Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Coronavirus Cases Top 113,000 in U.S., 650,000-plus Worldwide; Trump Considers Short-Term "Quarantine" of Parts of NY, NJ, CT; NY Governor: Trump-Ordered Quarantine Would Be a "Declaration of War" On States; New Orleans at Epicenter of Louisiana's Rising Case Numbers; More Than 200 Million Americans in 25 States Told to Stay Home. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 28, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of "The Situation Room". The latest numbers, first, the U.S. now has more than 113,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 1,900 deaths. Worldwide, over 650,000 have been infected and more than 30,000 people have died due to this pandemic.

Tonight, the President of the United States is openly talking about taking unprecedented action that could directly impact some 10 million Americans. Just days ago, the President raised the idea of reopening the country by Easter Sunday, but today, he told reporters he's considering a short-term quarantine of, what you call, hotspots in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it's a hotspot - New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut, quarantined. I'm thinking about that right now.

We might not have to do it, but 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, lot of New Yorkers going down. We don't want that. Heavily infected--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So many questions come with that possibility. How would it work? Is it legal? In just a moment, we'll show you how the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and others in the tri-state area are responding to that truly extraordinary idea. But while the President's suggestion is the most dramatic, some states are indeed closing in on themselves, shutting out visitors, as they try to shut out the virus. In Texas, for example, the governor is ordering anyone flying into a

state from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans, for that matter, to self-quarantine for 14 days or however long they're in Texas, whichever is shorter.

Florida, which you heard the President mention, now has a routine checkpoint on Interstate 10 for people coming across the Alabama state line who are from Louisiana. Another checkpoint is now being set up along I-95 for, what the governor calls, and I'm quoting him now, "any kind of New York area traffic." And the Florida Keys are closed to visitors.

Rhode Island is now stopping cars with New York license plates, and Kentucky's governor is asking people along his state's border with Tennessee not to cross the state line if they can. Governors trying to keep people safe and considering actions that would have been truly unthinkable until recently.

Just moments ago, New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, responded to the President's quarantine proposal in an interview with CNN. Evan McMorris-Santoro is over - outside the Javits Convention Center in New York City, which is now being converted into a massive temporary hospital.

Evan, the governor seemed caught by surprise when word of this first broke earlier today. What is he now saying?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Wolf, that's right. I mean, this day began with a press conference by Governor Cuomo in what he discussed the efforts of the state to - which has been the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, to try and get ahead of it and become - go on offense, adding hospital beds, adding equipment.

And then while he was talking - and he mentioned he had spoken with the President before he came on to talk to reporters. The President mentioned this idea of a quarantine and asked - and then Cuomo was asked about it and said I don't think that's - nothing we have heard about. And then when he spoke earlier today with CNN, he kind of rejected the idea in the strongest possible terms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This is - would be a declaration of war on states, a federal declaration of war. And it wouldn't just be New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Next week, it would be Louisiana with New Orleans, and then the week after that, it would be Detroit in Michigan, and it would run all across the nation. I don't think the President is looking to start a lot of wars with a lot of states just about now for a lot of reasons.

If you said that we are geographically confining people, that would be a lockdown. Then we would be Wuhan, China. Right? And that wouldn't make any sense. This is a time when the President says he's trying to restart the economy. New York is the financial sector. You geographically restrict a state, you would paralyze the financial sector. You think the Dow Jones - the stock market has gone down. It would drop like a stone. I don't even believe it's illegal. I don't even believe it's legal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, Wolf, there are two important pieces of context for this very strange day here in New York.

[19:05:00]

The first is, the governors of all three of the states involved, that's New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, have all said they haven't spoken to the White House about this supposed quarantine or, as Cuomo calls it, lockdown. It's just unclear as to what this is.

The second piece of context is, people who live in these states have already been told to stay at home as much as they possibly can. Essential travel only, essential personnel only. Businesses that aren't essential have been told to send their workers home.

The idea of New Yorkers traveling around a whole lot and out of here (ph) from this area, they've already been told not to do that. So the governors of these states are saying, look, we're already doing a lot of this stuff and we haven't heard from the White House - know exactly what it is the White House is planning.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond is standing by.

Jeremy, a lot of unexpected developments emerging from the President. Today, once again he's considering what he calls this short-term quarantine for parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. What are you hearing right now, Jeremy, about when the President might make a final decision on this?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, look, it's been radio silence from the White House on any details about this proposal or the timing when the President might implement this. All we can do is look at the President's own statements. And on Twitter, he said earlier that this was a decision he would be making, quote- unquote, "shortly." How long that would be? We don't exactly know.

As far as what this proposal actually is, the President, of course, has used this term, quarantine, but when pressed further on it, it seems though what he's talking about travel restrictions, essentially restricting anybody in the tri-state area that is at the center of this epidemic, this coronavirus epidemic in the United States, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, preventing any individuals who live in that area from traveling elsewhere in the country.

And it seems that part of the President's concerns stem from something that he heard from the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who is a Republican and a close ally of the President's. The President just yesterday was talking about how DeSantis was essentially complaining about the fact that there were New Yorkers coming down to Florida, risking the potential to spread the coronavirus further in that state.

But Wolf, this is in line with what we know the President has been considering in recent days, as those 15 days to stop the spread are coming to an end in just a few days. The President has really been looking at this from a geographic standpoint. He knows that there are certain hotspots in the country where there has been a lot of spread, a lot of cases of coronavirus, and other areas where there has been less.

And the President, eager to reopen the economy, has been looking at ways to classify different regions by low, medium, and high risk. And so this certainly is in line with that geographic strategy. The question, Wolf, is whether the President is actually going to move forward with this.

The incoming White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, he was asked earlier today how serious the President is about this and what legal mechanisms he could potentially move forward with, Meadows would only say that the White House is evaluating all options at the moment. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, if you get more information on what exactly all of this means and when the President is going to make a decision, we'll of course get back to you ASAP. Thank you very much.

In the meantime, let's go to Baton Rouge right now and the U.S. Senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us. You have unique perspective because in addition to being a politician, you're also a physician and you've dealt with all sorts of crises, health crises in your state, including Katrina. What's your reaction to this proposal from the President to initially start with parts of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and put that under - those parts of - those states under some form of short-term quarantine?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): There is a paper from MIT, which I tweeted today, which says basically it is not when you institute such a community restriction, but - it's not "if" you do, it's "when" you do. And the longer you wait to do it, the higher the velocity of spread, which means the longer it must last.

Now, this modeling is from MIT. It's on the website. Today, I reviewed a PowerPoint from pandemic planning from right after 9/11, where the federal government brought in people from the private, the media, et cetera, and in their pandemic planning, they again spoke of having to take communities and, if you will, restrict travel in and out if you're going to contain. This is ultimately for the better of the community.

Right now, there are cities hoarding ventilators and personal protective equipment because they are afraid that the virus is going to hit them, they need to be prepared. If they know that the spread is going to be contained, I think they will feel freer about liberating their PPE and ventilators to those people in which the infection is crusty now. So it's backed up by science. It's backed up by their bio- war games. I think it also will benefit those communities that need the resources but can't get them.

BLITZER: So you - bottom line is you think the President should do this?

[19:10:00]

CASSIDY: I think it's rooted in science. I think it's rooted in their bio-war games. And so, if this is what it takes to, one, get the needed resources to cities like New Orleans, which right now is about to be overwhelmed, and two, prevent it from spreading further, I think it absolutely needs to be looked at.

BLITZER: Because if the President is really considering doing this kind of aggressive, very unprecedented action, why not simply increase the social distancing or shelter-in-place recommendations and do that nationwide?

CASSIDY: Because people don't uniformly follow. Yes, indeed, if people weren't traveling, it wouldn't matter. But we learned that if a party of four travels from one city to the next and that party of four is each infected, on average, they'll infect two to three more people, who'll infect two to three more, who'll infect two to three more. And it just spreads exponentially.

So the rationale of the MIT study - but you can see, the Governor Cuomo, by the way - I mean, hats off to the guy. He's up there just plugging away. But when you see in Wuhan, they did do that sort of restriction, which he alluded to, and that's what kept it from spreading across the rest of China. It's temporary. But the sooner you do it, the shorter it is. And then once you snuffed it out, then the rest of the country is OK. In the meantime, it allows resources to be concentrated at the hotspots who need it right now.

BLITZER: Because today, New York, tomorrow it could be Louisiana, which already is a major hotspot for the coronavirus infections. As you know, Florida is setting up checkpoints to direct visitors driving in from your state to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Do you support that kind of a decision from a public health standpoint? And I'll reiterate that you're a physician.

CASSIDY: Yes. If it'll get resources to my city, I'm told by Thursday we're out of ventilators. Why? There's a lot of ventilators all over this country. But if you have a ventilator and you're in Nebraska or Iowa or someplace else which has not been hit, you're getting ready. You don't want to release your ventilators.

But if you had some reassurance that maybe the infection, if it reached you, it would reach you later, that would make you more comfortable of loaning your ventilators at least until they can be replaced by future production to places like New Orleans, which is a hotspot, which is running up by Thursday. We need to reassure those who can loan that they have a little bit of breathing space, I think it would help my city greatly.

BLITZER: Well, you need these ventilators. If you're going to run out in New Orleans, which is a beautiful city as we all know and the hospitals are going to be without ventilators, people are going to die. How do you get in the ventilators by Thursday?

CASSIDY: So that's why I say, you've got hospitals right now - pick a city. Des Moines. Now, Des Moines may have some incidents, but I'm just picking that. Their prevalence of this virus is a lot lower than New Orleans. And so if you could reassure them that there is going to be a lag time before the virus really hits them hard, they could loan those ventilators to New Orleans. In the meantime, current production could backfill what they are loaning.

So we can have those ventilators where we need them right now if that city elsewhere had some reassurance, one, the virus wasn't going to hit them for a while in a big way, and two, that they are going to be backfilled. Now, this requires not just, OK, we're going to try to lock down where the virus is; it also requires a commitment from the federal government to backfill. I need both those commitments to help my people.

BLITZER: What about the federal government? Is the federal government ready to bring in a ton of these kind of ventilators into New Orleans in the coming days?

CASSIDY: I sure hope so. That's why we have BARDA. And so - I do know Bob Kadlec is a very capable man. He's been given $17 billion by Congress. If he's given the latitude, I have no doubt that he's going to move resources where they need to be.

But again, I will go back to, we have resources already out there that are being kept for the risk that the virus is going to enter a community. If those communities were reassured the virus is not going to reach them as soon or at least as fully as it might, then they might feel better about allowing those ventilators to be relocated to hotspots like my city, like New York, like Pacific Northwest, bringing immediate relief to hospitals that need ventilators now.

BLITZER: Senator Cassidy, if President Trump is watching us right now - for what we know, he might be watching us right now - what would you say to him about the urgent need in New Orleans?

CASSIDY: I would say that there is a pandemic proposal that was put forward after 9/11, which prepared for these war games. And though - bio-war games, if you will. And so those pandemics, which I can see the administration attempting to implement, would have an answer for my city. Again, if you give reassurance to other cities as regards when and - or at least delaying when the virus reaches them and you can backfill, they can loan to me, my folks are taken care of. I need my folks cared for now.

BLITZER: Senator, part of the reason for the spike in Louisiana, this according to emergency officials, was the decision to proceed with Mardi Gras at the end of February.

[19:15:00]

The Mayor of New Orleans told me earlier in the week that she would have cancelled Mardi Gras if the federal government had told her to do so. Listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL, (D) NEW ORLEANS: Well, if red flags were given, I would say, at the federal level, leadership matters. And leaders on the ground, we rely on the facts to make decisions for the people that we serve. Given no red flags, we move forward. In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras and I would have been the leader to cancel it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did you get any warning about the risk of the virus spreading during those Mardi Gras celebrations?

CASSIDY: No. And I think the best information the Centers for Disease Control had was that it was very contained in the Pacific Northwest. And I will note that our Mayor did cancel a few other parades right after that, as an example. And so, clearly, she was willing to do so, but there was no indication prior to that that it should be.

And by the way, the first events didn't start getting cancelled until two weeks later. So the - I'm not blaming anybody. You do the best with the information you have and the information that the Centers for Disease Control had at that point was that it was very isolated to a few people. You do what you can.

BLITZER: Well, that's important to know. Looking back a little bit, we all have to learn lessons from what happened to make sure if it comes back, we learn from those lessons.

The Louisiana Senator, Bill Cassidy - Dr. Bill Cassidy, I should say, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you, your family, everyone in Louisiana right now. We know the situation there is getting more dire by the day. Thanks so much for joining us.

CASSIDY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Crowded hospitals and equipment shortages, can the federal government and states get doctors what they desperately need in time? We'll ask a former U.S. surgeon general. That's coming up next. Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room".

[19:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I want to update you on the breaking news. We're following her in "The Situation Room". The President considering a temporary quarantine of parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in order to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. So I want to get reaction from the Former Surgeon General of the United States under President Obama, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Dr. Murthy, thanks so much for joining us. And you heard the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, say this is bad policy, but he goes further than that. He says it would be illegal. Do you think something like that is really necessary?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL & AUTHOR, "TOGETHER: THE HEALING POWER OF HUMAN CONNECTION IN A SOMETIMES LONELY WORLD": Well, Wolf, I think in these situations, it's essential to let science and public health guide your decision-making. And we can - what we know from scientists and from public health experts is that a quarantine and travel restriction at this stage does not make sense. It is not supported by evidence.

And that's really important because there's a huge cost to try to do this. Number one, enforcement would be quite difficult. It would be a nightmare. But more importantly, you would strike fear into many people who may try to travel early before the restrictions are put in place, so who may not get tested because they worry that they may be restricted in some way. You don't want to do those things. You want to focus on what works.

And right now, because we were behind in responding to the epidemic early on, we've got to focus on getting people to dramatically reduce their physical proximity to each other. That's why stay-at-home orders are so important. And we should be doing that across the country.

Finally, if you are interested in doing a travel restriction, there are some limited circumstances where it helps. But it only helps when it's very early in the process. Right now, the cat is out of the bag. You have thousands of cases in Florida. You have thousands of cases in California and other states where this virus is accelerating dramatically. Putting a restriction in place for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut would do very little to stop the spread of the epidemic in this country. It's the wrong choice for what we need.

BLITZER: Well, as you know, more than 200 million Americans, Dr. Murthy, are already under some form of stay-at-home order, and yet we're seeing still seeing new hotspots emerge daily almost on a daily basis like New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit. In your opinion, where are we in this crisis right now, and what is the apex?

MURTHY: It's a great question, Wolf, to talk about timing. So, a couple of important points to make here. Number one, because we institute a stay-at-home policy today does not mean we're going to see results tomorrow. That's because there's a time lag. The cases you're hearing about that are registering today are people who were infected somewhere between one to two weeks ago.

So it takes a couple of weeks at least for us to start seeing the effect. And the more people and the more locations and states around the country that institute stay-at-home policies, the better our chances of seeing a response quickly.

If we look at other countries, to get a clue of how long this may take, it has taken other countries, especially in East Asia, several months of instituting strict stay-at-home policies and combining those with broad-based testing and with the ability to contact trace and quarantine to finally get a handle on this virus.

What we are doing right now is increasingly stay-at-home measures. That's good. But we still are struggling when it comes to getting testing available to everyone who needs it. We still do not have the infrastructure to contact trace and quarantine fully all the people who will need it.

And what we're seeing here, unlike other parts of the world, is we're seeing multiple waves and multiple fronts, if you will, of this pandemic. We're seeing New York going first. But I'm deeply concerned about Louisiana. I'm concerned about Illinois. And I'm really concerned about California where there has been a huge backlog in tests. And as we see those tests get cleared, we are going to see the numbers really increase in California as well.

BLITZER: So many hospitals, as you know, Dr. Murthy, and you are the Former Surgeon General of the United States, are struggling right now with a lack of supplies. We saw a picture from a New York nurse - we're showing it to our viewers right now - where she literally had to staple her mask to get through the shift.

[19:25:00]

It's hard to believe something like that could happen here in the United States of America. What's your reaction when you see that image?

MURTHY: It's heartbreaking, Wolf, and it's frankly wrong. This is the most well-resourced, richest country in the world. And there is no reason that we should be sending doctors and nurses and health workers into the front lines of battle with COVID-19 without the protection that they need. That's just unacceptable today in America.

And the truth is, this nurse who is going to work despite the risk to her is not alone. I'm hearing from friends and colleagues across the country, who are at home trying to make their own masks, who are reusing masks, because their hospital doesn't have enough.

And there are hospitals that are worried about running out of gowns right now and people who are stocking up on gloves because they know they're on their last box. They are not only putting patients at risk, they are putting their own health at risk. But they're still showing up and going to work. That's the dedication that our healthcare workers have.

And that's why it's essential that we pull out the stops to make sure that we are getting every resource into the machinery to produce the gloves, the gowns and the other protective equipment these doctors and nurses and healthcare workers need.

To say that we're not there yet, to say that we'll wait for the private sector to volunteer and respond, that is frankly irresponsible. We have a duty and responsibility to take care of the health workers who are taking care of us. They depend on us, and as a country, we've got to step up and have their backs.

BLITZER: Yes. The - it's amazing what's going on. And these health workers, the doctors, the nurses, the others, the technicians, they are real heroes. They are risking their own lives with sometimes very limited protective equipment to go in there and try to save the lives of others. 51 Italian doctors, by the way, have died from coronavirus over the past few weeks alone.

Dr. Murthy, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for what you're doing.

MURTHY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So the coronavirus death toll in Italy hits a massive, massive milestone, a grim moment for their country. Could it be a glimpse of what's in store for our country? Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Italy reaching a new and once unimaginable milestone today -- the country now reporting 92,000 paeople have contracted the coronavirus and more than 10,000 of those infected have now died marking the highest death toll globally. Those figures pushing the European nation past China in both cases and fatalities.

Meanwhile, some of those who are fighting on the front lines each day are losing their own battle with the deadly virus. As of today, at least 51 doctors in Italy have died, and according to the Italian National Institute of Health, more than 6,000 health workers have fallen ill since the onset of the pandemic.

The tragic impact of this virus in Italy is forcing priests across the country to face a new grim reality each and every day. CNN's Ben Wedeman has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Coffins one next to another, next to another, next to another lined up in a church in Northern Italy, the epicenter of this country's coronavirus outbreak.

Social distancing means family and friends can't say their final farewells.

The sick were all alone as they lay dying.

"They were people," says Father Mario Carminati, " ... who died without anyone to hear or see them without the possibility to talk to their loved ones, with no one comfort them."

The increase in new cases has of late shown signs of beginning to slow down. But now, COVID-19 has killed more people in Italy than anywhere else on Earth. The Public Health System, one of Europe's best has been pushed to the

limits. The disease has killed more than 50 medical personnel, more than 7,000 have fallen ill.

Italy has been under lockdown for almost three weeks. Severe measures may be starting to bear fruit, says Dr. Marino Tresoldi.

"We should see less people arriving in the emergency ward," he says, "And we will be able to better look after patients."

WEDEMAN (on camera): Even if the numbers are starting to level out, the damage coronavirus has done to this country is breathtaking.

Friday evening, the 24-hour death toll was 969. Saturday evening, the authorities reported another 889 people had died.

If there's light at the end of this tunnel, it is at best, a faint glimmer.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A story of hope and survival also coming from Italy right now.

I want you to meet Italica Grondona. She lives in Northern Italy and has fully recovered from the coronavirus after spending more than 20 days in the hospital. What makes your story truly so incredible, so inspiring is that she is 102 years old.

[19:36:04]

BLITZER: Doctors tell CNN they nicknamed her Highlander, the immortal because she represents hope for all the elderly facing this pandemic and so many are elderly.

What's her secret? Doctors say they're still trying to figure that out. But they say she might be the first patient they know of that lived through the Spanish flu, which killed so many millions of people around the world back in 1918.

Right now, she is recovering in a care home. She was released from the hospital two days ago. God bless her.

The White House is pressing companies to make ventilators now. Next, I'll speak live with the head of one company who is working with General Motors to make that happen. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Caregivers and governors in hotspots across the United States are sounding the alarm that they'll face a shortage of ventilators if coronavirus cases continue to surge.

[19:40:03]

BLITZER: Nearly half of the U.S. cases are in New York and Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state may need an additional 30,000 ventilators in an effort to stem widespread shortage of these life-saving machines.

General Motors on Friday announced a formal partnership with Ventec Life Systems to produce thousands of ventilators at GM's Kokomo, Indiana manufacturing facility.

The CEO of Ventec Life Systems, Chris Kiple is joining us now. Chris, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks so much for what you and your team are doing.

First of all, for our viewers who don't know, explain why these ventilators are so critical in saving lives.

CHRIS KIPLE, CEO, VENTEC LIFE SYSTEMS: COVID-19 patients are incredibly sick. They're on the far extreme of what you would typically put a ventilator machine on. Ventilators help people breathe when they can't breathe on their own.

Right now, a ventilator literally is the difference between life and death. Not only in the United States, but around the world for people suffering from COVID-19.

BLITZER: How soon Chris will these ventilators be sent out to hospitals in need and how many ventilators will be in those first shipments?

KIPLE: We are doing everything we can in partnership with General Motors has really opened up our supply lines and they have incredible manufacturing capabilities.

We have a unique solution. We are doing everything we can to produce as many ventilators as possible. We expect to be shipping within weeks. We are ramping up our production to thousands of units per month, and we hope to be at full production capacity in the July- August timeframe.

BLITZER: Sources tell CNN, Chris, that the partnership that you announced with GM actually happened before the President said he would order GM to produce ventilators through what's called the Defense Production Act. Have you received any formal order from the White House?

KIPLE: Our conversations with General Motors have been ongoing for almost a little over a week at this point. We're doing everything we can to share our technology with General Motors, everything we can to accelerate production in Kokomo, Indiana.

We have been in close consultation with the White House, as well as F.E.M.A. We're doing everything to act in concert together.

BLITZER: But are you acting as a result of the Defense Production Act? The order by the President or were you planning on doing this before that?

KIPLE: We are full speed ahead. We have been full speed ahead. We're happy that there's attention at the White House around how critical ventilators are, and the Defense Production Act just brings everyone together to solve these problems, to get ventilators in to medical professionals to help them on the frontlines.

BLITZER: As you know, many governors have spoken out about being outbid by other governors and the Federal government for that matter. So how do you determine who gets these new ventilators? Are you waiting for direction from the Federal government on that?

KIPLE: Our job is to make ventilators and to make as many as possible, and to get them to the front lines so that medical professionals don't have to make those decisions between who gets to be on a ventilator and who doesn't.

Right now, we are shipping orders as they are received. We are shipping them to hospitals and states. We are working with F.E.M.A. and the Federal government to understand what the need is in the United States and settle for that need.

BLITZER: Well, Chris Kiple, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks so much for what you're doing, because you and GM will be saving a lot of lives down the road. I have no doubt about that. Thank you so much for joining us.

KIPLE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, now a jarring look inside a New York Hospital that is simply overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. A doctor at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, released footage showing a crowded emergency room, lines of people outside and a large truck to store the bodies of dead patients. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. COLLEEN SMITH, EMERGENCY ROOM DIRECTOR, ELMHURST HOSPITAL: All the people that you see, they all have COVID.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dr. Colleen Smith says she doesn't care if she gets in trouble for taking this footage and sharing it with the media.

Smith is an ER doctor at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, one of the hardest hit facilities treating coronavirus patients in New York City.

The video she took, which she sent to "The New York Times" shows an overloaded emergency room, patients lining up outside and a refrigerator truck which she says the hospital had to get to store the bodies of patients who died.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: 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 America and we're supposed to be a first world country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): Smith told "The Times," on a regular day prior to the outbreak, her ER would see about 200 people. Now, it's about twice that.

She filmed a new shipment of ventilators Elmhurst had just received from another hospital.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: Five -- five ventilators. Oh my god.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): Staffers at Elmhurst describe the scenes at that hospital to "The Times" as apocalyptic and said calls over a loudspeaker of "Team 700," the code for when a patient is in danger of dying come several times on each shift.

[19:45:10]

TODD (voice over): CNN has reached out to Elmhurst Hospital for a response to Dr. Smith's video and comments. The hospital has not replied, but in a previous statement, they said they are working hard to meet demand.

But caregivers at other New York area hospitals are also worried and are talking about it. Dr. Meredith Case, an Internal Medicine resident at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center tweeted, "Today was the worst day anyone has ever seen. But tomorrow will be worse. We are on the precipice of rationing."

Dr. Susannah Hills, a head and neck surgeon at the same hospital tell CNN she believes it's inevitable she is going to be exposed to coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SUSANNAH HILLS, HEAD AND NECK SURGEON, COLUMBIA PRESBYTERIAN MEDICAL CENTER: In my department, the procedures that we do our procedures that tend to aerosolize the virus or emit particles into the air and that's particularly high risk for exposure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): Some hospital staffers seem on the verge of breaking, a nurse at a Long Island Hospital who treated coronavirus patients posted on social media, "I cried in the bathroom on my break, I cried the entire ride home."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: We don't have the tools that we need in the emergency department and in the hospital to take care of them. And -- and it's really hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (on camera): Another doctor, a pulmonary specialist at a prominent Boston hospital says she is scared right now to share the same air in a room with a coronavirus patient.

She says she comes in, does only what she needs to do and then leaves the room. She says she can't even spend a few moments reassuring those patients, which leads to the overwhelming numbers of people feeling isolated -- patients and doctors alike.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian for that report. The coronavirus is changing all of our lives in sometimes rather surprising ways.

Up next, a special look at how these unusual times are affecting our daily routines.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:29]

BLITZER: Across the United States, the coronavirus crisis is changing the very fabric of our lives. We aren't all impacted by the pandemic the same way, but we're all feeling the effects in terms of reconfiguring the way we live and work.

CNN's Martin Savidge takes a closer look at how people are coping with a sudden and very dramatic upheavals in their daily routines and how they're trying to rebuild a sense of community and purpose online.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Across America, coronavirus is changing lives. Instead of studying, 22-year-old college student, Asia Judge is getting a hard lesson in life. Her mom sent us video and pictures of Asia, cleaning out her dorm at now closed Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina. Her entire senior year in question.

With her high school closed, senior, Kristen Lee of Hendersonville, Tennessee stands to lose lifelong memories, dreams of softball, prom, maybe even graduation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard about it and I started crying. I was really upset about it because this year was my -- like it's our senior's year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE (voice over): Coronavirus changed everything says Zace brand

in Fredericton, Ohio, until recently one of the last denim producers in the country. But the news of medical shortages haunted owner Zach Myers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACH MYERS, ZACE BRAND: It really just started to kind of build up inside to the point to where I realized we needed to take action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): So found Army Surplus material, read up on C.D.C. guidelines and with his son and three employees, makes hospital masks, selling for five bucks apiece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MYERS: This isn't a for profit efforts. What we'd like to have is just enough to cover our material and our labor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): He is hoping the masks help others while helping him stay in business.

John Henderson checked in from Texas saying he is crazy busy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENDERSON, TEXAS: I'm driving down the highway with a load sticking out of my sunroof in my wife's Ford Runner. I've got 60,000 surgical masks and boxes in my car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): He and his team from Texas rural community hospitals are going non-stop delivering personal protective equipment to 157 rural healthcare facilities all over the Lone Star State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two boxes are going to go to the hospital in Dalhart, for a total of 3,000 masks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): He says his family is healthy. The kids have started learning online and they all appreciate life more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIAN, AMAZON EMPLOYEE: Hi, I'm Adrian. I've been with Amazon for about 10 years.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAVIDGE (voice over): Adrian checked it with us while on the job at

an Amazon fulfillment center in Connecticut.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIAN: Children are at home doing their lessons and plans. With mom and with help from our teachers and distance learning. We're practicing social distancing,

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): Online services like Amazon have become more vital to people as they isolate. Adrian knows it and is proud to play a part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADRIAN: I remember growing up that Mr. Rogers said when there was scary things on the news, I'd always look for the helpers. And for me, that's been the best part about being an Amazonian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): Stanton Moore could really use some helpers or just plain help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had to close the club. We have had to cancel our tour.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): Moore is the drummer of the band Galactic. The group owns the famous Tipitina's in Uptown New Orleans, but coronavirus has devastated the music scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STANTON MOORE, DRUMMER, GALACTIC BAND: It is kind of an eerie feeling to be in this iconic venue and have it be empty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): There's no money to pay musicians, bartenders or roadies.

To try to get some income, Stanton teachers drums online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: I've been doing Skype lessons right here with my computer set up right over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): You can also go online and buy a virtual drink at Tipatina's as a donation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: This has been daunting for us and we don't know when all of this is going to end and we don't know what the future holds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE (voice over): That is just as true in New Orleans as it is everywhere else.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[19:55:34]

BLITZER: Thank you, Martin. Now, there's another full hour of THE SITUATION ROOM just ahead, including the very latest on the coronavirus and President Trump's talk of a possible quarantine affecting New York City. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:00:00]