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President Trump Wants To Open U.S. By Easter As Pandemic Worsens; United Kingdom Sees Biggest Jump In Coronavirus Deaths; South Africa Prepares For 21-Day Lockdown. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 05:30   ET





President Trump is eager to ease social restrictions by Easter despite a soaring death toll and tens of thousands of cases in the U.S. Now, this timeline sure to set up a clash with governors and health officials.

Joining us now, Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena. He's an E.R. physician at Staten Island University Hospital and director of global health at Northwell Health. And, CNN political analyst Mitch Landreau. He's the former mayor of New Orleans and led multiple disaster response efforts. Gentlemen, thank you for your time this morning on such an important story.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is on this task force -- coronavirus task force -- is very concerned about New York, in particular. Let's listen.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We remain deeply concerned about New York City and the New York metro area. About 56 percent of all the cases in the United States are coming out of that metro area, and 60 percent of all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area, and 31 percent of the people succumbing to this disease.



ROMANS: We have not bent this curve yet, Doctor, in New York City. Is Easter a reasonable time to be starting to back away from these efforts?

DR. ERIC CIOE-PENA, E.R. PHYSICIAN AT STATEN ISLAND UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AT NORTHWELL HEALTH: I don't think so. I think it's premature. I think that the data doesn't really support it. You know, we've got pretty good modeling on how infectious diseases work and it's just not realistic with what we're seeing on the ground.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And what are you seeing on the ground?

ROMANS: Doctor, what are you seeing -- yes, what are you seeing?

CIOE-PENA: I mean, we're seeing -- this week, we're seeing increases in numbers. I think -- I think there's been a dramatic increase from last week to next about the numbers -- the patients in emergency departments that are presenting with COVID-19. We have a considerable portion of those that are on ventilators in our ICUs.

So we are seeing an increase in the number of cases coming in and that's a real, I think, steepening of the -- of the curve as we -- as we head into kind of what we think is going to be the peak in New York.

BERMAN: Mayor Landrieu, given what you're hearing from the doctor here, what do you make of the administration guidelines now for people in New York who leave New York to self-quarantine for 14 days?


Louisiana and New Orleans are on par and getting ready to pass New York in the number of cases that we have. What we're hearing from our emergency room doctors, exactly what the doctor just said. They're overrun -- they're very concerned about the capacity. We're doubling on numbers every 2 1/2 days.

So the science on the ground indicates that Easter is way premature. What's the most startling thing about the president's doctor and what she said about the people from New York is it seems to be contrary to what the president's idea is about trying to get this thing done by Easter.

In all of the storms and all of the catastrophes that I've had to deal with, one thing was absolutely certain, is that we don't control Mother Nature; she controls us. We can everything we can to react to it but we have to do it based on the science and what the doctors tell us.

Listen, Easter is a blessed day for so many people in the world but it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to gather people in God's name if, in fact, that's going to hurt us more. I mean, God gave us a brain for a reason.

And I think that we really have to think about doing three things.

One, keeping people away from each other -- that is the most important thing. Second, the recovery package to help the businesses stand up, which Congress passed last night, thank goodness. And third, getting the supplies down to the doctors, especially respirators, so they can care for the people who are going to be sick.

ROMANS: Well, that third point I think is so interesting Doctor, in particular, because when you're talking about sending people back to work and getting back to normal and restarting the economy, we haven't even been able to supply all of the necessary materials for doctors and nurses in the health care system to be able to fight this thing. It's like you're talking about the exit strategy before you've even entered the fight, right?

CIOE-PENA: Yes. I mean, we definitely -- it's definitely one of the biggest anxieties of providers that I talk to. My colleagues in New York are worried about being able to protect ourselves, being able to keep working so that we can take care of our patients without getting sick. These are all top of mind in every emergency provider in the country I think, and it's something that we need to see a real rallying cry from our nation's leaders and from -- and from the political will to kind of get us the PPE that we need.

BERMAN: And, Mayor -- look, I know it is an emergency situation in New York City and it's getting a lot of coverage because of the size and the scope of it. But it's interesting because you point out to us every morning that there are problems -- serious problems in Louisiana as well, correct?

LANDRIEU: Well, you -- listen, we have massive problems in Louisiana. Our numbers are on par with New York. And we're not comparing our numbers, I'm just saying that this is a nationwide fight. You'll have the same issues in Los Angeles, you'll have them in San Francisco, you'll have them in Chicago. This is going to spread, as Gov. Cuomo reminds us every day.

Yesterday, Mayor Cantrell was on your network talking about the need. Governor John Bel Edwards is doing the same thing. If you listen to the governors in the region of New York, they're all saying the same thing. We're just in the -- in the beginnings of this fight.

We're talking about standing up the economy. We have businesses down here who are on their own -- are retrofitting their distilleries into hand sanitizer production facilities. Or they're taking their craft shops and they're turning it into how to make masks because the president won't invak (sic) -- won't invoke the Defense Production Act.

Listen, we're really very -- at the very early stages of this and I think we need to follow the numbers. Right now, the numbers are going straight up. There is not even a curve, much less lowering and or flattening (audio gap).


LANDRIEU: So, I think the data is suggesting to the mayors and to the governors who are on the front line, who are touching people and being close to people and understanding what their health care workers have to go through, that we're not even close to bending the curve that we need to to begin then sending the message that everything is OK.

In these instances, it's really important to have clear command and control and clear communication from the president, to the governors, to the mayors. And unfortunately, right now, they're moving in two separate directions. [05:40:01]

My money is on the mayors and the governors who are running their operations, who know what they're seeing. They know their people. We need to listen to them (audio gap) and listen to the doctors.

ROMANS: And medical first-responders. That's were so much innovation is happening, too. I was hearing stories yesterday of doctors who --

LANDRIEU: Well, it's unbelievable.

ROMANS: -- who are trying to figure out how to have two patients on one ventilator. I mean, something that you could not imagine in the largest economy in the world, Doc. The kind of innovation and the --


ROMANS: -- and the troubleshooting -- the doctors. Have you been seeing this kind of troubleshooting on the -- on the front line?

CIOE-PENA: I mean, it's really emblematic I think of medicine and emergency medicine, especially, where we're used to kind of dealing with the situation we're given -- that shift in and shift out. And so we're going to try and do the maximum good for the -- for the many -- as great a many patients as possible.

But it's important that we don't get set up to fail and that we -- that we start building capacity and getting ready for what's going to be likely a very big surge in the next couple of weeks of patients who need our help.

BERMAN: Very big surge in the next couple of weeks, Doc. Give us a sense of exactly how much you expect to see and what your area of greatest need is.

CIOE-PENA: So, I mean, right now, we're seeing -- we're seeing the numbers in New York, again, double every three days. And we're seeing about -- in the United States, about 20 percent of patients, maybe a little bit less, who need hospitalization of those numbers. And of the patients hospitalized, about a quarter need ICU -- maybe a third need ICU-level care and ventilators.

So I think the numbers from the -- from the state level have been that we're estimating we're going to need about 30,000 ventilators in the state of New York. And certainly, we're not out of ventilators in our hospital yet and I actually feel pretty good about our PPE in our hospital, personally. But that's not a universal statement felt amongst all the hospitals in New York.

And there's differently different levels of PPE and different levels of preparedness and people are nervous. People are nervous that they're not going to be able to deliver the care that they want to deliver as doctors and nurses.

ROMANS: You know, Mayor, let me ask you this about the tension between the federal government and the local authorities. The president -- the president congratulated himself for getting 400 and some ventilators to New York. And then, you know, the governor of New York said I need 26,000 more than that. And so there was a bit of a tiff there.

And the president, also on Fox News on Tuesday, talked about what he's doing for New York and how -- just listen to what he said exactly.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I think Easter Sunday and you'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time and it's just about the timeline that I think is right. It gives us more chance to work on what we're doing.

And I'm not sure that's going to be the day, but I would love to aim it right at Easter Sunday so we're open for church service and services, generally, on Easter Sunday. That would be a beautiful thing.


ROMANS: He went on to say we're doing a great job in New York. We're building hospitals in New York. And New York says we need more help.

What is this dynamic and how do you see this unfolding?

LANDRIEU: Well, I'll say a couple of things. I agree with the president that Easter Sunday is a beautiful day and it would be a blessed event if we could all spend it together safely. But when he says that, he's sending shudders down the spines of doctors and people who really understand the timing of this virus. Everybody's telling the president, including his personal folks, that that is way too soon.

If, in fact, we get to that, that would be great, but it's highly unlikely that we're going to do that, number one. Number two, it's really important that we focus on capacity and ability to live with what we need.

In the state of Louisiana, the governor anticipates that we're going to run out of ventilators on April fourth. We only have 15 percent of our ICU beds available.

The folks on the ground who are fighting the fight -- the emergency room physicians are sending out a clarion call saying we need more stuff and we need it now, and we don't see it coming. The federal government, as Gov. Cuomo reminds us and I completely agree, is the only entity that's got the power to get that stuff to the ground.

It's fantastic that American businesses are retooling to fight this fight and folks who -- friends and neighbors are stitching together protective wear for doctors, but that's not the way it's supposed to be. We have greater capacity.

And finally, let me say this. The American people are strong, they're resilient, they're tough, they're smart. They can handle anything. But you have to tell them the truth. Don't tell them what you think they want to hear. Tell them what you think (audio gap).

ROMANS: Oh, we've lost Mayor Landrieu there. But tell them the truth.

BERMAN: We get the point there, yes.

ROMANS: Tell them what you think, yes.

Thank you so much, Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, also. Thank you so much for being here.

I just -- I think that there's so much of this story yet to unfold. Talking about the exit strategy before we've even entered the fight seems a little premature.

BERMAN: We seem to be at just the beginning of the spike here. Let's hope it doesn't get as bad as some people fear it will.

ROMANS: All right.

The U.K. essentially on lockdown, but you wouldn't know it from some of the images we're seeing. What's behind the confusion there, next.



BERMAN: All right.

This morning in the United Kingdom it is day two of a government- imposed stay-at-home order. Eighty-seven people died in the United Kingdom yesterday. That is the largest single-day increase in Britain. And not everyone is respecting the stay-at-home order.

Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is live in London with the latest on this. Clarissa, what are you seeing?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's incredible to see, but as you said, some people are still not respecting the near-lockdown that has been implemented for more than 24 hours now.

I'd like to show you some images, if you can get them up, of London's underground system, the Tube. This should be nearly empty except for key workers. And yet, as you can see, startling packed cars heaving with people at rush hour. London's mayor saying listen, we've had to restrict the number of services we can run.

But really, what the issue is here John is that there simply isn't any clarity about who the key workers are who are allowed to continue working and who should not be going to work.


One key example is construction workers. They are still continuing to go to work every day. And the reason they say they're doing that is because they have not been given any form of exemption, meaning if they don't go to work -- if the construction doesn't get done they won't get paid.

And that's really what is at the core here is the complete lack of an economic stimulus package to be presented by the British government to assuage people's concerns that they can and should and must stay home and not go to work.

Meanwhile, in other news, you mentioned that skyrocketing death toll; a real concern. We have heard from a leading surgeon -- ICU surgeon with the National Health Service -- that's British NHS -- that beds in several London hospitals will already run out this weekend. That is something that is causing a lot of people to feel deeply uneasy.

Also, from a number of NHS workers, real concern about the fact that there simply isn't enough protective equipment. You've seen this, of course, in New York and in other places in the U.S., too, John and Christine.

But there aren't enough masks, there aren't enough gloves, and the ones that are arriving and coming in -- and the U.K. military has been ordered to deploy them -- simply haven't reached the workers they need to get to yet. Some of those NHS workers saying they are going to quit if they don't get their protective equipment soon -- John and Christine.

BERMAN: Clarissa Ward for us in London. Very interesting to watch. In many ways, the United Kingdom a step behind the rest of Europe in enacting some of these actions really across the board, from some of the stricter measures to also the stimulus measures.

Clarissa, thank you for that -- Romans.

ROMANS: And to the African continent now where coronavirus is becoming a growing problem there. The highest number of confirmed cases in South Africa where a three-week lockdown is about to begin.

CNN's David McKenzie live in Johannesburg with more -- David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Christine. Just in several hours, that lockdown will begin.

Now, experts believe that South Africa is a lot earlier in the force of this infection. There's no debate here between whether the economy or the health of the people should matter more. It's clear that even in this country, which is suffering a recession, they are going to do everything they can.

This lockdown will be complete. It's all across the country -- more than 56 million people -- and it will only include essential services like medical and other services similar to other parts of the world will be able to move around.

The president of South Africa very clear that because this country has many people who are vulnerable, immune-suppressed, HIV and TB sufferers, that they cannot make that choice. They have to push now.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: This is a decisive measure to save lives of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of our people. While this measure will have a considerable impact on people's livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater.


MCKENZIE: Hundreds of thousands dead if they don't take these steps. In the coming days, this entire country going into lockdown -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie for us in Johannesburg. Thanks, David.

All right, communities doing what they can to help health care workers nationwide.


ROMAN: The health care heroes on the front lines of the coronavirus fight are urging everyone to respect the social distancing guidelines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can play your part to enable us to play ours. Please stay at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are facing our greatest challenge and we're frightened. Help us. Please stay at home.


ROMANS: This video plea from doctors, nurses, and therapists in Belfast, Northern Island, it's receiving widespread praise and has been viewed nearly three million times.

BERMAN: A community in Pennsylvania answering the call for help from first-responders who face a shortage of personal protective equipment. On Tuesday, a local middle school outside Philadelphia served as a drive-thru collection site.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the biggest challenges that we're having is suppliers are taking orders but we have unknown ETAs of when those things are going to arrive. So, obviously, folks in the community are looking for a way to help out in a safe way.


BERMAN: In addition to masks and gloves, people dropped off unopened food, water, and cleaning supplies. ROMANS: When the coronavirus slowed down Girl Scout cookie sales, one troop in West Virginia chose to donate their extra boxes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The girls and I hatched a plan and we decided to sell them virtually to be donated to our hospital works in the area.


ROMANS: The special deliveries include more than just cookies. The troop is giving hospitals entire care packages complete with homemade masks and gifts for the patients.

Love to see what the kids are coming up with to spend the time, right?

BERMAN: Absolutely, although we shouldn't have to count on children to get our front line medical workers the equipment that they need.

ROMANS: This is true. This is true.

All right, a $2 trillion stimulus deal reached overnight. What does it mean for you and for your family? NEW DAY continues right now.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We have a bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in American history.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is a wartime level of investment into our nation.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Where are the ventilators, where are the gowns, where's the PPE? The president said it's a war. It is a war.