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CNN NEWSROOM

FDA Authorizes Rapid Coronavirus Test With Results In 45 Minutes; Surgeons Plead For Help, Don't Make Us Orphan Our Two Toddlers; California Shuts Down World's Fifth Largest Economy To Fight Coronavirus Spread; Senate Works On Stimulus Package As Unemployment Claims Soar Amid Pandemic Layoffs; Dr. Celine Gounder Answers Viewers' Questions On Coronavirus; "CNN Heroes" Salutes People & Communities Working To Help Get Us Through The Pandemic; Reasons For Hope During Pandemic. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Good afternoon. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York, the city that is now the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis here in the United States. And here is what you need to know right now. A major breakthrough perhaps in testing for the coronavirus.

Just this afternoon, the FDA announced it is approving the emergency use of a new test that can detect the virus in as little as 45 minutes. That test can be done entirely on site at a doctor's office, for example, and those tests will begin shipping next week.

Now, this comes as the number of cases continues to surge all across the country particularly in New York, where the governor announced cases in this state jumped overnight to more than 10,000 now. That accounts for almost half of the confirmed cases in the entire country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You have to expect that at the end of the day. 40 percent to 80 percent of the population is going to be infected. So the only question is, how fast is the rate to that 40 percent to 80 percent and can you slow that rate so your hospital system can deal with it? That is all we're talking about here.

If you look at the 40 percent to 80 percent, that means between 7.8 million and 15 million New Yorkers will be affected at the end of the day. We're just trying to postpone the end of the day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: New York and states all across the country are scouring for supplies. Doctors warning they are essentially fighting a war with no ammo. They need masks. They need gowns. They need eye gear. In short, they need help. They need it now.

We learned just today at least 11 workers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston tested positive for the coronavirus while nine employees at Brigham and Women's Hospital also in Boston tested positive. And in a major strategy shift, doctors in America's two largest cities, New York and Los Angeles, are being told to skip testing, accepting cases where a test result would significantly change the course of treatment.

Meantime, in Washington, President Trump and Vice President Pence were both asked whether they would be tested again after one of the vice president's staffers became infected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Neither the president nor I had direct contact with that staff person. We worked immediately with a White House physician and the CDC. We've done all contact tracing.

And while the White House doctor has indicated he has no reason to believe that I was exposed and no need to be tested, given the unique position that I have as vice president and as the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus later this afternoon.

REPORTER: We heard from the vice president he is going to be tested. And you've taken a test since last Saturday and --

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I just took one.

REPORTER: You just took one. How are you feeling?

TRUMP: I feel great.

REPORTER: Okay. Took the one, sir?

TRUMP: I took one test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So the president confirming he has only taken one test, which was last weekend. And we reported on that. It came back negative.

I want to focus in on New York for just a minute, where like I said, about half the current U.S. cases of coronavirus in the United States are currently located. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in New York City. And, Evan, you're in the neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen, which could soon transform in response to this healthcare crisis.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. to understand sort of what we're going through here in New York and the New York region, just look at the shot behind me. Behind me is the Javits Center, which is the showcase premier place for conventions and big events that, you know, that showcase New York's central of -- center of the economy role that has in the world. But the governor said today this is a place that's going to become maybe an emergency hospital with a thousand beds in it for coronavirus cases as the city's health system remains strained. Now, behind that building is New Jersey, and New Jersey is a state where the governor today said he is going to close down non-essential businesses starting at 9:00 tonight. So you can still buy gas. You can still buy groceries. You can go to a pet store, to a liquor store, but non-essential businesses are shutting down in New Jersey tonight at 9:00 as part of that new normal that we're living in here in New York and the New York area.

The governor's had to -- this reality has created quite an interesting time here in the area as well. There's rumors going around everywhere. Everyone started questioning things all the time. But the governor in his press conference today said, listen, we're going to tell you as much as we can tell you every time that we can tell you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: I have not hidden anything from the people of this state. I have not tilted facts. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American people deserve the truth.

[15:05:01]

They can handle the truth. Give them the truth. When they don't get the truth, and if you don't get the facts, that's when people should get anxious. If I think I'm being deceived or there is something you're not telling me, or you're shading the truth, now I'm anxious.

Everything I know I've told you and I will continue to tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So the truth from the governor is that things are pretty tough here and require more government action, including emergency hospitals, and in New Jersey, a lockdown of all non- essential businesses. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay. Evan McMorris-Santoro we know you will be keeping us posted. Thank you.

Joining us now is Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. He is also a doctor who once helped turn an abandoned Kmart into a makeshift hospital after Hurricane Katrina. Senator, thank you very much for joining us during this difficult time.

Right now, your state has more than 580 confirmed cases of coronavirus. At least 16 people have died there. Healthcare officials are now pleading for supplies. We have governors across the country going on Twitter, basically begging for donations to deal with this emergency. I'm just wondering, where are the supplies and why aren't they in the hands of medical professionals?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Clearly, there has been a holdup in distribution and the production. Nobody imagined that this would occur. I'm not sure where -- I'm not sure there's a snap your fingers and it's all taken care of issue but, clearly, states are attempting to do it by the regulatory process. There are masks that are used for industry that are the same masks that a doctor would use. Congress has given liability coverage so that this mask for industry can be repurposed to be used by hospitals.

Hospitals are ingeniously figuring out how to reuse masks but reuse them safely. There is no single solution but hopefully the set of solutions will ease the problem.

CABRERA: Here is what I fear, because I remember going through this about the tests, right, where we were told they're coming. They're days away. By the end of the week, there will be so many more, millions more. And it was week after week after week where that's where we sat. We know the president has this authority to authorize the Defense Production Act. He says he has authorized it but we're learning they haven't actually kicked it into high gear.

You're a doctor. Don't these hospitals need to know what they're getting and how many and when they're going to get them?

CASSIDY: Yes. But I'm not sure that it profits to get so worked up about something that we cannot address. As long as we know people are seeking to address it, you handle the situation with the resources you have.

Again, you mentioned that after Hurricane Katrina, I stood up with a lot of volunteers an abandoned Kmart to take care of those who are coming out of New Orleans and needed kind of medical care but not ICU care. You just take what you have. You do your best.

Now, by the way, let's stress. We can lower the need for masks if those people who might be at risk stay at home and those people who could spread the infection to others stay at home. So if people want to address the issue of the lack of masks, stay at home, shelter in place. If you have to go out avoid other people, clean things very completely if you use them. For example, when I sat down I have here a Clorox wipe. If you do that, you won't spread the infection to other people, and that is the way to decrease the need for masks.

By the way, get the masks and get them out, but in the meantime, do our own part for decreasing the spread of disease.

CABRERA: But I just wonder could more still be done? Because I want you to listen to what the president said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: So you've talked about the act, Sir, but not yet compelled any companies. Why not?

TRUMP: Because we have so many companies making so many products, every product that you mentioned plus ventilators and everything else. We have car companies without having to use the act. If I don't have to use specifically, we have the act to use in case we need it, but we have so many things being made right now by so many. They've just stepped up.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: CNN is reporting that as of last night, the administration had yet to conduct even a full count of inventory across the nation nor have they identified which companies they would need to make which products. What are they waiting for?

CASSIDY: Well, believe me, right now, people are making a lot of money, making a lot of products for PPE and masks and everything else. So it's hard for me to believe that if somebody can take a mask which used to sell for a nickel and is now selling it for $2 that they're not maximizing the number of masks they're making. I think it is wise and appropriate to take a total inventory of what is being made and to the extent necessary making sure it is getting done. That's wise. That's appropriate.

But when people can have a profit margin making it, I suspect they're making it. I also suspect we're buying and bringing it in. But it would be nice to document that and it would be nice to make sure it's flown to where it's needed. I agree with you, Ana. But I'm also thinking that capitalism probably is addressing the issue.

[15:10:01]

CABRERA: Now, there is a debate in Congress right now over this one or possibly $2 trillion stimulus plan. Where do your negotiations stand right now?

CASSIDY: You know, the Republicans, the White House and Democrats are working towards an end. The end will be big. It will send a reassurance to our economy that we're going to provide liquidity, that we are going to be able to make that business owner, however small her shop is or however big the business is, the liquidity they need to get through.

Also attempting to address the needs of healthcare workers in particular. Their frontline. I'm a doc. You need to take care of that ward clerk, that nurse, that tech who has children at home who is working extra but we need to take care of their children because now they're not in school. Very sensitive to that, how do we get dollars to them? And Also, that worker who may have already been laid off, how do we make sure they have the cash they need to get through the rough patch?

The economy started off strong. We need to make sure when we get through with the rough patch, the economy is strong once more.

CABRERA: Right. So you've identified the needs and people need that money now, right? What do you tell a constituent who is asking when is the check coming and will everyone get a check?

CASSIDY: Mnuchin says that they think they can get checks out by April the 1st. Now, clearly, it's the lower income worker has the greatest need. It's still being debated as to what lower income is, if you will. But, believe me, this is -- no one is being cheap.

Everybody is trying to get dollars where they are needed. You don't want to waste money but there's also an understanding that I think FDR once said, right now, it's more important to have energy as opposed to efficiency. We need dollars out. We need liquidity for businesses. We need to reassure the American economy that it's going to be supported through this rough patch.

CABRERA: April 1st is a nice, I guess, data point for some people who are watching and thinking, okay, that's not too far away. As I'm sure you're aware, your Republican colleague, Senator Richard Burr, he wants an ethics investigation into himself right now after concerns were raised about his sale of up to $1.7 million in stock.

It came just days before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the stock market. Other senators, including Dianne Feinstein, Jim Inhofe and Kelly Loeffler, they are also being scrutinized for other big stock dumps. Do you have questions that you would like answered about their investment transactions?

CASSIDY: Clearly, that is going to come out. It's been a topic of news. I think Burr wants to have an ethics investigation because he thinks it's okay so let's just expose it. And I think we'll have transparency there. But in the order of things that I'm concerned about right now, I'm much more concerned about the family sitting around the table making sure they can pay their grocery bill, their car note and their mortgage payment. We'll figure that other stuff out. In the meantime, let's take care of that American family.

We're in this together. And so let's make sure we are addressing those primary needs first. We'll sort this other stuff out. We'll get there. Let's get masks to the doctors and nurses. Let's get daycare to the people who need it. Let's take care of that family and that small business.

CABRERA: That sounds good. Senator Cassidy, thank you very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Coming up, a surgeon who along with her husband is helping treat patients amid this outbreak. And she posted a very powerful message. Don't make us orphan our two toddlers. More on their critical need for supplies, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:00]

CABRERA: A New York surgeon and mother has a powerful and troubling message as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to rise. Dr. Cornelia Griggs whose husband is also a physician posted a plea for more supplies for healthcare workers tweeting this. Don't make an orphan of our two toddlers.

And in an op-ed published in "The New York Times" Dr. Griggs has this warning, the sky is falling. I'm not afraid to say it. A few weeks from now, you may call me an alarmist and I can live with that. Actually, I will keel over with happiness if I am proven wrong.

And Dr. Griggs joins us now. She is a Pediatric Surgery Fellow at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

And, Doctor, after I read your piece, it was like a gut punch. I can't imagine the kind of pressure and stress you must be feeling right now. What is it like to be in your shoes?

DR. CORNELIA GRIGGS, PEDIATRIC SURGERY FELLOW, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: It's an incredibly terrifying time. And a lot of us are really coping with uncertainty and fear at the hospital.

CABRERA: Describe the situation in terms of the medical equipment shortage you are experiencing right now.

GRIGGS: Hospitals not only in New York City but across the country are facing a critical shortage of PPE, and that stands for personal protective equipment, specifically masks, most critically gloves, eye protection, and enough gowns. And this is really our armor when we're going into the room of a patient who is positive for COVID or suspected to be positive and being tested and it's all we have to protect us when we're coming into close contact or performing invasive procedures on these patients. And a critical shortage means that our risk is dramatically increased when we're taking care of these patients.

CABRERA: Do you have enough currently? Are you fearful for what's coming or are you already dealing with a shortage?

GRIGGS: We are running low and they're already rationing at the hospital. And we face a crisis of running out imminently.

CABRERA: During an update by the Coronavirus Task Force just last hour, my colleague, Jeremy Diamond, asked President Trump about why doctors and nurses don't have the kind of medical equipment you need and here is the president's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Many administrations preceded me. For the most part, they did very little in terms of what you're talking about. This is unprecedented or just about unprecedented.

[15:20:00]

As time goes by, we're seeing it's really at a level that nobody would have believed, nobody would have thought possible that this could happen. And we are making much of this stuff now and much of it is being delivered now.

We've also gotten tremendous reviews from a lot of people. They can't believe how fast it's coming.

The fact is that we are doing a tremendous amount. We started with very few masks. We had some but nothing for an event like this. And now we're making tens of millions of masks and other things. And I think it's unprecedented what we've done and what we're doing and many doctors and I've read many, many doctors, they can't believe the great job that we've done. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Doctor, what's your reaction?

GRIGGS: It's a huge problem because we're facing a supply chain crisis globally and a lot of our equipment is sourced from other countries and supply chains are breaking down across the world, across the country, and most critically in cities that are already heavily affected.

CABRERA: Sorry. I know you're at home, you've got children, you've got other demands, but I do want to ask you because you and your husband are both doctors. I understand you're quarantining yourself from your children even. How are you able to manage that?

GRIGGS: So sorry about that. It's really difficult. And heart breaking because when I get home at the end of a long day, the thing that really lifts me up is seeing my children and being able to read to them and give them a bath and tuck them in at night. But now when I come home, if I was near my kids, I'd be scared to touch them, I'd be scared to hug them. When I come home, all I want to do is run straight to the shower because I know I've been exposed while I've been at work.

CABRERA: And with all the uncertainty, what is your biggest fear?

GRIGGS: My biggest fear is that our hospitals are imminently facing a capacity crisis and that the number of cases of COVID are going to surge and overwhelm our hospital systems. And we're going to see an increase in all cause mortality, not just from patients getting critically ill from COVID.

CABRERA: Just this afternoon, we are learning the two largest cities impacted, including New York, but as well as L.A., are recommending a shift in strategy when it comes to testing, recommending doctors avoid testing patients, except in cases where a test result would significantly change the course of treatment. Would that help your situation?

GRIGGS: It's hard to believe that that is the right way to go and the guidelines are changing every day. And I think some of our guidelines are changing based on what's physically possible and what's available. Based on other countries that have effectively stemmed this crisis, widespread testing would be extremely helpful in being able to identify those that are positive, tracing their contacts and containing this virus. But I think we're beyond that point in this country.

CABRERA: The FDA announced that they have now authorized a new on-site coronavirus test that could detect the virus in approximately 45 minutes. Now, this test would begin shipping next week, according to the company that manufactures it. Could this be a game changer?

GRIGGS: It's hard to say. I mean, I don't put a lot of stock in brand new tests that's out that fast and even people that -- sorry about that -- even tests that are out there right now, some of them have a sensitivity that's only about 70 percent. So if you get tested, when you're not having symptoms, it doesn't mean much.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. Cornelia Griggs, somebody really, really wants to talk to you right now. We will let you go. We really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you.

And as we head to break, we want to show you how even in a lockdown, Parisians are taking time to thank doctors and nurses fighting this pandemic by cheering them from their balconies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:00]

CABRERA: In California, usually, busy streets are quiet as the state's 40 million residents deal with a second full day of their stay-at-home mandate. Governor Newsom ordering them to remain as home as the state takes drastic measures now to battle the spread of the coronavirus.

Parking lots, bare, retail stores, corporate offices, all closed, while essential services are still open. The world's fifth largest economy has come to a near standstill.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us now from Burbank. Paul, how are people coping with these new rules?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you were talking about the stay-at-home order. And you look behind me, you referred to those streets, this large economy here in California not bustling. This is Bob's Big Boy in Burbank. Those chairs stacked up, a symbol of economic pain. People are not allowed to dine in. It is having a ripple effect already. Employees are hurting because of it. Off in the distance you can see the empty parking lot. They would normally be serving well over a thousand meals per day.

And I'm going to bring in the manager here. Darren (ph), tough times for you. You usually have about 90 employees.

[15:30:01]

Tell us about lay-offs here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, today, we're going to have maybe six people working out of 90. No servers. A couple of cooks. A couple of cashiers. It's really been quite devastating for the employees. It's painful for the ownership but devastating for the people.

VERCAMMEN: What has it been like for you to tell somebody they're laid off or their hours have drastically been cut?

UNIDENTIFIED MANAGER: Well, actually the employees have taken it really well because they understand the seriousness of the situation.

It's really not even -- there's nothing we can do. No one thinks if there's something that we can do, so it's not really on us. It's just all of us kind of dealing with the challenges together and realizing it is going to be painful for everyone. VERCAMMEN: And so one of the things you're doing, you've always had

this car service but you're trying to get into the take-out mode, telling people they can order food to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MANAGER: Yes. We're doing the takeout thing, which we've already done but that's really the only thing we have going for us now.

The other thing we're going to try and implement here in the next couple days is going back to the old days and doing the car hop thing and actually serving people at their cars so they can be in their own space, but actually we serve them at their cars.

VERCAMMEN: Thank you so much, Darren (ph).

You heard that, the car hop thing meaning they can pull up and grab their food to go.

Again, these streets just empty all around here. From what we've seen so far, Ana, people are observing this rule here in California.

Back to you.

CABRERA: I really feel for businesses like that one. It seems like they have a very positive attitude all things considered.

Paul Vercammen, thank you for that reporting.

Coming up we are answering your questions about coronavirus.

But first, I want you to look at this. Not even a pandemic was going to stop this California couple from getting married. Jeremy and Andrea posed with masks. They had hand sanitizers as part of their wedding pictures to mark the occasion. And one of our favorite photos was their wedding rings perched atop a highly sought-after item these days, a roll of toilet paper.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:36:07]

CABRERA: Breaking news out of France, the coronavirus death toll there taking the biggest jump in that country since the beginning of the outbreak. According to the French Health Ministry, 562 people have now died from the virus. There were 112 deaths just overnight. More than 6,000 people are hospitalized with the virus, 50 percent of them are under 60 years old.

Am I going to lose my job? Will I have money to pay my bills? Is my business going to survive? These are the questions people are asking as this pandemic sets off a wave of lay-offs and the headlines are terrifying, phrases like "Great Depression," "economic calamity," and "jobs apocalypse."

Right now, the Senate is at work debating a stimulus package that could top $2 trillion.

Just to hammer home the urgency, Goldman Sachs has estimated more than two million people have filed for unemployment claims just this week. If accurate, that wouldn't just be eight times higher than last week. It would be an all-time record.

In a sign of the times, the IRS tax deadline has been pushed back three months to July 15th.

I want to bring in CNN Business Anchor, Julia Chatterley.

Julia, all of these predictions about lay-offs and another great depression, do we have any idea of the scope of this?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: Ana, I have to be honest with you here --and great to be with you -- without big spending from the government, there's a risk that some of these dire predictions become reality.

As you were just hearing there, we are telling people to stay at home to fight the health crisis but it's creating an economic crisis, an economic black hole effectively, where businesses have no customers.

And the problem here, the big problem is the majority of the employment in the United States is small and medium-size enterprises. In fact, 27 million workers work for frontline businesses -- bars, restaurants, tourism -- and those businesspeople are having to make terribly tough decisions. Will my business survive? Can I feed my family? How quickly do I have to let workers go? They do it really fast.

The biggest issue, then, the workers don't have savings. They work and they live paycheck to paycheck.

So we are creating overnight a jobs crisis all around the country.

I look at other countries and what they are doing and they are writing blank checks to fix this.

CABRERA: Wow.

CHATTERLEY: We need to do the same here. Even if it is just for a two to three-month window. There's a fix here. It just means spending big and spending fast.

CABRERA: Let's talk more about this fix. We know the Senate is working on a possibly $2 trillion stimulus package, according to Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser of the White House. Is that going to fix things? What are you hearing?

CHATTERLEY: It is a good question. I'll tell you what I'm hearing. We've gone from less than $1 trillion to now more than $2 trillion. I am hearing it will be more than $2 trillion. We could even see an added amount afterwards in another couple weeks another $1 trillion.

The message here is that Congress, Democrats, Republicans, are getting really serious about this. The key is you have to stop people letting go of workers.

We need to see loans to small and medium-size enterprises. If they keep their workers, it turns into a grant and they don't have to pay it back. This is being discussed.

Loans for big companies, too. They're in the same kind of desperate situation almost overnight with no business. They get loans, they'll be restricted. You have to use the money right. You can't buy your own stock back. You can't pay big bonuses to executives.

There's other things being discussed here as well. Cash. Just sending out cash to individuals. This is great but again, there are other things required.

CABRERA: So let's talk about that because we've talked about loans and cash. What else might be needed to stabilize things even while we fight this health crisis?

[15:39:56]

CHATTERLEY: "Stabilize" is the perfect word because this is having a quivering, monumental effect on the broader financial system. I think there's going to have to be a granting of extra powers by Congress to the Federal Reserve simply to say we will buy other things. We will buy corporate loans to give people confidence here.

But, you know, Ana, there's more needed. We were listening to that presser there from the White House. We need a Marshall Plan. We need money pumped into vaccine development. We need to organize businesses that, right now, are not working, put that money toward ventilator production.

But finally, N-95. I just want to mention this really quickly. These are masks that health workers need and people hoarded them weeks ago, individuals like you and me. If you have those, consider donating them to your local hospital because our heroes in hospitals need them more than you and me -- Ana?

CABRERA: We were just talking to a doctor who was saying just that. They are desperate to have that protective gear.

Julia Chatterley, thank you very much. Really glad to have you here.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: Back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:45:28]

CABRERA: Welcome back. We know you have questions and we are committed as we all live through this pandemic, and so there's no question too small or too simple. Tweet at me @anacabrera.

Joining us now is Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist, and one of our CNN contributors.

Doctor, here is a question that a lot of people I think are wondering about. I've heard, I have to stay isolated for two weeks but what happens after the two weeks?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: Well, so are you being isolated because you are infectious or because you are exposed or are we talking about social distancing more generally speaking?

At this point, we're really talking about social distancing for everyone, so the 14-day recommendations really had more to do with you, yourself, being infectious or exposed.

What we're seeing now is it doesn't matter if you're infectious, if you have coronavirus, or if you've been exposed to somebody with coronavirus. The only way to shut down transmission is for all of us to put ourselves into quarantine. And we don't know how long that is going to be. It is probably going to be much longer actually than two weeks.

If you go back and look at prior epidemics, with the flu or some of the modeling that's been done based on what's happened in China and Italy, so far, we're probably looking at a couple months of this at least.

CABRERA: A lot of viewers have also asked: Is the coronavirus worse than the flu?

GOUNDER: So the coronavirus is worse than the seasonal flu. It may be well on par. So far, it looks like it will be on par with the 1918 Spanish flu. We're going to see millions of people die around -- the Spanish flu where we're going to see millions of people die around the world.

Looking at the numbers of people infected, the vast majority of people will probably be infected. So even if you have case fatality rates of less than 1 percent, that is still many, many people who are going to die from this.

CABRERA: That is a scary thought.

The vice president today saying they believe that they believe this coronavirus is at least three times more contagious than what we know as the common flu.

Here is another question. If I have a doctor's appointment or dental visit should I reschedule?

GOUNDER: The answer to that is 100 percent yes, please reschedule. Any nonessential medical visits should be rescheduled.

Dental procedures really are not essential health care at this stage and those are very high risk because they generate aerosols, so high risk for you as well as the people working in the dental office. CABRERA: Another viewer questioned some of the big grocery chains have

special shopping hours for people 60 and older. Is that safe for my parents and grandparents?

GOUNDER: I think it is very helpful in that many of the people who may be propagating the disease are actually younger people who have fewer symptoms. And so, to protect older people against that, I think is a very reasonable measure to be taking.

That said, it is not risk free because other older people you may be shopping around could be incubating the virus themselves.

CABRERA: The store is out of hand sanitizer. What should I do? Should I try to make my own?

GOUNDER: You can. You can use rubbing alcohol, 99 percent rubbing alcohol, along with -- so two-thirds that and one-third aloe vera gel.

That said, if you truly are self-isolating at home, practicing the social distancing measures we're talking about, you should be able to use just plain old soap and water at home.

So it is really just for when you leave the home, when you don't have soap and water in your purse that you need the hand sanitizer. So that really should be for very few outings over the course of the week.

CABRERA: We are in such an unprecedented time and a lot of people are thinking how did we get here? One viewer wrote: How did the coronavirus originate?

GOUNDER: So the coronavirus is similar actually to a number of other emerging infections, whether Ebola or Zika, which emerged from animals.

And this is really a reflection of a number of factors. Some of this is globalization. Some of this is impacts on the environment, deforestation, which brings people in closer contact with those animals. And climate change has also contributed to this as well.

CABRERA: Will the coronavirus go away?

GOUNDER: It's hard to say. SARS did go away eventually. But more likely, this will establish itself as what we call an endemic infection, so an infection that humans do experience at some just regular rate, just like other common coronaviruses that cause the cold and cough over the winter.

[15:50:08]

The difference is that, here, I think we will eventually have a vaccine and so we'll be immunizing against it pretty aggressively once we have one.

CABRERA: Last check that we had from Dr. Tony Fauci, one of the leaders on the Coronavirus Task Force, is it's still looking 12 to 18 months for that and that would be an expedited time frame. Dr. Celine Gounder, as always, thank you.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

CABRERA: In these difficult times, it's important to find things to make us smile, right? I want to bring you comedian, Conan O'Brien, with his very creative tips on taking a selfie in the age of coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": Everyone wants a selfie. Everybody. That's not good. We must keep social distancing, so I follow specific rules. Six feet away, no touching. Check it out.

Sir. Sir, what's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin.

O'BRIEN: Kevin, OK. You may have a selfie with me but you must stay six feet away and no touching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm good.

O'BRIEN: No, no, you can have a selfie. You can have a selfie with me but we have to keep our distance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm good.

O'BRIEN: Do you know who I am?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:56:08]

CABRERA: Welcome back. As the world navigates this pandemic, "CNN Heroes" is taking a moment to salute the people and communities working together to help us all get through this crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): At a time of social distancing, empathy and compassion are alive and well.

(SINGING)

(MUSIC)

COOPER: Around the world, people are coming up with creative ways to stay connected.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: To share resources and to stay healthy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To see Anderson Cooper's full look at people helping one another, go to CNNheroes.com right now.

And CNN's Martin Savage brings us even more stories of hope and inspiration amid the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's so much good going on, it's hard to keep up.

(SINGING)

SAVIDGE: Like Syracuse, New York, where the Bern family, determined to celebrate their grandmother's 95th birthday, practiced social distancing with hats, balloons, and song. Proving you can still safely party in a pandemic.

(MUSIC)

SAVIDGE: In Birmingham, Alabama, this Tuey (ph) family wasn't about to let restrictions keeping them out of their parents' retirement community ruin St. Patrick's Day. The music still flowed. That's the daughter on violin and dad on the balcony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's still got it.

SAVIDGE: Speaking of holidays, you may have noticed Christmas coming back. This is Lauren Gabriel Burron's (ph) house in Brandon Falls, Tennessee.

LAUREN GABRIEL BURRON (ph), BRINGING HOPE & JOY DURING CONFINEMENT: We are lit up to bring some hope and some joy and put a little light into the world.

SAVIDGE: In Illinois, it's the phones that are lighting up at the country House Kitchen Restaurant as they begin offering free meals to the elderly now home bound by the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So 75,000 responses, kind of caught us not off guard but didn't think it was going to go like that on the first day.

SAVIDGE: Waitresses deliver meals right to the door.

UNIDENTIFIED WAITRESS: Hi, guys.

SAVIDGE: And with concerts cancelled, music stars are up to a lot of good.

Country singer, Brad Paisley, says his free grocery store is delivering to seniors during coronavirus.

BRAD PAISLEY, COUNTRY SINGER: We're mobilizing a group of volunteers to deliver groceries, one week's groceries to elderly people that should not be out shopping on their own in these times.

(SINGING)

SAVIDGE: Like so many musicians, for Willie Nelson, the show must go on. He's offering a free streaming star-studded concert from his hometown in Lubbock, Texas. There's a digital tip jar to help musicians now without gigs.

MO WILLEMS, KENNEDY CENTER ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE: And she is sending a little bit back because of social distancing.

SAVIDGE: Speaking of artists, Kennedy Center artist-in-residence, Mo Willems, is a parent savior. Each day, at 1:00, offering homebound kids doodle lessons.

The coronavirus is making a lot of you creative, like this Israeli man who figured out how to walk his dog without going outside, using a drone. It looks crazy, but there's a message to his madness, telling people to stay safe but don't forget their dogs.

And now that all the tourists are out of Venice, Italy, gondoliers are reporting an unexpected side effect. The waters are looking crystal clear. Many Venetians seeing something they've never seen before on the canals, fish.

Finally, elsewhere in Italy, is this magical moment.

(SINGING)

[15:59:45]

SAVIDGE: This quarantined couple can't resist a dance to the song "Cheek to Cheek" as a neighbor projects Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire on the side of their apartment.

(SINGING)