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U.S. Health Care Workers Concerned About Shortages; Money for Americans; Joe Biden's Big Sweep. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, millions of people in the U.S. have been told to stay home, but some are not taking it seriously, and hospitals are already overwhelmed, with one doctor telling us he and his colleagues are scared.

The White House wants to send you money soon, as it tries to save an economy struggling under the weight of the pandemic.

And as the crisis reshapes U.S. politics, Joe Biden pulls a hat trick in three states that held primaries.


CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

So, day-to-day society is drastically changing in the United States as the novel coronavirus is now confirmed in all 50 states, and more than 100 people have died nationwide. Local governments are now taking their own precautions. At least 37 states have closed public schools.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Canada are preparing to suspend nonessential travel between the two countries in the next 24 to 48 hours. A Trump administration official tells CNN negotiators are working out the definition of nonessential, but trade and business will continue.

Worldwide, cases continue to soar, reaching more than 185,000 infections, with Europe as the epicenter of the crisis. The E.U. has announced it will close its external borders to all nonessential travel for 30 days.

Now, despite the recommendation to practice social distancing and other tactics from government and medical officials, some people just aren't listening. Video shot yesterday in San Francisco shows people having a stroll and exercising around the bay, despite an order to shelter in place.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says the responsibility to keep the public safe sits on everyone's shoulders.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The good news part of this is that it is within our control, I think, to totally change the fate here, or at least alter the fate of what's happening here. Maybe not totally change it, but have an impact on where this thing goes. It's within all of us. How I behave, Jake, affects your health. How you behave affects my health. Never, I think, have we been so dependent on each other, at least not in my lifetime and we should rise to that occasion, I think.


CHURCH: And Dr. Gupta goes on to say the U.S. is woefully unprepared for what the virus could do to the country. If people don't heed experts' opinions, there may not be enough resources to deal with the problem.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talked about the shortage of medical supplies.


GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're shopping for ventilators all around the globe. We're shopping for N51 masks around the globe. We're shopping for PPE. The price gouging is unbelievable, but you can't even find it.

And that's where the federal government, that has a stock of reserve -- and I'm going to meet with them tomorrow to find out exactly how much they have -- otherwise, it is a major problem because so many countries have gone through this and exhausted the global supply.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Raj Kalsi, an emergency physician in Naperville, Illinois.

Thank you so much for being with us.

DR. RAJ KALSI, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Thanks for having me, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Now, of course, in the midst of this worsening coronavirus epidemic and pandemic, there's increasing concern that U.S. hospitals are not equipped to deal with any surge in patients, that there will be too few ventilators, masks, even medical staff.

Now, you're there at ground level. How concerned should Americans be about that, and how concerned are you about it?

KALSI: I'll tell you that pulse on the floor of the E.R. -- and I'm speaking for E.R. doctors, nurses, patient care techs, registrars, people who are collecting your insurance information -- we are all on the front line -- we are scared. It is a measured fear because we are used to critical illness. We are used to the worst things. This is entirely new for everybody, but we are scared. Here's what we're scared of. We're scared of running out of N95 masks.


We're afraid of the vacillating opinions on whether or not COVID is airborne versus droplet, and that makes a big difference. We're scared of going into a room where a patient doesn't declare that they have a cough -- perhaps they came in with abdominal pain, and they say, oh, by the way, Dr. Kalsi, I've had this cough since returning from my cruise, and that wasn't mentioned in the triage assessment.

And we have kids. I have three kids. I have a wife who's a nurse. And we are fighting the fight.

And what we worry about with future critical illness is exactly that. When we have filled our ICUs, Rosemary, with ventilated patients, the next critical wave of patients stay in the E.R. on ventilators until we can find a hospital where they can go to, but there may not be one. And we're afraid of an Italian experience, and it's quite concerning.

CHURCH: I totally understand. The thing that's mind-boggling is, this is the United States. This is the superpower.

How is it possible that this country is in this situation?

KALSI: You know, and that's a great question. I don't have a great answer for that. I know that this thing with COVID, the pandemic, hit really hard, really fast, at an inopportune time for America.

Flu is just peaking, and all of the other typical fair -- heart illness, pediatric illnesses, abdominal illness, cancer illness, traumatic illness, is still going on. Nothing has changed with that. And organizations and infrastructure for the hospital system, medical system, is prepared for our typical annual volumes, but we were not prepared for this corona illness and how quickly it's sweeping.

I'm not a politician. I'm a doctor. I'm a lowly doctor in the E.R., and I'm here to save lives, as are my peers, my nurses, and my brothers and sisters at all my institutions that I love and work with, and we are just trying to fight the fight medically. We don't really have a great opinion politically, but we want more support.

CHURCH: Well, as far as we're concerned, you are a hero, along with all your colleagues.

And we just heard from CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the important role that we all have to play in quarantining ourselves so we don't spread this virus. Let's just listen to what infectious disease expert Dr. Tony Fauci had to say about that same topic.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Don't get 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.


CHURCH: So, Dr. Fauci specifically talking there about young Americans, about millennials, specifically, across the country, still getting together at bars, restaurants, walking around as if this is just a normal day.

Do you think U.S. citizens overall are getting this message about just how serious this pandemic is and how easy it is to spread?

KALSI: I certainly can't speak for the entire nation. I'll tell you, I live in a community where some people are still going out, congregating at social arenas, bars, things like that. I always tell my patients when I see them, even now -- just yesterday night when I had a shift -- I say, look, I have to create a tag line for them.

I say, remember, social distancing, we will go the distance. And they ask me what that means. I say, stay at home. If you have anybody that you love, stay at home. You've come in with a respiratory illness. You've come in with a low-grade fever. The COVID testing will take days to come back. Social distance, we will go the distance.

CHURCH: Dr. Raj Kalsi, again, we want to salute you and all other medical workers, doctors, nurses, everyone out there on the front line, because the work that you're doing is saving everybody and all our loved ones. Many thanks to you.

KALSI: Thank you. And if you are a neighbor of an E.R. doctor or nurse, please, just thank them and thank them for their hard work. And it is a courageous thing they're doing to go into work every day. Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Most certainly. Dr. Raj Kalsi, thank you.

KALSI: Thank you.

CHURCH: We shall make sure we do that. And later this hour, Dr. Kalsi will answer questions from some of you about the virus, including hand-washing habits. And if people who have recovered from COVID-19 may still be infectious.

Well, the European Union has closed its external borders to all nonessential travel and more countries are imposing lockdowns.

Delia Gallagher is in Rome, journalist Al Goodman is in Madrid, but we begin with CNN's senior international correspondent Jim Bittermann, who is there live in Paris.


So, Jim, France has put in place new measures to combat this pandemic. What's the latest on that?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing this morning all over France is a lot of road blocks, check a points, as the police go over the paperwork that people are supposed to fill out. You're supposed to download a form from the Internet, explain why you're moving about, and then show it to the police when they stop you.

So far, at least, I guess they've handed out some fines this morning. The fines go up to about $150, 135 euros. And so, it's enough, hopefully, to dissuade people from going out. People are supposed to be on lockdown.

Other fronts here, there's a lot of interesting, different developments overnight. The foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that he is urging all of the French who are overseas to come home. He has a problem with the fact that there aren't many flights flying into France right now. A lot of airlines have canceled their flights, and they have, for example, 7,000 French who are estimated, at least, who are in Morocco, and they're trying to get home and they haven't been able to find flights to get home.

In another interesting development overnight was a survey that was taken by our associated network, BFM here. And in that survey, they found that this confinement period is actually meeting with some approval of the French, this lockdown period, 93 percent of the French say that they approve of the government's efforts, and 81 percent say they are definitely worried about the virus. So, the French are pulling together -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Good news. Jim Bittermann bringing us the latest from Paris. Many thanks to you.

Let's go to Rome now.

And, Delia, Italy has the second highest number of infections in the world and as a result is under total lockdown. What's the latest from there?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the long and short of it is that the numbers are still going up. We had 3,000 new cases reported yesterday, bringing Italy to a total of 31,000 cases. That total cases also includes those who have recovered and those who have died from the virus.

But clearly, the emphasis right now is to watch the numbers when they will peak and when they will, hopefully, start to decline. Experts are saying that possibly they are going to still increase, and they are looking towards a time period of the next ten days. After about ten days, perhaps, they're hoping to see that some of these measures that Italy has taken and was, you know, one of the first countries to take -- at least, we've been in lockdown for ten days now countrywide -- but in the regions of the north, they've been in lockdown for three or four weeks now. So we should start to see some sort of positive trend that suggests that these lockdown measures are working.

Of course, in the north, they are still confronting the emergency. They have more than half of the total cases there in the regions of the north. They are trying to build out new hospitals for beds and ICU units. As your doctor guest mentioned, that is really a concern, that the

infrastructure, that the hospital infrastructure and equipment is there for the doctors and nurses. Pope Francis is going to give his weekly audience in the next hour. He is, of course, doing that live stream. Normally, Rosemary, there are thousands of tourists in the square on a Wednesday morning. Of course, that hasn't been happening now for some time. The pope is live streaming everything.

And just this morning, Pope Francis gave an interview to "La Repubblica," which is one of their largest newspapers, and sort of threw his weight behind a theory that's been going around in the Italian press that tax evaders are also to blame for fact that Italy's health infrastructure is now suffering. The pope also agreeing with some Italian commentators that if there are not enough hospital beds and equipment, part of the blame has to do with people that aren't paying their taxes -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Delia Gallagher, joining us live from Rome.

Now to Al in Madrid. And cases, al, have surged across Spain. What's the latest on those numbers?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Rosemary. We are expecting the latest figures in a couple of hours' time. The government had been giving out the figures twice a day, midday and evening. Now they've gone to just once a day. That's coming up around noon Spanish time.

The current figure is more than 11,000 cases. That's a huge increase from just a week ago, and nearly 500 deaths. Now, a couple of images from Spain. I'm right in the city center. There's almost no one here.

What we saw earlier this day, military troops, army troops patrolling. Now the police are back out patrolling. They want to make sure nobody comes here. A five-minute walk from here is the Spanish parliament. It's the weekly question-and-answer period for the prime minister.


I just saw him walk in on the television with the health minister and interior minister in charge of all the police and security forces. There are about 20 people in the parliament because everybody is staying away from the parliament and watching it. I'm talking about the MPs, the deputies. And by design, it's just the prime minister, a few cabinet members, and a few members of the opposition who will ask him questions. They have to do it in person because that's the law.

Another image. The military unit of Spain that typically deals with emergencies like earthquakes is preparing to set up field hospitals, tents next to existing building hospitals, structures, so that they can take care of extra capacity.

So, as the numbers rise, they are doing -- they are putting as many things in place to try to be ready for that.

Back to you, Rosemary. CHURCH: All right. Al Goodman, many thanks to you, bringing us up to

date on the situation there across Spain. Appreciate it.

And we have this update just in to CNN. A spokesman for German politician Friedrich Merz says he's tested positive for the coronavirus. He is a member of the conservative Christian Democratic union and candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor.

We'll take a short break here.

Still to come, business in the U.S. has been devastated by the outbreak. Stores are closing and restaurants are empty. Ahead, what the White House is proposing to boost the economy.

We're back in just a moment.



CHURCH: Well, the spread of the coronavirus has been hammering business in the United States. According to a congressional source, the treasury secretary warned that a lack of government action could drive up the unemployment rate to 20 percent. To avoid that, the White House is proposing a massive stimulus package, which would include direct payments to Americans.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I know there's been some rumors of the number. It is a big number. This is a very unique situation in this economy. We've put a proposal on the table that would inject $1 trillion into the economy. That is on top of the $300 billion from the IRS deferrals.


CHURCH: The proposal sent U.S. stocks soaring on Tuesday. The Dow was up 5 percent, while the Nasdaq and S&P rose 6 percent. In addition to the stimulus proposal, the White House is also asking Congress for an emergency fund of more than $45 billion.

Well, President Trump is drastically shifting his tone on the coronavirus. He is now acknowledging the gravity of this pandemic, while insisting he's always taken it seriously. But as we've seen, the president has been downplaying the crisis for months.

CNN's Boris Sanchez has our report.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump today denying an obvious shift in tone from previous statements, saying he has always seen the coronavirus outbreak as a grave problem.

REPORTER: Is there a shift in tone? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't think -- I

mean, I have seen that, where people actually liked it, but I didn't feel different. I've always known this is a -- this is a real -- this is a pandemic. I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. All you had to do was look at other countries. I think now it's in almost 120 countries all over the world.

No, I've always viewed it as very serious. There was no difference yesterday from days before. I feel the tone is similar.

SANCHEZ: Though Trump only admitting the situation was out of control yesterday. For weeks, he downplayed the threat.

REPORTER: The words about a pandemic at this point --

TRUMP: No, we're not at all, and we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.

SANCHEZ: Sources telling CNN the change in tone spurred by new projections, indicating that without drastic action, the United States could face a catastrophic loss of life from coronavirus, a death toll topping 1 million.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We have been working on models day and night around the globe to --

SANCHEZ: Behind the scenes, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, prodding Trump for more aggressive action in recent days, as other officials warn imposing major restrictions on Americans could further hinder the economy. Sources say Trump was initially worried about volatility in markets, but the rising number of coronavirus cases ultimately pushed him into a stronger response.

Trump today admitting a recession is possible, but adding, he is not worried.

TRUMP: I don't think in terms of recession. I think in terms of getting it out, because when we're finished with the virus, we will win. We will win. And when that victory takes place, our economy's going to go through the roof. It is so pent-up, it is so built up, it is so ready to go in an upward direction, but we have to knock out this enemy.

SANCHEZ (on camera): President Trump also mentioned that he was looking to economically boost the airline and hotel industries. The president yet again defending his administration's response to this crisis, saying that they have done a fantastic job, though he did acknowledge that there's one area where he wishes that he had done better -- relationships with the press.

Boris Sanchez, CNN at the White House.


CHURCH: Well, New York state is reporting at least 1,600 cases of the coronavirus and 15 deaths. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned residents to prepare to stay at home, saying a shelter in place could be ordered within the next two days. However, New York's governor quickly dismissed that possibility.

CNN's MJ Lee has the details.


CUOMO: This is an extraordinary time in this nation's history.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governor Andrew Cuomo in full crisis mode, overseeing New York state's response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak. As the virus continues to spread across the country, New York attracting national attention, with one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases in a single state.


This week, new enforcement measures announced in other parts of New York -- schools closed in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, and restaurants and bars in New York City also required to shut down, except for food delivery and takeout.

Cuomo also calling on the federal government to use the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical facilities and issuing an executive order to increase hospital capacity across New York.

The governor pleading with every New Yorker to stay calm and do their part.

CUOMO: I remember the fear and the panic that existed in 9/11, where a single moment, your whole concept of life and society can be shaken, where you need to see government perform at its best.

LEE: In the midst of the crisis, Cuomo at times publicly clashing with one fellow New Yorker, President Trump.

CUOMO: Tthat is the role of the federal government and national leadership, and it is lacking.

LEE: Trump tweeting about a conference call with the country's governors on Monday and singling out one governor in particular.

Cuomo of New York has to do more, Trump wrote.

Cuomo firing back, writing, I have to do more? No, you have to do something. You're supposed to be the president.

But on Tuesday, both men changing their tunes.

CUOMO: I said to the president, who is a New Yorker, who I've known for many, many years, I put my hand out in partnership. I want to work together 100 percent.

TRUMP: With respect to Governor Cuomo, we had a great talk this morning. We're both doing a really good job and we're coordinating it, and we agree, you know, different states need different things, and we agree on that 100 percent.

LEE: MJ Lee, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: And questions you've been asking us. Are hand sanitizers more effective than soap? Can people who have recovered from the coronavirus still be infectious?

We will get answers to some of those key questions when we hear from a medical expert on the other side of the break.

Do stay with us.