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White House Pushes for $1 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package; Steve Mnuchin Warns of 20 Percent Unemployment if Congress Refuses to Take Action; Thousands of Hospitality Workers Laid Off as Businesses Struggle. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. It is Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 a.m. out West. I'm glad you're with us this morning.

A dire plea from America's top health officials. Take this seriously. Full stop. If you don't, this crisis will not end. You are risking your health and the health of others. The future of this crisis depends on what you do and what I do right now.

Here is what you need to know this morning. Coronavirus is now in all 50 states across America and the death toll is over 100. 6,000 plus cases in this country. That is five times as many as we had on Friday. Healthcare workers are on edge as supply shortages loom from hospital masks to beds to treat the critically ill. These are the people putting themselves in harm's way every single moment to treat patients.

More states and cities taking aggressive steps to stop community spread. Nearly eight million people in northern California are on day two of a shelter-in-place order. New York City's mayor now says that same order could very much be a reality here soon.

The United States and Canada also preparing to potentially issue a statement that could suspend nonessential travel between the two countries, and the White House is pushing a $1 trillion stimulus package to try to cope with and battle the economic fallout of the pandemic.

This as the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warns lawmakers that we could see unemployment reach 20 percent if they don't act. If that happened, that would be near Great Depression era levels.

Let's begin this hour with our Brynn Gingras. She joins us in New York. Let's start with New York City. So populous, people live so closely together. Are we or are we not going to see a shelter-in-place order?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not right now and likely not going to happen, Poppy. HARLOW: OK.

GINGRAS: Again, at this point. Listen, the mayor just went on record with a radio station, a local one here, and said the whole shelter in place is to get people here in New York, their mind set changed to the fact that something more could happen. Some more restrictions could take place. But we know that the governor has gone on record several times and said nothing that extreme could happen without his approval.

And he's given several reasons of why he's not going to approve that at this juncture. One, it's going to cause mass panic. People are just going to go to grocery stores and buy even more food than they're doing now and that's going to cause a serious issue even more so than where we're at now.

Also he said if he's going to take a major step like that, he's going to do it in the conjunction with the region. Just like he did with businesses, right? New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, they banded together, closed businesses at the same time. Because if you just shelter-in-place one city, well, people in the city are just going to move to the next area and that's not going to solve our problem.

Also, it means it would close daycares and people who need to go to work. The hospital, you know, staff. The doctors, the nurses, they wouldn't have child care options. So that is the major reasons that the governor has said shelter-in-place is not going to happen.

But, listen, Poppy, we've heard shelter-in-place, we've heard self- isolation, we've heard lockdown, we've heard so many different brands of different policies all across the country, the bottom line is people who don't need to leave their homes should just stay home if we're really going to beat this pandemic.

And you can see here behind me in Times Square, it's pretty empty at this hour -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, that's great to see.

Brynn, thank you for that reporting.


HARLOW: In San Francisco, day two of shelter-in-place orders there. Let's go to our Dan Simon. He's with us again this morning.

I mean, look, it's empty behind you. I know it's early there. People are listening?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Poppy. You know, as you drive around some of the high volume shopping areas throughout the city, it appears to be pretty much deserted. And I can tell you that Fisherman's Wharf, this of course a very, you know, highly trafficked area especially for tourism, it's really going to be empty with all these nonessential shops. They're all just going to be shuttered.

You see Madam Tussaud's behind me. They're closed and you can see some of the other merchants. They are really going to suffer. But I'll tell you what, Poppy, something that kind of warms the heart, life goes on behind me at this famous landmark, this is the Boudin Bakery, they're making the sourdough bread and you can see the workers in there, you know, fulfilling the orders, et cetera.

But, Poppy, there is a lot of angst about how ultimately this is going to impact businesses long-term, how it's going to impact families. That was made even more evident yesterday when Governor Gavin Newsom said that schools could be closed for the rest of the year. In other words, schools may not open until the fall. But I want you to listen now to some of the things we're hearing from folks on the streets. Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is kind of creepy in a way, because usually it would be bustling with activity and it's such a beautiful day. But nobody is out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people are going to go stir crazy. I'm on day two and I'm already needing to get outside and walk around. So yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to work. My kids aren't going to school. My wife isn't going to work. We're thinking about getting out of the city.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we have to figure out how our merchants are going to survive this, particularly our retail merchants.


SIMON: Well, people are still coming, you know, to terms with this shelter-in-place order. I can tell you, Poppy, that there are a lot of exemptions. People can go to the grocery store, they can fill up their tanks with gas, and also you are allowed to go outside and exercise. And we saw people taking full advantage of that yesterday. We'll send it back to you.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, that's good, right? They need it for their soul and their body to get out and exercise a little bit. But good to know you can go to a grocery store, you can go to the gas station, so people aren't panicking on that front.

Dan, thanks for that reporting in San Francisco.

Let's go to Illinois. The governor there confirms 22 positive coronavirus cases at a long-term care facility. Omar Jimenez joins us from Chicago.

Omar, I mean, this is sadly so reflective of what you were reporting on over the last few weeks at that nursing home in Washington state.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. When you see long-term care facilities like this, part of why there is so much concern is, yes, you -- there is the potential for these numbers to explode, like in this case, 22 new cases revealed from Monday going into Tuesday. But also part of the concern is the type of population you typically see inside these facilities, elderly, and usually in that facility to begin with because of an underlying health condition.

It was just a few days ago on Saturday that Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that one of the new cases in Illinois was stemming from this long-term care facility in the Chicagoland county. So they sent out the Illinois Department of Health and they tested everyone inside, both employees and residents, and when those test results came back, they got 22 positive confirmed cases of the coronavirus at this one facility, four of them employees, 18 of them residents.

Now as we understand from the governor's office, everyone who did test positive is in isolation. And visitations have been restricted. We talked about the concern outside of just those numbers as well.

Now, when you talk about why we saw some of these new cases, part of it is because simply there is an effort to test everyone inside of that facility. And state wide even outside of that, we have seen new cases pop up every single day including a jump of more than 50 percent going from Monday into Tuesday. Including within that the first coronavirus related death here in Illinois. A woman in her 60s, the exact type of population we see in these facilities -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Omar, thank you for that reporting in Chicago. Let's talk about all the developments overnight. Dr. Celine Gounder is back with us, clinical assistant professional of medicine and infectious disease at NYU, Dr. Alice Chen also joins me, former executive director of Doctors for America.

Thank you, both, so much for being here. I'd like to just have you listen to this plea, really, not just a warning, but a plea from Doctor Fauci last night.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: The attitude, well, I'm young, I'm invulnerable. You don't want to put your loved ones at risk, particularly the ones who are elderly and the ones who have compromised conditions. We can't do this without the young people cooperating. Please cooperate with us.


HARLOW: Dr. Chen, let me begin with you, what is your message to anyone who thinks I'm not that worried about it, I'm fine, I'm young, I'm healthy?

DR. ALICE CHEN, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DOCTORS FOR AMERICA: I think Dr. Fauci is exactly right. If you are thinking, I myself, I might not get sick, who are the people in your life who could be most affected by this? And think about all of the doctors and nurses who are literally putting their lives on the line to fight this pandemic. I have a friend who is an ER physician. She has five children under

the age of 6, and she is worried, she's scared to go to work. I mean, she said for first time in my career I'm scared to go to work because I don't want to bring it home to my family but she's going. And so many doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals are going because the country needs them, the community needs them.

And for every young person or anybody who is thinking this doesn't affect me, I can go out, I can be with my friends.


CHEN: Don't do it, help us.

HARLOW: Right. It's not about you. Right? It's about everyone around you and everyone you love and everyone that they are in contact with.

Dr. Gounder, the reporting this morning out of "The New York Times" that highlights what is now public in HHS report from just March 13th, so just a few days ago, is a sobering assessment of where we could be.

Let me read it, because "The Times" report talks about the shift in the president's tone to take this much more seriously and activate many more federal resources, quote, "That shift in tone came four days after an internal report from the Department of Health and Human Services, not yet shared with the public, that concluded that the pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illnesses."


HARLOW: We pulled up the exact report. That's what it says here. It doesn't say the pandemic may. It says the pandemic -- a pandemic will last 18 months or longer in multiple waves. What does that actually mean for all of us, different mutations of this?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSIONAL OF MEDICINE AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE AT NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL: No, I think what's going to happen is we will institute very rigorous measures for a period of time. The folks out at Imperial College in Great Britain now, their report is publicly available.


GOUNDER: Their modeling would suggest that you have to institute these kinds of measures for five months, very rigorously. And then you may be able to relax for a period and then you would reinstitute as the cases go up again. But we're basically looking at doing this over and over and over again even after a five-month period of strict social distancing in order to curb cases until we have a vaccine.

HARLOW: Well, what the irony of this, Dr. Chen, which was pointed out by Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who of course runs the Department of Medical Ethics and Policy at UPenn, is that with social distancing, your ability to create an immunity quickly slows down. All right? That's one of the side effects. And then you have version sort of 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0, right? Is that part of the negative side effects I guess of the necessity of social distancing?

CHEN: Well, that may be true in terms of your own personal immunity, but what we're talking about here is slowing the virus down as much as possible so that we can get to a day when we have treatments, when we have vaccines.


CHEN: When we can take care of people who get ill. If everyone got ill right now, we would not have hospitals to go to. We would just be completely overwhelming the system, just like it's looking like in Italy.

HARLOW: Dr. Gounder, there is a debate now over shelter in place in a city like New York City. The mayor of New York is leaving that open as a possibility, the governor of New York Andrew Cuomo saying late yesterday, he doesn't think it will necessarily work. What does the science tell us?

GOUNDER: I think you're balancing what would be ideal. You know, if everybody did shelter in place from a public health perspective, that would be ideal. But then you also have legal, constitutional angles to weigh here and then also just people's psychology. And so when you're overly draconian with your measures, people can really be scared, it can back fire. We saw this actually in Wuhan when they quarantined the city, and people, something like half the population left before they really locked down. So you have to be a little bit careful to weigh all of these factors and see what makes the most sense big picture.

HARLOW: What about the dearth of necessary supplies for where it looks like this is going to go, Dr. Chen, during the peak? If the peak is 45 days out or so as Dr. Fauci noted, we just saw the modeling that Governor Cuomo did yesterday in his press conference during this show and New York alone saying the peak could be 53,000 hospitalizations -- excuse me, about 110,000 hospitalizations whereas we in New York have 53,000 hospital beds.

That's -- I mean, that's half as many as we needed. Is that what we're looking at on a nationwide scale?

CHEN: That is what we are looking at. And I think when we look at the numbers, people don't necessarily realize that hospitals are full already because it's flu season. It's the winter. People get sick for all kinds of different reasons. And so adding on top of an already full health system, all these new cases of very sick people is going to be a very significant challenge.

HARLOW: And what can we all do to mobilize, the president talking about what the military can do to step up here, probably medical tents to treat those.

Thank you both very much for your work and for being here today on this.

Tonight, a lot of your questions, once again, will be answered. We have our third global town howl on coronavirus. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta will both host it for you tonight, 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN. Excuse me, tomorrow night, Thursday night, 10:00 Eastern on CNN.

A trillion dollars. That is what the Trump administration is now asking for in a pretty unprecedented stimulus package. That in addition to the request for $45 billion in emergency funding.

Let's go to the White House, John Harwood joins us there.

The president is expected to speak later today. Do we know what he'll say and where things stand on both of these funding fronts?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, he said in a tweet this morning that he was going to be having a news conference and address some news about the FDA. Marc Short, who is the vice president's chief of staff, was just talking to some reporters a short while ago, said he didn't know what the president was going to announce.

Obviously the president has continued to talk publicly about prospects for a vaccine. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S. government, has said that's a 12 to 18 months away. Don't know if the president is going to repeat the similar things that he said before or not.

In terms of the stimulus, the notable thing here, Poppy, is that, you know, there's been a long-standing debate over whether or not deficits matter in the United States. In this moment, that debate is over.


HARLOW: Yes --

HARWOOD: You've got the president of the United States, the leadership in both chambers of Congress saying, we are going to a very large stimulus, a trillion dollars.

HARLOW: Yes --

HARWOOD: We'll have to see whether rank-and-file Republicans in the Senate in particular are willing to go --

HARLOW: Yes --

HARWOOD: Along with that, but it looks like they will. Senate is prepared to pass the House Emergency Response Bill later today --

HARLOW: Yes --

HARWOOD: And then overnight, the Trump budget department came up with a new request for about $50 billion of additional help. So all spigots are open right now for this coronavirus response.

HARLOW: The big difference this time around, Harwood, from 2001-2008 when Jack(ph) went after Americans --

HARWOOD: Oh, yes --

HARLOW: Is there so many fewer places to spend that money to prop up the broader economy, right? That's what makes this time so different.

HARWOOD: That's right. And one of the reasons that people are trying to put money in people's pockets is to help them simply sustain their basic needs --

HARLOW: For sure --

HARWOOD: And we are -- they are making sure that pharmacies and grocery stores are open, so that people can feed their families.

HARLOW: A 100 percent, John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much. Still to come, thousands of workers being furloughed across the hospitality industry and small businesses struggling day-by-day to stay afloat. We'll talk to one owner how this is impacting her and all of her employees. Also the government may be pushing this huge stimulus plan, but it is not calming Wall Street. Look at that, futures down significantly again ahead of the open this morning.

And if you're a parent like so many of us, the thing you may worry about a lot after the health of your children, of course, is how do you talk to them about this? How do you help them understand this? We'll get into that ahead as well.



HARLOW: Twenty percent unemployment, great depression era levels. A source tells CNN that is a stark warning from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. If Congress does nothing, if they don't act, that's a worst case. The Treasury Department says Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes but never implied we would actually hit 20 percent.

Still the fact that it's even a possibility is startling. Jason Carroll spoke with several employees facing layoffs and furloughs. He joins us now with those stories. I mean, you look at mega hotel chain Marriott, right now, they're combined, Marriott-Starwood, they're already furloughing workers.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's absolutely devastating, Poppy, and it's happening in real-time to workers, not just here in New York City, but across the country, workers who are waking up this morning without jobs and wondering what they're going to do next.


CARROLL (voice-over): Across New York City, empty tables, closed doors and worries about the economic impact of coronavirus as thousands of workers are laid off.

TANYA PALKANINEC, LAID-OFF BARTENDER: It definitely felt like a weight had dropped. Felt very heavy, but, yes, it was -- it was scary. CARROLL: Tanya Palkaninec is a bartender who lost her job Monday

after the state ordered bars and restaurants to limit their services to take-out and delivery.

(on camera): What's next for you?

PALKANINEC: I don't -- I don't really know. I guess a lot of waiting around.

CARROLL: A lot of waiting for Mark to say as well, he's a hotel waiter, also now out of work. He says he spent hours online trying to file for unemployment, the system crashed due to sudden high demand not seen since 9/11.

MARK DESSAIX, LAID-OFF WAITER: The uncertainty for everyone right now is completely unfathomable.

CARROLL (voice-over): Hotel occupancy rates in New York City have plummeted. Marriot International says it has started furloughing its employees, economically, the worst may be yet to come if the city's residents are ordered to shelter in place.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK STATE: I'm hearing constantly from people who are tremendously worried about how they're going to make ends meet, and that scenario, a shelter-in-place begs a lot of questions.

CARROLL: Across the country, hospitality workers from San Francisco to Boston to Grand Rapids, Michigan, wondering how to make ends meet, and if they will have jobs to go back to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are they going to pay their bills? How am I going to pay my bills?

CARROLL: Here in New York City, with an estimated 25,000 restaurants and bars, business leaders say a comprehensive restaurant rescue plan will be needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Restaurants are cash businesses, they operate week-to-week, month-to-month, we are going to need direct cash infusion into business owners' pockets, into the workers' pockets, and then we're going to need a long-term plan to figure out how we can pull people out of debt.

CARROLL: In the meantime, restaurants like Cafe Fiorello which had to lay off nearly all of its staff is selling its pasta and produce supermarket style.

MICHAEL VITANZA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CAFE FIORELLO: You just keep going. You just keep going. You re-create yourself if you have to, which is what we're doing here. And you just wake up every day and make a new plan and try to keep moving on.

CARROLL: And you know, Poppy, there's so much talk about the stimulus package, but the reality here on the ground is that a lot of the workers that we spoke to are really worried that, that is not going to meet their long-term needs, and for these people, time is already running out. Poppy?


HARLOW: Wow, I used to go to that restaurant all the time that you just showed, Jason.

CARROLL: Oh, yes --

HARLOW: And to think that so many of their employees are laid off, almost everyone except for management. Jason, thanks for that report. Small business owners facing this in a dire way, with me now is Debra Kravet, one of the owners of Apthorp Cleaners right here in New York City. Debra, I know you and your husband have been running this for 37 years. Tell everyone what you're going through.


DEBRA KRAVET, OWNER, APTHORP CLEANERS: It's an unbelievable situation. You know, every day we wake up, and we have to devise a new plan. We just don't really know what we're going to do. We have 18 employees that depend on us. You know, the neighborhood depends on us. Our clients depend on us. And you know, right now, because so many of our clients are white-collar workers, they -- you know, are working remotely.

And unfortunately when you work remotely, you're not cleaning your clothes. You know, you're at a home, you know, maybe in your pajamas or your sweats, you know, and our industry is such that, you know, we're a seasonal industry. We -- you know, change of seasons, it's really big for us. You know, when --

HARLOW: Sure --

KRAVET: We go from Winter to Spring --

HARLOW: Yes --

KRAVET: When we go from Summer to Fall, and it's not anything you can make up. You know, people are not going to clean more --

HARLOW: Yes --

KRAVET: When it comes, you know --


KRAVET: When they can. It's just -- you know, business lost is business lost. It's not coming, you know, you don't get it again.

HARLOW: Yes, I know. I know. Debra, you said I'm torn between my heart and my head. What do you mean? What are those decisions you're having to make every day that pulls between your heart and your head?

KRAVET: You know, my employees are hourly employees. And you know, we've cut their hours, you know, we've cut their days that they work. We've -- you know, we feel like we've cut to the bone. But in the interim, you know, our landlord still wants the rent paid, our taxes --

HARLOW: Yes --

KRAVET: Paid, Con-Edison wants the utilities paid, you know, the insurance companies want their premiums paid. I mean, we still have to pay all these fees -- you know, business expenses --

HARLOW: Sure --

KRAVET: Plus whatever we can pay to our employees. And we -- you know, my employees, many of them have been with me over 20 years. And so it pulls at my heart --

HARLOW: Of course --

KRAVET: You know, to have to cut them because I know they depend on their salary.

HARLOW: How long can you sustain this without having to -- God forbid, file for bankruptcy?

KRAVET: You know, it's hard to say. You know, maybe we could -- you know, go on for 60 or 90 days, but much past that, I don't know how we could really afford to continue, you know, paying all these bills. You know, I'm really -- you know, we have business interruption insurance that we carry, but unfortunately, you know, a virus is not considered --

HARLOW: Covered.

KRAVET: Yes, I mean --

HARLOW: Yes --

KRAVET: It's -- I mean, I think that, you know, the state and the city and the federal government, they need to get on to these insurance companies and let us start, you know, being able to use the business interruption insurance for this, you know? The government can bail out the insurance companies like they want to help the airlines. You know, I just don't know where this is going to go.

You know, all I know from my business is that, you know, nothing in -- if nothing is coming in, where am I going to get the money from to pay employees, and how can I ask --

HARLOW: Of course --

KRAVET: Them to come to work?

HARLOW: Yes, of course. It's an -- it's impossible decisions you're having to make every day. We wish you luck and I don't think any of us have many answers on that front. But Debra, thank you for sharing this with us because I know so many people are going through it.

KRAVET: Yes, we are, thank you so much for having me on -- HARLOW: Of course, good luck, you're welcome back any time to update

us, and we want to hear from so many of you across the country who are small business owners. If you're watching today, if you're listening to us on the radio, please tweet your story, your contact information, you can DM me or tweet it to me @poppyharlowcnn, we want to hear your story.

All right, let's look at Wall Street, we're moments away from the opening bell. it is shaping up to be another rough morning. Stocks overnight hit their -- what's called limit down, down more than 5 percent. So we don't know just how bad this is going to be at the open. Depending on how low it goes, we could see the market halted here at the open. Let's wait and see and we could be near the levels where the stock market was when the president took office, if you can believe it. We'll be right back.