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Nurses Describe Battlefield Inside Washington Nursing Home; Interview with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on the Stimulus Bill; New York Mom Talks About Self-Quarantining in Separate Room from Family. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 24, 2020 - 07:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 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?


SIDNER: Have any of you tested positive for COVID-19?


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.

CHELSEY EARNEST, REGISTERED NURSE, LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA: 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 eye shadow on, on the outside of their eyes. But we've had patients that just had the 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. Chelsey Earnest is a registered nurse and the nursing director at another life care 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: 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 seemed to happen on the nightshift, her shift.

EARNEST: That's how I describe it is, you're going off to war and you're in a battlefield where supplies are limited. The help is slow to get to you. And there's lots of casualties. And --

SIDNER (on camera): 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.


SIDNER: Nancy Butner is the vice president of Life Care Centers of America Northwest Division.

BUTNER: Just the patient, losing them. Because we're with them for so long, and it's hard.

SIDNER: After two days of madness, things seem to calm, but not for long.

EARNEST: There was a little lull, and I heard a cough and so I started following the coughs.

SIDNER: 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 the report on the facility. It found in part the facility's 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 work in 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 it would. It's -- you know, and again, in

health care you work in different settings.

SIDNER: If everyone was trained on infection control, how is it that so many patients got COVID-19 and so many members of 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 care giving 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: You mean wearing the personal protective equipment, you couldn't have been perfect because things were happening so fast you were trying to save lives?

EARNEST: Mm-hmm.

SIDNER (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: 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 a priority over unfortunately talking to families on the phone.


SIDNER: 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?


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: Everyone was doing everything until doctors and nurses arrive 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 I have no shame in saying that I was wrong.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sara Sidner, CNN, Kirkland, Washington.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just think of that strain, to see and be in the middle of so much loss and so much death, not be able to control it and also fear for yourself and your own safety all at the same time. Really unimaginable.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And, John, we also just learned things that I've never heard before in terms of how the virus manifests in some patients as well as what was going on inside that senior living -- assisted living center that we didn't know. I mean, we've only seen it from the outside. It was so great for Sara to get that perspective from the inside.

BERMAN: And just to hear them say they couldn't be perfect. It was all happening so fast they couldn't be perfect.

Senate Democrats and the Trump administration say they are close to a coronavirus stimulus deal. What is the hold-up? A key Senate Democrat joins us next.



CAMEROTA: Senate Democrats and the White House say they could have agreement this morning on a $2 trillion stimulus package to be combat the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Senator, thank you very much for taking the time.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Will you have a deal to announce this morning?

MANCHIN: I really believe they are. Everything I've heard last night at midnight things are moving very well. They're just basically doing the drafting right now, going through the final review of the bill. I really think that everything should be good and I think we should have a bill today. And I think that we will -- I know all Democrats will have a UC, unanimous consent, let's move it and get it done. And that's where we're going to be.

It's going to be a balanced bill. I think it's going to be fair and I think it's going to take care of the American workers but most importantly the American people on the frontline as far as medical care and our hospitals and clinics.

CAMEROTA: OK. And what, if any, are there sticking points still? Is there still anything that needs to be resolved? MANCHIN: Well, the big sticking point yesterday, you know, I know the

thing you saw on the floor yesterday, Alisyn, that was not right and it's not a time of grave concern that we have that we should be having that back and forth letting politics come into it.

The first two bills were done truly on a bipartisan. This bill didn't start out as bipartisan, it basically came all the way from Mitch McConnell and the White House dealing by themselves and then saying, OK, the last minute we'll give it to the Democrats and see what they have to say.

Only thing that we had to say was, first of all, take care of the health care workers. We have a virus, we want to make sure this virus is taken care of. We want to make sure the people are kept safe. We want to make sure the people that we're depending on to keep us safe and keep us healthy, the workers are protected. That didn't happen. And basically the hospitals have enough cash flow to stay in business taking care of us down the road.

Those are the things we were concerned about. Getting the workers who lost their job no fault of their own, the businesses who closed, no fault of their own, those were mostly small businesses. They have half a trillion dollars in there with no oversight whatsoever to do with what they wanted to large corporations. And we didn't think that was fair. The American taxpayers should have some inputs and check and balances.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so --

MANCHIN: That's what we were working for.

CAMEROTA: OK. So who is going to provide that oversight?

MANCHIN: Well, right now the oversight will be part of the legislative process. It's going to be transparent. You know. You just can't sit there.

CAMEROTA: But who will do it? I mean, I -- the only reason I asked about who will do it because President Trump volunteered. He said, I'll be the oversight. So who --

MANCHIN: No, no, no. The Congress. Congress will do the oversight. The inspector generals that we have and basically in place. Use the process that we have in place that does oversight, making sure the money is spent the way the bill is written, intent of the bill. That's all we're asking for. Now we know we're going to have to help all of these different industries stay afloat. Right now the frontline is the virus itself.

You can't throw enough money at this, Alisyn, and basically think the economy is just going to magically jump back when people are basically sheltering in place, not leaving. They're scared. We want to make sure that we have treatment. We want to make sure that we have a vaccine that works, all of these things. And the health care is stable enough that we can be there to protect it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. So --

MANCHIN: That's what we have do.

CAMEROTA: So how soon could people see checks?

MANCHIN: Oh, I'm hoping basically, I would say, by the month, first of the month hopefully. I mean, we should get these checks out. If we use the unemployment. That's why the Democrats are going down the road and basically saying unemployment on steroids. We already have a system in place to get checks, waive the waiting period of one week or so, let's get it moving. And basically what we're doing is doubling up and trying to help them recover as quickly as we can to have money in their pockets to be able to do something.


MANCHIN: That's where the money was -- the crux of the money from the Democrats was going to the workers.

CAMEROTA: OK. I mean, President Trump, as you heard yesterday, seems to be growing impatient with the basic freeze on the economy and people having to stay at home.


So he would like to see that end within a couple of weeks. What do you think of that plan?

MANCHIN: I'm going to take my lead from Dr. Anthony Fauci. That's the person that I trust, that's the person that Americans trust, that basically can speak truth to power and give us the facts as he knows them. He's been here for a long time in that position, been held accountable and responsible and done a great job of protecting America basically when it comes to the facts of health care. And I'm going to take my lead there.

If he says shelter in place a little bit longer, fine. We talked to him -- I talked to him the first of the week and he said, Joe, I believe that at least for the next two weeks or more. So two weeks was the minimum, he said. Two weeks or more. We might get another week into this and see the curve still going up. He says I think we should go another two weeks. Whatever he says is what we're going to adhere to.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, that's not far off.

MACHIN: And I would ask the American --

CAMEROTA: I understand. That's not far off from what the president said. If Dr. Fauci is saying let's give it to weeks, it sounds like that's what the president is saying. I mean, I thought that --

MANCHIN: He said two -- hold on. Hold on.

CAMEROTA: That Dr. Fauci was saying months. MANCHIN: No, no. He said it could be months, and he's right. But he

says at least we're trying to get people at least to understand how serious this is. Shelter in place, don't go out. Basically take care of the elderly that you have, essentials. But we'll go to work. And all we're saying is, first of all, if you can do telework, everyone should telework. If you're working in a factory or something, there should be shift work so you don't have a lot of people congregating on one shift only.

All the different things that make common sense is what he has told us.


MANCHIN: And he says at least two weeks or more. I think it's going to be more than that, but he basically said that and that's what we're going to go by.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator, as you know, there are probably half a dozen lawmakers at last count, could be more, that are self-quarantining because they came into contact with the coronavirus. Do you think that it's time for Congress to do remote voting and not all be together?

MANCHIN: I think that we're at that point, I truly do. I know that my colleague Dick Durbin has been saying that for quite some time. I think he's correct on this. We know that we have been exposed in this beautiful building of ours, the Capitol, and we know that basically we're going to have to continue to do the work of the people. We cannot shut down government. We have no intentions of shutting down government.

Whatever it takes for us to be able to operate and to do our duties we'll do them. If electronic voting from home and verification and everything that we can do, we should use the technology that we're asking other people to work from home and do the technology they have, too.


MANCHIN: My staff hasn't been in for two weeks now, Alisyn. They've been teleworking and we're getting a lot of work done, helping a lot of people and staying in touch with them.

CAMEROTA: And, Senator, what do you think this means for the November presidential election? Do you think that there's any chance that people won't be able to go to their local precincts and vote? Do you think there's any chance that people will have to rely on paper ballots or electronic voting?

MANCHIN: I think there's going to be more of that. We have a primary coming up in West Virginia in the second week of May and I know that secretary of state is looking at all different ways that we can continue that. But do that and expand early voting so you don't have crowds of people might be more of electronic voting. I don't know from that standpoint. Or mail in. A lot of people are advocating, vote by mail. We've never done that in West Virginia, but they might look at that

and see how we could make sure it's verified and controlled and how other states have done it. There's going to be a lot of things we do. Right now people are looking for leadership. They want basically tell me the truth, make sure that my health and well-being and my family come first. The economy will come back. But my goodness, the people want to know that hey, are we working together as America?

What are we putting first? It's the life of a human being first. You know, you can have all the wealth in the world, but if you don't have your health you have nothing. And that's what we're concerned about and we're going to fight for that.

CAMEROTA: And are we getting that kind of leadership?

MANCHIN: I think that people are confused right now. I think the president can be more of a leader. He can basically calm people down and say, listen, your health and well-being becomes my first priority, that's my first priority. This economy was strong, it went down, this economy will be strong when it comes back. But until we have the confidence that you're healthy, you're protected, and if you do contract the virus that we have a treatment that will cure you or provide care for you.

We don't have that right now. Until we get that, it's hard to say, OK, let's go out and let's keep doing whatever we're doing and let the economy come back and people are saying, wait a minute, you told me to shelter in place, now you're telling me to go out, give me some direction. I'm saying shelter in place. Let's wait until we know that we can give you the protection you need, make sure that our health delivery system is solid, the people that are protected, that we're asking go to work if you're a provider for health care, you're going to be protected with all the apparatus you need.

Why aren't we having the defense? We should basically have the Defense Protection Act strictly for all medical apparatuses that we need to protect the medical field. That's an easy one.

CAMEROTA: And you understand why we're not? Do you have any idea why that --

MANCHIN: I do not. I can't, Alisyn, I can tell you I'm getting basically e-mails and phone calls from around the country and people I've known that are in this parameter, if you will. They're saying we could ramp up production, we could do this. We got people back home in West Virginia saying -- and they're all good craftsman and sewers, so they're sewing masks.


Now they're doing everything they can to help protect the health care workers. And this is something that should be a national movement, not state by state and competing state by state. We shouldn't be in a competition right. We should all be helping each other.

CAMEROTA: Understood. Senator Joe Manchin, thank you very much for your time. We'll be watching very closely what happens this morning.

MANCHIN: Thanks, Alisyn. Appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Sure. Thank you very much. John?

BERMAN: So we want to take a moment to tell you about a few of the lives lost in this pandemic. 91-year-old Bill Pike's family thought he had pneumonia, but his condition worsened and he was placed on a ventilator. His family said their good-byes to him over the phone while he was quarantined at a Connecticut hospital. His wife Cathy describes her late husband as, quote, "simply amazing."

Patricia Friesen thought it was just her asthma acting up. She became the first victim of coronavirus in Illinois. Patricia was a retired nurse. Her brother says she felt the need to help people because of her faith. She was 61 years old.

Dr. Steven Schwartz was a pathologist at University of Washington. The 78-year-old was renowned for his research in vascular biology. His colleagues say he leaves behind a lasting imprint on the university and the scientific community.

And Sunday Rutter was a fighter. This single mother of six survived stage four breast cancer. Friends and family in Washington state say she was the kindest person you will ever meet. She passed away one week after being admitted to the hospital.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: A mother of two is self-quarantining this morning in her home near New York City. She is in a separate room from her husband and children after testing positive for coronavirus last week. Diana Barrett joins me now.

Diana, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I know it's been a long haul for you already. Just tell us how you're feeling this morning.

DIANA BARRETT, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Thanks, John. I'm on day 12 of having COVID-19. And day 12 of being in self-isolation. I put myself into self-isolation the second I had the first symptom and I'm happy to report I'm doing really, really OK. My lungs are so much clearer. I can breathe, which is almost miraculous. And I still have symptoms. It is going to be a while until I feel 100 percent better, but really, really manageable. Annoying symptoms, not life-threatening symptoms, not symptoms you would even have to call a doctor about.


BERMAN: That was the happiest deep breath I think I --

BARRETT: So they're (INAUDIBLE) on the other side. BERMAN: That was the happiest deep breath I think I've ever seen. I'm

so glad that you could take it --

BARRETT: Me too. Me too.

BERMAN: Look, I understand what you're doing here. Not only are you self-quarantining, you're keeping this very public diary about what your daily life has been like. So just tell us that.

BARRETT: Yes. Well, you never think you're going to be the first one on your block to get the plague. I've always had a lot of confidence in my immune system, and have had a very adventurous travel life. A year ago I was chest high in the Ganges River, photographing. I camped through Africa in the last couple of summers, Mongolia, I hardly even needed Pepto-Bismol.

So being the first person in my entire area to get the COVID-19 diagnosis was a bit of a shock. And I realized that if I was going to be the canary in the coal mine, I was going to be the loudest canary there was. And whether the issue was initially getting tested while schools were still open, and so that it could be reported, and now chronicling what it is like in giving people hope. Because people are scared.

And the truth is, is that it is a deadly disease and it is so scary. And we need to contain it and be incredibly afraid of it. That said, most of us who contract it are going to be fine. And we're going to recover at home with Tylenol and Gatorade. Nothing more than you would give your kid.

BERMAN: You've been talking about what it's been like to be separate or separated from your husband and children. They're in the house. But you can't physically see them.

BARRETT: They are.

BERMAN: You can't physically touch them. One of the things you wrote -- one of the things you wrote is you could only imagine -- you can only imagine what your 11-year-old son smells like. As a parent of two 13-year-olds boys, I can tell you it's probably not good. But what --


BERMAN: What has it been like? What has it been like to be separate from them?

BARRETT: You know what, my husband's amazing. He's an amazing dad. And he's taking really, really good care of them while working from home. And imagine it like I'm on a business trip. It's -- yes, it is stressful. But it's -- it's OK for them to not have me for two to three weeks. It's much more important for them to have me forever, you know, for the long run.


BARRETT: So I'm trying to keep that in perspective and this is a small price to pay for ultimately being healthy.

BERMAN: What is the first thing you're going to do?

BARRETT: And I think they understand that.

BERMAN: What's first thing you're going to do when you open that door when the self-quarantine is over?

BARRETT: I'm going to give them a huge, huge hug. But let me tell you another thing that I'm doing, and I think that this is really, really vital. A lot of your guests this morning have been talking about that there is a binary choice between reopening the economy or getting people sick. Well, I have an idea. And it is actually happening. I want to create a survivor core. I want to create an opt-in database of everyone like me who had the virus, recovered from the virus, and there is an antibody test that is coming on -- that's coming out in the next -- within days, I believe, that will be able to test to confirm that.

And then those people, there is no reason that those people can't go back to work and get our economy up and going again. There is no reason that we can't volunteer on the front lines without the need for protective gear. There is no reason why we can't be donating our blood and our plasma in conjunction with research universities so that research can be done to help those who are really sick and suffering in the hospitals. And, I mean, what -- we will have superpowers. There is a silver lining to this.