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FDA Chief Says, Vaccine Trial Expected To Take 12 Months; U.S Coronavirus Cases Top 10,900, Death Toll Rises To 163; Officials Warn Young People, This Is Not A Vacation. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 13:00   ET



TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the president wanted to have a major announcement. We saw it yesterday with the announcement of the Defense Production Act, invoking that even though he said he wasn't actually going to use it.

So this is a president who wants come out every day and say he's doing something new that's never been done before. And when you go back and look under the hood, a lot of times, the announcement is much more significant than the actual change of what's actually happening.

So this is -- the president seems to be wanting to have big announcements but to follow through on the ground impact is not being felt.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And the president who needs -- he needs to be careful as he leads the country through this, and we need him to lead the country through this. He needs to be careful in his words. It's like saying the tests available for everybody and they're perfect and they're beautiful, those tests are not available. It's like saying we have 15 cases right now. It will soon be down to zero. We are now over 10,000 -- approaching 11,000 cases here in the United States.

For those of you who maybe did not follow the entire briefing, I want to come back with Dr. Gupta to one of the biggest themes. The president came out, the first thing he said is that there are drugs already approved by the FDA for other ailments that they are hoping now could be used for coronavirus treatment. Here is the president's optimistic take.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that's why the FDA has been so great. They've gone through the approval process. It's been approved.

For the FDA to act the way they acted with this kind of speed is an incredible thing. Normally, they would say, well, normally we can have it by next year or we can have it in two years from now. You understand, this is the way. Normally, it's like years and years and years. They had it immediately.


KING: Again, Sanjay, the president is not a doctor. So maybe we owe him some grace. The president is not in a regulatory environment so maybe we do owe him some grace. But at this time of a national pandemic, a global pandemic, when people are asking these questions, the president keeps saying words like, immediately, act fast, kind of speed. Again, at the end, Dr. Hahn, the FDA official, said he did not want to put a timeline and he promised the American people and that we thank him for this promise to do it as quickly as possible as long as it is safe.

But earlier on, he did say it would take months. That's not immediately.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. Well, look, there're a couple of things. First of all, the idea that this a new drug and we got approval and sort of done something immediately with regard to approval, it's an existing medication, John. This is a well- known medication. Chloroquine is the name of it. It's used to treat malaria, which is a parasite-based infection, not a viral-based infection.

So there was -- and doctors -- people can prescribe this medication off-label if they think it has benefit already. So I don't know if there was anything necessarily new with regard to approvals.

I think it's worth pointing out that there are trials going on on several different medications. This is one of them. And there was some of these trials, early trials, that took place even during the SARS outbreak, John, because SARS, as you'll remember, is also a coronavirus and it did show some promise but in the laboratory, not in human beings.

So we're very early on this and I think that everybody is hopeful that one of these therapeutics is going to work and provide some benefit. But, John, look, we're not there yet. I certainly don't want to be somebody who's sort of cast a darker shadow over this. Nobody does. But we've got to be honest about this as well. And I don't want to provide false hope with regards to this.

KING: That's an incredibly important point. And, Dr. Ranney, I want to come back to you again. For those -- we've talked about this a bit earlier. But for those who were not listening to the briefing, and, look, sometimes we need to take a deep breath here. Some things don't happen overnight. We live in the Amazon age. We think we can order something and have it delivered to our door the next, if not, within hours.

So I do understand there's a problem here, and this is a pandemic and the numbers are mounting quickly. But I want you, as someone who's on the frontlines every day, putting your health and life at risk to help these patients. Listen to the president and the vice president on the subjects of these masks.


TRUMP: The masks is an example, which we really have a problem. We have helped out and there are right now millions of masks being made.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 3M is increasing their output, 420 million a year at production in January, they make 35 million per month at that facility. And we are prioritizing the distributions of those.

TRUMP: Nobody ever heard of the number of masks that's been ordered. They are being made now and many are available now.


KING: We certainly hope the production part of that, Dr. Ranney, is true, and a week or a month from now, you won't have this question but you have an urgent need today, correct?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: That is absolutely correct. This may be unprecedented but it was predictable. This production capacity should have been ramped up months ago.

My colleagues on the frontlines, we need masks today. We are pleading on social media, get me PPE to keep me and my patients safe. The president may say that things are being produce but they sure is heck are not showing up in my state or in the states of all of my colleagues across the country.


We need those masks and gowns now.

KING: Dr. Ranney, I appreciate it. And God bless you for your work on the frontlines. Stay safe as you do it, Dr. Gupta as well. Toluse and Jackie, thanks for joining us.

Thanks for joining us today in Inside Politics. We'll be back here this time tomorrow. So don't go anywhere. As you can tell, a very busy breaking news today, the number is rising, the government response. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: John, Thank you. I want to pick up where you left off and get you cut off here on where we stand right now in the fight against this pandemic. We have now hit a new and bleak milestone. This hour, the number of confirmed cases here in the U.S. is nearing 11,000 and 163 people have died. And while there is still no vaccine, President Trump is promising treatment options.

Last hour, he announced that he's officially authorized the FDA to fast-track anti-viral treatments for coronavirus patients. And do not underestimate how badly treatment options are needed right now, because even though we are in these -- the early stages of this, just over 10,000 cases in a nation of more than 329 million people, there are already signs that hospitals are stretched dangerously thin and supplies are critically low.

And because of this, CDC has updated its guidelines. It's now advising healthcare workers to keep working even if exposed and that suggests they reuse face masks or use scarves or bandanas as a last resort.

And then at the same time, we're also getting a better idea of who this virus affects. It's not just the elderly. New numbers from the CDC showing nearly 40 percent of hospitalized patients are between 20 and 54 years old and nearly half of those admitted to the ICU are under 65.

The impact on the economy is also proving devastating. The stock market has now erased essentially gains made during the Trump administration. And last week's jobless claims hit their highest levels since September of 2017.

Amid all of this, we're learning the State Department is preparing to raise its travel advisory worldwide to level four, which is do not travel. This is the highest level. And we're told this is aimed at reducing the number of Americans traveling and getting those who are abroad to come home.

So now that you know where things stand, at least at this hour, I want to get you some more information about President Trump's push for the FDA to fast-track the use of anti-viral treatments on coronavirus patients.


TRUMP: A drug called chloroquine, and some people would add to it, hydroxychloroquine. So chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now this is a common malaria drug. It's also a drug used for strong arthritis, somebody who has pretty serious arthritis, also uses this in a somewhat different form. But it is known as a malaria drug and it's been around for a long time, and it's very powerful. But the nice spot (ph) is it's been around for a long time. So we know that if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody.


KEILAR: Let's go to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, the president called this a game changer but how accurate is that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's overstepping a bit. We have tried chloroquine for other viruses and there was so much hope for it. And you know what, it didn't end up working out in people, and that is so important to remember.

The Chinese have said that it worked for this new coronavirus but they didn't offer any data. They just said, yes, it worked, it did this, it did that. But they didn't offer any data so we can't really evaluate whether what they're saying is accurate.

Another important note, the president said it's not going to kill anyone. Actually, French researchers have written an article in a medical journal about chloroquine for coronavirus, and they say, wait a minute, there is a -- it is safe, generally, and very well tolerated and doesn't usually cause serious problems. And that they said there is no narrow margin, that's the term they used, between a safe dose and a toxic dose, and the toxic dose is associated with life- threatening cardiovascular problems. So something that may seem to safe, if you just give a little bit too much of it, you could have problems.

KEILAR: No, that's an excellent point there. And we're going to talk more with medical experts about that in a moment, Elizabeth. First though, let's talk about this urgent situation on supply shortages that we've seen at hospitals. The CDC is now advising healthcare workers to reuse masks or to make masks out of scarves or bandanas as a last resort. That sounds pretty serious.

COHEN: It certainly does. I certainly have been talking to people who were on the frontlines of this, working in emergency rooms especially, where people are coming in and you have no idea what if they're infected or not, and they are terrified.


That is the word that they used. They are terrified. They say they are not getting the protective gear that they need.

And here is something, Brianna, that is particularly scary. If someone is known to have coronavirus or COVID-19 in medical terms, then it seems like there are precautions that are being taken, especially if you're doing a procedure where you might aerosolize the virus or it might end up in the air. Then people do seem to be getting the gear that they need, at least the people I have been talking to.

The problem is what if someone comes in with a heart problem or a broken ankle. It is so common now more than 10,000 cases, they could also have COVID-19. They could also have this coronavirus but no one would know to wear the proper protective gear. That's the point that we're getting at this point, is that it is becoming so much more widespread that it is not just the people who are coughing or have a fever who may have this.

KEILAR: You need to act as if everybody has it and almost like you have -- right, you have to act like you have it as well and certainly if you don't have protective gear for all of that, you're not doing that.

Elizabeth, thank so much, as always. You're working around the clock and we appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now to damning report in The New York Times. Last October, the federal government concluded an eight-month pandemic simulation. This was a scenario that was codenamed Crimson Contagion. And it laid out in stark detail how underfunded and underprepared and uncoordinated a federal government response would be in the event of an actual pandemic.

David Sanger is CNN's Political and National Security Analyst. He is also a National Security Correspondent for The New York Times, where he helps lay out in this story particularly stunning facts about repeated government inaction when it comes to addressing the pandemic that health experts repeatedly warn was coming.

David, this story is -- it is stunning. And it starts out with the description of a pandemic that sounds a lot like the one we are dealing with now. And so learning that there was this exercise, just tell us about and what they learned.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Brianna, we knew there has been an exercise called Crimson Contagion. It was conducted last year from January through about August. Parts of it were done in Chicago. And imagine a flu virus, something a little bit different than the coronavirus, but nonetheless a pandemic that took off. And imagine the stage just about where we are right now.

And so it laid out in very stark terms for this administration exactly what is playing out and makes all the more remarkable that these warnings, which were going to senior leadership and Health and Human Services, and presumably up to the National Security Council, which participated in the exercise, should have told them about the problem with beds, ventilators, masks and all the shortages that you've been discussing.

KEILAR: You detail in the story essentially how this lesson was learned. And it bridged the Obama administration and the Trump administration that the Obama administration, while looking at the Ebola scenario, had gotten this feeling that in the end, it worked out pretty okay for America but they kind of felt like they dodged a bullet. So they took lessons from that and then there were also lessons learned during the Trump administration. How did that not percolate up from the folks who were looking at this exercise, knowing what was doing, also at the state levels, multiple states participated, and how did that not get up to the highest levels? Why was it not taken seriously?

SANGER: Well, it's a really good question. And a lot of things happen at a lower level in the U.S. government that don't make it up to the president. But what's most interesting is if you go back to the 2016 report about Ebola written by Chris Kirchhoff, who --

KEILAR: All right. I'm sorry, we are having a problem, David, unfortunately, with your connection there. We'll try to reestablish that. It is such an important story that you have in The New York Times.

Joining me now to react, we have Dr. Michael Osterholm. He is the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota. He is also the author of Deadliest Enemy, Our War Against Killer Germs. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us. And also, we have Eileen Sullivan. She -- pardon me, Eileen Sullivan Marx. She is the President of the American Academy of Nursing and the Dean of the Rory Meyers College of Nursing at NYU. Thank you so much to both of you for joining us.

Dr. Osterholm, to begin with you first, you have been warning for at least a decade that the U.S. was not prepared for a pandemic. When you see this report, and you know this was an exercise that had been done and had revealed the very limitations that we are now seeing demonstrated in a real-time.


What does that tell you?


First of all, I have to say, I actually wrote about it in the first time in 2005 in the journal of medicine and foreign affairs that we were not prepared for the next pandemic. And I must say we were better prepared back then than we are today. I'm aware those report in my book in 2017, the Ugliest Enemies. I actually had a whole chapter that actually portrayed a theoretical pandemic as it unfolded from China, a flu virus in this case but acting in the same way. And it's actually almost read script by script to what's happening right now. We knew this, we had warning and we just -- as a world, not just the United States, but as a world, we neglected to prepare.

KEILAR: If I can ask you, Doctor, just really quickly, why is the U.S. less prepared now than it was in 2005?

OSTERHOLM: In 2005, we actually had much greater medical capacity to respond. We had more beds, we had more care provision capability than we do now. The other thing that happened was, in 2005, we did not depend on distance supply chains to go back to China for many of our critical drugs and medical supplies. Today, 85 percent of all the antibiotics that we use country are made outside of the United States and they are very fragile just-in-time delivery systems.

So over the course of the next several months, we're very concerned of the drug shortage we're going to see that are going to develop secondarily to the problem in China and the lack of transportation around the world.

KEILAR: Eileen, what is your response to this report as a -- coming from a nursing perspective, as a health working, knowing that there was a number of warnings, exercises that show there should be warnings and yet they weren't heeded.


I mean, nurses are the front workers in so many cases, 24/7, nurse, many frontline workers. We often locally have preparation related to pandemic responses. But it is just one of the numbers of things that we prepare for.

And I agree of what David in a he sense that the world probably took it a little bit for granted and that's not uncommon. Things that we are used to, like getting the flu, we certainly say, okay, we're going to get a flu. And I think that's how we ended up not being totally prepared.

I would agree that we haven't been thinking about the overall supply when we talk about nursing shortage, when we talk about changes from using hospital beds less, moving people out ambulatory care. Now, we have to ramp up and get people back in to ambulatory care.

One of the things that I'd like to talk a little bit about is this idea of do we have a drug that's going to fix things quick. The best way that people can get the best treatment is with the care of the right people of the right place at the right time.

Nurses, they are 24/7 with you while you are dealing with this illness, whether or not you are on the ventilators, but the fluids that you need are the most important, critical treatment that can take place. And if we don't have the right equipment for the nurses at that place or the doctors or the respiratory therapists who need to be there, then they're at risk. And they're risk for getting sick, and they're at risk for perhaps not even being available because they are sick. So you have to really think imaginatively.

As I have said to others, we may need to be stretching now into use of the federal workers from U.S. public health service, military. This is what we have to start looking at quickly to catch up.

KEILAR: And I want to know from both of you, and you'll have to excuse me as I hold my ear piece here so I can hear you better for some reason, Eileen. But, Dr. Osterholm, when you are looking at this guidance now coming about how frontline healthcare workers can basically reuse masks, they can use scarves, they can use bandanas in pinch, if they have to. I mean, it's obviously a last resort. But what kind of concerns does that raise for you?

OSTERHOLM: Well, the first concern I have is just credibility. You know, we keep hearing from this administration that we are going have these products. You know, the manufacturers of, for example, the N95 respirators, have been operating at a 110 percent capacity for the last two months. There is nothing new that's going to happen. We are going to be hundreds of millions of N95 respirators short of protecting our frontline healthcare workers, which is absolutely essential.


With that, then we're going to have to be get creative. We're going to have to say, okay, if you don't have that, will you do this, will you do this? Meaning, will you use a surgical mask? If you don't have surgical mask, can you scrap somehow something else? These are surely not nearly as protective. We're going to be asking our healthcare workers to almost go into a battle like we ask our soldiers to do. They're going to walk in to harm's way, not away from it.

And you know, no amount of extra efforts with bandanas, whatever, are going to stop that. They may mitigate it a little bit, they may lessen it a little bit, but I think we are going to be telling our brave healthcare workers to help get us through this for the next however many months.

KEILAR: We certainly are. Yes, Eileen?

SULLIVAN MARX: I said, I agree totally. This is going to come to the core of who we are and what we do. We will move forward. I know people better already crafting gadgets. Think about all the people who aren't in hospital situations but are caring for people who are in sheltered situations, people who are living in group homes, people who are living in homeless shelters, people who are in long-term care.

While we do want the mask in the big health system, those folks are realizing that they don't have the right masks but they are staying where they are. And we need to pay attention to those groups of people who have to live together, who don't have any other choice. And what are we doing there for social distancing as well, so that they don't end up in the emergency room in ICUs?

KEILAR: Aileen Sullivan Marx, thank you so much. Dr. Michael Osterholm, we really appreciate your expertise today.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.


KEILAR: And ahead, why Florida's first drive through a testing site is no longer accepting appointments.

Plus, a family in New Jersey had a big dinner and now three family members have died from the coronavirus and several others are sick. We will have that story ahead.

And I'll speak live with a college staffer who's writing a letter to her peers who refused to stay home.

Standby, this is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: Health experts are warning that everyone, despite their age, is at risk of getting coronavirus or spreading it. And what you see right here on your screen is exactly what officials are warning people not to do, beach packed with people. And as you can see, they are much closer than six feet apart. Yes, they are enjoying the warm weather and they're treating this like a vacation. But this morning, New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo echoed these calls from these officials. His young daughter who had to cancel her spring break trip was also sitting right next to him.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): These pictures of young people on beaches, these videos of young people saying, this is my spring break, you know, I am out to party, this is my time to party, this is so unintelligent and reckless. I can't even begin to express it.


KEILAR: So despite these warnings from officials, some say they are still not willing to change their lifestyle.


SAVANNAH GRIBBON, SPRING BREAKER: I feel like we shouldn't like change like our lifestyle necessarily just because of like coronavirus, especially because (INAUDIBLE) younger people. I think like that's why you don't take it seriously.


KEILAR: And joining us now is Annika Olson. She is the Assistant Director for Research at the Institute for Urban Research Policy and Analysis at the University of Texas, Austin.

And, Annika, you wrote an open letter where -- and that's coming out today, it urges young people, including like yourself, to stay home and break the chain of contagion. Tell us more about this.

ANNIKA OLSON, ASST. RESEARCH DIR. INST. FOR URBAN RESEARCH POLICY AND ANALYSIS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AUSTIN: Yes. Well, after seeing all the social media posts about people at crowded beaches and bars, I really wanted to reach out to my peers and ask them to think about the greater good.

I heard them saying things like they deserve spring break or the virus is being under proportion, but just miss the virus that is getting spread all over these beaches. And we need to step up as a generation and stop the spread and take on this challenge.

KEILAR: And why do you think it's not getting through to young people? I know even as they feel invincible themselves, do you think they don't understand that they can spread this? And I'm sure many of them have older people in their lives who they love and want to see live. Why aren't they getting it?

OLSON: Yes. I think they may not understand that a lot of data is showing now that you can be asymptomatic and be (INAUDIBLE). You may be completely feel fine but you maybe carrying it, and you may carry it to a grandparent or a parent or your bartender who has diabetes and you didn't know or other vulnerable populations. So you may be a carrier but maybe asymptomatic. And I wonder if a lot of these young people think that.

KEILAR: Yes. And also here in the United States and around the world, I wonder if this thing has set in where -- because, look, we did and we do know that older people account for a lot of the deaths here. But there are a whole lot of people who are being hospitalized who aren't just older. There are younger adults. Certainly, this is a reason why young people should be taken this seriously. Do you think that's gotten through to them?

OLSON: I don't know if it's gotten through yet, but I hope it does. And these are super important numbers to keep in mind. The CDC just released a report that 40 percent of people ages 20 to 54 have been hospitalized. So young people are not invincible. We're not an invincible generation. But as a generation, we can step up and can make change. And we can still, you know, get sick. We need to stop this in its tracks. KEILAR: And you know, Annika, I don't want us to -- I don't know.