Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

The Coronavirus Pandemic; Unemployment Claims; Emergency Relief Package; Lessons From WWII That Can Help Confront Growing Outbreak; Presidential Historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Discusses Comparisons Between Challenges Fighting Coronavirus And World War II; UCLA's Dr. Anne Rimoin Answers Viewers' Questions On Coronavirus; FDA Authorizes Rapid Coronavirus Tests With Results In 45 Minutes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much for being here. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Hour to hour, the numbers you see, there on the right side of your screen, keep going up. The number of people, in the United States and around the world, sick with the Coronavirus and dying from it. Globally, right now, the number of confirmed cases has just topped 300,000. Here in the U.S., more than 24,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths.

Another number, 80 million-plus. That is how many Americans, right now, are being told to stay in their homes, unless there is a dire need or an emergency. Eighty million people. Governors across the country making the difficult decision to tell people to shut themselves in. To put a physical door between them and possible Coronavirus infection.

The impact of this stay-at-home order on local businesses, travel, food service, and retail is, right now, impossible to calculate. The people who are following their state's guidance are simply not leaving their homes, except for, you know, the bare essentials. For food. For medicine.

A woman who lost her job in New York City told CNN she's lost as to what she's going to do now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN SHOEMAKER (ph), RESIDENT IN NEW YORK CITY: I can't pay my rent. I need the government to step in and help me pay my rent. The government needs to literally stop rent payment on people in industries that aren't having income coming in. It's not fair for the government to bail out the airline industries and things like that when a service industry, who is the backbone of the nation, can't literally survive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is in New York City for us. Evan, that young woman we just heard from is in New York. But people in Los Angeles, Chicago, Connecticut and now New Jersey, people in all of these places are going through something very similar. A lot of uncertainty, especially with these stay-at-home orders. These, you know, all businesses-closed orders, except for essential services. Today, the governor of New York had some pretty grim predictions of just how many people might eventually be infected. Fill us in.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, New York City really has emerged as the epicenter of the Coronavirus crisis here in the United States. And, currently, we're standing at about 10,356 infected people, according to the mayor's press conference this morning at 11:30 a.m. A number that the governor said -- excuse me, the governor, not the mayor. A number the governor said is expected to rise.

(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)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: What that number does is put a real crunch on this city's healthcare system. We're already seeing a huge crunch, in terms of gowns and masks and ventilators and medical equipment. But also, hospital space itself.

And that's why I'm standing in front of the Javits Center, because this massive conference center is now poised to become a field hospital. With possibly hundreds or more beds for people to come in that are infected by the Coronavirus to help to alleviate some of that space problem we're having in New York hospitals -- Ana.

CABRERA: Evan McMorris-Santoro, everyone has to get creative here. Thank you. Joining us now is Dr. Anne Rimoin, the Director at the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health. She is also a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA.

Thank you so much, Dr. Rimoin, for being here with us. Let's start with this new test authorized by the FDA. We learned, today, it promises results in as little as 45 minutes. How big of a deal is this?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, DIRECTOR, UCLA CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND IMMIGRANT HEALTH: This is an enormous achievement. We need more tests. And tests that are rapid will make a very big difference. It means that we're going to be able to triage patients much more quickly. We're going to be able to know who is infected. Who needs to be isolated. Who needs to have special procedure-- or special care taken, not to -- not to infect others, including healthcare workers. This test is very, very important, from the perspective of hospitals,

but also from the epidemiologic perspective. As with the shortage of tests that are available on the market and in the -- in the hands of the health system right now. We have no idea where we stand, in terms of actual number of cases.

CABRERA: How likely is it, though, that it will really be available starting next week?

RIMOIN: You know, it's unknown, at this point, to where things stand, from what I understand.

[17:05:00]

RIMOIN: But, you know, the point is that there are tests that are going to be available. They're moving very, very quickly through the pipeline. And I am certain that they will be available, as soon as they possibly can get production up and running and out the door.

CABRERA: And the number of cases, Doctor, are surging every day. Hospitals are warning about being overwhelmed. When will we know if these social-distancing measures are working? When will the numbers start to level off?

RIMOIN: Tony Fauci made very good points about this, just in one of the recent press releases. Which is where we are today with testing does not indicate where we are, in terms of the number of people who are truly infected. We are looking -- with the data that we have today does not take into account the people who are asymptomatic.

It doesn't take into account the people that were exposed today and that may be showing symptoms five days from now or two weeks from now. There's a very, very large difference between what we know today, based on the testing, based on the availability of information, and where we actually are in the middle of this outbreak.

CABRERA: Doctor, please stay with me as I bring into the conversation former presidential advisor to four presidents, David Gergen. And, David, the White House touted the fact that companies are really stepping up efforts to get the much-needed medical supplies to doctors and other medical worker -- other medical works. What more could the administration be doing to ensure that production is stepped up and there will be enough supplies?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, clearly, the president could be working more closely on immobilizing companies around the country and if, indeed, around the world. He has this authority now from the Defense Production Act. He could move in and actually be telling companies what to do. We've been hearing, after all, for week after week, that test kits will be there tomorrow. They'll be here by the end of the week and so forth.

You know, on the front lines, as the Dr. Rimoin knows even better -- much better than I do, things are really tough. There's a backlog in hospital after hospital here in Boston and all our major hospitals. You know, we don't have enough masks. We don't have enough ventilators. And we don't know about the tests.

And one of the things I'd be curious about, Doctor, is this. Listen, we've been told for a long, long time, we need more tests. We need more tests. We need more tests. Now along, apparently, are going to come, these testing kits. But the word is going out now from various authorities, don't go to get tested. You don't need to. Stay home.

So, I don't know, Dr. Rimoin, which is it now? What -- there's confusion about this and many other questions like it.

RIMOIN: These are very, very good questions. What the -- and I think that the issue is, it's not just the tests being available. You need to have the swabs. You need to have the reagents. You need all of the chemicals and the other pieces that are needed to actually make the test happen. Plus, you need the points of care ready to be able to accept the volume of people and to test people in a safe environment.

So, you know, I -- it's a -- it's a multi-pronged or a multi-stage situation that is not just you hand somebody a test and say, go for it. You're done. Now, you're ready to test everybody.

So, I think getting the tests in the pipeline is important. We saw this with Ebola, where there were many, many tests that came on the market. But they took time to get out into the -- into the hands of the right people. And for the health systems to be able to understand how to use them and to be able to deploy them in a way that made sense.

CABRERA: And, Doctor --

RIMOIN: It's no different where we are now.

CABRERA: -- we're hearing about more doctors getting sick, due to the virus. Why is it particularly dangerous for medical workers right now? Is it even safe for people to go to the hospital if someone is sick but the symptoms are maybe manageable? Are they better off staying home?

RIMOIN: So, these are two separate questions. The first question that you asked was about healthcare workers. And why are healthcare workers getting more sick than other people? Well, we're not necessarily getting more sick than other groups. But they are getting sick and they are at risk. And it's because there is not enough personal protective equipment. What we keep talking about, this PPE. And that is the issue here.

And without PPE in place for healthcare workers and for a health system on the verge of complete overload, we're literally putting these people out there. What do we say, they're going into a fight with butter knife as opposed to a gun. It's just a -- it's, really, a huge problem.

Without PPE, our healthcare workers are at great risk. They're at the closest point of contact with very sick people. And while we still don't really understand how this virus affects people and when people are most contagious, it makes biological sense with other viruses and when people are highly symptomatic, which is the moment that they're going to the hospital or when they're being treated by doctors, they're most infectious. So, doctors are likely getting a higher viral load.

Now, that is not scientifically proven yet.

[17:10:01]

But it makes biological sense to me why you would see people getting -- healthcare workers getting sicker than others. Lack of protective equipment and greater exposure to people who are very, very ill.

GERGEN: But these are all the more -- yes. These are all the more reason why it's important to mobilize nationally. You know, we've been hearing about the ventilators, the tests so far for so long, and yet it's so slow to get the results. And we -- if this is a war, we ought to be acting like it's a war and mobilize.

But what I still don't understand, Dr. Rimoin, if you may one more time. If you woke up tomorrow with all the symptoms, would you go in for a test or would you not go for a test?

RIMOIN: So, the recommendations right now are, unless you are feeling extremely ill, having respiratory distress or having severe symptoms, you should stay home. If you have a cold, if you have any of the standard symptoms of -- without any kind of respiratory distress, it's -- you should be staying home. You should also call your doctor to determine what's best for you.

But the general advice is stay home. They will not be just testing every single person that has a cold. And I think that that's been one of the big issues is that when the test first came online, you had a lot of worried well going out and getting tests. Which, really, are not going to be useful, in terms of triaging patients, who needs to stay in a hospital and who doesn't? Right now, with the shortage of tests as we have it.

So, I could not agree with you more. We need to be mobilizing every resource possible to protect our precious resource of healthcare workers. We need masks. We need ventilators. We need all of these things. They need to be produced immediately. There shouldn't be any waiting on this. We are, as you said, in a war against a virus. And you have to act as such.

You know, when we dealt with this with Ebola, Ebola is so much more visually terrifying to people. I think people knew how to fight this. With this, it's a -- it's a respiratory infection. It's harder for people to wrap their brains around. I think it took a much longer time than we anticipated to get to this point, where we're now going to start seeing some of this major production. It's surprising, to me, as well.

But now, it's -- time is no longer -- it's no longer the time to worry about what we haven't done but what we're going to do now.

CABRERA: OK. Dr. Rimoin, David Gergen, thank you, both. And, Doctor, --

GERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- you'll be back to answer more of our viewer questions later this hour.

Now, as cities and states order nonessential workers to stay home, the U.S. economy has been completely upended. And estimates indicate that millions of Americans now find themselves without a job. I'll speak to the former Labor secretary, Robert Reich, next.

[17:12:51]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: America is shutting down. With more than 80 million Americans now told to stay at home. Five states, California, New York, Illinois, and Connecticut, and now New Jersey, are or will soon be under stay- at-home orders.

With Americans being encouraged to avoid going out to prevent spreading the Coronavirus, how can employers possibly keep the paychecks coming or even stay in business?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON MITCHELL: And we had the best start of the year in January and February. We're up seven percent same store sales. And I laid out my plans for 2020 and 2021. And 17 days later, our company has been eviscerated. We're down to six people, effectively put the company to sleep.

SHOEMAKER: I can't pay my rent. I need to government to step in and help me pay my rent. The government needs to literally stop rent payment on people in industries that aren't having income coming in. It's not fair for the government to bail out the airline industries and things like that, when a service industry, who is the backbone of the nation, can't literally survive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The questions are simple and terrifying. Am I going to lose my job? Will I have money to pay my bills? Is my business going to survive? For answers, we turn to former U.S. Labor secretary, Robert Reich. He served under President Clinton. And was named by "Time" as one of the 10 best cabinet members of the 20th Century.

Mr. Secretary, is there any way to avoid mass layoffs in America?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Ana, there is absolutely no way to avoid mass layoffs, in the sense that people have got to be home and they cannot be working. Most people cannot work from home. And so, technically, there are going to be mass layoffs.

The real issue is getting money to people, so that they can buy the food and necessities they need during the next two or three months, which is the anticipated length. It could be longer but at least for the next two or three months. The question, again, is how does the federal government best get money to people?

It's not a matter of keeping unemployment down. We're going to have very high unemployment. The question is, money to people to tide them over, during the next at least two to three months. That's critical.

CABRERA: The Treasury secretary has warned we could see a 20 percent unemployment rate. America has not seen that since the Great Depression, when it peaked at 24.9 percent. That was in 1933. So, for perspective, you know, the current unemployment rate stands at three and a half percent. What does society even look like at a 20 percent unemployment rate?

REICH: Well, in the 1930s, it looked pretty awful. It was long bread lines and soup kitchens and a lot of people unable to keep a roof over their heads. We don't need to go back to the 1930s. We do have such social safety nets. They are tattered. But such safety nets as unemployment insurance and food stamps and Medicaid. And we do have an Affordable Care Act.

Now, what Congress and the president need to do, as fast as possible, is to strengthen all of these safety nets to make sure that everybody can, if they need to, get help.

[17:20:08]

REICH: And they can get cash. The problem with a lot of the safety nets is that they are tangled. They are bureaucratic. I think what Congress needs to do is send direct checks to people and then expand the safety nets, so everybody has access to what they need.

CABRERA: Our understanding is direct checks are part of the stimulus package that the Senate is currently negotiating. We're into -- we're hearing that this package could top $2 trillion. You have made clear, and I'm quoting from one of your tweets, "no industry, not airlines, not hotels, not cruise ships, should be bailed out. They can stay in business by borrowing at rock bottom rates using their assets as collateral. Taxpayer money should be used to bail out people, not corporations."

So, let me run our viewers through some of the provisions being negotiated right now up on Capitol Hill. Direct payments up to $1,200 for Americans for those making under $75,000. And for couples who make less than $150,000. Up to $50 billion in loans for the airline industry. Up to $150 billion for other distressed industries. Defer employer-side payroll taxes. Nearly $300 billion for loans to companies with less than 500 employees.

So, Mr. Secretary, is this the way to go?

REICH: No. There's too much money for big businesses and not enough money for individuals. The big businesses, big corporations, they do not need to be bailed out. In fact, they can get very, very low interest loans. They've got collateral. If you look at the airline industry, they have the most solid

collateral in existence. It's called airplanes. Those airplanes are not tremendously valuable if they're not flying. But they will be flying again. And at rock bottom interest rates right now, those industries can continue.

The real problem is people. Individuals. Now, that $1,200 per individual, a little bit over $1,200 per family, that is not going to be enough. The typical American worker goes through about a thousand dollars a week, at least. And that's not even the high-cost areas, where you have high rents and high mortgages on the coastal areas.

No. People are going to need much more than $1,200 to survive through the next two or three months.

CABRERA: Obviously, the headlines are terrifying. Phrases like the Great Depression, economic calamity, the jobs apocalypse. Goldman- Sachs warned Friday that reports suggest a sudden surge in layoffs and a collapse in spending both historic in size and speed. The economic collapse predicted by Goldman would be significantly worse than the sharpest contraction during the Great Recession.

So, as a last question, everyone, at this point, gets the enormous challenges ahead. But if you were Labor secretary today and asked, what is the best-case scenario for those Americans desperate to keep their jobs and just, really, to sustain their families? Level with us.

REICH: Well, it seems to me, we've got to understand that this is very different from the Great Recession or even the Great Depression, Ana. This is not a falloff in demand. This is not precipitated by a Stock Market crash or anything like that. This is a pandemic. It is important that people stay home. This is a necessity in order to stop the spread, or at least mitigate or reduce the spread of the -- of the virus.

So, in terms of the national interest. We have a national interest in people being home. And to fulfill that national interest, we've got to make sure that people who are home have enough income to pay their bills and, particularly, the essentials.

This is -- again, it's very, very different from what we saw in the 1930s or what we even saw starting in 2008, in terms of the Great Recession. This is a national emergency brought on by a pandemic. The government has got to step up to the plate. We don't need to bail out the big businesses. They're fine.

CABRERA: Sure.

REICH: We need to make sure individuals and families are safe.

CABRERA: Let me just ask you really quickly, if you will. How long do you foresee it will take to dig out of the economic hole?

REICH: Well, assuming -- now, I'm just going on the basis of what I have read and heard and the best estimates that I have seen. Assuming that we have another three months to go of this, then I expect that once the economy and once the society is safe again, we could dig out very, very quickly. There's no reason to suppose that our economy would not roar back as it -- because, again, this is not a falloff in demand.

[17:25:03]

This is a major, major pandemic (INAUDIBLE) shock. So, I think -- I would give it maybe six months, and I think the economy could be back to -- back to normal.

But that's not the issue, Ana. The issue is not the economy.

CABRERA: Sure.

REICH: It's the health of our people.

CABRERA: Yes, agreed. Well, thank you for providing just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for us. Secretary Robert Reich, thank you very much for being here.

REICH: Well, thank you. Be safe.

CABRERA: You too. Be well.

Wartime president. On the front lines. Going into battle. The rhetoric being used to describe this fight against the Coronavirus pandemic is reminiscent of World War II. What lessons can we learn from previous times of crisis? That's next.

[17:25:49]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:05]

CABRERA: Confronting this coronavirus pandemic is the shortage of equipment, testing kits, ventilators, masks.

This isn't the first time America has faced these kinds of shortages. Decades ago, the U.S. was able to provide similar supplies for hundreds of thousands during the height of World War II. So, why can't we do it again?

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a look back at what we can learn from history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For iron will, patriotism, and unified effort, the Second World War stands alone.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To this day, nobody's seen anything like what they were able to do during World War II and now it's our time.

FOREMAN: The 1940s, under the War Powers Act, the president could effectively order industry to produce military supplies and prioritize delivery of military goods.

ANNOUNCER: All work is war work.

FOREMAN: He could impose censorship, manipulate the economy, even suspend common rights such as when Japanese-Americans were locked up.

And importantly, Roosevelt commanded a vast expansion of the nation's medical capabilities.

Historian Douglas Brinkley.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It was during World War II that FDR unleashed our scientists and medical experts to produce penicillin for the first time, different types of medicines to fight malaria, new ways of doing skin grafts to help people that were burned. We've been living off of it ever since.

FOREMAN: The public widely supported the war effort. With roughly one out of 10 Americans serving, the demand for labor brought out women in droves to take up tools on factory floors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you like it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it.

FOREMAN: Challenges were met time and again. Strictly enforced lights- out air-raid drills were conducted, rubber, gasoline, sugar and more were rationed. Many families planted vegetable gardens to deal with shortages and bought war bonds to prop up the soaring cost to the government.

(MUSIC)

FOREMAN: Even Hollywood had a mission, and movie after movie raising spirits and tying the home front to the battle front.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Where you from, Joe?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Louisiana.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Louisiana, good.

FOREMAN: It was not perfect, but it all worked well enough that, more than a half century later, another president and other Americans are echoing the message of those difficult times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody should learn from World War II, we can get through it, we can win.

FOREMAN: To be sure, President Trump is not President Roosevelt, and many of his critics are hesitant to see him get any more power. But medical experts seem to largely agree, no matter who is leading the charge, the nation will have to pull together or, one by one more, of us will fall.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Joining us now with more on comparing the challenges of this pandemic to the challenges America faced perhaps during World War II, renowned presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her most recent book is "Leadership in Turbulent Times."

And President Trump's leadership is certainly being tested right now. He's termed himself a wartime president. He's not wrong about that. The rhetoric being used is wartime terminology on the front lines, going into battle, epicenter.

Doris, what does this terminology signal for the American people? And is there a historical comparison for what's going on today?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN & AUTHOR: Well, you know, I think it was so interesting the piece we just listened to because, when you think about what America was able to mobilize, even before Pearl Harbor but then finally after Pearl Harbor, America stood 18th in military power. We had only 400 fighter planes.

Germany had conquered all of Western Europe, except for England. And what FDR did was to mobilize all the resources of the country to get ourselves -- to get tanks, planes, weapons. Liberty ships came out one a day.

And eventually, when the war came, he compelled the industries -- first, he just incentivized them but to do what been cars into planes.

But it's important for history to know what can be done when you've got a leader who can communicate and who can direct a national effort because that effort, to build a force that could defeat Nazism, that was as important of a challenge as we've ever faced, maybe the Western civilization.

CABRERA: We have seen a push right now, especially in New York, to have private companies make medical equipment. That also happened in World War II. How is this different?

GOODWIN: In a certain sense, I think it can work. But that's what was great during World War II, there was a business/government partnership unequalled in any time in our history. But the government did provide the money for them to retrofit. It gave all sorts of accelerated depreciation and things like that.

But then, finally, they had to say, no more cars can be produced. You have to do this.

So, it's good that we have these companies already starting to do what we need for masks and ventilators. But if it's not enough, they're going to have to direct it.

And that's presumably what this act that he's been talking about allows him to do. So I think we may have to do that sooner rather than later.

[17:34:58]

CABRERA: The Defense Production Act, which he says he's ready to put into action but hasn't done so just yet, is what we're referencing there.

In World War II, obviously, America became a leader in terms of the rest of the world. What's your assessment of America's place on the global stage here?

GOODWIN: Yes, you know, one of the things you think about is that we were able, through American effort, not only through our soldiers, but through Lend-Lease, we contributed 300,000 plans and 100,000 tanks and trucks to our allies all over the world. We were the leader of that allied effort against the Nazis.

And now it seems like we've fallen behind where we could have been. And I'm not sure we're helping anybody else during this. We're going to have to help ourselves.

So is that whole role of America as a leader in the world, it feels sadly that this is a time when, if we had gotten to this earlier, maybe we could have been a leader because we have the medical technology, we have so much stuff here, and the ingenuity and the ability to think through these problems.

But right now, we're just going to probably have to focus on ourselves.

CABRERA: If you were in President Trump's ear right now, what would you say to him?

GOODWIN: I would say that the most important thing he's got to figure out is how you balance that line between giving people hope about the future and being absolutely straight about what's happening right now.

And I'm not sure that I would do White House briefings every day. I mean, I think one of the things that FDR did was he only spoke when he needed to speak, every couple of months in a fireside chat. He said if his speeches ever became routine, they would lose their effectiveness.

So maybe he should have his team out there doing it every day because they have the facts and then things won't have to be corrected because trust in the president's word and credibility could be critical. And he could save his talking when he's prepared, when he has something that he wants to say.

But doing it every day undoes it in a certain way.

CABRERA: I also want to ask you, as someone who's spent her life documenting history, are you taking notes right now? What kinds of things are you writing down for future generations to consider?

GOODWIN: Oh, it's a really interesting question. I wish I kept a diary because I love diaries when I look back in the past. But I don't do that. I do take notes during the day so they'll be there in the future for

some future historian. But diaries and letters are the main source that I have when I look back on the past.

And I worry that people today are neither keeping diaries nor letters but maybe they'll be writing to each other, e-mailing to each other more because of the social isolation. That's a way to connect.

So when somebody comes along much younger than me, many years from now, they'll have something to look back on.

Because this will be a historic event no matter how long it lasts or what happens. And it may change our country in fundamental ways. As Robert Reich said, maybe, hopefully, it will come back and then we've learned from this.

That's what history teaches us. You've got to learn from history.

CABRERA: Yes. Yes. We need to learn from the past so we don't repeat those mistakes.

Doris Kearns Goodwin, thank you. Thank you for being here.

KEARNS GOODWIN: You are very welcome. Thank you.

CABRERA: A number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, and it's topped 24,000 here in the U.S. right now. We know you have a lot of questions about how you can protect yourselves and your loved ones. We have our epidemiologist, Dr. Anne Rimoin, back with us to answer your questions when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:25]

CABRERA: Now to a heartbreaking story out of Connecticut. A man who died of coronavirus received last rites over the phone from a reverend as his family, in quarantine, listened in. This is becoming the reality for families and communities around the world as we continue to adapt to this coronavirus pandemic.

Bill Pike was 91 years old. His family says he got sick about three weeks ago and, when he was admitted to the hospital, he was sitting up in bed, watching TV. And a week later, he was sedated, on a ventilator, showing just how fast and how serious this virus is.

His wife, Cathie Pike, tells CNN her husband led a life of intellectual fascination of the world, adding that he was "simply amazing."

We understand this is a very difficult and confusing time. That's why CNN is committed to answering your questions about living through the coronavirus pandemic.

And back with me to help answer some of your questions is Dr. Anne Rimoin, the director of UCLA's Center for Global and Immigrant Health and a professor at UCLA's Department of Epidemiology.

Doctor, people are stuck at home wondering what they can do to stay busy and to stay safe. One viewer wants to know: Is it OK to use communal spaces in my apartment complex?

RIMOIN: This is a really good question. And it really depends on what's needed to be able to live life.

I would try to make sure, if you are going into a communal area and it's necessary for use, that you stay away from other people. You know, we have been talking about six feet apart from everybody. And if you can make sure to do that, that's really important.

Also, I would make sure that common surfaces are touched as little as possible, and that you wash your hands after touching any kind of common surface.

Also, the advice here is act like you have coronavirus yourself. And so, that means, if you do not feel well, if you have the slightest cold at all, stay in your own space.

Really, what we can -- the best thing we can do is we all act like we have coronavirus. If we keep ourselves as separate as possible from others, we'll avoid spreading it.

CABRERA: Spring is here, the seasons are changing. One viewer wants to know: How can I tell the difference between my normal allergy symptoms and coronavirus symptoms, especially if I'm coughing or congested?

RIMOIN: Again, we all have to act like we have coronavirus. If you don't feel well, and if you don't -- in particular, not feeling well in the sense that -- in a way that is different from what you're normally feeling, your allergies or something standard, act like you have COVID and keep yourself away from others.

[17:45:14]

But if you do have questions about what it is that you have, call your doctor or whoever your healthcare provider is, for advice.

I think every person is -- has a little bit of a different immune system and has their own specific health situation. So if you have questions, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor.

But the other thing to remember is that most people are -- have very mild symptoms here. The reason that we are being so careful is because, when people get hit hard with this, it tends to be people who are vulnerable, who are older.

And everybody is at risk, but most people will have mild infection.

CABRERA: And, Doctor, obviously, we want to support our local economy and, even though most businesses are closed, restaurants are still open, offering curbside pick-up or delivery.

One viewer asks: Is it safe to eat food prepared by restaurant workers?

RIMOIN: Ideally, it's best to prepare your own food. However, that being said, it's not realistic for most people, in particular, people who are living in big cities, to be able to prepare for themselves.

In which case, order from restaurants. Pick up, bring home, and then wipe down all of the packaging that you have. Microwave or heat up what you can. That will also be of help.

And do what we always say to do. Wash your hands carefully. Make sure that you're taking all the best precautions that you would normally take. Also wash all of your utensils, everything else that you use.

I think it's -- this is one of these questions that it's really hard for everybody, because it's hard to change an entire culture of eating out to staying home but do the best you can to wipe it down.

CABRERA: Sounds good.

Dr. Anne Rimoin, we appreciate your advice. Thank you.

RIMOIN: My pleasure.

CABRERA: Be right back.

[17:51:33]

CABRERA: Welcome back. Today, the FDA gave the go ahead for a new rapid coronavirus test that it says can give results in just 45 minutes.

CNN's Drew Griffin takes a look at the long journey to get adequate testing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How did the United States end up in this position with a desperate shortage of coronavirus tests, a shortage of supplies to supplies to administer the tests, even a shortage of equipment for medical workers?

The U.S. government knew the virus was coming back in the beginning of January.

On January 8th, when the CDC published an emergency health advisory on a reported cluster of pneumonia of unknown origin in Wuhan, China.

Medical experts tell CNN the Trump administration failed to act at this critical time.

JEREMY KONYNDYK, SENIOR POLICY FELLOW, CENTER FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: What we see is the lack of preparation over the last two months has now put us in a terrible position.

GRIFFIN: In late January, the first U.S. case of coronavirus was identified in Washington State. But while Chinese officials began locking down the city of Wuhan, President Trump was in Davos, Switzerland, telling the world that China's problem would not be the world's pandemic.

TRUMP: We have it totally under control.

GRIFFIN: Trump barred most non-U.S. citizens from flights coming in from China but, behind the scenes, mistakes were already being made.

As the numbers climbed to 35,000 cases worldwide, the CDC was creating its own coronavirus tests, a slower process that included sending the tests to public health labs to make sure the tests would work. Those public labs found out the test was flawed.

SCOTT BECKER, CEO, ASSOCIATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH LABORATORIES: So they immediately reported that and CDC began an investigation very quickly. But more and more labs, as they were verifying this through the coming days, also found the same problem.

GRIFFIN: But three crucial weeks, testing was at a near standstill while the CDC tried to fix the problem. And the U.S. health system was blind as the virus was spreading across America and health officials had no way to test for it.

KONYNDYK: That kept us from having visibility on domestic transmission for weeks and weeks.

GRIFFIN: When the CDC's new test was finally fixed and ready, there weren't enough to fill demand.

This letter shows public health laboratories begging the FDA to relax restrictions and allow them to create their own tests. It happened within days. But in a race to contain it, the virus was well ahead.

By March 6th, there are 100,000 cases worldwide and more confusion from the administration.

TRUMP: Anybody that wants a test can get a test.

GRIFFIN: When the president said these words, across the country, shortages were everywhere. Today, the shortages of tests including just about everything needed to administer the test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are shortages on many pieces of it.

GRIFFIN: Public health officials say it just didn't need to be this bad.

Two years earlier, the White House made another potentially dangerous mistake, laying aside the Pandemic Response Unit within the National Security Council. Though, the White House says the same roles exist, just under different titles. The team President Obama bolstered to combat global pandemics after an Ebola outbreak was gone.

Critics say that Trump administration decision hampered efforts with coronavirus. KONYNDYK: I think it made us slower and more prone to mistake.

GRIFFIN: Jeremy Konyndyk, who used to run foreign disaster assistance for USA, says all the shortages, from testing to swabs and masks, can, in part, be traced back to that one decision.

[17:55:05]

Beth Cameron, who, under Barack Obama, ran the Pandemic Response Unit, says there is no doubt.

BETH CAMERON, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL PANDEMIC RESPONSE UNIT: But would we have gotten more ahead of this had the office still been intact? I think absolutely.

GRIFFIN: The president, who alternately said he didn't know anything about disbanding the pandemic team and also defended it, now denies his coronavirus response has been anything but perfect.

TRUMP: We were very prepared. The only thing we weren't prepared for was the media.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp, continues our coverage after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)