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CDC Recommends Canceling Events of 50+ People; U.S. Federal Reserve Cuts Interest Rates to Near Zero; Enhanced Screenings Create Long Waits at U.S. Airports; Italy Reports 360+ New Deaths, 3,500+ New Cases; Trump Focusing on Economy During Health Crisis. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired March 16, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I am Michael Holmes.
And coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to spike across Europe and the United States. The drastic measures being taken to curb that spread.
The U.S. Federal Reserve takes emergency measures in an attempt to shore up confidence, but is the Trump-approved action having its intended effect on the world's financial markets? We will discuss.
And a sign of the times. Democratic presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders elbow bump to kick off their first one-on-one debate.
Welcome everyone. We do start with the novel coronavirus, and it is entering a dangerous new stage. According to numbers from the World Health Organization, more than half of the cases are now outside of mainland China. And that is a big deal.
At this hour, the WHO reporting at least 150,000 infections worldwide, more than 5,700 deaths. The organization says Europe is the new epicenter of this pandemic, and the worst-hit country there remains Italy.
The WHO says there are more than 21,000 cases in Italy, but officials there put the number much higher, closer to 25,000. The death toll in Italy now passing 1,800.
Now, the pandemic is also driving fears of a global recession, with the U.S. facing its first bear market in more than a decade. The Federal Reserve taking emergency action on Sunday, cutting its target interest rate to nearly zero.
And here was President Donald Trump's reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, it just happened 10 minutes ago, but to me, it makes me very happy. And I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve. For starters, they've lowered the Fed rate from what it was, which was one to 1.25, and it's been lowered down to zero to 0.25, or point 25. So it's zero to .25. That's a big difference. It's -- it's quite a bit on a point.
And in addition, very importantly, the Federal Reserve is the -- they're 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. It's really good news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Now, in the U.S., officials are reporting at least 3,400 cases and 65 deaths. We say at least, because the testing hasn't been widespread, of course. The Centers for Disease Control recommending all events of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks.
Now, this coming as the White House is preparing to release its own guidelines on Monday.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond with those details.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic were pretty clear across the United States over this weekend. We saw long lines at the airports, schools and public places shutting down in different parts of the country.
But there was very little from the president of the United States on Sunday when he took to the White House briefing room to address the country about exactly what Americans should be doing to try and reduce the spread of this pandemic.
Instead, the president very much focusing on trying to ease Americans' concerns and ensure that the economy continues to go on. That was a very different message from what we heard from one of the government's top public health officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Just listen to the discrepancy here.
TRUMP: Relax. We're doing great. It all will pass. It's a very contagious virus. It's incredible, but it's something that we have tremendous control of.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Because as I've said many times, and I'll repeat it, the worst is, yes, 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. We have a very, very critical point now.
DIAMOND: Now, Dr. Fauci making clear on Sunday that he wants the federal government to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of this coronavirus, making clear that he even would potentially support a national lockdown of sorts, something that we have seen several European countries that were hard hit by this coronavirus pandemic, such as Italy, France, and Spain. All of those countries taking measures to stop all nonessential businesses from functioning and to reduce the number of people who are outside.
Now, I did ask the vice president specifically about the president's rhetoric and the difference in the rhetoric that we're seeing from the president, and from these public health experts. I asked him why we're hearing the president say that Americans should simply relax and whether he would offer a different message.
The vice president dodged that question, instead simply saying that all the work that the coronavirus task force and the federal government is doing, is at the president's direction.
Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.
HOLMES: Let's talk more about this drastic interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other economic -- economic matters.
Journalist Kaori Enjoji joining me now from Tokyo.
Good to have you, Kaori. A massive cut, really. But are markets convinced it was the right thing to do or enough? It's what the president wanted, but will the markets like it?
KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well, let's take a look at initial reaction for an answer to that.
U.S. futures went limit down in Singapore. So that suggests that it wasn't exactly the cure the financial markets were looking for.
Having said that, when you take a look across the board, yes, we are still seeing continued weakness in some equity markets like Australia, which continues to tank. We are seeing some stability come back into other equity markets.
Right now, the market is on tenterhooks as to what the Bank of Japan will do, because the Fed has basically unleashed a chorus of quantitative easing of talk among other central banks and expectations that central bankers around the world will follow suit.
So in anticipation of that, basically, the Tokyo equity market has not moved in the last two hours as this meeting goes on.
So I think, psychologically, yes, there was an impact, but as the saying goes in the financial markets, Michael, buy the rumor, sell the facts. So whether or not it will have long-term lasting impact clearly uncertain given the way the futures are performing.
HOLMES: Yes. And the Dow is down 4.5 percent in futures. That -- that does not say that this was a winning formula.
The other thing about it is the Fed hasn't really recovered from 2008 in terms of building a cushion. And so it has less room to move than it might have had in other times, correct? What tools are left? ENJOJI: Well, that's right. I mean, they've basically made a move to
bring interest rates to zero. So there isn't a whole lot of maneuvering they can do on interest rates from here on.
And this is a situation that the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are already in, even before they cut interest rates even further.
And the problem with going down this route, basically moving deeper and deeper into negative interest rates, it becomes counterproductive. Because the purpose of cutting rates is to push money into the system.
But then, it risks the financial health of the banking institutions that they're trying to help to begin with. So it becomes counterproductive. They can continue to buy assets as the Fed has done, and, excuse me, as I think other central banks will do, as well.
HOLMES: Yes, exactly. And just finally, and more broadly, not just in the U.S., but around the world, we're going to see more of this. Companies closing retail stores. We're seeing that in the U.S. Nike, and others, Apple as well. Restaurants and bars closing. Vacations canceled. Airlines cutting. Hotels hurting.
That all trickles down, and consumer confidence will be shot. What are the ripple effects of that?
ENJOJI: I mean, I'll give you an exact answer to that, in that we got numbers two hours ago that shows the real economic impact of the coronavirus. And we got the numbers out of China for January and February. They're staggering, Michael.
Industrial output is the worst ever on record. That's down 13 and a half percent in the world's second largest economy. Ditto for retail sales, down 20.5 percent. We have never seen numbers like this. So some economies like Japan are probably already in recession.
So the lingering impact from the virus will continue. And as one trader told me, the care to all this financial market volatility is a vaccine for the virus. And fiscal and monetary stimulus is only going to be, in some ways, a Band-aid measure.
HOLMES: Yes. And this ain't over in terms of the virus, as well. Could be some dark days ahead.
Kaori Enjoji, great to have your expertise on this. Thank you so much.
Well, coronavirus screenings are causing extremely long delays at airports across the U.S. We reported this here on the program yesterday. Travelers returning from abroad getting caught in these chaotic scenes. This is in Dallas, Texas. We were bringing you images from O'Hare in Chicago 24 hours ago. Just have a look at this.
Only 13 major airports are set up for enhanced screenings, which are part of the White House's travel restrictions. CNN's Omar Jimenez explains.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some passengers going back to as early as Saturday reported waiting up to five hours just to be able to get from their plane through customs and physically onto American soil.
Now at least over the course of Sunday afternoon, things appeared to be running much more smoothly. But when these videos and images first started to come out over the course of Saturday, there were hundreds that were packed into these tight areas, again, waiting just to be able to be screened by these customs officers, which in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, being packed into those tight spaces is exactly the opposite of what medical and health officials have been advising.
And let's remember, a lot of this rush has stemmed from the recent travel restrictions that have gone into place for many countries across the world, leaving people scrambling to try and get home.
We spoke to a few students who were studying abroad from universities here in the United States. And they were just trying to get back from Poland, and it was a days'-long process. They say the most frustrating part about it all was just trying to get reliable information.
BRIAN HAYES, U.S. STUDENT STUDYING ABROAD: Really frustrated with, so if I'm an American and I don't get out of here by midnight, I'm just stuck here. How does that work? That doesn't make any sense. And if there's a process for me getting out after that 12 a.m. deadline, that's fine, but there's no process communicated. There's no idea about what we were supposed to have done if we had not gotten out.
JIMENEZ: And O'Hare Airport here is one of 13 airports across the United States that has been doing this advanced coronavirus screening. And to give you an idea of what passengers are dealing with as they get off these planes, they go through one round of screening. That is from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, very similar to what would be happening under normal circumstances.
And then if a person is coming from one of the countries under the travel restriction, they go through a second round of screening done by the Department of Homeland Security.
And then if someone is either showing symptoms, has that relevant travel history, potentially, as well, they go through a 3rd round of screening by the Centers for Disease Control, at which point they were then told to self-quarantine.
Omar Jimenez, CNN, O'Hare Airport, Chicago.
HOLMES: And joining me now is Dr. Albert Ko. He is professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Yale School of Public Health. Great to have your expertise, especially in these times.
Today, the U.S. president said this, and I want to play the sound for people. Let's have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Learning from watching other countries, frankly, it's a very contagious -- it's a very contagious virus. It's incredible. But it's something that we have tremendous control of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So that's what the president says. Your thoughts. Is the coronavirus tremendously controlled?
DR. ALBERT KO, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AND MEDICINE, YALE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, it's certainly highly transmissible, and it also has, you know, an important public health impact, particularly among the death rate that it causes among the elderly.
"Controlled" is probably not the right word at this moment. We're having community-wide transmission. This is in many states in the United States.
You know, the major issue that we have is that we are still behind getting -- we're still behind the response to this virus. We need to keep on, do mass screening, diagnosis, isolate patients, in addition to the social distancing measures that are being undertaken.
HOLMES: Yes. And the vice president, I think he said today, 2,000 labs will come online this week for testing, a million -- more than a million test kits will be out there. But given what the public's been told about testing in the past -- I mean, a week ago the president said anyone who wanted a test could get one -- do you have faith that the testing will actually roll out the way it needs to roll out and should have ruled out, many would argue, weeks ago?
KO: Well, you know, at this point, we certainly are lagging behind in terms of testing. Many states and many companies are coming online with kits. The question is, is what's the turnaround time?
The important thing to get in front of that epidemic is to identify cases quickly so we can isolate them so we can reduce the transmission to the community. We don't have enough tests at this moment to do so.
HOLMES: And that's the thing. I mean, we're reporting the U.S. has 3,400 cases. But in many cases, people with symptoms are not being tested unless they're admitted to the hospital or other circumstances like that. How -- how does that skew the real number of positives in the U.S.? I mean, is 3,400 even close to an accurate representation of spread in the U.S.? And if people with symptoms aren't being tested, how might that accelerate the spread?
KO: Well, that's an important point, Mr. Holmes. You know, the -- the -- certainly, the number of people who are infected are much larger than what we're detecting. Given -- particularly given the nationwide shortage of tests.
[00:15:11] And the second issue is that the number of cases that people are symptomatic here in New Haven, we have people calling in, you know, endlessly about having symptoms and not being able to have access to tests.
So surely, the numbers we are having, and once we get these tests online, we will see large increases in, actually, the number of people who are -- actually have the disease here.
If the U.S. is, let's say, ten days behind Italy in terms of progression, and Italy is having stunning increases in cases and deaths, what is the risk to the medical system being overwhelmed: not enough beds, enough health care professionals and so on?
KO: Well, we've seen how that's played out in Italy. And that's certainly our concern. We're going to, you know, perhaps see that play out in several countries in Europe.
There's still time for us to do what we need to do. That is rolling out tests, isolating patients, in addition to the social distancing that needs to be done.
These are -- really, we need to -- these are hard measures. We have to actually -- it takes work to do this. And this takes an emergency response. And these things need to be done now, rather than waiting until, you know, 10 days from now.
HOLMES: Yes. I'm wondering, you know, is this going to potentially be a giant advertisement when it comes to universal health care? I mean, there are millions, 27 million people, I think, in the U.S. who are uninsured and could be bankrupted by an ICU stay or a regular stay? Do you think that that makes the whole idea of covering everyone in a scenario like this, or just generally, even more important?
KO: That's the question. The broader question that I think we need to certainly, you know, reflect on after the epidemic. But right now, I think the major issue is leave no one in the United States behind, whether they're elderly, because of their health or economic status. Also including immigration status, whether they're citizens or not. We're going to get behind this epidemic, we really need to cover and provide health care not only to all, but also public health interventions for all.
HOLMES: It's a very good point, too. Those undocumented people in the -- in the U.S. as well. That's a very good -- very good point. Dr. Albert Ko, thank you so much. Appreciate you joining us.
KO: Thank you very much, Mr. Holmes.
HOLMES: We're going to take a short break. When we come back, in Italy, the death toll from the coronavirus jumping dramatically again. But in one region, the number of new cases appears to be stabilizing, some good news?
We'll have details on whether the nationwide lockdown is making a difference when we come back. Also, modeling a virus-appropriate greeting at their first one-on-one
debate. Joe Biden and Sanders face off on coronavirus strategy.
HOLMES: Welcome back. Italy has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus deaths, Italian officials reporting at least 368 new deaths in just the last 24 hours.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Rome with more on how the country is dealing with the outbreak.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was another day of tragedy for tragic records here in Italy, both in terms of the number of new cases -- more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus announced over the course of the last 24 hours -- and in terms of deaths. More than 350 new deaths recorded over the course of the last 24 hours here, nationwide.
That suggests that the outbreak has yet to be under control. It suggests that these extraordinary measures that have been taken nationwide, a country under lockdown, people confined to their homes, the economy at a standstill, those extraordinary measures, taking time to bear effect in terms of the number of cases rising, and the number of new deaths.
Now, the prime minister, when he announced these -- this lockdown last week, had said it would take some time to bear its fruit. And that is being borne out by these latest numbers.
One glimmer of hope from the very north of the country, in those very small localities where the lockdown was announced three weeks ago, where these things were put in place around the 10 villages and towns where the outbreak had first been declared, there we are seeing a stabilization in the number new cases. And that is good news. It suggests that if people are patient, if they can stand by these new measures, things might change nationwide. And that is what authorities are looking for.
In the meantime, another day of people being confined to their homes, of singing at their balconies at about 6 p.m. It's become something of a tradition. Every day, they come out on their balconies to make some noise; to play an instrument if they can; to sing a song, if they can; to bang a saucepan if they can't. Just to make clear that they're still there, and that they're seeking some kind of connection with each other.
There is a psychological toll that's being borne by people in Italy here at the moment. And yet, a sense of understanding that these measures, these sacrifices, are necessary. It could be another couple of weeks before we see the real changes that we're looking for, and this is something that so many countries are looking at. Not only European countries, but also the United States, to see how long it takes for these extraordinary measures to bear their fruit.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Rome.
HOLMES: Well, Hong Kong is telling citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Ireland, U.K., and the U.S. and making it mandatory for those who have visited these countries in the past 14 days to self- quarantine.
Beijing is going one step further, making the 14-day quarantine mandatory for all international travelers arriving at the Chinese capital.
Quarantine rules are a direct effect on Chinese students studying abroad. CNN's Paula Hancocks talked to two of them.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sierra Luo looks back on her first semester at Australia's University of Melbourne with fondness. A Chinese student stuttering her master's in international journalism, she feared she wouldn't be able to return.
Luo was on lockdown in Hubei province in China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, when we first spoke to her. Visiting her family for lunar new year, she was trapped for weeks. She said her father went out every three days to buy food, and that's it.
(on camera): So when's the last time you went outside?
SIERRA LUO, STUDENT: One month ago.
HANCOCKS: You haven't been outside for one month?
LUO: Yes. My parents told me that it is better to stay at home.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): Luo did manage to leave Hubei on February 22 with special permission, spending two weeks in Thailand before arriving back in Australia Thursday.
Australia requires students to spend fourteen days outside of China before entering.
Luo says she's so excited to be back in Melbourne finally, but also wonders how long the university will stay open, given cases are also rising in Australia.
Dozens of U.S. universities announced they're shutting their doors, many offering online courses instead.
Angi She is a sophomore at one of Seoul's Yonsei University, one of the elite schools in the country. Currently in Beijing, she's deciding whether to come back to Seoul for the postponed start of term. Universities here are doing online classes only to stem the spread of the virus.
(on camera): Do you have any concerns about coming to South Korea? Because obviously, there's many cases here now, as well.
ANGI SHE, STUDENT: In the beginning of the vacation, we were worried about not being able to go back, considering that things in China are so serious, but now I'm kind of worried to go back.
HANCOCKS (voice-over): Having to self-isolate for 14 days, when she arrives in Seoul, she says many of her friends are choosing to stay in China.
SHE: I think I will probably go back, because, like, all my classes, I think -- like, in China, there's like, a lot more restrictions on, like (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and YouTube and those, like, stuff. Websites. So if I have online classes, it might be easier for me to, like, have it in Korea.
HANCOCKS: She is also assuring the planned two weeks online learning will end up being a lot longer.
Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.
HOLMES: Well, both U.S. Democratic presidential candidates are calling for more government action on the pandemic. Coming up, how Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders differ on what should be done. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Time to update you on the top stories this hour.
The U.S. Federal Reserve slashing its target interest rate to nearly zero. It's a move meant to soften the impact of the coronavirus and ward off a recession. The pandemic sent U.S. stocks into a bear market last week for the first time in more than a decade. That means they've dropped at least 20 percent from their recent highs. Dow futures down more than 4 percent at the moment.
Coronavirus screening are creating massive delays at airports across the U.S. Travelers returning from abroad say they have waited for hours and hours at security checkpoints, as only a small number of airports are set up for enhanced screenings. They're part of the White House's recent travel restrictions.
The U.K. has asked the United States and Cuba to find a suitable port for a cruise ship being held offshore in the Bahamas. The M.S. Braemar is one of at least three cruise ships around the world with coronavirus cases on board. It's been refused entry at several ports in the Caribbean.
Well, the coronavirus pandemic dominated the debate between the two main Democratic presidential candidates on Sunday, as you might imagine. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders -- you can see it here -- bumping elbows and stood fire part on the stage, underscoring the evolving restrictions imposed in the U.S. to try to contain the spread of the virus.
Now the debate's location shifted to CNN's Washington studio. There was no audience, both men calling for much more aggressive government action to mitigate the pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will take care of those who ends back are exposed or likely to be exposed to the virus. And that means we have to do testing. We have to get the testing kits up and ready. I would have the World Health Organization -- I'd take advantage of the test kits they have available to us, even though the president says a million or more are coming. Let's just get all the tests we can get done as quickly as we can.
Secondly, I would make sure that every state in the union had at least ten places where they had drive-through testing arrangements. I would also, at this point, deal with the need to begin to plan for the need for additional hospital beds. We have that capacity in the Department of Defense as well as -- as well as with the FEMA.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to move aggressively to make sure that every person in this country who has the virus, who thinks they have the virus, understands they've got all the health care that they need, because they are Americans; that we move aggressively to make sure that the tests kits are out there, that the ventilators are out there, that the ICU units are out there; that the medical personnel are out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Well, Thomas Gift joins us now from Palo Alto in California. He' s a lecturer in political science at the University College London.
Good to see you, sir. Let's start with coronavirus before we go into the debate. I mean, on Sunday, the president spent the beginning and the vast majority of his comments on the Fed rate cut and how the economy of Wall Street would be happy, not the virus. It speaks to how he's handling this, doesn't it?
THOMAS GIFT, POLITICAL SCIENCE LECTURER, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Absolutely. I think that the primary criticism of Trump amid the coronavirus is that he spent more time trying to change topics and downplay its impacts then seriously addressing the problem.
And so basically, the charge is that he is more concerned with the optics, like keeping the economy afloat and trying to avoid alarm, than he has been concerned with getting trained experts in key decision-making posts and developing appropriate response measures.
So I think some of that has begun to change. We've seen some improvements of late. But I think what Americans want right now is strong leadership that includes assertive actions to curve the spread of the coronavirus rather than kind of focusing on some of these other issues, which is the core issue.
HOLMES: Yes, it seemed -- It was quite bizarre. He seemed almost happy as she was talking about the Fed rate cut, which as we were saying Wall Street doesn't seem to like at the moment, with futures down four and a half percent.
The other thing that was bizarre to date, as all this unfolds, it was to see the president tweeting about, believe it or not, Hillary Clinton's emails. And you know, you had Senate Majority -- Minority Leader Schumer's comments about the Supreme Court.
And then he tweeted about whether he would pardon his former national security advisor Michael flint. These were just coming out, it just seemed like a poor effect to deflect while the nation's in the middle of a health crisis. It was bizarre.
GIFT: Absolutely, Michael. I mean, here we are having a global health pandemic, and the president seems to be focused on anything but these issues. And as you said, it's basically a deflection.
All these issues are peripheral to the main question right now in Washington. And in many ways, I think it is disappointing just to see the lack of leadership and the lack of responsibility that the president is taking amid this very serious problem.
HOLMES: Let's talk for minute about the Democratic debate. A big night for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. I mean, how did you see it going?
GIFT: Well, my sense is that Biden won the debate tonight. And I think that's primarily because he accomplished what he set out to do.
And that was, first, to do no harm, to keep his momentum going, to avoid any gaffes, and basically to present himself as the presumptive nominee who's ready for the next stage.
You know, it almost seems like Biden has now started to pivot toward the general election. And I think his focus increasingly is trying to coalesce Democrats, to get them on his side. Basically, trying to make the case that, you know, it's time now to unite as a party.
Of course, we still have the big primaries upcoming, but the delegate mass as it is right now does look very encouraging for Biden. So it makes sense that he would take that approach.
HOLMES: We did see a little bit more -- not completely yet but a little bit more of a pivot now from the candidates criticizing each other, which was, you know, almost like a circular firing squad when there were more candidates.
We're seeing, especially tonight, more going after Donald Trump. I mean, Bernie Sanders minced no words when it came to how the president is handling the coronavirus. In fact, we've got some sound. We'll play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: First thing we have got to do, whether or not on I'm president, is to shut this president up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people. It is unacceptable for him to be blabbering with unfactual information, which is confusing the general public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: That's pretty strong stuff. We're likely to see more of that from the candidates now. Bernie Sanders is going to stay in for a little while, anyway. You think it's going to turn more to Donald Trump?
GIFT: I think absolutely. And that's typically what we see as we near the end of these primaries, whoever the candidate who ultimately gets the nomination is. And it's looking like that's going to be Joe Biden. He's going to try to move to the center. He's going to try to focus most of his attention on the president, and given that the coronavirus really is the issue right now, it's not surprising that we saw this.
HOLMES: Right. And just very quickly, 27 million Americans uninsured during a national health crisis, facing staggering bills if they do need hospital treatment. Does that make Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all universal health care more of a talking point this election year?
GIFT: Yes, it's really interesting, because Sanders was trying to make the case that the health challenges the country has experienced in responding to the global pandemic reflects structural problems in the U.S. system. And his response, of course, is that Medicare for all would help shore up some of those weaknesses in the infrastructure.
It was interesting to hear Biden's response, which you know, he basically said, Italy was just one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak right now. Actually does have a single payer system. And so he was essentially arguing that what the United States needs right now, isn't just a revolution. Rather, it's more competence, more resources directed in the way they need to.
So ultimately though, the one point that both candidates could agree on is the Trump administration's current response has been inadequate.
HOLMES: Yes. Italy's health system is under stress, but at least their people aren't going to be stuck with half a million in hospital bills if they've treated.
Thomas Gift, always a pleasure. Good to see you.
GIFT: Thanks so much, Mike.
HOLMES: Thank you.
And a reminder. You can see a replay of the U.S. Democratic presidential debate in its entirety. That begins about 20 minutes or no from now, right here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Welcome back. Tom Hanks appears to be recovering from his coronavirus diagnosis, although there's a story to be told. Australians are worried about him for an entirely different reason as he continues to remain in isolation with his wife Rita Wilson.
And that's all because of his post on social media. We'll show it to you now.
You can see there is a stuffed kangaroo holding the Australian flag. So far, so good. But the quintessentially Australian spread Vegemite on toast is in the photo, as well.
Now, as an Australian, I can tell you Vegemite is a national treasure, but this is not how any Australian would eat it. It is way too thick, Tom. And that made for some hilarious replies on Twitter. And if you're on Twitter, go check them out.
Among them, one user named Julie, who posted this graphic, explaining how to correctly spread Vegemite, the right amount to use. I mean, Aussies were more worried about Tom's Vegemite technique than the coronavirus.
I have to agree with them. Tom Hanks, if you're watching, give me a call. I'll sort you out.
Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. WORLD SPORT is coming up next.