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Pelosi Speaks as Senate Passes Aid Bill, Sends to House; New York City Hospitals Overwhelmed by Coronavirus Patients; Weekly Jobless Claims at Whopping 3.28 Million; Fed Chair: "This is Not Typical Downturn"; Dr. Alexander Salerno Discusses Lack of Equipment & Test Kits Despite Trump Saying All Who Need Testing Are Being Tested. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 11:00   ET



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Small businesses, so proud of the work of all of our chairmen. They were just dazzling in their knowledge, their strategy, their experience in getting the right kind of bill passed. Even though, again, compromising, not getting everything we want, but recognizing that we won the day.

Small businesses want vast relief. Small businesses, they have met, for rent, mortgage, utility costs, eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.

I salute congresswoman, madam chair, Nadia Vazquez, for what she was able to accomplish there.

Students, emergency schools, education funding, thank you, Bobby Scott, on our team, and our appropriators, et cetera, doing so much work there.

Don't get me started on any of my members. I'll be talking all night and you'll see how they present tomorrow on the floor.

And we have oversight. There was this idea they put for that there would be a $5 billion slush fund for the secretary of the treasury with no accountability whatsoever. Are you kidding? With all respect for the secretary, that was a complete non-starter.

I'm pleased that language that was in the House bill and in the Senate bill, it has an inspector general specifically for that account. And a congressional panel of five people appointed by the leaders to oversee how that funding is disbursed.

It comes back down, though, to the fact that people are at risk. As I say, tens of thousands of cases, nearly a thousand deaths in the United States.

I said from the start we must have a proposal that is governmentwide, science-based, so that we can really address the challenge that we face in a scientific evidence-based way. That is not necessarily the course that has been advocated by some, but it's where we must be if we're going to end this.

From a scientific standpoint, we have some of the best minds working 24/7, all-hands-on-deck to find a cure, which is, of course, the light at the end of the tunnel.

But if we do not heed the advice of the scientific community about isolation and avoiding as much communal contact as possible, in fact, none, then the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train coming at us, the proverbial train. We cannot -- every day, every week that is wasted on not taking that warning seriously is a problem. It's a problem.

So let us thank our men and women, our health care providers, our first responders, our emergency and firefighters and the rest who are not only responding to this but initiating their own efforts, sometimes risking their lives to save others' lives.

We need to get them more personal protective equipment. It is absolutely essential and it is a shortfall right now. We would hope the government Defense Production office agency would be called upon to call upon industry to convert to making ventilators.

Testing, testing, testing, masks, masks, masks, ventilators, ventilators, ventilators. What's the mystery? We need many more.

And the ventilator just, for your information, is not about making you breathe easier. It's about making you breathe, period. It is vital to life and death in many, many cases. We need an unlimited number. Let's think of it that way. Endless number of ventilators and just to name one thing.

But everyone, the farmers, the producers, the grocers, everyone who is keeping America fed, our truck drivers, the postal workers, delivery people, everyone that is making this survival possible, we thank.

Again, we thank our scientists for striving to find a cure.

So tomorrow, we will go to the floor for this legislation. But as I have said, there were so many things we didn't get in these bills yet in a way that we need to.

So the next step would be, among other things, we want to have more -- better definition of who qualifies for family medical leave. I can give you some examples if you wish. Stronger OSHA protections for our workers, essential. Essential to life.

Pensions, we had a proposal on pensions in the legislation that my understanding was, and I trust that it's true, that the president supported but Senator McConnell wouldn't do it but said we'll do it in the next bill, so we're ready for that.


Increase SNAP. One disappointment in the bill was they would not increase -- we were asking for a 15 percent increase in food stamps at this very fragile time for many families. They wouldn't do that in this bill.

More money for state and local governments. That could be -- I spoke to the secretary this morning that we're not doing enough for state and local government. That's just the way it is. We had $2 billion in our bill. We ended up with $150 but neither of those figures are really enough.

We're hoping -- and I mentioned to him that the Fed -- and I talked to Chairman Powell about this -- that they would expand the opportunity for, shall we say, helping out state and local government, municipalities and the rest.

In the bill we call for that but really permissively, enabling the secretary to do it but not requiring them to do it. And the administration did not want the requirement.

But they say that that is what they intend to do. We'll see, and, hopefully, that is the case. But we're still going to need to have more money for state and local governments, municipalities and the rest.

Then one of the important things that I just --

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King, in Washington. You've been listening to the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, give another example of the expanding scope and severity of the coronavirus crisis, both from a medical standpoint and an economic standpoint.

On this day, the House speaker, it's her 80th birthday. Celebrating that by saying, some day, she'll be able to hug her grandchildren again.

She's in there, the capitol briefing room, to discuss her promise to bring to the House floor tomorrow the big stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate last night. It was $2 trillion.

Speaker Pelosi talking about how it helps with unemployment benefits, it helps with additional money for desperately needed medical supplies, but, as we dropped out there, also discusses that Congress, both the Senate, the House, will be back soon to do more.

She said this crisis will demand more when it comes to family and medical leave, workplace protections for workers, pensions, food stamps, aid to state and local governments.

Just a reminder that as the Congress moves in a bipartisan way to rush money in to prop up the tittering U.S. economy, it knows this so- called phase three that will pass the House tomorrow is just a down payment on the challenges to come.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, joins the conversation.

Striking, Dana, to listen in the sense it is a bipartisan moment. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly. It will pass the House overwhelmingly. Even so, in the middle of a pandemic, you do hear some politics. You hear the speaker say Democrats are going to continue to fight. She says Republicans are corporate down and the Democrats are people up.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, because even in what is going on right now, even given how unbelievably dire this is, and remarkable how bipartisan this was in the Senate and is likely to be in the House, they still have their constituencies to deal with.

You see Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez raising her hand. Other Democrats in her caucus saying, we're not happy with everything. And that is something that she's clearly trying to ignore in the short term when it comes to politics' big picture and compromise.

But they understand because they have seen not this movie exactly before, but something on a smaller scale, that when the dust settles and things return to normal, they're, you know, for lack of a better word, extremes on both sides of the aisle are going to come back and say, we will do what we were elected to do, particularly the Democratic majority in the House.

KING: There's no question. Again, you see some partisan markers being laid there, but you see, from the speaker, from the majority, from the administration officials, including the president, a very bipartisan recognition that we are in the early chapters of this story, and there will be more that the federal government has to do.

Dana Bash, I appreciate you jumping in there.

We expect also to hear from another key player in this drama, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. He is scheduled to speak in about a half an hour, that update after a morning filled with frightening economic numbers. Frightening economic numbers. And more grim coronavirus milestones as well.

The case count here in the United States, you see it on your screen, 65,000-plus. A remarkable 12,000 new cases just diagnosed yesterday. There are now across the United States nearly 1,000 dead. And 233 people perished Wednesday, making it the single most deadly day so far here in the United States.

The economy, too, on its heels or worse. Weekly jobless claims came in today at 3.28 million. Say that again, 3.28 million people filing for unemployment benefits just last week. By far, the biggest number on record. And remember, we are still in the early chapters of this crisis.


Hospitals this hour also in need of dramatic help. No one more so than New York City.

Let's get straight to New York and CNN's Shimon Prokupecz on the ground there.

Shimon, you're at the epicenter. We're watching cases rise across the country, but New York is right now ground zero.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is ground zero. And we're seeing that all across the city, whether it's Manhattan, Brooklyn. We've been in Queens all morning at Elmhurst Hospital. But you're seeing this all over the city.

And keep in mind, John, we're not even at the apex. The governor has been talking about this apex. He says we could be two weeks away from that. And we're already seeing hospitals that are inundated. They don't have room for a lot of patients.

As of the last count, from the mayor's office last night, there were 840 people in ICUs all across this city. And that is where the emergency rooms, that is where the hospitals need the most help. It is those ventilators, of course.

We're hearing stories, a lot of nurses and doctors take to social media because that is the only way, in some cases, for them to get their stories out, describing conditions inside this hospital.

One doctor -- her name is Meredith -- who took to Twitter describing how yesterday was the worst day she has ever seen and she expected today to be much worse.

We're hearing all sorts of stories through social media about the different conditions and we're seeing pictures of the different conditions inside the hospitals.

Keep in mind, we're not even where the governor and city and the state officials feel we are going to be in 14 days. They need more help. They're asking for more help, the protective gear, and of course, those ventilators.

The governor speaks in about 30 minutes. I'm sure the numbers he's going to give are not going to be pretty, so we wait for that. And we'll see what else the federal government is going to do to assist folks here in New York -- John?

KING: Shimon Prokupecz, I appreciate the live report.

Again, we'll check in with the governor. We expect to hear from the governor in little more than 15 minutes right now.

Shimon, thank you very much.

COVID-19's devastating effect on the economy hitting painfully hard today. We just mentioned a bit ago, weekly unemployment claims soared to 3.28 million. By far, the highest number of first-time claims in history. The previous record, 695,000.

That new claim is the result of the sudden shutdown of our economy.

Joining us with some reporting and analysis, CNN's Christine Romans and Greg Ip, from the "Wall Street Journal."

And, Christine, just the numbers, 695,000 was the record. And 3.2 million is staggering.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. It's a number I never thought I would say in terms of jobless claims. It shows just how unprecedented this moment is.

John, when you shut down the American economy, this is what happens. The states, when they were reporting these numbers, said it was hotel workers and restaurant workers and bar workers. And this is just for one week. More than three million people for just one week.

And we've heard anecdotally that, frankly, the number could have been higher, but it was so jammed at so many of these state unemployment benefits' offices that maybe these numbers will bounce even higher next week.

KING: Greg, coming into the conversation in the sense that you have this giant stimulus package, it will pass in the House tomorrow and the president will sign it quickly. But if you listen to Nancy Pelosi, even she gets it. We're in a down payment. I don't think anyone has a clue what the final price tag is going to be.

When it comes to where we are right now, 3.2 million people last week applying for unemployment benefits. We can only assume the number is going to be high. Maybe not as high, maybe higher, I don't know, next week and the week after as the domino effect plays out here.

In the current stimulus bill, what is there that will at least be a Band-Aid in the short term?

GREG IP, CHIEF ECONOMIC COMMENTATOR, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": John, I think what we have to focus on is accept the fact there has been this terrifying shock to the economy. The numbers are what they are. We've seen the unemployment rate go up 10 percent. I've seen expectations that could go as high as 20 percent.

The question is no longer preventing the shock. It's trying to keep this as short as possible. That, of course, will depend on the virus. There are forecasts that this extreme social distancing could last one to two months.

How do we ensure that the people who have been forced on the unemployment lines in those one to two months have jobs waiting for them when they come back?

That's where I think the stimulus package, it's a very important and viable standard first step. It's too early to know whether it's going to be enough, but it's giving very strong incentives to businesses to hold onto their employees. It's giving those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs sustenance to get by in this period.

Cross your fingers. If we can get through the worst of this virus in the next few months, there are prospects that we can come back at a reasonably swift pace, much faster than we would from a typical deep recession.


KING: And that's the big wildcard for policy players, Christina. As Greg says, we hope in a couple of months -- we'll have a medical conversation later in the program. You see the numbers in New York spiking. You see numbers spiking in

states that have a relative few number of cases. You see sometimes the hospitalization rate starting to double more quickly there. We don't know where we're going.

Which is why policymakers, who have to make big, important, expensive decisions right now, like the Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, listen to him here, he says, yes, I get the economics of this but there's something I can't quite understand.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: 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. 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. Dr. Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable, and that sounds right to me.


KING: It tells you where we are when the chairman of the Fed has to quote the government's top infectious disease doctor as he raises a giant question mark about what comes next.

ROMANS: On the "Today" show, speaking to the American people on the "Today" show. That's where we are.

The important thing here, he said the word "confidence," and I think that is really key here. You don't want to crush the confidence of the American consumer, have people afraid or have a second wave of this that you're not prepared for. That would keep people home, that would keep businesses closed.

You want the certainty of a plan and a plan for the other side of this. And what he's saying there, the Fed chief, is they're building a bridge with the Fed's endless amount of ammunition to prop up the economy. And with stimulus, this is just the beginning. I agree there will probably be more stimulus.

That's the bridge that gets us over this abyss we're in right now that the economic numbers are showing. And on the other side, if we do it right, the policymakers do it right and we take the right amount of time, you'll have an economy that comes back.

KING: We'll have an economy that comes back. We all hope on that. We hope the policymakers -- everybody makes some mistakes here. We look at Greg, in our business, as he tries to deal with the unprecedented situation.

But, Greg, the economic policy, estimates it could be 14 million jobs, 14 million lost by the summer. They expect the highest number of employment would be in Nevada, Montana and Hawaii. The most jobs lost, Texas and Florida. Retail, leisure, hospitality to be hardest hit.

The question is we don't know when the pivot point is. The question is: Is the government prepared to do all it takes to keep a basic foundation so that you can flip that switch at some point?

IP: Well, that is a bit -- of course, that is a huge question hanging over all of this. But I have to say I'm encouraged by what we've seen.

Go back to the global financial crisis, it took more than a year before we got from the beginning of the crisis to the first bailout package --

KING: Yes.


IP: -- and another year to get to the first stimulus plan. We've covered that ground in less than two months and with a degree of bipartisanship that you really didn't have in that last crisis. We have an unprecedented threat to the economy but we're also having an unprecedented policy response, and that makes me hopeful.

Jay Powell has made it clear the Fed is there to make sure it will do whatever it takes to make sure the financial system does not shut down, that businesses that are legitimate operating businesses that just need cash flow and liquidity to get through this, they're going to get that cash flow.

But the Fed can't do it by itself. The Fed can't cure the virus. It can't reopen stores. And it can't put money in workers' pockets of unemployed workers. That's why the stimulus bill is very important.


IP: No, question, we'll learn more as this plan goes along. We'll have more data on what the virus and economic impact, and maybe Congress will have to come back and take another kick at the can.

But I will say, having been through several crises in the past, it's pretty impressive how fast folks are responding to this one.

KING: I think that's a very important point, And now the president praising his Fed chairman. That was not the case a month or two before this crisis. Cooperation. Yes, some bipartisan markers being laid down. But your key point about the speed of the movement has been encouraging as we see. And, again, we're watching it as it plays out.

Christine and Greg, really appreciate your insights on this important day of the economic side effects of this, if you will, are devastating.

As we said, New York is definitely the hot spot of the moment but the numbers are surging across the United States, not just in New York. Look at this so you understand the context of the map nightmare here.

Compare last week in four states, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana. Look at then, now look at there, coronavirus now. Each state seeing a surge of at least 1,000 cases. Deaths, too, spiking in those four states. Single digits in each last week, now dozens this week.

Those increases reflect the uncertainty of the president and they also clash dramatically with this prediction from the president, one month ago from today.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple days it will be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up. We have it so much under control. We really have done a very good job.

We're testing everybody that we need to test. And we're finding very little problem, very little problem. Now, you treat this like a flu.


KING: Up next, where do doctors turn when there aren't enough tests, ventilators, masks. A New Jersey physician joins us to tell how he's dealing with the shortages as more Americans line up to be tested and treated for the coronavirus.



KING: The urgent need for critical medical supplies in the face of a worsening pandemic is forcing doctors around the country into desperation. Where are the tests? Where are the ventilators? Where is the manpower? Those are just some of the questions medical professionals are asking in what could be a life-or-death scenario across the country.


DR. MICHELLE GONG, CLINICAL CARE CHIEF, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: Right now, we are having a large demand in terms of respiratory failure and need for ventilating these patients. My team and I are working tirelessly to think outside the box to see how we can come up with solutions to meet the needs of the patient.

DR. REBEKAH GEE, FORMER LOUISIANA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Shame on the federal government and others who can help us. If we don't get this in time, we have time to prepare. But we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And we think, given that the need for ventilators nearly doubled yesterday. And New Orleans were using half our ventilators already. But unless we get additional supplies, we won't be able to care for everyone who needs it.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, BIRMINGHAM: We have to decide whether people using those procedures get the best kind of mask or not. We're having to decide whether or not people in the E.R.s even have access to masks. That is insane.

We are a country that has had, you know, lots of opportunity to make sure this doesn't happen. And the absence, frankly, of a national commitment and leadership to not have people in garbage bags at a New York hospital really, frankly, is stunning.


KING: Joining me now, Dr. Alexander Salerno, who is a primary care physician in New Jersey.

Doctor, when you listen to your colleagues around the country, it's sad, stunning, depressing, actually. What is the situation now for you and your colleagues as the case numbers in New Jersey are starting to spike?


It's changing literally by the hour. Yesterday was completely different than today as far as the cases are going, as far as the new challenges that we're facing.

Supplies are still an issue, at least out here in the community with private clinics and offices.

The biggest issue right now are test kits. We have the test tubes but we don't have the swabs. A three-cent swab is all we need to really truly identify positive cases and get the proper treatment in place so we can ease the burden to the hospitals.

Primary care all starts out here in the trenches before we get to the hospital door, but we can't fight the war in the trenches when we're given sticks and stones.

KING: Most Americans every day get to see the president and his Coronavirus Task Force give their report from the White House. One of the questions has been, are they correct in passing the steps. And everybody makes mistakes. This doesn't have to be a blame thing. This is a giant pandemic. But the government is not doing everything right. Are they correct in things they've gotten wrong before? Are they ramping up?

You just mentioned the testing issue. If you listen to the president, he says we're in a much better place now. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We're testing more than anybody now. There's nobody even close.

Our tests are the best tests. They're the most accurate tests.

We can go to certain states right now that have virtually no problem or a very small problem. We don't have to test the entire state.

I think it's ridiculous. We don't have to do it. A lot of those states could go back right now and they probably will.


KING: We could go to certain states right now that have no problem or a small problem. Is that a fair perspective in the state of New Jersey?

SALERNO: That's completely lost in translation. That is not fair or accurate at all.

My hats off to Governor Cuomo and what he's doing there. Every state should do this. We're talking potentially one in three adults could get this virus. And as we know, most are asymptomatic. But we need to test everyone, not just those with symptoMs.

This is the greatest country in the world, and we need test kits. We need test kits. These swabs test for the flu, they test for COVID virus, they test for typical upper respiratory panel viruses. There are no swabs.

Right now, I've been working with the mayors of the local cities of Newark and Orange. They are calling their board of health. Their board of health have no swabs. I even called HHS, and I was put on hold for 40 minutes and disconnected.

So like -- we need swabs. That's not true. We do not have what we need.

KING: Let me ask you, you just mentioned the asymmetric issue. You care for patients. One question is, and, again, the government needs to think about this. I'm not sure they should be talking about it publicly right now.

We need to think about a moment where you can ease some of the restrictions, maybe in some places to begin to juice the economy back up.

What is your experience with what you believe is the percentage of people walking around who are asymptomatic but have the coronavirus and, therefore, are a giant risk to other people?

SALERNO: I think it could be as much as one in three walking around asymptomatic right now.


KING: One in three?

SALERNO: Yes. We have tested some patients that have had known exposure to COVID. They did not have a temperature.