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Trump Suggests Social Distancing Measures May Be Too Extreme; Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Bryan, such good words to end this hour on.

Bryan Morin, thank you so much.

And special coverage continues now with Jake Tapper.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today, the World Health Organization issued a stark warning: The coronavirus pandemic is not only continuing to spread. It is accelerating.

And every day in the United States, the numbers get even more staggering. Right now, we know of more than 41,000 confirmed cases in the United States. That is up more than 10 times from the 4,000 cases just one week ago today. Look at that trajectory.

The death toll in the United States also exploding. And, at this hour, we have passed a grim milestone. We're now up to 501 deaths, passing 500 just in the last few minutes. This time one week ago, the death toll was 70. Now it's 501.

The U.S. surgeon general today saying, this week, it's going to get bad -- quote -- "We really, really need everyone to stay home," the surgeon general pleading with Americans. About a third of Americans are under some version of a stay-at-home order right now put in place by state or local governments.

Here in Washington, D.C., in the last hour, the Senate just failed a second time to clear a key procedural vote, as Democrats and Republicans remain in a standoff over a near nearly $2 trillion stimulus package to help American workers and businesses with the economic pain caused by this pandemic.

Senate Democrats voting almost in lockstep at this hour against proceeding on debate over the package.

In New York today, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordering all hospitals to increase their capacity by at least 50 percent. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in New York City at the Javits Center, where they're setting up a makeshift hospital.

Shimon, many hospitals are already overwhelmed. How are the facilities handling this influx?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are overwhelmed in some cases.

And that is why, as you said, the governor has ordered this directive really for the hospitals to increase their capacity by 50 percent. Here at the Jacob Javits Center, we have heard a lot about it. This is going to be one of the sites where they're going to set up a hospital, 1,000 beds.

We have seen them roll equipment in here. Today, you can see there are ventilators. These trucks that you just see there, they're the ones that are unloading some of these items. We have ventilators here. There are beds, all sorts of equipment.

We're even seeing some of the PPE equipment, that is here as well. The hopes is to set this up. It's going to take several days, Jake, for the FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to set this up.

But this is going to be able to handle 1,000 patients. And this is just one of the places that the governor is hoping will be able to take this influx of patients that they expect because of this virus.

Now, they're expected to work here through the night and for days setting this up. The actual hospital, the floor, is going to be about two floors above me on the third floor inside the Javits Center, where they're going to be treating patients.

There's going to be health care professionals, doctors and nurses, and they're going to be here, and they're going to be treating people to try and alleviate some of the pressure that the hospitals are going to be facing, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Shimon, in New York 53 percent, more than half of the coronavirus cases are among young adults ages 18 to 49. That's a statistic that alarmed even the U.S. surgeon general.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, it did alarm him. And it's alarmed other doctors and a lot of the officials who are following this.

And now they're trying to figure out exactly the cause of this. This whole notion that some of the younger people can't get hurt by this, can't get sick by this, perhaps we're now seeing signs that that's not entirely the case.

And so state officials, doctors are all trying to get the word out that, no matter your age, you need to take this seriously. And certainly this statistic that they put out today is certainly concerning many of the doctors and officials here in New York, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you, Shimon Prokupecz at the Javits Center. Thanks so much.

A vote to inject $2 trillion into the coronavirus crisis just failed, as Senate Republicans and Democrats are now accusing the other side of adding unnecessary items to the stimulus package, Republicans trying to renew abstinence education, Democrats say, Democrats attempting to expand wind and solar tax credits, Republicans say.

The bill could provide a $2,400 direct payment to some families, $350 billion worth of small business loans, and $11 billion towards vaccine research, among other expenditures.

CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, start with Republicans. What are their issues with what Democrats want in the bill?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are saying that Democrats are asking for a whole host of issues that have nothing to do with fighting the coronavirus.


They're saying there's been a big push for increased collective bargaining rights for unions. They're arguing that there's a big push for a higher emission standards for airlines, of course, airlines one of the hardest-hit sectors. They are expected to get a big loan from this proposal that's under discussion right now.

And an expansion of wind and solar credits. Now, Democrats, on the other hand, say -- are pointing to a number of things that the Republicans are pushing that they believe are extraneous.

And one of the things that they are in particularly talking about is how this money that would be sent out to industries, roughly $400 billion or $500 billion of sorts, will be structured, and whether or not it would ensure that workers in particular could keep their job.

For one instance, they say that the language that is provided to these industries says that these companies, if they do get the federal loans, they must keep their employees to the extent possible.

So, essentially, they're saying that some of these workers could ultimately get laid off. They're also saying that there aren't enough restrictions on the executives in buying back -- corporations and buying back stock if they were to get loans, and all sort of -- executives and getting executive compensation, if their companies do get federal loans. There's a two-year limit on that.

But, Jake, all of this is still being negotiated behind the scenes. Intense discussions are under way, and there is still an expectation that a bipartisan deal could be reached in the Senate as soon as tonight. So we will see these provisions ultimately play out.

TAPPER: And, Manu Raju, Senate Republican Rand Paul is not at the Senate. He has a confirmed case of coronavirus. Others in self-quarantine because they were exposed to Paul or to others with the virus include Republican Senators Mike Lee, Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, Cory Gardner, Rick Scott. That's a lot of senators out in a five- or six-vote margin.

Will this impact whether or not Republicans even have a majority?

RAJU: Well, it will require did to Republicans to get even more Democratic support to move forward.

But the reality of the situation is, if they do have enough support to move forward, expect an overwhelming majority of senators to get behind this proposal. That's why everyone's watching whether or not Chuck Schumer, Steven Mnuchin can get a deal.

And, right now, they're having discussions, along with Mitch McConnell. If they do all get together, expect that vote to be overwhelming, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Senator, thanks so much for joining.

So, you voted against advancing the stimulus bill. You have done this twice now. Your fellow Democrat Doug Jones from Alabama, he voted to advance it. He voted the opposite way. He told CNN he's embarrassed by the political games that both sides are playing.

What's your response to your fellow Democrat?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, right now, the McConnell bill just doesn't solve the problem. And, ultimately, we need a bill that is going to stop this virus in its tracks. We don't need a bill that is going to provide no-strings-attached bailouts to corporations, who are just going to take the money and lay off their workers anyway.

This is $2 trillion, Jake. This is 10 percent of the total GDP of the country. We should spend it right. And we should make sure that it actually gets relief to hospitals and nursing homes and states that are on the front lines.

So, we don't have a bill right now that actually solves the problem, which is a public health crisis that's creating an economic crisis. And so we should spend the next couple hours making sure that we get it right, not pass a bill that pads the pockets of corporations, and doesn't actually addressed the public health crisis.

TAPPER: Well, look, I certainly understand Democrats wanting to make sure that any company getting billions from the federal government or millions from the federal government, that they -- that those companies have to keep workers on board as much as humanly possible.

But I guess the question I have is, you describe it as a bailout. A bailout is when an industry screws up, makes mistakes, does things wrong, and needs rescuing. These corporations, whatever you think of them, they're responding to a pandemic. They haven't done anything wrong.

MURPHY: Well, in the case of the airline industry, for the last 20 years, they were using all their available cash in order to pad investor and CEO salaries, instead of building a rainy day fund.

And so we got to make sure that they don't take this money and use it to further pad CEO salaries and investor paychecks. That would be a dereliction of duty.

But the problem is not just on the business side of the ledger here. The problem also is that this bill doesn't actually have enough funding to stop the virus. And my worry is that Republicans see this as an economic problem, not as a public health problem.

There's no amount of stimulus that you can give to families or businesses that will get the job done if you don't stop the virus. And this bill just shortchanges states and municipalities and hospitals and doesn't address the public health crisis.


We need to get that right, first and foremost.

TAPPER: Mitch McConnell says Democrats are making 11th-hour demands, including a tax credit for solar panels, collective bargaining rights, and that's what's some of the sticking points.

Why would Democrats be pushing a tax credit for solar panels or collective bargaining rights?

MURPHY: So, listen, my focus is on making sure that hospitals and states have what they need, that we don't do any of these no-strings- attached bailouts. That's where my focus is.

And if that -- if those demands are met, then I will vote to proceed on this legislation.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to what Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told Wolf Blitzer just a few days ago, just on Saturday.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Actually, to my delight and surprise, there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.


TAPPER: A great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far from your leader, Chuck Schumer.

Now Democrats are saying the opposite, no bipartisan cooperation.

MURPHY: So, what happened here is that Republicans wrote their own bill. Then they brought Democrats into the room. And there were good- faith negotiations that were occurring for about a half-a-day.

Senator Schumer remarked on those negotiations. And then, late on Saturday night, Democrats were kicked out of the room, and Republicans wrote the bill on their own. We only got a copy of it Sunday morning from lobbyists on K Street. It was shared with corporate lobbyists before it was shared with members of the Democratic Caucus.

And that, to us, was a sign that the priority here was in helping corporations, not helping workers and solving the virus.

So, there was a brief period of time where Democrats and Republicans were in the room working together. And now we are doing that again. So, we're working, Republicans and Democrats, to try to bridge the differences that exist here. I think we can do that.

And I think that we can probably do that by the end of the day.

TAPPER: Would you agree -- I mean, you kind of skirted the question, but would you agree that matters like solar panel tax credits and collective bargaining rights, while I understand are important to Democrats, like, it's not worth holding up this bill?

MURPHY: So, I don't know where those reports come from.

I have told you what my priorities are. My priorities are making sure that my taxpayer dollars aren't going to go pad CEO salaries and that the public health crisis is identified. Those are my priorities. I don't know about that reporting.

TAPPER: Tell us about the legislation you're introducing that would force President Trump to federalize the medical supply chain in the U.S. and also to use his powers under the Defense Production Act.

MURPHY: So, right now, we have a "Lord of the Flies" situation happening with the medical supply chain.

We don't have enough personal protective equipment and ventilators being produced, but we also have a situation where there are incentives for hoarding and price-gouging, because every single state and thousands of hospitals are trying to go out and source this scarce equipment wherever they can.

Governor Cuomo called for the federalization of the critical medical supply chain. I agree, and so do several of my colleagues. We have introduced legislation that would take temporarily federalize, not just the manufacture of these critical medical supplies, but also the distribution, so that we can make sure that it gets into the hands of the people that need it most, not the people who are willing to pay the most, or the people who are creative enough to find some manufacturer in a corner of their state that's willing to supply them.

This is a time where the private market builds in inefficiencies that will cost lives. And so we need a temporary federalization of the critical medical supply chain. Our legislation introduced in the House and the Senate this afternoon will do that. TAPPER: Yes. When you say "Lord of the Flies," I know a lot of

governors find themselves competing for bids with other governors, which just drives up the price and doesn't solve the problem.

Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today. Good luck getting that bill passed. The American people want Democrats, want Republicans to come together to fix this problem, and do so in a way that helps the suffering American workers. So, I appreciate your time.

MURPHY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Scientists are looking at nearly 70 different drugs, trying to find some sort of treatment for coronavirus. Will any of them work? We will talk to a medical expert.

Plus, is there another way? One theory on how to slow the spread of the virus, while still getting people back to work.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Scientists have identified nearly 70 drugs that they believe could possibly help treat coronavirus, according to a new study first reported by "The New York Times."

Now, some of the drugs are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them may be faster than trying to reinvent a new drug.

Joining me now to discuss this and other coronavirus-related matters, Amy Compton-Phillips, the chief clinical officer at Providence St. Joseph Health.

Dr. Compton Phillips, as always, thank you so much.

President Trump's been touting a combination of two drugs that he says could help treat the coronavirus. One is an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, and the other is an antibiotic called azithromycin.

They're not FDA-approved for coronavirus. Are they safe? What's your message to people out there who might have coronavirus and are looking for something to treat it?


I think what's critical for us in this crisis is to depend on the same tools that allowed medicine to progress so far over the past century. And that's depending on science and data for us to do things well.

So there's three major categories that we're looking for therapeutics then for coronavirus. One is for a vaccine. And that's to prevent the virus. The second is an antiviral treatment and saying, how do we actually stop the virus, like kill the virus itself, like antibiotics kill bacteria?

And the third is in immune modulators, so preventing the body's overreaction to the virus. And so it's somewhere in those latter two categories that the hydroxychloroquine and the azithromycin could potentially work, in not only potentially having some antiviral activity, but also stopping something that we call cytokine storm, or the body's overreaction to the virus itself.


TAPPER: So, what should people do?

I mean, they hear the president continuing to tout this. Dr. Fauci is constantly cautioning that there is no comprehensive peer-reviewed clinical trial of this. There's anecdotal evidence that it might work in some people or had worked in France with some people, but a very small sample group, not enough to approve it.

So what do you say to people out there? Because, as you know, and I -- I know people who have coronavirus, as I'm sure you do. And there's no treatment, right? I mean, if you're not hospitalized -- and that -- you want to avoid being hospitalized, because that means you're really, really sick, and you're lucky enough to not have to go to the hospital. You're at home.

There really isn't anything to do, other than Tylenol and fluids and keep eating to keep your strength up.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Well, let me get back to what you can do at home after this.

But the reason why we no longer sell snake oil to people is because we have used the scientific method over the years of saying, let's actually study this and figure out what works, rather than relying on anecdotes and ideas. Instead, let's actually identify that.

And that's what Dr. Fauci was talking about with those peer-reviewed trials. There are downsides. So there's potential benefit to using hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, but the potential downsides.

For example, together, that combination can be hard on the heart. It can prolong something that makes the electrical system of the heart go off-kilter, and we don't want to be causing harm to people by potentially causing heart rhythm trouble, while we're busy trying to cure their infection.

TAPPER: Right.

Now, what about the home treatments? You wanted to talk about that. For people who are sick at home who have not yet experienced -- if you have shortness of breath, if you have this, and you have shortness of breath, you should go to the hospital.

If you are so weak, you can't even get out of bed, you should go to the hospital. And you should, no matter what, if you have it be in touch with your primary care physician or the emergency room, et cetera.

That said, if you're one of these people who are not sick enough to go to the hospital, what should you be doing?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: So there's a couple things.

One is, you can use -- in something that's completely different now in the 21st century that was even true 20 years ago, is now there's telehealth, right? And so you can actually be in contact with caregivers via your phone or your computer or via some FaceTime-style app, so that you can actually get some virtual health, and not have to bring you and your germs and your feeling miserable self into the emergency room.

The other thing that we can do these days is actually have sensors at home, so that you can monitor heart rate, you can monitor oxygen levels, you can monitor temperature by banks of nurses watching you from out (AUDIO GAP) footprint, so that you can actually have eyes on you without having you taking up a hospital bed that might be needed, as you were hearing in that previous segment, for somebody who needs a ventilator in the future, which you can't do a ventilator at home right now.

So, trying to figure out how we leverage technology today to care for people in a really different way is not only going to help us get through this crisis, but I think, after this crisis is over, is really going to fundamentally change the way we practice medicine here in the U.S.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, we always appreciate your expertise and your time. Thank you so much.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Thank you so much, Jake.

TAPPER: How long will this social distancing last? Sources tell CNN that President Trump is getting somewhat antsy. He wants to start getting back to a sense of normal soon, but health experts are not in agreement.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our health lead and a new debate spilling out into the public from the White House on whether social distancing guidelines are worth the economic pain.

Aides telling CNN that President Trump and some of his top economic officials are growing more and more anxious as the initial 15-day period continues. They want people to go back to work in a matter of days, despite warnings from top health officials that that may be premature and actually cause more deaths. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House.

Kaitlan, we just heard from the president's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. He seemed to confirm that they're considering sending people back to work.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was backing up what the president said this morning, talking about, we don't want the cure to be worse than the problem itself.

And this is one of the president's closest top economic advisers. And listen to how Larry Kudlow answered this question about whether or not they really are considering easing these guidelines they put in place just a week ago.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We can't shut in the economy. The economic cost to individuals is just too great. So let's see how this thing plays out. More testing is essential.

And we're loading up with tests now. That's going to be a big help. But the president is right. The cure can't be worse than the disease. And we're going to have to make some difficult trade-offs.


COLLINS: You notice there, Jake, he doesn't say exactly what he believes those difficult trade-offs are going to be.