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Senate Holdup on Aid Package; Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); States Take Lead in Coronavirus Fight. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And every community is expecting shortages of critical supplies.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports for us now, states nationwide are taking matters into their own hands.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This massive Manhattan convention center about to be converted into four field hospitals, 1,000 beds between them.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We have not even begun to see the influx of patients. This is still the relative quiet before the storm.

WATT: Every hospital in New York was just ordered to increase bed capacity by 50 percent.

New York state now home to around half the confirmed cases in this country, now more than 20,000, that's tripled in three days. And more than 150 have died already.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NYC, NY): If we don't get the ventilators in particular, we will actually start to lose lives that could have been saved.

WATT: The state says many cases are ages 18 to 49. Experts suggest vaping might be a factor.

CUOMO: You can get it. The numbers show you can get it if you're a young person.

WATT: And there is yet more conflicting messaging from the administration. Here is the surgeon general on "The Today Show." He strongly supports social distancing.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: I want America to understand, this week, it's going to get bad. It means everybody needs to be taking the right steps right now, and that means stay at home.

WATT: But just last night, the president on Twitter suggesting strict rules on staying inside might be relaxed just a week from now.

The restaurant and food industry alone estimates seven million could lose their jobs. Jay Bokan (ph) already has.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are not going to be able to support their families.

WATT: And stay-at-home orders still spreading, Ohio, Louisiana, Connecticut, Indiana, West Virginia, and Michigan among the recent additions, but not everyone, apparently, taking social distancing seriously enough.

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, ENDING PANDEMICS: We can't have the kind of social distancing that parts of Italy had or we will turn into Italy with those case counts or those death rates.

WATT: More than 6,000 have now died in Italy, among them, more than 20 doctors. Here, thousands of retired health care workers now heeding the call to come back to work.

DR. ANNE SAKS-BERG, RETIRED DOCTOR RETURNING TO WORK: I feel I have a moral obligation to share my skills. We can't imagine what it's going to be a like a week or two from now.

WATT: Disaster declarations declared now for New York, Washington state, and California. FEMA working to bring an extra 5,000 hospital beds to those states, and Mercy, the Navy hospital ship with 800 personnel aboard, today setting sail for Los Angeles.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Watt for that report.

Joining me now to discuss, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

Today, you announced that your state, Maryland, is going to close nonessential businesses starting at 5:00 p.m. But you're not ordering a shelter in place like your neighbors Delaware, Virginia, and at least 10 other states have done. Why not?

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, really, it's sort of semantics, Jake. I mean, certain states are taking different steps.

Ours are somewhat more restrictive than other states that are calling it shelter in place. We have directed and strongly suggested that people stay in their homes, unless they really need to leave for certain essential purposes.

But we have closed more businesses than many of those states that have a so-called ordered shelter in place.

But we've been one of the most aggressive states in the country, one of the first to call -- declare a state of emergency, one of the first close schools, one of the first to close bars and restaurants. And our actions today go pretty far.

We had 678 percent increase over the weekend in Maryland. We're taking many of the same steps that you're -- you were just talking about in New York. We're adding 6,000 hospital beds. We have got FEMA opening up a 250-bed hospital in our Convention Center in Baltimore.

And we're doing everything we can to not only take steps on social distancing, but to really ramp up and deal with this massive crisis we're going to have with providing health care to all of these folks. And we're also trying to address the impact to the economy that you were just talking about.

So we have announced a number of steps today to help our small businesses and those of people who are losing their jobs, which is, it's kind of a dual attack at the same time. How do we save lives and how do we also help people economically?

TAPPER: Right.

Maryland has had -- I believe these numbers are the latest -- 288 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and three Marylanders have, tragically, died.

Do you think that, by not ordering a shelter in place, even though you are taking other very aggressive measures, that there might be Marylanders who are not getting the message perhaps in terms of the direction that you just gave, which is please stay at home?

HOGAN: Yes, so, actually, as I said, our closing of all those essential businesses actually goes further than many of the states that said that they were closing -- they were sheltering in place, but they're still making people go to work. And they still have businesses open.


TAPPER: Right.

HOGAN: So, we just believe that the actions we're taking are going to be more effective.


HOGAN: We're also -- we have a -- you can't have gatherings of more than 10 people in one place. And we have directed today all of our state and local law enforcement to actually get out there and start making -- not arresting people, but messaging to people that they have got to disperse those crowds.

So, I think the we're state to do that. We're going to start making people break up these large gatherings that we have seen, as you have seen on the reports all across the country.

TAPPER: All across -- yes.

HOGAN: So, I'm the chairman of the National Governors Association. And we had -- we had another meeting this afternoon, just before I went on the air with you, with the vice president and the 52 governors, talking about all these issues and what individual states are doing as they see fit in their individual states...

TAPPER: We continue to hear reports from hospitals...

HOGAN: ... and what kind of help we need from the federal government.


HOGAN: Right.

TAPPER: Well, speaking of that, we continue to hear reports from hospitals, from health care professions, people on the front lines they need more masks. They need ventilators. They need ICU beds and so on.


TAPPER: Is Maryland getting -- are you getting what you need from the federal government?

HOGAN: Well, no, nobody's getting what they need.

And that's one of the things we keep talking about. Now, here's the good -- the good news is -- that's the bad news. And I know -- we can all talk about what hasn't happened. And we all -- we have heard about it over and over again.

No state in America has enough masks or ventilators or any of the PPE that we're -- that we're all desperately needing. We're all trying to address that in our individual states. And we're also pushing as hard as we can at the federal level. They have made some progress.

The private sector is ramping up. FEMA is starting to deliver some of those supplies out to the states. And each of us are making these decisions on our own to ramp up production in our own states and to get things on the open market.

But it's not a great situation. But I can tell you, we are making some progress, but that's going to be -- continue to be a pinch point, where we don't have enough to handle the surge, which is why we're doing all these other things to try to lower the demand.

We can't have all these people getting sick at the same time and crowding our hospitals.

TAPPER: And one of the things I have heard is a problem -- I heard this from Governor Pritzker of Illinois -- is that, because there isn't, like, one national centralized individual or organization trying to get masks ,ventilators, PPE, ICU beds, et cetera, for the states, you're all competing with each other.

You're bidding against Illinois, who's bidding against New York, who's bidding against California, driving up the prices, and not solving the problem.

I think Senator Murphy referred to it as a "Lord of the Flies" situation. Is that a problem you're having?

HOGAN: I think it's -- it's a little bit of a problem.

But, look, I think FEMA, just as of Thursday or Friday, they made the decision that FEMA was going to take the lead at the federal level and is trying to coordinate those things and drive them out. So it's -- that's progress from where we were before.

But, also, having the states having the flexibility to be able to go outside that process, and get some of the things that we need individually, is not such a bad idea. I kind of agree with both sides on the argument of this.

Yes, we should be doing a better job at the federal level. Yes, they should be getting the stuff out to us. But the states have been able to go out and get things on our own. And we should be able to have that flexibility as well.

So I kind of agree with both sides of the argument. And, look, it doesn't matter who is responsible or should be responsible or who should have done what. We're all just going to do everything it takes at the federal, state and local level to take action right now to try to keep people safe and to save people's lives.

TAPPER: Right now, if we could snap our fingers and have everything we want, theoretically, health officials say they would want everyone to stay in place where they are, freeze where they are, and then do widespread testing to find out where the disease is, where the virus is, and then isolate those individuals.

What is the state of testing in Maryland right now? I know that there are more tests now than there were two weeks ago, even one week ago. How efficient is it right now? How much are you able to get ahold on what the problem actually is in Maryland?

HOGAN: So, it's not nearly enough in Maryland, just like it isn't anywhere else.

But we're up more than 500 percent of where we were just a few days ago. So, we're rapidly escalating the amount of tests. We have got private labs here in Maryland that are increasing the lab capacity. I think we just today just announced that we have got another 1,000 tests coming in from a Chinese company.

We have Johns Hopkins in Maryland that's doing their own testing. We were one of the first states in the country to get approved. And we -- I signed an executive order today to expedite the approval of labs, so we can go around the federal process, not wait for the FDA, and to just get our own testing moving forward.

And we got some additional tests in through FEMA from the federal government. So, while it's still not great, it's progress. And we're far ahead of where we were, say, last Thursday or Friday. TAPPER: And what about schoolkids in Maryland? What is the decision



I believe some schools have announced -- some states have announced that school is basically canceled until the end of the year. Some states are trying to do remote learning.

What's the situation in Maryland? Have you made a decision? Have you made one as for the end of this school year?

HOGAN: Yes, so I was the first or second governor in America to close all the schools statewide.

And we're in the process, very quickly going to try to make that decision. We have met with all of our local school superintendents to try to make sure what capacity we have for the ability to provide distance learning and online learning for our kids.

And we're going to try to figure that out based on all the best available evidence. A few states have made the decision to cancel school for the rest of the year. We haven't made that yet for our K- 12. We have for all of our universities and colleges across the state.

TAPPER: Governor Larry Hogan, Republican governor of the great state of Maryland, thank you for your time. Best of luck to you as you tackle this crisis.

HOGAN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next: Senate stalemate. What is holding up the nearly $2 trillion economic package?

Plus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about to speak. Will he announce stricter new measures?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In the race to save jobs and the U.S. economy, a $2 trillion stimulus package from Congress is stalled right now because of partisan bickering. The bill could provide $250 billion worth of direct payments to Americans, $350 billion in forgivable small business loans and another possible $200 billion for the airline industry. But both Senate Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of making outrageous additions, and Democrats have blocked any vote forward on the measure.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill.

Phil, what are the kinds of items both sides are trying to tack on to this bill? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, keep in mind

here, this is going to be the largest economic funding package in the history of the country, possibly up to $2 trillion, and that means a lot of extraneous stuff is going to be thrown into the mix. A senior Republican aide says Democrats proposed things like expanded collective bargaining opportunities for Democrats, emissions for airlines as well, expansion of solar and wind tax credits, something Republicans are obviously opposed to. Democrats counter that Republicans had extended funding for abstinence education, had also put a prohibition on Small Business Administration loans for things like disabled group homes and rape crisis centers.

It's a back and forth that underscores really the tensions that have almost taken over this process up to this point.

Now, those smaller issues which really ramped everybody up aren't the reason things are stalled right now. The real reason is that there are two issues Democrats are holding out on. They want more protections, more oversight for a $500 billion loan fund that would go out to larger distressed companies. They also want more money kicked out to states, localities and cities. Those are the two key points in negotiations as it occurs right now.

And as I speak, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is meeting with Treasury Steve Mnuchin. They still plan, they say, to have a deal today. They've been saying that, though, for several days, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

President Trump's top economic adviser is warning today that the U.S. government might have to make some difficult tradeoff when it comes to balancing coronavirus restrictions and the survival of the U.S. economy. Left unstated, what exactly will we be trading off for economic stability? Lives? Health? Whose? How many?

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, there's now growling debate in the White House about whether the president's social distancing guidelines to help save lives are worth the economic damage.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One week after he told Americans to stay home and maintain distance for 15 days, President Trump is now considering easing his own guidelines amid growing concerns about the economic toll. The president tweeted he'll make a decision about whether to scale back in the coming days, but he made clear he's growing impatient with his own restrictions.

We cannot let the cure be worst than the problem itself, he tweeted. The president was echoing what he heard on Fox News moments earlier nearly verbatim.

STEVE HILTON, FOX NEWS HOST: You know that famous phrase, the cure is worst than the disease? That is exactly the territory we are hurtling towards. COLLINS: The president's own health experts have said it's too soon

to tell if the guidelines are effective, and social distancing is still crucial to curbing the spread of the virus.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I think that there are a lot of people who are doing the right things but I think that, unfortunately, we're finding out a lot of people think this can't happen to them.

COLLINS: Trump's own allies are warning him not to ease up on the guidelines in hopes of boosting the economy. Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, there is no functioning economy unless we control the virus.

But the pundits appear to have gotten through to the president, according to his chief economic adviser.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISOR: The president is right, the cure can't be worse than the disease and we're going to have to make some difficult tradeoffs.

COLLINS: Dr. Tony Fauci is the lead scientist on the president's task force. And in a new interview, he admits that statements Trump makes aren't always true or in line with his advice. Fauci told "The Journal of Science", I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down.

Amid the eternal split over guidelines, officials are also divided over whether Trump should use his federal powers to require private companies to ramp up production of much-needed medical supplies. Though hospitals say they're in short supply, Trump hasn't used the Defense Production Act yet despite his claim that he has.


COLLINS: The president is now telling aides he's under intense pressure from state officials like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to put it to use.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I think the president should step it up.


COLLINS: So, Jake, when I know it comes to the possibility of loosening those federal guidelines, basically, it's a split between the economic advisers on the coronavirus task force and the doctors and the scientists who are advocating for stricter measures, not loosening them.


But the vice president did say that any decisions they make about that is going to come at the end of that 15-day period. So, that would put us about a week from today when we find out what they're going to do.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers to tackle their unprecedented level of demand for supplies. The company is also raising wages for hourly employees to a minimum of $17 an hour. But what steps is at corporate giant taking to protect workers from contracting or spreading the coronavirus to those of us who order from Amazon?

Joining me now is Jay Carney. He's Amazon's senior vice president of global corporate affairs. He also served as press secretary in the Obama administration.

Jay, good to see you.

So, let's start there. You've ordered masks for some employees. They're being prioritized, of course, for healthcare workers, masks in this country. So, what steps are you taking to protect Amazon workers right now from being exposed?


The answer to that question is every step we can. We are making sure that we practice social distancing in our fulfillment centers. Those are our logistic centers, our ware houses, that every surface is deep cleaned regularly to protect our employees. We've ended practices that involved the congregation of employees, regular meetings and the like, where many employees would gather together and we are asking every -- any employee that doesn't feel well to go home. And any employee who either contracts COVID-19 and is diagnosed with it, or quarantined because of a family member or someone else is diagnosed with it, they automatically get paid -- two weeks of paid time off to either take care of their family member or take care of themselves.

So, we're meeting every day. We're consulting with medical experts to get the best possible information we can to make sure that we're doing the right by our employees so that they can turn around and deliver essential goods to millions of Americans around the country and millions of people around the world.

TAPPER: Is Amazon going guarantee that any one of your employees who actually contracts the coronavirus not only gets two weeks of paid leave, but gets as much as paid leave as he or she needs, and also the proper treatment paid for?

CARNEY: Well, first of all, let me just say that we already meet every standard that in every state where we do business when it comes to paid time off and we've added additional paid leave off because of COVID. All of our full time employees get the same health care benefits that our senior executives get, including starting hourly workers tomorrow. They'll get the same health care benefits I get, the same time off that I get. So we've never had tier systems of benefits.

So we're confident that with the extra measures we're taking that our employees will get the time off they need, they will get the support they need from Amazon if they do contract COVID. And then for our customers we're making sure we move quickly. We did have an employee at a distribution center in New York diagnosed with COVID. That was immediately shut down, deep cleaned before it was re-opened and that employee is now quarantined and taking care of himself.

TAPPER: Yes, let's turn to people who receive packages from Amazon, which include me and my family and probably a lot of viewers if not all of them. What are you doing to make sure your company is not bringing coronavirus into people's homes? There are studies suggesting that the virus can remain and live on cardboard, like your boxes for 24 hours. What do you suggest people do? Should people leave the boxes outside their homes and open them with gloves? What steps are you taking there?

CARNEY: Well, we are learning as we go like everyone. We're consulting with medical exhorts to get the best information we can. There is that evidence that the virus can live on packaging for some period of time. So far, I believe, the WHO and CDC have not said that there's a case of transmission from packaging.

However, you know, our advice to customers is to take the precautions they feel are the right ones for them. Wipe down packages with disinfectant. Leave them outside or in a remote place for a period of time if you're concerned about the possibility of transmission.

We understand that the last thing we want to do and we're providing household goods and other things that we're prioritizing like medical supplies to our customers, that we don't want to inadvertently participate in the transmission of this virus.

TAPPER: And you also do home delivery of food, Amazon, through Whole Foods. What steps are you taking there?

CARNEY: Very similar in terms of, you know, maintaining all of the guidelines that CDC and WHO have set out about social distancing, about protective gear. And, of course, what I'm advising customers, our food delivery as well as product delivery is, to wipe down packaging if they feel that -- they're concerned that it might be transmitting anything.


Again, we haven't seen that evidence yet, but this is a moving picture and we're following it closely.

TAPPER: Jay Carney, Amazon, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Good luck as you try to help us all with this crisis. Appreciate it.

CARNEY: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: We're about to hear from Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking from Downing Street. What will he announce?

Stay with us.