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NYC Continues as U.S. Epicenter of Coronavirus Outbreak; Over 200 NYPD Officers Test Positive for Coronavirus; Trump Wants Country Opened Up By Easter as Crisis Deepens; Senate Expected to Quickly Pass $2 Trillion Stimulus Package; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 11:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John King, in Washington.

Today, the impact from the coronavirus pandemic becoming more dramatic by the day, if not the hour. About half of the U.S. population under stay-at-home orders. There are more than 53,000 cases in the United States confirmed and more than 700 Americans have died of coronavirus.

New York City continues to be the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak with known cases doubling every three days. Doubling every three days. The situation so severe, the White House is advising people who visit or pass through New York City to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days.

We're waiting to hear from the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He'll hold his daily new conference in a few moments. We'll take you there live when he begins.

Meanwhile, President Trump pushing the country to get up and running by Easter. But top medical experts are warning it is much, much too soon for that.

Meantime, the Senate could pass a historic $2 trillion stimulus package as early as today. That, after Senate leaders and the White House reached that giant deal overnight. The deal, which is being touted as the biggest spending package in U.S. history, will deliver checks to Americans and send cash to hospitals and small businesses.

CNN is covering all of those angles. Let's start at the epicenter with CNN's Brynn Gingras live in New York City.

Brynn, New York City is now ground zero, if you will, in this war against the coronavirus. What's the latest?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, you know, listen, a friend got in touch with me and basically said they keep hearing all these numbers. The numbers are going up, of course, but those are hard to register. What really sets in for people, she thought at least, was the pictures. I want to show you what we're seeing at this hospital in Elmhurst.

John, we have been here for the last three days. This line gets exponentially longer every single day. We have been here in the early mornings. People start lining up before 6:00, even sometimes before that.

I mean, let's keep in mind, these are people -- every single one of them is wearing a mask, so more than likely, every single one of them thinks they might have coronavirus or else why else would they be in the line? They don't feel well. They're sick, standing hours in line in this outside this hospital just to get in to try to get some care. That really gives you a perspective of how dire really the situation is here.

Now, if we go back to the numbers. That's the big thing, right? The governor, the mayor, here of New York City, asking for more ventilators, asking for more personal protection equipment for the front lines. Those health care workers inside taking care of all of these patients.

The need is there. You can see it right here on the ground. Of course, yesterday, we saw the governor be so fiery in that news conference saying we need more ventilators. We're going to need 30,000 when the hospitals actually reach the top of the peak, which he thinks is another two to three weeks from now.

And sure, the president fired back and said hey, we're giving you ventilators. It's up to you to get the rest, but the point is, we need more.

And this is the situation we're seeing here in New York. And it is going to be copied and pasted in other cities across the country. We're seeing already, you know, more surges in hospitals, in New Orleans. We're seeing more cases in New Jersey, in Connecticut. I mean, again, it's just being repeated all across this country.

But I can tell you, we have been standing here just before the live shot and we saw four ambulances rush right into that hospital. Of course, I don't know if that's a coronavirus patient in the back of that ambulance, but the point is the optics here, it's jarring.

KING: Optics jarring. A great way to put it.

Brynn, we focus a lot on the risks being taken by frontline health care workers, which we should. They're putting their lives in danger to help the patients. But you have new numbers about the number of New York City police officers who now have this virus.

GINGRAS: Yes, absolutely. More than 200 have the virus. Of those NYPD members, 6.6 percent of the people, the force, is calling out sick. That's more than double what they usually see. Those are the numbers.

I just had a conversation with a police officer not too long ago who said his partner is being transferred to a different precinct because the need is there. They're having to be shifted around. We also saw a van go around basically telling the community to social

distance. I mean, these are all the people that we're asking social distance for, are for the people on the front lines, not just in the hospitals but, of course, police officers, firefighters, EMS -- John?

KING: Adjustments in the sad new normal, everywhere you look.

Brynn Gingras, appreciate the live reporting from New York City.

Despite warnings from health experts that it's way too soon to talk about easing social distancing requirements and getting people back to work, President Trump remains fixated on this idea. He wants the country back to normal by Easter, saying it would be, quote, "beautiful."

CNN's John Harwood covering that for us.

John, what are we hearing today? You can tell the public health persons are trying to push the president back some. Is he bending?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think he is bending, John. President Trump would like for the country to be reopened for business by Easter, but as he plays at all of his campaign rallies, you can't always get what you want.

The president has felt the pushback from Tony Fauci, from Deborah Birx, from people like Andrew Cuomo, who is going to give that press conference today in just about 10 minutes time. Also from Liz Cheney in the House Republican leadership, saying there will be no functioning economy to go back to if you have got thousands of people dying, laying dying in overflowing hospitals.


The president has continued to signal the increasing realism that this is not going to be possible. He just tweeted a few minutes ago that Japan had made a very wise decision to postpone the Olympics. Well, the Olympics are scheduled for July. So by praising that decision, he is recognizing that this is going to go on for a while. Not just in the United States but around the world.

So I think that the president is always pushed and pulled by people he talked to, by polls, by the stock market. We do see the stock market going up today in response to the stimulus bill. That's good news for the economy. Ben Bernanke, the former Fed chair, saying this might not be a Great Depression. All that is going to be some comfort to the president.

But he said yesterday he's going to be guided by data. Tony Fauci said he's going to be guided by data. I think he's backing off that very ambitious timeline.

KING: We hope he follows the science, the facts of the science.

John Harwood, appreciate the latest reporting from the White House. Joining me, Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency room physician and

instructor at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard Global health Institute.

Dr. Faust, let me start with you first.

When you say it, the number of cases in New York City are doubling every three days, what does that tell you about the arc of this? And put that into the context of the president saying, well, maybe in a couple weeks we might be ready to dial it back.

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN & INSTRUCTOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Yes, this is an important moment. And let me just say this about the president of the United States. Today is a new day. And tomorrow is another day. And if he sees fit to make policy that saves the most lives, then he can be a great president. And we see leadership, and we see lack of leadership in some places.

So that's the diagnosis. But what's the prescription? The prescription is two things. Right now, in places like New York, where there's a lot of disease, you have to have shelter-in-place. You cannot ignore the fact on the ground. The doubling time we're hearing does not comport, does not agree with some of the data we have heard so far about how fast this virus moves.

In places like New York, shelter-in-place must be continued and maybe for longer. If it comes from President Trump himself, it's more powerful because it might be unexpected.

The second thing is, in places where maybe the disease is not as prevalent, in those places, quarantining people who enter and trying to decrease how many people come and go can help protect our citizens.

We're seeing innovation. We're seeing people stepping up. Governor Cuomo yesterday gave us, E.R. doctors, like me, legal protection so we could make decisions normally people would second guess, and now we can do it. And I am looking for Governor Baker to do the same. It makes a difference when people step up.

KING: It certainly does. We appreciate the medical heroes in the communities across America and at every level in the United States.

Dr. Jha, I want to put on the screen, U.S. cases over time. The steady growth of the cases here in the United States. Some of this is because there's more testing so you have higher numbers.

But when you just see the ramp up like that, when the president says he hopes there's soon a day where you can send at least much of America back to work, dissect, help me dissect that, if you will. You certainly can't do that in New York City right now. You can't likely do that in New York State right now.

Are there places around the country, might the president be right, pockets of America where we're getting close to that moment or is it way too soon to know that?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, so good morning, John. Thanks for having me.

Listen, all of us hope that there's a day sooner rather than later when we can open back up again. It's going to have to depend on the facts on the ground. And the facts on the ground are going to be determined by how much testing capacity we have, how many people are infected, what the rate of infection is.

Right now, we are in a bad situation. It's not just New York. I think, as your reporter mentioned earlier. New Orleans, Atlanta, parts of Florida, these are the places that are going to be hit very hard. New Jersey, very hard over the next week or two.

What I want to see is a massive ramp-up on testing, smart testing, and then we can decide, are there places that can open up a little? But deciding right now is very hard.

KING: Deciding right now very hard.

To that point, Dr. Faust, I want to read a tweet from the president of the United States. He's happy that U.S. testing is better, in a better position today than several days ago, and thank god, several weeks ago.

But this president said, "Just reported the United States has done far more testing than any other nation by far. In fact, over an eight-day span, the United States now dust more testing than South Korea does in an eight-week span. Great job."

Is it a great job? Are we in the right place now as opposed to a few weeks ago when we were way behind or just in a better place with a long way to go still?

FAUST: I see progress. But the only way to do this successfully is to take the South Korean model and do what America does best, which is to supersize it. And we're starting to do that. And but it's delayed. But then, what do you do next? We have to know what to do next with that information. And people are stepping up.


My publication brief,, we broke news the other day that the CDC will be rolling out a much, much more comprehensive reporting system on every hospital in the country as to where the disease is, how many beds are filled, how many ventilators are being used.

This is information that's going to help public officials, local officials. And even some of that detail will be available to the public, some of it will not be. But it will help nonprofits like get- org (ph). As I've said before, we have to play the ball. We have to know where to put our resources.

People are really participating. When my little publication, where doctors and emergency doctors and health policy experts, when we broke that news, and we beat every other news agency, people just reached out and said good job, congratulations, how can we help. There's a camaraderie right now across the board. My friends at the

CDC are telling me they're seeing more camaraderie and people working together than they have ever seen. We see it.

We're in a fearful moment, but there's hope if we work together and act on the information that we are receiving. We need more.

KING: We need more information. That is certainly effective.

Dr. Jha, let me close the conversation. What's missing? As somebody watching at home who doesn't have your expertise, what is missing from conversation, either from us in the news media or from our leadership to help the average American out there decide what to do next, today, tomorrow, and next week?

JHA: Yes, so, John, I think one of the things we're missing is that we have to understand this is the long ball. This disease does not go away next week or two weeks from now or by Easter. It's going to be with us for 12 to 18 months, until we have a vaccine that's effective.

So we should be thinking about the long ball here. We should be making decisions today on how we're going to get through the next 12 to 18 months, how we're going to preserve our economy, keep people safe.

I feel like every decision is what are we doing tomorrow, what are we doing next week? We also have to think about, what do we do next month, over the next 18 months.

KING: Hopefully, we can keep that context as we cover the day-to-day developments. Keep our eye on that long ball.

Dr. Faust, Dr. Jha, really appreciate your insights and expertise. It's critical at this moment.

Tomorrow night, be sure to watch our next coronavirus town hall on CNN, hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Any minute now, we're expecting to hear from New York governor Andrew Cuomo, his daily update on the coronavirus numbers and response in that state. We'll bring you that live as soon as the governor gets under way.



KING: The Senate will be back in session in just under an hour. They're expected to pass and quickly pass a historic $2 trillion stimulus package. That package ironed out between the Senate leaders and the White House last night.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, take us through the latest here. I expect once they come in they're going to move it now that they have a deal, move it quickly.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're doing to do just that. Behind the scene, leadership on both sides in the House and Senate are briefing their members about exactly what is in the proposal.

This morning, the Senate Democratic leaders, Senate Republican leaders each had their own respective conference calls with their caucuses to walk through what exactly was agreed to.

Because this deal sweeping as it is, most expensive rescue package in American history, was really only concocted by a handful of members. The leadership on both sides of the aisle, as well as a handful of people within the Trump administration and the White House, meeting on five days of marathon negotiations. Ultimately, cutting a deal at about 1:00 a.m. Earlier this morning.

And now, the details are still coming out. Their drafts of this legislation circling on Capitol Hill. But formally, this bill has not yet been introduced.

Nevertheless, Senate leaders are pushing to get this approved today, in a matter of hours. In order to do that, they need to insure none of these members will object and prevent passage of these sweeping measures. So they're walking them through this.

Members are eager to read through the bill text, but it will be doubtful that they can read all of it --


KING: Manu Raju, sorry to interrupt. We need to go to Albany, New York, the Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily briefing.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- the Department of Financial Services. He's worked with me for a long time, from the attorney general's office and he's part of our SWAT team. We have James Malatras, the president of Empire College, Dr. Howard Zucker, health commissioner, Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, Robert Mujica, budget director.

We have a lot of interesting news today. Things are moving. Current status, we still have the trajectory going up. We have not turned the trajectory, nor have we hit the apex. Remember what that line is going to do. It's going to go up, reach a high point, tip, go back down. We're still on the way up the mountain.

Number of infections that have been coming in, 80 percent still self- resolved. About 15 percent of the people who test positive require hospitalization. And then there are degrees of hospitalization. But the total universe that requires hospitalization is 15 percent.

We use projection models. We have Cornell Weil, which is a great medical institution that does projection models. We use McKinsey, which does projection models. The Department of Health does projection models. The projection models are important because they are projecting the possible trajectory and projecting the possible need. So we're planning for a need. The projection models do that.


The projection models are just that. They are models of projections. They're not necessarily definitive, but it's the only device we have to plan. Follow the data, follow the data, follow the data.

The actual hospitalizations have moved at a higher rate than the projected models, than all of the projected models. So that was obviously concerning. Because that higher infection rate means faster, higher capacity on the hospitals, and that's the critical point for us, is the number of people going to hospitals.

Right now, what we're looking at is about 140,000 cases coming into the hospitals. The hospital capacity is 53,000 beds. That's a problem. We're looking at about 40,000 ICU cases coming into the hospitals. We have about 3,000 ICU beds. That's a challenge.

What is an ICU bed for these purposes? Basically, a bed with a ventilator. The ventilator is the most critical piece of equipment for an intensive care unit bed because this is a respiratory illness and people need more ventilation than usual.

What do we want to do? Reduce the number of cases coming into the hospitals. Slow the number of cases coming into the hospitals. That's what Dr. Fauci's talking about on TV every day. Flatten the curve, flatten the curve, flatten the curve. Slow the number of people coming into hospitals so we can deal with them in the hospitals. And we are working on that.

At the same time, increase your hospital capacity. Right? So try to slow the number of cases coming into the hospital. Meanwhile, raise your hospital capacity. We are working on both simultaneously. We have been from day one.

Reduce the number of cases coming in, flatten the curve, slow the spread of the infection. We are doing everything we can on that. That's banning nonessential workers, that's social distancing, that's closing restaurants, closing gyms. Just flatten the curve, slow the infection rate.

One issue we had was in New York City, where we had higher level of density than we wanted, especially in the New York City parks, especially with young people.

I have been as direct as I can and as blunt as I can on young people and the misinformation that they have. You can catch the coronavirus. You may think you are a superhero. You're really not. You can catch it. And you can transfer it, which makes you dangerous to the people who you love.

But the New York City parks have been a problem. I saw the problem myself first-hand. I spoke to Mayor De Blasio. I spoke to Speaker Johnson. We said come up with a plan in 24 hours that everybody agreed with. They came up with a plan. We're now implementing that plan. I signed off on that plan. The plan is going to pilot closing streets in New York City. Because

we have much less traffic in New York City. We have many fewer vehicles in New York City. Open streets. People want to walk. They want to get some air. You want a less dense area. So pilot closing streets to cars. Opening streets to pedestrians.

We'll also enact mandatory playground social density. Probably a new concept. No close contact sports in a playground. No basketball, for example. You cannot do it. We're asking people to do that on a voluntary basis.

If there's noncompliance with that, we will then make it mandatory and we will actually close the playgrounds. We don't want to do that. Because playgrounds are a place to go out and get open air. But you have to exercise social density even in a playground. And again, it's voluntary.

The mayor is going to make it clear that this is important to the people of the city. If it doesn't happen, we will actually close down playgrounds. I don't want to do that. But we do need to reduce the spread of the infection. And that is what is most important.


This is very interesting. Because the evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working. And again, we're doing this from projections. But look at this because it's interesting.

This past Sunday, the projection was that hospitalizations were doubling every two days. OK. On Monday, the numbers suggested that the hospitalizations were doubling every 3.4 days. On Tuesday, the projections suggested that the hospitalizations were doubling every 4.7 days.

Now, that is almost too good to be true. But the theory is, given the density that we're dealing with, it spreads very quickly, but if you reduce the density, you can reduce the spread very quickly.

So these projections, I have watched them bounce all over the place. And I don't place a great deal of stock in any one projection. All due respect to all the great academics and statisticians who are doing it. But this is a very good sign and a positive sign.

Again, I'm not 100 percent sure it holds or it's accurate. But the arrows are headed in the right direction. And that is always better than the arrows headed in the wrong direction.

So to the extent people say, boy, these are burdensome requirements, social distancing, no restaurants, no nonessential workers. Yes, they are burdensome.

By the way, they are effective, and they're necessary, and the evidence suggests at this point that they have slowed the hospitalizations.

And this is everything. Slowing the hospitalization rates coming into the hospitals are everything, so the hospitals can deal with the rate of people coming in.

At the same time, increased hospital capacity. What is the high point? You see that line in the beginning. What we're studying is what is the high point of that line, what is the apex of that line. That is the point of the greatest number of people coming into the hospital system. So that's our greatest load, is the apex.

And when is that going to happen? Again, that is a projection. Again, that moves around. But the current projection is that could be in 21 days. So ramp up the hospital capacity to make -- to be able to handle that apex volume.

How do you ramp up hospital capacity? You ramp up beds, ramp up staff, and ramp up the equipment. And the ventilators are the problem in equipment as we have discussed many times.

Where are we on that? Beds, we may need 140,000. We have 53,000. That's the existing capacity of hospitals. We have told all hospitals they have to increase their capacity by 50 percent. I told them that myself on a conference call yesterday.

This is a burden for the hospitals to now say you have to increase capacity 50 percent, but I have to tell you, they were very generous about it. And they understood what we were dealing with. And they were eager to step up to the plate.

If you increase hospital capacity by 50 percent, that gets you 27,000 beds on top of the existing, it takes you to 80,000.

Some hospitals, I asked as a goal, try to increase by 100 percent your capacity. And 50 percent was the minimum. The goal was 100 percent. I believe some hospitals will actually try to do that. And I encouraged them to try to do that. As impossible as it sounds.

But now is the time to be aggressive and do things you haven't done before. If some of them do that, and I believe some of them will, that would be additional 5,000 beds. We get to 85,000 beds.

FEMA, Army Corps of Engineers, what we're doing in Javits Center, what we're doing in the Westchester Convention Center, Westbury campus, Stonybrook campus, that's another 4,000. Takes us to 89,000.

The U.S. Navy ship "Comfort," the president dispatched, that would be 1,000 beds to backfill from hotels. That takes you to 90,000.


If we take all the state dormitories in downstate New York, that could get us an additional 29,000 beds. We would be at 119,000 beds that you need. You're still not at the 140,000 that you need. But then we're looking at hotels, we're looking at former nursing homes, converting other facilities to make up the differential.

So a lot creative, aggressive. but, in life, you do what you have to do. And that's what we're doing on the bed capacity.