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New York Remains Epicenter Of Coronavirus; U.K. Government Asks For Volunteers To Help Fight Coronavirus; Problems With Testing Hamper Response To Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 05:30   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: New deaths reported on Wednesday. That is the country's single-highest death toll so far. And the number of confirmed cases in the largest U.S. state, California, is now doubling every three to four days. But as Nick Watt now reports, New York remains the epicenter of the country's infections.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are field hospitals in Manhattan, college dorms being converted, existing hospitals upping capacity, a Navy hospital ship coming soon, but New York is still 20,000 beds shy of what they say they'll need.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Then we're looking at hotels, we're looking at former nursing homes.

WATT (voice-over): They had 4,000 ventilators, they've bought 7,000 more, FEMA delivered 4,000, but New York is still 15,000 short.

CUOMO: We're exploring splitting where one ventilator could do two patients.

WATT (voice-over): All hands on deck at this make or break moment. That's in a letter New York's health commissioner just sent to everyone in the state with an expired medical license.

But there is hope. The rate of hospitalizations in New York is now slowing.

CUOMO: The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working.

WATT (voice-over): Confirmed cases now spiking elsewhere, more than doubling in Louisiana since early Monday, and we're now about a month after Mardi Gras.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: I happen to believe with people coming from all the country and all over the world into New Orleans that a fair amount of coronavirus was seeded.

WATT (voice-over): At least 18 more deaths reported today in New Jersey.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: We have now the second-highest positive tests of any American state.

WATT (voice-over): An Alabama newborn now in NICU isolation, just in case, after a nurse tested positive.

The WHO now says the U.S. doesn't have to be the next global epicenter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've still got the means of turning it around.

WATT (voice-over): She says by testing, tracing contacts, isolating, and many of us continuing to quarantine, as around half of all Americans are now under orders to do.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL: We're seeing a doubling once a day in deaths from coronavirus. And the doubling time is only one day, and that is the worst in the world right now.

WATT (voice-over): Amazon, a crutch for so many staying home, is now dealing with coronavirus cases among workers in at least nine facilities nationwide. Walmart, Kroger, and others now adding sneeze guards to check-out lanes.

WATT (on camera): Here in California, the governor says they have distributed more than 24 million of those N95 masks. He says they've ordered another 100 million and that's still insignificant to our needs. He also said that more than one million Californians have filed for unemployment in the past 12 days or so.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks, Nick, for that report.

Well, let's go to Spain now where the death toll is surging. The government reports more than 3,400 people have died. That means Spain has surpassed China's death toll. It's now the second-hardest-hit country in the world, behind Italy. And the government is extending its state of emergency through mid-April. It's also brought almost $500 million in medical supplies from China, which should cover four to six weeks.

So, Al Goodman joins me now live from Madrid with more on all of this. Al, hi, good to see you. So certainly, real concern about the numbers spiking where you are.

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Indeed, because the number of dead doubled just from the weekend just a few days ago, so that's of concern.

Another concern for officials here is that a tenth -- 10 percent of all of the people who are infected are medical workers -- two doctors have died. And the medical workers have been saying now for some time they didn't have enough of this protective gear. So this is why Spain making this purchase you just mentioned, but it's

not going to come all at once. It's needed now but it's going to be spread out over two months. That's not Spain's choice; that's the way the market is right now.

They're getting 950 ventilators in that lot, along with millions of masks and testing kits which they also need, but it's going to be spread out.

So the Madrid government -- the Spanish government has asked NATO -- this is a NATO-member country -- has asked NATO for help. They're asking the Spanish regions, which are not as hard-hit as the Madrid -- as the Spanish capital, which is one of the focal points of the COVID- 19, for anything that they can send.

But as the officials here say, they're competing not just with for every supply that's in Spain. They're competing with all the countries around the world.

Now, the extended state of emergency now going through April 11th -- Saturday, the day before Easter. That will make it a full month.

A rising number of questions here Robyn on did Spain put that in early enough. It started in mid-March but the health minister saying on Wednesday that they detected a number of infections. Now, they realize had a number of infections going in late-February. It still took another two weeks after many large public gatherings had happened and people got infected at those, according to officials -- Robyn.


CURNOW: And, Al -- I mean, it is concerning and particularly, those numbers of health care workers that you say are infected. What do we know about them and how are they doing?

GOODMAN: The -- one of the top health officials was asked about that in a nationally-televised news conference on Wednesday and he said there was a number of problems there. One is that certain hospitals in different parts of Spain had a lot of infections among the health care workers. That was one problem.

He admits that there was also a lack of equipment. He says it's not generalized but the protective gear was not in place at all of the -- at all of the hospitals. And a large number of the medical workers infected, like the rest of the total number infected, are here in Madrid.

So it has really struck into the ranks of the medical workers and that's one reason that the government has mobilized 50,000 extra medical workers, calling retired doctors in, but especially putting young doctors just finishing or just out of medical school right onto the front lines -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that. Al Goodman there in Madrid. Stay safe. Thanks so much, Al. So like everywhere else, Britain is also trying to stem the outbreak and it is putting a massive strain on health care professionals as well. So the government asked the country for help and a quarter of a million volunteers. Well, in just 24 hours, they got double that. Half a million people have signed up.

And it comes amid Boris Johnson's stay-at-home order, which is now in its third day. Four hundred sixty-three people have now died of the virus in Britain.

So let's go to London. Nick Paton Walsh is standing by.

So many volunteers. What an amazing response to this call. But what are they doing to do?

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Essentially, anything, it seems, on the orders from the NHS, to helping the vulnerable perhaps get shopping all the way through to maybe advanced medical care if you're talking about retired practitioners here. An extraordinary response from a country which has seen its government's restrictions here frankly echo that kind of wartime volunteer effort.

There's a feeling here in Britain that we're on the brink, possibly, of something awful. But we also, I think, possibly here, feel that's been the case for a number of days now.

And oddly, yesterday was a day of better numbers -- almost good news to some degree. Still awful that 41 people died in the United Kingdom yesterday, bringing the total to 463, but that saw the daily rate of increase of deaths drop a little bit from the weekend.

And also, at the same time, we heard from one of the key epidemiologists advising the government here who last week made a stark warning that caused a lot of these restrictions to come into place. Well, he seemed to revise his predictions suggesting, in fact, that the 250,000 dead he thought were possible if the British government just stuck to its more lax policy of mitigation -- well, that should have included a number of people who possibly may also have succumbed to old age or illness during the period of this pandemic anyway, regardless of the influence of the coronavirus.

In fact, he suggested this particular pandemic under the current measures may kill below 20,000 people, which would be well within the NHS -- the free U.K. health service's ability to respond with intensive care. Still, awful numbers but nothing necessarily as bad as the worst predictions. Still, though, London here -- we were told by Boris Johnson, three weeks ahead of the rest of the country.

Some worrying stories of medical care practitioners not having the kind of support they thought they were going to get. But at the same time, too, startling images of a potential 4,000-capacity bed conference center in London being rapidly transformed to deal with the surging cases.

But a sense of something coming here, Robyn. We just don't quite know the scale of it yet. CURNOW: OK, thanks so much. Nick Paton Walsh there in London.

So, coming up, President Trump boasts about testing in the U.S. but some Americans who want the test still can't get it. We told you about this. And those who have been tested are waiting, yes, days and days for the results. We'll find out why. That's next on CNN NEWSROOM.



CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

Now, the U.S. president, Donald Trump, says the U.S. is doing a great job testing for the coronavirus. Yet, many cities still have long lines of people waiting to get tested. And one New York City hospital system says it has 1,600 patients either waiting for results or waiting to be tested.

And for those who are tested, getting results, as I said, can be very, very low, as Drew Griffin now reports -- Drew.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Commercial labs, even among the country's largest, tell CNN coronavirus testing results are seriously delayed because of backlog.

Quest Diagnostics said the lab's current turnaround time is an average four to five days but can be as long as seven days. And although the company is "...rapidly expanding testing capacity, demand for the testing is growing faster and we cannot accommodate everyone who wants testing and meet tight turnaround time expectations."

It's just the latest issue in a long list of disastrous delays of testing since coronavirus first arrived in the U.S.

DR. LEANA WEN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: That lack of testing is preventing us from understanding the true spread of coronavirus in communities. It's almost certain that not only in New York and the identified hotspots but all over the country there are some significant underestimates of the true number of coronavirus cases.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): First, there weren't enough test kits. Then there was a shortage, still ongoing, in the supplies needed to conduct the tests. Now, the critical delay, which is having a dangerous effect in hospitals and other health care facilities, is delays in getting test results.

DR. ALEX GRENINGER, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S DEPARTMENT OF LABORATORY MEDICINE: Quick turnaround time can save personal protective equipment. That's probably the most important thing right now. GRIFFIN (voice-over): When doctors don't know which patients are infected with COVID-19 they waste precious personal protective equipment because they have to switch out masks, gowns, everything in between patients to prevent the virus from spreading even more. It's making the uncertainty inside hospitals even more terrifying.

JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION: People are very frightened of contracting the illness, of not having the equipment to protect themselves, transmitting it to other patients, transmitting it to each other, and transmitting it to family members. There is absolutely not enough testing going on.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And shockingly for the most powerful nation on earth, many health care workers cannot get tested unless their symptoms become severe.

In New York City, EMS workers say they do not have N95 masks or enough personal protective equipment. They are being exposed, getting sick, and told to just go home. They are getting no tests.

OREN BARZILAY, FDNY EMS UNION: We are not provided with any tests even after we've been exposed and showing signs and symptoms of coming down with the virus, which is -- it's unacceptable to us.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Health care workers and first responders unable to get tested, unable to get proper equipment, daily make the decision to go to work and risk being infected or give up.

This nurse from Ohio quit, she says, to save her own family.

STACY FOYTIK, CLEVELAND, OHIO: I feel that people should know that if we walked into rooms like this a month ago, a year ago, we would have been reprimanded. We would have lost our jobs because what were we doing, not providing safe care.

GRIFFIN (on camera): The bottom line is despite what the president is saying, testing remains an issue. We're hearing it from doctors, from hospitals, from nurses, and even the labs themselves. The demand for testing for this coronavirus is still far exceeding the capacity to process those tests.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


CURNOW: Thanks, Drew, for that report.

So coming up next, taking the blood from recovered coronavirus patients to help the sick. The technique just approved by the FDA. We'll hear from one of the world's leading experts. That's next.



CURNOW: The New York Blood Center will soon be collecting blood plasma donations from people who have recovered from the coronavirus. They will use it to help to treat patients who have the illness. Doctors test the plasma of recovered patients' antibodies to the virus and then inject that plasma into the sick person.

So, here's what the leading expert on this -- on this research told our Erin Burnett. Take a listen.


DR. ARTURO CASADEVALL, JOHNS HOPKINS IMMUNOLOGIST: There's been tremendous progress in this area in one week. At the very least, today, the FDA has allowed the use of convalescent sera, so this is something that will now be used in the United States (audio gap) against this coronavirus.

As to when are we going to know how effective it is, it's going to require some time. We're going to have to do some testing to determine how, when, and if it works.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: So when Dr. Fauci had said last week that this could be a few weeks until they know more information, what do you think it is here? Is it a few weeks, is it a few months? I mean, what do you think is realistic?

CASADEVALL: Well, I think that New York -- New York is moving to deploy this very rapidly. I understand they are already recruit -- trying to recruit people to donate their convalescent serum.

And I think it's important that the viewers know that this has not started yet, that the areas where people can donate will have to be locally, and that it is for compassionate use only. That is, doctors will have to make a determination into whether this will be likely to benefit a patient, potentially, and then make -- and use it in that case.


CURNOW: So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has expedited the use of the blood plasma treatment, so we'll keep you updated on that.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus has shut down traffic in cities all around the world. I want to show you some of these images just to show you how seriously the world is treating the pandemic.

Take a look here. Athens, in Greece -- soldiers are guarding the monument of the Unknown Soldier. London's Golden Jubilee footbridge is nearly empty of pedestrians. Take a look at that image.

And then the streets of Rio in Brazil are quiet with nearly no cars on the road. And there's also almost no one to be seen here in London's Trafalgar Square. Wow, who would have imagined that? Extraordinary images there.

But finally, when we talk about extraordinary, here's to all the health care workers around the world. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: People all over the world are cheering for health care workers who are battling the coronavirus pandemic -- Madrid, Paris. A Twitter campaign asks people to cheer from the safety of their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We appreciate you.



TEXT: Rome; Copenhagen, Denmark. #Solidarityat8 urges people to go on their balconies or open their windows to cheer at 8:00 p.m. Buenos Aires; Tamil Nadu, India.

Medical professionals are being called heroes as they continue to work in increasingly dangerous conditions.


CURNOW: Solidarity and support there for health care workers around the world.

Thanks for your company. I'm Robyn Curnow. Let's help all of our medical workers by staying at home and staying safe.

Thanks for joining me. "NEW DAY" is next. Alisyn and John are up. You're watching CNN.