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Surge of Patients Start to Overwhelm U.S. Hospitals; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Nears 1,000; Cases of Coronavirus Surge Across U.S. Rise to More Than 65,000. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jim Sciutto. Let's get right to the news and the news is a devastating blow to the economy.

A record 3.3 million Americans, many of you probably watching this morning, have now filed for unemployment benefits in the last week. That is more than four times higher than the previous record for this country set nearly 40 years ago.

At the same time, the human cost of the coronavirus, clearer by the day. The number of dead across the country is now approaching 1,000 people. In a single hospital in New York City, 13 people died in just 24 hours. The city is anticipating so many deaths in the coming weeks that officials are setting up a makeshift morgue with tents and trucks at Bellevue Hospital. The last time that was done was after 9/11.

New York has been hit the hardest so far. But it is hardly alone. We're seeing case numbers spike in New Jersey, in Louisiana, in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Georgia. This is a national problem. Hospitals overwhelmed. And supplies are running out. And this morning there are growing questions about what happens when medical workers themselves get sick, as we're seeing that in so many hospitals across the country.

Just three hospitals in Boston, over 100 employees have now tested positive for the virus. Of course, those healthcare workers, they're on the front lines. They're facing some of the greatest dangers here.

Covering this story today, across the country, as only CNN can do, let's begin with the jobs report, though, with CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and CNN Business editor-at-large Richard Quest.

Thanks to have you on both this morning. And this is a story like the virus itself touches home for many Americans, because many Americans watching probably are among this figure here.

So, economists, Christine Romans, have predicted perhaps one million people might file. It's 3.3 nearly.


SCIUTTO: 3.28 million. What does that tell you?

ROMANS: They just -- it tells us this is what it looks like when you shut down an economy on purpose. For just one week, that's just one week, capturing the layoffs, 3,283,000 people lost their jobs. That number far surpasses the Great Recession. It surpasses the terrible recession of 1982 that was a prior record and the state labor departments, Jim, were telling the government that it was restaurants and hotels where they were seeing the leading edge of all of these layoffs.

And we could see this continue over the next few weeks, because we have an economy that we shut down on purpose to try to fix -- to try to combat a virus that could also do terrible economic damage. So in a way, this is exactly what we thought would happen and it did.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, this is a thing, it's not people buying less or traveling less. It is stoppage.


SCIUTTO: It is a stoppage designed to halt this.

Richard Quest, a $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress, vote 96-0, how much does that stimulus blunt the -- it's not going to fill the hole, we know that. But how much does it blunt it in particular for workers who are out of work now?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Right, and these numbers today expected but horrific nonetheless. They show why two specific elements of the package were crucial. First of all, the cash payments that will be going, now that won't make a big dent, but it might help people put food on the table, it might help people sort of pay an electricity bill. And then the long-term unemployment benefit, which was extended because many of these jobs will come back but some will not.

And this crisis could last longer as the virus and the wave of epidemic and pandemic rolls across the United States. So the measures that have been put in place are not only urgent, but crucial, they become essential and we see the reasons why by this three million number. These are -- I mean, we know everybody now, you, me, Christine, everybody knows somebody who has been laid off. Somebody who has been told your job may not be there in the future.

It's a small point, but the cab drivers that brought me in this morning, he's driving a cab, but at the same time, he says his other business, his catering business won't come back when this is over. That's the three million we're talking about, plus.


SCIUTTO: It is. Christine, the Economic Policy Institute says that we could see as a country 14 million jobs lost by summer. I mean, this figure here today, 3.3 million, that is one week.

ROMANS: Yes. SCIUTTO: Economists you speak to, do they expect to see this repeated

over weeks to come?

ROMANS: They do. And you'll see it ripple into different kinds of sectors. I mentioned that this is -- at the forefront of this is hotel workers and restaurant workers. But here is something, Jim, that I think is important. Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chief, was on the "Today" show this morning. In itself, that tells you what kind of the world we're in right now where the Federal Reserve chief is going on to the "Today" show to talk to the American people.

But he said that they're building a bridge between the stimulus in Washington and the things the Fed are doing. They're building a bridge over this cliff that we've just gone off. And on the other side of that is an economy that's healthy and growing again. The key here is to get the virus under control, and he did say that it's up to the virus determines the timeline. Once the virus is under control, then we can reopen the economy. And that he doesn't think there will be lasting damage.

So that is something to take, I think, in this. We know these numbers are going to be ugly, but what's on the other side?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, we don't know. And listen, if business is closed, though, if they can't survive this, that raises a question of how quick that bounce back is, but, again, we're going to watch it closely and no one better to do that than you.

I'm sorry, Richard, before we go, you had a thought?

QUEST: I just want to say, ensuring the viability of businesses when that bridge is crossed, that's what the governor of New York was talking about. Not so much opening the economy early, but putting in place the policies that will ensure the viability so that those small restaurants, those businesses will be able to open.


QUEST: And that has to be the attention of economic policymakers as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, one story from one small business.


SCIUTTO: I mean, I've heard from is cheap money, right? Loan zero or low interest loans that can bridge the gap so they can keep the business running.


SCIUTTO: And ideally keep paying some of their employees.

ROMANS: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: These are the things that matter. Christine and Richard, we know you're going to stay on top of it.

We'll bring you back. Thanks very much.

Let's get to the health end of this crisis that, of course, the tip of the spear here. CNN's Brynn Gingras, she is in New York where the number of cases keeps soaring.

Brynn, we've been talking to you every day. You're outside a hospital that is just one indicator of this. Thirteen people died, just in 24 hours. Tell us what that scene is like.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's worse every day, Jim, right? We've been here all week, and we've slowly been seeing it, and then to hear that from the hospital, that that's actually what we were sort of fearing, it happens. And it's probably going to keep on happening.

Again, I want to get out of the way so you can see the sign because this is the best way we can show it to you right now is seeing all these people waiting in line to get care.

Jim, this is the type of line you would see, you know, wrapped around in Disney World for people to get on their favorite ride. This isn't the line we should be seeing (INAUDIBLE) to get health care. I mean, that's what's happening right now. This particular hospital is having to actually get patients out of here, into other hospitals, because the demand is so big here.

And remember, the governor said the hospitals aren't going to even reach their apex until three weeks from now. I mean, what is it going to look like then? We're learning that they're doing everything they can for this particular hospital, especially with that report. They're sending resources, doctors, nurses.

And, listen, I really want to quickly mention this, I talked to a nurse who just left her shift. She had the surgical shield on still, walking home. And she said her biggest fear right now, and she's in a constant state of paranoia, is that she actually has it and that she's going to give it to someone else. And that just struck me, because it's, like, she's not even thinking really about her, she's thinking about her patients, even after she left likely a very long shift here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, the nation owes so much thanks to those healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of this. There is an angle to this story that's really shocking. New York City running out of morgue space as a result. Tell us how and what they're going to do about it.

GINGRAS: Yes, so you laid it out nicely for your viewers at the top of the show. Back when you -- if you're living here during 9/11, you might have seen this big tent that was placed outside of Bellevue Hospital, which is in Manhattan near the FDR. And that tent was used as basically a place for autopsies to be conducted with so many bodies coming in. Well, that tent is now set up.

It's part of the disaster plan, the city prepares for this, and that's why it's set up. Our understanding it's not being used yet, but the fact that it's there, the fact that we know the city has contracts with refrigerated truck companies to bring them to certain locations like a hospital here, it is really just a grim reminder of the fact that we're not even where we might be headed. And that's how I'm taking it at least.


SCIUTTO: And every victim has a family. And those families dealing with it now. Our thoughts go to them.

Brynn Gingras, thanks for bringing it to us right there.

Let's get now to the experts. I know that as you're watching at home, you want to hear from doctors. You want to know what the latest information is and what it means for you. So let's speak now to Dr. Celine Gounder, she's clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU, Dr. David Katz, he's a board-certified specialist in preventative medicine and public health.

Thanks to both of you. Let's get right to the questions. Dr. Anthony Fauci, of course, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, he said something last night that was very telling. I want you to have a listen and then Dr. Gounder, I want to get your thoughts. This is on the timeline of this outbreak.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You don't make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline. So you've got to respond in what you see happen. And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn't matter what you say one week, two weeks, three weeks, you've got to go with what the situation on the ground is.


SCIUTTO: As you heard that, Dr. Gounder, is that in effect a rejection of the president's push to relax restrictions such as social distancing sooner?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL: Right, Jim, I think that's precisely what Dr. Fauci is saying is that it's much, much too early. We're still in the exponential phase of growth of this. Both in terms of cases and deaths. So what you really want to do is get to the point where you see a peak in cases, you start to see the growth shrinking, not growing. And then you want eventually to get to the point where you don't have community transmission, where you're able to do contact tracing, and that means you can say this person got it from this person got it from this person.

And right now it is so prevalent in the community, it is impossible to do. I think the other approach that may be pursued if we have the adequate testing down the line would be to try to separate those who are susceptible versus those who are immune. But we simply do not have the capacity to do that right now. SCIUTTO: Yes. Dr. Katz, you wrote in "The New York Times" yesterday

that social distancing, other restrictions could be more tailored just to focus on the most vulnerable, rather than the broader population. I'm going to quote from your piece, "The path we are on may well lead to uncontained viral contagion and monumental collateral damage to our society and economy. A more surgical approach is what we need."

This is of course different from what many healthcare experts are recommending including Dr. Fauci. What do you mean by surgical and why?

DR. DAVID KATZ, BOARD CERTIFIED SPECIALIST IN PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE AND PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, Jim, to start, I don't think it's different from what Dr. Fauci is saying. And I don't think it's different from what Celine is saying, I completely agree. The virus will dictate the timeline. So the difference simply is that during this phase where the best we can do is interdiction for all. Try to stop everybody from giving the virus to anybody best we can.

Social distancing and shelter in place if that's warranted. That's the best we can do right now. It is not a terrific strategy, as we're seeing. The virus is spreading wildly. As I speak to you, I've been tested, I don't feel very well. My symptoms are highly suggestive. And I suspect if I have it, it's because my adult children were laid off from their work in New York and sent home from universities in Boston without being tested, and that scenario may be playing out in households all around the country.

What I'm saying is that the global data, South Korea, Germany, Iceland, total global data suggests that 98 to 99 percent of all cases of this infection are mild, and that the severe cases that need these resources, hospital beds, ICU beds and that are at risk of dying from this infection are massively concentrated in a highly vulnerable group. They're not uniquely concentrated there, but massively concentrated, elderly people with chronic disease.

If we can during this phase of interdiction for all use our own data in the United States to identify risk tiers, then we do have the option of developing a plan for phases, where some portion of the population at low risk for severe infection can be invited back to the world and -- but, again, I'm not arguing with my colleagues who right now are saying we have to do everything possible to avoid overwhelming our hospitals in New York, the medical system at large.

SCIUTTO: OK. Dr. Gounder, what's your response to that view?

GOUNDER: Yes, I agree we need at some point down the line to be able to triage between those at risk and those who are at lower risk. But I don't think -- frankly I've taken care of COVID-19 patients at Bellevue in the past week, you know, the median age is younger than you, Jim. So half the patients -- I've had plenty of patients in their 20s and they're ending up in the ICU. So if half your patients are, you know, under the age of 45 and 20 percent of them are ending up in the ICU, that's a lot of young people who are still getting very sick.

[09:15:00] So, to say that young people are not at risk for severe disease simply isn't the case. And why that is in the U.S. and maybe wasn't the case to the same degree in China. Another thing I'm seeing, and this is anecdotal because we haven't analyzed the data in some broad way here in the United States.

You know, obesity is clearly a risk factor here. And a third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. So --


GOUNDER: Many of the young people I was seeing in the hospital had never been in touch with the healthcare system before, and this was their first encounter with a hospital or with really a doctor. So there is something a little bit different about how this is playing out here.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Very quickly before we go, Dr. Katz. Where are we if I could ask you on this curve that people keep seeing as cases rise. It appears and you hear from New York Governor Cuomo, for instance, America is still -- we're still on the up, right? No evidence of this slowing down.

KATZ: No. Well, a couple of quick comments here. First, I share my colleague's concern that Americans are generally unhealthy, and that may change the epidemic curve here. The younger people may be at high risk. What we do has to be informed by data here. Yes, I think we're still on the upside of the curve, certainly nationally, although it does look like the rate of new case identification in New York has declined.

And just -- you know, I do think the numbers overall, you know, they're all highly concentrated, that's what will overwhelm the medical system, that's why slowing the spread is so important right now. But they are low relative to the size of our country, they are low in terms of every individual's risk of severe infection are dying. You know, I think in the mix of all of this worry and alarm --

SCIUTTO: Right --

KATZ: We do need to provide people some context. But I share that concern --

SCIUTTO: I hear you, I hear you --

KATZ: The epidemic may be different here, and we need to analyze data here to inform the next phase of this.

SCIUTTO: Well, Dr. Katz, we wish you the best, considering the symptoms you have there --

KATZ: Thank you --

SCIUTTO: Please keep us updated on your own condition as well. Dr. Gounder --

KATZ: Thank you --

SCIUTTO: Always good to have you on, we know you'll have it -- we'll have you both back soon.

KATZ: Thank you.

GOUNDER: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Tonight, for more information, be sure to watch CNN's latest coronavirus town hall. Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta, they host, they're going to answer a lot of questions, it's really important information, it starts 8:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN. And still to come at this hour, cases of coronavirus are now soaring in New Jersey. One county alone has 800, the highest in the state.

We're going to speak to the mayor of a town in that county about what he's doing to combat the crisis. Is he getting the help he needs? Also, we're going to take a look at some of the drugs that are being used now to treat the virus. Are they working? Which ones? How well? And right now, President Trump on a video teleconference with G-20 leaders, this is part of an ongoing effort to coordinate an international response for the virus.

We're going to bring you updates on that as we get them. Please stay with CNN.



SCIUTTO: Let's get right back to the news. While New York City is the epicenter of coronavirus here in the U.S., we are now seeing a surge in cases across the country. California, more than 400 new cases in just 24 hours. In Washington state, another 250. But it's also the center of the country, and Arkansas, Little Rock Nursing home rocked by the pandemic, there are 46 positive cases at this one nursing home, including 10 staff members.

In Louisiana, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration across the state. The state's governor says it is dealing with the fastest growth rate of coronavirus, not just in the U.S., but the world. The New Orleans mayor is putting out a call for more clean scrubs as hospitals run low on even the most basic equipment. Public health crisis also leading some to some absolutely reckless, even embarrassing behavior.

In Pennsylvania, a grocery store was forced to throw away more than 40 -- $35,000 worth of food after they say a woman deliberately coughed on it. The store said it was pursuing charges against the woman. Why would someone do that? And in New Jersey, the governor says New York City may be the canary in the coal mine, but his state is now close behind.

New Jersey reported nearly 750 new cases on Wednesday alone, bringing the total number to more than 4,400. Joining me now is the mayor of a city of New Jersey, Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin; he's in Teaneck -- New Jersey is just across the George Washington Bridge from New York. This is where there are now more than 5 -- 800 rather coronavirus cases. The most in the state. Good morning, mayor.

We know you've got a lot on your plate, so we appreciate you taking the time here. Earlier this week, you compared coronavirus to dealing with three Pearl Harbors simultaneously. Tell our viewers what that means in your community.

MAYOR MOHAMMED HAMEEDUDDIN (D-TEANECK, NJ): I think, you know, we're using -- you know, we have three attacks going on at the same time from an invisible enemy. When I'm talking about that, I'm saying first and foremost is the hospitals. The hospitals are under siege. They don't have enough protective equipment to fight this, they don't have enough beds to fight this, they don't have enough staff to fight this.

And we're not protecting our staff at the hospitals. We're seeing more and more doctors and nurses and more importantly, nurses' aides who are on this frontline who are getting sick. And we need to protect them and we need to give them the financial resources they need to fight this disease. The second piece comes into is the new normal of remote -- this remote economy and how we're going to function.

If we need people to stay home, and we want to flatten our smash to curve, and we have to be ahead of the curve. And if to be ahead of the curve, you have to be able to put processes in place so that people don't move around. And the last thing is the economy itself. This stimulus package has taken entirely too long. They need to stop bickering, they need to put the stuff out, but they need to do it right also.


Like if you see one aspect of, they're giving their dollars to Marriott and Hilton and I -- you know, the name brand. But it's actually the franchisee who pays the people --


HAMEEDUDDIN: Who are on payroll. They're the people who are like, hey, we're ahead of this. So the -- I don't understand how they're doing this, but take care of business --


HAMEEDUDDIN: On the top, big business on the bottom at the same time because it's small business that is driving this.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, thing -- well, less in Washington lobbying works, right, you know, at these moments.


SCIUTTO: At last check, you said that your hospitals were down to just two ventilators. I mean, ventilators have been a real concern across the country, concerns about being overwhelmed. In your view, does the president need to invoke the Defense Production Act, not rely on private sector in effect to voluntarily do this, but demand that things like ventilators are getting made?

HAMEEDUDDIN: Look, I think there is a lot of miscommunication through this chain right now. If we're treating this as a war, this was a biological attack, I think that I'm -- as a small town mayor, really, I don't understand what's going on. On the 17th, "CNBC" reported that the stockpile was releasing 5 million masks and 2,000 ventilators. As of today, I don't know where those ventilators are.

You know, if he wants to drop them in my park, I'll be more than happy to put an X so that they can air-drop them in their -- in my park. But they haven't come to New Jersey, OEM or the Bergen County, OEM yet. And the conversations like yesterday, the Senate Majority leader said that, you know, Holy Name Hospital got a truck load of deliveries through -- so, I texted the CEO, he said that it never came.

So, like there is a lot of miscommunication in how this is going on, and it's moving very --


HAMEEDUDDIN: Quickly. And my advice to the rest of the country, if you want to flatten the curve, you have to be ahead of it like Teaneck was. We had our first case on March 8th, we started -- we canceled meetings, we canceled sports, you know, we were on unchartered territory, thanks to leadership of Josh -- Congressman Josh Gottheimer and Jim Tedisco and CEO of Holy Name Hospital, Maron, we stood and declared a state of emergency, which is unheard of from municipalities. We were six days before the state had come. And these are the things that --


HAMEEDUDDIN: If you see the battlefield, don't wait or else what you're going to be doing is you're going to be figuring out how you're going to store all these bodies like they're doing in New York City right now.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Well, I like your phrase there, mayor, not flatten the curve, smash the curve. We wish you the best in your community. We know the communities across the country facing similar challenges. Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin of Teaneck, New Jersey. Thanks very much.

HAMEEDUDDIN: Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: A warning from some of the biggest medical associations now, doctors may be improperly prescribing medicines for coronavirus. Medications that are also critical for people with other conditions like lupus. They end up suffering. We're also just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Investors, they're on edge today, especially with these new jobless figures. An astounding 3.3 million Americans, new claims filed right now, the futures pointing to positive territory, we're going to be watching all this, particularly the economic effects this morning with Christine Romans. She'll join us next.