'This virus is like other viruses' and 'it should be treated the same way:' Carson

George Stephanopoulos interviews Dr. Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, for the latest on the Trump administration’s response to novel coronavirus.
9:31 | 03/08/20

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Transcript for 'This virus is like other viruses' and 'it should be treated the same way:' Carson
passed 100,000. And more 100 countries. Italy announced overnight that the northern region of that country is now on lockdown. Affecting a quarter of the population. The virus is spreading coast to coast here. More than 400 confirmed cases in the U.S., at least 19 deaths. And the economic impact spreading beyond Wall Street, with more events cancelled, schools closing and travel restricted. We begin this morning with Ben Carson, hud secretary, and a member of president trump's coronavirus task force. Secretary Carson, thank you for joining us this morning. There's so much evidence mounting that this virus is spreading faster than measures to contain it here, close to 100 million Americans could be infected with the virus. You said you want to be transparent, should Americans be braced for these kind of numbers? There's no question that we should be informed about how we should manage our own lives. It's very important for people to understand that this virus is like other viruses, it should be treated the same way, so we have flu seasons that come up frequently and there are certain precautions that you take during that time to make sure that you don't contract the virus. Bear in mind that there's a certain segment of our society who are particularly vulnerable, including people who have underlying medical conditions. Elderly with underlying medical conditions. And so, certain precautions should be taken. If we take those precautions then we have much more ability to contain the spread of the disease. Also, it's very important for people to understand that the vast majority of people who actually contract the virus are only going to have flulike symptoms or less. Many of them will be asymptomatic altogether. There's a limit bit of exaggeration in terms of what happens if you contract the virus. That's not what I was asking. Those are important questions. Is it an exaggeration that up to 100 million people could be affected? I'm trying to get your sense of the magnitude of this possible crisis? I think it's possible for large number of people. There's no question more people will be detected as we do more testing. But you can look at worst case scenarios, you can look at best case scenarios, the thing that needs to be understood that we are working very hard looking at all of the evidence making recommendations based on that. And we need to be working together, federal, state and local health officials, and the medical professionals who are very good in this country, by the way, and they're the ones who are making the determination about who needs to be tested. And there are questions about the availability of the tests as well. The president said that anyone can get it if they want it. It turns out that it will be weeks before everyone has access to a test. Governor Cuomo of New York was complaining about the bottleneck in the testing. The CDC is a bottleneck for this nation in doing the testing. You go to CDC, the test have to go back to Atlanta, they have to do the test, send it back, I believe the CDC was caught flat-footed. I believe they're slow in their response and I believe they're slowing down the state. What's your response to governor Cuomo? What kind of assurances can you provide that tests are on the way? Well, over a million tests were shipped out already this past week. Tomorrow, another 640,000 will be available. Those are only the ones that are being dealt with on a federal official level. There are also tests being created by the veterans hospitals and most of the academic centers have them. So there are a lot of tests but the key thing is everybody doesn't need a test and that should be something that should be determined by the medical professionals who are administering the tests. As you know, the grand princess is docking -- the cruise ship is docking in Oakland tomorrow, what plan is in place to deal with the 3500 people onboard? The cruise ship personnel and as you know, the vice president met with the CEOs of the major cruise ship companies yesterday, and they are coming up with a plan within 72 hours of that meeting. The ship is docking tomorrow. The plan will be in placed by that time. But I don't want to preview the plan right now. Shouldn't you be able to do that? I think it needs to all come from a solitary source, we shouldn't have 16 people saying what the plan is. Okay -- Particularly when it hasn't been fully formulated. Okay, you're the president's representative this morning. But let me move on, the virus getting closer to white house, Washington, someone who attended CPAC, one has tested positive. Are you concerned that this could have spread to the president and other top officials in Washington? Well, we have concerns at all times and that's why we ask people to sanitize their hands and to take various types of precautions, so the president does that, I know the vice president does that, we all do that. And if we have been mingling with people obviously we're going to take those precautions. Bear in mind that if you go out of the studio today and you shake hands with somebody who has coronavirus that doesn't mean that you're going to contract coronavirus. That doesn't mean that you're going to get sick. But it does mean that you decrease your chances significantly if you follow those logical guidelines that have been placed out before everyone. And those guidelines are there for a reason. You mentioned what people should be doing, washing hands, we all know that right now, sanitizing, we also know that some governments and communities are taking broader measures right now, Italy is on lockdown in north. Major conferences like south by southwest have been cancelled here in the United States. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are urging employees to work from home if they can. Is it time for more extensive communitywide measures to contain this virus? I think it's time for people to really indulge themselves in learning how viruses are spread and to take advantage of that knowledge and determining what their daily activities are going to be and as I said before it's very important to emphasize that there are certain groups of people who are at much higher risk than the general population and they need to take extra consideration in terms of where they're going to be, how they're going to mingle with society. I get that. We all need to take responsibility for ourselves. But I'm asking you as a representative of the president, as a member of the coronavirus task force, what should the community be doing? We heard the president said, he'll continue with political rallies in the face of this. Is this sending the right message or is it time for broader community measures to contain this? Again, going to a rally, if you're a healthy individual and you're taking the precautions that have been placed out there, there's no reason that you shouldn't go. However, if you belong to one of those categories of high risk, obviously you need to think twice about that. I'm confused by the message you're sending right now, Dr. Ben Carson. I have to say. We just heard yesterday the governor of California said it's not a question of if schools are going to close but when schools are going to close. We have seen companies taking responsibility for their employees. You seem to be putting all the responsibility back on individuals saying that they should be thinking for themselves. I'm trying to ask you, in the view of the government experts right now, what broader measures need to be taken? Those recommendations will be coming out from the CDC, they're being evaluated on a daily basis. Right now the recommendation is as I just prescribed, go about your normal daily activities if you are healthy. If you are not healthy, think very seriously about attending places where there are crowds. Dr. Carson, thanks for your time this morning. My pleasure.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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