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Trump Administration Urges All States To Follow Coronavirus Guidelines; Trump Urges Americans To Work From Home For At Least 14 Days. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 13:00   ET



REPORTER: Joe Biden said, the World Health Organization offered testing kits that they had available to the United States, you give it to us now. We refused it, we didn't want to buy them. Politifact says, the WHO never made that offer. Can you tell us --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that's what I heard. I'm going to let Tony answer that question or whoever is best in answering that question.

I do have to say, when you talk about politics, I watched the debate, not too exciting. What they said about me and we have done a great job. When you talk about not being bipartisan or what they said about me and if you look at swine flu, the whole thing and I guess it was 2009, and what they did and the mistakes they made, they were terrible. They were horrific mistakes. 17,000 people died. And I'll be honest, they shouldn't be criticizing because we've done a fantastic job.

The only we haven't done well is to get good press. Now, we've done a fantastic job but it hasn't been appreciated. Even the closing down of the borders, which had never been done, and not only did we close them but we close them early, the press does not like writing about it. So we have done a poor job on press relationships. And I guess I don't know who to blame for that? I don't know. Maybe I can blame ourselves for that. I will blame myself.

But I think we have done a great job. I think we have done a poor job in terms of press relationship. But let me have somebody answer your question.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Yes. So I tried to cover this in the answer when I talked about quality of kits, and our quality analysis runs through the FDA. So all of these platforms, we have asked people to submit and we've asked states to quality control.

So I mean, anybody could submit their test to us. We don't buy tests that haven't been quality-controlled and they show us the data. Either show us the data upfront or show us the data after they've been running them, because quality testing for our American people is paramount to us. It does not help to put out a test where 50 percent or 47 percent are false positive. Imagine what that would mean to the American people. Imagine their level of concerns now and telling people that they are false positive. We take this same approach to HIV. Imagine telling someone they were positive to HIV and they weren't.

So that is our bottom line, the customer, the American people first. And so any of these groups can submit their testing kits through our regulatory processes. But without that and without a plan, we are not going to accept tests that have not been studied by us.

TRUMP: Good answer. It's a good. Do you have something?

ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: I am just going to emphasize a little bit more on that. When I became involved in the testing world, I called senior officials at the WHO as I could find to understand what the situation was. And as far as I can tell from sources that should know, no one ever offered a test that we refused.

TRUMP: It's what I heard too.

GIROIR: This was a research grade test, right, research grade test that was not approved, not submitted to the FDA. That was supplied in tens of thousands of quantities to 100 countries in the world, okay?

So I think there is a lot that people are saying about this and that's just based on rumor and myth. Nothing that was offered that we refused. It was a research test that was not approved. And, again, it was a small number that we have greatly surpassed in a very short period of time.

TRUMP: So, number one, nothing was offered. Number two, it was a bad test. Otherwise, it was wonderful. Listen, Thank you all very much. No he made a mistake. But I assume that he'll apologize. Thank you all very much.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I am John King in Washington. A simply remarkable, a 30-minute briefing at the White House. The president of the United States more in command with the facts, taking more questions than we have seen in recent days, his team spread out, a number of big important developments.

Some headlines, the president is saying, quote, we have to win this war. His treasury secretary talking about the airline industry and its needs for a bailout, along with other travel-related issues, quote, this is worse than 9/11.

Now, the top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, saying, it could be weeks before the administration knows and the country knows whether these new steps the administration announced yesterday, new guidelines limiting large gatherings, asking people or urging people to social distance --It will be weeks Tony Fauci said before we know if they are taking effect.

A number of other developments on the testing front, new leeway for the states, some important developments on the economic response and brand new stimulus package. Let's discuss what we just heard in that remarkable plus briefing. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us in Atlanta. Here with me in the studio, Catherine Lucey of the Wall Street Journal, CNN's Dana Bash and Abby Phillip of CNN as well.

Sanjay, I want to talk with you first. New leeways to help the states ramp up testing, the admiral said that there would be 47 drive-thru locations in 12 states up pretty quickly.


What was biggest most important thing you heard from the medical fight, this virus perspective?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they started off the entire the briefing the president did by talking about the idea that they want to really expand ways for patients to be able to access medical care without having to come into the hospital and really spend a lot of time talking about telehealth, something that we're all sort of familiar with, that they really want to loosen up some of the regulations around that, loosen some of the HIPAA regulations, privacy regulations around that to allow patients to Skype or Facetime or whatever with their doctors, make that free of charge for them to accomplish two things, to be able to get these patients at least a visit their doctor and I think more importantly in a situation like this to keep them out of the hospital, you know, where they can potentially bring in infection or become infected.

So that was sort of, generally, this interphase with medical technology and how that's going to play a role here I think was what the president spent a few minutes sort of at the beginning of the press conference talking about.

A lot of discussion about testing, as you mentioned, John, some 60,000 tests now roughly have been performed in the country, still a lot lower than other countries, but 8,200 of those were performed yesterday, so it does seem like it's ramping up.

One of the things just quickly, John, on that that I found most interesting was there's been a lot of criticism over the fact that these other countries were using these WHO tests in the tens of thousands numbers around the world and that we did not, that we waited for our own tests. And up until today, that issue had not really been addressed specifically.

Three things, one is they say the WHO did not offer that test in the United States. It's hard to know exactly why it was offered to other countries, but they also said it wasn't a great test. And that's when Birx said that. They said there was a lot of false positives and false negatives with that test.

It was a research grade test, not FDA approved, that's why they waited for their own tests, John. So, obviously, we're going to be digging into that. We just heard this information along with you. But that's been such a critical component of all this over the last several weeks, as you know, John. KING: Right, it has been one of the criticisms. The question was asked in the context of Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, and others have criticized the White House saying that the American tests wasn't ready, why didn't you take it yourself. You make an important point. And we'll continue to fact-check all this and do more reporting on it.

Sanjay, stay with us. I want to go straight into the White House briefing room. Our John Harwood was there and asked several questions during this briefing.

John, disagree if you think I am wrong here, but that was a president who seemed much more up on the brief today than he has been in the past. The president wanted to stand there and take a lot of the questions himself. And the president too, in the end, there were some questions about politics, but for most of that briefing, the president went out of his way to be more gracious and magnanimous to Democratic governors, for example.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I agree entirely, John. I think he was much more up on the brief. He was trying to strike bipartisan notes both with respect to Congress and to governors. And he also preserved the tone of urgency that communicated the day before when he announced those social distancing guidelines much more aggressively.

This was the president who was saying, never mind the cost, never mind whether we're going into recession, never mind the stock market, we've got to go all out to combat this virus and to mitigate the suffering of the American people.

And on the economic dimension of that, he embraced this idea of cutting checks directly to Americans. Steve Mnuchin, his treasury secretary, is going up on the Hill. This is a major component of their proposal. This is something that Democrats, President Obama's former economic adviser put on the table a week ago, Republicans, Mitt Romney, Tom Cotton, President Bush's -- George W. Bush's top economic adviser, also embracing. So it's got tremendous momentum.

And the president and Steve Mnuchin were both saying we've got to do this and we've got to do it now, and I think that is a significant shift.

KING: It is a significant shift. John, stay with us as well.

I want to come back to the president's tone for the people in the room. But I want to focus, pick up where John just left off there, the sense that you have the new steps announced by the White House, the public crisis part of this. Now, you have the secretary of the treasury leading that briefing to go back to Capitol Hill, and a significant shift here. Number one, a conversation about the House passed bill from last week, which guarantees free testing, does some stuff to ramp up the medical response, they want to get that passed as quickly as possible.

Now, $850 billion, the administration says, and that's a starting point, because the Democrats will have concerns too, that is likely to go up, including a bailout for airline industries, some of the CEOs who are here and at the White House today talking about that. But the switch from the president, he says he still backs his payroll tax, but listen to Steve Mnuchin here. He's essentially saying, within two weeks, we see the threat of the economy here. The Fed tried to help today but we need to do more and we want to get cash in the American's hands now.


STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes to continue to file their taxes on April 15th because for many Americans, you will get tax refunds.


And we don't want you to lose out on those tax refunds, we want you to make sure you get them. Many people do this electronically, which is easy for them and easy for the IRS.

If you owe a payment to the IRS, you can defer up to a million dollars as an individual.


KING: That was a different piece. That was yet another step in terms of the comprehensive nature. If you owe tax, if you are getting a refund, please file fast. If you think you owe money but you want to keep that money because you need it at this time of trouble, get a quick deferral there. But also the idea that he's trying to get Congress to pass within days something that puts a check in the hand of an American within weeks.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's right. They're trying to do something that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been talking about just direct payments. And I was texting with a White House official as we were watching this, and what this person was telling me is they want to do something big.

They know they need to move quickly and they don't want to get caught up in gridlock as to which is the best idea, be it payroll tax, be it direct payments. They want to do something quickly. And they see there's interest in this idea and they're going to move on with it.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is also the first time that it seems to me that the White House is conveying the interplay between the two pieces of this crisis. One, if you are going to shutdown parts of the economy, as Steve Mnuchin said, you have got to assure people that they will made whole at the end of the day, or at least the government will have their back.

You can't ask people to close all their restaurants and stay home, don't go to work, don't send their kids to school and not give them assurances, and at the end of the day that they are not going to go bankrupt and be homeless and not going to be able to make their rent or mortgage payments. So doing both of these things simultaneously has been really, really important.

And it's a real shift for this White House. Last week, just a few days ago, President Trump was tweeting that the only way to deal with this was with the payroll tax cut. Today, it is a completely different story, really understanding, as he said repeatedly today, that people who rely on tips for their income cannot wait for a payroll tax cut.

Cities all across America, companies are announcing layoffs and furloughs. People are not going to get paychecks for weeks and potentially for months. And there was a clear understanding of that and conveying to Congress and also to the American people that they're committed to doing something about it.

KING: And to that point, CNN's Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill. Manu, what is the mood up there? The Senate is in session. The House went home. But the speaker says she is prepared to bring it back when necessary to do something. How quickly can the Congress act on what is a very sweeping and the president says we'll deal with the cost later but a very expensive administration proposal?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's going to take a lot to get this done quickly especially since a lot of members and a lot of ideas about exactly what needs to be done. The treasure secretary right now is briefing Republicans senators at lunch in a room behind me. They actually moved to a bigger room to deal with social distancing of senators so they can -- they don't have to sit right next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, as they do typically do it for their Tuesday lunches.

But also Democrats have their own ideas while Mnuchin is pushing forward this $850 billion plan plan that includes a rescue package for the airlines industries, for the hotel industries, also dealing with small businesses, and as you mentioned, direct payments to U.S. consumers. The House and the Senate Democrats have their own proposal.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, has a $750 billion plan that diverges in several key areas. And right now, Democrats rather than their usual Tuesday lunch are having a conference call with their members. Chuck Schumer is detailing exactly what needs to be done.

So, John, that is phase three of what exactly is happening on Capitol Hill. First was the $8.3 billion packaged of appropriated funds that has already been enacted into law and now the Senate is waiting to take up a House passed bill to deal with free testing, to deal with bolstering unemployment insurance benefits and other measures to affect workers who have been hurt by this crisis.

Once the Senate passes that House bill, they will focus on this third package, and that is what the treasury secretary says need to pass right now. But then he's going to need a lot of bipartisan support to do that.

And, John, I'll point out one other thing. As the administration is talking about how things are being handled right now and the president himself pointed out West Virginia in particular that have been noted lack of cases to come back positive. The West Virginia Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, told me he has been pressing the vice president's office and others to ramp up testing in his state.

He is concerned that the numbers are low because there has not been enough testing. So a lot of concerns from a lot of members on various numbers of fronts as this legislative package takes shape, John.

KING: And as we watch the individual pieces of this playing out, Sanjay Gupta, you are listening to Manu and you heard something, you want to jump in on.

GUPTA: Well, one of the things that sort of strikes me a little bit along these mitigation measures, these social distancing measures, it really struck me that Dr. Fauci sort of said, look, we're recommending ten people.


Some places are doing 25 people. And it was okay, these were just guidelines. What we keep hearing, John, within the medical community is, look, we're at the inflection point. Either were going to go the way of Italy, which has had some real problem, as everybody in the world knows now, or more like South Korea, which seems like they've been able to get this under control.

And I think what really strikes me, and what I thought I would hear today, John, was actually a little bit more of aggressive stance towards these social distancing things, you know, really recommending the people not have mass gatherings at all and at least go to more formal recommendations in some way from the federal government. Because, you know, everywhere you talk to public health officials especially in these other countries, they say now is the point where we have to make that decision.

So while you are absolutely right, I think there is a greater sense of confidence and tone and command of the facts, I still get the sense that there is not a sense of urgency around what is happening. I know, for example, at the hospital here in Atlanta, Emory, you know, nine physicians fell sick yesterday, 20 more are now under investigations. Were in some real -- you know, there is a real issue here.

So, again, I get the sense of confidence that needs to be projected but I hope we don't take our eye off the ball with the basic measures that need to happen. Most people are telling me we need to be more aggressive right now.

KING: That's an interesting point, because the president said, for example, when it comes to medical supplies, he says he believes China is pumping in everything its supposed to pump in terms of pharmaceuticals. He said we can turn to Ireland. And he resisted for now using war powers, Pentagon Procurement Acts, to try to force American production here at home, whether it's a pharmaceutical, whether it's mask, whether it's hazmat equipment for hospitals.

But to Sanjay's point, in an odd way, Tony Fauci, who has been sort of the school norm in some of these briefing, trying to get people to take it seriously. He said it doesn't make a difference between 10 or 25. The president was actually more stern than Tony Fauci today, tough words for governors who have not ordered restriction in their state.

A very straight answer when ask by John Roberts of Fox News, what if you go into the Caribbean or to Mexico in a spring break, the president no. Stay at home.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Stay home, stay in the leaving room.

KING: And he had a Twitter war with his former governor, the president (INAUDIBLE), he had a Twitter war yesterday with Andrew Cuomo back and forth. The president came into the briefing room today determined to make a point. Look, the pieces of these, whether it's the medical piece, the financial piece, the pieces will decide how long we are in this crisis and what we look, like when we come out of it.

But you need leadership. And when you are getting mixed signals from the leadership, that creates problem. The president's tone especially about Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo says he wants help, yesterday they were fighting, today, this.


TRUMP: And we are also getting FEMA very much involved. They have been involved, but now we are getting them to a different level. And they will have everything ready. We're dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers, should that be necessary.

We have them working in some cases, on stand by another cases, but my conversation with Andrew Cuomo was a very, very productive one and a very good one, and I appreciate that. We are giving relief to affected industries and small businesses and we are ensuring that we emerge from this challenge with the prosperous and growing economy.


KING: Very, very important, and as you jump in, Governor Cuomo also saying after having this spar yesterday, he believes the president is 100 percent sincere in trying to work together.

BASH: I mean, look, this is just coming back to where this conversation started after the press conference. I hear what Sanjay is saying about Tony Fauci giving, you know, a little bit more wiggle room than others. But if you look at the big picture, this was remarkable from the president of the United States.

This is a non-partisan, this is an important thing to note and to applaud from an American standpoint, from a human standpoint. He is being the kind of leader that people need at least in tone today and yesterday, in tone that people need and want and yearned for in times of crisis and uncertainty.

So we have been talking about a lot of specifics that they brought up today, whether its construction companies asking them to give masks to hospitals, the fact that they are thinking about a thousand dollars, perhaps the Andrew Yang idea, to people. But big picture, the fact that the president has been, you know,

convinced to be different, whether it was Chris Christie's op-ed asking him to do, whether it's Newt Gingrich sitting in Italy watching firsthand what's happening or his friends at Fox News who have changed their tone. You know, probably all the above is what happened. But it is so important to hear him strike that tone of calm and of understanding of how incredibly dire this is.

And the fact that he even said on the notion of people going out, somebody asked about, well what about, you know, people of all generations going out when they shouldn't, and he said, they shouldn't.


And they're actually performing self-policing, that they're telling -- you know, they're trying to -- it's peer pressure, they're telling people not to do it. I mean, that's pretty incredible from a guy who a couple of days ago was trying to downplay this to keep the economy going.

KING: All right, not saying everything was perfect, everything was fine, a very definite shift from the president. We'll see if it continues, but a very definite message there today. And, again, as we close here, the president is saying, we have to win this war. As he said, we are going to go big to do it.

Thanks for joining us for this special coverage. Brianna Keilar starts after a very quick break. Have a good afternoon



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

We are now seeing more than 5,000 cases in the U.S. But as more testing is done, that number will continue to climb.

Moments ago we heard from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Trump urging all Americans to limit travel and to work from home for the next two weeks. He also talked about the FDA changing rules to open the door for more testing. And he said that he spoke to fast-food executives, about keeping their drive-thrus open for now.

In the meantime, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke about financial help for all Americans.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Although the president likes the idea of the payroll tax holiday, I will tell what we've heard from many people and the president has said, we can consider this. The payroll tax holiday will give people money over the next six to eight months. We are looking to sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we've heard from hard working Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it's bars or restaurant, Americans needs cash now and the president wants to get cash now, and I mean now in the next two weeks.

REPORTER: How much?

MNUCHIN: I will be previewing that with the Republicans. There are some numbers out there, they may be bigger than what's in the process (ph).


KEILAR: San Francisco has issued a shelter-in-place in an effort to force social distancing there. Other cities have already closed restaurants and bars, aut they could soon expand those orders.

And then in other developments, there is no voting in Ohio today. The state deciding late yesterday to postpone today's Democratic presidential primary. And two of the country's largest movie theater chains are shutting down for now. Regal Cinema's and AMC announcing that they will darken their screens indefinitely. And then the famed Kentucky Derby is being postponed. The first leg of horse racing Triple Crown was supposed to run on May 2nd. It's now been pushed back all the way until September.

President Trump talked about the FDA clearing the way for more test to be done which will pave the way for the state health officials to increase testing. I want to bring in CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. And, Elizabeth, what is the change by the FDA mean then for the number of tests that are going to be able to now be done?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, in effect, what he's done is he's told the state, hey, you can kind of be your own FDA. You can approve tests that are done within your state. You don't have to go to the federal level. Of course, this is a good thing that can help spur more tests.

You do have to wonder why didn't they do this earlier. I know I was speaking with the scientist that he major academic medical center weeks ago who said to me, Elizabeth, these are not complicated tests to do. I can have my guys in my lab. I can call them up and tell them, do this now and he was told he was not allowed to do that. So a step forward why it wasn't done sooner.

KEILAR: And what about the shortage of medical equipment stockpile? Do we hear anything about solutions for that?

COHEN: You know, they did not address that. And I will say when you talk to doctors and to policymakers across the country, that may be the number one concern right now is that there is not enough protective for doctors and nurses and the other workers who keep us safe. If they become sick, they can't take care of us. They can also inadvertently infect the frail patients who they are caring for. And it's a big problem. Many hospitals are saying, we just don't have enough for much longer. There was a conference call yesterday with federal official and medical personnel. And the federal officials were very clear, yes, we need to come up with a solution. They are working on it. They have not done so yet.

KEILAR: Elizabeth Cohen. Thank you so much.

Now, President Trump also announced today that the White House will begin this process that will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to work with New York State to build temporary medical facilities. I want to bring in Barbara Starr now from the Pentagon.

Just give us a sense of what this would looks like, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, the way it's going to work is, you know, the governor of New York today made a very compelling case to the world that just in New York alone, tens of thousands of hospitals beds could be needed and they will not have them unless somebody or something steps in from the government. So New York Governor Andrew Cuomo making that case and President Trump picking up on that.

We do know that the Pentagon now and the White House are looking at what the governor has said and looking that what the Army Corps of Engineers could do to step in.

There is as couple of options on the table. They could work very quickly they convert existing facilities that are out there. Think of it of in terms of college dormitories, open spaces, buildings that are unoccupied, hotels, something like that, spaces where they just need to build it out to meet medical standards. But they also could put up field hospitals, essentially the mesh-type hospitals that, frankly, the tinted hospitals we have seen in war zones in recent years. They can put those up very quickly. They can be quite large.

Here is the challenge in all of these cases.


These are not particularly designed for infectious disease outbreaks.