grades, all in one center.

Those kids particularly we're talking about our kids of essential workers, like emergency responders, doctors, nurses who have to go to work, and yet can't get child care, of course, because schools are out.

So, a lot of stuff is in motion right now in New York City, in the city -- in the state's -- rather, the country's largest school districts. But those plans continue to get sort of rolled out. And we will learn more details to come -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Let's go to Los Angeles now. That's where the country's second largest city is by population. Public life is also now much more isolated in L.A., with new rules in place for bars and restaurants.

And CNN's Stephanie Elam is live for us in Los Angeles.

Stephanie, the restrictions in the city are more aggressive than those statewide in California as a whole.



And this happened last night for us here, Jake. And just to give you an idea, the fact that this is not completely full with parking at this time of day on a Monday is absolutely mind-boggling.

This is Third Street in Los Angeles, a lot of restaurants here. Normally, there'd be people sitting outside of Toast Bakery. There'd be a line of people trying to get in here. Instead, they want everyone to know that they are open, that they are delivering food.

If you need it, they are also open, if you want to come and get it. But just take a listen to some of the concerns of the people in the restaurant business here.


BILL RICKETT, RESTAURANT SERVER: What we need is just a little bit more information, better communication as to exactly what it is that we can do, how we can operate, and how we can keep serving the community and our staff during this period.


ELAM: So, they're trying to figure out, can they open up earlier right by Cedar Sinai Hospital?

Could they help feed the people that are working so hard to keep people healthy? If you look inside here, you can see all the tables are still stacked up. They are open. They want people to know that they can provide food.

You just can't sit here and eat it, but a lot of questions for people on how they keep their restaurants open. And one big concern, Jake, if they are not able to make the money that they need to operate today, then it won't be possible for them to stay up later on in the week.

So they want people to know -- and this is a lot of restaurants here -- that this is the case, especially when you look down the street, and Whole Foods has a line stretching outside of it. So does Trader Joe's, all the grocery stores like that in L.A. right now.

TAPPER: All right, Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news for you now. We have just learned that the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, wants to delay the presidential primary election that is scheduled to take place in his state tomorrow, Governor DeWine recommending that it be moved to June because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

DeWine says he does not have the power to move the primary unilaterally. He is going to go to court to seek that change.

Joining me now is Dr. Lloyd Minor. He is the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Minor, let's start with the news from Governor DeWine. Would it be a good idea for the primaries to be postponed? Or is the risk minimal enough that they should go forward?

DR. LLOYD MINOR, DEAN, STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, Jake, thank you. It's good to be with you today.

I think we're going to have to look at each of these decisions individually, based upon the timing and the incidence of the virus and the disease in each community. Also, we know that, in many primaries, they're moving to remote voting and other options.

But the CDC recommendation that gatherings over 50 people be canceled, that's a very prudent recommendation. This is a respiratory virus. It's spread through droplets. The droplet and droplet spread is generally from one person to the next.

We need to keep that in mind in terms of making recommendations about what changes to make.

TAPPER: So, you mentioned that CDC recommendation, no gatherings with more than 50 people over the next eight weeks. That would include, obviously, concerts, conferences, sporting events,

weddings. This is still just guidance right now in most places. But if we want to flatten the curve, so there isn't this huge surge IN patients overwhelming the hospital system, and saving lives by doing so, do you think that this should be mandatory everywhere in the U.S., banning groups of 50 or more?

MINOR: Well, I think that we ought to take the CDC recommendations very, very seriously.

There may be certain circumstances where a larger gathering has to occur. But I think those circumstances should be few and far between. And the measures that are being taken, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has described it, should help to bend the curve on the increase in the number of cases.

And that's what we want to do at this point. We want to really stop the growth in the number of cases, as much as we can, or slow it to a level that it's more manageable in our health care delivery system and the care we provide.

TAPPER: The surgeon general said he feels like we have, as a nation, turned the tide on testing this week. From what you have seen, from what you have heard, do you agree? Is that correct?

MINOR: There are still challenges with testing.

We at Stanford developed a diagnostic test for COVID-19. We were one of the first to be approved by the FDA, in addition to the tests that are being used in local health departments. And we have deployed that test in our delivery system and also made it available to patients from other delivery systems in Northern California.

But the need is great. And, in particular, if we get into a situation where we want to screen large numbers of people, we're still -- we still have some ways to go in terms of being able to provide that capacity.

TAPPER: Dr. Lloyd Minor, thank you so much. We really appreciate your time here.


MINOR: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We will have you on again. Thank you so much.

A live look at the White House right now, where we are awaiting a briefing by Vice President Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force. We will bring that you live. You can see how they have separated individuals in the White House Briefing Room, so people have to sit with one empty chair in between them.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


TAPPER: We're back and waiting for the White House briefing to get under way.

It looks like it might start a little early. We expect Vice President Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to speak any moment. We will bring that to you live as soon as it happens.

Let's go right to that room right now.

Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.

Kaitlan, what are we expecting to hear?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we know that the vice president said yesterday they're expected to lay out new guidelines he said were still being vetted by the CDC when they held a briefing in this room yesterday.

We're expecting those guidelines to look a lot like what we have seen from some of these states in recent weeks. We're waiting to get a little more guidance on exactly what they're looking for and just how stringent those restrictions and those guidelines that they're going to put out there are going to be.

And, of course, we are only expecting them to be guidelines at this point, based on our reporting, not anything nationally mandated, though there are still questions on whether or not that's an option that they are considering pursuing.

But, Jake, this comes on a day where the president has been having several meetings. He spoke with the leaders of other countries in the G7 earlier about moving forward in how they're handling this on a global response.


But then he also had a call with all of the governors here in the United States earlier talking about the federal response and the state response that the president is hoping to see.

And during that call, we're told by one person the president urged those governors to -- for the states to try to get the additional medical equipment that they are expecting they're going to need, ICU beds, ventilators, respirators, things of those nature -- of that nature that we have been talking about in recent weeks, he urged them to try to get them on their own first, but said that the federal government will back them up, but was essentially saying that they need to try to obtain those on their own.

Now, the question of what that's going to look like is still a big one, because we have heard from a lot of these local officials and these state officials saying they just do not have the capacity for that. And we're even told -- one of my colleagues, Kristen Holmes, was told

by one person that it got testy at one point when the governor of New Mexico got into a heated exchange with the president and the vice president, talking about how they feel that the federal government has not been doing enough to coordinate with states on this level.

And, of course, that's going to be a big point of concern over here, as we're moving from that slowdown in diagnostic testing to moving on to the next phase of this, which is going to be hospitals dealing with it.

We should note that, right after, the president only singled about one governor. That's Andrew Cuomo of New York, saying he needs to do more, even though, of course, he has been one of the most visible governors on this issue so far.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan Collins, I just want to see if we can get the camera to pan back a little bit to show the White House press Briefing Room.

Can we do that guys in the control room? Can we pan back, show the whole room?

Kaitlan, so now you're on the wide cam all the way in the back.

Explain what's going on there with the space in between other reporters.

COLLINS: Yes, it's not as packed as it normally is. You see reporters are sitting every other seat.

That's because we are practicing social distancing here as well, with reporters keeping their space. And you can't tell them, but I'm wearing a white sticker. We just got our temperatures checked right before we came into the room.

That's after we got our temperatures checked coming into the White House grounds, period, just to get through the gate. They are checking all of our temperatures, one by one, to make sure you also are not showing any symptoms.

And we should note that is something that is also happening in these meetings that the president and the vice president are having, where these members of the task force and anyone who's meeting with them, we are told by officials, they're also having their temperatures checked as well.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

We will go back to when this briefing starts.

Let's bring in our experts as we await this briefing.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, there's kind of a disconnect going on right now. You see how seriously they are taking this in the White House Briefing Room. People are sitting one seat apart. People are being tested for their temperature before they're -- twice before they're allowed into that room.

And yet the message from the White House is not yet where the message is from the governors of Ohio or the governor of New York, which is that people need to really isolate.


TAPPER: The president has been saying, we have this all under control.


Well, Jake, I think we may hear a distinct shift in tone with regard to that now, for a couple of reasons. One is that I think I'm hearing from some of the conversations I'm having with folks that the governors, the states, kind of building on what Kaitlan was saying, are wanting some cover, if you will, from the federal government to make these big, tough decisions that they're making in their communities, in their states, about these social distancing measures, closing down restaurants and bars and all the various things that are happening in these places.

So I think we may hear some of that today. And also, Jake, one of the questions that keeps coming up -- I mean, I'm sure you have heard -- is, what are we talking about here? Are we talking two weeks, four weeks, six weeks?

From conversations I have had with officials, they're sort of telling me, look, we want to, as they put it, not freak people out too much. We may make these recommendations that you're going to hear in a little bit for a couple of weeks, and then say we're going to reassess things, so it doesn't feel like all of a sudden there's going to be significant changes that are going to last a couple of months instead.

So it's a messaging thing that is sort of inflecting with the science, with the medicine, I think that these public health officials know what they would like to accomplish. I think it's just a question of how they want to get there, without causing too much panic.

TAPPER: Juliette Kayyem, let me bring you in.

A source telling CNN that a curfew is like to be strongly encouraged at the state level during the president's videoconference with governors today.

Is there any reason why it shouldn't be a national curfew?


And this is strange, and I will tell you why. Every state, every jurisdiction is heading in the same place now, Jake. It's not good. It just is, to be able to fight this virus, which is harsher rules, stronger curfews, no one be together.

So the states and localities have gotten it. I have never seen anything like this. So they're all headed in the same direction. The federal government has been very slow on guidance. Nursing -- I

think you have seen stuff around nursing homes, of course, yesterday's 50-person rule. And so what you may see is the federal government try to catch up with where the states and localities are.

And one would -- it would be better, I think it would be faster, it would be less painful for the American public, where it would be less sort of, why is this state here and why is that state there, if the federal government, and looking at the United States, right -- this is a 50-state threat -- actually provided that guidance, that strong recommendation that every state be under a curfew for some period of time.


I think we're inevitably heading there. It's just, for some reason, the White House seems reluctant to admit--

TAPPER: And, Dr. Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general, your father is a doctor.

And you and I were talking yesterday or the day before -- we see that -- we see the group is there.

And I will -- as soon as somebody starts talking, I'm going to interrupt.

But, Dr. Murthy, if you can, tell us, your dad was saying -- he's a physician -- that he doesn't have the supplies he needs. He doesn't have the personal protective equipment.

Is that -- has that changed since you and I spoke?


My father and my sister both practice primary care medicine in Miami. They have been struggling to get masks. They're continuing to see patients, because they're dedicated to the people who rely on them for care.

But it pains me to know that they're doing that, at great risk to themselves, each and every day. Each day that comes, we hope those masks will be delivered, but as of today, still nothing.

TAPPER: Here's the president, Dr. Murthy. I'm going to interrupt you.

And we will come back to you after the briefing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. So, I'm glad to see that you're practicing social distancing.

That looks very nice. That's very good. I want to thank everybody for being here today. This morning, I spoke with the leaders of the G7 -- G7 nations and they really had a good meeting, I think it was a very, very productive meeting. I also spoke with our nation's governors. This afternoon, we're announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days as we combat the virus. Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus.

We -- we did this today, this was done by a lot of very talented people, some of whom are standing with me -- and that's available. And Dr. Birx will be speaking about that in just a few minutes.

It's important for the young and healthy people to understand that while they may experience milder symptoms, they can easily spread this virus and they will spread it indeed, putting countless others in harm's way. We especially worry about our senior citizens.

The White House task force meets every day and continually updates guidelines based on the fast evolving situation that this has become all over the world -- it's all over the world, it's incredible what's happened in such a short period of time.

One of the guidelines of the task force, the new modeling conducted by Dr. Birx, in our consultation with governors, we have made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now. We much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it and that's what we are.

Therefore, my administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants and public food courts.

If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we're going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly -- a lot of progress has been made.

I'm also pleased to report today that a vaccine candidate has begun the phase one clinical trial. This is one of the fastest vaccine development launches in history -- not even close. We're also racing to develop antiviral therapies and other treatments and we've had some promising results -- early results but promising to reduce the severity and the duration of the -- of the symptoms.

And I have to say that our government is prepared to do whatever it takes -- whatever it takes, we're doing -- we're doing it in every way. And with that, I'd like to just introduce Dr. Birx, who's going to discuss some of the things that we strongly recommend. Thank you.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. I think you know over the last months, we've taken very bold action to stop the virus from coming to our shores. And because of that, we gained time to really get together and understand the progress across the globe of what has worked and what hasn't worked. We now need to appeal to every single American so that they can have their role in stopping the spread of this virus. We've talked about things before about washing your hands but we really want to focus on if you are sick, no matter who you are, please stay home.


If someone in your household is diagnosed with this virus, the entire household should quarantine in the house to prevent spread of the virus to others.

The reason we're taking these strong and bold steps is because we now there is virus spread before you develop symptoms, and then we know that there's a large group -- we don't know the precise -- percent yet -- that actually is asymptomatic or has such mild cases that they continue to spread the virus. If your children are sick, please keep them home.

Now, to our older population or those with pre-existing medical conditions, everyone in the household needs to focus on protecting them. Everyone in the household.

I want to speak particularly to our largest generation now, our Millennials. I am the mom of two wonderful Millennial young women, who are bright and hardworking, and I will tell you what I told to them.

They are the core group that will stop this virus. They are the group that communicates successfully, independent of picking up a phone. They intuitively know how to contact each other without being in large social gatherings.

We're asking all of them to hold their gatherings to under 10 people, not just in bars and restaurants, but in homes. We really want people to be separated at this time.

To be able to address this virus comprehensively that we cannot see, for which we don't have a vaccine or a therapeutic, the only thing we have right now is the amazing ingenuity and compassion of the American people. We're appealing to all Americans to take these steps, to protect each other and to ensure that the virus doesn't spread.

These guidelines are very specific, they're very detailed. They will only work if every American takes this together to heart, and responds as one nation and one people to stop the spread of this virus. Thank you.


So just to connect with what I mentioned to you in previous discussions in this room -- and Dr. Birx said it very well -- that in order to be able to contain and curtail this epidemic, to not reach its maximum capability, we have a two-pillar approach, one of which I believe has been very effective in preventing the substantial seeding (ph), enabling the travel restrictions that we've discussed many times in this room. The other -- equally if not more important -- is when you have infection in your own country, which we do -- and you know I could read the numbers, but they're really essentially what we've seen yesterday, incremental increases both globally as well as in the United States, with (ph) the (ph) curve doing that.

So therefore, the kinds of things that we do are containment and mitigation. This -- what we're mentioning now -- the guidelines, when you look at them carefully, I believe if the people in the United States take them seriously because they were based on some rather serious consideration back and forth, some may look at them and say they're going to be really inconvenient for people. Some will look and say, well, maybe we've gone a little bit too far? They were well thought out.

And the thing that I want to re-emphasize -- and I'll say it over and over again -- when you're dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflects where you really are. That's not wordspeak. It means, if you think you're here, you're really here because you're only getting the results.

Therefore, it will always seem that the best way to address it were to be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn't an overreaction, it's a reaction that we feel is commensurate, what is actually going on in reality.

So take a look at the guidelines, read them carefully and we hope that the people of the United States will take them very seriously because they will fail if people don't adhere to them. We have to have -- as a whole country -- cooperate and collaborate to make sure these get done. Thank you.

TRUMP: OK. Go ahead.


QUESTION: Mr. President, a lot of people are concerned about how long all of this might last. Do you have any kind of estimate, that if -- if Americans really were to band together. Do I do what the White House is suggesting, how quickly we could turn this corner (ph)?

TRUMP: My favorite question.