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Death Toll in America Due to Coronavirus Nears 1,000; New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson Interviewed on Supply Shortages at Hospitals Treating Coronavirus Patients. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: In New York, hospitals are bracing for a surge in patients. One hospital has constructed a makeshift morgue on the street. Nurses at a different hospital in Manhattan are resorting to protecting themselves by wearing trash bags. This is because of a shortage of their protective gowns. CNN has learned that some hospitals are debating a universal do not resuscitate order for coronavirus patients.

But there is some reason for optimism. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says there are signs that social distancing is working to slow down the doubling rate of the virus, John. That is obviously one bright spot.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Fingers crossed on that.

This is not just a New York problem. This morning, Louisiana scrambling as well. Cases there have spiked to more than 1,500, and there is new fear running out of ICU beds in that state. They only have less than a third still available right now.

We also have breaking news overnight. Just hours ago, the Senate passed the $2 trillion rescue package, it was unanimous in the Senate. The bill authorizes checks to more than 150 American households, and we have new information about when you might see some of that money. The House is expected to vote on the measure tomorrow.

And just minutes from now, the number that so many analysts are watching so closely, the Labor Department will release weekly jobless claims. This is basically a sign of what the unemployment status is in this country, and there is every reason to believe that this number will shatter records, the wrong kind of records.

We want to begin, though, with the public health emergency, especially here in New York. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens where 13 people, Brynn, have died in just the last 24 hours.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, is it bad to say it is not that surprising to me? We have been here all week, and we have slowly seen the patients coming here every single day, more and more, earlier and earlier in the morning, as the line behind me, which I'll show you in a second. But first, let me tell you that this hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, it's

one of 11 public hospitals in New York City, and right now it is being called the center of the crisis. And again, this is why. Look at all these people lined up just to get some care. There is an extra tent here to deal with the amount of people that are coming into the emergency room. It is an annex to the E.R. There is also a tent here for testing. That line, we just went by it not too long ago, it is snaking through. There is so many people. And I can tell you guys, there is all ages. I didn't ask ages, but I can tell, there is young and there is old, another reminder that this virus can infect everyone.

This particular hospital tells us daily they are getting supplies here. They are asking doctors and nurses to be transferred here to help with the demand. We talked with a doctor who is going into his shift this morning, who basically said they are busting at the seams. We're hearing that they're transferring patients to other hospitals to deal with the demand. They're telling anyone who has mild to moderate symptoms don't even come here because really there is just too many people. That's the situation again at the center of this crisis, but it's something we certainly might see being repeated, already possibly being repeated in other parts of this country.

Really quickly, I want to mention that morgue that you guys were talking about, that makeshift morgue. It is outside Bellevue Hospital, which is in Manhattan. That is a familiar site to people who lived here through 9/11. That was set up during that time. It is part of the city's emergency disaster plan. And that morgue will serve as a place for medical examiner's office to do only autopsies, if it comes to that. It hasn't come it that just yet, but certainly the fact that it's being set up, the fact that we're learning about these refrigerated trucks possibly being positioned at hospitals, it's a grim reminder of the reality that might be just around the corner.

BERMAN: Yes, necessary, but ominous vision, Brynn. Brynn Gingras outside Elmhurst Hospital, you've been doing great work there. Please keep us posted throughout the morning. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, John, joining us now is Corey Johnson. He's the Speaker of the New York City Council. Good morning, Speaker Johnson.

COREY JOHNSON, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Good morning, thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you. So Brynn Gingras, our correspondent, just demonstrated these inconceivable scenes, or at least they would have been inconceivable a couple of weeks ago. And I know that you have said that you do not think that New Yorkers are psychologically prepared for what is about to happen in the next couple of weeks. What should they be prepared for?

JOHNSON: I think it is really important that we as elected officials really level with people and are honest with them when we're going through a crisis. And what we're seeing at Elmhurst Hospital over the last few days is, sadly, what I'm afraid we're going to see at more hospitals across New York City. But I don't want that to immobilize people. I don't want that to scare people in a way where they think they can't make a difference.


The thing that will ease that up is if people stay home, if people physically and socially distance so that -- we're on a lagging indicator. It takes days to actually see what is going to happen because of the incubation period of the transmission that occurs with the disease. So I am scared that New Yorkers aren't sure what's coming, but they can make a difference. We need to halt transmission, we need to build up our hospital capacity, which you see Governor Cuomo talking about effectively every single day. And thirdly, we need relief from Washington for an economy, the third biggest economy in the United States of America, here in New York that has basically been shut down. But New Yorkers need to be prepared for that is what wich could be coming, but we can still make a difference.

CAMEROTA: I will get to the economy in one second, but first I just want to show you a picture from a hospital that is in your district. This is a hospital where the healthcare workers have taken to wearing garbage bags because they don't have the protective gowns and gear that they need. I don't know if you've seen this, but what do you make of this that this is what it has come to?

JOHNSON: It is insane. It is insane that in the wealthiest country in the world, in the wealthiest city in the United States of America, that our heroes that are on the front lines, our healthcare workers, do not have all of the personal protective equipment to protect themselves. And to see those photos of nurses and doctors wearing garbage bags is shameful and it is shocking.

We need to protect these folks that are putting their lives on the line every single day, away from their families, and we never should have been in the situation to begin with. We need a federal coordinated response to help us with the lack of personal protective equipment. We need millions of N95 masks, millions of surgical masks, gloves and gowns and face shields and ventilators, and we need help from Washington to get these to our hospitals on the front lines.

CAMEROTA: I feel like hospital workers have been yelling as loudly as they can for these past weeks about what you've just said, that they need federal help. And we get mixed messages, frankly, from the White House, from different politicians. Do you have a sense on whether that help of the protective gear and the ventilators is on its way?

JOHNSON: I know that Governor Cuomo and I know that the administration here in the city both have been scouring the country. And they have been successful in getting some supplies to tide us over for the next couple of weeks, the next few weeks. But we know that this big wave that is coming may not crest. It may not hit its apex until potentially the end of April or the beginning of May. So we need to keep getting those supplies, which is why it is so important that Peter Navarro, who is working in the White House for the president, and the president actually use the defense production act to get these supplies coming in to New York City.

Right now, New York City is the epicenter of coronavirus in the United States of America. And we are the canary in the coal mine. Because it is happening here, it can happen anywhere in the United States of America. So you should want us to get it now, so that eventually it is going to come to you. We need the federal government's intervention, coordination, and help in getting these supplies to New York City.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about the economy. As you know, there was this economic stimulus or rescue package that was just agreed on. It is for $2 trillion. Are you satisfied with what is coming out of Washington?

JOHNSON: Look, I know that Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand are in the minority in the original bill that the Senate Republicans put forward was a disgrace. And so they had to really try to change that bill, and they got a lot. They got money for hospitals, and they got money for folks that typically don't get unemployment insurance, and other things. But it is still not enough for New York City. We need more direct aid to the local government, both the state level and at the city level. We have a massive multibillion-dollar hole both in our city budget and in our state budget, and we are the third largest economy in the United States of America. So us doing well affects the rest of the country.

We need more direct money to New York state and New York City. And I saw that the Senate is not likely to go back into session until the end of April. And that's a little scary because we're going to need a lot more money before then, not just for our hospitals, but directly in the pockets of New Yorkers.


The money they put forward may be helpful in certain places in the country, the direct money into people's pockets, but in New York City, because of the cost of living, it is not nearly enough. We need a rent freeze, we need a mortgage freeze, and we need more money directly into New Yorkers' pockets who have become unemployed overnight.

CAMEROTA: We hear your appeal. Speaker Corey Johnson of the New York City Council, we really appreciate you being on with us. Thank you.

JOHNSON: I want to thank you, and I just want to say this is a tough time for New York. It's painful, it's scary, it's difficult. But we got through 9/11 together. We got through the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, we got through hurricane Sandy. This is probably harder than all of those things. We will get through this together with New Yorkers' creativity and ingenuity and us coming together. So New York, I want to give you hope, you give me hope, let's keep looking out for one another, and let's get through this together. Stay safe. Thanks for all your coverage.

CAMEROTA: We appreciate that boost, thank you very much, Speaker.

So some hospitals in coronavirus hot spots are so overwhelmed and undersupplied they are starting to talk about who they can save. Dr. Sanjay Gupta tells us what this means, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: As of this morning, the coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 1,000 Americans, and hospitals are reaching a breaking point with coronavirus patients surging and a shortage of supplies to meet that need.


Joining us now is CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, it was really interesting to hear Dr. Anthony Fauci overnight saying that the virus makes this timeline. And only the virus makes this timeline. And that timeline that it is setting, at least in New York City, in some places around the country now, is somewhat alarming. We are starting to see the shortages. We're actually well past starting to see the shortages, that you warned us about weeks ago, specifically, we heard more about this, having to do with the ventilators.

What are you seeing right now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look. That's absolutely right. The ventilators are the critical piece of equipment that certainly Governor Cuomo has been talking about. As you know, as we know, we talked about on this program for weeks now, it's the ventilators, but it's also the respiratory therapists, people who need to run the ventilators. If you're going to have a ventilator, it needs to be put in a room where you have obviously oxygen, but also backup power, a ventilator can't ever run out of power, obviously. There is all these things that go with it.

But I don't know if we have these graphics that we have been showing for some time, that's what New York state needs. So, they have 4,000, they purchased 7,000. They're getting 4,000 more. So that's 15,000 short still.

And this is, you know, obviously a significant problem because that is a point when patients are really unable to breathe on their own. (AUDIO GAP) different strategies now, strategies, many of which have just been sort of experimental, the idea of using one ventilator for more than one patient. The idea of using CPAT machines to try to bridge, if you will, before someone might need a ventilator.

So, there is all these different things being considered. But if we have that graphic, I want to show again what the projections were for a moderate pandemic versus severe pandemic in the United States. This is a graphic that we showed, you know, a few weeks ago, John, basically anticipated that we would need anywhere between 64,000 ventilators up to several hundred thousand ventilators in a severe pandemic.

And, John, I -- you know, I don't want to keep belaboring the point, but that was probably over a month ago that we first started showing this and at that time when we asked government officials about it, basically, we got back, look, we're focused on mitigation now, we'll get to the ventilators if we need to. If we had back then, we probably would have been in much better shape now. CAMEROTA: But, Sanjay, just so I understand, is that national

stockpile now depleted? Has all of that gone out to hospitals or not?

GUPTA: No, it doesn't, Alisyn. It doesn't look like it is all gone out still either. So it's not clear, you know, exactly how they're planning on deploying that. I think one idea that has come up is to basically say, hey, look, we understand this is going to be something that is going to affect most of the country at some point. It is clear that there are certain hot spots right now, New York City obviously being the biggest one, perhaps could those machines be deployed there now? And then the idea that they get redeployed to other places as other hot spots develop. That's something, again, that has been raised as a possibility.

But right now, we're behind. We need to ramp up manufacturing, I'm hearing we could do hundreds of ventilators a week. It's a complicated machine. We're going to need thousands and thousands. So, you know, that whole production will need to start now, but also deploying these existing ventilators.

BERMAN: Yes, we're behind and don't sleep on New Orleans or on Michigan or on New Jersey or on Florida. There's a lot of focus on Washington state, New York, California. But we are learning that the cases are rising in other parts of the country as well.

And, Sanjay, we're learning so much more about this virus every day. And you saw a report that people who have gone through coronavirus, we knew they were being left in some cases with some lung damage, but there may be some more now as well.

GUPTA: Yes. This is really interesting and I think worth paying attention to for patients as well, as clinicians out there. About 20 percent of patients according to the study that just came out had cardiac injury, had heart injury as a result of this, and the infection as well.

So, you typically as you mentioned think of lung injury, but what they're seeing is that there's so much inflammation that is occurring in the body as a result of this that it may actually be causing blockages in some of the blood vessels that will lead to the heart. So, it's not a conventional sort of heart attack, but it sort of acts like a heart attack.

And about 20 percent of patients developed evidence of this sort of cardiac injury with this infection. That was regardless of your pre- existing history, that was regardless of your age. So, something to keep in mind.

And as you might imagine, it was much more likely associated with someone having -- someone dying from this, four times more likely to die if they developed this cardiac injury.


So, you know, people out there who are taking care of these patients need to be mindful that they may be needing to treat the cardiac part of this as well as the lung part of this as well as the general inflammation.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy, good, another challenge for doctors, just what they need.

And so, Sanjay, that leads us to these stories that some hospitals may be considering universal do not resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients. As I understand it, explain what you know about this, it's that resuscitating a coronavirus patient puts doctors and nurses at risk because you're so involved with their body while you're trying to save their life, that it may actually do harm to the healthcare workers.

GUPTA: That's exactly right, Alisyn. That's one of the big concerns, how -- how likely is survival in a patient and how -- what is the risk to the healthcare workers as a result of the resuscitation.

You know, there have been -- there has been rumors that there were blanket "do not resuscitate" orders, hospitals that we talked to said that's not necessarily the case, but they are having conversations with families early on to try and determine, like here it is, here is what we think the situation is, the likelihood of survival, the possibility and risk to healthcare workers as a result of resuscitation, all of that being discussed much earlier.

And also, you know, one thing, Alisyn, I'm hearing from colleagues is that there are many patients that are already in the hospital as you know, even before this coronavirus outbreak, and many of them have been in long-standing ventilation status, you know, being in ventilators for long periods of time, and many times these healthcare workers are now going back to the families and saying we're running into a situation now where we may need more of these ventilators now, we're going to have discussions about do not resuscitate orders on patients that have nothing to do with the coronavirus as a result.

So there is a lot of triage that is happening right now. Difficult, difficult conversations and I think those conversations are going to continue for some time, they want to try and have as many of those conversations up front as possible, but they're hard no matter how you look at it or when you do it.

BERMAN: It's simply awful.

Sanjay, we have to let you go. But, quickly, Dr. Anthony Fauci said more definitively last night than I heard him say before, that he is beginning to think that we will see --


BERMAN: -- a seasonal recurrence of coronavirus. How significant?

GUPTA: Yes, I heard the same thing, John. And, I was really struck by it because he's sort of said, look, it is possible, but we don't know. Yesterday, he said we are seeing evidence now that the weather is starting to cool in the southern hemisphere, more evidence of the virus spreading in the southern hemisphere. So, what that means is likely a seasonal variation, it wasn't

spreading when the weather was warmer. It is spreading when the weather is cooler. That could mean that as the weather warms in the northern hemisphere, we'll see decrease spread.

That part of it is good news. The more challenging part of it is instead this idea then that there will be another cycle to this. That there will be another cycle come in the fall or late summer again and hopefully we will be more prepared.

So, good news, that there might be a seasonal variation, but also a recalled sort of effort to be prepared as the weather might cool again later on this year.

BERMAN: Got to get on that vaccine as quickly as possible. And I know so many people are trying now.

GUPTA: That's right.

BERMAN: Sanjay, don't go far. We'll come back in a little bit.

And be sure to join Sanjay and Anderson for a new live CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS". That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

So, millions of Americans unemployed, wondering how they're going to make ends meet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frustrating is one word. Impossible is another.


BERMAN: We're going to get more of these stories, next.



BERMAN: Just moments from now, we're expecting a sobering new measure of the economic pain being caused by coronavirus. Jobless claims, which are coming in again very shortly, expected to exceed anything we have seen before.

CNN's Jason Carroll talked to some of the New Yorkers who are suddenly looking for work.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Millions ordered to stay home, and a growing number of people across the country out of work now that more and more businesses have been forced to close.

CONNOR ZAFT, PRODUCTION WORKER: Frustrating is one word. Impossible is another.

CARROLL: Connor Zaft was laid off his production job last week. His savings will last until next month or so. Zaft worries federal efforts to suspend foreclosures won't help people like him because he's a renter.

ZAFT: If you have any sympathy for people like me, please, for the love of God, you know, at least a 90-day rent freeze, minimum, to let us get back on our feet.

CARROLL: The economic outlook not much better for Uber driver. He's still working, but with so few passengers, he's not sure he will make April's car payment.

MOKLES ISLAM, UBER DRIVER: Now, I'm really big problem right now. I don't have any money in my hands right now.

CARROLL: Word of some businesses hiring has trickled in. Pizza Hut aims to hire more than 30,000 employees, given the increased demand for take-out and delivery. Instacart, the on-demand grocery startup, plans to hire 300,000 more workers to meet surges for grocery deliveries. Still, the national outlook is staggering. And for many people, they're counting on federal help.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMIC COMMENTATOR: Everyone needs that money as quickly as possible. The challenge is you want the money to go out quickly, you want it to be spent well and sometimes those objectives are somewhat intentions.

CARROLL: For now, closed businesses like the New York City restaurants, Cafeteria, and Empire Diner, have a Go Fund Me page for employees.

STACY PISONE, OPERATING PARTNER, CAFETERIA & EMPIRE DINER: It's been two weeks of sheer financial devastation.

CARROLL: Stacy Pisone says he's had to lay off the entire staff from both restaurants.

PISONE: Week two of this.

CARROLL (on camera): Week two. And how much longer can you sustain this?