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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll 125, More Than 7,500 Confirmed Cases; Trump Invokes Defense Production Act To Expand Production Of Hospital Masks And Protective Gear; Defense Department Preparing To Deploy Two Hospital Ships To New York And West Coast; New York Stock Exchange To Close Trading Floor; Senate Approves House-Passed Coronavirus Relief Bill; Still Negotiating Trillion-Dollar Stimulus Package; U.S. Border With Canada Closing To Non-Essential Travel; Beachgoers Ignore Warning To Avoid Large Groups. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're covering the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic. The stock market took a major dive today, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average closed below 20,000 for the first time since 2017. The death toll in the United States now stands at 125 with at least 7,500 infected.

The President taking emergency steps today to address the crisis, invoking the Defense Protection Act to expand the supply and protective medical gear and other urgently needed equipment. And the Pentagon now says hospital ships with several thousand beds will be deployed to New York and the West Coast so that medical centers can focus their efforts on coronavirus patients.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from Los Angeles with late-breaking developments out there. Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in Los Angeles County, the schools are closed but there is no shelter in place order. The official word from the county is, stay home as much as possible but feel free to go out and run and walk, just try to do it alone.

People are doing that. Now, I am not saying this is connected, but within the past two days the number of confirmed cases here in LA County has about doubled. And we are told to expect that number to keep on ticking up for between the next four and 12 weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATT: The posture, the metaphors, are now military.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I view it as a -- in a sense, a wartime president.

WATT: So is the response. Borders are closing.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: By mutual consent, the northern border to Canada will be closed to nonessential travel.

WATT: Navy hospital ships, the Comfort and Mercy, now preparing to deploy to New York City and somewhere on the West Coast.

MARK ESPER, US DEFENSE SECRETARY: They don't have necessarily the space, the segregated spaces you need to deal with infectious diseases. And so one of the ways by which you could use either field hospitals, the hospital ships or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases.

WATT: The National Guard now activated in at least 23 states to deal with coronavirus.

TRUMP: It's the invisible enemy.

WATT: And we might be still weeks away from peak infection rates.

RONALD KLAIN, FORMER US EBOLA CZAR: We have hospitals that are going to start to break this weekend. Not weeks from now, not months from now, in the next few days.

WATT: The administration tells us there's a federal stockpile of over 10,000 ventilators and more now on order.

TRUMP: There's never been an instance like this where no matter what you have, it's not enough.

WATT: At one Washington state hospital, they're now making their own masks using supplies from a craft store.

TRUMP: We've ordered millions of them. But we need millions more.

WATT: We might also need many more hospital beds and staff.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're reaching out to retired nurses, retired doctors, nursing schools, medical schools.

WATT: Ford, Fiat Chrysler and GM, all about to halt US production saying they'll sanitize all their plants. Nationwide many workers have been laid off like Manhattan bartender, Tanya Palkaninec.

TANYA PALKANINEC, LAID OFF BARTENDER: I just have to keep living my life, keep getting dressed in the morning, you know, there's definitely that ball of anxiety there, constantly.

WATT: JetBlue now calling its losses stunning, saying typically daily takings have fallen from $22 million to an average of 4. And they're paying out $20 million a day in cancellation credits. Some executives now taking a 50% pay cut.

Misery on misery, cancellations at Chicago's Midway because the control tower closed for cleaning after several technicians tested positive for coronavirus. In San Francisco and elsewhere, millions now allowed out only for essential needs.

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D), SAN FRANCISCO: I mean, the streets are, you know, fairly empty.

WATT: Essential needs include walking the dog and jogging. Elsewhere, some criticism that the young especially aren't taking social distancing seriously.

TRUMP: They don't realize that they can be carrying lots of bad things home to their grandmother and grandfather, and even their parents.

WATT: The federal coronavirus plan obtained by CNN shows the administration now planning for a pandemic that could last 18 months or longer, and involve multiple waves of illness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:05:02]

WATT (on camera): Hard to get our heads around multiple waves of illness. And also around the economic impact, so let's just take one industry, hotels.

Apparently last week in the US, nearly half of all hotel rooms were empty. And, Wolf, one trade body is saying if the trend continues, the hotel industry alone will lose around 1 million direct jobs, Wolf.

BLITZER: Awful situation. Nick Watt in LA for us. Nick, thank you.

Let's go to CNN's Boris Sanchez right. He's over at the White House. Boris, the Senate just passed a relief bill. What's the latest on that front?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Yes, the Senate taking its first major step in addressing this coronavirus outbreak, passing this bill put forward by the House. President Trump is expected to support this bill.

It contains about $100 billion for paid emergency leave as well as unemployment insurance and free coronavirus testing. Notably, some Republicans were opposed to this bill, feeling that it doesn't go far enough. The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was even critical of it before ultimately voting for it out of a sense of urgency.

Passing this now clears the way for a $1 trillion package that Senate Republicans have been working on. Sources telling CNN that that bill includes major relief for the airline industry as well as for small businesses and about $500 billion in a payout to Americans that would be sent out in two installments of checks directly to Americans.

Again, McConnell saying that he will not let senators go home until a bill of that scale is passed, Wolf.

BLITZER: Enormous, enormous sums of money for this crisis. Boris Sanchez at the White House, thank you.

We're joined now by the Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. In addition to being the governor of Maryland, you're also the chairman of the National Governors Association. And you had a call today with nearly all the nation's governors. What are the most urgent priorities and needs right now?

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Yes. So we had a call today with all the nation's governors. We have another call tomorrow with the vice president, most of the federal leaders and most of the governors where we're going to talk directly about some of the concerns that all the governors have. And even though each in individual state is kind of different in their needs, we're all in this together.

And some of the things that you've been talking about, obviously testing, and making sure that states get ramped up and we get all the help we can get from the federal government. We're concerned about issues like hospital beds and capacities, and dealing with things like personal protective equipment, and ventilators, and all those things that you've been talking about on CNN all day long. Every governor is dealing with, and every single governor is taking independent actions that they believe are necessary to save the lives of people in their states, unprecedented actions that we're all taking.

People couldn't have imagined just a week ago. And so is the federal government. We're just in constant communication with the white house and the leaders in congress about what each of us can do at the federal, state, and local level to keep driving. We're making decisions not just every day but really almost every hour.

BLITZER: The President signed emergency action today to address shortages of things like masks and breathing machines. How soon do you believe this will make a difference in hospitals in Maryland and indeed all over the country?

HOGAN: Well, you know, I'd hate to put a timeframe on how fast it can happen, but it was a critical decision on their part. And I think, you know, employing the Defense Powers Act and making we get these factories producing these things as quickly as possible is a big step in the right direction.

I mean, the private sector is a big part of this because, you know, to make sure we get these things produced fast enough and get them distributed out is a critical need. So, you know, some of these are in the stockpile that we've been sort of getting some deliveries out to the states. Some things we have in our supply and capabilities in our state.

But some of it, actually, has to be produced and manufactured almost immediately, and then distributed out to those of us on the front lines. So we can get it to the hospitals and the people that need to care get it to those people who need the care.

BLITZER: I have a friend at one of the Johns Hopkins hospitals in Maryland, and there are several of them. And he says they're being urged, the medical professionals there, to get on what is being described as a war footing. Does that go for hospitals not only, let's say in Maryland, but indeed all over the country based on what you're hearing? HOGAN: Well, there's no question about that, Wolf. This is an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that no one has ever seen anything like this before. We, you know, we've ramped up. We've had the discussions with Johns Hopkins and all of our leading hospitals, with all of our -- with our Health Department, our emergency management team and our National Guard, at the federal level.

[17:10:00]

We're trying to get 6,000 hospital beds online. We're trying to deal with all of these issues and all the shortages. And the flattening out of this curve that you keep hearing everybody talking about is so critical, because if we don't do that with the social distancing and all these steps we're taking by closing schools, and closing bars and restaurants and retail establishments, and keeping people at home.

If we don't do that, then the system is completely overwhelmed and the health care system is incapable of dealing with, such a crush of people all needing acute care at the same time. And that's what everybody is trying to avoid, not only getting the things that we need out to the hospital, but also keeping people from being infected at a rapid rate.

BLITZER: Which is so, so important. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, now Pennsylvania by the way, they've teamed up to make sure the entire region is on the same page with these coronavirus measures. Do more states need to think along those lines?

HOGAN: I think they do. I mean, it would be great if we could get some consensus. And one of the reasons why Governor Cuomo and I, Governor Cuomo of New York is the vice chairman of the National Governors Association with me. We convened all the governors so we could kind of share some of those ideas together. And we're going to share them with the President and vice president tomorrow, how we can all work together.

But in regions, like here in the Washington Metropolitan Region where I am, working together with the mayor of Washington, DC and with the governor of Virginia, similarly, people are traveling back and forth in the region. And so, even if we take some of the most aggressive actions in the country in our state, if people are not doing that in our neighboring locations, then our folks are traveling into, say, Virginia to go to a bar or restaurant and they're coming back home, it hasn't really solved the crisis.

BLITZER: What do you think about this plan, part of this trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus package to provide $1,000 checks to almost all Americans who need them, not millionaires, but Americans need the money, then a second $1,000 check. In other words, $2,000 for most Americans.

HOGAN: Well, Wolf, there's two battles here, right? These are both unprecedented. One is dealing with the saving of lives, and we're really talking about hundreds of thousands of lives we're trying to save. Trying to keep people from being infected, and that's the frontline as the health crisis. Number two, there's this economic war, which is also going to be unprecedented, with potentially 20 percent unemployment, small business failures. And so, it's great that the Congress seems to be working together in a bipartisan way and moving very quickly, and working together with the administration, both Democrats and Republicans, and the House and Senate. I've never seen such fast action, and that's terrific.

And, you know, I think the governors have a role to play. Some of this money, rather than just big bailouts for major corporations, which some of them do need some stimulus money. And just getting the checks out to the people that really need it, which is critically important, some of these checks directly to the people.

Some of the money down to the states where we know where the critical needs are for some of those small businesses, the restaurants, and the small retail establishments that aren't big corporations, they're not individuals who have lost their jobs and get unemployment. I think we need to get some of those dollars out to the states where we can make decisions about who really needs help, because everybody's economy is going to be impacted. And we've got the health crisis and the economic crisis to deal with almost at the same time.

BLITZER: Priority is saving people's lives. The economic crisis will be second, but that's going to be critical as well. Governor Hogan, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing.

HOGAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, up next. President Trump says he now sees himself as a "wartime president." Can he get the nation to overcome its divisions to fight the coronavirus pandemic? And among the extraordinary response measures, the U.S. military now preparing to deploy two US navy hospital ships to the East and West Coasts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have breaking news about the New York Stock Exchange. Because of the coronavirus, floor trading may, may be ending as early as next week. Richard Quest has got the details for us. Richard, what are you learning?

QUEST: From Monday the 23rd, the New York Stock Exchange has decided to close the trading floor. But, Wolf, but, electronic trading will continue. So the market is not being closed, only the floor, the famous floor that you see every day where traders and brokers, and designated market makers come together.

The actual market will remain open. Apparently, there have been several cases of traders and people on the floor having been tested positive for the virus, and basically the exchange said the only way to realistically continue was to go to an all-electronic trade system.

First time it's happened. The market has been closed before, of course, 9/11 being a major example. But this is the first time that the floor is being closed but trading will continue. They're very keen to express this. This is only the floor that's being shuttered temporarily.

BLITZER: So for practical purposes, viewers watching, Richard, and they want to trade stocks starting Monday, how does this impact them?

QUEST: Not one jot. To any retail investor, anybody watching, they would go online to their online brokerage as usual, they would call their broker. Nothing would change in terms of they will buy or sell shares. But from the exchange's point of view there will be no -- I mean, to a large extent, the floor doesn't carry much of the trade anyway, it's electronically driven.

But it's a great symbol of American democracy and capitalism, which is why they keep it in many ways. So opening bell, closing bell, we're not sure whether those ceremonies will take place still. But the floor closed, trading continues totally as normal.

[17:20:08]

BLITZER: Yes. Probably dangerous right now for all those people to be mingling as closely as they are.

QUEST: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much, Richard Quest, reporting a late breaking developments.

Let's bring in our experts to discuss this. And, Gloria, what do you think about this news that we're just getting from Richard Quest?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Richard's explanation makes an awful lot of sense, the trading floor is symbolic. We see it every day when the bell rings and we have our own journalists down there on the trading floor, Wolf. But people are on top of each other down there.

And I think that there is a sense that while you can trade electronically, there really isn't any need to put people in danger of infecting each other down on that floor, and that as a matter of health, they ought to get people out of there. So I think it makes an awful lot of sense given everything else that's going on in the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. Let me bring in Dr. Rhonda Medows, who is an expert in this area.

Dr. Medows, the President signed what's called the Defense Production Act today which will ramp up production of things like masks, breathing machines, other protective equipment. From what we're hearing, it sounds like this is so badly needed, but you're out there in the field. What do you think?

RHONDA MEDOWS, FORMER HEALTH OFFICER & HEALTH COMMISSIONER: I think it's great that it's coming our way, but we have an immediate need right now. We have people who have clinical symptoms that are in our hospitals that we cannot test for lack of tests. We have delays in getting results from tests. And we have a tremendous need for personal protective gear, especially the mask, whether they're a respirator mask or mask with shields.

We think that we have a couple of days of supply on hand. We have prioritized those who are acutely ill, again, in our hospitals. But we find that our caregivers, our professional people who are taking care of patients in clinics and other settings, would be left unprotected.

We've moved a lot of care virtually, we're using chat box in those lines, and on-site virtual care. But we still have a tremendous need for tests and those masks.

BLITZER: Dr. Seema Yasmin, you're also an expert in these areas. As you know, two US navy hospital ships with a few thousand beds are now being deployed, one on the East Coast, one on the West Coast. They'll take care of patients who don't have coronavirus, to help free up resources for coronavirus patients at hospitals on land.

We saw how the virus took off on cruise ships. So how big of a challenge will it be to keep these ships, first of all, safe?

SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: Wolf, health care systems are not just beds and rooms. Health care systems rely on people, thinking all the way from physicians and nurses to janitors. Janitors are crucial, as well as infection control nurses.

What we need assurances are not just the greater number of rooms and facilities, but who is going to be working in these facilities, what are the infection control practices. As you mentioned, we saw how quickly a ship can become a floating hot zone. What assurances do we have about negative pressure rooms, about the people that are going to be working on these ships, and what support they'll have.

Because right now, Wolf, I'm hearing from people telling me that they're having to reuse masks in the ER. ER nurses and doctors should not be having to go to those lengths right now, so we need more information about that.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Dr. Medows, do you think this will make much of a dent having these ships, one off New York, one off the West Coast, make much of a dent in this struggle?

MEDOWS: So I have to be honest with you. I think that that's kind of an add-on. I don't think that that's actually the primary place we're going to be getting care delivered. And I think they're going to have their hands full trying to keep control of the infection and the spread on the ships, as you said.

The previous expert, she's absolutely right. It's not just the ships themselves, it's the ventilation systems that are going to be supporting the people on the ships. Quite frankly, we have healthcare providers already out there in our communities who simply need the test kits. They need the PPE supplies. They need the tools to actually do the jobs that they're well-trained to do.

BLITZER: David Gregory, I want you to listen to what the President said only three weeks ago at the White House. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We were asking for $2.5 billion. And we think that's a lot. Hopefully we're not going to have to spend so much because we really think we've done a great job at keeping it down to a minimum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, he was obviously had no idea that now the administration is asking for $1 trillion, $1,000 billion, $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

DAVID GREGORY, AUTHOR, "HOW'S YOUR FAITH": It boggles the mind. I mean, seven days ago was when the President was preparing to speak to the nation because the world had completely changed. That was just seven days ago.

[17:25:00]

Let alone several weeks ago when the President, the administration, the whole government was really not on the kind of war footing that now the President says literally the country, the government, the world is on. And so, that's where we are.

We've got as you've been saying throughout the program, an economic crisis and a public health crisis. And I think what our experts are saying that really is so striking is that, now is the time, as the country is finally testing more, when the number of cases are going to go up sharply, that we have to prepare, those on the frontlines of this war to extend to extend the metaphor, those in our healthcare system who are going to be providing the care and caring for people, everything that they need.

And that means everybody's got to get involved. Anybody who can produce what's necessary has to be involved. We have the ability, we have the capacity. If we have to build field hospitals, we have businesses capable of doing that. We have to get to that business before we're, again, trying to play from behind.

That's already where we are with regard to testing, and in getting people to take this seriously enough to isolate.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, there's a federal plan, CNN obtained a copy of it. It has the administration actually preparing for the possibility of this crisis could continue for as long as 18 months, a year-and-a-half with multiple waves of illness. What's your reaction when you hear that?

BORGER: Well, my reaction is, Wolf, of course, that it's unimaginable that that would occur. But you would be very smart to prepare for the fact that it might occur, the possibility that it might occur. That's what leadership is about.

And I think you have to go where the signs lead you, and if the science is telling you that there's a possibility that there are going to be waves of this virus that it will come and go. And you know wha people do when the virus seems to be going away, they may start behaving as they shouldn't behave. And then you can get more virus.

And so, I think that is why you have the medical professionals warning people and letting the government know what a worst case scenario is, which is why, and you were talking to David before about the spending for all of this, that the Congress has approved $1 trillion, and they're going to have to approve at least another trillion more, perhaps, to start giving people direct aid, checks for maybe $1,000, and who knows, maybe more installments of that, so they can survive this if they have to stop working.

So this is a war as the President said today. And it would be wise, when you are on a war footing to say, we don't know how long this is going to last, and take a look at worst case scenarios, and then hope for the best.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a really, really incredible situation when you think about it, and only a few weeks ago, three weeks ago, the President was saying maybe $2.5 billion might be necessary. We can see these numbers have exploded right now.

Everybody standby, there's a lot more we're following, including this. Can the President get the country on a wartime footing in time to head off the worst of the coronavirus pandemic? I'll ask two ex-officials who have held top jobs in the federal government. Plus, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by to join us with answers we all need to know to carry on with our daily lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:33:23]

BLITZER: President Trump is putting the U.S. government on a wartime footing right now invoking truly extraordinary powers to get help to the coronavirus patients as well as Americans who are losing jobs as ordinary life here in the United States of America grinds to a halt.

Joining us now in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former Trump Administration Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, along with Leon Panetta, who served as the White House Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration and Defense Secretary and CIA Director under President Obama. Secretary Panetta, the President signed what's called the Defense Production Act today but he didn't say exactly how he plans on using it. What can he actually do with this new authority?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I'm glad that the President enacted the Defense Production Act, because what it can do is give the President the power to mobilize industries in this country to produce what's necessary in order to deal with this enemy that we're confronting, this silent virus that is killing people.

I hope that the President fully mobilizes our country in this war against this virus. He's beginning to take steps that are important, but I think a lot more needs to be done to identify the extent of the enemy we're dealing with because right now, the greatest threat to our country, to our economy is the tremendous uncertainty about where we're going with this enemy. BLITZER: Yes, you're right. Secretary Shulkin, we keep hearing administration officials say they're using what they're describing as a whole of government approach.

[17:35:04]

You're the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Do you think the President has been making use of every resource available to deal with this crisis?

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Well, certainly, the President alone can't solve this crisis. And the role of the President is really to be the convener and chief. I feel most encouraged when I see the task force and the President reaching out to the private sector as well as allowing their career professionals in the federal government to do their job.

And this is going to take as Secretary Panetta said, a whole of the country coming together. We clearly need a lot more integration and cooperation. I'm most concerned about the public safety of the American public. And in terms of the health crisis that we're about to witness and the -- overwhelming the capacity of our health crisis, we're going to need a lot more cooperation at the local community level between federal state and the private sector.

The big issue, of course, in pandemics you see up to 35 percent of the healthcare workers unable to go to work because they're sick themselves, or they have to care for people at home. And so we're going to need a lot more staff being mobilized to make sure we have the people to take care of those who need our help.

BLITZER: Important point. Also, Secretary Panetta, as you know, you're the former Defense Secretary, two U.S. Navy hospital ships are about to be deployed, one off the coast of New York, another round of the West Coast. Is there more the U.S. military can and should do right now?

PANETTA: I think the military can play a very large role in trying to provide the support systems needed in order to back up, you know, the health needs in this country. I'm glad that the hospital ships are being deployed. I would like to see the President deploy the military with regards to our ability to put mash hospitals out there to provide additional tents and support systems to back up these hospitals that are going to be overwhelmed.

I mean, the predictions are that within a few days, not just weeks, a few days, we may see hospitals begin to reach emergency situations. We've got to be able to have the military fully mobilized to be able to provide backup systems in order to help for the healthcare needs that are going to erupt in these next few weeks.

BLITZER: You think V.A. hospitals, Secretary Shulkin, are ready for this?

SHULKIN: The V.A. system, of course, is the largest health care system in the country. It employs the most doctors and nurses of anyone. And this mission of being here for national emergencies is one that I know that they take seriously. So we need to watch and make sure that there is integration of the federal efforts and the private sector efforts.

But, Wolf, I will say I'm speaking to hospital leaders and frontline physicians around the country. And I am just in awe of what they're doing. These are incredible people. They're learning how to deal with this infection. They're working with the available antivirals that are out there to see what is working. They're readying their hospitals in ways that I think none of them have ever thought of before.

So, we have an incredible healthcare system in this country, the best in the world. And I have confidence that if we all pull together, because we are in this together, that we will get through this.

BLITZER: Yes. The key is pulling together the whole country and devoting all the resources necessary. Secretary Shulkin, Secretary Panetta, thanks to both of you for joining us, thanks to both of you for your service to our country as well.

And coming up, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's getting ready to answer your questions about how to reduce your chances of getting the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:29]

BLITZER: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us now to answer some of your questions about the coronavirus. Sanjay, we got a ton of questions for you. We're going to do this again in the next hour. First question, should you go outside to get fresh air or to exercise?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think, you know, the guidance is stay home as much as possible, but obviously, I like to exercise, a lot of people like to exercise. Just going to stay away from people when you do. I mean, that's one of the challenges. And keep as hygienic as possible.

You know, if you touch surfaces, if you're riding your bike or something, you're touching surfaces, make sure you keep your hands clean. So the same rules apply. Just make sure you're not putting yourself in a situation where you're more likely to contract the virus or to transmit the virus.

BLITZER: And as soon as you get back home, wash your hands thoroughly.

GUPTA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: We've learned a lot more about how long the virus can last on surfaces --

GUPTA: Yes.

BLITZER: -- can it last on groceries? We get a lot of questions like this. Can it last on clothing?

GUPTA: Yes. So, I mean, they've done studies on this now and they've looked specifically at how long on various surfaces, things like -- first of all on the air, there's a new study saying it can sort of hang on the air for up to three hours, aerosolized. It can hang on to cardboard surfaces, for example, for 24 hours and -- because it's more porous, like that's probably the same with clothes. Coppers less, copper surfaces around four hours, but then the stainless steel-type surfaces, a couple of days.

I think that the point is, Wolf, I don't know that people should try and remember all that, just make sure you're cleaning surfaces. It does respond pretty well to these cleaners. So if you use them, that's the best way to protect yourself.

[17:45:00]

BLITZER: Here's another question we got. Should you wear gloves when you go out?

GUPTA: Interesting question, right? So just think about this. Now, the gloves, you're wearing gloves and you touch something that's contaminated. The concern there, if you didn't have gloves or if you did have gloves, is then you then touch your face. The real question is, do the gloves make you touch your face less? Not do they protect your hands. You're not contracting it through your hands.

So if you wear gloves, will make you less likely to touch your face. Not sure. Actually, studies show that people become a little bit more cavalier thinking they're protected when they wear gloves. Also, sometimes rather than taking off the gloves, they can contaminate themselves and then touch their face.

I think washing your hands as often as possible is really going to be the best solution there. Touch surfaces, wash your hands, so that even if you do touch your face, you're not getting the infection.

BLITZER: And the hand sanitizers, those are useful too, right?

GUPTA: Yes. Yes. Hand sanitizers are useful as well. I mean, you know, just soap and water is better because you're really probably getting all the oils off the hand as well, but absolutely use hand sanitizer.

BLITZER: You got another question. Elective surgeries are being cancelled around the country. The question is, what should you do if your surgery is canceled and you feel like it's really necessary?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, that's going to be some -- you know, there's memos that are going around in hospitals right now about that very situation. What is really considered elective, and that is a conversation that's, you know, oftentimes you have to have with your doctor, it's a tough one. You know, the reason that elective surgeries are being canceled is to free up staff, but also to use operating rooms potentially as ICU spaces.

They have ventilators, breathing machines in the operating rooms, Wolf. So that's another source of these ventilators that we've been talking so much about. But you're right, things aren't often absolutely black or white, elective versus urgent or emergent. Sometimes things fall in between and, you know, you absolutely should talk to your doctor about that.

BLITZER: Yes. I was supposed to go next week, get a routine teeth cleaning, but my dentist called up and said they're postponing it for the time being, which I assume, Sanjay, is smart.

GUPTA: Yes, smart for a couple reasons. One is, you know, it's very close proximity. Obviously, you want to try and maintain that social distance as much as possible. But also, you know, the supplies that they use, the masks, the gloves, the gowns, the -- all the things that we're talking about, we need to sort of preserve as much of that as possible for this COVID virus, this coronavirus, as opposed to elective procedures.

BLITZER: All right. Sanjay, standby. We're going to do more of these questions, we got a lot of them in the next hour.

GUPTA: OK.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation.

GUPTA: OK.

BLITZER: Also coming up, many beach goers in Florida are now simply ignoring the warning to avoid crowds.

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[17:52:23]

BLITZER: United States and Canada have just announced a major new restriction on travel between the neighboring countries. Sara Sidner is near the U.S.-Canadian border right now in Washington State. What's the latest Sarah?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What we are seeing is there are still people going through the border. However, what both Trudeau and President Trump have said is that recreational travel and tourist travel will be halted. What they are allowing are scenarios that happen every day in this area on one side is Surrey that's in Canada, on the other side is Blaine.

There are a lot of people that either live in one country and work in the other and go back and forth. This is their regular -- those people will be allowed to still traverse these borders as well as trucking and trade will also be allowed. But otherwise they are telling people that you will be stopped at the border.

We did go through the border. They had not closed it yet for people who are tourists, but what they did give us is this particular piece of paper that said, if you travel from the United States into Canada, and you are -- of course, you've got the problem with the coronavirus disease, you have to self quarantine for 14 days. If you don't want to do that, you have to turn right around and go back into the United States, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that. Sara Sidner reporting. Despite the urgent warnings to avoid large crowds, many beaches in Florida over the past few days have been packed as the coronavirus emergency escalates. CNN's Leyla Santiago is joining us from Clearwater, Florida right now. What are you seeing? It doesn't look too crowded behind you?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, let me show you exactly what I'm saying, Wolf, so you can get a good idea of what the beaches in Clearwater are dealing with right now. You don't see that much social distancing that the CDC guidelines call for out on the beach.

And when I speak to city officials and county officials, they are telling me that they have plans to keep this open. When I've spoken to families that are out here, many of them tell me that they're coming out because they feel that if they have hand sanitizers or that they're keeping their distance from others and being in a group less than 10 that they are safe because that is the guidance that they are hearing from officials.

So right now, what you're not saying is the Governor is speaking, taking questions from the press. He has not addressed the beach issue yet. And the city of Clearwater is also discussing, contemplating whether they will declare a state of emergency. There has been a motion to close the beaches, but we're waiting to see what will happen next.

BLITZER: You let us know, Leyla, thank you very much. Leyla Santiago, reporting.

Coming up, we'll have more on the coronavirus pandemic. I'll ask the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about new steps he's taking to address this crisis, as well as new promises from President Trump.

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[17:59:51]

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM and we're following breaking news. The coronavirus pandemic pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to close today below 20,000 for the first time since 2017. And we've just learned that the New York Stock Exchange will close its trading floor starting Monday.