Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Mentions Possible Quarantine for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo States President Trump Did Not Discuss Possible Quarantine with Him; Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan Interviewed on Turning Football Field into Military Hospital; San Francisco Mayor London Breed Interviewed on San Francisco Hospital Bracing for Coronavirus Outbreak; FDA Approves New Coronavirus Test; Italy Experiencing Continued High Death Toll from Coronavirus; President Trump Sees Off Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort as It Heads for New York City; U.S. Surgeon General Says Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans Now Hot Spots in Coronavirus Pandemic; Former Senator Tom Coburn Passes Away; Civil Right Leader Joseph Lowery Passes Away. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Just a few minutes ago the governor of Rhode Island announced the first two deaths in the state of Rhode Island as well. Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: So a way in which to decipher that, does it mean it's an issue of, or the paper is taking the stance of here's the reality, this is the headline versus this is the hope.

STELTER: And that is absolutely right. These are local stories affecting neighbors, and ultimately this is about neighbors helping neighbors as well. Local paper are going to have a hard time with lack of advertising, so we need to help our local news outlets stay in business. But there are still glimmers of good news. These papers are also full of stories about people sewing masks and finding ways to enjoy the great indoors for a change.

WHITFIELD: Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Stay with us. We're going to talk with you again as our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic continues right now.

Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with the rising spread of the coronavirus, and new numbers just in from New Jersey where cases have skyrocketed by over 2,000, bringing the total up to over 11,000 across that state. It is one of 15 states now under disaster declarations because of the spread of this disease. New York is also seeing a surge, with over 52,000 cases reported so far. And last hour President Trump floated the idea that he may need to initiate a short-term quarantine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a possibility that sometime today we'll do a quarantine, short term, two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut.

Restrict travel, because they're having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers going down. We don't want that. Heavily infected. This would be an enforceable quarantine. And I'd rather not do it, but we may need it.


WHITFIELD: The statement came as a surprise to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was holding a press conference. Here's what he had to say when asked about Trump's remarks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is apparently mulling a quarantine for New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. He said so in White House remarks today. He said also that you had spoken to him about this. Can you comment on that?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I spoke to the president about the ship coming up and the four sites. I didn't speak to him about any quarantine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he spoken to you about a quarantine? Have you had any indication that that is a possibility for New York or parts of Connecticut --

CUOMO: No, I haven't had those conversations. I don't even know what that means.


WHITFIELD: Let's bring in our CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond, CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro, and CNN's chief media correspondent and anchor of "Reliable Sources" Brian Stelter. Good to see all of you gentlemen.

So Jeremy, you first. Explain more about what the president meant, because he said it as though the conversation took place. He ended it with, it's an enforceable quarantine, but the governor says, I don't know what he's talking about?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. Initially the president indicated that he had already discussed this with the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and then later in the day, the president actually said that he was going to be discussing this with Cuomo later today. So we don't know if that conversation has taken place yet.

But clearly, what the president is talking about here goes beyond any kind of guidelines that his administration has been issuing so far. We heard the president talk about this as something that would be, quote- unquote, enforceable. So clearly, the president is looking to do something that would be far more far reaching and far more consequential.

At the same time, this is in line with what the president has been looking to do in terms of doing this more as a region-by-region, geographic area by geographic area, kind of response from the federal government. We know that the president has been eager to relax those guidelines that he issued, those 15 days to stop the spread of coronavirus in order to allow the economy to open up, and we know that the president floated on Thursday in a letter to governors that this would be based on a county by county assessment of low, medium, and high risk areas.

So clearly, the president seems to be kind of eager to do something that would be more geographic focused to perhaps allow other areas of the country to reopen economically at least. But again, there is a huge question here about what kind of authority the president would have to actually restrict New Yorkers, people in Connecticut, people in New Jersey, from actually traveling elsewhere in the country, a huge legal question ahead as well as a question about whether or not this is something that governors of those states would be onboard with.

WHITFIELD: And Evan, this has to be confusing messaging coming to New Yorkers or people in the tristate area as a whole.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, confusing is right. From where I'm standing in Manhattan, this is actually quite a weird moment. The governor's press conference this morning, he apologized to reporters for being late because he had been on the phone with the president right before he came on air to talk about the hospital ship and all the other federal efforts that are going on. He had some good words with what's going on in the federal government. And then this quarantine question comes at the end. And Governor Cuomo said he had not heard anything about it, and that he questioned whether it would be enforceable, and thought it was a bad idea.


So we start the press conference with talk of good communication between the governor and the White House, and we end with the governor saying I have no idea what is going on. I haven't heard anything about this. Quite an interesting and confusing, as you put it, moment.

WHITFIELD: And, Brian, this, I guess, latest episode of mixed messaging or incomplete messaging, and at the same time that has been a common thread throughout, right, about whether there was a threat, there wasn't a threat, people were informed, not informed, what were they being informed about? And now you're talking about two leading faces in the fight against coronavirus, and they, too, are not seeing an episode of a conversation the same way today.

STELTER: I think I see exactly what's happened here. President Trump is talking to people on the phone giving him ideas. Then he floats those ideas out in front of the press, and they become big stories all of a sudden without any context. He didn't explain exactly what he meant. But I think what the president meant is he doesn't want people in New

York and New Jersey and Connecticut being able to fly or drive to other states, because he said people in Florida are suffering as a result. That's what he said. Of course, made me think about his resort in Mar-a-Lago. That's what he said to the reporters.

Here's the problem, though, Fred. This cat is out of the bag, this horse has left the barn. Pick whatever metaphor you want. The people who wanted to leave New York City left two weeks ago. I'm living in an apartment building that's half empty because the people who have summer homes in the Poconos or the Hamptons, they left two or three weeks ago. So the idea that the president could suddenly try to shut down travel in the tristate area to help Florida, it's about two weeks, maybe three weeks too late.

Just now the governor of Pennsylvania also said they're not going along with this idea either. If there was an attempt to stop travel between Pennsylvania and New York, that's not going to happen according to that state's governor. So then this is one of those moments the president is trying to show what is supposed to be leadership, but he is once again behind the story. People who wanted to leave New York state have already left New York state.

WHITFIELD: All right, and the president is saying this today on his way to Norfolk where he justified his trip to Virginia, saying he thought it would be very important for a president to go there, to thank people for what it is that they're doing, especially as that comfort ship makes its way to New York and will be in position by Monday. Thanks to all of you gentlemen, really appreciate it, Jeremy Diamond, Brian Stelter, Evan McMorris-Santoro. Appreciate it.

Meantime, we are learning about more cases in Washington state, one of the nation's first hot spots for the coronavirus. Governor Jay Inslee says the health care system there isn't overwhelmed just yet, but he warns it will be very soon if the number of cases don't begin to stabilize to help with the influx of patients. The Army Corps is now looking to turn the Seattle Seahawks' field into a military hospital. Joining me right now, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Mayor, good to see you.

MAYOR JENNY DURKAN (D-WA): Good to see you. Thanks for having me on this morning.

WHITFIELD: Absolutely. So this is something that you and the governor have been pushing for to turn this field into a hospital. How would it work? And what is it going to take to make that happen?

DURKAN: I think in context, I want all your viewers to know that we were kind of the leading edge here. We're exactly one month from when we found out our first death in our area. And at that time, Seattle was perhaps the most booming economy in America. We had more cranes building things than anywhere in America. And today we have hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Our economy has shut down. And we have a rising number of virus cases and deaths.

So we knew we needed the federal government's help, but we couldn't wait for it. So in the last four weeks we've been standing up programs to help the people hurt the most, trying to get aid to our businesses and our workers. We also stood up our own quarantine and hospital facilities. But we knew we couldn't do it alone. So I am very thankful that the Army Corps of Engineers and DOD and FEMA have come together to help us. We're going to have a field hospital in and around downtown Seattle that will be able to take the non-COVID patients, because people are still having emergencies, heart attacks and other reasons they have to go to a hospital. And if we don't get that ability here, all of this health in the community will suffer.

So I'm thankful that they're here. We're going to continue to push forward. But I want every listener to know there is only one message they need to hear. Stay home. This is going to be a fight, a long fight. We've been in it a month. And we are not close to done here. And it is only by coming together and moving together that we will get through this as regions and America.


WHITFIELD: And Mayor, you said you are very thankful that FEMA, military, all hands on deck. But at the same time, is it your feeling that there is some frustration, continued frustration from the federal government's assistance? And does it only seem compounded by, say, the president when just yesterday during the briefing he was choosing to be critical of your state's governor, Jay Inslee, and bringing up his presidential bid?

DURKAN: Jay Inslee has been a great leader through this. And I will say that we have only one mission, and that is to fight this virus. We are not going to get into finger pointing or blame at this point. There is going to be a lot of lessons all of America has to learn.

But what we know right now is we have to come together to fight this virus, and the only way we can do it as a community is by social distancing. We closed down our businesses, had people stay home. It has been a huge and crushing blow to Seattle and this community. But it is the only thing that will protect our frontline workers. We have a lot of frustrations, still. We still have almost no testing in the Seattle area. We are running blind in many ways. So the actions we take are largely because we have some of the great research scientists here today. We are thankful for the help we're getting. But all of America today needs a nationwide system. We cannot win if we have the Hunger Games state versus state, city versus city. We've got to come together as a country and the nation has to lead.

WHITFIELD: Major Jenny Durkan, we are wishing the best for you and everyone there in Seattle, everyone in the state of Washington for sure. Be well.

DURKAN: Thank you so much.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

In San Francisco, a long-term care and rehabilitation hospital for the elderly is now bracing for an expected outbreak after several health care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Joining me now is San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Mayor, good to see you. What can you tell us about this hospital, how bad you are expecting things to be?

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-CA): Well, this is Laguna Honda Hospital here in San Francisco with over 800 patients, mostly elderly patients and people with disabilities who can't necessarily take care of themselves. We know that this is a very, very vulnerable population. And so what we have done with the particular wards where those employees were tested positive is to spring into action, test the other employees and the other patients in those particular wards, and space people out as much as we possibly can and take extra precautions.

We have also acquired a number of hotel rooms. We are looking at one of Moscone West, which is one of our convention centers, to provide additional resources and places for people to go. We are going to need to immediately begin spacing people out more significantly to make sure that it doesn't spread. But yesterday we did send a letter to the vice president who is heading up his task force, asking for additional resources from the federal government, because in addition to our local staff, we need more resources in order to make sure that this does not get out of hand. And we're not just talking about --

WHITFIELD: Resources like what? And how urgently? Resources like what?

BREED: We're not just talking about financial resources. We're talking about people who are on the ground, people who could be sent here, nurses, professional medical support, and people who can help us support this growing pandemic, because what we want to do is be able to do is exactly what everyone is talking about, social distancing, but we need to move faster. And we are doing everything we can with our resources to move as quickly as possible, but we definitely need additional resources.

WHITFIELD: Are you worried about the time lost? I can hear in your voice you are talking about the urgency of needing resources now, urgent assistance with more medical personnel and supplies. But is it your feeling that you've lost a lot of time in trying to get that assistance, whether it be from the federal government or anywhere else?

BREED: Yes, and I think it is really unfortunate. We have lost a lot of time with the federal government, but at this point we've got to focus on the future. When we declared a state of emergency in San Francisco back in February, on February 25th, we had not one case in San Francisco. And then when we decided to basically tell everyone to stay at home and issued a shelter in place order, we had only 40 cases, and people thought we were crazy.

The fact is we knew what was coming. We have the data. We have the science from the medical professionals, not just here locally in San Francisco, but all over our country. And so I think there is a lot of frustration, but, unfortunately, we don't have time to dwell on the frustration and what should have been done. Our need now is to really focus on getting the resources necessary to keep people safe, and that's what I'm focused on. [14:15:14]

WHITFIELD: And people are still remembering those pictures of folks who were walking around seemingly rather lackadaisical, as you described maybe the case load, the numbers were low and people thought you all were crazy for saying, hey, we're preparing for something big. How cooperative are people now? Do you feel like the message is being received loud and clear?

BREED: I think that for the most part San Franciscans are complying. They realize the importance of this. We did have some problems last weekend with our beaches and some parks, which we've been really cracking down on, closing parking lots, closing certain areas. Those crowds have thinned out considerably, and I think maybe the weather has something to do with that. But we still have a real problem with our homeless population, with people who, unfortunately, have substance abuse disorder. And we know that is going to continue to be a problem because they are not social distancing, and the ability to even force them into one of the hotel rooms that we have available has been difficult. So for the most part, I'm really proud and grateful to San Franciscans for taking this seriously and knowing how important it is. But we definitely still have a lot of work to do.

WHITFIELD: All right, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, all the best to you. Good luck. Stay well.

BREED: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

All right, coming up, a new weapon in the fight against coronavirus. The federal government approves a test that can provide results in less than 15 minutes. Plus, more than 10,000 deaths and counting -- Italy surpasses China in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths. We'll go live to Rome, next.



WHITFIELD: All right, new, disheartening numbers out of Italy. We are told the coronavirus death toll there has officially passed 10,000, the highest in the world. And pictures like this one show just how dire things are. This morning an Italian priest, excuse me, was seen walking down church aisles blessing rows and rows of victims in coffins right there. Our Ben Wedeman is in Rome. And Ben, dozens of those reported deaths are doctors. What more are you learning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and these are numbers actually from yesterday, Fredricka, that 51 Italian medical personnel had died as a result of coronavirus, more than 7,000 having fallen ill as a result of the disease. And this really just underscores the amount of pressure Italy's health system is under as these numbers just go up and up and up. Today, of course, we heard from the Italian Civil Protection Agency that the death toll has reached 10,023. That is up 889 from the day before. But here everybody is looking just for a tiny silver lining in some of

the bad news that's coming across, and what we're seeing is that is 80 deaths less than the day before when it was 969.

There is also does appear to be a continuing trend of lowering numbers of new cases almost every day since the beginning of the week. So, perhaps, these severe restrictions on ordinary life, this lockdown on a country of 60 million plus people, are beginning to have an effect on the spread of the virus, keeping in mind that about 80 percent of the cases are in the northern part of the country. But that's where, for instance, there is really disturbing scenes from the church you just showed, where there are just coffins lined up one after another. That's where the outbreak is at its absolute worst. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: My goodness, that's an extraordinary number, 10,000 people. Thank you so much, Ben Wedeman, appreciate it.

All right, more than 1,800 people have now died of the coronavirus in the United States, with more than 110,000 cases reported across the nation. Joining me right now is Dr. Celine Gounder, a CNN medical analyst and an infectious disease specialist at NYU school of medicine in Bellevue Hospital. She is also the host of the "Epidemic" podcast. Good to see you, Dr. Gounder.

So the FDA, I guess this is a little glimmer of hope in some circles, the FDA approving a coronavirus test that would provide the results in 15 minutes, meaning it's going to let the medical community know whether a patient has coronavirus, right, in 15 minutes. Why is that a potential breakthrough or very important at the very least?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, this will, Fredricka, help us triage patients as they come into hospitals and other health care facilities to decide who do we want to keep in the hospital, especially if they test positive for coronavirus, and they have preexisting conditions, maybe cardiovascular disease, lung disease. Maybe they're older, and who we can send home potentially. So this is really important information, especially in the health facility context.

One thing to note is these are not tests that have been approved for use outside of health facilities. So this is really not something that can be used, for example, for home-based testing, unlike some of the other tests that have been discussed for that purpose.

WHITFIELD: OK, so meantime, there remains a shortage of masks, gloves, other protective equipment for health care workers across the country. Could the equipment shortages lessen the impact of this kind of rapid testing?


GOUNDER: Well, I think it is highly concerning that health care providers are still very much at risk for infection themselves. A lot of hospitals have almost no or no N95 respirator masks, which when you are getting up close to a patient, whether it's to put a tube down their throat or to listen to their heart and lungs, you're putting yourself at much higher risk of exposure and much more intense and heavy exposure. So anything we can do to make a health care worker's job safer is really going to help all of us right now.

WHITFIELD: President Trump says he is considering a short-term quarantine in New York City and surrounding metro areas to keep people from traveling from hot spots like New York to different states lake Florida. What do you think about that? Again, it is still unclear whether that really is enforceable, even though the president says he believes it is, and the New York governor says he didn't have that conversation with the president. But what do you think about that idea?

GOUNDER: Well, I think the president is very focused on blame in multiple conversations, who is to blame, who is not to blame. And I think unfortunately, that is sort of where this idea comes from. You're going to quarantine the people who are to blame.

The problem with this kind of approach is what you're actually going to accomplish is the exact opposite of what's intended. So in other words, you say we're going to quarantine New York City or New York state. People in New York City and New York state are going to go travel elsewhere as soon as they can before the quarantine goes into effect. So you're actually going to create more dispersion, spread of the disease to other areas. So it may sound counterintuitive, but it is going to actually be more harmful than do good.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Celine Gounder, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much. Stay well.

GOUNDER: Stay well.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

Still ahead, a medical lifeline for hospitals in New York as President Trump sees off the USNS Comfort. What we're learning about the ship's important coronavirus mission.



WHITFIELD: President Trump just wrapped up a trip to Norfolk, Virginia. He stopped off at the Navy shipyards to bid farewell to the USNS Comfort. That Navy hospital ship left a short time ago for New York City to help ease overcrowding at area hospitals by treating their non-coronavirus patients. It's one of two such Navy vessels being deployed to help with the government's response to the crisis.

Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles where one of the Navy hospital ships just arrived, and also Ryan Browne in Norfolk is with us. Ryan, let me begin with you. Tell us more about that Navy ship and what happened.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN REPORTER: Calling the ship a 70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the people of New York City. That ship has just departed behind me. It's on its way to New York now. It's expected to arrive on Monday. President Trump saying it will start treating non- coronavirus patients on Tuesday. And, again, this ship has some 1,200 personnel assigned to it. It carries about 1,000 hospital beds. It has 12 operating rooms onboard. And the idea is it will help alleviate some of the burden that the coronavirus pandemic is placing on much of New York City's civilian hospital infrastructure. So it will treat those non-coronavirus patients, freeing up space so that the civilian hospitals can handle coronavirus patients, which require a much different type of care.

This is one of many steps --


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- from an appendectomy to broken bones. There is also an ICU unit. And as we look off in the distance, you can see the crew members, they have a rule now that they are not to disembark. It's a gorgeous, early spring day in Los Angeles, so tempting. But I was talking with the ship's captain, and he said none of them will be allowed to leave. That's how seriously they are taking this measure of trying to keep this as its own isolation bubble completely devoid of anybody who might have coronavirus.

Again, the focus is on treating those patients who don't have coronavirus so all those other hospital beds in Los Angeles are freed up, and those doctors and nurses don't have to pay attention to those patients because the Mercy, which has been on so many missions of mercy is going to handle it, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paul Vercammen, Ryan Browne, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Up next, coronavirus cases soaring in cities across the country. So what are local governments doing to stop the spread? We're live in New Orleans and Chicago in just a moment.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Several major U.S. cities are dealing with the effects of the coronavirus. The U.S. surgeon general now says Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans have become hot spots in this pandemic. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans. CNN's Ryan Young is in Chicago. Ed, let me go to you first. New Orleans has really become the flash point for new cases in Louisiana.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have just received the latest update from the Department of Health here in Louisiana on those new numbers, and it shows now that there are more than 3,300 cases of coronavirus patients across this state, 3,315 to be exact. Almost 1,300 of those are here in the city of New Orleans alone. And of those, the death toll has now also risen to 137.


And what is significant, Fredricka, about those numbers is that the jumps continue from day to day, continue to be high. From yesterday to today, these new cases jumped almost 570. So that is one of the things that health experts and medical experts are really monitoring closely, and it is how you see that continued spike and the exponential quick rise of cases here that has so many people concerned.

The governor of Louisiana is saying that by this time next week that the state runs into serious problems in terms of bed shortages as well as ventilator shortages as well. The governor says he has requested 12,000 ventilators, and so far the latest count is not even received 200 of those.

Here behind me, what you see, this is the backside of the convention center here in New Orleans. And this is where bed space is being added to prepare for the influx of coronavirus patients. Right now they are in the process of setting up more than 100 hospital beds inside of the convention center. State officials say that the overall goal here could very well be to set up as many as 1,000, more than 1,000 beds inside of this convention center. So that really gives you a sense of just how dire the situation here is in Louisiana. And the continued and repeated warnings and statements to people to continue to shelter in place, to avoid close contact with your neighbors, friends, and family, that that will be the only thing that will help get this situation under control. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much from New Orleans.

Onto Chicago now. Ryan, what are you experiencing, what are people experiencing there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is a great question, Fredricka, because you see people who are slowly starting to come out of their homes, and that is something that officials don't want to see people doing. In fact, the other day we had some perfect weather, and people crushed the lakefront, were having a good time, and the mayor and the governor pretty much shut that down.

I can tell you, as we've been looking at not only the bus system here, we've been seeing less and less people on the streets. That's good news, because any time you hear that the number could spike, people are starting to worry about what they could do to sort of cut it off.

We did talk to a health care professional just about what they're seeing, and something that I want to highlight here. They're seeing younger and younger people walking into hospitals here with COVID-19, and that is something that is sort of perplexing. Some are being able to recover pretty quickly, but others are struggling quite mightily. In fact, listen to this ICU doctor talk to us just about an hour-and- a-half ago about what they're seeing there.


DR. OMAR LATEEF, PRESIDENT AND CEO, RUSH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Right now at the institutions in Chicago we do have the right amount of personal protective equipment, but our fear, along with the fear of everybody else in health care throughout the country is that as the numbers continue to increase, we'll run out of equipment. So we need to continuously have a supply coming in for each hospital in our area. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Fred, if you think about this, they had over 400 cases, new cases just in the last 24 hours. We're over 3,000 as well. And what they're concerned about is in different pockets. Just like the jail population, Cook County has one of the largest jail systems of anywhere in the country, and there they already have several detainees who have come down with the coronavirus, and they're starting to isolate them outside.

But the fear is what happened if a large part of that population were to get sick and then they would have to move them to a hospital where the staff is already constrained. And then you have nurses who are worried about what is going to happen next, because what they're saying, what they're seeing here is people walking into the hospital really, really sick, and already at the second level. And it takes so much staff to get them to the next part of treatment that they worried about what the next 24 to 48 hours could seem like in this area.

WHITFIELD: That's such a pronouncement of the cascading of events. All right, Ryan Young, Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

So we're continuing to follow a Holland America cruise ship. Why? CNN is learning that four older passengers is how people are being described have died onboard after two people tested positive for coronavirus. It is still unclear if those who died were infected. The ship, which was headed to Florida, is now stuck off the coast of Panama. The country is not allowing that ship to pass through the Panama Canal after 138 people onboard also reported having flu-like symptoms. Instead, the ship may now have to travel to San Diego or Los Angeles to dock.

Meantime, Delta Airlines is stepping up and waiving travel costs for medical volunteers flying to coronavirus hot spots. The airline is offering free round-trip tickets for eligible health care workers traveling to work at hospitals in Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan. Delta says it's working with state and local governments to make flight reservations. The company says it is looking at expanding the program to California, New York, and Washington.


Looking for ways to impact your community and help those affected by the coronavirus? Visit our website at

And if you're looking for more information about the cases in the U.S., visit our website at

As we head to break, a sign of the times. Look at these stunning CNN drone images from the Las Vegas Strip. The usually crowded streets and sidewalks are now eerily quiet. The Nevada governor has ordered Nevadans to stay home and for all nonessential businesses to close to the public for 30 days.



WHITFIELD: Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn has passed away. The Oklahoma Republican served in the U.S. Senate from 2005 to 2015, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2001. According to Tom Coburn's family, the 72-year-old died Friday night after a long battle with prostate cancer. Coburn was a physician and a fiscal conservative. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

And we're also learning that civil rights leader Joseph Lowery has died. Dr. Lowery, who was known as the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement, passed away last night, that's according to a statement from his family. He was 98-years-old.

This morning former president Bill Clinton released this statement. He writes, "With the passing of Reverend Joseph Lowery, our country has lost a brave visionary leader in the struggle for justice and a champion of its promise, still unrealized, of equality for all Americans."

Here's a look at Joseph Lowery's legacy.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I have a dream today.

WHITFIELD: Even he might have marveled at how the dream turned out.

JOSEPH LOWERY, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: With a new sense of power, you got a president in the White House. Oh, Lord.

WHITFIELD: And he was there for all of it.


WHITFIELD: They called Dr. Joseph Lowery the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement. He and the others in the cadre of activists who stepped up after Memphis were bullied, beaten, jeered at, and jailed for marching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be detrimental to your safety to continue this march. And I'm saying again, it is an unlawful assembly.

WHITFIELD: Marching mainly for the right to register and vote at a time when in some places African-Americans were literally pushed away from the polls. Lowery helped found and later headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the SCLC, that tireless and fearless piston that drove the movement. In 1965, spurred by the assassination of JFK, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The 89th Congress acted swiftly in passing this act.

WHITFIELD: But a civil rights law didn't mean victory for the civil rights marchers. Lowery spent his life preaching Martin Luther King Jr.'s doctrine of nonviolence.

LOWERY: Martin Luther King Jr., the most powerful person I ever met.

WHITFIELD: Over the years, Joe Lowery would meet his share of powerful people.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to say something to my friend Joe Lowery.


BUSH: Hey, look. They used to send this guy to Washington, and I kept score in the Oval Office desk. Lowery 21, Bush three. It wasn't a fair fight.

WHITFIELD: On Inauguration Day 2009, he offered the benediction.

LOWERY: We ask you to help us work for the day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around --

WHITFIELD: It was vintage Lowery.

LOWERY: -- when yellow will be mellow.

WHITFIELD: And there it was again on the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, the fight and the dream.

LOWERY: We've come too far, marched too long, prayed too hard, wept too bitterly, bled too profusely, and died too young to let anybody turn back the clock on our journey to justice.

WHITFIELD: His wife and fellow pioneer of the civil rights movement, Evelyn Gibson, would die only about a month later.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: She stood shoulder to shoulder with one of the greatest civil rights leaders that we will ever know.


WHITFIELD: And now the Dean of the Civil Rights Movement, too, has passed. His life's work still a work in progress. The movement for equality everlasting.

LOWERY: It goes on and on and on. We're not going to be turned around. We're not going to stop. We're not going to give in and give up until the battle is won.



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Saturday. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Let's get you the very latest in the coronavirus crisis.

Right now there are more than 111,000 cases in the U.S., the largest total anywhere in the world. And the death toll in the U.S. is now more than 1,800 at this hour. The president revealing he is considering a possible short-term quarantine of hard-hit parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, to help contain the spread.

And today the Navy hospital ship Comfort left Virginia bound for New York, the state with the most cases, 52,000 and counting. That ship, which has about 1,000 beds, is meant to take some of the pressure off local hospitals.