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Pandemic Worsens in U.S., Hospitals Desperate for Supplies; New York City Becomes Epicenter of U.S. Outbreak; Senate Dems Block $2 Trillion Stimulus Plan; Trump Activates National Guard in New York, California and Washington. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 23, 2020 - 06:00   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The infection rate is going to be tremendous.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm announcing action to help New York, California and Washington, ensure that the National Guard can effectively respond to this crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need millions of masks and hundreds of thousands of gowns and gloves.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): So we're out on the open market, competing for these items.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Every single one of them has been on record preventing us from taking the next step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The markets are sending a message to these politicians that they have to stop playing politics. This isn't a stimulus package. It's an investment in survival.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): What it has is a giant, giant corporate bailout fund with no accountability.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, March 23, 6 a.m. here in New York. Erica Hill in for Alisyn this morning. A very busy morning.

Some of the nation's largest cities warning of being overwhelmed by coronavirus. A wave of new cases and a critical shortage of supplies.

There are now more than 34,000 cases across the United States. More than 400 Americans have died. New York is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, with roughly 5 percent of the entire world's total cases.

President Trump is activating the National Guard in three of the hardest-hit states: New York, California and Washington. The federal government is also sending medical supplies and directing FEMA to set up medical stations. These are new hospitals, essentially, to increase the number of available beds in key cities.

Roughly one-third of all Americans waking up this morning under stay- at-home orders.

And overnight, a remarkable interview with the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He seemed to show frustration with the president's grasp of the facts, telling "Science" magazine, quote, "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down."

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Also overnight, the U.S. Senate failing to reach an agreement on a massive $1.8 trillion stimulus bill. Democrats arguing the Republican measure puts corporate interests above the needs of American workers. A vote is now expected around 1 p.m. That's after Democrats blocked Senate Majority Leader McConnell's efforts to force a vote this morning. That vote he wanted to hold just minutes after the opening bell on Wall Street.

The Republican effort hampered by the absence, as well, of five GOP senators who are now quarantined. Senator Rand Paul is the first senator to test positive for coronavirus. He, obviously, one of those five.

The Senate dysfunction comes at a time when millions are waiting anxiously for help after losing their jobs or having paychecks cut. U.S. stock futures are down sharply, pointing to an opening drop of more than 6 hundred points.

Let's begin our coverage now with Brynn Gingras, who is live in New York. Brynn, good morning.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Erica, good morning to you.

What an alarming statistic John just said. Five percent of the world's coronavirus cases are right here in New York. And here we're seeing a shift from testing to care, where only the most high-risk patients are going to receive a coronavirus test. That is to alleviate pressure on hospitals at this point and also to preserve medical equipment.

I want to get out of the way so you can see this tent that's set up here behind me. These are erected at public hospitals in New York City to relieve congestion inside those emergency rooms and also provide a safe space for testing.

This as there is an alarm sounded by the mayor that the city's hospitals will run out of equipment and protective gear very soon.


GINGRAS (voice-over): President Trump ramping up federal assistance and deploying the National Guard to California, New York and Washington state.

TRUMP: Through FEMA, the federal government will be funding 100 percent of the cost of deploying National Guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus.

GINGRAS: The president under pressure from governors, begging the Trump administration to start a nationwide fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We're all building the airplane as we fly it right now. We're doing the best we can. But we need the federal government to get us those test kits. We need PPEs. We need clear directive and guidance.

GINGRAS: New York City is now home to roughly a third of coronavirus cases in the United States. And the mayor is fearful about what's ahead.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're about ten days away now from seeing widespread shortages of really fundamental supplies, ventilators, surgical masks, the things that absolutely are necessary to keep a hospital system running.

GINGRAS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asking President Trump to nationalize efforts to produce medical supplies.

CUOMO: The president can say to the manufacturers, I want you to make these products, because it's a matter of public health.

GINGRAS: And officials say the demand for equipment like masks and ventilators is making it hard to provide hospitals with what they need.

PRITZKER: We're competing against each other. We're competing against other countries. You know, it's a wide [SIC] -- wild west, I would say, out there.

GINGRAS: But Trump says it's primarily up to the states to create their own coronavirus responses.


TRUMP: I say we're sort of a backup for the states. And some of the states are doing really well, and some don't do as well.

GINGRAS: This morning, at least eight states issuing stay-at-home orders. But in parks and beaches across the country, some Americans are still crowding public spaces. Officials say they're looking to avoid using law enforcement to prevent residents from gathering in large groups.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Don't be selfish. Recognize you have a responsibility to meet this moment, as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GINGRAS: In fact, here, the NYPD is making sure people abide by those

social distancing guidelines.

Erica, back to you.

HILL: Brynn, thank you.

Millions of Americans, meantime, are struggling this morning with layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, and they're turning to the federal government for help. But they remain in limbo this morning as the Senate hits a major roadblock on a stimulus plan.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House this morning with the very latest there. Joe, good morning.


It is not over yet. It did fail on a procedural vote in the United States Senate last night, but they'll be back at it again today. The Senate coming back into session around noon Eastern Time to apparently try it again.

Tempers are flaring during these negotiations for what could be the largest stimulus package in the history of the United States government: $1.8 trillion.

The arguments are going along predictable lines, Democrats arguing that this package does not do enough for families and workers; and Republicans arguing that, if the package helps companies, at the end of the day, it helps workers, as well.

There is a lot at stake here, especially during an election year. And there are great concerns to the United States Senate and on Capitol Hill that the Congress needs to do something to help workers and calm the markets.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Joe, thank you very much.

We're also getting word, Joe, and you can help us understand more about what's going on here, that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the nation's top infectious disease doctor, who has, I think, calmed the nerves of so many Americans over the last few weeks and for generations that he may be getting frustrated with some of the things the president is saying. Explain.

JOHNS: Well, that's certainly an indication. Anthony Fauci was interviewed for the journal "Science" and was asked about the president's penchant for exaggerating. Some have called it cheerleading. Some have called it misrepresentation.

And here's what he said. He said, essentially, that the -- he can't jump in front of the microphone and push him, meaning the president, down. He said, "Let's try it again and get it corrected next time." F

So Fauci, the peacemaker there. But also watching the controversy behind the scenes here on the coronavirus task force.

There's still clear, a question behind the scenes about how much the president is telling the American public and how much of that needs to be corrected by other members on the team -- John.

BERMAN: Well, America needs the truth, and America needs Dr. Anthony Fauci. Joe Johns at the White House for us this morning. Joe, thank you very much.

The National Guard now activated in three of the hardest hit states. More on how these troops could help. That's next.


Developing overnight, President Trump activating the National Guard in the three states that have been hit hardest by coronavirus: New York, California and Washington.

It comes as governors across the country plead with the federal government for supplies.

Joining us now, Dr. Daniel Varga, chief physician executive at Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey's largest hospital system. He is leading their medical response to coronavirus. Also with us, Arlene Van Dyk, a critical care nurse at the Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey; and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem. She's a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.

And Juliette, I want to start with you with the news of calling in the National Guard for these three states. What exactly does that mean and what can they do?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So it means that their -- essentially, their status has changed from what's called state active duty, which is the governors control them and tell them what to do and pay, to what's called Title 32. It is just a way for the governors still to be able to utilize them, so they're not under Trump or the secretary of defense. But the feds pay.

And generally, the status is when there's a national crisis or national security crisis. We used this after 9/11 when the National Guard was used to protect airports.

So it's a -- it's just a money shift. It actually relieves the burden on the states. It's good that it's -- that it was extended to those three states. But President Trump probably should prepare to extend it to all 50 states so that governors can begin to get their National Guard ready, building things, preparing, helping with logistics, supply chains. All the things that the military is really good at doing, simply to relieve the stress on public safety and public health that are under tremendous stress right now because of patients.

BERMAN: Erica.

HILL: -- what's still to come. Dr. Varga, as you look at this and you're working on your preparations, how are you trying to game out this timeline so that you can make sure you're prepared all the way through?

DR. DANIEL VARGA, CHIEF PHYSICIAN EXECUTIVE, HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH: Well, I mean, right now the four biggest areas are clearly going to be testing, masks and supplies, and making sure the supply chain is there. Staffing is a really big issue very soon and then also capacity management.

We're right now at critical levels relative to the timing of getting tests done; relative to our access to masks. We have probably three to five days of N-95 masks left. We're already reinstituting all sorts of different types of staffing models to be able to kind of stretch the highly-skilled nurses that we have right now across as many patients as possible. And we're reactivating and turning on new areas of capacity almost every day.


BERMAN: Arlene, what are you seeing? You are on the frontlines interacting with these patients as they come in. What has that been like?

ARLENE VAN DYK, CRITICAL CARE NURSE, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER: Well, you know, as we are all aware, these patients are extremely critical ill. This care becomes very challenging, very stressful for those of us at the bedside. There's obstacles that we become creative in trying to get around.

And then we have the emotional aspect that we are all dealing with. These patients are on ventilators. They're on multiple I.V. drips and medications, somewhere any -- sometimes anywhere between five and ten drips, along with other medications and physical care that needs to be provided. So it's extremely challenging and stressful.

HILL: Can only begin to imagine.

Juliette, as we look at what -- what could be done, there's so much talk about the Defense Production Act and the president having not really formally invoked this, despite him going back and forth on it. There's a lot of purporting in "The New York Times" and the "Washington Post" this morning about companies being confused, as well. What -- what should happen at this point?

KAYYEM: What should and should have happened. If I could just pause for a second and thank my other panelists for what they're doing to protect all of us. It's just -- it's remarkable.

The Defense Production Act is actually genius in the sense that it allows a president to not simply invoke, that's what Trump has done, but to turn on manufacturing. So basically, you would say -- the president would say to companies, Look, I need, you know, half a million ventilators or a million masks, or whatever the number is, and then they would be certain that there was a purchaser. That's the point of this.

And so what you're seeing in the reporting is these companies are saying, I can switch my manufacturing. I just have not been guaranteed a purchaser. So I'm not going to waste my time building something where I don't know that there's a purchaser.

The other important thing is that the Defense Production Act prevents price gouging, so that the -- basically, what we're hearing from the governors is that they're competing with each other, rather than a unified approach. What would be the better thing is that Donald Trump not simply invokes the Defense Production Act but he actually turns it on, starts surging these materials that we already know we need, pays the private sector. And the private sector is happy, because they're satisfying the national interest, but they're getting paid for it.

It is the simplest most genius act coming out of the -- in response to the Korean War. And why the president isn't moving forward has something, as he said yesterday, to do with his concerns that we would be like Venezuela.

This is not a taking of the private sector. This isn't taking over manufacturing. It is just prioritizing the production schedule and guaranteeing to the private sector that they actually have a market. And it ought to be used. It should have been used two months ago when we knew what we would have. And we're hearing that the private sector is ready. They're ready. They just need an order.

BERMAN: Let's be clear. The president is talking about the act, but he is not using it yet. And he could. KAYYEM: Exactly.

BERMAN: That's a choice right now?

KAYYEM: Yes, he's -- I described it as he's plugged in the microwave, but he hasn't pressed start. Right? That's all he's done.

BERMAN: What's the use of having it plugged in if you're not going to use it?

KAYYEM: Right.

BERMAN: That's his choice right now. We're waiting on that.

Dr. Varga, you say you are spending a lot of your time now creating space, opening up beds. Creating systems to take in, I think, what you consider to be a wave that is beginning to come right now.

Tell us how you're doing this, creating the space; why. And also, these triage tents, I understand, that you're going to erect outside some of these facilities.

VARGA: That's right. We have multiple things we're doing right now. We've erected tents outside several of our facilities, which are largely for triage of infectious patients as they come to the hospital.

We've also relocated two mobile emergency rooms to two of our largest campuses, and those are actually in place right now.

Some of the most amazing stuff I've seen, though, is we're actually turning regular medical surgical units in our hospitals -- For example, Hackensack University Medical Center has kind of almost overnight is turning med surge units into ICUs in the most creative ways. I mean, they're cutting holes in doors and putting windows so nurses can look and observe patients. They're taking windows out of the rooms and putting big filters that help ventilate contaminated air outside. And literally, we are filling them up as we bring them online.

HILL: As we're hearing about some of these changes that are happening at Dr. Varga's hospital, Arlene, I'm curious. We're talking so much about what you are facing on the frontlines. How much input have you and your colleagues had in terms of the changes that are coming your way as you adapt, really, I'm imagining on an hourly basis, not just a daily basis?

VAN DYK: Right, yes. So you know, as I mentioned, we every day are dealing with obstacles that we are, you know, becoming very creative in overcoming. Our administration has been extremely respective and responsive to things that, as critical care nurses, we have come up with different ideas that could be done. And if it's feasible and it's safe, they do it for us. Pretty much whatever we -- we question or ask, they -- they are very compliant with that.

Our hospital is going through changes every day. They are creating rooms of negative pressure. Our ICU went from two negative pressure rooms to 19 negative pressure rooms within a matter of three days. We are constantly, 24/7, expanding our capability to accept more patients and be able to take for them.

BERMAN: Juliette, I want to read you something that President Trump wrote overnight, and I want your help trying to understanding -- in understanding what it means and the significance going forward.


"We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself." Now, I will tell you, that's something that you do hear out there in the world right now. That by shutting everything down, we're creating problems that may not be as bad as if we just let coronavirus run its course. But there seems to be a suggestion that the 15-day period may be it. It's hanging in the balance. What do you take from this?

KAYYEM: So it's -- it's a surprising tweet. So let me just make it clear. No country has done this in 15 days, not even the most aggressive, totalitarian countries.

So this 15 days is just -- I think was a way of sort of making it easy on us. We are not doing aggressive national, nationwide social distancing, so it's a bit of an experiment.

Social distancing buys us time. What does it buy us time for? Well, on the far end is a vaccine, which no one thinks is going to be distributed for another 18 months.

But well before that, there's going to be mitigation measures. There's going to be treatment. There's going to be a greater capacity to help the doctor and the nurse. There's going to be other ways that we can protect people. More testing, for example. So we're just buying time.

This 15 days is bogus. I mean, it's just -- it's just a number out there. We will see where we are in 15 days.

And my concern with this tweet -- and I've been wondering what Trump's plans are -- is that he has been looking for a quick fix, a vaccine, a treatment, and now a date certain. There's no quick fix. And I think an honest White House, as you see, even Dr. Fauci trying to sort of prepare us with -- prepare us that this is really hard. And in fact, it's going to get harder until it gets easier. We've got to sort of flatten the curve, protect our hospitals, and then surge resources.

But people who want to get out, right, we do have to balance the economy and other needs. We know that. But for people who want to get out at day 15, what they won't answer is what do you do when our healthcare system collapses?

As we're hearing from the doctor and nurse, they're barely a day from that happening. You can't have a functioning society where people cannot access healthcare.

So those people who want a date certain, answer that question. And I think Donald Trump is not able to.

So we will see a week from tomorrow, I believe, whether you know, Donald Trump is willing to sort of prepare us for the long road ahead and surge resources to protect our health community and to protect people like the doctor and nurse here who are on the frontlines.

BERMAN: And it also begs the question, I mean, how many deaths is he willing to accept? It's a provocative statement. It really is.

KAYYEM: It is.

BERMAN: All right. Juliette, thank you. Guys, stand by. Much more to discuss coming up.

HILL: Including President Trump touting a malaria drug, as we've been talking about, as a potential coronavirus treatment. So we'll take a closer look at what we know about its effectiveness and also, other treatments that are being considered.

Stay with us. That's next.



BERMAN: The number of coronavirus cases in the world topped 340,000. In the United States, we have more than 400 deaths as cities across the country, including some of the largest, are saying that they are bracing for a wave, and they do not have the supplies that they need.

Back with us, Dr. Daniel Varga, chief physician executive at Hackensack Meridian Health; and Arlene Van Dyk, a critical care nurse at Holy Name Medical Center, both in New Jersey.

And Arlene, I just want people to understand what it is like for you to interact with these patients who come in concerned that they have coronavirus. What is the actual interaction like?

VAN DYK: Well, in the critical care department that I'm in, we're at the frontline where these patients, unfortunately, have already taken a turn for the worse. They are the sickest of the sick, and they're coming to us on respirators.

Emotionally, we're dealing with the families who cannot be with their loved ones, cannot see their loved ones; and the care becomes very challenging.

BERMAN: Yes, I was going to ask you about that. These are people who, by definition, need to be alone, separated from their families. What's the protocol there, and how difficult is that?

VAN DYK: Right. So you know, emotionally, for the nurses, that's a very difficult aspect, because you know, in providing quality care, the families are included. And in this crisis, the families cannot personally, physically be included at the bedside like we usually would do.

So ways that we're adapting to that is we will put families on iPad, Skyping just as like what we're doing now, so that they can see their loved ones. And more importantly, that they can speak to them and feel that they're connected to them even though they cannot be personally at the bedside.