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U.S. Fed Slashes Interest Rate to Zero; Businesses Adapt to Fight Spread of Coronavirus; Senate to Take Up Coronavirus Aid Bill. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: In the east. A reality is setting in. Americans are thinking twice about being in crowded places because of coronavirus. This is unknown territory we're in with no end in sight and so, like "Times Square" in New York, the country is shutting down. The CDC now recommends canceling all events with 50 or more people across the United States for eight weeks.

The White House point-person on coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence says new guidelines on curfews and social distancing will come out later today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: All of this reaching into everyday life beyond work. Religious services, birthday parties, the gym, mass transit, restaurants, Spring break and schools, more than 32 million public schools students now at home, that's nearly two-thirds of public school students. New York City now added to the list until at least April 20th.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK STATE: We're dealing with a lot of unknowns and a lot of challenges. And we understand how difficult it will be to achieve that goal. I have been very honest about the fact that there is a real possibility that by closing our schools now, we may not have the opportunity to reopen them in this full school year.


JARRETT: But concerns have also been growing that not enough people were heeding warnings to avoid big crowds. So, now governors of five states, Washington, California, Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts have ordered bars, restaurants and wineries all closed in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The mayors of major cities including New York imposing similar restrictions hours after the nation's top infectious disease specialist said this.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see in restaurants and in bars. Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I'd like to see. The virus isn't a mathematical formula. There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill.


JARRETT: In some cities, you can still get delivery and take up its staff like the waiters and bus boys will lose some or all of their income indefinitely.

ROMANS: Members of the White House coronavirus task force are divided over whether further steps are necessary, like federal restrictions on domestic travel or some kind of a national lockdown. Now, the president tried to address concerns last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 over.


ROMANS: Tremendous control, the president says, even as the case count and the death toll mounts. Minutes later Dr. Fauci seems to disagree with the president.


FAUCI: 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.


JARRETT: Dr. Fauci also indicated, he would support a national lockdown to stop the spread of the virus and so-called flatten the curve. That's a strategy behind all of the cancellations and closures we're seeing nationwide. It's about a socially conscious effort to reduce the burden on the health care system, which could be swamped by a sudden surge in coronavirus cases. Health care groups are already raising concerns about supply shortages during the pandemic.

ROMANS: All right, another emergency interest rate cut. The Federal Reserve slashed rates to near zero to support the economy during the pandemic. President Trump of course has repeatedly attacked this Fed, demanding that it cut rates. Sunday, he said the move is great for the country.


TRUMP: It makes me very happy, and I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The Fed will no longer meet later this week as scheduled. It

had a meeting for the 18th. This emergency rate cut by the way failed to calm investors, just the opposite. Futures dropping 5 percent overnight, hitting limit down, meaning it can't fall any further. In Asia, declines for the markets there, by the time they close, European shares have opened and they are dramatically lower.

Look, the U.S. economy, the global economy grinding to a halt on purpose to fight the spread of coronavirus, something that could throw the U.S. into a recession. Goldman Sachs downgraded its U.S. growth forecast 0 percent. No growth for the first quarter and a 5 percent contraction for the second quarter.

United Airlines is slashing its flights schedule by 50 percent for the next two months, American Airlines cutting international capacity by 75 percent until early May. Nike, Urban Outfitters and more retailers are temporarily shutting their doors, but stressed their online stores would stay open. Disney is closing all of its stores, starting tomorrow, its hotels and resorts will close on Friday.

Despite panic, there is plenty of food in the U.S. Wal-Mart is shortening hours at all of its stores until further notice. The shorter hours will help employees re-stock shelves overnight and clean the stores. Publix and Stop and Shop have also changed their hours.


JARRETT: The Senate is expected to take up a Coronavirus Aid Bill that passed in the house early Saturday morning. The measure provides two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave for workers affected by the virus. We'll also expand federal funding for Medicaid to support health systems -- health care systems in hard-hit communities.

The bill does have an exemption for businesses with 500 employees or more. And companies with fewer than 50 employees can apply for an exemption. That means as few as 20 percent of workers may be covered. A Democratic source tells CNN, the compromise was necessary just to have something rather than nothing. But it's certainly not what Vice President Pence or Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been touting.

ROMANS: All right, chaos, a mad house, that's how travelers described the scene at airports as they returned from overseas to the U.S. this weekend. Scores of people were packed into overcrowded lines waiting up to 5 hours at the airport for coronavirus screenings. The close quarters is exactly the opposite of the social distancing being preached by health officials.

JARRETT: All the chaos at airports stems from the restrictions President Trump announced last week on travelers from 26 European countries. The U.K. and Ireland are now being added to that list. Students coming in from Poland say they faced long lines and mass confusion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN HAYES, STUDENT: 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. No information at all.


JARRETT: Some of the biggest issues were in Chicago at O'Hare, one of the 13 airports doing enhanced screening.


CHAD WOLF, ACTING DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We did make the necessary adjustments at 12 of the funneling airports. However, again, at Chicago, those adjustments were not made quick enough. But we have of course corrected. We've adjusted our processes, we continue to search personnel, and we are certainly glad to see certain airports and certain airlines step up, partner with us and help address this unprecedented situation.


JARRETT: U.S. Customs and Border Protection says its increased staffing at some airports, and that wait times for travelers were lower on Sunday. A programming note here, join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for another CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS" live, Thursday night only on CNN.

ROMANS: Right, the fallout from all of this in all corners of the globe. Bars closed in Ireland, empty streets in major cities. CNN has reporters around the world next.



ROMANS: All right, at this hour, there are more than 153,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide with Europe now the epicenter of the crisis. In Ireland, the government is calling on pubs to close. It's asking the public not to participate in any parties on the eve of St. Patrick's Day. And the Vatican has canceled all its Easter Week celebrations and masses to curb the spread of the virus.




ROMANS: With Italy quarantined, one tenor and opera singer wanted to give people hope and joy. Mauricio Mancini(ph) went to his balcony and serenaded the town of Florence. The death toll in Italy is climbing quickly. Officials announcing 368 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the current total to 1,809. Joining us live from Rome with the latest, CNN's Melissa Bell. Melissa?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was, Christine, another day of sad record rises, both in terms of the number of extra cases announced yesterday and tragically in the number of extra deaths. You played a moment ago that extraordinary moment of song. That is something that is taking place now in Italy every day, about 6:00 p.m. people go to their balconies.

When they sing -- they speak accurately, go there -- they sing, they play an instrument, they bang their saucepans, if it's all they have, they make some noise to seek some sort of connection. There are extremely emotional moments. And I think it tells you one week after this extraordinary lockdown was announced, Christine, the psychological toll that it is taking on a population that understands why it is necessary.

You see them queuing up with that social distancing outside the supermarkets. Some of the only businesses that are now opened, really respecting what they've been told because they understand that it is crucial that this outbreak be brought under control. Clearly, that is not yet the case. We're watching those numbers very carefully.

They continue to rise extremely fast, putting under strain the country's public health system which is trying to treat people in what is an emergency. This is an epidemic that by definition spikes fast and in clusters. And that is an extraordinary toll for any health system to bear. Hence, this extraordinary lockdown.

The under -- the fear of course -- and I think the lesson for neighboring countries and possibly the United States is that once the outbreak hits, and you take these kind of measures, it is -- you are in for the long haul. It takes some time for these measures to take the kind of effect that authorities are hoping that they will. Christine?

ROMANS: All right, Melissa Bell for us in Rome where the streets are empty, remarkable. Thank you, Melissa.

JARRETT: All right, meanwhile, France taking drastic new containment measures after announcing 300 people infected with coronavirus are in intensive care, half under the age of 60. CNN's Jim Bittermann is live for us in from Paris. Jim, really drastic measures taken this weekend, folks have to be feeling the toll.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. In fact, the restaurants and bars were taken totally by surprise. I was in a restaurant Saturday night when the -- but the owner came by in shock and said, we're going to have to close and you're going to be the last customers. All right, and it has taken a lot of people by (AUDIO GAP: 00:14:40-45) Sunday was voting day here in France.

But a lot of people were out voting, it was also a sunny day. Everybody was just upset about that, and so now they're considering even more (AUDIO GAP: 00:14:55-58) that you are seeing early that the (AUDIO GAP: 00:15:00-04).


Maybe what's coming here from France, they are now up to 5,423 cases and 127 deaths. The Director General of the French Health Service said this morning by radio that the epidemic is very worrying, it's deteriorating very quickly. They're very quick, and then we see that in a number of cases now doubles every three days. Laura?

JARRETT: All right, Jim Bittermann coming from Paris. Thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, to Germany now where they are taking drastic action to contain the spread of the virus, enforcing border controls to the west, the north and the south. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live for us this morning on the German-Polish border. Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christine. This is another one of the hot spots where the Poles have actually closed down their borders to Germany. I'm not sure if you can see behind me, there's a big border control over there, all cars with Germans in them are being turned back. And that as you can imagine has led to massive traffic jams here on this border.

We turn around here, you can see folks, they're already taking people's details. They make them fill out those forms that you see there. There's also guys in hazmat suits are taking everybody's temperature who wants to go across. Now, Christine, as you can see, there's a lot of trucks lined up here as well. We drove here, and for miles, there's trucks lining up at the border.

And that's something that you're going to see on all borders with Germany and generally on a lot of European borders as well where a lot of European countries, the Germans included have put new border restrictions in place. Which means only people have a very good reason to cross the border work commute.

But also cargo traffic can go across. But even that cargo traffic, every single driver of a truck has his temperature taken, every single driver has to fill out a form, and there's also teams here who in case anybody does have a temperature, they can get them out and put them in isolations. So, as you can see, some really drastic measures that are having a huge effect on the economy here in Europe.

You can literally feel that as we stand here on the border as traffic that would normally just go across. Only if you go across here, you wouldn't even know that there's a border right here. And right now, those borders very much in place. And as you can see right here, the cops here really doing their job, you got the Polish army here as well who are taking everybody's details, who are controlling everybody and who are really putting borders up where there haven't been any for years, guys.

ROMANS: Yes, whole new world here. All right, Fred Pleitgen for us on the border there between Germany and Poland. Thanks, Fred.

JARRETT: All right, a new coronavirus case is hitting the NBA and now the New York Yankees. Carolyn Manno has this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT" next.



ROMANS: All right, welcome back. Another NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus, the third confirmed case in the league.

JARRETT: Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT".



MANNO: Good morning, it's been a busy time in sports, and now the Detroit Pistons say that one of the players on their roster tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend. The player was not identified by the team. He has since been isolated since Wednesday and under the care of medical staff. The team also said it's working with public health officials to monitor the situation.

While we don't know how the virus was contracted, the Pistons played the Jazz back on March 7th in Detroit, and days later, Jazz all-stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert did test positive. In the meantime, the New York Yankees are confirming a minor league player is positive for coronavirus. This is the first known case to impact the baseball world. The NBA's first coronavirus patient Rudy Gobert says he is getting better, and he is hoping that others will avoid making the mistakes that ultimately led to his situation.


RUDY GOBERT, CENTER, UTAH JAZZ: It's all about protecting yourself and the people around you. I wish I would have taken this thing more seriously and I hope everyone else will do so because we can do it together.


MANNO: Gobert came under fire last week for downplaying the severity of the virus while touching media microphones just two days before finding out that he had in fact tested positive. Across the sports landscape, players and organizations are helping those hit financially by the virus. Cincinnati Reds pitchers Trevor Bauer and David Carpenter organized a charity sandlot game in Arizona on Saturday, tying that event to a GoFundMe campaign, raising money, football park workers, Houston Texas star J.J. Watt and his wife are donating $350,000 to the Houston food bank.

Warriors star Steph Curry and his wife are also teaming up with the food bank to provide more than 1 million meals to students in Oakland who can't attend schools due to coronavirus shutdowns. And this after NBA rookie Zion Williamson set a very impressive example for the rest of the league late last week, offering to cover the salaries of workers at his home arena for the next 30 days. Cavs forward Kevin Love, the first to announce what became a string of additional pledges from players as well. So, players certainly not fitting into that vulnerable category at all socially, financially, physically of those who were most affected, but they are using their platforms to make donations and do what they can at this time --

JARRETT: It's great to see so many of the players stepping up, especially trying to help out the workers in the arenas --

MANNO: Yes --

ROMANS: I like to see all those donations, but as a reminder, there are so many hourly workers in this country don't have protections. And the strong as the economy was coming into this, you're just that close to --


ROMANS: Being without a paycheck. All right, Carolyn Manno, nice to see you, thank you so much --

JARRETT: Thanks Carolyn. All right, so what does the world look like after coronavirus? And when will we get there? No one really knows. Major changes for social and business life. Some Vegas casinos now closed. Colorado ski resorts are also closed, people looking wherever they can for stability including this florist in Oregon.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's funny how this becomes a bar to a certain extent. People want to talk and be heard. And so everybody is stopping by and they're getting a flower, but also I'm hearing a lot of concerns.



JARRETT: The U.S. and the world are entering a great unknown. No big gatherings, millions home from work and school, bars and restaurants are shut. And another emergency rate cut. So why does the president say this is all under control? We have reports this morning from Rome, Madrid, Shanghai, Jerusalem.