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Trump Extends Social Distancing Guidelines Through April; New York Doctor Fighting For His Life After Contracting Coronavirus; New York State Nears 1,000 Coronavirus Deaths. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is New Day.

The United States will remain shut at least through April. President Trump reversed course, extended social distancing guidelines through the end of that month, really, a change from his earlier suggestion that he wanted to see doors open by Easter.

The president has conceded for the first time that coronavirus deaths in the United States could reach 100,000 or more after he received the sobering presentation from his top health officials. We just heard Dr. Anthony Fauci describe that presentation.

The death toll in the United States is nearly 2,500 people. But we're told the peak of the outbreak is still weeks away. There are nearly 140,000 confirmed cases nationwide. But Dr. Fauci does warn that millions of Americans could become infected.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And, John, the death toll in New York alone is nearly 1,000 people. The New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, says hospitals could run out of supplies this week. They will run out of ventilators even sooner.

Healthcare workers are reporting that emergency rooms resemble war zones, with shortages of protective gear and overcrowding. So, in just minutes, CNN will take you inside a New York City hospital and show you how dire the situation is.

The naval hospital ship, the Comfort, arrives in New York today. It will treat non-coronavirus patients to free up space in hospitals. Field hospitals have been set up in the huge Javits Convention Center and in Central Park. And governors across the country are now bracing for a similar crisis.

So joining us now, we have CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Ar. Jeanne Marrazzo, she's the Director of Infectious Diseases Division at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Great to see both of you as always.

Sanjay, what did you think of what Dr. Fauci just told John? What jumped out at you? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, in some ways, I think Dr. Fauci has been saying this all along. You know, I think he's been sort of gently sort of easing the American public into some of these statistics.

And, as you know, Alisyn, some of the initial sort of concerns about death toll were much higher. And then President Trump even mentioned that. He had heard potential death tolls over a million people. So now I think when Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx presented the data to President Trump, again, data that I think they've known for some time, they presented it over the weekend to the president, it sounds like he listened.

There are a couple things that jumped out. One is that this would take into account the significant measures continuing, I guess, as everybody knows, until the end of April, so continuing to stay at home policies, continuing with schools being closed, continue work being closed, continue only nonessential travel.

But also, Alisyn, as you know, different parts of the country are likely to experience the significant peaks at different times. So in New York, for example, where you are, saying the peak sort of mid- April, at which point he thinks there will be some 2,000 people that may be dying a day in mid-April around the country.

In Florida, the peak could come in mid-May. So, you know, even though we're talking about the country as a whole, it is going to be several different sort of time lines around the country, because different states have sort of acted at different paces. You got Detroit, you got New Orleans. I know Dr. Scott Gottlieb thinks Miami is also going to become a hotspot over the next couple of weeks.

So several things jumped out at me. But, Alisyn, one of the big things is that Dr. Fauci has known this data for some time. Everyone who has been following the data for some time, I think he has sort of -- I think he -- in some ways, he's easing the American public into it, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes. It struck me also that he was saying that the states that aren't seeing a lot of cases are the ones particularly vulnerable today, I mean, just not falling into some level of false security.

Dr. Marrazzo, at the moment, close to 140,000 cases across the country, close to 2,500 people dead. Is this following, as of this morning, is this following the trajectory or the curve that you had anticipated?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Yes, Alisyn, I think it is. Unfortunately, when I listened to Dr. Fauci, I felt a couple of things. One was intense relief that the president in particular had really finally grasped what I think many of us have been saying over the past really six weeks.

[07:05:09] I mean, if you look at what's happened in Seattle, they instituted social distancing measures late in February when they realized, I think, early on the magnitude of this epidemic. And there's finally some evidence that they're experiencing a slowdown in the rate of the new cases.

I think we knew that was coming. And when New York did not do that until really very recently, right, you're seeing what's happening when you combine the density of a city like New York with a failure to initiate these measures early enough.

So a lot of relief that the president is now getting it. That does something very important too, which is to empower people at the local level, the state level to say, okay, we can take this seriously as well. We don't have a green light to ignore what the public health and the scientists have been saying for a long time.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, can we take some heart in the fact that the cases are slowing in Washington State? Is that -- are we looking at our future there?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. I mean, it's evidence that these measures work. I think, Alisyn, there was a conversation you and I had last week, at which point do we see that these social distancing measures work? It's sometimes hard to prove. For a lot of people out there, it's proving a negative. I'm just staying at home. Is it actually doing anything? And, yes, I think we've seen evidence of that in other countries around the world, and maybe to some extent, in different states now.

I mean, I think we have to weigh it a little bit. Sometimes the early data can sort of bounce around a little bit. I think the measure that Dr. Fauci has been looking at, and I think he was clear about this just now on your program, is that it's not just that the numbers are going up, it's the pace at which the numbers are going up. It's doubling time. People refer to it in different ways. But you just have to keep in mind that the numbers can be continuing to go up and still be showing signs of progress, because they're not going up as quickly.

One thing they didn't get into is when you start to look at the same models, there's dozens of models out there, there is still a need in places around the country for supplies, for beds, for ventilators and things like that. If you look at what really influences the overall mortality rates, obviously, the virus is a bad virus. But then it's the strain on the medical systems. So there are going to be places around the country that are going to have increased strain on them. They're not going to be able to take care of all the patients that are coming in there. And that is still a problem that needs to be addressed even with all these social distancing measures.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's different than what the president said over the weekend, Dr. Marrazzo. Basically, he suggested that he thinks because the numbers of equipment needed are growing so exponentially that he was wondering if hospitals were hoarding it or doctors were doing something even worse, I think, I'm quoting him. And so can you just explain why any given hospital would need tens of thousands of those surgical masks.

MARRAZZO: Right. So, again, coming back to the fact that the only thing we have to protect us against this virus right now are barrier methods, right? It's really just not getting the virus into your system. When you -- in a normal situation, you don't reuse these products. And I believe that's what the president was referring to.

We are incredibly compulsive about not transferring germs, basically, from one patient to another. We do dispose of masks in a normal pre- COVID world, right? You go to see the patient, you examine the patient, if there is a contagious illness and there are contact precautions, you get rid of your personal equipment, because you don't want to take that to the next room. And that's kind of the standard that we've always done. That is an incredible luxury right now. No one can really envision doing that standard of personal protection that we used to do. So now, that's why we're talking about reusing some of these materials.

The other point I wanted to just pick up on from the conversation that Dr. Fauci had and also Dr. Gupta mentioned is the heterogeneity of what we're facing in the United States. I really think it's important to recognize that we are not all in the same place. So we still have a chance not to experience what the overload that you're going to show in a second in a New York City hospital is seeing. Other hospitals can avoid that if we just take the measures we have been talking about for well over two months now.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, in case anyone missed our interview with Dr. Fauci, if they're just tuning in, let me just recap for people and play what he said that you found so important. Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We felt that if we prematurely pulled back, we would only form an acceleration or a rebound of something, which would have put you behind where you were before.


And that's the reason why we argued strongly with the president that he not withdraw those guidelines after 15 days, but that he extend them. And he did listen.


CAMEROTA: So, Sanjay, the news that people are waking up to is that we are in this for at least another month. The president has extended the social distancing federal guidelines through April. And that's Dr. Fauci pleading for people to heed it, because, otherwise, the scenario gets much worse. But I think that that will take a while for people to get their heads around, even if they expected it. Everybody is looking for a light at the end of the tunnel and we're just not there yet.

GUPTA: Yes. I think that maybe Dr. Fauci is showing a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. It's just a longer tunnel, Alisyn, than I think people maybe originally expected. Today, I think, was supposed to be the end of the 15 days. It's going another month. And I think most people in the public health world sort of recognize that. If you looked at China and South Korea, it was more of eight to ten- week sort of proposition, and they started earlier. So the idea that we started later and it's going to take longer is not that surprising.

Dr. Fauci also said, look, he basically said, I'm not a money guy, I'm not an economist, but it's pretty clear to me, meaning him, Dr. Fauci, that doing this will be beneficial not only to the public health of the country but also to the economy, because you stand to erase the gains that we've made. I mean, we've been doing this for a couple weeks now, Alisyn. You would hate for that progress to go to waste.

He also talked about, just to your earlier point, Alisyn, about the need for these supplies and specifically hospital beds and ventilators. We can show the modeling here. This is the same modeling that sort of predicts around 100,000 or so deaths. But if you look at what the hospital beds that we do have in the country versus what is needed, if we look at ICU beds versus what is needed, Alisyn, there's a shortage. I mean, people can just look at these numbers. What we need are some 232,000 hospital beds, short close to 50,000 ICU beds. We're short close to 15,000. Those are real numbers.

And I'll tell you, I think they're conservative numbers, really, for what we're going through right now. And, again, it takes into account that we do everything right going forward, we're still short, which is why you see so much of a demand in other areas to try and make up that shortfall. It's not going to be evenly distributed around the country. But there are cities that could certainly run short.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Marrazzo, thank you both very much for your expertise. Obviously, we'll speak to you again very soon. John?

BERMAN: So in just a few hours, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort will arrive here in New York City. The hospital will treat patients that do not have coronavirus. The idea is to ease the strain on hospitals overwhelmed with the pandemic.

CNN Shimon Prokupecz live along the Hudson River where, I think we're going to expect to see the ship dock a little bit later, Shimon.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. Around 10:30 just behind me to the left here, where you up from me here, where you see Pier 90, the ship is expected to dock. It should arrive, we're told, around 8:30, and it is the reinforcement. This is what this city, what this mayor and the governor have been calling for.

The ship will have 1,000 beds. It comes with doctors, 12 operating rooms, supplies, ventilators. It will treat non-COVID patients, as you said, John. This is all to relieve the pressure, the pressure that the hospitals across the city are starting to face. And, quite honestly, it could not come at a better time when the strain on the city from the firefighters to the EMS workers who are responding to a record number of calls, over 6,000 calls each day last week and also other frontline people, the doctors and the nurses that need some relief. The other frontline folks that are being hit by this are the police officers in this city, the NYPD. 12 percent of its workforce is out sick. The police commissioner said yesterday that he expects that by this morning, some 900 officers, uniformed members of the department will test positive for COVID. They are dealing with it. They're saying that in some cases if there are officers who have underlying conditions and issues and they're concerned with reporting to work, in some instances, they're going to allow them to work from home, John.

BERMAN: It only compounds the public safety concerns that I know this city and many cities have. Shimon Prokupecz on a very busy west side highway still even this morning. Shimon, thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.

A New York doctor is now fighting for his life after getting coronavirus from one of his patients. We're going to speak with the doctor's two sons about what he is going through, his battle, next.



BERMAN: New this morning, the New York's governor has announced that more than 75,000 healthcare professionals have volunteered to help out at hospitals across the state. It comes as a growing number of healthcare workers are becoming infected with coronavirus. One of those workers is New York primary care physician and gastroenterologist, Dr. Arnold Weg. Dr. Weg is currently in the ICU at the same hospital where he's been treating patients for more than three decades.

Joining me now, two of Dr. Weg's sons, Dr. Russell Weg and Justin Weg. Gentlemen, thank you very for being with us this morning.

Russell, let me start with you. How is your father doing this morning?

DR. RUSSELL WEG, SON OF NEW YORK DOCTOR INFECTED WITH CORONAVIRUS: So, thank you so much for having us and sharing our story. About a week ago, nine days ago, my father fell acutely ill with this virus and he's maintaining decent health at home but with spiking unremitting temperatures, and a few days later developed acute shortness of breath requiring my mother to urgently bring him to the emergency room where he was immediately placed on oxygen.


Within 24 hours, his condition decompensated to the point that he needed to be transferred to the ICU.

When they got to the ICU, they were very concerned about him and wanted to intubate him, but he tried to hold off. And he's been there for about four days and initially we were very concerned. He was fighting for every breath 30 times a minute. But, very fortunately, within the past 24 hours, we've learned that he's doing better, requiring -- in just a short while ago was transferred out of ICU into a step-down unit where he's receiving large amounts of oxygen and very close monitoring.

So we hope we're on the mend now, but we're certainly trying to Maintain cautious optimism.

BERMAN: Well, fingers crossed, but that is wonderful news.

Justin, how hard has it been on you and your family during this process? It was just his 38th wedding anniversary on Saturday. What's it been like for you and your mom, Justin, not to be able to see him personally?

JUSTIN WEG, SON OF NEW YORK DOCTOR INFECTED WITH CORONAVIRUS: It's been very hard, you know, especially in this new world that we're living in of quarantine and isolation at home. There are families -- I wish I could talk to him every day. I mean, I have been text messaging him and wanted to Facetime him but haven't really spoken to him on the phone because we're trying to save every last breath that he has, which is a very sad thing to say.

My mom is a very strong woman. They've been married, as you said, 38 years. She usually watches my kids three times a week. So I would get to see her. I don't even get to see her and I can't even be with her. She's all alone. But she's doing her best. And together, we're all trying to hang tight and be there for my dad and be there for each other.

BERMAN: Justin, we've been looking at these pictures of your father. Just so people know what kind of guy we're talking about here, not only has he been a doctor for some 30 years, he's run, what, 30 marathons? And, ironically, was planning on running the marathon in Milan coming up. I mean, he's a strong guy, yes? So for a coronavirus to have put him on his back, it must be a fierce, fierce sickness.

J. WEG: Yes. It's very scary. I don't think anyone cannot be affected by this virus. I mean, as far as -- I mean, at least it was just my opinion. He's the strongest guy I know. He is superman to me. And to know that he's a patient is very scary.

He has four sons, me being the eldest. And he has six grandchildren, six beautiful grandkids, three boys, three girls, three wonderful daughter-in-laws who he treats like daughters. He's done century bike rides, 100-mile bike rides. He's the guy who's like got a deck of cards in his favor. And we're very shocked to learn that he caught this. But, I mean, could catch it.

BERMAN: I'm sure he can feel the love you're all sending his way.

Dr. Weg, Russell, to you, your family is working very hard. You feel passionately that some of these experimental drugs should be more available to patients like your father more quickly. Is he now being given some of these and what's the effect?

R. WEG: Yes, thank you. We feel very fortunate that our father may be on the mend from his illness. And early on in his hospitalization, he was fortunate to receive some investigational therapies that have shown adequate safety profiles and treatment of other diseases. But what we've learned from the many who have reached out to us, including physicians, is that there's an incredibly short supply of these promising therapies and physicians right now are having to ration these medications to patients that could be eligible to benefit from these therapies.

And it's -- there's been appropriate attention placed to the need for personal protective equipment and the lack of ventilators and the need to increase these supplies, but what I think needs more attention is we need to increase the availability of these medications, promising medications for desperate patients and desperate families and to put them in the hands of doctors so that they can make the decisions as to who they deem would be appropriate candidates for these potentially life-saving measures.

And I think, I hope in situations like my father, possibly, these medications have helped and may prevent patients from ever ending up on the ventilators or even getting off the ventilators sooner, and therefore, are freeing up this valuable resource.


BERMAN: Dr. Russell Weg, Justin Weg, we are behind you, as you are behind your father. I hope the good news continues to come in. Please send him our love. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

R. WEG: Thank you. Thank you for sharing our story.

BERMAN: All right. This morning, CNN with an exclusive look inside a New York City hospital.


DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, E.R. DOCTOR, BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: It's a war zone. It's a medical war zone. Every day I come in, what I see on a daily basis is pain.


BERMAN: On the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis, next.


BERMAN: This morning, the death toll from coronavirus in New York State alone is nearing 1,000. Because of the nature of this pandemic, just how contagious it is, how fast it moves and plain technical challenges, we haven't been able to show you what it looks like on the frontlines. But that now has changed.

CNN has an exclusive look inside a Brooklyn hospital on the frontlines of this pandemic. CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now with this remarkable look. Miguel?


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Look, we were invited to Brookdale Hospital in the Brownsville. END