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Doctors Describe Life on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic; White House, Senate Leaders Close to Deal on Stimulus Plan to Assist American Workers; President Trump Touts Malaria Drug as Treatment Despite Lack of Research. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 06:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mission 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 that actually decided to leave because of that.

And that's a difficult situation to reconcile especially if somebody is not necessarily ready to leave the hospital.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Back with us now is Dr. Celine Gounder; she's our CNN medical analysts and infectious diseases specialist. And Gounder, I know that their stories are your stories. I mean, you relate to everything they're saying. You go right from your location at our broadcast back to the emergency room and to the hospital, and so what are your days like as you try to treat patients?

CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYSTS: Well, Alisyn, what was really striking to me, the doctor who said you know, it's eerie and quiet. That's exactly what I've been describing what it's been like to be at the hospital. Because on the one hand, it's full, it's full of patients, but we don't have families coming to visit. We don't have the other staff you usually see around, the physical therapists, the social workers, the pharmacists, et cetera, you know, in the hallways, at the nurse's stations with us.

It's really very -- it's very unsettling and, you know, the quiet is essentially punctuated every hour or so by an overhead page saying that there's a patient in distress who needs to be transferred to the ICU and put on a ventilator. And that's sort of what's marking our hours these days.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, for somebody, a lay person who's not in your field and who didn't take your oath, it sounds like a horror movie. I mean, it just sounds -- it sounds eerie, as you say, unsettling. How many hours are you spending at the hospital a day?

GOUNDER: Sunday, I pulled a 13-hour shift. You know, I mean, that's pretty typical. I wouldn't say that's necessarily out of the ordinary for doctors in general. But, you know, it is very concerning because if we truly have a doubling rate as we were talking about earlier of every two days, you know, I was covering 30 patients on Sunday.

But if every two days that doubled, that means you go to 60, 120, 240. I mean, that's not possible to take care of patients well. And that's when your mortality rates, your death rates not just from coronavirus, but you know, basically, anything that they're there for really start to shoot up. And that's why in certain situations like Wuhan, they had much higher case fatality rates. And we've put ourselves in a situation to replicate that if not worse.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, look, obviously you're trained for this. You had to work lots of hours in, you know, medical school and once you graduated. But how are you and your colleagues keeping from cracking during these stressful times?

GOUNDER: I think a lot of my colleagues are really having a hard time. What -- you know, one, it's the stress of the job. It's the long hours, yes. It's also the stress of feeling like we're not being looked out for, that we're basically being asked to jump off a cliff, you know, without the appropriate protective equipment. And so that's really hard. It's -- I think that's probably what's more stressful than the actual hard work of it itself.

CAMEROTA: That makes perfect sense. I mean, the idea that not only are you having to dive into this pandemic, but you're doing so without the right equipment, and so many doctors are getting sick. Do you know doctors who have become ill?

GOUNDER: We definitely have a number of staff right now who are not able to come to work because they are sick. You know, and that also hurts us because then we have that many fewer people available to take care of patients. So that sort of exacerbates the original problem of too many patients, not enough providers.

CAMEROTA: President Trump has used the metaphor for the economy, which I think is an apt one, that you don't want the cure to kill the patient. But I think we all understand that. But if the country opens up again in some way where people start going back to work in bigger numbers, what do you think will happen at the hospitals that you're seeing?

GOUNDER: Well, you know, you have to be alive to be able to take a cure. I would extend the metaphor in that way. And you know, that's what we need to focus on first. And then, you know, approach it the way China and Wuhan did. They basically did social distancing measures for about a month, but they did so extremely strictly, which we're not doing really anywhere to that degree of strictness.

And that's what then allowed them to compress the time during which they had to do that, and then start to lift measures. So the more aggressive we are up front, then that really buys us the luxury of being able to reopen things down the line, and do so with some of the more targeted approaches. But the sloppier we are right now, the slower we are, that's actually going to draw out this pain and the economic pain as well.

[06:35:00] CAMEROTA: Dr. Celine Gounder, we really appreciate you giving us all

of your expertise and everything that you're doing at the hospital for patients. Thank you very much for giving us your first-person take on this. And if you are a healthcare worker on the front lines of coronavirus and you'd like to share your experience, you can go to my Facebook page, you can find it at Alisyn Camerota, so we'd love to hear your story as well.

Americans across the country are desperate for help from the federal government. So when could you get a check? That's next.


CAMEROTA: White House and Senate leaders say they are optimistic the $2 trillion stimulus deal could be reached as early as this morning. Millions of American workers anxiously await economic relief from the federal government. Joining us now is CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans. So, Christine, if this Senate agrees and they pass this stimulus bill today, this morning --


CAMEROTA: How quickly could people get checks?


ROMANS: As quickly as they can. The Treasury Secretary has said, Alisyn, you know, maybe a couple of weeks. If they want to get that money in your hands as quickly as possible for a family of four, it's going to be something like 3 grand, and they want to get a bunch of many of the small businesses too, so they can keep people on their payrolls, Alisyn, and not have to fire them.

CAMEROTA: So one sticking point is this $500 billion --

ROMANS: Yes --

CAMEROTA: Fund to give to businesses. Democrats have been insisting on some oversight of this. Who would provide that?

ROMANS: Well, the president says he would be the oversight, which of course does not harden any Democrats here. But this is sort of like a stabilization fund, and look, it's necessary. You need to get this money, have it there so that companies have this to rely on, super critical. But what the Democrats don't want is they don't want something that's just to the discretion only of the Treasury secretary and the president.

They want to make sure that there's some congressional oversight of how that money is spent. There's other springs they want, too. They don't want to necessarily be bailing out airlines or bailing out industries, and then in two years, those industries, those companies are paying their CEOs a ton of money and using their new profits to buy back their own stock, which is good for shareholders, not for workers.

CAMEROTA: Because we've seen that movie before. I mean, this is why Democrats are insisting on --

ROMANS: Yes --

CAMEROTA: Getting the details hammered out beforehand, because there was all sorts of human cry about this in the past stimulus --

ROMANS: Yes --


ROMANS: And that was recent history, right? There's still a public mistrust of this process of bailouts because of what happened in 2008 and 2009. I do think, Alisyn, one bit of breathing space that Congress has right now is the Fed came in yesterday with the big guns and said, we will support the economy endlessly. The financial system endlessly. So you do have this, the Fed back-drop here that allows the Democrats a little bit of breathing space to try to get what they want.

CAMEROTA: One of the problems is that when President Trump says I'll be the oversight, I think that's his exact quote. The problem is that he is the self-proclaimed king of debt. He likes debt. So it's hard for Democrats to trust what he would do with the oversight.

ROMANS: And he's also in the hotel business, his family is in the hotel business, right? I mean, he could personally profit or could potentially need -- we don't know what his business arrangements are at the moment. But there's mistrust among some Democrats that the president wouldn't be self-dealing in some way here. He's been asked about it, and not really answered that question, instead, sort of diverting and saying what did he say or that he doesn't take a salary, and so he doesn't get enough congratulations for not taking a salary.

But, you know, this is $500 billion, we have never pushed this much money out the door, big $2 trillion package. So you know, I'm actually amazed that it's grown from a trillion to $2 trillion in a matter of days. It shows that both parties are willing to spend some money to, you know, prevent the economy from falling off a cliff.

CAMEROTA: But I'm glad that you point out that the president is not a totally disinterested player here. In fact, and I think that it needs to be noted, his resorts and golf clubs --

ROMANS: Right --

CAMEROTA: Are suffering during this time. I think that the six highest revenue-producing clubs of his are obviously suffering. They have been closed or at least shut down temporarily. And so when he's growing restless and impatient with the speed of turning the economy back on, you know, obviously this affects him closely.

ROMANS: There's also a contradiction here. If he's saying -- if he is, you know, getting restless about the economy be shutting down, but then at the same time saying we need this money, we need $2 trillion, we need Democrats to approve this, isn't that kind of a contradiction to say we need to have the economy up and running, but it has to have this emergency spending too? You know, I mean, you do need that spending, you do need -- this is a

$20 trillion economy, you probably need more than 2 trillion to stabilize it here, especially if this keeps on for another matter of weeks or even months. You need that money, both parties know it, they're just really hammering out the details.

CAMEROTA: We have Senator Joe Manchin coming up in the program who was part of all these negotiations overnight, so we'll see --


CAMEROTA: If something is going to happen this morning. Christine, thank you very much --

ROMANS: You're welcome --

CAMEROTA: For all of the information. President Trump is pushing this malaria drug also as a potential treatment for coronavirus. But is it available and does it work? Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates next.



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: A game changer. That is how President Trump describes the anti-malaria drug chloroquine. It's now one of 69 drugs been investigated as potential treatment against coronavirus. The problem, it has not yet been approved. And in Arizona, one man has died after an apparent attempt to self-medicate with that drug. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta with the very latest.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE 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 sick. And we can use it on those people. And maybe make them better. And in some cases maybe save their lives.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump says he's optimistic about some potential treatments for the novel coronavirus. In particular, a 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: 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, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The study that looked at

that drug and showed activity 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 decreased the amount of virus 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: 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 of the hospital before the trial ended. One couldn't tolerate the medication. Three went to the intensive care unit. That's an 11 percent critical care rate and one died. A 4 percent mortality rate. Now, those numbers are higher, critical care and mortality rates than the general population have been infected.

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, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: 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: And at the end of last week, chloroquine was added to the American Society of Health System pharmacists drug shortage list. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


BERMAN: Look, everyone wants hope, but it needs to be based in fact, and that's what trials are for. So the pressure is growing on the 2020 Summer Olympics. An announcement could come this morning on the fate of the Summer games. A live report from Japan, next.



CAMEROTA: This morning, it looks like the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics could be postponed. In just minutes, the Japanese Prime Minister will speak to the head of the International Olympic Committee and perhaps make a final decision. The pressure is on. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympics Committees signaled overnight that they support a delay. CNN's Will Ripley is live in Tokyo with the latest. There's a lot of pressure on them to do this, Will. WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is. And, you

know, when you start to look at the names that are going to be on this call, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Thomas Bach; the president of the IOC, you start to wonder if there's going to be an ask on the Japanese side that's been reported widely here locally in Japanese media that Shinzo Abe is going to ask the IOC to postpone the Tokyo games by one year.

Now, if he does make that request on the phone call, the IOC would be the ones to then make the official announcement. And we know that the IOC is going to be holding an emergency board meeting in the coming hours on the heels of this call. We also know that after the call, Prime Minister Abe and Governor Koike are expected to come out and speak with reporters during the 8:00 Eastern Time hour.

They could say, we're having very productive discussions where they could make the announcement that seems all, but inevitable that Tokyo 2020 is going to be postponed, maybe they'll give us some guidance on the timeline when they think the games will be held. And then of course, the massive undertaking begins to postpone the Olympics for the first time in modern Olympic history.

Remember, the Olympics were canceled during World War I and World War II. They've never been postponed. In the next few minutes, we could learn if history is about to change as a result of the novel coronavirus, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I mean, we all talk about how life-changing these weeks and days have been for us, for hunkering down at home. But think about those athletes. I mean, think about what this means for their lives and what they've spent the past years doing.

RIPLEY: Yes, I mean, you know, you have athletes who have been training in their homes because they can't get outside, but they're still trying to compete. You see these videos on social media of them, you know, covering their kitchen floor with, you know, dish detergent so they can run on the kitchen floor. I mean, these are the things that Olympians are trying to do to be prepared just in case the Olympics are held on schedule.

So it would put a lot of minds at ease around the world, particularly in the United States and in Europe where there are, you know, tens of millions of people on lockdown, if not hundreds of millions of people on lock-down to let these athletes know that they can relax, the Olympics are going to be postponed, and right now they focus on taking care of their health and their families.

CAMEROTA: OK, bring us the news as soon as you have it, Will. Thank you very much. Now, we want to highlight some good news and some people making a difference during the coronavirus crisis. Meet 14- year-old Harry Ding. He is a South Carolinian teenager, he started a donation drive to help health care workers who are desperately in need of medical supplies and protective equipment.

Harry reached out to members of the local Chinese community in Charleston, and in just three days, he collected more than 600 medical grade masks, a 100 pairs of gloves and $4,000. OK, next up, we have a school story for you. Schools are out everywhere of course because of the virus. But in one Maryland district, elementary school teachers and staff organized a parade, as you can see, driving by their students homes to visit at a socially safe distance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was cool that they just like planned this whole thing just so they can tell us that they miss us.


CAMEROTA: OK, and speaking of parades, friends and family celebrated Mr. Vicole -- oh, I'm sorry, Alfred Vicole's 92nd birthday in unique style. Since they could not have a big party, they went with a surprise birthday procession down Al street. This is in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He has eight children, 14 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren. So it was big. And when Al saw it, he was practically speechless.