Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Coronavirus Pandemic Worsens in the U.S. as Hospitals Struggle with Shortage of Supplies; Millions of Hospitality Workers Laid Off Amid Coronavirus Pandemic; U.S. Futures Surge After Fed Takes Major Action; GOP, Dems Clash Over Stimulus Plan; U.S. Futures Surge After Fed Takes Major Action; New York Becomes Epicenter of Outbreak in the U.S.; Hospitals Struggle as Supplies Run Out; States Try to Stop Hoarding of Possible Coronavirus Treatments. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:04]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Morning, I'm Jim Sciutto. It is Monday, and we're all in this together. And today we are hearing the warning from the U.S. Surgeon General.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I want America to understand, this week, it's going to get bad. Everyone needs to be taking the right steps right now, and that means stay at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: That stark warning there, "It's going to get bad." And right now it is in many places already dire. Over 100 million people in the U.S. are under stay-at-home orders. There are now eight states and four major U.S. cities with those restrictions in place.

New York, now the epicenter of the outbreak here in the U.S., with more than 16,000 infected. It has nearly 5 percent of the world's cases. In Louisiana, there has been a surge in cases. The governor is warning his state is seeing the fastest growth rate in the world.

President Trump is activating the National Guard to three of the hardest-hit states, those are New York, California and Washington. Hospitals across the country, they are desperate about supplies. New York City's mayor is warning they are just days away from shortages.

And on Capitol Hill, there is an ongoing and fierce battle between Republicans and Democrats over what exactly goes into the stimulus package. It is meant to stem the economic fallout of this crisis. Negotiations are resuming today. This after Democrats blocked the $2 trillion plan, concerned that not enough help was going to average citizens. A vote is expected around 1:00 this afternoon Eastern Time.

As lawmakers argue, the Federal Reserve is taking major steps to support the economy in the middle of the outbreak. These are major steps, the move calming some of the anxiety on Wall Street, but the overall impact of this crisis has so far, for so many Americans, I know I don't have to tell this to you, to those watching at home, it's been devastating for many of us.

There's a lot to get to this morning. We're covering it from all angles across the country. Let's begin, though, on Capitol Hill, where Manu Raju is.

Manu, the real battle here, right, is where the money goes and how much of it goes to corporations, to individuals, aid, et cetera? What is the latest on the negotiations?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just spoke to the White House legislative director, Eric Ueland, who has been a central player in these negotiations. He arrived here on Capitol Hill and he told me there's, quote, "been a lot of work done overnight."

There's discussions that have gone on through the night between the White House and the Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, to try to figure out a deal over a plan now that could cost roughly $2 trillion. This sweeping measure marks part of the most aggressive intervention by Washington into the economy since perhaps the Great Depression, and now we are heading into a critical few hours where the two sides are trying to get a deal before a crucial vote at 1:00 Eastern, this afternoon.

The question is whether there are the votes to advance that. And Ueland did not know whether they would get them. Democrats would ultimately be on board but those -- the meeting right now is about to take place between the Treasury secretary and Senator Schumer about whether they can move forward.

SCIUTTO: That's a trillion. It's a thousand billions, just a reminder. And this is an enormous amount of money.

Senator Rand Paul, he's become the first senator to test positive. And it's interesting, because this is actually affecting the voting. Now the breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate is 48-47, so a very small majority for Republicans there.

Tell us where Senator Paul is now, and how other senators are taking precautions as a result.

RAJU: Right. He's in isolation now. He's the fifth Republican senator to be in isolation. He sent two other Republicans also into isolation after they had interacted with those senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee. But a number of Republican and Democratic senators and aides who I've spoken to were frustrated by Senator Rand Paul's handling of the situation. He had been at an event roughly two weeks ago, someone -- people at those event had tested positive for the disease.

He got tested several days ago, and continued to carry on his activities, because he did not say he had any symptoms, his office said that he didn't interact with anyone there, so he didn't think he would test positive. But nevertheless he was at the Senate gym yesterday, even though the gym was closed. He used the keypad to enter, other senators have witnessed that, so there is frustration that he may have infected others here in the Senate but he is the first senator to test positive as anxiety runs high here that the coronavirus has hit the Senate -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, in effect doing exactly what doctors recommend you do not do in that situation, right? I mean, it's about limiting contact.

Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much.

Now to the breaking news, just in the last few moments, the Federal Reserve is taking aggressive and historic action to prop up American businesses.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins me now.

Christine, help explain to folks at home here.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Sure.

SCIUTTO: A lot of these phrases, difficult to understand.

[09:05:03]

But this is about getting money to businesses who need it most and right away. Explain how that works.

ROMANS: So this is the Fed stepping in, in a vast, vast way to prevent a depression essentially. This is the Fed saying it will buy up anything that doesn't have a seller basically, Treasuries, mortgage- backed securities. Remember quantitative easing? This is quantitative easing to infinity and beyond. It will -- it will be the lender of last resort and the buyer of last resort and that's really important for the financial stability of the system and the credit markets right now.

Also it says that this is really interesting. It's going to have some new programs to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to big businesses and small businesses. It's reviving some crisis era lending facilities that are meant to really back stop the whole credit system.

And here's something I really found interesting, the Federal Reserve in this extraordinary statement that came out at 8:00 a.m. said it's going to do a main street business lending program to support lending to small and medium sized businesses and that's something they are working on right now.

This would be complementary to somethings that are done at the Small Business Administration. So they're even coming up with new ways to make sure the small and medium-sized businesses can get lending to avoid the economy crashing.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Christine. We're going to get information to our viewers so if they have a small business they can find out how to take advantage of this and we're going to stay on top of that.

Thank you, Christine Romans. Let's get now to New York. This has become an epicenter of the

outbreak, not just here in the U.S. but in the world based on the numbers.

CNN's Brynn Gingras, she is there in New York this morning.

Tell us the latest about the figures as they rise and any new steps that the city and the state are taking.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of steps, Jim. Well, a third of the cases here in the United States are happening in New York City and its suburbs. So that gives you good detail there, and really that means is New York is sort of turning into an example of really what could happen in major cities across the country if not already.

The state already having to take some major steps. For example, they're now having to make sure that people who want to get tested, they only get tested if they are high risk. Basically too many people were coming in wanting to know if they have the coronavirus but their care wouldn't have changed. And so now that priority has to be for only those who actually are going to be a high risk patient.

Let me get out of the way because I got to show you what we're seeing here on the ground. That long line, if you could possibly see it, it stretches down the block in front of this public hospital. People who do want to get tested, and there's a tent set out. Well, that tent is there to alleviate any pressure on the emergency room and the testing facility.

This is just one step we're seeing at public hospitals. But we're also seeing FEMA, boots on the ground very soon, turning the Javits Conference, a conference center, into a makeshift hospital. We're also seeing elective surgeries having to be canceled just within the next few days so there could be more capacity in these hospitals.

So again, that's just one side of it. We haven't even gotten to the part -- the medical equipment that the governor had asked the president, the mayor's asked the president to get to these hospitals so they can care for all of these patients coming in -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras there, thanks very much.

Across the country, hospitals, they're worried about a shortage, shortage of ventilators. That's key to treatment for the most severe cases. Personal protective equipment, those masks and so on. Other medical supplies.

With me now, CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.

And Drew, what's being done to address that shortage? This is a consistent message from state governors, mayors, regardless of party. They're saying we're going to reach a point where we just don't have enough. I mean, who's responding and what's being done about it?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the good news is there is a response and supplies are increasing. The bad news is, Jim, the increasing supply is chasing this exploding demand all across the country. So we have basically right now in the United States rationing of personal protective equipment being used at hospitals from coast to coast, and we've been hearing from not just medical workers and doctors calling us, but actual hospital associations who are telling us that they are restricting some of this use.

Let me give you some idea. The University of Washington Medicine, that's out of Seattle, they do say they have adequate supply right now. But they are observing strict conservation. What that means a memo in a UCSD hospital system went out, and we can show you, they have put out a memo to staff describing what is proper and improper use, and adding this caveat at the bottom. Inappropriate use of N-59 respirators could easily, and with minimal supplies during the peak of this pandemic. One Northeast Hospital, one mask, one mask per shift. Northwell Health out of New York is asking caretakers reuse masks unless they become soiled.

[09:10:04]

The National Association of Community Health Centers calls it critical. Things are getting better but the problem is you have to shift the manufacturing of this to the United States. These masks, particularly the equipment, was made in China. Orders being placed in China today are being told by the American Hospital Association, yes, we'll fill those orders for you, in May, Jim, in May.

SCIUTTO: Wow, and of course, you listen to the surgeon general, he's talking about things getting worse this week. Much earlier.

Drew Griffin, thanks very much.

Despite not being approved by the FDA, President Trump continues to say that an anti-malaria drug, chloroquine, can treat COVID-19, and that's led to an increase in prescriptions and report said even doctors stockpiling the drug. Of course you had the famous disagreement at the White House podium between the president and Dr. Anthony Fauci about the actual effectiveness of this.

With me now, senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, is this a serious treatment, one, and two, what is being done to stop people from hoarding this drug now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, so, Jim, we don't know if this is an effective treatment. And that was the point Dr. Anthony Fauci made at that White House briefing you referred to. We have to study it. We don't know if it works and we don't know if it's safe for patients with coronavirus.

But some doctors and other prescribers aren't -- you know, they're thinking wow, listen to the president, this -- it sounds like this works and they are prescribing it. They are hoarding it for themselves and their friends and their family. Not only is this unethical, it is now illegal in several states. Over the past few days states have rallied and said, hold on a second, we are seeing this hoarding and we don't like it.

And they've passed regulations that say any new prescriptions for these drugs that they have to have a diagnosis written on the prescription, and scared doctors, not a diagnosis. You have to have a diagnosis like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, malaria, actual ailments that these drugs treat and not only that, but they are limiting the prescription, the length of time, so typically like 14 days. So you can't get, you know, a huge supply.

And to show you just how bad this is, Jim, I want to read you a tweet from a pharmacist or part of it. She had a dentist call in a prescription for these drugs and she said nope. She said I have had patients with lupus who have needed this and they can't get it now. That's a terrible thing.

SCIUTTO: Yes, listen, we're in this together, right? It's going to take a group effort.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for being on top of it.

Still to come this hour, we're going to be asking our team of medical experts questions at the top of your mind. What are the symptoms of the deadly virus? What do you do if you experience those symptoms or someone in your family?

We're on top of it, plus after more than 700 deaths in a single day, Italy is now asking the United States for help from the U.S. military. We're going to be live there.

And we're going to talk about social distancing with someone who knows about it more really than anyone, former astronaut. He spent a year in space, in the International Space Station. He has some interesting advice that could be helpful to all of us. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back, folks. We know you have a lot of questions about this, we're going to spend as much time as we can every day talking to the experts and getting those questions answered. To that effect, joining us now, we have Dr. Larry Brilliant; he is a chairman of the SKOLL Global Threats Fund, and Dr. Paul Offit; director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Thanks to both of you.

It's great to have you here today. Dr. Brilliant, if I could begin with you. The president has tweeted this morning, saying, "we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15- day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go." It seems that the president signaling that after just 15 days, he may direct states or encourage them or elsewhere to relax some of these restrictions that have come into place based on the science and the medicine, is 15 days enough?

LARRY BRILLIANT, CHAIRMAN, SKOLL GLOBAL THREATS FUND: Thank you, Jim. No. Not only is it not enough, the thing we have to be concerned about is a rebound. If after trying to suppress the virus through social distancing, which is the right thing to do, it is, after all, that and testing are the only tools we have right now, before we have any anti- viral. If you let up too quickly and you rebound, it may even be worse than it was before. I'd be very careful about that.

SCIUTTO: OK. Next question, Dr. Offit, if I could ask you this, because Dr. Brilliant brought up the question of testing there.

PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER AT THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Yes --

SCIUTTO: We're seeing testing ramp up in a lot of communities around the country, but a little bit of a patchwork right we're seeing. For folks at home who might be experiencing symptoms or they have a child or they have a grandparent who has a dry cough or a fever, so on, and they want to know for sure, but they're not a professional NBA player, they're not a serving member of Congress, they can't get a test like that.

What should they do? Do they call their physician? Do they go to the ER? Do they go to one of these parking lot testing centers? What should people do? That's for you, Dr. Offit -- oh, we might have lost Dr. Offit, apologies. Dr. Brilliant, if you could still hear me, same question to you. What do folks do if they suspect they or a loved one has been exposed or has symptoms, where should they go for testing reliably?

BRILLIANT: I mean, the first thing they should do is to call their physician, and most of the United States now, general physicians have access to the location of testing facilities. Often it's the county, sometimes it's a private provider, but local physicians you should call immediately.

[09:20:00]

SCIUTTO: OK, so that's a point. Next question, social distancing. We've heard a lot about that, and some states now, big states, New York, California among them, are giving these orders, but you see and I think we have some images of this, people not necessarily paying attention. I mean, you looked at some of the beaches in Florida, very crowded. I have relatives in New York who say walking through Central Park, it's as crowded as they've seen it.

What difference does that make? Does that defeat the purpose of social distancing, and therefore, what message do you have for people who are watching at home now about what they should be doing and the importance of these steps?

BRILLIANT: That's a really important question. Laissez-faire, social distancing is not social distancing. I think it's important that we continue to do containment and suppression which really means quarantine in those areas that it is epidemiologically right to do that, and then other areas we can't have the kind of social distancing that parts of Italy had, or we will turn into Italy with those case counts and those death rates. SCIUTTO: Understood, listen to the doctor there, folks, this social

distancing works and it's on all of us to make it happen. We have Dr. Offit back. And doctor, good to have you back. Your expertise of course in vaccines. You've seen this sort of bizarre public debate taking place where the president is expressing hope in a malaria drug known as hydroxychloroquine to treat this. Dr. Fauci, of course, an expert in these sorts of things tamping down expectations. What are the facts here? Does this Malaria drug have potential to be an effective treatment against this?

OFFIT: It would be surprising. I think what Dr. Fauci said is exactly right, though, you need to test it. Because remember, when someone is sick, one of three things can happen. They can do better, they can stay the same or they can do worse. You want to make sure you don't take people who are going to do better or stay the same and make them worse. And that's why you have to test it.

SCIUTTO: Understood, OK, timing. This is another question I'm sure, you hear from family and friends, I hear it from family and friends. And I know there's no certain answer to this, but based Dr. Offit, on the data we've seen so far from other countries and the progress of the infections here in the U.S., what is the most likely peak period for the spread here in the U.S.? Is it eight weeks? Because when folks at home hear people talking about, well, it may not all be over for 18 months, I know that may mean waves of this, but what is the most likely peak period?

OFFIT: It's hard to predict. I mean, right now, we know we're still in the log phase. So, the question is whether or not our social distancing that we're doing now will put us more on the course with China where we clearly level off or we will keep going the way Italy was. I mean, I'm optimistic that people are social distancing now, and that we will, I think, in the next few weeks start to see that we're coming off the log phase and that, we can start to do things like, you know, considering, you know, how we can get back to school, get back to work. So, I'm optimistic that we'll soon be past this log phase, yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, you heard it from the doctor there right, that depends on us all taking steps like this as we say, we're in this together. Dr. Larry Brilliant, Paul Offit, we know you're going to be coming back to you, thanks so much for your answers to these questions. Well, imagine having to lay off 4,500 employees suddenly, because the coronavirus shut down your businesses.

Our next guest had to do just that. We're going to talk to them particularly about what help he needs and his employees need now. And we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street, the Dow set to rise sharply, this reaction to the Federal Reserve announcing its own rescue plan and a broad one, promising more stimulus to help both consumers and businesses.

Investors also watching what happens on Capitol Hill, see if lawmakers there can reach a deal on a massive stimulus package. We'll have all the news right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:00]

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. We know that for many of you, we probably don't have to tell you this, layoffs around the country are surging, it's affecting everyone, and the hospitality industry, one of the many sectors taking the hardest hit. The National Restaurant Association says that the food service industry could lose -- listen to this figure, $225 billion over the next three months and between 5 million and 7 million jobs.

Our next guest owns a chain of restaurants, he made the difficult decision to close. Joining me now Cameron Mitchell of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Mr. Mitchell, thanks so much for taking the time this morning. And our heart goes out to those 4,500 people and their families. Let me ask you this, do you believe that this is temporary, right, that after the worst of this, whether that'd be two months, three months, four months, and we don't know that many of these people will be hired back or do we just not know at this point?

CAMERON MITCHELL, OWNER, CAMERON MITCHELL RESTAURANTS: Well, Jim, thanks for having me on this morning. I'm an optimist, and I believe we'll be back. It's a question of time, we don't know how long, but we support what the government's doing with the shutdown. We're doing our part, our associates are home safe, and we are just hoping that we're going to have the chance and hopefully the assistance from the government when the time comes that we can get back up and running, and get started and get all of our associates back to work.

SCIUTTO: So, let me ask you, because you have two tracks really for help from the government. You've got Congress now debating a bill, there are a number of elements in there. You have the Fed now acting to make loans more available to small businesses and so on.

END