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Global Coronavirus Crisis; Millions File For Unemployment; More Than 1,000 Coronavirus Deaths in United States. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today, the United States reached what once might have seemed an unthinkable milestone. There are now more than 1,000 people dead from the coronavirus in the United States. Right now, the death toll stands at a staggering 1,135. This time last week, that number was 164.

Yesterday was the deadliest day in the U.S. from coronavirus, with 233 people dying in the U.S. in just one day. All indications show that, in the short term, that horrific record will likely continue to be broken day after day, until we reach the peak, which will come but could be weeks away.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the U.S., tells CNN that the pandemic is actually accelerating in the U.S.

And behind all these numbers, of course, let's remember they're not just numbers. They're real people, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, neighbors and friends currently being cared for by those on the front lines of this war, health care workers.

Many of us, of course, are heeding the calls from those health care workers and from officials, staying home, trying to avoid going out as much as possible.

But as one emergency room physician on the front lines put it -- quote -- "It's really hard to understand how bad this is and how bad it's going to be if all you see are empty streets. Hospitals are nearing capacity. We're running out of ventilators. Ambulance sirens don't stop."

In Boston, more than 100 employees at three different hospitals have been infected with coronavirus. One expert warning that if the virus takes out critical employees such as health care workers -- quote -- "It's game over. It's lights out."

There's nothing more destabilizing. And, indeed, the stories coming out of hospitals are in some cases terrifying, as hospitals become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients caring for the many of the growing cases in the U.S. Confirmed cases in the U.S., that number is now up to 78,000.

Now, about half of the confirmed cases of coronavirus are in one state, New York state. That is currently the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic. At this hour, there are more than 37,000 cases in nearly 400 deaths just in New York.

Inside Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, one doctor telling "The New York Times" that they're scrambling to get just basic resources.


DR. COLLEEN SMITH, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: There's various offices, from the president to the head of Health and Hospitals, saying things like, we're going to be fine. Everything's fine.

And from our perspective, everything is not fine. I don't have the support that I need and even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients.

And it's -- it's America, and we're supposed to be a First World country.


TAPPER: CNN's Erica Hill joins us now live from Elmhurst, New York.

Erica, CNN has reached out to the hospital for official comment on that doctor's statements, but the New York City emergency management commission backed up the account on CNN, saying, there is still a need for medical supplies and PPE, personal protective equipment.

Explain what Elmhurst Hospital is seeing and what they're going through.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what had seen and are hearing from medical professionals who are coming out, one this morning describing the state of mind as being one of paranoia, saying that they were bursting at the seams inside.

And there is a real concern among the health care workers there about who may end up getting coronavirus. They don't want to be a carrier. They don't want to pass it on to any of their colleagues. They certainly don't want to bring it home with them.

I can tell you one thing we have noticed today since we were here, the lines very long, almost around the block, as our colleagues Brynn Gingras and Linh Tran were reporting earlier this morning. That does seem to have leveled off this afternoon.

In fact, at one point, there was no one waiting in line to go in. That's a good thing. What does it actually mean for the inside? It doesn't mean, Jake, of course, that the need is side is nonexistent.

Again, we are hearing very similar things as to what this doctor told "The New York Times." And, as you point out, the emergency management commissioner here said that account was, in her words, spot on.

TAPPER: And, Erica two makeshift more trucks have now been set up in New York City, one at Elmhurst, one at Bellevue. How unusual is that?

HILL: So, we did reach out to the medical examiner, and what we were told is, they're not being used right now. They are there because this is part of a plan, this is part of the preparation, so that, if and when they are needed, they are in place.

So, preparations are under way, because, as we know, as you were just saying, we have not hit the peak yet. And, so if the need arises, they want them to be in place at the moment, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Lisa Dabby. She's an emergency medicine physician at UCLA Health. Also with us, Arthur Caplan. He's a CNN medical analyst and founding director of NYU's Division of Medical Ethics.


Dr. Dabby, let's start with you.

You're an E.R. doctor. What are you hearing from your colleagues at E.R.s everywhere?

DR. LISA DABBY, UCLA HEALTH: So, in L.A. right now, we're seeing a pretty steady influx. We're seeing about 20 patients a day who we're diagnosing with coronavirus.

We're preparing, we're ready for the surge, but it hasn't quite hit us yet.

In terms of protective equipment, we are being very cautious with our protective equipment at this time. But, at other hospitals, some of my colleagues are being given one mask that they have to use for their whole shift.

In New York, friends of mine who work in New York are saving their mouse. They're using the same mask day after day after day and storing it in bags, because it's all they have to protect themselves at this time.

TAPPER: And just staying with you, Dr. Dabby, an internal medicine resident in Columbia, Meredith Case, tweeted yesterday: "Today was the worst day anyone's ever seen. But tomorrow will be worse. We're on the precipice of rationing. Needless to say, these decisions run counter to everything we stand for, and are incredibly painful."

I assume that that's the real fear out in California, that this will come to rationing.

DABBY: That is a terrible fear of mine. I don't want to be at a point where somebody is giving me one mask and saying, this is all you have for the whole day. These masks are meant for one-time use. They're meant to be put on your face to protect you from one patient and to be thrown away immediately.

The idea of wearing a mask for hours straight, of it getting moist and soiled and not working the way it needs to work is terrifying to me.

You wouldn't take a firefighter and ask him to run into a burning building in a bathing suit. And that's essentially what they're asking us to do. They're asking us to go see patients without protective equipment and throw ourselves right into the fire.

And I don't think that's fair.

TAPPER: And, Arthur Caplan, your expertise as medical ethics. What are these doctors and nurses and emergency personnel supposed to do?

Arthur Caplan, are you there?

We lost Arthur Caplan. OK, well, that's what happens when you have shows that are remote.

Is Dr. Dabby still with us?

DABBY: I'm still here, Jake.

TAPPER: OK. So let me go to you.

An E.R. nurse not on either of the coasts, so not somebody in the middle of an influx, told me personally that she had to use the same N95 mask four shifts in a row. This is not a part of the country going through a huge crisis, although we do expect that it will spread.

At the end of the 12-hour mark for this nurse, that mask needed to be placed in a brown paper bag to prevent contamination and then reused.

Explain for people at home who don't know the significance of that why that is problematic.

DABBY: So, as I was saying, this -- these masks are meant for one- time use.

They're created. And if the seal is broken, if it gets moist, the filter doesn't work the way it's supposed to work. So the integrity is gone once it's used once.

So the idea of wearing it all day, it collecting all the moisture from your face, it collecting the coronavirus on the outside from the infected patient, you're now taking a mask that has coronavirus on one side, has moisture on the other side, probably doesn't work the way it's supposed to work, and now you're using it over and over again.

You're not only putting yourself at risk, but you're putting other patients at risk. You now have an item that's contaminated that you're taking from room to room. That's not fair. That's not the right way to take care of people.

TAPPER: So, earlier today, White House official Peter Navarro accused one of my colleagues, Brianna Keilar, a great journalist and anchor, of sensationalizing the dire shortages going on, on the front lines by only focusing on places where doctors and nurses, instead of wearing proper PPE, are outfitting themselves in trash bags and the like.

Do you think that the media telling these stories is sensationalizing this crisis?

DABBY: Absolutely not, Jake. We appreciate the media's support.

There really needs to be a push right now for production of PPE. We really need to keep our health care workers, our front line, safe and healthy. People need to realize that, when they get sick, they're going to want somebody to take care of them. And if all the doctors and nurses are sick, who's going to be there to take care of all these people?

People need to know what's happening behind the scenes. It's not appropriate for people to be wearing trash bags. It's not appropriate for anesthesiologists to be wearing plastic bags over their heads when they're intubating.

It's definitely not appropriate to be wearing the same mask day after day. It's not safe.

TAPPER: And one doctor from Elmhurst told "The New York Times" that this is -- quote -- "the first wave of a tsunami." And compared the E.R. department to an overcrowded parking garage, where physicians need to move patients in and out of spots to access other patients that are blocked by stretchers.

We're not seeing images really like that, because doctors and nurses and people in emergency rooms are pretty much honoring HIPAA rules, honoring their colleagues by not wanting to bring unwanted attention.

But do you hear a lot of situations like that? Do you hear of a lot of stories that, if people saw the images in the U.S., that it would shock the system?


DABBY: I have heard from a lot of friends in the New York area that they feel like they're practicing medicine in a Third World country at this time, that they never in their lives imagined they would be put in the situation they're being put in.

They're terrified for their lives. They're terrified for the patient care. It's definitely happening in New York right now from people who I know who are on the ground there.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Lisa Dabby, thank you. Thanks to all of your colleagues for the work you're doing. It's heroic, and we appreciate it.

Our apologies to Arthur Caplan for the technical problems we had. We will have him back.

Coming up -- well, let's actually let's go to this right now. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, the state that has seen the

most deaths so far, today had a message for anyone out there feeling anxious and run down by our current reality.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): so the next time you feel tired -- and, believe me, I feel tired -- but when I feel tired, I think of the first responders who are out there every day showing up.

I think of the police officers, I think of the firefighters who are up there every day, the grocery store workers who are working double shifts just to keep food on the shelves, because people are buying so much food because they're nervous.

The pharmacists who have lines going out the door, and they're showing up every day, day after day, the transportation workers who don't have the luxury of feeling tired, because they have to get up, and they have to drive the bus, so the nurses and the health care professionals can get to work.

Who am I to complain about being tired, when so many people are doing such heroic efforts?


TAPPER: Heroic efforts, indeed.

Coming up next: 3.3 million, the shocking new jobless claims this week, as the Treasury secretary says the number isn't relevant to the overall economy.

Then I'll talk exclusively with the Major League Baseball commissioner on what would have been opening day, the league's new coronavirus initiative.

That's ahead.



TAPPER: Weekly unemployment numbers from the 2008 financial crisis or any other period, for that matter, don't come close to the record number out today.

Nearly 3.3 million people filed for unemployment in the United States in just one week, 3.3 million. With staggering numbers like that anticipated, Friday, the House is expected to vote on the $2 trillion stimulus bill which passed through the Senate yesterday, the largest bill ever of its kind.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.

But I want to start actually with CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley, who's in New York. Julia, so 3.3 million new unemployment filings in one week, almost five times higher than the previous record set in 1982. And this really actually is just a fraction of the number of people hurt by what's going on right now.


I can give you just a snapshot; 27 million workers in the United States work in businesses that literally switched off overnight, restaurants, bars, tourism. The average cash balance for small and medium-sized enterprise in the retail and the restaurant sector is around 16 to 19 days.

We were coming to month-end. They had bills to pay. They are going to make these tough decisions to let workers go, and we were going to see that more and more. They obviously didn't know that help was going to arrive in the form of this stimulus package too.

So we may see them rehire. We may see people still letting workers go even in the interim. These numbers, unfortunately, don't surprise me, Jake.

TAPPER: And about an hour before the unemployment numbers came out earlier today, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, made a rare TV appearance.

And he said this. Take a listen.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: This is not a typical downturn. What's happening here is people are being asked to close their businesses, to stay home from work and to not engage in certain kinds of economic activity.

And so they're pulling back. And at a certain point, we will get the spread of the virus under control. And at that time, confidence will return, businesses will open again, people will come back to work.


TAPPER: So, first, it's just so rare. It speaks volumes that the Fed chair, who hardly ever speaks publicly, certainly doesn't do interviews on "The Today Show," is out in the public, out trying to spread confidence.

And, two, I want to ask you, is he right? Is the virus really going to set the timetable on the economy?

CHATTERLEY: We're operating in a parallel universe, where the chief of the Central Bank goes on "The Today Show."

But that shows you the kind of situation that we're in. Confidence, Jake, is everything to this economy, confidence to go out and spend, confidence to go to restaurants. You can't underestimate how important that is. And his phrasing there was very important: under control. The debate

has evolved in the United States over the past few days. And it's really key. The only people that are going to judge and decide that this situation is under control is the health experts.

You imagine us opening up the economy, people going to a restaurant or a cinema, someone coughs, we're all running for the exit. That's the only way, I think, that we reopen the economy. And it has to be in line with the health experts that say, we have got this and it is under control.

TAPPER: So the new unemployment numbers for the entire month of March will come out next Friday, February's figure, 3.5 percent.

But do you think the weekly unemployment numbers actually give us a better snapshot of reality than the monthly?

CHATTERLEY: Absolutely. They're the cleanest, most up-to-date figures that we have.

If you look at the payrolls data for march, actually, the expectations are that it sees a downdraft in the number of jobs, but it's very minor.


And that's because the collection period for this data goes up to the 12th of the month, so before this real lockdown happened. So it's not about March. It's about the April numbers.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins into this conversation from the White House.

And, Kaitlan, I want you to take a listen to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin commenting earlier today on the staggeringly high number of unemployment claims. Take a listen.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I just think these numbers right now are not relevant, and whether they're bigger or smaller in the short term.

And the good thing about this bill is, the president is protecting those people. So, now with these plans, small businesses hopefully will be able to hire back a lot of those people.


TAPPER: So can you explain what he meant when he said that the number of unemployment claims is not relevant?


And people inside the White House will tell you that they had been bracing for these numbers to look pretty bad. I'm not sure that they exactly thought they would be this high, as high as they were. But they had been expecting some pretty ugly figures coming out of that jobless claims, that report today that they got.

And so that's why you're seeing the Treasury secretary, who spent most of his week on Capitol Hill going back and forth between Republicans and Democrats as they were working on this legislation, which he is hoping will help blunt the impact of those jobless claims that you saw there.

They're trying to give loans to small businesses. Hopefully, they can rehire those workers. They're talking about the unemployment insurance as well. But, clearly, these numbers are going to play a big factor inside the West Wing.

And, Jake, what we have heard from some aides is, they are saying that potentially this could be only fuel to the fire of President Trump's push for that Easter date of reopening the country.

TAPPER: The Easter date that no top health official supports.


TAPPER: In a letter that the White House released that the president wrote to governors, he said that he is thinking of revising, working on revising guidelines for social distancing.

What is the proposal here?

COLLINS: Yes, this is an interesting letter that we just got. We didn't really have a lot of explanation. It just came from the White House, this letter that the president had written to all of these governors.

Of course, they talk about -- it's very clear the president wants to revisit those guidelines. So, they're talking about how they want to revisit them. And one of the graphs is really interesting where they say they have expanded their testing capabilities, which we know were incredibly slow at the beginning of this outbreak here in the United States.

But the president then goes on to say that, through robust surveillance testing -- we're still figuring out exactly what that means -- they believe, with data-driven criteria, they can suggest guidelines that categorize counties as high-risk, medium-risk and low- risk, meaning they're that kind of a risk for spreading the coronavirus, though, of course, this has prompted a lot of questions of, do they actually have the testing capabilities to be able to have something this specific, have data this specific?

And then, of course, whether or not -- what those state officials are going to think. And if you have one high-risk county next one low-risk county, how does that work? What are those restrictions?

It's prompting a lot of questions. But, Jake, it also shows you the president is pushing ahead with that Easter deadline that he's now been floating.

TAPPER: Apparently under the belief that people stay in their own counties and never travel to other counties or states, apparently, or something like that.

Kaitlan Collins, Julia Chatterley, thank you so much. Appreciate your expertise.

Tonight, you can get more answers on all of your coronavirus-related questions at our CNN global town hall. It will be hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with Anderson Cooper and special guests Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. That's live tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

As deaths in the U.S. top 1,000, there are more than 8,000 deaths in Italy, where one church is now being used to store coffins. We will check in with our CNN reporters across the globe next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: It's no longer just a church. It's a cemetery -- that heart- wrenching message coming from a priest whose house of worship in Italy is now a makeshift graveyard, with loved ones coming to say goodbye to their loved ones who have passed.

In France, police are threatening to stop enforcing coronavirus confinement measures unless they are provided with the protective masks they need. More than 300 people died over the last 24 hours in France, bringing the nationwide total to nearly 1,700 dead.

China, where the virus originated, announced today that it is banning most foreigners from entering the country, effective Saturday.

And, in Spain, the death toll hit another grim milestone, topping 4,000. The country's prime minister declaring Spain is now the epicenter of the European outbreak.

CNN's correspondents are fanned out across the globe covering this deadly pandemic.

We're going to begin today with CNN's Scott McLean, who's in the Spanish capital of Madrid.

And, Scott, you're outside La Paz Hospital, one of the hardest-hit medical facilities in Madrid. How dire is the situation there?


So, for obvious reasons, we haven't been allowed inside any hospitals to take a look for ourselves. Neither have even the families of the patients at those hospitals.

But based on what we have heard from health care workers, hospitals are overcrowded and under-resourced. And when I say hospitals, I mean both hospitals like this, and also the hotels and even the Convention Center that are being used as hospitals.

Health care workers complain about a lack of protective equipment. They are also complaining about a lack of ventilators, which could save lives.

Some doctors have even resorted to using --