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States Take Drastic Measures To Stop Community Spread; Markets Plunge Despite Fed Slashing Interest Rates; Myths, Misinformation Spread Over Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar and this is CNN's continuing special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

We are seeing unprecedented measures been taken across the country to try and slow the spread of this outbreak. Right now, there are more than 3,800 reported cases in the United States and 68 deaths. But, of course, experts say the actual number is higher because of the slow testing.

New Jersey has become the first state to impose a curfew. Governor Phil Murphy says he wants no non-essential travel between the hour of 8:00 p.m. And 5:00 a.m. And this is a curfew that is indefinite.

New York is closing movie theaters, gyms, restaurants and bars, joining Connecticut and New Jersey, and banning gatherings over 50 people starting tonight.

These are moves that follow the new CDC recommendations that people avoiding gatherings 50 or more for the next eight weeks.

We expect to hear more federal recommendations from the Coronavirus Task Force later this afternoon, and we are also hearing that the Trump administration could recommend nationwide curfew, which would target restaurants and bars.

Now, elsewhere, the Supreme Court will delay hearing, oral arguments and any of their cases for the time being, and the White House announced that they have canceled the annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn.

Then there are school closings. More than 30 million kids, or over half of all American school children, home today and they will be for weeks to come.

And the happiest place on north, well, it is now among the quietest. This is video taken just a short time ago of Walt Disney World in Orlando. All of the Disney parks and nearby Lego Land are closed for at least the two weeks.

Let's go back now to these new CDC recommendations. They say that we all need just stay away from large public gatherings. The CDC is putting that number just 50 people and says that we should stay away for at least the next eight weeks.

I want to bring in CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. And, Elizabeth, there are several states that have really already followed these recommendations. They've closed restaurants, movie theaters, gyms. Is this what the CDC meant, they just want to see this more widely?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. The CDC wants to see gatherings of 50 people or more done, not happening now. And, of course, in restaurants and places like that, that's what happens.

I think there is a bit of a mystery here though, Brianna. There has been no mention of domestic flights being altered or any restrictions on them They don't want -- the CDC doesn't want 50 or more people gathering. Well, airplanes typically have more than 50 people on them.

Yesterday Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House press conference said, expect more guidelines tomorrow, meaning today. It will be interesting to see if they say anything about domestic travel at that press conference this afternoon.

KEILAR: And so where are we on testing now?

COHEN: It's better than it was. That's what we keep hearing. When I talk to doctors across the country, they say it's easier to get the test than it was even a week ago but it is still not where they want it to be. Doctors want to know that if they have a patient that they want to test for coronavirus, that they can do it easily, and the same way, for example, that they might order a flu test. That's not where we are right now, but we are headed in that direction.

KEILAR: All right. Elizabeth, thank you so much for that update. We appreciate it.

This forced social distancing, that's what we are seeing now in states like New York, Ohio and Illinois. We have our Ryan Young who is live for us from Chicago.

And, Ryan, the Illinois governor ordered the closure of restaurants and bars. Tell us about what led to this decision.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Actually, it's all about that social distancing. You've seen some people decide that they did not want to stay away from everybody, they were still going to bars. We came to this district for one reason. When you look down this direction, there are bars and restaurants here. You can see the chairs loaded up all in this direction.

One of the things that we've noticed though is most places now are quite empty. And, in fact, we have been talking to managers who have been telling us they've seen a 30 percent drop off. When you combine that with the fact that St. Patrick weekend was this weekend, and then we are going to see an influx of people, you can see the impact. In Washington State, we know they limit the crowds to just below 50. We know here, they wanted crowds below 250.

The new thing though is, come 9:00, they'll be shutting down some of these restaurants except for carry-out service. And as we have been standing here, talking to folks today, we have seen lines of cars here because all Grubhub delivery guys have been showing up and grabbing the bags and taking them to different locations because, obviously, people still want to eat.

The streets here also are quite clear compared to a normal Monday. We started seeing some of that social distancing in place. And that's a big conversation because, Brianna, I know you've seen it on social media as well, I saw some of it when I was covering the story, people were heading to bars, still hanging out, because they felt like they're not going to get sick.

The new normal seems to be that people are starting to heed some of this caution, but the governors of all these states, Ohio, Illinois and we also see in Washington State, are trying to step in to make sure people are not showing up in these locations, trying to hang out and have a good time despite this public impact.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, I've seen that yesterday morning in Washington, D.C. Ryan, thank you so much, in Chicago.

And if you went to the store this weekend, you probably saw empty shelves, long lines. Just check out this line at a Costco in Marina del Rey, California. People were there snatching up everything, from canned goods to meat, toilet paper, paper towels. Those have been gone in a lot places where people are looking for them.

President Trump relayed the message this weekend from the grocery industry urging people not to panic and not to panic-buy.

Our Vanessa Yurkevich is at a store in New York. And tell us about the message that you are hearing on the supply chain overall, Vanessa.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, the supply chain is definitely slowed but not stopped. There is no food shortage. It's just taking a little bit longer for the supply to catch up with the demand. So what we're seeing here is deliveries that came in early this morning that are still waiting to make their way onto the empty shelves inside of this Morton Williams grocery store here in Manhattan.

But another thing that they are concerned about is people are feeling safe inside the store. They want to make sure that when people are shopping that they're feeling safe. If you take a look in there, the lines are snaking through the store right now and it's not necessarily following CDC guidelines of being around 50 people or less. There is well over 50 people in the store.

So stores are now cleaning hourly. They're disinfecting the handles of the freezer section. They're disinfecting shopping carts. They're disinfecting the keypads that you're going to be making your purchases on. But they're also asking shoppers to take note of how they're feeling. Make sure that if you are not feeling well, please do not come into the grocery store as you're in close quarters with others.

They're asking employees also, if employees are feeling sick, please call out sick and don't come into the store today. But, obviously, Brianna, this is a very strange sort of and unknown and uncertain time. People need food but at the same time people are trying as best they can to follow these social distancing requirements.

But, Brianna, as you can imagine, it's looking like it's very difficult to follow both those rules right now. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, that is certainly true. Vanessa, thank you so much for giving us a look there in New York.

Schools are closed. Restaurants and bars are closed. Stores are closed. Theme parks, casinos, sports arenas, they're all closed. The CDC says we should avoid any gathering of more than people.

So joining me again today to talk about this is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's Dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you again for continuing to give us such important information that our viewers can follow here.

When you look at these CDC guidelines, what do you think? What's your reaction?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DIRECTOR, VACCINE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, thanks for having me. My reaction is that, as you can probably -- as you can tell by today, things have a different look and feel from last week or even the week before from many other previous time. And I mark it as beginning Sunday morning with that very important op-ed written by Governor Cuomo, who pointed out that we may start having to bring in the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Military.

We heard the reports of two physicians, emergency room physicians now in intensive care in serious or critical condition, although there is some confusion whether they actually got infected in the hospital.

So this has a different look and feel and it's feeling more like Italy than maybe ever before. I think the big thing that we are going to have to look for now is we're going to start to see an increase in number of hospitalizations or ICU hospitalizations and that's what I'm looking for currently. And I'm concerned about where we're headed right now.

KEILAR: What about a curfew? What are your thoughts on imposing a curfew?

HOTEZ: Well, I think, right now, we're scrambling to do everything possible to maximize social distancing and to limit the number of -- to limit the surge. The big worry, as we were looking at some of the modeling projections by epidemiologist, and some are talking about a quarter, a third, maybe even more than half the United States population infected with this virus. The thing of modelling is it assumes that there is going to be no intervention, number one. And number two, the model itself can sometimes be off. So whether or not we reach those extraordinary numbers that some of the modelers are predicting or not really depends overwhelmingly on how we did that social distancing now.

But I think the other piece to this is how we really look after our first responders and frontline healthcare workers. Those are two of the population I'm especially concerned about. And I have been talking about some new interventions, including an antibody intervention, where we could give them as prophylaxis to ensure that they remain in the workforce and are kept safe. So these are going to be the big discussions this week.

KEILAR: And just real quickly, because I have other questions about these frontline healthcare responders, how long would that take to basically get antibodies from infected folks and somehow develop some sort of therapy? It's not a vaccine but to give them some sort of protection. How long would that take?

HOTEZ: Right. So we're developing -- we have developed a vaccine and we are now moving that into clinical trials. That's going to be a year or a year-and-a-half away. What we're talking about now is something quite different from a vaccine. As you point out, it's basically harvesting antibodies from the serum of patients who have been infected and then recovered because they developed antibodies.

This is actually not a high-tech solution. Lots of blood banks can do this at either community hospitals or academic health centers to begin. We're looking at potentially a network of 20 academic health centers that would have this capacity. And then maybe we could scale it up.

The problem is we don't have any federal guidance right now. This is all being done by individual academic health centers that are talking at email or on the phone. Places like Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins is leading this and --

KEILAR: So who should be giving you that guidance?

HOTEZ: And then Baylor College.

Well, look -- I'm sorry, what was that?

KEILAR: You are saying you don't have federal guidance. You need federal guidance. What entities should be providing that?

HOTEZ: Well, I'm not even sure I have the answer to that. Clearly, the FDA is going to be very important in terms of regulating whether we need, for instance, what we call the IRB permission. That is a hospital ethical committee to do this on whether we can proceed about some of those strings attached, whether we can send serum across lines. We also need money. So even though it's not technically difficult, the transfusion centers at the blood bank need extra funds, maybe to bring out extra personnel. So there is a lot of questions, a lot of -- a bit of confusion. So I really want to see some federal help at this level because it is the one thing that we can do right now to have an intervention that can be used either as a treatment for older individuals and those who are already sick or in the ICU, they're going to require a lot of antibody but a smaller amount of antibody for our first responders and healthcare workers.

And what I've been saying is the fact that we've got two E.R. docs already in intensive care and seriously ill, that's a wakeup call that we cannot allow this to continue. Otherwise, this is going to be the single most destabilizing aspect of this epidemic.

KEILAR: They're in critical condition. One is just in his 40s, we should mention. Dr. Hotez, thank you so much, especially for talking about these healthcare workers. It's so important. And we will, of course, see you again very soon. Thank you.

So what is it like getting the coronavirus? You are going to hear from one American patient.

Plus, as some governors plead for the military's help, what would enforcement of lockdowns and curfews even look like?

And the markets are plunging again today despite the Fed taking drastic actions on interest rates.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: U.S. markets trading again after being halted at the open, safeguards kicking in after the Dow plunged more than 7 percent. And you can see the Dow right now, down almost 2,000, down over about 1,950 points there.

Late yesterday, the Federal Reserve make a dramatic and unexpected move, dropping interest rates effectively to zero, which is something that President Trump have been urging them to do for weeks. This was his reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very happy. I have to say this, I'm very happy and they did it in one step. They didn't do it four steps over a long period of time. They did it at one step. And I think that people in the market should be thrilled.


KEILAR: Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. I mean, Alison, we're looking here at the numbers. Why didn't the Fed move have more of an impact? I think some folks would wonder. ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Okay. So the Central Bank, Brianna, doing what it did on Sunday, deciding to move interest rates to zero and then pumping in $700 billion into the financial system essentially by buying up mortgage-backed security and government bonds. What that does is it kind of holds up the financial system, it holds up the markets. It also lowers interest rates for businesses. So in these times, when they have to close, those lower interest rates can help them take out loans. So, yes, that's helpful.

But the reason the markets are reacting the way they are is because of the reality is all of these policy moves, they can't cure the virus. One step further than that, the reason we're seeing the markets react like this is because this didn't soothe the markets, this scared the markets.

Consider this, the Fed is supposed to have its meeting, its regularly scheduled meeting beginning tomorrow. So investors are wondering, well, why did the Federal Reserve have to make these extraordinary decisions on a Sunday? The last time they did this outside of a regular meeting, it was during the Financial Crisis.


So investors are spooked. They're wondering if the Fed knows something that they don't know, about the credit markets possibly freezing up. We've seen the Fed pump a lot of money into the financial system, especially last week, and then, again, today. So there's a lot of nervousness. I think this increased the nervousness that much more.

Speaking of nervous, I think the New York Stock Exchange is nervous about who they're letting into the stock exchange. Today, when I walked in, I was greeted by folks taking my temperature instead of people just saying, hello, and kind of sweeping my way in.

KEILAR: Yes. It is the new normal. It will be interesting to see if we see that other places beyond the Stock Exchange. Alison, thank you so much for that.

Meantime, bars and restaurants across the country are shutting down. The hope is that by closing these places, more and more people will just stay home. And that's been the public plea from health officials and government leaders, but not from all of them. Oklahoma's Governor and California Congressman Devin Nunes have actually encourage people to go out so that they support local businesses but to be out at restaurants and bars.

Joining me now is Charles Ornstein. He is Deputy Managing Editor for ProPublica. And, Charles, you write that no matter what some public official say, the message is clear, stay home. Tell us about this.

CHARLES ORNSTEIN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, PROPUBLICA: Yes, that's right, Brianna. I think that the concern right now is that the public is getting mixed messages about what they should do. I think, increasingly, as governors who had to shut down restaurants and schools and gathering places, there is a unified message. But for a couple days there, it was a really convoluted one and some people were actually giving advice that was contradicting to what public health officials were saying.

KEILAR: And just tell us about some of the myths and misinformation that you see've going around. I mean, I have had, you know, friends or family sending me things about Japanese doctors or Stanford experts who say, hold your breath for ten minutes, and if you see tightness in your lungs, that's one way to do self-check. And it turns out that this is not actually -- I mean, look, the idea of being, I think, cognizant of sort of your physical state is probably a good one, but this is not information that you should be hanging your hat on. What are all you hearing?

ORNSTEIN: Yes. I think you've seen the New York attorney general take action against a couple places, including Jim Baker, that were offering online solutions and cures for the coronavirus. There is no cure for the coronavirus. I think you see companies working quickly to try to develop treatments and potential vaccines. But that's a long way out. There are no cures and people who are only to have one (ph) are not correct.

KEILAR: So what does is this mean when people can't -- their hearing all of these different information. How does this affect their ability to know what the truth is, what best practices are, whether or not to stay home or not?

ORNSTEIN: Yes. I think public health officials have told me that when you have one person giving you advice that doesn't agree with everyone else, you're going to listen to that one person. So it's really important that it's a common message.

So what are the things people should be doing right now? Well, first of all, staying home, if you can. Some people can't stay home, they have to work. But if you can stay home, you should stay home.

Secondly, if you start feeling sick, you should call your doctor but you shouldn't just go into an urgent care center or an emergency room. That's not the right thing to do right now, is that you may be exposing other people. You should contact your doctor, your health professionals obviously if you are feeling life-threatening symptoms, shortness of breath or other things. You can call 911 or visit an emergency room. But people shouldn't just be flooding their doctor's offices or urgent care centers right now without consulting them first.

KEILAR: And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier today, he's taking further measures to ensure his residence are safe, because the federal government essentially isn't doing enough. We also just heard from a doctor out of Baylor whose -- this is one of the areas where they are working on a vaccine.

And he is proposing -- and I think a number of hospitals and research facilities are working on antibodies treatment for frontline healthcare workers. But they have concerns about this, right? I mean, ethically, can they be doing this themselves without federal coordination and okay? They need the money to do this kind of thing. So what do you make about this disconnect between states and federal officials and even these universities? ORNSTEIN: Yes, I think that there is a lot of -- the lack of coordination in some ways, is causing alarm among state officials. Governor Cuomo is not the only one who's raised this is a concern. But task force led by Vice President Pence has said, reporting (ph) with the state is important to them. I mean, time will tell.

But as this potentially gets more serious as the number of cases continue to rise as this starts to affect hospitals and intensive care units, that level of coordination is going to have to be much greater and the level of consistent messaging is going to be required and urgent.

KEILAR: So let's -- looking at the White House, as they have this press conferences, and you hear different information coming from the same people in this one press conference, how should they be handling that messaging?


Should it be President Trump says, and, look, this is my person in- charge of this and they speak, and just how should they be handling this?

ORNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, I'm not a crisis communications expert, so it's hard to give them advice. But I think what's key is that people hear common messages. I've gotten a number of emails after I reported about how this is not like the flu, saying that, you know, they trust the president more than they trust the media, and that, this is like a flu.

When the president has said repeatedly, you know, referred to the flu, referred to H1N1, the outbreak from 2009, people are latching on to information to try to discredit what they're hearing from public health officials, in the media. And I think that's really dangerous right now. People need to listen to the messages.

KEILAR: All right. Charles, thank you so much. Charles Ornstein, we appreciate it.

As the U.S. surgeon general warns the U.S. could become the next Italy, we're going to take you to Italy, which just had its deadliest state so far with nearly 400 deaths in one day.

And what is it like living with coronavirus? One Ohio man shares his firsthand account.