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Stocks Surge on Hopes Lawmakers Close to Stimulus Deal; U.K. Prime Minister Issues Stay-at-Home Orders; State Department to Bring Stranded Americans Home. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back and back to the news.


Stocks surging this morning. Look at it there. It's up nearly a thousand points, just over a thousand points, in fact. Investors optimistic that Congress will get a stimulus deal done today.

Joining me now, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans; and "Washington Post" opinion columnist and CNN economics commentator Catherine Rampell.

Christine, first to you. The Fed made major moves yesterday --


SCIUTTO: -- basically to make lending a lot easier for a whole host of businesses, big and small. Now you have optimism about a deal on the Hill. We have seen the market bounce a thousand points here and there --



SCIUTTO: -- in the last couple of weeks and then go down again. From what you're hearing, a more lasting turn?

ROMANS: They -- Well, I don't know if a bottom has been put in here. But let me tell you why it's up a thousand points today. Because you're going to get checks in the mail to American consumers. You're going to get some loans, some lifelines to small businesses, right away, that could help stop the bleeding in the very immediate term here.

And the Fed yesterday, with those big guns coming out there, essentially saying the U.S. economy is too big to fail. It wouldn't let the U.S. financial system fail. That is sort of putting a finer point on the -- on the recent losses that we've had here. But there's still a lot of work to do. The virus, the worst of the

virus is still ahead of us. Unclear what the government strategy is going to be. The president is starting to at least muse about rethinking social distancing and flattening the curve. So all of those are still risks going forward.

And I would put just a -- some perspective here. The Dow is up 1,000 points. Great. It's down 10,000 points in six weeks.


ROMANS: And Thursday we're going to get the first real numbers about how many people have lost their jobs, and it's going to be just terrifying.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. I mean, depression-like numbers, you've used that description before, Christine. It's always stuck in my mind.

Catherine Rampell, so you have the president talking about reopening the U.S. for business as soon as next week. It's our understanding he's hearing from some of his economic advisers, others that the concern here is irreparable damage to the economy. Not just cyclical damage, not just damage that will bounce back from once this has passed.

Is that a reasonable fear about irreparable damage to the economy?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: I think the concern about irreparable damage would come if we prematurely open business as usual, right?

Look, it is expensive to shutter tons and tons of restaurants, gyms, stores, anywhere where people might gather to conduct business. But it is much more expensive if you have millions of people get sick, a large fraction of those people die; they are not able to return to their homes. The damage that could come from letting the pandemic spread even more unchecked would be costly not only in human terms, but in economic terms, as well.

And I want to emphasize this. To the extent that the president and those who are advising him on economics are prioritizing stock markets, or are prioritizing economy over human lives, even they have the calculations backwards, because it will be extremely, extremely costly if we try to reopen offices and half of the workers are sick; they can't get out; people are still afraid to go to the store, to go to the restaurant, you know, to go to the bar.

So it's extremely shortsighted. I think we should be listening to the health experts here. If we prioritize help -- health, rather, that will help the economy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Christine, I mean, we've heard this point before, that a health crisis is an economic crisis, right?

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

SCIUTTO: Because people who die or -- in the worst case, or are sick, they can't, as Catherine was saying, go back to work.

Are there economic voices in the presidency here who are making that point, saying that, actually, the healthy thing to do economically is get through this as best you can in the short-term --


SCIUTTO: -- and then -- then turn things around.

ROMANS: The medicine part of the story and the money part of the story are not mutually exclusive. I mean, the -- the fact is, the healthcare system is a fifth of the American economy, maybe a little bit more than that. If you have some crisis that inundates Americans' healthcare system, and breaks the supply chains and hurts that workforce, you have a really terrible recession. You hurt the overall economy, there's just no question. They're just completely tied together.

So it's this -- you know, it's taking the medicine right now, which is the social distancing and flattening the curve, which makes the patient better longer term. I think Catherine is exactly right, that if you -- if you bail out too soon, then you really have hurt the patient.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, we're all the patient now, right, aren't we, as a country? Christine Romans, Catherine Rampell, thanks so much to both of you.

Coming up, the United Kingdom is on lockdown. Strict new rules going into effect there, and police are cracking down on people who don't stay at home. This is a country who initially said they wouldn't take these steps. We're going to look at the changes.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Right to the news.

The U.K. has announced a strict stay-at-home order as the country fights to combat the spread of the coronavirus. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the restrictions Monday night. U.K. residents now will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons. And police have the power to enforce these new rules.

The prime minister called the virus the, quote, "biggest threat the country has faced in decades."

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he joins me now from London.

So Nick, this is a turn for the government of Johnson, because just a couple of weeks ago, they were talking about much more relaxed restrictions, trying to achieve herd immunity here. So it's a turn. How drastic, how are people reacting, and what led to that turn?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Nobody really alive in Britain, apart from those most vulnerable, will remember social restrictions like this. They date, really, back something similar to World War II.

Let me just step out of the way, Jim. You've seen this. Trafalgar Square, I've never seen anything like this in my life. This place would normally be crammed. I'd have to be shouting, frankly, over the noise of the traffic.

This morning, round about 9 a.m., rush hour, there were still a lot of cars on the road. Because one of the loopholes, it seems, is Boris Johnson did say major shops were closed, you couldn't go out unless it was for exercise, food or medical care. But if you had to go to work, it was essential, you still could. And frankly, everyone thinks their job is essential. You've got to feed your families.

There's a lot of traffic on the roads here, but a startling change often to the street scenes, Jim.


SCIUTTO: And tell us what it's like elsewhere in the U.K. That's London. It's a city like New York, a dense population, people listening to these orders. Are they doing so in more rural areas?

WALSH: In rural areas, obviously, it's easier to keep people social distancing. But I've seen a mixed response, frankly, across the country. In fact, even this morning, a major sports chain suggested that it, in fact -- the sporting goods it was selling was an essential service, and they should be allowed to stay open.

There have been pics of construction workers cramming themselves into metro trains to get themselves to work, because it wasn't clear, really, whether they were included in the ban or reasonably relaxed advice or suggestion, frankly, from Boris Johnson.

The key question is the spread is still happening, and London is said by Boris Johnson to have been three weeks ahead of the rest of the country. So by the maths you've been hearing from government scientists who were originally set on herd immunity, the idea that a mitigated spread of the population could leave them better off in the next flu season and the months ahead, well, they suddenly seem to have shifted. And, frankly, the capital here should, in the week ahead, maybe be seeing scenes like we've seen in Italy. People braced for the worst here.

But still, some having to go about daily lives just to put food on the table, despite an enormous government aid package that's wheeling itself out now -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, interesting to see stricter rules there as our own government here in the U.S. considers relaxing rules like that.

Nick Paton Walsh in London, a very quiet London, thanks very much.

Chinese authorities are ending now a two-month long lockdown in the province where the coronavirus pandemic began. Beginning tomorrow, people have been passed -- who have passed health screenings will now be able to leave Hubei province. This is the province where Wuhan is. The province has accounted for the majority of infections and deaths in China.

This is a big change in China. The easing of travel restrictions follows a significant reduction in new infections there. There's been just one new case -- one -- of COVID-19 reported in the past six days. That is down from thousands a day in February.

The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak, of course, started in late December, will remain locked down until April 8. But you see a place there where restrictions like that made a difference in controlling this virus.

Coming up, flights canceled, borders closed, travelers stranded overseas. Some Americans say that social media is helping more than the State Department in terms of getting information out there. We'll have a report. Stay with us.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. The State Department is now arranging flights for thousands of Americans still stranded overseas. More than 13,000 Americans have reached out to the State Department for help in getting home. But border closures, flight cancellations, they've all made it very difficult.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me now.

So Alex, how is the State Department doing this? I mean, are they chartering flights? And are they managing to get these people home?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are chartering flights. A lot of Americans that we've spoken to overseas are saying that there is a dire lack of clarity and communication from the State Department.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has said that they are facing unprecedented challenges and department is doing everything they can to get them home. But because of course, Jim, because of those border closures, because of those flight cancellations, there is chaos and confusion. The State Department has set up a task force, but they have been unable to say how many officials are assigned to the task force; what the geographic spread of where these Americans are -- is.

Just by the numbers, Jim, as you mentioned, there are over 13,000, so 13,500 Americans overseas who are looking to come home. Of course, there could be more who want to stay where they are.

The State Department says, in the coming days, they have chartered 16 flights. They've identified 1,600 Americans for those flights. So that's just over 10 percent of the Americans who want to come home.

And then on top of that, they say that they're looking to use a combination of military aircraft, Department of Homeland Security aircraft they're already flying to places to bring Americans home. Those Americans would be prioritized based on their vulnerabilities. For example, an older person who is sick would be more -- have a higher priority than -- than a younger person who is healthy.

But as you mentioned, Jim, a lot of Americans are taking this into their own hands. They're relying on a mix of, say, social media WhatsApp groups. People trading information. They're getting information from local officials in the countries where they are. They're getting information and help from local and state officials back home to get themselves home.

Jim, we did hear a story of one American who chartered his own plane from Honduras, spending some $15,000 just to get his family back to the U.S., to Miami before they flew, then, on to Louisville.

So Americans really doing what they can, because essentially, the message from the government is, We're trying, but you can't rely on us -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, yes. And of course, a vast majority of people can't charter their own plane. Alex Marquardt, thanks very much.

On the screen -- the right of your screen, you see those numbers of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. and rising every day. But of course, each number, each statistic, that's a person with family, friends reacting to this. And we want to take a moment to remember some of them. Have a listen.

Eighty-four-year-old John Knox. He lived a life of service. He was a retired New York City fire marshal. He was a police officer before that and a Marine during the Korean War. He had been retired for two years on September 11, 2001, but went to Ground Zero that day to help those in need. One of the victims of this.


Patricia Frieson. She thought it was just her asthma acting up. She became the first victim of coronavirus in the state of Illinois. She was a retired nurse. Her brother says she felt the need to help people because of her faith. She was just 61 years old.

Ninety-one-year-old Bill Pike's family thought he had pneumonia, but his condition got worse. He was placed on a ventilator. His family said their goodbyes to him over the phone, because he was quarantined at a hospital in Connecticut. Imagine that.

And 77-year-old Richard Curren, a father of two, died just a few days after becoming ill at an assisted living center in Florida. Curren worked in sales before deciding he wanted to be a professional magician. His wife of 56 years, Sheila, was his assistant.

Just some of the people who lost their lives to this.