Return to Transcripts main page


Coronavirus Is Upending Just About Every Aspect Of American Life; Red Cross Faces Severe Blood Shortage Amid Outbreak; America's Elderly Facing Obstacles In Accessing Food. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 14:00   ET



CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of people here in the U.K. who do not feel that enough is being done quickly enough to avert the kind of catastrophe that we've seen in other countries -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, Clarissa Ward, stay safe, stay healthy. Clarissa, thank you so much.

And we're at the top of the hour now. I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is CNN's Special Live Coverage of the Global Pandemic.

As the nation sees a surge in coronavirus cases, major measures are in the works to bring relief to people and just as critically, healthcare workers.

The Senate is expected to act this afternoon on a response package that will send checks directly to Americans. You are looking at live pictures here from the Senate floor.

And plus moments ago, the President said this about foreclosures and evictions.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I am also announcing that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing immediate relief to renters and homeowners by suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.


KEILAR: What's more, the President says he is invoking a wartime measure, the Defense Production Act to help increase the production of masks and other protective gear.


TRUMP: We do have -- we have tremendous numbers of ventilators, but there's never been an instance like this where no matter what you have, it's not enough. That would be the case. And we will be -- it's being signed, it's essentially drawn and we're going to sign it in just a little while. If we need to use it, we'll be using it at full speed ahead.


KEILAR: Now, in the meantime, the coronavirus is now recorded in all 50 states with the number of infected people topping 7,000. The number of those who have died is at 120, and we are up 2,000 cases, I should add from yesterday.

So just think about this. A week ago, there were only a thousand confirmed infections in the United States, and now the Big Three automakers have just announced they are closing all U.S. plants in the short term.

Thirty seven states have closed their schools and the U.S.-Canada border is closed to all non-essential traffic. Coronavirus is upending just about every aspect of American life.

CNN's Erica Hill joins me now from New York with more on how people are adjusting to this new normal. They're certainly trying, but it's difficult.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are and it's continuing to change every day and seemingly every hour.

As you point out, that jump in cases, here in New York, a jump of a thousand cases in just one day, and that has this state putting out the call for nurses, retired nurses, those not working to meet the needs for the upcoming healthcare crisis.


HILL (voice over): The border with Canada closed to all non-essential travel. Across Northern California, nearly eight million Americans now told to shelter in place and families across the state warned their kids will likely not return to school this year. Kansas already making it official.


GOV. LAURA KELLY (D-(Kevin Reese):): ... that I am ordering all K through 12 schools to close and cease in-person instruction for the duration of the 2019-2020 school year.

Unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day, and we must respond accordingly.


HILL (voice over): The country marking sober milestones. Positive tests in all 50 states at a death toll now above 100, according to a CNN tally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WS): We've got hospitals that have been closing

in rural areas because of a lack of economic vitality to keep them open. We shouldn't close any hospitals right now. We don't know what's going to be needed.


HILL (voice over): Officials calling on the Federal government for help, as they face a lack of hospital beds, protective gear for medical workers, and growing concerns about the need.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I need to find new hospital beds in 45 days which is an almost impossible undertaking, and we need the Army Corps of Engineers in here. We need FEMA in here. I need extra medical equipment. And we can only do that if we work together. That's -- that's the real game plan that we need.

TRUMP: We're sending upon request the two hospital ships that are being prepared right now.


HILL (voice over): The President announcing today the Mercy and Comfort will launch in the next week for New York and the West Coast.

Doctors meantime raising safety concerns for patients and staff.


DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Hospitals themselves contain a large number of extremely vulnerable people who do not have the virus. I think you'll start to see an increasing number of hospitals across the country start to limit visitation pretty significantly.


HILL (voice over): More confirmed cases across the sports world. The Ottawa Senators the first in the NHL to announce a player has tested positive. The entire team asked to isolate.

Four Brooklyn Nets players including star, Kevin Durant also positive. An NBA source telling CNN, "It's crazy more teams haven't tested players."


HILL (voice over): Meantime, pressure growing to cancel or postpone the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In Florida, defiant beachgoers causing alarm around the country while officials stress, this is only the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): As I hear people say, certain age

groups are immune, I know this, in Michigan, we have a five-year-old that is tested positive for coronavirus.

This is a situation that impacts everyone in every age group, and I implore people to take this seriously.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You've got to act as if you might be carrying the virus, act as if you might be carrying the virus.


HILL: We should point out too, that we were told at the White House briefing this morning that H.H.S. is going to be putting out a regulation, Brianna, that would allow doctors and medical professionals to practice across state lines and that could really bring in some of that much needed help in the weeks to come.

KEILAR: Yes, it's such a good point. Erica, thank you so much, reporting for us from New York.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is joining me now. He is an internist and a gastroenterologist. Doctor, the Vice President just repeated that people should not get tested unless they show symptoms.

You've been blogging that nearly everyone actually should get tested and the World Health Organization agrees. So tell us why it's so important for more to get tested than just those that are showing symptoms.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNIST AND GASTROENTEROLOGIST: Well, right now, due to the lack of ability to test everybody, we really need to test only people that are symptomatic. So I stress that with my patients.

We need to know who is infected. We need to know where this virus is going, whether it's mutating, whether it's only people that have smoked, so we need data and with data, that's how you can tell people the facts and facts, if nothing else, cuts down the panic.

But also it helps us guide our resources to where they can be most useful. That's why we need to have controlled testing to almost everyone eventually.

KEILAR: Can you really know where it's going if you aren't testing widely, though?

RODRIGUEZ: No, you can't. That's my whole point. So if you are testing widely, and you see that it's only 30-year-olds or 40-year- olds, you can tell where it's going. You can see the demographics of it. You can see the gender of it. You can see the habits that those people have, and you can start making wise decisions based on those facts, but --

KEILAR: The President has -- sorry, go on. RODRIGUEZ: No, no, go ahead. I think I know where you're going to go

with this.

KEILAR: Okay. I was going to say the President has announced that he is sending these two hospital ships going to New York, going to the West Coast. We know how fast the coronavirus can spread on ships, and we also know that the whole idea here is to get some of those patients who need help but are not infectious. It's actually non-coronavirus patients they need, they're trying to make room in hospitals and other facilities that those folks will go to the ships.

Do you have any worries about these ships kind of almost --


KEILAR: No? Tell us why.

RODRIGUEZ: I don't. I don't. Because a cruise ship where people are out and about having fun, being very social, interacting, having drinks, kissing, whatever, is one thing.

A hospital ship is basically like a hospital that is floating under certain sterile conditions. So, I have absolutely no worries, all right, about a hospital ship.

It is no more dangerous than a hospital which has some dangers obviously because it's full of sick people, but no more dangerous than a hospital.

KEILAR: That is so great to hear. That is awesome to hear. I want -- let's listen to something that a nurse said. This is what a nurse who also represents an association of nurses said earlier.


JEAN ROSS, REGISTERED NURSE AND PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We are not at all afraid to take care of the COVID-19 patients. It's what we do.

But we know what we need to protect ourselves, and unfortunately, the employers right now and our government is not hearing us, our complaints, our requests, our begging for proper protective equipment is going on deaf ears.


KEILAR: Now, we did just hear from the President, there was an announcement that actually he is going to invoke this particular act so that he can get more of these masks, more of this protective equipment, is that going to be enough and soon enough?

RODRIGUEZ: That's essential. I don't know if it's enough or soon enough, but it's essential.

In my own practice, we can't get more safety gowns to test people. So to be quite honest, I lived through the HIV epidemic, and even though as horrible as that was, there was never this lack of equipment.

We can't get masks in our office. We can't get gowns. And that just raises actually the panic level within staff and we want to keep everybody safe because the frontline people have to be healthy in order to provide care.

And also, I heard that they are thinking of maybe self-testing kits. Honestly, I don't know if that's such a great idea, to be honest.

KEILAR: And is that just because of the method of testing? I mean, this isn't like -- this isn't like one of those DNA tests that you just spit into. Right? This is a little more involved.


RODRIGUEZ: Yes, it's a little more involved. But my point is you self-test at home, what do you do with that -- you know, with that information? Do you keep it to yourself?

Do you then call your doctor and say, hey, I've tested positive for COVID. They're going to have to retest you. Or are you afraid that if you tell somebody you're going to lose your job, so you don't tell people?

I think testing needs to be controlled and the information needs to be reported so that we have accurate information.

People are equating it to a pregnancy test. It's not a pregnancy test. It is a matter of public health, not personal health alone.

KEILAR: Yes. No, it's a very important distinction. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, thank you so much for joining us.

RODRIGUEZ: My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: The virus is now threatening the nation's blood supply. The American Red Cross is warning that canceled blood drives are putting hospitals in a very dangerous bind.

The President and CEO of the Red Cross will join me next.

Plus, countless workers nationwide now reeling from mass closings and extreme restrictions. Now, a source tells CNN that the Big Three automakers will temporarily close all U.S. plants.

And another brutal day on Wall Street. The Dow has now erased all of the gains that have been made since President Trump took office.



KEILAR: The coronavirus outbreak is also posing a critical threat to the nation's blood supply. The American Red Cross announced that it's facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations. As of Monday, more than 3,000 drives had been cancelled. The U.S.

Surgeon General today calling on healthy Americans to step up and fill that void.

We have Gail McGovern. She's the President and the CEO for the American Red Cross, and she is joining us now. I mean, that's a lot. Tell us about how all of these closures are affecting the blood supply and how close you are to running out of blood.

GAIL MCGOVERN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AMERICAN RED CROSS: I sure will. And thanks, Brianna, for helping us get the word out.

KEILAR: Of course.

MCGOVERN: So we are looking at a lot of canceled drives, and the reason is because so much of the blood that we collect are at businesses, at college campuses, and as you know, they're all closing down.

And so we're looking for other places to have blood drives. We're asking people to please come in. We're urging them to donate blood, and we really do have a need.

We're providing the hospitals about 75 percent of the blood that they are asking for. And unfortunately, you know, they're going to probably have to at least cancel elective surgery if we can't get this ginned up, and we certainly don't want physicians to be in a place where they have to figure out who gets critical blood.

KEILAR: And of course, as you know, there will be people who, I mean, even folks who normally would give blood at their university, at their place of work, who would say, well, I'm a little worried about going in, am I going to be safe? What would you say to them?

MCGOVERN: Well, we are taking extraordinary measures to make sure these blood drives are safe. First of all, everyone that presents gets their temperature taken. Our staff is taking their own temperature every single day.

We're making sure the beds are spread out so that we're practicing social distances. After somebody donates, we wipe down the bed. We make the donor use hand sanitizer before and during and after the donation.

So we are taking every step possible to make sure that the environment is safe.

KEILAR: You may have just heard that the Trump administration is now preparing for this pandemic to last 18 months, maybe even longer according to a 100-page contingency report.

We're told that it plans on "multiple waves of illness." What is that going to mean for the Red Cross and for blood supply?

MCGOVERN: So if people can't present to donate blood, we're going to have a problem and we're just going to urge the American public to come to blood drives.

I've been at the American Red Cross for 12 years, and I'm always astounded at how the American public steps up and helps, and I think there could be nothing greater than to come out, donate blood and know you're saving someone's life.

And I think that during times of uncertainty, if people do that, they'll feel a lot better and they'll feel great about themselves as well.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a huge contribution. Gail McGovern with the American Red Cross, thank you so much.

MCGOVERN: Thank you, Brianna. I appreciate it.

KEILAR: So one thing that we know for certain is that our elderly are among the most vulnerable right now, and this is not just from the virus. It's also when it comes to the ability to get out and get basic essentials like groceries.

We've seen some stores dedicate specific time slots for elderly shoppers. That doesn't help seniors though, who are unable to leave their homes and who depend on food delivery.

Joining me now is Ellie Hollander. She's the President and CEO of Meals-on-Wheels America and Ellie, just talk to us a little bit about what you are seeing. What are some of the concerns and what you're hearing from folks you deliver meals to, especially considering a lot of your volunteers are also in the vulnerable category?

ELLIE HOLLANDER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MEALS-ON-WHEELS AMERICA: Sure, Brianna. I'm happy to do that. First of all, I'd like to say that Meals-on-Wheels programs are primed to focus on the most vulnerable, at-risk population, and that's never more so than now. Right?

These are the folks that are at the greatest risk and they're always taking precautions to make sure that the seniors who need meals and that check-in and hope and reassurance are getting it.


HOLLANDER: So they're really stepping up in a very uncertain time. As you know, it's constantly evolving. We're hearing of a number of our sites where seniors may be able to go -- senior centers, community dining centers, where those are closing, to take all precautions to minimize close interaction, to practice social distancing.

Many of those programs are now pivoting to be able to provide grab- and-go meals for example, where people can drive up and have a group of say seven to 20 or 14 meals provided that they can then take home and have in the comfort of their own homes.

In terms of what we're doing for our homebound clients, our programs are taking every precaution necessary, making sure that the meals are prepared or provided in bags where if there is any concern about having an interaction with a senior, they're practicing this role of knocking on the door, putting the bag of food there, backing up and just providing, you know, a telephone assurance to make sure that senior is okay.

So we're really seeing amazing creativity going on today.

KEILAR: There are some stores that are starting to have a one hour each day that's dedicated to just senior shoppers so that they can get their groceries in a safer environment. Is that something that helps?

HOLLANDER: Absolutely, I'm sure it does. But for the senior population that we're focused on Brianna, at Meals-on-Wheels, we're talking about folks that have multiple chronic conditions and may have trouble getting to a grocery store or preparing their own meals.

So in some cases we're delivering groceries and making arrangements for that to happen, rather than assuming that a senior is going to be able to go to a store him or herself.

KEILAR: Ellie, real quick before I let you go, what do you need from people? Look, there's a lot of people who are off work, they might have a little more time than normal. They're looking for safe ways to help out. What can they do for you?

HOLLANDER: Right. Well, we've set up a COVID response fund in a site on our website,, COVID-19 and you can contact your local Meals-on-Wheels program to offer assistance, it might be telephone assurance calls, maybe just running to the grocery store and picking up some things that could be then dropped off and delivered with a safe distance.

Donating, of course, is really helpful, because our programs are desperately in need additional resources, many more meals are being needed, and they also need a lot more resources like hand sanitizer and cleaning products and so forth that are really hard to come by.

So if you get on our website, there are many, many ways that you can participate and help our local programs and the clients they serve.

KEILAR: Ellie, thank you so much. Ellie Hollander with Meals-on- Wheels America. We appreciate it.

HOLLANDER: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Palm Springs, California is the latest city to order its residents to shelter in place, and this is happening as Nevada closes all non-essential businesses for the next month.

I'll be speaking to a business owner in Las Vegas who has just been forced to temporarily layoff hundreds of people.



KEILAR: The pain to business owners and workers across the country is growing by the second. A source telling CNN that the Big Three automakers, Ford, Chrysler and GM will temporarily close all U.S. plants due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Also today, Delta Airlines telling workers that they are essentially hitting pause on several major operations and that includes cutting back 70 percent of its capacity. It also means pay cuts.

None of that is helping the markets. Another brutal day on Wall Street. The Dow has now erased all of the gains made since President Trump took office.

And in Nevada, the Governor announcing that the only businesses that can stay open afternoon today are those that serve food, gas and other essential items or social services and restaurants can only offer delivery or carry out food, which is putting a serious strain on thousands of hospitality workers there in the state.

I want to discuss this now with Jonathan Fine. He is the owner of several Las Vegas businesses, including a security company and nine bars and restaurants. Three of them, Jonathan, are on the Las Vegas Strip and you employ 700 people. Give us a sense of how this is impacting you and your hundreds of workers now.

JONATHAN FINE, BUSINESS OWNER IN LAS VEGAS: Well, I mean, we have hundreds of workers out of work. All of our bars are shut down. The community has been amazing. Everyone supports everything going on. The people that want to support the businesses are trying to do their part. So we've seen the community come together.

I think we were prepared by some of the October 1 event three years ago, so a lot of business owners are prepared. And a lot of the employees have dealt with having to be out of work for a while.

KEILAR: And so what -- have they told you what this is going to mean for them here in the near term to not have an income?