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Hospitals Fear Running Out of Beds, Ventilators and Masks; Local Authorities Shut Down Florida Beaches After No Statewide Mandate. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 16:30   ET


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, we've been focused on big cities, but rural hospitals could also be overwhelmed as this crisis worsens. We are talking much lower numbers here.


Still, a representative for rural hospitals told me they serve communities that often have a high proportion of low income and elderly people, and people with high health needs and they often have much smaller facilities, 25 beds or fewer and have little to no surge capacity -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Athena, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Lisa Dabby. She's an emergency physician, medicine physician at UCLA Health.

Dr. Dabby, thanks for joining us.

The number of cases continues to rise every day. How long do you think it will be until hospitals are overrun? You just can't handle the influx?

DR. LISA DABBY, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, UCLA HEALTH: Jake, that's a tough question to answer. We have definitely seen an increase in patients coming in. This week is definitely worse than last week. It is here. We're seeing patients coming in. I anticipate that in the next one-to-two weeks, we're going to start to see very large volumes of very sick people.

TAPPER: In Italy, it was reported that because of the lack of ventilators, doctors ultimately had to choose who would get one, potentially deciding between patients as to who lives and who dies. I mean, ventilators, I don't know how much the public understands this, ventilators do breathing for people who cannot breathe on their own.

Do you think that could potentially happen here in the United States?

DABBY: I really hope not, Jake. You know, ventilators do keep people alive. They breathe for them when they can't breathe. They increase the amount of oxygen the patient can receive and they're crucial to keeping people critically sick alive.

You know, the whole goal of social distancing is to slow down the speed of transmission, so that we don't get overwhelmed, so that we don't have thousands of people coming in at the same time using ventilators, because we don't have thousands of ventilators. It's not going to work.

I personally don't want to be in a position where we have to let somebody die. That not what we do in the United States of America. We got to work to keep everybody alive and we got to work to increase supply so that we have enough ventilators should we need them.

TAPPER: So the CDC changed some of your guidelines, I think they did ultimately as a way of acknowledging the dire conditions that hospitals may soon find themselves in. People like you. They're recommending that health care workers as a last resort might think about re-using masks or even using a scarf or a bandana? What do you think of that?

DABBY: So I think that's absolutely ridiculous. I can't imagine putting on a bandana to go take care of a patient with a highly infectious disease that will kill me. I will not do that. We need our healthcare doctors, providers, techs, therapists, everybody healthy and strong to fight this virus. We cannot let our healthcare workers get sick.

If they get sick, there's going to be nobody will be left standing to take care of the influx of patients. And so, the priority right now should really be to increase production of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

TAPPER: We know that young people with mild symptoms who think they have coronavirus should stay home. What about if an elderly patient has symptoms and the hospitals are overrun and there is a lack of supplies, should they stay home, too, unless they obviously need dire medical help at once?

DABBY: So, we're advising everybody, all agents, if your symptoms are mild and you can manage them at home, please stay home. The mild cases will get better on their own.

We really want to reserve the emergency department and the hospitals for the people who are critically ill, for the people that can't breathe and need oxygen and vomiting and getting dehydrated. For the people whose blood pressure is low and confused. Those are the people we want to see in the E.R., regardless of age, check with your doctor, see if they recommend if you go to the E.R. or not.

TAPPER: Dr. Lisa Dabby, thank you, and thank all of the people, the E.R. staff, the nurses, the nurse practitioners, the custodians, the people answering the phones, we know how horrible it is and it's going to get even worse, and stay in touch. Let us know what you need so we can bring attention to this.

DABBY: Thank you, Jake. We appreciate the help.

TAPPER: One senator has a message for beachgoers in Florida. What are you thinking? It's a good message.

We talked to some spring breakers laughing it off saying they are just trying to have fun. Oh boy. Here we go.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news now. Another local government in the state of Florida is shutting down breaches. This one affecting St. St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach as people have been flocking, despite all we have been hearing from health officials. Florida Governor DeSantis has told beach localities do follow CDC guidelines of beaches, but the governor has not shut them down. Restaurants and beach towns also remain opened.

As CNN's Leyla Santiago reports from Clearwater, clearly, not everyone is taking the advice of experts with any degree of seriousness.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite what health officials are warning, some beaches in Florida are still the go-to spot especially for tourists.

(on camera): Are you making any changes because of the coronavirus?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not on spring break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really, it's not happening.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Coy (ph) and Savannah are like the thousands of spring breakers in the Sunshine State right now. They've heard the warnings to keep social distance but for now they say it's not a priority, despite what health experts and the White House are asking.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: It may have been that the millennial generation, our largest generation, our future generation, that will carry us through for the next multiple decades, we cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur throughout the country.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Relief. As much relief as we can get.

SANTIAGO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who has the power to close all the state's beaches has not done so. His office tells us it's not off the table, instead, for now, the governor has ordered Floridians to follow CDC guidelines at the beaches by, quote, limiting their gatherings to no more than ten persons, distance themselves from other parties by six feet.

DeSantis' predecessor, Senator Rick Scott, calling for more to be done.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I think they ought to do everything they can to stop people from being on the beach. They ought to make sure that the only way you can go on the beach is if you're going to be on there by yourself.

SANTIAGO: But that's not happening at all. This was Coco Beach a couple weeks ago, Brevard County closed beach access points. A similar scene within the last 24 hours in Clearwater Beach.

The sheriff says local businesses need to be taken into consideration before beaches are closed.

SHERIFF BOB GUALTIERRI, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA: It is also to business owners, to the hotel owners and those that operate all these properties who have asked us not to shut down the beaches.

SANTIAGO: And that's not stopping the mayor of the largest county in quarantine, himself, from deciding today to close the beaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to protect Miami-Dade residents from the spread of the coronavirus. First, I have ordered the closing of all parks and beaches in Miami-Dade County and all of our cities as of 9:00 a.m. today.

SANTIAGO: But for many, from tourists and those living in Florida, the need to get out right now is too strong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sticking our toes in the sand what better way to spend the day? Where would you rather be?


SANTIAGO: And, Jake, just as Pinellas County has voted unanimously to close all public beaches effective tonight at midnight, I want to show you what it looks right now, we're on the pier. This is one side of it where you can see a pretty crowded beach. Not much social distancing going on. A good chunk of these folks sort of younger beachgoers. I heard one woman just screamed, spring break 2020.

Let me show you the other side, come on over with me and take a walk, excuse me, ma'am. You can see much of the same on this side that people are out and about.

Now, as I have spoken to some county leaders, they are telling me, that the concern is if you close this beach, there's a good chance they could go to another beach in Florida because there is not a state wide ban right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Leyla Santiago, just an enraging story. I appreciate it.

Let me ask you. You are learning some officials are decided to speed up closures of some beaches?

SANTIAGO: Well, yes, you know, it's interesting to see how we got to where we are right now in Pinellas County. Clearwater, which is where we are right now in Clearwater Beach just yesterday announced that they would be closing this beach come Monday. But as I was at that meeting, about half an hour ago, I could hear county officials saying we cannot wait until Monday. We must close the beaches now if for no other reason to send a message that this is serious.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago, please stay safe. Please stay 6 feet away from all of those people.

With so many Americans quarantined and hospitals under stress test due to coronavirus, big business is responding. U.S. auto workers are in talks with the White House to make medical supplies. Popular restaurant chains want to ramp up food delivery. Tech companies are literally being asked to help save the Internet.

Let's bring in CNN's Richard Quest.

Richard, let's start with the auto giants, Ford and General Motors, there's talk of them possibly transforming their assembly plants to make medical supplies. How soon can that happen?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: No one really knows. It's not been done since war time. In the Second World War, we heard factories were turned into the war effort. That what the president wants now. It's not that straight forward.

Of course, it can be done, Jake. But two things to bear in mind, one, it takes quite a long time to retool these sophisticated factories to make something that is, two, highly technical. Three, whatever is produced and has to be tested to the highest exacting medical standards. And, four, the advice is that those companies stick to things that are close to what they already do.

So, for example, a company like an auto maker who is making mechanical items would be in a good position to make, for example, ventilators and the like, but not in a good position to make say, for example, pharmaceuticals. I think there is more wish than reality about this. We saw in Shanghai General Motors making -- GM making masks, but there was a certain synergy which they were already doing with upholstery and others and what they were then able to do with medical grade fabrics. It's some way off from being a whole sale solution.

TAPPER: And Domino's Pizza today announced that they have a desire to hire some 10,000 more employees because of increased -



TAPPER: -- demand for food to be delivered. This is also something of a trend.

QUEST: It is.

We've got Amazon, who wants 100,000 people, because, obviously, more people are delivering. You have got Domino's.

I have got a whole list of pizza places, restaurants, all of whom are offering either better deals for hospital workers, increasing their delivery services. But most restaurants, Jake -- to be true about this, most restaurants

will not be able to make up their lost revenues by going into delivery. Even with Uber, Grub, and all of the other ones. They simply won't be able to do it.

TAPPER: With so many people working at home, obviously, in addition to food delivery, there are increased demand for things such as home entertainment, streaming services such as Netflix.

QUEST: Sure.

TAPPER: But there's fear that the increased demand might break the Internet.

What are tech companies, Netflix, others, doing to respond?

QUEST: In Europe, Netflix has already agreed to reduce bandwidth or bit rate by 25 percent, because the European authorities were concerned that the infrastructure was going to become overwhelmed.

Here in the U.S. we have not had any evidence of that yet. I was talking to the CEO of Verizon, Hans Vestberg. He says, of course, usage is up. And they're seeing a lot more capacity.

However, he said, there is no evidence, at least for Verizon, that in any way the network is being put under any strain. And he did not see from the United States point of view that they would need to necessarily so-called throttle people's streaming.

All the more important, by the way, Jake, bearing in mind, as you have reported on this program, the number of new streaming services that are now coming online.

TAPPER: All right, Richard Quest, thank you so much. Always appreciate it.

We're now three months removed from what some consider the most wonderful time of the year. And more Americans are trying to bring that back as a distraction from coronavirus. They're doing this, spreading joy and hope and unity with Christmas lights.

A broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers put the call out last Sunday, tweeting -- quote -- "What if we all put our Christmas lights back up? Then we could get in the car and drive around and look at them. That seems like a fair social distancing activity."

Remember, that last point is the most important, despite the momentary distraction. You need to continue to social distance.

Coming up next, our CNN team is reporting from around the globe, from the controversial new action one government's taking, to the staggering death toll in another, where one person is dying from the coronavirus every 10 minutes.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper.

Countries around the world are shutting their borders, as the coronavirus death toll goes up. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 230,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,800, almost 10,000, deaths.

In Iran, every 10 minutes, someone there dies from the virus. Every hour, at least 50 more are infected. In Spain, the number of deaths jumped to more than 700. And regional leaders say 80 percent of Madrid will eventually contract the virus.

Word today that Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive. And just today, Italy has now surpassed China in the number of deaths.

Let's bring in students Max Foster just outside of London.

Max, cities around Europe are starting to lock down, England standing in contrast. What is Prime Minister Johnson saying?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very interesting, isn't it?

He has a very different strategy. It's not as severe as other European neighbors, but he's very confident. So, today, he talked about turning the tide of this virus within three months.

That does depend on people sticking to the rules, so people not going to the pubs and bars and restaurants, as he's directed, but what he's not doing is going to find is closing down those establishments. And he's certainly ruling out the idea of closing down the transport system, although some parts of London, there might be a bit of a lockdown, but he's not looking at a wider lockdown.

What he is doing is bringing in or putting on standby 20,000 troops, including reservists, and he will have to bring some troops back from Iraq to do that as well, which will affect operations there.

TAPPER: All right, Max Foster, thanks so much. Stay safe.

In Israel, we are learning just now, the government is requiring Israeli citizens to stay home for seven days. And for the first time, the Israeli government is using a controversial cell phone tracking tool to help limit the spread of coronavirus.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has been following the story. He joins us now from Israel.

Oren, how does this digital tracking tool work?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So this is a cell phone tracking tool used by Israel's internal security service, the Shin Bet, or the Shin Bet. But until now, it had only been used in counterterrorism operations to track suspected terrorists and see who they have been associating with. Now, for the first time, it will be used on Israel's civilian population to track coronavirus patients and see who they have been near.

Part of the issue here, what makes this so controversial, is that -- is how this was approved. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved this as an emergency regulation, meaning there is no parliamentary oversight or legislative safeguard for how this is used and to what extent.

And that's part of the issue here. And both sides acknowledge here there is a risk of invasion of privacy. The high court ruled a short time ago that part of the usage here is limited because of its controversy. But some of this is already going forward.

In fact, according to the Ministry of Health, already, 400 people have gotten notifications through the usage of this tool that they were near a coronavirus patient, and now must go into self-quarantine.

TAPPER: Well, and, Oren, as you note, I mean, Israel's government is in a complete state of flux right now. So this lack of legislative oversight is part of a bigger political fight in Israel.

What's going on with that?

LIEBERMANN: And, to that end, Israel's president has warned of harm to Israel's democratic system.


Prime Minister Netanyahu has been in charge of a transitional government. He hasn't had the support of the legislature, of the Knesset since Christmas Eve 2018. And now that his rival, Benny Gantz, has a clear parliamentary majority, that allows Gantz to do certain things, like appoint a new speaker of the Knesset and form committees.

But the speaker of the Knesset, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, refuses to hold those key votes right now, and Israel's political deadlock is getting worse.

TAPPER: That sounds awful.

Oren Liebermann, thank you so much.

Coming up next, a live interview with the governor of one state where the National Guard is on the ground helping with the coronavirus pandemic.

Stay with us.