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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

FDA Authorizes 15-Minute Coronavirus Test; Amazon Workers in New York Threatening Walkout; Trump Retreats From Easter Coronavirus Goal. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 30, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:31:50]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Just into CNN: The latest report shows 456 deaths in the U.S. today -- 456.

That is the largest number of reported deaths in single day in the United States during this crisis.

President Trump accepted the horrific projections from his health experts that more than 100,000 people in the United States alone could die from this pandemic, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. Now the president is admitting that life as we knew it will not be backed by Easter, as he said he once wished.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, it may have been coronavirus hitting close to his childhood neighborhood that forced the president to accept the grim reality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abandoning his desire to have the country reopen by Easter, President Trump now says Americans should avoid work, travel and outings for at least another month.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: To us, there was no question what the right choice was.

COLLINS: The president retreated from his upbeat assessment after being faced with dire predictions from his health advisers that more than 100,000 people in the U.S. could die.

FAUCI: Dr. Debbie Birx and I went in together in the Oval Office and leaned over the desk and said, here are the data. Take a look.

COLLINS: But sources tell CNN it wasn't just the numbers that convinced Trump. Devastating images from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens miles from where he grew up also resonated with him.

Elmhurst Hospital has seen such a surge in coronavirus infections that a refrigerated truck now acts as a makeshift mortuary.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is in my -- essentially in my community. COLLINS: Without providing any data, the president told FOX News today that he now expects coronavirus cases to peak by Easter.

TRUMP: That's going to be the highest point, we think, and then it's going to start coming down from there.

COLLINS: Trump cited worst-case scenario models that predicted 2.2 million people could die if no preventative measures were taken.

TRUMP: Could have been 2.2 million people could have died, 2.2 million people.

COLLINS: On Sunday, Trump questioned why the demand for mask has skyrocketed and implied something nefarious is happening at hospitals in New York.

TRUMP: Something's going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters.

COLLINS: But, today, the state's governor said he didn't know what the president was talking about.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I don't know what that means. I don't know what he's trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation.

COLLINS: Governor Cuomo offered this message instead.

CUOMO: This is no time for politics. And lead by example.

COLLINS: Today, Trump also said he's considering hazard pay for doctors, nurses and other health care workers, though he didn't make any commitments.

When it comes to possible treatments, the president has often offered rosier assessments than his doctors. Today, he said officials should know within days if a drug that treats malaria works for coronavirus.

TRUMP: I think we're going to have a good idea over the next three days.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, when Dr. Fauci and the others met with the president over the weekend, he said they presented him with a pretty clear picture of what was going on. And he said Trump looked at the numbers and acknowledged to them that he didn't really have much of a choice but to extend those guidelines.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

[16:35:01]

Now to some breaking news. A new CNN poll just in, it shows the nation split on the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

About 48 percent of Americans say that the government has done a good job in preventing the spread. That number is holding steady from 49 percent in early March, but the number of people who believe the government has done a poor job, that's going up. It's now at 47 percent, compared to three weeks ago, when the number was at 43 percent.

Now, when you break down the numbers by party, 77 percent of Republicans say that the federal government, the Trump administration, is doing a good job in prevention, compared to 44 percent of independents who feel that way and 27 percent of Democrats.

When asked about preparedness, about 30 percent of Americans say they feel very prepared to deal if someone in their family were to contract the virus; 46 percent said they feel somewhat prepared. On the flip side, 14 percent say they feel they're not too prepared; 9 percent say they do not feel prepared at all.

Those numbers change when you break it down by income level; 69 percent of those who make less than $50,000 a year say they feel prepared or at least somewhat prepared. That goes up to 83 percent for households that make more than $50,000 a year.

In the money lead, workers threatening to walk off the job at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Workers say Amazon has only acknowledged one employee there with coronavirus, when the true number may actually be seven confirmed cases.

I want to bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, similar protests are happening at the food delivery service Instacart and Whole Foods, which is also owned by Amazon, workers risking their health to deliver essentials that those of us who are staying at home need in order to survive.

How are these big-name employers responding?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: You're quite right, Jake.

This is a whole different front line in this crisis, but no less important for these workers.

Instacart first. They have come back and said, look, we will provide hand sanitizers, we will provide bonuses based on hours worked. They are also going to extend pay, sick pay, to May the 8th.

For Amazon, what these workers wanted was that facility in Staten Island shut down. They wanted it sanitized. They wanted to be paid while it was shot.

Amazon have responded. They're doing temperature checks now. As of yesterday, they said, if people are afraid, then they can stay away unpaid as long as they like. They also provide sick pay and quarantine pay.

Hazard pay is the buzzword, Jake. We're going to hear this more and more. And I think Congress eventually is going to have to act.

TAPPER: And, Julia, we saw dramatic drop in oil prices today. What's the reason behind that?

CHATTERLEY: Global growth fears.

Look at America specifically. We're driving less. We're flying less. We simply are demanding less gas. That's putting downward pressure on prices. The other kicker here is supply from countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia too as part of a broader price war.

This is good for U.S. consumers, remember, if and when they use gas, but, overall, the United States is now a net oil exporter. So it's painful for states like Texas, like North Dakota, to name just a couple.

Until we see growth pickup or supply reduced, these pressures are going to remain on oil prices.

TAPPER: Lastly, Julia, on Friday, the president signed that massive stimulus package passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate. How soon can Americans get those checks from the government?

CHATTERLEY: Finally some good news that I can give you.

According to the Treasury secretary, within three weeks, if they have your direct deposit information. Remember, I told you on Friday 60 percent of people that filed taxes last year gave that information.

If they don't have that, they're setting up a Web site where you can go and give your information. So we have to watch out. If that's you, give your direct deposit information and then you will get the money sooner.

If you don't have a direct deposit information or a bank account, it's a check. And history suggests that can take up to two months, so it's all about that bank account, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Julia, keep us posted on when that Web site is up, so we can give that information to our viewers.

CHATTERLEY: I will.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

The new coronavirus cast that takes minutes, instead of days. What might we learn about this virus from more testing? We're going to talk to an expert next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:35]

TAPPER: Welcome back. Two major changes are expected to make coronavirus testing easier and faster and less intrusive. This week, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a test that can give results in less than 15 minutes, in addition to another rapid test which takes about 45 minutes.

Just a few weeks ago, of course, these tests were taking days.

Plus, U.S. health officials expect self-swab testing start any day. That would allow, obviously, patients to submit their own samples and eliminate the need for health care workers to change their protective gear for every single task.

Joining me now to discuss is former CDC disease detective Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Dr. Yasmin, thanks so much for joining us.

The U.S., obviously, we have been lagging in testing. But, still, we have more cases here than anywhere else in the world, assuming you believe the numbers from every country in the world.

So what do you expect to learn as testing becomes more widespread?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: So what we expect to see in situations like this, Jake, is what we call an epidemic of detection, where you start to see really rapid rise in the number of cases, as we are seeing now.

And that's just a consequence of doing the kind of testing that, to be frank, we should have been doing a month or even earlier than that. And this is so important that we detect cases, because, when we're giving that kind of public health guidance about how to stay safe, what kind of things you should be doing and not doing, you want to do that based on data.

[16:45:00]

And you can't just pull numbers out of the air. You need testing. That's why this news is really welcome that hopefully in the next few days and few weeks we will start to see the rapid development of these tests that doctors can do really quickly, and that will give us a much better grasp of just how bad the situation is.

I know it looks bad now, but there's still the feeling that we're still undercounting the actual number of cases in the U.S.

TAPPER: So let's assume -- and I'm just going to make up a place -- that there is a drastic increase, because of this increased testing, that, by the end of April, we know that in Whoville there are a dramatic increase in positive cases.

What then happens? Would there be a stricter order then stay at home? How does it change the way that we're handling this right now?

YASMIN: So what it can change is, it can give you the guidance as to how long you might need to have these orders in place. So, right now, we're just going off the numbers we have. But having

that true account of the real expense of community transmission can give us an idea of, when can we start to get back to normal? We're seeing these shelter-in-place and lockdown issues extend further and further.

We want to see those based on data. So it can help from that big, broader public health perspective. Of course, it can also really help physicians, Jake. You know at that point that you have somebody truly with COVID-19 in front of you. You can start thinking about potential experimental treatments.

And from a clinician's perspective, you want to know exactly what infection you're fighting and what precautions you need to be taking.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Yasmin, the FDA has rush-approved limited use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.

Obviously, we all hope that it works. I mean, we all want there to be a treatment. But there -- as of right now, there isn't a lot of data suggesting that they're necessarily effective in treating coronavirus.

The FDA, though, deciding that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. What do you think?

YASMIN: I have talked to doctors and scientists a long time in the world of pharmacy who are really concerned about this ruling, Jake.

They want to know, who at FDA signed off on this? Because the evidence that these two medicines, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the evidence that they work against coronavirus is scant, to be honest with you.

However, they are proven to work against lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And the concern is that the people who need those medicines are now struggling to get access to them, struggling to get their prescriptions refilled.

In the meantime, we're seeing such mixed messaging from officials, Trump saying, for example, that he's really hopeful it will work, then yesterday saying, let's see, maybe it will work, maybe it won't.

And I'm learning from physician colleagues that they're now seeing people inside the E.R. who don't have COVID-19, but have overdosed on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine because of this overarching reassurance. So many of us are brushing up on, how do you treat intoxication with chloroquine, because people are hearing this messaging and almost assuming that it's approved.

It isn't proven yet. We really need those solid clinical trials and those studies proving that it's safe in COVID-19 patients and proving that it really works.

TAPPER: Yes, indeed. Only do that if the doctor is involved.

And speaking of hydroxychloroquine, I want to ask you. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says that shipments of the drug will be sent to some Florida hospitals, and he was able to get access to it because he's friends with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, who put him in contact with a pharmaceutical company that makes it.

So, look, I'm sure Floridians are overjoyed that Governor DeSantis did this and he's looking after the people in the state. People in other states might wonder if it's fair -- and who knows if hydroxychloroquine even will work -- but whether or not it's fair that his connection, his personal relationship with a member of the Trump administration allows him to get this.

What are your thoughts on that?

YASMIN: Jake, that's not how medicine and science are supposed to work.

And I feel like the whole story of this pandemic in the states is a story of a system that's broken. And it's a story of unequal access to health care.

We're still looking nationally at 27 million Americans who are uninsured, 44 million who are underinsured. Everyone should have access to the best medical care to proven treatments. It shouldn't be about how well-networked you are or having friends in powerful places. That's not how medicine should work.

Those kinds of things are actually bad for public health.

TAPPER: Dr. Seema Yasmin, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

In our world lead, the global death toll is now more than 36,000 and total number of cases at more than 770,000. In the U.K., they're preparing for a significant period of lockdown, in Italy, heart- wrenching stories of the tragic toll the virus is taking, an entire family, the Bertuccis, dying from coronavirus.

The father, 86-year-old Alfredo, is a well-known blacksmith. His wife, Angela, was 77, their two sons, Daniele and Claudio, aged 54 and 46 respectively.

Germany now taking patients from other European countries where hospitals are at capacity, saying they have twice as many vacant ICU beds as Italy.

[16:50:08]

We have reporters around the world joining me now to discuss some of these developments.

Let's start, of course, with CNN Bianca Nobilo. She's in London.

Bianca, how is Prime Minister Boris Johnson doing after testing positive for coronavirus?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, his symptoms are mild, and he's continuing to lead the country via videoconference.

We know that he had a big meeting this morning at 9:15 in Britain. He apparently was vigorous in giving the Cabinet the leadership that was required. We heard that from the foreign secretary, who is Johnson's de facto deputy, if for some reason he was incapacitated.

So Johnson will be remaining in self-isolation until Friday, unless his symptoms deteriorate further.

And it's not just the prime minister who is experiencing these symptoms and self-isolating. There are now three members of the Cabinet in self-isolation and also his chief strategist, Dominic Cummings.

The key issue in the coming weeks in the U.K. will be, as the country nears the peak, having more testing, as you were just discussing. At the moment, the U.K. is only managing to test around 7,000 people a day. The government's target is 25,000, so, Jake, still falling well shy of that.

TAPPER: All right, Bianca Nobilo in the U.K., thank you so much.

CNN's Ben Wedeman joins me now from Rome.

Sixty-one doctors in Italy are now dead, Ben. How are the hospitals able to function with so many health care workers falling victim to the virus?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, let me update you, Jake. It's 63 doctors dead, 83 -- rather, 8,300 health workers have tested positive.

And Italian hospitals are struggling as a result. Now, this evening, we spoke to a doctor who had just -- he's a G.P., but he volunteered to join the effort. And he told us that, every day, he worked 16-hour shifts.

And at the end of those shifts, all he wants to do is cry because of what he is seeing in the hospitals, particularly in the north of the country.

But there is finally some good news coming out, Jake. Today, the number of new cases was half the number of cases reported yesterday. And the number of people who are reported to have recovered from coronavirus reached a record high in sort of the 24-hour period.

However, the draconian measures are going to continue the lockdown here. It has been extended from the 3rd of April to the 12 of April, Easter -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. Stay safe, my friend.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen joins me now from Berlin.

Germany is now treating patients from other countries? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly, Jake.

And Germany really seems to be an outlier state here in Europe. Germany has some of the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world. It's number five in the world, about 66,000 confirmed cases.

At the same time, the very robust health care system in this country doesn't seem to be under massive pressure yet. The Germans have a huge number of intensive care beds. In fact, they say that they have twice as many vacant intensive care beds right now than the total number that Italy has at all.

So, therefore, they still have capacities. Now, of course, they want to save some of those capacities, because they think things could get a lot worse here as well. But now they are taking people in from other countries. In fact, the German military flew in dozens of patients, not just from Italy, but actually also from France as well over the weekend.

And the Germans are saying they're going to continue to do that. Really important, Jake, as far as trying to save lives, really important, actually, also, as far as messaging is concerned, because for a long time here in Europe, it looked to a lot of people as though the main countries that were helping, for instance, Italy, were Russia and China.

Now the people here can really see that European countries, specifically the Germans, are really, really stepping up -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Stay safe.

With all the stress and sadness of this pandemic, something to hopefully brighten your isolation today, you have heard of DoorDash.

How about dog dash? This is Sunny. He's a golden retriever in Colorado who has been delivering groceries to a neighbor who requires oxygen to help her breathe and self-quarantining. Sunny is trained to fetch a grocery list, then bring it back to his owner, so she can do the shopping, and then run the bags next door.

Delivery fees, of course, have been waived.

Finally, from us on this National Doctors Day, I want to take a moment to single out one particular doctor, a Philadelphia pediatrician, Dr. Theodore Tapper, who turns 80 years old today, shown here with me at The Linc the night the Eagles won the NFC.

Happy birthday, dad. I love you. Thanks for being my dad.

[16:55:00]

The White House Task Force briefing is set to begin soon. We're going to bring that to you live once it starts.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: 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 THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news.

We're also standing by for a briefing over at the White House. You're looking at the live pictures from the White House Rose Garden, the Coronavirus Task Force. That's scheduled to begin fairly soon.

[17:00:00]