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Coronavirus Pandemic; Italy Calls In Military to Enforce Lockdown; U.K. Orders Pubs and Restaurants Closed; France Counts 450 Deaths amid 12.6K Cases. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, Italy calls in the military to enforce a nationwide lockdown after the country sees the largest single-day toll anywhere in the world.

75 million Americans now ordered to stay home and hospital workers say that they do not have the basic supplies they need.

Amid the fear, the hardship, stories too of creativity, yes, that is a drone, walking a dog. A slice of life as we now know it.


HOLMES: Welcome, everyone, thank you for your company.

Across the globe, the messages becoming louder and more urgent: stay home.

Johns Hopkins University is reporting well over a quarter million cases of coronavirus infection worldwide, more than 11,000 deaths now. Italy already surpassing China in reported fatalities and has seen a sharp spike in deaths in the last 24 hours.

It is calling on the military to reinforce tighter instructions on movements and also set up field hospitals.

The U.K., which has already now suspended schools and definitely, is calling for pubs, restaurants and movie theaters, to close as well.

Cases in the U.S. have exploded to nearly 19,000 confirmed infections. The state of New York, Connecticut, Illinois and California ordering residents not to leave their homes. That is some 75 million Americans.

But Italy is still the epicenter of the pandemic and has more deaths than any other country in the world. Now the military will begin enforcing stricter quarantine measures. Delia Gallagher joins us now from Rome.

First of all, give us a sense of why so many definitely?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: That is a hard question to answer right now, seeing as we don't have definitive statistics. We do have an early report from the ministry of health, which points to the large elderly population in Italy as a factor in those deaths. The average age of those who have died is 80 years old and that they had 1, 2 or 3 previous pathologies, which you can imagine in an elderly population, would make sense.

The other thing that is in that report which gives us a small picture of what is happening is the average age of those who are infected, they say, is 63; whereas, in China, it was 46 years of age. We are getting a kind of picture here of who these patients are and that may play a factor, that factor of age, into the high death count.

Of course, as I say, we do not have a definitive answer to that yet. Right now there is really an appeal to doctors and nurses to go to the north and relieve some of the pressure in the hospital system there. There are 53 doctors arriving today from Cuba; they worked with the Ebola virus in Africa, bringing their expertise here to Italy.

Some 300 doctors from around the country are going to be deployed in the next few days, they are waiting for final exams for 10,000 medical students so they can get out in the field right away.

On top of building out the hospitals, Michael, which has been happening, in fact, as yesterday they inaugurated one of the temporary hospitals that an American NGO, Samaritan's Purse, donated to Italy, which now has 60 beds and eight ICU units.

On top of building out those, they are in need of medical personnel and are trying to get them to the north.

HOLMES: When it comes to this sort of enforcing of the lockdown, tell me more about how authorities are planning to do that and whether Italians are cooperating or are likely to?

GALLAGHER: This has been a progressive thing of the lockdown. It started 2 weeks ago, country wide and there was confusion about what it meant.

Can you go to the park, could you go jogging?

And people were doing a bit of everything, even with the best intentions. There are stricter measures now, announced yesterday, all parks are closed, if you want to jog, it has to be around the block. If you walk your dog, it's near your house.

On the question of the military helping out, it is helping out in the north. We do not want to give impressions that there are tanks rolling on the streets, that is not what's happening.


GALLAGHER: The military have already for many years been at outposts in front of embassies, in front of transportation centers. So they are going to be helping out with the checks, as we understand, it in the north. The ministry of interior says that they've already checked 1,400,000 Italians and issued some 62,000 violations.

HOLMES: Delia Gallagher, thank you so much for that from Rome. Appreciate it.

As the United States adjusts to stay at home orders, medical personnel are scrambling to get the supplies they need, while unexpected parts of the private sector work to fill in the gaps. As CNN's Nick Watt reports, the strain and uncertainty are all taking a toll.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): This is the day everything changed.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Californians, New Yorkers, the populations of Illinois and Connecticut will all soon be under orders to stay home. That's more than 70 million Americans.

GOV. JB PRITZKER (D-IL): To avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives, we must enact an immediate stay-at-home order for the State of Illinois.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): These provisions will be enforced.

This is the most drastic action we can take.

WATT: People can go to the store, get out for some solitary exercise, but stop socializing.

CUOMO: "We're going to go visit Mom. I'm going to bring the whole family to see Mom," no, not now.

WATT: Essential workers are exempt, like food service and healthcare providers, who are still struggling nationwide to find the supplies to keep themselves safe and treat the sick.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're starting to see those individuals become sick as well and be taken out of the work force, or in some -- in some cases become seriously ill. So, here's where everything can fall apart very quickly.

WATT: In Los Angeles, they're erecting tents in hospital parking lots to treat Coronavirus patients, distillers now making sanitizer for first responders, nurses making their own masks.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: We absolutely feel like we are in this alone.

WATT: The U.S. is the biggest economy on earth. And the Mayor of our most populous city is saying it will run out of medical supplies in two or three weeks.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): I have made repeated appeals to the federal government to get us basic medical supplies and there is no meaningful response. Where the hell is the federal government in the middle of the biggest crisis we've seen in generations?

WATT: The President says he has now pulled the trigger on the Defense Production Act, giving himself essentially wartime authority over private industry to produce supplies.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things. We have millions of masks, which are coming and which will be distributed to the states.

WATT: Goldman Sachs now estimates that this week, 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment. If that estimate is accurate, it would be eight times last week's figure and an all- time record.

All interest on federal student loans now suspended, tax deadline day pushed three months to July 15th.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This is not a permanent state. This is a moment in time.

WATT: How long will this last?

Well, the mayor of Los Angeles says it's on the books for a month. But he thinks it could extend to two. And Friday afternoon, the mayor of New Orleans said that city is going under a similar stay at home policy. When New Orleans stops partying, we know we've got problems -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: With confirmed cases of coronavirus on the rise in the U.S., we are starting to hear from those on the front lines: nurses and other medical workers and their stories are disturbing. CNN's Sara Sidner with more on that.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nurses and doctors from coast to coast are afraid and concerned.

CONSUELO VARGAS, ILLINOIS NURSE AND UNION MEMBER: I have been a registered nurse for over a decade. My hospital is in complete chaos and confusion in regards to COVID-19.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you feel like they were ready for this when it came to the United States?

CATHERINE KENNEDY, NURSE V.P. NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: No, absolutely not. They're still scrambling. We just don't have what we need.

SIDNER: Are you afraid for yourself and your patients?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's the first time in my entire career that I've ever been afraid and I've heard other physicians say the same. SIDNER (voice-over): They are worried about how the hospitals and

governments are falling short as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. Experts warn, we're not even experiencing the worst of the pandemic yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of hospitals are asking us to keep your mouths quiet.

SIDNER: This physician asked us to not use her face and alter her voice because she says she believes she'll be fired for speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have enough staff, we don't have enough protective equipment and we have too many patients.

SIDNER: She works in Georgia. U.S. health officials are now asking doctors and nurses to do things they haven't had to do before.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asked to use things, you know -- things that are one-time use only to be used for a day and saved for the next day.

SIDNER (on camera): If you are being asked to reuse something over and over going to different patients, aren't you putting patients and yourself at risk?


SIDNER (voice-over): In Roseville, California, Catherine Kennedy has been a registered nurse for 41 years.

KENNEDY: We are the front line. If we go down, who's going to take care of these patients?

SIDNER: They've never talked but both agree the hospitals and governments didn't properly prepare for a pandemic.

(on camera): Some of the hospitals will say, look, we didn't know what this was either. This is new to us. How do you expect us to know what to do, how to prepare? What do you say to that?

KENNEDY: Well, we were here before with Ebola. We had a protocol. And, you know, various hospitals were ready to utilize that same protocol that they did for Ebola. But the hospitals said no, they didn't want to do that and so then, at the last minute, they started scrambling.

SIDNER (voice-over): The Kaiser Permanente, the hospital system Kennedy works for, said the procedure it's using to screen, test and care for healthcare workers and patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are aligned with the latest science and guidance from public health authorities.

These protocols and personal health equipment have been reviewed and approved by their infectious experts and are in use by the major hospital systems. They said they're committed to ensuring health care workers have to right level of protective equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think these guidelines are irresponsible and I think that they're playing with human lives knowingly.

SIDNER (on camera): You don't believe that it's now okay to use different masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I mean, a bandanna is not made for particles of a virus. It's just a decorative item, maybe to keep pollution out a little bit, but it's not meant to protect from potentially lethal disease.

SIDNER: And then there are the fights over testing at some hospitals. Consuelo Vargas is a registered nurse in a Chicago emergency room. She says she and other nurses were exposed to a potential COVID-19 patient at work, but days later, they have not been tested and they have not been told if the patient has tested positive.

VARGAS: So I'm supposed to return to work tomorrow. I don't know if I need to go get swabbed. I don't know if I need to be off until we get the patient's test result back. I'm left wondering what to do.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Seattle, Washington.



HOLMES: Joining me now from Washington D.C., CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He is also the national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

And it is about your article, a real eye-opener, when it comes to what we are seeing now unfold in the U.S.

When Donald Trump says that nobody ever thought of numbers like this, in fact, they had. They had thought about it and documented it. And when he says no one knew what would be needed, they did.


DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely. They have known it for many years. There have been many scenarios done over the years by the Bush administration, the Obama administration, which also had the real-life experience of Ebola and swine flu.

And then, as you read in "The Times" today, last year, President Trump's own department of Health and Human Services ran a 6-month long simulation called Crimson Contagion, which postulated a very severe flu, not a coronavirus but a flu, that acted in similar ways, coming out of China to the United States, hitting a big city, Chicago.

And then began to pick apart what the expected hospitalization numbers were, 7.7 million; what the expected number of dead were, 586,000 in the simulation, and asked the question, are we ready for this? Of course, the answer was no.

The big issue now is, how far up the chain did that move?

Because clearly, President Trump did not believe it when he was denying that this was heading in our direction in January and February.


HOLMES: David Sanger of "The New York Times" speaking with me a little earlier.

Paris residents thank health care professionals fighting COVID-19 with rounds of applause from their balconies. They're facing tough new overnight restrictions there, too. We will have the latest for you in a live report.

Also, still to come, pubs and restaurants closing down across the U.K., with tighter measures now in effect in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. We will be right back.





HOLMES: An eerie sight in London: empty pubs. The British prime minister ordering all pubs, restaurants, night clubs and theaters to close as part of the emergency measures to contain the coronavirus. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh caught up with a few Brits trying to get in their final pints.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Last orders for what feels like forever; 3 hours ago, prime minister Boris Johnson said the pubs must closed, coronavirus managing to shutter institutions that stayed open even during Nazi bombing campaigns. Stragglers now literally drinking this bar dry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kindly enough gave us away little free half pints that I think they cleared from the taps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a bit devastated. I didn't have a chance to get drunk with everyone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- said today, I am telling all the pubs to shut when they can.

WALSH (voice-over): Literally every pub we found closed or closing, in a surreal alternate world, where you can always get a seat. We had to beg for a pint here.

WALSH: I have to say, it is startling to see how quickly people responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson statements that bars, gyms, restaurants, theaters need to close. In a matter of hours, this normally bustling part of central London, dead.

What are you drinking?


WALSH: Half?


WALSH: Could be a long time until you have another half.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, it's very sad. But I didn't think about it at the time when I ordered it. It is quite scary. I went shopping and to see the shelves as empty as they were.

WALSH (voice-over): Our black cab across town is choosing not to come to work tomorrow for the first time in 47 years. There is just no business.

John is 71, so he is considered vulnerable and opens his windows as he drives but really, should be inside for 12 weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Boris has told me to be locked up.

WALSH (voice-over): Uncertainty feeds fear which feeds resentment. Most pubs didn't want us inside because really, they were told to shut 3 hours ago.

WALSH: Where are you still out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because we have to make this an amazing moment. We are entering --

WALSH: What if this is the amazing moment that gives you coronavirus?

Or you give it to someone else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well. That's a good point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the only public invite (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we've gone, OK, he's open. Let's have a laugh, you know, because we're all going to be in confinement for we don't know how long, so let's have a laugh.

WALSH (voice-over): Now knowing when the laughter and the people can come back here is perhaps the hardest unknown to bear -- Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, in an empty Central London.



HOLMES (voice-over): What you are hearing there is the sound of Parisians, applauding health care workers on Friday night.


HOLMES (voice-over): A public thank you to medical professionals battling the new coronavirus. It has now killed at least 450 people across France and led to more than 12,000 confirmed cases. Because of that, new overnight restrictions will go into place on Saturday.


HOLMES: The United Kingdom is looking to alleviate economic stress caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the government offering to pay up to 80 percent of wages for employees not working because of the crisis.


RISHI SUNAK, U.K. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER: For the first time in our history, the government is going to step in and help to pay people's wages. We are setting up a new coronavirus job retention scheme. Any employer in the country, small or large, charitable or nonprofit, it will be eligible for this scheme.


HOLMES: For more CNN's Anna Stewart, joining us now from London.

Good to see, you let's talk more about these measures.

Containment, help for workers, what has been the reaction?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, before the announcement yesterday, people been told not to talk last time but was told last time is that these businesses need to close tonight, they should not reopen tomorrow.

And so while businesses were very disappointed, of course, that they had to close their doors, there's also a huge amount of relief because, on the flip side, there is a lot of announcements made on how they are going to help businesses get through this.

For the last 2 weeks, we have seen over 250,000 people lose their jobs, mostly in hospitality sectors. This is because demand drove off a cliff, despite the fact that businesses were open. People still had to pay staff.

Now the government is going to help. They're going to pay 80 percent of people's salaries and if they cannot work, up to 2,500 pounds a month, that is around $2,900 and there is also other measures on that, on tax rebates, pushing payments back through the year. Plenty to help businesses. Of course, it does generate a lot of fear and anxiety in Brits. We've

been told now that you have to stop going out, full stop.

HOLMES: Tell us about the reaction to this. Watching the story a little earlier, there has been some resistance in London.

Do people seem to get the seriousness of this now?

STEWART: It is really interesting. I've yet to speak to a single person who, A, didn't expect the latest announcement to happen, the containment measures or, B, don't think that is a good idea. I have not met anyone.

However, I was in a pub last night, for the last around, watching the press corps go out and there is a boo from everyone in the pub. I do not think it is towards the government, I don't think they're unhappy about the measures but there is huge disappointment that this is what it is coming to.

The people are going to be stuck at home, like many of us, now for potentially months.

HOLMES: Anna Stewart, reporting from home, appreciate, that thank you so much.

We are going to take a short break here on the program, we will be right back.




HOLMES: Welcome back, it is France's first weekend in lockdown and new restrictions in place, authorities are calling on people to stay inside.


HOLMES: Catherine Trent-Norris joins me now, with the latest from Paris.

First weekend, people are respecting the rules?

CATHERINE NORRIS-TRENT, FRANCE 24 CORRESPONDENT: Central authorities are really urging people to stick to the rules of this confinement, of this lockdown in France and telling them repeatedly to stay at home.

They're introducing new measures to say that they are not allowed to gather and jog on the edges of the River Seine, neither on the Champ de Mars, the park near the Eiffel Tower, because under the lockdown, they've been allowed to get out and get some exercise, go for a stroll. But a lot of people have been doing that in those typically beautiful Parisian places. The French government says, no more, we're going to close off a lot of these public areas and they're also reinforcing checks in train stations and airports.

They are telling people specifically that they are not allowed to go away for weekends or for holidays, saying that they must stay inside. They are also going to be enrolling troops who patrol Paris since the terror attacks, the Paris terror attacks in 2015. We've had troops on the streets since 2015.

They are going to back the police up and tell people to stay off the streets. As of Wednesday, police have handed out more than 4,000 fines and taken four people into custody in one area, because they were not respecting the rules. They really want to try and tighten this up now.

HOLMES: They are getting serious. Apparently, the military setting up a field hospital in Eastern France, hearing that they are shipping in people from Corsica. Tell us about the hot spots of COVID-19 in France.

NORRIS-TRENT: There are certain areas of France where there are hot spots of outbreak in eastern France near Alsace. The French military this weekend is building a field hospital, we've seen pictures of military trucks there, setting up for some of the most seriously ill people in the area.

There is also a ship from the French marina, a helicopter that is taking people from the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, seriously ill patients, and bringing them to the mainland.

We have seen these clusters in certain areas of France, really badly hit, the east of the country, Corsica and Paris. And French authorities are telling Parisians not to leave the capital and go to the countryside, because they are afraid of more hot spots springing up.

HOLMES: Catherine, thank you so much, appreciate that.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. "INSIDE AFRICA" coming up next, a new bulletin (ph) in about 30 minutes.