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New York Governor: Evidence Suggests Social Distancing Working; Coronavirus Survivor: I Was Genuinely Bedridden For Eight Days; Governor Says, Louisiana Has Fastest Growth Rate Of Coronavirus In World. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from Washington.

And underway right now, the Senate trying to rush a mammoth stimulus package through today. This is a bill that promises to inject $2 trillion into the American economy. The end goal is to fend off a new great depression.

This morning, New York's governor offering a glimmer of hope, evidence suggesting that social distancing and putting American life on hold might be working. But there is a disconnect today between when President Trump wants to get America back to normal and when his own health experts on his coronavirus task force say that would be safe to do.

Now, the latest CNN tally puts the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. at more than 60,000, which is almost 10,000 new cases each day. And of those cases nationwide, about half of them are in New York.

The governor there, Andrew Cuomo, saying last hour, his state has ten times the problem of the next most impacted state.

Some good news this morning that social distancing measures might be working, he says, but that is really just a glimmer of hope in a very dark picture coming from New York. The hospital bed shortage is serious. And as of this moment, New York is still short about 15,000 ventilators. Governor Cuomo is warning, quote, we have purchased everything that can be purchased.

And in New York City, every facet of city life really hit in some way, and that includes the New York Police Department, 211 confirmed cases in the NYPD as of last night. The sick-outs would cripple the department under normal times. There are nearly 3,000 officers who are at home.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is in New York City. Brynn, give us the latest.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Brianna, listen, I just talked to a police officer who told me that he now -- his partner is being shifted to a different borough here in the city because there is a need in that particular borough.

So officers are all being shifted around, because as you said, this is a huge burden on that force, and you know the size of the NYPD. So this really goes across the board, right? If it's FDNY, NYPD, emergency workers, not just here in New York, but, of course, across the country.

Here, as far as what we're seeing outside this hospital, I want to get out of the way so you can see. Listen, this line has gone down in the last hour, which I don't know if that's good or bad news, but it's certainly what we're seeing. But I can tell you, at one point, this line was wrapped around this hospital.

And within just the last three days that we've been reporting here, they have now added another tent. That white tent wasn't here yesterday. That is an annex to the emergency room where these people you see standing in line can get care, possibly even get the coronavirus test.

But, again, I keep mentioning this, but it just breaks my heart, because you imagine all these people standing in line for hours, not feeling well, having flu-like symptoms, trying to just get some sort of care, trying to get some sort of answers. That's the situation here on the ground. It's what the governor has constantly talked about in his news conferences. And then, of course, he's highlighted the needs, right?

Yesterday, he was extremely fiery in his news conference talking about the need of ventilators, personal protective equipment for the nurses and doctors. The good news is he says the state has enough for the next three weeks, but, again, he's always said that after three weeks, you know, that apex of the curve, that's when he's expected for that surge in hospitals to hit. So, who knows what's going to happen after that three weeks.

And you nicely put out there that, you know, there's that need for ventilators, and we really only have about half of what this state needs, according to the governor.

So the need is here, and certainly, we are seeing that every day that we are out here in front of this hospital. Certainly, it's pretty jarring to see standing here and seeing these numbers increase, increase by the day.

KEILAR: Yes, it is scary to watch. There's no way around that, Brynn. Thank you so much for that report there on the ground in New York City.

President Trump has picked Easter as his target date for reopening the economy and for people getting back to work, which is 18 days from now.

Let's talk with Dr. Wilbur Chen. He is an infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland. He is also a member of Governor Hogan's COVID-19 task force in the state.

I just wonder, Doctor, Easter, 18 days from now, how comfortable are you with that?

DR. WILBUR CHEN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Not comfortable in a nutshell. I think people are going stir crazy. They're feeling cabin fever.


I can understand that people want to get out there. I understand that businesses want to reopen. But on the other hand, I think that in this situation, I'm really concerned about an acceleration of the infections that we're seeing nationwide.

KEILAR: and I wonder when you hear the president talking about this goal -- and, look, we've heard from a task force, the coronavirus task force at the White House, source, who is saying that is more of an aspirational date. But, I mean, he is very much in charge when he's talking about the days and this desire that he seems to continuously want, which is to reopen sooner than his experts are saying. How concerned are you by the fact that he and his scientific experts are not on the same page?

CHEN: Well, you know, of course, I'm concerned, and I hope that all parties are listening to each other. I think on the one hand, there is -- there are people who are economists and others who are trying to make an economic argument under this instance and others, such as myself, healthcare workers, public health officials, that are trying to also understand and balance out lives.

And so, I think that at this time, what's implicit in kind of the question is that there is an economic argument to lives either saved or not saved, and for the medical systems, you know, the burden that we're having right now on the medical systems as a whole, how they're being overwhelmed. So, again, that's a discussion beyond me as well.

But I think that it is concerning. You know, I continue to watch and see how this develops. I'm hoping that we will continue to extend this social distancing and all of these other measures for beyond Easter.

KEILAR: Yes. I think -- and we've been hearing that from all of our experts, so you're in a lot of company.

I want to ask you about -- the World Health Organization saying that the United States could be the next epicenter, but that it's not too late to turn it around, testing, tracing, isolating, treating. What do you think about that? Is it possible with the way you see things going in the U.S. for the U.S. to turn that around?

CHEN: Yes, I'm hopeful. I think that there are a lot of activities that are in progress and that on a day-to-day, I hear about new developments, positive developments in which we are opening up more hospital beds, we are getting more lab testing online, these sorts of measures that, again, are helpful.

You know, the WHO certainly has that concern that they've said that the U.S. could be the next epicenter. I think that we're seeing a lot of cases continuing to evolve. Here in the U.S., we're now kind of right behind Italy, and so we're -- we don't want to be in that enviable position of having more cases. We don't want to be a leader in that instance.

But, again, you know, the more time that we're able to buy with the social distancing and closing of businesses allows us to continue to surge our capacity in many different areas.

KEILAR: Do you think that there should be stay-at-home practices across the state or across the country? How do you think that should be carried out?

CHEN: Yes, I think that what I've been seeing is that, from state to state, there are slightly different practices, but a lot of unifying factors are coming through many of the states, especially the states that have community transmission that's been well defined, and that is that the closure of schools, the closure of non-essential businesses.

In some states, they've used the word, lockdown. other states, such as Maryland, we don't use the word, lockdown, but we've basically employed the same measures as many of the other states, so we've been very aggressive here in Maryland. And I think that it's been due to those measures that we've seen some early successes, at least, with minimization of community transmissions.

Now, it's still early, so the data are not completely out, but I think that we're still seeing that we're minimizing what could have been much worse in the acceleration of cases.

KEILAR: Yes, we're right here in Washington, D.C., next to Maryland, sort of waiting, looking at this wave coming at us and just wondering how big it's going to be when it crashes. Dr. Chen, thank you.

CHEN: You're very welcome. Thank you.

KEILAR: The Senate stimulus bill comes in at a hefty $2 trillion. So what's in there for small businesses, for big businesses and for individual workers?


I want to bring in our Julia Chatterley.

So, Julia, these cash payments that have gotten a lot of focus, the thing is they're likely not going to get to Americans as quickly as they need, because they need the money now, right? So tell us about this expansion of unemployment insurance. What's there?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: S, it was a one-two punch. You're quite right. And you are focusing on the important thing. This was an extension and an expansion of unemployment insurance. A bump every week of $600 on top of what you get from the state, your individual state where you're living, but it was also expanded for four months.

But, actually, it's even bigger than that. If you're a furloughed worker, so you're still on the payroll, but you're not earning, you also qualify, and the benefit there is that if you have health insurance, you continue to have that too.

But it also includes the gig economy workers, your Uber driver, people who are self-employed, contractors as well. There was always a gray area here, and this is vital for this economy. It's around a third of workers operate in this space. So this is a big deal.

KEILAR: No, that is a very big deal, and I'm so glad you highlight that, Julia. When we're talking about the timeline for folks seeing that cash payment, when are they going to see that? Who all is going to be getting that check?

CHATTERLEY: A great question too. So $1,200 for adults if your income is below $75,000 a year. It then incrementally phases out as your annual salary rises to the point where you get to $99,000 and then you don't get a check. For children, $500. So that gives you a sense of the payments.

You asked the right question though, because what we've seen in the past when these payments have been made, checks can take up to two months to get to people. Maybe they've accelerated that and they can do that this time, but I think the hope is that technology is a little bit better now. If you've paid taxes, they could have you a direct deposit information.

Also a similar story with the social security benefits as well. So the hope is that we can use a combination of the two and simply get money into people's hands as fast as possible. This is meant to be an instant cushion.

KEILAR: Yes. And I want to ask you, because just in, Julia, there's a disturbing, new report from the Economic Policy Institute, and it predicts that 14 million jobs could be lost by this summer alone. So, I mean, that's more than 10 percent of all private sector jobs lost. What does that number say to you?

CHATTERLEY: It's a real warning. I mean, we are talking great depression-style percentages in terms of unemployment. This whole stimulus bill was about trying to prevent small, medium-sized and large companies letting go of their workers. This is the critical thing.

So if we're talking, if we look more broadly at the small and medium- sized businesses there, the key on that lending and the grants will be please keep hold of your workers, same story.

There's been a lot of controversy about this lending facility for big businesses, and there will be conditions and oversight attached, but, again, it's about holding on to workers.

Brianna, it's going to come down to how long this economic stop goes on, how long even the strongest businesses in this country can continue to hold on to workers, particularly given that they have a lack of clarity about the future.

This will help, but some clarity on the outlook here in trying to cushion people, there's still a lot of uncertainty, and my money is on more stimulus being required.

KEILAR: More being required, yes. We've been hearing that from the states. So I think we'll be hearing that from a lot of folks as well. Julia Chatterley, thank you so much.

CHATTERLEY: Absolutely. Thank you.

KEILAR: And I will speak to a coronavirus survivor about what she's going through. We'll talk about her message for young people who think they cannot get sick.

Plus, the governor of Louisiana says his state has the fastest growth rate of cases in the world.

And Prince Charles testing positive for coronavirus. What it means for the royal family and the 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth.



KEILAR: The coronavirus pandemic has been mainly understood in data, the number of confirmed cases, the infection rate, the number of days required for quarantine, but it's so important to show these stories of the people who are behind those numbers.

And one of those people is Lara Woolfson. She is one of nearly 100 people who contracted this virus after attending a medical conference in Boston in late February. And now, three weeks after her first symptoms appeared, she has pretty much fully recovered, and she's joining us now to talk about this.

Lara, you look healthy, but I'll tell you, we've had a lot of folks on who are recovering from this who say they can still feel just how tough it's been to go through this. Walk us through how you feel now and how this all began for you.

LARA WOOLFSON, RECOVERED FROM COVID-19: Yes, hi. I'm feeling great now. I feel back to my old self, and I don't have any lingering symptoms. But over the course of the last two weeks is probably the sickest I've ever been in my life. It started with just a really little dry cough that I didn't think very much of.

About almost a week after exposure at the conference and then a couple days after that, the cough disappeared, but I could tell I was coming down with something. It's just those early stages when you get sick, when you think to yourself, maybe I need to take a little extra vitamin C today.

But in the days that followed, I had a fever of 101 for almost a week. I had extreme fatigue. I can normally power through most cold and flu things, but this really knocked me down for a full week in bed with very little energy to do anything.

[13:20:00] And maybe one of the scariest symptoms was the tightness in the chest. So it is as they describe, just a little bit of difficulty breathing. It's the pneumonia chest. So, difficulty filling my entire chest, and when I did fill my chest with air, it would make me cough. It was very uncomfortable.

KEILAR: And so how did you manage that? Did you just -- I mean, were you truly fearful? Were you uncomfortable?

WOOLFSON: I was very uncomfortable. As you know, there's no cure, so they send you home and they tell you to treat it like the cold or the flu. So I was taking over-the-counter medication, DayQuil and Nyquil every four hours, trying to hydrate. And I was resting, not necessarily by choice, but this just really knocked me down.

KEILAR: Yes, you just had such incredible fatigue, as you described. And you know, one of the things that you've talked about in sharing your story is that it's not just the physical symptoms, it was also just the mental element of this. Tell us about that.

WOOLFSON: Yes. For me, that mental and emotional really rivaled some of the physical symptoms. It was this incredible dread once I found out what my diagnosis was, that I had coronavirus, of notifying my friends and family that I had seen in the week before I had any symptoms. They say that when you don't have symptoms is one of the most dangerous times to be spreading the virus.

So I had just been going about my normal day, going to work, photographing other conferences. It was two of the busiest weeks I had had in months and I had seen hundreds of people. So notifying all of those people was heartbreaking for me, the fact that I was inflicting this panic and anxiety that I was experiencing on them and the fact that they would then have to quarantine and tell their family members.

You don't know who you've seen that week that has a compromised immune system or lives with a grandparent or a parent that could experience these symptoms so much worse than I did. And one of the -- I guess that there's a silver lining, I was so busy during those two weeks that I didn't have a chance to go home and see my own parents. My dad has pancreatic cancer. He's on chemo. And that would have been the worst possible outcome I could have imagined from all of this.

KEILAR: Yes, that is -- I mean, that is a blessing, Lara, that you were not at home to see your parents. Can you speak a little bit to -- I know one of the reasons you're sharing your story is because you want other people to know this can happen to them. They don't have to be older. They don't have to be immuno-suppressed. You are young, you are healthy and this happened to you.

WOOLFSON: Yes. I'm 36. I'm very active. I work out every day, eat well. I would consider myself in very good health. And the circumstances I found myself at the conference wasn't anything that gave me pause. Nobody sneezed on me. You know, I was just behaving normally at my job.

I don't touch clients. So this was -- I caught this so easily, and that's really why I'm sharing this. It's a cautionary tale of we need to stay home. We need to do the social distancing. And I think everybody should be acting as if they already have this virus. We should be self-quarantining.

KEILAR: All right. It's very good advice. Lara Woolfson, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

WOOLFSON: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: We're going to get you coronavirus questions answered. You can join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a live CNN Global Town Hall, it's called Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. That is live tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

There's some disturbing news coming out of Louisiana. The governor there says that his state has the fastest rise in coronavirus cases in the world. Why is that? We'll take a look.

Plus, former President Obama issues a rare message about social distancing that really seems to rebuke the president's urge to reopen the economy.



KEILAR: New York may have the most cases of coronavirus in the nation, but Louisiana actually has the fastest growth rate of the virus anywhere in the world. This is according to the governor who released this graph using case data through last Saturday. And it shows that Louisiana is surpassing New York and also the Netherlands in terms of just how quickly this coronavirus is spreading there.

Within a single week, Louisiana has seen its case load grow by tenfold, from fewer than 100 cases to more than 1,000. Currently, there are close to 1,400 cases with at least 46 people dead from the infection.

And the economics researcher who has been crunching the numbers on the State of Louisiana is joining me now. Gary Wagner is a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


And, Professor, thank you so much for joining us and giving us a sense of what Louisiana is going through.