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Senate, White House Agree on Largest Stimulus Package in U.S. History; NYC Epicenter of U.S. Outbreak, Cases Doubling Every 3 Days; India Orders 1.3 Billion People to Stay At Home. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

It is Wednesday, March 25th. It's 5:00 in the east. I'm John Berman, along with Christine Romans.

And breaking in just the last few hours, there is a deal. A $2 trillion stimulus agreement reached by the White House and Senate leaders just a short time ago. It is being touted as the biggest spending package in history. But will it be enough to spark or even save this frozen economy?

The other major headline this morning, the alarming and perhaps unchecked spread of coronavirus, especially here in New York, cases are doubling every three days in the nation's largest city. Almost half of them people under 45 years old.

Governor Cuomo says simply we have not flattened the curve. The federal government now says anyone who has recently left New York should self-quarantine for 14 days.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That stimulus deal, John, will deliver checks to Americans and cash for hospitals and small business. It's welcomed news to President Trump. He wants the country opened by Easter, that's just two and a half weeks by now. Why Easter? The president says it's a beautiful time to do it.

But the number of deaths and cases in the U.S. continues to soar. There are now more than 53,000 cases in the U.S., 709 people have died. Tuesday was the deadliest day in America so far.

A coronavirus task force source tells CNN the president's advisers are urging him to make Easter more of an aspirational date to ease social distancing. Public health experts warn scaling back too quickly too soon could hurt those efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. She's live on Capitol Hill with our breaking news. This is a huge stimulus. Never seen something this big before.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Christine. I mean, when you think about this, this was something yesterday they said first we're in the red zone, then the five-yard line, then the two-yard line. It took 12 more hours to cross that finish line.

It was just before 1:00 in the morning when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that we have a deal. This is $2 trillion in economic stimulus, calling it a wartime investment, Mitch McConnell. Schumer saying it was the biggest investment that they have seen in American history.

Here's how it breaks down. We're talking about $500 billion in loans to distressed companies, $350 billion in loans for small businesses, $250 billion direct payments to individuals and families, and then also money for unemployment insurance benefits, state and local governments as well as those hard-hit hospitals.

How does this break down for Americans, individuals? Well, you're talking about $1,200 for individuals earning up to $75,000, and then for a married couple, $2,400. And then for those earning up to $150,000, and $500 per child.

Now, when is this actually going to get passed? It is going to be noon. The Senate will come back and they will take a look at this. It will be later in the afternoon that they will actually vote. The big question, how will this get beyond to the House?

Well, we saw Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, all of us seeing her. She was here with her daughter and her grandchildren. Clearly, she is comfortable here in Washington, but she is not comfortable with bringing back the rest of the members of Congress, so she is hoping, instead of having to require them to come back, unanimous consent. But if any member of Congress objects, that would create a potential problem, but that is what she hopes to see would be the fastest way to get this legislation passed and to get those funds in critical hands -- Christine.

ROMANS: Assuming she could get that done, how long before there are checks -- there are direct deposits in American taxpayers' bank accounts?

MALVEAUX: They certainly hope as soon as possible. If you're talking about getting this signed, then you've got to work with the task force to make sure that it gets to each one of those agencies, but they hope to do that in a very quick fashion, perhaps in days.

ROMANS: All right, Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill -- thank you, Suzanne.


BERMAN: So, this morning, New York is in desperate need of supplies. The rate of infection doubling here every three days. The governor pleading for federal assistance, and anyone leaving New York being told to quarantine for 14 days.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is live at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

And, Brynn, the WHO says it might very well be that New York is the epicenter of the world pandemic at this point.


Listen, the surgeon general, John, said it was going to get bad this week, right? And we're certainly seeing that here in New York, but it's happening in other places, too. We're seeing a lot more cases in New Jersey, which is now the second most cases in the country, behind New York. Connecticut and major cities like Louisiana.

So, of course, we know this is not getting any better.


But here in New York, get this, the governor actually thinks that the apex, the surge where the hospitals are to reach the most cases, that's not going to happen for another two to three weeks.


GINGRAS (voice-over): More than half of the coronavirus cases in the United States are from the New York City metro area. And the state's number is doubling about every three days.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Right now, I am satisfied we can get through this week in New York City in terms of our healthcare system. And even with that, I think some of our hospitals are going to be very stressed.

GINGRAS: The White House coronavirus task force's coordinator asking anyone who's visited New York state recently to take action now.

DR. DEBORAH BRIX, WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn't spread to others, no matter where they have gone.

GINGRAS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blasting the federal government, saying it needs to provide more medical equipment like ventilators.

CUOMO: How can we be in a situation where you can have New Yorkers possibly dying, because they can't get a ventilator, but a federal agency saying, I'm going to leave the ventilators in the stockpile?

GINGRAS: The president firing back, saying it's Cuomo's problem, not his.

TRUMP: He's supposed to be buying his own ventilators. We're going to help.

GINGRAS: Over half the United States has been ordered to stay at home, with more coming by week's end. But President Trump still optimistic the country will be back to normal in less than three weeks.

TRUMP: I would love to aim it right at Easter Sunday. So we're open for church service and services, generally, on Easter Sunday. That would be a beautiful thing.

We can socially distance ourselves and go to work.

GINGRAS: Meantime, the nation's top infectious disease doctor says it's impossible to set a deadline.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: When you can look at a date, but you've got to be very flexible, and on a literally day by day and week by week basis. Obviously, no one is going to want to tone down things when you see what's going on in a place like New York City.

GINGRAS: As states grapple with growing numbers of coronavirus patients, officials like those in Louisiana, with one of the highest growth rates in the nation, say their hospitals and first responders are already overwhelmed.

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: My EMS department, over 50 percent of my people are now on quarantine. And so while we've unlocked additional resources at the state level, the state can no longer go on without additional -- without federal assistance.


GINGRAS: So, the governor said what we're seeing here in New York is something that other major cities across the country could be seeing in their own cities in the next couple of days, next couple of weeks, so this statistic is really worth highlighting. About half the cases we're seeing here in New York are 18 to 44-year-olds, John and Christine. So, certainly, young people at this point cannot let their guard down.

BERMAN: No, not one bit. If young people are getting sick at this rate, it changes the parameters of this pandemic. And if did does spread, like the governor says it might, to other cities, that, too, would raise serious questions about the notion of opening this country by Easter.

Brynn Gingras in Queens -- thank you, Brynn, so much for your reporting.

So, you heard president Trump say he is thinking about full churches on Easter, the exact kind of behavior public health officials say could cost lives in one of the world's most populous nations tells everyone to stay home.

CNN's special coverage continues, next.



ROMANS: All right. The biggest lockdown anywhere in the world now in effect. India telling all 1.3 billion people to stay home for the next three weeks.

CNN's Vedika Sud live in Delhi, India, with more -- Vedika.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: Well, Christine, 1.3 billion in the number you just announced, and quite a staggering number of people in India, the second most populated country in the world is under lockdown, which amounts to about 17 percent of the population of the world. Just try to take that in for a moment.

Prime Minister Modi yesterday did announce and reach out to the people of the country. He said this lockdown is going to be for three weeks. This at a time when there are 560 confirmed coronavirus cases in India and nine deaths.

This is an ambitious plan that the prime minister has in mind. And what is really very worrying after the announcement are the fact that there were a lot of people who went out onto the roads. They tried to access supermarkets. There was panic all across India for about two to three hours after the announcement when people started to hoard things.

And that's when the prime minister had to reach out to them again saying, you know what, stop panicking. Essential commodities will be available through these three weeks. You need to stay within your household.

But there are challenges as well at this point in time, the main one being the rural areas. How is the prime minister going to make sure that he reaches out to those people? How is he going to ensure that food will be available to almost 60 percent of India's population that lives in villages and rural areas of India? That's one concern.

Prime Minister Modi also went on to talk about how the economy's going to take a hit, and this is a worry for a lot of Indians back home, but he said at this point in time, the economy is not the priority. It is the people of India and their safety, the safety of their families, which should be priority for him as well as the rest of the country.

Therefore, the prime minister himself and the rest of India is going to be under quarantine for the next three weeks.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Three weeks. Wow.

Vedika Sud, thank you so much for that.

John, a quarantine on a scale I don't think we've ever seen before.

BERMAN: I was just thinking about that. It it's hard to imagine 1.3 billion people told to stay home. It puts things in perspective, when you're talking about some of these stay-at-home orders in the United States.

ROMANS: Sure does.

BERMAN: In the meantime, new this morning, the Chinese government says it is ready to ease some restrictions in Wuhan. That is where the coronavirus outbreak began.


It has been locked down since January.

CNN's David Culver, who was in Wuhan and is now in Shanghai, can give us the very latest on this -- David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, you mentioned those numbers out of India. I think here we calculated that it would be 780 million under different forms of lockdown. And they're starting to ease a little bit.

Now, there seems to be a trial period in Hubei province, kind of where all of this started, and it's affecting every city in Hubei with the exception of the capital, Wuhan, the original epicenter. But it looks as though they're testing, starting today, in fact in those outlying areas, seeing if they can ease the travel restrictions, but people we've been in touch with, since as you mentioned, we were in Wuhan two months ago, they're not considering this to be all over, and really, they don't feel like this is back to normal.


CULVER (voice-over): At the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, there is now a countdown to freedom with those living under lockdown with Hubei province relaxing restrictions starting Wednesday, and its capital Wuhan set to relax its rules on April 8th.

DELA EFIFANIA, PHD STUDENT: I think it's really amazing. Finally! I've been at home for two months.

CULVER: PhD student Dela Efifania video-chatted with us from her cramped dormitory. It's been two months of lockdown, her life, like an increasing number of us, requiring a creative balance.

EFIFANIA: If you try to see it in a positive way that you get to relax, you get to try to cook, maybe you can learn how to cook more or you can exercise at home.

CULVER: She's been doing all of that, working out indoors, lots of cooking, plenty of eating.

EFIFANIA: I can't stop eating!

CULVER: Watching movies and keeping connected with her family back in Indonesia.

While excited to see signs of progress, she's also hesitant about stepping back out into the city.

EFIFANIA: I'm anxious because the lockdown is working, right? So, there is no more people getting infected. But when they open, then what happens?

CULVER: Chinese state media shows images of Wuhan preparing for that moment. Intercity traffic checkpoints coming down, buses disinfected, gearing up for the return to rush hour. Sanitation crews working to clean mass transit centers like the Wuhan railway station. And medical teams like this shanghai-based crew packing up to head home, leaving the front lines.

It's reassuring for residents like Iris Yu.

It was not always positive, she told us. I could always get bored and scared, but I'm particularly thankful to my friends in other cities where the epidemic situation was not as series. They often called me and chatted with me, which could help ease my emotions.

When we first touched base with Bo Hanlin three weeks ago, both his wife and mother were undergoing treatment for the virus and Bo was critical of the local government's handling of the crisis, but now?

Because the condition is under control, the supplies have kept up, he says, life is fine now. I can't go out, but overall, it's getting better and better.

And so, too, are his wife and mother. He says both have fully recovered. These residents have been living under some of the most extreme lockdown measures and now offer some advice to others around the world entering self-isolation.

EFIFANIA: Yes, maybe it's God saying, like, OK, I clear up everything -- your schedule, your classes, your work. You cannot do anything. You stay inside, so, maybe you can talk to God.

CULVER: She and others left with a lot of time for talking and listening.


CULVER: It has been fascinating, John, hearing from different folks within Wuhan, which is one of the most stream lockdown situations. Think about how mentally they have processed it. Because for some of them, it's been 60-plus days and you heard Dela right here, she says, for her, it was faith. I talked to one Chinese couple who said it was spirituality, which they really didn't have before. Others have turned to working out. And still others picking up hobbies like cooking, anything to pass the time and feel like they're doing something useful.

But overall, it's not back to normal for many of them because you've got to remember, schools are still not back in session and many businesses are going to be remaining closed probably for a good amount of time ahead. In fact, some may never reopen. BERMAN: We're all going through the same thing in so many different

places around the world right now, David. So it's interesting to hear from people who have been going through it for so much longer.

As you note, the process of relaxing is perilous here. The process of relaxing these measures is perilous. If you do it too soon, you could have a spike in cases.

David Culver, thanks very much.

This $2 trillion economic stimulus deal reached overnight, that's the breaking news. What's in it for you? We'll tell you what you need to be looking for, next.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking this morning, Senate leaders and the White House have reached an agreement on this $2 trillion stimulus package believed to be the biggest economic rescue in U.S. history. The question, is it enough to help millions of Americans at risk of losing their jobs, who have already lost their jobs because of the pandemic?

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, who is also anchoring this hour, joins me now with more.

So, Romans, really, the most important question as we sit here at 5:24 a.m., is what's in this?

ROMANS: Well, you know, checks for millions of American families, you know. And that's one thing that will come out pretty quickly, once they figure out how to get those out the door. They want to do that quickly, the treasury secretary said, so maybe in the next couple weeks.

But there's also a whole bunch of money here for hospitals, for local communities who are going to need the money as this pandemic gets worse here.


So, you've got hundreds of billions of dollars for companies, hundreds of billions of dollars for the health care system and hundreds of billions of dollars for American workers. There's also better jobless benefits, and this is something Democrats were really, really pushing for. They know there will be millions of people out of work who are going to be need bigger checks for a longer period of time, John.

BERMAN: Talk to me about the jobless benefits, because that's very interesting. There's different money coming in different ways here, and Democrats have argued that boosted unemployment benefits actually gets more money to more people in need more quickly.

ROMANS: Yes. And it's not just a one-time check. It's a check that is a recurring check, so people have more stability for that. And we know from research that jobless benefits tend to be things that go right into the economy right away. So, that's $250 billion for that, so those will be bigger checks for people. Because also, when you get jobless benefits, you don't always get exactly the money that you made.

Also, they're loosening some of the restrictions, so for people who were furloughed, for example, will be more easily able to get those checks than under prior rules.

BERMAN: One of the holdups on this deal was oversight over the big chunk of money for corporations. What do we know about that oversight?

ROMANS: There will be a panel, an inspector general, to make sure that it's just not at the whim of the Treasury Department or the whim of politics to decide what companies will get bailouts, and that was really important here.

I mean, remember the last time we had a big bailout, which was half the size of this in 2008-2009, there was so much anger about those bailouts that it actually spawned a whole Tea Party movement, remember? And that changed American politics, spending that kind of money, and the lack of oversight in spending some of that money.

So, there is oversight this time around so that's not just a pot of money, a slush fund, Democrats were calling it. The president said that he would have the ultimate oversight over that slush fund and that really made Democrats nervous. Now there will be independent oversight of how that money is spent.

BERMAN: Speaking of the president, there are reports this morning that there are going to be limits or restrictions on who can get some of this money, namely, not people who work in the government. Would that include the president's family?

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, you can't have a bailout of resorts and hotel properties and golf clubs with taxpayer money of the president's business. That was something the Democrats were very, very keen to get in there. They just literally did not trust the president that this money wouldn't go to his own businesses.

BERMAN: In terms of how much this will go to propping up the economy, what are the large questions still hanging out there for you and the people you're talking to.

ROMANS: Well, do we have control of the virus? That is still the biggest unknown. And how far this goes to helping the economy depends on how we get a handle on the virus and make sure we're not doing more damage, right?

You also have the Fed. The Fed is very important here. And the Fed actually bought Congress some time. The fed has basically said the U.S. economy is too big to fail and it will do whatever it takes to keep the financial system sound and safe.

So, that is a really important leg of this stool here. The other one is Congress and will Congress continue to spend money even after this? And then the third is the medical piece, do we have the social distancing and flattening of the curve right? And do we have the patience to make sure we don't sabotage that by going back to business too quickly?

If you heard American consumer confidence, that people are afraid of this virus even after they go back to work, that could hold the economy back for years.

BERMAN: I'm so glad you brought up the last point because the president, the way he talks about it, he makes it seem like every business leader are calling him and telling him to open up right away. That's not true. Morgan Stanley put out a report yesterday warning that if the social restrictions are relaxed too quickly, it could have devastating impacts.

ROMANS: And could undermine all of the work that has been done. The important thing is patience and the science.

The president also talking about Easter. Easter would be a good time to open up the economy again. There's been some talk about staggering people going back to work, depending on how old you are and how healthy you are. You don't want to sabotage the work that has already been done.

And the Easter date, John, that is a date that is an emotional date, not a scientific date. That's because the president wants the churches full on Easter. He thinks that would be a beautiful thing. Well, full churches is something that terrifies scientists who want to stop this thing.

BERMAN: The president says full churches. He talks about it like it would be a dream for him. For public health officials, it would be a nightmare.


BERMAN: All right. Romans, we have a lot more to discuss here, including the president's decision to try to relax some of these restrictions around the United States. What does it mean for you where you live? That's next.