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Trump at Odds with Health Experts on Reopening Country; New York City Experiencing Worst Hit from Virus; White House, Senate Leaders Close to Deal on Stimulus Plan; Doctors Describe Life on the Frontlines of the Pandemic. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's getting what they need. The private sector is ramping up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FEMA is starting to deliver some of those supplies.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I just got off the phone with a new projection model. New York City, we're seeing double the number of cases every 2 1/2 days. That can take your breath away.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it were up to the doctors, they'd say, Let's shut down the entire world. You can't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a big disconnect between what the president is saying and the reality on the ground. It killed 100 people in the last 24 hours.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR FOR WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: What the president has asked us to do is to assemble all the data and give him our best medical recommendation.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, March 24, 6 a.m. here in New York.

President Trump and his top health advisers are at odds this morning over how long to keep the nation at home and to keep the economy frozen. President Trump says he wants to reopen the country in weeks, not months. And that directly contradicts the concerns of the World Health Organization which warns the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating. A senior White House official tells CNN that if it were up to

World Health Organization which warns the World Health Organization, which warns the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating.

A senior White House official tells CNN that, if it were up to Dr. Anthony Fauci, there would, quote, "be no contact between humans until July," end quote.

A senior health official also tells CNN that public health experts are looking at ways for an orderly return to life, but they believe we could be in this precarious health situation for the next 12 to 18 months, John, despite whether or not we're all getting restless.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. The president's fairly sudden reversal on social distancing came on the deadliest day of the outbreak so far in the United States. More than 100 people died yesterday. In total, at least 542 people have died in the U.S., with more than 43,000 cases.

Americans in 16 states under a stay-at-home order by midnight tonight. That's more than 142 million people, 43 percent of the population.

Army field hospitals to treat hundreds of patients scheduled to arrive in New York City in Seattle in the next few days.

This morning, New York City really is the area of greatest concern. Officials say the rate of people getting sick here is five times more severe than any other city. There was a spike of 3,000 cases yesterday alone. Dr. Birx called it "the attack rate."

Across the country, governors and mayors, they're running out of time and patience, scrambling to fill critical gaps in medical equipment. To get by, medical workers are being asked to reuse supplies.

One doctor says healthcare workers feel like lambs being sent to a slaughterhouse.

We want to begin our coverage with Brynn Gingras, who is live in New York City, where Brynn, we are getting the sense now from officials that things here are bad and getting worse now at an alarming rate.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, let me throw another statistic at you, John. Every 2 1/2 days here in New York the number of cases double. That's the situation we're facing here. I can tell you it's 6 a.m. in this morning, and right now there's about six people standing in line, trying to get some sort of care, trying to get tested.

Field hospitals are being built. The governor is asking that all hospitals increase their capacity by 50 percent.

This all coming as the president is pushing to restart the economy in the next couple of weeks, even against the warnings of his own health officials.


GINGRAS (voice-over): New York City's now the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 13,000 cases identified here. MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: No one wants that

distinction, not a single one of us, but it is true. And that's why we so desperately need help, particularly from our federal government, to get through it.

GINGRAS: The White House coronavirus task force revealing the virus has an attack rate of close to one in a thousand in the New York metro area, and 28 percent of those tested are positive.

BIRX: This is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time.

GINGRAS: Despite the climbing numbers in New York, President Trump still suggesting he's eager to end the virtual nationwide shutdown as soon as next week, contradicting his own health experts.

TRUMP: Our country wasn't built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this. America will again, and soon, be open for business, very soon.

GINGRAS: And countering many officials leading in states battling exponentially rising cases.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: We believe that social distancing, that's how you keep the pressure off the health care system.

GINGRAS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited this convention center in midtown Manhattan, where the National Guard is quickly working to transform it into a makeshift hospital with 1,000 beds.

CUOMO: We can scramble and create beds. We'll have a staff problem, because staff are getting sick.

GINGRAS: Even with the federal government stepping in to supply some crucial medical equipment like masks and gloves, officials say that's just a temporary solution.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Our national stockpile allotment covered one shift at a hospital.

GINGRAS: Across the country, businesses continue to close, and even parks and playgrounds are shuttered temporarily, all efforts to help flatten the curve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's necessary. I think an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

GINGRAS: Over 142 million Americans in at least 16 states will be under stay-at-home orders by Wednesday.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): It's time to hunker down in order to win this fight.


GINGRAS: Here in New York, the governor says he has his own task force to get people back to work, but it won't be at the cost of public health.

A little bit of hope this morning, John. We're hearing that that drug that was fast-tracked by the FDA that's used to treat malaria, well, that will be arriving at New York hospitals today; and that drug therapy will begin immediately -- John.


BERMAN: That's a good thing, because Dr. Birx was talking about the attack rate here in New York. One in 1,000 people have coronavirus, she suggests, which is a very high number. Twenty-eight percent of the people being tested testing positive, and maybe that's even underestimating things.

Brynn Gingras, here in New York, thank you very much.

So happening now, a deal in sight? Maybe. Senate Democrats and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, say they are closer to this $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, but still nothing official. And now it's not totally clear what the president would support.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on Capitol Hill with the very latest. This went late, late into the night, if not early this morning, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did. It was when you and I, perhaps, were sleeping. This was just before midnight that this happened, and it was after day four, no deal on this $2 trillion economic stimulus package.

But there is a sense of urgency here on Capitol Hill. You had 15 hours of meetings that happened yesterday. You had a back and forth. Offers, counteroffers, outrage that was spilling on the Senate floor.

The major players, of course -- Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the White House political director and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin -- all meeting behind closed doors, just trying to work through some of those details.

Mnuchin saying late in the day that he had called President Trump ten times yesterday to see, is this a bill that he would actually sign. He said that Trump was happy with this, that they were very close and that Mnuchin would come back here on Capitol Hill 9:30 this morning. So we'll see how all of this plays out.

Of course, one of those sticking points, John, as you know, the $500 billion that Democrats are calling a slush fund. This would be in the form of loans to businesses, but very little oversight. President Trump saying that he would be the oversight. So that is a big problem. They said that they're going to try to work through that.

Republicans also accusing Democrats of adding pet projects, things that have nothing to do with an emergency.

And finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday outlining and unveiling her own plan. It is called the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act. I asked her about that, what it entailed, and she said that title is meant for Trump, a message to him to take responsibility, John.

BERMAN: All right. Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill. We really are standing by for any news on this, because an announcement one way or the other, you might think it would come before the markets open later this morning. Thanks, Suzanne.

So this major shift from the president on social distancing, is it prioritizing the economy over public health? And is the public health effort against this pandemic actually ready to end social distancing?




TRUMP: I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We're going to be opening up our country, but you can't keep it closed for the next, you know, for years. OK? This is going away.


BERMAN: That's President Trump, telling reporters that he hopes to relax social distancing measures in weeks, not months. He says it's for the sake of the U.S. economy. That position puts him at odds with his own public health officials, who warn that it could make the pandemic worse.

Joining us now is Dr. Celine Gowder, CNN medical analyst and infectious disease specialist who was on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. Mitch Landrieu, CNN political analyst, former mayor of New Orleans. And David Gregory, CNN political analyst.

And Dr. Gowder, I want to talk to you, because you're spending the time you're not on with us, actually on the front lines battling this pandemic. How ready is this battle against the pandemic? How ready is it for the end or the phasing out of social distancing?

DR. CELINE GOWDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, we're still at the very beginning of this exponential phase, increase in growth of cases here in New York City. So I think we're quite far away from that, quite frankly.

It was really strange to be at the hospital on Sunday. We basically have cleared out just about every patient who has anything other than coronavirus. And, it's a really strange feeling. You know, the hallways are really quiet, because everybody's kind of keeping to their corners. And then every hour or so, you get this overhead page about a patient who needs to be transferred to the ICU and put on a ventilator.

BERMAN: What would happen if all of a sudden, in two weeks or however many weeks the president deems, that he relaxes some of these guidelines? People can go back to work. They can gather in groups of more than ten, Maybe not in New York City, but around the country. What would happen to your efforts?

GOWDER: Well, I think your numbers of patients would continue to shoot up.

And, you know, right now we're already out at some hospitals. We're out of the N-95 respirator masks. We're running low on the surgical masks, low on the face shields, running low on the gowns. So doctors are basically reusing -- you know, wearing the same thing over and over for the course of the day. And even then we're running low.

So you're going to create situations that are extremely dangerous for healthcare providers, that are also not safe for patients because, you know, you can only staff so many patients safely.

BERMAN: Mayor Landrieu, how should citizens in the United States or people living in this country take what appear to be mixed messages coming from mayors and governors in some cities who are now just instituting some of these orders?

Massachusetts, the stay-at-home order goes into effect today. So you have some states saying, Stay at home now, where the president's saying, In two weeks, I may tell you you don't have to stay at home any more. So how does this messaging affect people?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the first order of business, when you have a major disaster like this or a pandemic, is to do everything you can to protect people's lives.

The organizational structure is there has to be clear command and control, clear coordination and clear communication. And now, thanks to the president, we have the opposite of that.

The president is going to come to regret, I think, terribly, his statement last night, because this week in America what we all have to do, three things: A, stay away from each other; B, get all the medical supplies to the ground and to the first responders like the doctor said; and C, for Congress to pass a recovery package so that we can figure out how to start getting our way out of this.


But when the president asks us to choose between life and our pocketbook, that is a dangerous equation to start talking about to the American public, and it was very unfortunate that he started talking about it last night. All of the health professionals -- and there's a reason why Dr. Fauci wasn't there last night -- would give him advice that that is not the right course of action. And it was really unfortunate.

We have to stay focused this week on the A, B, Cs that I just talked about in order for us to even think about getting out of this. And next week is going to be way too soon.

BERMAN: David Gregory, to you. First of all, it's nice to see you. All of us are now basically living in our little silos here. And David, I'm used to seeing you almost every morning, sometimes in person. It's nice to even see your face in a little box.

You were watching this news conference last night, and you reacted by saying, Did I miss something here?


BERMAN: Is the United States all of a sudden winning this battle against coronavirus? And what about the masks?

GREGORY: Yes, I mean, I'm just -- I'm with Mayor Landrieu. I mean, the disconnect in what we're hearing, where we've got this attack rate on New York. We still have another week of the president's own order of the 15 days of something of a shutdown, and now the president's talking about pulling out of all of this.

You had to listen closely, I think, to what officials were saying. Dr. Birx was saying something different, which is, let's be led by the data. Let's see where we are. The president was saying that, as well.

There's no question that he's being lobbied hard by people who are saying, Look, you can't continue to shut down forever. You can't fight the virus at the expense completely of the U.S. economy.

That's why the stimulus package is so important.

And what I heard health officials saying, because I think that the mayor is right, his health officials -- and the president acknowledges it by saying, Look, if you leave it up to them, we'd be shut down for two years, which was this kind of dismissive caricature of their advice.

But I think what he's saying is, can we get to a point where we can think about isolation, think about quarantine, even, in some cases in more isolated areas of the country? And could there be parts of the economy that get kickstarted?

How you go about doing that is not at all clear, but I think that's an -- even on CNN last night, there was an expert out of Yale who was saying something very similar in perhaps a less jarring way than the president was saying it.

But I think the scientists would argue you've got to be led by the data. You have to see where you are in a week before you can contemplate that kind of patchwork approach at a time when we don't have complete buy-in around the country around what you have to do to isolate.

BERMAN: Dr. Gowder, talk about this attack rate in New York City, if you will. It's something that Dr. Birx brought up in this news conference with the president last night, saying that 1 in 1,000 people in New York City are now with coronavirus. Twenty-eight percent of the people being tested are positive with it.

And then Governor Cuomo was suggesting that the number of cases could double every 2 1/2 days. Put this all in perspective for us. GOWDER: Well, 1 in 1,000 may not sound like a lot, but once you have a

doubling rate of every two days -- and by the way, we have one of the highest doubling rates in the world right now. You know, that means that this is really going to grow quite quickly.

And so, you know, if I was covering 30 patients on Sunday, I would be looking at covering 60 patients the next day, and 120 in the next day, and then 240. You can see where that quickly is not sustainable. And when that happens, that's when you see mortality rates shoot up, because I can't take as good care of a patient when I have 240 patients, right?

So you know, this is very dangerous for patients, as well as providers.

BERMAN: Governor -- I mean, Mayor Landrieu, I want to play you the president comparing this to the flu and car accidents. And the car accident thing, I don't want to make it seem like the president's alone on this. I also don't want to make it seem like it's not a complicated discussion with people -- you know, Democrats and Republicans who are concerned now about the economy weighing in. But listen to the president on that issue.


TRUMP: We have a very active flu season, more active than most. It's looking like it's heading to 50,000 or more deaths. And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we're talking about. That doesn't mean we're going to tell everybody no more driving of cars.


BERMAN: Car accidents, is this just an issue of car accidents, we don't shut down the roads, Mayor?

LANDRIEU: Well, I would make -- I would make a couple of points. First of all, the doubling rate in New Orleans is at almost exactly the same as New York's. So this is really spreading across the country fairly aggressively.

Secondly, when the president says it like that, it's very dismissive. It's though why we are doing any of this anyway? I mean, if that's how many people die from car accidents, why are we even bothering?


And giving him the benefit of the doubt, even if we have to start finding a, as David said, a more precise way of dealing with this, last night was the absolute wrong time to talk about this.

This country this week needs to do three very simple but very hard things. One, stay at home. Two, get the medical supplies to our first responders so that they can be safe and treat the thing. And thirdly, for Congress to get that package passed. If they did that, all as a country, all unified, we would make significant headway and, at some point in time, begin to talk about more precise ways to attack the virus.

But last night he caused a tremendous amount of confusion and anxiety and took our eye off of the ball. And I think that was unfortunate.

BERMAN: But, David Gregory, we are hearing it from the likes of Thomas Friedman, who writes in "The New York Times." You talked about the Yale med dean who you heard from last night who's also written about this.

Economists, you know, Lloyd Blankfein, former head of Goldman Sachs, saying there's got to be a way to open up parts of the economy here. Is it possible, or how is it possible?

GREGORY: Well, I think that, first of all, you have to be driven by data. I mean, what I heard Dr. Katz say last night with Anderson -- and others have made the point -- is that it you have a reliable set of data, you can perhaps project out and surveil the disease. Where is it going?

I mean, what I don't like about the comparison with the flu, even, or car accidents is that you have so much ambiguity about this virus. Where is it headed? Where does it stop? And we don't have a way to stop it, because we don't have a vaccine.

So given that, health professionals have to be able to evaluate data on demographic sets, for one thing. You know, who is least likely to be the most affected by this virus?

And I think there's no question that, if you are vulnerable in any way or if you're an older American, you're going to have to continue this isolation and this separation for a long time. And I haven't heard anybody say differently.

And then how you go about doing that is not clear to me. We -- you can look at a map of the United States and see that New York is far more affected than other parts of the country. Do you have an ability for small businesses, even for schools, to reopen in parts of the country? I think that's what the economists are looking at right now.

BERMAN: Yes, that's what the economists say. There's really no question that public health officials almost in unanimity, though, are saying, We are not ready to end this social distancing. Not yet.

All right, friends. Stand by. We've got much more to discuss.

Doctors across the country documenting their experiences on the front line of this fight against the pandemic. Their remarkable video diaries, next.



CAMEROTA: While Americans hunker down, healthcare workers across the country are on the front lines of this pandemic. We wanted to hear their stories, but because of medical guidelines, we cannot film them. So we asked them to film themselves throughout the day as they try to fight this virus. Here's what it's like in their own voices.


DR. PHILIP MANNERS, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I work at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. And it's currently about 6:30 in the morning. I'm about to head into work to start my 7 a.m. shift. And the thing that's concerning us most right now, I think, for the majority of physicians, at least, is the -- the decreasing supplies of PPE or personal protective equipment. I've got to finish my cup of tea and head out.

DR. HERMAL SAMPAT, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I slept about five hours last night. I would have slept more, but one of our colleagues had a medical emergency coming into work this morning. I think the thought on my mind is some combination of anticipation or apprehension, mixed together with a strong sense of camaraderie and a strong sense of cold determination.

MANNERS: I just arrived at the hospital, starting my shift this morning. And immediately there's a difference. This face mask is now required of all employees in the hospital and is to remain on for the entire shift.

The other thing that's particularly striking is the atmosphere within the hospital. It's markedly different. It's very, very quiet. Usually on a Monday morning, this hospital would be bustling with activity and there's just -- it's almost like a ghost town. So I'm about to go off on a round with my patients, and we'll see how the day progresses from here.

SAMPAT: Hi. It's about 3:30 in the afternoon right now, and I think one of the thoughts that comes to mind right now is just how much COVID-19 has just completely defined everything that we're doing here. The care of every single patient is impacted because of it. Patients who need to go to nursing homes who can't, because it's considered too risky to transport them right now.

MANNERS; So it's the end of my shift now. It's just after 7 p.m. I've signed out my last patient to the night team.

And just because, you know, we have this -- this surge and this virus going on doesn't mean that people don't get the usual illnesses, don't get the need for admission for other reasons, and that doesn't stop. You know, we still need to continue to care for those patients.

We have had quite a few patients today who are concerned that they're going to be exposed, and they feel like they're probably safer at home than in the hospital and have actually decided to -- to leave because of that. And that's -- that's a difficult situation to reconcile, especially if somebody is not necessarily ready to leave the hospital.