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Trump At Odds With Health Care Experts On Reopening Country; Doctors Please For Critical Supplies To Treat Patients; Nurses Describe Battlefield Inside Washington Nursing Home. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to have family and friends.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Thanks, Al. Now I'm going to start crying. That is beautiful.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: That is awesome. A shout-out to Allan (ph).

Can I just say, in that parade at the school, I think there was a DeLorean. I think the first car was a DeLorean. So everyone out there, please check your TiVo and tell me if I'm right. I need (INAUDIBLE) of that.

CAMEROTA: I think you're right because they had doors, they went like that.

BERMAN: All right. I think it was a DeLorean, but please let us now.

CAMEROTA: All right. There are big developments, of course, on the pandemic. New Day continues right now.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, this is New Day.

And a real shift from the president on the duration of social distancing and a real split this morning between the president and his public health advisers about how long to keep people at home in the U.S. to battle this will coronavirus pandemic.

This is what the president is now telling the country.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: 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 closed for the next -- you know, for years, okay? This is going away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: That position seems to directly contradict public health officials, Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of them, who are encouraging Americans to social distance. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said that pitting the economy against public health is a false choice.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It's a false choice to say public health or restart the economy, right? Nobody is going to make that choice. And, by the way, if you have to make that choice, it's public health, all right, because you cannot put a value on a human life. And nobody cares how long it takes to get the economy up and running if you actually save lives.


CAMEROTA: Well, the president may feel differently. His reversal came on the deadliest day of the outbreak so far in the United States. The death toll is 542 at the moment. There are more than 43,000 cases throughout the country.

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

Army field hospitals to treat hundreds of patients are scheduled to arrive in New York and Seattle in just the next few days. This morning, New York City is the area of biggest 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.

Now, across the country governors and mayors say they are running out of time and patience because they are scrambling to fill critical gaps in medical equipment.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also with us, CNN Medical Analyst Arthur Caplan, he is the Director of the Medical Ethics Division at NYU's Langone Medical Center.

And, Sanjay, I want to start with you just on the facts from a public health perspective, how close is the United States, how close is this country to being able to end this policy of social distancing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT Well, sadly, John, I don't think we're really anywhere close to that right now. I mean, there are several reasons why. We can look around the world and see what has happened other places around the world, those places that have had -- still having difficulty controlling this and places that have had success and see what they've done. The social distancing plans have been several weeks, not a couple weeks like this.

But also, John, you know, I think it's worth pointing out something that we talked about yesterday, and that is that when looking at these numbers going up, they're giving us a reflection of the exposures from probably 10 to 14 days ago. It takes a while from the time of exposure for someone to develop symptoms and then a few days after that before they can get a test result.

So the point is that over the last 10 to 14 days, there's clearly been more spread of this virus around the country. So the numbers that you just showed will continue to go up. So if anything, not only are the numbers going up, but the pace at which the numbers are going up as well, they have more inertia, John. So at that point, pulling back on the social distancing makes no sense. It's something moving faster and gaining more speed as it does.

So that flattening the curve graph there is what this all about, John.


I mean, it's a point again that I think people are starting to come to understand. But, ultimately, it is sort of acknowledged that a lot of people will be exposed to this virus. It's really about the pace at which they're exposed to this virus so that the hospital systems are not overwhelmed.

Now is not the time to pull back. And just about every public health expert that I've spoken to has said that. At least they're telling me if they're not always saying it out loud public.

BERMAN: Dr. Caplan, it seems to me this is the type of thing you could teach or probably have been teaching in your medical ethics class for decades. But if you have a question of the economy versus public health, what's the risk of that framing?

DR. ARTHUR CAPLAN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, if you put the economy ahead of public health and then you have people dropping like flies from the pandemic, you're going to ruin the economy anyway. There's no choice about this. It's got to lean toward public health. You have to tamp down the pandemic, as Sanjay said. We're two weeks behind where the virus is.

So when the president starts talking about we're going to open up, we're going to open up for business, not only are we arguing about, you know, are we going to wait 15 days and then go back to normal? He's undermining the efforts to keep people socially distant now. Because what they hear is, well, you know, we've got to open up the economy or maybe the social distancing doesn't matter so much.

So, morally, you know, it's public health over the economy in the short run.

BERMAN: What about the comparison that the president made and others have made it too, and I want to play it for you right now, comparing this pandemic to car accidents? Listen.


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: So, Dr. Caplan, what about that comparison?

CAPLAN: I think it's a false comparison. Car accidents, while horrible, don't overwhelm the healthcare system. Flu, while terrible, this coronavirus is much nastier, more virulent, more deadly. So it's just not the right way to look at this. What you want to do is, say, if you don't want hundreds of thousands of deaths on your hand, keep the only two we've got, social distancing.

And I should add, if we want to try and open the economy up faster, Trump and the White House keep telling us that tests are available and we can get everybody test. Well, South Korea is showing us that you can sort of go back to a more normal economy if you can test everyone because then you know who to isolate, then you know who really needs to self-quarantine once you start identifying people who are sick or infected. But, where are the tests?

BERMAN: We also missed that opportunity to a certain extent. We didn't test people when maybe mass testing could have made a difference.

Sanjay, another big development overnight, and I just don't want to lose sight of this because I live in New York City, among other things. I want to play what Dr. Deborah Birx had to say about the attack rate, about just the extent to which this city that I'm in right now is becoming infected. Listen.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: The New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island, have an attack rate close to one in a thousand. This is five times what the other areas are seeing. Through the high throughput lab investigations we're finding that 28 percent of the submitted specimens are positive from that area where it's less than 8 percent in the rest of the country.

So to all of my friends and colleagues in New York, this is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time. Clearly, the virus had been circulating there for a number of weeks to have this level of penetrance into the general community.


BERMAN: First of all, just very phrase attack rate is something that's a little bit disquieting. Secondly, what's the significance of this, Sanjay, especially because Andrew Cuomo, the governor said a little bit later that the number of cases may be doubling every two days here?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, I mean, this is not surprising. I think if you look at what has happened happening in New York City and the fact that the virus has largely likely been circulating there for some time. But, John, you know, I think that this is happening in other communities around the country as well.

New York is testing more, it is a dense city, there's public transportation, there's all sorts of different reasons for the virus to be circulating more robustly. But, you know, I do think that there's so many communities around the country where this virus is circulating. It has to be, I mean, other place where there's international airports.

We know in Washington State the virus was clearly circulating there for a long time. There's a lot of case there, but I think some of this is reflective of the testing and some of this, as Professor Caplan was just talking about, the fact that we are just behind the curve in many of these other communities.


So once we start testing and getting up to speed, you know, I mean, again, I take no joy in saying this stuff, but the reality is that we're going to see evidence of more community spread in more communities around the country, I think, over the next couple weeks.

BERMAN: And just one thing Sanjay has pointed out, look at Hong Kong, a place where the case level had been relatively flat, they opened up society a little bit, and now, the number of cases over the last few days has gone back up again. That could be the risk of this type of thing.

Dr. Caplan there are does raise, and I don't want people to think this isn't a complicated discussion, and people shouldn't estimate the role of the economy and overall well-being plays in daily life, but it gets to a very, very heady debate which is what is the value. How do you place a value on a human life?

CAPLAN: Well people do. The U.S. government does. The military does. As prudent, crass as it may seem, we have measures that economists love to say, the human life is worth about $9 million in this setting, et cetera, et cetera. But when the economy goes south, there's no doubt that people not being able to eat, crime goes up, you can imagine social repercussions.

But let's get real here. We're talking about trying to stick with this 30 days, not 15 days, then taking the temperature where things are with the virus around the country to start undermining that, our best weapon right now for fear of, you know, where the economy is going, I keep thinking to myself when the CEO is ready to take the subway to work or a bus to work and then operate the elevator in their company, I'm going to get some sense that they think it's safe enough to end social distancing, and I don't think we're there yet.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I want to talk about Hong Kong briefly so people understand what happened there.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, look, this was the model that a lot of people were holding up. They had a relatively low case volume of confirmed cases and then, you know, the sense was a little bit of complacency. Take the foot off the gas a little bit and within a few days, you saw the number of cases double.

Like many of those cases, to be fair, were cases that were imported, coming from other countries and then starting to circulate within Hong Kong again. But, I think, look, you don't have to look throughout history, but you can just look around the world right now to see what happens if you start to pull back on some of these measures.

I mean, I worry that we could have the worst of both worlds in the sense that the numbers start go up again significantly as they already are, and we don't have any benefits to the economy that people are trying to balance this with. Because, you know, we'll be dealing with this for a much longer time at a higher volume.

So Hong Kong a cautionary tale. People should read about what's happened in Hong Kong, understand that and it might give a better sense of what to try and avoid here.

BERMAN: Dr. Gupta, Dr. Caplan, thank you for being with us this morning. I really appreciate the time to talk this through.

This morning, the president is making statements about how hard it is to buy masks and ventilators on the global market. But there is action he can take now to speed up manufacturing. We're going to speak to someone with experience battling pandemics, next.




DR. NASIR KHATRI, CHAPEL HILL, N.C. HOSPITAL: They will be at work for 17 hours. We're putting our lives and our family's lives at risk.

So I just want to take a moment and make a plea for the PPE, the personal protective equipment that doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals of all types use when we're interacting with patients.

We're going to run short. We're already doing a lot of measures here at N.C. to recycle, potentially reuse after sterilizing. Masks is something we have never had to do before.


CAMEROTA: That doctor is not alone. Healthcare workers across the country are begging for supplies and warning that hospitals are running dangerously low on the protective equipment. But President Trump has resisted using the Defense Production Act, which would speed up manufacturing. Why?

Joining us now is Beth Cameron. She ran the White House Pandemic Office during the Obama administration. President Trump disbanded that office in 2018.

Ms. Cameron, we're so happen to have you here. That is baffling to so many people that this global pandemic office that you ran existed in the White House under President Obama, President Trump, we know, and I think he has said he liked fewer people in the White House but he disbanded it. If that office still existed, what would you be doing right now that's not being done?

BETH CAMERON, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So I think, most importantly, if that office had existed in January and December and January, really, when the first cases were starting to perk late and when people were starting to realize that this was going to become a major epidemic and then ultimately a pandemic,

I think this office would have been trying to -- our office would have been trying to get ahead to think about where we are now and all of the needs that we had to solve problems before they became major issues and to really ask all of the questions that the public health experts and the scientists who are doing their jobs don't have time to sort of get up to the 30,000-foot level and ask.

So I definitely think that we lost some valuable time, but, look, we are where we are. There's a massive U.S. response and there's a massive global response that I really think the U.S. needs to be leading.

CAMEROTA: Another baffling thing to many people is the lack of green lighting the Defense Production Act. Just yesterday in the White House briefing, Rear Admiral Polowcyzk, who is part of the presidential task force on this, said, quote, they have a team that is searching the globe for personal protective equipment.


Why? Why do they need to search the globe for this when, if you used the DPA, the Defense Production Act, we could fire up manufacturing here and make it ourselves?

CAMERON: Well, I think we're really behind. And so where that places us right now is having to search the globe. So I spent some of this weekend talking to state and local officials. We're working with them on decision support. And I heard the most terrifying thing. One of the experts I talked to in a mayor's office was spending part of the weekend picking up personal protective equipment in her Subaru.

We're better than this. We run major logistics in military operations all over the world. We should be using the Defense Productions Act. We should have a centralized mechanism logistics coordinator leading it.

We can't have governors competing for supplies. This is not like a hurricane affecting only three states. It's going to and it is already affect all 50 states. So we need a real centralized mechanism that is not responding in a piecemeal way and we need it now.

CAMEROTA: Governor Cuomo made it sound like survival of the fittest. I mean, he was basically saying that when they identified the need they have at the hospital, they try to get the personal protective equipment, but they've been outbid by another governor and another state so they up their number and they leave Illinois needing equipment. I mean, this is -- he says, this is no way to conduct a crisis. Do you have a sense because you know people in this world of why we're not using the Defense Production Act?

CAMERON: I don't. I can only speculate that there is concern among companies that this will somehow be, you know, an edict ordered upon them. And, honestly, I am not hearing that from companies and from people I'm talking to that there's concern about it.

There must be some concern somewhere because it's completely baffling to me that there isn't a more organized effort with companies looking at the whole supply chain here in the United States and globally and deciding what we need to do to produce the personal protective equipment and not just of the PPE, but the supplies for tests and the ventilators and medical equipment that we need.

It's not going to be overnight, so we really need to be prepared to look at this over the next, you know, several months, which means time is of the essence and we're already behind the curve.

CAMEROTA: But what you're telling us is that we have the mechanism for doing this. This is what the Defense Production Act was set up for. We could just turn this switch and it would be faster, correct me if I'm wrong, than searching the globe for this equipment?

CAMERON: Well, I think that it would have been faster. We should definitely still do it. This is not a -- this is a marathon, not a sprint, this pandemic. But at this point, where we are, is we can't just turn the switch and reconfigure production all over the country. We should have turned that switch weeks ago. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't turn it now and it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a centralized approach for working with companies.

And what I'm seeing from the outside is that it looks like a more piecemeal approach where specific companies are placing calls or people are placing calls to companies. But if there isn't a centralized coordinated mechanism like we could gather under the Defense Production Act to figure out the needs and systemically work on filling them, that is what's missing.

And we have the logistics capability, the best logistics capability of any country on the globe. This is something we can do.

CAMEROTA: That is helpful information.

And so if, as the president said he hopes yesterday, America stops the shutdown and leaves their house and gets back to work in the space of a couple of weeks, what do you think will happen?

CAMERON: Well, I think, first of all, I agree with Sanjay and Dr. Caplan, Dr. Gupta and Dr. Caplan from the last segment. We should not be doing this. We cannot be relaxing social distancing measures. What will happen if we do it is we will have an increase rise in cases and it will start crashing out our healthcare system even more than that's already happening in places like New York and Seattle. And if that does happen, ultimately, it will set our economy back even further. And, of course, it will place high-risk populations like the elderly in grave danger. So we need to stay at home, we need to continue the social distancing measures and we need to do that until we have a routine supply of personal protective equipment, healthcare workers, and we need massive testing so that we know who is infect worded, who was infected, and we get to the point where there's a small enough number of cases where we can trace those cases, isolate the people who have the disease and others can go about more of a daily normal routine. But we are not at that point yet.

CAMEROTA: Beth Cameron, we really appreciate you sharing your expertise with us. Thank you very much.


CAMERON: Thank you so much for having me.

CAMEROTA: Workers at the Seattle area nursing home were among the first to fight the coronavirus in the U.S. You'll remember, dozens died there. So we have their stories in a CNN exclusive for you, next.


BERMAN: This morning, nurses at the Life Care Nursing Home in Kirkland, Washington, are speaking out about the first terrifying days of the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States.

CNN's Sara Sidner with a CNN exclusive.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like a war zone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, all of the sudden, there were so many patients. Everybody needed medications, everybody needed treatment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had 70 staff within a week that were out.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These healthcare workers were among the first to battle the COVID-19 outbreak in America. Few in the United States have more experience with the deadly toll it took.

How quickly do you see the demise of someone with COVID-19?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less than 24 hours.

SIDNER: They work at Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home where 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.