Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
President Trump Now Wants to "Open Up Our Country" in Weeks "Not Months" Despite Rising Number of Coronavirus Cases; At Least 13 States Have Issued Stay At Home Orders; Mayor: NYC Hospitals Runs Out Of Supplies In A Week; 42,600+ Coronavirus Cases In The U.S., At Least 541 Dead; Trump: "We're Not Going To Let The Cure Be Worse Than The Problem; At Least 13 States Have Issued Stay At Home Orders; Scientists Identify 69 Drugs That Could Treat Coronavirus; Washington Governor Issues "Stay-At-Home" Order; Remembering The Victims. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 23, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening.
The president today signaled that he is looking for a way to, quote, get our country open again. He said he was talking in terms of weeks, not months. And he said it at the end of the biggest single-day rise in coronavirus deaths, up more than 100 since this morning. Now, it stands at 541 people.
He asked as he did in the tweet last night if the cure, which involves shutting down large chunks of the economy, is worse than the disease. We'll play you some of his remarks in a moment ask debate that question tonight.
First, some context to it. Since we last left on Friday, the number of deaths and cases has more than doubled, nearly 43,000 confirmed cases of the disease, about half of them in one state, New York. Here in New York City, more than 12,000 people are infected and the mayor today said hospital supplies could run out in a week.
The Army Corps of Engineers today began converting a giant convention center just two blocks from here into a thousand-bed hospital.
On a related note, we're awaiting test results from our colleague here at 360. I personally have no symptoms and had no close contact with the person. We broadcast from my home on Friday. My staff is all still working from home.
Tonight, I'm in a remote studio with a robotic cameras. I'm not in contact with anyone else, but again, no symptoms.
Globally, late tonight, Britain's prime minister put the entire U.K. on the tightest social lockdowns since the Second World War.
And this morning, America's surgeon general, the president's surgeon general, said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I want America to understand, this week it's going to get bad. And so, we really need to come together as a nation, and so we really, really --
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You don't think people are taking it seriously?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, that was this morning. Now here's the president this evening.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins asking him whether his desire to loosen restrictions was medically sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You said it's likely going to be weeks not months before you ease the guidelines put out. Have any of the doctors on your team told you that's the right path to pursue?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spoke to them today and I was telling them that we have two things to look forward -- don't forget, the doctors, if it were up to the doctors, they'd say let's keep it shutdown, let's shutdown the entire world because, again, you're up to almost 150 countries. So, let's shutdown the entire world. And when we shut it down, that would be wonderful. Let's keep it shut a couple of years.
You know, you can't do that, and you can't do that with a country, especially the number one economy anywhere in the world by far. Number one economy in the world. You can't do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN's Jim Acosta was listening in the press conference as well and has his own reporting on what led up to it. He joins us now.
So, the president really seems to be suggesting that somehow the measures being taken to counter the virus are becoming worse than the virus itself.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. You heard the president say a number of times during this briefing at the White House that he doesn't want the cure to be worse than the problem, and so he is announcing -- he was announcing just a few moments ago that he plans on getting the country moving again, getting the economy going again.
There are not a lot of specifics at this point as to how that's going to take place, but you could hear where the president's mind is going in all of this. At one point, he was talking about how the coronavirus so far has not been as deadly as the seasonal flu, that it's not as deadly as car accidents as the comparisons he made during the briefing.
But, Anderson, huge implications in all of this, the questions that are going to be asked is, if this country reopens again, gets the economy revved up again, does that mean people can go to the airports, does that mean they can go out to eat at restaurants, can they go back to the beach, and can kids go back to school? And so on.
So, a lot of questions haven't been answered at this point, but the president indicated very clearly that this era of social distancing he would like to see come to an end.
COOPER: And do any of the president's top medical officials actually support that?
ACOSTA: I think that -- that is a big question at this point. And one thing we should point out in just the last several minutes, the president announced that the First Lady Melania Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus. The president, the first lady, the vice- president, Mrs. Pence have all tested negative for the coronavirus.
But getting to your question, Anderson, the president has been getting some push back. Top officials have been getting some push back, behind the scenes, by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the administration, according to sources I'm talking to. Dr. Fauci has been urging some of these social distancing guidelines continue, that he wants to see appropriate public health measures to continue.
But you heard the president say during this briefing that you can't let these things go on forever. He doesn't want to see this last for months. And he indicated during this press briefing that within the next week or so, when the original 15-day period comes to an end, he's going to be making a decision.
He was talking at one point, Anderson, about certain parts of the country that are dealing with very big outbreak like New York City and New York state, that those areas may remain somewhat shutdown versus other states like Nebraska and Idaho that he mentioned where they don't have as big of a problem where things could reopen to basically back to where they were.
But, Anderson, the president was pressed specifically whether or not Dr. Fauci agrees with the direction he's heading and the president -- and I think this will probably go down in some infamy in the days to come, said Dr. Fauci doesn't not agree with me. That was not a clear answer.
And even Dr. Debbie Birx who was in the meeting, Dr. Fauci was not in the briefing, said at one point she wants to look at the data. So, she did not directly answer the question as to whether or not she agrees with the president's recommendations.
So, it seems that doctors -- the top doctors of the administration and the economists inside this administration, people like Larry Kudlow who are pushing the president to get the economy going again, are on opposing sides of all this and this is going to get hashed out behind the scenes in coming days. And in a pretty short order, we're going to find where this country is going to stand in the not too distant future, Anderson, I would suspect days not weeks from now -- Anderson.
COOPER: And we didn't hear much about the relief bill begin negotiated in Congress. What's the status of that?
ACOSTA: Democrats seem to be saying that there could be a deal tonight or tomorrow to get $2 trillion stimulus deal passed by the Congress and to the president's desk within the coming days. They were almost at each other's throats earlier today, Anderson, where the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were accusing Democrats of essentially tanking the markets, tanking the economy to get provisions that they would like to see. Democrats were saying, no, the Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that he was putting unnecessary voting guidelines in a way to sort of make the Democrats look bad. So they've been going at each other all day long, Anderson.
But our sources are telling us that it sounds as though they're moving towards passing a stimulus bill within the next day or so. The question is, is it even needed at this point at the size that they're talking about, if the president is talking about reopening this economy again? Anderson?
COOPER: Jim Acosta -- Jim, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Even as the debate at the White House goes on over relaxing restrictions, states across the country were tightening and bracing for the wave that could be coming their way.
Today, infectious disease physicians at Emory University in Atlanta implored Georgia's governor to declare a two-week shelter in place order. Their letter cited a model suggesting that tomorrow is a point of no return, beyond which any delay increases the chances of completely overwhelming the hospital system.
And late today, Florida's governor ordered 14 days of self-isolation for anyone arriving there from New York or New Jersey. In all, at least 13 states now have some form of stay at home measures in effect or about to be. That includes California.
CNN's Nick Watt joins us now from Los Angeles, for a look at the big picture.
So, where do preparations and the supplies stand at this hour?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, like many other places in the country, here in Los Angeles, officials are really taking the initiative. L.A. County and City just cut a deal with a South Korean company to buy tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits. They hope to be performing around 5,000 tests a day by the end of this week.
And in terms of the bigger picture -- I mean, we heard from the American Hospitals Association. And they say every hospital in every community will experience shortages -- will experience shortages, particularly of those protective equipment for the health workers. So, it is not just going to be the current hot spots like New York.
WATT (voice-over): This massive Manhattan Convention Center about to be converted into four field hospitals, a thousand beds between them.
GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We have not even begun to see the influx of patients. This is still the relative quiet before the storm.
WATT: The governor has ordered every hospital in New York to increase bed capacity by 50 percent. New York state now home to around half the confirmed cases in this country, with more than 20,000 -- that's tripled in three days, and with more than 150 deaths. Sea if
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: If we don't get the ventilators in particular, we will actually start to lose lives that could have been saved.
WATT: The state says many cases are ages 18 to 49. Experts suggest vaping might be a factor.
CUOMO: You can get it, the numbers show you can get it if you're a young person.
WATT: The economy cratering. The restaurant food service industry alone estimate 7 million could lose their jobs. Restaurant manager Jay Boken (ph) already has.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are not going to be able to support their families.
WATT: And stay at home orders still spreading. Ohio, Louisiana, Connecticut, Indiana, West Virginia and Michigan among the recent additions.
But not everyone is taking social distancing seriously enough.
DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, ADVISORY BOARD CHAIRMAN, ENDING PANDEMICS: We can't have the kind of social distancing that parts of Italy had or we will turn into Italy with those case counts and those death rates.
WATT: More than 6,000 have now died in Italy. Among them, more than 20 doctors.
Here thousands of retired health care workers are now heeding the call to come back to work.
DR. ANNE SAKS-BERG, RETIRED DOCTOR RETURNING TO WORK: I feel I have a moral obligation to share my skills. We can't imagine what it's going to be like a week or two from now.
WATT: So many places now struggling for supplies. GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: We just received our
allotment from the federal government's national strategic stockpile. The allotment of personal protection equipment for one of our hospitals, that allotment is barely enough to cover one shift at that hospital.
WATT: And Mercy, the Navy hospital ship with 800 personnel aboard, today set sale for Los Angeles.
COOPER: Is there a sense of how effective the shelter-in-place order has been there in California?
WATT: Well, I mean, Anderson, in terms of whether it has slowed the spread, it might be a little while before that data is really readable. But I can tell you officials here do not think that we have been social distancing enough. And, frankly, they're right.
I took my kids for a hike yesterday, pulled into the parking lot, it was parked. There were 40 people waiting to touch that parking ticket machine. So I drove straight out.
Today, the county closed all the trails and closed the beach parking lots -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wow. Nick Watt, thanks very much.
Because there are fast moving developments, not just on medical and hospital fronts, but also controversy over expanding versus narrowing the restrictions on day to day life, we're glad to have two medical professionals back on the program, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.
Sanjay, so, the president is saying the country is going to be open for business soon, in weeks, not months. The White House considering the idea of scaling back the social distancing guidelines which really just got started and in many places clearly aren't being followed.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
COOPER: Does this make sense?
GUPTA: You know, look. I think any -- any doctor or public health official who looks at this if they're being completely honest, it doesn't make sense. I mean, first of all, the numbers are going to get worse. I think everyone has sort of conceded that point, over the next week.
We know that there is a lag time that's going on right now so the numbers that we're seeing actually reflect people who may have been exposed up to a couple weeks ago. So, I don't know how you could justify as the numbers are getting worse and the pace at which the numbers are getting worse. It's like building inertia. You say at that point let's pull back on the social distancing measures. It really would not have given it a chance at all. So I think if
anyone is being honest within the medical public health community, they would say, no, now is not the time. I mean, it's going to be greater, sort of impact now. It's obviously a lot to ask people to do. But unless you do it, this is going to spread out a lot longer and cause a lot more pain later on.
So, you know, it doesn't make sense. I get the balance here, but it doesn't make sense, Anderson.
COOPER: Dr. Wen, when you hear the president say the treatment is worse than -- I'm getting it wrong. The cure is worse than -- I'm totally blowing it.
You know, when he says essentially that it's worse to continue these social distancing, the isolation because it's destroying the economy, that's going to cause more harm, more deaths.
DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I mean, there is a big disconnect between what the president is saying and the reality on the ground. Sanjay mentioned the rising numbers. Well, we are also seeing doctors and nurses plead for medical equipment, plead for ventilators, plead for protective equipment.
We are seeing things getting out of control with no sense of how we're going to get it under control. And then to hear the president talk about how we're going to be scaling back restrictions at a time when we have exponential spread of this disease that's killing -- it killed 100 people in the last 24 hours. It just -- it really doesn't make any sense and actually sends a confusing message because there are people -- a lot of people are taking the social distancing seriously. But there are a lot of people are not.
For them to hear the president say that maybe we should pull back these restrictions. It's really not emphasizing the gravity of the situation that we have, and I really fear that if we do pull back the restrictions, we'll have many tens of thousands, if not more deaths, and it's all going to be because we didn't listen to the public health experts.
COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, the number of cases the U.S. -- in the U.S. has more than doubled since Friday. Is that mainly because more people are being tested?
GUPTA: Yes. I think in part it's because more people are getting tested. But I think that's also evidence that the virus is spreading.
And, again, you know, I can't emphasize this enough. But -- you know, it's kind of like looking at the light coming from a star, Anderson. I mean, we know that light actually originated many years ago. We're just now seeing it. The same can be said for testing.
So what we're seeing right now is something that's reflective of up to a couple weeks ago, which -- and we know that there's been greater spread since then. So, the numbers -- it's not just the fact that the numbers tick up. It's the pace at which these numbers are going up -- as you just mentioned, doubled since Friday, 100 now sadly deaths in a single day.
These numbers are going in the wrong direction. How do you then justify the strategy that was designed to try and mitigate these numbers, how do you justify pulling back on it at a time when the numbers are not only going up, but the pace at which they're going up is increasing as well. So, it's -- it is testing, but I think the evidence of spread is clear as well.
COOPER: And, Sanjay, what is the break down of cases, young people, older people, those with underlying health conditions?
GUPTA: Yes, it's interesting because everyone I think often looks at it as a binary thing. People who survived, people who died, which is a fair way to look at this. But I think the fact people are getting sick requiring hospitalization at a younger age is a point that's worth emphasizing.
So, there's a study came out that looked at 500 patients in the United States and found that about 12 percent of them required hospitalization. So, you know, 50 to 60 patients. So, over 10 percent are requiring hospitalization.
The biggest group of people requiring hospitalization was those 65 to 84, about a third of those hospitalized fell into that age group. But, Anderson, people age 20 to 44, about 20 -- they made up about 20 percent of the hospitalizations as well. So, yes, they are much more likely to survive, they are much more likely to recover if you're younger.
But, you know, it can be a significant illness. And I think, you know, that shouldn't be minimized either, Anderson.
COOPER: And, Dr. Wen, you have the surgeon general saying it's going to get bad. Any sense of how bad?
WEN: It's definitely going to get bad and I would say that it's already gotten bad. It's just going to get worse this week and worse next week. And how bad it gets depends on the actions that we each can take today.
And this is why -- I know we've talked about this so much, Anderson, but the idea of taking matters into your own hands, doing what you can. And I like what Sanjay often says about this, which is we should act as if we each have coronavirus and that other people around us have it as well.
If we each behaved that way and think about how can I protect myself, how can I protect those around me, and how can I reduce the rate of transmission in the community, we actually have a chance of slowing this down. We have a chance of saving people's lives.
But that takes each of us. And I would say it takes the federal government, too. It is hard to ask people to take matters into our own hands I don't see the federal government stepping up and doing everything in their power to assist state and local officials to assist people on the ground.
COOPER: Yes, Sanjay, you heard from the Michigan governor in Nick Watt's piece, you know, the allotment they got of personal protective equipment they got for their state was, she said would cover one shift in one hospital.
GUPTA: That -- I mean, that is the issue here, you know. I mean, you know, these front line workers, they have to assume that every patient they're dealing with has the virus, you know? Even if they're coming in for a non-infection related thing, they got to put on the personal protective equipment and act as if, you know, the patients have the virus. And that's why they're running out so quickly.
I mean, you know, I don't want to harp on this point, Anderson, but we've known this for sometime. We've known that up to 3 billion masks were going to be necessary. That's what the buying time was all about since the beginning of this year. So, it's sad we're finding ourselves behind now in this particular regard because they can't, they can't protect themselves.
COOPER: Yes, Dr. Wen, Sanjay, stick around. Coming up next -- Dr. Wen, thank you. Coming up, we're going to be joined by a doctor who asked the similar question to the president, namely in the words of his "New York Times" opinion piece. Is our fight against the coronavirus worse than the disease? We'll talk to him, ahead.
And later, a report from the original front lines. What nurses at the life care center in Kirkland, Washington, have to say about what they have experienced?
COOPER: As we reported at the top of the hour, the surgeon general says Americans should prepare for the pandemic in this country to get worse. And the breaking news at his news conference just a short time ago, President Trump agreed. Nevertheless he flirted with the idea of easing the guidelines that have closed businesses across the country suggesting the cure should not be worse than the problem.
Most health officials agree with the current measures. Over the weekend, "The New York Times" published an editorial arguing for a more surgical approach. Quoting from the article: I believe we may be ineffectively fighting the contagion even as we are causing economic collapse, unquote.
Joining me now is the author of that editorial, Dr. David Katz, and, author and former director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
Back with us also is Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He'll ask some questions as well. Dr. Katz, your article is fascinating. You write about needing more of
a surgical approach -- if this is a war, which the president and other politicians have used that analogy, rather than an all-out campaign, you're proposing a more surgical strike or raising the idea of a surgical strike.
Can you explain what that would look like?
DR. DAVID KATZ, FORMER DIRECTOR, YALE-GRIFFIN PREVENTION RESEARCH CENTER: Yes, well, Anderson, great to be with you. Really good to be with my friend Sanjay.
The first thing I want so say is that I'm completely in support of what we're doing right now, social distancing, sheltering in place, doing everything possible to mitigate spread of the virus, which if all the infection spread at once to the most vulnerable people, really can cause a huge surge in severe infection death overwhelming the medical system. Totally in support of the measures.
But if I may, Anderson, at the beginning of this, I want to put a human face to it. I'm thinking about people like my parents. My parents are both 80 and generally in pretty good health. And they are sheltering in place and separated from the rest of the family because, you know, they really can't associate with young people who could potentially inadvertently transmit the virus.
And I've spoken to them both about, you know, what are you most concerned about right now?
And my father, his biggest concern -- he obviously doesn't want to get coronavirus and die certainly, but right now, the recommendations seem to be an indefinite period of shutting everything down. His biggest worry is his life's legacy, losing his life savings, everything. He's worked -- he's a cardiologist, up until recently was still seeing patients. Really deeply concerned that his entire life is -- everything he's worked for may slip through his fingers in this twilight period.
And my mother's biggest worry is that she may be required to stay in social isolation so long --
KATZ: -- that she dies of something else before she can ever hug her grandchildren again.
What I'm suggesting is we use this period where we do everything possible to mitigate spread, gather data to see who is subject to severe infection, risk of death, and what segment of the population is not, and I've looked across the seas, to the data from other countries, South Korea has done the best job of gathering data. Germany is not far behind. South Korea reports that 99 percent of all cases are mild and the high risk is concentrated in the elderly and people with chronic illness. We can use this initial period to tell people, look, we're going to
carefully gather data. I think -- I think it's folly to say it's a week or two. It's some amount of time to reach a critical mass of data to say we can now very clearly risk-stratify.
There is a large section of the population maybe very prone to get the infection, but it's extremely likely it will be mild. And then a portion of the population we have to very diligently protect because they can't afford to get it. They're prone to sever infection --
COOPER: So, how would that work? You're saying essentially focus on the most vulnerable, gather data now, keep things in place currently. But ultimately, use that data to see if it aligns with South Korea, what -- you mentioned the Diamond Princess data and --
COOPER: And sort of mobilize forces to protect -- protect the elderly. How would you do that, though? Would they be socially isolated, then? They would be in some sort of quarantine, I assume.
KATZ: Well, and -- see, they're doing it now. So, again, I'm not proposing anything for the high-risk population that we aren't doing now, except maybe more, because, you know, for example, we sent college students home. We laid off young people from businesses that shuttered a lot of those came back home to live with their older parents, including in my house.
So, three of our kids came back home. Two college students from Boston, one who is working in New York city. The potentially infect their 60 something parents.
KATZ: By the way, I'm not feeling it, right? So, you know, that may have happened. Now, thankfully, my wife and I are very healthy and I suspect if we get this, it will be very mild.
But, yes, I would say we double down to make sure we identify the people most at risk of severe infection and death. It appears to be a relatively small segment of the population. I don't think anybody should be too sure of that too soon. So, I think --
COOPER: So, Sanjay -- sorry. Sanjay, I want you to be able to ask a question here.
GUPTA: Yes, so, Dr. Katz, it's good to see you.
So, you're basically saying that the current plan you agree with, but as time goes on and more data is collected that we may better be able to identify how exactly how the strategy changes. And I think most people have said it should focus on the vulnerable populations.
The one thing I do want to ask you about, though, is everyone sort of uses this, did they live or did they die sort of scenario. If you look at the data here, and granted it's early data here in the United States, about 20 percent of the hospitalizations are in people between the ages of 20 and 44. So they're recovering, but they do need to be hospitalized and some of them have longer-term problems. You know, lung function problems, stuff like that.
How would you -- how would you address that?
KATZ: Yes, I think it's a crucial point, Sanjay. And just to reiterate, I don't think we have enough data in the United States to make well-informed decisions and we shouldn't make next decisions until we do.
What I'm talking about is to very carefully do case ascertainment, find out where it is, find out if there are low-risk populations and do that here in the United States so we don't just assume what happened in South Korea will happen here. But I think what we could do is tell the public, now, look, this is not an indefinite hunker with your anxiety and dread and, you know, hope there is a vaccine so you eventually get to see your grandchildren again.
No, we have a specific plan. It's in phases. This phase is we mitigate spread. You stay socially distanced from one another while we gather data to see if we can do a risk-stratified approach.
And then the idea there is that, you know, the data will tell us we can or we can't. I think they'll say we can and what I would say about young people, Sanjay is, you know, again, early in an outbreak, you don't miss people who need hospital beds. You don't need somebody -- you don't miss somebody in your ICU. You don't miss. Yes, those are obvious events.
Young people with extremely mild symptoms, who don't report them to anybody and just go about their business are easily overlooked unless you go out looking for them. South Korea did that. And their data show, so I think they still have the best in the world population level data, 99% of cases are reported this month. We have no reason to think that's going to be very different here. What's very different here so far, is the degree to which we're finding cases.
Governor Cuomo reported today that in the last 24 hours, for example, in New York, they ramped up -- ramped up from doing 1,000 tests a day to doing 16,000 tests today and they intend to ramp up further. I think we're going to have much more detailed understanding of what our data show very soon and we need to wait for that. But I think we could plan a fit if the data allow us to pivot from what I call horizontal interdiction. Shut everything down. Keep everybody away from everybody else to vertical interdiction that's risk based, because we're going to hurt people other ways, then with the virus, right?
I mean, again, people's life savings are being lost. They're despairing. They're anxious. They may be hesitating to seek medical attention for other problems. They may be experiencing hunger, resource interruptions, service interruptions that threaten their health. The social determinants of health are a hugely important --
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.
KATZ: -- issue in --
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Right.
KATZ: -- health and those are going to be affected to. What I'm proposing, really, what is the best sequence, phase sequence of strategies to minimize all of the harm. The direct harm of the virus absolutely crucial, but also the indirect harm, we are at risk of hurting people seriously hurting them and causing deaths by our responses to the virus if we don't optimize that
COOPER: Dr. David Katz, I urge people to read your piece and I appreciate it and hope to talk to you again. No doubt in the coming days. David Katz, thank you.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to stay with us.
KATZ: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, we're going to fact check President Trump on those drugs he repeatedly says could be a game changer. What does the evidence actually say when we return?
COOPER: The President again today touted several drugs that he believes might help against coronavirus. He again use the word Game Changer today for one of them a malaria drug chloroquine, that's also used to treat lupus and which is now in short supply for some who need it for lupus and other things.
He told the story of a man whom he did not name who took the drug and recovered, he did not tell the story of the Arizona man and his wife who self-dosed on chloroquine phosphate, which is used to clean aquariums. That man died, his wife is critically ill likely because of something they saw or read about chloroquine.
Despite a new but still not peer reviewed study out today. Identifying 69 drugs that might be effective against the virus with lacking is a solid body of evidence that any of them work and are safe.
More now in the subject from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Why should we be testing it in a test tube for a year and a half when we have thousands of people that are very sick, they're very, very sick, and we can use it on those people -- and maybe make them better and in some cases, maybe save their lives.
GUPTA (voice-over): President Trump says he's optimistic about some potential treatments for the novel coronavirus in particular malaria drug called chloroquine.
TRUMP: You know, this has been something that's been around for many years. It's been phenomenal, strong, powerful drug for malaria. But we think it might work on this based on evidence, based on very strong evidence.
GUPTA (voice-over): It's true, the medication has been around for more than 80 years, and has a few side effects including nausea and mood changes, as well as possible interactions with other drugs. Now enthusiasm for the possibility of treating the novel coronavirus largely centers on one study out of France, which used a derivative of chloroquine used with an antibiotic, commonly known as the Z-Pack. The study was small, and the patients were followed for only six days.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FMR FDA COMMISSIONER: The study that looked at that drug and showed activity was it -- was a study that involved about 20 patients and only six in the arm that showed the benefit. And the benefit that they showed was that they decrease the amount of virus in their, in their noses when you did nasal swabs in those patients. So it could very well be that the drug is reducing viral shedding but having no impact on the clinical course of those patients. So the data on that is very preliminary.
GUPTA (voice-over): We took a closer look at the study. And here's what we found. There were originally 26 patients in the study who were treated, 20 completed the trial, one left the hospital before the trial ended, one couldn't tolerate the medication, three went to the intensive care unit. That's an 11% critical care rate, and one died, a 4% mortality rate.
Now those numbers are higher critical care and mortality rates than the general population of infected. But keep in mind again, it's a small study. There was another study from 2011, which found that while chloroquine was effective in the lab against the flu, it ultimately wasn't effective in humans. Look, that's why trials are needed, and they can be done quickly. Many labs in the World Health Organization had already started studying these drugs and dozens of others to help us find an answer for a disease that currently has no known cure.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WHO: Using untested medicines, without the right evidence could raise false hope and even do more harm than good. And cause a shortage of essential medicines that are needed to treat other diseases.
GUPTA (voice-over): And at the end of last week, chloroquine was added to the American Society of Health System Pharmacists Drug shortage list.
COOPER: So Sanjay, I mean, is there a timeline of just when more of these trials might be completed by?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's probably going to be a few months, you know, it's hard to say there's two trials that are going on with chloroquine. One is for treatment, and one is to try and give more as a prophylaxis to try and prevent people from getting as bad an infection. It's going to take a while Anderson.
I mean, the fact that it's an existing drug that helps, but just you still got to go through trials. I mean, it's not entirely clear at all that this has worked, there was a very promising trial that just ended last week, Anderson, probably the most promising trial started just a week after the first patient was diagnosed. And after they went to the trial, they found that it didn't work this particular drug therapy, so they move on. You've got to do these trials to make sure you're actually dealing with people that you think you're dealing with.
COOPER: It is so interesting to have the President of United States kind of touting these, and the medical folks, you know, Dr. Fauci and others standing behind him, sort of not wanting to contradict him directly and say, essentially, you know, there's a reason studies are done, things might look good on paper or might look good in a test tube, but unless it's actually been legitimately studied, you can't say, but this President does say.
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look that was that was wild, frankly, to watch this back and forth between President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci. I mean, you know, Dr. Fauci was sort of just having to sort of fact check on the fly. But look, you know there's a lot of hunches out there. There's dozens of drugs that are being looked at right now. There's lots of hunches out there, but the reality is that most of them don't really get beyond phase two trials.
So, again, that's why you got to do that do, do the studies. Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Dr. Sanjay Gupta thanks very much.
Just ahead nurses of the Life Care Center outside of Seattle saw the coronavirus effect-- infect staff and residents before many knew its full effect of their story when we return.
COOPER: Some breaking news in just the last few minutes, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, issuing a stay-at-home order for the next two weeks effective immediately. He said, I'm quoting now, "This weapon distancing ourselves is the only weapon we have against this virus".
If you know better than the citizens of Washington, especially the nurses at the Life Care Center Nursing Home Outside of Seattle, who lived through as the virus before it was called a pandemic infected staff and residents. It's the first time they're telling their story more from our Sara Sidner.
CHELSEA EARNEST, REGISTERED NURSE, LIFE CASE CENTERS OF AMERICA: It was like a war zone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, all of a sudden there were so many patients, everybody needed medications. Everybody needed treatment.
NANCY BUTNER, VP NORTHWEST DIVISION, LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA: We had 70 staff within a week that were out.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These health care workers were among the first to battle a COVID-19 outbreak in America. Few in the United States have more experience with the deadly toll it took.
(on-camera): How quickly do you see the demise of someone with COVID- 19?
EARNEST: Less than 24 hours.
SIDNER (voice-over): They work at Life Care Center of Kirkland. The nursing home were the first known U.S. cluster of COVID-19 deaths and infections occurred. For a month they have been treating and continue to treat coronavirus infected patients.
(on-camera): Have any of you had symptoms of the novel coronavirus?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
SIDNER (on-camera): Have any of you tested positive for COVID-19?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SIDNER (voice-over): For weeks, this was the location of the most deaths from the novel coronavirus in the United States. This is the first time their story of what happened inside has been told.
EARNEST: If you Google signs and symptoms of coronavirus, it's runny nose, fever and cough. I haven't seen a runny nose yet. What I see is much different than that. I saw what I described as red eyes.
SIDNER (on-camera): I've never heard of red eyes before. Why is that? Is that information just not gotten out to the public?
EARNEST: It's something that I witnessed in all of them and they have like you can describe it like allergy eyes, the white part of your eye is not red. It's more like they have red eyeshadow on the outside of their eyes. But we've had patients that just had red eyes as the only symptom that we saw and go to the hospital and pass away in the hospital.
SIDNER (voice-over): As of now, the CDC does not list red eyes as a symptom of COVID-19. Chelsea Earnest is a registered nurse and the nursing director at another Life Care Center facility in Washington State. And that is what she saw. When an urgent call for help came from the Kirkland facility. she volunteered. She arrived one day after the staff learned a patient tested positive for coronavirus.
(on-camera): Why did you answer the call? You didn't have to be there? This was voluntary. EARNEST: Well, I'm a nurse, and they're not my patients. But hold on, I'm sorry.
SIDNER (on-camera): It's OK, take a breath.
(voice-over): Earnest and her fellow staff members saw the death toll rise like a rocket. The terrifyingly fast deterioration of the patients always seem to happen on the night shift, her shift.
EARNEST: That's how I described it as you're going off to war and you're in a battlefield where supplies are limited. The helps slow to get to you. And there's lots of casualties.
SIDNER (on-camera): And you can't see the enemy.
EARNEST: And you can't see the enemy.
SIDNER (voice-over): Suddenly, a third of the staff had symptoms and was out sick. Before they all knew it, the virus was sweeping through the entire building. It was the oldest patients who were dying fast.
BUTNER: The average age was 80 years old.
SIDNER (voice-over): Nancy Butner is the Vice President of Life Care Centers of America, Northwest Division.
BUTNER: Just the patient losing them, because we've been working for so long. It's hard.
SIDNER (voice-over): After two days of madness, things seemed to calm, but not for long.
EARNEST: There was a little law (ph) and I heard a cough and so I started and so I started following the coughs.
SIDNER (voice-over): According to the CDC and Life Care Center at the height of infections, 129 people linked to this nursing home tested positive. Three quarters of the patients, about a third of the staff and 14 visitors, 29 people associated with this facility have died due to coronavirus.
In the weeks that followed, the CDC came out with a report on the facility. It found in part, the facilities limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to the spread of the virus both inside the facility and out.
BUTNER: Many nursing staff working one or more facilities.
SIDNER (on-camera): Do you think that that will change the idea of having people work at different facilities after COVID-19?
BUTNER: I don't know that that it would it's, you know, and again in healthcare you work in different settings. SIDNER (on-camera): If everyone was trained on infection control, how is it that so many patients got COVID-19 and so many members, the staff also got COVID-19?
EARNEST: There's usually two patients to a room and some of the rooms are bigger and they have three patients. And you have caregiving staff that are very close to their residents. We hug them, we kiss them, we love them. And I couldn't have been perfect on my PPE process.
SIDNER (on-camera): Your saying, wearing the personal protection equipment. You couldn't have been perfect because things were happening so fast. You were trying to save lives.
(voice-over): She arrived after the first person tested positive. It took five days to get the results. Frightened families were outside furious
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is they so we can follow up with it?
SIDNER (voice-over): They couldn't get information on their loved ones for days.
BUTNER: We just could not answer the phone quick enough. We had a significant drop in staff. We had significant care needs that were priority over. Unfortunately talking to families on the phone.
SIDNER (voice-over): In those first few days, the Life Care Center said they made a cry for help to government agencies from county to federal to state.
(on-camera): Did you get what you need when you needed it?
EARNEST: No. No.
SIDNER (voice-over): No one was doing just one job. Stephanie Booth is in charge of payroll.
STEPHANIE BOOTH, PAYROLL CLERK, LIFE CARE CENTER OF KIRKLAND: I worked in the kitchen. I don't know I've done a little bit of everything. I did some housekeeping.
SIDNER (voice-over): Everyone was doing everything until doctors and nurses arrived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health and Human Services. The number of patients in the facility has dropped now from 120 to 42 of those 42 patients 31 have tested positive for novel coronavirus.
(on-camera): What advice would you give other facilities, other doctors and nurses, other staff members about dealing with COVID-19?
EARNEST: I didn't expect it to be so lethal. And, and I have no shame in saying that I was wrong.
SIDNER: Anderson, Chelsea Earnest says she was wrong about thinking that the coronavirus was kind of like the flu. She does not think that anymore and they do admit as a staff that they did make some mistakes, but they say they were the first in the matter in America to battle this new virus. Anderson?
COOPER: Yes, and so, I mean, just a reminder of all those nurses and doctors out there right now, risking their lives. Sara Sidner, thank you very much.
Up next --
COOPER: -- remembering some of the lives lost to coronavirus, a doctor included among others. When we continue.
COOPER: So far more than 500 people died in the U.S. from the coronavirus. We want to take a moment to remember some of those whose lives have been stolen from them. They're not statistics or numbers. They're people who are loved by family and friends and are missed greatly.
Dr. Stephen Schwartz was a well-known pathologist, the University of Washington. Dr. Schwartz was renowned for his research into vascular biology. His colleagues said he was larger than life and leaves a lasting imprint not only in the university, but on the broader scientific community. Dr. Schwartz is 78 years old.
Bill Pike thought he had a case of pneumonia when he went into a Connecticut hospital. His family says this was before they were aware of the threat of the virus. In the end, his loved ones couldn't be by his bed holding his hand. They had to say goodbye to him by phone from quarantine. Those who knew him described him as a person of incredible character, an old school gentleman who treated everyone equally. They're taking some comfort and knowing he had a long life that was filled with joy and love. Bill Pike was 91 years old.
Patricia Frieson worked as a nurse before she retired. Her brother says he wanted to go into the field because of her faith. She said she felt she needed to help people. She went to the hospital because she thought her asthma was acting up but she became the first person to die in Illinois from the virus. Patricia Frieson was 61 years old.
Sandy Rutter from Washington State was a fighter she survived stage four breast cancer, but not the virus. She's described as being the kindest person you'd ever meet a single mom with six beautiful kids and she loved them fiercely. She was always careful about germs who has ever compromised immune system from her cancer treatments. She died about a week after being admitted to the hospital. Sandy Rutter was 42 years old.
Larry Edgeworth was a longtime employee of NBC News. He works in the equipment room at 30 Rock in New York City. It worked before that is an audio technician for NBC traveled around the world for the network. You've seen a lot of things. He's the type of guy wanted to be by your side according to his colleagues. They called him a gentle bear of a man who always had your back. Larry Edgeworth was 61 years old.
Our coverage the coronavirus continues right now. I want to handle over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME", Chris?