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Interview With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI); Interview With New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 30, 2020 - 07:30   ET



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- of Brooklyn. This is a largely African-American, Latina area, it's also a very poor area. On a normal day they have plenty coming through their front door to keep them busy.

Coronavirus has pushed this hospital to the edge.


MARQUEZ: Every corridor, every corner, every ward --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Drink your juice (ph).

MARQUEZ: -- every inch of Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn now inundated with those suffering from COVID-19.

What are you looking at on a daily basis? How difficult is this?

DR. ARABIA MOLLETTE, ER DOCTOR AT BROOKDALE HOSPTIAL: Well, this is a war zone, it's a medical war zone. Every day I come in, what I see on a daily basis is pain, despair, suffering and healthcare disparities.

MARQUEZ: Through Sunday afternoon Brookdale said it had at least 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 80 awaiting confirmation. More than 20 people have died so far from the disease on top of its normal emergency flow, coronavirus is pushing the hospital to the max.

MOLLETTE: We are scared too. We are fighting for your lives and we're fighting for our own lives. We're trying to keep our head above water and not drown.

MARQUEZ: Doctors, nurses, even those keeping the floors clean, face a rising tide, uncertain how long it will rise, unsure this coronavirus won't sicken them as they struggle to stay a step ahead.

What do you need right now?

MOLLETTE: We need prayer, we need support, we need gowns, we need gloves, we need masks, we need more vents, we need more medical space, we need cycle social support as well. It's not easy coming here when you know that -- what you're getting ready to face. MARQUEZ: The deaths here keep coming, while filming, another victim

of COVID-19 was moved to the hospital's temporary morgue. A refrigerated semi-trailer parked out back. The hospital's regular morgue filled to capacity.

How much room do you have in your morgue?

KHARI EDWARDS; VP EXTERNAL AFFAIRS BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: Usually we have around 20 plus bodies that we can fit comfortably.

MARQUEZ: And you've gone over that.

EDWARDS: Gone over that. And they've -- the state has been great -- gracious enough to bring us apparatus to help keep families and keep the bodies in comfortable areas, because we didn't want bodies piled on top of each other.

MARQUEZ: Brookdale needs more everything. Today Edwards said the hospital has 370 beds, they'd like to add more, many more. Two weeks ago this was the pediatric emergency room, now it's dedicated to victims of COVID-19.

Plastic tarp taped to the ceiling, offering some protection and a bit of privacy.

The intensive care unit filled nearly to capacity and sealed, so fewer doors and less traffic than usual comes and goes. This window is only place where family members can watch their loved one inside the unit as they chat with them via cell phone. It's sometimes as close as they can get, as COVID-10 takes another life.

As grim as it is right now, Dr. Mollette expects it will get worse.

MOLLETTE: It could end in the fall, it could end -- at the end of the year. But, this is why we're begging everyone, not just to only put that pressure on the emergency department, but also for everybody to help us to help them by staying home.

MARQUEZ: You think we're in it for the long haul? This is months, not weeks?

MOLLETTE: Oh yes, definitely. Definitely.

MARQUEZ: Another worrisome thing she's seen coming through the doors, not just the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

MOLLETTE: I work at two hospitals. So, I work here in Brooklyn and then I work at another hospital in the Bronx and it's the same thing. In the South Bronx it's the same thing, I've had patients that were in their 30s, and they -- they are not intubated and they're really sick.

I've patients that are well --

MARQUEZ: No underlying conditions?

MOLLETTE: No underlying conditions. So, the thing is about between life and death, as far as this coronavirus, is that this virus sees no -- there's no difference, has nothing to with age, has nothing to do with lack of access to healthcare, has nothing to do with socioeconomics, race or ethnicity. This virus is killing a lot of people.

MARQUEZ: Brookdale has one advantage. Hospital officials say it can do rapid testing for coronavirus on site, it's own lab. Right now up to 300 tests a day, they hope to get to 500 a day.

ANDREI LEGOUN, LAB TECH BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: And right now we have about 52 specimens in here, about to -- that we're preparing to test at the moment.

MARQUEZ: The hospital following Centers for Disease Control guidelines on who gets coveted tests. Patients admitted for possible coronavirus, healthcare workers showing symptoms and symptomatic long- term patients. Each test a laborious and time consuming process.

LEGOUN: It's very easy to make a mistake, very easy, just from an extra milliliter of reagent, adding it to the machine can mess the entire -- all the batch, the entire batch. All the 52 specimens we would have to start all over from the beginning.

MARQUEZ: E.R. doctors are used to stress. Dr. Mollette says she has never experienced anything like this.


MOLLETTE: Yes, I don't really sleep that well at night. I worried about my family, I worry about my safety, I worry about my colleagues, I worry about how the shift is going to be the next time I come. I worry about if a family member is going to come and be patient as well, or fall victim to the coronavirus. I worry about a lot of things.

MARQUEZ: The disease, a marathon that healthcare workers alone cannot win or even finish.

MOLLETTE: It's not up to just only to the emergency department to pull through and to make sure the curve is flattened. This is a responsibility for everybody in the country to help us pull through. So --

MARQUEZ: So, stay the "F" home?

MOLLETTE: Exactly. I'm very --

MARQUEZ: Is that literally -- I mean how -- how --

MOLLETTE: No, stay the "F" home. Exactly. Exactly. Because it's not just one -- it's not just us that has to help flatten the curve and take care of everybody. Help us help you.

MARQUEZ: She says it will take everyone pulling together. The worse days, she fears, are still ahead.


MARQUEZ: Now, in terms of protective gear, the gloves, the masks, the gowns that they need, you know, the doctor that we spoke to there, she was in surgical, sort of a paper gown, they would like -- to be honest, they'd like the stuff that we were wearing there. They were looking at us as though we had arrived from a different planet. They wanted exactly the sort of gear that we were wearing yesterday.

They have thousands of employees at that hospital, everybody who -- from the doctors, the administrators, to those who sweep up and keep that entire organism moving, and they are in desperate need of everything.

Some of the people we spoke to, they were buying stuff either for themselves, or they were going on Ebay, they were looking for -- going to Home Depot on the way to work, looking for stuff to buy retail, just to give out to others and keep that hospital moving.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Miguel, what a window you've given us into what the challenges are at these hospitals. We're going to try to get an explanation for all of this. Thank you very much.

So, do hospitals and healthcare officials in New York have what they need this morning to combat the crisis? And when, exactly, will they run out?

Joining us now is the New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. Dr. Barbot, thank you very much. That -- that piece that Miguel just showed us is so stunning, because you just see coronavirus patients lining the hallways there of the emergency room.

Is that because there aren't enough beds, or is that just because they're overwhelmed with processing them and finding them a place to go?

DR. OXIRIS BARBOT, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: You know, the reality is that with this COVID-19, none of us have any immunity to it, and so when we get exposed there is a high chance that we're going to get the infection.

And I think what you're seeing there is that unfortunately even though 80 percent of people who do get COVID-19 will have a mild course, there's still a significant number of individuals who will require hospitalization.

And all the efforts that we've been making, including social distancing, have been to protect the healthcare workforce, because all of us getting sick at the same time is overwhelming the healthcare delivery system.

CAMEROTA: I mean, in terms of the numbers, you have close to 140,000 cases in New York right now. Do you have enough beds and equipment, just this morning, to deal with those?

BARBOT: So, right now we've got over 30,000 people in New York City that have tested positive. The -- the reality is that there are many more individuals who have COVID-19. We're working day and night in order to create the hospital capacity.

So, for the last several weeks hospitals have been discharging patients who are able to be discharged. We are working with our federal partners and our state partners to open up bed capacity in non-traditional places, such as, you know, our Javits Centers, such as hotels, because the reality is that even though right now we have the beds that we need, very soon we will be in a situation where we will be at a critical point.

And so, having all of those bed capacities open up and the equipment we need is really critical.

CAMEROTA: Yes. You're right. Let me clarify, the 140,000 was -- was for the U.S. So, you said the right numbers for New York. In terms of getting to the critical point, Mayor Bill De Blasio gave a warning that got a lot of people's attention yesterday.

He said that you will run out of supplies this coming Sunday. So, April 5, he believes that New York hospitals will be over capacity and not have enough supplies. And what does that mean, Doctor, when -- what does that mean? When a patient shows up, on Sunday, and needs, say, a ventilator, what happens?


BARBOT: So that specific phrase was in reference to our ventilator capacity, and thankfully we've gotten recently 2,500 - excuse me - ventilators that we've been able to distribute to all of our hospitals, but the reality is that as more patients come in and more patients in intensive care, we will need more ventilators, and we're working very closely with government partners, with private partners to ensure that we get that supply that is desperately needed. And so, none of us want to get to a point where we won't have ventilators for people who need it. And so, that's why it's so critical for New Yorkers to stay home. Staying home saves lives because it reduces the number of people that can be exposed to the virus and number of people who can get desperately ill because of it.

CAMEROTA: President Trump suggested this weekend that some hospitals must be hoarding supplies and/or ventilators because the numbers have grown so exponentially of what they need. What's your response to that?

BARBOT: You know, that's a really infuriating comment because seeing the frontline workers who day-in and day-out are taking care of New Yorkers that are sick, it's clear - it is so clear that these supplies are desperately needed, and the reality is that this is simple math. We are a city of 8.6 million people. We've got more hospitals than practically any other place in the country. And so, of course we're going to need all of those supplies. There is no one out there on the front lines that is wasting these resources.

On the contrary, we're working with our healthcare delivery system to extend the life of these personal protective equipment so that all of our healthcare workers can be safe as they work to save the lives of New Yorkers. CAMEROTA: Dr. Oxiris Barbot, thank you very much for giving us a status report of where we are this morning and what you expect this week. We really appreciate talking to you.

BARBOT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. Coming up we will tell you about some of the people who have been lost to coronavirus next.



BERMAN: We want to take a moment to tell you about a few of the lives lost to coronavirus. Rabbi Romi Cohn was a Holocaust survivor. At just 16-years-old he was a member of the underground resistance and helped save 56 families. His mother and four siblings died in concentration camps. After the war, he eventually settled in Stanton Island where he worked as a developer and ran a company that build 3,500 homes. He was 91-years-old.

Detective Cedric Dixon was a 23-year veteran of the NYPD. Detective Dixon was only in his 40s and did have some underlying health conditions. On Saturday, his fellow officers stood in the pouring rain to salute Dixon as his body was taken from hospital in the Bronx.

CBS News journalist, Maria Mercader, was a 30-year veteran at the network and Emmy Award-winning producer. She led the CBS coverage of the September 11 attacks and the death of Princess Diana. Maria bravely battled cancer for more than 20 years. Longtime CBS new anchor, Dan Rather, remembered her on CNN last night.


DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: When someone who's close to you as Maria was to all of us at CBS passes on, it drives home the point that this is serious. It's deadly serious.


BERMAN: Rather described Maria as a paragon of grit and grace. Maria Mercader was just 54-years-old. We'll be right back.


[07:50:00] BERMAN: This morning, Michigan is now a full-blown coronavirus hotspot with 5,400 cases. Only New York and New Jersey have more. One hundred and thirty-two people have died in that state.

Joining me now is Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan.

Governor, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We really appreciate your time.

The president, last night, extended the restrictions and guidelines on social distancing to the end of April nationwide. What's your reaction to that announcement?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I think it's really important. I think we all need to be on the same page and send a consistent and clear message. With this virus, there's no cure, there's no vaccine. It's incredibly contagious and deadly. And the best tool that we have is to mitigate how many people are spreading it to one another. And we do that simply by not being around each other. And so I think it was really important. I'm glad for it. I think we all need to be on the same page and consistently send the same serious message to Americans everywhere.

BERMAN: We reported just moments ago, as you have no doubt seen, that Michigan has the third highest number of cases in the nation.

What's the current situation? How much of a handle do you believe you have on it right now?

WHITMER: Well, you know, I've been working 24/7, my team and me, just to get more PPEs so that we're going to be able to meet the need. I issued the stay-at-home order over a week ago at this point and we've taken some aggressive measures.

But we have so much -- you know so much need. We see the curve continuing to climb at a steep level. And we've got hospitals that are already at capacity.

And it's starting to touch everyone here. We lost a member of the Michigan legislature yesterday, my dear friend, Isaac Robinson, who was a phenomenal human being. And I think people are starting to understand the seriousness of this, but we are just imploring everyone to pitch in, do your part, stay home. If you have masks, donate them. If you're a company that can make them, please do. And that's why the federal partnership is so incredibly important. And that's why I've been spending so much energy trying to -- trying to get more help here in Michigan.

BERMAN: Right.

You talked about the PPE, personal protective equipment. I understand FEMA provided 112,000 N-95 masks. Those are the serious, hard shell masks.

How far will that get you?

WHITMER: Well, you know, we were worried on Friday about getting through the weekend. And so that shipment coming in Saturday morning was a big help. It is, you know, a fraction of what we're ultimately going to end up needing. It got us through the weekend and -- but we are working incredibly hard trying to build partnerships, trying to build a consortium with some other states. Anything that we can do to pull more supplies into Michigan is critical. Metropolitan Detroit is growing (ph).

BERMAN: How long are you set up for -- at this -- at this point, how -- how long are you set up for at this point? WHITMER: At this point, I mean, I haven't had the morning inventory

shared with me yet this morning but I know that we're living day by day at this juncture, and that's why it's so important that it's all hands on deck.

BERMAN: The president said last night, quote, Michigan is now being taken care of. Is that how it feels to you?

WHITMER: Well, we certainly -- you know, the disaster declaration that came this weekend, that additional --those pallets of PPEs that showed up, the N-95 masks were -- were really needed and we're -- we're grateful for that. We recognize, though, that we are still climbing and we are on the -- the upswing and it's probably even more dramatic than -- than any other place in the country, depending on which chart you're looking at and what -- what numbers are most current.

So this is something that we know Michigan is at the front of in terms of the growth and we're taking it very seriously but we all need -- we need help.

BERMAN: Can you explain to the American people how the decisions are being made at manufacturers and companies. I know governors feel like they're battling with other governors and the federal government to get supplies. So who's decides who gets what? Is it based on the highest bid? Is it based on the greatest need? What's your understanding?

WHITMER: You know, I think some of it goes to the highest bidder. I think some of it is prioritized based on need. I think some of it goes to the feds before state contracts get filled. I think that's the great stress on the system is that we -- we really could use, I think, a national strategy so that we're able to get, you know, our bulk buying power so that we're not outbidding one another and that priorities are where the hot spots really are growing most.

And, you know, when we come out of this on the other side and have ventilators to give and other places are heating up, we want to do our part. But at this juncture, we need ventilators. We need gloves and masks and we need people to join us on the front lines. So we're working on all of those fronts, with the federal government, on our own, and within our state borders, every possible juncture.

BERMAN: There's been a lot made of statements the president has made about you and a back-and-forth. I know that no one in Michigan is interested in that. They're interested in saving lives this morning. But how much energy do you feel like you have to put in to being nice to the administration in order to get what you need for the people of Michigan?

WHITMER: Listen, you know what, there no -- there's no such thing as partisanship right now. I mean the enemy is Covid-19. We are not one another's enemy. And we're working really hard to build relationships with the federal government.

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with vice president and the administrator at FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, from the White House on down. We've been really working to build those relationships.

I think that the most important thing that we all need to remember is the enemy is Covid-19 and it is not discriminating against party, it does not discriminate against state. It is ravaging our country and that's why every one of us has to be focused on saving lives, protecting people and mitigating the spread of Covid-19 across our country.

BERMAN: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We're sorry for the loss of the legislator who was a friend of yours this morning. So much loss now around the country. We thank you for your efforts.

WHITMER: Yes. Thank you.


BERMAN: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We're sorry for the loss of the legislator, who was a friend of yours, this morning. So much loss now around the country. We thank you for you efforts.

WHITMER: Yes, thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.


CAMEROTA: OK, John, there was this public show of gratitude for healthcare workers at the epicenter of the outbreak.


CAMEROTA: That was over the weekend. New Yorkers stood out on rainy balconies to applaud medical workers. This is just one example of what people are doing, those stuck at home.


CAMEROTA: That's a virtual performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's, "What the World Needs Now." Students from Berkley College of Music in Boston had to go home, of course, to just take remote classes and one student from Florida asked everyone to record part of this song and then she edited the whole thing together.


CAMEROTA: OK, this is the Rotterdam Philharmonic playing the finale of Beethoven's 9th, "Ode To Joy." All the musicians playing from their homes, right on key. And finally, while the nations stays at home these folks head to the frontlines. Dozens of doctors and nurses on a flight from Georgia to New York, some wearing masks and gloves, all holding their hand --