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Senate, White House Strike Deal On $2 Trillion Stimulus Package; Trump Wants Country Opened Up By Easter As Crisis Deepens. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning, I'm Jim Sciutto. Let's get right to the news.

Right now, Senate leaders are persuading their members to back a $2 trillion stimulus plan as the country faces one of the biggest public health crises it has ever seen. Cases are surging. The World Health Organization is now warning that the U.S. could become the next global epicenter for the pandemic. But they say there is still time to turn things around here.

The president though is already looking ahead to reopening the U.S. economy and putting an end to social distancing. He says by Easter, that's just two weeks from now, and right about the time many health experts say that, in fact, cases could be at their peak across the country.

More than half the U.S. population is now under some form of stay-at- home order, as cases double nationwide in just the last two days. New York City alone accounts for 5,000 of the nation's confirmed 50,000 cases.

And today, more proof that this virus spares no one. Prince Charles has confirmed that he has tested positive and is displaying mild symptoms, and Spain has now surpassed China in deaths from coronavirus.

We're covering this as only CNN can, from every angle and around the world.

Let's begin though in New York, with CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras.

And, Brynn, the key update here, it seems, from Governor Cuomo and the Mayor, is that if we have been looking for the flattening of the curve here to lower the rate of increase in cases, in fact, where we are is still in a rapid increase in the growth of cases.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, actually, we just saw an NYPD vehicle go around, Jim, and basically was on a loud speaker saying, everyone keep your distance, practice social distancing. That's the first time I have seen that but, of course, it's so necessary.

I want to give you a look again at this line behind me, Jim, because, guess what, it's grown even longer than when I saw you just an hour ago.

Now, keep in mind, we have been here for three days straight. And the line has exponentially grown every day, and it starts even earlier in the morning. It's usually right before 6:00 when people start lining up. And, again, it's so important to keep in mind here that these aren't just people trying to get a test. These are people who just need to get care, just to get a doctor to take a look at their symptoms.

So they're standing in this line in the cold, not feeling well, when all the symptoms of possible coronavirus, and standing here for hours, really. So these are the people that officials want to help out, and why they are just sounding the alarm day after day, both the mayor and the governor here in New York, giving those numbers of all these people that are impacted. Well, this is just a small microcosm of them, what we're seeing all around the city.

The big ask here, of course, we know is those ventilators. The mayor and the governor have been talking about that. The president says, oh, we're sending you ventilators. But the point is, yes, the federal government, but it's a faction of what's needed. 30,000 ventilators is what is believed to be needed. By the time, these hospitals across this city actually reach the top of that curve, which we're hearing may not even be for another two to three weeks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Brynn Gingras in New York, thanks very much.

With me now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, always great to have you on. I know folks at home, they really want to hear the latest medical information about this. So I have a lot of questions for you.

First, let's start with that timeline, President Trump hopeful by Easter. Does the science, do the science and the medicine back up that hopeful timeline?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, I think that it's pretty clear that the numbers are increasing and the pace at which they're increasing is also going up. So, you know, it's kind of like an issue where you not only have the numbers of people who are infected but the inertia around this outbreak in the United States is also increasing, which is why I think the World Health Organization is concerned this could become the next epicenter.

As Dr. Fauci has said, I think every public health official I've talked to both on and off the record, we want to continuously look at the data. But the data is making it pretty clear, Jim, to answer your question, that it's going to be several weeks probably before we actually are in a position to really start dialing it back. It is possible that we start to peak within the next few weeks, but that's maybe not a good thing because you want to actually have this peak come more slowly so you don't overwhelm the medical system. So it's really still about sort of flattening that curve and delaying that peak as long as possible.

The data doesn't suggest that we're going to be ready by Easter if you look at it that way.

SCIUTTO: Let's take a look at the data, if we can, because we have a graphic here of infection rates, infection numbers in the U.S. and it compares to U.S., if we could put it up on the screen, to other countries. There's the U.S. there.

You know, early in that rise, and you can look at other countries, it took them some time before they tailed off.


As you look at data like that, what does that tell you the next couple of weeks are going to look like here? Are we going to see -- you have New York Governor Cuomo warning of a spike, a big increase. Is that what the data shows?

GUPTA: Yes. Yes, Jim. So this is really critical. Now, we're starting to get a better sense of things, right? I think before, it was a lot of prediction, a lot of modeling, but much in the way you look at a storm. As you're gathering more data, you can start to make better predictions.

So, again, you're looking at the numbers but you're also looking at how quickly the numbers are changing. I think this is a really important point. So, for example, you have talked about, other people have said this morning, it looks like it has a doubling rate of every two days roughly.

So I just did the calculations here. There's mathematical ways to calculate this. But if you say over the next two weeks, and based on that sort of pace of growth, the number of people who sadly are likely to die of this is going to go from 1,000 to 2,000 in the next couple days, 4,000 after that in a couple weeks, you're talking over 100,000 people. In terms of the number of people who are infected, roughly 50,000 in the United States right now. By the end of a couple weeks, we get to 6.4 million.

When you double every couple days, you start to get into a really quick exponential curve. Again, that's what we're trying to avoid. That is the worst case scenario. That is why these recommendations that you have been making, that public health officials have been making, I have been making to stay home, is to prevent that from happening. That's what the data is showing, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Let me ask you this, and I want to get to what we're learning about mutation as we go on.

But before we get there, there is this argument you're hearing, and the president has raised this, but not just the president, can you tailor those stay-at-home restrictions just to the most vulnerable portions of the population, the elderly people with underlying conditions? In other words, say, okay, you guys stay at home, but the rest of us or some of us can go back to work. Does the science back up that strategy in terms of holding infection rates down?

GUPTA: I think what people have to remember here, and the narrative has been that there's a vulnerable population, everyone else is okay. I don't think that that's the correct way to look at this, Jim, for two reasons. One is, as we have talked about, I think most people understand by now, that everyone could be carrying the virus and they could still be a source of spread even if they're a young person.

But also, Jim, you know, it shouldn't just be people who lived and people who died. What we now see is that younger people can still get very sick. Even if they're much more likely to recover, a lot less likely to die, they can still get very sick. 20 percent of the people who are currently in the hospitals here in the United States are between the ages of 20 and 44, 20 percent.

So, look, I mean, this isn't just a vulnerable population we're talking about. Of course, we have to pay more attention to them, but this affects everybody. And the picture that we're looking at, these maps you're seeing in the United States, they're really reflective of the situation 10 to 14 days ago, because that's how long it takes to get the testing, for people to actually develop symptoms. During these last two weeks, it clearly has spread more and gotten worse. I don't think we can do that.

Maybe at some point, people who have recovered from the infection and are likely to be immunized, maybe they would be a population of people that could be more quickly put to work or go back to work. But just to say, willy-nilly, that young people, this group of people, probably not.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Final question, talk about the science. It's mutating. That's what these things do. They got short life cycles, so they mutate very quickly, faster than we do. What are we learning as it does that?

GUPTA: Well, this might be some good news, Jim, which we could use. I mean, first of all, it does not look like it's mutating very much. It seems to be a fairly stable virus. Most people worry, look, is this going to mutate into something that's even more deadly? Actually, that typically doesn't happen.

But the reason this is good news, that it's not mutating, is more that as vaccine-makers are working on the vaccine now, they've got to to sort of predict what this virus is going to look like so they can create the most effective vaccine several months from now. That's what they do with the flu vaccine every year. Given this virus seems to be stable, it makes the likelihood that the vaccine a year from now, whenever the timeframe is, is much more likely to be effective, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Sanjay, great to have you on. Thanks so much. We're going to have you back soon.

And folks at home, you're going to hear a lot more from Sanjay tomorrow night. He and Anderson Cooper will join for CNN's next coronavirus town hall. It starts at 8:00 Eastern Time only here on CNN.

And joining us now from Washington with more on the president's thinking on this, CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood and CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Thanks to both of you.

You heard Sanjay there, and this is not unique advice.


This is really almost unanimous advice from the health experts here that a couple weeks, Easter, you know, this is not going to be passed. We may actually be in a spike situation at that point. So, John Harwood, is the president movable on this goal of relaxing things in the next couple weeks?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is. The president of the United States, this president, is always movable. There's always a push and pull between various influences, forces on him, whether it's poll numbers, stock market values, the last person that he talked to.

I do think, Jim, as we talked about in the last hour, that if you listen closely to that briefing yesterday, there were signs that over the previous 24 hours, he had heard from a lot of people, including Tony Fauci, including Deborah Birx, saying, no.

An Easter reopen, whatever that means, for the country, for the economy, is not likely to be born out. He continued to embrace the idea of it, sounded nice. Easter is a wonderful holiday. People value that. So he was speaking to that yearning of people for greater normalcy.

But I think he was also acknowledging that, A, we need to get more data, as Tony Fauci indicated at that same briefing, and also that, to the extent that he would explore something in that kind of timeframe, it would be in some sort of phased notion of certain populations, certain parts of the country being treated differently than others, based on the severity of the outbreak.

I do think that the president was pushed back by the pushback he got from people like Andrew Cuomo, Liz Cheney, who said there's no normally functioning economy to restart if you've got thousands of people dying in hospitals. I think he heard that, and I think we saw that reflected in his demeanor and his remarks last night.

SCIUTTO: Right. So, Dana Bash, in the midst of this, you have -- I keep reminding people, a $2 trillion relief package, that's a thousand billion -- that's 2,000 billion dollars. I mean, the figures here are just off the charts. And the essential battle had really been where does the bulk of the money go? Does it go to corporations or individuals? A bit of a split here, but a lot of money going to individuals here. And I have to imagine that's something of a victory for Democrats? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that was definitely the sort of some of the broad battle lines, if you will, but it was even more specific, Democrats, for example, wanted to make sure that the bulk of the money that now is likely to go to corporations, whether big corporations or small businesses, are done with protections for workers. And there are a lot of, you know, details in that, that Democrats insisted on getting in there. It seems as though they were successful. And there were things that Republicans were successful on too.

Look, we're not used to seeing compromise in Washington on any scale. Never mind on real legislation, never mind something on this massive, unprecedented level. And so, look, it did take more time than both sides wanted. And nobody is entirely happy with it. But, you know, it is a good thing that these lawmakers can still work together when it really matters, and I don't remember, nobody remembers a time where it has mattered more.

I just want to add really quickly, Jim, to what John was saying. I talked to a Republican source just before coming on with you, and the president is very much getting pushback on the notion of reopening things before the health system is ready. And not just from Democrats, not just from his health professionals, but from Republicans that he trusts, and saying it not just in public but in private to him.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Listen, perhaps an underreported thing that sometimes this president does move, right. He is a movable object sometimes when he gets pushback like that.

Sorry, John, it sounded like you had at thought.

HARWOOD: Jim, yes. I wanted to punctuate what Dana said, to step back and look at the big picture. Yes, there was push and pull among Democrats and Republicans with competing priorities, but in the big picture, Congress is about to do what all the economists say is the right thing to do in this situation, and President Trump is going to sign it.

We sometimes -- when we focus on what doesn't work in Washington, and many things don't work in Washington all the time, all the economists agreed that the most important thing that Congress could do economically right now is write a massive check to underwrite the short-term financial cost for businesses and for workers. They are doing that, and that is an encouraging sign.

And Ben Bernanke, the former Fed chair, was out in a television interview this morning, who said, if we limit the downside for workers and businesses, we might have a robust recovery from this before too long.


So that is good news.

SCIUTTO: Yes. To your point, folks watching at home, I mean, the extension of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks and for the early period at 100 percent pay for a period of time to replace as much of that lost income as possible. This is important for average Americans. Lots of folks watching at home. John Harwood, Dana Bash, thanks very much to both of you.

Still to come this hour, how are CEOs in the U.S. reacting to the $2 trillion stimulus? I will ask another CEO what he thinks of the deal. That's coming up.

Plus, rural hospitals in America, they are already struggling to stay afloat, and they're now bracing for the impact of coronavirus. How they plan to survive, to handle this, just ahead.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Right to the news.

Early this morning, the Senate and Trump administration reached an historic deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. I know you want to know what it means for you, your employer. CNN Business Anchor Julia Chatterley joins me now from New York.

I mean, there's a lot in this. I mean, the figures are just off the charts. But things directed at individual Americans here, not just those payments for people making $75,000 or less, but unemployment insurance increased 100 percent of pay, and the length of time increased as well. Walk us through some of this so folks at home understand.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: I wouldn't call it a blank check, Jim, but I call it a whopping big one, and it prioritizes workers. And that's the key right now. You mentioned two very important points. Getting money instantly, the $1,200 check for those that are making below $75,000 a year, $500 for children.

But the critical part, and it's in two pieces, is precisely what you mentioned, and that is the bump to employment, unemployment insurance here. An extra $600 a week, we're talking for individuals. They're trying to protect them from the expenses they have to make, but also just living, buying food. That will go on for four months. The hope is that it bridges the economic sleep.

Then it's the smaller, medium-sized enterprises, the bulk of employment in this country. They will get loans. And a big size, the question is will they be grants if they retain employees. They don't need to add more debt.

Then the controversial part, the corporations here too, and this looks optically like the biggest piece, $500 billion. What will be the strings attached? Again, they must, must retain as many of their employees as possible. And I think this has been throughout this, the focus on corporations.

Then, the bump of payments too to municipals, to states, to hospitals, key workers as well on the frontlines of this. And that dwarfs anything we saw in Hurricane Katrina or Super Storm Sandy. So like I said, big check.

The question is going to be execution. Get the money out now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, get it right into people's pockets. That's where it makes a difference. Julia Chatterley, thanks very much. We know you'll stay on top of it.

Joining me now to discuss is the Jose Cil. He is CEO at Restaurant Brands International. You may not know that company's name, but you do know Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons. They own a lot of these franchises. Good morning to you. Thanks so much for taking the time here.

We know you're going through a lot, we know your employees are going through a lot. Just quickly, as you look at this stimulus plan, tell us what it means, not just for the folks working for the company itself, but for the many thousands working for franchises at places like Burger King who have really been impacted by this.

JOSE CIL, CEO, RESTAURANT BRANDS INTERNATIONAL: Yes. Thanks for having me, Jim. Yes, certainly, since the beginning of this crisis, we have been focused on our employees and our guests, their health and wellbeing is the number one priority. We have also been focused on doing our part to continue to feed America during this difficult time. The grocery stores are overwhelmed and we think our drive-through business and delivery business and contactless pickup plays a big role as well. And we have been focused on helping our small business owners, our franchisees through this really difficult time and giving back to communities.

And I think the stimulus package, the $2 trillion initiative that the Senate agreed to last night, we think is a really important step forward in addressing two of these areas. One, addressing workers that need the help, as Julia just touched on, and also small businesses that are fronting a lot of this pain.

In our business, we have over 10,000 restaurants in the U.S., more than 300,000 employees. So making sure that those businesses remain open in a safe way and continue to address the needs of the employees and the needs of the guests is critical in this program (INAUDIBLE).

SCIUTTO: Okay, burning question for a lot of folks watching. A lot of employees of your company and those franchises is, is this temporary or will we get on the other side of it? I'm curious, a lot of the folks who are out of work now, are they likely to be hired back once the worst of this is over?

CIL: I think so. We have seen China as an example, start coming out of it over the last several days. So I think, we think long term, as owners of this business, our franchisees and small business owners do as well, many of our employees do as well. So we're optimistic about the long term and we're focused on the short term, doing the right things by our employees, by our guests and by our small business owners and franchisees.

One of the things that I'd love to be able to remind folks is, recently, we announced giving back to the communities with Burger King. We have a kids program where we're giving away two free kids meals to folks that download the app and order on the app.


And we have given away almost 200,000 meals so far this week. And we think that's a big part of us giving back at a moment when schools are closed and families that rely on the schools to feed their children are in need of help. So we're giving back in a moment of need.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we talked a lot about that on the program, that schools are, of course, about education, but for many Americans, it's also about food for young people.

The president has talked about an ambitious timeline of relaxing some or perhaps all of these restrictions by Easter time, that's just a couple weeks away. Are you concerned as a business owner, but also as someone who is not just employing people, but serving people, that that's too soon?

CIL: We have implemented heightened procedures for cleaning, for sanitizing our restaurants, best in class procedures that surpass the already best in class procedures we have. We feel very confident in what we're doing in the restaurants in maintaining social distancing and insuring a contact-free or low-contact delivery of our foods. We're confident in the current procedures and we rely on our federal and state governments and work closely with them at the local levels as well to ensure we do our part to continue the social distancing plan, to reduce and ultimately eliminate the contagion.

So that's our focus, and we'll follow closely whatever regulations and requirements are mandated by local, federal and state officials.

SCIUTTO: You hear from a lot of business owners, I spoke to a restaurant owner who owns a chain of restaurants yesterday, that this will change the business, in some ways, forever, that some of these changes will be lasting. From your vantage point, do you see lasting changes coming out of this?

CIL: I think brands and restaurant businesses that are focused on guests, focused on delivering in the manner in which guests want to be served, whether it's in the not so distant past, dining room or now with the heightened focus on delivery and drive-through and mobile order pickup, we think -- I think the brands that do the right thing by their guests will always do well and will continue to be brands that participate in this amazing economy for the long term.

So we think Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons, we're well positioned and doing the right thing for our guests and for our employees and for our small business owners to be here for the long term, and we're adapting to our new realities every day. You can see it on our website. You can see it on our mobile apps. You can see it in our restaurants, and we're proud to be serving America during this time.

SCIUTTO: Jose Cil, Restaurant Brands International, thanks very much for taking the time this morning. CIL: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Good luck.

SCIUTTO: While hospitals across the country face shortages of critical supplies, rural area hospitals, they're already struggling to survive. And now, they're seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. We're going to speak with the president of a rural health system in Georgia about the particular challenges there. That's coming up.