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Clock Ticks, Senate In Standoff Over Coronavirus Stimulus; New York Mayor Says Hospitals Facing Major Crisis; Louisiana's Governor Orders Shelter In Place After Spike In New Cases. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And our Manu Raju has been following all of this on Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, the vote was originally supposed to be held right now. Tell us what the holdup is.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, negotiations right now between the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and the Trump administration led by Secretary Mnuchin of the Treasury. They have been talking and they're having intense discussions all morning.

A lot of those discussions have branched out to include more members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including Senator Mark Warner of Virginia who I just caught up with. He told me they are making progress in their talks. Now, they're unlikely to reach a deal by the time the Senate does try to cap that procedural vote to advance the bill. That's expected at around 1:30 P.M. Eastern.

Democrats are suggesting that they will vote to prevent that from moving forward because they are saying they want more time to negotiate. And according to Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, they are, quote, very close to a deal.

Now, this bill, as you mentioned, roughly $2 trillion split up into a variety of measures, including providing direct payments to Americans, also providing assistance to a number of struggling industries, in addition to small businesses and industries like the airlines, and the like, but there were a lot of -- they were having a number of disagreements about how some of that language to be structured particularly money going to those industries, and whether or not the secretary should have as much power in determining who gets that money or not. Those are the types of discussions that have been happening intensively over the past day.

But emotions are flaring on the Senate floor there. They had contentious exchanges between members, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accusing Democrats of acting, Tom Cotton of Arkansas has some choice words for Democrats, as well as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, also criticizing the Democrats' handling of this.

But Democrats are arguing that they are trying push for the best bill possible, because they realize that this is probably the only chance that they will have to pass a bill before they all leave town amid the growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and it hitting here in the United States Senate after Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky announced that he had tested positive.

Now, at the same time, Brianna, the question is when the Senate does reach a deal, and if that does pass as soon as today, which is still possible, what will happen in the House? Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to introduce her own measure later today. But the question still remains whether she's using that as a way to push the Senate to move closer to her demands or whether the House will ultimately pass the Senate's bill or if they move forward on their own course.

And if they do that, Brianna, that will only lead to more protracted negotiations and uncertain outcome amid this critical moment where a lot of Americans and the U.S. economy is waiting for Congress to respond. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Manu, thank you so much for that report from Capitol Hill.

And now to the epicenter here in the U.S., New Yor. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warning that hospitals could run out of needed supplies as soon as next week. And Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging President Trump to use the Defense Production Act that he's already signed but is not using to direct businesses on how to produce in price supplies.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We have New York manufactures who are really stepping up to the plate and converting factories, et cetera, but this is not the way to do it. This is ad hoc. I am competing with other states, I am bidding up other states on the prices, because you have manufactures who sit there and California offers them $4 and they say, well, California offered $4, I offer $5, another state calls in and offer $6. It's not the way to do it.


KEILAR: Let's go to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz live in New York City. The governor there, Shimon, really kind of pulling back the curtain on how this is all going behind the scenes. Tell us about the situation there in New York.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that is the thing. That is the critical thing, Brianna, right now, is that they need equipment, they need supplies, all of the protective gear that you can think of that nurses and doctors would need in situations like this. They need that. And he's asking for help in getting some of that. The other aspect in all of this, the critical aspect, is ventilators, of course. We keep on hearing the governor stress that they need more ventilators.

So behind me here in New York City, in Manhattan, they're going to be building hospitals. FEMA is coming in here. They're going to build thousands beds. There's going to be four sections here, basically four different types of federal hospitals. They're going to have all sorts of equipment. They're going to have ventilators. They're also bringing staff. And the governor says, that is what's so important in all of this. The equipment, the staff and all of these critical items that are needed.

We expect the governor here shortly. He is going to tour the facility. This facility here, this convention center takes up about six blocks here on Manhattan up to the west side. It's a large strong space which will allow FEMA all the room that they need to build these hospitals.


So, hopefully, we can take a look for ourselves inside what it is that they're going to be doing.

Of course, you know, the numbers here in New York, across New York State, over 20,000 people now have tested positive for the coronavirus.

KEILAR: Shimon, I am going to pause you just a for a moment, Shimon, because, actually, Defense Secretary Esper is speaking at the Pentagon. Let's listen in.

REPORTER: And have you slowed the number of troops coming out of Afghanistan.

MARK ESPER, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I don't want to get too much into Afghanistan. I want to speak about coronavirus. But I will say, I spoke to Secretary Pompeo earlier today. He's obviously over there to try and keep the process moving forward. Otherwise, he'll be coming back. I'm sure he'll speak to us more broadly once he returns to the United States.

On your first question, I have already forgotten what the first question was.

REPORTER: About testing.

ESPER: Testing. So we have 16 labs available. We can test at least 6,000 a day, is our throughput. I don't know where the 16,000 number came from. But I think we are up to 6,000 in terms of capacity. The issue is test kits. And as more of those come on board, we can test more. But we have offered again those services up to the interagency to provide testing as we have excess capacity in our labs.

And if my numbers are wrong, somebody will clean it up afterwards. But I think that's the last time I was briefed, those were roughly the numbers.

REPORTER: I just want to be clear on the field hospital, so the ones going to Seattle and New York City, you expect those to move out this week?

ESPER: Yes. And I just want to clarify so that there's no confusion. There are hospitals being provided by HHS. I forget what exactly they are called, but they are hospitals in the sense of beds, bed space, things like that. Those are being provided to Seattle and I forgot the other location. It might have been New York as well.

We are looking at deploying our field hospitals, which include the hospital, the equipment and medical professionals. And my aim is to get them out this week. My due is Seattle and New York City are the places. We just need FEMA to validate that. Because, keep in mind, FEMA is the U.S. government's central place for handling requests and then validating them and then prioritizing them, so that's important. But that was my notion is we'll be moving out this week.

REPORTER: and then can you just give us a little more detail about changing the --

KEILAR: All right. We're listening in there to Secretary Mark Esper out of the Pentagon, as he is talking about the resources that the military is going to be providing to some of these hardest hit areas.

I do want to bring in now Dr. Peter Hotez. He's from Baylor School of Medicine. Doctor, just to discuss a little bit about what we heard from the secretary there, how important is this for the military to help? Do you see that as a key part of this?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, absolutely. What we are looking at now is the call from the governor increase -- all New York hospitals to increase hospital capacity by at least 50 percent, preferably 100 percent. We know what the curve of this COVID epidemic looks like and it's a pretty steep rise.

So with that steep rise, we're now about to hit a big surge. And I think the big emphasis is to avoid a catastrophic situation like we have seen in Italy. And other than social distancing, the way to to that is to massively gear up for hospital capacities, especially ventilator beds.

So the call is out for all New York hospitals, city hospitals, especially to increase their capacities. But with the understanding that may not always be possible, so that means bringing in the military, so that's absolutely the right response to maximize capacity for hospital beds, especially ventilators and ICU beds.

KEILAR: That's right. So they need more ventilators. They need just more hospital beds. They also need for masks. They need more of this protective gear. Certainly, in New York, they could be running out of this, we're told, as soon as next week.

So knowing that we are hearing from Governor Cuomo who says that he's putting in a bid, California puts in a bid, he kind of pulled back the curtain on how this is all going down without the federal government stepping in. Does the federal government need to step in here and what happens if they don't?

HOTEZ: Yes. I don't see how you avoid brokering this situation, because what you need to do is allocate resources. If resources are limited, you have to allocate them to where the need is greatest.

And right now, there are 20,000 cases of COVID-19 in New York. That's more than half the U.S. cases. It's so bad right now in New York that New York is now considered one of the top leading global hot spots for COVID-19. I think it's the -- I forgot the number -- sixth or seventh highest city right now. And it's only going to get worse. It's not going to get better over the next couple of weeks.

So the governors can't be in a position to broker this thing. It's got to be allocated where we need is the greatest. And if it means bringing the ventilators and the beds in New York now, and then as they subside, you move in into other parts of the country.


Remember, it's not like you are going to see the whole entire country homogeneously infected. It's going to happen in pockets and pieces. We've seen Seattle. We've seen Los Angeles. New York is probably the worse right now.

So I think it's going to have to be until we fully gear up. It's going to be focusing on New York right now, and then we're going to have to play this game of -- it's not a game. It's a tragedy whack-a-mole, where we knock down New York and another one is going to pop up, and then we hit it there. And for now, that's going to be the strategy to move forward.

KEILAR: What does it look like if New York runs out of these supplies, out of masks, out of ventilators?

HOTEZ: Well, I hate to even go there with you. But let's just -- let's look at the risks right now. We are already seeing a number of healthcare providers get very sick, and they're on the frontlines. They don't have adequate protection. I was on your show, I think, a couple of weeks ago, and I think what I said was it's going to be lights out if we don't have enough healthcare providers to take -- not only take care of patients but also have some feeling of comfort and safety that when they go to work that day, they're not going to be saying goodbye for their family forever.

So we have to give that kind of reassurance. So that's got to be a priority. And we want to avoid this tragic situation. We are hearing reports out of Italy right now where they are making life or death decisions. They're already deciding that individuals in Italy over the age of 60, they're just not going to put on ventilators because it is not enough. And we obviously can't get to that situation in the United States. So we've got to fix this very quickly right now.

The other thing we have to do is get technologies, biotechnologies in place for our healthcare providers to make them feel safe. I have been pushing very hard on the convalescence serum antibody, which came on CNN, I think it was March 13th, a while ago, and say, look, this is ready to go now if we can organize our blood banks, our transfusion service and the Food and Drug Administration. So I'm having a call about that this afternoon as well.

KEILAR: Okay. So you came -- I mean, you have been talking about this for a while, and this takes federal coordination because it's not cheap. And even just ethically, we've discussed this, you need cooperation between all these different entities. That's where the federal government comes in. Why hasn't it been further along?

HOTEZ: Well, if you're referring to the antibody therapy, I'm hoping now things are gearing up. The FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, who I have known from Texas, he was from our institution next door, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, I'm at Baylor College of Medicine. He's made that commitment. So I think that one will move. Hopefully, we'll have it in place really soon there because we don't have any --

KEILAR: What's really soon?

HOTEZ: We're basically out of time. Sorry?

KEILAR: What's really soon?

HOTEZ: Hopefully, we are talking starting this within days, because that's exactly what we have to do. But, Brianna, we're out of time. This thing is now moving into deep ascent in terms of number of cases.

And I understand, for instance, that yesterday, there were 500 COVID positive patients going to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, another 500 going to New York Hospital. That number is not going down each day. I imagine we're pretty soon going to be to a thousand or over a thousand. So we're already nearly being overrun. So now is not the time to have any kind of hesitation. Now, it's absolute urgency.

KEILAR: Dr. Hotez, thank you so much. It's great to see you again. Thank you so much for your insight.

HOTEZ: Thanks again.

KEILAR: So as more states are issuing the stay-at-home orders, police in New Orleans are creating a special team to investigate illegal gatherings as many still ignore the guidance to stay inside.

Plus, I will be speaking live with a pastor who delivered last rites by phone to a man in Connecticut who died from the coronavirus. We'll talk about this heartbreaking story that may become the norms, next.

And an actor from Walking Dead reveals his struggle to get tested. He will join me for CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: As the number of coronavirus cases here in the U.S. soars past 40,000, residents in the State of Louisiana are being told to stay at home. Cases in that state has soared from 100 to 800. And now, Louisiana's Governor, John Bel Edwards, says his state has the fastest growth rate of infections worldwide.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has more. Dianne?


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Diane Gallagher at Atlanta Georgia, where all over the south east governors, major, hospitals, working to contain the virus. In Louisiana, the governor is citing a study at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette that states the state has the fastest case of coronavirus growth of any state or country in the world right now. And if they don't do something to flatten the curve, hospitals there could run out of space in seven to ten days.

Louisiana already has more than 800 confirmed cases and more than 20 deaths. Nearly half of those coming from the same retirement community in New Orleans. At least seven deaths and more than 20 cases confirmed there. They are working to try to control what could eventually be a cluster like what we have seen in other retirement communities across the country.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rosa Flores on Miami Beach. The governor of Florida has not close all of the beaches in the state. However, the three most populated county in the Sunshine State have taken upon themselves to close the beaches, this includes Miami-Dade Broward and Palm Beach Counties. More than 50 percent of the 1,000 cases in the state are in the South Florida Counties.


While, clearing spring breakers was an issue early on, take a look behind me, Miami Beach is pretty much a ghost town with hotels being shut down on Friday and a curfew being imposed.

This weekend there was an issue with large gatherings on party boat. That prompted the Miami-Dade mayor to close marinas and ramps.


KEILAR: Dianne Gallagher and Rosa Flores, thank you so much. And with more cities enforcing stay-at-home measures to combat the coronavirus, houses of worships across the nation are scrambling to find unique ways to hold religious services and other activities. And that includes a Connecticut church whose pastor had to deliver last rites over the phone to a dying parishioner who contracted the virus.

Bill Pike passed away about ten minutes later. His family, they were all on the line listening from quarantine.

Peter Walsh is the pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church who gave those last rites. He's joining us now to discuss this. And, Father Peter, first, thank you very much for joining us to talk about what happened here with Bill Pike. And I wonder, you know, certainly, it's unusual that you want to be present for something like this. The Pikes are -- they have been a member of your church community for a very long time. And I wonder how it came to this that you figured out how you are going to, in this unusual time, perform last rites.

REV. PETER WALSH, PASTOR, ST. MARK'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Brianna, thank you for having me on. You know, the story I have to tell is really a beautiful story in desperate times. It was clear that we were moving toward the pandemic and the staff that I am on were incredible people. We thought forward what to do. Bill had gone into the hospital, and we all loved Bill. And we had to figure our way forward. So when Bill took the turn for the worse, it became -- I already knew what to do and called, Dan, Bill's son, and said, okay, let's get everybody on the phone here, but first call the hospital and see if we can do this. And lo and behold, the hospital did a great job. They fired up Bill's cell phone. Dan got with his mom and got his brother and his sister on the phone and called the phone at the hospital and Stephon (ph), the nurse, put the phone right on Bill's ear.

And it was just beautiful. I got to read the most incredible prayer, which is the prayer of last rites, and then I got to tell Bill I loved him him and then (INAUDIBLE) his family, each one of them could say, you know, we love you. And after they hung up Bill died ten minutes later or something like that.

KEILAR: And how did this affect them not being able to be there with him but also being able to have technology help them, at least be there in some way?

WALSH: Well, Bill was 91 years old and an incredible human being. He led an unbelievably full life. And so the family was very clear though. They were distraught to lose their pop and such a great man, but then also was not a tragedy for them. They understood that life does end. And given the cruddy circumstances, they really, really embraced, you know, what they had and that was a chance to speak to Bill and for Bill to hear these prayers. Bill is a man of great faith.

And you know they always say is, that even though people are in coma's they can hear. And we all believe that Bill was sent off beautifully and went onto the other side, a distance shore and a greater life and he left knowing that he was loved.

KEILAR: I know you and his family sent him off beautifully. I do want to talk about also how this is broadly impacting folks, even those who do not have coronavirus. Tell us about -- you also performed last rites for another parishioner.

WALSH: Yes. I mean, who would give this and who have thought. But within ten minutes of hanging up from Bill, ended up doing last rites, this one was over FaceTime, and another man named Joe Ehlinger (ph), just another beautiful man from our congregation, who was coming to the end of his life, we knew that. And Joe lived in an elder care facility where nobody can enter.

To Joe's two sons, he has two incredibly devoted and wonderful sons. We decided to do this over FaceTime and they put the camera up in front of Joe. And I got to say to Joe that I love him too, which is also really true. And the two grown sons, kneel, you know, besides their dad and they laid hands with their dad.

And then at the end of the prayer, there's a point where he laid hands in somebody's head and each of the sons put a hand on their dad's head. And, you know, I just have to say that also also incredibly beautiful. It wasn't what we're used to do but it was incredible.

KEILAR: Yes, it wasn't what you were used to but it was incredibly beautiful.


And, Father Peter, thank you for sharing that with us. We're thinking of you. We're thinking of your congregation and all of the people who are going through what you guys are going through. Thank you for sharing that with us. We're thinking of you. We're thinking of your congregation and all of the people who are going through what you guys are going through. Thank you.

The National Guard is deploying the three states hard hit by the coronavirus, what they'll be doing when they hit the.

Plus, an actor from the Walking Dead who tested positive for the coronavirus details his struggle to even get tested. He'll be joining me next.