Return to Transcripts main page


At Least 39 Doctors Die in Italy, Nurses Collapse from Exhaustion; L.A. Mayor: Residents Should Prepare to Stay At Home Until May. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 16:30   ET


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESOPNDENT (voice-over): In this exclusive footage given to CNN, doctors show us operating rooms in a hospital in northern Italy, turned into make-shift intensive care units, barely conscious patients.


Doctors and nurses pushed to the brink, they now have to choose who will live and who will die.

Some medics have described it as war-time triage. Patients with the highest chance of survival get priority.

And it's doctors, nurses and emergency workers who are exposed to the greatest risks. At least 39 medical professionals have died in Italy since the crisis.

DR. ANGELO PAN, HEAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE AT CREMONA HOSPITAL: Even a small error can give you an infection and then you have to hope not to get any serious problem.

GALLAGHER: It's a stark picture for those in the U.S. now fighting the disease. America's doctors are already planning for the ethical challenges they will soon face. In Italy, exhausted doctors struggle physically and mentally from the strain, they hope other countries will learn from them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not even counting the dead anymore. Look at the news coming out of Italy and take note of what the situation really is like.

GALLAGHER: A dire situation and a warning for the world.


GALLAGHER: And, Jake, Italy is receiving help from other countries in this. Germany is taking patients, Russia and Cuba have sent in doctors and the U.S. Army has sent up seven truckloads of temporary hospital equipments, stretchers, wheelchairs and sheets and other equipment up to the area around Milan -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Delia Gallagher, thank you so much.

Dr. James Phillips, chief of disaster and medicine at George Washington University Hospital, joins me now.

Dr. Philips, it's good to see you again.

I know doctors and nurses and other healthcare front line employees have been warning about what we're seeing in Italy for a long time. Do you think it's inevitable that we in the United States end up where Italy is today?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Jake, thanks for having me back, it's good to see you, too.

Inevitable is a strong word. But I find it very likely we are going to see the types of numbers we see in Italy right now. I sent out a few weeks ago, I thought we'd start seeing you know the numbers of people passing away in the United States to start to hit the 100 mark. I think that that's going to accelerate significantly.

So, I think that it's tough to be exact to say that we're you know so many days behind each different country because there are so many different variables that play into that. But our numbers are certainly going to increase dramatically.

TAPPER: At least 150 hospital employees in Boston have now tested positive for coronavirus. If doctors and nurses and other front line healthcare workers are not protected and they are getting infected, then what does that mean in terms of hospital's ability to hand him the influx of patients that we're seeing in New York that will spread out across the country?

PHILLIPS: My heart goes out to my friends in Boston. I worked in Boston for four years before coming here to George Washington. So, I -- my heart goes out to them. I hope that they all do OK.

What we're starting to see amongst the healthcare workforce in the United States is our biggest nightmare. It's the fact that we do not have enough protective equipment that we would, that we can use in the conventional setting to keep us safe. I, myself, have diagnosed another physician with COVID-19 here in Washington, D.C. and I expect that that number will continue to go up.

We need more PPE and it needs to be ubiquitous throughout the healthcare setting.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to an exchange between Brianna Keilar and White House economic adviser Peter Navarro. Brianna was bringing attention to some of the dire needs of healthcare workers such as yourself on the frontlines of this crisis, and here's what Mr. Navarro, the White House official, had to say.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Let's not sensationalize this crisis at a time where we create more anxiety or panic behavior with people. So, please, as you report this crisis, please keep in mind that to the extent that that is done, it makes our job here harder. And it makes the healthcare professionals' job harder. Please ask me the question.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Right, I'm not -- I'm not sensationalizing anything. I'm trafficking in facts here, because governors are saying that their states are calling up these suppliers and FEMA has already purchased everything.


TAPPER: You are on the front lines, Doctor, is the media sensationalizing the needs of healthcare workers across the country?

PHILLIPS: I'm trying to be the biggest advocate I can be for healthcare workers on the front lines. So, if that pertains to me, then I'm going to continue to say the things that I am saying on the air, because we do not have all the materials that we need.


It's important for the American public to understand and for this -- the folks in politics to understand as well that we are already receiving guidance from the CDC on how do we use our PPE. That is a deviation from the standard of care. Normally, in what we would call conventional care, we would wear a different mask for every single patient. We're already being asked to use those for multiple patients if not multiple days. That is a significant deviation from the standard.

If we had enough equipment, we would wear one mask per patient as has been recommended for decades. So, the idea that we have enough PPE across the country is just not true.

Now, it's not one size fits all. Certain hospitals, certainly, have more than others based on the location, the size of their attachment area, the number of patients they typically see. But, in general, no, there is still a very significant need across the country.

TAPPER: It's a crisis and people in the White House need to understand that.

Dr. James Phillips, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

In the U.S., California is on pace to follow in New York's footsteps as cases there and in California are doubling every three to four days. I'm going to talk to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about the steps his city is taking. That's next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back and with a dire warning for our friends in Los Angeles, L.A. could be the next New York City. Cases in L.A. are currently doubling every three-to-four days. Moments ago, Los Angeles County's public health director announced an

additional 46 -- I'm sorry, 465 confirmed cases of coronavirus. That brings the total cases there to 1,216 and nine new deaths, which brings the total up to 22 dead.

Joining me now is the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.

Mayor Garcetti, you said Angelinos should be prepared to stay in their homes until May. How severe is the spread of coronavirus in Los Angeles? What kind of projections are you making for residents in Los Angeles?

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Well, as you've heard around the country, without more testing, we don't know exactly how widespread it is, but we know it's much more widespread than the official numbers coming out.

We've ramped up testing on our own. We had to buy tests, buy ourselves. But what we are seeing was, two days ago, it was increasing 21 percent from the day before. Today, it increased by 50 percent over the day before. There's maybe more testing, but that would be a doubling rate of every two days.

So we're either a week or two away from numbers per capita like we're seeing in New York City.

And for anybody listening out there, this isn't just one of those moments to say, oh, that's New York, that's L.A., I'm different. From the smallest town no matter where you are, this is coming to you. Everybody is the new whatever the worst city is right now and take all the measures you can now to make sure people are home.

TAPPER: Well, you know, you say that. I've heard some partisan morons talk about this, how it's only affecting blue states. This is a nationwide crisis and what happens in Los Angeles -- and by the way, there are Trump supporters in Los Angeles. It's going to go to Sacramento. It's going to go to Arizona. It's going to go everywhere in this country.

GARCETTI: That's right. You know, Iran was the new China. Italy was the new Iran, Spain was the new Italy. Now, New York is the new Spain. Los Angeles may become the new New York.

It's going to be in Topeka. It's going to be in Atlanta. It's going to be in Louisville. It's already there.

And so, the best thing all of us can do as local officials while we push hard for national leadership is to bring together all of the love and resources we have here locally. We recalled as many medical workers in Los Angeles, put out a call for help and had over a thousand people just overnight say, sign me up.

My office is closed or I recently retired or I'm about to graduate. It's literally going to be all hands on for those toughest days and those are a little bit rays of sunshine in these dark clouds.

You've said Los Angeles hasn't seen the peak of this virus yet. What is -- what are you doing to prepare for that?

GARCETTI: So we're doing everything, whether it's looking at our convention center and spillover spaces, bringing folks that are homeless indoors, into shelters and hotel beds, whether it's procuring our own tests and setting up our own drive-thru centers for those. We're doing everything.

And all those boundaries that used to divide us, maybe between cities and county government, between state and local. Those are dissolving away. And we have the U.S. naval ship Mercy coming in tomorrow, which will relieve us, become the biggest hospital in the Los Angeles area when she lands.

So, it is an all the above. But more than anything else, we're telling people, you are a first responder. Every moment you violate staying away from people, you could be killing yourself or killing a loved one.

TAPPER: And we've heard of hospital workers rationing supplies and personal protective equipment, PPE, putting themselves and others at risk by doing so. What are you doing to address that need and is Los Angeles getting enough help from Governor Newsom? Is Los Angeles getting enough help from the federal government?

GARCETTI: The governor has been superb and has procured millions upon millions of masks, shared those with us here in Los Angeles.

But I'll tell you a story that was similar to what you were talking to the doctor about. We had a long time company we contract with, 100,000 masks ready to go, contract finished and the check cut, and they called us and said, FEMA just took it, sorry, we had to give it to them.


So, whether FEMA is taking those things to redistribute, it is an open kind of war out there in the marketplace right now for ventilators, for masks.

One thing L.A. hopes to do for the entire nation is, we have got a lot of sewers, a lot of apparel industry that is here. And there are masks that aren't necessarily for our medical personnel, but for everyday folks that we are ramping up to hope to make by the thousands and tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands.

And as we get materials to make those medical grade, as a manufacturing center for America, we're going to do that, not just for L.A., but hopefully for the rest of the country as well.

TAPPER: And how are you preparing for the surge in patients that you no doubt will get in your hospitals?

Obviously, you have the ship coming in, and that will be able to take people -- I believe that they're going to be taking people who are not coronavirus patients...

GARCETTI: Correct.

TAPPER: ... so as to alleviate the pressure on the hospitals.

But what else are you planning on doing? Will you set up MASH units in parking lots? What else do you have planned?

GARCETTI: It's exactly that.

We're looking at tents and starting to set them up. Some hospitals have had those up for a week already. We're looking at places like our convention center, arenas that aren't being used for sports right now, making those plans, asking for help from the National Guard and the military reserve and Army Corps of Engineers.

And we have got a ton of folks from the building trades, our amazing construction workers, who have also volunteered to set that stuff up. So we're trying to procure all the beds and all the equipment we need, especially for moving non-COVID 19 folks out of the hospitals, so hospitals can triage those who are at most risk of losing their lives.

TAPPER: And, lastly, Mr. Mayor, you touched on this, but I wanted to -- I want to know a little bit more.

Los Angeles obviously has a significant homeless population.


TAPPER: What's being done to protect those individuals and keep them safe?

GARCETTI: So, we have hundreds of cleaning stations on the street, port-a-potties that we're putting out.

We have opened up already hundreds -- and soon it will be thousands of new beds in our rec centers. And we have procured already what looks like a plan for 5,000 hotel and motel rooms, so people can be isolated to protect them, or, if they are symptomatic, to make sure that they're not out there on the streets.

It's an unprecedented surge. But this will be tough. They're the most vulnerable and susceptible, many of them with underlying conditions. And we don't want them to die. And we don't want the disease to spread.

So, we're putting out the call for help, and some federal funds and state funds should help that as well.

TAPPER: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garner, stay in touch. Let us know how we can help.


TAPPER: Thank you for your time. And God bless you and the health care workers of California and Los Angeles.

GARCETTI: Thank you. God bless you too. (CROSSTALK)

GARCETTI: ... through it all.

TAPPER: Thank you.

If you're looking for ways to help those in need due to the coronavirus pandemic, visit CNN's Impact Your World page. That's at

Coming up: He's a doctor treating coronavirus patients. Now he's testing a drug to see if it will keep him from becoming infected -- an up-close look at the search for a treatment.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

Medical professionals across the United States are rushing to find some kind of treatment, some kind of cure, some kind of vaccine for coronavirus. There's a new blood plasma treatment starting this week in New York and a vaccine trial now under way.

And, for one doctor, this testing is personal. He just joined a drug trial after treating patients with COVID-19.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen gets a front-row seat to how exactly this trial is working.


DR. BRIAN GARIBALDI, JOHNS HOPKINS: So, my packets just arrived.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): Thursday morning, Dr. Brian Garibaldi gets his first delivery.

GARIBALDI: When I receive the first shipment on the first day. I'm going to take four tablets right away. And then six to eight hours later, I take three tablets.

COHEN: These pills are either a placebo or they're hydroxychloroquine, a drug that might prevent or treat coronavirus.

Dr. Garibaldi, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Johns Hopkins, is part of a study to see if it works. The University of Minnesota is running this study, along with universities in Canada. They hope to send pills to 1,500 people who might have been exposed to coronavirus, like Dr. Garibaldi.

They will see if the study subjects who get hydroxychloroquine are less likely to get coronavirus than the people who got the placebo.

(on camera): You have been at the bedside of patients with coronavirus.

GARIBALDI: I have. Yes, I have taken care of about 15 patients so far.

COHEN (voice-over): And even though he's careful...

(on camera): Do you ever get scared working with these patients? Do you ever get scared for your own health?

GARIBALDI: Well, yes, I think we're always concerned that, when we take care of patients with infectious diseases, that we might be putting ourselves at risk.

COHEN (voice-over): President Trump has been enthusiastic about hydroxychloroquine.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging early results. I think it's going to be -- I think it's going to be great.

COHEN: But doctors say, not so fast.

(on camera): The president seems pretty confident that it will help patients. Do you think it will?

GARIBALDI: I'm not sure. I think we really need to study it to understand what role it's going to play. So, while there's hope that it might work, we have to be mindful of the fact that it potentially might not and there could be potential harms.

COHEN (voice-over): And there are other coronavirus treatments in the pipeline too.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We're talking about remdesivir, other drugs, immune sera, convalescent serum, monoclonal antibodies. All of these are in the pipeline now, queuing up to be able to go into clinical trial.

COHEN: At Montefiore Medical Center in New York City and at other hospitals, they're trying remdesivir, a drug that attacks the virus, to see if it's better than placebo.

And they're testing drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which help your immune system respond to the virus. And the New York Blood Bank is collecting blood from people who've recovered from coronavirus, so it can be given to people who are sick, in the hopes that it will help them.


The big question: When will we know if these treatments work? Usually, it takes years to test out drugs. But, because of this pandemic, doctors hope to have results in months or maybe even in weeks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: CNN has learned that, soon, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be announcing that they also are funding a study of hydroxychloroquine -- Jake.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

As we near the end of the hour, we want to update you on the staggering death toll in the U.S. We are obviously in the middle of not only a spread, but an acceleration.

Just in the time since I came on air less than two hours ago, the number of cases went from about 78,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. to more than 80,000. The death toll rose from 1,135 dead to 1,161 dead.

That is just in the last two hours.

The White House task force briefing is about to get under way. CNN is going to bring that to you when it begins.

Stay with us, stay healthy, stay strong.

I'll see you tomorrow.