Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Is First Country To Report 113,000 Plus Coronavirus Cases; Sudden Announcement From President Trump That He Is Considering A Quarantine Of Parts Of New York, Connecticut And New Jersey. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired March 28, 2020 - 18:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Tonight, the United States with a distinction that no country dealing with this pandemic wants to have, the largest number of cases anywhere in the world with more than 113,000 cases total. The death toll still climbing closing in on 2,000 and that now includes a tragic milestone, Illinois announcing that a child under the age of one who tested positive for coronavirus has died. Officials are still investigating the cause of death.

The desperate race to stop the spread has forced 25 states to issue full or partial orders to Americans to just stay at home, and that includes New York which is home to nearly half of all U.S. cases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that the apex of coronavirus cases for New York State is still as many as 21 days away. Now, at this hour the U.S. NS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship is en route to New York to provide relief to overwhelmed hospitals.

Earlier today, at the ship's send, off President Trump made this jaw dropping announcement.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a possibility that sometime today, we'll do a quarantine, short-term two weeks on New York, probably New Jersey, and certain parts of Connecticut.

QUESTION: What about travel from those states?

TRUMP: Restrict travel, because they're having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers going down. We don't want that. Heavily infected.

Well, this would be an enforceable quarantine. And, you know, I'd rather not do it but we may need it.


CABRERA: Trump's claim raising immediate questions of whether the President can legally order such a quarantine. All the governors who could potentially be affected were seemingly caught off guard.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo telling me moments ago, he doesn't think this would be legal. More on that in just a moment.

And outside of the United States, in Italy, 51 doctors who tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of this outbreak, have now died. Those doctors are part of an astonishing 10,000 people who have died in Italy alone.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting today, "We are going to beat it," and urging residents to stay home after he also tested positive.

The Prime Minister and two other top officials, one with coronavirus and another showing symptoms are all now in self-isolation.

And just two days from now, Russia will temporarily close its borders. The order follows a previous decision to close entry to foreigners and halt most international flights.

Let's start with that sudden announcement from President Trump that he is considering a quarantine of parts of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

I spoke to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just last hour.


CABRERA: ... essentially what I heard from the President is perhaps New Yorkers couldn't leave the state.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Well, that's not a quarantine. That would be a lockdown. If you said that we are geographically confining people that would be lock down, then we would be Wuhan, China. Right? And that wouldn't make any sense.

This is a time when the President says he is trying to restart the economy. New York is the financial sector. You geographically restrict a state. You would paralyze the financial sector.

You think the Dow Jones, the stock market has gone down, it would drop like a stone. I don't even believe it's legal -- I don't even believe it is legal. Interstate Commerce Clause, et cetera.

So I think it would be exactly the opposite everything the President is talking about. How would you ever operationally stop goods from coming to New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and food and trucks et cetera?

So I can't believe he is considering that.

CABRERA: Well, what if that is what he wants?

CUOMO: Also, the President is working very hard to try to work with --

CABRERA: Well, what if he does want a lock down? Would you sue to stop him? You said you don't think it's legal? CUOMO: Oh, a lockdown is what they did in Wuhan, China. And we're not

in China. We're not in Wuhan. I don't believe it would be legal. I don't believe it would be legal. I believe would be illegal.


CABRERA: CNN's White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond is live for us there outside the White House. Jeremy, do we know exactly what the President wants? And if what he wants is more like a lockdown, is that legal?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, it does appear that what the President is suggesting is more in line with a lockdown than what people typically think of when you talk about the word quarantine.

The President here has said that he would talk about travel restrictions essentially preventing anybody, any residents of New York State and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey basically the Tristate area that is the center of this coronavirus epidemic in the United States preventing any of those individuals from traveling outside of that region.


DIAMOND: And the President made clear this morning that this would be something that would be enforceable by the Federal government. It's not clear beyond that, what the details of that are.

The incoming White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows said that the White House is currently exploring different options for what the legal mechanism would indeed be here. And so far, the White House has not responded to any of our requests for comments, for any clarity or any response.

So what we heard there from Governor Cuomo, some pretty startling comments from the New York Governor in his interview with you, Ana, where he said that this would be a Federal Declaration of War on the states.

So certainly something that Governor Cuomo is saying is not something that he wants to see, and he said that he also did not receive a call from the President about this, which leads him to believe that this is not something that the President is seriously considering.

Nonetheless, Ana, we heard from the President himself this morning, and this certainly is something that he is at a minimum, considering.

CABRERA: Jeremy, do we know where the President got this idea for this quarantine? He mentioned there was a problem with New Yorkers going down to Florida.

DIAMOND: Yes, all we can do here is kind of read the tea leaves by looking at the President's various public comments. Yesterday, we know that the President was saying that Florida Governor Ron deSantis, a Republican and close ally of the President was essentially complaining to him about the fact that there were all these New Yorkers coming into Florida, fleeing South essentially, fleeing the center of this epidemic and potentially risking spreading coronavirus further in the State of Florida.

And so today, we know that the President once again, as he was talking about this potential, "quarantine," he was once again talking about those concerns of New Yorkers going down to Florida.

So it appears that that is what's driving the conversation here. Governor deSantis said that the President did speak with him about this idea and that it was the President who brought up this idea, so we don't know exactly where the President got this, but certainly it seems to stem from some of his concerns about New Yorkers going down to Florida. Interesting, from a New Yorker and current resident of Florida as the President is.

CABRERA: Indeed. Thank you very much, Jeremy Diamond. I want to go live now to Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York City. Evan, how are New Yorkers reacting to this news of a possible quarantine?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, as Jeremy outlined, if you're here in New York, where I'm standing in Manhattan, it's a confusing situation because on the one hand, you have the President saying I'm considering what Governor Cuomo is now calling a lockdown. On the other hand, you have the Governor saying, it can't happen. It's not legal, and it probably won't happen.

So if you're here in the City of New York or in the Tristate Area, it's been a confusing day on this front.

Ana, the sheer logistics of something like this are very difficult to contemplate. First of all, some of these essential workers that we talk about, the hourly employees who have kept grocery stores open and kept other things open. You know, they don't live necessarily near where they work. They travel from far away. They travel from parts of the city to other parts of the city or other parts of the states.

The most interesting part about this is that the governors of the three states involved, all three have said they have not heard from the President about this idea.

So if you are a New Yorker watching this right now or from Connecticut or from New Jersey, you're left kind of in a confusing position to wonder exactly what's going to happen and who you're supposed to listen to -- Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, all right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, we know you will be digging into this as well. Thank you. How would this even work? Would it even work?

With me is former Assistant Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, Juliette Kayyem, CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein is also going to be joining us along with former Federal prosecutor, Eli Hoenig. They are in the works of getting into place.

Juliette, let me just ask you the question that I think is on a lot of minds. How would this work?

As someone who has worked at the Department of Homeland Security, are there, you know, contingencies or plans or some kind of protocol for quarantining an entire state or even large cities?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, those quarantine laws and authority reside with the governor. So you might have an area in which you have to actually use police force to isolate that area.

I am going to assume that the President is unaware of the differences in the sort of legal authorities that either he has or that Governor Cuomo has.

He throws out something about a quarantine on Twitter. Number one, that's not how you do it. Quarantine has to be enforced immediately. Otherwise, people get nervous and leave and then you therefore defeat the purpose of it.

So I think that the President like he often does gets something in his head. It sounds interesting to him. He doesn't ask experts and then tweeted it out.

In the meanwhile, that puts New Yorkers in a tremendous stress and of course, makes the Governor very unhappy.

A President certainly could control border access between and among states, in particular border access of the United States in general, but we just have to take a step back.

What is the purpose of all this border talk right now? It's here. The virus is here. It's in New York. It's in New Jersey. It's in 50 states.


KAYYEM: The President wants to utilize precious military resources to launch against the civilian population and keep them at home. When from the looks of it, most New Yorkers are actually staying at home anyway. Why would you use your limited resources instead, start building hospitals, start demanding companies provide, you know, products and other things that are necessary, start surging resources.

As I said in the previous hour, it is difficult for me to take these sort of public un-thought out very dangerous notions by the President as anything but a distraction from the very important role that he could be playing right now, which is setting national standards for a stay at home policy.

All of us should be home now. We know what's about to happen in this country, and so I just -- I'm sorry if I -- I don't need to blow the President off and his tweet. It's just inconceivable that he's going to turn a military or activate the military to enforce a quarantine at this stage, when it's absolutely unnecessary and just a very, very silly use of resources.

It seems more flailing or sort of a flighty thought than anything serious at this stage.

CABRERA: Well, we have seen the President sort of test out ideas by throwing it out there and see what the reaction is. Juliette, please stand by because let me turn to Elie Hoenig, our CNN legal analyst, former Federal and state prosecutor.

We heard the governor here in New York, Elie, say this is illegal, he believes. Is it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Ana, the President is really sort of wandering into a legal no man's land here. Now, it's important that people understand, every one of the 50 states, the governor has the quarantine power, the ability to declare a quarantine. Sometimes you have to have a state of emergency, sometimes you don't.

But generally speaking, the quarantine power sits with governors. Now, there is a complication here. The President through H.H.S. has the authority to make and enforce regulations necessary to stop the spread of communicable disease.

But a couple of things. First of all, there are no such regulations. The President and this administration has not made or passed or written any such regulations. Second of all, those regulations more deal with flow of people and goods between countries and between states.

So really, the primary quarantine power sits with the states and by threatening to deploy the military and to sort of create these state versus state battles, I think is incredibly counterproductive and I think it's legally dubious as well.

CABRERA: And please stand by, Dr. Brilliant -- Dr. Larry Brilliant is also with us and Doctor, Governor Cuomo compared a lockdown on New York to the lockdown on Wuhan, China. Did the lockdown on Wuhan work?

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: It did. But we are in uncharted territories for our democracy and the way our Republic is established. I think we should take a step back.

We're seeing these horrific pictures on television. It's beyond imagining we allowed ourselves to get into this position. These are self-inflicted injuries in many ways.

Chris Murray, Eminence statistician has predicted there will be 85,000 U.S. deaths, American deaths in the next three months. We have a new mechanism for making an epidemiological decision about what the President and the Governor are talking about. It should not be a political decision. It should be an expert epidemiological decision.

We have a new standing committee at the National Academy of Sciences put together just for this purpose. They should be activated immediately. They should be opining on what is the epidemiological rationale for doing the next step. This is a critical moment in our history.

CABRERA: What do you think is the next step? BRILLIANT: I think the virus has got to lead us where it is and where

the numbers indicate. Right now, it looks like it's everywhere in the country because we've given it a 12-week head start.

I'm not sure that I understand the rationale of creating new borders between states when we have to solve this as a nation. But if the epidemiological picture warrants it, then yes, we have to do what is called for.

CABRERA: Dr. Brilliant. Thank you. Everyone, please stay with me. A quick break. We'll be right back with much more on this discussion.



CABRERA: And welcome back. I just talked to the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, a short time ago and I got his reaction to the news that Rhode Island is now having police pull over drivers with New York state license plates and that state is also using the National Guard to go door-to-door to find people who traveled to New York recently to demand that they self-quarantine for 14 days.


CABRERA: There are reports that the Governor of Rhode Island has ordered that all vehicles with New York state license plates be stopped when entering that state. What's your reaction to that?

CUOMO: Yes, I think that's a reactionary policy. I'm concerned about people with the virus coming into my state. Right? So I think that's a reactionary policy. And I don't think that's legal.

And we're talking to Rhode Island now, if they don't roll back that policy, I'm going to sue Rhode Island because that clearly is unconstitutional.


CABRERA: CNN legal analyst, Elie Hoenig is back with us. Elie, would Cuomo have grounds for a lawsuit?

HONIG: Oh, absolutely, Ana. I think Governor Cuomo is right there. I think for one state to say we're going to start pulling over cars with license plates from another state because we're afraid they may have this virus violates equal protection, it violates due process and it is not to mention is just terrible problematic policy.

So I do think if another state enacted this kind of rule or legislation or just policy, I think Governor Cuomo would be on very strong grounds to take this to court and challenge it.

CABRERA: National security analyst, Juliette Kayyem is also back with us. Juliette, you were in Homeland Security. Have you ever heard of anything like this discussed?


CABRERA: Juliette, we don't have your audio right now. We'll come back to you in just a moment. But while you work that out, let me turn to former Medicaid Director for Virginia, Dr. Jennifer Lee, and let's just put the legality aside here, Dr. Lee. Do you think a quarantine or a lockdown is needed at the Tristate area? Would it help slow the spread?

DR. JENNIFER LEE, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think whatever we do, we need to think about addressing the problem from a national perspective. You know, if we look at what happened in Italy, first they approached it with a lockdown if you will, of the northern region where their epidemic started in was really a hotspot, but they quickly extended it to the entire country.

And I think that makes sense because partial lockdowns don't work. You know, people will travel and will move around and they were concerned that the virus would spread to other parts of the country.

So we've been doing this patchwork approach of strategies in the fight against this virus. And I think it's time to look at a national approach.

CABRERA: Do you think if this sort of lockdown would be implemented, that it would be ineffective because it's too late then?

LEE: Well, we just don't know where we are in the fight against the virus. So we know that in some -- that we have places where we have outbreaks like New York and they're -- and it's coming in New Orleans and Detroit.

We have the virus spreading very rapidly, but we don't have a clear picture yet of exactly what's happening everywhere across the country because of the testing issue.

So as the capacity for testing ramps up and it has gotten better, we need to do I believe some random sampling, a representative sampling of places across the country to see how much the virus has spread.

I'll say, you know, in my own practice in the D.C. area, we are seeing an uptick of sick patients with COVID, so we know that it's here, it's spreading rapidly. There's a record number of cases recorded, identified cases in Maryland today.

But we don't have a clear picture because we haven't had enough testing done. We haven't had representative sampling of the testing. And also the delays in testing continue.

In this area, for instance, testing to get the results back can often be up to a week or more still. So we need to use some of that new technology rapidly to figure out what is going on with this virus and then devise a strategy based on the data.

CABRERA: I know at the last briefing in which they addressed the testing, I believe it was over 500,000 or in that ballpark of tests that had been completed and test results had already, you know, come back.

AT what point do you know that you've collected enough data?

LEE: Well, there's tests that have been done, over 25 percent of them have been done in New York. And so we know that we haven't done enough sampling from across the country.

We should be thinking about the per capita testing rate in various regions across the country, and not just looking at the total number. And so that will give us a better picture of what this virus is doing and how much it has actually spread.

I do want to say, though, that the social distancing is really helping. I think that it would be much worse in the years where I worked, and all across the country if we weren't taking the measures we're taking now. So we have to be careful not to lift our finger and relax those measures until we know what's happening with the virus through the testing.

CABRERA: I believe we have Juliette back with us now. Juliette, I am going to come back to the question that I asked you earlier and it has to do with how Rhode Island is now, you know, implementing some measures to stop cars with New York license plates, to use the National Guard to go door-to-door, trying to find people who may have traveled from New York and make sure they are self-quarantining.

When you were in Homeland Security, did you ever hear anything like this discussed?

KAYYEM: No, not necessarily -- no, not at all. Can you hear me now, Ana?

CABRERA: Yes, we hear you great.

KAYYEM: Okay, great. I'm not at all -- so I look at this from a resource perspective and what -- and the use of limited resources in which they are for something as counterproductive as what we're seeing these -- either the President suggests or some governors suggest, which is that they can try to keep the virus out.

What we need to do is keep us inside. So to be clear, the reason why we're having these state versus state debates or states versus the White House, is because a month ago the White House failed to have a national standard that kept all of us inside.

It made governors nervous about what was happening in New York or in Florida.

If we had national standards this would not be happening. Now, that we are here though.


KAYYEM: The use of limited public safety resources to go door after door or to keep an entire city inside is an absolutely -- is an absolute waste of resources. We should be using military resources to support our public safety and public health apparatus. We should be utilizing -- we should have the governors working together given some of the gaps in Federal planning.

So we have governors out there who think your sister state is the enemy or the next state citizens are the enemy -- it's an inaccurate way to think about it at this stage.

We know that there is community spread in every state. You are not going to be able to hunt down every person who has it at this stage, so you want to keep the people who don't have it inside.

So let's just -- let's let this, you know, thing started by Donald Trump's tweets sort of run its course, focus on keeping people inside as the doctor just said. It does appear to be working in terms of -- potentially in terms of spread. We know it works in other countries.

And this sort of, you know what I said earlier, just flailing idea by President Trump is really not a good use of his authority. He should be using his authority to set national standards for a stay at home policy for all 50 states.

So those of us who have been home for two weeks don't feel like we're wasting our time waiting for the other states to catch up.

CABRERA: Everyone, thank you. Please stay with me. The Governor of New York also comparing a possible quarantine of parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, an act of war. Here is what he said to me, next.




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: This is a civil war kind of civil war kind of discussion.

CABRERA: So you don't believe he really is serious about it?

CUOMO: I don't believe that any federal administration could be serious about physical lockdowns of states or parts of states across this country. I don't believe it's legal. I think it would be economic chaos. I don't think the American people would stand for it. It's just a question of time before you see the numbers growing in hotspots all across this nation.

So I think it makes absolutely no sense and I don't believe any serious governmental personality or professional would support it.


CABRERA: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reacting to the news that President Trump is now considering a possible temporary quarantine of parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Governor is saying a federal quarantine would be a federal declaration of war and that it would cause absolute chaos.

Back with us now is CNN National Security, Juliette Kayyem as well as epidemiologists, Dr. Larry Brilliant.

And Juliette, I had to go back and look at the transcript too, because he mentioned it a few times, the governor, he said this would be a declaration of war on states. A federal declaration of war and it wouldn't just be New York, New Jersey, Connecticut next week, it'd be Louisiana with New Orleans and the week after that, Detroit and Michigan. I mean, he was really, really passionate about this.

To hear the governor say this would be a civil war kind of discussion, what's your reaction to that?

KAYYEM: Well, I think it's got to be disconcerting to Governor Cuomo who's been pretty consistent in communicating with the population of New York about what they should and shouldn't do. And pretty insistent about where the federal government ought to focus in terms of resources, testing and the surge of resources to protect the citizens of New York.

So they have this sort of weird inject in the middle of nowhere is that the federal government is going to sort of be at war with New York in terms of, one would assume, you enforce a quarantine by military has got to be a shock to the Governor and I'm sure he's hoping that it was just one of those ideas.

Listen, the use of the military historically in the homeland is very complicated. We have a long history of it. We have a national guard that falls under a governor. We tend not to turn the military on citizens and the use of the military generally always historically has been under the Insurrection Act, which was utilized during the civil rights movement with southern governors who refuse to desegregate schools.

So if the President thinks in some ways that New York is being insurrectionist, it's a very odd way to view what New York has been doing for the last couple weeks and also a really bad attitude about how to fight a virus. We have to do it cooperatively in unity of effort.

United States of America, let's get a national stay-at-home policy in place. President Trump can actually do that. And let's stay home for not two weeks, four weeks, possibly six weeks and let's isolate this virus and protect our first responders and doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines. And to be honest, this is probably all background noise to them.


CABRERA: Dr. Brilliant, New York may be the hottest spot in the country now, but there is no sign this virus is slowing down. New hotspots are developing; Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans. In your opinion, where are we in this crisis? Where or when is the peak?

BRILLIANT: Well, we're both very early in this pandemic and we're frighteningly far along. An expectation mathematically that there might be 85,000 deaths in three months has got to hit everybody in the stomach because we all know somebody who will be sick or die.

I think the virus is in all 50 states. And that's why I look at this idea of a quarantine, which is used by epidemiologist to close down one place when other places around that have not yet received the virus, it's odd. That decision should be driven by epidemiologists, not by politicians who are subject to the whims that have been crazy making in our policy.

CABRERA: So for people who are thinking, gosh, how long are my kids going to be out of school? How long will I have to abide by the stay- at-home order? What's your best guess?

BRILLIANT: The model suggests that the epidemic will peak in late April, if we do social distancing. The social distancing is working, isolation is working. We need to understand there's a lag time between the time you start social distancing and the time you see it work three weeks a month.

So we have to let that work. I know it's hard. But there will be more cities like New York, sadly, in the United States and we need to be prepared to have a consistent policy in dealing with them. We can't continue to do this ad hoc hopscotch way of doing it. We need to have one national policy.

CABRERA: Doctor, are you confident that there are enough supplies for protecting doctors, nurses and other health care workers, that there enough ventilators to get to the patients who need the most? I know right now we're hearing from a lot of states they need more, they need more, they need more. My question is more not so much are they where they need to be, but do we have enough period?

BRILLIANT: I'm not confident at all. I think there's a shortfall of something close to 500,000 ventilators. I think that when you see how desperately people are trying to figure out scientifically even what can we do to reuse the N95. Many articles have been published on it because we don't have enough masks. We certainly don't have enough test kits.

We need to have test kits flood the zone so we have eyes. We're like a boxer in a ring with kickboxers all around us kicking us from all sides and we've got a bandana blindfold on. We need testing.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. Larry Brilliant and Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much both of you.

A veteran ER doctor who spoke out about the lack of protective measures at his workplace is now out of a job. He'll join us live next.



CABRERA: New tonight, and infant who has tested positive for coronavirus has died. Illinois officials announcing that the child is under the age of one. They are still investigating the cause of death.

I want to bring back pediatrician Dr. Glenn Budnick. And Doctor, parents at home are hearing this, it's terrifying. This is an illness that is obviously hitting the elderly the hardest as we've discussed over and over again. But what should parents of young children know right now in the wake of what very well could be the first infant to die in the U.S. from coronavirus?

DR. GLENN BUDNICK, CHAIRMAN OF PEDIATRICS, RELIANCE MEDICAL GROUP: Well, the death of any infant or any child is a tragedy and our hearts go out to the family of the young infant. But parents should know that in general for children, and for infants and for adolescence, the disease has been mild and the people have recovered from the disease with just mild symptoms, so that's good news for parents but unfortunately, there is still some tragedies there.

CABRERA: Yes. There's still that risk. Doctor, young kids get sick all of the time. I have two kids. And I remember, especially in their early years, we were all getting decimated by illnesses that they were picking up. They get cold. They get ear infections. They spike fevers. When should a kid be tested for coronavirus?

BUDNICK Well, the testing is ramping up and the testings becoming more widely available, but the current recommendations are that if a child or infant has a high fever, cough and short of breath, they should be tested for coronavirus. Now, in an infant shortness of breath is just a child breathing faster using the accessory muscles of the stomach and sometimes the neck to breathe seems in distress rather than just the normal ease of breathing.

In an older child, it's just the child feeling short of breath and telling the parents and you can see the child is struggling at least a little bit to breathe, then the child should be checked by a doctor and a test should be ordered.

CABRERA: As the weather gets warmer and kids who are feeling cooped up, they want to play outside, what precautions should they be taking?

BUDNICK Well, they certainly can go outside and going outside and staying healthy is important. Eating well is important during this period of time too. All of the precautions you do normally keep your child healthy. When they go outside and play, just make sure they wash their hands when they come in, make sure they play among themselves.


And it's just should be the children playing together but not with other children in the neighborhood, just by themselves.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. Glenn Budnick, good to have you with us. Such important information. Thank you.

BUDNICK Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: We'll be right back. Stay with us.



CABRERA: Even with the shortage of doctors and nurses across the country to deal with the onslaught of coronavirus cases, a veteran emergency room doctor in Bellingham, Washington is out of work right now. Fired he says after speaking to the local media about the lack of protective measures against this deadly virus at his workplace.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. I met ER doctor, Dr. Ming Lin is with us now from Seattle. Dr. Lin, how did you learn you were fired?

DR. MING LIN, ER DOCTOR REPORTEDLY FIRED AFTER CRITICIZING HOSPITAL'S PROTECTIONS: I got a text basically saying that I shouldn't show up to work, which is kind of unprecedented. But I don't really want to spend a whole lot of time on the negative aspect of my employer. I mean, I think there'd be plenty of time to talk about that later. But I do feel like we're in kind of a national emergency and I'd be happy to tell my story, how this all came about, but it's up to you.

CABRERA: Well, that's why we have you here. We want to hear your story. We want to know what going on there. You were obviously critical of your hospital's protocols while dealing with this coronavirus crisis. You sent a letter to your CMO, I know, on March 16th in which you've wrote, "PeaceHealth is so far behind when it comes to protecting patients and the community but even worse when it comes to protecting the staff."

And we just received a statement from the hospital and this is from the Chief Executive Chuck Prosper. Let me read it to you.

"We have been singly focused for the last several months on getting our hospital ready to face what we anticipate will be surge of patients. The safety of our caregivers and patients is our number one priority and we are taking every precaution necessary to ensure their health and well being. Our frontline caregiver personal protective equipment, safety protocols and guidelines are in line with CDC's recommendations.

And because we started preparing months ago to build our PPE supply inventories and develop contingency plans, today we have enough supplies including masks, gloves, goggles, N95s, PAPRs and gowns to handle our COVID-19 patient volume. We take responsibility to our patients, our community and our caregivers with the utmost seriousness and we work tirelessly to ensure our standards and results reflect our deeply held commitment."

Doctor, what's your reaction?

LIN: Well, obviously, I don't agree with that. But let me start by saying I attended meetings before this all happened and it was obvious among us, physicians and staff, that we were going to be in trouble. This was a very grim situation. We were lacking PPEs and St. Joe is not the only one. All of the hospitals in the country are in the same situation. And so I was flying to South Dakota and I was realizing that people

were wearing gloves and masks in the airport, I realized that, the hospital is probably the most concentrated population of COVID patients and our staff are not adequately prepared or equipped. And so I started thinking, we are at risk of hurting ourselves, our family and the community.

And so as a result, I did send a letter to our administrators stating my concern. I didn't get a response and so therefore, I went to social media.

CABRERA: And what were you told then when you raised your concerns you said you didn't get any kind of response?

LIN: Well, I got no response and therefore that's why I went to social media. And after social media, I got, I would say, I'm not going to be very specific about this, we can come up with this later. I got some response basically saying that, we need to talk, I need to recant and I should consider certain things such as resigning. I felt vulnerable at that point.


LIN: And so then I got ...

CABRERA: I can see the picture.

LIN: ... yes.

CABRERA: Forgive me.

LIN: I got emails - yes.

CABRERA: Forgive me for interrupting.

LIN: Go ahead.

CABRERA: I don't mean to do so. But I do want to ask you has your hospital made any changes that you feel have addressed some of your concerns?

LIN: Well, they have made some changes and that's why I feel social media has made a difference. Of course, they'll say that they were planning this but the staff has been provided scrubs. We're starting to do temperature check, which we didn't do before. We're also pushing our labs to other lab companies.

Our labs, we were waiting like seven days for our labs and other hospitals around the area were only waiting two days. So there has been some small improvement.

CABRERA: OK. Dr. Ming Lin, thank you for sharing your story and for raising awareness. I'm sorry that you lost your job in the circumstances in which we speak. Thank you for being here.

[18:55:05] LIN: OK. Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you. That's going to do it for me on this Saturday evening. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera, the news continues with Wolf Blitzer live in a special SITUATION ROOM next.