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Department of Homeland Security Clarifies President Trump's Statements on Banning Travel from Europe Due to Coronavirus; NBA Suspends Season after Player Contracts Coronavirus; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) is Interviewed About the Government's Response to Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 12, 2020 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Thursday, March 12th, 8:00 now in the east. Life as we know it is changing by the hour as Americans confront the coronavirus. In an Oval Office address last night, President Trump announced a 30-day ban on all travel from 26 European countries to the United States. But confusion followed. DHS almost immediately had to correct the speech, explaining that it did not apply to Americans and it did not apply to cargo. Moments ago, Vice President Pence denied any confusion and explained that the president made the move because health experts told him the epicenter of the coronavirus has shifted from China and South Korea to Europe.


MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: The health team came into the Oval Office, presented that to the president, and he made the decision on the spot after hearing from all sides that the best thing we could do was suspend all travel. And Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports. They'll be screened, and then we're going to ask every American and legal resident returning to the United States to self-quarantine for 14 days.


CAMEROTA: The number of coronavirus cases here in the United States continues to rise. There are now more than 1,200 confirmed cases across the country, 38 Americans have died.

BERMAN: The president -- the vice president is wrong about suspending all travel. The president did not suspend all travel from Europe. He suspending it from only certain countries, not the U.K., not Ireland, not eastern Europe. So what he said there wasn't true.

The next 30 to 60 days the United States, honestly, it's going to be different than anything we have seen. Overnight the NBA suspended its season because a player tested positive for coronavirus. For now March Madness games will go on, that's college basketball, but in empty arenas, no fans. "Education Week" reports that more than 1,500 schools nationwide have closed or will close. That's roughly a million kids ages K through 12 home for who knows how long. At least 61 colleges and universities and 20 states have canceled in-person classes. I think that is a low end estimate this morning. California, Oregon, and Washington state have banned events and gatherings of more than 250 people. That's games, concerts, meetings, rallies. Washington's governor say people shouldn't sit shoulder to shoulder in bars. Officials in Ohio say a ban is imminent and more states will surely follow after Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson this morning announced they have tested positive for coronavirus while shooting a film in Australia. This is a pandemic now with truly global reach and we are all now feeling the consequences.

We want to begin with CNN's Joe Johns who is live at the White House. Joe, this Oval Office address where the president made announcements and then corrected them, lay it out for us.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. And you saw the vice president just a little while ago right here on CNN saying there wasn't really any confusion. But, look, during a health emergency, you can't overemphasize the importance of clear and concise messaging. And in parts of the president's speech last night, it wasn't clear, wasn't concise, and had to be cleaned up. Probably the biggest example of that was the president's framing of the travel restrictions from Europe as he talked about them. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.


JOHNS: So the travel restrictions weren't as restrictive as the president was suggesting. U.S. citizens will not be included in all of that. There was also an issue last night where the president suggested that they were going to cut off the cargo shipments from Europe to the United States. He had to go on Twitter later and clean that up as well. And the president also suggested that copayments for treatment of coronavirus would be paid for by the insurance companies. In fact, there will be no waiver except for the testing. So three areas there that the White House had to work on after the president's speech.

CAMEROTA: Joe, I think that also the vice president talked about that briefly in our interview, where he said some treatments will be covered, we'll try to get clarity on that. Thank you very much.

The coronavirus outbreak is going to get worse. That's the message from America's top infectious diseases doctor, to congress. Everyday life across the U.S. is already changing fast as schools and businesses close and more major events are canceled. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live outside that containment zone in one New York City suburb where authorities are attempting to contain a large coronavirus outbreak. What is the situation this morning, Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, and later today we're going to start seeing those National Guard trucks coming through the streets of this town. We're hearing they might start with handing out food to people who need it.


Now, this is this state's next step in trying to sort of stop the spread of this virus. But, of course, there are steps being taken all across the country, and every day Americans are having to make tough decisions and change their own lives in order to stop this pandemic.


GINGRAS: In New Rochelle, New York, the governor deploying the National Guard to enforce a one-mile containment zone to help stop an outbreak.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: There is only two ways that countries have reduced the numbers -- massive quarantine, or massive testing.

GINGRAS: Washington's governor banning social gatherings of more than 250 people near Seattle. The state has the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the country.

GOV. JAY INSLEE, (D-WA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This demands a response consistent with the nature of the threat. These events that are prohibited are gatherings for social, recreational, spiritual, and other matters.

GINGRAS: And the number of cases is expected to rise as nearly every U.S. state is now affected.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now.

GINGRAS: In Colorado, a drive through testing facility launched in Denver, and for the passengers previously on the Grand Princess cruise ship, two weeks under quarantine.

CAROLYN WYLER, GRAND PRINCESS PASSENGER: I want to cry, and maybe too, then the next minute we're friendly and laughing about stuff.

GINGRAS: Isolation a reality for many as companies shift their employees to work from home. For over a million kindergarten through 12th grade students, schools already are preparing to close, and hundreds of colleges nationwide moving to online classes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly the game right now is a little bit of a delay.

GINGRAS: The NBA put on hold indefinitely after a player tested positive for the coronavirus shortly before their game Wednesday night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The game tonight has been postponed. You're all safe.

GINGRAS: The league telling CNN it will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward.

MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: I'm a lot more worried about my kids and my mom, who is 82-years-old and talking to her and telling her to stay in the house, than I am about when we play our next game.

GINGRAS: With March Madness just days away, the NCAA's president announcing it will still go on, but without spectators. Daytime television shows like ABC's "The View" suspending studio audiences over the growing number of cases in New York City.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": This is unprecedented.

GINGRAS: Officials saying social distancing is a necessary move.

FAUCI: As a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would give a risk to spread.


GINGRAS: And that is the main goal of this containment zone here in New Rochelle, is to limit those large gatherings. Of course, we have been hearing about how it has been difficult for people to get the testing when they want it. Well, we know that this zone is going to have its own testing facility at least for the next two weeks. And officials admit that they expect those numbers, those positive results, to spike. Of course, this is in a community which is already considered one of the largest clusters in the United States. John and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Brynn. Let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She's the former assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and Terrorism.

Lisa, I want to start with you about the travel ban. It was confusing last night, in fact the president said basically all travel from Europe, and then DHS had to clarify that it wasn't meant to be Americans returning home. As John has pointed out, it's not some countries. We just had the vice president on, there is going to be a two-week self-quarantine for people -- Americans coming back. Is this effective? Is this the best thing they can do right now to contain this virus?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's not the best thing they can do right now to contain this virus. Look, travel restrictions may slow the pace of this spread here, but the reality is that the disease is here. It's already here, and it is expanding exponentially from what we have seen thus far, but we have only looked at the tip of the iceberg. Let's get some facts on the table. Two weeks ago, there were 15 cases

in this country. One week ago, there was a little over 100 cases in this country. Today, you're reporting over 1,200 cases. So the exponential increase -- and that's based on just a small level of testing that we have done. So I don't think the travel restrictions are the panacea here, nor is labeling it a foreign virus. What we need to be hearing about is what are we doing to protect healthcare workers in this country? They're the front line of defense, they're the first responders, they're the firefighters for this burning house here. What are we doing to provide expanded hospital capacity? We have got a wave of cases coming at the healthcare system in this country. What are we doing to prepare for that? Because we're not going to be able to outrun that wave.

And what are we doing to provide more widespread and free testing? That's the way we're going to understand what's going on here, and that's the way we're going to help protect people in this country. So, no, I don't think travel restrictions are the answer here.


BERMAN: One thing I wanted to point out, because Lisa wanted us to point this out, is that you are now sitting on the advisory board for former vice president Joe Biden on the issue of coronavirus.

MONACO: That's correct. The public health advisory committee with a number of public health and medical experts.

BERMAN: Just so people know that information.

All right, Sanjay, you heard the vice president talking to Alisyn. You heard the president's address last night. So where does that put us this morning?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, because I think some things we have been talking about for some time and have been able to, I think, pretty precisely define in terms of the problem, some of which Lisa just laid out, did not come up in the speech last night. I was surprised by that. He had a little bit of a reference of testing and wanting to amp up testing, but still not been done. I get that it is happening, starting to happen, starting to roll out, private labs are going to pick up some of the burden. We don't have eyes on how significant this problem is, which then gets into the strategies that are being developed without the real surveillance.

Travel ban initially out of China, the one where you saw 195 Americans that were then put at that Air Force base early on in this may have had an impact. There is some evidence that it did. There is not great evidence that these travel bans would have impact. Now the virus is here. It is circulating. To even give you a little bit more context, they say, look, once you have more than three or four separate introductions of the virus into the country, that makes the case the travel ban really won't work. Once you have more than one percent of the country infected, which, again, we don't know, could be, we don't know, but once you get to that point, the travel ban and other measures may not have an impact. So we -- the basic metric by which we would measure any of these things or make any decisions we still don't have.

CAMEROTA: About the testing, I just want to put up for everybody, again, the CDC, this is the official government website. It is confounding. It is confounding that this is supposed to be tracking the testing, Sanjay. The numbers are going down in terms of tests. It claims that as far as the CDC and U.S. public health labs know only eight were done on March 10th, as opposed to a week, five days earlier, 1,200. It is going in the wrong direction.

GUPTA: We saw these last night in the midst of the president's address, and I thought you asked the vice president the right question. First of all, this is the question. If anybody is paying any attention to this issue at all, they want to know about the testing, and this is where people are being sent to look, and that's what they'll see, zero by the CDC, eight by the public health departments. University labs, other labs are starting to ramp up, but we have no idea how significant this is.

CAMEROTA: And in fact, the vice president said he doesn't know -- he doesn't know still how many tests have been done. He said I'll leave it to the experts. He's the head of the task force.

GUPTA: And this is the biggest question. We need to have an answer to this question, absolutely.

BERMAN: A bit of news we just got in. The White House has suspended public tours. They have suspended U.S. tours of the U.S. capitol as well, the White House suspending public tours. No word if the president canceled a campaign event that he's scheduled for Wisconsin next week. And the vice president tells us he's still shaking hands.

Lisa, I think for a lot of Americans, and by that I mean my two sons, the biggest news that they woke up to this morning is that the NBA has suspended its games. We saw that dramatic scene in Oklahoma City last night with the Utah Jazz playing the Thunder. There was a jazz player that has tested positive for coronavirus. As someone who has been sitting inside the White House watching events unfold, I have to imagine you looked at this and said it was only a matter of time. So what now? The NBA suspended its season. Are other sports, do they have to do the same? What are we going to see? What are we going to experience in the next few days?

MONACO: I think what you're seeing is a change in how we have to think about this. Tony Fauci said yesterday before Congress how this rolls out now and how much of an impact we feel is going to depend on how aggressive we are now at doing things like social distancing. So you're absolutely right. I think we have experienced a tipping point just in the last 24, 48 hours in the decisions that people are taking. We have got to move aggressively on this.

Some of the issues with the travel ban discussion, it is so backward looking. It is the quintessential, as I think Sanjay said, trying to close the door after the horse has left the barn. Right, we have to be thinking ahead and looking at that wave that is coming at us and being willing to make very significant decisions that are going to change how we go about our lives. I don't think we're going to regret having taken aggressive steps.

BERMAN: Lisa Monaco, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. I do want to note, we have a bunch of questions from viewers coming in hour by hour. Sanjay is going to come back with us in a little bit to answer some of those questions. So many developments in our everyday lives, so many people, as Lisa was saying, forced to make key decisions about what they're going to do differently. Congress is weighing the same thing. That's next.



BERMAN: All right. This morning, 1 million kids across the country out of school. The NBA season suspended. The president made a series of proposals and announcements last night, had to correct them. Congress considering its own measures for how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono from the state of Hawaii.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Good morning.

BERMAN: You know, I want to talk about politics, and I want to talk about proposals in a second. But I just want to ask you, personally, you are someone who has had battles, successful battles over the last several months and years, with health.

What are your own personal concerns this morning with coronavirus and how are you personally dealing with this?

HIRONO: Well, I'm washing my hands regularly, that's for sure. But I still plan to go home to Hawaii. But I'm taking the kind of precautions that we need to take.

At the same time, I'm -- we know what we need to be doing, we need to be washing our hands, we need to avoid crowds, et cetera.

But more importantly, as I listen to the president's remarks last night, he hardly even talked about the need for test kits and testing in our own country, blaming Europe for the virus coming into our country, et cetera, and, you know, I think he's missing the mark once again.


It was less than two weeks ago that this administration promised that there would be either 1 million test kits or 1 million people tested, we're nowhere near that. And so, we know the virus is already in our country. So, for him to talk about closing the doors to travelers from Europe is totally missing the mark.

So as far as I'm concerned, we'd be a lot better off if the president, who is not a reassuring factual voice on this issue, I would feel better if he gets out of the way and let the people who know how to deal with pandemics and epidemics tell us the facts and that would be people like Dr. Fauci.

BERMAN: The vice president claimed to Alisyn a short time ago that it was on the information being provided by the medical community that the president made the decision to ban the travel from those 26 countries.

I understand you wanted to hear more about testing. We didn't hear very much about testing at all. That's a major issue.


BERMAN: Of the things we did hear about, do you think there will be any positive impact or what do you think the impact will be from that travel ban?

HIRONO: What I do know is that there is probably chaos in European airports as people try to leave the country, leave Europe before the ban goes into effect, so there's chaos happening already at airports in Europe. And, frankly, as I think one of your previous commentators said, this is closing the barn door after the animals have already gotten out.

We know the virus is already in our country. We need to do a lot more testing. We were promised 1 million test kits or 1 million people being tested less than two weeks ago and we are nowhere near that.

To me, that is the focus of what the government should be doing is we should be providing the capacity for the testing to occur in our own country so that we know what's the extent of the virus is in our own country, and we do not have that information.

BERMAN: What do you want to see Congress do?

HIRONO: At the same time, Congress -- well, even yesterday the Senate attempted to -- the Senate Democrats attempted to pass a paid leave bill so that people who are having to stay at home, they still need to pay their bills, put food on the table, so there would be an economic, you know, incentive for them to do that. And right now, there is nothing.

And it is not as though the paid leave is a new idea. Senator Murray has been pushing this for a long time. If we had that law in place, I think that would be very helpful. We know that there are a lot of people in our country who have no healthcare coverage.

And this crisis has pointed out how important it is that everyone have healthcare and therefore people who are not feeling well, who may have been exposed to this virus, who actually may have this virus, but who don't have the ability to stay at home because they got to pay their bills and all that, they don't have healthcare coverage, they're continuing to work.

So, another thing that Congress needs to do is to pass an unemployment compensation fast track bill which is one of the things that I'm focusing on. So, really what we need to do is to find out the extent of the virus presence in our country, that means test kits and all of that, which the government promised, but nowhere near, and second is to make sure the people, the people, not Wall Street, the people are having to deal with having to stay at home, school closures -- there's an entire array of negative impacts that are happening.

And, John, yesterday, I met with the head of UNITE HERE that represents over 300,000 workers, many of them in the hospitality industry, and he said thousands of them are already being laid off and having to stay at home.

So we know that the --


HIRONO: -- the concerns are escalating and our focus should be, one, to figure out the extent of the virus in our country, so we can make rational decisions, and, two, let's make sure we help the people who are going to be economically negatively impacted by what happens.

BERMAN: Very quickly, you're going to back to Hawaii, I know it's congressional recess.


BERMAN: When do you think the Senate should consider whether or not it should be meeting given the situation?

HIRONO: I think we should pass some of these emergency kind of bills to help the people today. I know that the House is going to be enacting some legislation.

But as I said, the Senate and the Republicans in the Senate wouldn't even enable a paid leave bill to go through. And I'm wondering when the heck are they going to face up to the realities that families of individuals are facing in our country?

I would like us to have gotten done all this more than yesterday, but I hope that we can get to some of that today before we go on our recess. And, obviously, if we don't get it done, we should come back from our recess and get it done.

BERMAN: Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Be well. Talk to you again soon.

HIRONO: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, as you know, the NBA abruptly suspended its entire season. We have a live report on what happened next.


[08:28:54] CAMEROTA: The NBA season suspending -- well, the NBA suspending the entire season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for coronavirus.

CNN's Ed Lavandera was live in Oklahoma City where the team was playing last night before it was abruptly called off.

That was dramatic last night, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a stunning development, Alisyn, last night. Thousands of fans inside the arena here in Oklahoma City anticipating the tip-off of the game, the players were on the court warming up, pregame festivities there, getting ready for this game to start, then all of a sudden the announcement the players leave the court, go back to the locker room moments before tip-off and over the loudspeakers inside the arena, the announcement is made that the game had been canceled.

The second game in New Orleans had also been canceled because one of the referees in that game had worked with the Utah Jazz, it was a player with the Utah Jazz that has been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The team we understand is still here in the Oklahoma City, working with officials to figure out what to do next.

The NBA says that the infected player was not inside the arena at any point yesterday.