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Governors plead for federal government to nationalize effort to acquire medical supplies for coronavirus; Global cases exceed 318,000, more than 29,000 cases in U.S.; Gov. Cuomo: 40-50% people in New York will get coronavirus. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 22, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're watching a special edition of The Situation Room happening now.

Sounding the alarm, governors on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, now issuing desperate pleas to the federal government warning that supplies are dwindling in the face of this massive medical threat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The federal government should nationalize medical supply acquisition. The states simply cannot manage it. When states are doing it, we are competing against other states. In some ways we're savaging other states.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): We're all competing against each other. This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government you know, it's a wide - Wild West I would say out there and indeed we're overpaying, I would say for that PPE because of that competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And the numbers are truly staggering. There are no more than 318,000 infections globally and that includes over 29,000 cases and 376 deaths here in the United States. Let's begin in New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo now says he expects and get this between 40 and 80 percent of the people in New York state, he says, eventually will contract the coronavirus.

CNN's Christina Alesci is in New York for us. Cristina, the governor also had a pointed message for President Trump.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He is not sugar coating the message for New Yorkers and he's also being very clear with the president that the state needs several help and it needs - it needs it quickly enough in order to save lives.

Look, Governor Cuomo delivered facts to the American people today. It was an urgent message he said it's a matter of life and death but he's also trying to bring people together saying that you know with the sober fact that for New Yorkers, between 40 to 80 percent of us will either - either get the virus or already have it. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: This is not a short term situation. This is not a long weekend. This is not a week. The timeline, nobody can tell you. It depends on how we handle it. But 40 percent up to 80 percent of the population will wind up getting this virus.

All we're trying to do is slow the spread but it will spread. It is that contagious.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALESCI: Wolf, the governor was very specific with the numbers and with what needs to be done. He said look, the state has 53 - about 53,000 hospital beds. It will need 110,000 hospital beds at the apex of this virus when it hits the state.

Now he called on the federal government, both FEMA and the Army Corps of engineers to increase the number of hospital beds but he also took leadership himself saying, that he's directed hospital to deliver plans to increase the number of beds available.

And on this issue of medical equipment for the front line nurses and doctors here in New York, this is so critical, Wolf. I've been seeing it on the ground myself. The state is quickly trying to shift you know, a focus on testing and using that equipment on testing to getting into the hospitals that are going to need it most to protect the front line staff.

So it doesn't get sick by treating these patients and that's why it's so important for the federal government to come in and negotiate and mandate the production of this equipment so that the states have access to it and can distribute it in an orderly way and that they are not being price gouged.

But I'm seeing the shift happened here in New York, it's urgent and it's happening real time. Wolf.

BLITZER: And so many lives are at stake right now. Cristina Aleasci reporting for us. Thank you. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now where lawmakers are working, trying to get back to $2 trillion federal stimulus package approved for the American people. We've just received late word just now that the House speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats may not be ready to sign off on it, at least not yet.

Let's go to Lauren Fox up on Capitol Hill so what's the latest Lauren, what are you learning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well Wolf, we're hearing two very desperate messages from Republicans and Democrats coming out of this meeting. I was in a press conference with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, just a few minutes ago. He said, he thinks that lawmakers are very close, that he plans to

hold a vote this afternoon, a procedural vote to get this in motion for a final vote tomorrow.

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He says Republicans and Democrats still negotiating. He's still open to hearing some changes from Democrats who want to see those changes in this bill but I will tell you. Nancy Pelosi coming out of the meeting with a very different message. She said they were still far apart, that she plans to introduce her own piece of legislation that her chairmen have been working on over the last week or so.

So that's where we are right now. A lot of uncertainty, a lot of posturing. I'll tell you, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are meeting separately right now to discuss where they go from here but McConnell very clear in his press conference, that he plans to hold that procedural vote today at 3:00.

We'll be watching very closely to see where Democrats are. All the while, the urgency really setting an up here on Capitol Hill. Markets are going to open tomorrow morning. Lot of Republicans and Democrats very afraid of what happens if they haven't signaled to the markets that they are in a position where they are seeing eye to eye on this legislation. Wolf.

BLITZER: Stakes clearly Lauren are so - so enormous, right now. Millions of Americans pretty soon will start running out of money for food and basics, unless some sort of emergency legislation is enacted and enacted very quickly. All right, Lauren, we'll get back to you.

You'll update us later. Joining us now Congressman Ami Bera. He's a democratic representative from California. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I know you guys are very busy right now.

The speaker Nancy Pelosi, you just heard, she's warning that House Democrats like yourself potentially are not ready to sign on to this massive stimulus package. You're talking at least $2 trillion. First of all Congressman, where do you stand on this bill?

REP. AMI BERA (D-CA): You know, we haven't seen the final language. I think we've got to come together as Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate and show that leadership and get something passed quickly.

But let's also get the right thing done. We are very concerned about some of those hourly workers, the folks on the - on the front line and so forth that need that those resources and we've got to get that done.

BLITZER: Yes, they are you know - they desperately will be needing that kind of cash. If needed you know, certainly a lot of Americans are already out of work but millions more potentially in the next few weeks will be out of work. They will need this for relief.

Are you willing to compromise, reach some sort of package, may not be perfect but at least it'll start getting money to these folks? BERA: Absolutely. We're not seeing the leadership out of the White

House so Congress has to lead here and get something done and if it's not perfect, we know we're going to do additional packages down the road.

Let's get something out there, let's restore some faith in governmental leadership here and let's do in a bipartisan way.

BLITZER: I know you want a moratorium, Congressmen and evictions and foreclosures which will skyrocket fairly soon as well as an increase in funding for shelters. If the bill doesn't include those measures, how likely is it that a separate stimulus package will be passed, let's say later to cover those kinds of concerns?

BERA: Yes, I certainly hope that's in there. We've introduced those measures. We already have a homelessness crisis here in California. Lot of folks can't make their rent. Let's have a moratorium on evictions. Let's also provide some rental housing assistance for folks that are living paycheck to paycheck, and no longer have that paycheck.

That ought to be in there and that - that's something that's going to help a lot of Americans but if it's not, let's keep pushing forward on this and let's get it in the one.

BLITZER: You're not only a Congressman but you're also a doctor, can you tell us what you're seeing, what you're hearing from your medical colleagues about this situation? Specifically at hospitals, not only in your district, but around the country?

BERA: You know, I was out at my old hospital where I practiced, UC Davis Medical Center on Friday, looking at their preparations, talking to their leadership and then talking to the front line workers, the nurses, the doctors.

These are folks that are heroes. They're showing to work every day. You know their families are concerned. They've got parents, grandparents, sons, daughters and they're putting themselves on the front line. They are our heroes and we should thank them for what they're doing and keeping our country safe and our community safe.

What you know, they're opening up capacity in the hospital. They're setting across clinics, places that they can quickly triage folks. We've also recognized that we could quickly get overwhelmed.

I talked to a local university president. Their dorms have cleared out so we're making plans you know, could you move those subacute patients out of the hospital once they're getting a little bit better, they're not ready to go home? Could you quickly convert dorms into a place where folks could convalesce?

We're going to - we're not getting leadership out of the federal government so we're going to have to do this here locally and across this country.

BLITZER: Yes, these medical personnel, the doctors, the nurses, the others, they are risking their lives right now, given the lack of equipment, the personal protective equipment that they need, it's clearly an emergency right now.

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I want you to watch what the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said earlier this morning to Jake Tapper about the numbers of masks being sent out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Do you have any specific numbers on how many masks the federal government has been able to acquire and how many have gone out the door to hospitals?

PETER GAYNOR, FEME ADMINISTRATOR: It is - it is a dynamic and fluid operation. The president appointed FEMA, five days ago to manage federal operations and since I've been here, we've been shipping continuously from federal warehouses and again, connecting you know, those governors that need supplies to those who have it in the commercial sector.

TAPPER: Do you have even a rough number?

GAYNOR: I can't give you a rough number. I can tell you that it's happening every day and my mission is operational coordination of all these things and that's my focus. So whether it's supplies, vents, you name it, we are fighting it, identifying it and shipping it to those who have requested it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So Congressman, what's your reaction to that?

BERA: Doesn't give me a lot of confidence. We really do need to see some leadership in the supply chain. Folks talking to the various manufacturers that are out there to the garment makers, you know. They could quickly shift and make reusable protective gowns that you could use, wash, use again.

Those are things that we have the capacity. We have a distiller here in the local community who is now making hand sanitizer. It's not complicated. It's - it's making alcohol.

BLITZER: Do you agree with the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo that the federal government should now nationalize the acquirement - acquiring these kinds of emergency medical supplies?

In other words, do you want the president to actually implement to use what's called the Defense Production Act?

BERA: I think it is time that you did that. He probably should have done it a while ago. We have workers, manufacturers, etcetera that are willing to step up. They just need guidance on what to do. You ought to be able to 3D manufacture some of these mass. They're doing in Italy, why aren't we doing it here and why aren't we

mobilizing all the resources that we have? This is a critical situation, this is the time where we've got to get ahead of the curve and I would like to see the President do that.

BLITZER: You are represented district in California as you know, 40 million Californians right now are under what's called a stay at home order. From what you've seen out there and you're out there right now, are the residents obeying this order? Are you confident it will help flatten that curve in California?

BERA: Yes. The residents out here in California, out here in Sacramento county and across this country are all coming together. We're seeing help one another and shelter in place. We're seeing neighbors going out and getting groceries for the elderly and you know, this is what we do as Americans, we come together in a time of crisis.

And you know, we will get through this from a public health perspective but it will take some time and I do think the sheltering in place is going to flatten the curve and slow this down and hopefully, give our hospitals time to the address the sick that are coming in.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope it does indeed because right now, a lot of people are dying, a lot of people are getting very, very sick and presumably, unless something happens, those numbers are going to increase. Now Congressman Ami Bera, thank you so much for joining us.

BERA: Wolf, thanks. You're welcome.

BLITZER: Thank you. You too be careful out there. Still to come, CNN is about to take you overseas where the number of deaths from the virus continues to soar. Also stunning numbers coming out of Italy right now and just how many health care workers have been infected. You're watching a special edition of The Situation Room.

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BLITZER: Welcome back to this special edition of The Situation Room. As we monitor the coronavirus outbreak, the situation in Europe right now is becoming especially dire. In Spain in a single day, the number of deaths is jumped 30 percent to more than 1700 while France has just seen its highest jump in deaths since the outbreak began.

The French Health Ministry has recorded a total out of 562 deaths and in Italy the numbers are staggering in the past 24 hours alone, 651 new deaths. That brings the death toll in Italy now to more than 5000 people.

CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joining us now live from Rome. Barbie, we're also learning that almost what, 5000 health care workers in Italy have contracted the virus?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that's right and that's because they just don't have the right equipment and they don't have enough staff in order to switch people out and a lot of these doctors are still working even though they've tested positive.

A lot of them have had - are just under incredible stress and pressure to try to save lives. They're really on the front line. This is mostly in the northern part of the country but people are feeling slightly if you can even say that, optimistic today because the number of new cases is down for the first time in a long time.

It's not you know, it's still far higher than many countries have as a total but we're looking for that curve to start to flatten and if we see a trend of the increment to be at least not a new record every day, that gives people hope.

You know the lockdown continues to be one of the most difficult things for most everyday Italians. Now outdoor activities prohibited in the north and everyone across the country is prohibited from driving outside of their city for any reason, even work. Wolf.

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BLITZER: Yes, it's an amazing situation unfolding. Good luck to everyone over there. Barbie, be careful. We'll stay in close touch with you as well. Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.K. is now past 5000. That's a rise in more than 1000 cases in just 24 hours.

233 people so far have died in the U.K. Max Foster is joining us from Windsor Castle right now. Max, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is warning the country may be only a few weeks behind Italy right now. Has Queen Elizabeth been giving a similar message?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Queen Elizabeth I think is standing by really to live up to her role to create contiguity during crisis and to create unity and Boris Johnson is speaking just down the road in Downing Street and what he's talking about is a similar sort of message about community.

It's not just for young people to go out because they may not suffer a massively if they can check this disease. They need to shield the more vulnerable people. So the message is very much going out in this country that as the disease spreads and guess saw proportions potentially, we all need to think about the vulnerable people.

So letters gone out to 1.5 million people who are vulnerable to this virus. They being told to stay indoors for 12 weeks. Another big concern in this country is that there were images shared on social media about people out in parts in public places becoming very close to each other and Boris Johnson is putting out this message saying, fresh air does not protect you from this virus.

You still have to stick to the rules. You still need to be 2 meters away from the person near you. Meanwhile in Germany, they're banning groups of more than two people. So there's a real effort in Europe, which is a liberal democracy largely, to try to live up to liberal values, allow people to make their own decisions about what to do but then protect the vulnerable groups.

And I think that's really what people are struggling with here and what governments are struggling with in Europe. How to allow people to make their own decisions to not be too authoritarian and they're looking to China saying, how do they do things there.

Well actually it's much simpler, isn't it? When you have a centrally planned system and you can effectively tell people what to do and enforce it.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an important point. Max Foster in London for us. Max, we're going to check back with you, we're going to check back with other reporters around the world as well. Take a look at this. Get another visual look at this global reality.

Empty scenes across France. You'll see just a few lonely joggers in the - in this Paris - in this park in Paris. And across India, look at this, a similar scene is playing out. New Delhi and Mumbai, as residents are ordered to stay inside. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

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BLITZER: California hospitals say they're bracing for an onslaught of coronavirus patients. This as hospital leaders are working overtime right now to try to ensure that there are simply enough medical supplies and staffing. Our Paul Vercammen is joining us now from Burbank in California. The Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

Paul, how are doctors and nurses, health care professionals preparing for this?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're doing a lot of different things. Number one, all elective surgeries are postponed at these Providence hospitals, more than 50 of them west of the Mississippi.

Second, they want the patients if they can to go online to Providence connect and that way they can be diagnosed, talk to doctors. Then in the back of the ER, they have set up these tents. These tents are meant to assess patients. Doctors will be there critical to all this is they want to keep people who don't need to be in the ER are out of the ER.

They want to focus on those patients who may have the virus and then supplies. All of these hospitals west of the Mississippi are stocking up on supplies but you might ask what if they don't have everything? Well, up the road from this hospital, jumping into the bridge, Direct Relief. That's that relief agencies around the world. you've seen them such as

in the Haiti earthquake, bringing in critical medical supplies, they had a stockpile of masks. This week alone, they're sending out about a half million masks.

They have partners in China. They're trying to get more masks made, some 3 million of them but that's a challenge because things changed in China in terms of distribution when the virus hit. Let's listen to one of the Direct Relief VPs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MACCALLA, VP, EMERGENCY RESPONSE, DIRECT RELIEF: You have to rapidly vet suppliers. Often they want a 100 percent payment up front which is a very sketchy proposition and you don't know what's real and it's the supply is going like that, if you don't act quickly.

So what we are - what we can do though is at least for now to get the medications for those critical care patients and we can protect the frontline healthcare workers in the U. S. with the shipments that are all going out, over the weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And Direct Relief also sending out antibiotics and IV fluids. Another thing they found out from China was these oxygen concentrator. They're going to send out about 2000 of them.

The oxygen concentrator allows the patient who had coronavirus to recover at home when they're no longer at a ventilator and that will free up hospital beds. Back to you now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Paul Vercammen, out in California for us. Situation pretty sad out there as well. Joining us now to discuss all of this, Samantha Vinograd, CNN National Security Analyst, former national security official under President Obama along with Dr. James Phillips. He's also a CNN Medical Analyst.

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He's a physician, assistant professor at George Washington University hospital here in Washington DC. Dr. Phillips, Governor Cuomo says they expect and it's hard to believe, that 40 to 80 percent of New Yorkers, the people in New York state, 40-80 percent will get coronavirus.

First of all, do you accept that assessment and what would it mean for hospitals?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I absolutely accept that assessment. We've actually been concerned about that on a country wide level for months. We've discussed this. We've seen the modeling.

We know how these diseases spread and a lot of it depends on our own responsibility and social distancing. The density in New York is certainly profound, compared to most cities in the United States and that can increase the risk of spread but those numbers don't surprise me at all unfortunately.

BLITZER: You know Sam, as of this morning, the President still has it implemented that order to make companies to start producing key medical equipment through what's called the Defense Production Act. Why do you think he's waiting?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well Wolf, just to be clear, this is United States of America. Governor should not be playing an episode of the hunger games right now to try to find medical supplies. I can't begin to imagine what's going through President Trump's head right now because the Defense Production Act for any of us that have worked on policy preparedness and responsiveness should have been implemented weeks ago.

The Defense Production Act or the DPA has various tenets that allow the federal government to direct factories to prioritize contracts, to produce much needed supplies. It also allows the federal government to get involved in the distribution of supplies so that governors are not fighting each other, trying to figure out where to get these supplies.

And it also allows the federal government to plan ahead. This is going to be a months' long process. Under the DPA, the federal government could give guaranteed loan to various factories and companies to start producing more medical masks, gowns and other much needed equipment.

So at this point, every second matters that President Trump does not take adequate steps to prepare and the fact is, he must have seen this coming based upon the intelligence he had to have received.

Now there's open source information about how long this crisis is going to go on and he's failing to use the instruments at his disposal for a reason perhaps related to the economy or just not wanting to acknowledge that this is how bad this is and that this is happening under his watch.

BLITZER: That's an important point. You know Dr. Phillips, the numbers coming out of Italy and Spain right now show that around 10 percent of the coronavirus cases there are healthcare workers. Doctors and nurses. How vulnerable are these doctors and nurses right now?

And could you anticipate what's happening in Spain and Italy right now within a week or two could be happening here?

PHILLIPS: I can. I'm dressed like this not out of disrespect but because in about 20 minutes, I'm leaving to go work my shift in the emergency department and what I can tell you is that we have the equipment we need in my emergency departments right now.

I'm fortunate to work in two places, both George Washington University hospital and Walter Reed National Memorial Medical Center, where we have preparedness and planning and we have access to equipment.

But that's certainly not the same from my colleagues around the country. Through social media and phone calls, I'm learning all sorts of new ways that people are being told to ration and reuse the requirement and it's because they're being told their supplies are short.

That 10 percent number coming out of Italy scares me. You know, I've said it for a long time and I'm afraid that I'm going to get this virus. I'm going to try my hardest not to and I'm going to try to continue to educate people on how not to get it.

But at this point the best advice I can give to anybody is to stay away from other people. We need to lock everything down if we have any hopes of trying to actually contain this or not even contain it, to slow the curve.

BLITZER: And be careful out there because we wish you - we wish all the medical personnel only the best because they are literally risking their lives right now to save the lives of other people. It's a really dangerous environment to be on the front lines in dealing with this coronavirus.

Sam, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration did have intelligence on this virus as early as January. I want you to watch what the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had to say about that, earlier today.

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STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: I want to be careful talking about specific intelligence but let me be clear and this is not just in the U.S., this is - this is around the world. Nobody expected this to take off at the rate it did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[13:35:00]

BLITZER: So what do you think about that Sam?

VINOGRAD: Well, Wolf, notably, it's not a no from Secretary Mnuchin with respect to the intelligence that the administration did or did not have at its disposal. As you know Wolf, I had access to the most sensitive intelligence in the world.

There is a non-existent chance that the administration, namely the President did not have intelligence about what was happening in China in real time unless we totally shut down intelligence collection in China.

The issue here is that the President failed to do anything with that intelligence. Intelligence is an input to policy making. When that intelligence hit the President's desk and was available to other policy makers, they failed to use it to take policy steps to prepare for this pandemic.

What should have happened with that intelligence out of China is it should have been given to people to model what this would look like when it inevitably hit the homeland and affected Americans.

What we are seeing now is a result of the President discarding intelligence, classified and otherwise. Let's be clear, the Director of National Intelligence warned in 2018 and 2019 about the risk of a global pandemic in open source settings, add to that classified intelligence about what was happening in China.

The President's disregard for intelligence is catching up with us and frankly Wolf, it's costing American lives.

BLITZER: All right, Samantha, thank you. Samantha Vinograd, helping us. Dr. James Phillips, I know you're going back into the emergency room at George Washington University hospital. Be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with your.

Please thank all of your colleagues for what they are doing. They are saving people's lives right now. Appreciate it very much. Coming up, fallout from the coronaviruse is costing millions of Americans, their jobs. There's another Great Depression on the horizon.

The President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union standing by to join us live.

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BLITZER: As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies from coast to coast, millions of Americans are asking the basic question. Am I going to lose my job? And for those who already have, the question has evolved into will I have enough to pay my bills? This is Great Depression, economic calamity.

Jobs apocalypse continue to dominate newspaper headlines across the country. Goldman Sachs now predicting that more than 2 million people filed for unemployment claims last week alone. That would stand as the highest number ever on record here in the United States.

And one sector of the economy that's really feeling the pain, the service industry. As more states mandate a stay at home order, restaurants and hotels have been forced to close their doors and lay off their employees. Marc Perrone is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

He's joining us now live. An awful situation unfolding, Marc. Describe the impact you've seen so far on your industry and I know you represent what, about 1 million workers.

MARC PERRONE, PRESIDENT, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION: Yes, we do Wolf and thank you very much for you giving us the opportunity to talk about what's happening with our members. The retail food industry and food manufacturing and food production industries are quite frankly at this point of time are booming.

Most of our workers are working anywhere from 10 to 12 hours a day and 6 to 7 days, a week. So it's been extremely busy for them and the business in the stores are up.

BLITZER: Yes, but right now people are out of work.

PERRONE: Yes, they are and you know, what we've tried to do is in our employers is make opportunities for some of those workers that have been out of work so that they can give - you know, do some hiring and can pick up some of those jobs in our stores.

BLITZER: In other words, look for other kind of work. As you know the Senate is trying to hammer out a stimulus package right now that could top what, $2 trillion. What's the most important factor that your union members are looking for as far as relief is concerned?

PERRONE: Well, I think our members are looking for probably three things. They're looking for you know quick testing and frequent testing. Access to personal protection equipment. They're looking for universal safety standards so that they can take care of themselves and the customers when they come in there as well as accommodations for at risk employees.

Paid sick leave is a huge factor for us because we're concerned about those that are impacted by the virus as well as those who are infected by the virus. Some of our employers have given us pay for infected but not impacted. So they could send somebody home for 14 days. If they're not tested, they may not pay them for those 14 days.

And I think that they've got concerns about what happens if they get exposed to somebody with a virus as well and whether or not they're going to send him home without pay.

BLITZER: So given the fact that so many businesses are not going to necessarily be able to reopen their doors anytime soon, what's your advice to workers and members of your union who have no idea what the next steps should be?

PERRONE: Well, my advice is going to be is that they maintain contact with the UFCW through our website and as well as their respective local unions. We are moving people around as rapidly as we possibly can so that we make job opportunities available for our membership and we're keeping them advised of any sort of Covid-19 advise that we're getting.

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So we're also sending information out to the consumers as well through our text alert system. Shop safe 80 - 83071.

BLITZER: You know, one quick political question before I let you go, I know your union and once again 1 million members has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden as the democratic presidential nominee. Briefly tell us why Biden, not Sanders.

PERRONE: Well, Vice President did in fact support the stop and shop workers during 2019. He came out just recently by asking them to be considered, not necessarily in the vein as the firemen or policemen or health care workers but at least be considered as a Tier 2 emergency responder person that would give them access to the free testing and rapid results of those tests as well as some personal protection equipment.

Now we know at this point time that equipment's hard to come by but Vice President Biden was very direct about that, saying that our workers because they were seeing so many people in the stores per day, that they needed some of that equipment.

On an average, a store might see 800 people in a day. Up and down the east coast, we've been getting numbers reported to us, 10,000 people a day have been going through these stores so people are exposed to a lot more than they used to be in the past.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a dangerous situation simply by that. Marc Perrone, good luck to you. Good luck to all the members of your union. Thank you so much for joining us.

PERRONE: Thank you very much, Wolf. Stay safe.

BLITZER: Thank you. You stay safe too. We got some breaking news coming into CNN. CNN has just learned that the Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who himself is a physician has tested positive - positive for the coronavirus.

That according to a tweet from his account. We're going to have details on that and a lot more. Senator Rand Paul, positive for the coronavirus. We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: We just learned that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will join me live, right at the top of the next hour. We got lots of questions for him. Also breaking news right now coming in the Situation Room.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky now says he has tested positive for coronavirus. Let's go to Capitol Hill. Lauren Fox is joining us. What more do we know Lauren?

FOX: Well, this is the first senator Wolf, who has tested positive for coronavirus and here's what we're learning. This is a tweet sent by his office. It says, "Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for Covid- 19. He's feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events.

He was not aware of any direct contact with an infected person."

But certainly this just adds to the urgency as lawmakers are trying to come to a consensus for that $2 trillion stimulus bills. Republicans and Democrats meeting separately as part of their luncheon right now as we're getting this news. Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, let's hope for the best for Senator Rand Paul. As I

said, he's a physician. Lauren Fox, thanks very much and many Americans want to know what they should expect if they get infected by coronavirus. CNN's Brian Todd reports on patients across the country and their fight against this disease.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kevin Harris with a painful cough.

KEVIN HARRIS, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Yes that's the cough.

TODD: He's laid up in a hospital in Warren, Ohio, a victim of coronavirus. Experts say a cough is one of the first symptoms you feel when you have the virus but it's a certain kind of cough.

DR. MICHAEL MINA, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, HARVARD'S SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: A cold and a flu can sometimes cause a really runny nose and sort of more sort of more mucus feeling in inside, in your cough and in your nose whereas this virus seems to be much more of a dry cough.

TODD: Fatigue, fever and body aches can set in, in the first couple of days you have it, experts say. Lisa Merck isolated at her home in Colorado describes how that felt.

LISA MERCK, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: My muscles aches and my joints ached really bad. I felt like somebody is like stabbing me with an ice pick.

TODD: Doctors say even with those symptoms, it's sometimes hard to know if you have coronavirus. Getting tested is critical and Hawaii Five-0 star, Daniel Dae Kim says unpleasant.

DANIEL DAE KIM, ACTOR & CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: The test itself was really awkward and a little painful because they shove a huge swab into your nose.

TODD: A few days in, there's a tell-tale sign of coronavirus.

MINA: As the infection can progress, the symptoms will change from just a dry cough to actually difficulty breathing.

TODD: Kevin Harris says he's breathing got so difficult, his intense nausea actually brought relief.

HARRIS: After I threw up, I could breath. Once you get to the other side of it, you can breathe a little bit better. I mean it's the weirdest thing. You think you're going to die during one of those episodes. You - I mean you know you're going to die but then you don't.

TODD: Then there's the feeling of isolation for those self-quarantined and even hospitalized patients. CNN checked in a few times with Klay Bentley who said his locked hospital room in Georgia felt like a jail cell even when caregivers came in. KLAY BENTLEY, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: When they come in the room, they

had to wear these suits and masks so I really can't see them and you know, they're gloved up and gowned up so they come here and do what they have to do and they leave so it's a terrible feeling. I mean you feel like you're just cut off from the whole world.

TODD: Kevin Harris took a Facebook live video of a visitor to his room who had to be heavily protected.

HARRIS: That's you and that's me.

TODD: Last weekend after eight days in the hospital, Bentley told CNN what it felt like to finally turn a corner.

BENTLEY: My oxygen levels are starting to rise and I'm starting to feel air in my lungs again and I'm able to breath freely now.

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TODD: But doctors say for patients like Bentley and Harris who have had to be hospitalized with respiratory problems, those issues may not go away soon.

MINA: There is a chance that that there could be some lasting effects on pulmonary function, on lung function and on somebody's ability to breathe in the future.

TODD: But Dr. Michael Mina is quick to point out that the vast majority of coronavirus victims will not see those lasting effects and he says a couple of weeks after getting infected, most of them will be clear of the virus and unable to transmit it to others because their immune systems will have destroyed the virus. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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