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E.R. Dr. Dara Kass Discusses Trump Wanting To Reopen Economy By Easter; Trump Attacks Cuomo After NY Governor Complains Federal Government Isn't Acting Quickly Enough; Frustrated Italian Officials Vent As People Break Stay-At-Home Rules; American, Karli Drinkwater, Discusses Severe Restrictions To Stop Coronavirus Spread In Italy; Calls Grow To Release Low-Lever Offenders From Jail Amid Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 14:30   ET



DR. DARA KASS, E.R. PHYSICIAN WHO TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS & IS RECOVERING: 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 we are suppressing social distancing, the reason we are staying apart is not because we want to punish people, but if you don't touch the virus, you can't get the virus.

That means that our health care system can stay open. It means that the patients that come to us. The 40-year-olds, 50-year-olds, 70-year- olds, who you can't breathe, who need a ventilator can get one. The only way to do that is if we keep down the number of cases. That's why we're doing social distancing.

It's definitely not time to let up. No matter how long it feels like it's already been, we haven't even started to address this issue.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: If it's let up by Easter, is that going to put the health and lives of you and your colleagues, health care providers at risk?

KASS: It's going to put us all at risk. It's not just about us. I want to be clear. The health care work force will take care of every patient that comes in our doors, in the tents, in the military hospitals, wherever they are.

This is not just about this virus. It's about, if you go from New York to California and stop in Oklahoma, you may catch the virus if we all have different rules. We can't all have different rules.

KEILAR: Doctor Kass, thank you so much. We are so glad you are feeling better.

KASS: Thank you so much for having me.

KEILAR: Next, Italian officials literally walking the streets and yelling at people to go home. I'll speak to an American living at Italy about how severe the restrictions have become in the world's hardest-hit country and what the payoffs of that are.



Moments ago, President Trump attacked Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has criticized the federal government for not getting him critical medical supplies quickly enough.

We have our chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, who joins us now.

I wonder what you think about this, Brian. He cancels the task force briefing, it's scrapped. We don't get to hear from Dr. Fauci. We don't get to hear from a larger sense from his other experts, and instead he appears on FOX News.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Yes, for a two-our virtual town hall that had quite a bit of misinformation and wishful thinking that's not based in reality.

I understand the president wants to give a positive message to the country and wants people to know this will end someday, but he's talking about returning to normal by Easter, on April 12th this year. And public health experts say that would be incredibly dangerous, to suddenly go back to normal and would be devastating, because so many more people would die.

The president is out there on FOX saying this, and not getting challenged much, not getting pushback, and would get on any other network. This is an example of the FOX News presidency at its very worst.

He can go on a channel, lets him say whatever he wants, goes so easy on him, he ends up misinforming the public. And it's a feedback loop, because he's hearing these ideas on FOX, and then repeating them on FOX, and around and around it goes -- Brianna?

KEILAR: He's been blaming Governor Cuomo, who seems to be having -- look, politics aside, he's having a very informed -- you know where everything is in New York, you know where they don't have what they don't have. He's making it so clear every day. It's a touchpoint to understand what's going on.

He's blaming Cuomo and he also seems to just be minimizing human life. He's been talking about how many people the flu kills and how many people car crashes kill. I don't think --

STELTER: Which is pathetic.

KEILAR: -- that's very good messaging.

STELTER: It's pathetic to be talking about car accidents. If car accidents were doubling and tripling every day, we would take action as a country to fix that problem.

KEILAR: We would take the cars off the road.

STELTER: We would take cars off the road. For the hosts on FOX News, the anchors like Bill Hemmer and Harris Faulkner, to challenge that B.S., that's a failure of journalism. But let's hope the public health leaders are challenging Trump behind the scenes.

That kind of rhetoric will lead to more people getting sick. We all have these stories now, many, many Americans know someone who's been affected. I now have two friends on ICUs, three other friends who are tested positive and confirmed. That just happening just because I'm in Manhattan. Other hot spots like Washington State and California, people have the same stories.

The president cannot spin his way out of them. Neither can FOX News.

KEILAR: For how much misinformation has come from the president at the White House, those task force meetings or briefings are so important, because Dr. Fauci appears to be providing people of this touch point of truth/reality/science, but we don't get to see him today. We saw the interview he had, certainly the president wasn't going to love.

Do you worry he's being sidelined?

STELTER: It's very worrisome we're not seeing a public briefing today. It seems like Trump went on FOX News instead. I know Dr. Fauci has been lots of demands on his time, but it's worrisome not to see a daily briefing.

However, there are also concerns about these briefings turning into Trump rallies. What we need are daily briefings led by scientists and medical professionals.

If the president wants to come out and speak, that's his prerogatives. These should not be Trump shows. This is too serious right now.

KEILAR: I'm not sure if that's going to change. It certainly is the Trump show right now.

Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

Startling developments just from the World Health Organization. Official say, the way cases are accelerating in the U.S., America has the potential to be the next epicenter of the outbreak.


Plus, the White House task force say they're looking to Italy on how to stop the spread. I'll speak to a woman who is living there about the draconian measures in place right now.


KEILAR: In Italy, strict government restrictions designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus and not stop people from heading outside. Tens of thousands have been reported for breaking the restrictions in a nation that's seen more coronavirus deaths than anywhere in the world. This is prompting outraged officials to use social media to vent their frustrations.

CNN's Delia Gallagher has more.



DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italy is enforcing one of Europe's strictest lockdowns. No one is allowed outside unless it's for an essential reason, but not everyone is sticking to the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MAYOR (through translation): Ping-pong is not allowed. Go home and play on the PlayStation. You cannot stay here.

GALLAGHER: The mayor of a southern city is not in the mood for excuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MAYOR (through translation): Don't look at me like that. You should be respectful. There is a decree. I'm the mayor of this city, and as the mayor of this city, I will make everyone respect this decree. Go home now. The police is coming.

GALLAGHER: He's one of the several officials mainly in southern Italy, who have taken to social media to cajole or even threaten citizens to comply with restrictions.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL (through translation): This is like a war bulletin. We are in a real war. Now I turn to you. You need to stay home. Don't you understand that people are dying?

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL (through translation): Hundreds of students will be graduating soon. I hear that some want to house a party. We will send the police and we will send them with flame throwers.

GALLAGHER: The majority of Italians are taking the lockdown seriously, but over 92,000 were reported for breaking the emergency restrictions.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL (through translation): How is it going to be OK with people lining up to buy fuel? What is that fuel for if you have to stay at home? How is it OK if people are asking for their hair to be done at home? Hairdressers are coming to homes. What is a hairstyle for at this moment?

GALLAGHER: There some concessions, for example, to walk a dog, but mayors are cracking down on those who they think are exploiting this.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL (through translation): this morning I came along with a person jogging with his dog who was physically exhausted. I said to him, hey, this is not a film and you are not Will Smith in "I Am Legend," therefore, go home.

GALLAGHER: With the coronavirus outbreak in Italy the deadliest in the world, authorities want to leave no doubt about what's at stake.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL (through translation): And if we go on like this, we will just be counting the dead. We won't have hospitals spaces for your fathers and mothers. Is that clear?

GALLAGHER: A direct message these officials hope will hit home.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


KEILAR: All of this as the head of the White House's coronavirus response says the U.S. is keeping a close eye on the impact of Italy's social distancing attempts.


DR. DEBORAH BRIX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We're looking closely around the world specifically by Italy, because they are reaching their two weeks of clear social distancing and looking at the impact. We are seeing the number of deaths starting to decline.


KEILAR: With me now is Karli Drinkwater. She moved to Italy to become a teacher there. She's now using a blog to chronicle what's been an unprecedented experience.

Karli, welcome. Thank you so much for talking with us.

What's it like to be in Italy right now?


It's really surreal to be here at the moment. It's not normal life by any stretch, where we're effectively under house arrest. We're like prisoners now. We have to be inside all the time.

The only time we can leave is to buy food from the supermarket on you go to the pharmacy, because those are essential needs.

But that's not done freely either. You have to take I.D. You have to take a self-declaration form. It has to be signed with all your personal information. You have to specifically write why you are going to the place you are going to.

For example, if you want to buy the weekly shop, you have to write, I am going to buy food. And it can't be used as an excuse either. You're not allowed to just go and buy a pint of milk as an excuse to get fresh air. You are checked that you are actually buying food to last a few days.

KEILAR: That's interesting they're verifying it.

I know this is difficult. The idea that people can't get activity, especially if they live in small apartment, but does it make sense, seem appropriate?

DRINKWATER: Unfortunately, it does seem appropriate. We are yet to see the effects of all these containment measures. The cases just keep rising and rising. Now that we're almost at 70,000. It's just exponentially.

It's so painful and hard to be in this situation, to be trapped like this. Even my fiance's parents are just five blocks away, and we haven't seen them in weeks because we're dealing to this decree.

When the national lockdown was announced, people still went out on walks. They still went out on a run or a cycle because we were allowed to, I suppose. That did not work. Now we've been clamped down to this particular state. We're just hoping that we start to see the cases drop and the fruits of our labor reaped.


KEILAR: Karli, what would you say to Americans who are a couple a few weeks behind you that are getting tired of the measures and not nearly as strict as the ones you're under. What would you say to them?

DRINKWATER: I would say do what we are doing now. We didn't know that it could get this bad, this fast. But you know, you can see what is happening in Italy. You can see how quickly the cases are rising, how quickly the death toll is climbing.

There's no point to keep going out and congregating. The social distancing, loose measures of keeping one or two meters apart, it is not working. Stay inside. Save people you love. Save your grandparents. Save people who may be are even younger but they have underlying health conditions.

We're at breaking point here. Stop and contain it now.

KEILAR: Karli Drinkwater, thank you so much.

DRINKWATER: Thank you.

KEILAR: And moments from now, former Vice President Joe Biden will join CNN for his response to the president reopening the economy against the advice of doctors. He's looking at a couple of weeks from now, in fact.

Plus, growing calls for low-level offenders to be released from county jails to stop the spread of the virus in the jails. Thousands of inmates have already been let out.



KEILAR: Local governments across the country are starting to release inmates to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus at jails. New Jersey's chief justice is temporarily ordering the release of about 1,000 inmates from county jails. In Minnesota, Hennepin County cut the jail population by a quarter,

releasing more than 200 low-risk inmates.

And officials in both states say that no offenders serving time for violent offenses or long-term sentences are going to be released. They say inmates who test positive for coronavirus will not be released until a judge determines a plan to isolate them.

I want to bring in Van Jones, a CNN political commentator and the CEO for the Reform Alliance, an organization that pushes for criminal justice reform.

And, Van, prisons have conditions that make this difficult in terms of spread. We've already seen that happen. What do you think as this plan is being enacted and how much more widely should it be enacted?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, every governor of every state should tell the Department of Corrections to take action to reduce the prison population safely.

The reason is simple. All of the stuffs in terms of social distancing, you cannot do in a prison. Things like hand sanitizer, that is contraband. That has alcohol in it. You can't have that. Sometimes you don't have soap. You have to pay a co-pay sometimes to see a doctor.

So these -- all of these conditions can turn the jails and the prisons in the United States into super accelerators for this virus.

So not only do you have people in there spreading around, spreading around, buts also have a big problem, which is the guards come in, the staff comes in. All of the people come in and out of a prison and then they go back to their community.

So people say, why should you care about people behind bars. Well, they're human beings. Nobody was sentenced to die without a respirator in prison for whatever their crime was.

And more importantly, and just as importantly, prisons are part of the community. And safer prisons means safer communities. We can't let the prisons and jails become super-accelerators for the virus.

KEILAR: What do you want to see around the country where inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and how this moves through there like wildfire?

JONES: Well, listen, obviously, we are in a tough situation. When people are testing positive, you have to make a lot of effort to protect them, to sequester them and make sure they get the help they need.

But there are a lot of things to do now to stop people from going in. Some because of minor probation violations, they were late for a meeting with a probation officer, or didn't pay fines or fees. All of those should be suspended. Nobody should go into a jail for a minor technical offense or something like that. So stop pushing people in because they'll come right back out. Number two, we need to surge support and medical help into the

prisons. You say, we can barely get the medical help and we don't have masks and gloves in the hospital. True. But the biggest health care system in the country is our prison system because we have 2.4 million people locked up in jails now. You have to see them as a site for a surge of medical support.

I know you have a lot of things that are going on across the country but, if this gets out of hand in the prisons, you could have a super acceleration out of the prisons that we're going to regret later on.

KEILAR: So thank you so much.

JONES: Can I say one thing?

KEILAR: No, I have nine seconds, Van.


KEILAR: Love to you, Van. Thank you so much.