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Virus Cases Soar In The U.S., Hospital Struggling To Keep Up; Trump Repeatedly Attacks Media In Middle Of Pandemic. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I am Brianna Keilar, and this is CNN's continuing coverage of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

This hour, at FEMA headquarters, the President is going to join a video conference with the nation's governors, as many of them face intense pressure to get more protective supplies to their healthcare workers.

The numbers show that the situation is only getting more urgent for those on the frontline of the outbreak here. Nearly 11,000 cases and more than 160 deaths are now confirmed in the U.S., and this is a dramatic increase from just one week ago as more Americans get tested.

And yet a short time ago, the President remained unclear about if he would invoke the Defense Production Act. This is something that would help increase the manufacturing of masks and other protective gear.


QUESTION: What is your reticence about invoking the Defense Production Act?


QUESTION: But you said that you don't --

TRUMP: I've done it, yes. If we find that we need something that we will do that and you don't know what we've done, you don't know whether or not we've ordered, you don't know if we've invoked it, you don't know what's been ordered and what's not been ordered.

I can only tell you -- I can only tell you that as an example, masks. Nobody ever heard of the number of masks that's been ordered. They're being made now and many are available now.


KEILAR: But what's more, the C.D.C. is now advising healthcare workers to ration masks, to use expired masks even use bandanas or scarves as a last resort.

The C.D.C. also issued a report finding 69 percent -- so the majority of U.S. cases actually involve people who are younger than 65.

Sources say the State Department is about to issue the most severe advisory which is advised Americans to not travel outside of the U.S. Period.

Unemployment claims surged by 70,000 last week. It hit the highest level since September of 2017. Plus, more than 2000 National Guard troops have been deployed in 27 states.

But the President did offer some positive news today saying that he is fast tracking some promising new drugs that could treat the coronavirus.

His F.D.A. Commissioner added this.


STEPHEN HAHN, F.D.A. COMMISSIONER: Again, we need to look at it. We need the data. We need the information to make the absolute best decisions for American people. But I want to assure you, we have over 17,000 people at F.D.A. who are doing this every day.

There are drugs in the pipeline. We're looking at everyone. Everyone on this dais gets calls every day as do all of our people at the F.D.A. about potential therapeutic options. We are looking at every single one of them.


KEILAR: Let's go to CNN Nick Watt. He has more on the promise of therapies as well as the other challenges that officials are facing in this crisis -- Nick.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The challenges are many and listen, just going back to President Trump briefly, you know, up on that podium today, he was still calling this the Chinese virus, still saying that if they hadn't kept quiet about it earlier on, the rest of us wouldn't be in the position we are now.

Interesting to note that China just logged its first day with no new domestic cases. Here in the U.S., we are very far away from that.


WATT (voice-over): It's here. It is spreading. The F.D.A. now fast tracking antiviral treatments, one currently used against malaria.


TRUMP: It's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game changer and maybe not.


WATT (voice-over): A vaccine still some time away.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It has changed everything, and it will for the foreseeable future.


WATT (voice-over): Carnival Cruise is apparently now offering up its fleet.


TRUMP: If we should need ships with lots of rooms, they will be docked at New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco, at different places.


WATT (voice-over): A field hospital on U.S. soil, Washington State, around 10 million Californians told to shelter in place, a $1 trillion national stimulus on the table.


KEVIN HASSETT, CNN ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTOR: If we just -- if everybody stays home for six months, then you know, it's hard to -- it's going to be like the Great Depression.


WATT (voice-over): Clusters cropping up, at least 46 positives now at this one Illinois care home; three dead, four others infected in just one extended New Jersey family.


DR. SEJAL HATHI, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Hospitals across the country are rapidly running out of masks, gowns, protective eyewear that they desperately need.

We are being asked to reuse and recycle single use respirators and surgical masks when we go see patients.


WATT (voice-over): The C.D.C. now advising use homemade masks e.g. bandanas and scarf for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort, and in areas with community spread, consider allowing asymptomatic exposed providers to work while wearing a face mask.

Here is one face of this growing pandemic.


KEVIN HARRIS, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: You choke. You throw up. The pain, the headache --

(END VIDEO CLIP) WATT (voice-over): And here's another.



SAVANNAH GRIBBIN, TOURIST IN FLORIDA: I feel like we shouldn't like change like our lifestyles necessarily just because of like corona especially because it hasn't been like affecting any younger people. I think like, that's why don't take it seriously.


WATT (voice-over): Florida's beaches are still open.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): You've got to figure out how to get these people off the beach, unless you can figure out how to completely be isolated from anybody else, I mean, this is individuals going to take responsibility.


WATT (voice-over): Because Even if you don't suffer much, you can give this to others, although up to 20 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. are between 20 and 44 according to a new Federal study.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: People need to pay attention, no matter your age --


WATT (voice-over): Some U.S. congressmen have now confirmed they have the virus. Georgia's entire legislature told to self-quarantine for two weeks after a State Senator tested positive.

In France now, to leave home, you need a certificate stating where you're going and why. They've cited thousands.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I am not going to imprison anyone in the State of New York. I am not going to do martial law in the State of New York.


WATT (voice-over): But they are considering converting New York City's hotels into hospitals.

The European Union now urging Netflix and others to stop streaming HD so we don't all actually break the internet while we hunker down. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (on camera): Now, you mentioned that the increase in confirmed cases in this country is alarming, and it really is. Now, some of this is just the testing catching up with reality. Some of this is the virus still spreading.

And how long will it last? Well, American Airlines apparently is taking out a $1 billion loan to weather the storm.

Indiana's governor, just announced schools will be closed there through May 1st, and he says as we get nearer to May 1, we may have to close permanently, I assume, he means for the rest of the school year. Back to you.

KEILAR: Yes, Nick, thank you so much. Nick Watt for us.

Let's go to the White House now. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is joining us. And Kaitlan, "The New York Times" just released -- I mean, there's no other way to put it. This is a damning report about how the Federal government has known for months, just how poorly prepared it is for a pandemic like this.

That's because there was a simulation that they did known as Crimson contagion. Tell us about this and tell us if the White House is responding?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these are basically scenarios that administrations go through to prepare for something like what we're seeing right now. They did one as recently as last year, and basically what the report showed is that the government was underfunded and under prepared to deal with something like this, and the reason this is so notable is, you know, most people would not think that something like this is something that people are considering or planning for.

But the government was considering this because this report says that both H.H.S. -- Health and Human Services and the National Security Council we're both aware that something like this could happen. A respiratory infection of this nature, spreading and causing the issues that we are now seeing play out in real time that almost don't seem believable to people.

And this report shows that essentially, the government was aware of something like this could happen. And yet still, it didn't appear that at the top that there was this urgency to make sure they were prepared for something like this.

And it's something you've got to keep in mind when you hear the President say, you know, when he's asked, why were they so slow to test people? Why were his administration -- why did they stumble so many times at the beginning of this? And he says, you know, we really couldn't have seen this coming.

This report, Brianna, says otherwise. KEILAR: Yes, it certainly does. It's incredible to read. And you,

Kaitlan, asked the President about these new C.D.C. guidelines that healthcare workers can make their own masks. Tell us about that.

COLLINS: Yes, this is a massive issue that is happening right now, where we are seeing hospital workers and healthcare providers, not being able to have the equipment they need to treat people with coronavirus and therefore, they're worried that they're going to get coronavirus and not be able to work in their professions.

So we asked today about this guideline from the C.D.C. that came out overnight basically saying that if you're a healthcare provider and you do have a shortage of masks, here's what you should do.

And listen to how the President and then the Vice President responded to this question.


COLLINS: The C.D.C. has put out guidelines for hospitals that are dealing with a shortage of masks to use them beyond their shelf life, reuse them instead of getting new ones, and in a worst case scenario, use a bandana instead of a mask. How is that acceptable at all?

TRUMP: Well, I haven't seen that. But I will let Mike answer that question. The Vice President --

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am happy to Mr. President. I just -- I can't emphasize enough the incredible progress that was made with the passage of the legislation last night. The President had me go to Minnesota to meet with 3M that manufactures these N-95 masks a few weeks ago, and we learned of their production at that facility at 35 million masks a month.

Less than five million of those were qualified to be sold to hospitals. So the President is working with Republican and Democratic leadership, we've extended the liability protection.

So now that all the industrial masks that are manufactured as N-95, they are now available to hospitals and we're seeing a dramatic increase in production.

Honeywell alone is repurposing a factory that was destined for Mexico to produce another 120 million masks per year. 3M is increasing output to 420 million masks per year.


COLLINS: When will those masks be ready for, because they need them like today?

PENCE: They're available now. The 3M facility that I was at told me that in January, they went to full production on 35 million masks.

The legislative change means that all 35 million of those that started to be produced at full capacity in January can now be sold to hospitals.


COLLINS: So what the Vice President is saying there, notice the President didn't answer that question, he let the Vice President step in is that this legislation Trump signed last night lets these companies essentially give masks that before they couldn't give to hospitals, now, they can.

Of course, Brianna, the question coming out of that is these healthcare providers have needed these materials for weeks. Why did it take so long to get to this point where they can get access to these masks? And when exactly are they going to get them?

KEILAR: Yeah, Kaitlan, thank you so much. That was a great question that you asked there. I want to get now to our medical expert.

We have Dr. Peter Hotez, who co-directs the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and he's also the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you so much for joining us yet again. We so appreciate your expertise almost every day here on the show. I wonder what you make of this "New York Times" report that the administration, it's not like they were caught flatfooted as we sort of have heard from the President. They actually knew that they were unprepared and had conducted a drill very similar to what we see going on.

PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, well, it's pretty -- you know, the Chinese told us a lot of aspects of this epidemic that turned out to be true. We knew that older individuals were going to be a risk in the way the virus sweeps through nursing homes.

And yet, that horrible tragedy still happened in Kirkland, Washington with I believe, now 25 deaths. That's why I use that term, angel of deaths a couple of weeks ago in my congressional testimony.

We knew healthcare workers were going to be a great risk. And indeed, we're seeing large numbers now with healthcare workers getting infected in the U.S. being taken out of the workforce. We don't have the details on that yet.

We know two emergency room physicians were over the weekend, in critical condition.

We knew -- we knew a number of aspects of this epidemic and then it played out again in Italy, with the added piece that younger people than expected are also getting sick. So we had a lot of information to get ready, and now this report.

My take on it is as follows. You know, when all of this ends, we're going to have to really take a hard look at the agencies, at how the White House worked with the agencies, how the Federal government worked with the state government and really do a post mortem on how all of those things went wrong. Right now, we don't have that luxury. Right now, we've got to focus on

saving lives and the fact that I'm very worried now about some of the weak links in our health system.

We've heard, you know, Governor Cuomo be out in front, really articulating what this surge means to New York hospitals and we have to take those same lessons and apply it really to every state in the country right now.

I'm getting report after report from my colleagues that number of healthcare providers, nurses, doctors on the frontlines are getting sick, and even if they're not getting sick, when they have a significant level of exposure, not able to work.

And I said a couple of days ago on CNN, I said, this is the weak link, and if this continues to happen, it's lights out. We simply will not be able to respond to this epidemic.

So my take on this is, you know from "The New York Times," you know, we're going to have to look at that and we're going to have to look at a number of things. Let's get through this now.

KEILAR: I want I see what you're saying and we're in the middle of the game. It's Sunday. It's hard for the Monday morning quarterback. Right? That's a very good point.

Chloroquine -- we heard the President and the F.D.A. Commissioner talking about several drugs that are in the pipeline, maybe to help treat the coronavirus. I mean, we don't know if there's one that really works.

But talk to us about chloroquine. This is a malaria drug. You know, a lot of people have traveled to someplace where malaria is present. You've taken -- you may have taken this drug. Is this the real deal because the President said it could be a game changer?

HOTEZ: Well, let's look at the timelines just to kind of keep the overall perspective. We're developing a vaccine, a vaccine is about the highest bar there is in terms of timeline.

You know, that's where Dr. Fauci says a year to 18 months. I think that may be optimistic, it could be longer than that.


HOTEZ: The next tier down is brand new drugs, what we call new chemical entities that have never been used before.

The next lower -- sort of the lowest hanging fruit, if you want to call it that is repurposing existing drugs, where we already know the safety profile, and those could be the ones rolled out the fastest.

So there is some preliminary data on hydroxychloroquine, which is an old antimalarial drug. We know a lot about it. You can make a ton of it. It's orally bioavailable. You can take it as a pill, so that if it does have an impact on this virus, it could potentially be a game changer used either as a treatment or as a prophylactic to give to the some of those healthcare workers.

We know it has antiviral activity against the coronavirus in the test tube. We know it can also help reduce some of the inflammation in the lung. So those two pieces would work very nicely together. What we need to do now is accumulate the clinical data to show that it really is effective.

There's some -- there's a preliminary study by my colleague Didier Raoult from Southern France, suggesting that in a small study that looks potentially promising, but that's still not ready for primetime. We still need substantially a larger study, and there are going to be a couple of other drugs like that.

And then the last piece is something that we really need to accelerate, and this is -- and I've spoken about it before on CNN, which is harvesting the antibodies from the serum of patients, processing that and giving it to either sick people in a large dose to actually treat their virus infection. It may not be a cure, but it would reduce the likelihood they might suffer permanent injury in the lungs, or even death.

And then in smaller doses, as prophylaxis, again, for healthcare workers, which is really emerging as an absolute priority right now.

So you know, we've got a pipeline of things that we're working on. I can't say that we have anything definitive right now, possibly with the antibody therapy is the one that we should be rolling out immediately.

KEILAR: Yes. Okay, really quickly, because I'm almost out of time here. But that -- using the malaria drug, chloroquine, how long would that take to see if it does work for this off label use?

HOTEZ: Well, I would imagine that there's -- and because it's widely available globally, I would imagine there are studies going on in Italy then in China, and I'm sure here in the United States. You can even go to

KEILAR: Is it months? Like is it something that would -- would it be a month? Would it be six months, do you think?

HOTEZ: Yes, you know, when whenever I give timelines, I'm always wrong. So if, you know, very few -- maybe a few weeks -- maybe a few weeks, a couple of months.

You know, as I say, this is -- just to keep things in perspective, you know, trying to develop new therapies, new vaccines for a brand new infectious disease pathogen in the middle of a public health crisis is about the hardest thing a nation can do.

And it sets you up to make you look terrible, even under the best of circumstances. So yes, you know, I think hands-on deck. I know that people at the N.I.H. are working around the clock, people at the F.D.A. working around the clock.

We're working around the clock. Our staff is working tirelessly to get our vaccine advance. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is very worried.

On the other hand, it's bringing out the best in humanity among scientists as well. So that's the silver lining.

KEILAR: Yes. Dr. Hotez. Thank you so much. We know you are building the ship as you're sailing it and we appreciate you talking to us. Thank you.

And a reminder that Dr. Gupta and Anderson Cooper are going to host a live Global Town Hall in partnership with Facebook to answer all of your questions about the coronavirus, so don't miss that. That will be tonight at 8:00 Eastern.

And New York is reporting a massive surge in coronavirus cases. This number essentially doubled overnight, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is resisting calls to implement a shelter-in-place order. We'll discuss why.

Plus, the explosion in the number of people working from home is putting the internet under serious strain. How is Netflix stepping in with a big now announcement about its service?

And cities in Florida now taking action after spring breakers rejected repeated warnings, rejected commonsense and flocked to the state's beaches.



KEILAR: In between questions about the government response to coronavirus today, President Trump also repeatedly took the opportunity to attack the media. Let's listen.


TRUMP: I think with social distancing, that the media has been much nicer. We were very prepared and the only thing we weren't prepared for was the media, the media has not treated it fairly. These are very dishonest media sources. They're very dishonest.

And you know what, someday, hopefully in five years, I won't be here and that'll be fine. I will have done, I think, a great job because I don't think anyone's done as much in three and a half years as I've done, I don't think and the administration.

This administration has done a great job, but the press is very dishonest. If we had an honest media in this country, our country would be an even greater place.

So ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.


KEILAR: CNN's chief media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter joining us now and it's -- I don't think he is using the word honest correctly, right? It's like, if it's something that is very true, but he feels that it's highlighting something that is a shortcoming for him that is clearly in this case, the Federal response that should be highlighted. It should be discussed because we're in the middle of this and it needs to get better.


KEILAR: He calls it dishonest, Brian.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The question is a good thing, criticism and scrutiny is a good thing. But obviously to the President, he rejects all of that.

And it was incredibly disappointing to see his conduct at this briefing today. It's like he took one step forward earlier in the week with a real wartime President sense, and then he took three steps forward back today by assailing the media, at a time when the media is empowering the public with information to stay safe.

Look, we all know the President is obsessed with news coverage. Well, in order to get good press right now, he has to concentrate on healthcare and life-saving efforts.

If he's watching. That's the message. Concentrate on getting more masks and supplies to the hospitals. Do not focus on your grievances.

Hospitals are in desperate need today, not tomorrow today, but he doesn't seem to want to know or admit that. He is not acknowledging the rapidly escalating death toll and number of cases in major metropolitan areas of the country.

Look, I think Republican leaders and others who are in Trump's inner circle need to intervene immediately to get him back on message -- Brianna.

KEILAR: You know, I was almost watching this press briefing through the prism of the steps of like grief or loss, right? I saw some bargaining. There was definitely anger there. We just saw that.

There's been denial this whole time, although that's gotten a little better. But it seems like at times like this, leadership really calls for acceptance, right, for acknowledging and accepting what the problem is and then moving toward action.

STELTER: Yes, and there are Republican governors who are doing a great job at this. He can take his cues from them.

But most importantly, when we have these televised briefings, the entire country is watching. We're all at home watching these briefings. We need him more than ever to succeed in this moment, and that means readiness -- anger about the media, take a break for a few days.

KEILAR: Yes, his supporters, those people who support him need him because they believe what he is saying is fact and he needs to be sticking to facts. It's so important. Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

And any moment now, we're going to hear from President Trump as he meets with the nation's governors and emergency officials from FEMA.

Plus, a family in New Jersey had a big dinner gathering, and now three members of that family have died from the coronavirus, several others are also sick.

We'll talk about their story ahead.