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75 Million Americans Ordered to Stay Home as Cases Grow; VP Pence's Staff Member Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Cities, States, Hospitals Plead for More Coronavirus Supplies; NY Nears 8,000 Cases; Nearly Half of U.S. Total; Goldman Sachs Predicts 2.25M Unemployment Claims This Week; Pressure Mounts to Postpone Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 20, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, 75 million Americans ordered to stay home as coronavirus cases keep climbing. This as we are just learning, a member of the Vice President Pence his office has tested positive for the virus.

Plus, chaos and confusion as hospital workers across the United States say they don't have the supplies they need. We're going to talk to an ICU doctor who's going to tell you firsthand what it is like right now.

And an Ohio restaurant group owner just laid off 4,500 people. This is a story we are seeing again and again across this country. That restaurant owner is my guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, stay at home. That is the order tonight from four state governors as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. New York, California, Illinois and Connecticut all ordering non- essential employees to stay home. Those orders cover 75 million people across the United States.

New York's governor today telling non-essential businesses in his state to reduce their workforce to zero.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): These are not helpful hints. This is not if you really want to be a great citizen. These are legal provisions. They will be enforced. There will be a civil fine and mandatory closure for any business that is not in compliance.

Again, your actions can affect my health. That's where we are.


BURNETT: But President Trump saying these orders will not go national.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that Gov. Cuomo has done in New York. Is there any more consideration to a national lockdown to keep people in their homes?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so. Essentially, you've done that in California, you've done that in New York. Those are really two hot beds. Those are probably the two hottest of them all in terms of hotspots. I don't think so because you go out to the Midwest, you go out to other locations and they're watching it on television, but they don't have the same problems.


BURNETT: The President though today did announce that he's closing the border with Mexico to all non-essential activity after already announcing the border with Canada will close. And the number of coronavirus cases jumped by nearly 5,000 here in the United States over the past 24 hours as testing has expanded.

There are now 18,083 people who have been infected, 236 have died. One of them we are learning in terms of infections is someone who works in Vice President Pence's office and we're going to have much more on that in a moment as we're just getting details on that this moment.

I first want to go to Nick Watt. He's OUTFRONT in Los Angeles. So Nick, how are people there coping with these new ground rules, transformational ones?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've got to say, Erin, it's strange. Most of us have been living under this kind of stay at home thing all week. The schools have been closed, but I must say, now that there is an order out there, now that we're being told to do it, it does feel different, more restricting.

And I want to give you a quick view from a drone we have flying above here. That is the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, which normally this time of day is a parking lot, not today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the day everything changed.


WATT (voice-over): Californians, New Yorkers, the populations of Illinois and Connecticut will all soon be under orders to stay home. That's more than 70 million Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): To avoid the loss of potentially 10s of

thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay at home order for the State of Illinois.

CUOMO: These provisions will be enforced. This is the most drastic action we can take.


WATT (voice-over): People can go to the store, get out for some solitary exercise but stop socializing.


CUOMO: We're going to go visit mom. I'm going to bring the home family to see mom.

No, not now.


WATT (voice-over): Essential workers are exempt like food service and health care providers who are still struggling nationwide to find the supplies to keep themselves safe and treat the sick.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting to see those individuals become sick as well and be taken out of the workforce or in some cases become seriously ill. So here's where everything can fall apart very quickly.


WATT (voice-over): In Los Angeles, they're erecting tents and hospital parking lots to treat coronavirus patients.

Midnight tonight, the Mexican border will join our northern border and also close to all but essential travel. The undocumented will not be allowed to cross.


TRUMP: We're not sending them to Mexico. We're sending them back to their own countries.


WATT (voice-over): Goldman Sachs now estimates that this week 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment. If that estimate is accurate, it would be eight times last week's figure and an all-time record.


All interest on federal student loans now suspended. Tax deadline day pushed three months to July 15. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is not a permanent state. This is a moment in time.



WATT: How long it last, we don't know. The mayor here in L.A. says a month. He thinks it could be two and we just heard from the mayor of New Orleans, they are implementing a similar stay at home order. When New Orleans stop partying, Erin, we know we've got problems.

BURNETT: Nick, thank you.

And I want to go to Kaitlan right now. Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT at the White House. And Kaitlan, the breaking news there, someone in the Vice President's office has tested positive. Obviously, something everybody needs to pay attention to and be concerned about. What can you tell us?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is really the closest we've seen it come to the West Wing. We're being told that the Vice President's office was informed tonight that someone in the Vice President's office has now tested positive for coronavirus. They don't identify who the individual is, though.

They said they had no contact with the Vice President or the President in recent days, but they say they are following those CDC guidelines, Erin, to figure out - they're tracing who it is that they did have contact with and if that person potentially came in contact with the President, the Vice President or any of the senior staff here.

Though we should note that most of the Vice President's staff is in the EEOB. That's this building right next door to the West Wing. It's a separate building. You've got to like walk across the street essentially to get in there.

And so it's not likely it was someone who's walking around the West Wing a lot though we don't know that for certain, so we're trying to figure that out.

And, of course, Erin, we should point out this comes on the same day that the President's daughter-in-law or daughter and senior advisor Ivanka Trump returned back to the White House after - now we are being informed she did take a test for coronavirus. She got results today that they said were negative and that comes after she had herself spent several days working from home after she came in contact with the senior Australian official who has later tested positive for coronavirus.

So really what this shows you, Erin, is as we're reporting on this, you see what Nick is talking about around the country. We're seeing how close to home it's hitting even for those people who are working inside the White House. BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Dr. William Schaffner. He's Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, also a former CDC official.

Dr. Schaffner, I appreciate your time. So let's just start with this news that Kaitlan was talking about from the Vice President's office. A staffer there has tested positive, so what does this change? I mean, does this mean, for example, that the President and the Vice President should not be together from this point on?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, it certainly looks that way, Erin. You wouldn't want the President exposed. You wouldn't want the Vice President exposed any more than he is already and I think they ought to institute six feet plus to keep apart, yes.

BURNETT: And, I mean, I'm sure on some level, this doesn't surprise you as we know this is much more widespread than any testing would indicate, because there hadn't been testing. But what is the significance of this, that you now have this actually in the Vice President's office where you know there are meetings of this team, they stand together, side by side on that little platform everyday doing their presentation, as we see here, I'm showing video including the Dr. Fauci who's in charge of infectious diseases.

SCHAFFNER: Well, we always thought that was a bit of a crowd and now the virus is right there. And if there were unbelievers in the country, they must be convinced by now.

BURNETT: So now we have the stay at home order, which affects Americans across this country; New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, all under some form of a stay at home. Governors are telling non-essential workers to stay home and saying this isn't a choice, this isn't what you've basically been doing, this is now the law. How long do you think this would need to last to be rolled effective?

SCHAFFNER: Well, it's getting seriouser and seriouser. A matter of weeks for sure, but I can't predict how long. But I would hope that in several weeks, we could start scaling back step by step.

BURNETT: And that's because you think at that point, we will have seen this big surge there anticipating how big it is what really presents at our hospitals.

SCHAFFNER: Yes, that's exactly right. And I would hope we could dampen that surge, spread out that curve as we have been talking about and see what's happening. That may not be enough. We may have to extend at least some of these restrictions even longer.

BURNETT: What about a national lockdown? President Trump says that is not necessary. He references the Midwest, many places where you have seen fewer of these cases. Is he right about that or not?

SCHAFFNER: Well, traditionally, public health has been the responsibility of each individual state. So I think each state is going to decide that. I know that our governor has received some petitions from many colleagues that we ought to consider doing that here in Tennessee also.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about something that has affects every single person watching and that is the way they're feeling right now.


And it's hard when there's no one to turn to because every single person is feeling that way. The Director of the World Health Organization had a warning about mental health and he

said, "During this difficult time, it's important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help you fight Covid if you get it."

That's easier said than done for people. I mean, how big of a concern is mental health and the health and death implications of that risk?

SCHAFFNER: Well, of course, it's very, very serious because we have job implications people having lost their funding. They see people getting ill in their own community, hospitals struggling to manage the illnesses. So these are all reasons as well as being more or less confined within four walls and you get cabin fever and depression.

So people ought to communicate via electronics. Use that face time and look for any opportunity to have a little joke, to get a smile, if only for a moment.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Dr. Schaffner.

And next, medical professional speaking out and admitting a growing fear and this is the fear of the lack of essential supplies.

Plus, a neurosurgeon who has coronavirus, what happens when a doctor on the frontlines becomes ill? He's going to join us along with our Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And the staggering, staggering loss of jobs and livelihoods across this country and the world. A restaurant group owner had to lay off thousands of workers entire company gone completely. How will they manage? That's ahead.



BURNETT: Breaking news, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pleading for critical medical supplies and gear to help fight coronavirus, saying the city is just weeks away from running out and he has not heard anything to suggest that his calls will be answered.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): We haven't gotten a single response from anyone indicating that they have a serious plan to get supplies to New York City. The largest city in the nation, the frontline of this crisis.


BURNETT: And he is far from the only one sounding the alarm.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors from coast to coast are afraid and concerned.


CONSUELO VARGAS, ILLINOIS NURSE AND UNION MEMBER: I've been a registered nurse for over a decade. My hospital is in complete chaos and confusion in regards to COVID-19.

SIDNER: Do you feel like they were ready for this when it got to the United States?

CATHERINE KENNEDY, NURSE, V.P. NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: No, absolutely not. They're still scrambling. We just don't have what we need.

SIDNER: Are you afraid for yourself and your patients?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's the first time in my entire career that I've ever been afraid and I've heard other physicians say that they're afraid.


SIDNER (voice-over): They are worried about how their hospitals and government are falling short as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. Experts warn, we're not even experiencing the worst of the pandemic yet.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of hospitals are asking us to keep our mouths quiet.


SIDNER (voice-over): This physician asked us to obscure her face and alter her voice because she says she believes she'll be fired for speaking out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have enough staff, we don't have enough protective equipment and we have too many patients.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SIDNER (voice-over): She works in Georgia. U.S. health officials are

now asking doctors and nurses to do things they haven't had to do before.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asked to use things that are useful one time use only, we're asked to use for the entire day and then it'd be save for the next day.

SIDNER: If you're being asked to reuse something over and over going to different patients, aren't you putting patients and yourself at risk?



SIDNER (voice-over): in Roseville, California, Catherine Kennedy has been a registered nurse for 40 years.

KENNEDY: We are the front line and if we go down, we're furloughed home, who's going to take care of these patients.


SIDNER (voice-over): They've never talked, but both agree their hospitals and government didn't properly prepare for a pandemic.


SIDNER: Some of the hospitals will say, look, we didn't know what this was either. This is new to us. How can you expect us to know what to do how to prepare? What do you say to that?

KENNEDY: Well, we were here before with Ebola. We had a protocol and various hospitals were ready to utilize that same protocol that they did for Ebola. But the hospital said no. They didn't want to do that and so then at the last minute they started scrambling.


SIDNER (voice-over): But Kaiser Permanente, the hospital system Kennedy works for said the procedure it's using to screen, test and care for healthcare workers and patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are aligned with the latest science and guidance from public health authorities. These protocols and personal protective equipment have been reviewed and approved by their infectious disease experts and are in use by the major hospital systems. They said they're committed to ensuring health care workers have the right level of protective equipment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think these guidelines are irresponsible and I think that they're playing with human lives knowingly. SIDNER: You don't believe that it's now OK to use different masks?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, a bandana is not made for particles of a virus. It's just a decorative item and are maybe use to kind of keep pollution out a little bit, but it's not meant to protect from potentially lethal disease.



SIDNER: And as you heard doctors and nurses are afraid for their own safety, for the safety of their patients and for the safety of the community, because this can spread if they indeed contract it and they're not tested.

I do want to tell you this here, Erin, that we just got something from Cook County health which is one of the nurses work there in Cook County and this is from Dr. Robert Feldman, the attending emergency physician and director. And he said this in part, I wear the same PPE as our nurses. Do we look forward to the day when we are amply and have an ample supply of PPE in every hospital? We do. But until the supply chain can catch up, again, like other hospitals across the country in the world, we have instituted tighter controls to ensure that when a suspected or confirmed case COVID-19 presents, supplies are available to protect our staff, Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Dr. Lakshman Swamy. He works in the Intensive Care Unit at Boston Medical Center. He's a Pulmonary and Critical Care fellow there.

Dr. Swamy, look, people are seeing your face, people are grateful for everything that you are doing and the rest of you are taking right now. I mean, I know you just heard that piece, one nurse say it's chaos and confusion at her hospital. What is it like at yours?

DR. LAKSHMAN SWAMY, ICU DOCTOR AT BOSTON MEDICAL CENTER: I have to be honest, I'm very lucky and very proud that my hospital is pulling together. I think we're a safety net hospital in inner city Boston and I think we to a little bit more degree are prepared.

I think I'm not worried about us having enough equipment right now, but that doesn't mean that we're all not scared that it's running out in the future. That's what really scares us and I know my colleagues around the country have told me that they're already in the exact same dire straits that we heard from that nurse.

BURNETT: All right. And it is scary to hear that and look I'm glad to know that as of now you have what you need. What is it that you foresee being the biggest issue first? I mean, that if you could get your hands on it, I would want more of, I mean, is it everything or is there something specific that comes first to mind? SWAMY: Yes. Well, honestly, this might seem a little strange, but the

thing I would ask for is testing, because so many of the patients are coming in with these very common symptoms right now. And we have to worry and sometimes it's exactly like described from Italy, from South Korea, from China and we're looking at these patients and we're saying this is like I learned it from a textbook.

And so we know that I think to a degree, but there's so many other people - we're so worried about them spreading contagion that we don't know is there to us to other patients. So a lot of people are under investigation, so we use the same high standards until we're ruling them out.

But the turnaround time for the tests is just really long. I think this is a problem everywhere and what while waiting for those tests to turn around, we're burning through personal protective equipment.

BURNETT: I mean, are you worried at all that your Intensive Care Unit could be filled with patients who have coronavirus or in the situation you're talking about now, people who you have to presume have coronavirus, because you can't rule it out? I mean, are you already at a point here where you're at capacity?

SWAMY: I think capacity is an interesting word. It's part of my academic life. I studied burnout. Look, it's my academic life and I think a lot of our hospitals have already been operating at or over capacity. So this is a very new strain that's put on our workforce and, I mean, we are already asking so much more of ourselves and our colleagues. It's already at that point.

And it's not because we're being so overwhelmed with this kind of burden of critical illness, it's a single patient who's under investigation requires so much time and so much attention and so much equipment that it's a huge drain on the workforce. So yes, we are already pulling in more and more people and it's already starting to feel very tense.

BURNETT: And when you say that very tense, I mean, look, you're going out there and you're at risk every day. The other doctors and nurses that you work with are at risk every day and you're all willing to do that, which is an incredible thing. I mean, we look at Italy, though, more than 3,600 healthcare workers have been infected as no doubt you know, Dr. Swamy.


BURNETT: Eight percent of all cases in Italy are healthcare workers. How big of a fear is this for you and for the nurses and other doctors you work with?

SWAMY: There's different aspects to that fear, which is I think in all of us, it's overwhelming. We're all thinking it if not talking about it here. I think the scary thing is first of all, what if I get that sick, what if my colleagues get that sick. It's also scary because if I get sick at all, does that mean that I'm

going to quarantine my family away from me? I'm not going to see my young kids, my wife and that's also hard to kind of come to terms with. And the enormity of it all is terrifying that it could become like that.

On the other hand, I mean, I have to say that as an intensive care doctor, this feels like what we were born for. I mean, this is what I've spent more than 12 years now training for, so we're here for this. I mean, I think we're all here for this. We're throwing down against this virus. But the challenge is that when we don't feel safe doing that it's terrifying.

BURNETT: Well, I really appreciate your time. And, look, thank you. There are so many people out there who are afraid and you're going to be the person that gets them through this. And those lives you're going to save, the fact that you're married, you have three children, I know one of them is only 14 months and you say you're here for this and you're ready to throw down against this virus. It's moving and thank you, Dr. Swamy.


SWAMY: It's all of us together. If it weren't for my wife, I couldn't do any of this and I think it's true for the whole community. Everyone is in this together. Thank you.

BURNETT: Thank you.

And next, a doctor becomes the patient. We're going to speak to a doctor who has been diagnosed with coronavirus and he's going to tell us what he has experienced. And Sanjay Gupta will join us as well.

Plus, from a great start in 2020, the best in history to now the business is gone. Thousands of people have lost their jobs. The restaurant group owner who just had to lay off 4,500 people is OUTFRONT.



BURNETT: Tonight, New York leading the nation with nearly 8,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Nearly half of all cases in the United States and our next guest is among them. A doctor in New York City in Westchester County.

OUTFRONT now, Dr. Kornel. A New York based neurosurgeon with coronavirus.

So Dr. Kornel, I guess first tell me, obviously, you're here, you're doing this interview, I know you've been battling coronavirus for more than a week. How did it start for you?

DR. EZRIEL KORNEL, NEUROSURGEON IN NY WHO HAS CORONAVIRUS: It began with a simple cold. [19:30:02]

At least it felt like a cold. This is way back in the early days of coronavirus about ten days ago when I thought I just had a simple cold. And at that point, we didn't yet really realize that it could begin as a simple cold. And I otherwise felt fine with a bit of a runny nose, a bit of a scratchy throat.

And at the end of the third day, I began to have more flu-like symptoms. I developed a fever and started to ache all over. And that's when I began to think maybe is this more than just a simple cold.

We were already taking precautions, of course, with patients and wearing a mask when seeing patients. But I still thought this was simply the cold until the flu-like symptoms came on. When the flu-like symptoms came on the next morning, I called the emergency room where I do a lot of my work and spoke to the E.R. doctor and she suggested I come in and get tested.

And she did the other viral studies which were all negative, so we knew I didn't have the flu.


KORNEL: And the blood work that pretty typical of what you would see with coronavirus, and so I immediately self-isolated. And for several days had symptoms that were pretty much pretty miserable flu with fevers and chills and achy --

BURNETT: So can I ask something, Dr. Kornel. When you say the blood work was typical, I'm just -- I'm hearing something there a little bit, and a lot of people would sort of cling in to, so when you get the test back from everything else, they're negative, but you're saying there was something in the blood work that made you lean towards coronavirus before you actually got the coronavirus test? Am I understanding you right?

KORNEL: Right.

BURNETT: And if so, what was that?

KORNEL: It was that my lymphocytes were low and my platelet count was low. And with the viral infection like a flu, you can see that. Also, of course, with the coronavirus. And since we knew it wasn't the flu, then it made me think it likely was indeed coronavirus.

BURNETT: Oh, that's interesting. It provides a lot for many people.

But you do describe this, Dr. Kornel, like something you've never experienced. As a doctor, how strange was that feeling, how unexpected?

KORNEL: It was strange in that we know all of the possible repercussions, how dangerous this can become. And so, if I knew it was just the flu I'd think, OK, I'd be able to get over this in a few days. But since we know that COVID-19 can become a very serious and life-threatening illness, there's that anxiety in the back of ones mind that is this going to get worse tomorrow rather than get better?

And it just sort of lingered on and slowly improved, slowly improved. And I think now, I'm pretty clear that I'm in the clear, that it's that nagging fear in the back of your mind that, oh, could this be getting worse.

BURNETT: Well, I -- I hope you are in the clear, and we appreciate your sharing this because I think it's important for people to understand so much how it started for you, how you got those indicators and, of course, as you make it clear absolutely anyone this is happening to. Thank you so much, Dr. Kornel.

KORNEL: You're so welcome. Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And I want to go now to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

You know, Sanjay, what -- you just heard Dr. Kornel's story. First of all, the fact that he had very mild, you know, symptoms and then, you know, kind of progressed several days later and also what he said about the blood work, I mean, you can get the negative for the flu but there are things in your blood that could indicate something viral, where he had sort of had what he felt was a clear indication of coronavirus days before he actually got the results.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, there's a couple of things there, and this is something worth noting that keeps coming up again and again, is that the time between when someone develops some mild symptom to the time when they may develop more serious symptoms can be several days, I think it's up to nine days.

So, just something to keep in the back of the mind that, you know, you sort of have these mild symptoms but they may either progressively get worse or more suddenly get worse as it sounds like the case with Dr. Kornel, you know, several days into this. And yes, there is -- there is a blood test. This is different than the test that actually finds the presence of a virus.

What happens with this blood test there are certain blood counts, your white blood cell counts and something known as your lymphocytes which changed. It doesn't tell you what kind of virus. It just tells you, it's likely a virus.

So, in his case, they ruled out flu, likely some other virus. Turned out to be a coronavirus.

BURNETT: So, you know, I think that's something that can -- might be helpful for people to understand as they're trying to zone in --


GUPTA: That's a good point.

BURNETT: -- on what it is they have.

I also want to ask you, Sanjay, because we just found out and I know you heard this too, a staff member in the vice president's office has tested positive for coronavirus. Every day you have the president, the vice president, members of the coronavirus task force -- they're all standing closer together in the daily briefing --


BURNETT: -- including Dr. Fauci. I know they're working together closely, but they're standing there as well. I mean, does that need to stop now?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting. And I'll tell you I spoke to Dr. Fauci about this.

And so, you know, it's interesting, people have probably been on the website trying to figure out the guidelines for all this and it can be complicated. What the guidelines specifically say, Erin, is that you should not be within six feet of someone who is known to have the coronavirus infection, OK? So no one on that stage is known to have the coronavirus infection.

But I think to your point and I think everything else here is say how does that jive with the fact we're all told to socially distance ourselves, to break the chain of transmission, that is also true. So from a medical standpoint, you know, you -- they say the six feet really applies to diagnosed coronavirus patients, but all of us should be practicing that sort of social distancing regardless because we have to assume that we may, you know, be carrying the virus, even if we don't have any symptoms.

So, yes, they should be separating themselves or maybe not have as many people on the stage when they're giving those press conferences.

BURNETT: All right, Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: You got it.

BURNETT: And next the unemployment situation in this country. It is -- it is dire. And it is -- you know, this is very, very serious thing. Could be a life-threatening thing as time goes on.

I want to talk to a man next who has just laid off 4,500 people who work for him.

And the Olympic torch arrived today as pressure to cancel the Summer Olympic Games ramps up.



BURNETT: Tonight millions of job losses. Goldman Sachs is estimating that 2.25 million people filed initial unemployment claims this week. Now, if that number is right it would be clearly the highest level on record. These job cuts are coming across the board, among the hardest hit areas, restaurants.

OUTFRONT now is Cameron Mitchell. He had to layoff 4,500 people across his 37 restaurants because of the coronavirus.

And, Cameron, look, I'm sorry. I know that your world has completely changed in the past days. A few weeks ago, you were employing thousands of people and now you're down to six?

CAMERON MITCHELL, RESTAURANT GROUP OWNER, HAS LAID OFF 4,500 EMPLOYEES: That's right. Erin, 17 days ago on march 3rd I was talking with my bankers in Washington, D.C. and told them and reported them I had the best start of the year January and February. We're up 7 percent, same store sales and laid out my plans for 2020 and 2021.

And 17 days later, our company has been eviscerated, we're down to six people. I effectively put the company to sleep. We've got a couple of HR people, couple of county people in our office, and that's it.

And we'll just go as long as we can, but it was devastating, you know? And we -- you just don't have a contingency plan for the unimaginable. It just doesn't happen.

BURNETT: No, I mean, you talk about the best year you've ever had and 17 years later -- 17 days later, you've had to lay everyone off. I mean, it is -- it is incomprehensible and un-understandable for anyone to really grasp. I mean, you have people, Cameron, I know who have built their lives working in your restaurants.

What was it like, you know, having to tell them what was going to happen, that you were going to have to let them go?

MITCHELL: Well, you know, we didn't have the choice really, and we had to move swiftly. I wanted to move swiftly to get our people moving, to get their benefits, and it was inevitable.

So, we made the decision. Monday morning, we laid off 4,200 of our people. We left a couple of restaurants open in Florida and tried a couple off couple of our restaurants to do carry out and so forth.

And by Thursday, we realized it was over, and we wrapped up business operations as of last night and closed our office officially today. And we now are just lying in wait to hopefully get the opportunity to reopen when this national tragedy passes and we come out of this horrific situation as a country today.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about carry out because I know this has been positioned around the country that could try to stave off some of the worst for the industry. You're saying you tried that and it wasn't going to work.

MITCHELL: Right. I really think it's a misnomer. I've used the analogy as if I'm shaving this morning, I happen to cut my jugular vein. Carry out is like trying to put a band-aid on that. It doesn't really help.

And, frankly, our safety of our people is paramount and joining the nation to try to stop this virus, I couldn't in my right mind ask our people to go in and work in the restaurants and engage in public transactions and so forth all to maybe make a dollar or two. But it really -- it just wasn't worth it, and it's better -- I felt much better and our team felt much better about having our associates stay home and weather the storm and be safe, and think about coming back to work later at a more appropriate time.

BURNETT: So what are you trying to do to help your employees now?

MITCHELL: Well, you know, this happened so quickly as I said, and like I said we just -- the best laid plans, our contingencies were wiped out, et cetera.


So we're able to make payroll and make our obligations here for the people for the hours they worked until they were laid off temporarily.

We've got enough money to just keep the lights on effectively for the next several months and just, you know, pay for security for the restaurants and Internet and phones and so forth. But that's about it. We're able to pay our associates their health benefits through April. And we've just started an associate relief fund.

We're selling gift certificates for when we open. We're putting 100 percent of those dollars forward to an associate relief fund for people, at least to help put some groceries on the table during this difficult time.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Cameron. I'm sorry.

And next, the International Olympic Committee says the upcoming Summer Olympic Games will go on.

And virus-ravaged Italy, people are finding beauty and romance. We'll be back.



BURNETT: New tonight, growing pressure for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be postponed, as a number of coronavirus cases soars across the world.

The latest call from USA swimming.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT tonight in Tokyo.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not what Japan was hoping, a scaled down ceremony as the Olympic flame arrived at Matsushima Air Base. No crowds, just a few officials and two of Japan's most famous Olympians lighting the Tokyo 2020 torch.

The games are still set to begin in late July. In just over four months. Japan is hoping for a comeback from the catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima nine years ago this month. Japan's spirit, an economy desperately needed a revival. Tokyo 2020

was on track to be just that.

The novel coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

It's possible the Olympic games will be cancelled but despite Japan's best effort, says Japanese lawmaker Shigeru Ishiba.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach tells "The New York Times" the Summer Games will not be cancelled for the first time since World War II, but he now admits postponing the games is on the table.

Last week, Japan's Olympic minister quickly shot down President Trump's idea to postpone the games for a year.

But a recent poll says 70 percent of Japanese have doubts the games can go on as scheduled.

(on camera): Do you think it's going to be safe to host the Olympics in July?

(voice-over): Under the circumstances, I don't think it's safe, says Tokyo resident Kyoko (ph).

As an athlete, I really want to host the Olympics in Tokyo, Kirichi Awawa (ph) says, but thinking of the athletes and their family, I'm not sure it's a good idea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tokyo 2020 organizers say they are doing everything possible to host the games on schedule. Inside Japan's Olympic Committee, signs of dissent. 1988 bronze medalist Kaori Yamaguchi told the Nikkei newspaper the games should be postponed because athletes can't train.

Dr. Mike Ryan with the World Health Organization says much will depend on how the virus evolves in the coming weeks.

DR. MIKE RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, W.H.O. HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: Obviously, the (INAUDIBLE) will not make a decision to go ahead if there's danger to athlete, dangers to spectators.

RIPLEY: Japan was expecting to host 90 million visitors this year. That was before global travel ground to a halt.

Analysts Keith Henry says the economic damage could be devastating. The emotional toll could be worse.

KEITH HENRY, PRESIDENT, ASIA STRATEGY: In some ways, there's a dark cloud over the whole world and Japan is a part of that. So, wherever that torch goes, it's not going to necessarily be a happy occasion.


RIPLEY: This is just excruciating for so many people here in Japan, because nobody knows will what happen by the time that flame arrives here in Tokyo. And as they try o grapple with this huge decision about what to do with the Olympics, they're also trying to contain the coronavirus on the ground here. The number of cases, discounting the Diamond Princess cruise ship, is now up over a thousands. The number of deaths continues to rise, over 40 people are being killed.

And, Erin, while other countries are testing up to 15,000 or more people every day, so far, Japan has only tested 15,000 people since the beginning of this outbreak raising questions about whether they even know how many people here have the virus.

BURNETT: Wow. Will Ripley, thank you very much.

And next, people are getting creative while making the best of what is a very bad situation. Dog need a walk. Let a drone do it.



BURNETT: Tonight, coping with the coronavirus with acts of kindness. That's what many Americans are doing to confront this crisis, finding creative ways to help.

Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like many these days, Becky Hoffeller (ph) of Durham, North Carolina, does her job from home working for Duke University. But on her lunch hour, she works for someone else -- grocery shopping for her elderly neighbors, an idea she got when she heard about her out-of-state 91-year-old grandfather risking exposure just going to the store.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what made me think, maybe I can go grocery shopping for others since I do live in a community that has several senior citizen neighbors.

SAVIDGE: She joins the likes of country star Brad Paisley who has organized similar free food deliveries for older folks from his store in Nashville.

And outside Chicago, waitresses with no longer with tables to wait on are delivering free meals to elderly shut-ins, thanks to the Country House Kitchen Restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy-five thousand responses kind of caught us not off guard but didn't think it would go like that on the first day.

SAVIDGE: They're doing good in neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I'm washing my hand for, I can't get no meal.

SAVIDGE: So is Grammy winning rapper Lecrea who teamed up with the charity Love Beyond Walls to install hand washing stations for Atlanta's homeless. Soap and water still the best weapon against the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is in the back because of social distancing.

SAVIDGE: Kennedy Center artist and resident Mo Willems is a parent's savior. Each day at 1:00, offering homebound kids doodle lessons.

A lot of you are getting creative, like this Israeli man who figured out how to walk his dog without going outside, using a drone.

And finally, in Italy, with the death toll that has now surpassed even China comes this magical moment. As a quarantined couple can't resist a distance cheek to cheek as a neighbor projects Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire on the side of their apartments.

Doing good these days is downright contagious.

Martin Savidge, CNN.


BURNETT: And thank you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.