Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Looking to Reopen Economy By Easter?; Governor Cuomo: 25K Cases in New York, Rate Doubling Every Three Days. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Minutes ago, the president said it would be a beautiful time to have packed churches all over the country.

This, of course, would be against the guidance of top health officials, who are skeptical, at the very least, that the coronavirus will be contained and controlled by that time, and that a rush back to work or to church pews would inevitably cause more deaths and devastation.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins takes a closer look now at the different options White House officials are considering to try to reopen the U.S. economy, despite the warnings by health officials.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd love to have it open by Easter.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he questions whether his stay-at-home guidelines went too far, President Trump now says he wants to reopen the nation within a matter of weeks.

TRUMP: I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.

COLLINS (voice-over): The 15-day guidelines the White House issued last week were meant to slow the spread of coronavirus, but they also shuttered businesses and put many Americans out of work.

With an eye on the economy, Trump is now indicating he may ease them when they expire next week.

TRUMP: It's been very painful for our country and very destabilizing for our country. We have to go back to work.

COLLINS: But public health experts say that may be too soon. Doctors have warned that the nation could see a massive spike in coronavirus cases if Americans return to crowded workplaces or event to quickly, advice that Trump pushed back on today. TRUMP: I'm sure that we have doctors that would say, let's keep it

closed for two years. OK? Let's close it up for two years. No, we got to get it open.

COLLINS: Now the president's advisers are scrambling to find a compromise that keeps the country safe and restarts the economy, including looking at a phased system that's based on age or geographic location, though one official cautioned that nothing has been decided yet.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president has asked our team for recommendations about not how we do one or the other, but how we do both.

COLLINS: The president suggested Americans can still exercise good health practices at work.

TRUMP: We can socially distance ourselves and go to work.

COLLINS: But sources say he's relying more on the advice of his economic advisers than his health care experts, and the economic advisers are arguing that the virtual shutdown is ruining the economy.

TRUMP: You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.

COLLINS: The president hasn't committed to following the advice from his team of doctors when it comes to making a decision on the guidelines.

Today, he once again compare the number of deaths from the flu to that of the coronavirus, even though his own experts have said the coronavirus is far deadlier.

TRUMP: But we have never closed down the country for the flu.

COLLINS: Trump insisted his relationship with Dr. Tony Fauci is on solid ground today, as he was absent from the FOX News town hall.

After a Republican lawmaker suggested last week that the administration was overreacting to the coronavirus and that people are still allowed to drive cars, despite car accident deaths, Fauci called that a false equivalency.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I don't think, with any moral conscience, you could say, why don't we just let it rip and happen and let X-percent of the people die? I don't understand that reasoning at all.

COLLINS: As another one of the doctors on his task force highlighted the high transmission rates of coronavirus in New York, the president interjected with a shot at the state's governor.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Part of it is density. Part of it is the spread that may have happened on metal surfaces, like in the subway and people that were in the subway. Part of it may be a large number of people came back after Christmas from Asia.

TRUMP: Do you blame the governor for that?

BIRX: And part of it could be the Europeans who have come back subsequently.


COLLINS: You see there Dr. Birx did not answer the president's question.

Jake, we should also note that the president and the vice president held an investor call today with CEOs talking about the markets, talking about the possibility of them easing these federal guidelines that they issued last week.

We're likely to hear more about this because they just announced there is going to be a coronavirus task force briefing here in the next hour as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Joining me now -- thank you, Kaitlan. Appreciate it.

Joining me now is CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, so I need to get your reaction. Just moments ago, President Trump, Trump spoke about his desire to ease restrictions by Easter. I want you to listen to what he said.


TRUMP: Easter is a very special day for me. And I see it's sort of in that timeline that I'm thinking about.

And I say, wouldn't it be great to have all of the churches full? The churches aren't allowed, essentially, to have much of a congregation there. And most of them, I watched on Sunday online. And he was terrific, by the way, but online is never going to be like being there.

So I think Easter Sunday, and you will have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.


TAPPER: Sanjay, I don't know of any health officials who think that we can start going back to normal within the next three weeks or even within the next couple months.


President Trump wants packed churches on April 12. That's less than three weeks from today. What would that mean?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the concern is -- and what you're hearing from public health officials -- I'm hearing the same thing, Jake -- is that would put us behind again. We have been doing -- we will have been doing the social distancing for about a month at that point, maybe not even quite. If you look at places around the world where they have gone through this curve now, and had some success, thankfully, China, South Korea, places like that, it was an eight-to-12-week sort of -- eight-to-10 weeks, at least, proposition.

So it's not like one of those things you can do sort of incrementally. As we have talked about, if you're going to do this, you do it early, you do it consistently, you do it honestly, diligently, because, if you give up too early, you kind of erase the gains that you have made.

And, look, we're seeing some of the impact of waiting as long as we have now in New York, for example, Washington, California and other places.

TAPPER: Right. And it's starting to spike not just in New York, but in other in other states, Pennsylvania among them.

What about this push to reopen the economy? Are there any viable options to try to bring back some sort of economic activity that will not lead to a health catastrophe?

GUPTA: Well, it's interesting, because I think there's -- there's some nuance here which may be important.

People -- they say, well, younger people, they should be allowed to work. But as we have talked about, unfortunately, there is a concern about asymptomatic spread. So, younger people are going out back to work maybe. They come back home. They may get their young children or elderly parents, grandparents, whoever, ill.

I mean, that is the real concern. That part of the concern hasn't changed. And we also know, as much as we define this illness by those who have lived and those who have died, Jake, people can get sick.

I mean, 20 percent of the people in the hospital right now are between the ages of 20 and 44. People should remember that, 20 to 44. That's young. And 20 percent of the -- make up 20 percent of the hospitalizations.

One thing that's interesting, Jake, is the idea that someone who has recovered from this infection, they get they get confirmed to have the coronavirus, they then recover, could they then be people who could be released into the work force more quickly?

As you know, Dr. Fauci has talked about this as well. They should be protected, immunized to some extent, against the coronavirus. So, that might be a better way to sort of think about who goes back to work, rather than this arbitrary older vs. younger, because of everything I have said about the younger folks.

TAPPER: There's this false comparison that people keep making, President Trump among the people, who keep making, comparing the coronavirus either to the flu or to car accidents.

Take a listen to what he said today.


TRUMP: We never turned the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn't call up the automobile companies and say, stop making cars. We don't want any cars anymore.

We have to get back to work.


TAPPER: Now, I would observe that what the U.S. government has done with automobiles is force them to put in seat belts, force them to put in air bags, impose speed limits, put cops on the road, put -- I mean, there are lots of steps.

But let's start with the flu comparison. He said, we don't shut down because of the flu. Fauci has already said both of these are false impressions.

What do you think?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, this is one of the first conversation I had with President Trump about this whole topic, was to remind people that this was more lethal than the flu.

I mean, the flu is a big deal. I mean, people don't pay attention to it. They should. That's a fair point. I mean, in 2017-2018, around 60,000 people died of the flu in this country alone. So it's a big deal. And there's been 20-some-thousand deaths already this year.

This is 10 to 20 times more lethal, Jake, 10 to 20 times. There's no vaccine for this. There's no buffer against this. It's a novel virus. Our body's immune systems have never seen it. That's why it's such a big deal.

So, yes, they're both pathogens. They're both viruses, but they share very little in common besides that.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, and the influenza of 1918 killed almost 700,000 Americans.

GUPTA: Right.

TAPPER: I mean, people could have compared that to the normal flu too.

This -- today marks a week ago since you and I were talking about people that we saw not abiding by social distancing. Last Tuesday, the U.S. had 6,000 cases.


TAPPER: Now we're at more than 50,000.

You were telling us last Tuesday when we talked, and you were expressing concern that the number of cases was going to go up exponentially. Did you expect it to go up this much?

GUPTA: You know, around this much, Jake.

I mean, we started to see a doubling ratio of this every two to three days, as you know, you and I have been e-mailing about this in off- hours, constantly exchanging these numbers. Yes, I mean, the numbers are going up.

And we're also getting a look at things a sort of behind the curve. So, even these numbers right now, they reflect people who were exposed maybe up to two weeks ago. So, in fact, the real number in this country is two weeks behind.


And if this has been doubling every few days, you can start to do the math. It's a much larger number, is the point.

And also -- I mean, New York, we talk a lot about, but Michigan, a week ago, 65 cases, now 1,300 cases. Louisiana, just around a couple cases, now 1,300 cases. Florida and Georgia are growing at 20 percent a day. I mean, that's just all in the last week.

So when we were talking about social distancing and sharing our concerns, that was part of it. If you're going to do these social distancing measures, you got to be -- they got to be pretty, pretty stringent, and you have to do them early.

I think that's why you and I, especially in those Florida scenes on the beaches in Florida, we were so concerned, Florida now, again, going up 20 percent a day in terms of patients who are infected. That -- some of this is addressable by us.

Some of this is, we can make an impact just because of our own individual behavior. And I think that's why we were both so concerned last Tuesday, because it didn't seem like that was happening then.

TAPPER: Although it does seem like a lot of people in places like San Francisco and New York City and other places have really gotten the message and really are taking it very seriously and engaging--

GUPTA: That's right.

TAPPER: -- staying at home and doing social distancing.

Sanjay Gupta, always great to have you on. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, we're going to talk to a scientist at the center of the search for a coronavirus vaccine, what she makes of the potential treatments under testing now.

Plus, a frightening warning from one expert, who says health care workers are essentially being asked to jump off a cliff without the appropriate protective equipment.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

A staggering statistic today from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: his state now has more than 25,000 coronavirus cases, almost 10 times more any other state, with cases doubling every three days in New York state.

As CNN's Erica Hill reports for us now, the dire situation in the empire state comes as other states are taking new measures to try to contain their spread.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A plea from the epicenter of this crisis: to focus.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We are just a test case. And that's how the nation should look at it. Look at us today. Where we are today, you will be in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks. We are your future. Let's learn how to act as one nation.

HILL: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces cases in his state are doubling every three days. He's calling on the federal government to prioritize how and where it deploys crucial equipment and supplies starting with his state.

CUOMO: New York has 25,000 cases. It has 10 times the problem that California has. Ten times the problem that Washington state has. How can we be in a situation where you can have New Yorkers possibly dying because they can't get a ventilator but a federal agency saying, I'm going to leave the ventilators in the stockpile?

HILL: Of the 30,000 ventilators, Governor Cuomo says New York needs, the federal government has now pledged 4,400 will ship to the state by Wednesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is buying us some time. But we are going to need more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you need a ventilator, you need it immediately.

HILL: The need for critical supplies escalating as hospitals and health care workers are stretched to the brink.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We're basically being asked to jump off a cliff, you know, without the appropriate protective equipment. And so, that's -- that's really hard. It's -- I think that's probably what's more stressful than the actual hard work of it itself. HILL: Ford, 3M, and GE Healthcare announcing a new partnership to

meet that need. GE even putting out a call for more manufacturing workers. But regular production is still weeks away.

JAMES HACKETT, PRESIDENT & CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: By the middle of may, we could be making hundreds of thousands of these ventilators.

HILL: Millions of Americans are facing their own deadlines for rent and mortgage payments. Morgan Stanley is now predicting jobless claims for the past week could top 3.4 million, roughly five times the highest number on record. By Wednesday, more than half of all Americans will be under orders to stay home and more students are learning they won't return to a classroom this school year.

Business leaders are pushing for younger, healthy workers to return to the office as the president pushes to restart the economy by Easter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I keep thinking myself, when the CEO is ready to take the subway to work or a bus to work and then operate the elevator in their company, I'm going to get some sense that they think it's safe enough to end social distancing and I don't think we're there yet.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Do we let people die or kill all the businesses or jobs? It's a twin battle. We've got to be fighting both at exactly the same time. And that's exactly what we're trying to do here.

HILL: Americans at every level adjusting to the changes in real time with no deadline in sight.


HILL: And, Jake, a sobering headline out of California, just a short time ago, where we learned that the first -- it was reported the first known death of a person under 18, the first child, we learned that its reported with 14 different deaths out of Los Angeles County, the health director for L.A. County saying this is, quote, a devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages -- Jake.

TAPPER: COVID-19 infects people of all ages.

Erica Hill, thank you so much for that reminder, for that report.

Joining me now, Deborah Fuller. She's a microbiologist at the University of Washington State. And Dr. Luciana Borio, an infectious disease specialist.

Dr. Borio, let me start with you.

Today, New York Governor Cuomo said that they're trying an experimental procedure, where they're going to put two patients on one ventilator because the shortage of ventilators is so dire. What's your reaction to that?

[16:20:01] DR. LUCIANA BORIO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: That's right, the situation is very dire, and I think it's important for the federal government to really heed his request to provide him with the supplies he needs at this moment. It's very crucial, because we want to limit fatalities.

The idea of splitting a ventilator with two patients has been tested in Spain and Italy. It's a very difficult thing to do, because every patient is unique, and the ventilator is tailored to the unique patient's needs. Patients will get better or worse at different times. It's very difficult to match.

It may be all we can do right now at this moment, but it's critical that we focus on augmenting the supply of ventilators to where it's needed most.

TAPPER: Deborah --

BORIO: It's certainly (INAUDIBLE) not helpful for the sake of the patients.

TAPPER: And, Deborah, New York state also is starting a trial for a coronavirus treatment that would use antibodies from people who had coronavirus and recovered to help those who are seriously ill with the coronavirus. What with you tell us about this method and how it works?

DEBORAH FULLER, MICROBIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Yes, this is a common method known as passive immunization. And it really dates back to the late 1890s when it first got started before we had vaccines, before we had antibiotics for a lot of infectious diseases. The concept is really that you take an individual who has recovered from the infection and you collect their blood, and then you test to see whether or not they have antibodies that are able to neutralize the virus.

And from those -- from those folks you end up identifying those who have the strongest neutralizing antibody against the virus and then you're going to be able to use their antisera to infuse into a patient who is suffering from the infection in the hopes that their antibody is going to be able to help combat the virus.

TAPPER: And, Deborah, your lab in Seattle has been looking for a vaccine for the coronavirus. How that -- how might that differ from what New York is doing?

FULLER: Yes, so passive immunization is very different from vaccination, which is more called -- referred to more as active immunization. When you have passive immunization, meaning you're trust transferring antisera from one individual to another, that isn't long term immunity, that's a temporary fix to help that person control their ongoing infection. With vaccination, what we're trying to induce an immune response that has long term memory and provide you with immunity against not only an imminent infection but an infection from the virus in the future.

And so, vaccines are generally used more often in individuals who are not infected yet, to protect the population. And, you know, overall, vaccines really are the one medical intervention of all the other types being tested that has the greatest hope for eventually slapping down this pandemic.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Borio, President Trump has been touting a combination of two drugs that could help treat the coronavirus, one is an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, the other is the antibiotic called azithromycin. They're not right now FDA-approved for coronavirus. Do you think ultimately they might be? Are they safe for doctors to prescribe? What do you think of this?

BORIO: That's right. So, in times like this, it's really understandable that physicians and patients look for potential cures at the soonest possible time point. And what I think is important to realize is that the fastest way to identify cures is to probably conduct clinical studies. That's the fastest way and the most efficient way.

I think it can be really dangerous to broadly distribute an antiviral therapy based on very, very limited data, very disappointing results, actually, when I read the study. And in the meantime, there are about 45 across the U.S. right now conducting a randomized, controlled clinical studies with the help of the NIH. They're testing an antiviral drug right now and results should become available hopefully within two to three weeks.

There are other studies as well being conducted that are randomized in New York. There is a company that is testing new modulatory therapy. So, I think we can't lose sight of the desire to have cures from the importance of conducting the right trials so we can actually get the cures at the soonest possible time frame.

TAPPER: So, everybody, listen out there, don't -- don't decide that you're going to get this medicine, consult with the doctors, your doctor.

Dr. Luciana Borio and Deborah Fuller, thank you so much both for your time.

Coming up, $2 trillion, possibly some money going into your pockets. Where the negotiates over the Senate stimulus package stand right now, that's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

Both Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats say they're on the verge of agreeing on the biggest economic stimulus plan Congress has ever considered, $2 trillion. But despite this crisis, an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells CNN that President Trump and the speaker have not spoken in more than five months. Specifics in this $2 trillion package are still the moving target. But items floated include --