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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Warns Coronavirus Crisis Could Last Months; New York City Considering All Measures to Curtail Coronavirus. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's next.

We're going to squeeze in this quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Breaking news: We are getting new details from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who says everything is on the table in terms of a potential curfew or any other measures that might be taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

As the mayor says, New Yorkers should have a wartime-type attitude towards combating the virus.

CNN's Erica Hill is live for us in New York City.

And, Erica, this is New York City potentially taking some major, if not unprecedented, steps.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

I mean, this is really stark language from the mayor of New York City, saying, as you just said, we need to look at this in terms of a wartime world view.

[16:35:00]

He said, at the moment, stay home as much as you can, but noted that guidance might get a lot sharper at one point, saying, today, it's OK to go out for a run, but that may not be the case tomorrow, saying that everything is under consideration, including a lockdown.

Now, notably, the president saying just a short time ago that was not something that they were looking at, at the moment. Here in New York City, also talk from the mayor about emergency rooms, saying, at this point, anyone who is not in an actual emergency should not go to the E.R., noting there will be officials outside screening, and that they will turn people away if you don't need urgent care.

He also talked about testing here in New York City and said that five drive-through testing facilities across the city will be opening for priority testing only. He said they're actually working out those details. So we will be looking to get some more of those details from the mayor, as opposed to where they are, what those priorities are for those five drive-through trusting sites.

Remember, in New Rochelle, the first one that opened, the priority was given to those who'd been in quarantine or who were in the containment zone -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill.

Hospitals nationwide are bracing for a rush of patients, experts fearing that the hospitals will not have the resources to treat the surge of patients.

In Georgia, a hospital CEO says his hospital has gone through five months of safety inventory in just six days.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling on President Trump to try to use the Army Corps of Engineers to build up medical capacity and make more hospital beds.

And, as CNN's Sanjay Gupta reports for us now, time is running out for hospitals to get the resources they need before the patient starts showing up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: We're at a critical inflection point. We have the same number of cases now that Italy had two weeks ago, and we have a choice to make.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the era of coronavirus, hospitals overcrowded in places like China and Italy, stretching resources thin and putting patients at risk.

And the concern is that, in a matter of weeks, that could become the United States.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: We are so interested credibly underprepared for a major onslaught to the hospitals, which is basically now inevitable. I think we have to look at Italy and see where they -- what happened to them. And I think we're in -- actually in worse shape.

We don't have enough hospital beds. We don't have enough ICU beds.

GUPTA: According to the most recent estimates, even in a moderate outbreak, health officials estimate that 200,000 Americans will need intensive care, and 64,000 will need breathing machines or ventilators.

But the problem is, the United States has less than 100,000 ICU beds and only about 62,000 full-feature ventilators on hand, with an additional 8,900 in the national stockpile.

But since we're still in flu season, many of those are already in use.

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

GUPTA: So hospitals are bracing for a rush of patients, trying to free up as much space as possible. That means getting patients who are well enough out of the ICU and canceling all elective operations.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: We just have to make this a standard across the board.

GUPTA: In some cases, hospitals are now trying to prevent patients who are well enough from coming to the emergency room in the first place, like building tents to triage and treat potential coronavirus patients, using telehealth, so that people can call in from home, and building up their testing capacity, in some cases, without people even having to step out of their cars.

But all of this hinges on having enough supplies, which means hospitals are now rationing what they do have.

(on camera): My hospital, I mean, you had a mask, gloves. They were just sitting out. You could use what you needed to use. That's changed.

DR. THERESA MADALINE, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: That's right. We have had to remove many of these items from the shelves.

GUPTA (voice-over): To be clear, most people who get infected with the novel coronavirus won't need to be hospitalized. But for a small percentage of patients, the virus can be deadly.

MADALINE: We have had everyone ranging from just needing some supplemental oxygen through their nose, all the way through people who are in shock and needing to be on 100 percent oxygen, on a ventilator, in the ICU.

GUPTA: When that happens, hospitals can quickly run out of space and supplies. And if staff don't have the proper protective gear, they may run out of doctors and nurses as well.

(on camera): But if this is really affecting an entire community, an entire state and entire country, the world, are we ready? Do we have what we need?

MADALINE: Well, I think we are as ready as we can be. But without knowing what the future holds, it's hard to say whether or not we're -- we have enough equipment and we have what we need.

I think that there are concerns, legitimate concerns, about, as a nation, if we're ready to handle such an enormous pandemic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: And I can tell you, Jake, for weeks, we have been asking these questions about whether or not, tangibly, we would have more -- enough ICU beds and breathing machines.

And today was the first time just in the press conference that we just listened to together where President Trump said, look, we're counting on the states to buy what they need, but the federal government is planning on buying a lot of ventilators as well.

[16:40:04]

Still don't have exact numbers. We know what's needed. We know how much we have. We still don't know exactly what the plan is in terms of making up that shortfall, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

President Trump just said he will back the airlines 100 percent during this awful time for their industry, but that industry could look very different in just a few weeks.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:20]

TAPPER: And we're back with our money lead.

President Trump just said he will back the airline industry 100 percent, as airlines around the world are grounding planes, laying off workers, and scrambling, as coronavirus freezes travel.

And, today, the Center for Aviation, a well-respected consultant company, said -- quote -- "By the end of May 2020, most airlines in the world will be bankrupt. Coordinated government and industry action is needed now if catastrophe is to be avoided."

Let's bring in CNN business editor at large Richard Quest.

And, Richard, bankrupt? Is that right?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because although the U.S. may be -- the U.S. airlines may be in better shape the most, in the rest of the world, there are lots of airlines that are literally staggering along week by week, month by month, and they're doing so on the back of cash flow, the old idea that just get the passengers on, get the money in, and pay the bills.

Well, now the money's not coming in. And it's just a sign of the times, Jake, that, today, that the Airlines For America, A4A, has basically put all the airlines together, and they're asking for $50 billion worth of assistance from the U.S. government, a variation of tax breaks, excise charges to be lowered.

But, ultimately, some of them believe it will also have to be guaranteed loans from the federal government or the Federal Reserve. The airlines have never seen anything like it. There are hundreds of planes now that are grounded, as millions of passengers aren't flying.

TAPPER: The $50 billion bailout, how would that aid get broken up? QUEST: We don't know who will get what, because, after all, the airlines, the majors in the U.S., United, Delta, American, Southwest, they have very strong balance sheets rebuilt over many years from their own crises.

But what it would certainly do would be give them the breathing space, probably from things like loan guarantees, or that the Fed Reserve would buy their instruments, their financial paper. It would all be unwound in the future.

And the airlines would probably have to pay interest. But the idea is to ensure no major carrier goes under. And then you think this is sort of just a scare-mongering to get a government bailout.

American cut 80 percent of its flight plans. United has now only three flights from London to the United States, whereas, before, they had 18. We are talking about a wholesale destruction of the U.S. airline network. And to put that back together again is going to be timely, costly.

And the object, of course, is to avoid losing jobs.

TAPPER: And, as you mentioned, United Airlines severely slashing its flight schedule. I think it's 50 percent over the next two months.

The top management executives at United are going to have a 50 percent cut in pay. All of this is an effort to avoid furloughs.

But I guess the big question for United, is that going to be enough?

QUEST: Oh, no, no. I can say that without -- it gives me no pleasure to say that, but for any of the airlines, United, Delta or American, absolutely not.

They're already seeking how many people they're going to have to furlough at the moment.

Let me put this into full context for anybody who thinks this is just the airlines crying wolf. In Europe, Austrian part of the Lufthansa group has just stopped flying, grounded the planes. LOT Polish Airlines decided it's going to stop, ground the planes.

I would not be surprised if within each airline group, say, for example, Air France, KLM, Delta, United, Lufthansa, British Airways, American, that -- the goal here for the airlines is to ensure that they have, across their network, at least one flight, whether it's with themselves or a partner or an alliance.

That's not going to be able to continue. You're going to see more airlines simply saying, it's not worth us turning on the lights today. We will come back when it's over.

TAPPER: All right, Richard Quest, thank you so much.

Still with us is Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general, as well as CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And I want to start this discussion by just noting, because I know

there are a lot of scared people out there, the United States, the world, we will get through this. We have been through 9/11. We have been through the economic collapse of 2007-2008. We will get through it, but we don't know when.

And let me start with you, Sanjay, because many are wondering when life will go back to normal. President Trump said that he thought that the pandemic, generally speaking, would be over by July or August.

[16:50:07]

One expert said to "The Washington Post" that asking the question about when this is going to be over is like asking a fireman, when can you move back in, but your house is still on fire.

Do you agree?

GUPTA: Yes.

I think that that's right. I mean, that's part of the thing with a new virus, a novel virus like that. There's two reasons why that's important.

One is that, because it's a new virus, we don't have immunity to it. None of us human beings anywhere on the planet have been exposed to this virus before. We don't have immunity to it. And that's one of the problems.

The other one is that we just don't know how it's going to behave longer term. But I will say that there's two things that really jumped out at me.

One is that, if you look at previous coronaviruses, like SARS, you did start to see a peak sort of in the late spring, early summer, and then this sort of significant tapering off by July or August.

The second thing, Jake, that really jumped out at me -- you and I talked about this -- but Anthony Fauci, he came to the lectern and said, look, this thing says 15 days of these recommendations, but we are going to reassess after two weeks.

My guess is, it's not going to be two weeks. It's going to be reassessed at that point. Then, probably, given how things are going, the numbers are going to be worse at that point. And we will probably have another two weeks at that point and then reassess.

So I don't think it's going to be this sort of life change to July or August, but I think it's going to go on for a while, Jake.

TAPPER: It is.

And as we discussed earlier, parents should be taking this seriously, not having play dates for their kids. I know it's going to be challenging, and there are a lot of challenges for people who have essential jobs and cannot afford child care. And there's going to be a lot of people with very difficult decisions

to make in the coming weeks and months.

One thing I want to remind people of, though, is that other parts of the world have been through this already, and they are saying that we in the United States and in Canada should be taking these steps right now.

In fact, there was a video put together of quarantined Italians sharing a message to themselves 10 days ago. If they could go back in time and say, what would you tell yourself 10 days ago what they wish they know.

And this is them saying -- they're obviously speaking in Italian -- but some of them are saying things like, we underestimated this. You don't have to do the same. You don't have to do the same. Stay home.

This comes after we saw other videos of people in Italy out and about. This is from late February. People were out and about even as the disease was striking, the virus was striking.

So we hope that the message that our Italian brothers and sisters are sending themselves 10 days ago, which is really a message that they're trying to send to us, especially younger people that maybe aren't taking this as seriously, is, we hope people are getting the message, this is serious, and take it.

Do you think that Americans are starting finally to get the message?

Obviously, President Trump is finally getting the message.

GUPTA: Yes, I'm curious to see how this is going to go over.

I think I think people are starting to get the message. But, Jake, I mean, everyone has to get this message, everyone. I mean, this was a direct appeal to all Americans. We are really all in this together, maybe more than we have ever been, maybe ever, and certainly in a long time.

So, if people aren't being consistent, aren't being honest, aren't carrying through about some of these recommendations, it affects everybody. So, I'm not suggesting that these things need to be mandated. They're still recommendations, and I think most people will do the right thing.

But, Jake, even last night, I mean, despite some of the earlier recommendations, there are a lot of people who still are going out. They're still getting together in large gatherings and all that. Hopefully, that maybe changes today.

It was a distinct change in tone by the president, I mean, distinct. He said -- I wrote these quotes down. He said: "This is bad."

TAPPER: Yes.

GUPTA: He said that a couple times. "This is bad." He said, this isn't going to end until July or August.

I mean, these were things that are completely different than what he was saying just a few days ago, as you know better than anyone, Jake. But it was a distinct change in how he's thinking about it. And I hope other people pay attention.

TAPPER: Yes.

And we will have time in the coming weeks, months, whenever to talk about how the president handled this rhetorically for the previous two months.

But, Dr. Vivek Murthy, I think I speak for all three of us when I say, I'm glad President Trump is now conveying the message, this is serious, take it seriously, stay at home.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, I'm glad too.

But -- and let me pick up on something that came up during this press conference that I think is really important. A reporter asked about the anxiety and fear that people are experiencing around the country.

And I think that fear is very common. It's widespread. Every day, I talk to people who are asking themselves and asking people around them, when is this going to end? What impact is it going to have on our lives, on our families, on our jobs?

[16:55:00]

And in times of uncertainty like this, it's tough. And it's especially tough when we are being told that we can't get together with friends that we often rely on during times of crises.

But what I want people to know is that as we start looking around us, we can already start to see reasons to be hopeful. We see in our hospitals and clinics doctors who are stepping up. And, despite not having the ability to protect themselves, they are serving patients.

We see athletes who are paying arena workers who are out of work. We see folks who are right around me living actually near in our neighborhood who are wiping down the door handles on CVS stores, so that other people won't get infected.

This is what the resilient American spirit looks like. And if we focus on cultivating this over the next few months, we will be OK.

TAPPER: Amen.

And we will still be here to bring you the news.

MURTHY: Yes.

TAPPER: Dr. Gupta, Dr. Murthy, thank you so much.

GUPTA: Well said.

TAPPER: The governor of one state with more than 150 cases of the coronavirus responds to the new guidelines issued by the White House.

That's ahead.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

[17:00:00]