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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Millions File For Unemployment; More than 1,000 Coronavirus Deaths in United States. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:00:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's four times the previous record set in 1982. But, as you can see, the stock is closing up about 1,300 points, the $2 trillion stimulus plan no doubt part of that.

It's now in the hands of the House of Representatives, after the Senate unanimously passed the package late last night, except for those who didn't vote because they're quarantined.

The economic pain is, of course, just one piece of this devastation, the death toll in the United States now more than 1,000. It's 1,142, to be precise. This time yesterday, it was 877, meaning, in the last 24 hours in the United States, 265 people have died because of the coronavirus.

Globally, there are more than 23,000 total deaths. London hospitals are experiencing what officials are calling a continuous tsunami of viral coronavirus patients.

In Louisiana, the director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness says -- quote -- "This is going to be the disaster that defines our generation."

The state's former secretary of health tells CNN -- quote -- "We're a couple days away from being out of masks. We're buying gowns on eBay in some cases."

We're in the middle of an incredibly dire situation, obviously. Hospitals in the U.S. are becoming overwhelmed.

As an emergency physician told CNN -- quote -- "The sickest patients are terrifying. They are air-hungry, dropping their oxygen, confused, distressed. We can never show that, but it is terrifying. What would the zombie apocalypse be like if we only had verbal descriptions of zombies, but could never show them?"

In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens are telling CNN they are -- quote -- "bursting at the seams" and workers are in a -- quote -- "constant state of paranoia."

CNN's Erica Hill is live for us right now from Elmhurst, New York, in Queens. Erica, tell us more.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's much concern about what is happening at the hospital just behind me.

Now, on the upside, I can tell you that the lines that were sneaking around the building this morning, they have dwindled. Does that mean there's less of a need on the inside? Absolutely not. Just a short time ago, the mayor tweeting: "Right now, Elmhurst Hospital is holding its own, but we're in a race against time, and we need more federal help," in all capital letters, "immediately," Jake.

And it is not just this hospital that tells the story of what is happening in New York City and what is coming to the rest of the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Empty streets lead to packed emergency rooms across New York City, the country's epicenter for this pandemic.

COREY JOHNSON, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: It is insane that, in the wealthiest country in the world, that our heroes that are on the front lines do not have all the personal protective equipment to protect themselves.

HILL: The need for gear, including ventilators, is unrelenting, as the number of patients soars.

At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 13 people dying in just one day.

DR. COLLEEN SMITH, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: All the feet that you see, they all have COVID.

HILL: Dr. Colleen Smith documented 72 hours inside Elmhurst for "The New York Times."

SMITH: Leaders in 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.

HILL: CNN has reached out to Elmhurst Hospital about Dr. Smith's statements.

Further south, at New York City's Bellevue Hospital, a makeshift more is being set up for a possible surge. NYU is allowing senior medical students to graduate early to help meet the demand for health care workers.

DEANNE CRISWELL, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT: Everybody's doing things they have never even in their wildest dreams thought they would be doing.

HILL: Urging people to stay home.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: For what we see in Italy, for what we see in Spain, for what we see in New York City, it's coming here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just over two weeks ago, we had zero. This crisis is ramping up exponentially.

HILL: In Louisiana, where hospitals also face an urgent need for ventilators and hospital beds, a new focus on how the surge of Mardi Gras visitors in New Orleans may have helped the virus spread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had over a million-and-a-half people in the city, including international visitors, all attending parades daily.

HILL: On the heels of America's deadliest day for this virus, doctors are facing increasingly difficult questions about who is treated.

DR. MICHELLE GONG, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: We want to do our best to save every life that comes through our doors. But during a pandemic, when resources become scarce, sometimes we have to engage in uncomfortable conversations.

[16:05:05]

HILL: The nation's voice of calm in the swirling storm reminding the country this is unchartered territory.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: And you have got to understand that you don't make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And, Jake, just an update on these trailers, these refrigerated trucks we have seen as makeshift morgues.

There is one here. There's one at Bellevue Hospital. Those were actually put in place by the Office of Emergency Management, we have learned.

As for the medical examiner here in New York City, they have 45 ready to go if and when they are needed, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in Elmhurst, New York, thank you so much. Stay safe.

Joining me now, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, you heard Dr. Fauci there. You don't make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline. But in a new letter to U.S. governors today, President Trump said his administration is revising social distancing guidelines, working on potentially classifying some counties as high risk, medium risk or low risk.

He appears to be trying to plow forward with this timeline to let some people stop social distancing by Easter, so the pews can be full.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Dr. Fauci, every time he talks about this, Jake, as you know, he says, we're ultimately going to look at the data. He's being flexible, I think, to what he's hearing from the rest of -- from President Trump and others, but I think he says, we want to look at the data.

And, Jake, I just made a list of this, because we have been talking about this for some time on your program. A month ago, when we first started talking about this regularly, there were 60 cases here in the United States. And now there's over 66,000.

There were no deaths at that time, and, as you just reported, over 1,000 deaths. the data that he's going to be looking at shows not only are the numbers increasing, but, in many places, the pace at which these numbers are also increasing.

And I think, look, even in these rural areas where they say, hey, maybe we can get people back to work over there, we just haven't been able to document that the virus is spreading there because of inadequate testing.

So it's -- the data is going to show a picture that I just don't -- I can't imagine would allow pulling back at a time when things would seem as significant as they are.

TAPPER: And we keep hearing from health care workers on the front lines about how dire the situation is when it comes to personal protective equipment and ventilators.

I was Facebook messaging with an E.R. nurse I know. And it's important to point out this is not an E.R. nurse in one of the areas of the country -- not on either of the coasts, where it's been hit hard, not Washington, not New York, New Jersey, not California.

And she told me she's had to use the same N95 mask four shifts in a row. For people at home who don't understand the significance of that, explain.

GUPTA: Well, these are sort of meant to be used for each patient once. That's how we were sort of taught to use it.

And the idea of reusing it, I'm not even sure what the data is on that. But I think, even more importantly, with these N95 masks, they have to fit properly. In fact, you're supposed to be fit-tested whenever you use these masks.

As you start to use it more and more, having worn these masks a lot myself, they start to -- they start to fray. And it's just unclear how much protection they're offering. That's what I'm hearing from doctors and nurses all over the country.

The issue, Jake, I think is almost more of a mental one. So now you're walking in with something that you think is supposed to protect you, but you know the reality. And, sometimes, it's just providing a false sense of comfort for people. I haven't heard any stories about people saying, I'm not going to do

my job because of this, because you might imagine that happening. But you can imagine how challenging it is to think that you may be getting infected each time you're taking care of a patient.

TAPPER: Well, and health care workers have already died in the United States from this.

GUPTA: That's right.

TAPPER: People -- there was a nurse in New York, a doctor in the Seattle area, taking great risks, and with inadequate personal protective equipment.

Peter Navarro from the White House was talking to Brianna Keilar, our fellow colleague, and he accused the media of sensationalizing because we were telling the stories that we're hearing from health care workers on the front lines pleading with the public and with the people in charge to understand that they are in dire need.

You talk to these people more than I do. What are you hearing? And what do you think about White House officials saying that we're sensationalizing?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, sure there's going to be hospitals that, if you call them they say, for right now, we're enough -- we have enough for the next few days.

There are also many hospital systems around the country that went through their entire season's supply of this stuff in a few days, Jake. I mean, yes, they we're told this is going to last you the entire next few months, and they went through it in a few days.

Why? Because every time they tested somebody, they had to put on personal protective equipment. Why? Because we know the virus is certainly circulating in hospitals, and it's very hard to keep social distance in hospitals.

There's an irony there, right? These are the people who are supposed to be caring for everybody. And yet, in order to best care for themselves, they can't even enact some of the basic principles of reducing the virus from transmitting.

[16:10:03]

Patients who are getting procedures in hospitals are oftentimes aerosolized lots of this virus into the air. And so people who are not even necessarily directly involved with patient care are also at risk.

They have got to be protected, for obvious reasons. Once you start losing health care workers, that's what's really going to make a significant negative effect on mortality in this country.

But, also, they're the ones doing the work.

TAPPER: Right. GUPTA: They're the ones actually taking care of patients.

It's amazing.

TAPPER: And who's going to do the work if they're sick, or worse?

There also, of course, remains this dire need for ventilators all over the country, but right now especially in New York state, where the number of coronavirus cases make up about half of the total number of cases in the U.S.

I want you to take a listen to something Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Non-COVID patients are normally on ventilators for three to four days. COVID patients on ventilators for 11 to 21 days.

Think about that, the more probability of a bad outcome. We now have people who have been on a ventilator for 20 days, 30 days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Explain that for us, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, look, I mean, it's not just about, do you have a ventilator, yes or no? It's about how long you're going to need the ventilator.

And we're seeing that these patients need the ventilators for a long time. I mean, this is really significant, Jake. But, also, it's not just the ventilator, a respiratory therapist who actually knows how to manage the ventilator and take care of these patients.

You have to have a room with backup power supply. A ventilator can never lose power, Jake. You have to have oxygen. There's all these things that need to come into play to make it work.

And, again, just to your earlier question, we have known this for a long time. I have been asking about these ventilators for over a month now. And now it's almost like, well, OK, now we need ventilators. I mean, this was predictable.

I think that's going to be one of the greatest frustrations, I think, for a lot of people who are now dealing with this acutely.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as always, thank you. I'll see you tomorrow.

Tonight at 8:00 p.m., Dr. Sanjay Gupta will answer more of your questions about the coronavirus in a CNN global town hall. He will be joined by our friend Anderson Cooper. We will also have special guests Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. That's all live tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. Coming up: this week's unemployment numbers soaring past the previous record -- the shocking statement from the Treasury secretary that these numbers, when it comes to the overall economy, are irrelevant.

And ahead, 100 medical professionals in Boston now have coronavirus. We're going to talk to a chief of emergency preparedness about the crisis happening in hospitals in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:16:44]

TAPPER: Today, in a letter to governors, President Trump floated potential revisions to guidelines on social distancing. He says he wants to designate counties across the nation as high risk, medium risk or low risk. This comes as his administration is downplaying the record number of Americans who just filed for unemployment as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he pushes ahead with his Eastern deadline for reopening the country, President Trump told governors today the federal government is developing new guidelines for making decision on social distancing. The president says using robust surveillance testing, he'll suggest guidelines that rate counties as high, medium and low risk. The endeavor would likely require a lot of testing, something the administration has struggled with since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

The letter comes as public health officials have warned about prematurely reopening the country and voice concerns about state-based restrictions.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: This is a virus that doesn't have a driver's license. This is a virus that doesn't have a passport, right? Just because are you in a state taking measures to control this doesn't mean that your neighbors two miles away in the next state are experiencing the same measures that are going to be required.

COLLINS: Devastating new jobless numbers could add fuel to the president's push to reboot the country within weeks. After more than 3 million Americans filed for unemployment for the first time, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissed the surge.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: You know, to be honest with you, I just think these numbers right now are not relevant, and, you know, whether they're bigger or smaller in the short term.

COLLINS: Instead, Mnuchin is focusing on the sweeping $2 billion relief plan in Congress.

MNUCHIN: Now with this bill passed by Congress, there are protections.

COLLINS: The bill offers assistance to laid-off workers and promises a $1,200 payout to millions of Americans. It will also provide small businesses with support the administration hopes encourages them to rehire workers. In a sign of the times, the Federal Reserve chairman made a rare appearance on television, where he offered a stark warning about the state of the economy.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We may well be in a recession. Again I will point to this in a normal recession. This isn't -- there's nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy.

COLLINS: Jerome Powell, who has feuded often with the president, predicted economic recovery may not happen until later this year.

POWELL: We would tend to listen to the experts. Dr. Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, we are also told by sources that the president actually brought up these potential new guidelines during that call with governors today, before he sent his letter, laying out what the federal government may do. We're told that the president, once again, expresses desires to have the country reopened by Easter, saying he doesn't think they should all be operating the same. And, Jake, we're actually told that some of the governors thanked the president for that and said they agreed that all of the states don't need to be operating under the same guidelines.

So, of course, this is going to raise questions, because we know in recent days, some governors said they are going to be making the decisions for their states.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us.

Let me bring back in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, you heard Secretary Mnuchin there say that the new 3.3 new million unemployment claims are not relevant to the overall snapshot of the economy.

[16:20:06]

Clumsy language, I guess. But is he -- is he wrong?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: He's completely wrong on they're relevance. The highs in the population of Chicago all claiming unemployment benefits in one day or one week, sorry. Where he is right, though, if it wasn't an expected number and help is coming for these businesses that have let workers go.

The problem is, it's just a promise of a lifeline at this stage. What the treasury secretary did say yesterday, though, is he hopes to have local banks up and running as soon as a week to give same-day loans to these businesses. Perhaps as he said they will rehire workers. The aim is to simply stop them letting more workers go.

But, you know, Jake, these businesses, they still have bills to pay. They have rent to pay. So, it's going to be tough to gauge what happens next, quite frankly.

And for some of these workers, given the step up on the extension of benefits, they might be better claiming unemployment benefits at this moment.

TAPPER: All right. And, Julia, help me understand this statistic. The Labor Department says of these 3.3 million new unemployment claims. Most were in California, particularly in the service industry, what does that mean to you? What does that signify or symbolize as we continue with this recession or whatever you want to call it?

CHATTERLEY: California, of course, a big state, 14 million people. So the numbers will be skewed to them. But also, restaurants, bars, cinemas, tourism, they turned up overnight. So, these are on the front lines. And we are going to expect to see that, quite frankly.

But, you know, there's another element here that you picked up on first I think last week, the gig economy, around a third of workers in this country, Uber drivers, contract workers, self-employed. They have never been able to capture or ask for these benefits yet, now they can so that's also going to increase the claims we see tough to gauge net- net, but most people think these are going to continue to ramp-up.

TAPPER: So, Boeing, the aircraft company, could get $17 billion of this $2 trillion stimulus package. Boeing has been under scrutiny since those two deadly crashes since the 737 MAX models. Is there a reason you think lawmakers feel like Boeing should be entitled to this money?

CHATTERLEY: Four words: too big to fail. These guys employ 138,000 workers across 50 states according to their website. Their number of supply cane workers as well is in the millions. It represents defense contracts.

In a good year, they are contributing just under half a percentage point of GDP or growth in this country. This is the definition of too big to fail 2020 style. They're going nowhere.

TAPPER: Today, Goldman Sachs says the economic stimulus package might not change short-term growth, but it will allow faster recovery towards the second half of the year. Is that a consensus view among economists?

CHATTERLEY: I think it is. Actually, these, this stimulus package is about stabilizing the economy, leaving it in a state where businesses can reopen when we decide to kick-start the economy again. The ordinary people haven't defaulted on debts. They have confidence, too, but what it comes down to ultimately, is what you've been talking about throughout the show in the end, the medical experts matter here, and it's that that's going to talk and decide when we start kick-start this economy and what it looks like.

TAPPER: All right. Business anchor Julia Chatterley as always, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your expertise.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

TAPPER: In Italy, dozens of doctors are dying from the coronavirus. The total death toll: more than 8,000 there. What the reality there might mean for the U.S.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:28:49]

TAPPER: Welcome back.

In our health lead, the United States seems to be about 10 or so days behind Italy in terms of the progression of the virus, the spiking. Hospitals in Italy are still experiencing dire scenes. At least 39 Italian doctor versus died from the coronavirus, nurses have been collapsing from days without sleep.

CNN's Delia Gallagher is asking the very hard-to-imagine question, is this the direction where the United States is headed?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESOPNDENT (voice-over): In some of northern Italy's cemeteries, there's no space left for the dead killed by the coronavirus. Hospitals are crumbling under the sheer number of patients and U.S. experts warn, this disease could cripple Italy's storm healthcare system, the U.S. could be next.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: It essentially got out of hand, and it became difficult for them as good as they are, and they're very good, to be able to contain it in a way that is contact tracing, all that kind of thing.

It was more mitigation. How do we deal with what we have? They're in a very difficult position.

GALLAGHER: In this exclusive footage given to CNN, doctors show us operating rooms in a hospital in northern Italy, turned into make- shift intensive care units, barely conscious patients. Doctors and nurses pushed to the brink, they now have to choose who will live and who will die.

Some medics have described it as war-time triage. Patients with the highest chance of survival get priority.

[16:30:00]