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FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor Interviewed about Improving Supply Chain of Medical Equipment to Hospitals; President Trump Makes Controversial Comments on Possibly Reducing Social Distancing in Some Parts of U.S.; Current Possible Treatments for Coronavirus Reviewed; Summer Olympic Games Postponed Over Virus Concerns. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 08:00   ET



DIANA BERRENT, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Search can be done to help those who are really sick and suffering in the hospitals. And we will have superpowers. There's a silver lining to this. And so I want to harness that power. So that's -- I will be giving my kids a big, big hug, and my husband a huge, big hug, and thank you for pulling this all through. But my goals are big for what I want to do out of this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Diana Berrent, I think you already have superpowers. You're a mom, after all. Thank you very much for being with us.

BERRENT: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Give those kids giant hugs, no matter how they smell when you get out of there.

BERRENT: Absolutely. Can I leave you with one message?

BERMAN: Very quick.

BERRENT: Can I leave you with one message, because I think this is important? For all of those who don't have it yet, please take it seriously. Stay at home. Act as if you are already infected, and every single person you infect is either your best friend or your grandmother.

BERMAN: That's an important message. Thank you very much. And that's the message we're trying to send. Diana Berrent, thanks very much, be well.

BERRENT: OK, thank you so much, John.

BERMAN: So the FEMA administrator is standing by live to tell us about the government response to coronavirus. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the epicenter of this crisis, and that's why we so desperately need help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just received our allotment from the federal government. That allotment is barely enough to cover one ship at that hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He literally has a true definition of the word dilemma. And at the moment, the evidence would suggest that he's better off sticking with the lockdowns.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country wasn't built to be shutdown. We're not going to let the cure be worse than the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a false choice to say public health or restart the economy. You cannot put a value on a human life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, March 24th, 8:00 now on the east. I'm Alisyn Camerota along with John Berman who is too far away from me, but this is how it has to be right now.


CAMEROTA: Better, better.

President Trump and his top health advisers are at odds this morning over how long to keep the nation at home and keep the economy frozen. The president says he wants to reopen the country in weeks, not months.


TRUMP: I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We're going to be opening up our country. But can't keep it closed for the next, for years, OK? This is going away.


CAMEROTA: Well, that directly contradicts the concerns of the World Health Organization, which warns that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating. A senior health official also tells CNN that public health experts are looking at ways for an orderly return to life. But they believe we could be in this precarious health situation, John, for the next 12 to 18 months.

BERMAN: So the president's fairly sudden reversal on social distancing came on the deadliest day of the outbreak so far in the U.S. More than 100 people died yesterday. In total, at least 542 people have died here, with more than 43,000 cases. Americans in 16 states will be under a stay at home order by midnight tonight. That's more than 142 million people, 43 percent of the population. Army field hospitals to treat hundreds of patients are scheduled to arrive in New York and Seattle in the next few days.

This morning, New York City is the area of greatest concern, officials say the rate of people getting sick is five times more severe than any other city. There was a spike of 3,000 cases yesterday alone.

And we are following breaking news. We could get an announcement on the fate of the Tokyo Summer Olympics in just minutes. Japan's public broadcaster NHK reports that the prime minister has proposed delaying the games for one year.

We begin, though, with the federal response to the pandemic. Joining me is FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor. Pete, thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Administrator, I should say. Can I ask a general question? Up until this point, how has social distancing helped you battle this emergency?

PETER GAYNOR, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Yes. It's working. It's working across the country. There are some hot spots, but it is every American's role, I think, to play is do what you can. This is not just having the other guy do it. It is about you doing it. And simple things, social distancing, stay at home if you're sick, washing your hands, all those kinds of things are making a difference. Keep doing them. It will make us get out of this crisis that much faster.

BERMAN: How would the end of social distancing make your job harder?

GAYNOR: Say that one more time.

BERMAN: How would the end of social distancing make your job harder?

GAYNOR: Well, I think it is about timing, so I'll leave the timing up to the medical professionals and the scientists about when we get out of it. My current focus has been and will continue to be to make sure we get critical supplies to those places around the country that need them the most.


So New York, New York City, Washington state, and Los Angeles and California, that is where we are focused. And we continue to focus on that throughout the day today and until we solve that supply problem.

BERMAN: The reason I was asking, though, is because the president is now talking about phasing out social distancing in some places as soon as the end of the month, just weeks from now. And I'm curious if that will have an impact on the job you're doing.

GAYNOR: Well, you know, again, I'll leave all that scientific decisions to the experts. If it is timed right, I think it will be -- won't have an impact. But, again, I'm focused on today, solving the calls from all the governors, all the supplies they need. We had a great call with, numerous ones yesterday with the vice president, we want to make sure we hit them all, and we want to make sure we get them, again, the supplies that they're asking for. BERMAN: Let's focus on the today, as you say. Today, just a short

time ago, the president wrote that there are 400 ventilators that the federal government has located that are being made available to New York City. When will New York City get the ventilators?

GAYNOR: I think they're already on the way. And every day we continue to find new supplies, we continue to repurpose other vents for other purposes, to the mechanical function that they need for the coronavirus. So it's fluid, it's dynamic. So whether we're building new ones, we find old ones, we're repurposing, we are looking at the entire universe of supplies from vents to masks to gloves. You name it, we're looking for it.

BERMAN: You say on the way. I just want to be clear, do you know when exactly they'll arrive? Because the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, was on with me yesterday, and he said if they don't get more ventilators by the end of the week, people will die who might otherwise have been saved.

GAYNOR: Again, I can't give you shipping days, but I know it is a priority. It has been briefed to me personally about how critical these items are. And I have the best team in America working on this today. All 14 different agencies are here behind me to include top experts from the joint staff and logistics. These guys are making it happen every single minute of every day.

BERMAN: Talk to me about the facilities that are being constructed. I know the Javits Center here in New York City is hoping for up to 1,000 beds. When will that be in place, and how effective do you hope that will be?

GAYNOR: I think it is happening already. I think it started yesterday with the Javits Center. We gave authority to the governors of New York, Washington, California, to use Title 32 forces and enable -- they can use the National Guard to help them speed all these things along. So it's happening not only in New York and Washington, it's happening -- it has been happening and will continue to happen as we flow in more resources to these critical sites.

BERMAN: The Defense Production Act is something the president has discussed but hasn't actually used yet. Would there be more supplies being produced? Would there be more ventilators being produced if that was in fact now directly implemented?

GAYNOR: So just a little while ago my team came in, and we're going to use the DPA for first time today.

BERMAN: Really?

GAYNOR: There's some test kits -- there's some test kits we need to get our hands on. And the second thing we're going to do is insert some language into these mass contracts that we have for 500 million masks, DPA language will be in that today. So again, we want to be thoughtful about not upsetting the balance, making sure we can get it out to the market and the federal government not consume it all. So we're going to use it, we're going to use it when we need it, and we're going to use it today.

BERMAN: Tell me exactly a little bit more. How are you going to use it today, with whom, and for what?

GAYNOR: We're going to use it for about 60,000 test kits, and so really we're going to use the allocation portion of the DPA. And again, many different levers and options in that. And we want to be thoughtful and meaningful on how we do it, again, for the best result.

BERMAN: Pete Gaynor, we'll let you get back to work. I know the supply chain is a complicated thing. We wish you best of luck getting the supplies in place where they need to be.

GAYNOR: Thank you very much. I appreciate all the support.

BERMAN: Great. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, John, joining us now is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, great to see you. Did you hear anything that surprised you with what the FEMA administrator just said?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he clearly said the social distancing mechanisms are working. So there is evidence of that around the country. And we also know that if you look at the numbers, the numbers of people who have become infected and, sadly, the number of people who have died continues to increase, and not only does it increase, but the pace at which these numbers are increasing is growing as well.

So I think the big question that I was sort of looking for and John was driving at with him was, look, how do you sort of balance when this social distancing recommendations are going to end with what is happening in the country now. And he said he would defer to the scientists, obviously.


What I can tell you, Alisyn, I've talked to a lot of these public health officials, some of them sort of -- they understand this balance between the economy and public health, but in their minds, there is no question what needs to be done here.

We are -- the testing and all the numbers you just put up on the screen, they're two weeks behind where the country actually is because it takes that long for people to develop symptoms and get tested. Those numbers are going to continue to increase. It would be very hard to understand how in the midst of that, you would then pull back on social distancing, which the FEMA administrator says does have evidence that it's working.

CAMEROTA: But Sanjay, help me understand how it is working, because if I just look at that graph, the number of deaths --

GUPTA: He just said that, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- has spiked. And so just help me understand how we know that social distancing is working?

GUPTA: Well, what you're starting to look for is looking to see if the pace at which new cases is decreasing or if you're not seeing as many hot spots around the country. Some of that just might be because we're not testing enough, so I think it is hard to say. As I said, that's what the administrator said, that the social distancing is working.

I think you would be hard pressed to make the case, as I'm telling you based on looking at the numbers, I want to look at not only what the numbers are doing, but the pace at which they're growing. So once we start to see that pace start to decrease, I think that will start to be evidence of the peak of this.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I am confused by what the president said yesterday during the press briefing. Are there treatments available right now?

GUPTA: No. There's no approved treatments right now. There are going to be things that are going to go into clinical trials, sounds like today, in New York City. There is this one medication chloroquine, which a lot of people have been talking about. Very early data on this, a study of just some 20 patients or so. So they need to collect the data on this.

I hope as they're giving out these treatments, that they're doing it in a way that actually can give results back, so they're doing it in a clinical trial. That means giving it to patients who are obviously in need of it, but also making sure that you can control to see if patients who are getting it, what is their clinical course.

Right now, we don't know, does it actually help save somebody's life, does it decrease the severity of the disease, we don't know. The studies are just too small. There have been other promising candidates out there which have not been shown to be effective. And chloroquine is not the only medication that is being looked at. There is probably close to two dozen candidates out there right now according to the World Health Organization.

And I know, Alisyn, you've been talking to Peter Hotez who is talking about convalescent serum, which is taking the plasma from people who recovered from this and pulling the antibodies from their blood and giving it to other people. That's another thing that has been trialed in Ebola and H1N1 in the past. So there's all these different things out there, but Alisyn, to you question, there's nothing that's approved to treat this particular infection right now.

CAMEROTA: Because the president has made it sound as though there is, and as though -- or it's right around the corner. So when you say there's clinical trials, how long will those take?

GUPTA: Months. It takes a while. You have to actually do -- go into larger and larger phases of patients. The advantage, I think, of some of these existing drugs is that they already exist. There's pretty good safety data around them. But we still don't know the safety data when you give these medications longer terms, when you give them at different doses. The medication chloroquine that we're talking about is being given for malaria. So how would it work exactly for a viral infection? They have some idea, but they want to continue to test this out. It just takes time.

Everybody obviously wants it faster, but I think some have been given the impression that it's now, that it's happening today, that there is now a medication that is approved. And, look, I wish that were the case. I think a lot of people are hopeful. I would say everybody on the planet is hopeful, frankly, given that this is a pandemic. But we're not there yet. We could get there relatively quickly. Sometimes these things can take years. But I think maybe we're talking about several weeks if not months now.

CAMEROTA: One more thing, Sanjay. Yesterday, during the press conference, Dr. Birx, global health expert, as you well know, part of the president's taskforce, said that New York has seen 28 percent of the coronavirus tests coming back positive. Can you just give me some context, what are we to take from that number, that 28 percent are positive? Is that good? Is that bad?

GUPTA: Well, that's a lot higher than they're seeing in other places around the country. Typically, what you're seeing around the country is out of all of the tests that are being done, about 10 percent are coming back positive.


And there in New York City, it is closer to 28 percent. So much higher, some of that could be reflective of just the fact that there is testing that is more specific to people who are sick, so you're more likely to have people who come back positive.

New York City is probably had this virus circulating in that area for a period of time. So, it is likely that there just are more people infected, density of population, public transportation.

But, Alisyn, I will tell you that I think in many communities around the country, that this is going to be more widespread than we realize. I think in many places around the country, we still haven't gotten adequate testing into these areas. So, you know, it is tough to sort of really read too much into those numbers now.

I think we have to behave within the country as if the virus is spreading. I know what -- I think the point Ambassador Birx was making, is it possible to isolate a few hot spots around the country and then sort of allow the rest of the country to go back to normal functioning?

I don't think we're there yet. I'm not saying she was suggesting that. But that is one of the strategies that they're looking at. The concern is that whether it be in Florida or Arizona or, you know, the middle of the country, I think, there is many places where the virus is circulating. We just haven't had eyes on it yet.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I feel like every day, we learn so much more, in part, because of you.

Sanjay, thank you very much for all of the information.

GUPTA: You got it.

CAMEROTA: President Trump wants to reopen America for business, he says. So we'll talk to a Republican governor who just closed businesses to slow the spread of coronavirus.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, major breaking news, the prime minister of Japan just announced a plan to delay the Summer Olympic Games. Again, the Summer Olympics are going to be postponed. The prime minister says until 2021 at the latest.

This is unprecedented. The Olympics have never been delayed. They have been canceled, but they have never been delayed.

Our Will Ripley is live in Tokyo with the breaking details -- Will.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: it is remarkable, this historic moment we're living in, John. World War I and World War II canceled three Olympic Games in the history of the modern Olympics. They have never been postponed until today.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moments ago speaking with reporters after getting off a call with the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and Prime Minister Abe confirmed that he has requested that the Olympics that were supposed to be held on July 24th here in Tokyo, the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, games that this country won the bid for seven years ago, they built a new stadium, they're still building infrastructure, there are signs everywhere around this city, this has been a cornerstone of Japan's identity for the last seven years since they won the bid in 2013, and now it is not happening in 2020.

But they're hoping it is going to happen in the summer of 2021, which incidentally will be months later, the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Quite an extraordinary -- quite an extraordinary year, 2021 and 2022. But for the year 2020, the Olympics are a casualty of the coronavirus pandemic. And Japan is on track to spend $20 billion already on these games. They have been way over budget.

Now some economists are saying a postponement could cost an additional $5 billion, $5.5 billion. You have this logistical nightmare they have to work out. All the venues they need to basically reschedule. The Olympic athletes village, all those units -- or most of them anyway have been sold, people were supposed to be moved in by the summer of 2021. What is going to happen there?

What about the people who paid up to a thousand dollars, for even $2,000 for tickets? Each ticket. Do they get refunds? Do their tickets transfer?

It is unprecedented to move sporting event this big. What about conflicting sporting events that might be scheduled for the summer of 2021? What's going to happen to them? How are athletes going to qualify? These are all of the questions that we don't have the answers to.

What we do know is that now that this call has ended, now that Japan made this request and they have been allowed to make this announcement, the International Olympic committee is expected to hold in the coming hours emergency teleconference of their executive board and they're going to start to now talk about the details.

It will be the IOC that makes the official announcement, John, but we can now say definitively what we have been talking about for days, Tokyo 2020 is not happening, it is now going to be Tokyo 2021.

BERMAN: This decision really did seem inevitable, but now it has happened.

Will Ripley in Tokyo, stand by.

I want to bring in CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Christine, I'll start with you. We met covering the Olympic Games. You know that athletes, they're like finely tuned machines. These Olympic athletes have set their timers to peak at the Summer Olympic Games in 2020 in July. They were ready to go then. What is this news going to mean for them?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: John, interestingly the athletes actually forced this upon the leaders who did not lead, the International Olympic Committee, that really failed them. Over the last three weeks as we have watched this virus grow and the outbreak grow around the world and the stories we have heard of tragedy and sickness, the athletes have been paying attention to that as well. And even though we're talking as will of course said about the July 24th start, the decision was made because of now. Athletes need to train new.

And increasingly we were hearing, "USA Today" we were reporting this, athletes being shut out of swimming pools, Olympic gold medalists kicked out of the YMCA because their regular pool was closed, and then they, of course, they're kicked out of their second chance, now they have nowhere to go. Not only could they not train, training was changing for them or absolutely becoming something they could not do, but they were concerned.

These athletes, not just Americans, John, but around the world, were concerned about violating guidelines that other people were following. Should they be out and about? Should they run or lift or train or throw or swim?

And the answer increasingly for them was no, they were not being good citizens and they felt that they should be sheltering in place. And so, the athletes' voice was heard.


And in the last week or so, the dominos have fallen like crazy, one after another. I was able to report yesterday that the senior IOC member, the most senior, Dick Pound from Canada, he told me yesterday, postponement was already decided. He was right.

And meanwhile, the German Olympic Committee, even Canadians said they're not going and the U.S. Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee said they were urging postponement so it was inevitable.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, it sounds like they had no choice. I mean, Christine just spelled it all out of all of the complications of why they had to postpone it. But to John's larger point, can the athletes stay at this peak level of what they are prepared for the next year?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I think Christine's point is a good one. It is just basically, you know, can you continue to find locations to train at that level and it sounds like it is challenging. I hadn't really considered how much of a challenge that would be. But it makes total sense.

And, Alisyn, you know, look, it is worth pointing out again that there is a legitimate health risk to young people as well. You know, we talk a lot about the elderly and people with underlying conditions, these are for the most part young healthy people. But, you know, right now we know in the United States, for example, out of the people who are hospitalized for coronavirus, 20 percent of them are aged 20 to 44.

So, you know, I think that there is -- in terms of the social distancing guidelines, all the other things that we have been talking about, there is no reason that that shouldn't apply to these athletes as good of health and as good of shape as they may be in.

BERMAN: Sanjay, Christine, Will, thank you very much.

Just one thought on the overall significance of this, the Olympics is the place where the world comes together. And now it has been decided that the world can't come together. That's how serious the situation is. That's the overall statement that is being made here.

In the meantime, President Trump says he wants to reopen the United States for business in weeks. Not months. Right now, 16 states issued stay at home orders to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. Others have taken action like closing nonessential businesses.

Joining me now is the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan.

Governor Hogan, thanks very much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

I want to start with what you have announced in Maryland, which is the closing of all nonessential businesses, you haven't issued exactly a stay at home order, so I'm curious what you see as the difference there. GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, really, it's, basically, John, it

semantics about how you define it, but we're -- we've closed more businesses than many of the states that have stay at home orders. It's like we have encouraged and suggested that everybody that doesn't need to go out, that isn't an essential business that they do stay home. We're very strictly enforcing the limitations on social distancing, of no groups of ten or more, and we've closed more businesses than anything that is not essential. So, it has the same effect.

Some of the people said, they issued stay at home orders but they still have all these businesses open and they have the exceptions for them to go to all those businesses. We're all taking different steps based on what we think is right for our states. But we've been about as aggressive as anyone in our country. One of the first states to declare a state of emergency, one of the first states to close all the schools, and then we closed all the bars and restaurants and this is another further step.

So these are all things that you've been talking about to try to bend this curve downward and to stop this overflow crash on our -- on our healthcare system, I'm going out today with the National Guard to stand up 250-bed hospital in the Baltimore Convention Center, to try to help with, you know, the surge. And we're all fighting this thing as best we can from all directions.

BERMAN: It was striking, though, that yesterday you announced the strictest orders in your state yet, the closing of all nonessential businesses. You're just starting that now. The president for the first time was talking about relaxing some of the social distancing guidelines around the country.

So how do those two things match?

HOGAN: They don't really match, quite frankly. Some messaging is pretty confusing. I think it is not just that it doesn't match with what we're doing here in Maryland. Some of the messaging out of the administration doesn't match, where you have the surgeon general and Anthony Fauci saying things almost completely opposite of that yesterday.

So we're just trying to take the best advice we can from the scientists and all the experts, and making the decisions that we believe are necessary for our states. We don't think that we're going to be in any way ready to be out of this in five or six days or so or whenever this 15 days is up from the time that they started this imaginary clock.

Most people think that we're weeks away from the peak, if not months, and that's what the advice we're getting from the smart folks at Johns Hopkins and NIH and University of Maryland and places like that.

BERMAN: Yes, Johns Hopkins literally overcame the Spanish flu in 1918. They're good people to listen to down there.

Given --