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California Governor Order Total Lockdown in the State of California; GOP Rolls out $1 Trillion Stimulus Package; Italy Surpasses China in Number of COVID-19 Deaths; No New Local Coronavirus for 2nd Straight Day in China; Olympic Flame Arrives in Japan. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 20, 2020 - 04:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Total lockdown in the state of California. 40 million people told to stay home to stop spreading coronavirus.

We have reports this morning from Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, March 20th. It's 4:00 a.m. here in New York.

Big breaking news overnight. The most aggressive move yet to stem the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., California ordering nearly 40 million residents, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population, to stay home.

ROMANS: Life in California already profoundly changed. These are the empty freeways of Los Angeles during rush hour. Normally a parking lot. Governor Gavin Newsom's order, the first statewide mandatory restrictions so far they remain in place until further notice.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We are confident that the people in the state of California will abide by it, will do the right thing. They'll meet this moment. They'll step up as they have over the course of the last number of weeks to protect themselves, to protect their families and to protect the broader community.


JARRETT: Now essential services will remain open, including gas stations, pharmacies, groceries stores, farmer's markets, food banks, convenient stores and delivery restaurants. Officials project about 56 percent of California's population, it's more than 25 million people, will be infected over an eight-week period. The governor has asked President Trump to send a U.S. Navy ship hospital to give the state medical options and to help relieve pressure on a health care system likely to be under great pressure.

ROMANS: So nationwide there are at least 13,479 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 195 deaths. This time last week, which now seems an awful long time ago, there were 1665 cases and 41 deaths. Many hospitals are already in dire need of medical supplies. There have been pleas from health care workers running out of surgical masks and there is fear there will not be enough ventilators and breathing machines as the cases mount.

President Trump says it's up to the states to obtain them.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're supposed to be doing a lot of this work. And they are doing a lot of this work. The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. You know, we're in the a shipping clerk.


JARRETT: Vice President Mike Pence, leading the federal coronavirus task force, says the private sector will meet the need for medical equipment, but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that's just not enough.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It would literally take the federal government to say to manufacturers, stop what you're making or start making these machines. They're fairly technical, as I understand it, but the supply chain issues are real.


JARRETT: New York City says it's two to three weeks away from running out of medical supplies. Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city needs millions more protective masks and 15,000 ventilators.

ROMANS: Now the president says he has pushed the FDA to eliminate hurdles to getting anti-coronavirus drugs to patients and he points to an anti-malarial drug that he says has been fast-tracked to treat COVID-19.


TRUMP: We're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that and it was approved very, very quickly.


ROMANS: Fact check, the med drug is already FDA approved but not to treat coronavirus. It's used to treat malaria, of course, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis. No other drug has been fast-tracked for this yet. The head of the FDA is tempering expectations as is the government's top infectious disease doctor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Today there are no proven safe and effective therapies for the coronavirus. That doesn't mean that we're not going to do everything we can to make things that have even a hint of efficacy more readily available, but there's no magic drug out there right now.


JARRETT: There has been one promising step toward a vaccine. The world's fastest super computer, IBM's Summit, has run thousands of simulations and identified 77 drug compounds that might effectively stop the virus.

ROMANS: All right. Senate Republicans are rolling out their $1 trillion economic stimulus plan. It is not in its final form quite yet. But it currently calls for direct payments for Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors. $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small business.

JARRETT: The GOP rollout set the stage for negotiations with Democrats to reach a bipartisan deal.


Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tells CNN joint talks with Democrats were bypassed until now to speed up the process.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Republicans are in the majority in the Senate. We wanted to put forward our proposal. We feel like we have an obligation to do that as a majority and the Democrats of course need to be given an opportunity to react to it. This is the quickest way to get it done, trust me. This is the quickest way to get it done.


JARRETT: Democratic leaders are already pushing back hard. Overnight House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on first reading the Republican plan is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.

ROMANS: All right, markets finally closed with a win barely, though. It's been a volatile, volatile ride for investors. The Dow swung more than 1200 points from its low before closing up nearly just about 1 percent. It was the first time since March 6th the Dow closed within 1,000 points of where it opened.

Concerns persist here for millions of Americans. 96 percent of small business owners are already feeling the strain of the coronavirus. More than half say they will not be able to continue operating more than three months.

This number, a whopper. Goldman Sachs predicts 2.25 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims this week. That would be the most in history. Numbers in California already up 33 percent.

The National Retail Federation is asking for clearer guidance from the White House on which stores can stay open since the response has been driven by conflicting state and local orders.

Gas prices are falling. The average price of a gallon of gas is below $2 now in 12 states but no one is going anywhere. Spring is usually a big home selling season. The good news, the mortgage rates are rock bottom. The bad news, who wants to go to an open house?

But there is some relief for homeowners. Bank of America will let customers defer mortgage payments as part of additional support it is providing to its customers.

JARRETT: The coronavirus has decimated one New Jersey family. 73-year- old Grace Fusco and her sons Carmine and Vincent and her daughter Rita have all died. Two other relatives are in critical condition and a third is in stable condition. 19 other family members have been tested and they're worried the carnage is not over.


ROSEANN PARADISO FODERA, LOST 4 FAMILY MEMBERS TO CORONAVIRUS: Our biggest concern for the family right now is there are 19 family members that were tested last Saturday that do not have results.

ELIZABETH FUSCO, LOST 4 FAMILY MEMBERS TO CORONAVIRUS: To know that two of those women I sat with on Tuesday and nourished and promised everything's going to be OK to is gone? They were the root of our lives.

That was my mother and my oldest sister. They were everything. Like -- it's surreal. My two oldest brothers, like, they were the core of our family since my dad's been gone. They have held us together like no other, and it's like the second we start to grieve about one, the phone rings and there is another person gone, taken from us forever.


JARRETT: Just hard to imagine. "The New York Times" reports a family dinner earlier this month may have spread the infections.

ROMANS: Just such a sad story.

All right. The virus began in China, but now Italy has paid the biggest price. CNN live around the world next.



ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. The U.S. State Department is now telling Americans not to travel abroad at all because of coronavirus. The government has raised the travel advisory to the strictest rating, a level 4 warning Americans against travel internationally, saying if they do, they may not be able to return to the U.S. for an indefinite period of time.

Meantime, across Europe thousands of medical students are being fast tracked into early service to help fight the spread of coronavirus. In Italy this year's med school graduates will begin working as fully qualified doctors right now months ahead of schedule.

JARRETT: A grim milestone for Italy. They now have more deaths from coronavirus than China where the pandemic began.

CNN's Delia Gallagher is live in Rome for us. Hi, Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good morning to you, Laura. So yes, difficult numbers were announced yesterday with some 3,400 people who have died from the coronavirus. The Ministry of Health released a report just the day before yesterday kind of analyzing the numbers of those who had died.

They said the medium average age of those who had died was 80 years old and that many of them had two or three conditions prior to getting coronavirus and that Italy, of course, has a large elderly population so that may also account for these numbers.

Now it's interesting that the vice president of the Chinese Red Cross was here in Italy yesterday and among other things he said that the peak in Wuhan arrived after one month of lockdown. They started to see the numbers go down. The northern regions of Italy have been in lockdown since March 8th so we're still very much in the midst of watching these numbers rise. We're at 41,000 right now.

Experts aren't really trying to make any kind of predictions if it continues to follow the Chinese model, then obviously they are hoping in the next 10 days or so to start seeing those numbers drop.

In the meantime, there is a big push for people to continue to stay inside, obey the rules of the governors of many regions have appealed to the central government to make even more stricter lockdown regulations. We've seen even here in Rome police cars on the streets with loud speakers encouraging people to obey the rules and stay inside.

And on the medical front to help out those hospitals that are in such desperate need in the north, as you mentioned, 10,000 medical students now will waive their final exams so they can go out in the field.


There has also been an appeal to doctors and nurses who are in retirement to come out and help especially those hospital and those hospital workers in the north that are exhausted. Many of them also of course are getting infected from the virus and then have to step away from the front lines -- Laura.

JARRETT: Sure. They just need all the help that they can right now.

All right, Delia Gallagher, thanks so much for that.

In China for a second straight day the government reporting no new locally transmitted cases. The 39 new cases all involved infections coming from overseas instead.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing for us. And Steven, Wuhan still needs 14 consecutive days of no new cases in order to reconsider the restrictions. Is that right?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right. And as you mentioned, the authority's increasingly now worried about a new wave of infections involving people from overseas. That's why on top of their already very strict policies towards international arrivals, they're now diverting some Beijing bound international flights to nearby cities so the health screenings can be done there and only people deemed healthy will be allowed to board (INAUDIBLE), again to fly into Beijing.

As for Wuhan, yes, for two days in a row, no more new cases. A remarkable turnaround at tremendous costs including the loss of over 2400 people including doctors like Dr. Li Wenliang, remember the whistleblower who was silenced by local officials and then died from this very virus over a month ago.

I mentioned him because the national government is sending investigators into Wuhan to investigate his death. Now they just released their findings Thursday night. But what a letdown. It did not address any of the burning questions on the minds of millions including who was responsible for silencing him and the initial mishandling or even alleged coverup by local officials of the outbreak.

This of course is very much run-of-the-mill because President Trump insists on calling this virus the Chinese virus and blaming Beijing for not doing enough early on while the government here is pushing back hard and countering with their own propaganda and narrative. And this of course is a war of words between two governments when they really need to work together to fight this global pandemic -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Steven Jiang, thanks so much.

ROMANS: The Olympic flame arrived overnight in Japan marking the start of official celebrations for a global sporting event that could still be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Will Ripley live from Tokyo with the latest developments. And Will, we heard from the president of the United States yesterday, he said it's up to Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, to decide what to do here.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Christine, Shinzo Abe is in a really difficult position right now because publicly he cannot say anything other than the Olympics are going forward as scheduled on July 24th. Because if he were to say anything else, well, that would just create a knock-on effect and it will create really negative headlines at a time that frankly it's still premature to know what the next move is going to be.

But it does seem increasingly unlikely that Japan is going to be able to host these games in a safe manner. That's what infections disease experts are saying. Of course they say it all depends on what happens with the evolution of the novel coronavirus in the coming few weeks. But to see the images from Fukushima prefecture, from the airbase where the Olympic torch arrived in northern Japan, it's sad in a way because it certainly isn't the welcoming ceremony that Japan had hoped for.

To see just a handful of officials and two of Japan's top Olympians but no crowds in attendance, no enthusiastic cheering, there really is kind of a dark cloud over the world right now and over Japan as well.

And so as this Olympic torch begins its journey from Fukushima prefecture towards Tokyo in the coming, you know, weeks and months ahead, it's not necessarily going to be a happy occasion because there are so many questions about whether the Olympics will be able to go on, whether it will be safe for the athletes and the millions of spectators that Japan was hoping to attract for these games which are set to kick off in late July.

So we know that behind the scenes they're working on a contingency plan. Thomas Bach of the International Olympic Committee said that they're looking at a number of options right now. He said canceling the games for the first time since World War II is definitely not going to happen. But postponing the games is still on the table.

And Christine, as you know, that can be a huge ordeal in terms of the billions of dollars that are at stake when it comes to broadcasting rights and everything else, but for Japan this is certainly a difficult situation. And they still frankly probably don't know what their solution, what their answer is going to be yet.

ROMANS: Yes. All right, Will Ripley for us in Tokyo this morning. Thanks, Will.

JARRETT: All right, well, this time of separations is hard on everyone but especially for older people. One man made sure the love of his life knew she wasn't alone.



JARRETT: A Tennessee woman, Brenda Sparks, helping to brighten spirits in this time of coronavirus, putting up her Christmas lights and singing "Merry Little Quarantine" to the tune of "Merry Little Christmas." And Brenda's idea of trying to spread cheer during this outbreak appears to have caught on. People across the country are stringing up lights and putting up holiday decorations.

ROMANS: A self-quarantine with no pro sports got you down? Get ready for the return of ESPN8 "THE OCHO" on Sunday. For the fourth time ever, ESPN2 will broadcast 24 hours of weird seldom-seen sports like cherry pit spitting, stupid robot fighting, and headies, which is header ping pong.


"THE OCHO" is inspired by the 2004 Ben Stiller-Vince Vaughn movie "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story." So of course the event will include a dodgeball match.

JARRETT: Get ready to grab the Kleenex. After initially being told no, a Boston man got his chance to serenade the love of his life through her window at a nursing home. Ed Oliver Bohld's longtime girlfriend Mary Lou has been living at the Compass on the Bay assisted living facility for five years now. He visits her daily. Yesterday, under the umbrella, he sang "You are My Sunshine" before tearfully saying goodbye.


ED OLIVER BOHLD, GIRLFRIEND LIVING IN NURSING HOME: I will see you soon, all right? All this will be over eventually. I love you very much and I miss you.


ROMANS: Just another one of those just tear jerkers about this time that Americans are going through. You know, you think people who are alone in their nursing homes, there are also all these kids, the class of 2020 who are sort of missing their senior years. You know, I mean, it's just -- all of it is -- we'll get through it, but it's all just sort of remarkable no matter what age you are.

JARRETT: Yes. And just trying to deal with the physical distancing.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: It's just really hard I think for so many people right now.

ROMANS: It really is. All right. 26 minutes past the hour. The biggest move yet in the U.S. to stop the virus. 40 million people. The entire state of California now locked down.