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THE SITUATION ROOM

Congressional Leaders Meet Today On $2 Trillion Rescue Package; FEMA Declares New York A "Major Disaster" As Coronavirus Surges; Interview With Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) On FEMA's Assessment; Interview With Mayor Muriel Bowser (D-DC) About Coronavirus Outbreak; Infectious Disease Expert: National Lockdown May Not Be Best Defense; Europe Overrun: Number Of Deaths Soar In Italy, Spain; Former Vice President Joe Biden Campaign Adjusts Outreach Tactics Due To COVID-19; Former Vice President Joe Biden And Senator Bernie Sanders Shift Campaign Strategies Amid COVID-19 Crisis; Kevin Bacon Adapts "Six Degrees" Game To Promote Social Distancing. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 22, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:22]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is a special hour of THE SITUATION ROOM with breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Fareed Zakaria is off. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Hospitals and health care officials across the nation sounding the alarm right now fearing widespread shortages of critical medical supplies. They fear those are all -- those shortages are now imminent. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States surging to over 26,000. 326 people are confirmed dead.

Globally the number of cases are now over 300,000 and more than 13,000 people have died. States like New York and California are shifting strategies when it comes to testing patients, making very, very tough choices, putting limiting on who can be tested as medical supplies run dangerously low, supplies the frontline health care workers need as they put their lives on the line.

And here in Washington, one hour from now, Congress's top four leaders will meet with the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. It comes just hours before the Senate votes on a far-reaching economic stimulus package.

And another briefing expected later this afternoon from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Questions are likely on whether President Trump will enforce what's called the Defense Production Act. So far he's resisted mandating companies to start making much-needed medical equipment.

Let's get started. Lots of news going on. Sarah Westwood is joining us live from the White House right now.

The Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, Sarah, he's been in deep negotiations for this relief package. He's meeting with congressional leaders next hour. So what do we now know?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that Republican Senate staffers are still drafting the text of this bill as we speak, but Democrats have not yet fully embraced any kind of bipartisan bill on this stimulus. They are waiting to see the language that ends up in this legislation.

Republicans started writing the bill last night anyway. And that's because they're afraid if the timeline of passing this legislation slips, the markets could be spooked. Remember Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell laid out a very ambitious timeline. He wants to get this to the floor for a vote on Monday. And that's why they started drafting the legislation earlier in the process than some Democrats would have liked.

But Mnuchin said earlier today that there's a fundamental understanding among negotiators that a deal has been reached. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I do think it will get done. We've been working around-the-clock in the Senate with Republicans and the Democrats. I've been speaking to Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, the speaker. And I think we have a fundamental understanding and we look forward to wrapping it up today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, as you mentioned, Wolf, the top four congressional leaders are meeting with Mnuchin in McConnell's office just about an hour from now to hammer out the final details of this bill.

I want to quickly walk you through some of the details that Mnuchin said will end up in the legislation. That will include small business retention loans, an effort to try to get some of these companies not to lay off workers during this time of economic hardship. Also direct deposits to Americans and that enhanced unemployment insurance, that was a big sticking point.

Now interestingly, Wolf, Mnuchin said that this bill is designed for a 10 to 12-week scenario, but if coronavirus persists longer than 10 weeks, the administration may have to return to Congress to ask for more.

BLITZER: All right, Sarah, thanks very much. Sarah Westwood, reporting from the White House.

Last night I spoke with the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. He says one of the centerpieces of this bill is what he called unemployment insurance on steroids, meaning that if you can't work because your business is closed, you will get your full pay from the federal government. Here's what he told me about the state of the negotiations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is an idea that I proposed to them a while ago. And we're making good progress. We haven't dotted the I's and crossed the T's, but conceptionally I think we're there, yes.

BLITZER: And you think it will 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 they would 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We'll talk more about this with the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He's going to be joining us in just a couple minutes.

But first, as cases of the virus spread rapidly, states like New York and California are warning panicked people are flooding hospitals.

[10:05:08]

They're causing fears that medical supplies will soon run out. State of New York is changing how it's prioritizing testing for the virus at the same time.

CNN's Cristina Alesci is joining us from New York right now.

Cristina, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio calling New York City the epicenter of the outbreak. And let me tell you why that is a correct statement to make. New York state ranks among the highest, actually the highest state with the highest number of cases, and within New York state, New York City accounts for a majority of those cases.

Now the reason for that probably is twofold as we heard from the governor yesterday. It's probably a mix of the high density population that we have here in the city, as well as the high number of testing that's been done. Governor Cuomo pointing out that New York state has done double the amount of testing as opposed to California, for example.

Now on that issue of testing, this is becoming a critical issue because what we are hearing from city and state officials, and I've been reporting on this all morning for you, Wolf, that the issue is that now city and state officials are realizing let's give up on the testing, not totally, but let's cut back on that so that we preserve the gear that's necessary to equip our front line nurses and doctors who are going to be facing an influx of sick patients. And we don't want to use that -- you know, those masks and gowns to do the testing.

So just for an example, New York City was supposed to expand the number of testing sites, and now we're getting evidence that it's pulling back on that plan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Cristina Alesci, reporting from New York, thanks very much.

I'll stay in New York right. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, says his city is now the epicenter of this crisis here in the United States. Mayor de Blasio is joining us now to talk a little bit more about that.

Good morning, Mayor. Thanks so much. I know you're incredibly busy. We're grateful to you for joining us. We have several key issues to discuss. But first, can you update our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world on the latest numbers of the cases that coronavirus and the deaths in New York City.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Wolf, over 8,000 cases now in New York City. That's almost a third of the cases in the United States of America. It's over two-thirds of the cases in New York state. Sixty -- 60 people have passed away. And Wolf, this is only just begun. That is the truth. We are -- the worst is yet to come and I hate saying it but it's true.

BLITZER: Well, what are your experts telling you when you say the worst is yet to come?

DE BLASIO: Right now, I think in terms of the numbers, the human reality -- every number represents a human being and a family. April is going to be a lot worse than March, and I fear May could be worse than April. I think that's the honest truth.

In terms of our hospital system, bluntly, Wolf, I think we're about 10 days away now from seeing widespread shortages of really fundamental supplies, ventilators, surgical masks, the things that absolutely necessary to keep a hospital system running.

And we have seen next to nothing from the federal government at this point. We have seen -- we've made this plea publicly, privately, letters, phone calls, you name it. Very, very little has arrived. The military has not been mobilized. The Defense Production Act has not been utilized in any way that I can see.

Right now, I have to say for New York -- not just for New York City and New York state, I think for a lot of the country, it sure as hell feels like we're on our own at this point. We are not seeing action from the federal government.

BLITZER: Well, speaking of the federal government, I want you to watch and listen to the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, just told our Jake Tapper on the president's decision not to use, not to formally use the Defense Production Act to address these critical medical shortages. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Has the president, as of now, Sunday morning, ordered any companies to make more any -- to make more of any of these critical supplies?

PETER GAYNOR, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: No, and we haven't yet. It really is leverage. I think to demonstrate that, we can use it, the president can use it at any time. It's really amazing that -- how great America is. All these companies are coming up asking us what they can do to help.

And we haven't had to use it because companies around the country, donations, they're saying what can we do to help you. And it's happening without using that lever. If it comes to a point we have to pull the lever, we will. But right now it is really -- it's really a great sign about the greatness of this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Mayor, what would you say to the president about his failure to actually use this extraordinary power that he clearly has?

[10:10:04]

DE BLASIO: Wolf, everyday people are stepping up. It's true companies are trying their damnedest to step up but the president of the United States is not stepping up. He, right now, this minute, could mobilize the United States Military. Because if they don't get involved, anything that's produced around this country won't get to where the need is greatest. The only logistical capacity that can actually save us in real time is the military.

Their medical personnel are sitting on the bench. They don't want to sit on the bench but that's what's happening because the president hasn't given the order. And if you don't order companies to maximize production of ventilators, surgical masks, all the things that are desperately needed, and you don't organize that, and prioritize where it's going to go, it won't happen in time.

And we just have to be clear about this. This isn't something where everyone just makes up their own mind, and you hope the stuff arrives in time. We're not getting shipments. We're not getting the stuff we need. If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don't have to die. It's as simple as that. And the one force that could do that, the federal government, particularly the military, is not acting.

And then, Wolf, on top of that, insult to injury, our hospitals are working so hard, our medical personnel putting their lives on the line. They're running out of supplies. They're running out of money. Our states, our counties, our cities are running out of money. We are losing billions of dollars right here just in the last week.

Billions of dollars that if it's not replaced quickly by the federal government, if this stimulus bill does not involve direct relief for states, counties and cities, red states and blue states alike, I'm telling you, Wolf, that localities will not be able to pay the bills, will not be able to serve people in a time of crisis.

This has to be in this stimulus bill. Support for hospitals. They will not be able to function if they don't get an infusion of money right away.

BLITZER: You know, Mayor, New York City has some of the best hospitals in the country, maybe in the world. And it's hard to believe that at this time, the Javits Center in New York City, which is this huge convention complex that many of us are familiar with, is actually going to be made into a temporary hospital.

When will it be ready? Who is doing this? Is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers? Could you believe that something like this is actually going to be essential in New York City?

DE BLASIO: Wolf, this is the new reality in the United States of America. It's starting here but it's going to reach all 50 states. That's the truth. We are going to need our military to do exactly things like this. They know how under combat conditions to provide medical care. Overseas, far from their bases, of course they can do it here in America.

We're getting great help from the state of New York, from the National Guard. I know the Army Corps of Engineers is beginning to help us. But we need a lot more than that if we're going to need it all over the country. This is why a full-scale mobilization is needed. This is going to be the greatest crisis domestically since the Great Depression.

It is abundantly clear right now. That's why we need a full-scale mobilization of the American military and we need the Congress to act like we're on the way to the next Great Depression, do what Franklin Roosevelt did in the New Deal, and actually put money in the hands of people and local governments and hospitals, not big corporations.

Forget bailing out the airlines right now. Bail out the people. Bail out the hospitals. Bail out the cities and states and counties that are actually trying to provide for basic human need. That's what they should be doing.

But the president just has to sign a document to actually mobilize the military, sign a document ordering factories that could produce ventilators to a 24/7 production line, and the military to distribute those ventilators to where the need is greatest.

There is no president, Republican or Democrat, in our history who would not have done this already. Dwight Eisenhower would have done it already. Harry Truman would have done it already. John Kennedy would have done it already. Come on, it's time.

BLITZER: All right. Mayor de Blasio, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in New York City. Good luck to everyone in the United States, indeed around the world. This is a global crisis as we know.

Thank you very much for joining us.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Coming up, we'll speak live with the mayor of Washington, D.C. I'll ask her about the enormous challenges she's facing in getting people to follow social distancing here in the nation's capital. The strong measures being put in place to keep visitors from flocking to an annual tradition. This could be very, very dangerous.

[10:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Activating the D.C. National Guard is one of the latest actions being taken here in Washington, D.C. to stop the spread of COVID-19. There are at least 98 confirmed cases in the nation's capital. One person has died.

Joining us now, the mayor of Washington, Muriel Bowser.

Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for joining us. You put out this call for volunteers for the D.C. Medical Reserve Corps. How urgent is the need? What kind of volunteers are you looking for?

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-DC): Well, it's very urgent, Wolf. And I think that what we know for sure is that we're dealing with a pandemic and a disaster that's affecting every state and jurisdiction in our country. We all have to work together.

I couldn't agree with Mayor de Blasio more that we need the federal government to engage every emergency power that it has, especially with regard to helping us get ready for medical surges, that they're seeing in New York and that many of us expect to see.

[10:20:02]

Many, many Americans are asking how they can help. And Washington is the same. And one thing we're asking folks who have a medical background and even who don't, who want to be a part of our volunteer medical corps, to get in touch with D.C. Health, to sign up so that we can have them trained and ready to go, whether it's in a testing facility, whether it's in a triage capacity, or whether it's helping with people who have been quarantined.

BLITZER: You know, we have terrific hospitals here in Washington, the Washington Hospital Center, George Washington University Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital. These are great hospitals. Are they facing the same sort of shortages? We're talking about the masks, the gowns, the ventilators like other parts of the country?

BOWSER: Well, certainly they are in conservation mode, Wolf. And they're using their PPE as they need to. They are being very judicious and making sure that people who need to be tested are tested. But also using that PPE very appropriately. We have also been very grateful to all of our providers who are working with their patients, via telemedicine, who have canceled elective surgeries, to all the residents in our region who are staying out of the emergency rooms.

All of that is making our medical personnel available for the patients who need to be hospitalized. So I think they feel pretty good about where they are now. The question about ventilators scares us all. If we have a medical surge in people who need this equipment, this is not equipment that a city county or a state can just flip a switch and get.

So anything that the federal government can do, private companies and private enterprise, to speed up the production of those ventilators is going to help save lives in our country.

BLITZER: It certainly will.

Mayor, I want you to look at these images. These are large crowds gathering here in Washington at the National Mall, Tidal Basin, an annual tradition to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. It's a huge tourist draw but people don't seem to be listening to calls for what's called social distancing and the National Park Service just tweeted that they're putting in place traffic control measures.

What do you need to do in order to keep these people further away from each other?

BOWSER: Actually, today, Wolf, I dispatched the Metropolitan Police Department to close, our police department, to close the streets that surround the Tidal Basin. Working with the park service, who has limited parking on the site, so it's going to be very difficult for anybody to travel to the Tidal Basin.

Our message is clear. Stay at home. We love our trees. We've had them for over 100 years. And next year they're going to bloom, too. We're going to have big festivals around it next year. Now is not the time to go to the Tidal Basin. The park service has done a great job in putting out virtual tours, so you can even see the blooms while you're safe at home.

This virus is no joke. And gathering in big crowds at the Tidal Basin makes us all unsafe in D.C., Maryland and Virginia because we know we have people traveling to the city from all around us. There's nothing open. You can virtually not use the Metro because the service has been very limited in getting down there. There are no bathrooms to use. And there are no restaurants or bars open. So stay at home and view the cherry blossoms this year virtually.

BLITZER: Virtually is important. There's always next year. We all have to survive, though, this year, and you're giving excellent advice to our viewers out there.

Thank you so much, Mayor Bowser. Good luck to you.

BOWSER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck to all the folks there in Washington.

BOWSER: And thank you for the work that you're doing.

BLITZER: Well, thank you very much. This is a joint effort on all of our parts. Thank you.

BOWSER: Stay safe. BLITZER: And to our viewers, stay with CNN, next hour, four U.S.

congressional leaders from the House and the Senate, they will be meeting with the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. It comes just hours before the Senate votes on a far-reaching perhaps $2 trillion -- trillion -- economic stimulus package.

Much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:28:47]

BLITZER: Just minutes from now, Congress's top four leaders in the House and Senate will meet with the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin hoping to hammer out the final details of a massive perhaps $2 trillion economic stimulus package. It comes just hours before the Senate is expected to vote on the bill and another briefing expected later this afternoon from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Questions are likely on whether President Trump will enforce what's called the Defense Production Act. So far he's resisted mandating companies to start making much needed medical equipment. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases now surging to over 26,000 in the United States. 326 people have died. Globally the number of cases is now over 300,000.

Let's bring in Dr. Michael Osterholm, he's the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. And you can read his latest article in the "Washington Post" today, "Facing COVID-19 Reality: A National Lockdown is No Cure."

Dr. Osterholm, thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you.

[10:30:00]

BLITZER: In your article you write that rather than shutting down the entire country like Italy, let's say, or China had to shut down, the U.S. consider in your words letting at those at low risk for serious disease continue to work keep business and manufacturing operating and run society while at the same time advising higher-risk individuals to protect themselves. The question is this wouldn't that approach potentially put more lives at risk?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY: You know, at the end of the day, Wolf, all of us are at risk for what may be many months to come, even right now in China, Singapore, Korea, we're already seeing as restrictions are lifted, these efforts to limit any kind of human contact, we're starting to see a resurgence in cases.

And so, what we know is that this will likely continue to burn through the population for another 12, 18 months or until we get a vaccine. So we need to look at is surely dealing with the surges that we're seeing now in New York, Seattle those are crisis situations we need to deal with now and to try to dampen.

But if we can hold down cases for 18 months, it would mean we would have to lock down the country for 18 months. And what we don't have right now is a national strategy. I don't know what it is?

My colleagues don't know what it is? And I think what we're talking about how do we get through the next 18 months until hopefully we can have a vaccine that will then be the end of the day answer?

BLITZER: But it might be 12 to 18 months for a real vaccine to emerge, but over the next few months there may be some breakthroughs in treatments that could really curtail deaths and serious complications from Coronavirus, right?

OSTERHOLM: Surely that could happen. But as you and I both know, hope is not a strategy. We've got to look at if we don't have those what do we have to do to get try to this country through this? Front line healthcare workers, I believe, are going to be the real heroes of this entire event.

Right now we are going to run out of masks, the kind that we need to protect those health care workers with. I for one don't believe the Defense Protection Act really makes a difference because you can't suddenly gear up and make a ventilator or you can't suddenly make N-95 respirator.

People who make mousetraps can't make cathedrals overnight. They can do it over years. Don't forget in World War II after the U.S. fleet was destroyed in Pearl Harbor, it took us 3 1/2 years before we restored that. We will not see a lot new items coming forward from new production is what we're - we'll have to deal with.

So we've got figure a strategy out of how to we're going to get through this literally for the next 18 months, it's not shutting down.

BLITZER: Well, let me you and you've been an expert on infectious disease for a long time. Years ago you warned of a pandemic potential here in the United States. So tell our viewers right now Dr. Osterholm what are the two or three things most important you would like to see the President of the United States do?

OSTERHOLM: First of all, number one, no more happy talk. Stop it. Tell the truth. Tell what we're going to face. We're going to run out of masks and respirators in the next few weeks. We will not have nearly enough. Health care workers will be exposed. They will get sick and they will die. So we need to figure out what we can do to minimize that.

Number two, don't make promises you can't keep. The idea that companies come forward and help, everybody wants to help. But again, if you don't have the machinery already in place, you don't have the skill set, you're not going to make new equipment that we otherwise takes real expertise to do.

Number three stop talking about all this testing. We are going to have a collision course with destiny in a few weeks when the reagents for making these tests available are coming in short supply. Already we have public health laboratories around the country that can't test today because we run out of reagents.

So at the same time we're trying to make everybody feel better about saying we're now having more testing, we're going to actually see much less of it not because people don't want to test, it's because they won't be available. That's the kind of just straight talk.

If we do that with Americans, tell them what we're going to do about that, we'll get through this. It's when we go from saying everything is low risk and then two weeks later saying we're at war. That's what people are having a very hard time with. So if I could say to the President and this entire administration, just straight talk. That's what the public wants and needs, and that's what will get us through this for the next 12 to 18 months.

BLITZER: All right. It's a scary, scary frightening situation not only here in the United States but around the world. Doctor Osterholm thank you so much for joining us.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

BLITZER: And if you think you have the Coronavirus, the CDC has a new online tool to help with demand for the Coronavirus testing. It's an automatic BOT nicknamed Clara. If you have questions about COVID-19, feel free them to CNN. We're working hard to bring you the answers, visit our website at cnn.com/coronavirus-questions.

While on our Web site, by the way checkout this article on what started COVID-19 is unknown. We don't know it started from animal transmission but bats are not to blame for the Coronavirus pandemic, humans are. Visit cnn.com for this and much more on the virus.

And as the globe number of Coronavirus cases tops right now 308,000, Europe is now seeing a huge - huge surge in infections. We'll go there live when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:35:00]

BLITZER: As we monitor the spread of the Coronavirus, the situation globally is dire. In the United Kingdom the number of COVID-19 cases has now passed 5,000, that's a rise of more than 1,000 cases in 24 hours. 233 people so far have died.

Meantime, these pictures coming in to "The Situation Room" in and of an amphibious French helicopter carrier it arrived and of course looking to evacuate Coronavirus patients from a Mediterranean Island to hospitals at nearby Marseille.

France has just seen its highest jump in deaths since the outbreak began. The French Health Ministry recorded some 562 deaths on Saturday alone. In Spain, in a single day, the number of deaths has jumped 30 percent now to more than 1,700. In Italy, the numbers are almost impossible to fathom. In the past 24 hours alone, there were 793 deaths and that brings the total death toll in Italy to nearly 5,000 people.

[10:40:00]

BLITZER: I want to bring in CNN's Delia Gallagher. She is joining us live from Rome right now. So Delia, what's going on? What is the situation like where you are?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Listen Wolf, it's really devastating news out of Italy, not only is the numbers of cases continuing to climb, but of course the death toll is alarmingly high of the 4,800 patients who have died, some 3,000 are in the Lombardy region alone.

That's the area around Milan and that is the area Wolf with the best hospitals in Italy. It is one of the wealthiest regions in Italy. The Health Ministry of Italy is connecting these deaths to age and underlying conditions.

They say that the average age of people who are dying are 80-years-old and that 98 percent of them having one or more underlying conditions. What adds to the drama of this, Wolf is that, these people are dying in isolation. Their families are not able to be with them in the last hours of their lives. They're not able to have a funeral for them.

And in some places like Bergamo a city in the north which has been hardest hit, they don't even have room in their cemeteries. We're seeing coffins that are being loaded on to military convoys to take them out of the city to bury them.

There is a bright note in all of this, Wolf. There was a call out nationwide for doctors and nurses to come out of retirement and help people in the north. They were helping to get 300. They got 7,000 volunteers and they will be deployed soon to the north.

I also want to mention Wolf that we just had confirmation a while back from the Italian Prime Minister's office that there was a phone call yesterday between the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. Russia is sending aid and 100 doctors to Italy. Their flights, there are military planes. One of them has already left this morning for Italy. Wolf.

BLITZER: Delia you be careful over there as well. Delia Gallagher reporting for us from Rome. And still to come, the Democratic Presidential Race here in the United States is at a standstill right now as fund raisers and rallies they're replaced with so-called virtual events. Some of the Biden and Sanders campaigns are shifting their messaging in the face of this Coronavirus pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:00]

BLITZER: The spread of the Coronavirus has forced the 2020 Democratic Presidential Race here in the United States to essentially freeze. No rallies. No campaigning. No fund-raisers, no idea when the next primary will actually happen. As of right now, eight states have already postponed their primaries as a result of the outbreak.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders they are adjusting their campaign schedules, shifting their messaging to address this issue. This week, as Sanders called on Americans to stand together and Biden stopped running new television ads. He is focusing on some digital advertising.

Our Political Correspondent Arlette Saenz is joining us from Philadelphia following the Biden Campaign. CNN Correspondent Ryan Nobles is Virginia following the Sanders Campaign. Arlette, Biden is clearly switching strategies right now, going digital. He's trying to get his message on the Coronavirus out. Tell us about that.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just as many Americans are adapting to this new way of life, so is Joe Biden and his campaign as they are adjusting their tactics right now in the middle of Coronavirus.

The Former Vice President is working from his home in Delaware. Campaign staffers who are typically at the Headquarters here in Philadelphia, they're working at home. Those in-person rallies and fund-raisers have now been replaced by virtual events.

The campaign is increasingly going to depend on this digital world as the country is dealing with this global health crisis. The Biden Campaign is trying to come up with some creative ways for him to connect with voters. They're considering virtual rope lines to try to replicate those one-on-one interactions that Joe Biden relies on so much on the campaign trail.

They're also thinking about podcast and long-form videos to relay their messages. And Biden himself told reporters to expect to see a lot more of him in this coming week starting tomorrow he wanting to begun hold a daily briefings in response to the Coronavirus and so much of their messaging over the past week has been the response to the Coronavirus.

Joe Biden has been quite critical of President Trump's handling, accusing him trying to over to pass the buck and overpromise. He believes that the President needs to do a better job of delivering results for the American people.

And Biden has stayed in contact with his team of public health advisers that he's formed. They've been on the phone with him for hours each day talking about the crisis. Biden has also been talking to Mayors and Governors to hear their needs and their thoughts on this crisis.

And right now this is also presented Biden with an opportunity to reinforce his message that he's able to step into the Oval Office on day one and handle a crisis like this. Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlette, stand by for a moment. Ryan, I'll get to you. I just want to alert our viewers, we're standing by for a briefing. The New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo is getting ready to brief reporters, make a statement on what's going on in New York right now. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.

Ryan, I think we're going to go back - go to Ryan in a moment, just lost his shot for a moment. Arlette, is Biden basically staying inside his house right now? We know what he is 77-years-old, Bernie Sanders is 78-years-old. Are they just basically doing what is recommended by the medical authorities out there, stay put?

SAENZ: Yes. Biden's been working from his home in Delaware basically for the past week. I think the last time we actually saw him out in public was on the debate stage last Sunday. But he's been at home.

[10:50:00]

SAENZ: He's been talking to advisers over the phone, spending a lot of time on the phone making calls about the Coronavirus. There have been a few advisers who had been coming and going from his home. But for the most part, it is Joe Biden and his family at their home in Delaware and their two dogs as well.

Actually Jill Biden did a phone call with military families last week. And you heard a dog interrupt that phone call howling. So she was also going through some of those work-from-home woes that so many people across this country are trying to deal with. But Biden has been hunkered down at home in Delaware.

BLITZER: Right, we've reconnected with Ryan right now. So Ryan, what are you hearing about the Bernie Sanders Campaign and the future?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there's no doubt that the Coronavirus has really made things difficult for Sanders and his team. He relies so heavily on these massive rallies that bring thousands of people together to spread his message. Because of the fact that he's so far behind in the delegate count right now and his path to the nomination is so slim.

The fact that he's not able to get out there and campaign and connect with people in trying close the gap with Joe Biden has made that process even more difficult. As a result, Sanders has gone back to his home in, Vermont.

He and his wife Jane Sanders are deliberating the future, but aides tell me that Sanders is so focused right now on just addresses the Coronavirus that he's not even really thinking about his political future.

The other different dynamic between Biden and Sanders is that of course Sanders is still a sitting United States Senator. So he's been activity involved in the conversations on Capitol Hill. He did vote for that first stimulus package and he's also part of Democratic leadership so he's been offering up suggestions as to how to deal with the crisis, specifically the impact on every-day working families?

He's very concerned about the economic impact overall. And one other note Wolf about how Sanders is adjusting and using his campaign apparatus to deal with the Coronavirus crisis. He stopped actively fund-raising. They're no longer sending out fund-raising emails to support his campaign.

Instead he's sending emails asking for people to donate to a group of charities that have been impacted hard by the Coronavirus crisis. Wolf, in 48 hours his campaign raised $2 million for five different charities. So that's how Sanders and his team are dealing with the health crisis and the impact on his campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, that is so nice and so important and potentially life- saving as well. So, a major difference between Biden and Sanders, Ryan, right now, is that Biden is basically staying home, but Bernie Sanders, as you correctly point out, a sitting U.S. Senator, he's commuting back and forth between his home in the D.C. area and Capitol Hill?

NOBLES: Yes, that's correct. He was in Washington starting from our debate on Sunday right through the middle of the week then went home to Burlington. He's still in Burlington now actively involved in conversations with Democratic leadership right now.

He's preparing to come back to Washington if need be to cast key votes. Right now a lot these conversations are happening on the staff level. But Sanders remains in close contact with Democratic leadership to make sure that his voice is a part of this process.

He has been very critical, Wolf, I should say of the Republican offerings right now. He's concerned that their focus is too much on bailing out big corporations that of course have been hit hard by this. He's been very focused on those every day workers and their impact in helping them get through all of this so that they are still stable when we get through this crisis.

BLITZER: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much. Arlette Saenz thanks to you as well. Be sure to stay with CNN. We're expecting a live Coronavirus update from the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo. That supposed to begin very, very soon. We'll have live coverage of that, see what he says live coverage later of the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing as well.

Before we go little light to all this gloom. Celebrities are now raising awareness about the importance of social distancing to slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus. The actor, Kevin Bacon, is challenging people on social media to post who they are staying home for during the pandemic?

The campaign is based on the popular game six degrees of Kevin Bacon. I spoke to the actor last night about why he's doing this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: I've always felt like "Six Degrees" was a crazy, you know, game that I kind of randomly became the center of. But it's never really been about me ever. You need to take me out of the game and once you take me out of the game, you realize that we are all connected.

Sadly this virus is a really good example of that. The things that we do, the way we live on this side of the earth are going to affect people in our neighborhood and on the other side of the world. We're all kind of riding this big boat together.

So it seemed like as someone to kind of launch this idea of trying our best to social distance in this very, very crucial time, this just seemed like the right person to do it, just based on the game randomly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:55:00]

BLITZER: Celebrities from Mariah Carey, Elton John, David Beckham and Demi Lovato they have responded posting why they're staying home. Once again to our viewers, thank you very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room" please, please stay home, be careful.

The situation out there is very, very dangerous right now. I'll be back with another "Special Situation Room" later this afternoon 1:00 pm eastern.

Don't forget Fareed Zakaria "GPS" will be back next Sunday in its normal time slot. They'll talk exclusively to the Prime Minister of Singapore the nation that acted quickly on Coronavirus and has been praised for its efforts by the World Health Organization.

What can we learn from Singapore? That's Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," next Sunday at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm Eastern much more news, right after this.

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