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Officials Say, U.S Doesn't Have Enough Stockpiled Medical Equipment; Amazon To Fill 100,000 New Positions Due To Surge In Online Orders; New York Governor Updates Coronavirus Response. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired March 17, 2020 - 10:00   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Resources thin and putting patients at risk.


And the concern is that in a matter of weeks, that could become the United States.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: We are so incredibly underprepared for a major onslaught in hospitals, which is basically now inevitable. I think we have to look at Italy and see what happened. And I think we're actually in worse shape. We don't have enough hospital beds, we don't have enough ICU beds.

GUPTA: According to the most recent estimates, even in a moderate outbreak, health officials estimate that 200,000 Americans will need intensive care and 64,000 will need breathing machines or ventilators. But the problem is the United States has less than 100,000 ICU beds and only about 62,000 full-featured ventilators on hand with an additional 8,900 in the national stockpile.

But since we're still in flu season, many of those are already in use.

REDLENER: And, by the way, even if we got the -- even if we had the 100,000 plus ventilators that we actually need, we don't have the staff to operate them.

GUPTA: So hospitals are bracing for a rush of patients trying to free up as much space as possible. That means getting patients who are well enough out of the ICU and canceling all elective operations.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): We just have to make this a standard across the board.

GUPTA: In some cases, hospitals are now trying to prevent patients who are well enough from coming to the emergency room in the first place, like building tents to triage and treat potential coronavirus patients, using telehealth so that people can call in from home and building up their testing capacity, in some cases, without people even having to step out of their cars.

But all of this hinges on having enough supplies, which means hospitals are now rationing what they do have.

My hospital, I mean, you had a mask, gloves, they were just sitting out, you could use what you needed to use. That's changed.

DR. THERESA MADALINE, HEALTHCARE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, MONTEFIORE HEALTH SYSTEM: That's right, we've had to remove many of these items from the shelves.

GUPTA: To be clear, most people who get infected with the novel coronavirus won't need to be hospitalized. But for a small percentage of patients, the virus can be deadly.

MADALINE: We've had everyone ranging from just needing some supplemental oxygen through their nose all the way to people who were in shock and needing to be on 100 percent oxygen on a ventilator in the ICU.

GUPTA: When that happens, hospitals can quickly run out of space and supplies. And if staff don't have the proper protective gear, they may run out of doctors and nurses as well.

But if this is really affecting an entire community, an entire state, an entire country, the world, are we ready? Do we have what we need?

MADALINE: Well, I think we are as ready as we can be. But without knowing what the future holds, it's hard to say whether or not we have enough equipment and we have what we need.

I think that there are concerns, legitimate concerns, as a nation if we're ready to handle such an enormous pandemic.


GUPTA: And, Poppy, we're already starting to see some of that play out in real-time. Even at my own hospital, at Emery, we know that nine healthcare providers, nine doctors, have now been diagnosed with the coronavirus, 20 more are under investigation, and what happens? They get sick, they have to be isolated for 14 days, at least.

You can see the challenges. When we say that you need personal protective equipment for the healthcare providers, that's why. All the other stuff is for the patients.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And people don't need those specialized sort of high tech masks at home, they need them at the hospitals. And when you have your -- a few minutes ago, WHO, Sanjay, just said that Europe is experiencing a critical shortage of medical supplies. Is it possible we're days or weeks from that?

GUPTA: Well, look, I mean, from a modeling standpoint in terms of what we anticipate we will need versus what we have, it's pretty clear there is a shortfall. And, Poppy, you and I have been talking about this for six weeks now. The whole idea of having bought the time to get prepared, the question is, have we done enough during that time, and it's not clear. I mean, I will say that for the first time yesterday at the press conference, the president talked very clearly about the fact, yes, we may not have enough breathing machines, we may need to buy more breathing machines. But you know what, Poppy, everybody on the planet wants these breathing machines now because this is a pandemic. So you'd have to figure that out.

HARLOW: Of course. What did we do with the time that we had and what can we do now? Sanjay, don't go anywhere. We have a lot of other questions for you, but I want to get to some of these other developing headlines and have you react to them, because we've major, major closings across the United States, biggest cities affected. New York's mayor, Bill de Blasio, says he's considering what San Francisco is doing, which is a shelter-in-place order. Brynn Gingras joins us with more.

If that happened, what would that look like?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's unclear. It would be the next layer to already aggressive moves many states have taken, and especially here in New York City. I want to tell you, Poppy, though, we are in the heart of Herald Square, which is a very busy shopping district, and Macy's, the flagship store here behind me, opened their store at 10:00 and there was a group of people in line just to get inside.


Now, of course, we need to support our businesses, especially in times like this, but this is the concern, as all these people going into retail and other stores that remain open. And so that's why the mayor possibly is considering even more measures to be taken.

Listen to what he said to Alisyn Camerota on New Day.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: San Francisco has, last night, ordered a shelter-in-place edict for the whole Bay Area. Would New York consider something like that?

DE BLASIO: We're absolutely considering that. We're going to look at all other options, and it could get to that, for sure.


GINGRAS: So that is not the case here in New York city as of yet, but let's talk about what is, right? We know bars and restaurants are closed. Restaurants can do takeout and delivery, not just in New York City. This is happening in several states, especially here in the Tri- State area, but also in states like California, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, even Miami doing the same thing.

And then there are fitness gyms that are closing down, movie theaters, casinos, places where a lot of people go. And businesses, I will tell you, some retails, they are making that move to shut down stores nationwide, Nordstrom, Foot Locker, Nike. So there are changes rapidly happening all across the country. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow, it changes by the hour. Brynn, thanks for that reporting.

Now, let's talk about the 7 million people ordered to shelter-in-place in Northern California. Dan Simon joins us again from San Francisco.

So what does that actually mean? I mean, what can they leave their house for and what can't they?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, first of all, we are on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. This is could normally be a pretty busy street, maybe not at 7:00 in the morning, but you have a lot of businesses here, large and small, a lot of restaurants. And you're going to see what things look like at the moment. Normally, you'd see employees beginning to open their shop, and it's just dead out here. You can even literally walk in the street because you don't see any cars.

Poppy, to give you an example of the businesses that may be open or closed, take a look behind the Apple closed today. It went ahead and preemptively shut all their stores across the country but nevertheless would still under this mandate of being closed, because it is a non- essential -- Walgreen's, this is one of the stores that will open today.

Again, Poppy, we're talking about some 7 million people throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. They're going to be under this shelter-in- place order, and Mayor London Breed made the dramatic announcement yesterday. Have a look.


MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-SAN FRANCISCO, CA): These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life, but there is no need to panic. Essential government services like our police, our fire, our transit and sanitation will continue, so your garbage will be picked up, police officers will be out there on the frontline, our fire safety officials and others.


SIMON: So as you heard the mayor say that essential workers, they'll continue to be able to work. You do have public transportation. You can see the bus coming down here right now. So if you have to go to the grocery store, that's fine. Even if you want to get some exercise, take the dog out for a walk, no problem there as well.

There will be some enforcement mechanism. Police can issue you a citation, but what they're really looking for is voluntary compliance, Poppy.

And one thing we should add, obviously, San Francisco has a tremendous homelessness problem. We should say that homeless are exempt from this order but they are encouraged to seek shelter. Poppy?

HARLOW: They're also more vulnerable and more at risk of contracting coronavirus, so such a predicament for them. Dan, thank you.

Sanjay Gupta back with us. So, Sanjay, San Francisco has done it. It sounds to me like this may very well may be coming to New York City, shelter-in-place. Is it the right call? Will that actually help stem the tide?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so, Poppy. Look, I mean, these are tough calls, there's no question about it. I think what people have been hearing over the last several days, sort of really stop these mass gatherings. You heard 100 people, you heard 50 people, 10 people. As you know, Poppy, these are arbitrary numbers.

The goal is to distance people because you want to break the cycle of transmission of the virus. The virus moves from person to person. You want to break that cycle. That's the goal here.

I think you get an idea of the strategy a little bit of the government, I think, wanting to balance the public health message with not wanting to panic people, but I think the bottom line is, yes, to your question, that, you know, whether you call it shelter-in-place, which I typically think of for a storm, but this is kind of a storm, and I think that's why they're using that sort of language.

HARLOW: Absolutely. What about the two updates we got, Sanjay, overnight from the World Health Organization on children and vulnerability? They did note one child has died from this. We don't know if that child had an underlying respiratory illness or not. But, I guess, my question to you is, what does it tell us about how vulnerable children are and also pregnant women?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, look, one thing I want to say, Poppy, and we're going to be talking about this a lot is that, you and I and everybody, we're learning right now as we go along.



GUPTA: All the years that I've been doing this with you, when you asked me questions, I typically had been able to say, based on 10 years, 20 years, 50 years worth of data. Right now, it's two to three months and maybe not even that. So I want to be humble here a little bit as we say things and say we are learning all together.

But yes, children do seem to be a bit protected from this. It is true that children can get sick, they can become infected, but a lot less likely than adults and a lot less likely to become critically ill.

One of the big studies, I mean, the biggest study is around 2,000 children, and they say that about 6 percent of those children had severe illness. That's compared to, as you know, around 20 percent of adults who are developing severe illness.

And pregnant women, again, smaller studies, much smaller studies, but they say for the most part, while pregnant women do develop some immune weakness while they're pregnant, because obviously they have a baby, they don't want to have the immune system attack the baby, they don't seem to be any more at risk for this illness and they don't seem to transmit the virus through the placenta to the baby. So those are big questions.

HARLOW: Thank goodness.

GUPTA: But early data so far.

HARLOW: Thank goodness. I know earlier today that you're right, this is uncharted in that way too, because we don't have years of study and peer review studies to base it on.

The president's tone and word choice was so different yesterday, Sanjay. He said, this could be with us, this pandemic, through July or August. Remember, he had previously been saying warmer weather will take care of this thing. Atlanta, for example, where you are, it's supposed to be 80 degrees this weekend. Is that going to help? Do we know?

GUPTA: We don't know, still. I mean, there has been evidence in the past with certainly seasonal flu, which tends to decline quite a bit in the warmer months, and even previous coronaviruses like SARS, you had your peak sort of end of March, early April. And then it sort of really tapered off in July and August.

So we don't know, but there is some evidence of that. Also if you look at the map of the world right now, while there are cases in the southern hemisphere, there is a lot more in the northern hemisphere. So maybe that's a little bit of promising news. But we're going to have to wait and see.

I can tell you that nobody in Atlanta where I am right now, hospitals are getting prepared for the long haul here, cancelling elective operations, making sure that operating rooms can be used as ICUs as necessary, really trying to preserve everything that they're going to need, that they anticipate they might need over the next several weeks.

HARLOW: Wow. And it's those workers on the frontlines, in the hospitals, and the nurses and all of them. Sanjay, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it very, very much.

GUPTA: You got it.

HARLOW: So Ohio's battleground primary supposed to be today postponed overnight because of the coronavirus. The state's governor is defying an order from a judge who refused to stop the voting. We'll have a live update from there.

And also Amazon with a huge announcement. They are hiring 100,000 new workers, so many Americans are coping with losing their job right now, Amazon stepping in here.

Jay Carney will join me from the company to talk about that, and also what they're doing to keep those workers healthy, next.



HARLOW: Right now, millions of you are worried, I know that, millions of Americans are worried, of course, about the virus but about their job and their next paycheck and if it's even coming. Yesterday, a stark reality when I spoke with the president's former top economist, Kevin Hassett, at the White House, who told me that a million jobs could be lost this month in March alone.

Major companies now trying to do something, trying to stand in the gap, including Amazon. They just announced overnight they are hiring 100,000 new workers.

Jay Carney is with me, Senior Global President for Global Corporate Affairs at Amazon.

Jay, I was very happy, as you know, to see this headline. And now, I want to talk to people about what it actually means and what it doesn't mean. So thanks for being with me.


HARLOW: Can you tell us just for anyone watching who wants one of these jobs how they can apply and how quickly you're going to on board them?

CARNEY: Well, they can apply. There are existing methods and portals now to apply for jobs in all of our service centers. As you know, we've been hiring quite a lot, in general, and we're now opening 100,000 new positions across the country to meet our customers' urgent demand, which is, as you know, we provide critical supplies to customers and getting it online and having it delivered to your doorstep for many customers is really the best possible outcome for them. So we need to meet that demand, and so we're opening 100,000 new positions.

HARLOW: I understand at least temporarily, this also includes a salary increase from the $15 wage up $2 an hour increase, but can you talk to me about if these jobs are actually guaranteed in perpetuity, or do they go away if the demand goes away post-crisis?

CARNEY: This is being -- we're boosting employment by 100,000 in the way that we do for seasonal periods like holiday when we need extra workers. And what happens then is what will happen now, is there is no guarantee that 100,000 people will slide into full-time permanent jobs, but many of them do. That has been our experience in the past with seasonal spikes.

And as for the wage increase, that also is going to last at least through April in keeping with the current surge in demand, and then we will, of course, evaluate as time goes on. And, by the way, the current is $15 minimum. The minimum is higher than that in many places in the country, and it goes up from there. Now it's $17 an hour minimum, again, well more than twice the federal minimum wage. [10:20:05]

HARLOW: So we expect maybe even today that Congress will pass the families first bill, and that's going to put all sorts of guarantees in place for people, paid up to two weeks paid sick leave and 100 percent of pay up to about $511 a day as cap, up to 10 to 12 weeks of paid family leave for people as well.

What's notable in this, as you know, companies like yours are exempt, right? No company over 500 employees has to abide by this legislation. Can you guarantee people that Amazon and its benefits now will match or exceed that?

CARNEY: Our benefits already exceed the competition across the board, as you know, when it comes to paid leave, parental leave, sick leave. And we are actually adding additional benefits for our employees who are infected, as well as our contracted employees.

HARLOW: Jay, I'm so sorry, can you stand by for a minute? Let's listen to the governor. I'll come right back to you. This is New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): All schools are closed for a period of two weeks. And the 180-day SED requirement is waived for two weeks. At the end of two weeks, we may renew that period of time, but all schools have the same period. Why? Because once again, you need uniformity. You don't want a business having some employees in one school district that is open and one school district is closed. So in all this disruption and all this change, try to keep it as uniform as possible, and the rules as uniform as possible, so to the extent businesses can operate, people can live their lives, keep it uniform.

My phone has been ringing off the hook with a number of local officials saying people are very, very upset, who is upset about the gym being closed, who is upset about their restaurant is closed, who is upset about the bar is closed. I actually have had the highest number of calls being complained about bars being closed. I don't know if that is statistically representative of anything, but that's just anecdotal. Some people are upset about schools being closed.

I said to the local officials, and I want to say to the people of the State of New York, if you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me. The county executive did not do this, the village mayor did not do this, the city mayor did not make these decisions, I made these decisions. These were all state-ordered rules. It's not your local elected official.

I made them because I believe they are in the best interests of the state, I know they cause disruption, I know people are upset, I know businesses will be hurt by this. I don't feel good about that, I feel very bad about that, because I know we're going to have to then deal with that issue as soon as this immediate public health issue is over.

But my judgment is do whatever is necessary to contain this virus. And then we will manage the consequences afterwards. The old expression, the buck stops on my desk, the buck stops on my desk. Your local mayor did not close your restaurants, your bars, your gyms or your schools. I did. I did. I assume full responsibility.

Again, these are all statewide rules because we don't want people shopping among different jurisdictions. You close the bars in New York City, but you keep them open in Nassau, all you would see is a flood of cars going to the bars in Nassau. So the uniformity is important.

It's also important that no local government puts any rules in place without first checking with the Department of Health so the Department of Health can make sure that they are consistent with all other rules that we are about to put in place.

Mitigation is continuing and is ramping up. There are many rumors out there, part of the fear, the anxiety, people spread rumors. Well, maybe you're going to quarantine New York City. We hear New York City is going to quarantine itself. That is not true. That cannot happen.


It cannot happen legally. No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval. And I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.

Well, you contained New Rochelle. We did a containment zone on New Rochelle, which was actually misunderstood. Nobody was contained in New Rochelle. There was no cordon around New Rochelle. You could come and go around New Rochelle as you wanted. The containment referred to the virus. All we did in New Rochelle was close the schools and close places of large gatherings. So nobody was contained within New Rochelle and nobody is going to be contained in any city in the state. So that's a deep breath moment.

And the last part of the strategy is dealing with the healthcare system. And this is where we are now going to shift our emphasis. And I want people to understand what we're going to have to do with the healthcare system, because that is now our top priority.

And remember what we've been saying all along. There is a curve -- everyone has talked about the curve, everyone has talked about the height and the speed of the curve and flattening the curve. I've said that curve is going to turn into a wave, and the wave is going to crash on the hospital system. I've said that from day one, because that's what the numbers would dictate.

And this is about numbers, and this is about facts. This is not about prophecies or science fiction movies. We have months and months of data as to how this virus operates. You can go back to China. That's now five, six months of experience.

So just project from what you know. You don't have to guess. We have 53,000 hospital beds in the State of New York. We have 3,000 ICU beds. Right now, the hospitalization rate is running between 15 and 19 percent from our sample of the tests we take. We have 19.5 million people in the State of New York. We have spent much time with many experts projecting what the virus could actually do. Going back, getting the China numbers, the South Korea numbers, the Italy numbers, looking at our rate of spread, because we're trying to determine what is the apex of that curve, what is the consequence so we can match it to the capacity of the healthcare system, match it to the capacity of the healthcare system. That is the entire exercise.

The quote, unquote, experts -- and, by the way, there were no phenomenal experts in this area, they're all using the same data that the virus has shown over the past few months in other countries -- but they're extrapolating from that data. The expected peak is around 45 days. That can be plus or minus, depending on what we do. They are expecting as many as 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds will be needed at that point.

That, my friends, is the problem that we have been talking about since we began this exercise. You take the 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds, you compare it to a capacity of 53,000 beds, and you understand the challenge.

As many as 18,000 to 37,000 ICU beds, okay? An ICU bed is different than a hospital bed. An ICU bed has additional equipment, most notably ventilators, and that's why you hear on the news ventilators are very hard to get globally. Why ventilators? Because we're all talking about acutely ill, mainly senior citizens who have an underlying illness.

They have emphysema, they're battling cancer, they have heart disease. And then they get pneumonia on top of that.