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Economics Professor, Gary Wagner, Discusses the Fastest-Growing Coronavirus Cases in Louisiana; Starbucks Reopens 95 Percent of Stores in China; E.R. Dr. Rob Davidson Discusses Importance of Turnaround Time on Testing & Why More Men Than Women Suffer from Coronavirus; New Challenges Being Faced Around the World Amid Coronavirus Outbreaks. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 13:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And the economics researcher who has been crunching the numbers on the state of Louisiana is joining me now. Gary Wagner is a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

And, Professor, thank you so much for joining us and giving us a sense of what Louisiana is going through.

Give us a sense of the kind of impact a trajectory like this has on Louisiana.


I started taking a look at the data that Johns Hopkins University has been compiling last week, just to get a sense of for the areas that had been affected longer than Louisiana and the trajectory that they were on, what insights we might be able to gather that from.

And I was really surprised to learn that if you look at the first two weeks after a confirmed case, Louisiana is outpacing, as you mentioned, everywhere else in the world. So that obviously puts us on a very bad trajectory, unless something changes.

So, right now, we are outpacing Spain, outpacing Italy, and I think we know what can potentially happen based on what we're seeing in those countries.

KEILAR: OK. You're an economist, to be clear, not an epidemiologist, so I know it's not really for you to explain why the growth rate is this high. But looking back on just the timing of this, it's worth noting that it wasn't too long after Mardi Gras that cases started popping up, is that right?

WAGNER: That's correct. In fact, in Louisiana, the first case, the first confirmed case occurred 13 days after the end of Mardi Gras, and it occurred in Orleans Parish, which is where New Orleans is located. In the New Orleans area, the New Orleans metro area is still the hotspot in the state where we're seeing very rapid growth in new confirmed cases.

KEILAR: And right now, your state is under a stay-at-home order. This is a state of emergency that's been declared. The governor has been consulting with you as the state's going through this. How often do you speak with him? What are you telling him? How is this data being used to try to improve the situation?

WAGNER: So, I update the Louisiana Department of Health on a daily basis and make some projections about what I think is going to happen with caseload growth. They share that information with the governor's office. I've been on a couple conference calls with him, but I don't speak with him on a regular basis.

I think that mitigation steps that the governor took on Sunday, hopefully, we were early enough in the process where we can flatten out the growth trajectory for the state and not end up in a situation like we're seeing in Spain or Italy, for example.


And, Gary, thank you so much for joining us. We are keeping our eyes on Louisiana. We are thinking of all of you as you are starting to go through this with these really concerning numbers.

Gary, thanks again.

WAGNER: Thank you.

KEILAR: After lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to testing for coronavirus, can a just-approved, rapid-results test help get the U.S. back on track?

And nearly one-third of the global population is now living under some kind of government restriction. We'll have a look at the new challenges that are being faced all around the world.



KEILAR: The coronavirus outbreak is now very personal for NBC star, Karl-Anthony Towns, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His mother is now in a medically induced coma after testing positive during a recent hospital visit.

On Instagram, Towns fought back tears while describing what this is like for him and his family.


KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: I talked to her when she went there, told her I love her. Told her how much I loved her. She was telling me things I didn't want to hear, so I dismissed some things she was saying because it wasn't something I want to hear. It came it a point where, you know, it's difficult. It's very difficult for me and my family, to say the least.


KEILAR: Now, Towns calls his mother the strongest woman that he knows, and he says she will beat this.

The number of reported coronavirus cases is surging here in the U.S., but in China, life is starting to return to normal. And one sign of that is that Starbucks are starting to open once again.

The coffee megabrand reopened about 95 percent of its stores, in fact, in China, that were forced to close as the coronavirus outbreak began to spread.

I want to bring in CNN business and politics correspondent, Vanessa Yurkevich.

Vanessa, help us understand the economic impact and scope of Starbucks in China, how China handled the coronavirus crisis there, and how they made the decision that they would reopen their stores so quickly.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. Well, it's been about nine weeks since this the originally closed their stores in China, and they've been slowly opening them over the course of several weeks in order to get to where they are today, which is at about 95 percent of their stores being open. They even reopened their stores in Wuhan, which is the perceived origination of the coronavirus.


But the CEO, Kevin Johnson, he did an interview yesterday with CNBC, and he said that they were able to do that because they were able to map out and timeline how the virus was both spreading and then being contained. And based on that, they were able to understand how quickly they could then scale up their stores and open them.

And what they're doing is they're trying to use that timeline and that mapping now here in the United States.

The CEO of Starbucks believes that we're about three weeks into the surge, so they don't plan on opening stores any time soon. But they're using what they learned in China and applying it here in the United States, which could be very interesting for other businesses to sort of follow suit with.

And, Brianna, as we know, Starbucks stores are closed right now. The only thing that's happening there is delivery and drive-thru orders. But one of the advantages of being a big company like Starbucks is that they are able to pay their employees for 30 days, whether they're working or not.

Obviously, some small businesses not able to do this, but larger corporations really trying to step up in this very unknown time here, especially in New York City and across the United States right now as we're just starting to see this surge. And Starbucks committing to paying their employees for the next 30 days -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, 30 days. That is definitely going to help their employees who are at home not working.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.

Next, I'll speak live with an emergency room doctor about why more men are suffering from coronavirus than women and why the turnaround time on testing is one of the biggest issues right now.



KEILAR: When it comes to stopping the spread of a pandemic, testing really is key. Earlier this month, the WHO director had a simple message for countries, and that was test, test, test.

Well, the U.S. has actually lagged behind other advanced nations in this critical area. The CDC's first test did not work, and it was weeks before new kits were sent out and then red tape kept labs from using their own tests.

This weekend, the FDA finally approved a coronavirus test that promises rapid results in approximately 45 minutes. The manufacturer says they will begin shipping this week, but is it enough?

Joining me is Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room doctor and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

Doctor, I want to ask you about testing. But, first, just give us a sense of what you're seeing at your hospital and what it's been like there where you are in the midst of this pandemic.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN & DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Yes, we're definitely seeing cases every day. The number of cases each day as a percentage of our patient population is definitely going up.

You know, we've had some admitted patients. As a smaller hospital, we've had fewer critical care patients than the bigger ones, but we're definitely seeing the numbers. And as of yet, we've been really limited in our ability to test these folks, unless they're sick enough to get admitted or have some other factors.

I just got word today in the last few hours that our re-agent and testing abilities is now ramping up a bit, so our criteria are broadening a bit, so that's really good news, that finally we're going to be able to start testing more widely people with a variety of symptoms and get a better handle on the numbers of cases that we have.

But here in Michigan, I know our biggest hospital in the Detroit area yesterday announced they're nearly out of ventilators. So, like it has been in New York and on the west coast, it's here in Michigan and it's ramping up. KEILAR: What are all the limitations of not having enough tests? And

even when we're hearing this test that you can get a result in 45 minutes, what's the reality of trying to get tested, including people who may have minor symptoms? What's the reality of getting tested?

DAVIDSON: Yes, the reality is, at least in our area, until today, our directive has been, you know, only the very sickest patients, those who are immunocompromised or health care workers really qualify.

Now that we're expanding, we're going to be getting into a less sick population. I think it's important, because in order to ever relax the restrictions we have in our state, which is essentially a shelter in place, we need to know, you know, kind of where we are on the curve of how many people are infected.

We need to be able to test asymptomatic people, because we know that people can spread the disease before they have symptoMs. So, you can, you know, critically isolate and quarantine the appropriate folks, and then those who are not at wrist get back out into the community and start opening up business again and get back to work.

KEILAR: And the CDC says that those with coronavirus symptoms, they're officially well when they no longer have a fever, when their other symptoms have improved and they have received two negative tests conducted 24 hours apart. That seems obviously tough, right, in terms of having enough testing to be able to do that. So, what do you do to make sure that people are over this?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I mean, our directive has been -- and this is under the guidance of CDC, given the lack of the ability to test folks to that extent -- if we're just dealing with symptomatic people that we're assuming are positive, we tell them they have to go home and isolate until their fever goes away and then give it three more days after that.

And you know, all available data from other countries and now from this country, for the increasing number of cases, would suggest this is a safe route.

Of course, it would be safer if we could test everyone twice and get those negatives. And that's the hope going forward as these tests become more available.


KEILAR: I want to ask you about what we're seeing in this gender disparity, especially when you look at Italy, that more men are dying from COVID-19 than women. They're dying at a rate of two times that of women in Italy. Do you have any sense of why this is deadlier for men and if this is a true trend in the U.S. as well?

DAVIDSON: From the all the data I've looked at in the past few days and epidemiological data, for gender, that seems to be more of a factor of lifestyle issues.

And in Wuhan, originally, older men more likely to get infected. It may be an issue with, you know, the lifestyle of those individuals, why they may have been congregant living situations, where they were going to get the virus more likely.

There have not been sufficient tests to determine if there's truly a gender difference between, you know, getting more ill or higher risk of dying just based on gender. So for right now, it's not really a screening tool or a marker for us to determine who's going to get sick and who isn't.

KEILAR: All right, that may be good news for guys everywhere.

Dr. Davidson, thank you so much.

DAVIDSON: All right, thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Amazon workers getting sick with the coronavirus and now the company responding to some criticism.

Plus, Prince Charles testing positive for coronavirus. What we know about his contact with the queen.



KEILAR: With more than 400,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, countries in high gear really doing anything they can to stop the spreads. Lockdowns in place. People are being told to stay home and not to leave their houses.

Let's check in with global CNN correspondents for more.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean, in Madrid, where the situation seems to be getting worse, not better. Spain reporting its highest numbers of coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 3400.

The virus has now killed more people in Spain than it has in China where this outbreak began.

And perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. Spain has a shortage of protective equipment and ventilators that is so severe that they've now asked NATO for help.

Spain has also struck a deal with China to buy nearly half-a-billion- dollars-worth of supplies, including 550 million masks and almost a thousand ventilators. That equipment will start arriving this week, but the full order won't be filled until June.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm Barbie Nadeau, in Rome. And here in Italy, we're in the middle of a critical week to try to understand if the effects of the lockdown have been working.

Authorities are saying that this week, we should see the flattening of the curve. We've had three days of a slowdown in the number of new cases. We did have a spike in the number of deaths, 743, over the course of a 24-hour period of time, which is not good news.

But the fact that the new cases are starting to slow down is exactly what everyone in this country is hoping for.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: I'm Vedika Sud, in New Delhi. Today was the first day of a total lockdown for 1.3 billion people in India after Narendra Modi made the announcement.

So far, according to the Indian government, just over 600 cases of the coronavirus has taken place in the coronavirus along with 10 deaths.

After Narendra Modi made the announcement, he went onto Twitter and promised that essential services will not be affected.

Now this big self-quarantine measure in India, over a quarter of the world's population is on a partial or total lockdown.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen, in Berlin, and Germany had one of the highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, but still a fairly low death toll.

The Germans say that's because they tested early and they tested a lot and were, therefore, able to isolate a lot of cases in the fairly early stages of the outbreak.

Germany also has one of the most sophisticated health care systems in the world, but even the Germans warn they're still at an early stage and things could get a lot worse.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Max Foster, outside of Windsor Castle in England, where I'm told the queen is in good health after news her elder son and heir, Prince Charles, has contracted the coronavirus. He's at a safe distance, up in Scotland. I'm told he's in good health as well but in self-isolation.

The pair did come in contact with each other on the 12th of March, but the medical advice, I'm told, to the palace, is that he only became contagious the day after he met the queen. So now they're trying to work out who else he came in contact with.


KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar. And this is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nearly a third of the globe is under some type of lockdown. More than half the U.S. is under some kind of order to isolate. And cases in this country have now surged past 60,000.

But we begin with some major positives to report this hour on the pandemic. First, finally, an agreement in Congress on a $2 trillion relief package to help so many Americans who are struggling.


And second, signs that all the sacrifices Americans making are working. This from New York's governor, Westchester County, which had the nation's first containment zone in New Rochelle.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): On the good news side, can you slow the rate of infection? Yes. How do you know? Look at what we did in Westchester.