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Growing Coronavirus Cases Could Overwhelm U.S. Health Care System; Trump Takes New Steps to Slow Virus's Spread; Germany's Angela Merkel Delivers Rare Address on Coronavirus; Lessons from Wars and Conflicts; Undetected Infections Likely Drove China's Rapid Spread. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A new barrier in the fight to slow coronavirus. Health care systems could be overwhelmed as the case count grows rapidly.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The president signs a bill providing some emergency relief for families. A trillion-dollar stimulus plan is next. Will it be enough for small businesses struggling to survive right now?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine romans. It's about 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

An invisible enemy posing a very clear threat. Frontline medical workers across the country now report a dire shortage of materials to conduct tests for coronavirus. With the virus spreading more rapidly now experts say the U.S. health care system will be overwhelmed. Consider this warning from President Obama's Ebola czar.


RON KLAIN, FORMER U.S. 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.


JARRETT: The case count in the U.S. approaching 8900 this morning. 149 people have died. Both those numbers essentially doubling in the last two days and are only going up. Medical officials tell CNN to keep up they need more swabs and other materials even as commercial labs ramp up testing.


SCOTT STEINER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PHOEBE PUTNEY HEALTH SYSTEM, SW GEORGIA: We have -- we have gone through five months, now six months' worth of supplies in less than a week and we are scrambling. We're scrambling and even to the point where -- these are N95 masks. We've got three days of supply of N95 masks on hand. In order to preserve these and get them to last longer we have begun -- we've got a team of people sewing masks together.

DR. ROD HOCHMAN, PRESBYTERIAN ST. JOSEPH, SEATTLE: In certain cases, it's just the availability of the appropriate swab in order to take the sample.

DR. MARK RUPP, INFECTION CONTROL CHIEF, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: We're in this situation now where we actually don't have the reagents to do the extraction from the samples so that we can run the tests.


ROMANS: Officials also warn there won't be enough resources, especially in rural areas, if the outbreak grows at its current pace. That includes hospital beds, medical staff or equipment like ventilators. Two automakers could play a role. GM and Ford are both examining whether they can manufacture ventilators at their facilities.

JARRETT: The White House also pleading with young people to practice social distancing. Scenes like this on Florida beaches show basic health and safety recommendations just being completely ignored. And new research shows young people are not as immune as once thought.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs.


JARRETT: The administration is in discussions with the tech industry, including Facebook and Google, about how to use Americans' cell phone location data to track the spread of coronavirus.

ROMANS: A relief package has been signed into law by President Trump. It includes free COVID-19 testing, expanded unemployment benefits, two weeks of emergency leave with some caps on pay, and a lot of asterisks. Large companies are exempt and small companies can apply to be, so 70 million people may not have paid leave. Now the Senate is focused on passing the next relief, a trillion-dollar stimulus for a $20 trillion economy.

JARRETT: It provides $500 billion for cash payments to Americans, $300 billion for small businesses, $50 billion to bail out the airlines, and $150 billion for other affected sectors. Small business owners especially in dire straits.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 800 people total that we had prepared the food for, at fundraisers to weddings primarily and some corporate things as well, but just everything is just shutdown. Everything. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've shut down our operation. We've closed our

office, you know, so everybody's out of work. You know, and not getting paid.


ROMANS: The Trump administration is making contingency plans for a pandemic that lasts a year and a half or longer, 18 months. That does not mean the government is expecting it to last that long, but a 100- page planning document accounts for multiple waves of the virus.

JARRETT: President Trump is taking new steps to limit the virus's spread, but it may take some time to see the effects to see if it's all working.

Here's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laura and Christine, the president came out to the briefing room yesterday and announced several new measures that his administration is taking, though there's a little bit of fine print on some of them.


One of them being the president saying he would sign the Defense Production Act. That would essentially grant him these emergency powers to be able to direct private companies to accelerate supplies that they believe are needed to help protect the national defense. Usually, it's used for things like military equipment but, of course, in this situation what's on everyone's mind is medical supplies that hospitals say they are in desperately short supply of.

However, the president tweeted a short while later saying that he was only signing the DPA, he was not actually invoking it at this time and instead saving that for a worst-case scenario. That seems to surprise some people, including lawmakers who were praising the president for signing it and hopefully, in their opinions, invoking it.

Two other things we also want to note is the president did say they are going to deploy two U.S. Navy ships to both coasts. Those ships are not going to be treating coronavirus patients but instead will serve as a relief to hospitals nearby. They can treat people like trauma patients, things of that nature.

Though the Defense secretary did later tell Jake Tapper it's going to be several weeks before one of them makes it to one coast, and at least about a week and a half-two weeks before the other makes it to the other coast.

So the president is also essentially viewing all of this through the lens of a wartime president, he says. He says that they're going to be taking measures you haven't seen since World War II. And now he believes he's on wartime footing in this situation.

ROMANS: All right, Kaitlan, at the White House, thank you for that. All right. So three years of stock market gains gone in a matter of

weeks. The Dow fell below 19,732 Wednesday afternoon, that briefly dropped it below the closing level from inauguration, January 19th, 2017. The day before President Trump took office. It inched back to close slightly above there. But look, that's a finish below 20,000 for the first time since 2017. The Dow is now something like 32 percent off of its record highs.

Trading so volatile the S&P 500 plunged 7 percent midday triggering the fourth circuit breaker in a month. It closed 5 percent lower. Taking a look at futures right now, also leaning down a little bit this morning. We'll watch -- oh, they've actually just new tires, so we'll watch closely to see if you can get a bounce there. It's been pretty volatile in overnight trading the past few days.

Fears of a global recession grow. Deutsch Bank thinks the collapse of the global economy could be the biggest since World War II. The Economic Policy Institute says the economic fallout from coronavirus could claim up to three million jobs by summer. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are all halting production in the U.S. as the virus spreads.

You know, factory workers can't work from home. The UAW said workers will receive unemployment insurance and pay from their employers that will add up to nearly their full play. Other industries are asking for billions of dollars in federal help. The nation's restaurants say they need a massive $325 billion bailout.

The National Restaurant Association says it needs help immediately to support restaurants and the 15.6 million workers who depend on restaurants for their jobs. That's just a slice of what's going to hit the national labor market.

JARRETT: Twitter is cracking down on any coronavirus content that contradicts health authorities. The company says it's working with trusted partners to review all material. Tweets will be deleted if they contradict expert guidance, promote harmful or ineffective treatments or make unverified claims that can spark panic. Twitter says the tactics could evolve over time.

ROMANS: The virus is also forcing big changes for Facebook which has worked for years to curb phony information. Facebook plans to roll out a new coronavirus information center at the top of users' feeds with verified information from the CDC and the World Health Organization.

JARRETT: Well, it's going to be a hard time for many people, it already is. For millions around the world, hard times are nothing new. We'll ask one of our correspondents how he learned not to panic covering war and conflict around the world.



JARRETT: All right. Welcome back. Travel restrictions are expanding globally to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Countries on every continent except Antarctica now have border closures and travel bans to stop the spread. Overnight Australia banned all noncitizens from traveling there. And CNN has learned Americans stranded around the world after transportation shutdowns and border closures are struggling to get help from the State Department.

ROMANS: Italy is already weeks into the crisis and just announced the largest single-day rise in new cases. 4200. The country now has more than 35,000 cases. That could be a warning sign for the U.S. Statistics show the U.S. growth numbers are on the same track as Italy.

JARRETT: Angela Merkel is calling on the German people to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously. She said solidarity has not been this critical since World War II.

Let's go live to Berlin and bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen -- Fred.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Laura. Yes, an urgent message from Angela Merkel. And she took the almost unprecedented step of doing an address to the German nation, and saying, look, folks, you really need to take these measures very seriously. If you go out and look on the streets in berlin, for instance, right now, you can see it's pretty empty. But there are still some people who are going out.

And Angela Merkel yesterday in her address was saying everybody needs to participate. Everybody, if they can, needs to stay inside because she says this is a crisis that's so dangerous to Germany and to Europe, that's something that this continent hasn't seen since World War II, she said. Let's listen in.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): So let me say this is serious. Take it seriously, too. Since German unification -- no, since the Second World War there has not been a challenge to our country that has relied so much on our joint action in solidarity.


PLEITGEN: And this country, of course, guys, an industrial country. A country that very much dependent on international trade. If you look at the German economy it's also taking a big hit.


Most of the large German automakers, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, have already halted their production just like a lot of American automakers have as well. Angela Merkel says the government taking that very seriously. They're offering credit lines already of about $500 billion. And they say that there's more to come for the economy as Germany also grappling with this corona crisis. And just this morning announcing new travel restrictions, not letting anyone in who's coming in from outside the European Union or the United Kingdom, guys.

JARRETT: All right, Fred, thanks so much. ROMANS: All right, so despite pleas to remain calm, some people can't

help but panic or get nervous in a time of crisis. Many of CNN's correspondents have traveled to war zones. They have covered unimaginable brutality and despair.

Nick Paton Walsh has witnessed conflicts in places like Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan. He joins us live now from London to give us a little bit of perspective in the middle of this very big story.

You know, Nick, you have a new piece on What are some of the lessons you can share from your experiences?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, just immediately, practically, don't worry so much about food. I know people are panic buying. But one of the things me and many of our colleagues have learned from crisis and conflicts around the world is that people have an extraordinary ability to feed themselves in times of crisis. Often when there's shelling or on a front line or houses that turn to rubble, this is just a disease.

It's an awful one, changing our daily life. But don't worry so much about food. And don't behave in such a way that you deprive food from the elderly or the vulnerable by panic buying and emptying out stores. I'm seeing all over the world it's kind of crazy.

One point to that, too, as well, you can live without toilet roll. We've all done it in our jobs around the world. If you have to do your business in the middle of a field, yes, it's very helpful but it's entirely possible to exist with just a shower and a bar of soap. So don't worry too much about that either.

ROMANS: You make a really good distinction, Nick, between things you can control and things you can't control. Elaborate.

WALSH: Yes. I mean, one of the things we have to learn in our jobs in complicated situations like conflicts is that there's stuff that you can worry about, that you can have an impact on, and there's stuff like what's going to happen in May, what's going to happen in the other village that you can't see, the distant future that you simply can't change.

So don't waste your energy worrying about those things which really you have no control over at all. Worry about the things you can change. Who are you going to help? What are you going to eat today? What are you going to do later on today? What are you going to do about tomorrow? Try and limit the things that your anxiety builds over.

And also, too, an extremely important thing for people to remember, be nice to people around you. This isn't because we all want to live in a happy society holding hands, it's really, really helpful for you if people around you like you.


WALSH: And want to help you because they will tell you things that necessary they might be reluctant to tell you that you really need to know, your neighbor is sick, or in my case sometimes we're going to shell on the other side of that hill so don't go there. That's an important matter of -- not altruism, but for looking after yourself.

And important thing, too, just to kind of finalize on here really, don't worry too much about this. One of the extraordinary lessons that we all learned from covering wars is that nearly everybody you meet ends up getting out OK. Yes, there are horrible stories of death, injury, trauma and loss and we focus on those a lot during the war, but what you don't see aside from the camera, outside of the shot, are the fact that most people who went through that awful experience were OK a few weeks later.

And most people going through this are going to be absolutely OK. We're going to lose people, we're going to have a terrible shock to the economy, but people will recover. Societies recover. They will build incredibly quickly. Kabani in northern Syria shelled by ISIS and coalition airstrikes, rebuilt so fast. And that's one of the good things about my profession sometimes. You see how resilient people are, how fast they rebuild.

And we're going to see a lot of that in the months and years ahead possibly because this is not going to suddenly wipe humanity out, it's just going to teach us a lot of painful lessons.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Nick Paton Walsh, boy, did I need that. Thank you so much. And I encourage all our viewers to read the piece on

Thanks, Nick.

JARRETT: Such a great piece from Nick there.


JARRETT: All right. Well, on a slightly lighter note, the coronavirus lockdown in Italy having an unexpected side effect in Venice. Water in the normally cloudy canals is now crystal clear, enough so you can see fish swimming below. Officials say it isn't so much a sign of better water quality as it is from the lack of boat traffic. Tourism in Italy came to a screeching halt after coronavirus cases spiked.

ROMANS: All right. Three years of stock market gains gone in a matter of weeks. The Dow down more than 30 percent from its peak. Wall Street's love affair with President Trump and his policies officially over.

CNN Business has a look at markets next.



ROMANS: All right. Let's take a look at markets around the world right now. You can see that Asian shares closed lower. European shares have opened up. The European Central Bank unveiling a big $800 billion bond buying stimulus program. And so you've got rallies there.

In the U.S., futures have been kind of all over the place for U.S. stocks and its futures. They're mixed right now. Yesterday it was a rush for cash on Wall Street. Honestly, investors sold everything they could. The Dow closed below 20,000 for the first time since February 2017. It is now 30 percent off of its record high. More in all that in just a few minutes.

JARRETT: About one in four people in California are now under a mandatory shelter in place order this morning. Napa, Yolo, San Luis Obispo counties as well as the city of Fresno joining 10 other northern California counties, all in an effort to keep people from transmitting the virus often without even realizing it.


CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, we're learning a lot more about how this coronavirus, this novel coronavirus was spreading through China, and getting some insights into how it's spreading around the world. New study and new modeling coming out saying undetected infections probably drove a lot of the rapid spread, at least initially in China.

And there was something that really stuck out at me which said about four in five people confirmed to have coronavirus were likely infected by people who didn't know they had it. Again, about four in five people confirmed to have coronavirus infection were likely infected by people who didn't know they had it.

This is really important because I think as we think about curbing the spread, it makes all these measures that we've heard about social distancing that much more important. People who don't know they have it are likely spreading this. The data seems to suggest that. And they're a big driver of that spread. They may not be as contagious. But because they don't know it, they oftentimes are probably not being as careful.

So the advice that I've been giving for some time, I think, behave as if you have the virus. This could make a difference. You guys probably have seen this graph. 1918 is often brought up because it was another big pandemic. Look at two cities, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Philadelphia there, the big line, the big peak. That was a city that had a lot of social interaction, very little social distancing because of the big fair.

Saint Louis adopted a lot of those social distancing measures and look at the difference. There's countless examples like this. The social distancing measures work if people are consistent, fit they're honest, and if they're diligent. Do these measures now and it's going to take a while before we see the final impact. Hopefully it will be a good impact and we start to slow this down -- Christine, Laura.

ROMANS: All right, Sanjay, thank you so much.

A construction company is donating more than 1,000 masks and 95 respirators to emergency workers in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.


ROBERT BRESNAHAN, CEO, KUHARCHIK CONSTRUCTION, INC.: The flood of 2011, we used them during the cleanup recovery process. So we started ripping through our inventory and realized that we had, you know, a pretty -- a plethora of masks. So we felt it was the right thing to do.


ROMANS: Now the county manager says protective supplies have been hard to find. He says the donation saves taxpayer dollars and helps hospital -- keeps hospital staff and elderly caseworkers safe during the pandemic.

JARRETT: One Chicago area eatery taking community service to the next level. The Country House restaurant is now offering free meals to seniors who are homebound during the coronavirus crisis. The owner says the response has been overwhelming.


PAUL BOUNDAS, OWNER, COUNTRY HOUSE KITCHEN: Like, 75,000 responses. It kind of caught us not off guard but we didn't think it was going to go like that on the first day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday I met a wonderful lady. Her name was Dorothy. And I hope she calls against today.


JARRETT: The restaurant plans to provide the free meals as long as necessary or, the owner says, until their funds run out.

ROMANS: A new song from U2 front man Bono inspired by the global coronavirus crisis. He says the song "Let Your Love Be Known" is dedicated to all the people in a tight spot around the world because of the virus spread and it pays tribute to the doctors, nurses, and other health care workers on the front lines.

JARRETT: Well, late-night shows are taking a break during the pandemic but that doesn't mean their hosts are out of work. They're from home.


JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Trump, meanwhile, has a catchy little nickname for the coronavirus. He now calls it the Chinese virus every chance he gets. You know, they say a great way to prevent a virus from spreading is to name it something racist. That way people keep it on the down low.

CONAN O'BRIEN, LATE-NIGHT HOST: I'm here to assure you, there are many things around the house you can use instead of toilet paper that work just as well. For example, CVS receipts. CVS receipts are long. This is for just six Tic-Tacs I bought. And I never throw them away because I knew this day would come.

JIMMY FALLON, LATE-NIGHT HOST: I guess some good news, I saw that you can now stream the movie "Cats" online. You guys remember "Cats." This is when movie theaters were empty before the virus.


JARRETT: Oh, my goodness. And we get to see more of the kids.

ROMANS: His kid is so cute. More kids, more dogs.


JARRETT: All right. Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.

A new barrier in the fight to slow coronavirus. Health care systems could be overwhelmed as the case count grows rapidly.

ROMANS: The president signs a bill providing some emergency relief for families. A trillion-dollar stimulus plan is next. Will it be enough and soon enough for small businesses struggling to survive?

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Thursday, March 19th, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

All right. Well, we start with --