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Health Officials Warn U.S. at a Tipping Point; Ohio Postpones Primary Over 'Health Emergency,' Other States Proceed with Primaries; Trump: U.S. Economy May Be Sliding Into Recession. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 06:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration is recommending that all Americans avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't conduct an election in Ohio and beat that recommendation.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would hope the governors listen to the public health experts.

I'm thinking about some of the elderly people sitting behind the desks. Does that make a lot of sense? I'm not sure that it does.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We've been behind this disease all along. Let's get ahead of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My major concern is, am I going to live through this? So whatever we need to do to stay alive, then that's what we need to do.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, March 17, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And Americans are coming to grips with the new reality. The coronavirus is spreading, and time is of the essence to stop it. There are now 4,477 confirmed cases in the U.S. with 87 people dead. That's nearly 1,000 new cases in just 24 hours.

Also breaking overnight, Ohio is calling off its primary today, just hours before people were supposed to go to the polls that were opening. Three states -- Florida, Illinois, and Arizona -- are still moving forward with their primaries. That means they are forced to ignore the strict new guidelines put in place by President Trump, whose tone about the crisis changed dramatically yesterday. The president now advising Americans to avoid social gatherings of

more than ten people. That's a notable difference from the CDC guidelines that put the number at 50 people just 24 hours earlier. The administration is now urging people to work or study from home, if possible, and avoid any gatherings in bars or restaurants.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, it's particularly notable that the president's public forecasts are now more in line with science. He had been saying the pandemic would miraculously recede by April 1, but now he acknowledges that we could be talking July or August.

It's the nation's governors that really have been leading the battle. Seven million people in San Francisco are being ordered to shelter in place and not leave their homes. This is the most sweeping measure in the country.

New Jersey's governor is recommending a blanket curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Tens of millions of children are at home. Their parents are at home right next to them helping with the schooling while they work themselves. That is if they're lucky enough to have work. So much of the economy is frozen, everyone from hourly workers to actors struggling to figure out where the next paycheck is coming from.

The Dow dropped nearly 3,000 points Monday, the single biggest decline ever. We've been watching futures. They've been up. They've been down. We're keeping our eye on them.

Our coverage of the pandemic begins with Bryn Gingras, live here in New York. An empty New York, Bryn.

BRYN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, John, remember today today's St. Patrick's Day. It is usually a huge celebration in New York City. Undoubtedly, it's going to look very different today.

And you mentioned San Francisco. It's called sheltering in place. In the tri-state area, it's massive with closures along with other states.

However it's branded, the message to Americans is really the same: stay at home if we're going to beat this pandemic.


GINGRAS (voice-over): Times Square nearly empty, just one snapshot of the new normal as Americans adjust to life during the coronavirus pandemic.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: You have to think of this in a wartime world view. You have to think of this as something where you want to see a massive mobilization to save lives.

GINGRAS: In New Jersey, the governor activating the National Guard and urging residents to stay home after 8 p.m.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): While this may be painful, the alternative is a lot more painful.

GINGRAS: Nearly 7 million residents in California's Bay Area ordered to shelter in place.

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D), SAN FRANCISCO: These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life, but there is no need to panic.

GINGRAS: State by state, public places like theaters and gyms are closing and many bars and restaurants empty, now only offering takeout or delivery services.

Public schools are now closed or closing for 37 million children, according to "Education Week," but many of those schools are still providing students with grab-and-go lunches, helping those who need it most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are no questions asked. You show up. We're trying to be here for the entire community.

GINGRAS: Officials assuring residents these changes are temporary.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Trust me. It weighs heavily on all of us. But we know that, for the sake of our public health, we've got to be aggressive.

GINGRAS: Cities expanding their testing capabilities with more drive- through and pop-up sites. Meantime, the Trump administration rolled out new recommendations.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Avoid gathering in groups of more than ten people. Avoid discretionary travel. And avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts.

GINGRAS: Regardless of those new guidelines, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois will hold primary elections today. But in Ohio, the health director closing polls, despite a judge's decision to keep them open.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (D-OH): These individuals are conflicted. We should not force them to make this choice: a choice between their health and their constitutional rights and their duties as American citizens.

GINGRAS: President Trump admitting the impact of the coronavirus will be here for some time.

TRUMP: We'll see what happens, but they think August, could be July, could be longer than that.


GINGRAS: New York's governor calling on the Trump administration to launch national restrictions.

CUOMO: This has to be a national effort. The federal government should come up, step in and say, This what we're is going to do. This is what we do in schools. This is what we do in businesses. Here are the rules. And then the states can adjust the rules to their particular circumstances.


GINGRAS: Yes. And following that point, we're in Herald Square, which is a major shopping district in New York City. Stores here can stay open, but the governor, Cuomo, he says -- encourages them to close.

There are stores across the country that have taken that step, Nordstrom, Nike, Footlocker, just to name a few. We've seen other stores adjust their hours. Essential businesses can stay open. We should mention there are stores like Stop and Shop who are adjusting their hours so seniors can shop without others around them -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Bryn. If you can, people want you to stay home.


BERMAN: That is the advice.

All right, Brynn, thank you very much. Which makes this next story so important.

Breaking overnight, Ohio's governor postponed that state's primary. Now elections in three states -- Illinois, Arizona, and Florida -- are still on despite the coronavirus concerns and new guidelines.

Leyla Santiago is live in Florida where the polls will open in less than an hour -- Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I actually just went in and talked to the voters in this polling location here in Hialeah. One of the first things they did, pointed out the sanitizer, showed me the wipes that they are using here. And even they are open about the fact that they don't have high expectation when's it comes to turnout.

The governor saying that poll workers will be sanitizing, thoroughly sanitizing throughout the day. And when you speak to election officials, they're quick to point out that a lot of Floridians have voted in pre-voting. In fact, the latest numbers show more than a million Democratic votes cast in pre voting. But, yet, still a lot of concern as to who will show up today.

Let's look at the numbers right now. We're looking at, in Florida, 154 cases reported, 5 deaths at this point. But those numbers are expected to increase when we get more testing results.

And one of the reasons that Florida is a big concern is because, when we talk about that vulnerable population, when we talk about that elderly, think Florida where the population, you're looking at 1 in 5 falling into that 65 plus category. So a lot of concerns in terms of the health concerns and who will show up for -- for voting today. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Layla, thank you. All of that is certainly an open question. We'll check back with you. Meanwhile, governors across the country implementing stricter

restrictions to try to control the coronavirus outbreak. Could we see the type of lockdowns that are happening in Europe? That's next.



CAMEROTA: While you were sleeping, Ohio postponing its primary. This is just hours before polls were set to open this morning. Primaries in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona are still on.

Some states also implementing strict policies to try to contain the spread of coronavirus. The most drastic is happening in the San Francisco area, where 7 million people have been ordered to, quote, "shelter in place" and not leave their homes.

Joining us now, we have CNN senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She's a former homeland security adviser for President Obama. And also Dr. Richard Besser. He's the former acting director of the CDC who led the response to the start of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. And we'll get to that in a moment.

But Lisa, I want to start with you. Because that language gets so many people's attention of shelter in place, that's the language of a school shooting. That's the language of a terror attack. Why are they going to that language in the San Francisco area instead of just everybody stay home if you can?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, I think what you're seeing is local authorities stepping up and -- and really taking seriously the public health crisis that we're in. And using the authorities that they have to really express to the public how important it is to take action now so that we can flatten the curve.

People have now heard this phrase many, many times, but it's imperative, and I think that's what you're seeing from local and state leaders. Using the authorities that they have to -- to really express to the public that they have got to be the ones who step up and take action. Because we, in fact, are the weapons. We're the best weapons we have against this virus.

BERMAN: We're also the weapons carrying the virus, which is what makes it so complicated.

And Rich, you know how hard it can be. You helped lead the response to H1N1. And you know that sometimes what you would do as a doctor, an epidemiologist in terms of public health, it's hard to convince society that that's what they need to do.

How do you convince the public to get there? And are we there where the public understands?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: You know, I think that this pandemic is especially challenging. And the reason for that is that, unlike a flu pandemic where young people tend to get hit really hard, with this pandemic, what we know right now is that 80 percent of people who get this are going to have no symptoms or mild symptoms, and that's primarily young people.

So you're asking young people to take an action for someone else's good. And we have to have them to do that, because elderly people are at great risk, people with multiple medical problems, great risk. If they're exposed to a lot of people who have this infection, they're going to get sick. Our health care system is going to get overwhelmed.

But it's much less about protecting their own health than it is protecting their grandparents, their neighbors, people in their community.

CAMEROTA: That's such a great point. Taking one for the team is hard for people to get their heads around, and particularly teenagers -- they're like, I feel well, you know, why can't I go outside? And I mean, that's what we're all trying to impress upon our children at the moment.


BERMAN: That's why it takes leadership. It takes consistency of message, right?

CAMEROTA: So, to that point, Lisa, Ohio has -- there is no consistency in terms of the primaries today. So Ohio has just overnight canceled their primaries because, in other primaries, we've seen long lines of people. We've seen big turnout. Who knows if that's going to happen again today. But three other states not canceling their primaries. What's the answer?

MONACO: Well, look, here again, I think governors and mayors have been taking steps to listen to the public health experts in their communities and using the authorities that they have to try and flatten this curve.

I'm not going to second guess the decision made by the governor of Ohio. I know other voting is going to go on today, taking care to make sure particularly the vulnerable populations who are either working at or going to the polling places are addressed.

So, again, you've got state and local leaders having to step up and really be the ones expressing the gravity of this situation.

BERMAN: Rich, you say that the failures of public policy and imagination have been stalking us for years.


BERMAN: In terms of pandemic response. For years there's a long-term failure, but there's also a more acute failure in some ways over the last two months. Remember, this showed up in China in January.

BESSER: Yes, I think that there's quite a lot of failures. You know, one thing is -- your question before about how do you motivate people. One is you need to have trust in those people who are giving you the message.

And one of the nice things in H1N1 was that the elected officials let public health leaders lead. And so we heard from public health leaders, the federal, state, and local level, every day. And yes, mistakes were made. People would explain them, and you'd move forward.

But when you have politicians as the primary voices on this, you're always going to be skeptical. Is this being done for political reasons? Is it being done for health reasons? And that's -- that's a real challenge here in this -- in this situation.

CAMEROTA: You also -- you've written this piece for "Washington Post" where you talk about how, basically, the coronavirus has exposed the dark underbelly of some of our societal ills in terms of health equity. So now we know how many kids are homeless in New York and not -- and are hungry every day.


CAMEROTA: Things like that, that we didn't address before.

BESSER: It's not part of the primary conversation. For millions and millions of people in America, if you don't work, you don't put food on the table, you don't -- you don't pay rent.

You know, it's hitting communities of color harder than other communities. You have higher rates of low-income wage earners. Higher rates of people who have food insecurity, who have economic insecurity, who have housing insecurity, who are underinsured. There's a lot of things that Congress can do to address this now that haven't happened yet. And it's leaving people with that choice of saying, am I going to do the right thing and protect my loved ones, or am I going to put food on the table and take care of my loved ones? No one should have to make that decision.

BERMAN: No. Certainly not.

So Lisa, we haven't yet talked about what I think is the most acute need this morning. This is according to Sanjay and all sorts of public health officials, and that's had the ICU beds, the equipment like ventilators, and the clear shortfall that we have right now.

Government officials are telling CNN, We do not have the equipment that we need.

And we've learned that yesterday the president told the state governors, You know what? You should go out and try to get some of this stuff yourself.

What's the effect of that?

MONACO: Well, look, this -- this capacity that we're lacking in critical things like ICU beds, like ventilators, et cetera, this is the shortfall that many folks have been warning about for a number of weeks now, which is why it's so important to flatten this curve and why many public health experts have been so concerned that we -- we lost valuable time as we saw this coming out of China and have been experiencing this kind of testing debacle.

Now, we do have something called the strategic national stockpile, which is designed to provide -- be a bit of a bridge and to fill gaps. But this is such an unusual disease, as Dr. Besser was pointing out. It is so communicable. It is hitting the most vulnerable that it is really straining and stressing the capacity that we do have.

And so the notion that, you know, we all have to engage in a little bit of self-help engage in self-help, I don't think that's the best way to go about it. Certainly, we need to enlist the private sector and engage in the types of public/private partnerships that are now trying to be activated for the testing situation, but we really should have been at this weeks and weeks ago.

BERMAN: All right. Lisa Monaco, Dr. Rich Besser, hey, it's great see you. Under different circumstances, I'd give you a hug.

BESSER: Yes, yes.


BERMAN: I haven't seen you in a long time.

BESSER: Elbow bumps only.

BERMAN: Now is not the time.

All right. Thank you very much.

So what happens when an economy just freezes completely? Is the United States headed into a recession? Are we already there? The huge economic impact of the pandemic, next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the U.S. economy heading into a recession?

TRUMP: Well, it may be. We're not thinking terms of recession. We're thinking in terms of the virus.


BERMAN: So President Trump acknowledging for the first time that the U.S. may be heading toward a recession. Honestly, if we're not there already.

It comes after the Dow fell nearly 3,000 points yesterday. That is the biggest drop in history. The Dow is now 300 points away from wiping out all the gains that had been made since the inauguration.

Joining me now, Christine Romans, anchor of CNN's "EARLY START" and CNN's chief business correspondent. She's also the author of "Smart is the New Rich." And Rana Foroohar, CNN global economic analyst and associate editor at "The Financial Times." [06:25:10]

Romans, we talk about before heading into a recession. I really think we need to be talking about the what has already happened?


BERMAN: The economy has frozen. We see the stock market. We know the macroeconomic impact. But it shut down.

ROMANS: We hit the pause button on the American economy. And if you're a small business owner, you already are in recession. You already are missing bills, and you're wondering if you can stay in business. So this is a real, happening right now story.

You know, Kevin Hassett, who used to advise President Trump, an economist, he said that you're probably going to see second quarter contraction in the American economy of 5 percent and maybe a million jobs lost. I mean, honestly, that is -- that is already here, happening right now.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Christine has told us over the past few days this is a self-imposed recession. We're doing this by choice to protect each other, right?


CAMEROTA: So it's temporary. It is temporary. We don't know when the end is going to be, but it is temporary. So is there a way to recover after something like this quickly?

FOROOHAR: Well, all right. First pull back and say, at its peak, and we don't quite know where the peak is going to be yet, of the virus, of the downturn, it's probably going to be worse than it was in 2008 and 2009 during the great financial crisis. I mean, that's what markets are telling us now.

So the big question is how long does the virus last? At that point, yes, you could start to see, you know, maybe even a surge in demand in the real economy. That's possible.

But what I'm looking at is how are the markets going to recover after that? Because there's collateral damage here. Think about it. All -- Small businesses, for sure, but big businesses, medium-size businesses are pulling down their credit lines. That's putting pressure on the banks. We're starting to see that in markets.

One of the reasons that futures are trending down, we're probably going to see another drop on Wall Street today is that there's a credit crisis happening in Asia now. So are we going to start to see those dominoes fall in different ways around the world? That's what we're watching for. And that's going to impact how quickly we can recover.

BERMAN: What is going to help people immediately, Romans? Is there anything? Because just think of it. If a business is shut down, it means that -- that women and men aren't getting their suits cleaned at the dry-cleaners.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: Which means the dry cleaner's shut down, which means that the dry cleaner's not paying the rent, which means the landlord's not getting money. Where is the money coming from?

ROMANS: So we've seen an $8.3 billion package, you know, just for, like, the medical -- the medical -- what we need medically. You're talking about more stimulus after that. You've had the Fed cut interest rates.

But you know, I'm hearing from people, you need much bigger fiscal stimulus.

FOROOHAR: Yes, 100 percent.

ROMANS: And you need it to be very clearly spoken from the White House and with Congress what it is, how it's going to work, who it's going to hit.

Mitt Romney, Senator Mitt Romney suggested maybe a thousand dollars, you know, for every American family.

CAMEROTA: Taking a page.

ROMANS: In 2008 we did that in the financial crisis. There was a rebate for all taxpayers. But it's going to have to be bigger.

I mean, every economist I'm talking to says it's going to have to be much, much bigger. Even -- even over the weekend the passage of that paid sick leave, that really, depending on how you look at it, it only covers 20 percent of workers.


ROMANS: There are a lot of exemptions for that. So I'm not even convinced the paid sick leave, which is one of the most important things near term for workers, is going to be even that widespread.

FOROOHAR: Absolutely. And you know, two-thirds of the American economy is consumer spending. If people don't get paid, which is going to happen. In the gig economy, folks are on temporary contracts. If they don't get paid for a week or two, I mean, we are starting to look at a real social crisis.

And I think that we're also at a point similar to where where we were during the great financial crisis, where people are starting to ask, if there's going to be bailouts, who's going to get bailed out first? Is it going to be big industries, who have maybe been a little bit spend thrift with cash in recent years? Or is it going to be individuals and small businesses, which are two-thirds of job creation in this country?

ROMANS: Two years after the huge -- three years after the huge tax package, all these tax goodies the big companies got, you could have industries that are going to need bailouts after getting, you know, all of that money.

FOROOHAR: All that stuff.

BERMAN: I think there's an immediate need, but I think it's also right to be asking about what next.


BERMAN: Because we don't know how you come back from an economy or parts of an economy that are completely broken. I was talking to a friend who's an actor. I hope he's not awake yet and watching this. But he says, Who's going to put on a show in July?

ROMANS: That's right.

BERMAN: No one's going to put on a show. How am I going to get paid if no one's going to put on a show in July, even if the pandemic is starting to recede? What happens when businesses just dry up?

FOROOHAR: Well, I think you're absolutely right. It exposes the frailties in our economy. I mean, you know, yes, we had a recovery. We were in a recovery. Christine and I have talked about that, a "recovery" in quotation marks for a long time, but it didn't feel like that for about half the population, at least.

You know, a lot of people don't have unemployment insurance. A lot of people don't have health care. You know, there are so many cracks in our social safety net. And I think that this is actually going to be a big part of the political conversation.

ROMANS: I think so too. And I think if you're going to be talking about bailouts again, I think that's going to be a big part of the conversation: who's going to pay for those bailouts? We're already running these huge deficits.

The markets right now are telling you you need to do something more. I mean, the markets are saying they need a coherent message from Washington. The Fed can't do it on its own.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh.