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Coronavirus More Contagious Than First Believed?; 6.6 Million File For Unemployment. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There have been discussions inside the Trump administration over whether to tell the general public to wear masks.

And now Los Angeles is advising its residents to wear non-medical- grade masks or face coverings. Obviously, this poses its own new challenges, given the supply shortages still plaguing hospitals across the nation for surgical masks, N95 masks, other personal protective equipment, and, of course, ventilators, to say nothing of the continued lag in testing kits for a country the size of the U.S.

And health care workers are sounding the alarm.


LAURA UCIK, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter.

JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, NURSE: We are dying. We are getting sick. It doesn't matter how many ventilators we get if we are dead and cannot run the ventilators.


TAPPER: Among those lost so far, an E.R. doctor who survived cancer twice, and a seven-week-old baby in Connecticut.

And officials in states across the country are warning they cannot be certain when the apex of the virus will hit, as CNN's Erica Hill now reports from the U.S. epicenter, New York.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 90 percent of the country today ordered to stay home. But an exemption in some states for religious services is raising concern among experts and some faith leaders.

DANNY DE ARMAS, FIRST BAPTIST ORLANDO: We love our city. We love the people here. And the last thing we would want to do is to put people in danger.

HILL: In Texas, one state lawmaker is sounding off. More than 40 students there have now tested positive after going on spring break.

REP. DENNIS BONNEN (R), TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Quit being an. Whether you think this is an issue or not, it is.

HILL: And there is new information about transmission, experts telling the White House currently available research supports the possibility that coronavirus could be spread directly by patients' exhalation.

In other words, it's not just sneezing or coughing, but simply talking or breathing, this as the nation's second largest city tells people to wear masks.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: When you have to go out, we are recommending that we use non-medical-grade masks or facial coverings and not take the ones that are reserved for our first responders.

HILL: Laredo, Texas, threatening residents with a $1,000 fine if they don't wear one in public. In New York, Mayor de Blasio says his city may run out of medical masks and other critical supplies by Sunday. Nurses there warning of dire consequences if they are not protected.

SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: We are dying. We are getting sick. It doesn't matter how many ventilators we get if we are dead and cannot run the ventilators.

HILL: In Detroit, at least one hospital is already at capacity, as the city's Convention Center is transformed to a temporary facility with 1,000 beds.

In Boston, one of the New England Patriots' planes arriving today with critical supplies from China. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting a dramatic scene, China giving them just three hours to land, load and leave, and they took almost every minute.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): Thanks to the generous and hard work -- generosity and hard work of the Kraft family and many other partners, Massachusetts will receive nearly one million N95 masks.

HILL: And new warnings from those closest to the disease.

NICOLE BUCHANAN, WIDOW: I need everybody to know that this is serious. People think that it's just going to affect people with underlying health issues, old people, but doesn't.

HILL: Nicole Buchanan's husband, Conrad, was just 39 when he died from coronavirus complications.


HILL: Jake, we're back here in Elmhurst in the Queens borough of Manhattan today, Elmhurst Hospital behind us.

Now, we have been here on and off for the past week, a little over for a week. And one of the things that we noticed today, Jake, is the line behind me has been growing.

Over the last few days, we didn't see a lot of people in line. In the afternoon waiting to get in today, at one point, at least six to eight people in that line, they were spaced pretty far apart, wearing masks.

And this is a public hospital, remember, in New York City. The group that runs these hospitals, New York City Health and Hospitals, the CEO of that group was talking to -- talking to reporters about why there's such a concentration in Queens and pointed out, while social distancing is happening in the city, many people, especially in this area, are living in close quarters, multiple families living together.

And as we're learning more about the spread, Jake, it sort of puts all those pieces together.

TAPPER: Thanks, Erica.

And joining me now is CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, we have now learned that the coronavirus death toll modeling projections cited by the president and the task force has already revised upward. Are you surprised?



There's this particular model, the one that's coming out of University of Washington, is the one that the White House has cited several times. There's a couple things that I think are important to note about the model.

First of all, to get to the numbers of deaths that they were projecting, close to 100,000, that was predicated on the fact that the social distancing plan would be fully enforced in the country, and last until May. And that was supposed to happen by tomorrow.

I think, given that that doesn't look like it's going to happen -- some more states are putting these stay-at-home orders, but not enough, Jake. And I think that that's revised the model upwards.

And it's also, as you know, based on the fact, like, do we have enough surge capacity in these hospitals? Some hospitals are doing a good job. The modeling predicts that some are not. And so the numbers will continue to get revised, I think, upward, Jake, until some of those things are met.

TAPPER: Sanjay, the FDA issued emergency authorization for an antibody test known as a serology test.

Explain to our viewers what that means and how significant that could be.

GUPTA: I think this could be very significant. And this could be very welcome news, Jake.

Basically, what this test is, it's a simple test. It's a strip. It has some virus on it. They take some of your blood, they put it on the strip.

If your blood has antibodies on it, it's going to react to that virus and it changes color. And you basically know at that point that you have antibodies in your blood. And what it means if you have antibodies is that you were exposed to the virus, you were infected.

Even if you had no symptoms, it means that you have already been exposed to the virus. That tells you a couple things, first of all, that it gives us some idea of how widespread this is.

But, also, Jake, I think, more importantly, then you probably have some immunity to this. You can have a little bit more confidence that you're not going to get reinfected, at least not soon. We don't know how long the immunity lasts, but at least you have some immunity to it.

So I think it's potentially a big deal, a simple test if it can be made widely available. If it could be made widely available, Jake, and I wasn't taking it from somebody who needed it more, I would get the test done.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, a group of prominent scientists has informed the White House that the coronavirus can be spread by a carrier not just coughing or sneezing in somebody else's presence, but maybe even just speaking or breathing in somebody else's presence.

That seems a tremendously significant development.

GUPTA: Yes, no question.

And my colleague Elizabeth Cohen was reporting on this. She obtained a letter that was sent to the White House about this. Look, in some ways, Jake, this was not that surprising, I think, to a lot of scientists, because we have known that there is asymptomatic spread, asymptomatic spread, which I think people may generally know what that means, but it means you don't have any symptoms, like coughing or sneezing, and yet you're still spreading the virus.

So, how are you spreading the virus? You're spreading it through your breath. You're spreading it by talking, doing the things I'm doing right now. I have no symptoms, but if I had the virus, that could spread it to a certain distance away from me.

So it's now been sort of more recognized, I think, and described by these scientists. But we have had a general idea that this was happening already for some time.

TAPPER: Does it change the way we fight the virus in any way?

GUPTA: I think that one of the big things is that if you start to assume that, look, you can spread the virus and have no symptoms, OK, if you just sort of conceptualize that in your own mind, then that means that, for example, this big issue of masks, when you're out in public, becomes something that I think is worth considering, like you and I have talked about.

It sounds very simple. I mean, it doesn't -- shouldn't take away, obviously, from hospital workers. Those aren't those kinds of masks, but I'm talking about masks that you wear when you go into public, not necessarily to protect yourself, but to protect other people.

Why? Because if you have the virus, you wear one of these cloth masks, you might decrease the amount of virus that you're putting out into the environment. So that could be one way that I think -- you're already seeing this in Los Angeles.

I believe the mayor has recommended people wear masks if they have to go out in public. Most people should stay home. But I think you may see that more widely adopted, Jake.

TAPPER: Right now, more than 90 percent of the American people are right now or will be soon under some form of stay-at-home order.

A lot of states, for instance, Florida, which is, to be frank, kind of late to the stay-at-home order table, as you and I have discussed, are providing religious exemptions, meaning, stay at home, but it's OK to go to your local church, synagogue, mosque, whatever.

Medically -- I mean, I'm a person of faith. I understand and believe in religion, but, medically, does that concern you?


Look, I'm like you, Jake. I mean, I think, maybe for some people, for a lot of us, faith has never been more important. I mean, we need people to rely on and things to believe in when something like this is happening, no question.


But, Jake, I mean, this is -- scientifically, completely goes against the evidence here. You -- that type of gathering, unfortunately, it's very difficult to socially distance, we know the virus can spread like this and we know people can then take it home to their families, to their communities.

I mean it could be considered, despite that it's a religious occasion, a religious gathering, it's still very selfish if you go ahead and you infect other people as a result of this.

So, I know that the scientific knowledge is out there. I think people sort of get this at this point, that that would be not just a danger to themselves, but maybe to the people they love as well. So if you're not doing this for yourself, at least do it for other people.

So, Jake, as you know as well, there's technology. You hear about all these religious organizations through technology, Skype and things like that, and streaming, can still allow people to gather virtually. But, scientifically, it just doesn't make sense. Not sound. TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. I will see you tomorrow.


TAPPER: And you can see Sanjay tonight, along with Anderson Cooper, hosting the CNN global town hall "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears."

Their guests this evening will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. That's right here on CNN 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Coming up: a job market decline hardly any American alive has ever seen, and a new report just out that predicts more economic catastrophe.

Plus: why infected patients seem to be getting sicker in one area of the country.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: New unemployment numbers out today are unlike anything this country has ever seen, 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week alone, and when you add in the 3.3 million from the week before that, that's about 6 percent of America's workforce that has been out of a job and is applying for unemployment right now.

A new dire economic forecast from the Congressional Budget Office this afternoon projected things could be bad for quite some time. Estimates showing that in the second quarter the unemployment rate could even exceed 10 percent and could still be at 9 percent at the end of next year, 2021. The end of 2021.

Let's bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

And, Julia, state unemployment websites are crashing. People are complaining. Endless hold times when they call. Some governors admit they cannot keep up with the demand for unemployment compensation. So then, what, what are people supposed to do?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: Keep trying, Jake. There is simply no other choice. You just said it there in the numbers. We're talking 10 million people in the space of two weeks trying to file for unemployment benefits. The websites, the unemployment offices, they simply weren't built for this volume of people calling up and trying to get access to benefits. It's overloading the system.

In certain cases, it's thousands times what they used to processing, at the federal level, even at the state level, they're trying to hire people, but try doing that in a time of social distancing.

The problem with the data as well is that we're just seeing the states that went down into lockdown first, accelerating in these claims. So the backlog is still to filter through and the biggest problem here, it's just going to take weeks to get money to people.

TAPPER: And CNN's Manu Raju on that subject reports that it could take up to 20 weeks, that's almost five months, for stimulus checks to be mailed to some Americans, not every, but to some. CNN's Alison Kosik is reporting that a website to help those who do not have direct deposit relationship with the government from -- through the IRS or whatever, will not be ready any time soon that website.

So the functions of government are not working in terms of the stimulus funds getting to the people immediately.

CHATTERLEY: And this is the problem. Deal with the checks first. In the past, it's already taken an average of two months to get a check into somebody's hands, so we knew there was going to be a problem.

I've spoken to you before about the fact that 60 percent of people that filed taxes last year actually gave their direct deposit information. So, it's the other subset of people that qualify for checks that we're trying to get access to. If this website, and it's going to deal with a lots of volume, isn't up and running, for what, another six weeks? Plus three weeks to try and get the money into people's bank accounts. We're talking two months beyond the lockdown.

Two words, financial crisis for individuals involved.

TAPPER: And, Julia, some banks are warning, tomorrow is going to be utter chaos. Tomorrow is when small business owners could begin applying for these stimulus loans. Some lenders say they need clear rules on vetting borrowers, and forgiving loans so small business owners keep employees on their payroll. There's questions about whether they have to apply in person or whether they can do it online.

Are these issues going to be ironed out fast enough for tomorrow's deadline?

CHATTERLEY: Yes, in 24 hours, Jake, absolutely not. Remember, the Small Business Association is now promising to give out ten times the amount of loans that they made in the entire year in 2019.

But this for me is not even a processing issue. When I saw and got my hands on a sample of the form, I was so excited. It's so simple.


This is -- this is it. There is little check boxes, so simple to fill in. I was excited.

Then I realized the lenders, it's too simple. They're worried about the fact that they're going to be giving out fraudulent loans. They're saying they need protection. So, the bottom line is, Jake, we're not giving money to people and we still got outgoings happening. Something has got to happen soon to fix this.

TAPPER: All right, Julia Chatterley, thank you so much.

For those hoping for leadership and symbols and signals of unity from President Trump, today, President Trump went on Twitter claiming that some states, hospitals and medical centers have a, quote, insatiable appetite for medical equipment and he said that the, quote, complainers should have stocked up previously.

The president is also claiming 51 large cargo planes worth of medical supplies are coming in with supplies, CNN has found that only a portion of the medical supplies being flown from overseas by FEMA to the U.S., only a portion of them are being allotted to critical hot spots, while the rest are being put on the private market as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As governors across the nation have begged for medical equipment, President Trump says some of them are complainers who have insatiable appetites for supplies. Trump tweeting today that the federal government is only a back-up for states and that the complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit.

But governors say the federal government is now competing with them to buy those supplies, forcing them to bid against each other and FEMA.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: And now, FEMA is bidding on top of the 50. So, FEMA is driving up the price.

COLLINS: Trump says the federal government will back states up if needed. But there are questions about how. He confirmed yesterday that the national stockpile of protective gear is running low.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is, because we are sending it directly to hospitals.

COLLINS: CNN has learned that only a portion of medical supplies being purchased by FEMA and flown in from overseas is going directly to coronavirus hot spots in the U.S. instead of states being the sole recipients of what is purchased by the government, a FEMA spokesperson said some supplies are also being sent to the private market, where states are, once again, competing for them.

TRUMP: No matter how much we get, they seem to use it up very quickly.

COLLINS: The White House says it is keeping 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile, ready to be deployed for areas that are the hardest hit. But "The New York Times" reports there are thousands more ventilators still in storage, ones that can't be used because of a lapse in maintenance.

The president has directed some private companies to speed up production of ventilators.

TRUMP: We're soon going to have more ventilators than we need.

COLLINS: But companies like General Motor versus still fought started making them and must retool their factories first. Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a new bipartisan committee

with subpoena power that will oversee the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Where there's money, there's also frequently mischief.

COLLINS: She ended her conference call with reporters with this guidance.

PELOSI: Don't forget: hydrate, wash your hands, pray, dance, as if no one is watching.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, those ventilators we talked about undergoing maintenance, an official familiar says they are committed to having them in use for the coronavirus response by the end of the month. And that comes as the president is, once again, invoking the Defense Production Act to six companies, so he says he can facilitate the supply materials so they can start getting those ventilators built on that private level from those private companies that we saw him use for the first time last week.

TAPPER: Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Coming up, mourning the loss of a loved one only to succumb to the deadly coronavirus yourself.

Stay with us.

There's a small rural community now a national hot spot, thanks to two sad events that triggered an ugly and tragic domino effect.



TAPPER: A new coronavirus hot spot has emerged not in a major city such as New York or Detroit, but in a rural county in southwest Georgia, which includes the small city of Albany, Georgia.

State health officials say it likely all started with a funeral after a retired janitor died from a heart attack at the end of February back when both President Trump and Georgia Governor Kemp were downplaying the risks of the virus.

Mourners gathered and they gathered closely together to pay their final respects.

And as CNN's Dianne Gallagher reports, that's when residents say the domino effect started.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mel Murray has endured a lot of pain over the last 30 days. Back on February 29th, hundreds of family and friends came to the small Georgia city of Albany to say good-bye to Andrew Mitchell, the man she loved for several years. After several hours of hugging each other, Murray started feeling sick.

ALICE WISE BELL, DAUGHTER OF CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: That night my mother went to bed. She had a fever. We didn't even know it at the time.

GALLAGHER: The 75-year-old was presumably one of the first in Albany to be exposed to the coronavirus. She was hospitalized, but not immediately tested. Other members of their family, their friends who attended the funeral began to get sick, too. And since then, several have died.

BELL: I knew things that we're living in the days, I knew things were going to be bad, but until it hits you, you know, that's when you're really just like, wow, it's here, and it's now.