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Health Workers Face Supply Shortages As Cases Surge In U.S.; House Democratic Leaders To Tell Caucus They Don't Need To Return To Session After There's A Stimulus Deal; Farm Bureau Says, U.S Farms, Ranches Could Face A Serious Labor Shortage. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: I'm Poppy Harlow. The time to act is now, and that means every American, young and old, supplies to fight coronavirus vanishing. In one day, the number of positive tests in the United States states surged by 40 percent. That's what happened overnight. Hospitals short on beds, masks, ventilators and testing, some healthcare workers, if you can believe it, in America, being asked to make their own protective masks. This as Washington State is building the country's first field hospital on a soccer field.

And news overnight that America's top automakers, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, will temporarily close of their U.S. plants. And instead of building tanks and planes like World War II, Ford and G.M. may start making ventilators as supplies grow thin.

In Washington, the nation's capital, President Trump signed an economic emergency relief bill. It includes free testing for the virus and paid emergency leave for workers. And now lawmakers are negotiating the final steps of a massive, $1 trillion, stimulus plan to try help at least stem the economic fallout of all of this. This as U.S. stocks once again lowered this morning.

The stock market has now essentially erased all of the gains made during the Trump administration, and that has happened in just the last few weeks, this as we see the first members of Congress test positive for the coronavirus.

Another startling warning from the CDC, young individuals are more at risk than previously thought. New numbers show nearly 40 percent of those who have been hospitalized in the United States are between the ages of 20 and 54. So much to get into.

Let's begin in New York City with Brynn Gingras. Brynn, good morning to you. Cases are skyrocketing. Governor Andrew Cuomo still though it doesn't sound like taking at least at this point the step of sheltering in place.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And, listen, Poppy, we just learned that we're going to hear from New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, within the next half hour. And every time we've heard from him, there's been a little bit more restrictions being put in place. So we will see.

Every time we hear from him, we also hear updates on numbers so we can expect those numbers to go up even higher. He said on New Day this morning that they did 8,000 tests in New York alone. So we already know the numbers are likely going to go higher.

But guess what, Poppy, the mayor said that even just in New York City, it's inching closer to 2,000 cases just within the city. And we know that that is just going to put a huge demand on the healthcare system. We've been learning from both the governor and the president that there are federal resorts coming in. We know about the naval hospital ships, though they're not going to be here for quite a while, though one of them is going to dock here in New York City.

We're also learning about the call for nurses and doctors to come out of retirement and come back to the workforce to help out with this demand, and we're hearing actually that that's happening, that large numbers are actually coming back to help, so thank you so much to them.

We're also learning that the Army Corps of Engineers is working with the governor to help transform possible dormitories and possible hotels into hospitals. So this is all taking place as we speak. Likely, we'll get that update in about half an hour.

Now, the other side of this, Poppy, really quick to mention, of course, is the density, right? We've been hearing about these restrictions, making sure people actually stay home. The governor yesterday said businesses that actually have workers going to the office, they have to reduce that workforce by 50 percent. So that's -- we'll have to see how that's been working out.

And we also learned that he's now -- he's been talking about the regional sort of approach. Well, now, Pennsylvania is part of that tristate area where all four states are participating in less businesses open, more closures, people being asked to stay home. So we'll update you more when we hear that press conference at 10:30, Poppy.

HARLOW: Okay. We'll wait for that, Brynn. Thanks for the reporting.

Joining me now is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our Chief Medical Correspondent. Sanjay, thank you so much.

So many questions, I don't even exactly know where to start, but let's start with the shock (INAUDIBLE) this morning, and that is the new CDC guidelines essentially telling healthcare workers, if you have to make your own mask or tie a bandana around your face. Is that where we are?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it was hard for me to get my head around it as well. This is changing so rapidly, Poppy. But there were two things that really struck me. First of all, in places where there is obvious community spread of the coronavirus, they are saying healthcare workers, even if they've been exposed and even if they have some mild symptoms, they can continue to care for patients if they wear a mask. Just not that long ago, maybe within the last week or last week, they said that those healthcare providers would have been quarantined. And, again, they're now being told, look, if you have mild symptoms and you've been exposed, you can continue to take care of patients.

That gives you a really good idea just how quickly things are changing. That's from the CDC, and that's in direct response to the growing sort of realization that we may not have enough healthcare workers, and if you start quarantining them as a result of their exposure, you're definitely not going to have enough healthcare workers.

And then on top of that, Poppy, your point.


And in places where face masks are not available, which is many places, consider using a bandana or a scarf. I mean, I wouldn't tell people who are not healthcare providers to consider doing that. I cannot believe healthcare providers who are taking care of patients possibly with coronavirus can be told this. It doesn't even provide a false sense of comfort, I think, Poppy.

HARLOW: I cannot believe it, either. Some other really troubling numbers about what the CDC has found in terms of young people, and that shows us that at least at the beginning, the beginning tranche of about 2,100 patients in the U.S., 29 percent of those with the virus were between the ages of 20 and 44, young, and then 40 percent of the hospitalizations were between those and the ages of 20 to 54. So are we learning more about the adverse impact this can have on younger people?

GUPTA: I think so, Poppy. Look, obviously, as we talked, you and I, all of us, are learning as we go along here, but this is quite striking because I think the narrative initially coming out of China, and, in fairness, it was at the very beginning of the outbreak was, look, if you're elderly, 70s and 80s or with pre-existing condition, you're going to be more vulnerable.

But everyone pretty much, they thought, okay, if you get it, you're going to recover fine. What they're finding is if you look in the United States, some 2,500 roughly people who have been confirmed to have this infection, about 20 percent of them, 500 or so, requiring hospitalization. And of the people in the hospital, again, they're not just the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions, they are people who are young as well.

So people need to pay attention no matter your age, no matter where you live, no matter what you think your exposure is and no matter if you have symptoms or not. Poppy, four out of five people who have contracted this virus early on in China contracted it from someone who didn't know they had the virus.


GUPTA: Let me repeat that. Four out of five people who were confirmed to have the virus contracted it from someone who didn't know they had it.

HARLOW: Wow. Right.

GUPTA: We have to behave like we have the virus.

HARLOW: All of us do. Sanjay, one more question for you on this front because this -- I mean, I think about it. I have a two and four-year- old at home. You have young kids, so many of our viewers have young children. And I have found some comfort in the belief, at least, that children were pretty much protected from this, and there are more. But the journal of pediatrics new study indicates that toddlers and especially infants seem to be more vulnerable than we thought?

GUPTA: Yes, they are. And, again, the data is changing and growing with more patients. But to break it down would be like this. Among the elderly, 20 percent of people who become infected become either seriously or critically ill. Among kids, it's closer to 6 percent. But with toddlers and younger children, they're saying it's around 11 percent. So still lower, significantly lower than with adults and people with vulnerable conditions, but not -- kids aren't totally insulated from this. We used to believe that they were. They're not.

I think for you, Poppy, as a mom, me as a dad, anybody, really, the basics still apply here. Keep the kids inside as much as possible, but also wash your hands, think about yourself potentially having the virus, and that would be a good way not to transmit it to them.

HARLOW: Especially with the spread if you're asymptomatic. Okay. Sanjay, stay right there for a moment. We want you to join us in this next conversation as healthcare workers face this shortage we just talked about of supplies of personal protective equipment, like those critical masks. Some hospitals in Washington State, if you can believe it, are start to go make their own.

Workers Providence Health are forming assembly lines using off-the- shelf materials, like marine grade vinyl, industrial tape and foam to make masks.

Becca Bartles is the Executive Director of Infection Prevention at Providence St. Joseph Health. She joins me now to discuss. Thank you very much, Becca, for being here.

Is this what you're doing now, because you say you're a few days away from being totally out of masks?

BECCA BARTLES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF INFECTION PREVENTION, PROVIDENCE ST. JOSEPH HEALTH: That's right. We've got significant concerns that we're going to run out of both face shields and masks, basic isolation masks.

And as Dr. Gupta said, we're really not comfortable asking our caregivers to chair for patients with bandanas or scarves or no PPE at all. And so we're doing what we can to be able to provide them with the highest level of protection available once we run out of other supplies.

HARLOW: Sanjay, jump in here.

GUPTA: I mean, the thing that's so striking, and I don't even know if this is a question, but I can just tell you back and you can respond, but my own hospital here in Atlanta, there is a patient who came in, they didn't necessarily suspect the patient had a coronavirus infection. One attending physician, six resident physicians and two medical students examined this patient, interacted with this patient, and then they learned the patient had the coronavirus.


So all of a sudden, all of these people, seven physicians and two medical students exposed should be quarantined. You have to treat everybody as if they might potentially have the coronavirus infection, which means having personal protective equipment for every healthcare provider as they're examining new patients because this is circulating in the community. So it's not just in unusual situations where you would put this on, you kind of have to use it all the time.

And, Becca, I mean, that means we need a lot more of it, I think, than we anticipated initially if you have to treat every patient like they might have the infection. Is that your understanding as well?

BARTLES: Sure. It's impossible to tell. If someone presents with a fever and our respiratory symptoms, it's impossible to tell, is that a cold, is it the flu, or is it the coronavirus? And so in that circumstance, we do need to use personal protective equipment.

And we're using PPE at a previously unheard of rate for that reason, because not only are our emergency rooms and our hospital beds so much more full than they were before but we have to maintain such a high suspicion of coronavirus. So we're using an exponentially larger number than we normally do.

HARLOW: So to both of you, yesterday, we had Ron Klain on and he led, of course, the Obama response to Ebola. And here is what he said that was shocking.


RON KLAIN, EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: We have hospitals that are going to start break this weekend. Not weeks from now, not months from now, in the next few days.


HARLOW: Hospitals that are going to break, meaning past capacity in the next few days. Is that your concern?

BARTLES: I think that it's a very realistic concern. And we don't have indications that we're at that point in our facilities, but I think that it's very likely. We're running out of not only personal protective equipment but other supplies and the people to care for patients. So if we don't have reinforcements and we're not able to support these environments, it could absolutely happen. HARLOW: Sanjay, some numbers out of Germany that are a little perplexing, and I wonder what you make of it, the number of cases that are existing in Germany right now, the number of positive cases, is 10,099 and but they've had 20 deaths. Help us understand why there are fewer cases at least reported in the U.S. but more deaths.

GUPTA: Well, I think when you have the testing sort of that has been inadequate here. I mean, I hate to keep harping on this because I really think we need to be looking in the front window as opposed to the rearview mirror, but the point is you can't really rely on these statistics at all. They're giving you some idea but it's like looking at a pinhole right now, I think at the overall problem.

I think in populations where you have larger numbers of people in China and other places around the world, you get a better sense of this. But one point I want to make with regard to deaths and the case fatality ratio is, obviously, people think, well, the virus is that deadly. The virus is 2 percent deadly, 1 percent deadly. Fair enough comparison.

But I think there is another way that people need to think about this, which is I think is the point Becca is bringing up as well, is that in places like Italy, part of the reason the fatality ratio is so much higher is because of the stress on the medical system.

HARLOW: On the system.

GUPTA: People who could not get care, people who could have been saved, sadly, who died because of the strain on the medical system. So that does speak to how serious this virus is. But what is really driving up the fatality in some of these places, and frankly, many of these places, Poppy, is the strain on the medical system.

And that's the part that I think I need to sort of modulate myself a little bit here, because it's a little frustrating. For two-and-a-half months, we have been talking about this, anticipating this. The projections are the federal government's own projections in terms of what we're going to need. Ron Klain worked on this back in 2014.

We knew roughly how many beds, ventilators, masks and all those things we would need, and look at us. We're so far behind the curve that Becca is talking about having to make their own masks. And how do you even ensure that those are going to do the job that we want them to do? It's very hard to do this.

HARLOW: Very, very hard. Becca, we just -- I guess we wish you and your team all the best of luck in doing that. It's a sad predicament and sad state that is where we are already in this. Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Becca Bartles. Thank you so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

HARLOW: Two members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus. Both of them were mingling and voting with colleagues as recently as this weekend. What does that mean for other lawmakers? And for the first time since the outbreak, mainland China reporting zero new, what they're calling local cases overnight. We'll tell you what that really means, ahead.



HARLOW: We have new information coming in on Capitol Hill as Congress tries to negotiate this massive third stimulus package. Manu Raju joins us.

So, Manu, what's the development?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, House Democratic leaders recognize the concerns that a lot of their members have right now in the aftermath of two House members testing positive for the novel coronavirus.


Those two members, of course, Ben McAdams of Utah, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and now are planning to tell their members that they don't have to return back to session until there's a deal that has been reached between the administration, between House Democrats, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans on this massive trillion-dollar stimulus package to prop up the economy that is now being negotiated behind the scenes.

Now, this is a change of swords because the House have been expected to return back into session next week. They have been out this week. The Senate is still in session this week, but they House have indicated that they would come back as early as next Tuesday.

But this afternoon, House Democratic leaders are planning to have a conference call to discuss the schedule, to discuss the real concerns that members have about their safety, about personal safety, about traveling across the country, about gathering with members and discuss all of this and make clear that they will have to eventually come back, but not until after that deal has been reached.

And there's also discussion about limiting exposure among members, maintaining social distancing. I'm told discussions about voting in groups, smaller groups, not having all the members congregate on the House floor. So some changes, serious, significant changes being discussed within Congress. Already we saw some of those changes happening in the Senate, how they're doing their own voting in the last couple of days. But expect those decisions about how to move forward to continue in the hours ahead here. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. Manu, thank you very much. Keep us posted when you hear more.

In just hours from now, the president will go to FEMA headquarters and hold the teleconference with U.S. governors now that he has declared a national emergency. The question is how much can the federal government actually do in this fight that is unprecedented.

Craig Fugate is here. Of course, he led FEMA during the Obama administration. Thank you very much for being with me. I appreciate it.


HARLOW: I was struck reading earlier this week when you told The New York Times that this disaster is so far reaching the federal government will never be able to fully address all of the requests for help.

Let's just take FEMA. What can FEMA do on a national level?

FUGATE: Write checks. This is every state, every territory, every federally recognized tribal government. And if everybody is going to go to the federal government for help, there is not enough resources. FEMA and HHS are going to have to prioritize where things go.

This is why it's so critical that many governors already activated their EOCs, and I think that FEMA needs to do is get out the checkbook, go to 100 percent, say, do what we got to do, we're going to pay the bills and we'll figure it out later. We cannot the red tape of bureaucracy slow down governors addressing the shortfalls right now with their own capabilities.

HARLOW: What is the difference between this and a national disaster like Sandy or like Hurricane Katrina? Is it the disaster happened, and there was the fallout, but there wasn't the unknown of how prolonged and protracted it would be? How do you manage in a situation like that, get your head around it, plan for what is to come three months, six months down the road?

FUGATE: This is something we have explored when we were preparing for H1N1. It never got to this point, but here's the questions we're asking. And here is what's different. Sandy was a geographical area that got hit, which meant the rest of the country could provide support and resources. We could move teams across the country.

That's not possible in this event. There is very little that we're going to be able to move both for vector spread but also the practically that, in many cases, people are needed in their home states. So this is why I think it's important to really focus on what the governors can do if you're giving them the resources to get it done, so that the limited federal resources go to the areas that are in the most dire situations.

HARLOW: What about what we've seen closing the northern border except for commercial good, trade and essential travel in and out Canada to the United States? San Francisco, Northern California, shelter in place, it's at least being considered here in New York, not implemented yet. Are those effective tools? Do we need to see many cities with shelter in place mandates?

FUGATE: Again, I think this is so localized. But once you get to a certain point of spread in a community, these steps are really just designed to flatten the curve. You heard this over and over again, and as you heard previously, it's about keeping a number of people in serious condition in the hospitals to a number where they can be treated aggressively and save their lives. We don't want to be like Italy where so many people need ventilators, we run out, we're having triage and we're losing people we could have saved.

HARLOW: What about the fact that the president signed and has sort of re-enacted the 1950s Disaster Act, essentially saying in the worst case scenario, we can use this to create more of the goods that are needed so much right now, masks, et cetera, PPEs, but then qualifying it and saying, essentially, this is worst case scenario? Are we not at sort worst case potential here?


FUGATE: Well, the way I always operated is it's better to have too much than to run out of stuff. The Defense Production Act gives the administration tremendous powers to direct production now in anticipation of what maybe is needed. If you're waiting for a demand signal to say we need it, you're too late. You've got to start production now. And we have to give some guarantees in the industry when they start making this. We're not going to pull the rug out in two weeks and say, oh, we're cancelling the orders.

HARLOW: Yes, fair enough. And We saw Ford and G.M. raise their hands yesterday saying, we're shutting down our plants making cars and trucks right now, but we can use those to make ventilators, right? So we'll see what happens. Craig Fugate --

FUGATE: Exactly.

HARLOW: -- thank you so much. I appreciate the expertise.

FUGATE: Thank you.

HARLOW: The American farm bureau warning that there may not be enough workers to plant and harvest crops. So many of you, me, all of us with questions about food supply.

I'm happy to have Land O'Lakes' President and CEO, Beth Ford, joining me from Minneapolis. Good morning, Beth.


HARLOW: We know Land O'Lakes. We see it on the shelf. It's our butter, it's our milk, et cetera, very basic but important question, I think, for all our viewers and listeners. Is the supply food chain sound? Is there enough and will there be?

FORD: Yes. I think one of the pillars of our national security is our safe and affordable food supply. here is plenty of food. Milk production is strong. Farmers are getting back in the field. It's time for harvest and citrus down in Florida.

So this isn't about whether we have goods available, this is a distribution challenge right now. I think you've heard many retailers say this is like blizzard conditions across the country coupled with Christmas. I mean, this spike in demand at the retail level for consumers who want goods and want food is pressuring the sector, but not because of supply availability. Farmers and production is good and strong. It really is a distribution challenge at this moment.

HARLOW: So what are you going to do if that distribution challenge gets even worse? I mean, can you rely on the federal government to get this food that you guys are producing to people, or do other private sector entities step in here, right? What do you do if there is a breakdown in delivery?

FORD: Yes. This is something we're coordinating across the industry and coordinating with retailers and with government agencies. Because, you know, this area, food supply, has been deemed necessary or an essential sector.

So even when we're stopping people from moving around in their area, our workers for processing plants, folks who are at the farm level and those in distribution, trucking, et cetera, are necessary in essential employees. And that's what we've been doing is communicating with governors, with secretaries of ag.

And this isn't just unique to our industry. There are other manufacturers and others who are involved in coordinating with state and local officials in addition to the federal government.

HARLOW: One thing people might not know about Land O'Lakes is that, essentially, all your partners in this are the farmers. We have some images so we can give a sense to people of what's behind the company and the brand. And I say this because this comes as the American Farm Bureau said overnight, they're raising the alarm bells. They are raising concerns about a possibility of serious labor shortages and that resulting in supply chain issues. What are you hearing in terms of labor availability?

FORD: Yes. Immigrant labor is absolutely essential. Usually, we have a few hundred thousand workers, for instance, coming into Mexico -- into California. For instance, there are about 8,000 jobs, workers that are necessary. That's a breadbasket. This is where produce is, vegetables, fruit, milk production, et cetera. And, of course, there is a slowing down of this.

What we are hearing is that if you are a worker that has been there before, you've gone through the process, they'll likely support you coming in and working in the United States, but new applicants will struggle. We won't be able to probably source labor for new applicants. This is an issue in fisheries in the East Coast. This is an issue for citrus in Florida.

So labor is critically important, frankly, even before now, even before this issue where immigrant labor is slowing down and availability is slowing down. We've had shortages and shortfalls in the sector for workers.

HARLOW: But that could get even more severe now in this crisis. And I know you've signed this letter from the business roundtable to Congress, to the president, saying, we need a whole lot more. I have 20 seconds. What is the number one thing you guys need as an industry to feed America?

FORD: We need coordination from the federal, state and local officials. I think industry is trying, for instance, in transportation, they're focused only on essential goods. I think that's the right thing to do.


Manufacturers across the country are willing to pivot in their manufacturing platforms to provide the goods necessary.

On the food supply, I want to make clear, food is available.