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State of the Union

Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH); Interview With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 15, 2020 - 09:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Growing pandemic. Coronavirus spreads across the U.S., as the Trump administration promises to increase testing.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have not reached our peak. We will see more suffering and death.

KEILAR: Is the U.S. prepared for how much worse it could get? I will speak to one of the president's Coronavirus Task Force leaders, Dr. Anthony Fauci, next.

And on edge. The deadly virus stokes fear and transforms American life.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It seems to me we're in the middle of a war here.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Everything we're doing is to try to save lives.

KEILAR: How long will this be the new normal? Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio join me to discuss in moments.


KEILAR: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is adjusting to the changes in our daily lives.

Upwards of 2,800 people have now been diagnosed with coronavirus, and more than 59 have died, as the outbreak spreads across the United States and public health officials warn things will get worse.

To combat the spread, schools in almost two dozen states are closed. Large public gatherings are widely forbidden. And people are wondering which of the normal activities are safe to continue. In Europe, authorities are sharply limiting public life. France closed

all restaurants and cafes, while people in Spain are restricted from even leaving their homes.

President Trump has declared a national emergency to combat coronavirus. And, this week, the Senate will consider a House-passed relief bill that offers paid emergency leave and makes coronavirus tests free for those who can get them.

The administration is working to ramp up a severe shortfall of those tests, as experts look ahead to what could be the next crisis, whether the U.S. will be able to treat all the people who could become gravely ill.

And joining me now is a leader on the president's Coronavirus Task Force, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci.

Sir, thank you so much for joining us.

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: So, one week ago, we were reporting 19 deaths, 490 infected.

Today, the count is at least 60 deaths, almost 3,000 infected. And you say, as we heard, that the virus may continue to get worse for another two months. There have been estimates of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who could die or, in the worst-case scenario, millions.

Can you tell the American people that that is possible?

FAUCI: It's possible because, when you do a model, you have a worst- case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the reality is, how you react to that will depend where you're going to be on that curve.

So, obviously, we are clearly going to have more infections. There's going to be more problems with regard to morbidity and mortality. The challenge we have right now is, how do we blunt that?

You know, I have said many times, if you just leave it alone and let the virus to its own devices, it'll go way up, and then it'll come down naturally over a period of several weeks.

Unfortunately, for our colleagues in Italy and in France and certainly in China, that's what happened. Our challenge right now is to do two things, is to prevent the new influx of cases, hence, the travel restrictions, and, for what we're dealing with right now is to know that we're going to get more infections, but blunt it, so that we don't have that sharp peak, that we have more of a smaller hump.

Even with that, we're going to have people getting infected. But we need to try and get there, as opposed to there.

KEILAR: I do think one of the important points of illustrating for people the number of people who could die is that it really makes it clear to them why it's so important to do what they should be doing, so -- to stem the tide of this.

Are you thinking that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die from this?

FAUCI: I say that, and it sometimes gets taken out of context, but we have to be realistic and honest.

Yes, it is possible. Our job, our challenge is to try and make that not happen. But to think, if we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything, that it's not going to happen, it could happen. And it could be worse.

To me, that's a real impetus to take very seriously the kinds of things -- I might make a point that people sometimes think that you're overreacting. I like it when people are thinking, I'm overreacting, because that means we're doing it just right.

KEILAR: On Friday, Italy reported there were 250 people who died just in a 24-hour period.

And, according to "The New York Times," there's a Seattle area hospital that sent a memo out saying -- quote -- "Our local COVID-19 trajectory is likely to be similar to that of Northern Italy."


Is that what you're expecting?

FAUCI: No, if we do not successfully do what I just said, prevent infections from coming in and dealing with the ones we have, this is a bad virus.

Certainly, it is conceivable that, if we don't do that, you could get as bad as Italy. But I don't think we're going there if we do the kinds of things that we are publicly saying we need to do, we need to be very serious about.

For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States. We have to just accept that if we want to do what's best for the American public.

KEILAR: To that point, in cities all over the country, bars and restaurants have been packed with people. This was the case last night.

FAUCI: Right.

KEILAR: This was the case in many places in Washington, D.C.

And a new study suggests that it's young Americans who aren't really showing the symptoms that could really be spreading this and putting older Americans in jeopardy, more so than we realize.

Would you like to see a national lockdown, basically, people, you can't go out to restaurants, bars, you need to stay home?

FAUCI: Well, I would like to see a dramatic diminution of the personal interaction that we see in restaurants and in bars.

Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I'd like to see.


And for younger people, maybe they're not as concerned. But, in France, 300 of the most critical patients, half of them are actually under 50.

So, understandably, we're focused on the elderly, but should younger people actually be more concerned too?

FAUCI: Younger people should be concerned for two reasons. You are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill, even though, when you look at the total numbers, it's overwhelmingly weighted towards the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

But the virus isn't a mathematical formula. There are going to be people who were young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill. So, protect yourself.

But, remember, you could also be a vector or a carrier. And even though you don't get seriously ill, you could bring it to a person who would bring it to a person that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother, or your elderly relative.

That's why you -- everybody's got to take this seriously, even the young.

KEILAR: You said lessening of social interaction.

Well, let's take a look at these pictures, actually, of Americans trying to get back into the country from Europe last night. I mean, the -- we have seen these images at a number of airports, crowded lines for health screenings.

What is your first thought when you see that?

FAUCI: That -- unfortunate, that that's not what we like to see, but human nature is human nature.

People should realize, if you are an American citizen, if you are a permanent resident, if you are a relative, you can get back into the country. You don't need to get back right now. You can pace getting back.

But we're all humans. We all are afraid, I mean, and it's understandable. I'm not criticizing it. Somehow, we need to mitigate, because that -- putting people in crowds like that is not helpful.

KEILAR: Should they be spaced?

FAUCI: You know...

KEILAR: Should officials be spacing them better in these locations?

FAUCI: If you -- if you can possibly -- I mean, I'm not going to make policy here with you.


FAUCI: But if you can possibly lessen that crowding one way or the other, we should do it.

KEILAR: So, I want to ask you about testing, because members of Congress were told on Thursday that 11,000 people had been tested.

At this point, how many Americans have been tested for coronavirus? Do you know?

FAUCI: You know, it's several thousand.

But the thing we really got to focus on, if you look back, we would have liked it to have been a little bit more different than it was.


FAUCI: Let's look forward, because what I really liked about the other day is that we now have the private sector, the big heavy hitters that are involved in making sure, starting very soon -- and I'm talking about days to a week -- we're going to see a revving up of the availability and the implementation.

Saying a test is available isn't the end game -- saying it's not only available, but you can actually get it.


And so, if you're exhibiting any of the range of symptoms, will you be able to get the test, and when?

FAUCI: You know, it depends. I mean, I can't say every individual -- if you have symptoms, stay home, first thing. Call up your health care provider. Explain what's going on. Figure out a way how you can get a test.

And I think, as the days and weeks go by, the ability to get a test is going to be infinitely better than it was several weeks ago.

KEILAR: At the news conference that you held on Friday, President Trump said that Google was working on a Web site that very quickly would help Americans get access to tests.

Well, apparently, that was news to Google. They're now working with the government.

But officials in California told my colleague Jake Tapper they were actually stunned to hear the president say this, because they had a pilot program that was set to launch next week only in California or part of California.

And they were going to present it to the Trump administration. But there was not this nationwide initiative ready to go.

FAUCI: We have conflated two things there that are confusing.


Google and their Web site that gives you instructions about where and how you can get a test is different from the availability of tests, OK?

So, the Google right now that we're talking about, we have a Web site up, and will be information, and it's kind of a pilot.

But, still, apart from that, having the test available in commercial places where you can get it are not absolutely went to Google's Web site. You could still get tested if their Web site isn't up the way it should be.

KEILAR: I understand.

But if the president is essentially saying that Google has a Web site, or is putting tremendous resources towards a Web site that is going to give people this information...

FAUCI: Right.

KEILAR: ... and that isn't the case...

FAUCI: Right.

KEILAR: ... how can American people -- how can the American people trust that an effective response is being run if they're being directed to incorrect information?


Yes, I think the issue is, that's not the only way you're going to wind up knowing where to get -- you get on the phone. Your doctor will be connected to the Walmarts and that CVSes and the other places where you will be able to get it.

So, having the heavy-hitter commercials involved is helped by a Web site that can tell you where to go, but you could still get it apart from the Web site.

KEILAR: The CVS and -- CVS and Walgreens were also surprised by sort of the promise that was coming from the president...

FAUCI: Right.

KEILAR: ... about the availability of drive-through testing.

Where's the communication? Because, clearly, the leadership, the communication is a prescription in itself.


KEILAR: Where's the -- where's the stumbling block here?

FAUCI: No, the -- the ultimate goal is to get to a drive-through. Are we going to have it tomorrow? Unlikely.

But we will have a much greater availability and implementation of testing in the very, very near future? The answer is yes. It's going to be different next week than it was four weeks ago. That's for sure.

KEILAR: Are there going to be enough ventilators for what is coming?

FAUCI: It depends on what you mean by what's coming.

Right now, we have 12,700 ventilators in the stockpile. We will use the stockpile as needed. We will be able hopefully to backfill the stockpile as best as we can.

Remember, when you talk about, will we have enough, it depends on what we just spoke about, the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, somewhere in the middle.

If you're talking about a situation like Italy, if you get a situation like Italy, which I hope and don't think is going to happen, you have to be prepared for it, that an outbreak, a pandemic like this could overwhelm any system in the world, no matter how good it is.

So, the job is to try and make sure we don't get to that worst-case scenario.

KEILAR: Because there may not be enough ventilators...


FAUCI: If you get to a worst-case scenario, you have got to be realistic. There might not be.

Let me get back and emphasize, the job is to put a full-court press on not allowing the worst-case scenario to occur.

KEILAR: What does that look like if there's not enough vent -- if we get to that point where there's not enough ventilators, then what are we seeing?

FAUCI: I mean, if you don't have enough ventilators, that means, obvious, that people who need it will not be able to get it.

KEILAR: And they will die?

FAUCI: And that's when you're going to have to make some very tough decisions.

My colleagues in Italy, who I know well -- I trained many of them who've been in our group here -- they're making very tough decisions. Hopefully, we never get to that point. They are there. It's terrible. You don't want to be in a position to have to make those choices.

They have to make them.

KEILAR: I want to take a look at this picture. You actually touched the same podium -- I'm sure you have seen this --

and microphone as the president and other CEOs. Even, at the same time, the vice president has taken a test for coronavirus. He tested negative -- or the president has tested negative, I should say.

Has Vice President Pence? Have you taken a test? Are you going to take a test?

FAUCI: No. No.

Well, I'm not taking a test for the simple reason I have no symptoms. I have not -- I'm practicing pretty good social distance. I don't get to...

KEILAR: But it's hard to...

FAUCI: I know.

KEILAR: It's hard to fully do it, as we see...


FAUCI: But not everybody in the United States should take a test. I mean, I have no symptoms. There's no reason for me to take a test. If I'm in a situation where I'm at a higher risk, I will take a test.

The picture you showed about the microphone, let's get real here. I mean, there are certain things that you have to do. If I left the microphone at that, you would see nothing but the microphone. My putting my two fingers to get the microphone down isn't that bad. So, I don't think we should make something of that.

I'd like to see people more doing this, as opposed to shaking hands.

KEILAR: Well, we are not going to shake hands, although I am very grateful that you're here today, Dr. Fauci.


KEILAR: Thank you so much.

FAUCI: OK. Good to be with you.

KEILAR: And my next guest is bracing for a dramatic coronavirus increase in his state.

Ohio's governor on his aggressive approach to stopping the spread -- next.



KEILAR: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Brianna Keilar.

As local officials across the U.S. weigh how aggressively to respond to the coronavirus, the state of Ohio has stood out for its efforts to get ahead of the spread, as one of the first states to close schools and put a stop to large gatherings.


KEILAR: And joining me now is Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you.

KEILAR: You say there are 100,000 undiagnosed coronavirus cases in your state and that your team of medical experts in Ohio has told you that a number of undiagnosed cases in your state will double every six days.

So, how many Ohioans are you preparing for potentially becoming infected?

DEWINE: We don't think we're different than any other state. And that number is just based on modeling.

What the experts tell us is that we will end up, in Ohio and across the country, with 40 to 70 percent of our population who eventually gets this. And so that's just -- you take those numbers back.

And the point of that was just to illustrate to people that we have got a lot of people walking around in Ohio who are positive who've not been tested. Some don't know it. Some may never know it.


So, this is all to explain to people how fast that this moves.

And the example, of course, is Italy. A couple weeks ago, they just had a handful of cases, and look what's going on now.

So, we're getting ready. Our hospitals are getting ready. I made a plea yesterday to our dentists and to our veterinarians. As far as personal protection equipment that doctors wear, it's the same. Some of it's the same. And so we asked them to not do elective surgeries.

We're asking doctors the same thing. And we're asking patients, don't go in for elective surgery.

So, you're trying to store this up. We're trying to get ready.

But the most important thing I think we can do, in addition to that, is try to, as they say, flatten this curve and spread this out over a period of time. That's why we closed the schools. That's why we issued last week the order, no more people coming together in more than 100.

We have closed the casinos. We're doing the things to try to keep people apart.


DEWINE: But, as I have explained to the Ohioans, we have to do it ourselves. We have to be conscious ourselves.

And that's just as important as what government does, probably more important.

KEILAR: And as you -- you -- because you say there are 100,000 undiagnosed coronavirus cases, and that's part of the reason...


DEWINE: And that's -- look, that's an estimate. I don't -- obviously no one knows. We're not doing -- we're just really kicking in the testing.

The Cleveland Clinic, for example, is testing now a significant number. We're going to see other hospitals do that. So we're going to see these numbers dramatically go up. We don't know how many we have exactly.

But we know there are a lot of people out there that are carrying this. And part of the message is, for young people, those in their 20s, for example, this may not hit you as hard, and you may be willing to take some risk in social -- who you see, but, remember, if you go see your grandmother...

KEILAR: That's right.

DEWINE: ... you may be carrying that to her.

That's why we closed the schools. Kids have been, I wouldn't say immune from this, but kids have done pretty well.

KEILAR: Well, can -- so, let me -- I want to ask you about, because the CDC said that school closures of two to four weeks are actually unlikely to have an impact on mitigating the spread of this virus.

So, you do have schools closed there in Ohio for three weeks. I wonder if there's a possibility that Ohio schools are going to be closed, actually, for the remainder of the school year. Is that -- is that possible?

DEWINE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Look, the projections -- and, again, this is all projections -- I'm just going by what medical experts are telling us. This may not peak until the latter part of April or May.

So, we have informed the superintendents, while we have closed schools for three weeks, that the odds are that this is going to go on a lot longer. And it would not surprise me at all if schools did not open again this year.

KEILAR: President Trump said on Friday the administration was working to set up drive-through testing sites. I wonder if anyone in the administration has contacted you. Or have you asked about Ohio getting any of these drive-through testing sites?

DEWINE: Well, we're starting to do that in Ohio. We're starting to do that already in Ohio.

And, look, what we have asked the administration to do, they...

KEILAR: But you're doing that on your own in Ohio. Are you...


KEILAR: Are you hearing from the administration on this as part of what they're talking about?

DEWINE: Well, sure, when they're talking about it.

But, look, we're moving forward. I mean, we have the responsibility in Ohio...

KEILAR: Are they talking to you? So, they're not talking to you about it? You're doing it on your own, is what you're saying?

DEWINE: Yes, we're doing -- we're doing it our own.

Look, my Department of Health may have had contact with them. I'm not sure whether they have or not.


DEWINE: But we're -- we're moving ahead.

The administration -- something very important for us, when we close the schools, we want to make sure that kids continue to get food. So we -- Department of Agriculture gave us a waiver within 24 hours, so we can actually take this food, this normal school lunch program, and take it out to kids, distribute it in different areas.

And some school districts in Ohio are actually going to take that out, put it on a bus, and travel around and distributing it. So each school is making up its own mind how to do it. But we have had to get a waiver from the federal government. And we were happy to get that waiver.

KEILAR: Your Florida counterpart, Governor Ron DeSantis, has said that the president should consider restricting domestic travels from states that are suffering coronavirus outbreaks. He's saying that the movement of people within the U.S. has made containment difficult.

I mean, I would also like to highlight I'm aware, certainly as a military spouse, DOD has actually banned not just members of the military, but family members, like myself, we cannot travel domestically.

Do you agree that that's something that should be put in place?

DEWINE: I would leave that up to the medical experts. Look, I think it's important that all of us rely on the experts and

the modeling and what they tell us. I have advised anybody in my family, don't travel. I think that family -- families need to restrict the travel.

We have seen a lot of businesses in Ohio that have said, no travel, you're not traveling anymore. We're seeing more and more businesses that are -- that are closing, doing a lot of things right remotely.


So, these are all things that business can do, all things that individuals can do. And it's just important. And it's -- you talked about closing a school for three weeks might not have any impact.

I -- what I have learned from talking with the experts is, it's not just one thing. You have got to do a lot of different things. And you have got to do them early. And that's what -- that's what we're trying to do in Ohio.

KEILAR: Governor DeWine, thank you so much for joining us.

DEWINE: Good to be with you. Thank you very much.


KEILAR: An eerie scene in Times Square, as Broadway goes dark.

Now New York's mayor warning Americans they could be out of work for much longer than they might think.

We have Mayor Bill de Blasio next.



KEILAR: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Jake Tapper.

A week ago, it was a request that seemed impossible, avoid crowds in the Big Apple. But New York City is taking some major steps to slow the spread of coronavirus, as more people test positive there, including a guest at the city's Ronald McDonald House and a New York City firefighter.

Joining me now is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us this Sunday.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: So, New York, obviously, is one of the most densely populated cities in America. So, I wonder, given how prevalent the virus is in New York, do you think it's likely that everyone in your city has actually come into contact with this virus? DE BLASIO: I don't think we can say that, Brianna, but we can say, because of community spread, it is clearly widespread already in New York City and will continue to grow.

I mean, the numbers, we had 25 confirmed cases on Monday. We have 269 this morning. And that number is going to grow today. We're going to clearly have 1,000 cases at some point next week, probably not even too far into next week.

There is community spread in New York City. But that doesn't mean that people should be overwhelmed. It means people have to be smart about listening to all that guidance from the health care professionals, doing their best to have some distance, to -- basic, fundamental precautions, the hand washing, the hand sanitizer, the covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

And, Brianna, most especially, if you're sick, if you feel sick, don't go to work, don't send your kid to school, they feel sick. Don't go near older folks with those serious preexisting medical conditions.

There's such concern. That's who we're losing in this crisis. That's what we're seeing all over the world. Over 50, especially over 70, over 80 with those serious, serious heart, lung and other preexisting conditions, keep them away from anyone who's sick or might be sick.

KEILAR: Let's talk about something that Dr. Fauci just said, which is, he would like to see this dramatic drop in the number of people in public places, like restaurants, like bars.

In New York, I mean, you just have a number of these on each city block, right?


KEILAR: But many people are going to restaurants and bars. They're chockful still.

Are you considering putting in place a lockdown in New York City? Or are you considering having restaurants and bars shut down in New York City?

DE BLASIO: Brianna, every option is on the table in a crisis that's one -- we have never seen anything like this. Let's be clear.

This is a crisis that will be with us, first of all, I believe, at least six months. It's unlike anything we have dealt with in our memory. It's changing every hour. So, we're going to constantly make new decisions.

Now, the city of New York and the state of New York are working very closely. And Governor Cuomo and I agreed that the first step was to end the events and gatherings over 500 people, cancel all of them, any space that handles any kind of event space, entertainment, gathering over 500 canceled. Under 500, cut capacity in half to create some of that social distance.

That's where we are today. That could change literally daily, depending on the information we're receiving.

KEILAR: You say you're going to fight tooth and nail to keep New York City schools open, so that kids who rely on free and reduced lunches and meals will not go hungry and so the parents won't have to miss work to watch their kids.

Attendance, as you know, is down significantly. Some teachers are actually calling for a mass sick-out. More schools are closing by the day nationwide. It seems likely that you may not be able to do this for much longer.

Is that what you believe at this point in time?

DE BLASIO: Brianna, it is literally a day-by-day reality. I listened carefully to Governor DeWine.

And I think what he said is one of the truths, that if our school system does shut down at any point, even though we would try to keep that -- if it happened, we'd try and keep it brief, my blunt fear is, if the school shut down, they will be done for the year, done for the school year, maybe even for the calendar year.

So I'm very reticent to shut down schools for a variety reasons, not just that that's where a lot of kids get their only good meals, where they get adult supervision, especially teenagers, who otherwise would be out on the streets. There's health and safety ramifications to that.

Those first responders, those health care workers who depend on the schools, so they can get to work -- and we need those workers desperately. A lot of factors here. But, Brianna, it is literally a day-by-day realities.

KEILAR: So, are --

DE BLASIO: If we can keep our schools going, we will. If at any point we feel it doesn't make sense, we will make a move.

KEILAR: Are you ready to shut them down, though, including alternative plans for getting those meals to people who need them?

DE BLASIO: As we have been dealing with this the last few days, a variety of contingencies are being set up. They are far from perfect. Let's be clear.

This is just -- I think people deserve real talk, Brianna. The distance -- the difference between a functioning school system for over a million kids versus creating alternative centers for feeding or for the kids of health care workers, that kind of thing, we will in every way we can -- if we got to that point, we would improvise anything and everything.


But it will not be, by any means, as good, by definition, as what we do every day when we have a functioning school system. But those contingencies are being built as we speak.

KEILAR: The president made several claims on Friday that the White House later had to clarify. So, are you getting clear information from the White House, from the Trump administration?

DE BLASIO: No, Brianna, we haven't for so long.

On January 24, I held a press conference at the emergency management office calling for the federal government to support us with localized testing. We didn't get the ability to do localized testing until just about two weeks ago. We're playing a huge game of catch-up in this country.

Let me say it very bluntly. Federal government, at least the last few days, has started to come alive and do something, but we are so far behind. We need massive testing capacity all over the country, particularly in the most affected areas. We need the federal government to take over the supply chain right now.

Right now, we have to make sure or that the places in this country that need more ventilators that needs surgical masks, that need hand sanitizer, that that is a federalized dynamic, where those factories that produce those goods are put on 24/7 shifts, and those goods are distributed where they're needed most, as we would in wartime. That is where we are right now.

And, by the way, Brianna, right behind that is the question of food and basic supplies. If the federal government doesn't realize this is the equivalent of a war already, there is no way that states and localities can make all the adjustments we need to.

I agree with Governor DeWine. I will speak -- I will reach across the aisle. We are all on our own in so many ways. And I think mayors and governors are doing their best to quickly improvise, mobilize our cities, cancel those elective surgeries, all sorts of things we can do.

But we cannot control the supply chain. We cannot control the foundation of where our medical supplies and equipment come from.

The only hope is that the federal government actually wakes up and realizes we're in a war and takes over the situation and determines how we can actually get through this.

KEILAR: Mayor de Blasio, thank you so much for joining us on STATE OF THE UNION.

DE BLASIO: Thank you very much, Brianna.

KEILAR: President Trump is applauding his administration's response to the coronavirus. The Democratic candidates who want to replace him certainly do not agree. We'll have that next.


[09:41:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.

I don't take responsibility at all.


KEILAR: From "I alone can fix it" to "I don't take responsibility" as the president's coronavirus response is under scrutiny.

I want to talk now to our panel that we have here this Sunday. And, Scott Jennings, to you first, I ask about this not as just a criticism of what the president has said but because leadership is prescriptive and because when someone feels responsible they might feel more compelled to do what they need to do. So is it important that the president does feel responsible?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, sure, because ultimately he will be held responsible. I mean, in the moment, I think people are withholding judgment. There's a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this morning that shows his job approval is largely unchanged over the last month. And the normal partisan divide appears in his job approval but that's going to change because life hasn't exactly changed for the American people yet.

Come Monday -- I have four kids at home. Come Monday morning we're having, you know, Scott Jennings' home school sessions beginning Monday. This is going to start happening obviously in communities across the country and work is going to be affected.

And so as life gets changed people are going to be looking to their leaders to say, how quickly can you get us back to normal? And to me that's when the real judgment will be prescribed. And the buck stops on the resolute desk in the Oval Office. And so whether he says that or not is irrelevant because the American people will render that judgment.

I don't think they're, by the way, going to blame him for the virus coming here. But they will blame the politicians who they think didn't do their job. So he has a chance to really succeed if the federal government gets it right.

KEILAR: I want to listen to the something that the president said in January.


JOE KERNEN, NEWS ANCHOR: Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?

TRUMP: No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. And we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.


KEILAR: I wonder what you think about having an accurate assessment and what that means for leadership in a time like this.

LINDA CHAVEZ, DIRECTOR, BECOMING AMERICAN INITIATIVE: Well, I think the biggest problem that Donald Trump has right now is that he does not have credibility with the American people. And the reason he doesn't have credibility is because he says things that are simply not true.

Every time he gets on television I think we get more worried. I would rather that he has the medical experts like Dr. Fauci whom you had on today, even Mike Pence, if he would spend less time being a sycophant and praising the president and patting the administration on the back and more time doing the necessary work of talking about what the response is, we would all be better off. But the fact that you cannot trust the words that come out of this president's mouth is a real crisis.

KEILAR: What do you guys think about this poll out? Because it's not just about -- it's not just about whether you can trust the words. It's about who is and who isn't.

This poll from "ABC News" shows 83 percent of Democrats, Karen, are concerned that they or someone they know will be affected by the coronavirus. That number is only 56 percent, look at this huge discrepancy here, 56 percent among Republicans.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Remember, we've had members of Congress say their offices are getting calls saying this is fake news, the president says this isn't true, Democrats are making it up.


You know, I actually did crisis communications for New York City schools after 9/11. And the most important thing is correct, accurate information. Obviously you want to make sure that if you put something out there, it's correct. You want to make sure that you then are constantly updating people with the right information so that people feel some degree of confidence that you're telling them as much as you can, as soon as you can.

That's not what -- as Linda said, that is not what has been happening here. And this partisan divide is -- that's actually endangering people's lives. That may mean that there are people in our country who are not taking this as seriously as they should, perhaps not following the guidelines that they should, simply because they believe as a partisan that somehow Democrats are making this up or somehow this is some invasion from the Chinese, which is just absolute nonsense.

KEILAR: What do you think, Congressman?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Brianna, even half of Republicans is still a big number. I want to focus on three concrete things we can do on a bipartisan basis. First, we need to protect the medical professionals on the front lines. The N95 mask is actually made in China. And we need to get together and figure out how do we mass produce that to get to our doctors and nurses.

Second, we ought to set up a telehealth center. People have called for this so that people who actually need to be in hospitals go to hospitals and others can talk to medical professionals, go to testing and stay home.

And, third, we ought to have dramatic expansion of Medicaid, at least temporarily, so that we can help people get the treatment that they need for coronavirus. These are things House Democrats would support, many Republicans would support it. Let's just get it done.

KEILAR: Do you think we're going to see that in time? I wonder. Do you think that will happen in time, Scott?

JENNINGS: Well, you ought to ask the congressman but it looked to me like there was already sort of bipartisan support for a lot of action, the House bill that passed, the Senate is going to pass it according to what I've read over the weekend. So already it looks to me Democrats and Republicans are understanding the need for sort of radical at least short term policy changes and radical working together, which is not something we see all the time on Capitol Hill but it is happening.

And I should also say it's clearly also happening at the state and local level. I'm from Kentucky. We have divided government. Republicans control the legislature. We have a Democrat governor, Andy Beshear, I've known him for 25 years, and the guy is doing a terrific job and the Republicans in our legislature say, he's doing a terrific job. All over government you're seeing Republicans and Democrats, I think -- and it's very reassuring to the people that in a time of crisis the parties can and do work together.

FINNEY: That's generally true although one of the things that we saw this week were Republicans trying to suggest or conservatives trying to suggest that there was misinformation about an abortion package, about a billion dollars putting in -- just total nonsense, it was absolutely not true, it slowed down the process of actually getting something done. And so maybe we have to hold everybody to the standard that you're talking about of focusing on working together, not using misinformation to slow things down.

KEILAR: This moment for the president being I guess unconventional, right, for the way he speaks, it's really opened a door for Democrats, his rivals to come out and take that mantle. Let's watch.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I'm president, we will be better prepared, respond better, and recover better. We'll lead with science. We'll listen to the experts.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is the time to come together with love and compassion for all, including the most vulnerable people in our society.


KEILAR: This was essentially an audition, Linda. Who do you think did a better job?

CHAVEZ: Well, I think Joe Biden seemed very presidential when he spoke. And that is what Americans are looking for. They are looking for somebody who they can trust. First of all trust what he says but trust in leadership.

Now I'm a Republican. I was proud as I could be of Larry Hogan when he got on television and announced his state emergency. The same with Mike DeWine. This does not have to be a partisan issue.

And there may in fact be some good effect in that we are a federal system and that governors have a lot of authorities, and so this will be broken down, even if the federal government is not operating as well as it should be, we can have some hope that state governments can step in. They're going to need help from the federal government. But that at least we have leadership in our statehouses that can try and do what's needed to be done.

KEILAR: Quick final word to you, as someone who's very strongly in Bernie Sanders' corner.

KHANNA: I think the policies that Bernie Sanders is talking about will make a difference. I mean, what are we doing to treat the 28 million uninsured and make sure they actually get treatment. What are we doing about homeless where this could spread the furthest?

How can we expand Medicare so that everyone can get the treatment that they need? And finally how do we invest in public health? We had dramatic underinvestment in the CDC and NIH which could have actually had a vaccine and could have had far more testing done much earlier if we had that investment.


KEILAR: Congressman, Linda, Karen, Scott, thank you all so much.

So why now is the most important time to try to stop the coronavirus spread? We'll talk about that next.


KEILAR: This was the week that American life began to dramatically change in response to the coronavirus and perhaps to some those changes seemed overly drastic. But changing our lives now could have a huge impact on how and when the virus spreads. This is called flattening the curve. This idea that if people take extraordinary precautions, wash their hands, stay home when they're sick, avoid large groups, practice social distancing, this could slow the spread of the coronavirus and prevent a nightmare that public officials are warning against.


Hospitals becoming overwhelmed with patients, with not enough doctors, not enough beds or medical equipment to treat everyone who needs it. So as difficult as it is, this really is a time for Americans to follow extreme precautions and look out for the most vulnerable among us. So cope with your cabin fever now to lessen problems in the future.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us. You can tune in to CNN tonight for the Democratic debate live here in Washington at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

"FAREED ZAKARIA" starts next.