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Italy's Strained Health Care System; Coronavirus Hot Spots Emerge; Louisiana Sees Rapid Increase in Coronavirus Cases; Americans Struggle to File for Unemployment. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 27, 2020 - 06:30   ET



DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Total cases with over 8,000 deaths.

But experts are still saying there's reason for cautious optimism because it seems that this trend is slowing down and, therefore, they say that measure are working.

But, of course, we're still very much in the heart of this emergency, particularly in the north. Here's a look at what's happening on the ground there.


GALLAGHER (voice over): In some of northern Italy's cemeteries, there's no space left for the dead killed by the coronavirus. Hospitals are crumbling under the sheer number of patients and U.S. experts warn if this disease could cripple Italy's strong health care system, the U.S. could be next.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It essentially got out of hand and it became difficult for them, as good as they are, and they're very good, to be able to contain it in a way that is contact tracing all that kind of thing. It was more mitigation. How do we deal with what we have? They're in a very difficult position.

GALLAGHER: In this exclusive footage given to CNN, doctors show us operating rooms in a hospital in northern Italy turned into makeshift 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 wartime 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 smaller error can -- can give you an infection. And -- 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 (through translator): We're not even counting the dead anymore. Look at the news that's 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: Now, Alisyn, I want to say that other countries are helping out in this crisis. Germany is taking in some patients. Russia and Cuba have sent in doctors. And the U.S. Army has sent up seven truckloads of temporary hospital equipment, stretchers, wheelchairs and even sheets to the area outside of Milan.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it, Delia.


BERMAN: Delia Gallagher --

CAMEROTA: Thank you. This is a global effort. Obviously we thank your point.

Delia, thank you very much for the reporting.


BERMAN: All right, new warnings of coronavirus hotspots in the U.S. beyond New York. A surge in cases in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. What's behind this? We're live on the scene, next.



BERMAN: This morning, new coronavirus hotspots are emerging across the country, including the Midwest. Cases in Michigan have skyrocketed to nearly 3,000, up from less than 350 a week ago. In Illinois, more than 2,500 people have tested positive, compared to just 400 a week ago.

CNN's Omar Jimenez live in Chicago.

And, Omar, this is a new area of concern. We heard this from the administration last night.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, John. And in the words of public officials here, they are in the process of planning for serious surge efforts.

Now, when you talk about some of those efforts, they are in the process of transforming one of their lobbies and a major medical center here in the Chicago area into a potential war. Again, the lobby turning into a potential war where they can lay down beds just to have extra space to prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients that they are expecting to see in the coming weeks.

Not only that, but at Chicago's convention center they are exploring thousands -- or exploring ways, I should say, to lay out thousands of additional beds if need be.

And we are also now learning from the medical examiner's office here in Chicago, they are in the process of acquiring additional refrigerated warehouse space to account for, again, a surge they could potentially see.

In the words of all of these officials, they have said, they hope they do all of this planning and that they don't end up needing it. But, for right now, they say they have to be prepared.

And it's been a similar situation in the nearby state of Michigan, where, as you mentioned, it was just a week ago they had around 350 cases. Cases are now closing in on 3,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in that state. And the governor there, Gretchen Whitmer, has said they have struggled to find adequate personal protective equipment for their first responders and for the health care workers and nurses, those that are really on the frontlines of this battle.

And she says, in many cases, they are fighting for those supplies for some of the earlier states that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak here in the United States. And she has requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government, and specifically from President Trump. The two have gone back and forth. The president criticizing the governor on television. She going right back saying that if you do support Michigan, she wants him to prove it.

And why is this so important? Well, we have seen how the coronavirus has exploded in major population centers across the United States. First in Seattle. And we were, unfortunately, seeing it play out in New York City. But in the words of the coronavirus task force, they are now concerned about two counties as potential next hotspots, Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and, of course, Cook County here in Chicago.


BERMAN: Yes, major population areas that have to be ready right now because when the surge comes, it's already too late.

Omar Jimenez for us in Chicago. Omar, thank you very much for that reporting.


CAMEROTA: John, so many states are, of course, in that same boat. So, for instance, Louisiana, that state is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases. The state now has more than 2,300 confirmed cases. Compare that to roughly 400 a week ago. Eighty-three people have died in Louisiana. [06:40:03]

So joining us now is Dr. Jeffrey Kuo. He's an ER physician and a medical director of the Regional Referral Center at Ochsner Health in New Orleans.

So, Dr. Kuo, give us a status report. What's happening in New Orleans this morning?

DR. JEFFREY KUO, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, OCHSNER HEALTH: You know, I'll tell you what, we know that we are at the epicenter. We are one of -- we are at the tip of the sphere here. And to use a gulf south analogy, we -- our concern is that at this point we are perhaps just at the outer band of a category five hurricane and this may get worse before it gets better.

And I think that as part of that, we understand that being the largest health care organization in the -- in the state of Louisiana, it's our charge to lead in statewide efforts, to support our partners, to support our other systems. But -- and -- but we understand that this isn't just here in Louisiana, just here in New Orleans. This is a national issue or even an international issue. And we, at Ochsner Health, are definitely not immune. And so, at this point, we are practicing under contingency plans and such.

CAMEROTA: Let me give some numbers, just so that people understand what's happening. As far as I understand it, there were 510 new cases yesterday in Louisiana. As we said, there are now 2,300 cases at least.

And I know that you've been monitoring -- you say you've been monitoring the situation over several months. And so when you say that you fear that this is just sort of the tip of the iceberg, what are your models telling you or what have you seen in terms of where you are on the surge?

KUO: Yes, so let's be frank. Obviously nobody really knows where this is going to go. But I think that being that we have been monitoring this for quite a few months now, we are prepared. And so, as part of that, we were able to implement PPE protocols very early on for our employees. We have -- we -- our care teams are working judiciously in order to make sure that we don't run out of PEE. Our supply chain works tirelessly to make sure that they're purchasing.

We're utilizing innovation. We, at Ochsner, have an innovation lab, which we call Innovation Ochsner, that really is helping us in order to manage our patients in a -- in a very safe manner.

We're utilizing telehealth. As an example, if I were to see you in one of my emergency departments and I deem that you have Covid-19, lower respiratory infection, but you don't have any reason to be admitted, I'll send you home. And our pulmonologist, our lung doctors, can you see you virtually. Our emergency departments are also utilizing telehealth as a platform to see certain patients where we can decrease the exposure risk to our people and also decrease utilization of PPE. CAMEROTA: Dr. Kuo, in terms of reducing risk to your personnel, as I understand it, 60 Ochsner healthy employees have tested positive, 300 are in quarantine. How -- what is it like to function down that many men and women?

KUO: Alisyn, that's a great question. Just to put it into perspective, Ochsner is the largest private employer in the state of Louisiana. We have over 26,000 employees. And so, at this point, we recognize that the numbers, although they are quite scary, are actually very small from a percentile perspective.

With that understanding, we also know that when we go into health care as a profession, it comes with certain inherent risks. And it's inevitable when you have a global crisis like this, where you have a pandemic, that some of us are going to get sick. And -- but I do think that a lot of the policies that we've implemented have really helped us decrease the amount of employees that have gotten sick thus far when you compare it to other countries and the health care workers there.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It is so good --

KUO: With that being said, it is still heartbreaking.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

KUO: I'm sorry.

CAMEROTA: I mean it is good to hear that you all could see this storm coming, to run with your analogy, and that you did feel as though you were prepared with PPEs, et cetera.

But, look, you guys are selfless and we really appreciate you being on the frontlines and taking this risk for everybody else.

Dr. Jeffrey Kuo, thank you very much for updating us. Take care and, of course, we'll be watching what happens in New Orleans.

KUO: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the $2 trillion stimulus plan was billed as a way to help ordinary working people. But it turns out there is important fine print in there that could put billions of dollars in the pockets of real estate moguls. That's next.



BERMAN: New this morning, millions of Americans trying to figure out how to get their hands on some of the money that will be part of the federal bailout bill. More than 3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week alone and it is certain to grow.

Joining me now, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans and CNN international anchor Julia Chatterley. And, Romans, this is a taste of what's going on.


BERMAN: I want to read you a statement from the New York Department of Labor. This is what they wrote. They said, last week we received more than 1.7 million calls from New Yorkers filing unemployment claims. The are dedicated staff who are answering all the calls. They're committed to serving every person who need it no matter how long it takes. Thank you for your continued patience.

There's two parts of that. Number one, the scope of it, the 1.7 million claims in New York alone. But the second part of it is, it's pretty clear that all those people aren't showing up yet on the numbers that we're seeing --


BERMAN: And the needs aren't being fulfilled yet because there's such a backlog.

ROMANS: Yes, and there -- there were 80,000 new claims for unemployment officially filed in New York City.


You can see that big spread, right? All those other people are going to probably be counted this week or the week after. And these state labor departments are telling -- are telling their citizens, look, you're going to get back dated unemployment insurance. Don't worry about that. But just be patient with us while our systems crash, frankly, because of the huge demand.

You're right, it is a taste, it's a -- and it's a snapshot, John, of what's the new part of this crisis, the layoff crisis, because of the shutdown. We've intentionally shut down the economy and now these layoffs are the byproduct of that.

BERMAN: And, Julia, people are trying to figure out exactly how they will get the money when it comes. Maybe direct deposit. Maybe by check. You've been digging into this.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I have. And I spoke to the Union of Taxpayers and the woman that I spoke to there said, look, the good news here is if you look at the tax filings from 2019, around 60 percent of people actually provided direct deposit information. That doesn't include people that get Social Security benefits. So that actually might understate the number of people that gave that information.

Of course, not all of them will qualify for checks. But then there's certain limits, of course, of people that earned some money but they don't qualify, they don't earn enough to provide that information and, therefore, they're going to receive checks at some point.

The Treasury secretary said, look, we'll get them out soon after April 6th as possible, but history suggests it can take up to two months.

BERMAN: So, Romans, this bailout bill, and the House will vote on it we believe today or will pass by unanimous consent, there are specific provisions in there which prevent the president, the vice president, their families from getting any direct loans.


BERMAN: But we've learned overnight about part of this bill which can directly benefit the president, Jared Kushner, anyone in real estate, which is these tax write offs that had been eliminated or mitigated as part of the last tax bill, that boon is coming back. Explain what's going on here.

ROMANS: Yes, this is really fascinating. And hat-tip to "The New York Times" for finding this slipped in there at the last minute on page 203 of an 880-page bill. "The New York Times" calls it a bonanza for the richest real estate investors in the country. This is the -- the -- the top of the 1 percenters who would get this. And this is essentially -- it lifts the cap on a tax deduction for real estate depreciation. And when you dig all into it, it comes to the tune of about $170 billion in tax savings. $170 billion over ten years for the richest, richest real estate families in America.

BERMAN: And this --

CHATTERLEY: Can I jump in very quickly and just --


CHATTERLEY: And just talk about this as well?

What we've got here, when the city that never sleeps then goes to sleep is that every business calls up their landlord and goes, guys, I'm not going to pay rent. And we don't know for how long that's going to go on. So some part of this will be preventing a crash -- a cash crunch. You can't have every real estate player going out of business at the same time.

But to Christine's point, and I completely agree with her, some people will look at this and go, perhaps we're trying to prevent that, but there is an element of greed here, too. You decide.

BERMAN: You decide.

This is how, though, there were years that Jared Kushner reportedly did not pay taxes. There were years that Donald Trump reportedly did not pay taxes. And part of this was supposed to be removed as part of the last tax bill. But now it's back. And that will, I imagine, Julia, raise some eyebrows.

CHATTERLEY: It absolutely will. Again, I'll give context. The business roundtable -- so the representative of some of the biggest businesses in the country all asked for this and said, look, can we all have this because that will protect cash flows. It will allow us to keep our employees on. So there is an element here, again, of not allowing every business, including the real estate sector, to go under all at once. But, again, to your point, the connections here are stinky and will always come back to that.

BERMAN: As an 800-page bill, if not more, there's a lot else in there that we're going to learn about in the coming days.

Julia Chatterley, Christine Romans, thanks very much.

The United States now has more coronavirus cases than any country in the world. We have so many developments to bring you this morning right after this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sooner you engage in the shutdown, the easier it is to get to the peak. We have not peaked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States has more reported cases of coronavirus than any other country on earth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This crisis is ramping up exponentially. The federal government has told governors across the country that they were not prepared and able to meet our needs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're increasing capacity. Our biggest issue is being able to staff those extra beds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking potentially one in three adults could get this virus. We need to test everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This virus doesn't care where you live. This virus does not discriminate.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. You're watching NEW DAY.

As of this morning, the United States has more reported cases of coronavirus than any other country on earth. That's more than Italy, more than Spain and more than China, where the outbreak began.

The virus has killed nearly 1,200 people in the U.S. and it is accelerating. At least 24 states reporting 100 or more new cases on Thursday.

And cases are surging in Florida, in Michigan, in Illinois and Louisiana. Governors there still struggling to find ventilators, but they say they're facing competition with each other and with the federal government.

Hospitals in different locations around the country tell CNN that they expect to run out of ICU beds within two weeks.

The number of hospitalized patients in New York jumped by 40 percent on Thursday. Refrigerated trucks are now being mobilized as makeshift morgues. More than 150 health care workers at four Boston hospitals have tested positive for coronavirus.


And overnight, the New York Police Department reported its first death. And this morning --