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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

CNN Global Town Hall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 28, 2020 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well we are rooting for you, and rooting for you to see those little girls. And I hope that's a lesson for the health departments to learn here to -- those communications are crucial, because you're going to have all these people coming out of quarantine.

Thank you, Craig. We wish you the best.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. CNN's Global Town Hall Coronavirus: Facts and Fears begins now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Atlanta. Welcome to our fourth CNN GLOBAL TOWN HALL: CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS.

Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci will be joining us answering your questions about the pandemic. We also have Bill Gates whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged up to $100 million to fight the coronavirus.

COOPER: Today was a bad day. More people died in America today from the virus than on any other day. And the U.S. now leads the world in the number of reported cases of coronavirus.

As Sanjay said, this is our fourth town hall, but this one is very different because we're following the latest safety guidelines from health professionals as always.

Sanjay and I are in separate studios without any crew or others around us and all of our guest are by remote as well.

GUPTA: So it's going to look a little different from our other town halls. But as we said last week and in many times before, we're determined to keep reporting the story and bringing you as much knowledge as we can. And also answering as many of your questions as we can as well.

COOPER: We still have our social media scroll, which you'll see at the bottom of your screen. So please tweet us your questions with the hashtag, CNN Town Hall. You can also leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page. A lot of you have also sent in video questions. We'll get as many of those as we can.

And I know it's a cliche but we are all in this together. And tonight, we'll also have reports from across the country and around the world including Europe and China, where our correspondents are. We start in the U.S. which has seen a significant rise in cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The World Health Organization is now warning that the U.S. could become the next global epicenter for the pandemic.

COOPER: Yesterday was the deadliest day by far. The death rate is rising here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is so severe the White House is advising people who visit or pass through New York City to self- quarantine themselves for 14 days.

COOPER: One week ago, there were 8,000 confirmed cased in the U.S. Now, there are more than 80,000. And so far in this country more than 1,100 people have died.

JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This week it's going to get bad and we really need to come together as a nation.

COOPER: At least 177 million Americans are under stay at home orders, which is more than half the population. New York remains the epicenter in the U.S. with more than 30,000 cases in this state. More 18,000 in New York City alone.

The enormous Javits Convention Center is being turned into a field hospital with 1,000 beds, still not enough according to officials with the number of patients they're expecting.

But there is a sign of hope. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the stay at home measures he enacted seem to be working.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): That is almost too good to be true. But the theory is given the density that we're dealing with, it spreads very quickly, but if you reduce the density you can reduce the spread very quickly.

COOPER: The 15-day period of social distancing recommended by the White House task force comes to an end early next week. But scientist still can't say when they think the virus might be under control in this country.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You've got be realistic, and you've got to understand that you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COOPER: The virus makes the timeline. As I mentioned at the top there are two great milestones today that we reached. Sanjay, as you know, it's the deadliest day on record in the U.S. for the virus. The number's gone up since I recorded that report.

The number of new deaths just today now at least 248. That's a record. And then total is 1,186 deaths from that pandemic in this country. And the second milestone that we learned just before we went on air, the U.S. now has surpassed China in coronavirus cases. We now have more than any other country in the world, 81,836 in the U.S. and sadly rising.

And Sanjay, with that in mind, as we've done right here in each of these town halls, I want to start off just by asking you what you think is the most important thing that you've learned this week that you didn't know before and the most important thing that we still don't know.

GUPTA: Well, we're certainly getting an idea, Anderson, of just -- just how explosive this growth is. I mean we -- we keep anticipating this. But to see the numbers of the first time we did a town hall, Anderson, 60 people were diagnosed. And now, you know, close to 90,000.

We know that most Americans are settling into this new reality doing their best to stay home as much as possible. We also know and confirm now that younger people can also be very much at risk.

[22:05:00]

I think for a long time the narrative was this was something that just affected the elderly. But 20 percent of those hospitalized, Anderson, between the ages of 20 and 44.

Something good that we learned this week is that the virus isn't mutating much, that's good because it's not going to become more lethal, likely, and it's also going to be good for a vaccine if the virus doesn't mutate much.

We still don't know when exactly this is going to end, I think that is still the biggest thing that we don't know, and exactly how - you know when this pullback, when people are going to be allowed to go back to work.

All we know is it's still weeks away, but there is an end in sight, this isn't going to last forever, Anderson.

COOPER: Again, what we just reported a moment ago that the U.S. has now passed China for the most reported coronavirus cases. Many believe the epicenter right now is New York City.

Want to go first to Erica Hill who's at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City, where Mayor Bill De Blasio called the epicenter of the epicenter of the city's outbreak. Erica, what's the latest?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did, and there's been a lot of attention paid to this hospital because of what's coming in there (ph) and also because what is coming out of this hospital.

What we're hearing in terms of accounts (ph) - medical professionals telling us at CNN earlier today they are bursting at the seams, that in terms of how people are feeling it's a state of panic.

One of the E.R. doctors actually shared what she saw at her account of 72 hours in the E.R. here, with "The New York Times." Here's a little bit of what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients, and it's America, and we're supposed to be a first world country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Part of what she said, is we're told it's all going to be fine - it is not fine here. And the emergency management commissioner for New York agreed with her earlier today, saying, Anderson that her account was spot-on.

GUPTA: And Erica, you know, you and I were e-mailing earlier today, and you sort of pointed out that it isn't just this one hospital. You've been talking to E.R. doctors at other hospitals as well, and what are they telling you?

HILL: Similar things, and I'm sure you're hearing the same thing too, Sanjay. One of the doctors I spoke to said basically everybody coming in to the E.R. now has some sort of coronavirus-related issue.

They are not seeing the heart attack, or the people who need stitches - even the sniffly (ph) noses that they used to. He's saying partially that's likely that these people are scared to come in - maybe they're worried about overwhelming the E.R. as well.

He said it's taking a mental, physical, and emotional toll on the staff - everyone from the paramedics all the way through to discharge. And he said what's most important is that we keep repeating the message - social distancing, wash your hands and take all of that seriously.

COOPER: Erica Hill, thanks very much.

I want to go now to China, which is closing its borders to foreigners fearing a second wave of the pandemic. David Culver is in Shanghai for us.

David, so the borders will be closed with the fear of a second wave of cases. I'm wondering though, in a place like Wuhan, as restrictions are loosened in various places that are hit by the virus, are there any signs that infected people who are asymptomatic are potentially spreading the virus still?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge concern, Anderson, because if you look at the numbers - and the numbers have been in question for several weeks now since the reporting started because of the source of all of this. The numbers being sourced from the National Health Commission, that is, the Chinese government. So with regards to potential asymptomatic cases, they do believe those

could be pretty active within the Wuhan area, and even Hubei province, and even really other parts of mainland China. The issue is those aren't officially counted towards the total number.

So as you start to ease restrictions, and you mentioned in Wuhan that's going to happen in about two weeks' time, already in other parts of Hubei they've started to ease those - what some have described as brutal lockdown conditions. You're going to have people moving around again, you're going to have people starting to resume life - will that then cause the numbers to go back up?

It's something that they're very mindful of here, and really quite hesitant of, even the residents that we've spoken with, Anderson, have quite frankly told us as soon as the gates open, to so speak they're in no rush to get out of their homes after 70 plus days of lockdown.

GUPTA: And David, you know, I think the timeline is so important here because people are looking to China to get an idea of what it might be like here in the United States. And for the first time now, I guess since the crisis began in Hubei, 10 weeks or so of lockdown - some of those restrictions are being lifted.

So what are the authorities expecting to happen here? How is it going to return to normal?

CULVER: I think part of their expectation is to rely on that hesitation from some of the residents, right? They don't want to get to complacent, they don't want to think that they've got this beat.

And residents that we've spoken with, Sanjay, have told me quite frankly that you know they're going to watch to see how things unfold. Yes, they want to get back to life - one young woman telling me she wants to get to Starbucks, she wants to get to McDonald's, but at the same time she doesn't fully trust that things are fully under control.

That being said, you do see already extreme cleansing of some of the public transit, you see buses being sanitized, you see actions being taken to prepare for this.

[22:10:07]

And the other big concern is going to be imported cases which is why they've now essentially banned all foreign travelers into China - into mainland China.

I mean, you go back a few weeks, Sanjay, and it was the rest of the world that was really concerned with travelers coming from China. Now it's China really worried about travelers coming from every other country. So that's why they've taken these extreme steps, but at the same time, Anderson and Sanjay, I think there is some optimism and cautious optimism from the people we've talked to. That life may be resuming.

COOPER: David Culver - David, thanks very much. Scott McLean joins us now from Spain which reached another gruesome milestone of its own this week. More than 4,000 deaths surpassing the death toll of China. Things are so bad and an ice rink has been converted into a morgue. And that's where Scott is tonight.

So, are the new cases still rising there as well as the deaths?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. The increases here have been really startling. In just the last 24 hours, more than 650 have died from this coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases has jumped up by more than 8,500. And to put that in context, that is almost twice as many new cases as were reported in Italy. The health minister has said that there are signs that Spain is starting to enter this period of stabilization, but officials have been optimistic about seeing the peak of this pandemic for quite some time.

It's also important to keep in mind that the true number of cases in Spain is likely much, much higher than the official number and that's because Spain has really struggled to get a handle on the amount of testing that its doing. It's really struggled to expand the testing beyond the 15 or 20,000 test that it's doing per day right now.

Case and point, officials acknowledged just this morning that a batch of several thousand tests that had been imported from China had to be sent back because they didn't work.

GUPTA: Yes. And Scott, you know as Anderson mentioned, you're standing in front of this -- this pretty grim scene here. I guess this ice rink recently converted into a morgue. Is that -- is that just for people who've died of COVID-19 or -- or other patients as well?

MCLEAN: Only coronavirus patients here, Sanjay. The reason that this ice rink started to be used in the first place is because the city state run funeral service, stopped picking up the bodies of coronavirus patients because they said they didn't have enough protective equipment.

Now the issue is more that there simply isn't enough space in the city morgues to store all of these bodies given the backlog of bodies waiting to be -- to be buried or to be cremated. And so they have to come somewhere and obviously this ice rink is -- is a suitable place for them.

The problem is particularly acute here because more than half of all the coronavirus deaths in this country have been here in Madrid.

COOPER: That's just terrible. Everyone, thank you. Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. Coming later tonight, Bill Gates joins us. He's been warning about a pandemic like this for a long time. But first, after the break, Dr. Anthony Fauci joins us to answer your questions about the coronavirus. We'll be right back.

[22:16:50]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: And welcome back to the CNN GLOBAL TOWN HALL. Our next guest is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's a member of the president's coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

GUPTA: And he is here to answer your questions, of course, about the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci, welcome.

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

GUPTA: Thank you very much for your service, sir. I know you're putting in very long hours, and we appreciate it. Let me get right to it. You've been saying that we should wait for the data to decide whether or not to start pulling back on some of these recommendations and maybe allowing people to go back to work.

I've been looking at the data. I know you have, as well. It seems pretty clear that the numbers are not only increasing, but accelerating in places that had no cases or very few cases last week --

FAUCI: Right.

GUPTA: -- are now in the thousands. So why raise the idea that a pullback is even close, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Well, I think what the president was trying to do, he was making an aspirational projection to give people some hope. But he's listening to us when we say we've really got to reevaluate it in real- time and any decision we make has to be based on the data.

I mean, you know, the numbers that you showed, when you have a situation when the cases today compared to tomorrow is increased dramatically and then the next day is increased dramatically, that's no time to pull back. That's when you got to hunker down, nail down, mitigate, mitigate, mitigate, get the people taken care of. That's what you got to concentrate on. You have to go with the data.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci, as you mentioned, you said the virus makes the timeline. The notion, though, of people getting back to work in some places, it's sort of based on the idea that there's hot spots right now in New York City, California. We've seen Washington. New Orleans seems to be in trouble, and some other places seem to be coming up in terms of cases, but that there's places where they haven't seen so much.

Are you confident that the places that haven't had a lot of reported cases, that that's just not a question of testing, is it a question of there's simply -- the virus isn't there?

FAUCI: Well, it's probably a combination of both. But I think it's more that they have not yet had that kind of escalation that we've seen in cities like New York. And just the point about those areas that have low levels, like there about -- I think 19 out of 50 states have 200 cases or less in a state. That's the time, if you're going to do anything in those places, you've got to be very aggressive in identification, isolation, contact tracing. When people are infected, get them out of society, put them in a way where they're isolated and then trace the others. That's all containment.

You don't want to get to the point where you have to start mitigating. So what we're talking about is trying to get to the point where we don't allow these issues to come up to the point of needing mitigation.

But in order to do that, as I've said and as Dr. Birx has said, you need to get the data and you need to act on the data, because if it's escalating, there's no way you want to tone down. You want to be able to suppress what's there while it's at a low level.

COOPER: So you want to see more testing, especially in places where, you know, they have low numbers of cases in order to gather data.

[22:20:09]

I mean, are there people gathering that data? Are they doing the contact tracing in states that have less than 200 cases?

FAUCI: Well, you know, today the president wrote a letter to the governors talking about sort of a new approach to this kind of county- by-county -- not mitigation, but contact tracing, where what you actually do is you do testing there.

Now, that's going to be through the public health apparatus, which the CDC has networks that are really for flu surveillance. And you could adapt those networks to be coronavirus surveillance. When you do that, then you could plug in the identification, isolation, and contact tracing.

Again, it's an attempt to do that. I hope they'll be successful, but that's what the plan is, to use that network to do the kind of surveillance we've done with flu.

GUPTA: You know, Dr. Fauci, so we have, you know, sort of three months' worth of data now, 150 or so countries I think where this virus has been present. At what point do you say we have enough data, that we really can start to set a timeline? I know you say the virus will dictate the timeline, but, you know, do we -- we must know a lot more now than we did even a couple weeks ago.

FAUCI: Yes, we do know a lot more now than we did a couple of weeks ago, but the one thing that's still a little bit of a black box, and that's the thing that influences the modelling that we do, is that what is the relative percentage of really asymptomatic infection? Because that influences everything.

That influences transmission. That influences contact tracing. And that certainly influences the diameter of the models that you use. So if you're going to model how you do things, you really have to have the data of know what you're dealing with. That's why it's so important to do that. Now that we have so many more tests available, we've really got to get out there and do that. COOPER: I want to get to viewer questions, but I just want to quickly

follow up on the question we were talking about before, which is in those states where it's low, you talked about the plan for contact tracing, the idea that -- is it actually being done now? Or is that still something that needs to be increased?

FAUCI: It needs to be ratcheted up, Anderson. We can't -- I mean, we've got to do it better than we are now, not that we're at fault, that no one's made any mistakes, but they've got to elevate it to the point where when you have someone in society who is infected, you've got to not only identify them, but you've got to be able to isolate them very quickly, not five days later after they wound up potentially infecting individuals.

So we've got to get that system where you identify somebody and as quickly as possible get them out of a situation where they may infect other people. That's what's called strict containment, and that's what we've got to do.

COOPER: All right. Dr. Fauci, we've got a lot of questions from viewers. Edward Sabatini in Miami sent in this video. Take a look.

EDWARD SABATINI: Hi, I have lupus and I take hydroxychloroquine. I've been taking this medication for three years now and it's the only drug that can help me function on a daily basis. My 90-day supply is up in less than 10 days. My pharmacist Walgreens called me to tell me that they can't fill this prescription for me because this medication is no longer available in the marketplace.

They went on to say that they don't expect to receive any more of this medication for the time being. All of this medication is being utilized in New York City for the COVID-19 test. What am I supposed to do when I run out of my medication less than 10 days from now?

COOPER: Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Yes, I mean, that individual has a very good point, and that's the reason why I have said so often that we should be giving drugs for people with diseases that we know it works. And that's really one of those unintended consequences that's a negative consequence, is that when you use the drug for something in which it's not a proven benefit, those individuals who need the drug for a disease for which there is a proven benefit could potentially suffer, the same way the individual that you've just put on the program.

GUPTA: And, Dr. Fauci, I mean, I don't want to make this political, but, I mean, this drug was sort of described as a game-changer. You understand why people may go out and want to get this drug. Pharmacies I've been talking to say they've run out in all their pharmacies. Was that just a mistake or too premature to present it that way?

FAUCI: Sanjay, I'm not going to pass judgment on that. You know that. That's not -- that's not really helpful. I can just tell you what I have said all along, and I'll say it again, the evidence that that works is anecdotal. It is not a definitive proof that that drug works, period. GUPTA: All right. Let's get to another viewer question -- oh, sorry,

Anderson.

COOPER: No, no, go ahead.

GUPTA: Monica Grinage-Prince in Houston, Texas, sent in this video. Let's take a look.

[22:25:01]

MONICA GRINAGE-PRINCE: Is a sudden loss of smell and taste a symptom of coronavirus? And if so, and the person hasn't experienced any other symptoms, what actions would you recommend they take?

GUPTA: Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Well, you know, the idea of having an impediment of the sense of smell is not really unique to any particular viral disease. There are a number of other upper respiratory viral diseases in which that occurs.

There have been some reports that that's an early sign. There really isn't much you can do about it, but it could be a red flag that if you have other symptoms that you're not sure what they are, and you have a decrease in the sense of smell, you might want to think that's a possibility that it's an early sign of coronavirus disease. So that's something that's been well recognized with other viruses.

COOPER: Our next question comes from Larry Heyer in Charlotte, North Carolina.

LARRY HEYER: Is there any mounting data on the effects of spring and summer temperatures and its expected impact on coronavirus and its transmission? Thank you.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci, that was the hope early on.

FAUCI: There's no mounting data -- yes, well, right now, I mean, the idea, the concept that when you're dealing with a respiratory-borne virus, that when you get from the cold to the warm weather, there's a diminution in spread, that is not unreasonable, because we see that with influenza and we see that with some of the benign coronaviruses, not obviously the novel coronaviruses.

We are hoping, though it may not happen, that we will see that impact of warmer weather on bringing the infection rate down. But you can't guarantee it because this is a brand-new virus and it may not act like some of the other respiratory viruses in which often you do see a diminution as the weather gets warmer. There's no guarantee that we're going to see that right now.

GUPTA: And if we do, that also means that, as the weather gets cooler again in the fall and winter, it could come back. Is that right, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: That's exactly right, Anderson. And that's the reason why, at the White House press conference today, I emphasized the importance to push ahead with the development of a vaccine and the development of drugs proven by randomized controlled trial. Because if that happens, you likely will see a cycling, a seasonal cycling. I would not be surprised, given the efficiency with which this virus spreads, that we will see a cycle.

GUPTA: Let's get to another viewer question, Dr. Fauci. Louis Carson in Mansfield, Texas, sent in this video. Take a look.

LOUIS CARSON: What should -- or could blood transfusions from recovered coronavirus patients be used to potentially aid in the recovery of currently known coronavirus patients? Thank you.

GUPTA: Dr. Fauci, I think that's a convalescent serum, right, I think he's talking about, he's asking about.

FAUCI: Yes. Right. Right, that's exactly correct. And, in fact, it would not be the first disease in which you've actually had some success with this. There are a couple of studies going on. One is convalescent sera. The other is the immune globulin from that sera. And the other is the development of monoclonal antibodies from an individual who might actually have recovered, where you actually can clone those B cells and get an unlimited amount of supply. The concept of passive transfer of antibodies is a sound concept that deserves a very serious clinical trial.

COOPER: This next one is from Emily Mitchell in Charlotte, North Carolina. Let's take a look.

EMILY MITCHELL: I'm 25 and live in North Carolina. My parents are in their 60s and live in Virginia. I recently flew on a plane domestically and am still getting over a sinus infection that I had a few weeks ago. They are really insistent on me going home to be with them for this quarantine, but I'm really worried about if I'm a carrier and just don't know it yet. What advice do you have about me going home? And also how would you recommend talking to older individuals who might not want to think that they're at such a risk?

FAUCI: Well, there are a couple of questions there. I mean, first of all, if you have reason to believe that you've been exposed to someone who is infected, then you really should do what we recommend of virtually anybody. What you should do is that you should isolate yourself for up to 14 days. Call a physician. See if you want to get tested. And if a testing is available, get tested.

It sounds like you are at a low risk, from what I just heard, but again, I'd want to hear a little bit more about it.

With regard to elderly parents, I think you've got to emphasize, we have a responsibility in society to protect the vulnerable. And those are the elderly, particularly those with underlying conditions. So if you go home and you have any idea that you might have been exposed, you've got to isolate yourself from your parents.

[22:30:06] And, in fact, the recommendations now, particularly in areas where there is a lot of infection, that individuals who are elderly or with chronic conditions that are compromising them, that they should self- isolate and get them away from any possible exposure to someone who might be infected.

GUPTA: So, regardless of whether she was sick or not, probably at this time, at least for the next few weeks, not visit, you're saying? A lot of people out there thinking about visiting their parents.

FAUCI: Yes, exactly. That's exactly what I meant.

I mean, we have -- I mean, you're getting on a plane. Right now, depending upon where you are, you're getting on a plane -- I don't want to worry a lot of people that get on planes. But to the extent possible, you should avoid anything but necessary travel.

Now, obviously, you love your parents, and you want to be with your parents. But just think, it might be better now to separate yourself from your parents, so you don't put them at risk.

GUPTA: Good point, Dr. Fauci.

Got another question.

Sayli in Cranbury, New Jersey, sent in this video.

SAYLI SONSURKAR, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Hi. I'm a senior high school student from Plainsboro, New Jersey.

My school campus has recently closed. And we have moved to online learning because of the current coronavirus pandemic.

I wish to become a physician when I'm older. I was wondering what I and others like me can do to help medical personnel and others in need that are currently working tirelessly to save people from this virus.

GUPTA: Need some help, Dr. Fauci?

FAUCI: Well, that...

(LAUGHTER)

FAUCI: Yes, I sure can.

(LAUGHTER)

FAUCI: I'll give you some work, so I can get some more sleep.

(LAUGHTER)

FAUCI: No, I think there are many ways in -- there are many ways in which people like yourself, who are altruistic and want to be part of the solution, that you can volunteer.

Whether you do that from faith-based services or what you do, I believe there's a lot of opportunity for people like yourself, who want to contribute, to volunteer.

I mean, the easiest way to do that, I can see it through community services or even faith-based services.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci, as always, we appreciate your time. We know how busy you are.

Please keep doing what you're doing. Thank you.

GUPTA: Get some rest.

COOPER: Yes.

FAUCI: Good to be with you, Anderson and Sanjay.

COOPER: Just ahead -- just ahead: what the chairman of the Federal Reserve says about a recession, and your questions about the frightening economic impact of the pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:36:07]

COOPER: And welcome back to our fourth coronavirus town hall.

You still have our social media scroll at the bottom of the screen. You can tweet your questions with #CNNtownhall. You can also leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page.

The clearest signal of the crushing economic impact of the virus came today, when initial claims for unemployment ballooned to more than three million. That's the highest initial claims in the nation's history.

So, just think about that for a moment, highest in the history of the country in a week's time. And the chairman of the Federal Reserve says the United States may already be in a recession.

Joining us now, CNN's business editor at large, Richard Quest. He's ready to answer your questions.

So, Richard, I mean, hard to underscore the economic fallout that's already occurred because of this.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Absolutely.

That 3.3 million number tells its own tale. And it could get a great deal worse as this rolls across the rest of the country.

I was looking at some economic forecasts. J.P. Morgan think that unemployment will top out at about 8.5 percent. Remember, we ended last year at 3.5 percent. Oxford economics say it could be 10 percent that will be unemployed.

But it's -- although this is horrific, you have to remember why it's happened. It's because the economy has been artificially paused. So, a lot of these jobs will come back when the economy gets going again.

The issue, of course, is that the economy needs to stay paused while the virus dissipates and is got rid of. If the virus is allowed to incubate and continues -- and you were saying, Sanjay, it's called the virus economy -- the significance here is that the social distancing must be maintained. And even though the economic numbers may look dreadful, bordering on disastrous, they will repair and recover quicker as a result of what's being done.

GUPTA: And we will get to ask Bill Gates as well, Richard, a little bit about some of these things, his perspective.

And I'll preface this question by saying, as doctors, we know nothing about money. So, I will put that out there.

But Fed chief Jerome Powell, he did say that -- quote -- "We may well be in a recession."

How long do you foresee the economy, then, being affected, Richard, given all that you just said?

QUEST: He's being polite. He knows full well that the economy is in recession, in sense of -- how long it will be, go back to 2008, and it was four quarters that the economy was in recession.

But we don't expect anything like that this time round, for the simple reason the economy has been artificially stopped, and it will be started up again hopefully in the second quarter at some point.

And that's the point. By Q3, you should be seeing a recovery. By Q4, according to Ben Bernanke and Jay Powell, the recovery could be robust.

Now, that sounds heartless when you think about the fact there will be many businesses that will fail as a result of all of this, thousands, tens of thousands. But for most people in work, when their companies restart, they will be taken back in again, the economy will get back up and running again. And I think, by next year, by the beginning of next year, you will be looking at good growth.

COOPER: But, as you said, it all depends on the medical front.

QUEST: Completely.

COOPER: We just heard from Dr. Fauci this could become a seasonal thing. We don't know the impact of that.

QUEST: Completely.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes.

We got a lot of questions from viewers.

QUEST: Yes. COOPER: The stimulus package making its way through Congress, Cheryl

O'Brien (ph) wants to know: "Is there some kind of relief in the package for independent contractors? I currently do not have work because of the shutdown. I cannot receive unemployment. Is there any help in the stimulus package?" she wants to know.

QUEST: I spent a good half-hour going through the stimulus package to find exactly, chapter and verse, for you, Cheryl.

And, yes, in general, during the period, individuals who operate under a sole partnership or as an independent contractor shall be eligible for a covered loan.

Now, it's not a grant. It's going to be a loan. And from what I have been hearing from people trying to get in touch with authorities, it's -- there's a lot of bureaucracy getting through.

[22:40:01]

But, yes, Cheryl, sole proprietors and independent contractors are covered as if they were employees.

GUPTA: And, Richard, James Racik (ph) has another question for you.

It says: "For those of us who will be receiving a government stimulus check, but are less affected by the virus, where can we donate our checks in order to help support our national medical efforts?"

Fantastic question. Love it.

Do you know anything about that, Richard?

QUEST: I do.

There's -- obviously, besides your normal faith-based organizations in your own area, which I'm sure would happily take the money, because they're helping local people, the big companies -- like, Spotify is going to match up to $10 million.

Facebook has said it will match. Yelp has said it will match, but also Impact Your World. CNN has compiled a list of places where you can find details of where you can help. So, from the big to the small, right down to your church, synagogue or temple on the corner, they will take your money.

COOPER: Richard, just internationally, I mean, what are countries doing to try to relieve some of the fallout in their countries? Are there lessons the U.S. can take from what some of these other countries may be doing?

QUEST: Every country is doing something of a major proportion.

Germany's probably near the top by the sheer amount of percentage of GDP. It's giving loans. It's giving help in industry, the whole lot.

The United Kingdom has agreed to pay 80 percent of wages for employees that will be laid off. And, today, it said it would do the same for the self-employed.

The U.S., at 10 percent of GDP, is on the low side for the moment, but nobody expects it will remain there overall. The biggest tragedy of all is that there's no coordination. And that's because the G20 continues to just talk about what it should be doing, and says something should be done, but doesn't seem very quick to be able to do it.

No, governments around the world are responding. It's an average, an average of between, say, 8 and 12 percent of GDP at the moment. There's more to come.

COOPER: Richard Quest -- Richard, thanks very much.

Want to bring in Leana Wen more -- for more of your questions. She's an emergency physician -- emergency room physician, Baltimore's former health commissioner, and a veteran of our town halls as well.

Dr. Wen, at this moment, what's the biggest point that you want all the people watching tonight to be aware of?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I want everyone to know that there is something that we can do right now to slow the spread of coronavirus, that we're not powerless.

As we have been talking about, Anderson, we're not powerless against this virus. We can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by taking simple steps, physical distancing, social distancing, and staying at home as much as we can.

Taking care of ourselves, taking care of our loved ones is also our best defense to protect the community as well.

COOPER: Let's get some viewer questions.

This one is sent in from Lin in Ohio.

She wants to know: "We're a family of four. Myself and two children are staying home with no outside exposure. My husband is still going to work. He showers as soon as he comes home from work. Is it safe for him to hug our children?"

Dr. Wen?

WEN: A lot of families are in this position, where somebody does have to go to work. Maybe they're a health care worker, a police officer. They're around a lot of people and don't have the option of staying at home.

We can reduce our risk. We can't eliminate every risk. But I would recommend that, while the husband is at work, that he takes every precaution, staying away from people when possible, washing hands, practicing good hand and face hygiene.

When coming home, definitely take off clothes, shower, et cetera. And then go hug and play with the kids. And I think it's another reminder for all of us who can stay at home

that we should stay at home, because there are so many who cannot.

COOPER: Sanjay, this is a question that Charles sent in from Hawaii.

It reads: "For those who contract" -- or "contract, but do not get ill from the virus, will tests show you were once exposed to it?"

GUPTA: Yes, that's a really important question.

This is -- it's called serology testing or antibody testing. Basically, it's a little bit of what Dr. Fauci was talking about. After you have the infection, your body reacts to it, makes these antibodies. And those antibodies can sort of be a signature that you were -- you were previously infected.

And you can test for that. And, as Dr. Fauci was talking about, maybe you could even use some of the plasma from someone who has these antibodies and inject that into somebody else to help treat their coronavirus infection.

So, that's all sort of sometime away still. But the answer is, yes, you can test for that sort of thing.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, if you get the virus, and then you recover from it, you don't go to the hospital, you don't end up actually getting tested, will you -- and assuming there is immunity to this, that you are then immune, is there any way to know if you had the virus, and you are therefore immune, for the -- just for the future, I mean, down the road?

WEN: That's such a great question. And this is what we want to get to. We don't have that test yet. It's being developed. But that would be great. It would be so helpful for people to know whether they have immunity.

[22:45:00]

COOPER: And do we know how long immunity lasts for?

WEN: We don't know yet. There are some people who speculate that one might have immunity for a long time, even forever, but we just don't know that yet.

COOPER: Dr. Wen and Sanjay, this is a question from Charmaine in Jacksonville, Florida. It reads, "If there is no antibacterial soap available, can plain soap and water still be as effective?" Sanjay?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, so this is a good question. I mean, you know, just soap and water can be very effective, even more effective than the hand sanitizers. You do it for a certain technique. And there's been all kinds of studies on this. So it is really as -- you know, in the midst of a pandemic, it sounds silly to keep talking about hand washing, but it makes a difference and it's really withstood the test of time. COOPER: All right, Sanjay, along those lines, we got tons of questions

on the proper way to wash your hands and we convinced you to do a tutorial on exactly that, because you have changed the way I wash my hands, I will say. I never knew the back of the hand, in between the fingers and the thumb thing. Let's take a look at your tutorial.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: All right. I'm going to show you how to wash your hands. Most people know how to do this, but always worth remembering. Just going to wet my hands here, get plenty of soap, and just start rubbing your hands. And make sure you really interlace your fingers like this and then also turn your hands over. Don't forget the backs of your hands. People often forget that. Both sides, get it really well.

And then I'll actually get underneath the fingertips here and even the nails a little bit to make sure you clean underneath there. And then you've got to get the thumbs. Thumbs are really important. Sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice to yourself and that usually will do it. And then I just sort of get the soap off my hands here. And there. And then here's the key. Before you turn the water off, dry your hands, and use the same paper towel to turn off the water. You don't contaminate yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Classic.

GUPTA: I think I first taught you that in Central Africa. Didn't I?

COOPER: You did, you did, yes. The "Happy Birthday" song, which I sang several times while you were doing that demonstration. I think you did about two or three of them.

GUPTA: Yes, it was just a demonstration.

COOPER: But, yes, you -- every time I wash my hands, I think of you, actually.

GUPTA: I do just want to point out that typically faucets nowadays actually the water comes on and off. There are sort of sensors there. So I wouldn't typically waste that much water. But just for the demonstration, I wanted to show people. So I hope that's helpful. It's really important.

COOPER: It is. Yes.

GUPTA: Let's get to another question here. This is a question sent in from Julia in Arlington, Virginia, which reads, "Does a past history of pneumonia and lung scarring put me at increased risk of severe COVID illness? I'm 39 and healthy, but I had pneumonia several times as a child and have some permanent scarring from it that's visible on X-rays.

Dr. Wen, what do you think? WEN: A lot of people are asking questions about this, because the

studies show that those who are more likely to have severe infections are those who are older or have chronic medical conditions. But it's unclear what exactly counts as a chronic medical condition.

Some things are very clear, but some things are not. And having pneumonia earlier and having some scarring, unclear whether that's something that predisposes you to having worse coronavirus. But it's always good to act out of an abundance of caution and take extra precautions, including using Sanjay's great handwashing video.

COOPER: Sanjay, Grace Burke in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, sent in this video. Let's take a look.

GRACE BURKE: My mom is 91 years old and lives in her own home and is isolated. How long do I have to self-quarantine? And what does that self-quarantine look like in order to visit her and her sister in her home?

GUPTA: This is a tough question, right? Dr. Fauci talked about this. We want to visit our parents, we want to spend time with them. For right now, someone who's 91 years old, if they have any pre-existing conditions -- Dr. Wen, you tell me if I agree -- I think it's best to probably give some time.

Now, if you are living with the person, establishing a sort of space within the home where someone can quarantine themselves or sort of be away and really be able to keep that six-feet distance, use your own utensils, try and have your own space as much as possible. But I say that knowing full well that can be challenging.

COOPER: And also, Dr. Wen, I mean, there's other considerations, too. I mean, if you have a 91-year-old mother who's living alone, there's, you know, potential danger to her just in general of, you know, if she's going out grocery shopping by herself, all those sorts of things.

WEN: That's right. And it's weighing a lot of different risks. And I think it has to depend on the health of everyone involved, the likely exposures, and also just -- there is this human element, too, that we want to be with our families. So it's a tough decision that a lot of people have to be making right now.

GUPTA: You know, I've got to say, as well -- I think, Anderson, you and I have talked about it. But I was supposed to visit my parents who are in their late 70s sort of I think -- you know, end of February, early March and, you know, decided not to do that. And they really wanted us, especially my kids, to come visit. We couldn't do that.

[22:55:02]

But we've been calling a lot and Facetiming a lot. And keep coming back to this idea that social distancing does not have to mean social isolation, especially with technology. It's not ideal, but, you know, in some ways, it can still keep you pretty connected.

COOPER: Yes, it's so hard. I mean, it's such a difficult thing to try to weigh all the competing factors.

Sanjay, Aditi in Canada sent in this video. Let's take a look.

ADITI: Are babies at high risk for coronavirus? And what symptoms should parents look for in babies, because they cannot explain what is happening to them? Thank you.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's a good point. I'll give you some data, but just keep in mind that it can be very individualized. You know, the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions are the ones that are most likely to become either seriously or critically ill. You know, some 18 percent to 20 percent of people in those categories develop severe or critical illness.

For younger people, it's a lot lower. It's closer to 5 percent or 6 percent. But interestingly for babies, 0- to 1-year-old, it was closer to 11 percent, so about 1 in 10 roughly.

Babies can't talk, as our viewer just mentioned. You've got to monitor things. You have to, you know, check fever, you know, check if there's any abnormal vital signs, you know. And if there's a question, especially with the baby, you know, call your doctor and make sure you call ahead before just showing up at the ER.

COOPER: Yes. I should point out to our viewers, Bill Gates is coming up in just a few minutes. We're going to be talking to him for about -- for an extended period of time. He's really been out front on this, warning about the risk of a pandemic like this.

Dr. Wen, you've talked about this on the air, so I'm not saying anything, I'm not revealing anything, that you are pregnant. What kind of precautions are you taking? And also now, you know, a lot of hospitals in New York and I assume elsewhere, although I'm not sure I know in New York, are not allowing loved ones inside the delivery room out of concern for the mother and health care workers, and obviously for the baby, as well.

WEN: That's right. So I'm now 39 weeks pregnant, and so on baby watch. It could happen any day now. And definitely it's something that I think about a lot, about the potential risk of contracting coronavirus and what that might look like in pregnancy.

Now, it does not appear that there is an elevated risk to pregnant women of having severe symptoms or severe effects because of pregnancy. That's the good news. But there is so much that's not known about the risk of coronavirus in pregnancy. And pregnant women should take extra precautions because we are medically vulnerable.

Now, these guidelines are changing every day. My hospital used to welcome the entire family in the delivery room. Now there's only one person that's allowed. And you mentioned, Anderson, about New York hospitals, some of them only allowing -- were not allowing any visitors at all. And I can't really imagine not having my husband or any support system there.

But I think this is such an extraordinary time for all of us. And we're all living through this level of uncertainty. And I think about the sacrifices that so many people are making, and I think it's something that I might have to deal with myself, about having instead of face-to-face time including face-to-face time with my loved ones afterwards with the baby, having Facetime instead.

COOPER: Sanjay, I was just looking on the bottom of the screen. One of the questions a viewer wrote in just now, tweeted in, was, is it safe to ride the subway in New York if the car isn't very crowded?

GUPTA: You know, it's challenging, I think. I mean, I think if you're very careful and you can really maintain a social distance and be careful of surfaces and...

COOPER: I mean, that's the problem. You hold onto the handles and stuff on the subway.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, if it's essential -- and, again, I know for some people this is essential, so I don't want to be dismissive in any way of this. But it's challenging. I mean, I think it really has created a significant awareness for everybody, how you live your life.

I mean, I just notice myself moving much more slowly, being more mindful even as I touch surfaces around me. If you can do that and take this seriously, I think it's possible. But we're still in this very much, Anderson, so a few weeks from now, that answer may be different.

COOPER: Yes, Dr. Wen, thanks so much. Sanjay and I are sticking around. Our conversation with Bill Gates is coming up in just a few minutes. As we said at the top, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they -- early on they spent $100 million -- they gave $100 million to coronavirus relief. Bill Gates has sounded the alarm for years about a pandemic. Now that it's here, his thoughts about how to stop it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:58:25]

COOPER: And welcome back to CNN's global town hall, our fourth global town hall. This hour, our medical experts are going to answer your questions about the toll the pandemic has taken on people's mental health. We'll also talk to Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, a five-time gold medalist, one of the most dominant swimmers in the world today, about the cancellation of this year's games.

Want to start, though, with our guest for the next half-hour, Bill Gates. Mr. Gates and his wife, Melinda, have been tireless advocates for the poor through their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They early on gave out $100 million toward efforts around the world to control the coronavirus.

GUPTA: And Bill Gates has also been warning about the threat of a pandemic for years. In 2015, he gave this TED Talk saying that the greatest risk of a global catastrophe wouldn't come from nuclear war. It would come from a highly infectious virus. And he said, quote, "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war."

Welcome now to you, Mr. Gates. Thanks so much for joining us.

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: Good to talk to you.

COOPER: Bill, in that TED Talk, you pointed out that we invest a lot in being ready for a war or nuclear deterrence, but you said, quote, "We've invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We're not ready for the next epidemic."

Just big picture, before we get into details, how do you see the coronavirus, where we're at right now in the United States, compared to other pandemics the world has faced? I mean, what's the good news, what's the bad news?

GATES: Well, this is a terrible pandemic. Because it's spread human to human in a respiratory way, you can infect somebody when you're still fairly healthy. And there are many things, like Ebola, that aren't like that. You're flat on your back before you become significantly infectious.