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Some States Implement Stay-At-Home Orders To Curb Pandemic; Britain's Public Ordered To Stay At Home; Governor Cuomo Orders New York Hospitals To Add More Beds; Trump Suggests Scaling Back On Social Distancing; New Jersey Critically Needs More PPE; World Health Organization Cautions On Untested Drugs; Navy Hospital Ship Heading To Los Angeles; Florida Governor To Issue Executive Order Mandating 14- Day Self-Isolation For Travelers From N.Y., N.J.; Mayor: NYC Hospitals May Run Out Of Supplies In A Week; One-Hundred-Plus Coronavirus Deaths In U.S. In Single Day. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 23, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news.
We're standing by for a White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of known cases here in the United States now tops 42,000, with more than 500 deaths. Globally, more than 372,000 cases are reported with more than 16,000 deaths.
The number of states issuing stay-at-home orders is growing daily and they're expected to cover roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population by mid-week.
Meanwhile, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just announced a stay-at-home order for his country that includes a ban on public gatherings and the closing of nonessential businesses, rules that he says will be enforced by police.
Let's begin this hour in New York, with increasingly dire warnings from the mayor there. Our national correspondent Athena Jones is joining us. Athena, the head of the World Health Organization is now warning that the pandemic is accelerating and that's clearly what we're seeing where you are in New York.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That's right. The number of cases growing by the day. And you know, the march of the coronavirus across this country is undeniable. As you mentioned, at least 13 states have now issued stay-at-home orders following in the footsteps of California and New York.
That means a quarter of the U.S. population is being asked to stay home. And by mid-week, when all of these measures have kicked in, it means that four in 10 people in America will be staying at home. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It's shocking to have to say this. Even just a few days ago I thought we could get, you know, safely into April.
JONES (voice-over): One week, that's how long New York's mayor says the city has before many of its hospitals could run out of lifesaving ventilators, masks, and other personal protective gear.
DE BLASIO: Our 11 public hospitals right now, we can get through this week with the equipment and supplies we have. If we don't get ventilators this week, we're going to start losing lives we could have saved. I can't be blunter than that.
JONES (voice-over): Now the epicenter of America's coronavirus crisis, New York's more than 20,000 cases of the disease account for about half the cases in the United States and about 5 percent of known cases worldwide.
The virus so widespread, the governor estimates 40 to 80 percent of residents will be infected. And while New York may be hardest hit, the crisis is touching every corner of the country. And the U.S. surgeon general warns it is only getting worse.
JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I want America to understand. This week it's going to get bad and we really need to come together as a nation.
JONES (voice-over): Part of the problem when it comes to getting supplies, competition.
ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: This is ad hoc. I'm competing with other states. I'm bidding up other states on the prices. It's not the way to do it.
JONES (voice-over): New York is working to increase the number of available hospital beds. With Governor Andrew Cuomo, who estimates the state may need double the roughly 50,000 hospital beds it has, today issuing an emergency order to all hospitals.
CUOMO: You must, mandatory directive from the state, find more beds, use more rooms, you must increase your capacity 50 percent.
JONES (voice-over): The governor also touring the sprawling Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, one of four sites where he has asked the federal government to build makeshift hospitals.
Two U.S. Navy hospital ships are headed to Los Angeles and New York City. In addition to New York, the federal government is sending medical stations with thousands of hospital beds to California and Washington.
The president promising Sunday night that supplies will arrive in New York and california within 48 hours. But with millions of masks and thousands of ventilators needed, federal officials have been hard to pin down when it comes to how many of them they will deliver.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How many masks does the federal government have right now and when can they get to local hospitals?
PETER GAYNOR, FEMA DIRECTOR: Well, when it comes to supplies, you know, we have been shipping from the national stockpile for weeks.
TAPPER: Do you have even a rough number?
GAYNOR: I can't give you a rough number.
JONES (on camera): And now back to the Javits Center where we saw the governor touring earlier. They expect to be able to have this up and running in about seven to 10 days. There will be over 300 federal staff able to take care of up to a thousand patients they expect to see here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Really glad they're doing that. Athena Jones, thanks very much. Let's go to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us. Jim, you're hearing that the president is what, losing patience with some of the restrictions now in place?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And we should report, a source close to the coronavirus task force says Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the administration's top medical experts, is continuing to recommend appropriate public health measures to combat the pandemic even as White House officials, including President Trump, are toying with the idea of scaling back on these social distancing guidelines that have been put in place across the country.
On the internal discussions that are underway right now, the source said, "everything is on the table including easing back on these measures." But Fauci, the source said, is trying to steer officials toward the safest path.
ACOSTA (voice-over): With an economy that's all but shut down and Wall Street teetering on the edge, President Trump appears to be toying with the idea of easing the nation's 15-day social distancing period, aimed at flattening the deadly curve of the coronavirus.
The president tweeted, "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the day 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go." A possible sneak preview of what's to come, echoed by top economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: We can't shut in the economy. The economic cost to individuals is just too great. 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.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Sources tell CNN the president is losing patience with the measures recommended by top health officials. One source said the president has seen the hordes of beachgoers in places like Florida and asked aides what's the point of social distancing if some Americans are not paying attention?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president needs to listen to scientists.
NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's essentially important that we stop his mistakes. We have striven to have this be nonpolitical, as bipartisan as possible, as unifying as possible."
ACOSTA (voice-over): For weeks, the president has claimed his administration was containing the outbreak only to see the pandemic expand rapidly. Late last month he tweeted, "The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA, stock market starting to look very good to me."
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One of the administration's top experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told "Science" magazine he's doing his best to correct the record when Mr. Trump has his facts wrong adding, "When you're dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens. So I'm going to keep pushing. I'm trying my best. I cannot do the impossible. I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down."
Up on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans have been feuding over a massive stimulus bill that could inject confidence back into the economy.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The markets are tanking once again as I said because this body can't get its act together and the only reason it can't get it's act together is right over here on the other side of the aisle.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But the markets are also reeling in part because the administration has struggled to move protective equipment to nurses and doctors on the front lines. The president has signed the Defense Production Act but he has yet to invoke it, a move that would force companies to churn out those supplies.
TRUMP: We're a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela, ask him how did nationalization of their businesses worked out. Not too well.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Then there's the matter of how individual lawmakers are responding to the outbreak like Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul who was tested for the virus, then worked out in the Senate gym, only to find out he was positive.
SEN TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Well, I wish him healthy recovery. I hope he that he has not spread that to other folks. And I give the same caution to all Americans. Take care of yourself.
ACOSTA (on camera): Now, as for these discussions going on behind the scenes, senior White House officials have maintained the president has confidence in Dr. Anthony Fauci who has decades of experience in combating outbreaks like the coronavirus.
And Wolf, one thing we should point out that's happening at this very moment as officials are getting prepared for the coronavirus task force briefing that is scheduled to take place at the bottom of the hour in the White House briefing room.
One of the reasons why we're reporting from this rooftop across Lafayette Park outside the White House grounds is because news organizations are starting to restrict the number of journalists who are going inside the White House briefing room out of a sense of precaution.
One thing we should report right now, Wolf, is that we're told by the White House Correspondents' Association, one reporter in the White House Press Corps or one journalist in the White House Press Corps is now suspected positive for the coronavirus. A suspected case of the coronavirus hasn't been completely confirmed just yet.
So in the meantime, you saw last week, Wolf, where reporters were sitting some distance from one another. At this very moment, you're seeing those crews in the room right now. They are putting even more distance between the journalists who will be in the White House briefing room at the bottom of the hour.
You're going to see fewer reporters in that briefing room asking the president, vice president, other members of the task force questions, because of these precautionary measures that are being put in place in real time right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, and which is very, very smart, and we hope that one journalist doesn't have it, but if he does or she does, we hope there's a speedy recovery. Jim Acosta, thank you very much for your reporting, be careful over there as well.
Let's get some more on all of this. The governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, is joining us. Governor, I know you're incredibly busy, thanks for taking a few moments to share with our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
I understand you had a phone conversation with President Trump earlier today and you asked him for what you describe as critically needed protective gear funding, FEMA support for temporary hospitals. What was his response?
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): His response was generally good. Wolf, it's good to be with you. I asked him for his support for four FEMA- constructed field hospitals and he gave his support for that, for which I'm very thankful.
I reiterated personal protective equipment. We are woefully shy of what have we need in New Jersey. We had gotten one installment, and I'm happy to say shortly after the phone call, we got word we would get a second installment.
And obviously, we don't know yet what is in the bill that ultimately gets out of Congress and signed by the president, but I sure hope and I reiterated to the president, I sure hope it includes a big number of direct cash assistance for states. So those are the three specifics I went over with him.
BLITZER: Because your state has reported now, at least as of 3:00 p.m. eastern, you have nearly 3,000 cases of coronavirus in New Jersey, nearly 30 deaths in New Jersey as well. When did he say to you he would give you the specifics on the critically needed personal protective equipment?
MURPHY: He didn't address the specifics on the call, but when I traveled from the call to a follow-on videoconference with Vice President Pence, as I entered that, I heard that we got another installment coming our way. Again, I'm grateful beyond words, but it's still a fraction of our need out of the strategic stockpile.
We're also, as you can imagine, turning over every stone in New Jersey and around the world to get it on our own. We are woefully shy of personal protective equipment and doing everything we can to get it.
BLITZER: What about these temporary hospitals that you desperately need in new jersey and indeed around the country as well, in New York, in California? How soon do you believe they will be up and running?
MURPHY: I hope very soon. I've got a call, Wolf, at 6:15 tonight with the FEMA director to go over that. FEMA for us, over the past week, has been a good partner. They helped us set up two drive-through testing sites, which are both open and running.
Each of these field hospitals have about 250 beds and it's important to note, they're not for COVID-19 patients per se. So what we would do is displace other patients from their current rooms into these field hospitals to free up critical care beds for the COVID-19 patients.
We're also looking at opening closed hospitals, opening wings that have been closed in hospitals, again, looking to increase our capacity as best we can while at the same time we're flattening the curve as best we can.
BLITZER: The president, as you probably know, he's getting a lot of pressure from business leaders not to actually use what's called the Defense Production Act to address the supply shortages all over the country. Did this come up on your call, did you ask him to go ahead and invoke those powers?
MURPHY: It didn't come up on that call because we had the specific request for PPE, the field hospitals, and cash, frankly. But it's come up in almost every deliberation and exchange that we've had. We need more gear.
And the faster we can get it, the more our health care workers who are the heroes right now, will be protected and the better care we can provide for those who are sick.
BLITZER: Based on what we're hearing and also what the president is tweeting, he seems to be leaning pretty strongly towards reducing the social distancing recommendations at the end of this 15-day period, meaning at the end of next week. Do you think this should be left to the states? Do you think this would be smart, to go ahead and reduce all that?
MURPHY: We're not going to do it in New Jersey. I'm not a health expert. I'm not a scientist. But I'm consulting as many as I can, both on CNN as well as around the tables and on telephones here. We believe that social distancing, aggressive social distancing, and we've been as aggressive in New Jersey as any American state. We started meeting on this in January. We believe that's how you keep the pressure off the health care system.
And so as much as -- listen, we have two choices, Wolf. Let the virus run amok and have a lot of sick people and a lot of fatalities and, by the way, tank the economy, or rip the bandage off, know that you're going to take economic pain up front, but to do everything we can to keep the fatalities and the number of sick as low as we can, I'm taking door number two every time out.
BLITZER: Well said, Governor Murphy. Thanks so much for what you're doing and I know you got to get back to work. We're deeply appreciative of you joining us.
MURPHY: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. And to our viewers, stay with us. We're awaiting the start of today's White House coronavirus task force briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. We're also going to take a close look at the push to develop new drugs to treat the coronavirus. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We're awaiting the start of today's briefing by members of the White House coronavirus task force. The World Health Organization today warned against using what it calls untested drugs against the virus.
Let's go to our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's been looking into the effort to try to find some experimental drugs that might work. Sanjay, what can you tell us?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's been a lot of discussion, Wolf, as you know about chloroquine, this anti-malarial drug.
It's a drug that's been around for a long time. We want to tell (inaudible) what the research is around this drug, what we know so far and what still needs to be done.
TRUMP: Why should we be testing it in a test tube for a year and a half when we have thousands of people that are very sick? They are very, very sick. And we can use it on those people and maybe make them better and in some cases maybe save their lives.
GUPTA (voice-over): President Trump says he's optimistic about some potential treatments for the novel coronavirus, in particular a malaria drug called chloroquine.
TRUMP: Yes, this has been something that's been around for many years. It's been phenomenal, strong, powerful drug for malaria. But we think it might work on this, based on evidence, based on very strong evidence.
GUPTA (voice-over): It's true the medication has been around for more than 80 years and has few side effects including nausea and mood changes as well as possible interactions with other drugs.
Now enthusiasm for the possibility of treating the novel coronavirus largely centers on one study out of France which used a derivative of chloroquine, used with an antibiotic commonly known as Z-Pak. The study was small and the patients were followed for only six days.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The study that looked at that drug and showed activity was a study that involved about 20 patients and only six in the arm (ph) that showed the benefit. And the benefit that they showed was that they decreased the amount of virus in their noses when you did nasal swabs in those patients.
So, it could very well be that the drug is reducing viral shedding but having no impact on the clinical course of those patients. So, the data on that is very preliminary.
GUPTA (voice-over): We took a closer look at the study and here is what we found. There were originally 26 patients in the study who were treated. Twenty completed the trial.
One left the hospital before the trial ended. One couldn't tolerate the medication. Three went to the intensive care unit, that's an 11 percent critical care rate. And one died, a 4 percent mortality rate.
Now, those numbers are higher, critical care and mortality rates, than the general population of infected. Keep in mind again, it's a small study.
There was another study from 2011 which found that while chloroquine was effective in the lab against the flu, it ultimately wasn't effective in humans. Look, that's why trials are needed, and they can be done quickly. Many labs in the World Health Organization had already started
studying these drugs and dozens of others to help us find an answer for a disease that currently has no known cure.
TEDROS ADNAHOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Using untested medicines without the right evidence could raise false hope. And even do more harm than good and cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases.
GUPTA (voice-over): And at the end of last week, chloroquine was added to the American Society of Health System Pharmacists drug shortage list.
GUPTA (on camera): I can tell you, Wolf, the World Health Organization now considering chloroquine as one for the treatments from their clinical trials. And the president did say you don't want to start in a test tube, and he's right about that because this is an existing drug that has a pretty good safety record. So it can move quickly, Wolf, but it still has to go through these trials.
BLITZER: And it must go through those trials. All right, Sanjay, I want you to stick around, stay with us. I want to bring in some more of our medical and political experts to discuss this. Dr. Leana Wen, what do you think? How much hope should we put into this drug to fight the pandemic?
LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Look, we should have hope. There are treatments being tested and I'm glad that we are proceeding with urgency to test all these treatments. But I completely agree and really appreciate at Dr. Gupta's reporting.
We need to be careful. There are medical, legal, and scientific, and frankly, ethical standards for testing new drugs or existing drugs for a reason because we don't want to give false hope, we don't want to give false re-assurance. We don't want to get the people the idea that everything is going to be fine.
And maybe they don't need all these preventive because there's a treatment when there's not actually that treatment. And I'm also very concerned about the wrung (ph) on these drugs. I mean, hydroxychloroquine, which is related to chloroquine, it's a drug that's used for patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
And those patients are reporting that they can't get their medication anymore because patient -- other people are going out there to try to hoard this medication, thinking that it's somehow a magic pill. And so there are all these societal effects when the president says something that's not yet based in evidence and science.
BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, let me follow up. When do you think we might see some real results from rigorous drug trials as far as these two drugs are concerned? GUPTA: Well, it's interesting, with the chloroquine, you know, they're
using it, studying it both as a potential preventative as well as a therapeutic, so something that you'd give prophylactically as well as for therapy.
But preventative trials take longer. They're saying five to six months for that. These therapeutic trials can go a little bit faster but still, you know, I think, you know, we're talking maybe end of summer here by the time you get through these phases.
You do have a little bit of a head start, again, as was mentioned because these are existing drugs so you have some data on them already, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's remember, these are potential treatments. They're not a vaccine. A vaccine, according to Dr. Fauci, is at least a year, year and a half away.
All right. I want everybody to stay with us. We have a lot more to discuss. We're standing by for today's White House briefing. The coronavirus task force about to begin, we're told. Much more of our special coverage right here in "The Situation Room."
BLITZER: Now, take a look at this. This is a video of the U.S. Navy's hospital ship, the USNS Mercy. It's leaving San Diego right now on its way to Los Angeles. A lot of hospital beds on that ship. Patients without coronavirus eventually moved there to make room in the hospitals in the Los Angeles area, for those that do have the coronavirus.
Let's get back to our correspondents and our experts. And Dana Bash, overnight, the President tweeted this, "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". Clearly, by the end of next week, that's the end of the so called 15-day period, he may decide he wants to ease up on all the social distancing.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He might, and my understanding, and this is also according to reporting from a lot of our colleagues is that the President is getting advice on all sides of this. He obviously is hearing from conservatives who are being very vocal publicly about the notion of the government going too far arguing that, that the -- as he sort of alluded to, in that tweet, that the cure is made worse, if you will, by the way that they're dealing with the economy.
On the other side, I know I have I've talked to people who have, you know, align into the President who are arguing just the opposite, that there is no way that the President should let up on anything until the health situation is under control. Because if he does, then there's no point in having a great economy if the hospitals are completely overrun. So he is hearing it from both sides. And the thing that he is being told is, listen to Dr. Fauci, more than anybody else
BLITZER: Because, David Axelrod, clearly the President is worried about the economic downturn here in the United States that all of these actions are clearly affected.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, there's no doubt about it. And look, he should be concerned about that this is a tremendous burden on the American people. Catherine Rampell said last night, she was talking to Don Lemon and she said, we've put the economy into a coma to try and deal with this health crisis and it's necessary to do that,
I would just point the President to what Lindsey Graham tweeted today, we don't have a functioning economy until we control the virus, the idea that we're not going to control the virus, but somehow the economy can proceed is just sheer folly. And he would be making a terrible mistake.
And I worry a little bit, Wolf, that the other set of advisors and there are political advisors who are worried about how the economy is going to recover between now and November. I would advise them that the best thing the President the United States can do is follow the science, do what is necessary, put the public interest first, and let the politics take care of itself.
BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, we just getting this news in from the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and I want to read it to you and our viewers. He says he's issuing an executive order that calls for a mandatory 14-day self-isolation for all travellers coming to Florida from airports, either in New York or New Jersey.
He says this, quote, today there's over 190 direct flights from the New York City area in the state of Florida, and I would recommend given the outbreak there that every single flight has somebody on it who's positive for OVID-19. He says travellers will be met on board, planes by local and state law enforcement officials as well as personnel from the Department of Health and Florida.
Passengers will also be subject to temperature checks. Passengers going to stay with family members in Florida would not, repeat, not be exempt from this executive order. He says it's going to be going into effect today. So many New Yorkers, and people from New Jersey up north, they spend a lot of time down in Florida, but that's not going to happen, at least over the next two weeks.
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting, Wolf, because I think there's a lot of reasons not to be traveling unless you absolutely have to be traveling now. So, I think that's probably the primary point. But, you know, I think it's also safe to say that, you know, this virus is circulating in many communities around the country.
I mean, I sort of understand the thinking here, but the reality is, I think in many places now, we know this virus is circulating. I mean, you remember the same sort of thing was done initially in China. We will screen patients as they come in. Now we're doing it state to state.
But I think if we actually did surveillance testing in some of these places, we would realize that it was circulating. So again, probably a good idea for people not to be getting on commercial flights unless they have to right now. But as far as screening in specific states, it's unclear, maybe the impact of that will happen.
BLITZER: Let me get Dr. Wen to weigh in on that. What do you think, Dr.?
WEN: I agree with Sanjay that there is almost certainly widespread, community spread and transmission of COVID-19 in Florida, just as there is throughout the country. And so the best thing that we can each do right now are actually things that are in our control. We can practice good hand and face hygiene, wash our hands a lot as we keep hearing about but keep on doing that, and social distancing.
We should be social distancing no matter if our community is hard hit like New York and New Jersey are or if we're anywhere also the country, because we really should not be going to gatherings really of any kind. We should be acting as if we ourselves have coronavirus and that others around us have it too because we know that so many people don't have symptoms or have mild symptoms and are transmitting it to others and we have a very narrow window of opportunity to try to avoid the catastrophe. Really, that is happening in New York and in other hotspots around the country.
BLITZER: You know, Danna, as you know, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced a nationwide lockdown in the United Kingdom. Do you expect to see that here in the United States, will local officials continue to take the lead or do you think the President will order a nationwide lockdown, about half the states now have one variation of that?
BASH: You know, we looked it up right now as we speak. Percentage of the population wise, the U.S. is just a hair higher than the U.K. when it comes to people testing positive for COVID-19. Having said that, the U.S. is very different in how it operates in any situation, but particularly in this situation right now. And we have seen every single time the President has asked about it, he has said, we're not going there right now.
And in fairness, the governors across the country, most of them, not all of them. Some of them have been slower to react than others, but most of them have been very aggressive in taking it into their own hands and putting some pretty -- looking at it from last week extreme measures into effect mandating them in their state. So it's hard to see going nationwide right now, but this is fast changing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly is fast changing indeed. All right, everybody, stick around. We're waiting the start of today's briefing over at the White House, the Coronavirus Task Force members expected to come in. We'll see if the President joins them. I assume the Vice President definitely will be there. Much more of our special coverage right after this.
BLITZER: Looking at live pictures from the White House briefing room right now. We're told fairly soon the White House Coronavirus Task Force will walk in members of the task force, including the Vice President Mike Pence, maybe the President himself, he's been coming to these daily briefings. Very, very frequently, we'll have live coverage of that. Coming up, reporters have a lot of questions for all of them.
Meanwhile, local and state officials across the United States are urgently pleading for more supplies from the federal government to fight the accelerating spread of coronavirus. Our Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has a closer look at how dire the situation is becoming.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the frontlines, the lack of ventilators, personal protection equipment and face masks is at a critical stage where medical workers from across the country say they're being asked to do something that weeks ago would have brought reprimand or even termination, reuse supplies.
DR. SOMIL VIRADIA, CALIFORNIA: You currently have to check out a mask in order to see a patient that is suspected to have a coronavirus. And after that, you actually have to use the mask the same one for five more patients.
DR. DANIEL VARGAS, CHIEF PHYSICIAN EXECUTIVE, NEW JERSEY: We have probably three to five days of N95 masks left.
DR. JESSICA KISS, CALIFORNIA: I am down to my last N95 mask and I'm reusing it.
DR. MARIANNE HAMRA, NEW JERSEY: It's unacceptable that we're sending medical professionals like lambs to the slaughterhouse.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association says, what she is hearing from her physicians is just unprecedented.
DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: They're saying they're having to reuse mask and they're saying they are being asked to re-sterilize mask. All things which in normal times, we would certainly not do, may even be grounds for discipline or dismissal for violating routine infection control policies and practices.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): New York has now top Washington State is the new epicenter and the epicenter of critically short supplies and staffing. The Mayor issuing dire warnings to federal officials.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: If we don't get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Nisha Mehta runs to closed Facebook groups with about 65,000 physicians across the country. She says a doctor in New York told her conditions are so dire. He compared it to third world healthcare.
DR. NISHA MEHTA, NORTH CAROLINA: He's like this is worse than anything I've seen in any of the third world countries I've been and I feel like if there is such a thing as a fourth world country like that's what our hospital system is already.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Supplies are steadily increasing but not enough to fill exploding demand in state after state where hospitals are already at critical shortages or preparing for them.
In San Diego, the UCSD system posted this guide requiring good stewardship of masks. The memo warning staff, "Inappropriate use of N95 respirators could easily end up with minimal supplies during the peak of this pandemic". The bigger threat is running out of healthcare workers because of the lack of protection.
In Teaneck, New Jersey, 35 physicians and nurses are no longer working at Holy Name Medical Center, because they're either confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Adam Jarrett, says those supplies and staffing are holding up. He's not sure for how long.
DR. ADAM JARRETT, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER, NEW JERSEY: I'm very concerned that if things don't slow down, if the supply chains do not open up, if we don't figure out a way to get the nurses in here, from the federal government, from the military, and I -- then a week or so from now, I may not be able to feel the same way about the fact that I have not had to compromise here.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): One question being asked, how long will doctors and nurses stay on the job, risking their own lives if asked to do so without proper protection.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are all scared as health care providers that we're going to bring it home to our families.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: That's CNN's Drew Griffin reporting. Drew, thank you very much.
And stay with us, once again, we're waiting to start at today's briefing over at the White House. The Coronavirus Task Force members that are about to walk in we're told will of course have live coverage.
[17:51:32] BLITZER: Once again, we're awaiting the start of the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House. As soon as they walk in, we'll have live coverage of that.
Very disturbing development right now for the first time. More than 100 people here in the United States have died from coronavirus on a single day earlier this morning. And we're looking specifically at the numbers that were 414 confirmed deaths. Now, there are 520 confirmed deaths here in the United States.
New York has the most cases of any state in the nation and there's great concern hospitals there could soon be overwhelmed. This afternoon, the New York Governor toured a makeshift hospital being set up in a New York City Convention Center.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene for us right now. Shimon, how long before it's ready?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be days, Wolf. They expect anywhere the Governor said from seven to 10 days before this is ready. They're here. FEMA is here. The Army Corps of Engineer, they have other staff inside this convention center behind me. They're getting to work.
I was in there today. I saw all the items, there are ventilators, there are beds, there's supplies, there's the protective gear that we keep hearing about that the doctors and nurses need. They have that inside and they're getting to work. They're removing the items around.
But the Governor says he expects everything to be up and running in about seven to 10 days. The good news is that a lot of these items are now here behind me inside this convention center, Wolf.
BLITZER: How many people will they be able to treat once it's complete?
PROKUPECZ: So they will be able to -- they're going to have 1,000 beds, that's what the Governor says, are going to be federal hospitals, he's calling them. They're going to be divided into four different areas and each area is going to have 250 beds. So they're going to have 1,000 beds, they have the ventilators, they have the other items that they need.
And from what I can see, there was dozens of boxes inside of the convention center that they're now moving around. But overall, they're prepared. The Governor says to treat 1,000 people.
BLITZER: Yes. And that's going to be badly needed. But I suspect, if you listen to the Governor, if you listen to the Mayor in New York, they think they're going to need a lot more than that. Let's see what happens. Shimon, appreciate it very much.
Coming up, we're standing by for the White House briefing. We'll take another quick break, we'll be right back.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room" with breaking news on the coronavirus emergency. We're standing by for a White House briefing that could begin at any moment. As World Health officials are now warning the pandemic is actually accelerating.
Tonight, the Governor of Florida is set to order anyone who has traveled to the state from airports in either New York or New Jersey to go into immediate mandatory self-isolation for 14 days. The British Prime Minister just issued a strict new nationwide stay at home order, warning police would have the power to enforce it.
This as the death toll here in the U.S. has now climbed above 500 increasing by more than 100 deaths in just a single day. That's the first time that has happened here in the United States. And the number of deaths worldwide now is higher than 16,000.
Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles for us. Nick, as the U.S. death toll spikes the U.S. surgeon general expects the crisis in his words to get really bad in this country this week.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. The two things that struck me most in the past hour the fact that we have two army field hospitals on their way to New York and Seattle. Two-hundred and forty- eight beds in each plus crucially 11 ventilators. Also that news out of Florida that you just mentioned, there are no domestic travel restrictions really in place right now in the U.S.