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Coronavirus Pandemic; Italy Calls In Military to Enforce Lockdown; The Global Search for Treatment; Spain Counts 1K Deaths, 628 in Madrid; U.K. Orders Pubs and Restaurants Closed; Iranian President Pleads with U.S. to Ease Sanctions; Health Care Workers Grapple with Supply Shortage; Olympics in Doubt. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): 75 million: that's how many Americans right now are being told to stay home in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Also, policing the restrictions: we look at whether harsh measures as we saw in China could help the West flatten the curve.

Plus, testing old drugs for new traits for a virus that's already claimed 11,000 lives.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. We are live in Atlanta at CNN Center. I'm Natalie Allen. NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: 4:00 am here in Atlanta. Thank you so much for joining us.

We want to bring you the very latest on the coronavirus as the pandemic surges around the world still. The mantra from public health officials is loud and clear: stay home.

One day after California ordered its residents not to go out, New York, Connecticut and Illinois have followed suit, that affecting some 75 million Americans. For now, the rest of the country does not face such restrictions. But people everywhere are urged to stay home as much as possible.

And the reason, of course, is simple. Testing shows the virus is spreading quickly everywhere. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. is now approaching 19,000. More than 250 people have died. The global pandemic shows no signs of slowing. Johns Hopkins University has logged more than a quarter million cases and well over 11,000 deaths.

In Europe, Italy bearing the brunt of the outbreak. It has the highest number of fatalities in a single day, well over 600 people dying. And this chart tells the grim story as the number of cases soar. Many

hospitals are overwhelmed, supplies are short and health care workers are falling ill. And a disturbing trend, French health officials say more than half the patients in intensive care there are under 60 years old. That country now reporting more than 12,000 cases and at least 450 deaths.

Cities like Paris and Nice are closing public spaces and imposing curfews. It is a global problem. We are covering from a global perspective from the latest restrictions in the U.S. to questions about the Summer Olympics in Japan to a plea from Tehran to the American people. We'll have live reports.

We begin in Europe, where right now there are stricter measures going into effect. Catherine Norris-Trent is standing by for us live in Paris. Delia Gallagher is in Rome for us.

And Delia, we will start with you because, I mean the numbers of dead in Italy, it's too many to count. It just seems to keep getting worse.

What can you tell us?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: The latest figures are 4,032 people that have died from COVID-19. The total case numbers in Italy stand at some 47,000.

Of those who have died, we have one report from the ministry of health that takes a look at the data of those patients and says that the average median age of those on have died 80 years old; 98 percent had one or more underlying issues.

We know that Italy has a very large elderly population. So the suggestion in these early days from authorities is that that has something to do with the high rate of death.

Another interesting statistic out of that report is that the average age of those who contract the disease in Italy is 63 versus 46 years of age in China. That also goes to the hypothesis that this is something that is affecting, at least in Italy, those who are holder.

The big push now this weekend is on getting doctors to the north, to provide relief for those who have been on the front lines; 53 doctors are coming in from Cuba. They have expertise from the Ebola virus in Africa. They're coming to lend a hand.


GALLAGHER: 300 doctors from around the country are being selected this weekend to go and also help out in the north. There are 10,000 medical students for whom they have waived final exams so they can get to straight up and start working to relieve some of the pressure on those hospitals and medical workers in the north.

ALLEN: It is surreal if you're bringing in students who are just graduating. They need you on the front lines or in the rooms. Delia Gallagher for us. Thank you. We want to turn to Catherine Trent-Norris. She's in Paris for us.

What's the situation there?

CATHERINE NORRIS-TRENT, FRANCE 24 CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, this weekend is the first weekend in France under lockdown. And French authorities have signaled they are going to be cracking down on anyone trying to flout the rules and leave their house for anything apart from essential business.

They've signaled they're going to be stepping up checks in train stations and at airports, warning people not to go on holiday, not to be tempted to go away for a weekend. They've ruled some parks and other public places, no access zones.

The areas along the banks of the River Seine are out of bounds as is the Champ de Mars park at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. We had seen quite a few people going for a jog or walk. That is authorized under the terms of France's confinement.

But public authorities in France still consider it to be too much. There are too many people on the streets. They are now seeking to tighten measures up. Troops are going to be brought in to back up French police in carrying out these controls.

They're going to reinforce law enforcement agents. It's a real sense now that French authorities are stepping up their warnings to try and get people, everyone off the streets.

ALLEN: Yes, now's the time. We'll see how it plays out. Catherine Norris-Trent, reporting live from Paris for us.

We told you how the governors of four U.S. states are telling their residents stay home, with very few exceptions. CNN's Erica Hill looks at what it means and what the White House is saying about it.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New promises from the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have millions of masks, which are coming. And which will be distributed to the states. They will be here soon. We're having them shipped directly to states.

HILL: Critical supplies, now, on the way. Though, the president was light on specifics. It's not clear when they'll arrive, nor where the White House is getting them. States, meantime, are moving swiftly to try to contain the various.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It's time for all of us to recognize, as individuals and as a community, we need to do more.

HILL: California telling the state's 40 million residents to stay home. While they can go out for food, medical appointments, even a jog, officials are urging people to limit the excursions and the interaction.

While New York's governor went even further, mandating all nonessential workers stay home starting Sunday night.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We talked to people all across the globe about what they did, what they've done, what worked, what doesn't work. And that has all informed this policy. We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise, no one can be safe.

HILL: The governor is advising public transportation only if absolutely necessary. Any outdoor exercise must be done alone. Visits with loved ones, discouraged.

The strictest rules will apply to the most vulnerable. Those over 70, the immunocompromised, anyone with an underlying illness.

The governor warned the new rules are not optional.

CUOMO: Somebody wants to blame someone or complain about someone, blame me. If everything we do saves just one life, I'll be happy.

HILL: Neighboring Connecticut announcing similar measures Friday. As Illinois orders its residents to stay at home.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Left unchecked, cases in Illinois will rise rapidly.

HILL: In Florida, some counties are now closing beaches as the governor resists calls to do the same statewide.

SHERIFF MICHAEL A. ADKINSON JR., WALTON COUNTY, FLORIDA: You either think it's a liberal conspiracy, or that we're the jack booted thugs trying to take control of everything. So -- and the reality is that this is a science issue.

HILL: Illinois also issuing a stay-at-home order Friday afternoon.

As life comes to a halt, jobless claims skyrocketing. Economists at Goldman Sachs predict the next report will show 2.25 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): There is no question that people are going to be so hard hit.

HILL: Hotels, restaurants, airlines, all announcing layoffs after an unprecedented drop in demand. As nurses and doctors are called out of retirement to help and new restrictions limit movement, the reality of this pandemic is becoming more clear.

In New Jersey, one family has now lost four loved ones to coronavirus in a matter of days.


HILL (voice-over): Several more are in the hospital, 19 under quarantine. ELIZABETH FUSCO, LOST 4 FAMILY MEMBERS TO CORONAVIRUS: It is absolutely surreal. It's like the second we start to grieve about one, the phone rings and there is another person gone, taken from us forever.

HILL: The heartbreak of one family, a sobering reminder that changing daily life could, ultimately, save it.

As we continue to talk about concerns over medical supplies, the Department of Health here in New York City has asked health care facilities not to test asymptomatic health care workers or first responders because they need to reserve that personal protective equipment they need to preserve that all-important gear and those medical supplies.


ALLEN: Erica Hill there in New York City for us.

Discovery of a vaccine or therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 is priority one for medical researchers around the world. That includes examining older drugs to see whether they work against this new coronavirus. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with details on what the research shows so far.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's been a lot of focus on a potential vaccine for coronavirus, a lot of discussion lately also around therapeutics, anti-virals. We want to dig a little deeper and see just how promising this might be.

TRUMP: It's a medical war. We have to win this war. It's very important.

GUPTA (voice-over): To win in the future, the Trump administration is looking to the past.

TRUMP: We're also reviewing drugs that are approved abroad or drugs approved here for other uses.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's called repurposing, using a treatment targeted for one disease to treat another, like the 86-year-old anti- malarial drug, chloroquine.

TRUMP: It's shown encouraging, very, very encouraging early results. And we're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.

GUPTA (voice-over): In a statement, pharmaceutical company Bayer, who developed the drug, announced that it's donating three million tablets to the U.S. clinical trial efforts. They said new data from initial preclinical and evolving clinical research conducted in China, while limited, shows potential.

And one early study from France looked at a derivative of the drug in 20 coronavirus patients.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: But that's still not ready for prime time. We still need substantially larger studies.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's believed that these drugs might work by making it more challenging for the virus to bind to cells. But those findings have mostly come from the laboratory.

DR. JANET DIAZINICAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: For chloroquine, I suspect there is no proof that that is -- that that is an effective treatment at this time. You know, we recommend that therapeutics be tested under, you know, ethically approved clinical trials to show efficacy and safety.

GUPTA (voice-over): Trials will follow some 10,000 participants over five months to see just how effect the drug is. And at the same time, other scientists are looking at the anti-viral drug Remdesivir, which is believed to block the virus' ability to reproduce.

TRUMP: That's a drug used for other purposes that's been out and it's had very good results for other purposes. But it seems to have a very good result having to do with this virus.

GUPTA (voice-over): That still has to be proven. Its manufacturer, Gilead, is conducting trials with approximately 1,000 patients around the world.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: We will collect the data and then make the absolute right decisions based upon this data about the safety and efficacy of the treatments.

GUPTA (voice-over): That's important because just yesterday another trial using two HIV drugs have initially showed promise were found to be ineffective. And everybody is hoping the results this time will be different.

TRUMP: Those are two that are out now, essentially approved for prescribed use and I think it's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game changer and maybe not. And maybe not. But I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer.

GUPTA: There was another press conference on Friday, where President Trump spoke again about chloroquine. Dr. Anthony Fauci reminded everybody, look, these are very, very early days. While there is some hope, there's always hope around this, these have to be trialed. And that could take several months.


ALLEN: Al Edwards joins us, associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading School of Pharmacy. He joins us from England.

Thank you so much for talking with us. We need people like you to help us sort this out. Coming off of Sanjay Gupta's story right through, treatments that look promising, treatments that don't, a vaccine. It's all hopeful. But it sounds like it will come later rather than sooner.

What are your thoughts?


AL EDWARDS, UNIVERSITY OF READING SCHOOL OF PHARMACY: So what's remarkable is human ingenuity under pressure. We've got all these fantastic medical doctors around the world. That's -- they deserve the first credit and they're building on the science that's been done for so many decades.

And we've never been in a stronger position in terms of our understanding of science and our ability to communicate. But there is always that word of caution. You've got small trials, they're not organized the way we traditionally run clinical trials.

What are people doing is they're trying to fight fire and so what we're hoping is we get something really promising. If it works well, it will become clear quite quickly. And I think you'll see incredibly fast uptake of new treatment methods very soon.

ALLEN: What about what we are hearing from China?

China's reporting that the number of new infections has dropped significantly. That sounds encouraging, very much so.

EDWARDS: It's really encouraging. In a way, this is going from the new, you know, the new medicines, this is going way back into the oldest history of infection control. The best way to stop a highly contagious infection from killing lot of people is to slow down the spread.

So I believe it's very credible that by stopping the spread in China, they have been able to block this exponential growth. And I think it's quite expected that we will continue to see cases popping up. But you don't get that wildfire, you know, growing and growing pandemic situation.

ALLEN: Yes. Meantime, four states in the U.S. have mandated businesses closing and people staying home: California, Illinois, New York and Connecticut. How important is it that people adhere, to try and stop the spread because we keep hearing it's going to get really worse in the United States in the coming days?

EDWARDS: Yes. That echoes what we're seeing here. We had last night, you know, it was the classic British last orders, where the pubs were open for one more night. I hope that people didn't use that as an excuse to go out and mix even more. I've heard reports, of course, of the use of, you know, the university holiday making people over in the States as well.

I can completely understand that sentiment, that you've got one last chance to go and socialize. The problem is that we won't see any change in the number of cases -- this is a really important point -- until approximately two weeks after restrictions come in. It is really important that people understand what is happening now in

terms of the number of cases are people who are infected one to two weeks ago, so the restriction orders, if they come in now, will only make a visible difference to the number of cases in two weeks' time.

ALLEN: Right. Some people can't see it, can't feel it and aren't confronting it and thinking about it. But now is the time, we appreciate your expertise, Al Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology. Thank you so much.

Well, Spain's capital has been hit hard by COVID-19. Now Madrid is setting up a 5,500-bed temporary hospital and warning of difficult days ahead. We'll go there to tell you the latest.

Also ahead here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All our residents will be subject to a stay-at-home order.

ALLEN (voice-over): More states in the U.S., as mentioned, are requiring residents to stay home.

But how will those restrictions be enforced?

Can they be?

We'll explore that. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.






ALLEN: Amid the spiraling COVID-19 pandemic, the U.K. has come up for criticism because it has not imposed tough measures restricting movement. But on Friday, the prime minister said all pubs, gyms and cinemas must close.

In Spain, the death toll is over 1,000. A massive temporary hospital is being built in Madrid, where 628 people have died. There are more than 7,000 cases in the Spanish capital alone. But people are heeding the warnings. Spanish streets are nearly empty. For the latest, we're joined by Anna Stewart in London and Al Goodman in Madrid.

Al, it's heartening that people seem to be getting the message.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Natalie. As the number increases almost 20,000 nationwide and about half in hospital, the Spanish government is urgently asking two questions -- will there be enough hospital beds, will there be enough medical personnel.

So they are moving swiftly in this recent days to try to change the math in their favor. In this day, a 5,500 bed provisional hospital being outfitted at the convention center at the airport, a series of large buildings. The military is putting in the hospital. It will include intensive care beds.

In the last couple of days, another 1,200 beds were outfitted in two large hotels that were closed because there are no clients.

In terms of medical personnel, they've mobilized 50,000 doctors and nurses. A small number of them retired but mostly these are younger medical students who just finished up or have one or two years of practice, the same with nurses. They're trying to get the resources to handle the situation.

The drama not just inside the hospitals, also on the streets. I'm at the center of Madrid just before the live shot started. There was a homeless man standing right here. The police came to him. He didn't have proper gloves. They gave him a set of gloves. They offered to take him to a homeless shelter. In the end they let him walk away.

Basically as you see, the streets are empty even in the middle of the capital.


GOODMAN: So people are ahead heeding the government's call to stay home.

ALLEN: Very good news. I can't imagine just finishing medical school and you're on the front lines of the pandemic. We cannot say enough about the doctors and nurses, people on the front lines, trying to save lives and putting their lives on the line as well. Al Goodman in Madrid, thank you so much.

Now let's turn to Anna Stewart in London where they've closed down the pubs, the gyms, the cafes, the restaurants.

How is this going over?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think anybody is surprised by the latest measures. I think everybody understands it. There's, of course, a feeling of anxiety and concern, particularly when you consider the U.K. is probably a few weeks behind Italy and Spain where Al was reporting from.

People are really bracing for what's coming next. There is a concern here. However, there has been a lot of relief that businesses have been told by the government to close down. Up to this point people were told, don't go to businesses or cafes. But the businesses were still open. So now the government is saying they've got to close down as of this morning.

Also there's been some measures announced by the chancellor, the U.K. finance minister, to protect those business and key to protect the workers. So the government in the U.K. will be paying up to 80 percent of the salaries of those workers who simply cannot work, either because they're in isolation, they have the virus or, of course, because the business has been closed down and they can't work.

So businesses are concerned about cash flow. That seems to be protected now. The U.K. is everyone's in their homes, ready, bracing for what comes next -- Natalie.

ALLEN: What comes next, that is the question. Anna Stewart in London. Thank you so much.

Well, millions of people around the world are being told to stay home. And as more countries order tighter restrictions, we look at how they plan on enforcing them.

Also, Iran's president has a message for the American people. We'll have a live report from Tehran about what he said.





ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


ALLEN: We want to take a moment to look at what it could mean to enforce or try and enforce the sort of restrictions we are now seeing, whether police will have the authority and personnel to do so and whether, if needed, the military has the training to deal with civilians in this way.

For that we're joined by Margaret Gilmore. She's a former associate fellow with think tank Royal United Services Institute and formerly a correspondent who covered terrorism.

Thank you so much, Margaret, for being here. What we're seeing is unprecedented with this virus. Let's talk about the restrictions that we are seeing. Italy really clamping down, France, as well.

How might these measures be enforced?

MARGARET GILMORE, FORMER ASSOCIATE FELLOW, RUSI: In Italy they are very, very strict. They're about a month ahead of, for example, the U.K. and possibly America. And you simply cannot go out unless you have filled in a form and written down your reasons why you are literally leaving your home.

And there are people on the streets, police officers, who will stop you and say, why are you getting out?

OK, you've got to go to the pharmacy, to the shop. You do that.

And France the same, very strict, only one person is allowed out. For example to walk a dog, the whole family can't go out.

And again, police officers on the streets, checking that people are doing what they say they are. And they've also got very strict borders at the moment. People are not allowed in and out. Crossing streets and ferries from the U.K. to -- to France have as far as passengers, the concern with Britain varies, for example, being stopped.

ALLEN: They're stopping people, questioning people, where are you going, why are you out?

What if we get to a scenario where authorities need to control the movement of the population in an open Western society?

Can the police do it even it with the authority?

Will have they have the manpower and the personnel to do something like it?

GILMORE: It hasn't happened in the U.K. yet, although emergency laws have been invoked. The powers are now there. The army in the U.K. are being trained. They're used to dealing with large crowds.

What's happening in France and Italy is, for the large part, people are not disobeying to any great degree. There are not big crowd control issues there at the moment. I think what I'm seeing -- and feeling it here in the U.K., as I say we're a little behind -- is now that we have restrictions placed and the pubs, clubs, restaurants, have all shut down, the gyms and so on, I think what we're feeling is fear.

And that fear is the biggest emotion, bigger than anything that's leading to any worry right now about security. Yes, we've had panic buying in the shops and large queues.


GILMORE: But they've been orderly -- between here and there between customers who want something they can't get -- but nothing major. And certainly no worry, no concerns at the moment on the security front as far as large, out-of-control crowds or looting.

ALLEN: Well, that is very good news because that's in the back of some people's minds as people get more desperate. In California, the governor ordering 44 million people to stay home. Saying they hope people will adhere to the edict out of social pressure.

Do you think that is something that will help people follow along?

GILMORE: If we take for example what happened here, social pressure, yes. What happened is the older people, who are more likely to be affected, the deaths rise with age; that is already proven. The older people have started self-isolating and doing it automatically. The shutdown of anything to do socially, you can't go to a restaurant

or a pub anymore in the U.K. I think that is making people go inside much more, the schools have closed down. So actually there's not a lot to do to be out and about. So that's worked for a little while. We're asked to do it because we were asked to do it.

But the -- some of the younger generation mainly were still going to the restaurants and the pubs. And so yesterday, our prime minister said, this is going to be mandatory, the pubs and restaurants will have to shut, end of story, from today, in fact. And so they're enforcing it.

What they'll do at the moment -- and I suspect initially anyway in California that will happen -- is that they will use the law. If a restaurant opened and people were going to it, then I think they would be in a lot of trouble. They would lose their license using the law.

I know that in Australia, for example, they've got a problem where people are going to the beach. They've had to say, hang on, this is no good. We're going to close this beach because this is not helping.

In California you may have issues like that, where your outdoor society and the most like cold in the U.K., so it's not such a big issue. I think the bigger problem will be across time how much -- you know, how long the society's able to stay inside. It's sustained long term in Italy. But the death toll is still rising and the fear is still there.

ALLEN: It's tough for people, this is a complete shock to the system of people's lives. We have to remember, it's not forever. It just isn't. We really appreciate your insights and expertise. Thank you so much.

Well, the pandemic is dominating a period celebrated by Iranians around the world, the Persian new year. It comes as Iran grapples with the fact that, at last report, someone there, listen to this, someone there is dying every 10 minutes from this virus.

This year, Iran's president has a message during this holiday, directly aimed at the United States. Hassan Rouhani slams the sanctions he says are making the pandemic worse and makes this appeal to the American people. Here are his words.

"You, like others in the world, are facing this destructive pandemic and experiencing the bitterness of a concern over your future and that of your loved ones. This time, the surrounding oceans of a continent are not an adequate defense."

He goes on to say, "In the name of justice and humanity, I address your conscience and godly souls and call upon you to make your administration and Congress see that the path of sanctions and pressure has never been successful and will never be so in the future."

Let's talk about this. Joining us now, live from Tehran, Iran, Ramin Mostaghim. Good to see you again.

What do you make of the direct appeal by Rouhani?

RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it's sort of the diplomatic war and appeal tit-for-tat you can blame it, addressing American nation because Trump has tried to reach out to Iranian by message, sending message of new rules and trying increasingly to encourage people to take to the streets to protest and suppress (ph) the regime.

Now (INAUDIBLE) is retaliating and trying to address the American people to say, OK, your sanctions have been hurting us.


MOSTAGHIM: But it doesn't work. So you should revise your decision and we are paying the price, the Iranian people. So it's trying to put the blame on the American administration in retaliating their (INAUDIBLE) to the Iranian people in rude (ph) messages and other things that they also issue sometimes over this.

Some appeal to the Iranian people to try to win their hearts and minds. But at the same time, among this global war with the coronavirus, here, in contrast with the American societies or European society, Iranian officials are not able to enforce any lockdown and self-isolation from people. They are appealing, they're begging, they're imploring people, please stay at home at least two weeks.

New rules (INAUDIBLE) test for Iranian to defeat the coronavirus or to be defeated. Unfortunately, a few days before the new rules, some people from the big cities traveled outside and potentially they are conveyors of the virus.

So two weeks, litmus (ph) paper tests to see that the Iranian society can defeat the coronavirus in this global war against the coronavirus.

ALLEN: Thank you so much. We'll be following what happens there in Iran, the death toll is so much like Italy. It's hard to comprehend. Ramin, thank you so much.

Alarm bells over the threat of coronavirus. Just ahead, a new report says the White House was warned months ago about a likely pandemic.

Plus, medical workers struggling to care for coronavirus patients as supplies dwindle and it has many asking, how did we get here?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lack of preparation over the last two months has now put us in a terrible position.






ALLEN: We want to talk more now about the threat to the United States concerning the coronavirus. A report from "The Washington Post" suggests U.S. president Trump ignored January intelligence reports about the scale and intensity of the coronavirus.

According to the newspaper, White House advisers told Mr. Trump that China was minimizing the data on infection and death rates. But the president still publicly praised China's handling of the epidemic. It reports, even when infections began popping up in the U.S., Mr. Trump opposed characterizing the virus as a serious threat.

And this comes as health care workers all across the U.S. try to grapple with a shortage of critical supplies. CNN's Drew Griffin takes a look at how we got here.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN 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 administer these tests, even a shortage of protective 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, 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 a 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 test to public health labs to make sure the test 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 flying blind. The virus spreading across America and U.S. health officials had no way to test for it.

KONYNDYK: That kept us from having visibility on domestic transmission of the virus for weeks and 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 6, there are 100,000 cases worldwide and more confusion from the administration. TRUMP: Anybody that wants to test can get a test.

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

DR. CATHY SLEMP, WV PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER: 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. So the White House says the same roles exist just under different titles. The team President Obama had bolstered to combat global pandemics after Ebola outbreak was gone.

Critics say that Trump administration decision hampered efforts with coronavirus.

KONYNDYK: I think it made us slower and it made us more prone to mistakes.

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

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

BETH CAMERON, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, WH NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: But what we have gotten more out of this if the office had 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 and the only thing we weren't prepared for was the media.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


ALLEN: Next here, growing calls to postpone the Olympic Games. How the coronavirus is casting a cloud over Tokyo 2020. We'll have a live report.






ALLEN: We have breaking news about the loss of one of the brightest and all-time greats of country music. Singer-songwriter and actor Kenny Rogers has died. Rogers had a career that spanned six decades.



ALLEN (voice-over): Beautiful singing right there. Rogers was a fan favorite, especially for his duets with Dolly Parton, seen there, such as "Islands in the Stream" and for the songs "Lady" and "Lucille." His family tweeted he passed away peacefully at home from natural causes, surrounded by his loved ones.

His signature tune, "The Gambler," included a line that could be his epitaph, "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." He was 81.


ALLEN: More calls to delay the 2020 Tokyo Olympics over the coronavirus. The head of USA Swimming saying the games should be postponed until next year.


ALLEN: In a letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Tim Hinchey asked them to advocate for drastic changes, saying, "The right and possible thing is to prioritize everyone's health and safety and appropriately recognize the toll this global pandemic is taking on athletic preparations."

And he's not alone. The virus is casting doubts over the future of the Tokyo games set to begin in just a few months. For more, let's turn to CNN's Will Ripley. He is live in Tokyo.

Hello to you, Will.

The torch has arrived but the question is, will it be extinguished? WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Nobody knows what's going to happen by the time the torch reaches Tokyo. And it's -- look, Japanese officials, the prime minister, Abe Shinzo, they're in a tough spot. If they were to say publicly, OK, we're going to postpone the games, that will create huge waves.

At this point, they still feel like they have time to figure out the situation. You know, one of the IOC senior members talked about postponing the games saying maybe late May they could make the call and figure out the logistics.

But with each passing day, each week it does seem increasingly tone deaf on the part of Tokyo 2020 organizers to continue to insist, yes, the games are continuing, given what's happening and that athletes won't have time to train properly.

Even a bronze medalist from 1988 said the games should be postponed because athletes aren't going to have time to prepare. That's assuming that it's safe to bring people from 200-plus countries to Tokyo in four months.

ALLEN: Right. Coming up in the next hour, we'll talk with someone who specializes in business news about this quandary and talk about the IOC and where they stand with this. Will Ripley in Tokyo, always good to see you, Will. Thank you so much.

Thank you for watching this hour. Please stay right there. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll be right back with our top stories on the coronavirus. You're watching CNN live from Atlanta.