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How Contagious Is Coronavirus?; Record 6.6 Million File For Unemployment. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 15:00   ET




SKYE BUCHANAN, FATHER DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: He brought me to school. He brought me to ballet. Like, he was my everything.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: He was her everything.

Friends of the family have set up this GoFundMe page, if you would like to donate to the family.

The special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin. I will see you later tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.

Today, the world is nearing a million cases of coronavirus. And right here in the United States, more than 5,000 people alone have been killed. In Los Angeles, people are being asked to wear face coverings or masks, as experts tell the White House that research shows coronavirus can be spread through talking or even possibly just breathing.

We will come back to that.

Also today, a startling sign of the economic pain, what's being called a monstrous and a portrait of disaster, 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment this week, doubling the previous week's already stunning record. Just think about that number, 6.6 million. That is the entire population of Chicago and Los Angeles combined.

And this afternoon, another sign of the disruption, the Democratic National Committee is now postponing its convention from July to August.

But we begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House.

And, Kaitlan, we're seeing these record-breaking jobless claims. But the president spent the day on Twitter saying that everything's going well. What's going on?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's not acknowledging the numbers yet.

Of course, we know that this is something the president pays close attention to. We know, last week, when they got those numbers, they had been bracing themselves for them, though I'm not sure if they were expecting them to be as high as they were today.

And, instead, Brooke, if you look at the president's Twitter feed, he's lashing out at some governors, saying that they are people who are complaining about getting medical supplies and they have insatiable appetites for these supplies.

Of course, we know that these supplies are in desperately short supply in some places. That's why these governors are begging the federal government to step in.

But the president is saying that they should have been stocked before this, not counting on the federal government to supply them with what they need, though, right now, we know that the situation that a lot of governors have been talking about, Brooke, is, they are competing against the federal government now to get these supplies, competing against FEMA to purchase what they need, this protective gear, ventilators, everything like that of that nature.

And so the president is saying, the federal government was there to back them up, but, of course, you saw yesterday he did confirm that the national stockpile is running low.

BALDWIN: What was it Governor Cuomo said in New York this week? This feels like eBay.


BALDWIN: And to the point about supplies, CNN is learning some of the medical supplies FEMA is flying in is going to critical hot spots -- only some of the supplies.

COLLINS: Yes, but only a portion of it, not all of it, exactly.

This is what FEMA is buying overseas. They're shipping, flying them here -- buying them overseas, flying them here, but we're learning -- of course, my colleague Leyla is reporting that only a portion of that is going to the state.

Other parts of those supplies are going back to the federal or to the private market, where, once again, you are seeing states competing for these supplies. So while the president was yesterday talking about this public-private partnership, where you're seeing these cargo planes come in to U.S. airports with all these supplies, they're not all going to those hot spots, these hospitals that say they need them, these states that say they need them so critically.

Instead, FEMA is sending some of that to the private market instead for the time being. BALDWIN: All right, Kaitlan, thank you.

Let's go back to that 6.6 million number. With so many people now unemployed, many people want to know, where are their stimulus checks?

Let me bring in CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik.

And, Alison, we know that the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said that those direct deposit checks would begin in about three weeks. Is that still happening?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's not still happening. Brooke.

Originally, Steve Mnuchin had suggested that checks would go out on April 6. That's Monday. That's not happening, because, this past Sunday, he said the payments wouldn't go out until mid-April.

And now we're learning more details from a House Ways and Means Committee memo from Democrats saying that payments could take a total of 20 weeks to go out, and that the first payments will likely not go out until April 13.

This memo from Trump administration officials telling lawmakers that some of these, of course, could be mailed as well. Now, it also says that this is going to come as a wave of payments. The first wave of payments will be those direct deposit payments going on April 13.

And then three weeks later, during the week of May 4, will be checks that will be mailed out, and these payments will be going to people who have the lowest incomes. Those checks will go out first -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Now, we know not every American has direct deposit. Secretary Mnuchin said that there would be a Web-based application.

I know us the IRS about that today. What are folks there saying?

KOSIK: Yes, so not everybody files electronically and gives the IRS their banking information or ways to get that money, if they're getting money back on their income taxes, get money back through direct deposit.


So, if you're one of those people, the IRS at is going to open up a secure portal for those people to put their banking information.

The problem here, Brooke, is that the portal is not going to be available until the middle of April. So, the IRS is saying, if they don't have your banking information, that they will just go ahead and mail your check.

But you will have to wait until the middle of April to actually give them your banking information, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. So that's not for a few more weeks. How about the states? A number of states are overwhelmed by just the

avalanche of people now filing for unemployment. I know governors have publicly acknowledged that they can't keep up with it all. So now what?

KOSIK: Yes, it's no surprise.

You think about it, 10 million Americans just over two weeks inundating states with these unemployment claims. I mean, states couldn't be prepared for this. Unfortunately, though, the situation isn't likely to improve any time soon.

Some are suggesting try to go on to these Web sites at off-hours, meaning during the night, or early, early in the morning. The trick here is, you want to get on there just to get that initial employment claim filed, because, once you do, you can get that check -- get those checks to start coming in about two to three weeks from that initial filing.

But governors are acknowledging the system is having huge issues. And they're actually apologizing. I know New York Governor Andrew Cuomo apologized, saying, listen, I can only imagine how infuriating this could be -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Incredibly, incredibly, for so many Americans.

Alison Kosik, thank you very much for the update on all of that.

As economic fears rise across this country, there is even more concern about how easily coronavirus can spread.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with me now with this angle.

And so, Elizabeth, the White House is now learning this virus can not only be transmitted through sneezing, coughing, but also talking or possibly breathing. Breathing?


So the White House reached out to the National Academy of Sciences, a highly prestigious group, and said, can it be -- can you transmit this while talking? And this board reached out and said, yes, they -- they said, yes, it can be. And it looks like it could even be transmitted through breathing, not just conversation.

I want to be clear, it doesn't mean that the air everywhere is full -- filled with coronavirus. That's not the case. But what it is, is that the CDC has said it's spread by coughs or by sneezes. And it looks like it can spread even more easily.

And so the doctor who wrote this opinion to the White House, said, Elizabeth, you know what, from now on, I'm going to be wearing some kind of a homemade mask, a bandana, a something when I go out to a grocery store. So that's what he's doing. We have heard about what's been requested or what's been really mandated in California. I think there's reason to think the whole country might be headed that way at some point.

BALDWIN: So, if it is this contagious, should this change the way the virus is fought around the country?

COHEN: Yes, I think people need to think more -- even more seriously about social distancing. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that President Trump was saying, let's go back to work by Easter.

We really need to think about this. Social distancing is so important. If you're alone in your home, just you and your family, you don't need to worry about this, because you're not out amidst people who you're not usually around. So it really reinforces social distancing.

And it also brings up the question, should we be wearing a mask, especially in enclosed spaces? As I said, the doctor who wrote this opinion to the White House, he is doing it himself.

BALDWIN: And to your point a second ago about coughing, for weeks, people thought that as long as someone doesn't cough on you, you're fine. But this is different, though.

COHEN: Right.

This is saying, it's more than just coughing. It's more than just sneezing. It's maybe just talking to people. It's -- or they think that it is just talking to people. Maybe it's just being even within the same breathing space.

Now, I want to be clear about this, because I know people get very understandably anxious. Coronavirus is not everywhere. It doesn't mean that wherever you go, you're going to going to run into coronavirus.

But it does mean that if you are really anywhere close, even more than six feet away, from someone who might have it, you could get it. And that's why when -- especially when you're going to an enclosed place like a grocery store, that's why these doctors are recommending that you wear a mask.

Or I should say some doctors are recommending that you wear a mask. It doesn't mean that it's outside when you're taking a walk. It doesn't mean that it's everywhere. It just means take the precaution, do something when you're in an enclosed space.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for all that new information on talking and breathing and sneezing and coughing and how contagious this all is.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up: The clock is ticking in New York, where the mayor is warning they need millions more masks in a matter of days, before they run out.

Plus, I will talk to one passenger stuck on a cruise ship off the state of Florida, the desperate pleas to get back on land -- ahead.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

New York remains the coronavirus epicenter, with now more than 90,000 confirmed cases. Top officials there warn they could run out of some critical supplies in the coming days.

CNN's Erica Hill is live in New York.

And so, Erica, dwindling supplies, coupled with the fact that Governor Cuomo said that the peak of this virus in New York is still days or even weeks away, it's a mighty frightening thought.


That's one of the hardest things that people are dealing with, is that we don't know when that apex, when the peak is. As the governor said, he said, we're on this battle going up the hill, and at the top, that will be the apex. But is it going to be in three days? Is it going to be in three weeks?


These are all the things that they're juggling, as they're also trying to make sure that there is enough supply in the system. Now, the governor said today he thinks there's probably about six days' worth of ventilators, that there are 2,200 in the stockpile here in the state.

So that can be good news. But, again, it depends on how many more people need the ventilators. I also just wanted to give you a sense of what we're seeing here on the ground, Brooke. So we're in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, and we have been outside of Elmhurst Hospital on and off for more than a week now.

What we noticed that this afternoon a little bit after lunchtime is that the line behind me has actually started to grow again, about a half-dozen people, very well spaced out in line, wearing masks. And there's been so much talk about how this hospital in particular, one of the public hospitals in the city, has been overwhelmed.

Well, the CEO for that hospital group is saying that one of the reasons you're seeing a concentration in this borough, in Queens in particular, is that while social distancing is happening in the city, keep in mind, there are a lot of families in this area who are around the poverty line.

There are families who live close together in apartments, perhaps multiple families in apartments, and that, he believes, could also be contributing to the numbers in the area.

BALDWIN: What about just the New York Police Department, the Fire Department? How hard has coronavirus hit them?

HILL: Hard, I think is the short answer. We know that, as of yesterday, 1,400 positive tests within the NYPD, as of this morning, 338 for the FDNY.

And there's been such a surge in 911 calls that extra EMTs and paramedics, 500 of them have actually been brought into the city, Brooke, along with another 250 ambulances. The mayor said he's very grateful for all of that help.

But as you can imagine, they are there on the front lines. And, as we know, especially with the new data that we're hearing about today, the concern is, this is invisible. And now that we're hearing that it could be transmitted by simply breathing or talking, you think about what all those folks are facing as they respond to those calls.

And it is sobering, to put it mildly.

BALDWIN: Erica, thank you in Queens, one of the New York City boroughs.

New Orleans, meantime, officially experiencing the highest death rate per capita in the nation today, seven times higher than in New York, this as Louisiana hospitals are getting hammered by cases. Right now, there are more than 9,000 cases in the state and almost 300 deaths from the virus.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me live from New Orleans.

And, Ed, we just learned that the state just saw more than 2,700 cases in the last 24 hours.


In fact, it was such a jarring number that the governor of Louisiana was going on local radio here in the New Orleans area to kind of brace people and prepare them for the number that they were about to see.

The governor is about to hold his daily briefing here in about 15 minutes or so. And one of the things and factors playing into this massive jump of more than 2,700 cases, there are now more than 9,150 cases here in the state, is this backlog of testing.

There has been a really slow process in getting results of tests done here in the state of Louisiana. And the governor is saying that this large jump that we have seen today is in part due to this logjam kind of breaking up and getting the results kind of all rushed into the system at once.

But this is really kind of indicative of what officials here have been saying, is that this infection is everywhere in the state, and that they're still trying to get a sense of just how widespread it is. And this massive jump, Brooke, that we see today is really kind of indicative of just how much the information is catching up to the reality here in this state.

And that is very concerning for officials here.

BALDWIN: And the story where you are isn't just this jump in cases, but we are also, Ed, hearing that the patient in Louisiana are sicker than patients in other parts of the country.

What are you learning about that?

LAVANDERA: Well, that's one of the things.

We have spoken with several city officials here in New Orleans. And one of the emergency officials was telling me yesterday that the mortality rate here in New Orleans is about 5 percent, significantly higher. And they have -- the Department of Health here has kind of broken down what they're seeing in some of the patients that have passed away.

And in the vast majority of them, you're seeing a lot of these underlying health conditions, diabetes, obesity, and those types of factors, which is very -- is, quite frankly, predominant here in New Orleans and one of the issues that the community deals with as a whole, before even all of this started.

So that's one of those issues. And that's, more importantly, underlined by the fact that nearly 60 percent of all of the coronavirus cases in this state, it comes from this New Orleans region.

So that is why there is so much focus here on this particular city and the surrounding areas of New Orleans as well -- Brooke.


BALDWIN: We will let you keep your ear out for that governor briefing.

Ed, thank you in New Orleans.

There are some small glimmers of hope amid all the negative news. Coming up next, I will talk to a doctor about some promising new research in the search for a coronavirus treatment.



BALDWIN: Now to a little bit of hope.

We are now seeing promising new and early data from China about how hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, could help coronavirus patients recover from the virus faster.

Researchers say their testing groups have shown patients with reduced fevers and coughing when they're on the drug. I just want to stress here these are early findings from a very small group of patients who is already recovering from coronavirus.

So, let me bring in Dr. Wilbur Chen. He's an infectious disease specialist and a member of Maryland's COVID-19 response team.

So, Dr. Chen, thank you for all that you're doing. And thank you for joining me.

When you heard about this new data, is it reason for optimism?

DR. WILBUR CHEN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Well, we always want to have guarded optimism. We recognize this as a small sample size. It's a study that needs to be repeated.

We need to really carefully analyze the data in a peer-reviewed fashion, so that we can understand how much to trust the data. But, again, let's be guarded. And let's be optimistic about this.

BALDWIN: Tell us a little bit more about the drug and about the study.

CHEN: Yes, I'm not an expert on this particular drug.

It's an old drug that we have used for years to treat malaria. It's also what we call an immune modulator, so it can be used to suppress inflammatory responses in some rheumatoid arthritic conditions.

And, basically, it has some mechanism of action that's not really well understood. But when we study it in the lab, it looks like it suppresses the virus. And there is some mechanism that's working that we don't fully understand with these new viruses.

BALDWIN: Now, Dr. Chen, I'm about to talk to a woman with lupus, right? And this drug, she says, is critical to her health and her survival. And she's panicking that she may not be able to continue refilling her prescription if this drug, in fact, becomes a COVID fix.

What would you say to people like her who have been taking this drug and are worried?

CHEN: Well, I completely understand that worry.

I think that there are a lot of conditions for which this chloroquine is very useful for maintaining their quality of life. And I don't want that to be interrupted.

At this stage, I think that chloroquine use for COVID-19 is still something that we need to study. But I don't think that it needs to supersede the people who really do need it for their quality of life.

BALDWIN: Let me switch gears and ask you about how the FDA has authorized its first coronavirus antibody test.

What does this new test mean in this fight?

CHEN: So, each time we have a new tool in our toolbox, that means that we can deploy it to be useful for the diagnosis of COVID cases. We have had a number of lab assays that have come online and been

available throughout the past few weeks. So, having another one is very, very welcome.

The more tests that we have available will be helpful for us. We're in the midst of surging in many different ways in the capacities of our hospitals, in equipment, in even personnel.

And so having lab diagnostics like this one that the FDA just approved will also be helpful as well.


CHEN: To have only one single company is only of limited help, but, as we continue to have more and more that are coming into the fight, I think that that's very helpful.

BALDWIN: I was just wondering if it's tricky that, since there is still this dearth of testing, how do you even track down people to give them the antibody to find these COVID-positive people?

Is it volunteers?

CHEN: No, no.

Well, so the way that you would be using a lab assay like this is that, for people who may have had some symptoms a few days prior that were consistent with COVID-19, we could actually draw their blood, look in this assay, and be able to detect whether they have these early antibodies, these IgM antibodies, and we would be able to determine whether or not they have been truly exposed to COVID-19 vs. some other infection.

BALDWIN: Got it.

Dr. Wilbur Chen, thank you very much. Stay well.

And, as I mentioned a moment ago, we will be talking to a woman in just couple minutes who has been taking this drug we have been discussing for her lupus. And she is really worried about shortages.

Plus, cruise ships with infected passengers are still stranded at sea. We will talk to a woman stuck on one of those ships next.