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Family Says Goodbye to Mother Over FaceTime; FDA Authorizes 15- Minute Coronavirus Test. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 30, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: So far, at least 155,000 people in the U.S. have tested positive for coronavirus. More than 2,800 have died.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, telling CNN that up to 100,000 or even possibly 200,000 Americans could die from coronavirus.

And hospitals in hot spots all across the country are continuing to sound the alarm. They need gowns, they needs gloves, masks, ventilators, beds. An emergency room doctor in New York calling one hospital a -- quote -- "medical war zone."

CNN Erica Hill joins me now live from Central Park here in New York City.

And so, Erica, to Governor Cuomo's point a bit ago, he just said the death toll climbed by more than 250 since yesterday, but he did have some encouraging news about the rate of infection. What did he say?


So there are some 66,000 confirmed cases here in New York state alone. But, as you point out, Brooke, the governor said, the rate of infection is actually slowing. Here's more of that.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): There's also no doubt that the rate has slowed. We had a doubling of cases every two days, then a doubling every three days, then a doubling every four days, then every five. We now have a doubling of cases every six days.

So, while the overall number is going up, the rate of doubling is actually down.


HILL: So that is a little bit of a silver lining, but the governor also stressing, Brooke, we have been behind this virus from day one, and now is not the time to become complacent. BALDWIN: Also, because of the numbers here in New York, the governor

pleaded with other states, send doctors, send additional health care workers here, and then vowed, when it gets worse for them, to then repay those states in the future, didn't he?

HILL: Yes, he did.

And we remember, in the last couple of weeks, he had asked for health care professionals to come out of retirement, and tens of thousands answered that call, Brooke. And now, as you point out, he's reaching out to other states, saying, we need doctors, we need nurses. They are overworked. They are understaffed, and we promise New York state will repay the favor when it's your turn.

BALDWIN: Also, just to point out, you are in beautiful Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, where people are used to jogging and walking and enjoying the greenery, but a field hospital is now being opened tomorrow.

HILL: Yes, it is -- it is definitely something that just sort of makes you pause, as you see -- there's still plenty of people out in the park, I should point out, Brooke, walking, running, riding their bikes, walking their dogs.

But the tents you see behind me will hold 68 beds. And what's different about this field hospital is that these will be specifically for coronavirus patients, as opposed to what we're seeing, say, at the Javits Center or with that Navy hospital ship.

Those beds will be used for overflow for non-coronavirus patients, but, again, 68 beds for coronavirus patients, Brooke, right here in Central Park across from Mount Sinai Hospital.

BALDWIN: Stunning, stunning. Erica Hill, thank you in Central Park.

Also today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shot back at President Trump's suggestion that health care workers are hoarding medical supplies.

Let's go live to CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who is near the White House.

And, Kaitlan, it was the president who first suggested something nefarious may be happening to those medical supplies at hospitals.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a comment that raised eyebrows yesterday.

The president was specifically calling out a hospital in New York, talking about the reason demand, obviously, that has skyrocketed for masks, given the fact that we are going through a pandemic.

And, Brooke, to respond to that, when we asked for details, White House officials were pointing to these comments that the New York governor had made where he talked about how there was theft at some of the hospitals in some of these crucially needed supplies, though he did not say that it was anywhere near the level of the president was implying yesterday.

And so today he was asked about that claim from the president yesterday, hinting that something nefarious is happening with the disappearance of these masks. And this is how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo responded to that:


CUOMO: I don't know what that means. I don't know what he's trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, then let him make an accusation.

But I don't know what he's trying to say by inference.


COLLINS: So, making pretty clear there, Brooke, he says he doesn't know what the president was referring to yesterday.

BALDWIN: Also today, the president floated more help possibly on the way, Kaitlan, financially for health care workers. What did he mean?

COLLINS: Yes. Yes, but he didn't make any commitment.

So he did say that they are considering talking about hazard pay for these health care workers, these nurses, these doctors, these other health care workers, who say they are incredibly close to the coronavirus and they are worried about getting it, so they are working in these precarious conditions.

And the president today said he is considering hazard pay for those people in those professions, though there are a lot of questions that those people are going to have about when that would happen, if it would happen, and just how committed the president would be to actually making it happen.


The idea right now is that it could be in another relief package. Of course, you saw what we just went through here on Capitol Hill to get that package. They just went through weeks of negotiations into the late nights, where Democrats and Republicans were arguing over certain things that were included in that.

And so the question is, when could that actually happen? Because we know right now these nurses and these doctors are still going to work every day. And so they are saying that this is a concern for them being in these environments.

And, Brooke, it's not just them. It's also delivery workers, people who are stocking the stores at grocery stores -- stocking the shelves at grocery stores. They're also concerned about the conditions that they're working in.

BALDWIN: Also, I was just looking at an article before the show. Janitors, folks who are so precious in terms of cleaning offices, places we have to -- hospitals, they're concerned, for obvious reasons.

Kaitlan, thank you.

And as Governor Cuomo here in New York pointed out, it takes days to prepare for what is to come.

So joining me now is Dr. Anand Parekh, former deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

And so, Dr. Parekh, thank you very much for joining me. I hope you are well and your family as well.

To Governor Cuomo's point, why is it necessary to prepare in advance when it comes to this pandemic?

DR. ANAND PAREKH, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER: Well, Brooke, it's necessary to prepare for multiple reasons.

One is, you just see the extraordinary amount of critical medical material and personal protective equipment that our health care workers, our heroes on the front line absolutely need.

Secondly, it's important to prepare with social distancing measures. That's really how you reduce exposure at a population level and reduce that health care surge that we're now seeing in New York, we're seeing in Louisiana, we're seeing also in Michigan.

That's, frankly, why it's so important that I hope the president today and the vice president call on every governor in the country that hasn't put forward a stay-at-home order to do so, because, Brooke, the projections that you talked about just a little while ago, 80,000 to 100,000 Americans dying based on some models--


BALDWIN: Well, even -- if I could just jump in -- more than that.

I mean, Dr. Fauci reiterated it could be 100,000.

PAREKH: Yes. That's right.

BALDWIN: It could be upwards to 200,000 deaths being a very real possibility here in the U.S.

And I know people are watching that and they hear those numbers and they think -- and you're saying the death toll may even be higher. Why?

PAREKH: Particularly if we don't double down on these social distancing measures.

Again, the models that have been quoted presuppose that all governors follow -- issue a stay-at-home order, reduce, essentially -- the fact is, we know, Brooke, for every one individual with the virus, they can transmit it to two or three other individuals.

We need to reduce that ratio closer to one, under one. And we know, with social distancing interventions, you can absolutely do that. So that's the best way to prepare right now.

If you're a state on the front line right now, New York, Michigan, Louisiana, well, right now, it's all about that surge and dealing with that surge. But if you're every -- any other state in the country right now, you need to be preparing for that surge.

And the best ways to do that are ensuring that all the social distancing interventions are in place.

BALDWIN: And, Dr. Parekh, to your point a moment ago, you're saying that the White House should strongly urge all governors to issue stay- at-home orders. Thus far, they have left it up to the states. Do you think there should be a nationwide lockdown?

PAREKH: We have been advocating for that for quite a while now.

And I think the legalities of that, through an executive order, need to be examined, but that should have occurred at least a week ago. And if for some reason the federal government is deferring to states, well, I would give them 24 hours.

And if all 20 remaining governors that haven't issued a stay-at-home order have not done so, then absolutely the federal government should step in. This is the one chance we have. You're right. It's all about preparation.


PAREKH: It takes time to put these interventions in until you can see a reduction in cases and hospitalizations.

BALDWIN: When you sit and you read, as I'm sure we all have, these stories coming out of Italy, the dozens of doctors there dying on the front lines, my question, final question to you, is, is it only a matter of time before we start to see that here in the United States?

PAREKH: Brooke, I have family and friends right now on the front line as health care workers.

I hear the stories, many of them saying that they know that they're going to get COVID-19, it's just a matter of time in terms of what they have in terms of personal protective equipment. So it's very disheartening to hear that.

But they -- many of them are of the mind that they will get this and they hope to recover and then get back in on the front lines, so true heroes out there on the front lines.

And we need all private sector resources, military resources, Strategic National Stockpile resources all to go to the front lines to provide these health care workers with the protection they need, because you're right, absolutely. [15:10:00]

From country after country, health care workers are getting infected at disproportionate rates.

BALDWIN: All hands on deck.

Doc, thank you very much.

PAREKH: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up here on CNN: The FDA is giving the green light to a new coronavirus test that can give results in minutes, instead of days. We will have a look at that test coming up next.

Also, I will talk with a woman who was being prevented from physically being at her mother's bedside as she passed away. Because of a nurse, one of these hospital heroes here, she was still able to say her final goodbyes. That story ahead.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A glimmer of hope in the race to identify cases of coronavirus and slow the spread, the FDA green-lighting a new 15-minute test for the virus, the lab behind it saying it will start delivering 50,000 tests each day starting this week.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with me now.

And so, Elizabeth, tell me how the tests work, and how they work so quickly.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, what it is, it's the same technology that we have been using for all of these tests that are done in labs, and you have to send away.

It's the same technology, but it's made in a way that it can be done more quickly and done right in your doctor's office or right in the hospital in perhaps as little as five minutes.

And let me tell you why this is exciting, not just because it's more efficient, because this will allow doctors and public health folks to go into a community and do lots of testing very quickly and say, oh, wait a minute. We know that the virus is very active in this neighborhood, but less so here. It allows you to deploy resources.

Also, when you test someone out in the community, you can say, you know what, you are positive, and you didn't know it because you don't have symptoms, but you need to be isolated from everyone, even from your own family, whereas, before, we would say, we will tell you in a couple of days if you're positive, and then that person was running around infecting people.

Another exciting development along these lines, Brooke, is that the CDC and the FDA have approved a nasal swab that you can do yourself. And so that will certainly increase the number of people who are getting tested. And that is so crucial.

As we have heard all along in this outbreak, Brooke, testing, testing, testing.

BALDWIN: I hear you, though, on this efficiency, right? We're all about finding out now, now, now, but is this test accurate?

COHEN: Yes, it seems to be as accurate as the other ones.

And there are accuracy concerns for all of them. None of these are perfect. Some of these are going to have some false negatives and that certainly is an issue. But this is what we have now.

BALDWIN: And the president said the test delivers lightning fast results in as few as five minutes. But that is a little misleading, no?

COHEN: Well, actually, no. Abbott Labs that makes it says that it can be in as little as five minutes.

And, really, if it's five minutes, if it's 15 minutes, that's not really such a big deal. The point is, is that it's done at the point of care. It's done right in the hospital or right in the doctor's office. So you're not waiting for it to go to the lab and be sent back, which can take days.

BALDWIN: So, if you want one of those tests, how can people get one?

COHEN: You know, right now, they're going -- right now, they're not there.

So, in fact, Jake Tapper asked Tony Fauci about this yesterday, and Dr. Fauci said, look, it's not going to be out today. It's not next week. It's going to be weeks.

So I don't think you could even get one of these, or maybe if you're sort of in some highly specialized place. But I don't think these are really out there. Once these are out there in large numbers, that's when they become useful.

BALDWIN: When you look at the big picture and the numbers, Elizabeth, the U.S. already has more confirmed cases than anywhere in the world. And that is with a lag in testing.

So,once these sorts of tests are out there, what might that reveal?

COHEN: Oh, I mean, that might reveal truly how many people have this virus in this country. Those numbers are certainly going to be so much larger than what we know. And that's not as true in a place like South Korea, where they have done such incredibly extensive testing. And I have been saying -- and I will say this to you now -- that the

numbers of cases is almost -- it's very important, but, really, that number can just balloon instantly. Really, what is more reliable is the number of hospitalizations.

When you see someone in the hospital with COVID or you see -- or, God forbid, somebody dies of COVID, those are the numbers that give you a feeling for the scope of things. Tony Fauci and others have been saying all along, the case numbers don't really show you the whole picture because we're not doing enough testing.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: I know a lot of people want their hands on tests that take five minutes.

Meantime, it is a cruel reality for families who lose their loved ones to coronavirus, not being by their side as they die.

Coming up next, one woman tells me the resourceful way nurses helped her say her final goodbye.



BALDWIN: You know, one of the hardest parts of all of this is that, with critical patients in isolation, they're unable to be comforted by their loved ones or say goodbye when they succumb to the virus.

Michelle Bennett lost her 75-year-old mother, Carolann, last week to coronavirus. And while she was unable to be in the room with her when her mother passed away, nurses at the hospital made sure Michelle and her siblings were able to say a proper goodbye on FaceTime.

And Michelle Bennett joins me now.

And, Michelle, there are -- I do not have all of the words in the world to say, I'm sorry, just that I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. I know that grief comes in waves.

So, just first and foremost, how are you holding up?


It's definitely been difficult. It kind of doesn't seem like reality still to some degree, sort of like you said, the waves of emotion crashing over each day, kind of waking up in the morning and almost trying on the grief.


It's a surreal -- it's a surreal feeling.

BALDWIN: I cannot begin to imagine.

If you will, just take me back. Just one moment, your mother is living in a nursing home, and the next day, she is tested for COVID. She tests positive. While there, she ends up in the hospital. And then, as the end is near for her, you realize you cannot physically be by her bedside. That must have been incredibly difficult for you.

BENNETT: It was hard for me and for my siblings as well.

I don't think that's something we saw coming with this COVID, to be told: I'm sorry. It's against protocol. We're not allowed to let anyone in. And it's for our own safety and for our own well-being.

And we understood that. But just not being able to be there and hold my mom's hand, rub her head, tell her the things that I wanted to say to her, it was such a helpless feeling. I can just remember the days leading up feeling so frustrated and helpless and not being able to talk to her because she was not conscious during that time.

And I just was just outside working in my yard. My yard has never looked better. It was the only thing I had any control over. It was just such a difficult, difficult time.

BALDWIN: No, to not be able to sit with your mother, as you said, to hold her hand, to brush her hair, I know my own -- my own mother's watching -- and forgive me -- but I feel for you.

BENNETT: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Were you -- so, what happened?

This charge nurse realizes that your mother is, what, basically breathing her last breaths. And that is when she picks up the cell phone and FaceTimes you. Tell me what happened.

BENNETT: So, the nursing staff and the health care professionals at Swedish Issaquah Hospital were amazing. They knew we couldn't be with her.

I could tell the emotion in both their and the doctors' voices of their frustration knowing we couldn't be there or be -- risk the infection. So, the nurse, Tatiana (ph), at the end, she had called me about 10:00 at night and said: "Your mother's breathing is changing. We can see that it probably won't be much longer. I'm going to take my cell phone."

And so it was her personal cell phone. "And I'm going to I'm going to go and get dressed in all the protective gear I have to be in, and then I'm going to put the phone up to her face, so that you can tell her you love her and say your goodbyes."

And it was so touching just to know that I couldn't be there. And I said to the nurse, I said: "Can you please hold her hand? Can you rub her head? Can you pretend like I -- we're there with her."

And she said: "She will not be alone. We will stay with her to the end."

And so, 10 minutes later, we get the phone call for FaceTime. And she put it right up to my mother's face. And, you know, I could -- I could tell my mom I loved her and how much I was going to miss her.

And as the -- as I was finishing saying goodbye, and the nurse took the phone back up, I could see the nurse is just crying, like tears just coming out of her eyes through the mask. I could see it.

And I know how difficult this is for them. I can't even imagine being on the front lines of that and having to go home every day and risk infection themselves, but then have the compassion and the empathy to be right there in that moment as if it was their own mother.

And that was one of the most amazing things I have experienced.

BALDWIN: Do you feel that your mother at least passed in peace?

BENNETT: I hope so. I know she wasn't alone.

That was the biggest thing for me was her not to die alone. And the hope that was given by those nurses holding her hand and staying with her to the end -- my mom was a nurse for 38 years, probably doing the same for other people.

So, it's amazing to me that these nurses were able to give back to her in that way.

BALDWIN: What did you say to your mom exactly?

BENNETT: I said: "I love you very much."

Every mother-daughter relationship has their trials. And we had been speaking a lot over the last couple months about the past and good times, bad times. And I was just sort of processing it. And I never got a chance to say, hey, bygones be bygones. I forgive everything that we were talking about, just as she's forgiven me.

And that was kind of the last moment: "I forgive you, mom. I love you. I know I didn't get a chance to say it."

And it's -- it's so hard to express, like, what you're feeling and not being able to be there, your energy, to be present in that moment. And I'm hoping, even though it was FaceTime and it's technology, she could hear me, she could hear my voice.

And I said: "Mom, it's OK to pass on. It's OK to go now."