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California Totally Locked Down; Searching for an Effective Drug; Senate GOP Unveils $1 Trillion Stimulus Plan; Latin American Leaders Downplay Coronavirus; Oil Disputes Sends Gas Prices Plummeting. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 20, 2020 - 04:30   ET



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

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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour this Friday here in New York. And breaking overnight, the most aggressive move yet to stem the spread of the virus in the U.S. California ordering nearly 40 million residents, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population, to stay home.

JARRETT: Life in California already profoundly changed. These are the empty freeways of Los Angeles during rush hour, which would normally look like a parking lot. Governor Gavin Newsom's new order, the first statewide mandatory restriction, so far remains 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.


ROMANS: Now essential services will remain open. Those are gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmer's markets, food banks, convenient stores and restaurants that deliver. Officials project about 56 percent of California's population, 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 hospital ship to give the state medical options and help relieve pressure on a health care system likely to be under great stress.

JARRETT: Nationwide there are over 13,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 195 deaths. This time last week, which seems like ages ago, there were 1,665 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's fear there will not be enough ventilators, in other words breathing machines, as the cases mount. The president 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 not a shipping clerk.


ROMANS: 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.


ROMANS: New York City says it is 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.

JARRETT: The president says he's pushed the FDA to eliminate hurdles getting anti-coronavirus drugs to patients and he points to an anti- malaria 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.


JARRETT: All right, an important fact check here. The FDA drug is FDA approved but it's not to treat coronavirus nor has any other drug been approved to treat coronavirus. The head of the FDA is really tempering expectations here as is the government's top infectious disease doctor.


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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now 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.


JARRETT: Senate Republicans are rolling out their $1 trillion economic stimulus plan. It's not in its final form yet but it currently calls for direct payments to Americans under a certain income threshold, $200 billion in loans to airlines and distressed industry sectors, and $300 billion in forgivable bridge loans for small businesses.

The GOP rollout sets 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: Already Democratic leaders are pushing back. 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: Controversy swirling around Senate Intelligence chairman Richard Burr. The North Carolina Republican and his wife sold as much as $1.7 million in stock last month ahead of this sharp market decline. Two weeks later audio obtained by NPR show Burr sounded a blunt warning about the impact of the coronavirus during a private event in Washington. That message contrasted with President Trump's message on the very same day that the virus would miraculously disappear.

JARRETT: Burr's committee has received periodic briefings on the coronavirus but the committee did not receive the briefings the week of Burr's stock sales. According to a source, there's no indication the sales were made on the basis of any inside information. Burr slammed NPR's reporting as a tabloid-style hit piece. There are reports of other lawmakers selling off their stocks and CNN is reviewing those documents.

ROMANS: All right, layoffs are here. They have begun. And Goldman Sachs predicts 2.25 million Americans filed for jobless claims, jobless benefits this week, the highest on record. Numbers in California already up 33 percent. 96 percent of small business owners are feeling the strain of the coronavirus. More than half say they will not be able to continue operating more than three months.

Wall Street closed with a small win after a really wild day for investors. The Dow closing up about 1 percent. The first time since March 6th the Dow closed within 1,000 points of where it opened, a relatively quiet day, I guess.

Taking a look at futures right now, they are rebounding again. Still, a lot of concern going forward. Two regional air carriers are ending operations as the virus slows demand. Compass Air and Trans State Airlines will cease separations in the beginning of April. They operate flights on behalf of American and Delta. That's 2700 employees looking for work and six million passengers who are not flying.

Habits are changing for everyone. Domino's is looking to hire up to 10,000 workers as people shift their eating habits to takeout or delivery. Netflix will reduce streaming quality in Europe for at least the next month to keep the Internet from breaking. YouTube now says it will do the same. There are no changes yet in the U.S.

Internet and wireless networks are coming under pressure to deliver reliable connectivity. Millions have shifted their day-to-day operations out of the workplace and into their homes.

JARRETT: The coronavirus has decimated one New Jersey family. 73-year- old Grace Fusco, 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 at the hospital. 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: "The New York Times" reports a family dinner earlier this month may have spread the infections.

You know, it's so hard, Christine, because we hear so much about social distancing, but people may not be thinking about their own family members being the ones who could actually spread the virus.

ROMANS: And it looks like the exposure is before there was really broad awareness that this was something to take seriously. [04:40:04]

You know, the message from Washington had been don't worry about it, the numbers are small, around the time this wonderful family was having a family dinner.


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


ROMANS: The U.S. State Department now telling Americans not to travel abroad at all because of coronavirus. The travel advisory now at its highest rating. It shouldn't be hard to follow that edict. Countries are closing borders around the world. 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 immediately, months ahead of schedule.

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


JARRETT: The number of reported coronavirus cases in South America remains relatively low. But that may be the result of Latin American leaders failing to make the virus a top priority.

CNN's Matt Rivers is in Mexico City for us.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Although the virus arrived in Latin America a bit later than other parts of the world, it is very much being felt now. Hundreds of cases across many different countries.

Let's start in Brazil which has the most, well over 500 at this point and counting. And we're hearing from the Brazilian president's son, Eduardo, over who he thinks is to blame for all of this. He wrote on Twitter, "It's China's fault. The blame for the coronavirus pandemic has a name and surname, the Chinese Communist Party." That prompted China's embassy in Brazil to respond, "We would advise you not to be in such a hurry to be the U.S.' spokesperson in Brazil. You'll fall flat on your face." A clear reference there to President Trump continuing to call this virus the Chinese virus.

But no matter what you call it, it's clear that Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, isn't taking this threat seriously. Here he is over the weekend shaking hands, mingling with crowds at a political rally. He says he doesn't want to shut his country down like others have because it might hurt the economy.

And here in Mexico, we're seeing something pretty similar. Here's Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador outside of an airport over the weekend literally, at one point, kissing babies, mingling in crowds at press conferences this week. He says he doesn't want to shut the country down. And he literally held up amulets, yes, amulets that he says, jokingly or not, will help protect him from this virus.

Remarkable stances there from the leaders of massive countries. But not everyone in Latin America isn't taking this threat seriously. In Honduras, on Thursday, a temporary lift to a shelter-in-place order that saw people allowed to go out and buy supplies under the watch of the military. Argentina and Peru have similar restrictive measures.

But what's clear is that in Brazil and Mexico, the number one and number two most populous countries in Latin America, there are leaders that are running those places that do not take this threat seriously -- Christine, Laura.

ROMANS: All right. Matt Rivers, thank you so much for that.

An international oil dispute has gas prices plummeting below two bucks a gallon in some states. President Trump says that's good for U.S. consumers and bad for the oil industry. He plans to get involved in the dispute at the right time, he says.

John Defterios joins us live from Abu Dhabi. Unpack this for us. What's going on here?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty complicated, along with the gyrations, Christine, on Wall Street for oil prices. We went up 24 percent yesterday, another 6 percent today, because of the words of Donald Trump. He said he'll intervene at the right time, but yesterday (INAUDIBLE) for the prince of Saudi Arabia on March 9th and Saudi Arabia has not changed strategy. Flooding the market with oil. Actually cutting prices to his preferred customers and that's why we've seen prices go well below $30 a barrel until the stabilization that we say today.

This is a triangulation, if you will. It's a fight here. A cold war between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States for supremacy in the oil market. Because Saudi Arabia and Russia have been cooperating to lift prices and balance supplies, the shale producers have benefitted. Saudi Arabia did a huge pivot after that OPEC Plus meeting where they didn't agree with Russia and decided to go the opposite direction and saying we're the lowest cost producers in the world and as a result our strategy here is to knock down shale producers and probably Russia as well.

So I think they'd like to see shale production drop by at least a million barrels a day this year, perhaps another million in 2021. That'll be very painful for the Trump administration and it's fraught with danger of him intervening, perhaps looking too weak against Saudi Arabia, giving too much support to the crown prince, and not being tough enough on Vladimir Putin. You can see the geopolitical challenges that are on the table.

ROMANS: Oh, yes, petro politics to the highest degree. So, John, the president may intervene to block Saudi and Russian imports to the U.S. but also will ask both to cut production. Can he have it both ways? DEFTERIOS: You can't, and I think this is what's very interesting,

Christine. The U.S. doesn't like OPEC if prices are above $70 a barrel, particularly President Trump, and they don't like it when oil is below $40 a barrel because it causes way too much dislocation in the shale basins. We actually have 13 senators write to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and say you've got to abandon this strategy.

So do you want to have free market principles or do you want Saudi Arabia and Russia to balance the market and lift it so that shale producers succeed? Saudi Arabia and Russia right now are saying, not anymore. So this could be a very painful transition. The only strategies so far put forward by the Trump administration is to buy oil and gas from the shale producers and put it in these strategic petroleum reserve. About $3 billion. That is not a lasting solution -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi. Thanks, John.

JARRETT: Prince Albert II of Monaco is the first head of state to test positive for coronavirus.


According to palace officials, the 62-year-old prince's health is, quote, "not worrying at all." Officials say the prince is continuing to work from his office and his private apartment and remains in contact with members of his cabinet and the government.

We'll be right back.


JARRETT: Britain's Queen Elizabeth speaking out about the coronavirus pandemic calling on citizens to change their normal routines for the greater good. The 93-year-old British monarch says, "At times such as these I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one. Now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play."


ROMANS: All right. The message is loud and clear. Stay at home and keep your social distance to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and people are finding creative ways to deliver that message. A group of ICU nurses in Texas posting this picture on Facebook of them holding signs that read, "We stay here for you, please stay home for us."

And an Austrian pilot channeling an Etch-a-Sketch with his message to the world, spelling out "stay home" on flight radar.

JARRETT: A message of solidarity at Brazil's most famous tourist attraction. The Statue of Christ the Redeemer high above Rio de Janeiro lit with the flags of nations affected by coronavirus. The Catholic Archdiocese organizing a special mass that also featured the #praytogether projected on the 120-foot statue. Earlier this week officials ordered the statue and shopping malls closed along with cutting restaurant capacity and urging people to avoid the beach there.

ROMANS: Even with all North Carolina schools closed, those yellow school buses are being put to good use.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have children in your house, and I know you all hear me, you all going to be looking out the window. Oh, yes. Right here. No (INAUDIBLE).


ROMANS: In Gilford County, drivers are helping deliver meals to the most vulnerable students including kids in homeless shelters and other temporary housing. That's about 2,000 students in Gilford County alone. For some school provides the only meal they get in a day.

JARRETT: One Texas family wasn't about to let a trip to Disney World cancel because of coronavirus get them down. Cady Hearn and her mom and her children re-created the entire Disney vacation at home and shared the video on social media. Their staycation was complete with a visit to Cinderella's castle, character meet-and-greets, and a lot more off-brand Disney magic.

ROMANS: A Tennessee woman, Brenda Sparks, hoping 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 lights and putting up holiday decorations.

JARRETT: Self-quarantine with no pro sports got you down? Well, 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. Yes, I'm not making this up.

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

ROMANS: Grab the Kleenex. After initially being told no, a Boston man gets a 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. He visits her every day. Yesterday, under an 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Hang in there.

JARRETT: He visits her every single day. It's just beautiful.

ROMANS: Hang in there.

JARRETT: All right. EARLY START continues right now.

Total lockdown. The state of California, 40 million people told to stay home to stop spreading coronavirus.

ROMANS: And the layoffs have begun. The dreaded sign of a down economy. Unemployment claims skyrocket.

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

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, March 20th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East. And we begin this morning with a 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 12 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 state-wide mandatory restrictions so far, remains in place until further notice.


NEWSOM: We are confident that the people of the state of California will abide by it. They'll 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.