Return to Transcripts main page


Gov. Cuomo Tries to Pacify and Inform N.Y. Citizens; N.Y. Looks For Alternative Sites to Build Make-Shift Hospitals; Dr. Fauci Predicts That The U.S. Will See Between 100,000 and 200,000 Deaths From The Novel Coronavirus. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired March 29, 2020 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I was there the morning after the first night of Chanukah, when a rabbi's home was attacked. Not to address anti-Semitism in this state; I think it's a terrible mistake. And it's not just anti-Semitism; it's what I call "domestic terrorism". It's repugnant to the concept of New York and America to attack someone based on their race, color, creed. If you try to kill someone, if you kill someone in an attempt to kill several people, based on their race, color or creed, how is that not a terrorist act? You kill someone and you were attempting to kill multiple people, based on their race, color, creed.

They don't want to pass that bill. And there's objections to the surrogacy bill. Which would allow, which would help infertile women who can't have a child, can't carry a child biologically, from having a surrogate, so they can have a child. It would stop LGBTQ couples from having a child, which is wholly ironic to me, as this is the state that first passed marriage equality. Now you say that that couple who you said you can get married, but you can't have a family, because you can't have a child. Makes no sense to me. But those are the main discussions. Let's go to work, guys. I have to go. Thank you.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York discussing a number of things from anti-Semitism to discrimination and then he vented his frustration over the most recent two trillion- dollar stimulus bill, now law, from the federal government saying that help from Washington that never came, never came to states who got no money for lost revenue and he had a response for how Speaker Nancy Pelosi had told our Jake Tapper earlier today that that kind of assistance may come in the next bill. He wasn't too happy about that.

But on Coronavirus he covered a lot. Cuomo trying to inform, allay fears and promote calm. His state, of course, having the most cases, confirmed cases of Coronavirus and deaths, the latest numbers, 59,000 and counting cases. More than 965 deaths. Governor Cuomo reiterating that there isn't a lockdown in place in New York, but a stay-in-place, unless you are an essential worker. He also, you know, just responded that thousands more people, alarmingly he said will pass away until they pass the curve. Yesterday he had mentioned that he thought the apex would be reached in 14 to 21 days and now he says it's a rolling curve; it could come at any moment.

I've got a great panel with me now. Joining me right now, Dr. Esther Choo. She's an associate professor at Oregon Health and Science University. Dr. Carlos del Rio, Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health at Emory University. And CNN's Chief Media Correspondent and Anchor of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter. Excuse me, so much. Good to see both of you. Also with us, CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House; we'll get to her in a moment.

All right, so you know, Brian, to you first. You know, Governor Cuomo trying to pacify, at the same time inform. But he's also being a realist, saying you know, this country is fighting a virus at the same time fighting fear.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: It's incredible the leadership we're seeing from governors, including Andrew Cuomo -- trying to explain to the country what's about to happen. Because as we see, the disturbing data on the corner of the screen, showing us the case count and the death toll, Cuomo and other governors are telling us, this is going to get worse, but we can get through it together. You look at the words Cuomo puts up on screen during his pressers; words like strength and stability.

He is trying to reassure people that most, all, many, many people who are getting sick will survive this and come through this and he's trying to free up the hospitals, take care of as many people who get sick as possible. So he's sending all the right messages. And doing it in a calming way, that makes New Yorkers, I think, feel better, but also makes people around the country feel better and more confident in this crisis situation.

We still are not seeing Cuomo-style briefings from the federal government. But maybe later today. Every day we know that the White House is watching Cuomo very carefully and learning from him. But I think it's important that the federal government be saying the same things that Cuomo is. But we are starting to see that, by the way, from Dr. Deborah Birx and others saying every metro area in the country, every city is going to be affected. And frankly, Fred, we're already seeing that.


This already is spreading in all 50 states. But the federal government messaging needs to be more like the state messaging.

[13:05:00] WHITFIELD: Right. All 50 states. I mean, here are the numbers so far. More than 130,000 Coronavirus cases across the country; more than 2,298 deaths. We're talking 50 states; Washington, D.C. and U.S. Territories.

Dr. Choo, you heard from Andrew Cuomo there, while he's trying to, you know, pacify, calm people, even give advice about how to find joy in all of this in response to fear in so many households -- he also still reiterated that thousands more people will pass away until after the curve.

So help people understand what he means by "the curve". Is he talking about that apex, is how he described it earlier; that there will be more cases in the coming weeks and it's only until after that, that would be passing the curve?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, OREGON HEALTH & SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yeah. Our estimates of how bad it's going to get are really, they're a moving target. And their best guess is because as you know, we've gotten so far behind in testing, and even the numbers that we have rely on testing that we're not applying evenly over the population. I mean, we really are still testing the sickest patients; most of the people we test are in hospitals and so we're relying on epidemiologists and statisticians to make best estimates about what we're headed into.

So the curve is, as you said, when cases will peak and those are different estimates by city, by county and by state. But we're looking at estimates from many states that show that the people probably hit over the next several weeks to months and trying to scramble and put in place the resources that we need for that absolute apex is the work that we're all doing on the ground.

WHITFIELD: Mm-hmm. Dr. Carlos del Rio, Governor Cuomo there saying, you know, a real sign that perhaps there will be a turn to some normalcy is when there will be an at-home kind of test for Coronavirus. I mean, that is the --


I get, that's the hopeful of Governor Cuomo's speaking, but how far away might that be? And what has to happen in the interim?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, PROFESSOR, HUBERT DEPARTMENT OF GLOBAL HEALTH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Well, I think there are a lot of companies working on tests and every day tests, new tests are appearing, in fact, Abbott Laboratories yesterday got approval from the FDA for a very rapid test that will give a result in 15, 20 minutes. So I think science and technology are advancing rapidly and are helping us confront this epidemic.

So let's not forget that science is really behind our success, but I do want to say two things. I want to first of all recognize that we need to remember that every single one of those tests is a person, it's a relative, it's a friend, it's somebody we all know and I think we need to really think about that.

But the other thing is I want to thank and praise all of my colleagues, healthcare professionals who are really on the front lines, who really are battling this and who really are doing what I think is a yeoman's job and I think we all need to recognize and (INAUDIBLE) and thank him every day.

WHITFIELD: Oh, total agreement there. We can't thank enough the medical workers, all those on the front lines, the first responders and hey, how about all the folks who are trying to keep things open for everyone's survival from grocery stores, people at the counter there. You know I mean, they're just so many people that we all have to thank.

You know, Brian, it was interesting, too, Governor Cuomo talked about Rhode Island and its executive order --


-- of stopping New Yorkers, anyone who has been in transit, coming through, relocating to Rhode Island and the governor said it was not only not legal, but it was not neighborly to stop New Yorkers, you know, in Rhode Island and that the governor of that state rethought things through, after a discussion with Governor Cuomo and repealed that.

How important was that to perhaps relax the fears, particularly of New Yorkers and perhaps Rhode Islanders, too, that that executive order has since be repealed?

[13:10:00] STELTER: Yeah, absolutely. I was hearing from folks in Connecticut and Rhode Island last night, who were worried about these restrictions that were being put into place. And certainly the president's talk yesterday, his trial balloon about a quarantine, caused some concern among New Yorkers as well. He wondered if they should leave the city and leave the state before roads and bridges and tunnels and airports were closed.

Look, the president walked that back, of course, and we see the Rhode Island governor walking back the executive order. These are good signs. We need to see more state-by-state coordination right now, so that there aren't these mixed messages and there isn't this confusion, because confusion does cause concern, does cause, in some cases, chaos or panic.

Most people, I think, are taking this in stride and living up to this national moment. There's an incredible amount of unity and you know, the people feel in these communities, but when we get mixed messages or confusing signals or disturbing comments from governors or mayors or presidents, it does cause worry.

You know, I was driving through the streets today, these empty streets in New York; there's these beautiful new street posters that have gone up that say, "Thank You to New York's Everyday Heroes" and it lists off the people you were just talking about, Fred.


STELTER: The grocery store workers and the firefighters, the sanitation workers, the childcare aides, all of those folks who are helping people in nurses, in hospitals stay employed and stay working. You know, it's those kinds of gestures, giving thanks --


STELTER: -- expressing thanks that are so important; we're seeing that locally. You know, I think we need the state to coordinate a little bit better and we need certainly the federal government to get on the same page

WHITFIELD: Right. And big thanks to the people, you know, working with you and I, Brian, because you know -- (CROSSTALK)

STELTER: You know, I was just thinking about that.


WHITFIELD: -- our buildings are virtually empty --


STELTER: I walked down the hallway and I said thank you to the engineers --


STELTER: -- who are keeping us on the air. Because we are all in these remote studios now --


WHITFIELD: And the janitors. Lots of teams of janitors.


STELTER: People are at home now. That's absolutely right. The security guards at our buildings, there are countless people that are keeping essential infrastructure online in New York and in cities across the country right now.

WHITFIELD: Right. And ours is a service. I mean, we are trying to be that conduit to help get the information from you, Dr. del Rio, Dr. Choo, you know, from the governor, from the president, we're trying to you know, be a conduit to make sure that everyone gets the most concrete, reliable, sound information -- but it does take, you know, a team.

[13:15:00] We usually have you know teams of dozens, you know, sometimes hundreds of course, you know, for any number of shows, to try to get this information out there and this weekend, Brian, you and I can both relate, we've got a handful of people, but you know, mighty work still being done and a big thanks to everyone for allowing it to happen.

Kristen Holmes is at the White House with us. We're going to continue this conversation and you know, disseminate this information. From the White House, Kristen, often, we know the president takes cues from the New York governor's press conferences and while the governor made it clear that executive order out of Rhode Island has since been rescinded, I understand there are some travel advisories now being put out by the CDC. You have information on that.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's absolutely right, Fred. I mean, we saw this, a very different tone from Governor Cuomo towards President Trump today than we saw yesterday. Just to remind our viewers, it was yesterday during that press briefing when Cuomo was blindsided by reports that President Trump was saying that he wanted to put a quarantine on New York and we heard some pretty sharp words from Cuomo later in the day saying essentially that a quarantine on New York, Connecticut and New Jersey would be essentially a federal declaration of war against the states.

Today, he was talking very favorably about what President Trump ended up doing instead, which was issuing that CDC Travel Advisory and essentially Governor Cuomo here saying that he likes what he did because it affirms what the State of New York was already doing. But one thing to make it very clear here, is he kept saying this is not a lockdown; that this is not mandatory. And it really goes to show, this kind of push/pull of power that we've seen play out throughout the Coronavirus response, you have the states on one side against the federal government; governors kind of pushing/pulling against President Trump -- and that's what we saw play out here.

Now Governor Cuomo says that he's onboard with this CDC Travel Advisory and we are going to wait and see what other announcements could be made later tonight at this press briefing with President Trump. We are expecting it at some point early this week, President Trump to discuss what new guidelines there would be. Remember he wants to reopen the economy in some way or another; something we're keeping a very close eye on as we head into that briefing.

WHITFIELD: Hmm, okay. Dr. Choo, what would you want to hear from the president in his late afternoon briefing? Of course, every, you know, every medical employee, personnel wants to hear about the delivery of masks, ventilators, you know, in the immediate terms -- but since that doesn't seem to be happening (LAUGHS) anytime soon at least you know in the next 24 hours for many medical facilities, what would you want to hear from the president this evening that might bring some hope to the teams that you work with?

CHOO: We are really waiting for a strong central coordinated approach to everything that we need. So it's not just the personal protective equipment and the resources like ventilators. I mean, we're facing so many limitations; it's tests, it's space, it's healthcare workers, it's equipment, it's medications that we need to take care of our patients and like Governor Cuomo said, these efforts have been occurring really on a hospital-to-hospital basis. We certainly need to coordinate more across cities and across the state.

[13:20:00] But what we really need nationally is a central, very well organized, very rapidly deployed and adaptive system, so that we understand what the needs are. As we pull in resources, there is equitable distribution that makes sense across states, so that we're not in competition with one another. And of course, all of the healthcare workers need from the president a very strong statement about how important staying at home is. If there's equivocation there, it makes our job harder every single day.

WHITFIELD: And Dr. del Rio, what about the mental health of these medical teams? I mean, it's heartbreaking to see the testimony from so many nurses and doctors, tearfully talking about it. They consider it their duty. You know, it is the most important thing to them to report to work, to be able to help people, even if it means not having masks, even if it means reusing a mask all day long when it should have been disposed of after its first use -- how concerned are you about the mental fitness of all of you on the front lines? And how you're enduring this.

DEL RIO: Well, we're very concerned about it and we, all of us at our different (INAUDIBLE) are actively working on it, are people that do mental health at Emory and at (ph) Grady are working very hard to provide the kind of support; we have something called Caring Committees for Coronavirus. They're providers that actively is doing this and is doing it frequently.

But I also worry about the mental health of children and of others who are simply at home to understand what's going on and fear and anxiety I think is very big. And I think we need to reassure people that this is hard, but this too will pass and I think what we need is some message of unity and a call to action from the highest level, that really gets us aligned, gets us growing in the same direction and we see a path forward.

What I hope to see from the federal government and from the local governments is really not just actions that really don't seem to have (INAUDIBLE) one after the other, but really I want to see a battle. I want to see a clear plan of action over the next 30, 45, 60 days that we can all align with and that we can all feel confident. I think when there is that kind of messaging and there's hope, I think the mental health of people is at a much better place.

WHITFIELD: Mm-hmm. All right, and of course, in the meantime, I think all of us really love this mantra "We are all in this together," we really are.


DEL RIO: We sure are.


WHITFIELD: Absolutely. Dr. Esther Choo, Dr. Carlos del Rio, Brian Stelter, Kristen Holmes, thanks to all of you. Really appreciate it. We've got so much more. Straight ahead, including this CNN now learning the Coronavirus Task Force has received proposed guidelines on reducing social distancing. What do they say and will they work? Hear from Dr. Fauci next.


WHITFIELD: It's a pretty startling figure today from Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper this morning. Fauci predicted this morning that the United States will eventually see between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from the novel Coronavirus. Listen.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I want to go now to Dr. Anthony Fauci. He is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is a vital part of President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, of course.

Dr. Fauci, it's always good to see you. I want to ask you about the latest development; the CDC now urging "residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately," this came after President Trump considered an "enforceable quarantine" as he put it for those states. So why did the administration go with this travel advisory instead? And will this help stop the virus?

[13:25:00] DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Well, I think it ultimately will help stop the virus, Jake. We had a very intensive discussions last night at the White House with the president. As you know, the original proposal was to consider seriously an enforceable quarantine. After discussions with the president, we made it clear and he agreed that it would be much better to do what's called a strong advisory and the reason for that is that you don't want to get to the point where you're being, enforcing things that would create a bigger difficulty, morale and otherwise, when you could probably accomplish the same goal.

One of the issues is that the infection rate in New York City and the New York City area is about 56 percent of all of the new infections in the country are coming from that area. That's terrible suffering --


FAUCI: -- from the people of New York, which I feel myself personally as a New Yorker. So what was trying to be done is to get people, unless there's necessary travel. So all non-essential travel, to just hold off. Because what you don't want is people traveling from that area to other areas of the country and inadvertently and innocently infecting other individuals.

We felt the better part a way to do this would be an advisory as opposed to a very strict quarantine and the president agreed and that's why he made that determination last night and I believe he Tweeted it out last night.

TAPPER: Let me ask you, so Dr. Fauci, we're about to hit the last day of teach 15 days to flatten the curve. Everybody watching at home wants to know how long you think it's going to last. What steps does the United States need to take right now in order to be able to seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and when might that be?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, what I want to see is I want to see a flattening and a turning down of the curve. So if somebody asks me a question, what about New York? Should we be pulling back on New York? Obviously not. New York is doing this. New Orleans is doing this. When we start to see a daily number of cases instead of increasing and escalating, they start to flatten out, turn the corner and then start coming down. When we see that, then you could start doing the modification of the intensity of your mitigation.

As I've said before, it's true; the virus itself determines that timetable. You can try and influence that timetable by mitigating against the virus. But ultimately it's what the virus does. And when I start seeing this happen, then I'll come back on the show and tell you, you know, Jake, I think we're at that point now where we can start pulling back a little. But not right now, in several of the places that I just mentioned.

TAPPER: Well, there's this discussion out there about loosening the social distancing guidelines in some parts of the country. CNN's reporting that some federal health officials are preparing a recommendation where some parts of the country will be able to open schools and open businesses. And yet I hear that and then I hear what you're saying and Dr. Birx, when you're saying that there are these hot spots that we know of, New Orleans, New York -- and that we don't really have an idea of where other hot spots might be.


TAPPER: You've just agreed with what Speaker Pelosi said, because of the lag in testing, there could be hot spots in all sorts of cities we don't know, and we're just not there yet. So what do you think about the recommendations that some parts of the country might be able to loosen the guidelines, given the fact that we, at least according to you, don't even know where these next hot spots will be?

FAUCI: Great question, Jake, and that's the reason why. If you look at an area, any area; take one that has moderate degree of activity -- you can't just empirically say, I'm going to loosen restrictions there. You can do it, but you absolutely must have in place the capability of going there, testing, testing in an efficient way -- not take a test, come back five days later and find out if you're infected. Testing, knowing in real time if a person is infected, and then getting them out of circulation and contact tracing.

Because if you release the restrictions before you have a good eyeball on what's going on there, you're going to get in trouble. So I'm not against releasing the restrictions. I'm actually for it, in an appropriate place. But I don't recommend it unless we have the tools in place, in real time, to do the things I just said. If we can do that, we can keep things contained without slipping into the need of having to mitigate the way they are in New York, in New Orleans and other places now.

So it's doable. But it's only doable if you put the tools in place.


WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci today. All right, it is currently the hottest of hot spots in the current outbreak, from desperate pleas for more medical supplies to converting racetracks to an emergency hospital -- New York is doing all it can to keep up with the Coronavirus. We're live next.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. New York is looking for alternative sites to build make-shift hospitals. One of those includes a horseracing track. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is there. So, Evan, what are we learning about this racetrack?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi Fred, yes, I'm at the Aqueduct Raceway in Queens, which will soon be home to another 1,000 bed field hospital set up by the Federal Government in conjunction with the state of New York.

Now, the goal of this field hospital, much like the other one's we've seen at Javits Center and other places, is to take patients who don't have the coronavirus during that apex that the governor keeps talking about, potentially 14 to 21 days away here in this area, and the idea of that is it's supposed to alleviate stress on the existing hospital system.

So, these buildings behind me are going to become makeshift hospital. It's not the first time it's happened, 2012, this parking lot I'm standing in was also a staging area for the Red Cross for meals during Hurricane Sandy. So, it's a racetrack and it can also be a relief center when needed here in New York.

This coming as we're learning more about how this virus is spreading here in this area, particularly to first responders. The governor talked about that in his press conference today.

The latest news we have is that about 12 percent of the New York Police Department's of workers, that's about 4,600 people have called in sick, 700 -- more than 700 uniformed officers have confirmed cases of coronavirus, also some civilian officers -- some -- around 90 civilian officers as well, civilian officials.

It's just part of what they're dealing with here in New York as they're trying to build a system to deal with potential apex here building hospitals and dealing with first responders who are going down sick with this disease. Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. OK. A very serious situation continues to become even more pressing. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much, appreciate that.

All right, still ahead, House Speaker Pelosi lambaste President Trump saying, his early downplaying of coronavirus cost American lives. Hear her words next.



WHITFIELD: Hello again, and welcome back. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling on the White House to ramp up its efforts in the fight against the coronavirus. So far Pelosi says President Trump isn't doing enough and she's accusing him of fiddling around as more people die.

CNN's Jake Tapper spoke with Pelosi earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: First, I want to start with Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you are well and safe. I know your home district of San Francisco has been particularly hard hit. President Trump is considering relaxing federal guidelines for coronavirus for some of the less affected parts of the country. Do you think he should?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, first of all let me just say how sad it is that even since the president's signing of the bill that the number of deaths recorded has doubled from 1,000 to 2,000 in our country. This is such a very, very sad time for us, so we should be taking every precaution. What the president - his denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where - it continues is delaying getting equipment to where it's needed is deadly. And now I think the best thing would be to do is to prevent more loss of life rather than open things up so that - because we just don't know.

We have to have testing, testing, testing. That's what we said from the start before we cane evaluate what the nature of it is in some of these other regions as well. I don't know what the purpose of that is. I don't know what the scientists are saying to him. I don't know what the scientists said to him. When did this president know about this and what did he know? What did he know and when did he know it? That's for an after action review, but as the president fiddles, people are dying, and we have to - we just have to take every precaution.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi, when you say that the president's denial was deadly, he obviously downplayed the risks of coronavirus for several weeks, and it wasn't until I think about two weeks ago that he started acknowledging the gravity of the crisis, but are you saying that his downplaying ultimately cost American lives?

PELOSI: Yes, I am. I'm saying that because when he made - the other day when he was signing the bill, he said, "Just think 20 days ago everything was great." No, everything wasn't great. We had nearly 500 cases and 17 deaths already, and in that 20 days because we weren't prepared we now have 2,000 deaths and 100,000 cases. So again, I - we really want to work in a unifying way to get the job done here, but we cannot continue to allow him to continue to make these underestimates of what is actually happening here. This is such a tragedy. We don't even know the magnitude of it because we do not have the adequate testing.

Our first bill was about testing, testing, testing. The second bill was about masks, masks, masks. Of course, it was a bit - both of them were about addressing the emergency. We still don't have adequate testing, and we still don't have the personal protective equipment. And I thank you all for calling attention to the needs of our healthcare workers and other first responders who are risk their own lives to save lives.

[13:40:00] TAPPER: I want to ask you because when President Trump - pardon me - when President Trump signed the bill, he brushed aside a key oversight provision with a signing statement. The provision would have an independent inspector general reporting directly to Congress about how Treasury is going to loan out the money to businesses.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded by saying, quote, "And just like that the congressional oversight provisions for the half trillion dollar Wall Street slush fund, which were already too weak, are tossed away the day that the bill is signed. This is a frightening amount of public money to have given a corrupt administration with zero accountability."

You and other Democrats, especially Chuck Schumer, insisted on this inspector general as a check on the administration. And then President Trump just lightly said they weren't going abide by it. What's your response?

PELOSI: Well, it's ridiculous. Two things I think the American - well, three. This is about America's families, how they deal with the health challenge that they have, about their lives, and about their livelihood. And part of this bill was about making sure that we put workers first. The bill that the Republicans put forth was corporate - a gift to corporate America that would trickle down to the workers. We did jujitsu on it.

We turned it around into a bill that put workers and families first and by doing that to have, again, conditions placed on any money that would go to corporate America, recognizing that certain industries were a threat - were under threat, and that we needed in order to protect the jobs to put resources there conditioned on workers being paid, buybacks not being allowed, bonuses, all that CEO pay, the rest of that. The president wants to dismiss that.

TAPPER: Right.

PELOSI: And in doing so, that is one of the things that the America people are so upset about that money is going to these big firms and the rest without any conditions. He is really - well, first of all, let's not even go into whether he's allowed to do it, but we don't accept that. We don't accept that. We will have our oversight. In the Congress, we have a panel that we've established, and I see that he said we shouldn't be able to point the staff or our own panel. I mean, really.

TAPPER: Right.


PELOSI: But the fact is, it's just the same, business as usual for the president. Let's turn it back in favor of corporate America at the expense of America's workers without any conditions that makes -- makes things better for America's working families. We will not let that happen.



WHITFIELD: All right, that was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with our Jake Tapper today. Meantime the Governor of Washington State now preparing to extend a stay-at-home order in his state after a federal agency blames our nation's first cluster of coronavirus deaths on a lack of proper protocols.

Next, hear from the nurses who say they're walking into a battlefield every day.




WHITFIELD: Welcome back, I'm Fredericka Whitfield. As the White House Coronavirus Task Force weight proposals to reduce social distancing guidelines, Washington Governor Jay Inslee says social distancing is the only weapon that can stop coronavirus from continuing to spread, adding that he will likely extend a two week stay home initiative in his state. Washington has reported 189 deaths and more than 4,000 cases.

CNN's Sara Sidner recently set down with staff members at a nursing home in that state that saw the nation's first cluster of deadly coronavirus cases.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like a warzone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, all of a sudden there were so many patients, everybody needed medications, everybody needed treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had 70 staff within a week that were out.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These healthcare workers were among the first to battle a COVID-19 outbreak in America. Few in the United States have more experience with the deadly toll it took.

How quickly do you see the demise of someone with COVID-19?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less than 24 hours.

SIDNER: They work at Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home where the first known U.S. cluster of COVID-19 deaths and infections occurred. For a month they have been treating and continued to treat coronavirus infected patients.

Have any of you had symptoms of the novel coronavirus?



SIDNER: Have any of you tested positive for COVID-19?



SIDNER: For weeks this was the location of the most deaths from the novel coronavirus in the United States. This is the first time they're story of what happened inside has been told.

CHELSEY EARNEST, RN LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA: If you Google signs and symptoms of coronavirus, it's runny nose, fever and cough. I haven't seen a runny nose yet. What I see is much different than that. I saw what I described as red eyes.

SIDNER: I'd never heard of red eyes before. Why is that? Is that information just not gotten out to the public?

EARNEST: It's something that I witnessed in all of them and they have like a -- you can describe it like allergy eyes, the white part of your eye is not red, it's more like they have red eye shadow on, on the outside of their eyes. But, we've had patients that just had the red eyes is the only symptom that we saw, and go to the hospital and pass away in the hospital.

SIDNER: As of now, the CDC does not list red eyes as a symptom of COVID-19. Chelsey Earnest is a registered nurse and a nursing director at another Life Care Center facility in Washington State and that is what she saw. When an urgent call for help came from the Kirkland facility, she volunteered. She arrived one day after the staff learned a patient tested positive for coronavirus.

Why did you answer the call? You didn't have to be there. This was voluntary?

EARNEST: Well, I'm -- I'm a nurse, and they're not my patients, but -- hold on, I'm sorry.

SIDNER: It's OK, take a breath.

Earnest and her fellow staff members saw the death toll rise like rocket, the terrifyingly deterioration of the patients always seemed to happen on the nightshift, her shift.

EARNEST: That's how I describe it, is you're going off to war and you're in a battlefield where supplies are limited, the help's slow to get to you and there's lots of casualties.

SIDNER: And you can't see the enemy?

EARNEST: And you can't see the enemy.

SIDNER: Suddenly, a third of the staff had symptoms and was out sick. Before they all knew it, the virus was sweeping through the entire building. It was the oldest patients who were dying fast.


SIDNER: Nancy Butner is the Vice President of Life Care Centers of America Northwest Division. BUTNER: It's just the patient, loosing them, because we've lived with them for so long and it's hard.

SIDNER: After two days of madness, things seemed to calm, but not for long.

EARNEST: There was a little lull, and I heard a cough and so I started following the coughs.

SIDNER: According to the CDC and Life Care Center, at the height of infections, 129 people linked to this nursing home tested positive, three-quarters of the patients, about a third of the staff and 14 visitors, 29 people associated with this facility have died due to coronavirus.

In the weeks that followed, the CDC came out with a report on the facility. It found, in part, the facilities limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to the spread of the virus, both inside the facility and out.

BUTNER: Many nursing staff work in one or more facilities.

SIDNER: Do you think that that will change the idea of having people work at different facilities after COVID-19?

BUTNER: I -- I don't know that it would. And it's -- you know, and again, in healthcare you work in different settings.

SIDNER: If everyone was trained on infection control, how is it --


BUTNER: I don't know that it would. It's - you know, and again, in healthcare you work in different settings.

SIDNER: If everyone was trained on infection control, how is it that so many patients got COVID-19 and so many members of the staff also got COVID-19?

EARNEST: There's usually two patients to the room and some of the rooms are bigger and they have three patients, and you have care giving staff that are very close to their residents. We hug them. We kiss them. We love them. And I couldn't have been perfect on my PPE process.

SIDNER: You're saying wearing the personal protection equipment. You couldn't have been perfect because things were happening so fast you were trying to save lives.

She arrived after the first person tested positive. It took five days to get the results. Frightened families were outside furious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is they so we can follow up with it?

SIDNER: They couldn't get information on their loved ones for days. BUTNER: We just could not answer the phone quick enough. We had a significant drop in staff. We had significant care needs that were a priority over, unfortunately, talking to families on the phone.

SIDNER: In those first few days, the Life Care Center said they made a cry for help to government agencies from county to federal to state.

Did you get what you need when you needed it?


SIDNER: No one was doing just one job. Stephanie Booth is in charge of payroll.

STEPHANIE BOOTH, PAYROLL CLERK, LIFE CARE CENTER OF KIRKLAND: I worked in the kitchen. I don't know. I've done a little bit of everything. I did some housekeeping.

SIDNER: Everyone was doing everything until doctors and nurses arrived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services. The number of patients in the facility has dropped now from 120 to 42. Of those 42 patients, 31 have tested positive for novel coronavirus.

What advice would you give other facilities, other doctors and nurses, other staff members about dealing with COVID-19?

EARNEST: I didn't expect it to be so lethal, and I have no shame in saying that I was wrong.

SIDNER: Sarah Sidner, CNN, Kirkland, Washington.


WHITFIELD: Heartbreaking. All right, still ahead the White House Coronavirus Task Force has received proposed recommendations on reducing social distancing. We'll take a closer look at what that means coming up at the top of the hour.