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THE SITUATION ROOM

Coronavirus Cases Top 300K Worldwide, 22K Cases In U.S.; More Than 80 Million Americans Told To Stay Home; FDA Authorizes Rapid Coronavirus Test With Results In 45 Minutes; Goldman Sachs Warns Of Sudden And Historic Surge In Layoffs; WHO Says Europe Is Now The Epicenter Of The Coronavirus; People Helping Each Other Get Through The Virus Outbreak. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington for a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Here's what we know right now.

We're following breaking news. In the United States there are more than 22,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 300 deaths. Worldwide, the number of cases is now topped 300,000 with nearly 13,000 confirmed dead.

Also tonight, more than 80 million Americans now are under virtual lockdown as New Jersey becomes the latest state to tell residents to stay at home but in a potentially positive development the FDA today authorizing a test that can detect the presence of the virus in just 45 minutes.

That test expected to be available as early as next week. Meantime, medical workers across the country are warning, they're simply running dangerously low on very critical supplies but the White House once again promising that private companies are stepping up to assist with that.

Also here in Washington, the Vice President Mike pence and his wife are getting tested for the virus after one of his aides in the White House became infected and the Senate which has adjourned until tomorrow afternoon still trying to hammer out an agreement on a truly massive bill to help the economy recover from this pandemic.

One White House official says the price that could top $2 trillion. Lots to cover. Let's begin our coverage right now well in the city that's the epicenter of the crisis right now. New York City. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is joining us.

Evan, nearly half the United States cases are located in New York State. What do you see? What are you hearing? Are people there heeding the New York Governor's warning and simply staying off the streets?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi Wolf. It's certainly very quiet in New York City overall. Usually, we talk about how bad the traffic is. Now we all talk about how easy it is to get everywhere because there's no traffic.

But there are signs that people are coming out. I mean it's spring. Spring has sprung and there are reports of people in sort of the major parks and Central Park and things like that and at farmers' markets congregating.

And you can see joggers and all the many trails here around the city so that sure still going on as it usually would but all that's happening as you say, this city becomes the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States.

10,356 confirmed cases according to Governor Cuomo this morning who also said that number is expected to go up a lot in the coming days.

(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 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: Really a massive problem that requires a massive solution, which is why I'm standing here in front of the Javits center, the massive conference center here in Manhattan. Usually, this plays host you know big trade shows and big rallies but in the coming days it may become a large emergency hospital, hosting hundreds of beds set up by the army corps of engineers and maybe FEMA as well.

So just another massive - so understand how big this crisis is becoming here and an attempt to alleviate some of the medical problems - medical capacity problems here in New York using one of these large buildings. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, New York's the epicenter right now here in the United States. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much. As hospitals and other medical officials are warning that they're simply running out of critical supplies right now, the White House is defending its efforts.

During a taskforce briefing earlier this afternoon over at the White House, President Trump said, the private companies across the country are stepping up to assist. CNN's Jeremy Diamond was at that briefing. He's joining us live from the White House right now.

Jeremy, you had a chance to press the president on this issue. Tell us what he said. JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf, the

President today along with his top administration officials on the coronavirus task force was here touting the fact that the production of masks, respirators, all these medical supplies that we're hearing about shortages across the country, that the production capacity is being ramped up.

But the question is how long will that actually take to get those critical supplies delivered and that's why I asked the president today specifically about the remarks that we've heard from hospitals and doctors across the country. One doctor saying that we are at war with no ammo.

[19:05:00]

Listen to how the President answered some of those concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: I know you're talking now about increasing production at so many of these facilities to get the masks out but given that this is one of the wealthiest, most powerful countries in the world, should this even be happening? Shouldn't this have been resolved weeks ago?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'll tell you the way I look at it. So many administrations preceded me. For the most part they did very little, in terms of what you're talking about. This is unprecedented.

You can speak to Tony, you can speak to anybody. This is unprecedented or just about unprecedented. As time goes by we're seeing that it's really at a level that nobody would have believed, nobody would have thought possible.

The fact is that we are doing a tremendous amount. We started with very few masks. We had some but nothing for an event like this and now we're making tens of millions of masks and other things and I think it's unprecedented what we've done and what we're doing.

And many doctors that I've read many, many doctors, they can't believe the great job that we've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And Wolf, you can see the President there once again focusing on what his administration is doing now but of course one of the critical questions here is what the President and his administration perhaps failed to do several weeks ago that could have made this pandemic that we're seeing in the United States seeing the effects of that be far less.

We did here however from Dr. Fauci who jumped up to the podium right after the president as he was answering my questions to say listen, it is true what you are hearing about doctors and hospitals facing these shortages of personal protective equipment. I am getting those calls as well as well and he said that he hopes

that the increase in production, that those masks, those respirators that doctors need will get out in a matter of days, not in a matter of weeks. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us. Thank you Jeremy very much. Joining us now the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I should call you leader Schumer, thank you so much for joining us.

So where do the talks stand right now on this new huge economic stimulus package?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, I've had two good meetings this afternoon with Secretary Mnuchin. They've lasted about an hour and 15 minutes total. We went - we went over a lot of details, on a lot of the issues that we hope will be in the package and I'm very optimistic that we can get something done.

We're not there yet but we're working all night and we're making very, very good progress. You know, we Democrats want a package that stands for two things. First, workers first, not helping and bailing out big corporations, focusing on the workers, the average American family who's suffering.

And second apropos of what you were just talking about, we need a Marshall Plan for hospitals. All the hospitals I speak to in New York are desperately short of equipment. It's not just - it's beds, it's not just masks, P.P.E. Personal Protective Equipment, you know, the gowns and everything else that protect them.

The ventilators when somebody's really sick with coronavirus that they need so we have proposed $100 billion to go to our hospitals for equipment, for more beds and to help bring in more nurses and doctors. There's shortage - shortages of them too and these hospitals are hurting.

If we don't do this, large numbers of smaller hospitals, hospitals in rural areas will simply close down.

BLITZER: Yes, I know you're doing incredibly important work.

SCHUMER: And the other things - and the other thing Wolf, the other part of this package is what we call workers first. One of the centerpieces what we would call unemployment insurance on steroids. If you can't work because your business is closed for all the obvious reasons, you will get your full pay from the federal government and it will - this unemployment insurance on steroids will cover all workers.

It'll cover part time workers, it'll cover workers who were independent workers, it'll cover the freelancers and you will be able to stay on this for 4 months and when the end of it occurs, since you'll be getting your pay but you'll be furloughed by the employer, you can go back to work.

And so the second point of this - the first is it gets money out to where it's needed but the second is it will allow these businesses that are now closed to quickly re-establish themselves.

BLITZER: Which is really important. Is the Republican leadership in the Senate and the White House, are they both on board?

SCHUMER: This is an idea that I proposed to them a while ago and we're making good progress. We haven't dotted the Is and crossed the Ts but conceptually, I think we're there. Yes.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging. Earlier today, the President's economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested the package could be more than $2 trillion, is that accurate?

SCHUMER: Well, he said that and there's so many needs out there and when you see, when you read that we might have 20 percent unemployment, that GDP - or 10 percent unemployment, that GDP would go down 20 percent.

[19:10:00]

That's $4 trillion to $5 trillion. This kind of large package is needed and we not only need money for the hospitals, we not only need this unemployment insurance, we need money to get - keep small businesses going and help them go through it even if their personnel are paid for by the unemployment insurance.

They have rent, they have elect - they have the insurance, they have electricity bills and things like that. We need to prevent foreclosures. We cannot if you can't pay your mortgage for a few months, the bank shouldn't foreclose on your home. We need some abstinence from evicting renters who might not be able to pay their rent.

That's something we're looking for. We're looking also when they bailout corporations, we want the workers to come first. If a corporation is getting money because they need something and airlines is the industry they're talking about, they've got to keep their employees.

They've got a not cut the pay of their employees and they should not do stock buybacks, increases in compensation for the top executives. We need to have this be workers first up and down the line.

One other thing we're looking for, paid family medical leave, paid sick leave and we'd like to forgive student loans for the period of time this crisis persists so if you owe $1000 this month, you won't have to pay it and it'll be forgiven.

BLITZER: It's amazing amount of -

SCHUMER: So we're asking for a lot of things. Yes, there's a lot of things we're trying to do but you know, this is a crisis unlike we've ever seen. It's affected everything and everywhere and we have to be there to help people who need help.

BLITZER: You know it's just a few weeks ago and you'll remember this, leader that the White House was proposing to $2.5 billion. You guys in the senate said maybe $8 billion. All of a sudden it became $1 trillion and now it's $2 trillion. Go ahead.

SCHUMER: We'll see. Kudlow proposed a $2 trillion. I think that - let's put it like this, we have to spend the money wisely but this idea that we shouldn't spend the money that's needed is wrong and we could get significantly as high as where Kudlow is at.

BLITZER: $2 trillion so -

SCHUMER: Well, we could get there. We may not get that high but it's going to be and certainly amply more than $1 trillion, a $ trillion and fourth.

BLITZER: And you think it'll be wrapped up by Monday?

SCHUMER: Well, I hope it is. We're having good bipartisan agreements. The initial bill leader McConnell put in didn't have any democratic input and we were worried that we just try to put it on the floor and not consult Speaker Pelosi because the House still has to pass this.

But actually, to my delight and surprise there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.

BLITZER: Yes, even the president was speaking very positively about you and -

SCHUMER: That doesn't happen very often.

BLITZER: Even Speaker Pelosi as well and you're speaking positively about them as well. You probably saw this NPR poll which showed that nearly one in five American households have already lost work as a result of this - this pandemic, this crisis.

How much can they expect in terms of direct checks, direct payments and when will we see those checks mailed?

SCHUMER: Well, that's one thing the president is proposing and I've - I'm very worried if it's just a one-time check. Let's say you get $1000. Well, that may take care of your rent and groceries and electricity for a month but what do you do the rest.

And that's why we're so excited about this unemployment insurance on steroids because that will keep you at your previous salary for a period of at least four months and that should keep you through - keep you at least economically whole through the crisis. A one-time check of $1000, I'm not opposed to that but that doesn't do the job.

BLITZER: How would you say - how would you say President Trump is doing in handling this truly enormous crisis?

SCHUMER: Well, look, I think he was slow to come to it and we'll look back and you know after this is over and there'll be a lot of lot of things that people will point out but for the moment, we're just trying to work together for the good of the country.

BLITZER: And let's hope you guys succeed. SCHUMER: But without - but by the way Wolf, without foregoing our principles, workers first and again, the package that the President proposed with that 1000 was regressive. We're not going to stand for that. We'll make some changes in that as well.

BLITZER: But these big huge corporations go bust, they employ you know hundreds of thousands, millions of workers. You got to keep those - those businesses operating, right?

SCHUMER: We do but if you give the money without requiring them to keep the workers on board, that would be a big mistake and we're pushing hard for worker protections and I think we're making some progress with the administration there as well.

BLITZER: So basically just so I understand, I know you got to run, you got a lot of work to do but a final question for you, senator. It's going to pass the Senate first and then go to the House? Is that is that the way you want to do it?

SCHUMER: Well, look, Speaker Pelosi and I preferred four corner negotiations where the leaders, Democratic and Republican of House and Senate sat together. McConnell didn't want to do it. So we're working together in the Senate.

[19:15:00]

But I'm consulting with Speaker Pelosi, hour by hour actually and we'll have to see if she in the House will go along with what the Senate produced but we are talking to each other and they know exactly what's in the package and much of what we want and what they want are very similar.

BLITZER: And she worked very closely with Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary to get the initial legislation passed.

SCHUMER: Yes, she did.

BLITZER: So things are working at least in the right direction. We'll stay in very close touch with your Leader Schumer. Thank you so much for what you're doing and thanks for spending a few moments, updating our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

SCHUMER: Well, thank you for that opportunity.

BLITZER: All right, thank you. There's more news we're following including a new coronavirus test that potentially could give results within 45 minutes. It's just been approved by the FDA. We have details on when it can be deployed.

Plus healthcare professionals are raising the alarm all around the country about the lack of some very critical safety gear, we're talking about masks, gloves, respirators as more of them are getting infected.

And we'll also go live to Spain where new cases there jump by 5000 in just a single day and officials have a dire new warning to residents. Much more. Right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

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[19:20:00]

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BLITZER: First responders on the front lines of the pandemic, they are dealing with very critical shortages. Shortages, not just of protective equipment, they're also facing another huge obstacle. There are simply not enough supplies like cotton swabs to conduct the coronavirus test themselves.

CNN's Drew Griffin reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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 8 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 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 climb 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: For 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 tests 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 test.

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.

But the White House says the same roles exist just under different titles. The team President Obama had boasted 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 it slower and it made us more prone to mistakes.

GRIFFIN: Jeremy Konyndyk who used to run foreign disaster assistance for USA says all the shortages from testing to swabs to masks can in part be traced back to that one decision. Beth Cameron who under Barack Obama ran the pandemic response unit says there is no doubt.

BETH CAMERON, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: Would we have gotten more ahead of this if the office was still that intact? I think absolutely.

GRIFFIN: The President who alternately said he didn't know anything about dispending 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 - the media.

GRIFFIN: Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: As health care workers deal with a shortage of testing supplies, the FDA announced today it has approved a new coronavirus tests that can deliver results in 45 minutes.

The company that manufacture the test says it will begin shipping out the test next week. I'm joined now by Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency physician at Lifespan which is affiliated with Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for joining us. How significant of a development is this a new test?

[19:25:00]

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/ BROWN UNIVERSITY: This new test is honestly a potential gamechanger for us. My emergency department, like hospitals across the country are increasingly filled with patients with symptoms that seem like coronavirus but we can't test so the best we can say is, we think you have Covid-19 and we're either going to admit you to the hospital or send you home and tell you to self-quarantine.

It will be so transformative to be able to actually test patients the same way that we do for flu or for other illnesses. To be able to tell people if they actually need to quarantine and then to make decisions that can help us seek equipment for the patients that we do have to hospitalize.

BLITZER: Potentially very, very significant. Two of the largest cities impacted by coronavirus Dr. Ranney. We're talking about New York and Los Angeles now say doctors should prioritize testing for health care workers and the severely ill.

Besides that they won't test unless it would significantly change the course of treatment. Does this new strategy makes sense to you?

RANNEY: So it's tough. We simply don't have enough tests so just like we're doing with masks and gowns. We have to conserve tests too so that we make sure that we have them for the very sickest people. It's not just New York and Los Angeles that are doing this.

It's actually the practice at almost every hospital and you know in almost every state across the country right now. It is far from ideal. It is not the way we should practice medicine but just like we're reusing masks right now, we have to ration our testing.

BLITZER: It's really incredible so if large numbers of people Dr. Ranney, still aren't being tested, how do we know how bad this situation is because presumably there could be thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe even more of a lot of people walking around with the coronavirus?

RANNEY: Absolutely. I suspect that in my state as in most other states, the numbers that are being reported are orders of magnitude lower than the actual number of people who are infected. We are sending most patients home from the hospital or from doctors' offices without tests.

We're getting the tests on those really sick patients but if you or I came into the hospital, we most likely would not get tested. Again, unless we needed to be hospitalized. So we are absolutely under counting the magnitude of this epidemic.

BLITZER: There's an interesting a story here. A New York surgeon and mother of two whose husband is also a doctor made a plea for more protective equipment on Twitter, writing this, "Don't make an orphan out of our two toddlers."

So bottom line Dr. Ranney, how dire are these shortages at hospitals all around the country right now?

RANNEY: It is truly dire. That is a perfect word for what's going on. Listen, we're all used to using isolation gowns. They're something that we use to take care of a variety of patients who coming to the hospital but never, I mean, I've been a physician for almost 20 years now.

Never have we've been told to reuse this equipment. It is - puts us at a huge risk. It potentially puts patients at risk. It is exhausting and terrifying. I mean the number of steps that we have to go through every time we go in and out of a room with putting on a mask, putting on a face shield, putting on a gown, putting on gloves, seeing the patient, stepping back out and then doing each of those steps again and every time you take something off, you're in danger of contaminating yourself.

And then instead of just throwing out the mask or throwing out the face shield, we're being told, clean off the mask, clean off the face shield and put it in a paper bag and then put it back on again before you go see the next patient.

There are these series of steps where we could get infected which then puts us at risk. I have well over a dozen colleagues across the country who have already tested positive for Covid-19, fellow emergency physicians and nurses and it's simply because we do not have adequate access to protective equipment and we're being told to reuse the equipment that we do have.

BLITZER: So how are worried are you about your own well-being, Dr. Ranney?

RANNEY: So I am concerned. I'm hopeful that I'm relatively young and healthy and I'll be OK but I've had discussions with my family about if and when I should separate from them.

I have friends who have sent their kids to live at other houses and I've personally told my parents that I'm not going to see them again until this outbreak is over because I don't want to risk infecting them.

I think it's a matter of time unless we increase the number of masks and gowns available, it is a matter of time until most front line health care workers are infected.

We just don't have adequate equipment and really reusing stuff is - the CDC might be recommending it right now but that's only because we don't have enough.

It is not standard practice in normal times.

[19:30:00]

BLITZER: It's hard to believe this is going on here in the United States of America. Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for what you're doing and you and all your colleagues, we're grateful to you. You are saving lives out there, and we really are appreciative. Thanks so much for joining us.

RANNEY: Thank you. It's my honor.

BLITZER: All right. Be careful out there as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the U.S. economy at the same time with now estimates that millions -- millions of Americans are now jobless.

And Senate negotiators this hour, they are hammering out the details on a massive economic stimulus package. You just heard the latest from Senator Schumer. Will it be enough? We'll discuss.

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[19:35:05]

BLITZER: Economic calamity, jobs apocalypse -- these are some of the headlines around the world tonight as the coronavirus pandemic sets off a wave of layoffs.

A bipartisan group of senators negotiating right now the details of a massive stimulus package for the U.S. economy, maybe $2 trillion.

President Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, telling reporters the overall scope of the package could top even $2 trillion.

The Dow meanwhile marked its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis erasing all of its gains accumulated during the past three years of the Trump administration.

I want to bring in a CNN economics commentator, Catherine Rampell, a "Washington Post" opinion columnist who previously worked as an economics reporter for "The New York Times."

Now, Catherine, the big question now, is that amount of money going to be anywhere close enough to stabilize the U.S. economy?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is very hard to say at this point. To be clear, $2 trillion would be basically about 10 percent of the U.S. economy, which is a huge, huge amount. It's more than double what we had seen happen during the Great Recession as part of the Recovery Act. It's a huge amount of money.

I unfortunately, do not expect it to be the last stimulus measure that this legislature has to deal with. I think we're going to have several bites at the apple for better or for worse at this point. But we just don't know the scope of the problem and how long we're going to be in this sort of economic coma that has been forced by a public health crisis.

BLITZER: At one point the other day, the Treasury Secretary during one meeting, Steve Mnuchin, actually warned we could see a 20 percent unemployment rate here in the United States.

The U.S. hasn't seen something like that since the Great Depression when it peaked at about 25 percent, 24.9 percent in 1933.

For perspective, the current unemployment rate, at least as of this minute stands at three and a half percent. What do you think? Are we going to be facing that kind of disaster?

RAMPELL: It's very hard to see at this point. But think about all of the industries that have had forced closures, whether because people are not able to gather, they're not allowed to gather, or because people are afraid to go out even before there were forced, you know, mandatory shuttering of restaurants and bars, as is the case here in New York City.

So if you look at, for example, restaurant traffic, even before the mandatory closures, they were down something like 60 to 65 percent in a number of cities several days ago, because people were just afraid to go out.

If you have that across the board in the United States, all of those workers are out of business and then it's not just restaurants, of course, right? It's gyms. It's movie theaters. It's all sorts of leisure and travel -- various kinds of services that people just can't do physically because they have to be on location to conduct them, customers aren't coming in.

So we just -- we don't know the scale of this thing. We don't know how long it will last and the challenge right now for policymakers is how do you deal with a crisis? How do you deal economically with a major crisis like this, when the nature of it is so different?

So for comparison's sake, during the Great Recession, the goal of fiscal policy as it normally is the case was to get people to go out and engage in economic activity, right? To go out and buy stuff, to shop, to place orders, for businesses to expand things like that.

For obvious reasons, that's basically the opposite of what we want right now, and as a result, that means that the strategy for dealing with that economic pain has to be different.

It can't be about encouraging people to engage in more economic activity, if you know that would put lives at risk. It has to be about making sure people can pay their bills, because their bills are not going to go on hiatus just because their job did and making sure that businesses are able to basically continue so that assuming we eventually come out of this crisis, which we will at some point, there are still jobs for Americans to go back to.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a really awful situation right now. Catherine Rampell, thank you so much for joining us. Let's see what happens.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says Europe is now the epicenter of the coronavirus.

In the past 24 hours alone, Italy as reported 793 deaths, the largest one day number since the outbreak began there. We'll go live to Rome. That's next.

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[19:43:46]

BLITZER: Empty streets, deserted Public Square, silence where there once was bustling crowds.

The impact of the coronavirus is bringing so much of the world to a standstill especially right now in Italy.

Bergamo is one of the hottest Hit areas. These army trucks -- look at this -- are evidence of a grim fact. They are on their way -- they are on their way to drop off bodies at a crematorium that is running 24/7.

Barbie Nadeau is joining us now live from Rome. Barbie, Italy is reporting that it had almost 800 -- seven hundred ninety three coronavirus deaths in a single day. Is there any sign the outbreak is slowing down there?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it's not. And the authorities tell us even just today that the worst might not be over yet. That we aren't going to see the effects of this, of the lockdown for quite some time.

You know, they had originally said March 26th was that date we were all clinging to, where we might see the initial stabilization, the flattening of the curve, but even that looks a little bit optimistic right now they say.

BLITZER: We're hearing the government, Barbie, is trying everything to stop the spread of this virus including new rules, banning all outdoor exercising. Tell us more about what you're actually seeing and hearing on the ground.

[19:45:59]

NADEAU: Well, you know in Northern Italy where this crisis really, really hit the hardest and the healthcare systems are under so much pressure. The governor there just laid out all these new restrictions tonight, including banning any outdoor exercise. That means you can't go for a run. You can't go for a walk.

You know, here in Rome, where we've seen a number of cases, but it's not quite as bad as it is in the north. You know, the only thing you hear at night is the sound of the sanitation teams disinfecting the streets.

Every morning, the police cars go around with loud speakers telling the people go inside, it's not safe outside, yet there are still so many people that are walking around unnecessarily. Seventy thousand Italians have been fined for breaking the lockdown order.

And the Prime Minister made a few comments tonight as well. He is closing down all non-essential factories. That means anyone not involved in either food production or medical equipment production.

He also thanked those unsung heroes like the grocery store people. You know, those people really are on the front line as well. They're facing people every single day who might be carriers, asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbie thank you. Good luck over there. Be careful. Barbie Nadeau in Rome for us.

The situation meanwhile, is also dire in Spain. According to a report from the Spain's Ministry of Health, today, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus jumped by 5,000 in a single day.

Hotels are now being used as hospitals. City buses are being pressed into service as ambulances in the hard hit City of Madrid. That's where CNN's Scott McLean is standing by with the latest.

Scott, there's a warning that as many as what? Eighty percent of Madrid residents could be infected. That's a stunning number. What do are you seeing?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is, Wolf. Tonight, the Spanish Prime Minister gave an emotional speech where he tried to reassure the country. He was also quite blunt saying that things would get worse before they got better.

As you mentioned, the number of confirmed cases jumped up today, but the number of deaths increased by about a third in just the last 24 hours. More than 1,300 people have now died from the coronavirus in Spain.

It has been a week now since Spaniards were ordered to stay inside of their home. The goal is to delay the peak of the virus so that the health system is not completely overwhelmed.

But here in Madrid, we're seeing that the breaking point is quickly approaching. Four thousand city buses are now being used as ambulances. Some nine hotels are being used as hospital wards and 5,000 beds are being set up at a Convention Center. The first patients arrived just tonight.

The Spanish government has already called up medical students, nursing students and retired doctors to help fill those shortages. And Wolf, one of the things, one of the saddest things about this outbreak is that by and large, many of these victims have died alone because their families have not been able to visit them in the hospitals for fear of spreading the virus.

Tonight, the Prime Minister acknowledged just how difficult that is for families. BLITZER: Yes, what we're seeing in Spain and Italy, the great fear

here in the United States is we could potentially be seeing the same thing in a week or two in the United States.

Scott McLean. Thank you. Be careful over there in Spain. Thanks very much for joining us.

And as we head toward a break, I want to show you how even in lockdown, Parisians are trying to take some time to thank doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic by cheering them from their balconies.

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[19:52:53]

BLITZER: Life as we know it has changed dramatically during the coronavirus outbreak. Amid the darkness, there has also been some rays of light. CNN's Martin Savidge has more.

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MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): These may feel like dark days with headlines of contagion, fear and hoarding. But human sunshine still exists.

Random acts of corona kindness are everywhere. Like a front porch in Columbus, Ohio, where a young brother and sister put on a concert for a 78-year-old neighbor, who had shut herself off from the virus and the world.

Dressed in their best, the six and nine-year-old delighted their audience of one.

In Italy, where so many have died and so many more isolated, they sing to each other from balconies.

At night voices echo through the streets with canine accompanying them.

In Spain, where they're also suffering, to say thank you to doctors and nurses battling to save lives, people step outside and applaud everywhere.

In Houston, at Irma's Southwest restaurant now ordered closed, a couple left something behind, a $9,400.00 tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks. The anonymous note said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET MONTEZ, ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER, IRMA'S SOUTHWEST: This is beyond -- I mean, I don't even have words for it. I just really don't.

LOUIS GALVAN, OWNER, IRMA'S SOUTHWEST: We had to let our staff know that we may be off of work for 15 to 30 days depending on how long that is, but the gift we got today should help soften the blow.

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SAVIDGE (voice over): At a Cleveland watering hole, also closing, the customer added a little something extra to his less than $30.00 bill, $2,500.00 for the staff.

When the NBA stopped the games, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Kevin Love started thinking about the arena staff without work. He donated $100,000.00 from his foundation to them, hoping others would follow his lead in their towns. They did.

Teachers may not be rich, like athletes, but they have a wealth of knowledge and on Facebook many are sharing it to answer questions.

[19:55:10]

SAVIDGE (voice over): And help others learn. Elsewhere the elderly are on the minds of many. People offer to grocery shop for those who cannot or may not want to leave their homes.

Stores have begun allowing older customers their own exclusive shopping hours to limit exposure to crowds.

And when coronavirus concerns prevented her from going into a North Carolina nursing home to show her grandfather something, a young woman stood at his window, simply pointing to the engagement ring.

The virus forcing us apart seems also to be bringing us together closer than we've been in a long while.

Martin Savidge, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Martin for that report. Meanwhile, over 80 million Americans across The United States have now been ordered to stay at home as the number of Americans infected with the coronavirus surges past 23,000.

We have the latest details and the latest information right after a quick break.

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