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Trump: There's Light At the End Of The Tunnel Even As Number Of Coronavirus Cases Tops 52,000, 691 Deaths; Spain Turns Ice Rink Into A Morgue As Its Coronavirus Death Toll Rises To 2,696; Trump Wants To Reopen Country By Easter; Public Health Advisers Drafting "Rolling" Return To Work For Different Parts Of U.S. At Different Times. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from New York -- a city which is now the epicenter of the virus in this country, with more than 15,000 people here known to be infected.

We begin with breaking news at the end of the day that saw the number of coronavirus cases in the country topped 52,000, and the death toll rise by 150.

Nearly 700 people in this country have died of the virus so far. Nearly 700 men, women and now at least one young person have died. That person believed to be a teenager.

The case numbers are spiking in states across the country -- Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida. But the epicenter, the new ground zero as I said, is here in New York City. Hospital officials and everyone who makes a run will tell everyone who will listen they're approaching the breaking point, low on supplies, they're reusing masks, doubling up patients on ventilators.

In a moment, we're going to be joined by a doctor working in one of the city's biggest and busiest ERs.

But the message for the president of the United States seemed at odds with what the doctors and governors are telling us, what they are seeing. Today, the president of the United States stood a few feet in front of his scientific advisors, but was really was miles away from them in his stunningly rosy assessment of what is happening and how his administration is responding to it.

The president said and, I quote, we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just want to repeat that. The president of the United States today said, we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Perhaps if the president had actually served in Vietnam instead of getting deferments, he might remember another White House either for the war to end that talked about lights at the end of the tunnel. That was 1967. Half a million Americans were fighting in Vietnam and the claims made by the generals in the White House about the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be very wrong indeed, turned out to be a very long and deadly tunnel. Saigon finally fell in 1975.

Despite the more somber tone of the scientific advisors, the president again signaling he wants to ease restrictions on the country sooner rather than later.

Task force member Deborah Birx laid out the breaking news.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE MEMBER: To everyone who has left New York over the last few days because of the rate of the number of cases, you may have been exposed before you left New York.

And I think like Governor DeSantis has put out today, everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn't spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it's Florida, North Carolina, or out to far reaches of Long Island. We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggests people have left the city.

So, this will be very critical that those individuals do self- quarantine in their homes over these next 14 days to make sure they don't pass the virus to others, based on the time that they left New York.


COOPER: So, now, we check with the CDC and the White House website for any signs of what Dr. Birx laid out. There weren't any, which only adds to the confusion about whether this is a mandate, part of the president's guidelines which she mentioned a few sentences prior or something else.

The president was asked as he was leaving the room by CNN's Kaitlan Collins when he gave New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, a heads up that this was coming. He didn't answer that question.

He did point to measures the administration was taking to help the state and the city, but opened his remarks and kept returning to the notion that we're nearing the end of this, instead of being in what experts suggest is still early days.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This tremendous hope as we look forward and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy. We've been going for a while, but we'll win. We'll win.

I said earlier today that I hope we can do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country, and we're all working very hard to make that a reality.


COOPER: As we learned during Katrina, hope is not a plan.

At the briefing, the president did underscore that his decisions would be based on hard facts and data, which is a bit of a softening of what he said just a few hours before. Listen to what he said on Fox News.


TRUMP: So, I think Easter Sunday and you'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time. And it's just about the time line that I think is right. It gives us more chance to work on what we're doing and I'm not sure that's going to be the day. But I would love to aim it right at Easter Sunday, so we're open for church service and services generally on Easter Sunday.


That would be a beautiful thing.


COOPER: That also may be the last thing you want to do, even at the tail end of an outbreak if, in fact, it's the tail end of an outbreak, which there's no sign it is. Let alone where the experts were we might actually be come Easter.

We're going to discuss this, of course, tonight with medical professionals. We start with CNN's Jim Acosta.

Jim, how is the White House squaring the president's call for packed churches on Easter Sunday with the reality of the pandemic? I mean, talking about a light at the end of the tunnel is -- I'm not sure what tunnel he's looking at.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it was kind of a medical mission accomplished moment for the president. He was talking about the country being near the end of an historic battle. But for many doctors, nurses, hospitals, governors and mayors, the battle has just begun.

The president also said during the briefing it was a lot shorter than the ones we've seen in recent days, that he's going to be listening to the expertise of Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the doctors on his Coronavirus Task Force. Well, Dr. Fauci told reporters earlier the president and the administration need to be very flexible, as he put it, in terms of this Easter time line.

Anderson, we also have not gotten any kind of sense as to what the battle plan is, which parts of the country are going to be opened up first, which states is he leaning towards in terms of opening up those states to being back to normal once again.

And one other thing, Anderson, I think we need to reflect on and that is something I heard from a source close to the coronavirus task force earlier today. And that is we could be in a situation, Anderson, where we open things back up and find cases spiking and then have to shut things back down. In the words of this source close to the coronavirus task force, that would certainly complicate things -- Anderson.

COOPER: I mean, even the few scientists who are talking about, you know, a more surgical way to do this and maybe letting younger people going back to work. Even those people are saying we don't have enough data right now to even know when something like that might be possible. So the idea that the president has, you know, just picked randomly this Easter date is kind of astounding.

I mean, the president said as he did today the state governors need to treat his administration as well, need to treat the administration well because it's a, quote, two-way street. Does he grasp what the federal government's role is supposed to be? Because I mean, it sounded like he basically was saying the governors need to be nice to the White House given that, you know, they control the sending of some supplies from the stockpile?

ACOSTA: Yes, Anderson, that's exactly what the president seems to be saying. He's been sort of putting together a naughty and nice list for these governors fanned out across the country. The problem is he has to work with these governors or else the outbreak, the pandemic is going to get worse.

I will tell you, Anderson, one thing the president needs to be aware of is that he may need these governors when it comes to reopening this economy. Obviously, the president could issue new guidelines next week saying people can go back to work, they can go back to school or they can start loosening up on these social distancing guidelines, but he needs the governors to implement that.

I'm not so sure Governor Cuomo or Governor Newsom out in California, they're going to be in the mood to follow the president's lead on this if they think he's leading them off the edge of a cliff. So, at this point, Anderson, the president's rhetoric is just not in line with the reality at this point. And the White House, my sense of it is having a tough time reeling them in -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta -- Jim, thanks.

Joining us is CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

First of all, Sanjay, this guideline that -- or the statement that, you know, we heard from the White House today from Birx that anyone who is in New York needs to self-quarantine for 14 days if they've left the city. Does that make sense to you? Because I mean, the CDC, they're not even saying people need to 14-day quarantine any more, right?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, that's not part of the guidelines any more. So that did surprise me, Anderson, saying anybody who is leaving New York City going somewhere else has to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

I mean, look, I think the general recommendation for the country is that as much as possible, that you stay home, you know. That's for everybody in the country. It is true that New York has more cases. In part, that probably, in part, reflects more testing.

You know, obviously a densely populated city like that with public transportation, you're going to have more cases, but you have a lot of cases in Washington. You have a lot of cases in California.

I just thought it was interesting that New York was sort of singled out like this. I think the general recommendation in some ways, there are sort of stay-at-home recommendations for the whole country and people shouldn't be getting on planes for nonessential travel anyways. But I don't know where this specific 14-day quarantine like this came from.


COOPER: And, Sanjay, I mean, the one the CDC guidelines keep changing, which it's certainly confusing. On the other hand, I guess it's a fluid situation.

SANJAY: Right. I mean, you know, this is considered a hot spot, New York City, and that was the case I think Ambassador Birx was making, you know, that you're more likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus after a test there than in other places, even in the state of New York.

But still, I just -- right now, the guidance is this. Stay home as much as possible. Everyone should do that. If you have symptoms, you should definitely be doing that. But even if you don't, if you can be at home, that's the guidance.

The idea then to layer on top of that for people who are in New York, if they go somewhere else, to also quarantine. I guess, maybe that's obvious. I don't know. It's just -- it was a little curious as to why New York specifically was being singled out here.

I mean, there's other states where this virus is circulating. As you know, Anderson, we've been under testing, so that's why it's more widespread than people realize.

COOPER: I mean, I don't think the scientists are political, but does politics have anything to do with it? Clearly, the president, he's reading from a paper, he says things are great with him and Governor Cuomo. But clearly, Governor Cuomo has been very on top of this and very vocal in the needs of the city and, clearly, you know, the president earlier today had a jibe against Cuomo during a televised town hall.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there was no answer to Kaitlan Collins' question whether Cuomo got a heads up, Anderson. We'll have to wait and hear about that. We'll certainly hear from the governor tomorrow on this.

But all of this today was a surprise, all of it. The sort of let's all get this done by Easter and go to church together. That was a surprise. And I, you know, Tony Fauci alluded to a meeting in the Oval Office where he, seems to me, laid down the law to the president and said, look, you need to be flexible because we have to see where we are depending on where the facts lead us and where the science leads us.

And that's why the president kind of said, OK, well, he wants to be guided by professionals and maybe we do sections of the country. But I think all of this is kind of stunning and you can just see the scientists twisting themselves into pretzels to not overtly contradict the president, but put it out there that this just may not happen. And as for the governors, Governor Hogan of Maryland called it -- I'm looking at my notes here -- called it an imaginary timeline.

COOPER: Well, I mean, Sanjay, it's just incredibly -- I'm sorry. It is incredibly irresponsible and, you know, even if some people are able to go back to work, even if they figure out a way to, you know -- and the president himself talked about you can social distance at work. Even if -- you know, come April, it is somehow magically dissipated, the idea that it would be a good idea for people to gather en masse -- in masses and in churches and all across the country in three weeks' time is just ludicrous.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, the real concern is all these efforts, all the sacrifice that people are making right now, you don't want it to be wasted. If you take your foot off the pedal and, suddenly, there is a dramatic increase in the number of cases and the pace at which they're increasing goes up, that's obviously -- that's a terrible sort of outcome because you've sacrificed a great deal and then sort of took your eye off the ball and things got worse again. Nobody wants that.

And, look, Easter would be about 3 1/2 weeks, little more than 3 1/2 weeks from when the 15-day pause started. But, you know, there are examples around the world now. You look at South Korea and China and their sort of trajectory of curves was 8 to 10 weeks. So, that's a better time frame.

We don't know how this is going to behave. That is at least some data to go by.

COOPER: Sanjay, Gloria, thanks.

Our next guest is Dr. Craig Spencer, comes straight from the front lines, first in West Africa, where he fought and contracted Ebola. Now, here in New York, he's director of global medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. His hospital, one of the best in the world, is under siege. He's been tweeted about it.

Here are two postings about his thoughts at the end of a shift. Quote: You reflect on the fact it's hard to understand how bad this is and how bad it's going to be if all you see are empty streets. Hospitals are nearing capacity. We're running out of ventilators. Ambulance sirens don't stop.

Everyone we see today was infected a week ago and more. The numbers will undoubtedly skyrocket overnight. More will come to the E.R., more will be stat notifications, more will be put on a ventilator. Dr. Spencer joins us now.


Thanks for being with us, Dr. Spencer.

Do you in the hospital halls see light at the end of the tunnel as the president seems to?

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL MEDICINE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: You know, quite honestly, I'm not here to talk politics. I'm here to talk about patients and the reality is what we're seeing right now in our emergency rooms is dire. Last week when I went to work we talked about the one or two patients amongst the dozens of others that might have been a COVID coronavirus patient.

This week, in my shift yesterday, nearly every single patient that I took care of was coronavirus and many of them extremely severe. Many were put on breathing tubes. Many decompensated quickly.

There's a very different air this week than it was last week, and quite honestly,. You know, think about the fact that our first New York City case was on March 1st. That's just over three weeks ago.

To think that will be in anyplace to lift these restrictionary measures by Easter in just -- you know, in two or three weeks, for me seems completely magical thinking. What we know is that this math and modeling that can tell us is the number of case is going to continue to rise.

We're really at the beginning of this outbreak. You can feel that. You can sense it. It's palpable on the front lines in the emergency department.

COOPER: And in terms of supplies, do you -- do you have all the supplies you need? Because I cannot tell you how many messages I'm getting from nurses and doctors in hospitals all over New York with specific examples of what they do not have.

SPENCER: Yes, you know, the supply chain is extremely tight. One thing I tell people when I worked in West Africa for Ebola, the one thing I never worried about was having enough PPE, personal protective equipment.

It's something my colleagues all over New York City are worried about now. The number of masks people are given, we're given -- some people are given one N95 respirator mask, the thicker one that helps prevent the virus from being inhaled by a provider. Given one of those a week.

And the CDC doesn't want you using those. People are given one surgical mask a shift. And everything -- everyone is doing everything they can to conserve supplies because we know we're just at the beginning of this. And after New York will be New Jersey, will be New Mexico.

This is going to be a marathon. We are not even at the beginning of this.

COOPER: Governor Cuomo talked about experimental procedures, splitting one ventilator for two patients. Is that something that can work?

SPENCER: There's been a lot of really creative and thoughtful engineering solutions for how we're going to manage the lack of ventilators. You may have heard from Governor Cuomo that we need 15,000, 20,000 ventilators.

The reality is quite frankly the only thing that helps many of these patients is taking over their breathing. We have to do a lot -- than we normally do. Putting on masks, CPAP masks that people might know, we can do that. Those generate too many aerosols. It makes it too dangerous for us and other providers.

So, we're intubating, putting people on breathing tubes a lot earlier. People decompensate quickly. Some hospitals are reporting intubating one to two patients an hour. If you think about what that's going to add up to in the next couple days and the next couple weeks, we're talking about tens of thousands of patients.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Spencer, thank you for what you and so many nurses and X-ray technicians and lab technicians and folks are doing to keep us all alive. Thank you.

Coming up next, what it's like around the world, both the better and the very dire. We'll get a live report from Spain where an ice rink is a makeshift morgue.

And later, set against scenes like that, Mark Cuban with his thoughts on when this country should reopen for business, and what he makes of the president's light at the end of the tunnel outlook.



COOPER: As we continue to talk about the contrast between the president's desire or claimed desire to see churches packed with people by Easter and the outbreak that still has not peaked in this country, it's worth looking at countries that sadly are further along the timeline of this.

Spain has already seen nearly 40,000 cases of coronavirus, nearly 2,700 people have died. The government there today formally requested NATO assistance to fight the virus.

In Madrid, an ice rink has been converted into a makeshift morgue.

CNN's Scott McLean joins us now from there.

Scott, how dire is the situation in Madrid, you have an arena now being used as a morgue because of the ice there.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it is not good here. The death toll jumped up by more than 500 in just a single day. That is the most that it has risen in a single day since the beginning of this. This ice rink has been turned into a temporary morgue because the local state-run funeral service is no longer picking up the bodies of coronavirus patients who have died because they say they don't have the protective equipment to do the job. So, instead, the Spanish military has stepped in.

But as you mentioned, even the military is having a difficult time protecting themselves. They asked NATO for assistance just tonight in getting that protective equipment and other medical supplies right off the bat. They are looking for half a million tests, 1.5 million masks and some 500 mechanical ventilators.

COOPER: I should say in the video we're showing, we're showing people who are working in that makeshift morgue. They were clapping because I believe it's 8:00 at night in Spain. Everybody comes onto balconies or outside the doors of their homes, but mostly in balconies or windows and applauds in salute to the medical professionals and all those who are working to stop this virus.

How are the hospitals and health care workers there? I mean, are they overwhelmed? Do they have equipment?

MCLEAN: I think overwhelmed is an understatement here, Anderson. Of all the coronavirus cases confirmed in this country, more than one in eight of them are health care workers, more than 5,400 in total. Hospitals are overcrowded. They are under resourced.

In fact, the nursing union is circulating a video amongst its membership. It's a how-to video how to make a medical gown out of garbage bags because they don't have enough.


They're also using one-time use masks.

We spoke to a doctor just yesterday who said that there aren't enough ventilators. He's having to tell family members that their loved ones will have to die because a younger person with a longer life expectancy needs that same ventilator.

These are people who would likely otherwise survive in a proper ICU with a proper ventilator. That same doctor also told me that he has himself mild coronavirus symptoms, but he's still showing up to work. And that's because the regional health guidelines say that health care providers should only be tested if they have more moderate symptoms. And even then, they still have to keep working until that test returns results.

COOPER: I want to just highlight something you just said because two weeks ago or three weeks ago here, we reported on doctors in Italy who had written a guidelines for doctors in Italy about who should get a ventilator and who shouldn't based on, you know, are they old and lived a long life and don't have much to live even if they weren't sick, and therefore, they don't get a ventilator, but a younger person would because they could potentially pull through. You're saying there's a doctor has publicly said that is happening now

in Spain. He's had to make decisions about or she's had to make decisions of taking somebody off a ventilator just because they're too old and there is somebody else who has a better chance to survive?

MCLEAN: Correct, yes. This doctor spoke with us on the condition of anonymity, but certainly this problem is not restricted to one hospital in one place. These are decisions that are being made across the Madrid region, deciding who is going to live and who is going to die. And that's exactly the type of criteria we're talking about here, Anderson, who has a longer life expectancy, who, as you say, is older, maybe has a lesser chance of surviving in the first place.

But again, a lot of these people they're pulling off these ventilators or not giving the ventilators in the first place would likely survive if they had the proper medical resources given to them.

COOPER: Scott McLean, it's unbelievable. Scott, thank you.

Joining us now is a doctor long studied written about ways of doing medicine better. His recent piece in the "New Yorker" is titled: Keeping the coronavirus from infecting health care workers. What Singapore and Hong Kong success is teaching us about the pandemic.

Dr. Atul Gawande joins now from Boston where he practices.

Dr. Gawande, I read your article. I urge people to read it in "The New Yorker." What works better? What do we -- scientists know what works, so what is it that works that we should be doing?

DR. ATUL GAWANDE, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, what we've seen in Singapore and Hong Kong is there is a playbook, and the playbook has steps for all of us in the community. That means being able to lockdown, keep a distance, all the things you know about physical distancing.

In the hospitals, it's that they instituted checking -- doing a check of your health before you come in to work. So make sure that you as a health care worker don't have any symptoms like a fever, cough, shortness of breath, even new loss of taste. Those should be indications you don't come into work.

And second of all, that we have a surgical mask in Singapore and Hong Kong, that everybody is wearing while they're on premises. In American hospitals as of last week started implementing that much more widely. Not all of the hospitals have gone over, and that's really critical.

We have to separate, we have to be sure that we're checking people's temperatures, or their health symptoms before they come into work so that we're not spreading infection. And then the masks not only protect ourselves, they keep us, if we turnout to have infection, from spreading it to others.

Those steps are part of a playbook that works.

COOPER: How important in Singapore and Hong Kong, which is probably the best examples of being able to combat this, was people getting tested and then tracing the contacts of those people?

GAWANDE: Really crucial, but also very interesting, right. What they were looking for are people who have had more than 30 minutes, less than 6 feet from someone who has coronavirus, without a mask. And that's important because what it tells us is that it's not about momentary passing by someone who is infected. This is about sustained exposure to people. And so, health care workers could keep on working, and they had zero transmissions of infection in Singapore.

So the fact that there is some hope here, there is a known pathway. We can do things that work. It depends on some basic supplies and working our way through making it happen here.

And we just have to gear up and do it. We have to lockdown as a country. We can't have the situation where it's, you know, just because you come from New York, you are going to have -- you are going to have to stay at home, but everybody else goes. There is infection moving around the country.

It is the insidious part of this disease that you don't know it for a week. You have a week of incubation before it becomes symptomatic.


And so this is about four to five times worse already, for next week. And so we have to have people stay home so that they are not passing the infection along.

COOPER: Yeah. Dr. Atul Gawande, appreciate it. And I thank you for writing it and we'd love to talk to you in the future. Thank you very much.

GAWANDE: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead, reaction from the business community. Mark Cuban the owner of the Dallas Mavericks joins me. We'll talk about what happens to businesses if Americans try to end self-distancing too early, his opinion ahead.



COOPER: As we reported tonight, President Trump says he's eager to get America back to work by Easter a much different earlier timeline and recommended by health officials. Dr. Anthony Fauci, key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said the Easter timeline would need to be, "very flexible."

For more on what's best for the health of the average American as well as the business community. I want to bring in NBA owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks. He's not only urged his employees to buy local during the pandemic, but help donate $500,000 to support childcare for healthcare workers. He's also publicly called out Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican John Cornyn, in the Senate saying there can be no perfect deal and they need to get the relief bill done. Mark, just in terms of the financials, the economics, what are you most concerned about in the economy?

MARK CUBAN, DALLAS MAVERICKS OWNER: Well first, it's unconscionable that they haven't got a deal done. I mean, every single day that there's delay more businesses closed, more people get fired and laid off and they're not coming back. And so you know, we need to get that deal done first.

Second, we have to worry about the process of getting money into the hands of individuals and to small and medium sized businesses. I mean, whenever we get that deal done, we still have to get the checks into people's hands or the direct deposit into their accounts.

Who knows how long that will take? The Small Business Association, I've been helping them. They are -- so administration, they've been working hard at this, but it's still going to take some time. So every delay, you have to add three, four or five or more days to it. And so we need something done now, immediately.

COOPER: You also have all these small business owners. I mean, I've talked to a number in New York who, you know, they are bar owners restaurants had to pay sales tax the other day. They didn't know whether, you know, should they go ahead and pay it if they could, a lot of them couldn't. There's not a lot of information for the small business owners.

CUBAN: Yeah. And that's part of the problem. That's why I've been working with SBA. The good news is if we can get this passed in the way it was written as of this morning, there's money there for payroll loans that it for a small medium sized business under 500 employees, if you commit to retain all your employees, they'll loan you money for your payroll for three months for all employees who make less than $100,000 plus, it'll allow you to also borrow money for overhead utilities and rent.

And if you retain all those employees to the end of the period, which looks like it'll be three months, they'll forgive all that. So the point there is that small businesses can hang on, the money will be there to help them and to get them through this this transition period. But if we don't get the legislation passed, it doesn't matter. And it's crazy that they're over negotiating, knowing every single minute, businesses close.

COOPER: What do you make of this, you know, the talk of reopening parts of the country, having younger people go to work, you know, obviously, there's, you know, there's health concerns, you know, human lives are at stake, and there's economic factors.

CUBAN: You know, I'm not the expert there. They're epidemiologists and statisticians and analysts that can do a probability distribution of the options. You know, I really don't know. All I know is that the business of the United States is business right now.

And people are scared, right? The beauty of the $1200 check is people give -- it'll give people a sense of control over their lives, at least just one glimmer of hope that they can pay some bills. You know, look their kids in the eyes knowing there's going to be groceries. But if they don't get this passed, it doesn't happen. And it's really inconceivable that both sides of the aisle particularly on the Senate side, didn't see this coming.

We're talking about this now, when it's no shock that we could have been talking about this 2, 3, 4 weeks ago, and no one stood up. They need -- Look, the enemy of progress is perfection. We don't need a perfect deal. We need a done deal, Anderson.

COOPER: You have your hands, obviously in a lot of different pies, not just big businesses, but also I mean, through Shark Tank, your investor in a lot of small businesses. What are you hearing from those businesses?

CUBAN: Terror, terror, terror. You know, I'm asking the ones that are really struggling to hold on for this SBA loan program. I think that will get them through but they're really worried they don't want to lay off any employees. And so they're nervous because there hasn't been any real information coming to them. And what they have heard they were promised that, you know, that we were on the five yard line, the two yard line.

We've been in the red zone for two months, and we haven't scored something's got to happen because those small businesses and their employees are terrified.

COOPER: With businesses for you, businesses that you own in terms of, you know, reopening, getting people back in the office, would you base it on the government? Would you base it on science, you know, scientists?

CUBAN: No. I'd base it on safety of my employees. Look, right now we're working with imperfect information. Nobody knows what the absolute facts are, because we can't find them. I mean, this is the first time we've been through this. And I'm going to err on the side of caution and the health and safety of my employees every single time.

Now, I'm fortunate I can give up the money, but I'm not going to risk their health. And I think a lot of other companies will do the same thing. And plus we're adjusting to working from home and doing business from home. And so there's going to be a lot of ways that that we can get things done, but I'm certainly not going to just say you know what, just adhere to social distancing. And everything's OK. I'm going to do what I think is right.


COOPER: Mark Cuban, it's good to talk to you. Thank you. Be careful.

CUBAN: Always interesting. Thank you.

COOPER: All right, thanks. Some breaking news to report next on just how serious the administration is about ending the coronavirus shutdown and the steps that they are taking to do it, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Breaking news on some concrete steps that are now being taken to fulfill the President's wishes on the -- on basically ending the coronavirus outbreak response. That's the -- that the experts, as you've heard tonight say are not based in reality. CNN Nick Valencia, as the late reporting joins us now by phone. So what are you hearing, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): Well, Anderson, we're hearing that this is happening amid increasing pressure from President Trump to get the country, as he said, opened up in just a few weeks. This is coming to us from a senior federal health official who is directly involved in coronavirus response telling us that they are now drafting options of public health professionals now taking the concrete steps of drafting options to "be able to allow people to take a step back into society in certain areas."

This official went on to say that this is going to be a rolling type response, characterizing that by saying recommendations are going to ease for different parts of the country at different times. This, of course, begs the question of just how risky is this going to be? Do people want to go back in now that they are more knowledgeable about what this virus is just how fast it spreads? I mean, this is something that we that we tried to pin the source down on. And they said, look, you know, this is not without risk. It could mean sending people back to work or school.


And just to go on, Anderson, to wrap up here, you know, this source said, "The response to this outbreak is going to be rolling with increased mitigation, and then we'll see it back off, followed by another increase as the virus increases." So we're in this for a long term type thing.

You know, I think one of the things this official wanted to stress is that many Americans see this as 15 days pause and that type of mentality really, you know, hopefully, more Americans begin to see that this is more of a long term thing. You know, we've heard anything from this being a type of normalcy for us for the next 12 to 18 months. Anderson.

COOPER: It certainly it certainly seems, though, that the idea of rolling back feeds into the notion of just being a 15 day pause?

VALENCIA: Well, as this officials describes, you know, we're going to be dealing with this response for more than 15 days, perhaps after 15 days from four months from now. This official describes the scenario in this country with this virus spreads in pockets and clusters, like we've seen in New Rochelle, in Santa Clara. You know, of course, there in Manhattan. You know, these areas, certainly are of concern to public health professionals right now advising the president.

But it's not a one size fits all approach, this has to take into account according to this official, the variations of this virus, the variation to communities. And, you know, we should mention, Anderson, this is not the first time that we're hearing kinds of guidelines like this. You know, it was just last week that the CDC released their own recommendation saying this should be a phased approach. You know, this is going to be something that we have to deal with a long time.

COOPER: Our Nick Valencia appreciate the reporting. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us once again. Sanjay, what do you make of this?

GUPTA: Well, you know, on one hand, it's not surprising that, you know, people, public health officials will start to create plans for, you know, how they're going to ease back these this guidance, how are they going to ease back these recommendations? That makes sense and as Nick mentioned at the end of his report there at the Centers for Disease Control they did this last week, but gave no indication really as to when it might be implemented, in fact, that that guidance started off was saying, we fully recognize that this 15 day pause may be much longer than 15 days.

So I don't know Anderson, it's tough to know what to make of it. By drafting these guidelines are they in essence sending a signal that they are going to loosen up these restrictions, you know, soon now, you know, within the next few weeks, as we've heard from around Easter, for example. I don't know, but that could be sort of the telegraphing of that signal just don't know. It does make sense that they would actually work on these plans. I don't know for when these plans will be implemented, though.

COOPER: Just from a public health standpoint, though, you know, we have the guidelines we have now doesn't -- if you want people to actually follow those guidelines, and that's a battle to do that, certainly doesn't seem to help from a public health standpoint, you have the President already talking about loosening them up, it just sends the message that, you know what these things are kind of amorphous and he doesn't really believe in them. And, you know, yeah, we'll just loosen them up soon. So why not just loosen them up now? I mean, if you're trying to get people stay at home as much as possible, is this really the best way?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think people get really, really confused by that because they get this sense that OK, it's about to be over anyway. So it wasn't really a big deal in the first place. And I agree and again from Nick Valencia's reporting his source sort of telling him, look, we're willing to bring the guideline, loosen the guidelines up a little bit, see the virus sort of surge, strengthen the guidelines, you know, the virus comes down and then see the guidelines back up and just sort of this game of catch up between guidelines and, and trying to catch up with the virus.

If that's a strategy, you know, that's not one that's based on public health. I mean, everything that we've learned, not only from this particular outbreak around the world is that you get to do this early, consistently, and honestly. So the fact that you would go back and forth doesn't make a lot of sense.

COOPER: Yeah, Sanjay, thanks very much.

Still to come remembering the victims including World War II veteran who survived combat, who's fallen to coronavirus.



COOPER: Let's check with Chris, what is working out for Cuomo Primetime. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right. Well, we're dealing with this confounding situation where the numbers are accelerating in New York and New Jersey, you're seeing popping growth rate California, Washington, you're seeing a spread at the same time the President is saying Easter is the time to reopen.

We're going to look tonight at what that is about. And let's be honest, it's not a complex situation. The President is tired of this. He believes that he listened to the experts to his own detriment. He wants to go back to his own gut. And that means the economy comes first. Is it the right call? We'll test it.

COOPER: All right, Chris, I'll see you in about five minutes from now.

Up next, remembering two U.S. army veterans and others who died during the coronavirus.



COOPER: Every day more lives are lost to this virus and his family and friends mourn their loved ones. We want to take a moment to remember some of the lives lost so far.

Terrence McNally was among one of America's most renowned playwrights. He wrote dozens of musicals and plays including Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Love, Valour, Compassion, and Master Class.

He was a gay writer who took on issues of discrimination and AIDS in his work. He won countless Tony Awards. And last year he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award.

On stage he said, "The world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are." Terrence McNally was 81 years old.

Alvin Simmons was a U.S. army veteran who works at the Rochester General Hospital in New York. He was the father of two. He was known as a man who loved his family, loved his country. Those who knew him say he was the type of man who can make you laugh when you were feeling down. We could all use that now. Alvin Simmons was 54.

George Possas was also a U.S. army veteran, son of Greek immigrants who lied about his age when he was 17 years old so he could sign up and fight during World War II, and fight he did. The New Yorker served overseas in the South Pacific before coming back to the U.S. in 1946 and settling down. He was married for 64 years to his wife, Evelyn, beloved husband, father, grandfather and very recently great grandfather. His daughter, Denise, who also has the virus says, he was a role model for his family and for his community.

She called him everybody's pappo, which is Greek for grandfather. Like so many others who have suffered from this virus, George died alone in the hospital. His relatives were in quarantine and were unable to be by his side to say goodbye. George Possas was 93 years old.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." I'll see you tomorrow.