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Two ER Doctors with Coronavirus; New Coronavirus Treatment Proposal; Biden and Sander's Debate; Fed Slashes Interest Rates; Trump Calls on Americans to Stop Hoarding Supplies. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You know, music, of course, has an incredible healing power. We saw that as well after 9/11 when musicians came together and had free concerts. And I remember that big, televised national concert. It really soothes the soul.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my God, it's giving me chills.

Now, you, of course, understand everything he's saying because you speak fluent Italian.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I do. It was -- it was just beautiful. I think he was singing about pasta and cheese basically, well, and wine.

BERMAN: You see it's an inside -- it's an inside joke.

CAMEROTA: I think I heard veno (ph).

BERMAN: It's an inside joke. I know more Italian than Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: We're going to have to save this for another day.

BERMAN: OK, sorry.

CAMEROTA: But I have a lot to say about this to John.

BERMAN: All right, researchers at Johns Hopkins University say the key to slowing and treating coronavirus may be in the blood of those who have already recovered. More on what could -- could be a potential new treatment method, next.


CAMEROTA: Developing overnight, a new normal in America. The country is shutting down. The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rising to more than 3,400 in 49 states and Washington, D.C.


Sixty-five people here have died and local governments around the country are implementing new rules to stop the spread. The CDC is now recommending a limit on gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. At least seven states have ordered bars and restaurants to close. They're limiting them to just takeout and delivery.

BERMAN: The nation's largest public school system in New York City is shutting down. Thirty-three states have now closed public schools. This will affect 32.5 million students.

Vice President Pence says that new guidelines regarding social distancing, new restrictions will be released today. That's at 10:30 a.m. Stay tuned for that. We're told it will go even beyond the restrictions of gathering of more than 50 people.

CAMEROTA: Also, developing overnight, the American College of Emergency Physicians is announcing that two emergency room doctors are in critical condition this morning with coronavirus.

On a much brighter side, researchers at Johns Hopkins University this morning are presenting a new potential treatment for this virus.

So joining us now to talk about all of this, we have Dr. Peter Hotez, he's the co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, it's great to have you back with us. But I want to start with the alarming news, OK, about the emergency room physicians who are in critical condition with coronavirus as we speak. One of them is a man in his 40s. Now, I thought this virus wasn't supposed to be as dangerous for people under 60 years old. I think a lot of people have sought some sort of solace in that number. Is that not right? And why is somebody in his 40s in critical condition?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: That's right, Alisyn. This is not right. So the Chinese warned us about this. They put up their data. And what we saw was in Wuhan, we had 1,000 health -- frontline health care workers get sick. But the really important number is that 15 percent were severely ill and many in the intensive care unit. The point being that we know the high mortality in older people, but for reasons that we don't understand, frontline health care workers are at great risk for serious illness despite their younger age. Maybe it's due to a higher dose of virus they're receiving. We don't really know. It will take time to study.

But there's nothing more important right now, because if we reproduce in the United States what happened in Wuhan, it's game over. It's lights out. If we have multiple frontline health care workers, ER physicians, nurses go down in this epidemic where a situation where we have colleagues taking care of colleagues in the intensive care unit, there's nothing more destabilizing for the United States. And we have to make this our highest priority.

And I'm looking to the White House now to up this today or tomorrow to emphasize how important that this is because we saw what happened in Dallas with Ebola when those two ICU nurses went down in 2014. If we do something like that again, we know what will happen. This is our weakest link right now in our U.S. response to Covid-19.

CAMEROTA: We hear you sounding the alarm. I mean you couldn't underscore this any more severely.

But you're saying that we still don't know why people on the frontlines develop more severe symptoms. And when you say, if we don't figure this out, it's lights out, just what does that mean?

HOTEZ: That means if you have multiple health care workers unable to take care of patients, we don't really have a backup plan at this point.

Governor Cuomo has talked about bringing in the military. Maybe that will be an option. But you can imagine how destabilizing this is. So we have to do something to give frontline health care workers an extra level of comfort.

And there's multiple thing that we have to do. One of them is this antibody therapy approach, the idea being that you --

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's get to that. Let's get to that because I know that that's something that you brought up on Friday, got our attention. Certainly when somebody begins talking about treatment. And it's happening, it sounds like, more quickly than people had anticipated this morning. Johns Hopkins, I believe, university is announcing, or hospital, is announcing that they may be able to come up with some sort of treatment, just in layman's terms, if you could explain how it might work.

HOTEZ: Yes, sure. So what you do is you harvest serum from patients who have recovered from the illness. We call it convalescent serum that has high levels of antibody against the virus. You process the serum, the antibodies in a blood bank and you can package that as either a treatment for severely ill patients or profilaxis for health care workers and first responders with a small -- much smaller dose. So the idea is to try to create a network of 20 medical centers that have the capability of doing this. But we need some federal guidance right now and guidelines in order to be able to send serum back and forth across state lines.


We need it to have the FDA involved in order to evaluate how this is going. And we need funds, we need -- we need resources mobilized for blood banks that are doing this. And we don't really have that in place right now. So that's got to be a top priority. And that's one of the -- from my perspective, one of the key elements to making our health care workers feel secure and going to work, because we don't -- if we don't have this, as I can't mention enough, this is the most destabilizing component right now of our U.S. response to Covid-19.

CAMEROTA: And is it true that that, in 1918, that the treatment that you're describing helped stave off some of the Spanish flu?

HOTEZ: We think so. The data, you know, it's a bit mixed. But, remember, back then we didn't have the techniques that we have now to actually measure the amount of antibody, regulated it better, really understand exactly what we're doing. Now we have, of course, many more sophisticated methods to do this at a much higher level.

So it's not very expensive. We have the technology to do it right now. There's no reason not to implement it.

CAMEROTA: OK, we know you're calling on the FDA and the Trump administration and the task force to pay attention and to listen to this and to fast track this. We, obviously, will ask them at every opportunity that we get if they're doing that.

Thank you very much, Doctor Hotez.

HOTEZ: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, fresh reaction to the first two- person debate of the primary season. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden touching elbows, taking on coronavirus and each other, next.




SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first we have got to do, whether or not 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 un-factual information which is confusing the general public.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People are looking for results, not a revolution. They want to deal with the results they need right now. And we can do that by making sure that we make everybody whole who has been so badly hurt.


BERMAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders offering their solutions to the coronavirus pandemic during their first one-on-one debate. Look, it may be the only one-on-one debate. It was held without a studio audience. And instead of shaking hands, the two septuagenarians greeted each other with this elbow bump, which is a good message to send, frankly.

Joining us now, CNN political correspondent MJ Lee and CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon.

I have never watched a debate like this before. We're -- it's just through a totally different prism, right?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. BERMAN: You're in the middle of a crisis and really what you want to know is what they're going to do about it, John. So, how did you see it?

AVLON: Look, this was a debate that reminded us that this is no ordinary time. This is a debate about big things. A pandemic occurring in real time. The candidates being asked, what would you do as president? Would you call in the military? What kind of a constructive role could they play in terms of building hospitals? Also about big things like climate change, about the deep differences in the Democratic Party, also between a Democratic socialist and a mainstream progressive.

So this was a big ideas debate. Bernie came out harder and hotter than I think a lot of people expected. This is not a guy who wants to go quietly into that good night. And Biden really was making this -- laying a stake to say, I'm the guy who could be president tomorrow. You can trust me at a time of crisis.

CAMEROTA: And let's talk about that because this is -- this is a crisis. It's also an opportunity for the candidates to present themselves as presidential and to -- a stark contrast to President Trump, who's been giving misinformation. And so is there a sense today of who did that last night?

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I thought last night, particularly the discussion in the beginning about the coronavirus, really helped lay out and illustrate the different political philosophies between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, right? The fact that Joe Biden continued to say results now, results now, results now over Bernie Sanders' political revolution message, I mean that was not an accident, right? The message that he was trying to send was a message geared towards voters who might be increasingly worried that the time for a political revolution and big sweeping changes, that time is not now. That is why he kept talking about -- I mean, to your point, trying to sort of illustrate this image of somebody who can take on the presidency and go into the White House, you know, tomorrow and pick up the duties of the office right now.

And I think what we have seen over the last week, I mean with the address that Joe Biden gave to the country, I mean all of this is sort of geared towards sending a message to voters and saying, you know what, in the alternate universe, where I am president, this is what the country would look like and feel like.

BERMAN: I will say that Bernie Sanders was the same Bernie Sanders that he has been for decades, which is why some people love him, right? Some people don't. But some people love the fact that no matter what the moment, no matter what the crisis, he's going to revert back to his movement in the policies that he's pushing, like Medicare for all.

I want to play what was unthinkably -- or, you know, or unquestionably the biggest political moment of this debate where Joe Biden clearly planned to make this announcement.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm elected president, my cabinet, my administration will look like the country. And I commit that I will, in fact, appoint a -- I'd pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president.


BERMAN: He's hinted this, but he flat out said it, MJ.

LEE: You know, Bernie Sanders was standing six feet away from Joe Biden, but I was so struck last night by how much Joe Biden is already running in a general election. The fact that he made this commitment about choosing a female VP nominee, and clearly, as you said, took the debate stage with the intention of making this big news. And a couple of the other comments that he has made over the last week about how he sees himself as the bridge to the future generation of political talent and also the efforts that he has made to adopt the policies that have been championed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the bankruptcy bill, Bernie Sanders' proposal on free college tuition.


All of these things are about sending a message of, I can broaden my base and, by the way, these are the people that I'm speaking to as I prepare to become the nominee for the Democratic Party.

AVLON: Yes, no question, he's making a real effort to unite the party, to unite the two wings. There may be some baggage that comes with adopting those policies. But from his coronavirus speech just several days ago, which was a presidential speech showing somebody with deep familiarity with government, about here's the way America could respond with international leadership in the world, he's presenting himself as a frontrunner. Obviously that's a huge announcement. He's teased this before. He's said that he wants to appoint an African- American woman to the Supreme Court before. But announcing outright that you're going to appoint a woman on the ticket as a VP is a very big deal and it's a part of a pivot to the general.

BERMAN: And was a contrast too.

CAMEROTA: But isn't also a no-brainer? Doesn't --

AVLON: For him politically?


AVLON: Sure.

CAMEROTA: I mean it a no-brainer and also doesn't Bernie Sanders need to say the same thing?

BERMAN: It is.

LEE: But it wasn't a no-brainer for Bernie Sanders. He was pressed on it by our Dana Bash --

AVLON: That's right.

LEE: A couple of times and then he eventually said, I probably most likely will do that.

AVLON: Right.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting.

LEE: So not -- so not a guarantee.

CAMEROTA: MJ, John, thank you both very much.

OK, U.S. stock futures plunging after the Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates to nearly zero. What you need to know about the economy this morning. That's next.



CAMEROTA: OK, it's time for "CNN Business."

The Federal Reserve taking an extraordinary step on Sunday night to calm recession fears, but overnight U.S. markets are down sharply again.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.

What do you see there?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's even worse than that. That S&P number is more like 5 percent down now. The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, you guys, to near zero. It announced up to $700 billion in asset purchases to support the economy during this pandemic.

Now, President Trump has, of course, repeatedly attacked the Fed and -- pushing it to cut rates. Sunday he said the move is great for the country.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It makes me very happy. And I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve.


ROMANS: Markets, however, around the world are not happy. The Fed will no longer meet later this week. It had a meeting scheduled for the 18th, but this emergency cut failing to calm investors at all. Just the opposite. Futures dropped 5 percent overnight, hitting what's called limit down, meaning they're not allowed to fall any further until the opening bell at 9:30 Eastern Time. What's wrong here? Well, there are new cases and the economy is

grinding to a halt on purpose to fight the spread of the virus, something that could throw us into a recession. Goldman Sachs downgraded its growth forecast for the U.S. zero percent for the first quarter, down 5 percent in the second quarter, contraction, before bouncing back later this year.

United Airlines slashing its flight schedule by half for the next couple of months. It expects to suffer a $1.5 billion reduction in revenue just in March. American Airlines cutting international capacity by 75 percent until early May. Domestic capacity will be reduced by 20 percent.

The travel industry hit hard by this. Look at the airline industry. United down 52 percent. Cruise stocks are tumbling. Norwegian down 81 percent. Avoiding public places will hurt sales at restaurants, retailers, malls and other public venues and could idle millions of Americans who work there. In short, a stopped economy cannot grow and that is something that lower interest rates -- lower interest rates won't stop the virus. That is the bottom line there. It could help the financial system in creeky (ph) parts of the lending market. But we still have a lot ahead of us here.

BERMAN: Yes, you know, economists like Mark Zandy are saying it will take a stimulus four times the size and scope of what they're even discussing right now on \Capitol Hill.

Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Grocery stores across the country racing to restock this morning after Americans rush to buy food, toilet paper, for some reason, and hand sanitizer and other essentials. The shelves, you can see in some cases, completely bare.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich live in New York outside a store with the very latest.

We are seeing this everywhere, Vanessa.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Many Americans went to the grocery store this weekend trying to stock up on food and they were met with empty shelves. No bread. No milk. Pasta running low. Toilet paper running low.

And this is really because Americans are now buying at three to four times the rate that they normally do. And now the supply chain is trying to catch up.

Now, the president held a conference call with some of the CEOs from the biggest grocery stores around the country to try to, you know, talk to them about what's going on, understand their concerns. Here's what the president said just yesterday about that call. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going to work 24 hours around the clock keeping their stores stocked. I would like to say that people shouldn't go out and buy -- we're going to all be great. We're going to be so good.

But you don't have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax. People are going in and they're buying more than I remember I guess during the conversation Doug of Walmart said that they're buying more than they buy at Christmas. Relax. You're doing great. It all will pass.


YURKEVICH: And this is playing out in real time right here at this Morton Williams on the upper east side of Manhattan. Here's what they've been able to get in this morning. But this is not exactly the amount that they ordered. They ordered about double this. But this was all they were able to get in this morning to restock these shelves.

So, the owner of this grocery store really asking Americans, if you could just buy what you need, save some for your neighbors so they can try to keep the shelves in this grocery store stocked as much as they can as they are waiting for the supply chain to catch up.


CAMEROTA: Vanessa, thank you very much for giving us a view from the street level there in New York.

Meanwhile, big developments this morning in the coronavirus crisis.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than 3,000 people in this country are now infected with the potentially deadly coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very contagious virus, but it's something that we have tremendous control over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be overwhelmed.