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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

41 Deaths, Nearly 1,600 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases In U.S.; All School To Close In New Mexico, Ohio, Maryland and KY; NCAA Cancels March Madness, Disneyland To Close; Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) Is Interviewed About The Coronavirus; Top Health Official: U.S. "Failing" On Coronavirus Testing As President Trump Says "The Testing Has Been Going Very Smooth"; W.H.: President Trump "Not Concerned" About Contact With Brazilian Official Who Tested Positive For Coronavirus; Ghana: Russia's New Trolling Hub. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 12, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:23]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

Today, a top administration official admitted in sworn testimony that when it comes to testing of the coronavirus, this country is failing.

You know this. We know this. Any doctor on the front lines of the pandemic knows this. But today was Dr. Anthony Fauci who again under oath admitted what the vice president who heads the coronavirus task force has not admitted and what the president has not had the courage to admit either.

When it comes to testing for the virus, this country is failing. And let's be frank because the president himself said last night this is not a time for politics. This is a time for truth, for honesty, and facts.

So, fact, our president has failed to take this virus seriously from the beginning, failed to get tests that actually worked into hands of medical professionals all across this country who needed them weeks ago, failed, last week, despite confident talk by the vice president about a million tests being shipped out, and failed this week by saying anyone who wants a test can get one.

How do we know these failures? Because doctors and hospitals across the country are telling us, because our own government still can't say how many of our sit citizens have actually been tested. We know we're failing because we can compare our response to responses of countries like South Korea which has now tested roughly 20 times people than have been tested here.

And their failure is made all the more painful because we had warning that South Korea, China, and other hard-hit countries did not. We saw what was happening there and we did not do enough. Our failure is a scary truth but at least it is the truth. And listening to our president, the truth, like the test for the virus, well, that is in short supply. Today, the president continued to lie about availability for the

testing of the virus and he did it even as Dr. Anthony Fauci was telling the truth.

Here's what Dr. Fauci said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH: It is a failing. Let's admit it. The fact is the way the system was set up is that the public health component that -- that Dr. Redfield was talking about was a system where you put it out there in the public. And a physician asks for it, and you get it.

The idea of anybody getting it, easily, the way people in other country are doing it, we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we're not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was about 11:15 this morning. Less than an hour later, the president said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The testing has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test. We're very much ahead of everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Keeping them honest, that's just -- that's just not true. I mean, that's a lie, plain and simple. The president repeats it frequently and even some Republican lawmakers are starting to lose patience.

Today, after a closed-door briefing, administration officials on testing problem, Democratic and Republican lawmakers came away frustrated and angry. Senator James Lankford, conservative Republican from Oklahoma, said the president should stop saying anyone who wants a test can get one. It's not accurate, he said. It is not the truth.

We might add that inaccuracy, that lie. It does get heard by tens of millions of people here and around the world, which may have been why, as the president spoke, markets were melting down on their way to the worst day for the Dow Industrial since 1987. Already slumping after the president's Oval Office address last night, which required several corrections and clarifications about the European travel restrictions he announced.

The president also apparently did not tell the truth about Americans arriving back home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have them very heavily tested if an American's coming back or anybody's coming back, we're testing. We have a tremendous testing setup where people coming in have to be tested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There is screening but our reporters at multiple major American airports saw no evidence of testing today. Nearly 1,600 people have now tested for coronavirus in this country. The number is now rising sharply, daily.

But the truth is, we have no idea what the actual number of infected people is because we do not have the test. That tonight is the one unfortunate but central truth in all of this. All that and more in the hour ahead.

Later tonight in a special two-hour CNN town hall with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

We begin right now in New Rochelle just outside New York City where a containment zone has been established and went into effect today. It's also where they have closed all ten public schools until the 25th of the month.

And it's where CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta spent time today at a local hospital. He joins us now.

You went into a hospital in the containment zone. What is -- what's the situation?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we wanted to see. This is one of the largest cluster of patients now in the United States. We have been talking a lot about preparedness.

Are we ready for this? So I decided to go to the hospital where these patients are and find out just how the hospital's doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Theresa Madaline is the epidemiologist who manages New Rochelle hospital and the ten other hospitals that make up the Montefiore healthcare system.

[20:05:01]

She gave us an exclusive look at the hospital, which is now at the center of one of the country's largest virus outbreaks.

On March 2nd, the first positive patient in Westchester County appeared, right here in New Rochelle, a 50-year-old attorney who works in Manhattan.

On March 4th, two days later, his two children and wife tested positive and so did his neighbor. By March 6th, the New Rochelle hospital received its first confirmed patient. To give you a sense of how fast this is all moving, not even a week later, there are now at least 148 positive patients in the county.

GUPTA (on camera): If you look at those curves, they kind of go like this. And then all of a sudden, like this. That's what you're preparing for here?

DR. THERESA MADALINE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER: That's right.

GUPTA: Your ICU's fall.

MADALINE: It is.

GUPTA: So how do you -- how -- how are you going to handle this part of things?

MADALINE: Well, we have plans for transferring patients to different places if we need to. We have plans for setting up different units in areas of the hospital if we have to do that. It's just a matter of keeping our eye on the situation all day, every day, and being ready to push the button at any moment.

GUPTA (voice-over): Right now, the hospital has one confirmed coronavirus patient. And six others with symptoms they are closely monitoring.

PATIENT: It just started as a cold. I mean, I still don't know if I have it or not. But it just started as a cold, and, you know, just want to be safe and just get checked out.

GUPTA: But here's the thing. With every new or suspected patient, it comes down to resources.

(on camera): So this has become a pretty precious commodity.

(voice-over): Ventilators. Machines that can help patients breathe are now in high demand. And you can't just move them to any room. You need backup power supply. And, of course, you need an oxygen line.

MADALINE: I think sharing of resources and thinking really creatively as, not just Montefiore health system but what about nationally? I think we are really going to need to begin collaborating together and thinking about this on a larger scale.

GUPTA (on camera): Are you able to keep up?

MADALINE: Right now, we are. But certainly, things change quickly and we're preparing for if resources get tight or it gets to be a surge capacity situation.

GUPTA (voice-over): And so that means keeping things even like masks under lock and key. Stocking up on gowns and cleaning wipes in warehouses. All of this at a premium during an outbreak, down to every last swab.

(on camera): We saw what happened in China. We hear about hospitals being filled to the -- to the brink, really, in Italy, and tough decisions being made about patients and patient care over there. Do you anticipate that happening here?

MADALINE: We certainly hope that we won't need to make tough decisions like that. But we have to be prepared to do so.

GUPTA: I imagine because at some point, it comes down to somebody needs one may not be able to get it because someone else is deemed to be more likely to survive or younger or healthier or whatever. Just got to be -- you know, I just -- that's the hardest part I think in all this.

MADALINE: It's heart-wrenching. We are caregivers. We took an oath to take care of people and to have to ration resources is a very painful decision to make. But when we're given no choice, we try to collectively, together, make the best decisions that we can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Do you have a sense of how access to testing or lack of access to testing is affecting this issue?

GUPTA: Yes, very much so. I mean, a lot of the hospitals like this one, they are starting to try and develop their own testing protocols. They want to do testing onsite because it's just taken too long. This containment zone, in part, you know, you had one case, basically, a week ago, and now, 148 cases. That's just, you know, we have no idea if that's it. They have no idea if that's all they're talking about.

Most those patients are being told to just go home and isolate themselves at home so as to not infect others, but they really don't know how widespread this is in the area, which is why I think the governor took this aggressive action. If it's 148, it's got to be much bigger than that given the lack of testing.

COOPER: I also want to bring in Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and former health commissioner for Baltimore, in Maryland.

Thanks for being with us.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER HEALTH COMMISSIONER FOR BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: Of course.

COOPER: First of all, what do you make of things today, this hour, right now, compared to last time we spoke a day or couple days ago?

WEN: I mean, I think there's been a seismic shift, at least in terms of how people are understanding the situation that we're in. There is a lot more seriousness. I mean, people are taking this seriously.

COOPER: When people see the entire NBA shutting down, people's -- you know, people may be not watching news on a regular basis suddenly see a basketball game about to start and then being stopped, it starts to get more real.

WEN: Exactly. And they see their kids' schools being cancelled for weeks at a time. They also see Tom Hanks and people -- I mean, it's just -- it's something that now feels very well that it could be us next.

And I think that's the big shift that we are seeing leaders make these difficult decisions that they have to, because if they don't, we are going to see these cases of overcapacity in hospital, these hard choices that you were describing.

COOPER: There are things -- I mean, one of the things I find hopeful in all of this, as difficult as it may be, as many people may die or -- and get sick -- this is not completely something from another planet that we have no idea how to mitigate, how to reduce.

[20:10:17]

I mean, this is a relative -- though, there's a lot we don't know about the virus, we know about viruses and what works to contain them. And so, it's just a matter of doing the painful things necessary to do that.

GUPTA: Yes.

COOPER: Is that right?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I think you're absolutely right. First of all, it's not the existential sort of threat that I think people have sometimes defined it on one side. But it is -- it is concerning.

You know, so I think people have been sort of here or here on this for so long. Now, I think people are starting to realize this is serious. But, also, learning that we have actually made significant impact on previous pandemics by what seemed like, maybe, aggressive strategies but very effective strategies.

I mean, social distancing, the idea that, you know, if we can break this transmission from you as the host of the virus to me as a host of the virus can make a huge difference and is very real.

COOPER: I mean, should gyms remain open in a city like New York City? You know, I was in the gym today. Someone came on the treadmill right next to me. There were other treadmills empty. I went and moved to another treadmill because I thought there's no reason to be right next to somebody.

Is that -- there's a lot of places still open where people congregate. Is that OK?

WEN: I mean, I think there are a lot of places that are being shut down, too. We hear governors banning mass gatherings in a whole number of places across the country. Those are the types of actions that can't be taken on a mass level.

But I agree with Sanjay, too, I think they're individual actions that make a big difference and we shouldn't discount that. And we also should be prepared for the next phase, which is what happens when our relatives, our loved ones start getting ill, too?

I mean, right now, this still feels remote for a lot of us who are just watching the news but we don't hear about outbreaks in our community. But it's only a matter of time.

COOPER: What does happen? How do people prepare for that?

WEN: Well, we can start thinking about what happens if certain members of our family get ill? If an elderly parent gets ill, who takes care of them? If a child gets sick, where are they going to be? Who is going to take care of them? And what about the other kids in the family?

I mean, I know these are hard things to discuss and to think about but now is the time for us to prepare. And those are the actions that we can take to make a difference, too.

GUPTA: I've been talking to my parents just every day. They're in their late 70s and because I'm the doctor, they always call me with their medical question anyways. But we had a conversation today.

It's a risk/reward proposition. Everything in life is a risk/reward. I tell them they shouldn't go out as much as they used to. I tell them they shouldn't go to crowded places. They're very social people.

But, you know, I think to your question, I don't want them to lose the joy in life either. I don't want social distancing to equal social isolation, which I don't think anybody wants. But I think we have to be very mindful of that, as well.

So I am talking to them more than I ever have because I can't see them right now. You know, so I think that's what is happening in a lot of households across America.

COOPER: The thing I find hopeful is that unlike many things, this is something that each of us can play a role in. This is not just something we sit and watch on television. This is something you can wash your hands, repeatedly, throughout the day. You are helping other people if you do that.

You don't hoard sanitizer if the supermarket has it, you don't buy the entire supply because you may have the entire supply but you know what? The people who are sitting next to you on the bus don't have that supply, and they're going to make you sick nevertheless. So you want to help other people to help yourself.

WEN: That's right. And if you are young and healthy yourself, don't just think, well, it's not going to be so bad if I get it. That may be true but you might be infecting other people around you, too. So keeping yourself healthy is a really important part of the process of keeping other people healthy, too.

GUPTA: We have an obligation to each other I think more than ever before. How I behave affects you and how you behave affects me.

COOPER: Yes, it's an opportunity to rise, as citizens, and play a role and form a community as we have in the past in wars and 9/11, and when things -- when we have been under attack. It's a chance to get together as opposed to isolate, separate, and divide further.

GUPTA: A hundred percent.

COOPER: Doctors, thank you, appreciate it.

As a reminder, we are going to pick this up later tonight for CNN Facebook global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS". Sanjay and I, Dr. Wen, Dr. Anthony Fauci, correspondents around the globe, frontline doctors, patients, plus your questions. Tonight, 10:00 Eastern, two hours, Central, watch it.

Coming up next, a live report from the White House on the president's thinking that possibility he might have been exposed himself to the virus and more.

Former Trump economic advisor Gary Cohn joins us with insights on the markets and what may happen next.

Later, CNN's Clarissa Ward investigates the Russian efforts to stir trouble this election year and traces some of it to West Africa. This is a fascinating story, a story of troll farms and Russians in West Africa. We'll go there. We'll take you to the frontlines ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:17]

COOPER: Just 24 hours ago, we were waiting for the president's Oval Office to address the nation. Tonight, we are seeing some of the effects of it, including a brutal day for people's 401ks, confusion among travelers and businesses and dismay from even some Republican lawmakers about what the president's been saying about the availability of testing.

A lot to talk about tonight with CNN's Jim Acosta who joins us right now from the White House.

So, how is what the president said today squaring with what Dr. Fauci was saying pretty much at that exact same moment or just shortly before that, under oath, about the system failing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it was remarkable because we heard the president last night just before that Oval Office address and there were sources around the president, inside, outside the White House saying he is understanding the gravity of the moment. And then today, when he was in front of reporters, he was back to this mode of wishful thinking and really just a flat out misleading the public about what's going on.

[20:20:07]

And I think a key part of that is what he was saying testing was going smoothly, even as Dr. Anthony Fauci was testifying up on Capitol Hill that this has been a failing on part of the administration.

I talked to a couple sources close to the coronavirus task force this evening who said at this point, essentially, Anthony Fauci is not in the doghouse, that they're not mad at him for leveling with the American people and expressing some greatly needed candor. But you have to wonder at what point do people inside the White House

start getting frustrated with some of this? I mean, I will tell you, one of the oldest rules in Trump world, and this has been burned into my brain by so many Trump sources over the years, is that you don't admit failure and you don't admit mistakes. And that's what Dr. Fauci did earlier today no question about it.

COOPER: Brazilian President Bolsonaro, his press secretary tested positive for the virus just days after meeting President Trump at Mar- a-Lago. The president today said he is not concerned about being exposed. That's -- I find that hard to imagine, given what we know about the president's concern about germs in, at least, when he was a civilian.

ACOSTA: That's right. And I talked to a source close to the president earlier today who said he is telling people around him, people who are close to him, that he is concerned. That he may have contracted the coronavirus or he was at risk for contracting the coronavirus based on some of these exposures that are being reported. Most specifically, this one regarding this Brazilian official --

COOPER: Is he going to get tested?

ACOSTA: At this point, the White House is saying no. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, is saying at this point, there are no plans that the president or vice president to be tested.

But, Anderson, I will tell you tucked into Stephanie Grisham's statement to us earlier today is that they are assessing the situation and they are waiting on some of these tests to come back on other officials and other people who were down there at Mar-a-Lago and that may dictate next steps.

Now, one person who is being tested at this point is Brazilian President Bolsonaro. If he comes back positive, that could change the equation.

But one thing we should also point out, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was a key ally of the president, who was also down there, he is now putting himself into quarantine. He is not taking any chances.

Why the president is not doing the same thing, we are not just not getting any straight answers on that, Anderson. They did not have a coronavirus task force press briefing if they'll be one tomorrow -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Joining us now, some who's seen up close how decisions are made in the Trump White House, Gary Cohn, the former director of the president's national economic council.

Thanks for being with us.

GARY COHN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Anderson, thanks for having me.

COOPER: There is a lot of concern people about 401(k)s, about the markets. You have lived through a lot of ups and downs in markets. I know nothing about financial. I can't even pretend to.

How freaked out are you? And what do you want people to know about what lies ahead?

COHN: Well, Anderson, let's put this in perspective. So in the recent history, so in my life at least, we have lived through four of these events. We had '87, we had '01, we had '08, and now we have 2020.

They're all similar and they're all different. So we have seen dramatic moves like this. Yes, today was the largest point move we've seen but that's a law of large numbers. We started from a much higher point.

What makes this one somewhat more unique, if you think back where we were three weeks ago, we're all-time record highs in the stock market. Just three weeks ago, record highs. Last week's unemployment report showed the economy was growing, employment was robust. Wage growth was high.

So three weeks ago, we were in a very, very good situation. This has really become a huge public health crisis, which has in turn curtailed consumer demand, justifiably curtail consumer demand.

COOPER: And likely will continue to for some time.

COHN: Absolutely. Consumers are protecting themselves and doing what they think is in their and their family's best interest. They are withdrawing themselves from the economy. They're withdrawing themselves from going out -- going out and getting cup of coffee, going to McDonald's. In fact, they're all cancelled now so they can't even go to those things.

So when you think about withdrawing all that activity from the economy, the economy slows down very quickly. Most likely, I -- and I would be willing to say we are in a recession right now. We are having negative growth right now. And the market is pricing in that uncertainty.

The good news is we did start from a very strong position just three weeks ago. And this, when we get done with this public health crisis and I am convinced we will get done with it. No one knows how long. The market will be resilient enough to recover.

COOPER: There is a lot of corporate debt. I mean, a lot of corporations, you know, had zero -- hardly any interest rates and been borrowing a lot of money. When confidence goes and if it is -- goes for a long time, I mean, the bricks start to kind of come apart, no?

COHN: Look. We're not in that type of environment right now.

COOPER: This is not 2008. COHN: This is not 2008. 2008 was a completely different scenario.

This is a scenario where the consumers have withdrawn from the market. Consumers aren't spending money. Companies cannot sell products.

[20:25:01]

And, in many respects, there's no ability to sell products. And what is happening, and this is the tragedy of this, is you've got many workers in the economy today that actually want to go to work.

COOPER: Right.

COHN: There's no place for them to go to work.

You think about the cancellation of NBA basketball games or March Madness or basketball tournaments, think of the ticket takers, the parking attendants, the people that sell popcorn and hotdogs, they earn a living doing that.

COOPER: Right.

COHN: They want to go to work. They just don't have an ability to go to work.

COOPER: And if an elderly parent gets sick and somebody then has to leave work and take care of that. If, you know, their child is out of school, they have to leave work. I mean, it does have a follow-on effect.

The bottom line, though, is you believe the economy was stronger coming into this than it was going into 2008.

COHN: Well, 2008 was a different scenario. 2008, the economy was growing. People were borrowing a lot of money. The entire system was getting highly, highly levered.

COOPER: Right.

COHN: The banks were dramatically, dramatically levered.

The regulatory environment after 2008 took care of that. So we walked into this public health crisis three, four weeks ago, with our banks in phenomenally good situation. And you saw that. The CEOs at the White House yesterday said, look, the banks are in good position. The banks continue to lend money and the banks are going to continue to lend money.

COOPER: The president last night said -- I want to get exact quote. He said it's not a financial crisis. You are calling it a public health crisis. Is this not a financial crisis?

COHN: Well, we have repriced the stock market. But it's not a financial crisis.

We're reacting to the fact that we no longer can figure out what companies are going to earn for the relative short period of time, medium period of time. And the market's repricing that. And that's natural behavior of markets.

Markets hate uncertainty. Markets love predictability.

COOPER: We don't even know -- China, we don't know about, you know, medical supplies coming from China. How long that can last. If that gets curtailed -- I mean, we don't know -- this is a global situation.

COHN: It is a global situation. And -- and you're right. We're all concerned about the worst-case scenario of the supply chain. Where do medical supplies come from? Where does protective equipment come from? Where do protective gowns for hospitals come from?

I was at a hospital board yesterday and that's what we talked about.

COOPER: Right.

COHN: We talked about all that protective equipment and what would happen in a worst-case scenario.

COOPER: So, you worked in the White House. There is a lot of past stuff I'd love to talk to you about. This is not the time for that.

When the president goes on the air last night, part of the objective not only is to calm the American people and give them legitimate answers, it's also markets. Clearly, the markets did not respond in confidence with what the president said.

Is there anyone in the White House who can say to the president, you know what, let the task force speak on the virus, do not speak on the virus because every time you speak, you are lying, or shading the truth and making things worse. Which I hate to even say it because I don't want people to view this as political but it just seems factual that you look at the president -- he has consistently underplayed this, said it's going to disappear like a miracle from our shores. He had Diamond and Silk saying amen to him on that. You know, he said the 15 cases almost all gone. Why does he do it continually? And why do people around him let him lie? Why not just let the virus task force talk?

COHN: Look, I agree. The virus task force and the experts, you talked about Dr. Fauci. You talked about the other public health experts. They are the ones we should listen to. They're the ones whose opinions matter. They're the ones that understand what we're dealing.

COOPER: But does the president's opinion matter on this? Because, you know, I would think it's -- you know, the -- the -- he's the president. What goes from the top down, and if he's not on board with science, if he doesn't believe he needs to get a coronavirus test because Bolsonaro's aide who he shook hands with and stood next to in a photo in Mar-a-Lago is infected and he could very well be infected.

If the president doesn't believe in science, doesn't that filter down to everybody else?

COHN: I'm highly confident that the task force team and the doctors there, they believe in science. They believe in what's going on. And you saw today --

COOPER: But if you have the president coming out -- you know, Fauci's testifying and you're on the administration, I'm not putting you on the spot. But you have Fauci testifying and just as a citizen, I find it frustrating that the sense of watching the president is he doesn't really believe this. Or the lens he's looking at it through is a political one or something else. It's not about curtailing a viral infection.

COHN: Look, this is a public health crisis. We have a substantial public health crisis going on in the United States.

The financial markets are reacting that and telling you that. People's behavior is telling that and they're reacting to it. And I think the people and companies are taking it upon themselves to do what they think is in the best interest of their people, their employees, and their families. And that's what's going on right now.

COOPER: As somebody who worked in the White House and knows the situation there, you would say to Americans, don't listen to the president on -- let the president say whatever he's going to say. Listen to the coronavirus task force. They are actually the ones who are going to be actually executing stuff.

[20:30:00]

COHN: Look, I think the President last night try to come out and tell you that he understands the magnitude of some of the financial issues. I don't think they -- he threw enough financial resources at it and understood the magnitude of what needs to be done.

So I talked about all those people that are unable to find work, whether they are an Uber driver, a taxi driver, or they work at restaurants and they're going to get laid off. We have to immediately find a way to get money into those people in the economy.

And we're not talking about $50 billion. We're talking about substantial amounts of money that have to be put into the economy and have to be put in now. And I think that was what people saw in the disappointment of last night. They didn't -- weren't disappointed with other parts, they were disappointed with the magnitude of what the President was talking about on the financial resources.

COOPER: They didn't see action that's actually going to make a difference in people's lives that will stem some of the real -- the hit that people are taking.

COHN: Right. Look, we need to get people tested, people that can't afford healthcare. We have to get them healthcare to get coronavirus contained. We have to get them contained. It doesn't matter if you can pay for it or not. We've got to take care of that.

If you need to stay home and take care of sick relative and you're going to lost wages and you don't have a substitute to that, you have to get wages. We have to do that. We have to figure out a way to keep people doing what they need to do for their families and make sure that they're not out spreading the virus because it's a financial hardship for them to stay home.

COOPER: Right.

COHN: The President needs to remove that financial hardship from the system.

COOPER: Right. Gary Cohn, appreciate you being on.

COHN: Thank you.

COOPER: I'd shake your hand, but --

COHN: Yes. No.

COOPER: -- we're following science. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill currently trying to craft an aid bill, a vote expected tonight. In a moment, I'll be joined by a top Democrat in the House, Donna Shalala of Florida who also served eight years as Health and Human Services secretary. We'll talk about the government response so far, the potential solutions we may see this week. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:36:10]

COOPER: Some breaking news. New Mexico's governor just announced that all public schools, K through 12 statewide will be closing for three weeks starting on Monday. Other states have made similar decisions, which feeds directly into the larger question the government -- what the government can do to protect people.

And as we mention, the President says the testing is going "very smoothly." Member of his own task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, very well respected, says it is "failing." Meanwhile, House Speaker Pelosi at the administration are hammering details of a relief bill that could be voted on tonight. I want to talk about all of this.

I'm joined by Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida who not only once served as the university president, but also is the longest-ever serving Health and Human Services secretary. Congresswoman Shalala, appreciate it you being here.

You were in the briefing today with top health officials. What do they say and are you confident that the federal government is in a good place to respond to the virus?

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): No, it's not. I mean, we have a long way to go and we don't have very much time. We got out of the box late. You know, most administrations stumble because these are ad hoc processes.

We just haven't made the kind of investments in local health departments and state health departments that we should have over the years. And I can't blame just the Republicans, Democrats, too. I fought for many for local and state health departments and they're the people that are on the ground. Tony Fauci is extraordinary. We have physician scientists in our government that we've invested in their institutions for a very long time. But we've underinvested now and we're not listening to them all the time because the President is stepping all over the messages. We've got to put the scientists in front and listen to them. But at the end of the day, local governments and state governments are going to make public health decisions based on the situations in their states.

COOPER: You know, I mean, when the President talks about this, and I mean, I don't want to turn this into a bashing of the President, but this is not about politics. This is, actually, now a deadly virus that actually is affecting people's lives and is cratering the economy.

When the President -- you know, the coronavirus task force comes out and Dr. Fauci speaks and others speak, and then the President, you know, just says it's going to go away or he says it's like a miracle that's going to leave our shores. And -- or that, you know, everybody can get tested. The tests are going fine. You know, everything is going perfectly, just like the Ukrainian letter. You know, retweeting out bizarre images of himself.

I mean, it's -- I don't know if it's criminal at this stage. But, you know, when people start to die because of decisions that leaders make, there should be ramifications. I mean, these are people's lives. People are going to die because of the foul ups and the lack of response.

SHALALA: Well, this President is dangerous to our health. This is a life-or-death situation. And the President is undisciplined. I've never seen anything like it. I've worked for a number of presidents over the years. They were usually pretty disciplined. Sometimes they misspoke, but always, always, they corrected themselves.

But this President repeatedly says the opposite of what the scientists say. And it's tragic because it is a life-or-death situation and he just ought to leave it to the scientists/physicians to give us correct diagnosis and correct facts.

COOPER: I mean, the idea that the President, you know, shook hands, posed with somebody who has now tested positive for coronavirus, the chief of staff for the president of Brazil. And apparently, the White House claims they're not going to test him. I just find that kind of stunning.

SHALALA: Well, it's reckless.

COOPER: I mean, if he was the CEO of a company, you know, if he was an office worker or somebody who is, you know, in a cubicle next to him tested positive, that person would be tested.

[20:40:04]

SHALALA: Well, it's reckless. And we're working on a package of supports on the Hill that basically say to the American people, we've got your backs. Lose your job, we'll have unemployment insurance. Need to get a test, that test will be free. You won't have to worry about co-payments.

If you have to stay home with your kids, we'll figure out a way to give you parental leave. I mean, we've got lots of things in this package. But the most important thing is we're using existing programs. This is not rocket science. We could use existing programs and beef them up.

COOPER: But I mean, can our healthcare system hold up under this as bad as it may get? I mean, I've talked to a bunch of doctors who are just friends and, you know, every one of them is seems to be, to me, raising huge red flags and saying you need to be shouting this from the rooftops like what we are seeing here.

SHALALA: Well, I think that's exactly what we're doing. Can the health system be expanded? First of all, we have to test and test and test, particularly the most vulnerable people in our community. We have to keep people out of emergency rooms and test them, hopefully, in mobile clinics or in other places. The University of Washington actually has a drive-by test system.

COOPER: Yes. Crazy that we don't have that in New York.

SHALALA: And there are all sorts of imaginative things that we can do, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes.

SHALALA: We're just beginning to do them because the states and the local health departments are basically taking their resources and they're going to get this testing done.

COOPER: Yes.

SHALALA: But what we don't want to do is to overwhelm our hospitals. And we have a limited number of beds in this country. And the last thing you want to do is end up in an emergency room.

COOPER: Yes. Congresswoman Shalala, I appreciate your time. Thank you. To be continued.

Just ahead, as election officials contemplate the effect of the coronavirus and the safety of our elections, we have a new CNN report that suggests an old adversary from the 2016 elections, Russia, has a new address but the same plan to discord among voters. We'll tell you where. And you might be surprised where a trolling hub now is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:46:04]

COOPER: The coronavirus is just the latest that disrupt for us to make campaigns and election officials rethink how they approach to 2020 elections. Also scale out there trying to wreak havoc, Russian troll farms. Like a virus, these operations known at borders and can pop up in places you might not expect.

Clarissa Ward has tracked one such troll farm operation. She joins us now with the story. Clarissa, what'd you find?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, a lot of Americans have been very concerned since the last election that Russia would try to meddle once again. And with help from researchers at Clemson University, CNN actually managed to track down and expose an active Russian troll operation.

And let me tell you, Anderson, it's not where you might have expected it to be. We also work closely with Facebook and Twitter, who had already, in fact, been investigating some of these accounts. And now, I want to show you this never-seen-before look at the anatomy of a troll operation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARD (voice-over): Thousands of miles from the frosty streets of St. Petersburg, this is a new hub for Russia's infamous trolls. A CNN investigation has found that Accra, Ghana was the launch pad for an online operation to stoke racial tensions and stir up social unrest in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 election. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, hundreds of accounts churned out posts about issues such as racism and police brutality in the U.S.

(on camera) For months now, we have been investigating this network of trolls targeting African-Americans. And now, we've actually come here to Ghana to try to get the full story.

(voice-over) In the run up to our journey, we had discovered that all of the accounts were connected to an NGO called Eliminating Barriers for the Liberation of Africa known as EBLA or EBLA.

Looking at the website, it was clear something was off. Parts of it still had dummy text. It was impossible to make an actual donation. And most mysteriously, one of the photographs had a Russian file name.

Though the group claimed to be focused on issues like poverty in Ghana, its employees posted almost exclusively about the U.S. Some used incendiary language. "America's descent into a fascist police state continues. Someone needs to take that senator out."

Often, they posted on real U.S. groups, an attempt to gain legitimacy and build an audience. Many even implied they were in America. "We all are sick and tired of the violence that's taking place in our communities."

In reality, they were here, in a nondescript house on the outskirts of Ghana's capital.

(on camera) This is the compound where the operation has been based. There's no sign for an NGO. We're about an hour outside of the city. And you can see this is a very secluded residential area. And people here have been telling us that about three weeks ago, Ghanaian security services showed up here, raided the building, and no one's been back since.

(voice-over) Sources in Ghana's national security tell CNN that all of EBLA's funding came from Russia. After the raid, the accounts went quiet for a few days. Then on Instagram, the group changed their handle names and started posting again.

(on camera) We're heading out now to meet one of the EBLA employees. They don't actually know that CNN is coming to this meeting, but we're desperately hoping they might be able to give us some more information about how the NGO works and who might be behind it.

(voice-over) After some discussion about their safety, the employee agrees to talk to us, provided we keep her identity hidden.

[20:50:06]

We sit down in a secure location. She tells us she was hired in September of 2019 and had no idea she would be working as a Russian troll.

(on camera) Tell me more about your training.

EBLA EMPLOYEE: So we were trained to use relevant hashtags. So, if I'm posting about Black Lives Matter, I shouldn't add a hashtag about probably Beyonce.

WARD (voice-over): The 16 employees were each given different areas to focus on, racism, police brutality, feminism.

EBLA EMPLOYEE: Initially, your success was measured by the number of people you reach. But most importantly, you have to get followers all right.

WARD: The tactics are strikingly similar to those used by Russia's Internet Research Agency known as the IRA, ahead of the U.S. presidential election in 2016. The aim, to pit Americans against each other and create mistrust of the political system.

Run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of President Putin, the IRA was later sanctioned by the U.S. This time the Russians appear to be outsourcing some of their troll networks, offering plausible deniability. The employee tells us her boss was a South African who called himself Mr. Amara.

EBLA EMPLOYEE: He certainly was a passionate person about helping people.

WARD (on camera): Did you know if Mr. Amara spoke any languages other than English?

EBLA EMPLOYEE: According to what I heard, he spoke Russian, too.

WARD (voice-over): But Mr. Amara is not South African. In fact, he is not Mr. Amara at all. CNN has learned his real name is Seth Wiredu and he is Ghanaian. Wiredu has worked and studied in Russia for many years. Months after starting the Ghana operation, he opened a second branch in Nigeria. In January of this year, EBLA even posted a job on LinkedIn in Charleston, South Carolina. The raid by Ghana security services did not stop Wiredu. On our last in Accra, we find out that he's organized a secret meeting of employees on a university campus. He tells them to create more accounts and promises they will get paid soon. As the meeting finishes, we approach him wearing a hidden camera and greet him in Russian.

(through translation) Excuse me, wait a moment please. Hello.

Seth, hi. My name is Clarissa Ward. I work for CNN.

SETH WIREDU, HEAD OF EBLA: OK.

WARD: How are you?

WIREDU: I'm fine.

WARD: I just had a couple of questions for you about EBLA --

WIREDU: OK.

WARD: -- and why you posted this job in the U.S., in Charleston, South Carolina?

WIREDU: Well, it's actually so strange for someone to come and ask me about EBLA right now, so I don't know how much I can be of help to you.

WARD: You're aware that there's a presidential election in November?

WIREDU: No.

WARD: You're not aware of that?

WIREDU: I know there's one in Ghana.

WARD: How long have you been working for the IRA, for the troll factory?

WIREDU: What troll factory?

WARD: In St. Petersburg, Russia.

WIREDU: Well, I don't know what IRA is so I can't tell you that I'm working for IRA.

WARD: So why do you call yourself Mr. Amara and say that you're South African?

WIREDU: I just think it's my own personal something. Everyone can call themselves anything that they want. Anyone can transform into whatever they want --

WARD: Yes.

WIREDU: -- and be protected by God. WARD: OK.

WIREDU: I'm doing this for him. I'm doing this for my own people.

WARD: But you're actually doing it for Russia, so you might want to explain to God that there was a mix up.

(voice-over) He repeatedly denies running a Russian troll factory, and with that our conversation ends.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: Here he comes.

WARD: Moments later, we see Wiredu drive off in a red Mercedes. Wherever his money comes from, he seems to be doing well. The room where EBLA's trolls once sat now stands empty, but similar operations out there may be ramping up as efforts to influence the 2020 election continue.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WARD: We reached out to all of the 16 EBLA employees in Ghana. They all told us the same thing, Anderson, which is that they had no idea that they were working for a Russian troll factory. And just today and in the past few days, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, have taken down all those accounts, 274 of them reaching nearly a quarter of a million people, most of them Americans.

But remarkably, Anderson, they say this is actually really a success story, that this was still in the early stages of becoming what could have been a very pernicious campaign to meddle with the U.S. election, Anderson.

[20:55:06]

ANDERSON: You don't know how many more are out there and exactly where they are. It's fascinating to see that in Ghana. Clarissa Ward, thank you so much. It's really fascinating for you and your team. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, more signs of how different life is becoming as coronavirus spreads.

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COOPER: Just after we ended the program last night, Tom Hanks revealed that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the coronavirus. At about the same time, the NBA canceled its season and suddenly in places not yet touch by the outbreak this all became a little more real.

And today, the NCAA canceled March Madness entirely and ads did the NHL ended its season. Broadway went dark, a major tourist draw (ph) in such a big part of New York's heritage in good times and bad, silent.

The suburb, just north of here, became the country's first coronavirus containment zone. Four states are closing schools, Disneyland and Disney World also shutting down. In so many tangible ways to so many people, life moved even further from normal and no one pretends it won't change more.

Join us at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for a CNN/Facebook Global Town Hall, Coronavirus: Facts and Fears. It's a two hour special. We'll try to get you as much facts and information, the truth as possible.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

END