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Jobless Claims Released; Stopping the Hoarding of Possible Virus Treatment Drugs; Doctors Die of Coronavirus in Italy; Japan's Response to the Coronavirus; Two Boston Hospitals with Coronavirus Infected Employees. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Right now market is open. Open a little bit higher. Well, there you go, 400 points higher, 2 percent. Reaction perhaps to the stimulus deal moving forward, but also muted reaction, to some degree, 3.3 million Americans have filed employment benefits just one week, four times the previous record.

Let's get right to CNN's Christine Romans.

Christine, you know, the -- I always want to bring it back to jobs --


SCIUTTO: And folks who -- many of whom are watching today who might be in this category here.

And 3.3 million today. Estimates of 14 million lost jobs by the summer.

Is today one day, one week of many where we're going to see things like this?

ROMANS: Well, this is a snapshot of the last week. These are people who went to or contacted their state unemployment offices and filed for a jobless check for the first time. First time unemployment claims. That number is so big, we've never seen a number that big before. Imagine the entire state of Iowa, everybody losing their job. Imagine the city of Chicago. That's a -- almost 3 million people in Chicago, losing their -- I mean that -- just think about how many people that is. It's so big, it distorts the scale, blows away the other records, 1982 was the record high here.

This, Jim, is what happens when you stop an economy. We stop the economy, and you had people lose their jobs right away. You'll probably see a few more weeks, maybe not to this degree. It's hard to know. We have a stimulus plan, a rescue package that looks like it's going to proceed here and become law. There are measures in there to get employers to keep people on the job.

There are also measures in there to help these people who have just filed for unemployment benefits. They're going to have some enhanced unemployment benefits to get them through the next four months with a little more money in their pocket.


ROMANS: So, we're taking measures to assuage, I think, what was a predictable situation. When you shut down the economy, you lose jobs.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and that's -- it's a good point because in the stimulus package more money from unemployment insurance for a period of time than is typically contained in those checks, but also for a longer period of time targeted at the folks who need it most.


ROMANS: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks so much. We know we'll come back to you.

Now to the concerns over potential drug treatments for coronavirus and a new warning from the American Medical Association that some doctors and pharmacists have been improperly prescribing medications for this.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more.

Elizabeth, what are you learning here? This is alarming because, you know, we place a lot of trust in doctors and pharmacists to tell us what's right. What the right treatments are. So what's happening?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So the concern is really for doctors, dentists, other prescribers, that they are prescribing themselves these treatments, Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine, because there's some indication that maybe these treatments will help either prevent or treat coronavirus. But they are not supposed to do that. It's called hoarding. That's a rough word, but that is what it is. One pharmacist telling us that she's getting prescriptions from a dentist for him, for his wife, for their friends and she said, nope, I am not going to do it. And now the American Medical Association coming out saying the same.

Let's take a look at a statement from their president, Dr. Patrice Harris. The AMA is calling for a stop to any inappropriate prescribing and ordering of medications, including Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, and appealing to physicians and all healthcare professionals to follow the highest standards of professionalism and ethics.

Now, Dr. Harris is being polite. I will not be polite. I will say, don't be jerks. Don't hoard this medicine, doctors. This is not for you. It is for your patients who have lupus, who have malaria, who have rheumatoid arthritis, they're the ones who need it and there's about to be a shortage. In some places, we're told, there already is.

SCIUTTO: OK, so we know the Justice Department has already been going after people hoarding supplies. Are states doing anything to stop this? Doctors improperly prescribing medications?

COHEN: Yes, some states really jumped in quite quickly. The very day that this started happening last week, many states jumped in and passed rules that said if you want to prescribe these two drugs, you need to have a diagnosis written on the prescription and worried physician is not a diagnosis. The they're limiting it typically to 14 days. And so they're really hoping that that will put a dent in it because, you know, no doctor wants to get in trouble.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question. Well, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much for the story.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Overseas now. Japan's iconic cherry blossoms draw large crowds, look at that there, this despite the serious threat from the virus. Why authorities are urging people to stay at home and are they listening, up next.



SCIUTTO: This number caught our attention this morning. At least 37 doctors have now died from coronavirus in Italy. Medical officials blame those deaths on a lack of protective equipment. Nearly 6,000 healthcare workers in the country have become infected. Italy is now considering the possibility of shutting down its borders as military trucks are used to carry coffins away for cremation. Authorities are struggling to keep up as the country reports more than 7,000 deaths and more than 70,000 cases.

CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau joins me now from Rome.

Barbie, you know, Italy has just -- it's just been sad. So many of the stories from there, you hear about the doctors, you hear about young people affected in addition to the old. Tell us what the situation is on the ground there and is there any hope, because we've been watching the curve to see if things were slowing down and it's not clear that's happened yet.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, a lot of people do believe that we're at the beginning of the flattening of the curve. We've had four days where the number of total cases, the number of new cases has seemed to start to stabilize.

But then when you put that against the backdrop of those doctors that are dying, 6,000 health workers, as you said, infected, many of them have to stay on the job because they just don't have enough people in the field.

And, you know, and you mentioned that they might be closing the borders, that's actually a -- in a sense a good sign here. That's because they don't want, if Italy does, you know, turn the corner on this, they don't want other people to come here and bring in new cases. And I think that's an important thing to look at. Also, you know, Italy has a population of 60 million people. That's

one-sixth the size of the United States. So if we're flattening the curve at 70,000 cases, it's terrifying to think what might be happening in the United States.

But the lockdown looks like it is working, you know?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, that's an important indicator, right, because countries like Italy that have done the lockdown, you see that it has an effect in that phrase we repeat now, flattening the curve, but it's important.

Barbie Nadeau, good to have you there. We'll be checking back in for updates on Italy.

Also overseas, Japan now reports 98 cases in that country's largest one day increase of coronavirus infections. Large crowds are gathering, still, though, to view those iconic cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Look at those crowds. Yes, some people are wearing masks, but, listen, that's not social distancing. And authorities have urged people to stay at home.

CNN's Will Ripley joins me now from Tokyo.

Will, Japan's response to this has been troubling at times, right? There hasn't been much testing, not clear how broadly this has spread there.

Tell us what the situation on the ground is and what the government's doing in response.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right, Jim. I think that we should treat the official Japanese case tally of just over 1,300 with skepticism because they are testing a tiny fraction when compared to so many other countries. I talked to one expert saying there might be ten times that. It could be more than that at this stage.

And here in Tokyo, they're particularly seeing the cases spike, which is why the Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, has been warning the public to work from home, to avoid public gatherings, to avoid public transportation and encouraging social distancing.


But we saw it's just not happening. You see along the Meguro River in Tokyo today, and yesterday, huge crowds of people. And a lot of them weren't wearing masks. We were there. We were surprised to see just how close together people were, how relaxed they were.

But, you know what, that's in large part a symptom of what has been a very relaxed Japanese response for weeks, frankly, in the lead-up to the announcement, the postponement of the Olympic games. You know, the Japanese prime minister was saying that this was not a state of emergency, it didn't rise to that level. Now, he is forming a task force, which is one step closer to enacting his emergency powers. And you do get a sense in other parts of this city, the situation is

getting more serious. I was at the supermarket. This is the building where I lived in for four years here in Tokyo. I've never seen the neighborhood supermarket as busy as I saw it today. A lot of the shelves are empty across the city. It seems like panic buying is setting in.

And we're also learning that an active duty U.S. service member has tested positive for coronavirus and beginning Friday morning, local time here, Jim, new restrictions on travel, on social distancing, canceling public events will be taking effect at U.S. military bases here in Japan, affecting more than 50,000 military personnel. We'll see what happens for the rest of this country.

SCIUTTO: Yes, military facilities, a real risk, right? Shared dining facilities, gyms, close quarters. I mean they're facing this as well.

Will Ripley, always good to have you in Tokyo. Thanks very much.

Coming up this hour, as hospitals see a dramatic rise in cases, healthcare workers are often risking their own lives to help others, often without the equipment they need to protect themselves. We're going to speak to one doctor whose hospital has seen a surge in cases among those healthcare workers. That's next.



SCIUTTO: A big part of the story is this, doctors are putting their lives at risk every day in the fight against the coronavirus. In Boston, two different hospitals now tell CNN that they each had more than 40 employees who have tested positive for coronavirus. One of those hospitals, Brigham and Women's Hospital, has 45 positive cases among workers there.

Joining me now is a doctor from that hospital, Dr. Daniella Lamas. She's a pulmonary and critical care physician. Of course, just the specialties that are being called upon to deal with this.

You know, I think viewers at home have heard a lot about cities like New York, and obviously that makes sense, it's an epicenter. But this is spreading far beyond. You're in Boston. Tell us about the situation there. And particularly when doctors are affected, what does that mean for treating patients? Do they have to stay at home? Do you have a shortage of doctors as a result?

DR. DANIELA LAMAS, PULMONARY AND CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: So here in Boston, as you said, we have yet to see the surge in patients and, you know, one can still hope perhaps irrationally, that that doesn't occur. But we are preparing for it.

And we have already, as you noted, seen numerous health care workers test positive. In those cases, people have been staying home. They have been quarantining themselves. And that we still have been able to do that while maintaining our work force. More recently we've changed our rules in the hospital such that

everybody has to wear a mask, a surgical mask, whenever we're in the hospital and, you know, the hope is that that will help keep us and our patients safer.

SCIUTTO: Do you have enough of that equipment, though, because from around the country, hospitals, big and small, we're hearing it from New York, but we're also hearing it from small hospitals in rural Pennsylvania, rural Georgia. Do you have enough of that equipment to keep the doctors safe?

LAMAS: We currently have enough equipment. We, like everyone in the world, is worrying about the day when that's no longer the case. The masks that we wear when we walk through the halls of the hospital are the surgical masks, not the N-95 respirators. Those are, you know, maintained just for when we're seeing Covid patients or, you know, potential Covid patients.


You wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times." It was really powerful because I think it gets to one of the other results of this crisis, and that's just the isolation of the victims.


SCIUTTO: I'm going to quote from it. The name of the piece was, "I'm on the Front Lines, I Have No Plans for This."

And folks at home, Google the piece because it's really worth reading.

But I worry that unless -- well, we'll go on. You said, because I don't want to spend a moment longer in a Covid-19 patient's room than I have to, even with a mask firmly in place, even with a gown and eye protection, I do not want to share the same air. So I do what I need to do and then I leave.

And you say, truth is, I'm scared. And I get that. You're at risk as well. But you also talk about the effect that has on the patients because then they're often left in isolations. They can't even sometimes see their families. How hard is that for patients going through this?

LAMAS: Yes. I mean I think it's -- it's heart-rendering. I mean being sick is scary. Being sick and alone is infinitely scarier. And this is a reality that is facing not just our Covid patients. But, in fact, all of our patients as we've had to limit our visiting policy. And I think it's a -- it's a really tragic and sort of, you know, not as foreseen consequence of this pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

Finally, just before I go, are you getting the help you need from the federal government as you prepare for an increase in cases?

LAMAS: Yes, you know, I think right now I feel like in Boston, as we watch New York and as we sort of watch all they're going through, that has allowed us to ramp up in a way that feels safe.


Ask us when we're seeing an onslaught of cases and I'm not sure. But as of right now, we feel OK. You know, we hope that people continue to stay at home.


LAMAS: And that's key.

Dr. Lamas, keep doing the great work you do and stay healthy yourself. Thanks so much for coming on today.

LAMAS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We've been looking for happy moments in the midst of all this. I think that all of us need them. So listen to this. This from one doctor on the front lines from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Elvis Frasua (ph) paused his work with patients to post this rendition of "Imagine" he says to remind us all that, as we've said on this broadcast many times, we're in this together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Imagine all the people living for today. Whoo.