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Health Officials Warn U.S At A Tipping Point; Trump Says, U.S Economy May Be Sliding Into Recession; New York City Bars, Restaurants Limited To Takeout And Delivery. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: More than 4,400 cases now known of in the United States. It's up about a thousand from yesterday. And the number of deaths has jumped to 87 from 65 yesterday. So a thousand new cases that we know of today.

This morning, we're living under the new administration guidelines not to gather in groups of more than ten. Also this morning, government health officials are warning that the U.S. does not have enough stockpiled medical equipment to deal with the crisis. This is something our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been saying for weeks.

The president now predicts the pandemic will not recede until July or August. He had previously claimed it would disappear April.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: The pandemic is transforming life as we know it in America, restaurants, shops, airlines, factories shutting down. 7 million people around San Francisco's Bay Area are now under a, quote, shelter in place order.

There's also some breaking political news. Polls are closed this morning in Ohio. The governor postponing today's primary there because of this public health emergency. Florida, Arizona and Illinois will still proceed with their primaries today despite the threat.

So joining us now is Ohio's Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

Secretary LaRose, thank you so much for being here. Can you tell us why you took this step late last night at literally the 11th hour?

FRANK LAROSE, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, what happened is that the governor and the doctor who heads up the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Amy Acton, judged that it was unsafe for Ohioans to gather at the polls and it was unsafe for poll workers. Imagine in a scenario where the administration is saying that gatherings of over ten people are unauthorized and that Ohioans over 65 should remain in their homes. It was simply untenable for us to continue telling Ohioans go to the poll.

So the governor made a difficult and but ultimately the right decision. I followed that up with an order to all 88 Boards of Elections telling them that we would comply with that and laying out a scenario so that we could create certainty so that Ohioans know they will have their voice heard in the 11 weeks ahead between now and June 2nd.

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, I like your confidence level because you have rescheduled it for June 2nd. But as you know, there's a judge, a county judge, who has ruled that this can't happen in Ohio. You all are sort of defying that judge's order, and that judge's logic was, I'll read it to you, quote, there is no medical evidence here today to suggest that it would be safer to vote in June. To the contrary, it is my understanding from the briefings we've seen in the national media that it may be months before we get to a point of stability or a peak of the virus and its transmission rates. So how can you be certain that June 2nd can be safer?

LAROSE: First of all, Alisyn, not to get into the nuances of the legal system, but what happened last night is that there are two older Ohioans who asked the judge to suspend the election. The judge refused to issue that. And so there hasn't been an order to the Ohio secretary of state's office or to the governor's office that has been violated. And so, simply, the judge was not going to issue that order.

What happened is that Dr. Amy Acton operated within the authority she's given in the Ohio law, title 37 specifically, to protect the health of Ohioans. And so she said is that it would be an unsafe gathering and so therefore those polls were ordered closed.

Now, my authority as the Ohio secretary of state is I serve as the chief elections officer for Ohio. And what I wanted to do is create certainty for Ohioans, they deserve that. Elections are very important. The only thing more important is the health and safety of Ohioans. So immediately issued a directive to all of our counties that said that we're going to hold this election on June 2nd. We're going to comply with the doctor's orders to not go to the polls this morning. That's the kind of certainty that Ohioans deserve.

CAMEROTA: What happens if by June 2nd, it's not better?

LAROSE: That's a bridge we'll have to cross when we get to it. Hopefully, the actions, the decisive action that the governor has taken here in Ohio, that the president has taken that, really, all Americans are endeavoring to undertake now will help us get to a point where this insidious enemy that we face right now is defeated by June 2nd. That's certainly the hope that we all have.

CAMEROTA: Look, I think that you're stating your case really well. I think everybody understands why you've made that. But as we've pointed out and we've reported, Florida, Illinois and Arizona are making a different choice today. They're proceeding with their primaries. And, basically, their thought is that they will be able to keep their precinct volunteers and workers and residents safe by, perhaps, wear gloves, perhaps keeping everybody six feet apart. Had you considered doing something like that?

LAROSE: Well, that was the plan for well over two weeks we had been seeking guidance from the CDC and from the Ohio Department of Health. I had been asking the pointed question all along, will it be safe for Ohioans to come to the polls and will it be safe for our poll workers? And up until, really, Sunday night, the advice was really unanimous, that, yes, it would be safe.


We had recruited over 2,500 new poll workers, really a massive undertaking. These groups of both Republicans and Democrats were coming together to make sure that we were going to be able to conduct a fair election, massive undertaking to make sure that that happened.

Of course, that guidance and, again, I abide by the facts, not the fear. I'm not a public health professional so I listen to the experts. Their advice changed dramatically on Monday morning when I got a call from Governor DeWine, Lt. Governor Husted, and they said that in their estimation, given the new administration guidance that gatherings of more than ten people are prohibit and that Ohioans over 65 should remain in their homes unless absolutely necessary to leave, under those circumstances, there was no way that, in good conscience, we could order an election and certainly not a legitimate election given that we were telling a large portion of the Ohio population that they should not come to the polls.

CAMEROTA: So, basically, you're saying that the guidance from the CDC didn't match what you then heard yesterday from the White House?

LAROSE: Well, what I'm saying is that this has been an evolving situation. It was a hundred persons, it was 50, I heard yesterday from the administration that the number ten was used. Regardless of whether it was 50 or 10, I can tell you that in most polling, locations there are greater than ten poll workers. Certainly at almost any polling location throughout the day, you're going to see greater than 50 persons gathering.

And when Ohioans over 65 are being told they shouldn't leave their homes, how can we tell them that they should go to the polls? And, certainly, the legitimacy of an election is probably right after health and safety the top priority and how can we hold an election where we are telling Ohioans not to come out to the polls?

CAMEROTA: Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, we appreciate you coming on New Day and explaining that decision from last night and the breaking news. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

It was interesting to hear that discussion, and it has to do with the new recommendations and the new guidelines, Sanjay, that we are now living under. The White House task force now recommends that no groups larger than ten people. This is a change from the day before. So what do you make of the new number and why the guidelines not compared to say what they're doing in San Francisco, which is basically shelter in place?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, look, I think there's two things. One is obviously these numbers in terms of the size of gatherings are pretty arbitrary, right? I mean, you've seen it be everywhere from ten now, it was 250, you know, in some of these municipalities just a few days ago.

So these are arbitrary numbers. The goal is to get people to social distance. I mean, you know, we've been saying this for some time. The further people are apart, the more likely you are to break the cycle of transmission of the virus. That's the goal.

I think, John, I think what we're seeing here is a little bit of this -- you see how they want to roll out some of these recommendations a little bit more slowly. It's part of their strategy. Dr. Fauci came to the electorate at some point during that press conference and sort of reminded people, look, this is 15 days to slow the spread. But we're going to reassess at that point. And my guess is when he said, reassess, it wasn't pull back at that point. My guess is that he's saying, look, it's likely to get more stringent at that point and maybe even earlier depending on how things are going.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Marrazzo, when you hear the logic that the secretary of state of Ohio is using, do you think that Illinois and Arizona and Florida should cancel their primaries too?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Well, I really liked his comment about how these decisions should be driven by facts, not fear. The challenge here is that people should be afraid of the facts right now, right? So the trajectory of what we're anticipating for experiencing not only an increase in infections but severe complications on infections. And many of our health care facilities in our communities are pretty sobering if you're looking at what's coming out of Italy and what we're starting to see in our cities here.

So I agree with Dr. Gupta that any reduction in mixing and increasing the risk of transmission is really key. Think the challenge here is that not only is the right number not really known, is it ten, is it 25, is it five, is it a hundred? But the inconsistency in the message between or among federal, state authorities and the CDC has left people really confused. And the that's been a major problem. They don't know what the right number is. So I think a unified voice here would have been and continues to need to be very helpful.

BERMAN: I like what you just said there. We need facts, not fear. But the problem is the facts are very frightening. And, Sanjay, we now know that some of those facts that the White House were looking at has to do with a study out of Britain where they looked at what would happen if serious measures are not taken.

And what they found is in the United States, and I'm not trying to scare people, I'm just trying to show you what the White House is looking at.


They found there could be more than 2 million deaths in the United States if no action was taken. And that is one of the things, perhaps, in the president's head yesterday when he went to the lectern with a different tone. Do you think that's a fair assessment? Do you think that's a reasonable thing to be concerned about?

GUPTA: Well, yes, of course, that's a reasonable thing to be concerned about. But there's a couple of things to point out. First of all, if you look at the federal government's own projections over time of what a severe pandemic might look like in the United States, and just doing the quick math, right, John? 40 percent to 60 percent they say of the nation could become infected and a 2 percent fatality rate. So, you know, you're -- right away, you're over 2 million people. You know, that is the severe scenario.

We've been presenting that as well. As you can see there, you start to see what the hospital sort of demands would be. The moderate scenario, you know, is what the -- I think everyone is sort of focused on in terms of hospital demands. But when you start to extrapolate those numbers, yes.

I can also tell you that I know for a fact that these numbers and the worst case scenarios have been presented to everyone at the White House for some time. I mean, again, these are the federal government's own projections of what this could be. So, yes, maybe this report did create a little bit more of a fire there, but the numbers in terms of what this could likely be, the reason I think public health officials have been so focused on this now within the White House, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, everyone for several weeks now, is because trying to avoid the severe pandemic scenario here, John.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Marrazzo, one of the things that Sanjay has been sounding the alarm about for weeks now is the equipment shortages. So there seems to be this discrepancy between the fear of will there be enough hospital beds? Will there be enough ventilators? And whenever we have an opportunity to ask a task force member or a member of the administration about these fears, they refer to the stockpile.

Just last week, Sanjay was trying to get answer dollars and here's that exchange.


GUPTA: The concern is that they might be preventable deaths. You have to act now, don't you?

SEEMA VERMA, MEMBER OF THE WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Well, that's exactly what we are doing. That is exactly what we are doing. We are acting now to mitigate the spread. We are --

GUPTA: I'm talking about the ventilators, Administrator Verma.

VERMA: We have it. We have ventilators. And at this time --

GUTPA: You don't have enough ventilators.

VERMA: I think at this point, it's premature to say we don't have enough. I don't think we know that right now.


CAMEROTA: Well, Dr. Marrazzo, shouldn't we know that? I mean, I just -- they have never given us real numbers about how many are in the stockpile, how many do the models say we'll need.

MARRAZZO: Yes. This is basic emergency preparedness and disaster planning. And all you need to do is talk to our colleagues in Italy who I'm sure Sanjay has heard from. They are making excruciating decisions about who to take off ventilators. They are basically faced with this choice of is it worth keeping this person who probably almost certainly is going to die on the ventilator versus putting this other person who we think can get through this infection to support them so they can make it? No one wants to be in that choice. I mean, can you imagine what a horrible choice that is?

So the fact that the authorities are not able to assure us that that won't happen here, I agree with you, is incredibly concerning. The other thing I will mention with regard to equipment, this lack of diagnostic testing is really killing us. And the reason is, because when we have somebody come in who we think might have a good chance of infection, we immediately have to don the most protective personal protective equipment, the shield, all that sort of stuff. We can't stop using that equipment until we are sure that person doesn't have the infection. So when you prolong the time to get that result back, you're burning through a lot of that equipment. And we are burning through it fast. We definitely don't have enough of it and we're not alone.

So it's a really vicious cycle.

CAMEROTA: That is really helpful. Let me just clarify something that I said.

So Dr. Fauci said on Sunday that there were 12,700, I think, ventilators but we don't know if that matches the model.

BERMAN: Well, what we do know, Sanjay and what I think you know from your reporting is that if that is the number, it's just not enough. It isn't enough for what we might need, Sanjay.

GUPTA: No, it's not enough. And, again, this is math, as the doctor was saying, we know what the projected needs are even more a moderate scenario, okay. I'm focusing on the moderate scenario saying, that some of these mitigation efforts do work. The moderate scenario, 64,000 plus will need breathing machines. Here is what we have, 62 plus roughly ten, 72.

Here is the issue though. Most of those 72 are currently in use. Most those either because of flu season, because of other needs, as Dr. Marrazzo was saying, they're already in use. And when she describes the excruciating decisions, that's it.


You have patients who are currently on breathing machines and all of a sudden you may get tens of thousands more who need them, what are you going to do? Who is going to make these decisions? How is that going to happen? These are real decisions that are going to have to be made at the individual level.

BERMAN: And what we know now from the reporting yesterday is the president told the nation's governors, what we'll do is, go fend for yourselves, go get them yourselves. We're going to ask much more about it over the course of the show.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, thank you for being with us. Sanjay, you're going to come back a little later. We're going to talk with you again.

And Congress is trying to figure out how it can help perhaps with some kind of a bailout. A key Democratic senator joins us next.


BERMAN: Economists are warning of a global recession due to the economic impact of the coronavirus. A new analysis by Moody's warns that 80 million jobs, roughly half the American workforce, is at risk of being affected by the crisis.

Joining us now to discuss what Congress is doing to help is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Look, we keep on saying they're warning of a recession, that's the wrong measurement because the recession is technically two quarters of economic growth.


There really is no question that at this moment in the United States, there is negative growth. The economy is in dire situation, and more importantly workers are in a dire situation, Senator.

The Senate is considering the House bill that has passed that among other things does extend paid sick leave for some workers. What is you view of this bill and what more do you want to see?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): The House bill is focused directly on families. So it's sick leave, it's unemployment insurance and it's free testing. So you can think of essentially what Congress has done is, the first phase was $8.3 billion bill to boost up the healthcare system. The second is direct assistance to families right now and let families know, yes, you can get those tests for free.

The third package is going to be a massive, perhaps on the order of $750 billion economic stimulus bill that will look at so many sectors of direct impact of what's happening in this collapse right now. Because, no doubt, we are seeing an economic collapse. The folks here have said this Morning that would normally be here are not here, small businesses are calling into my office one after another, people are not going to the barber shops, they're not going to the restaurants, restaurants are being shutdown, et cetera. We are seeing a massive collapse in the economy around this country.

BERMAN: That's why I think talking about what will happen is moot at this point. What is happening and has happened is what's most important and how to fix it. So, beyond the measure that the House has already introduced and to address some of these needs, you're talking about what do you think the best plan is to get the money and the assistance to the people who need it? Mitt Romney, Republican from Utah, has proposed a $1,000 payout to every American adult. How do you feel about that?

MERKLEY: Well, I can tell you that that will send a lot of funds to people who don't need it. Perhaps it can be part of the package if you multiply 300 million adults by a thousand dollars, that's $300 billion. So that would be half of this package, roughly.

I'm not sure that's the best approach. But, listen, we need to have a debate on all pieces. But think of this. We need to strengthen -- continue strengthening the healthcare system and have the treatment for coronavirus essentially be free. Someone said affordable, someone said free, let's debate that.

On housing, we're going to have so many families facing eviction for non-payment of rent and then challenges with mortgages and foreclosures. So we need to have a moratorium on evictions. But we also need to have financial help on people to help people pay those rents, pay those mortgages. In education, we need to be helping schools with remote learning.

Small businesses, they are suffering dramatically, small business grants and small business loans. So we have -- and just each sector of the economy, healthcare, housing, education, jobs, small business is going to have to be a lot of help.

BERMAN: It sounds like everything. Senator, you basically just listed everything.

MERKLEY: That's right. That's right. There will be components and we'll touch every aspect of our economy.

BERMAN: Let me ask about some specific requests that have started to materialize. The airline industry is asking for a $50 billion bailout as part of this. How do you feel about that?

MERKLEY: Well, we have to recognize the airlines are going to be hit very hard. They were -- the number of passenger seats have dropped dramatically and certainty the health recommendations are avoid being crowded together. There's nothing like six people coughing to spread this virus, so travel is a problem. Restaurants are going to be hit incredibly hard. So we're going to have to look at specific help to those sectors hardest hit.

I don't know if that number is the right number. We need to do more research. We aren't trying to -- I don't think we want to, in any way, give what kind of landfall -- that's not the right term -- but big amounts of profit to an industry. This is about helping industries through a very difficult moment.

BERMAN: There are people who would point out that the airlines had ten of their most profitable years in history over the last ten years and used a lot of those profits for share buybacks. So there are some who feel as if a $50 billion bailout to them now might be unfair.

MERKLEY: Well, they have a lot of ability to shoulder some of this turndown themselves, but we can't let the airline industry shut down. So that's a judgment we're going to have to make.

BERMAN: Senator Jeff Merkley, we appreciate your time. You have your work cut out for you, everyone in America does to get through this. So thank you for being in Washington to do this work right now.

MERKLEY: You're welcome. It has to be a moment of real bipartisan deliberation and we need to get it done. We need to stay in Washington and get this economic stimulus bill done hopefully by the end of the week.

BERMAN: Well, good luck. Stay at a safe distance from your colleagues in the Senate. We ask that.

MERKLEY: Take care now.

BERMAN: Okay. Bye-bye. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Bars and restaurants in New York are now officially closed except for takeout and delivery.


Just the latest measure to try to stop the virus' spread in America's largest city. So how is it working? What else is planned? Mayor Bill de Blasio is here, next.


BERMAN: An update now on the latest pandemic developments. There are now nearly 4,500 coronavirus cases in the United States with 87 deaths. That's 4,500 cases we know about. The Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, traditionally run in the first Saturday in May, is being postponed until the first Saturday in September. It was last postponed back in 1945 during World War II.

Bars and restaurants are closed in New York city for everything but takeout. Also closed, nightclubs, movie theaters, concert venues. Also New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has canceled all programs and events through May 15th. That does include one of the biggest nights on the fashion calendar, the annual Met Gala.

CAMEROTA: All right, John. Joining us now to talk about all of that is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mayor, great to have you here.

So what about that? I mean, this city obviously is the hub, seen as the hub of culture and food. And the idea that all these restaurants and cafes and theaters are shut down right now -- I mean, obviously they're open for takeout, but that's a different experience.