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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is Interviewed about Relief Bill in Congress; Death Toll Rises in Italy; People Helping During Virus Outbreak; Gupta Answers Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 16, 2020 - 08:30   ET



SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): There today and we have to get this done.

Now, there's some issues with the legislation. There's some technical issues that need to be fixed, but we would like to see it much bigger when it comes to sick leave. Just listening to Daniel's story and seeing his lovely daughter and thinking about their family at home, there's going to be a lot of Daniel stories out there. There's going to be a lot of stories about families that are sick, that are under the weather, but are going to survive this, but are going to be missing work. And the first thing that we want to make sure happens is that people can go on with their lives, that they don't lose their apartments or they don't lose their homes and that they're able to still send their kids to school and the like when the schools reopen. And so these are all going to be really important parts of what we do in the Congress.

So we are heading back to look at that bill, to see if we can make some improvements. Speaker Pelosi did everything she could to push the administration to make it as good as possible, but we'd like to make it even better.

And the one piece I'm working on as well is making sure that people can vote at home. Senator Wyden and I are rolling out a bill this week because 16 states it's still hard to vote at home and mail in your ballot and we need to give those states the resources so every state can make it as easy as possible so people can vote ahead of time. That's part of our democracy, too.

BERMAN: What do you think of the states that are holding elections tomorrow? Is this something that should be reconsidered?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, they are holding elections tomorrow. As we know, states have different varying degrees of coronavirus, and so these elections are going forward. And from them, each state will make a decision on a case-by-case basis. I'm heading and looking into the fall as well to make sure that every American can vote.

So I think we all know being at home this weekend, hearing families that are struggling with this, talking to the head of the Mayo Clinic and so many other health care providers, my number one concern, hearing Daniel's odyssey is make -- getting those tests out there.


KLOBUCHAR: People have to know if they have this. And, get this -- get this, John, they should know if they did have it and if they've developed immunities. That would help us so much to know what workers could be back out on the front lines in the health care field, who could give plasma to help other people. That's why expediting tests -- and the work is getting done out there. We just need to get the FDA, which, of course, is overworked, but they have to work with us to get tests, not just swab tests, but tests approved as soon as possible.

BERMAN: Well --

KLOBUCHAR: This was the big, missing problem here.

BERMAN: What changes are you making in your office, Senator?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, we have allowed people to telecommute if they want to. We still have some people -- our state office have not had any incidences, nor has our federal office. But in the federal office buildings there have been issues. So we have some people at work, some people telecommuting. I think just like a lot of places are doing, we are staying open for business. We are on the front line helping constituents.

BERMAN: All right, let's talk politics, Senator Klobuchar --


BERMAN: Because you have endorsed Joe Biden, the former vice president --


BERMAN: In the race for president. And the former vice president made some news last night. So let me play the announcement he made during the CNN debate.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm elected president, my -- my cabinet, my administration will look like the country. And I commit that I will, in fact, appoint a -- I'll 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: Let's take this step by step. How do you feel about that announcement from the former vice president?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think what he says is true, there are a lot of women that would be more than qualified to be president. I personally am not engaging in hypotheticals about this. I think the vice president --

BERMAN: Well, he just -- he just un-hypotheticaled it. He just completely un-hypotheticaled it. He said he is going to pick a woman as vice president. So I'm not accepting that as an answer at this point.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. All right.

BERMAN: I asked you first. But you say -- but you say it's OK. You approve -- just in a general sense, you think it's a good move to say that he will pick, if he is the nominee, a woman as a running mate?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, he clearly knows a lot of the people out there. And as he said on the debate stage, there's many, many women who would be qualified to be vice president. And I think that's a great thing.

I think what you've seen in our history, of course, is that we've seen no woman as president or as vice president. I think you have a future president in Joe Biden who so understands the job of vice president. He did it so well for eight years and has a good sense of the kind of person he's going to be looking for.

BERMAN: One of the things -- one of the things --

KLOBUCHAR: And I was very proud of him in the debate in general. I think he was the president that we need and I think he and Senator Sanders, while they had disagreements, I think you saw a party that, in the end, is going to unite.

BERMAN: One of the things that we heard in the campaign trail a great lot when you were running for president was you said the need to have someone from the middle of the country on the ticket, that someone from the middle of the country say from the state of Minnesota provides an understanding that other people might not have.


How important would that type of understanding be on the Democratic ticket?

KLOBUCHAR: Again, I think the vice president is going to make his own decision. There's a lot of factors that go into it. I do think that he is someone that's going to do well in the Midwest. You could see how he did in the primary in my state, what just happened in Michigan. We are bringing in the Democratic Party right now a coalition of people that is rural, suburban, urban, that says, we want something different in the White House. We don't want this chaos anymore. We want to bring decency and dignity back to the White House. And that's what you've got in Joe Biden.

BERMAN: You're not ruling it out, are you?

KLOBUCHAR: And especially --

BERMAN: You're not ruling it out, right? You're not going to rule it out, correct?

KLOBUCHAR: I -- what I am doing is going back to Washington to do my job. BERMAN: Yes.

KLOBUCHAR: I think you know, John, just hearing the stories out there, what I've heard at home, there's a crisis going on here and I think everyone's got to just do their jobs. And it's not going to be easy for anyone out there, but we've got to be looking out for each other, and that means there's a whole lot of work that's got to be done in Washington and a whole lot of tests that got to be out to the people that need them.

BERMAN: Senator Amy Klobuchar, we appreciate your time this morning.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

BERMAN: We'll let you get back to Washington to do your job. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't press you on that question given what he said last night.

KLOBUCHAR: That is for sure.

BERMAN: All right, I appreciate it. Thanks, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you very much, John.

CAMEROTA: You really un-hypotheticaled it right there.

BERMAN: Well, it was -- she said it was hypothetical. The guy said he's going to -- he's going to ask a woman to be his running mate.

CAMEROTA: And you invented a new word.

Italy's health care system is being pushed to the brink by the coronavirus pandemic. How it compares to the system in the United States, next.



BERMAN: All right, this just in, Italy has reported close to 400 more coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours. That brings the total death toll there to more than 1,800. That's a mortality rate of more than 5 percent.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Rome with more on how their health care system is really, Melissa, being pushed to the brink.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, when you consider that explosion in numbers, that steady rise, record rises day after day, that is, of course, another massive strain on a system that has already been pushed and tested to the limit.

We're expecting another stimulus package to be announced by Italian authorities and in particular a massive injection of cash into that system, which has been holding in a way that is almost remarkable.


BELL (voice over): The pictures become a symbol in Italy of a system in the north of the country that is stretched to its limit. Hospital workers, nurses, doctors, the heroes of the fight against coronavirus, themselves near breaking point.

DANIELA CONFALONIERI, NURSE (through translator): We are united and we will fight this forsaken virus.

BELL: At a hospital in Milan, hallways and offices have been turned into makeshift intensive care units. In Bresha (ph), tents are used to treat the sick, Rome, too, beefing up its capacity.

When he locked down the country, the prime minister explained --

GIUSEPPE CONTE, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We live in a system in which we guarantee health and the right of everyone to be cured.

BELL (on camera): Italy's health care system is facing a challenge like no other. By its nature, this is an epidemic that spikes quickly and in clusters requiring urgent and expensive treatment for some. So far, the system here has delivered free tests, intensive care, emergency treatment, all free of charge. So is Europe's often criticized public health system now showing its true strength?

ALAN FRIEDMAN, ITALIAN-BASED AMERICAN WRITER AND ECONOMIST: See on an x-ray somebody wants to get treatment, they can wait weeks or months for an appointment. That's the inefficiency of national health. But the plus side is that at a time of crisis, the tests for coronavirus are free for everybody. They take care of all their citizens and there's no worrying about insurance.

BELL (voice over): So how does Italy's system stack up against America's private, profit-driven health care system?

First, on capacity, as the crisis hits, the United States has 2.8 hospital beds per thousand people, fewer than Italy's 3.2 beds per thousand people according to the OECD. Then, once the outbreak begins, there's the question of the response. And here the more fragmented American model could make coordination harder.

DR. CARLO PALERMO, HEAD OF ITALY'S PUBLIC SECTORS DOCTORS ASSOCIATION (through translator): To deal with an epidemic which affects the population globally, the response must be centralized, there must be one crisis that gives a unanimous response.

BELL: As infections continue to rise here at record daily rates, Italy is a country where everyone fears getting the virus, but no one need worry about being treated for it.


BELL: Now even if you leave moral considerations aside, in an outbreak like this, it is, of course, in everybody's interest that everyone can get tested, everyone can be treated. But, of course, no system has infinite resources. And what doctors here are warning is that even if they're not going to be obliged to make differences between patients based on their ability to pay, they might start having to make differences between them based on their chances of survival, just given the sheer numbers, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood.

Melissa, thank you very much for that report.

Sometimes people are wonderful, and here in the U.S. people are stepping up to help others get through the coronavirus outbreak.

So CNN's Laura Jarrett, the co-anchor of "EARLY START," joins us with a few of these stories.

What have you found, Laura?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CO-ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Well, Alisyn, sometimes bad times can bring out the best in people and we are seeing that throughout the country right now.

In Washington, D.C., a restaurant is delivering meals to elderly people who are quarantined during the coronavirus outbreak. The owner of the steakhouse Medium Rare tweeted a message last week that if anyone over 70 needed a meal, he would make sure they got one. The response, well, it was overwhelming and they've already delivered more than 100 meals.

In Las Vegas, college student Jay Powell, along with more than three dozen other students in the area, are shopping for groceries and supplies for those unable to leave their homes.


With no delivery fees or extra costs, her program called Shopping Angels plans to keep the operation open even beyond this outbreak.

In North Carolina, families in need are receiving food donated by the Greensboro Coliseum. The sports complex delivered hundreds of pounds of food that would have gone unused after the ACC basketball tournament was canceled. The group's executive director says the amount of food could probably feed a thousand or more children.

American companies are also stepping up to help those affected by the sudden closing of schools and workplaces. We're seeing Comcast, AT&T and Charter all offering free Wi-Fi for 60 days for students and those who are working from home.

U-Haul providing 30-days of free storage to college students who were suddenly forced to move out. So you can see private companies stepping up to try to do their part as we're all sort of struggling with the great unknown.

BERMAN: We're all going to have to step up and help each other.

CAMEROTA: That's what it will take. BERMAN: At a safe distance.


BERMAN: All right, Laura, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta back to answer more of the coronavirus questions that you have sent in. That's next.



CAMEROTA: OK, we've been asking you to send in your questions about coronavirus and, boy, do you have them.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back to answer some of your questions. We'll do this every day.

Sanjay, this comes from Lois in Pittsburgh. Does the pneumonia vaccine given to people 65 and over help to keep Covid-19 patients from developing pneumonia?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lois, unfortunately the -- this vaccine is not going to protect you against this other virus here, the coronavirus, but you should still get your vaccines. I mean you should get your flu shot and get this vaccine. The whole reason is that you want to at least make sure you're not getting sick from those things. And if you do get sick, it will help rule out something else, you know, for your doctors.

BERMAN: So Todd from New York writes, Sanjay, quote, I've seen studies that show that increasing relative humidity of the air may reduce the spread of the viruses via airborne droplets. Is there science behind that?

GUPTA: Yes, well, there's been examples of exactly that. They call this the seasonal variation. Temperatures go up. Humidity goes up. And the viral transmission goes down. One of the best examples? Flu. I mean we see this seasonal variation with flu and we've even seen it with other coronaviruses in the past.

The problem is, like, look, we call this a coronavirus. It's similar to other coronaviruses. But we have no idea exactly how this is going to behave. One thing we do see, and this is good news, is that most of the cases still appear to be in the northern hemisphere of the world, where the weather is cooler and the humidity is lower. But, you know, the next few weeks will really give us the answer to that question.

CAMEROTA: Here's an interesting one from Lisa in Boise, Idaho. What's the best way for handling items shipped to me from opening the cardboard box, the plastic, to all the surfaces of the item? Should I disinfect with soap and water, Lysol?"

I mean, Sanjay, I know you were saying that we don't know how long the virus can stay on surfaces, but it certainly does stay there for some period of time.

GUPTA: Yes, it does. And there's some surfaces that are more likely to allow that virus to be there than others. Cardboard not a very good surface for that because of its porous nature. More solid surface, the virus can live there for even up to a couple of days. Doesn't mean that it's as pathogenic, meaning it's not as likely to actually cause disease. But the best bet is, if you're getting packages like that, just take a wipe, wipe the package, you know, you can open it. After you open it, wash your hands. I mean just assume that things are contaminated and how would you behave if it was contaminated. You can touch it with your hands, but wash your hands afterwards. Don't touch your face.

BERMAN: All right, Kathy from Illinois writes, I've heard that people that get coronavirus will have lung damage even after they recover and their lung capacity will be 40 percent less. She says, is this true?

GUPTA: Well, Kathy, you know, we are learning new things just about every day with regard to this virus. So I think what you're referring to is a study that came out of China, and I've read this study. It was a smaller study, but it did point out that there were these people who were listed as recovered from the virus, so, you know, they were sort of in the recovered category, but when they went back and looked at their lung function, you can measure someone's lung capacity and their lung function, even in the recovered patients in the small populations, it was 20 percent to 30 percent lower. So more shortness of breath when doing the same things that wouldn't give them shortness of breath before, running, walking up stairs, things like that. I don't know if this is going to apply to a larger population or not, but it is worth considering that, look, even for healthy people who recover from this, could there be some longer lasting damage? Even if it's minimal, that may be the case.

BERMAN: Sanjay, can I ask a question that comes from Jane from Boston, who's my mom.

GUPTA: Of course. Yes.

BERMAN: She wants to know how you're doing. Like, she sees you on TV, you know, 11:00 at night, 7:00 in the morning, you know, running around between cities. So is -- you know, do people have to be concerned about how much they press themself and how are you taking care of yourself?

GUPTA: Well, thank you, Jane, and it sounds like Jane talked to my mom recently.

Look -- no, look, I'm doing -- I'm doing fine. I really am. I appreciate the question. This is important. These are important times. And, you know, I'm, as you guys are, I'm all-in on this, 100 percent. You know we -- the information is changing so quickly, and the story is evolving so rapidly. We all need to just be constantly reading and educating yourselves. I'm on the phone all the time with sources because this is really important.


And I think, you know, I got to tell you, I don't think media has probably ever had a more important role to play in the 20 years that I've been doing this. And, you know, we've all covered big stories, but, you know, especially now, because I think there's a cognitive dissonance out there. People are hearing one thing from some sources, another thing from other sources. We got no dog in this race. All we want to do is present the facts and so I appreciate it, Jane, but, you know, and we'll get through this, but we're all-in right now.

BERMAN: Jane says take care of yourself, Sanjay.

GUPTA: I appreciate that.

BERMAN: I say the same.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: Listen, thank you for being with us.

GUPTA: You got it. Of course.

BERMAN: Be sure to download and listen to Sanjay's new CNN podcast "Coronavirus: Fact Versus Fiction." And join Sanjay and Anderson for a new CNN global town hall live on Thursday. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, the coronavirus -- the White House task force is expected to brief reporters in just about an hour. So we are expecting some new guidelines, perhaps on social distancing.

CNN's coverage continues, next.