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In Significant Strategy Shift, Doctors In NYC & LA Told To Skip Coronavirus Testing In Cases Where Tests Would Not Change Treatment Course; U.S. Death Toll Rises To 260-Plus, Number Of Cases Now 21,000- Plus; New York State Sending One Million Masks To NYC; Now: Senate Resumes Negotiations On $1-Trillion-Plus Stimulus Package; Spain Using Military Hospital For Patients As Death Toll Climbs. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again everyone thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with a dramatic shift in strategy happening on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.

Health officials in New York City and Los Angeles, two of the largest cities in the country are recommending doctors avoid testing patients in cases where the result would not affect the course of treatment.

In the U.S. alone, the disease has killed more than 260 people, nearly 21,000 have been infected. Governors in four states are taking strict new measures to slow the spread, issuing stay-at-home orders and shutting down nonessential businesses.

The need for medical supplies continues to be a major issue. Just last hour, New York governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the shortage of masks available in New York City.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're also exploring the state of New York manufacturing masks ourselves. We are going to send 1 million N95 masks to New York City today. That's been a priority for New York City.

And 1 million masks won't get us through the crisis but it'll make a significant - significant contribution to New York City's mask issue.


WHITFIELD: And now the Washington Post reports that the federal government may have missed its chance to respond to this pandemic months ago. The Post quotes officials as saying Intelligence agencies warned President Trump in both January and February about the serious threat coronavirus could pose.

CNN has also learned that congressional intelligence committees were also brief during that time. All of these developments will likely come up at the White House coronavirus task force briefing set to start at any moment now.

Other big questions that that task force will be facing. The warning from experts and officials that critical medical supplies are in short supply and the economic fallout of this pandemic.

Right now senators on Capitol Hill are working to give Americans, some financial relief. They're negotiating a massive stimulus package amid growing fears of a recession and widespread unemployment. CNN has a team of reporters up following all of these key new developments.

Let's begin our coverage at the White House where Kristen Holmes is standing by for today's coronavirus briefing. Kristen, what are you expecting?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, I mean if we've been watching these briefings, it's hard to predict what direction they're going to take but I can certainly tell you what we're hoping to get and that is the answers and the two big things that we're focused on are one, that Washington Post reports that you mentioned.

About these U.S. intelligence agencies issuing warnings, classified warnings that coronavirus was something to take seriously, that it was a global pandemic, that it was a danger.

And the fact that that was happening at the same time that President Trump and lawmakers were really downplaying the virus and we also read in that report that President Trump aides were trying to get through to him but were struggling on just how serious this was.

So a big question there as to whether or not that led to the slowdown in the response here in the U.S. and the other big question, what you mentioned there about that protective gear for our healthcare workers.

I cannot tell you how many doctors and nurses, I'm hearing from every day, who are telling me that they only have one N95 respirator that they're cleaning with Lysol in between or they don't have any at all.

The White House has said that they put this on the forefront but yet it has not been solved yet. Now on Wednesday, President Trump said that he was invoking the Defense Protection Act which would essentially give him control over the entire supply chain but there's been a lot of confusion.

He's gone back on it, then he's said he's actually doing it today. Marc Short, the Chief of Staff for the Vice President said that he had invoked it but he wasn't actually using it yet.

So there deserves to be some clarification there as all of these people crucially need these medical supplies.

WHITFIELD: And Kristen, we've also learned that a staffer in Vice President Pence's office has tested positive for the virus. Do we know anything about the contact that person may have had with anyone?


HOLMES: Well, that's right so we actually asked the Chief of Staff to Vice President Pence that very question earlier this morning. Take a listen to what he had to say.


MARC SHORT, VICE PRESIDENT PENCE'S CHIEF OF STAFF: The individual tested positive is doing really well. He had cold like symptoms for about a day and a half and had test results come back Thursday night.

He was not in the office Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. He did not have direct contact with the President or the Vice President so we're following the CDC guidelines we recommend for all Americans but I'm pleased to tell you that that he's - he's recovering and has very, very mild symptoms.


HOLMES: So you heard him there saying that this individual did not have close contact with President Trump or Vice President Pence but this is coming at a critical time in which we're seeing more and more cases here in the U.S.

There's a lot of questions about how much exposure people have to our top officials.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kristen Holmes, we'll check back with you and of course, at any moment now that press conference coming out of the White House. Right now to the shifting strategy at two of America's largest cities.

Officials in New York City and Los Angeles recommending health workers not test some potential coronavirus patients. The move comes as numbers in both cities continue to rise. CNN's Senior Health Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen is with me now.

So Elizabeth, is this more reflection of a shortage of the test kit or is there something else to it.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it's absolutely a reflection of the shortage of the test kits as well as probably a shortage of people who can handle all of this.

Every time you do a test, you need to be - the nurse or doctor needs to be dressed in that personal protective equipment, we've heard so much about so you need to be using one of those sets.

Somebody needs to process it, somebody needs to call the patient back, it's all personnel and there are fewer and fewer health care workers because so many of them have had to stay home because they might possibly have been exposed to coronavirus.

So it is a sign of the times, it is very unfortunate that these two places are limiting it just to these - this one set of patients but it really actually makes sense. This is the most critical set of patients, not just Fred, because they are so sick but also because hospitals absolutely need to know if patients are positive for coronavirus or not.

It dictates where they place them, can they put them in an isolated room, can they put them in an isolated room, can they put them in an isolation room that has negative air pressure so the germs stay in and don't go out.

What kind of protective gear do they need to work when they care for them so they absolutely need to know if someone in the hospital is positive or not.

WHITFIELD: You may know Elizabeth, President Trump tweeted today about two therapy drugs, calling them gamechangers in the fight against coronavirus and calling on the FDA to act fast.

So let's talk a bit more about what these drugs are, their potential and what acting fast means.

COHEN: Right. So they actually have acted pretty fast. I mean they're already starting trials and that is very fast. Usually it takes way longer to start a trial when you're not in an emergency situation like this one.

The President's tweet to me and to many doctors I'm talking to feels a bit overly positive or maybe even more than just a bit overly positive. We are just testing these drugs. We don't know if they work on coronavirus patients and we don't know if they're safe and Dr. Fauci emphasized that so much yesterday, Fred.

We need to find out the two answers to those, the answers to those two questions. We don't want to make these people worse than they are and sometimes drugs do. Sometimes we think drugs will help and in fact, they hurt.

Now the President has said you know, it's not going to kill anyone. These are safe drugs. Well, we've never tried it with this particular set of patients before. We just don't know.

WHITFIELD: All right Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. We'll check back with you. All right, some states are taking strict new measures to try to slow the spread. California Governor Gavin Newsom is telling his state's 40 million residents to stay at home.

This as officials grapple with ways to contain the outbreak as medical supplies start to dwindle, the state is moving to lease a vacant Los Angeles hospital. California is dealing with one of the worst outbreaks. More than 1000 infected and 24 deaths so far.

Let's get some perspective now on all this. Joining me now former Democratic Senator from California, Barbara Boxer. Thanks so much. Good to see you. All right so how do - how are you faring and what are you observing and what is life like right now?

BARBARA BOXER (D-CA), FORMER SENATOR: Well, I'm very fortunate, my husband and I, we've been married for 59 years. We said the other day it feels like we're back to the early days when we couldn't afford to go to a restaurant.

And you know we're cooking, we're sheltering in place but here's the point. We have a very good governor here. I see these governors really filling the void and how are they doing it? Very basic. They are listening to the doctors. They are listening to the nurses.


They are listening to the health professionals and the testing situation, I think, will go down is a huge scandal. I don't know all the details about it. It just doesn't feel right.

WHITFIELD: What do you mean by that?

BOXER: Well, what I mean by that is how is it in our country, we are the cutting edge of science, we are on the cutting edge of technology, we are - we have Silicon Valley, we have all the universities and somehow, somehow in this great country, we couldn't get enough good tests.

Something's wrong there with the federal government. I've never seen anything like it. We relate to the game. I think Trump was more interested in kind of covering the whole thing up so the market wouldn't crash and now we have a market that crashes on a daily basis sometimes and we hope it's going to get better.

And we have the spread of this virus. So I think if you don't have the tests, it's like walking around with a blindfold and that's the problem but now we also know we need protective gear.

We got to move off that. Let history record what happened but we've got to move now to where we are. We want to stop in its tracks, this disease so that our hospitals don't get overwhelmed and people don't lie outside hospital rooms you know, waiting to get treatment and God knows what could happen to them.

WHITFIELD: And the probing will continue about the you know, any missed opportunities, what happened you know, the Washington Post reporting that U.S. intelligence warned the administration and there was a lack of response of urgency.

But then let's talk about the here and now in moving forward and the stay at home orders that California is carrying out right now. How effective do you believe that will be in helping to slow the rate? How patient and responsive do you believe Californians will be?

BOXER: I think Californians are stepping up. Of course, I don't have a - we're 40 million people in our state Fredricka, but I can tell you just where I live in southern California in the Palm Springs area.

You know, it looks to me like everybody's staying home. I mean and people seem to be able to deal with it for now. It's - it's very hard but look, the question is we really got two wars going on.

The war against the disease and we have to look at that war and we also look at the economic war we're facing and I really wanted to give a shout out to my colleagues in the Senate who are working today to bring relief to people.

For example, I'm doing this by Skype. I do a lot of these things. I always used to go to a studio. I would have a driver come and get me and bring me to the studio and the makeup person. I would have the technicians in the studio.

They're not there and they don't earn that much money and just so I'm just trying to point out, just this one little thing of me talking to you this way, the impact it has on community.

So I'm really hoping that they will take care of the working people. You know I think the big corporations, we can work with them too, we can give them loans, all that's fine but it's really, the people that get up every day.

And you point out a lot of them now have their kids at home, they don't exactly know how to deal with it. It's - it's a tough time but the answer to your question, I'm sorry, I went on is I think people respect this governor and I think they're doing their best.

WHITFIELD: All right, it is a tough time and everyone is having to do their best and be responsible and as our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has put it this week. He says act like you have it you know and act like everyone else does too so that you don't try to you know, impose any potential danger on your loved ones and your friends and your community.

Senator Barbara Boxer, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BOXER: Thank you Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, we're expecting an update from the White House on the federal coronavirus response. We'll bring you the briefing live when it happens.



WHITFIELD: And right now in New York City, a stark reminder that no one is immune to the virus. At least 35 members of the NYPD and 15 members of the city's fire department have tested positive.

Dozens of other authorities are also under self-quarantine. Oren Barzilay is the President of the EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors union for the FDNY.

Good to see you Oren and so at this point you know, none - no one on the force, right, has been hospitalized? People are self-quarantining but tell me what the circumstances are. How are they holding up at home?

OREN BARZILAY, PRESIDENT, EMTS, PARAMEDICS AND FIRE INSPECTORS UNION OF FDNY: Good morning. Actually, we do have a member that was interviewed by CNN yesterday that is in the hospital.

WHITFIELD: Well, tell me about him. BARZILAY: Her name is Crystal Cadet. She was interviewed yesterday by

Sonya and she's in isolation. She was exposed and tested positive for the Covid-19. Many of our members are simply outraged.

They're in the front lines every day, we're the first ones in and the last ones out and we still don't have the proper equipment to - with this challenge that we face every day.

We're running out of supplies and here - here's a perfect example of a healthy young lady in her thirties, admitted to the hospital because she was exposed to this disease.

WHITFIELD: And you heard the governor, New York Governor who earlier said, you know, we are - I'm quoting him now. "We are scouring you know the globe, looking for supplies. How reassuring or not is that for you to hear that from the governor that hospitals, other front line personnel such as the people that we're talking about right now are not able to get all the equipment that they need?


BARZILAY: So the Governor has been doing a great job. I mean, he is in control and I appreciate everything that he's doing to protect us. However, in New York City, we've known about this three months ago.

And just yesterday, it was released that the order went out March 6. How is that acceptable? I mean, you see this happening worldwide, late December, early January and you haven't placed an order. You didn't anticipate this to happen?

I mean, it wasn't a matter of if, it was just a matter of when and now we have thousands of first responders, who are exposed. Hundreds who are sick and probably hundreds that we don't even know yet that are going to come down with - with the illness.

Somebody needs to be held responsible for this.

WHITFIELD: And - and are you hearing from the first responders right now, who you know thankfully, have not tested positive, have not come you know - have not exhibited any symptoms?

Are you hearing from them about any trepidation they may have about doing their jobs? The concerns that they have about you know being with their family members, even if they are and particularly if they are a symptomatic?

BARZILAY: Absolutely. You know every day our phones are nonstop because they're being asked to go out there without the proper equipment. It has come to a point where the state for example, is required us to carry four N95s which is the respirator mask.

They're sending us out with one. We have to change one for one if we use it.

WHITFIELD: You did hear the governor say that there were more that were being sent to New York City but continue with your point and whether that is at all encouraging.

BARZILAY: Well, it's encouraging affective tonight, members may not and the public may not be aware of this but there's going to be some policy - policy changes by the department because we're running out of them.

They're going to ask us to wear surgical masks next until the shipment arrives and that is simply unacceptable. We're - we're basically rolling back the standards because orders weren't placed in a timely fashion.

WHITFIELD: And - and even with these obstacles, the lack of equipment, are you hearing from any of your first responders who are saying, I don't want to respond to an emergency at this time.

BARZILAY: No, our members are courageous. They do this work with a full commitment. They took an oath to serve the public and they're doing the best they can with what they have.

And I commend our people for doing that. Not just FTYMS, all our AMS brothers across the country, all the police officers and firefighters, we thank them all but again, we're willing to sacrifice when nobody else is willing to sacrifice for safety.

WHITFIELD: You heard from the governor earlier you know he said this is public service in stereo and on steroids and that's exactly what you're describing of so many men and women on the front line. Oren Barzilay, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BARZILAY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right meantime, the White House now says it is canceling year-end testing for schools across the country. At least 45 states have closed their schools for now, taking more than 50 million kids out of the classroom and then sending them home but for some students, school is about more than education.

More than 20 million free lunches were provided to kids each school day before the closures and schools can also be the place for some kids' access their healthcare. Randi Weingarten is the President of the American Federation of Teachers. Good to see Randi. This is an unprecedented time for education in America, for families.

There is now a mass distance learning movement happening across the country. Have you been getting any guidance, the kind of guidance that you need from the federal government to try to address the many needs of so many American families?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: So you know, Frederick, first off thank you for having us on and the answer is we have not but that's not stopping people and I really appreciate the leadership of Governor Cuomo, Governor Newsom, Governor Insley, Governor Murphy, Governor Whitmer, Governor DeWine, because - Governor Hogan - they're taking the front lines and they're doing it several ways. One is obviously, the emergency equipment is absolutely important. We

are the second largest nurse union and we were second largest teachers' union.


The second thing we're doing is several of us kind of gotten together and said what are we going to do. Many people - many kids don't have hotspots or you know smartphones or tablets at home.

We still have a digital divide. We have a huge inequity issue so what we have said is why don't we end the year in places where you know there's not going to be school anymore as in Kansas and other places?

Why don't we do something that many of us did when we were kids? Term projects, capstone projects, trust teachers to figure this out with kids and administrators so that we can end the school year meaningfully.

WHITFIELD: How are they - Help me understand, how are they able to do that, especially talk about the digital divide and the fact that you know, people have to keep their social distancing. You can't have teachers showing up at kids' homes or trying to because it puts a lot of people in jeopardy.

So how do people do this that you propose?

WEINGARTEN: So just like we're doing online, what if we do so for kids that don't have online, if they have phones still, why don't we have - you can have a tele town hall with a class and your kids and you can actually figure out how to assign something together like that.

Yes, we can do for those who have online, you can do Zoom, you can do Google Hangout but what we're trying to do within a span of a week, people have figured out how to do grab and goes, how to help our child care for our essential providers as your last guest were, are our front line providers and sorry, I have to say it again and again, we have to get them the protective equipment.

But if we can figure our grab and goes, we can figure out online distance learning, how to figure out what to do for child care - essential childcare for central care providers, we can figure out how to land this plane in a way that helps all kids end the year.

So for an elementary school - I was high school teacher, you can - we can figure out how to create a term projects, portfolio project for the areas we may not have gotten to so if I'm a social studies teacher and maybe, I didn't get to the kind of current events of today.

Let's figure out a project about what we do with the economy. What do we do with health and safety in light of the coronavirus? And kids can talk to each other on Zoom. We could actually figure that out with kids.

But this is the kind of stuff. Assessments that are age appropriate. Classroom - class projects, individual projects, doing them paper and pencil so that you know, just like you could do it online, the grab and go bus drivers who are delivering the gran and go lunches could actually pick them up in an appropriate scientific way but this is the kind of thing that administrators and teachers can figure out right now as we get to the end of the school year.

We've had seven months of meaningful school. The issue is how we get to the end to make sure that it's meaningful and that's what I'm proposing today.

WHITFIELD: And I have no doubt that a lot of these great minds are trying to figure that out but you know you touched on the bus drivers who were so generously trying to get meals you know, to kids and there are so many children who are counting on you know, school in order to get those.

WEINGARTEN: 30 million.

WHITFIELD: It's a huge number.

WEINGARTEN: 30 million.

WHITFIELD: 30 million children so in the near term ,is there a promise of a greater network in order to feed these kids?

WEINGARTEN: So what - this is - you asked me this question at the beginning and I know this is not the time for politics but we - weeks - like when this started, we wrote to Betsy DeVos and said what are we going to do about the following 30 questions.

Never got an answer. I'm glad that the President said yesterday what was inevitable that if schools are closing for the year, we need to actually waive the tests. But superintendent and our unions locally, all throughout the country, governors, chief school officers, administrators and teachers are trying to figure this out as we speak.

They are building the plane and flying it at the same time. I trust them. I want us to trust them to figure out what is meaningful for what we can do to help kids instructional and what we can do to help you with all the things schools normally do, which is feeding kids, which is the resilience and the relationships.

This is a very tough time for everyone.


Every parent who's home-schooling now understands how tough it is to teach. But we have to, even with the social distance, we have to try to figure out how we hold kids virtually and how we help them.

WHITFIELD: All right, and so many are discovering and perhaps appreciating in a much bigger way. You know, this is the hardest job teaching, hardest job most valued and most valuable. Randi Weingarten, thank you so much.

WEINGARTEN: Thank you, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: Coming up, lawmakers negotiating a trillion dollar coronavirus stimulus bill that would send checks to Americans. Are they any closer to making a deal? We'll go live to Capitol Hill next.



WHITFIELD: All right, the now daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing is to take place momentarily. When it does, we'll take you straight to the White House. Meantime, just down the street or up the street, negotiations are underway on Capitol Hill as the Senate hammers away at the massive economic stimulus package.

The bipartisan deal would offer sweeping financial relief to millions of Americans across the country. But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warns there are still significant outstanding issues to be worked out.

CNN Sarah Westwood is on Capitol Hill. So Sarah, we're now learning that this package could top $2 trillion. Give us what details you know.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Fred. And negotiators at this hour are still hammering out the details of this enormous, massive piece of stimulus legislation. But both sides say, they are making progress now towards some kind of deal.

But as you mentioned, there are those outstanding issues that Democrats and Republicans still have to work out. One of those is the large unemployment insurance payments that are included in the bill to help people who might lose their jobs as a result of the economic fallout of coronavirus.

Another one is financial assistance to hospitals, whether that will be included in the bill and what size. And also how to structure the State Stabilization Fund, which is basically a pot of money that states can access if they hit dire financial straits.

So this bill, it aims to help both individuals and small and large businesses, a very ambitious undertaking for Congress that is moving at a much more quick pace than they normally do with these types of legislation.

Now, White House of aides and officials are involved in the talks Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow, here on the Hill today as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiating on behalf of the administration. Kudlow told reporters earlier today that this bill could top $2 trillion in costs.

Of course, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has laid out a very ambitious timeline to get this done. By Monday, he would like to see this legislation on the floor. They're hoping to start drafting that later today. But there's enormous pressure on all sides to get something done as the crisis worsens, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood. Thank you so much on Capitol Hill. We'll check back with you.

Right now to a shifting strategy in two of America's largest cities. Officials in New York City and Los Angeles are recommending health workers not test some potential coronavirus patients. The move comes as numbers in both cities continue to rise. I want to bring in Dr. James Phillips. He's a physician and assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital and a CNN medical analyst. Doctor, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So the President cited the potential of combining two drugs, one of them being an anti-malaria drug and for treating the virus and he's very optimistic. How are you on these two drugs?

PHILLIPS: Well, I'm optimistic as a physician because we have drugs that we feel comfortable pushing forward with for clinical trials. There are a number of drugs throughout history that have worked fine in a test to shown promise. But then when put into the human body, they don't show any promise.

There's been a number of drugs that have been deemed safe for certain treatments in the past, that after we do scientific evaluation of them, we find that they're dangerous. You know, when my dad was a kid, they took aspirin when they had a fever from a virus. We now know that aspirin can be deadly to children who take it if they have a virus.

So for those reasons, such testing is important. And for those reasons, the American public needs to listen to the doctors when we're talking about science and medical care and the treatment for those disease.

WHITFIELD: And so there's two treatments, it's chloroquine and then hydroxychloroquine. And in the press conference or the briefing from the New York Governor, well he didn't mention the therapy name, he did have a graphic up which showed the hydroxychloroquine. And that the federal government was going to be giving them 10,000 doses for their most dire circumstances. Is that promising to you?

PHILLIPS: Well, there's some science out of some other countries that showed that the use of chloroquine in patients may have been beneficial.

WHITFIELD: China and France, correct?

PHILLIPS: Correct, yes. What the medicine does is it sort of blocks the ability of the virus to get into the cells in our body, and replicate. And what we're hoping is that through appropriate clinical trials, as well as what we call compassionate use, where if someone is in really dire straits, we sort of try everything we can to help them and that's what they were doing in China as well.

Now, we can see some proof that it's actually efficacious, and most importantly, safe and not causing harm to patients. So there is hope there, the same with Remdesivir. And I'm sure there's some other trials going on overseas that they also may come over to us as we see promising data.


WHITFIELD: I also want to read to you now a quote from Cassie Sauer the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, saying, quote, we look forward and see that we could reach a place of having to implement crisis standards where you are determining who gets supplies and who gets treatment, and who does not even if they have a chance of survival. What do you make of that statement?

PHILLIPS: So, in the disaster medicine world in which some physicians live like myself, we think worst case scenarios for years we and the people that taught me have looked at different scenarios like pandemics to determine if we get completely overwhelmed, what will we do?

Right now, we're still practicing for the most part conventional care. If we get to dire straits, we're looking at what we call contingency care where we have to make some real modifications. The crisis standards of care are what do we do if we are completely overwhelmed, and we have to adjust our normal type of care for patients to the best that we can possibly do to save the most numbers of lives, that includes things like determining who gets resources if there's limited numbers of medicines and vaccines.

And even worse, and the most tragic thing would be if we got to a point where we had to worry about rationing and determining who doesn't --

WHITFIELD: Do feel like we're close to the ladder.

PHILLIPS: We're not close yet. Our concern is that we may. And that's why folks in the disaster medicine and infectious disease worlds are looking at those worst case scenarios now and planning for them so that we're not doing it last minute. And we've been doing that for years and especially strongly in the last couple of months.

WHITFIELD: So when cities like New York and Los Angeles say they are only going to give or conduct the testing to some people that sounds like the rationing that you just mentioned in that latter option.

PHILLIPS: Right. And so rationally of testing is happening. We do have to choose who we are allowed, who can use that resource on. And we do so wisely that we do so based on years of experience as clinicians determining who is utmost risk and who's really sick, and do we need to know -- do we really need to know if this person has COVID-19?

Anybody getting admitted, clearly, we need to know that for isolation reasons. We have to send a lot of people home without testing, who may have the disease and rely on them to be responsible and treat themselves as though they have the disease and stay home. There are certainly patients that I wish I had the full capacity to test but I don't. So we have to treat them just like we did in the old days before we had flu testing.

We would clinically diagnose you with the flu without doing a nose swab and send you home to trust that you would manage yourself and come back if you're getting sick. So we're doing that now.

However, widespread testing would be the best system. And I think we'll see that today in the press conference coming up. I think there's going to be a discussion at the FDA just approved, the first what we call point of care testing. Right now, for the most part, we have to send these nasal swabs off to another lab, remote from our hospital --


PHILLIPS: -- and wait for it to come back. Point of care means right where that patient is in our hospital. We can do the test in our labs, and that's a much faster turnaround time. So that's good news. I just don't know how long it'll take to ramp up to the whole country.

WHITFIELD: All right, very hopeful. Dr. James Phillips, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

PHILLIPS: Thanks for having me on.

WHITFIELD: Coronavirus still lots of questions join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a CNN Global Town Hall Coronavirus, Facts and Fears in partnership with Facebook. That's tonight at 9 o'clock.


And again, at any moment now just as the doctor was referencing press conference, another briefing coming from the White House from the Coronavirus Task Force. We'll take that as it happens. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, very soon, what is become a daily briefing at the White House, the Coronavirus Task Force is to take to the podium there and when that happens, we'll take it live.

Meantime, the number of coronavirus cases in Spain is rising and fast. In fact, officials there say eight out of 10 residents living in Madrid are expected to get the virus. Our Scott McLean is there alive in Madrid. And Scott, I understand that the country is now having to use a military hospital to keep up with the number of patients there. What can you tell us about that?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fredricka. So yes, military hospitals across the country actually are now open to the civilian population just to keep up with the demand and the number of patients.

Today marks one week since Spaniards were ordered to stay inside of their homes but those nationwide restrictions haven't stop the spread of the virus. In the last 24 hours, Spain recorded its highest increases both in the number of confirmed cases and also in the number of deaths There are now more than 1,300 dead from the coronavirus in this country.

Here in Madrid, they are using some 4,000 city buses as ambulances. They are using nine hotels like the one right here as hospital wards. On top of the 5,000 plus beds they are currently putting up in a convention center in the city.

The Spanish government has also called in reinforcements now 50,000 health care professionals, medical students, nursing students, and retired healthcare workers have all been brought back in to try to keep up with the demand.

When it comes to the shortage of medical supplies, the Spanish government, they have the capacity right now to also order private companies to produce that equipment. So far they haven't had to use that power but when I asked the foreign minister about whether she could foresee a scenario where she would, she said this.



ARANCHA GONZALEZ LAYA, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, EUROPEAN UNION: Why not? If this is what's necessary, we can obviously we can do that. This is what the state of alarm decree allows the government to do is to work with the private sector in the interest of the public.


MCLEAN: So Fredricka, so far Spain has not had to order or mandate any companies produce these kinds of products but because she says that the market is doing what it does in responding to the demand for them, but again, you heard there, not ruling it out.

WHITFIELD: And then quickly Scott, in what conditions are you and your crew staying in order to stay safe?

MCLEAN: Yes. So Fredricka, we are at a hotel that has only about five rooms rented out of the 120 that are there. It is the four rooms for our crew and then also, there is one other couple there from Argentina that is stranded in Madrid trying to get back on another flight.

And so we've -- there are two crews here in Madrid. We have no contact with one another. The closest that I've got to the other crew is maybe 20 feet apart from each other. And so we want to make sure that we don't have any unnecessary contacts with anyone that we don't have to. Obviously, we're washing our hands as has been recommended all the time after we touch pretty much anything.

We're using hand sanitizer anytime we go to the grocery store. We are doing the exact same. In fact, at the grocery store, Fredricka, they require all customers to wear at the very least gloves when they're walking around.

WHITFIELD: All right, Scott McLean. Thank you so much. Continue to be safe you and your crew and the other Argentine couple that are staying at your hotel. Scott McLean in Madrid. All right, we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: The fate of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo still up in the air. For now, it is still on despite the outbreak. Today, crowds gathered as the Olympic flame arrived. However, there are now growing calls for the Japanese government to postpone the games. Will Ripley is in Tokyo covering this. Will, what are you hearing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, those calls to postpone the games coming in from all over the world even a member of Japan's Olympic Committee saying the games should not happen on July 24th is scheduled because athletes from places like the U.S. and Europe just won't have time to prepare.

We're also getting news from around the region. Some good news in China for the third straight day, no local infections of coronavirus, although important cases in China are on the rise. That's why people are being quarantined in government facilities, something that a lot of countries are doing lately.

In Thailand, they saw their biggest single day spike in cases thus far 89 new cases, most of them in the City of Bangkok. And over in Singapore, a country that's been lauded for its efforts to contain the coronavirus, one of the things they were proudest of is that they had no coronavirus deaths that has now changed today. The reporting two deaths as a result of the coronavirus.

Back here in Tokyo, there's so much uncertainty about the games. There's really kind of a dark cloud hanging over the Olympics right now, Fred, because they want to host and they put so much into it, but it just looks increasingly unlikely that that's going to be able to happen at least in four months.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Will, Ripley, thank you so much live for us in Tokyo.

All right, still ahead, we're expecting an update from the White House on the federal coronavirus response at any moment. Now, we'll bring you that briefing live when it happens.