Return to Transcripts main page


New York Governor Issues Alarming Warning To States, "We Are Your Future;" The World Health Organization Says The United States And Europe Are Now The Epicenters Of The Coronavirus Pandemic; New York City Emergency Room Doctor Speaks On Testing Positive For Coronavirus. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I am Briana Keilar. This is CNN's continuing special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

With urgency and desperation in his voice, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking aim at the Federal government's lack of response, as his state deals with critical shortages of hospital beds and medical equipment.

Cuomo also delivering what he called troubling and astonishing news and that is that the rate of infection is climbing in New York. It is steeper. It is climbing higher than they had even anticipated.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The inescapable conclusion is that the rate of infection is going up. It is spiking. The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought. That is a bad combination of facts.

So slow the spread, we will still keep doing everything we can, but it is clear that we must dramatically increase the hospital capacity to meet that highest apex.


KEILAR: Now at least 16 states have issued stay-at-home orders to force social distancing, while other states and major cities have moved to close on non-essential businesses with this very same goal.

In the United Kingdom, they are threatening fines for anyone who ignores their new strict stay-at-home order. That's $35.00 on the spot if you are where you are not supposed to be.

And there will be no Olympics this year. The Tokyo Summer Games are officially being postponed for up to a year.

Governor Cuomo delivering dire news from his state and for the country as well. We have our Erica Hill with more on the Governor's message -- Erica. ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, the Governor

forceful and quite clear today. He does not see this as a choice between public health and the health of the economy. He is calling on the Federal government to not only step in, but to prioritize the way they handle this crucial equipment.


HILL (voice over): A plea from the epicenter of this crisis to focus.


CUOMO: We adjust the 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 (voice over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announcing cases in his state are doubling about every three days.

The need for critical supplies escalating as hospitals and healthcare workers are stretched to the brink.

Of the 30,000 ventilators, Governor Cuomo says they need, 400 have been sent by the Federal government.


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 (voice over): 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, CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: By the middle of May, we could be making hundreds of thousands of these ventilators.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We are basically being asked to jump off a cliff, you know, without the appropriate protective equipment. And so that's really hard. It's -- I think that's probably what's more stressful than the actual hard work of itself.


HILL (voice over): As negotiations continue over the nearly $2 trillion stimulus package on Capitol 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, 16 states more than 40 percent of Americans will be under orders to stay home and more students learning they won't return to a classroom this school year.

Business leaders pushing for younger healthy workers to return to the office as the President pushes to restart the economy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I keep thinking to 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we let people die or do we kill all the businesses and jobs? It's a twin battle that we've got to be fighting on both at the exact same time and that's exactly what we're trying to do here.


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


HILL (on camera): Brianna, we did just a short time ago get an update on ventilators coming here to New York State from Vice President Pence. He said 2,000 were sent out today and should arrive today. Another 2,000 should be arriving tomorrow, so that would bring it up to 4,400.

But again, the Governor is saying, the need here in New York State is 30,000 -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That is a far cry from 4,400, Erica Hill, as you note. Thank you so much, Erica in New York for us.

The World Health Organization just said the United States and Europe are now the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 49,000 cases now in this country, only China and Italy have more, and yet this is what the President said just a short time ago.



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


TRUMP: I will -- I will tell you that right now. I would love to have that. It's such an important day for other reasons, but I'll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.


KEILAR: Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is an internist and gastroenterologist and Gloria Borger is with us. She's a CNN chief political analyst.

Gloria, I'm stunned by the President saying this as the timeline. I mean, what do you think about this, especially when -- I mean, let's just put it this way, why isn't he focusing on ventilators, masks, PPE. They are facing a tsunami coming at them in New York, and he doesn't even seem to care enough to tackle that first.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in fact, he decided to get into a fight with Andrew Cuomo, the Governor there about whether he could have ordered those ventilators on his own years ago or not.

Look, this is a President, who is clearly worried about the economy as everybody else is, and seems to be driven by his own instinct, as we all know, because he's told us more than the science.

And in this Town Hall with Fox News today, what he kept on talking about which was sort of stunning to me, was comparing this to the flu, saying this is like the flu. Thousands and thousands of people die the flu every year.

People die in car accidents, he says, but that doesn't mean that you can't drive cars, and these are both analogies that the scientists have said don't apply in this particular case.

And so perhaps, it's an effort to try and give Americans some kind of hope. But I think what it does is it scares people, because they're confused.

They're not sure who to listen to. They're not sure who's driving these decisions. And are the people with the knowledge driving these decisions? And why isn't the President talking about a way to sort of walk and chew gum at the same time and figure out a way to try and do that rather than saying, you know, this is all going to be raring to go by Easter.

KEILAR: Doctor, what do you think?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNIST AND GASTROENTEROLOGIST: I think, she is absolutely right. This is not about a slogan. This is not about trying to convince people to buy into this. This is about life and death.

And listen, you can't make a livelihood if you are not alive. So the first thing is the health and wellness of the American people. That is our greatest resource, so therefore, everyone has to be working at their optimum, and that means that they have to be healthy.

So whether you like to hear it or not, this is a wave that is here and is escalating, so we need to stop it.

Once everybody is healthy, then we can have a much more robust economy. But first, we have to stop the ill at this point. I don't care how many slogans you throw at it -- that is not going to change the facts.

KEILAR: And when you look, Doctor at -- look, we've heard about ventilators that are available in certain places. We know there's hiccups. You need people to run them. You need -- that's not -- it's not just anyone who can do that.

But knowing that those are out there, is there any excuse to you that those are not being mobilized toward the hardest hit area right now?

RODRIGUEZ: No, not at all. There is no excuse. Listen, this is where the Feds need to come in and be the sole dispenser of not just ventilators, but of masks and protective gear.

They need to talk to the Governors like Cuomo and Newsom and ask them, where does your state need it? The counties need to tell the governors. The governors need to tell the Feds, in my opinion, and actually private industry right now needs to get out of it.

The Federal government in my opinion should buy what is necessary, and then give it to the states, perhaps at bare minimum, perhaps for free.

At the end of the day, this is all going to be paid for by the taxpayer and that's how it should be coming. There's no reason that this should not be dispensed immediately and as soon as possible and as soon as available.

KEILAR: Anyone looking at this, Gloria, goes where the hell are the ventilators? Where are the masks?

BORGER: Right.

KEILAR: Where is the Federal government? Where is the President? And God knows -- it is a simple math equation. They're here, they need to get there and they need them. Now, why is that not happening?

BORGER: Well, you know, this is the question about the role of government in our lives. I mean, we heard Peter Navarro, one of the President's chief economic advisers the other day talking about the heavy hand of government when questions were being raised about the Defense Production Act and when you could start using the Defense Production Act.


BORGER: And what the doctor is saying and what Governor Cuomo is saying is, use the Defense Production Act now. That's what it's about.

This is what government is about. If it's not about rescuing its own people from death, really, then what is it about? This is what Congress is working on now -- what government can do, and hopefully, Congress will get its act together and get that passed today.

I mean, this is when government intervention, no matter whether you're a conservative or you're a liberal, or -- this is when government intervention actually makes an awful lot of sense.

You know, you can argue the finer points about it at other times, but now is when it's needed.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, look at what Congress is doing this. We're turning -- we're turning philosophy of certain lawmakers on its head. They are just way past that.

Doctor, I wonder for you, you know, you're someone who's dedicated your life to taking care of the vulnerable. The sick are more vulnerable than the healthy.

And so I wonder what you think when you're hearing officials, including the President, including state officials in certain places, basically saying, well, they're essentially saying that those who are vulnerable may need to be the sacrificial lambs.

And I just wonder how that strikes you when you're dedicated to making sure that they survive.

RODRIGUEZ: It's both frightening and disgusting, to be quite honest. And the source of this is that most people that say that think that it does not apply to them.

And this is where, you know -- I joke -- I used to joke to say that people didn't want healthcare for everybody until the day that they realize that their waiter's cough could kill them. Well, we're at that point, and no life is worth less than any other life.

Today, we really do need to be prolife and we need to be prolife for everybody. Because like Gloria was saying, this is tantamount to being at war.

If there was something attacking the United States that was going to kill three million people, which this might, we would certainly enforce all these acts -- all of these acts -- and we would move swiftly.

This is not theoretical, we really are at the beginning of that point, and this is antithetical to everything that a doctor is supposed to do, and I think this is antithetical to most everything that everybody in this country believes in and that is the value of every life.

KEILAR: We are all linked --

BORGER: You know, and Brianna --

KEILAR: And we have to leave it at there -- sorry, Gloria, real quick.

BORGER: Okay. No, I was going to say, Brianna, this is not to say that people should not be working on a way to try and reopen business.

KEILAR: Correct. Of course.

BORGER: Piece by piece.

RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely.

BORGER: At the same time. Right? But --

KEILAR: That's right.

BORGER: You can't say it's an either or situation.

KEILAR: It isn't. It isn't. Number one, lives, and then you can do the other jobs as well. Walk and chew gum at the same time. Gloria Borger, Dr. Rodriguez. Thank you so much.

Vice President Pence says he is still hopeful that the Senate can pass a stimulus package today. This is expected to be about $2 trillion. We'll have some details on how this could help.

Plus, I'm going to speak to an emergency room doctor who has tested positive for coronavirus. What she has to say about the massive shortage of medical supplies.

And later thousands of non-violent offenders being released as the first cases pop up in U.S. jails. We'll have details on the calls to release even more inmates.



KEILAR: Right now, the Senate is inching closer to a deal on a stimulus package that could be worth more than $2 trillion, and this is all to help Americans and businesses deal with the financial fallout from the coronavirus.

This could include about $500 billion in relief for distressed companies, and what some are calling unemployment on steroids for U.S. workers who lose their jobs.

I want to bring in Steve Lamar. He is the President and the CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which represents more than 1,000 of the country's best known brands. I just want to -- what is your reaction -- what is the reaction of your members to the stimulus package that's on its way?

STEVE LAMAR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AMERICAN APPAREL AND FOOTWEAR ASSOCIATION: Well, thanks for having me on. You know, first and foremost, this is a health crisis and our members have been doing everything they can to assure the safety and health of their workers, associates and also their consumers and one of the things they've done is they've closed stores throughout the country both on their own and then in response to the numerous requests from the government, governors and the President. And you know, one of the things we're asking for is the stimulus

package. You know, liquidity is the name of the game.

As you've closed your stores, you're not having revenue come in. But you want to keep your workers employed, you want to keep your workers on the payroll, you want to look out for them, for their families, and make sure their benefits continue, and the only way to do that is to make sure that there is liquidity that's coming from the government, because without that revenue, our cash dries up very quickly.

KEILAR: And so, what are you -- are you getting anything? What exactly do you need? And are you confident the stimulus is going to fill that gap?

LAMAR: Well I am confident the stimulus will either fill the gap or be a big step towards it?

But, you know, Congress is trying to work on the final deals. We are very hopeful it will happen. We think it'll happen because they have no other choice. It's got to happen. I mean, you know, our economy is facing some, some real tough times right now, and we need that stimulus to make sure that we can, you know, get out of this as fast as we can.


LAMAR: You know, job number one is to make sure everybody is safe and healthy. But job number two is going to make sure that coming right after that is that we are able to make sure our economy is able to roar back as fast as it can.

KEILAR: So one of the things we've been watching that's been pretty extraordinary, the Governor of New York, Cuomo, among others, says this really needs to be a wartime effort.

We've seen a coalition of some of your member companies who have been working together to produce fabric face masks. So these aren't the N- 95s, but these are ones that a lot of other folks can use and they're trying to make them to government regulations and everything.

This is something they've been in touch with the State of New York with. Can you tell us anything about this? Has the government contracted them to really sort of seize the fact that they have people working out of their homes with sewing machines who have fabric who can do some of these things?

LAMAR: Well, this is a Rosie the Riveter moment, I think for our generation. You know, companies are coming together in small groups and large groups, working with the government.

I mean, one of the things we're hoping for is that we can get a single point of contact with the government so we can coordinate all of these efforts to make sure that these face masks, the gowns, other materials that we are producing, and in many cases, we're retrofitting factories to produce them. We don't normally make a lot of these products that we can get them to

the people that need them the most, you know, get them to those hotspots, get them to the various hospitals, and the first responders that need them.

This is, you know, probably one of the top things we're working on right now.

KEILAR: Yes, so important. Steve Lamar, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insight here.

LAMAR: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Doctors around the world have been forced to make gut- wrenching decisions about who can get the life-saving care they need. And one emergency room doctor on the frontline here in the U.S. has already tested positive for coronavirus. I'll be speaking to her next.



KEILAR: Doctors and nurses are on the frontlines of the coronavirus battle. They are risking their lives every day and many of them due to the shortage of protective gear end up contracting the virus themselves.

In Italy, roughly nine percent of all cases have been healthcare workers and here in the U.S., I'm joined now by emergency room doctor, Dara Kass. She works at Columbia University in New York. She tested positive for the coronavirus. Doctor, you tell us how long ago your first symptoms began and how you're feeling now.

DR. DARA KASS, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR WHO TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: So I want to say, first and foremost, I feel really lucky. I started having symptoms nine days ago, which is about the expected time course of resolution. So I think that about today I can say, I think we're okay.

I started having symptoms two days after I took care of the first patient that I was -- that I knew was coronavirus positive. I started with muscle aches and fatigue and a little bit of cough.

I always was able to take care of myself at home with Motrin and some rest. And so I watched my symptoms I found out two days later that I was positive and then I quarantined myself at home and make sure that I didn't touch any surfaces. I wore a mask in my house, just to make sure that nobody else got it from me.

KEILAR: Okay, and you know, one of the interesting things now is we've spoken with you. We've spoken with other people who have gotten coronavirus, and the different levels have been stunning just from the people that we've talked to.

And they're young like you, right? So we've talked to some people had hacking coughs on the show. We've talked to one woman who basically described it as like a flu. We talked to another guy who definitely still had chest tightness, and was complaining of a lot more pulmonary issues than some of our other folks who have had it.

What is -- what's the takeaway of that for you?

KASS: The takeaway is that that's one of the things that makes it so concerning for all of us is there's a really unpredictable nature to how this is going to affect people.

We know that a lot of patients who are older and immune-compromised for lots of reasons are at high risk. But we also know that we're seeing young people 20s, 30s, 40s who have never thought about their own mortality come to the ER short of breath, with a cough and a fever, and that's really petrifying.

We're seeing that the healthcare workforce, you know, my peers -- I'm 42 years old -- who just had kids start thinking about writing our own wills. And what would we do if we had to tell our kids that we were sick?

And so I think a lot of us are dealing with this complicated situation of seeing an unpredictable virus that affects a lot of people. It's very contagious, and trying to manage those expectations and those fears, while taking care of other people.

KEILAR: And, you know, I want to ask you about something we've been asking a lot of our health experts. The President is calling, essentially to reopen the economy by Easter. So that's two weeks away, right?

What do you think about that as a health care provider?

KASS: It scares me a lot, not just as a healthcare provider, it scares me as a daughter. It scares me as a parent, and it scares me as an American.

There's no magic fix to this. There's no correction of the economy if we don't address this as an issue.

The reason that we are suppressing -- social distancing, the reason we're staying apart is not because we want to punish people. It's because if you don't touch the virus, you can't get the virus and that means that --