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Rural Hospitals Face Additional Problems in Coronavirus Fight; Prince Charles Quarantining After Positive Coronavirus Results; Police Face Shortage as Infections Rise. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: You've heard about the outbreak of coronavirus in major cities like New York, but what about rural areas? They are not unaffected by this. Some rural hospitals, struggling to handle the outbreak. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins me now with more.

Elizabeth, a fear that some of these hospitals may be forced to close. They already lack a lot of the important equipment, and they're already seeing a surge in cases now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, that's absolutely right. Some rural hospitals are seeing a surge of cases like Albany, Georgia, not far from my home where I am right now.

But other hospitals -- many rural hospitals, probably most if not all rural hospitals -- are struggling financially. They were struggling financially to begin with. And now, because of the coronavirus outbreak, they have been told that they need to stop doing elective surgeries. What little cash flow these hospitals had was those elective surgeries and those elective outpatient procedures, and now they can't do them.

And this is at a time where they're being told, prepare for patients. What's happening in New York and Seattle could come to you in the coming weeks. It's very hard to prepare when you didn't have much money to begin with and now you have even less money, less money for staff, less money for supplies, less money for everything.

These are hospitals, Jim, where many of them have one ventilator. How can they get more when they're so financially strapped?

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Yes, just imagine that. That is quite a shortage. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

So let's dig a little deeper. Joining me now is Scott Steiner. He's the president and CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System, serves rural Georgia. Thanks so much for taking the time, Scott. I'm sure you're inundated here.

I think folks -- many folks watching might have the misimpression that this is a big-city problem, coronavirus. Tell us the experience you're having in rural hospitals in Georgia.

SCOTT STEINER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PHOEBE PUTNEY HEALTH SYSTEM: Yes, Jim, thanks for the opportunity. We began to see the true impact about 16 days ago, when the first patient that had been visiting Albany for a funeral had tested positive, actually in Atlanta, was from Atlanta. And though they had -- they had stopped here.


And it was that time that, while we had been preparing for more than 60 days -- ordering additional supplies -- but it was really that point that we saw the onslaught of patients coming in, at first tied to one funeral, then two funerals.

And it just -- has almost for the first week, doubled every day, the number of patients coming in, being admitted has doubled to where we're at today, which we are absolutely at full capacity. And we've got a large hospital here in Albany.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you mentioned. I mean, clusters like that have really been a story of this virus. A funeral, you say; there was a party outside of New York. You know, often, outbreaks can be traced to that.

Tell us what particularly you are lacking in a lot of these hospitals. Elizabeth Cohen mentioned the case of a hospital that only had one respirator -- I mean, are already, you know, not equipped. What are you lacking and are you getting help that you need from the federal government?

STEINER: Yes. You know, so we're lacking -- we haven't run out of anything. But like most hospitals, it's N95 masks, it's surgical masks, it's how do we keep our employees safe. Because if our employees are not safe, there'd be no one to care for the patients.

And today, we've got 140 COVID-positive or presumptive cases here in our hospital today. We have shut down all of our elective surgeries. We're doing other things, but most of what we're doing is taking care of COVID -- very sick COVID-19 patients.

And we're fine on ventilators today, but we have talked to the state. The state has actually mobilized some resources; we are so appreciative of that. And looking to stand up additional beds here in Albany at a facility that we own, to continue to deal with the ever- growing illness that we have here.

SCIUTTO: So Georgia's an interesting state in that residents of Georgia are getting something conflicting advice, right? In Atlanta, the mayor there has issued a stay-at-home order. The governor, Brian Kemp, has not ordered shelter in place. But given what you're seeing in rural areas there, what do you say to the governor? Do you think that measures like that will help flatten the curve, as they say, so that hospitals like yours are not overwhelmed?

STEINER: Yes. You know, I've had a conversation -- I had a conversation with the governor yesterday. He called, he wanted to see how we were doing. I think he's very supportive. I think as much -- the shelter-in-places, the stay-at-home, the -- we can't have enough of that today.

The health care system, Jim, I would tell you -- and we're looking at -- New York is certainly feeling it. We will be overwhelmed if we do not do these things. And I'm not suggesting we close grocery stores, people are going to -- I think if we did that, we would -- we would see chaos.

But you know, this is -- it's one of those things, people don't necessarily think it could happen to them until it happens to them or one of their loved ones. And so this --


STEINER: -- very (ph) real. And we are -- the health care system is at a tipping point, and will be for some time. I would tell you we are -- we are right now looking at $30 million a month losses. And we're a system that does -- that produces about a two percent margin every year. It is not sustainable today and certainly could affect the health -- health care system and hospitals in the future.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, you put your finger on it there, right? It's a distant problem until it's no longer distant. And I think a lot of --

STEINER: That's right.

SCIUTTO: -- Americans are learning that.

STEINER: Very real.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we wish you the best of help (ph) you are, and the people you work with on the frontlines of this. We really wish you the best of luck, going forward.

STEINER: Yes. They're heroes. Thanks for getting the word out, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll do our best.


Still to come this hour, heir to the throne Prince Charles has now tested positive for the coronavirus. We're going to be live from the U.K.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, is now self-isolating in Scotland after he tested positive for coronavirus. The prince of Wales is said to be in good health and good spirits, and is now working from home -- like many of you, of course, watching.

CNN's Max Foster joins me now from London. Max, we're hearing he's experiencing mild symptoms of this. What does that mean exactly?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're giving a very strong message that he has these mild symptoms but he's carrying on working, he hasn't been to hospital. He developed the symptoms over the weekend, was tested on Monday because he did meet the qualifications, criteria to be tested. That's a combination, I'm told, of his medical history and his age. And then it came back positive on Tuesday.

He's up there with Camilla, duchess of Cornwall. She doesn't have the virus, but they're both self-isolating and they're now trying to track back, Jim, who they've come in contact with --


FOSTER: -- and may have infected.

SCIUTTO: OK, so to that point, do we know, did he have any recent contact with his mother, the queen? Of course both of them are in the age group, above 60, that have been most vulnerable to this.

FOSTER: They are. He's in a safe distance in Scotland. The queen is here, Windsor Castle. We're told she's in good health as well.

TEXT: Prince Charles' Recent Engagements: March 12, Attended dinner in London for Australian bushfire relief efforts; conducted investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace; March 11, Attended Prince's Trust Awards in London; March 10, Attended climate event at King's Palace in London; March 9, Attended reception for Commonwealth Day in London


FOSTER: What we are being told is that they met on the 12th of March, but he -- the best medical advice that he's been given is that he only could have become contagious at the earliest on the 13th of March, so they don't think he could have infected the queen, although we're not being told, Jim, whether or not she's had a test or what the result of that test might be.

SCIUTTO: Well, social distancing, a little easier when you have a castle, we know that. But we do wish them the best. Max Foster there, outside Windsor. Thanks very much.

Many police departments across the country are struggling now to maintain a healthy workforce due to the coronavirus. With fewer officers on the street, is crime a problem? We'll have more.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Police departments across the country are urging officers to curb interactions with the public due to coronavirus. Right now, 211 police officers in New York alone have tested positive. There are six confirmed cases in Chicago's police department; three Santa Rosa, California police officers have tested positive. You get the point here. At least one member of the Detroit police department has died from the outbreak as well. My next guest says there should be a national priority given to first

responders for testing so that they can adequately serve, protect their communities, protect themselves. Joining me now, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, Chuck Wexler.

Listen, cops are some of the folks that are still out there in the midst of this. They're doing their jobs as best they can. What do they need to ensure that their safety is guaranteed in the midst of this?

CHUCK WEXLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, POLICE EXECUTIVE RESEARCH FORUM: Well, for every police chief, it's just preparing for making sure that their workforce is out there. And so testing is a big issue. And then it's not just for police, it's for fire, it's for health professionals and even -- you know, even people in grocery stores, for that matter, that have to stay out there.

So -- but police departments are really great at preparing for things like this. There's this notion of continuity of operations and backup. I was talking to Dermot Shea last night and -- about this, how it's affecting New York City.

And, you know, the way they look at it is, one person -- if one person's out, who's the next person? Who's the next person who's up? So --


WEXLER: -- duplication, redundancy and preparing for -- you know, overpreparing. And that's what departments are doing.

SCIUTTO: You mentioned testing here. During a call with the White House last week, police chief from outside of San Francisco asked the following. He said, the government should stop testing NBA players and start testing our first responders. Not an unreasonable request. Are you hearing that that's going to happen for police officers?

WEXLER: Well, it's happening in some places. It's happening in New York City and New Rochelle. It's happening in some places. It has to happen across the country. And this isn't just --


WEXLER: -- to protect police officers, but this is to serve the community. You know, in New York City, you have almost seven percent yesterday, almost 10 percent of officers are down. And if you have to quarantine them for 14 days, that's a long time. If you test them, you can see that -- you know, how they're doing after three days and then get them back in service. So it's spotty. It has to be a national priority. It's in everybody's interest to get that testing done.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we need you -- and I'm sure a lot of folks listening right now, they want the confidence and the safety, to know that cops are still out there, able to do their job. Given, as you mentioned, 10 percent of the workforce, they can't come in because of this, have you seen any rise in crime rates in communities around the country? WEXLER: Well, I think that's an interesting -- that's one of the --

if there's any good news in all of this, again, talking to Dermot Shea yesterday, the New York City police commissioner, crime is way down. You know, homicides, way down, shootings are down. Doesn't mean drug dealers aren't, you know, doing their thing, but mostly you've got people, you know sheltering in place, you have less crimes of opportunity.

I mean, the one area we're worried about is domestic violence. We might see an uptick there, but mostly the good news, if there is any, is by and large arrests are down. Police are much more reluctant to make arrests. They may cite someone, but certainly if it's a violent crime they're going to make the arrest but it just complicates things.

And I'll tell you one other thing. And that is, you know, about community policing. You know, for years, the police have really worked hard at establishing relationships with the community, so they can't completely disengage. And so the balance for them is, because people need their help, people are scared. And police can play an important role in reassuring people, making them feel safer.

But some of that, some (ph) has to be done from a distance. Police are now triaging how they do things, a lot more things are being done over the phone. But, you know, the police, firefighters, health professionals, they've got a tough job. They're engaging with people. They don't have the luxury of sheltering in place.

Most departments have (inaudible) packs (ph), but that's what's -- that's what's the crazy thing. I'm getting phone calls from London, Israel -- everybody in the world, police departments are all facing the same thing.

But you know what, here's the good news. Police have prepared for this, they're ready. This is what they do, this is -- this is what they do and they do it with pride --

SCIUTTO: They do.

WEXLER: -- and courage.

SCIUTTO: And I'll tell you, here in D.C., as I've been coming to work on empty streets here, I've seen the cops out. And when I do, I'm always grateful. So thanks so much for what you do. And please get that word out to the members of your organization. We'll stay in touch.


WEXLER: And thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: In just a few minutes, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, he will speak with reporters as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York continues to rise, and even more quickly. We're going to bring it to you, live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello, everyone. I'm John King in Washington.

Today, the impact from the coronavirus pandemic, becoming more dramatic by the day if not the hour. About half, now, of the U.S. population, under stay-at-home orders. There --