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THE SITUATION ROOM
US State Department Tells Americans Not To Travel Abroad; New York City Expected To Run Out Of Medical Supplies In Two To Three Weeks; CDC Recommends Health Care Workers Reuse Masks In A Crisis And Use Bandanas Or Scarves As A Last Resort; Italy Reports More Than 3,400 Deaths, Surpassing China's Toll; Sanjay Gupta Answers Your Questions About The Virus. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 19, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room." We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
We are following breaking news in the coronavirus pandemic. The US State Department now issuing its highest level travel alert, on a global level, and urging all Americans not to go abroad. As for this hour, more than 11,000 cases have been confirmed here in the United States with the death toll now climbing to 170.
Let's go no the State Department first, our National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is on the scene for us. Kylie, a very serious new travel warning to all Americans.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is the most serious travel warning that the State Department can issue, telling all Americans do not travel abroad. It is pretty clear here, Wolf, what the State Department is indicating. They are taking the coronavirus very seriously.
This is a travel warning that is usually reserved for countries like Afghanistan, Syria, where Americans could travel and face situations that would lead to death. So you can see how serious this should be taken. And for Americans who are already abroad right now, the State Department is telling them. If there are commercial flights available, get on those flights and get back to the United States.
Of course, there are other Americans who are in places where they can't get on those flights right now because the countries have either closed their borders or closed off the international airspace, so there are questions about how to get those Americans home and that is something that the State Department is working on right now.
President Trump was asked about that at his press conference earlier today and indicated that that is something that is in the works, noted that the military may work with the US government on that effort. But our Barbara Starr says the military has not been told that those flights are needed just yet.
BLITZER: If you are an American, Kylie, and you go abroad for whatever reason, does this mean you won't be allowed back into the United States?
ATWOOD: It could mean that, Wolf. Essentially what the State Department is saying that, if you choose to travel abroad, after we have issued this warning, after you haven't listened to our guidance, we are not necessarily going to help you out. And I want to read to you a line from this travel warning today saying, "If you choose to travel internationally, your plans may be severely disrupted. You may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite time frame."
Pretty alarming there, telling folks, stay home, don't go anywhere.
BLITZER: You're also learning, Kylie, I understand the White House is actually considering grounding domestic flight in the United States?
ATWOOD: Yes, there are discussions at the White House about grounding all domestic flights or some domestic flights. And one of my colleagues, Vivian Salama, was told that it's Dr. Fauci who was pressing for this. But sources at the White House say they aren't there yet, and there are some folks in the administration who are resistant of this move, particularly because of cargo right now.
There's cargo that needs to get to states that need medical equipment to fight the coronavirus. And one thing that is possible that they could shut down flights except for essential flights. But the bottom line here, Wolf, is that the airline industry has continued to shut down, close off its airways and that is because of demand.
People are fearful. People are being told to stay at home. So even if this is something that does go into place, there are questions about just how impactful it would be, because airlines are already taking these actions on their own.
BLITZER: A very significant developments unfolding right now. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thank you.
This travel alert comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States now tops 11,000. Our National Correspondent Erica Hill is in New York for us. Erica, the country has really beginning to feel the strain.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And these numbers, Wolf, we should point out, of course, the more tests that are done, the more positive cases, understandably, we are going to have.
The main concern right now is, as Kylie alluded to, getting those medical supplies. And we just heard from the mayor of New York City who says, the New York City could run out of essential medical supplies in two to three weeks. And hospitals and caregivers are increasingly concerned about protecting those on the frontlines.
HILL (voice-over): Alarming recommendations from the CDC for health care workers, reuse masks to preserve the supply or as a last resort, done a bandana instead.
MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN BROWN UNIVERSITY: Docs across the country are starting to get sick. And docs and nurses are worried about what this means for us and for our patients. The president may say that things are being produced, but they sure as heck are not showing up in my state.
HILL: The lack of protective gear increasingly urgent without a clear answer in sight.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We are working with the states.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The supply chain issues are real. You know, when the CDC starts putting out guidance, you can use a scarf as a mask, you know, it's time to make more masks.
HILL: As testing and the number of confirmed cases increases, officials caution the number of Americans tested is still low. And we don't know the full scope of the spread.
DEANNE CRISWELL, NEW YORK EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT COMMISSIONER: Massive official distancing is what's needed to slow the spread of this disease.
HILL: The opposite playing out on crowded Florida beaches.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Take some personal responsibility here. Don't infect out people. Don't take a chance that you're going to be the one that's going to cause your grandparent or your parents or another friend from school to get sick.
HILL: Miami-Dade County, all beaches and parks closed this morning. Further north in Clearwater, they're scheduled to stay open through the weekend.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The message is very clear, social distancing. Behave like have you the virus.
HILL: This new way of living, already having a major impact on the economy.
GIUSEPPE GELSOMINO, MANAGER, BEN'S FAMOUS PIZZA: We're limited everybody instead of working the full shift, that we work half a shift each, so everybody could work, so they could take a paycheck at home at the end of the week.
HILL: Jobless claims for the last week spiking to 281,000, the highest level in two first half years. The President today rushing off concerns about widespread lasting unemployment.
TRUMP: One of the elements that is being worked on very much so on The Hill is to keep the jobs going. So that when we do get rid of the virus, we're going to be able to just really, I think, go like a rocket. I think the economy is going to be fantastic.
HILL: Just 24 hours after mandating half of every company's workers must stay home, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo increased that number to 75%, and as questions mount about further restrictions for New York City residents, the governor urging New Yorkers to ignore the rumors.
CUOMO: Let's just take a deep breath and make sure we're all -- we're acting on facts as opposed to acting on fear.
HILL: Wolf, I want to get you a little bit more of this information I mentioned. Just off the top there, that we're just getting from the Mayor's Office here in New York City. So again, Mayor Bill de Blasio saying this city could run out of essential medical supplies in two to three weeks.
He says, right now those N-95 masks that we've talked so much about, he said the city needs 3 million of those, Wolf, 50 million surgical masks and 15,000 ventilators. As we let those numbers sink in for a minute, just a reminder here in New York City the current number of confirm cases, 3,615.
BLITZER: Yes. OK, Erica. Thank you, Erica Hill in New York City for us.
Let's get more on the global travel alert that has just been issued by the State Department. Our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. Kaitlan, this travel warning represents a very major step from the trump administration.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it certainly does. I mean, this is as high as it gets, and this is something that is normally designated for war zones. And now they're using it, urging Americans abroad to think carefully about what their travel plans are going to be.
And, Wolf, as they are doing that at the State Department back here at the White House, the President did not comment on that earlier while it was still in discussions before it became formal and was on the State Department's website.
And instead, he was focused on possible treatments for coronavirus, teasing that they could be happening soon, though the FDA quickly thereafter was urging caution about that timetable.
TRUMP: I'd shake his hand but I'm not supposed to do that. Get in a lot of trouble if I did. COLLINS: Tonight, President Trump says his administration is fast- tracking anti-viral treatments for the coronavirus.
TRUMP: I think it's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game changer and maybe not.
COLLINS: The President claimed the drug currently used as an anti- malarial could be used almost immediately, but moments later his FDA chief emphasize the important of testing and clarified that it's not ready yet.
STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: What's also important is not to provide false hope but to provide hope. FDA's responsibility to the American people is to ensure that products are safe and effective.
COLLINS: While the administration is planning for future treatment, health care providers say they are experiencing a shortage of supplies and need help now. Overnight, the CDC issued new guidance telling workers to use expired masks and even home-made ones like bandanas in they run out.
Use them beyond the 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.
COLLINS: The vice president says legislation Trump signed overnight will free up more masks for hospitals. Though, it's still not clear when they were get them.
When will those masks be ready for, because they need them today.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: They're available now.
COLLINS: The President claimed today it's not the federal government's responsibility to get supplies out, though the White House now says FEMA is coordinating it.
TRUMP: Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work, the federal government supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we're not a shipping clerk.
COLLINS: While initially praising China's handling of the coronavirus, today Trump says there could be repercussions since they shielded information about the outbreak.
TRUMP: It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier.
COLLINS: Facing criticism for a slow response, Trump says his administration shouldn't be blamed for the coronavirus outbreak because no one saw a pandemic like it coming.
TRUMP: This was something that happened that was -- some people would say an act of god. I don't view it as an act of god. I would view it as something that just surprised the whole world.
COLLINS: A new report from the New York Times says otherwise. That government exercises for an outbreak like this warned that the federal government was unprepared and under funded. The report says the warnings went unheeded by top government officials.
COLLINS (on-camera): And, Wolf, those assessments done by the government also warn of equipment shortages. If something like a pandemic like the coronavirus happens, specifically talking about ventilators and masks that were going to be needed. And now, Wolf, we're seeing that play out in real time.
BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan, thank you. Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine. Governor, I know you're very busy. Thank you so much for joining us.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: As you heard, the President says part of the reason he isn't using the Defense Production Act is because in his words, and I'm quoting him now, "Governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work. What do you say to that?
DEWINE: Well, we had a conference call today with the President. Actually my lieutenant governor was on that. And I guess some good news, you know, the personal protection gear equipment is so very, very important as we go into this crisis. And they had good news about the masks. And so we were certainly pleased with that. It was a good exchange. I'm told by John Houston, my lieutenant governor, you know, with the President, with his team.
I mean, look, I'm focused on Ohio. My message to Ohioans remains the same, separate, separate, separate. We're shutting a lot of things down in Ohio as is happening across the country.
But, the thing I emphasized today and I had a press conference. Again, we do want at 2:00 every day, but my message to the people of state of Ohio is a lot of small decisions will really determine how well we do and how well we get through this. And everybody has it within their hands to make these decisions.
I've told people who are coming back from Florida vacation somewhere, you know, stay in your house. We don't know what you you've brought back. For the people who are thinking about going, don't go. For people who have no reason to go out and can avoid going out, just stay home. I don't care whether you call it shelter in place or what you call it, but just be down and, you know, don't have the contact unless it's absolutely necessary.
We faced the same problem in Ohio and a big concern everybody has, I think, across this country is can our health care system take it, can we survive this, can we treat people the way that they should be treated. And we think Americans should be treated and everybody in the world should be treated.
And that's going to be determined, frankly, by how well our citizens make conscious decision today and how well they refrain from, you know, being in contact with other people. Separate is just the key.
BLITZER: Good advice, just stay home. Go outside, get a little fresh air but don't stay too close to other people.
DEWINE: Yes. Take a walk in the park, do something like that. Walk your dog, but stay away from people.
BLITZER: But basically stay home. The State Department, as you also heard, governor, has now raised all international travel to level 4, meaning do not travel. Do not travel abroad, stay in the United States. It's a pretty incredible announcement from the State Department. Do you think it's the right step?
DEWINE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. People should not be traveling. You know, we're still going to need airlines to bring freight, but as far as personal travel it doesn't make sense to me.
BLITZER: You want the President to put his existing new powers into actions, start ramping up production of masks, ventilators, other vital equipment?
DEWINE: Well, again, I was not on a conference call today but my lieutenant governor was. And that's the impression he got, is that they were moving ahead.
You know, I don't know about the act, but they were indicating they are going to do everything they can. They get it. I mean, clearly, the White House understands from this call and we've heard from them before, they get it. We need more of this, all of these things. We need more of the masks, more of the ventilators. I think, look, I think everybody gets it.
BLITZER: Yes. He hasn't activated the Defense Production Act yet. He says he's waiting -- he hopes he won't have to. But you just heard the mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio saying he expects to run out of some of this vital medical equipment within two to three weeks given the numbers that are going up. The numbers are going up dramatically in Ohio as well.
What is your status as far as this vital medical equipment is concern?
DEWINE: Yes. Well, I've got a conference call in the morning with all our hospitals. But, you know, we know that it's thin. We know this is very, very thin. And that's one of the reasons I keep pleading with the people of the state of Ohio, you know, we can slow this thing down.
And if we slow this thing down, our hospitals, our doctors are going to be able to handle it. If we don't, and we go up like Italy did. You know, we can't guarantee that we're going to be able to handle it.
And it's not -- Wolf, it's not just people who have coronavirus. It's going to be people who have heart attacks, people who have strokes. People who need the care and they're all going to be, you know, competing. And so, we've got to do what we can to slow this thing down. And we can control it. We really can control it by our own actions every single day.
BLITZER: And we know, governor, you have some of the best hospitals in the world right in Ohio, in the Cleveland Clinic as we all know.
DEWINE: We have great hospitals.
BLITZER: Good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks over there. Mike DeWine, the government of Ohio. Thanks, as usual for joining us.
DEWINE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Up next, a new warning about coronavirus infection showing up among young and middle-age adults here in the United States, not just the elderly. This is very, very scary stuff. And later, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he is standing by to join me live to answer your coronavirus questions, including questions about daily activities we simply used to take for granted. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: At this hour, we got breaking news. The State Department has just raised its coronavirus travel alert to the highest possible level advising US citizens to avoid all international travel. Our medical and political experts are here to discuss.
Dana Bash, this "do not travel advisory" for all international travel, that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago, wouldn't it?
DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Unthinkable ever, Wolf. I mean, it's remarkable. I mean, I don't know, can you remember a time when the State Department has issued that kind of sweeping advisory under any circumstances? I sure can't.
And, look, there are lots of reasons for it. But one of the big reasons appears to be the unbelievable frustration that you are hearing from government officials, and also -- and especially medical professionals that people aren't listening. They are not heeding the warnings of the CDC, of governors, of federal officials not to travel, to social distance, to stay where they are. And so, they're trying everything lever that they probably have, and this is one of them.
BLITZER: Yes. It's certainly a dramatic development. Dr. Zeke Emanuel is with us also, a former Obama White House Health Advisory, now is an Advisor on the coronavirus to former Vice President Biden's campaign.
Unfortunately as you know, Zeke, some younger Americans, they simply haven't taken these restrictions seriously. But a CDC report has now found out that nearly 4 in 10 patients hospitalized in the United States were between the ages of 20 and 54. So what are experts learning about the risks to younger Americans?
ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: Well, it does seem to be different and different than what the data we have from China, which said that, you know, younger people under 60 were at pretty low risk. This seems to say that at least in the United States, in the preliminary data, in the early phases, we have a lot of young people who are being hospitalized, but also importantly being put into the intensive care unit and being intubated.
So the Chinese data may not apply to the United States. The other thing you have to think about and we certainly have to consider is that somehow this virus as it's going around the world is getting more lethal. You know, these viruses mutate and one has to worry about that possibility.
BLITZER: That's a really disturbing note, but it's a real possibility. Debbie Hatmaker is joining us as well, the Chief Nursing Officer with the American Nurses Association.
You had a chance, Debbie, to meet with President Trump yesterday and some of his advisers. What was your main takeaway from that meeting?
DEBBIE HATMAKER, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION: We did have the opportunity to meet with the coronavirus task force members, the President and the vice president. It was an important meeting with 12 nursing organizations. We continued to press our points around personal safety and the need for increased protective equipment for nurses and all health care workers, in particular N95 respirators, masks, gowns, gloves and the severe shortage that we are hearing from our health care providers at the bedside that they don't have the equipment they need.
BLITZER: And people don't necessarily always appreciate, Debbie, how dangerous it is to be a medical professional right now given the nature of this coronavirus. Your fellow nurses, they have serious problems especially if they don't get the equipment, the protective equipment they need.
HATMAKER: Yes, it is very dangerous. I just looked at numbers today out of the Italy indicating that health workers are making up about 9% percent of all the COVID-19 cases, we're very concerned. We're certainly at this point in time can't lose 9% or 10% of our work health care workforce to be on the side lines. We need everyone who is capable to be there.
So the need for the right equipment is the upper-most in our minds, and we continue to press that with the task force yesterday. We're glad to hear about increased production, but again, it's going to take large, large quantities, and we're going to continue to press this.
Because we're hearing stories from nurses and around the country, they're going to extreme measures. Unfortunately, looking at things like re-using masks, which certainly is not the best infection control. We're also hearing stories of people being creative and using surgical sheets to create their own masks. That's certainly far from ideal as well.
BLITZER: Yes. Using bandanas, I mean, it's really hard to believe.
Dana, the President so far doesn't see the need to actually activate his new powers, his existing powers under what's called the Defense Production Act. Why is that?
BASH: That's a great question. I mean, on the one hand, he says you know almost proudly he is a wartime president. And on the other hand, he has this power which he invoked, which is a war time power, to help people like Debbie, to help all of the nurses, to help all of the doctors in making the government have these, you know, sort of forcing some of these manufacturers to produce the kind of PPEs, and other really critical, you know, things that they need to protect themselves and he's not doing it.
There are lots of reasons, we understand. It is something that is a real extreme measure, but these are extreme times.
BLITZER: They certainly are. Everybody stand by, there's more we need to discuss also in just a moment. I will speak live with President Obama's former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. And later, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's here. He will answer your questions about the coronavirus. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Breaking news this afternoon, the State Department raised this coronavirus travel alert to the highest possible level, advising all US citizens not to travel abroad.
Joining us on the phone right now Susan Rice, who served as President Obama's National Security Adviser. Ambassador Rice, thanks so much for joining us. The right decision you think?
SUSAN RICE, FORMER OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER (via-phone): Well, Wolf, it's a very serious and profound decision to warn Americans not to travel anywhere in the world. I think it may be timely in the moment. But we need to remember, and I hope the State Department is focus on the fact that we have many Americans who are overseas and stranded from Peru to Morocco.
American citizens who are desperate to come back home but can't get back home because they have been cut off from international travel. The host government has said people can't come and go. And the United States' whose responsibility it is to try to protect our citizens abroad, through the State Department, doesn't seem to be taking adequate steps to help bring those people home.
BLITZER: You know, the "New York Times," I'm sure you saw the story Ambassador Rice today, they reported that the Trump administration actually ran simulations last year on this exact scenario, an outbreak of some sort of virus, respiratory virus from China, and it predicted many of the exact problems all of us are facing today. What do you make of that?
RICE: Well, Wolf, what I make of it is that we have known in the US government for decades, but certainly for recent years that we were due for another global pandemic, whether it would be an avian flu or something else. The Bush administration experienced it with N5N1, in the Obama administration we had in 2019, the so-called swine flu pandemic, we had to deal with Ebola and Zika, and a number of other diseases.
And therefore, we knew that this was a serious and impending risk. That's why under the Obama administration, we set up -- I set up with Lisa Monaco in the White House, in the National Security Council, an office for global health security and bio-defense. We staffed it with a senior person and made sure that they could report directly to the national security adviser and homeland security adviser. Two years ago that office was dismantled.
On the last week of the Obama administration, we had an exercise with the incoming leadership of the trump administration. We sat down for hours, side-by-side. And one of the key scenarios we ran with them was very much this one, what happens when you have a global pandemic of this sort.
And I'm glad to know the Trump administration at the working level continued to recognize the importance of this and the exercise that the New York Times described that the Health and Human Services Department ran is precisely what needed to be run. But when have you the president of the United States stand up almost daily and said, who could have imagined this, who could have predicted this, we have no idea this could come. Well, that's just false.
And not only did we know it could come, we should have prepared for it to come as we did in the Obama administration, as we gave them wherewithal to do in the Trump administration.
BLITZER: Do you know, Ambassador Rice, if during the transition he was elected in early November 2016, sworn in as president January 20th, 2017. During that transition when you briefed the Trump transition team on the possibility of a pandemic, what to do about it. Do you know if the President personally was involved in that? Was he told about that concern?
RICE: Which president, Trump?
BLITZER: Yes, the incoming president.
RICE: You know, I can't tell you whether his cabinet officials and his national security adviser designee, and his homeland security adviser designee briefed him on what they were -- themselves briefed on, and exercised the scenario around. I have no ability to know what was discussed.
I can tell you that as national security adviser, I personally had one of the only extended opportunities to do a handoff to my successor, who was at the time General Michael Flynn. We spent 12 hours together during that transition period. With provided over 100 briefing papers that were very carefully done, and the pandemic concern, the pandemic scenario, the global health agenda was very much one of the issues that we've presented and flagged for them.
BLITZER: How much of the problems that the world is facing right now, do you believe is the result of China early on when they first discovered this virus holding back delaying, not reporting what was going on, and only later doing so?
RICE: Well, I think there's a lot of confusion about this, my understanding is that, while the -- in contrast to how they reacted to the SARS virus in the early 2000, they actually by the end of the December alerted the World Health Organization to what they were seeing, and began to provide the genomic sequencing to enable the vaccines to be produced. But what they did internally was terrible.
They abused human rights. They suppressed information. They lied to their people. And they didn't move thereafter as quickly as they might have. But the world had, by the end of December, the wherewithal to create a vaccine, which is why in Taiwan and in Hong Congress, and in South Korea, and in Germany, they have been way ahead of the United States in replicating that sequence and creating the -- excuse me, not the vaccine, the testing for the coronavirus.
They were able to create tests that we have been extremely slow to produce here in the United States in sufficient quantities. So there's a lot of blame to be placed on China in terms of how it handled its processes internally, how they treated their people, how they suppressed information. And certainly, China is not behaving well in trying to blame this on the United States.
RICE: But the flipside of it is, we are not behaving well when we talk about, as the President does every day, the Chinese virus, the Wuhan flu, and all of these racist descriptions. The fact of the matter is, these viruses don't know borders. They don't respect borders.
In 2009, the swine flu pandemic that swept the world that was extremely deadly, in terms of lives ultimately lost originated in North America. So we need to get out of the business of blaming people for where viruses arise, which can arise anywhere on the planet and get into the business of working together to defeat them.
And my concern is with all of the very bad blood now on this topic among others between the United States and China, we are not only deflecting from the imperative of getting our own act together here in the United States, which is woefully lacking. [17:40:06]
But we are race baiting and we are making it much more difficult to rally other countries, not just China but many other countries, to cooperate in this endeavor. Because at the end of the day, Wolf, it's not going to be good enough even if we are able to bend the curve in United States, and minimize the catastrophe that we face. And under any circumstances, it's going to be a catastrophe.
But if we can't snuff this out all over the world, it will come back again.
BLITZER: It's going to require a global effort, indeed. Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for joining us.
RICE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Up next, a look at the global extent of the crisis and it is global, including a grim milestone in Italy, which now has more corona deaths than China.
And later, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta getting ready to answering your question whether it's a good idea to visit barber shops, beauty parlors right now.
BLITZER: Breaking news, the US State Department this afternoon warned Americans not to travel abroad due to the coronavirus. Hospitals across Europe, meanwhile, are reporting they're overwhelmed right now. Even though nations are closing their borders or restricting people's activities.
New numbers today show Italy passing China as the country with the most reported coronavirus deaths. CNN's Max Foster is joining us from London right now. Max, those numbers from Italy are so concerning.
MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 3,405 people dying in Italy, so 156 more than China's death toll. Some debate about the numbers here, but this is definitely the trend. And what's interesting here, Wolf, is that there has been this very, very severe lock down in Italy. Nearly every Italian has been ordered to stay home, and yet the numbers continue to spiral out of control.
And it's interesting because there are very different tactic being taken here in the UK were some way behind Italy. Boris Johnson is refusing to go into a lockdown. Instead, he's appealing to the public, if you like, to avoid pubs and bars, and congregating in areas. But he's not closing down those pubs and bars, and he's not going to close the transport system down either.
He's relying on the public taking their responsibility here, so a very different tactic. And it'll be interesting to see if it works in relation to what we're seeing in this horrifying situation in Italy, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a horrendous situation in Europe and Asia, all over the world and emerging here in the United States as well. Max Foster in London, thank you.
Coming up, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he will answer your questions about the coronavirus pandemic. And Florida's governor is urging people on spring break and others to simply get off the beaches right now and "take some personal responsibility."
BLITZER: With number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States now topping 11,000, Americans have a growing number of questions about how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with some answers.
We've got a lot of questions from our viewers, Sanjay, this one first. Can you spread the virus even if don't have any symptoms?
GUPTA: Yes. The answer to those questions is yes. And I think people really need to remember this, that even if you don't have symptoms, you can still spread the virus.
Wolf, there was a study that I saw that came out of China and really looking at what sort of fueled, you know, the explosion of cases early on. And what they wrote based on their data was that, four out of five people who got the coronavirus got it from someone who didn't know they had it. Let me repeat that. Four out of five people who got the coronavirus, 80 percent, acquired that infection from an individual who didn't know they had it.
So the answer is very much yes, Wolf. Sometimes people have minimal symptoms. They don't think it's much or they have no symptoms but can still spread it.
BLITZER: Here's another question. How do you social distance if you live in a multigenerational household?
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, it's challenging. I mean, there are a lot of questions about this, and people have all of these tops. I mean, first of all, you know, the basics in terms of utensils and things that you might otherwise be more comfortable sharing. And, you know, you're going to have to sort of have your own allotment of utensils, make sure that you keep an eye on those, and you know, take care of those. Clean surfaces, clean your hands before you touch them and after, all of that.
If somebody gets sick, Wolf, or somebody is having any symptoms, I think that's one of the biggest things you have to address. And usually at that point, you want to find a separate room or something where the person can sort of isolate within the house.
Remember, six feet is sort of what they consider social distancing or call it physical distancing, six feet. So as much as you can, do that.
BLITZER: Yes, that's good advice. Here's another question. Should you stop going to a salon or barber to get your haircut? I think, I'm going to need a haircut pretty soon. What's the answer?
GUPTA: I think you're going to have to stop doing that. I mean, look, some of this just intuitively make sense I think at this point. The goal is to distance people because the virus is trying to move from person to person. If you can distance people enough, eventually the virus, the cycle of transmission will be broken. That's what you're trying to do from keeping apart people. At a salon or whatever, obviously that's very hard to do.
So you have to behave like you have the virus. And if you behave that way, they're not going to want to put yourself in such close proximity. So, Wolf, I'll be interested to see you with a bit more scraggly hair and beard even. I don't know what to do about the beard. I guess you do that yourself.
BLITZER: I did the beard myself, what about your hair? It's going to get long too, Sanjay. All of our hair is going to get long.
GUPTA: I tried cutting it myself.
BLITZER: Yes, unless I have to do that, then it will look really bad. Sanjay, thank you very, very much. More questions for Sanjay coming up in next hour.
Also he'll be answering questions about the pandemic later tonight when he joins Anderson Cooper for a global town hall in partnership with Facebook, "Coronavirus Facts and Fears" that airs live tonight, 8:00 pm, 8:00 pm Eastern.
The breaking news continues next, a global travel alert by the State Department telling Americans not go to abroad as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.