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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Death Toll Surpasses 3,000 After Deadliest Day; Three Out of Four Americans Under Stay-at-Home Orders; Chicago Turns Convention Center into Field Hospital; Tent Hospital in New York City's Central Park to Begin Accepting Patients; Detroit Emerges as New Hot Spot as Michigan Cases Surge; Coronavirus Cases Soar in New Orleans. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:28]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

We have now seen the largest number of deaths in the U.S. in a single day so far. And today we are expecting updated guidance from the administration as coronavirus cases surge in this country. The death toll surpassing 3,000 after 574 Americans died just yesterday alone.

HARLOW: That is a staggering number. 574 American deaths in a single day. And experts say this is just the beginning. And a report this morning that doctors at a major hospital right here in New York City are being told to think very carefully about who does and does not get a ventilator. It is another symptom of a nationwide problem hospitals just don't have what they need.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Rationing. Amazing we're getting there.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: In cities across the country, field hospitals are now going operational because of the expected overflow at hospitals in convention centers, even in New York City's Central Park. And next hour the Navy hospital ship Comfort will take on its first non- coronavirus patients to help take the pressure off other New York hospitals.

HARLOW: Cases are surging across the country in new emerging hot spots. Three out of four Americans now are under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders. And signs in California that those social distancing guidelines may be working.

We've got a lot to get to this hour.

SCIUTTO: All of us here doing our part. Let's begin in New York with CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras. Brynn, tell us what it's like in New York there. I mean, just those

scenes of seeing tents going up in Central Park to treat the affected. Just amazing.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It is just -- it is. It's amazing. I mean, coronavirus is quite literally changing the landscape here in New York City. It's different. It's very different. Not only do we have a giant military hospital ship in our harbor, but we have tents up in Central Park. We also just got word, guys, that the U.S. Open where that's played, that tennis center, that's also going to be transformed into a hospital with about 350 beds. We're also learning about FEMA working with the city to get 250 ambulances here and staff to deal with the surge.

But let me talk about this hospital here behind me. In Central Park, a place where people usually are sunbathing when it's warm out or exercising. Now it is a hospital from a Christian group that came up here over the weekend and brought with them all these tents, 68 beds will be able to be utilized by COVID patients and we're hearing that patients will be coming today and they could be coming from any of the five boroughs in New York City.

And there will also be ICU units inside those hospital tents as well. So, again, just another measure that's being taken to help with the surge. I should mention, though, even with all this help that we're seeing here in New York City, the governor saying we still need more help. Actually putting out a plea yesterday saying anyone who can give, you know, their expertise to come to New York City, we need your help and then we will repay you by sending our people to you should you need it.

So that is a situation that continues to be the case here in New York City -- guys.

HARLOW: Truly wanting to work together across state lines.

Brynn, thank you for that reporting.

It's just remarkable to see those -- I mean, Jim, that park, we --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: You know, we run in it, families take their kids there and it is now a makeshift hospital. It's incredible.

SCIUTTO: And it shows too how people are contributing, right? I mean, that's a Christian group there.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: We have individuals, of course, families doing their part by staying at home. I mean, there is a national effort here to come together and respond.

HARLOW: You're so right. All right, so let's talk about another city dealing with the surge. Ryan Young joins us in Detroit. Just -- you know, it seems like overnight it's really just been the

past few days, weeks, that Michigan has been hit so hard, specifically Detroit.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So tough, too, when you hear the numbers. In fact, yesterday, the number that stuck out to me was over 1800 new cases in the last two days, and that was yesterday.

Look, guys, I've been across the country. I was in Seattle then I was in Chicago, now I'm in Detroit. And what you see is this eerie sort of silence that sits over a city once they figure out that they may be the next hot spot. That's happening here.

Look, there's no traffic anywhere around the city right now. It seems like everybody is taking that shelter in place quite seriously. Look behind me this is the TCF Center. This is where the world famous auto show would normally be held. That's been canceled. What's going to happen here? This is going to be transformed into a field hospital with some 900 extra beds.

[09:05:04]

They're getting ready for that capacity. And what we're told, they're going to split the patients in severity so there's going to be the worse on one side and then people who have COVID-19 in another place. But we talked to an emergency room nurse this morning, who is basically telling us how difficult this has been, especially when it comes to the families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE TURNER, ER NURSE, HENRY FORD HOSPITAL: They're wanting to talk with their family members to discuss and the doctors are great about involving the patient's families in the discussion. But, you know, they're alone. And that's heartbreaking to us because we know how important it is to have family around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Real quick here, Poppy and Jim, just to think about this and the impact that it's having in this area. Look, in Michigan over 180 people have died so far. And the superintendent of schools here in Detroit put a tweet out that really sums things up. Two employees died and three parents died and that was just yesterday. The numbers are probably going to get worse today. It's really difficult here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. More and more, I think, you know, Ryan and Poppy, people like us, we know people who have been affected by it and that's going to happen to more and more Americans.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young in Chicago -- in Detroit, rather, thanks very much.

Now in New Orleans, another city affected by these confirmed cases soaring as hospitals brace now to potentially run out of ventilators and other equipment, by this weekend.

Joining us now is Colin Arnold, he's director of New Orleans office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Colin, good to have you back. And again I always thank folks like you because I know you're taking time out of your day where you got a lot on your plate, but to help get information out. You know, when we spoke last week, you said that this outbreak is going to be the defining crisis of our generation. And I just wonder, in the last week, what have you seen on the ground there that's brought that home to you.

COLIN ARNOLD, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: Well, thanks for having me. Good morning. New Orleans and Louisiana in general continue to see very high rates of both infection and death. Right now we're at 1480 cases. 86 deaths, and we're a community of 400,000. So we're tracking at about 5 percent on the mortality rate and it is just -- that's high. And our population has a higher rate of underlying health conditions. We're preparing for a significant amount of hospitalizations and unfortunately it is, of course, significant amount of deaths.

HARLOW: So -- horrible news and it's horrible to see when these hot spots emerge. I wonder what you think about some of the action taken, for example, by the governor yesterday, in Kentucky. With a strict order it bars basically almost anyone, few exceptions, from leaving the state and anyone who comes back into Kentucky has to quarantined for two weeks. Is that advice that you would think would be prudent in New Orleans now?

ARNOLD: I think that what the mayor and the governor have done with the stay-home mandate, which was early in this process, is working. And I think that we need to encourage that both in our community and communities around this country that staying at home and isolating yourself from other people is the way that we can beat this. It seems kind of rudimentary, but it is the way that we can stop the spread of this and flatten the curve. And that's what this is about.

SCIUTTO: So what happens, Colin, when you see communities, cities within states, issuing these orders, but then statewide the orders not issued? I mean, or even neighboring states, Louisiana has it, Mississippi and Texas do not. Does that then --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- mute the effect of social distancing and allow this to spread further?

ARNOLD: We have discussed neighboring states. I think the main thing is it's important that you have, you know, your state leadership and your city leadership, you know, coordinating and communicating and working together, and so far in this, that is absolutely what I have seen.

We have a very successful drive through testing program that, you know, came down from the federal government as far as materials and supplies. Managed by the state and run locally. And it's worked really well. We've had a lot of success. Have over 5,000 tests today in 11 or 12 days. And we're continuing that. And I think that that's important.

The state is leading our charge on medical surge capacity. We have taken over our convention center. We're building a thousand beds. They'll be ready by the end of the week and we can surge in phases up to 3,000 beds if we need to. And that's all been, you know, the states taking the lead on that.

And we also really appreciate, we've understand that now the United States Navy, their medical corps, is going to be coming down here to assist with that operations as well.

SCIUTTO: Listen, you're doing great work there. Just want to send our best to you for that, but also the people in New Orleans and Louisiana.

Colin Arnold, thanks so much.

ARNOLD: Anytime, thank you.

SCIUTTO: With us now, Dr. Celine Gounder. She's CNN medical analyst and clinical assistant professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at NYU.

[09:10:05]

Dr. Gounder, always good to have you on. Poppy and I have so many questions for you. I want to start with the question of testing because we've heard so many competing claims about how widely available and how quickly these tests would be available. The president said yesterday he hasn't heard about testing as an issue in weeks. What are the facts? And can Americans who need tests get tests today?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So the tests are still very much in short supply. We as doctors are having to really focus that resource on patients for whom it's going to change our medical management. So, you know, if we're really debating, is this truly COVID-19 versus maybe this is somebody who just has straight up heart failure or an exacerbation of their emphysema, knowing that is really crucial.

Because if somebody is not -- does not have COVID-19 could be managed at home safely where they're not at risk for getting infected relative to being in the hospital, you know, that's something we want to achieve. So I think that's really false. I think it's really just being directed at those who are sickest where it's going to change what we're going to do for them.

HARLOW: Dr. Gounder, excuse me, the question that I'm getting the most from friends and family members is, do I wear a mask or don't I? Right? And so we heard from the president yesterday that there may come the point where it is advised that all Americans should wear masks. He didn't say definitively. But as early as an hour ago, the latest CDC guidance and WHO guidance is you don't need to wear a mask out if you're not ill.

Is that -- so what should Americans do this morning?

GOUNDER: Well, there's two different purposes for wearing masks. One is to protect yourself and one is to protect other people. I have been speaking to experts who study quite literally the droplets and gas that you exhale or sneeze or cough out including one such researcher up at MIT who's been publishing on this as it relates to the coronavirus.

And what she tells me is that the dichotomy between droplets and aerosols is a false one and we have to assume some of this is spread by aerosols. So what does that mean? That really is a greater concern for healthcare workers who are having very heavy exposure. But for the general public, we probably should be wearing masks on the order of scarves or bandanas not to protect ourselves but rather because it will trap anything we might be carrying if we're carriers or infected.

HARLOW: OK. Fair enough.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Gounder, just before you go, the other question I often get and I'm sure you as well is, what are the next couple of weeks going to look like? You know, we hear of a ramping up of cases, a shortage of hospital supplies. Help explain the folks at home what they should people be expecting.

GOUNDER: Well, I think we should be expecting to hear the death toll is going to be increasing. I think we should expect to hear that healthcare workers are going to be getting sick and frankly dying from this. And that hospitals are going to be overwhelmed. And possibly having to turn away patients. I think that is something that we should all anticipate in the coming weeks.

HARLOW: I mean, that's astonishing. You know, the "Wall Street Journal" reporting this morning that a big hospital here in New York is deciding who should get ventilators and who should not, but to turn away patients, that that could be a reality in weeks in America.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Is mind boggling.

Dr. Gounder, thanks as always.

SCIUTTO: Joining us in the next hour, I'll be speaking to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top doctor about the spread of the coronavirus, get as much information as we can.

Still to come this hour, President Trump tells a group of governors yesterday that he hadn't heard complaints about coronavirus testing in weeks. At least one of those governors publicly disagreed.

HARLOW: Also, doctors turning to Instagram to ask for equipment donations. We have that story. Four people are dead and hundreds more are reporting feeling ill on a cruise ship that is sailing toward the coast of Florida. But will officials in that state let them dock? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, the president yesterday was asked by Montana's governor about the availability of tests. Listen to this part of a call with the president, his team and governors from across the country.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT): Literally, we are one day away, if we don't get tests kits from the CDC, then we won't be able to do testing in Montana.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tony, you can answer it, if you want, but I haven't heard about testing in weeks. We've tested more now than any nation in the world. We've got these great tests and we'll come out with another one tomorrow where it's, you know, it's almost instantaneous testing. But I haven't heard about testing being a problem.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: Katy Talento is with me, she's an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and formerly a Trump adviser on health policy. Katy, I'm so glad you're here, thanks for the time.

KATY TALENTO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Thank you for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: We also just heard this morning on "NEW DAY" from Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): There's no question that the federal government and all of the states believe that we need more testing. Without the tests we really are flying blind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: The president says he hasn't heard anything about testing in weeks, but multiple governors, I've just named two, there are many more, don't have enough tests. Is the country flying blind without enough?

TALENTO: I think we all want to see more tests happen. I think that's absolutely a priority. Probably what the president was saying was that he hadn't heard that there was as great a need in a few weeks because everybody has been working so hard on getting it out. And that's the point of having these calls with governors is to hear from them.

So, you know, what we heard last night from Secretary Alex Azar and from the president is that we've got a million tests now that have gone out, and most importantly, we have this new Abbott labs test, it's a rapid test that will give us a yes answer in five minutes and a no answer in under 15.

[09:20:00]

So that's going to help. They're going to ship 50,000 a week -- I'm sorry, 50,000 a day, and that's ramping up right now starting today.

HARLOW: I was just going to ask you about that. I think that's a really positive development that the FDA has approved that Abbott Lab test and, you know, we saw what a difference that makes with flu, right, and being able to test for the flu so quickly. So, we'll watch for that. Let's talk about masks. The president said yesterday we could get to a point where all Americans are advised to wear masks.

But as of this morning, you know, CDC and W.H.O. aren't saying at this point that, that is what Americans should be doing. What should we all do when we leave our house?

TALENTO: Well, we shouldn't leave our house. That I think is the first thing to remember that we don't know yet if masks really work. We don't have the evidence base for it. We absolutely have centuries of evidence about social distancing. So what I'm doing to protect myself and my family is, I'm leaning in to those stay-at-home orders, but there are essential first -- and there are first responders that have to go out.

But I think that it's really important that if you wear a mask, you don't do anything different with respect to staying away from other people that you would if you weren't wearing a mask. Either way, we need to really be disciplined out in public.

HARLOW: What do you think we have learned? What is the lesson learned from this crisis in terms of the ability to save more lives next time, something like this hits in terms of testing and what we use. For example, the administration, the CDC, not allowing and not using the W.H.O. test that was developed, also banning private hospitals from utilizing tests that they had developed. Was that a mistake that can direct us in the right direction next time?

TALENTO: So, I think there will be time after this is all over for post-mortems and assessments of blame and assessments of what went wrong. Right now, we have to stay focused on going forward. We can't have our experts diverted into analyzing the past. I do think that we will see the testing, rapid testing should be an absolute priority.

I think we should open wide the floodgates to tests being developed from all sources. But of course, our FDA and our CDC officials, they're really worried. And it's their job to be worried about false results. If you get a bunch of false positives or God forbid, false negatives, that creates a problem and the American people (INAUDIBLE).

We're going to have tests that are reliable and valid. And so, there's a trade-off. I think these are -- these times are really important for analyzing the trade-offs between security and scientific validity, but also rapidity and how quickly we can ramp up --

HARLOW: So -- TALENTO: And scale up -- you know, lessons of the future.

HARLOW: Look, I think -- I think we all know as humans that failures are what we all learn the most from. And that's where that question comes from, as well as this, as someone who advised the president and his team on health issues and who has the background that you have.

What do you think the impact has been of the president for weeks until recently down-playing the magnitude of this pandemic and saying things like just in mid-March when he said it's something that nobody expected when we now know there was the 69-page briefing book put together by the NSC that played out what happens in a pandemic and asks questions like quote, "is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?

I ask this for all the doctors out there, like the ones in Brownsville, in Brooklyn, who told us yesterday they're going to Home Depot some of them to buy protective gear. That guidance in 2016 was not taken by the administration. What can we learn from it going forward?

TALENTO: Well, I think the president isn't always briefed on every single preparedness activity that's going on at the staff level. And I'm actually encouraged that those plans and those conversations were going on. I know that the global health team, both --

HARLOW: But they didn't heed the advice, and the president saying no one thought anything like this could happen, but they did. A lot of people --

TALENTO: Well --

HARLOW: Thought this could happen.

TALENTO: A lot of people in the White House and in all the agencies of course, did think something like this could happen. The fact that there is a briefing book shows you that everyone was thinking about this, just six months prior to this event, the president signed an executive order on pandemic flu preparedness.

HARLOW: But, Katy --

TALENTO: They weren't --

[09:25:00]

HARLOW: Why -- my question is, it's great to have a briefing book. But if it is not utilized, and if there are doctors dying right now, and nurses dying right now, and first responders without the proper gear, I am asking what lessons can be learned and applied for the future?

TALENTO: It's a great question. I think that probably one of the most important lessons is the role of our state partners. I will say that the states are an integral essential part of our pandemic preparedness efforts over the past years and years. And those essential partners really have their freedom to stockpile things for their own people, and not be at the mercy of the federal government --

HARLOW: So the states shouldn't rely on the national stockpile? The states shouldn't be asking the federal government now?

TALENTO: I don't think any governor wants to be in a position where they're at the mercy of federal decision-makers who have to look out for the entire country. I think every governor that -- the system that we have was designed so that governors wouldn't have to be in that position. And any state or governor that's sort of pointing the finger at the federal government's lack of preparedness and any supply shortage is at least equally exposing that state's lack of preparedness.

I think you asked a question about what the lesson is going forward? It's that we need to be prepared at the state level and local levels as well as the federal. And there is a lot of room for improvement at all levels.

HARLOW: Katy Talento, appreciate you coming on and come back, please. Thanks for your time.

TALENTO: Pretty much.

HARLOW: OK, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: North America's largest convention center is about to be used to fight coronavirus. We're going to be there live and we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow looks set to slide at the start as the bleak economic news just continues. Goldman Sachs has significantly downgraded its outlook for the U.S. economy -- it's talking about a major contraction here, and it seems the collapse of the labor market will be even worse than feared.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END